Veeam Vanguard 2018

Here in the US Thanksgiving Day traditionally falls on the fourth Thursday of November. While it is one of my favorite holidays today is a day of thankfulness for me as I’ve been honored to be named a Veeam Vanguard for 2018. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a part of the group since its inception and it is one of my highest honors. Thanks as always to Rick, Kirsten, Dmitry, Andrew, Niels, Anthony, Michael, Melissa and Danny for keeping the Vanguards the best of its kind around.

To those who have also been renewed into the program please accept a heartfelt congratulations as you’ve earned it through your involvement and I look forward to trolling right along with you for another year.

While the e-mails have just been sent so there aren’t any statistics yet I see quite a few new members who are quite deserving popping up on twitter. Some I know already and other I look forward to getting to know. One of the really nice thing about the Vannies is we are a small group so everybody pretty much gets to know everybody. If you are looking for success in this group please don’t be shy, come be social and share the knowledge you have.

Are you just learning about the program or didn’t make the cut this year? If you are active with Veeam join the conversation in the forums, on Twitter, on Reddit, any of the various Slack communities, or your own blog and it will come. It doesn’t matter where you join, it just matters that you do.

Finally to dear, sweet Vanny Vanguard. We all miss you, please come home. ūüėČ

Why I Blog

If you haven’t noticed the new content on this site has got a little scarce for the past few months. To be very honest my life seems to have been a bit crazy, both professionally and personally, and writing, unfortunately, has been back-burnered. On my drive home yesterday I was listening to Paul Woodward‘s excellent ExploreVM podcast episode with Melissa Palmer where she was speaking about the process of writing her excellent book “IT Architect Series: The Journey“. This served to remind me that I really should get back to writing as I’ve got a few topics I really need to blog about.

So as these things often happen in my head this led me this morning to think about why I blog in the first place. There are a number of reasons I do this and I thought for those that are passionate about any topic but in this case about technology maybe a little bit of the why would be the thing to get you started yourself.

1. So I can remember how I did something. Way back in the olden days (2004ish?) when my blog was called tastyyellowsnow.com this was the main reason I created the blog. I was 3 jobs into my career and all of my notes for how to do anything were saved in Outlook notes that I move from a work account to PST to work account to PST to work account. I was tired of doing it that way so I thought I’d try putting it out there. That hawtness ran on some asp based package with an Access database on the backend (I still have it!), and while some of the content was absolutely horrible the reason behind it is still my primary driver, to make sure if I figured out how to do something a certain way I could remember how to do it when I invariably had to do it again. Looking through some of those titles some like “Changing the Music On Hold Volume in Cisco CallManager” and “Recovering from a Bad Domain Controller Demotion” are still actually relevant. It’s nice to know where to find those things.

2. So that others can learn how I did something. I joked on twitter the other day that in preparing a Career Day talk for my daughter’s Kindergarten class that I should title it “SysAdmin: I Google things for those who will not”. If you are new to IT or aspire to work as an *Admin¬† I cannot express how much of my “how in the world do you know that” is simply being good at feeding errors into google and processing the results. There may be 20 posts on how to do a single task but one of them will make more sense to me than others. Because of that, I try to feed many things back into the collective Google, especially the things that I wasn’t able to find much on or that I had to piece together through multiple KB articles and blog posts. In doing so I really do hope that I help others get their job done without having somebody send them the sticker to the right.

3. Writing something down in a manner you expect others to understand can often provide clarity. There’s an old adage that says “the best way to learn something is to teach it.” While yes, it is clich√©, speaking as a former adjunct college professor and current internal staff trainer when needed, it is absolutely true. When I am learning something new or I have just finished working through a complex issue I find that documenting it, either here or internally helps to solidify what the core issue was, what components led to the issue, how the problem was solved and finally how it can be prevented in the future.

Conclusion

Those are the reasons why you see new things here from time to time.¬† I do want to mention one thing you did not see above and that was to gain access to influencer programs. I’ve been very fortunate to be included in the vExpert and Veeam Vanguard communities and while many will say the way to get there is through blogging I disagree. I think the best way to achieve those accolades and keep them is the develop your own version of commitment to the Tech Community.¬† If you find that giving things back to the community at large is something you find value in then you will find a way to do it, blogging, tweeting, podcasting, or any other way. If that’s a goal of yours and blogging or writing isn’t your thing, there is any number of ways to meet that goal as long as you focus on why you are in the community to start with.

As life has its ups and downs so does the regularity of content here. What are your reasons for blogging? If you have thought about it and haven’t done it yet, why not? Let’s continue the discussion on Twitter by reaching out @k00laidIT and help the distributed mind grow.

Veeam Vanguard Again in 2017

It has been a great day here because today I learned that I have once again been awarded acceptance into the excellent Veeam Vanguard program, my third time. This program, above any others that I am or have been involved with takes a more personal approach to creating a group of awardees who not only deserve anything good they get out of it but give back just as much to the community itself. In only its 3rd year the group has grown; from 31 the first year, 50(ish) the second, to a total of 62 this year. There are 21 new awardees in that 62 number so there really isn’t a rubber stamp to stay included, it is legitimately awarded each year.¬†The group has grown each year but as you can see not by the leaps and bounds others have, and for good reason. There is no way this experience could be had with a giant community.

At this point in the post I would typically tell you a bit about what the Vanguard program is and isn’t but honestly, Veeam’s own Dmitry¬†Kniazev¬†really put it best in a couple recent posts, “Veeam Vanguard Part 1: WTH Is This?” and “Veeam Vanguard Part 2: What It’s Not.”¬† What I will add is that as nice as some of the perks are, as DK says in the Part 1 post the true perk is the intangibles; a vibrant community full of some of the smartest, most passionate people in the industry and in many cases access right to the people approving and disapproving changes to their software. These are the thing that made me sweat approval time.

Once again I would give a giant¬†thank you to Veeam Software and especially the whole Vanguard crew. This includes Rick Vanover, Clint Wyckoff, Michael White, Michael Cade, Anthony Spiteri, Kirsten Stoner, Dmitry Kniazev, Andrew Zhelezko and finally Doug Hazelman. Without these people it wouldn’t be nearly as nice.

Getting the Ball Rolling with #vDM30in30

Ahh, that time of year when geeks pull that long forgotten blog site out of the closet, dust it of and make promises of love and content: #vDM30in30. If you aren’t familiar with the idea, vDM30in30 is short for Virtual Design Master 30 blog posts in 30 days, an idea championed by Eric Wright of discoposse fame to get bloggers out there to work their way through regular generation of content. As you can see from this site new content is pretty rare so something like this is a welcome excuse to focus and get some stuff out there. vDM30in30 runs through the month of November and the best way to follow along with the content is to track the hashtag on twitter.

So What’s the Plan?

I’m a planner by nature so if I don’t at least have a general idea this isn’t going to work at all. The good news is I’ve got quite a few posts that I’ve been meaning to work on for some time so I’m going to be cleaning out my closet this week and get those out there.¬†So the full schedule is going to look like this:

  • Week of Nov 1: random posts I’ve never quite finished but need to be released
  • Week of Nov 7: focus on all the new hotness coming from Veeam Software
  • Week of Nov 14: VMware’s upcoming vSphere 6.5 release
  • Week of Nov 21: randomness about community, career and navel gazing in general

I’m really looking forward to participating this year as I do believe that a lot of growth comes from successfully forming out thoughts and putting them down. Hope you find some of this hopeful, if there is anything you’d like to see in the space feel free to comment.

A how-to on cold calling from the customer perspective

Now that I’m back from my second tech conference in less than two months I am fully into the cold call season and I am once again reminded why I keep meaning to buy a burner phone and setup a Gmail account before I register next year. It seems every time I get back I am destined to months of “I am so glad you expressed deep interest in our product and I’d love to tell you more about it” when the reality is “I am calling you because you weren’t nimble enough to lunge away from our team of booth people who are paid or retained based on as many scans they can get. Most often when I get these calls or e-mails I’ll give each company a courteous thanks but no thanks and after that the iDivert button gets worn out.

The genesis of this post is two-fold. First a cold call this morning that was actually destined for my boss but when informed he wasn’t here went into telling how glad the person was that I had personally expressed interest in their product, WTF? This first event reminded me of a second, where a few months ago I was at a mixer preceding a vendor supplied training when I was approached by a bevy of 20 something Inside Sales Engineers and asked “what can I do to actually get you to listen?” From this I thought that just in case a young Padawan Sales Rep/Engineer happens to come across this, here are those ways to make your job more efficient and to stop alienating your potential customers.

Google Voice is the Devil

I guess the first step for anybody on the calling end of a cold call scenario is to get me to answer the phone. My biggest gripe in this regard and the quickest way to earn the hang up achievement¬†is the currently practice of many of startups out there to use Google Voice as their business phone system. In case you don’t know with Google Voice they do local exchange drop offs when you call outside of your local calling area,¬†meaning that when you call my desk I get a call with no name and a local area code, leaving me with the quandary of “is this a customer needing support or is this a cold call?” I get very few of the former but on the off-chance it is I will almost always answer leaving me hearing your happy voices.

I HAVE AN END CALL BUTTON AND I AM NOT AFRAID TO USE IT, GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR/MADAM!

You want to know how to do this better? First don’t just call me. You’ve got all my contact info so let’s start with being a little more passive and send me an e-mail introducing yourself and asking if I have time to talk to you. Many companies do this already because it brings with it a good deal of benefits; I’ve now captured your contact info, we’re not really wasting a lot of time on each other if there is zero interest, I don’t have to drop what I am dealing to get your pitch. If this idea just absolutely flies in the face of all that your company holds dear and you really must cold call me then don’t hide behind an anonymous number, call me from your corporate (or even better your personal DID) with your company’s name plastered on the Caller ID screen so at least I have the option to decide if it’s a call I need to deal with.

A Trade Show Badge Scan List Does Not Mean I am (or anybody else is) Buying

I once again had an awesome time at VMworld this year but got to have an experience that I’m sure many other attendees have had variants of. There I was, happily walking my way through the show floor through a throng of people, when out of my peripheral vision a booth person for a vendor not to be named literally stepped¬†through one person and was simultaneously reaching to scan my badge while asking “Hi, do you mind if I scan you?” Yes, Mr./Ms. Inside Sales person, this is the type of quality customer interaction that happened that resulted on me being put on your list. It really doesn’t signify that I have a true interest in your product so please see item one above regarding how to approach the cold call better.

I understand there is an entire industry built around having people capture attendee information as sales leads but this just doesn’t seem like a very effective way to do it. My likelihood of talking to you more about your product is much higher if someone with working knowledge of your product, say an SE, talks to me about your product either in the booth or at a social event and then the communication starts there. Once everybody is back home and doing their thing that’s the call I’m going to take.

Know Your Product Better Than I Do

That leads me to the next item, ¬†if by chance you’ve managed to cold call me, get me to pick up and finally manage to keep me on the line long enough to actually talk about your product, ACTUALLY KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received calls after a show and the person on the other end of the line is so blatantly doing the fake it until you make it thing it isn’t funny. Keep in mind you are in the tech industry, cold calling people who most likely are fairly tech savvy and capable of logical thought, so that isn’t going to work so well for you. Frankly, my time is a very, very finite resource and even if I am interested in your product, which is why I took your call, if I’m correcting the caller that is an instant turn off.

I get that the people manning the phones aren’t going to be Senior Solutions Architects for your organization but try this on for size; if you’ve got me talking to you and you get asked something you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. This is your opportunity to bump me up the chain or to loop in a more technical person to the call to get the discussion back on the right track. I will respect that far more than if you try to throw out a BS answer. Meanwhile get as much education as you can on what you’re selling. I don’t care if you are a natural sales person, you aren’t going to be able to sell me my own pen in this market.

Employees != Resources

So you’ve got yourself all the way through the gauntlet and you’ve got me talking and you know your product, please don’t tell me how you can get some resources arranged to help me with designing my quote so the deal can more forward. I was actually in a face to face meeting once where the sales person did this, referring to the technical people within the organization as resources and I think my internal response to this can best be summed up in GIF form:

obama_kicks_door

This absolutely drives me bonkers. A resource is an inanimate object which can be used repeatedly without consequence except in the inevitable end result where the resource breaks. What you are calling a resource is a living, breathing, most likely highly intelligent human being who has all kinds of responsibilities, not just to you but to his family, community and any other number things. By referring to them as this, and therefore showing that you think of them as something that can be used repeatedly without consequence, you are demeaning that person and the skill set he or she has, and trust me that person is most likely who we as technical professionals are going to connect with far more than we are with you.

So that’s it, Jim’s guide to getting me on the phone. I’m sure as soon as I post this many other techniques will come to my mind and I’ll have to update this. If you take this to heart, great, I think that is going to work out for you. If not, well, I still hope I’ll remember to buy that burner phone next May and the Gmail account is already setup. ūüėČ

Community and the Rural IT Professional

I was born and raised in a small area between Charleston and Huntington, WV. While I recognized my hometown, Scott Depot, was a small town growing up I thought of both those cities as just that, proper cities with all the benefits and drawbacks that go with them. As I grew older and my worldly view wider I came to realize that what I considered the big city was to many a minor suburb, but never the less it was and still is my home.

This lack of size and economic opportunity has never stood out more than when I began my career in Information Technology. After graduating from Marshall University with what I still believe to be a very respectable skill set many of my fellow graduates flocked to bigger areas such as Columbus, OH, RTP and Atlanta. I chose for a variety of reasons to stick around here and make a career of it and all in all while not always the most stable it has been fairly successful.

There are very few large datacenters here with most datacenters being composed of a handful of racks. Some go to work for various service providers, others enter the VAR space and I found my niche in what I like to call the Hyper Converged Administrator role. The HCA tends to wear most if not all of the hats; virtualization, storage, networking, server administration, etc. I consider myself somewhat blessed that I’ve managed to avoid the actual desktop admin stuff for most of my career, but still some of that too.

In the past couple of years I’ve got more and more active within the social IT community by way of conference attendance, social media and blogging and while it hasn’t necessarily changed the direction my career is going it has radically changed it in that I have found great opportunities for growing my personal knowledge. This growth in some cases has been very strictly technology related by way of pushing me to explore new facets of IT systems management I didn’t previously consider as well as access to very knowledgeable people who are usually very eager to point you in the right direction when asked. In other ways this knowledge while IT related is more oblique in that I feel like I now have a much better understanding of what life is like on the other side of the various fences (vendors, VARs, datacenter admins, etc) than I ever did before. This latter knowledge base has greatly changed how I approach some of the more political parts of IT such as vendor management and internal project pitches.

While the global Internet community is great I find that the missing piece is still facetime. The richness of communication when I’m at conferences is more personal than anything that is done online and I find myself somewhat jealous of those in areas large enough to support user groups of any kind of size. In the past year I’ve got to know VMware User Group (VMUG) leaders from Louisville, Kansas City, Phoenix and Portland as well as the guys behind the excellent career oriented community vBrisket and enjoying hearing tales of what’s involved in getting their regular meetings together and wish I could do the same here.

Personally my goal for the coming year is to do a bit of travel and attend the meetings of some of the User Groups listed above. If you are local here in the WV IT community reach out and let’s figure out how to do something here. There may not be a lot of us here but that’s an even better reason to get to know each other and share the knowledge.

Presenting at VeeamON 2015: Design, Manage and Test Your Data Protection with Veeam Availabilty Suite

Last week I was presented with the honor of being invited to speak at Veeam Software‘s annual user conference, VeeamON. While this was not my first time doing so I was very happy with the end result this year, with 30-40 attendees and positive feedback both from people I knew beforehand as well as new acquaintances who attended.

My session is what I like to think of as the 1-1000 MPH with Veeam, specifically targeting the SMB space but with lots of general guidelines for how to get your DR system up and running fast and as error-free as possible. Some of the things I do with Veeam buck the Best Practices guide but we have been able to maintain high levels of protection over many years without much interruption. The session starts with the basics of designing your DR plan, then designing your Veeam infrastructure components to suit your needs, followed by tips for the actual implementation and other tricks and gotchas I’ve run into over the years.

Anyway due to the amount of information that was covered I promised attendee’s that I would put my slide deck out here for reference so here it is. If anybody has comments, questions or anything in between please feel free to reach out to me either through the comments here or on twitter. For attendees please keep an eye on your e-mail and the #VeeamON hashtag as the videos of all presentations should be made available in the coming weeks.

Let’s See How This Goes: Getting Started with vDM30in30

For those of you that don’t know the idea of #vDM30in30 (virtual Design Master: 30 articles in 30 days) started last year by the same fine folks that bring you vDM with the stated goal of getting people to write more and become better writers. You can learn more about the basic rules in Eric Wright’s (aka discoposse) post announcing this year’s event. I caught up to the idea a little late in the game to make any kind of effort at it, but this year due to my writer’s funk of late I’ve decided to give it a go.

So what do I expect to write about? Since I’m freshly back from Veeam Software‘s annual VeeamON conference expect quite a bit of content related to that. Also I’ve had a few ideas regarding career and community here lately so there will be quite a bit of that as well. Past that? I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

If you are interested in participating yourself really the only two things you need to remember is to write/create content anywhere (go setup a blogger.com account if you don’t have a site yet) and then post to social media with the #vDM30in30 hashtag, that’s it! If you don’t feel like you are ready for that kind of commitment, trust me, I get you, then you can still follow along and learn from everybody else using the same hashtag. For those of you who are participating good job and I look forward to learning from you!

Proud to be a Veeam Vanguard

On July 27th Rick Vanover over on the Veeam Blog announced the inaugural class of what is known as the Veeam Vanguard of which I am honored to have been selected as a member. What the heck is a Veeam Vanguard? While best described in Rick’s announcement blog post, my take is that this group is composed of members of the IT and virtualization global community who are Veeam users and go above and beyond in sharing their knowledge of the ins and outs of the various Veeam products. ¬†Frankly I am flabbergasted to be named and wish to thank them for the nomination.

Without getting too gushy or fanboyish, I have found over the years that Veeam’s products tend to solve problems we all deal with in a virtualized world. Backup & Replication especially had made my day in, day out life easier because I know my data is nice and protected and I can test just about anything I want to do without effecting the production environment.

In closing I just want to say congrats to all of the other nominees and that I look forward to seeing what you have to share. To say the group is geographically diverse is an understatement as Veeam was ever so nice to include the nationalities of all members, it’s very cool to see so many flags represented. Many included I’ve followed on twitter and the blogspace for quite some time, while are others are new to me but in the end I’m sure there will be some great knowledge shared and I look forward to getting to know you.

WordPress Here We Come!

It seems like just last year I posted that I had redone my website in Drupal and had gotten back into blogging, ok, gotten back into blogging somewhat. I am a pretty big fan of Drupal, I love their community driven method, the flexibility, the do it yourself of it all. As time went by though I found myself with less and less time available to deal with the community driven method of website development, lots of flexibility and the do it yourself of it all at the personal blog site level. Further I was especially stymied by the almost nonexistent support for blogging from mobile platforms. I tried various methods of dealing with this, but none of them felt as easy as anything on an iPad should feel and what was there seemed to rely on either hosting through Drupal Gardens or on running an outdated version of the Blog API module.
So for all those reasons and more this week I’m pretty happy to say that I’ve now ported this site over to essentially the anti-Drupal, WordPress. WordPress comes in both community and commercial flavors, but while I don’t think in 4 years of working with Drupal I saw a single paid module or theme that wasn’t custom work almost everyone I’ve found so far has at least some relationship with a commercial product in the same ecosphere. Even with that¬†so far I’ve found it to be an economically viable option as long as free isn’t your ceiling. In this post I’m going to outline some of the things I’m finding helpful and some of the challenges and differences between the two I’ve had to work my way through. Go Read More