Besides being the geographical centre of New Zealand, Nelson is also the home of Roger Irwin Computer Services. Roger Irwin, the owner operator started the business back in 2003 after travelling around Europe. He says he has always had enough work to keep busy and has no plans as yet to expand. His line of work ranges from server maintenance and network support to PHP development and generally looking after his customers’ PC needs.
We caught up with Irwin after he’d spent the day upgrading several local PCs. “That’s part of a range of things I do. All the network and desktop support and related services etc.” He creates websites using PHP and Silverstripe [silverstripe.org] an open source CMS developed in Wellington.
Roger began the business with very little capital investment. “I’d spent a number of years living overseas in the UK and Ireland. Then I came back to Nelson and it seemed like the right way forward. I just started doing what I’m doing and I’ve been busy ever since.” He says he has seen some dramatic changes since then. “Things have changed a lot in that time. Ha, where do I start?”
Roger grew up in Nelson and now lives in the city with his family. He gained his first customers by simple word of mouth recommendations. “Initially by word of mouth and people I knew and then I did a mail drop and it’s just spread from there.”
He says the business has changed since 2003. “There’s been less money about than there was but I think it's starting to get better again. But the industry is changing. The whole desktop environment is changing.
“We are beginning to see people moving towards the cloud. Who knows what will happen as there are all sorts of complications and issues yet to be resolved. With the advent of HTML 5 and other new technologies the web is making many more things possible. Privacy and security issues are being lost or ignored by many.”
Roger says his current mix of services and supply in his business model will probably not change. “I think the IT industry is always going to have a need for people and service. There is far too much and it’s far too technical for Joe Public and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Plus there are a whole lot of other issues such as security and viruses and I can’t see those going away any time soon, if at all.”
He’s also a big supporter of the open source environment with many of his customers running Linux machines on their networks. “That’s something that I try to involve myself in as much as I can. When I started there was not nearly as much around as there is now. The whole open source movement goes from strength to strength every year. I have a few desktop users with Ubuntu but most use Linux for servers.”
Roger says he prefers open source over the alternatives for many reasons including reliability, flexibility and security benefits. “These all translate to cost savings for his customers. I use Linux on my own computer and have done so since 2000,” he says.
“I have a number of Linux servers that I look after. They perform a variety of functions such as data storage and back up and that sort of thing. Some of my customers also have Linux mail servers.”
He says he’s also helped some customers migrate to Google Apps. “There are additional benefits of doing this and the overall cost is very reasonable.”
Roger says he's happy with his business the way it is at the moment. “I see no need for change right now. There’s a whole load of other issues around employing staff. I can’t see it happening anytime in the near future. At the moment I’m just continuing doing what I’m doing. I’ve got enough to keep me busy.”
Roger says schools are a challenge as they represent a different environment with different problems including wireless. “I’ve set up a couple of schools with wireless networks which of course includes adding tablets and iPads, including BYOD.”
He says the school jobs, like his other work, have come to him through word of mouth. “It’s the best kind of advertising I have.”