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Preview: Jason Powell - Church IT and Other Musings

Jason Powell - Church IT and Other Musings



Church Information Technology



Updated: 2015-10-12T00:07:30-04:00

 



2016 National Church IT Network details annouced!

2015-10-12T00:07:30-04:00

We just wrapped up the 2015 National Church IT Roundtable ... and with that announced the location and dates for our 2016 event! Add this to your calendar NOW! The biggest gathering of church IT and web/dev peeps will be...

We just wrapped up the 2015 National Church IT Roundtable ... and with that announced the location and dates for our 2016 event!

Add this to your calendar NOW!  The biggest gathering of church IT and web/dev peeps will be 

OCT 10-12 at Newspring Church in Anderson, SC!

More deets will show up over on www.churchITnetwork.com 

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Microsoft Adds New Religious Exemption Clarification to Anti-Discrimination Policy

2015-10-11T23:44:30-04:00

My buddy, Nick Nicholaou, announced last Friday, at the Church IT Roundtable, that Microsoft had changed their anti-discrimination policy language. And it's a GREAT change for religious organizations! Essentially, their policy used to say, to be eligible for non-profit/charity pricing,...My buddy, Nick Nicholaou, announced last Friday, at the Church IT Roundtable, that Microsoft had changed their anti-discrimination policy language.  And it's a GREAT change for religious organizations! Essentially, their policy used to say, to be eligible for non-profit/charity pricing, organizations could not use any discrimination in their hiring processes with the exception of "other than as allowed by law."  Some churches did not feel comfortable with that language and thus would not sign that they were in full compliance with Microsoft's anti-discrimination policy and thus could not get charity pricing. Now, Microsoft clearly spells out exemptions for religious orgs... Per http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/nonprofits/whos-eligible/Microsoft values and respects individual and cultural differences and is committed to providing an inclusive environment that is welcoming and free from discrimination. Therefore, organizations are not eligible to participate in the Microsoft corporate citizenship nonprofit giving program if they have a policy or mission of discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training or services, promotion, termination, and/or retirement based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, political affiliation, union membership, or veteran status. The only exception to this policy is for religious organizations that are exempt from laws that prohibit such discrimination. *Microsoft is in the process of applying this updated anti-discrimination policy across all of its giving policies; this process is expected to be completed by the close of calendar year 2015. Microsoft also added more language about their reasoning behind this new change... Per http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/nonprofits/faq/ Why is Microsoft creating an exception for religious organizations that discriminate? Are you giving special treatment to religious organizations? Microsoft’s policy is intended to be consistent with United States federal laws to the extent they provide exemptions for religious organizations, based on the organization’s religious doctrine and beliefs, from anti-discrimination laws or regulations related to hiring or access to services. We are a religious organization, but we do not know if we are exempt from laws that prohibit discrimination. How can we know for sure? The laws or exemptions that apply to your organization depend on your organization and its practices. Some commonly considered issues include hiring based on religious affiliation or beliefs (under Title VII to the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges). If you are uncertain about how federal anti-discrimination laws may or may not apply to your organization, we suggest contacting an attorney to request a legal opinion. Is my organization required to provide evidence of compliance with Microsoft’s anti-discrimination policy to be eligible to participate? Microsoft expects organizations to honestly and accurately certify the anti-discrimination statement during the eligibility validation process. Microsoft does not require nor collect evidence of compliance with the anti-discrimination policy, nor does Microsoft make legal judgments of the accuracy of the certification or applicability of anti-discrimination law to your organization’s practices. As always, however, Microsoft reserves the right to grant or deny an organization's application or participation at any time, for any reason. So, if prior your church didn't feel they could fully comply with Microsoft's charity eligibility requi[...]



2015 National Church IT Roundtable

2015-09-21T15:04:04-04:00

Wow ... I've not posted to this blog since last fall? Anyways ... our big National Fall Church IT conference is about here! Still time to register to join 300 of your church IT and web peers to talk tips,...

Wow ... I've not posted to this blog since last fall?  

Anyways ... our big National Fall Church IT conference is about here!

Still time to register to join 300 of your church IT and web peers to talk tips, tools, best practices.

ALL THE DEETS AT http://churchITnetwork.com 

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2014 National Church IT & WebDev Conference Oct 22-24 - BE THERE!

2014-08-25T14:06:08-04:00

What's the best way to learn IT & WebDev best practices as it relates to the Church/Ministry space? Attend the National Church IT Roundtable this October in Peoria, IL! Join 250+ Church staff and volunteers from across the country this...

What's the best way to learn IT & WebDev best practices as it relates to the Church/Ministry space?
Attend the National Church IT Roundtable this October in Peoria, IL!

Join 250+ Church staff and volunteers from across the country this Fall to learn from knowledge experts, connect/share with your peers, and get a big shot of encouragement!  Now in it's 8th year, this un-conference continues to grow in size and impact.

This will be our 2nd year combining forces with RefreshCache to cover all things Web/Dev. 
Wanna talk virutalization, VLAN routing, VoIP?  We got that!
Wanna talk jquery, .net, UX/UI?  We got that too!

Registration is ONLY $75 for all 3 days and includes most of your meals!  You won't find a conference with better ROI, PERIOD!

Registration is open so signup and spread the word.

LOTS more details HERE

Hope to see you all this Fall!

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Addressing The Consumerization of IT aka GCC's Transition to Macs and Mobility - Part 6 - Is AppleCare worth the cost??

2014-12-01T14:29:34-05:00

This is a continuation of a blog series I started back on April 2013. You may want to start reading there if you're new to this blog series. Part 1 Part 6 ... Mac Repairs and Extended AppleCare This week...This is a continuation of a blog series I started back on April 2013. You may want to start reading there if you're new to this blog series.  Part 1 Part 6 ... Mac Repairs and Extended AppleCareThis week marks the 1st time, since early 2011, we've had to pay for a mac repair.  Though this particular air was still under it's 3yr applecare, it had water damage.  $800 later and Apple replaced virtually all the components...so it's kinda like a new refurb LOL.  We've also had very few instances where we've actually needed applecare...11 times in almost 3 1/2 years.  So this has raised the question: Is it worth buying the 3yr applecare warranty at $199/air and $279/mbp15???Let's look at the data... 2011 - 25 Macs purchased 1st year repairs = 2 (1 was an accidental screen break miraculously fixed at no cost!)2nd year repairs = 23rd year repairs = 3** All Macs from 2011 are now outside their 3yr applecare **2012 - 29 Macs purchased1st year repairs = 02nd year repairs = 3 (1 was the accidental water damage at $800 repair cost)3rd year repairs = 02013 - 9 Macs purchased1st year repairs = 02nd year repairs = 02014 - 9 Macs purchased so far1st year repairs = 1 Leaving out accidental damages our totals are1st year repairs = 22nd year repairs = 43rd year repairs = 3 So as you might expect, especially for laptops, we're seeing more repairs AFTER year 1.  2 repairs were covered under the included applecare that comes with each Mac, and 7 repairs covered by the extended 3yr applecare we purchased.  Now let's do some rough math. We've purchased 72 macs (mostly refurbs) since March 2011 (Production Arts purchased their own Macs prior to 2011).  They were not all airs, but for easy math we'll say they were.  72 macs times $200 for 3yr applecare = $14400 Let's say our 7 extended warranty repair jobs would have been $800 each (they were usually much lower) ... 7 x $800 = $5600.  $14400 - $5600 = $8800 = at minimum 12 more repairs before matching what we've spent on applecare.Granted, we didn't buy all 72 Macs at the same time so a chunk of them can still fail inside their 3yr window and incure no cost to us, but how many more will likely fail?Since the macs bought in 2011 are now outside of their 3yr applecare, we can make some predictions.  Out of those 25 Macs, 5 required repair after year 1.25 Macs times $200 3yr applecare = $75005 repairs at $800/ea could have cost us at most = $4000 (Again, this number is an overestimation)In other words, we spent about twice as much for applecare than what repairs would have cost us.  Boo!  Of course that's a risk you have to weigh.  We had no data to go off of at the time, so we err'd on the side of caution and bought the 3yr warranty.  Now that we have over 3yrs of data to go off of, we can make some much better decisions ... meaning the data is telling us we should no longer be purchasing 3yr applecare :-)However, there is a slight catch.  In 2011, had we NOT purchased applecare we would have saved $7500, BUT you have to accurately budget for future unknown repairs ... which for those 2011 purchases we estimated the repair costs (see above math) to be $4000 2-3 years after their purchase.Again assuming a repair would cost $800 and had we NOT purchased 3yr applecare for any Mac2011 repair costs = $02012 repair costs = $02013 repair costs = 3x$800 = $24002014 repair costs = 4x$800 = $3200 ... and 2014 isn't over yetMoving forward I should probably keep a $4000 budget line for mac repairs each year, especially since we now have 25 Macs with expired 3yr applecare. Another factor in the equation - self repairs.  I keep using a high estimate of $800 for our local Apple Store to do repair jobs.  The reality is that we could do many of these repairs ourselves for much less [...]



Addressing The Consumerization of IT aka GCC's Transition to Macs and Mobility - Part 5

2014-08-22T12:00:08-04:00

This is a continuation of a blog series I started back on April 2013. You may want to start reading there if you're new to this blog series. Part 1 Part 5 - Mac Hardware and Software Wow, it's hard...This is a continuation of a blog series I started back on April 2013. You may want to start reading there if you're new to this blog series.  Part 1 Part 5 - Mac Hardware and Software Wow, it's hard to believe we're into year 4 of this transition to Macs and mobility ... time flys!!  Surprisingly, we've made only a few edits to our mac hardware and software standards since we started this journey.  Also to note, after 3 years, the macs are still going strong giving us no reason to believe they won't give us 5 years of service.  We do see some reduced battery longevity, but so far it's not newsworthy.  It will be interesting to see how the batts are holding up this time next year.  We also see folks originally lobbying for a 15" or 17" macbookpro now asking to trade in for a 13" air or 13" retina mbpro.  Heh, told 'em so ;-) HardwareOn the hardware side we still use the 13" air as our default ... still i5, we've bumped ram to 8GB, and in 2014 we up'd to the 512GB SSD.  Yes, we're still mainly buying Apple refurbs when possible.  I predict we'll see more interest in the 13" retina mbpro unless Apple releases a 13" retina air (yes please!).  I've been using a 13" retina mbpro for over a year and really love it!  The extra pixels are worth the slight weight and thickness tradeoff. External Monitors - most staff, especially air users, have an external monitor, which is typically purchased by their dept (through IT of course).  Some are using old 17" LCD's we left in place when we removed a desktop PC, some are using Dell 24" LCD's, and some are using the really slick 27" Apple Cinema display.  While the Apple display is a whoppin' $799, it really is worth it when you consider everything it provides: amazing resolution, charges your laptop, provides a Gig network port, thunderbolt and usb ports, webcam and audio. SoftwareWe don't use any imaging software for mac deployment.  That could change someday, but so far we've not had enough pain to make us head down that road. Here's essentially what happens when we get in a new mac: New mac comes in ... record the serial number off the box into inventory (we use smartsheet) and write end users name on box as another form of initial record keeping.  Yes, we have a GIANT stack of boxes in storage! power on (duh!) join to public wifi enter our TechOps info and user/pass UNCHECK NATURAL SCROLLING!!!! run software updates name computer (jpowellair, jpowellmbp13r, jpowellmbp15, etc) enable remote management and remote login create another admin user account matching the end users AD user/pass enable guest account ... uncheck parental controls (we want a theif to be able to easily log in so we can hopefully have time to track their location) login as the end user uncheck natural scrolling join to private wifi via ruckus zero-IT portal (uses end users AD creds) require password from sleep keyboard > shortcuts > change to all controls (allows you to tab between all fields) finder preferences ... check all shared drive and media drive shortcuts add needed printers (we use a mac mini running OSX server as our mac print server) install our custom LogMeIn free client (part of LogMeIn Central) Office 2011 install and run updates Outlook 2011 setup CrashplanProE install (our backup software) ESET NOD32 install (our antivirus softare) print and attach a label of the machinename to underside (silver label tape) For some users like Finance, we install and setup the free Microsoft Remote Desktop app. This app combined with a Remote Desktop Gateway config gives users one-click access to a terminal session desktop or published app, like Great Plains, from on or offsite.  Bye bye VPN! handoff to happy end user with trai[...]



Addressing The Consumerization of IT aka GCC's Transition to Macs and Mobility - Part 4

2013-10-08T17:04:42-04:00

Here in part 4 I'll talk about our initial test phase and staff rollout. One of our big unknowns surrounded staff wanting to switch from Windows to Mac ... many having never touched a mac prior. What kind of intial...Here in part 4 I'll talk about our initial test phase and staff rollout. One of our big unknowns surrounded staff wanting to switch from Windows to Mac ... many having never touched a mac prior. What kind of intial training would they require? How long would it take the average user to be proficient on a mac?  Could we find other mac savvy staff that would be 1st level support for newbies so IT wasn't flooded with basic questions? I personally had tried switching to mac only a few years prior and ended up back on a Dell, but I knew I had to dive back into it 100% so mid Feb 2010 I ordered our 1st 13" Air for myself and got a 15" macbookpro for Justin (he was using a dog old 1st gen intel macbookpro).  You learn a lot when you're forced to give up familiarity :-) Our beta test group comprised of Tim Stevens (Exec Pastor, Windows power user, no mac experience), Kem Meyer (my boss and Comm Director, Windows power user, no mac experience), Jami Ruth (Comm Coordinator and long time mac user at her prior job and at home).  They all got their new macs right at the end of March giving them time to play over Spring Break (1st week of April).  Part of being in the test group was required feedback to the entire group about questions, fun findings, frustrations, etc.  Our Tech Director at the time was also invited to join the feedback loop since he was a very savvy OSX user.  As questions and frustrations surfaced, Justin and I would make notes into a make shift FAQ list.  By the end of June we felt we had address all the main issues and our newbie mac users were doing great!  Time to start the rollout to the rest of the staff! Recall from Part 1, that for 3 years prior we had ZERO computer purchases or upgrades because the economy tanked.  This meant EVERYONE was running on old hardware and would LOVE to get something new.  Problem was I had a limited budget. This meant only about 1/3 of our staff would get upgraded in 2011 and it was my task to figure out who that would be (gulp!).  I looked at many many variables, had lots of discussions, and ultimately ended up with a list that I shared with my boss and our Exec Pastor to get approval.  Next step was discussing upgrades with dept heads to get their input based on possible staffing role changes, needs, etc.  Then finally, we got to "surprise" selected staff with their upgrade news :-)  I was not surprised when everyone on the list chose a mac vs PC even after explaining there's a learning curve jumping platforms and some limitations with Outlook 2011 for Mac.  Of course some of them were already mac users, or had macs at home...and if so they were tagged as being part of our go-to team for the other Mac newbies around them.  Also recall from Part1 that we required anyone switching to mac to get supervisor signoff that they could do their job on a mac with mac software.  Publisher was the biggest hurdle a few switches had to workaround.  Most of them just ended up using Pages. Finally, in August 2011 we made a large purchase of mostly 13" Airs and thus began GCC's transition to 'chose your platform' and mobility. Naturally, before we got to August, Justin and I had been pondering how we were going to deploy and manage all these new macs.  We talked to other Church IT peers, researched enterprise and academic solutions, and looked at what had and had not been done over the years with the 30ish macs already on the GCC network that were not under the IT umbrella.  In Dec 2010 we dropped from a 3 man IT shop down to 2 and knew we'd remain at 2 for a long time to come.  What we couldn't afford to do was create a headache for ourselves OR our end users.  We decided on the KISS (keep-[...]



TechSoup's Microsoft Nonprofit Licensing Things To Note

2013-10-03T17:11:13-04:00

Continuing from my prior post about the huge TechSoup Microsoft announcement for Churches ... Here are a few nuggets that I've found helpful to note. Mainly I'm putting them here on my blog so I can refer back to them...Continuing from my prior post about the huge TechSoup Microsoft announcement for Churches ... Here are a few nuggets that I've found helpful to note.  Mainly I'm putting them here on my blog so I can refer back to them in the future ... if others benefit that's a BONUS! ;-) The limitations of the TechSoup Microsoft Software Program can be summarized down to the following: Within a 2yr window which starts with your 1st purchase... You can purchase up to 50 licenses per Title Group across 10 Title Groups max...this includes server cals.You can purchase 5 server software licensesNo, you can not renew Software Assurance via TechSoup. You must use an authorized charity reseller for renewals.  However, in most cases it'll be cheaper just to purchase again from TechSoup unless you're over the above quanity limits.After your 2yr window, your licensing allotment resets to zero. If you want the read the full monte, TechSoup has a great page explaining the above in detail along with handy purchasing examples http://www.techsoup.org/support/articles-and-how-tos/microsoft-eligibility#allotments TechSoup Microsoft software includes Software Assurance ... which is awesome!Basically, that'll give you upgrade rights for 2 years, usually home use rights for employees, and online training resources. I'll update this with other helpful nuggets I or other church IT peers uncover...so if you have nugget to share leave a comment below :-) [...]



Fall 2013 National Church IT Roundtable - 4 weeks away!

2013-09-23T21:53:02-04:00

Time is flying! In just 4 weeks the Fall 2013 National Church IT Roundtable will kickoff at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS! Have you registered yet? Dude, it's only $75 and that includes your all your meals from...

Time is flying!

In just 4 weeks the Fall 2013 National Church IT Roundtable will kickoff at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS!

Have you registered yet?  Dude, it's only $75 and that includes your all your meals from Monday until through lunch Weds!  If you've been to ANY other conference you know that's a steal of a deal!

Where else can you hang with about 200 other Church IT/Web/Dev men and women from all across the country to talk shop and best practices, hear from subject matter experts, and walk away from the event encouraged for another season of ministry!

Register today and bring your peers!

 

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HUGE news for Churches! Faith-based Organizations now Eligible for TechSoup discounts and Free Office365!

2013-10-03T16:56:15-04:00

Before joining the Church IT ranks 10 years ago, I was the IT Director for a large school system for four years. In that time, I became very familiar with TechSoup.org from chatting with my EDU IT peers. TechSoup offered...Before joining the Church IT ranks 10 years ago, I was the IT Director for a large school system for four years.  In that time, I became very familiar with TechSoup.org from chatting with my EDU IT peers.  TechSoup offered crazy software discounts to non-profits even if quantities were limited. When I came to GCC I was surprised and bummed to learn that although our church was a 501c3, TechSoup had some fine print that excluded 501c3 Faith-based organizations.  So while we were still able to purchase Microsoft licenses at their nice non-profit discount through places like Dell, CDW, CCB, etc, it wasn't the crazy discounts available through TechSoup.  Very recent example:  A few weeks ago we purchased 2 SQL Server Standard CORE licenses for $2723 at charity pricing.  On TechSoup that would have been $430!!!  Yeah, BIG difference! Then last week TechSoup made the HUGE announcement that Faith-Based orgs would be eligible for both the crazy Microsoft discounts available on TechSoup as well as the free Office365 E1 plan for Nonprofits!  Announcement So here are the steps and process we went through at GCC ... I immediately created an account on TechSoup and started their qualification process as organization type: Religious Activities - Church, synagogue, etcYou'll have to fax or email some paperwork to TechSoup, namely your IRS Determination letter to prove you're a 501c3. Now, some people have gotten tripped up during the TechSoup application process because it has an anti-descrimination policy ... and yes, Churches do discriminate to a degree. Per the TechSoup website: TechSoup Global is an equal opportunity agency. It will not allow discrimination based upon age, ethnicity, gender, national origin, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, other than as allowed by law.  link However, if you read the statement carefully it clearly states "other than as allowed by law."  Federal and State regulations allow churches to legally "discriminate", therefore a faith-based organization would be qualified under TechSoup's policy.  If this were not so, why would TechSoup make such a big announcement to the faith-based community?  Logic would dictate TechSoup had already made internal provisions for faith-based orgs to qualify, but if you really need to see it spelled out the above should set your mind at ease.  Knowing I was going to blog about this, I did run the above by our Finance Director as another point of reference.  He agreed with my asessment :-)Of course, I'm not a legal expert nor do I play one on TV ... so seek your own legal counsel ... I'm not liable ... blah blah blah ... This is how our TechSoup portal looks today: After you go through the qualification process with TechSoup that'll start the qualification process with Microsoft.  Microsoft also has an anti-discrimination policy, but it also states "other than allowed by law". It took 3 business days to get the following "approved" email from Microsoft saying we were eligible for Microsoft non-profit pricing through TechSoup: Next step was signing up for the Office365 Enterprise E1 for Nonprofits.  TechSoup doesn't handle O365 for Microsoft, but instead routes you to this page to signup: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/non-profit/compare-office-365-for-nonprofits-plans-FX104081605.aspx Yes, you're signing up for the E3 trial listed at $4.50/user ... but you'll let this E3 license expire at the end of 30 days.  Once you have a trial E3 license you can then add as many free E1 licenses as you want.  This is explained in [...]



Addressing The Consumerization of IT aka GCC's Transition to Macs and Mobility - Part 3

2013-05-03T09:41:38-04:00

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2 ... Well, this is really a continuation from part1 since part 2 went in a different direction than I planned :-) To quickly refresh ... Part1 was the proposal I made to my...Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2 ... Well, this is really a continuation from part1 since part 2 went in a different direction than I planned :-) To quickly refresh ... Part1 was the proposal I made to my boss and our Exec Pastor to A) go mobile and B) give OS platform choice.  For this blog series I asked Tim and Kem to think back about the proposal, why they said yes, and any quick thoughts 2 years later... From Tim Stevens (Executive Pastor at Granger Community Church): I'm a huge proponent of technology. I consider myself a technology champion. Maybe it's because I was one of the volunteer audio engineers at GCC for 11 years. Or maybe it's because I got my first home computer before MS-DOS or Windows or Mac were household names (yeah, it actually ran on the CP/M operating system). I've always been somewhat of a geek. And that's why, in my role as Executive Pastor, it's really easy to get behind technology.But even more than that, I'm a huge champion of finding and resourcing the right leaders. When I have an impassioned, skilled and aligned leader who loves Jesus, loves the church and is the best in their field—I want nothing more than to equip them to be successful. And that's why it was so frustrating in the recession era when we weren't able to replace ailing equipment or invest in new technology. Not only could I not see us implement the best technology to serve the church—I also couldn't equip Jason and his team to soar with the right tools. Every month was just hanging on and riding out the storm. And yet I never heard one complaint or negative comment. Rather, I heard comments like "We'll make it work" and "We will figure it out" and "We'll get creative".I never questioned Jason when, after the recession, he came with the proposal to A) go mostly mobile and B) provide a path for supported Mac OS machines. I didn't question it because of his long track record of well reasoned and researched decisions. And it turned out to be a huge win for the church. Yes, a bit more costly on the front end, but the tangible and intangible wins with higher productivity, greater employee satisfaction, and reduced operational costs more than made up for the higher price tag.It was exactly the right decision. From Kem Meyer (my boss and Communications Director at Granger Community Church) Here's the thing—the question isn't about whether or not we are on a mac or PC environment. It's about whether or not we are stewarding our resources well and helping staff do what they want to do. I appreciate how our tech ops team elevates people as the value over technology and keeps learning about the various options available to us. Instead of reacting to the increasing questions about people wanting MACs with a "that's not what we do" posture, they sincerely investigated options. They worked through and had answers to these questions before they came to us with a proposal. How did we get here? What has changed?  What has stayed the same? (Both inside our environment as well as the overall technology industry.) Can we afford it? Can we support it? Can we grow with it? Is our environment secure with this solution? What will we gain? What will we lose? Will this make work harder or easier for our team? What are the pros of this approach? What are the cons of this approach? With the answers to these questions before us, it made the decision pretty easy. We were "eyes wide open", as they say, and knew what we were getting into. It made the change easy to communicate. We were able to set expectations and get everyone on the same page wi[...]



Addressing The Consumerization of IT aka GCC's Transition to Macs and Mobility - Part 2

2013-04-16T11:59:34-04:00

Continuing from Part 1 ... One of the questions that arose from the Part 1 post was how we arrived at the $2100 figure. It actually ended up being $2300. This amount would cover the purchase of a 15" macbook...Continuing from Part 1 ... One of the questions that arose from the Part 1 post was how we arrived at the $2100 figure.  It actually ended up being $2300.  This amount would cover the purchase of a 15" macbook pro with 4GB ram, 7200rpm 750GB drive, 3yr applecare, and extra power adapter (for home), which at the time totalled $2300.  While we would actually recommend the 13" air to end users, we knew some would want/need a larger screen so we made sure to accomodate a need for a 15" mac laptop.  Our 13" air config included 4GB ram, 256GB SSD, 3yr applecare, extra power adapter, external super drive (if needed) and rounded up to $1800...another reason we pushed the air over mbp :-)  Again, anything beyond $2300 and another dept would have to pick up the overage.  We had a few staff that went a little over due to job role needing the highest proc and additional ram (which we buy from OWC and install ourselves) or opting for the 17" macbookpro, but the majority of staff have went with the 13" air.  Today we still recommend and default to the 13" air for our staff.  We've bumped the ram up to 8GB on the standard i5 model which is still under $1800 ($1720) with our config.  AND today we'd also recommend the 13" retina macbook pro ... with our config it comes to $1904.  I used a macbook air for about 2 years and even ran some Fusion win7 vm's on it.  With 4GB ram it was tight running VM's on it, the 8GB air I tested handled VM's much better.  I figured if an air worked great for me, it should work well for the majority of our staff :-) I switched to a 13" retina macbookpro in Feburary for testing and have REALLY liked the increased screen real estate over the air.  It's a tad heavier and gets warmer, but I'll take that for the extra pixels.  I should also note that while at work I jack into a 27" apple display.  So yes, the air and 13" macbookpro can drive a 27" display with no problems. Another thing we've discovered over the past 2 years ... spinning hard drives and macbooks don't do well together...even 7200rpm drives give way more spinning beach balls than they should and don't even bother with the 5400rpm drives.  We have had good success by upgrading 15" macbookpros with 750GB hybrid drives, but we strongly recommend going SSD on new mac purchases. We usually buy our macs/apple gear from our local apple store where they match WCA's discounted Apple pricing which is roughly 10% on most items.  Having their store 1 mile from GCC is a VERY nice plus!  It took some work to create a good relationship with the local store business team, but today they really seem to go to bat for us.  We've also had success getting even better pricing on large volume purchases from ITSavvy, mostly due to their ability to heavily discount applecare.  Another option is buying refurb gear from Apple.  We've gotten several refurb 13" airs for $900-1200 and had no problems with them.  I know some churches get their Apple gear from CDW as well. What do we do when a user wants a windows laptop?  So far it's been rare, but it has happened.  For instance one of our graphics arts designers is a windows power user and she had no interest in switching to a mac.  No problem!  Except we did have a problem ... what to recommend to her.  The Dell Latitude lineup at that time was franky quite ugly.  True, being ugly shouldn't dismiss a technology decision, but that goofy orange on the Latitudes was bleh!  After much looking around and stalling our recommendation, Dell introduced their "air" competitor in the XPS13.  It [...]



Addressing The Consumerization of IT aka GCC's Transition to Macs and Mobility - Part 1

2013-04-12T11:53:58-04:00

Hard to believe it's been 2 years since the below email was written which put into motion perhaps the most significant IT transition at GCC to date. Up to this point, TechOps didn't officially support macs. Sure we'd help the...Hard to believe it's been 2 years since the below email was written which put into motion perhaps the most significant IT transition at GCC to date.  Up to this point, TechOps didn't officially support macs.  Sure we'd help the few mac users on staff as best we could, but it was best effort only and you were not assigned a mac unless your job/software required it. Fast forward two years later and we've watched the number of staff using the mac platform increase to almost 70% and our overall computer ratio shift to 52% macs (out of 150ish machines).  And we've not started any computer refreshes yet in 2013, so the above stats will shift soon to reflect even higher ratios of fruit :-) As people have heard about our transition, I often get asked what started the wheel rolling?  Well, it's a culmination of many variables and discussions around how to address the consumerization of IT for our organization...which lead to the email you'll find below.  This email is thus the actual catalyst that got us to where we are today. Keep in mind this is now a hair over 2 years old and what works in our environment may not work in yours... ========================================== Date: Friday, March 25, 2011 2:54 PMTo: Tim Stevens, Kem MeyerSubject: GCC laptop proposal draft Tim/Kem  [For those that don't know. Tim Stevens is our Executive Pastor, Kem Meyer is my boss...both of them were long time windows power users with zero mac experience]Here's my working draft for upcoming computer refreshes at GCC … it's a work in progress.  Kem suggested I get what I've got so far in front of you both to help field any questions that may pop up as new test computers get rolled out.Also note I'm leaving out whatever macs that have been bought buy Arts, GSM, etc since those were not TechOps purchases.As you probably are aware, we have not purchased any new desktop computers in 5+ years nor any new laptops in 3+ years.  This means everything is now outside of warranty support.  If there's a hardware issue, we have limited options for repair, which usually includes buying parts of ebay and doing surgery to attempt extended life for the device.  It works, but is not optimal :)So taking the above into account, along with an emphasis on anywhere/anytime access from The New Normal project and our own CommWebTechOps 2011 vision and of course other variables, here's what I'm proposing over the next 2 years…Transitioning to an all-mobile hardware platform for end users.  No more desktops unless it makes sense for a specific job role/function. PROS: Laptops require far less power than desktops plus they'll be traveling home with users instead of being left on in the office overnight.  This saves GCC not only electrical costs, but also cooling.  Staff office moves will be no biggie if TechOps doesn't have to move everyone's computers around! w00t! Studies show increased worker productivity for mobile workers.  You guys already get this since I bet you'd rather die than give up your laptops for a desktop ;-) The lines between work and personal continue to blur. Staff keep buying personal laptops and bringing them to us asking to make them able to do basic office/email functions.  Might as well provide them with something that can serve their needs for work and personal while allowing TechOps to keep things standardized which helps everyone in the long run. CONS: Laptops are more much more expensive to purchase than desktops Laptops require battery replacements over time La[...]



Church IT Network 2013 Schedule = 2 National Events in Feb and Oct

2013-04-12T11:06:49-04:00

2013 SCHEDULE Unveiled! In efforts to move our big National event from Spring to Fall (get away from Easter and Spring break and unpleasant weather in Northern States) we’re having 2 National events next year! National Spring 2013 event >>... 2013 SCHEDULE Unveiled!  In efforts to move our big National event from Spring to Fall (get away from Easter and Spring break and unpleasant weather in Northern States) we’re having 2 National events next year! National Spring 2013 event >> 2/27-3/1 in Phoenix, AZ at Christ’s Church of the Valley http://www.ccvonline.com/Arena/default.aspx  Schedule will be a mix of training, workshops, presentations and peer roundtable discussion spread over 3 full days.  And like we started last Spring in Dallas, we’ll have a separate Web/Dev track again so be sure to invite your web/dev peeps! National Fall 2013 event >> 10/21-10/23 in Kansas City, KS at Church of the Resurrection http://cor.org/  This event will also be a 3 full days of a mix of training, workshops, presentations and peer roundtable discussion.  This event will also kick our web/dev track through the roof by hosting Refresh Cache along side our Church IT Rountable event!  RefreshCache mirrors the DNA of our community so it was a no-brainer to host our 2 events together in 2013. From the RefreshCache website … The RefreshCache community is a group of connected web developers and designers from churches, businesses, and non-profits that leverage the power of Church Management Systems. Our purpose is to create an environment driven by innovation, collaboration, sharing, and openness. We seek to empower each other; to share ideas and code, and to shatter the traditional business dependencies on silos and secrecy that plague many ministry organizations today. We believe that through our God-given talents in design and software engineering, we are in control of our own destinies. With innovation and collaboration, we can give birth to far greater things than a single church IT staff can alone. More details to follow, but we wanted you all to get this on your calendars NOW!  You’ll want to be at BOTH events if at all possible, so get it in the budget and start convincing your boss now.  We had almost 300 in attendance at our Spring event in Dallas!  Wonder what will happen in 2013? :-) Starting 2014 our schedule will be a Spring Regional Event (date will change each year based on Easter) followed by a big National Fall Event (late October timeframe). We’re EXTREMELY pumped to have 2 events next year AND have the location and dates ready for peeps to put on calendars :-) Fall 2013 info here http://citrt.onthecity.org/plaza/events/31f191abbdc5a211e5bef29603ecec996f06ace2 [...]



Microsoft's Open License Charity / Non-Profit Retail Price List

2012-11-18T23:40:17-05:00

[edit 11/17/12 - removed https and link seems to work more reliably] Microsoft has moved their charity / non-profit price list from it's prior location. Took me a little digging, but here's the new URL for those intereted: http://mspartner.microsoft.com/en/us/Pages/Licensing/Downloads/open-license-charity-estimated-retail-price-list.aspx As...[edit 11/17/12 - removed https and link seems to work more reliably] Microsoft has moved their charity / non-profit price list from it's prior location.  Took me a little digging, but here's the new URL for those intereted: http://mspartner.microsoft.com/en/us/Pages/Licensing/Downloads/open-license-charity-estimated-retail-price-list.aspx As always, use the above link for budgeting then hit up your preferred vendor (Dell, CDW, Zones, CCB, etc) and make sure you get pricing BETTER than what you see above.  Never pay retail :-) If the above link is having trouble here's the complete pricing lineup. http://mspartner.microsoft.com/en/us/pages/licensing/price-lists.aspx This link also has a link to a doc on: Finding answers to common questions about the Microsoft Open License for Charities that enables nonprofit organizations to purchase multiple software licenses at reduced prices. Other posts on charity pricing = http://jpowell.blogs.com/.services/blog/6a00d8345325d569e200d8345325d769e2/search?pager.sort=relevance&filter.q=charity [...]



Registration OPEN for Fall 2012 Church IT Roundtables!

2012-09-19T12:42:05-04:00

Unlike our National Spring events where everyone meets in one location, in the fall we do regional events at multiple locations across the country to keep travel costs low as possible. Regional event registration is just $35.00! Where are the...Unlike our National Spring events where everyone meets in one location, in the fall we do regional events at multiple locations across the country to keep travel costs low as possible.  Regional event registration is just $35.00! Where are the regionals this year?  See below or check out this map of regional locations http://goo.gl/maps/u1azY What to expect?  This is hard to answer, but each year more and more people attend these events!  This video clip is 2 years old, but Mark did a nice job explaining why he feels these are must attend events for anyone in Church IT  https://vimeo.com/18744075 Who should attend …Anyone responsible for Information Technology in a ministry setting … Business Admins, IT Directors, Network Admins, Helpdesk, staff or volunteers … regardless of church/organization size A roundtable is a peer-learning event where the participants are both teachers and learners. A roundtable is: Led by a facilitator and peer Includes participants who have an affinity for each other Does not include a strong agenda beyond sharing knowledge Purpose … To meet other IT staff and volunteers Encouragement – “I am not alone.” “Here I am understood.” Confidence – “I’m not so crazy after all.” Relationship – Develop on-going friendships To advance the diffusion of innovation in a given topic Sharing knowledge, lessons learned, and experiences Sorting out the big picture.  How does it all fit?  Where are we going? Synergy of new ideas, new perspectives, and new dreams To facilitate collaboration Explore opportunities for teaming up to accomplish common goals “Network” – Learn who knows what and who is doing what REGISTER ONLINE     QUICK OVERVIEW OF LOCATIONS AND DATES:  Hendersonville, TN – First Baptist Church of Hendersonville – Monday Oct 29 Lincoln, NE – Lincoln Berean Church – Monday Oct 29 Marietta, GA – Johnson Ferry Baptist Church – Monday Oct 29 West Lawn, PA – Glad Tidings – Monday Oct 29 – More info Middleton (Madison), WI – Blackhawk Evangelical Free Church – Tuesday Oct 30 Lynchburg, VA – Thomas Road Baptist Church – Tuesday Oct 30 Oklahoma City, OK – LifeChurch.tv – Tuesday Oct 30 – More Info Normal, IL – Eastview Christian Church – Tuesday Oct 30 League City, TX – Clear Creek Community Church – Tuesday Oct 30 Sunnyvale, CA – Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church – Tuesday Oct 30 Greenfield, IN – Park Chapel Christian Church – Tuesday Oct 30 Toronto, ON – Catch The Fire Toronto – Weds Oct 31 Melbourne, FL – Calvary Chapel Melbourne – Thursday Nov 1   DETAILED INFORMATION >>>> Monday, Oct. 29thFirst Baptist Church of Hendersonvillewww.firstbaptisthendersonville.com106 Bluegrass Commons Blvd.Hendersonville, TN 37075 [MAP]615-447-1371Ben Swaby: bswaby@fbchtn.org More Information: http://citrt.onthecity.org/groups/86252/events/1517425Mon, October 29: Registration at 8:15am, Roundtable from 9:00am-4:30pm. Optional dinner & gathering after 5pm (not included in registration cost) Monday October 29, 2012 Lincoln Berean Church 6400 S. 70th St Lincoln, NE 68516 402-483-6512 Contact: Mark Rock — mrock@lincolnberean.org Sun, Oct 28th: Optional Meet & Greet gathering (TBD based on interest and those coming in on Sunday night). Mon, Oct 29th: Registration at 8:00am, Roundtable fr[...]



He-Man and an IT All Staff Email

2012-08-03T12:52:40-04:00

Do most staff simply delete the IT emails you send out? Certainly your emails are important or you'd not be sending them out right? Perhaps you just need to make them a little more entertaining...something people look forward to because...Do most staff simply delete the IT emails you send out?  Certainly your emails are important or you'd not be sending them out right?  Perhaps you just need to make them a little more entertaining...something people look forward to because there's always something fun inside to find.  If you can just get them to open your email the battle is almost won.  I started long ago making funny/goofy sign offs in my all staff emails...usually tying it somehow into the main content of the email.  Staff continue to tell me they look forward to them.  Some even say they skip to the bottom of the email first then go back and read the content! :-) Now, keep your emailz short and to the point.  Be clear, be honest, make it fun, make it understandable and make it conversational.  And of course send as few all staff emails as possible.  Don't spam your co-workers 'cause your important emails will stop being important! Here's the email I sent out this morning ... I think this is the 1st time I've used a He-Man reference in an all staff email LOL!  Already getting lots of postive replies back ;-) -------------------------------------- TODAY at 2pm - possible network outage Electrician's are doing nifty electricity stuff to a main building feed today starting around 2pm.Their work will kill power to our key network gear (along with large chunks of the building) in the lower level which is THE CORE of the network here at The Granger Commons*.  While we do have battery backup for our gear it is limited to approx 30mins.  The electricians hope to be done with our circuits before our batteries deplete, but if they encounter a snag we will have to manually power down our gear (IT gear does NOT like to be shut down cold!) before the batts die.  If we have to power our key network gear down it will kill all network traffic > internet, shared drives, printing, the full monty!How will you know if we have to power down? Stay up to date with late breaking GCC TechOps updates by following @gcctechops on twitter … don't use twitter?  No problem!  Just text FOLLOW GCCTECHOPS to 40404. Now, you’ll start receiving our very infrequent twitter updates via text message. Nifty!Don't have text messaging?  Uh, really??!  You need help!  Your option is to goto our twitter webpage at http://twitter.com/gcctechops … and seriously, it's 2012 … get a text messaging plan already!!!Jason … by the power of Grayskull! … Powell  * http://www.leadingsmart.com/2012/07/what-kind-of-church-would-change-the-name-of-its-property.html ------------------------------- Here's an old blog post with some other sign-offs I've used over the years :-) http://jpowell.blogs.com/jason_powell_church_it/2007/03/king_of_tagline.html   [...]



Join The New Church IT Community Platform!

2012-05-10T23:48:31-04:00

If you missed the news, we unveiled our new Church IT community platform at the recent Church IT Roundtable in Dallas. This is now THE online hub for connecting with your church IT peers. Ask questions, join in discussions, post...

If you missed the news, we unveiled our new Church IT community platform at the recent Church IT Roundtable in Dallas. This is now THE online hub for connecting with your church IT peers. Ask questions, join in discussions, post job openings, list gear you're selling, stay on top of the lastest Church IT Network news and more! 

Go signup, add a headshot pic so people can put a face with a name, then you'll need to subscribe to the IT Discussions and Web/Dev Discussions groups .. oh and the marketplace too! Select the Daily Digest email option if you like to keep your inbox tidy and you'll get 1 email each day listing all the activity in the groups you're subscribed to. What are you waiting for? There's already great discussions going on that you should be a part of :-)

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Apple Quietly Introduces Accidental Damage Coverage: AppleCare+

2012-03-08T20:37:31-05:00

Like most geeks I was eager to see what the "real" final price of "The New iPad" announced yesterday would be after you added all the various options and such. As I clicked through said options in the apple store...Like most geeks I was eager to see what the "real" final price of "The New iPad" announced yesterday would be after you added all the various options and such. As I clicked through said options in the apple store something caught my eye. There was an option for something called AppleCare+ … hmmm, never seen that before.   I did a double take when reading through the description it talked about accidental damage coverage. Wha?? That's new!! … and something many of us have wished for! Description reads:   Every iPad comes with one year of hardware repair coverage and 90 days of telephone technical support. AppleCare+ for iPad gives you two years of repair coverage and technical support from the original purchase date of your iPad. And it adds coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage due to handling of your iPad, each subject to a $49 service fee. With AppleCare+ for iPad, Apple experts can help troubleshoot issues over the phone, at an Apple Retail Store, or at other Apple Authorized Service Providers. They'll answer questions on a wide range of topics, including iOS, iCloud, wireless network connections, FaceTime, iBooks, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, and other Apple-branded iPad apps. And if your iPad needs service under the plan, Apple technical support representatives can even set up a repair during the same call. How to get AppleCare+ Pre-order the new iPad and add AppleCare+ to your cart during the checkout process. Buy it within 30 days of your iPad purchase (available March 16): At an Apple Retail Store (requires a Genius Bar appointment, inspection of the iPad, and proof of purchase). By calling 1-800-275-2273 (requires proof of purchase) So essentially it's $100 for 2yrs of coverage and $50/incident. That's pretty good insurance in my opinion. A little more digging and I noticed a similar option now available for the iPhone as well [apparently this was introduced with the iPhone 4s, but it's news to me]. Cool! This is a GREAT option for the iPhone especially. I know in my family alone we've had 3 busted screens … 2 of which went to the genius bar for $199 replacements … ouch! That's several years back before I knew how to replace iPhone screens cheap and easy (iPhone 4/4s are not in the cheap/easy fix category BTW). I asked our local Apple Business Team today about any accidental damage coverage being rumored for laptops. They said nothing yet, but this is likely a first step towards that. If Apple were to offer accidental coverage for laptops that would be HUGE! As we've been transitioning more and more staff to mac laptops this has been a point of concern. With Dell we could get Complete Care and not worry if someone accidentally busted a screen, not so with our macbooks. We've already seen one busted 13" Air screen. Luckily apple replaced it at no charge, but the bill would have been $800. Still not sure why Apple has made a big deal about this … it's pretty big news! So what about you? If you're buying a new iPad or iPhone will you likely purchase this new AppleCare+?? [...]



Surprise IT Volunteer Award for Tom Templin

2012-03-01T20:37:16-05:00

Every 2 years or so Granger Community Church takes a weekend to celebrate and recognize some of our outstanding volunteers. Men and women who get the mission, vision, and values of GCC and over the years have made a ginormous...Every 2 years or so Granger Community Church takes a weekend to celebrate and recognize some of our outstanding volunteers. Men and women who get the mission, vision, and values of GCC and over the years have made a ginormous impact for the Kingdom through their efforts. We call them "Giant Killers" and surprise them Smooth Stone Awards … 5 Smooth Stone awards are presented at each service so this year that means 30 people across both campuses got an awesome surprise during the service :-) The fun part is that this is all done in secrecy. We don't make any announcements that the Smooth Stone award weekend is coming and the folks getting the awards are clueless … muhwahahaha. Couple years ago we (IT) got to recognize Dustin Hannifin for his contributions. Click that link for the old blog post on it. When I was asked this year if we had any IT volunteers that should be considered I immediately nominated Tom Templin. Tom started volunteering at GCC shortly after I came on staff in 2003. Hard to believe it's been that long & I can't imagine doing IT at GCC without him! Here's a short blurb I wrote about Tom of which some made it into the actual weekend service: ________________ This person started volunteering on the IT team in the Fall of 2003. Back then we had no automated systems so we needed many dedicated volunteers to physically run around to computers and install updates, run checks, and troubleshoot issues. It soon became apparent that this individual was not only dependable and willing to handle small tasks, but had immense capacity and knowledge to tackle large complex projects.  For Example:   In early 2004 he was tasked to lead the research, design and implementation of a cutting edge campus wide private and public wireless system for GCC.  Allowing any wireless user to pull up granger notes on their portable device and take electronic notes.  News about this got out and received mention in the Saturday Evening Post and Network World Magazine.  Then again in 2010 he again lead the charge to replace our by then antiquated wifi solution with the secure, robust, high density solution over 400 of you (our weekend guests) use each weekend! He is now using the knowledge he gained from our implementation to install the same, albeit considerably larger, wifi solution for the entire PHM School district during his day job.   Starting in 2005 this person became our goto guy for IT projects at MC3. He worked alongside program instructors to implement and maintain the network, wifi, and computer lab the students and teachers use daily.   We also leverage this person as our purchasing agent for all things IT. He loves to go to bat for GCC and find THE rock bottom price for our technology needs. We estimate he’s saved GCC in excess of $100,000 over the past years!   This person plays a key role in our decision making process throughout all levels of IT from switching infrastructure, to servers, to applications. We leverage his knowledge and skills for all our strategic planning and initiatives.   AND just last Sunday he spent over 8 hours helping GCC IT staff move all our production servers and storage from GCC to our new colocation space at Union Station in downtown South Bend.   Honestly, I can’t imagine what we’d do without Tom … his value to our[...]