Help me learn about my IT needs
May 24, 2012 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for some resources for a non-IT person who needs to solve the IT needs of a small but growing consultancy business. Heavy snowfall inside.

I have about 7 people working in a consultancy business and growing. My old server (and clients) are basically crap and need replacing.

I would like to understand what people are offering me and why. One IT provider suggested a 6k server with room for 100 users, plus firewall and stuff - a 10k bill total. No idea why he chose these specs, or what I will be able to do with them. I don't even know if, after purchase, he will inform me that I need to spend another 5k to get it running.

I'm a bit out of my depth, and I want to get a basic understanding of the options. Like: can I skip the whole server buying and move to an Amazon server? But what with remote access then? Can I install VPNs to access Dropbox/Amazon so that only certain machines can access my company's info?

At this time, all I have is questions. I'd like to know where to find some answers. Blogs, books, whitepapers, contacts of friendly people who want to hope me, anything is welcome. Thank you in advance.
posted by OctopusRex to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depends what you need IT infrastructure for.

We make financial software and run a 50 person company on Google Apps for Business ($5/month/user). We still have some file servers and development servers in-house, and of course a lot of externally hosted servers to run our retail applications on, but all of the core collaboration infrastructure (email, calendars, contact lists / directory, file sharing, chat, etc) are handled by Google and meet our needs 100%. Learn from many others' mistakes - don't take on any work you don't absolutely need to. If you don't have legally mandated privacy restrictions for your industry (HIPAA, etc), outsourcing this stuff is almost always the best possible move for a small company.

Sign up for a Google Apps trial for 30 days. If you're happy with it, then start looking at what other gaps you need to fill in. For a lot companies, it will be local file sharing and that's it. But even that is becoming less needed with things like Google Drive and Dropbox.
posted by chundo at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Closing on a refi tonight, but I have a number of years experience as an IT manager and employee in small businesses. I'd be happy to chat with you for an hour or so and talk shop (the username helps. I <3 cephalopods). Send me a memail if you're interested and we'll set up a time to chat and a shared workspace to log some notes in.

This problem is likely bigger than blogs or books. A lot of the correct answer depends on your industry, how you do business, what your workflow is, the expectations and capabilities of your workforce, and your legal and regulatory concerns. You really need to sit down and think about a 3-5 year IT strategy, and then start cherry picking the books and blogs to get that started.
posted by bfranklin at 1:21 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

10k seems way too much for your small business. Even with growth factored in. Your server itself should be no more then $3k tops with windows small business server and pro support from dell.

I really think he is over charging you for your server. For that $6 You can get the server, firewall , and switches .
posted by majortom1981 at 3:33 PM on May 24, 2012

I have a guy I use for starting up campaigns and our own small business. Memail me if you want his contact information. I've found him to be great, reliable and very fair in pricing. He can work remotely--I've set up 5 different projects (office moves/new campaigns) with him and have never met him in person. 10k sounds like you are getting more than you need, or are being overcharged, but it is hard to know without knowing what you need specifically.
posted by fyrebelley at 4:01 PM on May 24, 2012

If your IT consultant isn't making things clear and giving options then I'd suggest finding a new IT consultant or company, or at least pushing back and asking for details. You shouldn't have to figure this out on your own.

Talking to other business owners to find out where they get IT support from and going on reputation is a great method to find a replacement. You want someone who you can trust and who will customize a setup for you based on your needs, workflows, etc.

In your town you will likely find managed service providers with flat rate billing based on the number of computers, servers, etc (plus hourly or fixed for setup of new equipment) as well as consultants who bill hourly.
posted by ridogi at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2012

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