There’s a reason we love certain technology products, the sleek designs of Apple; the latest Microsoft in-house products such as the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book.

The consumerisation of IT

Well-thought-out design can command a premium and drive people to stand in queues overnight at Apple’s flagship stores. In the IT world we talk a lot about the consumerisation of IT, with companies such as Apple driving us to buy more and more technology products. These technologies find their ways into businesses also – much to the pain of many a good IT Manager. Trying to deal with the bosses personally owned MacBook and integrate that with a secured and robust Microsoft Active Directory environment costs many the IT guy a day’s productivity…

It’s fair to say though, the ease of the latest technologies in use, the smart, tactile designs and the sheer desirability of products has pushed tech into new areas and even more so into business. But does this happen both-ways?

The businessisation of consumer IT

Okay, I’m not American. I have no right to make up new words, let alone one without a ‘z’ in it – but shucks, wouldn’t it be cool if we could take consumer IT and make it fit for business and better than we’ve already got. Well in some places this is true.

However, I have many thoughts and opinions on this but there are technology companies that are doing just that. I was shocked that even in the last couple of issues Jon Honeyball of PC Pro has just found Meraki – something we’ve known about for years and I’m usually turning to PC Pro as one of my main sources of tech news. However, Meraki as per my previous blog about the simplicity of Cisco Meraki and the ‘just works’ design, has been around for years and we’ve been a long standing Meraki partner. So kudos to us for getting the jump on PC Pro! I should also note that I’ve emailed several times asking to contribute but my please go unanswered… but that’s another rant!

Going back to Cisco Meraki though, there’s quite a few things that I didn’t mention before and that’s the design. Here in the office we’ve been talking about the colour of the switches and the paint job, well the sales team have. Me as the eternal techy, you know what my favourite design features were? The fact that the arms to rack mount were pre-cast into the metal chassis. The other week I had a dozen Cisco Catalyst 39xx switches to put the arms on, that was exceedingly dull.

Meraki also provide a bag of cadged nuts and screws – every IT guys complete pain the backside is trying to mount a switch and realising there’s not enough caged nuts, no screws, one or the other or a screw that doesn’t fit the cadged nut someone left in the rack before. Cisco Meraki have put though it into that – even for good measure, they’ve but M5 and M6 into the same bag… I nearly broke down and cried the first time I realised everything I needed for my first Meraki install was already in the box. I’d of course forgot to pack any damn cadged nuts on my way to the customer!

Good design, just doesn’t look good – it works better and quicker and there’s real human thought and ingenuity into it. Microsoft with the Surface line of products are starting to realise the obvious – this is what people want and what businesses want.  This is where of course, value, comes into the equation.

Our installation times and maintenance schedules for Cisco Meraki equipment is less than half of the traditional Cisco Classic fleet. With no command-line to worry about, or ancient firmware based web-page configuration that doesn’t support the latest browsers – we can deploy solutions quicker than before and turn it over to a delighted IT Manager who can fix problems and do things for the business faster than ever before.

The cost of businessisation of consumer IT

Those cadged nuts, the pre-cast arms, well they come at a price. There’s no denying that an iPhone costs more than a Motorola or HTC. If you want someone to think of things you haven’t even thought of, then you have to appreciate there’s a cost for doing that. Personally – and everyone can have a personal opinion, I believe that I am not the expert in switches or how they should be designed, nor could I design a mobile phone. I don’t mind paying a little more for something that comes in a box that has everything that I could potentially need, made by people who care and love what they do. As I know that technology will last.

I can see you’re looking down at your knackered iPhone, mocking me now – Apple have done an amazing job keeping the life of your phones going (I’m an Android user by the way). Samsung barely push out a few Android updates before they abandon the product.

Cisco Meraki are doing pretty much the Apple job for most of their products, keeping the software going long after the hardware has been discontinued. After a visit to the new Cisco Meraki office in London the other week, with the hipsters, the skateboarding whilst taking a conference call, I can’t wait until the next Cisco Meraki product comes out.

I know it’s not only be a breeze to work with, but very well designed and every IT Manager worth their money will want one.

The financialisation of business

Well, you didn’t think this blog wouldn’t have a downside? I’ve written before about how IT is like the force. Well there’s always got to be a dark side and that is the finance department! Okay, not really – I do get on with a few Finance Directors who actually get what we do and realise we think long term life of IT rather than just the short term hit.

This short term hit is why for example; you don’t get those much needed cadged nuts in your normal switch box. Whether it’s Negear, Zyxcel, HP or Cisco Classic – they’ve done a calculation against each other and priced up their kit, versus their competition and realised they can make a few pennies more by dropping them. Those few pennies look great if the savings are passed on to your company’s finance guy who is comparing those three quotes you’ve got too.

However, chasing the bottom price of any technology is dangerous. Cheaper technology may be in the same box as more expensive stuff in some cases – just like PC’s but quality components and workmanship last longer. Whether this is a car, computer or cabinet.

Looking at the Total Cost of Ownership, the value for money, it’s not simply a case of the hardware price or the service subscriptions.  It’s how easy the IT is to use, look after and maintain.  With service subscriptions, it’s how easy it is to access those benefits.  Certainly from past experiences, Microsoft offer horrendous to access benefits such as support with Open Value Subscriptions (see my nightmare I had last year with Exchange support).  I’m pleased to say that Meraki have great support, which is why I’m using them as this example!   Let’s focus on the overall value of a IT product to our business.

Whilst on face value the Netgear box may look substantially cheaper than the Cisco Meraki one for example, there’s a value calculation to be done. It’s not straight forward. You need to think about the time taken to install your solution, that cost may not be so clear if you’re doing it internally, your time is certainly a cost. There are costs in maintaining it and servicing it – if you spend many hours flashing your switches, bringing you network down because you can’t access your switches web-server to configure, then you’ve certainly created costs for the whole business. Then there’s value-add. The Cisco Meraki kit provides a degree of insight that you’ve not seen before about what your users are up to. This also helps IT as a department become more effective. All this needs to be taken into consideration with any IT solution, it’s not just solution A versus solution B when you’re not comparing like-for-like.Stella Artois - is reassuringly expensive, just as good technology should be

I don’t know whether good business technology is reassuringly expensive was a good title for this blog. However, if you think of the whole campaign Stella Artois had for many years, it sold a lot of premium lager – perhaps creating a new segment that was joined by Kronenburg, Peroni and many more. Without doubt though, you always get what you pay for.

Good business technology

Good business technology, isn’t necessarily expensive then, it’s simply value for money, when all things are considered.

Unleashed work differently, we work with both IT Departments, the businessy finance people and the technology vendors and find solutions that are elegantly designed, have as long as life span as we can balance with the budget and of course – won’t break the bank. Whilst we can’t always be the cheapest, we pride ourselves on being the best value for money – all things considered. We help our customers consider what those things are too – plus we’re a really friendly bunch, in fact, I think you should give us a call… we’d like to know you.   I may be a bit merry though, all this talk of beer has me thirsty… cheers!