Horse Sense #78

In this issue of Horse Sense:
  • Emergency Information
  • HP and Lexmark Raise Their Prices
  • New Year's Resolutions for Your Business
  • The Best Technologies You Still Aren't Using (3)
    --Bandwidth Management
    --E Mail Archiving
Emergency Information
If you are injured or incapacitated, emergency response personnel may need to contact someone for you. You may have a ton of names on your cell phone. Add the name "ICE" to your cell phone. It stands for "In Case of Emergency." Put your emergency contact numbers there. Many newer cell phones already have an ICE entry that you should fill in. If yours doesn't, add one. If you need or want more than one contact, name them ICE1, ICE2, etcetera.
No alarm on your home? Use your car keys. If you have your car keys near you, like on the bed stand, and someone breaks into your house, hit the panic button on your car keys. Intruders will often flee from the extra attention.
While Iron Horse sells products to help protect and recover information from lost laptops or cell phones, everyone can help out good Samaritans trying to return their laptops and cell phones. Place a text file on your desktop called "If Found.txt". If someone finds your device and can get to your desktop, they will be able to see that file and contact you. Another less technical way to do this, if it will fit, is to put your business card or a note on the device itself and/or inside the removable battery housing. If putting your personal information on a device has you worried, then etch your driver's license number (not your social security number) onto the device.

HP and Lexmark Raise Their Prices
Lexmark laser supplies increase in price January 19. HP printer supplies already went up January 1. We are now seeing fully functioning printers that cost less than the replacement supplies that go into them! Be careful with the printers you buy. Sometimes an inexpensive or old printer will cost you a lot more over time than a new higher end printer.

New Year's Resolutions for Your Business
Now is a good time for you to reflect on the old year and plan for the new one. The old proverb reads, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” In our consulting practice, we counsel our clients to look first at the problems they face and how they want to attack them. How long has it been since you have revised your strategic plan? Where do you want to go over the long run? Sometimes the strategic (long) view will point out tactical (short term) changes you need to make to accomplish your goals. For example, you can future proof your computer network right now and gain performance at minimal cost with gigabit switches. Other good tactical upgrades with strategic benefits are mentioned in this issue of Horse Sense and other Horse Sense “The Best Technologies You Still Aren’t Using” articles.
ALWAYS start your planning with the following question: “What is causing me the most grief at this moment?” This will uncover any tactical issues you face and give you the impetus to address your longer term needs. In your planning, you want to divide and conquer. Carve off bite size chunks. Don’t try to eat the whole elephant at once or you will be overwhelmed. And, don’t be afraid to eat dessert first! If it is sweet and easy and will make you fat and happy, go for it! This isn’t dieting.
ALWAYS start with the people. The technology is only there as a tool to serve them. The goal is to make the people happier, more empowered, more committed, and more productive. Involve everyone who might be impacted. Solicit their opinions. Show them they matter. If you keep the people and “soft” factors in mind, your project will succeed. If you don’t, it will likely fail.
ALWAYS start your planning with questions. What is working? What isn’t? What can be improved? How can work be redistributed or outsourced in a way that makes more sense? Who and what are critical to the operation of your business? What if they aren’t available? How do we measure what we do? Who can we call on for help and when should we call them? Are we meeting our current goals? Are we doing what others expect of us (compliance issues)? Does everyone in the organization know their part in our plans?
It is self serving, but I suggest you call on outsiders like the consultants at Iron Horse to help lead you through your discovery and planning process. Experienced outsiders can ask you the “stupid” questions that lead you to reexamine what you are doing. We are all guilty of tunnel vision. Enlisting the help of an outsider who sees things differently, especially one with expertise and experience you don’t have internally, will help you build better long term plans.

Lastly, your plans are living documents. They are never finished. They don’t have to be overly detailed. Keep it simple. A to-do list and simple project timelines are just fine. Celebrate any success you make. You have earned it. Repeat the process periodically. Your priorities will change.

The Best Technologies You Still Aren't Using (3)

Bandwidth Management
On a local area network, most people don't care about managing their bandwidth because they have so much capacity available. However, that isn't true when you start looking at the much skinnier pipes out to the Internet or between two sites. If you run out of bandwidth on these links, your productivity could drop to zero. Even worse, you may not know why it happened.
If Monica is listening to Internet radio, will that stop payroll from running? If Jim downloads a file, will my video conference quit on me? Is there someone on the network whose machine is sending or receiving stuff it shouldn’t due to an infection or malfunctioning program? Is Jake surfing porn? Is Janey trying to hide her gambling on the Internet? Are people spending way too much time updating their MySpace pages and blogs? Can I accidentally download a virus from an infected web site? Do the computers on my network leave holes open for the bad guys to exploit? If any of these or similar things could be happening on your network, you need bandwidth management and control.
In previous articles we recommended the Cymphonix Network Composer for bandwidth management. We have used it here for years because it can resolve all the problems above for a reasonable cost. We are so sure of it that we offer a Try and Buy Guarantee to qualified clients. Try the product for 30 days and if you don't like it, we'll return your money.
We realize that not everyone can buy such a product. So, we also offer bandwidth management as a monthly service. Other vendors also offer ways to monitor the usage of your network. It is even possible that your equipment has some monitoring built into it already! You may only need to add free or low cost software to view it. What you can't measure, you can't manage. What you can't manage will likely cost you money. Ask us to show you how you can better manage your computer network today!

E Mail Archiving
Regulatory compliance, better customer service, and better management are all good reasons for implementing e mail archiving. Do these problems sound familiar? "Who said that?" "I can't find an e mail I really need. Can you find it?" "Why do I have to keep deleting old e mail? I want to keep it around in case I need it." "How can I look at Bill's e mail? I need to know something." “Can we prove we did or didn’t say this?” If this sounds like you, you may need an e mail archive.
While lots of legislation requires companies to keep business e mails, most of our clients don’t like hearing “Uncle Sam says so.” Archiving isn't just for compliance. It can be a real business tool. It can solve all of the problems mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Archiving can improve the performance of production e mail servers. Centralized archiving of e mail is more predictable, more cost effective, less burdensome, and less prone to failure than having users maintain their old mail. Deleted e mails can be quickly and easily recovered. You can even recover e mails when an employee has left the organization and had their account deleted. Managers can set consistent policies for how e mail is to be managed and retained. Mail administrators can use e mail archives for various tasks, like migrating from one e mail system to another. Two clients told me their archiving system paid for itself with a single migration.
Whether your reason is compliance, enhanced customer or user service, or an enhanced ability to manage your mail, Iron Horse can help you build a reliable infrastructure so you can get to those critical e mail messages you need. We can help you preserve your records so that you can not only follow legal guidelines, but lower your cost of doing business while making you more productive. Iron Horse offers e mail archiving appliances, software and pay as you go services from such companies as ArcMail Technologies, Symantec, Barracuda, GFI, Microsoft, and other vendors to fit your specific needs.

©2009 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse