Horse Sense #72

In this issue:
  • Significant Software Updates
  • Tips and Facts
  • Life of an E Mail Message
  • End of the Trade Show?
Significant Software Updates:
-Symantec Endpoint Protection Maintenance Release 2 is now out.  Anyone running older versions, including previous Symantec Antivirus releases should upgrade.  In many cases the upgrade is free.  Call us to learn more.

-Vista Service Pack 1 is a must for almost all Vista owners.  It has significant performance, reliability, and security improvements.
-Windows XP Service Pack 3 is also a must have upgrade for most XP owners.  You will want to make sure you are caught up on your Windows updates.  This service pack is very large and takes a long time to install.  Go to, select custom, and install all the updates offered.  You may need to do this multiple times and it may require multiple reboots of your computer.  If you need assistance keeping your PCs up to date, call us and we'll discuss your options.

Tips and Facts:
Call Iron Horse if you need to know more about something you have read below, or want us to help you implement something to lower your costs or improve your productivity, profits, and reliability.
-Check your uninterruptible power supplies before summer brownouts and blackouts do it for you.
-Power problems are more likely to come from inside the building than outside.  For example, to overload a circuit and cause damage to equipment or data, all you have to do is plug in one too many devices.
-Studies have shown that larger computer screens result in improved productivity.  Two or more computer screens on one desk can also improve productivity.  Productivity increases are a big deal.  A 5% productivity increase for a $15 per hour worker works out to $1500 in additional productivity per year!
-Studies have also shown that business laptops that travel to the home not only end up increasing productivity, but also can help protect an organization against problems that affect the office (e.g., our office complex just repaved, so accessing the office was a problem).
-To get the most out of your laptop, don't skimp on the accessories. Get a mouse that you like.  Consider an external monitor or projector. Get a bag that will carry all of your stuff.  Consider an extra charger and docking station for all the places you might plug it in.  Get an extra battery and a car or plane charger for trips.  Consider a laptop holder to position your laptop comfortably at work.  Consider a laptop cooler to keep it cool.  Get external storage not only for backup, but so you can transfer data by "sneaker net."  Make sure you have good disk defragmentation, antivirus, firewall, communications, productivity, backup, and utility software.  Make sure your hardware is up to snuff. Most laptops can take memory and hard drive upgrades that will make them run better or last longer.  Laptops are like a house.  They are only really nice to live with when they are furnished properly.
-Get a security cable for your laptops and other items you don't want to lose.  97% of stolen notebooks are never recovered.  Consider tracking software for your laptop that will increase those odds.  Some of this software can even safeguard your data as well.
-When was the last time you backed up your laptop?  If you can't answer, you need a backup strategy.
-Do you wonder if your computer might make you sick?  See and view their checklist.
-If you haven't purchased gigabit Ethernet switches yet, now is the time.  Your desktops and laptops probably have the technology built in.  Couldn't you use a low cost, easy performance boost?
-Power over Ethernet is important to you.  You can now power devices like cameras, wireless access points, and even switches through your Ethernet cables.  Not having to plug a power cable into a plug means there is a better chance that you can put that device where you really want it.  Have your office accommodate you, not the other way around.
-A new survey by Osterman Research showed that e mail is more important than mobile phones, desktop phones, and instant messaging to smaller businesses when they want to get work done.  It showed e mail accounts for almost 80% of the information a user provides to someone else.  It also showed an average user sending and receiving 140 e mails per work day.  Unfortunately, most smaller businesses routinely suffer from e mail outages and slowdowns....  Buck the trend.  Read the article below then call Iron Horse and get your e mail back on track.

Life of an E Mail Message
Many of us dash off an e mail and then forget about it, but, in business that communication can be very important.  Your e mail client probably stores that e mail and your server may keep a copy too.  This allows you to resend the mail, modify it, etcetera.  On the other end, the receiving e mail servers first check to see whether your mail is legitimate.  If it is, they deliver it to the recipient.  If it isn't, they trash it.  If they aren't sure, they may tag it, quarantine it, trash it, or let it through, depending on their policy.  Once your e mail server gets an e mail, it waits for you to retrieve it.  It may not wait forever or allow you to keep as much mail on the server as you would like.  E mail servers are often mission critical and very busy. Making sure that you can get your e mail when you need it is often a big concern.  This means your company may have redundant mail servers, redundant storage, and redundant connections to the Internet, but, as noted in the Osterman study, probably not.
E mail can, and sometimes should, live forever.  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) say you have 90 days to produce subpoenaed e mails or be in contempt of court.  If the data is available anywhere, like on an end user desktop rather than the server, you would still need to provide it.  Gathering this data is often difficult and expensive. It could even be impossible if you deleted a message before it got backed up anywhere.  You really need documentation to prove your innocence or good intentions.  For example, if you have a dispute and the other guy has an e mail record and you don't, the court will assume everything he says is correct.  Every business in the US is covered by the FRCP, including governments.  Governments may want, and often are required, to provide information to their citizens under "sunshine" laws.  These laws usually say that government communications should be available to any citizens or groups that ask for them.  In an era of transparent governance, government organizations need to be able to show who said what to whom when.  There are also lots of business reasons you would want to archive your mail in addition to complying with federal regulations or to be ready to respond to a possible lawsuit.
Iron Horse can help the good mail get to you and can help you keep the bad mail out of your mailbox.  It can help you build a reliable infrastructure so you can get to those critical e mail messages you need quickly and easily.  And, it can help you preserve your records so that you can not only follow legal guidelines, but lower your cost of doing business while making you more productive.

End of the Trade Show?
The computer technology trade show circuit has changed a lot in the past few years.  It used to be that you could go to a trade show and see most of the major vendors touting their wares.  Now, Microsoft, Apple, HP, Cisco and others routinely skip shows, leave out entire product lines, or show very little product at all.  A case in point is FOSE (the Federal Open Systems Exhibition).  This show used to be a tremendous draw for both governmental (its target audience) and non-governmental prospects alike in the metro DC area.  As a value added reseller, it wasn't unusual for us to see 30 or 40 of our vendors with booths at the show.
Today, the show is smaller.  It is even more federal government focused.  One clear indication of this focus is very prominent displays of the contract vehicles that you can use for purchasing the products, which mirrors much of how the federal government is buying.  Being on the right contract is a big issue.  Unfortunately, it seems to be trumping an even more important issue:  "Will this product or service help me do my job?  How valuable is this?"  The federal government is chasing the same idea the consumer marketplace has for some time:  What is the lowest cost on an item?  This doesn't mean it is the best or even a good fit.  (Cost is an exceptionally poor metric when it comes to value. Total Cost of Ownership and Return on Investment metrics are rarely used with government customers.  I recommend using Return on Grief for all of my customers to determine their best value  In addition to a preoccupation with the cost of an item, there are preferred contracts which make it almost impossible to buy products that aren't on them.  In a way it is similar to using medical insurance that won't allow you to use an "out of plan" doctor without reams of paperwork and much higher costs.  If you aren't on the "approved" list, it doesn't make any sense for you to market to federal government customers because they will find it difficult or impossible to buy from you.  And, if your product is well known or there isn't much competition for your product in the market, then only making a token showing or skipping the show altogether makes sense (e.g., Cisco and Microsoft).
FOSE mirrors what we have seen in the trade show industry in general. The trade shows are becoming more focused.  While it is nice to be able to go to in depth shows that only have 1-20 vendors, it means that getting a larger survey of the market is harder.  For example, I could tell from the exhibitors and traffic at their booths that there was an interest in hard drive imaging, remote keyboard/video/monitor devices, e mail protection, and solid state disks.  Virtualization was less popular than I expected.  Google's web based software was popular.  So were ways to completely destroy and encrypt data.  Security software and services were not.  Almost absent from the show were vendors who would help service your network, ones that would help you do a better job managing your own network, and companies providing applications for the desktop.
Less information is offered about the products themselves at trade shows.  Many vendors seem to be taking the position that all information should emanate from their web site.  This is a big mistake for many manufacturers.  Seeing can be believing.  Monitor manufacturers were absent from this show, yet actually seeing a monitor is a big deal.  Web sites also don't answer questions.  Only people can do that.  Many manufacturer web sites make it difficult or impossible to find the information you need.  Getting in touch with a human being who can answer your questions may be difficult as well.  I nearly go ballistic when I call someone and they want to push me off the phone by directing me to their web site.  If I could find what I wanted or wanted to use the web site, why would I have called?  Telling me to go to the web site says I'm not important to them as a person.  Bad move.  In some ways, Iron Horse is happy about this.  If you really want to know about the market or specific products, you need to call someone who knows, like us.  And, if we can, we'll even help you navigate those pesky web sites and/or get you in touch with someone either here or at the manufacturer that can help you.
Trade shows are also about browsing.  It is easy to see and compare many different hardware models at a trade show, especially with the help of knowledgeable sales representatives.  You can see a demonstration of the newest software and ask questions.  This is quite difficult to do on a web site.  Web sites almost never tell you what products are suitable to your tasks, whereas trade shows always do.  The best a web focused vendor can do is offer on line self running demonstrations (rare), web demos (becoming more common), and money back guaranteed buy and try programs (rare).  Guaranteed results trial periods are offered with many of the products and services Iron Horse sells.  We like the idea of proving that something not only works, it will work well for YOU.
I suspect that you will see the importance of the computer business trade show continue to decline.  Trade shows are not instant.  They are not always available on demand.  It costs a lot of money to purchase and man a booth.  Marketing brochures and follow up also aren't cheap.  If the manufacturers, or more importantly, the prospects, don't see trade shows as being a good way to spend their time, they are doomed.

©2008 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse