Rural Living With A Modern Business

We live in a small crofting village called Elgol. It’s right at the south end of the Strathaird peninsula on the Isle of Skye.

In Elgol, we have a village shop and a thriving tourism industry. The Misty Isle Boat Trips regularly take visitors into the stunning Loch Coruisk and on occasion are treated to a visit from Dolphins, Minke Whales and Porpoise.

From our home on Skye we design websites, develop websites, illustrate and shoot explanation videos and we rely solely on the internet. We don’t advertise anywhere else. For all intents and purposes we are a very modern business. We use all the latest computing equipment and the most up to date design & editing software.

With living and working in a remote setting we need to prepare for the worst. Any unscheduled downtime isn’t the same as it used to be when we first started up in 2009. The Cuillin Collective is a business and not just a hobby. Having worked in Edinburgh, being prepared up here means a lot more than it would in the city. Although, a Zombie invasion would be easier to handle up here. I’ve picked three examples for this article.

Satellite Broadband

First of all let’s talk about the broadband. Going from 12mb to 0.5mb was a big shock. But for 9 months we somehow managed. Looking back I’ve not idea how. Each one of our explainer videos is around 100mb. Which takes around 2 hours to upload. And whilst you are uploading you can’t really do much else. The British Government do say that they are going to get everyone speeds of at least 2mb by 2015 but it’s 2012 just now. So, until then we have invested in a satellite broadband solution from Tooway. We are now on 18mb down and 10mb up with a 26gb restriction which is fine because we still have our unlimited 0.5mb telephone connection. I don’t think any business in this day and age should have to resort to satellite broadband. Fast broadband is a basic need. Just like running water and a reliable electricity supply broadband is needed for survival. Alongside no mobile signal out here we are far behind most places. Saying that, having two separate broadband supplies is useful for when the phone lines go down. Please see here


Here is a interview with myself on Radio Scotland

Power Supply

Next up we have the ‘reliable’ electricity supply. We’ve not had many power cuts here in Elgol. In total probably around 40 hours in 12 months. But that’s enough to cause havoc. When the power does go down you could be in the middle of a big edit or website project. Let’s say we have a customer waiting on an email or worse a project and the power cuts out. In the city you’d just get on the smartphone and email. But for us we’ve got to drive across to the next village 4 miles away to download and reply to our emails. The mobile network must be about .10mb so checking the basics can take a while. Forget sending a 100mb file.

To tackle this we’ve invested in a 4.5kw petrol generator. Which is enough to power all our lights and cameras, our computers, both internet supplies and of course, the fridge and the freezer 🙂 Not delivering a project on time due to no power isn’t an option for us. With over 700 videos and countless websites designed and developed we’ve not missed a deadline yet and we’re not going to start anytime soon.

Backup Computer

We’ve got backup broadband and backup power. What else would you need out here? Our main tool are our computers. And we live 2 hours away from the nearest Apple store/supplier so if a computer goes down we have to drive 2 hours there and 2 hours back to have it repaired. That isn’t a solution. So instead of this, we bought a 2.2 GHz i7 MacBook Pro with 8GB of Ram. The reason for spending over £2k on a back up computer was simply because it needed to do the same as our bigger computers. If we couldn’t edit HD video on it, then we didn’t want it. If the any of the iMac’s go down then we simply take our latest backup hard drive (which backs up every hour) and install it on the MacBook. It’s an expensive solution but it’s the only solution.

It’s verging on the extreme I know. We don’t have a backup TV, backup fridge or a backup washing machine because it’s only us that rely on that. But our customers pay us to make explanation videos, websites and logos for them and they expect them on time. So we’ll deliver them on time.

Spending nearly £4k on ‘what if’ situations is well worth the money just so we can live and work where we do. Edinburgh was great. But Elgol and Skye has something that you can’t explain. This is our home and our office. Have a ‘spin’ around!

There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

What extremes do you go to in ‘what if’ situations? Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

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