As I plan my upcoming trip to Las Vegas for SMB Nation, I am reminded of SMB Nation’s History. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the fall conference and its theme, appropriately enough, is Back to the Future. Each year, when I leave SMB Nation, I am so full of renewed energy from everything I experienced, I write about it to organize my thoughts and my goals for the following year. When I think of SMB Nation, I think of the IT Community, because Harry Brelsford has been the cornerstone of this community for as long as I have been a member. Harry’s commitment to the community has endured the test of time, but my thoughts on that will be another post.
I was a latecomer in the SBS world compared to many people in the community. I did not begin supporting SBS until 2001. I was lost. When I saw error messages in the event viewer relating to ISA, I thought one of the expansion cards went bad. Seriously. I stumbled upon a worldwide community of people devoting their entire careers to SBS. People asked questions. Other people answered. Then, I started hearing something about user group meetings. I wanted to go to one. Of course, the meetings I heard about were in Australia and California, and I was in Florida. By 2003, I knew enough to start my own user group. With the help of the existing community and Microsoft’s TS2 events, I developed my own local community.
When SBS2003 was released, the community was everywhere. User groups popped up in every town across the globe. This was by far the best SBS product released to date. It was a great time to be an IT Professional. This product fit nicely into the budget of just about every small business out there. It was rich in features, yet affordable. This global excitement lasted a few years. The IT Community was strong and active. Microsoft discontinued TS2 events, and relied heavily upon user groups to educate and promote their products. SBS2008 was a great product, but did not receive the excitement that 2003 did.
The global economy took hit after hit. Small businesses were struggling, which meant they were not buying new servers. This meant that the IT Professional had to work harder to keep his/her doors open. Many found themselves supporting old servers and desktops because their customers could not afford new ones. Microsoft still sent books and sales material to the user groups through GITCA and INETA, but each quarter the boxes got smaller. The groups outside the US did not receive any boxes at all. By 2010, Microsoft began to rethink their community connection with SBS. In June 2012, Microsoft announced a new plan for user group support that does not include GITCA or INETA. Shortly after that, the announcement of SBS2011 being the final release of Small Business Server. The SMB Community dropped to its knees.
For a brief period, I saw the community reconnect. What do we do now? Why is Microsoft turning their backs on us? The community bonded together once again, but it was short-lived. How can we renew the community involvement? We are still out here, and we are still willing to help each other.
Many people in the community have been working in IT for 30 years or more. Someday, they might want to retire or do something else. Who will be the next generation of community leaders?
Does the younger generation of IT Professionals even know there is a community out here? How can we reach out to the youth of today to encourage their involvement? At some point in the future, we will have to turn the reins over to a new generation. The sooner we get them involved, the easier the transition will be, and small businesses around the world will be much better off as a result of having trusted and reliable IT professionals on their team.