My Apple Technology consulting company, scott caldarelli consulting limited, has been supporting MKCREATIVE and its clients for some time now, so it’s a thrill to be able to share some of the lessons I’ve learned and the insights I’ve developed over the last few years, especially when it comes to supporting consultants and community-based organizations.
Specifically, I’m going to be exploring technology — hardware, software, troubleshooting tips, how-tos — over the next months. My focus will be what you can do to maximize your organization’s infrastructure reliability and minimize procurement and maintenance costs.
A bit about myself first. I became interested in computers and in Apple’s Macintosh computers as an audio engineer. At that time, the best recordings were made on analog tape that held 24 tracks, each reel could record about 15 minutes and each reel cost $150-$200. Then I saw someone edit a stereo master track on a computer. He just highlighted what he wanted to go away, hit delete and it was done. I was a convert.
For any small business, budget is always a factor in any decision. For a nonprofit organization, it can be more pronounced. Because of that, many organizations will often try to have a staff member be the de facto IT person in addition to doing their own job. This places added stress on the employee, and often takes longer to get things done than it might normally. Over the long term, it will cost you less to have a knowledgeable person come in and do the job correctly.
One good way to manage your IT budget is through purchasing prepaid blocks of time. This gives you a basic fixed cost until those hours are used up, and you’ll get a discount for paying for the time up front. Pre-paid blocks also make it much easier to quantify how much time is being spent on your IT needs.
To stretch your budget further, once your systems are set up, most of the administration can be done remotely, taking less time and saving more of the pre-paid time for bigger issues, or installing new equipment when necessary. Having a trusted IT partner for your organization helps you progress efficiently by making bigger steps possible without being held back by IT issues.
Often, you need a server to hold the files everyone needs to access. Apple has great solutions for a reasonable price. The Mac Mini Server is inexpensive, and can provide all the services that a larger piece of hardware can, but not for as many people. I’ll cover the Mini Server in a later story.
Some people might think it would be cost effective to keep your mail hosted in-house on your organization’s computer network. Upon further examination, though, the apparent convenience is faulty reasoning. A better solution would be to have the hosting provider for your website (or another established email service provider) provide email hosting as well. If your hardware is in-house and you have a power problem, or your internet connection goes down, no mail is getting to you. It bounces back to your clients and constituents without explanation. Large-scale providers have servers across the grid, so even if your office is having problems, your email is being stored on servers elsewhere.
The other big concern in any business is safety of your data. Having a good backup strategy is critical – You’re a hard drive crash away from disaster. But once you have a considered plan, most of it can be automated, thus relieving one major worry on your organization’s list.
Guest blogger Scott Caldarelli writes frequently about technology and IT consultation at scottcaldarelliconsulting.com