How I spent my weekend.

On May 4, 2009, in news, by

This weekend I flew up to Seattle for the annual one and a half day meeting of the California CPA Society Technology Committee members.  Certain people in the blog reading audience would call that an oxymoron of a title, but nevertheless we had an interesting meeting.

On Friday we met with various presenters on various topics.  Starting off we had a presentation on Small Business Server 2008 and new features in SBS.  The attendees in the room are like me, many have SBS 2003 installed or still have Exchange 2003 in our offices and are looking to upgrade to the 2k8/2k7 era products this summer.  We’re still in that paranoid business owner group that wants their data where they can see it.  We’re not ready for the cloud and many of our line of business vendors are not cloud ready either.  Some of our tax software line of business apps in fact want an on premises Exchange.  That doesn’t mean we’re not using cloud services like mail hygiene in front of our servers.  Or we’re not using things like Office Live Small Business to be a shared portal with clients.  But we’re still not ready in this era of 2008 released software to be all cloud.

Next up Windows 7 was discussed along with the newly discussed virtualization option.  In the post event discussion many said they were tired of the bad rap Vista got.  That many of it’s problems were that in the early era it was on crappy hardware and that since SP1 it’s been a solid performer.  It’s time to get our vendors in line with modern coding.  Direct Access was discussed as well, and our biggest concern in the small business space is that we will not be able to afford or implement the infrastructure to support Direct Access.  From the three parts you need, licensing of Windows 7,  Windows Server 2008 R2 (still in beta), and finally and most importantly, from all that I have read you need to expose IPv6 and stand up an externally facing DNS server.  Just ain’t gonna happen in a small business.  So any presenter to comes to a small business customer and touts that Direct Access is the cats meow needs to understand that in this space, we can’t have cats.  The wow things for this space is the faster boot up, the virtualization support, and above all else, the fact that XP is now on extended life cycle and you shouldn’t be buying any more XP to install fresh in an office unless you really and truly and positively have no choice.

Steve Riley presented on Security and talked about some of the lessons they’ve learned.  The bad guys are now in it for money, not glory.  The importance for us in this space is to ensure your patches are up to date, your antivirus and antispyware are up to date,  use the built in Windows Firewall, and stop running as administrator.  Use tools like Luabuglight http://blogs.msdn.com/aaron_margosis/archive/2006/08/07/LuaBuglight.aspx  to  identify those applications that need registry and folder adjustments to run without administrator rights, then push those changes out.   Or in the case of older Quickbooks, urge your customers to upgrade.  If the apps are so old that they demand admin rights, they probably have other security issues as well.

Next up was Business Productivity Online Services where we discussed hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Communicator Server.  We talked about how mailbox deployment was easy and fast to stand up a new deployment and you could even consider having a hosted SharePoint deployment cloud based just for client needs.  We talked about how we see the near future to be a bit ala carte and people picking a bit of that from on premises and a bit of this from cloud and mixing and matching what they needed to get the job done. 

We then had Nick King back to talk about Essential Business Server and how you could control and manage a much larger network but with tools and features to make deployment and control easier.  The CPA industry is a funny business where many of our line of business vendors demand a stand alone server for their LOB app.  I personally know of one CPA firm with 35 people that have seven servers and other with twelve servers.  So a big topic of planning this summer was server consolidation, green computing and virtualization. 

Last but not least at the end of the day we had Kevin Beares discussed Windows Home Server.  It was discussed how that Home Server not only worked well in a home, but that “sohos” or small offices/home offices were using home server as a backup device and peer sharing server as well.  The ability to quickly and easily backup and restore workstations provides a small firm the ability to recover from a disaster.  While this wasn’t brought up directly in the presentations, the reality with the near panic regarding the swine flu pandemic, should you need to have anyone stay at home, the remote access capabilities of all three products, Windows Home Server, Small Business Server and Essential Business Server means that it has a built in “what will my firm do in case everyone has to stay at home for a short time”.  Remote access means remote work.  That business will survive.

On the next day we talked about geek toys we’d bought since the last time or other new events.  I was boring and just urged everyone to (test first but then) install the Office 2007 SP2 as soon as possible as it has serious bug fixes in there for Outlook performance.  (Be prepared it will reindex your Outlook file the first time).  One of the participants showcased the “Excel barbeque” rack http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/gridus/ . 

We also discussed a concern we had between the fuddy duddies (us) generation and the facebook generation.  The fact that those in the facebook, linked in, younger crowd thought nothing of exposing a great deal of information online.  Being discreet doesn’t mean what it used to mean anymore.   When you hire the facebook generation, how do you communicate the firm culture about what information should and should  not be exposed?  Perhaps the better question is what is the firm’s policy in the first place? 

As new forms of communication shakes out and new privacy barriers get moved around, how do we align the cultures of communication in a firm?  What risks do all of these new cultures of communication bring to an organization, and conversely, what advantages as well?  We discussed how the value of the various venues ranging from “tweeting” to Facebooking to Linkedin-ing was akin to p_rn.  Each of us had our own definition of what communication we liked via the new media types.  We discussed how the communication worked or didn’t work for each of us.

All in all a fun weekend and lots to think about.

(typed in a plane heading home to Fresno, so if there are typos, apologies)

 

3 Responses to How I spent my weekend.

  1. TJ says:

    I wouldn’t say that IPv6 just ain’t gonna happen … I think, in the coming 1-2 years, we will see a much-faster-than-many-expect deployment of IPv6.

    I am thinking all of the following: home users, small and large / enterprise businesses, gov’t agencies, service providers, etc. (in no particular order).

    Specifically WRT DirectAccess, I don’t see it as a “WOW” thing … but I do see it as a way to decrease network costs – something a small business may be very interested in. (Once IPv6 is in place (native or tunneled) the ability to have remote users have secure access to in-house documents is a Good Thing – and not having to buy/support a additional HW/SW follows suit)

    /TJ

  2. Dean says:

    I would not say that 7 servers was a great concern for consolidation. Even 12 is no reason to get panicky. There is good reason to have seperate servers. I mean 2 DC’s, an Exchange and 3 file servers plus a backup server would give you 7. Where is there room to consolidate ? And with virtualization you put all your eggs in one basket. If the hardware the virtual machines are running on goes dead you lose ALL of the virtual machines. That’s why virtualization is not really for small businesses. It’s for large companies with servers with many cores and gigs of RAM that can afford to have standby servers to take over in a millisecond if the main server fails with the virtual machines running on a SAN.

  3. Chris Knight says:

    You don’t need IPv6 Internet connectivity for DirectAccess to work, but you do need 2 consecutive IPv4 public addresses.

    In the absence of IPv6 connectivity, 6to4 or Teredo tunnelling is attempted. If this fails IP-HTTPS tunnelling is used.

    The issue for SMBs isn’t necessarily IPv6 (although a dearth of IPv6 consumer DSL routers doesn’t help) – it’s most likely going to be the multiple consecutive IPv4 public addresses, or the multi-homed DirectAccess server that’s needed that pulls up a deployment.