I recently found two social aggregation sites which I like but find a bit scary.  Scary because you can use them to collect alot of data on your network of contacts (and others).  The sites are www.spock.com and www.spokeo.com.

There are many people out there claiming that these social networks do alot more damage than good.  I am not convinced either way really.  I am not old enough to remember what happened when phone books went big but I am sure there was a public outcry.  Yes, there are many who need unlisted numbers but it is not the same as it used to be.  And how about reverse number look-up (where you find an address from a phone number).  It used to be that only law enforcement was given access to a reverse look-up.  My point is that as the world becomes more open , we have to adapt.  Is there a line that we will cross where too much information is dangerous?  Or will we just defend ourselves better from those wanting to pry into our lives?

I don’t think there is a choice but to embrace this new openness.  Online sharing brings us closer together.  Just make sure you protect your back. 

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Although there is a lack of deep research on Managed Services and Outsourcing in Canada, we obviously extrapolate from data produced south of the border.  Many corporations are reluctant to let the whole world know to what extent they are using third-party managed services or that they outsourced or out-tasked portions of their business.  But the growth is large and growing rapidly as companies realize that it is more important to focus on their business-critical and strategic functions rather than spending time and money on IT.  Having said that, it seems that the greatest benefit is derived from a more hybrid approach by using managed services for some functions while retaining other functions in-house.  Alot of thought is required in making this decision – what is critical to one division or line of business may not be perceived the same way by another department.

Some stats from a US-based study produced by Yankee Group (Managed Services are finding a real place in the Enterprise even if no one wants to admit it – August 2007)

71% of respondents are using some form of Managed Services for IT or business process management

58% are using IT Outsourcing

51% use Shared Services (for non-mission critical functions)

What has clearly changed over the last number of years is the recognition that a managed services project is not an all-or-nothing propostion.  Total control does not have to be handed over to the selected vendor.  Sharing the responsibility between the IT staff and vendor in a collaborative manner is the ideal way to proceed.  Constant communication, clear SLAs, regular reporting and detailed upgrade plans make for a healthy relationship.

In closing, an outsourcing, hosting or managed services provider should be seen as an extension of a company’s staff and not a replacement.

Bell Mobility launched the Blackberry 8830 yesterday and this is a most impressive device.  You can use it on the CDMA network across North America but the key differentiator is that it is also able to use GSM networks overseas.  Besides that major feature, it has an amazing screen, runs on the fastest network in North America (EV-DO Rev A), has full GPS built-in and has a media player built in.  Pricing is good and if you qualify for a hardware upgrade you should be able to negotiate a good price.  For more information please got to http://www.bell.ca/fastest

I read a stat the other day that only three of five companies have a storage strategy in place. I am pretty sure most of us have faced the dreaded dead drive in our own personal PCs and have either had to pay decent money to get data off the drive or lose some critical files. I would be scared to calculate the amount of productivity lost to bad storage practices. I wanted to run through a few basic principles.

First of all, a plan must ensure the backup/storage is done automatically. Gone are the days that you can rely on a calendar entry to backup your drives once a month. You need something that manages the backup in the background. You just can’t trust people to do it themselves.
Second is reliability. I have heard of so many situations where the backup is not tested and monitored and you find out that the backup is out of sync or unusable or certain parts have not been executing properly. This is more common than you think.

Third, you MUST move a copy of your data offsite on a regular basis. Twoeasy situations to illustrate this – water damage and theft. If they are going to take one server, they’ll take the one next to it with the backup disk.

The options in storage methodologies, architectures and price points is growing every day. There are the majors like HP, IBM, NetApp, EMC who do it all (at a cost) to smaller vendors who specialize in the SMB space to the online and offline personal/small server solutions. Two of the best online resources are storagemagazine.techtarget.com or searchstorage.techtarget.com.

I am a big fan of Seth Godin and his latest book, The Dip, looks very good.  I have not read it yet but have read a manifesto published on the ChangeThis website.  A worthwhile read.

http://www.changethis.com/34.01.TheDip

I must admit that I use many applications in my day-to-day work life and always look for a new tool or way of doing things. Some will argue that keeps you up-to-date and others will argue that you should find a tool and stick to it. The real problem is that you can spend too much time integrating new technology and not enough time executing with what you have. This same principle extends to the CIO/IT Director/IT Manager role in that we often start looking for a new solution for every new problem we face. I am not talking about the basics here like anti-virus and firewalls, but the products that you integrate into your operations to make things move faster, more efficiently (theoretically) and address some specific business units’ need.

The issue is the same: should you integrate that new device/application or make better use of the technology you have and ensure you leverage its fullest capabilities. We have a problem: humans love buying and humans love selling. So sometimes the initial requirements definition work is skipped because we “know” we need that new piece of hardware or software or someone has pushed us to integrate it (maybe your CEO wants to have mobile access to his laptop using his Blackberry or from a home computer). What do you do?

For the next few months, I am going to focus on tools you can use to help define the requirements in your organization and either make the business case for new solutions or stick with the status quo.

In no particular order, I will be tackling the following:

  • Storage management
  • Convergence and VOIP
  • LAN/WAN Management
  • Network Applications
  • Security
  • Network Infrastructure and Data Centre gear
  • Wireless

Let me know if I am missing anything.

I found this Google cheat sheet today and thought I’d post the link:

http://www.adelaider.com/google/

It lists all of the Google properties, domains, company info, etc.

For those interested in what is happening in the DRM world today, it seems that EMI and Apple have agreed to offer DRM-free music to users for $1.29 per song.  Interestingly enough, these higher-priced songs will be of better quality (256kpbs AAC) and have the advantage of being played on any device.

More info on Michael Arrington’s Techcrunch site here

NetworkWorld magazine is publishing a great series of articles on the New Data Center and how Mid and Large-sized companies need to rethink some of their perceptions of the Data Center. A great series of articles and you can start here