Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Much Fun are You Having on the Job?


Imagine that you are talking with your boss, or a possible employer, or friend, family member, or even a complete stranger about what you do for a living. You discuss where you work, how you work, what your duties are, and other things of the sort. But then the other person throws you a curve ball question. That person leans in towards you and looks you in the eye like they've been dying to ask this question the entire conversation, and with an eagerness and a genuine smile they ask "So, tell me something... how much FUN are you having on the job?"
Wow... Just think about how much power that question can have. Has anyone ever asked you that question before without being sarcastic or with a negative overtone? Better yet, have you asked yourself that question ever in your life? It is a powerful question! Go ahead - stop reading this article and ask yourself right now,

"How much fun am I having on the job?"

Now, when you answered this question did a lot of positive thoughts pass through your mind? If you did, maybe some of the positive responses included things like:
  • I get to work on complex projects.
  • I get to learn this and do that.
  • I get to create interesting solutions to problems at work.
  • I get to teach others and I get to be a teacher.
  • I get to work with various customers.
  • I get to sell my business's excellent products that I believe in and use myself.
  • I get to share my experiences with my co-workers and we have the opportunity to learn a lot of things from each other.
  • I get to help achieve the business's goals.
  • and so on
If you did respond with some of these positive responses I'm certain you were able to answer that question fast! I'm sure if you had some of these positive answers you'd be looking forward to going to work the next day, am I right? If we were that positive about our jobs we would head to work ready to hit the ground running! But I know that some of you are still working on trying to muster up the courage to attempt to answer the question. Some of you may be really asking yourself, "Do I ever have fun on the job?". I imagine some negative responses might include things like:
  • You don't understand the things that I have to do just to get a paycheck every week.
  • I have a terrible boss and I can't stand working for him\her.
  • I haven't had a day off of work in a month and no one cares about it.
  • I work all day, then I come home and I have to work even more!
  • My co-workers earn more money than I do.
  • My co-workers don't come close to working as hard as I do!
  • I don't believe in the products my business makes and\or the services they offer.
  • Other people don't have the setbacks that I experience every day.
  • One of my co-workers just got promoted and they haven't been working here as long as I have!
  • I'm stuck right where I am and I can't get out.
  • I don't know why I even work here.
or even the worst of the worst....
  • I hate my job.
Ouch... We've all been there before haven't we? Some of you may even be there right now. I can still remember when I said those dreaded words about some of my bosses, some of my co-workers, or some of the companies I've worked for. It doesn't feel good to say those bad things does it?
I've had the privilege of being able to work for many different businesses, many different bosses, and work with many different people throughout my career. I've had plenty of jobs where I was excited to get to work in the morning, and I've had jobs where I dreaded walking in the door. Even today I have setbacks just like you. There are times where someone does not do something they are supposed to do and it affects my work. I have to deal with irate customers and I have many different people that jump down my throat about various issues here and there. There are even times where I make mistakes and it affects other people's work! In my past I have even made mistakes that cost me my job. None of these things helped reduce my stress level. None. Just imagine if I had these negative thoughts all day long. I doubt anyone would want to talk to me, let alone work with me. Do you know what these negative thoughts about our jobs do to our perception about our workplace, or our bosses, or the businesses we work for? It impacts the way we work, how we work, and it impacts the quality of work that we produce. These thoughts set us up for failure and causes increased stress in the workplace.
In 2010, The American Psychological Association published a Fact Sheet that displayed some very interesting research done about workplace stress. Here are a few of them:
  • 69% of employees say their work is a significant source of stress in their lives.
  • 51% of employees say they were less productive due to stress.
  • Health care expenses for employees with high levels of stress were 46% higher compared to those without.
  • Job stress is estimated to cost U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and medical, legal and insurance costs.
These are some very substantial numbers and facts and simply put -- they are DISTURBING. Just look at what we are doing to ourselves when we complain about our jobs or when we stress out about our work. IT IS DISTURBING. But I have come to realize a few things…
I have discovered that 100% of the people that are unhappy about their jobs do not feel good about their jobs. But wait! There's more... I've also discovered that 100% of the people that feel good about their jobs are actually HAPPY about their jobs! Yes! I have found that it FEELS GOOD TO BE HAPPY! And when someone does NOT feel good, THEY ARE NOT HAPPY!
So how should we respond when feeling negative about our work? How can we transform our way of thinking about our work?

I just finished reading an article by one of my good friends Andrew Ralon at called "Choose Your Response". It is an excellent article and I highly suggest you read it. At the top of the article there is a quote that says "Whatever happens, you always have a choice -- you are always able to choose your response." After having said many of the negative things listed above in this article I made the choice long ago that I will never allow myself to hate my job ever again and if I do, I will be the one to change my situation. Every day I make the choice to do everything I can to be a better employee today than I was yesterday. We are all given the opportunity to respond, either positively or negatively, about our jobs. And every day that I work, I PLAN on having fun at work.

Having a plan means that I am intentionally going to follow through
with what I say that I am going to do.

Having a plan to have fun on the job means that I am intentionally going to have a positive attitude regardless of the setbacks that I encounter. If I wake up in the morning, and I PLAN on having a great day at work that day then I will have a great day! When I plan on having fun at work, it affects not only myself but my attitude affects everyone around me too. There is this tremendous positive energy that flows outward from myself towards others. This positive energy helps me to perform well at my tasks and projects. And when I perform well on the job, I feel a sense accomplishment and personal satisfaction in the work that I do. I have this sense of empowerment and feel that I have a long future in the company. When I have fun on the job I feel that I am a valuable team member in my workplace. Ladies and gentleman, this type of positive attitude is contagious. Everyone around me lights up. My colleagues are happy to work with me to achieve my goals and I am more than happy to help them achieve their own goals.

"But Joe, you just don't understand my situation. It just isn't that easy to 'flip the switch' and just feel good about my job." I know it isn't easy but the more you work on your own attitude about work, the better it will get. If you are in a constant struggle with your boss or your place of employment or you still find it difficult to have fun on the job no matter what you do, I recommend you read the article "When you feel there is no way out" by my good friend Glenn Stewart at You are never stuck. There is always a way out of the rut that you are in. My point is this...

"If you target nothing, you'll hit it every time." - Zig Ziglar

I want you to wake up tomorrow and plan on having fun on the job. If you do this every day I guarantee that it will make a tremendous difference in your career. Your co-workers and your bosses will notice the difference as well. And you know what? When you plan on having fun at your job, and you actually HAVE FUN, I guarantee that you will make a positive impact on someone else that might have negative thoughts about their job.

Plan on having fun on the job so that you not only make a difference in your own career, but your colleagues' careers too.

- Joe

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Personal Development and Learning Resources


I read a lot. Most of my work day involves reading the onslaught of business email, alert messages, text messages and instant messages, vendor documentation, knowledgebase articles, and many other types of documentation related to my job. However, as an I.T. professional I need to keep up with the latest tech news and tech training so my skills don’t become stagnant. I need to stay ahead of the game by developing my own personal learning plan not only for new software and new technology, but for personal growth in my capabilities as a leader, parent, husband, and community member.

Several people have asked me what I read on a daily basis and what I use to develop my own learning plans. Below are my own personal resources in several categories.

Spiceworks Community & Local SpiceCorps Groups:
SpiceCorps of Volusia County, FL -
SpiceCorps of Central Florida -
SolarWinds Thwack Community -
Microsoft Answers Community -
IT Pro Camp -
I.T. Training:
Microsoft Virtual Academy -
Microsoft TechNet Virtual Labs -
Cisco Learning Portal -
Links to Cisco training resources -
Linux Training -

Daily reading:
Hacker News @ Y Combinator -
Network World -
Farnam Street Blog -
Om Malik (GigaOM founder) -
Dave Ramsey's Blog -
Zig Ziglar -
Michael Hyatt -
Leadership Vacuum -
Equip your Life by Glenn Stewart -
Surface Geeks -
This Week In Tech a.k.a. TwiT (with Leo Laporte and friends) -
Re/Code -
Engadget -

Podcast Subscriptions:
The EntreLeadership Podcast -
This Is Your Life Weekly podcast from Michael Hyatt -
Zig Ziglar's Inspiring Words of Encouragement -
Surface Geeks Podcast -
This Week In Tech Podcast (TwiT) -
Let My People Think (RZIM) -

Book List:
Dave Ramsey, "The Total Money Makeover" -
Dr. Henry Cloud, "Integrity" -
John G. Miller, "QBQ!" -
Michael Hyatt, "Platform: Get Noticed in a noisy world" -
Stephen R. Covey, "The 7 Habits of highly effective people" -
Dr. Henry Cloud, "Boundaries" -

You may notice that in my book list there is NOTHING technology related. The reason is because I have the gift of being able to consume tech learning resources online very quickly. But for the things that I cannot learn easily such as commitment… integrity… character... leadership… perseverance…and patience, I prefer to learn and grow by reading an actual hardcover book.

Well there you have it. Even though this list is fairly comprehensive, you will need to find your own resources that meets your own needs, your own learning plan, and your own personal growth plan.

Always remember that leaders are readers. I hope all of this helps you as it helps me every day!

- Joe

Friday, March 7, 2014

Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 from 2012 RTM Running SharePoint 2013

These are some of my own notes on upgrading Sharepoint Server 2013 from the server running Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2. I know this will help others that made the same mistakes that I did. I'm grateful to have the ability to assist others in their projects. In addition to helping my clients achieve their goals, I am able to learn new skills along the way which then I am able to share with others. Knowledge truly is power. Today's blog post is information about a mistake I made while working on a client's server, as well as how to fix the problem.

My client's request was simple; they wanted to upgrade all of their servers from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2. They had one server running SQL Server 2012 RTM, one virtual machine running Sharepoint Server 2013 RTM, then a handful of some other virtual servers running Windows Server 2012. They have a single hardware server running Windows Server 2012 RTM and all of their workloads run in Hyper-V virtual machines on this physical server. Backups are properly configured.

I will continue with describing my mistake:

  • On the SQL Server 2012 virtual machine, I captured a VM snapshot, attached the 2012 R2 ISO to the virtual machine settings, executed setup.exe from the disk, then started the upgrade.
  • On the Sharepoint Server 2013 server, I attached the 2012 R2 ISO to the virtual machine settings, executed setup.exe from the disk, then started the upgrade.

So first off, there is one very important mistake I made -- I did NOT do any research on application compatibility for SQL Server 2012 for Server 2012 R2, or for Sharepoint 2013 running on Windows Server 2012 R2 either. If I knew the requirements before the upgrade, I would have made sure  The 2nd mistake I made was NOT taking a snapshot of the Sharepoint server.

When both servers started back up after the 2012 R2 upgrade, I was able to log in to each of them just fine so the OS portion was good. But both SQL Server 2012 had tons of errors and Sharepoint 2013 wouldn't display any web pages and displayed nothing but HTTP 500 errors. Shoot, what was I to do? Damage control mode. I was left with unusable SQL database and a broken Sharepoint server. Not good.

First things first, I reverted back to the saved snapshot for the SQL Server. Once that was done and after I confirmed the SQL server was back in good operating condition it was time to focus on Sharepoint 2013.

After several hours of trying several things, here was our fix:

  • Install SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1, then reboot.
  • Run the SharePoint Product Configuration Wizard to finish the upgrade. Reboot when prompted.
  • Verify SharePoint sites come up without a problem.

The environment was finally back up and running with no more errors. From this point we made snapshots of each virtual machine then continued to perform the 2012 R2 in-place OS upgrades.

If you want to perform an in-place upgrade your servers from 2012 RTM to 2012 R2, this can be done successfully for most cases since 2012 to 2012 R2 in-place upgrades are supported by Microsoft. If your 2012 RTM servers are running SQL Server 2012 RTM or SharePoint Server 2013 RTM, then read the following:

Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 from 2012 RTM for servers running SQL Server 2012 RTM.

  • First install SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1. Reboot when prompted.
  • Execute setup.exe from the Windows Server 2012 R2 installation media. Complete the upgrade.
  • Done.

Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 from 2012 RTM for servers running Sharepoint Server 2013 RTM.

  • First install SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1. Reboot when prompted.
  • Run Sharepoint Configuration Wizard to complete the upgrade. Reboot when prompted.
  • Execute setup.exe from the Windows Server 2012 R2 installation media. Complete the upgrade.
  • Install available Windows Updates after you can log in for the first time. Reboot when prompted.
  • Run the Sharepoint Configuration Wizard again. Reboot when prompted.
  • Done.

Performing an in-place upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2 FROM a 2012 RTM server works just fine and, yes, to save time and resources I would recommend doing this if you have the ability to do so. The only problem is that it can take several hours for the in-place upgrade to finish per server, but it does work. As always, make sure you read Microsoft's official documentation on TechNet for your specific upgrade situation. Don't make the same mistakes that I did :)

- Joe

Monday, November 25, 2013

Some Things I’ve Learned While Working in Enterprise IT

Even though many would argue with me, I don't really consider myself a success story. Maybe that is me just being humble or maybe that is me just downplaying reality, but I don't really like to boast about myself. Instead, I really enjoy reading about a person's success story such as how they rose to the top from the very bottom of the barrel. Most of the stories are inspirational and uplifting and make me want to keep getting better at what I do. But what is more enjoyable is participating in success stories.

I feel privileged that others ask me for advice or for guidance in their careers. Every once in a while I receive an email that goes something like this,

"Hello Joe. My name is --NAME-- and I want to thank you for --AN ARTICLE-. I just started a new I.T. job at --LOCATION-- and I was wondering what advice you have for those just getting started. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to your response and looking forward to your next post."
I usually respond with a "good luck" type of response that includes a few of my pointers and most of the time I never hear back from them.

Over the years, I have been collecting these little nuggets of advice and I think it is time to share them in one place. For those wanting to get a job in Enterprise IT or for those currently working in some type of IT job, below are some of the things that I've learned along the way:
  • Experience is everything to a hiring manager. If you don't have any experience whatsoever get a low level support job in IT, ANYWHERE. After you have been there for at least one year, work on moving up the ladder.
  • Certifications matter only to those that understand their value. Make it a personal goal to get certified. 
  • If you get a helpdesk job, and you know you want to move up in the world, make it known that you do not want to be there forever. But don't be a jerk about it.
  • Don't complain out loud - EVER. Complaints cause an RGE = Resume Generating Event.
  • Enterprise IT is considered a COST CENTER. You do provide value in keeping the business running but in the end you are an expense. Think about that for a moment - let this sink in....
  • You are not the glue that holds the business together. When in doubt, read the previous point.
  • Always know where you stand with your managers and team members that you work with.
  • Always keep your resume updated. You never know when you may be forced to pursue another job opportunity.
  • Don't get fired.
  • Don’t steal, EVER.….. Seriously don’t do it.
  • Having a job is a privilege. You are NOT entitled to anything in life except for breathing air so don’t screw it up.
  • C.Y.A = Cover Your Ass. Get approval, maintain a paper trail, do your research. CYA. CYA. CYA.
  • When in doubt, get manager approval.
  • Be absolutely sure when executing a task. Do your research. Make sure you are ‘right’.
  • Do things right the first time.
  • Quality is ALWAYS better than the quantity.
  • Don't ever lose the passion for technology. Keep tinkering, keep trying things out. Keep learning.
  • Always have an answer to the question "What book are you currently reading?". Responding with "Nothing" or “I don’t know” is not an answer.
  • Come up with a good process for troubleshooting issues. I like the 5 questions.
  • Knowing how something works is the key to troubleshooting and fixing problems.
  • Respect goes both ways, but it always starts with you giving respect first.
  • If your manager is a douche to you in front of others under his\her command, it just might be time for you to move on.
  • Be humble, and be grateful for the skills that God has given you.
  • Be honest and don't lie to your co-workers and superiors, EVER.
  • Own up to your mistakes, admit your mistakes, and learn from them.
  • Shit will happen. So get over it.
  • Always be willing to teach someone what you know if they ask.
  • Don't belittle or demean someone if they don't know something. Remember that there was a time when you didn't have the knowledge and needed help.
  • Don't try to "change the world" in one day. Learn existing processes and adapt, then slowly introduce other options at a later time and only at the appropriate moment.
  • It is OK to say that you do not know something.
  • If you do not know something, it is an opportunity for you to learn. If you don't know something, find out. Google is your friend.
  • Be conscious of and consider others’ rights, needs and constraints before acting.
  • In the helpdesk world, work orders (a.k.a support tickets) can be your best friend or your worst enemy. The ticket needs to tell a story. If it isn't in the ticket, it never happened.
  • Don't ever, EVER, let the job get personal or affect your personal time.
  • If the job becomes personal, you will forget this entire list of advise and will lead to you getting kicked out the door, and maybe even something worse.
This is a lot of philosophy, some ethics, but it is all truth.
- Joe

Saturday, July 20, 2013

802.1x Authentication or DirectAccess. Which one should I use?

Here is a question that came to me earlier and caused me to think a bit....

"I am creating a new SSID with the intent of setting up an 802.1X wireless network to secure traffic between the WiFi access points and each client. But instead of adding another SSID to my wireless network and doing 802.1X, can't I just setup DirectAccess for my Windows computers instead?"

DirectAccess and 802.1X authentication serve two different types of purposes. Now, both technologies require certificates and both require some type of authentication to take place. But each technology is used for very different reasons.

802.1X is used for securing a wired or wireless network by enforcing user and\or computer authentication in order to gain network access. Essentially, 802.1X is used for network access control (NAC). There are various ways to implement 802.1X, but the point I am trying to make here is that it is used to encrypt network traffic in addition to only allowing authorized devices access to the network. All traffic that passes through the 802.1X secured network is encrypted (thanks to it's certificate-based requirement) which is why it is widely used on BYOD wireless networks in the enterprise.

The benefits of setting up 802.1X authentication are many. Here are a few:
  • Only allow authorized users and computers access to the network.
  • All network traffic on 802.1X networks are encrypted between the client and the authentication system.
  • 802.1X networks are more difficult to eavesdrop on (by using Wireshark or other packet capture tools).
  • If the 802.1X certificate is not on the computer, the computer is not trusted and network access will be denied.
  • Depending on the 802.1X solution used, you can do 'posturing' and perform more granular and\or dynamic control of network access per person or per device.
Even with all of the good things that 802.1X can provide, there are several drawbacks.
  • A device must support joining 802.1X networks. Mac, Windows, Linux, Apple IOS, and Android are known to support 802.1X. But, gaming devices such as Xbox and Playstation do not.
  • Takes more time to troubleshoot when users complain of issues.
  • 802.1X is an IEEE standard but every network vendor has their own way of implementing it. So however you choose to set up 802.1X, it won't be the same process with another vendor.
DirectAccess serves a very different purpose. It is a VPN-like technology that forces a Windows computer that is a member of an Active Directory domain to connect to it's home domain over an SSL tunnel (just like what a VPN connection does) but it does this automatically, in the background, without any user intervention. It is for this reason alone why DirectAccess is worth the time to give it a serious look and consider dropping other VPN solutions, especially if your organization is a "Windows shop". The moment the computer has an active internet connection (no matter where it is in the world) it establishes a secure SSL connection with the DirectAccess server. The DirectAccess server is essentially a proxy between the client and internal enterprise network resources.

There are plenty of benefits to setting up DirectAccess on your domain as well. Here are a few.
  • Windows is preconfigured for DirectAccess by Group Policy; no configuration is needed by the user. The user only needs to get the computer connected to the internet via Ethernet cable or WiFi and Windows will take care of the rest silently and in the background.
  • Ability to manage the desktop computer as if it is physically connected on-premise. This includes Group Policy enforcement, Active Directory, the user's ability to access internal network resources, and so on.
  • You can remotely join a PC to the Active Directory domain (Windows 8 only).
  • No need to finagle with KMS or MAK licensing for the desktop. With DirectAccess, you only need KMS.
  • Communication between the Windows client and the DirectAccess server is secured.
  • Relatively easy to set up. Not as complex as traditional VPN solutions (such as Cisco ASA) can be.
  • No additional licensing needed. If your computers are licensed to connect to your Windows Servers then you are all set.
  • When coupled with Windows Server's Network Access Policies, you can perform NAC-like tasks such as 'posturing'.
But, there are still some drawbacks to DirectAccess.
  • DirectAccess is only supported on Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 7 Enterprise, and Windows 8 Enterprise computers.
  • The Windows computer must be joined to an Active Directory domain.
  • DirectAccess will not work for MAC or Linux computers - only Windows. For those operating systems, a traditional VPN connection is required.
  • If Force Tunneling is disabled in the DirectAccess configuration, then only the network traffic between the client and DA server will be secured. All other traffic will pass directly through to the internet instead of through the DirectAccess tunnel.
Don't miss that last note. If you are allowing "Split Tunneling" with your DA clients, then you really aren't securing all of the network traffic from the client. This is why you would still need 802.1X. Another reason why you would still want to use 802.1X is to enforce authentication just to gain network access.

So, in a nut shell, you would implement 802.1X to secure all network traffic on your wired and\or wireless networks but you would not use 802.1X to enforce your computers to connect to your internal network. You would implement DirectAccess for one of two reasons. The first is to make it easier for your Windows computers, or to enforce your Windows computers, to connect to your internal network via VPN. The second reason is if you intend to replace your existing VPN solutions entirely. You would not use DirectAccess to secure network communications on your wired or wireless networks.

I hope this helps some of you out with your current projects or questions regarding the subject matter.

- Joe