So in my previous post, I talked about the “why” of keeping documentation straight. You don’t want one person being the link in the chain that would cause a serious headache if they weren’t there when you needed important information. So now let’s talk about what we use to keep our documentation straight.
In a world where Google search reigns supreme, we often no longer think about documenting things because they are just an internet search away. But what about those things within your company that only a few people really know how to do, or the tricks that make things work? Neglecting those types of this can be dangerous.
For Data Cave, we have to keep extremely good notes about how everything in our facilities realm works along with stellar notes about all of our various networking. This task can prove to be very tedious, but has saved us more than a few times.
For general notes and documentation we have turned to Evernote, a cross platform (for the most part) note taking and syncing app that has really found a place in the corporate world as of late. The Evernote team seems to work very hard on making things work the way that most people would want them to. Having a good work flow while trying to get everything in your brain on to paper is VERY important and evernote does its best to help.
I’ve been using Evernote for several years personally, which is free to do and only has a monthly syncing limit. Other than that you can sync as much as you’d like to the Evernote servers, where the data is stored and backed up. So when we decided to move to Evernote Business I was already familiar with the interface and enjoyed using it. We keep all sorts of facilities and networking notes in there, as well as many networking diagrams. And a beautiful side effect of documenting is that your entire team ends up having knowledge beyond their scope of work. But drilling down into specific network devices and keeping all of our IP addressing and other various networking world items straight we use an open source application called RackTables.
Racktables has gotten better and better of the last few years and proves to be the easiest way to keep every bit of the network side of our facility straight, especially for the price! We can select a device or circuit and trace every stop it makes on its way to an end point, which can be very helpful when you’re trying to hunt down a problem. It also keeps a lot of information about various hardware which makes tracing down a stray MAC address as simple typing it in the search box and hitting enter.
The importance of being organized and streamlined in a data center can’t be over-stated. We try our best with the tools we use to make the most of every bit of knowledge we have, and we’re always open to suggestions on how we can do stuff better. Leave a comment and let us know what you use for the various aspects of your business life!
Raise your hand. How many of your companies boast an all-star genius? The consummate problem solver who knows your business inside and out? This person gets the frantic phone calls and priority emails begging for an answer to a question that no one else knows. Without much thought, effort, or even Google, this person rattles the answer, recites the code to type, pushes the appropriate button, etc. and resumes work.
Perspective is everything. There are certain things some find obvious that another person might view differently—or miss entirely. Sometimes people think and view things similarly, but when considering your company’s operations it’s better to err on the side of safety.
In IT, we preach documentation. Should one of your workers get hit by a bus, all of their knowledge should be documented to ensure seamless operation. Often there are seemingly small lynchpins in an otherwise mundane set of instructions that only a few people or (gasp!) even just one person, holds only in their brain. But this practice should be avoided because that lynchpin could cause entire processes to crumble, leaving the company in a world of hurt due to a lack of proper documentation.
Every employee’s knowledge is valuable to a company. At every level of an organization, there is some amount of knowledge that if lost would cause some serious discomfort within the organization. Organizations often see this when employees leave the organization or transition to another department or position.
At Data Cave, when we say team, we really mean it! We all work together for our common goals and respect everyone’s knowledge. In fact, we respect each other’s knowledge so much we’ve taken an active approach to documentation and making documentation available. We’ve recognized this as a key to our ongoing success.
We keep the knowledge of our entire team, our network, our processes, and our facilities information in a common documentation area and we tangibly feel the benefits.
• Mistakes aren’t repeated
• Efficiency through reduced planning
• Enhanced internal communication
• Evenly distributed workloads
• Not reliant upon a single person’s expertise or experience
• 24/7 Accessibility
We have found mistakes are no longer repeated, as solutions are documented and information is more available. We’ve experienced increased efficiency because projects and processes require less planning. Our communication has improved with the transparent availability of information. Workloads are more appropriately distributed as knowledge is shared—no longer do we rely on one person to implement or provide answers. It provides scalability as we continue to grow. And finally, the information is always accessible, unlike its human counterparts.
“But when you have a ton of documentation, how do you keep it all straight?” you ask. We use a few tools to help us with all of this that are very interesting and starting to flesh out more and more each iteration. What are those you ask? Well, they just happen to deserve their own blog entry…so stay tuned!
Something that has been present in technology companies for a long time is the “me too” mentality. Company A will come up with an ingenius way to solve a problem that the public has had for a long time. They sell their solution like mad, their stock goes up, their brand becomes a household name, and life will be grand for them. Company B sees this and looks at it like a shortcut to success. They proclaim, “Me too!” and begin offering an almost identical product or solution, brand it a bit differently, and act like they’ve just completely changed what Company A created.
We see this in several industries, but the technology industry is currently the front runner for it, specifically when talking about the “Cloud.” Many companies are shouting, “Me too! I’ve got a cloud too!” and haven’t really defined within the company what “Cloud” means to them. That’s not what Data Cave wants to do.
We want to think differently about how we can best solve a common problem that enterprises and small businesses have. We are working on a solution that we think is pretty neat and well defined within our company. This stuff is our life, it’s our passion, and it’s going to be a great help to a large variety of businesses.
A bit of our secret sauce is no secret at all. Our engineers are working hard with OpenStack, creating one of the best, most stable, and fastest back ends in the industry today. Enormous companies like Netflix, Comcast (in their new X1 Platform), PayPal, and Cisco WebEx are utilizing OpenStack and believe it is the future to centralized computing. We agree, and we’re going to learn everything we can about it to bring it to our customers as part of a package that will work so well, you’ll not even know it’s there.
We can’t wait to show you what we’ve got cooking. We think you’re really going like it.
As more and more of everyday life moves toward the internet, I find myself looking for ways to make my internet browser flow more smoothly. I have been back and forth with browsers, trying to choose the one I love the most. I have landed on Google Chrome for the time being. It isn’t quite as smooth as Safari on my Mac, but I can forgive that due to the expanse of other things it does for me.
There are a lot of reasons I currently enjoy Chrome: the way the tabs work, the syncing features, the speed, the consistency. But I’d like to focus on the extensions I use. I use several (probably no where near close to the number that a super user might) and they help me get the things done that I like to do on the internet.
I probably wouldn’t get along on the internet without Agile Software’s 1Password app. It’s a great password keeper, generator, and with the browser extension it will auto fill for you too! I use the extension to autofill things for me and to be able to generate passwords on the fly. It’s a sweet addition to the full app.
Adblock is an ad blocker extension that will block almost any ad on any website. It’s awesome because once you use it for a while, you forget it’s there. Then when you use someone’s computer that doesn’t have it you see all sorts of annoying adds that attempt to get your attention or distract you from the content you really want to see. Some websites request you turn it off to browse them, Hulu for example, because they make their money from advertisements. But living without this extension is something I just don’t want to do.
I use the bitly extension to shorten and track links I send out on the various social media avenues. Bitly is cool because it will keep track of other people shortening the same link and tell you about the overall clicks for that URL.
Buffer is like a bitly and social media poster in one. I can schedule tweets or statuses and track how well or poorly they do.
This is a sweet extension. This puts a little box on a YouTube page that will let you download the video or just audio and keep it for your very own. I believe it only works on things that are free to the public, so you can grab all the freebies your heart desires. I use it when I find a live recording of a great song and want to stick it in my Dropbox and play it later in the car or something of that nature.
I don’t really utilize this as much as I should, but DuckDuckGo is a competitor to Google’s Search so I feel like I’m sticking it to the man when I have the extension installed in Google Chrome. DuckDuckGo supposedly doesn’t track a thing you do and you’d get better searches with more depth (outside of your bubble, they call it) when you use them for search.
An invaluable extension, FlashBlock blocks the flash plugin until you need it. Flash is very insecure so having it shutdown until you manually tell it to run is a great idea. You can also whitelist websites and even choose to use HTML5 in some cases to view your web video.
We use this to function as a quick proxy on/off for when we need to get into our work network from the outside world. It is very customizable and has proved very useful in doing exactly what we need it for.
Ghostery is awesome! It not only tells you what trackers a website has when you visit it, but it will also block those trackers. I used it for quite some time before I realized it could do the blocking thing. Now I LOVE it.
This extension rivals Safari’s “reader” function. It basically takes the content you’d like to read on the webpage and puts it in an article type format with no distraction around it.
Pocket was formally “Read it Later” and is basically a service to put links in a database for an app that you can later go to when you have time and read the articles you’ve saved. With the extension installed, “pocketing” something is just a click away.
Prowl is a Mac/iOS app that allows you to trigger various events and get notifications about certain things. I use the extension to send a link quickly from my desktop browser to my iPhone.
If you don’t know what this is, then I won’t take you down the rabbit hole. This is an enhancement for the website reddit.com.
The Camelizer extension has already paid for itself. Well, it was FREE, but it tells you on various shopping pages what the price of the item you’re viewing has been in the past. This allows you to see if it’s going to come back down or if it is a great time to buy it. It was VERY useful when the price of hard drives shot up after the floods in Asia.
When I see a cool font on a webpage I like to find out what it is to see if I am able to use it later on a Data Cave webpage or when I develop webpages for other clients. WhatFont’s extension allows me to click a button, mouse over a font, and it will tell me as much information as it can with a popup.
There are most of my extensions. I use some of them often and some I use rarely, but they have all proven useful at one point or another. I’m always looking for great ways to make my browsing the Internet more fun and safe and I’m always open to suggestions. I hope this at least gets one’s mind thinking outside the standard browser box and opens the mind to the world of browser extensions.
We have recently made the switch from Zimbra to Google Apps for our main email and document service here at Data Cave. It became more evident over the last couple of years that we weren’t going to have time to maintain our own email server because we were getting busier with new products, customers, and R&D, which is a very good problem to have. For a company of our size, the price was nearly a wash, and we get a ton of (mostly) reliable email and document storage to boot. With that change we also now have at our disposal several good email clients for our mobile devices as well as our desktop computers. I’m most excited about the mobile platform.
There have been several big changes recently in the mobile email wrangling world that have been, for the most part, pretty exciting. The 2.0 Gmail App (iTunes Store Link) from google has been pretty sweet. It allows you to do most every gmail thing there is, as well as giving support for multiple accounts, though no unified inbox just yet. Last year, however, Google purchased Sparrow, which has been my go-to desktop client of choice, for the simple fact that it’s fast! It seems to do things in the background that the built in Mail client makes you wait for while it completes the processes. I haven’t used Sparrow’s iOS app, but it never got around to doing push notifications, so it didn’t fit in my workflow. Google seems to be adding Sparrow-like features into their own app, but it is still incomplete and I’d like a few more things.
What I want from a mobile email client is fairly simple; I’d like to swipe one way to delete, and the other to archive. I feel like that is kind of a no-brainer and should have been built in to (at least) Apple’s iOS client from the beginning, and certainly by their 6th major iteration of the operating system. But alas, it’s still not there. You CAN flip a switch to allow a gmail setup to do archiving, but then you lose the quick ability to delete. By the way, I think almost everything has gotten good enough at searching that filing email into folders is now a waste of time, for me anyway.
So a new app has just hit the market – Mailbox. It is an iOS only app for now and works exclusively with gmail accounts, but it gives me the ability to swipe one direction for an archive, and it will also let me swipe longer for a delete. This was all I really wanted. Mailbox adds a whole lot more to the mix though. You can short swipe the other direction to move your email to a “later” folder which you do have control of what “later” is. And it will let you long swipe that same direction to place the email in a “list.” To me, these are both GENIUS ideas. You can deal with your emails immediately, or you can pick a time to deal with them later. I try to stay on top of them, so I can quickly do whatever needs done with them, get them out of my inbox, and clear my brain of them as well.
There are a few caveats to the new app though -
Firstly, you have to give the Mailbox company access to all of your emails in order for them to filter correctly. Kind of scary, but they say emails are encrypted while they’re on Mailbox’s servers and not readable by anyone, human or machine. These guys seem trustworthy, but you never know. Luckily I don’t have any personal, nor business secrets to hide.
Secondly, when Mailbox app launched, the company did something that has been, so far, unique. They implemented a reservation system and allowed only as many new clients on to their servers as they could handle. This helped the servers not to become overwhelmed. But think about this: if you are depending solely on the Mailbox servers to deliver your email, and those servers crash, you’re not going to get your email. This is a new company venture for their company and so far they’ve only had a few outages, but you’d better have a backup plan or you may find yourself in an email pickle.
There are many blogs out there that are more in depth about how you should deal with your email, but I try to keep it simple with this list:
I feel like we’re getting closer, but we’re still not quite there…
How are you guys doing it? We’re always up for hearing a better way. Tell us in the comments.
The world’s largest tradeshow, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), kicked off 2013 with a bang by unveiling numerous interesting (and nerdy) technology products. Some technology, such as TV, grew, while others, such as tablets and laptops, shrank. Here are some of our favorite developments. CES typically demonstrates advances in hardware, but 2013 indicates a shift away from hardware and toward total integration with improved software.
More Bendable Glass
Corning unveiled bendable glass, which may be available on smart phones and tablets as early as 2014. This is very exciting news for anyone who has ever dropped a device and shattered the screen. While the glass still has the potential to break if bent too deeply, it is certainly a great step into more functional and durable devices, which could lower business costs when the company has to replace an item due to a damaged screen.
The Largest USB Drive
Likewise, Kingston has developed what is “officially the largest USB drive available on the market,” according to Midweek. The one Terabyte version of the DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 USB Flash Drive will be released in early 2013; however, the 512 GB version is already available and is priced at $1,750. While this and the Terabyte capacity (price is yet to be determined) could be considered costly solutions to data storage and protection, consider the fact that you can back up your entire computer with a tiny thumb drive. Since the device is so small it will also give greater mobility to big data and increase data storage options and flexibility.
Deca-Dock: Multi-dock Charging Station
Griffin Technology introduced a multi-dock charging station that can charge and synchronize 10 iPads at once. It also features a lockable security bar to reduce the risk of theft. This station will help simplify the management of devices, such as iPads, which are becoming very common for corporate use.
Hardware’s Bottom Line: New hardware advances are simplifying daily business activities and making data and the hardware itself more durable and secure.
“CES has traditionally been all about hardware, with a particular emphasis on television,” said Chia Chen, SVP, Mobile Lead, Digitas North America. “But this year the ecosystem of software, apps, and content became a crucial part of the show.”
Connectivity and Apps and Content, Oh My!
The Herald Online stated that “with the exception of TVs, the most buzzed about capabilities focused on the connectivity, apps, and content related to [cell phones, tablets and laptops], beating out other features such as size, display, network, and processors/speed.” This suggests that the consumer is becoming more aware of how devices work and the many more technical aspects that allows devices to operate at their maximum potential.
Siri Meets Her Match: More Voice
Forbes contributor Raj Sabhlok is looking forward to voice integration software becoming mainstream in the business world. “With voice integration and voice-to-text functionality, the technology holds promise for productivity boosts in areas like sales, support and many administrative functions. Customer service reps can process orders or solve support problems by simply communicating by voice. Think of an enhanced Siri for business, where answering the phone, dictating a letter or creating complicated spreadsheets will be done solely by voice commands.”
Likewise, auto technology is also on the rise and expands upon the display screen and GPS systems that are available in many cars today. To come is an increased level of voice activation and integration with your smart phone. “The use cases go way beyond just telling you how long it will get from point A to B,” Krish Sailam of Phunware.com said. “They will include much more predictive tech, e.g. – you are stuck in traffic, the car will message your office you are 10 minutes late, and re-route your desk calls to your car. It may also pick a calming sound track for your hectic morning commute. It can also route you to the florist for your anniversary based on your calendar reminder.”
Software’s Bottom Line: Voice integration will streamline business activity and increase corporate productivity.
Something that irritates me beyond belief, and probably many others, is when some type of salesperson makes a cold call to me without doing research on my company first. Especially when that information is readily available on this thing we call the Internet.
With any situation in life, you can usually tell when someone has done their research and when they are just winging it. When it comes down to it, people care a great deal about themselves, so it’s fairly easy to figure out what key phrases you can say to a person to let them know that you have taken at least SOME interest in them and what it is they and their company specialize in. Buzz words and reading a script DO NOT WORK. In fact, buzz words can turn someone off these days quicker than anything else.
Take a look at any current successful company. They put in Layman’s terms exactly what their product is doing and how its features will benefit you, the consumer. If I’m given some type of product literature and it is a clearly vapid attempt at making something simple sound sophisticated by use of “buzz words” I am immediately disinterested in purchasing the product. You are now fighting an uphill battle to get what could be a stellar product sold to my company.
If this weren’t such an annoying problem, then this search would yield much fewer results.
Now, I understand that company websites can be vague, and probably for good reason. Maybe they don’t know what their product looks like yet. But that’s when you do a bit of research and have good product literature to give them. The most precious thing, in just about any industry, is time. And most of the time you value your time higher than theirs. So streamline what you’re doing and what you’re saying and maximize the effectiveness of the time you have with someone. Hit the bullet points and if they want to discuss further, then let that happen. But please be a good judge of whether your customer has time for you or not. This will make more efficient use of your time and theirs.
The bottom line? KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. They are the lifeblood for you and your company. Without them, you wouldn’t have much of a company, would you?
The end is near. There are only 3 days until the world ends. Or so says the Mayan Calendar, zombie theorists, and other highly “credible” sources. We have considered several end of the world theories and realized that Data Cave is where we want to be in the case of a zombie apocalypse. We are fully equipped with:
- High walls with minimal windows
- Building-in-building design
- Video surveillance
- Powerful generators
- Remote location
All of which, we believe a zombie could not defeat. We realize that not everyone has access to Data Cave, in the case of a zombie apocalypse. In order to keep you prepared, we gathered a list of the top 6 apps that will keep you safe, should zombies overtake the world.
This app gives you a map of critical resources such as gas stations and grocery stores to keep you nourished during the struggle. The app also highlights critical danger areas such as police stations and hospitals that may be overrun with zombies.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. While many TV shows have depicted the zombie apocalypse, we cannot be certain what it may bring. In the case that the zombies align with ghosts, this app will give allow you to see what the naked eye cannot. (Note: It’s ghost detection software competency can neither be confirmed nor denied. Use at your own risk.)
The Army trains its troops to be prepared and survive many conditions. This highly pragmatic app offers you their field tested survival tips ranging from the psychology of survival to water procurement. You may need to become “army strong” and this app gives you the skills you need to achieve this.
4. Zombie Booth
In the ever digital age, it is likely that the zombies will have access to smart phones and computers, if smart enough to use them. Should you find yourself in mobile or electronic communication with a zombie, use the zombie booth app to create an appropriate avatar to dupe the living dead. By transforming your appearance to resemble that of a zombie, you may buy yourself time to decide your next move.
As we said in our last zombie-related blog, it is much easier to defeat a zombie when you know they are coming. Should you lack video surveillance, this app will provide you with basic motion detection software and can even serve as video surveillance system, both of which will help you elude zombies in your immediate area.
Are you adequately prepared to survive a zombie apocalypse? This app will test your knowledge to see just how adequate your zombie survival skills are. It asks you questions and will help you prepare appropriately for the impending zombie takeover.
With December 21, 2012 fast approaching, the end-of-days worriers are going to get progressively more fidgety. Well they, and you, needn’t fear if your data is at Data Cave. We’ve got this zombie apocalypse under control. Your data and disaster recovery site (I think zombies count as a disaster) will be safe and sound. Here are 6 reasons why you want to be at Data Cave during a zombie apocalypse.
1. Zombies suck at scaling walls.
Fact: The reanimated have very few skills. The skills they do have involve moving forward (slowly in most cases) and finding food. They don’t have problem solving skills and they aren’t very resourceful. Data Cave has very few windows. This is designed from a security standpoint. The only entry is through steel security doors with card reader access and we rarely hand out cards to the undead. There is no way to get through a window on the ground level. And only in one case have I seen a zombie carrying a ladder…
2. Building in building design.
Fact: Concrete, one inch rebar reinforced walls are fairly strong. In fact, our walls are built to withstand an EF5 tornado. Walkers are a bit less powerful than 200 mile per hour winds. But they wouldn’t have to get through just one wall. No, they would have to demolish two, and in some cases three, to get to your data (and our brains). We’re confident that this won’t happen.