Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

Entry Level eMail Admin

April 10, 2009

I was asked an interesting question today by a helpdesk technician….

I think I am a great helpdesk support tech, but I would really like to make a change and move up the ladder to become an entry level email admin, what should I do?

Wow!! The first step here is to recognize where you want to go – and this tech had it nailed!! If you are in this position – this first step is a biggie!

After further discussion I found that this person already had identified why they wanted to go into email administration, why they felt they were competent enough, and  what they wanted this to lead to.

The technician felt that email was looked at in the company as high priority application (despite it not being a core business application) and this person wanted the corporate visibility and close customer interaction that this would give them. Further, the technician realized that there is more training freely available for things like email administration then more highly customized applications so they felt they had a better shot at growing their skill sets.

The technician had been fielding outlook related tickets for some time and had begin to read more support articles on the web. Having already achieved a computer related associates degree and working on a MIS degree, the tech felt that they could comprehend things beyond the basic outlook issues.

The end goal for this tech was far beyond email administration though. The tech was looking to get into enterprise architecture (which is drastically different then basic email administration) – but the tech was thinking that with the support calls they were taking interacting with groups all over the company, it was easy to assume that an email admin would gain insight into these other areas.

Impressed as I was at the ambition, I was skeptical of the question…. I had never been approached in this way before for such candid advice. Happy to be in a position to give the advice though, I thought carefully and started with the basic response about how to learn the technology. I then setup some follow-up time to make sure that this person was going to be successful in their long term goals. I wanted to post the advice I gave here for others to use. First the basics of learning the technology, I’ll post on the other stuff after I actually deliver the advice!

The first bit of advice was simple – go get a book, a VM, and some time!!

Starting to read about and play with these things is always the first step. Understanding the tools and the concepts behind using them begins to even the playing field when approaching a new technology. Think about when you learned to drive – the first thing you did was to get a book and take a class about driving (or maybe your parent took you into the car and gave you some one on one instruction). The first step here was understanding what the tools were (guages, pedals, gear shifter, etc). The second step was to take a car for a spin!! Yeah it was thrilling to get behind the wheel – a danger to society – but it was in a safe environment with people watching over you or at least controls in place to prevent a disaster. Step three? Well you practiced!! You practiced driving, you re-read the manuals, and you asked questions of your parent or instructor about how to actually drive and what to do in different situations (4 way stop, 5 way stop, etc).

Learning a new server product is not a lot different – and should be approached in a similar fashion. If you jumped behind the wheel of a production email system today you would be a threat to society – if you jumped behind the wheel (or administration tools) of a virtual test environment – like a controlled driving practice – you would be less of a threat and more likely to learn something. Add to this some knowledge about what the tools are called (what are the guages to look at in the email system? What pedals make email go slower and faster? How do passengers get in and out and do they need to buckle up or can you buckle up for them?) There are loads of questions that the books will give you instant insight to. This is why starting with a book or a class from no knowledge is critical. This is also why starting in a test environment is critical. Applying that basic knowledge from the books is easy to do incorrectly (yes – push the gas pedal but not THAT hard). 

With a healthy dose of book/class knowledge and some real time investigating the different components of the email application, such as:

  • How does email come in and out of the system
  • How do users access the email from their desktops, laptops, and mobile devices
  • How are spam and virus messages captured
  • How are mailboxes added/removed from the system
  • How are resource/shared mailboxes and distribution groups handled
  • How are size limits, email addresses, etc configured

A savvy technician would be ready to spend some time with a production system working on basic tasks with confidence. This confidence is the key, a team of email administrators and architects would rightly be weary of letting just anyone touch the system, but being able to demonstrate an understanding of these basic components – a tech could easily convince a more senior administrator that they are worthy of an opportunity to learn more.

Obviously there are more things this tech is interested in learning from me, and we are planning to chat again late next week – I’ll post again after we chat….

iConclude and Opsware

April 27, 2007

Opsware’s acquisition of iConclude is complete!!

Marc & Ben, that was a great buy…… 

Congratulations Sunny & Jeff!! I hope you got what you wanted out of this one and best of luck on your next endeavor….

For everyone else, you should check out Opsware’s Process Automation System to streamline troubleshooting in your environment.

SML :: Getting closer to reality

March 28, 2007

I told you about the SML Standard a while ago. Well it is still cool and it is making progress!! It seems last friday, while I was flying home, the standard was submitted to the W3C and is on it’s way to becoming a real standard. From the perspective of increasing basic infrastructure functionality in the data center, this standard has a lot of potential.

First go check out David’s description of SML.

Now think about it, if you are in the process of deploying a new set of servers in your datacenter and are using an automated deployment tool plus an SML infrastructure….your automated deployment tool could be notified that the network location your intern pointed the tool at was not protected by a firewall! In the last release of your app that would have been ok, but this release needed extra security on the front end. Luckily when the app was written, that need was understood and your SML infrastructure knew the difference because of SML…

Now that would be a really cool scenario, especially when we’re talking about the tools coming from best of breed vendors (and not ALL from one vendor). Of course there is a lot more work to do before they get there, but there are lots of places to keep track

Of course, if you want to get started on putting together a datacenter that already knows about the components in the datacenter (and how to fix them), you should check out the improved Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager…..yes they are licensing EMC’s SMARTS technology! Which means they would have all the technology available to them to automatically discover problems and contribute to solving them…..For example if Exchange needs a particular subnet to function for outbound email traffic to work and that subnet failed or began to have errors, they could notify both the network administrator and the server administrator of the potential or current issue…..That is a big deal, no more finger pointing, troubleshooting, etc! If you are the messaging admin, you could simply get an e-mail, instant message, voice message, phone call, or whatever other means of contact you have enabled in your environment, the message that you received would simply tell you of the issue and could include a link to the live meeting to discuss the situation further with the network team and work out ETR information that you could pass along to end users…..Even that sounds too good to be true, but considering the next generation (SML) is where the apps don’t need to be configured to talk to each other, it makes it sound easy…..Check out the webcast for more information

Information Infrastructure

March 22, 2007

Looks like EMC is going to start promoting their new message to customers and potential customers….


There is no mention of informationist, or informationitis although the underlying message is the same…

Google Office 2007: Now compatible with Vista

February 21, 2007

In case your company spent too much on Vista licensing this year, it looks like you can still save some costs on your productivity suite!!

I know MS is just trying to get into the hosted space for email, but Google is already offering all the important productivity tools with 99.9% uptime….email, calendaring, spreadsheets, & word processing….even blackberry if you want it! For $50 per user!!

This is a neat idea and certainly fills a void for a lot of cases. The case of schools is a huge one in my opinion students can cross the boundaries of home and campus and maintain a familiar application at little to no cost. That is fantastic! Small businesses and un-tech savvy users is another great example, if they can get easy access to this stuff…they have a viable option to reduce the costs of their business….

Of course I would need to know a few things before I started moving my business onto the latest fad software:

  1. What about email retention & discovery (all companies need to worry about this now)?
  2. Where is the diagramming software?
  3. Where is the project application?
  4. Where is the presentation software (an online app would be great for this…never get up to speak without your presentation online)?
  5. Why is this better then starOffice (ok hosted email is cool, but starOffice is cheap and fairly solid now)?
  6. Am I going to get advertisements in my apps for this price (ok, probably not, but does the licensing prevent them from doing this)?
  7. Why isn’t jotspot or blogger included in the deal (that would take care of number 3 and a lot more)?
  8. What is the plan when Office Live comes out with twice the feature set at the same price (isn’t that what they do, make everyone else’s ideas better)?
  9. Will Maps be included at any point (a la MS streets & trips)?
  10. Why isn’t the IM application included…or any conferencing suite (we need easy, trackable, auditable collaboration software!)?