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Zoom Etiquette in the new norm

Zoom Etiquette in the new norm…

A couple of weeks ago the homebound cast of Saturday Night Live pulled off a classic skit that made fun of quarantine life via a Zoom video conference call.  There was the “too close to the camera” lady who was 2 inches away from her webcam.  They had the “forgot to mute in the bathroom” character and the Zoom office jokester who did the already old “you only want to see me from the waist up” quip.

 

Nashville Remote IT

Working remote etiquette…

The funny thing, of course, is that their portrayal of the new norm of video conferencing from our living room couches rings true to life.   For most people, Zoom and similar services are new.  The world has had to adopt a new way of communicating almost overnight.

In normal times, new technologies take a while to catch on.

They usually start with the “early adopters” (aka ‘”gadget geeks”) who, when it comes to tech, want to be first in line.  Often a younger crowd, these are the tech adventurers who bought cell phones when they were the size of bricks and spent big bucks to get the early version of the iPod.

If the early adopters are all-in, next comes what is often termed the “early majority.”  This is where most of us fall—the users who are willing to dip their toe in the water, but only after someone else has jumped in to test the temperature.  They may not have been the first ones to try out Uber or buy a Prius, but they are the ones that will collectively take an innovation from underground to mainstream.

And finally, the “late majority” and the unfortunately named “laggards” get into the mix.  Some are older and others are just set in their ways.  These luddites are the users who resist until it’s futile, the old schoolers who prefer paper maps to GPS and would rather not have to learn yet one more invention.

This “technology lifecycle” that is well known in the startup and marketing worlds is predictable and repetitive.   New tech products usually take years to become mainstream.

But these are not normal times.

In the midst of a global pandemic, we have had to learn and embrace what is for many a new communication platform almost overnight.   Who would have thought just a few weeks ago a Zoom meeting would become the new default for business communications?

With this rushed mass adoption of video conferencing, as the SNL skit portrayed, social norms, best practices and etiquette are works in progress.  Everyone knows that when the phone rings you answer it by saying “Hello” and that emails should never be typed in ALL CAPS.   And (most) people know that it can be awkward to show up to a meeting at the office in your pajamas.  These unwritten rules are less defined for video conferencing.

Nevertheless, as the weeks of never leaving your house continue, ideas are starting to take hold about which behaviors are deemed acceptable and which are frowned upon.

It’s now considered good manners to mute yourself when you’re not talking.  Your background can make you look either professional (like a bookshelf or cabinet) or slovenly (like an unmade bed.)  Dogs barking or babies crying in the background are cute or humanizing, but a pair of teenagers arguing in the frame is distracting. Multitasking during a call is more obvious to viewers than you think.  Drinking coffee is fine, wolfing down a sandwich is not.

The technology around video conferencing is nothing new.  But the speed at which it’s replaced phone calls and in-person meetings has been head-spinning.  Until our collective understanding of the etiquette of video conferencing takes shape, we all need to be patient with one another (and never do a video call from the bathroom).

 JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville IT consulting and custom software development firm.  Visit Atiba.com or AtibaNetworkServices.com for more info.

 

Is Remote-Only the way of the future?

A day in the life of a Nashville computer geek:   Remote-Only

Published April 12,2020 in The Tennessean – JJ Rosen

It was just a few short weeks ago that a day-in-the-life at work meant shaking hands with people, meeting over coffee, flying places, and grabbing an occasional beer with some co-workers.   Online meetings were not uncommon, but face-to-face was always preferred and often needed to be efficient.

Flash forward to today.

With an ongoing global pandemic, everything about work has changed.  This change from our daily norms has not only been drastic, but it’s also been sudden.  For most of us, the transition to being  100% isolated at home, doing all meetings virtually, and having work and family-life become one and the same has been challenging to say the least.

For me, a creature of habit (for better or worse), I was completely out of whack for the first couple of weeks of this new life.  But as time has gone by, new routines and work habits have formed. Although it’s taken a bit of getting used to, I’ve started to settle in and somehow feel comfortable.  The whole situation is still weird, but I guess I’ve managed to adjust.

But what’s been interesting and unexpected is that some of the friends and co-workers I talk to are not just feeling more comfortable working only at home, but they’re also beginning to feel more productive working only at home.

I don’t think there are any silver linings to a global pandemic that is causing so much suffering.  But in the context of work, the situation we all find ourselves in these past few weeks is presenting some alternative ways of doing business.

Virtual meetings over Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams, have cut down on the amount of time it takes to physically gather.  All the sudden, it’s become acceptable to video conference with co-workers and clients in faraway places rather than to deal with the time, expense, and hassle of travel.   And even meetings that you would normally have face-to-face in your office have become faster and more efficient when they are moved online.

Commutes have alternated from 30 minutes of driving to 30 seconds of walking from the kitchen to the quietest place in the house to get some work done.   There is now more time in the day to manage as each person sees fit.

Business phone calls have become less formal and less stressful.   Who would have thought I could take a care of several business calls while simultaneously walking around my neighborhood getting some exercise?   Where it used to be embarrassing to have your kid crying or dog barking in the background of conference call, it’s now no big deal.

Will these new ways of working stick?

No one knows how long we will need to stay home.  But, if working this way makes employees happier, more productive, and more efficient, we may be in for a transformation from the way business has always been done.  At least for some sectors, fancy conference rooms and corner offices may become obsolete in favor of simply working in an old chair at the dining room table.

There are some companies, especially in the tech world, that were already seeing the upside of being a completely remote workforce before the pandemic was forced upon us.  Studies of these early-adopters has revealed that ditching the office and making an entire company remote-only does indeed increase employee happiness and productivity.   Which in turn increases retention and profits.

As technology advancements make it simpler and easier to keep us connected no matter where we work, we can expect our new norm to become a permanent change to the way many of us work.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville IT consulting and custom software development firm.  Visit Atiba.com or AtibaNetworkServices.com for more info.

 

What is technical debt?

“Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.” — Benjamin Franklin 

The thought of debt can be a scary one that conjures up images of credit cards, mortgages, car payments, and sleepless nights.  To most of us, it’s simple to define:  an amount of money you owe someone else. 

But, the concept of debt is not always related to dollars and cents.   

This was weighing heavily on my mind last week as I was looking at my end-of-year-calendar. 

In the IT field, the term “technical debt” is often used to describe the habit of taking technical shortcuts that, over time, accumulate and cause more work down the road.  Because it’s hard to quantify and often hidden from management until it’s out of control, the buildup of technical debt on a project is sometimes even more dangerous to a company than money owed on a balance sheet. 

Delaying IT infrastructure upgrades to save money, not testing software thoroughly because of a tight deadline, blowing off doing a disaster recovery plan—these are common examples of shortcuts that build up technical debts that will always come back to bite you if not paid off at some point. 

There are other types of debt as well.    

Some of us (me) eat too much and build up an “exercise debt” that we must pay off at some point if we want to maintain a healthy weight.   Some work too much, building up a “sleep debt.” Others play too much and amass a “work debt.”    

These non-financial “soft” debts are more difficult to measure than what we traditionally think of as debt, but they have real costs nonetheless.  And just like money debt, if you’re not careful, you can spend all your time and resources paying the interest instead of paying down the principal. 

Proactively managing different types of debt is an often overlooked but critical skill that determines the long-term viability of every business.  Soft debts should be tracked and managed in much the same way that financial debts are. 

In tech, we call it a “backlog.”  It’s simply a list of any tech-related shortcuts, band-aids or items we skimp on because of deadline or budget constraints, along with estimates of how much work (debt) it will take us to fix them down the road.  Some technical debts are intentional – a conscious choice to save time or money. Others are accidental, discovered in the form of bugs.   

As the backlog list grows, the key is to treat each item as a debt owed, the same way you would as if you were making payments on a bank loan.   This involves planning your “savings” (in the form of time) so that you can eventually make your “payments” (in the form of future work).    We basically mark off time on our calendars for every project to pay off our backlog debts. 

Earlier this year we began to explore this simple backlog approach to managing other areas of debt in our company.   As expected, just like tech, the constraints of time and budget created a backlog in everything from HR to marketing.  Things like updating our employee handbook and standardizing our email signatures made it to our backlog.  And just like tech debt, we have marked our calendars for our end of year payments to clear out the backlogs. 

Thinking of debt as something that is beyond a purely a financial metric has changed the way we operate.  It’s forced us to justify any shortcuts we take company-wide, because we are now tracking them as real costs rather than forgotten to-do lists that will inevitably come back to haunt us. Sleep well. 

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba.  A Nashville IT consulting and custom software development firm.  Visit www.atiba.com or www.atibanetworkservices.com for more info. 

 

 

Your email is an easy target for hackers — here’s how to secure it…

In this week’s USA Today / Tennessean column, Atiba founder JJ Rosen provides tips on how to secure your email.

http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/tech/2017/05/15/email-easy-target-hackers-dont-make-easier-them/319953001/

Contact info@atiba.com as needed for your security needs.

Atiba partners with ServiceNow

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Atiba Holdings, LLC announced today that the company has entered into a new partnership with ServiceNow.

ServiceNow is a platform that is quickly growing to become the leading service management solution for enterprises to manage their entire business around.

With roots in IT, ServiceNow’s service management solutions address all the service domains of modern enterprises including human resources, facilities, and finance. IT started it for themselves, then went on to prove it is possible to apply service management to use cases outside of IT.  And by doing so, successfully deliver a modern service experience.

For more info on ServiceNow and Atiba’s expertise contact us today!

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Atiba serves as a one-stop shop for strategic web design, web development, CIO consulting services and business intelligence, custom software development, mobile app development, IT support, network services and security. Atiba’s service divisions include Atiba Network, Atiba Software and Wheelhouse Marketing.

Nashville Google Fiber

Nashville Google Fiber

Google announced yesterday that they have chosen to expand their Google Fiber gigabit Internet service to Nashville. This is big news for Nashville and all of Middle Tennessee.

Gigabit Internet service translates to connection speeds of 1 Gbps, or 1000 Mbps. This means some user’s speeds will increase up to 100 times faster than their current, basic broadband service.

History has shown that with increased bandwidth comes increased productivity.  As we have moved many of our clients to the cloud over the past few years, bandwidth has become more important than ever.  Connections of this magnitude will change the landscape of what we use and view on our laptops and PDAs. Faster Internet speeds will translate to greater convenience, more flexibility, seamless collaboration, and open the doors to using technology in brand new ways. That equates to gaining efficiencies and building economic growth. All good news for our fair city and surrounding areas!

The city is buzzing with excitement

“It’s exciting to see Nashville recognized as a high opportunity, high growth technology market. The ubiquity of online content and data will affect businesses of all sizes in a positive way.  The future is now even brighter for Nashville.  Atiba is excited to be a part of that growth.” says JJ Rosen, CEO of Atiba.

Mayor Karl Dean added after Google’s announcement, “I am happy to announce that after almost a year of anticipation, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville… There was a lot of competition, and I think they’ve made a very wise choice.”

Google has already successfully launched the service in Provo, Kansas City and Austin. In the second wave of roll-outs, Google will launch the new, subscription-based service in several Nashville neighborhoods beginning in 2015, along with other areas of Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte.

The Atiba Team is excited about the future and embraces Nashville Google Fiber as part of that mix.  We are already exploring ways our clients can leverage this new service. If you have a question or idea of how to leverage gigabit Internet or another service, give us a shout by emailing us at Atiba.Team@atiba.com

Unified Communications: The end is near for desk phones

By J.J. Rosen
For The Tennessean

“Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you.”

With those famous words that Alexander Graham Bell uttered in 1876, the telephone was born. It was an amazing technical advancement that changed the future.

Virtualization, Storage Solutions and Unified Communications Joins Half Geek-Half Human Family

Atiba Network Services, LLC (www.atibanetworkservices.com) has announced the hiring of Sr. Network Engineer Brian Coulter. He joins the Atiba family from NFIB where he worked as a Sr. Systems Administrator on a variety of projects such as: server virtualization, datacenter optimization, Microsoft Exchange migrations and Cisco administration. Coulter joins Atiba’s strategic IT team that delivers customized managed services solutions to clients.

Mobile Devices Present Challenges for Employers

Your phone is having an identity crisis.

Not unlike us humans, our smartphones (and for that matter, all of our mobile devices) are swamped juggling both our work and personal lives. This is presenting some interesting challenges for employers and employees alike.

Multiple research reports show that almost 70 percent of employees use their personal smartphones and tablets to access corporate data and applications. Despite resistance from IT departments, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is clearly what employees want, allowing them to manage work, home and fun on their personally owned mobile devices.

From the employer side, BYOD has both pros and cons. On the upside, employers can save tons of money on mobile hardware and services while enhancing productivity by giving employees the convenience to work more from anywhere at any time. However, this productivity boost and savings comes at the expense of security and control. Allowing personally owned devices on multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) to access corporate networks and data can be a security, operational and, in some cases, compliance nightmare.

So what is a CIO or any business owner to do?

One popular way to manage company mobile devices is to implement Mobile Device Management software (MDM). MDM allows a company to manage all aspects of an employee’s mobile device remotely. While this is a great option for company-owned devices, it can be a bit awkward and downright intrusive on employee-owned devices.

Fortunately, there is a new breed of tools coming out that support a hybrid approach, keeping both employees and employers happy with respect to the BYOD movement. This new approach focuses on managing and securing just the applications and data on your phone rather than the phone itself. So instead of your IT department managing your entire device, it is able to manage only the applications and data that the company really cares about.

There is little need for a company to manage your Words with Friends app in order to allow you to use corporate email or SharePoint or work on a spreadsheet on the company’s network. Look for these new Mobile Application Management solutions (MAMs) to make the BYOD approach increasingly popular over the next couple of years.

While there is no current market leader or industry standard in the BYOD market, major players like Symantec, AirWatch, Citrix and many other smaller companies are all vying to establish a foothold around BYOD. This competition will eventually create a win-win for employees and employers by solving the unique challenges of your phone’s identity crisis in the workplace.

Give us a call today to discuss MDM solutions for your business: 615-353-1921 ext 200