SANTA CLARA, Calif., Nov. 16, 1999 — If you have a small business, Sheldon Laube wants to pay you $500 for each of your old PCs. Then he wants to give them away. And he thinks that you’ll both be better off for it.
Laube, the visionary chairman and CEO of CenterBeam Inc., says he’s convinced that end-to-end software, services and partners that tap into the Internet’s full potential — the Business Internet — isn’t just for the largest enterprise customers. In fact, he suggests that one of greatest accomplishments of today’s Business Internet may be in bringing the benefits of Internet computing — understanding customers better, moving processes online, and collaborating more closely with suppliers and partners — to the small businesses who, until now, have largely been left out of the Internet revolution.
As a result, he’s asking small businesses to “trade up” to enterprise-level computing by offering them $500 for each of their PCs; in exchange, the businesses subscribe to CenterBeam’s innovative business infrastructure service.
Laube founded CenterBeam to give small companies the same powerful, enterprise-level Business Internet solutions available to larger companies. The company provides small businesses with a complete computing environment, purchased as a service. For a monthly per-user fee, CenterBeam provides its customers with PCs, printers, networking, enterprise management, backup and security. After installing the customer’s IT infrastructure, the company maintains, monitors and manages the entire installation remotely from its Santa Clara, California headquarters.
“Our goal is to enable businesses to focus on making their businesses more effective, not on maintaining their computing environment,”
says Laube. It’s a goal he says he couldn’t have contemplated last year — he founded Centerbeam in April 1999 — because the four key technologies underlying the company’s vision only recently became widely available. Those technologies are high-speed DSL service; low-cost, high-speed wireless LANs; low-cost, high-performance computers and, most importantly, the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system.
We Couldn’t Run Our Business Without Windows 2000
“We could not run our business — and our customers couldn’t as effectively run theirs — without the Windows 2000 operating system,”
“I was an early beta tester of Windows 2000, and I was impressed by the enterprise-class features it brought to the desktop but, even more, I was impressed by its inherent reliability and manageability. It’s the most reliable operating system ever developed for the PC architecture. I saw that Windows 2000 could be essential to bringing the power and benefits of the Business Internet to small businesses while reducing total cost of ownership.”
Ask Laube to quantify the greater reliability he sees in Windows 2000 and he laughs.
“That’s easy to quantify: It never crashes; it’s always working. That’s enormously important to businesses, especially to small businesses who don’t have the time or personnel to deal with computer problems.”
Laube attributes that unprecedented reliability to the Windows NT technology underlying Windows 2000, the tremendous emphasis that Microsoft developers put on reliability as a design goal, and the massive software testing effort to which Microsoft and its customers have subjected Windows 2000.
Delivering Manageability for the Business Internet
Beyond reliability, manageability is the second key need that business users have in a software platform, according to Laube.
“Manageability is important to the IT departments that manage thousands of PCs in a company, and it’s even more important to us at CenterBeam, since we have to manage hundreds of thousands of PCs in separate customer companies around the world,”
“Windows 2000 delivers the manageability — especially the remote manageability — that CenterBeam needs to enable our customers to take advantage of the Business Internet.”
Laube credits Windows 2000’s enhanced diagnostic capabilities, which he says enables CenterBeam to spot and address a customer problem before the customer is even aware of it.
“If you start running out of disk space on your desktop,”
“we’ll know it before you do.”
Another aspect of Windows 2000’s greater manageability, according to Laube, is the far finer control it gives CenterBeam over setting and controlling the desktop configuration. System Policies, available in Windows NT 4.0 as a basic control mechanism, have been
says Laube. For example, he cites the new ability to allow users to add applications but not to tinker with the network driver.
We can let the user adjust settings that don’t affect the operation of the machine, while protecting the settings that ,”
“We’ve never before had that refined a degree of control.”
The Microsoft Active Directory feature is particularly important to CenterBeam because the company must provide authentication and security for all users in multiple, separate organizations.
“It’s the only way we can manage user permissions in separate organizations,”
“Users can use offline folders, so you can copy from your notebook to a server, log on to a new machine, and have automatic synchronization wherever you get on.”
CenterBeam runs Microsoft Exchange, the Microsoft Outlook 2000 messaging and collaboration client, and Microsoft SQL Server version 7.0 for its customers, who are connected remotely over DSL lines, and centrally administers all of it using Active Directory. The synchronization between Active Directory and Exchange is a great new feature of Windows 2000, says Laube.
Jumpstarting Small Companies on the Business Internet
The benefits of Windows 2000 and CenterBeam’s Business Internet infrastructure led Laube to his offer to buy old PCs from small businesses for $500 a piece. The offer, announced today in conjunction with Microsoft, is
“our way of helping to jumpstart small companies onto the Business Internet by enabling them to trade-up to the enterprise-level computing formerly available only to larger companies,”
In exchange for receiving the $500 per PC, participating companies subscribe to the CenterBeam service and receive a complete computing environment based on Windows 2000 — and including new PCs, Lucent wireless LAN technology, high-speed DSL Internet connections, enterprise-level data center support, Microsoft Office 2000 and a host of other services. The subscriptions start at $165 per user per month.
But small businesses are only one group to benefit from the buy-back offer. CenterBeam and Microsoft are donating the PCs to public schools in inner cities across the country. The program will be administered through independent charitable organizations that will refurbish and distribute the machines. The buy-back offer will be good through February 17, 2000.
“It’s the dawn of a new era in Internet computing,”
“We just want to help small businesses to wake up and smell the coffee.”