Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Countering disinformation

There is plenty of unjustified negative press out there about Windows Vista but the saddest part has been how Microsoft has let these myths perpetuate. Well no more! Take a look at the Mojave Experiment.

 

The best way to prove what a ‘croc’ most of the anti-Vista propaganda has been is to bring in some people who profess a dislike for Vista (although never having seen it themselves), show them a ‘new’ version of Windows (called Mojave), then tell them they are looking at Vista.

 

The results speak for themselves.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Romeo Charlie 1

Well, I’ve just finished installing SBS 2008 RC1. Again, it is such a piece of cake I don’t see how anyone is going to make money out of installing the software myself. All you have to do basically is provide a server, domain and login name and everything else is done automatically.

 

I did however notice that with this version you MUST have at least 4GB of RAM installed to allow the installation to complete. This is a little strange since you don’t really need that amount of RAM to get it running. Because I’m running SBS 2008 RC1 on a Hyper V machine I just allocated 4GB of RAM during the install and then reverted back to 2GB once the installation was complete. Geeze, I love virtualization (as you should know by now).

 

Apart from the RAM issue the other thing I noticed was that SBS 2008 RC1 wanted to set itself to the highest screen resolution it could. Simple enough to change back after the fact but a bit of a pain during the installation. I had a quick look at Sharepoint and all that looks identical but can’t be 100% sure until I have a more in depth look shortly.

 

It hasn’t been long between RC0 and RC1 has it now, also factor that SBS 2008 isn’t due for release until November (still 4 months away) and I’ll be interested to see whether any more releases become available. I’m guessing we’ll see RC2 but probably no more. SBS 2008 is going to be the most ready to market version of SBS I reckon we’ve had.

Thanks Wayne

I recently gave our resident SBS Guru and MVP, Wayne Small, a look at my Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide so he could give me some feedback based on his own extensive experience with Sharepoint and publishing technical material. I am pleased to say that he has written a nice review in one of his recent blog posts.

 

In it he says:

 

“It gives great overview in how to perform many of the tasks that you will need to do in a SharePoint installation, along with real world experience where it varies from the official Microsoft line.  I'd suggest you check it out if you are doing work with SharePoint as it will save you time and money.”

 

I’d just like to say thanks to Wayne for taking the time to firstly have a look at what I have created and secondly to give my work such a positive wrap, I really appreciate it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why the bad guys will always win

Seen an email like this lately? Now to most techie types we would know that this certainly smells like some form of malware, but what about to a “normal” user? The following scenario really happened, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

User - “My machine says that it is infected with spyware”
Techie - “Where does it say that?”
User - “Down the bottom right hand side of the screen. It says Windows has detected you machine is infected with spyware”
Techie - “Do you have anti-virus and is it up to date?”
User - “Yes, I have PC-cillian and it is up to date”
Techie - “Ok, I’ll remote in and have look”

Sure enough the machine appears to be infected with spyware, however after running a full system scan with PC-Cillian nothing is detected.

Techie - “Did you open email attachments today?”
User - “Yes, I opened one from UPS"
Techie - “Why? Did you send a parcel via UPS?”
User - “No”
Techie - “Are you expecting a parcel from UPS?”
User - “No”
Techie - “So, why did you open it?”
User - “I thought I was getting a surprise package”

Well, ladies and gentlemen the user sure did get a surprise package. For when they opened and ran the attachment it installed a hidden service in multiple locations on the disk, in the registry and so on. Thus, the machine was now infected.

Techie - “What did you do after you ran the attachment?”
User - “I went and did my Internet banking”

This story just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it? Firstly, the user gets their system infected with spyware by actually RUNNING an unknown attachment, which infects their system. Then, even though the system warns them there is an issue they simply ignore that fact and go and do Internet banking. We pick up the story again….

Techie - “I think you had better go and check your bank balances because there is chance someone has stolen your passwords”
User - “They can do that?”

Sure enough, checking the bank balances on a “known” clean machine, it turns out the maximum daily withdrawal amount has been transferred to an unknown account today, strangely not that long ago.

Techie - “You had better go and change all your Internet banking passwords"
User - "I don't want to do that it is such a pain"
Techie - "Well if you don't they are going to keep taking money out of your account"
User - "They can do that?"
Techie - "They have your password remember?"
User - "Better go and change my password eh?"
Techie - "Very good idea and in the meantime I'll try and clean up this machine"

Very interesting that this UPS_service.exe spyware had completely slipped through PC-Cillian. After searching the web there didn't appear to be much about how to clean up the infection. So it had to be manually removed from the registry, the disk system and then the system restored to a previous time. After running multiple scans on the machine it WOULD APPEAR to be clean, but you can never now be 100% sure.

User - "Whatta you mean you can't be 100% sure"
Techie - "Look, I have done everything I can think of to remove it but if PC-Cillian isn't even detecting it how can you be 100% sure?"
User - "But I want to be 100% sure?"
Techie - "Wipe the disk and start again"
User - "WHAT???"
Techie - "Sorry. Once a bad guy has control of your system, it ain't yours anymore. You can try and throw them out but who knows what other tricks and back doors they have created for themselves"
User - "All that because I opened an attachment?"
Techie - "Yup"

This is why the bad guys are ALWAYS going to get around any technological protection you put in place. If they can fool the human being to over ride all these safe guards then why even attempt to try and circumvent the technology? Go straight for the human weakness because you know it will work EVERY time.

Education is the key. NEVER EVER trust something unsolicited from the Internet and THINK before opening ANY attachment.

You have been warned!

Monday, July 21, 2008

More SBS 2008 videos

No, these are not from me but from a business called NetoMeter (which I came across while reading the Small Business Tech Ramblings blog). The videos cover quite a range of SBS 2008 topics which should help with many common topics, including adding SSL certificates and doing bare metal restores.

 

Having done my own videos on similar topics I am interested to understand the business motivation behind creating such videos. They would appear to be aimed at driving business towards the remote support options provided by NeoMeter. I think this a very innovative business model and indicates to me that SBS 2008 support is really going to be able to be provided almost anywhere in the world.

 

If you are a reseller don’t be fooled into thinking that business owners are going to keep coming to you for support or to set up their systems. Using resources like these videos they will probably buy some bundle at the local PC supermarket, get their systems operational (that being quite easy to do with SBS 2008 now), then when they need assistance where are they going to turn first? I’ll put my money on NetoMeter first and someone in the yellow pages second.

 

It’s a competitive world out there and the skills required to install SBS 2008 have dropped in my opinion, not increased. This means life as an SBS reseller has gotten harder, not easier. Unless you have some angle or “special sauce” as I spoke about in a recent post you are going to be the poorer for it.

What seems obvious

To me at least, is the fact that there are going to be plenty of iPhone users out there who are going to get a very nasty surprise when they get their first bill. This article says how the Australian consumer watchdog is getting involved to keep an eye on the data offerings from our telcos.

 

The article says:

 

Optus, Telstra and Vodafone's iPhone pricing plans have attracted particularly harsh criticism for being too expensive and not offering a high enough web data quota for comfortable internet browsing.

 

and

 

Some Telstra plans offer 3GB of data but the cheapest is $149 a month and the most expensive is $219 a month. The other carriers' plans max out at 1GB for Vodafone and 2GB for Optus, which isn't enough for intensive web browsing.

 

Data charges are the cash cows for telcos today. They stand to make huge profits as more and more people become connected wirelessly and use their mobile device as freely as they use their land based Internet connections. The people who don’t take great care in how much they use the Internet wirelessly are going to pay a very steep price for such convenience.

 

Just remember, the telcos are NOT doing you any favours signing you up to a plan. They will put you on the one that makes the most money for them. Shop around, understand how much you download and how to control what your mobile device downloads. Failing that, turn the device OFF when you don’t need to use it, because a device that is off can’t download anything!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Small Business Specialist Certification

Came across this interesting video interview with Harry Brelsford. In it he says that his business, SMBNation, is packaging up his Small Business Specialist training material and delivering it as a set curriculum that “anyone” can use to obtain their Small Business Specialist Certification. He cites the examples of high school kids as well as community colleges as the intended targets for this material.

 

Like most technology certifications, it is clear that the Small Business Specialist qualification is now far too common and no longer could effectively be used as a differentiation point for your business. Sure, it is good that the qualification perhaps ensures all Small Business Specialists have a minimum level of qualifications but is that really true? I’m pretty sure, like most other technology qualifications, you can still obtain the certification without knowing anything about Small Business Server.

 

Combine this growing legion of Small Business Specialists with the greater simplicity of SBS 2008, now what is your businesses point of differentiation? Most claims along the lines of “we do it better” or “we fix the mess others leave behind” don’t seem to work. Once an owner has been bitten by a bad technology provider they are going to be pretty gun shy of the next one who comes along, no matter how good they are. In many cases you as the new technology provider is going to be lumbered with the residual poor installation implemented by the previous incumbent. Worse than that, chances are the business owner isn’t going to want to spend much more money “fixing” the problem, simply because they have already shelled out a pretty penny for what they already have. So beware, following some previous IT provider into a business, you may simply end up being the whipping “boy” for an owner is looking to take their previous frustrations out on.

 

As a technology provider you are generally selling status quo. That is, today nothing happened on the server just like yesterday and the day before and the day before and so on. Most customers don’t understand the value of this and therefore get lulled into a concern that they are “paying you for nothing”. Its hard to sell the status quo, especially when you look and sound like everyone else claiming to sell it. So what’s your “secret sauce” (as Harry Brelsford would say) that helps you stand out from the crowd to customers and prospects?

 

You need to help prospects and customers understand the VALUE you bring to their business. If you simply “fix” technology then there are others out there who’ll do it cheaper, quicker and against whom you don’t stand a chance if you fight on their terms. Why do people but something like a Mercedes when a Fiesta basically does the same thing? Understand that and you are well on your way to understanding VALUE in the eyes of the prospect or customer.

Snap, Patch, Pop

I was reading Andys Techie Blog about some recent dramas he had when applying Sharepoint patches. Now, I’m no stranger to those problems and a few months back I had a similar issue where a patch creamed all my Sharepoint sites. Since then I’ve taken what I reckon are some pretty simply steps to reduce potential downtime.

 

The first step is simply to virtualize all my servers. Originally, I used Microsoft Virtual PC but I have since migrated all these virtual machines to Hyper V on Windows 2008 64 bit edition. So prior to applying recent patches I simply used the Hyper V manager to take a snapshot of the machine (i.e. image backup). I then applied the patches, made sure everything was working and if so deleted the snap shot backup. In the event of problems, I could easily restore the previous snapshot in a matter of minutes.

 

I also maintain a “clean” virtual Sharepoint server for disaster recovery. All I need to do it fire up the “clean'” server, join it to my domain and restore my stsadm –o backup file and I’m basically up and running again. Because the “clean” machine is virtual I can leave it suspended until I need it.

 

Another great thing about virtualization is that you can tune many of the attributes of the virtual machine. Let’s take memory for starters. If I determine a machine needs 1,012MB of RAM then I can allocated exactly that amount. I know RAM is cheap but I’d rather allocate it so I get the best utilization out of the memory in the host machine. Next, let’s look at hard disks. All virtual hard disks are stored in a compressed format so even though my host machine has 300GB of disk space I can run virtual machines that use over 300GB of disk space. Need to add more hard disk space? Simply allocate another hard disk to the virtual pc and you’re away. No need to open a case, connect wires, etc, just attach and use. Finally, I can have any number of networks on my host machine. I can easily assign any machine to a different network connection without the need for plugging cables at a patch panel. This comes in extremely handy if you want to isolate a machine from the network to work on. Simply change the connected adapter and viola, isolated.

 

Now, I’ve been using virtual machines for a long while but with products like Hyper V and VMServer I think we will start to see virtual machine hits mainstream. If you aren’t using virtual machines then I think you REALLY need to look at them. If you are planning an upgrade of your own infrastructure then you REALLY need to consider Hyper V as an option, simply because it just provides so much flexibility and ease of use.

 

I can see the day when most clients will simply access a remote facility to get access to their data. In most cases, their machine and good deal of other customers, will all be running on a single piece of hardware but thanks to the wonders of virtualization, will appears to be multiple machines. I would also seriously consider selling clients a Hyper V solution to run their next server upgrade in their own offices. Sure, I know its not a perfect solution, but these days in IT what is? In my experience virtualization make infrastructure management much simpler.

 

My message? Go forth and virtualize.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vista. An abject failure? TOTAL B.S.

Microsoft announced announced revenues for their fiscal year of $60 billion! Yes, $60 billion per annum! Also, in the announcement is something interesting about Vista.

 

Revenue growth was primarily driven by continued customer demand for all products, including Windows Vista, which has sold over 180 million licenses since launch

 

Yes, boys an girls, Microsoft has sold 180 million copies of Vista since launch. They must be going onto PC’s somewhere eh? Seems that even though a “lot” of people are bagging Vista and saying they want XP, Vista is still being installed in a lot of places. Does that sorta tell you that a “lot” isn’t really very many at all? Does it also tell you that perhaps the “lot” may have vested interests or are just “whingers”. There can’t be 180 million downgrades to XP either, if that is what you’re thinking. To the “whingers” I say, just get over it. Vista is here to stay, like or not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Microsoft cops the blame for poor iPhone battery life

Seems that people are now blaming Microsoft for the poor battery life on iPhone. Like duh, leave the phone on all the time to sync emails and battery life is going to suffer, especially when you have such a large screen.

 

I’m not going to regurgitate the whole argument but just point you at Paul Thurrott’s blog for a suitable response to this mainstream idiocy. 

If you have Search Server Express 2008

You are recommended by Microsoft to install KB951297, which also part of the general SharePoint infrastructure upgrade.

 

If you are, as I am, running Windows SharePoint V3 and Microsoft Search Server Express 2008 then Microsoft recommends:

 

you should install the Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695) first and the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) second.”

 

which is luckily the way that I did it after discovering that there was a separate update for Search Server Express 2008.

 

Be warned that the update for Search Server Express 2008 is part of the general Infrastructure update for Microsoft Office Servers, so the download is over 200MB (since it contains updates for ALL Office Server products). Also take heed of this from Microsoft:

 

It is strongly recommended that you install Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Service Pack 1 and Office Servers Service Pack 1 before installing the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) and the Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695).

 

Otherwise the update went smoothly and I haven’t seen any issues after a reboot. Fingers crossed.

SharePoint recommended update

Microsoft has released an infrastructure update for Windows SharePoint 3.0 (KB951695) and says:

 

It is strongly recommended that you install this update

 

I have applied this to our internal stand alone Sharepoint server, rebooted and everything seems to be OK. So, unless something major pops up shortly, it is probably a very good idea if you schedule to install the update. Obviously, make sure that you have a good backup and can restore Sharepoint if need be because I have had trouble with previous updates “breaking” my Sharepoint installations. So far, so good however.

 

I’d also like to take this opportunity to share with you some feedback I received from one of my Windows Sharepoint Server Operations Guide international subscribers:

 

“We found that using the Windows SharePoint Operations guide has simplified our deployment process for SharePoint WSS 3.0 and has drastically reduced the learning curve for our technical staff. The crew at Saturn alliance understand the product and the needs of small and medium size business. In addition they are always there to help out whenever we have questions” – Andre Vittorio

 

Thanks Andre, always good to hear that the Guide has helped. I believe the biggest benefit of the Guide is simply the time it saves you getting up to speed with the more technical aspects of Sharepoint. You could spend a plenty of time learning and testing this stuff yourself however, that is why I believe the Guide represents great value, since it has already been done for you.

Also, don’t forget the fact that Guide content is updated monthly, ensuring it remains current.

 

If you want more information about the Guide check out the web site:

 

http://wssops.saturnalliance.com.au

 

or just contact me. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about the Guide.

Monday, July 14, 2008

iPhone to SBS 2003 success!

As expected, had a referral call today begging to get their iPhone connected up to SBS 2003 to receive emails.

 

After some fiddling, some updating and little bit of configuration we have it all working! Yeah.

 

Even though it is working we are doing some further testing to come up with a procedure for all our customers just so we know exactly what needs to be configured. More on those details once we have completed our testing. There appears to be a couple of gotcha’s but we need to verify our facts first.

 

However, for the time being we have one happy iPhone user. So if you are a reseller I suggest you start gearing up, because sooner or later someone is going to ask you to connect an iPhone to Exchange server (and I saw that the local Optus shop was pretty busy today).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Minimizing expenses

In a previous post I talked about how more focus needed to be placed on generating a business profit. So what’s the first step you can take? Well, if Profit = Income – Expense you can either increase your Income or decrease your Expenses. So which do you think is easier?

If you picked reducing your expenses then you’d  be right. Why? Simply put, expenses are something that you already control. Finding additional income means you have to obtain something that is currently outside your control. So, the easiest step you can probably take to increasing the profitability of your business is to examine your expenses.

As a business grows, like most western human beings, it puts on additional weight and doesn’t do enough exercise. Result? These additional expenses (or kilos) tend to become further ingrained and with each passing year become hard and harder to shift. Like improving your fitness, reducing expenses in your business requires discipline.

You should be regularly examining all your business expenses to determine whether (a.) they are still necessary and (b.) if there are alternate and cheaper options. I once heard a good saying about expenses, if you can’t see how an additional expense is going to generate you more income then you shouldn’t incur that expense. A good example is the recent changes I made to my broadband connections. I sat down and determined that I really didn’t need every connection I had and for those that I did I found the best deal I could. After making the changes I couldn’t be happier and have also saved a packet.

I’m not saying that this process will be easy but it is like improving your fitness, you gotta do the hard yards to reap the benefits. Sure, there may be some pain when you no longer have a treat or go through the process of switching accounts to a cheaper provider but your goal is the longer term improvement of PROFIT. If you aren’t committed to that then don’t fool yourself that you are. That’s why I said in my previous post that you need to be committed to having a business not a hobby. If you want a hobby there are no problems with that, just don’t fool yourself into think it is a business. Much like walking down a road, walk on the left it is safe, walk on the right side it is also safe but walk down the middle and sooner or later you’ll get squished! You gotta choose one side or the other.

As the cliche goes – the first million is always the hardest but each one after that becomes easier. The same is also true about fitness, the fitter you are the easier it is to maintain. Why? The most simple answer is probably that to achieve this stage (a million dollars or being fit) you have already achieved a new mental discipline that makes the whole process easier. As they say, it is all in your mind.

Therefore, if you want to make greater business profits, start first by looking at how you can minimize your expenses. With that done, you can then turn your attention to increasing your income.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are you ready to sell online services from Microsoft?

Those people who haven’t had their heads buried in the sand recently will know that Microsoft is now offering hosted services. More information has recently been announced but here’s what I see as the salient points.

 

Microsoft is introducing Exchange Online Deskless Worker and SharePoint Online Deskless Worker. These new offerings are designed to meet the needs of deskless workers, those people who typically spend a small portion of their workday using a computer but still need to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and partners.

A Deskless Worker Suite, including Exchange Online Deskless Worker and SharePoint Online Deskless Worker, will be available for $3 (U.S.) per user, per month. Customers can also subscribe to each service independently. Exchange Online Deskless Worker will provide e-mail, calendars, global address lists, anti-virus and anti-spam filters, as well as Outlook Web Access Light for access to company e-mail. SharePoint Online Deskless Worker will provide easy access to SharePoint portal and team sites and search functionality, giving employees read-only access to important information such as company policies, training and benefits.

For information workers, businesses can provide an online business productivity suite of Microsoft’s enterprise-class communication and collaboration software as a subscription service.

The suite includes the following:

Exchange Online for desktop and mobile e-mail and calendars with Outlook Web Access and full Office Outlook integration

Office SharePoint Online for portals, collaboration, search and customized team sites

Office Communications Online for instant messaging and presence

Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing and videoconferencing

The suite will be available for $15 per user, per month (U.S.). Customers can also subscribe to each service independently.

 

…..

 

Partners that sell the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, Deskless Worker Suite or any of their components receive 12 percent of the first-year contract price and 6 percent of the subscription fee ongoing. This can translate into 18 percent of the subscription value in the first year of the partner’s relationship with the customer.

 

Now is that easy money? If you already sell hardware and software to clients as a primary part of your business have a think about how much impact this may have. Firstly, there is no more back end hardware to sell (i.e. servers) and also since all a workstation has to do now is run a browser there won’t be the need for upgrades. So as I see it bye, bye hardware commissions. Ok, let’s say you have 20 users who go with the suite option for 12 months (=$3,600) of which a reseller gets 18% (= $648). To me that doesn’t look like much compared to what your are probably already getting now.

 

Now what about installation services? Well, these certainly appear to be reduced if not eliminated, so again little or no revenue there. What’s left? Just general consulting revenue on the applications but most resellers are not focused on this since their business is primarily selling and installing hardware and software.

 

Bottom line? The world is changing and the traditional reseller is being cut out of the game with every second that goes by. For better or worse that is just a fact of life these days. If you aren’t looking as a reseller to change your business model and focus on online services, then like your commissions, you are going bye, bye. If you are a customer and you are not considering online services as an option, then you are already paying too much for the IT services you have.

 

The cloud is coming and it will envelope us all, suppliers and customers alike.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Giving prospects every reason to choose you

We all know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover BUT you are a fool if you don’t understand that people, especially business customers, DO judge a book by its cover. They say that when you meet someone, the first impression you form of them generally is one that stays with you, rightly or wrongly. So it is CRITICAL that when a prospect come’s a knock’n you give them every reason to engage your services.

 

A good example is something as simple as how you answer incoming calls. How many times have you rung some business you deal with to be greeted by someone at the other end who doesn’t care, is having a bad day and so on? How about when you call a business and all you get is “hello”? Look, as trivial as it sounds, things like this are REALLY, REALLY important because they leave a lasting impression on people and in most cases you only get ONE chance with a potential prospect. If they feel uncomfortable about your business, chances are they’ll move elsewhere. Don’t believe me? Think about how you go looking for new products and services (as opposed to those you have been referred to). If you went through your local Yellow Pages, whom are you most likely to do business with? What process would you use to determine who’ll get you business? It would be nice to conduct a methodical selection process to reduce the risks but in this day and age? C’mon, who has the time for that? End result? Your choice is going to governed by your emotions. Whom do FEEL most comfortable with?

 

In this increasingly competitive world you need to be looking at every possible way you can to give prospects reasons to engage your business. Take the time to stop, look and learn from good businesses you use and respect. What makes them good? What can you copy and adapt? It really isn’t that hard, all you have to do is STOP, OBSERVE and THINK.

 

Like any relationship, a good first impression makes all the difference between you getting the nod or getting the flick. Smart people do everything in their power to ensure they have the most chance of getting the nod. What are you doing?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

MOSS vs WSS

It is always hard to find in plain English the difference between Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) and Windows Sharepoint Server. Here’s something which I think does the job really well.

 

http://www.office-talk.com/pages/compare.html

 

So from the list you can easily see that MOSS has more features but you obviously have to pay for these but if they are help your business then the investment is well worthwhile.

Take a loan out for > 1GB

Been doing some research into the total cost of iPhones here in Australia and found this pretty groovy site to help you compare phones and plans:

http://mobile-phones.smh.com.au/Mobile

Now, if you select an iPhone and then say have an allowance of up to 1GB of data the costs over a 12 month contract are probably $1,500 - $2,000 in total (i.e. $125 – $167 per month) which is probably ok for most technology (and iStuff) obsessed people (suckers).


But if you scroll the data usage up to say 2GB the total plan cost jumps to around $6,000 in total (i.e. $ 500 per month). If you exceed your monthly data limit you are looking at an additional 35c per MB.


I have a feeling that plenty of people are going to rush out and buy an iPhone and then start happily surfing away. That warm and fuzzy feeling will probably last until the first monthly bill arrives. Which my guess is, will be closer to $500 than $125. Bottom line, it ain’t the voice calls the telco’s make money on it is the data.

Interestingly, on the plan that I looked at, it also said:

(You are not able to view your monthly usage prior to receiving your bill.)

So you are only going to know you have exceeded your limit after the fact! KA-CHING telco.

All I can say is – buyer beware of the data charges.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Youtube help desk here, how can I help?

Ever since I started putting videos on YouTube I have received quite a number of “please help me” emails. Now most are very courteous and I have no problems helping these people where I can. However, a growing number are very demanding and in my opinion extremely disrespectful. These emails normally contain just a line or two and say something like,

 

“I need to do x please tell how to do this asap”

 

If you really want me to help at least you could be a little courteous, considering that you probably wouldn’t have to do anything else, let alone pay money.

 

This attitude really reinforces to me the fact that many people EXPECT something for nothing. Now come on people, I have to run a business here, I have to pay bills, etc. I do believe that I provide a fair amount of freely available information to the “community” per se via this blog, YouTube videos, Supportweb site, user group postings just to name a few. However, when I offer something like my Sharepoint Operations Guide for a few hundred bucks most wouldn’t even think of purchasing it as a means of showing me support for all the other stuff they get for “free”.

 

To those people who are courteous, have bought the Guide or have shown some support, I say thank you very much. To those people who send me demanding support emails, happily consume information that I locate and continue to whinge about there not being enough “free” content, all I can say is that your time is coming, your time is coming.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What’s the difference between a business and a hobby?

The way I see it, you run a hobby for FUN and a business for PROFIT. Let me ask which you have? Now there are plenty of people who can survive quite well with a hobby but if they think they have a business then they’re fooling themselves. Sadly I think most smaller IT providers delude themselves into thinking they are running a business when they in fact simply enjoy fiddling with the technology. In other words they have a hobby. Like I said, there is nothing wrong with having a hobby but don’t confuse it with a business.

 

So, if you want to run a business then you must be in the business of making PROFIT. The next question is what can you define as PROFIT? Put simply, it is income less expenses, nothing more. Profit can mean more time for you family, it can mean a better lifestyle but generally the easier measure of profit is in dollar terms. Unless you are generating more INCOME from your business than it is COSTING you then you are not making PROFIT. Take a cold hard look at how many hours you are investing in running your business, are you getting a return for this? If you simply dismiss that as ‘part of the environment’ I’m sorry to tell you that you are engaged in a hobby not a business. A true business person would never dismiss extended hours as ‘part of the environment’, they would be making sure they PROFIT on this time. If you aren’t making PROFIT then you have two choices, change the way that you run your business or get out.

 

Making PROFIT can require some hard choices at times and means that you always need to remain focused on the goal of making more PROFIT. This doesn’t mean having greater revenue, it doesn’t mean having more customers or more employees, it means GREATER INCOME and LOWER EXPENSES. Again, many people get fooled into think higher revenue means greater PROFIT but is doesn’t. The aim is to make the most INCOME with the least OUTLAY, i.e. the greatest PROFIT.

 

What’s the first step to generating more PROFIT? Again, simple – measurement. If you don’t know how much you are earning or spending then how are you ever going to determine whether you are making a PROFIT? How does your results compare to last year? Which are you most profitable (again NOT highest revenue) customers? Where are most of your expenses? If you can’t answer these basic questions at any time, then I’m sorry to say you don’t have a business.

 

If you want to have a business rather than a hobby then you have to focus on PROFIT. This can take some getting used to and can reveal some cold facts that people may have previously chosen to ignore. The first step in focusing on PROFIT is to measure it.

 

The fact is that the business landscape has changed and tougher times lay ahead. If you want to guaranteed your survival then ask yourself whether you are focused on PROFIT or just getting a buzz from technology?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The little device set to change the world

Now kids, July 11 is only 6 more sleeps. Then you’ll be able to join the rest of the “in” crowd and go out and “mortgage” an Apple iPhone. For those of us “uncool” enough not to line up at our local store for an iPhone there is little doubt that we will be endlessly regaled by those having shelled out for the device about how “cool” they are, how “fantastic” they are, how “amazing” they are… and so on and so on, “dude”.

 

In all seriousness, these devices ARE going to change the current comfortable world of IT that most techie’s live in. Firstly, techie’s are going to have to figure out how to get the iPhone sync’ing with Exchange server pretty darn quick because by Monday July 14 the boss is going to expect to be receiving emails on the iPhone they bought on Friday July 11! Techie’s are also going to need to work out how to use all the functions the boss saw in the iPhone video without actually being allowed to use the device because once the boss has one of these sexy things in their hands they are never going to want to let it go (or so Apple says).

 

Now, the iPhone is far from perfect and has a number of disappointments that are coming to light. I have also heard that the iPhone doesn’t have speed dialling! C’mon, that can’t be true can it? Even a 10 year old Nokia has speed dialling. One of the biggest issues has been the support for data traffic from our local telco’s here in Australia. Optus is the latest to release its pricing but there is plenty of good local Aussie information at the SMH site, which in itself highlights why this product will revolutionize the market (imagine a whole section dedicated simply to one product in a major metropolitan online newspaper!).

 

It doesn’t matter if the iPhone is expensive to buy, it doesn’t matter if it is going to be expensive to run, it doesn’t matter if it has security issues, as I have heard so many people say of late - “I want it”. When was the last time you heard people say that about Microsoft technology? Certainly not about Vista eh? But that’s another story. What it does highlight is the fact that technology is fast becoming a commodity and fast being driven by the consumer not business market. Consumer’s are embracing technology faster than business. Business simply want things to stay the same for as long as possible, they don’t like change. Yet they WILL BE dragged kicking and screaming forwards as consumers infiltrate their products into businesses they are involved with. As I said previously, case in point, techie’s get ready to have those iPhone’s sync’ing with corporate emails by Monday July 14.

 

Sure, it doesn’t make sense but then what does in a consumer’s mind these days? If you want to survive in the technology field you have to adapt to what is driving your customers. Like it or not, after Friday 11 July the world in Australia is going to be a different place and you can either embrace it as an opportunity or be road kill as your customers stampede around you to have “what they want”.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Groovy – Speedtest.net

Here’s a groovy little site that will tell you what your connection speed to the Internet is. Simply click on a displayed node and the speed will be tested between your site and that location.

 

It has a nice graphical user interface which means it requires Flash to run so it probably better run from a workstation rather than a server, but non the less it sure looks smik!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

PC-Cillian and Windows default profile

Just updated a stand alone machine to Trend Micro PC-Cillian Internet Security 2008 and when I logged it in I got a message saying there were not enough system resources and I would be logged in with the default profile. Huh? Stand alone machine, not enough resources? My ar@#! A reboot didn’t fix the problem so it was off to Google.

 

The result was this article:

 

http://support.antivirus.co.uk/trendmicro/kbresolution.jsp?hmid=46365&appId=11 

 

which basically tells you that PC-Cillian is a resource hog and you need to make some registry changes to allow more page pooled memory. The above article contains a link to a Microsoft KB article that did the trick for me.

 

It seems that a few other people are getting the same problem now. Phew, it wasn’t me after all!