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Jan
27
Business Guidance Pearls Mentoring Opportunity
Posted by Philip Elder on 27 January 2015 09:30 AM

Original Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: Business Guidance Pearls Mentoring Opportunity

Our blog post on Some IT Pro Business Guidance Pearls has generated a _lot_ of questions! Thank you for that. :)

So, how about this?

Third Tier has a special on a block of 3 hours that ends in a few days.

Drop in to the Third Tier Help Desk, register, and purchase a time block. From there, open a ticket: Business Guidance Pearls Mentorship.

I would pick up the ticket and get in touch about scheduling our time together.

The structure would be:

  • 1 Hour: Practice Assessment and Goals

  • 1 Hour: Goals Roadmap
  • 1 Hour: Goals Implementation Steps

I was very fortunate to have a former employer that worked very hard to teach me how to run an I.T. business. By “run” we’re talking about a lot more than just the bookkeeping and cash flow aspects.

Believe me when I say this, you’d not regret any minute spent. We’d look at the big picture right through to the details to facilitate growth in your I.T. Pro practice.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business


Read more »



Jan
15
Some IT Pro Business Guidance Pearls
Posted by Philip Elder on 15 January 2015 11:21 AM

Original Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: Some IT Pro Business Guidance Pearls

Here are some bits and pieces of business wisdom that I’ve gathered over the years. Much of my initial business formation came from my first employer out here Larry MacDonald while working for Logical Computer Company.

  • Keep a business journal (for me it’s my blog, Twitter, and forum helps)

  • Document everything (take pictures of everything with SmartPhone, use Snip in Windows ALL THE TIME)
  • Create build documentation for everything
    • We have builds for clusters, Exchange setups, Exchange migrations, SBS setups, SBS Migrations, More
  • Be consistent (build documentation helps)
  • Use Tasks in Outlook and on the phone to track everything
  • Be disciplined in tracking, responding, and being present to clients
  • Spend 10%-20% on R&D
  • Spend 10%-15% on lunches, dinners, and such with others
  • Put 10% away for a rainy day
  • Get involved with user groups or start one
  • Get a _good_ accountant and keep them

As far as recurring revenue:

  • IMSNHO, blended is better than full MSP

  • ~$60/User to $110/User for:
    • Server OS patch, Server App patch, and Microsoft App patch/install management

    • Desktop OS patch and Microsoft App patch management
    • A/V Management along with e-mail sanitation (we use ExchangeDefender)
    • Remote Server Monitoring and management included
    • On-site not included
    • Phone and e-mail support beyond 15 minutes not included
  • Offer backup rotation with quarterly full bare metal or hypervisor restore
    • $150-$250 per OS per month

    • Need a dedicated box for this (Intel S1400FP4 with 96GB ECC, and RAID 6 across spindles or SSDs)

Services

  • Non-contract break/fix:

    • $250/Hr immediate response

    • $200/Hr 4 hour response
    • $175/Hr 24 hour response
  • Contract on above
    • 4 Hour response included

    • Immediate response at 1.5 rate
    • Time Blocks offered at discounted rates

*Response being an acknowledgement of the request/ticket.

There are a lot of benefits over time as far as financial stability but also client relationships become a lot more stable and long term with support contracts in place versus a break/fix model.

We soon discover the clients that value our IT services and those that don’t when we move into the above model. What business that runs a fleet does not have a crew of mechanics to maintain that fleet? Why is IT infrastructure any different?

A major plus is in the routines that we build up. Our schedule gets a lot more stable and predictable. While we are still at our client’s beck and call we now have an established set of boundaries as far as how, when, and where the help would be provided.

We can have a few more evenings a week pursuing other things and _not_ looking at screens! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business


Read more »



Oct
23

Original Posted Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: SMB Kitchen Content Posted: Exchange Migration Documentation, Cluster Quotes, and Proposal Template

I’ve published three very significant documents to the ASP SMBKitchen knowledgebase.

Exchange Migration Guide

The following is the product of many Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2013 migrations.

image

The guide walks through all of the necessary steps to migrate from Exchange 2003 and up to Exchange 2013. If migrating from v2003 then a two-step process would be required where we’d migrate to Exchange 2010 and then on to 2013.

We’ve done the two-step process on a number of occasions with small and large Public Folder stores without any real issues. It works quite well

Note that the primary focus of this guide is all of the PowerShell required to configure Exchange, work within the process, and recover from some specific errors that may happen. Everything is there as far as configuring Virtual Directories, the Service Connection Point (SCP), setting quotas, limits on send, and more.

On-Premises Proposal Document

The second document posted is an Excel spreadsheet that allows us to publish a proposal for an on-premises infrastructure deployment. It presents one number including a number for deposit to the end-user.

image

It includes two Intel Server Systems based configurations, which can be changed to Dell or other system, software licensing costs, and a labour section that allows for a detailed scope for us with a brief in the proposal itself.

1U Cluster Quote

The third document is a quote in Excel for the base Scale-Out File Server Cluster setup we would propose for an on-premises infrastructure setup.

It uses the above template with four Intel Server Systems R1208JP4OC 1U single socket servers configured for either the Scale-Out File Server cluster node or the Hyper-V cluster node. It uses a 10GbE backend for SMB traffic via two NETGEAR XS712T 12-Port 10GbE switches.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

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Read more »



Aug
28
Some Thoughts on Microsoft in the SMB Space
Posted by Reprinted Article on 28 August 2013 06:31 PM

If one approaches this post from an emotional level, that is built on all of the angst, struggles, and pain born of the Cloud drums out of Microsoft, that is their message but also the many products and services cancellations, over these last three or so years then it would not be hard to go down a very not-so-happy path.

So many bridges between Microsoft and us IT Solution Providers that work on the front lines of the SMB IT space (by our definition SMB is 1-75 seats or so) have been burned or even out-right blown up.

Many of us have struggled with the angst over where we were going to take our business and what kind of business model we would have two, five, and even ten years down the road. After all, we are in it for the long-haul right?

Why We Do IT

This post is more a reflection of the SMB IT Provider that is in the business out of passion for the products and services we get to work with. But, most especially for the joy it brings us to have a set of very happy clients on the other end of our IT practices.

That is our greatest reward. That is clients whose businesses are in the business to make money and do so as efficiently as possible on their IT because of what we do for them.

For us, the reality has come home to roost that Microsoft is much less a partner today than a competitor.

Yes, we are still building our solutions on the Microsoft stack and will continue to do so. Our solutions absolutely rock utilizing the products we do. We will continue building solutions that our competitors, like Microsoft and other large IT Solutions providers, could hardly hope to develop for their clients.

Why?

Because we as small business IT Solutions Providers live, breath, and work in the SMB Trenches. We understand small business in a way that a Gartner Survey or any other such knowledge peddlers could never hope to. This is because we _are_ a small business.

We small businesses are _not_ consumers, pro-sumers, or any other such "consumer" of goods and services.

We _produce_ products and services for others to consume. Or, we develop and sell products and services for other businesses to utilize in their _production_ of goods and services (Business to Business).

Microsoft's Value in SMB

So, what value do we see in Microsoft in today's SMB IT marketplace?

  • Products/Features
    • Hyper-V
      • Virtualization solutions have become affordable, both on VMware and Hyper-V, as a result of the competition between the two.
        • All one needs to do is watch VMware's stock and current restructuring efforts to see the impact Hyper-V has had on their margins.
      • Stack builds on a single box save our clients a lot on hardware, power consumption, cooling, and noise.
      • Clusters are very affordable for our clients when truly commodity based hardware (Intel Server Systems) are utilized over Tier 1.
    • Windows Server Essentials Experience Role
      • Finally, the Remote Web Access portal, RD Gateway, and other SBS-Like goodies can be dropped into a Windows Server Standard server setup.
    • Storage Spaces
      • Still new, but with lots of potential to impact how we do things for our clients with larger data sets.
    • Exchange
      • Despite the poor start to the product at what was probably Early Preview bits branded as RTM, Exchange Server 2013 is an awesome product with great potential for on-premises mail and BYOD management.
  • Partner Program
    • Loss of the Small Business Specialist program.
      • This is probably the "nail in the coffin" as far as the Cloud message to SMB IT Providers.
    • Competency Program structures drive us to expand or further distance ourselves from the Partner Program
      • Some of us are not comfortable with the idea of hiring on.
      • Plus, there are any number of other reasons for us to remain where we are at for now.
      • There are opportunities though. We just need the vision, time, and energy to pick them out and develop them.
    • Cloud, Cloud, Cloud, Cloud (Monty Python-esque theme here :) )
      • The drums are still beating.
      • The message is becoming all the clearer: Folks in SMB do not require any outside IT help. You can do it all yourself!
    • Cloud Essentials Program
      • Better get on board and start playing around with the freebie credit for Azure as this is one spot where we can develop some business opportunities.
  • TechNet
    • Now, keep in mind that folks that are Open Licensed will continue on with their TechNet subscriptions that are a Software Assurance benefit.
    • The loss of TechNet for lab use is most certainly of concern, but one has to wonder why it was terminated.
      • IMNSHO, we are at a point where the passionate SMB IT Provider, and Microsoft, have received yet another black eye due to the unscrupulous folks that abuse the system.

We are of the opinion that the current wave of Microsoft products, with the exception of Office 2013, are probably some of the best that we've seen in years.

Yes, mousers cried foul over the loss of the Start Button in Windows 8. But keyboarders never missed it. :) And yeah, there is a bit of a training struggle for folks to understand that there are two "rooms" if you will in Windows 8.

Microsoft "Partner"

With all of the changes that we've seen in Microsoft over these last two to three years we really have to wonder where they are going to be in two, three, or even five years.

Sadly the reality that the desktop PC is not really going to disappear in a business setting does not seem to phase anyone in stratosphere management at large corporations like Microsoft. :(

To top it all off, IMNSHO, the server is _not_ going to disappear in the SMB space.  Nor will the need for on-premises mail.

However, with the advent of so many failed/bad Microsoft product updates lately on so many products, some bringing down Hyper-V Failover Clusters, one really has to wonder how far off the vision has gone from providing a rock solid on-premises product experience from RTM to retirement?

Hopefully the bad patching situation that has been happening lately is only temporary and Microsoft moves some development back into actually testing those updates before deploying them to the world.

After all, being in business is about the products and services right? It's about providing the best possible value to the end-customer/client isn't it?

Can folks _really trust_ a company to provide a great Cloud experience when it seems like the on-premises products and services may be on their death-beds? Why develop patches and _test_ them if there is no will to keep the on-premises products alive?

And that begs this question: Can we SMB IT Solution Providers trust a company that has not come right out and said it, but has essentially drummed the message all the more clearly in these last 12-18 months that the "end is nigh" for the SMB IT Solution Provider? SMB belongs in the Cloud after all. Right?

Be straight with us. Be clear with us. If we knew where we truly stood as a "Partner" of Microsoft we would be better able to make decisions about where we are and where we need to go in the new era of competition _with_ Microsoft.

Trust is based on honesty between the parties. The messages out of Microsoft have been so mixed, and sometimes outright confusing, these last few years that one is never sure where we stand anymore.

Most certainly we need to be very aware, and wary, of what is happening both within the companies that produce the products we utilize and then within the product groups themselves.

Business Opportunities

On the flip-side the current state of SMB IT can provide an awesome opportunity for us to advance our on-premises and hybrid solution sets and skillsets. While it may seem daunting at first, we can indeed continue to build our SMB IT practice and triumph despite the naysayer's constant messages!

And, perhaps in the midst of all of this we could end up growing our businesses into that Microsoft Partner Competency holder that would get noticed and direct Partner support (note the absence of the quotes).

In the end, we may not reach those competency levels and/or even get noticed.

But, we can go home at the end of the day, maybe work a bit in the evening for our clients, knowing full well that there is a great group of folks, our clients, on the receiving end of our products and services that are very happy with us and what we do.

And that my friends is why, for the most part, we can sleep well at night eh? ;)

Well, maybe most nights. We are, after all, small business owners so the occasional sleepless night is a prerequisite! :D

Thanks for reading.

Philip Elder
MPECS Inc.
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen
Find out more at
www.thirdtier.net/enterprise-solutions-for-small-business/

Windows Live Writer


Read more »



Aug
28
Some Thoughts on Microsoft in the SMB Space
Posted by Reprinted Article on 28 August 2013 06:31 PM

If one approaches this post from an emotional level, that is built on all of the angst, struggles, and pain born of the Cloud drums out of Microsoft, that is their message but also the many products and services cancellations, over these last three or so years then it would not be hard to go down a very not-so-happy path.

So many bridges between Microsoft and us IT Solution Providers that work on the front lines of the SMB IT space (by our definition SMB is 1-75 seats or so) have been burned or even out-right blown up.

Many of us have struggled with the angst over where we were going to take our business and what kind of business model we would have two, five, and even ten years down the road. After all, we are in it for the long-haul right?

Why We Do IT

This post is more a reflection of the SMB IT Provider that is in the business out of passion for the products and services we get to work with. But, most especially for the joy it brings us to have a set of very happy clients on the other end of our IT practices.

That is our greatest reward. That is clients whose businesses are in the business to make money and do so as efficiently as possible on their IT because of what we do for them.

For us, the reality has come home to roost that Microsoft is much less a partner today than a competitor.

Yes, we are still building our solutions on the Microsoft stack and will continue to do so. Our solutions absolutely rock utilizing the products we do. We will continue building solutions that our competitors, like Microsoft and other large IT Solutions providers, could hardly hope to develop for their clients.

Why?

Because we as small business IT Solutions Providers live, breath, and work in the SMB Trenches. We understand small business in a way that a Gartner Survey or any other such knowledge peddlers could never hope to. This is because we _are_ a small business.

We small businesses are _not_ consumers, pro-sumers, or any other such "consumer" of goods and services.

We _produce_ products and services for others to consume. Or, we develop and sell products and services for other businesses to utilize in their _production_ of goods and services (Business to Business).

Microsoft's Value in SMB

So, what value do we see in Microsoft in today's SMB IT marketplace?

  • Products/Features
    • Hyper-V
      • Virtualization solutions have become affordable, both on VMware and Hyper-V, as a result of the competition between the two.
        • All one needs to do is watch VMware's stock and current restructuring efforts to see the impact Hyper-V has had on their margins.
      • Stack builds on a single box save our clients a lot on hardware, power consumption, cooling, and noise.
      • Clusters are very affordable for our clients when truly commodity based hardware (Intel Server Systems) are utilized over Tier 1.
    • Windows Server Essentials Experience Role
      • Finally, the Remote Web Access portal, RD Gateway, and other SBS-Like goodies can be dropped into a Windows Server Standard server setup.
    • Storage Spaces
      • Still new, but with lots of potential to impact how we do things for our clients with larger data sets.
    • Exchange
      • Despite the poor start to the product at what was probably Early Preview bits branded as RTM, Exchange Server 2013 is an awesome product with great potential for on-premises mail and BYOD management.
  • Partner Program
    • Loss of the Small Business Specialist program.
      • This is probably the "nail in the coffin" as far as the Cloud message to SMB IT Providers.
    • Competency Program structures drive us to expand or further distance ourselves from the Partner Program
      • Some of us are not comfortable with the idea of hiring on.
      • Plus, there are any number of other reasons for us to remain where we are at for now.
      • There are opportunities though. We just need the vision, time, and energy to pick them out and develop them.
    • Cloud, Cloud, Cloud, Cloud (Monty Python-esque theme here :) )
      • The drums are still beating.
      • The message is becoming all the clearer: Folks in SMB do not require any outside IT help. You can do it all yourself!
    • Cloud Essentials Program
      • Better get on board and start playing around with the freebie credit for Azure as this is one spot where we can develop some business opportunities.
  • TechNet
    • Now, keep in mind that folks that are Open Licensed will continue on with their TechNet subscriptions that are a Software Assurance benefit.
    • The loss of TechNet for lab use is most certainly of concern, but one has to wonder why it was terminated.
      • IMNSHO, we are at a point where the passionate SMB IT Provider, and Microsoft, have received yet another black eye due to the unscrupulous folks that abuse the system.

We are of the opinion that the current wave of Microsoft products, with the exception of Office 2013, are probably some of the best that we've seen in years.

Yes, mousers cried foul over the loss of the Start Button in Windows 8. But keyboarders never missed it. :) And yeah, there is a bit of a training struggle for folks to understand that there are two "rooms" if you will in Windows 8.

Microsoft "Partner"

With all of the changes that we've seen in Microsoft over these last two to three years we really have to wonder where they are going to be in two, three, or even five years.

Sadly the reality that the desktop PC is not really going to disappear in a business setting does not seem to phase anyone in stratosphere management at large corporations like Microsoft. :(

To top it all off, IMNSHO, the server is _not_ going to disappear in the SMB space.  Nor will the need for on-premises mail.

However, with the advent of so many failed/bad Microsoft product updates lately on so many products, some bringing down Hyper-V Failover Clusters, one really has to wonder how far off the vision has gone from providing a rock solid on-premises product experience from RTM to retirement?

Hopefully the bad patching situation that has been happening lately is only temporary and Microsoft moves some development back into actually testing those updates before deploying them to the world.

After all, being in business is about the products and services right? It's about providing the best possible value to the end-customer/client isn't it?

Can folks _really trust_ a company to provide a great Cloud experience when it seems like the on-premises products and services may be on their death-beds? Why develop patches and _test_ them if there is no will to keep the on-premises products alive?

And that begs this question: Can we SMB IT Solution Providers trust a company that has not come right out and said it, but has essentially drummed the message all the more clearly in these last 12-18 months that the "end is nigh" for the SMB IT Solution Provider? SMB belongs in the Cloud after all. Right?

Be straight with us. Be clear with us. If we knew where we truly stood as a "Partner" of Microsoft we would be better able to make decisions about where we are and where we need to go in the new era of competition _with_ Microsoft.

Trust is based on honesty between the parties. The messages out of Microsoft have been so mixed, and sometimes outright confusing, these last few years that one is never sure where we stand anymore.

Most certainly we need to be very aware, and wary, of what is happening both within the companies that produce the products we utilize and then within the product groups themselves.

Business Opportunities

On the flip-side the current state of SMB IT can provide an awesome opportunity for us to advance our on-premises and hybrid solution sets and skillsets. While it may seem daunting at first, we can indeed continue to build our SMB IT practice and triumph despite the naysayer's constant messages!

And, perhaps in the midst of all of this we could end up growing our businesses into that Microsoft Partner Competency holder that would get noticed and direct Partner support (note the absence of the quotes).

In the end, we may not reach those competency levels and/or even get noticed.

But, we can go home at the end of the day, maybe work a bit in the evening for our clients, knowing full well that there is a great group of folks, our clients, on the receiving end of our products and services that are very happy with us and what we do.

And that my friends is why, for the most part, we can sleep well at night eh? ;)

Well, maybe most nights. We are, after all, small business owners so the occasional sleepless night is a prerequisite! :D

Thanks for reading.

Philip Elder
MPECS Inc.
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen
Find out more at
www.thirdtier.net/enterprise-solutions-for-small-business/

Windows Live Writer


Read more »



Aug
27
Our Value to Our Clients is in Our Knowledge and Experience
Posted by Reprinted Article on 27 August 2013 01:51 PM

(Posted to the SBS2K Yahoo Group)

When we look at SBS 2003 and the growth in product and features over its lifespan we have an idea of how the single box will perform.

SBS 2008 and Exchange 2007 we encountered an exponential growth in the need for disk I/O due to Exchange and RAM due to both Windows Server (Vista code) and Exchange.

Move to SBS 2010 and Exchange 2010 and if we were keeping an eye on the various product groups and their direction for the product we would have seen _before_ SBS 2011 STD ever RTMd that Exchange 2010 was designed to run on one SATA hard disk with everything in RAM. We would have then planned our deployments, both physical and then virtual as that became much more common, around the server products built-in.

The key to any single host design or cluster design is in what will be running on top of them. Obviously, but maybe not?

Here, our experience comes into play if we have been taking the SBS product and tearing it apart for the last ten years and three major product iterations. The inner-workings of SBS, Exchange, Active Directory, Group Policy, SharePoint, and so many other server feature sets were there for us to explore. Not only that, Microsoft gave us a really solid template to carry forward into our now stacked solution sets.

  • VM0: AD, DNS, DHCP
  • VM1: Exchange or LoB
  • VM2: SQL or LoB
  • VM3: RDS

Provisioning the above has not changed in a sense. We need to augment our host configuration for the extra 15GB of OS space per VM perhaps. But, for the most part our physical hardware will be similar in nature to what we would deploy for previous versions of SBS Standard _given the products running in the suite_.

The key in all of this is knowing how the various server products will behave given certain workloads.

SQL has an I/O tester. Exchange has a load tester called Jetstress. Those two utilities can help us understand what our small, medium, and large clients can expect for a given server topology. They can also help us to deliver a solution tailored to their specific needs.

Having a lab is key to getting to know the products and how to put them together.

Testing _every_ solution that goes out the door before actually setting up the client’s own solution set is also critical.

Knowledge is key to our value to our clients. Lose that and we’ve pretty much lost the game.

It takes lots of time. It can take a lot of money. But, in the end training and grinding away at configurations in a lab is key to our client’s success and to ours as well.

Philip Elder
MPECS Inc.
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

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