4 Myths About Fiber Optic Cables

While fiber optic cables have been around for a long time, most people don’t fully understand them. Due to this, there are plenty of myths surrounding them. Some of the most common myths include:

The optic fibers are expensive

Years ago, the fibers used to be expensive. They were more expensive than copper. This is no longer the case. Nowadays, due to the drop in the manufacturing costs and ease of terminations, fiber optics are now less expensive than most of the copper installations. In addition to the cables being cheap, they are also easy to maintain.

The cables are difficult to terminate

Just as the fiber cables were expensive a few years ago, they were also difficult to terminate. The cables were fragile, they required you to limit the amount of exposed glass, and the glass shards were dangerous thus you had to take great care of yourself. With advances in technology, this is no longer the case. Nowadays terminating the fibers with SSF is very easy. In fact, you can do it with just a little training.

The fiber optic is impossible to hack

Fiber optic cables are often used in computer connections. One of the most sensitive issues with computer connections is the ability of other people to get access to your information through hacking. The cables use light that stays within the cables which makes it difficult for hackers to access your data. While this is the case, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for hackers to access your information. All the hackers need to do is to have a network tap and a physical access to your cable. Due to this risk, you should take the safety of your computers seriously to prevent people from getting into your network. You should also encrypt any data that you want to be kept private.

Optic fiber infrastructure is different from that in copper

In most cases, fiber optics are compared to copper. Since they are competitors, many people feel that their infrastructure is different. This isn’t the case. Most of the parts and pieces of the two are similar. The wall boxes, patch cables, wall plates, and in-wall components are the same. The layout of the two networks is also similar.

What You Need To Know About Magnet Card Readers

Magnetic stripe readers or magnetic card readers are devices used in interpreting data found on the magnet stripe of a debit, credit or any other payment card that you might be using. The reader works by using magnets to scan code from different cards. To use the card reader you have to slide it through the slot. You can also hold the card near the reader.

There are many benefits that come with having the readers in your business. One of the benefits is that they save you time and effort. In the absence of the devices, you would have to manually put data into your computer but with the readers, in place you have to only slide the card into the reader and you are good to go. The card reader also increases efficiency as you are able to finish recording the financial information fast and continue working.

Types of magnetic readers

There are many types of these card readers that are ideal for different uses. There are those that are ideal for use in retail stores, restaurants, and other vending areas. These aid in processing debit, credit, and gift card payments. There are others that are effective in reading smartcards. These read information in both the smart chip and magnetic stripe. Regardless of the reader that you buy you should ensure that it’s of high quality.

Factors to consider when buying a magnetic reader

For you to buy the right unit you need to consider a number of factors that include:

Readability: The units are designed for high or standard volume use. The high volume readers come equipped with components that allow them to live for a long time. They are known for their longer reading channel which ensures that they are able to scan the details in a card on the first pass. In most cases, they are made from metal. Due to these features, they are usually expensive to purchase. The standard volume readers, on the other hand, are not of high quality like the high volume readers. Due to this, they often require an additional pass for them to read your card.

Interface: The readers have three main interface options: serial, USB, and PS/2 keyboard wedge. USB and PS/2 interfaces send information back to the computer as if it was typed on the keyboard. Card readers connected using serial interfaces often require special software in order to interpret data.

Important Tips To Improve Photogrammetry Scanning Quality

Photogrammetry can simply be defined as the measurement of photographs. It is a process that largely depends on camera positioning around the given subject and light control to create high resolution details of skin and clothing. The scanning can be used for capturing data for various projects including face replacements and CG characters. With so many variables to control, photogrammetry scanning can be overwhelming. There is just too much trial and errors involved to achieve best practices but with a few helpful tips, it is very possible to achieve accuracy and top quality with the process.

Tip 1 – Think about overlapping coverage. When building your setup, you should use as many cameras as possible so you are able to reduce or minimize manual cleanup later. Enough coverage translates into very decent recreation and you will also rarely miss any information when you use enough cameras so manual cleanup is very minimal.

Tip 2 – Put in measures to minimize distortions. When there are distortions, it is given that your system will have issues aligning the images. The fact is that most Photogrammetry systems come with a lens that helps reduce images, but it is always a much better choice to try and minimize it in-camera. Use tools that match with the camera format that you are using to get the best results every time.

Tip 3 – Mask out the background to dramatically improve overall quality of generated mesh and post processing time. It is a process that can be time consuming, especially when you need to go through every single picture but it pays off in the end. If manual masking is something you would rather avoid, then you can use systems that offer automatic masking feature to achieve a clean background. It also helps to tie cables together and eliminating any junk from the frame, especially when using a camera rig.

Tip 4 – Focus on more resolution when operating. You can use as much as necessary from your sensor because the more the resolution you can achieve then the more detailed your mesh is going to be. Try every way not to waste a single pixel if you can actually use it for quality benefits.

Tip 5 – Remember that lighting remains key in all kinds of photography. To increase depth of filed and eliminate photo noise, keep your aperture small and ISO as low as you can. But because doing so will definitely decrease amount of light that you get to work with, ensure that you have other light sources to substitute. Consider using flashes over continuous lighting that are less efficient, less color accurate and expensive for that matter. Flashes keep talent comfortable and enough lit unlike continuous lights that can produce heat leaving enclosed rig hot.

Tip 6 – Pay attention to photo orientation. It is factor that plays a huge role in accuracy of projects and it needs to be accurate for every camera position. Increase number of well-positioned points to improve orientation quality. These points should take up a greater percentage of photograph area.

Robots Win, You Lose

The job market remains ugly, regardless of the boasting from the president, the Fed and Wall Street’s talking heads. As we have explained on more than one occasion, we’ve replaced high-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector with low-paying jobs in the services and health care sectors. That is not how you build up a middle class that will support your economy.

Security in the job market doesn’t look like it’s going to improve anytime soon. A recent survey of 5,006 adults by the Pew Research Center revealed that more than half of American workers believes there will be less job security over the next 20 to 30 years. What’s more, technology is seen as a rising threat to jobs.

Approximately 71% of workers believe that employees will need to improve their skills more often in the future if they want to keep up with job-related developments, particularly as more robots are used in the workplace.

In fact, we’ve seen a significant rise over the past couple of years of the implementation of robots, starting with the fast-food industry. In California, Zume Pizza has replaced its human chefs with robots, cutting its labor costs in half.

Uber is using self-driving cars in parts of America, and there’s a push to start using self-driving trucks for long-distance deliveries. Forrester reports that robots could eliminate many positions in customer service, trucking and taxi service – about 6% of the U.S. job market.

And now robots are creeping into banking. Earlier this week, Royal Bank of Scotland announced that it will soon unveil Luvo – a “human” AI that can answer questions online and mimic human empathy. This robot will be able to serve customers 24 hours a day, reduce the workforce and cuts costs.

A Swedish bank plans to use the robot Amelia for customer services. And companies in China, Japan and Taiwan have already implemented Softbank’s Pepper robot.

Yes, we’ve had several technological revolutions over the centuries that have significantly changed the job market, forcing employees to either develop new skills or go jobless. But my concern is that technology is evolving faster now than ever before, and humans simply won’t be able to keep up with the changes.

We’re not creating enough high-paying jobs to support our middle class, and we’re replacing our low-paying jobs with robots.

Where does that leave us?

With a lot of people jobless and dependent on a system that’s already drowning in debt.

The American economy is already poised for collapse and won’t be able to survive many more direct hits. Putting more of the workforce out in the cold could definitely topple the entire system.

Data Center & Server Relocation Planning and Execution

Until recently, most companies considered data center relocation to be a once in a lifetime event. As infrastructure demands and technology advances continue to expand, current forecasts predict 3-5 moves, with 53% percent of companies expecting to do so within the next few years. What is your company blueprint for a successful data center and server relocation planning and execution?

Data center movers and server movers have experience in the complexities required for a successful relocation. Working hand in hand with your IT team ensures a minimum of down-time, as well as maximizing performance before, during, and after the move. Selecting a partner with the knowledge of the intricacies encountered during a move can make the difference between a smooth transition and a potential nightmare.
Comprehensive Planning

Proper planning is crucial for companies that are planning to relocate their data centers and servers. Team coordination, both within the company, as well as with the data center movers and server movers who have been chosen to perform the move, is essential for a successful data center relocation, as illustrated by mistakes that plagued the State of Oregon relocation.

Hoping to upgrade and move their data bases into a single facility, the state spent $20 million building a new site, and finished the move of 11 of the projected 12 agencies into their new facility, at a cost of $43 million. Unfortunately, the 55-watt per square foot did not meet the requirements of the Department of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, forcing them to return to the original site. Data security concerns kept the Department of Education from ever moving into the new facility. Other issues were also noted, including the lack of a solid disaster-recovery plan.

Protecting your company from similar issues and meeting the strategic objectives that precipitated the move will make the difference between a smooth successful transition, and one that is not. Proper planning is essential, and is greatly impacted by the team you choose for your data center relocation.

Wiring, space, and cooling capacity are just a few of the issues that must be addressed when addressing hardware issues pertaining to a data center relocation. Although this may seem to be the ideal time to implement upgrades, many experts recommend implementing them slowly, especially when they pertain to software.

Strategic long-term planning should be the first step. Moore’s Law, which he stated in 1965, predicted essentially that computer technology would double every two years. This rule has basically held true, however it is currently projected to double approximately every 12-18 months. This translates into the need to forecast possible upgrades sooner than in the past. Since your company is expecting to move, this is a great time to address the issue, and create a long-range plan.

Data Center and Server Relocation planning and execution relies heavily on the skills of professional server movers and data movers working alongside the IT team to perform a seamless transition with a minimum of downtime.

The Key to Success

The key element to a successful data center relocation project is choosing the correct team coordinator. Most companies do not have someone with this experience on staff, as it is a specialized industry, with unique challenges. Selecting an internal coordinator to work with the data center movers and server movers is also key to a successful relocation project.

The external coordinator you choose must be able to provide an adaptive plan, based on your company’s individual needs and resources. Their role will include creating a timeline and milestones for the move, pre-planning, and identifying risks and impact of the move. Additionally, they will create an execution plan that includes shut-down times, wiring requirements for the new location, cooling requirements, as well as many other often-overlooked crucial items.

Data Center Relocation Planning Documentation

The required documentation should provide a detailed overview of the plan. Items that should be listed include:

  • A comprehensively organized and detailed list, including diagrams of everything currently in use. Hardware, software, wiring, inventory lists, application dependencies, support processes, and interactions should all be thoroughly documented. This provides an opportunity to determine what should be retained and what should be replaced. Although this appears to be the best time to physically replace outdated technology, there are a few reasons not to do so. More on that later.
  • Envision your ideal working environment. Anticipate which processes will make the relocation successful. Documentation at this stage will include details of the move, whether servers will require updates, changes in virtualization, and upgrades.
  • A relocation blueprint should be developed at stage three that will detail the process of advancing from where your company currently stands to where you want to be in the future. Budgeting, prerequisites, detailed shut-down and restart timelines, identification of known risks, creation of a contingency plan, and a statement of impact for the client are a few of the items that should be included in the blueprint.
  • The coordinator should include a detailed implementation plan. At this point, each department will have been interviewed in order to identify and rate the processes used, and their order of importance. It is essential to conduct the relocation with a minimum of negative impact, including down-time. An hourly schedule that outlines what will be shut down and moved during relocation will alleviate inconvenience and concerns that employees may have regarding the move.
  • It may seem obvious, but hiring a team that has a crew of sufficient size to actually physically perform the move is imperative for success. Logistics specialists who have the experience required to to identify, pack, relocate, unpack, and setup the system is a crucial. This team must include skilled technicians who are able to properly reinstall the system.
  • Don’t underestimate the complexity of the move. Your company will most likely need to provide internal specialists to a certain degree, as they know your software and environment. The amount of help you hire can vary depending on individual needs. Discuss this with the vendor when choosing server movers and data center movers.
  • Put together a strong in-house group of trusted staff to work with the professionals. This team should include not only IT, but also management. It is important for everyone to be on board and to fully understand all the aspects and potential impact of the move.

While the above plan may make a data center relocation seem relatively simple and to the point, there are pitfalls that can plague even the best plan. Pinpointing potential problems before they occur can help reduce the problems your team will encounter. While each relocation and situation is individually tailored, it is a good idea to identify pitfalls.

Problems Data Center Movers and Server Movers Want You to Avoid

  1. Although this problem is easily avoided, Poor Planning tops the list. One of the most important functions the team can perform is communication. By talking to the IT department, the relocation team can learn about the inter-dependencies that occur within the company network. This will alleviate accidental shutdowns on moving day, and get everything up and running again in the correct order. Double-checking the hardware lists, and correctly estimating server requirements and hardware is equally important to a successful move.
  2. As shown in the State of Oregon fiasco, wiring and electrical demands are crucial. Obtain a realistic figure of the amount of electricity currently consumed, as well as what the upgrades require. IT may not be the department with these figures. Costs often exceed what is projected in this area. It is essential to have real figures. This is also a time to scrutinize whether the relocation property will be purchased or leased, and who is responsible for future wiring upgrades if they are required.
  3. Identify your current baseline costs and operation prior to the move. In this way, you will have a point of comparison for the future. This can negate many internal problems after a move.
  4. Many specialists believe they encountered fewer problems by upgrading after the move. If everything is in place for a planned upgrade, but the system is delayed until after the relocation, users are able to retain continuity in their work. There are exceptions to this however, including networking gear, and re-IP, as they do not have a great impact on the software and easier to perform during the move.
  5. Choose and experienced professional for the move. Each department is specialized, and while you may assume IT fully understand the system, they may not have all the knowledge required to successful move and reinstall it.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you are more likely to create a smooth transition. Planning for future expansion should be considered prior to the move.

Cooling Processors

With today’s high speed processors, proper cooling is essential. Whether you are building a new facility or leasing space, project managers need to assess the cooling capacity and compare them to what is required for your equipment. Identify a member of the team to thoroughly research and be responsible for this portion of the move. Cooling costs can be a notable portion of the day-to-day operation expenses, but without adequate cooling, the entire operation can be at risk.

The Nuts and Bolts Required of Server Movers

While there is an irony to physically moving a virtual machine, it is very important too do so correctly. Professional server movers know the importance of the machinery, and that it must be transported with care. Yes, there are people/movers who throw it on a flatbed, break rack legs, or just set it in the building and walk away; so we must be mindful of this.

Once your company has reached this point, in-house IT and the server movers your company has hired are probably on a first name basis. Specify someone from each team to address the following points, to alleviate problems with the move.

  • Cables that lead to nowhere are often left on servers over the years. Well prior to the move, ask IT to identify and remove any unnecessary cables. This will simplify and speed up the process on moving day.
  • Check with the team in charge of efficiency prior to moving, to ensure that all cooling, power, and space issues are aligned with any planned changes.
  • Check dependencies using the configuration design software that was used to setup the system, prior to removing anything.
  • Label, chart, and diagram everything. Each piece of equipment and every cable must be reinserted into the correct slot in order to work after the move. Keep the diagram and list in a safe place.
  • Mirror power requirements when changing cabinets.
  • List the exact location piece of equipment within the cabinet.
  • Mounting rails should be labeled. Hardware can thus be labeled with corresponding rails to ensure exact placement after the move.
  • Use a certified infrastructure handling solution specifically designed for data centers to remove equipment from racks.
  • Only move empty racks and cupboards. This prevents damage to the rack as well as to invaluable server equipment.
  • Clean and repair everything prior to reloading the racks.

Take the time to do it right. Moving full racks and cabinets can be a disaster, leading to excess downtime, and the extra cost cost required to replace damaged equipment. At this stage of the game you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t take shortcuts. This is the event that everyone has been waiting for and you want it to be a success.

The final step for server movers is recommissioning and testing the equipment to ensure it is all operating as smoothly as it was prior to relocation.
Expectation Checklist for Data Center Movers

Although they are technically two different projects, coordinating your data center movers and server movers will help ensure a smooth data center relocation project. Just as with changing software systems, this is not the time to cleanse the data base. We suggest doing so either well before relocation, or after everything is reinstalled, up and running well. The following checklist provides a short overview of issues and expectations that should be addressed by the team.

  1. While the physical relocation of hardware often seems to be the primary focus in a relocation project, the database is the crux of most companies. It is crucial to not overlook the data, and to plan for its move. Whether your company assigns ownership of databases to individual teams, or considers it as a whole, it remains an interconnected system. Application interaction after relocation is a consideration point, as well as identifying what data access may be affected by the move.
  2. While data center and server relocation can go hand-in-hand, this is a major project that will ideally be tackled on its own. Tacking on additional changes, i.e., tiered storage, etc., can add significantly to the cost and increase downtime.
  3. Brainstorm with colleagues, IT, and the data center movers to create contingency plan and worst case scenarios. With proper planning, they should not be a problem, but identifying them and addressing concerns in advance, can make the difference between a successful relocation and a disaster.
  4. Inventory, document, and diagram everything possible. The loss of records, even if they are short-term can have a devastating impact on a company. Negative ramifications resulting from lost databases can wreak havoc on orders, potentially leading to customer loss, and a negative impact on your financial base.

Tips for Successful Data Center and Server Relocation Planning and Execution

There will be down time during the execution of the data center and server relocation. As illustrated above, a well laid out plan is invaluable for a successful transition. The process can seem overwhelming, but with proper planning, it can also run smoothly.

We have identified a few tips that can be beneficial when planning to relocate your server and/or data center.

  • Begin with a standard plan. While all moves must be customized, based on the needs of your company, there are standard best practices that will make relocation easier. Professional data center movers and server movers know these plans and are able to adapt them to your unique circumstances.
  • Contact clients a few weeks prior to relocation with a projected downtime so they are not frustrated when attempting to contact you during the relocation.
  • Plan your move well in advance. Depending on the size of your operation and what is being relocated, the entire project may take a minimum of several months.
  • Don’t overload your current staff. IT may well have their hands full maintaining the current system, and they are often required to be on call to consult with the movers as well. Take time to discuss the importance of their role and to arrange a convenient time for them to work with the movers.
  • Plan around application managers. Development and applications will come to a standstill during the back end move, and they will require adequate advance notice and a timeline.
  • Address issues your company may have experienced during a previous move. Discuss concerns and create a contingency plan if there are fears that the experience may be repeated.
  • Set current baselines as a point of comparison for after the relocation.
  • Plan down to the hour, if not in smaller increments.
  • Discuss who will be responsible for anything that must be replaced and if the movers have parts on hand. These items can be as minor as screws or cables.

Execution of the Plan

Once moving day has arrived, it is time to begin the process of tearing down, transporting, and setting everything back up. Experienced data center movers and server movers will employ a proven methodology to do perform relocation in a timely manner. You should be able to expect:

  1. Technicians who are experienced in every aspect and detail of the move. They should have copies of the timelines and diagrams.
  2. Packing materials and trucks designed to transport without damaging hardware.
  3. Communication as required throughout the move.
  4. The project manager should be on hand to oversee the entire project as well as addressing any concerns.

Designate someone to sign-off once the move has been successfully achieved.

Communication is crucial to data center and server relocation planning and execution. Choose movers who have experience and who you can trust. They will become an integral part of your team before and during the move.

Biometric Attendance Machine Vs Manual Maintenance of Attendance

Organizations are exploring every possible way to increase their revenue and control their cost. Time attendance machines are used by all size of organizations to record when an employee starts and ends their work. And it will allow them to know for which department the work is performed or carried on by the employees. Apart from tracking when an employee is working, organizations can even track that when an employee is not working, that means it allow the organizations to track the meal and break times of an employee. A time attendance machine allows organizations to cut their labor cost, increase compliance and enhance overall control.

Based on the size and requirement different organizations uses different tools to record the attendance and other activities of their employees. Some organizations use Biometric Attendance Machine, Fingerprint Attendance Machine, and some organization follows Manual Maintenance of Attendance. Manual Maintenance of Attendance is suggested only for the organizations having fewer or very fewer employees.

Manual maintenance of attendance requires an efficient and skilled HR to log employee work hours and attendance. Under this system paper punch cards and punch machines are used to track the working hours and attendance of an employee. It takes several days of work to add up all working hours properly for correct and accurate input of payroll data, and it always has chances of errors in calculating employee wages.

While automated time and attendance systems like a Biometric Attendance Machine and Fingerprint Attendance Machines are more accurate as compared to Manual Maintenance of Attendance and logging data for payroll from these systems needs less time. Tracking system like magnetic stripe cards, barcode tags, electronic tags, touch screens and biometrics used in these automated systems.

Biometric Attendance Machine uses physical characteristics like fingerprints, hands, eyes or other features for identification of employees. To add an extra layer of security, efficiency, and accountability these biometric devices are often used as a punch clock. This system makes employees more accountable to their attendance time which in turn increase productivity and profitability of the organization. Biometric systems found in almost every industry.

The biometric system offers a broad range of products to choose from, and one of the most famous amongst them is Fingerprint Attendance Machine. It is one of the most efficient and accurate attendance machines. It is easy and straightforward to use and also an inexpensive system. Further, it reduces the chances of proxy or buddy punching. It comes with an excellent capability to store records up to 30000. It is one of the most accepted biometric systems used in airports, hospitals, manufacturing centers and other places.

But apart from organizations, it is imperative for employees to know the benefits of these machines. It will allow the employees to get paid for every single minute they have worked. With the use of time and attendance device, the employees are readily available with the information like hours worked, earned time-off, and even their schedule. It also eliminates their dependence on managers for such information. The machines are unbiased that means it treats everyone equally.

Camera Design Service Vendors Gearing Up for a New Phase With New Standards

Not many companies are well versed with camera designs and their tweaks and hence few players are moving towards custom development of board cameras and smart vision sensors based on different processors. Also with the advent of several cameras and camera architectures, companies now have a strong base to build new products.

Some companies can design cameras to customer requirements in short timelines too.

The Challenges

Companies usually face the challenge of meeting hardware and software design specifications of the camera.

High definition images might have to be clicked at regular intervals, sometimes in a fraction of a second! Some companies now opt for drones that would house several cameras, and then try to stitch and synchronise the images simultaneously, so that the shots can be taken from all possible angles.

Also the core challenge here is to reduce the camera size since the product needs to be a marketable product that also needs to be considerably affordable.

For such a camera design, companies strike a balance with its hardware design, PCB design, Bootloader porting, and the efforts expended on Device drive modification, Camera app development and Testing procedures.

The need for integrated camera solutions

Integrated camera solutions with small, lightweight, and inexpensive 5 Megapixel camera with an adequate CMOS sensor is in great demand in the market. These solutions include the snapshot mode and the continuous mode at various resolutions. The MiniSD card works for local storage for such cameras.

The solution also includes an external trigger for Camera synchronization, instinctive photo captures, and the like.

Such companies offer independent camera design offerings including

• Prototype development
• Complete board design and Mechanical design
• uBoot and Kernel changes
• Porting on new hardware
• Production support
• CMOS and CCD sensor integration
• Monochrome, Color, and near IR development
• Embedded processor development including FPGA and ARM processors
• Standard/ Custom mounting options
• Robust enclosures suitable for industrial camera use
• Integrated LED lighting

Types of Cameras for Different Applications

• 3 megapixel Cameras with color and monochrome sensors
• 2K Line Scan Camera compliant with DCAM standard
• VGA cameras with onboard DSP
• Line-scan sensor integrated with DSP
• A PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) High Definition 720p or 1080p 30fps conferencing camera with autofocus
• Linescan camera setup with onboard image processing
Custom cameras are developed for integrate the required sensor, optics or mounts. These cameras also include autofocus feature, lighting setup, enclosure material based on the environment, ruggedness to shocks and vibrations, and adherence to several safety and regulatory compliances.

Benefits offered by integrated cameras and their design proposed by the best vendors

• Reduced time for development: The company’s experience in designing imaging products and solutions is crucial and hence becomes the differentiating factor in the faster process execution of design and building cameras.

• Reduced cost: The platform based development model reduces the cost of development of camera products considerably. Nowadays offshore companies can even lower the cost of development especially if they are developed from scratch.

• Application Support: Support at the application level is crucial especially in context with image processing algorithm development. Years of expertise and experience in imaging and image processing boil down to the efficiency rendered during support. Also a company with resources who have previous system integration experience would relate with customer needs and pain points too.

• Integrated Solutions: Companies who are certified for CE, FCC, and UL will always strive to get the prototype ready based on the design in terms of ingress, temperature, and other specifications.

A graduate in technology, Toya Peterson is an avid blogger who is always interested in the recent fads and trends related to wearables, IoT and embedded technologies. A mother of two, she aspires to be a photo-blogger soon as she is honing up her skills in photography. In her leisure time, she loves to go hiking with her friends.

Digital Learning – Creating a History in the Field of Education

Learning has seen a major transition in the last decade. For years, students have been using only textbooks for their study, which actually made the entire learning system boring. Today, printed textbooks have been replaced by digital learning software. Students are now using laptops, tablets and other learning tools instead of textbooks. While students are embracing technology, which has made learning more fun for them, and parents are happy that their children are finding learning interesting, and thus performing better in their academics, digital learning has become quite popular among teachers as well. Today, we see that schools and colleges are introducing eLearning as one of their core forms of learning methodology.

Digital learning has several benefits, which are highly unlikely to be found in a typical age-old classroom setting. This is only because, it is powered by technology, thus offering attractive benefits.

Personalized learning method: Digital learning can be easily customized by teachers, according to a class’s need and even every student’s need. Based on the student’s strong and weak areas, the learning method adopted for each student can be different, suiting their requirement and goals. With this facility, teachers can bridge existing gaps for each student, and help them in achieving their academic goals.

Interactive content: Learning through software comes with interactive content, which includes videos, audios, quizzes, puzzles, and games, making the entire learning process more fun. Students rather get driven to this fun way of learning, and tend to spend more time on it. If the content is interesting, grasping and retention becomes easier for students.

Regular assessments and real-time feedback: Students can take assessments after every chapter, to know how well they have understood the concepts. Students can also take the assessments multiple times for more practice. The real-time feedback from software helps in better learning of concepts. The system tracks the scores of students and allows teachers to see students’ progress at both individual level as well as class level.

More organized way of learning: It comes with calendars, prompts and reminders and helps students to stay up to date on the curriculum.

Embedded with artificial intelligence: The software analyses the scores of students in assessments to determine their strongest and weaker areas. If students are able to solve easier problems in their strongest areas, then the software can be programmed to show more complex questions. More questions on the weaker part can be given to improving the student’s overall knowledge in the subject.

Boosts student performance: The gamification in digital learning makes the student stay in the system for a longer period. Intelligent software determining the weaker areas and throwing questions at them has helped students in bridging gaps in their learning. In this way, students can show the best performance by securing best grades.

Teacher’s life has become easier: Tracking every student’s performance manually is a highly difficult task. This is where the software has become the best partner for teachers. Since students are finding adaptive learning more fun, and they are also performing better by way of this method, teachers are spending less time in lecturing. They mostly intervene when students require help from them.

The Role of Digital Publishers in Elearning

In today’s fast moving environment, teachers are constantly looking at adopting digital learning in schools and colleges. As a result, eLearning companies are enormously depending on digital publishing solutions, in order to offer the best digital learning experience for students and teachers. At the same time, demand for interactive content has shot up to the greatest heights. Content writers, editors, and proofreaders with good academic knowledge have become the most valuable employees offering high ROI to digital publishers.

On the whole, the entire learning process has seen a major transformation, becoming more interesting and helping students perform better in academics. Partnering with the provider of digital publishing solutions, digital learning software companies have found a profound market for themselves in the education industry. Today, eLearning software providers and digital content publishers are moving hand in hand in creating a history in the field of education.

Tips for Successful Project Delivery: Customer Engagement, Respect and Communication

What if a professional athlete set a standard where winning was not enough? Instead, they had to achieve a personal best or break a previous record year after year.

What if a new theme park opened on schedule, with no delays, and offered tickets to the first one million visitors to return at any time and bring up to 100 guests at no additional charge?

Welcome to my world. As an IT provider, I face the similar challenge: that is, delivering a project experience to customers that will not only achieve all project goals, but also blow them away.

I have delivered on hundreds of projects for customers in my career and I have seen projects go smoothly and poorly. I have seen projects end with both the customer and the provider feeling a sense of accomplishment, and I have seen projects drag on for months, even years and then dwindle out almost as if customer and provider conceded defeat for any of the following reasons:

  • lofty project goals
  • misjudged budgets
  • technology that couldn’t be wrangled in

Sound familiar to anyone? These are some of the reasons why PMI (pmi.org) reports that 89 percent of projects at high-performing organizations meet their original goals and business intent, compared with just 36 percent at low-performing organizations.

The Cost of Poor Performance

Those low-performing organizations also lose 12 times more money than high-performers.

My customers include professionals in all aspects of IT service delivery. Their business and IT needs are great because so much depends on the success of these projects-their budgets, their revenue goals, their own staffing decisions, their perceptions to upper management, and the perceptions of other customers.

But what many people don’t realize is the poorly performing projects hurt both customers and providers equally. Obviously the customer is frustrated and perhaps feels slighted in what they are getting versus what they are paying for. These kinds of projects severely impact the provider as well. The provider’s number one priority is to deliver on the scope of the project to the customer. That has to be the most important principle for a provider, held above all else, because a project that ends with an unsatisfied customer is a complete waste of everyone’s time. However, a very close second priority is delivering a project quickly and efficiently, even when there is no time pressure from the customer.

Long-running projects incur overhead in several forms. As projects run late, the provider may now have more concurrent active projects. Their engineers have to split their time and attention between two or more projects which can result in lower quality. The longer the project goes on, the more disconnected the team can become, momentum slips, and decisions made early on can start to be questioned. Changes in direction often delay the project even longer and more meetings are likely to occur. For a typical small project with just five resources, a two-month delay can easily incur 50 hours of additional time.

I have found that successful projects that avoid these pitfalls and end in mutual accomplishment always require both parties to be fully engaged and invested. Since the nature of project delivery is a client/merchant one, it is up to us as IT service providers to ensure that engagement happens and to drive mutual investment in the outcome.

Customer Engagement

First, let me expand on the benefits of customer’s remaining actively invested in their projects. When a customer signs a statement of work (SOW) for a project, they agree to pay some amount to have work done. Whenever money changes hands like this, a sense of entitlement on the customer’s part can sometimes emerge that often goes like this: “I did my part by paying you, now you go deliver on what I paid for”.

I want to be clear and say this is perfectly understandable and not completely unreasonable. However, as providers striving to fully deliver on customer needs and goals, we need the customer to remain engaged and part of the process. I call it everyone in the boat and the metaphor is interesting to me because you can think of it as the project team bringing the customer to the goals rather than bringing the goals to the customer. In the boat, the provider is the captain and crew of a private cruise liner and the customer is the pampered passenger with input on where the yacht goes.

In the end, however you conceptualize it, a customer that is engaged in a project is less likely to be critical of decisions made about direction and design and more likely to feel some ownership in the outcome. A customer who is part of the process is less likely to criticize than one who remains distant as an observer. In my experience, projects with high customer involvement always end smoothly with a sense of mutual accomplishment. They often build lasting business relationships between provider and customer.

Let’s examine some tactics to improve customer engagement and buy-in. The following two main methods get customers engaged in projects, help keep them engaged, and improve efficiency as you work.

Method 1: Build Trust and Respect Between Project Team and Customer at the Start

Building mutual respect is a key to smooth projects. Mutual respect means that decisions can be made about the project constructively and without dissent. There are several aspects to building a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

First Impressions: The old cliché is true; there’s only one chance at a first impression. Moreover, a good first impression only lasts as long as you live up to it. The minute you falter, the good first impression is gone, so it is critical that you stay consistent in your positive interactions. Do your homework and make sure all project team members know the project inside and out and are ready to speak authoritatively on their parts before engaging the customer’s team.

Mutual Decision Making: Next opportunity for building trust and respect is the experience you bring the customer in mutual decision making. As the provider, it’s important to take the time to lead them through the decision process. Where there are no customer opinions, backfill with yours. When a customer has a strong opinion on a topic try to yield to their desires. When the customer desires are not aligned with your agenda (best practices or efficient execution) then you must engage them in dialogue. That dialogue must always be grounded in respect for the customer’s point of view and focused on a mutually beneficial resolution focused on the goal not the execution (the what, and not the how).

Respect for Time: While keeping the customer involved, we never want to waste their time. Guide them to focus their attention on the important parts of the project and not the mundane details. Customer’s should be engaged in decisions about whether or not to do something but not necessarily about how exactly to do that thing. Customer’s should be appraised of the how, but in more of a review format to build buy-in for execution.

Execution: One sure-fire way to lose respect of the customer is to fail to execute. Always do what you say will you do, when you say you will do it. As mentioned above, mess this up once and you’ve lost the game. For that reason, it is very important that you are realistic about what you say you will do and when you will do it. Set yourself up for this, you are in control of the expectation and the execution. If you have a perfect track record of execution, the customer won’t have a reason to question your plan.

Method 2: Communication

The what, when, and how of communication can really make a difference in projects. Separate customers will react in different ways to your communication methods. For example, one might prefer a regular status update in e-mail while another one expects to view a milestone report with a summary of weekly achievements.

Goals: The very first communication engagement should be about establishing project goals. This may or may not be adequately defined in the presales process so it’s the first opportunity to interact. If the goals have already been adequately defined, then the provider’s role here is to articulate these goals back to the customer to make sure customer and provider share the same vision of the goals. If they are not the same vision, or the goals have not been adequately defined, this engagement is the first opportunity for customer and provider to collaborate and build mutual trust/respect.

Level of Detail: Meaningful ongoing communication should be tailored to the individual customer. There is no right way to go about it. Too much can be a turnoff for customers and will result in them disconnecting, too little and they’re wondering if you’re making any progress at all. I personally like the more frequent informal contact with periodic formal updates. Keeping with respecting the customers time concept, the updates must be meaningful and relate back to their business needs, not related to gory details of execution. Consider a daily dashboard with a series of weekly reports.

Creativity vs. Execution:

Good project delivery creates a line between creativity (design) and execution (plan). Customers lose faith if you are months into a project and need to redesign some work item every week. Attempt to get all design details done and communicate about those design decisions up front. As a provider, walk through the whole execution conceptually and figure out all the questions that need answering first. Engage the customer in a high-level walkthrough of the project and derive answer to those questions. During the design stage, gather information and understanding from sessions with the customer but organize the designs into work plans away from them to save time (yours and theirs). Present and review for final approval. Once you both agree on all design elements, close the design discussion, and begin executing to a plan/timeline. For large projects, break this cycle up into chunks if appropriate.

Cloud Computing!

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way technology is used to share information and resources to achieve coherence, relevance and economy of scale. These three factors are hugely important today when individuals and businesses require being in the forefront of their activities and achieving profits and revenues while reigning in expenditure.

This kind of computing is the method or model of internet-based computing that provides on demand, processing capabilities as well as data to computers and other devices on a network through a shared pool of resources such as applications and services, networks, servers and storage devices, which can be requested and used with minimal effort. Cloud computing enables businesses and users with capabilities to store and process vital data in third-party data centers.

In simple terms, cloud computing means the storing and accessing of information and applications over the internet instead of leaving them on local hard drives or in-house servers. The information accessed is not ‘physically close’ and the metaphor ‘cloud’ relates back to the days of flowcharts, graphs and presentations where the server infrastructure was depicted as a ‘puffy, white cumulus cloud’ that stores and doles out information.

Cloud computing or ‘the cloud’ as it is commonly known enables a ‘pay as you go model’. The availability of low-cost computers and devices, high-capacity networks and storage devices as well as complementing factors like service-oriented architecture, adoption of hardware visualization and utility computing have contributed to the success of cloud computing in a very big way.

Cloud Computing Architecture

The five specific factors that define cloud computing are:

• Broad network access
• On-demand self service
• Resource pooling
• Measured service
• Rapid elasticity or expansion

Broadly, that sums the essence of this kind of computing. However, there are several loosely coupled components and sub-components that are essential to make computing work. These are divided into two sections – the front end and the back end which connect to each other via the Internet.

The Front End is the physically visible interfaces that clients encounter when using their web-enabled devices. Not all computing systems use the same interfaces.

The Back End comprises all the resources that deliver cloud computing services. These are essentially virtual machines, data storage facilities, security mechanisms etc. that together provide a deployment model and are responsible for providing the ‘cloud’ part of the computing service.

Benefits

Exponents of computing are quick to praise it citing the many advantages and benefits it provides. Among the many benefits, the prime ones are:

• Enables scale up and scale down of computing needs
• Enables businesses to avoid infrastructure costs
• Allows companies to get applications running quicker and faster
• Improves manageability and adjustability of IT resources to meet fluctuating business demands
• Reduces maintenance

The high demand for cloud computing is further enhanced by the advantages of cheap service costs, high computing power, higher performance and scalability and easier accessibility and availability.