Yes, believe it or not, I am still alive . . .
And yes, I realize that I have hit a new low . . . I’ve gone almost two months without a single post . . . ouch . . .
But in my defense, there’s been a decent amount happening on the home front. We’ve been quite busy at Mobitech world headquarters. First, a customer I’ve been working with off and on for about 5 years finally decided to upgrade their LOB software, which meant that they needed to upgrade their infrastructure as well (Win95 P2P just wasn’t going to cut it any more :^) So on one hand, it was very exciting to be able to bring them into the 21st century and completely transform their daily activities. They’ve taken on quite nicely to Sharepoint and Remote Web Workplace. On the other hand, it was exciting just for the scope of the project – going from a smaller (7 PCs) Win95 P2P in their main office, to connecting 9 of their locations together via persistent VPNs, deploying a Citrix server (their new LOB app requires it), and just training everyone on what is possible. Most people are amazed how they can be at any of the 9 offices and log in and have their email and documents available right where they expect them, and print anything to virtually any printer at any of the offices. On a side note, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the performance of Remote Web Workplace when connecting to a PC that is at a remote location. It is a tad bit slower than the LAN PCs, but still very much usable . . .
Second, we scored a major win by signing our largest Managed Services customer to date, who saw the value in our Gold-level agreement. The interesting part is this is a local non-profit that is doing some amazing things, and has a visionary Executive Director who’s favorite line is “‘non-profit’ is not analagous to ‘not-profitable'” :^) They have a serious investment in technology – approximately 40 users in two locations, and 6 servers. (They started with more, but we killed off a few old ones and did some consolidation). The entire network was in a bit of a mess from their last provider (they have 3 identical Dell 1750 1U servers, all with a single SCSI HD . . . needless to say, we’re upgrading to get a RAID config going in those boxes). 6 weeks into the project, and we’ve moved them to a new office, deployed a new VoIP phone system, killed off 3 servers, swung in a new SBS Premium as the foundation for their network, reinstalled all but 2 of their remaining servers, sorted through many a file share and either archived or deleted old info. The big part of the project going forward is going to be their database. They had someone build a custom database for them in Access about 5 years ago. There’s a few things that I find interesting – first, both the front end & back end are in Access, but the front end is using ODBC links to get to the back end tables (versus native Access linked tables). Second, they’ve added some functionality to their web site where their partner clinics can enter referrals, this is back-ended by SQL. They have a separate function in the front-end that connects to SQL to extract the referral entered via the web and insert into the Access backend. They are having a lot of different issues with this database, so we’re going to scrap it and start fresh – 100% SQL backend (and using SQL properly so all of the heavy lifting is being done by SQL, not by the front-end app). And since they have a processor license of SQL Server, we’re going to expand the functionality available to their partner clinics via their web site (which is being hosted in a DMZ on their network thanks to ISA :^) I’m a long-time database junkie, and thoroughly looking forward to this project . . .
And speaking about VoIP phone systems – that non-profit client was looking for recommendations and had several quotes – both from some local phone providers and a quote for Vonexus from a partner we have a relationship with. The client mentioned that while they liked the functionality, all of the quotes were higher than they wanted to spend on phones. So we gave them another option – Asterisk. We prefaced this with the disclaimer that we had never touched it, so we didn’t know what how involved the installation would be, etc. But we made them a decent offer – since we’d be learning the platform, and we could use that experience with our other clients, we wouldn’t charge them for any services to deploy the phones. In a leap of faith, they decided to go with Asterisk. The down side of course was that we had a relatively small window of time (a couple weeks) to figure out what we needed for hardware, and how to actually deploy it. And for those of you who don’t know about Asterisk, did I mention that it runs on Linux, and I am in no way a super-villian like Steve? The good news is that we started by deploying it internally (as we needed to do something with our phones anyway). Vlad recommended Asterisk@Home – which made the deployment much easier. Granted, I still ran into a few bugs – but I only needed to make one call to Digium support, all of the rest of my questions were answered by voip-info.org and nerdvittles.com :^) In the end, we have Asterisk up and running without issue in our office and at this client – and we’re finalizing our plans to add it to our list of offerings for our other clients. I’ll try to keep you updated on how I’m coming up to speed with Linux, and the fun management stuff like updating the distro & asterisk apps, backing up, restoring, etc. etc. etc.
We also spent a few fun-filled hours with Vlad & HappyFunBoy recording the ‘missing’ SBS Show #15 . . . of course Chris recently posted that it has been found – and should be available for download soon . . .
I’ve also been working on travel plans – I’m going to be presenting at SMBTN’s Spring Conference 2006 in two weeks. And in June we’re going to be doing the first leg of our Mobilize SMB tour, where we are travelling to 6 cities to present a half-day FREE workshop on making the transition into Managed Services. Watch here for more info . . . :^)