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  • Microsoft Partner Network and SBSC

    I’m blogging on this a couple of weeks after the event because I’ll be honest I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about this

    At WPC a couple of weeks ago it was announced an overhaul to the partner programme is on the way

    There is a great explanation of it on the UK SBSC blog here

    I’m sure the programme definitely needs a kick in the butt. As Microsoft’s and our own businesses evolve, the way we work together evolves too so a revamp will be good

    Specifically for people who are currently SBSC certified there are some big changes too

    The Small Business Specialist Community designation will be reassigned to a new competency called Small Business Solutions.  Key enhancements include providing additional entry points to target other types of partner communities such as Web VARs.  With that, the new competency will retain many of the same requirements and benefits that partners are familiar with today – and partners should continue to enrol in the Small Business Specialist Community designation to maintain program status and benefits.

     

    Ok so Microsoft want to be able to get different types of IT businesses involved in small business? That’s cool

    However, my initial reaction was one of disappointment though as I’ve always seen SBSC and competencies as two distinctly separate things.

    I’ve always felt it was a separate group within the partner programme. In the same way that registered partners and certified partners are separate groups.

    It’s something that differentiates us when we go talk to clients. When talking to a client an MCTS certification (for example) and a competency are pretty synonymous for them. The MCTS applies to the individual and the competency applies to the business and helps outline capabilities

    So reading the rest of the post from the UK SBSC post the next bit caught my eye

    Can I still use my logo?

    Continue to use the logos you have today. You’ll be able to use Microsoft Partner Network logos after October 2010, after you have met the requirements. Existing logos will be retired six months after the new logo system is available

    Initially I didn’t think this was a big deal. The “blue badge” would get an overhaul too to reflect the new programme but when i read Steve Wright’s (UK PAL extraordinaire) two posts I changed my view on this

    This is his first post with his initial reaction – like me a little concerned about losing a key differentiator

    MS partner program evolves – is it goodbye to the SBSC community?

     

    In his second post Steve talks about how he discussed his concerns during his first PAL meeting

    First PAL meeting

     

    This is the stand out part for me. (I’ve highlighted a specific sentence for emphasis)

    The impression I got was that Microsoft are looking to simplify the partner program and have therefore decided to create various new competencies and that includes bringing the SBSC designation into that framework. The concern over the disappearance of the “blue badge” was raised and it seemed to come as a surprise to Birger that it would cause buy ativan online mastercard concern for partners. I do get the impression that in some countries the SBSC designation has not taken off in the community sense like it has in the UK. Birger talked about the possibility of incorporating some kind of SBSC logo in to the new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and would take that information back to Redmond.

     

    Surprised it would cause concern?

    Does the fact we have a pet name for the logo (“blue badge”) not indicate that it’s quite a big deal to us?

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    Susan Bradley also sums it up really well here

    WHAT IS BLUE AND WHITE AND…?

     

    You have got to be kidding.  You guys taking a page out of "shoot ourselves in the foot" AICPA again?  You have a brand.  One that people are proud of, and you are going to throw it away?  Before you rolled this out did you even talk to anyone?  Run it by anyone in the SBSC?  You have a Partner Lead group, did you get their feedback?

    It’s a brand and a logo that people have stuck on shirts and cars.  Don’t throw it away without listening to your partner network.

     

    Quite

    We’re one of those companies that are proud of our SBSC certification and the logo is a big part of that. I’ve got a blue badge sticker on my laptop, it’s on our van, it’s on the door to our office, it’s on our website, it’s on every single piece of paper we produce, it’s in our email signatures, I even had some stickers printed once upon a time

    We’ve also just had some brochures and leaflets printed and the blue badge actually features more than our own logo!

    I originally wasn’t going to post about this as I thought Steve and Susan said everything that needed to be said and I wouldn’t be adding anything extra, but I guess I just need to be another voice that says I quite like our little part of the partner programme. I understand that things need to change and we need to change with it but it feels like all the work that has gone into building SBSC as a brand is about to disappear

    I’m also wondering what it means in the long term for SBSC as a whole. The new programme will come into effect over the next twelve months which is roughly how long the PAL role runs for.

    What does it mean for Steve Wright, Andy Trish and the rest of the worldwide PALs?

    Do Microsoft need partner feedback for a competency?

    There aren’t PALs for the “Advanced Infrastructure Solutions competency” or the “Licensing Solutions competency” are they?

    Did they not speak to the PALs about this?

    I don’t think the community will disappear overnight as groups like AMITPRO would continue but the SBSC certification is great focal point for that and it’s something we all rally around

    At the end of Steve’s post he said that he’ll be putting concerns over to Emily Lambert at his first regional PAL meeting so it’ll be good to hear more details what the plans are going forward

  • PC PRO – SMB Feature – What happened?

    I’ve been sitting on this one for a few weeks as PC Pro magazine articles don’t appear on the site straight away (which i can understand)

    First let me start off my saying I’ve previously been a massive fan of PC Pro magazine. My interest in the magazine has waned in recently years for a few reasons but that’s probably worth a blog post all of it’s own. That said I do still still pick it up from time to time

    This months PC Pro kicked off a feature that talks about IT in small businesses. Obviously this caught my eye and I’ll be honest. I was shocked at how badly researched the article seems. I understand this is the first part in series but I don’t think it’s gotten off to the best start

    Keeping it really simple the article says that you have a couple of choices

    Cloud apps in combination with some open source software (think Google apps & Open Office with maybe Kerio MailServer) or an on-premise Microsoft solution with the Office suite (read the article this is vastly simplified)

    So far so good – the Cloud / Open Source argument is a whole other kettle of fish so I’ll just focus on the Microsoft solution

    What irked me was that the article talks about the on premise solution meaning Exchange 2003 (in preference to 2007!) with the possibility of adding SharePoint

    If this article is about SMBs and you’re going to mention Microsoft solutions why not actually look at the small business solutions Microsoft offer?

    If you read this blog on a regular basis you know that for me that means

    Small Business Server

    Then depending on the size of the business your dealing you can also take into account

    Essential Business Server

    Windows Server 2008 Foundation

    Windows Home Server (It’s not specifically a small business product but fits well for micro-businesses)

    The article then goes on to talk about a few things I’d like to highlight

    Firstly, it talks about using Exchange in combination with mobile devices and indicates you’ll need to use IMAP, touting the iPhone as an example

    For example, many employees will have smartphones capable of picking up email via IMAP. Careful setup allows them to do so in a secure, encrypted way. The iPhone, for example, can pull email from various accounts

    What about ActiveSync? The iPhone supports that you know? As do Nokia’s E & N series devices (which are aimed at business) and tons of other devices – and that’s without mentioning Windows Mobile

    It then says

    If you make the move to ES2007, then it’s possible to use this to manage the phones too – remote lockdown and wipe both become possible

    Exchange 2003 has been able to do remote wipe and device security since service pack 2 was released. Obviously Exchange 2007 makes improvements but that doesn’t mean Exchange 2003 doesn’t do it at all!

    Staying with Exchange

    A key issue with ES2003 is to ensure you’re getting the most from it. For example, many companies limit the user inbox size in an attempt to keep below the 16GB limit of the original ES2003 release. However, this limit has been raised in recent SP versions, and you should be allowing more online storage of company information if possible.

    Why mention the 16GB limit? If your going to deploy Exchange 2003 you will be installing service pack 2 as support for service pack 1 expired on 08/01/2008. This means you have no reason not to make use of the 75GB extended limit

    As far as can see the article is aimed at the small business owner, and while this statement makes sense

    You can never have too much security, but SMBs are often very surprised at how much they can do with what they already have. This is especially true if you’re running Exchange Server 2003 with recent Windows clients. A thorough understanding of Group Policy can totally transform the network computing experience, and bring peace and calm to an otherwise chaotic network. Making sure that My Documents, and its brothers and sisters, all point to network shares means that irreplaceable documents dumped on the desktop will actually be backed up properly.

    What has Exchange Server got to do with group policy? Group Policy is an Active Directory feature?

    Also SBS 2003 and SBS 2008 have management consoles that make it possible for an interested business owner to look after the server themselves. There is even a simple wizard to configure the My Documents folder to redirect to the server without having to go anywhere near any group policy settings

    I’m presuming this means SharePoint

    If money is available then you can’t beat Microsoft Office 2007 for bells and whistles, but only if you back it up with Microsoft’s server-side collaboration software. This is a whole different level of investment, and one worth doing if finances allow.

    Windows SharePoint Services is still free whether you’re using Small Business Server or “vanilla” Windows Server so what level of investment being referred to? Depending on your level of skill then customising SharePoint could require investment but as a software purchase? If you went with SBS it all gets configured it all for you

    Also by completely missing out Small Business Server (and Essential Business Server) you are missing out one killer feature that enterprise has pay extra for

    Remote Web Workplace

    Complete access to your email, SharePoint site and remote control of your office PC all from a single, easy to use web site. The 2003 version was great and the 2008 version is even better!

    In addition to the technology Microsoft can offer a small business they also have group of their partners who specifically work with small business

    Small Business Specialists – we’ve even got a funky blue badge (for now!)

    We’re also a community so when I say we I’m not just talking about my company. We form partnerships with other Small Business Specialists to make sure we can cover everything our clients need

    Our day-to-day operations are geared towards working with small business owners and getting the right technology for their business. We’ll even be their IT department if they want meaning their staff can get on with the jobs they are actually paid to do. We’re also flexible enough to lend a helping hand if they do want to do it themselves

    Finally this baffles me

    Don’t leave 2003 until all of it has been properly virtualised into either VMware or Hyper-V, or an equivalent of choice. The future world is a virtualised one, and moving to a new OS version running directly on the hardware is the wrong answer to the wrong question.

    Yes the future is virtual, even in small businesses (we’ve got an expert for that too!). But using virtualisation as a reason for not moving to the latest OS version makes no sense in my opinion. If you want to stay on the previous generation of OS fine. But do it because it makes sense for your business not because you don’t think the current generation isn’t up to being virtualised (which i don’t agree with either but again that could be a post on it’s own)

    Obviously it’s really easy for me to be critical. However, the article does make some other good points

    The paragraph on the first page titled “First Steps” is excellent (I’m not going to reproduce it – go read it! – the whole of the first page is actually good reading)

    Then it takes a cautious approach to the running of a small business purely on Cloud Apps. It doesn’t say you should avoid it completely but also doesn’t jump on the “everything should run in the cloud” mindset that a lot of the media seems to have nowadays. Hosted solutions are ideally suited for some businesses and not others in my opinion so choose the solution that fits.

    There is also a good piece on backups that starts with this

    It’s astonishing how many companies get backup wrong. There are three things to consider here. First, there’s backup and restore for recent data. Then there’s disaster recovery to bring back servers from the dead. Finally, there’s the role of archiving for long-term storage.

     

    In summary I’m disappointed that this has come out of PC Pro and I had to read the article a couple of times to get my head around it.

    As always I’d love to hear your opinion as I know I don’t always have the answers 😉

  • My new toy – Samsung NC110

    If you follow me on Twitter (or Facebook) you’ll have seen this

    Where can i get a netbook TODAY? Curry’s, Comet & PC World not being much help

     

    I’ll spare you the story of me impatiently trying to find something at a local store instead of doing the sensible thing and buying online but I came home with a brand new Samsung NC110

    The NC110 is a slightly newer version of the popular NC10 with the only real difference being longer battery life (up to 9.5 hours according to Samsung!) and an improved touchpad

    The vital statistics

    10.1” screen

    Intel Atom Processor (1.6Ghz)

    1GB RAM

    1.26KG

    Windows XP Home

    Webcam, 3x USB ports, Card reader

    Wireless, Bluetooth, LAN port

     

    The thing that drew to the Samsung was the keyboard. The product blerb says it’s 93% the size of a full keyboard but it’s as useable as a regular laptop keyboard

    I wanted a netbook for keeping connected out and about. I’ve been in several situations recently where it would have been great to have a laptop with me but hauling my regular laptop around wasn’t really an option. This is so small I can put it in a bag and carry around with me. Also with the extra long battery life I can safely go out and not need to worry about carrying power cables as well

    It took a little while to get used to browsing on the smaller screen but it’s nothing to complain about

    I’ll be looking to put Windows 7 onto it over the next few weeks (trying to decide if I should wait for the RTM!) as going back to XP always feels weird now (in the same way going back to Windows 98 machine was weird after Windows 2000 appeared)

    I asked Bryony to take some pictures while I unboxed it (in the kitchen of all places…i was being very impatient!) as all geeks love a good unboxing ceremony!

     

    How small is the box compared to Bryony’s Nokia?!

    DSC_0007

     

    All very neatly packed

    DSC_0010

    Box contents

    DSC_0012

    Battery, power cable, sleeve, restore discs, documentation and NC110!

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    There it is!

    DSC_0017

     

    Thanks for indulging me 😉

    A really good Samsung fan site can be found at www.sammynetbook.com which also has it’s own forums which I’ll be leaning on for tips and tricks I’m sure

  • Card Fraud

    If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ll have seen me make the following update

     

    just found out our company credit card has been scammed for 17k..thanks a lot scumbags!

     

    We didn’t even know it had happened. The credit card company called over the weekend and the police paid a visit to my business partner to go over the details. They wouldn’t say much but it looks like the card was used online. Since it’s a credit card we are protected against fraud so we’re not liable for the money. It’s still money that someone has lost (i.e the card company!)

    This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced card fraud

    What frustrates me is that the chip and pin system was brought into effect in 2006 at great expense but it only solves part of the problem

    If you order something over the phone or on a website you have to hand over

    Name on the card

    Card Number

    Expiry Date

    Card security code (CSC)

    That is enough information for anyone to use that credit card – they don’t even need to physically have it in their possession

    The telephone transaction is the biggest cause for concern in my opinion as your trusting the person your speaking with to put the card details in their system and not write them down for their own use

    So what’s the solution?

    That I don’t know. The only thing i can think of is if the credit card itself could generate a one-time password (a-la RSA SecurID or AuthAnvil Tokens)

    It would mean you’d physically have to be in possession of the card – though that still wouldn’t help if you had your card stolen

    We’ll be more wary of who we’re giving our card details to going forward but in all honesty I don’t think we did anything wrong here

  • Humax PVR Restarting

    I got home from the office a few days ago to be informed by my eldest daughter

    “Dad, the telly is broke”

    The Humax PVR-9150T we have replaced an Argos re-badged box which we had no end of problems with

    Apart from the fact it’s a bit loud and you can’t turn the subtitles on and off after you’ve paused live TV I’ve been pretty happy with it. Even if we do have 100GB worth of CBeebies!

    The problem was that the box would start up, a message would flash on screen (something about loading or scanning, but too fast for me to read) and the picture would finally appear. After a few minutes the box would restart and go through the whole thing again

    With the last PVR we had any problems were generally resolved by returning it to factory defaults though it was massive pain as we’d lose all our recordings

    The fix turned out to be pretty simple

    I unplugged the aerial and switched the box on. It come on this time but didn’t restart and the message I saw earlier was no-where to be found

    On a hunch I went into the channel list and deleted ALL the channels and restarted the box again

    It started up again quite happily and once I rescanned for channels it’s been fine ever since

    I can only speculate that there was a problem with the data the box had for one of the channels