I’ve left off until today to write our New Year message, today the day of solar eclipses, flu outbreaks and VAT increases.

Okay I should probably warn the reader(s) now: those that know me, know that I’m probably about to embark on a few tangents and not just talk about Unleashed, that’s why I’ve been encouraged to write a blog, to keep our phone call costs down. Anyone who doesn’t know me, I’d just say stick with it…

It becomes difficult at times like these to remain positive and talk about all the good things we’re going to do in the next 12 months when you start your morning with the media pumping out doom and gloom.

However, barely wanting to get out of bed this morning after my long bank holiday weekend working on a customer site, I ambled to the window expecting it to be dark with the partial solar eclipse to find I was greeted with a bright wintery scene, a slight peppering of snow. Just the right amount not to cause transport chaos of the other week and just enough to look picturesque.

So even amidst of all the doom and gloom of the media, things can happen to improve your outlook.

Looking back on 2010 it was an incredible year for Unleashed, we’ve grown beyond expectations and developed a high profile with a number of our key multinational suppliers.

Our development of a four cornered strategy to deliver IT systems that embody Business Continuity (Unified Comms, Security Systems, Managed Services and Disaster Recovery – if you needed a reminder!) has been key to our success in 2010 and will continue into 2011.

Most business owners and managers, like me have listened to the doom and gloom forecasts in the media and responded by reducing spending and trying to “mend-and-make-do”. Being a true blooded Cumbrian this is something I know I’m guilty of (at times – before our staff say anything).

However that’s been fine for 2010, but it’s 2011 now, and a lot of businesses are still here, some like us are even growing but many have postponed investment in systems over the past couple of years.

We’re talking to a lot of potential customers in this situation at the moment and in particular, the resilience of their systems is giving them some concern, Business Continuity is something that is a hot topic to these businesses at the moment and they still don’t wish to pay an arm-and-a-leg for it.

What we’ve done over the last couple of months is been out there and spoken to our suppliers, I met with the CEO of Quantum, Rick Belluzzo back in October and pushed our desire to have equipment that we can use to solve the current problems underinvestment is causing as well as for that same equipment to be part of an IT infrastructure within a business as it starts to reinvest.

Quantum, like some of our other valued suppliers: Acronis, Overland, Cisco and VMWare are developing such products in response to ours and others feedback over these issues.

The main concern for everyone at the moment is what happens if the 5 year old+ servers finally give up within a business, how long will it take to become operational and what will be lost? With just about every business process these days running on some form of Information Technology – and I’ve spelled out Information purposely for a change, because people always tend to focus on the T in IT, because it’s the tangible thing sat on your desk, rather than the I. The Information in a business is its lifeblood and if even a small amount is lost it could prove catastrophic.

I am pleased to say however, our suppliers have yielded us a kit bag that we can use to safeguard your Information on even limited budgets which are relatively future-proof and would be of use as soon as more rigorous investment can take place.

We can do very clever things like spread backups across sites, so that if one site burnt down the information is safely stored at another. We can take a backup of the 5 year old server and very quickly deploy it to a new one even if it’s not the same make or model. Oh and you need your Business Continuity plan written up and not just implemented, we can do that too! Certainly it’s for our Technology Consultants to inform you of the best solution for your business, but I thought I’d let you in on a few of the cool things we can do!

So 2011, is probably going to be the year of the tentative steps forward – for us it seems unavoidable for some of our clients and potential clients. Improvements have to be made to systems just to stay in business. The net effect is that businesses start spending again.

However to stop worrying about the I in IT for a moment, let’s talk about the T. Innovation is something that both myself and my business partner are both keen on (gadget fans). However, I am the social pariah who does not own anything with an Apple logo on it. That has probably set me back for a while but the brilliant Windows Phone I had on trial from O2 a couple of months ago made me think (I had promised to them to blog about it so keep checking if you’re interested) what’s also got me excited is the Cisco Cius.

I don’t particularly have anything against Apple, I respect their whole history and story as a company. But I grew up in a family who owned a Sony Betamax and I was taught a valuable lesson about first mover disadvantage when it came to technology and there are only a few things that I would move first on. I do have a claim to fame that in 1997 I bought a very expensive Dell machine with USB on it and hunted high and low for a USB scanner and USB printer and got the first ones that came on the market. That stuff lasted me 10 years!

Like everyone I like to pick technology winners.

But as promised, I’m off on a tangent – why I’m interested in Windows Phone and the Cius is because I see 2011 as the year of the tablet for business. The Cius interests me greatly because it is a single device that docks into your phone station in the office powers your Unified Communications, can be used remotely and therefore has an aspect of Security about it, it also has a keyboard and screen that can be plugged into it so it’s part of Managed Services management and to top it all it uses thin clients from many environments including VMWare which we have as part of our Disaster Recovery portfolio.

So this is the first time I’ve seen a product as easy as this that ticks all the boxes and fits kind of neatly into all of our business portfolios – it is a device that does seem to embody Business Continuity. It allows users to just carry a single piece of technology with them as well as use virtualisation to keep desktop and mobile computing costs down. I sincerely hope that this device can find the elusive “killer-apps” within businesses and doesn’t get consigned to the history books.

One thing is for certain though, 2011 will be the year of the business tablet, no matter which supplier makes the device – Dell is also readying a dock-able tablet machine that runs Windows 7. The Windows Phone 7 operating system is in my humble opinion, very good, it’s likely that will also find its way into some tablet formats over the next 12 months. And HP is putting more and more investment into the Palm WebOS operating system specifically for tablets.

I guess in summary to this whole post, 2011 will bring the start of some critical business investments in IT – those that have underinvested, at least the wise ones, will begin to realise they need to take measures to safeguard their infrastructure (and most importantly, their information) before it’s too late. Those that can, will invest in new technology like tablets and take advantage in newer infrastructure technologies such as virtualisation and will quickly find that in comparisons to IT refreshes they have done in previous years, costs have now shifted from the desktop back into the office datacentre or as we’re starting to call it – the private cloud.

As for Unleashed we’re buoyant about the next 12 months, we’re under no illusion that times are still difficult but we have directed our strategy into specific technologies and services that will aid businesses in recovery (disaster recovery, fnar!) as well allow them to take small steps to change their infrastructure as budgets become available in tentative but productive steps, producing a business benefit at each step.

From all of us here at Unleashed, we look forward to working with you during 2011 and developing productive solutions to your problems. Have a great 2011!