Friday, September 30, 2016

The Story of Recurring Revenue

Just posted a quick video to demonstrate the beauty of recurring revenue.

For a GREAT example of creating a bundle of services for recurring revenue, 
visit my Cloud Five Pack web site and join me at the big 12th Annual Fall Seminar!

What is recurring revenue? 

Quite simply, it's any regularly billed services that you can sell to your clients. My favorite combo includes anti-virus, remove monitoring, patch management, spam filtering, hosted Exchange, backup, and even Microsoft Office.

You might add telephones, security monitoring, toner refills, or anything else you want to that list.

The more you make your offering basic, the more likely it is to sell well and be renewed forever. What do I mean by basic? Well, consider web hosting. Everyone needs it and most people never consider moving it unless they are getting bad service or find out they're being over charged.


Email is basic. Anti-Virus is basic. Spam filtering is basic.

When you sell these things as a service, you buy service in bulk and sell them as needed. So you get great pricing and decent margins. And if it's a service, you have almost no maintenance, so you get to keep all that profit.

It's also important that you bundle these services so that you create a SKU that no one else has. Sell your bundle at a reasonable price and everyone will want it.

Here's that video:


Monday, September 26, 2016

The Really Really Big Big Bundle for Managed Services - 2016 edition

A very patient IT service provider has been exchanging emails with me for more than a week, looking for the ultimate bundle of Managed Service Awesomeness.

Most of you have probably bought a book here or a book there, so you don't really need a massive, monster starter-kit for managed services. But if you DO, I may have it for you here.

The Really Really Big Big Bundle for Managed Services - 2016 edition

This massive bundle has a recommended retail price of $1,827.14. I have some sales going on right now, so you can save about $450 and get all this for only $1,377.05 right now.

But if you add this really really big big bundle to your cart at SMB Books, discount code WOWEE will bring the total down to only $999!

The following items are included with this product:

Make Money with Big Data and Cloud Services - Fall 2016 ($249.00 value!)
- Goulston Palachuk - Project Management - Ebook ($49.95 value!)
- Getting to the Next Level - Manuel Palachuk ($34.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - Process Control for the IT Industry ($59.95 value!)
- Ten Golden Rules of PSA and Service Ticket Systems Training Webinar ($59.95 value!)
- Palachuk - Managed Services Month Book - Revised 2nd Edition - Paperback Book ($24.95 value!)
- Managed Services Operations Manual - 4-vol set - Ebook ($379.95 value!)
- Palachuk - Network Documentation Workbook Ebook ($89.95 value!)
- Palachuk - Relax Focus Succeed® -- Revised ed. - Ebook ($19.95 value!)
- Palachuk - Service Agreements for SMB Consultants - Ebook PDF ($49.95 value!)
- Palachuk Palachuk - Network Migration 2nd ed. - Ebook ($299.95 value!)
- SMB Preday 2015 - Build Your Brand Through Service ($199.00 value!)
- SOP Monthly Maintenance ($9.99 value!)
- SOPs That Will Instantly Increase Your Profit - with Bonus Audio ($129.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - Core Competency Matrix ($29.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - How to Document Any Process ($29.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - Most Important Documents ($29.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - Email Cleanup Whitepaper ($9.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - Five Tools That Could Transform Your Company Overnight ($39.95 value!)
- Palachuk Manuel - Working and Tracking Time in Real-time ($29.95 value!)

Get the E-Book version of all of these products for only $999 !!!

The MSRP on these products combined is $1,827.14.

Many items are on sale, so you can buy them separately right now at SMB Books for only $1,377.05.

But right now you can get ALL of these products for just $999 !!!

Just add this item to your shopping cart and then apply discount code WOWEE.

Sorry - no additional discounts may be applied. C'mon!

( Add to Cart Now )


Friday, September 23, 2016

SOP: Licenses You Need for Business

No matter where you do business, you need some licenses and permits.

Most people know they need a business license, but you may not know where to get one. In some places, you get that from the city. In other places it might be the county, the parish, the district, etc.

In states that collect sales tax, you need a permit that allows you to buy hardware and software and resell it, collecting that sales tax and paying it on to the state government.

All of this starts with the decision about the form your business will take (S-Corp, C-Corp, LLC, etc.). But after that, there are layers and layers of government that want to regulate what you do. You may need permits to work in someone's home, or to install cabling, for example.

I posted this video on the subject today:

Of course you're going to have a tax ID number for your business. This might be your personal Social Security Number, an employer identification number, or a state-issued tax ID. The form of your company affects the way you file taxes, sign agreements, and run you business.

Licenses and Permits can be overwhelming. You need to do the due diligence to find out which permits you need, how you should be signing contracts,  and which taxes you need to pay.

Here are a few links to get you started - at least in the U.S.

In California, we have more layers of government and taxation than you can imagine. Almost no one here knows all the regulations they're supposed to follow! But we have a "golden" web site that's supposed to help you get started. It is called CalGold:

If you know of similar sites in other states or countries, feel free to add them to the comments.

Remember: This is manageable! Lots of people have done it and you can too. So don't be overwhelmed.


Editor's note: Updated link on Jan. 10, 2019.

SOP: Desktop Documentation

Desktop documentation is really easy if you start it while building up machine for delivery to the client. You should have a standard machine spec sheet, but you're also going to get a lot of juicy good information from the spec sheet online at the distributor. You might as well print that off and keep it.

As with servers or any other equipment, I recommend that you use pouch folders to store all documentation, CDs, DVDs, warranty info, etc. You should also have customized checklists for each client - and update them with each machine you deliver.

Here's my latest SOP video on this subject:

Just remember: That machine build checklist probably has some secure information on it - so be sure to treat those printouts with respect and keep them safe.

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Also see the earlier videos on server documentation.

Documenting a Server, Part 1

Documenting a New Server, Part 2

Documenting a New Server, Part 3


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ASCII Success Summits to feature Frank Abagnale in 2017 - Dates and Details

I am happy to pass along a great announcement from my friends over at ASCII. These dates have been added to the calendar of events in my weekly newsletter.

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The ASCII Group Announces New Content, Cities and Leading Keynote Speaker for 2017 IT SMB Success Summits

Bethesda, Maryland – September 20, 2016 -- The ASCII Group, the leading membership-based community of independent MSPs, VARs and solution providers, is pleased to announce updates to its 2017 IT SMB Success Summit Series including a new keynote speaker, conference content and event cities. Having become the premier series of events for IT solution providers to attend, The ASCII Group is extending its reach in nine markets across North America.  With a continued focus on education, collaboration, networking, and engagement, the 2017 series will also concentrate on driving the advancement of IT services.

Each Summit welcomes hundreds of Managed Service Providers as well as key industry leaders and market influencers. Now in its seventeenth year, the Success Summits are once again on track for record attendance with the central theme highlighting growth and advancement.

“The events enable our industry to reconnect and learn. At each event we see that light bulb moment happen, either through a new peer introduction, a newly discovered vendor opportunity or through a new service ASCII provides to help lower the overall burden on the MSP. The mission of our Summits continues to focus on helping solution providers further their business by leveraging the power of the ASCII Community,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.

The 2017 Summits will include education, innovative industry presentations, a cutting-edge vendor solutions pavilion, and an exclusive ASCII members-only meeting. The Summit Series is designed for qualified industry IT professionals and MSPs, and is targeted towards those looking to increase revenue and enhance their current business model.  Admission is free for ASCII members.

In addition to informative and real-life best practice addresses from ASCII members and thought leaders, the special guest speaker for 2017 is Frank Abagnale, acclaimed subject of the book, movie and Broadway play, “Catch Me If You Can”, and one of the world’s most respected authorities on forgery, embezzlement and securing documents.    

“85% of ASCII members reported revenue growth in 2015, and our Summits, in conjunction with our other programs that save them thousands of dollars annually, remain a highly engaging opportunity for the membership,” said Alan Weinberger, CEO, The ASCII Group.  “Summit participants said their top business reasons for attending include their desire to educate themselves on potential industry opportunities, to learn about new products and programs, and the need to seek out face-to-face partnerships with attending vendors, so we remain committed to joining together the best and brightest vendors with the top MSPs in North America.”

For further information on the ASCII IT SMB Success Summits in each city, please visit

Follow ASCII on social media @asciigroup and #ASCIISUCCESS.

2017 Summit Cities:

  •      Houston, TX                              February 22 – 23
  •      Orange County, CA                   March 29 – 30
  •      Boston, MA                               April 26 – 27
  •      Columbus, OH                           May 17 – 18
  •      Toronto, Canada                        June 21 – 22
  •      Newark, NJ                               July 26 – 27
  •      Chicago, IL                                August 30 – 31
  •      Miami, FL                                  September 27 – 28
  •      Washington, D.C.                      October 25 - 26

About The ASCII Group, Inc:The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solution providers.  Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction.  ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities.  Learn more at or by calling 800-394-2724.


Press Contact
Alysia Vetter
Director of Marketing & Communications
Tel: 800-394-2724 x 131
Email: [email protected]

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Friday, September 16, 2016

ABM: Always Be Marketing!

I put up a quick video today about marketing. What are the top three things you need to do when marketing your small business?

There are many things, of course, but I think there are three things more important than all else. First, you need to build Your List. Notice that's "Your List" and not "a list." It does very little good to buy a list and then send out post cards. Those people are total strangers. They have no reason to pay attention to you or to even open a letter from you.

Don't misunderstand me: You can turn a list of strangers into a list of potential clients. But it takes time. You need to cultivate them. Send them regular newsletters. Invite them to luncheons. Send them tips and tricks for being more productive. Eventually, they will feel as if they know you. They will "warm up" and become warm prospects instead of strangers.

The other way to build your list is to collect business cards, follow up, and do all the things we mentioned above. This kind of list will always be just a little warmer because you've actually met these people. Every personal interaction with someone makes them just a little warmer. So you can see how people in the first group move to the second group as they attend your events or come to see you at a Chamber get together.

Cultivate your list. Love your list. Nurture your list.

And don't worry about how large it is. Commit to growing you list and it doesn't matter if you start with zero prospects today. Collect cards and grow it to 10, 25, 100, 500, and beyond. Buy a list as large as you can afford to mail to regularly. That might be 100, 500, or 5,000. But whatever you do, get started today.

Your prospect lists are your single greatest source for future business!

Second, you should have a consistent Look and Feel. That is, you should be intentional in the way you you show up at events, in postal mailing, in email, and so forth. Your message should be consistent. Your colors should be consistent.

You are your brand. Be your brand.

If you control the way your business shows up, you build a positive image. It's a strange thing about people: When we know about a company or recognize a logo, we develop a sense of familiarity and trust over time. But you need to be presenting a consistent look and feel in order for this to happen.

Third, you must have a marketing budget. Some people say that small businesses, and small service businesses in particular should not spend money on marketing. I completely disagree.

If you don't do marketing, people will have no idea who you are. It's okay to start small. But if you want new clients, then marketing is pretty much the way you're going to get that. How much? Well, that's hard to say. Personally, I think very small service businesses should plan to spend about 10% of their profit on marketing.

If you make a profit of $120,000 per year, that's an easy $1,000/month on marketing. That might seem like a lot if you haven't done anything, but just remember: You need to sign ONE new client to make that pay for itself.

Eventually, this percentage needs to climb up. For larger companies it will be closer to 30%. But if you find something that works, there's no hurry in getting to that number.

You can spend that on mailings, events, Chamber membership, or whatever you wish. Be very careful to track what works! If you pay Chamber membership for a couple of years and have zero new clients from that activity, stop doing it! Don't waste your money on activities that worked for someone else you met. Measure your results and invest money in things that work for you.

Most importantly: Start today if you haven't been doing anything.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Getting to the Next Level - Presales Start Today

I am very pleased to announce that Great Little Book Publishing will be publishing my brother Manuel Palachuk's new book - Getting To The Next Level - in hardback (and ebook) this year. The book went on sale today at SMB Books (

Note: This is a Presale - We expect this book to be released and shipped in November 2016.

Getting to the next level is a never ending journey for you and your business and now you have the definitive guide book. From the design of the business to the execution on strategy and all the tools you need in between this book covers it. It shows you how to gauge your business maturity and your progress along your roadmap to stratospheric success. Complete with a well defined case study and Example by the author that are built from years of experience in business management and guidance.

Learn to design your business from the top down using the Pyramid of Purpose and Value and then build it from the ground up by leveraging Business Agile Strategy Execution (BASE).Your Shared Vision is the heart of your business even more so than your product and service value proposition. Your shared vision must be embedded in your organizations culture so it can permeate all the way down to the ground level. The Pyramid of Purpose and Value allows you to design your business from the top down and to share it in a meaningful way. It paints a clear and enticing picture and tells a very compelling story of how you intend to create stratospheric success. It attracts the right people to back your endeavor and the right people to get on board.

You ability to define a clear business roadmap & Strategy and then execute on it is one of the biggest determinants of your success. Imagine taking the most advanced methods of Agile development and applying them to your business roadmap & strategy execution. That's Business Agile Strategy Execution. BASE is the most innovative advancement for small and medium size business roadmap development and strategy execution and you can harness and leverage its power for your self. The entire process is clearly defined and broken down in step-by-step fashion using real life examples.Today more than ever there is a demand for value in everything we create or do. Tap into the authors insights on creating a value proposition for your customers that endears them to your business because they see you are a value drive organization. Learn about the elements of success that determine your organizations overall Business Maturity Index and how to drive them in the direction you want. With this book you will have the most important component of a true significant competitive advantage for your business, the blueprint for success.

Special Deal: This book is hardbound (or ebook) and will sell for $34.95. Right now during pre-sale it is available for only $29.95.

No Code is necessary: Buy Now for Only $29.95!

Table of Contents


1. What Does The Next Level Look Like?

  • Start With the End in Mind
  • Startup, Turnaround, Merger, Acquisition, Cruising
  • Your Business Identity
  • The Pyramid of Purpose and Value
  • Your Business Success and Maturity
  • The Way of the Turtle
  • The Reality of What Is Required
  • Success as a Habit

2. The Tenets of Business & Management

  • The Purpose of a Business
  • Business Basics Review
  • Management & Leading Functions
  • The Value Chain
  • Basic Functions of Any Business
  • Organizational Environments
  • Business Value Aspects
  • Organizational Environments

3. Developing Your Business Roadmap & Strategy

  • Critical Thinking
  • Process Control
  • GOST Strategy Planning
  • SMARTER Goal and Projects
  • Core Competency Matrix
  • DiSC Profiles
  • Feasibility Study
  • Business Plan

4. Tools & Methods for Analyzing Your Business

  • Product Life Cycle Analysis
  • Target Market Analysis
  • Ansoff Matrix
  • Porter’s Five Competitive Forces
  • Porter’s Generic Strategies
  • Bowman’s Strategy Clock
  • PESTEL Analysis
  • McKinsey 7S Framework
  • Gap Analysis
  • SWOT Analysis

5. Tools & Methods for Refining Your Business

  • Financial Statements
  • Leading Indicators
  • The Value Chain
  • LEAN
  • Six Sigma
  • Balanced Scorecard
  • The Strategy Map
  • Business Maturity Index
  • BASE (Business Agile Strategy Execution)

6. Pyramid of Purpose and Value - Culture

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Values
  • Human Element
  • Culture Crosscheck

7. Pyramid of Purpose and Value – Compass

  • Products and Services
  • Target Markets
  • Operating Systems
  • Compass Crosscheck

8. Pyramid of Purpose and Value – Blueprint for Success

  • Resources
  • Performance Measures
  • Roadmap & Strategy
  • Blueprint Crosscheck
  • The BASE
  • Continuous Incremental Improvement
  • Discipline and Execution

9. Business Maturity Index - Gauging Your Success

  • The BMI Framework
  • The Index And Graph In Action
  • BMI Summary
  • The Ten Business Value Aspects
  • The Five Success Elements

10. Agile Execution
  • Agile Defined
  • Agile In Action
  • Agile Versus Waterfall
  • Why Agile?

11. Business Strategy Meets Agile Execution

  • The Business Analysis Breakdown
  • The Roadmap and Strategy Buildup
  • Agile Applied (Iteration Planning)
  • Continuous Incremental Improvement (The Sprint)
  • Using An Agile Project Board

12. Case Study & Example

13. The Next Level

  • Refining Your Business Identity
  • Growing Your Operation
  • Financing and Private Equity
  • The End Game
  • Business Valuation
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Protecting Your Business Legacy
  • Engaging a Business Coach or Mentor
  • Mastermind, Peer, and Business Groups
  • Getting Everyone On Board
  • Putting It All Together

Manuel Palachuk




No Code is necessary: 
Buy Now for Only $29.95!

- - - - -
About the author: Manuel Palachuk is the coach who will take you to the gym not just send you there. He believes that small business is the backbone of the world and the service industry in particular is the heart! He has nearly 30 years of business, management and training experience in the computer and electronics industries including owning and managing successful IT and MSP companies.He holds an Associate degree in Electrical Engineering Technology and a Bachelor’s degree in Automated Manufacturing Technology. He is an expert of process, systems, and their efficiency who is driven toward continuous improvement in all aspects of business.

Manuel is an experienced speaker and trainer at industry conferences and other events. He is also the co-author of the Network Migration Workbook, an expansive 600 page document covering the complete processes and checklists required to migrate your network with zero downtime.


Friday, September 09, 2016

Using a Camera in Network Documentation

I posted a new video in the "server documentation" series. See my YouTube channel at

In many cases, the best camera to use to supplement your network documentation is a small "sure shot" or cell phone camera. This is handy because it's easy to take with you. And since these little beauties now have 10+ megapixels.

I give some examples of how I've used my small cameras to document memory labels, equipment layouts, and more.

Remember: If you do this, there are security concerns. Don't use your camera as a "scanner" for documents and end up with secure information on an insecure medium!


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Road Technology in Colombia - Part 1

If you get my newsletter (See link at the top) or follow me on Facebook (/karlpalachuk), then you know I'm rambling around Colombia, South America. I thought future travelers might be interested in some notes about the technology experience we're having here.

My travel companion is old time friend Josh Liberman from Albuquerque, NM.

There are four technologies the modern traveler will want to have: GPS, telephone/smart phone, power, and Internet access. Happily, all of these have been good except the one that matters the least: GPS.

Here's a map of our travel so far. We landed in Bogota where, as you can imagine, everything worked great. We stayed at a Marriott Courtyard with modern everything. We took Uber and Tappsi for taxi service. It was easy to get around and no more of a hassle than any modern city.

We drove down highway 21 to 45 all the way down to Pitalito. We stayed the first night in Neiva, then Pitalito and San Agustin.

The worst road so far (and literally perhaps the worst road in Colombia) was to take "highway" 20 over the top of the Andes to Popayan. This was unpaved for about 80 of 83 miles and took 4.5 hours. Obviously there's cell signal and no hope of getting help if something goes wrong.

GPS in Colombia

We rented a car from Localiza and got their GPS. It is a crappy, low-end, much-abused Garmin whose maps have not been updated in years. Lots of roads are missing and it has no idea that many city streets have become one-way.

At first we couldn't figure out why we were zig-zagging all over Bogota to get out of town. Then we went through the "avoidances" on the GPS and found that it was set to avoid highways!!! So that wasted an hour. We switched to my phone GPS tracking and that worked great.

Now the truth about GPS so far is that it's kind of handy as a confidence builder, but the roads are extremely well marked and it's not really necessary. The major paved roads have a few round-abouts that are scary because of the amazing number of swarming motorcyclists who obey no traffic rules whatsoever. But they're well marked and you'll do fine with an attentive co-pilot.

GPS is handier for finding interesting sites and restaurants. Here my cell phone out-performed the Garmin every time . . . until I got out of data service range. Then I just got a map but no directions on where to go.

Recommendation: Bring your GPS from home and update the maps before you get to Colombia. Both Josh and I have GPS devices, but we got one free with the car. Still, we should have brought a newer device that's up to date.

Phone/Smart Phones in Colombia

Smart phones work very well in more populated areas. I have T-Mobile and bought an extra data plan to make sure I had a handle on expenses. As with most companies, if you plan to use extra data it's much cheaper than if you end up using extra data.

With T-Mobile all functions on my phone worked within ten minutes of turning it on in the country. This included texting, email, GPS, downloading apps, etc. I can even make phone calls if I need to. We had to figure out the dialing. For me, I have to dial 011 57 (my country code plus Colombia's) plus area code and number. Josh has Verizon and had to figure out how to actually dial a + sign because he has to dial +01 57.

With Verizon, the phone is constantly switching to various network settings, so you have to set it up to switch at will and use whatever it can find. So it took about six days for Josh to get all services working. He had data whenever we were in a Wi-Fi area, so text messages and data would work. But he was without "smart" phone options for a couple of days

Generally speaking, the route from Bogota to Pitalito is pretty rural. We had cell service about 90% of the time, and always in any town of any size. There are small towns here that are one mile long. Cell service and free wi-fi are generally available.

As a rule, 4G is available on the T-Mobile network almost everywhere that data is working. It drops to 3G from time to time as you ramble along.

The unpaved rock garden (road) over the top of the Andes did not have cell service for either of us.

Electricity in Colombia

Electricity here is 120v / 60 cycle with the same outlets as North America. Every place we went (expect the road over the top of the mountains) had electricity that was reliable. Even tiny hotels had plenty of outlets.

I brought a charge bring and a car adapter to charge USB devices. So we had all the juice we needed. Because we would recharge all devices every night, we never ran out of battery power on cameras, laptops, cell phones, tablets, Kindle, etc.

If you do need to charge your phone, that's not a problem. The smallest town with only three buildings has at least one sign for buying "minutes." You can charge your devices for about $1 per minute. That's absurdly expensive here since everything else in Colombia is extremely reasonably priced.

Internet Access in Colombia

As you've gathered by now, Internet access is generally available. It was free at every hotel so far, including the extremely remote hotel at the end of a dirt road outside San Agustin. There are few open wi-fi spots, however.

One several occasions I used my cell phone to open up a hot spot for our laptops. That worked perfectly. (I have an LG G4.)

While driving, I lost data from time to time when we weren't close to any towns. But as soon as you are anywhere near a populated area, the data was on. I found it fast and reliable when it was available.

Now that we're on the more populated side of the mountains, I expect we'll have near-100% coverage from Popaya all the way up to Medallin.

Overall, I'd say that you'll be very please with the technology infrastructure of Colombia as a traveler. I've certainly had less success in some of the most rural parts of the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK!

Stay tuned for another report about the western side of the Andes.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Followup: HP MicroSD Boot and ILO Diagnostics

A few weeks ago I started down the road to building a server that boots from a 32GB MicroSD card. See the post at

In that post I promised a follow-up on using the Integrated Lights Out (ILO) card to manage the machine and run basic diagnostics on the MicroSD card. So here we go.

If you haven't used an ILO (or Dell's DRAC - Dell Remote Access Card), I highly recommend you take a look. These devices basically have two levels of management. Basic management is configured by default and allows you to see a bit of what's going on, manage the power, boot up remotely, and get some logging. Advanced management can give you total machine control and sophisticated remote management at both the console level and once the machine is booted up and logged on.

We're going to talk about the basic management. And in particular, the SD card diagnostics.

Note: I have no connection to HP whatsoever. If you want the official word on what's what with ILO, start here:

Physical Stuff

The ILO can be accessed from one of two ports. There is a dedicated ILO port on the HP MicroServer. But if you have limited network connections, you can also configure one of the two standard GB NICs to also access the ILO port. I never do this. We always install servers in racks or right next to the network equipment. So I can always run an extra cable to the ILO port.

You can port-forward from an Internet address to the ILO port if you wish to access the machine remotely. A very handy way to do this, even if you only have one public IP, is to translate ports at the firewall. So, for example, xxx.151.126.12 is the public address. Configure the firewall to forward ports 80 and 443 to the Server's ILO port. Or, better yet, translate other ports such as xxx.151.126.12:9999 and xxx.151.126.12:9998 to :80 and :443 respectively.

Once you log into the ILO, you can manage power. This is pretty basic stuff. You can set the "default" configuration of power to be always on, always off, or in last state after a power outage. You can also turn the power on and boot up the machine remotely. This is extremely handy if a machine is off and you are remote.

Server Console

Once the machine starts to boot, you can use ILO to access the console view. There are several options for this. I've had the most luck with the basic Java web app. Click the button and up comes the console. This allows you to press the relevant keys to configure the RAID array, CMOS, and anything else you might be managing if you were sitting in front of the machine.

One great example of how you might use this is to break a mirror and boot from the good drive. That configuration change is identical whether you're sitting at the machine or connecting remotely.

If you only have the basic management license, note that the console will disconnect once the operating system boots. If you want to continue remote management after that you'll need the upgraded ILO license or a remote management tool such as Team Viewer or VNC. Of course you may also use Remote Desktop Connection or another remote access tool built into the operating system.


The other nice thing about ILO is that you can get some good information about how smoothly your server is operating at the hardware level. From basics like to temperature to troubleshooting the storage array, there's lots of information to be had - even at the basic management level.

In the previous blog post I was concerned about the lifetime of the poor little 32GB MicroSD card I was using to boot the machine. Recall that my O.S. is Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials with the sysvol and swap files on the "D" drive (a spinning SATA drive).

The MicroSD card is rated as having a lifetime of 13,107,200,000 committed block writes. HP has designed their MicroSD cards so that they have error correcting code that allows them to do a bit of caching and reduce the number of write commits. Still, I was worried about how long this setup would last. So I started a little tracking.

That's when a little weirdness reared it's head.

First, let's look at some lifetime estimates. With just over 13 billion write commits, we would expect the following lifespan for this little card:

5 Million writes per day = 1.825 Bil writes per year. Expected lifespan = 7.18 years.

10 Million writes per day = 3.65 Bil writes per year. Expected lifespan = 3.59 years.

20 Million writes per day = 7.3 Bil writes per year. Expected lifespan = 1.8 years.

50 Million writes per day = 9.7 Bil writes per year. Expected lifespan = .72 years.

Of course I have no idea how many write commits a server performs in a year. That's never mattered to me before. BUT I have ILO! So one of the easiest things I can do is bring up the page above and record the "Write Counter" stat for the MicroSD card.

In the server build process and the first two weeks of life, I was adding software, setting up users, applying updates, etc. In other words, I was doing lots of work related to building the machine as opposed to using the machine for daily use. During this period, daily write commits as reported by the ILO screen above ranged from from 2 million/day to 26 million/day.

That's good. The peak of 26.5M/day would give me an expected lifespan of 1.36 years. That's a bit short in my opinion. I really want to set up a server and not perform a major operating like moving the operating system to new media for at least three years. Our plan is to replace it in three years, so I want an ideal lifespan of four years in case there are delays.

It looks like the overall average for the machine in daily use has settled down to about 8-10 million writes per day. So that gives me about 3.5-4.0 years of service. Good enough!


Sadly, there's a problem with the diagnostics.

On three different occasions, the write counter for the MicroSD card reset itself! That's not good, especially when I'm counting down a precious resource critical to the life of the machine.

At first I thought this might be due to a hardware change. I noticed one reset the day I installed extra RAM.

The reset is definitely not related to shutting down, rebooting, unplugging, or moving from one place to another after a shutdown. All those things appear in the ILO event log (well, except moving from one place to another). :-)

There are notes about the ILO being reset, but these do not correlate with the diagnostic counter being reset. I believe the ILO reset is literally a hardware reset. When I click the ILO Reset button on the diagnostics page, I get kicked out and can get right back in. The Write Counter is not affected.

I verified that all HPE firmware updates were applied when I set up the server. They were. But you never know when there's an update while you're doing something.

Bottom Line (for now)

I'm going to keep an eye on this. My great fear is that, with the counter resets, I have no idea what the expected lifetime of the server's operating system disc is. I feel very confident that it's at least a year. Maybe two. But I don't have confidence that it will last three or four years.

Again, my ideal goal would be to find a setup I can "set and forget" for at least three and preferably four years.

My biggest concern when I started down this road was the write-commit limit of the SD card. And that is exactly the concern I continue to have with a working machine.

In case you're interested, the machine is nice and fast and works perfectly.

Just don't know for how long.


- - - - -

Questions and comments welcome.

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Friday, September 02, 2016

Server Documentation Part 3

You don't need to document absolutely everything about a server. You might do that during a security audit. But 98% of the time you just need a few key pieces of information. And for another 1.99% of the time, you only need a few more critical pieces of information.

Read Server Documentation Part One

Read Server Documentation Part Two

Third video linked below.

There are three stages to the actual server build. First, you look at your Network Documentation Binder (NDB). That should give you all the information you need to fit your server into the network (IP address, who serves up DNS, DHCP, etc.) What's the name of the machine and domain?

A nice network map with key information is helpful.

The second thing you need is a TSR (troubleshooting and repair) log. This is a great tool for tracing your steps. Whenever you need to make a decision or enter something on the server, write it in the log!!! See for more information.

There's no point in keeping things like administrative passwords, ILO username/pw, etc. on little slips of paper. Put it on a TSR Log and then copy it to the machine spec sheet.

The third thing you need is the actual Machine Spec Sheet. This is a super simple form that just contains the most critical info you're going to need. What's the name of the server, the IP address of the server, the support tag or serial number of the server, etc.?


4-Volume Audio Book Set Now Available - Managed Services Operations Manual

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This comprehensive guide to running a modern IT consulting business has been a best seller for two years. Now it's available as an audio product! Includes hundreds of pages of downloads, Excel spreadsheets, Word docs, and checklists you can customize.

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Comprehensive? I think so! Here's the table of contents:

Table of Contents

Volume One: Front Office Mastery - SOPs for Office Management, Finances, Administration, and Running Your Company More Efficiently

Section I - Getting Started

Introduction to SOPs for Technical Consultants and MSPs
Setting Up an MSP Office
Getting Started - Naming Your Business
Getting Started - The Form of Your Business
Getting Started - Cash vs. Accrual Accounting
Getting Started - Licenses, etc.
How to Work 8AM to 5PM in I.T. Consulting
Keeping Your Standards and Procedures Organized
Team Management of SOPs
Making Exceptions to SOPs
Rules for Working at Home
Phone Etiquette and Procedures
Phone Procedures 1 - Philosophy and General Rules
Phone Procedures 2 - How Much Interruption is Okay?
Business Cards . . . All the Details
Signing Service Agreements

Section II - Finance

The Central Role of Finance
Building a Business Plan for Your I.T. Company
Billing Procedures and policies
Cash Flow: Getting Paid in Advance
Collection Policies
Cash Flow: Dealing with Late Payments
The Managed Services Grid
Invoice Review and Processing
Cash Flow: Weekly Procedure
Hourly vs. Salaried Employees
Running Regular Financial Reports
Choosing Pay Dates
Vendor Management and Coordination
Vendor/Distributor Record Keeping
Inventory Management
Is This a Profitable Hour?
Financial Goals: More than Revenue Targets
Financial Goals: Realistic Revenue Projections
Financial Goals: Getting Started
How to Track Credit Card AutoPayments

Section III - Sales, Marketing, and Client Management

Intro Notes
Defining Your Company to Clients and Employees
Quarterly Roadmap Meetings
Helping Clients with Audits - Security and Insurance
Celebrate Anniversaries (Employees and Clients)
Sales Tickets and Sales Queues
Trip Charges
Sales Scripts
Clients Who Abuse the Phones
Removing a Client from Managed Services

Volume Two: Employees and Internal Processes - SOPs for Hiring, Employee Evaluations, Team Management, and More

Section I - Employees

Intro Notes
Employee Handbook
Hiring Your First Employee
Hiring vs. Outsourcing
Hiring Process
Employee On-Boarding
Roles and Responsibilities - Front Office
Roles and Responsibilities - Service Manager
Roles and Responsibilities - Technician
DiSC Personality Profiles
Honesty, Integrity, and Teamwork
Basic Customer Service Training
Employee Review Procedure (Quarterly or Annual)
Layoffs and Downsizing
Firing Process
Time Sheet Submission and Approval
Employee Expense Reports
Healthcare and Other Benefits
Paid Time Off / Paid Holidays
Travel Policies
Casual Fridays (and Dress Codes Generally)
Dealing with Unfaithful Employees

Section II - Misc. Policies and Procedures

Intro Note
Organizing Your Company Files and Folders
The !Tech Directory
Naming Your Processes and Procedures
Date formats
Managing Temporary Files
Do Billable Work First?
Prudent Password Policies
Voicemail Passwords, etc.
Mobile Device Management
BYOD - Bring Your Own Destruction
Using a White Board
End of Year SOPs
Next Year's Holiday and Pay Schedule

Volume Three: Running the Service Department - SOPs for Managing Technicians, Daily Operations, Service Boards, and Scheduling

Section I - Policies and Philosophies

Intro Notes
Naming Conventions for Machines and Servers
Schedules and Timelines for Running Your Company
Working in Real Time
Used Equipment and Warranties
Hardware Replacement and Upgrade Policy
Software Upgrade Policy
Nuking and Paving
After Hours Work
On Call and Night Staff
Managing Internal Administrative Tasks
Assign Techs or Rotate Them?
Approved Tools
Do Not Exclude Yourself from the Rules
When Processes and Policies Become Obsolete

Section II - Employees in The Tech Department

Intro Notes
Technician Daily Time Management -- includes daily work flow
Time Tracking for Employees
The Tech on Call for The Day - Managing Daily Workflow
How to Maximize Billability of Technicians
Email Rules and Etiquette for the Consultant
Technician Supplies -- The "Scary Box"
Final Friday Training

Section III - Client Management

Intro Notes
Setting Up a New Managed Service Client (Checklist)
Client Personnel Changes: New User Checklist
Client Personnel Changes: Employee Departure Checklist
Activating and Registering Client Software and Hardware
Local Docs versus Server / My Docs
Moving a Client Office

Section IV - Practical How-To Examples

Intro Notes
Troubleshooting Guidelines
Troubleshooting and Repair Logs
HIPAA Part One - Training
HIPAA Part Two - Compliance
HIPAA Part Three - Documentation
Adding a New Machine to Managed Services
How to Use Velcro
DNS and DHCP Allocation - Server vs. Firewall
IP Address Allocations (static, dynamic, exceptions, documenting)
Router Configurations
Labeling Equipment
Removing Old Information - From Everything
Responding to Viruses

Volume Four: Support and Service Delivery - SOPs for Client Relationships, Service Delivery, Scheduled Maintenance, and All About Backups

Section I - Service Delivery Policies and Procedures

Intro Notes
The First Client Visit
Guide to a Service Call
How Do Service Requests Get Into Your System?
Response Times - Guarantees and Delivery
Ticket Statuses to Use and When to Use Them
Setting Job Priorities
Service Ticket updates (time estimate, work type, etc.)
Time Entry and Note Entry in Service Tickets
Information Sharing
Massaging the Service Board
Service Board Backlog Management
Daily Monitoring of Client Machines
Patch Management Philosophy and Procedures
Setting Up Alerts in Your PSA and RMM
New PC Checklists
Server Down Procedures
Third Party Tech Support - Documenting Calls
Third Party Tech Support - Rules of Engagement
Document Pouches

Section II - Service Focus: Monthly Maintenance

Intro Notes
Why We Do Monthly Maintenance
Scheduling Monthly Maintenance and On Site Visits
Checklist for Major Scheduled Maintenance
The Monthly Maintenance Checklist
Monthly Single Checklist
Outsourcing (some) of Your Monthly Maintenance

Section III - Service Focus: Backups and Disaster Recovery

Intro Notes
Designing a Great Backup Process
Documenting Backups
Backups 1: Defining Your Client Backup
Backups 2: Backup Philosophies and Client Communication
Backups 3: Backup Monitoring, Testing, and Management
Backups 4: Changing Technologies
Disaster Recovery - Simple Restores

End Matter

That should keep you listening for a few weeks!

Check it out at SMB Books!