Archive for October, 2010

IT Wimps Out When it Comes to VDI

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I don’t think this is much of a stretch to say, and it’s probably more of an issue than most would want to admit.  IT is very cautious about rocking the boat when it comes to desktop infrastructure change, with good reason.

Users are more self-sufficient than they ever have been and IT groups don’t want to break that.  The days of insisting on locking down a workstation to make it a secure and predictably manageable asset are over.  Users have won that battle for the most part.  Apple and Blackberry are partially to blame for introducing productivity devices that blur the line between personal and business.  Also, most service-based companies with professional staff have adopted the laptop as the primary issued user device, and in the consumer and corporate markets, sales of the iPad and MacBook is eating into traditional Intel-based laptop sales.

In short, the employee is a business device consumer, not just a user.  What comes with a consumer mentality is this: users support themselves and demand full access and self-direction.  Even in the most “locked-down” environments, IT security bends over backwards to provide flexibility in the architecture, like permitting and encrypting data on thumb drives instead of simply disallowing their use.

Somewhat related to the “consumerization” of IT end user devices is that most of the experience we’ve had in the past with “thin clients” is related to experience with Citrix, RDP and the cheap, horrible thin stations that were available the last time the industry set out to ‘thin’ the desktop.  There are stories of thin stations and WinCE being thrown in dumpsters by the box load. 

Any solution that changes the desktop has to meet or exceed the performance expectations of the user.  Without the same level of responsiveness and a similar look, feel and openness (meaning user-level control) there will be resistance.  Basically, the coolness and usability cannot be lost in order to gain the confidence of the user community.

To change the desktop while using terms like “standardization” and “security” and “centralized” that sound too restrictive and add perceived complexity of a new delivery architecture, appears daunting to an IT organization with an already thin staff. 

So, the deck is stacked against IT.  It is just too hard, too complicated and too risky for a screaming user community. 

Those who throw out a “switch to VDI” mantra have to take these real and justifiable fears into account.

Stan Yarbrough
Sr. Consultant Specialist in Virtualization and IT Strategy

In Search of that Watershed Moment for the Virtual Desktop

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

There is a watershed moment once an enterprise technology is fully accepted; the ROI is no longer the hurdle.  Prior to full acceptance in the market, server virtualization technology made for a brilliant story about consolidation, full utilization of a given set of resources, saving money, saving time, making things more manageable.  There was a collective “ho hum” from CIOs even though the technology was very good, proven, stable and ready for prime time. 

But now, even the largest banks and manufacturers trust their entire businesses to virtualized servers.   VMware currently has 190,000 customers running at least some virtualization technology in production and now, the discussion about ROI is not a common one.  It is assumed that if the market accepts it, it must be valuable.

So, let’s assume that one of the reasons for the lack of VDI adoption is that the CIO is afraid of this new and “unproven” technology – unproven in that it has not been generally accepted and deployed throughout the majority of businesses.

Seriously?!

Isn’t that how server virtualization started? In fact, there was so much push-back from application vendors, internal support teams, users and mostly IT staff, that it was questionable when VMs would really see game time.  The growth of VMs over physical servers has inflated dramatically, to the point that applications being deployed and serviced by VMs exceed the number of applications being deployed on physical servers, including clustered architectures. 

Each day the laptop community takes off for the highways and the airports, data is encrypted because of that huge disk encryption project. Ya know…XP, SP3 SEP, and laptop encryption that made the list of strategic initiatives in 2008 and 2009. So, the thief can’t get the data if it’s stolen, right?  Not quite. He can still get $250 for your $1500 laptop after a quick format that permanently erases all your user data.  Oh and don’t forget the insurance settlement that you have to track to recoup your loss, if you can.

These are all desktop support initiatives that are rendered moot by VDI.

With acquisition costs at near $500 per user, less than the average cost for these three initiatives combined, what are you waiting for? The time for VDI is now!

Stan Yarbrough
Sr. Consultant Specialist in Virtualization and IT Strategy

The Value of Good Technical Support

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Companies have had to cut back on expenses to survive these difficult economic times. But when you cut back on technical support, you put your organization at risk in more ways than one; money saved today can mean catastrophic expenses tomorrow.

To illustrate the point, we offer real-world examples of what could happen if you go bargain shopping for support.

Reputation
The reputation that took you years to build and the one you worked so hard to protect is tainted or destroyed because you couldn’t connect with an actual person on the phone to solve your downtime issue. The tech guy finally calls you back five hours later (hey, at least it was the same day) but up until then, your online shopping cart was down…not only did you get hundreds of irate customer calls within that time frame, customers couldn’t make a purchase. You lost millions. Your customers were so frustrated, they went somewhere else. Some of them even posted their experience on Facebook.

Good luck getting that business back again.

Legal Implications
Say you have a problem with your backups. For some reason, all the data isn’t being backed up and you don’t know why. You call tech support. They don’t know either because they only have experience with Windows. Unfortunately, your tech environment is running more than just Windows…you also have Macs, UNIX machines, and Linux. Your tech support can’t fix the problem because they don’t understand how each component works together as a blended solution…a very expensive blended solution. Again, they only do Windows.

In the meantime, your corporate lawyers are searching for docs that will serve as evidence for a litigation case against the company. Well, they can’t find them because they were never backed up. Not only does the company lose the lawsuit, but they are fined $100,000 for violating compliance regulations because they could not disclose the needed information. Oops. But they just found out that their backups weren’t working. Doesn’t matter…ignorance is not admissible in court.

Revenue Loss
What if you relied heavily on your ecommerce site – this was your money-making baby. Ugh oh, it just went down…don’t know why. We need technical support and fast. Unfortunately, all you can do is leave a message because your tech guy happens to be out to lunch. Considering you get over 250,000 site visits an hour…60% are purchases. Ouch. That was one expensive lunch!

Customer Retention
Not being able to access your services when they need it most, whether it be via website, ATM, email, or phone, not only sinks your credibility, but also severely reduces the customer’s confidence level in your ability to deliver. Why would they take a chance with you if your website is always down? When there are so many choices in the marketplace, your customers can always find another provider.

Good technical support helps you maximize your customer service efforts, building loyal customers that trust you. Poor technical support has the opposite affect and sends your customers running to the competition.

One minute. One hour. One day. If you can’t access your business-critical information or if systems go down, your reputation, customer experience, and revenue are at serious risk. When each minute counts, you need a good technical support team to stand behind your business and get you back up and running fast. Shop wisely.

Employee Spotlight: Sales Analyst Stephanie Rebain

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

As a sales analyst with Consonus for over three years, Stephanie Rebain can normally be seen staring at a spreadsheet, crunching numbers for renewals, revenue, and just about anything else that needs calculating for the Consonus sales team, manufacturing partners, and vendors. Based in our Charlotte office, Stephanie works closely with account executives, managers, and directors to provide accurate sales forecasting, weekly detailed sales reports, and tracking for sales contents, spiffs, and other incentive programs.

“I love math puzzles,” says Stephanie. “Building repeatable processes and solving problems is my strength — it’s what I love to do. And the chance to work with great people both inside and outside of Consonus is very gratifying. I am blessed to be able to do all of this at Consonus. It may sound corny, but I really do love my job.”

Not only is Stephanie a numbers geek, but she can make a mean cobbler over an open campfire and teach you how to cook a complete dinner in a cardboard box thanks to her extensive scout training and genuine love of the outdoors.

Outside of work, Stephanie leads a very active life with two children, one in middle school and one just about to hit college. She finds peace in the open air where she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting…well just about anything outside.

Her philosophy is simple, “There is way too much to discover in this world. Never quit learning and pushing yourself both professionally and personally.”

Words to live by, Stephanie. Thanks!

Employee Spotlight: Marketing Programs Manager Chris Kirchner

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Affectionately known around Consonus as the “cattle herder,” Marketing Programs Manager Chris Kirchner is responsible for all Consonus events related to customers and partners as well as campaigns and projects that include National Sales Meetings, Awards banquets, and special incentive events. He coordinates over 100+ events and campaigns each year while providing project management assistance to various departments.

A Consonus employee for over five years, Chris enjoys what he does and it shows. “Trying to get everyone headed in the same direction is not an easy task. But I love my job because at the end of the day, if I have done my job well, the end result is something that creates more awareness and a positive experience. The favorite part of my job is helping people clearly identify what is needed — building strategies, executing plans, and achieving goals. Having a part in the early development of marketing programs gives me a real opportunity to add my expertise to help make each project a success.”

Chris moved to Charlotte in 1989 from Dallas, Texas and has an extensive background in events planning and marketing campaigns. Prior to Consonus, Chris worked for Momentum Marketing World Wide, managing the Lowe’s Home Improvement “How To” clinics in over 1000 stores throughout the country. While in this role, Chris helped Lowe’s identify and secure “special interest” clinic alliances with national sponsors like Habitat for Humanity.

Early in his career, Chris had the rare opportunity to work with MTV-Networks in New York City (and boy does he have some stories to tell). After moving to North Carolina, he worked with the Muscular Dystrophy Association as a fundraising program manager covering the Carolinas and Georgia where he was responsible for sponsorship recruitment and coordination of large events such as golf tournaments, galas, city-wide fundraising projects and even producing the local Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon on WSOC-TV.

When he’s not working, you can find Chris testing out a new recipe or entertaining the locals. A self-proclaimed “foodie,” he is a master in the kitchen. Need something yummy for everyday or unique for that special occasion?  Chris is your go-to guy. He’s sure to have a recipe, or two, or three, to satisfy even the pickiest of taste buds. His signature dish, Risotto with pancetta and spring peas is simply divine!

Oh and Tux, his miniature schnauzer, would definitely agree…not only does he get the leftovers, but Chris cooks gourmet burgers, steak, and chicken especially for his little guy — he probably eats better than most of us!