Stories by James E. Gaskin

Clouds now strong enough to support your business

Technology makes life easier for small businesses, even if you can't see that while cursing your personal computer for some problem or another today. Not only have hardware costs dropped by an order of magnitude over the past two decades, you can now run your business quite well without any hardware beyond one laptop or netbook for every employee. The fuzzily-named “cloud” can support your business without any local hardware. And when you do want local hardware appliances, they should be tied into the cloud as well for disaster recovery support.

New surveys on small business security and success

Understanding small business is tough because there are so many of them and they vary so widely. But all small businesses share certain problems, attitudes, and approaches to those problems. Let's give a hand to <a href="http://www.symantec.com/index.jsp">Symantec</a> and <a href="http://www.networksolutions.com/">Network Solutions</a> for doing their part to discover the state of security and creating (and studying) the Small Business Success Index.

The cost of poor customer service

Loyal customers can be tough to find. So why do some companies run them off with crappy customer service? Often because the employees who care have no authority to fix problems, and those with the authority don't care. Today, let's hear the story of reader Boyd, his Dell XPS420, and the data corruption problems he had when running a disk array. Then let's hear how two other small service companies do much better support.

Tighten up your customer focus

In sports, successful athletes narrow their focus during crunch time. They may concentrate on footwork, technique or increase their margin for error. Technology providers must do the same thing during tough economic times. You must focus on your customer and nothing but your customer, whether the customer is a consumer, another business, or internal departments needing technology and support.

SMEs: Storing your data in their cloud

Although it may seem like your computing life is all e-mail and browsing, computer users still create files, documents, spreadsheets, boring presentations and all manner of other stored information. Which brings me to the question: Where do you store your data? And are you ready to store your data online in a service hosted by a third party provider?

Can your small business run completely online?

The world's richest and most powerful 10-year-old says it can handle far more of your technology needs than you think. Google started almost exactly 10 years ago, and it is making big noise about invigorated Apps and some Googlers called to tell me about the improvements.

First Look: A new all-in-one server

Almost exactly seven years ago, I reviewed four different &quot;All-in-One&quot; Internet appliances that included file, e-mail and Web servers and some other workgroup type utilities. A purple cube, eight inches on each side, called the Qube 3 from Cobalt (purchased by Sun) won the comparison. The review is here, but alas, none of the products are. The All-in-One market is tough, and many small businesses go with the flow and buy Microsoft's Small Business Server, which includes most of the All-in-One features.

Reducing hardware and software costs

On the response sheets I get from those who attend the speeches I make at the ITEC conferences, &quot;Reducing hardware and software costs&quot; always ranks in the top third of important issues. One of my goals is to help SMEs maximise the value of technology in their business. Sometimes that means spending less, sometimes it means spending more. Let's talk about spending less today.