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8:41AM

The SmallBizWindows Exciting Future Products 2016: Windows Server 2016 Windows 10 ‘Redstone’, & HPE Composable

These three items stand out as the most exciting products or tech we are looking forward to: HPE’s ‘Composable Architecture’, Microsoft Windows 10 Anniversary Update, and Windows Server 2016.

Why?

HPE Composable Architecture
2016-31 - fUTURE EXCITING- ZImagine hyperconverged on steroids, uppers AND crack!

The idea of composable architecture is the ability to install a rack, or the current max of a 5-pack of racks, of composable hyperconverged assets.

‘Composable’ is HPE’s term for highly customizable products, that can be dynamically reconfigured ad hoc, letting administrative composers(?) create required hardware combos that they can stand up almost instantaneously.

If HPE can get this done correctly, quickly, and cost-efficiently, they will totally redefine the datacenter. Leastways, for when high speed reconfigurations are concerned.

Microsoft Windows 10 Anniversary Update
2016-31 - fUTURE EXCITING- ZBased on what I am see in in the Redstone Insider Fast builds, what I am reading in the knowledgeable industry rags, glossies, and websites, and most especially, based on what Deep PacNorWester – my codename for the conglomeration of Microserfs that make up my valued ‘inside people’ – are telling me, this update to Windows 10 will be very impressive.

Microsoft is slowly, surely, righting all the wrongs.

Importantly, Microsoft Edge is starting to feel like a worthy improvement to not just Internet Explorer, but to all of the other browsers out there.

Sadly, no word on whether Windows 10 Storage Spaces will offer deduplication capabilities.

Oh, and containers!

Microsoft Windows Server 2016
2016-31 - fUTURE EXCITING- ZIf you know me well, you know that I have much respect and affection for the Server and Tools Bu at Microsoft.

They have never failed me, neither have they dropped the ball on delivering a smooth and very reliable product.

Well, they are continuing on that tract with Windows Server 2016.

Formerly codenamed Windows Server.Next – yes, even Mighty Microsoft can have brain farts, especially when it comes to product nomenclature! – Server 2016, as is the Microsoft norm, will be filled with enough goodness to make any sysadmin think they have died and gone directly to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!

  • Windows Server Nano? Check.
  • Windows Server Containers? Check.
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux? Check. <- I don’t give a shift about this, but hell.
  • Beefed up Storage Pools? Check.
  • More, more more.

For which you can see why.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:33PM

The SmallBizWindows Most Exciting Current Product (tie): HyperConverged Infrastructure

We have a tie for Most Exciting Current Product: one is a product category, the other is an actual shipping product.

2016-08- Most exciting current techThe SmallBizWindows Most Exciting Current Product or Technology (tie) : HyperConverged Infrastructure

Hyperconverged or Hyper-Converged, is a new product category that is sweeping the datacenter by storm, especially in this past year.

Hyperconverged – my preferred spelling Smile – is the current iteration of a wave started back in 2009 by then-HP*, and dubbed Converged Infrastructure Architecture.

Hyperconverged takes that vision further, melding virtualization into what was formerly a troika of hardware components: compute, storage, and networking.

clip_image002I may be wrong, but I believe the first firm to go commercial with hyperconverged products was Nutanix. In fact, I am told, it was that distributed file system that helped Nutanix gain initial traction. (Feel free to correct me. Thank you.)

This sector is smokin’ hot right now, I decided to ask Keith Townsend**, (@CTOAdvisor) a few questions on hyperconverged infrastructure:

John Obeto: is Hyperconverged really a thing for virtualization, or is it a new case of buzzword bingo?

Keith Townsend: Hyper-converged is a serious option for pure virtual environments. This is especially the case for applications that are virtualization friendly such as VDI.

JO: Who benefits most in the short term? Users or vendors?

KT: Both users and HCI vendors can benefit. While most HCI solutions have a cost premium. SMB's can reduce overall operational expenses.

JO: Who is poised to be the single biggest loser?

KT: Legacy storage providers that sold into the SMB ROBO space may find that HCI cannibalizes those opportunities.

Thanks, Keith.

However, this space is rapidly heating up, as the bigs get into it.

I was at HPE’s sprawling Houston campus for HPE Tech Day, and HP seems to have taken hyperconverged even further with their ‘composable’ architecture. I shall have more on that in a later post.

*HP’s enterprise division is now a standalone company, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, or HPE.

**Keith Townsend is an Enterprise Architect and founder of http://www.thectoadvisor.com with over 18 years experience, including several with a "Big 4"global consultancy as a management consultant. He has a Bachelors and a Masters Degree from DePaul University, and currently works for a large BioPharma just north of Chicago.

Acronymania

  • HCI: HyperConverged Infrastructure
  • ROBO: Remote office/Branch Office
  • SMB: Here, as in Small & Medium-sized Business
  • VDI: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Nutanix is www.nutanix.com

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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10:42PM

Off to HPE Hyper-Converged and Composable Infrastructure Blogger Tech Day

I am off to the heart of Texas for the HPE Hyper-Converged and Composable Infrastructure Blogger Tech Day which takes place on April 13.

As usual, this should be chock full of actionable information, and I am hoping it will also be where HPE’s long-talked-about new hyperconverged product will be unveiled.

I understand that some information may be under NDA, so lips will be sealed for them. However, most of the event will be public, and I will make sure to let y’all know what’s going on.

Some preliminary information is here, and please follow the hashtag #HPETechDay on Twitter.

Let’s do this!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:56PM

I was at Intel Cloud Day 2016

I was at Intel Cloud Day which took place at the end of last month in San Francisco.

I believe this day was quite necessary.

The Cloud
Even if you strip apart all of the ‘cloud-washing’ going on, the fact remains that the cloud is here, now, and rather inevitable for all but the most secure, or the most mundane of tasks.

Right now, and except for extreme instances, Intel has a dominance not seen since the heydays of IBM’s mainframe hegemony. Most clouds are x86-based, and in them, Intel rules supreme. Intel’s Xeon CPUs are the class of cloud computing, without a doubt.

Though Intel leads in having its chips – both central processing units (CPUs) and chipsets – running an impressive majority of datacenters, that same dominance leads profit-envious firms to want to participate.

Witness, ARM.

While the thought of ARM chips running server-class workloads seems fanciful today, the truth remains that ARM might make a breakthrough one of these days that allows ARM to be the primary CPU vendor for datacenters, with Intel kicked out of that henhouse.

However, ARM has been nibbling on the heels of Intel. It is emboldened by the dominance it enjoys in the mobile space, and is making noises about scaling up into webscale-class CPUs.

Thankfully, Intel does not seem to be suffering from what that great sage of SMB computing, John Obeto II, calls ‘The Myopia of the Dominant Incumbency’.

Intel has been improving the products called out above, and also the peripheral components that help them. Intel’s Xeon chips have continually improved every year, largely following “Moore’s Law”.

What I want to see, is how Intel will be making clouds more accessible to VARs and enterprises for whatever solutions we aim to implement for our clients.

Intel Cloud Day, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center, San Francisco, California
The keynote is headlined by Diane Bryant, Senior Vice President & General Manager of the Data Center Group, Intel

Diane immediately lays down a fact: “The cloud has the potential to be more impactful than the PC”.

This is true. In today’s primarily mobile world, most, if not all data lives in a cloud somewhere. These days, just about everything we do is somehow connected to the web. If you live a mobile life, assume that almost 100% of your life resides outside the physical parameters of your mobile device.

I’m sure it comes as a surprise to non-technical folks that these apps are not powered by some kind of computer magic, or pixie dust. The sysadmins toiling thanklessly in datacenters around the world could use some luv and appreciation.

She follows on by reminding us that clouds now tend to be spread across private, public, hybrid, and across multiple cloud providers.

Even for me as a consumer of Microsoft assets, I find myself using other apps, services and whatnots from other providers on a daily basis. That is a fact of daily life today.

"Intel Cloud for All"
Intel’s proposition is to be “there”, in every conversation when clouds, private, public, and hybrid are mentioned.

In other words, they want to be the enabler of the next 10,000 clouds.

To reach there, they have identified three objectives:

    1. Investments in the Cloud: they are going to have to standardize software defined infrastructures, using improvements there to drive efficiency and mitigate deployment woes.
    2. Optimize the Cloud: look at the cloud today. The needlessly varied cloud infrastructures make the term ‘Balkanization’ seem optimistic. Structure is needed in order to optimize cloud across various workloads, not the other way around.
    3. Align the industry to accelerate cloud deployments. Their own words, not mine. For which I wish them luck. It is a great ideal. I just don’t see how it could be pulled off. I hope I am proven wrong.

In order to do that, they have assembled an impressive list of global consumers of Intel's cloud offerings across several markets and verticals to help bring the goal to fruition.

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New Intel #Xeon, the E5-V4

clip_image004

To help make these plans come to life, Intel is seeding computing with two new products: the Intel Xeon E5-2600 V4 CPU series, and a datacenter-class (?) SSD family, the P3520/3320, and D3700/3600 SSDs.

The Intel Xeon E5-2600 V4
As we all know, Intel Xeons are the dedicated server parts Intel produces.

For this new rev, Intel has raised performance even higher. Compared to the previous gen CPUs, the E5-V4 series now contain up to 22 processing cores per CPU. Coupled with virtualization, this new chips are able to deliver up to a 40% increase in performance, while some security workloads can see a 70% performance gain.

While impressive, the star of these new CPUs seem to be the Intel Resource Director technology.

The images below show a simplified view of how Intel Resource Director works.

clip_image006

Intel Resource Director tech seems to have completely won over @NASDAQ, w/ potential for 4x datacenter efficiency

clip_image008

clip_image010

I will need ,ore information and more data on Intel Resource Director before I crown it. However, it is a very important development. And one that, no doubt, would be very welcome to datacenter architects and managers.

The new PCIe-based SSDs are optimized for high performance, with very low latency. Just right for datacenters and the cloud, I am told.Evidently, they are faster than SATA. Until Howard Marks (@DeepStorageNet) says so, a grain of salt for me for now.

Several partner case studies are trotted out.

The case study that made the most profound impact on me from was the one by Dr. Joe Gray from the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University where they are trying to create drugs targeted ad hoc to each individual, since, as they put it, each cancer, is microscopically different because of the minute mutations from victim to victim.

They are harnessing open source to do this.

In a nutshell, they basically have to create precision medicines, since every cancer is technically unique, based on the victim's distinct DNA

As profound, but in a very scary way, was the statement below:

Healthcare data is so informative and rich that previously anonymized patient PII can be easily de-anonymized

My takeaway: security has to be an intrinsic part of your infrastructure plans, datacenter or not!

 

One of the greatest barriers to nirvana in the cloud is the lack of standardization, across training, expertise, standards, certifications, and more.

Coincidentally, it was something I had some thought on shortly before this event. Please follow the link above to read the article on CIO.com

In Summary…
Intel is all in.

I came away from Intel Cloud Day 2016 with the realization that Intel understands the stakes involved here.

It just cannot produce faster, more powerful and/or more efficient CPUs, chipsets, and other components, then let the chips – no pun – fall wherever they may.

It has to lead several parties into the creation of a cohesive ecosystem that delivers coherent, quantifiable solutions that help drive further cloud adoption.

My only issue with all this is the reliance on OpenStack to deliver.

Personally, I have issues with a Hydra-headed organization composed of very vocal extremists who wage their little jihads as they try to steer their most-favored into being the standards. This is where I need a “Show Me”. (See the TV series “Fringe for deciphering that term.)

Show me, OpenStack.

Apart from that, Intel is on to ‘A Good Thing’!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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12:14PM

The SmallBizWindows Scanner of the Year 2016: The Epson WorkForce WF-7610 All-In-One

2016-08 - ScannerWide-format devices are hard to come by.

Affordable wide-format devices are just about impossible to find.

test

The Epson WorkForce WF-7610 is one really cool printer.

It is a large-format all-in-one, meaning that it not only prints on up to 11” x 17” paper, it has a scanning bed that does the same as well.

Ii use it for diagramming the work I do, and it is great.

My Princess has adorned my entire office with her masterpieces, some created freehand, then copied, or others created from her HP Sprout computer.

I could go on, but read this exchange.

My buddy Justin had a requirement.

I replied thusly:

Epson turned out to be what he wanted.

Remember also, that this is a sibling to our multi-year Printer of the Year Award winner, the Epson WordForce WF-5690. I has all of the great things we like about the WF-5690 plus the added benefit of being a large-format device.

Consequently, the Epson WorkForce WF-7610 is the SmallBizWindows Scanner of the Year.

2016-08 - Scanner3

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:10PM

Intel Cloud Day, San Francisco.

I am in lovely San Francisco for Intel Cloud Day.

CeUjYS4UEAgUj9h

As the primary  - OK, incredibly dominant – developer of the CPUs used in cloud datacenters globally, Intel has to have ears to the ground trying to decipher what trends are forthcoming, and what it needs to do in order to both facilitate those trends, and equally importantly, use that knowledge to stay relevant.

Because ARM.

It is very good to see Intel knows this, and has created this event.

I go now to dinner with a subsection of the delegates to this event.

I shall keep you posted.

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9:47PM

The SmallBizWindows Workstation of the Year 2016: HP ZBook 15

2016-16 - WKSTN- ZThis year, we have only tested the low-end HP ZWorkstations and HP mobile workstations.

After having tested past iterations of the high-end HP Z-8xx series of workstations, I must confess: no matter how pleased I am with the z440, the ZBook wins this.

In mobile workstations, HP is without peer.

Their workstations – both mobile and desktop/deskside – are the class of that space, with every new performance innovation not only included, but seamlessly integrated.

You cannot beat them.

When both the performance of a workstation and the mobility of a laptop are required, you cannot do better than the HP ZBook line of workstations, and in this instance, the HP ZBook 15 is our SmallBizWindows Workstation of the Year winner.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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6:11PM

The SmallBizWindows Consumer Product of the Year: The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 3D Projector

2016-03 - consumerSelecting a Consumer Product of the Year is always easy: what [consumer] product had the greatest positive impact on me, my kids, our extended family, and our staff.

Additional props are given if that joy is replicated by others when the product is purchased on our recommendation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the SmallBizWindows Consumer Product of the Year 2016 Award winner is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 3D Projector.

It makes watching regular HD movies amazing. 3D movies become really immersive. Playing NBA 2K16 while viewing through the projector’s 125” screen is something else.

It just rocks.

Of all the devices here, this is the one device they all say they cannot do without.

And they aren’t alone: my brother and two in-laws have replicated the setup for their kids’ gaming rooms to similar success.

We definitely like the projector.

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 3D Projector is the SmallBizWindows Consumer Product of the Year.

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9:42PM

Apple announces a fight with Microsoft or How to hide the fact that your premier product isn’t moving as fast

Apple announced some new devices today, and, damn, how more underwhelming could Apple and the devices be?

As scripted, the know-nothings in the lamestream media are running with their screenplays describing the death of PCs. Every one of them has written an article cribbed from the Apple PR.

It is shameful.

Shameful, because it hides the fundamental malaise hitting Apple.

As currently run, Apple is the world’s most profitable company because of one singular device, and its variants, the iPhone. Apple is the world’s most valuable company because of the sales, and growth prospects of one singular device and its variants, the iPhone.

And boy, has iPhone produced.

That, is not in dispute.

However, a few clouds are looming.

iPhone sales are slowing
While the growth rate, market share, mindshare, brand loyalty, and profits – oooh, those sweet, sweet profits! – are still ultra-impressive, the fact remains that sales are slowing.

iPad sales have tanked
Unlike Microsoft with Windows Mobile/Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile/whatever-they’re-calling-it-today, iOS, and by proxy, iPad, cannot use the “app gap´ excuse. Yet, sales have tanked.

One could be unkind, and intimate, anecdotally, of course, that everyone who wants a netbook replacement, living room tablet, and or large-screen camera – don’t ask! – already has one.

Now that they need to get work done, they need Windows tablets. Because, that is where work is done!

Don’t get me wrong: iPad is a great device. However, a PC it will never be.

New Apple customers don’t want expensive devices as new Apple markets can barely afford them

The iPhone’s insane and profitable success doesn’t seem to be translating to less wealthy countries.

Sales are stalled, or have an initial burst out of the gate, only to settle to ho-hum – for Apple – sales. India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa come to mind…

Financial analysts are starting to notice. Some muttering, and issuing ‘neutral’ ratings for Apple, the stock. One of them, IIRC, even went rogue, placing a downgrade on the stock!

Something has to be done.

So, they did.

The battle with the FBI deflects the news
In American politics, the rule-of-thumb is, whenever there is a domestic issue that has the potential to derail an administration, manufacturing a foreign policy event always serves to break the attention of the American people from their angst, and focus their attention abroad, with great patriotic, and nationalistic fervor.

An opportunistic foreign event is even better.

For Apple, talk about an opportunistic, externality: The Curious Case of the San Bernardino Terrorist’s Locked iPhone”.

I mean, seriously!

Everyone and man + dog is engrossed with The New Civil Libertarian, Timothy Donald Cook.

What dying iPad sales?

What slowing iPhone sales?

The attack on Microsoft deflects the bad news
Today, another prong of the deflection came in: the new iPad Pro 9.7”.

This, is the PC-killer we’ve all been waiting for.

I’m serious.

According to Apple, 600 million PC users are completely upset with Windows computers, and the iPad Pro 9.7” is the device those disgruntled PC users have been waiting for.

In addition to this wonderfully magical device, Apple also introduced their equally magical iPhone SE which, in the words of my friend Enrico Signoretti, is…let’s hear it in his own words:

He wasn’t fooled!

The day when Apple became a purveyor of commodity devices
If you peel away the nonsense from all the bullshittery Apple Execs tossed at their proletariat today, you get to the pearl in that turdfest: Apple now sells deeply discounted stuff, from the new iPad to the smaller iPhone.

Maybe it would reboot sales growth.

In any case, no one’s talking about slowing iPhone sales growth today.

Tim Cook is a genius!

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9:56PM

Yes. Stephen Elop was right on Nokia Being a “Burning Platform”

Yesterday, a Twitterer, Carmen Crincoli (@carmencrincoli) posted the following on Nokia, Lumia, and Stephen Elop.

 

 

I wanted to weigh in, but went to bed early. Because paper stackin’.

Short reply is/was: “You’re 100% correct, right, and all that, Double-C.”

You get his point, right?

For those who don’t, let’s go.

I will not go over the entire memo* here, but the salient points are:

i) Symbian wasn’t the way. Remember Symbian? Neither do I. I remember whenever I spoke about mobiles back in the day, that an in-law loved his Nokia smartphones. I couldn’t explain enough to him that the lack of traction for those devices meant that they were niche. Very niche. I mean, Palm and the Palm OS were niche to Mighty Windows Mobile in those days!

ii) Maemo wasn’t the way, either. When the scales fell from the corporate Nokia eyes in the face of the complete and total evaporation of sales of their N-series of ‘smartphones’, they decided to create a new OS. As was the flava-o’-the- day, Nokia decided to create their own mobile Linux distro, initially called Maemo. And, as any sane person would expect, this kneejerk failed. Spectacularly too. It inexplicably lives on, a sad fantasy of its developers for world domination, rejected by just about all sane humans.

iii) The platform – Nokia – was burning. This is what Elop inherited upon becoming Nokia CEO. Immediately he realized that Nokia’s dominance in ‘feature phones’, those cheapo low end devices, had blinded executive management to trends, and that despite their dominance** in that field, they had been surpassed, and well on the way to ruin if they adhered to their then-roadmap. They had to do something new.

iv) Android was definitely NOT the way. Aaah, Android. The initial power in Android was Motorola. Motorola had a sweetheart deal with Verizon Wireless, whereby they branded the phones using the Android operating system as Droid phones. Moto shot to the top of the heap, and, remind me, where is Motorola today? Samsung took over, creating ever aspirational devices up until where it is today: the big dog in Android, taking about 80% of the profits available to device OEMs from their Android devices. Sounds good, right? However, Elop correctly separated the chaff from the true numbers, and realized a) there isn’t much, or any space, for great differentiation in Android devices, and b) while Samsung’s 80% Android profit share number looked good, it was 80% of the approximately 18% of the profits of the TOTAL GLOBAL smartphone market, with Apple’s iOS raking in 80% of the entire market! This, despite the fact that Apple’s global device market share number was about anecdotally the inverse of the profit number! Going Android, would be a me-too, and not deliver historical Nokia device margins, and relegate them to being a Google frontend.

v) The OS selection of Windows Phone. Of all the OSs available, Microsoft’s nascent Windows Phone was the best choice. It would allow Nokia to innovate, bring in co-dev and co-marketing funds, and based on the limited selection, help Nokia do great things.

vi) Why it – the Nokia OS and Windows Phone combo – failed. Lots of ink has been expended on this topic. All I will add to it are sadly pedestrian design, completely stupid branding – Lumia, what?, inept marketing, elephantine gestational periods between device releases or updates, limited telco coverage, zero sales motivation at mobile telcos, etc., etc.

That, in a nutshell, was Elop’s Burning Platform.

He called it correctly.

However, Nokia was d-u-n, done!

It was too late to save it.

Oh, Nokia is again flirting with Android.

Meaning that the lessons of the implosion of Motorola were lost on folks is Espoo.

*You can search for, and read the entire Stephen Elop “Nokia Burning Platform” memo online.

**Nokia’s fall from grace is yet another textbook example of what that great man, John Obeto II, calls ”The Myopia of the Dominant Incumbency”.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:13AM

The SmallBizWindows Collaboration Product of the Year: Logitech ConferenceCam Connect

2016-11 - CollabThe SmallBizWindows Collaboration Product of the Year is the Logitech ConferenceCam Connect.

As reviewed here, the ConferenceCam Connect is Logitech’s portable iteration of their ConferenceCam line of videoconferencing products. It decouples the device from stationary placement, and allows users to use it while mobile, on the road, or from several conference rooms within the same location.

As reviewed here, the ConferenceCam Connect is light, powerful, has a backup battery, and works with all relevant videoconferencing software and services.logitech-connect

We were impressed enough that it scored the SmallBizWindows Absolute Best Award.

Our review is here, and the Logitech ConferenceCam Connect product page is here.42016-11 - Collab

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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10:48AM

The SmallBizWindows Storage & Storage Backup Product of the Year: HP RDX

2016-27 - storage2016-28 -STORAGE BACKUP - Z

For the second year in a row, the HP RDX backup solution is the SmallBizWindows Storage Backup Product of the Year. It is also our Storage Product of the Year.

All the things we like about it haven’t changed.Windows-Live-Writer-The-SmallBizWindows_11FB7-

From our 2015 Award post:

…the utility of RDX is apparent from the instant you think about it.

Fully integrated with Windows Server, and with cartridges that range from 320 GB to 2TB in capacity, RDX brings fast USB 3.0 hard drive speeds to SMB server backups, with rates approaching 360 GB per hour.4

…RDX comes in portable, shock-proof, and static-proof cartridges that are durable, yet interchangeable with all HP RDX docking stations, future-proofing your investment in the platform.

A free HP CDP application is included in the package. This is a full-featured program, allowing for scheduling backup tasks while running automatically in the background. RDX is also smart, disallowing the removal of cartridges whilst backups are scheduled, or running.

[…]

HP RDX is available in internal or external models. A rack mount model is also available.

This, without a doubt, is the premiere SMB backup and CDP solution on the market today. That is why it also a winner of the SmallBizWindows Absolute Best Award.

All that, for a random-access backup solution.

Oh, and prices have eased somewhat as well!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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10:03AM

The SmallBizWindows Tablet of The Year: Microsoft Surface Pro 4

2016-18 - TABLET -ZThe initial winner in tablets was Apple, with the iPad.

The beauty of that design win for Apple was that it opened the eyes of humans to the possibilities that tablets could be. Hundreds of thousands of apps were written for the iPad, and people were able to achieve useful things with them

iPad, however, only whetted people’s appetites: they wanted to do more. More than just Twittering and Facebooking.

They wanted to be useful.

Sadly, iPad couldn’t do it for them.

Into the breach stepped Microsoft with the Surface Pro.en-INTL-PDP0-Surface-Pro4-SU3-00001-P1

Now in the fourth iteration, Surface pro bombed out of the gate, as the market wasn’t ready for it, the device not having been adequately explained or positioned. Don’t get me started on the muddled marketing either! Prancing, infuriatingly young Millennials snap-snapping the kickstand on Surface devices, my ass!

Microsoft learned from their failures, increased the size – to 12.3” – and resolution – to 2736 x 1824 – of the display, made it lighter, and voilà, the SmallBizWindows Tablet of the Year Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is born.

In short order, Microsoft had conquered the space for professional and/or business tablets.en-INTL-PDP0-Surface-Pro4-SU3-00001-P4

Surface Pro 4 is your ONLY choice when it comes to situations where a tablet will do.

Running Windows, and available with up to 1TB of storage to go with up to Intel Core i7 CPUs, this tablet is built for performance.

And it does perform. Pricey, but really screams.

I like it.

As reviewed last year, this is the best tablet you can buy.

It has earned the SmallBizWindows Tablet of the Year Award.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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8:50AM

The SmallBizWindows Consumer Tablet of the Year: Microsoft Surface 3

2016-17 - TABLET CONSUMER -ZEven though I don’t use one as my daily driver, the Microsoft Surface 3 is the best consumer tablet you can buy right now.

It is light, compact enough to fit into every backpack, and comes with an impressively bright and responsive 1080p HD display.

Inking is included (pen is cost extra), and it can be had with up to 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage. All the Wi-Fi acronyms are included.

Best of all, it runs Windows.

en-INTL-PDP0-Themis-64GB-7G5-00001-P3For the low entry price of $499 – without keyboard – the Surface 3 beats any other tablet out there for usability, as it is fully compatible with all Microsoft Windows applications, thereby protecting your investment on the Windows platform.

My only beef with it is the fact that it does not come with priced with the keyboard at $499. Still, for what you get, this is a fantastic deal. And product.en-INTL-PDP0-Themis-64GB-7G5-00001-P6

It is the recipient of the SmallBizWindows Consumer Tablet of the Year Award.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:46PM

The SmallBizWindows Utility of the Year (Tie): MyEcho

For the SmallBizWindows Utility of the Year 2016, we have a two-way tie.

The two utilities listed here were immediately useful, a requirement for this award, and delivered excellent value.

2016-01 - Utility

MyEcho

I stumbled upon it by accident: Microsoft evangelist and all round knowledgeable guy Scott Hanselman had just posted this tweet

 

Intrigued, I asked a further question about usability. Scott replied to my question, and right there I made the decision to purchase the app.

MyEcho is an iOS app, so it is lightweight, controls and pairing with you PC are idiot-proof, and best of all, it works.

Boy, does it work!

I hurt my shoulder several months ago, and my dexterity with the arm attached to it is somewhat diminished, despite months of physiotherapy, which, I seem to only perform while I'm at the clinic/gym.

Anyways, this app has been a true godsend in the couple of weeks I have been using it.

In fact, it has been so useful, I have uninstalled the memory-shredding desktop application knows as Dragon Dictate from my desktops and lappers, and the iOS app from my iPad.

For the low price of just $1.99, you cannot do better.

00 - Ivy

9:28PM

The SmallBizWindows Utility of the Year (Tie): Lookeen Desktop Search

For the SmallBizWindows Utility of the Year 2016, we have a two-way tie.

The two winners were immediately useful, a requirement for this award, and delivered excellent value.2016-01 - Utility

Lookeen Desktop Search

Lookeen Desktop Search is scored with me, and my entire team, for simplicity, power, and instantly presented results.

It is incredibly fast, and rather unobtrusive. 1

I liked it so much that in my review early last month, we presented the SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award of Excellence.

It is that good, and you will enjoy the benefit of relevant results presented immediately.

My review is here, and the Lookeen product page is here.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:44PM

The SmallBizWindows Products of the Year 2016

2016-32 - POTYEvery start of the year, on behalf of my teams at Logikworx, Dagma/REMIX, and AbsolutelyWindows, I present the SmallBizWindows Products of the Year in categories that matter to us, or that have innovative products that we would want our clients to obtain in order to improve their computing infrastructures, and by so doing, be more efficient.

This year, it has been delayed somewhat.

No longer.

Over the next few days, our awardees will trickle out.

Stay tuned.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

00 - Ivy

7:05PM

Andy Marken’s Content Insider #442: You’re Good

Social Media is Customer Relations … Not Public Relations!

We agree because we’re not one of the thousands of anointed social media PR experts who know social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, G+, Twitter, you name it – was made for them to rule!

But of course you are.

After all, you have your company/personal Facebook pages. You have your company/personal Twitter accounts. You have a ton of other locations to visit, update and track your followers. You update your pages and Tweet constantly.

The boss has to love you when you tell him/her Facebook just surpassed a couple of billion users and Twitter users are close behind.

OMG, you’re awesome!!!!

Of course, some things are in disarray; but hey, they are so yesterday!

Yeah, your corporate press section has a form media folks can fill in for “pretty quick” publicity assistance/information. Hey, 3-4 days is quick!

Your press section has all the HTML releases and authorized images. A few real comprehensive website press rooms even have contact names and 9-5, M-F office numbers.

Look But Don’t Touch

If a customer has a problem or is really ticked and happens to reach you begging … pleading … crying … screaming, you simply send them to customer service – in Bangladesh.

There … another great customer contact!

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that everyone is promoting their social media marketing/communications expertise. Or, as Forrester’s Sean Corcoran said, "You can't walk out your house without bumping into a social-media expert today.”

An issue of Business Week had a great article on the hot new job … social media director.

Reading all the noise surrounding social media, you’d think it was the second coming.

Man, it’s the brave new world for individuals/agencies--especially since no one can quite measure what they/you do and your impact on the marketplace.

clip_image002Source – New York Museum of Science

Finally, a real job you can sink your teeth into.

You have to admit the jobs discussed in the articles sound awesome … all that viral outreach … all those neat ideas for others to pick up and run with … all of the great ideas just waiting to be spread across the market, across the globe.

We Missed the Class

We always thought social media and sound relationships started with the customer… and ended with the customer.

Most seasoned professionals we know make the point that social CRM (customer relations management) and marketing/sales social media are difficult to get your arms around and difficult to integrate into your business operations.

If you don’t understand your customers/your audience, it’s tough to develop a social strategy that makes sense for your organization.

The templates the experts offer just don’t work for everyone--or anyone, for that matter.

The problem with most smoke ‘n mirror folks is they think they can control the conversation.

Hate to disillusion you, but the consumer owns the conversation about your company, your product/service, your support, you.

Try to control the conversation, steer/manipulate it and you lose the battle … big time.

That’s probably why in a recent social relations survey, 40 percent claimed to have a strategic policy/plan.

The rest are … faking it!

Shooting from the hip.

Inventing as they go.

The truth is, social media isn’t overly challenging, which may be why there are so many gurus.

All you have to do is know when and how to engage with other people on social media.

Of course, it would be neat if you were productive, efficient, sold folks on your products/services, turned a really negative person around or at least quieted him/her down.

Oh sure, you may be unlucky enough to write something on your personal or business Facebook page that your boss doesn’t like, but hey … you’re the guru.

Or, you may Tweet something that irritates the C offices, HR or the client; but when you’re working on the edge, it’s part of the adrenaline rush.

Company Effort, Not Yours

Management may not be certain why they need a social media expert, but they do know the social media arena is the place where they should have a presence … of some type.

Experience has also shown them that satisfied, repeat customers keep their doors open.

They know that the best, most satisfied customers are the ones who talk up, support the company’s products/services, even over the rough bumps.

If a question, problem or issue arises and people are writing all over your wall -- not liking your posts -- you can’t simply pass the buck.

clip_image004Source - Bluecast Digital

We know you’re a social media specialist and interacting with customer issues is a dirty little no-nothing job for customer relations specialists.

But they came to you and service/support shouldn’t have all the fun.

Who knows…they may even like your post!

Your social media plans/programs/efforts should be about stimulating and driving customer loyalty.

At the end of the day, that counts more than the number of your page readers, likes or Tweet followers.

It’s working with them…talking with them…assisting them.

Yes, real 1:1 -- customer support/customer service.

Sometimes it just isn’t very “social!”

Just ask the people who really work with, help and keep your company’s customers!!!

G. ‘Andy’ Marken is founder and President of Marken Communications

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9:12PM

Logitech amps up videoconferencing with Logitech GROUP

Unless you just exited a stasis pod from 1999, it should be beyond obvious that videoconferencing rules when it comes to communications, and collaboration.

You just cannot beat video!

Over that period, Logitech has developed from being a purveyor of basic webcams to becoming a manufacturer of several affordable desktop and mobile videoconferencing devices, several of which we have not only reviewed, but continue to use within Logikworx across 4 countries every business day.

PNG 72 dpi (RGB)-ConferenceCam Live Family Square F

In fact, we recently glossed the Logitech ConferenceCam Connect with the SmallBizWindows Absolute Best Award for its versatility, power, app compatibility, and downright usefulness.

Today though, I can reveal the latest from Logitech to you: the Logitech GROUP.

Logitech GROUP is a new videoconferencing solution created for mid-sized conference rooms. In fact, it is designed for conference groups of up to 14 participants.

JPG 72 dpi (RGB)-5_ GROUP_Lifestyle_Mics_View from Far end

Out of the box, Logitech GROUP gives users a videoconferencing solution that delivers high resolution video, high fidelity audio, is affordable, is expandable to four beamforming(?) microphones, and is compatible with just about every video conferencing or web conferencing solution out there.

This really brings HALO-type videoconferencing down to the smallest of small business!

Logitech_GROUP_Lifestyle _PNG72Dpi_1

This Logitech GROUP solution is going to drive a lot of high-priced pretenders out of the market!

Product Page
Logitech GROUP

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:08PM

I would gladly pay for a Windows 10 version of Outlook for iOS

$0.99? $1.99? $4.99? $9.99?

Heck, I would gladly pay $19.99 for a Windows desktop application or Metro app that mimics the UI and user-friendliness of Microsoft’s Outlook for iOS.

WITHOUT THE OVERBEARING HEAVY-HANDEDNESS of Microsoft Office Outlook!

Think about it.

Outlook_c_Cyan300Microsoft Outlook for iOS, both for iPad and iPhone, is lightweight, incredibly easy to use, very user-friendly, and just works. Well, when you don’t have to constantly clear out the cache, though they seem to have solved that issue.

For Windows, you have Microsoft Office Outlook, or that brain-addled Mail Metro app.

For connections to Exchange, you really can’t do better than Outlook. It does it all.

Outlook is, after all, Outlook. The ne plus ultra when it comes to email clients.

However, pre Windows 10 devices happily used the Windows Live Mail application, which is/was a part of the Windows Essentials suite. A suite that has NOT been updated since, well, forever, the current version being Windows Essentials 2012.

The Accompli purchase, and the subsequent substitution and rebrand of the former iOS Outlook client is simply, genius.

Microsoft took a rather excremental app, and with the wave of a magic in-place update, delivered a truly delicioso app that does it all: user-friendly, a great user experience, unobtrusive, everything!

I may be wrong, but I believe I read somewhere that it is the mI' wa' (Klingon) third-party email app in the Apple App Store. Yes, it is that good!

You would think that [the execs at] Microsoft would stub their collective big toes on proverbial rocks, and have an epiphany: “Let us deliver the same Outlook for iOS experience to Windows 10 users.”

No.

What Windows users have, is a rehash of the rather crappy Mail app that shipped with the late, unlamented Windows 8x.

Folks, that app is a piece of bovine dung!

I can hear the fanboi chorus clearing their throats, readying the mantra, “Antitrust, Antitrust .”

Calm the funk down, nitwits.

Please tell me that Mighty Microsoft cannot create an interstitial that enumerates the benefits of an enhanced and worthy Outlook client for Windows when users first start up the infernal Mail app!

And then proceed to help users seamlessly migrate their email accounts to that free Outlook client.

I don’t even want free.

I will gladly pay for it!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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