My Second Thoughts on the Retirement of TechNet

Previously, I wrote about the retirement of the TechNet Subscription and voiced some disagreement about Microsoft’s decision. However, I have begun to rethink my disagreement because of two reasons:

  • There really was a lot of piracy out there.

In thinking back over the years to all the different small offices I’ve been in – offices running Windows XP, Office, SBS 2003, etc. – I begin to remember all the times I would ask people where the license keys for their software was and how I could never get a straight answer. Or no one knew at all. I’ve been in some offices where I knew for a fact that the software came from a TechNet subscription – literally thousands of dollars of MS software installed on production equipment. And those are the ones I know about. But what about all the others where, when I asked for CD keys, shoulders were just shrugged? $400 a year for all that software is pretty tempting.

Microsoft doesn’t like the little mom-and-pop IT Pro or the individual who owns his own business. In fact, calling these people “IT Pro” gives them way too much credit. I cannot begin to count the times I have seen utterly hosed Small Business Server installations. Or backups of virtual machines that don’t work because the person who set up the virtual machines didn’t leave enough space for the volume shadow copy. And, of course, the person would not know how to solve that problem. I cannot begin to count the servers I’ve seen that had all kinds of anti-spyware and other utilities installed all over them – completely useless utilities. And, of course, when you question the “IT Pro” as to what kind of problems they are having, the first thing they do is BLAME MICROSOFT FOR EVERYTHING all the while they are racking up billable hours for the client. While this sounds great for the “IT Pro” in question, MS has been for quite some time getting tired of all the blame. And don’t get me started on the small DIY office that doesn’t even have an “IT Pro” on hand – employee or contract.

These small IT Pros are also the ones who are abusing the TechNet Subscription the most. They install $800 copies of Windows Server everywhere, bill the client for the full cost of the software, and have a mere $400/year tied up in expenses. And, I dare say, these small IT Pros are also the ones complaining the most about the retirement of TechNet – they are losing a very valuable revenue stream.

Microsoft has responded in what I consider to be the best way they can. Keep in mind that some of the stuff listed below I did mention in my previous post. Yes, I am backtracking. But then again, things like the retirement of the TechNet Subscription are what happens when you bite the hand that feeds you. Also, do note that some extra options have been added that MS has pointed out on their TechNet page since my last post:

  1. TechNet Evaluation Center: This option allows anyone to download free versions of MS software that is time-bombed for either 30, 90, or 180 days depending on the software. For small IT shops or individuals, I would consider this to be a viable option especially now that MS has added older versions of software to the list. I’m an IT Pro and I can certainly go through Mark Minasi’s books Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with probably one or two installs. Testing some client software for compatibility might require another reinstall or two, but again, no big deal. I would do this all in VM’s so the one real inconvenience would be backing up VM’s and reinstalling the host (or maybe I should just use Hyper-V Server.) This obviously isn’t a perfect solution and I would expect to waste a certain amount of time reinstalling and adding patches/service packs, but it’s not the end of the world, either. I do, however, recommend that Microsoft extend any software that is time-bombed for 30 days out to 90 days. Thirty days is just too short.
  2. TechNet Virtual Labs: My original opinion of this option stands. Great for the 5 cent tour, but not for deep dives.
  3. MSDN Subscriptions: To be honest, some IT Pros should consider this option. In fact, a lot should consider this option. For many of the small shops, as the cloud begins to take hold they are going to start finding themselves squeezed out. That’s all there is to it. Moving over to software development, including Azure and mobile, would be a great way to maintain their jobs. Moving over to software development of some sort might be the natural order for the IT Pro who finds the demand for his current skillset going down. Remember back in the 80’s and 90’s when all those tobacco farmers starting losing their farms because the tobacco industry started getting sued and the demand for tobacco went down? Have you noticed how all those wineries suddenly popped up in your area that weren’t there 20-30 years ago? Might be a connection there.
  4. Microsoft Partner Network: By becoming a registered Microsoft partner, you gain access to the Action Pack. The Action Pack is a lot like the TechNet subscription (and even costs about the same) only you can use the software in production (there are some other caveats as well). For the small IT Pro that has enough clients, this might truly be the way to go.

Of course, what about those of us who need to migrate clients off of Windows XP/Server 2003 and we need installation copies for testing? Microsoft did extend the TechNet Subscription for 90 days and you did have until the end of August to renew one last time. That means you have 1 year and 3 months of your subscription remaining that will allow you access to all that older software. I highly recommend beginning your migrations now. Big companies that have SA don’t care about the TechNet subscription as they have other agreements for testing in place.

In conclusion, what Microsoft is doing is very simple. They are trying to stop piracy and get rid of the small IT Pros who are a big chunk of their support call costs. Does that mean moving small business to the cloud? Perhaps so.

I’m not saying all the small IT Pros out there are bad, but I am saying too many of them are. And the good ones, like me, know that to be true.


One thought on “My Second Thoughts on the Retirement of TechNet

  1. The finger was pointed at the small shops in your post, but in Cedar Rapids, IA, the big shops have been doing the same thing. We are a small shop made up of good talent that used TechNet correctly and had no issue looking at the customer and letting them know what they need to spend to keep their business moving forward with technology changes. When we leave and upon completion of a project or work that we do and where a license key or proof is needed, we create a ring binder putting all this detail into it and then said binder can be used for whatever purpose into the future. They own it, they should have it. But to say small shops are to blame, totally disagree as the 2 large shops in our area can never provide us with keys or proof of ownership for stuff when a customer is switching to us for service and support. Walking into a place and not being able to find a key, whom do you blame for someone not tracking them? This is when we discover these 2 large providers sent one of their techs and that said tech used a TechNet key or even MSDN keys.

    In short, a poor tech is working for someone (large and small IT shops) and that individual tech and their decision is at fault, not small shops. It just looks like small shops to MS as all of these poor techs are buying their keys on their own and then using them. These foolish techs killed or took TechNet from those that kept inside the legal rules. MS No doubt tracked the keys and their use for TechNet subscriptions and then came up with the idea to kill it all. Personally, I would have rather seen them re-issue new keys for all active TechNet accounts and seen all the installed products or OSs being used in a production business realm, have them all puke or die and get the business owners making noise. I know they can re-issue a key, hell they can even extend a temporary 120 day installation key to add additional time before expiration if you ask for it with all of their Trail Key installations.

    As I see it, MS is permitting any key used from a TechNet subscription to be left in place and in turn not getting the money owed where some business used a poor tech or company at their business. MS is one of a couple of the big boys in the world technology and these same crappy techs, they are the ones still doing service work for someone and they need to be put in the spotlight. For us locally, it would not kill these 2 larger vendors, they are that big. But, I am sure these foolish techs would be out of work and these 2 larger vendors in our area, they would be forced to cure their business practices and even pay up and correct most of these stolen keys. Plus going forward, these 2 larger vendors would have to improve their business practices and make sure the poor techs are not being used or a high percentage of work in our area.

    Just my 2 cents, on an issue that should have seen national media attention to the fact that we have pear IT techs that are thieves and do you use one at your business?

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