Friday, 2 November 2007

Is It Goodbye for the LAN?

Since the early 90's most companies and organisations have needed a LAN (Local Area Network). This has often meant a Server Room or a cool cupboard where the loud server hums away and cables stretch around the walls. These servers have housed all the vital company documents and often the email system. An IT person is employed to manage this server and to keep it working. They have to regularly back it up on expensive tape and make sure that it is free from viruses. Any change to the server or update of software risks bringing the whole company offline. The job of the IT person is not the most pleasant especially at times when the server does go down. Everyone in the company is shouting 'when will it be up' and Customer service staff are blaming the lack of computers for every problem. There's no help or even encouragement just the question or why this work wasn't done out-of-hours and the belief that IT people don't need a life outside work. But now in 2007 perhaps everything is finally beginning to change and for the Small and Medium sized companies many of the IT headaches can now be removed. The reason basically is the power of the Internet. We now all have access to the almighty Internet in many of the places we go. At work, in McDonalds, at the airport, at home and in hotels so why do we need to rely on that small Server Room or cupboard and those long and frustrating backups? The answer is that finally hosted secure solutions are now available with speeds that can match many LANs. These hosted providers can do all the donkey work and be available 24/7 to make sure servers are always running. They can be in charge of backups, anti-virus and Microsoft's annoying updates. They have the volume of servers to be able to offer solutions that really are available 99.95% of the time or they pay compensation. With the advent of SharePoint Services Intranets can now have the power to quickly perform all those time consuming activities that all companies have to do; Holiday Requests, Expenses, Contact Information, Customer Data, Equipment Inventory etc. This means that products like officetalk Relay (http://www.office-talk.com) can now offer a hosted secure solution that does most of the companies IT leaving the company to spend their time working on their products and customer relationships. Is this all a dream or are we really seeing the end of the LAN? Can we fully trust these hosted providers? It will be interesting to see how many LANs remain in 2010 for even the bigger companies.

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