Browsing Posts tagged Bob

Bob Coppedge  Bob here.  I’ll be speaking May 14th at the Youngstown CPE Day sponsored by The Ohio Society of CPAs.  The topic?  “IT Trends for Small to Medium Business.”

The talk will be similar to the one given back in January (see below), but updated to include recent issues such as the HeartBleed security issue, the aftermath of the withdrawal of support for Windows XP, and some thoughts as to the impact of Microsoft’s new CEO, Sayta Nadella.  Office for your iPad?  You betcha.  More to come?  You betcha by golly!

Also on the list will be next years less sexy retirement.  Say goodbye to Windows Server 2003.

 

Ok, I’ve been a geek most of my life.  If anybody starts talking about geek nostalgia (usually starting a conversation with something like “My first IT job we used paper tape to load a program into our 16k minicomputer while dinosaurs roamed the Earth,” I’ll jump right in.

But I’ve come to realize the importance of talking about business.  About understanding business processes and needs.

And it’s a skill that’s still sorely lacking in the IT world these days.  And in my mind it’s the best skill set any IT professional can develop in terms of increasing their worth to their organization (or client, in the case of consultants).

I’ll be speaking at the Ohio North SQL Server User Group on Tuesday 3 January about this very topic.  Click here for more information, and to register.

The meeting is free, open to the public, and there will be pizza, plus a couple raffle prizes (at least 2 copies of Windows Ultimate!).

MS Silver Partner LogoBob here. As you know, we are a Microsoft Partner. Until recently, we’ve resisted the temptation to going for the larger scale (and somewhat expensive) higher-level partnerships, not only with Microsoft but other vendors as well. In many cases, these vendor partnership programs are little more than marketing strategies, helping to get logos and implied skills out more. So you might say I’m a little jaded in terms of partnership programs.

Well, I was. Now that Simplex-IT is a Silver Partner with Microsoft, I am firmly convinced that the only way a company has a remote chance of successful IT project implementation is to use a Microsoft partner.

Okay, I have to confess. That was a bit jaded, even by my standards<g>.

So why did we finally decide to go with the deeper Microsoft partnership? The key issue with the partnership is demonstrating the competencies that go with it. In our case we chose two competencies: “Server Platform” and “Portals and Collaboration.”

When you consider competencies, at least with Microsoft, you’re really talking about two things. Knowledge and Experience.  Knowledge is determined through employment of certified individuals, and experience is determined through your customers admitting to both knowing you and engaging you in projects that fall under the competencies.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… There’s money involved too (isn’t there always?).  But honestly, that wasn’t the most important issue.

Actually, on review we found that we already had both requirements under our belts. It was simply a question of formalizing the experience by contacting customers and asking them to share with Microsoft their experiences. Thankfully, we have a lot of great customers out there, and many of them still think (for some strange reason) that we know what we’re doing<g>.

So literally it took us about two or three days to get these two competencies. And my suspicion is that before the years over will probably add a couple more under our belts as well.

Are we a different company because of this? Of course not. Are we going to hold this over everybody’s heads, pretending that this makes us somebody special? Again, of course not. Over the past several years, I’ve made the interesting transition from technician to business owner. And during this process one thing stands clear. The most effective way to communicate the quality of work and the dedication ain’t in marketing, advertising, certifications, or partner logos. It’s getting the prospective customers to talk to your existing customers.

At least that’s work for us so far.

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Bob here.  When we deal with objects, it’s important to know how to refer to that object. This is true in real life, and is also true in the wonderful world of IT. And when it comes to naming things, nobody does it better than Microsoft.

Sorry, what I meant to say was that nobody does it worse than Microsoft.

Sure, there have been some folks in the past who have made some great mistakes. Remember the Chevy Nova? It wasn’t until it was released in Spanish-speaking countries that Chevrolet realized that the word “Nova” translates literally to “no go.” Or when KIA was first introduced into the United States, they didn’t realize the meaning of the letters KIA.

Ah, but Microsoft? Seriously, a database program named Access? How many of us loved say the sentence “can you access your Access database using Access?” How many of us were eager to become a MOUS (Microsoft Office User Specialist)?  Or their Windows Update Services (“WUS”)? And SharePoint? I have to believe that Microsoft has it written in their corporate bylaws somewhere that they simply cannot release 2 subsequent versions of this product with either the same name or same versioning scheme.

Google was able to take their flagship product and turn it into a verb. If you want to get a Microsoft employee slightly unnerved, simply tell them that you were “Googling” something. Of course, they would rather you were using the Bing search engine. However, that would imply that we were “Binging” which has its own implications (at this point you can insert your own joke about working in the word “Purging” into this article.  It’s not hard at all).

Or they’ll just throw the initials at us and hope it catches on. Let’s take BPOS, for example. Business Productivity Online Services. We pronounce it “Bee-Poss.” Catchy, huh? Okay, not really. Everybody pretty much agreed that the product name, simply put, stank. Trying to teach everybody what the initials were, how to pronounce them, what they had to do with e-mail, all of these and more led folks to the undeniable conclusion that Microsoft did not do a great amount of research on the naming of this puppy.

So their new offering, which includes the ability to acquire licensing for Microsoft Office, was done differently. They simply took the word office and added the number 365 to it. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, yeah. Sort of. Unfortunately, it opens up some new issues.

So, let’s say that we have to go search something regarding Office 365. So we go ahead and Google… sorry, I mean Bing, Office 365. Now, unfortunately, both the word “office” and the number “365″ are fairly common throughout the Internet. Even if we add the word “Microsoft” to that search, the Internet is already full of materials dealing with Microsoft Office that have nothing to do with the current 365 offering.

Say what you want about the name, but if you search for “BPOS,” the odds are you’re going to find stuff about that specific system. And yes, I know there are relatively simple ways that you can search online linking the words together so that only the phrase “Microsoft office 365″ will do. But that puts the onus on the end-user to find the information and support that they’re looking for. Our job as IT service providers “and Microsoft’s as IT product providers” is to make the task as easy as possible for those very end-users.

In the end, it’s more about the product than what we call it. And so far, I gotta admit that I’m very pleased with office 365, especially the link product. But it’s a good thing that Microsoft wasn’t behind any of Shakespeare’s plays. I shudder to think would Juliet might have said if she was from Redmond:

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name is now referred to as the ‘Stem Tethered Integrated Natural Carbohydrate Emitting Rose’ (or STINCER)”

Those of us who have used Microsoft software before are numerous. Those of us who’ve been involved in Microsoft’s licensing before are equally numerous, however, with few exceptions, they require some form of counseling and possibly pharmaceuticals.

Take Microsoft Office, for example. You would think that the question would simply be “what is the easiest way that my company can actually purchase and legally use the software?” Sorry, friends and neighbors, it’s tougher than that. OEM software, retail software, Open License, Open Value, Open Value subscription, Office 365, Office Web apps, Office with Lemon (okay, I’m making that one up).

You get the idea.

It’s fairly routine for us, when working with a new customer, to discover that they have several versions of Office throughout their organization. We refer to these situations as “geological digs.” What ends up happening in these environments is you have people throughout the organization each with their own user experience and user environment. Some might be able to use the new Office document formats, some might only be able to use the new formats, some wouldn’t understand the new format if it bit them in the nose.

On top of all this, consider the support. When someone calls and says “I have trouble with Word” to support we give that person differs dramatically on the version that they’re currently using. So support costs are increased.

At this point in time the flagship products for the stock generation are Office 2003 and Microsoft Windows XP. The problem is, these things work. They work very well. However, these things are also well past their prime. So we’re faced with a dilemma.

The web is full of articles and sites that are aimed at tell you why you should upgrade. They do a much better job than we ever will with that discussion and argument. The question we also run into is WHEN should we upgrade?  Are there certain times where it’s more advantageous than others to invest in new software for the organization?”

The answer there is a lot simpler. The answer is “yes.” And here’s why.

Microsoft, as many of you might know, runs on a fiscal year ending June 30. And like every other public company out there, they want to look good when June 30th rolls around. How do they do this? Simple, they do this through sales.  Yep, Microsoft wants you to buy more stuff before June 30th.

Also they want you to buy their newest stuff. No surprise here, when you think about it. This is why I tell people whenever a new version of a product or new product comes out there’s going to be about a three-month honeymoon period, where Microsoft will create and have incentives for you, the customer, to purchase the stuff.

The simplest way to know about these is, of course the web. Microsoft maintains a site www.Microsoftincentives.com.  This shows you the latest incentive program that Microsoft has for organizations purchasing Microsoft software, and it’s updated every month. Microsoft seems to become most aggressive for the software sales during the months of May and June. There are also additional programs usually in the November-December time frame for everybody else’s end of year.

Microsoft Incentives Site

Home Page for Microsoft Incentives Site

This doesn’t mean that Microsoft doesn’t have programs or special deals or the like throughout the rest of the year. There’s always something up on the web from Microsoft. Usually it deals with license programs for new releases. But that’s not always the case.

So how do you keep track of all this? Simple, you don’t. That’s where working with the Microsoft Partner (such as Yours Truly) works to your advantage. Part of our job, part of our livelihood in fact, comes from our relationship with Microsoft. Part of our value to our customers is knowing what our customers are looking to do in the next six months and then developing the best strategy moving forward taking advantage of these incentives and programs. And of course, it’s not just Microsoft. Other vendors, Cisco, SonicWall, others have incentives and programs as well. But from our experience, Microsoft seems to lead the pack in terms of peculiar licensing and peculiar promotions. And, since licensing on the level of your desktop in sheer numbers is greater than most others, special deals and promotions can have a greater impact on your organization’s bottom line.

So here’s the question: if your company has been using the same version of Office and Windows for the last X number of years, and are warm and happy, should you look to upgrade? Again, look to your Microsoft Partner. If they’re worth their salt, the discussion should be based around what the new software and the new licensing can bring to your organization in terms of savings and efficiency. If it sounds like a sales pitch, perhaps you’ve got the wrong partner.

Many of you have seen or heard Microsoft’s Matt Hester present at various Microsoft events. I’ve known Matt for several years, and regard him as a close personal friend (of somebody, I’m sure). His wealth of knowledge (some of it useful), his willingness to share it freely (2am phone calls), and his communication skills (ooooh, Power Point) all place him a cut above the rest. 

Ok, seriously…Matt’s excellent at what he does. And he’s reached two important milestones recently. He relocated to Ohio (Cincinnati area), and he co-authored an excellent book on Server 2008 R2 (click here for it). 

Matt, whose blog is a must see for the IT Pro (click here for it), is also responsible for helping out the local User Groups, which he’s been a long-time proponent of. 

Bottom line on all this is Matt is putting together a Microsoft “Windows Server IT Pro Community Tour,” which will reach Cleveland (ok, Beachwood) on Wednesday, March 24th. Click here for more information. 

This is a free event. There will be some food, refreshments and raffle prizes. 

See you there! (I wonder which Matt Hester we’ll get?) 

Bob here. Ya knew it was coming.

According to Arthur C. Clarke in his book “2010: The Year We Make Contact,” by now we should have bases on the moon, a ship heading to Jupiter to meet up with another one already there (having killed its crew).

Would you settle for Office 2010?

Didn’t think so. How ’bout we throw in SharePoint 2010, Project 2010 and Visio 2010?

Yeah, I figured that’d get you. Well, they’re all coming (along with, ultimately, SQL Server 2008 R2, of course), starting in May.

Here’s the idea:

  • April…these products hit the “Release to Manufacturing” stage
  • May (around the 12th) – the products are offered to the business world
  • June, Office 2010 hits the consumer world (retail and online)
  • TechNet Plus and MSDN…no specific date yet

Click here for more information.

Not sure what version, or when, or anything about Microsoft Products or Licensing? Give Simplex-IT a call at 234.380.1277, or email John Harrow at John@Simplex-IT.com.

Bob here. Yesterday, Microsoft made an announcement that took a lot of folks by surprise. They announced (click here for the announcement) the end of a relatively new product line, EBS (Essential Business Server). Now, what does this mean to you? If you never heard of the product…well…nothing.

EBS was an attempt by Microsoft to bridge the 75 user limit of Small Business Server, and the larger enterprise. A combination of Windows Server, Exchange, and various security tools. But its lack of embracing virtualization and insistence of relying on some particular tools (see Hilton Travis’ excellent blog entry on it here).

Call it what you will. There’s no question that Microsoft was close to deploying version 2 of EBS, and that the folks who saw it thought it was great. But I think Microsoft recognized that two particular trends, Hosted solutions (ie, Google Apps and Microsoft’s BPOS) and virtualization made solutions such as EBS…quaint.

Hosted Email. Both large and small companies are taking a serious look at hosting some of their core functions, like Email. Eliminating costs like hardware, software and software licensing make it very appealing. Especially when you can maintain the same functionality that Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint bring to the table.

 

Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services, gives organizations a choice, to use the same core technologies (ie Exchange, SharePoint) either dedicated (the stuff’s in your office) or cloud based (someone else’s stuff, their office). And for a low monthly fee only based on the number of users. And it’s hosted by Microsoft, not an unknown third party.

Join Simplex-IT (http://www.Simplex-IT.com) as we go through an intro to Microsoft’s BPOS. Simplex-IT is a certified BPOS Partner, as well as an experienced Exchange and SharePoint service provider. And you know us; we’ll give you the straight talk!

When: 17 March (yeah, we know, it’s St. Patrick’s Day)…11:30 am- 1:00 pm

Where: Hatties’ Café, 164 N Main St, Hudson, Oh 44236

Each month Simplex-IT (http://www.Simplex-IT.com) holds a free lunchinar. Free food, good information, a chance to network.

To register, contact John Harrow at John@Simplex-IT.com or call 234.380.1277.

Bob here. I’ve found one annoying problem with Microsoft’s Office 2010. Thankfully, I’ve also found a solution, although it’s a tad weird.

The problem is opening a document that’s stored on a Microsoft SharePoint Services 3.0 web site. Word (as an example, it also breaks with Excel) will attempt to open the document (Read or Edit), but then error out.

The solution? Strange as it sounds, you need to change your settings on Internet Explorer to use a fictional Proxy Server…and then tell it to ignore it.

Here’s how. In Internet Explorer (IE), click on Tools and then Internet Options. Then Select the “Connections” Tab:

 

And then click on the Lan Settings (circled in Blue). You’ll get the following:

 

It there are already values in the circled blue area, STOP AND CHECK WITH WHOEVER MADE THOSE SETTINGS!

Make the changes circled in Blue (including the check box). Then click on “Advanced” (Red circle).

 

And click OK 3 times, and you should be good to go.