Sunday, September 11, 2011

California AB 155 - It is just bad for business. Period

The California Assembly has passed AB 155 and it is awaiting Gov. Brown's signature.  Though the bill is primarily targeted at Amazon and would require Amazon to pay CA state sales taxes on all sales made to state residents, it has much broader implications for anyone selling online.  Assembly Speaker John Perez says that residents that make purchases online through out of state providers are "tax cheats."

CA Assembly sponsors say they are intent on making California businesses "more competitive" with out-of-state businesses, but that is just hogwash.  This is about hundreds of millions of dollars in potential tax revenue for the State of California.

 If California is successful, surely the other 49 states will follow.

One way or another, the tax is passed on to the consumer. That much is true. But, what about the cost on out-of-state businesses that must charge, collect, record, process, reconcile, and pay those taxes. For a small business that makes maybe 2 or 3 sales in the State of Cali each *month*, I now have a fairly significant monthly, semi-annual, and/or annual burden in the form of labor.  Plus, possible the cost of software and/or services to comply with this law.

A simple analysis of my own suggests that this is going to add 15 to 20% to the cost of operating my business in the form of either a 3rd party service or an accounting clerk that is going to have to track each purchase, its location, the tax rate, and what tax has to be paid for the purchases from that particular state.

Once again, California, you are proving yourself to be unfriendly to business.  Both out-of-state as well as jacking up the price of the merchandise your in-state businesses purchase.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Exchange Connections: The economics of moving to the cloud

The old expression "no one ever gets fired for IBM" shifted a few years ago to "no one ever gets fired for buying Microsoft." We get it. Microsoft technologies are a pretty safe bet for your business. This follows a certain school of thought in business that a technology is not truly legitimate until the big players have an offering. 

I'm not sure you can hear me over the roar of the media and the Microsoft marketing machine, but Office 365 and cloud services are the hot topics.  And, I generally loathe marketing terms such as "cloud". At any rate, cloud services deserve a second (or third) look. 

Cloud or hosted services are certainly nothing new. Since the first large scale mainframes came online, businesses have been outsourcing computer services that they could not effeciently or cost effectively offer themselves. Computerized accounting and billing services were outsourced way back in the 1960s. 
Outsourced e-mail and SharePoint services also not new as of 2011, either. Even in the late 1990s there were providers around the globe offering hosted Exchange services. Microsoft themselves have been in that business with BPOS and other offerings for at least the last 6 years. 

Office 365 is a bit different thought. Aside from the fact that there is a massive marketing effort surrounding Office 365 services, Microsoft seems to be betting the house on these services. The different tiers of service and pricing  seem to be Microsoft's recognition that different customers will have different requirements. They are making it easier than ever for us to move to the cloud including better interoperability with on-premise solutions such as Exchange Server 2010. 

So, even for the most skeptical of cloud curmudgeon, the cloud (and Office 365) should not be considered a viable alternative and not a bleeding edge solution. So, where does that leave us? 

I consider myself an "on premise" kinda guy.  I'm a systems guy at heart and am most comfortable somewhere between an engineering and an operations role. I like to have my hand in both sides of IT. But for many of us, the simple fact is that cloud or outsourced services is in our future and we have to accept that. 

So, I’m a tiny bit conflicted when facing the prospect of cloud-sourcing my favorite part about IT.  But, we have to take a bigger picture view of our jobs. Our first obligation is to provide reliable IT services to our businesses (or non-profit or government entity) and those services must be services that meet our end-user's requirements. But second, and almost important, is to provide those services at a cost that is as affordable as possible. 

When I started thinking about sessions for the Exchange Connections conference that would be of value to today's IT Professional, one of the ideas I had was to explore the economics of moving e-mail services "to the cloud" and what that means to an organization's IT team. We all have visions of mass layoffs, but I'm betting that is not usually the case. 

In order for us to be responsible IT Pros, we need to know not only what our service costs us to offer but also exactly what services we are providing.  In my session "Economics of Cloud Sourcing and what that Means to Your IT Team" I'll explore how you calculate not only the cost of the service you offer (such as the per month per mailbox cost of your system) but also determine what services you are offering to your business and your end users.

This will help you to make an "apples for apples" comparison of costs and services. Some organizations will find that they can do things in the cloud at 25% the price of their current on-premise solution while others are going to find that regardless of the cost savings they cannot duplicate the features or functionality in cloud that are required by their end users. 

IT Pros have a professional responsibility to their employers to approach the cloud with an open mind and eye towards helping their business succeed rather than promoting specific pieces of technology. And, for techies like me, that can be a tough exercise.

I hope you will join me for this session at Exchange Connections in Las Vegas and hear my own experiences and my journey towards weighing costs and services objectively.


Setting the Out-of-Office reply

Very cool!  You can set the Out-of-Office reply on someone's mailbox using the Exchange Management Shell.  Thanks to Bharat Suneja and the Exchange team for sharing this great tip.

Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration –AutoReplyState Scheduled –StartTime “9/8/2011” –EndTime “9/15/2011” –ExternalMessage “External OOF message here” –InternalMessage “Internal OOF message here”

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Exchange Connections: 2 new Office 365 sessions from Mike Crowley

We just recently added 2 new Office 365 sessions to the Exchange Connections conference.  Thanks to Mike Crowley from Planet Technologies for these!

EXC22: Exchange Online: Administration
Mike Crowley
Be careful not to fool yourself; Exchange Online (part of Office 365) offloads infrastructure management, but as an administrator, you are still responsible for the administration of your user mailboxes, Internet mail flow, message tracking and more! This session introduces you to the various administrative interfaces of Exchange Online, Forefront, RBAC, provisioning and other operational topics.

EXC23: Exchange Online: Understanding Archiving and Compliance
Mike Crowley
Thinking of moving to Office 365? Whether you are aiming for a period of coexistence or a complete migration, your archival and compliance requirements are not going away! In this session we examine the features and functionality that Microsoft provides around retention, archiving, and search.