Game over for small business servers

Cloud computing - if you're not doing it, you're doing things wrong

Cloud computing – if you’re not doing it, you’re doing things wrong

If you are still buying servers, you are doing it wrong. They no longer make business sense. Large companies already get this, small businesses need to climb on the clue train. 

Cloud servers beat physical servers in every respect. There are no longer any valid reasons for buying and maintaining in-office servers to manage email, store files, run shared applications or back-up databases.

The battle was over some time ago.

Technology professionals know this, they just haven’t convinced small business owners yet.

Cloud computing is much cheaper than running an office server. Over time you can expect to spend between a quarter and a half on cloud servers when compared to office servers.

Less downtime

You’ll see less downtime. Cloud servers have built-in redundancy, so they typically offline for a few hours over a year. Office servers are nothing like as reliable.

Setting-up and managing systems is infinitely easier in the cloud. And cloud servers are flexible. If you need more capacity tomorrow, You can switch it on as quickly as making a credit card payment.

Upgrading an office server is disruptive and expensive. That’s if the hardware configuration allows upgrades. Many server makers deliberately make upgrading hard so they can sell you a bigger box.

Backing-up is instant. When the Christchurch earthquakes hit, businesses using cloud services could get back in operation within hours. Some never managed to recover their office servers. Those who did often took weeks or months to get back to normal.

Cloud safety

Security fears are often the greatest psychological barrier stopping small businesses from moving to the cloud. Frankly the fears don’t add up.

An office server is as safe as your office. How safe is that? Someone determined to steal data can break-in or otherwise enter your building. Hackers may steal it remotely – you almost certainly aren’t spending enough on enterprise-grade security. Then there’s the risk of fire, flooding or earthquakes. Power lines can go down.

Cloud servers live in large, well-guarded data centres. If someone manages to get past the guards they’ve still got to find your data – that’s far from easy. Security professionals monitor the systems and there are emergency back-up power supplies. first class fire systems and so on.

If cloud computing is safe enough for the region’s largest banks and corporations, it ought to be safe enough for your business.

Technology stacks – Apple then Google or Microsoft?

They don't make stacks like they used to - The Tower of Babel by Bruegel

They don’t make stacks like they used to – The Tower of Babel by Bruegel

One reason Apple succeeds where other tech companies struggle is that it owns all its technology.

Apple designs the hardware and the core software on the devices it sells. It owns the technology stack – what some call the ecosystem.

This is important for two reasons. First, from a consumer point of view, the Apple experience is seamless. Second, Apple isn’t hostage to any other technology company. It is master of its own destiny.

In industry jargon, Apple is ‘vertical’. No other hardware company is vertical in this way. Nor are software companies.

Google, Microsoft going vertical?

Most large technology companies would like to follow Apple to become vertical. They see it as a route to Apple-like profit margins.

Software giant Oracle is aiming to go vertical in business computing buying Sun Microsystems to get a handle on hardware and build an enterprise computing technology stack.

Google and Microsoft are doing much the same at a personal technology level. That’s why both software companies now have hardware product lines. Both are busy building vertical stacks.

Google bought Motorola to go vertical in smartphones and now makes its own Chromebooks taking it vertical in the PC space. Presumably it will extend these projects into tablets.

Microsoft is vertical in tablets with its Surface range. The Surface is so PC-like it isn’t hard to imagine this product line extending into laptops. And there is talk of a Microsoft-branded smartphone, or perhaps Microsoft buying Nokia.

Back to the future

This is what personal computing was like in the early days when brands like Commodore, Apple, Atari and Tandy made hardware and had proprietary software. The enterprise computing market was the same before the rise of Unix and open systems.

No-one knows if the world has room for multiple vertical technology companies. Possibly only Apple can pull it off. This week I’ll look at whether Google and Microsoft can go vertical.

PCs retreat as tablets surge

The journalist's ipadWe all know tablets are wiping the floor with traditional PCs, the latest numbers from IDC show tablet sales have almost caught up with desktops. That’s quite something considering the tablet market didn’t get under way until 2010. It looks like they’ll go past laptop sales in 2013.


Smart Connected Device Market by Product Category, Shipments, Market Share, 2012 (shipments in millions) 

Product Category

2012 Unit Shipments

2012 Market Share

2011 Unit Shipments

2011 Market Share

Year-over-year Change













Portable PC






Desktop PC












Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Smart Connected Device Tracker, February 20, 2013.

Mobility Reigns as the Smart Connected Device Market Rises 29.1% in 2012 Driven By Tablet and Smartphone Growth.


Lenovo’s tempting Ultrabook

Lenovo ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook

Lenovo ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook

While researching a story on business Ultrabooks I stumbled over Lenovo’s T430u ThinkPad. It looks like a good choice for business users preferring a Windows PC over a tablet.

If I was in the market for an Ultrabook, I’d choose this.

Why? Because the T430u is a business tool, not a toy.

Like all Ultrabooks, the T430u is slim and light – Lenovo has packed it in an aluminium case. Better, it passes US military spec tests which means its more than tough enough for most New Zealand businesses. There’s also built-in web conferencing – a huge bonus.

Best of all, Lenovo has sharpened its pencil on pricing to the point where the T430u range represents some of the best value around. Prices start at NZ$1025 for the model with i3 processor, 2GB of Ram and a 320GB hard drive.The top of the line $1550 model has an i7 processor, 8GB of Ram and a 128GB solid state drive.

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