Friday, December 31, 2010

On Cloud Computing

From an e-mail to friends...

Cloud computing is a strategy to outsource complexity and risk. Most SMBs can’t stand that their Windows systems constantly need maintenance, updates and repair. A ‘cloud’ service is really just a way to fix the cost and get out of the PC Problem Pool.

Until you get a generation of users that are willing to STOP using Word, Excel & Quickbooks you won’t have cloud services replace local servers. Likewise: Autocad, Photoshop and a myriad other apps that put a strain on even CAT6 infrastructure. Microsoft wants to hurry that along (Office365 – not to be confused with Office360) but Google is already there. Trouble is that very few of my customers know what the cloud is or why they’d want one ;)

If you don’t have a local server (like ours: you’re going to be sucking data through a straw until everyone gets fiber to their dmarc from their ISP. And our experience is that customers are already pushing back on $100+/mo broadband. They want to BROWSE, BACKUP TO and GET THEIR EMAIL from the web but not much else. A few have tried VPNs to virtual servers and they think it sucks. We get calls all the time from customers that simply need to reboot their routers. We have 100+ FileSafes in the field that check in every three minutes. There’s always a few that stop checking in and it’s almost always because of Internet issues. And sometimes our monitoring page lights up like NORAD because there has been a system wide Internet failure. This ain’t like the old phone system with five nines uptime.

If you want to access files remotely you use LogMeIn or, better yet, RDP – it’s free and fast right back to your desktop.

I agree that, Sharepoint and some other hosted apps – in particular Hosted Exchange with smartphone integration – are MUST HAVEs for many small businesses, but our customers are much more comfortable knowing their data, docs, pics and all the important stuff they ‘own’ is inside their four walls. Don’t get me started on data privacy concerns, cloud vendor security/availability (DDOS risks,) and lock-in.

And just wait until ISPs start putting tolls on bandwidth! This ‘all you can eat’ free lunch we’ve been eating is going to end someday. That will certainly put some hail in those clouds.

Like many things, the story is more complicated than it first appears – and hybrid solutions are still the right answer.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Horribly Broken Prescription Delivery System

From a recent e-mail to friends...

I rarely write during the day - I actually stay pretty busy. But I'm 'relaxing' over the holidays (only trying to work 8 hrs/day,) and I needed to focus on my Zolpidem (generic for Ambien) prescription because I'M ALMOST OUT!

So I wanted to order some online now that we are on an HSA and paying cash for them...I thought that it would be no big deal.

Lots to talk about here for the next time we're together. But interesting results from price checking a few local pharmacies: One tech told me she had know way to find out what prescriptions cost. The range was $45 ( to $164 (CVS.) Walmart was $86. The CVS tech asked me, "Do you know how many insurances (sic) there are?" She passed me around for a while and I finally learned that you need to specifically ask for the 'Cash' price - a keyword that takes you into the 'this poor bastard doesn't have insurance' queue - which they know means you'll PAY ANYTHING SINCE THERE IS NO MARKET FOR PRESCRIPTIONS SOLD AT AN ADVERTISED PRICE! (I use the term 'Market' in its technical/economic sense here.)

I ordered from on 12/9. The flurry of paperwork ended today when I practically had to conference them together to exchange info. My doctor still depends on faxes and phone calls exclusively to do this. There is no system of electronic communication. Zolpidem is a 'controlled substance' and must require doctors and pharmacists to pledge their first born sons or daughters to keep paper documentation authorizing them to write/fill prescriptions - with penalties like dismemberment if they can't provide the paper trail. (So much for the ubiquitously available ED meds!)

It would be MUCH EASIER to get Pot, Cocaine or Heroine. At least I know the service would be driven by market forces! I may try later today and report back ;)

P.S. turns out to be the BEST place to get this stuff so far. I know exactly what phone numbers to dial and IVR prompts to pass to crack their system now ;) I'll clue you in for free drinks!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Real Royal Society

A few friends and I meet from time to time to discuss the issues of the day. We careen from subject to subject and pontificate on a variety of topics, making assertions, citing dubious references, pillorying our lunchmates and attacking sacred cows with vim and vigor!

I have named the group the Royal Society and I mean it no disrespect. I long for the polemics and debate of a latter day; courteous, informed and energetic!

But there is a 'real' Royal Society which is celebrating its 350th anniversary - and they deserve congratulations and honor. The home of such great minds as Newton, Laplace, Maxwell, Hawking and Berners-Lee, all FRS - Fellows of the Royal Society, and countless others who have preserved science over centuries when, to paraphrase a popular country music song, science wasn't cool. We owe the Society an immeasurable debt for a life unparalleled in abundance, convenience and longevity.

You can read a brief (32 p) report, Science Sees Further, which their President, Martin Rees, calls "an opportunity for us to look at the key scientific issues of today, and those of tomorrow."

Edit: And then there was this.