Friday, November 14, 2014

MBS' Recommended Backup Strategies

A client recently asked why we spec the backup solutions we do. It was a great question!

First, let me say that anytime you get ten network engineers in a room and ask for the best way to do something, you'll likely get at least ten different answers. That doesn't mean they're all wrong, just that based on each one's experience a particular strategy has become their preference.

MBS' Recommended Backup Strategies
We did some fairly heavy research not too long ago on the subject of backup systems. There are lots of possibilities, but we found that tape was still preferred by most of corporate America that had small-to-medium sized networks-- and even some very large systems like digital media archives.

Here's what we learned:
  • Large networks rely on SAN devices (Storage Area Networks) in larger onsite and offsite datacenters, and their replication capabilities make backups unnecessary. Those devices typically cost a minimum of $25-$30 thousand each, and larger units cost six figures. (Some people try to accomplish SANs on the cheap using Drobo and Buffalo drives, but they're unreliable; in our opinion they're not enterprise grade.) For our largest clients we recommend using SAN devices.
  • Online backup is good for restoring single files or folders, but is inadequate for restoring entire servers in a disaster. And disaster recovery is something that must be planned for. This is the strategy we only recommend for our friends' home computers.
  • External hard drives seem like a good idea except that they have many moving parts that, when transported offsite (which should happen often as part of the disaster recovery plan), can-- and often do-- fail. The manufacturers will replace them under warranty, but without any data on them; not good if that happens during a disaster recovery scenario. We never recommend this strategy.
  • Tape technology continues to move forward in development. Our clients typically only need LTO5 or LTO6 (Linear Tape-Open) specs (1.5tb and 2.5tb native capacities), but LTO7 - LTO10 are slated for release. I'll be surprised if they get there, however, because an organization with that much data will usually be at the size where they're investing in SANs.
MBS' Datacenter
In our datacenter we use SANs that send their backups to another enterprise-grade device called a NAS (for Network Attached Storage) that has large capacity. We use that strategy in the datacenter because we're not there to change tapes on a daily basis.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2015 ChMS Article Posted!

Every year I get the privilege of writing an article that lists the leaders of the church and donor management software providers. There are a few other similar ChMS selection tools available, but this annual article is the most referenced tool out there! Perhaps because of its comprehensive simplicity. Perhaps because of its objectivity. Definitely because of The Lord's favor.

The Church Network (formerly NACBA) is the publisher, and they do a great job with it! It's also published by other publications and associations, and I post a copy on my firm, MBS's website.

If you'd like to see a copy of the article, here's a link to it on MBS's website:  http://www.mbsinc.com/church-donor-management-software-chms!

Monday, November 3, 2014

iOS 8.1


Apple released iOS 8, then iOS 8.0.1, then iOS 8.0.2. And that was good.

Then they released iOS 8.1, and it was very good! I recommend upgrading as soon as you can! And if you've got an iPhone 6 or 6+ or one of the newest iPads, you get to enjoy secure purchase transactions via their excellent Apple Pay app! (see http://www.mbsinc.com/digital-wallets/ for more info on Apple Pay)

Friday, October 31, 2014

New Article about CITRT - The Community of Church IT People

Most people who work at churches and ministries are in behind-the-scenes positions. There is a group of these modern day heroes of The Faith who focus on IT that began gathering as peers in 2006 to and encourage each other. They have formed the Church IT Network, and their impact is huge!

If you'd like to read this article, click here!

Monday, October 20, 2014

OSX 10.10 - Yosemite

Apple released the latest version of their Mac operating system last week, OSX 10.10, dubbed Yosemite. It is the second version of OSX after the big cat series (Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion), and like it's predecessor (Mavericks) is a free update. But is it ready?

A Little History
Mavericks (OSX 10.9) was free, but made a lot of folks unhappy with the file read/write issues it had. Apple tried to fix them, but never did. So we recommended skipping over Mavericks unless you couldn't avoid it ('cause you bought a new Mac) or because you needed to use an app that required it.

Recommendation
Yosemite may be ready, but it's too soon to tell. Files seem to open faster, and that's good! But even though files open more quickly, it seems to use a lot of memory, and so far we've seen some system crashes. Let's give it a month and see if it stabilizes, and see if we can give it a thumbs up.

Update (10/31/2014)
I'm running into the following issues which Apple has not yet been able to resolve:
  • Though files open a little faster than in Mavericks, I still see a lot of spinning color wheels that weren't there with Mountain Lion and its predecessors. It has been suggested that the way I connect to the network may be the cause, so I have ceased connecting to our network and only work locally now. Still, the issue persists.
  • Apple thought they found the cause in my sound setting bouncing from device to device, but it still happens. I think the issue may be related to me having two Thunderbolt Displays daisy-chained together, but that is an acceptable configuration with Apple.
  • Talking with colleagues, the problems they are seeing is printer drivers and some apps.
So, upgrading from Mavericks is probably okay (check out your printers and third-party apps for compatibility, though). But if you're on Mountain Lion or Lion, I suggest waiting this out for a bit to see if it improves.

Update (11/19/2014)
I've installed 10.10.1, hoping for significant improvement. The same issues persist, but I've also seen enough of a pattern to identify another. Preview often crashes when opening PDFs, and sometimes cannot print. Opening the same files in Acrobat works without error. I think they may have broken Preview...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No More Fax!!

I am so excited to announce that we no longer have a fax line! w00t!!

For years 99+% of fax traffic into our office has been junk fax. But there were a couple of clients that still preferred to communicate with us via fax, so we had to keep the fax phone line up and running. We cut our line costs by switching it to a service via RingCentral.com (we were able to keep our original fax phone number), and they would email us incoming faxes. But guess what! Those were almost all junk too! Which makes sense, really.

Today we got word from those last clients that preferred fax that they could switch to sending us scanned attachments via email instead. So I wasted no time and cancelled our fax service! I feel so free!!  ;)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Article on Video Calling



With video calling technology so prevalent and, truly, at most of our fingertips, why doesn't it take off? Why don't we see (pun intended) more people making video calls?

Click here to read my brief article on video calling!