Business ecommerce

Christmas shopping was never fun

Santa seen on Timico premisesOur daughter, who is away at university, has very thoughtfully taken the pain away from our Christmas shopping by sending us (or her mum at least) a number of links to items she wants for Christmas. Easy peasy – we just have to forward the emails to Santa with endorsements – yes pair of jeans/no new car for him to take care of the logistics.

When you think about it why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to traipse around the shops buying Christmas presents. It has always been a nightmare. Online shopping was born for this very purpose.

A number of years ago my wife requested a very simple Christmas present. She wanted the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” board game. Anne comes from a long tradition of playing games on Christmas afternoon which despite the clash with the established Davies practice of falling asleep on the settee in front of the fire she wished to continue.

No probs think I. On Christmas eve afternoon I traipsed down town to buy the game. No way Jose. I tried 8 shops. All any of them had available was the junior version. Beads of perspiration began to form on my brow. As a last resort I went to Tesco. Same there. I ended up buying the junior version which of course had easy ish questions together with a book of harder adult questions, but not the actual game she wanted.

I piled some more presents on for good measure but knew it would not be good enough. Anne is not a material girl. All she wanted was simply “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, the board game.

Came Christmas morning and amid the frenzy of wrapping paper flying across the living room Anne eventually looked around for her present. Unwrapping her present the disappointment was palpable.  My feeling of guilt, total. I had let my girl down. The girl who sacrifices everything for the sake of her family.

There was nothing I could do but drown my guilt in copious quantities of champagne whilst Anne selflessly returned to the isolation of the kitchen and her own thoughts.

From that year onwards I have never left the Christmas shopping to the last minute. Hooray for the world wide web. Hooray for online shopping. And whilst I think of it hooray for Christmas parties. Come to mine 🙂

PS sometime before Christmas remind me to tell you the story of when I left Hannah’s main present in the store room of the office and had to retrieve it on boxing day!

Engineer online safety

More on Team Cymru

team cymruSeeing as  I mentioned Team Cymru (Teem Come-ree) yesterday I just noticed that I’ve had their quarterly newsletter (Cymru Quarterly) on my desk since June. This is a personalized high quality newsletter that I specifically signed up for. I remember when doing so they asked me a second time whether I really wanted the newsletter in hard copy. I rarely read hard copy but in their case I did so I’ve been getting it through the post.

I’ve just noticed that on the cover of this edition they ask me whether I want to continue receiving the newsletter. In order to do so I have to click on a link and fill out a survey.

This is pretty cool and efficient. I get a fair bit of junk mail/magazines that I never look at and which are a total waste of space (and money). I’m not going to carry on with the hard copy. I follow them on twitter @teamcymru and am happy that I get my news in that way and save them some cash.

I wonder if they will be supporting Wales v South Africa at the Millenium Stadium on Saturday 🙂 They are based in Florida mind you. I expect they are so busy they will have forgotten the match is on…

Business fun stuff

Online marketing – it’s in the DNA

The Davies house is yet again at peace. Child 4 is upstairs, no doubt playing on the XBox, having been soundly beaten at table tennis  in the conservatory. Number 3 is out a band practice – they have a gig tonight at the Lincoln Drill Hall. The other two are no longer at home.

I’ve whizzed through my jobslist. Apples picked, wood sorted in back garden, ski gear purchased for #4, tree moved (yes), methylated spirits sourced for tonight’s cheese fondue. Mrs Davies is down town foraging for some provisions in the market.

I have to pick the band up at 4.45 to transport them to the venue – drums and double bass and 5 lads. That’s ok. They are called The Pylons – check out their Facebook page. Their website is here. They are also on Twitter.

Uhuh you say. Well I guess where this is going is that these are 15 and 16 year old lads and they already have a handle on all the tools they need to promote their band. Their EP is currently in production, being recorded in a friend’s garage. They have more technology than your average pro studio would have had only a few years ago. They are a connected generation. They know how to make it work.


Cloud Engineer storage backup & dr

Data storage strategy #cloud

I’m back from my hols. The news is my hard drive has 4.5GB more data on it than it did before I went on holiday. All videos and photos. In June I added 17.5GB worth of media. That’s 54GB ytd and if I extrapolate that to the year end that means I will have added 108GB to my laptop in 2013.

I’m sure I’ve recently had this conversation on the blog but I now have less than 20GB of space left on my laptop, after cleaning it up. I can’t realistically expect to get a new laptop. Mine is relatively new and I can’t expect the business to provide more storage for my personal photos. They will have to go.

So I have to come up with a strategy here. I still want easy access to the photos but it isn’t worth forking out the small fortune that the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive will charge for that level of storage.

The charts below show my own usage growth. By the end of this year at the current rate of growth my photos will take up around 330GB of space. The annual growth rate since 2004 has been around 50% a year – roughly in line with Moores law and also in line with an EMC study of storage capacity trends from 2011. Extrapolating the number forward to 2020 I can expect to be consuming almost 2TB a year of storage with a total accumulated requirement of 5.5TB.


accumulated storage

Remember data beyond mid 2013 is extrapolated/forecast.

Does this make sense I ask myself? Well the video formats in use by 2020 are quite likely to be approaching 8k which at 350Mbps streaming data rates will produce a storage need of 44MBps or 2.6GB a minute. That’s only 13 hours of video storage. All these are approximate calculations and do assume that I am onto 8k by 2020 but the 5.5TB by 2020 sounds very plausible to me.

It’s interesting to note that whilst I am discussing my own personal data usage here the rate of growth very much reflects what we are seeing as a business. We have all heard the term Big Data bandied around. Businesses are gathering far more data than they used to. Information is power. The decisions I am facing are therefore similar decisions to those seen by businesses of all sizes. What do I do with my data?

Let’s look at my personal choices first. Currently I back up my laptop to two separate external drives. Frankly this isn’t going to be good enough for our family going forward. If I’m taking media off my laptop I want it to always be available at a click of a button. It has to be Networked Attached Storage or NAS. Because I am going to be using it more and more for lots of different family storage needs the NAS also has to be resilient so it either needs to have two mirrored hard drives or be a multiple RAIDED box such as the Drobo box shown in the pictures inset. (Box shown has 3 out of 5 slots populated with 1TB drives giving 2TB usable capacity).

Drobo box with front cover on

We use Drobo boxes (1st pic with front cover – 2nd without) to send to some of our cloud customers to seed their online storage. A small business will not have a fast enough internet connection to upload a couple of Terabytes say in a timely manner. If they were lucky enough to get 10Mbps upload then it would take them well over 400 hours to upload the data. Even though Timico provides that customer with free bandwidth to perform the upload that isn’t a practical proposition.

The Drobo box is going to cost me knocking on a grand even if I just put in three drives and though by my current calculations as an infrastructure it would do me for the rest of this decade, taking into account the fact that I could easily upgrade the hard drive capacities, Mrs Davies wouldn’t want me to spend that kind of money. We need a new freezer and the dishwasher is about to pack up.

Drobo box with front cover removed

So I’m going to go for a cheaper option such as a dual ReadyNAS which with a couple of mirrored 2TB hard drives will probably cost around £300. I will still want to have a separate backup for this but will in the short term stick with the 2TB SSD I currently use. With that setup I reckon I will be good until mid 2018 and could probably also upgrade the hard drives at that time. Rather than have the hard drives switched on all the time I will also probably go for a power switch that I can control over the LAN. In effect it will still be instant access.

It still makes sense to have a cloud option and I should be able to go for a cheaper solution such as Amazon Glacier which costs 1cent a month per GB. This would cost me $3 a month for 300GB, just over two quid say or about £25 a year (mixing formats :)). Amazon Glacier is much cheaper than the $20 a month that Google Drive would charge me but isn’t a comparable service. Being a “deep storage” service the recovery time from Amazon is very slow versus “immediate” from Google depending on your internet download capacity. $240 a year isn’t a practical proposition for home use. I don’t need the recovery to be fast. I just need it to work as it will be the line of last defence.

The observation that springs to mind here is that the costs discussed here are insurance policies that I have not hitherto had to pay. Our use of technology is driving the change. According to my calculations by 2020 I would be paying Amazon $55 a month for the storage based on current prices. It is reasonable to expect prices to plummet but this is obviously a nice growth market to be in.

The needs of a business are similar but different. Firstly a business will typically have a lot more people generating the data. The amount of data being generated per person however is not wildly adrift of the numbers I’ve been discussing for my own usage. There’s a good chart over at NetworkWorld that tells us the average storage need per employee ranges from 160GB for small businesses up to 190GB for mid-sized companies. You can do your own calculations for forecast storage needs based on the size of your own particular business and assuming 50% a year growth.

The other issues affecting businesses relate to skillsets (overhead), security (life and death of the business) and recovery time (revenue and opportunity cost). It all revolves around money.

The numbers I have looked at for my own home use therefore don’t copy across to business. Businesses are willing to spend more for additional security, ease of use and speed of recovery. A business may also think it important to know where their data is stored – for UK regulatory requirements for example – and want to have someone to call if something goes wrong. Personal support is not something that the big cloud providers are known for.

Check out example services here and corporate services here.

End User internet

this is a true revolution we are seeing – one for the ladies

My wife, whom I dearly love, said to me this morning “I’ve had an idea”. Ordinarily on hearing those words my body is programmed to sit down in a safe place and surround myself with cushions to stop me getting hurt when I fall over. As it happens we were still in bed so I was already in position, so to speak.

She continued: “I think I’m going to get rid of all my recipes and just use the iPad in the kitchen”. She has dozens of folders containing recipes collected over the years. They spill over the shelves in our utility room and are now apparently looking a real mess. Apart from the fact that the utility room will look tidier her point is that most of these recipes are now available online and despite the fact that she has spent hours lovingly filing them into categories – chicken, beef, bread, welsh rarebit – you get my drift – it is still far quicker for her to find the right recipe using the iPad.

I can see the comments coming. “that’s obvious”, “whey didn’t she think of this earlier” etc etc. This may be the case for the savvy internet users amongst you (ie pretty much everyone reading this blog) but there is a section of society that didn’t grow up memorising the html links on the side of the pram.

She does have a laptop but that is rarely used if the iPad is available because of the boot up time and the portability. In fact the laptop serves more as a media server for watching iPlayer on the TV screen (at which we all marvel 🙂 ).

So there you go. The digital revolution has passed another major milestone – 2012 the year the paper recipe disappeared from common usage. I would welcome inputs highlighting similar evidence of societal change from around the world wide web.

PS I realise that I was treading a somewhat fine line with the title “one for the ladies”. However in our house Anne won’t let me do much cooking as I take far too long and make far too much of a mess and likely polish off half a bottle of red wine whilst doing it. Not being very worldly wise I have made the assumption that this is a normal state of affairs. If I am wrong I apologise but the headline stays :).


Apps End User mobile apps

phone storage capacity – miscellaneous musings after the Diamond Jubilee weekend

I must be trying to look cool - in adversity - I was having a good time at the Diamond Jubilee street partyYou may have noticed I have a tendency to stick photos in blog posts. I like to think it adds a bit of colour, enhancing the reader’s experience 🙂 I take most of them using my Galaxy S2. I always have it with me whereas it is a pain to carry the camera around. The camera does take better pics in the main, user skill level permitting.

I always seem to have 11GBytes or so free space on my phone and never get anywhere near to filling it up. My camera uses up its battery before filling up the memory. This would probably also be the case with the phone but I husband the power levels on that device – it’s mission critical.

After the weekend I transferred 1.4GB of photos and videos to my laptop – the total space used on the laptop by vids and pics as 167GB!

storage used for photos and videos over past 11 years I could still fit all the music on my hard drive onto the phone and still leave room for photos. I have 10.5GB worth of music though I hardly ever listen to most of it (I really do need to change my play list but I like Pink Floyd, Donna Summer, Bronski Beat and Joe Jackson 🙂 .

The size of the photo and video storage space is going to grow far more quickly than that I use for music which is pretty static – it’s an age thing. The chart on the right shows the growth in storage used for video and photos on my hard drive over the past 11 years. the last column is 2012 which has 7 months to go & we haven’t hit the summer holidays yet.

I store these pics in a variety of places. The question is how much is it worth to me to store them all online. 100GB is $199 pa on Dropbox. Microsoft SkyDrive is £32 per 100Gigs. Google Cloud storage is $12 a month ($144 pa) for 100GB but you also have to pay $0.12 per GB data xfer costs (from USA and EMEA – $0.21 from APAC) to access what you have stored (uploading seems to be free).  I guess that’s ok – thats only $12 to retrieve the whole lot.

Assuming I want to store all my photos on Google that would cost me twenty bucks a month (y’all) – roughly fourteen quid. I’m a heavy user but whatever the right number is for you this is probably going to be a cost we will all have to factor into our monthly household budgets in future.

That’s all folks…

End User online safety social networking

The Online Garden Shed – the answer to internet privacy issues

Google Opt out - the online garden shed?We all need our private space. This true in our virtual lives as much as in the touchy-feely-smelly real world that we once inhabited.  In those days man could retire to his shed if he felt the need for a bit of time to himself. He would only let you in if you were a pal.

There are no sheds online.  What do we do about privacy when using the internet? The fact that Google seems to know what I’ve been up to is a concern.  Do we all sign up with proxy services?  The proxy service provider will still know what you are up to.  Switching on “private browsing” seems a bit of a faff and all that does is prevent PC from storing usage data.

A reader (thanks HmmmUK) just Tweeted me a link to the Google Opt out page:

“Opt out of customised Google Display Network ads

Opt out if you prefer ads not to be based on interests and demographics. When you opt out, Google disables this cookie and no longer associates interest and demographic categories with your browser.”

I thought “great, the answer to the problem” and proceeded to that page to opt out. Then I paused

charitable Cloud End User social networking

World record attempt – Most comments on an online news story in 24 hours #comment24

To get 2012 off to a racing start we will be having a bit of fun on and aiming for a world record for “Most comments on an online news story in 24 hours”

This is a genuine Guinness World Records category in which the current record stands at 100,000. That’s just over one comment a second. Should be easy huh? 🙂

The attempt begins at 6am GMT on Thursday 5th January 2012 and ends 24 hours later. It would be nice to think that we could smash the existing record by a country mile. Someone mentioned 1million comments – why not?

Between now and then the blog is moving to a high availability, high performance platform, details of which will be made available in a blog post on Tuesday 3rd January.

In the meantime there is much spreading of the word to do to make this a great success.  You will be kept up to speed with any relevant news regarding the world record either on the blog, Twitter (#comment24), Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn (actually all of the above).

We will also be letting you know in advance the type of content that will be in the post for the record attempt so that you can get your thinking hats on in advance for your own comment.

It would be great if you could spread the word on this by “liking”,” Linking”, “sharing” “tweeting” or just telling your friends by good old fashioned “word of mouth”. also has a page on Facebook where you can find out more and a Facebook event here.

Hope you can help  🙂