Friday, December 10, 2010

Sierra Computer Group Aquires TELXAR Clients

For Immediate Release:
Sierra Computer Group Acquires Key TELXAR® Clients
Reno NV – December 10, 2010

Darren McBride
Sierra Computer Group, Reno’s largest IT (Information Technology) service provider, announced today the acquisition of a portion of TELXAR® business clientele.  The firm also announced they would be changing the company name from Sierra Computers to “Sierra Computer Group” to reflect the growing range of computer and network consulting services for business.  The company will remain headquartered next to Reno’s main post office at 1900 Vassar St.  They sell computer and networking hardware but focus primarily on consulting services for things like Microsoft servers, email servers, virus protection, backup, internet security, wireless, smart phones and all things networking.

Jeff Bowling, President of TELXAR® has joined the organization as a VP of Sales and Marketing.  He joins a management team that includes Darren McBride, CEO, Rod Coleman, former General Manager of MicroAge Reno, and Tom Hoops, former President of Technology Associates.  Mr. McBride says the Reno based company has now acquired some or all of the clients of IT firms TELXAR®, MicroAge Reno, Cimarron Computers, Technology Associates, NetMergence, and Integrated Business Solutions.  “We’d love to continue to add Northern Nevada’s best IT companies and professionals.  Many of these companies have great clients and a track record of excellent customer service.”  McBride says that IT pros can get burned out because they have to be available 24x7.  By joining a larger organization, they can focus on the IT work they love while relying on other experts to help them respond more quickly to customer emergencies and special technologies.  

Rod Coleman, General Manager of Sierra Computer Group says the challenge of merging corporate cultures is an opportunity for improvement.  “The trick is keeping the best parts from each organization. One issue of our firm’s acquisition strategy is making sure that IT pros, whom each have their favorite products and ways of doing things, are able to integrate those strengths into a company-wide standard,” says Coleman.  “Each of these CEOs and technicians are experts in their field.  We may debate the best virus protection or router to use, but when we reach consensus we know we are recommending the best solution for the client.”

Asked about their ideal client, Coleman said the firm works with any business or government entity that has an installed network.  “People think we only work on large systems.  The truth is we’re very cost effective for even a 5 user network.  We understand how to manage a project and stay within budget.  Business owners sometimes get frustrated with a “Lone Ranger” who may be effective, but can’t be in two places at once, or can’t be an expert with everything.  That’s when they call us.  We stabilize their system or design a solution that meets their needs – without breaking their budget.  On the other end of the spectrum, we also know how to build out an enterprise grade data center with air conditioning, power protection and virtualization for our larger clients,“ said Coleman.  Sierra Computer Group can help with a simple workstation problem or large network maintenance and migration.

Asked about acquisitions on the horizon CEO McBride smiles, “ I’d like to see us add a telephone provider to the group, and a few other technology companies that give us more products and service expertise so that we become a complete one-stop shop for small business technology.”

Rod Coleman, General Manager
Sierra Computer Group
1900 Vassar St.
Reno, NV 89502

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to Make Two Plus Two Equal Five

By Rod Coleman, General Manager - Sierra Computer Group

There's an old saying about business mergers, "Two plus two often equals three, and sometimes only one".

Sadly it's true, especially with large organizations or businesses with dissimilar cultures.  The technology sector is no different.  Just like banks, movie studios and oil companies, mergers are one way to grow a company, but there's always a risk of ending up with less.  The assets are obvious.  What's critical is how well the organization's employees come together,  and how effectively they work with the clients.

Most of those reading this post will know of Sierra Computers.  The company has been continuously operating in northern Nevada since 1982.  Originally, the focus was on computer products, but over the years and through mergers a range of technology services have evolved as well.  In the process, the name has changed from Sierra Computers to Sierra Computers Limited,  to MicroAge Sierra (I join the company during this MicroAge merger of 2001), to Sierra Computers and Training, and then back to Sierra Computers.  And now it's changed again.

2010 has been another significant year for mergers.  In February, Netmergence joined our company in a very smooth transition.  As of November 1st, key employees and clients from TELXAR have begun the process.  Like before, our objective is to take the best parts of each organization to form what will now be known as Sierra Computer Group.

If you're a client of any of these companies, you'll encounter new people, new systems and expanded technical resources.  We'll do what we can to make these changes as painless as possible.  That's one reason for this blog.  I'll be presenting some of these new people, resources and technologies from time to time.  So put us on your news reader.  What?  You don't use a news reader for RSS feeds?  Don't worry.  We'll cover that topic too.

And we'll do everything we can to make two plus two equal five for YOUR business, as well as ours.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One VERY Impressive Piece of Malware - Stuxnet

You may have heard about Stuxnet, but like me didn't get into the details until now.   If so, you'll be impressed.  

It's hard to believe its development will stay secret forever, so someone will eventually take credit and maybe even write a book.  Whatever the case, and whom ever created and managed it, Stuxnet was one amazing malware campaign with it's zero-day exploits, subtle damage approach and peer to peer upgrade channel.

Don't worry if you're a technophobe, the article below reads like a Hollywood script and brings to mind how Churchill subtlety used Ultra (or didn't use it) to further the allied objectives.  The story even has a climax, with discovery day cleanup already prepared - very impressive.  Here's the link :

And the more technical Wiki version :

Wiki on Stuxnet

It makes one wonder what unknown code may be running on other computers...

Be prepared.

Rod Coleman, General Manager - Sierra Computer Group

Monday, November 22, 2010

IT Design

By Rod Coleman - General Manager, Sierra Computer Group

This is a post from Slashdot this morning :

DiniZuli writes"I've been employed by a small NGO to remake their entire IT-infrastructure from scratch. It's a small company with 20 employees. I would like to ask the /.-crowd what worked out best for you and why? I came up with a small list: Are there any must have books on building the IT infrastructure? New desktops: should it be laptops (with dockingstations), regular desktop machines or thin clients? A special brand? Servers: We need a server for authentication and user management. We also need an internal media server (we have thousands of big image and video files, and the archive grows bigger every year). Finally we would like to have our web server in house. Which hardware is good? Which setup, software and OS'es have worked the best for you? Since we are remaking everything, this list is not exhaustive, so feel free to comment on anything important not on the list."

Rather than get into the flaming fray at Slashdot, I'll comment here and provide an example of how to set up IT for a small business.  And more importantly - how NOT to.

The biggest problem with the above approach is that his questions were all about hardware.   Hardware is the last thing to worry about.  And the least expensive.  If you do the design right, the hardware questions answers themselves.

(BTW, if you know what the MOST expensive part of a computer system is, post a comment.  I'll provide the answer there.)

The questions our Slashdot guy SHOULD have been asking the stake-holders :

1. What is the nature of your business?

2. How do you manage the client relationship?

3. In what ways is YOUR business different from typical?

4. What transactions are time or process critical and therefore have disproportionate importance?

These questions would have lead to others that would have allowed him to clearly define the needs of the business.  These needs are then the key to finding the right architecture, software and services.  They will provide definition, or exceptions to the following standard requirements, yielding even more good questions :

Web access - You can't even start the business plan without doing some web research.  Your pipe to the world has become the most critical business tool of the 21st century.  Make sure you have the bandwidth and reliability you need.

Email - Phones are becoming less critical while social texting is emergent, but email will remain the workhorse of business communications.  I know of businesses that ONLY use email to communicate, not that I'd recommend it.  Define your email needs carefully.  Do you need the security of having email on premises or can you use a cloud solution?  How will you plan to defend yourself against malware?

Phone System - Phones remain the universal instant gratification of business, so mobile is key.  Make sure smart CELL phones are at the heart of your design.

Vertical Applications - This is often the most important and specialized component of an IT systems.  Make sure it reflects the actual business process and transaction flow.  Once you understand these needs, this critical piece of software can be selected.  If you do a good job with this selection, the hardware will simply follow from these software requirements.

Customer Relationship Management - This is often part of the vertical application.  If not, make sure it's near the top of your check list.

Accounting Software - The boring stuff often gets ignored, but is critical to collecting the right metrics for later process management.  Choose wisely.

Other Support Applications - More boring stuff, but some more important than others.  Look for disproportionality when allocating your research time.

Security Review - Just make sure it's completed BEFORE you turn up the servers.

Backup and Recovery - Same here.  Risk of data loss is highest during startup, migrations or transitions. Be prepared.

Website - It's the new Yellow Pages.  SEO metrics will tell you if you made it into the book or not.

Blog - The fact that you're reading this post shows how useful this tool can be.

Reader - A news and blog reader will allow you to stay current with your customer's changes.

Social Media - This may or may not be important now, but make sure the questions is asked.  Cultural interaction is becoming more terse as texting demonstrates.  Be ready to engage with the media your customer is using.

Once you've discussed these topics (and others they bring up), you'll have your needs defined.  These needs will drive the software selection.  The software will drive the hardware selection.  This is just a quick overview.  Watch for more detail on each topic.

Once you define needs, software and hardware, you only need an effective IT team to roll it out.

Let us know if we can help.