Blog Posts

Backing Up Is Hard to Do

A look at backing up in the age of cloud computing and internet storage and some strategies to help keep everything safe
Backing Up Is Hard to Do

Backing Up Is Hard to Do

One of the questions I get asked a lot from friends, family and clients who know I have more than a tad bit of technology pulsing through my veins, is "How do I backup?" It usually comes from someone who has lost a file or document and is now worried it will happen again. While a good backup strategy should be as custom as a good retirement plan, some of the principals and guidelines are good for everyone to consider.

Rule of Three

Taking nothing away from this blog post but this, "Nothing exists if it isn't in three places". That is to say that if a document, movie, music file or anything else isn't in three different places it is non-existant when it comes to being backed up. In a good backup strategy, make sure that everything exists in three places, the local machine, a local backup and an offsite backup. Consider things like application install disks as one copy, a hard drive as one copy and any back up as one copy.

Local Still Rules

The first, easiest and cheapest place to backup is locally. Using a external storage device and some backup software your entire computer, from operating system to preferences should be backed up nightly and be able to fully restore the entire computer from scratch. A local backup protects you against theft, damage or disk failure and allows for an immediate replacement. Say you drop your laptop in the East River attending a friends birthday bash, with a full local backup, a quick visit to the computer store, a hard hit on the credit card and you will be back in hours. If you want to go that extra mile use a local storage device that has redundancy like a Drobo or other multi-drived gadget. This will make sure that one drive failure doesn't get worsened by another.

My Cloud Life

Now that you are covered locally make a move to the clouds. Local backup only protects against isolated failure and not things like a house fire or flood that could wipe out not only the computer but any backups in the same room. To protect yourself against that, as the Microsoft commercial says "To the clouds!". Add a backup solution that copies the most important files to a cloud based, offsite facility. Using something like Crashplan, Mozy or JungleDisk all your important files will be encrypted, safe and secure should your local backup fail.

Another way to do this is to use a service like DropBox or MobileMe to store all your important files. These services automatically sync your files to the cloud. The trick is to make sure all your of your important files are stored on these services. Don't be afraid to backup a backup either. You can use CrashPlan to backup MobileMe or use another service to make sure all your files are locally stored as well. These services have lots of different pricing and options but generally are between $5 and $10 a month. You might want to factor in that recovering data from a dead hard drive starts at around $1,000 and goes way up.

Automate & Test

All of the best backup strategies in the world are useless without two key elements, they must be fully automated and tested routinely. Automation means that every part of your backup must happen on a schedule without anyone doing anything. It is way too way to easy to forget to run the special program or move that set of files, so just set it and forget it. The testing part is the harder of the two but is more important. Make sure you actually test your backup system by creating and deleting files and trying to restore them. This testing should also include full computer failure so try to restore an old computer or two before you sell them on E-bay. It is better to test something when you have a choice and the time than learn it doesn't work later.

My Scenario

I start with a very big Drobo (4.51 TB of space) partitioned into two drives one for Time Machine which I back up all the laptops the house and one for very large iTunes and iPhoto collections. I store all my files in my iDisk which is both local and synced to the cloud and other laptops in my house. All of my email is hosted either on Rackspace or Gmail and I use Dropbox to sync a few folders on my desktop that I access a lot (Inbox, Outbox, Downloads). I use CrashPlan to back it all to the cloud including the iDisk.

Backing up is not easy or fun, but if done well can prevent wide spread panic and lost time.

Tweet at me and let me know your thoughts on backup.

Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

For years Salesforce has provided the ability to create a knowledge base using Solutions which attach and interact with Cases. In Service Cloud 3 Solutions aren't even mentioned because the Knowledge product has taken over but Knowledge isn't free - so how can you use Solutions in a way that mimicks some of the Knowledge features and allows you to leverage your already existing investment in the platform?
Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

A little background is in order for how Salesforce has gotten to where they currently are with Service Cloud 3. Cases and Solutions have been part of the service and support offering for years - they date back to before there was a "Service Cloud". Solutions have the ability to be categorized, exposure to the public via an iFrame on your website, self service or customer portal, and attach to Cases while being included in email templates for closing out a support case. Although the Solutions product has been around for a while it hasn't been updated or enhanced for as long as I can remember. It is what we at Arkus like to call a class 3 object - no security, no updates in over two years, and seemingly forgotten in the wave of innovations at Salesforce.

About two and a half years ago Salesforce acquired Instranet to extent the service cloud. Instranet already integrated with Salesforce to provide a higher end knowledge base product but it was an on-premise solution. Salesforce aquired it and put it up into their cloud slowly but surely and it has now become Salesforce Knowledge and has replaced Solutions in all the marketing literature and feature upgrades for the Service Cloud.

Is that Knowledge? Nope - Those are Solutions!

While Solutions are a class 3 object they can be built upon using the platform and made into a really useful product without the need to purchase the additional Knowledge product licenses. Part of what makes Salesforce so great is that you get the platform and everything that it affords so it seems a little odd to have to pay for additional native features. Something that we have done for a client is essentially build out Solutions so that it is more like Knowledge with advanced searching, searching ahead based on criteria within a Case, and custom user input and edit screens for solutions which utilizes a templating system to make sure that articles are uniform and standardized in the way that they are written. All of these features didn't exist when the client wanted to start using a knowledge base and we advised them that we could build out Solutions to do just that.

When are Solutions the Right Solution?

There are a certain set of requirements that will lead you down the path of figuring out whether or not you should use Solutions vs Knowledge in your knowledge base implementation. If the following features aren't that important then you can totally go down the path of using Solutions with some custom VisualForce magic:

  • Twitter integration: Knowledge to Tweet?
  • Security: Visible based on role within the organization?
  • Call Scripting: Based on Assets or Products owned by an Account?
  • Search: Multi-faceted searching for articles?

If the above outweighs the licensing cost of purchasing Salesforce Knowledge then you may as well go down the path of purchasing Knowledge and just configuring it to your needs. If the licensing costs outweigh the additional features and the ability to be on a product roadmap then you should absolutely consider Solutions for your implementation.

So Many Options

The great thing about the platform is that there are these options. Sometimes choosing isn't easy and in this case most of the marketing and documentation would lead you down the path of choosing Knowledge while that isn't always the right answer. Interestingly you don't even hear anything about Solutions at all anymore but they still exist on the platform and in my eyes are still viable for use as a knowledge base. Case in point, we just tricked out Solutions for use by a large enterprise and saved them on the ongoing licensing cost of Knowledge and got them exactly what they were looking for.

If you want to talk more about specific use cases around using the Service Cloud and a knowledge base hit me up on Twitter at or comment on this blog post on Facebook at

CloudForce, Apple Announcements and Charlie Sheen

A look at a busy week of technology news, events and the growth of Twitter.
CloudForce, Apple Announcements and Charlie Sheen

Extra! Extra! Read all about it..

As I thought about what topic I wanted to blog about this week, I realized that this week was filled with exciting news and events in the world of cloud computing and technology worth talking about. So here we go.

Cloudforce 2011 will host its annual Cloudforce event on Thursday, March 3rd at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Here is a great opportunity to hear Marc Benioff and other industry leaders discuss the latest breakthroughs in Cloud and Cloud2 technology. What makes this more exciting then being free is where it is being held. The Jacob Javits Center is a much larger venue than normal so I am very interested to see what they have in store for us. If you are in the city or close, it doesn't get any better then free so come check it out. It's got enough buzz that I got a competitor who implements Microsoft CRM and Sage to come with me! If you are interested in hearing some predictions about CloudForce, my colleagues will be taking a deep dive on their award winning podcast CloudFocus Weekly.

iPad2, Macbook Pros and more

For you Apple lovers out there, this week was filled with announcements to put a smile on your face from ear to ear. First they announced the new Macbook Pro line, which Arkus immediately went out and purchased in case you were wondering, which brings speed to a new level along with new thunderbolt technology which looks to be a way of attaching a new generation of peripherals such as high resolution displays, high speed drives, and other yet to be invented devices. Most would be satisfied by that but they went ahead and announced the new iPad 2 and iOS 4.3. Now, I am not ready to buy the New iPad just yet but I do feel its new features are pretty cool. Its thinner, lighter, faster and adding a few HD cameras really puts it in a class of its own. The iOS 4.3 update coming to your homes on March 11th is what really excites me. Airplay to any device in your home and Facetime for the iPad are great new features that I see using a lot. The only thing that could have made me happier would have been an announcement of an enhanced Mobile Me but you can't have everything.

Charlie Sheen

Unless you live in the stone age, you know who Charlie Sheen is and probably know something about what is going on with him. What makes it more interesting to me is how fast this has grown. In the last 24 hours, Charlie has joined Twitter, had about 12 updates and a million people have followed him waiting to see what he will say or post next. To put that into prospective, it was in 2009, about 2 years after it initially launched that Twitter had its first account with 1 million followers when Ashton Kutcher took on CNN. In addition, in 2009 when Oprah joined, it took about a week to get a million followers. Twitter is a great social media platform as we all know but this really woke me up to how amazing it is.

Till next time, Winning!

Using Chatter Like a Pro: Working It Into Your Workflow

The Spring '11 release of brought some new Chatter features that can bring your productivity and collaboration to new heights.
Using Chatter Like a Pro: Working It Into Your Workflow

Three Chatter Spring '11 Tips

While's new Chatter product has been hitting the news and airwaves the question a lot of our clients ask is "How can I actually use it in my everyday existence, process and workflow?" Here are some ideas, concepts and best practices to help get you and your company using Chatter like a pro.

@ Me, No @ You!

The single best new feature in Chatter is the ability to mention or tag people people inside of an update. Include the @ and the first few letters of a name and they can be selected inside the update. This makes the name clickable and also sends the mentioned user an email notifying them they were mentioned (if they select to receive an email for this action in their personal preferences). 
The power trick here is to use this to garner attention about something. Just mention the person in the status on the record you want them to review and include a note about what you are looking for. This is great for opportunity or project reviews or just reviewing the completeness of some data. It can also be used to help notify people they should be following something. I used it the other day to help a colleague find a contact. In the past I would have copied and pasted a link but using the @ mention made it much easier. 

Email Conversations

Another new feature that is worthy of its own hip hop hooray is the ability to reply to Chatter emails and have them automatically added to the conversation. This is great for staying in the loop and updating people without having to login to or the mobile applications. Sometimes email is still the best choice. 
The power tip here is to add people using the mentions feature so they get the notice and start the conversation. Try using it on Events as an additive to inviting people to the event. This way you can get their responses via email and make sure everyone is on board with times, dates and agendas. 

Breaking The Board of Dash

The last feature I want highlight is the ability to break down dashboards by posting snapshots of a dashboard in your Chatter feed. This allows you to highlight analytics and get updates from others on their thoughts. Combine this with a mention and a topic tag and bring the conversation to a whole new level.
Working any new methodology into your work habits and process can be challenging but these new Chatter features have really helped us streamline our process and maximize our productivity.
If you have other ways of working Chatter into your workflow, tweet them over to me at

Ten Years of Innovation

A look at one of my favorite Marc Benioff keynote lines and reflection on three ways that technology has changed in the last 10 years and how it has really changed the way I live my life.
It always makes me think when during one of his highly anticipated keynote speeches CEO Marc Benioff talks about how the technology industry changes greatly over a ten year span. As he mentions, the industry is always overestimating what you can do in one year but constantly underestimates what can be done in ten. He uses this phrase to point out that technology is ever evolving and that cloud computing allows you as a user to ride the wave of innovation and not have to necessarily "keep up with the times" as the sheer fact that your leveraging the cloud will afford you the ability to stay current without really thinking about it. Instant upgrades, scalability and elasticity, security, and system optimization are things that you just don't have to think about. There are many technologies that have evolved over the last ten years but I thought I would pick three that have really made strides and have changed beyond my wildest imagination.

I Want My HDTV

I can still remember watching Yankee games on my 13" television set. I often times think to myself, how did I even see the game? When I upgraded to a "large" 32" tube I thought to myself, wow, I have a big TV, this is awesome! Little did I know that a 32" TV would soon be considered small and the tube would be obselete. The first High Definition televisions were available in the United States in 1998 but there was little to no content. Who would have thought that over the last ten years the majority of people have an HDTV and almost every channel is broadcasted in HD. I honestly can't imagine watching an action packed movie on HBO or a football game on a standard definition TV ever again.

I Want Everything Yesterday

About ten years ago now I got my first cell phone. It was a bit bulky and it had keys on it just like a regular cordless phone. It was amazing to me that I could be in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden a phone in my pocket, connected to nothing, could start ringing and I could communicate like I was home. I also remember sending my first SMS (text) messages and started to get really good at typing words on the standard phone keypad. This was the start of real-time collaboration for me - it was like instant messaging on the go. Now before I get out of bed in the morning I pick up my iPhone and check my email, my Twitter, Facebook, and download a podcast for my commute to work. Oh, did I mention that I also use the iPhone to actually wake me up using the alarm clock. I walk around with a computer as powerful as the laptop I used in college and I use it as a multi-faceted real-time constantly-connected communication device. With the advances to mobile devices over the last ten years I can run my business and my personal life - just about everything - from a thin portable communication device that fits in my pocket.

Awesome Apps Please

Of course the last topic I am going to touch upon is cloud computing and the advancement of running applications in the cloud. Ten years ago who would have thought that entire businesses could be run from a technology perspective without owning a single server. If you would have talked to an IT executive in 2001 they would have said that you are crazy. There were some services available like Webex and of course but they were fledgling - nobody could have predicted that they would not only be major Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors but in addition to that there would be IaaS and PaaS players infiltrating the enterprise at a staggering pace. The industry has taken such a turn that at this point you wouldn't even start a business without saying "what CAN'T I use cloud computing for" rather then the exact opposite which is how people thought ten years ago.

The Times They Are a-Changin

Benioff hits the nail on the head, with technology things are always advancing, always innovating, and always changing. Even these three examples though are likely to change a great deal over the next ten years. Who knows what might happen with 3D TVs - maybe we won't need those glasses soon? Mobile Devices are getting smarter and smarter by the year - soon enough we might not even need laptops or desktops - we may just have phones and tablets. As for cloud computing, we are still at the very begining of a movement. Ten years from now we may be at the point where no business at all is operating without large portions of their processes living in the cloud. What might that cloud even look like - will it be collaborative, social, and open? All likely and I dare not guess the rest.
To discuss more about this blog post feel free to tweet me at or comment on this post on our Facebook page at