Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Speeds were pretty good with it right away but that very same day we had a number of HTTP/HTTPS timeouts. That stuff happens so I wasn't too concerned but over the next couple of days it became an issue that was not going away. After some investigation we discovered 2 things - The most brief outages were simply HTTP timeouts that were inexplicable. The longer outages were happening because the modem would reboot itself from time to time.
Latency was also an issue. HTTP traffic would be fast for established connections but establishing a new connection was very slow. This was not the case for PCs connected to a public network we have for some public terminals. Internet there was lightning fast and new connections were very fast. Our setup was very similar to that YouTube video I linked to above - one firewall static IPs through the Netgear, the other firewall DHCP through the Netgear.
Firmware was the latest 1.32.03. Signal was good from Comcast and configuration was a direct copy from the old SMC gateway. Everything really pointed to the static IP problems others are complaining about with the Netgear. This morning a tech stopped by to put an SMCD3G back in. As soon as it was hooked up all our problems went away. Fast internet, low latency, no timeouts.
So beware the Netgear CG3000DCR for now. I think it's just fine if your firewall is configured with DHCP on the WAN. For those of you with static public IPs stick with the SMC gateways for now.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Friday, November 1, 2013
I just went through a staff meeting where the topic was change. The employee assistance program folks were talking about how to deal with change and how the grieving process applies to our coping with change. Almost every change scenario they discussed involved an information system of some sort. As the IT guy in the room it felt uncomfortably targeted. If Information Systems causes this much grief why did any of us get into it?!
Service is really important. There's a service component in many belief systems or religions. We have service to country, serving as board member, public service. A high value is often placed on service.
A friend who's active with youth in a faith setting posted a Halloween message on Facebook with "A chance to serve" by trick or treating for donations to the local food shelf. I loved the excitement in the post - It was a chance to have fun and contribute to a service that is very needed in the community. Double the reward.
That's just it: Every chance to serve is an opportunity - an opportunity to have an impact on another person. Many people go into IT because they're "good with computers" or they're the super technical types. There's certainly a place for that. What's really needed, however, is people that come into IT because they're good with people. IT is really about the people first, technology second and when you understand the impact you can have on people through your service...well, that's when the magic starts to happen.
When that user calls for the umpteenth time about an issue I'm completely sick of I think of the opportunity I have. We're doing IT to serve.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Final error: 0xe0009578 - Unable to copy the virtual machine disk using the VMware VixDiskLib.Followed by:
Final error category: Resource Errors
V-79-57344-38264 - Unable to copy the virtual machine disk using the VMware VixDiskLib. VixDiskLib_Read() reported the error: Unknown errorUgh! Unknown error, how I hate thee! After much screwing around with different settings, migrations, updates, etc, etc I finally, and hesitantly called Symantec. In the end I was connected with Jason who is a first rate tech and obviously knows his stuff. Very grateful because I've not had good luck with Symantec support in the past.
He determined the errors were definitely not a Symantec problem. Backup Exec relies on the vCenter to snapshot the VM and then present the snapshot to BE to slurp up. In the end vCenter removes the snapshot and BE will eventually verify its data with vCenter at the end of the job. Debug logs from Backup Exec showed no indication of any problem. Everything seemed normal. But here's where we figured out something was amiss:
WARNING: "VMVCB::\\<machine path>.vmdk" is a corrupt file. This file cannot verify.Ah. Everything is now pointing at vSphere. The data being presented by vCenter to BE looked corrupt to BE and it was reporting this in the Exceptions in the job log.
There was one machine that was corrupted every backup job and a few others that would randomly show up corrupted as well. The common factors were
- All were converted machines from an old Hyper-V environment
- All had IDE hard drives rather than SCSI
- All were important enough for me to be losing sleep over!
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
- Samsung Galaxy S3
- Gen3 iPad
- 2009 MacBook Pro 15"
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Being opaque when dealing with customers and partners is all too often seen as beneficial to the organization. Making people come to you for information feels like it keeps you in control of the relationship. The problem is, even for vendors of commodity services, only your competition will benefit from you not engaging your customers. Today communication is cheap and data is plentiful. We expect every vendor to be able to keep us informed and that's not necessarily an unreasonable expectation. With minimal effort, even a limited amount of data can be given out and that might be all it takes to engage or satisfy the customer.
You have information systems and communication platforms, use them to add value to your service. Your customers will be happy.
Friday, August 23, 2013
People involved in service do receive, on the other hand, a great deal of frustration, complaint, and sometimes anger. We're the clean up crew when things go wrong. When someone calls IT it's rarely because something good happened. This is something people in careers that are dedicated to service resign themselves to knowing full well that stress will become a routine part of life. But IT isn't just involved in support of existing services; There's a constant effort to improve and upgrade existing services. Updated services get pushed out constantly trying to keep up with demand and business case needs.
Last week my job involved going live with a new fiber connection to all our locations. We'd been getting by with some bonded T1 connections and one location had a single T1. Communications were via MPLS over these small pipes. After months of wrangling we managed to get fiber installed and went from 3Mbps over MPLS to a fat 50/50Mbps connection at each location. This is no small incremental increase!
The new connection went live Wednesday night and I got myself all prepped for problems Thursday morning. Only one problem cropped up and things went smoothly. "Surely," I thought to myself, "Someone will be sending IT brownies, or cookies, or something Friday morning!" The network response was amazing, applications were faster than ever, and call quality was dramatically improved. Friday morning rolls around and....nothing. No cookies, no doughnuts, not even a job-well-done pat on the back.
Now, don't get me wrong, management understands the improvements and we're not talking about total radio silence here. It's just that, from a job satisfaction point of view, you always hope that improvements would get the same response as an organization-wide outage does. IT labors in anonymity until things go wrong. The good things we do are preventative and steer the good ship around the hazards ahead. The fact is, service will always be harder than being served. That's not a bad thing; It is something to aspire to. There's fulfillment to be found in the service and the job well done.
Friday, August 2, 2013
It's a simple matter of reflecting what we're becoming and what we'll be expected to do in the future. I was chatting with a colleague who is working on becoming a newly minted systems/network admin when we both recognized that sys admins and network admins are a dying breed. That's not for lack of admins: shake any organizational tree and a dozen or more spare sys/net admins will fall out. The fact of the matter is that outsourcing continues tp dramatically reduce the need for admins. Cloud-based services are quickly moving infrastructure and systems far away from the business and the few systems that remain in-house can easily be assigned to a managed services provider (Started by a sys admin who was fired before you. Wink, wink!).
The same goes for generalist technicians across the board. Their positions are expensive and outside vendors are pounding on the gates offering to do the job from dramatically less money. Technicians have long-ago become a commodity and their employment has been buoyed by business' inability to change course quickly.
Going back to the conversation with my colleague: What was the solution for those of us in the endangered systems/network admin game? Information!
IT has a special place in business. We're often one of the few business units that spans the entire organization. Everything we do affects every team in the business. Many times the only other department with this kind of reach is facilities/janitorial. IT is often inward-facing and serves only the organization and, as because of this, we have a unique perspective that allows us to see the bigger picture. IT knows what everyone is doing and how they're doing it. IT knows the goals, the directives, the strategies, and the methods being used to achieve all these things. IT also has all the data.
It's time for IT to break up the melding of Information and Technology. Technology is the stuff, the gadgets. The business doesn't need gadgets (except when they do), what it really needs is Information. An I&T department would put its focus on Information and less on Technology. Someone has to shepherd the gadgets and gewgaws. Information, the life-blood of business, is where the real effort belongs - Process, information delivery, integration, standardization, automation, etc.
The old joke among admins, "Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script" is coming true but at our own expense. It's time to evolve our careers, leave IT, and create the I&T Department.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Change? I ain't got time for Change!
Backwards compatibility is evil. When you think about it, backwards compatibility delays the inevitable. The problem is that it builds up a false promise: We'll keep accommodating you until the end of time. As a sector, IT has been teaching an entire workforce the wrong approach to technology. Tech involves a lot of change; It's nearly constant. Even more so now that we're in the cloud where our destiny is controlled by someone else with no connection to our own organizations.
I'm pretty sure we did the backwards compatibility thing because technology used to be expensive. It took a lot of money to invest in the hardware. Often times you also ended up sinking a lot of dough in bespoke software because what you wanted to do didn't have a retail product yet. Any subsequent new OS version had to be backwards compatible to run all that expensive software. The next version of the custom software needed to perform the job of the old one plus the new features AND run on old hardware. It was the economical thing to do at the time and it's not a bad strategy. The unintended consequence is that it created a culture.
We've been doing backward compatibility for decades and now an entire workforce expects it. "This is the way I used to do this process. Now it doesn't work. Make it work the way it used to!" This is a statement that I imagine raises the ire of any first level tech after an update. We techs think to ourselves, "Of course it doesn't work, you nitwit! Read the email we sent explaining the update and changes to your process!!" But users don't do that, do they? They don't because we've taught them that we will be able to build systems around them that are minimally impacting. They won't have to change the holy and sacred process because we'll make the system backwards compatible. Thought will not be required, carry on as usual.
IT is 20% Technical, 80% User Therapy
The resistance to change is really centered around the level of effort it takes. We all have work to do. Adding in a change that requires learning and understanding doesn't help the work get done. It IS difficult but workers encounter change in their jobs in many aspects other than technology. They complain about those as much as any tech change we throw at them. New position created? Complain. New rule for checking out company vehicle? Complain. New TPS report? Complain. Got rid of the TPS report? Complain.
Its time for Tech to deliver on a new promise. The path of least resistance does no one favors. Change must be based on need and requirements. Yes, sometimes that means backwards compatibility too (I'm not totally against it). The success of knowledge workers will depend on embracing change. Change is going to come fast and it's going to be impossible to avoid. IT can be part of the solution here. If we're thoughtful about the changes we introduce and work to help the people we support be OK with change we can start to transition the workforce from grudging digital users to digital adoptees or naturalized digital citizens. I believe they can learn to fully embrace the digital culture and come to terms with their new homeland.
Some day support calls will not be prefaced by a user saying, "I'm not very computer literate or techy..."
Sunday, June 30, 2013
As a young person (I guess I am still young by many peoples' standards) I couldn't be without music playing somewhere. Perpetual tunes. I had a beat up Sony Walkman that was a constant companion. That first CD player got used. A lot.
Now as I get a little older I'm finding myself listening to music less. Is music something less interesting to me now? I don't think that's the case. Are the music choices out there less to my liking? There seems to be plenty of items starred in my Spotify account.
Maybe with age silence is more precious. Probably more so as a parent. The part that frightened me a bit was that I don't miss the constant music. Am I becoming less musical? I don't think so. More focused, perhaps. I think 4'33" makes more sense to me these days.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
My wife turned on the TV and promptly our 3 year old began to pester her to put on a cartoon he wanted. This was broadcast so she was trying to describe how that works.
Her: "You can only watch what they show you. You can't choose whatever you want."
3yr old: "But I want cartoons! Can't We turn it on? "
Her: "It just doesn't work that way."
3yr old: "But it works on Netflix!"
Yup. And advertisements are just as confusing. They have a tough time telling them apart from the real content. Pretty fascinating to watch the them watching. I doubt they'll ever learn to play during the ads like we did.
Content producers and "broadcasters" need to learn that the paradigm has changed. Business as usual won't work.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
To me, it's been interesting to watch SMB and Enterprise diverge from their traditional MO on technology. Where SMB used to be so nimble and innovative there seems to be a trend toward restriction and outsourcing. Enterprise seems to be leaning more toward relaxing and "insourcing". Obviously, legal requirements put limits on what any business can allow and require a certain amount of accountability but outside of those requirements this is the trend I see. To a certain
This trend to implement big brother on the SMB level reflects two facts (as I see it) about business:
- Once products become cheap enough vendors have to create an "industry trend" to sell to lots of SMB to keep profits up.
- Managing employees is hard. Really hard. The coward's way out is to use technology tools to insulate you from that job so that you can "focus on your business again."
Number 2 is being exacerbated by number 1. There's a lot of great tools out there in the enterprise sector. They serve a purpose and can be useful. The thing is, enterprise payed for an army of consultants to come in and implement management tools properly. SMB rarely does this, particularly on the "S" end of SMB.
Enterprise seems to have figured out that the IT police-state isn't sustainable. It becomes a nightmare and IT loses a lot of its effectiveness. There's a happier middle ground and larger organizations seem to be actively working on finding it. IT is about providing solutions and working with information not operating a Chinese great firewall to restrict users.
Sadly, I don't see an end to this in the near term. Industry trends are like a runaway bus that take everyone along with them for the ride. SMB needs to stop trying to buy all the enterprise stuff that finally came down to their price point (If I read another forum post by an SMB ITer asking which SAN to get I'll lose my mind). Prepare for the future of your business today. Be strategic and remember that technology should be part of, or at least play a part in, your business plan. It's a tool. Use it.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
I was reading a forum posting about a business where users refused to give up their gigantic pst personal archives (a common lament that I've made as well). Many of the comments revolved around taking control and user smack-down. It just made me shake my head and move on to something else. Too bad. I was hoping to find some good information in that conversation.
Experience is a helpful thing to have. I've fought the email battle before: old server, no expansion possible, users constantly over their limits and using their inboxes as file storage. After I got done beating my head against that wall I learned something: Users will use the tools you give them to accomplish their tasks and it may not be in the way you envisioned. It might even be the "wrong" way. It's an evolutionary process and, just like evolution, there's no wrong way if it accomplishes the desired result (and complies with law, regulation, policy, etc, etc).
We IT hotshots come along in the middle of the evolutionary process and scream, "You're all doing it wrong!" But who are we to decide what's wrong? Who among us hasn't lamented the benighted user's decision to use a tool in the most asinine way? And yet those same users get their jobs done and the tool seems to help them.
Efficiency isn't the holy grail we think it is. Nor is conformity. Providing appropriate tools and enabling workers to do their job is far more important. The real purpose of IT is to make things work so the business value increases. Unless IT is the purpose of the business, we're here to do as we're told. We are *not* the enforcers.
Friday, June 7, 2013
A few things I've read lately made me think a little bit about my own perspective of customer service and IT service in general. Obviously, the way I approach service is flavored heavily by the experiences I've had both as a consumer but more strongly by the fact that I've been providing technical services to customers for over 16 years now. So why do I approach service in the way that I do?
All the different jobs, lessons my parents taught me, even my beliefs (religious and otherwise) all influence my approach to service. I've written about the good service template but you can follow that template to the letter and still screw up service. If you don't understand why you perform service and have a desire to help then you're going to have a miserable time. There's certain elements of compassion, understanding, and drive that need to be present.
My Dad loved comic books and I remember him breaking out his version of the quote from Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility."
When I first saw that what I could do with technology was magic to most people I understood that I was also responsible for helping those same people use the tech. Until everyone is a digital native (and probably even long after that) there are those to whom technology is otherworldly magic. We who fix or bend technology to our will are superheros. It's our responsibility to use that power for good.
I believe strongly that as we do our work we have an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives, to be a light in the darkness, as the saying goes. Good service can do that. We talk about value. We talk about metrics and business goals. That's part of working in a company and it gets really heartless if you focus on the business and money. In the end we're all human, and for those of us who are the service providers, the chance to make a difference can be really rewarding.
Think about your service heritage. Why do you work in service? Remember the why.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
"So we don't need to put in a password? Great, because if we did we'd never get in!"
This was met with quite a lot of agreement around the room.
"Can't stand having to change them all the time!"
Yup. Guess I'll move that project a few notches up the priority list.
Beside the auditors, who likes passwords? No one, that's who! I'd rather you didn't have one because then you won't call me asking me to reset it for you after you forgot it.
It's important to always be working to find ways to listen to your co-workers. There's many issues simmering below the surface and unless you build rapport between departments and people you'll never hear about them. Not all the issues are technical either! I've found that people generally put up with things unless it so adversely affects them they can't perform their job.
All these things that you don't hear about have a negative effect and impact the way IT is perceived in the organization. It's public relations!
If we want to aspire to the Information part of IT as much as the Technology part we need to pay attention to what our co-workers in other departments are saying.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Clicked and and saw that they're still using the SSRS report I made a while back to export the data to a nice format and email out in an automated fashion. There's also some other reports out there that they use for similar reports and at least one other agency using the same records software uses the same reports I created.
It was a simple job for the most part (once I taught myself the schema to a completely undocumented set of databases, no primary keys, and a spaghetti mess of relationships) but I tried to make it as nice as possible and easy to reuse. I'm sure a real developer could've done a better job but I doubt anyone would've been willing to pay the money.
There's a lot of satisfaction in a job well done. Especially because, since it was work in public sector, it benefits a lot of people and helps improve transparency.
Remember kids: If you're looking for a job straight out of college and are looking to maximize your impact, seriously consider a job in local government. You won't make a lot of money, but if you work hard you can make a big impact in a positive way.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I lost my Dad on April 27th. After his service a week later and another full week after that of the "New Normal™" I've never wanted to give him a call more that I do right now. It's been a strange few weeks of well intentioned people asking enough questions that I'm finally forced to explain that Dad lost his battle with mental illness. In a way it's good they press on so much; It's important to talk about mental illness. Too often it's swept under the rug. Discussing how we lost Dad isn't cathartic to me any more. Now I just miss him terribly.
We were planning to go to a Twins game with Dad and some other family members this weekend. My kids were really looking forward to it. We're still going but one of the big reasons I was excited to go isn't there any more. An emptiness has taken the place of someone I love.
The other day I imagined myself in the place of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, lost in his alcoholic haze while off trying to find the 6-fingered man to avenge his father's death. That's a little how I feel, wishing I could find the 6-fingered disease that killed my father to avenge him. Even if I could I'd be just like Inigo in the end, growling, "I want my father back you son of a bitch."
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
"Dad, I don't have a phone!"
Mister 'I'm-going-to-be-four-and-all-grown-up-soon' smiled at me with an understanding look well beyond his years and proceeded to tell me all about the quesadilla he was eating.
Now, I love my smartphone. My Galaxy S3 has been a wonderful digital appendage that has nearly replaced my laptop. I use it. Lots. So why did I tell my son he was so lucky? Is that really how I feel about these amazing devices?
I don't feel trapped or tied to the electronics around me. They are my arms, my legs, the tools I use to do the work I love. Using them is as natural to me as breathing and they are extensions of me. I may not be a true digital native but I'm pretty darn close.
I guess I feel that the absence of the omni-present smartphone represents an innocence to me. He's not exposed to the broader world that I see through the portal that is my smartphone; The special tool that reveals the entire world to the beholder. A digital palantir to those who are powerful enough.
One thing I hope to give my kids is innocence. I'm not protecting them from the world; It will come up and beat them over the head eventually no matter what I do. What I can give them are beautiful, wonder-filled childhood days where anything is possible, imagination is the only limitation, and weapons wielded by good-guys turn bad-guys into good-guys. We lose that all too soon. They'll soon have their Galaxy S IX or whatever.
Monday, May 6, 2013
- Document process
- Build Use Cases
- Evaluate software fit with use cases. Double check fit using process documentation.
- Evaluate software's fringe benefits (nice features that don't solve primary use cases/problems)
- Evaluate cost, ROI, vendor viability, etc
- Consider how software will impact future systems and designs.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Of course, you can already do that in Outlook. The Scheduling Assistant has been there all along and does exactly what they were looking for in that use case. I flipped my screen over to Outlook and showed them how it worked.
"Why hasn't anyone shown us this before?!"
The response I got, almost verbatim.
Look, IT can provide services and tools and tech all we want but in the end we have to communicate to the end-user what they can do with the STUFF we provide and put it in a context that makes sense to their jobs.
Front line staff are a great example of this scenario. Whether you're dealing with bank tellers, cashiers, customer service reps, etc they are essentially the modern assembly line worker.Their jobs are 100% volume based. Instead of assembling widgets they're assembling customer service. Front line workers don't get paid to be innovative (the low wages they get paid reflect that), instead they are paid to be as efficient and consistent as possible. As a result, staff in those positions are often most resistant to change. They stick to the old processes like glue because change impacts their primary purpose, often negatively.
However, they'll accept change in a heartbeat if it the usefulness and context to their jobs are made clear! I've seen cases where a new tool I offered was immediately adopted because the benefit and usefulness was obvious. The acceptance was not solely because of me providing the tool, it was in me matching the tool with the need and the legwork it took to explain its purpose and use.
This is more than a training issue, although training is certainly an aspect when trying to get people to use a tool. When IT is not working side-by-side with their co-workers in other business units the worse this problem gets. Context is the most important ingredient.
Monday, April 22, 2013
During my years doing IT in public sector I spent quite a lot of time supporting law enforcement. There were times when I'd be working on equipment in a 911 dispatch center quickly backing away from the workstation as calls came in so that the dispatcher could take them. The calls were only audible to the dispatcher, of course, but the radio traffic was there for everyone to hear.
The longest 10 minutes you'll ever experience is when a call for assistance is received and emergency personnel are in route.
Emergency personnel do the job because of a desire to help people. And they do that, day after day, despite the horrible things they see and deal with. It was an eye-opening experience to learn about the depth and breadth of what law enforcement and emergency personnel deal with on a daily basis that we, as citizens, are shielded from. Seeing the videos and pictures, and hearing the stories that don't get told outside of the office is frightening.
All of it is handled with professionalism and courage, and the vast majority of the time with compassion and understanding. Every single day.
Monday, April 15, 2013
When I was in college I took a cultural anthropology class because, hey, a guy's gotta fill requirements. Right?
The professor pointed out the different ways that cultures think about time. We western folks are very linear and regimented. Work starts at 0800, lunch is at 1200, day ends at 1700, and so on. Some other cultures take a more circuitous view where time is more relative.
The instructor's example was like this: Someone from a western culture might meet a friend while walking to work, stop to talk but cut the conversation off after looking at their watch and finding they're not on schedule to arrive on time. Other cultures would find that offensive and would take as much time as necessary to finish the conversation before continuing on their way. Time isn't as important as the person.
We often don't value people as much as we ought to. Relationships are important. Being a part of the organization is important. We use metrics and frameworks to make workers and processes as efficient as possible but people aren't machines, yet. Yes, timeliness is still important and we can't simply change ourselves and our workplaces into an anything-goes sort of schedule. As with most things in life, there's certainly a middle ground we can achieve.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The problem sums up like this: An MSP/vendor in the IT space assumes a lot of our money but does not assume any of our business risk.
In the case of a financial institution doing business lending you have a lot of risk. When you agree to loan money you become inextricably entangled and self-interested in ensuring the success of the borrower. There is an inherent vested interest in ensuring the growth and continued success of the recipient of the service. You make sure they make the right decisions. You check up on them on a regular basis. You question them when decisions are made that jeopardize their success and your investment.
In the case of an MSP, or any other vendor looking to establish a "partnership" with IT there typically isn't that vested interest. Yes, you can write fancy contracts (if you have the legal team and staff to do so) or you can make the argument that the prospect of continued and expanded business is interest enough. I don't have the resources to demand such a contract and I don't believe that vendors are as driven by continued/expanded business as many people think. This is especially true in the SMB market where contracts are rather small and there's an awful lot of potential customers. Growth is ensured to any vendor as long as they just keep signing on new clients.
So what does a partnership mean to me now? It is a relationship where an MSP/vendor provides me services I need AND assumes enough of my risk to create a vested interest in my success and growth.
I've had close relationships with some vendors and have grown to trust some of their employees. In the case where the employees were also personal friends I've been very comfortable trusting the organization. This is still not a vested interest. Am I going to disown a friend over their employer's bad behavior? Probably not. Trust is not enough. There needs to be a pain point to make sure that everyone is focused on the same goal: success.
Remember - no one is as interested in the success of your business as you are (well...besides your lending institution that is).
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I've lived through lost data, angry customers, irate phone calls, ten 1hr onsite service calls in one 8hr day, unreasonable expectations, small business, medium business, enterprise. Service ain't easy, and it's even harder under pressure. Everywhere I've been, and in every job I've done its been remarkable how good service never changes.
Here's the template:
- Make yourself available to provide service
- Interact plesantly with the service consumer
- Listen to the consumer
- Demonstrate that you've been listening
- Paraphrase or restate the problem to verify understanding
- Create plan for providing service or resolving problem
- Communicate plan to consumer
- Follow through with plan
- Communicate with consumer upon plan completion
- Follow up with consumer later
Talking about service also helps IT/IS remember that we are dealing with PEOPLE not gadgets. People are the most important part and if you're going to be working in a SERVICE sector job you have to live that mentality.
Monday, April 1, 2013
In the northern parts of the US, at least, warm weather is still on its way so its not too late to check your A/C. If you're at a new job and you haven't learned where the filters are and who typically does maintenance now's the time to figure that out.
I was putting a filter in a pass-through grate the other day and while I was on a ladder I noticed that the head unit on one of our A/C systems had a door. I opened it up and found this:
Those filters don't look so good. Let's take a vacuum to that.
So remember kids, buildings are filthy. The world doesn't like your technology and is actively working to destroy it. Be proactive and practice good computer room hygiene.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
*Disclaimer: I am not an EMC expert, nor am I guaranteeing nothing horrible will happen to your equipment or vSphere environment. Use this guide at your own risk.
Note that the VNXe has a single network line from each SP to each switch. This is the most simple way to cable. The SPs are able to handle NIC teaming using LACP trunks but we're going to use vSphere's round robin scheme to get us the same functionality. The requirement of LACP trunks means that you need to rely on a higher end switch, such as a Cisco Catalyst 3560 or an HP Procurve 2910al. Using vSphere's built in capabilities you can use a less switch but be careful about your throughput and switching capacities! You can get burned skimping on switches.
I chose to have each NIC on the SPs set to a different IP address. In this case:
- SP A eth2 = 192.168.50.10
- SP A eth3 = 192.268.51.10
- SP B eth 2 = 192.168.50.20
- SP B eth 3 = 192.268.51.20
Moving on to the vSphere end of things. There is an iSCSI requirement that you ensure VMkernels are tied to a single specific port. You can assign multiple ports to a vSwitch but you need to ensure that each VMkernel has the switch failover order overridden to assign a specific physical port to the kernel. This can get confusing and since I don't have a whole lot of vSwitches in my environment I choose to create VMkernels one per vSwitch. VMware advises that the number of vSwitches can impact performance so be aware of how that may impact your environment.
Friday, March 22, 2013
When I first read his ideas about slowing down, I completely agreed but didn't fully understand exactly why. His latest post on "The mad competitive scramble" cemented it for me. Its a cultural problem and it is poisonous. I look at it from a purely practitioner's perspective and often the mad dash to the next project is intoxicating or is forced on the IT staff. Since I don't have the 10000' view he has (nor the experience) I didn't fully appreciate how toxic the culture that brings about the scramble he's talking about.
The IT department is just like any other department. It's a tool for the business just like the accounting, HR, or any other departments. The purpose is to get the work done and maintain the viability of the organization.
I've been on the insider and consultant side of things and I cannot count the number of times I've had to reign in users and decision makers. Slow down. Let's look at the value/use cases/purpose/master plan/etc. Decision makers are often very good at seeing the big picture of an organization but seem to be inherently terrible at seeing the big picture of technology. To me it seems that the older folks in those positions are still mystified by tech and the younger decision makers learned all the wrong theories in school about tech. Understanding how tech fits into business isn't rocket science. It just takes a level headed approach and some basic knowledge about how it works.
Be competitive on your own terms (and speed). Learn to be good at customer service. Stop trying to change to compete.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
If you are trying to P2V or V2V Server 2008r2 with VMware vCenter Converter Standalone and you get this dreaded error don't worry. Turns out its a simple fix.
- P2V/V2V conversion fails at 95-98%
- New VM in vCenter is not bootable
- Booting VM to install media to do a repair yields no visibly installed OS
- Errors include: Warning: Unable to update boot.ini, Error: An error occurred during reconfiguration
- Convert logs show: Unexpected Exception: converter.fault.ReconfigurationNoSystemVolumeFault
Friday, March 15, 2013
Read Part 1 Here
I continue to struggle with how an MSP fits into the broader strategy of a competent IT department. I've come to the conclusion that many of my issues are trust related. As I think through the list of service providers I've dealt with over the years I can only name three or four that I really trusted. All the others seemed to go to great lengths to destroy any vestige of trust and some even seemed to revel in the fact they were fleecing the customer.
Why does this happen? What is going on that MSPs and service providers in general feel no shame in providing terrible service? I mean, service is in the name of their industry category, right?
There are a few things that jump out at me.
- All the businesses I've spent my IT career in are located in an area identified as "Rural". We're a solid 2 hours from the Twin Cities metro area.
- Contracts seem to universally favor the service provider
- Many service providers are bigger than the companies they "serve"
- Service is hard and service providers are often bare-bones staffed to maximize profits
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
These guys stuck with me through it, though, and in the end a good conversation happened. Hats off to them for being persistent.
This conversation made me think a lot about what a partnership with a vendor looks like. When it comes to managed services I tend to be openly hostile. I've seen very few good experiences with MSPs. No one cares as much about your organization as you do and MSPs, in the end, are making money off your lack of investment in IT (or inability to make an investment). However, there times where its nice to have a vendor to dump some things off on. There is also a certain level of expertise and exposure a vendor has just by being in many environments.
So in the case of an organization where there are already competent IT personnel involved and technology is helping users meet or exceed corporate goals is there room for partnership with an MSP? It was interesting to think about that as the vendor I was talking with was trying to figure out what this sort of relationship would look like. I'm working on bringing nearly everything I can in-house and strategies to cut down the "IT stuff" (defined as tech busywork like password resets, account unlocks, stability-related outages, etc). That doesn't leave much room for the traditional MSP sweet spots of helpdesk and network administration.
So now I have some things to think about. I'd never considered how a vendor fits into my IT strategies. I've never found a vendor that had a broad enough expertise for me to "partner" with. That sounds like a blog post for another day.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Friday, March 8, 2013
I think I've had more international communication in the last 2-3 weeks than I've had in my entire lifetime. Between Twitter, G+, email, and even phone it's been a lot of fun figuring out time zones and marveling how technology allows us to do this. There are so many incredible people all over who make me think. I love it!
Thanks to everyone who's put up with me. I really enjoy your thoughtfulness and broad minds! I hope I'm returning the favor with good content and ideas.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
"This job wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the users."
Experience naturally teaches us how to interact with non-technical users. You step on a lot of toes and hurt some feelings along the way but often the frustration remains even when you can gracefully talk a user back from the ledge and solve their problem. (True story: I've walked into an office once to find a user with gun drawn on his computer. Not even joking.) As technicians we can often look past the technophobia, the lack of understanding, even the anger that users are experiencing. The ignorance and the willful disinterest are much harder to accommodate.
There seems to be an inherent disconnect between non-technical users and IT staff. I'm convinced that much of it has to do with the way our minds work but also in the way we approach technology, our methods for dealing with new information and tools.
I think the best thing we can do to help bridge the gap between user and technical staff is eliminate the silo-ing of employees to some extent. We keep the IT folks in the basement - out of sight, separated off from the good-looking people in sales, no windows. Why do we do this? For one thing, IT staff embrace the separation. We're not usually cuddly or necessarily good with people. The separation is also a symptom of the way business tends to look at technology and IT staff; The viewpoint is that IT is not part of the business but rather a facility we just toss money at.
As an industry, IT needs to get people skills. The helpdesk needs to be social not just in the Social Media sense but in the squishy human contact sense. Bad people skills should not be tolerated any more. Its driving people to use Shadow IT solutions and doing bad things to business.
IT is people.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Whatever the reason for the lack of IT driven change I'm excited for it myself. The opportunities available for IT to transform the way we do business are so huge I can't wait to start!
So what does change from within driven by IT look like? Positive change, that is. We've seen and produced plenty of negative change.
Once you've solved the big problems in the server room the next step is to look at what's going on outside of IT. That's where technologists seem to fall on their face. Once you need to look outside of the IT Department we seem to get all awkward and nervous. IT is a unique department in that it is involved in every aspect of a business from building maintenance, to sales, to boardroom, etc. We have a broad viewpoint of the whole organization and it is time to utilize that knowledge and experience to help the business.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
During my college days I was getting pretty disillusioned with computer science. Right before I was about to jump ship a person I hold in high regard as a mentor arranged an internship for me with a major US educational testing company. It was an eye opening experience in many ways but most importantly it got me really excited for what IT could really do. More importantly, what IT can do if you have a service-oriented mentality.
Testing is fraught with errors. Its just a fact of large scale testing. The people creating and scoring the tests are trying their hardest; Accuracy is their goal. When you're developing and administering hundreds of different tests and scoring thousands, even millions, errors will happen. Software bugs show up. These things happen. In educational testing, though, the stakes are high since youthful aspirations hang on the results and the tensions are extremely high due to parental anxieties. Teacher and tester are put in a tough spot when things go wrong.
The internship landed me in a department that did a lot of testing in a US state with a pretty big population. Lots of tests, lots of students, lots of problems to resolve. The task I was given was requirements research: What would it take to implement a ticketing system for problem tracking? (Sound familiar to you service desk folks?)
As I dug into the problem I discovered that no one knew the problem resolution process! Actually, there was a generally accepted view of it but at the core of the problem was that there was no actual full process. Management understood there were incidents slipping through the cracks after being submitted but without tracking or even an established workflow there was no way to find them. The process was paper-based, handled between geographically separated teams, undocumented, and unclear. It was a beautiful, glorious problem to sort through!
I spent nearly three months unraveling this tangle and learned a few things:
- The larger the organization the more essential process becomes. When process is broken real people get hurt. Both your employees and your customers.
- Continuing on without understanding your process doesn't just compound the problem. It explodes it and it becomes a toxic, radioactive weight around your team's neck.
- It is a lot of work understand process.
- Process transparency is scary but without it service stinks, trust breaks, and management is helpless.