IT’s true value when it goes down

, posted: 1-Sep-2010 12:21

Hard disk on fire Last week I had a variety of emails that reminded me of a hidden gremlin that exists in our industry - a client will only realise the true value of a service they've bought, after it all goes pear shaped.

They don't really understand the true value of a well planned, organised and implemented product or service, and get drawn in by overpromising sales reps, flashy banners, and big numbers.  It's not until they lose service, require a backup etc that those extra dollars to pay for a premium service or redundancy really start to look attractive - often by that time it's all too late.

Three general examples I've recently see:

  • Website stability issues when hosting a website with a free webhost in the States
  • Experiencing multiple extended outages on a dedicated server, even when the web-hoster advertises ridiculously high data caps, and pulling through data close to that every month, and
  • Losing data after an SQL injection attack on a poorly written site.

The issue we all face is a client's budget never meet the requirements they have.  To help cost cutting they outsource overseas followed up with less-then-reliable hosts, and don't have everything secured properly.  Only after it all breaks, do they come back to you pleading for your help.

If worked correctly, fixing up these scenarios can guarantee a client's loyalty for life.  You look like the good guy, the client finally gets what they are after, and you get that satisfaction from a job well done.

I just hope it's not you undercutting everyone and delivering poor work.



Why unmetered traffic is not free

, posted: 27-Jul-2010 15:45

It's a hot selling point for broadband.  Take the most popular sites (such as TradeMe, Stuff, TVNZondemand as examples) that people visit and let them go at it, all-you-can-eat, without having to worry what the final bill will be.  The forums here on Geekzone have plenty of discussions around ISPs offering unmetered traffic to customers.

Steve Waddington, one of the director's of Exetel (an Australian ISP), recently blogged about a customer's suggestion on adding more sites (that are external to Exetel's network) to their unmetered offerings:

I can tell you one thing; unmetered content certainly isn't 'free' to the ISP. Today, (and Exetel almost certainly can't be buying at the best price for global Internet) the past-our-border portion of the total cost to supply an Internet service is in the order of 7-8%. If other people buy better than we do, it would only mean that for them, the ratio is even lower, say 5%.

What that means is the so called 'unmetered' content, apparently 'free' to the end user, costs the ISP around 95% of the full per Mbps of global Internet access anyway.

So, you either believe your perpetual motion machine was a good deal, or, you have to accept that the unmetered content so generously offered by your ISP is paid for somewhere else in the total amount you pay.

Steve continues on about how this all came about:

Thinking back, it seems to me this is a fundamental error in the cost of service supply that was made by 'someone' years ago (around '98-'99 I suspect), and has been duplicated (or mindlessly followed, however you want to look at it) by others ever since.

In those days, global Internet access accounted for around 1/3 of the operating cost of an ISP, and domestic backhaul added another 15-20%. So by supplying traffic from a local source, such as peering or caching, was an enormous benefit to the ISP's bottom line. Ignoring the cost of peering, the proxy server cost, the engineer/sysadmin time etc, etc is easy to to, as in most case they are considered necessary anyway, or treated as sunk costs. Therefore at some point, on someone's spread sheet to financial management, that content delivery would have shown up as zero. And the marketing guy that saw that would hardly have to be a genius to realize he could be a hero by designing a promotion that offered content that cost zero to the company for 'free' to their customers.

One deception leads to another, and a decade on you have people really believing unmetered content is actually free. No wonder that word is considered the most powerful in marketing. That, and peoples unerring propensity to believe what they want to believe.

Unmetered traffic isn't free - you are still paying for it, it's just hidden as part of something else in your monthly bill.

Even though I have quoted a good chunk of Steve's blog post, I still highly recommend reading the entire thing hereHis blog is a good read for those interested in what happens behind the scenes at an ISP.



Why you should be using Google Hosted Apps

, posted: 12-Jul-2010 22:14

The answer is simple - it works, and it works really well.

apps_ring For three years now, all of our 3bit.com/.com.au/.co.nz emails have been running off the Google Hosted Apps email platform.  Like any IT start-up, we originally ran our own email server internally, but after dramas and headaches, and never-ending security and spam updates, we moved a few of our users over to Google as a trial - the reluctant remaining (and I admit, I was not keen initially) were pushed, and it's a decision that we haven't looked back on.

Some of the killer features include:

  • Search. Plain and simple, this is the main reason we use Google - their web search works brilliantly, and using this to search years of archived email makes finding things really painless.  Search options such as from:(mauricio@gz.co.nz) has:attachment after:2010/7/11 before:2010/7/14 help refine searches even more.
  • Accessibility.  Whether it's through the webmail interface (which uses SSL), on a smart phone (or iPad), or in an email program such as Outlook or Thunderbird (POP3 or IMAP), all are supported.  I now only use the webmail, instead of Thunderbird, as the keyboard shortcuts make moving and handling email quick.  I achieve push email through Nokia's pseudo push email to my E71, without having to sell my soul to Blackberry.
  • Spam. The false positive (emails marked as spam when they are legitimate) is low, and I get very few spam emails that pass through their filters.  I don't need to pay a third party to filter my email first, or keep my own filters up to date - Google take care of it all.
  • Storage - Each account gets a massive 25GB of storage - even with all our emails archived, our user average is around 14% used.  We also don't need to worry about backups.
  • Upgrades - We no longer needed a dedicated mail admin - by moving our mail to the cloud, upgrades are taken care of, and we don't experience any downtime.

Below is a short video about NZ Post going Google:

I highly recommend you take a look at Google's offerings, and as a blatant plug, if you want to setup a domain on Google, flick us an email or make a comment below.



Review: Sony HDR-CX550 Handycam

, posted: 28-Jun-2010 18:14

Continuing on from last week when I reviewed the Sony DSC-TX5 camera, this week's post is about the other tech toy I had on loan from Sony - the Sony HDR-CX550 Handycam.

 

The first thing you'll notice about this HD camcorder is its size - there's not really much to it.  It's reasonably light (about 500g), and like it's DSC-TX5 cousin, it features a big touch screen (8.75cm) that's used for controlling most of its functionality (including zoom in/out and stop/start recording which is very handy).

The SteadyShot is an amazing feature - it keeps the picture still even though the user may be moving about.  I found it most noticeable when zoomed in on an object at a distance, and these videos off YouTube demonstrate it the best:




Above - The CX550 is on the right.




Above - Anyone who's used an RC helicopter knows how much they shake - the HDR-CX550 easily compensates for this.

Other features include:
  • 64GB of internal Flash memory, which can record up to 26 hours of HD video (according to Sony). If you need more storage, it has a Sony Memory Stick slot.
  • If you need to take photos, the camcorder can take 12 megapixel images by pushing a dedicated Photo button, and has a flash for low light environments.  With it's Smile Shutter technology, the camcorder can take photos of people looking directly at the camera, smiling, at the same time video is being recorded.
  • Easily turn the camera on and off by opening and closing the LCD display.
  • Has USB for transferring videos and images, HDMI, or for older TVs, plain RCAs.
  • The camcorder has built in GPS - the screen shows you where you are and videos can be saved with the extra data of the exact position they were taken.
  • There is a manual focus button on the front of the camcorder - this allows for fine tuning of parameters such as focus, exposure, iris, shutter speed, ae and wb shift.
  • 3.5mm ports on the front of the camcorder allow for an external microphone and headphones - the built-in mic, on the top of the camera, does Dolby Digital 5.1
My only complaint about this camcorder is the battery life.  It has the capacity to store 26 hours, but I was finding it only lasting a couple of hours per charge (on the Sony supplied battery pack).  It should last at least double that.

I've been using this camcorder for about a month and this short review doesn't really do it justice; it really does take some stunning movies.  The full HD gives you a crisp, clear picture, and the screen makes it easy to not only film, but easily use the camcorder.

Pricespy has the HDR-CX550V from Sony NZ  for $2,059.36.

Other YouTube videos:
My thanks to Bernadette Barrett at Sony NZ for the loan of this camcorder for my review.



Review: Sony DSC-TX5 Cyber-shot digital camera

, posted: 21-Jun-2010 01:07

After the Sony Carnival some months back, Sony lent me two products they featured - the Sony DSC-TX5 Cyber-shot digital camera, and the Sony HDR-CX550 Handycam.  The review for the Handycam will be published next week - this week I'm focusing on the Cyber-shot.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a photography expert.  My requirements for a camera are pretty simple: must be easy to operate, take good photos in daylight and low light, and not be too bulky.  If I can't take it along to a Geekzone Pizza evening and still use it after a beer (or two or three or four), it's not going to be suitable.

I'll start my review the same way as I demonstrated the camera to mates: by dropping it in a jug of water.

A pretty impressive party trick (and a good way to freak out unsuspecting bystanders), the DSC-TX5 can be used in water up to 3 metres.  The whole camera is sealed up tight, with the battery and memory card stored safely behind a compartment at the base of the camera (this also has the HDMI plug).  Not only does this mean you can take photos in your swimming pool if you so wish, but you don't need to worry about this camera being ruined after an accidental beer spill - the offender can shout another round, and you can wash the camera off easily.

The massive 7.5cm touch screen on the back of this camera makes using it a charm. The menus are well laid out, and the different functions can be reordered as you please.  You can move between photos with an iPhone style finger flick, setup an automatic sideshow, or view photos on a calendar, grouped by the date they were shot. You really appreciate how good the interface is on a full touch screen after using an older camera with a small screen and clunky buttons. 

Other DSC-TX5 features:

  • A smile sensor so when people smile at your camera, it takes a photo automatically.  You can set it by triggered with a full cheesy grin, or an uncomfortable smirk (my terms, not official Sony).
  • Intelligent Sweep Panorama allows you to take 180 degree photos by simply moving the camera from right to left (or left to right, or up then down, or down then up).
  • For the technologically challenged, basic mode hides all the complex menus and only shows the core functions -  change image size, flash on or off, self-timer on or off - plus it displays exactly how many photos are left.
  • Video can be recorded in HD (1080i) or SD.

This camera is compact, and the front cover slides down to show the lens and turn the camera on.  It is so light it's like carrying another mobile phone (compared below with my Nokia E71):

The real deal clincher for me is this camera makes it easy to take photos.  There is nothing more frustrating than blurry photos with red eye after a night out. I don't have the expertise to operate a full digital SLR camera (nor do I want to) - I want a camera that allows me to take good photos with a simple push of the button, regardless of the lighting. With the DSC-TX5 automatically determining the best settings, plus taking photos at 10.2 megapixels, you can't go wrong (for those of you in the know, you can also set it to manual mode).

I've been using this camera for about a month and I'm disappointed to give it back.  It really is a great piece of technology, and if you're looking for a camera for everyday use, you can't beat this little beauty. 

Available in silver, black, pink, green and red, Pricespy has the DSC-TX5 from $532. Sample photos and video from the camera on my Flickr account.

My thanks to Bernadette Barrett at Sony NZ for the loan of this camera for my review.



nate's profile

 


I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, own Tuihana Cafe, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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Disclaimer
The views and opinions represented on this blog are personal and belong solely to the blogger and do not represent in anyway those of 3Bit Solutions Limited or any other company.


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