While the stories are continuing of the massive number of institutions and major businesses which have been affected world wide by the Wannacry Ransomware attack over the past few days there are a few trends which seem to be coming evident.Read More
Office Document Strategies Blog
There can almost never be enough said about how to keep IT networks secure from those who seem bent on creating problems by hacking or stealing information. The first line of defense for every operation is the password protection used by computer users to login to their workstations and applications.Read More
Business processes have long been paper dominated systems. Until the advent of computerized process systems some time ago everything that drove the operations of most businesses relied on pieces of paper to flow within and outside of a business for it to succeed.Read More
Most people know that mobile access to the Internet has been a major growth area of technology since the advent of smart phones. Of course much of this is accessing and posting to various hot social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc.Read More
When most of us think about printing we think of the process that started with Gutenberg and which has been refined over the centuries to permit fast, efficient and colourful information transfer. Traditional printing ranges from a simple monochrome sheet to full feature coloured products including art work and magazines.
Of course over the years it has been refined into wondrous advertising pieces with the processes using other substrates besides paper. Vinyl, cloth, metal, wood, glass and many more surfaces have been used to receive the printed message and images.
In office environments we have seen the development of super fast, highly capability multifunction printers (MFP) which permit the rapid production and assembly of all kinds of printed documents and materials. Wide format printers come in massive widths and permit the production of advertising materials which have radically changed the way that images and other information have been displayed and used. Vehicle wraps are now common with every urban street experiencing all sorts of vehicles, especially transit buses, which showcase local and national brands and personalities.
3D Printing Adds More Dimension
Ever since Gutenberg created the first printing press, printing has been largely a two dimensional process.
With the advances of 3D printing a whole new range of possibilities have emerged which are radically impacting many industries and most notably differing elements of manufacturing.
A recent CNN Money article showcases how manufacturing has changed from the traditional industry we think of as a result of the introduction of 3D printing capabilities.
While the article centres upon US experience similar experiences are occurring throughout the industrialized world including Canada.
The CNN article describes the experience of a new type of manufacturing worker:
"Andrew Rosa doesn't do back breaking work. His hands aren't swollen, blistered or greasy. He doesn't operate loud machines. He isn't in a labor union." It describes how he works as part of a team which sets up, programs and manages 3D printed manufacturing which produces products faster, more efficiently and with less risk to workers than would have been possible in the past.
The company highlighted in this article is simply one of thousands which have adopted the capabilities of 3D production and who are revolutionizing industries.
The interesting part of 3D printing is how the processes used really do mimic traditional printing processes, where a product grouping, toner or ink usually, are layered upon a substrate to create an image of a message.
In 3D printing the same process is used only it is layered in multiple super think layers to create an eventual 3D product. Of course where the real changes are occurring is in the printing "inks" that are being layered. In early instances there were various forms of plastics which could be melted and extruded to create the layers needed.Read More
On March 9th Google announced its intention to build a Canadian Region Cloud Centre based in Montreal. This is a significant announcement for Canadian customers and it means that all of the big three hosting services will have Canadian resident facilities to support cloud access from Canada. AWS and Microsoft already offer this option for businesses who wish to connect their hosting and storage to a Canadian location.Read More
Anyone who spends any time watching news reports about technology issues is aware that there was a significant outage of Amazon Web Services (AWS) last week. There were many major organizations who experienced outages as a result of the failure and it was a little time before news got out to tell us what happened.
Amazon has been forthright in saying that it was an error in their system combined with some long time format issues which caused the problem.
"Removing a significant portion of the capacity caused each of these systems to require a full restart. While these subsystems were being restarted, S3 was unable to service requests. Other AWS services in the US-EAST-1 Region that rely on S3 for storage, including the S3 console, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) new instance launches, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (when data was needed from a S3 snapshot), and AWS Lambda were also impacted while the S3 APIs were unavailable."
What started out as a fairly routine maintenance activity escalated into a systems delay which had a major impact on a large number of organizations.
Just a couple of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles which have been written to deal with the outage.
What Might We Learn From This Situation?
In spite of the overall reliability that such large IT systems offer there are a few things that any IT operator might learn from the situation that Amazon experienced and that led to some uncomfortable hours for many of their customers.
- No matter how rigorous your design and procedures are unforeseen actions can and will happen when you are dealing with IT systems. Understanding how to deal with them by thinking ahead about what is most vulnerable in your operations is critical planning.
- Even large well resourced organizations can be caught out by not continually understanding how their systems have grown over time. Amazon says in their explanation that one of the things which contributed to the problem was the growth of their systems built upon older components that had not been restarted for a long time. When the restart was needed to deal with an unplanned occurrence it took much longer than expected. How vulnerable are your systems to this kind of delayed response?
- Sometimes it is hard to find out what is happening when your systems go down. For many of the organizations and the world of users there was a break down of information about what was happening and where the problem was. Isitdownrightnow.com one of the sites which is commonly used to identify individual site issues was itself affected. It was through Twitter that many people learned about the outage and that the problem was an external one. What information tools do you have to finding out if problems are localized or widespread? Have you articulated a well planned checklist so resources are not wasted if the fault is not internal?
- Personally I was trying to use an online News aggregator which I check daily and got an "No Content" message from their page. Unfortunately for them I thought the problem was caused by a push they had on to encourage users to upgrade to a new version of their service they were promoting. I totally misread the situation and for a few hours was really frustrated by their service and support. Wrong response from me as they were impacted by something that was beyond their control. This should be a caution for us all as we can easily come to a wrong conclusion about what is happening in an IT situation when we don't have the facts.
- Know what systems, services and organizational needs are affected by each and all of your IT structures. Is your VOIP affected by something you are not aware of due to its need for Internet connection? Could you financial systems be affected if your bank connection was not available for an extended period? How many people would be idled if you lost a 'cloud' connection to key software? How much would the downtime cost/ What customer related activities might suffer?
Having answers to these types of questions is an important part of any business plan. In our highly digitized world it may be necessary to maintain some analog systems which could keep you functioning if the digital infrastructure has to be shut down.
I know of one local company that actually maintains a paper based 'emergency' system for all of their order desks so that customers would not be totally inconvenienced if the electronic systems they normally rely on got shut off. They have a formalized recovery procedure on how to capture the data from the paper system into the electronic one when it is again back on line, without creating duplication, or inconveniencing their customers. Can your organization says they are this prepared for a failure?
Luckily, IT systems are very robust normally, and system administrators take the need for security, backup, redundancy and planning seriously. This means that for most organizations they can operate each day without a threat of disaster hanging over their heads.
However, as the recent AWS, S3 issue has shown even the top professionals in the space can be caught out and even with a pretty quick recovery there can be a large amount of inconvenience, confusion and disruption.
Lee KRead More
Each new year brings with it an opportunity to sit back and think about what you are doing and what you might like to do differently in the coming months or years. This applies to all aspects of a business but never more than to the technology needs which are integral to all businesses.Read More
One of the common tedious roles in offices is the folding, inserting and processing of larger volumes of mail. A big instance of this is with payroll systems where paper cheques are used and where information inserts need to be added to each envelope.Read More
March 31, 2017 is the last date that postage meter indicia can be used to pay for parcels being shipped through Canada Post. The intention to make this change was announced by Canada Post in 2016 but has not been something that a lot of casual parcel shippers will have made note of. The implications for those companies with postage meters and who use their meter and scale to weigh and create postage for shipping are significant. The purpose of the changes is to push parcel shippers to use Canada Posts Electronic Shipping Tools (EST) instead of physical meter prints.Read More