Watching the Eagles game this weekend?

Eagles Next Opponent – Arizona Cardinals – Use Adaptive Insights for Budgeting

Adaptive InsightsThe Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League have successfully employed Adaptive Insights to develop their annual budgets for the past two years.  As a fan of Philadelphia sports teams, I am hoping that the Cardinals will have less success in their matchup with the Eagles this coming Sunday.  But, as a solutions partner for Adaptive Insights, I am excited about the success of the Cardinals organization… off the field.

As reported in a recent article by Dennis Howlett of diginomica.com, the Cardinals have achieved the following benefits by converting from spreadsheet budgeting to Adaptive Planning:

  • The time to complete the budget process was cut in half. Before Adaptive Planning, the process required three to four weeks; after Adaptive Planning, only one to two weeks.*
  • The time required to consolidate each budget iteration for 30 different responsibility centers was reduced from days to hours.
  • Operating managers spend less time on procedural reports and, as a result, have more time for value-added review and analysis of budget submissions.
  • Operating managers also rely less on financial staff to develop their budgets, giving them a greater sense of autonomy and control.

As an added benefit of converting to Adaptive Planning, the Cardinals organization has successfully transitioned to driver-based budgeting, providing more internal consistency to the overall budget.

With estimated annual revenue of $266 million and estimated operating income of $42 million, the Arizona Cardinals are at the upper end of what would be considered a middle market company.  They are organized into 30 distinct budget or responsibility centers that roll up to the total company budget.  Even with this scope and complexity, the Cardinal organization was able to implement Adaptive Planning in three and a half months, and this included time for both extensive system testing and intensive hands-on user training.

Click here for more information about the Arizona Cardinals’ experience with Adaptive Insights.

For more information about how your organization can achieve similar results with Adaptive Insights, give us a call or email me directly.

* This refers to what the Cardinals call the budget culmination process, which I interpret to mean that part of the process required for submission, consolidation, review, revision and approval.  I assume there is additional time required to actually prepare the budget model and develop drivers, assumptions and inputs.  The time to complete these preliminary steps in the process is typically reduced even more significantly by implementing Adaptive Planning.

Lou Butcher

Lou Butcher
Practice Leader
lou.butcher@customsystems.com

 

 

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014

Windows 8 File History and Backup Security

Windows 8 File History and Your Existing Backup Plan.

In one of my recent posts, I discussed backups and best methods. One of the rules I mentioned, was the “3 + 2 + 1 Rule of Backups”. This post was geared towards making sure you have multiple copies of important data in case of a hard drive crash or loss of your computer. But what happens when you are working on a document and for some reason, wish you could back up a few iterations? Or the times you deleted a file or folder and also emptied your trash can on your desktop prior to a backup running? That is where (in Windows 8) File History can come into play.

First, you’ll need an external drive or NAS for this to work. If you are backing up your computers using the 3 + 2 + 1, rule then you will already have an external drive of some sort. Let me quickly explain what File History is and how it works. Then I will explain how simple it is to turn this feature on as well as how to restore files that were backed up using this method.

What exactly is File History?

I would be willing to bet that many of you may have heard of it before. It was once called Previous Versions in the last two flavors of Microsoft’s operating system. The reason for the name change is that it has been revamped with a much easier to use, more backup-focused interface. File History does not take the place of Windows Backup. Windows Backup will allow you to back up specific folders or even your entire computer. File History instead only backs up the files in your libraries – essentially, your personal documents, files and media. You can add any folders you want to a library, of course, but it won’t back up your entire computer the way Windows Backup (now called Windows 7 File Recovery in Windows 8) does. Also, instead of running large backups every week or month, it will simply take a snapshot of your files every hour, so you can restore your files in a much easier and more fine-grained manner.

To turn on File History in Windows 8, you’ll need to have an external hard drive plugged in or have a NAS available that you can connect to. Once you have that completed you just head to Control Panel > File History. Once there all you need to do, is turn on File history and you are all set. There is one other way to turn this on and that is to simply plug in an external hard drive and when asked choose to use it for a backup. If you would like to use a NAS for this, all you need to do is to choose “Change Drive” on the left had side when in File History in Control Panel. Once you have chosen the location you will then be able to turn on the File History backup.

Restoring Files from File History

To restore a file that you accidentally deleted or changed and now want to revert back, you will open up Windows Explorer and head to the folder where that file used to reside, You than then click the “Home” button and click the File History icon on the right side of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can head back to Control Panel > File History and click “Restore Personal Files” on the left hand side.

Next, a new window will pop up that looks a whole lot like Apple’s Time Machine, but without all the fancy animations. You can search through your documents using the search at the top, or navigate to the file you want to restore. To search an older snapshot, click the Previous button at the bottom of the window. When you find the file you want to restore, click on it, then press the big green Restore button at the bottom of the window. It will restore the file to its original location. If you’re restoring an old version of a file that already exists, Windows will ask you if you want to overwrite the file, which in most cases you will.

That is all it takes to setup, use, and restore files using Windows 8 File History. Of course not a full backup plan, but simply something that can be added to a full backup plan to make retrieving of lost or needed files and or folders much easier.

Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com
©Custom Systems Corporation 2014

When RAID is not equal to High Availability

Know your storage devices before buying something “just as good”.

An SMB experience using low-cost iSCSI storage devices

One objection we typically hear from potential clients is why vendor X costs more than vendor Y for the same features and specifications. Today, it is not uncommon in the storage market (SANs and NAS) to know that that you are buying more than specs and need to look more in-depth when you find a low-cost alternative for a technology that previously was considered too expensive for your organization.

My recent client experience exemplifies this problem. The storage needs have grown over the past several years and exceeded their file server capacity. Their business requires the long-term retention of image files for every device they manufacture and the repository is approaching 25 years-old. Many of these image files may never be retrieved unless a customer requests them or engineering is researching a design or manufacturing defect. Their daily requirement is to capture high-resolution images of their products and continuously store them as they are prepared for final shipment.

The annual IT budget planning always includes a small SAN for the long term storage and daily storage of these important image files. However, the first item to typically be removed from the budget is the SAN due to what is considered the high cost of the product. Last year this changed, with the introduction of a low-cost, high-value storage device from Buffalo Technology. Who would not want an 8TB rack mount iSCSI RAID5 storage device for $2500 that is “just as good” as small iSCSI SAN for $15,000? The IT budget could surely accommodate such a low-cost, high-value item.

The first year was uneventful and the device performed as advertised. Recently, the device configured with four 2TB SATA drives indicated a drive failure in Slot1. This should not be a problem, as we all know RAID5 will keep running with a single failed drive. A call to Buffalo Technology and the completion of some basic troubleshooting confirmed the problem. A new hard drive replaced under warranty would solve the problem. After jumping through several hoops, chasing confirmation emails, faxing in receipts and paying $100 for an advance replacement my new drive showed up six days later. Yes, I could have paid more for next-day shipping, after the receipt was faxed in, validated by customer service, and payment was submitted to their website. I suspect next-day shipping would still require at least three to four days for the drive to show up.

The instructions delivered with the drive were minimal at best. Update firmware on the device, and insert the new drive. Why would I want to update firmware on an iSCSI storage device that already has a failed hard drive is not something I want to risk and potentially lose all the data? Things happen in IT we all can attest to.

The new drive was inserted, the red LED started to blink and I waited, and waited, and it appeared to be rebuilding the array. I came back after a weekend and it was still blinking. I could not see progress on the rebuild and the product manual gave no indication of the actual process, but being an IT professional I have worked with many RAID5 storage devices that when a failed drive is detected and removed, and a new drive is inserted it just starts rebuilding and your done after several hours.

Not this device, a call to support confirms that you need to go into the web interface, detect the new drive, and then select some menu items to initiate the rebuild.That did not go as planned, and support had to check with a more knowledgeable resource. After a brief wait on the phone I was told to dismount the iSCSI storage device and start the rebuild again. I responded that dismounting the iSCSI device would take my storage offline and make in unavailable to my network of users. Why would this be a requirement for a RAID5 iSCSI storage device used by business? I followed their recommendations and then discovered it would be 33 hours for the array to rebuild with the new drive. I now had a client that was not happy that their RAID5 iSCSI storage device that was “just as good” as a more expensive iSCSI SAN would require them to stop using it for 33 hours while the array was rebuilt. The final outcome was that the unit was restored and all data stayed intact, however, the experience with a product that was “just as good” was much less than expected.

Paul R. Cook
Paul R. Cook
Vice President, Network Services Group
Paul.Cook@CustomSystems.com

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Time to backup your backup

Don’t lose what’s important

scyther5Everyone has files that are important to them and it would be a disaster if they were lost.  Years’ worth of pictures from graduations, kids growing up, and even items like tax returns or import documents that have been scanned for digital file storage.  Keeping digital files can make it easier to store, as well as search for later.  The problem is, what happens if your hard drive crashes and you lose everything?  A good backup plan is something that most people tend to forget about.  Many people will backup pictures and documents to one main hard drive and believe that is good enough.  What happens if that drive dies?  I had a colleague bring me the external hard drive where she had kept all the pictures of her children growing up.  The drive had crashed and after looking at it, I had to let her know there was nothing I could do to retrieve the files.  The drive was dead.  She lost years of pictures.  She was under the impression that it was on an external drive and that was good enough.  The truth of the matter is, you can never have too many backups.

Don’t be fooled by cloud storage options

Cloud storage programs such as Drop Box, One Drive and Google Drive are great places to store files, but you need to keep them stored somewhere else as well.  For me , I keep my son’s pictures on my laptop and backed up to my Microsoft One Drive account.  Then from time-to-time I will run a backup of those photos to my external hard drive that I keep connected to my wireless router.  This way the pictures and important files are kept on my laptop, in my One Drive cloud storage and also on an external hard drive.  These pictures are so important to me, I will probably even back them up a fourth time to something like DVD.

Do follow the Backup 3-2-1 Rule

This rule states:

3 – Copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important

2 – Different formats at least (more is always better in this case) – examples of this would be Dropbox (or other cloud storage) + DVD, or hard drive + USB stick

1 – Off-site backup – This means using a cloud storage option such as Carbonite or Crash Plan.

Crash Plan and Carbonite are topics in of themselves, but these are great programs to back up larger amounts of data.  With programs like One Drive and Drop Box, you tend to get one folder that is backed up.  With Crash Plan and Carbonite, you can back up your entire computer if necessary.  Look for upcoming posts about Crash Plan and Carbonite where I will explain exactly how they work and why they are a good choice.  In the meantime make sure you backup your important data by no less than the Backup 3-2-1- Rule.

As always, we welcome your opinion and questions. Do you have a data backup plan in place? How are you keeping your files and precious memories safe?

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com
©Custom Systems Corporation 2014