I’ve just returned from a quick trip to Darwin – my first visit there. Man was it hot… we landed at 10:35pm at night and it was still 30c outside and sticky. I was asked to be involved with Microsoft in presenting to the reseller community in Darwin about SBS – do a summary of the 2 hour network build and also present my spin on Dean Calverts excellent session on how he builds his business around SBS 2003 and a session on mobility around SBS 2003. What I learned going over Deans presentation was that we do many things in a similar fashion and at the same time many things differently. I’m going to be adopting some of his ideas into my business model in the future.
What surprised me about Darwin resellers was their initial reluctance to look at doing any real marketing. Many of the Darwin SBS resellers are like I was a few years back – they get 100% of their business via word of mouth. Now this is not all that bad – it tends to give you qualified leads that are of good quality. The problem though with word of mouth marketing is that it’s inconsistent. You can not predict when you will get your next lead, therefore if you are having a low time in your business, you can’t really do all that much to excite it and get it moving. This is one of the key things that I feel has held back the growth of our business over the last few years. The solution to this is to get involved in marketing – getting your name out there so that you can get a larger share of peoples mindset and business than what you already have. When asked at the beginning of these presentations by Microsoft if the resellers would engage in marketing, only one or two people put their hands up. I then had the chance to present a number of sessions based on my real world experience, and as part of that I presented Deans session. I kept reinforcing to the audience just how we were doing marketing around these activities and how little effort some of it required. I had a lot of fun presenting to this crowd, and they were all ears. At the end of it, around half the audience now want to get involved in marketing activities because they saw that it’s not as scarey as they first thought. I felt good about this because I felt that I had helped them see the light and the potential they could achieve with this.
We ended with the potential to start an SBS User Group in Darwin – Lucinda Hodges is going to head up the group for now, and we’re looking at the first meeting late January 2006 or early February.
Time will tell how they succeed with this or not. I enjoyed my all too brief visit to Darwin
Ok – at conferences you overhear many conversations. One I heard yesterday, just made me mad. Typical of some people though. Two guys – they were MCSEs and had many enterprise clients. They were looking at the new Small Business Specialist program and were trying to understand what value it had to them. They are registered partners and MCSEs. Their question was why should they have to sit the 70-282 exam and take all that time out of their business to study for it. Surely given that they had their MCSE meant that they could handle the lowly SBS server as it’s “just the components all on one box”… GRRRR…. They felt that they should get an exception from doing the exam and bailed up a couple of Microsoft people to push their point. Why should they get an exemption… Heck – it’s all on one box – that’s the first reason. It’s got wizards that most MCSE types don’t use – and when they don’t they stuff up the system and make a real mess of it – that’s the second reason. It’s got more features than just the sum of its components – that’s the third reason. I know many people have had to rescue systems that enterprise level MCSEs have abused by treating it like an enterprise system. What do you think?
I’m currently touring Australia over the next few weeks with Microsoft presenting in their Microsoft for Partners roadshow. The session I am presenting is based on feedback from the community. The community has been saying that they want to see more hands on / real world stuff in the roadshows. The roadshows are in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane over the month of November. http://www.microsoft.com/australia/partner/events/mfproadshow/default.aspx will get you registered if you are an MS Partner of any type. The target is that we will take two systems – a desktop and server from HP and within 2 hours, build an operating network that connects to the internet, send email out from the workstation to people in the audience. Along the way we integrate technology from HP, Microsoft, Trend and Netgear as part of the entire solution. So this is a bit of fun overall – Mark O’Shea (well known local MS Technical Specialist and all round great guy) and I present this session right after Dean Calvert (SBS MVP) presents a session on how he and his company make money out of SBS. We’ve presented twice this week – once in Perth and now just yesterday in Adelaide. Here’s an overview of the show.
Perth – ok – we’re due onstage for a 3:30pm start – so far all presentations are going well and on time. Mark has prior commitments in Sydney and is flying in to Perth on a flight that lands at 2:10pm – it takes 20 minutes to get from the airport to the city. I’m a tad nervous as this is our first live run through – we’ve done our prep work and rehearsed a few times, but there is nothing like the real world. It’s nearly 3pm and still no work from Mark – checking online at the Qantas website shows Mark’s flight has been delayed – landing now at 3pm… looks like I’ll be doing this by myself. Dean is on now and I decide that if Mark does not arrive, I’ll just head on into and and get Dean to help fill in the gaps blind (as he’s not seen the presentation at all). We get into it and start building the network. Things go well and we’re working according to plan – our cheat sheet with all our notes is on a laptop on stage that Dean is following to help do the back end work while I do the talking. Mark walks in about 40 minutes late and I’ve prearranged with the audience to give him a big cheer 🙂 Nothing like making light of a serious situation 😉 Mark arrives and we’re doing well – good two way communication with the audience and great progress on the network build. We’re configuring our Netgear router now and it won’t pickup an IP address from the hotel internet connection… whilst onstage, we traced it to the D Link router that the staging people use (we’re behind it) as it’s using the same IP range as our SBS LAN. Ok – we fix this by taking the network cable out of the D Link and putting it into the Netgear -problem solved and we complete the event within the time limits of the 2hr network build. All good and some great feedback form the audience.
Adelaide – this time some of the speakers ran early and therefore we got to start early too. Dean was able to take a few more minutes to complete his bit which was good. Mark and I got under way and things are going well this time. We get to the point where we need to connect the Netgear SC101 (SAN Device) and I realise that I’ve left the driver CD I need in my room. Dean rush’s off to grab my bags from my room and I ruffle through them onstage to find the CD (professional huh..). We get the SC101 running and use it to install WSUS and then start to hot load WSUS content into the server via a restore from the SC101 using NTBACKUP. Things going well now… then the internet connection does not work.. We’re plugging in directly to the hotels internet connection this time as we learned from the experience in Perth. We have link lights on the hub for it and all looks good, but it’s not issuing an IP address. I dive under the table much to the amusement of the audience as it looks somewhat “suspicious“ when I do so – so I decided to ham it up and begin making a few thumping noises, throw a LAN cable in the air etc – more fun. I use my laptop to diagnose that it’s a dead cable – so the staging people get busy and run a new cable for us while Mark and I talk through a number of other issues to do with setup of the LAN. The cable is in place and we still don’t get an IP in the router… use my notebook again to diagnose that the hotel LAN is using the same IP as our SBS network. Damn!!! So – time is running out… I decide not to be beaten and we change the IP on the router. I then go over to the SBS server and use the Change Server IP wizard to change the servers IP – I click OK and then realise that I’m still mid way through restoring data for WSUS from the SAN device… crap crap crap… oh well – the audience has a laugh at my expense, we change the servers IP and then commence the restore again. We send email out to the people in the audience and they verify they receive it! Mission accomplished. So – is this a slick well tuned demo? Heck no – but it really does show some of the real world issues we face every day and how we work around them. Audience response for this session was the best so far. Mark and I are having heaps of fun. Stay tuned for more reports from the remaining sessions as we are due to have other issues crop up along the way.
Yes – that’s right, you heard it here first. At the MVP Summit in Redmond, that Ms Susan Bradley and Mr Steve Foster both SBS MVPs are rumoured to have gotten married. Due to NDA I can’t say any more on this – but I suggest you ask Susan about it via her blog 😉 http://msmvps.com/bradley/
Ok – so Harry’s latest newsletter has the pictures of the various speakers at SMB Nation in …. Now here’s the challenge – come up with the funniest caption for each of the speakers.
Here’s a few to get you all started…
Susan Bradleys – “YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN PATCHING – wheres my 2×4”
Thomas Shinder – “well these 2 nuts walk into a bar….“ (you had to be there)
Jeff Middleton – “gee it really is high up here“
Anne Stanton – “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.“
After a 14hour flight from LAX to Sydney I am home. Whilst it’s lots of fun to travel and visit new places, see old friends and so on, there is nothing like jumping into your car and getting back into the swing of things. I’ve got to say that I love using my flyer points to get upgrades – and on this trip I was fortunate enough to get upgrades to Business class on both to and from the USA which is real value. Qantas has installed these new seats into their business class sections called the Skybed – these seats can lay down so they are virtually flat. On the return leg home, I got nearly 9 hours sleep which is a personal record for me. I’ve arrived here in Sydney at 6:05am, and with only a brief diversion via home for a quick shower, am able to get back into work as if it were a normal day. Now that’s what I call a valuable use of points. More on SMB Nation shortly once I collect my thoughts.
Last night (my last in Seattle) I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a few of the SBS Dev team Alan Bilharz and Sean Daniel – both product managers for various sections of SBS and a few other people. We went to the Icon Grill which was an excellent restaurant. What amazed me the most was the deserts – I had this enormous slice of Texas Funeral Fudge Cake and I swear I was going to die just trying to get through it. The cake was about 7-8inches high and rich chocolate. I would seriously recommend a visit to the Icon Grill if you are in Seattle.
OK – I never really got blogs until the last few days. I’ve been in Seattle, WA since before the Labor day weekend. I had decided earlier this year that I was tired of going to conferences and just seeing the inside of the conference venue and the hotel, so this time I took some time to go relax and look around Seattle. I had originally planned to only come in a few days before the conference (SMB Nation 2004) and then leave a few days after it. Luckily I was told that the Monday was the labor day holiday and I would be best to come in on the Friday.
So I’ve spent the week before the conference, touring around Seattle – I stayed out at Bellevue for the first week as I had a friend out there that had offered to show me around. Unfortunately the best laid plans go astray and they had heaps of worked dumped on her so I was left to my own devices. It was here that I learned about how good the bus system is in Seattle. They have a website which you can go to and it will help you plan out the route including which busses to catch and when. Very cool. What was even cooler was that they have this great applet that uses the GPS locater in the bus to show where it is at any given point in time – real time. And whats’ more is that you can configure it to send you an alert when the bus reaches a certain point so you can rush out the door in time to catch it. Now that’s what I call a great use of technology.
I visited Bumbershoot 2004 which was a real blast – it was a very enjoyable day even though I spent it by myself. Saw lots of great acts there and it was during this week that I thought “you know – I should blog this just for fun”. I made plan to get my own blog.
SMB Nation started on the Thursday evening with a visit to the baseball. Now this Aussie has never been to a baseball game before in his life so it was a real treat – what made it even more so was the invitation to a private corporate box so the view was incredible. I picked up the game quite quickly and was excited to see the Seattle Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox. On the Friday I I asked “The Susan Bradley” to set me up with a blog on the msmvps.com site. This was a little tricker than it should have been mainly due to the overloaded wireless network at the conference. Why do these conference venues NEVER have their Internet connections working properly? I mean it should be simple.
SMB Nation was a lot of fun. On Saturday included a presentation from Jeff Middleton which was on migration to SBS2003 using some very different techniques from the normal. I’ve been doing migrations similar to this for the past 2-3 years and have worked with Jeff recently on his documenting of the process as it offers even greater benefits (although for some it’s technically more challenging) than the Microsoft recommended processes. Jeff is also writing a chapter for the Advanced SBS2003 book on migration and another on disaster recovery. During this presentation I don’t think I heard anyone at all speak which was really strange – they were all transfixed as the master showed his methods and at the end got one of the best rounds of applause I heard all conference. Jeff is going to be working more in this area and has created a website specifically for migration. I would highly suggest keeping an eye on that site for all SBS’ers.
Sunday started with a minutes silence for the victims of Sept 11 which was intense. You could feel the power in the room as people remembered those who lost their lives on that day and also those whose lives had been affected thereafter by it. We then went into the various presentations – Susan Bradley gave on on SBS2003 Hacks – now this was really fantastic as Susan also got the support of two other SBS MVPs – Chad Gross and Jeff Middleton to present on some really cool stuff. Chad presented what he calls his “poor mans CRM“ which is basically some nifty work done with Windows Sharepoint Services to create a very basic but usable CRM system. Jeff then presented on how to get applications working in User Mode on XP systems rather than having to have the users run in Administrator permissions mode as seems to be the default by most people.
Later that day, I presented a session on Mobility with SBS which was well received and was pleased to see Dr Tom Shinder in the audience – Dr Tom has a penchant for mobile devices and I think he was excited to see just what you could do with our little SBS product. My presentation was a brief overview of the work I’ve been doing with Mobile devices in Australia for our customers and also work I’ve done with SBS2003’s Remote Web Workplace (RWW). I’m also in the middle of writing a chapter on this same subject for the new SBS2003 Advanced Best Practices book which should be out soon. There were many great presentations at SMB Nation – One of the final presentations I saw and the entire reason this blog exists was done by Anne Stanton from the Norwich Group. I had spoken to Anne many times via email over the last 6 months and also then in person over the course of the conference and had found her to be quite a knowledgeable person. I was however unsure about how she would present her session. I didn’t quite think of her in that way. I could not have been more wrong. Anne delivered a fantastic presentation on the S space in the SMB market. One of the key ideas she promoted was the use of a blog as a resource tool for not only technical knowledge, but also for marketing to our customers – something that I had never considered. Not only was Anne a fantastic presenter, I also found out that she is a real comedian with a style similar to Ellen Degeneres (hope I spelled that right). She had the audience totally transfixed as she explained how you could really use the blog as a good communications tool for your customers.
So there – that’s my first ever blog. I’ll probably move this to my new SBSFAQ.com site shortly when I get it all sorted. I’m rebuilding it using Windows Sharepoint Services just to see how far you can go with it. You can check it out (although it’s by no means complete) at http://new.sbsfaq.com Note – I don’t promise it’s working and that link will die once I move it to the new server when it’s good to go live. I also plan to start another more business focused blog on my business site www.correct.com.au so that my customers can see what I am thinking about.
Live long and prosper.