Archive for March, 2012

Knowing What You Don’t Know

As professionals, we all have specialized knowledge that others don’t have. You’ve probably said to yourself at some point that you don’t expect clients to know about . . . [TCP/IP; mini-drivers; patch management; memory leaks; web development; etc.].
I don’t know which needle the nurse should use. I don’t know insurance policy is best. I don’t know the difference between two legal phrases that sound identical to me. Those are specialized knowledge of the people in those fields. When I hire someone to take care of my “stuff” I need to know the line between what I know and what I don’t know.
Well, some clients know what they know and some clients don’t know what they don’t know.
In the world of small business, there are a lot of people who don’t know what they don’t know. They hobble together Frankenstein Networks that “work” but they have no idea how inefficient or dangerous they are. Let me explain.
Premise: We’re working with a technology from “Major Software” vendor. We’ll just use the initials MS. The product in question is a version of their Super Big Software package. We’ll call it SBS. One of the features of this Super Big Software package is that it wants to be the only Super Big Software package on the network. Otherwise, trouble ensues.
Client One: Knows What They Know
Client One brings us in and we see that they have eleven workstations plus a 12th machine just to show videos and PPTs in the conference room. Cool. There is an SBS device on the network, but it is only used for storage. Literally, it is used as a NAS device.
Workstations are all in a workgroup, which makes them a pain in the butt to manage.
We are going to drop in a new SBS Device, scoop over the data, and then begin attaching the workstations to the new network. They will move from a workgroup to an Active Directory structure. Everyone will lose their profiles.
Client knows this. Client knows the old machine has to go away. Client knows the difference between workgroup and domain. Client knows that profiles will be replaced by plain vanilla. That’s the deal.
Client has a line of business application that might not make it into the 64-bit twenty-first century. He has moved this to a workstation and we need to make sure the data are backed up to the server.
Client knows all this. Client knows what they know. When we start discussing cooler new backup strategies, client fully admits that this is new to him. He knows what he doesn’t know.
This client will save a LOT of money, hassles, and downtime because he has an honest assessment of his own knowledge about his network.
All good.
Client Two: Doesn’t Know What He Doesn’t Know
Client two tells MS that he has three computers, no server. No special needs. Plain and boring. Easy install. No real requirements.
Uhhh . . . So we do our network audit. Client Two owns two companies. They are separated by a wooden door. Company Three has three PCs, one laptop, and a an SBS device connected into a 10/100 switch, which he happily calls a Hub. They also have some network printers.
One line from the switch goes into the back of the firewall owned by Client Two. Client Two has plugged a series of 8″ home made network cables from the back of the firewall into his patch panel. These connect three PCs, one laptop, and two specialty workstations that are only used for watching streamed Netflix. They also have some network printers.
The two offices must share network printers.
Client Two has no idea that the firewall is working overtime to manage traffic for four machines, two printers, the entire office next door AND two machines streaming video. All local and internet traffic goes through the switch on the back of the firewall. I don’t know if it’s just 10 MB or 10/100. I don’t care.
When I sit down at Client Two’s PC and run IPConfig/all I see that DNS, DHCP, and Gateway are all the same address. Cool. I also see a WINS server at a different address. I open a web page and VOILA! I see the SBS device.
At this point we explain that the two networks are joined, there is no security, and the old SBS machine is going to shut down 30 days after we set up the new office. Dude thinks we’re trying to rip him off for the cost of a router to separate the two networks. (Cuz, you know, I’m going to totally retire on the profit from one cheap router.)
He explains to us that the two offices are completely separated in every way.
He does not know what he does not know.


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Are you a Professional? Really?

Many in the IT field love to be called professionals. They take pride in the fact that being called a professional puts them “above the rest”. But really – can you claim to be a professional just because of some badge or achievement or exam you’ve passed?
I talk to many professionals in the SMB space, and one of the things I constantly hear is that they never have time to test out software before deploying it to a clients site. When they have problems, they then blame the software vendor for the issue and not accept the fact that they might have eliminated many of the issues had they taken the time to do some testing first. I don’t for a minute think that doing testing in your own environment will eliminate ALL the things you are likely to see onsite, because things are often different, but taking the time to play with things first means you can more easily become a real professional.
I also hear that people don’t have time to do this because they need to be earning money. Isn’t this part of the rate you charge the customer? Isn’t this part of being a professional that the customer expects that you do know what you are doing?
I also know that you can’t possibly test out every piece of software before you deploy it to the clients – in that circumstance, I advocate being upfront with the client and let them know that you can’t test this before deployment and I’d expect some consideration given in terms of billing for the client whilst you learn on the fly. It seems only right doesn’t it?
Doctors never perform an operation on a live patient – therefore why should we “professionals” go out and do things to our customers network environment if we’ve not even tried it out on our own environment first?
Are you a professional… really?

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Tech Consultant vs. Tech Businessman

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Managed Services in a Month

“Ten years ago “remote support” consisted of telephone support for everyone except the largest corporations. It was very rare in the mid-market and virtually unheard of in the SMB space. Now Cousin Larry the Trunk Slammer does remote support with ease.”

“Managed services is not about flat fee pricing.
Managed services is not about all you can eat.
Managed services is not a fad that will disappear in the next year or so, allowing you to go back to being break/fix and disorganized.
Managed Services means that you use modern tools to provide a higher level of support that un-professional, un-trained, un-connected, techno-goobers cannot provide.”

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