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Driving initial traffic to your website – just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean people will visit!

Hi startups! This is a 3,000 word blog post I wrote on early stage marketing. I've formatted it for Reddit below, but there's a much better reading experience (with images) available on Medium.

Since I began working on my startup I’ve read a lot of articles and books about creating something from nothing. They usually have excellent advice, but are light on the details of how you actually go about creating a product startup. The focus is often on challenges that are quite far down the startup journey, covering exciting sounding topics like ‘scaling’, ‘hiring’, and ‘building culture.’
But the reality is that these things will feel like distant problems in the first 12–18 months. As a founder, you will have different challenges to deal with right now like I did: researching your idea, building an MVP with outsourced contractors, finding a technical co-founder, getting initial traffic to your website, settling on a pricing model, evaluating customer feedback, and making hard decisions about when to pivot. This is the third post in a series of five. Read the first two: Discovering and vetting your startup idea and Outsourcing your startup’s MVP.
You’ve discovered an idea and built a Minimum Viable Product. Now you need to launch it, get it in front of your target audience, have them sign up, and give you feedback so you can throw away a bunch of code and no doubt ‘pivot…!’ This was the stage I was at with Dovetail in September 2016. I’ll go through the strategies I used to drive traffic to our website and how I measured what was effective.

First things first: choosing a name

When choosing a name, use an existing, pronounceable word — even if the obvious domain names are taken — instead of making up a new word because its .com is available. Resist the temptation to create something that sounds like it’s straight out of Rick & Morty. The name you choose is very important because that (plus a logo and some colour) forms your entire brand early on. In general, you your name to to be short, unique, and something that’s not easily mispronounced. Naming things is hard.
People love the name Dovetail but they’re concerned “it’s taken already.” There are plenty of other companies, agencies, and organisations called Dovetail. As long as these companies are not in the same industry as you, you needn’t worry too much. Dovetail happens to be a woodworking joint, a non-profit mental health organisation in Queensland, and a co-working space management app. The only practical problem you’ll face is that you have to compete with these in search rankings. However, the world is a big place, and people usually know to simply add ‘research’ to the end of their query if they can’t find us when searching ‘Dovetail’ on its own. Obviously don’t pick a name that is a copy, or close to a copy, of a competitor in the same space as you. You might find a trademark infringement notice in your letterbox earlier than you expected.
You should be looking at available domains while brainstorming a name. Prepare for disappointment and compromise. Unfortunately for us, dovetail.com and dovetail.io were already taken. I initially compromised on getdovetail.io, before recently moving us to dovetailapp.com which is slightly better. Novelty domain names like del.icio.us were cool a few years ago but it turns out people tend to forget where the dots go. As a former designer on Delicious, I can attest to the trouble that domain caused, hence why the company began to use delicious.com instead.
The takeaway here is that naming is hard.

Let’s ship a thing to the internet!

For the initial launch I built a responsive splash page in HTML & CSS and deployed that. I also asked a freelance illustrator if she could create some illustrations for the website. Custom illustrations might seem like an odd thing to spend money on at this stage, but first impressions are crucial. Even if you’re just making a splash page, it has to look fantastic, because everything potential customers see is a representation of your brand. Brand-building starts from day one.
The website reiterated our value proposition (Improve your product with simple, contextual research) and included a summary of the features:
  • Run market or customer research via SMS or email
  • Get in-the-moment responses from participants
  • Analyse your data and centralise all insights
  • Share what you learned with your team and stakeholders
There was a form to ‘request an invite’ which took a name, company, and email address. To same time I used a hack: the form response was submitted to a hidden, embedded Google Form connected to a spreadsheet.
I set up a custom domain for our Medium blog, wrote this introduction post, and shared it on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. There wasn’t a lot interest, but after a few days, I got a flurry of sign ups from high quality companies. It turns out Dovetail was mentioned in an email newsletter for researchers. I emailed everyone who signed up, thanked them, and asked them a simple question:
What do you hope to use Dovetail for?
This question gave me more knowledge about them, their company, and their use case. It also tested whether they understood the product based on the marketing lingo I used on the splash page.
At the same time I was preparing the product for its first users. The app had an admin interface which allowed me to send invites. I started sending invites in batches in October. I was very stressed. I had low confidence in the stability of the product, in part because I didn’t understand the code well, and I knew the outsourced developers I used were not going to win any prizes for code quality. In the end it took me three months before the anxiety subsided and I felt comfortable with the stability of the app.

Letting people sign up themselves

Until late December, the only way to sign up was to request an invite. We’re not a consumer app and there’s no need to ‘reserve your username’ so the reason for this approach was not to stir up excitement and demand. Instead, the reasons are boring:
  • The product didn’t have a self-serve sign up flow with email confirmation, password reset, and so on. I don’t think we even had the ability to send transactional emails to new users.
  • These first people were high quality leads. They hadn’t come from AdWords; instead they were word-of-mouth. I wanted to personally onboard them to make a great first impression. Even if the product was an MVP, our customer support was not.
  • The code was unproven beyond my own testing with friends. I needed to send out a batch of invites, watch the logs, fix bugs, and repeat before I felt confident to allow anyone to sign up without my hand-holding.
If you sign up for Dovetail now, you’ll notice that you can’t proceed without confirming your email address. Whether you have email confirmation in your onboarding flow is a subject of much debate. You can make your own decision, but I’ll offer some of the reasons why we have it in Dovetail:
  • Like Atlassian’s sign up flow (which I talked about in my first post), having some friction on the marketing site helps to weed out low quality leads who would never purchase anyway.
  • Dovetail allows users to send SMS messages and emails in bulk. Verifying email on sign up helps prevent people using our service to spam others.
  • Email verification is a standard pattern for SaaS products now, so the funnel drop-off is negligible. After removing fake email addresses, our email confirmation step only accounts for a ~2% drop-off.
At first, users saw a sample data set that showed a ‘finished’ study in Dovetail. After looking through the analytics and talking with customers, I found that almost everyone created another study called ‘test study’ and added themselves as a participant. Of course! Researchers wanted to see what the experience was like for participants on the other side. I modified the sample data to be an active study called ‘Sample study’, with the researcher entered as a participant. The study emailed them questions that said “This is what a question looks like for participants.” I productised what users were already doing, and retention improved.
Another behaviour I noticed is people preferring to change the sample study rather than creating a new one. Even if there is little real friction in actually doing so, the perceived friction in creating a ‘new thing’ is quite high.
The takeaway here is to ship a first version of your onboarding and observe user behaviour to make continual improvements. You won’t get it right the first time. Our onboarding experience still has problems, and we’ll get around to working on it later this year.

Marketing channels

Quora, StackExchange, and Reddit

A lot of our quality traffic has come from Quora. My strategy was to search for a problem that our product solved (e.g. “what tools exist for diary studies”), find the Quora question, and post an answer. I linked to our product and included a disclaimer that I was the founder. This strategy has worked very well. Quora questions are high on Google search ranking. Our potential customers have Googled a problem, clicked on the Quora link, seen my answer, and visited our site.
To a lesser degree, posting in Research, Design, and UX StackExchange sites and subreddits has sent a few page views our way, but I don’t go out of my way to submit to these sites since that’s not really where our audience is.

Content marketing

Intercom, Invision, and Hubspot have demonstrated that content marketing can be an effective way to drive traffic to your product. It’s free if you write the content yourself, lasts forever, and helps to boost your search ranking. Good content marketing can establish your brand as a reputable source of knowledge.
My first attempt involved writing a few blog posts about diary studies on Medium. Our Medium blog used to be on a subdomain (blog.getdovetail.io), and I read somewhere that it’s better for SEO to have posts on your main domain instead. I copied the research posts from Medium over to a new section on our website called ‘Guides’, and wrote a couple more. Our blog is now focused on product news and non-research posts like this, while research content lives on our main site.
I wasn’t sure how the guides I wrote would perform, but they seem to be doing well. After a few weeks they appeared in the top 5 results for searches like ‘diary studies’, ‘qualitative vs quantitative data’ and ‘participant recruitment.’ Bounce rates and session duration look good, and sign ups increased as a result of traffic to the guides.


I configured Google Search Console early on to measure our search ranking. I don’t know much about SEO, but I do believe a lot of the time it simply comes down to relevant, quality content. Google even have a section in their help documentation that says the same thing:
“Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.”
Other factors to consider are site performance and mobile experience.
I highly recommend making quick-win performance improvements like loading JS asynchronously, minifying assets, and using sprites or inline SVGs for images. PageSpeed Insights is great for seeing what Google’s verdict is on your performance. It’s a checklist of things to do, so just make sure you do all of them (some may be harder than others) and it’ll help your search ranking, especially on mobile.
Speaking about mobile, both our website and product are responsive because quite frankly, there’s no excuse for websites not to have mobile support in 2017. At the very least your marketing website needs to be responsive, then you’ll either have a responsive product, a mobile site, or native apps for your app. There are pros & cons for each, but that’s the subject for another blog post!

Paid advertising with Facebook and AdWords

I have some experience with Facebook Ads and Google AdWords from a few years ago, but mostly I don’t know what I’m doing.
Earlier this year I set up ad campaigns on both platforms with identical budgets. Our hypothesis was that Google would out-perform Facebook because people search for solutions to problems on Google, and we were building a solution to a problem! We’re very lucky that researchers (like developers, designers, and other ‘tech’ people) actively look to improve the way they work. A lot of people don’t do this, and are quite happy to put up with whatever they currently use for all eternity. I’m sure you have some friends or family that fit this description.
If, like me, you don’t know what you’re doing when creating online ads for your startup, there are a few terms you should understand:
  • Impressions. This is the number of people who have seen your ad.
  • Click-through rate. This is the percentage of people who, after seeing your ad, click on it and visit your website. It’s usually quite low; around 1 to 2%.
  • Sign up rate. This is the percentage of people who sign up on your website. It’s usually around 5%, and if it’s higher than this, you’re doing quite well.
  • Conversion rate. Assuming you have a free plan or trial period, this is the percentage of people who actually hand over some money, or ‘convert’ into a paying customer. This number varies wildly between companies and products.
  • Acquisition cost. This is how much you spent to acquire a single paying customer.
  • Average lifetime value. This is how much money you expect to get, in total, from each customer. Your lifetime value should be greater than your acquisition cost otherwise you’re losing money when trying to acquire customers. (This may be okay if you’re building a social network or a ride-hailing service where the race to a critical mass of users is important. We’re not.)
With these five key metrics, we can map out a typical scenario.
With AdWords and Facebook, you can pay per impression, click, or conversion. There are pros and cons to each which I won’t go into here. Let’s say you choose to pay per impression. You get 10,000 impressions on your search ad, and a 2% click-through rate. Google or Facebook have charged you $300. Along with understanding why these companies are so wealthy, you now know that 200 people have visited your website from the ad. On your website, your sign up rate is 5%. So 10 of those people sign up for an account. Out of those 10 people, 2 of them decide to convert, making your conversion rate 20%. So you have spent $300 to acquire two paying customers. $150 per customer. Now, let’s say you charge them $50 per month. Each customer has to stick around for 3 months for you to break even. Any more than that and you’ll turn a profit, however of course this is not factoring in any company expenses.
You then realise how great content marketing is.

Product Hunt and other aggregator sites

From day one people would sign up, take screenshots, and list Dovetail on aggregator sites like nicelydone.club, sansfrancis.co, and hypershoot.com. Mostly the creators of these sites. We got a few sign ups from these sites, but mostly these they’ve been of little value.
I had high expectations for Product Hunt but was disappointed. The audience is mostly designers, developers, and other startup founders who are looking for trendy software to use themselves or as inspiration.
If you’re not building a chatbot, Slack add-on, or a design prototyping tool, then don’t bother with Product Hunt. B2B products in a specific market don’t do well there. Product Hunt is a waste of your time if you are not building for this audience. Instead, find out where your audience hangs out and go there. In our case, that’s Quora, Twitter, Medium, and email newsletters.

Internal referrals through team invites

Lastly, another strategy we employ is in-product invitations. We needed to build ‘teams’ anyway in order to become a collaborative product. A nice side effect is user growth from researchers inviting the rest of their team. One person at a company might refer 5 or 6 of their colleagues.
Because our pricing model is not based on the number of collaborators you have (more on that in a later blog post), there is hardly any friction when inviting teammates.
However, in saying that, the product today doesn’t do enough to incentivise users to invite their colleagues at opportune moments. The feature is kind of tucked away in team settings. So there’s work to do there.

Measuring marketing success

As an early stage startup, you will spend a lot of time experimenting with different marketing strategies until you find reliable ‘marketing channels’ that deliver high quality users at an acquisition cost less than their lifetime value. Marketing channels differ between industries and products. Beauty and clothing startups might have a lot of success on Instagram, but your highly technical data warehouse solution probably doesn’t lend itself to hipster, filtered photos.
When you experiment, you need to measure. Measuring different marketing strategies is the only way to find channels that work for you. With Dovetail, I made sure our analytics story was solid from the beginning. We use Mixpanel primarily for in-product behavioural analytics, and Google Analytics for page view and demographic data. I also learned that it’s a great idea to also install a Facebook Pixel on your site even if you’re not planning on marketing via Facebook yet. It can start building a custom audience of website visitors which is great for remarketing later on.
With Mixpanel specifically, you will most likely need to do some work to connect the JavaScript library with your backend so you can link anonymous users browsing the website to the actual user ID in the database when they sign up. This means you can track someone’s journey from the website all the way into the product. Mixpanel then has some neat features that help you figure out the ‘aha!’ moments that cause people to convert.
Don’t leave analytics instrumentation too late. Add it as part of your regular development so you can start collecting data and learning from it straight away. With Google Analytics connected to AdWords, you can see what ads are generating paying customers. Likewise with Facebook. Optimise for conversion rather than clicks or impressions since that’s closer to revenue.

In summary

Choose a pronounceable name. Make your website fast and mobile-friendly. Iterate on your sign up flow. Add analytics from day one. Go where your audience is. Forget about Product Hunt. Experiment with marketing channels. Measure what works and double down on that.
Original post on Medium
submitted by humphreybc to startups


Tools & Info for MSPs #2 - Mega List of Tips, Tools, Books, Blogs & More

(continued from part #1)
Unlocker is a tool to help delete those irritating locked files that give you an error message like "cannot delete file" or "access is denied." It helps with killing processes, unloading DLLs, deleting index.dat files, as well as unlocking, deleting, renaming, and moving locked files—typically without requiring a reboot.
IIS Crypto's newest version adds advanced settings; registry backup; new, simpler templates; support for Windows Server 2019 and more. This tool lets you enable or disable protocols, ciphers, hashes and key exchange algorithms on Windows and reorder SSL/TLS cipher suites from IIS, change advanced settings, implement best practices with a single click, create custom templates and test your website. Available in both command line and GUI versions.
RocketDock is an application launcher with a clean interface that lets you drag/drop shortcuts for easy access and minimize windows to the dock. Features running application indicators, multi-monitor support, alpha-blended PNG and ICO icons, auto-hide and popup on mouse over, positioning and layering options. Fully customizable, portable, and compatible with MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher and Y'z Dock skins. Works even on slower computers and is Unicode compliant. Suggested by lieutenantcigarette: "If you like the dock on MacOS but prefer to use Windows, RocketDock has you covered. A superb and highly customisable dock that you can add your favourites to for easy and elegant access."
Baby FTP Server offers only the basics, but with the power to serve as a foundation for a more-complex server. Features include multi-threading, a real-time server log, support for PASV and non-PASV mode, ability to set permissions for download/upload/rename/delete/create directory. Only allows anonymous connections. Our thanks to FatherPrax for suggesting this one.
Strace is a Linux diagnostic, debugging and instructional userspace tool with a traditional command-line interface. Uses the ptrace kernel feature to monitor and tamper with interactions between processes and the kernel, including system calls, signal deliveries and changes of process state.
exa is a small, fast replacement for ls with more features and better defaults. It uses colors to distinguish file types and metadata, and it recognizes symlinks, extended attributes and Git. All in one single binary. phils_lab describes it as "'ls' on steroids, written in Rust."
rsync is a faster file transfer program for Unix to bring remote files into sync. It sends just the differences in the files across the link, without requiring both sets of files to be present at one of the ends. Suggested by zorinlynx, who adds that "rsync is GODLY for moving data around efficiently. And if an rsync is interrupted, just run it again."
Matter Wiki is a simple WYSIWYG wiki that can help teams store and collaborate. Every article gets filed under a topic, transparently, so you can tell who made what changes to which document and when. Thanks to bciar-iwdc for the recommendation.
LockHunter is a file unlocking tool that enables you to delete files that are being blocked for unknown reasons. Can be useful for fighting malware and other programs that are causing trouble. Deletes files into the recycle bin so you can restore them if necessary. Chucky2401 finds it preferable to Unlocker, "since I am on Windows 7. There are no new updates since July 2017, but the last beta was in June of this year."
aria2 is a lightweight multi-source command-line download utility that supports HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, BitTorrent and Metalink. It can be manipulated via built-in JSON-RPC and XML-RPC interfaces. Recommended by jftuga, who appreciates it as a "cross-platform command line downloader (similar to wget or curl), but with the -x option can run a segmented download of a single file to increase throughput."
Free Services
Temp-Mail allows you to receive email at a temporary address that self-destructs after a certain period of time. Outwit all the forums, Wi-Fi owners, websites and blogs that insist you register to use them. Petti-The-Yeti says, "I don't give any company my direct email anymore. If I want to trial something but they ask for an email signup, I just grab a temporary email from here, sign up with it, and wait for the trial link or license info to come through. Then, you just download the file and close the website."
Duck DNS will point a DNS (sub domains of duckdns.org) to an IP of your choice. DDNS is a handy way for you to refer to a serverouter with an easily rememberable name for situations when the server's ip address will likely change. Suggested by xgnarf, who finds it "so much better for the free tier of noip—no 30-day nag to keep your host up."
Joe Sandbox detects and analyzes potential malicious files and URLs on Windows, Android, Mac OS, Linux and iOS for suspicious activities. It performs deep malware analysis and generates comprehensive and detailed reports. The Community Edition of Joe Sandbox Cloud allows you to run a maximum of 6 analyses per month, 3 per day on Windows, Linux and Android with limited analysis output. This one is from dangibbons94, who wanted to "share this cool service ... for malware analysis. I usually use Virus total for URL scanning, but this goes a lot more in depth. I just used basic analysis, which is free and enough for my needs."
Hybrid Analysis is a malware analysis service that detects and analyzes unknown threats for the community. This one was suggested by compupheonix, who adds that it "gets you super detailed reports... it's about the most fleshed out and detailed one I can find."
JustBeamIt is a file-transfer service that allows you to send files of any size via a peer-to-peer streaming model. Simply drag and drop your file and specify the recipient's email address. They will then receive a link that will trigger the download directly from your computer, so the file does not have to be uploaded to the service itself. The link is good for one download and expires after 10 minutes. Thanks to cooljacob204sfw for the recommendation!
ShieldsUP is a quick but powerful internet security checkup and information service. It was created by security researcher Steve Gibson to scan ports and let you know which ones have been opened through your firewalls or NAT routers.
Firefox Send is an encrypted file transfer service that allows you to share files up to 2.5GB from any browser or an Android app. Uses end-to-end encryption to keep data secure and offers security controls you can set. You can determine when your file link expires, the number of downloads, and whether to add a password. Your recipient receives a link to download the file, and they don’t need a Firefox account. This one comes from DePingus, who appreciates the focus on privacy. "They have E2E, expiring links, and a clear privacy policy."
Free DNS is a service where programmers share domain names with one another at no cost. Offers free hosting as well as dynamic DNS, static DNS, subdomain and domain hosting. They can host your domain's DNS as well as allowing you to register hostnames from domains they're hosting already. If you don't have a domain, you can sign up for a free account and create up to 5 subdomains off the domains others have contributed and point these hosts anywhere on the Internet. Thanks to 0x000000000000004C (yes, that's a username) for the suggestion!
ANY.RUN is an interactive malware analysis service for dynamic and static research of the majority of threats in any environment. It can provide a convenient in-depth analysis of new, unidentified malicious objects and help with the investigation of incidents. ImAshtonTurner appreciates it as "a great sandbox tool for viewing malware, etc."
Plik is a scalable, temporary file upload system similar to wetransfer that is written in golang. Thanks go to I_eat_Narwhals for this one!
Free My IP offers free, dynamic DNS. This service comes with no login, no ads, no newsletters, no links to click and no hassle. Kindly suggested by Jack of All Trades.
Mailinator provides free, temporary email inboxes on a receive-only, attachment-free system that requires no sign-up. All @mailinator.com addresses are public, readable and discoverable by anyone at any time—but are automatically deleted after a few hours. Can be a nice option for times when you to give out an address that won't be accessible longterm. Recommended by nachomountain, who's been using it "for years."
Magic Wormhole is a service for sending files directly with no intermediate upload, no web interface and no login. When both parties are online you with the minimal software installed, the wormhole is invoked via command line identifying the file you want to send. The server then provides a speakable, one-time-use password that you give the recipient. When they enter that password in their wormhole console, key exchange occurs and the download begins directly between your computers. rjohnson99 explains, "Magic Wormhole is sort of like JustBeamIt but is open-source and is built on Python. I use it a lot on Linux servers."
EveryCloud's Free Phish is our own, new Phishing Simulator. Once you've filled in the form and logged in, you can choose from lots of email templates (many of which we've coped from what we see in our Email Security business) and landing pages. Run a one-off free phish, then see who clicked or submitted data so you can understand where your organization is vulnerable and act accordingly.
Hardening Guides
CIS Hardening Guides contain the system security benchmarks developed by a global community of cybersecurity experts. Over 140 configuration guidelines are provided to help safeguard systems against threats. Recommended by cyanghost109 "to get a start on looking at hardening your own systems."
Daily Tech News is Tom Merrit's show covering the latest tech issues with some of the top experts in the field. With the focus on daily tech news and analysis, it's a great way to stay current. Thanks to EmoPolarbear for drawing it to our attention.
This Week in Enterprise Tech is a podcast that features IT experts explaining the complicated details of cutting-edge enterprise technology. Join host Lou Maresca on this informative exploration of enterprise solutions, with new episodes recorded every Friday afternoon.
Security Weekly is a podcast where a "bunch of security nerds" get together and talk shop. Topics are greatly varied, and the atmosphere is relaxed and conversational. The show typically tops out at 2 hours, which is perfect for those with a long commute. If you’re fascinated by discussion of deep technical and security-related topics, this may be a nice addition to your podcast repertoire.
Grumpy Old Geeks—What Went Wrong on the Internet and Who's To Blame is a podcast about the internet, technology and geek culture—among other things. The hosts bring their grumpy brand of humor to the "state of the world as they see it" in these roughly hour-long weekly episodes. Recommended by mkaxsnyder, who enjoys it because, "They are a good team that talk about recent and relevant topics from an IT perspective."
The Social-Engineer Podcast is a monthly discussion among the hosts—a group of security experts from SEORG—and a diverse assortment of guests. Topics focus around human behavior and how it affects information security, with new episodes released on the second Monday of every month. Thanks to MrAshRhodes for the suggestion.
The CyberWire podcasts discuss what's happening in cyberspace, providing news and commentary from industry experts. This cyber security-focused news service delivers concise, accessible, and relevant content without the gossip, sensationalism, and the marketing buzz that often distract from the stories that really matter. Appreciation to supermicromainboard for the suggestion.
Malicious Life is a podcast that tells the fascinating—and often unknown—stories of the wildest hacks you can ever imagine. Host Ran Levi, a cybersecurity expert and author, talks with the people who were actually involved to reveal the history of each event in depth. Our appreciation goes to peraphon for the recommendation.
The Broadcast Storm is a podcast for Cisco networking professionals. BluePieceOfPaper suggests it "for people studying for their CCNA/NP. Kevin Wallace is a CCIE Collaboration so he knows his *ishk. Good format for learning too. Most podcasts are about 8-15 mins long and its 'usually' an exam topic. It will be something like "HSPR" but instead of just explaining it super boring like Ben Stein reading a powerpoint, he usually goes into a story about how (insert time in his career) HSPR would have been super useful..."
Software Engineering Radio is a podcast for developers who are looking for an educational resource with original content that isn't recycled from other venues. Consists of conversations on relevant topics with experts from the software engineering world, with new episodes released three to four times per month. a9JDvXLWHumjaC tells us this is "a solid podcast for devs."
System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is a comprehensive technical guide designed to help you optimize Microsoft's Configuration Manager 2012 according to your requirements and then to deploy and use it successfully. This methodical, step-by-step reference covers: the intentions behind the product and its role in the broader System Center product suite; planning, design, and implementation; and details on each of the most-important feature sets. Learn how to leverage the user-centric capabilities to provide anytime/anywhere services & software, while strengthening control and improving compliance.
Network Warrior: Everything You Need to Know That Wasn’t on the CCNA Exam is a practical guide to network infrastructure. Provides an in-depth view of routers and routing, switching (with Cisco Catalyst and Nexus switches as examples), SOHO VoIP and SOHO wireless access point design and configuration, introduction to IPv6 with configuration examples, telecom technologies in the data-networking world (including T1, DS3, frame relay, and MPLS), security, firewall theory and configuration, ACL and authentication, Quality of Service (QoS), with an emphasis on low-latency queuing (LLQ), IP address allocation, Network Time Protocol (NTP) and device failures.
Beginning the Linux Command Line is your ally in mastering Linux from the keyboard. It is intended for system administrators, software developers, and enthusiastic users who want a guide that will be useful for most distributions—i.e., all items have been checked against Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE. Addresses administering users and security and deploying firewalls. Updated to the latest versions of Linux to cover files and directories, including the Btrfs file system and its management and systemd boot procedure and firewall management with firewalld.
Modern Operating Systems, 4th Ed. is written for students taking intro courses on Operating Systems and for those who want an OS reference guide for work. The author, an OS researcher, includes both the latest materials on relevant operating systems as well as current research. The previous edition of Modern Operating Systems received the 2010 McGuffey Longevity Award that recognizes textbooks for excellence over time.
Time Management for System Administrators is a guide for organizing your approach to this challenging role in a way that improves your results. Bestselling author Thomas Limoncelli offers a collection of tips and techniques for navigating the competing goals and concurrent responsibilities that go along with working on large projects while also taking care of individual user's needs. The book focuses on strategies to help with daily tasks that will also allow you to handle the critical situations that inevitably require your attention. You'll learn how to manage interruptions, eliminate time wasters, keep an effective calendar, develop routines and prioritize, stay focused on the task at hand and document/automate to speed processes.
The Practice of System and Network Administration, 3rd Edition introduces beginners to advanced frameworks while serving as a guide to best practices in system administration that is helpful for even the most advanced experts. Organized into four major sections that build from the foundational elements of system administration through improved techniques for upgrades and change management to exploring assorted management topics. Covers the basics and then moves onto the advanced things that can be built on top of those basics to wield real power and execute difficult projects.
Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Third Edition is designed to teach you PowerShell in a month's worth of 1-hour lessons. This updated edition covers PowerShell features that run on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and later, PowerShell v3 and later, and it includes v5 features like PowerShellGet. For PowerShell v3 and up, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and later.
Troubleshooting with the Windows Sysinternals Tools is a guide to the powerful Sysinternals tools for diagnosing and troubleshooting issues. Sysinternals creator Mark Russinovich and Windows expert Aaron Margosis provide a deep understanding of Windows core concepts that aren’t well-documented elsewhere along with details on how to use Sysinternals tools to optimize any Windows system’s reliability, efficiency, performance and security. Includes an explanation of Sysinternals capabilities, details on each major tool, and examples of how the tools can be used to solve real-world cases involving error messages, hangs, sluggishness, malware infections and more.
DNS and BIND, 5th Ed. explains how to work with the Internet's distributed host information database—which is responsible for translating names into addresses, routing mail to its proper destination, and listing phone numbers according to the ENUM standard. Covers BIND 9.3.2 & 8.4.7, the what/how/why of DNS, name servers, MX records, subdividing domains (parenting), DNSSEC, TSIG, troubleshooting and more. PEPCK tells us this is "generally considered the DNS reference book (aside from the RFCs of course!)"
Windows PowerShell in Action, 3rd Ed. is a comprehensive guide to PowerShell. Written by language designer Bruce Payette and MVP Richard Siddaway, this volume gives a great introduction to Powershell, including everyday use cases and detailed examples for more-advanced topics like performance and module architecture. Covers workflows and classes, writing modules and scripts, desired state configuration and programming APIs/pipelines.This edition has been updated for PowerShell v6.
Zero Trust Networks: Building Secure Systems in Untrusted Networks explains the principles behind zero trust architecture, along with what's needed to implement it. Covers the evolution of perimeter-based defenses and how they evolved into the current broken model, case studies of zero trust in production networks on both the client and server side, example configurations for open-source tools that are useful for building a zero trust network and how to migrate from a perimeter-based network to a zero trust network in production. Kindly recommended by jaginfosec.
Here are a couple handy Windows shortcuts:
  • Win + Shift + S: Captures a user-selectable area of the screen to the clipboard (on Windows 10 Ver 1703+)
  • WIN + CTRL + F4: Close a virtual desktop
Here's a shortcut for a 4-pane explorer in Windows without installing 3rd-party software:
  • Win + E, win + left, up
  • Win + E, win + right, up
  • Win + E, win + left, down
  • Win + E, win + right, down
(Keep the win key down for the arrows, and no pauses.) Appreciation goes to ZAFJB for this one.
Our recent tip for a shortcut to get a 4-pane explorer in Windows, triggered this suggestion from SevaraB: "You can do that for an even larger grid of Windows by right-clicking the clock in the taskbar, and clicking 'Show windows side by side' to arrange them neatly. Did this for 4 rows of 6 windows when I had to have a quick 'n' dirty "video wall" of windows monitoring servers at our branches." ZAFJB adds that it actually works when you right-click "anywhere on the taskbar, except application icons or start button."
This tip comes courtesy of shipsass: "When I need to use Windows Explorer but I don't want to take my hands off the keyboard, I press Windows-E to launch Explorer and then Ctrl-L to jump to the address line and type my path. The Ctrl-L trick also works with any web browser, and it's an efficient way of talking less-technical people through instructions when 'browse to [location]' stumps them."
Clear browser history/cookies by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-DELETE on most major browsers. Thanks go to synapticpanda, who adds that this "saves me so much time when troubleshooting web apps where I am playing with the cache and such."
To rename a file with F2, while still editing the name of that file: Hit TAB to tab into the renaming of the next file. Thanks to abeeftaco for this one!
Alt-D is a reliable alternative to Ctrl-L for jumping to the address line in a browser. Thanks for this one go to fencepost_ajm, who explains: "Ctrl-L comes from the browser side as a shortcut for Location, Alt-D from the Windows Explorer side for Directory."
Browser shortcut: When typing a URL that ends with dot com, Ctrl + Enter will place the ".com" and take you to the page. Thanks to wpierre for this one!
This tip comes from anynonus, as something that daily that saves a few clicks: "Running a program with ctrl + shift + enter from start menu will start it as administrator (alt + y will select YES to run as admin) ... my user account is local admin [so] I don't feel like that is unsafe"
Building on our PowerShell resources, we received the following suggestion from halbaradkenafin: aka.ms/pskoans is "a way to learn PowerShell using PowerShell (and Pester). It's really cool and a bunch of folks have high praise for it (including a few teams within MSFT)."
Keyboard shortcut: If you already have an application open, hold ctrl + shift and middle click on the application in your task bar to open another instance as admin. Thanks go to Polymira for this one.
Remote Server Tip: "Critical advice. When testing out network configuration changes, prior to restarting the networking service or rebooting, always create a cron job that will restore your original network configuration and then reboot/restart networking on the machine after 5 minutes. If your config worked, you have enough time to remove it. If it didn't, it will fix itself. This is a beautifully simple solution that I learned from my old mentor at my very first job. I've held on to it for a long time." Thanks go to FrigidNox for the tip!
Deployment Research is the website of Johan Arwidmark, MS MVP in System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management. It is dedicated to sharing information and guidance around System Center, OS deployment, migration and more. The author shares tips and tricks to help improve the quality of IT Pros’ daily work.
Next of Windows is a website on (mostly) Microsoft-related technology. It's the place where Kent Chen—a computer veteran with many years of field experience—and Jonathan Hu—a web/mobile app developer and self-described "cool geek"—share what they know, what they learn and what they find in the hope of helping others learn and benefit.
High Scalability brings together all the relevant information about building scalable websites in one place. Because building a website with confidence requires a body of knowledge that can be slow to develop, the site focuses on moving visitors along the learning curve at a faster pace.
Information Technology Research Library is a great resource for IT-related research, white papers, reports, case studies, magazines, and eBooks. This library is provided at no charge by TradePub.com. GullibleDetective tells us it offers "free PDF files from a WIIIIIIDE variety of topics, not even just IT. Only caveat: as its a vendor-supported publishing company, you will have to give them a bit of information such as name, email address and possibly a company name. You undoubtedly have the ability to create fake information on this, mind you. The articles range from Excel templates, learning python, powershell, nosql etc. to converged architecture."
SS64 is a web-based reference guide for syntax and examples of the most-common database and OS computing commands. Recommended by Petti-The-Yeti, who adds, "I use this site all the time to look up commands and find examples while I'm building CMD and PS1 scripts."
Phishing and Malware Reporting. This website helps you put a stop to scams by getting fraudulent pages blocked. Easily report phishing webpages so they can be added to blacklists in as little as 15 minutes of your report. "Player024 tells us, "I highly recommend anyone in the industry to bookmark this page...With an average of about 10 minutes of work, I'm usually able to take down the phishing pages we receive thanks to the links posted on that website."
A Slack Channel
Windows Admin Slack is a great drive-by resource for the Windows sysadmin. This team has 33 public channels in total that cover different areas of helpful content on Windows administration.
KC's Blog is the place where Microsoft MVP and web developer Kent Chen shares his IT insights and discoveries. The rather large library of posts offer helpful hints, how-tos, resources and news of interest to those in the Windows world.
The Windows Server Daily is the ever-current blog of technologist Katherine Moss, VP of open source & community engagement for StormlightTech. Offers brief daily posts on topics related to Windows server, Windows 10 and Administration.
An Infosec Slideshow
This security training slideshow was created for use during a quarterly infosec class. The content is offered generously by shalafi71, who adds, "Take this as a skeleton and flesh it out on your own. Take an hour or two and research the things I talk about. Tailor this to your own environment and users. Make it relevant to your people. Include corporate stories, include your audience, exclude yourself. This ain't about how smart you are at infosec, and I can't stress this enough, talk about how people can defend themselves. Give them things to look for and action they can take. No one gives a shit about your firewall rules."
Tech Tutorials
Tutorialspoint Library. This large collection of tech tutorials is a great resource for online learning. You'll find nearly 150 high-quality tutorials covering a wide array of languages and topics—from fundamentals to cutting-edge technologies. For example, this Powershell tutorial is designed for those with practical experience handling Windows-based Servers who want to learn how to install and use Windows Server 2012.
The Python Tutorial is a nice introduction to many of Python’s best features, enabling you to read and write Python modules and programs. It offers an understanding of the language's style and prepares you to learn more about the various Python library modules described in 'The Python Standard Library.' Kindly suggested by sharjeelsayed.
SysAdmin Humor
Day in the Life of a SysAdmin Episode 5: Lunch Break is an amusing look at a SysAdmin's attempt to take a brief lunch break. We imagine many of you can relate!
Have a fantastic week and as usual, let me know any comments.
Graham | CEO | EveryCloud
Fyi - I've set up a subreddit /itprotuesday, where we feature / encourage posts of some additional tools, tips etc. throughout the week. Pop over and subscribe if you’re interested.
submitted by crispyducks to msp