Bob here.  Ok, we’re all familiar with dialing 911.  It’s for emergencies, right?  So then 411 comes along, which was for getting critical information like what’s the number of “Ralph’s Pizza,” which was pretty cool when you’re driving home and want to pick something up, calling on the way (um, pulling over to the side of the road, of course…yeah, of course).  And the charges you’d pick up for the 411 calls were astronomical.

So, enter Google with 1-800-GOOG-411.  A new free service that focuses on Business phone # and direction information (sorry, no resident info yet).  So far it’s got US and Canadian businesses.  For more information, click here.  Or, just call the number.  You’ll be walked through the process.

You want more?  How about the results being sent via Text messaging or Maps?  It’s in there, baby.

And you’ll find the number for that specific pizza place, or all the pizza places in the city (yup, you can look based on category).  After all, sometimes you need to be a bit adventurous with your pizza.

Bob here.  Ok, we’ve bit the bullet, drank the Kool-Aid, popped the weasel, jumped the shark…we’re Twittering.

(Our Twitter ID, btw, is Simplex_IT (they don’t recognize the “-” character).

To Twitter, apparently, is to let people know what you’re doing.  You’re sending out a 140 character-based message (which could include hyperlinks) to people who have chosen to “follow” you.  It’s free, and has a certain popularity that I’m not 100% I understand (I’m old).

To give an example, once I’m done with this post, I’ll send out a Twitter message:

“I’ve written about Twittering at www.Simplex-IT.com/BizBlog” (without the quotes)

Anyone following me through Twitter will receive that (either on their Twitter site, or their phone device).

It’s another way to share information.  Like we needed another one<g>.  But it is fairly easy, free, and has some interesting possibilities.  Let’s say, for example, that you’re a motorcycle dealer.  Your Twitter list would be used for information about new models.  Or investment counselors could use it for announcements.

Like everything else, there are numerous uses.  We just have to figure out how it fits in with our organizations.

Hi, Julie here (JulieD@Simplex-IT.com)!  I’m the newest member of the Simplex-IT staff and absolutely thrilled to be able to share news and information with you!  This is, officially, my first blog!


So, as a part of our on-going efforts to get the community more involved with the world of IT, on January 21st, we opened our doors to local business people to enjoy pizza, conversation and discuss Outlook and ways to use email effectively.  7 attendees (we’re limiting attendance to 10 for space considerations) showed up to hear Bob Coppedge (Bob@Simplex-IT.com) talk about everything from sending, receiving, organizing and archiving emails.  Many people don’t realize just what Outlook has to offer and the attendees were able to depart from the Lunchinar with valuable knowledge, a stomach full of good food, and even a door prize or two!


Simplex-IT will be hosting such Lunchinars on the third Wednesday of every month, from 11:30am to 1:00pm.  These events are focused on issues that Small-Medium Businesses face when working with IT.


Our monthly e-newsletters (not getting yours?  Email me!) will disclose the topic for the upcoming Lunchinar so make sure you are on our list to receive it!  Here’s a hint for February 18th’s topic.  Picture this:


9:35am.  You spill coffee into your server.  It crashes.  Smoke’s coming out of it.  Life, as they say, is not good.  Users are calling, panicking.


10:30am.  You’re back up and running, with almost no lost data.


And for about the same cost as a traditional tape backup!


Simplex-IT is all about knowledge combined with talent combined with a general interest in helping others.  Just when you thought that everyone was out to step on your toes…we’re actually here to help!


 

Meat and Motion

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Bob here…ok, it was a bit strange, but there it was.  One day after posting my comments about not treating customers like sacks of billable time, it’s Christmas.

Ahhh, the joy…getting the family together…waiting for them to leave…oh, the bonding.

Yeah, whatever.  Actually, all had fun.  I rigged up our Xbox 360 with our projector so we had a “Geek/Redneck” Christmas, playing “Call of Duty” with about a 10ft by 7ft display.  Needless to say, all of us who were impaired with a Y-Chromosome were pleased.

But my wife bought me a coffee mug, from Despair,Inc.  They’re best known for the “Demotivators” series of posters.  They look like they’re going to inspire us with grand images of whatnot, but it turns out they’re not quite the stereotype of motivational at all.

Anywho, the coffee mug was entitled “Consulting,” and featured two business suited hands (obviously male and white, of course) shaking hands.  The caption (on the other side of the mug, actually) says “Consulting:  If You’re Not a Part of the Solution, There’s Good Money to be Made in Prolonging the Problem.”

Yup, that’s the industry that supports customers with IT services.  And the interesting thing is we seem to expect it.  Back in the day when I wore a CIO’s hat (tall, pointed thing with bells), I had to take any interatction I had with a huge salt lick.  It would seem that this is more the norm than ever in the IT consulting industry.

Which is a shame.

Bob here…ok, it was a bit strange, but there it was.  One day after posting my comments about not treating customers like sacks of billable time, it’s Christmas.

Ahhh, the joy…getting the family together…waiting for them to leave…oh, the bonding.

Yeah, whatever.  Actually, all had fun.  I rigged up our Xbox 360 with our projector so we had a “Geek/Redneck” Christmas, playing “Call of Duty” with about a 10ft by 7ft display.  Needless to say, all of us who were impaired with a Y-Chromosome were pleased.

But my wife bought me a coffee mug, from Despair,Inc.  They’re best known for the “Demotivators” series of posters.  They look like they’re going to inspire us with grand images of whatnot, but it turns out they’re not quite the stereotype of motivational at all.

Anywho, the coffee mug was entitled “Consulting,” and featured two business suited hands (obviously male and white, of course) shaking hands.  The caption (on the other side of the mug, actually) says “Consulting:  If You’re Not a Part of the Solution, There’s Good Money to be Made in Prolonging the Problem.”

Yup, that’s the industry that supports customers with IT services.  And the interesting thing is we seem to expect it.  Back in the day when I wore a CIO’s hat (tall, pointed thing with bells), I had to take any interatction I had with a huge salt lick.  It would seem that this is more the norm than ever in the IT consulting industry.

Which is a shame.

Bob here.  Ok, so I’m sitting with one of our Managed Services clients, and we’re discussing a project they’re contemplating.  They’ve been with us for about 5-6 months or so.  Being in the manufacturing business (strike one), associated with the auto industry (strike two) and located in northeast Ohio (strike 3!) means that financially, they’re hurting.  And they’re trying to find ways to expand their visibility, attract new customers, drum up new business.

Unlike the rest of you out there, right<g>?

Anywho, as we’re talking it’s clear that I’m in the role of vendor.  They’re asking me for estimates, timeframes, technologies.

So, I stop the conversation.  “I’m sorry,” I said.  “But you’re not using me in the right way.”

(By the way, I’m changing the dialog somewhat so I come off a lot more wise and professional than I really was.  Also, I weighed 50 pounds less and looked like Mel Gibson).

“I’m your advisor.  Your partner.  My goal here is not to make a sale, not to drum up business for myself.  I want to talk about helping develop your business.”

(By the way again, I’m talking about Mel Gibson around the time he made those Lethal Weapon movies)

“There are a lot of tools out there to let companies get their word out, if you use them properly.  Let’s talk about some of the low cost marketing tools, like Constant Contact (www.ConstantContact.com).  For around a buck a day, you can put out a quality looking enewsletter out to up to 500 or so contacts.  Plus you can track their habits and the links they click on.”

(at this point, picture me now taking out a bunch of terrorists armed only with a USB drive and a DVD containing Vista Ultimate)

The customer looked at me questioning.  “What’s the setup fee” she asked, looking like she just answered “Knock-Knock” with a “who’s there?” for the 50th time to a two-year-old.

“Ummm….none.  I mean, you need to configure the look and feel, and we can help with it, but the tools are pretty thorough and simple.”

We continued the discussion, but with a renewed focus.  We discussed ways to move their business forward, with a keen eye towards spending minimal amounts of $.

That’s the way to maintain customer loyalty, appreciation, business.

(oh, and picture me saving the world from global warming, nuclear proliferation, famine, the energy crisis, and Ricki Lake.  With Veronica Lake by my side the whole time)

Enjoy the holidays!

Bob here.  I’m actually going to put this into both the Biz and Tech blogs.

There’s been a bit of discussion lately regarding the upcoming release of SBS 2008 (for <75 users or devices) .  The main issue has been the version of SQL that goes with both Professional versions.

There are still some applications out there that haven’t been approved to run with SQL 2008.  So the premium edition will actually ship with both SQL 2005 and 2008!  Plus you’ll be able to choose between the 32 and 64 bit version, which gives you some additional decisions.

For the specific information, go to Eric Ligman’s Blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/mssmallbiz/archive/2008/08/11/8848280.aspx.  So far I haven’t seen whether the Essential Business Server product (which is aimed at <300 devices or users, and will release at the same time as SBS) will have the same option (I’ve emailed Eric, and will pass on the information when I get it).

Remember, SBS and EBS both get released on November 11th!

By the way, Simplex-IT will be demoing the SBS and EBS both at the November meetings of the Greater Cleveland PC Users Group, and the

Bob

 

Free, October 14-16
 
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Bob here.  As most of you know, Simplex-IT’s primary goal is to be responsible for the successful maintenance of our customers’ IT infrastructure.  We’ve really been focused on that concept for about a year, and we’re finally starting to get our message focused and out there.

And ya know what?  We’ve found several instances that would scare me if it were my business.  About 20% of the companies that we’ve evaluated have had significant issues regarding their IT structure.  We’ve found several instances of:

Backups that didn’t backup critical data

Backups that didn’t work

Anti Virus that had expired months earlier

No power conditioning (let alone battery backup)

Raid drives (where if one drive goes, another can limp along until the bad one was replaced) that already had a bad drive, and nobody knew it.

Credentials of former employees not only maintained, but critical for continued operations.

And so on.  One company actually had all of the above.  And downtime on their primary server would cost approximately $10k/hour, and the operated close to 24×7.

Eek.  And several of these companies had either internal IT employees or thought they were covered by other IT organizations

Ah, not so much.  What’s the lesson?  As a business owner, you need to understand the risk and reliability of the infrastructure that you’ve surrounded your organization with.  We all know the saying, “stuff happens.”

Well, what’s the impact when it happens to your stuff?

Bob here;

There’s a new trend in emailing, and it’s actually pretty lame.  It’s not a new technology, and it doesn’t contained any new viruses or schemes.  It’s not from Nigeria, even.

Simply put, it’s ridiculous.  Or, should I say re:diculous?

Yup, it’s a bad pun.  Ah, well.

Anywho, several folks are now sending emails out with the preface “re: ” leading the subject line.  Why?  So the reader might think that the email is about a topic they’ve already expressed an interest in.

Most email systems will, upon replying to an email, attach the preface “re:” (for “regarding:”) to the beginning of the subject line.  And some folks feel that placing “re: ” in front of the subject increases the likliehood that their email is going to be opened and read.

For the most part, this is pretty harmless.  But it’s also pretty annoying.  I usually try to reply with some kinda sarcastic comment.