DIY optimize

Annoucing DIY IT Guy: IT on a shoestring budget

This new blog will help those IT pros in small and mom-and-pop shops tweak their systems without breaking the bank.

For many businesses IT is a thorn in the side of the budget. Computers are constantly having to be replaced, licenses have to be purchased, anti-virus, third-party applications, support, administration costs...you name it and it's billable. For those businesses with deep pockets, this is not a problem. In fact, companies with the means actually include IT costs into the fiscal budget. Unfortunately not all companies can do that. In fact, the majority of businesses across the country fall into the latter category.

The majority of businesses, the ones that really hold up the country, are small businesses with few employees. These businesses are the mom and pop shops, the indie shops, the small entrepreneurial businesses that live quarter to quarter and hope nothing out of the ordinary happens to cause financial stress. For these businesses IT is a headache that wrenches all extra profit out of the bank. Think about the costs:

  • computers
  • monitors
  • peripherals
  • printers
  • scanners
  • network access
  • backups
  • office suites
  • operating systems
  • third-party software
  • anti-virus
  • anti-malware
  • administration costs
  • web hosting
  • web development

It all adds up...and if you can't keep up you struggle or you die. But it doesn't have to be that way. IT doesn't have to be that white elephant in the room that everyone fears. That is very much one of the biggest myths in IT - if you want it to work well, it's going to cost you. That myth applies from the top down: From third-party software, to hardware, to support. It's simply not true.

How? In a word (or acronym to be more precise) DIY (Do It Yourself). Of course DIY isn't just a creative acronym for those that like, literally, do things themselves. DIY is a way of life - it means you look at things in a creative way and find creative solutions around problems that others might not think about. DIY means you save money by not following the trends - at least not in the same way others do.

And anyone can be a "do it yourself'er." All it takes is some creativity, patience, some planning, a bit more creativity, and a wide enough lens to take in the whole landscape of IT (in order to see the "things" no one else sees). And, of course, just like all aspects of life, doing IT the DIY way can not only be financially rewarding, it is also an exercise in character building, skill building, and troubleshooting. When you start to develop a sharper eye for DIY you will start seeing more skills develop than you thought possible and find yourself relying more and more on your creativity.

That is where this new blog comes in. With DIY: IT on a shoestring budget I am going to approach every day problems with not-so-everyday solutions so your problems can be solved on the cheap. In this blog you will experience solutions you might not have thought of, software you may not have ever heard of, and zero budget blowing possibilities. You will also, through this blog, get to know open source software as well as software intended for one purpose, but can be tweaked for other, more useful purposes. That is what DIY Is all about - making it work, making it work YOUR way, and making it work without going bankrupt.

And, as always, if you have a problem that needs a DIY solution, feel free to send it in to me <jack.wallen@gmail.com> and I'll try to find a good do it yourself answer. But if you already have a good D.I.Y. solution, send it in and we'll show it off. You can never have too many solutions for a problem...especially when those solutions are of the do it yourself variety!

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

29 comments
lujand
lujand

Anyone know of a way to setup a captive portal to host WiFi connections? Basically looking for a cheap but effective solution to secure local network from guest Wifi connections. I have read up on a bunch of linux based stuff and would like to know what you are all using out there to mange your WiFi network that are opened to guests. Thanks.

Treybeau
Treybeau

I must be blind, because I can't find a way to sign-up for this. I handle tech for a non-profit. I have all kinds of tricks I can share.

Accidental Teckie
Accidental Teckie

I am the Accidental Teckie for a small, not for profit, library organization. We have 6 employees and a 22 unit training lab, plus 3 websites - I would be lost without the input I glean from sites like this. What I like about this idea is that DIY indicates it will be "dumbed down" enough for me to have the confidence I need to apply the solutions I find! Thanks!

MDExTexan
MDExTexan

I'm the controller/bookkeeper/sys admin for a mom & pop business (literally, I'm "mom"). This sounds like it will address the issues we have with trying to figure out the best way to host a website, set up a VPN with our partner in another location, and deal with employee(s) in the field. Looking forward to these posts (and the comments)!

jgarcia12
jgarcia12

Hi everyone , I think this is a great opertunity for everone that participates. There are a lot of us who run small business networks and we are all somewhat successful most of the time. But helping each other in this blog will make a great difference

csalaski
csalaski

I thought I was the only one who approached things this way. Being the owner of a small PC repair shop that caters to mostly home users and a few small businesses, I often have to solve clients problems without increasing costs to them. I'll be looking forward to reading this blog to learn more.

Jeep16
Jeep16

There are so many areas where this applies - not just the mom and pop, but the non profit office, private schools and service clubs.. One topic that would be good is to make these people aware of the tasks that should be considered (hopefully without overwhelming them). For example some people don't think about backups or what needs to be backed up. One resource that would be great is Spiceworks - it is a great tool (and free) for many IT tasks. Looking forward to the conversations.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

We run an IT shop in a economically disadvantaged area. Our little black book is full of ideas, and I'm sure we can all heterodyne and learn from one another!

mark
mark

I provide IT services to a small catholic school and am always bumping up against the "buy" or "DIY" thing myself. Although we've been pretty successful in keeping costs down to date I can't wait to see your posts for additional ideas. Thanks for this blog, Mark

sistemascymsa
sistemascymsa

Count me in! it's always good to know a place where I can share and learn at the same time.

GreyTech
GreyTech

Now retired but having spent all my working life with computers I help home users and local voluntary organisations. This will be useful for other like me. I will also be able to contribute as well, I hope.

craig
craig

As the IT Guy in a full volunteer international school, I am looking forward to this blog.

pokan2000
pokan2000

i have an idd hard drive, with little space left to store my data , i am think of using a sata hd as the slave, my mb has sata , and idd.will this work, as my os is on the old hard.drive

SteelVelvet
SteelVelvet

Since I took early retirement and started my own personal financial consulting business, I find myself responsible for everything including AV software, software fixes, hardware upgrades, backups and the list goes on.

eryk81
eryk81

I'm looking forward to this blog as I service a lot of small shops and I will hopefully be able to contribute some of my experiences.

bkindle
bkindle

I work in a small IT shop for a non-profit, and do a little bit of everything! Wouldn't mind sharing some of my experiences and solutions with you.

jnelson1000
jnelson1000

I was thinking of creating my own blog dedicated to free, open source or base level software that is highly capable of solving lots of business problems. It is inspired by reading of Mr. Wallen's accounts form Linux, and also by my own experience. I look forward to the discussion this blog, and my own perhaps, brings to those of us doing IT work in smaller companies with little, or no, budget at all.

d.j.elliott
d.j.elliott

Some problems are just tough to resolve. This blog'll make a good read.

seannyob
seannyob

As the sole SysAdmin for a small, woman-owned NASA contractor, this sort of thing is my bread & butter. I'm looking forward to reading and sharing the tales of the trenches...

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Even though I don't work in a mom/pop shop, it's always nice to have workarounds or alternatives to various software that decides to be too expensive or limited functionality. One of the best things about TR imo is the mindmelding from different backgrounds and finding out what REALLY works beyond the advertising hype.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

To just display an AUP or something, look at nocatnet. More indepth, more security, look at Zeroshell Linux and enable the captive portal and radius authentication. Looking to bill? Look at WiFi Gator (non-free).

JCitizen
JCitizen

and almost all of my business clients are completely computer illiterate. At least they listen to my harrowing tales and modify their online, and maintenance behaviors to avoid calamity in the first place. Fixing or upgrading usually means buying junk at garage sale prices and slapping on some cheap components to bring it up to snuff. Things are still going swimmingly so far. Why fix an old PIII when you can find PIVs in the recycle, or donation piles? Works for my clients. I try to teach them just enough to get independent. No reason for me to work my butt off for peanuts. It is smarter to get volume business, by offering cheap service. Most of my work is over Log-me-in, and I never leave my office! I'm close to offering monthly service for folks who just can't seem to understand maintenance requirements. It is easy to do it for them, doesn't require a lot of expensive service fees, and I can make a buck if I do things very efficiently.

Realvdude
Realvdude

If your current hard drive is more than four years old, it may also be a great time to replace the original drive all-together. Look for a retail package that includes transfer software to ease the move. Additionally, the retail package will likely include a SATA cable and power cable adapter, which you may need if your computer is older. One catch to using a SATA drive may be the drives backward compatibility. I've run into issues within the last year, and had to find a drive that could be jumpered to SATA-150 mode.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

Install the hard disk boot to BIOS make sure the system recognises the SATA drive and still boots to the IDE drive Reboot, allowing the system to come up fully Format the new drive. Under Linux you will have to mount it first. Once formatted, move all the surplus data to the SATA drive

GreyTech
GreyTech

Yes is the simple answer. You may have to go into the BIOS setup to change the boot drive order.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That's awesome. The power of Storytelling working for information security! You're part of a tradition that is, without a doubt, over a hundred thousand years old!

lujand
lujand

there are several free utilities available for cloning drives; a bare bones drive may be all you need and are usually much cheaper than retail boxed versions with same warranties. This is of course if you are replacing with a similar type of drive. Make sure you know exactly the type of drive for complatibility reasons. Also BIOS limitations may be a factor if upgrading to a much larger capacity.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

...so there we were, sitting around the fire in the cave, like we are now, when Ook said he smelled something...