|The Office We Moved to In 2006|
I believe there have been four generations of computer technology in small buisness and a fifth is around the corner.
The first generation was the introduction of grand-scale computing. This, is, businesses were able to buy time on shared computer services. Almost none owned an AS400 or HP-3000, but there were services that allowed them to get jobs done as needed.
The second generation was the introduction of truly small, "personal" computers. They were either not connected in any way, or they were occasionally connected by modem. Toward the end of this stage, some companies were being connected more often and by more means, such as Compuserv. This led inevitably to the third generation - networked computers.
That third generation is where SBS flourished. Companies were introduced to the idea that they could have a "server" in their office and use it to control data and services across their office. With the explosion of Internet access, connecting became more important and valuable every year. That's about where we were in 2006.
The fourth generation of small business computing evolved with the growth of hosted services. Beginning with spam filtering and backup, we gradually started moving clients away from the servers we'd sold them in the third generation.
I would typify the fourth generation - the current generation - as a hybrid model. There's plenty of on-premise equipment and will be for some time. And while we continue the trend of moving more and more systems to a hosted environment, we're also seeing the establishment of the next generation. That will be a cloud-only world for small business. We are late enough in the fourth generation that I believe a vision of the fifth generation is very clear.
The only reason the fourth generation is lasting so long is simply due to an abundance of technicians who don't know any other way to do things, are not themselves sold on the "cloud," and are not proposing changes to their clients. Those technicians are mostly aging and retiring.
I should note that each generation is defined by having about 80-90% of businesses living with a specific set of technology solutions. There will always be businesses without computers. There will always be businesses that use time share, have no network, and manually move data from one machine to another. And there will always be businesses with servers and data storage onsite.
The most enduring piece of technology since the early 1980's has been the basic desktop computer. It looks essentially the same. If you look at the early IBM PCs and compatibles such at the Zenith 100-series, you see all the core functions of the desktop computer. The screen have changed. The keyboards have changed (though maybe not for the better), the processors have changed, and the peripheral inter-connections have changed.
But the function of the desktop remains essentially the same. People have their own little computer. They use it for word processing, graphics, and other "production" work. They store data somewhere. Work can be shared. And most of the time, you can get work done even if connections to other machines are interrupted for a period of time. And you can print out your work!
Maybe the sixth generation of SMB technology will do away with the desktop and printers, but I doubt it. Some technology is permanent. Or at least it's 100-year technology and not 5- or 10-year technology. The telephone appears to be permanent technology. The wired versions lasted 100 years. Automobiles appear to be permanent technology. The gasoline version lasted 100 years. And I believe the individual desktop computer will be permanent technology. We're about 40 years into that.
So . . . this little blog has been around ten years. It has seen the evolution of managed services and of cloud services. It has seen the end of the third and the beginning and middle of the fourth generation of small business computing technology. To be honest, I hope I've had some influence on what those emerging technologies look like.
Whether I or this blog will be around another five years remains to be seen. But I'm certainly going to try!
Thanks for reading and sharing this blog.