This changes everything….

Every so often something comes along that really does change how things work and only last week this happened again, the implications are far reaching for the IT industry.

As you may be aware the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has begun to issue fines over breaches of the Data Protection Act (DPA). Since there has been a large number of published data losses it cannot come soon enough for the general public.

Last week another set of fines were issue to Ealing Council at £80,000 and Hounslow Council at £70,000, you can read the full story here. What is so special about this case is that it involved the loss of two unencrypted laptops, one from each council, containing the details of around 1,700 individuals from an employee’s home. Ealing Council provides an out of hours service on behalf of both councils, which is operated by nine staff who work from home. The team receive contact from a variety of sources and rely on laptops to record information about individuals. Ealing Council was found to be in breach of the DPA as it had issued an unencrypted laptop to a member of staff which is in breach of it’s own policies. This process had been established for a number of years and insufficient checks were made to ensure that relevant policies were understood and adhered to by employee’s. Hounslow Council were found to have breached the DPA as they had failed to have a written contract in place with Ealing Council, they also did not monitor Ealing Council’s procedures established to operate the service securely.

You may be wondering why this changes everything? As an outsourced IT service provider there may be occasion where you may have to remove a laptop/desktop/server from site in order to action a repair of the equipment, a normal everyday IT activity. What this could mean is that if that device is then lost or stolen while in your possession and it is not encrypted then you will potentially share equal liability for the data loss. Since that liability can include a rather hefty fine of up to £500,000, not too mention the bad press that would go with it, then the impact on your business could be catastrophic.

The question now is, what are you going to do to mitigate your risk? Please feel free to drop a comment in on this as I would love to hear your thoughts

– Rob

Posted in Business, IT Support, Security, small business | 7 Comments

Cannot connect to the configuration database

Following a series of Windows Updates to your server you may encounter an issue connecting to your Sharepoint website. If the site comes up with the message “Cannot connect to the configuration database” then this is the result of one of the updates applied. To resolve the issue follow the steps below on your server:

  1. Go to Start > All Programs > Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (or 2008) > Configuration Tools > SQL Server Configuration Manager
  2. Now navigate through the tree on the left side to “SQL Server Network Configuration” and select “Protocols for MSSQLServer”
  3. From the right pane ensure that “Named Pipes” is enabled
  4. Once it has been enabled then you can restart the service “SQL Server (MSSQLSERVER)”
  5. Now check the Sharepoint website to confirm that it is working again.

These steps resolved the issue on our server so I hope this will help others resolve their issue.

– Rob

Posted in IT Support, Microsoft, SBS, Sharepoint | 1 Comment

From 30,000 feet

In the sky

One thing that you learn in life is that no two people will see or hear the same thing and that really fascinates me. It all comes down to perception and emotional intelligence, in my humble opinion. The fact is that people see things from very different perspectives in life based on the life that they have lived.

One thing that is *always* worth doing is standing back and taking a look at your business from 30,000ft to see if what you are doing and where you are going is really where you want to be. As human beings we are so involved in our day to day life are serving our clients and providing them with what they want that it’s very easy to forget.

So the lesson for today is to stop and look at where you are and more importantly where you want to be going……you’ll be surprised at how different things look from 30,000 feet!

– Rob

Posted in Business, Personal Develoment, small business | 2 Comments

Time to look around

Busy_ManI have been a little quiet of late due to some heavy work commitments which have been keeping me very busy. This is something I feel a little guilty for as it has meant that I have had to neglect some of my social media and blogging activities which are some of the things that take great pleasure in. However, now that things are starting to settle and get to an even beat I can finally start to look around a little more.

One of the things that I have always taken for granted is the ability to be able to rule the time that I spend and how that time is allocated. What the last 4 weeks have taught me is that there will be some times when things will rule me and while that feels very uncomfortable it is none the less necessary from time to time.

So what did this experience teach me?

  • First and foremost *make* the time to stop and look at what you are doing with your time. While ever you are doing things as they hit you, without assessing their priority first you can never make progress.
  • Take half an hour just to sit and think about all the stuff that you have running rampant in your head and get it down on paper, at least that way you can start to make sense of it all.
  • Don’t be that person that has lost their head. When you are bombarded by requests to do ‘stuff’, try to slow down and think a little more.
  • Most of all remember that there’s always tomorrow!

For me though I need to bring order to working life again as things are starting to get really busy…maybe time to start hiring again!

– Rob

Posted in Personal, Personal Develoment, small business | 1 Comment

Sharepoint 2010 backup with Powershell

Always one for trying to get things automated then I wanted to get backups of my new Sharepoint 2010 website automated. Previously I have not had a great experience of this, as I never tried a restore of the backup set before it was time…still we live and learn. In previous versions of Sharepoint backups were taken care of through the use of STSADM however this is not the case in the latest version. You can, as always, run a manual backup through the central administration console on the server but this is not what I needed. So I started searching around and found a couple of articles on the web which described the use of the Powershell to perform backups, so here is what I have come up with through the combination of the two sources:

Add-PsSnapin Microsoft.SharePoint.Powershell -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
  $today = (Get-Date -Format dd-MM-yyyy)
# Created the a new directory with todays date and store in a variable
  $backuppath = "F:sp_backup"+$today

# This will iterate through all of your sharepoint sites and create a backup with the site URL as the name 
  Get-SPWebApplication | Get-SPSite | ForEach-Object{$filepath = $backuppath + "" + $_.Url.Replace("http://","").Replace("/","-").Replace(":","-") + ".bak" ; Backup-SPSite -Identity $_.Url -Path $filepath}

# Edit this address to suit your own needs 
  $emailFrom = “Sharepoint@server.local

# This is the address that the notification email should be sent to 
  $emailTo = “administrator@server.local

# Subject for the notification email. The + “$today” part will add the date in the subject.
  $subject = "The SharePoint sites Backup was Successful for "+"$today"

# Body or the notification email. The + “$today” part will add the date in the subject.
  $body = "The SharePoint sites Backup was Successful for "+"$today"

  # IP address of your SMTP server. Make sure relay Is enabled for the SharePoint server on your SMTP server
  $smtpServer = ""
  $smtp = new-object Net.Mail.SmtpClient($smtpServer)
  $smtp.Send($emailFrom, $emailTo, $subject, $body)
  $ErrorMessage = $_.Exception.Message
  # Configure the below parameters as per the above.
  $emailFrom = “Sharepoint@server.local
  $emailTo = “administrator@server.local
  $subject = "The SharePoint sites Backup Job failed on "+"$today"
  $body = "The SharePoint sites Backup Job failed on "+"$today and the reason for failure was $ErrorMessage."
  $smtpServer = ""
  $smtp = new-object Net.Mail.SmtpClient($smtpServer)
  $smtp.Send($emailFrom, $emailTo, $subject, $body)


This script can simply be copied into notepad and saved onto your server as a “.ps1” file. This can then be run straight from the servers “run” command by entering “powershell {scriptname}.ps1” and it will create a backup file, this in turn can be used to created a scheduled task on your server to be run each day/week etc.

Credit where due though, this script is a combination of the following 2 sources:

Hopefully this will help others out there Smile

– Rob

Posted in Business, IT Support, Microsoft, SBS, Sharepoint, small business | Leave a comment

Lost in the fog

Outside it is really foggy and has been throughout today and yesterday, so much so that the MetOffice has described it as ‘Dense Fog’. Quite apt really as that’s the way I have been feeling for the last couple of weeks.

We went away earlier this month for some well earned R & R and it was great but since we got back, which will be 3 weeks this Saturday, I have not been able to get back into the early starts which allowed me to go out for early morning runs and I have to say that I am really missing them at the minute. That compounded with the freezing weather keeping me off the bike it has not been a great month for exercise for me and it’s starting to bug me now.

What I’ve had to do in my own head is to rationalise it and resign myself to the fact that I will not be back out running until the New Year now, which thankfully is only next week. It would be all to easy to allow myself to get completely demoralised by this and, in my own head, really start to beat myself up for being a complete failure at getting motivated. On this occasion I have been able to look at where I want to be and lay out a plan for me to get where I want to be. What I have done is to ensure that I don’t demoralise myself further by punishing myself for failing but instead working out how I can move past this in a positive way which in turn will allow me to move forward.

So if you find yourself in the same situation then don’t focus on what you are not achieving but instead focus on what you can do to succeed.

– Rob

Posted in life, Light relief, Personal, Personal Develoment | Leave a comment

Vick vaporub

I took Tom to the doctors today as he’s had a real cough this last week and been spiking quite high temp’s.  While Nurofen is keeping his temperature in check he was getting no better so it was a trip to the doctors. After being checked out he said that what Tom had was viral so there was nothing that could be done at this time, I simply had to keep an eye on him to make sure that it doesn’t develop into anything more substantial.

What he did say was that, to relieve the coughing, I should run Vick VapoRub  on the soles of his feet at bedtime and then put his socks over the top. He said it had been sent to him from a friend overseas and it had worked for him as it had with others that he knew and as he said, it’s not going to hurt so give it a try. I will try it tonight and let you know how Tom get’s on as it’s the coughing all night that is giving him the most hassle.

That said, a simple search on google has revealed that this is nothing new and lots of people have said they tried it with 100% success…take a look for yourself.

– Rob

Posted in life, Personal | Leave a comment

Sharepoint Foundation 2010 and Sharepoint Workspace

Having re-launched my love affair with Sharepoint since the introduction of Sharepoint Foundation 2010 I really do love it. Much of the work that I have done previously when out and about have been using Dropbox which has worked great but as more people in the business needed access to the same data as me then I needed another solution. Since I have a nasty habit of just plonking down where I am and just starting to work I really needed something that would work well when mobile and would also utilise the infrastructure I had already..enter Sharepoint.

Having configured it for remote use it was great but it was still a little clunky as I needed to be online to do anything (I could work through Outlook but it is not too pretty IMHO)..then I discovered Microsoft Sharepoint Workspace, formally Groove. The only real drawback about it is that you can only get it with Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 which is only available through Microsoft Volume Licensing, a real over sight by Microsoft in my opinion. That said, if you do have it then use it!!

As standard, Sharepoint Foundation 2010 does not work when you click the link in the library that says “Sync to Sharepoint Workspace” you get the message:

SharePoint Workspace was unable to interpret the SharePoint location. Please check and ensure the location contains no typing errors.

This is due to a change which needs to be made on the Sharepoint server to make it work, follow the link below to resolve the issue:

If you have Sharepoint setup on a none standard port then ensure that you have it specified at the end of the URL.

– Rob

Posted in IT Support, Microsoft, SBS | Leave a comment

So what!

That has to be the single most annoying thing that could be said to you when talking to a potential prospect, so why would anyone say that?

Some time ago I was doing some work with a good friend of mine who is an expert where marketing is concerned, Kirsty Cambers from Fresh Marketing Solutions, and we were talking about the solutions that we offer to our clients. She asked me to explain each of the services in a ‘sales tone’, not my favourite position, so I did. As I began to explain about the service I went into great detail about what we would deliver to this client as part of the service, i.e. all onsite time included etc. By the end of my piece she turned round to me a said ‘So what?’, I admit I was dumbfounded by this response and truth be told a little hurt. So I fumbled my way through explaining in more depth what this service would do for the business while trying not to make it too obvious that I was staggering around like a teenager on prom night. I finally came to the end and looked over expectantly at her, she replied back at me ‘So what?’. Now this was starting to really rag me up now and clearly this showed in my face as she then explained to me what she was doing.

Essentially, as a business owner we create products and services for our clients that we believe deliver value to them based on the package that is supplied. We are so wrapped up in how wonderful this thing is that we have created and so proud of it because we know what it will do to help a business that we do not stop to realise what that actually means to the business owner. Nor do we take the time to explain what this wonderful new creation will actually do for the business and it’s owner. Let me give an explanation.

Joe sells commercial vehicles to businesses. Joe knows his trade like no-one else in his industry; I mean he lives it, eats it, breathes it, dreams it….I mean he even talks about it in his sleep. Nobody and I mean nobody knows about commercial vehicles like Joe does. One day Bill comes in to his office to speak with him about buying a van for his fleet management business. Bill’s team travel all over the country repairing commercial vehicles such as lorry’s and buses so they have a lot of equipment that they carry with them. Joe listens to him explain what his business does and what he is looking for. Once Bill has finished Joe thinks it over and feels that the van that Bill has been looking at is not going to suit his purposes as he will need a greater carrying capacity and, given the mileage, another vehicle will suit him better. So Joe starts to explain about the other van which has a long wheel base and can easily carry around much more weight than Bill’s choice. This van also uses a lower revving engine which is much better when travelling at higher speeds on the motorway. After spending 15 minutes going through this Bill is quite annoyed as Joe had not even spoken about the van he had requested in first place and he leaves not ordering anything and feeling that he had not been listened to by Joe. What Joe had effectively done was the following:

  • Failed to address Bill’s original request that he came to him with
  • He explained to Bill all of the features of the other van
  • Failed to explain why Bill should be looking at the other van
  • He failed to explain the benefits for the business of choosing the other van

Had Joe have explained that the extra capacity of the long wheelbase van would have been better suited as each of his team would have been able to carry more equipment which in turn would mean that they would be able to handle more jobs without coming back to base. Also, that the lower revving engine means that the vehicle would use less fuel than his first choice which over the year would save his business around £200 per vehicle and help towards his business being ‘greener’, which he may want to do in the future. Had Joe have done this as well as discussing Bill’s original requirements then he would probably have made a sale, albeit it may have been Bill’s first choice but more likely Joe’s suggestion.

By going through the ‘So What’ process for yourself you should be able to quickly identify, usually about 3-5 times, what the real value to your client is of the product or service you offer. If you can do this honestly then you will be able to connect with your clients and offer business solutions that their business can see the benefits of, not just products and services.

If you need some help with this then I would suggest that you contact Kirsty as all I know on this subject is what she has taught me.

As always, if you have any thoughts on the subject please drop in a comment below.



Posted in Business, marketing, small business | 1 Comment

Change is the only constant

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten” – Anthony Robbins

I first heard this quote from a good friend of mine Neil Harvey from resQ Management Resources, it’s a favourite saying of his as it reflects what he does for businesses all over the country. He specialises in Lean Manufacturing processes and the essence of the Lean principle is to look what a business does and do it more efficiently. What this quote does say is what we in the IT industry inherently do without even consciously doing. If you ask a IT service business why they do something a particular way you will generally get a blank look saying, “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Now that really doesn’t mean that what they are doing is wrong but if you can remove yourself from the situation then you may actually find that there is a better way of doing thing. This industry is full, as are many others, of people that are averse to change and really like to stay well within their comfort zone. But as the title suggest, the only thing that is constant in life is change and everyone needs to have a plan in place which deals with ‘change management’.

Now that seems to be really formal and probably sounds quite boring but the fact is that if something unexpected happens in your life, whether in your business life or your personal one, then it can really knock you for six and can disrupt your life. However, if you have some process that allows you to deal with change in a constructive and logical way then it will help you to move forward with minimal stress. One of the great books that I read recently was Notes from a Friend by Anthony Robbins which really helps you to change your perspective on life and the things that life throws at you. I would highly recommend anyone who has not read any of his work to start with this as it will really help to change the way that you look at the challenges in your life and is very light but powerful reading.

Here are some of the points that I picked up from the book:

  • You can make things happen – by changing the way that you look at things in your life you have the power to control what happens but you have to change the way you see the things that happen
  • Your past does not equal your future – what you did yesterday does not matter, after all there is nothing you can do to change yesterday. What matters is what you do right now and in the future
  • Never focus on the problem – you should never focus on the obstacle in front of you, but instead focus on how best to overcome it so you can move closer to your goals

Those who know me already know that the last 4 1/2 years have been difficult on our family, for those not familiar you can read here, and those years of struggling really did take their toll on me. During that time I had a roller coaster of emotions which, if I’m honest, affected me on every level so changing my thinking from a negative thought trail to a positive one was not an easy thing but it is very possible to do.

I am no expert on the subject, in fact I have had a tremendous amount of help from a very good friend of mine who over the last 3 years has helped me to change the way I look at what life throws my way. But it is a slow and steady change which is ultimately worth the effort. So the best advice I can give is that the only true failure in life is to give up trying.

– Rob

Posted in Business, life, Personal | Leave a comment