Moving to a small town in northern Arizona from Silicon Valley has enriched my perspective on many things, including how the industry develops products. The consensus is that if we take datacenter technology and put in enough defaults it will be “simple” enough for consumers. Wrong.

Memo to developers: it is ALL consumer IT
The consumerization of IT is usually means the adoption by IT of high volume consumer technologies. The PCI bus, Microsoft Windows, USB, x86, SATA disks and Wi-Fi all started in the consumer space and displaced more sophisticated and expensive IT.

But consumerization also means taking tech first developed for IT and making it easy enough for consumers. Ethernet LANs, symmetric multi-processing, external disk systems (well, really only Drobo) and what we used to call “office automation” software are now usable by non-geeks.

Pro vs amateur
Amateurs like GUIs. Pro’s like CLIs. Why do we have both on “enterprise” products? Because we are all amateurs – at something.

The third shift guys are all amateurs. They may want to be “professional” but they aren’t now.

Backup: the highest failure rate in IT?
Who knows how good the numbers are. A 40% enterprise backup failure rate is frequently bandied about. Whatever the “real” number is, it isn’t good enough.

If “professionals” with “industrial strength” backup hardware and software can only achieve a 60% completion rate – a failing grade anywhere – why does it surprise us that only a tiny percentage of small office/home office people backup regularly?

And further, why do we assume that SOHOs will never backup? “Americans will never wear seatbelts.” “People will never recycle.” “SOHOs will never backup.”

Yet the record is clear. If you take an education and ease of use approach, people will change their behavior. They will wear seatbelts. They will recycle. They will even learn to deal with PITA child seats. And they will backup.

But not if it is presented as a “junior” enterprise backup. Make it easy and affordable. Mostly easy. And people will do it.

A couple of backup products that work
On ZDnet I reviewed a Windows backup product that I could recommend to any small business here in the red rock-strewn desert, Backupkey. Plug it in, hit “enter” twice, and all your valuable Windows data gets copied.

Did this simple, useful product come from Boston? Silicon Valley? Redmond? Denver? Nope. Charleston, South Carolina? Bingo!

I suspect Backupkey got built there because the developer actually knows small business people. Knows their frustration and their intolerance for stuff that doesn’t work as they think it should.

Most Windows backup software is simply dumbed-down “real” backup. Backup sets. Incrementals. Images. Bootable. Whatever. But non-IT folks don’t know those words or concepts. Why can’t it just work?

On a Mac both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper work great and are almost easy enough for complete idiots to use. Partial idiots only, please. Apple’s Time Machine, which I finally set up last night on a new 500 GB USB/eSATA drive, is totally easy. Mindless bliss.

The StorageMojo take
I cringe every time I hear the big companies proclaim a new focus on the SMB market. Usually it is some shrunk-down enterprise product with incentives for the channel.

But what doesn’t change is the thinking behind the product. The assumptions about the consumer – “like us, only dumber” – and how the problem they are trying to solve rarely get the kind of re-think that went into Time Machine.

But the logic is inescapable: the more pervasive IT becomes, the more the technology must adapt to people. Backupkey does that for low-end Windows backup. Time Machine does that for Mac OS X. Who, and what, is next?

Comments welcome, as always.