Author Archives: Mike Gold

Virtual Server Platform Survey (Results)

I recently asked posted an informal survey asking a few friends about which virtualization platform they prefer. I only received a few responses, however, I still found the information helpful since the responses I did receive came from a relatively wide range of organizational types and sizes. I expected a higher number of people voting for HyperV, and I suspect that if I would have pushed a little harder for responses from some of my peers I would have seen a higher percentage of people who are pro HyperV. Nevertheless, The results seem to loosely tie to a current ongoing tech debate on the subject hosted by Network World so I am satisfied with the results. I will probably write more on this in the future, since I, of course have my own opinions on the subject. However, I won’t bore you with that now. For now, I’ll just post the results I have below.

Results

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 7.40.41 AM

Why?

Not everyone took the time to explain why they preferred their platform of choice. Those who did wrote the following:

  • Mature Platform…Great experience with it [VMWare]…Very rich set of tools .
  • Experience, stability, its what we know [VMWare], the freeware is an option for some but not others.
  • Hyper-V might be a great choice in your situation. The value proposition is great: rich feature set and cheap.  In spite of this, VMWare is still a great choice because of the availability of consultants and trained experts. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to what you know and what is the most easily supported.
  • I tried HyperV 2012 and it works fine in a small environment.  But, once you connect iSCSI to it and start getting more professional.  It wasn’t passing its own tests.  I was trying to connect it with FreeNAS.  I even rebuilt my storage into windows 2008 R2 with a SCSI initiator…  I switched back to VMWare 5.x and bam!  Fast and nice and stable!
  • excellent stability, tools, and support [VMWare].
  • We have clients who use all of them.  The stability in VMWare is unsurpassed.  We have had nightmare issues with Hyper-V and avoid it if at all possible.
  • [HyperV] Built into the product, better mgmt across apps, much lower cost.
  • Market share Reliability Stability  [VMWare

 

Other demographic Information

Industry

Please Note: In this questions that other category was represented by Consultants and value added resellers.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 7.40.34 AM

 

 

Purpose and Privilege (an invitation to love and to purpose)

The  purpose of his physical presence on Earth was so crystal clear in his mind that given the opportunity for fame, Jesus withdrew. Given the opportunity for power, Jesus withdrew. When he was given the opportunity to defend himself when He was falsely accused, Jesus withdrew. The only time Jesus didn’t withdraw was when he had opportunities to love God and love us faithfully, passionately and fully.

But what was Christ’s purpose on Earth? After-all the Bible says he did come to seek and save the lost. The Bible also says that Jesus died for us. Was it Christ’s mission to die for our sins that drove him to withdraw from everything else? Let’s apply this question to our own lives. What is our purpose on Earth. As Believer’s in Christ, the Bible clearly tells us to, “Go and make disciples.” Shouldn’t that commandment be our primary goal on Earth.

As humans we are so hungry for purpose. Our search for meaning in our lives is a billion dollar industry. We want to do something, “we were born to do.” We want to be someone who makes a difference. We long for fulfillment and meaning. All of these desires are not necessarily wrong. However, with all of our striving, I wonder if our perspective on the subject of purpose is more than a little off. I wonder if we don’t often confuse the ultimate purpose of our existence with the opportunities we are privileged to fulfill. I believe that it is possible that we often mistake purpose with privilege.

For example, I passionately believe that Jesus died for my sins. It was His right to atone for our wickedness even before he entered our world. It was His privilege to lay down his life for our debts when he walked among us. Jesus alone is the one person who could do this for us. It was His choice to make. As much as this single act of Christ was central to our Christian faith, I believe that the primary mission of Christ, his purpose if you will, is not limited to the redemption of humankind. It was his right and privilege to save us. However, I believe that His primary purpose was, and is, and will be forever, to passionately love his father, (to be one with God), and to radically love us, (the way a husband should sacrificially love his bride).

Every action of God that occurs through His Son Jesus flows from his central purpose of love. Imagine, the creation of the universe, the creation of our world, the creation of every living thing as an overflow of God’s love. He has that much Love.  It is through this central purpose of love that He is our Lord and Savior.  It is through this central purpose and for this central purpose of love that you and I were made.

Yet, we search for purpose and meaning. We long for fulfillment. We yearn to do the things were “born to do.” Candidly, I do believe that it is healthy to learn about how we are wired. God’s word is clear, we all have certain gifts and abilities to contribute. Every single person has the potential to add value that is consistent with their own God given design. However, the things we get to do with the best hours of our lives do not define our purpose,  they embody our privilege. I believe that in the great sceme of things, we as humans really only have one purpose that matters, that is to love. Everything else is a privilege we get to do to support our primary purpose.

One of my greatest heros is man named Reggie Tucker. Reggie and his bride Mary run Orange Mound Outreach Ministry (OMOM), a church/community center in the Orange Mound community of Memphis, Tennessee. Reggie puts his life on this line daily for the kids in that community. His ministry provides affordable housing to families to promote a stable environment where kids can grow. Twice a week he holds church services for young people in the community so that they can be grounded in God’s word. It is not an uncommon practice for Reggie to meet with gang leaders in the community in order to help a kid get out of a neighborhood gang. Last week he and a group from OMOM even installed siding on one of ministry’s houses.  Reggie is a tough, driven, fighter for Christ. However, I bet if you asked the kids in Orange Mound how they see Reggie, they would say that they see love. Reggie knows that his purpose is not to hang siding, preach the bible, raise money, etc. He knows that his purpose is to love those kids in Orange Mound. He knows that the best way he can love those kids is introduce them to Christ, teach them how to live like Christ, and teach them how to love like Christ. Every other activity that Reggie works on in the context of his ministry, and in Reggie’s case his life, is a privilege that he gets to do to support his ultimate purpose.

I wonder what the world would be like if we all looked to love instead of vocation in order to fulfill our purpose. I am sure that we would still have doctors and lawyers, plumbers and carpenters. I am sure that we would still need people who are willing to do all the dirty jobs that need to get done. And I am sure that we would need people to be passionate about the things they get to do with the best hours of their day.

Additionally, I don’t think that a world driven by love would be free of conviction and conflict. However, imagine a world driven by love, where everyone acknowledges that to fulfill love is to fulfill our greatest purpose. Where everyone sees all the activities of their lives as potential privileges that they get to do in order to support their purpose. I wonder if a world like that would be filled with people who are more tolerant, less self righteous and less self centered. I have to believe that a world driven by the purpose of love would be an amazing place to live.

I close this post with an invitation discover true purpose. Jesus said,

37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

I fully acknowledge that the words above are commandments from our most high God. According to Jesus, they are the greatest commandments of all. However, God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die for our sins. God paid a tremendous price so that we would be able to celebrate with Him forever. With God’s great love for us in mind, I would like to present the two greatest commandments from our most high God not as austere decrees to fulfill His holy requirements, but as an invitation to His holy love and to his holy purpose, and so I end with these words as a return path to God’s invitation to love and to purpose.

– To find purpose is the find love –
– To find love is to find Christ –
– To find Christ is to find God. –
– To find God is to love others. –
– To love others is to love God. –
– To love God is to fulfill our purpose. –

AMEN and AMEN

 

 

 

 

 

I.T. vs Users – Part 2
(Value & Trust vs. Scope & Process)

Yesterday I wrote a description of I.T. from one perspective and a description of computer technology users from another. Today I started writing a list of practical disciplines for end users and technology pros to hopefully gain a better understanding of each other. As I started crafting the list I quickly realized that there is way too much information about these disciplines to cram into one post. Therefore, I have decided to explore these disciplines in several posts over the next few weeks. For today, I am simply going to explore the differences between Value and Trust versus Scope and Process. I will then provide some disciplines that computer users and I.T. pros can use to better understand each other and avoid unnecessary drama when it comes to leveraging technology to help organizations move forward.

The Discipline of Choosing Value and Trust over Scope and Process.

As I have written before,  I acknowledge that there will always be a healthy tension that exists in the process of leveraging technology to solve problems and help people. Computer technology users don’t always know what they want. Technology often fails to meet our expectations and technology professionals aren’t always effective at adding value. I believe that practicing the discipline of choosing value and trust over scope and process is a key discipline that can help technology professionals improve customer satisfaction without losing their own minds. Description This discipline comes right out of the Agile Manifesto. Many technology pros have been trained to approach the process of providing technology solutions using predictive methodologies. These methodologies typically place scope as the highest priority of an initiative or project. As an alternative to predictive methodologies,  I would agree with Agile principles which state that defining value is more beneficial than defining scope when it comes to leveraging technology to solve problems and help people. Therefore, the number one question the technology pro should always ask themselves throughout any process of designing, planning, transitioning, maintaining and/or improving any given technology solution is, How can I add value and build trust? Sure, it is necessary to have clear definitions of scope and process.  Appropriately developed Statements of Work and/or Product Backlogs are just part of doing business in technology. However, defined processes and specifications should serve to move organizations forward. They should serve to add clarity and promote excellence. Too often the opposite occurs. Too often technologists push so hard for definitions that they lose sight of adding value. Too often they end up fighting so hard to keep the scope of a technical project in check that they miss the mark completely and trust is broken.

A Note To Technology Professionals

The technology pro must remember that the customer/end user could not care less about Scope. They don’t care about “best practices” or any other project management buzzword floating around out there. All they care about is figuring out how the technology solution you are proposing will add value to their lives. All they care about is finding solutions they can trust to help them accomplish what they perceive they need to get done when they perceive they need to get it done. They may have defined something 3 months ago during a discovery or analysis process. Now that they see the solution in front of them they realize that they defined Y, but they really need X. They are not trying to drive anyone crazy. They were just not as clear as they thought they were on the appropriate solution to their technology needs. There are numerous empirical models for helping Technology professionals manage these kinds of changes flexibly and effectively, (e.g. Lean Six Sigma, ITILv3, Agile Project Management). If you are a technology professional, I do recommend that you look at these methodologies in greater detail. However, for the purposes of this post, elevating the disciplines of value and trust to the forefront of all technology initiatives is a good place for the technology professional to start.

A Note To End Users

As technologists push toward adding value to the people they serve and as they strive toward building trust with the people they serve, end users would do well to take some steps toward engaging in scope and process development. I submit that Value and Trust are more important than scope and process. However, a basic understanding of technical tactics as they relate to scope and process can help you as the end user ensure that you will gain value and trust from the technical solution you are paying for. For instance, lets say that a technical lead for a given project decides to employ an Agile method for software development like Agile Scrum to implement a software solution. The selected method is well known for being value driven and flexible to end user needs. However, the process still requires involvement and discipline to gain an optimum return on investment. Therefore, the technical lead  decides to hold a couple training classes in order to bring everyone up to speed on the methods that will be employed to deliver the solution. In this case the end user would do well to engage in the classes and learn how the process works. Flexibility and value driven problem solving should not be void of discipline and good management practices. Learning how some of these practices work and accepting them as catalysts balanced by appropriate controls can add value. Additionally, I have gone to end users and asked them to prioritize various tasks and/or features according to the value those tasks and/or features offer. In some situations the user answered with the statement, “I need them all.” I can’t think of one time when I have come across a situation where all of the individual feature requests of an I.T. service or solution needed to be fulfilled in one shot in order to add value.

Practicing the Discipline of Value and Trust

A Tip for Technology Professionals

I have found the following question helpful in developing the discipline of Value and Trust. How is this ________________ adding value and trust for my customer? I find that applying this question to meetings, tasks, documents, etc. on a daily/hourly basis to be very helpful in keeping value and trust at the forefront of technology projects. For example, we have all been in those meetings where blood pressure rises over misunderstood specifications. We have all been in those meetings where tempers flair because both technology and business divisions can’t agree on the tactics for improving a process. Problems are never solved through ongoing organizational stalemates and impasses. I find that asking questions like, “Help me understand the value you are trying achieve through this process?” can be very helpful in working through impasses toward a mutually agreeable compromise. Perhaps it is necessary to re-evaluate our priorities on a given project. I find in most cases, when the end user has had a chance to step away from the minute details of a proposed solution and reiterate the value they are trying to achieve through the solution they are requesting, the important details related to scope of their request fall into place. Another example Another application for the “How is this ________ adding value?” question is in meeting planning. Most of us are trained to have agenda meetings in order to ensure that the meetings make good use of our valuable time. I would say that before even an agenda is planned, that the meeting planner is crystal clear on the value that the meeting will add to the objectives of the project, organization, etc. For example, Agile Scrum defines daily 15 minute stand-up meetings with a standing agenda: What did you do yesterday?, What did you do today? What are your current blocks? The agenda for the meeting is not very exciting. However, the predictable 15 minute time-box discipline, the opportunity to check progress, and the opportunity to articulate blocks in progress provide a tremendous amount of value in terms of communication and productivity.

A Tip For End Users

As an end user you too can also think in terms of value when you are participating in  technology projects and solutions. Let’s use Microsoft Word as an example. There are easily over 1200 features in MS Word from Spell Check to Word Art. At any given time you might use a fraction of those features to gain value for your organization. If we bog down technology solution providers with engineering a solution to every possible solution we can think of at the time, we risk losing sight of the value we are trying to add through the solution.  Like the old cliche goes, “Every time we say yes to one thing, we say no to another.” In this case, I am not even talking about an organization’s inability to say no when they need to say no. In this case, I am talking about all hollow yes’s and half baked deliverables that get passed off as solutions all because end users and I.T. providers don’t take the time to work out, prioritize and focus on solutions that are most valuable to the organization. For instance, here is a good example of well formed user story as it relates to a church operational function: As a family life pastor I need to have an accurate email list of family members so that I can send family life news to people on a monthly basis who are not deceased.  Why is this user story such a good example? 1. It defines the role of the primary user who is looking to gain value from the solution. 2. It defines a clear description of the primary value of the list…”to email living recipients.” 3. It defines the primary value of the “data quality” of the list. Data quality is a very broad topic  when comes to information technology. It is the kind of topic that can expand quickly into an exhaustive list of requirements that is so long, the original requested value never gets fulfilled. Thus, we end up having perfectly standardized  and geocoded mailing addresses, but we are still sending email to dead people.

Conclusion

Whether you are an End User or you are an I.T. Professional, your common ground is Value and Trust. When it is all said and done, everything we do in Information Technology is about people. The challenge of working with people is messy. Often we try to escape the untidy effort of working through difficult solutions with people by implementing over-engineered processes. Practicing disciplines that continuously clarify value and reinforce trust ultimately helps keep our focus where it belongs…on helping people.

Epilogue – (Where does Trust fit in to all of this?)

Come to think of it, I did not elaborate on trust very much in this post. The reality is that trust is at the center of value. It is impossible to add value if there is no trust in the solution, the people who deliver the solution or the people who use the solution. In terms of I.T. services, trust is built on consistent patterns of adding value to an organization. Value and Trust are both topics that have enough depth to stand on their own. I chose to couple Value and Trust in this post because I have observed how closely linked the two topics are when it comes to successful I.T. service delivery.

Lessons I learned from Dr. John Perkins Part 3 (Whole Gospel)

This post is devoted to my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who are living out Matthew 28:18-20. Today I am particularly mindful of Rev Mike Neal and his bride Dee of Glorious Light Church in Chicago Illinois. I am also mindful of Reverend Reggie Tucker and his bride Mary of Orange Mound Outreach Ministry, in Memphis, TN.  You are living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Be encouraged, the world, seeing your faithfulness will have no choice but to give glory to God. The way that you share the love of Christ is too powerful to be ignored. You are excellent examples of the kind of people who seek to bring about Godly Justice through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also dedicate this to the saints at Glorious Light Church and Orange Mound Outreach ministry. Your royal priesthood is not in vain.

Radical Devotion to the whole Gospel

I have experienced two different extremes in the current church world when it comes to loving God and loving our neighbors by bringing about Godly justice on earth. On one extreme I know pastors who teach God’s word and preach discipleship. Their job is not to clean up neighborhoods or get involved in politics or social work. Their purpose is to teach God’s word and equip saints. Before I continue, please don’t detect anything negative in my description of this extreme. Their purpose is not necessarily the problem, however, more about that later, I am getting ahead of myself here, lets continue with the other extreme. For now let’s just say that the fulltime task of radically devoting yourself to equipping saints so that they are prepared to equip other saints is an awesome thing to do.  Now lets get to the other extreme.

On the other extreme you have pastors who devote their lives to justice. They see that primary role as to be Jesus with skin on. They may not even feel the need to teach God’s word at all. Their gospel is social, yet personal…real…gritty… “hands-on.” They believe that God’s word will be revealed through their devotion to let the light of Christ shine. Their heart breaks for the lost. They judge no-one and accept everyone because they remember that they were once lost fools themselves. They aren’t afraid to get involved in politics, healthcare, education or any other social institution plagued by injustice.

In response the these extreme view points on God’s great commandment to love him with all our hearts and to love others as we love our selves, some people believe that the response to these extremes is moderation. There in lies the problem. There is no “balanced” or “moderate” approach to loving God and People.

I learned from Dr. Perkins that faithfulness to the whole gospel requires radical devotion to both extremes. Radical devotion to God’s word means that we love God with all of our being. Radical devotion to God means that we don’t stop at believing that His is a just a devotional book. Radical devotion to God believes that his word is a “play book” for our lives, that we are not just to believe His word, but that we are also to do his word as well. Therefore, we can’t have radical devotion to loving God without radical devotion to loving others.

This flies in the face of the latte centered consumer driven world we live in today where we have replaced the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of comfort. The reality is that the world has always pursued comfort at the cost of truth. Let’s just say that the church cannot afford to do this. Every believer in Christ needs to know that their full devotion to pursuing the righteousness and holiness of God must be match by their pursuit of the compassion and justice of God. These two concepts are as one with God. He did not save us so that we get to fulfill our own passions on earth. He saved us so that we could share in His passions on earth and throughout eternity. Full devotion to God is not something he wants from us, as if we could ever pay him back for his blessings he has poured on our lives through Christ. Full devotion is what he wants for us.

Dr. Perkins lives out this kind of full devotion to Christ. He is unapologetic in his declaration that Jesus is Lord and that all scripture is God breathed. He is also unwavering in his radical devotion to seeing God’s love and justice lived out on earth as it is in heaven.

What if every believer lived this way?…

 

Things I Learned from
Dr. John Perkins – Part 1

June, 2005. I remember the day was hot and very humid. I can’t remember what Southern City we were staying at that day during our Justice Journey. All I remember from that day was sitting in a small conference room at a regional hotel chain listening to one of many amazing talks that I had heard from Dr. Perkins. That was when he said those words, “Christ is the only way we will ever have true racial reconciliation with each other. Christ is the way.”

We had already been traveling a few days together. 25 people from a primarily white church and 25 people from a primarily African American church learning about history, Godly Justice and about…well…each other.  Our seven day journey together was an intense day of truth, passion, revelation and above all…love. So after a while, I lost track of the days and became lost in the conversations, the new relationships, and the new hope that was born through everything we had learned together. The power of Christ to bring about reconciliation, mutual love, and true community is overwhelmingly real.

One of the greatest blessings of that journey and great blessings of my life was to meet and learn from Dr. John M. Perkins. I don’t know of many people who have walked on this earth who have embodied and portrayed the love of Christ more then this man.  I learned countless things from that man in our short time together. Over the next few days I want to finally write down my thoughts about just a few things I have learned from Dr. Perkins as a living reminder that I experienced the love of Christ “with skin on” when I met him and as an exhortation to carry on his legacy.

In the mean time…Here is some info to introduce you to this Kingdom Hero.

Two of my favorite books:

 Other Info

I.T. Availability Management
(Facts & Fiction)

Availability What?

So here’s the scenario. One of the many hats you are wearing at the non-profit organization that you work for is to oversee I.T. services. In this role you are asked to find a new hosted service to manage payroll. You are very familiar with the business processes that support payroll functions for your organization and you have narrowed the candidates to just a few options. As you review the services they offer, you make your way down to the section that describes the “availability” of their service and it reads something like “We provide 99.999% availability” or “Availability: Five 9s.”

You don’t have a technical background, and you aren’t sure what this means. However, someone told you that whatever service you contract with needs to offer “Five 9s of availability so that is what you are looking for in a service. Still, since you really aren’t sure what term means you decide to search the internet on the topic of “Five 9s” to educate yourself on the subject. Your search yields a variety of results from exact calculations to abstract ideas and definitions of “Five 9s.”

Here’s the deal. It is a generally accepted practice to communicate the availability of a service as a percentage, (i.e. 99.999%). However, the term Five 9s or 99.999% can be misleading. It has almost become more of a marketing term than a true calculation of the availability of an I.T. service. With that in mind, rather than give you an availability table with percentages and their corresponding timeframes, I would rather share with you how to wisely and intelligently analyze technology service availability and introduce you to the subject of availability management..

Why?

Organizations continue to grow in their reliance on third party vendors to provide application, infrastructure and support services to meet their technology needs. Many of these services are accessed through an internet browser and all that is required for many of these services is a decent internet connect. This means that in many situations, business units other than I.T. are making decisions about technology solutions that were once the sole responsibility of the I.T. department. Technology providers take advantage of this knowledge gap and gloss over certain technical details. The result is that the customer ends up paying for more availability than they need or they end up having a false sense of security that the service they are paying for will be there when they need it. With this in mind, I am not necessarily making a plug for I.T. departments and I am not saying that many of these decisions should continue to fall under I.T. departments. As technology becomes more and more democratized, decisions for how technology is used in an organization has also moved beyond the boundaries of I.T. departments.

How?

With all of this in mind, Here are a couple tips to help the business manager in a non-profit make an educated analysis when it comes to managing the “availability” risk of an I.T. service they are investigating:

1. Start with a standard Definition of Availability

A generally accepted definition of availability as it applies to I.T. Services is the: Ability of a Configuration Item or IT Service to perform its agreed Function when required. (Note: A configuration item or CI is just a fancy term for computer, server, device, etc.) Translation: Will the service I am paying for be there when I need it.?

For example, let’s say that you are looking are a new hosted payroll system. Rather than looking for five 9s of availability, or 3 nines of availability or whatever, ask yourself the following question instead. Will this service be available when I need it?  You may conclude that you need to this service to be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday Through Friday. From this point of view the question of percentage of availability really is really only relevant to the times that you need to access the service.

Google Apps is usually available 99.9% of the time. That is 3 nines of availability for those of you keeping score. This means that I can expect that Google apps may not be available for up to around 43.8 minutes a month. On one hand that seems like a lot of down-time. However, one the other hand, I can’t remember a time when I could not access my Google apps account. Therefore, it has been available when I have needed. In this case “3 nines” of availability has been more that enough for me. If I allowed myself to get caught up in a sales pitch that tried to convince me that though their service costs more, they offer “Five 9s” of availability, I would be paying for more for that service than needed.

2. Understand what goes into the availability of a Service.

Gaining a clear understanding of the concept of availability when it comes to technology services can be challenging.  Even a service like a credit card processing service that claims to be available 99.999% of the time could add little value to an organization if there is a pattern of service interruptions; even if the interruptions are only a few seconds a day. Learning the factors that go into calculating availability can clarify confusion and help to ensure that the service you are paying for will be available when you need it.

According to ITILv3, Availability is determined by Reliability, Maintainability, Serviceability, Performance and Security.

  • Reliability is a measure of how long a Configuration Item or IT Service can perform its agreed Function without interruption.
  • Maintainability  is a measure of how quickly and Effectively a Configuration Item or IT Service can be restored to normal working after a failure. In the case of Software as a Service, maintainability can also be applied as a measure of how easy it is to make changes and/or repairs to the software.
  • Serviceability  refers to the “contractual conditions with a given supplier covering the availability of, and the conditions under which the contractual conditions are valid for, a Configuration Item or system.
  • Performance  is  measure of what is achieved or delivered by a System, person, team, Process or IT Service.
  • Security is defined as the “process of ensuring that services are used in an appropriate way by the appropriate people.”

I will dig into each of the items listed above in future posts. However, even a basic understanding of the elements that determine the availability of a technology service can go along way toward helping you craft intelligent analysis questions like:

  • How often is the performance of the service impacted by unplanned interruptions?
  • How long do service interruptions last on average?
  • What are the terms and conditions as to when the promise of availability is in effect?
  • What needs to be achieved in order to call the service available? For example, in the case of an online credit card processor, they might commit to a certain level of availability for credit card processing but exclude access to reporting from that commitment.
  • To whom does the service need to be available in order to label the service as available? What are the conditions for that availability. For example, I know of a service provider that blocked access to the admin dashboard to anyone who tried to gain access from a specific location for 24 hours because of too many failed login attempts. It was a documented security measure that released the the provider from any availability commitments. It was disruptive to the user. However, the disruption was at least expected.

3. Examine References, Customer Forums, Product Reviews and the Provider Directly

I believe one of the most effective ways to manage risk when it comes to the Availability of a technology service that I am investigating is to take questions like the ones I mentioned above and apply them to references, customer forums, product reviews as well as to the provider directly. Many service providers claim Five 9s of availability. In today’s social media crazed world we live in, it is not hard to find information about technology services that we are interested in. You might search an independent forum on the reliability of a specific I.T. service that you are researching. If you notice that there have been availability issues, You might post some additional questions asking how long service interruptions last. You might inquire as to how the service provider handled the outage. Did they honor their commitment to provide service credits if offered? You might even ask the service provider how they came up with their availability percentage figures, or what the timeframe is that they use to make their availability calculations, (e.g. monthly, annually, billing cycle, 24/7, 8/5).

Conclusion

As more and more organizations rely on 3rd party technology services to support their operational requirements, it is important for organizations to have a clear understanding about what they can expect when it comes managing the availability risks of the technology services they rely on.

Key points to successful availability management include:

  • A clear generally accepted standard definition of availability (Will the service be available when I need it?)
  • A clear understanding of when you need to access the service
  • A clear understanding of the elements that determine availability
  • A concise list of questions that highlight availability elements
  • A simple application of those questions as they apply to references, customer forums, product reviews and even the service provider directly

The points we covered in this post are not prescriptive or exhaustive. However, I hope that this information helps my friends who spend the best hours of their days helping non-profits run smoothly avoid costly surprises that lower productivity and momentum.

Further Reading/Study

What If… This Christmas

As Christmas day draws near and we come to the close of another year, I find myself reflecting a great deal on all that has happened in our world over the past 12 months. This has been a remarkable year. From social and political revolutions to amazing feats of athleticism to terrible accidents and natural disasters to senseless acts of violence to making the invisible victims of injustice…visible. We have watched as oppressed people around the world tasted freedom for the first time. We witnessed a young woman fight for her rights to be educated. We experienced the dramatic and personal tensions of a heated presidential election. We looked on as a man broke the sound barrier during an amazing 24-mile jump from the stratosphere and as one human race, we all died a little with each horrific mass shooting that occurred around the world.

Throughout our struggles for meaning, purpose and peace, even in the face of extreme tragedy and pain, I never cease to be amazed at the tenacity, drive, passion and relentless will that has surged from the human spirit throughout history.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

I really am amazed by all that humanity has accomplished almost in spite of itselt. And I have no doubt that, left to ourselves this “quintessence of dust” has an almost unlimited potential to overcome any tragedy and accomplish incredible feats of greatness. But therein lies that challenge, doesn’t it? It is in that fateful word almost.

As humans we long for perfection, we long for beauty, we long for justice, we long to find the center of all that is good. Yet we seldom find it. There is something missing. As we enter this Christmas season, I am not making a preachy plea for religion and I am not painting some romanticized view of Christmas. Furthermore, in light of the very recent mass shooting that occurred at Sandy Brook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, I find myself questioning all hope for any future of peace on our planet. Nevertheless, I still ask the world to consider one idea.

I think it is reasonable to accept that while humans can know both good and evil, they can’t always choose good. Perhaps there have been one or two individuals throughout history who have come close, but even they would say that even their choices in life have not always been good. Even the best people in history would most likely say that they even made choices that were hurtful or harmful to others. So with the tension of our age old struggle between good and evil in the background, here is the idea.

What if for just a moment, you considered the idea that there is a real God who created everything in the universe?  What if just for a moment, you striped away all religion and tradition?  What if, just for a moment, you forgot big words like theology and divinity?  What if you buried all the baggage that humanity has piled up seeking God and seeking to use Him for their own gain throughout history?  What if you kept just the bare essence of His words and finally, what if, just for a moment, you believed that this real God also knows good and evil? Except, this real God only chooses good..all the time.

With this idea in mind and everything else stripped away, it would just be you and God. Now that it is just you and God I can get to the significant questions. What if the longing that is at the center of the soul of all humankind really is for God…to really know Him…to be known by him?  What if God really longs for us the same way we long for him? And finally…What if God’s way for us to connect really is through the crazy idea that he would send His Son to earth to overcome our inability to always do good, to teach us how to love, to fulfill justice by dying for our sins and to overcome death by being raised back to life from the grave?

It’s all crazy to consider, I know. But what if, with all the baggage stripped away,  the concept of God and Jesus are more than just a nice idea. What if the stories are true. We know that humanity can do great things all by ourselves. But I wonder what we might accomplish if God were really at the center of our actions. Please don’t get me wrong, I have no desire for society to go back into the dark ages where the world was led by superstition and fear. Candidly if we are honest with ourselves, with all the senseless violence in our world, have we ever stopped following superstition and fear?With this in mind, isn’t it ironic that with all of our great accomplishments throughout history our longings for justice and peace seem to be just as strong as ever.

What if this Christmas we took God at his word? What if, without all the fog that has clouded our view of God throughout history we simply believed that Jesus is the only way for people living in darkness to see a great light and to have a light dawn for people living in the land of the shadow of death, Matt. 4:16

What if … This Christmas…

I.T. Solutions For Really Small Churches

I have not taken to opportunity to write about technology for some time. There are so many people writing on the subject, I guess I really didn’t think that I had anything to offer that would add value to the already overwhelming flow of information out there on the subject. Nevertheless, over the past several years I have had the opportunity to work with very small churches and other organizations who have very little or no budget and expertise to leverage I.T. resources to support their initiatives. These churches may have a desktop computer for the office and the paster may have a notebook. However, they don’t have money to hire consultants and they don’t know where else to turn. In these cases I do my best to volunteer some time to get them started up in such a way that their need for any additional I.T. expertise is minimal. The good news is, with a little initiative and a willingness to learn some basic consumer computer skills, there are some great options out there for even the smallest organizations to gain access to technology services that, in the past, have only been available to larger companies. This post offers an overview of some of solutions that I have used successfully over the years.

The Big Disclaimer…

I mention various brand name service providers in this post for the purposes of providing examples. However, please do not consider any of these examples to be an official recommendations for these brands. While I have had a measure of success with the services I have used, I just want to be clear that I attempting to sell these services in this post.

Prerequisites

This post presumes the following:

  • You already have at least one computer.
    It doesn’t matter if it is PC or Mac. There are pro and cons to both platforms. The Mac offers my personal favorite set of features that balances out great, easy to use, tools for communicating, administrating and leading organizations. The downside of Mac in my opinion is that it is expensive. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Macbook for under $1000.00.  You can get a great deal of value on the PC side. I recently purchase a really nice little Asus notebook for a church in Chicago with a full multi-year “accidental damage” warranty for quite a bit less than 1000.00. Whichever direction you go, you will need at least one computer, preferably a notebook, as opposed to desktop to get anything out of this post.
  • Wireless Network Interface Controller (WNIC) – Commonly called a WiFi adapter – When you go to purchase your computer. You will want to make sure it has a WNIC or WiFi adapter. You don’t need to know all the details about how it works at this point. However, the wireless adapter is the little device that connects your computer to the world. Most newer computers have them these days. You just want to be sure yours has one. In my opinion, 90% of the value offered through your computer with be because of this connection.
  • A note about tablets and other…
    There is a blinding amount of options when it comes to personal computing options in this day and age. I do believe that more and more real business and productivity solutions are moving into packages that fit in the palm of your hand. Mobile, cloud connected technology is the future, and for many, that future is now. However, if you are just starting out today, you will get the most value from a notebook computer with a display that is not smaller than 13 inches. You’ll be using this thing for everything from managing church expenses to writing sermons to posting a video message to Vimeo to updating your churches Facebook page. You need something that offers mobility, versatility, computing power and the option of installing some traditional applications. A notebook is still the best option for this; especially if, as the pastor of your church, you are the only official staff member.

Technology Options

OK…now that we have all the disclaimers and prerequisites out of the way let’s dive into some technology options for that really small church who doesn’t have access to a lot of technology resources.

 

# 1-  Starbucks

Here’s the scenario. You are just getting started. You may have internet at home and you may not. You need to place that doesn’t have the distractions of home, yet you can’t afford an office space…enter Starbucks. Most Starbucks offer free WiFi. I know it is not for everyone. However, even though I have access to a tremendous amount of computer resources, I still prefer to work at Starbucks from time to time. Get yourself a nice cup of coffee, or tea, a snack,  find a comfortable place to sit and there you have it; a nice little work space complete with an internet connection.  Now you can access your email, share information, do research for sermons, etc.

 #2 – Internet Connection

Depending on where you live you can acquire internet service for your church for somewhere between $15 and $100 dollars a month. I realize that even $15.00 a month can be a great deal of money when your church is very small or when you are just starting out, however, out of all the technology choices available today, I rank an internet connection among the highest priorities of any organization’s expenses. The internet is the Roman’s Road of the 21st century. Through this connection to the world, you have countless resources at your disposal. Since this global network is also interactive, you have the opportunity to interact with broader circles of people than ever before in history. Furthermore, the internet is not some fluffy white “cloud.” It can be quite dark and stormy in places, even dangerous; full of things that are good, bad and very ugly. Like any other dark place in our world, This cloud, as it is referred to, needs our presence. I can only imagine how Paul might have used the internet to distribute his epistles to churches in his day if he was not limited to the relatively closed 55,000 mile network of Roman Roads and Shipping routes.

#3 – Internet Hosting & Cloud Services

Not long ago, internet hosting was really something people only thought of to host websites on the internet. Today with a relatively small monthly fee hosting providers offer a great deal more value for the money. The buzz word for all of this is “Cloud Services.” This can include a wide range of services from email and file storage to even complex networking and software services like domain name services, church management services, database platforms and even application development platforms. In Short, small churches can gain access to many of the complex network infrastructure services that larger organizations use to operate their organizations. The difference is, where larger organizations pay hundreds, thousands and more to operate services locally, your costs can start at between $5 and $15 a month. The fees for these “cloud” services are becoming so cost effective that even large companies have started to migrate toward them. As an example, I have used 1and1.com to provide services to small and large organizations for several years now. For around $10/month I get access to unlimited webspace, unlimited monthly web traffic, email service, 1000 email addresses, a registered domain name, website hosting tools, unlimited files storage, one free SSL certificate to secure a website and much more. I even get secure access to create up to 50 databases along with access to several standard open source developer platforms. It is like having access to an entire technology infrastructure at the click of a mouse.

#4 Google Apps

If I was writing this a year ago, I would probably be more enthusiastic about sharing information about free products like Google Apps. I have had a good measure of success rolling this product out to small churches and other organizations. Let’s face it, exchange is expensive and complicated to roll out. However, it does have a really nice offering to non-profits; even if they are faith based. Nevertheless, Google’s offering of 10 free named users is hard to beat. Especially if have little or no local network storage to speak of, or little or to office space to work in. Google Apps gives you a nice set of productivity tools to edit and share documents, calendars, contacts and more. In my opinion, it is easy enough to set up

How to Manually Install Adobe Flash on a nabi Tabet (Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich)

I have had the great privilege of working with a tremendous non-profit organization for the past couple days. The organization is WatchKnowLearn. They have developed an amazing free educational wiki along with a very effective tool for help kids learn to read called Reading Bear, http://www.readingbear.org.

This Adobe Flash based system is easily accessed over a browser and requires very little to no configuration and technical expertise from teachers and students to use. All content has been assembled by highly training and qualified professionals. It is a pretty amazing system that offers free access to quality educational materials to everyone.

The Challenge.

Flash is increasingly losing support on many platforms, the latest being Google Android. The problem is that there are many educational programs written on this platform that can benefit from mobile access to their services. In this case WatchKnowLearn has equipped a pre-school in the Orange Mound area with durable Nabi tablets to access their Reading Bear program. The tablets needed an update in their local flash player installs in order to run the program correctly. With Adobe/Google Android support waning on this platform the update is no longer available on Google Play. This post walked through the steps for manually installing flash on a Nabi device.

99.999% of the credit for this post goes to Chris Campbell from Adobe who posted steller step by step instructions out on Adobe’s Flash Player FAQ forum. You can read directly at http://forums.adobe.com/thread/1061194?tstart=0.

Since I will be visiting the site today in order to install this Flash Update I am posting some additional Nabi specific instructions to help me and others do this process in the future.

Prerequisites

There really is only one major prerequisite that I can think of and that is that this manual install is only tested up to Android Version 4.0.4 – Ice Cream Sandwich. There is no doubt that I will be working on getting flash to work on later versions of Android but for now this is a solution for Nabi tablet devices running Android Version 4.0.4.

I have had the great privilege of working with a tremendous non-profit organization for the past couple days. The organization is WatchKnowLearn, http://www.watchknowlearn.com. They have developed an amazing free educational wiki along with a very effective tool to help kids learn to read called Reading Bear, http://www.readingbear.org.

This Adobe Flash based system is easily accessed over a browser and requires very little to no configuration and technical expertise from teachers and students to use. All content has been assembled by highly trained and qualified professionals. It is a pretty amazing system that offers free access to quality educational materials to everyone.

The Challenge.

Flash is increasingly losing support on many platforms, the latest being Google Android. The problem is that there are many educational programs written on this platform that can benefit from mobile access to their services. In this case, WatchKnowLearn has equipped a pre-school in the Orange Mound area with durable Nabi tablets to access their Reading Bear program. The tablets needed an update in their local flash player installs in order to run the program correctly. With Adobe/Google Android support waning on this platform, the update is no longer available on Google Play. This document provides steps for manually installing flash on a Nabi 2 device.

99.999% of the credit for this post goes to Chris Campbell from Adobe who posted stellar step by step instructions out on Adobe’s Flash Player FAQ forum. You can read directly at http://forums.adobe.com/thread/1061194?tstart=0

The instructions provided in the link above are instructions for manually installing Adobe Flash on an Android device. This document focuses primarily on performing this procedure on nabi2 devices.

For more information regarding Nabi2 tablets, visit http://www.nabitablet.com

Notice:

The steps provided in this document have only been tested on Nabi2 devices running Android Version 4.0.4 – Ice Cream Sandwich.

 

Download

Feel free to download pdf and word formats of this help document.

Download PDF Version, Download Word Version


Step 1 – Place tablet into “Mommy” or “Daddy” mode.

 

What You Do

What You See

A

 

Touch Menu Button located in the lower left corner of the nabi screen.

B

Touch “Mommy Mode” icon.

C

Enter “Mommy Mode” password then touch the “Submit” button.

 

Step 2 – Allow Installation of non-Market Apps

 

What You Do

What You See

A.

Locate and touch “Settings” icon on nabi home screen.

B.

Select Security

C.

Make sure that there is a check mark in the “Unknown sources” check box.

D.

Touch “OK” when prompted with warning

E.

Touch home button to return to home screen

 


Step 3 – Install Flash Update

 

What You Do

What You See

A.

Touch Maxthon Browser icon on Nabi home screen Icon to launch Maxthon Browser.

B.

Go to  http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions. htmlLook for and touch
Flash Player 11.1 for Android
4.0 (11.1.115.27)
 

C.

Touch the OK button to launch the Download Manager and start the download process.  

D.

Once Download has completed, touch the “install_flash_player_ics.apk file in the Download manager screen.This will launch the Flash installer.  

E.

If a version of Flash has already been installed, Touch OK on the Replace application screen.  

F.

Touch the “Install” Button  

G.

Touch Done after the application is installed  

 

Step 4 – Exit “Mommy” Mode

 

What You Do

What You See

A

Touch “nabi Mode” icon
to place tablet back in nabi mode.
 

 

 

 

Step 5 – Test Installation

 

What You Do

What You See

A.

Touch “Web” icon in nabi home screen to launch browser.

B.

Visit http://www.readingbear.comand touch any of the reading courses at the bottom of the home page to start a presentation.The following link should also produce a valid testhttp://www.readingbear.org/Presentation.aspx?PresentationID=1&Part=1

C.

A successful test should result in all presentation videos playing successfully.

 

 

Glossary

 

Maxthon Browser
Lets you set up a safe web environment by creating a safe list of websites you want to allow your kids to access. – http://www.maxthon.com

  

Mommy Mode
In Mommy/Daddy Mode, parents can enjoy the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich environment without kid-safe restrictions. When your kids are at school or asleep, you can watch your favorite movie or TV show, download music or do some online shopping. Mommy/Daddy Mode features an Android browser and a Maxthon Browser, its own application store, as well as all the utilities commonly found in the Android environment. http://www.nabitablet.com