We are Moving on…a new Look and Feel

Effective now, you will find this blog at http://blog.pequodsystems.com. We believe this change will make us easier to find. We also decided to give ourselves a new look.  We also changed so that our friends using mobile devices such as an iPad can read this blog while you are on the road. Over the next month or so, you will also see some changes at our website.   Our vision, values and mission will remain the same. Our products and services are evolving. We are still enthusiastic Nimble partners.  As always, you will find us on FaceBook, in LinkedIn, Twitter and even in Google+ .

THIS AND THAT

Word for the Day: (An oldie but goodie) Mashup.
Music,  Slang . a recording that combines vocal and instrumental tracks from two or more recordings. a piece of recorded or live music in which a producer or DJ blends together two or more tracks, often of contrasting genres .
…a hybrid website that collates and displays information taken from various other online sources …

Not to be confused with enabling Nimble to talk with your Google Apps. 
Cheers!

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The High Cost of Ostrich Feathers and IIABDFI

 

Susan Ellsworth

 

Back on February 1, 2010, Dan Tynan at InfoWorld wrote about “The technology pro’s greatest enemies.” While that article and similar others provide catharsis for those of us who labor in the tech field, there is some wisdom for the rest of us in his “the six most nefarious adversaries of IT.”

In his article, Tynan talked about “bosses who bury their heads in the sand when it comes to technology, yet are still empowered to make critical IT decisions.” Here’s my classic example: the business owner, when told by an IT staff person that configuring a “souped up” workstation as a server is a bad idea. The business owner, motivated by short-term penny pinching, threatens to fire the IT tech who then caves in and installs server software on a workstation. The workstation, never intended to provide networking service to dozens of users at a time, is less efficient than a server. The result: an unhappy, less than fully-productive user community. Meanwhile, the Ostrich, who works 100% of his time on a smart phone, never experiences what everyone else does.  And never figures out why everyone is complaining.

Then there is my personal favorite:the If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It crowd.  The problem here is that just like human beings, technology wears down with time. And just like human beings who refuse to adapt to new realities (a gentleman I used to know, for example, who refused to learn how to use a bank ATM or a microwave oven), computing hardware which is not updated does not work well with newer software applications. Some applications simply will not install on older machines, but until beaten to a business pulp against the tide of technology, the IIABDFI manager refuses to update to current technology. And then pushes on the provider of technology to upgrade only to a level that is no longer supported by anyone earning an honest buck in the trade…but just might be found for pennies on eBay.

The sad thing is that both the Ostrich and IIABDFI fail to recognize that the longer they put off upgrading, the dramatically fewer resources from which they will be able to receive technical support. The Tech flavor of Murphy’s Law says that the need for technical support will arrive just at a critical business moment. And Ostrich/IIABDFI will discover not only the expense of upgrading to current technology just when funds had been committed elsewhere but also the cost of downtime. We favor front-end planning.

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Pequod Systems Announces Field Services Associates Program

Susan Ellsworth

We are pleased to announce our new Field Services Associates Program. As a Managed Services Provider (MSP) with an investment in and commitment to a major, well-known MSP platform, we are now offering an opportunity to experienced computer services technicians to take full advantage of our Pequod Proactive Managed Services with minimal additional expense by the Field Services Associate.

We ourselves remember the experience and organizational cost of far too many 3:30 am Break-Fix calls. Not any more. Our Field Services Associates Program is designed to overcome  that very scenario.

We remember friends in the business losing focus due to conflicting priorities arising from crisis after crisis. We used to be there ourselves. Not any more.

We remember being buried in break-fix work for six months at a clip and not seeing long-time friends.  Not any more.

So how does the Pequod Systems Field Services Associates Program work?

Your clients remain your clients. You and Pequod Systems negotiate a flexible, custom investment in specific services that will make you more efficient and effective while we deliver proactive monitoring of your customer’s network.

Results? You are even more professional than you were. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is replaced by rational, reasonable updates of software and hardware, based on information from the manufacturer. You reduce rush hour travel. You regain ability to focus on the major systems issues your customer really should know about before a small problem becomes a disaster. You reduce your carbon footprint—not to mention the dent in your wallet that unnecessary travel to customer sites takes. And you just might have an opportunity to get together with that best friend you have not seen for six months.

NOTE: Pequod Systems does not become your employer.

Send eMail with your questions and qualifications to FieldService@pequodsystems.com

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Our (almost) FREE Managed Services Offer

Susan Ellsworth

Here is an offer you can’t refuse. We are offering a two-month free trial of our bronze entry-level Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites.

This offer is good only through June 30.

We normally charge $199.00 per month for this service. However, if you act now, you will receive a free system inventory and  two free Monthly Reports.

The Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites are designed to identify, track and report issues affecting the security, performance and reliability of your IT investment. Our Suites inventory the software and hardware on your network.

Why should you care about this?

Is your company really ready for a natural disaster? Flood from a broken dam upstream? It happened to a landscaping firm I know about. Fire caused by a spark from a nearby building? It’s in the news. Vandalism ? An oops resulting in significant staff downtime and replacement of critical parts of your network? Think it can’t happen to you? Stuff happens! You can’t afford the service? When is the last time you calculated how much you earn in an hour? Now calculate how much each employee whose productive work can come to a halt in the case of a downed server. It just happened to a company we know well.

When you approach your insurance carrier for replacements, how current will your inventory be?

While it used to be a daunting, expensive task to collect documentation about every laptop, every workstation, printer, scanner and  hard drive, every version of—and patch for—each software solution, that is no longer the case. Our Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites do that for you.

The Fine Print

To deliver our service to you, we install a piece of software known as our onsite management reporting software. Therefore,

  • your company must have a true windows server operating system. This includes Windows Server 2003 (any edition), Windows Server 2008 (any edition), or Windows Home Server (not used in Domains).
  • you must have SQL Server 2005 (express, standard, or enterprise edition), or be willing to allow us to install SQL Express 2005 on your server as well as our onsite management reporting software.
  • your server must have a 2.5 Mhz or better processor, 1.8 Gigabytes of  RAM,   10 Gigabytes for our onsite manager software and SQL files
  • your Internet access must have  open outbound ports 9222, 443 and 80.
  • your LAN network requirement is for open ports on managed/monitored devices 22, 23, 80,  (3389 and/or 5900), and others, depending of devices

The only cost to you is one-half our usual setup fee.

NOTE: This offer is good only through June 30.

If any of the above Fine Print makes no sense to you whatsoever,  drop us a note on our contact page.

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It’s all about Perspective

 There’s a small television set in my kitchen. On a shelf above the TV, there is a cluttered shelf where, among other things, a small pill-cutter generally lives. Two weeks ago, just when I wanted to cut a pill to give to my cat, it seemed that the pill-cutter had disappeared. We looked high, low and in the middle. No pill-cutter did we see. We gave up, based on my late mother’s philosophy that we would find anything after we had stopped looking for it and based on my cousin’s observation that anything you look for will magically show up immediately after you have bought its replacement.

This morning, while looking for something else, I happened to glance behind the back of the TV. Voilá! There was the pill-cutter, blending with the scenery of cables, clutter and dust. It was all about perspective. What a pleasant surprise!

Here in snow-bound Maryland, you sure can tell the perspective of the folks who have planned well ahead.  One local county school system has announced that classes will be closed for the remainder of the week, and that the President’s holiday will be a regularly-scheduled classday.  Others keep announcing only one day at a time. Some people bought groceries for a week ahead, while others are out there scrambling a day at a time.

We’ve been providing technical services for a number of organizations over the years. We sure can recognize those who plan well ahead for unforeseeable contingencies and those who do not. The ones that plan well ahead and act on their managed services reports  get the pleasant surprises. Those who do not pay a heavy premium when they buy when they simply needed managed services to look where they had not. 

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Got GoldMine? Bad Old News, Good News and the “Catches” —- Part 2

Back on November 7, I announced that “Until December 18th 2009, GoldMine Standard  Edition users can upgrade to GoldMine Premium Edition at $355 per seat.  Additional seats for the same price are available if the additional seats are included on the same order.”

Obviously, December 18 is gone.

If you place your order after December 18 but by January 29th 2010 you can upgrade from GoldMine Standard Edition to GoldMine Premium Edition for $405. That’s still a savings over the standard price for GoldMine Premium Edition.

The Catches remain the same:  You must order a minumum of five (5) GMPE licenses with maintenance required on all seats. Orders—which go through a GoldMine partner such as Pequod Systems—must be received by the FrontRange GoldMine partner in time to reach FrontRange by the deadline.

We have a few client tasks to complete over the holiday but are looking forward to spending time with family and friends.  I’m taking some time out to catch up and rest up to be ready for 2010.  Be warm, be safe and remember not to put your cell phone in one hand and your steering wheel in the other as you’re tooling down an InterState at 60 MPH.

Happy Holidays, all!

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Managed IT Services in Plain English: II

A while back, I promised that the next blog would talk about inventory of computer hardware, the use of hardware vendor-supplied information about your hardware and what this information can do for you. Today hardware inventory is gathered automatically and remotely with a small piece of well-configured software that simply reads what the hardware is.

In addition to its usefulness for insurance purposes, a complete automated inventory of computer hardware does many things for business.  It’s a great place to begin assessing overall network efficiency and capacity for software upgrades.

Consider the executive faced with a choice of upgrading an old but mission-critical application no longer supported by a manufacturer. (Yes, it does happen!) That’s when  an inventory showing where hard drives with a required amount of space for that mission-critical software can make the difference between an upgrade on pre-existing hardware or purchase of an entire new server.   For the technical support team that assembled this information, providing that information can either be slow, painful and expensive or it can be immediate, easy and offer great return on customer investment.

In the example below,  we see a server that still has 81% of its capacity on a particular drive available to be used for an application. Further information collected by that same, small and remote piece of software about  that server can determine that server’s suitability for upgrade of a mission-critical piece of sofware.

Managed IT Services. Not sexy, but definitely a service with great return on investment.

“If It Ain’t Broke, don’t Fix It.” Here’s a BETTER idea for Business IT

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Unless yours is a one or two person business and you conduct most—if not all—business on a personally-owned laptop and/or your cell phone, managed IT services should be a standard part of your present and future business plans. Why? What’s wrong with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

On average, companies lose thousands of dollars a year to network downtime—in the incremental minutes and hours of lost productivity and lost opportunities as people wait for problems to be resolved. Furthermore, on average, 70% of IT management budgets are spent on systems maintenance, leaving only 30% to invest in new technologies

Consider  IT support that significantly reduces your downtime by identifying and solving issues before you and your staff have identifiable problems—and solving the problems took minutes instead of hours to resolve the remaining issues that were not anticipated.

Now consider  shifting funding from administrative tasks to more strategic infrastructure investments that would keep your network more secure and save money in the long run.

Managed IT services generally include

  • Remote support for rapid problem resolution
  • Detailed site inventories of hardware and software
  • 24 x 7 x 365 proactive network and security monitoring
  • Scheduled maintenance and upgrades in consultation with the customer

Those who offer these services successfully generally

  • hold  standard industry certifications
  • are experienced partners of major,  leading hardware and/or software solutions
  • are experienced partners of major hardware and software vendors
  • regularly receive product updates and notices about special offers from those vendors

Transparency Tip #2 Hardware today comes with internal code that identifies its manufacturer, its version number, and its serial number. Reading that information and knowing how long that hardware has been in service and paying attention to special offers not advertised to end users can give the managed services provider some insights as to cost-savings for upgrades.

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Managed IT Services in Plain English

copy-of-susan_headshot4 One of our Pequod Systems core values is to speak the language of business. No geek speak here. Since an offer of managed IT Services will soon be one of our offerings,  it’s time to talk about what “managed IT services” means in plain business English.

What I have said before is worth repeating: IT managed services allows a non-IT business with serious investments in computer technology to get on with its own efforts without worrying about backups or cash flow unpredictability due to a sudden hardware breakdown or unplanned, software incompatibility as a result of an inappropriate upgrade.

While some people have no interest in knowing how the technology behind managed services works, we believe that offering some simple, easy-to-understand basics is an important factor in developing successful working relationships. Transparency works for us.

The next blog will talk in detail about inventory of computer hardware, the use of hardware vendor-supplied information about your hardware and what this information can do for you. You will read about how a system can read your hardware serial numbers and what good that does for you. After that, look for some detail about printers and, possibly, other devices on your network. Next will be a blog about software. After that, some notes about customer meetings on the subject of preventive maintenance based not on our recommendations, but on manufacturer recommendations.

Transparency Tip #1 We work with your favorite IT support person to make that support person even more efficient and effective than you might have experienced before.

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Serendipity: Toastmasters and Managed Services

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Serendipity. Yes, this edition of the Pertinent Pequod Posts is the result of serendipity. First, it was a software engineer and fellow Toastmaster writing about the process of considering “not just the ideal or expected way to input and interface with the code but also look at how the code handles an error or an improper input so the program would not crash or cause problems.”* In other words, this software engineer PLANS AHEAD before simply wasting time writing code. It’s a best practice used not only by software engineers but also by systems integrators and successful professionals in many different fields.

Then a Pequod corporate opportunity came up to offer IT managed services to business customers. One we just could not refuse. More detail is forthcoming soon!

The basic delivery of IT managed services is fairly straightforward. It allows a non-IT business with serious investments in computer technology to get on with its own efforts without worrying about backups or cash flow unpredictability due to a sudden hardware breakdown or unplanned, software incompatibility as a result of an inappropriate upgrade. It includes an automated survey of computing assets and infrastructure, which will form a basis for planned updates. All the business has to pay attention to is an agreed-upon Service Level Agreement by your managed services provider. Staff in businesses with a Service Level Agreement for Managed Services are now completely engaged in doing and managing those tasks for which they were hired to do.

At the same time, a high quality provider of managed services makes a point of having status conversations with the customer on a regular basis. Hardware assets purchased five years ago may or may not be on their way to final failure. Hardware assets purchased five years ago may not provide the performance needed for today’s software applications. Regardless of the economy, no customer should discover these facts because a piece of hardware fails.

Similarly, no organization or company should proceed down a course without total front end analysis of what happens if Plan A (or perhaps no plan at all!) does not serve well, or starts to crash and ultimately fail. Large organization (think 225,000 members) or small business (think 50 employees), every enterprise will have greater opportunities to succeed when its focus is on its primary mission rather than on the details of the infrastructure that gets it there. Toastmasters International should have consulted with professional change management experts before it went down its current path. A businesses that thinks it cannot afford managed services really needs to reconsider its corporate mission and what infrastructure services it depends on to achieve that mission.

*Thanks, Will Hsiung, for your blog about Proposal A.

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