The Days of an Exchange Server are Over for Contractors

Posted by David Chism | Fri, Nov 18, 2011

 The Days of an Exchange Server are Over for Contractors
My dad’s small con­tract­ing busi­ness pays $4,000 a year or more for IT sup­port, just to have an MS Exchange Serv­er. Every time he talks to his IT com­pa­ny about going to the clouds, they give him out­ra­geous quotes of all the things he’ll need to do to switch, with a hefty price tag. Real­ly? It isn’t that dif­fi­cult to switch. With Google ser­vices firm­ly lead­ing the pack in cloud com­put­ing for busi­ness­es (and Microsoft’s MS 360° com­ing soon), more and more busi­ness­es are mov­ing to these ser­vices every day. It makes sense! If you are a small busi­ness, and you spend $200 – 400 dol­lars a month on main­te­nance for a phys­i­cal serv­er or email host­ing, you are sim­ply pay­ing too much. Apple Isn’t Much Help Either My dad is just about ready to make the switch to toss his exchange serv­er and phys­i­cal serv­er in the recy­cling box (yes, that was a polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect term). Yet before he switched, he decid­ed to go and talk to Apple. Why not! They are inno­v­a­tive and big into cloud com­put­ing too. Apple isn’t stu­pid either. They want to sell more hard­ware and soft­ware, like Microsoft. They referred him to a third par­ty IT com­pa­ny who sets up Apple cloud servers. Though switch­ing to the clouds is nei­ther dif­fi­cult nor expen­sive, IT and com­put­er com­pa­nies are try­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the small busi­ness own­ers who don’t know what to do. This Apple cer­ti­fied com­pa­ny gave my dad a quote of around $10,000 to switch from PC com­put­ers to Macs and have a cloud serv­er and office. $10,000 for 4 com­put­ers; I’m in the wrong busi­ness! I looked over the quote this morn­ing and all I saw was the same thing I’ve seen for years: tech talk for­eign lan­guage that makes no sense to busi­ness own­ers, topped off with a big price tag. Don’t get me wrong — they were not scam­ming him by over­charg­ing for their ser­vices. The hourly rates and all that were in line with what IT cost are these days. Yet I feel that their quote was not in my dad’s best inter­est. The quote includ­ed all kinds of irrel­e­vant extras, as well as items that he can get for free (or very cheap) else­where. His busi­ness is already using Google Apps for his email host­ing etc, but IT com­pa­nies don’t real­ly want you to use Google because they know they can’t make mon­ey on it. There isn’t any­thing for them to trou­bleshoot any­more. So What Should You Do When I fin­ished read­ing over the esti­mate for this new IT com­pa­ny, I sent off an email advis­ing my dad to put on the brakes. Whether he gets Macs or stays with PCs, I don’t care. The bot­tom line is he real­ly only needs the following: 
  1. Google Apps for Busi­ness: Email, Cal­en­dar, Two Way-Exchange-like Sync­ing to iPhones/​Androids, Google Docs (get­ting bet­ter every month) and Con­tacts. A busi­ness can still use MS Out­look if they don’t want to use the Google User Interface.
  2. A Cloud Cus­tomer Rela­tion­ship Man­age­ment Soft­ware that works well with Google. There are dozens to chose from. For the painter or remod­el­er out there, Pipeline Deals works great and has excel­lent goal and report­ing infor­ma­tion. $15 a month per user with mobile access. No brain­er. (For those who want less fea­tures, I use High­rise CRM. For those who want more… Sales­force, but that is very expensive)
  3. Egnyte, which will do a two way sync with your files on your com­put­er. You can access those files from any com­put­er. You can take a lap­top with you in the field, pull up your email and Egnyte, and you’re good to go (a vir­tu­al office).
  4. Google Chrome or Fire­fox Web Brows­er: don’t use any­thing else. Each one has a sync option. This means you can have a lap­top and desk­top with the exact same look and feel (book­marks, pass­word keep­ers etc).
  5. Exter­nal Hardrives: This does­n’t hurt. I some­times back­up my Mac com­put­er on an exter­nal hard dri­ve just for the extra security.
What Does This Cost? •Pipeline Deals $15 a user per month •Google Apps for Busi­ness $50 a user per year (free ver­sion is just as good too, just less stor­age) •Egy­nte: Best pric­ing is prob­a­bly the 1 ter­abyte per month at $45 a month •Microsoft Office ($170+ each But if you want to save mon­ey, go to Google Docs or Try Open Office) •Set­up: depends on who you hire. $3001000 to set up Google Apps for Busi­ness is prob­a­bly a good faith esti­mate (depend­ing on who you hire). Egy­nte isn’t that hard to set­up and move files. Their free tech sup­port can guide you how to do that. What else is there? Train­ing and every now and then some IT sup­port, which is nor­mal. Things hap­pen. So, before pay­ing thou­sands of dol­lars to upgrade your office at the end of this year or go to the clouds, make sure you think care­ful­ly who you are hir­ing and why!

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.

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