Becoming a Web Based Company

Lately I’ve been realizing just how fast technology changes. In December I wrote an article about our company embracing the open source software alternatives:

So we came up with a plan. We would have a set of desktop workstations (one to start) that have the full Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection (the $2,500 one) and Microsoft Office Professional 2007. Our laptops would then use the OSALT (open source alternative). Aside from that warm and fuzzy feeling you get from using great open source software, this move will save us thousands of dollars each year. We figure that 95%+ of tasks can be complete with the OSALT, but when we need to use the standard software for better performance or file compatibility we’ll have desktops at our disposal. The only way this really breaks down is if the 95% doesn’t hold up (in which case we’d probably buy a copy of the software needed for that individual) or if too many people *need* the desktops at one time.

In the comments Anthony from Xonatek and I had a great back-and-forth about taking our mentality a step further utilizing Google Apps and free web based software.  Ultimately, we didn’t change our plan at the time but the conversation left the thought in the back of my mind.

Just before we moved into the warehouse George’s computer died and we lost all of his data.  I personally was doing an OK job of backing up my files, but we didn’t yet have a company backup plan (something I planned on doing once we settled in).  The more I thought of it, the harder the idea of a backup plan became because we’re always on the move.  You can’t set your laptop to auto-backup at midnight if it’s in a different location each night at midnight.  What happens if it’s suspended or shut down?  If it backs up as soon as you boot up that could bother you and prevent you from performing a time-critical task.  If it skips the backup that defeats the purpose.

More and more I decided the route to go was not to back anything up, but to have everything stored on the web. Aside from not needing to schedule and perform backups, you can also work from any internet-ready device at close to full capacity.  The downside of course is that if you have a slow internet connection many of the apps straight up suck.  We combat this by having the open source alternative installed on the hard drives on all of our computers.  We also still purchase software when necessary:  for example, Mike has a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS3 that isn’t really replaceable  with an open source alternative for the graphics work he does.  We also sort of killed the idea of a super duper master $5,000 PC – what’s the point when almost everything is online anyway?

Here’s how we have it set up:

  • We use Google Apps for:
    • Email hosting through Gmail. This is for our emails.  For the rest of the emails (sportslizard, iprioritize, tastefullydriven, etc) I use the mail fetcher to take a copy of each incoming email off of the server and put it in an appropriate folder.  It leaves the message on the server for me to download in Thunderbird (still my email client of choice), acting as a great auto-backup.  I also set it up so I can reply from any of those email accounts via Gmail if I’m on the road and don’t have access to my Thunderbird on my laptop.
    • Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations for our office suite. We’ve already had quite a bit of great collaboration on some docs and spreadsheets that otherwise would have been emailed back and forth a bunch of times.  Far more useful than I anticipated.
    • Google Sites to replace our Wiki’s. We have one wiki for just the owners that has critical info in it and a second wiki that employees will have access to that has all of the important processes (like how to pack and ship an order).
    • Google Calendar to manage our schedules. We don’t use it much, but it’s an easy way to set up a meeting with everyone without having a big chain of emails back and forth.
    • The company start page where you can access all of these things.  I can’t over-emphasize how nice it is to have one login for everything.
    • The Remember the Milk plugin for the company start page as a shared task manager (ironically, I had someone email me the other day ripping Remember the Milk and saying iPrioritize was far better…maybe so, but iP doesn’t have a plugin like this…suppose that’s my fault…)
  • Xdrive for storing other files like our Quickbooks backup, database backups, PDF files, PSD files, etc.

So far it’s going great.  The coolest part for me has been that it has opened up a whole new world of devices away from my laptop where I can work.  I went from working solely on my one powerhouse laptop (dual core processor, 2 gb ram, etc) to now sometimes using my desktop for its 22″ monitor when I need more space.  I even pulled the trigger on an ultra portable Eee PC for when I’m on the go.  For $399 I figured I could reduce the wear and tear on my current laptop (especially the hard drive – the Eee has a solid-state hard drive which is much better for traveling) and reduce the amount of stuff I need to carry on a regular basis while still remaining almost as productive as I would be on my lapper.  Linux took some time getting used to, but with the help of I’ve become addicted to hacking up this little device.  I’d say at this point I could work solely from the Eee PC for a few weeks with very little productivity loss.  I wrote a full review over on the Tastefully Driven blog, but take a look at how much smaller it is compared to my current lapper:

Laptop size of eeepc

Random happenings not worthy of a full post…

  • This weekend I’ll be moving to a new apartment so the posts might be slow for the next few weeks.
  • Check out this little analysis I did over on TD:  Gas Prices Got You Down?  Buy Online…Really
  • Thanks to the NBA and NHL playoffs my sleep schedule is all f*cked up again. I’m still getting up at 6, but going to bed really late means I need to take a nap in the afternoon….which kind of sucks.

5 comments on Becoming a Web Based Company

  1. […] with Xdrive. Xdrive offers free online storage and our company is making the move to be completely web based, so we all signed up for 5 free gigs of storage. I would have to say I’ve had good amount of […]

  2. […] new web page to visit, it wouldn’t work.  The only thing that really fit the criteria is our Google Apps page that we all have set as our default home page on our browser for our shared task lists, wiki, […]

  3. […] We’ve gone completely web based.  Email, documents, wiki’s, etc are all stored online using Google Apps.  All of our code and databases are obviously stored online.  My computer could die tomorrow morning and I’d just drive over to Best Buy and be working on a new laptop by afternoon. […]

  4. […] since the Pure Adapt email address is now hosted with Google through Google Apps for Business, I can check the emails from anywhere by just logging into my […]

  5. […] in 2008 we migrated all of our email to Google Apps. Along with email, we also moved all of our documents and wikis. It’s almost […]

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