Tag Archive for 'VoIP'

21st century servers designed specifically for small business

Do you know what this term means: peer-to-peer? How about this one: server-based? These are terms that describe how computer environments are structured.

Peer-to-peer means stand-alone PCs are at every workstation and are only connected to each other, if at all, over a local network, typically to deliver Internet connection. This is de-centralized management of computer activity, where each PC has its own programs and files, plus performs its own data back-up and security. File sharing is possible, but not very elegant.

Peer-to-peer is the default environment for small businesses because of the way most of us begin and grow: one desktop at a time.

A server-based environment is the next level up from peer-to-peer. Growing small businesses find that a server set-up provides more control for file management and sharing, data back-up and security, plus efficiency and cost-control when growth calls for added workstations.

A server is a computer that is stripped of everything but the central processing unit (CPU) and a hard drive, and is designed to “serve” workstations that have the monitors, keyboards, etc. A server-based system means there is at least one server that delivers processing power to multiple workstations. All programs, applications, files, storage, back-up and security resides on these central units, instead of at the desktop. And file sharing? Servers were born to share files the way Tiger Woods was born to play golf.

Here’s the next question: How does a small business know when to make the leap from peer-to-peer to server?

Having a server configuration has long been seen as something for big businesses. And historically, a peer-to-peer environment had to be so unproductive that getting rid of its operational pain had to be worse than the conversion challenges that came with making the jump to a server system.

Until now. Enter the server appliance.

This device is a multi-purpose box with a server in it designed to virtually eliminate conversion headaches. Just plug the appliance into an electric outlet and then plug your own local area network into it and bada-bing, bada-bam you’re server-based, baby, with all of the advantages of central data back-up, security, file sharing – even a phone system. Plus, when you add a new person, you don’t have to buy new software programs for the added workstation..

Several IT companies offer server appliances, including IBM’s Lotus Foundations, Iomega, HP, just to name a few. Most work with a local small business computer company, so contact one in your area and let them help you decide if it’s time to make the jump to a server platform and which system is best for you.

Small business owners, in the 21st century you don’t have to be big to be server-based.

Recently, I talked about peer-to-peer and server-based on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to listen, and as always, be sure to leave a comment.

Small business and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP)

Almost 10 years ago I told the audience of my small business radio program that when broadband Internet connections – in those days we called them “the big pipes” – were diffused in the marketplace, the world will change. And so it has. Today, broadband Internet is everywhere, and it accounts for more than 75% of all Internet connections, including more than half of U.S. households.

But the news is not just how we connect – DSL from the phone companies, cable modems, 3G from the wireless companies, etc. – but also the connectivity applications that are a productive reality today and exciting possibilities for tomorrow. And these applications are creating paradigm shifts that are changing the world.

One very interesting 21st century technology is Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP). In its simplest form, you make a regular phone call with a classic phone set, but instead of using the 19th century technology of twisted copper phone lines, you connect over an Internet connection and conversion application offered by providers such as Vonage, Magic Jack, etc. Now take this to the next level by converging your contact management application, a microphone/headset and VoIP, and you’re making voice calls to customers by clicking a mouse instead of dialing and holding a handset. And of course, the quantum leap is not having any kind of phone set on your desk – all calls are routed through your computer and broadband connection. That would be a paradigm hat trick, wouldn’t it? A competitive shift, a cultural shift and an ergonomic shift.

Even though we already have computer-based Internet voice connections with Instant Messaging applications and, of course, there’s Skype, which I use a lot, VoIP is really just now coming into its own. In the very near future watch for the complete shifting of all of our telephony paradigms to take place right in front of our eyes. And for small businesses this will be an exciting time because these shifts will create opportunities for lowering costs and increasing capabilities.

Someone who is an expert on the topic of VoIP and related applications is Leslie Ferry, V.P. of Broadsoft. Recently she joined me on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to discuss what we can get out of VoIP today and what we can expect in the future. I think you’ll learn a lot from our conversation. And leave a comment about your thoughts on VoIP.

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