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Technology I Am Thankful For...

‘Tis the season to be thankful and recognize the little things that we take for granted in our day to day lives. Everyone reading this article has access to or owns some sort of internet enabled device. This message was never printed and distributed in a hardcopy form so the only way to access it is through a computer. Over the past 15 years the world has shrunk thanks to the internet. With it, we are able to instantly share, collaborate, communicate, and even see live video from people and places all over the world. Without this technology we wouldn’t be able to watch the Panda cam at the National Zoo or check Tokyo’s weather at a moment notice.

The internet doesn’t mean anything unless people like you and I contribute to it. Connecting us all was only the first step; it’s doing something with that connection that makes it all worthwhile. Major news outlets are able to send in live reports to their home stations from anywhere in the world while at the same time a single villager can also live tweet the raid on Osama bin Laden’s home to the entire world. Everything from videos, documents, pictures, and gifts can now be accessed and shared to virtually anyone in the world with just a few simple clicks. It’s what lets businesses communicate instantly with their customers no matter where they are and allows a soldier overseas Skype with his or her family back home. Ideas and opinions are shared on message boards every day between people who otherwise never would have connected.

 Without the invention of the internet our world would not be as it is today. There would be no Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google. Encyclopedias would still be hot commodities and great late night infomercials.  All communication would have to be done on the phone, in person, or by a handwritten letter or note. Thanks to the internet for keeping us all connected and dialed in.

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Information Technology Gratitude: Redundancy

Redundancy in the IT field describes any hardware, software, or network setup in which there is duplication of components or functions of the system to allow for continued operation in the event of a failure. There are many types of possible redundant components and systems which can help servers, networks, and businesses to continue functioning uninterrupted even when a normally critical piece of the puzzle is broken. Did we mention that redundancy allows for continued operation in the event of a failure? In the IT field, being redundant can be very beneficial.

RAID

One of the most common redundant technologies is RAID, which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Numerous options can be selected for a RAID setup for a server or computer depending on the controller. The most common RAID levels are RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. Each have their own fault tolerance and performance characteristics. In general, RAID levels above RAID 0 allow for a server or computer to continue functioning normally with no data loss even if one or more hard drives fails, depending on the RAID level.

For example, RAID 0 can be setup with 2 or more hard drives, and the storage, read, and write performance characteristics are multiplied by the number of drives. This means that there is more storage space and the data can be read/written faster resulting in a quicker server or computer. However, RAID 0 has zero fault tolerance or redundancy – just one failed drive means all data in the array is lost and now an attempt must be made to restore from a backup (RAID 0 is not recommended for servers for this reason). However, the higher RAID levels allow for fault tolerance. For example, in a RAID 1 setup, there are generally two identical hard drives in the array, but the total storage space is equivalent to just one hard drive. In addition to increasing read performance, a RAID 1 array allows for one of the hard drives to fail – the computer or server does not lose any data even with a single failed hard drive! RAID 10 essentially combines the best of both worlds from RAID 1 and RAID 0, providing faster read/write performance and allowing for up to two failed drives in a four-drive array (one failed drive per “pair”). Although the storage space is cut in half, this is often a good choice for servers. At Machado Consulting, we set up hardware “health” monitoring on every client server and, if the server supports RAID monitoring (as virtually all newer Dell/HP servers do), we are alerted to a failed drive and replace it before there is any noticeable impact. It is important to replace failed drives because no RAID array allows for all drives to fail without data loss. Although RAID is not a complete replacement for a good backup solution, it often allows for hard drive replacements before there are any noticeable problems and is a great example of redundancy.

Other Examples

There are many other examples of redundancy, including dual internet lines to a router (in case one of the ISP’s has an outage), dual power supplies on servers (usually plugged into two different UPSs or with one plugged into the wall so that the server continues running even with a power failure on one supply), and even redundant “clusters” of servers (e.g. setting up two or more hosts running “virtual servers” with VMware “Fault Tolerance”, which allows for continuous availability of the “virtual servers” even if one of the physical servers goes offline). Feel free to drop us a line any time to see how these (and more) redundant solutions can be implemented at your company!

Further Reading:

http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/How-to-plan-and-manage-datacentre-redundancy

http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/features.html

http://www.enterprisestorageforum.com/sans/features/article.php/3855631/RAID-Storage-Levels-Explained.htm

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Technology I Am Thankful For...

Those of us that have lived the majority of our adult lives with cell phones do not even think about what we would do without them. We have grown with them and have integrated them into a part of our lives. Those of you that remember what it was like before they existed most likely don’t think about it either but you could get by without them. On the other hand, those that have grown up with a cell phone in their hand might find it a bit more difficult. I don’t know that I would find it easy to live without mine.

Just the other day I was stuck in heavy traffic on my way home and my phone was dead. Without my phone I could not find an alternate route to take, I could not listen to my favorite music which is all on the internet, and I could not even let my girlfriend know that I was running late. We take them for granted but what if you were stuck on the side of the road without a working phone? You may have to walk for miles before finding someone who could help you. It seems that before cell phones existed people just suffered without them but since they had never had one, it didn’t seem all that bad.

I was waiting for the elevator the other day and I decided to pull out my phone and check Facebook while I waited. Another gentleman came up next to me as he was also waiting for the elevator. Once inside he asked me, “What would we do nowadays if we couldn’t stare at our phones while we waited for things?” I agreed as I don’t really know. Imagine standing there waiting for something without being able to look at Facebook or check your email or play that level in Candy Crush you’ve been trying to beat for three weeks. I wouldn’t want to be stuck waiting with nothing to entertain myself.

Have you ever been asked a question and did not know the answer and it just continued to eat away at you until you figured out the answer? This used to happen to me all the time until I got a smartphone. Now I am the king of random facts that you never thought you would need to know, and probably didn’t need to know. When someone asks me a question and I do not know the answer, I know one way to find out. I pull out my phone and go straight to Google. In a matter of seconds I have multiple answers and explanations at my fingertips. I can’t imagine having to wait until I got home to open my laptop and Google the answer from there.

Last, but definitely not least, are text messages. Remember when you had to call people just to ask them a quick question? You would often end up stuck on the phone talking to this person for a long period of time causing you to forget what you were trying to do and even what the answer to your question was. Now you can just send the person a quick text message and they can answer your questions without getting into a lengthy conversation. I have to say I am very thankful for cell phones and do not know what I would do without mine.

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Technology I Am Thankful For...

There are a lot of different technologies that we should all be thankful for. Lithium ion batteries, Cellular Phones, Wireless internet, DVR, the list goes on and on. But for me, the one technology that I am the most thankful for cost twelve billion dollars to invent and involves eighteen satellites, six in each of the three orbital planes spaced 120º apart. This is all for Global Positioning Satellites or GPS. Without GPS most of us would be lost, literally. One of my first jobs was as a pizza delivery person. I cannot even count the amount of times I got lost because I did not have a GPS or more importantly they were not quite invented yet.

The GPS project was developed in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems. GPS as we know it today was originally created for the US Department of Defense and included only 24 satellites. It took over two decades for it to finally become fully operational in 1994. The original system was accurate to within several yards and the GPS units were quite large. In the past few years, GPS has come a long way. Modern GPS units can fit inside a match box and are accurate within just centimeters.

Nowadays, just about everyone uses GPS. It is in most of our cars, boats and planes use it as their sole form of navigation, and all of our cellphones have it (even non-smart phones for 911 location services). I don’t know how I or the rest of the world got along without it. This is why I am thankful for GPS.

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Technology I Am Thankful For...

Since I am the only “non-technical” person in the office, I don’t have much experience with a wide variety of technologies. I use the basics: my laptop at home, desktop at the office, TV, cell phone, etc. I am admittedly one of those people that would be completely lost without her cell phone. It is never more than an arm’s length away from me at all times. I always have a charger on me because I drain my battery so quickly! Despite all that, my cell phone is not the technology I am most thankful for.

I’m not quite sure if you could count Facebook as technology, but me being a “non-technical” person, I am going to do just that. I am so very thankful for Facebook. The status updates, the funny e-Cards, silly pictures, I love it all. I wake up in the morning and it’s the first thing I check before getting out of bed.

The biggest reason I love Facebook (more than I probably should) is so I can keep in touch with people. I went to school and lived in New York City for seven years. I worked for my college’s athletic department and was in a sorority. A majority of my friends still live in the city and a few are scattered across the country. I’m able to keep up to date on how the latest pledge class is doing and read minutes from sorority meetings. I get to see pictures from a buddy working at a college in California. I was able to talk to one of my oldest friends while he was serving in Afghanistan. And most importantly, I get to stay in touch with my absolute best friend Tina who has been living in Bogota, Columbia for the past two years.

If it wasn’t for the joys of Facebook, I would not be able to keep in touch with my social network as well as I can now. True, I could pick up a phone or write a letter, which both have their charm and appeal. But it’s great being able to still be so closely connected to friends that are a few states or entire continents away. So this Thanksgiving, I will be giving thanks to Mark Zuckerberg for giving me the best time waster/best way to keep in contact with friends there is.

You can also always check out the Machado Consulting Facebook page to stay up to date with the latest happenings with us!

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