Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Web Clipping with Jeeves

In my line of work (as a technology analyst), you need to keep articles and informaiton that you find on the Web all the time. Company announcments, new regulations, news, you name it. I need to keep it. As a business owner who does a lot of business on the Internet, it's good to be able to store all those order forms as well.

In the past I had to save web pages to my hard drive. I found my hard drive filling up with useless web pages. Managing them was a bit of a pain as well. Worse yet, if I wanted access to these web pages while I was traveling, I had to make copies of them on my laptop, which predicably has a much smaller hard drive.

The best solution is web clipping. With web clipping, you keep a reference or copy of the page in an application that helps to organize the pages. I've mostly used Sage, an application that hooks into the Firefox browser as an extension. It makes it easy to save and manage clippings but still suffers from the problems of clogging my hard drive and lack of prortability.

So, it was with great excitement that I greeted the arrival of Web based clipping applications from Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. Both plug into your browser and give you a little toolbar to save pages to their servers. The toolbars have a bunch of other functions, mostly to help access their web sites, but the primary reason I care about them is the clipping. Now I can save my clippings to a web site where I can retrieve them whenever I want.

After a bit of goofing around I have come to the conclusion that the Ask Jeeves version (part of the MyJeeves Beta) is the best. Why? Because it is so easy to use. I can save clippings, save them different folders, even with a set of my own notes attached. All with the click of a button. Better yet, I can access my clipping whereever I am, assuming I have an Internet connection. I can also save my bookmarks/favorites as well for access on the road.

The other services are pretty good too, although not all the bugs are worked out yet. At least for now, MyJeeves is where it's at (pun intended).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Continuous Data Protection: Is It A Product Or Feature?

Backup used to be the backwater of the storage world. Even though it was the single most important way of protecting data for just about everyone, it was also the most boring. Little that was new was happening and most everyone was trying to tweak the same model. Every night, we copied data to tapes. The addition of a SAN helped make tape backup work better but did not change the model. Even disk-to-disk backup was a new twist on the old ways of doing things.

Continuous data protection (CDP) is a major change in the way back up is performed. Instead of the staged backup that happens once a day, information is backed up as it is created and changes. The backup medium is generally another disk or disk array, not tapes. A major problem with backups, loss of data since the last daily backup, is alleviated. CDP also does this (or should do this) in a seamless fashion. CDP transforms backup into a non-disruptive system function, rather then management function that causes system interruptions.

So the question that comes to mind is: Is this really a product or simply a feature of backup software? The question is important because it affects how companies invest in the technology. Should you invest in a product when what it does will be part of a suite? Would it work better as part of a suite of backup and data protection software?

The answer is that CDP is quickly becoming a feature. We know this because backup software companies are investing in CDP or acquiring companies that make CDP products. Clearly they think that CDP is feature. In fact, CDP is what backup will be in the future. The idea of remembering to backup critical files on some artificial schedule no longer fits the dynamic IT environment of today (or tomorrow).

So, as we peer into the crystal ball we see CDP being the usual way of backing up critical data, with tape the preferred archive medium. CDP will become a feature of a data protection or backup suite. Soon. Very soon…

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Search Engine Pain

I love and hate my desktop search engines. After much knocking around with all the major engines, I settled on Google. The interface is not what I would choose but it supports most of my applications.

What is driving me nuts is that it can't seem to figure out what I mean. It's great at looking for what I say but can't get a handle on what I mean. This is the Achilles heel of this technology. If you already know what you are looking for, they excel. If not, they actually waste your time looking through useless hits.

Here's an example. Several months ago, I had created a spreadsheet to show me the true costs of a VoIP provider. The spreadsheet compared those costs against the actual costs of my traditional phone provider. Now that I'm getting serious about getting VoIP, I went looking for this spreadsheet. The problem was that I hadn't actually put the term VoIP anywhere in the spreadsheet and couldn't remember the name of the providor I had run the analysis on.

Of course, I searched on VoIP, Vonage (a competitor), and Internet Phone. No luck. I found the file the old fashioned way. I picked through a bunch of folders until I saw the file name. At that point I slapped myself in the forehead and said "Oh right! That was the name of the file!" If only the search engine knew what I wanted rather than what I said.

I can already hear the shouts of "but that's not what it was intended to do!" True, very true. But that's what people want it to do. The problem - the real pain - is not that we can't remember where we put stuff. It's that we can't even remember what it was in the first place.

So, if you are one of those really smart people who knows how to find what I'm looking for, even when I don't know what I'm looking for, let me know. You will have my eternal gratitude.