Last call: Oliver's parting shot

Oliver Rist bids InfoWorld farewell but offers a peek of what's to come

Back in the saddle again…

Yup, I'm out of here. As of next week, I'll be the lead analyst for networking and SMB over at PC Magazine. Stop by in a few weeks; we're going to have some fun. (First, we're turning my title into a tongue twister after three or four shots of tequila.)

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Yup, I'm out of here. As of next week, I'll be the lead analyst for networking and SMB over at PC Magazine . Stop by in a few weeks; we're going to have some fun. (First, we're turning my title into a tongue twister after three or four shots of tequila.)

My moseying on has nothing to do with InfoWorld. I've loved my time here. But I've been a lone geek wolf working out of my house for too long. It's been eight years at last count, with consulting and the software companies being my only breaks, and hermit fatigue is starting to show. So I'm reconnecting with humanity via a staff gig. If InfoWorld had a New York office, rest assured I'd be there; the folks here have been the best coworkers I've ever had.

Despite the many requests, I won't be doing a "Does Linux suck?" article as I did for Vista and Mac. We know the Penguin doesn't suck overall. And from a Windows network manager's point of view, the specific points of suckage that apply to Linux will be mostly similar to those that apply to the Mac. Why go redundant when you have only one column left? I figure I'll go through a few of the topics I was going to hit this year, so at least you'll be warned what I think Windows admins need to be thinking about for 2007 and early 2008.

Longhorn
It's obvious, so let's get it out of the way. But be prepped to test the Small Business Server and Centro versions as soon as Microsoft makes them public betas. Centro especially has the potential to affect a large swath of medium-sized Windows networks. If Redmond did the UI right, this could be a real productivity boon. Or it could be a huge "Why did they bother?" bomb, so figure that out early and you'll have an easier year.

Software as a service
It lurks, it works, and it's not just for Web jerks. With Internet hooks becoming more reliable for businesses, tying even mission-critical apps to an Internet connection can save big bucks and massive headaches. They're also really simple to deploy, and if you can figure out single sign-on and local caching for data recovery, many users won't be able to tell the difference.

Vista and SharePoint
More the latter than the former, actually. Once Vista really meets all your desktop needs, it'll be an easier upgrade than XP was. But because most of us still haven't done so on a corporate level, this is probably something you'll need to worry about next year.

SharePoint, on the other hand, you should look at now. In case you didn't get it from the recent review, we like SharePoint. A lot. For a Windows network with the Office 2007 suite on the front end, Office SharePoint Server can change the way your company works. And if you do it right, it can make you look like a genius.

Job security
And speaking of looking like a genius, I've encountered ever more IT brethren in the last year who are wondering if they made the right choice career-wise. Or they're wondering if they'll still have a viable job future in six months or a year or two. This is especially true of Microsoft-certified pros, who are battling a rep of light certification and low knowledge thresholds. This was going to be a series, but the upshot was that IT folks shouldn't concentrate just on technology. That's a slow road to obsolescence — or maybe a fast one.

Stay up to date, certainly, but don't stop there. The key to being considered too critical to fire isn't how many OS certs you have. It's knowing how to apply all that knowledge to the bits-and-bytes details of your particular industry, business, or company. Don't simply know how your business works in broad strokes; that only lets you apply broad technology help. Know how it works to the smallest details your brain and schedule can handle and you'll be able to come up with highly specific solutions. That'll keep employees in your corner, managers off your back, and bottom-line guys smiling when you walk in the room. Plus, it also makes you more attractive to the competition if you do decide to mosey.

That's all I've got. Thanks for reading, e-mailing, voice mailing, and, yeah, even flaming lo these many years. Hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. (Editor's note: We have, Oliver. We have. Happy trails, and best wishes.)

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