Here is Part 2 of the IT series for Small Business and Entrepreneurs by my friend Matt Nevans. Yesterday, Matt shared with us the global problems that Small Business and Entrepreneurs face with IT. If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.
If you’re interested in joining us, Matt and I will be hosting an IT Webinar, but you have to sign up to get updates here or you won’t know about it. Enjoy and we welcome your feedback here or on my Facebook page. Have a great week!
For years, information technology blogs, magazines and pundits have been saying how simplified IT is coming. Has it? That’s the question I aim to answer in this 4 part series.
Part 2 – The Tools: Collaboration
For me, the true answer to this question lay in a set of offerings introduced by Microsoft about a year ago called Office 365. For a small business, the issue with implementing enterprise class services has always been its cost. Typically when we as small businesses want to utilize the same service that large corporations like United Airlines or Proctor and Gamble might use, it would cost us an arm and a leg. While the benefit was clearly there and with a few glasses of wine might seem like a good idea, the cost just simply didn’t fit many budgets. For instance, in doing a quick rundown of these costs associated with an enterprise class email service (if you as a small business purchased it) we come up with the following five items:
- Hardware (the server or computer the service is on)
- Installation (paying the IT guy to come and do the work)
- Configuration (customization, any issues that might arise)
- Licensing (the cost of actually buying the software)
- On-going support (something is bound to go wrong, and you need somebody to help)
Let’s just say, that for the purpose of this article that those costs are static and will never change. You could easily be looking at $10,000-$20,000. Add in to that unexpected costs like the price of your laptop, phone, Internet service, etc. and things are really adding up. So how does Office 365 solve this?
I’d like to use a metaphor if I could. Let’s say I wanted to live in New York City, but didn’t have enough money to buy a house (the whole enterprise service listed above in this case). How could I still live in New York City while staying in my budge? By living in an apartment. Apartments offer great benefits. You don’t have to mow a lawn, fix the toilet when it breaks, pay property taxes or put a new roof on it. How do we apply this to IT, by hosting it in the cloud (the internet) and having many people on one service! The benefits remain the same for you as the tenant: you don’t’ have to buy a server, pay licensing costs, pay an IT guy to make sure everything is working properly. You just wake up everyday and enjoy things with no worries. Pretty cool eh?
Now, lets talk about the Office 365 from a business perspective. What are some of the biggest challenges facing small businesses today? A few that come to mind are collaboration, communication, location independence and cutting costs. While we’ve already discussed cutting costs, I think the other 3 points are very important.
As small business owners, many of us collaborate with others many times a week, if not a day. Collaboration and communication for us can range from a simple instant message to a webinar with 100 participants. Collaboration can also be as empowering as working on a Powerpoint or Word document with somebody halfway across the world in real time. Collaboration and communication are hard animals to tame. There are so many ways to do what we think of as collaborate, but seemingly none of them work quite the way we want. What if you didn’t have to a) pay for another service in addition to email b) have the ability to many people in a conference with audio, video, screen sharing and many other features c) do it all with one username and password. All of the things I’ve outlined are part of the Office 365 service and its collaboration service called Lync!
In a growing world of shared offices or no office at all, the ability to work from any location is amazingly important. With services in the cloud, the only limiting factor is you! Cloud based services means always available (with an internet connection) services, documents, collaboration, voice, email among many other things. As I mentioned above like living in an apartment building, your responsibility is virtually eliminated and put the burden put on the provider. The ability to work from anywhere, including an airplane, your hotel and even in a cab empowers your productivity and enables your success.
Tomorrow, Matt will discuss The Tools: Management in Part 3 of this series. If you’re interested in continuing the conversation about IT, please sign up for the free Q/A webinar about your IT problems and solutions with Matt and myself here.