Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Data you care about - A Storage Story

What are valid strategies for storage in a "post cloud" era?

Well, all questions are best answered with a question, or a few questions:

  1. Do you have server based applications that use a local database?
  2. Do you use desktop applications (Quickbooks, MS Office, CAD)?
  3. Do you receive faxes and/or scan documents that need to be forwarded to other users?
  4. Do you have a corporate data retention policy?
A few assumptive statements

  • If you don't have a back-up of your data (a copy of your files) then you don't care about your data
  • If the back-up off your data (the copy of your files) is on your site then you don't care much about your data
  • your pc - laptop's hardrive will fail before you quit

Here is what I recommend for local storage and for backups
If you have a server based application that needs a databasae then you are responsible for the first copy of that data base (the first copy after the running production copy).  Let's call this the availability copy because the function of the first database copy is to give you a database that you may switch to in the event that the running production database stops working.  For business protection and "risk management" you should have  a second copy of your database that does not reside within your site.  If you are running your own server based application this second copy is usually not available for you to switch into production because of: the expense associated with providing a high speed connection from your server based application to the remote copy of your database; or providing a second instance of your server based application at the location that the "risk management copy" of your resides.  So, you have a running production copy of your database, an availability copy of your database, and a risk management copy of your database.  If you do not have those three copies then you do not care about your database and the application that uses that data.
Note: Many firms are looking to move their complex server based applications and database to a Software as  a Service (SaaS) vendor thus outsourcing the responsibility of caring about servers, databases, and the database copies.  When you seek a SaaS provider ensure that they accept responsibility for at least the three database instances you require to care about your data. Some of the larger SaaS providers have invested in their infrastructure to the level that all copies of your data may be rapidly switched to when there is a problem with your production data.  "Cloud" is another term used to describe a SaaS arrangement, as in move that application to the Cloud.

Data for Desktop applications like Microsoft Word, AutoCad, and Quickbooks usually resides in two places.    We have local storage on our hard drives within our PCs and Laptops.  For the most part this storage is available just to us, the user of the PC/Laptop.  To make that data (those files) available to others in the organization we need to have some "shared" local storage.   Today, shared local storage can be on a Network Attached Storage device (NAS) at a price point of a couple hundred dollars per terabyte of storage (1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes = 1,048,576 megabytes).  Shared local storage may be provided on a server with resultant higher storage costs (you have to pay for the server, the server operating system, and the server storage).  Ok, we still haven't shown that we care about this data because, the local storage and the shared local storage do not represent the availability copy of your data.  Often some files are duplicated in both the local storage and shared local storage disks but you cannot count on the local storage version being maintained so, let's call local storage temporary storage.  They give us large hard drives on our desktops and laptops so we have huge temporary storage available to each user but, the organization can only depend upon shared local storage as the true production repository of data (files).  Now we need to produce our on-site availability copy and our off site risk management copy.  Often to find an effective way of producing an availability copy and a risk management copy organizations are forced back into server managed storage scenarios to gain access to the tools that effectively manage data copies.
Note: Cloud for desktop application data.  There are cloud solutions for desktop data.  Usually organizations first move email to the cloud as for most email is really a desktop application.  You should still require the email SaaS (cloud) provider to have at least a production copy of your email along with an availability copy and a risk management copy.  Most of the tier-one email SaaS providers also provide a shared storage option often called "your G drive in the sky" (sort of a cloud reference).  This Cloud based shared storage should allow you to enable access by multiple users and should still provide and availability copy and a risk management copy of your data (files).  The hidden point here is that you do not have to move all of your desktop applications to a SaaS version (sometimes the desktop version is the most feature rich) but, if you move your data to the cloud you offload the responsibility of caring for your data and receive data storage at a price point that you cannot achieve.

Faxes and Scanned documents are usually needed for an instant and then discarded.  Some firms save their scanned documents to a shared local storage repository.  If you care about those saved scans then apply the availability copy and risk management copy schema.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Google Voice

Google Voice
A good one stop web site for an introduction to Google Voice, the Google Voice overview page to see video explanations of the key features or take a look at the Help Center for details instructions.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A quick Place to see what's been added to Google Docs

What's new in Google Docs?

Here is a list of many of the recent enhancements to Google Docs along with "learn more" links that will take you to Google help sites.

Recently launched!

  • Real-time collaborative highlighting in documents
    You can now see when a collaborator highlights text. Learn more

  • In-cell dropdown and cell validation
    Create dropdown lists in individual cells using the data validation tool in Google spreadsheets. Learn more

  • Show all formulas
    Reveal all formulas in your spreadsheets with one click. Learn more

  • Spell checker in spreadsheets
    You can now check spelling in your spreadsheets using the tools menu. Learn more

  • More page sizes
    Executive (7.25” x 10.5”), statement (5.5” x 8.5”) and more are now available in Google documents. Learn more

  • Auto-linking in documents
    Now when you type something that documents recognizes as a link, it will become a link automatically. Learn more

  • A new curve tool in drawings
    Create smooth curves based on a series of points with this new tool. Learn more

  • Convert files in the document list
    You can now convert files in the document list to a Google Docs format at any time. Learn more

  • Add words to dictionary
    You can now add words to the documents dictionary. Learn more

  • Draggable rows and columns in document tables
    Change row heights and column width in tables using sliders. Learn more

  • Document translation
    You can now translate a document into any of the 53 Google Docs supported languages. Learn more

  • Improved page navigation in forms
    Use the page navigation feature to direct respondents to relevant pages on your form. Learn more

  • Search improvements
    Four new search operators (before:YYYY-MM-DD, type:document, and more) make it easier to find files in your documents list. Learn more

  • Google Docs Viewer available in mobile browsers
    View PDFs, .ppt, .doc and .docx files that you've uploaded to your documents list on your Android, iPhone and iPad. Learn more

  • Format painter in spreadsheets
    You can now apply formatting or conditional formatting rules you've used on one set of cells to another separate set of cells using the Paint Format tool. Learn more

  • Optical character recognition (OCR)
    You can now upload and convert PDF or image files to text. Learn more

  • New sharing interface
    We've streamlined the interface, added new visibility options, made access viewable at a glance, added resettable doc URLs and enabled bulk changes in the docs list. Learn more

  • A keyboard shortcut pop-up and more in drawings
    You can now view pop-up keyboard shortcut help, center drawings on the page, view thumbnails of drawings in the docs list, and search through all the text in your drawings. Learn more

  • Faster Google spreadsheets graduates
    The new Google spreadsheets is now the default for everyone. Columns can be dragged and dropped, the formula bar is editable, auto-complete speeds up data entry, and you can link directly to sheets. Learn more

  • New Google documents graduates
    All new documents are now created with the new version of documents by default. Take advantage of the new chat, character-by-character real time co-editing, sidebar comments and more. Learn more

  • Drawings in the template gallery
    Create a drawing from the templates in the gallery or share your favorite drawing with the world. Learn more

Make Phone Calls within Google Chat

Make phone calls from Gmail

Within your Google Apps window, usually along the left pane, within your "Chat" section you now have a graphic of a telephone.  With this capability you may call any phone in the US and Canada for free and at insanely low rates internationally — right from inside Gmail. Make sure you have the voice and video chat plugin, then click "Call phone" at the top of your chat roster. .