If you ask Judy Sherriff what the biggest innovation in IT she’s seen in her 40 years in IT, she won’t hesitate to answer.
“I think Windows was it,” says Sherriff, of Judy Sherriff Computers, based in Te Awamutu in the Waikato. “I just loved the graphic interface and when that came it changed the world for me. And it was a relief. Especially because after Windows 3.1 or so, you could actually lock the interface on the screen in a school, and go back a year later and nothing would hve changed.”
Sherriff has built a viable business out of providing top-to-bottom IT solutions to schools throughout the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. Growing from 1984 by word of mouth and reputation as teaching staff transferred to new schools, her company at one point managed VoIP, procurement, software — the works, to hundreds of schools scattered through the two regions.
These days, the accredited Microsoft education reseller has slowed to a degree. An agreement with PassionIT (now part of TTS) a few years ago has allowed Sherriff to go into semi-retirement, which means these days she only has to work 60 hours a week.
Sherriff is still actively engaged with her vendor partners, however. Her company falls into Microsoft’s “unmanaged” partner category, one whose account is managed through one of its distributors, Ingram Micro or Express Data.
She recently attended a session in Hamilton with Warwick Grey, who has been touring the territories for Ingram Micro, in part to let resellers know about online technical development resources, to evangelise Windows 8 as a new platform and not an upgrade, and to talk turkey about licensing, which Sherriff found very useful.
“It’s quite hard to keep up on the licensing,” Sherriff admitted. “And Microsoft licensing has always been hard to understand. And he covered it well.”
Grey says the tour has helped open his eyes about the kinds of innovation the partners are doing.
“We in Auckland live in such a rarified world,” says Grey. “There is grassroots stuff that you don’t know that’s going on.”
Grey was impressed by a project that Sherriff had completed — automating a cow shed that allows the farmer to control, from anywhere he happens to be, where livestock goes as it passes through the gates, allowing, say, some cows to return to pasture and others to continue to a milking shed.
For Grey, the tour which continued to the end of April, exposed Microsoft to a still-varied community of resellers.
“We still have system builders making PCs, and the traditional IT guy type resellers, and then there’s the SMB reseller, and some are hosting and some are not,” says Grey. “There is no one description that fits a partner these days.”
Grey’s presentations on his tour encompassed everything from demonstrating the capabilities of Windows to the continued slow migration from XP to Server 2012, to the resources that out-of-the-way partners can tap, such as microsoft.com/oem and expertzone.microsoft.com for retail oriented resellers. He also promoted Micorosft’s online content which, Grey says, very few resellers take advantage of on their websites.
“When I show the resellers, they say 'I didn’t know about this site.' You don’t need a password. No layers. It’s all public kind of information. One is the Get to Modern campaign, the new Windows server.
From Sherriff’s perspective, Microsoft has been part of the story of her company’s development. While she has had forays into provisioning Linux-based servers for email and ﬁle management to some schools, she has been Microsoft, HP and D-Link focused for most of the life of her business.
“I’ve always been a fan of Microsoft and HP, I have to admit,” she says. “Microsoft just made my job easier. Especially once they ﬁrst got to Windows. The GUI has always made the job better.”