Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Are You Aware of the Unintended Consequences of SaaS?

Remember the good ol’ days when software had to be downloaded and accessed on-premises? Well, the advent of SaaS changed all that and made life easier for everybody involved. Scalable, easy to install, and most importantly, cheap, Software as a Service (SaaS) has a host of benefits, including the ability to optimize the individual business functions efficiently so that departments can now procure and use the desired systems. However, everything has a good side and a bad side, and this applies to SaaS as well. Everywhere you look now, there’s data present and every system possesses its own dataset that is stored in multiple formats. So, it is getting harder to combine and rely on data.

Fusing one or more dissimilar dataset into a trusted, unified dataset is difficult, not to mention time-consuming. But it is not impossible. You just have to watch out for these five challenges and figure out ways to avoid them. Find more details below:

 

  1. Duplicate Data

 

 

Believe it or not, but the removal of duplicate data takes a long time and consumes a lot of your valuable business resources. However, this process is a must unless you want to risk the onset of inaccuracy in your consolidated dataset. For example, without duplicate data removal, you might be dealing with contacts or accounts that have not been consolidated into specific records.

You need a two-pronged approach if you’re going to tackle the duplicate data problem. First, you must begin the de-duplication process within a certain silo to prevent applications from having more duplicate data inside them. Once that’s done and you’re ready to merge datasets, you have to connect similar records throughout all the systems in your organization. If you require duplicate cleanup work within a certain application, then you must load the non-duplicate data and flag any duplicates you find for cleanup within their systems of origin.

 

  1. Conflicting Data

 

 

A big advantage of SaaS systems is how several business processes and users contribute to a shared database to power the application. However, an unintended consequence of this method is how different apps end up with different data on the same clients. If your system shows records of a customer having two separate accounts, your analysis encounters some severe obstacles. Even a single update is capable of spangling various databases, tables, and even rows, with conflicts. And resolving these kinds of conflicts “by hand” is not only difficult but impractical as well.

Thankfully, there are two approaches – both automated – that can help you resolve conflicts existing in your data, viz. Last Modified and System of Record (SOR). While the latter focuses on the ranking of the system to find out which one is the winner in case of a conflict between two types of data, Last Modified involves using the most recently updated information across different systems for a specific field. It is possible to use a single approach to avoid any future data conflicts or a mixture of both, depending on the circumstances.

 

  1. Inconsistent Formats

 

 

While conflicts jeopardize the accuracy of your company data, inconsistent formats cause the values to conflict with one another. What this means is, even if the data is not wrong, one system might format the dates as YYYY-MM-DD and the other might use the DD-MM-YYYY format. So, even though both the details are technically correct, querying the same information can prove a hassle. From Booleans to states, phone numbers to capitalization, when you’re applying a certain standard to your data, you can update the formats for a countless number of fields.

The solution here is to standardize all your data into a single format and establish consistency. This will help improve the speed of the comparison processes as the databases will no longer have to verify the different formats against one another at a specific time.

Creating rules about which formats are going to be treated as the canonical standard for every type of entity helps make sense of the acronyms, abbreviations, order matching, and casing. Thanks to the removal of inconsistencies, improvements in data quality become noticeable, analysis becomes more reliable and querying speeds up.

 

  1. Critical Data on Related Objects

 

The relative objects tend to differ considerably when a SaaS solution is built and deployed in isolation. Related objects encompass a vast range of data associated with a specific contact, such as their opportunities, account, support tickets, departmental activities, and so on. However, a lot of the related data gets lost during data extraction, thereby causing problems with the completeness of consolidated datasets.

The best solution is to compare records on common identifiers between non-identifying and identifying fields. For matching a Contact record, for example, you must begin with an email address, since this common identifier offers the greatest probability for a singular match across different systems. There are multi-level de-duplicating keys that incorporate extra supporting data like company, address, and name. No matter what sort of common identifiers you use, related objects should always be mapped so you’re able to achieve a complete standard data schema for powering your analytics.

 

  1. Data in Source Apps Are Continuously Updated

 

 

Data constantly gets updated, which signifies that the consolidated data sets manufactured by your business might become obsolete if a part of the source data changes. It is difficult to keep data constantly updated. When connected data sources are no longer in sync, the data used to feed business intelligence tools, like dashboards, start outputting less reliable reports.

It’s tedious to query siloed systems for the latest data every time the data inputs are changed. It is better if you spend your time analyzing different datasets, finding insights, and sharing recommendations with others in your company. Use automated pipelines to join the dots between the data in apps and your central database to analyze, bridge the gaps between analytics and apps.

In such situations, data is going to be updated in almost real-time, anywhere from five minutes to 24 hours. This unified and consolidated data not only saves data prep time but also provides trusted data resources. This ensures that every customer record in your company is available in a centralized, trusted source, but at the same time allows separate SaaS apps to perform vital business functions.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

So, there you have it – the unintended consequences of SaaS and how to successfully overcome them. Thanks to these handy tips and tricks, you won’t have to worry about accessing your software online or mishandling of data.

The Art of Designing Enterprise Apps for Humans to Love

The universe of consumer apps is expanding rapidly, in volume, as well as quality. Think about the top five consumer apps you regularly use (cab hailing, grocery shopping, online shopping, payments, productivity management, etc.), and evaluate how beautifully their interfaces have evolved over the past 3-4 years. Today, you’re used to new features and full-fledged upgrades being pushed to these apps ever so frequently, bringing all kinds of improvements to the user interface and experience design.

 

All’s Not Well At the Enterprise Front, Though

The enterprise apps universe, sadly, is a different story. Do the same analysis on the top five frequently used enterprise apps (time sheet updates, workflow planning and management, document management, video conferencing, etc.). It should be clear that enterprise apps (deservedly) don’t get the same kind of love and appreciation as their consumer market counterparts. The question that begs for answers now, is – why can’t we design enterprise apps such that humans love them as much (if not more) than their routine consumer market apps?

In this guide, we attempt to answer how the tables can be turned. Here are some strategies that application developers, development project managers, and designers would want to implement, to make their apps more lovable.

 

SAP word cloud light #2

 

Power? Simplicity? Both?

The timeless question that UI/UX engineers face almost every day while working on app development is about the trade off between the app’s power potential, and its simplicity. Contemporary wisdom seems to be geared towards keeping it simple; just check out how ‘simple, clutter-free, neat, etc.’ are frequently used words in app descriptions.

However, there’s a lot more to consider. An enterprise app is not your cab-booking app; users won’t use it for merely 30-60 minutes a day (or less). An enterprise app, ideally, would be developed to deliver a service that thousands of users would need for a good part of their workday. This also means that the app would be expected to deliver sophisticated and powerful functions, without being too complicated.

The rule to remember is – simple functions should be simply done, and complex functions should be possible. This thumb rule helps you answer difficult power versus simplicity questions.

 

 

Speed over Style, Always

Did you know – if a web page takes more than 2 seconds, users generally abandon it for another search, or hop over to another web page! That’s the kind of ‘speed’ expectations we’re all getting used to, and we are less likely to be relenting when it comes performing doing all important information searches, tasks, and transactions on enterprise apps. The takeaway for enterprise app developers is to design with speed in mind.

Of course, this is not easy, because enterprise apps are built to deliver performance on a massive scale. Crunching thousands of GBs of data to deliver visually enriched outcomes on the screen – that takes time! This is where smart app developers are able to break down customer-app interactions into micro steps and optimize each step to ensure the complete interaction appears faster.

 

Build Memorable and Addictive Search Experiences

Convenience is at the core of app UI and UX design. Enterprise applications are the front end of massive databases of information. So, ‘search’ becomes a central pillar for an app’s success. This is also where great enterprise apps differentiate themselves from the good ones.

Often enough, users don’t know what they don’t know. Hence, they need help to build their search queries. Envision how UX masterminds at Google and Pinterest solve this problem. As soon as you begin typing, their search boxes show suggestions that help you word the query perfectly, to get relevant results in the first shot.

Do more of the same in your enterprise app’s search box. The benefits are twofold:

  • Users will love your app because of its ability to give them what they want, without calling upon them to apply their minds!
  • Users will begin to trust the guided search, which will give your developers control over manoeuvring customer attention to the content you wish to promote.

 

The ‘Ecosystem’ Aspect

Unless you’re developing the first experimental enterprise app, you’d naturally have the visibility and experience of dozens of other enterprise apps used within the organization. Also, unless you’re sure that you’re developing an app for a standalone process (which is rare in an enterprise setting), you’d need to take the existing ‘ecosystem’ in mind, to keep on delivering seamless experiences.

So, consider the ripple effects of user-app interaction flows, data mutability, messaging and notifications, object search-ability, and data validations while prototyping the application. Remember, the application will soon become a part of a large mix of modules, portals, and dashboards, and hence, must not require the users to undergo any psychological inconveniences by taking an off-route approach to a basic and non-core app functionality.

 

 

Balancing the Needs of Power Users and Casual Users

Let’s face it, the user spectrum for an enterprise app can be wider than you’d imagine. There would be dozens of power users. These would expect power-packed features, the ability to personalize the user experience, technically advanced features, and shortcuts for more productive use of the app. Then, there would be hundreds of casual users who’d only use, let’s say, the top 20% of the capabilities of the app for 80% of the time.

In such a scenario, enterprise app developers would do well to follow the layering approach. Here, the more sophisticated features, such as availability of keyboard/keypad shortcuts, are kept a few menu blocks away from the main screen. This helps in keeping the application non-cluttered for most users while making sophisticated features available for power users, subject to their real desire to find them out, activate them, and use them.

 

Concluding Remarks

The ‘perceived quality’ gap between consumer apps and enterprise apps is widening by the day. Don’t let your organization’s apps be a part of the rut. Learn from what the consumer apps are doing well, strike balance between conflicting quality parameters, prioritize, and you’ll do alright.

 

 

Author : Rahul Sharma

The Evolving Role of A CIO – And Why You Need to Know It

It wasn’t until recently that CIO became a job title recognized across the world, and particularly within organizations that consider technology as a strategic pillar. However, after an initial glory period, the scope of a CIO’s role started getting stonewalled.

For instance, in many companies, the CIO is seen as somebody who ensures that technology becomes an enabler for the other C-Suite executives to achieve their goals. For several others, it’s about one leader for oversight of everything the company is doing to replace on-premise systems with cloud-based alternatives.

However, the modern CIO’s role cuts through deeper waters. This guide tries to bring these latent ripples to the surface, to truly present the scope of a CIO’s role in the true shape.

 

Follow The Leader!

 

Being Torch Bearers for DevOps Process Transformation

Though DevOps is certainly not a new idea anymore, only a precious few organizations have been able to implement it. Done rightly, DevOps enables an enterprise to make technology a driver of quick process improvements that enable it to do business better. The reverse, sadly, is also true.

DevOps’ unrelenting focus on speed of development could as easily become the cause of frequent system crashes and application downtime for an enterprise. Here, success is dependent on a visionary leader who is also able to implement tight controls over the release process, with a focus on quick and credible feedback loops to quickly stabilize the system.

 

Blockchain? IoT? Both?

Industrial IoT proved to be one of the most talked about enterprise technologies in 2017. The transformative impact of smart sensors and connected devices in an industrial environment has held CIOs in awe for some years now. Though the emergence of the end to end IoT vendors diluted the fame-equity of the CIO in many industries, there’s a trend that’s helping CIOs reclaim the lost ground. And that’s in the form of BIoT.

The blockchain is the system of community-based digital ledger management that offers practically hack-proof information management. The same technology can also be used to offer credible information from a vast network of sensors in millions of devices. The information such captured will help analysts bring out insights that help them create processes and products that add immense value. Individually, as well as together, blockchain and industrial IoT are immensely powerful technological forces that need a potent CIO to be channelled properly for a company.

 

Technology versus Humanity

 

Safeguarding The Enterprise’s Digital Assets

As per a recent PwC survey, 61% of CEOs consider cybersecurity as a major threat to national and commercial interests. And, all of them look up to CIOs to make the enterprise prepared to combat even the most sophisticated cyber-attacks.

CIO’s role, in the context of cybersecurity, was often imagined to be limited to cybersecurity vendor management, data security process improvement, and disaster recovery and business continuity assurance. However, the modern CIO has to shape the IT strategy of the company with cybersecurity concerns firmly in mind.

In a scenario where every new access point in the enterprise IT ecosystem adds to the threat surface area, CIOs need to help organizations strike the right balance between security and mobility. Considering the huge value of intellectual property and digital assets, the ‘value’ of the CIO in ensuring these assets remain secure is immense. Particularly after the multiple ransomware attacks in 2017, enterprises have realized how crucial the CIOs role is in terms of upgrading the security readiness of an enterprise.

https://images.pexels.com/photos/356056/pexels-photo-356056.jpeg?w=940&h=650&dpr=2&auto=compress&cs=tinysrgb

 

The Modern CIOs Role in Making the Best Technologies Truly ‘Best’ For the Company

An IBM study done back in 2016 revealed that 58% of the CIOs consciously pursued technologies with the potential to truly transform processes and deliver superb business value. Though ‘disruption’ has been overused to such an extent that the word has stopped meaning anything, it has to be said that these CIOs realize the risk of remaining still in times when technologies are growing at breakneck speed.

The modern CIO is not content with managing his/her enterprise’s me-too journey on the boar of a new technology. The modern CIO knows that he/she has to choose the boat, the route, the speed, the crew, and the destinations. These are the kind of leaders that take risks, have a vision, can build teams, and motivate the urge to innovate without the fear of failure.

 

Making The Company’s Technological Foundation Strong Enough to Support Super-Fast Growth

The goal of growth for the enterprise is common to all C-suite employees. However, the CIOs responsibility is to build system capabilities and technological capabilities that can support fast growth. Considering the pace at which economic models are changing, the focus of large enterprises on growth via mergers and acquisitions, and expansion of SMB operations across international borders, enterprise technologies need to be scalable, flexible, and highly customizable. This can only happen when the CIO continues to upskill and expand his/her horizons. The role of a CIO, hence, is a growth enabler and not an operation enabler.

 

How Can Traditional CIOs Evolve Into Present and Future Ready CIOs?

It’s natural for today’s IT leaders to wonder – what skills does it take to become a successful CIO? Well, considering how the role of CIO has evolved beyond technology management, today’s leaders need to quickly upgrade their understanding of how technologies enable better business. Also, the political awareness required to manage a vast number of stakeholders within the technological environment is essential to achieve sustainable success in the capacity of a CIO. Apart from the technological awareness, CIOs need negotiation and business skills. Also, relationship management and partner management will become more important over time.

 

Concluding Remarks

The CIO is an enterprise’s torchbearer when it comes to the wide and often dimly lit fields of technology. From continually improving technology delivery process to securing the digital and intellectual properties of the company, from keeping the enterprise’s technology foundation strong to embracing and adopting disruptive technologies – the CIO does it all, and a lot more.

 

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

The Skills That Separate a Great IT Manager from Good Ones

Working in the IT industry means dealing with a rapid pace of change that impacts everything, right from operational practices to remunerations. Plus, the complexity of systems, applications, and processes is mindboggling. Then, systems and processes are so interlinked that managers can’t take a single decision without dealing with several little-known variables. Plus, clients are always pushing to shrink delivery teams and cut costs every year. Of course, there are cybersecurity and compliance risks to make life tough.

It’s commendable, then, that there are great IT leaders in most enterprises, driving progress, and enabling everyone around them. In this guide, we’ve covered some of the skills that separate a great IT manager from the merely good ones.

Understanding the People behind the Employees

Of course, understanding one’s people is a skill relevant to managers in every industry, and not particularly IT. However, IT presents specific challenges that make it crucial for a great manager to understand the people in his/her team.

In a typical IT team, there are people who are keen to learn the latest technologies and work using latest tools. Then, there are people who wish to grow their expertise within a specific technology and come closer to the business impacts of the technology. Put an employee in a role that’s in utter contrast to his/her key technology learning motivations, and you’ll have a might mess to manage very soon. Instead, great IT managers are always prepared to go to great lengths to understand their team and help them take up IT operations and delivery roles that match well with them.

 

Emotional Intelligence

It’s been suggested that emotional intelligence accounts for almost 90% of the difference between good and great managers in general. IT managers who take conscious efforts to upgrade their emotional intelligence reap the benefits in the form of respect from all related stakeholders, faster and better conflict resolution and even quicker and more valuable promotions. When pressures from all sides (clients, internal auditors, dissatisfied employees, and supervisors) mount, the great IT manager is able to exercise caution, care, and courage in dealing with situations. Emotional intelligence also helps IT managers understand the intrinsic feelings and desired of different players around them, further enabling them to frame their communication so as to appease, satisfy, and convince them. A keen sense of observation, coupled with high EQ, is the perfect recipe for success for an IT manager.

 

The Ability to Upgrade One’s Technical Knowledge

In a typical IT manager’s routine day, there are 2-4 meetings, several discussions on project KPIs, and brainstorming on new projects and campaigns. With an eternal stream of deadline bound deliverables to manage, it’s tough for IT managers to find out the time and desire to upgrade their technical knowledge. However, strong technical understanding is essential for managers to maneuver conversations with teams comprised mostly of IT engineers. Plus, employees are quick to identify IT managers who fail to account for the limitations and strong points of technologies and tools while devising plans and strategies.

 

The Ability to Delegate Extensively and Correctly

IT is an industry where the depth of subject matter knowledge is so much that it almost accepted that individuals won’t possess it. Thus, IT managers always need to rely on several people to take control of projects. This calls upon managers to showcase dexterity in delegating tasks to others (again, this links back to the skill of knowing your team). Developments in IT business sphere and operational management frameworks are so fast that IT managers always need to anticipate the need to keep their time free for proactive management. This is only possible if they delegate tasks like a pro.

 

Communication

A no-brainer, for sure. But why does an IT Manager need to be super strong in communication? The answer – because the very nature of the product or service is such that customers don’t exactly understand or appreciate the nuances unless somebody explains them in a language they are comfortable with. Only a strong communicator, hence, can detect unsaid emotions among client representatives and mold communications accordingly.

 

The Ability Of Being Decisive

Expect an IT manager to face several situations every day, wherein they are expected to make quick decisions. Whether it’s something short-term such as estimating resourcing needs for a new project to something with long-term consequences, such as deciding among a few equally potent vendors for a virtualization project – IT managers have to rely on their intuition, experience, data, advice, and heuristics to be able to manage such situations. Unremarkable IT managers fall into the trap of extracting data from different sources for every decision they need to make. Equally obnoxious, of course, is the practice of taking hasty decisions and letting your teams bear the brunt of the same. The great IT manager strikes the right balance.

 

Creating A Culture of Innovation

Considering the breakneck speed at which the dynamics of IT industry are changing, teams that fail to innovate will fail to exist in a few years. How does an IT manager, then, foster the spirit of innovation, particularly considering how important it is to also maintain operational discipline? Well, great IT managers do so by:

  • Ensuring innovators that they’ll find their leaders by their side, even if the innovators don’t deliver the desired results.
  • Connecting innovators with the right people, at the right time.
  • Explaining the value of innovation and experimental trials with different options to clients.

 

Calculated risks, taken consciously – that’s a good mantra to live by. It takes continued focus on extracting valuable lessons from failures, documenting them, and sharing them with the entire team, for IT managers to truly grow their people.

 

Concluding Remarks

Amidst all the challenges of working in the IT industry, great IT managers manage to stay calm, deliver projects within deadlines, and grow their teams and themselves. This guide presents some of the skills that help them do so.

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

The Art of Database Performance Optimization

Advancements in relational database management systems (RDBMS) and availability of better hardware have made sure that response times for SQL queries are going down. However, there is still a lot that a developer can do while designing the database and writing SQL queries that can help optimize database performance. It’s also important to steer clear of the common mistakes that database admins (DBAs) commit. Because most of the databases use the same design concepts, DBAs have every reason to advance their understanding of database performance optimization. In this guide, we’ll talk at length about how the best in the industry do it.

 

 

Investing In A Good Monitoring System

A monitoring system is the biggest asset in the hands of system administrators. A wholesome monitoring solution is effectively half your database performance optimization headaches solved.

The system that you choose must be able to comprehensively showcase details of systems, tools, and applications from your IT ecosystem. Such a system goes a long way in helping database admins:

  • Maintain complete oversight of the database operations across the IT landscape
  • Creating alerts based on certain kind of information requests and workloads
  • Get automated warnings of anomalous database use requests
  • Quickly locating choke points and bottlenecks in the databases
  • Taking preemptive action to secure, maintain, and optimize databases

 

Database Statistics

For any SQL optimizer, one of the most important resources is in the form of database statistics. These stats comprise the following information:

  • Tables in the catalog
  • Indexes of the tables
  • Interrelationships between these indices

Optimizers use these stats to dynamically decide the least expensive path to serve a query. In many database performance audits, it’s generally found that stats are outdated. The result, queries won’t be served using the least expensive paths. This increases the overall response time of the database and sends performance KPIs for a toss.

Database admins need to always ensure that stats for their databases remain updated. For whichever RDBMS product you’re using, the product manual will have all the necessary information on the commands you can execute to update stats.

 

 

Determine the Expected Growth

Indices are a double-edged sword. Without them, your select queries will take too long to return results. Too many indices, on the other hand, reduce the performance of DML queries (insert, update, and delete).

Indices can have a significant negative impact on DML queries. While creating an index, DBAs can specify a value for the fill factor. This helps reduce the potential negative impact.

When you create an index, the data in the column is stored on disk. Next, when new rows of data are created, or the values of the data elements within the column are changed, then the index needs to be reorganized. This takes a toll on DML queries.

A solution is to specify the expected growth for an index when you know that new rows of data will be regularly added. In some RDBMS solutions, this option is known as fill factor, and in others, it’s called PCTFREE (percent free).

 

Specify Indices in Select Queries

Mostly, the optimizer chooses the appropriate index for particular table based on statistics. However, you can also specify the index name in the select query. Most databases offer this option, using which you can take control of the performance of regularly used select queries. The syntax and method of specifying an index within a select query differ across databases.

 

Evaluation Database Explanations

The database returns an explanation for every select query created by the optimizer. This explanation can provide tremendous insights to DBAs in their efforts to optimize databases. Using the explanations, they can fine tune SQL queries and deliver significant database performance improvements. Each database produces offers its unique syntax for DBAs to use to get the explanations. Also, we recommend you try out one of the many 3rd party tools to run explanation commands against databases. For instance, WinSQL Professional is one of the renowned tools that also offer database query explanations analysis as one of its features.

 

Database Splitting in Hard Drives

You might already know the speed limitations of input-output operations for hard disks. When the size of your databases increases, these limitations become all the more prominent.

Some databases, thankfully, allow databases to be split across multiple hard disks. Some even allow splitting tables across different hard disks. Since more heads work simultaneously to fetch data in such an arrangement, the speed of operations is tremendously improved.

 

 

Limit the Amount of Data in Play

Lesser the amount of data retrieved, faster will the response be. Kind of obvious? Well, only if this were followed, most enterprise database performance measures would be a lot better. Most of the data filtering must be carried out at the server end and only a minimal amount of it kept at the client end. Because of this, limited data is sent on the wire, and the response speeds are correspondingly better.

The database level optimizations are not limited to query design improvements. There’s a lot that database administrators can achieve merely by understanding database performance with the help of a strong monitoring system.

 

Collaboration between Database Developers and Administrators

In most enterprises and SMBs, DBAs mostly handle database tuning tasks. However, there are several developers that essentially do DBA like tasks. However, developers and administrators don’t always find it easy to work along with each other. This is caused because of factors such as different key responsive areas (KRAs), different reporting structures, and often, a lack of interpersonal skills.

Developers need to understand the reason why DBAs are not inclined to embrace rapid changes. That’s because they need to view and manage the database as a whole. The impact of the smallest of database problems could be gigantic. DBAs, in turn, should understand the developers’ need to know the status of the database and assist them in carrying out tests in quality clients.

 

Concluding Remarks

Start with the technical aspects of database performance management, then move on to monitoring and insight drove improvements, followed by a focus on driving synergies among DBAs and database developers.

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

The Qualities That Make a System Admin an Asset for an Enterprise

The job of a system administrator is somewhat different from the job of a dedicated IT consultant with expertise in a specific technology. System administrators are entrusted with the responsibility of server maintenance, performance monitoring, security upkeep, and hardware upgrades. Whenever a server problem arises, it’s expected that more than a few IT systems and related processes with being negatively impacted. Also, this means that dozens (or even hundreds) of end users will be shouting out, calling for immediate support, and in general, making life tough for the system administrators. Because of the hands-on nature of a system administrator’s job, it’s recommended that you look for certain qualities in candidates who’ve applied for openings of a system administrator’s role in your company. Also, skill enhancement training must focus on nurturing and strengthening these qualities in system administrators.

 

Reliable Strong Technical Knowledge

There’s absolutely no alternative for a system administrator. He has to be at least above average in his understanding of technologies, processes, systems, and hardware and must have a parallel learning track that leads to subject matter expertise. This entails:

  • Understanding of operating systems, applications, services, and organizational processes
  • Earning highly relevant and updated technical certifications such as RHCE and MCSE
  • Furthering one’s understanding of cloud computing technologies, virtualization, and networking, all the time.

At any stage, each of your systems administration teams must have a few technical experts who can collectively be relied upon to address any kinds of technical issues in the processes they own.

Enterprises generally use three gates to qualify high potential system administrators:

  • Undergraduate Degree Holders with specialization in computer science/IT
  • System admins certified by a credible agency
  • System admins with experience of working in an enterprise with similar IT infrastructure as yours.

A Good Sense of Judgement

Across the globe, there’s call and clamor for more innovation in how IT personnel perform their jobs. For system administrators, however, the propensity to innovate must take a back seat to a sense of operational discipline. Remember, it was a manual error done by a system administrator that causes Amazon S3 outage in February 2017. Enterprises must seek to deploy dedicated system administration experts to innovate to create new products and let those with a well-developed intuition and judgment take care of operations. Everything that a system administrator does has ripple effects that can be amplified and often become too gigantic to control. However, a good sense of judgment helps them stay in control when the going gets tough.

Need to Work With Non-Technical Staff, Patiently

Ever so often, the people who report a problem with IT systems, are themselves not skilled in how basic enterprise technologies work. When a system administrator has to work along with such individuals, they must be able to mold their language in a way that the other persons are able to understand. This also calls upon system administrators to exercise a lot of patience, so that they are able to draw our important information from the end users. This, in turn, can help administrators isolate the potential problem areas and shorten the lifetime of analysis and solution implementation significantly.

 

 

Discipline

Let’s face it – monitoring is a crucial component of a system administrator’s job. Apart from this, system admins need to drive efforts to improve system performance and do so by checking the impact of one set of configurations versus the other. Then, they need to make important decisions around balancing the IT applications’ computing resources need, security considerations, etc. All this requires admins to perform several experiments and tests on non-production systems. Monitoring devices, applications, business processes, and services, apart from everything else, calls for a lot of discipline among system administrators. This is in spite of there being advanced monitoring and reporting tools. The working hours, particularly during upgrades and critical issues, can be taxing, and it’s only with unflinching discipline that admins can truly read monitoring results and take appropriate actions.

 

Understanding of Procedural and Management Components

Design, delivery, and lifecycle management of IT services is an emerging discipline. ITIL, COBIT, and similar frameworks capture the essence of this discipline. Aligning existing IT practices with the best practices entailed in these frameworks is guaranteed to help an organization achieve its IT and linked (financial and operational) objectives. System admins, particularly, need to be well-versed with the tenets of these frameworks. This helps a system admin to contextualize everything he/she does. These frameworks help administrators understand the vision of the CIO, and assist them in taking tough decisions (from equally feasible and practical options) when the need arises. Understanding of procedural components, adherence to best practices, and appreciation of the basics of project management can truly make a system admin a pillar of the team he/she is a part of.

Communication Skills

A system administrator might not think of this skill as an important one to acquire in the current context of his/her work. However, IT leaders understand how they need to be prepared to promote meritorious candidates internally to higher roles within the same teams. This also means that a system admin who spends most of the working hours in a server room might also be the one transitioning enterprise specific knowledge to new hiree. Showcasing the merits of a new web server upgrade, explaining to a web developer that his method of coding will cause memory leaks, and presenting an idea to managers – all these will happen in the lifetime of a system admin, and sooner than he/she might expect. The best way to be prepared – upgrade your communication and presentation skills.

Concluding Remarks

System administrators are the lifeline of an IT heavy enterprise. These are the people that keep the computing engines in order. They also, of course, need to build upon their existing skills and acquire new ones to keep on adding value to their teams and the organization. The skills and qualities outlined in this guide deserve the attention of any system admin, and the HR and IT management personnel in charge of their skill enhancement.

 

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

FileCloud Unveils Enterprise Edition, Deploys Secure Collaboration and Storage for Large Organizations

  • Supports increased need for robust cybersecurity protection and compliance measures
  • Purpose built for organizations with 1000+ users
  • Allows businesses to keep their data on infrastructure of choice including public, private and hybrid clouds

FileCloud, a cloud-agnostic Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS) platform, today announced the release of FileCloud Enterprise Edition. Designed to enable IT administration, management and compliance across enterprise-level systems with over 1000 users, FileCloud Enterprise Edition simplifies data security in an increasingly cloud-based business environment.

“Managing secure collaborations across enterprise environments is critical and keeps many CIOs awake at night,” said Madhan Kanagavel, CEO of FileCloud. “ With just a few clicks, FileCloud’s Enterprise Edition helps IT administrators configure user settings, integrate branch office file servers, manage policies and deploy apps across any large organization. Innovations like these are the reasons why enterprises prefer FileCloud over other consumer-oriented
collaboration solutions.”

FileCloud solves the challenge of losing control over intellectual property/information assets. Unlike other centralized file Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, FileCloud gives complete control over their data by allowing businesses to keep their data on any infrastructure of their choice including public, private and hybrid clouds. Mobile apps increase productivity and flexibility without needing to worry about data integrity. Shared documents synchronize and can be locked or shared with expiration dates and users can access remotely the same drives that are available in the office.

Enterprise Edition features and services include:

  • Mass Deployment: Deploy and configure a fleet of end user computing devices (desktop, mobile devices, and file servers) in a few click from a centralized management dashboard.
  • Remote Health Monitoring: Includes real-time monitoring of employee devices and actions with a detailed audit trail and delegation capabilities to prevent data loss and detect security threats.
  • Compliance: Enforce policies and regulatory requirements (supports GDPR, HIPPA and FINRA compliance) across employees. Also offers Federated search and eDiscovery capabilities to find sensitive data across the user base.
  • Professional Services: Offers a wide range of technical assistance in implementing large deployments successfully including, deep technical help in designing high availability, branch office integrations, clustering and multi-cloud deployments. Services also can help in configuring Single Sign-On and integrating with other systems like ActiveDirectory.

Penta, a global IT services company with offices in Switzerland, UAE, and Japan, mainly servicing financial institutions has deployed FileCloud to solve a number of business challenges. “One of our biggest challenges as an IT service company is to set up and manage corporate file sharing securely across hundreds of file servers, computers, and mobile phones,” said Shadi Jaber, IT Manager at Penta. “FileCloud has the right features and toolset that makes this easy.”

Many large organizations including Fiserv, NASA, Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, and the City of San Diego use FileCloud for enterprise file sharing and collaboration. Try for free.

Managed Service Support Tools That MSPs Can’t Ignore

With more and more businesses expanding their applications catalogs and stretching their IT spending every quarter, the market for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) is as hot as it ever was. Amidst all the competition, managed service providers need to keep focused on making sure that they embrace the technologies and tools that can assist in better service delivery at lower costs. In this guide, we will cover some of the types of tools that every managed service provider needs to know and leverage to differentiate its services from the other players, and also to drive operational efficiencies.

Professional Service Automation

Service automation technology is a core component of a professional managed service provider’s service basket. Particularly in IT settings, professional service automation (PSA) assumes a greater value. These software help MSPs implement the required functionalities seamlessly.
Document and project management are the two most important aspects of PSA software. Apart from this, PSA software also brings in functionalities for event scheduling, reminders and notifications, and invoicing. Good PSA tools go a long way in helping MSPs automate many processes, which lends a tremendous productivity boost to the employees, and helps the service provider control project costs.

Patch Management

Managed service providers are responsible for the upkeep of several applications for their clients. After the shockwave of ransomware attacks that shook the world in May 2017, the importance of patching has been underscored like never before. Even so, application vendors are not coming up with patches much faster than previously. Also, clients have become a lot more particular about getting their apps upgraded on the same day as the patch is released.
Now, manual tracking of the patching status of dozens of apps is a very time-consuming, effort-intensive, and financially draining exercise for MSPs. This is where they can leverage patch management tools to take control. Helping with central patch deployment and management via intuitive dashboards, apart from setup of regular patch checks, these software save a lot of time and money for MSPs, and ensure that the applications they’re responsible for are never compromised. Automated policy management for servers and desktops is also often included in patch management solutions.

Remote Monitoring and Management

Traditional monitoring has been an important part of MSP operations for a long time now, and most market leaders in this space have already adopted remote monitoring and management tools to take control. Monitoring an enterprise’s IT infrastructure for anomalies and errors can be a herculean task, considering the expanse and complexity of such systems. This is where automation emerges as a solution, and remote monitoring automation and event-response software prove to be invaluable for this.
These software not only streamline and centralize monitoring of infrastructure, but can also include applications, databases, and virtual machines in their scope. These remote monitoring and management tools help MSPs to expand their client base by providing preconfigured monitoring and even response solutions to clients for their basic infrastructure monitoring requirements.

Remote Access Protocol

The remote monitoring and management automation we discussed above is pretty expansive in its scope. Often, MSPs have to take care of very precise troubleshooting relevant to well-defined business processes and restricted to very specific virtual machines, databases, and servers. This is where MSPs need a simplistic utility instead of using remote monitoring and management models. Thankfully, remote access protocols come in handy here. For example, Secure Shell (SSH) enables MSPs to access servers and desktops from remote systems. This creates the perfect blend of security and control for MSPs to solve troubleshooting issues for clients.

Anti-Malware

The Internet is a core aspect of nearly every kind of business, and that’s why cyber-security is a concern for every startup, SMB, and enterprise alike. The responsibility of ensuring absolute security of all its internal systems, as well as the interfaces it establishes with clients and vendors, rests with MSPs. This is where the need for highly sophisticated anti-malware software emerges. Signature-based anti-malware software are not reliable anymore; leaders in the cyber-security industry have come up with antivirus and anti-malware solutions that leverage the power of machine learning to make out suspicious commands, and take appropriate actions. As a managed services provider, you can’t afford to take any chances hence you should opt for the best-in-class anti-malware software.

Security Suites

We addressed ransomware and malware earlier, but those aren’t the only security measures essential to MSPs. Managed service providers need to take proper care of the entire IT infrastructure to deliver world-class services to their clients. In order to keep data secure, users protected, interfaces intact, and network sanitized, MSPs need a suite of firewall, VPN, and intrusion detection systems. This also encompasses the physical security of its data center and server rooms.
Threat landscapes are changing quicker than businesses anticipate, and that’s why a notoriously large number of cybercrime attempts succeed. A pioneering MSP can’t sit back on its laurels; it must always be vigilant. Make sure you ramp up your security suites.

Balancing Automation with Planning

The types of tools discussed above help bring in a great deal of automation, which obviously delivers significant cost advantages to MSPs. However, no MSP can simply depend on these tools and hope to deliver high-end services to clients. This is where the MSP leadership team needs to kick in and invest proper resources towards long-term planning, disaster recovery and business continuity planning, and service improvement in general.

Concluding Remarks: When it comes to tools for managed service providers are concerned, the market isn’t exactly lacking. Tools that help in day-to-day operations management, tools for advanced reporting, security tools, monitoring automation tools, and support desk ticket management tools – you name it, and there’s something for MSPs. However, for an MSP to truly differentiate its services from similar players in the market, it needs to focus on adding value with tools of the kind discussed in this guide.

Author: Rahul Sharma

Sources
https://www.sherweb.com/blog/best-msp-support-tools/
https://mspalliance.com/advanced-tools-key-differentiator-msps/
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-tools-support-managed-service-delivery-erick-simpson

What Every Admin Must Know About Windows 10

Windows administration isn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully, there are native tools to assist administrators in getting stuff done. Then, there are plugins and tools to do what you believe is not done best using Windows built-in functions. Windows admin, however, extends far beyond basic checks such as managing multiple user accounts with their specific privileges, running disk defragmentation, clearing out caches, and keeping the system safe from viruses. To be truly an expert, you need to be aware of all the system admin tools Windows 10 offers. Here’s a guide to help you out.

Task Scheduler

Windows uses Task Scheduler internally to manage the execution of tasks that need to be run only occasionally, or at very specific times. Of course, admins can use Task Scheduler to take control of time-specific tasks. Another useful application that Task Scheduler can be used for is to find potential malware running in the background. Cleaning auto-start locations is a basic activity, and malware have become adept at hiding their startup locations. Checking Task Scheduler helps admins identify potential malware and weed them out of the system.

Event Viewer

Windows 10 Event Viewer is all a system admin needs to get complete visibility of what’s going on inside the computer. Event Viewer provides all the insight you need to troubleshoot an issue. You can type ‘event’ into the search box, and then open Event Viewer to load it. The window has three panes – the leftmost houses log types and views, the middle pane houses logs, and the right pane shows a list of action items. The five types of events listed in the left pane are:

  • Application events – These are related to programs.
  • Security events – Events related to security audit.
  • Setup events – These are domain control events.
  • Forwarded events – Events forwarded via networks devices.
  • System events – Windows system file events.

Mostly, you will need to depend on Event Viewer to get basic info about a problematic process, and then conduct deeper research on how to solve it.

Disk Management

Windows 10 Disk Management is the most upgraded version of the well-known disk management utility included in all previous Windows versions. This tool is invaluable for system admins to manage hard disk partitioning without rebooting the Windows system. Also, this tool helps you create, delete, and format disk partitions. You can change drive paths, set partitions as active, extend or shrink partitions, and initialize a new disk before using it.
With the disk management utility, you can convert empty dynamic disks to basic disks. Also, system admins can convert empty MBR disks to GPT disks. If you wish to, for instance, change the device letter for your USB drive, you can make then show us as U: here, instead of the default letter. Also, for issues such as a drive not working, Disk Management is the first point of check for a system admin.

Resource Monitor

For a deep dive into the processes going on in a computer and to understand where the resources are being consumed, trust Resource Monitor. It’s easier to use than PerfMon, and has more insights than Task Manager; hence, it’s a useful resource for a system admin. Trust Resource Monitor to help you understand resource consumption when you run applications or test different configuration settings. Also, for troubleshooting Windows performance issues, Resource Monitor becomes a key source of insight.
On the right side of the Resource Monitor Memory tab, you will see graphs for Used Physical Memory, Hard Faults, and Commit Charge. Check the Processes table on the Memory tab for a list of currently running processes, with their memory usage broken down for you. As long as you know what to look for, you can trust Resource Monitor to put together the info you need so you can debug all Windows performance issues.

Shared PC Modes

Windows 10 offers a pretty useful shared PC mode. This makes it easy for administrators to manage unique requirements such as use of a computer for customer access, as a reception or help desk computer, or as a kiosk computer. In scenarios where multiple users need to work on the same computer to perform vastly different tasks, shared PC modes emerges as a good option. In the shared PC mode, a Windows 10 computer is aimed at being maintenance and management free, making sure system admins have enough time and mind space to perform activities that add more value.

User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)

Complementing the shared PC concept is the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) feature. It allows system admins to set a computer up for customized usage by individual users who don’t wish to use a roaming user profile. With User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), it’s possible to use different settings for Microsoft Store appearance, background picture, accent colors, font sizes, languages, and language for different users. In User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), the custom settings info is stored in a centrally managed network file, and when users log in, their corresponding settings are activated.

AAD Joined Machines

Bring your own device (BYOD) is an enterprise reality. Also, it’s common for enterprises to seek contractor services, and have several employees working from their personal computers from their homes. When so many computers that don’t exist on the enterprise domain are used to perform routine work, the system admin job becomes rather cumbersome. However, Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (AAD) can help admins manage and secure systems that can’t be joined to the domain. This also makes remote support easier for employees.

Concluding Remarks: The world of system administration for Windows computers is expansive, and the tools we have covered in this guide are certainly not all comprehensive. However, being comfortable in using these tools can help admins perform most of the routine responsibilities they’re likely to face in an enterprise setup.

Auhtor: Rahul Sharma

Sources
https://techtalk.gfi.com/10-new-windows-10-features-for-sysadmins/
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/configuration/ue-v/uev-for-windows
https://techtalk.gfi.com/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-resource-monitor-in-windows-10/
https://www.disk-partition.com/windows-10/partition-hard-drive-windows-10-0528.html

FileCloud Brings Browser-Based Editing and Coauthoring to On-Premises Microsoft Office Files

FileCloud Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner

We are excited to announce that FileCloud has officially joined the Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner Program. As part of Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Partner Program, FileCloud will enable Office 365 business users to open, edit and save changes to remote Office files stored in FileCloud using a web browser. Importantly, users can co-author and collaborate on documents in real time on Office documents stored in FileCloud from anywhere.

Even today, when we claim ubiquitous Cloud adoption, billions of files are on-premise, behind a firewall. In today’s mobile-first world, employees and customers want to access, edit and collaborate on files from any device. Currently, users can’t remotely co-author or edit  Microsoft Office files that are behind a firewall, unless the organization moves the files to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, OneDrive.  FileCloud has joined Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner program to integrate with Office 365 to offer a simpler solution. With this integration, users can remotely coauthor and collaborate on Office documents that are even stored behind a firewall.

Since its inception, FileCloud continues to break barriers and offers unique customer choices. FileCloud gives Office customers a seamless experience when working with Office documents regardless of how they are accessed or where they are stored.

“We are excited to be part of the Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner Program and to use the Microsoft Office 365 capabilities for our customers across the globe,” said Madhan Kanagavel, CEO of CodeLathe. “Browser-based editing of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel files, as well as working simultaneously on a document via co-authoring features of Office 365, will allow our customers to be instantly more productive and will be a great addition to many existing integrations we have developed for Office, including Microsoft Outlook and mobile apps.”

Even when files and workloads are rapidly moving to the cloud, the majority of organizations continue to store significant portions of their data on-premises. FileCloud offers flexible options where customers can pick a storage model (on-premises, the cloud or a hybrid option) that suits their business needs. With this new Office integration, FileCloud brings real-time collaboration and remote co-authoring to any file regardless of where it is stored.

Rob Howard, Director, Microsoft Office Ecosystem at Microsoft Corp. said, “We are excited to have FileCloud’s participation in the Cloud Storage Partner Program to further extend the availability of Microsoft Office 365 to FileCloud’s users. It’s a unique integration that connects FileCloud’s technology directly to Office Online, so that customers have a great experience for reading and editing Office documents stored within their environment.”

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