Archive for Data Storage

Unread Volumes

Library pic

By Tom Fedro

The other day, I ended up browsing the internet and focused a bit on library closures.  I’m really just struck by the similarities between our libraries in the United States and the whole concept of data management.  Of course, I have opinions about public libraries and the services they provide, and I have many memories about my experiences within them.  (They even go deeper than being told to “hush!”)  The current state of libraries in our world, though, has some clear similarities to how data is managed, and I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Really, libraries are closing because they’re unused.  I realize that’s a gross generalization, and I realize that they offer critical help to many in our country who are without internet connections and have no ready access to information.  I get all that.  That may be enough of a reason to keep a library open.  I’m just struck by how much data a company has that’s unused.  The typical sales enterprise, for example, can draw from a database critical metrics and yet it doesn’t.

Do a quick Google search for “Important Sales Metrics” and you get varied results, but the problem I have is that the metrics everyone claims are important are almost always results-based metrics.  Time from suspect to prospect.  Time from prospect to lead.  Time from lead to qualified.  Proposals vs. closes.  Sure, these statistics tell us something, but in my mind, metrics ought to be process-based.  We ought to look at what our sales department does (I mean the actual actions) and how they impact sales.  Realistically, if your standard sales reports show you a problem, you can’t take real action without an objective, data-driven analysis of the actions providing the results.

The problem for me is that the data is in there, unused like countless of volumes at your local library.  Almost all CRM software has the capability to record actions, but the data is almost always unused or left only in the hands of the salesperson.  Realistically, wouldn’t you want to know that initial follow-up by email resulted in 12% higher sales than a phone call and resulting message?  Wouldn’t you want to know the reverse?  Doesn’t it make sense to discover the most successful salespeople in your organization do something different and duplicable? You can exhort your sales people to do better, but exhorting them without direction is ludicrous, and when you have an entire sales force, measuring their results isn’t the same as measuring their performance.  Results come from performance, and performance is the obligation of management to…well, to manage.  Why aren’t we looking at that data?

If we were, do you think we’d be catching on to the changing company-marketing-sales-customer dynamic a bit better?  There’s a great deal of information to be mined, but as long as we’re looking at the same queries and the same reports we used twenty-five years ago; that data is just a library sadly on its way to closure.

What Mac’s Battle for Workplace Dominance Means for IT Professionals

mac
by Tom Fedro

Mac’s growing popularity in the workplace doesn’t have to be a whole new set of IT headaches – if IT pros are willing to consider broader enterprise management tools.
For more than three decades, Apple has had a strong play in desktop publishing, education and other creative fields (e.g. photographers, graphic designers, video editors), but for many years, it was a rare exception to see a Mac in most other business environments. Ever since the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomena began picking up momentum over the past decade, things have changed.
According to JAMF Software’s second annual global survey of IT pros, 96% of all enterprise IT professionals say their internal teams are now supporting Macs. In fact, PC shipping estimates from Gartner show that the Windows PC market has been steadily declining, with shipments down 9.6% in Q1 2016 compared with the previous quarter. At the same time, worldwide Mac sales are holding steady.
Macs Bring New IT Management Challenges
Although end-users may find Macs easier to use, 73% of IT administrators feel the exact opposite, according to a study by Dimensional Research. Specifically, there are three areas where IT administrators run into challenges with Macs in the workplace:
1. Security. There is an obvious risk of putting business software and other intellectual property on personal devices—especially when employees lose their devices, or they terminate employment. The Find My iPhone app, which is the same app used to manage MacBooks and iMacs, is not able to distinguish between personal data and corporate data when performing a remote wipe. Additionally, the software requires an IT administrator to use the device owner’s user ID and password, which are the same credentials used to access users’ personal emails, photos, videos and anything else stored in iCloud. This can create a power struggle between users and IT professionals, and many headaches as well.
2. Backup and Recovery. Like Microsoft, Apple bundles backup and recovery software with its computers. However, Time Machine, like the Find My iPhone app, has its shortcomings. For instance, Time Machine doesn’t, in normal operation, create a bootable backup of the internal drive. It can only restore an internal drive from the backup archive. Additionally, Time Machine offers no flexibility with backup intervals; it runs a backup once per hour, which for some companies may be too often and for others not often enough. It is also difficult to verify the success of each backup since Apple makes the backup file log an invisible file, not intended for user inspection.
3. Networking. Although many popular software suites run on Mac and Windows platforms (e.g. Microsoft Office), there are always one or two that either only support Windows or have limited functionality on a Mac. Rather than using two devices, Apple’s Boot Camp software, which is included with Macs, can be used to install Windows on a Mac and allow users to switch between platforms during the boot-up process. Configuring Boot Camp requires hard drive partitioning, which isn’t problematic until users need to add more space to the partition down the road, an IT professional wants to move one of the Boot Camp partitions to another computer, or to perform an advanced task such as converting a partition table without data loss.
Minimize Mixed OS Frustrations with Disk Management Software
Instead of accepting Mac’s software limitations, there is another option that many IT teams overlook: investing in a disk management solution. When made specifically for the Apple platform, these solutions can give IT pros the kind of advanced data protection, backup, networking and overall granular control that they’re accustomed to in traditional PC/Windows environments, including:
• Secure disk wiping of business apps, files and directories using system administrator privileges instead of users’ personal IDs and passwords.
• Snapshot-driven backup and recovery and sector-level imaging, which minimizes backup storage footprints and enables users to create bootable USB drives, recover lost or accidentally deleted partitions, and perform full bare metal restores.
• The capability to resize partitions and redistribute unused space, perform non-destructive partition conversions and move partitions to new machines.
If you’re an IT professional who’s hoping Mac’s presence in business is a passing fad, you might want to reconsider your position, especially since millennials are playing a greater role in businesses’ IT strategies – and a large percent of them are Mac loyalists. Today’s new breed of enterprise-grade solutions built just for the Mac make it possible to get beyond what many consider a “Mac vs. Windows” IT battleground, and instead focus on getting the job done right, regardless of platform. The good news is both platforms can (finally) play nice together and create a better work experience for everyone.

First seen in CTR
Published with permission of WestWorldWide, LLC, publisher of Computer Technology Review. All rights reserved. 2016

The Myth of Motivation

Myth

By Tom Fedro

I’ve been fortunate to experience a great many exciting business environments, and it’s been very interesting to watch how approaches to business have changed and then changed back and then changed again.  I’ve seen buzzwords praised and condemned and been through all of the big and sweeping business philosophies.  I’ve seen six sigma, management by objective, one minute management, team management and more.  It can get crazy, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re really looking at one thing and one thing alone, people.

Think about that for a minute and then consider the departments in your organization.  When you think “sales” you’re probably putting a face or a name to the thought.  When you think “IT” you’re doing the same.  No matter how much we try to program things in a way that lets us avoid it, the reality is that people do the work of your company and people make the difference between success and failure.  So naturally, we all try to figure out how we can motivate people to do their jobs in a way that builds our success, right?

Here’s the problem.  Motivation is a myth.  More accurately, “motivating,” is a myth.  I remember one of the most significant things I learned when studying Dr. W. Edwards Deming.  (He’s often considered the father of Total Quality Management.) He made a comment in answer to a question and said, “Everyone is already doing his best.”  He went on to explain that best efforts, to have any value, need direction.  How often do we spend our time trying to get our employees to be excited about their work instead of making sure they have all of the information and tools necessary to get it done?  Really, if your employees need constant urging to do the work, should you reconsider how you hire them?

I believe everyone wants to take pride in his or her work.  I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks How can I get away with drawing a paycheck while accomplishing nothing.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I know I’d never hire anyone with that attitude and wouldn’t keep anyone with that attitude on staff.  Here’s the scary thing though… do I encourage those kinds of thoughts by making assumptions my employees won’t do their job if I’m not right there offering a constant stream of extrinsic incentives?  Am I frustrating the desire to succeed right out of my staff when I cheer them on, exhort them to put in that extra effort, and beg them for superhuman dedication?  If I’m more focused on their willingness to perform than I am on their ability to perform, I think that’s the result.

I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for a pat on the back and encouragement.  I am saying that it’s time we had enough faith in our employees to believe they actually WANT to succeed and to make sure they have the tools necessary to do so.  What good is getting them excited when they don’t have what it takes to deliver, right?

Predictions and Postulations

Lightbulb

By Tom Fedro

Have you ever watched a television show or a movie from your youth and just sat astounded at the way everything in the show doesn’t mesh with today’s world?  I’m not just talking about the emotional or political aspects of it.  Sure, when Ricky Ricardo gives Lucy a spanking, our eyes get wide and we shake our head about how different our world is now; but I mean the way technology has become such an integrated part of our life that things just seem off when it’s not part of the equation.  There’s something about watching a police officer put a quarter in a pay phone or a detective open up a phone book that seems strange.  I catch myself wondering why Starsky doesn’t just call Hutch on his cell phone!

Nobody in the 1980s could have predicted the way things have progressed.  Sure, Alvin Toffler was pretty close when he wrote The Third Wave and announced the end of the industrial age and the beginning of the information age, but even Toffler’s genius didn’t anticipate the completely wired-in (or wireless for that matter) access to…well, to just about everything.  In fact, while the beginnings of the information age focused on technology—Can we do it?—the new focus is on service based delivery of functionality and information.  Content is king in ways never imagined before, and this means that opportunities have really shifted from pretty buttons to secure methods of storing, transferring, and accessing data.

With every major company trying to get in on the Cloud in one way or another, predictions explode from tech pundits like one of Lucy’s cooking experiments gone wrong.  How many of these predictions will go the way of the flying car or the teleportation device?  There’s no way to tell, really, because so much of what we get in the world of technology is driven by market forces that are fickle.  One thing I believe is certain, though, is that we have to interpret technology based on trends we anticipate for the future.  Twenty-five years ago, we couldn’t have anticipated (absent sheer genius) the social media explosion, the complete mobile revolution, or the trend toward instant access, but the one thing that we could have and should have anticipated is the reliance on data and its complete takeover of our daily lives.

Someday, our kids will watch television shows and movies from our time and wonder why the hero doesn’t hop in his flying car or simply order up a logical answer to the dilemma or something else that seems impossible now.  Who knows what technology will be standard in thirty years.  I’m willing to bet, though, that at its core it will deal with information and access to it.