Guest Blogger - Why I am not an SBSer

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Mitch Garvis (Montreal, Quebec, IT Pro)

SBS 2003 R2 and Windows Server Technologies

Mitch Garvis is an IT Professional who has a strong background in Small Business Server so when he asked me to post an article he wrote on why he does not consider himself an "SBSer" I was a little shocked.  After reading what he submitted, I had to admit that some of it made sense.  I can't say it all did or his ego will puff up and it might explode killing everyone in a 5 mile radius :)  I really like the advice he gives in the last paragraph, but you should read the whole article!

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Harry Brelsford has a bumper sticker on his car (and in numerous other places) that states ‘I am an SBSer’.  I got to thinking about this because a lot of my fellow Small Business IT Consultants have adopted that moniker.

A few months ago I became a Microsoft MVP in the area of Windows Server – Customer Experience.  A few of my friends and peers asked me if I was disappointed that I was not made an MVP for Small Business Server; after all that is the sphere where I spend most of my professional life and many thought it would have been more apt.  I never look a gift horse in the mouth and though I have started participating in the SBS MVP forums, I am just as happy to leave my MVP alone.

The truth of the matter is I do not like the title of SBSer, or at least do not consider myself to be one.  I consider it to be limiting.  I prefer to think of myself as an IT Professional with a strong background in Small Business.  By referring to myself as an SBSer I feel I am limiting myself to that world and don’t misunderstand, it is a world in which I am both happy and comfortable, however I have spoken with peers who consider themselves true SBSers who are uninterested in supporting networks that either exceed the SBS limitations, or are built around enterprise-class software.

There is a mindset that SBSers seem to have about many issues  that is extremely effective for designing and implementing small business networks and has been developed based on small business best practices over the years.  Unfortunately that same mindset can be difficult to break free of when the need arises.  This mindset is furthered by the 70-282 certification exam. I have heard from some SBSers that they have implemented dozens or scores of networks using Windows Small Business Server 2003 (Standard Edition) but failed the exam because of questions about the Premium Technologies.  Their failure does not make them bad SBSers, but does demonstrate the mindset.  By investing some time in themselves working outside of the comfort zone, a person enables themselves to learn new skills which will be beneficial later on down the road. 

There is no denying or hiding from the fact that I concentrate on Small Business Server.  My business cards bill me as a ‘Small Business IT Consultant.’  My clients are small businesses, their servers are chiefly SBS, and that is where my heart is.  Having said that my background and certifications in enterprise-class networking and infrastructure not only allow me swim out of that SBS pond, it also offers my clients (small and large businesses alike) a different perspective that they might not get from an SBSer – with regard to architecture, procedures, and more.  I do not think that my experience makes me a bigger fish in the SBS pond, but it certainly does make me a stronger swimmer with the tools and confidence many of the other swimmers may not have.

In a recent conversation with Beatrice Mulzer we agreed that it was interesting that unlike most other certification courses, as a Microsoft Certified Trainer you have to also be a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer to teach the Microsoft Official Curriculum course 2395 (Designing, Deploying, and Managing a Network Solution for the Small- and Medium-sized Business) which is the definitive SBS course.  What it tells me is that the people at Microsoft Learning understand that while it may be unreasonable to expect small biz folks to invest thousands of dollars in exams, but at the same time know that the enterprise-class background is really a pre-requisite to teaching many of the complex topics that are made simpler in Small Business Server.

I have a lot of respect for SBSers and the SBS Community.  Windows Small Business Server is a complex compilation of enterprise-class software that is made only marginally easier by the wizards, and any IT professional who can implement and manage this suite for one or many clients deserves the respect that Microsoft has bestowed upon them with the Small Business Specialist program.  I simply believe that they would be doing themselves and their current and future clients a real service by studying for one or more of the enterprise-level MCSE exams. 

The original intent of Microsoft with SBS was to allow end-users to implement and manage the networks themselves.  I have stated before and stand by the contention that this was never realistic, but what it did do was to drastically reduce the cost of supporting that network compared to enterprise-level support.  At the same time it made supporting those networks a realistic goal for non-MCSA/MCSE types who have a good feel of the program if not necessarily an advanced understanding of the underlying technologies, such as Active Directory and Exchange Server.  However if you are content to living in SBS you may waste another advantage that SBS has offered, which is the opportunity to learn those technologies in a more comfortable setting without having to build and maintain a farm of servers to do so.

My advice to SBSers is to install and manage your SBS networks by all means… but take the opportunity to learn it; buy a book on Active Directory, Exchange Server, and Network Infrastructure, attend the TechNet Events and take part in user group meetings in your area.  Play around with MOM and SMS, WSUS and OS/Application deployment (without using the SBS wizards).  You will soon discover that you may be an SBSer at heart, but in reality you are a true IT Professional.

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Mitch Garvis has been a vocal and passionate advocate of Windows Small Business Server and certifications for many years.  He has been an advocate for certification integrity, and had on numerous occasions worked with Microsoft Learning to improve certification exams.  As Founding President of the Montreal IT Professionals Community he has been successful in helping the growth of SBS in Montreal.  He has taught numerous classes on the subject and is considered a leader in the worldwide SBS Community.  He is a Microsoft Certified Trainer as well as a Microsoft MVP.  He lives alone, has no pets, and has never been to Cleveland.

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  • I wrote this article recently for another publication but decided it would be a good first contribution

  • I understand your position but being 'an SBSer' doesn't mean that you are defined by the term.  I am the following (and much more):

    a mother

    a wife

    an IT Professional

    an SBSer

    a Red Hat Society member

    a daughter

    a sister

    a friend

    a WiNSUG Steering Committee Member

    a business woman

    a hard worker

    a marketeer

    a salesperson

    a technician

    a bookkeeper

    a promoter

    a problem solver

    a blonde

    a bionic woman (mechanical heart valve)

    and much, much more.  As you can see, being 'an SBSer' is only a small part of who I am.  The label doesn't define me or the scope of my abilities or talents.  It's interesting as we grow and learn in life but just about all of the above items come into play in some way with the many business clients I work with.  Am I an SBSer?  Yes.  But first and foremost I am me.  

  • Nice stuff Mitch.

    The definition of IT Professional is very vast and everyone of us in the field is an IT Pro but have limited expertise and it is good to be master of one and jack of all. In my real life I’ve never seen people those who are working on a single product for many years except those working for Microsoft or into multinational companies.  I’ve tried myself to become expert in one product but never been possible and every employer expect more than expertise we have. In a real world you have to have wide range of skills from making a CAT5 patch chord to raid configuration to firewall configuration. The small medium businesses don’t want you to be an expert in all of these but they want you keep going there business without paying high salaries and these expertise needed once in a year and get be outsourced or fixed at the time of incident.

    I’m in the industry since 1999 (I’m not writing my resume here) and have through many IT related job from ISP to corporate network  to IT solution providers. I’ve learned new things every time and have worked day and night as this field is still not matured yet. First time I worked on SBS 4.5 in 2001 but really didn’t much about it and I had very limited skills. Now SBS2003 is an awesome product for any small business . This is what I call Just In Time product and makes life easier for experience IT Pro and I’m agree with Mitch one should have knowledge of AD Exchange and Network Infrastructure etc.

    As Mitch said that many guys got failed for the SBS exam as there are many questions related to Premium technology  and I’m agree with him though I have taken the exam but I was going through some SBS exam related training and found most of the question related top premium technology and licensing  question and I could able to answer it because for the last year I’m into consulting kind of work too where I have to study the client’s requirements and suggest them an appropriate solution which can meet their requirements cost effectively. So the real life experience counts always and in the last I must say that this community work and user group helps a lot to learn from each other.  

  • (Originally posted January 18, 2007) I wrote this article recently for another publication but decided

  • I wrote this article recently for another publication but decided it would be a good first contribution