Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Business Guidance Pearls Mentoring Opportunity

Our blog post on Some IT Pro Business Guidance Pearls has generated a _lot_ of questions! Thank you for that. :)

So, how about this?

Third Tier has a special on a block of 3 hours that ends in a few days.

Drop in to the Third Tier Help Desk, register, and purchase a time block. From there, open a ticket: Business Guidance Pearls Mentorship.

I would pick up the ticket and get in touch about scheduling our time together.

The structure would be:

  • 1 Hour: Practice Assessment and Goals
  • 1 Hour: Goals Roadmap
  • 1 Hour: Goals Implementation Steps

I was very fortunate to have a former employer that worked very hard to teach me how to run an I.T. business. By “run” we’re talking about a lot more than just the bookkeeping and cash flow aspects.

Believe me when I say this, you’d not regret any minute spent. We’d look at the big picture right through to the details to facilitate growth in your I.T. Pro practice.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Some IT Pro Business Guidance Pearls

Here are some bits and pieces of business wisdom that I’ve gathered over the years. Much of my initial business formation came from my first employer out here Larry MacDonald while working for Logical Computer Company.

  • Keep a business journal (for me it’s my blog, Twitter, and forum helps)
  • Document everything (take pictures of everything with SmartPhone, use Snip in Windows ALL THE TIME)
  • Create build documentation for everything
    • We have builds for clusters, Exchange setups, Exchange migrations, SBS setups, SBS Migrations, More
  • Be consistent (build documentation helps)
  • Use Tasks in Outlook and on the phone to track everything
  • Be disciplined in tracking, responding, and being present to clients
  • Spend 10%-20% on R&D
  • Spend 10%-15% on lunches, dinners, and such with others
  • Put 10% away for a rainy day
  • Get involved with user groups or start one
  • Get a _good_ accountant and keep them

As far as recurring revenue:

  • IMSNHO, blended is better than full MSP
  • ~$60/User to $110/User for:
    • Server OS patch, Server App patch, and Microsoft App patch/install management
    • Desktop OS patch and Microsoft App patch management
    • A/V Management along with e-mail sanitation (we use ExchangeDefender)
    • Remote Server Monitoring and management included
    • On-site not included
    • Phone and e-mail support beyond 15 minutes not included
  • Offer backup rotation with quarterly full bare metal or hypervisor restore
    • $150-$250 per OS per month
    • Need a dedicated box for this (Intel S1400FP4 with 96GB ECC, and RAID 6 across spindles or SSDs)

Services

  • Non-contract break/fix:
    • $250/Hr immediate response
    • $200/Hr 4 hour response
    • $175/Hr 24 hour response
  • Contract on above
    • 4 Hour response included
    • Immediate response at 1.5 rate
    • Time Blocks offered at discounted rates

*Response being an acknowledgement of the request/ticket.

There are a lot of benefits over time as far as financial stability but also client relationships become a lot more stable and long term with support contracts in place versus a break/fix model.

We soon discover the clients that value our IT services and those that don’t when we move into the above model. What business that runs a fleet does not have a crew of mechanics to maintain that fleet? Why is IT infrastructure any different?

A major plus is in the routines that we build up. Our schedule gets a lot more stable and predictable. While we are still at our client’s beck and call we now have an established set of boundaries as far as how, when, and where the help would be provided.

We can have a few more evenings a week pursuing other things and _not_ looking at screens! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Thursday, 11 December 2014

SMB Kitchen ASP Author’s Chat: Wednesday the 17th Open To All!

You are invited to a preview during our SMBKitchen Chat on December 17th 7pm eastern. Download to your calendar now!

Our Chat will introduce the following new items at Third Tier. In addition we'll cover our usual content about security and patching. Join us for this special sneak preview of...

Tech Your Books: You know your books are supposed to do more for you than just keep you out of trouble with the IRS right? They are supposed to be a powerful business tool that helps you be more profitable and provide information so you can make evidence backed decisions about your business. It’s time to Tech Your Books!

Look, A Whale! What do you do when you’ve got a Whale? Be it a crisis or a project, your company could benefit greatly if you choose to have a third party representing your organization.

Our First Product: SBS IaaS Ever since Microsoft ceased production of small business server saying that small businesses would prefer to be "in the cloud" IT providers have wondered where that leaves them. Well we have a solution for you - Be The Cloud! 

Super Secret News: ASP members have been enjoying reading classified documents from US intelligence and security agencies giving them the early information on the latest hacks, industry targets and break-out infections. Learn about our after ASP plans to bring this information to you.

In addition to these great new Third Tier services, we are continuing to offer advanced helpdesk and microstaffing.If you would like to read more about each of these, we have some information available on our website already with more to come soon. http://www.thirdtier.net

And ItsA Gonna Be A Gooder! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Microsoft Ups Support Ticket to $499 – We Have a Great Alternative: Third Tier!

It seems that this may, or may not, depending on one’s thoughts of how Microsoft sees IT Pros in today’s “Cloud First Mobile First” be another shot at IT Pros that provide much of the front line support to SMB/SME clients.

I’ve been helping out with Third Tier for well over a year and a half now. I’ve been privileged to work on a team of amazing folks as well as work with a great group of IT Pros.

I believe that we at Third Tier offer a viable alternative to Microsoft’s $499 ticket (though I’m not sure what that will work out to in Canada as we pay substantially more than the US equivalent) for spot support or even ongoing support needs.

Given the experience our team has the Third Tier rate of $175/Hour is very reasonable. Active Directory, Exchange, Remote Desktop Services, Hyper-V, VMware, Cluster, and very soon a number of key vertical products and services to help our IT Pros get the job done right the first time!

Third Tier offers a Micro Staffing program where we can be a part of your IT Pro team for ongoing support challenges or staffing challenges. We can be a part of your team for a very reasonable cost.

I’m also excited about some of the things we’ve been working on at Third Tier to provide our IT Pros with a one-stop solution for their data centre that will allow them to provide IaaS and even our SBS (Small Business Solution) at a very reasonable cost per seat! More to come on that soon.

One final thought. If one is caught in a bind with a server down situation then the Microsoft ticket may be the best way. With Action Pack we still get BizCrit (Business Critical) support though via a call back model.

Our response model tends towards scheduled time for tickets as opposed to crash responses. So, please keep that in mind.

Here are some of the areas we can help you with:

  • Disaster Recovery Planning and Practice
  • Infrastructure planning, migration, support, and recovery
  • Active Directory and Group Policy planning, support, and recovery
  • Remote Desktop Services planning, support, and recovery
  • Exchange planning, migration, support, and recovery
  • SQL planning, migration, support, and recovery
  • Hyper-V planning, support, and recovery
  • Virtualization Solution Performance planning and support
  • Specialized Bookkeeping Support and Services
  • IT Business Models, Plans, Direction, Vision, and More

Whatever the task, we have a team member that can help. Not only that, one can expect the task to be done in short order and in a professional manner.

If you have not checked us out before please do now.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cluster: Firewall GPO Settings

Here are some firewall settings that we configure via GPO for both our AD environment but also for our cluster setups.

Domain linked GPO:

image

At the domain level, thus all systems are impacted by these settings, we configure Remote Desktop inbound, Remote Event Log Management, Remote Volume Management, and finally Remote Firewall management.

Cluster OU linked GPO:

image

Here we set the inbound rules that allow us to manage our clusters. The Inbound Rule for Remote Shutdown is a critical one to implement as that allows Cluster Aware Updating to run.

And, there is one rule that seems to be in both places. Chalk that up to export/import. :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Hey SMB Kitchen ASP Subscribers! Author’s Chat Starts Shortly.

Sorry about the short notice it has been a banner day for things breaking like power poles and such at client sites.

Link for the chat is in your subscriber e-mail.

Thanks for supporting us! :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

ASP Webinar Today at 1700 MST: Setting up ARR and URL ReWrite for One WAN IP

We've had a number of requests to do a Webinar specifically on how we get things set up for our Small Business Solution (SBS) whereby we only require one WAN IP address for all Internet facing services being published.

At 1700 MST please join me as I walk through a step-by-step of installing and configuring ARR and URL ReWrite.
  • Install ARR and URL ReWrite
  • Configure ARR settings in IIS
  • Configure ARR settings for EAS
  • IIS Sites and settings
  • SSL configuration
  • URL ReWrite rule configuration
  • ReWrite rule testing
By the time we are finished we will have a fully functional setup.

For this Webinar we will be using our three VM Azure based lab running a DC, Exchange 2013, and RDS.

Please do join us if you can and if not the event is being recorded and will be available to subscribers in the ASP Knowledgebase.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business