Monday, April 30, 2012

Desktop to Cloud event update

Not long now until the Desktop to Cloud event on Saturday the 19th of May at North Ryde RSL in Sydney. Don’t forget that the promo code EARLYBIRD for 50% off entry ends on the 5th of May so get in now.

 

I am also please to let you know that SBS MVP Boon Tee from Adelaide will be giving a session. Here are the details:

 

Integrating Microsoft SMB Servers and Cloud Technologies for Microsoft Businesses

The largest diversity in the Australian Business sector is found in the micro and small business sector. In businesses with 1-20 employees, business owners have their hands full contending with their competitors, fully focused on staying that one step ahead. This session explores the challenges faced in providing IT services to this business sector, where the loss of a PC could be disastrous, and a crippled home ADSL link could shut down a business for the day. What technologies are currently available to minimise the impact of these common IT problems, and how can IT providers implement Integrated On-premises and Cloud solutions to ensure that a micro business continues to operate efficiently with minimal downtime.

Products: Windows SBS Essentials 2011, Windows Multipoint Server 2011, Windows Storage Server 2008R2 Essentials, Office 365​.

 

Boon Tee (SBS MVP) -

Boon Tee, has been working with computers and networks for over 30 years. He is a 3 time Most Valuable Professional (SBS-MVP) awardee, Microsoft Certified Professional and Microsoft Small Business Specialist and has a degree in Computer Science, a MBA and an MA in Education. His experience covers support of small to large networks. He has served as IT consultant for several organizations and has lectured at the Flinders University. Currently, Boon operates PowerBiz Solutions, a computer technology solutions and managed services provider offering products and services to cater for small to medium sized businesses.

You can also now download a copy of the full agenda at : http://www.ciaops.com/storage/docs/agenda.pdf

 

So if you haven’t registered yet please visit www.desktoptocloud.com.au for further information and registration.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Valley of Discontent


If you will allow me to pontificate and tell my tale about the valley of discontent and how understanding leverage is the key to business success these days.

I see a technology world polarized between very small, laser focused businesses on one hand and on the other very large businesses that can take advantage of volume. Unfortunately, the in between area (the valley of discontent) is not a place that you really want your business to be. Why? Because if you are not working to be as lean and focused as possible or growing to a large size then sooner or later you just won’t be able to compete with those that do. As the water in the valley rises, unless you are on either side you are going to get swept away.

Many technology resellers believe in the managed services (MSP) model. However, the days of good revenue there are fast waning. It is a race to bottom where price is the most important ingredient for customers. To survive you really need the advantage of size and I am not talking about a handful of good clients I am talking about hundreds, if not thousands. With those sorts of numbers you can leverage low cost items and still survive but without the volume you won’t.

Most resellers are now not only directly competing with large wholesale technology stores but also with direct Internet sales. Again, if there is not the volume then there is decreasing advantage. Most resellers are ‘jack of all trades’ which was very successful for many years but not any more. Unless you can afford to establish a help desk service, provide contracted supported (with almost round the clock support and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)) you are going to lose out to those larger businesses that can. In short, if you want to maintain the ‘jack of all trades’ model then the path out of the valley of discontent is to get bigger, much bigger. This comes with its own set of challenges.

The other pathway out of the valley of discontent is to do less, pick a niche and stick with it. This comes with its own set of dangers and challenges but essentially is probably going to mean abandoning stuff that your business now does and potentially that it does well. Only the items that generate the most profit are the ones a smaller business can maintain if they are to succeed. There is little room for stuff that isn’t profitable on this side of the valley, whatever you do you have to do better than everyone else and charge accordingly.

Those that don’t understand the fact that they need to make either of these choices are the ones who will pay the greatest price. Why? Because others are going to force it upon them. Let’s take this whole ‘move’ to the cloud paradigm we are currently experiencing. One of the selling points of Office 365 for example is the ability to earn recurring revenue through being the ‘partner of record’ for an account. This is means that the ‘partner of record’ receives 12% for sign up and 6% recurring for the Office 365 licenses sold. To make these kind of fees worthwhile, again you have to have volume in many hundreds if not thousands. There are other revenue opportunities around the Office 365 products but at this point in time most clients simply want hosted email and not much else. That will change over time but at this point in time most resellers aren’t skilled and experienced with products like SharePoint and Lync to generate revenue opportunities. Is that their fault? In some ways yes but again they are generally in the valley of discontent without enough leverage to cope to make change. Many vendors are now billing clients directly and only paying a ‘commission’ to the traditional reseller. There is certainly money to be made here and many businesses do it successfully but it requires volume pure and simple.

Another example is the recent announcement from Microsoft about their new small business competency. You can read more about here:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mssmallbiz/archive/2012/04/26/what-are-the-requirements-to-earn-the-microsoft-partner-network-small-business-competency.aspx

To me it is again aimed at the ‘bigger’ resellers. Why? Firstly, the fees for the competency are USD$ 1,850 for Silver and USD$ 3,800. That is big hike from previous small business programs. I also note with interest that the two Office 365 exams, 70-321 Deploying Office 365 and 70-323 Administering Office 365 are pretty much mandatory for both Silver and Gold levels. From my experience with these exams I would struggle to think of one other person I know in the small business technology community that would pass these. That isn’t to say they couldn’t but the expectation in the small business community is that you can more or less pass an exam if you work with the product every day. If these Office 365 exams remain unchanged from when I saw them then small business resellers are going to have to put in a lot of work coming up to speed with enterprise features they may never see in the real world. That is not really going to encourage them to invest the time. Like it or not, if they want to achieve the competency they are going to have to make that investment. They question is, are the majority in a location in which they can? If they are in the valley of discontent, probably not.

From what I also see the Gold level requires at least 2 qualified employees. Most resellers I know in the SMB space are small and may not even have 2 employees. If they do, retaining two suitably qualified employees is going to be a major challenge. Again, the advantages lie with larger business, those with the funds, those with the employees, those with the resources to get people through the exams.

In a nutshell that’s why I tell people that they need to work out a way to get themselves out of the valley of discontent, from which I can only see the two options (but there maybe more), get big or get small and fast.

A wise person knows they cannot control their environment only their reaction to it. The change in the technology landscape is certainly something many rail against but in the end it really does no good as it simply continues to change underneath you. I applaud those who are making decisions, evaluating the environment and moving their business to places where they will be successful. Likewise, I implore the others to take a serious look at what is happening around you and how little control you have over it and start making the move to either bank. Failing to do so will not end well I fear.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Desktop to Cloud event update

Just a quick note to provide people with an update on my Desktop to Cloud event that is being held on Saturday the 19th of May at North Ryde in Sydney.

 

I am happy to announce an additional speaker, Dean Calvert

 

Dean Calvert is owner and Managing Director of Adelaide based Calvert Technologies (www.calvert.net.au), a multi-competency Microsoft Silver Partner, Small Business Specialist and winner of the Microsoft Australia SMB Partner of the Year Award for 2011. For over 17 years Calvert Technologies have been one of South Australia's leading providers of IT solutions and services to the SMB market. In 2004 Dean was awarded as a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for Small Business Server.

Dean has presented and facilitated at International and Australian events including Kaseya User Groups, SMB Nation, Microsoft ANZ Partner Conference, Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, TechEd Australia and often works with Microsoft to present at partner and customer events throughout Australia.

Dean will be presenting on the mobility options Windows Phone 7 provides.

 

On the sponsor’s side I am please to welcome Woodslane on board. They provide a range of technical books available from https://www.computer.bookcentre.com.au/index.aspx. They will be present on the day offering publications at a discounted rate. They have also provided a number of titles as giveaways as well providing all attendees with a 20% discount of web purchases.

 

Corporate Backup is providing:

 

- a 6 month 1TB subscription to or Wholesale backup service (valued at $ 1,700)

- Steve Jobs Biography

- Bill Gates Biography

 

So if you haven’t registered yet please visit www.desktoptocloud.com.au for further information and registration.

 

Look our for more updates on this even soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ANZAC day 2012


Picture of memorial plaque at Windmill site at Poziers, Northern France

 

The memorial reads:

 

THE RUIN OF POZIERES WINDMILL
WHICH LIES HERE WAS THE CENTRE
OF THE STRUGGLE IN THIS PART OF
THE SOMME BATTLEFIELD IN JULY
AND AUGUST 1916. IT WAS CAPTURED ON AUGUST 4TH BY AUSTRALIAN
TROOPS WHO FELL MORE THICKLY ON
THIS RIDGE THAN ON ANY OTHER
BATTLEFIELD OF THE WAR

 

From www.anzacsinfrance.com

 

“The last Australian attack on Pozières was on 3 September, 1916. The Australian 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions had been used by their commanders as a battering ram and lost nearly 23,000 officers and men in a mere 6 weeks on a front that extended little more than a mile. This casualty figure represented 50% of the total of all 3 divisions strength.”

 

The 25th of April is an Australian national day of remembrance for when Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed at Gallipoli. Many see this day as the birth of our nation. It is always heartening to see the growing respect for those who served and continue to serve our country.

 

I have been fortunate to have visited the Australian Battlefields of northern France and was so inspired that I created a web site www.anzacsinfrance.com to commemorate this history of those that fought in that theatre but probably haven’t received the recognition they deserve. The above example of the sacrifice at Pozieres is just one such example.

 

The best comparison I can make is that during the 8 months Australians fought at Gallipoli there were 9 Victoria Crosses awarded (the highest military recognition for bravery). In the last major engagement Australian troops were engaged in 1918 on the Western Front at Mont St Quentin 8 Victoria Crosses were awarded in a battle that lasted but a few days. What was achieved during this engagement was something that is truly remarkable yet most Australians have never heard of it.

 

Gallipoli has become the focus of ANZAC day and now more so the battle of Villers-Bretonneux (on ANZAC day in 1918) which is great to see. However, once you start examining the history of the battles that Australians fought in all over the world and during all different conflicts you discover some truly amazing stories.

 

So, for all those who served and never returned, those that served and returned to help build Australia and those still serving in our countries interest, all we can do is say thanks and promise to never forget. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Need to Know Podcast – Episode 28

In this episode I speak with Powershell MVP Shane Hoey from QLD about Powershell and Lync. If you have ever wondered what Lync is and how it works on site or via Office 365 this is the episode for you.

 

http://ciaops.podbean.com/2012/04/24/episode-28-shane-hoey/

 

Don't forget all the other podcasts at http://ciaops.podbean.com

 

Remember if you want to be a guest please contact me (director@ciaops.com).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review - Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Developers Compendium

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Developers Compendium: The Best of Packt for Extending SharePoint by Series Editor: Carl Jones, Gastón C. Hillar, Balaji Kithiganahalli , Mike Oryszak, Yaroslav Pentsars
My rating:
3 of 5 stars

Full disclosure - I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for reviewing it.

I think it is always hard to position a book that is a compendium of other books and it is so with this one. Firstly, you'll need to be a SharePoint developer who uses Visual Studio to get the most from this book. You'll also need to be looking to extend the functionality of SharePoint onto the Windows Phone platform. Given the combination of these audiences it is clear that this book is not for everyone.

The book certainly does allow you to get a feel of the works of the authors from whom the individual chapters have been taken. It will also provide you benefit in the specific subjects that it covers, however you should check these area carefully before investing in the the book as each chapter is somewhat separate from the next.

The chapters certainly contain a wealth of information on their topics and would provide good value for those looking to learn about them, however as I said you will need to be a developer who is comfortable with using Visual Studio and SharePoint to get the most from this work.

http://www.packtpub.com/microsoft-sharepoint-2010-developers-compendium/book

View all my reviews

Monday, April 16, 2012

SharePoint and SQL 2012

Now that SQL 2012 has come out I though I’d give it a whirl with SharePoint Foundation. Firstly I installed SQL 2012 Express with Advanced features onto the machine. There are a few changes but nothing major. I them attempted to install SharePoint Foundation and was going along swimmingly until I received an error like:

 

An exception or type System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException was thrown. Additional information: Coudl not find stored procedure ‘sp_adoption’.

 

 

As http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh231665.aspx points out you need SharePoint Service Pack 1 prior to using SQL 2012.

 

Now that’s all well and good but there is currently no download of SharePoint Foundation 2010 WITH Service Pack 1. So how do you go about doing a clean install of SharePoint Foundation onto SQL 2012?

 

Bottom line is, at the moment you can’t really. The best bet is to get SharePoint Foundation 2010 working on SQL 2008 R2 Express. Then you need to apply SharePoint Foundation Service Pack 1 and THEN you need to upgrade SQL to SQL Express 2012 using an in place method.

 

I also suppose that it is possible to install SharePoint Foundation 2010 and not run the configuration wizard, install SharePoint Foundation 2010 Service Pack 1 and then proceed but that is very, very messy.

 

Bottom line? It looks like we have to wait until SharePoint Foundation 2010 with Service Pack 1 is released before there is a clean installation option with SQL 2012.

 

So what advantages does SQL 2012 Express provide over SQL 2008 R2 Express? Not much I can see.

 

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc645993(v=SQL.110).aspx

 

It still has a 10GB database and 1GB RAM limit. So, if it was me, I wouldn’t be rushing to upgrade SharePoint Foundation 2010 to SQL 2012 Express just yet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Things you hear



Here is a statement I came across from a reseller recently in reference to Office 365:

When I said “cloud” I meant cloud that works.  I have not yet used O365, I run on hosted exchange with zero problems

It illustrates to me the fact that many so called ‘IT people’ have already formed options about Office 365 without ever having used the product. I wonder on what hearsay the above person bases their opinion? I would suggest that it has probably come from a few ill-informed naysayers but interestingly that has proved to be enough to sway this individual.

I am not saying that Office 365 is perfect, far from it, but really what IT is ever perfect? However, I would contend that Office 365 does work and works very well for many many people. Importantly, Office 365 is more than hosted Exchange it is Lync, SharePoint and Office Professional Plus. Even more importantly, it offers enterprise features such as legal hold, hybrid co-existence and so on that few other providers offer. Their argument is already defunct because they are unable to compare products like for like but yet they continue to scream the failure of products at the top of their lungs. Worst of all they haven’t even taken the time to examine something they are criticising. How can their opinion hold any validity at all in those circumstances? They have criticised a product and in the same breath admitted they haven’t even used it? Am I the only one that see a massive credibility gap where?

It always amazes me how parochial so called ‘IT Professionals’ get about certain technology and not just in relation to cloud computing. Whether they be Apple "fanbois", Linux devotees or gooey eyed Windows zealots, the common thing about all of them is that they represent a teeny tiny percentage of the technology market. However, they defend their beliefs with such fanaticism that it beggars belief sometimes. Analysis would reveal that these very zealots are afraid, they are afraid to admit they might be wrong. If what you are saying is so good why is there a need to defend it so vigorously? It should speak for itself shouldn’t it?

The more choice we have the better for it spurs competition and creates improved products. There is very little chance that a single product from a single supplier can solve everyone’s needs. So rather than deriding the competition with emotional vitriol examine the products rationally and professionally and guess what? You may even learn something about the competition that can help you. You may even find there is a business opportunity for their implementation that could, shock horror, even generate revenue! Such individuals are far more interested in being ‘right’ than running a business. They are entitled to their delusion I suppose.

Such statements unfortunately remind me that we still live in a world with small frightened technology ‘unprofessionals’ who are too scared to admit that they might not know something and more so, might be struggling with the change that is transpiring in the market place. What’s the saying? Empty vessels make the ….. 

SMBs and Cloud Services

I was browsing through my RSS reader recently and found the following interesting article from Box Free IT:

http://www.boxfreeit.com.au/Productivity/small-businesses-using-cloud-to-triple-in-next-three-years.html

Now all of this comes from a Microsoft funded survey of influencers at 3,000 SMB’s including some here in Australia. Now because it comes from Microsoft you do have to take the figures with a grain of salt, however the trends are still very interesting.

If you dig into the article you’ll find the actual Microsoft article at:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2012/mar12/03-28SMBCloudPR.aspx

Which too contains a graphic:


 This one aimed at the opportunity for the SMB reseller. Now, as I have mentioned many time here before I certainly believe there are plenty of opportunities for resellers BUT they are going come without some pain and re-alignment for these resellers.

Take for example the figure that 65% expect to be using cloud based email services in the next 2-3 years. This means that there is going to much less call for a product like Exchange Server on site for SMB’s. It is also going to mean that ancillary services like message hygiene (spam and virus filtering basically) are also going to move into the cloud and away from reseller revenue streams. Conversely to that you also see figures there like 60% don’t have the resources to implement new technologies and applications. That is certainly an opportunity, however it also means that resellers who want to provide that need to get skilled up on these ‘new technologies and applications’. So an investment is required but it would certainly appear to be worth it.

Perhaps what these sort of surveys do is challenge the perception. Take a look at the figure that only 20% believe their data is less secure in the cloud than it is in their on-premise system. That is certainly contrary to what you hear out there generally.

What these survey’s do reinforce is that fact that there is still opportunity in the IT business no matter whether it is cloud based or not. Importantly however, cloud services are going to require some skills education, investment and development to reap the rewards. It is very unlikely that staying with the same old business model and the same old skills is going to provide you with more opportunity in the coming years.

In the end you can take away from these surveys what you want but to me the important thing is to look at the trends that all these surveys point to. If you are not paying attention, chances are you’ll get left behind and have to struggle. Don’t say that you haven’t been warned!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SBS 2011, Configuring (70-169) Certification Guide

Product Details

 

I am very happy to announce that the book (MCTS): Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard, Configuring (70-169) Certification Guide that I co-authored with Drew Hills is now available for purchase. You can purchase directly from the publisher here:

 

http://www.packtpub.com/mcts-microsoft-windows-small-business-server-2011-standard-configuring-certification-guide/book

 

or from most other book stores like Amazon.

 

The book is aimed at helping those looking to pass the Microsoft SBS 2011 70-169 certification. Hopefully it is also a good reference source for those looking to get the most from SBS 2011.

 

I’d like to thank my co-author Drew Hills for working with me on the project as well as the reviewers Susan Bradley, Boon Tee and Hilton Travis. The book is much better for all your input.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tri-focal

If like me you have read the Daniel Suarez novel Daemon you will have heard of the concept of augmented reality. Basically it allows you to project an image in front of your vision (like a heads up display) and that show you information pulled from the Internet.

Google now has a prototype called ‘project glass’ which is basically a set of glasses to provide this augmented reality. They have created the following video to demonstrate the concept:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4

Now of course this video is the ‘rose coloured glasses’ through which Google would like us to believe it will be like. If it is from Google then it is probably going to look more like this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mRF0rBXIeg

No matter how bad that is it would have to be better than what some believe would be Microsoft’s equivalent:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwModZmOzDs

So if you like the concept of augmented reality I’d suggest you have a read of the Daniel Suarez novel Daemon and keep an look out for what I reckon will be a growing number of these devices.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good publicity for Windows Phone

I have always been a fan of Windows Phone and think that with the release of the Nokia hardware it makes a very compelling offering. The other good thing is that Microsoft has found a great angle to publicize the phone.

 

As I mentioned before they have been touting the ‘Smoked by Windows Phone challenge’. Here’s the latest video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNgN5vS_stc

 

Now there was some recent controversy around one challenge incident (and there have been others). But that sort of thing is always going to happen when you put yourself out there now isn’t it? I applaud Microsoft for sticking with this campaign as it is certainly novel and gets the word out there that Windows Phone are at least equivalent with most other models available today. This is definitely the thing you need to do when you are coming from behind. Kudos I say as I’d rather see Windows Phone being aggressive in the market rather than taking a beating like it did with Vista.

 

Another way they are promoting is via events like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_c0LYmmutA

 

Personally, I’m not into all this ‘cult of the celebrity, (a.k.a. Kardashian’s et al) but I will readily acknowledge that it does appeal to a huge segment of the market. Similar techniques have been used by other brands to great success so I again applaud Microsoft and perhaps more so Nokia in this case for being out there are doing these sorts of things to lift the profile of the Windows Phone.

 

Time will tell what the results are but I think it is great to finally start seeing a strong challenge from Microsoft against the incumbents. 

Some more Office 365 videos

These ones focus on IT Providers and have some good examples of how they are staying competitive with Office 365.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaYIhXH9B78

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMmllnnqo3U

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CIAOPS Podcast – Episode 27

In this episode I speak with SBS MVP Tim Barrett about all things SBS.

 

http://ciaops.podbean.com/2012/04/10/episode-27-tim-barrett/

 

Don't forget all the other podcasts at http://ciaops.podbean.com

 

Remember if you want to be a guest please contact me (director@ciaops.com).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Not simple

I recently procured a WD Sentinel backup NAS that included Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. You can read about the unit from Wayne Small’s blog, however I’m just going to give you my experiences with getting the things integrated into my network.

 

First of all I must say that the hardware is very impress. Small, neat, and quiet. So I plugged the unit into the network and went to admin page to do the setup. For some reason it hadn’t picked up an IP address from the DHCP server. So I powered the unit off and on, then gained access. Next I answered all the setup question and left the thing to complete initializations.

 

A few hours later the device LCD panel said it was still initializing so I logged into the console. I tried to create a new user but could allocate that user any shares. I check the status and the report that came back didn’t show anything.

 

I then decided to install all the required updates (300MB+) as the box effectively runs Windows Server 2008 R2 server. After a few reboots the box was all up to date. Now when I logged into the console I could see all the shares and create some users.

 

I installed the Storage Server Essentials client software on a Windows 7 workstation and that all went fine. I then tried to back up this very basic machine from the server using the console. After 3 attempts I gave up. Every time it got to 13% and then just stopped.

 

Abandoning the Windows 7 PC for a MAC I tried to install the client software but every time I was told the software as already installed and I would need to uninstall first. I couldn’t the see the MAC in the Storage Server Essentials console so I abandoned that for the time being and moved on a Windows XP machine.

 

image_2_2BF0AA51

 

Even here the installation of the client software once again bombed out with an ‘unexpected error’. I looked at the troubleshooting link and that wasn’t much help. So I again abandoned that effort.

 

You know what worked really well? Simply browsing to the network location of the WD Sentinel and copying files up. Works a treat on Windows 7, MAC and Windows XP. Which kinda leads me to why I’m writing this post.

 

To all you Windows Server fanboi’s out there, let me tell you this is simply too hard for the average consumer (and small business). I’m sure that I’ll be able to work out all the problems but guess what? I really don’t want to. My expectation is, outta the box, turn on, install software, working and the experience so far has been far from this. My technology expectation these days is that being of average intelligence I should be able to set something like this up without assistance in short period of time.

 

Anything with Windows Server on it is complex and honestly has no place in the hands of a consumer (and I would contend a small business). An IT Professional, an enthusiast? Sure, as they have the time and enjoy the mucking about. Every day I’m becoming more and more aware of how far these technologies are becoming removed from the real world where people simply want things to work. That’s why Apple is doing so well. It is not what they do, it is what they don’t do. Windows Server is a great piece of software and has a huge amount of functionality BUT it is complex and when things go wrong they go wrong big time and the effort required to fix them is simply too much for a the average consumer. As a consumer I want simpler not more complex. Less choice is fine as long as it does its job.

 

If I had been an average consumer I would have returned this device in total frustration by now and that would have been a pity as it is a great device. I’m sure that I can get it all humming along eventually but really for the market it is aimed at I shouldn’t have to go through this now should I?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Adding a new user to SharePoint Online

One of the most common issues I find people have initially with SharePoint Online via Office 365 is adding new users. Most think that simply creating a new users and assigning them a SharePoint license automatically gives them access to SharePoint Site Collections. It doesn’t. Why? Because what security rights do you provide that user in SharePoint? Are they going to be an administrator or are they going to be a ‘normal’ user? That’s why they need to be added manually to each Site Collection.

 

Basically, all you need to do is login to the SharePoint Site Collection as a SharePoint Administrator and give the new user permissions. How about rather than telling you I show you via this video I’ve just uploaded to my YouTube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN-HoAvj8-c

 

I hope that makes it a bit easier to get started with SharePoint in Office 365.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cloud security


One of the most common reasons people cite for being concerned (or downright afraid) of putting their information into ‘cloud’ services is security. Interestingly, most of their reasoning is based on hearsay and hysteria. Many in fact simply parrot back what they have read or heard somewhere. What I’d like to do here is provide a little bit of balance to the argument and some alternative points of view that I think many naysayers haven’t considered.

1. Security is a journey not a destination. When human beings are involved, nothing will ever be perfect. There will be oversights, errors and mistakes. That is simply a fact. This means that it can happen whether the information is stored locally or whether it is hosted. I will however point out that the chances of error are reduced (you can never eliminate them) when you have multiple people and processes looking at the systems. This is probably more likely going to be the case for hosted environments in large data centres than on a single server at a customers premises.

2. If you are using email you are already sending information insecurely. Emails are generally sent in plain text with no encryption and with no guarantee of delivery. In most cases you have no idea that the person who is reading your email is the one that you sent it to. Some surveys note that up to 20% of legitimate email never gets delivered to the intended inbox. But does this stop people using email? Certainly doesn’t seem to. So, on the one hand people are worried about saving their information on hosted servers yet they freely send that same information in emails, without security to someone they hope is the right person at the other end. If you were so worried about your information being secure you wouldn’t use email now would you? The reality is that the functionality of email far outweighs, for most people, any risk of insecurity.

3. If you are using a device that has access to the Internet, that can browse web pages and receive emails that device is already connected to the ‘cloud’. Further more, if you can get to the ‘cloud’, the ‘cloud’ can get to you. So how worried are you about that server you have on your premises that is connected to the Internet? How secure is the information stored there? How do you know that someone isn’t stealing that information while you are reading this? Generally, you won’t. Sure you have firewalls and other security protection on your equipment but how do you KNOW it is working? Do you employ someone to monitor it constantly? Probably not but large hosting firms do. They can afford to invest a significant amount of money in security and pay the best people to monitor it. Their challenge is no different from yours but chances are they have significantly more resources on tap that someone running a server as part of their business does.

4. The Patriot Act applies everywhere a US company operates. So many people I hear say they want their data stored locally so that it won’t be subject to the US Patriot Act. The reality is that any US based company is subject to the Patriot Act no matter where they operate. That means that if Microsoft or Google had data centres here in Australia (which they don’t currently) they would still be subject to the US Patriot Act. Aside from that, there are far reaching agreements between international law enforcement agencies to provide access to data outside their jurisdiction upon request. And even further to that, local intelligence agencies, like ASIO in Australia, typically already have the right to access your data without your knowledge. Don’t believe me? See:

ASIO Powers - http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/100781/asio_given_power_hack_systems/
"The legislation allows ASIO operatives to hack into PCs and corporate networks to retrieve data, and add, delete, or alter data in the "target" computer, while being immune from prosecution under the Crimes Act hacking provisions."

and they have had this power since 1999! (Pre 911!).

5. Why worry about hacking our information when they can tap our phones? Many people are paranoid about their information security but give no thought to the fact that their phone conversations could be tapped. Many readily carry on a conversation on their mobile with the person at the other end and the fifteen people in the immediate vicinity. If they were truly paranoid about all their information they would be more judicious about using the phone wouldn’t they? Again, the convenience far outweighs the risk of a breech but that still doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it still doesn’t mean it won’t. How can you maintain information security if you are going to blab it out next time you receive a call in a public place eh?

6. We use the hole in wall (ATMs) to get money when we need it. We use Internet banking as a convenient way of managing our money. If you were truly concerned about security wouldn’t you squirrel you money under your pillow and not trust the banks? You could but most don’t. Why? Because there are far more benefits with trusting your money to bank. They can centralize it and implement better security, they can make it available to you a more convenient places and locations (read ATMs) and so on. Is there a risk that your money will be stolen? Certainly, but again the convenience outweighs the risk. I understand that money is different from information but in a lot of ways the model we understand and use that is modern banking is very similar to ‘cloud’ computing. That seems to work pretty well for most people despite its flaws.

So there you have it. A few of my thoughts on the whole ‘cloud’ security argument. There will of course be people who reject all these and continue to argue that on premises is the only way to be secure. I hope that you can at least see in some little way that such an argument has less and less validity when you do a like versus like comparison without the emotion that seems to litter so many discussions around today on ‘cloud’ security.

I’m sure back in the day, many people questioned how the automobile could replace the trusty horse. Guess what? We don’t see many horses on our roads these days do we?

Office 365 video testimonials

Monday, April 2, 2012

CIAOPS podcast listeners grow

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Here are the stats from my podcast over the past few month. Firstly, I have no idea why April 2012 is showing the same level as March 2012 (April fool’s joke maybe?). But aside from that you can see the recent strong growth in listeners which is very pleasing to see. There was almost 600 episode downloads in March 2012. I would certainly attribute that to firstly the highly quality of people that have graced the microphone, to whom I’d like to say thanks. Secondly, the success of these numbers is obviously around the number of people who have taken the time to listen to the broadcasts. To them as well I also say thanks.

 

When I started doing the podcasts last year I never figured that one the most difficult challenges I would face would actually getting people to appear. Even to this day I really have to beg people to come on with me. There are so many very clever people out there with a huge amount of knowledge to share and I would have thought this podcast a perfect medium for them to share that. All shows are pre-recorded over Skype and done at a time that suits the guest. I really try and make it as painless as I can for people to come on the show but still I struggle to obtain guests.

 

As always I’d love to hear feedback from listeners as whom or what they’d like to hear on the show. I’d especially love to hear from people who’d be interested in being a guest but any feedback is also greatly appreciated. Remember, I’m happy to cover any topic that you’d like to discuss so don’t be shy.

 

I once again thank all those who have been guests and all those who have listened to an episode. I look forward to providing more episodes as soon as I can find more guests! All previous episodes can be found at:

 

http://ciaops.podbean.com

It’s a dev world


In technology we all constantly hear that world is changing. However, what I’d like to focus on here is what I believe to be an even more subtle change in the demand for IT.

A while ago it was all about services. Many resellers went down the managed services route and provided their customers with a fixed fee for service. The customer could more easily budget and the IT provider received a known income every month. This was all great but it hastened the process of consumerization of theses services. It was a bit like an insurance policy in that the IT provider worked to ensure as little disruption to the customer as they could. For most consumers this now meant they saw very few issues and sadly became lulled into this becoming the norm. Any IT provider worth their salt had raised the bar when it came to service.

Problem was that customers now questioned why they were paying ‘so much’ for things to run like this (as they do with insurance policies). All they tended to see now were the dollars going out the door every month and diminished value in return. Thus, they agitated for lower costs and looked to competitors offering the same perceived service but at a cheaper cost. To their minds, there was no difference between company A monitoring a server as there is company B monitoring that same server but at a lower cost.

This consumerization has been accelerated with the growth in online services such as Office 365. Theses products are typically sold around their cost saving benefits and focus the consumers attention at a per month per user cost negating any migration or ongoing support costs. This has been borne out with my own recent experiences with people looking to migrate their email to the cloud. Most are under the mistaken impression that migration costs, planning, support and training are all included in the per month price they pay. Some reseller businesses even pander to this mistaken impression by absorbing such cost upfront in that they can recoup these later down the track. There is no questioning that this is a valid business strategy but it relies on the being able to absorb these upfront costs. This doesn’t make it a suitable model for most smaller resellers who can ill afford such risk.

This is why I contend that the era of services is fast coming to and end for smaller players. You cannot survive in the service business now without volume. The business model that this thriving is development. Look at the exploding world of devices that each have their own application infrastructure around them, the Apple Apps store, Zune Market, Android Marketplace and so on. My understand is that soon even the upcoming releases of Microsoft software, such as Windows 8, will come with an integrated apps store.

Development gives you the advantage of leverage. You can write it once and then sell it many times. The risk is generally all in the upfront with development but it is fast becoming the model that consumers understand and accept. They understand buying a product or a thing but now struggle with buying an intangible like a service.

Let’s look at this in the context of Office 365. What development can you really wrap around email? Probably not a lot and therefore it is doomed to simply become another thing that is consumerized. Where the problem lies for resellers is that if all the customer wants is a hosted email service then the decision is simply going to be about cost, pure and simple. If you can’t do it for the cheapest price then chances are you are going to loose that business to someone else who can absorb more of the upfront costs and offer it cheaper initially to win the business. For the smaller resellers this is very hard to counter.

The opportunity (and there is always one) is to consider products that facilitate development. Products that allow resellers to build in smarts and intelligence that they can then sell multiple times. In the Office 365 space this certainly means SharePoint. Problem is getting people interested enough in SharePoint beyond just the cost savings they make by moving their emails to the cloud. Generating such interest is also no mean feat, and is almost impossible for people not using SharePoint already in the own business.

In summary then, my current thinking tends to lead me to the conclusion that we are fast approaching the end of the service era in IT (at least in the smaller end of the market). I’m not saying that the need for service will disappear, what I am saying is that service opportunities are being commoditized where the only the big players in the market can gain advantage. I’m saying that many resellers will have trouble making money out of products (like email) which don’t offer development opportunity. I’m saying that if you want to flourish and grow then you need to seriously consider applications which support the ability to build and extend, thereby creating a point of differentiation that customers will pay for.