Friday, October 31, 2008

Blog Rolling Part II

The Blog Roll continues.

Blogger has a cool little tool just for blog rolling. I've picked a couple of options. One is to include the title of the most recent post for each blog. Another is to sort the blogs in order of most recent post.

One of the benefits of any blog is that there are updates. "What's New" is what's news. So if bloggers generate more news, they move up on the blog roll. People who blog once a month will be at the bottom.

Truth be told, if a blog is only updated once a month, I drop it from the list.

Here are the latest additions to the blog roll:

Vlad Mazek / Vladville / http://www.vladville.com
Vlad provides one of the most consistently interesting, entertaining, and useful blogs on the Internet. Vlad's not a small business consultant like most of us, be he has a LOT of SMB consultants as his clients. As a result, he has an excellent view of what our businesses and business processes look like.

Robbie Upcroft / SBS Down Under / http://blogs.technet.com/sbsaustralia/default.aspx
Robbie is the Microsoft's SMB Man in Australia. Formerly their Man in the UK. And before that, their Man in Australia. While this is a bit of an anonymous blog, I assure you that you'll find great information here. This is not the official Microsoft site in AUS, but has advantages too.

Richard Tubb / TubbBlog / http://www.tubblog.co.uk/
From the other side of the globe is Richard Tubb way over in jolly old England. News, notes, tips, and tricks. He's got it all. A nice variety of information from across the pond.

The Official Microsoft Exchange Team Blog / http://msexchangeteam.com
This blog is straight from the factory. Filled with answers and the occasional question. Tips, tricks, and product previews. I know it's not SBS, but everyone in I.T. needs to keep up to speed on Exchange. I am proud to sport a license plate frame from this blog: You had me at EHLO.

Mark Crall / SBSC & MSP Buzz / http://sbsc.techcareteam.com/
This is about halfway an anonymous blog. At least when you see the picture, you know what the author looks like. Good news, events, and even a few technical tips from an MS PAL.

More to come.

:-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blog Rolling Part I

Well, I'm breaking down and making a change here at the SmallBizThoughts Blog. I'm adding a Blog Roll. It's like an honor roll for blogs.

I have to apologize to everyone whose blog is not listed here.

In fact, that's why I took so long to do a blog roll in the first place.

My basic approach to adding value to the SMB discussion has been to contribute where I can make the most difference. The result is that I don't cover all the things that someone else is already covering. For example, I've made no effort to be a technical guru. It's not that I don't have the knowledge, but this is already being doing in other places.

Same with blog rolls. If you read five blogs, you've probably been exposed to 80% of the active blogs in our space.

So I've avoided trying to be a resource for blogs. I know myself and I know I can't put up a blog roll without occasionally reviewing it to make sure it's got the right resources, and not too many, and drop the ones that fade away. etc. etc. etc.

But yesterday a friend said I should do it, so here we go.

I'm adding blogs a few at a time so you know why I try to check in on these blogs. So the blog roll will grow over a few posts.

First up is Harry Brelsford / SMB Dude / http://harrybrelsford.wordpress.com/
Harry certainly does not have an anonymous blog.
Founder of SMB Nation, and much of our community, Harry is the guru of the SMB and SBS world. Find out about upcoming conferences, new book releases, Harry's newsletter, one-day summits, and much more.


Wayne Small / SBS FAQ / http://blog.sbsfaq.com/default.aspx
Wayne is an MVP and all around great guy. In addition to the technical side, you'll also see some of the horseplay side of the SMB community.


Susan Bradley/ SBS Diva / http://msmvps.com/blogs/bradley
Susan is . . . the SBS Diva. She just is. People settle arguments by making reference to this blog. Make this part of your daily habits.


The official Microsoft SBS Blog / http://blogs.technet.com/sbs/default.aspx
Factory fresh and official home of SBS knowledge in the U.S.
This one is not quite anonymous. No name presented on the blog shell, but each posting is attributed to an author.


The SMB Conference Call / http://www.greatlittlebook.com/Seminars/podcast.xml
Okay. Self serving. But I think worthwhile.


More to come.

:-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote Against The Incumbents

[Caution: Bad Attitude Ahead]

I don't talk politics much on this forum. But unusual times call for unusual blog posts.

Most people have some kind of basic rules they use to make hard decisions when voting. With a few big races, they know what to do because they have an opinion. But we're constantly asked to vote in races where we don't know anything.

Some people say:

- Vote Republican

- Vote Democrat

- Vote Libertarian

etc.

My tie-break rule is very simple: Vote Against the Incumbent!

This year I've moved this up from tie-breaker to primary rule. So now, my voting rules are:

1) Vote against the incumbent.

2) If there is no incumbent, vote for the person who is least experienced in politics.

Mayor, state legislators, governors, Congress, Senate -- everything.

It's the closest I can come to Vote the Bastards Out.

If you don't like the condition your condition is in, Vote Against the Incumbents!

Sounds irrational? No. In fact, it's very rational. The people currently in office got us where we are. Republicans, Democrats, and the occasional third party. They've built a system that places their personal election above every other thing -- including the best interests of their district, their state, their nation, or the entire world.

In some sense, the system was designed this way. A gaggle of self-interested power-grabbers who balance out each others' interests. (See previous post on this.)

The rationality of this movement is the same as any other mass movement. If one person votes against an incumbent, nothing will change. If large groups of people all across the country (and the world!) vote against the incumbent, then things could change very quickly.

But, you might whinge about the policy implications. "My one issue is more important than everything else. This one party takes my stand on this one issue." Blah, blah, blah.

How's that working out for you? Has your one true party solved your problem, defended your position, and made the world a better place?

Or does your party vote 95% of the time like everyone else and make no meaningful changes, all the while lining their pockets and building an economic system that can collapse the global economy in less than a month?

We're going to get out of this mess despite the actions of the incumbents.

And the world would be a lot better off with some fresh ideas.

In particular, we need some younger blood in political office. The current generation of 25-35 year olds have more energy and more creativity than we've seen in a long time. Let's kick out everyone who's been in office (of any kind) for more than twenty years.

Maybe then we can solve today's issues with some fresh ideas.

Of course the new politicians will eventually be corrupt in new and interesting ways . . . eventually. But in the short term, they'll bring us a fresh approach.

Then, twenty years from now, we can kick them out!

[/set diatribe=off]

:-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Did All This Non-Microsoft Software Come From?

We all use software from a variety of vendors. I bet most people reading this set up new machines with

- Microsoft Office
- Adbobe Acrobat Reader
- QuickBooks
- (Trend)(Symantec)(McAfee)(etc.) anti-virus

But then there's all the other, more specialized stuff.

As a Certified Partner, I have access to just about anything Microsoft produces. That's why I don't care much when they're giving away copies of Office, etc. I have that. I just got licenses for EBS this week. Big Whoop.

Anyway, when I need something, I look to see whether it's in the Big Partner Box. After all, why buy something if you already own a competent alternative (or the market leader)?

So free is good. But my next decision is what to buy when I'm spending money. For example, the Microsoft mapping program kicks serious butt. I particularly like downloading maps to the pocket PC so I have everything for an entire city when I travel.

I have just always had a Microsoft bias. Even when I was using a product that is not "the" leader in the industry (e.g., Publisher), I was using something good enough and supporting the home team.

But something changed this year.

Gradually, my office has purchased an alternative mapping program because of a specific feature (I don't even remember what it is) that MapPoint didn't have.

We finally broke down and bought Adobe Illustrator because we were exchanging a ton of files with someone.

We bought In Design because of two simultaneous book projects that were just going to be easier than doing the layout in Publisher.

Expression web kicks butt. It also occasionally just "has to close now" and throw away all your hard work. So now we're buying Dreamweaver.

Then I uploaded something to iTunes and it dropped a browser on my desk. I had to take a look.

Somewhere along the line, a "Get Open Office.org" shortcut showed up. It's just a matter of time before I get curious enough to click that.

I won a Crackberry and then fell in love with it. So I don't need mappoint or streets and maps any more.

Overall, for a variety of reasons that all seem unrelated to one another, I'm not relying on Microsoft for "all" my software anymore.

The chink in the armor is not The Cloud. An Internet by any other name would smell as sweet.

Strangely enough, I think it's one part giving in to popular choices (e.g., Adobe products), one part finally getting fed up with stuff that mostly works (Expression Web), and one part happenstance.

- - - - -

Microsoft owns the operating system on desktops. My first choice by far is Vista. If compatibility is an issue, I could be talked into XP.

Microsoft owns the Office Suite. They are working really hard to ruin this market for themselves (see How to kill the most successful product in history). But for now, they own the Office Suite.

Servers. Hmmmm. Microsoft owns the mindshare. But we've found ourselves working with a lot more Linux every year. Haven't sold one yet, but it's no longer outside the realm of possibility.

On every thing else -- games and specialty products -- Microsoft seems to be just another company. They do some things spectacularly well (e.g., Exchange, SQL). But they also have many mediocre products that just aren't ready for the true professional (e.g., Publisher and Expression Web).

On a very selfish note: I have wished for years that Publisher and FrontPage/Expression Web would grow up and be taken seriously. I have the latest version of both. Microsoft needs to just sell these as home office tools.

- - - - -

I certainly don't claim to represent anyone other than myself. I've long been a dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft fan. But with one product after another, I find that I need the best product available and I'm not finding it at Microsoft.

Being a big name with a big budget selling second-rate products works great in an expanding economy. But I'm not sure how well that strategy will work in the next year or so.

:-)

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Worst Sales Call Ever

I got a funny call Friday. Or at least it was funny for awhile. Then I started thinking about it.

Total cold call.

    "May I speak to the person who makes decisions about technology?"

    I guess that's me. Smirk.

    "Hello. I'm from Cousin Larry's Pretty Good Tech Support. We help companies with technologies like blahdy blahdy yak yak . . . Voip, infrastructure, jargon, layer three, and blah blah. Do you have an interest in any of these?"

    Uh, actually, no. But thanks for calling.

- - - - -

It really was the worst sales call possible.

There was more jargon in fifteen seconds than I normally get in a day.

I wish I'd been able to record it.

At the same time . . .

If that dude stayed on the phone all day, he could make two hundred calls before noon.

That call nagged me all day.

I try to make ten calls a day. Ten. That's not even a bar to jump over: it's a shadow on the carpet. It's nothing.

While I could argue that my calls are "better" and more polished than Cousin Larry's salesman, it takes me a month to make 200 calls.

But last Friday . . . I didn't make my calls. Too busy. [Insert excuses here.]

Last Friday that kid made an appointment. Guaranteed. You dial enough numbers, you're going to make an appointment. Even if it's the worst sales call ever.

200 of the worst sales calls ever is way better than zero of the best sales call ever.

It's funny, when you think about it. We all get caught up in our daily grind. As Michael Gerber puts it, "workin' it, workin' it, workin' it." But somewhere in that daily grind, we forget to do the little things that brought the work in the door.

Many years ago I went through a very busy period. I was buying one house and turning another one into a rental. I was working all day, painting until 11:00 PM, and cleaning and fixing all weekend. The really busy period lasted about three months.

When the three months was over, I had almost nothing to do. Nothing to do at the new house. Nothing to do at the rental. And nothing to do at work. When I was so very busy, I was too busy to make sales calls. I was barely able to take care of the work in front of me.

So, down the road, I had to start making calls. And, of course, there was a lag time until I got new work. The total was not three months, but more like six months.

NOW is the time to line up new work.

NOW, this week, is the time to make phone calls.

NOW, this month. NOW this year. To prepare for next year.

- - - - -

Stuart Selbst over at Secure My Company wrote a blog post the other day, Are You a 30%er?. Great question. Do you take your profession seriously, or are you just a techno-goober trying to get by?

We're all growing our businesses. Even if you want to stay a one-person shop, as a sole entrepreneur, you need to grow the revenue in your business. You need to replace clients who move, merge, go out of business, or generally fade away.

You need to stay ahead of inflation. You need to make sales.

So Friday I thought the sales call was funny. But now I realize that guy's got a sales meeting set up this week and I don't.

Even though I'm off to my HTG meeting later in the week, I'll make my ten calls today and tomorrow.

I promise.

:-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Untangle Presents Managed Services In A Month Webinar

If you've followed my evangelization of managed services, then you've heard of Managed Services In A Month. If not, click that link and read the indexed blog posts.

Now comes the Webinar: Managed Services in a Month, sponsored by Untangle.

The question is not Should you do managed services? That's old news. You should.

The question now is, How do you get on the Managed Service model right now? Then please register for this webinar!

Are you overwhelmed, struggling with how to sell managed services vs old-school break/fix labor? Join us and we'll show you how to stop trading dollars for hours.

In times of economic turmoil, managed services is the right model for you and your clients. You build a steady, dependable base income while your clients enjoy a stable, predictable monthly cost.

Think about this: In the LAST thirty days a lot of businesses have started to panic and are scared about their future. If they have no contracts, then they have no reliable income stream. If they have no recurring billing, then they can't predict what the next year is going to look like.

My company just finished up an economic review in preparation for my HTG meeting next week. We know exactly how many contracts we have in place. We know how much money we have scheduled to come in. Yes, we have projections for future sales that may or may not come true.

But right now we're looking at hiring someone because we're at capacity.

That stability and recurring revenue comes from managed service.

Join me November 12th for the Managed Services in a Month webinar. I'll cover the ten most important actions you can take to becoming a Managed Service Provider in the next 30 days.

We're going to leave some time for questions, so tune in and take notes.

Bonus:

The first 50 registrants who attend the webinar will receive a FREE copy of my 140 Minute audio book, "Managed Services in a Month."

Please register today at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/151102262.

- - - - -

Pimp disclosure: Untangle is sponsoring this so they can introduce you to their product, an open source network gateway that you can use as an alternative to Sonicwall.

But I promise you this: My presentation will be 100% content, focused on giving you the ten most important actions you can take to becoming a Managed Service Provider in the next 30 days.

Please join us.

Friday, October 24, 2008

SMB Conference Call Super Tip

Just posted the SMB Conference Call with Jim Locke from SMBTN.

Sorry for the delay. I've been wallowing in self-pity over my brilliant investment in Morgan Stanley, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Doh!

Anyway, you can find the audio over at GreatLittleBook.com on the Past SMB Conference Calls page.

Also check out the next SMB Conference Call with Dave Sobel on Virtualization. Details on the SMB Conference Call Page.

- - - - -

Jim Locke shares some great insights and stories. Here's one you'll want to get the details on: Posting your customer-facing blog feed on the client's internal SharePoint site.

If, let's say, Microsoft announced a zero-day update that will reboot all machines in the office (and you're not on managed services so you have no way to control it), then you can blog about the issue and your clients will see the info on their systems.

A great use of technology. Details on the free mp3 download.

Just one more reason you should listen to every SMB Conference Call.

:-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hosting an Extreme Makeover

Here's an idea for pumping up some attention for your business.

Stuart Crawford's team put a lot of work into creating their own "Technology Makeover" event. Obviously, a lot of work went into lining this up. Perhaps Stuart will write up a white paper on how to create a Technology Makeover event!

From his announcement:


    IT Matters would like to announce the launch of our 2008 Calgary Extreme Office Technology Makeover contest. This event will see one lucky Calgary Small Business win $50,000 in new technology and support from IT Matters and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. This contest is open to all small businesses throughout the city of Calgary who feel it is time for a change on how they use technology inside their business.

    With great sponsorship from:

    DELL Canada
    Microsoft Canada
    SonicWALL
    Acronis
    Kapsersky Lab
    itControl Suite
    APC
    Research in Motion
    Syspine
    eKzact Solutions
    Clearpath SEO
    Abcan Audio Visual and
    many more great sponsors

    The winning Calgary small business will have the ultimate small business computer network and business solution to drive them forward in 2009.

    Solutions ranging from:

    Windows Small Business Server 2008 (officially to be launched Nov 12, 2008)
    Windows Vista
    Office Professional 2007
    Blackberry
    DELL Vostro Workstations
    DELL PowerEdge Servers
    Syspine Response Point Telephone Systems
    Internet Security and Spam Filtering technologies
    Website Overhaul and Search Engine Optimization package

    The Extreme Office Technology Makeover contest will bring one lucky Calgary Small Business into the modern era of technology. Flyers are available today. For complete rules and to enter, visit our website at http://www.extremetechmakeover.ca.


Good job, Stuart.

:-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Electrical Calculations Are Shocking

Back a few posts I mentioned helping clients save electricity. See Making Money When Clients Want to Save.

Peace_Country added a comment and wanted detail on the electrical calculations.

Be careful what you ask for.

- - - - -

There are three ways to do this.

1) Ask the building maintenance people to isolate your circuits and put a clamp meter on them. They'll need to do this three times at three different times of day to get a good average.

2) Just look at the monthly electrical bills, take a baseline, and believe that you'll make a real difference. Look at it again after you've made changes and show the client what a difference you've made.

3) Get your own clamp meter at any electrical store and measure every device plugged in at the office, plus lights, air conditioners, and other equipment that is "hard wired."

3.a. You'll need to create a special extension cord for most of these devices. Take a good but short extension cord and isolate one of the outside wires (black or white, not bare or green). A flat cord is best for this. Do not expose any wires, but separate one of them so you can clamp around the one isolated wire to measure total amps.

Google "Clamp meter" for pictures, etc.

In Sacramento, electrical prices vary based on time of year, time of day, and whether there's an emergency due to overusage by the greedy people in Southern California who are the cause of all evil in the universe.

The average, average, average in Sacramento is $0.115 per KWH (kilowatt hour).

3.b. Add up the number of watts being consumed by servers, workstation, etc. Create an excel spreadsheet.

Electric usage is measured in kilowatt-hours.
1 watt-hour is the equivalent of 1 watt of power used for 1 hour.
1 kilowatt-hour is the equivalent of 1000 watts used for 1 hour.

Three values are needed to calculate the cost to use an device:
The power rating or wattage of the appliance. This is found on the appliance e.g. 50W or 1800W.
The time the appliance is switched on in hours (or minutes ÷ 60)
The cost per KWh.

Here's how we do the calculation:
1. Device wattage ÷ 1000 = kilowatts (kW)
2. Kilowatts × (time appliance is switched on in hours) = kilowatt hours (kWh)
3. Kilowatt hours x cost per KWh is what you pay for that appliance to run.

Example: 100W light bulb on for 24 hours where the cost per KWh for electricity = $0.10
(100 ÷ 1000) × 24 = 2.4 KWH used
2.4 kWh × $0.10 = $0.24
This means that it costs 24 cents to use a 100 Watt light bulb for 24 hours.

Computer Example: Desktop that draws 1.5 amps at 120 volts, draws 180 watts. If it is on 24 hrs/day for 31 days, (that is 180 x 24 x 31) then it uses 133,920 watts = 133.920 kilowatt hours.

If you have ten workstations and they each draw about 130 kwhs per month, then the desktop portion of your electrical bill is about 1300 KWH. If your average price is $0.10 per KWH, then the cost is $130 for those ten machines.

You can see where cutting this by 60% saves $52/month.

If you have 50 machines instead of 10, then it's $260/month.

If you also manage to turn off monitors, servers, laser printers, etc. it can really add up.

- - - - -

Additional Considerations

You can also measure electrical usage at power-up (will be higher) and when asleep (better be lower). Many of the early "energy star" machines are about as green as a 1957 Chevy.

We have found that a rack with three older servers can easily use 800-1,000 KWHs per month.

Tiny little split air conditioner for that server room? 700 KWHs.

Note: For every server you virtualize, there's a significant electrical savings.

New desktop PCs with new monitors can be less than one amp total, which is less than 90 KWHs per month.

Older PCs with CRT monitors can draw 2.5 amps, which is more like 225 KWHs per month.

Don't forget old switches, old routers, etc. If it's old, it's inefficient.

Your mileage will vary.

- - - - -

ROI

I mentioned earlier that return on investment (ROI) calculations can be very difficult for small businesses. So don't start with the Excel spreadsheet. Start with their electrical bill and make sure it's all for things they can control inside their office. Sit down and agree on the numbers that matter (total kilowatt hours).

Note, please, that many utilities reduce rates in the winter. So if you can start with July, August, and September bills, you may be comparing a different cost per KWH for October, November, December. That's why you need to focus on the total electrical usage.

And don't forget to measure those space heaters!

The advantage of the clamp meter is that you're guaranteed to know exactly how much electricity is used by the machines you control.

Seems like the WORST you can do by turning off machines at night is about $250/month for an office of ten.

Good luck!

:-)

Ducks In The Wild (Sale/Contest)

It begins.

I've recieved a few duck pictures.

We gave away almost a thousand rubber duckies at SMB Nation.

Now come the pictures.

This lovely duck found a place to swim -- in someone's beer!


Cell phones are great.

Do you have a better duck picture? Did you attend SMB Nation and come away with a duck?

Well, we want to know what the far-flung flock is up to. We have now disseminated ducks to several continents.

Please join our duck photo contest -- and win big at SMB Books!

The rules are simple:

1) You send me a picture of your rubber ducky. Karlp@greatlittlebook.com. You can be in the picture. The duck can be doing whatever turns you on.


2) I'll send you a coupon code good for $10 USD off any purchase of $20 or more at SMBBooks.com.

3) Promotion ends November 30th, 2008.
Coupons are good through December 31st.

4) The big winner of the "Best Duck Photo" contest will receive an additional $50 Coupon, good for any purchase at SMB Books.

5) If you don't have a duck, send an entertaining picture and we'll include a duck with your order. While supplies last.

6) There is no cost to enter.

Good Luck!

- - - -

Fine Print:

Photos will be judged by whoever is walking by the hallway on the last day of the contest.

In the event of a tie, the two winners will be flown to Amsterdam for a night on the town with their entire staff, all expenses paid.

We do not anticipate a tie.

:-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SMB Nation Goes to London!

At Long Last, SMB Nation has announced the details of the big London/Europe conference.

And by details, I mean details.

The Harrybbbblog has about three pages of details, when you print it out.

The price is extremely reasonable, even with the uppity dollar exchange. With an early bird price of $150 USD, you can't go wrong.

December 5th, 2008
Microsoft Office, London


The morning session features Harry Brelsford, Mr. SMB Nation. His content is described as:
    "Title: Business Development: How SBS 2008 Saved The Economy! Your Next Blue Ocean…. Attend this fast-paced analytical “pocket MBA” lecture on Small Business Server 2008 business development approaches specifically related to Blue Ocean Strategy."


The afternoon session features Jeff Middleton, the master of SBS/EBS Migration. His content is described as:
    "Gain a practical and strategic view of the technical issues from Jeff Middleton, the Founder of SBSmigration.com. This session will educate you about the good and bad ahead for deploying SBS 2008 or EBS 2008 to existing or new customers. This technical assessment will be a guide to what you can expect to include in the scope of your customer proposals, staff preparations, and the underlying skills that will be essential to your success with production deployments."

Details on Harry's blog.

Register now at http://www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=668625

or check out even more details at SMBNation.com.

Wish I were going. :-(

:-)

Right Brain Blogging in a Left Brained World

If you're looking for a good, eye-opening book, I recommend A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel H. Pink.

Among other things, he tells the story of how our entire culture is designed around analytical measures of success. Consider the SAT or even a Microsoft exam. One question after another. In order. In sequence. To an agreed-upon conclusion. Each question is then evaluated right or wrong. Yes or no. Good or bad.

Tally it up. At a precise number you pass. One number gets you into Harvard. Another number gets you into East Nosepicker State University. That's all left-brain stuff.

But after we pass the test . . . after we get to someplace . . . we define our world and our lessons in terms of less rigorous criteria. We tell stories. We communicate by sharing our experiences. Those stories are on the right brain. They draw on the creative side -- the side that knows how to handle lots of complicated, messy details.

Pink's thesis is that our culture is taking a turn toward that story-telling side.

There will always be a huge place in our lives for the left brain. In an extremely technical world, the left brain will always be dominant. But in our future, the less-linear will become more important in understanding our complex world.

So what's this got to do with us?

At SMB Nation 2007, a partner passed me in the hallway and stopped to say "Keep creating templates for us. Technicians can follow a pattern all day long." I took that advice and it has served me well. :-) So, on one hand, technicians love the forms.

Then comes the blog. And the Yahoo Groups. And an endless string of newsgroups and postings. What are these "discussion" elements compared to the stark checklists and forms?

The blog is the story. The newsgroups are the story-telling and the messy, complicated discussion that make sense out of unfeeling and unthinking processes and procedures.

Let's face it, the RAID array doesn't care whether you've rebuilt it properly, put the drives back in the right order, or kept track of whether the correct configuration is on the drives of the RAID controller. You tell it what to do and it will do what it's told.

Blogs and forums allow us to discuss the bigger picture. A problem with a storage array is a left-brain issue of the moment. How you see your clients, your larger business environment, and the context of your success are much more important in the long run.

You need to tackle technology every day to be successful. But tackling -- and conquering -- technological problems makes you a great technician, not a great business person.

With the blogs you get the stories about how how we implement rules and procedures and forms.

The blogs take the big complicated mess and try to make some sense out of all of it. This is true for more than just techno-goober blogs. Blogs in general are exploding because they add texture and depth to a subject.

Anyway, it's a theory.

Pink makes a very compelling argument of how the world of "Design" has worked it's way into our lives. We go to Target and buy a toaster designed by an internationally recognized artist for $19.99. Opening an iPhone box is a joyful experience. It's a lot more than technology.

Technology is just part of the story.

:-)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Community Power Trumps Gold Cert

Jim Locke was on the SMB Conference Call last week. He told a great story that needs a little broader distribution. So here we go.

Jim didn't give the partner's name on the call, so I asked for details. Turns out it was Jim Sterling from Sterling Networks.

Jim Sterling had a potential new client. Was bidding a new network for approx 275 agents located in 7 offices (real estate). After preparing the proposal, one of the owners (there were 5) gave the proposal to the copy guy who says "We can take care of your network. After all, we're a Gold Certified Partner. Jim is just one guy. He can't handle big jobs."

So the client goes to Jim and says they're thinking of going with Schmoe the Gold Certified Partner / copier company. What does Jim have to say in response? After all, he's just one person. How many people can he bring to the table?

Ooops.

Turns out, Jim's a member of SMBTN. So Jim gets on the phone and calls a bunch of partners. "If I need you to back me up, will you show up at a meeting with the client?" Of course they all say yes.

Now Jim goes back to the potential client and says "We're not just one guy standing alone. I have all the backup I need to address any problem you have."

Jim proposes that he will get 50 Partners to show up at a meeting at the client's office -- IF the gold certified partner will do the same. The gold partner refuses to participate.

Obviously Jim landed the client.

This client has been sold 3 times since then, and split up into 2 different companies. Sterling Networks still has both companies under contract.

- - - - -

Two lessons pop out here.

First, it pays dividends to belong to -- and participate in -- the community. Whether it's SMBTN, online groups, or your local User Group. Get to know other technicians. Call on them, and be there for them.

Even at the simplest level, having extra hands on a job goes a long ways. I have either hired or been hired by at least a dozen User Group members. Even with a staff of seven, the fastest way for me to take on large deployment is to call on people who have already proven that they're competent and engaged.

Second, there's a tendency for larger companies to get arrogant well before it's justified. One side effect of this arrogance is a belief that they have nothing to gain from participating in the user groups. I can't tell you how many times I've invited someone from a larger firm to the user group and they've said, "We don't really . . . do . . . that."

You don't do what? You don't learn about what's going on in your profession? You don't engage with vendors like Microsoft and Sonicwall? You don't take advantage of discounts on trainings or certifications? You don't have a group of people to call on when you need advice or expertise?

Not all Gold Certified Partners are like this, but many are. They have one or two superstars plus a gaggle of uninterested, bored technicians who are NOT engaged in improving their skills or keeping up on the technology.

Interestingly, I will bet that some of the people Jim called on for help were from Gold Certified Partners. After all, we have plenty of them in the community, and in SMBTN.

It's not really about being Gold or not being Gold. It's about being engaged in the community or not being engaged.

It pays to participate. Membership, as they say, has it's privileges.

:-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Making Money When Clients Want to Save

Now comes the hard part . . .

Everyone "knows" there are tough times ahead. The funny thing is, of course, that this is 98% attitude. Nevertheless, most people have a vague sense that there's a downturn and that they need to participate. So they'll be cutting back.

How do you make money when your clients are cutting back?

How do you get new clients at a time when budgets are tightening?

Let's brainstorm a few things.

First, Cut Your Clients' Costs. For example . . .

Many people (including some of my good friends) argue for ROI -- Return on Investment -- arguments during the sales process.

My experience in Sacramento is that ROI arguments are not very effective on small clients. "Yeah, yeah. Sounds good. I want to save money today."

They "get" that a green PC will save them some undefined, fuzzy amount of money over three years. But today you want to charge them $900.

Here's an idea:

Create your own green machine: We tend to leave computers on at night so that they can run through their defrag, checkdisk, and patch management routines. But this is the 21st Century!

Turn off those computers at night, but turn them on when you need to do maintenance. You can script this with Zenith, Kaseya, or the appliance from ITControlSuite. Totally automated. Machines are on when they should be and off the rest of the time.

We are working with a client now who has 70 desktops. We expect to save them about $3,000 per month in electricity. Really. Now that's based on business rate electricity in Sacramento. Your mileage may vary.

But you can do this with very little out of pocket expenses. And, of course, the labor is billable. You get a little extra work and the client gets a huge savings.

This is one where you can drag out their electrical bill, benchmark the usage, and check it for the next two months.

And there are other things we can do. Literally sell your services by saving money for the client.

This has the added advantage that you move into the business consulting role.

Second, Improve Their Cash Flow

I learned a great line from my friend Steve Luby:

Why doesn't every American own an elephant?

They've never been offered one for $99 down and easy monthly payments.


We all know that leasing or financing costs more in the long run. You know it. The client knows it. But it can really help out in a tight market because the low monthly payment is manageable.

If you haven't sold via Leasing or Financing before, don't worry -- it's easy.

Think about it. The money lenders know that time delays can lead to lost opportunities. So they process applications in very short order. In most cases, 1-2 hours. And, if the client is in a position to repay the debt, they get approved.

So it's simple and painless for you.

$5,000 worth of equipment and software? As of this writing, Microsoft will finance that for less than $175/month.

Make it easy. Mention it as an option. Even encourage them to get their own leasing deal.

You'll get paid up front for the hardware, software, and sometimes the labor. That's cash flow!

And, of course, there's Hardware as a Service. Whether you use MSP on Demand, or roll your own as we do, HaaS is a great way to get a hardware refresh into a company with a tight budget.

You roll in the hardware, the software, and the service. Check. Check. Check. All in one. Now they have a new machine with a three year warranty that just works trouble free. Client's happy. You're happy. And that revenue (and client) are guaranteed for three years.

Third, Outsource Their I.T..

Let's be honest. What business are we in? Outsourced I.T. At the end of the day, we provide services so that clients do not have to spend as much with an in-house technician.

With our managed service model, we believe we can save a client money over the cost of an in-house I.T. person until they get about 80 desktops. And that assumes they'll be hiring an expensive MCSE-type. If they hire an entry-level tech at about $40,000/year, we can save them money well into 120 desktops.

Real money. Real savings. Maybe not the first month [ :-) ], but real fast after that.

I'm sorry that some people will lose their jobs. But if there's a real economic downturn, then that's going to happen whether we get the work or someone else.

So now's the time to step up the game and be sure your business gets outsourced I.T. contracts that will become available in the next several months.

- - - - -

When you hear people say that small businesses are more flexible than big businesses, this is the kind of thing they mean. When the world zigs, we zag.

As the business environment changes, we need to take advantage of our flexibility to see opportunities and create opportunities.

The big businesses out there can't change directions very quickly. They're stuck in a mindset created as part of a master plan that was written 12 or 18 months ago.

You are NOT stuck doing exactly the same thing you've done for the last year. If you think you're stuck, the problem's all inside your head. You don't have to play last year's game. You don't have to sell last year's services. You don't have to get lost int he shuffle.

Make changes NOW that will set you business on a profitable track for the year ahead.

I welcome your ideas to save money for your clients.

:-)

Being Professional as SMB Consultants

Mark your calendar for a special one hour conference call.

MVP Stuart Crawford holds a regular discussion on Blog Talk Radio called Small Business IT.

Stuart has put together a great conference call for October 24th:

- MVP Stuart Crawford (http://blog.itsuccessmentor.com/)

- MVP Amy Babinchak (http://securesmb.harborcomputerservices.net)

- Phil Elder (http://blog.mpecsinc.ca/)

- Me (Karl) (this blog)

The conference is called Being Professional as SMB Consultants.

For more info, and to register, go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/smb/2008/10/24/Being-Professional-as-SMB-Consultants.

Basically, we're going to have a confab on the topic of professionalism in today's IT community. Can we be a small shop and be professional? How do we deal with small IT consultants who are not professional?

We all consider this to be a particularly important topic. And this is a particularly important time to discuss it.

Join us for a great chat.

:-)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Super Con Call: Being Professional as SMB Consultants

Mark your calendar for a special one hour conference call.

MVP Stuart Crawford holds a regular discussion on Blog Talk Radio called Small Business IT.

Stuart has put together a great conference call for October 24th:

- MVP Stuart Crawford (http://blog.itsuccessmentor.com/)

- MVP Amy Babinchak (http://isainsbs.blogspot.com/2007/05/isa-2004-sp3-released.html)

- Phil Elder (http://blog.mpecsinc.ca/)

- Me (Karl) (this blog)

The conference is called Being Professional as SMB Consultants.

For more info, and to register, go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/smb/2008/10/24/Being-Professional-as-SMB-Consultants.

Basically, we're going to have a confab on the topic of professionalism in today's IT community. Can we be a small shop and be professional? How do we deal with small IT consultants who are not professional?

We all consider this to be a particularly important topic. And this is a particularly important time to discuss it.

Join us for a great chat.

:-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Register Now for CES: Free

Beginning November 1st, the cost for CES goes from zero to $100.

January 8-1, 2009 in Las Vegas. Be there.

And if you register now: $ Zero.

Why attend CES? Well, the first reason is to get a taste of what your future looks like. What your living room will look like, what your kitchen will look like, and what your clients home technology will look like.

Most of us have figured out how to avoid being sucked into the black hole know as "The Boss's Home Computer." 72 hours of labor and no fix for the virus downloaded by the teenager; no backup system; no you can't reinstall; no you can't delete the three terabytes of vacation photos or the encrypted Dad's Stuff directory.

At the same time, there's huge growth potential at the high end of the home entertainment market.

There's huge growth potential in high-end telephone systems for home.

There's huge growth potential for building up a serious home office.

Nay-sayers will whimper, "Boo hoo, there's going to be a recession and this is the worst economy since blah blah blah."

Unless you are a bank, insurance company, or home builder, the next 12-18 months is filled with massive opportunities.

Here's what happens in times of economic turmoil:

1) Some people will spend less. Changing spending habits mean growth in some areas (buy less of this; buy more of that).

2) Companies will lower their prices to compete. Not you, but commodity-based companies. The result will be massive new purchases of cheaper products. Someone has to install all that crap . . .

3) Many, many people will not be affected. They will keep their current job, at their current pay rate. Their life will cost a little less here and a little more there, but their discretionary income will be about the same.

Here's the cool thing about money: It doesn't disappear. It just moves and flows in different ways under different circumstances. You need to not find yourself selling last year's solution into last year's market.

It takes work, and training, and pain to move into new areas of revenue.

Here's a success strategy for the rest of your life: Be willing to invest time and pain in learning new things and you will always stay ahead of the competition.

In times of distress, humans tend to "hunker down" and focus on what they know best. That's a great defensive strategy and will help in many situations. In fact, it will help you in the next year or so.

But if you can must the energy take this opportunity to expand your skills and your business into new markets, you'll be the rare commodity that can ask a higher price no matter what's going on around you.

And two years from now, when everyone else catches up because the market is "known" and safe, you'll be an established leader as the commoditization takes place. Then you can decide whether to stay or go.

Perfect example: Telepresence is poised to take off. The economic conditions will force down prices, to that will actually speed up adoption of this technology in the next 18 months. Will you be in or out?

Join me, and several other SMB consultants in Las Vegas in January. You'll learn a lot, in a fun environment. And you might just find some things to add to your line card for the next year.

:-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tune Up The Fall Sales Machine

Have you announced a Small Business Server 2008 seminar to your clients yet?

Release date is November 12th.

If any clients have Software Assurance, contact them and tune them up. They should be ordering the bits in November, even if they won't install until next year. Get that disc and install key on the shelf and in the Network Documentation Binder!

Clients who have an older machine, or who are planning a new server sometime in 2009, need to know that they'll be buying SBS 2008.

Fall is a great time to do an information based seminar. Do it in the November 15-December 15 timeframe and you'll miss all the Christmas Holiday buzz about things not SBS. This is a really good time for seminars because you can do it with ZERO selling.

Just be 100% informational. After all, they're not likely to buy right this minute anyway. So you're warming them up for next year. Get them thinking. Lay down some thought patterns that they can repeat to themselves until next year.

"I love SBS. I need SBS. I've always loved SBS. I need 2008 more than 2003. I love SBS 2003; 2008 must be even better. SBS tastes great. SBS is less filling."

Like that.

What? You haven't even SEEN SBS 2008?

Fear not. Microsoft has you covered.

Join the Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2008 Ready-to-Go Campaign.

I think this is the link: http://www.mspartnerdirect.com/action/microsoft/site/catalog/campaign/CampaignView?campaignID=588

I say think because the one all powerful super-logon means that each of us gets to the same page by different means. If that link doesn't work for you, search for Windows Small Business Server 2008 Ready-to-Go Campaign.


Here's what you'll find:

  • Small Business Server 2008 Demo + Demo Script (20.5 MB).
    "What's a Sneak Peek Event without a Sneak Peek Demo?"

  • Small Business Server 2008 Powerpoint Presentation
    Standard Microsoft Marketing hoopla. Succinct and compelling like Moby Dick. But you can cannibalize it and totally remake it as your own.

  • Small Business Server 2008 Datasheet- Multiply Your Power
    Good marketing tool/summary sheet. Microsoft should do these for all products. And if they already do, I need to get better at finding them.

  • Small Business Server 2008 Datasheet- Top 10 Reasons
    As with previous, a good little flyer. User for web fodder or in your mailings

- - - - -

Whether you're Certifiable or only Registered, Microsoft has a LOT of great marketing tools on their web sites. And don't just gobble up the stuff on the U.S. site. The UK marketing site also has a ton of good stuff.

:-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Make Money By Being Better Organized

Here's a handy tip in tough economic times:

Make money by being better organized than your clients with regard to money.

- - - - -

Have you noticed how disorganized some businesses are with regard to the basics of money? You know: Tracking time, sending invoices, collecting money, applying payment and credit properly, paying bills on time, making deposits on time, etc.

I'm not talking high finance, timing the stock market, or balancing investors against one another. I'm talking about the true basics of running a business.

Consultants, especially very small consulting businesses, tend to be lazy about these things.

But here's a secret that will make you more money going forward: Don't be lazy about the finances and you'll keep more of your money!

These sound like very basic ("Duh!") advice. But that doesn't mean everyone follows the advice.

For example,

- Pay your bills on time to avoid fees

- Keep track of all of your time

- Get invoices out on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly)

- Collect everything you can up front

- Charge late fees for late payments

- Charge interest for past due balances

- Cut off service when people stop paying (Don't let them run up thousands in overdue bills.)

- When someone hands you a check, put it in the bank right away

- Put your bills-to-be-paid into a system (MS Accounting, QuickBooks, etc.)

If you follow these rules, you'll have a better picture of money overall. And you will not pay more money than you need to. And you will collect extra money from people who don't pay on time.

- - - - -

Now think about your clients. You probably already know this, but they have the same bad habits as everyone else.

Don't let them make you the bank. It's not your job to loan them money, take payments without interest, or pay their bills whenever they get around to it.

This post is entitled Make money by being better organized than your clients with regard to money. Here's how that works.

We have a few hard fast rules and stick to them:

- All contract labor is prepaid

- All hardware and software orders are prepaid

- Clients with any overdue balance are charged a $25 late fee

- Clients with $500 or more past due have their service cut off. Period. I'm not kidding.

Disorganized clients tend to pay us too much money. On one hand they pay things late or forget about them. Bills go into a pile and get paid when they magically work their way to the top of the stack.

On the other hand, these disorganized clients pay off a quote and then pay again when the invoice arrives.

Bingo. You have use of their money. Here's what you do with it:

1) Apply the overpayment to all outstanding interest and late fees

2) Apply the overpayment to the overdue invoices, starting with the oldest invoice

3) Write a memo explaining what you've done and what their remaining credit is (or remaining balance due)

If there's money left over, do not offer to refund. If they want to get their money back, they can ask.

- - - - -

Now you might say that's playing rough. Okay. But what happens when you pay late, don't pay, or overpay? My guess is, it looks a lot like this. Have you ever accidentally paid a cable bill twice? You don't even get a thank you note: just a memo on the next monthly bill that you only owe one penny because they received your payment.

If your clients are used to paying things late, they're also used to late fees.

These rules and policies are not unreasonable. In fact, you may be the only company your client deals with who doesn't follow these guidelines.

I'm amazed when I hear consultants talking about tens of thousands of dollars in past due receivables. Then they wonder how much they can collect as a percentage of the bad debt. Don't put yourself in that position.

Don't be afraid to implement these policies ASAP. If you send out a memo tomorrow, you can give "30 days notice" and start enforcing it by mid November.

If the economy goes down, and then sideways for a a year or so, these rules can save you a lot of money.

:-)

Jim Locke and SMBTN 2.0

Awhile back I wrote about SMB Consulting 3.0.

Many of those initiatives are going to be championed by the various membership-based organizations in the I.T. space. Obviously, in the SMB part of that space you'll find SMBTN -- The SMB Technology Network.

Jim Locke, CEO of SMBTN will join me on the SMB Conference Call this Wednesday at 9:00 AM Pacific.

We're going to talk about the changes in the SMB world, some initiatives going on at SMBTN, and a specific set of changes Jim refers to as "SMBTN 2.0"

There's an old and reliable approach to understanding history: Find a significant event and see how well it can be used to explain what happened.

Our current economic meltdown is a significant economic event. I have no doubt that our grandchildren will study it in college. It's not all doom and gloom. There aren't bread lines. The banking industry will not be allowed to collapse.

But a LOT of stuff is going to change. This includes your clients, your services, your partnerships, your memberships, and a whole lot more. Your business will be a lot more different three years from now than it was three years ago.

Are you ready for the ride?

Jim will tell his side of the story, but SMBTN is one of the organizations that will help smaller consultants find their way in the turbulent times ahead.

Sometimes you make money by selling more.

Sometimes you make money by spending less.

Sometimes you make money by buying lower and selling higher.

But most days you make money by working really hard to have a great combination of products, partners, and promotions. You sell what people are buying, and you deliver it with great service.

As you look back on the next year or so, I think you'll see that it was a critical time for your business. Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on your business.

Join me and Jim Locke on Wed. as we start addressing some of these issues.

More info at the SMB Conference Call Page.

:-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tough Love on Backups - Part II

I started this thread yesterday.

- - - - -

The Great Fallacy of backup and disaster recovery is that your goal is to get the server back to where it was when it failed or ceased to exist.

That fallacy leads people to believe that mirrored drives, RAID arrays, and disc-to-disc backups are good enough.

99% of the time, these local disc-to-disc backups are good enough, because 99% of the time you're recoverying a file that was deleted last week or restoring a database from yesterday.

But your client is not just paying for a safety net when the pesky little stuff happens. Truth is, they can figure that 99% out by themselves without help from you: Go to Walmart. Buy a big USB drive. Plug it in. Run the software.

If you don't do anything more than that, then you shouldn't be in this business!

I know that's harsh, but if your entire backup strategy consists of something you heard about on Leo LaPorte, it's pretty hard to justify paying you for your "disaster recovery planning."

You client is paying you to step up and get their business back when that 1% crisis happens.

If you have two USB drives, and each holds four copies of the entire server, AND you are religious about switching them everyday, then you have eight data restore points. How far back does that go? How many months can you recover?

Just because you can't foresee needing to go back more than a few days doesn't mean you won't ever need to.

Backup to hard drive is easy to understand. That doesn't make it good.

Why is it a fallacy? Because the real goal is to protect the business from going out of business. That might mean producing financial records going back several years. It might mean recovering to new hardware after a disaster. It might mean all kinds of things above and beyond simple file recovery.

Being able to restore a handful of files from an onsite or internet device is NOT a disaster recovery plan.

The Most Common Disaster Recovery Scenario
Truth is, everyone will have a hard drive fail if they live long enough. That's pretty foreseeable, and reasonably recoverable.

But what's the most common true disaster? For some people, it's a water disaster (flood, hurricane, busted water pipe,etc.). For everyone else, it's a fire.

So let's assume you have a real disaster. Whatever backup system you had connected to the server in the office that burned down is gone. Hard drive? Gone. D-D-T? Gone. Tape? Gone. Mirrored Server? Gone.

You get the point.

The Most Common Absolute Truth of Disaster Recovery is that the first medium you try to restore from will fail. Doesn't matter whether it's VSS, tape, hard drive, mirror, or whatever.

So, if one USB drive is in a building that burned down, and the other one is 2,000 miles away, you can look forward to a failure of the first image you try to restore on that drive when it gets here.

Now, assuming you had four complete images per drive, you have three images that may be successful.

The entire recovery of this business now relies on you being supremely clear about what's on that disc and how you're going to get it onto the new server.

You've lost a bunch of data (fire, etc.). Now your skill level and your backup plan will determine how much more will get recovered.

If you don't really understand how the data are arranged on the drive, or you don't have the software needed to recover it, then you're just scratching around in a panic while the client's business is down.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

We've been in this business a long time. We've set up hundreds of systems. So far, we've never had a critical backup failure. We design, build, and support backup systems that work for hundreds of computers every day. That makes it very frustrating for us when we hear computer technicians or clients say that tape backup doesn't work.

Good backup systems work if you know what you're doing.

The proof -- The only proof that matters -- is whether you can get the client's business back up, in operation, with zero or near-zero data loss.

Having something that's "easy" is fine, but it's not your job to just do what's easy.


:-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tough Love on Backups - Part I

This is one of those "If all I cared about was making sales, I'd just shut up" postings.

I've had a lot of feedback from people about my little $5 white paper on backups.

They agree with everything I say EXCEPT the conclusion that tape is the only medium that fills all the requirements for a true backup and disaster recovery system.

I just spent a weekend at SMB Nation. Without naming names, let me just say that the vendor hall was filled with people who will take your money, give you peace of mind, and leave you hanging when your server goes up in flames.

Why We Do Backups

99% of the time, backups are for mundane file recovery, to create a legal point-in-time snapshot, to create a financial point-in-time snapshot, and to create an archive. Hard drives that are constantly recycled don't do most of these.

The other 1% of the time backups are vital to a true disaster recovery.

In a true, major disaster, you may not be able to get to your office. Consider the floods in the Midwest, hurricane Katrina, the five-day electrical outages from last year. Or the folks in Ohio who just went through two weeks of electrical outage in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. And so forth.

It is quite realistic that you could be kicked out of your office and need to relocate. Yes, the chances are slim, but it's your job to take responsibility for your business, and your clients' businesses.

On more of a day-to-day basis, "stuff" happens. Someone deletes an important file. The database becomes corrupt. You discover on Thursday that you saved the wrong version of a spreadsheet last Monday. Or you discover in January that the former bookkeeper nuked a database last July.

Sometimes we can restore from the local Volume Shadow Copy. You might have a local backup archive. It is vitally important that you have multiple point-in-time backups.

One reason our company has never failed to recover data from a system we managed is that we do backups the right way and we have multiple restore points.

Here's a hard lesson that won't make me any friends: Most of the technicians we run across cannot figure out how to create a backup strategy that works.

Most technicians don't have a workable strategy for backups.

Most technicians don't understand tape, so they don't recommend it.

Most technicians don't understand SCSI, so they don't sell backups that rely on it.

Most technicians have never played with iSCSI. In fact they don't even know what it is.

Corollary: Most SMB technicians settle for a backup system that sounds simple because they can't figure out tape, can't figure out SCSI, and are willing to settle for "good enough."


Good Enough Isn't


Internet-based backups are wonderful as a gap-filler for specific circumstances. But it is irresponsible to rely on them as your only backup solution, your primary backup solution, or your disaster recovery plan.

Please, please, please talk to your clients. Do not assume that you know how much downtime they can stomach unless you've asked them.

For some companies, a day of downtime hurts, but they can stay in business. For others, an hour is unacceptable.

As we've moved all the critical systems (email, databases, sharepoint, file storage) onto a single server, we have dramtically increased the need to get that server back online ASAP when something goes wrong.

Any system that involves shipping a hard drive across the country is unacceptable as a disaster recovery option.

Period.

And USB drives? Again, wonderful as a gap-filler for specific circumstances. But it is irresponsible to rely on them as your only backup solution, your primary backup solution, or your disaster recovery plan.

Maybe I've just spent too much time fixing other peoples' messes. But disc-to-disc backup is only good for disaster recovery purposes when it is part of a disc-to-disc-to-tape backup strategy.

The Bottom Line

Local imaging, CDP, USB, and even onsite tape are all part of a strategy to have multiple restore points available. They each play a role.

But don't forget that we do backups for lots of reasons besides restoring a file or two.

Learn your job.

Create and test disaster recovery plans that assume you won't have access to your original office or equipment.

:-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"I'm Not Dead Yet"

One of the best lines in Monty Python's movie The Holy Grail is "I'm Not Dead Yet."

Similarly, one of the great quotes from Mark Twain: "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

I have heard a rumor three times now, in three different contexts. So let me set the record straight: I am still around.

The rumor goes something like this:

- Karl's not with KPEnterprises (his consulting company) anymore

- Karl's not running KPEnterprises anymore

- Karl's not doing any technical work anymore

I'm not sure why this popped up now. Let me make clear what my status is. Although, for the record, it's nobody's business.

:-)

Just over a year ago, we announced that my brother Manuel is the President of KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist). See the blog post annoucement.

So that's what Manuel's up to. He runs the operations and service delivery part of KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist). I do sales, engineering, and keep my eye on the finances.

I have tried stepping back and spending a day here and there at home (working on Great Little Book stuff), but as the business grows, I keep getting sucked back in. Of course I'm also improving my in-office setup for GLB activities.

Anyway, I'm not dissappearing. I haven't dissappeared. I'm not dead yet.

My plan for the foreseeable future is to hang out at, write some books, blog a bit, and putter at whatever seems to make money.

As the economy seems to be headed sidesways for a year or so, I'll be right here where I've been for the last 13 years. Steering the ship of state, as it were. Tending house. Playing with new technologies.

:-)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Interviews on Varvid

A short while ago, I posted about Varvid.com.

Aaron has added a lot of great interviews.

He even posted an interview with yours truly.

See http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/3042618/34306721.

Thank you, Aaron. And congratulations on creating such a great resource for the community.

:-)

Dave Sobel Webinar with Secure My Company

Stuart Selbst forwarded this announcement to me:


Virtualization and Management: Using management tools in a virtualized world

Join Stuart Selbst and our special guest, Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Washington DC Based MSP and author of Virtualization: Defined. A Primer for the SMB Consultant in a webinar that will discuss the challenges in managing a virtual infrastructure, how virtualization is used, and what you need to know to utilize tools from SecureMyCompany in a virtual environment.

We will discuss backup and disaster recovery, system management, and techniques for managing virtual infrastructures. Learn about the different kinds of virtualization and how they change the management approach of systems deployed among customers.

Come join in the discussion on October 30, 2008, 9:00PST. Register at www.securemycompany.com/webinars.

This webinar will be recorded for future playback. Audio will also be enabled to ask questions.

Sincerely,

Stuart Selbst
Vice President - Business/Channel Development
SecureMyCompany, Inc.
866-343-2588 x109
stuart@securemycompany.com
www.securemycompany.com



Let me just add: Mr. Dave Sobel and I just released a new seminar on DVD entitled Designing, Implementing and Making Money with Virtual Environments. It's got the seminar on two DVDs, plus the audio program on two CDs, in case you want to listen to it while driving.

Do not drive while watching the Video!

Check it out right now at http://www.smbbooks.com/products/dvd_virtualization.htm and save 33% with the introductory pricing!

:-)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The SMB Community Watering Hole

SMB Nation is the first, the largest, and the most diverse SMB-focused conference around.

Most consultants who "just" attend a conference once or twice a year may not be aware of all the groups, organizations, and communities that make up the The SMB Community.

Some people attend Jeff's IT Pro conference. Some people attend SMB Summit. Some people belong to HTG. Some belong to MSPSN. Or MSPU. Some people are Microsoft MVPs. Some people come from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, the UK, or a dozen other countries.

But they all come together at SMB Nation -- the great community watering hole.

A few people asked about those who were missing. But the great sub-communities were all represented.

I attended an "HTG All" meeting on Sunday night, so I know that HTG members made up more than 10% of the total attendees.

Our booth had a big package that included membership in both MSPU and SMBTN. I didn't count noses, but at least another 10% belong to each of those groups.

Every year, Harry manages to bring together a collection of people representing just about every community out there.

So yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that I missed the conference and this morning I'm sorry that I won't get to experience it again until next year.

- - - - -

Community in Perspective

I was telling someone yesterday that "I'm Switzerland." I don't feel compelled to belong to this group and not that group. I don't feel compelled to only have these friends and not those friends.

If something has value for my business, I'm going to participate if I can.

We can't all run around the country, or the world, attending every event. But everyone should get involved and attend something.

The landscape is changing and maturing all the time. It's hard to keep up. And it's a lot harder to keep up if you focus on who's friends with whom, who you "should" talk to and who you "shouldn't" talk to, etc.

Let's do business!

I like smaller conferences because they're "high touch." But larger conferences have a completely different look and feel. Sometimes I want to find out where first-timers are in their business. At other times, I want to hang out with experienced CEOs of larger businesses.

So I'll continue to attend a variety of events.

But SMB Nation remains the one big watering hole where we all can meet.

I encourage everyone to come back next year.

I'll see you there.

:-)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Missing SMB Nation 2008

SMB Nation 2008

Sadly, I missed SMB Nation 2008.

I was there. But not there.

Here's what I mean. This year, I signed up as an attendee (for my fifth year in a row). But I also paid full price to be a vendor with a booth.

The booth worked out great. Killed a lot of ducks. Gave away some nerf guns. Had a LOT of visitors.

But I was stuck in the booth.

So I didn't see Ryan Speak. Or Jeff. Or Dave and Mark. Or George. Or Dana. Or Wayne or Susan. or Robert or Matt.

Or anyone.

I didn't get to wander the hallways. In fact, I didn't know where the hallways WERE until Monday.

Being a vendor was great fun. Probably more fun for me than almost anyone else. Lots of people came by the booth and took a shot at a duck, or signed up for the Results Software (www.results-software.com) reseller program. We talked strategy. We analyzed a few businesses.

We had fun.

But I missed SMB Nation. I missed the content. I missed the hallway conversation.

Yeah, I got to be a vendor.

But I missed everything that makes SMB Nation great. I literally don't have the shared experiences that true attendees have.

SMB Nation remains the one, the true, the first SMB-focused and SBS-focused consulting conference ever. I won't miss it again.

Next year you'll see me back in the audience seats. I'll be in the hallways. I'll be asking questions and hanging out at the lunch tables.

My plane leaves in ten minutes. And I'm sad about having missed my first SMB Nation in five years. Yes, I had a GREAT time. Great parties. Great events. But I don't feel I attended the conference.

I miss it. And I'll be back next year.

:-)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Virtualization Seminar on DVD

Getting ready for SMB Nation preday. Last minute post before I get on the airplane.

Dave Sobel gave me the excellent news yesterday: The DVD Seminar on Virtualization is real. It's alive. It's in his suitcase and on it's way to Seattle.

Dude! It's Virtually Awesome!

You know Dave Sobel: Award winning owner and CEO at Evolve Tech, a Microsoft Certified Partner who has made quite a name for himself. (More info on a previous blog.)

Dave and I put on a 4-hour seminar on Designing, Implementing, and Making Money with Virtual Environments.

We had it video-taped and produced into a very professional DVD set. For people who would rather listen while driving and not watch the DVDs, we're also including the seminar on audio CDs.

Here's what we cover:

- Virtualization Basics

- Designing a Virtual Environment

- Virtualization Tools

- Right-Sizing Your Hardware for Virtualization Success

- Implementing a Virtual Project - Profitably

- Managing the Virtual Environment

- Licensing Scenarios

- Building the Future: Hosted machines, instant backups, fast implementations, and more.

This 4-hour seminar on DVD will sell for only $149.95.

But you can order the whole package right now at the introductory rate of only $99.95.

More information is available at SMB Books: http://www.smbbooks.com/products/dvd_virtualization.htm.

Please post comments and questions here.

Check it out.

and I'll see you in Seattle at the big Absolute Best Practices Seminar.
:-)