Office Document Strategies Blog

Lee Kirkby

Recent Posts

Google Announces Intent To Open Canadian Region Cloud Centre

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 @ 08:03 AM

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

Topics: cloud computing, data security, Canadian IT

Lessons From AWS S3 Outage

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 @ 07:03 AM

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.

How a single typo brought the internet to its knees

Fat finger: Typo caused Amazon's bigcloud-computing outage

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 K

Read More

Topics: digital tools, cloud computing, IT network

Tech Trends For 2017

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 @ 08:03 AM

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

Topics: encryption, network backup, cloud computing, technology tools

Applying Folder Inserter Technology To Volume Mailing

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 @ 17:02 PM

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

Topics: Mailing

Metered Payments For Parcels Phased Out By Canada Post

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 @ 08:02 AM

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

Topics: Postage, postage rates, Postage meter

Tech Industry Responses To Trump Travel Ban Shows Global Integration

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 @ 07:02 AM

Whatever your political stripe the broad response of the Tech industry in Canada and the US to the immigration and travel ban proposed by the Trump administration shows graphically how broadly based the industry is when it looks for talent.

Read More

Topics: it, Canadian IT

Key Decisions To Make When Purchasing New Printer

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Feb 1, 2017 @ 08:02 AM

One of the infrequent tasks that every organization faces at  some point is buying or leasing a new print device.  Often someone just says, 'order one like the one we have now".  Of course since print devices tend to last for some time the one you have now may no longer be in the market and it may not really be the right fit for your current needs.  Here are a few of the key decisions you need to consider BEFORE you place that order. 

Read More

Topics: Printer, MFP, colour multifunction, Multifunction Printer, Multifunction Printer support

Technological Change Continues To Alter The World

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 @ 07:01 AM

At the risk of seeming simplistic it is possible to describe some of the reasons for the latest US Election results and the Brexit vote in the UK as being victims (or successes) of technological change.  Many people who voted did so because they have felt left out of the benefit which a changing society has been bringing forward and sought a shift back to a previous environment.  

Many of the ills that were attacked in the debates during both of these major political events related to the sense of dispossesion that is felt by people who have been affected by shifts in employment patterns which they feel are out of control.

While often the bad guy is classed as globalization the real shift in many instances is the result of significant technology changes as production moves to a more mechanized world through automation and application of newer technologies.

At the latest World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland, there were reports given that addressed some of these issues with the impacts of large technology changes as seen as one of the culprits for dispossession.

"Trade is not to blame for job losses." The real problem, according to Kerry, is automation." is one of the quotes attributed to outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry.

It appears there was some serious introspection that occurred during the discussions with wide ranging understanding of some of the issues caused by rapid and ongoing technological change while also acknowledging that solutions for dealing with the downsides are not easy to find.  Read through some of the comments and ideas discussed in the link article and you get the feeling that the challenges are going to continue and unrest is not going to go away.

Cyber Security

Another area that was touched was the management of cyber security in organizations and the role that government bodies must take in dealing with these threats.

To help organizations better equip themselves for managing the risks of cyber challenges a new document was released at Davos to help provide guidance and some structure for responses.  Advancing Cyber Resilience Principles and Tools for Boards " the product of an extensive process of co-collaboration and consultation, has distilled leading practice into a framework and set of tools that boards of directors can use to smoothly integrate cyber risk and resilience into business strategy so that their companies can innovate and grow securely and sustainably," as excerpted from its introduction is designed to help organizations grapple with this important challenge.

The Davos conference is billed as a world leadership event designed to permit broad and challenging issues to be discussed by those who can take action to impact them.  

Read More

Topics: technology tools

269.7 Million PCs Means A 6.2 Percent Decline In Sales For 2016

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 @ 08:01 AM

A recent Gartner report looking at the worldwide market for PCs in 2016 shows the fifth year in a row where sales have declined substantially.  In the report it sales that the 2016 level of sales equals that of 2007 almost a full decade ago. 

Read More

Topics: it, Computer

Auto Everything Is Becoming A Common Thread

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 @ 08:01 AM

The CES show in Vegas is the annual event which sees much of the showcase for current and future trends in technology.  As its name implies (Consumer Electronics Show) the focus is at first on consumers but much of what appears here has implications for the commercial and business market as well.  

Read More

Topics: IT network, digital tools, automation