TechNet In-Depth

Sure, you can do Knowledge Base searches online. But there’s plenty more that TechNet offers.

As a Microsoft Certified Professional, you’re one of the many IT professionals who’s probably familiar with TechNet—but are you familiar enough to turn a $500 investment into a $37,000 return for your organization or its clients? Are you familiar enough with TechNet to cut support calls in your organization by 90 percent? How about being familiar enough with TechNet to win new business for your company?

If you’re not that familiar with TechNet—Microsoft’s portal to the IT professional community—you should be. TechNet, at, has a free component and a paid subscription component (TechNet Standard and TechNet Plus) that provides the tools, software and resources that IT professionals need to efficiently plan, deploy, manage and support Microsoft products. TechNet has been around for more than a decade, so most MCPs are at least somewhat familiar with it.

Some of TechNet’s features are very well known. With their subscriptions, TechNet subscribers get a snapshot of the Microsoft Knowledge Base—the same resource that Microsoft support professionals use to respond to customer issues—as well as technical and deployment guides, white papers, security information, prescriptive content, script center, and other detailed product and technology information.

TechNet Online and on Disk
But if some aspects of TechNet, such as the Knowledge Base, are well known, others seem to be well-kept secrets. For example, one of the biggest misconceptions about TechNet seems to be that users can get the same benefits from the Web site that they get from the monthly TechNet subscription. Indeed, the TechNet Web site (Figure 1) is a popular resource. About 3.5 million unique visitors come to it each month, to view its 85,000-plus pages of content.

TechNet's homepage
Figure 1. The TechNet homepage. (Click image to view larger version.)

But the more robust search engine of the TechNet subscription allows users to get answers more quickly and complete their jobs faster. For example, the subscription search engine highlights keyword hits in the pages it delivers, enabling the IT professional to go immediately to the relevant text, rather than having to scan the entire page.

Also, the content filters, available only with the subscription service’s feature-rich viewer, are a great way to deliver truly customized versions of TechNet each month. They feature the types of articles, software, and content most helpful to you, while saving you from wading through the content you don’t need. With TechNet’s content filters, you build your filter once, then TechNet applies it automatically to the content on your monthly subscription media.

Filters can be applied on a topic-by-topic basis and selectively to resource kits, white papers and other content types. For example, if you’re an Exchange administrator, you can set the filters to show content on Exchange Server, Office and Windows Server 2003—and, if you wish, only white papers or only service packs, or any combination of content types—while ignoring content on SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and other application server products for which you’re not responsible. That boosts the productivity of your searches on TechNet every time you’re looking for answers.

Content on the Go
As another benefit, the portability of a CD or DVD subscription allows immediate access to content and software wherever you happen to be—even if it’s at a remote site that may not have Internet access. That can be a crucial difference when you’re trying to troubleshoot a critical situation.

One of the biggest differences is the CD content that simply isn’t available on the Web site at all, such as resource kits and utilities, service packs, security patches, optional add-on packs and beta and evaluation software. Another big difference is the access to portions of the TechNet Web site that are available only to subscribers, including the Online Concierge Chat Support and Managed Newsgroup Support Service.

Concierge Chat gives you quick help in locating specific technical resources via a live, Web-based chat with a Microsoft support professional. It’s available in 12 la guages. The managed newsgroups let you post questions in any of 90 IT-related newsgroups—and to receive an accurate response within two business days from a Microsoft professional. For a user who can’t find an answer in TechNet content and doesn’t want to use a support incident, managed newsgroups are a great choice. These features—the beta and evaluation software, Concierge Chat and Managed Newsgroup access—are specific to the TechNet Plus subscription service, a service that also includes all the benefits available to TechNet Standard subscribers.

TechNet Tips and Tricks
Whether you’re using the public Web site or subscribing to the monthly service, there are a variety of ways to enhance your use of TechNet. For example, you can sign up for the biweekly newsletter, TechNet Flash, at Available in both text and HTML formats, it includes the latest TechNet content as well as advice for optimizing your use of Microsoft software. See Figure 2 for an example.

February TechNet Flash newsletter
Figure 2. The February TechNet Flash newsletter contained, not surprisingly, lots of security-related information. (Click image to view larger version.)

For example, one recent issue responded to a reader’s question about upgrading from Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition to Enterprise Edition by explaining that the reader could expect to see gains in scalability but not, generally, in greater performance—and then went on to explain three specific circumstances under which greater performance could be gained, too.

Building Community
TechNet Flash is also a great way to learn about upcoming TechNet Briefings and IT events. TechNet is more than a digital information service: It’s also a community. And TechNet briefings and IT events—held throughout the U.S. and around the world—bring that community together so IT professionals can connect with Microsoft experts and get in-person, straight from the source, how-to information on planning, deploying, managing and supporting Microsoft products and technologies. You can check them out at

Most MCPs know that TechNet is an efficient way to get quick answers to real issues—but how many know that they can update their skills there, too? TechNet provides access to Webcast training sessions on a broad range of Microsoft products. Webcasts are live broadcasts featuring interactive technical presentations, product demonstrations and question-and-answer sessions. Up to 20 new Webcasts are broadcast every month, each presented by an expert on Microsoft technology, the industry or both. Advance registration may be required for participation in TechNet Webcasts, so it’s important to check the Webcast page, at, to note those in which you’re interested. Recent Webcasts, for example, covered essentials of security and troubleshooting XP.

If you want to view recorded Webcasts on your own schedule, consider using the quarterly training DVD that comes with the TechNet subscription, rather than attempting to download Webcasts from the Web site. Viewing a Webcast at home is much more convenient, because you don’t have the problem of downloading streaming media over a dial-up line or of sharing your DSL or cable connection with your kids while they’re doing homework. You can view Webcasts at your own pace and even switch among them to access the information of greatest interest to you.

There are other tips that subscription users can exploit. For example, lists of new content are sent monthly to subscribers, enabling them to go quickly to the latest information of greatest interest to them. A print-friendly option makes it easier to understand and use the content that you print from your subscription. Logical operators—terms such as “and,” “or,” “not,” “thru” and “near” that are available only on the subscription search engine—are yet another way to boost the effectiveness of searches.

TechNet Seminars Offer Free, Quick Knowledge Boost
By John Westin, Microsoft

For most IT professionals, knowledge is time and time is money. Knowing a product inside and out can build your credibility with customers while boosting your expertise to overshadow the competition. Microsoft’s TechNet seminars, a series of free half-day events hosted in hometowns nationwide, aim to provide you with a competitive advantage by giving IT professionals a chance to connect directly with Microsoft and get in-person, how-to information on planning, deploying, managing and supporting Microsoft products and technologies.

“What I learned at the seminar will save me time and trouble,” said Matt Cruikshank, IS administrator for the YMCA of Coastal Georgia. “I can be more flexible and adaptable while dealing with our customers. My learning could potentially save me anywhere between one or two hours to 10 to 15 hours on each project, depending upon what the project scope is.”

Led by a team of technology specialists with real-world experience, TechNet Seminars offer sneak previews of the latest Microsoft products, while showcasing insider knowledge of implementation processes. Presenters dive into issues that may arise during implementations and potential solutions and provide tips and tricks to make your job smoother. In all, the seminar intends to help you save time troubleshooting and implementing, improve customer service, and increase your value and flexibility in your IT role.

Recently, Bobbi Tartufo, a business systems analyst for Micro Chem Corp., attended a TechNet seminar to learn more about security measures her company could implement to boost their level of protection. Because Tartufo wears many hats for the small chemical manufacturing company she manages, she was especially pleased with how the security information was packaged and presented to save her time.

“I not only learned a lot about security measures I could implement immediately to help make our business more secure, but just as important, I learned only what was most vital for me to know,” said Tartufo. “This information alone is priceless.”

Seminars include demos and cover topics such as deploying wireless networks, upgrading desktop software, and server security considerations. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to network with local peers and interact one-on-one with Microsoft representatives. Upcoming scheduled TechNet topics will focus on Active Directory fundamentals and Exchange Server 2003 disaster recovery.

To learn more about the seminars, or to register for an upcoming event, visit

John Westin is the TechNet Manager for the Connect with Microsoft seminar team. Each year he is in charge of running 600 free live TechNet events in the US. He’s been in the computer field for 20 years and has taught more than 30 different Microsoft classes.

TechNet in Action
How important is TechNet—and getting the maximum benefit out of TechNet?

The questions posed at the start of this article weren’t hypothetical examples; they’re quite real.

 Renessen LLC, for example, is a growing agribusiness innovator, one that connects biotech advances with food marketing, processing and distributing know-how. It also knows how to maximize its use of TechNet. After subscribing to TechNet Plus, Renessen improved its network stability and tightened system security, reducing support time by 50 percent. Server restarts dropped significantly and the greater stability saved $37,500 per year. With network reliability in place, the IT department was able to shift its focus from fire fighting to strategy and long-term planning.

 Or take Heald College, a non-profit educator that prepares students for careers in business, healthcare and technology. A TechNet subscription gave Heald the resources it needed to plan and implement new technologies uniformly across campuses. What it learned about Exchange server enabled it to cut server restarts by 98 percent and support calls by 90 percent, saving the school more than $13,000 in one year. Technical issues are now resolved up to 60 percent faster. Less time researching fixes translates into savings of another $9,000 per year.

 Balaram Inc., a technology consulting firm, is another example of an organization deriving bottom-line benefits from its TechNet subscription. Because the firm’s success depends on its knowledge of Microsoft products, it’s used TechNet resource kits and deployment guides, as well as evaluation software, to prove that expertise and win major new accounts.

The Right TechNet Configuration for You
TechNet Plus subscriptions are available both in individual-user licenses and in single-server volume licenses. As their names suggest, the single-server licenses enable unlimited use from a single server while the individual licenses allow unlimited use by a single user. So which TechNet license, or combination of licenses, is right for you?

Table 1. TechNet Subscription Costs
  TechNet Standard TechNet Plus
Single User (CD or DVD) $349 $529
Single Server (CD or DVD $799 $999

It depends on the size and type of your organization, how many people need access to TechNet, and how they’re using it. For example:

 In a small organization with, say, two IT professionals who need portable access to TechNet, two single-user subscriptions will suffice.

 A medium-sized organization might have three departments that each need TechNet access. In that case, three single-server licenses would be the way to go.

 For an organization with five technical departments, a help desk team, and 15 tech support people, the right approach would be TechNet volume licenses and 15 single-user subscriptions.

 A large organization with 800 IT professionals of varying responsibilities would want a TechNet volume license and single-user subscriptions as needed.

If you’d like to put some of the best features of TechNet to use for you and your organization, start your subscription by going to
. It could be one of the best investments you and your IT organization have made in a long time.

Al Valvano is Microsoft’s Lead Product Manager for TechNet.


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