Wednesday, December 31, 2008

SharePoint Guide last minute bargain

Well we are not too far away from 2009 folks. Apart from the digit change in the year my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide will also be going up in price from January 1. However, if you are quick you can still get it for the 2008 price of $239.99 from Karl Palachuk’s SMBBooks site.

 

Karl’s also done a blog post on the product just to let everyone know so there’ll be on excuses.

 

The January release is all ready to go with numerous updates for subscribers. I believe this what sets the Guide apart from other publications is the fact that it is a 12 month subscription in which you receive:

 

- Monthly updated documentation with regular additions.

- Over 1,000 pages of documentation covering many hard to find SharePoint topics including migration, database configuration and add-ons.

- Access to a free hosted SharePoint v3 site for testing and demonstration.

- DVD updates that not only includes all the documentation but also all the files you need to install SharePoint.

- Access to free email SharePoint support from myself.

- and more

 

For just the cost of a few hours work you’ll receive literally hundreds of hours that I’ve invested in this product documenting and testing everything inside. If you are working with, or plan to work with, Windows SharePoint on SBS2008 or SBS2003 then the Windows SharePoint Guide is going to save you hours of work.

 

So get it now for 2009 benefits at 2008 prices!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Making a good impression

I talked about a client referral system in my last blog post and have since found some things that help reinforce this. The first is not so much about a referral system but about rules for making a good impression. It provides seven practical suggestion on how to improve you chances of being remembered and regarded. One example is to respond to emails and voice mail within 24 hours.

 

Also linked in that document is an audio entitled Instituting a Client Appreciation Program, which is only about ten minutes long and really worth a listen. I liked the concept about how you may think that you are doing an excellent job but if you are only doing what you are paid for then that’s all you’ll be judged on. In this day and age, where finding another business to service any need is so easy you need to spend time developing a program that ensures you recognize your customers and drive them to refer you to more business.

 

In my experience with small businesses investments in traditional marketing like print media, email newsletters and so on don’t garner anywhere near the results of referrals. It is still worth pursuing some traditional marketing options but for my money you are much better off developing an effective client referral system as your number one marketing tool.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Poor marketing

I’ve become very aware of good referral systems after attending seminars about the topic at SMBNation. I’ve come across what I believe is a really poorly executed one.

 

As I have mentioned before, I am a member of a DVD library where DVD’s are sent to you on a regular basis in the mail. I feel it has a lot of benefits and is relatively cheap. Every now and again they send me these “free tickets” with the message:

 

Give these tickets out to your friends so they can enjoy up to 15 DVDs of their choice from our extensive movie catalogue.

 

What’s the problem with this you may ask, well my answer is, what’s in it for me? I don’t receive any discount, bonus or recognition for providing this offer to my friends. So the company is asking me to their marketing for them without any tangible benefit for myself.

 

Am I likely to oblige? I may if someone asked me specifically but I’m not going to be ACTIVELY promoting this product since I receive no benefit. It wouldn’t take much on their behalf to maybe offer me some sort of discount or prize from bringing on board new members. I don’t know if it is just me but honestly, I think most other people would feel the same.

 

It illustrates that even big companies get their marketing and referral system wrong. Think of all the money they must be wasting on attempt to generate new business and by leaving a simply reward off they are failing to make all the conversions they can. If you are developing a referral system, remember people must have a REASON to refer you and then they should RECEIVE some sort of personal reward. It doesn’t make sense to reward the whole business when only one individual inside a business has provided a referral does it? Why would they continue to refer you? You need to make the reward personal and memorable so it conditions their response to refer you again.

 

You can drive more business via referrals but to succeed, like everything else, you need to develop a system. You need to test and refine that system constantly if you ever hope for it to provide you business. If you simply hope that people will refer you to others then you chances are very slim indeed. You need to encourage people to ACTIVELY refer you, otherwise any offer is simply wasted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I’d like to wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas and Happy new Year. Stay safe over the holidays and I hope that Santa brings you everything your heart desires.

 

It has been a topsy-turvey year for many people, myself included, and the future certainly appears bleaker than this time last year. Even in bad times the secret is to keep striving, keep focusing on your goals and importantly keep making the lives of others a joy. If you do then I’m sure you’ll received many more happy returns yourself. Remember, life is journey to be savoured along the way not simply a method of marking time on this earth.

 

I’m looking forward to Christmas with the family as well as some good reading (I have plenty of books on order from Santa). I’ll still be posting stuff up here but if you want to see what I’m reading or have on my reading list then head over to www.goodreads.com and link up with my email account (director@ciaops.com) to get my additions and reviews. Personally, I find www.goodreads.com so handy in that when I come across I book I want to read I simply add to the list on the site. Highly recommended for those out there who like to read.

 

To everyone who reads this blog on a regular and semi-regular basis all the best for the festive season and may all your Christmases be merry!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Browser PDF downloader

Here’s a nifty free add-on for Firefox and IE. PDF downloader from Nitro allows you to easily save a web page as a PDF document. Very handy and very free!

 

http://www.pdfdownload.org/

What a sad bunch

Here are some results from a recent AOL survey on email usage.

 

We have become addicted to email -

nearly half (46%) of email users said they’re hooked on email (up from just 15% last year) and 51% check their email four or more times a day (up from 45% in 2007). One in five said they check their email more than 10 times a day.

We are unable to cope with the volume -

More than one-quarter (27%) are so overwhelmed by their email that they’ve either declared “email bankruptcy,” deleting all their email messages to start anew, or they’re seriously thinking about doing so. Maybe it’s because 20% of users said they have over 300 emails in their inboxes!

We email on vacation -

More than 50% said they check their email while on vacation. It’s even higher among mobile users. Seventy-eight percent of those who have a mobile device check email while on vacation.

We email while we supposed to be sleeping -

Nearly half (41%) of mobile email users said they keep their cell phones near them when they sleep so they can hear when a new email comes in. Worse, 49% of mobile email users said they check their email every single time a new message arrives.

 

It seems clear to me that emails are creating real problems for most people, simply because they haven’t been taught the correct methods of dealing with them. Some simple techniques can really make big differences. I have documented some of these techniques in the following Overcoming email frustrations in Outlook 2007 and Overcoming email frustrations in Outlook 2003.

 

Normally, these books sell for about $35 but until January 31, 2009 I have a special deal going which you can find out about here. To take advantage of this offer please contact me directly via director@ciaops.com.

 

Also, don’t forget we also conduct email productivity seminars in your office to help everyone become more effective with email.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Your business is not you

I received a comment on my previous post about making a business profit. By no means am I implying that you should run a business into the ground sole for a dollar but again I don’t see many people running a business for PROFIT.

Let’s go back a step and again ask what are you in business for? You need to answer this honestly for it to be worth anything. If you tell me you are in it to make money or if you are in it simply to enjoy a reasonable life then they are both admirable goals BUT they not compatible with each other. You can only do one or the other. If you tell me that you are in the business to make money and yet are not focused on improving the efficiency of your business operations then I hate to tell you that you are fooling yourself. If your business is totally dependant on you to run it day to day you are again fooling yourself. If you are simply charging for your time with no leverage and think you are running a business, you are still fooling yourself.

If you tell me that you are running a business to make money then that’s what you need to be doing everyday. You need to set goals and strategies to help you achieve that. Tell me honestly, if your goal is to make money from your business is that written down anywhere? Have you developed a documented plan on how you will achieve this? If you tell me that you have but it is all in your head, I’m sorry that isn’t good enough. Why? Show me a profitable business elsewhere that has its plans “in its head”. I think you’ll struggle to find one.

Many small business mistakenly believe that they can simply earn revenue and allow a business to grow organically over time. Mistakenly they believe that, like compound interest, the value of their business will simply grow year on year. Mistakenly they believe that at some point in the future they can sell their business for a handsome reward. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

There is a major difference between business revenue and business value. Your customers provide revenue but only you can provide value to your business. If you are simply going out every day and charging for you time and not adding value to your business where do you think it is magically going to come from? I strongly believe that there is limit on how much any business can produce selling pure service. The secret to value is product. Now that product can include service components but it has be something tangible that a customer wants to buy. Simply selling maintenance will give you short term revenue but it will not add long term value.

Your business is not you. It should be totally separate from you. It should not need you to operate. If your aim is to make money then you need to be an owner of a business not a manager or a worker in that business. All an owner does it set the business in motion and collect the rewards. If you are not moving towards being an owner everyday then don’t fool yourself that you are running a business. You instead have a very enjoyable, comfortable hobby which is perfectly fine as long as you accept the fact that you are rarely going to get rich from your hobby!

I thought I had updated

A few days ago, like many IT people worldwide, I received a distressed call from a friend about the recent Microsoft Internet Explorer issue that they had seen all over the media. What did they need to do? I told them that they had to run a Microsoft Update from their browser. Having never done this (first bad sign) I had to given them an idea of what needed to be done. They were much calmer now knowing what make then safe. After not hearing again from them after a few day I assumed all was fine.

I was actually visiting this same friend today so I thought I’d just take a look at their system to ensure that it had been updated. I was amazed to find that the machine was not up to date at all and in fact was still vulnerable. After starting the update process I quizzed my friend as to why they hadn’t updated. Their reply was “I thought I had”.

So what happened? In theory Microsoft Update is only for Microsoft to inform the user about patches that need to be applied to the system. That is UNLESS they haven’t installed Service Pack 3 for Windows XP! If that hasn’t been installed you’ll see a screen like this:


 The top option, and the one most likely to be picked by unsuspecting users like my friend, is to install Windows XP Service Pack 3 and no other updates. So what happened is my friend pushed the top button, not reading the actual instructions on the page, as non-computer people do, and merely installed Windows XP Service Pack 3 on their machine and nothing else.

Was their machine still vulnerable? Yes. Were they likely to run another update? Nope. Chalk up another win for the bad guys. This time in my books it really is an own goal on Microsoft’s part. Sure Windows XP Service Pack 3 is important but it isn’t a critical update. Being the first choice on the screen it is what most users (who aren’t computer people) are going to select in their quest to be “safe” given all the hysteria. Microsoft updates should be for critical updates only and if you are going to put a message about a Service Pack make it the second choice. Microsoft, please remember, most people have no idea about technology.

Perhaps I should have told my friend to keep running Microsoft Update until there were no more updates. Perhaps they should have read the update screen more carefully. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Yet it only takes one maybe for an attacker to compromise a system. Once they get control, your only real option is to reformat and reload, today’s malware is just too sophisticated for any cleaning tool to deal with 100% effectively. To guarantee that your system is clean after an infection the only option is a complete reload. Who wants to do that? No-one but the odds are stacked in an attackers favour. Why? You need to defend your system against EVERY threat in Windows, Office, iTunes, Acrobat and piece of software you have installed on your machine. Not just Windows, the lot. An attacker only needs to exploit ONE SUCCESSFULLY and they can have control. So who’s got the better odds? It certainly isn’t you!

It further illustrates to me the divide between those that develop IT systems and those that use them. The void between the level developers believe users are and where they actually are is immense and getting bigger everyday. Wasn’t technology supposed to get easier? The reality is that is only getting easier for attackers to compromise systems. What does that say for a system we put so much faith in these days. Our common technology is built on very shaky ground, very shaky indeed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why start a business?

In these failing economic times many small business owners are probably asking themselves why they started their business. That doesn’t achieve anything because it is examining the past, besides I’ll give you the answer. Actually, I’ll let someone else far more qualified than me give you the answer:

 

“there is ultimately only one reason to create a business of your own, and that is to sell it!” – E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber ,P152

I will admit that for many years I never ran my business like I was going to sell it but I learned that you need to. Even if you choose not to sell your business you STILL HAVE THE OPTION if needed.

 

In this economic environment plenty of small businesses are going to think about cashing in their chips, but guess what guys? The pile of chips is only a tiny fraction of what you believe it to be. Why? Because the business depends on a single person, you. Unless you have documented and created procedures for the way you business operates and the business can run without you it is not going to be appealing to buyers. Simply reverse the situation and ask yourself whether you would buy your business? If so what would you pay for it as an outsider?

 

So if you are not making your business more “sellable” everyday what the hell are you doing? I’d say that you simply have a job or at best, a hobby. You need to run it like you’re going to sell it – end of story. The sooner you start seeing a business as something that you continually need to add value to the sooner you’ll start adding value.

 

Times change and unforeseen situations arise so if you optimize your business to be sold at any time, then you have far more options that most small business people I know.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is nothing safe?

Ok, if you haven’t read the news or seen the TV then you should know that you need to patch Internet Explorer urgently. In the meantime the reports indicate that you shouldn’t use Internet Explorer to browse the web.

 

No problems you say, I’ll use FireFox instead. Ahh, wait on there. Apparently Firefox tops the list of the 12 most vulnerable applications on Windows according to this report.

 

So no more web browsing until the patch gets applied. Will you are downloading the patch consider this story that a company involved with the new frontrunner's bid for Australia's national broadband network has links with the Chinese military. <SIGH>

 

Man. Why would anyone ever use the Internet? Problem is, they are still going to aren’t they? And many won’t be updating their systems, so it makes the Internet an even more dangerous place even if YOU do the right thing.

 

It’s a real double edged sword isn’t it? So, please update your systems and get others to update theirs as well because we’re all in this together.

What coming in the next SharePoint Guide release?

Here is some of the new content that will be included in January release of my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide:

 

- Migration to Companyweb on SBS 2008. I have retested my initial beta information of this process on the released version of SBS 2008 and added some additional information about security. So like SBS 2008, this process is no longer in beta.

 

- Upgrading SQL Versions. There are cases where you may wish to upgrade the version of SQL server you are using with SharePoint. Typically this involves an upgrade from the default SQL Server 2005 Embedded Edition (SSEE) to the full version of SQL server. I have documented the full process to make it simple and straight forward.

 

- Additional troubleshooting techniques. I’ve added a few more troubleshooting techniques to help overcome some common frustrations.

 

These are just a few of the items I’ll be adding for the January release. As always, subscribers will receive their new versions automatically free as part of their subscription to the Guide. If you aren’t a subscriber then don’t forget that from January 1, 2009 the price for the Guide rises to $299. So if you get in now you’ll save $50!

 

As always, information about the Windows SharePoint Operations Guide can be found at http://www.wssops.com. I thank all my subscribers for their support over the last year and look forward to providing you even more content in 2009.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Windows Live Updates

One thing that really seems to be improving in leaps and bounds is the Windows Live software. Now, I mainly use MSN Messenger and Windows Live Writer but there is plenty of great stuff now available for FREE. If you haven’t had a look then I suggest you pay http://download.live.com/ a visit to see what is available.


 At the same time take a look at http://home.live.com where you aggregate a lot of Microsoft content, like messenger contacts, Skydrive storage and so on as well as external content like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, I’m still be in two minds about using this as a communications tool since I can’t really see the value for the time invested. I know that it is big in the US which means that it will probably become big here. Now, I’m no Twitter expert (my Twitter Id is directorcia if anyone wants to “follow me”) I’ll admit but one of the nice things about the new Windows Live Writer is that I can add a Twitter plug-in so when I post something to my blog it will also appear as a post in Twitter. This makes more sense to me since I don’t want to have to be double posting.

I’m still not sold on the value of Twitter but now maybe I’ll be a bit more active there given the new Windows Live Writer plug-in. I’d also recommend that if you haven’t already you should go and see what’s on offer at Windows Live because even if it doesn’t have a business application it certainly will for your family and friends. One of the main advantages is that it is all from a single supplier (Microsoft) and is becoming very polished.

How to crash SBS2008 (and Vista)

I came across a bug in Microsoft Vista that allows it to be crashed from the command prompt by simply typing a single command. Apparently, Microsoft don’t believe that it warrants enough emphasis to provide a patch. They say they will fix it in the next Service Pack (due soon).

 

I was then a little curious. If Vista and Windows 2008 (and therefore SBS 2008) are based on the same TCP/IP stack would I also be able to crash SBS 2008?

 

I made sure my SBS 2008 machine was up to date:

 

image_6_30ADE1F4

image_8_30ADE1F4

 

Firstly, I go to the command prompt as an administrator and type:

 

route add 1.2.3.4/240 4.3.2.1

 

image_2_30ADE1F4

 

[On my test SBS2008 server it did not always happen immediately but I could normally force the issue if it didn’t happen initially by removing the route via the command:

route delete 1.2.3.4

]

 

I then wait a few moments and

 

image_4_30ADE1F4

 

BAMM! Blue screen of death!

 

Sure, to actually execute this command on Vista or SBS2008 you need to run it from a console but what is to stop some enterprising person getting this to run on a victim’s machine? We all know users just love to click and install spyware. So even though Microsoft say it isn’t a big worry I’d be concerned, especially as there is currently no patch available.

 

image_10_30ADE1F4

 

Information about the Vista issue is here but ladies and gentlemen the same thing happens on SBS 2008 so beware. Roll on Service Pack 2.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My life with Hyper-V so far

It has now been about 6 months since I converted basically all of my CIAOPS infrastructure to a single physical box running Microsoft Hyper-V so I thought I’d give you a progress report.

 

In summary, everything has gone much better than I ever would have anticipated. Previously I had converted most of machines to Microsoft Virtual PC’s so I was part of the way there. Going to Hyper-V has greatly increased performance, reliability and flexibility. Converting from Microsoft Virtual PC to Hyper-V machines was relatively straight forward (once you remove the Microsoft Virtual PC additions). After a few configuration changes for network cards and loading of the Hyper-V client software everything was up and running.

 

Probably the thing I like the most about Hyper-V is when it comes to update time. I simply shut the virtual machines down and take a snapshot backup. I found that sometimes a Hyper-V machine freezes if you take a backup when it is running, so I now always shut them down. I boot the machines back up, install the patches, reboot again and if everything is working ok I delete the oldest snapshot backup. That way I always have a backup copy I can roll back to if there are issues.

 

Because my Hyper-V host machine is running a standard version of Windows Server 2008 I also need to update that from time to time but again I can either shut the client Hyper-V machines down or I can simply freeze them while I install updates on the host Windows 2008 server. All in all a much quicker and easier process than when I had to install updates on all my physical machines.

 

In a perfect world I’d run one Hyper-V machine for production servers and one for test servers, but alas that is currently not the case. So on the one Hyper-V machine I am also running Windows Server 2008 Premium (i.e. 2 servers) again without issues. I am extremely please that I can get all these machines (6-8 in all) running on one piece of hardware, which also saves a huge amount on power bills.

 

If you haven’t investigated virtual PC technology like Microsoft Virtual PC or Microsoft Hyper-V then I’d recommend you give it a serious look. It has greatly cut down my admin time as well as saving me on my power bills just to mention two things. There are some downsides like a lack of USB support but you can normally work around these and I fully expect these things to be supported in future releases.

 

So in summary, Hyper-V has proved a real bonus for my business and helped me do more with less.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Email frustrations

I’ve just created a document that provides details on what are probably the top 5 email frustrations experienced by people. You can download a copy and let me know if you agree.

 

As a promotion to those who download this document, I am also offering a discount on my Enhanced Email quick start booklet (was $45 ex GST) and my Enhanced Email quick start seminar (was $599 ex GST). Both are designed to improve your productivity with email but the seminar is designed as a more in depth study of how to use emails effectively and efficiently in a business.

 

I’d also like to hear from any people out there who maybe interested in reselling my document or seminars. If you are, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with me directly (director@ciaops.com).

 

Otherwise, download the document, and if it is of no use to to you then I ask that you send it onto someone who maybe able to make use of it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Edit in datasheet without Microsoft Office

Normally in SharePoint if you want to edit a list or library in a datasheet the machine you are using has to have Microsoft Office installed.

 

image_2_683EE68F

 

But what happens in cases where machines aren’t going to need Microsoft Office otherwise? It seems a little silly to purchase a copy of Microsoft Office just to have the ability to edit in a datasheet with SharePoint.

 

The solution is to download and install Access 2007 Runtime from Microsoft which is a free download. So now all client machines can have the functionality of using the ‘Edit in Datasheet’ feature without having to purchase an additional Microsoft Office license.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Microsoft cloud offerings coming to Oz

I’ve been hanging out to see what Microsoft is going to offer in the way of cloud computing here in Australia and its seems not too far off.

 

This article from the Australian gives you some ideas of what Microsoft’s plan are. What I liked from the article was the following quote:

 

Mr Elop (Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division) said recent meetings with customers showed strong interest in upgrading to online software applications, despite worries that a global recession would dampen technology spending.


"We may have underestimated the extent to which customers will move in this direction," he said.

 

How many other people out there (especially traditional resellers) have underestimated this as well? Even if you are not planning on offering anything from the cloud you need to ensure that you stay abreast of what is happening. Simply writing off cloud computing as a flash in the pan doesn’t work any more. I’m pretty certain that sooner or later all customers are going to start asking about services from the cloud and as an IT provider if you can’t answer them then they are just going to find these answers else where aren’t they? Do you really want your customers going elsewhere for IT advice?

 

The general rule is that change happens slower than we expect but when things do change they happen in a way we could have never imagined. I reckon this is what is going to happen with cloud computing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Metrics

Do you measure what you do? Failing to measure what you do firstly means that you have no idea of which direction you are taking and how you are performing. Secondly, it indicates that you also don’t know where you want to go.

 

Metrics allow you to compare results from last week, last year, with your peers and so on. Metrics gives you early indications on what trends are emerging. An early warning allows you to make adjustments, determine how to improve the results way before things become critical. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes but there is if you take too long to correct them.

 

For example, if you maintain a web site or a blog you should be looking at how many visitors you have, how long they stay and so on. Something like Google Analytics is a free tracking tool that provide a huge amount of feedback on what happening on your site. There are also many, many other great tools available that can help analyze web traffic.

 

If you run a business what are you tracking? What are the important metrics that you need to keep track of? Depending on your business things such as income, billed hours, inbound phone calls, etc could be important. The critical thing is that you need to determine what you need to monitor and then start monitoring it. Never be afraid to add and adjust metrics along the way because the more insight you have on your business the better.

 

If you feel that there is just too much to do everyday have you ever sat down and actually recorded what you do each day in detail? It doesn’t have to be exact but I’ll bet that if you sat down and kept a long of where you spend your time over a few days you’d be surprised on how unproductively you spend a lot of it or how much someone else could/should be doing.

 

The first step to understanding something is to measure it. From there you can make better decisions. If you are making decisions with measuring then you are flying by the seat of your pants and we all know that doesn’t last long!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blogging for business

A few posts ago I was talking about Blogging being a living resume. I wanted to expand a little on this in the context of business. The best way is probably to give you an example of what I mean.

I have a contact who is small software developer. They are really smart and write really good software but they always complain to me that they need to do more marketing. I asked what they did now and the response was simply to maintain their main web site. I suggested that perhaps they consider blogging.

Initially the response was why bother? But I urged them, like I urge you, to hear me out on this. Now these guys write good software and solve a lot of tricky problems but who every knows? Their existing customers certainly don’t because they simply get the latest update from the software generally unaware of any improvements. The smartest way I can see to publicise this is to blog about it. Spend some time telling everyone what the problems was and how you solved in as much detail as possible.

What good will that do? Eventually, search engines will index that content and then if someone is running a search about software development they may find the blog. Reading the entries in the blog they get a better appreciation of what these guys do. They then contact the company about doing some work. People may also subscribe to the blog on a regular basis and others may even quote the blog as a reference to other topics. A blogs ability to grow in reach is a very powerful marketing tool.

I know there are plenty of if’s and but’s here however what benefit do you get by retaining all the the good work you’ve just performed inside your business? Blog it dude! Let the world know what you solved and how you went about it. In reality it only takes a few minutes to write a post and update it. As you add more and more content it starts to have real value and each item may generate a hit from search engines that could bring in business.

Now, it is no good just casually doing a blog, you need to look at in light of the marketing of your business. You therefore need to work at ensuring it is updated regularly, is professionally focused and provides value to readers. I don’t think this is particularly hard to do because all you simply need to do is get into a routine. However always examine the content in light of marketing for your business.

Blogging is cheap, easy to do, allows you to develop and enhance your written communications, demonstrates you understand the latest social networking benefits and more. In this economic climate you want to give your business every chance of obtaining revenue and to me blogging done right is an easy win for a business as well as an individual.

More cloud offerings arrive


Australia largest telco, Telstra, is now making available a range of hosted software application via its T-Suite brand. Interestingly, Telstra is also a big Microsoft customer so have I little doubt there is some sharing of resources going on here.

Because Telstra also provides broadband and 3G access you can appreciate how these Software as a Service (SaaS) model provides a good business model going forward.

Many experienced IT providers know that Telstra doesn’t always have the best name in the business for the services it provides yet it is big enough to overcome that and still be one of the largest ISP’s in the land. Due to their size, implementing something like this is pretty simple.

So what impact does that have on your average reseller? Probably not too much yet but it is a further warning that the landscape is changing. It is an indication that the big boys are able to offer services to traditional reseller customers on a month by month basis. This is not a model that is possible for most current resellers. Also, people like Telstra are going to be able to bundle Software as a Service with broadband, email and web hosting, mobiles and so on. Even if individual services are sub par their combined offering is enticing for many customers wanting the simplicity of a single supplier.

This is only the beginning of the cloud casting a shadow across the current landscape. It won’t be long before you see many other providers doing the same thing. I also expect Microsoft to come to the Australian market with something very soon.

If you are a traditional resellers you need to appreciate that your market is being changed by forces beyond your control. Your time to determine what direction you will take is slowly running out as more cloud offerings are forming on the horizon to blot out the sunshine of traditional IT market. Like it or not the change is coming.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Your blog is your living resume

I’ve just been reading 10 Essential Steps to Take BEFORE You’re Laid Off from the Get Rich Slowly blog and even though all the points are very valid the one that struck me was:

 

Start a blog that contains at least 50% professional material. If you don’t already have a blog, stop reading this one and go start one right this minute. It’s essential. Your blog is your living resume. It shows how you think. It shows how you write. It shows what’s important to you. While it is fine to blog about personal topics, devote half of your posts to professional content. What is that you do by trade? Mentor us through your blog. We employers love hiring mentors — they raise everybody’s performance.

I been talking to a few people lately who are changing positions both by choice and not by choice and one of the things I tell them is that they should start a blog. Recently, someone else asked me how to ‘break into’ the IT field, my answer again was to blog.

 

If I’m an employer and you show me your blog and it is at least 50% professional it goes a long way in boosting your stocks with me. Why? Firstly, you’ve taken the time to create and maintain a blog (that’s why regular entries are critical). Next, it shows me you are keeping up with the times and utilizing social networking. Next, it helps you stand above your peers who couldn’t be bothered blogging. It also shows that you have the confidence to promote your thoughts, musings, discoveries, etc for free. Only the paranoid try and hold every piece of information they come across. It also indicates to me that you are a good communicator and you have the ability to work with the written word. And that’s just for a start.

 

There’s no way that you could ever get that across in a resume. A blog is a far better indicator to me of your skills, personality and dedication. If you do a blog then you need to ensure it remains professional and thus if you want to also do a personal blog I’d recommend you simply create a separate one for those socially embarrassing photos. Because, done incorrectly a blog can sink your prospects as quickly as a good blog can boost them.

 

My recommendations if you don’t blog? Create a professional blog. Ensure that you update it regularly. Remember that anything that goes in here you want a potential employer to see. Include your own ideas, comments and feedback rather than just regurgitating information. Remember a blog is about your take on the information not simply you reporting it. It may seem awkward at first but if you keep at it you’ll improve. Practice makes perfect.

 

So there is really no excuse not to blog. Blogging sites are free, tools to promote your blog are free as are tool to monitor your blog so money is never going to be an issue when it comes to blogging. It simply comes down to your time on a regular basis because nothing looks worse than a blog that never gets updated (even worse than a web site that also never does). It doesn’t take much, just a few minutes here and there. Who knows, after a while you may even come to enjoy it. You may even find other people enjoy reading it as well. Utilize the power of social networking to your benefit.

 

If you want to add value to yourself professionally, use a blog to demonstrate to the world why you know your stuff. A blog is so much more than a CV because it it living.

New version of SharePoint will be 64 bit only

In light of other recent Windows upgrades (i.e. SBS2008) that are 64 bit only, the new version of SharePoint, when it becomes, available will also only be 64 bit. This will basically mean it will only run on Windows Server 2008 or better.

 

The reason I mention this is because if you are planning to build a SharePoint solution now it is probably a very good idea to consider a 64 bit environment. Windows SharePoint Services is already available in a 64 bit version so you could install it today and be prepared for when the new version become available.

 

It is my understanding that Service Pack 2 for the existing version of SharePoint v3.0 will be available in the first half of the 2009. However, you may want to consider making the move to a 64 bit platform today rather than when the new version of SharePoint is released.

Microsoft DreamSpark

Who says Microsoft doesn’t give away stuff for free.

 DreamSpark is simple, it's all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and design tools at no charge so you can chase your dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology - or just get a head start on your career.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Skydrive upgrade

I went to my Skydrive today and look

 

image_2_21560613

 

I’ve now got 25GB of space I can use to store stuff. Did I do anything? No. Was the system down while more space was added? No. All this happened behind the scenes without me even knowing. Suddenly, as a customer, I’ve gotten more resources and functionality for no additional cost. Apart from all that it’s free anyway and not doubt going to continually increase in size.

 

I’d like to also say that this goes a long way to illustrating my point about how good cloud computing is. If I’d tried to add more space on-site I would need to have bought media, installed it, formatted it and so. However, overnight, bamm, I’ve been upgraded. The same principle can be applied to most services that are going to be available from the cloud.

 

Don’t think this is threat to the traditional on-site model of computing? Take a step back and look at it from a customers perspective. I’ve suddenly gotten more without any disruption to my operations. As a customer, how is this not enticing for me?

Does anyone out there understand this stuff?

I received the following email forwarded from a contact recently.


 Now, what I find interesting is the simple fact that they must have in turn received this from one of their contacts but they chose to believe it to be true immediately. It certainly doesn’t appear that the question was asked to whether this was legitimate before it was forwarded to me. If someone did that to them in the street they certainly think twice before accepting anything. Why doesn’t the same apply with technology? To those that know there is plenty to give away the fact that it is indeed a hoax.

The problem this highlights is simply how easy it is to bypass most security technology by convincing a user to take steps to circumvent security. This is how most security issues spread, by people believing carte blanch that what they have received is legitimate. I’m afraid that no technology is going to ever be able to mitigate the threat users pose to their own systems. The only method is training and the attitude to trust nothing from the Internet with verifying it.

When most employees go to work in a business they are not taught how to use emails are they? They are likewise not taught how to use the Internet and clearly they are also not taught how to search as the following from Google illustrates.

Now, apparently these are the top ten terms used in Google searches according to Google (yet to see this posted on the web by Google – maybe soon):


  • Games
  • Sydney
  • YouTube
  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • eBay
  • My
  • Weather
  • Hotmail
    Ahhh, hang on. Why are people typing Google into Google search? It sorta indicates to me that people don’t know what they are doing, just like in the following video clip.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oCHxB8d20s
    Don’t forget typing Google into Google is the sixth most popular search term. Now it is my understanding that these words are the top ten single words searched for on Google. Hello. Doesn’t that sort of tell you that people don’t really know how to use search engines? Look at the other words as well, many are domains (i.e. Hotmail, YouTube, Facebook, etc). What’s going on here. How can we have had the web for all these years and yet so many people don’t seem to even understand the basics!

    We spend so much of our time encapsulating our lives with technology when in reality most people have very little idea about it all. In our jobs we are simply expected to know how to use emails, the web, office applications etc but are never taught. So how are we going to use them? Via the lowest common denominator. We are afraid and too time poor to try and learn any features or configurations that would really help. Our employers take for granted that employees know how to use all the technology and yet employees, without guidance and training, are the best threats to circumvented security that any organization faces. Also think about the time people waste struggling to use technology tools they have only learned by trial and error. Maybe this in another reason people haven’t adopted Vista – to much change.

    The answer is not more technology it is understanding how to use the technology better.
  • Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Connecting to local drives in Virtual PC

    When you run up a Microsoft Virtual PC chances are you are going to want to copy files from the host system on which the Virtual PC is running to the actual Virtual PC. This is possible by simply going into the settings for that Virtual PC and selecting the Shared Folders option as shown below:

     

    image_2_764C0981

     

    If you then select the Shared Folder button over on the right you are able to select a local directory which can be mapped a drive letter on the Virtual PC. Perfect for copying files up and down.

     

    It is not possible to use this option to connect a Virtual PC drive to a network mapped drive you may have on the local machine. It only works with drives that are local to the host machine on which Virtual PC is running.

    Get the picture?

    Here’s an interesting graph from Google by way of David Schrag’s blog.



    The blue line that is trending down are Google searches for “computer consulting”. The read line at the right are Google searches for “cloud computing”.

    With things like Microsoft Azure coming the red line is only going to be rising up and up, while the traditional blue line is going to keep going south.

    Even if you have reservations about cloud computing as a viable solution, clearly more and more people want to know about it. Doesn’t it make sense to learn about opportunities (red line – cloud computing) rather than traditional (blue line – computer consulting) contracting markets? Because that’s were customers are going to be prepared to pay money. With the economic challenges ahead it certainly makes sense to me to move towards opportunities where customers ‘want’ to spend money (red line – cloud computing) rather than ‘having’ to spend money (blue line – computer consulting).

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    Wireless networking course starts on Thursday

    My Wireless Networking course will run this Thursday at Macquarie Community College at Carlingford. If you are interested in learning about wireless technology and how to make it work then you should get plenty of value from what’s on offer.

     

    If you are interested in enrolling call the college on 02-8845 8888 or check the following web page for more details:

     

    http://www.macquarie.nsw.edu.au/index.php?action=course&course_action=detail&code=408M299

     

    This will be my last technology course for 2008 and I’d like to thank anyone who has attended my courses throughout the year, I hope they provided value. I have proposed a range of new courses for 2009 as well as my existing ones on Networking Basics, Networking with Small Business Server and Computer Security. If the new courses get a start then I’ll post information about their content here.

     

    Once again, to all who attended Merry Christmas and I hope to see you again in the New Year.

    You are the average of your surroundings

    So you want to get ahead in life and improve your lot as well, here’s an interesting concept I came a cross a while back. Where ever you go you are probably going to be the average of those around you.

     

    Here’s an example to explain. Let’s say that you want to improve your golf (and who doesn’t), you are not going to do that by playing with people who you are better than. To improve, you need to play with people who are better than you so your game will tend to move upwards towards the average of the group.

     

    Now let’s apply that to business. If you want to be more successful in business then you should be hanging around with people who are more successful than you. Same law will apply, as your average success will tend to increase to that of the group you associate with.

     

    Stop and think about the business people that you associate with on a regular basis. Are they lifting your average or dragging it down? If you want your average to increase then perhaps you need to look at associating with a different set of business people.

     

    It is a rather simply concept but I recommend you take a few moments to consider what groups you are the average of. If their average is not what you want your average to be then maybe it’s time to make some decisions.

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Who programmed this?

    I am a subscriber to a video library which delivers me DVD’s via mail on a regular basis. I really like the service since I can create a list of what I want to see on a web site. I can also decide in what priority I want to view DVD’s and so on. Every time I watch a DVD I simply pop it back in the post and a new one arrives from my list a few days later. Fantastic.

    Now, I’ve been using this service for a few years now and have watched hundreds of DVD’s via this method. When I log into my DVD portal I get something like what you see below with suggestions of what I might like to watch from the library.
     
    The issue here is that every DVD you see in the above list I have watched and returned from this DVD library site. Why doesn’t the web site know that? Doesn’t it look stupid by suggesting things I’ve already seen? I would think that it is pretty easy to at least check my viewed DVD list to see if what is being recommended has actually been viewed!

    When you see things like this you gotta question the value of technology. In my books it is simply not adding value to the site and should not be there. Also, it is very lazy programming simply to throw up any list of DVD’s for me to watch without the most simply qualifiers. Do I feel I’m a customer that matters? Nope. This tells me that the site doesn’t know who I am from a bar of soap. How is that adding value in my mind to what I pay for? Does it provide a unique selling point? Nope. It just shows me how poorly put together the site is.

    Companies who develop web sites and technology need to understand the value from the customer’s perspective. Don’t do something because it is technically easy or look pretty – give us something that is practice, otherwise as a customer you are simply wasting my time. Even if doing something simply is technically difficult (which it normally is) don’t do something technically easy that doesn’t work (like the above) because it shows me you haven’t thought about me as a customer. The next time I need to make a decision about whether I continue to use such a service this sort of stupidity is going to count against you.

    For heaven’s sake, give us practical technology not technology for technology’s sake!

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    Security videos

    Have a look at these security videos from Watchguard. Down the bottom of the page you’ll also find some videos that may help ‘non-IT’ people understand some simple security principles.

     

    The good thing is that you can download the videos and use them offline.

    The value of “clear space”

    I was reading an article from Intel recently saying they have noticed a decided drop off in innovation with the advent of interruptions (linked to things like email). They believe that because people’s head are so full of things that are perceived to be urgent that there is little room for new ideas to form. Intel are trying to foster the idea of “clear space”. Time simply devoted to thinking rather than doing.

     

    I can’t but equate this back to the eastern philosophy of meditation. Many people I know laugh meditation off as some ‘new age hippy’ treatment and would never be caught engaging in the practice. To these people I’d content that it far more difficult to empty your mind of thoughts and keep it empty for a period of time. If you don’t believe me then try it for yourself. See how long you can go without thinking about anything. I’m certain you’ll find all sorts of things popping in there. Maybe then you’ll appreciate that finding ‘clear space’ is far more difficult that first imagined simply because we have become so accustom to filling it.

     

    If your mind is a cup and constantly overflowing how is anything else ever going to get in? If you feel your mind is always preoccupied with ‘stuff’ perhaps you need to look at exactly what ‘stuff’ is in there. The problem is that most people believe they have to remember everything they need to know in their heads. For example, some time during the day you drill yourself into ‘remembering’ that you need milk. Later on, you find yourself standing in the dairy isle of a supermarket trying to rack your brain for what you needed to remember. Everyone’s been there.

     

    The simplest way to empty the cup of your mind and allow it some ‘clear space’ is to move information from your brain to a trusted location where you can retrieve it if necessary. Where this information ends up doesn’t really matter, what matters is that your brain is confident that it is somewhere safe where it can be retrieved later and so no longer was to worry or ‘think’ about it.

     

    Personally, I find a pen and paper to be the fastest, most convenient and flexible way to get things down however electronic means like OneNote, Evernote or whatever can achieve the same result. The secret is you have to find out what works for you. You’ll also find that you’ll improve the system that you use as you go along, which is exactly what is supposed to happen. The important thing is to take steps to free you mind from the mundane issues that can easily be dealt with in other ways.

     

    I think that you’ll be surprised at how quick it is to create some mental ‘clear space’ and how easier things become once your mind has room to accept and process information. Your mind is like a high performance engine. If you keep filling it with crap fuel it is never going to reach its potential. If however, you highly refine what goes in then you are guaranteed of top performance.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    SharePoint subsite basics video

    You’ll find a new video at http://www.youtube.com/user/directorciaops. This one give you an overview of the basics of SharePoint subsites.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQlJBE-3RHM&hl=en&fs=1


    Subsites are basically just normal SharePoint sites that live underneath the original SharePoint home site. They can be created using an existing template (40 of these are free from Microsoft) so that you don’t have to start completely from scratch. SharePoint sites also have the ability to have unique permissions and navigation if desired.

     

    As always I welcome feedback on what’s been created.

    Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Starter Kit now available

    How to Sell, Deploy, and Build Business with Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and SBS 2003 R2

    Overview: A new partner enablement tool helps you create solutions using Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2. Access the toolkit?s resources?including a process cookbook, technical documentation and marketing materials?to learn how to build your business by selling and deploying customized solutions

    In case you were not able to get your hands on one of those fantastic WSS Starter Site Toolkit DVDs, the files are now online here.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Free team portal site

    The Computer Information Agency is proud to offer a fully supported, free portal site to non-business teams. This will allow your soccer team to quickly and easily see when events are on. Your swimming team can quickly upload documents that everyone can access. Your team portal provides a quick and easy way for everyone to always be up to date.

     

    Why is it free? What’s the catch? I hear you say. Your portal remains free for you to use provided you are not a business and you provide at least one converted referral per month. Otherwise, you will be charged $5 per month to cover basic hosting costs. Alternatively, if you provide a converted commercial referral then you’ll receive 12 months portal use and support for free.

     

    For information about the conditions and how to take advantage of this offer Contact us or download a brochure.

    SharePoint Starter Pack

    Do you want to get your business into using SharePoint but don’t know how? Why not try our new SharePoint Starter Pack, that for a fixed price we will deliver a configured SharePoint site including training and support.

     

    This is a great opportunity to start improving the productivity of your business by utilizing the tools that are available in SharePoint. Best of all it is all done for a fixed price so you know exactly how much it is going to cost. For more information download the brochure or email director@ciaops.com.

     

    If you are a technology provider then you can also resell this pack and increase your revenue while introducing your customers to the benefits SharePoint can provide their business. For further information about reseller opportunities please contact the above email address as well.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Is your business ‘email qualified’?

    We all make the assumption that everyone we know, including people that work for us and with us, knows how to use email, but is that really the case? Have you ever been taught how to use emails or have you simply picked it up along the way? So what’s to say that you haven’t also picked up some bad habits along the way and are simply reinforcing them constantly? Have you ever stopped to consider whether you and your business are actually using emails in the most productive and appropriate manner?

     

    When a new person in your business commences, are they simply given an email address with the businesses domain attached and left to their own devices? Do you appreciate that it is now possible for that individual to send totally inappropriate emails to any place or person on the Internet? Better yet, do you appreciate that they are doing this with the business details attached? So all that hard work the business has invested in building up goodwill and reputation can be dashed by an employee who has been there less than a week.

     

    Does you business help people understand when it is a appropriate to use Carbon Copies and Reply to all? Do they appreciate that anything they send via email will be retained, not only on your systems but also on whomever they send it to? Do they realise that any email information is easily searchable and can’t be recalled or deleted once sent? Do you let people send and receive personal emails from their business accounts? Most importantly, has the business ever made it clear to employees what they should and shouldn’t do? Has it explained to them the email ‘standards’ of the business, such as appropriate subject lines to be used, how they should address emails and how they should sign off? And importantly, when it maybe more appropriate to speak directly with the person rather than using email. Probably not.

     

    It is amazing to think that email is probably the most used tool in business today and yet there is next to no training on how it should be used. There are next to no business standards about what is appropriate or acceptable usage. There is next to no understanding that information in emails that leaves the business from anyone, provides a direct reflection of that business in the minds of the receiver, wherever that may be. There is next to no effort or investment placed into the idea of using emails to improve the productivity of the business. Strange isn’t it? When businesses spend so much money on getting their corporate logo and stationery right, proof reading any document that leaves the business but almost no care is placed on what impact emails have inside and outside the organization.

     

    We still seem to see email is a toy. We fail to treat it as a real business tool, although it has been that for a long time now. The most likely reason is that email transcends our lives. We use email to correspond with friends, family, strangers and business colleagues. What we have failed to appreciate is that the context in which we use email is very, very important. Businesses need to be mindful of this fact and should be reinforcing the correct context to its staff at all times. Email, like most technology is a tool. Used effectively it can garner great efficiencies. Used inappropriately it can not only be a weight dragging productivity down, it has the potential to cause real problems for any business.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Are you a bargain?

    How easily do you give away your time and attention? Have you ever considered the cost of obtaining your time and attention? I’ll bet that most people give it away for next to nothing.

     

    If you pass a colleague and they ask you for $100 the first thing that you’re going to ask them is probably, “What for?”. However, if someone comes to you and wants to interrupt you most people allow it automatically, for no charge. Even worse, it doesn’t even have to be a person that gets your time and attention for next to nothing, it can be a machine.

     

    By default what happens when a new email arrives? Your machine goes ‘ding’ and you may see something flash on the screen. That’s your machine interrupting you. Most people typically stop what they are doing and like the ‘Pavlovian dog’ go and check to see what the email is about Problem is, the ‘ding’ isn’t very smart is it? Any email that arrives will solicit the same response from your computer. Sure, you may get a small preview, but does that actually prevent you from checking it? In most cases it makes it more likely because you want to see the whole message! Human beings are curious creatures. So, you’ve now allowed anyone, anywhere at anytime to interrupt you. It could be your boss, your partner, your mother or a spammer, it does matter. They all make the computer go ‘ding’ and obtain your attention. Should they all have the same access and priority? How cheap are you?

     

    Wanna actually get something done? Maybe its time to challenge the defaults you currently accept. Why does your email program have to check email every 5 minutes? Maybe 15, 30 or even 60 is more productive. Here’s a radical thought, set the defaults to ‘manual’ so you can check the email when YOU choose! Why do you need to be notified of every email the instant it arrives? Why do you allow your machine to interrupt you with noises, flashing signs and the like when most of what you receive in email does not warrant immediate instant attention. You are giving low priority stuff much greater priority than it deserves. How cheap are you?

     

    Don’t believe me? Try turning off all the notifications and increasing the retrieve times for email. Better yet, try a morning when you have something important to do, even a few hours, without opening your email program at all and see how much more you get done. If it works then maybe you’ve become too cheap and need to re-evaluate the value of your time and attention, because guess what? They’re far more valuable than you think, because they’re FINITE!