Aug 06

How IT is changing, a case study

the landscape of IT services is changing rapidly

how we work, and what we need, is changing

We recently helped a small organisation take their next step up in IT. And while I was doing so, it occurred to me how much has changed in the last five years, maybe even less.

Of course, the first thing we do is check their current specifications, how they work, and where they want to be, and then find the smoothest way of getting them there.

There were four of them, with potentially a fifth joining them occasionally, but working from Europe. They had email, provided by their web hosting service, but no server. This meant they were sharing documents via email, and in just seven months had nearly filled their inboxes to capacity.

Aside from other issues, such as a printer that only one person could print from, no-off site document back up (outside of email) and the most basic bundled anti-virus and and anti-spam, they were working in a serviced office that provided them very little in the way of IT support, and limited what we could do for them.

So, five years ago the solution would have been simple. Get an old desktop, install a Windows Exchange Server, get four client access licences, wire it all up, set up the user accounts, set up the printers etc etc.

Not cheap. Plus of course it meant one of our team would be round there every few months (ha! more like weeks) when something went wrong. Something always goes wrong.

It also meant that the expense of running the server was less predictable, something rarely considered.

So our initial thoughts were to go to the cloud. Firstly, a VPS – virtual private server. A virtual private server is essentially a server hosted in a providers cloud, a ‘virtual’ machine. Because most of a servers work in done in brief bursts, meaning their machines can share processing power, generally they can provide you with a pretty good service.

However, they are still some technical issues that need to be approached, and support often varies in quality and cost. And once you start needing serious storage, prices can start to creep up quite a bit.

So we looked a bit closer at the problem. Essentially all they needed was document sharing and off-site back up. The printer could easily be sorted by a ethernet switch (of which they had a spare) and a cheap ethernet cable running around the edge of their office to connect them all.

So we set them up with a online document storage system. It allows them to share and collaborate, replaced any need for a VPN for remote working, or FTP for secure file sharing and covered their off-site back up needs. The cost of the service will match the cost of having gone with their own server in about 24 months, but since it all runs from their browser and laptop, they would not have to pay for the running costs However, it would call for less support from us,  comes with its own free support, and has wonderfully predictable billing. Something you can’t say for hosting your own Exchange!

Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net