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Channel Changes

Every so often the whole technology industry changes and 2010 will be one of those years. If you are responsible for purchasing or evaluating technology products or services, much of what you’ve learned and utilized to make decisions has already or is in the process of changing. You know your needs have changed as everyone has had to tighten their belt. If there’s been little budget spent in the last few years at your organization on technology, then the following are things to consider.

Being in the middle of the country, local understanding and adoption of current technology often lags the rest of the nation by 18 – 36 months. Making legacy decisions on current technology could cost your organization more, while positioning behind competitors with little hope of recovery. The four main areas you should begin to understand are 64bit, virtualization, remote access, and unified messaging.

64bit means the processing speed doubles as well as the amount of memory, but you don’t have to buy “enterprise” software. Servers and associated platforms and applications are now generally all 64bit compliant. Unless your line of business application (like accounting) is 64bit compatible, this is not the year to get 64bit operating systems on desktops as most productivity software like Microsoft Office does not have a 64bit version.

If you have four or more servers, it’s time to leverage virtualization. This simply means an application is running that runs several servers within one box. If this sounds risky, consider that you often run multiple things on a server with no concern. The difference with virtualization is that you can have a second server or host to copy the virtual server image files or have running in case of a failure. So recovery is in minutes rather than days for a traditional server failure. Microsoft Hyper-V is recommended instead of VMWare for no cost and little difference in functionality. Common mistakes to avoid are only purchasing one server host and not considering storage which should be a Storage Attached Network (SAN) box and not a legacy slow and costly Network Attached Storage (NAS) box.

Why are you using that VPN? It’s difficult to connect, often down, and slow. The time is now to see a demonstration of gateway services. You can use a browser for access, have a personal desktop, and even copy files without all the hassle. Most customers are choosing Microsoft 2008 Gateway services over Citrix to save the licensing cost. Be sure to ask your software manufacturer for compatibility.

Do you love your Blackberry and e-mail? Well, Blackberry now trails the market versus iPhone, Windows Mobile, and even the new Android devices. Blackberry devices require additional server hardware and licensing, so while they started mobility remaining viability is questionable. Likewise managing e-mail consumes tons of time for little business return. Organizations that implement instant messaging/presence often see a 30% reduction in e-mail immediately and get some time back to do real work. Use Office Communicator for roaming presence and integrated security versus free clients like Windows Messenger lacking these features. Add a camera and you can do everything but reach out and shake hands.

The major manufacturers themselves are changing, all rushing to offer more integration and hosted services to change forever the relationship with customers, partners, and resellers. We’ve all been taught over the years that multi-vendor solutions offer best-of-breed and better security, but many of the major players including Microsoft have been quietly adding integrated products like anti-virus and backup. You can’t really argue when an offering is by the manufacturer, for the manufacturer’s products, and does more and costs less than third-party offerings.

Microsoft has changed the Partner Program to the Partner Network, so there will shortly be no more undiscerning Gold Partners with some having high competency and the majority with the same designation simply selling software or having customers respond to a questionnaire. Further, individual certifications have all changed to specializations like Technology Specialist in Messaging or Enterprise IT Professional, so that MCSE from 2003 no longer has meaning. Hardware manufacturer’s like Dell are following suit, recognizing that the on-line open book 30 minute test is not a discerning certification. Established players spend significant dollars for their own infrastructure offerings and have teams of sales and technical people trained in current technology for an organization Enterprise Certification. Thankfully, soon gone are the days when a cabling contractor and PC builder can tout themselves as experts with no degree or current credentials, duping customers by marking up commodity products and adding no real value while wearing more logos than a race car.

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