Stories by James E. Gaskin

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?

Get more work done with less e-mail

Here's a statistical downer: there will be around 40 trillion inbox-clogging spam e-mail messages delivered this year. Experts know this because there were 30 trillion spam messages last year. With this much hay in the stack, it's hard to find those message needles, and that's why some smart companies are looking beyond public e-mail.

Organized customer and employee support

Computers and applications stubbornly remain hard to use. Developers, from solo code jockeys to huge corporations, promise us things will be better "real soon." But if operating systems and applications aren't easier today than yesterday, at least we're seeing advances in how to support them. Take NTRSupport's new FirstHelp tool, a support portal. It combines information, drivers, tips, training, techniques, instant messaging, e-mail and even remote control software in a one-stop support shop.

QuickBooks Enterprise adds Web hooks

Have you ever had a service or delivery person come to your home or business carrying a smart phone in place of a clipboard with pre-printed forms? You know, the ones you have to mash down hard when you write so all three copies will be completed? Outside of UPS or FedEx, I never have. But users of QuickBooks Enterprise can zoom their techs from the 1950s to 2009 with one of the add-on modules demonstrated at the QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions User conference last week.

Can your 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.

New twists on Wi-Fi

It's a wireless world, some say, conveniently overlooking the giant balls of cables behind every personal computer and every server, router and printer. But many want to expand the wireless world, so let's look at two companies doing just that.

Online project management tricks

The term "Project Management" usually brings pained looks to business people because they associate it with Microsoft Project. The tool may make their lives easier, but the software costs hundreds of dollars per user, and worse, the desktop-centric management application of yesterday doesn't fit well with the distributed workforce reality of today. What's more, when you take the plunge, getting up to speed on the methodology takes time before you see results.

Your technology tent pole

One of my favorite questions for analysts and consultants is what small businesses should learn from big businesses. Let me quote Michael Dortch, long time IT analyst now with the Aberdeen Group, from an interview I did with him earlier this year: "If you are not entirely dependent on IT to do business and succeed competitively now, you will be by the time I'm finished speaking."

SBS 2008: Same old bundle with new Vista wrapper

With network-attached storage devices selling for just a few hundred bucks per terabyte, and online service providers offering e-mail and full productivity applications for a few dollars per user per month, Microsoft's Small Business Server 2008 is entering into a tougher market than its older siblings have had to endure.

Focus on restore, not backup

Everyone always worries about backup, backup, backup. Guess what? None of your users, or managers for that matter, care one bit about backup. All they want is restore, and they want it immediately. So shift your focus from backup to restore.

Will the death of XP really hurt you?

Microsoft warned us well over a year ago that XP will Die Die Die, at least on new computers, by the end of June, 2008. Petitions and prayers notwithstanding, XP has a firm date with Boot Hill. RIP, XP.

Consumerization of small business IT

During the Altiris user conference in April, I watched a lunch panel discuss the "consumerization of IT" and whether that's a good thing. My initial thought was that it was probably bad for enterprises that want to control everything, but may be good for smaller businesses.

Laptop safety questions

Let me say thanks to the Women's Business Council of the Southwest for inviting me to teach them about laptop safety. The business backgrounds of the members ranged from huge company manager to sole proprietor to corporate lawyer and everything in between. That's what made their questions so interesting, because they came from all directions.

A new all-in-one server

Almost exactly seven years ago, I reviewed four different "All-in-One" 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.