Welcome to Stop Buying Servers

I’ve been a small business information technology consultant for 12 years. For at least 10 of those 12 years – starting right around the time that DSL became available — I’ve been hearing that the future of small business computing is on the Internet (or, as we now say, “in the cloud”). I’ve launched Stop Buying Servers because the future has finally arrived.

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Does Google Docs hinder creativity?

It does when you can’t create a new document. It’s October 30 at 12:15 PM EDT, and I can’t create a new document. I can create a new spreadsheet, a new presentation, a new form … but when I try to create a new document, I get:

This webpage has a redirect loop.

The webpage at https://docs.google.com/a/schrag.net/document/edit?id=1Uhzj-[…very long alphanumeric string, truncated here for readability]_&husr=david%40schrag.net has resulted in too many redirects. Clearing your cookies for this site or allowing third-party cookies may fix the problem. If not, it is possibly a server configuration issue and not a problem with your computer.

That’s the message in Chrome, by the way. In Internet Explorer I get a very generic “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage” error.

This is a first for me, and it’s rather annoying. Good thing I have other ways of creating documents, like Microsoft Word.

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The big boys get hacked, too

A rather disturbing report in the New York Times about an attack on the password system at Google. I’m not going to stop using Google, but I might start changing my password a little more often.

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Microsoft says Stop Buying Servers

Well, not really. But they did pull the plug on their multi-server on-premise solution, Essential Business Server. Here are some links to the announcement and reaction, courtesy of Harry Brelsford at SMBNation.

To those readers who bought EBS in the past year … hey, I tried to warn you!

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David Pogue’s take on Windows Live

Defining what Windows Live is (and isn’t) is a challenging task. Here’s a pretty good take on it from the New York Times’s David Pogue.

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Symform: A cloudy backup option?

I got an e-mail yesterday about Symform, a new online backup storage service. The description of the service reminded me of SETI@Home, which leveraged the Internet to let thousands of personal computers around the world mine extraterrestrial signals in their spare time. Rather than using extra CPU cycles, Symform seeks to take advantage of unused storage space. You lend your extra space to Symform, and in return other Symform users lend their space to you. Everyone wins (at least in theory) because the data is stored off-site, protecting you in case of complete on-site facility failure. The cost per GB of using Symform would be much less than that of other online backup providers, because Symform doesn’t have to buy disk drives or pay for the electricity to keep them running. All Symform has to do is manage the traffic between machines.

I don’t know why I’m so much more skeptical of having backup data stored in this fashion than I am in having it stored within a large data center, but for some reason this notion just gives me the creeps. It’s just too easy for me to imagine scenarios in which I discover, just as it’s time for me to restore from backup, that the Symform subscribers who are housing my data have decided they no longer want to participate.

Am I reacting too negatively? Is this actually a brilliant idea that small businesses should strongly consider? I invite your comments.

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100 Great Google Docs Tips

The folks at Accredited Online Colleges compiled a list of these Google Docs tips. They say the tips are for students and educators, but almost all of them apply to business users as well. (I’m not sure about the value of GoogleTournament in small business!)

Check out the list.

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Sharing folders in Google Docs

Document sharing in Google Docs has been around for a long time (relatively speaking, of course), but sharing entire folders is new. Here’s how to do it.

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There’s no such thing as a free domain

Microsoft Office Live Small Business used to offer a free Internet domain for their users. As of October 1, 2009, this freebie goes bye-bye. Domains up for renewal after that date will only be renewed if you pay $14.95 a year. Although I’m never crazy about paying for something that used to be free, I will at least give Microsoft credit for:

  1. Making the annual charge reasonable rather than gouging their existing customers.
  2. Not pretending that the Office Live Small Business service will somehow be enhanced or that this is anything but a way for Microsoft to earn more (or lose less) money.

My guess is that Microsoft has determined that a huge number of people signed up for the Office Live Small Business service simply because it was free, and that Microsoft has no desire to keep paying the ICANN fees for folks who aren’t even using the service (like yours truly).

I learned a new term today for the practice of giving something away at first and charging for it later: “freemium.” It’s hardly a new concept. Drug dealers have been using this model forever.

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For Google Docs, published equals public

Received today from the Google Apps team:

We wanted to let you know about some important changes around published documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

In a few weeks, documents, spreadsheets and presentations that have been explicitly published outside your organization and are linked to from a public website will be crawled and indexed, which means they can appear in search results you see on Google.com and other search engines. There is no change for documents published inside your organization or shared privately.

If you wish to prevent users from publishing documents to the public internet, we now offer an admin control in the Google Apps Control Panel that allows users to continue to ‘share documents outside the domain’ without allowing them to publish the files to the public Internet.  To change this setting, follow these steps:

- Login to your admin control panel
- Select Service Settings > Docs
- Un-check the option ‘Users can publish documents to the public internet’

If a user does not want their published Docs to be crawled, then the user must unpublish them by doing the following:

- Go to the ‘Share tab’
- For documents and spreadsheets, choose ‘Publish as web page’. For presentations choose ‘Publish/embed’
- Click on the button that says ‘Stop publishing’

For more details, please see this Help Center article: http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=60781

This is a very exciting change as your published docs linked to from public websites will reach a much wider audience of people!


My initial reaction was WTF?, but I suppose it’s not that outrageous. It’s like putting a note on your front door for the package delivery guy – do you somehow thing the rest of the world won’t be able to read it? At least they give you the option to hide the docs from crawlers.

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It’s now. Do you know if your Google Apps are working?

The first thing I did today when my Google Mail stopped responding was to get on Twitter and ask if Google Apps was (were?) down. Better idea: Check the Google Apps status report. It includes both a current report and a history for the past several days. As of 4:02 pm EDT on 9/1/09 …

Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users within the next 1.2 hours. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.

Users can access their email via IMAP or POP. You can find instructions for how to do this here.

If setting up an IMAP account, don’t forget the special settings for the incoming and outgoing servers!

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