Archive for ‘April, 2015’

Data Protection – The Human Element

“Everyone is replaceable.” a business owner once sternly told me at a company I was working with. While highly applicable in the industrial age, how does this statement resonate in the our modern business world so heavily dependent on technology and knowledge workers? Regardless of industry, more and more our businesses are dependent on the organizational aspect of information storage and understanding processes and design of technology infrastructure systems. How do we ensure this information is protected, transferable, and easily interpreted by the “next in line”? Is it truly possible to document every granular detail of our systems design, and our daily operational processes? Does the result always resemble a “needle in the haystack” ominous mass totaling thousands of pages of mostly mundane filler with a few critical points buried here and there? Here are a few thoughts regarding the organization and management of your companies most crucial information, which from my experience far too many businesses leave in the minds of key employees.

Flow diagrams and clearly stated configuration documentation remains the tried and true basis for all electronic systems. Whether network infrastructure or social marketing efforts; the ability to easily locate devices, providers, credentials; and decipher hierarchy of process flow is crucial. Imagine the reader is presented the information without basis, no predecessor to explain nuances. Is the information clear and accurate? A single piece of incomplete or obsolete information can take hours or days to correctly obtain.

Have a System – Business Management Software
Implementing business management systems take processes out of people’s head and information flow becomes tangible, systematic, repeatable, and less apt to be individually interpreted. Just because you know that an inventory list exists in a spreadsheet named MyWidgets.xls on the N:\ drive does not mean anyone else will intuitively locate that information. The days of adequately running your business from a massive shared folder hierarchy and homegrown spreadsheets are long behind us. The upcoming workforce expects processes to be clear, defined, and a benefit to their position rather than a cumbersome burden to carry or maintain. If you don’t have it, your competition does.

Real-time Interaction
Early electronic systems required A LOT of work to maintain. This generated many IT clichés such as “The data OUT is only as good as the data put IN…”. It also created fear for many business owners, thinking that in addition to investing into a system, they will need to increase staff just to manage the system. Mobile devices have turned these assumptions upside down. Forward thinking and well designed business management systems interact directly with our workforce processes. This means we collect our information directly from the source, not after the fact as an afterthought or documentation effort. Features and functionality of our business systems need to be inline with other technology selections and choices we are making. We want our systems to be and stay cohesive with each other, as incompatible components can wreak havoc to the overall flow of information.

Dashboard Decisions
Just as our vehicles dashboard is crucial to safe and consistent travel, the information provided by our management system becomes a living, breathing aspect of our business operations. Owners who once boasted a sixth sense of “gut-feel” are systematically outperformed by those who know the “real-deal” from information provided by our management systems. Systems that are able to combine sales and operational data give us new insight to how our business performs over the life of a customer, from the first time we meet them to the Nth repeat transaction.

This perspective is not provided to sell or promote any particular product. It is however intended to help when considering the cost vs. benefit of implementing yet another layer of technology into our digital ecosystem. Business management software undoubtedly increases the overall complexity of a businesses infrastructure. With it comes the risk of yet another security vulnerability and dependence on a software vendor. However it seems an undeniable necessity to todays expectations of productivity and accountability.

Finally, security hardware catches up with the 21st Century

The Downlow – We’ve been waiting. Watching various providers market the futuristic ‘Jetsons’ home that is completely automated from the touch of our smartphone. This technology is up and coming, and works great today with even greater promise for tomorrow. However, in reality 90% of the time you will be interacting with your system from the main panel. It is the device seen hanging on the wall, probably near your main entry, that you walk by hundreds of times each week. The brains behind your system, it controls everything from managing the security and automation points to informing the viewer of current status. The security devices we have tested to date have been, well, lackluster. When it comes to Touchscreen in the security world, Fisher Price makes a better unit in the ‘5 and Under’ section. To someone who spends their day with technology and depends on an arsenal of laptop/tablet/smartphone for productivity, units tested from major security players have been very disappointing in the area of ergonomics, control, user interface, and aesthetics. (Putting a glossy-grey piece of cardboard around a 2.5″ depression-sensitive screen does not make a 10″ ‘Touchscreen’ in our book)

The player. We have actually discussed wall-mounting an Android Tablet as the main control point, and installing the ‘actual’ control out of sight in a utility area. Fortunately Qolsys has beat us to the punch and released a fully functional control unit based on a 7″ Android Tablet. And it actually looks and works like you would expect in the modern world.

Check out the video below for a fast-paced overview.

Security Qolsys Controller

Security and automation in a modern container

  • 7″ Touchscreen
  • Cellular/WiFi/Z-Wave Radio’s
  • Camera
  • Speaker/Microphone
  • Siren
  • 24-Hour Battery Backup
  • SD Card Slot