The Cloud’s the limit for regional business

February 25, 2013

A new business has opened up in the main street of Bingara, there is no stock, no waiting room and nothing to buy, all that fills the room is one woman behind a desk, a computer, a headset and a modem, yet this is the face of a The Back Paddock Company.

The Back Paddock Company is dynamic agronomic decision-support and farm production-planning solutions business based in Brisbane that employs around 30 people. The woman behind the desk is Katy Lee, Katy moved to the area just under six months ago, she came here on a holiday to the Garawilla Jackaroo/Jillaroo School and has been here ever since.

“After deciding to move to Bingara I was approached by a business associate, who recognised my location as the heartland of his business,” Katy said, “the prospect of a remotely based help desk operator and receptionist was discussed and we discovered this solution to not only be possible, but perfect.”

From her remote desk in Bingara Katy acts as receptionist and help desk support for the company, she redirects calls, remotely fixes software bugs, takes messages and answers emails. “I am just like a regular administration assistant,” Katy said, “without learning everyone’s coffee preferences.”

“I see this as the best of both worlds, I get to live in the place I love with my partner, and my employer gets a customer support and sales officer in the heart of the agricultural region.” said Katy.

“We would love to be able to attract more businesses to the area like the Back Paddock Company,” said Georgia Standerwick, Economic Development Project Officer for the Gwydir Shire, “these are the types of businesses that will ensure the future prosperity of regional towns like Warialda and Bingara” said Ms Standerwick.

“I am really excited to see what opportunities will open up with the introduction of the National Broadband Network NBN,” said Ms Standerwick “this type of business will become more common and the possibilities for businesses in rural area will be endless.” said Ms Standerwick.

The NBN will deliver a faster, more reliable broadband network for all Australian businesses, no matter which part of the country they’re based. It will enable more Australian businesses, particularly small businesses, regional businesses and not-for-profit organisations, to participate in a global marketplace. And it will help to drive productivity improvements, expand customer bases and enable jobs growth for all.

Of course there are obvious benefits of the NBN, such as improved speed which will make surfing the net and streaming video much faster but how will it change the way we do business?

This increase in speed will have some good implications for businesses, there will no longer be the 12mb attachment limit on your emails, and this will increase to around 150mb which will make sending large emails and attachments so much easier.

Minimal infrastructure is also another great advantage, chances are if your business or organisation has multiple offices or has a requirement for remote access to systems there will be a Terminal Server or a Citrix Server in place. Having a “Blue Cable” linked to the NBN between your offices, or from your house to the office eliminates the need to have this type of technology. This is going to save many businesses money on server and support costs in the long run.

Voice Over Internet Protocol or VOIP as it is more commonly referred to uses an internet connection to deliver phone calls over digital networks instead of the traditional copper wiring provided by phone companies. The big concern is ensuring the quality of the calls is consistent, which is sometimes a challenge with Australia’s limited broadband connectivity. The NBN will deliver super high speed, ensuring that the quality of the calls is perfect. Similarly, teleconferencing will become an even greater product for “remote meetings” saving travel time and travel expenses. High definition cameras will sit atop plasma screens in board rooms across Australia.

Undoubtedly the NBN will usher in a new wave of technologies capable of being delivered across the internet. Even with Australia’s poor current broadband standards, publicly listed companies and national organisations are moving their desktops to the Cloud. “Cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet, and “cloud computing” is using the Internet to access applications, data or services that are stored or running on remote servers. When you break it down, any company offering an Internet-based approach to computing, storage and development can technically be called a cloud company.

Some of the benefits will be Cloud Storage where you can save, store and share documents on the internet, this will make file storage and sharing easier and you won’t need to be carrying around CD’s, or USB sticks.

Other benefits include the easy sharing of software. Instead of installing a suite of software for each computer in a business or organisation you will now only have to load one application.

That application would allow workers to log into a Web-based service which hosts all the programs the user would need for his or her job. Remote machines owned by another company would run everything from an email client to word processing or complex data analysis programs.

Doing online business isn’t just the domain of retailers, and software development farming is also set to benefit from new technologies. Over the last 18 months, Mr Alun Davies, the National Broadband Network (NBN) community coordinator for RDA Northern Inland (New South Wales) has been working in conjunction with the University of New England to create spatially-enabled tools and techniques that underpin Sustainable, Manageable and Accessible Rural Technologies (SMART), or SMART Farming.

SMART Farming is the ability to remotely monitor, evaluate and manage a farm’s operations from a computer. A SMART Farm is a network of soil, plant, weather, animal, machinery and asset sensors, streaming intelligence into the command centre at the farmhouse via information service providers located anywhere in Australia. The future of SMART Farming has the potential to provide enormous gains around inputs and productivity.

SMART Farming techniques will enable farmers to increase crop and pasture yields through better targeting of water and fertiliser inputs and management. The technology will also give farmers the ability to increase livestock production through improved animal management and increased pasture utilisation.

SMART Farming also offers the means to achieve improved environmental outcomes through highly efficient use of resources. The spatially-enabled technology gives the farmer the ability to monitor water use and the farm’s carbon footprint.

The NBN will take SMART Farming into a whole new level. SMART Farmers will be capable of accessing the best, external, operational support informed by contemporary data exported from distributed networks of soil, plant, livestock, machinery and environmental sensors.

It is anticipated that SMART Farmers will create new, regional market opportunities around data management, remote servicing, agronomy, noxious weed management, occupational safety, teaching, learning and technology development.

Mr Davies said, “The Northern Inland region is full of businesses and industries that cater for the technological age. RDA Northern Inland continues to tie these businesses with the University of New England and the on-going development of the SMART Farm.