Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thanks to the Community

Well, what a great event!

When the community needs organizing, a wonderful thing happens. Again and again it happens.

The Bay Area has been absolutely blessed with two new community leaders in the last year: Tim Carney and Alan Helbush. If you've wandered up to SMB Nation in the last couple of years, you'd recognize these two. They are tireless workers on behalf of their community.

Last month they organized an awesome SBS Build event (with the help of Bob Nitrio). They packed the house!

This does not go unnoticed. Our Community PAM Suzanne Lavine contacted Bob (and me) and asked for a reprise.

We waited four seconds and then said YES.

But Bob wouldn't let me help.

Bob went to work orchestrating . . .

With support from Microsoft . . . And the team from the Bay Area.

So Bob steps up and creates a bigger, more amazing event in Sacramento. He talks Tim and Alan into putting on the show, and gets Microsoft to pay for the whole shebang. He gets MVP Amy Babinchak to fly in (on Microsoft's Nickel), gets Sharjeel Noor and Peter Gallagher from the TS2 team, and gets the whole operation broadcast worldwide on Live Meeting.

Oh, and MVPs Susan Bradley and Dana Epp popped in electronically to contribute to the cause.

Somewhere along the way, Harry Brelsford donated about 50 books.

Bob organized a spectacular catered lunch for the event.

And people were beating down the door to get it.

A million details handled very professionally in a few weeks.

I love this community because we can pull off this kind of stuff.

And there never seems to be a shortage of people willing to stand up and deliver.

I'm sure Amy and Suzanne and Tim and Alan and Peter and Sharjeel would all rather have slept in their own beds last night. And Bob certainly would have made more money in his consulting business in February if he weren't putting on an impromptu event for 130 people with all the details.

It starts by asking a few people to contribute what they do best. Then expands by having a few people call in a few favors.

But mostly it takes one or two key people to work their butts off for NO pay so they can make it all happen.

I loved today's event. I'm sure it was more fun live than on the internet.

And I'm honored to be connected to a community where this kind of thing happens again and again all over the world.

And Let's not forget Microsoft . . .

At the "end of the day," as they say, I'm grateful that our community has the support of a channel-friendly company like Microsoft.

There are plenty of suspicions about what Microsoft is up to with their hosted offerings. But their history and their present activities are clear: They make events like this possible. They lend their name, their personnel, their budget, and their resources to us. They use their marketing tools to fill the seats.

(Did I mention that Microsoft gave away about $5,000 worth of software?)

Actions speak louder than words.

Microsoft has channel-friendliness built into its soul.

When they announce foolish programs that side-step the partners, they end up backpeddling and doing damage control in short order.

Just as Dell can't help but screw up their channel program because they are fundamentally a direct sales machine, Microsoft can't help but come crawling back to the community for support. At their very core, Microsoft knows they were built on the channel.

Events like this should not pass without notice.

Some piece of Microsoft might want to move away from the channel. But as of today they're about the best friend the SMB Consultant has among all the vendors we support.

- - - - -

Thank you, Bob Nitrio.

Thank you, Tim Carney.

Thank you, Alan Helbush.

Thank you, Suzanne Lavine.

Thank you, Amy Babinchak.

Thank you, Sharjeel Noor.

Thank you, Peter Gallagher.

Thank you, Susan Bradley.

Thank you, Dana Epp.

Thank you, Harry Brelsford.

Thank you, Microsoft.

Thank you to the community for showing up for events like this.

:-)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Amazing Pre-Day Seminar -- Karl Palachuk and Amy Luby

Mark your calendars and plan to be in Nashville on March 29th.

Sign up now for the big Nashville Pre-Day Event. This event is being held on the site of the Autotask Community gathering, but you do not have to be an Autotask user or conference attendee.

Karl Palachuk on Project Management in a Managed Service Business

We all work projects. But do we all work them profitably and efficiently? Whether you're 100% managed service or just getting started, come and learn the most important elements of keeping project labor on the "billable" side of the ledger.

Amy Luby on How to Manage Your Managed Services

Learn how to keep your staff efficient and your service desk profitable through process efficiencies and workflow management. As a special bonus for attending, you’ll receive MSPSN’s NOC Support Playbook and documentation which is what MSPSN uses internally to keep our Virtual Service Desk efficient and profitable.

Karl Palachuk on Zero Downtime Migration Strategies

Join one of the authors of The Network Migration Workbook forn introduction to SBS Migration that will make your business more profitable and your clients a lot happier.

Freebies:

1) Every attendee will receive a free audio program from SMB Books.

2) Every attendee will receive a free copy of MSPSN’s NOC Support Playbook and documentation which is what MSPSN uses internally to keep our Virtual Service Desk efficient and profitable.

Nashville, TN
1-5 PM
March 29th

Only $99 at the door . . .

ONLY $29.95 when you register online.

(Let's be honest: We just want to pay for the room.)

Find Out More and Register Today!

Buy Now

Monday, February 23, 2009

Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint Arrives!

Well, we took possession today -- a week early -- of the Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint by Harry Brelsford and Philip Elder.

It's Big. It's Blue. It's Beautiful.
Only $59.95

Read on for all the details.

Then Buy it Here.

Or Consider The Killer Combo: Buy this book along with Windows Small Business Server 2008 Unleashed for only $99.95 !!!

- - - - -
This guide to Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 (SBS) product, now part of the Windows Essential Server Solutions family, is grounded in the real world and based on practical experience.

As your blueprint, this book teaches you the SBS way! By using a structured deployment methodology and completing the step-by-step procedures, you will set up a secure SBS 2008 network for a sample small business -- the perfect way to properly implement SBS 2008.

This introductory/intermediate volume allows you to gain competency as an SBSer in:
· Windows Server 2008
· Exchange Server 2007
· Third-party security solutions: firewall, anti-virus, and more
· Remote Web Workplace
· SQL Server 2008
· Windows SharePoint Services
· Faxing
· SBS 2008 administration and troubleshooting
· SBS Consoles
· Monitoring SBS 2008
· Office Live and other hosted components
· Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual SBS 2008 tasks

You will also learn how to centrally control and manage Windows Vista and Windows XP desktops.

Blueprint Pathways

Follow these fundamental blueprint paths to insure maximum SBS 2008 success using the content in this book:
· Plan, deploy, configure, and customize SBS 2008 using a tested methodology
· Support collaboration between workers
· Implement and encourage the use of remote working and mobility
· Protect the SBS 2008 network from security threats
· Back up and protect data using native and third-party tools
· Encourage and foster better communications with e-mail based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
· Automate management by using Group Policy Objects

Chapter Description
SECTION ONE: SMALL BUSINESS SERVER 2008 DEPLOYMENT
1. Welcome to SBS 2008
2. Small Business Server 2008 Design and Planning
3. Small Business Server 2008 Installation
4. Introduction to the SBS Consoles
5. SBS 2008 Deployment
Small Business Server 2008 Photo Essay

SECTION TWO: EXTENDING SMALL BUSINESS SERVER 2008
6. Standard Security in SBS 2008
7. Messaging with Exchange Server 2007 and Outlook 2007
8. Collaboration with Windows SharePoint Services
9. Mobility and Remote Connectivity
10. Faxing and Print
11. Internet and the Web (RWW, Office Live)

SECTION THREE: SMALL BUSINESS SERVER 2008 ADMINISTRATION
12. Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual Tasks
13. Monitoring Small Business Server 2008

SECTION FOUR: SMALL BUSINESS SERVER 2008 ADVANCED TOPICS
14. Advanced Security
15. Small Business Server 2008 Premium Edition (LOB, SQL)
Index
Appendix A: SBS Resources
Appendix Z: Book Configurations

Back Cover Text:
Important
Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint is written from a strong, third-party viewpoint. This independent view insures you get the straight story on the popular SBS product, now in its 5th major release as the 2008 version. You also benefit from the authors' broader SBS 2008 ecosystem conversation, which allows you to make the best decisions when you supplement your SBS 2008 network with third-party security, managed services and monitoring solutions.

About the Authors

Two authors have teamed together to deliver Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint into your hands:
· Canadian Philip Elder, a well-known SBSer and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for SBS, is cofounder of MPECS, Inc. in Saint Albert, Calgary.
· Harry Brelsford is the CEO of SMB Nation and the author of more than 15 books relating to small- and medium-business technology consulting ?8364;" including several books on past versions of SBS.

Both authors have extensive SBS experience dating back to the start of the product life cycle in 1997..

- - - - -

Listen to the SMB Conference Call where Harry and Pilip discuss this book -- and the world of SBS 2008 -- with yours truly.

Go to the SMB Conference Call Archives.

- - - - -

Did I mention . . .

You can Buy Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint Here.

Or buy the Killer Combo: Buy this book along with Windows Small Business Server 2008 Unleashed for only $99.95 !!!

:-)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Zenith and The Big Monthly Maintenance Checklist

In the comments to my recent blog post on The Almighty Checklists, Nick asked . . . "Any chance of sharing your monthly maint checklist that Zenith do for you? Just started our trial with them and so far we're very impressed."

Well, we're not ready to release our big "core" monthly maintenance checklist. If you haven't seen the infamous 68-point checklist (68-Point Checklist version 2.0), just go to the White Papers page at SMB Books. No credit card required. Instant download in PDF format. That will give you a good idea of what we're up to.

But here's the deal with Zenith: There are tiers of checklist reporting that are needed.

Our original checklist was created before SBS was released into the wild. So it was an NT 4.0 network maintenance checklist and evolved from there. (That, in turn, evolved from an NT 3.51 checklist I used on a half-dozen servers before I got into the consulting biz.)

Anyway, the point is that the core things we monitor haven't changed.

We used to go on site once a month to verify average server queue, free disc space, errors in the security logs, etc.

Then we started working with SBS and an ever-improving error reporting system. The sophistication of what we could do automatically went way up.

At that time, we developed the "roll your own" remote monitoring and patch management system described in the book Service Agreements for SMB Consultants. We sold the monitoring-only service for $150/server/month.

We evolved.

Technology evolved.

Enter Zenith Infotech. Way more than the automated systems. Whether you like it or not, a pair of human eyes can tell more about a system than any automated process.

Like many people who send me questions and comments, we went through a learning process with Zenith. It involved a certain dedication that we were going to make the relationship work. After that, we monitored everything with both Zenith and Kaseya (and our human technicians).

Eventually, it became clear that Zenith never missed critical event.

Once we came to the conclusion that Zenith was 100% reliable on monitoring, we integrated them into the "monthly maintenance" process.

Basically, all monthly maintenance chores consist of three types of activities:

1) Monitored automatically. These items can be removed from monthly maintenance once it is clear that we'll never miss a critical alert.
Examples:
- Disc space used/free
- Are all services running and not stopping/restarting all the time?
- Verify that diskeeper is running properly

2) Can be completed remotely. These items can be completed by Zenith because remote is remote. So why would we do it ourselves?
Examples:
- Check defragmentation level and, if over 1.25, schedule a forced defrag
- Check for "Stop Signs" in the system logs, application logs, etc. Address if necessary
- Perform internet speed tests

3) Need to go onsite. These items require a technician onsite. So we go.
Examples:
- Check with the client contact for any new or outstanding issues
- Verify backup, label tapes for offsite storage, and give them to the appropriate person
- Update the Network Documentation Binder Tech Notes with relevant information

The Bottom Line:

We have basically turned over 99% of our monthly maintenance to Zenith. The thing we just haven't been able to hand off completely has been complete maintenance of the backup systems. Some things have to be done in person and clients are amazingly unwilling to take this seriously.

So backups fall into the category of "We are taking care you because you refuse to take care of yourself." Countin the number tapes on the shelf cannot be handled by a remote technician. Maybe we'll install web cams for this. :-)

Consider this: If YOU can do it remotely, or a really good technician could do it remotely, then turn it over to Zenith. Let them do it remotely. After all, they've got a small army of really good technicians. They're not all "server class," but a lot of them are. And the better you are at managing them, the better they respond.

- - - - -

A taste of the future:

We're trying to finish the book on Network Migrations.

When it's done, we're going to sit down and figure out how much of a network migration could be done remotely.

Cleaning up desktops? Yes.

Installing SBS per our specifications, or using our answer file? Yes.

Copying an SQL database and testing? Yes.

Setting up all users and migrationg mailboxes? Yes.

Migrating Sharepoint? Better them than me.

How cool would it be to turn over 25 hours of a 30 hour migration to Zenith and let them handle everything remotely? And at $40/hour, we still have a tidy margin.

I love the 21st Century.

[NOTE: This blog post revised October 2012 to reflect the new location of Karl's 68-Point Checklist, ver 2.0.]

:-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Checklists Save Lives

We've been talking about Checklists.

And along comes some interesting news from the New England Journal of Medicine . . .

When hospitals used a checklist before and during a surgery, the rate of deaths and complications was dramatically lower.

Pretty cool, huh?

Research was conducted in eight cities (Toronto, Canada; New Delhi, India; Amman, Jordan; Auckland, New Zealand; Manila, Philippines; Ifakara, Tanzania; London, England; and Seattle, WA) representing a variety of economic circumstances and diverse populations of patients.

Researchers collected information on 3733 patients who were undergoing noncardiac surgery.

Then they collected info on 3955 patients after the introduction of a standard Surgical Safety Checklist.

They measured the rate of complications, including death, during hospitalization within the first 30 days after the operation.

The Results

The rate of death was 1.5% before the checklist was introduced and declined to 0.8% afterward.

Inpatient complications occurred in 11.0% of patients before the institution of the checklist and in 7.0% after.

- - - - -

Let's talk reality: You are not likely to cut death rates or injury rates in half by using checklists. But wouldn't it be great if you cut costly mistakes in half?

How about if you cut rework in half?

Let's say rework costs you $25 or $30 per hour in hard costs. And more importantly, each of those hours represents an hour not bringin in another $100 or $125.

Cut that in half and you'll save a lot of money.

Consistency.

Reproducability.

Hmmmm . . . Sounds like a good idea.

:-)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Announcement from SMBTN: SMB Summit Opportunities

The SMB Summit web site is up and in full swing at www.smbsummit.com.

How would you like to save $400 off the regular conference price right now?

Jim Locke announced these details on the SMB Conference Call this morning. He'll be going public to the world on Friday. In the meantime, you can take advantage of this early-early registration offer right now.

Here are the details:

First, there's a $100 early bird discount until the end of February.

Second, there's a $100 discount for using the code below.

Third, in addition to all that, SMBTN has a new Vendor Rewards Program. With this program, you agree to attend one or two of the vendor presentations at the SMB Summit and, at the end of the presentation, you will receive a $100 gift card (limit 2).

Those who sign up first can receive up to $200, others will receive up to $100. Slots for both programs are limited.

Here is how it breaks down for different groups:





Type Regular
Price
Early-Bird
Disc
Vendor
Rewards
Double
Vendor Rewards
Net
Cost
SMBTN Business Member$595-$100-$100-$100$295
SMBTN Community Member$695-$100-$100-$100$395
Attendee$795-$100-$100-$100$495
Attendee with Discount Code
- - smbbooks09
$695-$100-$100-$100$395


Note: The only folks eligible for the SMB Books discount are those who start out at the attendee level. Everyone else is already getting a major discount.

Remember, there are additional benefits to becoming an SMBTN Member as well, including a one year subscription to EventID.

My company -- KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) -- is a corporate member of SMBTN. I recommend this group very highly. Even the "free" membership has great benefits.

- - - - -

And, by the way, Congratulations to SMBTN for continuing to find new and interesting ways to bring great content to the SMB Consulting community.

This will be the 5th Annual SMB Summit!

The theme is "Preparing for the Upswing: Insights and Best Practices for a changing economy."

There will be tracks on Business Management, Sales & Marketing, and Service & Technical.

Speakers will tentatively include Wayne Small, Erick Simpson, Karl Palachuk, Matt Mackowicz, Ken Thorsen, Stuart Crawford and a host of others.

The event will also feature a pre-day events by Robin Robbins and others, vendor training, and the new SMB Summit awards program, sponsored by SMBTN and ChannelPro SMB magazine.

See you there!

:-)

Get Your Community Story Featured in New O'Reilly Book

I got an email recently from Marsee Henon, UG Manager at O'Reilly Books. She gave me permission to repost it here.

If you missed your opportunity to get a story in "Chicken Soup for the Nerd's Soul" then we've got a great opportunity for you.

From Marsee:

    We're working on a new book called the "The Art Of Community: The Book On Building Community" by author Jono Bacon and we need your help.

    As part of Jono's aim to use stories and anecdotes to illustrate the concepts in the book, he is looking for your great stories of community building. He has gathered content from a range of contributors including Jeremy Allison (Samba), Chris Messina (SpreadFirefox), Leslie Hawthorn (Google), Paul Hudson (Linux Format Magazine), Mike Linksvayer (Creative Commons), Cristina Verduzco (SPCA), Ton Roosendaal (Blender) and many more.

    Jono explains:
    "Hi everyone! I am really excited about making The Art Of Community a diverse, wide-ranging guide to building strong community. I am really excited about hearing community stories from a range of areas, inside and outside of Open Source, Technology and Media. If you have interesting (and possibly amusing) stories that you feel illustrate interesting examples of building processes, setting up infrastructure, creating buzz and excitement, managing conflict, organizing events, communicating effectively, scaling up community, measuring your work or anything else, I would love to hear your story. Simply send me an email to jono@jonobacon.org with a short Bio of yourself and your story.

    If it fits well in the book, I will be sure to add it. Thanks everyone!"

    So there you have it: get your community featured in the hot new community book from Jono Bacon. Jono is busily writing, so send your stories in as soon as possible!

    Related Links:
    --------------

    * Art Of Community website - www.artofcommunityonline.org/
    * Twitter Updates - www.twitter.com/jonobacon
    * identi.ca Updates - http://identi.ca/jonobacon
    * Art Of Community Facebook Page - www.facebook.com/pages/Art-of-Community/58251029357
    * Jono Bacon's Website - www.jonobacon.org/

    Read on for more information about the book--

    Every software project, online site, or company has to manage the community of interested people surrounding it. The community is the source of new ideas, a reliable support network, and the best marketing tool. When money is tight, making the best use of the community is even more critical.

    Author Jono Bacon http://www.jonobacon.org/ has been building and managing communities for over a decade, particularly in areas of Open Source software such as KDE and Ubuntu. He is currently Community Manager for Ubuntu, probably the largest community in the Open Source software area. His experience and his relationships with other communities and leaders provide a rich and deep well of expertise for this book.

    In The Art of Community you'll experience the broad range of talents required to recruit members, motivate them, manage them, and make them happy to be part of your community, online or otherwise. Bacon takes you through the different stages of community and covers the information you'll need, ranging from software tools to conflict resolution skills.

    The Art Of Community underlines and illustrates this large body of knowledge with a compendium of stories, anecdotes and tales that bring the concepts to life. Bacon's amusing and witty writing style makes the Art Of Community a fun read that is sure to help you build strong, effective and engaging communities.

    As Bacon writes The Art Of Community, a new community is gathering around the book at www.artofcommunityonline.org where he is regularly providing writing updates, sneak peeks of the content, news and discussion about building strong community.

    The Art Of Community will be published by O'Reilly and also available online under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial ShareAlike license.

    Thanks for your help!

    Marsee Henon
    UG Manager
    O'Reilly
    marsee@oreilly.com
    http://ug.oreilly.com


The SMB/SBS community is on the largest, strongest communities on earth. It is in over a hundred countries, it exists in both the physical and the online worlds. We have some great stories.

Let's share!

:-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Communications: Overwhelming Success Becomes Overwhelming Failure

I'm going to rethink the format for my weekly SMB Email.

And I welcome your feedback.

If you haven't been receiving this free resource, please go to the Great Little Book web site and sign up now.

First, let me share what I've seen with other information sources delivered by email.

I have three unnamed examples in mind. One is massively large software company with a million things going on. One is an international organization with a visible leader, reporting on all things inside the organization and affected by the organization. And the third is an organization dedicated completely to helping its members be spectacularly successful.

In each case, I have subscribed to an email list from a person I know, whose name and face I recognize.

In each case, the email came on a more-or-less regular basis and was very helpful.

In each case, the email filtered the universe into a finite number of things that were really useful to me.

In each case, the email list grew to be very popular. More subscribers. More information. Move promotions. More and more and more. Overwhelmingly successful.

and then . . .

In each case, the email became a huge long thing that no longer filtered the universe. It seemed to be so complete that it tried to represent the universe.

And, at that point, each email became useless. I found myself glancing through it to see if there is anything interesting. If nothing popped out of the jumble of information, then I deleted it.

In each case, the email grew to the point that collapsed from its own weight: too full of information to serve as a filter.

All successful resources are in danger of dying because of their own success.

For Example:

I used to have a TPAM who truly filtered my Microsoft universe. He called me with one or two things that really needed my attention. So I did whatever he wanted.

My current TPAM just throws everything he can at me. I just got off a phone call in which he walked me through the same powerpoint slide deck he uses with everyone else. Unless I miscounted, it had links to 84 opportunities, web sites, webinars, trainings, conference calls, TS2 events, etc.

It did not include the big SBS Build event in Sacramento at the end of the month.

- - - - -

If I could take true advantage of 1% of what Microsoft offers me, it would dramatically improve my business.

- - - - -

But the same is true with Robin Robins, The ASCII Group, SMB Nation, SMBTN, MSPU, MSPSN, Comptia, and a half dozen other groups.

As the recipient of all this information, I put a premium on the few people and few resources that help me filter "the universe" of things I need to pay attention to.

So, all of that gets me thinking about my own little mailing lists.

My SMB Email list has a very good "open" rate for a list of it's kind. I have a very consistent 30-45% open rate on each email. Believe it or not, that's good.

But I am also under a lot of pressure from more and more people to include announcements that they think my audience will want. So far, I've kept that email pretty well focused on what *I* think you need to know right now (plus a blatant ad or two for my books).

I provide a pretty complete calendar of the major in-person events you might want to attend this year. We have about 35 events.

We also have upcoming SMB Conference Call Speakers.

And some general B.S. and commentary on our business and what's going on with books and seminars at Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc.

If I need to make changes to keep up with your information needs, let me know.

But my goal is to NOT repeat information you are likely to get somewhere else.

I don't want my weekly SMB Email to collapse of its own weight.

Please let me know what you think and what direction it needs to go. Even if you don't want any changes, I would appreciate that feedback.

You can post here or email karlp@greatlittlebook.com.

Thanks.
:-)

Special Announcement - Wednesday 8:55 AM PST

It has come to my attention that SMBTN is posting a major announcement at the end of this week.

So I asked Jim Locke to jump in a few minutes before the SMB Conference Call and spill the beans.

Our conference call is with Joe Panetierri from MSP Mentor and we'll be talking about the just-released MSP Mentor Top 100 list AND about success in the MSP space generally.

But please join us five minutes early for a special annoucement from Jim Locke.

Jim will describe a very exciting program that you'll want to hear about -- and give you an early-bird opportunity on a brand new program in the SMB space.

Of course you'll want to join the SMB Conference call.

But please register here:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/717412603

or learn more on the SMB Conference Call Page.

and Join us at 8:55 AM Pacific (12 Noon Eastern) for a very special announcement from Jim.

:-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Third Tier on Exchange in SBS 2008

If you haven't heard of Third Tier, here's a great intro:

A gaggle of Microsoft MVPs get together to provide a super webinar on Exchange 2007 as implemented in SBS 2008.

The featured presenter is David Shackelford, Exchange MVP. Check it out and you'll learn about the new features and how to manage Exchange in the SBS 2008 environment.

When: Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 12:00 PM (EST)

Duration: 1:00

Register now via Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/mvp/join?id=NNH33Q&role=attend&pw=k%7C%2F3j3w%23P

- - - - -

And who is this "Third Tier?"

Well, it's a great backup support service from some amazing talent:

- Amy Babinchak

- Eriq Neale

- David Shackelford

- Chad Gross


For a quick intro to what Third Tier is all about, see the intro to my SMB Conference Call with Eriq Neale.


And while you're at it, check out their blog at
http://www.thirdtier.net/blog


Oh, and take a look at their web site at
http://www.thirdtier.net


Check out the webinar and stay tuned for more more great content from these superstars.

:-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

City of Redmond to Add High Levels of Lithium to Drinking Water

Apple has kicked Microsoft's butt for years with their clever marketing.

I personally remember the first Apple advertisement I ever saw: A full page newspaper ad welcoming IBM to the personal computer market.

Ooops.

Very clever ad. Did not do the trick. In very short order IBM, Microsoft, and an absolute army of wannabes crushed Apple and left them with a microscopic share of the market.

Why? Three primary reasons account for this:

1) Price. Part of Apple's strategy is to control the entire experience. That means no cloning and no competition within their little universe. PC price wars started six minutes after the PC was introduced and continue today.

2) Flexibility. For every business related application that runs on a Mac there are 7,952 that run on a PC. This wasn't always true, but evolved over time. For example, in the world of manufacturing, it is easier to buy a box full of microchips and write your own programming language than it is to control a machine with a Mac.

3) The people who SELL this stuff also like to play with it. They like to take it apart, upgrade this, adjust that, overclock the processor, stuff RAM up it's nose. You can't do any of that with a Mac. You can open it. You can dust the inside. But the number of cool things you can do with it don't fill an afternoon.

In the end, all of these come down to one huge weakness: Absolute Control Freak behavior at Apple.

So anyway, . . .

Then out of nowhere comes the iPod.

Awhile back I wrote about Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind. The iPod is a perfect example of how Pink's theory works. Style. Sizzle. Superb functionality that is literally wrapped in perfect presentation.

The iPod was technical perfection in your hand. It just worked. It had no controls that made any sense to anyone with any computer experience. But everyone knew how to use it as soon as they touched it.

Apple became an MP3 maker with a side business building computers. I'm not exaggerating here.

Then came the iPhone. Instantly, it became the standard against which all phones are measured. Hard core anti-Apple people found themselves buying iPhones. $500? No problem. What? Cutting the price of my phone in half right after I bought it? No problem. What? I need a new iPhone six months later for $500? No problem.

Apple sells crack in a phone-shaped container.

and on a much smaller scale . . .

Apple has successfully beat up Microsoft in the P.R. game. The whole I'm a Mac/PC thing kicked Microsoft's butt.

Microsoft's attempt to come up with something even remotely good resulted in making them a laughing stock among their partners, vendors, resellers, and employees. Their stupid ad campaign can be summed up as: What the hell was that?

- - - - -

Reality check:

Apple has a market capitalization of $88 Billion on revenues of $33 Billion. Profit is $11 Billion.

Microsoft has a market capitalization of $170 Billion on revenues of $62 Billion. Profit is $49 Billion.

Stop. Think.

Would you have guessed that Apple is more than 50% of the size of Microsoft?

But Microsoft has more than four times the profit.

Good news or bad news? It depends on which numbers you look at.

Unfortunately for those of us in the business of supporting small businesses:

1) We don't really have any viable options for 90% of our clients. We sell Microsoft operating systems and software.

2) Microsoft's leadership is focusing on the wrong things.

First, Microsoft's leadership is obsessed with Apple's ability to look good, have great products, and own the P.R. market.

Who cares?

Microsoft should NOT be in the MP3 player market. You can't do it right. Get out now. Go compete at what you do very well: Building great software.

"Boo hoo. Apple has a better ad campaign than we do."

Who cares?

1) Apple has never taken market share because of their ad campaigns. Clever award-winning campaigns have nothing to do with making people buy stuff. Clever award-winning campaigns help marketing companies compete for shiny glass marketing industry awards. That doesn't make you money!

Everyone at the top tiers of Microsoft needs to read The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. Then please have them fire every single person remotely related to marketing.

Look at history. Welcome to the PC market, IBM.

Apple has clever, ineffective marketing. Who cares? Microsoft shouldn't.

2) If Microsoft focused on making SOFTWARE and pushing it through the CHANNEL, they would have nothing to worry about.

I used to be able to answer the question about what Microsoft does. But not anymore.

Their so-called leadership has become depressed and obsessed with Apple.

Apple: On a good day, 10% of the market.

Apple: Proprietary, closed, over-priced systems that cannot compete in 80-90% of businesses in the world.

Apple: A company that will probably disintegrate when Jobs is gone.

Apple: A hardware manufacturer that makes most of their money in the telephone and MP3 player business.

Apple: The company that threw away their own operating system in favor of a Linux flavor. Like Tivo or Novell.

I'm sure the leadership at Apple is happy when they eke out another .01% of the market. But I'm also sure they don't obsess about it. Apple understands the business they're in. They don't compete with Microsoft.

Microsoft does not understand the business they're in. They think they compete with Apple.

As someone with a great deal at stake with Microsoft, I really want them to focus on what they do well and what they can do well. Focus. Focus. Focus.

- - - - -

I used to think that petty personal bickering and corporate penis envy was limited to small companies.

But Microsoft has demonstrated over and over that they are completely obsessed with personal competitions with the folks at Apple and Google.

The latest example:

Microsoft to Open Retail Stores

Every single person who hears this has the same reaction: Who's running that company?

Answer: People who are depressed and obsessed with Apple, and who have lost any focus on what Microsoft can do better than anyone else.

This is just another example of Microsoft playing Apple's game. And why? Ugh . . . well . . . we don't know.

This move is so bizarre, I don't know where to begin. The Dell Stores went out of business. The Gateway Stores went out of business. Circuit City went out of business. Egg Head Software? Long gone.

Hey, Microsoft: Did you hear that people are moving to the cloud? Yeah. They're going to be buying software online. I don't mean to crush your dreams, but you're a software company.

- - - - -

And so comes the Lithium.

I have learned that a secret meeting of the Redmond City Council was held last night. They voted unanimously to add massive amounts of Lithium to the drinking water in an attempt to overcome widespread depression on the Microsoft campus.

The goal is to help Microsoft's leaders slow down, think about the big picture, stop being depressed, and save their company before it is destroyed by irrational behavior.

My dear friends at Microsoft: If you see yourself as playing the game of creating the best software in the world, then you will realize that you are winning.

Let the guy with the turtleneck sell MP3 players. Who cares?

:-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Right Now Sale at SMB Books

Happy President's Day from SMB Books!

In honor of the President's Day holiday AND Valentine's Day, we're having a special sale over at SMBBooks.com.

It's very simple:

If you buy Eriq Neale's new book SBS 2008 Unleashed plus ANY other product from SMB Books, you will receive a

$20 discount on your order.

Promo Code: unleash08

- - - - -

This even includes the Super Bundle of E-books:

- Service Agreements for SMB Consultants - A Quick-Start Guide to Managed Services

- The Network Documentation Workbook

- The Super-Good Project Planner for Technology Consultants

Plus the bonus MP3:
- Managed Services in a Month audio book

You get all three ebooks plus the MP3 download for only $199.

Buy them with Eriq's book and you'll receive another $20 off!

Promo Code: unleash08

- - - - -

If you already have Eriq's new book, you can still save $10 off your order right now with

Promo Code: oyoyoy

- - - - -

Please tell all your friends.

Books make a lovely Valentine's Day gift.

Also note that we are closed until Tuesday February 17th. All non-electronic orders will ship on that day.

Thank you. Happy Valentine's Day.

Go Save Money Right Now

Enjoy!

:-)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Super SBS 2008 Build Event

The Sacramento SMB IT Pro User Group is helping to sponsor a LIVE SBS 2008 "Build" for the entire world.

Tim Carney, Alan Helbush, and Bob Nitrio put on a spectacular build event a few weeks ago in the Bay Area.

In fact, it was so successful that our attempt to do it again in Sacramento has bloomed into a major event, with . . .

Live Presntations by . . .

- Tim Carney (Bay Area SBS IT)

- Alan Helbush (Bay Area SBS IT)

- Bob Nitrio (Sacramento SMB IT Pros)

- Sharjeel Noor (Microsoft TS2 team>

- Peter Gallagher (Microsoft TS2 team)

- Amy Babinchak (managing partner of Third Tier and a Microsoft MVP)

Remote presentations will be made by

- Susan Bradley (Microsoft MVP and SBS Diva)

- Dana Epp (Microsoft MVP)

Live Event AND Live Meeting

Date and Time: Saturday, February 28 from 9:30 AM to 4 PM
Location: Microsoft office downtown Sacramento

In-Person seating is limited to 50 people. Please register ASAP if you want to attend. Be sure to follow the instructions regarding your meal selections. The cost is $20 to cover lunch and related snackage.

In-Person Registration link:
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=135646

Live Meeting Registration link:
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=135655


Agenda

• Minimum and recommended hardware requirements
• Use of the Answer File
• Network changes from SBS 2003
• The new Management Console
• Other highly useful information
• Migration tasks, experiences and caveats
• Securing SBS 2008 with AuthAnvil (Dana Pep – Microsoft MVP)
• Edge security devices – Amy Babinchak – Microsoft MVP
• SBS 2008 Gotchas (Susan Bradley – Microsoft MVP)
• Licensing
• Mobility
• How to setup your own internal network
• And More!


Door Prizes

We have door prizes from

Microsoft:
- Small Business Server 2008 Premium
- 2 Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate
- 4 Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate

SMB Nation:
- 24 copies of SMB Consulting Best Practices
- 24 copies of the Small Business Specialist exam prep book
- More info at www.smbnation.com

SMB Books:
- 10 copies of the Super-Good Project Planner for Technical Consultants
- More info at www.smbbooks.com


And More

Knowing this team, we'll have even more stuff piled on before we're done.

Sign up NOW - especially for the live event. Strict limit of 50 seats.


Special Thanks go to Suzanne Lavine for being the best PAM in the world. Her faith in Tim, Alan, and Bob led to complete support and an amazing event. Now it has led to an even bigger event. Thank you, SuzL.

- - - - -

Official Description:

The Sacramento SMB IT Pros (SSMBITP) and the Bay Area Small Business Information Technology Specialists' Users Group (BASBiTS) are pleased to announce a special event for Microsoft partners – a one-day Small Business Server 2008 build event and technical education opportunity.

Event Date: Saturday, February 28, 2009

Event Location: The Microsoft Sacramento office
300 Capitol Mall, Suite 100
Sacramento, California

Event Time: 10 AM to 4 PM (Sign-in at 9:30 AM)

Note: Due to the amount of information to be presented at this event, we will start promptly at 10 AM. Please arrive as close to 9:30 AM as possible in order to sign-in and be seated in a timely manner.

Capacity: 50 In-Person Attendees


Event Cost: $20.00 (includes lunch/refreshments) – Cash Only, Please

Registration is required. Please indicate your meal choices in the text box titled "Please tell us where you heard about this event".

Entrée Choices:
Tri-tip sandwich
Grilled chicken breast sandwich or
A Caesar salad entrée
Side dish choices - select two, please.

Potato salad
Macaroni salad
Mixed greens salad
Beverages and light snacks will also be provided.

This event will showcase a live step-by-step SBS 2008 build, including joining XP Pro and Vista clients to the domain and a review of the other post-installation Getting Started Tasks. Interspersed throughout the build will be discussions of various topics such as:

• Minimum and recommended hardware requirements
• Use of the Answer File
• Network changes from SBS 2003
• The new Management Console
• Other highly useful information

Following the networking luncheon we will discuss:

• Migration tasks, experiences and caveats
• Securing SBS 2008 with AuthAnvil (Dana Pep – Microsoft MVP)
• Edge security devices – Amy Babinchak – Microsoft MVP
• SBS 2008 Gotchas (Susan Bradley – Microsoft MVP)
• Licensing
• Mobility
• How to setup your own internal network

The presentation team of Tim Carney and Alan Helbush (BASBiTS) will be joined by Sharjeel Noor and Peter Gallagher from the Microsoft TS2 team, together with Amy Babinchak, managing partner of Third Tier and a Microsoft MVP. Remote presentations will be made by Susan Bradley and Dana Epp, both Microsoft MVPs.

Tim Carney, MCP & Small Business Specialist

Tim has been providing technical consulting services to emerging Bay Area businesses since 2002. Involved in Microsoft’s Small Business Specialist Community for several years Tim co-founded BASBiTS.org a San Francisco Bay Area users’ group for Small Business Information Technology Specialists. For the 15 years prior to starting his consulting business, he was the CFO and CTO for a 45 person Copier Sales and Services Business in Silicon Valley. Tim was the primary technical force in changing its sales focus from Telex to Facsimile, from Fax to Copiers, from Analog to Digital, and from Stand Alone to Connected. Tim’s technical passions include Small Business Server, Infrastructure Security and Mobility Enablement. Tim is an Eagle Scout and has a B.S. degree in Business Management. Tim blogs on http://sbs-mobility.blogspot.com and recently co-presented with Eric Ligman on Licensing for the Small Business Specialist for the 5W/50 Webcast Core Business Series http://www.mssmallbiz.com/training/.

Alan Helbush, MCP, & Small Business Specialist

Alan has over 25 year of Information Technology experience. Alan opened Where To Start, Inc. Technology Solutions in 1999, providing “Big Business” IT and Managed Service Strategies tailored for mid-sized businesses including medical centers and non-profit organizations. With his detailed and methodical approach, Alan excels at network design, integrating security, implementing best practices and maintaining a hands-on customer service approach. Alan co-founded BASBiTS.org a San Francisco Bay Area users’ group for Small Business Information Technology Specialists, and was one of the first Small Business Specialists in the region. Alan’s technical passions include Compliance, Small Business Server, Infrastructure Security, Response Point and Exchange 2007. While previously employed with premium high-tech companies within the Silicon Valley, Alan honed his IT skills to match technology to business requirements while maintaining an eye on the businesses mission and goals.

Peter Gallagher, Microsoft TS2 Team

Peter Gallagher joined Microsoft in October of 1998. He started out supporting the Windows 9x platform until the 2000 time frame. He then moved to the Small Business Server support team where he supported SBS 4.0 through SBS 2003 R2. Peter’s decision to join the TS2 team was a natural extension of his forming of the DFW SBS Users Group in 2004. He enjoys working with Microsoft Partners around the Small Business Server product. In Peter’s spare time he enjoys cycling, playing XBOX, drinking fruity drinks on sandy beaches (little umbrellas are optional) and goofing around with technology.

Amy Babinchak, MCP, Small Business Specialist & Microsoft Forefront MVP specializing in ISA

Amy owns Harbor Computer Services, a consulting firm specializing in providing IT services to small businesses. She is also Managing Partner of Third Tier, which provides advanced support services to other consultants and vendors. She has written articles, contributed to the SBS Unleashed books, is the technical editor for others, has been a speaker to many user groups, and conferences. Amy recently founded the EBS virtual user group. She can be founded on her blogs at http://securesmb.harborcomputerservices.net and http://www.thirdtier.net/blog as well as SBS and EBS newsgroups and mailing lists.
This will be an information-packed day and seating will be limited to fifty attendees. In order to accommodate as many people as possible, there will also be a Live Meeting connection for an additional fifty virtual attendees.

Susan Bradley

Susan has been a SBSer since the SBS 4.0 era (and has the old media to prove it) and blogs on SBS and other tech topics at www.sbsdiva.com. She writes articles on Patch issues for Brian Livingston's WindowsSecrets.com and has been an author on Eriq Neale's SBS 2008 Unleashed as well as an author on the Windows 2008 Server Security Resource Kit. Susan was honored as the SBSer of the year at SMB Nation 2008 and is a Microsoft SBS MVP.

Dana Epp

Dana Epp is a security expert with the awarded designation as a Microsoft Security MVP, who focuses on helping to secure small and mid-sized businesses. He has developed a strong authentication and identity assurance solution called AuthAnvil that greatly increases the confidence and assurance business owners need when allowing remote access to their company assets when using Microsoft’s server solutions. Epp is the author of “Computer Security Concepts: Managing Business Threats in a Wired World”, a book written to explain at an executive level how to handle the threats of online risk as companies move to the new digital economy, and is the author of the popular security blog “Dana Epp’s Rambling at the Sanctuary”.

Directions to the event: The Microsoft office is located on the southeast corner of 3rd Street and Capitol Mall and is accessible via I-5. 3rd Street is a one-way street in the southbound direction.

From the West - Take I-80 east and continue east on US 50. Options include Jefferson Boulevard (CA 275) and I-5 north to J Street. Please consult your favorite map tool for details.

From the North – Take I-5 southbound. Multiple options exist, so please consult your favorite map tool for details.

From the South – Take I-5 northbound and take the J Street exit. Stay in the right lane and turn right on to 3rd Street southbound to Capitol Mall.

From the East – Take US 50 west, transition to I-5 north and take the J Street exit as noted above.

Parking: The parking garage in the building may be available for attendees. The entrance is located on N Street. Metered parking is located on nearby streets (make note of time limits and park accordingly). Additional parking is available in a lot immediately west of the building, which is accessible via 2nd Street. Google Maps’ satellite view is the best way to locate this lot.

:-)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SMB Nation East 2009 - Details

It's Live. It's Real. It's happening!

And it's very reasonably priced!

SMB Nation's Spring Conference is going to be May 1-3, 2009 in the New York City-area.

Got to www.smbnation.com to learn more and register.

From Mr. Harry B:

-----

Content Is King!
Judge us first by our content! And then our character Here is the content session lineup offering over 20+ academic lectures over three days at the 4th Annual SMB Nation Spring conference:

GeekSpeak
1. Why Cloud Computing is the Future for Small Businesses
2. Leveraging Windows Essential Server Solutions to Enhancing Remote Productivity
3. Small Business Server 2008 Secrets
4. Essential Business Server 2008 Secrets
5. Migration Techniques for 2008 Platforms
6. Microsoft Voice and Unified Communications
7. Microsoft Response Point Secrets (Including Service Pack 2.0!)
8. GeekSpeak Panel MVP and VIPs
9. Group Policy in SBS 2008
10. Taking Unified Communications One Step at a Time
11. Making Mobility Happen - A Multi-Vendor Approach
12. And more content coming!

BusinessSpeak
1. BusinessSpeak Panel VIPs
2. Street-Smart Branding - your path to Growth
3. Everything Legal - Take 2
4. Total Small Business Management Using OneNote 2007
5. Businesses Win, Businesses Run Like Jobs Will Lose
6. Exit Strategy: "Run It Like You're Gonna Sell It" To Maximize Profit Now and Build Business Value for the Future
7. Town Hall Meeting - Looking Forward!
8. Speed Dating
9. Technology Solutions for The New IT Economy
10. How To Get SaaSy! Software as a Service (Hosted)
11. And more content coming!

Speakers
Only the best and brightest are invited to present and these speakers have been carefully vetted for to add the highest value! Check out this smoking hot line-up!
1. Jeff Middleton
2. Eriq Neale
3. Tony Bradley
4. Philip Elder
5. Harry Brelsford
6. Dana Epp
7. Greg Starks
8. George Siercho
9. Ben Yarbrough
10. Grant Thompson
11. Vlad Shmunis
12. Todd Colbeck
13. Jeff Connaly
14. Eric Steinberg
15. Scott Barlow
16. Ashutosh Tiwary
17. Joe Schurman
18. Joel Allen
And more coming!

Agenda!

Friday May 1st
All Day Hallway 101 Peer-to-Peer Interaction

All Day SMB Photo portfolio sessions

9:00am - 11:30am PRE-DAY: How To Be A Trusted Business Advisor
9:00am - 11:30am PRE-DAY: Your Professional Makeover! "Give Your Business a Facelift"
12:30pm - 1:00pm Registration
1:00pm - 2:00pm Keynote
2:15pm - 3:45pm General Sessions
3:45pm - 4:00pm PM Break
4:00pm - 5:30pm General Sessions
5:30pm - 7:30pm Marketplace Expo Reception
7:30pm till Evening Activities

Saturday May 2nd
All Day SMB Photo portfolio sessions

All Day Hallway 101 Peer-to-Peer Interaction

7:30-8:30 Breakfast
8:00-9:30 General Sessions
9:30-10:15 Marketplace Expo and AM Break
10:15-11:45 General Sessions
11:45-1:15 Marketplace Expo and Lunch
1:15-2:15 Keynote
2:15-3:45 General Sessions
3:45-4:30 Marketplace Expo and PM Break
2:30-6:00 General Sessions
6:00pm till Ending Activities

Sunday May 3rd
All Day SMB Photo portfolio sessions

All Day Hallway 101 Peer-to-Peer Interaction

7:30am - 8:30am Breakfast
8:00-9:30 General Sessions
9:30-11:00 Marketplace Expo, AM Break and Raffle
11:00-12:30 General Sessions
12:30-1:30 Keynote and Lunch
1:30 - 3:00 Town Hall Meeting, Technology Speed Dating
3:00 End of Conference, Private Meetings

*Schedule is subject to change

Pricing
Save hundreds this spring and see, hear and even feel great content! And take advantage of our payment plan (kinda like a "student loan" with $99 per month payments - we will bank your future) so you can BE THERE!

Note that the early bird pricing expires April 2nd!

Regular Price $395.00

Early Bird $296.00

Alumni $195.00

Day Rate $145.00

Register at www.smbnation.com.

-----
:-)

Monday, February 09, 2009

An ACH Tale of Woe

My so-called friends Vlad and Erick have been poking me with a stick to go public regarding an incident that happened last week.

You may have heard that a small bank called Alliance went belly-up last week and was taken over by the FDIC.

Oddly enough, I'd never heard of this bank until the day before. And I didn't hear about them on the news.

If you have direct deposit for you employees' paychecks, take heed.

We ran our regular payroll to pay our people on the 5th (Thursday). As scheduled, the funds were withdrawn from our account on the 4th. All good so far.

This was done via an ACH - Automated Clearing House - electronic transaction.

But the funds were never deposited into our employees' bank accounts.

The official word from our payroll company is that their service provider (Alliance) was having a dispute with Bank of America. That didn't involve us. We weren't a party. So, to be honest, we didn't care. Except that we wanted our money back!

I personally spent almost four hours at our bank, and running back and forth between my office and the bank, trying to get them to reverse the ACH transfer.

Terminology terminology terminology.

Turns out we couldn't reverse the transfer because we had previously authorized these folks to take money from our account and they had done so without question or dispute.

"Okay, we can't reverse. Please insert whatever words you need right here so I can get my money back."

So we then attempted to un-authorize the transfer. That's a very time sensitive activity. If you successfully un-authorize a transaction before a certain batch time, you get your money back within 24-48 hours. If you are not successful, then they have 60 days to settle the transaction.

I don't know about you, but I don't keep that much cash in the bank waiting for quick withdrawal. (I keep it in the stock market where it's totally safe and secure. :-0 )

For us, success meant paying our employees in a timely manner. Failure meant that we would have to liquidate an investment, wait for it to settle, and then transfer funds. In other words, we would have to delay payday by about ten days.

What we didn't know is that failure meant something much worse.

The Loser Bank that was having a "dispute" was actually Alliance. And they weren't have a dispute. That was a bald-faced lie in order to accumulate as much money as possible before going out of business.

Failure to get the transaction un-authorized would mean that our funds would be tied up in a bank take-over. FDIC insurance? No good: We're not a customer of Alliance bank. We don't have funds on deposit to be insured. In fact, I'd never heard of them before.

That means money like ours will just sit in banker purgatory until hell freezes over.

Luckily, we successfully un-authorized the transfer. I actually got a call from my bank agent at 5:50 PM.

The next day, we hand-wrote payroll checks for our employees. We still have to settle the tax payments.

We dodged a bullet, and I lost half a day of work.

- - - - -

Are there lessons to be learned? Of course.

Lesson One: No one is immune. We deal with a big Bank. We had money in the bank. We didn't do anything wrong.

Lesson Two: You need to know who is handling your money. If you send or receive payments for anything via ACH, you should check into the solvency of every organization that touches that money.

We've all seen what happens when companies go bankrupt. They'll take orders -- and money -- up to the minute they file for bankruptcy, knowing that they're stealing someone's money.

If someone is moving money to or from your bank account, and that money suddenly disappears, you need a plan.

Better yet, find another way to pay or receive payment if you find a troubled bank in the middle.

You COULD write them a letter and ask what would happen if they were holding your money when their company went belly-up, but they would lie to your face.

Lesson Three: We are either AT the bottom of the economic turnmoil, or VERY CLOSE to the bottom. How do I know that? Well, Erick and Vlad give me a bad time because I'm always looking on the bright side. And if an optimist like me begins to lose faith in the fundamental system for moving money around between institutions in our economy, it better be the bottom.

We were lucky this time.

We've already changed payroll services.

Yeah, Bank of America is in trouble. But the business man in me is happy to report that they're "Too big to fail."

Unfortunately, the tax payer in me doesn't want to pay for that AND lose my next payroll.

:-)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

All Hail the Almighty Checklist

When you read my blog, I hope you occasionally wander over to the right side of the screen and look at the other blogs listed there. One really great posting caught my eye a few days ago.

It's on the Microsoft Exchange Team Blog: You Had Me at EHLO. The posting is called Got Checklists?

As you might imagine, we love checklists.

KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) has checklists for everything. Everything means everything.

At the recent HTG meeting, we shared our three-page checklist for bringing on a new client, which includes work flows from sales to admin to tech, and back to admin.

The last item on the checklist is to file the checklist.

When we have more than one client coming on board at the same time, we have a checklist to make sure the New Client checklists are not stalled on someone's desk.

- - - - -

If you haven't read the The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, go do that ASAP. This book will change your business if you will let it.

One of the key lessons of this book is standardization and documentation. These habits will allow you to take everyday chores within your business and hand them off to someone else. YOU don't have to do all the work. What a concept.

Checklists take this to the next level.

How have McDonald's and Subway and Best Western built massive empires while turning over the daily operations to average people who are not the owners? Training and checklists.

They have checklists for everything. How to open the doors in the morning. How to count cash. How to provide service. How to fold a towel.

You can do the same thing.

- A checklist for setting up a new client
- A checklist for setting up a new user
- A checklist for setting up a new computer

- A checklist for adding a client to Zenith Infotech
- A checklist for setting up a new router
- A checklist for setting up a new firewall

- A checklist for setting up a new SBS server
- A checklist for setting up a new Server 2008 domain
- A checklist for setting up a new SQL Server

- A checklist for setting up a remote user
- A checklist for interviewing/hiring employees
- A checklist for transferring a domain name

- A checklist for running monthly reports
- A checklist for running weekly reports
- A checklist for processing payroll

- A checklist for setting up a new client
- A checklist for configuring email to go through Exchange Defender
- A checklist for configuring email to go through Reflexion

- A checklist for swapping users or computers
- A checklist for removing a user
- A checklist for setting up Outlook RPC over https

and of course
- Monthly maintenance checklists for each client
- Backup procedure checklists for each client

and more checklists for
- AuthAnvil
- Autotask
- Crackberry servers

- Blade workstations
- Anti-virus setup
- SSL certificate installation

- Teaming network cards
- Creating network maps
- Archiving email

etc.

etc.

etc.

Checklist Mentality

There are two keys to making checklists work successfully.

1) You have to train your staff (and yourself) on how to use them

and

2) You have to create the habit of using them for everything


I know it sounds strange to say that you have to train people to use a checklist. After all, there aren't many rules. But when I speak about this to groups, the first question is always exactly the same:

"How do I get people actually go down the list, think about each item, and not check it off until they've done it?"

Training -- and fear. You have to really beat it into people's heads that they can't check the box until they've done the task. And every time you find a someone violating this, you need to stop immediately and using it as a training moment.

If it helps, go read The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. It will take an hour to read, but will really help you with chores like this.

Checklists are only useful if they are used properly and consistently. Make it part of your culture. Show people how to use them. Hold them responsible.

Expect it. Measure it.

You know the old truism: What gets measured gets done.

Interestingly enough, the more checklists you have, the more likely they are to be used, and to be used properly.

Checklist Bonus: Working with your Back Office NOC

If you use Zenith Infotech or another Back Office NOC, you'll be able to hand off some checklists to them.

I highly suspect (out of pure arrogance) that turning over our monthly maintenance checklists to Zenith has helped them do a better job for everyone when it comes to regular scheduled maintenance.

Manuel and Nicko worked for a long time with Zenith to fine-tune the automation of our monthly maintenance processes.

And that, in turn, helped us figure out better ways to communicate with the Zenith technicians within our service requests. After all, we write project descriptions into an SR and then go home for the night. And while it's night over here, it's day over there. So the Zenith techs either understand our notes or have to wait half a day for clarification.

So we've learned to make better checklists because better checklists mean better work product.

I would say that we eat, sleep, and breath checklists at KPEnterprises . . .

but the truth is that we eat, sleep, and breath documentation.

And checklists are just documentation of process.

:-)

Check Out Small Business IT Radio

Stuart Crawford is at it again . . .

Small Business IT Radio is an Internet based web cast designed to provide valuable business information for Small Business IT Professionals. Are you a listener?

Their recent show featured author and speaker David Meerman Scott, who is a marketing and sales expert and PR guru from the Boston, MA area. David and Stuart Crawford discussed the new rules of PR in today's world and covered what IT professionals and Small Business Owners need to focus on to allow their business to get in front of new business opportunities, keep in touch with your local community, inform your clients on what you are doing and how to do this while balancing everything else in your business life.

Listen to a recording of the show by going to: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/smb/2009/02/06/PR-Tips-and-Tricks

David has a number of great free ebooks available on his website. For more information and to download, go to http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/products_ebooks.htm.

Stuart can be found at http://blog.itsuccessmentor.com/

and . . . www.bulletproofIT.ca

:-)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to Write a Procedure

I mentioned a few days ago that KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist), takes a lot of pride in our documentation.

You may well ask, How do you go about documenting a process or procedure?

Great question!

Here's how we do it. See instructions with related notes.

1. Log on to your computer.

2. Run the program.


Yes. Really. Start at the beginning. Users are easily frustrated when documentation starts at step two or three. This common mistake happens for two reasons.

First, the documentation is written by a programmer or regular user. So they know the program backwards and forwards.

Second, the writer starts where they are in the program. That's fine as long as the user always starts in the same spot. But chances are, they won't.

3. Don't assume anything.

If you "always" change a setting or use keyboard instead of mouse, make sure you put those things in your documentation.

You'd be amazed at what you take for granted, especially in a world where we each get total control over the look and feel of our desktops. If you use more than one computer on a regular basis, you've seen a touch of this.

I go back and forth between my beast at home, a plain vanilla PC at work, and a laptop. Three different screen sizes, three different resolutions, three different sets of defaults. Over time they become more alike, but they're all different.

Every user's desktop is different. You can't even assume that their menus are the same.

4. Go through your process.

Do what you normally do, but go slowly and write down each thing you do.

Use numbers for action steps. So, Log On is an action step. Open MS Word is an action step.

Under each number, give any useful information or description.

Do Not write lengthy explanations or justifications. You can put that stuff in a memo, print it out and shred. When someone is running a procedure, they need bullet points. A block of text will be ignored.

Take a lesson from some of the well-designed government forms you see. Pages 1-2 are the form. Page 3-9357 are the clear and concise explanation. If you start reading it, you will contact your accountant halfway through page 3.

If you need a bit of information or "cheat sheet" for data entry, put it on the form. But don't write long blocks of text.

Think bullet points and action steps.

5. Describe the process in order.

Again, sounds simple. But I'm amazed at how much documentation is not In Order.

Bad: "Select font size from the typeface menu after selecting the text." Exact reverse order. Easy to follow if you're very familiar with a program; impossible to follow if you are new to the program.

Good: "1. Select the desired text. 2. Go to the Typeface menu and select font size."

6. Take Screen Shots!

Whenever it will help clarify the process, take screen shots. You can circle the most important items, or highlight the relevant field in yellow.

You'll be amazed at how much a series of screen shots will help clients understand what they need to do.

Just be careful. If you're going exactly step by step, and something unexpected shows up, they'll grind to a complete stop.

7. Have people test the procedure

When you think you're done, print out the procedure and hand it to someone. Then watch them go through the procedure. As soon as they start to ask questions, make they write down their questions on the form. Then give them the answer and make them write the answer on the form.

Eventually, you can train your staff so they all know how to create and update procedures. When people learn the process of updating processes, you'll be able to post a procedure on the server, point them to it, and they'll run and update it without supervision.

And thus begins the road to SOPs -- Standard Operating Procedures.

- - - - -

There's nothing difficult here. Just process, process, process.

You should document your internal procedures and have your employees make documentation a standard part of their daily routine. That way it just gets done.

You can also create documentation for clients (e.g., how to do mail merge). Yes, they can go read the help menus. But they're paying you to run their I.T. Department. Make their life easier.

And once you create a documentation for one client, it will be an easy process to fine-tune it for the next client.





Sample Procedure:

Procedure: Setting Up Automated Recurring Billing (ARB)

Background
Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) is a process for charging a credit card on a regular basis. We most commonly use this for charging client credit cards every month for Managed Services.

The Steps
1. Log Into Authorize.net
    Go to www.authorize.net.
    In the upper right-hand corner, click on Merchant Login.
    As of Fall 2008, the account that processes credit cards through Merchant Warehouse and deposits the money into the BofA checking account 12345-67890 is:
    Username KPErulez!
    Password Sn0rt1ng


2. Set up a ARB
  1. On the left-hand navigation bar, under TOOLS, click on Recurring Billing.


  2. On the Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) Service page, click on Create a New ARB Subscription.


  3. Under Subscription Interval, choose Every Month


  4. Under Subscription Duration, select No End Date


  5. DO enter a company name, even if not a company credit card


  6. Notes for this page:
    • Subscription Name = Platinum Managed Service, Gold Managed Service, or Silver Managed Service.

    • For the invoice number, enter the first QuickBooks invoice number used for managed services for this client. Not really important, just don't leave it blank.


3. Important Final Note:
This is extremely valuable financial information. Log out when you are finished.

This doc = \Operations\Policies Procedures\Automated Recurring Billing.docx



:-)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Erick's State of the Industry Webinar

Spread the word, yall, about MSP University's State of the Industry Webinar

Please join them Tuesday February 10th @ 9am PST as Erick Simpson hosts MSP University's State of the Industry Webinar.

Topic: The Effect of Social Networking on Service Providers and Managed Services Tools and Processes

This Webinar will focus on defining Social Networking, its tremendous growth and transformation as a serious business tool for service providers over the last 12 months, and how it is being integrated into Managed Services tools and processes. Their special guest will be Bob Vogel, Chief Marketing Officer, Autotask Corporation.

Click here to register!

About MSP University's State of the Industry Webinar Series

MSP University's State of the Industry Webinar Series is meant to inform. The more you know about your industry, the products and services available to you and your clients, and how to market and sell those products and services, the greater your opportunities to increase your value to your clients, as well as your business success.

About Erick Simpson

Vice President and CIO of Intelligent Enterprise, a Gold Certified Microsoft Partner, and MSP University, Erick is a recognized industry expert and IT and Managed Services author, speaker and trainer, and contributor to numerous industry publications and events. Author of "The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice - What Every SMB IT Service Provider Should Know...", the definitive book on Managed Services, and the follow-ups in MSP University's Managed Services Series "The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing BOOK EVER!" and "The Best I.T. Service Delivery BOOK EVER!", Erick has also co-authored the HTG publication "Peer Power - Powerful Ideas for Partners from Peers".

About Bob Vogel

As Autotask's Chief Marketing Officer, Bob Vogel is responsible for creation and execution of the company's strategic marketing initiatives, evolving the Autotask brand, creating awareness in target markets, and instituting lead-generation activities to drive the company's sales.

Seriously: Click here to register!

:-)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Description is Not Documentation

We're in the business of documentation. You. Me. All of us. We read documentation better than the average citizen, and I hope we write better documentation than the average citizen.

It seems odd to say we're in the business of reading documentation, but that's a big part of what we do.

One time I had a client call me with a simple sounding problem. She had a new piece of software and couldn't figure out a very basic function. I explained to her that it was probably extremely easy, but someone has to read the documentation. I said:

"Either you can read the four-page instructions or I can. Would you like me to read the instructions for you?"

And she said, "Oh, yeah. That would be great."

I was trying to be a smart-ass. But it turns out that it was exactly what the client wanted. She's not in the software business or the technology business. She's an insurance broker. Her most profitable activity is NOT reading documentation. She pays someone to do that.

:-)

[Important lesson: If you're NOT doing managed services, you want as many of these clients as possible. If they'll pay you to change toner cartridges at $120/hour, do it.]

But we're the same way: When a fat document from the IRS shows up, I hand it to the accountant and ask him to read it for me. My high value time is spent elsewhere.

I've heard consultants say that they don't want clients to see them reading instructions online or looking up help on Technet. Why not? Can your clients find anything on Technet? Most technicians can't!

Hand a client a Technet CD and a foreign language textbook: They won't understand either one. But they'll open the textbook.

You're in the business of reading documentation and turning words into actions.

Poorly Written Documentation

I can't count how many programs my business uses on a regular basis, but it's a lot. Office products, development products, LOB Apps, financial packages, CRM systems, operating systems, etc.

A lot.

One of the things that stands out among top-shelf products (Microsoft, Adobe, QuickBooks) is that they are extremely well documented.

As you move down the spectrum to home-made products and products essentially written by one person and released into the wild, you see products with NO documentation. Luckily, we don't see many of these.

Unfortunately, we DO SEE a lot of products that are a notch up from that. They are expensive, widely distributed, and horribly documented.

Most of these products are extremely feature-rich. But you wouldn't know that by reading their documentation.

The biggest mistake these companies make with documentation is that they only describe the product. They literally start with the File menu and tell you what each option does.

    The NEW command opens a new document.
    The OPEN command opens an existing document.
    The RENAME FILE command renames the file.
    The PRINT PREVIEW command previews what the document will look like when printed.


No Sh!T.

And they're proud of their documentation! "We have a 97 page help file, RoboHelp, etc."

    The LOAD MACRO command loads a macro.
    The RECORD MACRO command records a macro.
    The EDIT MACRO command edits a macro.

Duh.

Description is not documentation.

While the description of features is useful and necessary, it is simply a precursor to the real documentation.

Documentation should help someone sit down and USE a program. Think about it. When do you reach for the documentation? It's NOT when you want to find out every command on every menu. You can do that by selecting each menu and reading them.

You reach for documentation when you want to find out how to do something.

How do I import . . . ?
How do I format . . . ?
How do I run a report . . . ?
etc.

At KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist), we take a lot of pride in our documentation. Some of it is simply filling out forms.

But the documentation that matters is the documentation of processes. The "How Do I" documentation.

We create customized documentation for clients, sometimes on the simplest processes. When we're done, the client can hire a new person, show them once, and hand over a task to the newly trained employee.

The goal here is to shove the E-Myth into every organization we find.

:-)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Vlad Mazek on the SMB Conference Call

Please join me on

February 4th, 2009

9:00 AM Pacific Time

as I talk to Vlad Mazek, MS MVP, Entrepreneur, blogger extraordinaire, and

Hosting Provider


Our topic will be

How To Do Hosting The Right Way

Register Now!

- - - - -

Are you Considering Being a Hosting Provider?

Microsoft's vision for our future is that we will either

1) Resell their hosted services
or

2) Become a Hosting Provider

Now, the rest of the Whole Hosted World might have a different view. But they basically have the same choices for you: Resell someone else's hosted stuff or host it yourself.

Vlad Mazek is a very well known member of our community -- and he's been providing hosting for quite awhile.

He'll join us to discuss how to do hosting the right way.

- Avoid the pitfalls

- What to expect

- What to really expect

- Why it's easy to do a bad job

- Liabilities, pitfalls, and reasons you might want to avoid hosting

Vlad's written a great white paper on getting started with hosting. Request that now and read it before the show.

Join us February 4th.

Register Now!


More info:

- SMB Books

- Own Web Now

- Exchange Defender

- - - - -

This is an audio only program. Please dial in, use the Gotowebinar audio, or Skype your way in.

However you get there, Get There.

:-)

The Really Scary Budget

I made a small error yesterday in 1) printing to the color printer in the tech area, and 2) not running to pick up my job before someone saw it.

I was printing my "Really Scary Budget" projection.

Manual and I went to lunch and decided that we should figure out what to do if we take a serious hit in the months ahead. After all, if the economy gets bad enough, we will see clients cutting back, cutting staff, etc. We figure our worst case scenario would be about a 30% overall reduction.

We know it won't be for March because there's a 30 day notice requirement, so we're good to go on that.

So here's what I did for hardware, software, and labor revenues:

Projecting the Big Dip
- Started with a very realistic March estimate, assuming no additional sales

- Projected we would make 95% of that in April, 95% of the April number in May, 95% of the May number in June, etc.

- That continued until September, where the estimate reached 70% of the March number

- Then projected 105% of the September number for October, 105% of the October number for November, and 105% of the November number for December

This created a year-long smack in the face.

Do I think that will happen? No.

Would I be foolish to assume it won't happen? Yes.

I live in California. We sell brackets to stabilize computer racks during earthquakes. But I live in Sacramento where we don't really have earthquakes. But I don't want to be the guy who has to explain that I didn't secure a rack in California!

This is similar. I don't want to explain to my wife that I didn't think the economy would affect OUR business.

- - - - -

Many people -- Erick and Vlad among them -- think I'm overly optimistic about the economy. I smiled my way all the way from Dow 15,000 to Dow 8,000.

But I really, honestly believe that we make a great deal of our "luck" in business.

We are 100% managed service. So we can project quite a bit.

We have stepped UP our marketing instead of stepping down. We're in the middle of a Robin Robins campaign, and we've budgeted to keep plugging all year. We're not going to do three mailings and give up.

Now comes the hard part . . .

I finished cutting back all that revenue and printed the budget projection. I did NOT adjust expenses yet. So when a technician looked at the printout, he was quite alarmed.

Of course I labeled it "Really Scary Financials 2009," so that didn't help.

In that projection, there are four months in the middle with losses on the bottom line. Luckily, it's only a few thousand dollars and I could bankroll it. But I won't.

The next step is to project reductions in expenses in order to push through the dip with black on the bottom line. That will be difficult since we run pretty lean around here.

The exercise is interesting because it raised the question of why we don't cut those expenses all the time.

- - - - -

Overall, I think we'll sign a few key clients and continue to grow this year.

One decent client (ten desktops) will dramatically ease the pain from the projected dip. Two will keep us growing. Three will make me tear up the really scary budget and just go back to the original projections.

Seth Godin has a good little book on how to recognize The Dip versus a major crisis.

I like being optimistic.

I think it helps my business.

But we also need to be prepared for the realities around us.

We're all going to go through the recession and come out the other end. We can let it happen to us or we can address it straight on and participate in our own fate.

Nothing has changed with my resolve to opt out of the recession. So far, we're not participating. It's been almost a year since we published our resolve not to participate.

But if we're affected, we need a game plan.

. . .

Now I have to get back to marketing!

:-)

HTG All - It's All Good

I've been decompressing from a week in Dallas for HTG's first ever Super Week. Some peer groups met Monday/Tuesday. Some met Thursday/Friday. "Universal" content was presented on Wednesday.

The Best thing about the meetings was my HTG 13 group. I'm grateful for that.

Unlike many people at the HTG events, I go to lots of other conferences. I can have lengthy conversations with people about marketing strategies, hiring, firing, referral programs, and every other thing about my business. I've had some amazing get-togethers with people at WTG, SMB Nation, SMBTN, MSP Revolution, SBS Migration, and many other conferences.

But even if I talk to a handful of people again and again, these discussions are each individual events. It's rare that there's any follow-up to see there's any follow-through on what we discussed.

HTG is different because we share goals -- and hold each other accountable.

We start by reviewing how our businesses did in the last quarter. Good, bad, or ugly. We're here to work "on" our businesses.

Then we review how we did on our specific goals for the quarter. For example, evaluating Autotask and revising my Managed Service web site were two of my goals.

Before we depart for the quarter, we each establish goals for the quarter ahead. So I better have a sticky note with my plans on it. Oh, and that un-finished goal to revise the Business Continuity Plan? That doesn't go away. So instead of three goals, I have four to work on.

Doh!

No matter how well you're doing, it's hard to take a week off of work and then come home exhausted. You have to believe that it really will improve your business. In my case, I also have to make my wife believe that it will improve my business. So far, we're good to go.

I hope I can implement most of the great ideas I was exposed to before the next HTG meeting. I'm looking forward to it!

:-)