July 24, 2003, 12:00 AM — A friend of mine, laid off from his IT job several months ago, decided
to get back into business, this time on his own. No more boss. No more
board of directors. No one else to mess up his career except himself.
He's lined up some small, and I mean small, companies as his first
clients. These are companies with 15 or fewer employees and no IT
department. For the most part, no servers. And also for the most part,
PCs and printers that should be either in a museum or dumped into the
ocean as an artificial reef. Circa 1988 Series II LaserJet printers, ELS
NetWare, co-axial cable, and even one outfit still enjoying the benefits
of its ArcNet network. Printers shared via switchboxes. Dial-up e-mail
access, often through AOL. Like the man says, if it ain't broke, don't
Behind the times though they clearly are, these companies are ready, yet
reluctant, to move ahead, trading away that which they know and love
(and which, apparently, requires no support) for something that will
allow them to function in the modern world. And they want to do it with
no pain, no downtime, and, not surprisingly, by spending next to
My pal, anxious to pay his mortgage, is willing to work by these terms.
Networks will get upgraded, some to wireless, and most equipment will be
replaced, though not all at once.
The biggest question was whether to bother with desktop systems or go
right to notebooks. Even though few employees travel on business, many
like to do some work at home. (Whether that's a good idea is fodder for
the psychologists, not the solution providers among us.)
For $1,057, these companies can purchase brand new notebook PCs with a
15.1-inch active-matrix screen, 256MB of RAM, a 2GHz Celeron,
CD-RW/DVD-ROM, 40GB drive, integrated network adapter and modem, and
Windows XP Home Edition. We're not talking the high-end
desktop-replacement market here or the need for SNMP networks and
managed systems, but PCs of the modern age that are great for writing
documents, creating spreadsheets, running an up-to-date accounting
package, and keeping track of customers. All for $1,057! And that's
before the $100 manufacturer's mail-in rebate!
Sure, the price will rise a bit, as Microsoft Office, antivirus, and
other software is figured in, and as a port replicator, Kensington
security cable, and in some cases, full-size keyboard and mouse are
added, but this is a bargain of astonishing proportions. These users
won't be doing video editing or playing power-hungry games. This is
oodles of power for the task at hand.
For the roughly $250 premium over the price of a similarly equipped
desktop system, portability is a wonderful benefit. This wasn't always