IT infrastructure made easy and affordable
20 June 2005 | 0
Most small companies will initially tell you they are happy enough with their IT solution, that it works and more importantly that they have never experienced any major problem such a serious virus or spam attack or even any major downtime. While, this in part is testament to the growing appreciation among small business that IT matters and to the investment they have made, it often masks underlying problems that may cause serious problems as the company evolves. This is particularly true for small companies running on older technology not designed to deal with the demands of the current environment.
Small companies are run differently than ever before, not just in terms of the volume and variety of data processed but in terms of how they are managed. Small business teams now keep in constant contact with each other and their network while out of the office. Data protection and security is now top of the list with everyone. And within this new environment, small business teams need to believe they have the best IT solution their small company can afford.
Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 seeks to address some of the problems and issues around IT which affect smaller businesses by giving them “enterprise class server reliability, data integrity and backup which were only available to large enterprise customers before,” according to Eamon Breen, Microsoft partner technology specialist. “It’s the most secure server solution on the market and the most reliable.”
Impressive feature set
The features provided by Small Business Server 2003 include scalability, e-mail management, remote working and collaboration, security and data protection.
The product can scale up to 75 users, so it provides the flexibility for small companies to grow their IT in line with their own requirements. It can also be deployed in very small sites.
Microsoft partner MJ Flood cites the example of a manufacturing company that has installed Small Business Server 2003 for a grand total of six users.
The increasing availability of broadband in Ireland is helping to advance the case for Small Business Server 2003 because of the built-in technologies which allow for remote access to e-mail and remote monitoring. A feature called RPC over HTTP allows users to access their e-mail over broadband and synchronise their inbox on the fly.
SBS powering small business
One business which appreciates the remote capabilities of the product is solicitor firm PJ O’Shea & Company, a customer of PFH Computers. “As solicitors, it has proven to be a big advantage for us, especially the Internet connectivity and the ability to work remotely on diary and mail,” says Brian O’Shea. “I work away from the office a day or two each week and this allows me to be totally ‘connected’ as well as providing a competitive edge.”
Sheil Kinnear, a 22-strong firm of chartered accountants with offices in Enniscorthy, Wexford and Arklow, is another organisation which has implemented Small Business Server 2003, with the help of IT provider Datapac. DSL broadband has been installed in all three offices and a VPN connection configured to allow users in Wexford and Arklow to access information in Enniscorthy and access e-mail from the Exchange server.
“We also have increased security as we have one user profile that governs access to computers and e-mail” says Tom Brazil, partner at Sheil Kinnear. With broadband also installed in the company, Sheil Kinnear feels that it has a truly robust IT solution will see the business through the next few years.
Back up that means business
Small Business Server 2003 includes backup software which allows users to schedule automated full backups every week, along with incremental backups every evening. It also has technology which allows businesses to take snapshots as many times as they like during the day.
The requirement for remote access obviously depends on the type of organisation. Breen says typically 20 per cent of staff in a business might require it, usually the most senior people, “but if you put in a solution that gives everybody in the organisation that ability, you can improve their overall productivity”.
Lisburn-based advertising agency Coey Advertising uses the technology to offer clients dedicated web space where they can log in, view proofs and make any comments or revisions required. Its client managers can bring their laptops to off-site meetings and immediately implement a client’s feedback. If amendments are minor a new proof can be viewed by the client during the meeting.
Remote monitoring is also an important feature of the product, especially with the increased availability of broadband. “It’s come at a crucial time,” says Breen, “when it can take an hour and a half to get across the M50 and 99 per cent of issues can be resolved over the phone or the Internet.”
Belfast-based television production company Green Inc. Film & Television, upgraded to Small Business Server 2003 after being awarded the contract for RTE’s ‘The Afternoon Show’. Technology partner DSS provides remote management of the server – its engineers can log in over a secure link to the network to diagnose and fix any IT issues that arise. There has been a dramatic reduction in support costs and time required to fix IT problems.
The remote management capabilities included in Small Business Server 2003 help to strengthen the ties between small businesses and their IT providers because they allow for an ongoing relationship based around maintenance and support instead of just occasional contact around a product sale.
Breen says some Microsoft certified partners have also developed models which allow small businesses to pay for their IT in the same way as they would for other services on a monthly or quarterly basis. Customers can also rent the software and pay for it on an annual basis through Microsoft’s Open Subscription Licensing.
Summing up the attractions of Small Business Server 2003, James Finglas, sales director at Microsoft partner MJ Flood, says it “gives customers great versatility at a very low price”. Breen adds that it gives small businesses “an enterprise class, industry standard solution without the enterprise price attached to it”.