Can a small business fire the IT Guy and dump Microsoft by deploying new, subscription-based online services? I asked this question in Tuesday’s post and it generated a wide range of comments.
Some said, “hell yeah, fire him,” while others said, “you just need a better IT guy.” Some love Microsoft Outlook, others hate it, and a few commenters were stricken with fear at the thought of abandoning Microsoft Word in favor of a web-based product like Writely.
I’ve published a detailed case study on my personal blog, written in the voice of the CEO of a thirty-person market research company. Those of you who are passionate about the topic might want to read the complete case study and then return here to comment and discuss.
Below is a quick summary of my personal recommendations for an a-la-carte menu of hosted services to replace IT Guy and the in-house Microsoft Exchange Server. For sake of argument, let’s assume IT Guy costs the company at least $100K, including salary, benefits, office space, and his server, software licenses, and training costs. My replacement plan cuts the annual cost in half, and that includes a nice budget for outside HTML jockeys to help the website survive the transition.
One caveat: I’m leaving Microsoft Office in place. I’ve already paid for it, everyone knows how to use it, and when someone needs help with Bullets and Numbering, they ask a coworker, not IT Guy.
Intermedia.net is one of several companies offering hosted Microsoft Exchange Server. Same Outlook functionality, except it’s on their server instead of yours. And it’s cheap. They’ve just launched a new package of 25 Outlook mailboxes, 1 gb storage per box, for $295 per month. Includes anti-spam, anti-virus, daily backups, everything you were paying IT Guy to do on your own server.
Microsoft Office works well at most companies, but the collaborative process needs a revamp. At present, the Lead Author of a report is at the hub of a clerical nightmare. Bits and pieces of Word and Excel are flying everywhere, and the email traffic is mind-numbing.
There are lots of options to choose from, but a good place to start is Central Desktop. This hosted, subscription service is like a preconfigured wiki, enabling teams to work inside a shared online workspace. Team members can set milestones, comment on drafts, check in and check out documents, and review the actions and postings of other team members. The cost for a robust package: $99/month.
Sales and Marketing:
In many small businesses, sales and marketing people are unsupported by IT Guy. They’re keeping their own customer lists in ACT, Goldmine, or even Excel. For $40 per user per month, you can turbocharge the selling effort with the open-source flavored sugarcrm.com, or the more buttoned-down salesforce.com.
One problem with firing the IT Guy is that he’s often the only person who knows how to update the website. Couldn’t departments take responsibility for marketing themselves and their products on the Web? Perhaps a Typepad Pro account is in order. For $149.50, you get unlimited hosted blogs at your domain name for a year. Over time, you can migrate more and more site content to staff-generated blogs and outsource e-commerce to a specialist vendor.