What right-sizing your technology actually looks like

An evil mess and a disaster waiting to happen. This reflects poorly on the IT guy, and ultimately on the business owner too.

An evil mess and a disaster waiting to happen. This reflects poorly on the IT guy, and ultimately on the business owner too.

I'll start with the worst IT closet I've ever seen;  Your IT should never look like this. When I walked into this small business, I told my technician that this must be what the inside of a Sandcrawler looks like. I was waiting to hear cries for help from a dismembered C-3PO.

There are a bunch of problems here:

  1. It's disorganized.
  2. It's dangerous.
  3. It's wasteful.

The end result is that you, the business owner, spend a ton of money on wasted time and other wasted resources.  And it's also a disaster waiting to happen that could take your business down at any time.

So what should your network closet look like?

It's actually more about what it can look like.  Everything's changed in the past few years.   I actually have the ability now to take the typical small business network closet and seriously shrink it.  Not just size, but also cost of hardware.   This is now possible because of a few really great technologies:

  1. Virtualization.  It's now possible to run a high-performance Windows server as a virtual machine.  This changes everything for any business that has PCs or Macs.
  2. The Mac Mini- as a PC or PC server replacement. I recently replaced a $7500 HP Proliant Server with a $1000 Mac Mini running all of my Windows Server and QuickBooks Enterprise software that was previously on the HP Proliant.  And it's about 10X faster.  My bookkeeper and CPA access QuickBooks daily via Windows.  They don't even know it, but they're connecting to a Windows Server running on a Mac Mini.  Need more horsepower? The new Mac Pro is about the same size and is insanely powerful.
  3. Attached storage.  Apple's new strategy for desktops is about attached storage.  And their integrating Thunderbolt 2 pushes 20Gb/s, over three times faster than a typical hard drive.  Need 5 servers?  They can all live on one box the size of a toaster.

An example of the "new" business IT system.  This 2.5' square cabinet contains almost everything a business of 20-50 people needs.

The picture to the right is of a wall-mounted, lockable cabinet that's roughly about 2.5' square.  And inside this little cube is more than enough power to run an entire business of 20-25 people, and possibly more.  There's a Mac Mini, an attached RAID (18TB of storage, in this case) and a some fantastic cloud-based networking equipment from Meraki.  The intelligent, power-conditioning backup battery on the left takes up almost half the rack, and safely shuts down everything in case of a power outage.  The rack in the image to the right has more capability than the horrid mess pictured at the top of this article.

It's clean, and it's secure.  In fact, it can be mounted in the kitchen right below the ceiling, or installed under a desk.  It's also safer from earthquakes because it's in an enclosure and the RAID (the box with the tall row of pretty blue LEDs) can't just fall over.

Who can benefit from this?

  • Interactive agencies, design firms, engineering firms, law firms, architects and more: You can run a Windows server at both a fraction of the cost, and with the freedom of switching hardware anytime without having to reinstall or reconfigure the server.  Less tech time, more uptime for your employees.
  • Companies that are depending on a Windows-only software application, but want to use Macs.  Some examples are Nextech and PatientNow, two medical practice management applications that are used by plastic surgeons.  Now you can use your iPad or Mac and just remote-desktop right into your Mac Mini server running Windows.  You don't need to run Windows on your Mac at all.
  • Any company that wants to have more Macs but doesn't want to screw up their existing Windows users.  There are currently (as of 10.9.1) issues with Windows file sharing via Mac OS X servers.  Business owners who need to keep supporting PCs in their office might ditch the Mac entirely, but now they don't have to.  You can have the best of both worlds.

Finally, it'll save you a ton of cash.  My current IT system costs 75% less than the previous system.  That money goes straight to the bottom line (profit).  

The next time you walk into wherever it is your server or network lives in your business, if you're even remotely upset or slightly embarrassed by what you see, give me a call.  I can fix it for you.