Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Robert Crane Donates SharePoint Operations Guide to The Big Prize Wheel!

Thank you Robert Crane for donating a copy of The Windows SharePoint Operations Guide for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

If you haven't seen The Windows SharePoint Operations Guide, believe me it's massive. Over 1,000 pages plus tons of downloads. Luckily it's delivered as an electronic product. We have it on DVD for the give-away.

As an e-book, this prize actually includes updates as they're released.

Please drop by our booth at SMB Nation for your chance to win!

You can also find Robert up at the front of the Room at SMB Nation as he's a scheduled speaker.

- - - - -

Here's some contact info on Robert:

- Email: director@ciaops.com

- Web: www.ciaops.com

- Blog: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ComputerInformationAgencyPosts


See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)

SMBTN Donates Annual Memberships to The Prize Wheel!

Thank you to Jim Locke and SMBTN for donating a couple of Annual Memberships to The Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

Just in case you don't know, SMB Books is the official bookstore of SMBTN.

Now Jim has graciously allowed us to give away two annual membership - worth $360 each!

SMBTN is the Small and Medium Business Technology Network. It was founded by a group of friends and business associates to advance the training and opportunities available to VARs in the SMB space.

Whether you're looking for training, local user groups, or special buying power that comes with belonging to a larger organization, SMBTN is a great place to start.

This year SMBTN is holding their annual "Summit" in concurrence with the SMB Nation Conference. In fact, SMBTN is co-sponsoring two pre-day events tomorrow in Vegas: Read About the SMBTN pre-day events here.

SMBTN is also providing some of the content for SMB Nation this year.

All around thanks go to the great folks at SMBTN for their donation - and all the things they do to build the community.


- - - - -

Here's some contact info on Jim and SMBTN:

- Email: jlocke@smbtn.org

- Web: www.smbtn.org

- Blog: http://smbtn.wordpress.com/


See you in Vegas, Baby!

:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Exchange Defender Donates a Netbook to The Prize Wheel!

Thank you Vlad Mazek / Exchange Defender for donating A Netbook Computer for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

And thank you for donating $4,200 worth of Exchange Defender licenses! Holy Smokes Batman!

Vlad - best known for Own Web Now and Exchange Defender tried to brainstorm what a nerd would be guaranteed to want to win on the Big Prize Wheel. And I think he's done it.

This is a $400 Netbook.

Plus a bunch of 5-packs of Exchange Defender licenses with a one year subscription you can sell to your clients. Talk about "Spin and Win." We got it right here at the Big Prize Wheel.

And I'm told there will be t-shirts in the box.

Total Donations from Exchange Defender: Over $4,700 worth of merchandise.

Please drop by our booth at SMB Nation for your chance to win!

- - - - -

On a personal note, I have to say that Mr. Vlad is one of those people who is an "instant contributor" to whatever we do. He must find some value in it. Every time we come up with a hair-brained scheme to put on a show, print a catalog, or give away other people's stuff, he's the first to say Count Me In.

If I said I was selling flags on Mars, Vlad would email a graphic today.

We have a lot of supporters, and Vlad is one of the best. Thank you, sir.

- - - - -

Here's some contact info on Vlad:

- Email: vlad@ownwebnow.com

- Web: www.ownwebnow.com
and www.exchangedefender.com

- Blog: http://vladville.com/


See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)



It's Coming . . .
The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

by Erick Simpson

Ship Date: October 31st

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Podcasts and Other Don't-Miss Events from SMB Nation

Whether or not you can make it to Vegas for SMB Nation, you can tune into the live podcasts being produced by SMB Nation and SMB Books.

Here's the schedule:

Friday Oct. 2nd:
1:50 PM to 2:20 PM
VOIP Podcast with Karl Palachuk / Jay Weiss
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/881510992

Saturday Oct. 3rd:
2:25 PM to 2:55 PM
SharePoint Podcast with Karl Palachuk / Robert Crane
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/749350137

Sunday Oct. 4th:
11:25 AM to 11:55 AM
Business Coaching Podcast with Karl Palachuk / Matt Makowicz / George Sierchio
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/156829056


If you ARE in Vegas and want to follow these folks during the conference, look for these events:

Case Studies from the Cloud – What It Means For You, Your IT Business & Your Clients
Bob Godgart (Karl is on this panel)
Friday 11:30am-1:00pm

The Keys to Successful SBS 2008 Migrations
Jeff Middleton, Karl Palachuk
Friday 3:00pm-4:30pm

Veni Vidi VoIP-How to VoIP!
Jay Weiss
Friday 5:15pm-6:45pm

SharePoint - You've Got It Now What?
Robert Crane
Saturday 8:00am-9:30am

Winning Clients and Deals - a partner panel perspective
Dave Seibert (Karl is on this panel)
Saturday 8:00am-9:30am

BusinessSpeak Panel
Matt Makowicz, George Sierchio, Mark Crall, Wayne Turmel
Sunday 8:00am-9:30am

Telephonation VoIP Panel
Jay Weiss, Greg Landers, Matt Wass De Czege
Sunday 3:00pm-4:30pm


No matter what you do at SMB Nation you’ll find content everywhere. So you can also look for us in the hallways!

(Agenda subject to change. Check the official agenda for up to the minute details and rooms.)

See you in Vegas, Baby!

George Sierchio Donates Books and Coaching Sessions to The Prize Wheel

Thank you George Sierchio for donating books and Coaching session for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

George's Book - B.Y.O.B. Build Your Own Business, Don't Be Your Own Boss has just been released and is in it's second edition.

In addition, George has donated five $100 coaching sessions!

You may know George from his seminars, including Consulting & Service Business Success System - now available as a Book in a Binder plus 6 Audio CD’s.


George is a well-known business coach for I.T. Professionals and has an extensive technical background himself. You can hook up with George at SMB Nation.

And while you're at it, Please drop by our booth at SMB Nation for your chance to win!

- - - - -

Here's some contact info on George:

- Email gsierchio@actionbusinesspartners.com

- web www.actionbusinesspartners.com


See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)

Dave Sobel Donates DVD Seminars to The Prize Wheel

Thank you Dave Sobel / SMB Virtualization for donating DVD Seminar sets for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

Dave has donated eight copies of the seminar we did together: Designing, Implementing and Making Money with Virtual Environments for the big Prize Wheel.

This set includes both the audio CDs for your car and the entire seminar on DVD video.

For a chance to win, please drop by our booth at SMB Nation and spin the big Prize Wheel. Of course you might also win one of the other 220 prizes we have to offer!

Thanks Dave!

- - - - -

More info on Dave / SMB Virtualization:

Email dave@evolvetech.com

Web/Blog: www.smbvirtualization.net

See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

MSPU Donates Books and Audio CDs to The Prize Wheel

Thank you to Erick Simpson and MSPU for donating books and Audio programs for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

Can you name three of the best - and best known - books in the managed service space? Well, aside from mine you'd probably come up with the following three very quickly:

The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice

The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing Book Ever

The Best I.T. Service Delivery Book Ever

All three are by Erick Simpson and MSPU.

Now Erick has donated all of these, and their audio book counterparts for our big Prize Wheel drawing at SMB Nation. All you have to do for a chance to win is to drop by our book and spin the big Prize Wheel.

Thanks Erick!

- - - - -

Here's some contact info on Erick:

- Email esimpson@mspu.us

- Web www.mspu.us

See you in Vegas, Baby!



:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Monday, September 28, 2009

Be Good Marketing

I first heard the term "Be Good Marketing" from Jane Atkinson, a speaker's agent and author.

Jane is the author of The Wealthy Speaker. It's an excellent book if you're a speaker. But like most good books, it has gems that apply to any business. (My bias is that anything I read can help me improve some part of my life or business.)

In The Wealthy Speaker, Jane points out that you can rely on fact sheets and agents and videos to promote yourself. But no amount of marketing machinery will make up for a bad speech. So job #1 is to Be Good at What You Do.

This seems obvious, but it's not. I talk to lots of people across several continents. In person, by webinar, conference call, and on the phone. There are a LOT of people who are working very hard to be good at what they do. Luckily for me, those are most of the people I interact with. After all, I probably met them at a training or a seminar of some kind.

But there are plenty of other people out there NOT working on being good at what they do.

This is a real marketing opportunity for you.

I've told the story before about one of the most alarming quotes I ever saw. It was 1998 and Windows 98 had just been released. The prospect brought me in to side check a quote she'd received. She asked me whether it made sense to buy ten new machines, un-install Windows 98, and install Windows 95 because it was more "known" and more stable. I laughed.

She showed me the quote.

Dude was actually going to charge her for 20 hours labor to un-install an absolutely brand new operating system and install an obsolete operating system because he was more comfortable with it.

You're Not Paid to Be Comfortable. You're not paid to live in the past. You're not paid to make your clients wait on new technology until you get around to learning it.

You are paid to be good at what you do. So be good! Buy those books. Attend those seminars. Get the software, install it, learn it, and take yourself to the next level. If you want to sit on your butt and do the same thing for the next ten years, this is not the business for you.

And - truth be told - there aren't any such businesses. Maybe technology moves faster than most, but all businesses are now evolving faster than ever before. OUR business - technology - is forcing every other business to speed up. So whatever you choose to do, you need to focus on being GOOD at what you do.

You can wear old clothes, drive an old car, and have an old haircut. But you can't turn back the clock when it comes to your profession.

The future is in hosted solutions. You need to use them. You need to learn them. You need to sell them. You need to get good at them.

Be Good - It's the best marketing you have.

Of course you need to be nice. You need to have some business sense. You need to treat people well. Those all come with the territory. But you can have the best "machine" around for delivering service and it will all be trumped by lack of technical skills.

Unfortunately, you can't really have a marketing campaign that says "Is your I.T. guy really just an incompetent moron?" That wouldn't reflect very well on you.

But you can do your job really well and then ask for referrals. Treat your clients right and then ask them to tell their friends. Don't belabor the point when you one-up the another technician. Believe in your heart that the client gets it. In other words . . . Be good.

:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Scorpion Software Donates $1,800 in Prizes for the Big Prize Wheel

Thank you Dana Epp and Scorpion Software for donating big prizes to the big prize wheel at SMB Nation.

Dana has graciously donated TWO of the following Okay for Resale packages:

  • 5 x AuthAnvil SoftTokens
  • 5 x 1 year subscription to AuthAnvil
  • 1 x 1 year subscription to RWWGuard 2003 or 2008
  • 1 x 1hr installation session


Each of these is worth $900/USD per gift pack. So that is $1,800 of value to give away!

Please drop by the SMB Books Booth at SMB Nation October 2-4 and you WILL be a winner.

- - - - -

Dana Epp is a Microsoft MVP and a serial entrepreneur. Scorpion Software develops strong authentication and identigy assurance systems for small and mid-size companies. They specialize in security Remote Web Workplace and SBS generally.

For information and demonstrations of the AuthAnvil and RWWGuard products, visit http://www.scorpionsoft.com/.

:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taylor Business Group Starts with a Bang

Just finished two days with my first face to face meeting of my Autotask Profit Makers Taylor Business Group. Talk about hitting the ground running!

Our facilitator is Josh Peterson. Josh has the coveted 8:00 AM Sunday speaking slot at SMB Nation in Vegas. See the SMB Nation Agenda. Get there early to insure you get a seat.

Anyway, we have a great group of business owners and they all came ready to open their businesses and get to work on topics that will them more successful. We covered the basic numbers, of course, and addressed a set of benchmarks that would lead to an acceptable level of success.

That's actually a pretty good way of looking at a benchmark. If you have X% on this measure and Y% on that measure, etc., you will end up with Z% of EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). The first set of benchmarks we looked at would create a return roughly equivalent to the average performance of the stock market.

After all, if you're not out-performing the Dow Jones, you might as well just dump your money in a mutual fund and live off that.

If you want to do well in your business you have to figure out how to lift the bottom line a little every year. The numbers result from a huge set of interlocking variables. So you can't affect one without affecting the others. But understanding how they all work together is critical.

Consider my own company. Our average profit per employee is lower than the benchmark for that variable. If I somehow raise that rate, I will increase earnings (EBITDA). But one of my goals is to hire a sales person. And then I need to hire a service manager. Ooops. If I add two warm bodies, my earnings per employee will go DOWN because I have more employees.

A few months ago my EBITDA was described by a business consultant as "unsustainably high." I guess hiring more people will help bring that in line. ( :-) )

No one said it was easy.

Anyway . . . Our group gelled very quickly. Rather than just show up and see if anyone else was willing to address the tough topics, everyone was very eager to get value from the group as quickly as possible. This was due in large part to an excellent moderator.

I was worried about the new group because I had such a great Heartland Technology Group. So I'm thankful that I'm now in a great Taylor Business Group.

Next meet up: New Orleans. Hope we get some work done. I think we'll be fine.

- - - - -

You don't have to be an Autotask user to be in a Taylor Business Group. In fact, most people aren't. But TBG is working with Autotask to help develop some groups who just all happen to use the same tool.

See http://autotask.com/press/news_and_press_releases/061809.htm

:-)

Friday, September 25, 2009

SMB Nation Podcast Agenda

We're going to do something very special this year. SMB Books and SMB Nation have teamed up to bring you three special LIVE podcasts from the showroom floor at SMB Nation in Las Vegas.

Hosted by Karl Palachuk from The SMB Conference Call, these podcasts will feature some of the key speakers of the annual Fall conference and give you up-to-the-minute news about what's going on at SMB Nation.

Add these events to your calendar and register today:

Friday Oct. 2nd:
1:50 PM to 2:20 PM
VOIP Podcast with Karl Palachuk / Jay Weiss
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/881510992


Saturday Oct. 3rd:
2:25 PM to 2:55 PM
SharePoint Podcast with Karl Palachuk / Robert Crane
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/749350137


Sunday Oct. 4th:
11:25 AM to 11:55 AM
Business Coaching Podcast with Karl Palachuk / Matt Makowicz / George Sierchio
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/156829056

- - - - -

SMB Nation is a publishing and events company, targeted at the Microsoft Small Business Specialist (SBS) community. SMB Nation spreads the knowledge of SMB technology trends through its books, magazine, online services, conferences and world-wide seminars and workshops. SMB Nation's Fall conference will be held October 2-4 in Las Vegas, NV.

For more information, visit www.smbnation.com


SMB Books (www.smbbooks.com) is run by Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. SMB Books is a web site dedicated to providing the best books, audio CDs, white papers, and other materials in the SMB Consulting community. Most of our materials are written by and for the SMB Consultant.

For more information on The SMB Conference Call and other podcasts by Great Little Book, see www.greatlittlebook.com/Seminars/conference_call.htm

:-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Matt Makowicz donates over $1,000 worth to The Prize Wheel

Thank you Matt Makowicz / Ambition Mission for donating books and MP3/Audio programs for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

Matt's two great books, A Guide to MARKETING Managed Services and A Guide to SELLING Managed Services are among the standard in our industry.

Whether you're a seasoned professional or new to selling and marketing, these books will give you a huge step-up. You'll need to read with a pen in your hand so you can mark them up and take notes.

Matt has donated several of each book, plus a few copies of the Enhanced version of A Guide to SELLING Managed Services in audio MP3 format - with the MP3 player!

Please drop by our booth at SMB Nation for your chance to win!

- - - - -

Here's some contact info on Matt:

- Email matt@ambitionmission.com

- web www.ambitionmission.com


See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)



Now Available:
Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive Seminar -
Vegas October 1st

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall is Farming Season

I come from a farming family. Farmers know that seasons matter -- a lot.

You plant in the Spring. You grow in the Summer. You harvest in the Fall. And in the Winter? You go hunting. ;-)

Sales people use the same terminology: Hunting and Farming. Hunters go get new business. Farmers tend to the existing business. Businesses need a little of each.

This Fall brings an interesting set of circumstances for most of us. We've been through a tough recession. People with managed service models fared okay, for the most part. As discretionary work declined, revenue declined. And, eventually, as clients cut back, the number of seats under management declined.

Very few one escape an economic fiasco like this without some impact.

Those who were only half committed to managed services were hit pretty hard because more of their income is based on discretionary spending. Those totally reliant on break/fix were hit the worst.

But now comes the "Recovery," promised for Q4. That starts in two weeks. Are you ready for a flood of money to wash your way? If so, settle down and be patient a little longer.

There are several reasons you won't likely see a quick turn-around.

First, we have a lot of economic "stuff" that still has to work its way through the economy. There are still plenty of hedge funds that have to collapse. After the recent run-up in the market we need to retrace a bit and make sure the rally is sustainable. And the housing decline will ripple through the global economy for 5-10 more years.

Second, if you've cut back your staff, will you start hiring on Thursday, October 1st because the recession's over. I hope not. No. You'll wait until the work starts coming in. And then you'll see how far you can go with the staff you have. Only when you know you can sustain another employee will you make that hire.

Your clients are the same way.

Early in a recovery, productivity skyrockets. Why is that? Well, we put off hiring and load up the people we have with more and more work. Eventually, our staff is totally over-workd and we hire someone. It's simple math. When five people are doing the work of six, productivity is very high. When six people are doing the work of six, productivity goes down.

The result of all that is that your clients will put off hiring until they're sure the work is sustainably high enough to hire someone. When they start hiring, you need to be ready. But don't preemptively hire someone unless you have strong knowledge that it's necessary. You'll kill your own cash flow (more?) if you hire someone and don't have enough work to keep them busy.

Third, your clients may have some equipment they've taken out of use that's perfectly good. So they'll put that into use before buying new stuff. Granted, there are servers and desktops that need replacing and are now an extra 12-18 months past their prime. But few clients are going to open the flood gates.

Now For The Good News

The turn-around will be slow, but it will come!

As we emerge from this recession, here are a few things to watch out for:

1) Home Offices

2) Cloud Computing / Hosted Services

3) Altered buying habits

Home Offices will become much more common. In fact, I think this recession will represent a watershed event in modern economics. Very small businesses (micro-businesses) shut their doors, cut their staff, and now have three people working from their homes instead of five people working at an office.

Many of these people are never going to rent office space again.

There are several reasons for this. First, the cost difference is dramatic. They see that now. Second, there are so many hosted services and outsourcing businesses that they don't need to buy all the equipment they used to buy and load up all those depreciating assets. Everyone will run a little leaner.

This is good for you if you work with micro clients and sell your services on a monthly recurring basis.

Cloud Computing and hosted services will allow businesses of any size to make different choices about technology. I believe many businesses will buy their last server in the next two years. For many businesses, they need to buy one more server right now in order to make all that legacy stuff work. But they also need to keep an eye on how they're going to transition away from owning their own servers.

You need to be in a position to advise them. Sell them the right technology, the right server, the right services, so that they can gradually offload processes and databases over the next several years. Don't pretend this won't happen. Help your clients make these plans.

If you don't do it, someone else will.

Altered Buying Habits are hard to pinpoint, and will vary from industry to industry. But keep your ears open. Figure out what your clients are going to do and how they're thinking about technology.

It used to be that people paid $30,000 for a computer system and wanted it to last forever. Five years later they finally gave in and realized they need to replace it with a newer, faster, better system for $10,000. Now, four years later, they know they need to do something and are hoping you can get by on a $6,000 investment that will last three years . . . and then they can stop buying computers.

People don't want to own computers. They ARE willing to pay for technology that makes their business work.

I first heard it from Brian Tracy: No one wants to own a 1/2" drill bit. They buy a drill bit because they want a half inch hole. Clients don't want to own a server.

- - - - -

As you can see . . . This Fall is Farming Season.

That means you need to tend to your business. Call your clients. Let them know you're here. Ask them how things are. Take them to lunch. Call them after you complete service requests. Schedule Technology Roadmap meetings. Engage them.

And, happily, introduce them to some of the cool new technology that has emerged during the last 12-18 months. Many people stop looking when they know they won't be buying. So even techy clients may not know about MiFi or netbooks. You may not be able to sell them, but this is not a selling season. This is the farming season.

Love you clients. Nurture them. Be the one they come to with questions about technology.

Business will be back. And by next Summer is could be booming. Get ready. Prepare.

And tend to your farming.


:-)



Join Me In Chicago September 23rd
Seminar - Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations

SMB Nation Donates $1,000 worth of Books for Our Big Prize Wheel

Thank you Harry B. and SMB Nation for donating a big box of books for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

I've mentioned several times that SBS Consulting Best Practices is the best book Harry ever wrote.

I wish more people would pick this one up. It's kind of a hands-on application of The E-Myth Revised for I.T. consultants.

Harry refers to it as business primer or MBA book. I think that's true. If you're new to this business - or just haven't read it for some reason - I highly recommend this book. It will give you a framework for thinking about your business and moving forward with an eye on the role of business owner and not just a technician with a business.

Part Finder, Part Minder, Part Grinder.

Finder Minder Grinder.


- - - - -

For a chance to win these or hundreds of other prizes, please visit our booth at SMB Nation.

See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Friday, September 18, 2009

Avoid Being Overwhelmed by Using IP Strategies

I talked a bit in This Post about being overwhelmed and developing strategies to help filter information.

We're all overwhelmed. And somehow technology makes it worse. There's a sense of urgency in electronic communications that makes us believe that we need to allow ourselves to be Interrupt-Driven and handle things right away.

That's why pop-ups and spam work. You are interrupted. You click on something. Either "close" or go so what's up. But you do something.

Outlook is the worst with it's little message popup.

Outlook pops up a message.
- A newsletter you subscribed to, never read, and have never got around to un-subscribing from
- Update for the last week on Classmates.com
- Spam-o-Vendor wants you to be a reseller
- Invitation to a meeting you won't attend
- Another newsletter you subscribed to, never read, but really intend to some day
- Echo from Yahoo Group about blah blah blah
- Echo from Yahoo Group about blah blah blah
- Echo from Yahoo Group about blah blah blah
- Notification of voicemail from BUYNOW800
- Weekly credit stats from Vendor
- Webinar announcement for a product you haven't sold in 15 months
- Note from relative who loves the Internet because she doesn't have to find a fax machine to send you the same set of jokes she's been circulating since 1975
- Google Alert on your company name
- Webinar invitation for a vendor
- Notice of service request created by a client

You get the point.

Why should you stop what you're doing to even give .5 seconds time to these? Okay: One new service request. You could check your email every fifteen minutes and give that appropriate attention. You don't need to be totally interrupt-drive in order to make sure you filter these things in "real time."

My personal worst organization habit is to put things on stacks instead of upright files. Stacks of paper are very analogous to an out of control inbox. You tend to work your way down from the top. And if you're lucky enough to have two stacks, you can move that top piece of paper from one stack to another! That gets you to the second item, but doesn't get you past the second item.

Eventually when the stack is tall enough to fall over and kill someone, you tackle the stack. What do you do?

In many cases, you start throwing stuff out.

What was important when it went on the stack three months ago is old garbage today. Some stuff got too old (the date passed). Some stuff you decided not to do. Some opportunities have tarnished.


What Makes the Internet Successful

Before the IP protocol ruled the world, computers didn't really throw away data. In fact, the most common connections involved a handshake along with routines to verify that data was sent correctly. A lot of overhead was spent making sure that nothing was lost.

IP takes a different approach. Packets die or get thrown away a lot. All packets have a limited time to live. If they get too old they are discarded by whatever device is handling them. No emotions. No second thoughts. No worrying about whether we REALLY should have kept that packet.

This is okay because there are two primary techniques to deal with the loss of packets.

First, a certain amount of loss is acceptable to some programs. For example, a video stream can drop a packet or two and keep on going. If you watch the same video again and again, you experience loss of different packets each time, but it's close enough that you don't notice the difference. Audio is higher priority than video because your brain tolerates skips in video much better than skips in audio.

Second, some programs keep track of all the packets and assemble in order on the receiving end. If a packet doesn't show up, a request is made for a resend. So, for example, a file download has to be complete and cannot have missing packets.

What clients see as a "slow" Internet is often attributed to a dirty line somewhere that drops packets and requires a large percentage of the bandwidth to be dedicated to resends.

The same is true of email protocols. In the case of email, there are verifications of receipt. But as we all know, you can get delays that eventually result in a message telling the sender that the email was never delivered. It might take four days to throw away an undeliverable email, but it does happen.

Consider This Strategy in Your Personal Life

What things can you throw away with little or no effect on your success? Why aren't you doing that?

Yin/Yang: Focus is one side of the coin. The other side is a clutter of thoughts and information and tasks.

I go on and on about not being interrupt-driven for a reason. Again, your inbox is a perfect example. Going through your email in order based on when something arrives is an almost-necessary evil. Wouldn't it be great if you could throw away a bunch of that stuff before it gets there?

- Unsubscribe to newsletters you don't read (except those from me)

- Get off mailing lists

- Filter spammy friends to a folder you can check after hours when you're watching TV

- Close instant messenger

- Close your Outlook! You don't need it open all day. Really. Honestly. Everything will be there on the hour or half hour when you check it.

You should also throw away tasks, chores, and activities that are not going to contribute to your success going forward. For example, I used to write code. Commercially viable code. But I pretty much cut that out the year before I started my consulting business. When I opened the doors at KPEnterprises (Sacramento's premier Microsoft Certified partner), I only hired coders. I made no attempt to keep up with C# and .net and all the stuff that came after that.

This was harder than it sounds. We sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of code between 1995 and 2000. And I was tempted at first. But over time I realized that I could manage programmers and not have to be up all night trying to figure out problems. Sweet.

- - - - -

So give it a try: Use a successful IP strategy to make your life and business more successful. Throw things away in real time when they're dropped on your plate.

Turn away marginal work.

Don't sweat marginal clients.

Don't say yes because something was handed to you.

Don't take home every puppy you're offered.

:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Intel Donates Computer System Plus more for Our Big Prize Wheel

We are very grateful to Intel corporation for donating an entire computer system for our Big Prize Wheel at SMB Nation!

Remember to come visit us in booth 119. Spin the Prize wheel and win!

We confirmed that Intel is contributing the following items for the Big Prize Wheel:

Computer system x 1 !!
- Q45 based Core2 Quad System

Motherboards x 5

Processors - Core 2 CPUs x 5

Flash Drives - 4 GB x 20


This super-cool Q45 system has the vPro Chip that allows you to connect remotely via Logmein -- even when the machine is powered off.

So, with the Logmein license you'll be able to connect to the machine, turn it on and proceed to troubleshoot.

Like an ILO or DRAC for servers, but now on the desktop.

In fact, if there's a CD in the drives, you will be to connect to a system remotely and then load the operating system!

For more information about this program, ping karlp@kpenterprises.com and I'll put you in touch with the team at Intel.


- - - - -

For a chance to win these or hundreds of other prizes, please visit our booth at SMB Nation.

See you in Vegas, Baby!


:-)



Now Available:
Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive Seminar -
Vegas October 1st

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Robin Robins Donates $6,000 in Prizes for Our Big Prize Wheel

Our big Prize Wheel give-away is looking great for SMB Nation.

Remember to come visit us in booth 119. Spin the Prize wheel and win!

We have received hundreds of donations from partners in the community. Tens of thousands of dollars worth!

Here's a great example:

- Robin Robins donated six sets of her amazing 3-Day Marketing & Money Making Boot Camp 2008.

There are 3 components to each set.

1. Audio set (white square box)
2. Workbook (3-ring binder)
3. Genius League entries (spiral book)

This is The 2008 Marketing & Money-Making Boot Camp in a Box!

This program is a recording of Robin's 3-day milestone seminar where her top clients revealed their BEST strategies, secrets, and discoveries that helped them generate extreme leaps in profits, growth, sales and personal income in an incredibly short period of time.

You'll also hear industry experts like Paul Dippell reveal how to compensate your technicians in a managed services AND break-fix module to maximize their performance and utilization, Gary Pica on growing (and selling) your managed services practice, Robin on never-revealed before strategies for building a highly-effective marketing system in your business, Google SEO strategies from one of the top ten Google AdWords consultants in the world, legal requirements for managed services providers, how to secure free PR, and much, much more.

How do you get this?

Well, you can buy it from Robin for $997 or drop by our booth at SMB Nation and spin the big Prize Wheel. You might just win!

- - - - -

See you in Vegas, Baby!

:-)



Join Me In Chicago September 23rd
Seminar - Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Important Info: Register that Migration Book!

If you've purchased The Network Migration Workbook - Thank You!

Now the fun starts.

Go to www.zerodowntimemigration.com and register your book. You could also go to zdtminc.com if you don't love typing out zero downtime migration.

Once you register, you will have access to all the digital content. This includes . . .

- The Eight Chapters in PDF format

- The 200+ page SBS 2003 Migration Checklist in .docx format

- The 200+ page SBS 2008 Migration Checklist in .docx format

- Excel spreadsheets for quotes, fully burdened labor costs, etc. from Chapter Four

- Sample Visio diagrams

- Member forums (a member is a book owner)

- Private Migration Blog

- and more


The registration process is a little cumbersome. Please be patient. We want to be careful to restrict access to people who have already purchased the book.


To Register

When you go to www.zerodowntimemigration.com, click on Register Your Book on the left navigation menu.

Note: You will need your Order ID from Great Little Book/SMB Books.

If you bought the book on Amazon or from another online reseller, we have no record of this. You will need to demonstrate proof of purchase. We're very friendly and we'll work with you on this.

Once you complete that form, you will be a "Registered" Level Member and have access to all the free, public information.

Next, we will verify your Order ID and activate your Full Member status. At that point you will have full access to all the Member Content.


What We're Hoping For

We want to make the Zero Downtime Migration site a useful tool for people doing migrations.

At some level we all do migrations all the time. The big migration - replacing one core server with the entire company on it for a newer core server - is really just a series of discreet migrations. On top of that, we migrate from one router to another, one switch to another, one email provider to another, etc.

So we've got a place where people can discuss strategies, post up their checklists, trade information, and fine tune their processes.

In many ways, even our 592-page monster book can't cover everything there is about migrations. We have several cases where we show you how we configure our preferred tools, but you'll have to substitute your checklist.

Firewalls are a great example. How could we cover every firewall and security device out there? We can't. And, besides, you might configure the same firewall in a different way. So trading checklists and discussing why we do things the way we do can be extremely helpful.

On another front, we had to just stop writing the book at some point. So we don't go into depth with regard to Windows 7 and SBS 2008. Then there will be R2, upgrades to Exchange, SQL, etc. Oh and Blackberry for Server 2008, new versions of Backup Exec, and Diskeeper for the virtual environments.

The world keeps spinning.

So we want the site to be a "live" place where updates can be posted.

Eventually, we'll break out the Our Favorite White papers section so that it can be kept up today as the world evolves and members make recommendations.


Bottom line: We're hoping this site will add a huge value to the physical book.


If you want access but don't want to buy a book, you have two options:

1) Send $10,000 in USD twenty dollar bills to KarlP care of SMB Books,

2) Or buy the book!


Bonus for Far-Flung Readers

If you are in the UK, we have pretty quick turn-around because we are having books printed and shipped from the UK whenever possible.

If you are in the US, we're obviously shipping as quickly as we can.

If you are in New Zealand, Australia, The Philippines, South Africa, Israel, Russia, etc. -- fear not. We're sending books as quickly as we can. But if you have your SMB Books Order ID, you can register online and download the content as soon as your Membership has been confirmed.

Let the fun begin!

:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

SBSfaq.com Gets a Fresh Coat of Paint

One of the oldest SBS-centric sites on the web is SBSfaq.com, which is maintained by SBS MVP Wayne Small from down under.

Wayne recently finished a revamp of the site. It's worth a look.

Sometimes we move to fast forward in this business that established sites are actually unknown to people who are just getting connected to the community. "Everyone" knows about them, so they don't get mentioned as often. And there's a constant flood of new stuff.

If you read this blog from the web (blog.smallbizthoughts.com) then you've seen Wayne's SBSfaq.com blog in the blog roll. Of course if you're like most people and get an RSS feed, then you missed it.

Anyway, SBSfaq is a lot more than Frequently Asked Questions. The site includs News and Reviews about Microsoft's Small Business Server product family. That includes Foundation Server.

Check it out. Follow the blog. Sign up for the newsletter.

In addition to being a wealth of knowledge, Wayne Small is a heckuva nice guy. You can meet him in person right here in the U.S. when you attend SMB Nation.


:-)




Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

George Sierchio on SMB Conference Call Today

Please join me today . . . September 16th at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

For a great conference call with George Sierchio

George is the author of the newly-revised book BYOB: Build Your Own Business, Don't Be Your Own Boss

Register Now!


George Sierchio, also know as The Consultant's Coach, is an electrical engineer by formal education and a serial entrepreneur by nature. Before founding Action Business Partners, Inc. in 2003, George had over 11 years of experience owning and operating several successful businesses in a variety of IT, engineering and non-technical consulting and service industries.

He has personally started 5 businesses from scratch as well as negotiated the buying and selling of businesses for himself and clients. Besides his coaching/advisory work to technology business owners, George is an accomplished speaker, guest university lecturer, frequently contributes to a variety of publications, and has recently published the 2nd edition of his book entitled B.Y.O.B- Build Your Own Business, Don't Be Your Own Boss.

George is one of the featured speakers at SMB Nation this year -- But you can hear him today!

Action Business Partners, Inc. has one main objective: Take technology savvy business owners and turn them into entrepreneurs with a business structured to maximize profit to make money now and build business value to create a retirement vehicle for the future. This has been done since 2003 by providing the technology business owner community with coaching, advice, training and self help products to those ready to make their business work for them instead of them for it.

George's info:

- Email: gsierchio@consultantscoach.com
- Web: consultantscoach.com
- Blog: georgesierchio.com
- Twitter: twitter.com/gsierchio
- FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Sierchio/1042745668
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/georgesierchio


Register Now!

- - - - -


Looking Ahead: There are only a few SMB Conference Calls left . . . ever.

Today's Call is #46. Then . . .

#47
October 7th
James Foxall
Tigerpaw Software
www.tigerpawsoftware.com
Register Now

#48
October 21st
Hank Cranmore
Community Leader
www.mobitech4u.com
Register Now

#49
November 4th
David Politis
Vocalocity VOIP
www.vocalocity.com

#50
November 18th
Josh Peterson
Taylor Business Group
www.taylorbusinessgroup.com

#51
December 2nd
Vlad Mazek
Own Web Now / Exchange Defender
www.ownwebnow.com

#52
December 16th
Erick Simpson
MSPU - Managed Service Provider University
www.MSPU.us

That's it folks! The last SMB Conference Call Ever.

Mark your calendars and don't miss any of these.


:-)



Now Available:
Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive Seminar -
Vegas October 1st

Monday, September 14, 2009

Giving Up On Windows Explorer

I've mentioned before that my one great disappointment with Windows Vista has been the Windows Explorer.

First, the name sucks. How many times have you told someone to open the Windows Explorer and they instantly opened Internet Explorer? Okay, go to My Computer. File Manager. Whatever.

More importantly, Windows Explorer (My Computer, File Manager, Whatever) used to be very usable. In my opinion it is more trouble than it's worth in Vista and W7. It used to be (XP), that I would define the view I wanted, apply it to everything, and then it just stayed like that forever.

With Vista, you can kind of control that. But it stays for a few minutes, doesn't get applied universally, and SUCKS. Every directory has a massive amount of meta data so that every directory looks different. If there's one mp3 file, the directory stops displaying details and you have to go reset it so you can see your freakin' files!

I'm not sure who that's supposed to appeal to. I know it doesn't appeal to people who are comfortable using a computer.

What do you use Windows Explorer for? Three activities represent 99% of all Windows Explorer tasks:

- You browse through folders to find a file. It is extremely annoying when the view changes with every click. When you're looking for something you want to focus on one set of characteristics so you can quickly go through folders and find what you want. That's impossible when those details disappear all the time.

- You copy items from one place to another (or move them from one place to another). This does not require that extensions come and go, file details disappear, or that the background change. What's the point of all that?

- From inside a program, you browse for and open programs. Even if you've worked really hard to overcome the annoying default behavior for folder views in the regular Windows Explorer, all of that is lost when you call Windows Explorer to open a file from within Word or Excel.

Now I might be a power user. But I can also tell you that lots of regular users also hate this.

People aren't stupid. They fundamentally understand the folder/file structure. Even if you tell them that their desktop is just another folder, they understand.

This is not rocket science.

When you frustrate people so they can't find their stuff, you have not improved the product!

At a minimum, there should be an option to turn off all that crap and just browse files and folders with the details of choice.

I don't need a colored background.

I don't need a different picture on each of the 247,852 folders on my server.

I don't need dancing bears and elevator music.

I need a tool to manage files and folders that just works. This is no longer available from Microsoft!


(Susan Bradley and I exchanged several messages about this the last time I mentioned it. There are "fixes" for this stupid behavior. But because stupid behavior is now the intended default, the fixes only work until some Microsoft update replaces a .dll and resets the behavior back to stupid.

You think I'm alone in this? Google "make windows keep folder settings" and you'll come up with eleven million hits. Eleven million. The so called fixes all involve hacking the registry to remember a much larger number of folder settings, verifying that you've set the folders to remember the settings on each folder, and then manually setting every folder you touch so that it will be the way you want it next time -- unless Windows Update has "fixed" it all back to the way someone at Microsoft thinks it should be.)

- - - - -

The Fix is In

After much wailing and grinding of teeth, I have finally done something I haven't done in more than twenty years. I have replaced the Explorer that ships with my operating system with third party explorer.

This was pretty common in the day of Commodore 64, Amiga 128, and even the Apple II.

The file explorer function is absolutely central to the useful operation of a computer. Not just for techno-goobers, but for every user.

When a user says "Where did my stuff go?" that's a sign that file explorer has failed one of its most basic functions.

Don't get me wrong: I make no apologies for being a power user. I don't want the file management interface to slow me down. Its role in life is to make me work faster so I don't go to the alternative. The most obvious alternative is a competing operating system. But that's not the easiest alternative for lots of reasons.

The easiest alternative is to simply replace the Explorer called by the Windows Shell command.

I suffered through a bad Windows Explorer experience in the Vista era. The Windows 7 explorer is pretty much the same with a few additional annoyances thrown in for good measure (e.g., collapsing the folder view on the left by default).

There are two kinds of programs that ship with the operating system. There are lightweight programs that do a very basic job, such as Wordpad and Paint. They're fine. And if I were on a budget I could get by with both. But they're not intended to replace MS Word or Photoshop.

Then there are full-blown products that make the O.S. much more usable, like Internet Explorer. There's nothing "lite" about that product.

I expect the file management tool to be a full-blown, world class product. But there are text editors and $29 FTP tools that have more robust features.

So I downloaded xplorer2 from zabkat.com. $30 USD. License allows one person to install on several machines.

It's not perfect. But it is full featured, it replaces Windows Explorer, and it is a great file management tool.

Note: If you're unsure about making it the default file browser, just don't check that box at install. Later, when you realize how much better it is that Windows Exlplorer, just rerun the setup and check the box.


The really sad thing is that Microsoft could fix this very easily. But after millions of pages have been posted to address the problem, they have clearly made a decision that that's not the direction they want to go.

- - - - -

I am definitely NOT the person who downloads every little utility or widget that comes along. In fact, as we point out in our most recent book, our company has a penchant for using Microsoft product and utilities whenever possible on Microsoft operating systems.

So the only reason downloading this utility and installing it is blog-worthy is that it represents a serious departure for me.

I've heard the argument that you should invest a good sum of money on your keyboard and mouse because they are really your primary means of interacting with your computer. I agree. I have a KeyTronic keyboard that will never die.

Well, I feel the same way about the file manager. It is my primary means of interacting with my computer. The applications I have open at all times are my file manager and Internet Explorer. A close second tier of programs includes Outlook, Word, and Excel.

It should just work.


:-)



Join Me In Chicago September 23rd
Seminar - Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nine Lives Media Releases 2009 MSP Mentor 250

Our friends Joe Panettieri, Amy Katz, and Kim whose last name I don't know are spending the week posting the massive MSP Mentor 250.

See . . .
- Da Blog: http://www.mspmentor.net
- Da List: http://www.mspmentor.net/top-250-people/

At various places on the web site you'll find these descriptions for the MSP Mento 250 list:

  • "The report features CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, entrepreneurs, marketing experts, PR pros, association leaders and other top minds who are shaping the global managed services ecosystem."

  • "[O]ur annual look at the executives, entrepreneurs and experts shaping the global managed services market."

  • ". . . the report will help you network with managed services experts across the globe."

  • ". . . potential partners for your managed services efforts."


I am honored to be on this list. There are a bunch of names you know, or have heard of. There are also many names of people you haven't heard of. And while it might take you a long time to check them all out, it's worth doing so.

Joe describes the list as a kind of rolodex for the MSP industry. I think that's pretty accurate.

If you want to learn more than names, you'll need to follow links to their blogs (click on first name), twitter account (click on last name), and their company web site (click on company name).

If you investigate three or four companies a day, it will take 80 business days -- four months -- to get through the list. If you ramp it up from there, you might be done by the end of the year!

Thank you, Nine Lives Media, for providing this list. I know it's not the ultimate guide to the known universe. But it's a great resource for people in our industry.

Keeping Up on What's Going Down

I'm often asked how I keep up with everything that's going on. Well, dirty little secret time: I don't. No one does. No one can. You have to figure out for yourself how you're going to filter all the massive data in our business.

We've all heard it said that dealing with Microsoft is like drinking from a firehose. The same is true of attending a conference filled with content. The same is true with the list of great blogs out there. And all the new books. And all the training videos.

And on and on.

You have no hope of keeping track of all that. Sorry.

What can you do?

Well, you have to divide and conquer. Here's a quick plan (which you're probably already doing):

Step One: Determine the things you are simply not going to learn. Draw a line and make no effort to learn these things.

For example, I used to write code. Now I don't even try to keep up. I wouldn't think of programming today.

Be open to changing the list of things you're not going to learn.


Step Two: Determine the things you want to really jump into and become an expert at. What do you want to do everyday? What gives you joy, gets your blood running, and makes you have fun on the job? Do more of that.

Make plans to learn in these areas and dedicate yourself to being one of the best. You can get to the top pretty easily in the technology business because it's an expanding universe and very few people are trying to be at the top in any one area of interest.

So now you've taken care of the two ends: What you won't try to learn and what you really want to learn.

In the big middle is a vast array of things you need to know something about, even if you're not an expert. This group is divided into two easy pieces . . .

Step Three: Divide everything else into things you know and things you're aware of.

For example, you probably know about IP 4 addressing, DNS, and the basics of routing IP 4. You're probably aware of IP 6 addressing and aware that someday you'll have to decide to either ignore it or learn it.

The group of things you intend to know becomes a second tier of expertise for you. In fact, it's the great body of generalized knowledge you have about servers, networking, troubleshooting, wireless, etc.

The group of things you intend to be aware of is a larger group, and a little harder to define. This information generally comes to you through an ambient awareness of what's being discussed in blogs, at conferences, in the media, and within professional associations such as Comptia. You don't have to KNOW this stuff, but you want to have a general sense of the topics, the disagreements, and the evolution of technology.


Now let's get back to the question of how you keep up on "everything" in our business.

Remember, we said you can't. :-)

But what you can do is to choose really good filters to help you raise awareness in certain areas. These filters include things like Susan Bradley's blog, RSS feeds from TechNet, and maybe a little CNET.

The MSP Mentor 250 list is a great place to start if you want to build your network of people to connect to. You'll find connections to blogs, twitter, and home pages. From there you might choose to find these people on FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.

You still have to work to stay up on what's going down. But this list is a wonderful place to start.

Pace yourself. You have a year before the next list comes out.

:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook: Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cloud Computing and Hosted Environments

So Brian Sherman from Autotask Twittered the following rhetorical question:

"Continuing research to define differences between cloud computing and hosted environments . . . any suggestions?"

Great question.

What is Cloud Computing? Ugh. We'll be defining that for the next three years. Remember you read it here first.

What is a Hosted Environment? That's somewhat easier. Note that the question is not "What is a hosted service?"

A few thoughts to ponder. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time.

It seems to me . . .

A Hosted Service is a technology based function that is housed outside of the buyer's network and paid for as an operating expense, or provided free of charge to the end user.

So, for example, the following are all hosted services:

- Google Search
- Google Apps
- Bing
- QuickBooks Online
- Salesforce.com
- Hosted Web Service
- Hosted Servers
- Hosted Exchange
- Hosted Spam Filtering

The norm for such services is that they are either free to the user or paid for on an annual or monthly basis. The buyer/user does not own the equipment or code used to make these services work. And, for the most part, the buyer/owner doesn't care how these services work.

That's a key point in the evolution of cloud services: The client doesn't care how it works.

Technology has been easy "enough" for clients to understand that they have taken an interest in their servers. They want to know how many processors and how much RAM they're buying.

This ability to kind of understand some of the technology is what leads some clients to hop down to Best Buy (or go to Dell), get a $399 server, and deliver it to you ready to go.

With hosted services, we need to say the words You don't care how it works. You only care how well it serves your business. Repeat this again and again. Eventually your clients will repeat it back to you. "I don't care how it works. I only care how well it serves my business."

Excellent.

Now, a Hosted Environment is another animal of sorts.

One of the hosted services you can buy is a hosted environment. Building on the previous discussion, I would say this is a Hosted Service in which the client is paying for a working Server or Desktop that they can log into (or their staff can log into).

The key here is the word environment.

You can buy a web hosting package that includes an Exchange mailbox and Blackberry Server connection. So much a month. But you only log into Outlook connect via RPC over HTTPS. You never log into the Exchange Server.

In such a case you're buying a hosted web presence (Don't care how it's done . . .) and a hosted email service (Don't care how it's done . . .). But your environment is your laptop and your Blackberry device. With this hosting package, all the stuff that has to do with maintaining, patching, fixing, and backing up Exchange is someone else's problem.

That's very different from paying for a hosted server. With a hosted server, your people log in, configure it, maintain it, etc. Thus a hosted server gives you a hosted environment.

But the world is not so simple. In many cases, you'll access only enough of the server to create mailboxes and request that something be restored from backup. You still don't really control anything and all the maintenance is on the provider.

It's much easier to understand with a hosted desktop. There you connect (via Citrix, Terminal services, RDP, etc.) and it's just a desktop. You control everything. You can screw up the machine by downloading crap. You can junk it up with so many tool bars that 3/4 of the RAM is dedicated to them.

To you it's just a desktop. Now that's an environment.

Where could this desktop be? Anywhere, of course. It could be in another country. It could be at your ISP. Or at your consultant's colo facility. Or down the hall in the server room.

It could be provided from a Windows Server with Terminal Services, via Microsoft Virtual Machine, through VM Ware, through Citrix, via Parallels at a hosted service, off a big Sun box somewhere, etc.

"I don't care how it works. I only care how well it serves my business."

- - - - -

Both Hosted Services and Hosted Environments are part of the Cloud Computing solution set.

Having hosted servers and hosted services out there somewhere, paid for annually or monthly, has been a part of the technology business forever. These services have evolved considerably.

It used to be that a "hosted" server was a physical server and you could visit your provider and touch it. Now it's most likely a virtual machine inside a cluster somewhere and it's a little harder to find and touch.

The important evolution that's taken place in the last couple of years is that we've eased into a massively virtual environment for delivering services -- and clients haven't noticed.

This is extremely important for our business. The industry has removed physical servers and replaced them with virtual machines. For the most part this has been done smoothly. The client doesn't know the difference. And that makes it much easier to say "I don't care how it works. . . ."

And the even more important part is that we're early in the virtualization era. We will virtualize more machines and services in the next three years than we have in the last ten.

Think about this: If you were the average startup today, would you buy a big server and set it in the next room? No. You'd buy a small server that authenticates logons, manages backups, and lets people access their desktops remotely. Unless those desktops are already hosted.

Certainly your line of business application will be hosted.

Your big computing power will be purchased as needed online from Google or Azure. You'll pay $0.12/minute for processing. Even if you need to render massive designs in a CAD system, you'll just buy the horsepower you need when you need it. Then turn it off and stop paying when you don't need it.

Cloud Computing is a wonderful catch-all phrase to define the collection of services that are deployed from a pool of shared resources and paid for as an operating expense, or provided free of charge to the end user.

Cloud computing might be sold by the minute, as we just mentioned. Or it could be provided on an annual or monthly basis. If you build a private cloud to consolidate a client's technology into a single "service" at the client's site, you will probably have a three year agreement for services.

It is key to reiterate that it's sold as a service. The client is not buying hardware. The client is not purchasing a software license. The client is only buying a service. How it's provided is someone else's headache (yours).

Essentially, when the client says that she just wants it to work . . . and you make it work . . . and you charge for it as a service . . . that's the future.

Call it cloud computing if it helps. Call it a trademarked brand if you want.

Add it to managed services. Or sell managed service on top of it.

But don't fret about it and don't worry about losing your job.

Learn to provide modern technology solutions and you'll be selling "cloud services" and managed services.

- - - - -

I'm not sure I answered any questions. Just some thoughts to pass the time.


:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cloud Considerations - It's Too Early to be Adamant

This is the second Cloud Considerations post, although I've had much to say before that. To view the Cloud Considerations posts, see http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/search?q=cloud+considerations

For all Cloud Computing posts, go to http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/search/label/Cloud%20Computing.

- - - - -

It's Too Early to be Adamant

One of the things that strikes me at this stage of Cloud Computing is that there are a handful of people who are adamant in describing and defining Cloud Computing. I am very opinionated, but it's too early to be adamant.

As I've mentioned before, I believe there are basically three types of Clouds:

- Out on the Internet (out of your control in any meaningful way)

- VAR-Centric (at your colo facility)

- On Premise (private cloud at client office)

Some people adamantly deny that you can have private clouds. And yet we're all building them every day. When you take all your client's computing power and stick it in 1-2 boxes with virtual machines, you're building a cloud. Whether it's the Zenith Smart Style, Citrix, or Microsoft, you're building clouds at client offices.

We like to joke about whatever as a service (WAAS), but the reality is that defining terms and naming services is an important step in the evolution of a new product. Will you sell . . .

- Technology in a Box
- Office in a Box
- On Premise Cloud
- Software as a Service
- Infrastructure as a Service
- Data center as a Service
- Technology as a Service

. . . or something else?

The question of defining terms helps us to clarify. What does cloud mean? Does cloud mean virtualization? If so, do you need to sell virtualization to the client?

I have literally started using the following question with clients: "What do you care how it works?"

Is it a big box from Sun? A cluster from Zenith? A hyper-V from Microsoft? A Citrix deployment? Who cares?

YOU, the technician have to determine which technologies you're going to become competent in. You have to determine what to sell and how to maintain it. So you care.

But the client . . . not so much. The client's future will consist more and more of knowing less and less about the technology that makes things happen. He turns on a switch and his technology is there. Where? On his monitor. Where else matters?

I'm not going to define "The Cloud" here. But I'll tell you about one key component: Shared Resources. Every version of Cloud Computing I've seen has this one thing in common. We're taking the computing power off the desktop and sharing resources somewhere else.

This is very much the model described by Nicholas Carr in The Big Switch.

For years now I've been helping clients centralize their computing into one room. It has been terminal services and virtual machines. But soon it will be much more.

The arguments for your powerpoint presentations are pretty straight forward:

- Why should you keep buying power supplies, processors, and hard drives every time you hire someone?

- Each machine in the office operates at about 5% efficiency overall.

- Why not invest that money in a centralized computing system, put thin clients on the desktops, and save a ton of money?


So if some know-it-all comes along and tells my client that there's no such thing as a private cloud or an on-premise cloud, I hope my client will say "Why do I care how it works?"

Good answer.

:-)



Now Available:
Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive Seminar -
Vegas October 1st

Monday, September 07, 2009

SMB Hash Tags

I'm writing a long article on "Twitter in One Lesson" for the September Promotion Monkey Newsletter. One of the tips I give is that you should be sure to use hash tags. No, there's no dope involved.

Hash tags look like #this. A better example would be #promomonkey.

Twitter has a handy little search field on the right side of the screen. You can search for whatever you want. To help categorize things, one of the norms that evolved is to put a hash mark (#) in front of a keyword. Then people can search for that and find related tweets.

Right below the search field is a list of current “hot” topics on Twitter. If you can get a bunch of people to tweet back and forth about your topic at the same time, you might show up on this list, drawing in even more traffic.

Within any post, the hash tag is also a search link. So, if you click on #marketing, Twitter will give you search results for that hash tag — and maybe you’ll find someone new to follow.

Key Point: If you put out useful hash tags and someone clicks on one, you’ll need to have interesting things there. It’s a great way to increase your following! It gets back to the same old message on content: Be useful and interesting and people will consider you a contributor and opinion leader!

Acknowledging Others

It is very good form to help promote others by using their hash tags when discussing their products. Gives them more visibility. And they may return the favor.


Sample hash tag Usage:

Here’s a practical use for that: Coming up on September 23rd in Chicago, I'm going to hold a seminar on Zero Downtime Migrations. (I'll be joined by Vlad Mazek from #OWN and #ExchangeDefender.)

Anyway, I'm going to ask any twitterers in the crowd to use the hash tag #ZDTM so everyone else on the planet can get a taste of what's going on. We'll have someone go to www.tweetgrid.com and search for the #ZDTM hash tag. Then they can follow the activity and even solicit questions from far afield.

See how useful that is?

- - - - -


So let's agree on some hash tags for the SMB Community.

Here are some that either make sense or have already been used:

#Autotask
#Connectwise
#GLB - Great Little Book
#HTG - Heartland Technology Groups
#IAMCP
#MSPSN
#MSPU
#Microsoft
#OWN - Own Web Now
#SBS
#SMBNation
#SMBTN
#TBG - Taylor Business Groups
#ZDTM - Zero Downtime Migration
#Zenith - Zenith Infotech


Please propose others in the comments section. I apologize to anyone whose (obvious) hash tag I missed. Obviously, you can add every product or company under the sun.

Important Safety Tip: keep it short. #IDidntThinkAboutTheTagTilIStartedTyping doesn't work if you want people to retweet and stay within 140 characters.

Feedback Welcome.

Thanks @karlpalachuk - #GLB

:-)



Join Me In Chicago September 23rd
Seminar - Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Clients Who Cannot Manage Themselves

One of the great disappointments we have is clients who take no role in managing their own technology. And, as a result, their technology expenses are out of their control and ours.

One of the great promises we make with managed services is that clients can accurately budget for their technology. And we can have accurate estimates of our income.

There are basically three types of clients who cannot manage themselves.

1) Ignore Advice, Pay the Price

2) Act First, Think Later

3) Technology Just Shows Up

For each of these I'm tempted to say "this is the most common," but they're all so common. Among clients who can't manage themselves with regard to technology, I think these three groups are pretty well divided.


Ignore Advice, Pay the Price

These folks know for an absolute fact that they should do what you tell them . . . but they don't.

So how do you spot these clients? Well, they send you emails like this (actual quote):

    "And, having just talked about the fact that my external drive is not backed up . . . when I was transferring files from the external drive to my new computer, I noticed that what I was transferring was taking a long time. I did not think anything I was transferring should take so long so I hit cancel. I later discovered that I was transferring some huge client graphic files by accident and when I hit cancel, those files (which are invaluable) are gone! Is there any way to recover them from the external drive?"


Let me translate:
1) I didn't take your advice.
2) I'm screwed.
3) The cost is irrelevant.

These people are perfectly honest and forthright: I should have taken your advice. I didn't. Here we are. The way they phrase the communication, there's no doubt that this is totally their fault. And billable.

The Problem: It's our job to manage their technology. Therefore, it's our job to stop this madness however we can. We don't WANT to say "I told you so" while handing them a bill.


Act First, Think Later

This group refuses to plan a single day in advance, let alone a week, month, or year.

These are the people who call and say they have a new employee starting today. WHAT? You had an emergency hire? You didn't define the job, advertise for it, collect resumes, interview candidates, negotiate a salary, make an offer, and schedule a start date?

You woke up and hired someone before 8:00 AM?

Or, let's take the example of the client who calls and says "Larry doesn't work here any more. Nuke him." We create a service request to follow our standard procedure . . .

- Determine who should get his new email
- Determine who should have access to his old email
- Archive his email to a PST
- Move data from his desktop to where it's supposed to be on the server
- Disable the user account
- After a pre-defined period of time . . . Delete the user
- Execute any client-specific procedures

and then . . . a week later . . .

A service request comes in to create a user name and logon for Larry. The same Larry.

I don't even want to know what's going on. But both of these events (out with the old, in with the new) are billable. No questions asked.

The Problem: It's our job to manage their technology. Therefore, it's our job to help them plan ahead. We hold road map meetings and have to practically drag some of these people into the conference room to save them money with proper planning! And then they still do this.


Technology Just Shows Up

I'll never forget the first time I walked into a prospect's office and he gave me a tour of the office. There were 100GB and 250GB USB drives scattered all over the place. In fact, at several stations he commented that he didn't know this person had one.

People brought in scanners from home and wanted them to work. They brought in "favorite" keyboards and mouses. Software just showed up and the company was grateful to have it.

We decided this is not the kind of client we want on managed service.

But, unfortunately, we have such clients on managed service. "I bought a great PC at Best Buy for only $399. Can you connect it to the network?"

Sure. $200 for an upgrade from Home Edition. Disable all the memory stick readers that create hardwired drives E through L. Upgrade the RAM for another $50. Add a three year warranty for $150. Labor for upgrades = about $450.

Man, you sure saved a bunch of money on that pile of crap! And it's still not a business class computer. It's a cheap piece of junk with a warranty.

The problem is: It's our job to manage their technology. This person needs to be served. But they love shiny objects and have a totally false sense of economy.

The worst case I ever saw was back in the days of modems and bulletin boards. I had a client who bought seventy (70) cube-shaped modems and velcroed them all together into a flexible wall of technology. I wish I'd taken a picture. It was funny and beautiful to behold. Until a modem in the middle of the wall had a problem. Then it was an hour's worth of labor just to get the little bugger out.

I think the real problem here is that people with a technical bent are convinced that what we do is "easy." And maybe it is. But easy in what way? It's easy to buy the wrong thing. It's easy to gerry-rig something to make it (mostly) work. It's easy to get by. It's easy to make bad decisions.

And that easy way always costs more money.

- - - - -

The Key Points

1) I'm not trying to create a system where I make more money off all these things.

On the contrary, I want to make a little less money, enjoy a lot less hassle, and have a client who is much happier in the long run. My long term view is that clients will eventually recognize that we're saving them money and they'll renew their contracts forever.

2) Technology does not have to be a hassle.

When I look at our best behaved clients I see:

- Servers that last 3-4 years with zero hardware problems
- Zero calls to HP for tech support
- Operating systems that are perfectly patched and just work
- Desktops that last 3-4 years with zero hardware problems
- Scanners, printers, and faxes that just work
- Reliable internet and network equipment

Technology is not a hassle. It is completely in the background so the client can focus on their work.

Total extra cost for that up front: maybe 10%.

Total savings over three years: hundreds of hours. Hundreds. Tens of thousands of dollars.

Some people believe that technology is always a hassle because they always cut corners and make bad decisions with no planning. They do this to themselves.

3) Converting people to the right behavior requires more carrot and less stick. It also requires a technician who is more preacher and less mule skinner*.

You can "punish" your clients by charging emergency rates for bad decisions, and full price to fix all their junk. And you can shove it in their face and make them feel like idiots.

But who wants to have that kind of relationship with their clients? Not me.

Technicians sometimes get into a frenzy of talking about all the stupid things clients do. But they're not stupid. 1) They're not technicians, and 2) They're making choices without complete information and a philosophy about technology.

A few people will get a big bill, learn their lesson, and change their ways.

But most wayward clients need to be talked to -- gently -- about how technology works and how we can all make good decisions that save money in the long run.

Our best clients request planning meetings between our quarterly reviews. They plan everything a full year in advance. They make rational decisions. They engage us in the process. And they save a ton of money every year.

Unfortunately, you can't convert these clients quickly. You have to gently guide them along month after month, year after year. Some never learn. But many become converts and begin preaching the religion of planned technology. And those are very enjoyable clients to have.


* For non-American readers, and all under 40: A mule skinner is the person who drives the mule train. They do not "skin" the mule, even if it doesn't listen. The term comes from using a whip to beat the mule. And because these lonely people spend all day and all night with only their mules, they talk to the mules. That includes threats to skin them if they don't behave.

Does that sound like one of your technicians? :-0

:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Friday, September 04, 2009

Misc. Updates: ZDTM, Events, etc.

I have been swamped as the book and SMB Nation preparations come to a head.

Here's a collection of announcements and information. I gotta get these scraps of paper off my desk.

- - - - -

SMB Conference Call on Zero Downtime

We got a good recording of the SMB Conference Call with Manuel Palachuk on Zero Downtime Migrations (ZDTM). So I hope to have that posted on Saturday.

I inadvertently disconnected my home Internet!

After years of never using the home phone, we decided to disconnect it. Everyone has a cell phone. I have a VOIP phone from GLB at home. So we have enough phones. The only people who call the "home" phone are politicians and people who ignore the do not call list.

So, I called ATT to make sure I could get Internet without a telephone line. They said no problem. Scheduled that for Friday. Okay. You're good to go.

I hang up and . . . there's no Internet or dial tone on the old line. Doh! They didn't tell me they were going to do that. Why can't you hook up the new line first and then disable the old line?

Think zero downtime!

Anyway, the business owns two Sprint wireless cards. So that's how we're hobbling along for now. We should be back at a faster speed today.

- - - - -

The Network Migration Workbook is now shipping!

Please allow 7-10 days for delivery. We have a bit of a backlog.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us in this endeavor.

- - - - -

Vlad Mazek (Own Web Now/Exchange Defender) is joining me in Chicago September 23rd!

The seminar is An Introduction to Zero Downtime Migration Strategies.

It's perfect for anyone moving to SBS or any other Windows-based server. And, yes, that's either SBS 2008 or SBS 2003.

We still have some seats available for the discount price of . . . free. The discount code is ZDTM09 and takes the price from $49 to $ Free. Sponsored by the Chicago SBS User Group.

Info and registration are on the SMB Books Zero Downtime Migration Seminar page.

We'll cover
- Project Management for ZDTM
and
- Zero Downtime Migration Strategies

Wednesday September 23rd, 2009
Registration 6:00 PM
Seminar 6:30 - 9:00 PM

Marriott O'Hare
8535 West Higgins Rd
Chicago, Illinois

Only $49 !
Sponsored by the Chicago SBS User Group

Mark your calendars and plan to be in Chicago on September 23rd

- - - - -

SMB Nation Discounts Extended!

Due to the late Labor Day holiday . . . Early bird pricing has been extended to September 25th to accommodate late Labor Day weekend!
- That's $200 off the regular
- Don't forget the $99/month payment plan

The big Preday events are October 1st (see below).

SMB Nation is October 2-4 in Vegas Baby!

Microsoft is using this event to do a Launch for Windows 7 along with SMB Channel Partner: speeches, hands-on labs, and a launch party.

- - - - -

And of course . . .

Manuel and I are doing an all-day Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive in Vegas on October 1st.

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Includes Lunch
and The New Book ($300 value)
and a bound Network Migration Binder ($100 value)

For more information, and to register, see . . .

SMBBooks.com.

- - - - -

:-)



Join Me In Chicago September 23rd
Seminar - Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Zero Downtime Migrations on Our Next SMB Conference Call with Manuel Palachuk

Zero Downtime Migrations on Our Next SMB Conference Call with Manuel Palachuk

Wednesday
September 2nd, 2009


Over the last five years, KPEnterprises has developed a system of migrating companies to new servers during normal business hours with no significant impact on their business.

In large companies, this is standard operating procedure (or could be) because they have multiple servers, and multiple domain controllers. They can move domain control, and even global catalog services around without bothering the staff. But small businesses face a special challenge: They normally only have one server. Or, if it's a Small Business Server, it has to be the center of the universe.

How do you move Exchange, SQL, line of business applications, and other critical functions to a new server with zero downtime?

Listen in and find out.

Manuel is the co-author of The Network Migration Workbook: Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks.

Info:
- See http://www.networkmigrationworkbook.com/
- Email: manuelp@kpenterprises.com
- Seminar: Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive - October 1, Las Vegas

Join us September 2nd at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

Register Now!

Find out more on the SMB Conference Call page.
Tell all your friends and colleagues!
Mark Your Calendar Today!