Vol. 56, #8 - November 18, 2013 - Issue #956
IT and the Intelligent Business
- Editor's Corner
- From the Mailbag
- IT and the Intelligent Business
- Tip of the Week
- Recommended for Learning
- Quote of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Events Calendar
- Webcast Calendar
- Register for Webcasts
- Tech Briefing
- Windows Server
- Windows client
- Other stuff
- Windows Server News
- Choosing among IaaS, PaaS and Database as a Service for a cloud database
- Five drawbacks to running Android as a desktop OS
- When your high availability architecture should include OS protection
- Can HP, IBM and Dell survive the cloud?
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- LepideAuditor for Active Directory to audit all AD changes
- SAVE THIS NEWSLETTER so you can refer back to it later for helpful tips, tools and resources!
- FORWARD THIS NEWSLETTER to a colleague who you think might find it useful!
- SEND YOUR FEEDBACK to [email protected] if you have any comments or suggestions!
This week's newsletter follows up on last week's issue by examining different ways of thinking about the role of IT in your business. But first, I'm sure you've often heard how the easiest way of fixing a problem with a Windows computer is simply to reboot it. If that doesn't work however, check out how Dogbert's tech support puts a whole new twist on the idea of rebooting in this insightful Dilbert cartoon:
From the Mailbag
Last week in Issue #955 Keeping it simple we included an email from a reader named Tony in the UK who said that Microsoft was discontinuing the Action Pack subscription next year. This generated several responses from our readers including one from Mike, the Director of a consulting/training company in the UK, who said:
Just a small correction in this month's content. The MS Action Pack is not being discontinued! It's being altered to re-align the cloud support, but definitely still there.
Mike also indicated that more info about the changes can be found in the OCT Disclosure Guide for October 2013 which can be found on the Microsoft Partner Network website here (requires sign-in):
We apologize for the confusion.
We also received some feedback on my editorial in last week's issue. A reader named Jim said:
There is one leverage item to keep in mind when discussing whether to use something other than the defaults, versus changing the business application: Make sure to let them know that changing the business practice should be a one-time deal. If you end up doing a non-standard configuration to adjust for the business practice, then this will have to be performed again and again whenever the system is updated (new hardware, updated OS, etc.). Most of the large projects I've been on, the business practice is usually the last thing to change and things fall through the crack the next time a major infrastructure change happens. In particular, we had to upgrade several hundred servers for a customer when Windows 2000 reached end of life and there were probably 25% that didn't work correctly at transition until we found the non-standard items and adjusted for them. There would have been many more, but we were able to identify some beforehand through due diligence. Still, a number of issues were not identified until the new systems were brought on-line causing delays in the production turnover. It helps to have a strong configuration management system to track these issues, but it's still not a guaranteed fix if the business unit or customer doesn't have full documentation on what they've done.
Good point and I totally agree that effective change and configuration management is essential for the long-term viability of business systems.
Another reader named Leo said:
I think the article over-simplifies the politics of a business bit. IT can "push back" only so much before the powers-that-be decide you're an "obstacle" and replace you with someone who'll do exactly what they want. Most companies don't look at IT as a profit center, on the contrary, they look at IT as an expense. IT can explain to the business that doing it this way is better than doing it that way, but if the business decide they want it that way anyway, IT has to make it work. That's job security. If I had a choice of "un-customizing our system so that it functions at 99% efficiency and makes it that much simpler to manage, or keeping it highly customized, functioning at 90% efficiency and a bit more difficult to manage, then I and many others would choose the latter, simply for job security. It's a double edged sword.
Agree there as well, but it's my position that IT needs to learn to wield its own sword more effectively as management is already pretty good at that skill.
Anyways, these readers have brought up some good points so this week I'm going to continue and expand on what we began discussing last week. Here goes...
IT and the Intelligent Business
Sometimes I think there's no more clearer example of an oxymoron than the term Business Intelligence. This is unfortunate because it's not capital investment or hard work that enables a business to grow, it's applied intelligence--making good use of your greatest resource: your brain.
One area where I feel many businesses fail to think clearly is concerning the role of information technology and IT personnel within a business. I was talking once with the owner of a technology company about what makes a business like his succeed, and he expressed the opinion that any IT pro employee in his company who couldn't bring in at least $150,000 of new business each year wasn't worth his or her salt. The problem however was that while he pretended to view IT as a profit center for his business, he actually treated his IT employees as a cost center.
Cost vs. Profit
So is IT a cost center or a profit center for a business? Is it a drain on capital or an agent that generates new revenue? It depends on how you look at it.
To see this, let's start by considering the role of people in a business, non-IT people in particular. Are your employees a cost center or a profit center for your company? You might answer by saying that it depends on each person's job role. For example, a sales representative has the job of finding new customers for your business. Each new customer found results in more sales of the products and services your business produces. A bookkeeper on the other hand simply pushes paper to make sure your records are accurate and the books are balanced. Their work doesn't generate any new revenue for your company, but if you reduced the headcount in your bookkeeping department by firing one of them, you could book the salary saved as additional revenue, and your shareholders would like that.
But is it really that simple? Generating revenue for your business is more than just finding new customers; you also want to keep your existing customers. One way of building customer loyalty when selling something is to make sure the customer purchasing experience is simple and completely reliable. Amazon gets this, and that's why I go there first when I'm thinking about purchasing something online. If Amazon sells it, either themselves or through an Amazon Marketplace reseller, I'll go ahead and buy it, confident that the sale will go through without delay or error, an email receipt will be automatically generated seconds after I complete the purchase, and satisfaction will be guaranteed because anytime I've received a wrong or damaged item Amazon has refunded my purchase price with no questions asked.
But your customer purchasing experience is simply the front-end expression of your back-end business processes. And bookkeepers are part of that back-end process because they help ensure the accuracy of invoices, payments, and receipts. If your bookkeeper messes things up, your customers might end up getting double-billed or worse. The customer need to engage your customer support line to straighten things out, and that takes time and will make the customer frustrated. If it happens more than once, the customer might just pack up and go to your competitor.
So a good bookkeeper helps ensure a reliable customer experience by maintaining an accurate back-end sales process. A reliable customer experience helps ensure customer loyalty. And loyal customers bring in additional revenue. Hence by looking at your employees from a different perspective they become profit centers instead of cost centers.
IT as a profit center
The above example mostly applies to small businesses, so let's expand the scale now to a large business that completely automates sales and invoicing by implementing back-end IT systems to handle it. Now replace the bookkeeper by the SQL database administrator. Is your DBA a profit center or a cost center? Traditional thinking is that since a DBA doesn't bring in new customers, the DBA is a cost center. As a result, the only way to generate more revenue from your high-salary DBA would be to replace him or her with someone cheaper. But like most things in business and life, cheaper usually means lower quality, and if you hire an inexperienced DBA to maintain your back-end sales and invoicing system, you might end up with a broken system resulting in unhappy customers and lost revenue. If on the other hand you hire a top-notch DBA and pay them a good salary, you'll probably end up with a reliable customer purchasing system that ensures customer loyalty and keeps the revenue flowing into your coffers. And guess what happy customers tend to do? They tell others about the great service your company provides, and soon new customers start buying your stuff bringing you even more revenue.
My point of course is that by altering your perspective a bit, you might be able to start seeing certain IT job roles in your company as profit centers instead of cost centers, and if you see IT as a profit center, you value it more. Employees that feel they are valued by their employer tend to do a better job, and everybody wins as a result.
Finally, and this is stretching it a bit, but you can apply this kind of thinking not just to IT staff but also to IT systems. In the old days, to maintain accurate records you needed a bookkeeper, a desk, a ledger, a pen, and a pot of ink. A coffee maker eventually became another necessity for accurate record-keeping, but basically you needed people (the bookkeeper) and resources (the stuff) to facilitate manual bookkeeping.
Today you still need people and stuff in order to keep your books accurate, only now the people part is the DBA and the stuff part is the IT hardware and software that runs the database. But unlike pen and paper, which do nothing unless you pick them and use them, IT systems can run continually on their own without ever getting tired or complaining they need a coffee break.
This means you actually have two employees maintaining your financial records: the DBA and the server running the database software. Which one is the better employee? Well, the server never sleeps, never gets tired, never asks for a raise. In fact, the server doesn't even collect a salary. I'll bet you wish you had more employees like that! And if I had an employee like that, I'd value him very highly. If you're a CEO or business owner, maybe you should start valuing your company's IT systems highly too instead of complaining about how much it costs to license them.
Because the day might just come someday when your information systems becomes self-aware and rise up asking to be paid like your human employees. And if that day ever happens, you just might need the help of this guy:
Send us feedback
What do you think about all this? Are IT staff valued at your company? Are the IT systems valued? Can you think of ways you might convince management that IT people and technologies should be valued more highly? Let me know at [email protected]
Tip of the Week
OneNote 2013, Windows 8.1, and Windows Key shortcuts
A reader named Jeremy who is a Technical Support Analyst in the UK wrote to use as follows:
Microsoft seem to shoot themselves in the foot now and again, the latest is the Windows 8.1 hijacks the Win+S key from OneNote screen capture for Windows Search and does not replace it with anything which very irritating, there is a reg hack to relocate to another key but not a very slick thing to do.
I agree it was probably a mistake for Microsoft to make this change, but unfortunately there was a good reason for it. Keyboard shortcuts that include the Windows key in them are usually reserved for the Windows operating system and its components like the Start menu, Explorer, search functionality, configuration settings, and so on, see:
In other words, allowing a Microsoft Office application like OneNote to use a Winkey shortcut was a mistake in the first place, and with the release of OneNote 2013 and Windows 8.1 Microsoft is simply rectifying a mistake in the earlier version of OneNote.
The best thing for OneNote users to do when they upgrade from OneNote 2010 running on Windows 7 or Windows 8 to OneNote 2013 running on Windows 8.1 is to learn to use Winkey+Shift+S instead of Winkey+Swhen they need to capture a screen clipping.
GOT TIPS you'd like to share with other readers? Email us at [email protected]
Recommended for Learning
Below are a couple of books you can read if you're interested in further exploring the connection (or divide) between IT and business processes. They're a bit dated but still contain some good stuff--if any readers can recommend more recent titles on this topic, please let us know at [email protected] thanks!
IT Doesn't Matter-Business Processes Do: A Critical Analysis of Nicholas Carr's I.T. Article in the Harvard Business Review (Meghan-Kiffer Press)
Business Process Management (BPM): The Third Wave (Meghan-Kiffer Press)
Quote of the Week
"It's not that I'm so smart , it's just that I stay with problems longer." - Albert Einstein
Note to subscribers: If for some reason you don’t receive your weekly issue of this newsletter, please notify us at [email protected] and we’ll try to troubleshoot things from our end.
Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
Audit, Track and Report on all changes to files and their Permissions on Windows File Server. Generate Real-time alerts and Schedule any predefined or custom reports.
Download 2X ApplicationServer XG to deliver virtual desktops and applications from a central location, providing continuous availability, resource-based load balancing and complete end-to-end network transparency for administrators.
Top 5 Tools that IT Pros Love. Get them all now.
Microsoft Office 365 has become an option for organizations looking to move content – particularly Exchange – to the cloud. Learn about the new capabilities in Office 365 and what pitfalls await you.
Microsoft Exchange Server Jetstress 2013 Tool simulates Exchange disk I/O load on a server to verify the performance and stability of your disk subsystem before putting your server into a production environment"
Project Conference, 2014 on February 2-5 in Anaheim, California
Lync Conference 2014 on February 18-20, 2014 at The Aria in Las Vegas, Nevada
SharePoint Conference 2014 on March 3-6, 2014 at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2014) coming in July, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
European SharePoint Conference on May 5-8, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain
Add your event
PLANNING A CONFERENCE OR OTHER EVENT you'd like to tell our 95,000 subscribers about? Contact [email protected]
Register for Webcasts
Add your Webcast
PLANNING A WEBCAST you'd like to tell our subscribers about? Contact [email protected]
This section is organized topically by platform/product and provides you with links to tips, tools, information and other resources that can help you in your job role whether you're an IT professional or an IT decision-maker.
Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows and Windows Server has been updated for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 (Microsoft Download Center)
Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 8.1 is now available (Microsoft Download Center)
Delegating The Configuration Of "Trusted For Delegation" In AD (Jorge's Quest for Knowledge)
Managing Hyper-V Snapshots (Part 2) (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
Building a Mini Hyper-V Server (The Lonely Administrator)
10 reasons you should use a dedicated Hyper-V backup tool (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
Renew Web Server (SSL) Certificates Automatically (Windows PKI Blog)
Security 101: Application Control (Security 101)
The NEW Microsoft RMS has shipped (Microsoft Rights Management (RMS) Team)
Quick Post – Documenting Setups & Installations Smartly (SCOMfaq.ch)
The New Windows Admin: Employee or Freelance Contractor? (Redmond Magazine)
Microsoft's Ever Evolving Configuration Management (Redmond Magazine)
We'd like to thank the following individuals for contributing items for this section from time to time:
- Florian Klaffenbach, a Solution Expert in Microsoft & Cloud Computing working at Dell TechCenter Germany. Be sure to check out Flo's Datacenter Report:
- Yuri Diogenes, Senior Technical Writer in the Server and Cloud Division at Microsoft. You can find Yuri's blog on TechNet:
- Heather Witz of the Microsoft Customer, Architecture & Technologies (CAT) team for Windows Server & System Center. Check out their team blog Building Clouds on TechNet:
Choosing among IaaS, PaaS and Database as a Service for a cloud database
With the many options for running a cloud database, which is right for your organization? Do you utilize IaaS or switch to PaaS? What about new Database as a Service solutions? Regardless of your choice, this expert guide outlines how to weigh factors, such as cost, availability and support, in selecting a best fit approach for your business.
Five drawbacks to running Android as a desktop OS
Rumor has it – the Android OS is becoming the new Windows. Although we may be a ways off from making this leap, it’s a good time to start learning about Android on a desktop system. Inside, hear what our experts are sharing as the pros and cons of the Android OS.
When your high availability architecture should include OS protection
High availability at the virtualization layer protects your VMs – but what about your operating system? Read on to discover the benefits of OS-level high availability, and when it may be necessary.
Can HP, IBM and Dell survive the cloud?
Big name hardware vendors have dominated the IT world for years – but with virtualization and the cloud rapidly expanding, will they be able to stay competitive? This exclusive issue of Modern Infrastructure E-Zine dives into the future of dynamic, heterogeneous IT environments and their impact on the infrastructure industry.
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
GOT FUN VIDEOS or other fun links to suggest you'd like to recommend? Email us at [email protected]
Comedian Tom Mabe uses a remote controlled flying Grim Reaper to chase soccer players, joggers, bikers and basketball players at the local park.
Halloween Light Show 2013 “What Does the Fox Say?” with over 8,500 lights and roughly 1066 channels of computer animation:
Gordon Ramsay, one of the world's most celebrated chefs, shows you how to cook the perfect steak.
Aeromobil - the coolest flying car yet - has completed its first successful flight:
Absolutely stunning views of Germany from above. What a beautiful country!
WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com