What do I do with all this stuff?

By , April 23, 2012 5:53 pm

I have a system for keeping stuff in my house. When not actively in use, most of my stuff ends up piled on the floor in my home office. When that fills up I move it to more permanent storage in my basement. When that fills up? At this point the attic or the garage become the final resting place of everything I may need someday that I need to keep…just in case.

My Basket of Wires

Am I the only one who has a basket for cables, adapters and power supplies? I keep putting things in but rarely take anything out. And when I do, my process is to dump everything out on the floor, find what I need, then put it all back. Last time I did this I swear I saw a power cord for a Motorola StarTAC. Did I throw it out? No. I wasn’t quite sure, so I left it alone. Please tell me it’s not just me.

Eventually I run out of space to put stuff. At this point, there comes “the purge.” After a great deal of blood, sweat and (sometimes) tears I end up with a curb full of garbage bags. Did I need to keep the stuff in the first place? Sure, some of it.  The point is some of the stuff I store, I retrieve and use. The rest of it “expires.”

Circle of Life

Companies are no different. For companies, “stuff” is information — files, email, databases, images — which make up a wide variety of digital content.

Like any living entity, information has a lifecycle: it’s born, it has a useful life and it dies.

For information, death means no longer being relevant or useful. Companies are great at creating information and pretty good at protecting it while it’s relevant. The problem usually comes with knowing when it’s no longer relevant and to let it go.

No More Business As Usual

For more than half a century information management methodology has focused on making sure we can “get the data back” while ignoring the question of “do we really need it anymore?” There are acres of warehouses filled with magnetic tapes protecting a company’s valuable information assets. How much of those “assets” should really be in a garbage bag on the curb?

There is a growing sense of urgency in corporate circles to attempt to reign in the pervasive data sprawl that has come about as a result of cheap real estate a.k.a. disk space. As data center costs increase with no limit in site for the amount of data being generated, IT departments are asking corporate management to buy into retention strategies. Whether it’s email, collaboration suites, or data warehouses, there is more and more urgency being assigned to the need for Information Lifecycle Management (ILM).

Backup –> Archive –> Destruction

We have pushed out a significant amount of data management to the masses. Everyone in our organizations has the ability to create data, not just in “systems of record”, but on file systems, desktops, laptops and mobile devices. The problem? Most people are not skilled to manage data life-cycle. This leads to what I like to call data sprawl. The result is IT departments have the herculean task to manage and protect this data. We see unlimited backups of questionably valuable information.

So let’s start with a basic question: what data do I have?

Step 1: Inventory and Clean Up

Data is one of the most important assets of any organization, important enough that we expend effort and resources to protect it. We use methods like redundancy strategies and backups. These cost money. Protecting more data then necessary is a waste of resources. So, getting a picture of the types and sizes of files on our system will help us  understand where to start.

What Do I Have?

For many businesses, particularly in the SMB space, the question of ILM needs to start at the beginning. Let’s say we have a small business with approximately 1 Tb of “active” storage on our file systems. Do we even know what types of data we are storing?

The first thing we need to do is “empty the box onto the floor” to see what we have. Here is a list of the “top 10″ file types for our sample company:

 This raises a bunch of questions:
  • Why are there so many BAK files? What are they?
  • Why are there music files (mp3, m4a) on our file system? Are they personal?
  • We sure do have a log of .jpg files. Are the business or personal?

And this is just file system space. We will also need to look at email systems, databases, and mobile devices.

A Light At The End of The Tunnel

On the face of it, this sounds like a lot of effort. Rather than throw in a colorful metaphor I’ll be blunt:

The size of data being managed directly impacts expenses along the ILM chain. The rewards in costs savings can be substantial.

If you don’t get your “data” house in order, you will run up ever increasing data management costs. Add to this you will have decreasing certainty that you are adequately protecting one of your most valuable assets.

So what are you waiting for? Dump that box on the floor and get started!

 


 

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

A Lesson In How NOT To Do Customer Service

By , July 16, 2010 5:33 pm
A good friend purchased a Dell Laptop just prior to being assigned as a government responder for the oil spill cleanup. He was deployed to Mobile, AL. On the way there he noticed a problem with the laptop. I have documented his trials and tribulations at blog.intelligistgroup.com. The reason I blogged in the first place was not to highlight the customer service failure — those happen all the time — but the fact that Dell is a Gulf state based company and here was someone in their backyard trying to clean up a national disaster who needed help.
The entries are as follows:

Shouldn’t Customer Service be a Marketing Opportunity?

Customer Service: The Saga Continues…

Dell Saga: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Back In Business

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Trickle-Down Technology – The Value of Enterprise Standards to SMB’s

By , April 28, 2010 9:30 am

I was inspired by Francine Hardaway’s recent blog Social Media Analytics for Small Business: Still Missing in Action and ensuing spirited commentary to talk about the impact of enterprise standards in the SMB marketplace. In her blog Francine talks about a report by Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group and John Lovett of Web Analytics Demystified on measuring results in Social Media and questions the value of sophisticated measurement techniques to SMB’s. She writes:

The problem I have is that most of the small businesses I deal with don’t know how much it costs to get a customer, and only measure their marketing with a single business objective:  does this help me get customers?

When we started InfoManage back in 1995 our goal was to bring enterprise level support to the SMB marketplace. Our original marketing material talked about how:

…we make enterprise-level support available to small and mid-size businesses…

We could do this by implementing enterprise standards within our service offerings and then doling out portions of our  service to our SMB customers. By association, our customers were now implementing these same enterprise standards, already “baked in” to the service – similar to what Managed Service Providers and SaaS vendors routinely do today.  As I commented in her blog:

The beauty of the “Web” era is how much it levels the playing field for SMB’s to have access to technology/resources/strategies that were once well beyond reach. This goes for standards as well. Very few small businesses know what ITIL is yet they can leverage ITIL ( as implemented by service providers, SaaS, PaaS, et al) to make their businesses more successful.

What Jeremiah Owyang and John Lovett are doing here is setting a process in motion to create a standard. From there, bright entrepreneurs will figure out a way to product-ize these standards. So, what may seem like rarefied air enterprise speak can and will find its way into the life of the SMB market.

While I’m not sure if I believe in trickle-down economics, I do believe in trickle-down technology. There is tangible value to the SMB marketplace for efforts like Owyang and Lovett’s Social Marketing Analytics report. While Enterprise drives innovation and standards to increase operating efficiency and improve the bottom line, these same innovations and standards eventually find their way into ROI equations for the SMB’s.

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Webinars + Twitter = SUCCEED?

By , April 19, 2010 9:00 am

A while back I remember reading a blog by Merv Adrian, Why Virtual Conferences Suck, in which he says:

Virtual conferences are an opportunity to think about what conferences are for again. There are big social opportunities that can be enhanced, made asynchronous, documented better, and extended beyond the event.

And finishes up with:

 As we say on Twitter: FAIL.

I am going to take some license and extend his comment to apply to virtual seminars as well.

I recently attended a webinar on Social CRM given by Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang of the Altimeter Group. The content of the webinar is interesting as a side note since it was about the impact of Social Media on Customer Relationship management, but what’s more interesting is how I “consumed” the content. I was dialed into the webinar on the phone, logged into GotoWebinar on my computer and was using Tweetdeck on my computer to view my Twitter stream. At the beginning of the webinar, the first slide included a #hashtag to follow along on Twitter.

As the seminar commenced I experienced an interesting dynamic: listening to the speaker, reading the Powerpoint slides on the webinar, and following along the running commentary on Twitter. As the webinar continued, I also posted my own commentary and replied to others’ tweets.

The experience was *way* more engaging then just being on the webinar. You got the feeling of sitting in the audience and hearing chatter around you, having a side conversation with your neighbor. It was a revelation.

Some observations:

  • I felt compelled to contribute to the conversation which in turn made me pay closer attention to what was being said;
  • Seeing what others thought was important enough to tweet gave me a deeper understanding of the content;
  • Got retweeted a bunch of times = fun;
  • Got new followers.

In addition, by the following their own hashtag the presenters had a feedback loop on the effect of their presentation. It’s worth noting I have attended dozens of webinars in the last 6 months but this was the first one which actually suggested a Twitter hashtag. There’s some real value to be had leveraging all the tools at your disposal. What’s your POV?

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iPhone Sits on the Cusp of Consumer and Enterprise

By , January 28, 2010 12:25 pm

I can’t imagine there’s a high-level executive in any Fortune 1000 company that isn’t walking around with two devices on his or her hip: a Blackberry for business; an iPhone for personal use. And he or she probably keeps asking the same question: When will I be able to use my iPhone for my business?

The short answer is I think we are close. 2010 looks to be the year that RIM’s strangle-hold on enterprise communication may finally be broken and iPhone may be the disruptive technology that drives it. With it’s flexible application development platform iPhone (and now iPad) may finally give enterprise software developers enough incentive to finally target Apple for enterprise products.

For the last decade RIM has created a monopoly for enterprise mobile communications with their Blackberry devices and Blackberry Enterprise Server software. The US government is so dependent on them that they wouldn’t let them be shut down during a pending lawsuit. Even our President carries one. What makes them so special and beloved in the enterprise?

Simply put: control. With the alphabet soup of compliance regulations (SOX, HIPAA, PCI) there is a heightened awareness of digital chain of custody. As enterprise IT managers, we need to maintain control over, and an audit trail of, all data that enters and leaves the enterprise. For most businesses mobile communications represents an unsecured border for data traffic.

A short list of must-have security measures includes:

  • Remote Management – Since the mobile device is an extension of the enterprise we need the ability to remotely manage the device from a central system (BES, e.g.) including the ability to apply group policies and remotely wipe it clean;
  • Secure Communication – All traffic between the remote device and the enterprise needs to be encrypted;
  • Audit – This is the big one. Emails forwarded from the device to 3rd parties (outside the enterprise) need to be tracked (audit trail).

There are many solutions out there that are close, from mainstream vendors like Sybase to new ventures like Codex Development. Maybe I can finally give in to my iPhone envy. We’ll see.

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