Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Weeding Your Business Garden - part 1

We've been weeding the garden at KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist).

You know how it is: From time to time you need to decide which relationships you'll cut off and which you'll cultivate.

It's hard work for several reasons.

On the vendor side, we don't just sell any product that comes down the road. We like to make a recommendation and then proceed to implement it as consistently as possible across clients. Clients look to us for advice and trust what we tell them. So if we change our advice about the kind of server they need, or the firewall, or the anti-virus, we have to take that very seriously.

We have revisited our "standard" recommendations every year or so. We make recommendations in the following standard areas:

- Operating System - Server
- Office Suite (There used to be choices. Now this is a mute point.)
- Firewall
- Anti-Virus
- Anti-Spyware
- Defragmentation software
- Server Hardware (brand)
- Desktop/laptop Hardware (brand)
- Spam Filtering
- Domain Registrar

In the last five years we have changed our recommendations in the areas of firewall, anti-spyware, and spam filtering.

We are now looking at a different operating system for the servers. And we have decided to move to a different anti-virus program.

These are major decisions. And what brings someone to these decisions?

In the case of the anti-virus, we looked at our overall relationship with vendors. The one product we sell that costs us the most time to sell, implement, and troubleshoot is Symantec Anti-Virus. Because of the (high) quality of the product, we have put up with an aweful lot of crap. But at the end of the day, we need to do business with companies that want to do business with us.

While Symantec's reseller program has been refreshed a few times, it's not one you'd describe as "friendly." And technical support has never been what it should be.

So after many years (six?) of favoring Symantec for anti-virus, we are making a move to Trend. We expect this move to help us make more money over the next several years than we would make with Symantec.

As for server operating systems: We are going to be more judicious about recommending Small Business Server simply because a client has 50 or fewer users. Given the fact that Microsoft has no real first-tier technical support available for SBS, we will determine which features are really needed for a client, and how many applications they need to run on the server.

Simplicity's the key to success. Exchange, sharepoint, file sharing, and remote web workplace may be all we ever use on the SBS box.

But most clients still don't use Sharepoint. And hosted Exchange can make the need for an in-house exchange server irrelevant.

So, if the client has several line of business applications, or two or three SQL databases, then we'll definitely not put them on SBS.

It's possible that we'll buy one big beefy box and put two standard servers in virtual machines. This will cost the average client about $1,000 more up front. But if each physical server has one "incident" in any three-year period, this money will be earned back by not having the downtime associated with incompetent first-line support.

When the client's on the hook for the cost, we believe using SBS only in simple environments will save them money in the long run (three year cycle). When we're on the hook for the cost, we know there's less cost to support Server 2003 than SBS. We assume 2008 will be the same.

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The bottom line is: Symantec might be a superior product to Trend, but both are well above the bar of acceptability. We're going with the one that helps us make more money.

Similarly, SBS is absolutely the superior product for small business when everything goes right. But when something goes wrong, the support line that can actually help you is over at Windows Server, not SBS.

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As my brother Manuel says, "There's nothin' going on except business."

3 comments:

  1. Overworked_IT_Manager1:58 PM

    Choosing good software is essential for keeping long-term IT maintenance and troubleshooting costs down. Before deciding on the software, it's good to ensure that none of them conflict with one another. Automation is also desirable so that non-IT users don't have to deal with issues outside their area of expertise. For e.g. for disk defragmenters, we went with Diskeeper Pro on our workstations because of it's automatic features. Once installed, it defragments automatically whenever necessary so the actual workstation users dont have to do anything. Keeps support headaches down to a minimum and performance stable.

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  2. We've always used and recommended diskeeper. It is one of the products we have never changed or revisited. It's awesome and gets getter every version.

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  3. I have used Raxco's small business defrag software plenty of times, and it works perfectly. It is actually more for the mid to upper level businesses though as far as price.

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