Category Archives: CITRT

The Desired Dropbox Alternative

We want to offer the simplicity of the Dropbox connectivity model to corporate storage. The Dropbox model is so very attractive: it’s moderately affordable, easy, and it works. How do we keep all the great parts of that? Counter-thought: what’s wrong with Dropbox that we all so desperately want an alternative? (possible security issues and challenge of central control are the two major things that come to mind, the lack of extending existing corporate storage might be an issue for some, a benefit for others!)

OwnCloudOwncloud, other than the issues of cost, would seem to be a solution ready for taking.

Thoughts:

  • Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android clients, with the same basic simplicity as Dropbox. Users have the control without having to ask an administrator. (Yes, there are both good and bad points to this)
  • Windows Files services assumed, but if the solution were to require Linux or other backend, shouldn’t matter! (as long as we have full control and backup)
  • Users have the ability to extend sharing of anything they have rights to, to others, on staff or not
  • Ability to administratively set and over-ride any user share settings, internal and external
  • All folders and files must fit within the corporate backup mechanism. The “master copy” is on-site
  • Administrative ability to disconnect (remote wipe) in case of lost device or abuse
  • Reporting capabilities? What files accessed by what user or device? What do we want to know about?
  • Additional thought: some way to tag files such that they cannot be shared outside staff? The “company confidential” attribute. Assumption: people can always work around such things. This is more advisory than control, but at least makes sure people are really intentional about the work around
  • Is there any value in extending the concept for ftp-style access?

Thought: If we had a sufficient solution, we could ask people to quit using Dropbox, and they wouldn’t mind. Thinking about how much people love Dropbox, what would that look like?

Document Collaboration Solutions

DocumentCollaborationDocument Collaboration — is there a solution that really works?

Different organizations certainly have different needs in document collaboration. Here are the requirements that I think I am looking for. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

  1. Truly live updating. More than one person at a time can be editing without conflict
  2. Ability to know who said what
  3. Notification of changes by others
  4. Nice bonus would be routing & workflow, such as a way to approve edits, and just to know when somebody else made a change

Sadly, I do not know of any one product that does all these things well! What have I missed?

Microsoft Word‘s “mark revisions” feature is fantastic for seeing who has made what changes in a document. But two people working on the same document at the same time? Good luck with that!

Evernote is a great shared notepad concept, but again, you don’t want two people trying to make changes at the same time. And when edits are made, it’s not at all easy to see who made what changes.

OneNote may be a good bit better at simultaneous editing AND seeing who has done what. And finally, in recent months, it’s become a good cross-platform solution. Without watching and looking at each note, it’s hard to know that someone else updated something. Of course, for some people, there is also the “I won’t use anything from Microsoft” issue that makes this slightly less desirable.

Google Docs (or Google Drive, depending on your reference) let’s multiple people edit simultaneously and does an excellent job of avoiding conflicting edits. After the fact it’s difficult to know who made what changes, and notifications, although possible, are not obvious. There’s also just this strange thing that a lot of people don’t like Google Docs, and tend to lose them and not know how to find them again. For those who are biased toward the familiarity of Microsoft Office products, the different interface and the fewer features can be a negative

Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other such technologies all create ways to share,  but don’t much help with the simultaneous editing, and actually tend to cause issues if two people attempt to work simultaneously.

So, what’s a person to do? Google Docs are my current best answer, although I use every one of the above for different situations.

THERE MUST BE A BETTER ANSWER! What am I missing?!

Update, 4:45pm: Thanks @JimMichael for the tinkering with OneDrive.Live.com. Don’t think it’s the answer yet, but like Google Docs, heading in the right direction. We shall see what happens next.

 

Flashback Friday: No More Tape Backups?

FlashbackFriday150The post below was from October 2007. Still using tape? (I am, but much less) Afraid I have lost the bumper sticker from below. Anybody know where I can get another?

No More Tape Backups?

Is it possible to eliminate tape and still have backups, and archives, including off-site, disaster recovery, and business continuity?  I don’t know, but I sure like the idea.  Data Domain was at a seminar I attended recently, hosted by Optimus Solutions.  They gave us each a bumper sticker, that I’m real tempted to actually put on my car!

Tape

Flashback Friday: Generator Fail

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday. This post on failure is from October 23, 2006. I really thought about using this during yesterday’s #citrt “biggest fail” contest.

Emergency Preparedness – This is ONLY a Test

ThisisatestLast week, we had all sorts of “interesting things” happen.  Why should this week start out any differently? Monday, 2 AM, got the alert — Perimeter site is down.  Not only have we lost our T1 connection, our back-door DSL connection is out too.  Wow…that’s a lot of outage and not many things in common.  OK, it could be a cable cut, but at 2 in the morning?  Well…it could be a major power failure, but we have a backup generator, so that doesn’t seem likely.  What could it possibly be?

Now my mind is racing?  Fire?  Explosion?  Fire in the server room?  Fire anywhere else in the building that might have set of the sprinklers, which would be almost as bad as a fire.  I decided to wait until 6 to go in, but I didn’t sleep much — don’t know why I waited.

6:00 AM, arrive at the church. Well, the building is still there, no fire trucks, and from all outside indications all is fine.  Hmmm…  Walk in the building, still fine.  Into the server room, first glance, all is fine.  So why aren’t things working.  Then I notice it.  Some, but not all, of the servers are off.  The firewall is down.  The DSL firewall is down.  What could do such a thing?

The answer is simple.  We had a major power failure combined with a failure of our backup generator.  Now, back to the title of this post.  The backup generator is tested EVERY week!  How could it choose to fail at this very moment?  Actually, it didn’t.  It failed weeks ago!  The company that formerly did the maintenance and testing (formerly, as in up until today) did run the test every week.  But…they didn’t ever check the results, so they had no record of it failing every week!

Lesson learned.  Actually, this isn’t my problem — our facilities group is responsible for the generator, so it’s only a hassle for the IT department that the generator failed, but what an example for all of us.  Testing, without monitoring, or monitoring, without alerting, or alerting, without an action plan, all end up being the same as not having anything in place at all.

As I was lying awake all morning, the number of scenarios for failure going through my head was staggering.  How to have a plan to deal with them is also is also of concern.  How can this be done?  I think it’s through simple things.  After the fact, we learned that quite a few people had known of the generator failure weeks ago, but didn’t think to tell anyone.  How do we teach people to recognize that something is wrong, and take some action?  It’s more than having a good disaster plan.  It takes reviewing it with new staff, and even re-reviewing it regulary with staff that have been around.

I now remember last time we had a problem like this.  About 7 years ago.  We messed up that time, too.  sigh

Update:  We found the problem.  The battery that cranks the generator wasn’t charged, or had gone bad, or otherwise failed.  Grabbed another battery and we were fine again.  Of course, this was discovered a bit after power failed the SECOND time, just moments after we’d successfully powered everything back up.  We got to test our procedures twice in 12 hours.  I didn’t like this test.  But I learned from it!

Flashback Friday: Prioritization Fun

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday. This post on prioritizing is from August 2006.

Prioritization Fun

I just did a fun (as in take a risk, hope you don’t get fired!) little exercise for our management staff.

To start, I put a few “project” names on some 3×5 cards and put them out for review with a comment like “I think we’ll all agree these are the top projects that IT needs to be working on.”
Pdrm1786_1
(Don’t worry if you can’t read the cards — that’s not the point.  If you do read the cards, don’t read too much into any specific product or company names)

That generated the appropriate “Yeah, that’s about right” response.  So far, so good.  There was also one “but what about…” question.  Perfect!

So, I mentioned there were a few other somewhat important things going on and put a few more cards down:
Pdrm1787
Once again, there was general agreement and some “ah, I’d forgotten about that” sort of comments.

But wait, there’s more.  Now I pulled a deck of 3×5 cards from my pocket and put quite a few more down:
Pdrm1788_1
Now there was less commentary.  No disagreement, just rather silent acknowledgment.

I never got to the rest of the deck, but here’s the way it would have looked if I’d managed to get everything on the table.
Pdrm1789

I did get to wrap up with one more little bit of fun.  I managed to mention that I hadn’t had time to put everything on 3×5 cards, so I dropped a piece of paper with a long list of items on it on top of the cards.

It was fun.  So…how do you deal with an overwhelming pile of projects?

The Juggling Facility Manager

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday: As seen at the Church IT Roundtable (CITRT), at Church of the Resurrection, 10/3/2007.

The Juggling FMer

FmerdickcooperAs seen at the Fall roundtable 2007 in Kansas City.  Thanks to Clif Guy and Church of the Resurrection, and especially to Dick Cooper, the juggler himself!

.

.The “famous” Juggling Facilities Manager

Video 1 What is Facilities Management?

Video 2 Metaphors using sharp objects, plus “The Howling FMer”

Dropbox Alternatives – Why?

Recently, a few Church IT people in the Atlanta area had a local roundtable. One of the discussion topics was Dropbox alternatives. What we quickly discovered was that people had lots of different reasons for considering alternatives!

DropboxWhy do people like Dropbox? Quite simply, it works and it’s easy to use. If you haven’t read this article from a few years back, written by a competitor, it’s worth your time.  Some 20/20 Hindsight: Excellent lessons from Syncplicity vs. DropBox!

So, given that it’s easy and it works, what are the issues that make people want to change? This is not the exact list from the CITRT conversation, it’s just a list for discussion.

  • Higher security than Dropbox. This one comes up a lot. People have a concern about Dropbox security
  • Integration with file server files and directories
  • Primary on-site storage, with replication to cloud [vs. the other way around]
  • True collaboration: multiple people working on same data item simultaneously
  • Remote disconnect of sharing (i.e., lost BYOD device)
  • Confusion when private accounts and corporate accounts are brought together
  • Better management of backups and archiving; protection from accidental deletion

There are probably just as many things that people want to keep from Dropbox, including:

  • “hands off” connect, disconnect, reconnect, whenever connectivity is available
  • Ease of sharing folders and files. Easy to add sharing, easy to remove
  • Low resources on the client
  • Access from any device, any type of device [subject to security credentials]
  • A cheap backup solution — replicate your files across multiple devices easily, plus the cloud storage
  • Low cost (or free) for the needs of many users

What are YOUR reasons for wanting to change? What have you found that meets your needs?

Alternate question: how much of this need is a problem of users, or data usage, rather than of technology? If good security practices were followed, would most of the problems go away?

Flashback Friday: Peroogle

FlashbackFriday150From February 2007, referencing the 2005 installation of the Google Mini. What a great device it was in it’s day.

 

The Original Peroogle Press Release

It’s been almost two years since we brought in our Google Mini, aka “Peroogle.”  Just for fun, I thought you might like to see the way we first introduced it to the staff.  Note, this draft was distributed to the staff on April 1, 2005.  When we did the announcement, we all wore Google shirts and Google hats, and we gave out all kinds of Google goodies.

peroogle05

================================

Press release (draft, not for distribution)

Perimeter Church
9500 Medlock Bridge Road
Duluth, GA  30097

Press contact:
Randy Renbarger
678-405-2xx2
RandyR @ Perimeter.org

April 1, 2005, DULUTH, GA.  Perimeter Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, is pleased to announce its intent to purchase Internet search engine giant Google™. Over the last several weeks, Perimeter Church has been positioning itself to hold a controlling interest in the ubiquitous search site, and plans to immediately integrate the company into its functions as a church.

“This makes sense right now. We feel strongly that discipleship drives the life of the church, and our pastor’s T.E.A.M.S. Paradigm begins with Truth. In order to get a larger grasp of truth, we needed to get a larger grasp on all the available information,” explained Randy Schlichting during the press conference. “Google’s corporate goal has been to put all information on the web. That is going to align perfectly with our approach to discipleship.”

In the conference to announce the buyout, a large, complex chart (approximately 12ft x 30ft) was presented to explain how the church and search engine will function together. Amid complaints that the 8 point type was too small, CIO Scott Hamilton said, “Just look at the chart… Its all right there. C’mon, just look at it. It’s easy. It should be intuitively obvious, if not blatantly evident, to even the most casual observer.”

“Our corporate motto is ‘don’t be evil’.” said Google co-founder Larry Page. “We felt like a church would be an ideal place to mesh our corporate philosophy with our work environment. Though we aren’t crazy about the whole ‘changing your voicemail greeting every day’ thing.”

“While reading Google’s corporate philosophy I was astonished at the similarity to our own. I thought I was reading ours!” said John Purcell, Perimeter’s Staff Director. Google’s well known philosophy is perhaps best described in their “Ten Things” publication.

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and president of Technology, spoke highly of the relationships within the new organization. “As you know, the name Google comes from the mathematical term googol. When we learned of Randy Pope being a math major, we knew we had a match made, well, in heaven!”

When asked about how a public company and a non-profit religious organization could possibly be combined, Gordon Moore, Operations Director for Perimeter Church, said “Current Google shareholders have expressed excitement about the ability to convert their investments into charitable donations. We think this will be far easier than our usual end of year stock contribution process.”

One of the first initiatives of the new company will be the first ever webcast of the Inquirer’s and Membership seminars. Randy Pope, founding pastor of Perimeter said, “This is what I’ve been wanting to do for years. Finally we can take full advantage of technology.” Actually, much of what the new company will do comes from ideas explained in Randy’s latest book “The Prevailing Internet Church” (subtitled “amazing discoveries from my personal blog”) Randy has invited church members, stockholders, Perimeter staff, and Google employees, to send any questions or concerns to his personal email address, JustRandy @ Perimeter.org.

Why the name Peroogle? Besides the natural blending of the names of the original organizations, Randy Pope, John Purcell, Gordon Moore, Bob Carter, Matt Brinkley, Daniel Case, and Don Sawtelle all responded together “we like three syllable names.” Randy Schlichting had proposed the alternative name, Peri-oogle, but the Perimeter Management team collectively decided to stay with what works — three syllables it is. Don Sawtelle declined comment when asked about rumors that legal name-change paperwork had been prepared for employees who’s names did not fit the three syllable standard.

Peroogle is also the name of the first product of the combined organization. Peroogle will bring order and “findability” to the vast chaos of documents otherwise known as Perimeter’s Published drive. Now, Perimeter staff members will be able to quickly find those long lost documents. “The days of writing the same documents, over and over, are finally behind us. Never again will I need piles of paper on my desk!” said Jim LaBarr, Perimeter’s training manager and well known collector of paper resources

Please stay tuned for further information about this exciting merger of Perimeter and Google™.

Peroogle – the merger of Perimeter Church and Google Inc.

“if you don’t find us, we’ll find you”

Google information may be found on the web at http://www.google.com/. Perimeter information is available from http://www.perimeter.org/

User Advocate

User200The terms User Advocate and User Advocacy have been on my mind these last few weeks. On a whim, I just did a LinkedIn search and came up with over 1000 people who have that as a key phrase in their profiles. There are real people who are identifying themselves as User Advocates! Companies are using these phrases. Companies have job openings with that title!

How often are IT people just the opposite of User Advocates? How often have I been the “Network Nazi” and done just the opposite of helping users? (“Lots” would be a good answer) “Sins of the past.” Can you forgive me?

Flashback Friday: Trusted, Friendly, Used

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday. This post first appeared July 23, 2007. Thinking about how much this coincides with A Powerful User Experience.

Revisiting the “Software Acceptance Triangle”

Back in Nov 2005, I posted about key needs of a ChMS.  At that time, I used the terms Trusted, Used, and Easy.

Well, “Easy” wasn’t the right word.  A lot of products miss the “easy” description, but are still very usable.  Products need to be appropriate to what’s expected.  What’s a better word?  After tinkering with intuitive, simple, understandable, discoverable, natural, and probably other words, Stephen Wareham through out the word “familiar” on ChMS discuss.  I’m still not sure that’s a perfect word, but I like it.  However, I’m going to use “friendly” until something else comes along.  If you like “familiar” better, I’m find with that!

Triangle So, now the three terms are 1) Friendly, 2) Trusted, and 3) Used.  I don’t know how many times I’ve drawn a triangle on a white-board explaining the relationship of these three, and started calling it the “Iron Triangle.”  Well… other people have used that term, so once again, I needed something else.  For now, I’m going with the “software acceptance triangle.”  Yeah…probably not going to win any marketing awards for that name!  (I’m open for suggestions)

The concept of this triangle remains the same: if you don’t have all three sides, you will probably have an acceptance problem (at best), or possibly a complete failure of adoption.

Now, the question: does one side need to come first?  And, more to think about, is software acceptance a triangle, or are there more than three parts?