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Is building your own computer network worth the expense?
Small businesses face unique challenges with their computer systems. They don’t have massive budgets to spend. However, they have the same requirements of their technology systems as major corporations because both customers and suppliers expect it to be there.
Over the course of my career I have been everything from help desk to senior architect and even chief technology officer. I have spent over a decade as a contract consultant and have gotten to see the good and the bad of how computer solutions are designed and delivered. By far the greatest challenge I faced however, was not as a senior director at Microsoft, but as a consultant for my parent’s small business.
Small businesses face a unique challenge when it comes to computing systems. They don’t have budgets to spend on developing something that may eventually work months or even years down the road. They can’t afford to hire full time staff or outsourcing providers to babysit broken systems. However, they have the same requirements of their technology systems as major corporations because both customers and suppliers expect it to be there.
What makes this problem worse is the way technology is managed. While helping my parents consider the options for getting the system they wanted, a simple question came up: “Is there a system that works, out of the box, that doesn’t require us to pay for constant maintenance.” It took me some time to recognize that in truth, the entire process for creating and maintaining computer systems was almost designed to create things that continually cost, in spite of best intentions. This is reflected in the constant up trend in what businesses are spending on IT versus other expenditures.
Company owners who have their own systems are constantly faced with unrelenting waves of decisions and expenditures for any system they want to have. That computer you just bought will soon be outdated. The new software package, may be replaced before it pays for itself. And the basic services needed by a small group of users, requires an IT guy just to keep it running. This leaves company owners constantly deciding on the lesser of two evils, letting their company fall behind, or investing in something they may never see a good return on.
Recently a beacon of hope has entered this quagmire and is changing the way people think about their computer systems. Software as a Service and other online applications are embracing the fact that business owners don’t want to build it themselves. These providers charge a static monthly fee and guarantee that there solutions will work. This is great for the applications you use, but what about the computer you need to access them?
After spending a considerable amount of time looking for a solution my parents decided to build their own system to use with online services. Rather than limiting it to supporting a single company, we endeavored to create a system that can support any number of companies. What arose out of this effort is a system that provides all the hardware and core software a company demands. It includes unlimited hardware and software upgrades, unlimited support for any errors, and the flexibility to choose what software you want this month and change it next month. We guarantee our solution will work and if it fails it cost you nothing.
The question that remains is thus, are the cost savings from services with flat monthly billing worth it? Or do you feel that developing your own system provides a benefit or comfort level that makes the cost acceptable?
Learn more about the author, Timothy Mitchell.
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