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Living in the real world

On the surface everything is simple. Every technology is straight forward. Every solution can be implemented given the right amount of effort and resources. Everything is cut and dried until you actually try to implement a solution. Thats when the surprises start.
At Network Computing we recognized that discovering the surprises that various technologies throw our way and writing about them was the important part of providing quality product reviews to the IT community. We knew that the only way to do reviews the right way was to test products head-to-head, hands-on and in-depthhence our labs.
Last week we officially dedicated our new datacenter/lab at Syracuse University. We invited some muckety-mucks to help us celebrate the opening including Fritz Nelson, the Senior Vice President / Group Publisher, Enterprise Group of our parent company CMP Media and Syracuse Universitys CIO, Paul Gandel. We had speeches and a luncheon but the important thing is that NWC keeps making improvements to our bread and butterour ability to help find the surprises through hands-on testing.

As Network Computings Lab Director I get to take the trials and tribulations of working with technology a step further. I get to implement a number of technologies in a production environment for the labs. Setting aside the political hurdles of actually implementing one technology over another for a population of users with strong opinions about technology (Boardman, Fratto, Dohertyare you listening!), Ive found that setting something up for a production environment adds a layer surprises that is tough to ferret out during the course of a product review. Living with a product is different than testing a product.

Im sure thats not new information for most of you. At one time or another youve all gone through the process of bringing a number of products in-house to do hands-on testing, selected a particular product based on the test results and then found a new layer of surprises as you worked towards implementing that product in a production environment.

Dealing with the surprises effectively is both the most frustrating and rewarding part of my job as an IT professional. Currently Im working on implementing a small VoIP and unified communication solution for the lab at Syracuse University and have discovered a number of surprises. It shouldnt take a day to figure out how to get the GMT offset recognized by the phone so the correct time is displayedespecially when youre following the documentation. I shouldnt need to rework the IP address assignments of our production mail server/PBX application server to get self-service calls to work properly. I didnt find that out while working with the test server because I didnt have multiple mail domains setup on the test server. More on my VoIP surprises as the project progresses.

Live and learn. I love every minute of itexcept for the politics!