Office Document Strategies Blog

Creative Use Of 3D Printing Grows Steadily

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 @ 07:03 AM

We have covered some of the ways that creative people have applied the technologies which have grown out of the early ventures in 3D printing in a number of articles over the past few years.  The concept continues to grow as more and more ways are found to apply the concept using different types of mediums as well as different kinds of tools to create the printed items.

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Topics: automation, digital tools, Printer, video

Printing Parts For 100 Year Old and One Off Cars | Jay Lenno

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 @ 08:02 AM

Until the development of 3D Printing when someone talked about printing we all understood it was a two dimensional output, black or coloured toner on a flat piece of paper.  

With the development of 3D printing and its rapid advancement into using many different types of raw product for the printing of three dimensional objects the technology has been pretty revolutionary for all kinds of fields.  One of these is the automobile field, especially for the production of one off parts.

In a recent video I saw produced in Jay Leno's garage a famous place to anyone who has an interest in automobiles he describes how they have used 3D printing to produce parts for cars at the extremes of his collection.  In one case it is product for a 100 year old early generation electric car and in another parts for a special one off concept car that they created.

 

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Topics: digital tools, Printer, technology tools

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

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Topics: digital tools, cloud computing, IT network

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.  

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Topics: IT network, digital tools, automation

Datto Drive A New Secure File Share Service

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 @ 08:11 AM

If you have been a user of DropBox, Google Drive, Boxx etc. then you should look at Datto Drive right away.

Sign Me Up For DATTO DRIVE

As part of their introductory offer the first 1 million signups will receive one year's access to 1Terrabyte of storage FREE.  This permits substantial use of the service to easily test whether your need is worth considering a paid subscription thereafter available at a low $10 month for unlimited users after first year.

There are many file sharing services available that start as a primarily consumer focused product and which can expand into a business and enterprise solution.  For most of these there are limitations built in either from a cost or a security based approach.  In addition for Canadian based businesses there are concerns with data jurisdiction since being able to specify where you data is stored is not necessarily one of the features of most of them.

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Topics: data security, digital tools, digital filing

Automated Accounts Payable And Invoice Processing Generate Savings and Gain Productivity

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 @ 18:08 PM

One of the great benefits of technology available to businesses today is being able to automate what was commonly a routine process which in a manual paper based world has taken extra time.  

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Topics: AP Automation, cloud computing, business processes, paper filing, running costs, document filing, digital tools, software tools, workflow processes, Paperless office, Less paper office, Scanning, document storage strategy

Personal Information And Important Stored IT Data

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 @ 08:06 AM

One of the biggest issues for IT security and business operations is keeping their data safe and secure. 

There is a massive amount of material available about data backup, building redundancy for continued operations and how to teach people to be careful in providing access to company data. In spite of all of the effort and expense that is put into this field there are still too many data breaches.  

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Topics: data security, digital tools

Getting Online When You Travel

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 @ 11:02 AM

For most people who travel outside of their home area maintaining some sort of online activity is still important.  For the mobile addicted this is a must and they can find it pretty frustrating or expensive, especially if they are on a Canadian based data plan.  

Unfortunately roaming charges from most of our online carriers in Canada can be pretty excessive and therefore manuy users resist using their cellular tools while travelling. Sometimes you get forced into it and you just have to bite the bullet and pay when the bill comes in.

If your air flight, car rental or other reservation gets interrupted while you are travelling you can be sure the only notice you receive will be an email notice requesting you to go to some web connection for further info.  If you are not connected then you don't get the notice.  At times there is no phone service available to you (of course you would need your cell to call anyway unless you are in a hotel) and thus email or web is your only communication choice.

No matter what mode of travel you are using a cell phone or connection seems to be commonly needed.

How to reduce the impact of roaming?

  • The first thing that most people count on to reduce the impact of roaming is to use public WiFi hotspots to connect their device.  This can be in a hotel lobby, a restaurant or public building.  Sometimes free connections are available at transportation hubs or other open locations.  

  • Using an internet cafe or public interent service is also an option.  Of course in this instance there will be some charge for the connectivity but it will most likely be substantailly less than a roaming charge on your mobile device.

  • Checking about availability of WiFi connections, Free or Paid, when making hotel, resort or cruise reservations can help deal with the online need.  Sometimes the free service is pretty poor and an upgrade has to be purchased to do anything useful but for basic use it might be enough.

  • Pre plan your roaming needs and book a roaming package from your mobile carrier before you go away.  This is usually substantially less costly than just using a pay as you go roaming service from your carrier.  Unfortuanately, Canadian carriers see this kind of roaming upgrade as a way to pick up additional dollars from contract customers and the charges can still be significant.

  • Purchase a mobile 'sim' card in the location where you are travelling that can be put into your mobile device and thereby use the local service rather than your home carrier as your new phone and data service.  This can be the cheapest route but your device will need to be compatible with the local service and your device will need to be unlocked so the new sim can take effect.

  • Buy a prepaid phone in the location where you are travelling and use the local services. The challenge with this is you change phone number and it will most likely not support other connectivity you might need.  Check whether it can serve as a hotspot (some will not and some laptops or tablets may not work with a device) if you wish to use it as a connection tool beyond its own features.

An interesting option I found

In searching for a way to provide connectivity for several devices on an extended trip I came across a service called KeepGo.  This service operates in two ways.  

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Topics: cost of internet, digital tools, Canadian IT

Canadian SMB Firms Not Aggressive In IT & Technology Adoption

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 @ 11:06 AM

Recent reports indicate that Canadian SMB firms could benefit from being more aggressive about adopting new IT and technology as a means to improve productivity and gain from leveraging these types of investments.

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Topics: technology tools, business processes, digital tools, office technology

Digital Printing Revolution Continues

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

Over the past fifteen years a revolution has occured in the printing industry.  I can remember when the typical office copier was an analog device with super advanced features like the ability to expand an image to a larger size.

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Topics: Multifunction Printer, business processes, digital tools