Small Business Servers – A Need For Change

Many small businesses don’t have an IT department or anyone experienced enough to handle even basic IT tasks like backup, system restoration, patching or updates. In most cases, they rely on a local business partner (typically an IT consultant or local IT support company) to handle these tasks.

Unfortunately, many small business IT solutions on the market today exacerbate the situation. Their complexity…

requires the need for ever more powerful hardware
results in frequent system crashes and downtime for upgrades
compounds security problems
necessitates frequent system restorations
increases the investment in resource to upgrade systems and fix problems

Whats needed is a new generation of ‘small business servers’ that deliver all of the essential IT & technology services for smaller businesses but without the usual costs or hassle.

Challenges in supporting micro and small business customers

To stay in business small businesses need help with basic IT chores, which are becoming more mission critical than ever as they grow more time consuming to deliver.

Just look at business continuity and disaster recovery in small businesses. A study by Gartner found that only one third of small businesses surveyed said they were prepared for a disaster within the next 12 months.

In other words two thirds of all small businesses are not prepared for a disaster or protected. The reason, in most cases, is that small businesses don’t have the IT skills of solutions to perform common tasks like backing up critical data or developing a way to restore systems that crash or become damaged when a pipe breaks or there is a fire, flood or other disaster.

Small businesses also need help just backing up and restoring files when someone accidentally deletes them. Such deletions in small businesses are quite common.

Whilst everyone understands the need for data to be backed up, what many don’t realise is how expensive and difficult it actually is with traditional solutions. In fact, the traditional approach to backing up data is a time consuming and resource intensive task. The normal procedure requires tapes to be rotated, in the right order and taken off site for secure storage.

Plug In, Switch on & Start Working

Security within smaller businesses is also an issue. Hackers today are after confidential information about businesses and their clients to commit fraud and identify theft. They employ increasingly sophisticated attacks that may use socially engineered phishing email messages. These spam messages are designed to fool even savvy computer users in to thinking they are from legitimate sources. An unsuspecting user might click on malicious executable file or URL link to a poisoned web site and automatically download malicious software.

In their pursuits hackers increasingly exploit new vulnerabilities in applications and Windows operating systems as a means of infecting computers. To battle this problem, software vendors issue frequent system updates and security patches that must be installed quickly to minimize exposure to each new threat.

In 2008, Microsoft alone issues 43 critical, 24 important and two moderate fixes, according to security experts. The previous year saw a similar amount, including 49 critical, 23 important and five moderate updates. Other application and browser vendors had numerous updates as well.

Again, many small businesses don’t have the IT expertise to track all of these patches or the time to install them. Beyond security patches, there are typically many operating system updates that must also be applied. Such installations are often time consuming.

Unfortunately many of these fixes incur downtime, which no business likes. For example, in many situations, a business must first test a patch or upgrade to be sure it does not cause problems. If the test goes well, planning must take place to be sure the changes are made at a time that least inconveniences its workers. Again, many businesses are looking for help with these matters from their business partners. The challenge for the business partner is that all of these tasks (testing, planning, applying etc.) are all time and labour intensive.

Problems with traditional Small Business Server Solutions

Even the smallest business today requires certain basic capabilities. Workers need to share files and printers. Additionally, their data must be protected and their systems must be secure.

The burden on the business partner to provide these services typically requires the use of multiple solutions from different vendors. The mix often includes a server OS and file system from one vendor, backup software from another, and security products including firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software etc from even more vendors.

Managing such a mix can add to a business partner’s workload. Each product must be managed with its own administrative system, and each must be updated on its own. There might also be conflicts when trying to get different vendors products to work together.

Additionally supporting such a mix of applications might introduce security issues. For example, if a firewall and anti-spam solution are not in sync with regard to the level of protection each affords, one might work in detriment of the other.

The end result when using multiple solutions is that the time investment per client grows as the complexity increases. It also increases the time investment a business partner must make in learning/training. Their staff must be knowledgeable about many discreet products in order to support their small business client’s workers.

Compounding matters, the traditional choices have had their problems. Solutions designed specifically for smaller businesses often could not scale to support a business growth. For this reason, many of the solutions commonly used are not designed specifically for small businesses. But this only adds to the management burden placed on the business partner because they must customize or scale down these solutions to meet the needs of small businesses.

Additionally, such solutions are often bloated with features not needed in smaller businesses. For instance, directory services might be overkill for a company with fewer than twenty people. Yet, its administration is as time consuming for twenty as it is for one hundred or more.

Similarly, an enterprise solution might be so narrow focused that it lacks key features for small business, thus requiring a patch work of solutions to meet a business’s basic needs. For instance, a firewall might need a third party anti-spam or anti-virus solution to provide more complete protection.

In either case, trying to force fit an enterprise solution into a small business environment can add to the management workload.

What’s needed: Desirable characteristics?

With these concerns in mind, there is obviously a need for an alternative to the enterprise patchwork solutions that are currently being cobbled together and used in small business today.

Any solution that addresses these pain points must be designed specifically for small businesses and the business partners who serve them. It must enable customers do email, create and share documents, centrally manage files, store and secure business data, control access to information, connect offices, employees and partners whilst protecting their network and systems from unwanted disruptions and intrusions.

It should be less complex so that it requires less IT support than traditional solutions. Additionally the solution should be Linux based. The reason: Linux is stable and reliable. This would simplify management and make solution subject to less downtime than some alternative solutions. Additionally being Linux based reduces many security problems, as far fewer attacks, generally speaking, are aimed at Linux than traditional operating systems.

Furthermore, most operating systems are packed with drivers, utilities and services that are seldom used. An ideal solution would only use the parts of the Linux Kernel that are needed to perform the desired functions. This would reduce potential vulnerabilities.

To simplify matters further, the solution should be very easy to deploy. For example, it should be offered as a simple plug and play solution in the form of an appliance. And the solution should support remote management to troubleshoot and correct small problems, as well as recover from a system crash.

A solution with these characteristics will save a business partner valuable time that would otherwise be needed to administer solutions at every client’s site. This saves time and money. It allows a business provider to provide services in a more economically efficient manner to existing customers. And it frees up time to solicit and support new businesses.

Enter: An affordable solution designed specifically for small businesses

Small Business Server Appliances are a new breed of Small Business Server Solution they are delivered delivered as a plug and play hardware appliance, everything is included. Its pricing structure is simple and straight forward. Business partners do not have to deal with multiple and complex licensing agreements as is the case with many alternative offerings where you are required to switch platforms (or upgrade hardware) above 75 and 100 users, or when email and data storage requirements reach a certain limit.

Small Business Server Appliances offers file and print sharing; firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam protection; email, calendaring, contacts, tasks; secure remote access; data backup and disaster recovery features; office productivity tools; and automated system updates.

Everything is included within the appliance as a single solution. And business partners can use the platform to deploy other applications that a client might need.

The high performance appliance hardware allows a powerful solution to be delivered in a small footprint. This also provides the ability to scale solutions as a clients business grows up to 500 users without artificial licensing barriers. Furthermore, the appliance format also makes the solution very easy to deploy, typically it can be up and running in about 20 minutes.

Setting the solution apart: Autonomic features and benefits

Small Business Server Appliances are designed to run on their own at a customer’s site with little intervention from the business partner. To accomplish this we make use of autonomic features that automatically handle many routine tasks and can correct many problems on its own as they arise. These autonomic features ensure that the small business stays up and running and its systems and data are protected, all while off loading time consuming IT tasks from business partners.

For example Small Business Server Appliances comes pre built and pre configured and can usually be implemented in around twenty minutes. There is no monitor or keyboard, the admin interface is accessed via an IP address securely through HTTPS which enables you to manage the appliance remotely. In contrast, alternative solutions often require the business partner to load 5 to 15 CD’s to get a system running initially.

Small Business Server Appliances also has the ability to self manage automated backups to a disc based storage device (on or off site), to a hosted backup service in addition to traditional tape or USB based storage devices. A few Small Business Server Appliances also provide the option for integrated hot swap backup discs to be used which enable data to be backed up continually throughout the day.

Summary

With Small Business Server Appliances, business partners get an easy to implement and easy to manage solution that has specifically been designed for smaller businesses.

Small Business Server Appliances come pre built and ready to be used this solution offers a rapid time to value.

All of the attributes of Small Business Server Appliances pay dividends twice over. First, the small business client is happy, because they can do their jobs without computer related interruptions. And second, a business partner can deliver a high level of service while dedicating minimal IT resources and staff to each client.

The autonomic features of the solution reduce the time and resources a business partner must invest to begin work with a new client and to support existing small business customers. For example very little training is required to become familiar with the solution, so business partners quickly leverage the solution and immediately become more profitable.

Business Plans – The Main Components That Go Into a Business Plan

“Have Business Plan or Bust”

More than ever, it’s vital to have a plan for your business. And, I’m not speaking about having a marketing strategy just for when starting a new enterprise or making use of it for a business loan. Every business, new and established, must periodically re-evaluate their current plan to see if targets are being met or if they’ve changed and what the brand new strategies are.

Without planning and a strategy, an organization is simply “guessing” and has nothing solid with information on paper regarding the business’ successful attainment of goals.

Do You Know What a Business Plan Really Is and Does?

Many individuals have no idea what a business plan’s purpose actually is. That is the largest reason why people have so much difficulty writing them.

In a nutshell, such plan is about results. Your plan is a direct reflection of your purpose.

The long clarification of what a business plan is: any plan that works for a business to forecast what may be ahead, allocate resources, focus on key issues, and put together solutions to problems as well as opportunities.

Now, a ‘start-up’ plan these additions:

A summary about what the enterprise is and does.
A mission assertion that lets employees, clients, and lenders understand your ethics and goals.
An inventory of keys to success.
A market evaluation to determine who your opponents are as well as public demand for what you are promoting.
A break-even evaluation to seek out out when you might recoup your funding into the business.

A start-up plan for your small business will certainly settle any doubts as to whether or not to pursue beginning a business you take into consideration, but will also serve as your roadmap to take you to the next levels of growth.

Your plan will rely greatly on your specific business. The bottom line is to make your marketing strategy and business plan match your purpose.

Case Studies of Business Plans

With no plan, you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t know methods to get there.

1. Case Study of a Massage Therapy Business: Take the case of a therapeutic massage instructor who had a group of 30 students. Of course, every student’s dream was to graduate and begin their own massage therapy business. But there was a big problem: they graduated and thought they’d simply get clients with business cards and people would flock to them. Only TWO out of the 30 students went on to start out their own businesses. You see, whereas the rest might have mastered therapeutic massage strategies, they weren’t educated in business, let alone create a plan.

Now let’s take a look at how three companies created their plans according to their purposes:

1. Case Research of a Bicycle Frame Manufacturer (manufacturing): A high-end bicycle frame producer that caters to bicycle racers would need to set themselves apart from mountain bike producers and cyclists. As a result of how aggressive racing has become more popular, their plan contains how they may add extra workstations and designer-builders to increase its capability for customized frames. Their plan would additionally go on to explain how they’d use current leased space to make more room for the workstations. Plans are also laid out as to how additional tools for the workstations will likely be obtained.

2. Case Study of a Computer Training Company (service): A certified pc trainer with intensive experience is seeking to increase his enterprise to supply on-web site corporate training and managing coaching and upkeep operations for a large laptop corporation. In an effort to accomplish these objectives, he plans to build on his experience by creating a group of courses designed specifically to help small companies successfully use the preferred business software program packages.

3. Case Study of a Vending Cart Enterprise (retail): A fast-food vending cart enterprise proprietor operates his business on an indoor/outdoor basis. The indoor food cart sales have increased in high-rise business buildings in his downtown area. Consequently, this owner would like to borrow $1 million so as to increase operations by way of the acquisition of extra vending carts. He has an excellent relationship with three banks so, therefore, he simply needs to add a supplement to his current plan because the banks have already got his financial information and know his intended buyer base.

Now that you understand more what a business plan is and does, it’s time to start out….

Writing the Plan for Your Business

So, what are the obligatory elements in a business plan and what order do they go in, right? The how-to’s on that topic are a lot better addressed by an eBook or business plan template where you can ‘fill in the blanks’.

Other locations you possibly can search for steering and run searches for online are (“b”=business):

Sample enterprise plans
B-plan outline
B-plan examples
Free b-plan template
B-plan software programs

You can additionally search for books on Amazon.com and videos on YouTube, as well as web-based plan information, one one of which being, How to Write a Business Plan.

Simply remember: a business plan reflects your purpose and gives you and others a map to follow to get your business to where you want it to go successfully.

How to Find the Most Profitable Online Home Business

The most profitable online businesses are the top tier programs that require some entrepreneurial courage and investment but allow you to earn a significant upfront income.

Most people have the idea that the economic crisis experienced these last couple of years was the worst time ever. But in actual fact, it has been the very best time to establish a home business.

There are so many home business opportunities and schemes to make money online. Yet, it is clear that many are just a scam. It is vital then that you know what constitutes a profitable business model for you.

with the ever-increasing number of both legitimate opportunities and rip-off scams, how do you know what is a honest AND profitable online business to start up and how do you know who to believe when you are researching what is out there?

I had exactly this dilemma. I tried all kinds of schemes and trainings and tools and systems before finally finding success. Now don’t get me wrong, I learned LOTS from my past attempts at a home based business, acquired many new skills. None of it was wasted. But I also wasted LOTS – lots of time and lots of money.

Sound familiar?

This is the reason I put this article together to try to explain some of the different home business models. There are so many variables both in the business you choose and in what YOU need to bring to it. I was doing all the right things but in the wrong way and with the WRONG business model.

The penny dropped when I was on the phone with a friend from that previous MLM. I saw him go from flat broke living in his mother’s basement to become a top producer earning over $50K every month. You see, he’d found a system that works. And after just a few months, I’m on track to follow exactly in his footsteps.

Once I discovered a highly profitable business model that suits what I want to achieve, I simply applied my knowledge and skills and could be successful. The ‘system’ is simply this: a highly profitable online business model. It offers top quality internet marketing education on the front end combined with a top tier product on the back end.

Let me explain some of the terms and the different kinds of home businesses you can start.

Brick and mortar businesses

This is where you buy or let premises for the purpose of selling products or services. This may be you use part of your home or outbuildings. Examples are a personal trainers, hairdressers, dog grooming, computer repairs. The capital you need to start up will be generally high and it may take several years before you are in profit.

Franchise business

Similar to traditional brick and mortar business, but with this model you are buying into a known-brand and premises. Examples are restaurants, cleaning companies. The business is already set up and you ‘manage’ the day to day running of the place. Again, the outlay is usually high, you have employees to hire and manage, and it may take several years before you start earning profits. An online alternative:

Internet based business

This is where your ‘shop’ is a website or a blog and you retail and sell products through online tools. There are various websites and templates you can buy outright or membership, such as lead capture pages, sales letters, as well as a whole host of tools that will help you manage customers and relationships with customers, such as shopping cart tools for product listing and credit card processing, email marketing for follow up.

For the newbie, it can be a massive learning curve to understand what is needed and to do it well. Once you have your online store set up, you must learn how to research your target audience (keyword research), how to advertise (without going bust), how to market to them (psychology of buying processes, writing effective sales copy, relationship building, etc) and how to convert them into buyers. It’s not an easy game.

There are some quick in-roads, such as eBay selling or affiliate marketing (selling other people’s products and using pre-made sales templates). The profit margins are pretty low so you will have to sell hundreds or thousands to make a decent income and there is very little residual income with this model.

Network marketing business

Also know as MLM (multi-level marketing) or home party business, this often suits people who are socially outgoing and want to earn a few hundred pounds extra having fun with friends, work colleagues and family. Again you buy a stock of products and learn how to market these usually locally, but potentially to anyone anywhere. For example, you can use traditional advertising like flyers and newspaper ads and set up personal visits, open days, home parties, exhibitions, ladies evenings etc. to sell your wares.

The more stock you buy, the more ‘discount’ you get and thus, when you sell the products, the more profit you make. The company you join is important in many ways, but obviously in the type of product and the price level. Some products may suit your personal interests and knowledge more than others, e.g. household products, utility products, nutritional vitamin supplements, weight loss products. For people new to sales, it is good to go with a product you would actually use yourself and because the price levels are small, it may be easier to find customers and makes sales.

This kind of home business allows you to make two streams of income, one on products you retail (active income) and another on your ‘team’ of distributors you bring into the business and earn a percentage of commission on products they sell (passive residual income or ‘royalties’). This is called ‘leveraging’ your time, since there is a limit to how many customers one person can manage.

How much income you make depends on how good you are at sales and how many people you bring in and keep as distributors in your ‘downline’. This is the rule, the more people you recruit the more money you will make. But the disturbing statistics show that almost 90% of people who join an MLM or network marketing business never make significant income.

Top tier product marketing

This works on the same basis as network marketing, some of which can earn on 2,3,4 even 10 levels of commissions. So everyone has their ‘cut’ as reward for bringing others into the business and helping them to become successful by making sales. These businesses usually require a substantial investment in the product line, but use the ‘Get Paid Today’ or GPT business model, so you can quickly recoup your initial outlay because you earn very high commissions even on the first sales you make. There is no need to wait to build up a ‘downline’ and earn ‘royalties’ because you start making big front end commissions and residual income stream grows very fast. Commission ranges from $ 1,000 to $ 10,000 (and you can get it immediately!)

So for my own experience, it seems fairly clear cut. If you learn to market online, you can sell any product to anyone, anywhere in the world. Why on earth then would you choose to market low cost products and not top tier products and get paid today? It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? But so many people start a home business or online business without knowing the key differences.

Just to clarify for you then:

For brick and mortar, franchise, network marketing or online businesses…

- Your costs will often be far more than your profits in the short term at least.

- You have to keep working day and night for many years to build things up and to keep the momentum going in your business.

- Your residual income is dependent on how many people you bring into the business who are actively retailing and recruiting.

- This can take many years to develop and you will have to work hard to keep people who do just average since their expectations are rarely met.

- You have to pay transportation and handling of products and certain other charges, which includes maintenance of any advertising websites and for tracking sales and customers and team activities.

- You can add up all the different monthly fees for your individual tools, which are much higher than expected.

- Couple with the low commissions earned, you will probably not break even – ever.

In the Top Tier GPT model…

You get paid today. Your direct sales commissions are immediately paid to you and your compensation does not depend on the number of people in your downline. Because you are retailing high-end products and services, the profit is considerably higher compared with other businesses. Many top tier opportunities also reward you for referrals and pay a commission several levels deep so you can build up a residual income over time. Because you earn a good ‘active’ income, you can quit your ‘day job’ in months not years.