Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let me just put on my fire-resistant underwear

Ahhh, there we go, best to be prepared for what maybe coming my way after posting this.

 

Now David Williams has posted an article about “How Linux is keeping Microsoft honest (and why SBS sucks)” and has followed up with “The real reason consultants use Microsoft SBS over Linux”. There are some valid points in his argument but the articles are clearly designed to antagonize the SBS Community and entice them into a bare knuckle brawl over the also-ran issue of Microsoft vs Open source (read Linux) software. Yeah, yeah, been there done that many, many times.

 

The article has raise the ire of some well known SBS community figures including Dana Epp and Susan Bradley for some technical inaccuracies in the article. However, the gist of the David’s article is not about technical issues it is more about providing value to the customer. David’s argument is that if you remove the price of Microsoft software (and replace it with free Linux based software) you are doing your customer a better service. In response to that all I can say is that I don’t think that I have ever seen a Linux based small business solution installed in a customers site. If it is really that good you’d think that I would have seen it somewhere, wouldn’t you? Again, if SBS is so bad why is it installed in so many places? Look, there are lots of reasons why SBS is superior to Linux in providing business value to a customer but I am not here to discuss that. I’m here to propose something even more radical (cue dramatic music).

 

Following on from what David is saying, what if you were to remove the server hardware totally from the client’s solution? Wouldn’t that be doing an EVEN better service saving them even more money? Yes, ladies and gentlemen I am once again talking about ‘cloud computing’. The following article - “Does Windows still matter”, (although another subtle shot at Microsoft) shows that the technology world is changing. More and more people are beginning to understand that technology can be effectively deployed from the Internet and onto what it is deployed doesn’t really matter.

 

I think the average SBS site is 10-15 users. Why does a business like this need to have a server? Why does a business like this need to be running a mail server? Why does a business like this need to change backup tapes every night? And so on and so on. My contention is that there are now the tools readily available to achieve just about everything an on site server (be it SBS, Windows, Linux, Mac, whatever) can do at probably a reduced cost via the Internet. I agree that many of these solution have limitations and are not as functional in all respects but hey guess what? In a very short time they will be. You can count on that.

 

In my opinion the first application that should go is email. Get a hosted Exchange account, get a Hotmail or Google Mail account, just get it out of a business. Have someone else worry about screening out spam. Have someone else worry about how much space my mailbox takes up. As a business why should I pay money for equipment to hold data when I can use someone else’s? In many cases for free? What if after getting rid of email you also get rid of file storage what is left? Not much. Again, so why do you need a server on site?

 

As the landscape changes customers are going to become more savvy. They are going to talk with other business owners, their friends, read newspapers and so on. It is only a matter of time before they discover ‘cloud computing’ and start asking questions, wondering why resellers haven’t been telling them about the benefits it can provide. I believe David says – “I

argued last time that the consultants don’t know better. They don’t have experience with the larger range of Windows products – let alone Linux equivalents." and I think that he is generally pretty right but I would also content that he is very limited (and bigoted) in his opinion that Linux is ‘the solution’. I’m sorry to say that I think ‘cloud computing’ is going to trump them both.

 

SBS is a great solution. SBS 2008 will provide many users with excellent results and achieve everything they require. I sorely doubt whether any Linux equivalent will ever provide a competitive advantage no matter what the bigots (aka David) say. I do however believe that the real challenge to SBS, especially in its market space, is going to be services delivered and provided by the Internet. I would simply say that before ANY server is installed at ANY business the question should be asked - Do we REALLY need to have this here? I am becoming more secure in the fact that I can confidentially answer – No, you don’t.