Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Server Family Revised

Microsoft has a vision about how the world will be divided.

It goes something like this:

Home Server: For families.

Small Biz Server: for 5-50 desktop businesses.

Centro (3-server combo): for 50-250 desktop businesses.

Server Server: As needed to supplement businesses of all sizes.

-----

Sounds good. But, of course, Microsoft has no control over what will happen when the new "2008" class of servers is released into the wild. Here are some speculations.

First, the home market will consist almost entirely of geeks and nerds. A second wave will come from early adopters (your clients who insist on doing computer work themselves). A third wave will come from . . . Um . . . . Okay, actually, there won't be a third wave.

Everyone who owns a Tivo and a slingbox and a media center PC will be tempted by Home Server. But they'll look at it when the Tivo dies and they need a new home PC.

Second, the micro business market will gobble up Home Server. Offices that use a desktop as a server can now use a "Home" server and feel good about it. But you'll object that they can't join a domain.

What's a domain? Why do I need a domain?

Micro businesses want to connect to the internet, save their quickbooks files so they can be used by two people. And they need to share a printer that wasn't intended for use on a network.

They may or may not know that they need to back up their stuff, or that they need a virus scanner.

So thousands of consultants will sell Home Server into the very small business market.

Third, Small Businesses that don't take technology seriously (just like those micro businesses, but with more users) will also adopt the Home Server.

Here's a prediction: The biggest growth in trade journal articles over the next twelve months will be how [doctors, lawyers, architects, irrigation specialists, contractors, realtors, etc.] can run their entire business on Home Server. After all, it's 1/3 the price of Small Business Server.

Fourth, Small Businesses that DO take technology seriously (IT Dependent) will stay with SBS 2003 or move to SBS 2008 when their servers need replacing. This market -- SBS 2008 -- will be significantly depleted by Home Server. And that's good for us. It's a nice dividing line for consultants and for clients.

Fifth, there's a significant space between the SBS market and the Centro market. Just because you outgrow SBS doesn't mean you're ready to buy three servers. The natural progression for us is to separate Exchange from everything else OR separate SQL from everything else. That's . . . let's see . . . two servers! We've been doing this for ten years.

And Microsoft can give Centro away if they want, but it doesn't address the larger cost: Three servers costs a lot more than one server. And we're not putting all this in place without a backup. So we need a bigger, better solution there.

As a result, I think there's a good size gap between SBS and Centro. When you get to 100 users, Centro makes a lot of sense. And I know that there's not many companies in the 50-75 range. But what about that 75-100 range? The reality is, you have to wean people onto the idea of three servers.

-----

The biggest change for us re: Home Server will be the dividing lines that will emerge between

- "Homey" clients and serious clients

and between

- "Homey" consultants and true server consultants.

At the "low end" of our business there are lots of people who are happy serving not-too-serious clients who will never become 25 users, will never take their technology seriously, and who will never sign up for managed services.

At the same time, there are plenty of consultants who are happy charging $60/hour, avoiding active directory, and don't really want to learn about all that "high end" stuff like servers and licenses and enterprise-level solutions.

So a somewhat natural division will emerge (quite quickly) in which Homey clients will be served by Homey consultants. The market will be Home Server for Business. Best buy will put together a nice package with a $499 server (home server pre-installed), $29 firewall with 5-port switch, five cables, and a 1GB video card. Or you can buy one of those really cool Celeron servers from Dell.

This is all good news for us. All those people who are still afraid of Active Directory and Group Policies after seven years can find a natural home among clients who just need to get to the internet and share their quickbooks.

So Microsoft will draw a nice line for all of us between Home Server Businesses and businesses that need and use real business servers.

We will then take a big fat permanent marker and darken that line so that's it's very clear for everyone.

:-)


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five Desktop Minimum

Five Desktop Minimum

Like many other consultants, we have a Five Desktop Minimum. That means we don't take on clients who have fewer than five desktop computers and one server. We're probably going to make this a Ten Desktop Minimum in January.

As with all rules, we're always being tempted to make exceptions. How about four desktops? How about three desktops and two servers? How about three desktops and two servers and a real need to replace the two servers with one Small Business Server?

No.

Thanks.

You might think this is a simple matter of mathematics, but it's not.

On the platinum plan, five desktops x $60 = $300/month. Now I'd rather have $300 than not have $300. But it's more than that.

We're in our thirteenth year in business, and we've seen some networks. Our experience tells us a thing or two about these micro-clients. The pattern will look like this:

Immediate future: Fix a backlog of problems. Put them on managed service.
Within 12 months: Replace server. Perhaps a workstation or two.
Within 24 months: Replace one or two other workstations. Maybe replace switches and a printer.

Additional projects expected: None.

Change in company operations in the last ten years: nothing to speak of.

Change in company expected in the next ten years: nothing if they can help it.

Interesting or challenging line of business application: none.

As a general rule, these companies are not growing and not dynamic. Technologically, they're not very interesting. A super basic network diagram (see page 21 of The Network Documentation Workbook) represents 98% of all such businesses. They're not challenging. They're not particularly fun. They're not why we got into this business.

At the end of the day, we don't want to be bored doing our jobs. Some might say "Not everybody gets to have a fun, interesting job." True. But I get to. And my techs get to.

It takes exactly as much work to get a new client with ten desktops as it does to get a new client with four desktops. And the client with ten will be a lot more fun and interesting to work with.

And, yes, we make more money.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Search Engine Wars

Which search engine should I use?

I recently did some research on the most recent 10,000 visitors to my Small Biz Thoughts blog.

Of those 10,000 visitors, 1,470 came via search engines. The rest were either links from other sites or favorites, etc.

Of the 1,470, 91.70% came from Google. Another 2.59% were from Google Blog Search. The total was 94.29% from some form of Google.

That leaves 5.71% from Windows, MSN, Yahoo, and everyone else.

Where oh where should I spend my online advertising dollars?












NumPercSearch Engine
1,34891.70%Google
382.59%Google Blog Search
362.45%Yahoo!
302.04%Windows Live
100.68%MSN
50.34%AOL
20.14%Earthlink
10.07%AOL UK
Total
857

100.00%

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Please Pass the Secret Sauce

Hello!

I've been silent for awhile so I could be head down working on a new SMB Books project. Very fun stuff coming soon.

In the meantime . . .
-----

I have a vision of the future. It involves you.

If you've seen me speak, you may have heard my comment that "There are two kinds of consultants."

The short version is: There are people who share what they know and encourage others to get involved,

and there are people who keep everything to themselves as if they've got the "secret sauce" and they don't want to let the rest of us in on it.

Well, here's the real secret: There Are No Secrets to Success. Success can be achieved in ten thousand different ways. They all involve hard work, dedication, and professionalism.

As a result: I can tell you everything, in excrutiating detail, about my business. And I know with perfect certainty that you won't steal any business from me. There are two reasons for this.

First, You're Human. Shocking, I know. But there are consequences of being human.

Second, You're not me. Perhaps less shocking. :-)

To the first point: No two human beings are on the same communications wave length. Sometimes we "click" with someone who seems to be on the same wavelength, but that just means we're close.

When you tell me something about your business, you can be crystal clear and I still won't understand exactly what you mean. You can draw me pictures, write a white paper, make a video, open your financials, walk me through it. But no matter what you do, I'm going to interpret your commucations based on my own personal knowledge, experience, comfort level, etc.

If you need an example, spend sixty seconds listening to one side of a telephone tech support call.

In other words, because we're human, all communication is filtered and interpretted. So even if I give you all my secret sauce, you're going to add a little something here and take out something there. I can influence you, but you can't put your business into the mold I've built for my business.

On the second point: You're not me. And that means that you've already built a business. You already have SOPs (standard operating procedures) for marketing and billing, for building servers and paying employees. There may be a few things where you say "we have no system at all," but that's not true. Even if your marketing plan consists of putting off marketing for someday, that's what you're doing.

Because we're different, I can't take your ideas and transplant them into my business. Even if I try to "steal" your secret sauce, I can't. Look at the Managed Services movement of the last couple of years. With the feeding frenzy of information from Erick Simpson, Amy Luby, Level Platforms, Kaseya, and a dozen other players, you'd think we'd all be doing the same thing, right?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

You are more likely to find two people with the same birthday who have both been struck by lightening than to find two companies that implement managed services the same way. There are just too many variables.

Good News; What's Next?

The very good news in all this is that we should feel free to help one another!

We can talk to each other about what works and what doesn't. I can give you what I know and you can give me what you know, and we can reap whatever benefits we find in that conversation.

And the more people who participate, cooperate, and contribute, the better off we'll all be. Here's a public tip of the hat to the dynamic duo who each put a real push on to get new people engaged and participating in the community: Vlad (http://www.vladville.com/category/it-culture) and Chris (http://www.chrisrue.com/funcave/category/community/).

And if I could name them all, I'd add all the bloggers, and the user group leaders, and the PALs, and the MVPs, and many others.

But even with all those engaged people, the community of idea pushers is still only a few hundred. It's not a thousand and it's not ten thousand.

It should be.

I'd like to see ten thousand people get engaged and contributing to the community.

Please Pass the Secret Sauce.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Decompressing

Decompressing

So I've done some conferences this year.

The largest were: SMBTN Summit (March); SMB Nation East (May); SBS Migration/I.T. Pro conference in New Orleans (May); Microsoft Partner Conference (July); and, of course SMB Nation (Sept/Oct).

Take-aways varied.

All conferences were great. Professional conferences give you a chance to learn things in the sessions, between sessions, and even in the evenings over a meal (or whatever).

Now I get to decompress a little.

Sometimes we get wound up into a frenzy of running around, with major projects all over the place, one deadline after another. We end up focusing on the "big things" all the time. You know you need to take care of the big things first. But, eventually, you also have to take care of the little things.

This has been an amazing nine months since March.

We really took care of a lot of big things.

Now, as I look toward the end of the year I realize that I need to rest a bit for the final push. Because the publishing side of my brain has been geared so much to major conferences, it's tempting to say the year's over. But 1/4 of it is still ahead!

Goals

I really have three separate business lives:
- KPEnterprises
- Great Little Book
- Relax Focus Succeed

and so I have have four sets of goals next to my desk. Personal goals, plus goals for the three jobs I hold.

From time to time I look up to see what has been done and what remains to be checked off. Profitable Q3. Check. Profitable Q4. Ooops. Can't rest too long on my laurels!

Getting the "big things" done has been very powerful for my organization. This is primarily because the world keeps changing. So when we add HaaS and Exchange Defender and AuthAnvil to the mix, start a new company, and have a couple of earth-shattering changes thrust upon us, guess what? We still meet our most important goals because we prioritized and put the big things first.

If you focus on the daily twists and turns, and the Little Things, then it's easy for interruptions and events to throw you off course. If you focus on the Big Picture and the Big Things, then all that other stuff gets added to the mix -- but it doesn't throw you off course.

Balance

So how do you keep going?

Well, the easy part is: you don't have any choice. The sun just came up here on the west coast. It will come up tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. Jobs will flow in, changes will happen, servers will squeak, switches will fail, payroll's coming up, . . . and the beat goes on.

If you haven't gotten in the habit of taking some quiet time to step back from the world and put things in perspective, I recommend it. It is perhaps the greatest habit I have ever adopted. Some days you need it more than others.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The System Just Works

The System Just Works

or, how to get a technician to clean his desk.

A funny, true story.

This is a "believe it or not" story.

Here's our basic process:
- We have a standard "monthly maintenance" for each client. These are the chores that are performed at that client every month. This is unique per client.

- We have what we call a "monthly single." This is a single chore that is performed at all clients when we do the monthly maintenance. The monthly single changes every month. For example,
--- Get router, firewall, and domain registration into Autotask.
--- Verify that Windows Defender is installed on every desktop.
--- Make sure Veritas Backup Exec is using family naming for tapes, with Job, Date, and Time in the family name.

So, what does a technician do?
A technician prints out the Monthly Maintenance checklist and proceeds to execute the tasks. The first part of ever MMC is:

1) Client Check In and Monthly Single

2) Complete all steps detailed in the Monthly Single before continuing on unless specifically noted otherwise in the Monthly Single.

SO . . .

We're instituting Zenith. Really, we're at 99.9%, moving toward 99.99%.

We've turned over 99% of the monthly maintenance to Zenith. Saved us about 75 hrs/month! !!! !!!

Now we're looking at turning over the monthly single to Zenith. Our new rule is: First, ask yourself whether Zenith can do this. If Zenith can do it, let them do it.

Part of the process of turning things over to Zenith is to coordinate the sharepoint side (where we keep monthly singles) and your PSA system in a way that Zenith can see both. To do this, we created a space that says: Check here: XXX. Get the Monthly Single and Do It.

As part of the testing phase, Nicko created a fake Monthly Single Checklist that just says "Clean your freakin' desk." Kind of smartass, but no harm since Zenith won't see it in the testing phase.

Forgot that that's there . . .

And today . . . Josh's desk is AMAZINGLY CLEAN. No papers. No stacks. No crap.

What the heck?

"Did Josh quit?"
"Has Josh been fired?"
"Did the cleaning crew go insane?"

No, says Manuel. The system just works.

Josh opened up his first monthly maintenance for the month, saw the note to check the new location, read the note from Nicko . . .

And Cleaned His Desk!

-----

I'm thinking of seeing whether I can get my car washed by the same process. :-)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

68 point checklist

About once every seven seconds I get asked about my company's monthly maintenance checklist.

Or the 68-point network audit.

Which we don't call "audit" any more because it makes people think of the tax man.

Bascially, here's the deal:

A couple of years ago I set up an autoresponder. This is when I first started pushing the documentation thing.

To download the latest version (68-Point Checklist version 2.0 - Updated in 2012), just go to the White Papers page at SMB Books. No credit card required. Instant download in PDF format.
-----

Here's what you do:

- Market your free 68-point network health checkup
- Get people to sign up
- perform this spectacular FREE checkup
- Write a summary report based on the checklist (free disk space is . . . patch status is . . .)

Then STOP. Do not under any circumstances deliver this report to the prospect except in person. Period. Exclamation. I mean it.

This report will take you an hour to perform. Prepping the report will take you another hour. If you charge less than $120/hour you need to raise your rates.

So this report is worth at least $250 !!! Really. Your time is valuable.

Do not email this report.

Do not fedex this report.

Do not leave it at the front desk.

Do not do anything except meet with the prospect and go through the report. Plan an hour for this. Now it's a $360 report.

Probability of a sale when you follow this simple advice: 95%.

Probability of a sale when you email the report: 5%.

Probability of a sale when you fedex the report: 6%.

Probability of a sale when you leave this report at the front desk: 7%.

-----

So this checklist has been the same for more than two years. In the meantime, Microsoft has released a product originally put together by Arlin Sorensen and his crowd called the Business and Technology Assessment toolkit. This is a spectacular way to get really good information on your clients. My favorite example is: "What are your annual sales?" That's not information you normally expect to get. But put it in the middle of a bunch of other questions and they just fill in the blank.

[ Sidebar: You're Drinking From a Firehose

If you're a registered or certified partner, Microsoft has sent you 9,478 copies of the Business and Technology Assessment toolkit. You didn't know this because you receive hundreds of CDs per month.

And while the toolkit kicks booty, Microsoft has made it difficult to download, install, use, and profit from.

- Thing One: You have to have InfoPath2007 installed before you can install the latest version of the Business and Technology Assessment Toolkit. InfoPath is a swell little program that has caught on like a McIntosh. Four per cent of you have it installed. No one not currently employed by Microsoft is using it.

- Thing Two: If you actually install and use the Toolkit, you can win great fun prizes! With two complete assessments, reported to Microsoft, you get a free Technet Subsciption. I recommend this for everyone on earth.

- Thing Three: with even more assessments you get a free SBS 2003 R2. For whatever reason, these are always box products. All you can do with it is to sell it on ebay. You didn't read that here.

- Thing Four: Beginning October 1st -- ooooooooooooooooooops -- You can't download the version that just works. You have to have internet connectivity and infopath. See thing one.

/sidebar ]

Anyway, so my little checklist might suck, but all you need is a really old version of Acrobat Reader.

Look it over. Don't give me any feedback. This is a "take it or leave it" product.

Free, of course.

[NOTE: This blog post revised October 2012 to reflect new location of the 68-Point Checklist.]

:-)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Product Review: Credit Card Scanner

This is a little out of the ordinary for me. I don't do a lot of product reviews. But the hit technology of the SMB Nation conference seems to be the credit card system we were using.

Here are the basics: http://merchantwarehouse.com/credit_card_machines/way_systems_mtt.

If you didn't see it, please note that that little phone thingy is about 4" tall. It's smaller than my regular cell phone, unfolded.

Easy enough to use: I scanned one card last weekend to show Bob how to do it. He showed Kelly. They even figured out how to close out the day and batch the charges (while I was off drinking).

I don't know why you'd buy this without a printer, although I suppose you could use two or three phones with one printer.

We bought the system through Paul Tierney 800-941-6557 x247 of Merchant Warehouse.

We shopped around and ended up moving all of our credit card operations for three companies to Merchant Warehouse because of the rates. We went to our old bank and offered to let them match the rates. They lowered our rates but didn't match.

Sorry. If the service is the same, and the product is the same, then price is the only differentiating factor.

Oddly enough, I know Paul's name. I don't can't name anyone in merchant services at my old vendor.

-----

Hmmmmmm.

Are you competing on price?

-----

I've used this system in a dozen states. I've had a little trouble with the signal in a few hotels. But I just go to offline mode and batch the jobs lator.

If you do any kind of point of sale, this is a pretty nice product. Doesn't work in Europe.

Anyway, give Paul a call. Mention my name in case I ever need a favor in the future!

Monday, October 01, 2007

ChannelPro article - Relax Focus Succeed (R)

Notice:
"Always Be Pimpin" is a trademark of Vlad Mazek, so it does not appear in this post.

-----

I have an article on Relax Focus Succeed(R) in the most recent ChannelPro magazine.
http://www.channelproonline.com/issue/Channelpro_oct_2007.pdf pages 38-39.

How's that for hair?

When they say "blue hair," that's what they mean. :-)