Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Computer Business Opportunity in B2B Small Business Space

If you are a small business computer consulting company owner who has been delivering services to customers in the B2C (Business-to-Consumer) space, you may be looking for another computer business opportunity to help you grow your profits and your client base.

Many small business computer consultants find great opportunities in the B2B (Business-to-Business) space, and specifically within Sweet Spot Clients(tm). Sweet Spot Clients are defined as small businesses with anywhere from 10 to 75 computers. This computer business opportunity can help consultants find steady, long-term clients that are willing and able to pay for ongoing services.

The following 3 tips introduce you to the B2B small business space and help you seize your best computer business opportunity to help build your company.

1: Don’t Focus on Micro- and Home-Based Small Businesses. Many consultants moving from home users into the small business space make the mistake of thinking that they can just run out and get some small business clients. They don’t stop to think about where the true computer business opportunity is, and that it’s not in very small clients. If you focus on home-based businesses and micro small businesses, you will run into many of the same problems as in the home users market.

2: Know the Main Reasons Micro and Home-Based Small Business Clients Are Not Profitable. As you are looking for the best computer business opportunity, you need to know exactly why working with micro- and home-based small businesses is not profitable. First of all, you will find a lot of consumer-grade PC’s and pirated software. Also, you will find that micro- and home-based small businesses will be reluctant to pay for services, because they are used to getting computer support for free from a friend, family member or other types of volunteers. And how can you possibly compete with free? Because IT is usually not as important to very small businesses services, micro small businesses will also not usually need great response time and won’t be willing to pay for it. Most importantly, very small businesses will be too small to afford a real dedicated server or a real network, leaving you very little computer business opportunity to build complex solutions and grow long-term relationships.

3: Focus on Sweet Spot Clients. Again, Sweet Spot Clients are defined as small businesses with anywhere from 10 to 75 computers. At this stage, you will find prospects, customers, and clients willing to get serious about putting in a real client/server network, a reliable back-up solution, a dependable UPS, and a truly secure firewall. Small business decision makers in this space understand that the systems need to be designed by a very sophisticated IT support services or network integrator firm, which is where your computer business opportunity will be strongest. As a small business starts growing, the stakes go up. These owners recognize the need to use IT more strategically.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

10 Comman Mistakes New Windows Administrators Make

Trying to change everything all at once

When you come into a new job, or start working with a new technology, you may have all sorts of bright ideas. If you’re new to the workplace, you immediately hone in on those things that your predecessors were doing wrong. You’re full of all the best practices and tips and tricks that you learned in school. If you’re an experienced administrator coming from a different environment, you may be set in your ways and want to do things the way you did them before, rather than taking advantage of features of the new OS.

Overestimating the technical expertise of end users

Many new administrators expect users to have a better understanding of the technology than they do. Don’t assume that end users realize the importance of security, or that they will be able to accurately describe the errors they’re getting, or that they know what you mean when you tell them to perform a simple task such as going to Device Manager and checking the status of the sound card.

Many people in the business world use computers every day but know very little about them beyond how to operate a few specific applications. If you get frustrated with them, or make them feel stupid, most of them will try to avoid calling you when there’s a problem. Instead they’ll ignore it or worse, try to fix it themselves. That means the problem may be far worse when you finally do become aware of it.

Underestimating the technical expertise of end users

Although the above applies to many of your users, most companies will have at least a few who are advanced computer hobbyists and know a lot about technology. They’re the ones who will come up with inventive workarounds to circumvent the restrictions you put in place if those restrictions inconvenience them. Most of these users aren’t malicious; they just resent having someone else in control of their computer use - especially if you treat them as if they don’t know anything.

The best tactic with these users is to show them that you respect their skills, seek out their input, and let them know the reasons for the rules and restrictions. Point out that even a topnotch racecar driver who has demonstrated the ability to safely handle a vehicle at high speed must abide by the speed limits on the public roads, and it’s not because you doubt his/her technology skills that you must insist on everyone following the rules.

Not turning on auditing

Windows Server operating systems have built-in security auditing, but it’s not enabled by default. It’s also not one of the best documented features, so some administrators fail to take advantage of it. And that’s a shame, because with the auditing features, you can keep track of logon attempts, access to files and other objects, and directory service access.

Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) auditing has been enhanced in Windows Server 2008 and can be done more granularly now. Without either the built-in auditing or third-party auditing software running, it can be almost impossible to pinpoint and analyze what happened in a security breach.

Not keeping systems updated

This one ought to be a no-brainer: Keeping your servers and client machines patched with the latest security updates can go a long way toward preventing downtime, data loss, and other consequences of malware and attacks. Yet many administrators fall behind, and their networks are running systems that aren’t properly patched.

This happens for several reasons. Understaffed and overworked IT departments just may not get around to applying patches as soon as they’re released. After all, it’s not always a matter of “just doing it” — everyone knows that some updates can break things, bringing your whole network to a stop. Thus it’s prudent to check out new patches in a testbed environment that simulates the applications and configurations of your production network. However, that takes time — time you may not have.

Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or other tools to simplify and automate the process once you’ve decided that a patch is safe to apply. And don’t forget that applications — not just the operating system — need to be kept updated, too.

Getting sloppy about security

Many administrators enforce best security practices for their users but get sloppy when it comes to their own workstations. For example, IT pros who would never allow users to run XP every day logged on with administrative accounts think nothing about running as administrators themselves while doing routine work that doesn’t require that level of privileges. Some administrators seem to think they’re immune to malware and attacks because they “know better.” But this over confidence can lead to disaster, as it does in the case of police officers who have a high occurrence of firearms accidents because they’re around guns all the time and become complacent about the dangers.

Not documenting changes and fixes

Documentation is one of the most important things that you, as a network admin, can do to make your own job easier and to make it easier for someone else to step in and take care of the network in your absence. Yet it’s also one of the most neglected of all administrative tasks.

You may think you’ll remember what patch you applied or what configuration change you made that fixed an exasperating problem, but a year later, you probably won’t. If you document your actions, you don’t have to waste precious time reinventing the wheel (or the fix) all over again.

Some admins don’t want to document what they do because they think that if they keep it all in their heads, they’ll be indispensible. In truth, no one is ever irreplaceable — and by making it difficult for anyone else to learn your job, you make it less likely that you’ll ever get promoted out of the job.

Failing to test backups

One of the things that home users end up regretting the most is forgetting to back up their important data — and thus losing it all when a hard drive fails. Most IT pros understand the importance of backing up and do it on a regular schedule. What some busy admins don’t remember to do regularly is test those backups to make sure that the data really is there and that it can be restored.

Overpromising and underdelivering

When your boss is pressuring you for answers to questions like “When can you have all the desktop systems upgraded to the new version of the software?” or “How much will it cost to get the new database server up and running?”, your natural tendency may be to give a response that makes you look good. But if you make promises you can’t keep and come in late or over budget, you do yourself more damage than good.

A good rule of thumb in any business is to underpromise and overdeliver instead of doing the opposite. If you think it will take two weeks to deploy a new system, give yourself some wiggle room and promise it in three weeks. If you’re pretty sure you’ll be able to buy the hardware you need for $10,000, ask for $12,000 just in case. Your boss will be impressed when you get the project done days ahead of time or spend less money than expected.

Being afraid to ask for help

Ego is a funny thing, and many IT administrators have a lot invested in theirs. When it comes to technology, you may be reluctant to admit that you don’t know it all, and thus afraid — or embarrassed — to ask for help. I’ve know MCSEs and MVPs who couldn’t bear to seek help from colleagues because they felt they were supposed to be the “experts” and that their reputations would be hurt if they admitted otherwise. But plunging ahead with a project when you don’t know what you’re doing can get you in hot water, cost the company money, and even cost you your job.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

HP Updates Desktop Virtualization Software

Hewlett-Packard hopes to widen the use of its desktop virtualization products with new software that will improve video playback and allow the use of USB peripherals such as webcams, the company announced Monday.

HP is also rebranding its desktop virtualization suite as the HP Virtual Client Essentials, and adding Linux support for its broker software, called Session Allocation Manager, which runs only on Windows today, HP said.

Most of the updates concern HP's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure suite, which allows a company to run multiple images of a desktop OS in virtual containers on a server, instead of having to manage a separate OS on each employee's PC.

Virtualized desktops are catching on at some businesses but companies need to provide workers with an experience similar to what they'd expect from a standard desktop PC, and that hasn't always been the case with multimedia content, said industry analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

HP said it has solved that problem by developing an enhanced version of Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, which transfers presentation data between thin clients and Windows applications running on a virtualized server.

The existing RDP works fine for relaying basic on-screen data, such as keyboard strokes and mouse movements, but it's not good at carrying rich content such as a training video or webcast, said Manoj Malhotra, product marketing manager for HP's Client Virtualization group.

"The server gets overloaded when it tries to decode a video stream for a large number of users, and some employees end up having a poor experience," he said.

HP's enhanced RDP shifts the burden of decoding video away from the server and onto the thin clients, he said. That will allow companies to stream video to a large number of employees without a deterioration in performance, he said. The new protocol also lets them plug in a wide range of USB peripherals, which don't work well with the existing RDP, according to HP.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

SP2 beta for Windows Server 2008

Microsoft Tuesday gave its MSDN and TechNet subscribers access to the beta of Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 and will make the software available to the general public in two days.

The beta includes all the hot fixes that have been released since SP1, which shipped in March. Also included are some new features for corporate users including full integration of Hyper-V into Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft shipped a beta of SP2 in October to a small group of users in its Technology Adoption Program. This week, Microsoft is opening up the testing and plans to release the software next year.

“We are tracking to ship Windows Vista SP2 in the first half of 2009,” Mike Nash, corporate vice president for Windows product management, announced on the Vista Team blog. The release will come ahead of Windows 7, which some speculate could ship by the end of 2009. Microsoft’s official timeframe is Jan. 2010.

The Hyper-V integration includes one free guest license for users of Windows Server 2008 Standard, four free licenses for users of the Enterprise version and an unlimited number of licenses for the DataCenter version.

SP2 also includes the ability to configure power management policies via Group Policy, and improved backward compatibility for older Terminal Server license keys that are only 512 bytes.

Other improvements include the addition of Windows Search 4.0; the Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack that supports the most recent specification for Bluetooth technology; the ability to record data on to Blu-Ray media natively in Windows Vista; the inclusion of Windows Connect Now (WCN) to simplify Wi-Fi configuration; and the enablement of the exFAT file system to support UTC timestamps, which allows correct file synchronization across time zones.

Users must have SP1 installed before installing SP2 and need to have loaded the update to the Windows servicing stack.