So you had this great idea to start a company. You don’t know where to start and all you have at present time is your laptop.
Hold it right there! This is not going to work. Were you not going to start a company that would grow in size?
Don’t let your IT limit you.
-Customer relationship management
-Human resource management
-Supply chain management
Are you going to do this in excel? Then copy a backup manually to a USB stick? How about dropbox? It was hacked before, so that is surely a safe bet!
How are you going to share this data with your employees should you get some, and that is your plan right? You do want a business that is in continual growth right? That requires employees.
Get the correct IT-hardware.
There is no such thing as overdressing in your IT-environment. You need redundancy, you need your systems online 24/7 even if some of the hardware you have obtained is failing. If the IT-system is down it is bad for your business. Ask yourself, what does 1 day of downtime cost?
Refurbished HP or IBM servers are the way to go. Stay away from Dell, they make servers from Hell! Actually everything they make is crap. Fujitsu servers are usually made of plastic and I am not a particularly big fan of their servers either.
Stay away from Fujitsu laptops aswell, they are horrible! Get Lenovo/IBM those guys know what they are doing and their products are very reliable.
You can get 6 refurbished servers for the price of 1 new server. They use more power, but you can distribute your data onto several servers. Your applications will be run by 2 or more servers simultaneously. Should one physical server fail, there is failover. If you bought 3 servers, well then you still have 2 and the failed one can stand there for another week untill the IT-guy comes by and replaces it. The server can be replaced in a matter of minuttes all the while the remaining IT-infrastruture supports your business and you work like nothing ever happened.
ZFS – Next gen. system!
On the storage side. Use ZFS or waste time and money!
You want value adding IT infrastructure? For small and medium and even large businesses there is no replacement for ZFS. ZFS can not grow in # of disks in an array, which we from now on will call a pool of disks, however, you can replace 1 existing drive at a time with a bigger drive, when all drives in the array have been replaced one by one, with bigger counterparts the available dataspace will increase automatically.
So, as an example, a customer has a 6 drive server. 6x1TB disks, Raid6 yielding 4 TB available place.
The customer runs out of space. What do you normally do? You buy a bigger server or replace all 6 drives at once with bigger ones and now you have to copy data for several days……. NONO! That is not how you do it!
You take out ONE of the 1TB drives and replace it with a bigger 4TB drive and wait for the pool to sync ONLY the data that was on the original 1TB drive. This is fast.
When disk one is synched you replace the next drive in line and continue untill all 6x1TB drives are out of the server and there are now 6x4TB drives. No downtime, no nothing and the pool will automatically expand in size to 16TB total space.
I actually wonder why this is not the default filesystem in all hosting centres around the world.
Need even more space? You can create nested pools (nested raid) and add pools to pools to create bigger pools.
What is the coolest thing about all this? You do not need dedicated hardware raid controllers to use ZFS. ZFS is quick and efficient. If you really need alot of speed, get ALOT of disks. With ZFS you can Create a Raid6e type of system with 3 redundant disks. At this point, 4 drives would have to fail simultaneously before you loose any data. Data synching is ultra fast aswell compared to regular raid systems. They usually need to resynch the entire array in order to continue functioning after a disk has been replaced. This is terrible on the performance side 🙂
With ZFS, data is always consistent on disk.
Please watch this video before implementing any storage subsystems anywhere in your organization: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QucASjuGAWY
Get the correct software.
As mentioned above, alot of business activities can be handled in software systems designed specifically for that purpose.
Get a full blown ERP system, they can be obtained for free. I personally have been using Odoo.
Odoo is scalable and can handle very large amounts of users, data, projects, accounting… everything you need.
Odoo is free and is now released in version 7.0
Pay the right price
IT-companies want to make money, I do not think that is a secret. You very often pay way too much for their services.
If you go with open source software you will remove the largest price-tag of your system.
Do backup! Repeat, DO BACKUP!
5 years ago, I attended entrepreneurial ventures. People had this funny idea that they do backup on USB sticks and services such as dropbox. This requires repetitive manual actions that you will not do! I know you won’t – you know you won’t so stop lying to yourself and get a proper backup solution before you start crying.
Real men do make backup’s, they don’t want to have to deal with their wife if the holiday or family photos vanish because you forgot to copy them to your USB stick
I can recommend Ahsay Offsite backup. You can install it on minimum hardware and have the data replicated from your in house server to your “home server” and a 3rd server at your parents house. That way, should your company burn to the ground you have 2 other locations where all your data is stored. All the operating systems you normally use and the applications are also backed up. Restoring a system like this takes hours, not days. All it requires is new hardware and you are good to go.
Data is encrypted with Ahsay so they are safe from theft aswell. Just do NOT forget your encryption key. There is NOTHING we can do for you if that happens.
Make sure to test your backup often. If you think you are backing up but you are really not, that would be catastrophic.
Create an IT-strategy.
With the above tools in hand, it is time to create a structure in your chaotic amounts of data. Your IT-Guy will be able to assist you with that. He knows how to handle data and how to store it effectively. At least he should!
If you are not consistent about where you save your data, documents, contracts, contact data etc.. then your employees will have a hard time obtaining the required information, this slows down your business. Don’t let that happen.
If you need advice on what kind of system would suit your need, please feel free to write me a comment.