Jul 142012

Until recently the cottage industry of computer repairers was thriving, having been born with the massive take up of computers by homes and businesses in the 1990s.

Over the years, things got better for the local IT guy as businesses and then homes became networked. Some of the smarter technicians started selling and supporting servers and things got better.

The arrival of the Internet, the approach of Y2K bug and, in Australia, the introduction of the GST made even more business for the local computer tech and the Windows virus epidemic of the early 2000s guaranteed plenty of work for anybody who knew how to wield a screw driver and a boot disk.

As the industry matured, maintaining office servers and looking after the regular glitches in desktop computers was a steady, reliable source of income for most support companies.

Every few years businesses or homes would upgrade their computers and that would trigger a cascade of costs as data was migrated and older peripherals like printers, serial mice and ADB accessories had to be replaced.

Then all came to a stop with the arrival of cloud computing services where many of older computers could access online applications just as well as newer computers.

For IT organisations with a business plan based up customers upgrading systems every three to five years this was a disaster.

These businesses were already feeling the pinch with the late arrival and market rejection of Microsoft Vista and now their customers could sit on older XP machines and happily use the latest online applications.

Sensible IT folk have understood the change and the good support companies now have an armoury of cloud based services for their customers. These businesses know the IT hardware and support spend of most businesses is shrinking and taking the market with it.

Unfortunately there are a few holdouts trying to keep the old business model alive who have a hundred reasons why cloud services are no good for their customers.

To be far to those fixed on the old IT model, this attitude is probably even more prevalent in corporate IT departments and among CIOs with cloud services seen – probably rightly – as a threat to their power and income.

One of the biggest risks to those support folk who aren’t at least evaluating cloud services for their clients is that shrinking IT spend and eventually there won’t be much money, or customers, left for the old model.

A similar thing is happening to bookkeepers and accountants as newer businesses and those with younger owners or managers are moving to cloud based software while the older ones are wedded to their legacy systems.

The older accountants who won’t move to the newer systems are finding their businesses growth stagnant while their younger colleagues are picking up the work from new businesses.

Computer support was always a business based upon the transition to a digital workplaces, similar to the men employed to walk in front of early motor cars with red flags.

Now workplace technology has matured, there’s less work for the IT guy. Hopefully most of them will make the change and not get run over like the guys clutching red flags.

  3 Responses to “The Death of the IT Guy”

  1. I do not believe that the old days of IT support are being diminished to the point of disappearing entirely. Customers still need to buy equipment to access the cloud, and, whilst it is far better than it was, cloud services are still open to complete and utter failure. I firmly believe that the best option for the next 12-18 months at least will be Hybrid Cloud solutions – Both a local server and a cloud server, replicating data continually so as to ensure if one or the other goes down, the data will still be available to the users.

    The other issues that cloud only deployments have that a hybrid can solve is the ability to secure a data storage system so as to allow access via multiple operating environments. Perhaps the later releases of Operating systems will overcome this issue, but right now, using windows 7 and bitlocker, the only systems that can access a cloud stored file is the original windows 7 system, which is limiting for the concept of cloud – allowing access to all files from multiple operating environments is one of the key elements of the cloud concept.

    For example, A worker may have a PC in the office and a Mac at home (I do). In order to access the cloud system, the Mac needs to access the data that I work on. If it is encrypted and blocked to other OSes, I am at a disadvantage. The whole reason that companies are embracing cloud is to allow better productivity through flexibility.

    If a hybrid system is deployed, the encryption issue is still relevant. Not using bitlocker means that an alternative must be used. A complementary or replacement technology can be used to change the way data behaves.

    We will eventually be wholly cloud. In order to reach this stage, we need a system that is bulletproof, has 100% uptime and no failure margin at all. Current systems are not going to be giving us that level of support, it will take a massive change in the way data is transferred before we will hit parity.

    • Thanks for the comment Peter. I don’t think IT support is going to entirely disappear either, what I’m saying is that the business model which sustained the industry for the last fifteen years is now broken and those in the sector have to adapt to a new way of working.

      I’d disagree that cloud services have to be bulletproof with a 100% uptime and no failure margin at all. No corporate or home system has that type of tolerance and I personally doubt that any system can guarantee never to have an outage. Shit happens and happens when we don’t expect it.

      Encryption and security are issues for those moving to cloud services, however again I think we over estimate just how secure our home and business IT systems are.

      Despite the arguments of whether the cloud lacks security or is unreliable, the fact is the IT industry is changing rapidly and those businesses stuck in models that were profitable in 1995 or 2005 are now facing some serious challenges.

  2. Hi Paul,

    If I think about the access constraints I have, as a worker and as a consumer, then the cloud will need to meet my exacting standards. The big problem is that if the data is unavailable, how can I complete my work, visit the internet, connect to my clients and peers? With the advent of touch enabled systems, driving the internet and our data into the non traditional spaces like the lounge room, kids are going to be far more demanding than we ever were. Hybrid solutions cover this demand, but a completely cloud based system will lead to less reliance on one main provider, instead there will be jumping from provider to provider as the levels of service aren’t perceived to be met. Providers will hit 99.999% to try and retain these jumpers, or they will die trying.

    Security issues are being neglected by business, true, but the industry is to blame. How long has a managed service provider told the client that they will take care of the client’s systems, yet not had any form of security policy?

    The businesses stuck in the product supply model from 1995 or 2005 are already being replaced by sleek, proactive suppliers, who are then acquiring the slower resellers who cannot compete with them as their models are locked into core products, not core technologies. I can name many companies that have disappeared between 2005 and now, nearly all were the result of outdated approaches to the market.

    There have been some standouts in the woe, Organisations that have grown from nothing into serious contenders against the global heavyweights, like Data#3, ASG, Datacom, BrennanIT, Ethan Group and, locally, 4D.

    Each of these companies have provided a service that their competitors have either been unable to provide or haven’t been able to adopt in a short timeframe. Data#3 are probably the biggest success story in the Australian ICT Industry. They have control of some of the biggest contracts and are on most of the major Federal Government Panels, and have a diverse, agile and innovative approach to their client’s needs.

    The future doesn’t need to belong to the global juggernauts, it is also there for local talents and approaches by home grown companies. In order to capitalise on this opportunity, companies need to change or be absorbed by their peers who have.

    (I don’t work for any of the companies I have mentioned, I work for a company that supports them in the iSecurity segment of the market)

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