Do you consider ecosystems?

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Computing 101: Whatever you are using now, you won’t be using in the future…

We all know it, both intuitively, and from experience, even if we’ve only been in the IT business for a few years. The single constant in the business of IT is that IT is inconstant. It changes progressively, sometimes slower than we wish, often faster than we can keep up with, but it changes inevitably. The burning question is: what thought are you putting into that change? As a business owner or an IT professional the question is pertinent and often overlooked. We may well read computer magazines, or the plethora of trade web sites, but in reality the industry is more interested in what’s just on the horizon rather than what’s over the horizon.

One trend I’ve noticed over the last year is an increasing narrowing of IT roles. Businesses aren’t looking for tech support staff – they’re looking for tech support with Windows Server 2012 R2, VMWare, Citrix and a host of other specifics. Businesses aren’t looking for coders – they’re looking for ASP.Net, C#, Agile and a host of other buzzwords. Nowhere do I see a business looking for thinkers. But, if we’re to plan for the long term, even for the medium term we must lose the specifics and think in bigger terms.

Let me give you an example from a different time. When I got married, my wife decided to do some temping as a secretary. She had used a word processor on a DEC PDP-11 (this was 1988), but wasn’t familiar with PC based word processing. Every job advert mentioned a specific word processor, such as WordStar or Word Perfect. She was concerned that she, especially as a non techie didn’t know these and wouldn’t be able to do the job. I suggested that apart from minor differences the principles were the same and told her to go ahead and apply regardless. Needless to say, she got plenty of work and was more than able to adapt principles of word processing to specifics.

Do you see the principle? Server 2012 will one day be gone – not just unsupported, but gone. We need to plan for a future that we can’t see, but we do know will be different in terms of infrastructure, applications, user interaction, user hardware (I daren’t even call it PC any more). If we look only for IT staff with ‘book learned’ specifics we will miss the natural thinkers with the vision to plan for the future.

On an infrastructure level, servers are becoming a commodity. As they are increasingly virtualised locally, the question is raised, why not offload them to a cloud provider who will manage everything for me? On a software level, do you really need everyone in your office to have a copy of MS Office? The potential ecosystems are beginning to multiply again and the choices will only increase. This is a good thing. There is more competition and each ecosystem will have to work harder to gain traction – just look at Android versus iOS. Android already has more apps than MS Windows, more people are choosing to use a non PC device for real work.

So, whatever you’re using right now is probably fine, and will probably be fine for next year, but whatever you do, don’t expect it to be fine forever and don’t wait until it catches you out before thinking about what comes next. Aim for the leading edge, not the trailing edge. Choose to employ thinkers and planners, those who look over the horizon and who see the big picture. And whenever you doubt that change will come, just think about the typewriter – the de facto productivity tool of it’s day, and think about the people who said “who would ever want a ‘personal computer’?”

New Web Site Design and Build

Posted on Posted in Business, Web Design

h4lni

Hope 4 Life NI is a brand new charity working to improve mental health in Northern Ireland. As a charity that wanted to appeal to both supporters and those who would benefit from their services Hope 4 Life NI asked for a web site that would not appear too corporate.

The resulting design is simple to navigate and yet easy on the eye. The colours, softer edges and typefaces all contribute to a less formal design that will not intimidate, while still providing all the information that is needed.

Redesign of an Existing Web Site

Posted on Posted in Web Design

GBTC

It was way back in 2008 that Grace Baptist Trust Corporation first came to me asking for a web site. The site was to do a couple of things: firstly to showcase the projects that GBTC had assisted with over the years, secondly it was to be a resource for those looking for advice in managing their church estate.

The original site has been added to through the years, both in terms of resources and in new projects, categorised by year. With the rapidly changing world of IT use, and particularly the prevalence of mobile devices it was time for a revamp. A brand new template was designed that would be a fresh look whilst maintaining the original logo. The home page was updated to add some chunky buttons to click through for the main items, with the rest of the navigation placed in the menu bar.

All the pages were then updated to use the new style, and where possible, better images were used to replace the smaller ones used in the original site. All in all, the new site contains the same information in a fresher, mobile friendly package that should enhance GBTC’s presence on the web and make it easier for churches to find the resources that they need.

Google Apps for Work

Posted on Posted in General

Business Class Email whatever the size of your business

Whatever the size of your business, you can have business class email and collaboration. However you work you can edit documents from wherever you are with whatever device you choose. For most business users the choices have not been made clear. Google Apps offers a business class solution for email, calendaring, collaboration with docs and sheets, and much more…

If you’d like to chat through what the alternatives are for your business, with an independent adviser who understands all the options, then please do get in touch.

What is Google Apps?

Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere and on any device. It’s simple to set up, use and manage, so your business can focus on what really matters.

Millions of organizations around the world count on Google Apps for professional email, file storage, video meetings, online calendars, document editing and more.

Watch a video or find out more here.

Here are some highlights:

Business email for your domain

Looking professional matters, and that means communicating as you@yourcompany.com. Gmail’s simple, powerful features help you build your brand while getting more done.

Access from any location or device

Check email, share files, edit documents, hold video meetings and more whether you’re at work, at home or in transit. You can pick up where you left off from a computer, tablet or phone.

Enterprise-level management tools

Robust admin settings give you total command over users, devices, security and more. Your data always belongs to you, and it goes with you if you switch solutions.

Start free trial

Do you really want a server?

Posted on Posted in Business, Google for Work, Small Business

SERVER

The received wisdom for years, for the small business was: if you want to be a proper business, buy a server. Does that advice still hold true? The question really isn’t so much, about buying a server as about the services on offer. After all, a server is only there to serve up services that you, as a business need.

Way back, when, what you needed of a server was local file storage for all those Word documents, email, accounts and some line of business application that had to be installed on a ‘proper’ server. The wisdom of buying a server was that this was the only way to access the tools that you needed as a business.

The question today is, has that wisdom changed? The answer lies in the dramatic change in the business IT landscape. The internet has radically changed how business services can be offered. Today you can buy a server, install an email server, such as Exchange Server and run your business email from your own premises, or you can purchase the exact same software as a service through Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Both do the same job, but with different pros and cons.

If you run your own server you are responsible for the hardware purchase, the licensing, the maintenance of both hardware and software, backup of everything that resides on the server. You probably aren’t an expert in any of this. If you license Office 365 or Google for Work or some other cloud hosted email service you pay monthly and don’t have the upfront hardware costs. You don’t have to think about backup or disaster recovery, you don’t have to maintain hardware or upgrade software – all this is done by the providers with more resources and expertise than you ever will have locally.

The million dollar question then is: can all my services be offered through the cloud? Think through the various services that are done locally:

  • Word processing
  • Accounts
  • Email
  • Line of business application

Can all of these be handled well outside of your office? Is your connectivity up to the job?

We are still in a period of rapid change and of transition. More business people are running at least part of that business through their smart phone or a tablet, on the move, at home, in the office. As the services become more and more sophisticated and delivered more and more efficiently through the cloud the need for a real, physical server in your own office will decrease.

If you are a start up, or don’t yet have a server, my advice is: aim for the cloud, even if you have to make some adjustments to how you do business. The days of the monolithic server solution are numbered. Be at the leading edge and leverage cloud based services. They allow you, your business and your workers to be more agile and more secure.

If you already have invested in a local server solution. Don’t throw it away, but use the time until your next server refresh to investigate each service that you consume and see if there’s a cloud based alternative. Your line of business application is likely to be the most difficult to transition, but most providers are now offering cloud hosted alternatives, and will usually facilitate the move of your data to the new offering.

Remember, at the end of the day, it’s the services that matter, not the server.