Wednesday, 17 December 2008

HP Bloatware on Business Machines…

We switched to reselling HP rather than Dell earlier this year and generally we’ve been very happy with the move. I’ve blogged about my dissatisfaction with Dell before so I wont go over it all again.  Suffice to say they’re not channel friendly despite what they may claim.

We’ve supplied a few bits of HP kit here and there and been pleased with what we’ve seen.  Last week we upgraded a five user network to HP kit and I was very disappointed to discover the large amount of bloatware shipping on the business machines we had supplied.

Something like a PDF reader I can accept, as well as HP’s various pieces of software – you’ll get that whatever the vendor. But when I discovered they’d installed the AOL IE Toolbar I felt they’d crossed the line.  Not only was this ugly toolbar taking up desktop space, they’d also changed the default search provider in the top right-hand corner to AOL and the homepage was some amalgamation between AOL and HP.



With consumer PCs I can accept a certain level of bloatware, this often helps the vendor keep the costs down and it’s just become the norm. But when you’re paying a premium for high-end HP laptops and desktops I expect them to be clean of such crap.

Unfortunately there’s nothing they’re going to do about it, I just expect better from HP.  I’ll just know in the future to include some extra time for each PC, to allow clean up before installing at customers.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

SBS 2008 Training Comes to Stockport

After seeing heavily subsidised SBS 2008 training being offered in such places as the US, Canada and Australia I raised the question with Emily Lambert at the SBS 2008 launch event in Manchester.  Emily asked me to drop her a mail with examples of this training, which I duly did and copied in our friendly MS PAL, Vijay.

It turned out a number of people had raised this with Emily and in early November they came up trumps with a 3 day workshop in London for only £200. After consulting my heavily pregnant wife we agreed it was worth the time away from home and I booked my spot. Unfortunately the demand had been so high all the places had gone and I’d been put on the waiting list.

Meanwhile Ric from NetLink IT had been musing over the fact that the only offering was in London and wondered out loud to Emily if we could have some further North.  I obviously backed this whole heartedly, not only because I didn’t have a place on the course, but it’s always nicer to be closer to home for these events.

Last night I was catching up on my blog roll and discovered Microsoft had come up trumps again with new courses announced across the country.

Course Title: 44CO101 - Implementing and Administering Windows® Small Business Server 2008




London 01/12/08 3 days
London 12/01/09 2 days
Edinburgh 15/01/09 2 days
Stockport 16/02/09 2 days
Birmingham 19/02/09 2 days

My booking is confirmed and paid for, I hope to see some of you there.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Single CAL Open License Confirmed

Typical, that on the same day I blog about a missing part number, my question is answered. I’m not complaining though, I always thought it was just an oversight. I’ve updated my spreadsheet with the missing part number (6UA-02673) and many thanks to Emily Lambert for confirming the information.  And just to confirm how complicated MS licensing can be, here are all the part numbers for what is basically the same product:

6UA-02656          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP C Device CAL

6UA-02670          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP NL Device CAL

6UA-02671          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP C User CAL

6UA-02673          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP NL User CAL

6UA-02750          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Lic/SA Pack OLP NL GOVT Device CAL

6UA-02751          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Lic/SA Pack OLP NL GOVT User CAL

6UA-02752          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste SA OLP NL GOVT Device CAL

6UA-02753          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste SA OLP NL GOVT User CAL

6UA-02754          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 OLP NL GOVT Device CAL

6UA-02755          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 OLP NL GOVT User CAL

6UA-02542          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP B AE Device CAL

6UA-02543          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP NL AE Device CAL

6UA-02544          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP B AE User CAL

6UA-02658          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP NL Device CAL

6UA-02659          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP C User CAL

6UA-02661          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP NL User CAL

6UA-02662          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP C Device CAL

6UA-02664          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP NL Device CAL

6UA-02665          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP C User CAL

6UA-02667          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP NL User CAL

6UA-02668          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP C Device CAL

6UA-02545          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl Lic/SA Pack OLP NL AE User CAL

6UA-02546          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP B AE Device CAL

6UA-02547          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP NL AE Device CAL

6UA-02548          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP B AE User CAL

6UA-02549          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste Sngl SA OLP NL AE User CAL

6UA-02550          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP B AE Device CAL

6UA-02551          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP NL AE Device CAL

6UA-02552          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP B AE User CAL

6UA-02553          Windows Small Bus CAL Ste 2008 Sngl OLP NL AE User CAL

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Friday, 14 November 2008

Single CALs? Great. But Where’s the Open License Option?

From a costs point of view one of the biggest changes with the new version of SBS is the availability of single CALs. With SBS 2003 the minimum purchase was five, so if you had a customer with six users they would have to buy ten CALs.  For budget conscious customers this wasn’t the greatest piece of news when discussing implementing SBS.

The initial minimum purchase is still the five CALs that ship with SBS Standard or Premium, but after that you can switch to purchasing single CALs. When drawing up a reference spreadsheet of the various part numbers for SBS 2008 and CAL options, I stumbled across a missing piece. I found the part numbers for single CALs in Open Value License (OVL), FPP and OEM, but not Open License (OL).

Previously we’ve almost always sold OEM, but we’re now shifting towards Open Licenses to enable transfer rights, which in turn also allows our new DR plan to work. OVL is one option but has the added cost of Software Assurance (SA) which I don’t see the value in as SBS 2008 isn’t going to be replaced in the next 3 years.  Saying that there is one good reason to sell OVL and that’s the split payment option – a customer can pay for the licenses over 3 years, instead of up front and there’s no added cost, in effect 0% APR.

So unless a customer wants to split their payments, we’re going to be offering OL, but now we run into the problem that there doesn’t seem to be a single CAL license option…  Surely this is just an oversight on MS’s part, but so far my questions to them about it via Eric Ligman and Emily Lambert remain unanswered…

I’ll keep looking and add an update here if I find anything, but if anyone else already knows the answer I’d love to hear it.

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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Time to Migrate to SBS 2008

Today is the official launch of Windows Essential Server Solutions, which to you and me really means Small Business Server 2008.  Here at Sirona Solutions we’ve been running the beta for some time, but not as our production server.  We’re now recommending SBS 2008 to potential new customers, so it’s definitely time to start using it on a daily basis.  So what’s holding us back?  Lack of disk space and memory… 

We run our production servers on a Dell PE2950 running VMWare ESX 3.5 and it’s been an excellent solution.  Unfortunately what was a very decent spec just over a year ago, is now not enough to add a fourth virtual server. All eight memory slots are full (8 x 1Gb) and to upgrade it you have to remove the lot. Eight lots of 2Gb is expensive enough, but looking forward perhaps the even more expensive option of 4 x 4Gb would be better, leaving four slots free for further expansion. As for the disk space, I’m hoping VMWare support are going to be able to help me clear up some files to enough room.

Once we get past the problem of upgrading the server, the business of actually migrating comes up. Microsoft have released the official migration document and Jamie Burgess has a few useful pointers on his blog too. VMWare has the great feature of Snapshots which allow you to take a point-in-time image which you can revert back to in seconds. I’ve used this in previous major software changes and it’s like having the undo feature in Word and the value is even greater in a migration scenario.

Vijay has posted some good notes on his experience of upgrading and I’ll be sure to do the same when we move over. Has anyone else already done the deed?

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Friday, 7 November 2008

Symantec Backup Exec Road Show

I’m sat in Birmingham New Street station waiting for my train back to Stockport to leave.  I travelled down this morning for Symantec’s Backup Exec Road Show and it was certainly worth the trip. I haven’t used Backup Exec since my corporate days, but recent research has shown it’s still considered the backup software to use and we’re preparing a new backup strategy to offer to our customers.  Alongside this strategy is a disaster recovery option and that was my main reason for attending the road show today.

Backup Exec System Recovery (BESR) is a very impressive piece of software for, surprisingly enough, recovering your system. It’s basically an imaging solution with support for incremental backups.  So you do one big image of your system to an internal drive, USB device, NAS box or even an FTP server (really needs to be local). Once that big image is done you can then schedule incrementals, which means your image is kept up to date while the backup times are kept to a minimum. In the event of a disaster rendering your server inoperable you boot your standby server from a PE boot CD, point at the image and within an hour your standby server is running just like your original.

Recovery to dissimilar hardware as above is one option, but what if you don’t even want to wait an hour? BESR also gives you the option to create virtual images of your production server, giving you a VMDK file for VMWare or the Hyper-V equivalent (note to self, must read up on Hyper-V). Incrementals are supported again, so you do that one big backup and then just run an incremental each night/hour/minute, whatever your preference. Then in the event of a disaster you turn up to site with your loan server already running VMWare/Hyper-V, copy over the virtual image file and have the server up and running in ten or fifteen minutes!

Finally another great use for BESR is one that Mr Richard Tubb of Netlink-IT highlighted. He recently migrated a customer to a new server and instead of following MS’s published and painful documentation (I have first hand experience of the pain) or even a swing migration, Ric just used BESR. Using the first scenario I outlined, he booted from the PE disk and loaded up the image, less than an hour later the customer was migrated! Compare that to the two days I spent migrating a customer using MS’s method, I know which I’ll do in the future.

Now, lets see if I can publish this while sat at Wolverhampton station!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Peer Groups

Something that surprised me when we started Sirona was the open nature of other businesses. This first started with my good friend Jason Stephanides of Onsite Solutions. Jason was a massive help in getting Sirona going, giving us loads of great support and advice.

Soon after starting Sirona I discovered this open nature extended well beyond personal friends. I've discovered various small business communities focused on the delivery of IT services, specifically in the Microsoft arena. The first of these was the Yahoo Group UKSBSG, there's a great bunch of people there who are always very quick to respond to technical or business related questions. There are a number of other groups offering similar communities, but not focused on the UK market:

Another slightly different group is SMBManagedServices, this has been a fantastic resource for developing our business in the Managed Services sector.

Offline, another great group has been the Manchester SBS Group. SBS Groups are found worldwide and are generally focused around Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS). The Manchester group had gone quiet for a while and in March 2008 a couple of Microsoft employees started to rally the troops to get it going again. Chris Parkes, Partner Technology Specialist and Danny Ovens, Northwest Regional Development Manager were both fundamental in getting the group going again. Chris and Danny were originally running the group, but felt it would be better to have one of the community running it. Last week Simon Belt of Simply Better IT took the reins and quickly put up a website dedicated to the group. I'm sure Simon will do a great job going forward.

Our SBS group meets once a month, generally on the third Thursday. Last week our usual host wasn't available and I'm happy to say Sirona was able to stand in and provide a room at Sirona House. We also had guests, Gareth Hall, Microsoft Windows Server Product Manager, Emily Lambert, Microsoft SBSC Programme Lead and Vijay Singh Riyait from iQubed.

I look forward to our SBS meeting every month and always find it a very rewarding evening. I should be bringing two guests to next months meeting - details in a future post - and in October we're having a launch event for SBS 2008.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

SharePoint Seminar

Today Alex and I attended a SharePoint seminar hosted by Combined Knowledge down in Leicester.  It was a great day and I want to say a big thank you to Steve Smith, the owner of Combined Knowledge, for putting on a great day giving us a perfect taster of what SharePoint can do for our business.

SharePoint is a web based application used by thousands of companies worldwide for a variety of uses; the core purpose of being to share and collaborate on a wide variety of documents.  Small businesses generally rely on a simple file share to store and share documents, SharePoint tries to break away from this old practice.  Some of the main advantages are:

  • Cut down on documents being emailed and filling up mailboxes
  • Give control of document access back to end users
  • Automate repetitive processes
  • Tailor the style and functionality of the application for your business

At Sirona we're already using the latest version of SharePoint for our own document collaboration and our plan is to start offering it to customers over the next few months. Hopefully we'll be heading back to Leicester to make more use of the courses available at Combined Knowledge, until then we'll keep testing and developing at Sirona House.

Monday, 30 June 2008

SBSC Qualified

Today Sirona Solutions became part of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community, this was because I passed my SBSC exam. It’s fair to say I’m far from a fan of exams and I thought I’d put them well behind me when I left formal education many years ago. However, I’ve taken a long list of exams in my IT career and today’s was the latest and also the one I’m most proud of. I’m most proud of it because it’s not just for me, it’s for our company and it shows current and future customers that we excel at what we do.

Microsoft SMBS Logo 2008

The certification also shows Microsoft that we are serious at what we’re doing and allows them to better help as they know what we specialise in.

Some developments at Sirona have been put on hold while I’ve been concentrating on this qualification. Now it’s done things can start moving again, all of which will help Sirona grow.  Stay tuned for more information ;-)

Friday, 27 June 2008

VoIP for Business

When you mention VoIP, the first thing that usually springs to mind is Skype.  Now Skype is a fantastic piece of software and millions of people use it every day.  I’ve used it on occasion myself, on a trip to the US I used Skype on the free hotel Wifi to speak to Mrs Nick back in the UK.  The call quality was fantastic, especially compared to a mobile.  I’ve also used it to talk to a good friend in Hong Kong, again brilliant call quality and who could argue at an hour long phone call half-way round the world costing zero pence?

VoIP for Business, on the other hand, is a whole different ball park.  The idea is to bring corporate phone system features and functionality to small businesses at an affordable cost.  There are also savings to be made in call costs, in my experience these are particularly evident when calling abroad.  One sixty minute call to the States recently, came in at just over £1!

We use VoIP here at Sirona House and we make use of a lot of the advanced features.  When you call Sirona you are presented with a voice-menu, don’t hate me just yet though we have kept it nice and short – only two button presses get you through to the right person.  Our voice-menu was professionally recorded, but you can also record your own.  The advantage for us is when the call gets put through to the office we know what buttons you have pressed.  So we know if you’re calling for tech support, to log a call, whether you’re a business or home user, etc.  As we grow we’ll be able to route calls more effectively and ensure our customer’s calls are always answered by the correct person.

Voice-mail is now a feature we’re all very used to with mobile phones and this comes bundled with VoIP.  You can either have individual voice-mail and/or a group voice-mail depending on how your calls are routed.  That’s another feature, call routing.  You can ensure that at 9am your calls are all forwarded to the office, then at 5pm they’re routed to the person on-call and at 8pm they switch to voice-mail.  Call routing can also be tied into a voice-menu to be routed to a particular department.  You can also arrange how phones ring, you can have a group of phones ring at the same time, have one ring and then another or even have a call automatically routed to a mobile if no-one picks up in the office.

So you may be asking what the catch is, why are BT still making money?  Well the reason all these features are affordable is they are delivered over a standard broadband connection.  A lot of users of business VoIP will share one broadband connection for both web browsing and VoIP.  This isn’t the recommended solution and at Sirona House we have a dedicated broadband connection just for VoIP.

So with business VoIP you are putting your entire phone network over a single broadband connection and most people will have experienced a failure of their broadband connection.  However, broadband has become a lot more reliable in the last couple of years and I actually struggle to remember the last time either our business or home connections failed.  On top of this business VoIP providers are now providing their own broadband connections to their customers that come with guarantees of service.  This gives you call quality guarantees and dedicated support behind the connections so if there are problems they are rectified quickly.

Overall we’re very happy with our VoIP service and there’s no way we could afford to have all the features we have by going straight to BT.  We’re also not tied into a long agreement, so if weren’t happy with it we could easily go somewhere else.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Open Letter to Dell Premier

Dell Premier is Dell’s latest offering to the Channel community to help us prepare quotes for customers.  While I liked having an account manager I could actually speak to, the web site is easy to use and I can get prices very quickly. 

The Channel relationship is supposed to give us, as resellers, as a discount to persuade customers to do business through us, rather than going direct to Dell.  However, on my latest quote Premier has made us look like rip-off merchants…  Hence my letter to Olivia Hughes, UKI PAD eBusiness Manager:

Hi Olivia,

We have been a Dell partner for a little under a year and generally we have had a very positive experience working with Dell.  On Friday I prepared a quote for a potential customer and included in that quote was a Dell PowerConnect 2716.  The price to us as a partner, on Dell Premier, was and still is £159 and this is what we duly quoted to the customer.  Today the customer has come back to me and has asked me to explain why he can buy the same PowerConnect switch for £60 less than our quote.  Looking on the consumer website I can indeed see the PowerConnect 2716 for £97!

During our initial meeting with this customer we had championed our relationship with Dell and the discounts we were able to make available for him.  I hope you can understand the difficult position this price conflict now puts our company in and the possible damage it has done to our relationship with this customer in such a strategic point in our relationship.

Could you offer any explanation as to why this huge price difference is evident?  Could you also offer any reassurance as to why I don’t have to start comparing all products between Dell Premier and Dell Consumer, before putting quotes forward to customers?

Please note I have copied in a number of SMB community groups and I will also be publishing this email on my personal blog.

I look forward to your response.



I look forward to what response, if any, that I get from Dell.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Manchester SBS Meeting

Last night I went to my second Manchester SBS Meeting hosted by Ceri Thomas of 168Tech with Chris Parkes and Danny Ovens from Microsoft.  After getting a lot out of the last meeting back in April, I dragged my business partner Alex along to this one.  I assured him that it was a good mixture of technical content and marketing (his speciality) so he was happy to come.

Chris gave a quick demo of SBS 2008, which he’d only just installed himself earlier that day.  It was really good to see it running, rather than just the screen shots I’ve seen so far.  It did get a bit bogged down running in Hyper-V on a 64bit laptop, I’ll have to see how well it runs on our VMware ESX box.

By the end of that Alex was wondering what the hell I’d brought him to!  However, a combination of pizza and Ceri’s SharePoint presentation saved the day.  I’ve been wondering about SharePoint over the last few weeks and posted over at UKSBSG asking how people were using it.  It ships with every SBS server, so it’s been bugging me that I haven’t been making use of it.

Ceri showed off some great looking and very functional SharePoint v3.0 sites and really opened my eyes as to what can be done.  Chris then took the floor and extended on the technical side, I had no idea about most of what was presented.  Both Alex and I came away suitable impressed and determined to start testing it in our own environment with the view to presenting to customers ASAP.

Thanks to everyone involved in last night’s meeting, already looking forward to the next one.  If you haven’t been along, I’d highly recommend it, just drop me a line if you’re interested.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Managed Services

Managed Services is now the core business at Sirona Solutions and we’re pleased to offer this service to a number of small businesses in and around Manchester.

When we started Sirona we knew the key to a successful business was to find customers who saw value in having an IT partner.  At first we saw that role as responding to faults and maintaining servers on a daily basis.  As we discovered the term ‘Managed Services’ we found there was lot more we can offer that will help us stand out from other IT suppliers.

On a day to day basis we may still just be responding to faults, but under the surface we’ve been adding more and more value to our contracts.  A key tool that has helped us expand what we do, without drastically affecting the bottom line, is Kaseya.  Kaseya is an automation tool which allows us to manage our client’s infrastructure, servers and desktops.  I like the way our supplier put it; ‘Kaseya can basically do anything to a PC that doesn’t require a screwdriver’.

There are various ways to use Kaseya and for a company of our size a hosted solution was the best option.  We considered a few suppliers and quickly settled on Bull Terrier Systems.  Ian from Bull Terrier made the journey to come and see us and demonstrate what the service can do.  This shows a level of commitment from the start that you don’t find from many suppliers.  Of course it’s something that Sirona does when we’re engaging potential new customers, but our journeys are generally less than 20 miles round trip, not 200.

We’ve now been using Kaseya for just over a month and it’s really allowed us to become a 24/7 operation.  System patching is built in and ready to go, so all the machines we manage always have the latest MS patches installed.  Beyond that we’ve been able to roll out new software packages outside core business hours, reboot servers without having to get up in the middle of the night to do it and be alerted as soon as a key service fails.

We see Managed Services as redefining our role as a business partner, rather than just a supplier.  Kaseya is one step on the road to becoming this, by taking complete control of the infrastructure and offering great value for money.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Podcasts have obviously been around for quite a while now, but even as a self confessed geek, at first I never quite saw their purpose.  This changed a couple of years ago when I found myself in a job that left me with a lot of spare time. 

Considering how vast the Internet is, it’s amazing how quickly you run out of things to entertain you when you have too much spare time (within the confines of an office mind you).  So on one of those long afternoons I stumbled across TWiT.TV, not sure how I got there, but these days I couldn’t imagine a long car journey without them.  In fact it doesn’t even need to be a long car journey, these days I don’t spend much time in the car so I listen on my five or ten minute commute to and from work.

So TWiT is a network of over 10 podcasts, or netcasts as host Leo likes to call them.  TWiT stands for This Week in Tech and is their lead show.  As the name suggests it’s a weekly show with a varying panel of guests discussing tech news from the preceding week.  Most of the guests are American, with the likes of John C Dvorak, Patrick Norton and Jason Calacanis being a few of the regulars.  There are a few exceptions to all the Americans and one of those is Brit Wil Harris.  Previously Editor in Chief of the enthusiast site bit-tech, Wil has now started his own on-line video channel ChannelFlip.

Anyway, back to the post at hand – podcasts. TWiT is a very entertaining show and generally very informative to boot.  You tend to get some pretty decent debates about various news items and I haven’t missed a show in ages.  I guess there’s no particular reason to miss a podcast though…

The host of TWiT and all the other shows at TWiT.TV is Leo Laporte.  Leo is pretty well known in tech circles, in particular due to his role on The Screen Savers.  Leo hosted this TV show from 1998 to 2004 and a number of the panelists on This Week in Tech were there with him.

Another show of note at TWiT is Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott, news editor for Windows IT Pro Magazine.  Also Security Now with Steve Gibson, of ShieldsUp fame, remember when we first found out the Internet was dangerous?!?

Well this was supposed to be a post about podcasts in general, but it seems to be all about TWiT. Those are my podcasts of choice, I guess, but there are others. I’ll do another post to include those and also throw in some online video that keeps me entertained when Mrs Nick is watching Eastenders!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

New Gadget

Being a small business owner who’s yet to make his first million, new gadgets don’t come around that often ;)  So I was very pleased when my phone contract was up for renewal and I could start browsing the available devices.

My last phone was the T-Mobile MDA Vario II, otherwise known as the HTC Tytn.  The Tytn II was released not long after I got my phone last year and I was pretty gutted that I missed the boat on it. The Tytn was very functional, but was pretty hefty.  The Tytn II was a bit sleeker, had a much nicer keyboard, built in GPS and ran Windows Mobile 6, rather than 5.  At the time I did ring T-Mobile to see whether I could upgrade, but almost fell off my chair when they gave me a price…

So upgrade time finally came round and I still had my sites set on the Tytn II. There were smaller devices available, but I really liked have the full keyboard and had got up to a pretty decent WPM on it.  The only thing that was initially standing in its way was the beautiful Apple iPhone. The next revision of the iPhone software was round the corner with supposed support for Exchange ActiveSync.

I wasn’t totally convinced about the iPhone and decided to check out T-Mobile’s site to see if anything else took my fancy.  That’s when I stumbled across the T-Mobile Touch Plus.  The device certainly looks the part, but initially I thought it was purely a touch device with no keyboard. I then started to look around and found this great review over at Trusted Reviews.  They gave it a glowing report and an impressive 8 out of 10 rating.  I’ve always liked the reviews by the guys at Trusted Reviews and on an aside, what a great job they have!  A quick Google turned up a number of other positive reviews and soon the Tytn II was a distant memory.

T-Mobile Touch Plus 

So it was now the Touch Plus vs the iPhone.  As much bashing as it gets, I actually don’t mind the Windows Mobile OS and the reviews seemed to suggest this was currently the best phone running WM6.  While the iPhone is beautiful, I still don’t think it’s really business class, maybe the new software revision will change that, but only time will tell. 

There’s also a key feature of WM6 that myself and my business partner use on a regular basis and that’s the Internet Connection Sharing software.  Being a HSDPA phone the connection speeds are pretty impressive, hook it up via USB or Bluetooth to a laptop and you’ve got broadband on the go.  In fact when we first moved into our offices before BT installed their lines, we used our phones as our primary broadband connection and we got speeds in excess of 1Mb!

So I was pretty sure the iPhone wasn’t going to offer this key feature and then T-Mobile helped make up my mind once and for all.  We spend a fair amount with them each month so a few minutes on the phone with them and they confirmed we could have two phones free of charge.  Comparing this to the hassle of moving to O2, a charge of £100 per phone and no Internet Connection Sharing and I was sold! T-Mobile even threw in a copy of CoPilot Live 7 each and two Bluetooth GPS units.

The phones arrived the next day and I’m pleased as punch!  It’s actually the size of a phone, rather than a small brick.  So it’s a lot smaller than the Tytn and while there’s no QWERTY keyboard, I’m getting used to T9 again pretty quickly. There are some nice additions to WM6 which is HTC trying to imitate the iPhone.  When you slide your finger up the screen an application launches with shortcuts to programs.  Then sliding your finger left or right shows a nice animation of a cube and switches to contact shortcuts.  Slide again and there’s another page of shortcuts.  I’m not sure how much I’ll use this feature, but it’s pretty cool and nice to show off with now and again ;)

So if you’re happy with WM6 and in line for a new phone, I’d certainly recommend the Touch Plus.  There’s also a version available with a full QWERTY keyboard, but I’m not sure how this affects the size.  For me though, the normal keypad is enough.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

SMB and SBS Blogs

I thought I should post all the blogs that gave me inspiration to start my own. They're obviously all different, most lean towards the SBS side of things, but a few could be used for any small business owner.

  • Ask the SBS Team - Microsoft Enterprise Support SBS EMEA Team technet blog.
  • Davesbs Blog - "...focussed on the SMB IT ‘Community’ through the rambling thoughts of a Microsoft Small Business Specialist IT Consultant."
  • UK SBS Guy - Dave is a UK based Microsoft employee and shares information about MS solutions, ISVs and small business issues.
  • Girish's Graffiti - Another Technet blog, with thoughts on SBS and other MS technologies.
  • Paulie’s Technical Memoirs - More SBS tech info.
  • Small Biz Thoughts by Karl Palachuk - A fantastic place for anyone wanting to develop their IT business, especially down the Managed Services route.
  • SMB Dude - More SMB info.
  • SBS Diva - Plenty of technical info about SBS.
  • The WSSG Community Lead Blog - The official blog for the SBS, Windows Essential Business Server, Windows Home Server.
  • TubbBlog - Only found this one yesterday, another UK small IT business owner like myself.
  • UK SMB Girl - A very active blog until Susanne moved down under. However, she recently blipped back onto the scene, so there may be more to come!
  • Vladville Blog - The owner of OwnWebNow, a US based hosting company. Very SMB friendly, with some great products, vlad always has something interesting to say.
  • You Had Me At EHLO - The official MS blog for the MS Exchange team.
For those of you interested I use Google's RSS client 'Reader' to keep track of all of these. It keeps track of what I have and haven't read and I can access it from any web client including my T-Mobile Touch Plus.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Now Is The Time

After a few months finding more and more great blogs in the SMB and SBS community, I've decided it's time to start my own. I'm not sure exactly what the content is going to be, but I guess it'll be based around my roles as both a techy and a small business owner.

I am co-owner of Sirona Solutions, an IT company based in Stockport, south Manchester. We incorporated a year ago and we've gone from strength to strength since then. My business partner has owned his own business for five years now and his experience has been a driving force in getting Sirona off the ground.

I've been blown away with the community I've found behind small IT companies from all over the world. I've learnt so much from this community and learn more and more on a daily basis. I now hope to be able to give something back to it and at the same time maybe help some non-IT companies too.