January 4 2016

When to Upgrade to Windows 10 – For the Office 04:40 pm

Using Windows 10 for several months now has been generally a pleasant experience at the office.  We thought providing readers with feedback regarding when and how to upgrade in an organization may help many of our customers effectively plan and use Windows.

Before tackling when and how to upgrade let’s think of the last 10 years.  Since it is the first day back after closing 2015 reflection seems appropriate.  In that time period most offices have gone from Windows XP, to Windows 7.  This is a significant change but it in no way matches the changes that have taken place with smartphones and cloud services.  I would believe that most of our customers who for some reason or another use a computer at work have also gotten accustomed to iOS products from Apple like the iPhone or iPad over the last 10 years.  Many may also remember using a Blackberry (joking).  Several more have probably used an Android device.  Across this whole cross section of end users we also know many have tried some form of cloud service that involves using a program via an Internet Browser.  This could be anything like Salesforce, ADP, Bellamy, Gmail and more.

My point to this reflection is that changes to the Operating System are not nearly as significant to the user’s productivity anymore.  A great new feature in the Operating System will typically not make the average user significantly more productive.  Neither will a poorly designed feature cost someone significant time and frustration.  In short, most of us have ‘gotten over’ so much change or at least reluctantly live with it.  (I haven’t mentioned Windows 8 – which we actively tried to prevent being deployed in our Customer base. As the CEO I never could really figure out how to use it and that seemed to speak for itself.)

So when we say it is better than any other Operating System for our customer’s to do business with let me put that in context.  It is probably not $500 worth of improvement.  Given the cost of a new Operating System is $99-$200 and a typical deployment takes 3-6 hours per computer the total cost per user is likely around $500 for many organizations with under 200 users.   We like Windows 10 but if it was our money this upgrade isn’t THAT much worth it.  We believe our customers could typically take that same $500 spend and do something far more value generating.

So this leaves us with the economics of upgrading coming down to when.  If it’s not valuable now when would the upgrade be valuable?  In this regard we believe staying with a 20-25% PC refresh rate every year is a fantastic time to upgrade the Operating System.  Sure we don’t get the efficiencies of deployment down to 1-2 hours per user by automating everything all at once.  But as already mentioned neither can we understand how our typical customer gets a significant payback by putting everyone on a new Operating System at $500 a user.  If the customer ends up with a few mismatches in the PC fleet both they and their provider can manage this variance with a little bit of automation or some old fashioned documentation.  Even IT over the last 10 years has learned better how to get over all this change ….

In regards to exciting new feature the Operating System comes with two internet browsers.  We so far have found a lot of applications and sites don’t work with the new browser called Edge.  A lot of customers also use Chrome as a browser and many also use Firefox.  Having to manage security loop holes for 4 browsers is an interesting challenge.  Let’s hope that doesn’t come back and cause security issues for our clients.

The improvement in BitLocker encryption technology is a welcome change for Professional grade Operating Systems.  Our clients may not get hostile with us if we try this security technology though we haven’t field tested it.  Other encryption products we have tried have almost had pcit ‘walk the plank’ so to speak.  Not having to worry about all the laptop users who may have data that should not be splattered across the internet should be a stress reducer with our clients.

Several of our customer’s bypass the encryption concern by simply access virtual applications when working remote.  None of the date in this regard resides on the laptop so corporate data is not at risk should the laptop be lost or stolen.

The other really nice features with Windows 10 comes with the ENTERPRISE version.  If your organization has over 50 branch office users and wants sharing data between offices to be much faster than we should talk about the value Enterprise may deliver.  In this case a rollout beyond the typical 20-25% refresh cycle each year could be value generating.

In summary, we believe Windows 10 should be a part of every organizations future. At the cheapest price possible for organizations with under 200 users likely means a phased deployment over 1-4 years. If someone really wants to see productivity jump or costs be cut our immediate recommendations are to look elsewhere in areas like application development or automation technologies.

September 29 2014

Mark – Enroute to the Microsoft Cloud Seminar in Calgary 08:00 am

The Microsoft Cloud Seminar in Calgary is shaping up to be a key event for 2014.   Office365 business is taking off across North America and Azure business is becoming more and more progressive relative to competitive offerings.  It is an exciting time to be in the technology business as new methods of doing business are coming up all the time.  Some of our best solutions for customers have come from Microsoft technologies in the last 12 months.  Getting to meet some of the Microsoft executive and hear firsthand how their products are making a difference is always valuable.  Brian Miller, regional rep for Microsoft based out of Calgary has made some special arrangements knowing we are coming done for the event from Grande Prairie.

Mark from our office will be attending in Calgary Sept 30.  There are only 4 dates and location in Canada so we better get to one of them.  I would like to have a technical and business representation present but since the Star Principle Seminar is on the same dates we are a little overbooked.  Have fun in Calgary Mark!

August 5 2014

Congratulations Peter! – 2014 Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) 10:09 am

Peter (Tao) Lin recently completed his final exam and gained the MCSE designation from Microsoft.  This is a great achievement and required completing 5 exams.  Two times Peter wrote back to back exams the same day at the test Centre.  On one occasion between exams he had not been feeling well and was concerned he may pass out.  Even the adjudicator commented he must be crazy!  Nevertheless his preparation paid off and he passed each test on the first attempt.

Peter’s MCSE specialization is in Server Infrastructure and it is very complimentary to serving PCIT’s existing clients.   Microsoft calls this title the globally recognized standard for IT professionals.   The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Server Infrastructure certification validates that he has the skills needed to run a highly efficient and modern data center, with expertise in identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage, and networking.

The four exams passed were:

  • Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 70-410
  • Administering Windows Server 2012 70-411
  • Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services 70-412
  • Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure 70-413
  • Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure 70-414

As Peter helps design and administer innovative solutions across multiple technologies in the cloud and at customer’s environments this achievement will keep him on the leading edge.

October 21 2013

My 1st Seven Days with a Windows 8 tablet 04:25 pm

The new Lenovo Helix has been used for 7 days now and I’ve learned a few things that don’t always appear in the Windows 8 overview training taken so far. We have used Windows 8 – Server 2012 for about 1 year now but having a tablet with a touchscreen was a little new. Here are my initial findings.

Likes

a) Tablet is lighter and faster than a Microsoft Surface Pro 2.
b) Windows 8 with a Solid State Drive (SSD) is very fast to turn on and off. Flying last week was a lot of fun as it was almost instantly that I could start using the PC. Same in meetings. From opening up to starting working was almost as quick as entering your password.
c) Intelligent wifi connections. Wifi is much easier to connect and use than in Windows 7. When in Pearson airport though the connections were saturated and my iPhone or Windows 8 couldn’t connect. However there is no prompt saying that wifi performance is terrible. Instead Internet Explorer just sits there. Moving to a different part of the airport made this better. Connections in Grande Prairie, Calgary and elsewhere were easy to make and worked well.
d) Making videos – shooting photo’s. The family loves to have movies made of themselves. Turning on the tablet and starting a mini-film making session was a lot of fun.
e) Typing applications to open them. I found typing Outlook or Word much faster than finding a start menu.

Dislikes

a) Having to double click to start video. When the video icon was lit up I thought we were filming. I proceeded to catch on camera our youngest son showing off on the couch and then doing a very surprise unintended backwards flip off the couch and somehow not get hurt. Too bad it was never recorded. After spending 30 minutes trying to find the video it turned out double clicking is needed to really record filming.
b) Twice the laptop went into the BIOS settings on entering the password and needed a complete power off. No idea why this happened as the battery seemed to be ok.
c) Trying to figure out what all I could do on this device was kind of fun but also felt like a small waste of time. For instance I chose the mail icon a couple times but Outlook never opened. Of course, Microsoft mail opened. This shouldn’t even show up on a business class laptop.

Would I buy a Helix again. Yes. I think all Network Administrators will have this unit in the next 12 months. It is a better unit than the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 in every respect from what I see. Typing and working is much faster than an iPad or Android tablet but a tablet could be made to work. The only drawback to all this performance is price. The Helix purchased is about $2000 which is more than any tablet but about the same as a Surface Pro 2.

January 7 2013

Microsoft Office – Pricing Options 05:12 pm

How much should Microsoft Office cost and what is the most effective way to purchase it?   Perhaps there are ‘unconventional’ solutions to clients that in the end often save a lot of money.

For example, a recent customer needed 23 Office 2010 licenses.  After checking with the client and finding that their version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM wasn’t compatible with Office 2013 we discussed the remaining options.  Do they use volume licensing, retail, Office 365 or the key card version? 

Comparing the options we found that for this client it was hard to see why they should choose Volume Licensing.  The cost per license for Office Standard 2010 was $490.  Retail was $349.  Office 365 with the option to install software locally was $23.20/mo.  The key card version was $249. We estimated that the extra labour to install and manage the individual 23 licenses would take pcit, the solution provider, an extra 4 hours.   In the end pcit quoted the extra 4 hours labour and the cost for the key card version was $7,277  while the Volume license version was $11,610.  This was over $4,000 in savings by foregoing the Volume license.  Over 3 years it would save the organization $11,932 over Office 365.

The key card version was introduced with the Office 2010 license series.  It allows a user to install Office on 1 pc.  What was new about this license agreement versus the old OEM license is that Microsoft now allowed the 1 pc to be transferrable.  So if a pc gets upgraded we could still use the key card version of Office which is even better for the client.

In speaking with Microsoft about using this route as well as discussing the ramifications to this method with other solution providers we believe our methodology is sound.  Our tools help manage the licenses for the client and keep them compliant.  One possible disadvantage to this method is when staff have both a laptop and a PC.  The key card license would require each device to have a license.  Volume licensing would allow the client to install 1 copy of Office on both devices.

Simple clean with a little more work on our part but all in all the project went through fine and the client was able to keep a little bit extra for the bottom line.