Archive for Listopad, 2012

BlackBerry 10 Developer Program Updated

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

Tools updates, new rewards, hardware opportunities, and revenue commitments to help drive further momentum among developers

Research In Motion today announced updates to its developer ecosystem programs, including BlackBerry® Dev Alpha test devices, the 10k developer commitment, updated tools and more. These programs continue to drive enthusiasm from the developer community as they build for the BlackBerry® 10 platform.

“Developers from around the world are joining us on the last leg of the journey to the launch of BlackBerry 10 and we are thrilled at the enthusiasm we see from them. We have worked hard, and continue to work hard to meet the needs of developers,” said Alec Saunders, Vice President, Developer Relations and Ecosystems. “Developers asked for hardware to test their apps, and we delivered. They asked for the roadmap about the tools, and we posted it. They asked for RIM to show our confidence in developer success, and we’re doing it. We’ve continued to refine and add on to our developer programs to ensure we are giving developers the best opportunities for success with BlackBerry 10.”

BlackBerry Dev Alpha C
The BlackBerry Dev Alpha program is expanding to include a BlackBerry Dev Alpha C test device for developers who want to test applications on a BlackBerry 10 device with a physical keyboard. For now, developers can sign up for more information on how they can qualify for this upcoming test device. More information is available at: http://developer.blackberry.com/devalphac

BlackBerry Dev Alpha Device Swap
Developers currently testing their applications on BlackBerry Dev Alpha test devices can now apply to be eligible for a limited edition BlackBerry 10 device. RIM will swap a BlackBerry Dev Alpha test device for a limited edition BlackBerry 10 smartphone after the launch. The deadline for applying is January 21, 2013 and developers must have an app submitted and approved on BlackBerry® World™. More information is available at: http://developer.blackberry.com/limitededition

Quality Apps and the BlackBerry 10k Commitment 
The Built for BlackBerry® certification lab is now open. Developers can submit their apps for testing to earn the Built for BlackBerry designation, which will signify a high-level of quality for customers. Developers can submit an app for Built for BlackBerry certification once the app has been submitted on BlackBerry® World and approved for sale. Applications need to pass the certification before they can be considered for the 10k commitment. RIM has previously announced that it would top up the amount an eligible developer earns on a BlackBerry 10 app to $10,000, if the app has been approved through the Built for BlackBerry program, and has earned a minimum of $1,000 over 12 months. More information and the full Terms and Conditions are available at: http://developer.blackberry.com/builtforblackberry/documentation/10kterms.html

BlackBerry 10 SDK Update
The BlackBerry 10 SDKs get their latest update today. The developer community has been providing feedback on the tools and this update will add support for installing the BlackBerry 10 IDE on Mac OS X, an update to the Visual Studio Plug-In beta, forward compatibility for BlackBerry® WebWorks™ HTML5 apps, sensor and orientation APIs for BlackBerry WebWorks, and more. The BlackBerry 10 SDKs will come out of beta into full launch on December 11, 2012. More information is available at: http://developer.blackberry.com

BlackBerry App Generator Gold Launch
The BlackBerry® App Generator, powered by Mippin, can turn online content (Rss, Facebook® brand/fan pages, blogs, online galleries, etc.) into a great looking native BlackBerry app within minutes. Apps built with the BlackBerry App Generator for BlackBerry® OS 5, OS 6, OS 7 and the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet include social sharing organically, including BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™) integration. The BlackBerry App Generator can automatically take current BlackBerry App generator apps and create a BlackBerry 10 application, and publish it on BlackBerry World in time for the launch of BlackBerry 10. More information is available at: http://www.blackberryappgenerator.com/blackberry/

BlackBerry and Appcelerator Offer
RIM and Appcelerator are working together to offer developers a unique opportunity to port their apps with Appcelerator’s Titanium™ platform and be rewarded for their efforts. The first 100 Appcelerator developers will receive a BlackBerry® Dev Alpha test device once their applications have been submitted for review on BlackBerry World. Up to 10,000 developers will receive one year of free Appcelerator Cloud Services and Analytics once their apps are approved and up for sale on BlackBerry World. More information is available at: http://www.appcelerator.com/blackberry10

Useful Links
Appcelerator Press Release – http://press.rim.com/newsroom/press/2012/appcelerator-blackberry.html

BlackBerry Developer Community Jam Zone – http://developer.blackberry.com/jamcommunity/

DevBlog – http://devblog.blackberry.com

BlackBerry 10 Information Page – www.blackberry.com/blackberry10

Absa to launch world-first mobile payment device for small businesses

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

In another first from Absa, the bank continues to broaden its payments strategy as part of a journey to make its customers lives easier with plans to launch a mobile payment acceptance service for businesses that works using a mobile phone.

Absa, a subsidiary of Barclays, has entered into an agreement with a local payment innovations company thumbzup, to enable businesses and entrepreneurs on-the-go across South Africa to accept debit or credit card payments using their smartphones or tablets through a world first, plug-in device called ‘The Payment Pebble.’

Under the agreement, Absa is set to provide its Payment Pebble as a value added service to all small business owners and merchants on-the-go with availability scheduled for early 2013.

Offering major improvement to card readers currently available in the market that ordinarily get attached to mobile phones to process merchant payments, the Pebble is a small card-reader device (taken from the concept of the size and shape of a pebble) that plugs into a 3.5mm audio input on any mobile smartphone or tablet and includes a mobile app.

As a first step, the merchant simply downloads the Pebble’s mobile app and, once registered, receives a pre-configured Payment Pebble that plugs into the mobile phone. Once plugged into the mobile phone Absa’s Pebble is turned into a mobile point-of-sale terminal where merchants can accept card payments in real-time anywhere in South Africa simply by “dipping” the card into the Pebble, entering the pin in a safe and secure manner and then following the prompts on the mobile app to conclude the transaction.

One of the key differentiating features of the technology is its ability to enable safe and secure payment acceptance as a pin entry device, for both chip and magnetic swipe strip cards. Another important benefit is that the Pebble is priced at a highly affordable price for small business, which will allow more merchants to accept card payments from their customers anytime anywhere. The Pebble is also extremely simple to use because it seamlessly interacts with any smartphone without the hassle of complex synchronisation or power supply concerns.

Speaking during the announcement of the strategic partnership today, Absa Head of Retail Markets, Arrie Rautenbach, said there was no other mobile acceptance device in the world that enables merchants to process payments remotely – with a plug in device – containing a mobile app that supports chip, pin and magnetic stripe cards and allows both debit and credit card transactions without the need for a power supply.

He said the technology would truly make the bank’s customers’ lives much easier. “It is a game changing innovation with the potential to transform the way in which entrepreneurs can safely accept offsite payments.”

Rautenbach continued to explain that the exclusive deal with thumbzup enabled Absa to launch this global-first solution to the South African market with further potential to export this to other African countries through a relationship with the bank’s parent company, Barclays.

Speaking at the same event, thumbzup CEO and founder Stafford Masie described the agreement as a major milestone for both organisations.

Says Masie: “We are extremely excited about our partnership with Absa, not only because we will bring a world first innovation to the market with the largest retail bank in South Africa. But because we have gained a business partner that understands our vision for payments into the future and a bank that is truly forward-thinking in their ambition to change the lives of their customers for the better. This is the success story of a local company achieving extraordinary things globally, and Absa made this happen.”

Absa leads the market with contactless card payments (tap and go), where the bank recently launched Potentiate, a first-of-its-kind lifestyle and financial solution with tap and go functionality. The tap and go card is a bank card that has a button and digital LCD display that provides a one-time PIN and allows clients to transact on any of their underlying credit, cheque and savings accounts. Being at the forefront of the country’s mobile banking strides, Absa has already run mobile payment trials with their staff using what is known as Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology that transforms cellphones into payment devices for individual consumer payments at point-of-sale terminals. The bank is also currently in beta phase for a transactional banking app for smartphones and tablet devices, expected to be released in early 2013.

“We have a strong global commitment to innovation. As the payment technology landscape changes Absa is focused on delivering pioneering solutions, to fundamentally transform the customer experience and build strong foundations for growth. The announcement of our partnership with thumbzup is critical to ensuring that we remain highly competitive in the payments industry and become the go-to-bank,” concludes Rautenbach.

Technology Top 100 Awards 2012

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

Honoured and Celebrated South Africa’s most Innovative Developers of Technology

The Vodacom Dome in Midrand was alive with the spirit of prestige on November 28, as this year’s Technology Top 100 Awards programme (TT100) honoured and celebrated South Africa’s business innovation excellence.

Launched in 1991 by the CEO of Da Vinci, Prof Roy Marcus, TT100 continues to foster a culture that nurtures the management of technology and innovation in South Africa today, 21 years later. TT100 has evolved into one of South Africa’s most credible business awards programmes, highlighting some truly inspirational South African organisations as role models for driving growth and advancement in our country.

Opening this auspicious evening, the Minister of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the honourable Derek Hanekom, gave the keynote speech. As the main sponsor of the award since 1994, the DST has shared in many successes with the TT100 over the years.

“Programmes such as TT100 are valuable in fostering strong and sustainable partnerships between government and industry, and the relationships within the TT100 ecosystem are of vital importance to future science and technology policy and sustained job-creation initiatives,” says Hanekom.

Going forward, this strong partnership hopes to contribute to achieving the hope of the awards to stimulate the growth of black-owned technologically innovative organisations. It further hopes to promote the involvement of women and young people in the technology arena.

The sponsors of the Emerging TT100 Enterprises section of the evening, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), also proudly partners with the TT100 to work towards job creation. It not only provides funding, but also gives the emerging TT100 innovators the support they need to ensure that a technology concept is transformed into a market-ready product.

“As the IDC, we are honoured to be associated with the TT100 Awards. Programme. Our combined efforts are already bearing fruit with the remarkable milestones achieved within the green industries and renewable sectors. Let’s continue to work towards a new enterprising generation of innovators.”

Leading up to this event and culminating in the announcement of the winners, all registered entrants first needed to go through a rigorous adjudication process. To make it through to the second round, they needed to complete a comprehensive questionnaire, after which they could present to a panel of at least three adjudicators. This year, more than 40 credible adjudicators – including independent and high-profile academics, government representatives, captains of industry and business professionals participated voluntarily in the adjudication process. The combination of expertise from such diverse industries and sectors keeps the process 100% transparent and consistent.

Entrants were then scored not only on the basis of technological sophistication, but on a set of much broader criteria. They were also scored on issues such as social and environmental responsibility, as well as national priorities such as black economic empowerment, job creation and skills development. But most importantly, these organisations were scored on how they have commercialised an innovative process for sustainable benefit for their stakeholders.

All qualifying entrants, finalists and winners will receive a dashboard in February 2013, following their score results in the various categories, including The Management of Technology, Innovation, People, Systems and Research, so that they can gain an overall perspective of how they fare in comparison to their peers.

Marcus, CEO of TT100, said “Looking at companies holistically, being a TT100 company is not about technology itself – but rather about the management of technology. It’s about how a company adopts and adapts, and it’s about their technology, which might not necessarily be their invention, but they’ve put it to use in an innovative way that has contributed to the significant growth of their business”.

These TT100 qualifiers, finalists and winners enjoyed the celebration of the strategic networking hospitality event that afforded them the opportunity of fostering private public relationships with both corporate and government guests, with a view to driving technology and innovation in our country.

The list of winners in the various categories, including the most prestigious award of the year:

The Minister’s Award for Overall Excellence
FNB (Large Enterprise Joint Award)
Van Reenen Steel (Pty) Ltd (Large Enterprise Joint Award)
Agility Global Health Solutions (Africa) (Medium Enterprise)

Department of Science and Technology Director-General’s Award for Overall Excellence
Computers 4 Kids cc (Emerging Enterprise)
Tutuka (Small Enterprise)

Award for Excellence in the Management of Technology
iWeathar (Emerging Enterprise)
Bettalights (Pty) Ltd (Small Enterprise)
EDH (South Africa) Pty Ltd (Medium Enterprise)
Bell Equipment Company SA (Pty) Ltd (Large Enterprise – Joint Award)
DotJWT (Large Enterprise – Joint Award)

Award for Excellence in the Management of Innovation
Realm Computers (Pty) Ltd (Emerging Enterprise – Joint Award)
Smoke Customer Care Solutions (Pty) Ltd (Emerging Enterprise – Joint Award)
Tutuka (Small Enterprise)
Dakot Milling Media (Pty) Ltd (Medium Enterprise)
FNB (Large Enterprise – Joint Award)
PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd (Large Enterprise – Joint Award)

Award for Excellence in the Management of People
Computers 4 Kids cc (Emerging Enterprise)
X/procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd (Small Enterprise)
Agility Global Health Solutions (Africa) (Medium Enterprise)
Van Reenen Steel (Pty) Ltd (Large Enterprise)

Award for Excellence in the Management of Systems
FutureWorks! (Emerging Enterprise)
Global Supply Chain Services (Pty) Ltd (Small Enterprise – Joint Award)
Metrix Software Solutions (Pty) Ltd (Small Enterprise – Joint Award)
Agility Global Health Solutions (Africa) (Medium Enterprise)
Van Reenen Steel (Pty) Ltd (Large Enterprise)

Award for Excellence in the Management of Research
FutureWorks! (Emerging Enterprises)
CERadvance Engineering Ceramics (Pty) Ltd (Small Enterprise)
Altech Multimedia (Pty) Ltd (Medium Enterprises)
DebTech (Large Enterprise – Joint Award)
Mintek (Large Enterprise – Joint Award)

Award for Sustainable Performance
Accsys (Pty) Ltd
Altech Limited
Hazleton Pumps (Pty) Ltd
LucidView (Pty) Ltd
MechCal (Pty) Ltd
Spark ATM Systems (Pty) Ltd
Technetium (Pty) Ltd
Verirad (Pty) Ltd

Technology Top 100 Achiever Award
Aveng Water (Pty) Ltd
Forge Business Online (Pty) Ltd
Fraxion (Pty) Ltd
Infantrust Parenting Solutions (Pty) Ltd
iPulse Systems (Pty) Ltd

For a complete list of finalists and qualifiers in respective categories, and more information on TT100, please visit www.tt100.co.za

Infor Collaborates with VMware to Expand Open Source ERP Options

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

Infor LN and ION on Open Source Stack Helps Provide Lower Total Cost of Ownership and Faster Time to Deployment

Infor, a leading provider of business application software serving more than 70,000 customers, has announced a collaboration with VMware through which the parties confirmed the compatibility of Infor’s ERP suite with a variety of VMware products, including VMware vSphere®, VMware vCloud Director® and VMware vFabric™. Through this collaboration Infor and VMware jointly developed a reference architecture for Infor10 ION and Infor LN that provides customers with an enterprise-grade ERP system that can be used as a virtual appliance, incorporating built-in security, performance management and monitoring.

The Infor LN virtual appliance is capable of being deployed to on-premise infrastructures or cloud quickly, and coupled with the open standards and open source-based components of VMware vFabric, the virtual appliance helps customers reduce deployment costs and operation expenses to help lower their overall cost of ownership.

“Infor is continually working to enable our customers to run faster and smarter by developing innovative applications that help improve business processes while simultaneously focusing on helping them lower IT infrastructure costs and increase agility,” said Ali Shadman, SVP, Business Cloud, Infor. “Collaborating with VMware enables us to provide customers with a robust ecosystem with market-leading virtualisation tools coupled with the intrinsic expertise of Infor and VMware right out-of-the-box.”

By making its applications compatible with VMware infrastructure, Infor enables customers to take advantage of the many benefits of virtualisation and cloud. As a result, Infor customers are better able to consolidate IT infrastructures, gain efficiency and cost reduction, and attain a higher degree of deployment portability. Since Infor products support cloud and on-premise infrastructures using the same code base to provide identical functionality, collaborating with VMware is another way Infor helps customers lower the cost of deployment with scalability, performance, and reliability.

“Infor’s customers can use their products to control operations and drive efficiencies,” said Parag Patel, vice president, Global Strategic Alliances, VMware. “By collaborating with VMware, Infor customers looking to reduce costs and speed time to market can leverage the efficiencies of a robust virtualised infrastructure.”

Western Digital makes it easy to discover, enjoy and protect digital content on Windows 8

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

New WD App Provides Easy Access and Sharing of Videos, Photos and Music for Windows 8 Devices

Western Digital, a leader in external storage and solutions for today’s connected life, has announced comprehensive support for new storage features in Windows 8 and an app for the new Windows user interface that makes it easy to discover, enjoy and backup digital media and files.

The WD app for Windows 8 automatically discovers digital content on connected WD direct attached storage solutions and showcases those photos, videos and music on a live tile on the Start screen. Within the app, customers can easily find and enjoy their digital content as well as share their media via email and social media sites with the Share charm. Windows 8 automatically installs the WD app for certified WD products or it can be downloaded from the Windows Store.

Additionally, WD products simplify the process of computer backup through support of the new File History feature within Windows 8. File History is a file backup application that makes it easy to schedule automatic backups to any hard drive attached to the computer or on the network, such as WD’s My Passport and My Book Live products. This simplified process of performing automatic, periodical back up of personal files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites and Contacts folders ensures peace of mind that important files are backed up.

WD drives also fully support the new Windows 8 Storage Spaces feature, which allows customers to make multiple external hard drives appear as a single storage volume. Customers can use Storage Spaces in conjunction with File History to create redundant backups for enhanced security.

“From our cool new WD app for Windows 8 and our comprehensive products for easy Windows 8 backup, to our recent addition of SkyDrive cloud storage into our WD 2go mobile app, we are excited about delivering a seamless storage experience across the Windows 8 ecosystem to help customers easily protect and enjoy their precious digital content,” says Anamika Budree, WD Branded Products Sales Manager, South Africa.

Availability and Pricing
The WD app for Windows 8 is currently available in the Windows Store. WD products included above are currently available at select retailers and online at wdstore.com.

Metrofile and IBM team up to offer managed Cloud Backup Service for SA businesses

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

New Cloud Service to help clients reduce operational risks

Metrofile Records Management, part of the JSE listed Metrofile Holdings Group (JSE:MFL), and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a business agreement to deliver a highly secure, cloud-based data backup service to assist companies to effectively manage and protect their data in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Targeted at smaller and mid-sized South African and African companies, the service, Metrofile Managed Backup, will be offered in early 2013 as a powerful alternative to tape and disk-based backup for clients who demand high levels of security and availability. This is part of the group’s strategy to diversify and to augment revenue streams from the existing customer base.

According to Guy Kimble, Managing Director at Metrofile Records Management, many businesses often cite security as a key inhibitor to cloud computing adoption.

“When customers of the new service connect to the IBM cloud computing resources across Metrofile’s network they will be able to quickly and reliably access a portfolio of data protection and archive options, along with around the clock monitoring and specialist support resources. This is critical for businesses that want the flexibility of the cloud but also need to protect data located in their data centres and wired or wireless computing devices such as tablets, smartphones and personal computers.”

For example, a company using the new service could back up, manage and archive critical business data between its head office and regional offices, as well as ensure their disaster recovery requirements are current and managed automatically. This service would also allow continuous threat detection and mitigation via the unified cloud data protection.

Kimble says the new service will also save companies a significant amount in terms of hardware capex for backup solutions as the infrastructure is included in the service.

“We have married the security and reliability of Metrofile’s data centre and monitoring services with the control and management capabilities of IBM’s enterprise cloud,” said Kimble. “This new service gives companies another way to innovate, create new value, and transform their businesses and industries.”

A key element of the cloud service is IBM SmartCloud Managed Backup (for a video on this please visit www.youtube.com/ibmdatabackup)

“As more organisations realise that cloud can be secure, easily managed, and a key part of their business strategy, cloud will quickly evolve as a tool for innovation rather than just for infrastructure,” said Christopher Lucier, Smart Cloud Resiliency Services IBM Middle East and Africa “We believe this new service from two recognised leaders in cloud computing provides a compelling way for smaller and mid-sized organisations to exploit cloud’s transformational power.”

Ruckus Powers Top Three Highest Ranked Chains for Hotel Wi-Fi

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

HotelChatter Names Ruckus Customers: Kimpton, Fairmont and Peninsula as Having the Best Hotel Wi-Fi in 2012

Ruckus Wireless  has announced that for the second year in a row, the top worldwide hotel chains ranked as offering the “Best Hotel Wi-Fi” by HotelChatter all have one thing in common—they were smart to choose Ruckus technology to power their Wi-Fi networks.

HotelChatter’s 2012 Hotel Wi-Fi Report named Kimpton Hotels, Peninsula Hotels, and Fairmont Hotels as having the best Wi-Fi in the world for their guests, ranking them first, second, and third, respectively. All three of these premier worldwide hotel chains know that reliable, robust Wi-Fi service is a prerequisite for their guests, and Ruckus ZoneFlex Wi-Fi technology is the best way to provide reliable high speed wireless Internet access.

Ruckus ZoneFlex is one of the most popular Wi-Fi systems for hotels because it extends signal range and delivers consistent performance at long ranges. This is achieved through patented adaptive antenna technology that automatically focuses Wi-Fi signals only where they are needed, creating stronger signals that can be “steered” around obstacles and interference. The Ruckus ZoneFlex system is the only to combine SmartMesh Networking, directional, high-gain RF signal routing, and predictive channel selection for unprecedented coverage and performance at an affordable price.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to deliver to our guests the best wireless experience possible and Ruckus has been integral in helping us make this happen,” said Donald O’Grady, regional vice president of Property Technology for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. “With Ruckus we’ve been able to deploy fewer access points that deliver greater coverage and have seen customer satisfaction rise. That’s a big part of why Kimpton is number one.”

Hotel chains like Kimpton, Peninsula and Fairmont that are aiming to increase revenues per available room (RevPAR) and maximise profitability use Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi ZoneFlex access points (APs) for: stronger Wi-Fi signals, ubiquitous coverage, more stable connections and consistent performance.

According to Hotel Internet Services (HIS), a leading provider of secure wired and wireless Internet services, Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart Wi-Fi has contributed to significant reductions in guest complaints for its customers across the United States.

“HIS is easily seeing 30% or greater reduction in guest complaints wherever we have installed a Ruckus-powered Wi-Fi network,” said Gary Patrick, president of Hotel Internet Services. “Bottom line, we have far fewer truck rolls being required to maintain Wi-Fi at our contracted hotel properties, which means lower servicing costs and happier hotel clients for us, and, in turn, happier customers for them.”

Beyond high-speed Wi-Fi guest access, hotels are using Wi-Fi for a myriad of applications—from service optimisation to environmental controls, and IPTV to tablet-based location services.

“Kimpton, Peninsula, and Fairmont are premier hotels, and these Best Wi-Fi rankings clearly demonstrate that ZoneFlex is the gold standard in hospitality Wi-Fi deployments,” said Ted Watson, director of Global Hospitality Solutions for Ruckus Wireless. “Our hotel clients around the world have seen better coverage, which not only translates into better guest satisfaction scores, it also saves them a significant amount of money, helping to improve their profitability in a very competitive industry. In addition, hotel guests are increasingly demanding the same Wi-Fi reliability on their handheld devices like smartphones and tablets that they need in their room on their laptops. Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi delivers on all of these demands in a growing mobile world, and as we like to say, that’s simply better wireless—for hotels and their guests.”

More than 20 Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants worldwide feature Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi technology, including the Hotel Palomar Chicago, Eventi New York, Hotel Solamar in San Diego, and Hotel Monaco San Francisco in the U.S.Peninsula Hotels with Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi include locations in Beverly Hills, Chicago and New York in the U.S.; Beijing and Hong Kong in China; Paris in Europe, and Manila in Asia/Pacific.Fairmont Hotels powered by Ruckus include locations in Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and San Jose in the U.S.; Geneva and Monte Carlo in Europe; Singapore (Swissotel) in Asia/Pacific, and Nairobi in Africa.

Ruckus Wireless advanced Smart Wi-Fi products and technologies address the growing challenges faced by hoteliers to support thousands of simultaneous Wi-Fi users within high-capacity venues and conference locations. For more information, visit us at: http://www.ruckuswireless.com/enterprises/hospitality.

Prevent database disasters with a simple checklist

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

By Angelique Smit, Client Relationship Manager at RDB Consulting

In today’s information-driven age, the database is the heart of any organisation. From running applications to processing transactions and storing customer and other mission critical data, without the database businesses simply cannot function. Despite the critical nature of the database, many companies do not have a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery strategy in place and resort to crisis management when their database crashes, often resulting in costly downtime.

There are a few checklist items to consider with backup and disaster recovery, ensuring minimal disruption and most importantly, continuity for the business.

Checklist Item #1: The backup and disaster recovery strategy
Whether organisations run a full disaster recovery environment or simply conduct regular backups, having a plan and processes in place to govern this in the event of an emergency can literally save a business.

A backup and disaster recovery strategy is therefore essential for every modern business of any size. This is the most important step in ensuring your database is not a disaster waiting to happen.

In order to develop this strategy, organisations firstly need to understand how critical their data is to the business. Not all organisations require a full disaster recovery environment, as these can be costly to implement. Furthermore, not all data is mission critical or will cause the business to fail if lost or takes time to recover. However, at the very least, all data needs to be maintained in some form of working backup environment and these backups need to be conducted in line with business rules. Business rules govern the backup and recovery strategy, and outline how data should be stored and restored, as well as guide the times required for a restore to take place and more.

A full disaster recovery environment is obviously preferable for mission critical databases, as when disaster happens the environment can simply be ‘switched over’ with minimum downtime and disruption. The disaster recovery environment should be in sync with the production environment and should also be regularly tested. If a disaster recovery environment is not in place, backups need to be stored in a minimum of three separate locations to ensure that at least one recovery copy is available for restore.

Regardless of the recovery method, the processes involved must be clearly documented. Listing the order of procedures, steps that need to be taken, the required turnaround times and who is responsible to ensure that all functions are fulfilled is essential. All parties involved should clearly understand their role. The failover processes must be regularly tested to ensure that when a disaster happens, these processes are seamless. When testing, the failover processes should also generate a log to establish which ones are successful and which ones are not, allowing for the appropriate person to remedy.

Checklist Item #2: Address database security
Building security into the database is important, both from a physical and data perspective. This is addressed in various legislations including Sarbanes Oxley (SoX) and the King III guidelines to mention a few, making database security a compliance requirement. The requirement for database security is also extended to any backup copies of data and disaster recovery environments.

Physical security such as access control, intrusion prevention and detection, fire detection and suppression will help to prevent unauthorised persons from accessing the physical storage areas and minimise the impact of disasters such as fire. Data security must also be implemented to prevent unauthorised data access and theft from the corporate network. This is critical given the rise in cybercrime. It is also important to ensure that the database itself and all backups receive the same protection levels. Without IT security, data can be lost, corrupted or more frequently in today’s world, stolen for sinister purposes. Data must be protected to prevent business downtime, which results in loss of revenue and reputation.

Checklist Item #3: Database administration
Whether you use an internal Database Administrator (DBA) or the services of an outsource provider, it is vital to be 100% comfortable with the DBA and the levels of support that are delivered. The DBA has access to all company data and therefore must be highly trustworthy.

The service levels delivered must also be checked, as bad service both in-house and outsourced can negatively impact database downtime and cost the business. This can be addressed in a solid Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Operations Level Agreement (OLA). However, the DBA or outsource provider should maintain the backup strategy, the frequency of testing processes, the documentation and availability of this documentation as well as all planned failover testing. If these services are not being delivered, an organisation should question the value that the DBA is delivering.

Checklist Item #4: Check your SLAs
SLAs must fit the requirements of the business and should support disaster recovery and restore goals. The infrastructure of the database and recovery environment needs to allow for either a full disaster recovery failover to take place or regular backups which require, amongst other things, enough disk space. SLAs must factor this in and meet the specific disaster recovery needs of the organisation.

For example, an online e-Commerce store cannot afford to have any downtime due to the nature of their 24x7x365 business. Therefore, their SLA should include service levels that ensure maximum uptime and fast restore times with disaster recovery. Other businesses, such as a legal firm, may need to have their data restored within a few hours, or a day. This type of business won’t collapse if the data restore is completed within 24 or even 48 hours. Therefore, the SLA must accommodate these factors and should also be in line with the disaster recovery strategy supported by the business rules and processes. If SLAs do not fall in line with business requirements, they need to be reassessed. However, it is also important to bear in mind that 99.999% uptime and fast recovery comes at a price. The balance of expense, functionality and best possible service levels to meet the business’ needs must be considered when defining an SLA.

In addition, the SLA should incorporate regular testing of the disaster recovery plan to ensure that it works, eliminating much frustration in the event of failure.

Conclusion
Ultimately any disaster recovery solution minimises downtime. Downtime costs money and this is often more expensive than the implementation of a full disaster recovery environment. If this is not possible, having a strategy in place is critical to ensure that processes are followed. Maintaining a stable database environment is equally important for business continuity. A checklist that covers these aspects of database backup and recovery will help to mitigate risk, minimise downtime and ensure businesses are up and running in the shortest possible time in the event of a disaster.

Missing links in back office business process management

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

In many enterprises, contact centres and back-office departments rank as two of the most people-intensive functions. Employee wage bills and related expenses incurred draw the attention of executives and financial management seeking lower operating costs at less risk.

While much has been achieved to optimise contact centre agent performance, not much has been done to meet the back-office staff challenge.

“Research conducted in the US established that there are three times more back-office employees than contact centre agents, a fact that causes justifiable concern among executives,” says Pommie Lutchman, CEO of specialist contact centre solutions- and services provider, Ocular Technologies.

Lutchman adds that there are three major challenges to consider regarding back office staff. First is the need to capture, monitor and track all back-office work and employee activities, not just work arriving and completed.

“Secondly, accurate forecasting and scheduling of resources with the right skills sets to be able to handle each work activity is essential and thirdly, the quality and consistency of all outputs must be measured and then enhanced to develop a competitive edge as a result of improved customer experience.”

Back office work optimisation suites help enterprises to improve the performance of back office operation groups. These solutions not only improve contact centre staff optimisation techniques, best practices and automation, but also address the dynamics of the back office.

“Three high value-added applications for back-office workforce optimisation suites are desk-top analytics, back-office workforce management and back-office quality control. Companies cannot manage what they cannot measure, so the starting point involves capturing, measuring and accounting for all work and employee activities.”

While many back-office groups achieve adequate counting of inputs and outputs, they often lose track of what happens to a work item once it is logged into the system because completing a job requires many tasks and resources. Some tasks are performed within the processing system yet others are completed independently and are not even recorded by the servicing application. It is essential that each step is fully documented.

Lutchman suggests that to properly manage a back-office operation, every work item must be broken down into manageable and measurable tasks and allocated a key performance indicator (KPI). Each KPI is assigned a response time goal so that progress can be measured and tracked until it is completed.

“Reports, dashboards and scorecards should be designed to measure work progress and provide management alerts to out-of-compliance risks. The information can be used to reward both group and individual performance as well as pinpoint process improvement opportunities that will enhance productivity and quality. The whole process is known as back-office performance management.”

To accomplish back-office performance management companies need to be able to track each task associated with every work item, which is not easy because some of the activities of employees are executed independently of the processing system.

However, emerging desktop technology analytics software can be deployed to track everything employees do at the desktop. The applications can be integrated behind the scenes, sitting on top of existing servicing and processing applications to monitor employee tasks and activities.

“In this way they provide an automatic and systematic approach to monitor, capture, structure, analyse and report on desktop activity and process work flows. Measuring application, utilisation, usage patterns and performance metrics enables application and user efficiency, effectiveness, compliance and external customer impact to be measured. The guidance provided to employees, along with workflow-enabled process flows, enhances staff performance in real time.”

He adds that if information is retrieved or a call is placed external to the application, representatives need to be trained to log this action into their processing application. The benefit of this is that it provides visibility to managers and speeds up the resolution process by providing a mechanism for ensuring all tasks are completed within their specified time frames. Bottlenecks are quickly identified, preventing tasks from being neglected and work items from becoming lost on someone else’s desk, leading to improved quality and customer satisfaction.

“By reducing the risk of missing any important step, it ensures efficient outcomes and avoids additional costs to the company.”

With desktop analytics solutions tracking work and task volumes, back offices may adopt more scientific and cost-effective approaches to forecasting and scheduling back office resources. Managers can also identify the skills and time required to complete each task and are therefore better positioned to hire and train the right resources to get the job done.

Workforce management (WFM) solutions not only improve department productivity but also improve quality and customer experience by ensuring the right resources are available at the right time for all necessary activities and tasks.

Lutchman adds that there are four essential WFM modules that should be implemented. The first, forecasting, uses mathematical modelling techniques and algorithms to address the specific characteristics of back office work. These include deferred arrival patterns, serial or multi-step processes, deadlines and extended service goals and the management of work inventory or backlog to project future transaction volumes and demand for resources at different points in time, usually in increments of 15 minutes or more.

Scheduling creates a time-table for back-office activities to balance forecasted staffing needs against staff availability. Scheduling modules can be used to determine an optimal schedule for each back office function based on staff availability, skills, shift rotations, service level requirements, leave, lunches, scheduled breaks, training, operating hours and staff satisfaction. The impact of backlog also has to be considered.

Intra-day management enables managers to identify the real-time service level impacts of changes in transaction volumes and of staff availability, enabling action to be taken to ensure targets are met. The module also allows managers to compare forecasted performance to actual performance as well as make near to real time changes to optimise schedules to meet actual workload and events.
Intraday management modules should also enable managers to conduct “what if” analyses to project the impact of any changes on backlogs and service levels.

The four modules empower back offices to realise the greatest measureable return on investment. Staff self-service and vacation planning/time off management modules add value by freeing supervisors from time-consuming manual tasks. By empowering employees to manage their own schedules, supervisory effectiveness and representative satisfaction are increased.

Quality control is another critical facet of back offices. Initiatives have been introduced to improve back office quality but to a limited degree only. Quality improvement should be a goal for all organisations because often the impact and cost of mistakes is significant. Poor handling of back office work typically results in complaint calls to the contact centre and more work for the back office. If a mistake is not identified quickly it can even put the organisation at risk.

“However, the introduction of desktop analytics enables back office operational areas to cost effectively perform quality checks on many aspects of their work without delaying output,” says Lutchman. “This is likely to become industry best practice as it is an effective method of preventing avoidable mistakes and in the future, desktop analytics are likely to automatically feed into quality assurance solutions enhanced to meet back office needs.”

Not surprisingly, back office managers are under significant pressure to improve productivity, cut costs, optimise employee utilisation and reduce risk while at the same time improving the experience of customers. In this scenario, back office managers are looking for new ways to deliver productivity and cost savings without damaging service quality.

“Business process management solutions are good tools for automating back office activities. However, they contribute little to optimising staff performance. To address this, back office management is looking into applying the tools and techniques pioneered by contact centre workforce optimisation solutions to their operating areas,” he says.

“The concept is excellent, providing the WFM solution is custom-built to address the unique characteristics and needs of the back office. Suffice it to say that early adopters of back office WFM solutions have realised very significant savings of 20 to 40 percent and the maturity of best practice development will better facilitate the adoption of back office WFM solutions in many organisations.”

Schneider Electric’s Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect, bringing power and process information together

By admin, 30 listopada, 2012, No Comment

Global specialist in energy management, Schneider Electric, has released Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect. The application gives users the information needed to understand energy consumption by bringing power and process data together within their Vijeo Citect SCADA system.

According to Quintin McCutcheon, Marketing and Operations general manager at Schneider Electric South Africa, having energy consumption information directly alongside process metrics allows for comprehensive analysis and a detailed understanding of your energy usage. “The more you know about your energy consumption, the less energy you will use and the more money you can save,” he says.

He adds that the application gives users the ability to connect power meters to their Vijeo Citect SCADA systems, including IEC 61850 protocol meters. Additional benefits can also be experienced if they are employing Schneider Electric power meters, as pre-defined equipment templates facilitate simple and rapid configuration to deliver a quicker return on investment.

McCutcheon explains that Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect delivers rich data directly from power meters with millisecond resolution, including information on voltage, current, power factor, harmonic distortion and sliding window demand.

“It can also access on-board power meter alarms to detect rapid changes in energy variables, allowing a detailed impact analysis of process changes. For example, with detailed time-stamped data, highly effective analysis can determine the causes of peak demand.

“Additionally, this data can contribute to eliminating energy waste. During periods of zero production, devices that are still consuming energy can be identified and strategies to remove this cost can be developed,” says McCutcheon.

At the operator level, Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect delivers important benefits. Increased operator visibility of energy production data can help them play a more active role in reducing costs. For instance, this information can alert operators when energy consumption exceeds or falls below predefined consumption levels. Operators are then in a better position to respond to this situation and adjust the process accordingly, resulting in better energy management.

Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect also allows operators to monitor the efficiency of processes that provide a fixed output, such as compressors. Where a process is not achieving optimal energy efficiency, appropriate action can be taken, such as where Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect highlights a spike in the energy usage of a compressor, an operator may be alerted to schedule appropriate maintenance.

“The application can also deliver overall business benefits by providing information needed to analyse and improve the efficiency of current production processes. This information can be used to implement best practices and ensure that production is running at an optimised energy consumption level. It can also assist in complying with energy regulations, standards and energy reduction targets.

“Vijeo Citect +PowerConnect’s potent combination of power and process information gives you the ability to optimise your processes for optimal energy consumption,” concludes McCutcheon.

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