WWW Prefix Is Superfluous


When Tim Berners-Lee made famous the “World Wide Web” by introducing the HTTP protocol, he set the standard that all web sites would start with “www” as a host name prefix. It was supposed to indicate it’s a web site, for everyone who hadn’t seen this new way of using the Internet.

That was the early 90’s.

Now, 20+ years later, the World Wide Web is as ubiquitous as e-mail or postal code addresses. Everyone knows what to do when they open a browser.  Even better, when someone receives an email with a web link (URL) in it, even though it’s not safe to click on any random links via email if source of information is not checked.

So why do web developers and content managers still tag on the prefix www into their host names?  Perhaps, out of habit because that’s how they learned to use the Internet from 20 years ago.  Maybe the fault is with e-mail servers, like Microsoft Exchange, creating automatic hyperlinks whenever “www.” is in the text, which makes it easier for mailing list managers to create content without deliberately hyperlinking URLs.

Whatever is the reason, people need to stop adding the prefix www when entering a web address. It’s a pain to setup on the server and network sides because DNS have to contain both entries (as alias or A records), web servers need to accept both host names, and SSL certificates have to be requested with www as a common name.

Besides, without the www prefix, it’s easier to tell someone (written or verbal) of the website’s shorter address. Nowadays, the prefix is superfluous and unnecessary.

BYOD: Why It Should Be The New Normal

Smartphone UseThere’s been a lot of talk lately about Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) to work. It’s not a new concept. People love their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. They prefer using a particular brand for personal and work. They bring it to work because it’s convenient to carry just one device, and they can be productive with their own.

Traditionally, companies provide their own “certified” devices to retrieve secured Enterprise data. However, it’s difficult to stop employees from transmitting those data somewhere else, either via E-mail, USB drives, or Cloud Storage, potentially enabling others to see them. A strong privacy policy may be enough deterrent – at least in the beginning. As time goes by, employees will get complacent and too comfortable in taking their data everywhere, not realizing the confidential data may be leaked.

As an IT leader, one can imagine the complexity of supporting multiple devices and worries about zero control over securing protected data. Case in point, the biggest early adopter of BYOD was IBM. They learned valuable (and painful) lessons from it. Employees were not aware of insecure apps, not using secure channels to transmit data, and losing their unprotected/unencrypted devices. These security breaches could potentially cost them, or anyone else for that matter, millions of dollars to repair.

So, why is there growing trend to adopt BYOD? In this tough economic condition, company expenses have to be cut aggressively. The most obvious is to stop allocating budget for productivity machines. Having the cost shifted to the employees, it eliminates the need for company’s machines to be stocked, upgraded, and re-stocked.

Employees have also voiced their concern about the lack of productivity using company issued devices, such as a Blackberry, instead of their favorite iPhone or Android phones. It doesn’t make any sense to have a dedicated, company issued, device just to receive e-mails or phone calls for work, and another for personal use. It certainly becomes challenging to carry two devices, especially when an iPhone, for example, is more than enough to handle all of those tasks and be just as productive.

IT leaders are starting to embrace this BYOD trend because solutions are starting to appear, as the concept become widely accepted. Android and iPhone devices are now equipped with additional security to deter data theft or loss. Both Google and Apple are serious about Enterprise adoption and have updated their OS to be more secure. Now, it’s up to the IT leaders to trickle down the information to users on how to secure their devices, according to the companies’ need.  Instead of preventing employees to bring their own devices, educate them on how to secure the content of their own devices. As Ronald Reagan would say: “Trust, but verify.” There is a level of trust on both sides, but both must remain vigilant.

It is time to stop believing the myths of bringing-your-own-device to work. BYOD is happening, whether or not IT is ready. It is the “new normal”.

Quality Visual Presentation

Ever sat in a meeting with slides and slides of presentation that showed nothing but densely packed text and confusing charts?  Most people have. It’s no wonder many don’t look forward to going into meetings when their first expectation is a poor presentation.

However, there was one man who could present and held the audience captivated.  He was Steve Jobs. During his keynote speeches, he managed to get the audience hanging on to his every word and anticipating that “one more thing” that would leave everyone in awe.  It helped that he had great products to present, but in addition, he used visuals as one of the most important tool of his presentation.  He used minimal words (and numbers) written using a giant font. He used graphical icons to represent the current topic. He used animation for impact. Very concise and to the point.

So why doesn’t everyone follow Steve’s presentation methods?  Perhaps it’s because of the old thinking: “More is good”. The more stuff written down, the more credible and complete it gets. Unfortunately, these days, people are busy and have a short attention span. They don’t want to be held up in a long winded presentation.

The best ways to present effective visuals:

  • Be simple
  • Use graphics, icons, and symbols to reinforce or communicate a concept
  • Use key words, not full sentences
  • Contain only one concept per slide or page
  • Contain only three to six ideas on each flip chart sheet
  • Use color where possible, but not excessively

Steve Jobs was known to obsess over design.  He was also obsessed with simplicity.  It showed in his quality presentations. One can learn a great deal from his obsessions. It would make sitting in presentations a much more pleasant experience.

Finding Team Success

Every companies have different departments.1 Every departments have different goals and operating procedures. But to a customer, they don’t see these different departments – they only see one company.  So, it’s very important everyone in the company work as a team.  Finding the key for team work success can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. Prepare to succeed.
  2. State your positive intent.
  3. Describe the issue fairly.
  4. Facilitate the discussion.
  5. Gain agreement on next steps.

It comes down to persistence and positive thinking.  Refrain from blaming each other. Do understand what others are going through. Focus on helping the customer.

Most of all, follow through on the agreed next steps.  Nothing is more rewarding than a happy (and returning) customer!

  1. Some companies aptly call departments as “divisions”. []

What’s Next in IT Jobs?

The year is ending and it’s time to re-evaluate one’s career and direction in the next five years.  Doing the nuts and bolts of systems administration may not be as relevant anymore.  An article in Computer World UK noted:

So what should today’s IT employee do to protect his or her career? “Look for the skills the company is going to need five years from now, not now, and start building them,” advises Forrester’s Schadler. “These include vendor contract management, integration with the cloud, analytics, rich lightweight Internet workforce applications, mobile applications — these are all skills for the next decade,” he says.

IT executives are considering cloud computing. That’s where the game is at.  It’s going to be a slow shift, but it will surely happen.  Better be prepared than sorry.

Problem Solving And Deciding On A Solution

Working in a team can be quite challenging. Deciding what to agree on for an outcome or goal is important for the success of a project. Some key actions to evaluate solutions and gain consensus on the decision to be implemented are:

  1. Describe the decision and how it will be made.
  2. Jointly establish decision-making guidelines.
  3. Jointly evaluate options against the guidelines.
  4. Gain agreement on the best alternative.

Keep it cool, civilized, and concise. Keep discussions on topic and on time. Most of all, communicate well!

How To Listen

Listening is an obvious skill everyone must have.  In business, it’s especially critical.  Companies must listen to their customers.  Supervisors must listen to their subordinates.  Peers must listen to each other.  The key is removing the emotions and focus on the following actions:

  1. Evaluate the need to listen.
  2. Manage internal and external noises.
  3. Demonstrate a curious and open mind.
  4. Manage the flow of conversation.

Effective listening is critical to sorting through and keeping up with the information needed to get results.

Managing Priorities

Railroad Switch

As IT personnel, it’s my job to help business-driven projects.  My support tasks generally take priority over my long term IT projects.  There are techniques to manage the priorities of these projects, and get them done.  Here are some ways to do it:

  1. Say When:
    1. Clarify how much time is needed.
    2. Determine if it can be handled now.   If not, make it known to others.
    3. If it can wait, then suggest an agreeable time.
  2. Learn More:
    1. Do quick impact analysis.
    2. Work with the requester for the results and standards required.
    3. Ask for additional learning material.
  3. Ask for help:
    1. Determine how the support requests fits into the bigger picture.
    2. Agree on roles and responsibilities from the people involved.
    3. Focus on required resources.
    4. Understand the task required.
    5. Get a completion date.  If not clear, then suggest times for status updates.

In every step, it helps to listen carefully, be polite, and be sensitive to the needs of others.

Contrary to popular opinions, IT is not entirely a lonesome job.  It gets easier to handle when I have the help of my colleagues.

Business may have unending projects.  It helps tremendously if I can prioritize them, according to the time and resources at my disposal.  Knowing what, when, and who are the keys to success.   The how will be answered eventually.  Asking why is counter-productive.

Proper Support Tips

Customer ServiceThroughout my years of doing tech support, I learned a few things about doing the job, without driving myself (or the customer) crazy.  Here are a few action plans:

  1. Always stay calm.
  2. Be helpful to customers.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, customers are nicer when they are given options to solve their problems.
  3. Document the issues in an electronic log (such as customer service knowledge base) that are search-able, for future reference.
  4. Stay up-to-date with the company’s products.
  5. Stay current with technology advances and industry standards.
  6. Get along with the other tech support peers.  Hang out with them, share your stories, and vent some frustration with each other.  Group therapy is good therapy. Most importantly, laugh it up together.
  7. Don’t stay at Level 1 tech support too long.  Make it a goal to move up, and handle more challenging questions to keep the job more interesting.

Finally, keep a sense of humor.   At the end of the day, it’s only a job, and life goes on.

Dilbert Comic on Tech Support