Sunday, September 28, 2008

If you missed my chat with Karl Palachuk

You can download the audio of the conference call by clicking:

 

Download Now – MP3 format (9.5MB – 1 hour duration)

 

I enjoyed doing the call and hope that anyone listening got a better understanding about using and selling Sharepoint in their business as well a better understanding of what my Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide has to offer.

 

As Karl mentioned in the call I’ll soon be in Seattle at SMB Nation doing a presentation on “Improving your business with Sharepoint”. So if you’re going to be at SMB Nation come up and say hi, I’d love chatting about Sharepoint, SBS or business in general. If you can’t make it SMB Nation then I’ll see what I can do about posting up the presentation for you to download.

 

In the meantime, enjoy the recorded conference call and let me know if you have any comments.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pimp my infrastructure

Found this over on Sean Daniel’s blog.

 

It’s part of a Pimp My Infrastructure promotion being run in the US (only for businesses in US as well). Nice if we could have something like this over here eh?

A poster for every SBS’ers wall

Here’s a nice download from Microsoft. It’s a two page poster that covers the installation and setup of SBS 2008. It also has links to other information you’ll need to get SBS 2008 operational.

 

SBS 2008 Poster

I’ve been telling people about this for ages

I remember reading a long time ago about this sort of technology but now I’ve actually got some images I can show.



Looks like a pen right?



It’s a pen and a PC all in one!



And even with my fat little fingers I’ll be able to use a mobile device properly. No more keyboards, the device projects a keyboard image onto the surface in front of you, where your fingers cut the beam is the letter it reads. Smart stuff!

Truly amazing but given the rate at which things are changing now days it won’t be long before Dell and HP will be selling pens and giving you a free PC eh?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Here’s a pretty cool site

Just came across this really nice offering from Trend Micro. I think the site tries too hard to be all glitzy and Web 2.0 and may be a little slow at time but it is a great resource once you get it running. The entry page is:


You’ll see that I’ve clicked on the Trend Tracker to get a load of interesting statistics.



You can navigate by clicking on the little page icons (looks a bit like the aero interface) in the top left of the window. Down the right hand side you’ll find a whole heap of handy links.



When you click on the TrendIQ section you’ll also find on the left a number of videos which aren’t too bad. They maybe something worth showing your customers to give them a better idea of the security threats faced and why Internet security is important.

I haven’t seen any advertising of this site by Trend which is strange because I think it is a great resource.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

SMB Conference call

Got some time to kill Thursday morning the 25th of September (Sydney, Australia time)? Well, between 7 and 8 am Sydney time I’ll be chatting with Karl Palachuk from SMB Books about Sharepoint. To register go here:

 

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/895127356

 

and don’t forget to convert the times to your local timezone (in Sydney it’ll be 7 am on Thursday September 25 2008, while in the US it will be Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM PDT).

 

The topic will be Windows SharePoint. We'll focus on the strategic side of customizing and selling SharePoint. We'll also talk more generically about developing a business around customizing existing products.

 

I hope that you’ll be able to join us.

Basic user operations in SBS 2008 video

Here’s a new video I’ve created that steps you through some of the basics for working with users in SBS 2008.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG9njO97iv

 

I appreciate that it is very simple but I wanted to give people who haven’t yet seen SBS 2008 a quick overview of how easy it is. Going forward I plan to create more SBS 2008 videos and start to dive deeper into the capabilities of the product. Till then enjoy

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I think this is way cool

What I really love about SharePoint is that it is so extensible. You can not only add SharePoint web parts but you can also include stuff like embedded YouTube videos, Google Calendar and other standard HMTL. In that vein, have a look at what I’ve been able to do with the following page:

 

Supportweb embedded SBS videos

 

When you click on a link (only two at the moment) a window should display over the current SharePoint page and one of my YouTube videos will start playing inside a box. To return to the SharePoint page simply click the Close button or just click outside the video box.

 

What I like about this solution is that it is simple to deploy and allows streaming video (or any other web content to be displayed) over the top of an existing Sharepoint page. That way I don’t have to host the videos on my Sharepoint site and I don’t have to use my bandwidth to display them, I let ‘someone’ else do all the heavy lifting. I think that is way cool.

 

I’ll be working to incorporate all the videos I have done up here shortly and completely link it  from the main page. In the meantime drop me a note and let me know what you think, I’d love to get your feedback.

 

Subscribers to my Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide will get full details of how they can implement this in their own Sharepoint sites very soon. Don’t you wish you were a subscriber?

Login errors after Trend upgrade

Recently, I did an upgrade from Trend CSM Suite for SMB 3.6 to Trend Worry Free Business  Security v5.0 on an SBS 2003 R2 Premium system using ISA 2004 as the firewall. The update went fine and no errors were encountered. That was until I received the server report logs the following day.

 

image_4_sZTQkw

 

I got thousands of failed logins and the login process appears to be random junk as you can see above. Turns out that when you do an upgrade to the latest version of Trend, which includes a new feature called Web Reputation, you don’t get prompted for the proxy details for that component.

 

image_2_SzEnrA

 

So previously with SBS 2003 Premium you probably had the proxy settings working under Preferences > Global Settings, problem is, with the new version of Trend you also need proxy settings for the Web Reputation and Behaviour monitoring. Once I had entered the same proxy login settings as I had for the Product updates area above I expected to see no more failed logins.

 

Oh how wrong I was! I now started seeing tens of thousands of failed login attempts instead of just thousands. What the hell? When I called Trend support they pointed the finger at Microsoft. Ahhhh no, the Trend update was the only thing that has been done to the server. Trend’s response? Sorry, we can’t help, have a nice day.

 

So after discovering some other SBS people who had the same issue I worked out (through the shared error experience) that the username and password fields for the Web Reputation proxy setting MUST BE less than 14 characters each! Yes, you read right, less than 14 characters for the login name AND the password. Anything over that and there will proxy login failures. In my case I actually had to create a new server user and remove the login domain\username and change it to simply username. The login for the product update area can remain as domain\username and be longer than 14 character but the details for the Web Reputation can’t.

 

Now really how can this sort of issue happen in this day and age? Clearly it does and it is us poor IT support people who are left to sort the crap out, in my case WITHOUT assistance from Trend. So if you experience the same issue, this solution worked for me and I hope it also works for you. Roll on Trend Worry Free Business Security 5.1.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Increasing your screen size without hardware

I’ve mentioned here before that one of the greatest benefits I have found for my productivity has been the ability to attach multiple screens to my computer. I can leave a web page open on one while creating a document on another. With two screens I can easily refer to either. Very handy indeed.

 

So what if you haven’t the budget or the desk space to allow this? Well, the boys from Sysinternals have developed some software called Desktops that allows you to have up to 4 virtual desktops. As the site says:

 

Desktops allows you to organize your applications on up to four virtual desktops. Read email on one, browse the web on the second, and do work in your productivity software on the third, without the clutter of the windows you’re not using. After you configure hotkeys for switching desktops, you can create and switch desktops either by clicking on the tray icon to open a desktop preview and switching window, or by using the hotkeys.

 

image_2_OK2KhA

 

As you can see from the above screen shot I have four desktops open, each with something running on them and by simply using Alt-<number> I can quickly switch between each.

 

So now you can quadruple your screen space without the need for additional hardware. Let me know if it also quadruples your productivity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

So which of these do you believe?

There are plenty of sites out there to test your Internet connection speed. Problem is that they never seem to give consistent results. So here’s a few of the most popular sites and the results they provided for me.

Speakeasy - http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/



Speed.io - http://www.speed.io/index_en.html



Speedtesthttp://www.speedtest.net/



My actual router

image_8_fzysQ

So it would seem that Speedtest is probably the closest to the “true” speed. For a final indication of what is the best option I use the power of the Internet via ‘social book marking’. In simple terms, I have a look at how many other people have book marked these sites using Delicious.



The result? Clearly Speedtest comes out a winner by a margin of more than three to one. Probably the reason for this is the ability to easily compare your results with others in your region like so:



So the tip is that not everything is as it appears with technology but you can always use the ‘social’ power of the Internet as a another method to assist you making a decision. Smart operators understand this ‘new’ power of the Internet and are using to their advantage. Are you?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let me just put on my fire-resistant underwear

Ahhh, there we go, best to be prepared for what maybe coming my way after posting this.

 

Now David Williams has posted an article about “How Linux is keeping Microsoft honest (and why SBS sucks)” and has followed up with “The real reason consultants use Microsoft SBS over Linux”. There are some valid points in his argument but the articles are clearly designed to antagonize the SBS Community and entice them into a bare knuckle brawl over the also-ran issue of Microsoft vs Open source (read Linux) software. Yeah, yeah, been there done that many, many times.

 

The article has raise the ire of some well known SBS community figures including Dana Epp and Susan Bradley for some technical inaccuracies in the article. However, the gist of the David’s article is not about technical issues it is more about providing value to the customer. David’s argument is that if you remove the price of Microsoft software (and replace it with free Linux based software) you are doing your customer a better service. In response to that all I can say is that I don’t think that I have ever seen a Linux based small business solution installed in a customers site. If it is really that good you’d think that I would have seen it somewhere, wouldn’t you? Again, if SBS is so bad why is it installed in so many places? Look, there are lots of reasons why SBS is superior to Linux in providing business value to a customer but I am not here to discuss that. I’m here to propose something even more radical (cue dramatic music).

 

Following on from what David is saying, what if you were to remove the server hardware totally from the client’s solution? Wouldn’t that be doing an EVEN better service saving them even more money? Yes, ladies and gentlemen I am once again talking about ‘cloud computing’. The following article - “Does Windows still matter”, (although another subtle shot at Microsoft) shows that the technology world is changing. More and more people are beginning to understand that technology can be effectively deployed from the Internet and onto what it is deployed doesn’t really matter.

 

I think the average SBS site is 10-15 users. Why does a business like this need to have a server? Why does a business like this need to be running a mail server? Why does a business like this need to change backup tapes every night? And so on and so on. My contention is that there are now the tools readily available to achieve just about everything an on site server (be it SBS, Windows, Linux, Mac, whatever) can do at probably a reduced cost via the Internet. I agree that many of these solution have limitations and are not as functional in all respects but hey guess what? In a very short time they will be. You can count on that.

 

In my opinion the first application that should go is email. Get a hosted Exchange account, get a Hotmail or Google Mail account, just get it out of a business. Have someone else worry about screening out spam. Have someone else worry about how much space my mailbox takes up. As a business why should I pay money for equipment to hold data when I can use someone else’s? In many cases for free? What if after getting rid of email you also get rid of file storage what is left? Not much. Again, so why do you need a server on site?

 

As the landscape changes customers are going to become more savvy. They are going to talk with other business owners, their friends, read newspapers and so on. It is only a matter of time before they discover ‘cloud computing’ and start asking questions, wondering why resellers haven’t been telling them about the benefits it can provide. I believe David says – “I

argued last time that the consultants don’t know better. They don’t have experience with the larger range of Windows products – let alone Linux equivalents." and I think that he is generally pretty right but I would also content that he is very limited (and bigoted) in his opinion that Linux is ‘the solution’. I’m sorry to say that I think ‘cloud computing’ is going to trump them both.

 

SBS is a great solution. SBS 2008 will provide many users with excellent results and achieve everything they require. I sorely doubt whether any Linux equivalent will ever provide a competitive advantage no matter what the bigots (aka David) say. I do however believe that the real challenge to SBS, especially in its market space, is going to be services delivered and provided by the Internet. I would simply say that before ANY server is installed at ANY business the question should be asked - Do we REALLY need to have this here? I am becoming more secure in the fact that I can confidentially answer – No, you don’t. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another DNS checker

I’ve found an even better site that can check your DNS for recent vulnerability issues.

https://www.dns-oarc.net/oarc/services/dnsentropy 

Will produce results like:



Which provide plenty of information in a nice to understand graphics nature. You should run this test to see whether the DNS servers you are using (usually from your ISP) have been patched to overcome a recent DNS vulnerability.

However, I would strongly suggest you consider using www.opendns.com as an alternative DNS resolver for so many other reasons as well.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Incongruity

At the moment I’m currently reading “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” By Peter Drucker. In the chapter on incongruity I was struck by the following:

 

The reaction of the typical producer or supplier is then to complain that customers are ‘irrational’ or ‘unwilling to pay for quality.’ Whenever such a complaint is heard, there is reason to assume that the values an expectations the producer or supplier holds to be real are incongruous with the actual values and expectation of customers and clients. Then there is reason to look for an opportunity for innovation that is highly specific, and carries a good chance of success’.

 

It seems to me that so many SMB resellers are constantly bemoaning how ‘irrational’ and ‘unwilling to pay for quality’ customers these days are. Their use of the these exact phrases is what struck me about this passage in the book. It simply boils down to the fact that what SMB resellers believe the reality to be is not in fact the case.

 

As IT and computers become more and more main stream the so called ‘special knowledge’ of resellers is rapidly eroding. Given that more people entering the work force are au fait with technology and the simple fact that everyone can use Google drastically erodes any ‘special knowledge’ resellers believe they have. Resellers complaints about ‘irrational’ customers indicates an incongruity and as Drucker says an opportunity for innovation. However, that opportunity doesn’t remain forever.

 

Going forward, a SMB reseller is not going to be able to provide innovation simply by reselling equipment and programs. Larger hardware businesses like Dell, HP, IBM and the like have the resources to provide innovation on a grand scale while at the same time driving prices down. Likewise, large software businesses such as Microsoft and Google are similarly moving closer to the customer to provide more consistent and cheaper offerings. All of these moves are proving more successful everyday. Why? Simply because they are providing ‘value’ for the customer, if they weren’t they wouldn’t sell.

 

So as an SMB reseller where does the opportunity lie? Not a simple question given the ever shrinking market opportunity. As Drucker says the solution is a ‘to look for an opportunity for innovation that is highly specific’. For too long SMB resellers have been 'jack-of-all-trades’, well I believe this now no longer possible simply give the breadth of products that are now installed. A reseller has to carefully examine what a customer perceives as value. For this they will happily pay. Importantly, it’s value as perceived by THE CUSTOMER not THE RESELLER! It is in this view of the world that many resellers fall down. Why? Simple, most customers don’t care at all about technology they simply want to do their job. Most resellers have gotten into IT because they love to fiddle with technology, sadly, that is not what most customers want to do these days.

 

For an SMB reseller it is now probably time to look at adapting in way that focuses on being more specific rather than simply adding more products to the range of offerings. Perhaps, it’s time to think about getting smaller and more focused than getting bigger? Do what you do well better, don’t waste time trying to improve stuff with which you struggle. Next, start listening to what the customer wants, not what you want to sell them. Solve their pain and provide them value. The other key to success in my books? Improve your networking. Get involved with other members of the reseller community, find out what they do, read their blogs, look at their web sites, have a regular coffee with them, learn their business and become their best salesman. If you do that for them I’m pretty certain that they’ll do the same for you and more!

 

Use the power of leverage to multiple your size beyond what you ever dreamed. It is by far the greatest innovation resource available to an SMB reseller and in reality it is cheap. If you follow this, I think, as Drucker says, you’ll have ‘a good chance of success.

SharePoint search - revisited

In a recent post I was wondering about the reason for Microsoft saying there were limitations in SharePoint search if you installed SharePoint v3 after upgrading your SharePoint v2 instances to full SQL.

 

After referring the issue to our local SBS-MVP (Wayne Small), who referred it onto the SBS Dev team and after they tested it, it appears that, as I suspected, there really isn’t an issue.

 

“We ran through this scenario here in our test lab and had no issues with search. It worked fine. We will update the white paper once our writers complete the SBS2008 doc work.”

 

I am very grateful to Wayne for forwarding my request and to the SBS Dev team for responding so quickly as I feel it will clear up a lot of confusion in the whitepaper:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc671966.aspx - Installing Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 on a Server Running Windows Small Business Server 2003.

 

So, in summary, Sharepoint v2 and v3 search does work on the same box even if you have upgraded your instance to full SQL.

Basic web site blocking

Here’s a new video that I’ve just uploaded to YouTube that will show you two simple methods of blocking web sites.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iw7QNkt_3CI

The first method is simply to use your local router and a keyword. The second is to use http://www.opendns.com. OpenDNS is a far more elegant solution and allows you to block a whole range of sites as well as protect against phishing attacks. Simply create an OpenDNS account, attach an IP range to the account and then you can set up custom DNS settings. It is really great for home and business users.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Now that’s interesting

Watch out Microsoft! Google has decided that the best way to compete with Microsoft going forward is to create its own web browser. Unlike Netscape last time I reckon, Google probably has deep enough pockets to see this through. Also, interestingly Google already a good suite of applications that it can integrate directly into this browser.

 

See the following article on the Wall Street Journal that confirms Google’s move and here’s what Google itself says about its new browser.