Gerry McCartney, Purdue University’s interim vice president for information technology and chief information officer, says smart managers can make strategic decisions now that will make 2007 a year with fewer IT hangovers. McCartney offers the following five resolutions to help managers deal with the changing IT world:
1) Learn to live with Internet video. YouTube, Google Video, and Yahoo Video were the big story of 2006 (Time magazine picked "you," as in YouTube, as persons of the year). But for most managers, videos appear to be nothing but an endless headache. They use network bandwidth, contribute to the ongoing need for storage, and they are a source of employee slacking. But there’s more here than employees wasting time watching the latest "I’m a Mac, I’m a PC" parody. First, the videos are not going away. Second, since they are not going away, use them to your advantage. For example, at Purdue, McCartney uses short videos to communicate with the nearly 500 employees in his area. "This short video is more genuine and human than a weekly e-mail from the vice president," he says.
2) Harvest excess computer cycles. Computers only work a fraction of the time. When people are in meetings, on the phone, on vacation, or just at home, the computers on their desks aren’t doing anything. But they could if you were to harvest those otherwise wasted computing cycles by using distributed computing tools such as Condor. In 2006, Purdue was able to capture nearly 5 million extra computing hours by grabbing waste cycles on 5,000 computers. "Any university or business should learn to do this in order to maximize their resources," McCartney says. "People are looking past this technology because it’s not sexy. But distributed computing is the future, whether it’s sexy or not."
3) Partner for power-electrical power. Two of the biggest IT needs for businesses in 2007 will be increased power and cooling. All of those CPUs and servers require enormous amounts of electrical power and air conditioning, which, of course, uses even more electrical power. The rates for electrical power vary dramatically across the United States, however, and savvy businesses can house some of their hardware, such as web servers, in a region with lower costs. "Don’t limit your business by only thinking locally," McCartney says. "Data centers can easily be housed in another region, but you need to select your partners carefully."
4) Don’t click it and launch a ticket. Even with improved IT security, computers still become infected with viruses and other malware. The reasons aren’t technical, but social. People are tricked into clicking on links or files that bring trouble, resulting in service tickets in the IT department. McCartney says that businesses should get employees to resolve not to click on unfamiliar links or web pages without understanding the destination of that link or the possible implications of clicking. "This simple resolution will reduce the costs to your business and prevent a fair amount of frustration all around," he says.
5) Give Microsoft Vista a look (eventually). Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system, is about to make its debut, and Vista Business, along with its two supporting characters, Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 and Microsoft Word 2007, promise to bring newfound elegance, helpful features, and improved security to desktop computing. What they don’t bring at the outset, however, is compatibility with existing systems, which will have to be worked out in the coming months. "Beginning the New Year with the latest and greatest is attractive, but Vista is such a significant change that you should look before you leap," McCartney says. "Don’t get caught up in the excitement to install the latest thing. Give Vista a chance to mature and give your business time to acquire newer computers before you install it and your 2007 will be much happier."
-By Steve Tally, Purdue News Service