It is year end… Again..

2016 to 2017

This is going to be a quick/brief blog.  The point behind it is to get you to read or reread two previous blogs.

A couple of years ago, we discussed the significance of year-end in IT in two previous blogs.

In the first blog “ Year-End – What to Expect in IT”, we discussed why many companies incorporate a change lock-out policy for the end of the year.  Though that blog is two years old, almost everything discussed is still valid this year.  The biggest difference is that I did not have to camp out for the door-buster deals.  This year, Black Friday started on Thursday around 5 or 6pm.  Luckily, that annoying holiday called Thanksgiving did not get in the way of retailers having their employees on hand.  (Please add a note of dripping sarcasm when you read the previous sentence.)  In fact, most of the sales started on-line Thursday morning.  I did not have to go to the store or wait in a line to get what I wanted.

In the second blog “End-of-Year IT Tasks”, we discussed the tasks that may need to be done to prepare for the end of the calendar year.  Everything in that article is still valid today.  Please use the links provided to review these previous blogs.  If not both, at least read the tasks article.  It may help you remember a task you needed to do to prepare for the end of the calendar year.

 

As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

Craig Kalty

 

 

 

 

 

Craig R. Kalty
(CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)
Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

The New USB-C Does Double Duty

Everyone knows what a USB cord is, we use them every day. They are the wires that are used to connect printers to a computer. And unless you have an iPhone, they are also the wires used to charge your cell phones. While there are many different types and specs of USB wires, I wanted to discuss the connector type called USB Type C or USB-C.

This new connector will bring a lot of enhancements over the previous specs. The most notable, and one that I am most excited for, is the fact that the wire can be plugged in either way. If you are familiar with USB wires you know they only fit in one direction. The new standard will replace that with one that fits either way. The reason this will work is that it is essentially two USB 3.1 Super-Speed connectors in one. If you plug the connector in one way, the top set of pins are used; if you plug the connector in the other way the bottom set of pins are used. Another great feature of this new spec is that it will also support the new USB Power Delivery spec which allows for up to 100 watts to be carried over a USB cable. That is roughly enough to charge a laptop. Another nice feature is that it will be smaller than the connectors most of us are familiar with. It will be about the same size as what is currently called a micro USB connector.

The one drawback I do see with this new standard is that the existing USB connectors will not work without having to purchase an adapter. The hope is these adapters will not be expensive though. That being said, that is not too bad of a drawback for the list of new features it will bring. One final note on this new USB type, it is going to be capable of speeds up to 10Gbps, which is a nice bump over the current standard top speed of 5Gbps.

As always, please post your comments and questions below or email me directly.

 

Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015

 

End-of-Year IT Tasks

time to plan Ivelin RadkovIn a previous blog, we discussed how the calendar end-of-the year can be different for IT than the rest of the year. Because of a possible fiscal year-end, possible higher resource utilization, less staff due to holiday vacations and other factors, IT operations and procedures shift or change. So, let’s discuss some of the tasks IT people need to do to prepare for the end-of-year and the start of the next:

  • Backup – We all knew this would be on the list and should probably hold a very high priority, so it is first on the list. We need to have a backup of the data at the year’s end. Unless you want one, you probably do not need a systems backup, only data. Our daily and weekly backups will take care of system state backups. What we do want is a complete backup of all data as it looked at the end-of-year. This backup will go somewhere safe. Odds are we will never need it, but we will have it just in case. In some cases, accounting and finance may need to utilize that backup to make sure they only have the previous year’s data without any from the current year.
  • Lock Production – For all the reasons mentioned earlier and other reasons that drive company policy, production systems usually get locked until the end of the year. Only emergency alterations are allowed to production.
  • Increase Support – Many companies are busiest during the holiday season. They are most likely the ones that have production locks. Being busier will increase IT support needs.
  • Increase Operations – Those busy organizations may need an increase in operations to support the increase in business. IT will have to pay closer attention to utilization and daily operations.
  • Staff Alterations – Due to higher vacation utilization at end-of-year, we may also be running on a smaller staff. There will be changes in support coverage and shift operations.
  • Enhance Development – If production is locked, that does not mean we can’t touch the development environment (unless doing so will affect production). This could be a good time to update, clean, or just plain continue work in the development environment.
  • Update Applications – Wait… Didn’t we say production was going to be locked? Well this may be one of those cases where we have no choice. There are software packages that require year-end updates or they will not have the functionality needed to operate properly. For example, accounting and payroll may need updates to tax tables for the next year.
  • Budget – At this point, the previous year’s budget should be gone or close to it. In these last few weeks, you can finalize the budget estimates for the next year. If you had not started on this yet, now may be a good time to start.
  • Reporting – Many business units are going to look for reports on the previous year to perform their required close-outs. So, reporting volume and support will most likely increase.
  • Inventory – if production is locked, now would be a good time to inventory our software and hardware. This includes servers, workstations, laptops, printers and peripherals.
  • Resource Review – This may sound like inventory, but it is a little different. This refers to utilization and consumption. We need to know how much power and computing resources we are currently utilizing and how that will affect the next year. This could occur during or after taking inventory. We should evaluate how much power our systems draw and whether we have ample power and power protection into the next year. We need to know how much of our server (and other hardware) resources we are utilizing to know what we will need for future endeavors.
  • Nothing – We may not need to do anything different. Some organizations see no difference in activity in year-end from the rest of the year.

If you think of any other end-of-year tasks to add to the list or have other points of view, please note them in out comments section.
AZS-3

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)|
Sr. Network Consultant
Craig.Kalty@CustomSystems.com

 

 

 

© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Year-End – What to Expect in IT

time to plan Ivelin RadkovIf you look up information on preparing for the end of year in IT, the majority of the results will refer to accounting (which is not the results you were hoping to get). For many companies, the year-end is also the fiscal year-end. For consumer retail and sales companies, it is very likely the busiest time of the year thanks to the holiday season. As I write this, it is still about  week until Black Friday. That means I am writing this using cellular service, on my laptop, in front of a major chain store, where me and my tent are already 50th in line to get in on Black Thursday (previously known as Thanksgiving). Okay, maybe I exaggerate (a little).
So, how does all this affect IT? In many companies, the paradigm for IT changes from the rest of the year. At this point, production systems become locked. There are no further changes allowed to production until January of the next year. Only approved emergency and break/fix changes are allowed. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • For those companies that are busiest during the holiday season, they need IT to be prepared and ready to ramp up for the higher demand. Business hours will probably become longer and after-hours time will decrease. Systems are going to be busy. So busy, that more servers may be needed to supply increased demand. This is one of those places that the investment in virtualization will definitely pay off. This means that ITs primary focus will be on consistent and reliable day-to-day operations.
  • That fiscal year-end mentioned earlier, means the accountants, financial groups, and leaders in the organization are trying to close out the year and prepare for the next. Their highest priority is the next year is tax season. And of course, no changes or interruptions to their resources.
  • That fiscal year-end also means that the IT budget for the year has probably been allocated already (use it or lose it). There will probably little to nothing left for expenditures until the next year (which is a little over a month away). So, don’t expect a new project to be started.
  • IT directors and their staff will now have a stronger focus on next year’s budget and balancing their needs and wants. So more IT time will be allocated to reporting and forecasting.
  • It is the Holiday Season. It is the time that of the year where the greatest amount of vacation time is spent. Of these last five weeks of the year, children are out of school for about three of them. Even college kids are home from school for a significant amount of time. The organizations IT staff is going to be running a lot leaner. The smaller the IT staff, the bigger the impact. Very few places are going to give their entire IT staff time off at once, but they are still going to be running with a smaller crew. Trying to avoid problems while the expertise is not in-house will be a priority. Therefore, no changes until the end of the holiday season.
  • There are organizations that are affected differently by the end of the year. The items mentioned above play out differently for them. Some organizations have a fiscal year-end that is different from the calendar year-end. In most of those cases, they do that because the calendar year end is too busy to allow both conditions to occur at the same time. However, the time-off factor is going to affect almost every organization no matter how big or small.

So where does this leave IT? Those of us in IT need to perform the daily tasks and also prepare for the year-end. The year-end has alterations to backups, daily operations, resource needs and more. Check back here for blogs that are going to discuss the tasks we in IT need to perform to prepare for the end of one year and the start of the next.

Do you have any specific questions, or topic you’d like to us to discuss as it related to year-end planning? Please feel free to email me or post your questions below.

 

AZS-3

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)|
Sr. Network Consultant
Craig.Kalty@CustomSystems.com

 

 

 

© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Email as a trendsetter?

As we look at the current technologies that are developing, how do you know what the next trend will be?  You don’t have to look much farther than your email.  Email is not cutting edge, or flashy but it certainly has become the leading indicator of where IT is going.  Social media has supplanted Email for immediacy but Email continues to be at the core of any business because it is anecdotal and provides a timeline for ideas and decisions in many organizations.

Depending on your age and experience, you may look at this timeline from a different perspective. Back in the early days of IT, PCs and Macs only satisfied the personal needs of its user.  In order to provide some level of interaction with other PC and Mac users Email was designed as the primary method of communication.  Email to IT is like Morse Code is to the Telephone for the first 100 years of its existence.  The Telegraph using Morse code, and later a proprietary signaling method, did not become completely eliminated until February 2006, when the Telephone was ubiquitous.  My view is that Email will not be supplanted until Social Media is the primary method of communication for technology users of all ages.

When business became based on the personal computer, email developed into the “Gotta Have It” application.  It drove IT, and was required for business to effectively communicate across offices and time zones.  When the Internet developed into commercial usage in the 1990s, many of us used Email as the first application sending packets over the Internet to a remote server somewhere in the cloud.  When Windows became the defacto business desktop OS, we all clamored for a Windows Mail program, and Outlook survives to this day with Exchange Server.  When the cell phone developed into a PDA what was the first application that generated the most growth for Wireless Service Providers and devices such as Blackberry, iPhone, and Android…of course it was Email on your phone.

In today’s environment Email has become the most adopted cloud based application, whether you are using Gmail, Yahoo, or subscribe to a hosted business solution such as Office365 or Google Docs.  Email is the first thing we let go to the cloud.

So what comes next?  Let history show you…Think of the next most important app used after Email at each point of your timeline, is it ERP, CRM, Desktop Productivity, or the Desktop OS itself?  That answer will be the next service you will move to the cloud.

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

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Custom Systems Corporation