My 12 Month Tech Journey

My 12 Month Journey from Google to Microsoft and back again.

Why Microsoft and me don’t see eye to eye.

A quick note from the author

This post has changed directions many times since I started writing and it’s developed into a much longer post than I anticipated. I want to apologie in advance if I have drifted off subject at times and if it’s just too long to read.

Once I started I just couldn’t stop, I got the writing bug and just went for it, so here goes.

siriI must tell someone at least once a day how much I love Google and how much I despise Microsoft and even though I am a fan of Apple I am slowly starting to question their high pricing and lack of investment into new business services like custom domain based push email and in my opinion limited Google integration.

oh and don’t get my started with how bad Siri is ….

Up until last year I had done most of my consulting work from home with only the occasional need to visit clients, with powerful applications like Google Hangouts I have never felt the need to spend hours sitting in traffic for a face to face meeting when I could be in my nice warm office making money and keeping projects on target.

I’d say that nearly every new client I have ever gained has been from a word of mouth referral or from a very specific Google Search, most prospective clients I speak to kind of already know what they want and just need someone to manage the project for them and fill in the missing gaps.

My home office comprised of an Apple iMac, my phone of choice was the iPhone 6 and most of the business applications I used were Google with G Suite being my number one OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmost used suite of programs. I didn’t own anything Microsoft and only had office installed on my iMac for the odd occasion I needed to manipulate a lot of data in Excel. I haven’t owned a PC for over 14 years, I think the last time I used a computer it had Microsoft XP installed.

As i had been self employed for so long i’d always said I wouldn’t go back to full time employment, but then out of the blue I received a proposal from a client regarding an interim CTO position within their company, with the money on the table being too good to turn down I decided to take the plunge, it was only for 3 months after all and the CTO experience would do me good.

Back to the Daily World of Corporate Grind

Last year saw me thrown back into the corporate world again when I accepted an office based interim CTO position, and being that I was used to working in my own office environment where everything was Google and Apple I was about to be put in line for a massive shock.cto

I hadn’t been in a corporate office environment since my last paid job back in 2001 so as you can imagine many things have changed over the years, the lack of a fax machine was the first thing I noticed, followed by the missing background sound of a dot matrix printer, which put a stop to any nostalgic moments I was hoping to experience, and why is no one wearing suits? What has happened to the world!

But some things seem to have remained exactly as I remembered them, with Microsoft being one of them.

Out of the approximate 100+ people based in my new place of work, all but little old me were using PCs, with Outlook being the choice to manage email, Microsoft Office for documents, spreadsheets etc and my least favorite browser, Internet Explorer for everything internet based.

microsoft-exchange-20132And like many other companies here in the UK and world alike they housed their own Microsoft Exchange server on site, what became apparent very quickly was that this beast of a server was the cause of many of their problems and was consuming a massive amount of their IT team’s very precious time.

I had always believed I was cutting edge when it came to using the best and latest solutions on the market, but sitting there in my glass office on that very first day in my new roll, I actually felt like a tech dinosaur.

Not having used Windows 10 before I looked like a bit of a dope, trying to access my new email account and navigate my way around a PC and Windows is harder than you think

Crazy facewhen your new bosses are standing around your desk telling you how very happy they are with their choice of interim CTO.

To wing it is an understatement, thank god for my good looks and charm.

A life saver of an IT guy who saw me struggling came to my rescue and offered to add my Macbook Pro to their network and get me up and running, a very close call to say the least.

PC or not PC

Now linked to their network I was up and running with my Macbook and looking more like the professional I am and feeling right at home, but before getting to comfortable things started to go south and using my Mac seemed to mean nothing was plain sailing, everything in the office just seemed to work on a PC but trying to do simple tasks from my computer (like printing) was becoming a pain and a hindrance, trying to work away from the office without a PC wasn’t at all straightforward, connecting remotely via a VPN should have been a doddle but time after time I ran into problems, was it their network, their IT Manager or was it that the Mac just wasn’t happy sharing a network with Windows based PCs? I didn’t know and hadn’t the time to troubleshoot, so I decided to break a rule of a lifetime and invest in a new laptop, I choose a very sexy new Dell XPS …

del xps 15

Being completely honest and unbiased, using the Dell Laptop did make working in my new environment less complicated and for the first time in my working life I even started to enjoy using Windows. Windows 10, according to my non Apple disciples was apparently one of the better versions and was a far cry from the disliked Windows 8.

Problem solved, I could work from home without much hassle and could easily hook straight onto their network when onsite, I got so used to working from a Windows 10 machine that I even purchased a new home computer and sold both my Macs, what was I thinking!

I did find Outlook rather complicated and the Exchange server did struggle with speed sometimes, I also disliked OneDrive and missed Google Drive like mad, had I jumped into this PC purchase to fast?

windows 10One thing became very clear from day one, my new work colleagues liked Microsoft and PC’s and that wasn’t going to change, I could go as far in saying that in their minds there was no other options, they stared at me in complete silence when I spoke about Google G Suite and the benefits with using a cloud based solution over their very pricey Exchange server and Microsoft Office licenses.

Even though I was recruited as the CTO, my position was only a temporary one so I had to leave the Windows V Google argument to one side and crack on with more pressing projects, I remained defeated.

The IT Gate Keeper

One of the MAJOR issues with trying to sell G Suite into corporations is the IT Managers, most of the Directors and top level executives love the idea of something new, something that can actually save them money and in most cases can streamline their business better. On the other hand IT Managers that I have worked with have mainly been gate keeperthoroughbred Microsoft and networking guys, which in fairness to them is what they have been used to using and all their training and certifications have covered, and before I get a stream of hate mail, I am not saying for a minute that ALL IT Managers are like this, but I certainly think a particular age group will always be stuck with what they are comfortable with.

And I totally get it from their point of view, some new CTO comes in and wants to change everything they have worked so hard to put in place, of course I was careful not to tread on his already squashed toes but I had a job to do and wanted to do it well. Convincing some people that changes can be good and that learning new things can be fun and more importantly can also add some extra beef to their CV’s and Linkedin profiles should be easy, but in this case, didn’t happen.

My theory is that cloud based email and collaborative solutions can scare some IT professionals into thinking that once you remove their Exchange Server and the need of installing continuous Exchange and Microsoft Office patches and updates, their jobs will scaredbecome less technical and thus making their positions less tenable, some may say I am digging a little deep with my psychology analysis of IT Managers but I honestly believe that one person’s inability to stray out of their comfort zone and look outside of the box can be massively detrimental to a company’s technology advancements, which is why it’s always important to bring in an outside consultant from time to time to run an audit and feedback their findings to the directors/board, you probably noticed a little plug for more consultancy work there.

Microsoft Office 365

I know there will be many people who will say that G Suite isn’t the only cloud based solution out there, and you would be correct, there is of course a major competitor and that being Office 365, I’ve used it and actually think it’s quite a good offering and can see how appealing it would be for those used to working in the world of Microsoft, but right now I am not going to debate which is the best, as both Google and Microsoft can both appeal to different markets but for me 365 has much more than the average company needs, plus the difference in price can be quite considerable, at the time of writing this post Google Suite were charging from £3.30 per user per month with the nearest comparison being £7.90 per month for Microsoft Office 365, even G Suites unlimited account is only £6.60 per month per user.

office 365

Another subject to consider is support, I have recently tried Microsoft support and wasn’t impressed at all, the email response I received didn’t really help fix the issue and if I compare this against Google’s support where I received a comprehensive reply within a few minutes and a follow up by phone a couple of hours later, I know which one I prefer.

Maybe some people can’t be converted and maybe some need something specific that one solution offers over another, so I get the fact I can’t win everyone over but you can’t blame me for trying.

Mobile Devices

iCloud works best on an iphone and G Suite works best on Android but where does Microsoft fit into the mobile phone market? Their Lumia phones were pretty much a failure which doesn’t leave many options for deep integration on a mobile phone, yes they have great tablet solutions and they also have good apps for both Apple and Android but they will never work as good as their counterparts.

mobile deviceI have previously used G Suite on an iPhone which in fairness has come on a lot over the past few years and works fairly OK, but there are many bugbears that overtime start gnawing away at me, I am a stickler for detail and want things to work how they should, I hate workarounds and 3rd party applications that just don’t do the job.

I am now using a OnePlus 3 Android phone, I love it, in terms of using Google Suite, it’s a dream, everything just works well and as it should, I still have my iPhone 7 in my desk draw, I can’t quite give up on it yet as my 4 children and wife all have iPhones and the one major thing I am currently missing in iMessage. Only time will tell which way I go with my phone but right now I am sticking with Android.

All Good Things Comes to an End

Three months flew by and before I knew it the interim post has finished and I was packing my things up and moving back to my home office. My first thought was how weird it was going to be working back on my own in my man cave, I needn’t have worried as almost immediately I knew I was glad to be back in my own relaxed world and ready to pick up the projects I had previously put on hold.

So it’s just me, my Lenovo desktop PC, my Dell laptop XPS and trusted iPhone, slowly getting back into the swing of things and catching up with clients and business partners. A new project landed in my in-box within a couple of days and very quickly I realised I was already missing my iMac and using Google G Suite. Most of my existing clients wereall good things must come to an end G Suite users so all the documents they send me are Google Docs rather than Word Docs, same goes with spreadsheets, trying to open a Google Doc from Microsoft Outlook isn’t a nice experience either.

My life with Windows hit a brick wall when I tried installing a new printer, it definitely wasn’t plug and play and took me ages to get up and running, I never had a single issue when using my Macbook so I knew the issues I was experiencing were due to two things, firstly my lack of Windows knowledge made everything more difficult and time consuming and secondly, I think deep down I knew I was never going to be a happy Microsoft customer.

And why oh why does Microsoft have so many bloody updates?

Back to Apple

I could go on for ages listing all the things I hate about Outlook and Windows but I think that’s for another time, I needed to get back to the cloud with Google and back to an Apple computer, so of I trotted to the Apple store in Warford and within a few hours I was back home with a new Apple Macbook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID.

Placeholder ImageI was up and running in no time at all and guess what? The new printer worked straight away after being plugged in, no complicated setup, just plug and play, just how life is meant to be, simple.

At this point I promised myself I would never stray from Apple or Google again, no more Windows and no more 365, stick with what I like and what I know. Can I keep this promise to myself? Am I now content with my technical life?

Buyers Remorse – Have I just wasted £1700?

I am a confident man who doesn’t care much about what people think of me, but my lovely wife still scares the hell out of me at times and as childish as it sounds I hid how much I had spent on the Macbook from her, I can only guess I was embarrassed, £1700 for such a small laptop, ouch.

I remained optimistic that my remorse would fade over the coming weeks and continued to enjoy my new toy. The Macbook is a good spec, light weight, small and very fast but could I have bought more with my money?

Acer Chromebook 14

I had looked at Chromebooks way back when they first appeared on the market, I had a quick play in a local PC World showroom but at the time I wasn’t that impressed. But following a conversation with an old work colleague who mentioned he had recently invested in a Chromebook I decided to take a 2nd look.

Acer Chromebook 14

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t do much research into which model to purchase but after some digging around I decided on the Acer Chromebook 14, it was reasonably priced at £289.00 and had a decent specifications, so I decided to treat myself, being June and all …

I’ve only been using it for a week but so far I can’t find any fault with it, I get it that it’s not a full blown PC but if you want something that works well with Google G Suite, is easy to use and costs a fraction of the price of other laptops then please take a look, give me a spin and see how fast and stable the the system is.

I have also noticed just how quiet it is and that unlike other laptops I have used, it doesn’t get hot when charging, one of the first things you will notice is just how fast the system boots and how quickly it wakes from sleep.

But would I swap this for my Macbook? That’s very hard to answer, the price difference is massive but you can’t compare the two side by side, the Macbook can do a lot more than any Chromebook but for everyday office, education and personal tasks I think the Chromebook is more than sufficient.

Conclusion

Firstly I have concluded that I am a bit of a nut job and never seem to be happy with what tech I am using. secondly that I need to stop being scared of my wife 🙂 – Not Really – and thirdly that the most expensive option is not always the best.

Overall I haven’t changed my original opinion, Apple Macs are better than PC’s, Google G Suite is better than Office 365, I still hate Windows and I am still torn between my Oneplus 3 Android phone and my iPhone7.

Now I have relieved my mind of this vast amount of thought clutter I hope to be able to concentrate on other things.

I hope you enjoyed this feature length post and welcome any feedback in the comments below.

Written by Paul O'Brien

Based in West London, Paul O’Brien has worked within the email, SMS and Virtual Call Management industry for close to 20 years. PWOB Ltd is the company Paul runs and owns, with it’s name being his initials.

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