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Entries in Apple (3)


5 Steps to Working Anywhere

As a “migrant white collar worker” IT consultant, we spend a lot of time with our clients.  In fact, I like to say if we are in the office, we’re not doing our jobs.  How do we do it?

When we founded Harvard Partners, it would have been easy for us to bring all the heavy lifting in-house, and spend a lot of time building our environments.  We didn’t, and it’s one of the reasons our overhead structure is minimal.

1.  Email – Exchange

For our email, we debated Exchange vs. Gmail.  We went with Exchange from Intermedia, and haven’t looked back.  We wanted complete interoperability with our clients, and so far every single client we have uses Exchange.   For our travelling consultants, we either use Exchange or a (less expensive) POP email, based solely on need.

We also use Intermedia for secured document storage.  We use SharePoint, and while everyone in the company knows how to use it, everyone feels it is a compromise.

2. Phone - Asterisk

For telephony, we wanted a VoIP solution.  We chose a hosted VoIP (asterisk) system from dao Consulting.   Our hosted solution allows hardphone access (I happen to use a Polycom phone), or softphone.  Our voice mails are “sent” to email (and thus the handheld).

We use this system for internal conference calls, too, with InterCall as the (somewhat pricey) backup when quality is important (i.e. client conferences.)

3. Video – Skype

While we all travel, we do try to stay in touch.  Skype offers free point to point video, and a paid group video for up to 10 people.  We all use Skype, and find its presence and text messaging capability very convenient.

4. Desktops/Laptops/Smartphone – Bring your own technology

As technologists, we all find we like to use different technology.  While for years in larger companies we advocated standardization, in our own business we are accommodating whatever technology people want to bring.

For PCs, some use Apple PCs, some buy higher end laptops, others buy the cheapest laptop they can and then “turbocharge” components.   We have company standards on virus protection and encryption; beyond that people can bring their own.  We do insist on the Microsoft Office suite for interoperability, and are surprised to find even now the Apples can struggle with 100% interoperability.

Everyone chooses to use a so-called smartphone, and we have one of everything.  Intermedia supports all our handheld devices, whether the venerable BlackBerry, the delightful iPhone, or the scrappy Droid. 

5. WAN connectivity

We’ve become adroit at establishing connections at our clients.  We never, ever use a client’s wired network.  Some clients have guest wireless, and we’re surprised how unreliable these systems are in practice.  If we can’t secure a solid wireless connection, we’ll either use a MiFi connection (through a mobile hotspot “card” or the Droid), or will tether to the smartphone.  It’s my personal experience having various connection types is important (I carry a Verizon MiFi hotspot and when it can’t connect, will tether using my AT&T BlackBerry.)  Using two vendors has always assured me a connection, and we know McDonalds, Starbucks (aka Fourbucks), and Staples have free wireless in a pinch.

We’ve tried USB wireless modems, and frankly they don’t seem to work nearly as well as the HotSpots, and are useless if more than one consultant is at a client.

So, as strategic IT consultants, we’ve outsourced all our systems.  This allows us to use “commercial grade” systems housed in high tier secured data centers.  We’re able to focus on our clients, and not on our technology.

What have we missed?  Are there other technologies you use?


AT&T & Apple

A federal judge has thrown down the gavel at Apple and AT&T allowing a class action lawsuit to proceed against the two companies. Here are our thoughts.

Full disclosure: I am a technologist, not a lawyer. I am an AT&T (wireless) customer (because the service at my home is great), and have been from back in the day when AT&T stood for American Telephone and Telegraph and they ran wires (yes, wires) to everyone’s home. And they provided the devices at the end of the wires…actual telephones.

One would think there would be some antitrust lawyers still hanging around AT&T (the name resurrected by Southwestern Bell1), AT&T Wireless (formerly Cingular) and Apple because the current series of lawsuits makes it very reminiscent of the old days.

AT&T’s biggest saving grace may be it is a separate company from Apple, although words like “collusion” come to mind.

If you buy an iPhone, it only works on AT&T’s network. AT&T sells 2 year deals, and it’s our understanding there is a 5 year agreement between AT&T and Apple.

Apple is tightly controlling the applications on the iPhone. For a company priding itself on being open, they get a little persnickety when it comes to pesky competitors like Google using their device.

If your iPhone drops calls, is it the nifty new case antenna,

Or an AT&T network issue?

Or an AT&T capacity issue? One would think the production and sales forecasters at Apple would share projections with AT&T allowing AT&T to build out capacity on demand.

AT&T’s response is brilliant. Manage capacity by deploying wi-fi in congested areas (a good move), and raising prices.

Consumers have the ability to use other carriers is they are willing to carry extra devices. We’ve done this in our labs and it works fine….albeit with the drawback of needing a Tumi bag to carry all the accessories.

We’re not big fans of litigation and the associated costs. We are big fans of open markets.

So we believe the justice department may have some fun with this one. While separate companies, there’s a certain about of blending going on. Until the result is in years and years from now, we may be better watching “Will it Blend?” video, or using arguably less aesthetically appealing devices offered on other carriers. 

1 AT&T was “broken up” following the 1974 U.S. Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, United States v. AT&T, leading to a settlement finalized on January 8, 1982, where “Bell System” agreed to divest its local exchange service operating companies, in return for a chance to go into the computer business, AT&T Computer Systems. Effective January 1, 1984, AT&T’s local operations were split into seven independent Regional Holding Companies, also known as Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), or “Baby Bells”.

All logos and trademarks are the ownership of their respective companies. 


… but Macs don’t break

Let me begin by stating I have no bias as to what type of computer people want to use. For me, it’s about people having the right computer to do their jobs and to not have to ask me for support.

With that said, let me share a story of the first day at a new account. A colleague wanted to use his personal Macbook instead of the clients PC. The Macbook had MS Office and could easily connect to the client’s wireless network. The problems all started when the client provided us with a dedicated printer (HP LaserJet) for our use. After downloading drivers, the PC was able to fully able to use the printer while the Mac was unable to connect. This followed with the requirement of MS Project leading to the installation of Windows XP running on the Mac in order to run the application.

What was interesting were the number of people who thought I would be happy about a Mac not being able to perform the functions of a PC. Why do we still feel this way? Unless you are a support organization, what difference does it make?

These feelings stem from corporate PC support organizations. Over 20 years ago corporations began to purchase large numbers of PCs for their employees. Then, one day, someone brought in their Mac from home and wanted to use it in the office. They said it was much more productive for them and we (those providing PC support) were living in the Stone Age. The same thing happened when we selected BlackBerry’s as the corporate standard for PDAs. Within days from the announcement of the iPhone, users were asking why they had to use an antiquated device such as a BlackBerry.

So, why can’t establish desktop/laptop/PDA computing standards that allow multiple devices to be used? Progressive firms are considering allowing employees to “Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT)” to the office. Managing an environment of mixed hardware requires standards, processes, and support training designed to treat problems more in the abstract. The diagnostic process for resolving issues on any platform is the same. The problem is support people don’t follow the process. They tend to be so busy knowing how to solve the technical issue; they lose sight of the problem.

At the same time, I get pretty upset with support personnel who ask me 20 questions in order to understand what I could explain in one sentence. They are following a process in order to deliver a consistent set of information for problem resolution. Maybe I need to be a little more tolerant and practice what I preach.