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Must-Read IT Blogger Q&A: Mitch Garvis

BizTech talks with an IT professional and blogger who gets a real kick out of technology and life.

Meet Mitch Garvis: As a lifelong computer enthusiast and certified IT professional since 2003, he’s got some serious time under his belt. And as a martial artist, he actually has a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do — which means Mitch Garvis packs a punch in more ways than one.

Garvis lives in Ontario, Canada, where he works as an IT instructor and Microsoft MVP. His experiences in IT have taught him an important lesson or two, and he kindly imparts this knowledge with the world on his blog, The World According to Mitch. As an IT blogger, Garvis focuses on virtualization, Windows 7 and IT training, sharing his rich personal experiences and well-informed analyses.

Last year, Garvis’ blog was selected as one of BizTech’s 50 Must-Read IT Blogs. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Garvis and pick his brain about social media, blogging and IT.

BIZTECH: What are your daily must-visit tech stops online?

GARVIS: As odd as it may sound, I don’t have any must-visit stops. I suppose I tweet every day, and I almost always peek at my blog’s traffic. Aside from that, I review my e-mail constantly, and when someone refers an interesting article, I read that.

BIZTECH: What emerging technology do you think will most change the enterprise landscape in 2012?

GARVIS: I have been looking at VDI [Virtual Desktop Infrastructure] to really take off in the next year, maybe two. It makes a lot of sense for businesses, but will still be difficult for end users who need to conceptualize the disconnect between their device and their desktop. It is ironic, because that is where end users started out back in the days of mainframe computing.

BIZTECH: What existing technology do you think businesses have most underutilized?

GARVIS: I have been saying for years that Active Directory is one of the most underutilized tools that they all have. It has so much power and capability, and yet most companies use it — we hope — as a Global Address List and maybe for some basic Group Policies.Take a look under the hood and it can do so much more!

BIZTECH: What's the most innovative, creative or unusual way an organization has capitalized on technology that you've come across?

GARVIS: Ask me in a year. The truth is that I see so many new and innovative uses of technology today that become commonplace tomorrow. I am energized when I think of companies who once used servers to save files who are now deploying virtualization and Active Directory and SharePoint.

I see cloud computing that was once limited to remote e-mail really coming into its own. Every sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic — once someone looked at a Phillips screwdriver as a magical innovation, and today everyone has a bunch of them in a drawer somewhere. So don’t ask me what yesterday’s sorcery is. I am excitedly anticipating tomorrow’s!

BIZTECH: When it comes to technology adoption, what best practice can't be repeated often enough?

GARVIS: It is amazing how many companies buy the wrong technology because they don’t take the time to assess and plan. No carpenter in his right mind would cut before measuring, so why do we do it in IT? IT is a science, and you cannot hold your thumb out, squint, and start painting. Once you determine that a need exists you have to decide what the scope is, and plan it out.

One good habit to get into is not only to document everything, but maintain documentation as an ongoing process. That way you can audit yourself by running a tool such as the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit and compare the results with your documentation. Then you can buy the right servers or software or licenses to achieve your goals.

BIZTECH: Why do you blog?

GARVIS: I blog because I have a lot to say, and an unlimited audience.

The truth is, I started blogging because I wanted to build my brand, and when I speak to IT pros who want to make their mark beyond the four walls of their company I tell them that is so important. Build your brand and make it your public persona. Nearly three hundred articles later when people refer to me in conversation, the other person either knows who I am, or should.

I love it when I am in a foreign city or country, speaking about whatever topic, and someone in the audience refers to an article that they read online, and I can honestly say ‘Yeah … I wrote that.’ Maybe it is a bit of egotism. My mother says that is reflected in the title of my blog — The World According to Mitch — but in truth it is, and has been, a placeholder name until I come up with a better title. When my blog was transitioned from The President’s Blog in 2006, when I stepped down as president of the Montreal IT Professionals Community, I was trying to think of a good name, and Robin Williams’ movie The World According to Garp was on TV. I guess it stuck!

BIZTECH: What features do you love most in Windows Intune?

GARVIS: Every business needs to have System Center to manage it, for reporting, patch management, software deployment, and so much more. The problem is that most of them cannot afford the infrastructure requirements, and don’t have the in-house IT Pros to manage and maintain it. Windows Intune is System Center in the cloud. It allows companies to manage their computers with no upfront costs, no infrastructure, and very little training.

Of course, Intune is still a long way from delivering the functionality of the full System Center suite, but not only is it better than nothing, it is a great deal. I manage my computers using System Center, but that does not account for my mother, mother-in-law and a half-dozen friends whose systems I maintain. Windows Intune allows me to do all of that, and even offer them remote assistance when they get stuck. How cool is that?

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Jan 22 2012 Spice IT

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