1. Windows Server 2012 R2:
In my travels talking to small businesses, the feedback I am getting is that there is a preference to retain an in house server for line of business application(s) data storage, print & file serving, folder redirection from User PC s etc. Don t discount using a virtual server instead though, which takes away the overhead of system management. We can home in on Windows Server 2012 Essentials R2 because I feel it is Microsoft s best small business server offering to date. It copes with up to a maximum of 25 users and 50 devices. Should your Business need a server operating to system that can handle more than 25 Users, then Windows Server 2012 Standard R2 running the essentials experience will also give you the benefits listed below.
These are some of the top features of Windows Server 2012 Essentials R2:
- The ability to be installed as a virtual server, enabling the use of hyper-v replica for disaster recovery.
- Complete integration with Microsoft online services such as Office 365, Windows Azure and Windows Intune.
- Built in bare metal backup routines for client PC s.
- Low cost, only circa 300!
- Low cost host computer requirement, I d recommend a minimum of 8GB RAM, 3.1 ghz 64 bit (can be easily sourced under 1500).
2. Desktops running Windows 7 Pro / 10
No problem sticking with Windows 7 Pro although now that Windows 10 is stable that is where you should be heading.
3. Office 365
This really is a fantastic way for small businesses to go. At only 7.80 per month per User via the Business Premium Plan, it provides so much!
- Each User can download up to 5 copies of Office 2016 Pro to their devices, PC, Laptop, Mac, Ipad, Smartphone etc.
- Each User has a 50GB Exchange account assigned. It is easy to point your domain name s MX records to Office 365, giving hosted email for your Business via Exchange Online.
- Each User is assigned 1TB of personal cloud storage via Onedrive for Business, which they can easily sync to their devices.
- Sharepoint Online is included, providing the ability to create an Intranet for your business.
10GB is assigned (plus a further 0.5 GB per user subscription) to store all those Business documents you need share and collaborate on as a Team.
- Skype for Business is also included, giving instant messaging and video conferencing for your Business.
- You don t have to be working on a device with Office 2016 installed! You can log into office 365 and work with Office Web Apps.
4. Windows Azure Backup.
Windows Server Essentials R2 has very powerful and flexible backup routines that can output to local storage devices and also to the cloud based Windows Azure backup service. This service is low cost, the first 5Gb is free, then each extra GB is charged at a maximum of 0.32 per month ranging down to 0.18 per month depending on the volume required.
5. Hosted Sype for Business Voice (formally Lync).
Although Skype for Business Online, which comes as part of Office 365 is a unified communications product, the Business Premium Plan doesn t include connectivity to PSTN (the newly released E5 plan does and is worth investgating as an alternative to the 3rd party hosted service I m recommending here, although, in my opinion, cost purts it out of the reach of SMBs). To fill the gap until the PSTN connectivity offered in the office 365 E3 plan becomes finacially viable to SMBs , several providers are offering a low cost hosted Sype for Business to PSTN service which can integrate with Office 365. This is an amazing opportunity for small businesses to ditch their in-house PBX systems and take advantage of full unified communication including voice telephony and VOIP through Hosted Skype for Business Voice integrated with Office 365.
You will be able to click on a phone number held in a Contact Card either in Skype for Business, Outlook 2016 or Sharepoint and phone them from your computer or any other device with the App installed! No matter where you are in the world, it will look as if the call is being made from your office!
I hope this article has opened your eyes to the opportunities available to replace your aging IT infrastructure with a modern architecture that will support your Business into the future. Hybrid Cloud is the way ahead!
I must begin by saying that in many literary works, the Index is always at the back of the book. Not so in the case of our first Advent Calendar window. For a start, many a child s Christmas present ideas would have been influenced by a flick through the catalogue. Hence Index being the first window. I remember the Index stores being cleaner and more cheerful than Argos shops. Their stores had brighter fittings, which explains why Argos borrowed a number of ideas from Littlewoods chain.
The Ad of Christmas Past
Imagine being able to order over 12,000 items bellowed the voiceover man. Back in 1993, being able to have such choice in the pre-broadband era was a big deal.
Our advert portrays Index as being an accessible catalogue shop. One where you could order your stuff over the telephone. Nice!
Not only that, the idea of ordering stuff over the phone and paying for your goods with a credit or debit card. Yes, none of that 38 weeks at 1.50 a week malarkey and the interest they bump on top of that. Plus, the fact you could also collect your goods from an Index store.
The Shop of Christmas Past
Speaking of 38 weeks at 1.50 a week, Index was the protege of Littlewoods. As well as its department stores, Sir John Moores company was a massive player in catalogue shopping alongside Great Universal Stores. Therefore, having seen Argos efforts take off since 1973, a bit of me tooism could have been Littlewoods approach.
Not quite. A natural precursor to Index could lie in Littlewoods Tele-Bingo programme on Swindon Cable (1986). It was a British equivalent to the American shopping channels with continuity and bingo, with prizes picked up from Littlewoods Swindon store. Plus, the joy of making your purchases over the phone. Furthermore, some branches of Littlewoods also had Index counters (Rochdale s branch being one example).
Sadly, the adventure of catalogue shops wasn t to be for Littlewoods Index. Their stores were sold to arch rival Argos part of the Great Universal Stores company (later Home Retail Group). S.V., 01 December 2015.
Manchester Curious ~ Piccadilly Basin
My final tour of the Manchester Curious was of Piccadilly Basin, the old industrial area between the Ashton and Rochdale Canals north east of the city centre. Once part of the Victorian industrial powerhouse, the area had fallen on hard times. It was a rundown and, potentially, dangerous part of the city to visit. And I think I d stay off the quiet canal side paths after dark still. But, like the rest of city centre Manchester, it s had something of a renaissance over the past few years. The old warehouse buildings have been restored and turned into apartments over looking the water. New blocks have been built on wasteland and more are planned. Businesses have moved into the area. The canals have been cleaned and are back in use for leisure.
To the east is Piccadilly Station and the site of the HS2 train station that will link the city to the high speed European rail system. When built it ll be breakfast in Manchester, in Paris for lunch and Barcelona for dinner.
We started our tour at Carver s Warehouse on Dale Street. It s one of the oldest, if not the oldest warehouse in the city. And, in a city of red brick warehouses, it looks a bit out of place. Simple in design, it was built by a Yorkshire company who brought the stone over from that county. It looks more like an industrial building in Leeds or Bradford than the ones we are used to this side of the Pennines. Behind it is a surface car park that used to be a canal basin that was linked by canal to the company s Yorkshire operations in Leeds. On the car park side you can see two curved entrances, now glazed, where the canal boats would come into the building to be unloaded. The canal system went into decline almost as it was being finished off as the coming of the trains stole a lot of its business, moving goods around the country more quickly than the canals could hope to do.
The old warehouse has been restored and a new wing built on Dale Street connected to the old by a glass atrium. The old building is as it was when it was built (except with super-fast broadband) and is linked by walkways to the new services in the new wing.
Our tour group studying Carver s Warehouse. The white building is an Art Deco warehouse built in the 1930s and was one of the last cotton warehouses to be built in the city. It s been restored and is now apartments.
Touring the canal basins. This is the 1836 warehouse and is more typical of the kind of warehouses that line the Manchester canals. You can see the curved openings where the canal boats emptied their loads. It is now an apartment block. There s a new apartment block on the left and the site on the right is being built on by Ian Simpson, the architect who designed the Hilton Tower. It will be more homes.
I think the basin needs boats. Some people live on boats in other places and it would be cool if they could do that here as well.
These people weren t part of our group but I got chatting to them. Their canal boat was in one of the locks waiting for the water level to rise. They were from Leeds. They had taken their boat, on canals, all the way from Leeds to Oxford and then from that famous, university city up to Manchester. From here they are travelling back to Leeds over the Pennines. The canals and their boats have found a new life as a leisure resource.
Here we are on the other side of Great Ancoat s Street in the world s first industrial suburb of Ancoats. We re by the Royal Mills. These are some grand, late Victorian cotton warehouses that replaced some much older ones.
If Victorian entrepreneurs had been able to foresee the tourist industry of the 21st century they might have left the original ones in place. It was here that workers were first brought together in one building anywhere in the world to make things, in this case, cotton cloth. It was here that the modern manufacturing world was born. The replacement buildings are fine and have been turned into apartments. It s rapidly becoming one of the trendiest places in the city to live.
Where people once worked long hours in noisy, dangerous conditions, modern Mancunians enjoy a coffee in the early Autumn sun, costing about the same as a Victorian worker would earn in a day. The past would be an interesting place to visit but I wouldn t want to live there.
The bell that was in this aperture would summon workers to the mill. Once in, doors were locked so the workers could be monitored.
Meeting another of our tours around Ancoats. It was a busy weekend.
I like the combination of the old and the new in Manchester and was pleased with this picture of Royal Mills and the new apartment block next door.
This is Cutting Room Square. The church is St.
Peter s which was built by Italian immigrants in Victorian times in a style that wouldn t look out of place in a quiet part of Rome, Florence or Venice. It was abandoned by the Italians as they prospered and moved to better parts of the city. It s now called Halle St. Peter s and is used by the Halle Orchestra as a rehearsal space and a performance space. An international competition has been set up to design an extension to the church to expand its facilities. The buildings around the square have converted into business units, coffee shops, restaurants and apartments.
We ended up in the middle of New Islington where we have been on the Tom Bloxham/Jonathan Schofield tour of that area on Friday.