Last night I attended a special AMITPRO event at The Arden Hotel in Solihull. More than 50 Microsoft SMB Partners, IT Professionals, and Microsoft MVP’s got together to talk Small Business IT.
What was notable about this event was whilst HP and Microsoft laid out a considerable sum – not only for room hire, speaker expenses, loan equipment and transport costs – the event had a distinctly independent feel to it. This was no marketing or sales pitch and all of the speakers, who had given their time freely to get involved, spoke about the pro’s – and con’s – of working with Microsoft and HP as vendors.
What is an MVP?
Some background – the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) programme is the highest award given by Microsoft to those it considers “the best and brightest from technology communities around the world” who “actively share their … technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft”. We are lucky to have some great MVP’s within the European SMB IT Community, many of whom made the trip to Birmingham for this event.
The event kicked off with Jeff Middleton giving an overview of the road show – which has already visited dozens of venues in North America, Israel, Belgium and the Nordic region of Europe – and is now set for four dates in the UK. Jeff gave some background on the Small Business User Group scene worldwide – how it was founded many years ago by some key individuals (many of whom were sat in the room!) – and initially supported by Microsoft, but thrived based on the work of group lead volunteers such as Andy Parkes of iBIT Solutions.
Our first presenter was SBS MVP Marina Roos of Rotterdam, Netherlands talking about Microsoft’s Multipoint Server solution. I don’t think I’m alone in saying this was an eye opener, as whilst I’d heard of Multipoint – I didn’t really understand the product or it’s application. Marina offered up a live demo of the product for us via Wi-Fi – and a number of people in the audience RDP’d into the HP Multipoint Server via iPads and Netbooks to test it out as Marina gave her presentation.
After some dinner and networking time, Oliver Sommer, SBS MVP of Trinity Computers in Germany, next spoke on the varying flavours of Microsoft Small Business Server that are now available. Ollie had a very short window to cram in an awful lot of information, and answered dozens of tough questions from the audience, sharing some valuable information – not only on SBS Standard, Premium, Essentials and how they might be deployed – but also on some 3rd Party Apps that could enhance SBS.
Finally, Jeff Middleton of SBSMigration.com talked about his now world famous “Swing Migration” Server Migration technique and how it applied for not only all types of Microsoft en-site server solutions – but also for those considering migrating to the Cloud. As somebody who has used both Microsoft’s “official” Whitepaper on SBS migrations and Jeff’s Swing Migration technique, I found this a valuable reminder of the pitfalls of migrations and how the Swing Migration system offers so many benefits to IT Professionals.
The evening closed with AMITPRO group lead Andy Parkes explaining to the many newcomers in the room how the Association of Midlands IT Professionals meets on a monthly basis with the intent on sharing knowledge, information and learning, and how everyone was welcome to return in the future. We hope that many of those newcomers found value in the evening and will come to visit us again.
The SMB MVP Road show now rolls onto Reading on Wednesday 16th November, followed by London on Thursday 17th November, and Edinburgh on Monday 21st November. Registration is still open – so if you fancy attending these meetings, get in quick!
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, not just as an opportunity to learn from some of the best in our industry, but also to meet new faces and see such a healthy debate around SMB IT products, hardware and vendors. It really reminded me of how much I’ve got from the SMB IT Community, both in the UK and globally, over the years – and how many great individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, learning from, and sharing knowledge with.
If you attended the event and found it useful – feed this back to your representatives at Microsoft and HP. Personally, I thought both companies got way more positive exposure to their product range from true experts demonstrating their kit (warts and all) than any amount of vendor product sales pitches – but it’s only by feeding this back to the sponsors that they’ll appreciate this first hand and continue to support the SMB IT Community.
Attendees came from as far as Leeds, Exmouth and Cornwall to attend this event – which shows how valuable people perceive it to be. It’s hoped the SMB MVP Road show could return to the UK for further dates in the North of the Country in the near future. Fingers crossed!
A huge thanks to Robert Pearman, Andy Trish and Andy Parkes for being the lynchpins in organising this event, and to MVP’s Jeff Middleton, Marina Roos and Oliver Sommer for making the trip to see us. It was very much appreciated by all involved! Good luck with the remainder of your UK dates!
Photos courtesy of Vijay Riyait – one of those SBSC Community founders I mentioned.