Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Contemporary Fail-safe Solutions – An Ode to the Cloud

It’s late and you’ve just pulled a marathon 18-hour session putting together the finishing touches of a major project. It’s the eleventh hour and the deadline is looming, so it’s time to get those deliverables sent. You’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into making this project the best that it can be, because you know that you operate in a results-based profession where the skills you possess on paper don’t amount to anything unless you can deliver the goods. Deep down you know that if this goes well you may look back and see this one project as the breakthrough that broke the doors on your career wide open. You’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t”. You’ve double-checked and you’ve triple-checked. It’s perfect. You stroll over to the kitchen and pour yourself a celebratory glass of wine. As you stride back to the computer for one last glance of satisfaction, a poorly positioned electrical cord brushes up against your ankle diverting your attention. Suddenly there’s a chain reaction stemming from a momentary loss of equilibrium – an unfortunate byproduct of your mismanagement of time and resulting in a lack of sleep. You go hurtling toward your workstation smashing into your desk and pouring wine all over your computer. The screen is frozen. Nothing moves. All is lost.

There is almost no more important task in modern business than protecting the integrity of your work, and in this day and age there are a myriad of solutions at your fingertips to ensure that all is never lost.

Storage Solutions

Short term: Backing up relevant work to multiple locations should be standard practice for everyone as digital mass storage devices have become plentiful and cheap. Saving to a flash, or USB connectable external disc drive, is always recommended. Any piece of hardware, however, can become lost or damaged, so the degree of importance you place on a project determines the number of devices you use.

Long term: Ah, the cloud! Mystical bands of binary information that float unblemished amidst the digital ether seems the stuff of science fiction, but it’s quickly becoming an essential business reality. The cloud is literally information stored on huge servers that remains at all times part of the expanding universe that is the internet. For pennies a day you can upload and download information like it was your own hard drive. The difference is if you’re computer breaks down, all you need is another computer and it’ll be right where you left it. 

Although there are many cloud storage options out on the market, Amazon Glacier is a cost-effective cloud storage solution worth investigating.


Keeping important files and work documents in multiple locations is essential to being able to fail-safe, so file sharing is a great way to spread the safety around and there are several ways to do it. When files are contained on a hard drive they are rooted to that location, but with file sharing it’s easy to pass along important documents that others can get to if they need to.

Free File Transfer Sites: Depending on the size of the files you are dealing with, there are number of great file transfer options through the cloud. With free file transfer sites, unlike cloud storage where you essentially pay for space, there are limitations like a cap on file sizes, or how long files that are uploaded are available to download. There are number of options available to users for easy transfer of files including: WeTransfer, HighTail, and TransferBigFiles.

Dropbox: Unlike with file transfer sites, Dropbox is actually a program on your computer that sets up a folder designed to be shared by your computer and any other computer that you invite to share with it. It’s just like any other folder on your computer and files stay exactly where they are, but as soon as anything is placed in your Dropbox, it’s essentially saved on any of the computers that also share that folder, so you can be sure that even if you lose it, someone else will still have it.

Modern technology has provided so many tools to make sure we can stay on top of our projects and mitigate potential disasters. Hundreds of people have learned the hard way that can go wrong and they have designed so many solutions that there quite literally is an app for that. It’s not enough to just save your work anymore. Nothing should be left to chance, so make sure you’re using all the resources you have available, including the cloud, to your advantage and rest easy knowing that your work will be preserved the way it should be and will be ready for delivery.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint – But You Gotta Go Really Fast!

When deciding to start a business it is always important to keep the long play in mind. It’s okay to make sacrifices in the early going with the expectation that it will pay off in the long run. It’s fine to keep business at a slow, steady, and manageable pace in order to achieve a level of comfort and sustainability. And, there’s nothing wrong with finding your stride and establishing a work flow that’s right for you. However, it’s never time to allow complacency to settle in because allowing yourself to fall behind means you will inevitably get left behind. Below are few key ideas to keep in mind order for your business to keep pace and make the right strides from start to finish.


No matter how cutting edge you think you are, the next big thing is right around the corner – it’s just a simple fact with the current state of technology. The moment a new technology is released, companies are on the move making refinements and developing their own patents in order to stay in the race and get a piece of the pie. It’s not always necessary to be at the vanguard of innovation, but it’s essential that you keep a pulse on whatever the latest upgrades are and keep your own systems up to date. Always make a point to reevaluate the state of your company’s level of innovation every quarter – yes, things change just that quickly.

Ask for feedback, and respond to criticism.

No matter what service, or product, your company provides, the needs of your clients will change from one day to the next and it’s essential that you stay on top of what those needs are. At the end of the day it is your job to provide them with what they are looking for, not what you think they should want. Being sensitive to customer needs is the cornerstone to profitability because it is customer needs that, in fact, drive innovation. Also, it’s essential that you never become bitter towards negative criticisms to your product or service. As great as it feels to receive a pat on the back once in a while, that’s not necessarily how we grow. Every negative criticism represents an insight into the potential flaws with your service or product and what may need tweaking or overhauling. Criticism isn’t so much an indictment of your abilities as it is an opportunity to step up and prove what you’re capable of.

Embrace change.

Once upon a time people graduated from college, got a job, and stayed right there until they retired. It’s well understood that nowadays college graduates should prepare to have several careers before they decide to call in their pensions. In the previous paradigm a layoff would have been calamitous, but today it’s almost so common that the phrase “I’m between jobs right now” has almost become cliché. Keeping everything in a constant state of flux should be the only permanent aspect of your life and business. It prepares you for every eventuality because if you’ve been keeping up you likely saw the changes coming a long time ago.

Have no fear.

 Anyone unfamiliar with the term “self-sabotage” needs to go look it up, because all too often we are the biggest obstacle we need to overcome. Whether it’s fear or apathy, very often we become limited by what we feel we deserve and no one is going to just pay us because we think we’re cool. It’s fine to speak soft, but paramount to be assertive enough to do what needs to be done. It’s not enough to just put one foot in front of the other. In order to make real strides you have to pound the pavement and you need to have a talk with yourself and not let yourself get in the way of you achieving your dreams. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Conduct a Meeting

Meetings, when properly directed, are a great way to get everyone on the same page, strategize, and brainstorm with the aim of moving the company in the right direction. If a meeting lacks the necessary focus, however, it can represent a colossal time-suck and a waste of everybody’s resources. It’s essential to have a clear picture of why a meeting is necessary and what needs to be accomplished. Below are a few “don’ts” and “dos” when it comes to taking the lead and conducting a great meeting.

DON’T conduct meetings every week for the sake of conducting a meeting – it can lead to so many annoying little problems like the anticipation of the dreaded weekly meeting, the didn’t-we-just-discuss-this-last-week feeling, or the incessant mulling over minutia. Not every decision in a company should be left to a democracy and it’s really only beneficial to call a meeting when one is deemed truly necessary.

DO include everyone - if you’ve decided that now is the time to have a meeting it should be because some kind of shift in direction is necessary. Sea changes can implicate the whole company and you might be surprised by who has big ideas. If wholesale changes are necessary, and you limit your company’s rebranding to the marketing team because you see it exclusively as a marketing issue, you’re effectively limiting your options moving forward.

DON’T make your meetings about one-on-ones – a meeting where everyone is gathered waiting for their turn to speak and explain what they do is likely to cause attendees to zone out. The key to a great meeting, and getting great ideas out, is to keep everyone engaged. Set aside time to have one-on-ones so that everyone can communicate what’s relevant about their particular position and then connect them with whoever they might need in other departments. Remember, meetings are about the big picture, not the details.

DO have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished – a meeting’s focus can be lost so easily by getting bogged down in details. It’s imperative that, when leading a team meeting, you know exactly where your team is at and where they should be by the end. It’s possible to know the answers without having the means to articulate it, so clueing in to what’s being shared in a meeting should be what allows you to formulate an expression of what you know is already there.

DON’T get sidetracked by things that are irrelevant – although it’s important to keep things lighthearted and fun, maintaining control over the direction of the meeting is essential to make progress. Meetings can suffer from too many questions or too much fine-tuning. Ideas discussed at meetings should be global, not particular. It’s important not to just gloss over the details, but keep in mind that the grandeur of an issue should reflect the size and duration of a meeting.

DO allow everyone a chance to shine  - although you’re in control and you make the decisions, a meeting can never be about you. You can communicate company values in an email, but you get feedback in a meeting. Having an open mind, ceding the floor and jumping in only to direct traffic, should be the leader’s role in any meeting.


Meetings aren’t the kind of thing you want built into the framework of your company but it’s important to have systems in place that keep you in contact with the various branches of your business. A constant stream of meetings can devalue their importance and, as a team leader, it’s important to distinguish between when everyone needs to be brought together and when it’s time to meet one-on-one. Meetings represent an opportunity to shake things up, keep everyone on their toes, and pull them out of the doldrums of the regular routine. Suddenly throwing everyone into a collaborative environment of equals often has an effect of stimulating out-of-the-box thinking and it can be surprising where the next great idea can come from.