Category Archives: 6240

The difference between Yoda and you

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Just read a cute news article that talks about “International Talk like Yoda” day. As I read it I can’t help but think of how this relates to the SMB IT Professional community.  No – not the actual talking like Yoda, but the persona that he is.

Yoda is certainly old and wise – that much is for certain. In all the Star Wars movies, you see Yoda using his years of experience to solve problems and defeat enemies much bigger and stronger than him.  How does he do that I keep thinking… then I realise that it’s actually his years of experience that mean he instinctively knows the answer even though he has not been confronted with this exact problem before. How does this relate to us – well compare Yoda to a young padwan. The young padwan thinks he knows all the answers and is in a rush to solve the problem before they really understand it.  Compare this to our industry and look at how people user the power of google to quickly find answers.  The problem is they find the answers, but what is the correct question?  That to me is the difference between Yoda and the young padwan.  Yoda KNOWS the question, and has a fair idea of the answer even before he jumps to google.  The young padwan will google and then use the top hits as the answer without KNOWING that the question he has asked is the right one.

So – today being “International Talk like Yoda” day – think before you google. Ask what do you EXPECT might be the right answer.  Use your common sense to ensure you don’t get lead astray by the dark side.

Category: Rants
Published: 22/05/2009 7:45 AM

Identity theft – someone stole my SBSGuru ID.

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I created a persona some years back now called SBSGuru – I did this because a certain moderator took offence to my challenging his views of a group I was involved in, and I wanted to rejoin that group so as to keep an eye on things and still help keep the community "on track".  As it happens the group is a low traffic one and it’s not a big thing.

Anyway – today I was informed that another was calling themselves SBSGuru – imagine my surprise to find that this guys "exists" after all those years.  Check out his blog here.  So far he seems to be saying things that I agree with – hopefully he will keep it on track and continue to do the good work that the original SBSGuru tries to do.

Hmm – maybe I’ll have to track him down when I’m in Seattle next and thrash it out in the real world.  I wonder if this dude can do good stuff for all mankind.

Category: Rants
Published: 6/03/2008 4:53 PM

Thank you for calling Inese it is appreciated.

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Microsoft it would seem are somewhat concerned over the furore in the community over their recent contact with SMB customers.  Honestly – I think a large part is a storm in a tea cup and it’s diverting us from other things that we should be focusing on.

Earlier today, I received a phone call from the head honcho of MS Australia’s SMB Team.  Inese Kingsmill has taken the time out of her day to contact me about the concerns that many are expressing in the community over this letter.  I’m actually sorry that she had to do this – there are far greater things she should and could be doing to make life better for us all in the SMB community.

My feedback to her was that I was not concerned over MS contacting our customers directly.  I was more concerned that we the valued MS Partner channel were not aware that it was happening and that this made it look like them moving in on our customers.  Combine this with the timing of the announcement of the new online services from Microsoft makes it look like a play for our customer base.  The conspiracy theorist around would have you think that it’s the plan to take us all out of the picture ASAP.  She assured me that it was coincidental and to be honest, I believe her.  I don’t think Microsoft can be as organised as we like to think to do something like that.  That’s not criticism there but fact of life, Microsoft are a large business and too often the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  Heck – we have that in our own small business’ at times with more than one staff member.

So – what could MS have done to make this a non event?

#1 – Notify the partner channel that it was happening in advance.  You could have done this via email, your blog, or at the partner events that are held.  Give us an idea that you’re doing this and what the aims are and as far as I’m concerned, it’s all good.

#2 – Mention the partner channel in the communication as the source for further information.  This will refer people back to the channel.  Microsoft have spent lots of time invested in the SBSC, and Certified Partner programs and they want US to value the partner program. The only way it has value to US is if our customers know and understand it as valuable in the first place.  In every correspondence that Microsoft has with our customers they should be referring them back to US as the source of more information.  That shows the customer that Microsoft value us as partners.  Everyone knows the value of an accountant being a CPA, but in our industry, I don’t believe that our customers know the value of being an SBSC, or a Certified Partner simply because it’s not advertised.  There have been many examples in the past where Microsoft could have done more with this but they have not.  How many accountants do YOU know that are not CPA’s?  When will we get to this level in the IT Industry and weed out those incompetent fools that give us all a bad name?

Thank you Inese for taking the time to touch base on this.  I hope that you and your team can learn from this.  If they can then we as the SMB community (of which Microsoft is a big part) can all benefit in the long run. 

Category: Rants
Published: 6/03/2008 4:25 PM

Microsoft are stealing all my clients….

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Hmm – did that headline grab your attention – I hope it did.

Today it was exposed that Microsoft Australia are reaching out to their/our clients to "better engage with them".  They are doing this by sending out letters direct to the clients asking them to contact Microsoft and let them know the numbers of desktops, servers and the like that they have.  In return the customer will gain untold riches, unlimited licensing and a 1GB USB stick (2 out of those three are lies – guess which yourself).  This would be about the 5th or 6th time in the last few years that I’ve heard this going on.  ALWAYS, without exception, I hear it from the customer first.  NEVER have I heard it from Microsoft in advance.

Ok – so lets look at this from a few perspectives.

#1 – Am I personally concerned that Microsoft is talking to my customers?  No – I feel that I’ve got a pretty good grasp on my customers and that if such contact was to happen that the customer would ask me about it before doing anything else.  Certainly that is what has happened in the past, and I figure if I invest in the relationship with the customer then it will continue to happen in the future.  Have you ever bought a new car from a dealer and then gotten mail direct from the car manufacturer?  Sure – of course you have, but that mail normally tells you to see your dealer for the best advice right?  What’s different here – simple the number of dealers and in particular the shonky dealers that are here today and gone tomorrow – this makes it damn hard for Microsoft to track which reseller is actually the clients CURRENT reseller.  The car market is different in so far as there are far fewer dealers than there are in the IT industry.  It costs a whole heap more to be a car dealer than it does to hang out your shingle as an IT Expert/Consultant/Guru – I mean – they are studying MCSE stuff in some high schools these days.

#2 – Does Microsoft know what is best for my client?  Hell No!!!  They have no idea what is best for this particular client – they never have and never will.  It’s because each client is different.  It’s up to us as resellers to add value to the products we sell in the form of implementation services and the like. I often think that we sell round holes to our customers, and the Microsoft product is the square pegs.  It’s our job to know exactly how to make the square peg fit into round holes or at times even identify that no hole exists in the first place, therefore don’t go out and buy the square peg.  Make sense?

#3 – Has Microsoft just released a range of Hosted Services that will make my clients flock to them tomorrow therefore sucking up my customer base in one fell swoop?  Again Hell No… oh – actually – yes.  Well Yes – Microsoft have released a number of products that MAY fit SOME of my customers needs.  Note the use of the words MAY and SOME.  See points 1 & 2 for clarification on what I’m getting at.  They will not take my customers without my customers talking to me first.

#4 – Have Microsoft made it’s partners look absolutely silly by talking direct to them without telling us first?  YES!  AGAIN!  Microsoft should be castrated over the lack of ability to clearly communicate things like this with the reseller channel.  I don’t expect MS to give me a list of my customers, but hey – they should be able to tell me that this campaign is going to happen and this is what it looks like etc at least a few weeks in advance.  Time and time again, Microsoft have undermined our reputation with the customers by NOT telling us about these things in advance.  The first we hear of it is when the customer shows us the letter when we visit them asking us "what’s all this about…"  I hear cry’s from Microsoft of "oh we can’t talk to you about this because of anti-spam / privacy laws".  Sorry MS – I don’t accept that.  I SIGNED UP AS A RESELLER – THEREFORE I EXPECT YOU TO TELL ME THIS STUFF.  If you have resellers that don’t want to hear from Microsoft about the marketing campaigns, then DON’T LET THEM SELL YOUR PRODUCT!

#5 – Is the IT Landscape changing and will we have to reinvent our business models to cater for it?  Yes – Of course you do.  It’s part of being a business, constantly refining how we do work, how we present our skills and services to the customers.  Look at the Managed Services revolution that’s occurred over the past 4-5 years now… I lost a customer about 12 years ago because they were forward thinking enough to want what we now call a Managed Service.  Oh – if only I had thought about it more then.  Seriously though, if you FAIL to PLAN for the changes, then you are actually PLANNING to FAIL.  Fact of life.

#6 – Why don’t Microsoft just ask me for the information and I’ll get it to them?  Come on – seriously.  You as a reseller are going to go out of your way to report back to Microsoft on this?  What’s in it for you?  What will you get?  Surely you have enough 1GB USB sticks already?  Resellers – particularly the smaller ones are busy enough running their business and attending to day to day things.  Life revolves around the billable hour, or the margin on the next server install.  Microsoft are not going to pay us to do this for them which is why they are doing it themselves.  If you were going to do this for Microsoft, then think about this… what legal right have YOU got in reporting your clients licensing status to Microsoft?  I would think that this type of thing was covered under NDA between you and your client.  Therefore it’s only the client that can legally do this anyway.

Enough though for now – I’m keen to hear your comments on this.

Category: Rants
Published: 5/03/2008 11:22 PM

Remember when all you had was a 56k Dialup Modem?

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Yeah – well that’s the experience that I’ll have over the next few weeks.  You see – I’ve just moved house, and whilst my phone line will be connected next Tuesday, getting DSL will take abouter 5 to 8 working days AFTER that.  So in the meantime, I’m somewhat restricted to my Vodafone data card.  I have one for my desktop and one for my laptop.  Problem is for some reason – they don’t even have 3G here so it’s GPRS or nothing!  So you figure – Wayne’s moved out into the boonies right?  Nope – the area I’m in is in a well established section of Sydney’s north west and the houses here have been here for 30 years or so.  Great huh.  I’ve looked at Unwired too for the interim period, but that’s probably not going to fly either as we are in the fringe region of their coverage – it looks like I might get it, but the neighbours up the back won’t.  Not sure I trust their coverage maps all that much.

Anyway – if I’m a bit silent for the next few weeks, you will know why.

PS – ever tried Outlook in Header mode?  Not exactly the live experience.

Category: Rants
Published: 17/02/2008 9:48 AM

Do Partners still value Microsoft’s Partner Program?

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An interesting topic being discussed on a number of different forums that I’m involved in is the question of Microsoft’s Partner Program.  Many have had issues with the various programs over the years, sometimes with no resolution.  Recently one of the partners raised a thread in a discussion group and I was literally stunned at the lack of response from other partners that I KNOW have had similar issues.  So the question must be asked… Do Partners still value the Microsoft Partner Program?

What problems have you had, what issues do you think need to be changed?  If you don’t complain about them then you have no way to change things.  I believe Microsoft will listen and do something about it but they can’t do anything if you don’t tell them.

Category: Rants
Published: 12/02/2008 7:28 PM

Microsoft promotes piracy due to their attitudes

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Last week, Microsoft announced the Release to Manufacturing of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista Service Pack 1.  The same day as an MSDN subscriber, I could download Windows Server 2008 and begin testing on the final product.  Not so for Windows Vista SP1 however.  Microsoft have announced that this will be available some time in March…  Sorry??? What was the RTM then?  If the product is not ready they why did you Release it to Manufacturing?  I feel more and more that the marketing machine at Microsoft is driving product release dates which bear no relevance at all to the product being ready for release.  I’ve seen it before with Exchange 2007 which even Microsoft have commented was stripped of features just to make the release date.  Features which later showed up in Service Pack 1 for Exchange 2007. 

Vista SP1 however has made its way onto the pirate sites, and some people are therefore going to those extremes to download it from there simply to ensure they can keep their time tables on schedule.  Microsoft are effectively promoting piracy by driving people to those sites.  If the product is not ready Microsoft, then DON’T RELEASE IT.  We’ll be upset if you miss a deadline, but what is worse – releasing a product that is not ready, or announcing you’ve released it when it’s not ready?

Nope – Microsoft have really really let the side down here.  There is no clear message at all on this and it stinks.

Category: Rants
Published: 11/02/2008 12:54 PM

You know – it just ain’t funny anymore…

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I blogged earlier today (Questions about Australia) about some funny things that people ask about Australia.  Then I had the need to ask Microsoft for a hotfix via the web interface they have.  Here’s the response I got below….

Hello,

Thank you for contacting Microsoft Customer Service.

I understand from your message that you would like to obtain hotfix from Microsoft.

I am unable to locate the hotfix mentioned in KB article 934396 for the product you have specified.

From the information you have provided in your message, I understand that you are located in Australia. There are significant programming differences between North American versions of Microsoft products and those localized for your country.

You will be best assisted by the Microsoft subsidiary that specializes in your version of Microsoft product. You can reach them at 13 20 58 or by visiting: http://www.microsoft.com/worldwide/phone/contact.aspx?country=Australia.

I hope the issue is resolved soon and appreciate your patience in this regard.

Thank you,

Ronald

Microsoft Customer Service Representative

 

Ok – so if that ain’t funny enough…. one of the other SBS MVP’s requested the same hotfix – check out the response that he got.

Hello,

Thank you for contacting Microsoft Customer Service.

I understand that you would like to obtain hotfix from Microsoft.

I am unable to locate the hotfix mentioned in KB article 934396  for the product you have specified. Hence I recommend contacting Microsoft Support Professional.

From the information you have provided in your message, I understand that you are located in Australia. There are significant programming differences between North American versions of Microsoft products and those localized for your country.

You will be best assisted by the Microsoft subsidiary that specializes in your version of  SBS 2003.  You can reach them at  13 20 58  or by visiting:

http://www.microsoft.com/worldwide/phone/contact.aspx?country=Australia

I hope the issue is resolved soon and appreciate your patience in this regard.

Thank you,

Rupali

Microsoft Customer Service Representative

It would be really funny except that THERE IS NOT LOCALISATION FOR AUSTRALIA FOR THIS!!!!!

Category: Rants
Published: 10/02/2008 9:36 PM

So you want Exchange 2007 in your SBS Environment- really?

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By the look of it many people just can’t wait for SBS Cougar to be released, therefore they want to get onto Exchange 2007 right now.  Let me tell you people don’t bother.  Wait for SBS Cougar instead as you’ll find everything will work in the SBS way.

The SBS Blog has info on how to get Exchange 2007 into your SBS 2003 environment right now.  It’s here http://blogs.technet.com/sbs/archive/2008/01/10/exchange-2007-in-an-sbs-2003-environment.aspx

However things that are not 100% clear that you need to be aware of include…

1. You will need to install a second 64bit server to host your Exchange 2007 environment.  So thats an additional W2003 server license as well as the Exchange 2007 server AND Exchange 2007 CALs that you need to purchase.  Oh and the hardware too.

2. If you choose to have Exchange 2003 AND 2007 working in the same SBS network then you will loose remote access to OWA, Outlook over HTTP and ExchangeActiveSync.

3. If you choose to migrate everyone from the Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007 then you will need to deal with all the nuances of configuring the Exchange 2007 servers OWA, Outlook over HTTP, and ExchangeActiveSync manually.  You will need to configure the SSL certificates required yourself too.

4. Whilst it’s not 100% clear, I’ve not seen a document from Microsoft saying that they will actually support this configuration.  Personally – I would not want to go out there as a test case for it either.

Guys – is it really worth it?  Is Exchange 2007 worth that much to your client that they will go and risk all of the above?  I’m not bagging the SBS Blog for publishing the article, but I’m trying to highlight the BUSINESS decision that needs to be made before you head out implementing a TECHNICAL solution.  So many IT consultants think that the latest and greatest is the way to go all the time without considering the business assessment of this.  Make sure you do that before diving into the deep end.  You might find your plastic floaties have holes in them and then your on your own with sharks circling around you.  Not my cup of tea!

Category: Rants
Published: 15/01/2008 10:07 AM

Vodafone – 5GB Data Bundles – Misinformation abounds

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In December, Vodafone announced a 5GB Data bundle for $39.  This included a 24 month contract and a free data card.  As we were a reseller, I was aware that these were coming and we had discussions with Vodafone about this back in October and were advised that we would be able to attach these data plans to our existing mobile phones which were part of a Business Cap plan.  That is a very significant advantage indeed we thought as I currently pay $29 per month for 100MB on my mobile phone and $99 per month for a separate 1GB Data card on my laptop.  Our customers are needing solutions like this all the time.

So – in December when the plans became available, I decided to take up the 5GB plans.  I completed the forms listing my existing mobile phone numbers and SIM card numbers that I wanted to have the 5GB data plan attached to and submitted them to Vodafone via my reseller account.  I wanted 3 x 5GB data plans all up.  The idea is that I would have 2 phones with the 5GB data plan on them which I would attach to our laptops as needed via USB cable.  Separately I would replace my existing 3G / 1GB per month data card with a new Vodafone Data Card with a 5GB limit (given you can’t be on the phone and the Internet at the same time).  Now due to stock shortages and the Christmas break we have not received the equipment and therefore can’t use the service.

Today the phone bill comes in and they have setup 3 NEW numbers on 3 NEW Sim cards.  WHAT?  So a phone call to Vodafone has revealed that despite what we have been told by the Vodafone Rep, you can’t actually have the 5GB data plans attached to a phone that is also on the Business Cap Plan.  Strange really given that all the things CAME ON THE ONE BILL TODAY!  Furthermore Vodafone are now saying that despite us completing the forms correctly complete with the phone numbers and sim cards we wanted the 5GB plans on that if we wish to cancel the plans we will be subject to early cancellation fees.

Vodafone – I’m sorely disappointed.  I feel as if I’ve been had.  If you could not do what we wanted then I would have expected a call to discuss it rather than proceeding to process the order without even a phone call.  I will fight on and get this resolved.

Have you been subject to screw ups like this?  False advice from a Vodafone rep that has led you into a contract you can’t get out of – if so please let me know.  I and my business partners are planning a meeting with Vodafone in the next week to see if we can make progress on these issues.

Category: Rants
Published: 4/01/2008 2:05 PM