It’s difficult to believe I got home from the national Church IT RoundTable at Seacoast Church a week ago tonight. Sadly, I forgot my digital camera battery, so I don’t have any pictures. Several other people have posted photos online such as here, and here. Note particularly Jason Powell’s Flickr set, which includes most of the attendees individually with their name tags, allowing those of us with bad memories to go back and refresh ourselves. Thanks Jason!
Quick notes from Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday:
The hospitality shown by Trace Pupke, Glen Wood, Geoff Surratt, and the whole Seacoast team was off-the-charts. We pity the next host if they try to live up to that standard. Wow!
I posted my raw notes from Wednesday’s main roundtable sessions here.
Based on a quick show-of-hands in the management roundtable session, nearly all of us consider ourselves to be spiritual leaders, but few of us are actively asking those reporting to us about their spiritual lives. That seems to be a huge growth area for most of us.
Enjoyed meeting Daryl Hunter of LifeChurch.tv, who was there with CITRT-veteran Mark Burleson. The CITRT benefits greatly from the participation of the very largest churches such as LifeChurch and Second Baptist. They are dealing with things the rest of us haven’t encountered yet and illuminate the path ahead. They challenge us, stretch us, and inspire us.
Having run an IT professional services firm, I found myself in an instant friendship with Scott Smith, CEO of Solerant. There are hundreds of IT firms in every major city, but few are committed to serve churches as their primary market and fewer still offer the level of talent and expertise present on Solerant’s team. One of my action items from the roundtable is to find a project I can outsource to Solerant in order to develop the relationship further.
My first in-person encounter with Blackbaud left me very impressed. I took the opportunity to have a frank conversation with Liz Marenakos, one of their product managers. Considering we had just met, she allowed me to push her hard. She seemed genuinely interested in understanding the needs of local churches and working through the process of adapting their technology and pricing models to fit us. I strongly urged her to come visit me in Kansas City for an in-depth follow-up conversation. I hope she will, particularly after what we learned when we toured Blackbaud on Friday. They have an extraordinarily powerful framework upon which to build products for churches.
Once again, the Church IT RoundTable managed to be the coolest thing ever. Here are my quick, contemporaneous notes from the roundtable sessions. I moderated in Studio B, so my ability to take good notes was limited.
24 laptops in the room. Most if not all connected to the demo Xirrus array in the room. Worked perfectly. Kudos.
Mac OS issues
magic triangle – term used by Apple to describe AD-OD integration
Why do AD-OD integration?
Daryl Hunter at LifeChurch not sure why it’s needed. Mac people have tons of files all over the place, completely unmanaged, not searchable, etc. Hezekiah Barnes – Mac admin from Southeast very strong
Brian O’Neal – faith based support from Apple
Biggest issue is setting up ACLs so they sync between the two directories
Exchange 2007 even worse problems with Entourage than before. Entourage database corrupts occasionally. Problems with people using Entourage on one computer and Outlook on another. Entourage 2008 is more stable with better features.
Don’t need AD integration for file and printer sharing. Ideally it will work for single sign-on, but this is tough.
People love their Macs partly because they’re not managed. Everyone lets their Mac users be local admin. Some are doing the same for PC users.
Too much Mac data isn’t getting backed up.
Can become a certified Apple shop and then do your own repair. Don’t have to pay for Apple Care.
Backup Exec has an agent for Mac.
Compellent has cool interface
EMC is awesome performance, difficult to manage
EqualLogic is fast
SAN Melody is a software-based SAN – does storage virtualization. Cheap.
KVM virtualization for Linux – feature equivalent with ESX. KVM easier to manage than Xen. Performance is very good.
Windows people love Hyper-V
Mark Rock says ESX people are always looking for a place to hold a user group. Love churches with an open area and WiFi.
Compelling reasons for virtualization: Better hardware utilization. Quicker disaster recovery. Lower space requirements, lower heat.
Joomla has a CRM plug-in
Tony says all ChMS are too hard to use.
Most discussion around check-in and attendance. Various theories about hospitality and whether self check-in or assisted check-in is better.
David Drinnon built a system using RFID for check-in
The flight from Kansas City to Atlanta was the best kind: smooth and uneventful. The airport rendezvous with Jeremie Kilgore was flawless. We managed to get a rental car with a trunk large enough for 4 suitcases and 4 laptop bags. The Sprint Navigation GPS software on my Mogul directed us perfectly to Moe’s, though it is quite buggy and requires frequent reboots of the Mogul. While at Moe’s I installed the latest WMWiFiRouter software, which is schweet!
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. After dinner, Derek Schwab gave us a tour of JFBC. Derek is a very busy network manager who has made the best of a small closet for use as a server room. If you imagine a small data center and then cut that by a factor of 8 or so, you have Derek’s server closet. 😉 A few things caught my eye: metro Ethernet service from Bell South, which makes me jealous; a cool LED message system with a web interface and wireless connectivity; and a monster Xirrus WiFi array, covering their 3-story entry foyer and adjoining rooms. Derek has done some solid work of which he is justifiably proud.
North Point Community Church and their adjacent office building. Tuesday morning we enjoyed a tour of NPCC’s IT and A/V infrastructure given by Ryan Clevenger, the head of their network and server team. We saw and heard many of the things Tony mentioned when he visited 18 months ago, but new things as well. They are currently in the process of expanding and completely rebuilding their data center in the NPCC main building, but of course everything has to keep running even while the room is under construction. They’re making the best of a tough situation. By contrast, their data center in the office building is a thing of beauty. Sean Strickland, the IT Director, explained that their network infrastructure is “overbuilt” as an intentional strategy. They want to install infrastructure once and then not mess with it any more so they can focus their efforts on areas that add more value. They also have clearly-defined processes for day-to-day prioritization as well as annual goal setting. My team was impressed with that. They want more structure in their lives. Heh.
Next we ran over and had a very quick tour of Perimeter Church – only the main auditorium, the data center and IT offices, and the original demarc/MDF. I just couldn’t stand the idea of being that close to Perimeter without my guys having a chance to see a bit of it.
Following lunch at Zaxby’s, we drove the 5.5 hours to Charleston, checked into our hotel, and left immediately for the pre-roundtable dinner. Was awesome to see so many friends and meet a few new people too.
After dinner, we went over to Seacoast to help Trace finish last-minute setup. We got to see his incredibly neat data center and then helped him put out four demo Xirrus WiFi arrays. Cool! The CITRT crowd will push them to the limit on Wednesday and Thursday. By the end of this week, we’ll definitely know what they can do!
The Courtyard WiFi is giving 2.2 Mb/s down and 1.7 Mb/s up. Not bad; only problem is, connectivity keeps dropping. Jusin Moore thinks it has something to do with the configuration of their Nomadix box. Grrr.
If you visit clifguy.com as opposed to subscribing with a feed reader then you can see the Google gadget on the left counting down the days until the Fall 2008 Church IT RoundTable at Seacoast Church in the Charleston, SC area. Early bird registration is $50. It goes up to $75 on August 8. I just now registered myself along with Brian and Jeremy from my team. We got the early bird rate. Did you?