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The Perfect Church: Computers and Networking

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This week we talk about macs. Is this a surprise for an episode about church computers and networking? Macs are just a small part of what we talk about in this episode on what we see as the perfect church setup for computers. In this episode we recommend Macs, we recommend PCs, we recommend software, and even branch out into things like printers. In each case we represent why we chose the option we chose.

This week brought in the advent of something new to Geeks and God. This episode was done with a skypecast. Any of our listeners could come listen to us live and even send us messages as we were broadcasting. This will be happening again at 12 noon EST on Friday May 25th. If you want to come join us you can get more information here.

Before we get into this we talked to listeners audio comments. This week we had 3 great audio comments that talk to training, other audio mixing software, and technology in a way you might not have considered.

So, come join us for another fun filled episode of Geeks and God.....

Macs and networking

A couple of thoughts:

1. With the support of our lead pastor, we are now a Mac only church. We purchase Macs based on needs just as you discussed. I have successfully resisted all thoughts and discussions of purchasing Windows based laptops or workstations due to support issues (ie. viruses, spyware, TCO) with Windows PCs. A $300 Dell PC looks like a great deal, but you get what you pay for. Being a part time volunteer IT support person for the church, standardization is key and helps maintain my sanity!

To save some $, I have purchased used Macs from a local mac reseller. Fox example, I can create an Mac AFP server out of an older G4 tower running OSX Tiger and raiding some drives. Works great when you can't afford and Xserve, but not as fast of course and you can't support tons of connections. I have a server like this at home and am working to purchase and set one up at church.

2. For wireless/wired networking, I have deployed Linksys WRT54Gs with DD-WRT firmware (Linux based). This allows me to setup VPN and other more advanced features inexpensively. Make sure to secure your wireless :)

3. Been keeping my eye on Zimbra.. it rocks. OS X Leopard Server is going to roll with a web cal server whenever it comes out. Zimbra looks pretty cool though.

4. Thanks for the tip on Drobo. That one is totally new to me... :)

5. We outsource our email and web hosting on powervps (www.powervps.com) Linux VPS servers. We have root access to these servers, but don't have to worry about an expensive Internet connection into the church. Maintained in a proper data center. I am not sure running web servers from a church is a good idea (generally) due to the expense of doing it right... workgroup file servers ok..pretty much have to do it local.. off site backups a must.

Great podcast! thanks..Shrop

Thanks for the feedback

Webcal is a great way to go. For anyone who doesn't know, that's how the newest version of Outlook does it's calenders. Outlook and Exchange are webcal based.

I am a big fan of outsourcing the email and web. It's really a cost effective way to go these days.

It's great to see some of the stuff we talked about in the wild. Show me that we aren't crazy for our ideas ;-) and shows others that it's doable.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

A downside of outsourcing e-mail

Depending on size and budget....
In-sourcing may be better than out-sourcing. If you're outsourcing the email service to a lower cost web hosting service, the same availability standards you get for web service may not satisfy your needs for email. A 98% uptime may be OK for a website and but not for email. (Perhaps you should upgrade both....?) For our church (active 800+ member church w/8 staff), email has become nearly as critical as phone service .

We actually in-sourced email to get more features (full MS Outlook/Exchange suite) and to utilize the same >99.9% uptime and support we are already relying on for our internal network. We already need to maintain at that level to run church business. If that network fails to meet those standards we always can purchase support to bring it up to our needs through the wealth of folks with MS network experience.

I'm not entirely happy with this arrangement (do to the way Microsoft does things), but the alternative was both going to a high end MS Outlook/Exchange outsourcing and redundant, highly reliable internet connections (which we may eventually need to do anyway). But right now, that costs a lot in monthly fees and doesn't gain us much. If we had a large and extremely mobile or remote workforce that might be good. We don't and I suspect most churches don't.

Still if your really small or e-mail needs or modest and just isn't that critical, I'd say go ahead, use the e-mail that comes with your webhosting service. Just recognize the limitations of the service and accept them.

Just my opinion...
Mark

Mark

Why Outlook/Exchange?

I am curious why you are all about Outlook/Exchange combo. Why this over a different setup?

You can get hosts with email uptimes greater than 99%.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Why we use Outlook/Exchange.

I know, Outlook/Exchange can seem like quite a beast. I actually wish there was something lighter and more open that provided better competition. Right now though, I think the biggest hit on the Outlook/Exchange combo is that it is both a bloated beast, and way too proprietary. But I also think competition is comparatively weak. And you need to remember, we're a charity, so we get MS and many other licenses for little or nothing. I buy new seats of Exchange for around $10 or something like that. By comparison, the cost to regular small businesses of the setup can seem quite obscene.

So what is good about Outlook/Exchange?

  1. Our people and most people we hire know Outlook well and when we pair it with Exchange the richness of the groupware feature set seemed unmatched by anything stable. If you just use it as a client for POP or IMAP mail, the advantages are far fewer and may be outweighed by negatives of bloat, setup etc.
  2. Exchange centrally managed data safety and management:
    Very good, rich options come standard. Really enhances what can be done through Outlook 2003 and the current version of Entourage(Mac). Good online backup and archiving is standard with the Windows 2003 Server. Easy to find, setup and install well integrated, high quality AV and SPAM management. Exchange setup and maintenance is pretty easy unless you try a lot of tricks, get too fancy or mess up the setup. Not simple, but compared to something moderately complex... say Drupal... I think a basic setup is relatively easy and low maintenance. We already network the church database and other critical functions on our local network, so we already need to maintain a combo file application server at a high level. Any good server you'd setup and purchase in the last few years can easily also absorb the load of hosting an Exchange install for 25 or less.
  3. Outlook Web Access: An extremely nice web group ware client that's easy to set up and hard to match. Comes free with Exchange. I use it through Firefox using the IE tab extension and get full MS speed and function.
  4. Good essentially free clients: Oultook 2003 and Entourage(Mac) are essentially free and already installed if your using MS Office.

Where do I think the competition comes up short?

  1. Google: GMail doesn't do IMAP at all, and doesn't let you switch out of the very nice but sometimes constricting threaded message view. Google Calendar has sync glitches with Mozilla's and other iCal clients.
  2. Apple: iMail/iCalendar ... very nice clients, but not cross platform, and the server integration of groupware function is currently weak to non-existent. The Leopard OSX CalDAV servers are coming, but not here yet.
  3. Mozilla: Thunderbird 2.0 lets you choose a threaded view, but it is is still inefficient and data risky when you have a large mail store. The Lighting calendar extension and the Sunbird client are still a long way from being a full featured calendar client (even after the just released 0.5 version). I think their whole mail + calendar project still needs another major quality and design cleanup and a good matching, local CalDAV and IMAP server to compete.
  4. Novell: Evolution is nice but Linux only, has very limited server integration. Not a real alternative on several scores. Novel Groupware? Does it still exist?
  5. WebCalendar: A promising and free calendar web CMS, but it seems to have frozen in time with few recent updates.

As an independent, I'm personally using Thunderbird 2.0 + Lightning. But I can cope with its beta like quality in a way I wouldn't expect of a general office user. I do think Thunderbird 1.5 is a great email/newsreader alternative for the Windows home and freelance users and certainly better than Outlook Express.

Just my opinions....
Mark

Mark

what features

I guess I am just curious to the features you use with exchange. Is it just email, calendar, and shared address book? I'm trying to wrap my brain around the typical usage.

There are some major downsides I have recently learned of. Newer versions of Exchange won't run on old systems and aren't supported. This means, to get up to date fixes (like the recent daylight savings time change) you need a newer version of Exchange. To get this version of Exchange you need to be running a newer version of Windows Server. To run a new Windows Server you need newer hardware. This can turn into quite an expensive ordeal. This is just one angle.

Yet, if you host this stuff with an off site service they eat all that work.

There are a lot of angles to consider in all this stuff.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Exchange, Groupware, Obsolescence

This is probably more than you wanted... sorry.

Its all about a smart and centralized storage engine for handling and assisting your users in preserving, protecting and interrelating all that data from those several semi-related functions. I won't go into the full ad talk for "groupware". Most of the cool features will never be used by a lot of users, but after a while everybody finds a few they really want and relies on several being taken care of for them.

Of course you could just rely on savvy users to take care of a lot of this on their own, but a significant number won't and its the organization that suffers when they don't. Network consultants make a nice living just helping folks partially recover from these kind of messes... and then selling them Exchange and a service contract.

Still if the users never got used to the features or came to expect them (cause most other offices have them)) it would be easier to forgo them. In the end I've found its easier to to preserve and protect in an automated proactive fashion. Thats much easier with something like Exchange.... and unfortunately their aren't many good alternatives. The cost of outsourcing Exchange when I looked at it were not competitive for us. It looked like it only made sense for a large "on-the-road" enterprise.

The Daylight Savings Time change was handled badly, but it was more a problem with the sloppy way they slapped together the fix. There were fixes all the way back to 2000 versions, but they were different and older installs required more work at the individual machine level.

As far as what you may have heard about obsolescence I think it's overblown. Everything needs updating eventually. With Windows the Server level stuff is still relatively well supported from 2000 on. MS sometimes (often?) handles the customer relations stuff sloppily, but they also have a much bigger and diverse base of installs to support than would-be competitors so its more difficult. Remember, you can't get much support for RedHat 6 or Mac OS8 any longer either. As far as Exchange 2007 requiring a 64 bit Server OS... its unfortunate, but the reasons are sound, and I think it's no less demanding than what happened when Apple moved to OS X or the new Intel processors.

Again...sorry for the length...
I don't feel like revising to be concise tonight.
Exchange/Outlook isn't fun to set up and maintain, and I wish there was a closer alternative that was a better fit for a small office. But I don't think an office with say around 5-10 or more people is crazy for using it. Less people, ... you just might be crazy ;)
Just my opinion,
Mark

Mark

to many features

One thing we tend to get caught on is so many features. We go for that thing that's to complex and work our way of doing things around these complex features and over complicate how we do things.

This is such a big deal, time waster, and money spender that there are entire careers based around making things simpler, less complex, and more cost effective. As a people we are terrible at these things.

This is how I see exchange. It over complicates things and has too many unneeded features. I would love to see more churches streamline what they do, cut out the crap, and deal with people. Basically, save staff from messing with computers so they are more able to spend time with people.

Remember, More is not better as marketing tends to sell us.

These days there are actually a number of groupware apps that are worthy. And, since M$ went to doing things like calendars being the open standard it's never been easier to switch.

I think it becomes easier when churches think less about being an office/business and think more about being a community. When things shift the way of looking at organization and groupware shifts as well.

Isn't it hard to get the corporate way of doing things out of our heads?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Corporate Mentality

You bring up some good points that took my thoughts in a different direction.

First:
As I've hinted at before I kinda agree with you, but I still think negative attitudes toward MS products are often overblown and I think thats true with Outlook/Exchange. I on the other hand.....I'm having problems getting my local tech volunteer colleagues to just accept system heterogeneity and OS systems. From my perspective way to many folks seem polarized these days...

Second:
I think I get your larger point about liberating ourselves from closely mimicking the "corporate way". I think it in many ways runs counter to our missions. It's difficult though when a church is growing rapidly. I've had real problems building enough support for something different. When we grew beyond a small fellowship it seemed like "the" alternative to very many members. Our members are a liberal minded bunch who often express a lot of distaste for a corporate mentality in general. But when I served on the board/council I found myself surrounded by people with all most of their instincts running along corporate lines, and insufficient time and patience for understanding alternatives. Corporate think is what a lot of members bring with them since they often have few other community models to draw on. (One of the reasons examining OS community now is good.)

With the demographics and membership market favorable, a church can be quite "successful" with a corporate approach. Me, I think its a shallow and unsustainable success. For me a church is about thinking and acting in a way that transcends personal, tribal community, or even earthly ideals.

In time this all corrects itself and it seems like things in my community are shifting back after some of the weaknesses became more apparent.

That's how I see it through my clouded lens anyway...

In Peace,
Mark

Mark

Where Get Model From?

What I find most interesting about this is that we talk about the corporate, open source, or other model that we have in the world today but rarely do I see anyone seeking the biblical model of a church.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped talking the worlds organization models and applying them to the church and started trying to apply the biblical model?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Community, Organization Models and Belief

Personally I think our models are something we need to develop using our hearts and minds, copying only what is true in suiting our greater purposes and ideals. Christ's teachings lay some great foundations for doing that.

I do come at this from a bit different perspective because of some differences in theology, but that's a whole different topic. To me, a church (regardless of theology) is a community of transcending beliefs, purposes and ideals.

FYI:
I think what you've created here and what your doing is wonderful. I want to respect that and support it, but I also don't want to deceive anyone about myself. I'm not here to counter evangelize.... (I just made that phrase up, not sure how appropriate it is.) I'm Christ inspired and guided , but not really Christ exclusive or even centered in my beliefs. Most Christians wouldn't consider me one of their own and I'm OK with that. I love them all just the same and (mostly) I find that love returned.

Peace,
Mark

Mark

ical feeds from Exchange?

Our church is looking for a shared calendar solution and a hosted Exchange account looks like the most mature solution at the moment.

I would like to be able to bring in some of the calendar info into other areas of our website. If I had access to an iCal feed that would make this very easy.

I believe this can be done via CalDAV (ie Zimbra) but can Exchange do this?

Thanks,
Steve T.

private or hosted

Are you going with a private setup or hosted? I would suggest hosted. They can do backups, you can access it anywhere, and there is a load less maintenance work to do.

You might, also, consider google apps. There are calendars, email, and the works there.

Newer versions of Exchange are Caldav, from what I have read. But, I don't know if they interact with other systems. Can anyone else answer?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Exchange and iCal

Steve,

IMHO: Considering the state of standards advancement elsewhere, calendaring is still a mess....

I'm in the middle of trying to integrate our busy church schedule into a web calendar and web site. Here's how I see things now:

First Exchange/Outlook:
Outlook/Exchange has a rich schedule model, but it lives in its own world outside of the model from the standards including iCal feeds. We have Exchange/Outlook 2003 combo and the option to upgrade to 2007. Unfortunately, mixing Exchange/Outlook and iCal/WebDav still looks extremely awkward and MS support for calendar standards is poor. From what I've seen you just get some developer API's that nobody seems to want to use. That appears to be all you get on the Exchange side... Outlook has a separate and historically cranky iCal interface, and I recall the personal calendar application in Vista is supposed to provide iCal support.

But... I probably wouldn't bother trying to make the MS systems interact reliably with iCal or WebDav. If you're looking for a total collaborations suite, Zimbra might be your better choice. It looks like it could be real nice (I don't however, know anyone having experience with it.)

Google Calendar and Other Options:
Google Calendar is very nice to work with and is gearing up for business, but last time I checked, you can't write to it from an external iCal client like Apple iCal or Mozilla Calendar clients.

  • I really like what I've seen from the Sunbird and Lightening clients, but they don't get the same kind of support as does Firefox. Hope for better support in the future doesn't look promising, as Mozilla Corp is switching to a Firefox centered focus (perhaps to defend against Apple's plan to destroy Firefox). This could weaken both their mail and calendar programs. It certainly has fans of these products very nervous.

Apple Calendar Server (future)
You could hold out for hope that the Apple Leopard Server's WebDAV will reinvigorate open calendaring standards and and solve your problems. If you want to install an Apple XServe Server at your church, that might be a good solution in 3-9 months I suppose.

WebCalendar (development version)
My church is planning to get our iCal feeds by using at our church using the WebCalendar program. We'll be using the 1.1x dev version to get good feed function. Version 1.12 did outgoing feed operations well and received published client updates OK. There is a new 1.13 update available today that is supposed improve/fix external feed uptake. I know of several churches who use WebCalendar and a few that are pushing out feeds for use in other areas of their web site. I've had no problems picking up the full feeds details in Mozilla products, Google Calendar or the NetVibes Calendars.

WebCalendar's look and operation is kinda clunky by Web 2.0 standards, but it is a pretty powerful platform that's widely supported and will take some CSS styling. Drupal also has a module that allows you to do some minimal integration (just drops it into an iFrame). As a room/event scheduler for a busy church it seems a good choice. You couldn't use it to schedule a big classroom campus, but it can easily handle several overlapping facility bookings per evening. That's more than most of the web calendars or Google Calendar currently seems ready for.

....Sorry for running on. I occasionally get "worked up" about this mess. I hope some of this helps.

Mark

Mark

google calendar does integrate

Google calendar does let you bring in outside calendars. I'm not sure of the extent but it does let you bring in calendars. For example, the events calendar from groups.drupal.org has and is pulled into google calendar. Anyone can add it to their own calendar either by importing the link or even looking it up in Googles public calendars.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Google Calendar has integration, but limited

I really like Google calendar, but in my experience it works solely through feed subscriptions. You can't push data updates or changes to it or do two way synchronization.
Of course that may be changing....

Mark

via 3rd party tools

There are at least 2 Outlook plugins that add this functionality to Outlook (including 2-way sync))

Calgoo the one that looks the most promising. It's a Java client that syncs with Google and Outlook.

how long?

Does anyone know how often google updates their incoming ical feeds?

You are right that you can't push events to be instant with the event module. But, do you need it to be instant? Personally, I can't think of a church calendar use case where it needs to be instant.

Here is a screen cast of someone showing how to do tie in to google calendars with drupal. http://growingventuresolutions.com/tutorials-and-s...

There are a number of sites that tie in the event module with drupal. groups.drupal.org is one of them with similar use cases to a church. They both have upcoming events that are broadcast ahead of time where people will be congregating in some way shape of form. Both need their events listed well ahead of time for people to know about them.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Giving Google Calendar another look

Thanks for the info.
I'll have to look at some options again.
You're right about feeds, but you still would need something to generate the feeds read by Google.

Not sure how Calgoo and some of the other calendar merging projects are working. I've been meaning to check them out. After experience with loosing data to past schemes to match up different native formats I worry about the quality of the translations and transfers.

Of course schedule viewers don't need to immediate updates, but those scheduling events and maintaining a calendar do usually need to work through a calendar view and in real-time.

If you're just posting a few dates and times there are a lots more options than if you need to manage a facility calendar and the room and equipment reservations and such and then turn it into something useful for public view.

Mark

what about Apple/Entourage?

All of the staff is using MacBooks. So while they could use Outlook via Parellels, they prefer to use Entourage.

Does anyone have any experience working with Entourage and multiple Exchange calendars?

From what I've been reading, it looks like Entourage 2004 SP2 added some nice features - but I'd like to know how well they actually work.

Even with Entourage - I'm still out of luck for getting an iCal feed out of it though....

Coming this January

I would look to see what comes out this January with the new version of office for mac. Hopefully they have some good stuff.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Firstclass

My church is in the process of buying FirstClass Collaboration Suite.

What is FirstClass?
FirstClass is a cost-effective, highly scalable, feature-rich messaging and communications solution for schools and school districts, learning organizations and businesses. At the foundation of our award-winning FirstClass Communications Platform is our Collaborative Groupware, which provides our users with the ability to effectively communicate and share valuable resources and information via email, conferencing, directories, individual and shared calendars and online chats. FirstClass has been used by thousands of organizations to create powerful online electronic communities that enable individuals and groups of people to work more effectively.

The resen that we are going with this system is that the server and client are on windows linux and mac. Also there has been no major sececty holes in the software for a long time.

A great site on the subject is
http://www.churchconsulting.com

Please let me know comments

Jordan
PS The link for firstclass is
http://www.firstclass.com/

be careful with vCal aspect of FirstClass

Jordan,

You may want to approach the vCal aspect of FirstClass with some caution. vCal has some quirks and limitations that can be a pain to work around when trying to integrate with some modern of the modern iCal applications. (I had to develop by trial and error and then apply custom filters to small export batches just to do updates. This wasn't FirstClass, but another vCal output calendar system.

Mark

Mark

PowerVPS looks like a great

PowerVPS looks like a great solution, however, they allow adult sites (read their FAQ: http://tinyurl.com/ywepvl). I don't think I would want my church hosted along with adult sites (though it's sometimes unavoidable I think it's something that should be considered).

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of robust Christian hosting services available. They're out there but usually cannot offer the same level of service as non-Christian ones.

John
--
Jesus Geek: A Christian technology podcast (currently on hiatus)
http://www.jesusgeek.info

Jesus Geek: Technology, news and how-to's for the connected Christian
http://www.jesusgeek.info
geek@jesusgeek.info
Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/theOJG

Hosted Gmail

Matt - I was glad to hear you give a quick shout out to hosted gmail. I recently moved all of our church staff over to this service and they've loved it. I would highly recommend it for small/medium sized churches that are looking for a free, foolproof, flexible email system. The only drawback I can see is that they currently don't offer IMAP connectivity. Perhaps they'll add that at some point.

Episode Links

Hi Everyone,

Thank you very much for including my audio comments. As I mentioned this was my first time recording my own audio for submission, and I was very glad to be included in your podcast.

Thank-you for the nice comments about my ideas as well. I appreciate it.

I noticed the link in episode links seems to be a little off on the site.

The link should be to www.bwebcentral.com/church

Thanks again !

I have a windows license for

I have a windows license for Logos Bible software. I've been waiting for it to finish with the mac version. I will be very excited when this is complete. I recently purchased a basic version of Accordanc Bible Software. Im starting to like it. I just wish they would come out with a universal binary soon.

Accordance

I am a seminary student and I love Accordance Bible Software on my Macbook. The best part of the system is that it is modular. I am able to buy modules as I need. I don't have to throw $600 into a program for ebooks that I do not use too often.

Calling you out!

Dudes! I just finished this episode and kept thinking, when were they going to give us the picture of the Perfect Church... the one where money was no object.

Instead in this episode, you guys kept coming up with stuff like...

give the secretary a crappy Dell box because it's not necessary? Run Ubuntu or BSD flavors as the servers? ... run a wireless with a simple password setup? What happened?!

How about something more like this:

    Servers
  • File Server: 2 servers running OSX server (of course) with an XServer RAID attached using XSAN in a failover config
  • Web Server: why bother? outsource that sucker
  • Mail Server: ditto
  • Web Server note: you could use WebDAV to publish certain folders and make them accessible via HTTP, but then you could use one of the OSX servers to do that with
    Desktops
  • iMac 20"+ or MacBook Pro, staff take their pick based upon desires
    Software
  • Open Office... um... Open Office? MS Office for Mac since money is no object, or iWork when iWork 07 gets released
  • Add some Adobe Suites in the place to be used whoever needs to create things like Bulletins, Flyers, etc
    Networking
  • At least 3
    • one wired private LAN for church stuff (secured)
    • one wireless private for church staff throughout the entire campus (secured)
    • one "public" wireless for volunteers and friends of the church
  • All running the fastest speeds available
  • All using switches
  • VPN solution? None mentioned
  • 2 pipes to the Internet (1 of those at least T-1)
    Backups
  • Tape? You're kidding right? Who has time for tape?
  • Need 2 things: Onsite & Offsite
  • Onsite: there are a ton of software choices here - what do you recommend other than shipping TAR files around? Should pump these into the XSAN
  • Offsite: with a big pipe, you could recommend something simple like Mozy, but there are a ton of vendors out there FTP'ing backups to their sites... which do you recommend?
    Printing
  • Lasers nice, but still not enough...
  • Need a Mopier at least... price per page gets down way low and church gets some sweet capabilities (speed, duplex, digitize, color, etc etc)

I think you need another crack at it!

-VBG-

-Brett

So True

What you write is so true. We did sort of punk out. Somewhere along the line we fell back into the rut of trying to give the cheap path rather than the ultimate path for that size church. Why do we do that? Habit?

What should we do about it? Is this list good enough? Or, should we do something else?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Busted

You speak the truth....old "trying to help churches" habits die hard :)

Maybe we should have named the series "The stuff churches could actually buy that would be pretty darn good, but not perfect."

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.bobchristenson.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

macs?

I'd really like to see this topic revisited because i just found your site from a friend and I think its a really great idea but coming from a medium size church - macs are really questionable. However, if you're talking "perfect church" then you let people get whatever their used too. That would be perfect if i could just buy whatever anyone wanted.

Also - I really disagree a lot of your comments on how windows machine performs. As well as one thing that isn't mentioned is that if you're a 501c3 corporation you can qualify for microsoft charity licenses which makes the issue of cost negligible. Then you get all the benefits microsoft offers without paying quadruple the cost. For example microsofts small biz server gives you access to pretty much everything you get in the full version that you would need for a 10 person shop. Exchange, group policies, and terminal server access for your local IT guy to keep an eye on.

Another thought on personal computers for pastors and others - I love macs but I have a real hard time seeing the benefit of spending 2 grand vs my 1100$ dell when all that is primarily needed is email, word, and some type of powerpoint (which btw exports to wmv). Again i think macs are better but are they 900$ better? If you're me and you buy at least 7 a year is it worth 6300$ a year better? The reason i am against macs are th cost. I would rather do with windows machines and spend that 6 grand in a ministry that could really be used. I don't see that spending that 6 grand on a pastors computer when a dell will do that same be equal to what else you could think of spending that money.

Plus on a side note - you talked a lot about church being business and how that is the ideal, which I agree it should be but reality is there are some good things that business bring us that we shouldn't be afraid to borrow some of their concepts. I don't really see how buying a mac book pro counteracts that thinking?

thanks for doing what you guys are about - i love your heart. Just some of my thoughts and experiences for you to think about.

Past Episode

Hmm...seems from your comments here that maybe you didn't hear us clearly on alot of things that we said. I don't think MF or I would ever suggest that someone buy a macbook pro if they're just using email and Word. I agree, it's a waste. The macs we suggested are for lead pastors and creative folks (for presentations and community centeredness and because they were built for media respectively).

Should a secretary get a mac? Probably not...I say a Linux box. Anyway, to hear more, go back and listen to an old episode where we talk all about mac vs. pcs in ministry:

http://www.geeksandgod.com/episode25

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.bobchristenson.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

Cost of MS Licensing

Hi folks... I'm a little bit behind on your podcasts, so I'm afraid are some of my comments.... BTW Great Podcast!

I just don't think the cost of licensing should be a big thing for most non-profits. Once you're set up through MS to purchase through the nonprofit licensing program, the cost is relatively tiny when compared to other technology costs (hardware, support, and training).

Those not familiar with the program can check it out at: http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/programs/open/o...
Many internet vendors can sell you these licenses. A couple of examples that I've used include:
http://www.provantage.com
http://www.ccbnonprofits.com

The discount varies with the product, but in my experience the non-profits pay less than 20% of normal licensing costs, plus you get a superior licensed distribution (versions easier to maintain because of less copy protection). When you add the MS Windows Server Update Service (free) you also can efficiently automate all your MS updates. I admit the number of MS updates is intimidating, but this service makes it much easier for everyone, and avoids tying up internet bandwidth during the middle of the day. So if you're using numerous machines with Microsoft Windows and Office, I think this this is definitely the way to go.

Finally a big reason to stay with MS for now, is the ubiquity of MS outside the church walls. In our experience, the staff ends up needing to collaborate with a lot of MS encrusted folks elsewhere. Add to that the ease with which the church is going to be able to train and hire staff on MS Windows and Office, and it's difficult for an nonprofit getting the software very cheaply to make another choice. I do agree media work is better done on the Mac. Of course like most everybody else we outsource webhosting to a LAMP based service. I've also been using Firefox, VLC and some similar products for some time now. Our more advanced Church office users also use this stuff, but both they and I still need to know our way around the standard MS programs to work with others.

We also ended up getting one of our Ministers a copy of MS Office for his Apple MacBook for just such reasons (again through MS Charity Licensing). He didn't want it and we didn't purchase it cause superior to other choices, but to ease collaboration work. This isn't necessarily the way I want the world to work. I've got OpenOffice on an old Ubuntu laptop at home, but I'm a tech capable island there and I wouldn't want to run or support the church office that way.

Just my opinion....
Mark

Mark

M$ not about the money

First, Microsoft Office is a pretty good program. It has a low barrier to get into using it and it does OK at the tasks we use it for. There are better programs for presentations. And, Excel is overused even though it has some major math bugs in it (some of the open source programs that have replicated it even replicated the bugs.... i find that funny).

I come from the standpoint that I use macs, FreeBSD, and some linux for my personal use and Windows for my work use. I've had just about every version of Windows since Windows 3.11 and Started out on Macs before they had GUIs.

The reason for creative people to have Macs is fairly obvious. When you calculate the bang for your buck (cost effectiveness) Macs are cheaper to buy for computers you need in their price range. Macs stopped being more expensive when the switch to Intel happened.

Pastors it's a little different. Many pastors end up falling into that role as a business manager. They use the corporate programs on the corporate operating system all the while working on schedules, presentations, and basically mimicking corporate process and procedures. Problem is that churches are communities and not businesses. Business are about money and churches are about God and His people. It's a big enough difference that following the corporate way, I think, is a bad idea. Using a Mac is a way to help break them of that corporate mold. A way to get them to 'Think Different' as the slogan goes.

Now, going back to cost. Take a look at the Macbooks and comparable Dells. I just did and the Macbooks were less expensive for the same stuff. If your going to get your pastor a $600 laptop I think you should reconsider. It's not about the business applications... but the art and life applications he should be interested in.

Just my 2 cents...

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Cost of maintaining both private and public netoworks

Here is an alternative worth consideration.

We use Virtual LANs and some other features set up at our internet router to keep costs down. You can get all these just from most business oriented internet routers including the higher cost models you get from LinkSys, etc. We use a Linksys RV082 (~$300) using VLANs + priority queues + bandwidth management + dual internet interfaces. We also use its Virtual Private Network (VPN) features to give us access to the private network from the internet or from the in-house public network. It gives us pretty high performance and a good stability record. If you carefully shop for a little higher end router, I'm sure you can do even more.

I have to admit using a VLAN to create a public LAN is not extremely secure, but it's pretty good and chances are its better than your churches security elsewhere. It's also quite flexible and less expensive than running parallel networks.

Mark

Mark

perfect world 2 sets

In a perfect world there would be 2 sets of hardware. Maybe it's the security freak in me (I do work for a military subcontractor) but I like the idea of hardware separation. Maybe even VPN over wireless if you want to get crazy with security.

Ha, like that would fly. I think in a perfect world there will be no internet. Hey, there wasn't in the Garden of Eden ;-)

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

VLAN security

If the level of security posed by visiting or WAR driving geeks isn't acceptable for your church, you probably shouldn't be relying on a single barrier router/firewall either. Good hardware imposed VLANs should be fine against those kind of threats as they would need to hack your router to break the separation.

....So unless your church is that one in Rome, said by novelists and screenwriters to be harboring immense treasure and deep deadly secrets....

My church has VLANs set up on router ports and then uses separate wiring, switch, and wireless access points beyond that point. That allows them to make temporary quick changes as to what's on the public network and what's on the private just using a patch panel change. The wireless network and unlocked areas are all on the public network at this point, but they do provide a password protected web printing service to allow staff outside the business network with full access to the network printers.

Mark

Mark

Network Hubs/Switches

About your advice to get Gigabit (1000mbs) networking switches and avoid network hubs...
This shouldn't be hard for those who don't have them, I don't think hubs are even sold anymore. Of course you may get an offer to accept a donation of some eight year old 100mbs speed hubs (we did).

These days.....
I think organizations with a few extra bucks to spend and who want both flexibility and quality, they should consider getting web-managed switches. You can get gigabit web-managed switches from Dell, SMC, and LinkSys for less than $100 more than cheap unmanaged models and for vastly less than the fully managed models used by the big enterprise market.

You or whoever sets up your network will be able to manage media traffic and security, remotely monitor and diagnose network health, and create duplicate and aggregate links between different areas of your building or campus.

Mark

Mark

web managed switches

nice call on that. We just did a podcast interview on the iboss which is a web managed filtering system. Web managed products can help bring the virtual office to the church.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Quick correction

You can absolutley run a second monitor using a Macbook no hacking required. I use my Macbook for keynote presentations and to run liveworship for our services.

Improved???

Awesome! I was under the impression that it was the exact same as the iBooks used to be in this regard. So, you can run two separate displays natively from a macbook now?

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.bobchristenson.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

Quick Correction

Absolutley. The only difference is the connection is a mini DVI connection rather than a normal DVI connection. Just plug in and go. I do it all the time.

Quick Correction

Just to clarify though. Are you talking about running two diplays besides the laptop display or using the laptop display plus an external display such as a projector or screen? If you are talking about running two different external displays, then you are correct Macbooks cannot do that. But when I do presentations I run the preview of the presentation plus notes on my laptop and then run the live slides on projector. If I misunderstood what you were saying, sorry for the confusion I just caused.

macbooks sounds even better

The macbook sounds even better now. My next laptop buy may go even smaller..... (and less expensive)

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com