I made a comment on Twitter today after watching some of the announcements from today’s WPC Keynote. It got a nice conversation going and also got me thinking, an IT consultant’s role goes overlooked by the Tech Companies.
Being unable to attend Microsoft’s WPC in Toronto, I turned to Twitter to keep up with it, as I go out to clients on a regular basis and can’t always stream the keynotes. The announcement today of a complete refresh of all Microsoft products in the next 12 months was the icing on the cake. Microsoft was promoting through those at WPC, and forgetting about getting the refresh items in the hands of IT people.
the point comes really into play in the vast SMB marketplace. I have great influence over my clients and what they decide to purchase, due to a level of trust that I have built with them over the years. One the other hand I have limited resources of my own, and have to convince my bosses to get me new technology that I can test in our environments. Being a consultant is not easy.
Where Microsoft dropped the ball, is with TechEd. All the refreshes should have been on display and easily accessible to all the attendees. We are the ones who can drive adoption, and even give higher marks to a product compared to main tech site reviews. Now figure in that you need to set up budgeting for the following year, and Microsoft really dropped the ball. The Surface Tablet, if announced 2 weeks earlier and put on display/testing for the thousands at TechEd would have gotten even more press, more word of mouth and been ready to burst, if it is as good as they say. Office 2013 has been talked about, and I think has been shown a little at WPC, but still no build up for something that is coming out late this year or early next year.
TechEd pushed Server 2012 and Windows 8, but even then, unless one had time to do labs and not go to seminars, there wasn’t a lot to work with. the idea of having given or at least loaning a Windows 8 Tablet to all TechEd attendees would have been a boon. A chance to use it in a real world situation. the majority of us don’t have a way to test it on a tablet unfortunately.
TechEd also pushed cloud services, which for SMBs is still cost prohibitive. You have the cost of the services plus the cost of extra bandwith needed to be able to function at a smooth rate. The barrier to entry is too great. Add on that we are still seeing cloud service crashes every 4-6 months. the lack of the SBS edition of Server might drive more to the cloud, but could leave SMBs with older software, lack of funds to upgrade, and eventually create security issues.
As Scott Ladewig said in response to one of my tweets in our conversation, “ I love the deep dives into technology and educational opportunities, but TechEd keynotes should be more like WPC,” and about TechEd, “Great event, can be even better!” He is right, and hopefully Microsoft will learn. The SMB consultants are the true movers and shakers for a large majority of technology. Get us on board because we are not going to recommend something we haven’t tested.
Viruses are everywhere in this day. They slip past the defenses we put up, mess with our system, and even steal our information. Its a billion dollar black market for some, a set of hi-jinx for others.
For me, its a thorn in my side. 75 to 90 percent of the SMB calls I go on are for removing a virus/trojan from a PC or Laptop. Every time I get asked the same questions. How can we stop this, why did it get through, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for them.
I explain that tis a war. That virus writers are always a step ahead. Antivirus companies have to see the virus so they can stop it, and even that doesn’t always work.
The only way to be safe completely is to not use computers, cell phones, paper, ipads, and anything else that can hold a record. That isn’t going to happen. So I tell them to make sure updates are applied when they come out, and to be on the cautious side concerning web sites. Then a month or two later, I am back out to them removing another virus.
Everyone is talking about Cloud computing. Put things up on The Cloud. SMBs save money by moving to The Cloud. The Cloud is not everything its cracked up to be though, as one of the biggest cloud providers has recently shown.
Before we get into the heart of this op/ed type piece (I do try to use facts, but the thoughts are my own), let us take a basic look at what cloud computing is generally being marketed as. The basic idea is that you remove the server from your location, put it on the Internet through a secure host (the biggest names hosting are Microsoft, Amazon and Google), therefor giving you the ability to work from anywhere, not have to worry about server maintenance, or having an IT department( there are other aspects such as MSPs, Backup to remote data centers, and more that do not apply to this article). To quote the movie Murder by Death, “Interesting theory, one small problem. Is stupid, is most stupid theory I ever heard!”
Why is it so stupid (In my opinion). For a few reasons. First and foremost is security. Take a look at the recent problems with Google and China and you will see what I mean. The hacking, the lack of being able to harden a server yourself (or letting an IT company you can hold responsible), the lack of control. Take a look at what is going on through some of the security sites, not just the small spattering you hear from mainstream media(which will not always tell you the full story due to corporate connections). Now you might say, but I’m small why would someone want to hack me, and that is not the reason you would be hacked. It could be a side effect of being hosted on a much more visible target (again, Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc…).
Once you get past the security aspect, you run into, what happens to your data overall. Who owns it? If you got out of business, does it get destroyed properly? What if you decide to move off the cloud to a local server, does the hosting company have to keep copies of your data due to regulations? A lot of those types of issues are easily solved through contracts, but are you reading through the contract properly. From personal experience with Off-Site backups, the company I work for and our partners put in writing that the data is our clients, and if they want it destroyed due to changing services, going out of business etc… we can do that. This is just data backup though. What about when your whole server is up there?
Finally the reason the cloud is not ready for prime time is infrastructure. Mostly ISP speeds and costs. think about it, you start saving money by bringing your server up to the cloud, but find that access times to files, to e-mails, is extremely slow, and that cuts down on your productivity. The fastest you can go is going to be the slowest link in the chain.
Most businesses are still working off the T1 assumption. A T1 is 1.5Mbp downstream and upstream. This really is not a lot compared to the sizes of files, amount of data being transmitted, and other small factors such as number of people sharing that line. If you are on the cloud, you no longer have just e-mail constantly streaming in, but authentication protocols, Active Directory communications (if its a Microsoft server), Word documents, Quickbooks data (if needed) and much more. Think of it this way, the average home Internet speed is 12Mbp down, 1.5 Mbp up. Faster on the downstream, same on the upstream, which would be your clog. A T1 averages $500-$1000 per month. Home Internet costs around $30-$70 per month but does not have the Quality of service needed to be reliable for could computing. Fiber Internet is the solution (60+Mbp down and up for $1000=$1500 per month right now), but availability of it is spotty at best. Until this bottleneck is fixed, no matter how secure it might be, or guarantees about the data ownership are resolved, I cannot recommend could computing.
The biggest thing to realize is that there is give and take in everything. To really come up with savings, you have to figure in items such as security, lost time due to connectivity, plus you still need someone to be able to take care of your local PCs. A good local IT consultant in the long run is still a better option for most SMBs. A Managed Service Plan with a local IT firm is probably the best, cause its a one low cost solution that covers most everything, and you can budget for because the cost is locked in for the length of the contract. Think about that before you go cloud hopping.