Horse Sense #117

Toys for Techs (tm)

This e mail is NOT about the holiday consumer buying frenzy, but about your business needs (though some Toys for Techs (tm) make great personal gifts as well). Toys for Techs is not just for the holidays. You can do it any time and I encourage you to do so. [Of course, we think you should call Iron Horse to get your Toys!]

Our Horse Sense Newsletters are meant to be useful for long periods of time and few ideas have proven more useful than Toys for Techs. Everyone who has implemented Toys for Techs has seen positive results in their business. It is fun, serves a legitimate business purpose, improves communications, and helps people understand what others are doing in their jobs.

If you are Ebenezer Scrooge, you can stop reading now. But, if you want to know more about how you can make Toys for Techs work for you and bring happiness to techy girls and boys, take a look at these older Toys for Techs posts going back 10 years! [We've been regaling our clients with Toys for Techs for even longer!] (the rules on Toys for Techs) (more ideas) (still more) (restated rules and more ideas--Best to READ FIRST) (more toys and green ideas) (more ideas) (more ideas, like getting a tuneup and "it would be nice..." Toys)

You may well be able to deduct your Toy expenses as business expenses. See

Here are some of my newer Toy ideas:

If you *are* Ebeneezer Scrooge, you do not have to spend money. Think about getting rid of something instead. Do a digital cleanup. Remove old/useless programs and files. Retire equipment. Think about giving stuff you are not using any more to employees or a charity (schools come to mind). Digitally or real world shredding or tossing stuff can be very therapeutic! If you need a digital "professional organizer," we will help those who can part with some coppers.

Get headphones or earbuds for work or travel. Noise isolation headphones or earbuds are great for blocking out everything, including the sound of the airplane you are on. Without the constant noise of the plane, you can sleep, relax, or work better. Noise cancelling varieties of headsets negate background noise like fans in an office, yet you can still hear when someone comes in to talk to you. Noise cancelling microphones take out the annoying hiss and background noise you hear in web conferences.

With telephone headsets, you can work more comfortably at your desk and talk on the phone. Some of these headsets also double as headsets for listening to your computer. Noise cancelling computer headsets are wonderful for voice conferences. Some headsets have lights on them so people will know you are on the phone or in conference. Wireless headsets go a step further and allow you to move about more freely while remaining connected to your phone or computer. [Yes, you can lay down, but I do not recommend snoring during the conference!]

Audio and video conferencing cameras and phones have gotten much easier to use and more affordable.

If your office is using older technology, consider installing a voice over IP (VoIP) phone system. These systems have gotten more reliable, cheaper, and easier to use. Small business class VoIP setups are available for $200 plus $40/month.

Look at the drive you are using. Is it the right one? Drive manufacturers have designed their drives for specific markets and given them specific capabilities. Do you have a desktop, server, RAID array, NAS box, performance workstation, archive/nearline storage, or video recording system? There is a specific rotating drive for each of these uses.

Manufacturers are now designing solid state drives (SSDs) for specific uses as well. Only a couple of years ago, the drive you bought was made to do "everything." Drives that were recommended for use in servers back then would not have the features you would want in a solid state drive today. Enterprise class solid state drives for use in servers can withstand a lot more writes being made to them, can deal with a loss of power gracefully without losing or corrupting data, can maintain a high degree of consistency in reads and writes, operate well in RAID arrays, are designed for even lower latencies and higher throughputs, can handle exceptionally high loads without degredation, and have longer warranties than typical desktop SSDs. Pricing at the low end from decent manufacturers hit 35 cents/GB recently, an all time low. Anyone who is not using SSDs these days is seriously hindering their productivity.

Windows 2003 Server reaches end of life July 14, 2015. Moving to a new server operating system can effect all your users and the applications they run. I recommend transitioning to Windows Server 2012 release 2. Chances are that server is also running on ancient hardware. I can give you all kinds of reasons to make the switch, but why not try out the new stuff as a "Toy" and see for yourself. You will wonder how you waited so long....

Do you hate your keyboard, monitor, or mouse? Do they not feel right to you? Since human beings use computers, these are the most important things about computers, not the processor or other specifications. "Better" input and output devices are the ones you like and work with well. Get them.

Your new servers and operating systems will not give you as much bang for the buck if they are held back by poor disk access. In addition to getting SSDs, you should also consider getting disk caching software and high bandwidth connections from your servers to their storage.

Of course, you should always call the elves at Iron Horse. Heck, we don't even care if you have been naughty!

©2014 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse