I just read an article about IT departments and how they must evolve and change (Forester: IT Departments Face Decade of Fundamental Change) and wanted to call someone at Forester afterwards and say 'Duh'. It's funny, but in the world of IT Services and Consulting, we have long taken the stance that IT must take on a role as a broker of information, services and strategy, and that the business itself must take the front seat, not the technology.

Forester correctly noted that 'a number of IT roles will become more managerial, more of a broker role' and 'its moving from building to consulting'. You see, IT has long understood their role in implementations, but has, in traditional corporate atmospheres often taken this to the point of the implementation and the technology itself becoming the central theme, and the driving force. There is a bit of 'because you need it, and I can control it, I will tell you how to use it' that can occur.

Of course all of the implementations and the maintenance still have to happen, but, what we understand in the world of consulting, which perhaps internal IT is just coming to terms with, is that the complexity of decisions and the criticality of having IT systems that enhance your business and its productivity (happy, productive and supported sound familiar?) IS the core role of IT, and that is a very consultative science, very service oriented. Technical capabilities are table stakes, sure, but the win is in technical leadership combined with business savvy to enable business momentum and operational effectiveness. Users need to not just be told 'yes' or 'no' but be educated as to the costs and benefits of the many choices today (cloud computing as an example) so that they can make good decisions. Then you HAVE to be able to execute those decisions flawlessly.

At the end of the day, that is something that I think the outsourcing guys get, and have understood for a long time. Frankly, the fact that the message is going mainstream to corporate IT is a good thing. As the need to be more consultative and more broad in skills and flexible in execution becomes mainstream, 'ride along' outsourcing becomes a very viable option for larger corporate entities to fill in their technology needs (strategic and tactical). After all, outsourcing is not about 'replacing' but about finding the right solution to provide flexible, cost effective, and sustainable services. The concept that internal IT managers may have to develop strong relations WITH outsourcers to provide this to their organizations is a win/win.

As much as I love the messageÂ… I have to still think 'duh'. The concept of IT as a service organization and information and service broker rather than power center. Who'd have thought it.

Here's hoping the future holds plenty of Happy Computing!
 -Richard Brunke

I have been on a 3 month experiment to see if I can really change the way I stay productive. As ISOutsource moved into a full on laptop refresh cycle, I decided to forgo my laptop and work with a combination desktop and tablet (in my case, an iPad). The combination is less expensive than the fairly high end laptops we use for our business, and the real key was for me to determine if it was more EFFECTIVE. After all, at the end of the day, the goal is productivity, not pinching pennies.

Well, it started out with me very excited by the cool form factor of the iPad, and perfectly content with a basic desktop pc (they are cheap to maintain, run forever, and you get far more bang for your buck than you would a laptop). However, as time went on, I found that the iPad traveled with me a lot more than a laptop would (and that is in comparison to a fairly small netbook I was using). In fact, I carried it virtually everywhere, including vacations.

I also found that the ability to turn it on and be checking email in seconds was huge for me. When email is coming in all the time, and phones are handy for reading, but not always responding in detail, being able to turn on and get to work right away without any boot sequence, software load times, etc, was a huge plus. In fact, so much a huge plus that I found myself a lot more plugged in to work. Not only a good thing from a productivity standpoint, but I enjoy the device so much that I don't mind carrying it around, and the fact that my music is there, and various fun apps are on it makes it even more compelling to have with me all the time.

I can open and edit all kinds of attachments with inexpensive apps, and frankly can do everything I would do on a laptop, albeit in slightly different ways.

At the end of 3 months, I can say that tablet computing is a productivity boost, and fun to boot. I am more connected, but don't feel enslaved (the same way I do when hauling around a laptop). The device is cool and fun to use. As a matter of fact, I am in the process of making sure that all of my senior staff members have similar devices. It is clear to me now that even if you still want your laptop, the tablet has a distinct use and value proposition and fits into a productivity niche that is unique to its form factor. I heartily recommend finding users who use laptops to stay in touch and read email and open docs to move to a tablet. Some folks, like those that are coding, creating large and complex documents, etc, will still need the power and functionality of a laptop. I'd argue that even in that case, you may find incremental productivity and satisfaction in having both devices available.

Sometimes when a new technologies and/or device comes out, the cynics of the world (like me) label them as toys and perhaps lose out on the potential value to themselves and their business. This is, I believe, the right time to reconsider the value of tablet computers in your business.

As always Happy (and mobile) Computing!

 -Richard Brunke

You may have read recently that Amazon experienced various levels of service outages in their cloud offering that lasted a full 24 hours. Many sites, including some for large organizations, experienced serious performance issues. Many businesses that rely on various cloud offerings residing on the Amazon infrastructure were rendered unable to transact their business properly for a full business day.

I'm not really interested in why this happened, or what happened. I have long been nervous that too many are jumping too quickly to cloud offerings without understanding the limitations, challenges, and realities. The simple fact is, this issue pointed out that there are risks that are very real to business who have moved to cloud. This particular outage also showed that many cloud customers failed to have proper disaster recovery plans in place, mostly because they were led to believe (or just did believe) that cloud computing was exceptionally robust and that they should not and would not have significant failures.

Another lesson learned is about terms of service and up time guarantees. The fact is, despite the large outage, Amazon did not break its service level agreement! It is critical to really understand what the SLA is and what it is actually promising you, and what your responsibilities are under the agreement. In many cases, the SLA covers specific requirements, such as the ability to connect to the platform 99.9% of the time, but does not cover the actual functionality of the solution itself. That was basically the issue with Amazon, so though folks could not run their business applications, Amazon was not in breach of their SLA's. I bet a lot of folks were angry about that, but at the same time, we HAVE to understand what these SLA's are and they are not. After all, it is your business at stake here!

On the whole, I still think cloud computing is coming our way, and is something that should be part of all strategic IT discussions. BUTÂ… more importantly I firmly believe that CONTROL is an important part of IT and that it is critical to understand that YOU the owner of a business are going to pay the price for large failures of infrastructure, not a cloud provider, so you must ensure that you have the ability to control your environment and ensure that you can control the process of recovering your environment should something go wrong. If you are deploying in the cloud, make sure you have images of those servers you can spin up virtually locally. Always have redundancy in your plans. Amazon is one of the most credible companies in the world for this type of service, and yet, even they can experience crippling downtime.

At the end of the day, PLAN carefully any cloud deployment and ensure that you have answers to the following questions:

1. If my cloud provider goes down, can I continue to run my business?

2. How long will it take me to recover my data and applications in the worst case scenario?

3. What is the provider's actual service level agreement and what recourse do I have if any if they break it?

Many have gone with cloud computing to save money. I wonder if a number of companies, after a day of downtime, are still feeling like they have saved money? I wonder if any businesses were irreparably harmed? I wonder how many may rethink their cloud strategy at this point?

Go slow. Plan carefully. Be prepared.

That way you can make sure you continue to experience Happy Computing!

 -Richard Brunke

I was recently asked about my blog tagline 'happy computing' by a friend who wondered what it meant.

After a moment of that cow looking at a new gate look, I answered, 'which word don't you understand?'

You see, most people are not used to associating the word happy with the word computing. It is sort of like carefree and driving. While in theory they sound good together, they just don't seem to be allowed to coexist. Happy computing is about the ability of a user to actually take for granted the productivity enhancements that computing offers without having to worry about how it all works, why it all works, and what to do if something is not doing what you expect it to.

At the end of the day, we just want things to work, and want easy solutions if for some reason they don't seem to work the way we want. We don't want to feel insulted or stupid when we ask for help, and we don't want to be expected to 'get' all this stuff. The average user experiences computing through a keyboard, mouse, and screen. All the actual things going on are a mystery, and best left that way for most of us.

If I can sit back and experience the advantages of technology, and not worry about the headaches (OK, I get it, things go wrong and sometimes for no apparent reason with technology systems), then I am experiencing happy computing. It is not about everything being perfect, it is about knowing that everything is going to be OK and that I, and my employees, are going to have the best possible experience when working with out mission critical computing. That summarizes happy computing for me.

I find that focusing on these higher level goals, rather than low level symptomatic ones is very empowering for my business, and our customers. After all, do you really get excited about long lists of capabilities and technical performance promises that really may not align with what you really want? Do you even believe them, or know how to hold someone accountable to them? We all know what happy is, and I know that when I look at feedback from my customers, I can measure if I am delivering happy computing.

After all, don't we all simply want to feel supported by our services providers, so we can be productive? Both receiving and giving that level of service certainly makes me happy!

As a matter of fact, the simple idea of helping to provide users with the experience of happy computing is THE central theme of how we are building our business. I can think of no better compliment than hearing 'I am happy with my support from ISOutsource'.

Happy Computing!

 -Richard Brunke

Every now and again, certain milestones are reached in the world of technology that mean change, and they are usually brought about by the simple fact no one ever expected the whole world of technology to get so darned 'big' (well, ok, with Y2K apparently they did not expect computers to have to operate 10-15 years into the future… and that still mystifies me today).

Back on topic though.

Unbeknownst to all but the most devoted closet techies, the last block of IPv4 addresses are being sold off as we speak. What is an IPv4 and why do you care? Well, that is an IP address. Every smart phone, router or other Internet device must have its own IP address to function (its that number you see that looks like When the schema was dreamed up, the 32 bit standard with 4.3 billion or so available numbers seemed like, well, a lot. A whole lot. Turns out, it was not enough, and now we are going to run out.

But, there is always a fix! Say hello to IPv6, which uses 128 bit numbers. How many is that? To be honest, my calculator shows an E when I try to come up with it. Suffice it to say that it is enough that every person on the planet could have trillions of devices needing their own IP address and we would still have lots of room to grow. Based on my one router, 3 cell phones and 2 iPads, I'm going to be just fine.. even if I add a few things. It makes the current 4.3 billion look like a really teeny tiny number.

But, there is a hassle of sorts for us all to be aware of, and one that the media may play up (if it is not deemed to techie to be scary). Sometime in the next few years, all the remaining IPv4 numbers will be assigned and we will have to transition to the new system. Kinda like Y2K.

But, this should not be too painful. For most of us it means a new router shipped from our Internet provider. For SMB IT it will possibly mean replacing some older routers or other equipment, or perhaps just firmware updates and some elbow grease. Software won't have to be re-writting in mass scale as Windows has been ready for IPv6 since XP SP1. For most of my readers (yes, both of you), I anticipate this won't be a massive issue, but it is not a bad idea to be thinking about IPv6 when purchasing new equipment or upgrading, just to be sure that all investments are appropriate in light of upcoming changes. A few simple questions of your IT support and you can rest assured that you will not be making any short sighted decisions today!

Well, if you remember Y2K, you may remember that despite all concerns, planes did not fall out of the sky, and the world did not come to an end. IPv6, much like Y2K will be more of a media event than a real event for most of us. We have not yet found the proverbial 'end of the internet'. Take a deep breath and relax knowing you will be just fine with your dozen mobile devices and home computers. IPv6 is here to help us avert disaster.

If you want to learn more, just Google it. There are mountains of technical articles out there!

Without IP addresses, we would not be able to continue practicing

Happy Computing!

 -Richard Brunke

Windows 7 Security Tips

There are a lot of good reasons to upgrade to Windows 7, but today I am just here to talk about security! I recently had to completely re-load my son's computer at home due to a particularly pernicious virus. After doing the clean up and the reloading of everything, I realized that there were a few things I could have and should have done to help protect that computer. The fact that 'nothing valuable' was on it did not make it less costly and time consuming to fix! Please note, these are really tips for you home usersÂ… if you are on a corporate network, some of these settings may be an issue, and you should just call IT (after all, IT guys gotta make a living too).

Clearly, you need to have anti-virus software. Everyone should be nodding their heads at this point in agreement, glad in their knowledge that they have already taken this critical step. Unless of course you are not nodding your head. Then I'd advise hopping on Amazon.com or running the the nearest store and buying a good security suite, or heck, there are good free ones (Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG Free) that you can download.

But of course I know we already all had that step down. What I wanted to talk about was configuring Windows 7 to really help keep the world of computing a happier, safer place.

First – Turn on Automatic Updates!

Make sure Windows Update is turned on. To do this, just type the word 'update' in the search box when you click on the Start Button and (without hitting enter) click on Windows Update, which will be listed above. In the left pane click on Change Settings then under Important Updates you can choose to install new updates automatically. You can also select the day and time that will least inconvenience you. Under Recommended Updates chose "Give me Recommended updates the same way I receive important updates" by checking the box next to it and then click OK. Easy Peasy.

Second (and building on our newfound confidence in complex windows configuration as shown in our achievement of the above step) –

Turn on Windows Firewall!

Now this is starting to sound important, right? Well, this one is simple! Click Start and select Control Panel. Click on Systems and Security. Take a break. Let your fingers rest. No reason to get carpal tunnel here. Ok. Now click on Windows Firewall and to the left you will see Turn Windows Firewall on or off. Click on it and then select the button for Turn on Windows Firewall for each type of network. Just turn them all on. Again, bask a moment in the glory of the control you are taking here! If you have never configured anything other than iTunes, this is pretty cool stuff!

Third – Windows Defender

Windows Defender is the built in anti spyware software in Windows 7. Let's make sure it is on and working for you! Click on the Start button and type in "Defender" and hit enter. If you get a dialog box that says This program is turned off, AND you don't have any purchased anti spyware running (remember above when we bought that fancy security suite?) Check the box and see if it is doing this! If not, then click on the words "click here to turn it on" at the bottom of the dialog box. Done.

Fourth – Getting to Know the User Account Control

This User Account Control is the doorman at the IT party. It keeps out the undesirables and ensures that your computing fun is only enhanced by all the things that may want to come in. Click on Start button and click on control panel. Type UAC in the search box and click on the Change User Account Control Settings link. Now we get to tell the doorman how selective we want him to be! PowerÂ… so much power. Ok, let's focus, we are almost done here. The settings here are from lowest protection (Never Notify) to highest (Always Notify) I strongly recommend using one of the top two settings. This may slow you down on occasion when using the internet, but it will give you a chance to recognize and respond to strange files downloading and executing themselves. Now, unless you give them permission (which my son still did) they can't install or take any action. Go for the big beefy hard to please doorman at the top of the list. You'll thank me later.

Final Step – The Action Center

This is it. We have reached the Star Chamber and have shown we desire mastery and enjoy the control of our own computing destiny. The Action Center is the home base of PC security. This is where we validate we have done everything correctly. Click on Start button, Control Panel, System and Security and Action Center. Sit back and look at the status and revel in the protection you have created for your home Windows 7 computer! If anything is missing, you have the steps above to fix it!

Happy (home) computing!

 -Richard Brunke

ISOutsource is excited to announce our new telecom audit offering. We have established a partnership with Trinity Network Solutions to offer all of our clients free telecom audits. The goal of the audit will be to determine if you can receive better pricing, or better service levels for the same pricing on all of your telecom needs. Whether you have contracts ready to expire or not, we have found that there may be significantly reduced costs available to you or significantly better service for the same costs, and of the customers we have already done telephony audits we have seen many receive significant savings (as much as 30% in some cases).

Again, this is a free offer as a value add to our customers.

You're primary consultant will be scheduling a meeting to do the audit over the next 6 months. This audit will give us the information we need to manage your telecom budget and options in partnership with you on an ongoing basis, and will result in immediate and long term recommendations specific to your circumstances. You will receive options for all major vendors, including the vendor you are currently using.

If you would like an audit sooner, then please contact sales@isoutsource.com and we will get you scheduled as soon as possible.

We have been working with Trinity for a number of years and have had 100% positive experiences when we have brought them into meet our customers. Based on this, and based on the savings and service they have helped us deliver, we decided to formalize our relationship and ensure that, as part of our managing your IT infrastructure, we offer this as an ongoing service to all or our customers.

Again, if you would like to meet someone right away, or have any questions about an audit, or the service, contact sales@isoutsource.com and we get you taken care of.

If you are not a customer of ISOutsource, we can make this service available to you also. Just send an email to the sales email address and let us know that you are not a customer but would like a telecom audit. Happy to do it!

Happy Computing!

 -Richard Brunke