Nov 21, 2008

Benefits of working from home - Part IX- Infrastructure

In this post I described how using my computer in my home office was the first time that I'm getting a direct return on my investment.

In this post I'll take a look in the other side of the coin: the investment in infrastructure.

When my home computer used to be only that, i.e, my home computer, I had no hard requirements to keep it up to date. I could simply update it each 5 years or more if I wanted to; also, my internet connection need not to be very fast; the same applies for my desk; it could be very ordinary as I didn't spent a lot of time in my computer.

Of course, being a computer/programmer addicted as I am, shortened my computer's update cycle for something between 2 ~ 3 years, and 

internet connection, you know: you never get enough bandwidth ;)

By the other hand, using my computer to work pushes it to its limits... and of course, each minute I spend looking at the hour glass represents a minute less with my family (or my Wii :) so I want to wait the lesser amount of time possible in front of it.

Just to put some numbers, the first time I run db4o build on my machine it took more or less 1 hour to run to completion (mostly running tests). I just couldn't believe that. My machine was not a top one but it was not so old/slow either. After a lot of tweaking I managed to get the build running in 15 minutes but that required some $$$ (nowadays, even with a new machine tests take 20 ~ 25 minutes to run due to lots of new tests).

Also, I never considered (or had the requirement to) run 2 VMs, 2 Visual Studio (one in one VM and another in the host OS), Eclipse and some other apps at the same time. So now, 2Gb of memory doesn't look that much anymore.

Another important aspect that will have great impact on your productivity/health is the
overall quality of your office furniture: remember when you used to complain about your boss not willing to spend a few extra dollars on a good chair for you? I certainly remember myself complaining with mine :( Of course you don't need to go out and get the best chair in the world, but make sure you'll not get a "not so good" one only to save a few extra bucks either (If you are going to spend more than 4 hours seated I do recommend you to get a very good one - for instance, this one).

Well, that's not the end yet; telecommuting meant also that I became my own IT department ;). Not that I have any problem fixing my computer, installing software or whatsoever; the really big point is that all these maintenance work takes time (and time is money) and also that the burden to keep everything working is on me (to be fair, I'd rather be the one in charge for this task than to let someone else doing it

Last, but not least, consider having "hardware" backup; I mean, what are you going to do if next morning when you turn your computer on it don't actually turns on? Of course you do have backups of your important data (don't you?), but what about your hardware? How long it will take to be fixed? Are you willing to spend time on fixing it? Or do you have another computer that can be used so you can continue to work while someone else fixes it for you.

In the end of the day, you'll need to put some money on your office / infrastructure, so don't forget to take this into account.

That's it.

Bear with me ! We are approaching the end :)

See you


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