Money for nothing

In these times of economic ‘non-spending’ many resellers are glad they have implemented managed services. This basically means they charge clients a monthly fee that covers some form of service. The idea is that over the longer period the amount charged is less than the cost so a tidy profit is made. However, in uncertain economic times like these managed services provides much needed regular cashflow for IT resellers because clients are no longer making large infrastructure purchases or calling up to have things repaired. In most cases they are going longer before making a call that costs them money.


Now managed service resellers might be sitting back thinking they are pretty in pink but I wouldn’t get too cocky yet. I foresee two issues that will even affect you. Firstly, as business tightens up clients are going to be looking at every outgoing and asking whether it is justified. If they are ‘paying’ for IT support and they don’t feel or see they are getting the value for that they’ll look at cancelling it or at the least bumping it down a level to save money. Secondly, it is all well and good to extract cashflow from existing managed services clients but I think most will struggle when attempting to sell that offer to prospects. So, as I see it, you will get cashflow from your existing managed services clients but that is going to be under pressure as the client’s cashflow comes under pressure.


Now there is a caveat here. If you are ‘sitting back’ and simply expecting your managed services cashflow to keep rolling in then don’t complain when it starts to wane. Now’s the time that you need to be telling all your customers and prospects exactly what the benefits they receive as part of their managed service ‘investment’. You need to illustrate how much benefit they do receive (real and imaginary) for their dollar. You need to worker harder to demonstrate that by going with managed services from you they are actually SAVING MONEY!


That’s the trick to maintaining, and maybe even improving your managed services income. You need to elucidate exactly what the benefits are FOR THE CUSTOMER. Even though you may not believe they are a benefit they still maybe to the customer so make sure you tell them.


A managed services approach in IT certainly provides resellers with a big advantage in times like these but don’t simply sit on you butt thinking that the cash is going to keep rolling it. If the customer doesn’t think (note – it’s from the customers perspective not yours) they receive value from what they pay, then they are certainly going to start questioning whether continuing to pay is such a good idea. Get off your butt and remove the doubt from their mind because all revenue these days requires work.

Big bad SharePoint

Interesting article about how people (especially IBM) are scrambling to bridge the SharePoint divide. In part, the article says:


“Big Blue is clearly worried about the broad proliferation of SharePoint sites. They are cropping up in companies and departments everywhere. With the free Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) so easy to turn on, and departments needing a simple to use, cheap place to store documents and collaborate on work, it’s no wonder they skip WebSphere to get their jobs done. So IBM, not wanting to get kicked completely to the curb needs an integration story for all these SharePoint data stores.”

In these poor economic times even large businesses can see that free Windows SharePoint Services can make them far more productive. The article also goes on to say:


“But it doesn’t look like IBM is the only big boy scared of the SharePoint craze. It seems the Open Source community may also be a little concerned about loosing market share to the mighty marketing machine that is Microsoft.”

So it would seem that SharePoint has them all running scared. Why? Because it is such a great tool. Because it is a platform on which on-going development is happening. As more and more people get on board with SharePoint the whole ecosystem around the product grows. Sure, Microsoft probably makes lots of money from SharePoint Office Server (MOSS) but Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is free. It is even an integrated part of SBS 2008. So why do so few small businesses use it?


I think simply because no one has ever shown them what SharePoint is. If there was ever an opportunity in this market, then here it is. SharePoint is a quick and easy way to provide real time saving solutions for clients. It is a great way to help save them money by doing things better.


So what’s the first step? If you aren’t familiar with SharePoint then start using it, see my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide as a way to get skilled up quickly, visit my SharePoint site for free document downloads, go out and buy some books and read, but mainly start using it so you can sell it. Why? The opposition is running scared when it comes to SharePoint and that sounds pretty encouraging to me.

GTD with Twitter

Now I’m still not convinced about the business value of Twitter. It know it is big the US but not so much here in the land of Oz. Aside from my scepticism I’m keeping my toe in the Twitter water just to see what develops and to understand the technology better.

As you can see I don’t have a lot of followers or follow a lot of people. As I said I am still very sceptical of this a business tool for helping get things done (that’s what GTD is short for by the way). That was until I came across the following blog post How to get things done with Twitter.

Here you’ll find some great suggestions on how to use Twitter as a reminder service and to link it with your Google calendar amongst other things. Handy.

I’m still not convinced but via some of the suggestions in this post I am beginning to see that maybe used correctly there can be business benefits. However, it does rely on you building a fairly extensive network of contacts and then keeping up to date with them. Is that amount of work worth the potential payoff? I’m still deciding.


When you do a Microsoft Update every month (I hope you do!) then you’ll find that one of the items listed is the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT for short) update. Now for months I’ve simply applied the update as a normal part of the process not even caring what it does.


So I did some research and found that Microsoft actually have a site dedicated to telling you what the MRST is all about. You’ll find it at:


and as the site says


The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool checks computers running Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software—including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom—and helps remove any infection found. When the detection and removal process is complete, the tool displays a report describing the outcome, including which, if any, malicious software was detected and removed.

Now, it is updated monthly to include checking for all the newest nasties. I’m not quite sure how it exactly works but it sits in the background monitoring for rogue software. If it detects any you are informed at the next login. It is my understanding that the tool actually does a scan once a month when it is updated. More technical information on the tool can be found at:


You always gotta wonder what something like this is doing sight unseen in your machine. Is it running? Is it doing anything? Well, as it turns out you can run the tool from the command line. Simply press the Start button, select the Run command from the menu and type MRT and press enter. After a few welcome screens you are able to select from a number of scan options.




Select the scan desired and press Next.



When it’s all done you should hopefully see



Now the tool doesn’t replace anti virus/anti spyware software but it is worth ensuring that you update your system every month via Microsoft Update to ensure you get this handy free utility.

Increase your value

I’ve been reading the following article “Fireproof you job” and recommend it as a good read. The article focuses on what employees can do but many of the strategies can be also be implemented by businesses.


Take for example the item Increase your value – Keep on top of advances in your field and expand your expertise beyond your core area. In the IT field there is simply so much that needs to be kept up with, sadly that still needs to be done. However, I think that it is good idea to try specialize in one area. You should try and pick one that would be of most benefit and exposure to customers rather than simply technically challenging. Maybe something along the lines of mobility, either getting phone to sync with data or enabling simpler remote access, whatever it is make sure it is highly visible to the client. Most of the technical tools are already present but you need to position yourself as the ‘expert’ in the field. Pick an area that will have most impact for you client and then learn everything you can about that, then make sure you use this as your method of attracting business.


Secondly, many IT people do not have a broad enough range of skills outside their core IT knowledge. Your clients employ you to solve technical issues which they have little knowledge about so how can you communicate more with them if all you understand is IT? Are there other consulting opportunities available with clients if you had skills in other areas? The IT service business is a pretty crowded place. Ask any IT service business what they do and the answer will usually be along the lines of “we provide quality solutions to client’s IT needs”. Boring! Now imagine if you gave the following answer instead “we save our clients $10,000 a year on their IT costs”. Not only are you going to have prospects attention you are going to make them come one more step down the process with you by asking “How?”.


Pure technical skills no longer cut it in the IT business. Why? Google my friends, Google. Given enough time you can find the answer to just about any technical question on Google. So now what makes you so special? What makes you command the fees your do? Even if you invest some time and money on improving your abilities through sales training, business development and accounting they are all adding value to yourself and your business. The common cry these days is that you need to become a ‘trusted business advisor’ but you can’t become a ‘business advisor’ by simply knowing only the technical side. This is why is so important these days to develop skills outside any core IT knowledge you have. In many cases it won’t be nearly as much fun or excitement as IT but that is all part of growing, some pain is always involved.


In the coming months those that take action and follow a strategy are going to be those that survive and prosper when times improve. Almost anyone can provide IT solutions these days. So what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? What are you doing to prove to your clients that you are worth your fee? Take the advice employees are getting and implement it in your business or otherwise you will find yourself looking for work.

Two hundred thousand views

Well it took about 9 months to get to the first 100,000 views but it has only taken just over 6 months to get to 200,000 views. What am I talking about? I’m talking about my online videos on YouTube.


I am constantly amazed that people actually watch my videos and also find them helpful. So to everyone out there that has watched on of my videos I say thanks. To everyone that has taken the time to comment on the videos I also say thanks. An especial thanks goes out to those who have actually emailed me directly about the videos. It helps to know that people are getting something from what I create.


Initially, I established my videos while at Saturn Alliance but since then have returned to running CIAOPS. As such, I have also created a new video area where all recent videos now appear. So if you have subscribed to my initial Saturn Alliance videos don’t forget to take a look at for my new video creations.


As always if you have any comments or feedback on my videos please contact me ( I’m always happy to hear what people say – good or bad.


Thanks for watching and stay tuned for more.

Change is bad

So I’ve been looking at IE8 which comes with Windows 7. Now all this is still in beta and may be subject to change but I can’t comprehend why Microsoft has done the following.


To run Windows Update in IE7 in you went Tools | Windows update like so:




But now in IE8 Windows Update doesn’t live under the Tools menu




It live under the safety menu




I’ll tell you one thing, it is changes like these that really confuse and annoy the average user. It may make sense to the programmers in Redmond but to your average IE user it doesn’t. You would also think that to encourage people to run Windows Update you’d leave the option to do so in the same location, but no.


Sure, it may be a small thing but it makes it just that little bit harder and more frustrating for users. That is going to translate into reduced product acceptance and greater frustration, not to mention the extra support. I can just hear the support calls now – “Are you running IE8 or IE7. Ok, is Windows Update under the Tools menu? No? Oh well that means ….”


It really doesn’t make things easier in my books!

What to learn

Microsoft has come out and said that it is going to reduce its workforce by 5,000. Now if you read the article there are some other interesting gems including:


“sales and profit will probably drop as the recession eats into software demand”

”as personal-computer sales slow and companies curb software purchases in what may be the worst recession since World War II”

”customers opted for machines with cheaper versions of the operating system”

”People aren’t buying PCs”

”The economy and technology spending slowed more than expected”

”The PC market will be the same, or weaker, for the remainder of the fiscal year”

“All of them saw a very sort of violent slowdown in spending”

“While consumers and businesses hold off buying computers with the latest premium version of Windows, demand is increasing for netbooks, machines that cost less than $US500 and use the cheaper Windows XP or the rival Linux operating system.”

Gloomy eh? So the question is what steps are you taking in your business to combat this slow down? What strategies do you have in place to reduces expenses and grow revenue. What’s your marketing strategy? Or do you simply live in hope that this will all blow over and you won’t feel the effects? If you haven’t taken action then the sooner you start the better.


Even Google is going to be affected:


“Spending in the US on ads linked to Web-search results increased 21% in 2008, compared with a growth rate of 30% in 2007, according to research firm EMarketer Inc. in New York. The firm estimates growth of 15% in 2009”. – SMH

Now more than ever you need to be carefully considering your whole business because if you’re in the IT business chances are you’re going to see a downturn unless you have made investments in strategy, revenue growth and cost reductions.


If you need help, advice or support start building a network of businesses and people who can help, don’t leave it till it’s too late.