So proud of my sister – teaching Music in a school and owning it!

My Step In Time

“I practiced 9 days this week!”

“Easy peasy, lemon squeezey!”

I had to laugh when a cute 1st grade girl said that last one in reference to playing her new “Old Clock” song. Where do they learn these things?? And the second grader that was confused about how many days are in a week made me look at my office partner and try not to laugh. I have had a MARVELOUS first month of being a music teacher at a Christian school. Happy October 1st, by the way!!

I have 21 students here, mostly between the ages of 6-11. Adds up to a lot of beginner lessons. Fun, fun! Our theme at school this year is “Build Up”, and I am definitely in the ‘building’ stage of my piano studio. I have such cute precious kids who are in love with the piano and music right now. I have…

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Whirlwind of Organized Strategy

I promised a blog update based on my companies recent migration from Google Apps for Business, to Office365.  Since it’s been such a while since my last blog (insert lame excuse here, such as being too busy, family life demands, dog ate my computer, etc…) I decided to incorporate what’s been on my mind lately in regards to where our business is going in relation to IT vision and strategy.  

The best way I could think of to describe this “quest” is the title of this entry – “Whirlwind of Organized Strategy”.  Let me explain… 

New technology becoming available, existing technology already available yet not widely utilized, 10 different methods of obtaining the same end result – all lead to what could quickly become an out of control IT department.  The key to keeping this under control really falls on the management of the company.  Think of a whirlwind, gathering anything that is loose and pulling it into its cyclone.  The same thing happens in the IT world of technology available.  The CIO or Director of IT needs to make sure that he/she has a clear strategy for the direction that best fits the company.  Once that is defined, enter the whirlwind of technology!  

With the end goal in mind (before-mentioned strategy), the IT department can now test out multiple different methods, or software applications to determine the best possible method or application relative to their business needs and budget.  Without the end goal – it is very easy to get caught in the distractions of the whirlwind, and end up costing the company not only monetary funds wasted on wrong software or unneeded services, but also the time that the IT department put into obtaining, learning, training and implementing this software or service.  

Let’s talk about this in a case study of my current company, Wilson Legal, LLC (WL).  

SUMMARY: WL was approaching the free limit of users offered by Google Apps for Business (GAB).  Other email alternatives were being evaluated with paid GAB being one of them.  

NEED:  Reliable, secure email system.

RESOLUTION:  WL decided to move forward with Office365, a hosted exchange system offered by Microsoft.  

DETAILS:  In line with the goal set forth by the CEO and VP of Wilson Legal, I decided to stick with a “cloud” or hosted solution.  Office365 offered different tiers of pricing, as we employe sub-contractors that do not need full licenses.  The license that we ended up purchasing also gave our employees access to a hosted Lync server used for presence and chat.  In addition Lync can facilitate Live meetings and file sharing.  On top of all that, we were able to move to Exchange for our email vehicle, providing Active Sync for mobile devices and a live Outlook client connection integrated with the Lync client.  

This was made possible by the clear communication of the desire to be “in the cloud” by the CEO and VP of our company.  This was an easy example, as there weren’t many “distractions” in the email realm.  

Until next time…(which could be while!)


Past Present Future : BYOD (or not)

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog, so after designing and creating a new production operations environment for my company, I decided to post about it.  I will not go into too much technical detail – or maybe I will.  I guess that’s up to the reader!

Let’s start from the past or beginning.  When I came onboard at WLS (5/2/2011) their current infrastructure consisted of 1 physical HP G7 server, running Windows Server 2008 R2. All employee machines however were not joined to the domain.  In essence they had a NAS style device that was used for file storage.  I hit the ground running with several client projects designing new SAP Business Objects (@businessobjects) environments.  That being said, I did not have time to fully dedicate to our internal environment.  Fast forward 6 months to December 2011 and I started coming up with a plan to upgrade our existing infrastructure to meet our business needs.  I met with our VP of IT (my boss) to go over necessary steps to accomplish this as well as a “Big Picture” vision as to where I wanted our technology to be moving forward.  At this time I was utilizing the Hyper-V role that comes standard with Server 2008 R2 for our development / training / testing needs.  The problem with doing so was that all of the Virtual servers and platforms were being housed on our monolithic server which held our domain controller roles along with DHCP and DNS.  Needless to say, that server was getting maxed out on a regular basis not mentioning the headache of needing to reboot for different virtual machines.  Enter 12/18 and the approval of my Infrastructure Upgrade plan.  Key to this plan was the purchase of a new HP G7 server to be used as a physical host for a virtual platform.  After evaluating several virtual platforms, I decided to go with VMWare (free version currently as we only utilize one physical host) over Citrix XEN.

Moving to the present.  WLS infrastructure now consists of 2 physical HP G7 servers.  1 running Windows Server 2008 R2 and holding DC roles along with Hyper-V; 1 running VMWare 4.1 and holding our virtual platform role.  Within the past week I have rolled out to production 2 load-balanced terminal servers along with 2x Application Server enabling published applications currently installed on the terminal servers.  I also installed and configured a virtual server with SQL 2012 and Sharepoint 2010 for the purpose of development within PowerView (a new feature SQL 2012 unlocks in coordination with Sharepoint).  I also am in the process of creating a new Sharepoint farm on a dedicated Sharepoint server (virtual).  All employee laptops are joined to our domain, and management is starting to become, well, manageable!

Let’s dive into the future, as this is where I see the most exciting stuff happening.  The title of the this blog has the acronym BYOD.  Your probably thinking I need to learn what a title of a blog means…well hold on.  I mentioned the deployment of 2x Application server.  This opens our technology to enable employees to Bring their own Device to work.  2x has app’s available for the iPad, iPhone, and Droid mobile devices, as well as Windows and Mac Operating systems.  WLS is participating in the upcoming Elite User Conference in Vegas this year.  2x Published applications will be put to an early test as iPad use will be prevalent at our booth.  More than that, however, is the ability to create a policy that any employee can utilize their device of choice to work as efficiently as possible.  The up-sides are enormous.  The down-side quite frankly is security.  However that’s for another post.  To simplify, no device will be allowed to authenticate until certain security requirements are met *on that device*.  Not to mention the paperwork regarding a remote wipe if necessary 🙂

Obviously I left out a lot of technical details…any questions you can always feel free to ask!  In the meantime, I’ll be testing out App’s on my new iPad….any suggestions for Business related applications that you have had success with please comment below!

Maybe my next post will be non-IT related…we’ll see.

Bob K


Yea It’s Friday Friday ….

Ok so hopefully I placed the Rebecca Black – Friday  “jingle” in your head like it popped into mine when I started writing the title of this post…please don’t hold it against me, just keep reading!

I was supposed to write this yesterday, (today being saturday morning) however I was working from the office yesterday, and as most days go when in the office, the list of 4 things needed to be accomplished became 14 due to physical availability…some of you know how that goes.  So – I’m writing this on Saturday about Friday.  Good.

My boss and I were discussing email quantity and it’s direct correlation to productivity and efficiency.  He mentioned that at his previous employment he was a manager and he did not do anything.  His job was email and meetings.  He mentioned they had meetings about meetings.  I shared with him about my experience as a manager at my previous employment and how multiple emails would just go unread, due to meetings and higher priority demands from other emails.  Basically – a corporate management position is turning into less of a highly skilled position and more of a communication hub.  He brought up this idea that struck me and probably made me that much less productive for the rest of the day….

What if we made a corporate strategy and policy that on EVERY friday, we don’t do email.

You might say – well that sounds great but obviously it’s impossible.  But is it?  Think about how many things you don’t have time to get to because of NEW emails coming in with requests.  And out of those NEW emails coming in on a Friday to your already over-congested inbox, how many of them truly need to be dealt with immediately?  Also throw this into the equation:

If a client truly has an emergency, and needs to contact you – they can do it by phone.

How many of those “emergencies” do you think would then be considered non-emergencies simply due to the fact that the client would need to call you and explain the issue.  Interesting concepts.  But is it really doable?

Let’s think about the PRO’s of implementing this.

  • Friday quickly becomes the most productive day of the week
  • Issues that were dragging on will be dealt with without extending across a weekend
  •  More relaxed atmosphere
  • You determine your work schedule, not your email
However there are multiple CON’s associated with a blanket implementation.
  • Project Completion Dates falling on Fridays
  • Internal necessary email
  • Clients who don’t follow the procedure, and expect replies from emails during an emergency
So the question really is if there is a realistic benefit of implementing a “No-Email Friday” corporate strategy.  My thoughts are that it could NOT be blanket applied starting next Friday.  This is something that would need planning, positive communication to ALL of your existing clients, and also training and communication internally to your employees to properly implement a change such as this.  That being said, I believe it could, with specific tailoring to your business needs, be very beneficial to not only your employees, but also to your clients.
I welcome your thoughts on this issue, as well as the fundamental underlying issue of communication – email vs phone call.
Thanks!

Macbook Air 2011 in corporate America…

I recently received one of the new MacBook Air laptops to use as my primary machine at work.  My job responsibilities require access to VPN’s, connections to RDP servers, and application development.  Before I decided on the MBA, I did some research and played with a friend’s MacBook Pro and another friend’s MBA to try to get a handle if using a MBA was realistic in the corporate environment.  I’ve had the MBA now for almost a month and have used it enough to be comfortable writing this post.  So let’s jump in and see exactly what my setup is and the pro’s / con’s of using a Mac machine in a predominantly   Windows environment.

HARDWARE:
1 MacBook Air – 250GB SSD, i7 Processor, 4GB RAM

CONFIG:
OS – Lion, Bootcamp OS – Windows 7.

What I found out was that natively, the MBA was not able to connect to the corporate RSA VPN’s that were required for me to access my client’s servers.  I admit I have not done extensive research into if there are workarounds for this, but out of the box it is not possible.  So insert the pre-installed app ‘Bootcamp’.  Very easy to use, bascially creates a second partition and installs whatever OS you want.  Then upon boot-up (and the option button being pressed) you will be asked whether you want to boot into Lion or Windows.   The Windows environment is a fully functional, Windows 7 machine.  I am able to connect to all the client VPN’s and any other native Windows applications.  Switching between the two environments only requires a reboot, and with the built in session-state saving, when you boot back into Lion, you are returned to your previous state.

PRO’s:
Best of both worlds.  Mac OS for personal use and surprisingly effective for work use as well (MS Office 2011 works great). Lightweight and extremely portable. SSD = speed! Windows environment faster and more reliable than on most pc only machines!

CONS:
Not many. The MS remote desktop client for mac is buggy, but works. Lack of vpn connectivity. App incompatibility.

Overall, I am extremely happy with my first endeavour with an Apple product. Now, instead of dreams of a pc network in my house, i’m starting to see what I could do with apple….stay tuned!

(written on my ANDROID phone…still a firm lover of this droid over the iPhone!)


Enter: Apple iPad

Look at me posting in consecutive days…pause for a moment while I pat myself on the back…Ok – moving on.
I don’t know about you – but for me, I’m always trying to look ahead at what is going to be the next big thing.

For Example:

One thing that is almost a surety to be the next big thing is the emergence of the Apple iPad becoming a necessity for certain corporate environments.  Yes, I said it.  Enter the Apple iPad into the next have-to-have devices at work.  Now before i proceed, let me preface all of this by saying that I personally am an Android owner and lover.  I tend to like to ‘hack’ my devices to see what they can really do rather than blindly believing what comes out of the box.  However, there is something to say for Apple’s ‘it just works’ devices.

I work in the legal industry, providing systems and applications for a broad realm of careers within the legal industry.  From attorney’s to secretaries – all are active users of the software I support.  This is where the iPad comes in to play.  Apple first of all has excelled in the complete ease of use (read: dummy-proof) of their iPad.  Secondly, they have succeeded in branding their icon, the apple, as a recognizable cutting-edge device.  Thirdly, they have pioneered the trend to a smaller hand-held device.

So what would you rather, unplug your wireless mouse, possibly undock your laptop completely, close it (more than likely causing the laptop to go into sleep mode) and walk to the conference room for a meeting – OR – grab your iPad and a cup of coffee and walk to the conference room, still being able to access your applications where your data lies?

I think the choice here is simple.  The Apple iPad is currently and will continue revolutionizing the need for traditional PC’s and even laptops (see link below).  As more software vendors develop (as we are) application extensions targeted at the iPad look for the iPad to rise in popularity (is that possible?) and become not only used as a Comcast remote, or an Angry Birds player, but also as a competent and necessary tool for your career.

To read more check out this SAP blog regarding the rise of the tablet vs. the traditional PC.

Until another revelation…


Solving Business Problems with IT…

So the question was posed on Lantium’s Blog site (http://www.lantium.com/blog) , how does IT help you solve Business problems.  The first thing I had to think of was – what exactly are business problems?  I work with law firms and specifically applications that law firms use to manage their business.  I have an IT background so this question seemed to be right down my alley.

First – and in my mind most important, we use virtualization to allow for development environments running simulatenously as the law firm’s production environment.  This allows for testing (read: mistakes) and actual development work (read: accomplishment) as well as the very underrated piece of mind for the law firm to actually test out their new software before having to use it every day.

Second – we utilize Microsoft software currently coupled with HP hardware (servers) and Dell hardware (workstation/laptops) for our internal IT.  Sharepoint 2010 is crucial to our every-day operations and our programmers utilize Virtual Servers queued up in Microsoft Hyper-V environment hosted on our internal HP server.

These two IT practices actually solve multiple business problems before they become problems.  Those problems are:

  • Server/Application downtime
  • Untrained staff on new software
  • Regressive rather than cutting-edge IT methods
  • Information Management
  • Infrastructure reliability

Obviously – there are many, many more IT practices that can solve business problems, however hopefully I have brought to your attention two of the more important practices – testing and reliability.

If interested and want to know more feel free to contact me and I’ll provide my email, or click the link above for IT help from Lantium!