Tech Insights: Buzzword Bingo

Ryan Barton

Would you like more cross-department synergy? More multi-platform software implementations? Are you a cloud person?

Even for those of us who are self-confessed geeks, it can be a bit much! Back in '94, the writer of Dilbert coined the phrase Buzzword Bingo (everyone gets handed a bingo card before the meeting for when the boss says a buzzword. Wally gets Bingo after the boss says "you're all very attentive today. My proactive leadership must be working!").

However, our distrust of buzzwords can obfuscate the fact that technology is a powerful way to produce, well … collaboration, return on investment and efficiencies!

This month's Tech Insights provides a buzzword-free introduction to some compelling technologies and why you might want to consider them.

The Cloud
You can't go very far in a technology discussion today before hearing a reference to "the cloud." Essentially, "the cloud" refers to utilizing resources from a group of large servers over the Internet, instead of from your local network. It allows you to pay for what you use, have no maintenance and access data from anywhere, fully reliably. You host things online—in the cloud. However, because data is sent over the Internet, it can be much slower than having data locally, especially in low-bandwidth areas. It typically also means signing up for an ongoing fee.

Consider the following uses:

  1. Utilizing an offsite backup service to securely send your data offsite to the cloud automatically, so you never have to worry about taking data offsite manually.
  2. Hosting applications (such as your finance software) with the vendor, so they handle all upgrades and support, as well as providing always-on access.

Green Computing
Saving energy is a win for everyone. "Green computing" refers to ways of reducing your network's power consumption. Consider the following uses:

  1. Make sure all monitors are flat panel monitors (instead of the deep style CRT monitors), as they use approximately one-third the electricity. Set all computers to put their monitors to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity, and the computer to sleep after 30 minutes (unless the computer needs to stay active for remote access).
  2. Invest in a terminal server. This is a central server that provides logins to multiple computers and allows computers to be replaced with thin clients-"dumb terminals" which have no moving parts and use approximately one-seventh the power of a full computer.

Virtual Computing
Instead of running one computer on one physical machine, virtualization (or virtual computing) allows multiple machines to be run on one system, saving significant costs. The true power of virtualization is in allowing full failover across hardware (so one machine can die and not affect the network). If you have more than four servers, make sure you are considering virtualizing the server environment, instead of just replacing them as they age!

Email Archiving
Ever deleted an email, only to find you needed it later? Or worse, had staff delete sensitive data they later needed? An archiving solution will permanently keep a copy of all email in and out of the organization and allow for centralized searching. Tip: regardless of whether or not you archive, make sure selectmen/council members/board members are using dedicated, official email addresses, so their personal accounts don't become subject to "Right to Know!"

When it's time for a new phone system, convergence becomes a key buzzword to understand. Essentially, your phones and your computer network can now talk, which provides a lot of intriguing features, including cost-effectively having remote locations on the same phone system and phone service.

New technologies can not only create wonderful excuses for Buzzword Bingo, but they can also deliver on some of those promises!

Ryan Barton is President of Mainstay Technologies, an IT firm that specializes in providing technology support and implementation services for municipalities and other organizations throughout New Hampshire.

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