Small Biz Tip - Cloud Computing
I would love to see others giving their small biz tips. With that goal, I'm going to start sharing my experiences.
Background, I run a small company that works all over, sometimes out of country, but mostly in the midwest. We gather data for our clients which we transfer over the web via a secure server. Transferring the data is not our main business, but an integral task.
In the early days we emailed it, but emailing 10 megs, then 20 megs, then 50 megs of data became a pain, especially when you are doing it from a slow connection in Carroll, Iowa. So we came up with this secure server idea, using repository version control software to keep track of changes and ensure the data is properly backed up and complete. It works like AWESOME.
At first the company was just myself, my "pardner", and one part-timer, now we are up to 4 full-timers besides us, and a couple floaters. So we have need of more computers. Combined with updating 3-5 year old computers, that is a major expense!
What to do? Computers are getting outdated every six months. Their hard-drives fill up. You have to back them up (uh, yeah, sure). Unless you run an email exchange server (EXPENSIVE) you can't use the same email name on different computers, or if you do, you don't know which computer you sent from or received important emails, or you have to continuously synch, which sucks. Then there is upgrading software, and buying multiple copies of Office and other software for each machine. Managing the licenses. The list goes on. A real headache!
Here is the setup we are going with. We got a deal on a storage server which we purchased together with our IP (a small company too, friends, good guys, you have one near you too). They use half, we use half of it's mucho terabytes, for this investment they maintain it for free. We set up remote virtual desktops (approx. $40/month per user) on another super fast (when it was new one year ago....) server that we bought which is redundantly backed up on their servers (the same type of machine) in case ours goes down. These run the application softwares we use which are the same for everyone (even share the licenses). These are backed up daily, weekly, monthly with a beefy system including offsite storage. Worries about losing data are gone. The beauty now is that whatever computer/laptop we get can be dumb, dumb, dumb (cheap, cheap, cheap). No need for massive, superfast harddrives, no need for tons of memory, no need for the newest processors. All that is needed is a keyboard, decent internet connection and screen real estate. Laptops like that sell for $300. And that is an investment I can realistically expect even my employees to make.... We can even work from mobile phones like the Omnia or Blackberry if they support remote desktop.
Personal Cloud Computing + Netbooks = Mobile Supercomputing?
Most links via Slate's BizBox which is not a bad blog.
They have more posts here, but cloud computing is so du jour that you can read about it anywhere.