Aimless Ramblings from a Blithering Lunatic . . .

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Category: 319 (page 1 of 4)

New York, New York!

Ok gang – just a quick heads up that due to a twist of fate, I am going to be presenting on SharePoint at SMB Nation East this weekend.  There’s still room if you haven’t signed up yet.  I’ll be doing a deep dive on SharePoint 3.0 – and this will not be death by PowerPoint – but live demos.

Did you know that for all of our customers who have upgraded to Office 2007, SharePoint 3.0 has been the driving force and single greatest factor in selling those upgrades?  I’ll show you why – this Friday at 1:30pm smile_regular

The Mobilize SMB Tour . . .

Here at Mobitech, we started engaging in Managed Services a few years ago, and have learned a lot of valuable lessons while migrating our business to this new model.  Last year, we started the SMB Managed Services Yahoo! Group to provide a resource for SMB VARs who are looking at moving their businesses into a Managed Services model.  In 2006, we’re expanding on that effort with our Mobilize SMB© Tour:


Mobilize SMB©: Taking the SMB Community to the Next Level


Coming to a city near you!  This half day workshop will provide the information and support you need as an SMB IT solution provider to help you build a solid SMB Managed Services Business Model.

What are the pitfalls to avoid?
How do I pay my technicians under this model?
How do I know how many technicians I need in this new model?
What are the stages in moving into a Managed Service Model?
How will this affect my vendor relationships?
How do I measure, and why does it matter what my technician utilization rates are?
How do I sell managed services?
How do I construct my service level agreements?
Who wants these services?
What or who is my competition and how are they doing managed services?
Are there any vendors out there that understand my business?
What tools are available?
What skills do I need?


June 5 Chicago, IL  To register click here



June 7 Detroit, MI  To register click here 


June 9 Cincinnati, OH  To register click here



June 12 Louisville, KY  To register click here 


June 14 Atlanta, GA  To register click here



June 20 Tampa, FL  To register click here


This first leg is targeting the eastern US – but have no fear, we are planning on hitting the west coast in August and September.  Those dates are still being finalized, but we’ll let you know as soon as those are available . . .

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue . . .

And no, I’m not getting married . . .    this is about the msmvps.com upgrade to Community Server . . . 


It’s actually been quite a process that has taken a few months.  Originally, msmvps.com was on a shared server at a web host – which quite honestly served us well for the first couple years.  However, everyone might have noticed that a few months ago we starting having problems with the blogs going down.  We determined there were multiple factors at play – first, both the web application and the MS SQL back end were on shared servers – and as you can imagine, msmvps.com gets a decent amount of traffic on a daily basis.  Second, it seemed that as our traffic was continually increasing, .Text just was having a hard time keeping up. 


SO – Susan talked to Vlad at OwnWebNow about hosting msmvps.com, and we stood up a dedicated server just for us.  Shortly thereafter, Nick and I moved the .Text blogs from the previous web host over to the brand-spanking-new dedicated server.  This was an event in itself, because it wasn’t quite a planned migration.  Not that we hadn’t planned on doing it anyway – but we hit an afternoon a little over a month ago where the blogs were down, and weren’t coming back up – so we decided to pull the trigger and move NOW     So within a few hours, the blogs were up and running again, this time on a new server on the opposite coast . . .  they were just still running  .Text


That brings us to this weekend.  While the blogs were much more stable and responsive on the new server, .Text still wasn’t quite keeping up – to the point where if you could have looked behind the scenes, you would have seen that we had a decent amount of duct tape and bailing wire holding everything together    We had installed Community Server 1.1 and did a test migration, and things went rather well.  We were holding out for Community Server 2.0 since we originally heard it was supposed to RTM in December.  Well, this last week we found out that the CS 2.0 release was pushed back a couple months, and decided that we just couldn’t wait that long.  SO – Saturday was the big day.  I took the blogs offline at 2:30pm CST (8:30pm GMT) and started the migration process.  The blogs were offline for approximately 5 hours as we migrated from .Text to Community Server 1.1, and made necssary configuration changes and redirects.  The redirects were the key – because with Community Server our URLs changed.  With .Text, my blog was at  msmvps.com/cgross  but with Community Server, it is at msmvps.com/blogs/cgross.   Naturally, with over 220 blogs on the site, we didn’t want to break all of countless links that exist on other web sites, google groups, etc. pointing back to our blogs – so we configured the redirects so that everyone can still use the old URLs and still get to the content in the new location.


SO – the blogs came back online, and we’ve spent the last few hours tweaking and tuning the Community Server application to make sure it’s behaving the way we want it to.  So far, so good.  But I’m sure we’ll definitely be fine-tuning things over the next few weeks.


Now, let’s see how we stacked up:


Something Old . . .   Check    We’ve actually got several items in this category – an old web host, two old shared servers, and an old blog engine.


Something New . . .    Check.    We’ve got a new dedicated server at a new web host now running a new blog engine.


Something Borrowed . . .    Check.    Time . . . the .Text blogs were running on borrowed time.  For the record, so I am at the moment.  I’m heading to bed for some much needed sleep as soon as I get this posted.


Something Blue . . .    Check.   My blog skin.  It’s not the same one I had on .Text.  Now, I really liked my old skin (Cognition) – but alas, it’s not currently available for Community Server, so I had to go with something different.


Anyway – the big steps are done, and here’s hoping that from here on out msmvps.com is happy, healthy, stable and meets all of your MVP blogging needs!  

Jack of all trades . . .

I had a bit of an enlightenment yesterday . . . granted, it wasn’t something new – just something that hits me every now and then.


Those of us serving the SMB market are a unique breed.  We’ve all heard the analogies of someone’s knowledge either being an inch wide & a mile deep, or a mile wide and an inch deep.  Well, I personally think that many of us in the SMB space are evolving into being a mile wide AND a mile deep to serve our customers.  As an example, let’s look at some of the highlights from my week last week:


1)   Troubleshot a networking issue where a client had one machine that would randomly drop of the network.  It would show a link, but could not ping any network resource (besides itself), nor would it respond to a ping from anything else.  Bad part was this client is a non-profit radio station and the problem machine was their primary on-air broadcast machine.  Eventually found a random hub sitting between this PC & the main switch (still don’t know why it was there).  Removed the hub & voila!


2)  I’m still working on an Exchange / listserv issue for a client we recently migrated from a P2P lan to SBS Std.  They have a number of listservs they either manage or belong to – and they are not receiving any messages for these listservs.  Listserv provider indicates there isn’t a problem on their end.  Exchange / SMTP logging has been cranked up and I can’t find any connection attempts from the listserv to deliver messages.  Right now it appears almost as if the messages are just getting ‘lost’ in cyberspace . . .  very frustrating.


3)  Spent the better part of a day providing go-live support for a retail client who moved from old cash registers to Microsoft’s new Point of Sale application.  I’m also working on one last piece for this client – considering that with their plain old cash registers they kept their inventory in an Access database, they have several reports they use for reordering, etc.  Well, since POS can’t create these reports out-of-the-box, I’m doing a custom procedure in Access / VBA to pull the necessary sales data out of a half-dozen different tables in the POS MSDE database and insert it into the single table in the client’s existing Access database.  That way they can continue to use the reports they’re used to, and I don’t have to worry about them mucking around in the live POS database  :^)


4)  Prepared to do a Swing Migration of an SBS 2000 box to SBS 2003.  Met with the customer, reviewed their workflow, daily activities and identified severl Excel-based solutions that we are going to migrate into a Sharepoint solution.


5)  Consulted with a new client on disaster recovery / business continuity planning.  This process with this client has just begun and we’ll meet again after they’ve finished their current homework assignment :^)


6)  As mentioned in my earlier post, assisted Susan, Vlad & Nick with moving msmvps.com to it’s new server . . . what was interesting was having Nick & I both TS’d in to the new server at the same time, working on effectively the same files at the same time, with an IM chat going to keep us sane and check over everything . . .  e.g. – ‘I need to edit the web.config file, you don’t have that open, do you?’  :^)


So just from those highlights, I dealt with networking, Exchange, LOB app, MSDE/Access/reporting, Sharepoint, business process, disaster recovery planning, IIS, web publishing, SQL and asp.net web apps . . .  and in all honesty, this was a rather slow week.


So for everyone out there where you are the first call your client makes, whether its the backup, email, LOB app, phone system or copy machine that is acting up – here’s to you – for answering the questions you know, learning the answers you don’t, and providing your small business customers with a level of service every business deserves, but few receive.

SMB Nation Follow-up . . .

I’m finally back home from one of the more hectic weekends I’ve had in a very long time.  I want to thank everyone who caught my session – and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask – either via the Contact link on the blog – or via the contact info in my slide deck (check the notes section for the title slide :^) )  Also, I don’t know if this was announced or not – but since I wasn’t about to stick around and repeat my session on Sunday, I’m offering to repeat to anyone’s user group(s) via LiveMeeting . . .   I do want to also apologize to the people where I kept the conversation somewhat short, or just wasn’t able to touch base with at all – that was the primary down-side of having a super-tight schedule this weekend.


I don’t know about everyone else – but I thought this year’s conference went *very* well – but then again, I was only there for Friday  ;^)    I’ve already suggested that we’re at the MS Convference Center again next year – that venue rocks . . .  not to mention it seems to allow for more blue badges to hang around . . .

SMB Technology Network

Susan has already blogged about this – but I wanted to make a point of mentioning it as well.  In just about a month, I’ll be in sunny southern California for the first ever SMB Technology Network Summer Conference!  I’m still preparing for it, but I think it’s a safe bet that I’ll be talking a lot about Sharepoint that weekend.  So, if you’re interested – go ahead and register, and I’ll see you there!


The SMB Technology Network® has opened registration for its Summer Conference 2005 to be held July 14-16, 2005 at Embassy Suites in Buena Park, CA. The goal of the event is to expose attendees to knowledge, products, and services that can either make them money or reduce their costs on Monday morning.


To register, go to http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=103185.
We have a number of terrific speakers lined up, including




    • Harry Brelsford, noted author on SBS and SMB Consulting, presenting his 4-hour workshop on “Building the SMB Franchise” (a $99 value).
    • Susan Bradley, SBS-MVP
    • Chad Gross, SBS-MVP

We will also have a number of sponsors presenting and exhibiting, including:




    • Veritas
    • SonicWALL
    • Level Platforms
    • AutoTask
    • more to come…

ACCOMODATIONS
The Embassy Suites in Buena Park is located within walking distance of Knott’s Berry Farm, Movieland Wax Museum, and Medieval Times. Disneyland is just a 15 minute drive. The hotel provides complimentary shuttle service to both Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland. Embassy Suites is offering us their spacious, two room suites on a first-come, first-serve basis at a price of $129 per night. There are also many other hotels in the area, if you prefer to stay elsewhere. For reservations, call 1-800-EMBASSY and ask for the “SMB Tech” rate.


REGISTER TODAY!
The cost for this three-day event which includes admission to all events, including Harry Brelsford’s 4-hour “Building the SMB Franchise” workshop on Thursday evening (valued at $99), presentations by Susan Bradley, Chad Gross and a host of SMB vendors, admission to the exhibitor area, complimentary breakfast and lunch on July 15th, as well as, breakfast on July 16th, is $179 for SMBTN members and $199 for non-members.

Members         $179
Non-members     $199

To register, go to
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=103185.
You will be billed by PayPal within 48 hours of registration.
Regards,


Jim Locke
SMB Technology Network®

Finding the Balance . . .

Technology rocks . . .   just think about what we do with technology every day:  If you’re like me and running SBS both at home & the office, you’re never out of touch.  Remote desktop access from anywhere to anything I need, and access to almost all of my clients.  Health alerts delivered to my email and cell phone.  Sharepoint sites to streamline internal processes, communicate with customers and even share photos, files and recipies with the extended family.


But the problem with the wonders of technology is that it can get a little overwhelming.  As a matter of fact, it can gradually sneak up on you and start to suck the very life out of you :^)  And this can happen to anyone, including yours truly.


About six weeks ago, I started noticing a few tell-tale signs that I had been over-extending myself a little too much – primarily mood swings and that caffeine was actually putting me to sleep.  So it was time to take drastic measures and bring everything back into balance.  So I unsubscribed from each and every mailing list I was on and instantly dropped my daily email count from several hundred messages to a couple dozen.  I stopped blogging and posting to the newsgroups.  And believe it or not – I’ve forced myself to keep a 40hr work week, and even went several weeks where I left my laptop in my bag in the car – yep, I abstained from technology when I wasn’t in the office.  Ok, ok – so that isn’t 100% true . . .  I’ve made extensive use of my ReplayTV – and bonded with my recliner in the process :^)


So yes – technology rocks, and we have a lot of exciting stuff going on with SBS SP1, WSUS finally here, etc.  But in the end, remember to unplug every now and then and take care of yourselves . . . .  ya hear?   ;^)

From the mailbag: SBS, Print Servers and Error 61

So I get an email this afternoon from Mitch regarding a problem he’s been fighting:


“I have a HP laserjet setup on the network. It is using a castele print
server. It has an IP address and all the workstations have no problem
printing to it. Added to each workstation as a local printer using the
ip address. (added using generic card and ip address)

SBS Server refuses to print to this printer. I can ping it, It will let
me add the printer, and when i try to print to it it shows up in the
print queue, but then times out with the stupid error 61 I have been
reading about.“


Well, I personally haven’t seen this issue before.  As a pure shot in the dark, I suggested Mitch try disabling SMB Signing and see if that helped.  Well, I happened to get lucky as Mitch confirmed that disabling SMB Signing resolved the issue.  (And yes, that means that I have used my luck quota for this decade . . . so much for winning the lottery any time soon!)   So if you see this – you should try disabling SMB Signing on your SBS and see if that helps.  You can get step by step instructions from the M&M’s site:


But Mitch’s email raises another question:  When you run across a problem that just has to stumped, where do you go for help?  Blogs can contain several tech tidbits – but really aren’t a good source of tech support . . . and as much as I enjoy helping SBSers, I really don’t do email support.  Well, OK – I do . . . for my own customers with service agreements . . . so if you want email support – just ping me and I’ll fax over a contract for you to sign, and we can get started right after the check clears the bank  . . .  ;^)


But seriously – where do you find support for those tough, and downright weird issues?  Well, in SBS land you have a plethora of choices . . .   For community resources, you have:


Microsoft Public Newsgroups:  microsoft.public.windows.server.sbs
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/sbs/community/newsgroup.mspx


Grey’s SBS2k Yahoo! Group:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sbs2k/


Mariette & Marina’s Smallbizserver.net forms:  (Registraiton required to access forums)
http://www.smallbizserver.net


Nick’s SBS forum at Mark Minasi’s site:
http://x220.minasi.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=21


And don’t forget that you always have official Microsoft support:


For Microsoft Partners – visit the Partner Managed newsgroups for free Microsoft PSS support:
www.microsoft.com/partner
Also – partners . . .  you are aware of Business Critical Phone Support, correct?  As a partner, you get a set number of Business Critical support incidents per year.  You have to sign in to the partner site and register with Business Critical support – but then you’re good to go.  So if you have a client that has a problem that is impairing their ability to work (server down, etc.) – you can call for Business Critical phone support – which is FREE . . . (but you have to be registered :^)


If you find a Microsoft Knowledgebase article that indicates you need to contact PSS to obtain the hotfix, know that HOTFIXES are FREE . . .  yep – they won’t even ask you for payment info.  Just follow the prompts when you call and one of your options will be ‘…to obtain a hotfix’
http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/?ws=mscom


If you have a problem as a result of applying a Service Pack – contact PSS.  Just like hotfixes, SERVICE PACK support is FREE . . .  yep – free.  Just indicate when you call in that you are having a problem with Service Pack <whatever> and you’ll be good to go.
http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/?ws=mscom


And finally – if you’ve exhausted all other avenues and are still having problems, call PSS for paid support.  A lot of small businesses look at the $245 price tag  and grumble – but I’ve got to tell you, that is one of the most undervalued bargins around.  What does that $245 get you?  A solution – and nothing less.  No matter how many phone calls or emails it takes, no matter how many PSS engineers get involved, it doesn’t matter – you *will* get the problem resolved. 
http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/?ws=mscom


Luckily, I haven’t had to contact PSS but 3 times in 4 years . . . the first was a bug with the SBS2000 Technology Guarantee media where setup didn’t like the CD Key.  Took two days and several dozen regenerated CD Keys before we found one it liked.  But that’s what I get for being on the bleeding edge and moving from SBS4.5 to SBS2k the day after I got the media :^)    Second call was a Service Pack issue . . . applying SQL SP3a to an SBS2k box we acquired that was still at SQL GOLD . . .   MDAC upgrade blew up (we later determined) and was causing all sorts of issues.  Spent six hours with PSS on a Tuesday night working through that one.  Last call was just a few months ago.  Clean install of SBS2k3 that I was building in our shop.  Finished the install and was patching the box.  Applied the OWA gzip patch and Exchange SP1 and rebooted – and the box fell over – took an hour an a half to boot.  Discovered that booting into safe mode and disabling Exchange services let it boot normally.  That was another 6hr PSS call – working with two engineers no less . . .  :^)


The point is that Microsoft PSS ROCKS!  They are by and far the best vendor support I have ever experienced – and IMHO they set the standard for what Product Support should be.  There’s a lot of companies out there who charge less for support – but don’t provide anywhere near the level of support that Microsoft does.

Using Windows Sharepoint Services as an Extranet

Ok – so recently I’ve been asked several times about using Sharepoint Services as an extranet to securely exchange documents with customers and business partners.  The short answer is that this is very possible with Windows Sharepoint Services.  However, you must be familiar with the licensing considerations, and how those apply to vanilla Windows Server compared to Small Business Server . . .


First, Windows Sharepoint Services is a free add-on to Windows Server 2003 – and as such, access to WSS is bound by Windows Server licensing for the product it is installed on.  With vanilla Windows Server, we have two licensing modes – Per Server and Per User / Device.  It is also important to note that while you can enable anonymous access to WSS sites and bypass licensing considerations, for the purposes of enabling a secure extranet, we’re assuming that anonymous access will not be enabled.


With Per Server mode, you are using a concurrent licensing model – so you can have an unlimited number of users accessing the server (and thus any WSS sites) just as long as the maximum number of concurrent connections does not exceed the number of installed CALs.


With Per User / Per Device mode (formerly Per Seat mode), you must have a User or Device CAL for each unique User or Device that connects to the server.  Therefore, if you wanted 100 separate users to access the server (and thus any WSS sites), you would need 100 User CALs. 


Now, for vanilla Windows Server, you can also purchase an External Connector – which allows for an unlimited number of external users to connect to your server (and thus any WSS sites).  Note that an external user is defined as “a person who is not an employee, or similar personnel of the company or its affiliates, and is not someone to whom you provide hosted services using the server software” – so you would still require the necessary CALs for internal users.


So – to use Windows Sharepoint Services as an extranet solution on vanilla Windows Server, the licensing structure that works best is dependant on the number of concurrent external connections that you are anticipating, as well as the licensing mode you’re using for any other Windows servers in your domain.  For a stand-alone server, you would probably be best served with a Per Server licensing mode and a smaller number of CALs – as you would only need to license the maximum number of concurrent connections (whether internal or external users).  For a domain member server where the rest of the domain is using a Per User / Per Device mode, it makes sense to use the same Per User / Per Device mode on the WSS server, since your users / devices are already licensed.  In this scenario, you would then need to purchase User CALs for each named external User.  Once an organization is looking at more than 40 external users, then the External Connector makes sense (as Windows CALs are ~ $50 each, and the External Connector is ~ $2k).  Again, the External Connector only licenses external users – so you would need CALs for internal users.


Now, things get a little less flexible when we start to talk about Small Business Server.  First, remember that WSS is bound to the licensing mode / restrictions of the OS it’s installed on.  Second – we all know that SBS is always in Per User / Per Device licensing mode – we can’t do Per Server licensing with SBS.  As a result, we have to provide a CAL for each named User or Device that is going to be accessing (authenticating with) our SBS domain (we can’t use a concurrent connections model).  Third – there is no External Connector for SBS.  So what does this mean?  In simple terms, this means that if you want to use WSS on SBS as a secure extranet, you need an SBS CAL for each external user.  And since SBS is limited to 75 CALs total – you’re limited as to the number of external users who can access your WSS extranet (internal users + external users <= 75).


Does this suck for SBSers?  Yeah – kinda.  Although it is important to note that this wasn’t an intentional restriction.  Microsoft is aware of this restriction, and members of the SBS team have publicly stated* that they are going to correct this in future versions.  While they haven’t provided specifics on how they are going to correct this – I’m guessing we’ll either have an updated EULA that explicitly allows external authenticated connections to WSS sites, or the addition of an SBS External Connector sku.


* Guy Haycock stated this during the Microsoft Partner Tour stop here in Omaha on 3/28

Coming to a web browser near you . . .

Event Name:     Wednesdays on the Web with TS2:
                         Conversation with a Partner


Event Date:        Wednesday, March 16th 2005


Event Time:        4:00 P.M. CST  (GMT -6:00)


Duration:            60 Minutes


Description:       Join us as we talk with Chad Gross, SBS-MVP
                         about using Windows Sharepoint Services as a
                         business application development platform to
                         increase customer satisfaction and efficiency
                         while providing additional revenue for partners.


To register for this event:  http://www.msreadiness.com/eventregister.asp?eid=1692


*****
The challenge for me with this event is that I’m actually being constrained by a time limit.  And anyone who knows me knows that once I get started talking, it’s pretty darn difficult to get me to stop.  Case-in-point:  about a month ago I presented on WSS to the Washington, D.C. SBS Parnter Group.  I had been down ill for a few weeks leading up to this presentation, which included a 10 day stretch with no voice whatsoever.  I had only regained my voice a couple days prior, and advised everyone that I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to last.  Well, we ended up cutting it off after 3.5 hrs because it was getting late :^)


My goal with this presentation is to hopefully open some partners’ eyes.  Sharepoint is billed as a collaboration tool – and admittedly does a great job filling that role.  However, how can small businesses (and I’m talking 5-20 users) take advantage of WSS when they really don’t need it for collaboration?  I mean let’s face it – with a small office of say, 10 users all in one physical location (and many times most of which in one large room with their own desk) – you really don’t need much of an intranet / collaboration tool.  It’s just more natural to simply ask Jane what the status of xxx is versus logging on to see   :^)   What is great about WSS is that with a little imagination (and not a lot of effort) it can solve other business problems for these small clients – making them more productive, more satisfied customers – and giving the SMB partner additional customization revenues.  Want details?  Well – you’ll have to register for the event!  :^)


I did want to share that since I am pressed for time with this event, that I thought it would be appropriate to supply supporting materials.  SO – I am working to make the InfoPath version of my “Poor Man’s CRM” WSS demo available for download both as a site template and as a complete site that you can drop in and start using  :^)

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