Normal programming will now resume

Things have been quiet on the blog for a while as I took a holiday from technology for a while. Now I’m back on deck so you should start seeing more posts flowing through.


The slides from my recent SMBNation presentation are now available to attendees to download. You will find them here:


You’ll need a login and password to gain access since they are available to conference attendees. For those who were unable to attend I have created a PDF copy of the slides which you can download. The PDF copy is only low-res, if you want the hi-res version just contact me.


I’d love to hear any feedback people may have on what I presented, whether they attended the conference or not. The only way to continually improve, I believe, is through feedback – so let me have it.

SMBNation – Day 3

Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Weather: Damp



Well Day three of SMBNation kicked off even earlier than the previous two days (groan). After yesterdays breakfast disappointment I decided to grab something to eat at the place across from my hotel. As I sat looking at the morning drizzle I was joined by Kevin Tobey from Tobey Consulting Services, another SMBNation attendee. We had an excellent chat and that is really what I have gotten the most from at the conference, the networking.


We then strolled to the conference center and watched the keynote – Microsoft Solutions for the Small and Mid-Sized Business customer given by Cindy Bates. Not surprisingly the major thing I took away was they want partners to sell hosted solutions from Microsoft. If attendees haven’t got the message by now then ….


Next up was – Secure Remote Access with Windows Server solutions by Dana Epp. Look Dana’s stuff is always great and I was interested to see what options are available but towards the end I was trying to focus on my presentation Utilizing Sharepoint to Improve your Business.


Hopefully I was able to provide information that was of value to people who attended. I appreciate all the positive feedback people gave me afterwards so I think that I achieved my aim. As I said in my presentation I thank Harry and SMBNation for giving me the opportunity to present, especially given it was first time at the conference.




The final event of the conference was a round of speed dating. This is where an ‘expert’ sits at a table and attendees can come and speak with that person. When the gong sounds you move to the next table. This event is difficult to co-ordinate with so many people but I think it was very positive. I really enjoyed talking with the people who took the time to speak with me and I hope I wasn’t too blunt in my opinions.


All done, all finished I headed back to my hotel for a quick refresh and then back out to a party organized by a vendor. Nothing flash just some drinks and food at a local bar. It was good to unwind and chat with some more attendees.


To everyone who took the time to give me their business card or ask me Sharepoint, my business or make fun of my accent I say a big thanks. Like I said earlier it is really the networking and contacts that I will take away as the big plus from this experience. Safe travelling to all attendees returning home and once again thanks Harry and SMBNation for putting on such a great event. I hope to get the opportunity to return.

Now that the conference is over

I am free to tell everyone who attended my SharePoint session at SMBNation that I have developed a product called the Windows SharePoint Operations Guide that helps you install, configure and maintain Windows SharePoint on a variety of platforms. If you want more information see:


The guide is an annual subscription for which you get over 800 pages of information specifically focused on Windows Sharepoint as well a DVD that includes installation files, training and marketing material to help you or your customers get up to speed with SharePoint quickly.


The guide is available from me or via SMBBooks. Since it is a subscription I update the documentation every month and for the price it is an easy way to get a swag of information on Sharepoint that normally would take hours to find, test and implement.

SMBNation 2008 – Day 2

Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Weather: Wintery


Upon arriving this morning attendees discovered that “breakfast” was available in the vendor’s hall not out in the meal tent as yesterday. We also found that the selection was limited to a few pastries, bread to toast, coffee and juice. Probably worst of all there was nothing to sit down on or stand around. This meant we all had to crowd around garbage bins and other flat surfaces as well consumed our meal. My conversations with other attendees reinforced my feeling that this was indeed very poor. Many also told me that this was going to be their last conference as the main thing they came for was the networking but even that didn’t seem to be provided for now. So, if anyone from SMBNation is out there I would suggest that having a good breakfast spread is very important to attendees and if it ain’t done right attendees are going to bitch about it all day!



This morning kicked off with a session from Trend Micro about their security offering. Have to admit that I had heard it before and was a little distracted because the wifi in the hotel last night wasn’t working. That was a problem simply because all there appears to be on the TV every time I turn it on is a commercial and I’d like to be able to do something before going to bed!


After yesterday’s disappointment with the technical tracks I decided that I’d try attending the business track today. This kicked off with Red Ocean/Blue Ocean by Henry Craven (Australian MVP). It was based on the idea that it doesn’t make sense to try and compete in an already cut throat and saturated market (Red Ocean), you need to perform some systematic analysis of your business and work out where the opportunities are that provide growth without competition (Blue Ocean). This does make a lot of sense in the current context of the changing face of the SMB IT Market.


Next up was – Own your business don’t let it own you by George Sierchio. A very practical common sense, down to earth assessment of whether you should be in running a business or working for some else. This stuff always sounds very basic but in many cases it is too easy to overlook. Things like measuring what you do and the fact that you as a person are the average of your surroundings. This is simple terms means that if you want to be successful you need to hang around with people more successful than you, likewise if you want to improve your golf don’t play with people who you can beat, play with people who are better than you. Again, some very good material was presented here and I got real value from attending.


After this was – Total small business management using OneNote 2007 by Todd Colbeck. This session was easily the best of the day for me. Even though I have used OneNote, I had my eyes opened the possibilities it provides when applied to clients to better help them improve their productivity. I have a much greater respect for the potential of OneNote now and have some great ideas for building a revenue stream around its implementation, especially when teamed with the addition of Sharepoint.


Lastly was – Proven steps to get your marketing in shape by Derek Brown. Although Derek hadn’t been told that the session was scheduled to run for 90 minutes his presentation was excellent and provided some real value for me. Some of his experience in email campaigns and web site usage I can see having direct application to my business. Now because Derek hadn’t planned for the full time he was allocated Todd Colbeck from the previous OneNote session stepped in to ‘pinch hit’ (see my American is improving) and discussed the development of a referral program. The input from the audience was also golden and I came away with a swag of information about how to better market my business.


So in summary, was today worthwhile? – You Bet! Was it better than yesterday? – You Bet! Now I’m sure that those who attended the technical sessions would probably have said the same thing. This is the great thing about SMBNation, it isn’t totally technically focused and it provides the resources for people to learn more about improving their business, their skills or a combination of both. Today I walked away with some real value that I will definitely implement in my business and this more than made up for the poor start (i.e. breakfast).


So tomorrow is my turn on the big stage. Wish me luck.

SMBNation 2008 – Day 1

Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Weather: Moist and windy


Well the first official day of SMBNation 2008 kicked off with breakfast on the pier outside the conference center from 7 am. Have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the offering, it was pretty basic. This sentiment certainly seemed to be echoed by other attendees.


From there we moved into the conference centre proper. The first session on offer was a key note from Intel. Although their hardware offering is impressive I think that the blade system they demonstrated was a little out of the league of most attendees business. Maybe I’m wrong here but it is certainly aimed at the multi-server businesses.


Next up was Jeff Middleton speaking about migration to SBS 2008. His session was titled – The good, bad and ugly of migration to 2008 platforms. Although I was aware of many of the issues he raised I did learn that the migration is going to be more difficult that you think, especially Exchange server. Good news is that Jeff expects to have a 2008 migration product available from his SBSMigration site BUT it will only be available to people who have already purchased his previous SBS 2003 swing migration product. The reason for this is simply that you are going to need experience with swing migration before the swing migration to 2008 will make sense. Bad news is that it probably won’t be an overnight process. The ugly is that Exchange migration is going to be tricky because you can no longer simply fork lift the mail stores onto the new server, they will need to be sync’ed object by object.


The next session was given by Amy Babinchak called – Decisions, decisions, decisions. Making the Firewall choice for SBS 2008 since both versions of SBS 2008 no longer come with a firewall and only support a single network card. She ran over what the threats faced and what the perceived threats are from both the IT and business owners perspective. Again, I must admit that most of the information here was nothing new or earth shattering and any integrator worth their salt should be aware of this. However, it is good to have all these issues presented in a concise manner.


Next up was a session of the Gotcha’s of SBS2008 – Real world SBS 2008 deployments with Susan Bradley and Ofier Shimrat. This session covered topics as choosing the right sort or hardware, how to configure it and what issues you may face. There was plenty of information on offer here but in some respects maybe it was too much as the session ran well overtime. Perhaps the session tried to achieve too much and should have focused on smaller set of topics but none the less I did get some good information here.


Probably the highlight session of the day was the How to do software as a service with Grant Thompson and Scott Barlow simply because it demonstrated to me how many resellers, even here, that are fighting ‘cloud computing’ tooth and nail. It was very interesting to see how many resellers are running scared of the changes that are happening in our industry. I picked a number of techniques that would help resellers sell software as a service to customers and explain it to them in a language that they can understand.


Overall I can’t say that the sessions on offer were of a particularly high value to me personally but they do have to cater for a wide variety of attendees which I can understand. I would say however, that I did receive value out of the day but by far the greatest value I received on the day was from the networking with other attendees. It is extremely interesting to talk about their business, their customers and the solutions they have deployed. It clear from talking to many of them the more progressive ones that they are embracing the move to ‘cloud computing’ and facing the reality of this as a business model for themselves and their customers.


So that’s it from Day 1 of SMBNation and I look forward to providing you an update from tomorrow.

The writing is in the cloud

Can we believe this?


Microsoft will soon release ‘Windows Cloud’ OS, Ballmer says


To quote – “Within a month, Microsoft will unveil what Ballmer called “Windows Cloud.


If nothing else it is going to raise the profile of ‘cloud computing’ with everyone, including customers. If you currently sell IT hardware stuff to clients, ‘you better watch, you better not cry, you better be good ‘cause I’m telling you why. Cloud computing is coming to town’ (and it isn’t even December yet).

SMBNation 2008 – Preday

Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Weather: Rain


First task of the day was to register for the conference at the Marriot Waterfront, just across from the Bell Street Pier & Conference Center (where the conference will be held).


Registration was a snap and I received a nice tote bag full of vendor paraphernalia (some light reading for later on). One of the available events today was a full day on Making the most of the HP BladeSystem and Windows Essential Business Server Solution Opportunity. Rather a mouthful and couldn’t see myself getting any value out of spending a full day on this stuff honestly. However, I was interested in attending a session later in the evening called – Battling the Borg of the Internet with Scott Pinzon.


So, I returned later that night with about 50 or so other attendees for what was an interesting, rather than informative session. During the session of 90 minutes the session focused on the types of Botnet’s, how they operate, are constructed and deployed. The more sophisticated ones are now moving to Peer-to-Peer (P2P) control so there isn’t a central command any more. Some are even using encrypted ICMP (i.e. ping) traffic to communicate with each other. I also learned they Bot-herders (a.k.a. Bot-masters) use things like fast flux DNS to make it extremely difficult to their network to be tracked and disabled.


The speaker said that the greatest methods of Bot and spyware propagation is via celebrity fan sites (so no more Britney Spears for customers!).


I did pick up some stuff that will need some research but in the end the ‘standard’ security best practices provide the best defence. Simply keeping machines up to date, having a defence in depth strategy, scanning all Internet traffic incoming and outgoing as well as a clearly defined, circulated and understood security policy put you ‘ahead of the game’. In simple terms, it reduces your target surface area. I wil tell you what tho’, these Botnets are very sophisticated these days and all aimed at making money.


Apart from that, here’s two things I learned:


1. – is a site you can submit a suspect file and it will be scanned with all major anti-virus programs and provide you the results. The speaker demonstrated how malware is packaged, encrypted and run through scanners like this so it won’t be detected.


2. No longer is the response to a technical question to RTFM (i.e. read the f***ing manual). It is now JFGI (just freely Google it). So that at least has been something I’ve learned today.


So tomorrow is the first official day of SMBNation 2008 and I hope that I can bring you all the details and some photos as well.