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User group chief gives views through Windows

As a Windows expert and current chairman of the Boston Area Windows Server User Group, Dan Stolts hears and sees just about everything that comes along involving Microsoft's enterprise technologies. Stolts has led former lives as a programmer, a network admin, a business analyst and a consultant before he hung out his own shingle at Bay State Integrated Technology Inc., in Lakeville, Mass. The frenetic Stolts has a boatload of technical certifications and interests that range from running and swimming to chess and pinball. Today, he's also dedicated to learning and teaching about technology. He spoke with about what's on his mind and the minds of his user group members.

What are some of the trends in Windows technology that you expect to pop in 2006?
Security. Security. Security. Microsoft doesn't have it all right yet, but it's headed in the right direction. The lockdown by default they added with [Windows Server 2003] was a step in the right direction, but it wasn't enough. What do they need to do better?
Microsoft has good tools. Maybe educating the community better on what those tools are. That's something I'd like to cover in the next quarter within the [Boston Area Windows Server User Group]. What was the community's response to the WMF (Windows metafile) exploit?

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I think the buzz was, why can't we just get this done? It has become apparent that the exploits, regardless of the particular component that is being exploited, are not only a thing of the past but a thing of the future. I'll be glad if one day we can truly be protected but I don't see it in my future. Companies are spending a lot of money, whether it's Microsoft spending money [for] R&D on the different components, the security training in the organization or the third-party companies, like Symantec or McAfee. No matter what we do, there are more exploits. I see this getting worse before it gets better.

There is a lot of perimeter protection. But when you talk about perimeter protection, you have to think, where is the perimeter? There is no such thing as a single-point perimeter. There are VPNs, pocket devices, remote connectivity. So where does it end? People have to connect from homes and hotels. You can do a lot, but to protect it, you spend a lot of time and money. But lots of companies aren't opening up their wallets like they used to. Some of this comes from the past, such as with the Y2K scare. A lot of companies spent a lot of money, and it turned out to not be a big deal. But what about Sarbanes-Oxley? Isn't that driving spending?
SOX is a great start to solving the problems and getting people to open their wallets. But even with that, not everyone sees the need to go there. There has to be a business reason to get into SOX compliance. SOX is a certification required by the shareholders [of a public company]. For [many] other companies out there it's more of a should we or shouldn't we [issue]. What are some of the big projects that IT shops are undertaking?
It depends on the company. I see all different things. Some companies are concerned about data redundancy, so they are clustering. But those are the ones with money; they recognize that uptime and availability are the key to business viability. Others are connecting multiple offices.

Business need drives IT spending. That's the bottom line. What's the general feeling about Microsoft in the community?
I'm seeing companies that don't care if something has Microsoft's name on it. Microsoft has had a bad rap because of some of the things that have happened in the past. But in the past, Microsoft's name meant something really good. It's not that way as much today. It isn't a negative, but it's neutral. There is a lot of competition out there. How much attention is Vista getting?
From what I've seen of Vista, I absolutely love [it]. The interface changes are good. The search is user friendly. I haven't seen what it can do in terms of performance on machines. The video is outstanding, and the features for mobile users are good. These are things that will make a person's job easier. This might make it an easy sell for upper management. They can see this as a benefit.

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