SMB managed services account for highest level of spending at $3.5 billion

You don’t want to miss an article we just reviewed about worldwide SMB spend expected to reach 14.3B in 2009.

It is a short article but does link to further studies so don’t miss it.  http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/082409_SMBs_to_Spend_36B_on_Remote_Managed_Services

Managed services isn’t dead so all the hype about moving to the cloud hasn’t hit this particular survey.  Here is some key paragraphs:

“Worldwide SMB spending on remote managed services, in particular, will grow the fastest at 9.2 percent in 2009 to reach $3.6 billion. The trend will continue through 2012 to reach $5.3 billion at a compounded annual growth rate of over 10 percent from 2008.”

“SMB network and server managed services account for highest level of spending at $3.5 billion while PC managed services is expected to reach $2.7 billion in 2009.”

Enjoy!

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10 mistakes new Windows Administrators make

Maybe you’re a brand new network admin. You’ve taken some courses, you’ve passed some certification exams, perhaps you even have a Windows domain set up at home. But you’ll soon find that being responsible for a company network brings challenges you hadn’t anticipated.

Or maybe you’re an experienced corporate IT person, but up until now, you’ve worked in a UNIX environment. Now — either due to a job change or a new deployment in your current workplace — you find yourself in the less familiar world of Windows.

This article is aimed at helping you avoid some of the most common mistakes made by new Windows administrators.

#1: 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 (or seem to have been) 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.

Either way, you’re likely to cause yourself a great deal of grief. The best bet for someone new to Windows networking (or to any other job, for that matter) is give yourself time to adapt, observe and learn, and proceed slowly. You’ll make your own job easier in the long run and make more friends (or at least fewer enemies) that way.

#2: 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 (to you) 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 (if they can) or worse, try to fix it themselves. That means the problem may be far worse when you finally do become aware of it.

#3: 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.

#4: 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.

#5: 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.

Automating the processes as much as possible can help you keep those updates flowing. Have your test network ready each month, for instance, before Microsoft releases its regular patches. Use

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.

#6: 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.

#7: 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.

Besides, what if you got hit by a truck crossing the street? Do you really want the company to come to a standstill because nobody knows the passwords to the administrative accounts or has a clue about how you have things set up and what daily duties you have to perform to keep the network running smoothly?

#8: 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.

Remember that making the backup is only the first step. You need to ensure that those backups will work if and when you need them.

#9: 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.

#10: 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.

If you’re in over your head, be willing to admit it and seek help from someone more knowledgeable about the subject. You can save days, weeks, or even months of grief by doing so.

The 10 most important business technology products of 2008

10. HP EliteBook laptops

Hewlett-Packard has already overtaken the top spot for worldwide PC sales, but the company is making a stronger run than ever at the business notebook market, where ThinkPads from IBM and Lenovo have been the gold standard for a decade and a half. HP’s EliteBook line of business laptops now offers a variety of industrial-strength features that cater to IT departments. This includes full magnesium alloy chassis, scratch resistant covers, special coating on keyboards and touch pads to guard against wear, torture testing against drops, vibration, dust, high and low temperatures, and humidity, a digital accelerometer to detect bumps and jumps so that it can park the heads on the hard disk, lean image installations to reduce standard software package, the ability to login with a fingerprint at the BIOS level, and the ability to remotely overwrite the hard drive with zeroes and ones seven times to completely sanitize all of the data on the drive.

9. Zoho online productivity suite

While Google occasionally adds new features to its online productivity applications and Microsoft is rumored to be preparing an online version of Microsoft Office that it can release as soon as its market share comes under serious fire from online competitors, Zoho has quietly been building an impressive fleet of Web-based productivity and business applications that are far more numerous and sophisticated than what Google offers and truly take advantage of the Web rather than just bringing offline apps into the browser. Especially for small businesses, Zoho is a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, and it not only saves money but also provides productivity benefits with online collaboration.

8. LifeSize HD videoconferencing

With the seismic tremors in the global economy, a lot of businesses are naturally tightening up their 2009 travel budgets. So you can expect that video conferencing will be one of the growing areas of IT in 2009. Cisco Telepresence offers an amazing video conferencing experience, but the price tag is often at least a half million dollars. Meanwhile, LifeSize HD video conferencing is nearly as good and it costs far less (usually under $40K). It also uses a lot less bandwidth, which also saves big money. In the budget-conscious 2009 environment, I think it’s much more likely that high-quality, bargain solutions like the ones from Lifesize and Vidyo will get widespread consideration from IT departments than the high-end telepresence systems from Cisco and HP.

7. Splunk

One of my biggest complaints with today’s IT is that it is great at gathering data and very poor at presenting the data in usable ways that workers can use for better and faster decision-making. In terms of IT management, this problem can be seen in all of the different log files and interfaces that an IT engineer has to check in order to monitor and manage the health of the IT infrastructure. One solution that does a great job of consolidating all of that IT data and making it viewable and searchable: Splunk. Splunk easily gathers data from virtually any system or source and makes it searchable and visual through Web-based reports. Plus, the pricing is simple (you pay per volume of data) and reasonable. In 2008, Splunk introduced a Change Management module and a Windows version that integrates with Microsoft System Center.

6. Force.com

Salesforce.com is arguably the business world’s most popular Web-based application. It is a customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) tool that is easy to deploy and simple for always-on-the-go sales professionals to access. Now, Salesforce.com has extended this concept to other applications by opening up the platform that Salesforce.com is built on to businesses to allow them to use it to run their own applications, from Salesforce.com extensions to custom line-of-business apps to third-party apps for ERP, supply chain management (SCM), human resource management (HRM), and more. The platform is called Force.com and is aimed at streamlining the amount of time and effort it takes to successfully deploy these types of complicated apps.

5. Amazon Web Services

Another company that is having an important impact on the way business technology is done is Amazon. Like Salesforce, Amazon has taken the platform it used to build its core business and opened it up to other businesses. In this case, Amazon.com’s robust e-commerce platform that runs its $15 billion retail business has been opened up as Amazon Web Services, which offers storage, databases, payment processing, fulfillment services, and Web site scalability. With AWS, you essentially rent computing cycles from Amazon. This allows a company’s site to handle short-term spikes in traffic without being overwhelmed and going offline while simply paying-as-you-go for the extra capacity. And, some companies who aren’t comfortable turning over their Web apps to Amazon, are still using the service as a quick and temporary platform for testing new projects and solutions.

4. Palo Alto Networks next generation firewall

Firewalls are standard plumbing for protecting corporate networks. As a result, it’s normally pretty hard to get excited about firewall products. However, Palo Alto Networks has developed a new line of firewalls that transforms them from blunt objects into much more sophisticated tools. For example, instead of just blocking a specific port or protocol at the firewall, Palo Alto Networks allows IT to set up a policy to block or restrict an entire category of applications (e.g. instant messaging clients that do file transfers) or even a specific program. This policy information is also integrated with Active Directory so that it can be applied to a specific user or group. This can be used to improve compliance, minimize data leaks, simplify security administration, and effectively enforce Web-surfing policies.

3. Apple iPhone 3G

The iPhone is one of only three products that made this list for the second straight year. Last year it made the list because of its revolutionary screen and interface that made Web browsing fully usable for the first time on a smartphone. While the interface has continued to improve with software updates, the second generation iPhone made this year’s list because of the enterprise-grade capabilities that Apple brought to the iPhone in 2008, including Exchange ActiveSync support and remote kill capability for IT. It remains the best-designed and easiest-to-use smartphone on the market, and so far it has helped increase the overall smartphone market.

2. Riverbed WAN acceleration

With businesses looking for easy levers to pull to cut costs out of the 2009 budget, one of the best solutions that IT can recommend is WAN acceleration, which can lower fixed leased-line costs while also improving performance for remote offices and telecommuters. I like to refer to this technology as WAN caching, because that’s primarily what it does, it caches large files so that they don’t have to repeatedly get sent over the WAN. Thus, these appliances can significantly reduce bandwidth consumption and – after the first transfer – dramatically decrease the response time for file transfers and applications that rely on files that get transferred over the WAN. Lots of companies offer WAN acceleration products now, but the market leader is Riverbed.

1. BlackBerry Bold

Despite the buzz and momentum building around the iPhone, BlackBerry remains the predominant smartphone platform for the enterprise, especially in security-sensitive environments such as government and the financial sector. BlackBerry’s backend infrastructure simply offers IT a lot more security and control – albeit at an extra premium for BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES). With the BlackBerry Bold, Resaerch in Motion has brought its smartphone to the forefront with 3G, Wi-Fi, a high quality 480×320 screen, a 624 MHz processor, and a bunch of memory space. This device features top performance combined with all of the familiarity and manageability of the BlackBerry platform. While the BlackBerry Storm, which was released around the same time, has gotten a lot of the attention because of its touch screen, for hard-core business users, the BlackBerry Bold is now the most powerful smartphone that money can buy.

Recopied from Tech Republic – http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=893&tag=nl.e101

2008 IT Trends

I am subscribed to the Tech Sanity Check discussion group and I really find the information useful.  Today’s article was about the five most important trends of 2008.  I agree with the 5 Jason Hiner posted.  There may be some argument about the order but all 5 are game changing for IT service providers.

5.  The rise of ultra-cheap PCs – you can now get a decent laptop for $500 and virtualization is making thin clients more popular which go for under $200.

4. Green IT meets energy savings – it is no longer just a California issue; mainstream is now conscious of saving power.  It doesn’t come to the top of the list in the SMB space but if you can tout your product as being “green”, it does make a slight difference.

3.  Offshoring, H1Bs, and the IT labor deficit – with the economic slow down, it is ever more important to hire locally.  There has been a shortage of skilled technicians which has caused headaches in our organization.

2.  Virtualization and utility computing – the flexibility is making this solution mainstream.  Small businesses will move away from server rooms and to a pay as grow hosted model.  The move to utility computing is a trend that has become popular in 2008 and I feel we will start seeing it in action in late 2009.

1.  IT’s opportunity in the economic tsunami – today’s IT departments tend to be leaner and more ROI focused than in the early 2000s.  The current global recession is forcing small businesses to look toward technology to streamline tasks and to outsource their technology needs.

I highly recommend that you read this posting from tech republic.

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=891&tag=nl.e101

Dell – Future of Computing

On December 4th I attended a Dell event in Austin, TX called “Future of Computing.”  I was let down that there was not much material on the future of computing but they did share some of Dell’s new products and services.  Dell is focused on Simplifying IT.  They have a great marketing strategy around this.  They confirmed the buzz I have been hearing all year by focusing on Green technology, virtualization and ease of remote access.  There new line of E products are really great.  They have some really good tiny laptops up to the high performing large screen laptops.  They now come in blue, red and pink.  I learned that making these in green is damaging to the environment (now isn’t that ironic).  These new machines can get up to 19 hours of battery life and have an express charge that charges it in 1 hour.  The USB Powershare will charge peripherals even if the machine is turned off.  How neat is that?  The E series launched in September of 2008.

Dell is increasing their services division.  The principle partner is Uttam Reedy and presented on the future of Services at Dell.  They are focused on SaaS and Microsoft Hosted Services.  They purchased Evergreen for the asset management and encryption services.  They purchased ASAP for the software licensing and management services.  They purchased Message One for the email continuity and archiving services.  They are packaging all of these offerings into their al la carte service model.  You can now pre-load any or all of these services onto your new custom built Dell computer.  The Microsoft Hosted Services is around exchange, Unified Communications, SharePoint and Forefront.  They didn’t give many details here but I believe it is around servicing the mid-size market that wants to implement these Microsoft solutions.

So the day at Dell was insightful even if the title was misleading.

The Hype around the Cloud

Cloud computing… I just can’t get away from this.  The first time I heard it about a year ago, I literally laughed.  I didn’t understand the difference between Software as a Service (SaaS) and what the industry was calling “cloud computing.”  I remember the day my CEO walked into my office and said “We need to deliver cloud computing to our customers.”  This means so many things.  Even 12 months later I’m trying to figure out exactly what cloud computing is.  Here is my take.

When you access data not stored onsite, you are working in the cloud.  You may decide to create a file server in a virtualized hosting space rather than manage it in house.  This is ideal for a small/medium office who has many remote employees.  The downside is it takes longer than it would if you were connected locally.  Another cloud strategy is storage, archiving and disaster recovery.  It is the most inexpensive option for storing data.  Rather than spending thousands on storage arrays and network attached storage, you can store your backups in the cloud for less than $1 GB.

The “cloud” space is growing with start-ups as there is little barriers of entry.  The main players like Microsoft’s SkyDrive, HP’s Upline and Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), have been working on this strategy for a few years.  Rackspace recently acquired Slicehost and Jungle Disk to jump start their cloud strategy.  Since there are so many options, do your research.  Make sure they have service level agreements for uptime and don’t use a consumer-grade cloud provider for enterprise needs.

I believe this will take off.  Virtualization never really hit the SMB space but this newer concept of cloud computing will.  It will lower the overhead for hardware and bring enterprise level solutions like business continuity to SMBs.  We need to learn how to work with these solutions.  Again… it comes down to being a client’s trusted adviser.  That relationship will not go away as various technologies will.  The good news is the cloud will continue to bring monthly recurring revenue and predictability is key in growing a strong business.

You can learn more about this at businessinnovation.cmp.com.

Expert vs. Trusted Advisor

I read a great article today from a newsletter.  It really helped me understand the difference of a trusted advisor from an “expert”.  As the economy cycles through these turbulent times, it is important to stay close to your clients and have them see you as part of the strategic team.  Make sure you are aware of your clients strategic goals and how technology can help streamline their business.

Read the below excerpt from “Great Time to Become a Client Advisor” by Phil Verghis the President of The Verghis Group, Inc.

“I recently re-read Clients for Life: Evolving from an Expert-for-Hire to an Extraordinary Adviser by Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel. In it, they interview CEOs and advisors to see what distinguishes a client advisor – an irreplaceable resource – from a tradable commodity like an expert.

•    Experts are specialists; advisors become deep generalists with broad perspective.
•    Experts are for hire; advisors have selfless independence.
•    Experts have professional credibility; advisors have deep personal trust.
•    Experts analyze; advisors synthesize.
•    Experts supply expertise; advisors are educators who provide insight and wisdom.
As we explore the shift from a tiered model of support to a Savvy Support model, one of the key attributes will be a transition from frontline staff being break-fix experts to valued advisors. Under Savvy Support, routine/ simple/ known issues are taken care of either by eliminating the problem in the first place or solving the issues via self service. This approach frees the support staff to handle more difficult, unknown problems. The more they focus on resolving these, the more likely they are to become client advisors.

There you have it: how to move from being “hired hands” to “client advisors.” The faster you make the change, the more your clients will trust you and call on you — in good times and bad.”