I.T. is the new steel

In the bush we make all sorts of things out of steel.  Everything from a handy tool to stock yards and new inventions.  You just need a bit of knowledge and the right tools.  With modern computers and Internet tools you can make things that you need for your farm and business or create a completely new business if you have the right equipment and services.

Unfortunately many service providers and technical people supply products and services that aren’t suited to rural and remote Australia.  To make matters worse their advice is often inappropriate or self-serving.  It’s like having poor quality welders and oxy gear.  You can’t do much with it.

Now no one wants to spend their time trying to use something that doesn’t work properly.  Rural and remote Australians often aren’t getting the education and experience they need to be part of Internet business because their basic computer equipment doesn’t work well enough.  If it is hard just to pick up your email why would you bother trying to do anything else?

If computers and Internet connections don’t work properly people can’t be blamed for having a negative attitude towards them.  I believe it is time we did something to make computer technology easy and productive for rural and remote Australians so they can use it to improve their businesses, their children’s futures, their communities and the rural economy.

In this article I’ll explain three basic things that things that are changing business around the world.  With these technologies you can cheaply build almost anything you want based on good existing foundations.  Then you can use it at home, host it in a high speed datacentre or let your customers download it.

Three basic building blocks

Remote computing

Remote computing is simply using a computer without having a mouse, keyboard and monitor connected to it physically.  You access it through a network.  It’s been around since the 1960’s so it is nothing new.  Its benefits are simple and far reaching.

  • You can connect to external computers that have more power or faster Internet access than your own computer
  • You can connect to your own computers from outside your home or farm to get information or do some work

You have probably used it or have at least heard of remote computing.  There are a lot of different ways to use it and it is a great way to start using the Internet for more than looking at web sites and getting email.

Virtual machines

A virtual machine is a computer that runs in a software box (a player) instead of a box made of tin. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/virtual-machine-makeuseof-explains/

You can download Virtualbox for free and a ready-made virtual machine and have a go.  They are easier use than they are to explain because they are really just computers in the end.

The really important thing about Virtual Machines is that you can send them over the Internet.  So a person can build and configure a computer for you and you can literally download it.

Of course you could also run a virtual machine in a datacentre and access it remotely.  In fact it is exactly that which is changing business around the world right now.  If you use any Internet service you are probably already doing it without knowing.

You can have your own powerful computer or server running in a major international datacentre for very little cost.  That represents an important business opportunity for rural and remote people.  You could sell a service located in a high speed datacentre in the centre of Sydney without leaving your farm.  Have a look at https://www.servermule.com.au/ to see how cheap and easy it can be to get one.

As an example, I have a server that hosts people’s Internet domains, websites and email. It is very powerful and clever. The virtual server is hosted by Server Mule, a very good Australian company.  I pay for it by the month.  It is cheap for me and it is cheap for my customers because there is no actual machine to buy.  In fact it is just a bunch of files on a hard drive in a datacentre in Sydney that run in a virtual machine player.

Linux and Open Source

I recommend that you Google Linux and Open Source until you know what it is about.  All I really have to do is tell you that these things exist.

Linux is the operating system that runs most of the Internet today.  It is powerful, secure and free – yep totally free!  You are also free to alter it and make anything you want out of it.

Open Source programs are often free as well.  Besides that important fact you can change them to do what you want and make new programs out of them.  That is obviously a business opportunity for anyone with a smart idea.

Add that to the virtual machine idea and you can cheaply build a robust computer system that does something people want and either host it in a datacentre or they can download it and run it on their own equipment – all without leaving your property.

In many places poor services, inadequate technical support and inappropriate advice are robbing rural and remote Australians of the opportunity to benefit from these technologies. Workman.net.au is doing something to change that.

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