Going Into the Cloud: Corporate IT on Startup budget

Having lived in technology corporates you get spoilt with IT systems that just work. It frustrates me when I see business owners not leveraging what technology can do for them.

A home-office break in got me thinking, what if some bastard stole my server, or there was a water leak while I was away, trashing my data and backup. Insurance will not cover that sort of loss.

So over the summer break I have made the technology leap into the cloud. This will give me incresed productivity for my frequent work in Koru lounges and cafés around the country.

For you non IT people, the cloud just means it’s hosted on the internet.  Cloud solutions have the advantage of giving you easy access, from anywhere and it is not reliant on any infrastructure at your office other than a Broadband connection.

So my new set up is:

New Web Services:

  • Mail 25G mailbox:  Microsoft Exchange ONLINE  $100 per year per user www.voyager.co.nz
  • 50 GB Online Disk Storage:  Dropbox  $133 per year  www.dropbox.com
  • iMExchange:  Notes and out off office Application for I-phone worth the US$8

Existing web services:

My Hardware Platforms:

  • I-phone
  • Apple Air Mac – Laptop
  • Windows Desktop PC’s:  Vista and XP

Email – Calendar – Notes – System

For me Microsoft Exchange still is the best office communication management system, yes I have tried google apps but several things have pushed me towards online exchange.

Exchange offers: integrated email, contacts, calendar and notes across platforms (iphone, mac, PC) client and web access. Set up correctly it offers team calendar sharing, complete replication on multiple platforms and more. At $100 per user per year for a 25G mailbox it’s not worth mucking around with any imitation of it.

If I trash another i-phone I want my contacts, notes, calendar and mail going in minutes when I get my replacement phone.

Several things have changed which make this a wise decision:

  • Voyager (a  NZ Microsoft reseller) – offer a fantastic value for money package at $100 per year per user. They give you the first 30 days free on trial. Yes Seeby Woodhouse is back in action – ignore the old fashion web site – this company understands customer service and value for money.
  • I have received excellent customer support from voyager and Microsoft USA.
  • The only catch was there is a minimum 5 mail box purchase – good news is you can mix domains I have my family on Robotham.co.nz and my business on growthmanagement.co.nz sharing the same admin system.

 Drop Box:

This is a cool way to share files between PC’s.  Best of all its cross platform (PC’s, Macs, i-phones, ipads). I can edit a document on the plane on my mac air, then tomorrow it will be on my desktop ready to finnish. You get a 2G file storage for free – so try it out.

Xero:

I cannot finish this post without a plug for Xero. The GST change and a forced upgrade cost by MYOB, gave me reason to reconsider XERO. YES MYOB has more functionality and better reporting, but you need to have an eye for detail and an ability to think like an accountant to maximise its use. Xero has given me back at least half a day a month, in saved reconcilation time. I now prefer to check my bank balance online with Xero rather than go through my banks antiquated and non user friendly login systems.

PS: I love my 11” Mac Book Air – If you are a road warrior do not get an I-pad. With Microsoft Office 2011 for MAC it now has remote desktop support, make sure you download the service pack upgrade. No apple user told me of the week of grief as I bumbled my way around the apple OS, but all is now forgiven.

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Better IT solutions to meet real needs of SME’s

IT Departments Holding SME’s Hostage!

As I sit in another Koru lounge at the end of a business day, I take a tally how many people are carrying more than one cell phone – typically the i-phone and the corporate issue device.

A classic case of a hostage situation in progress!

Some where in the drive for efficiency and cost effectiveness the purpose to service the business got lost.

Last week I meet an employee of an organisation in a sales- account management role, she was walking around with a hand bag full of gadgets. Because of antiquated IT policies she has separate devices for home, work and in frustration she admits most of the time it gets to hard so she leaves them all at home.

The conversation goes like this …

“I know I could have a mobile office on my i-phone… but our IT Department will not support it”  “I am out of the office and I cannot access my email or calendar”

CEO’s take stock of your internal departments, structures and processes and work out who is being best served, and do you “actually” have good value for money.  Times are tough, platforms have changed it could be time to do a review of the service providers and products you are using.

Both traditional business server and in cloud solutions have gone through a radical price shift in recent years.  The obvious options to review are Microsoft’s in house small business server (we did one of these implementations’ for less than $7000 2 years ago), Google apps, or other hosted in cloud solutions that easily work offering remote desktop and smart phone (i-phone) interfaces.

Hosted in cloud solutions are the trend and offer great savings. As an example this week a fellow exhibitor at Bizzone www.officeeverywhere.co.nz is offering a full IT service Exchange Server in cloud, file storage with SharePoint, VOIP desktop phone service including help desk support for $65 per month per user.  

The key is to challenge everything that appears a pain to you as a user. IT teams have evolved into this beast that will always offer the highest possible secure and dependable option. The issue is all of these come with ease of use and price point trade-offs. Be sure and check that you have a solution that fits your needs and price point. Eg do we really need password changes every other week, do we really need that level of firewall –security protection.

Likewise  re-assess the shared use (home /work) policies and work out whether there is an easy compromise.

The lost productivity and frustration of your current systems may be causing irreparable damage to your best employees.  Hey you will more than likely also end up saving money to boot.