I have been working from home for 14+ years as a systems integrator and have recently decided to grow my business. This will involve taking on premises and (initially) a couple of staff, and will inevitably mean big changes in the way I work.
I am interested in discussing ideas for setting up the new office network and software. I currently use OpenOffice for word processing and spreadsheets and Outlook 2003 for email, calendar, contacts and general to-do lists. Project management tends to consist of files kept in a number of sub-directories for each project, with to-do lists and issue recording in Writer or Calc. I use MySQL as the relational database and Ignition (of course ).
I run all this on one PC in my home office, backed up every night to an external hard drive and every weekend to DVD-R which is stored off-site. I also duplicate all the information on my laptop for when I am working on-site. Both the PCs run on Windows XP.
One of the main drivers in all of this is to keep the configuration of the PCs as simple as possible. I don’t mind running a server, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of spending all my time making sure the office runs correctly whilst not completing any paying work.
I seem to have 2 choices here:
- Windows or Linux
- Locally installed software or Software as a Service (SaaS).
I hated Vista with a passion and downgraded both of my PCs back to XP. I have looked at Windows 7 but didn’t think it much of an improvement. Although I’ve used Microsoft software for years, I tend not to like its complexity or the ‘all or nothing’ approach nowadays – it doesn’t seem to mix well with others. I’ve played with Ubuntu for a couple of years and have been quite impressed with it. The normal Linux bugbear of finding software to do what you want doesn’t really apply, as all the software I use except Outlook will run on Linux.
I can see the need for shared calendars and to-do lists, and also a separate issue-tracking system. I had a look at Google Apps and was reasonably impressed by Gmail and Calendar, less so by Docs. However, I don’t initially see any value in being able to work simultaneously on documents when we are in the same office. I also had a look at a couple of web-based project management packages, Basecamp and Goplan. These look interesting but I am not sure about changing the way I work to fit another company’s product. I am also still a bit nervous about entrusting confidential data to another company over the web. Mind you, someone recently pointed out to me that your ISP has full access to all your email if they were so inclined.
Another option I have is to write the groupware I need with Ignition. I believe Inductive Automation do something similar?
Has anyone been through a similar process? Has anyone moved from Windows to Linux and hated it enough to move back? Can anyone recount their experience with moving to SaaS? I would be interested to hear.