Got a business-related IT question? Ask the experts on Facebook and you’ll get a prompt, authoritative reply from a panel of Microsoft Partners who are accredited Small Business Specialists. Here are a couple of questions received to date:
“What is your view on using online applications as opposed to having a server and running software on site. I have been looking at CRM systems and there seems to be a big overhead involved in me buying hardware and software.” Here’s the expert answer:
Great question, and one that lots of business owners are thinking about given the rise of "Cloud Computing".
Each scenario has to be judged on a case-by-case basis, but to provide a extremely simplified answer, I'd say that online applications (such as Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, Microsoft CMS and the like) are a great fit where you need a quick deployment with lower up-front costs. They are also excellent solutions for dispersed workforces, perhaps where lots of people are working remotely. Finally, they give you an opportunity to reduce (or in cases, eliminate) the need to arrange ongoing maintenance and support - as these requirements are often met by the "cloud" provider as part of their service.
The argument for retaining in-situ would be it gives you greater control over your services and data, and you have more flexibility for customisation and control.
Really, there is no right or wrong answer - "Cloud" is a great fit for some clients, whilst In-Situ is better for others. Or perhaps a mixture of both - a Hybrid Cloud/In-Situ solution - such as Microsoft's upcoming Aurora Server! (http://www.microsoft.com/sbs/en/us/beta.aspx)
The good news is, all this choice means greater flexibility for business owners - there's less and less of a concern that "One size needs to fit all!".
I hope that helps Gareth, thanks for your question!
“I would like to store files online to share with colleagues and partners what is the best way of doing this?”
Richard Tubb, from James Cash replied, “You could check out Windows Live Sync (http://www.foldershare.com/) for very simple, no-cost file sharing. The Live Sync service is a free download from Microsoft and enables you to synchronise files between your computers so you always have the latest copy available to you.
Live Sync also allows you to share folders with friends and co-workers, as you've mentioned you'd like to do.
I personally use Live Sync on a number of my computers - Work PC, my laptop, home PC and a netbook - and like the way I can easily share certain files and folders with colleagues.
There are other options available if your needs for on-line file sharing grow - but Live Sync is quick and easy to set-up, so why not check it out? I hope that helps!
And Julian Lewis, from Positive Computing, also replied, saying:
“Some of this will depend on your exact requirements. Live Sync is great as are some of it's competitors such as Dropbox.
I have also just started using soonr (http://www.soonr.com/) which is a combined backup, collaborate and access (anywhere) application which meets almost all needs for online storage, but it is not free.
My advice would be to try a few different services as most offer either a free starter package or a trial period. You can then see what fits your needs and gives you the results you want.”