A (Very) Brief Guide to Effective Audio Conferencing

shutterstock_29549767In the culture of many businesses, audio conferencing has become so ubiquitous that it’s like muscle memory – no one even thinks about it. Though conferencing has facilitated both creativity and efficiency in the work environment, in order to make the most of conference calls themselves, a certain – if minimal – structure should be employed in order to keep meetings flowing, and ensure that everyone who desires to contribute gets the opportunity to do so – allowing for managerial discretion, of course.

In the interest of the foregoing parameters, a few prudent, helpful guidelines toward successful conferencing are:

Schedules and timing – Everyone on the team, as well as outside attendees or consultants, are busy people. It is essential to ensure that conferencing is conducted at times that are feasible, and that will not detrimentally affect productivity. Communal or company calendars (Google Calendar, for example) facilitate colleagues and managers viewing team members’ calendars to make these determinations. Sending several options for meeting times to any outside attendees and consultants who are needed is advisable, so that their availability and schedules can be accommodated.

Agendas – Distributing a conference agenda is the best way to avoid stream-of-consciousness discussions, complaints, or “suggestion box” offerings that can put the conference off track. While having the flexibility to add pertinent agenda items for as long as possible is desirable, getting the agenda into attendees’ hands sooner will prevent headaches, so a balance must be struck in this area. Time limits for open discussion, proposals, and moderator responsibilities are far easier to work with when these are clearly indicated in the agenda.

Preparation – Any documents or reference materials that participants will need should be provided well ahead of the conference. Once again, Google has provided a useful utility in Google Drive, wherein items needed for sharing with colleagues may be placed. Such items may also be placed within the Google Calendar for fast and easy access. This feature is a great time saver, and it can reduce confusion amongst attendees as to what documents are required for a particular conference (which may be only one of several scheduled for that week).

Disruptions – Preparing a set of guidelines which address potential distractions, whether included in each agenda or as an inculcated team practice, is definitely a good idea. The telecommuter with the noisy dog at home, the sales rep who takes calls in bustling airport terminals – these could be admonished to take a few minutes to ensure that their environment will not be disruptive to the conference until doing so becomes habit. Although moderators often have control of audio levels within the audio conferencing environment, such instances are still distracting, if only to the moderator.

Action Items – A team member should always take the minutes of the meeting, whether or not this is assigned on a per-conference basis, or the team has a designated individual assigned to perform this task for all meetings. This way, there is no confusion around action items (or “to-do” items), who has been assigned to carry these out, and points raised during brainstorming sessions will not be forgotten. It also helps to keep everyone honest.

These are suggestions, of course; there don’t have to be hard-and-fast rules governing audio conferencing calls, but utilizing these guidelines, perhaps with modifications as they apply to the particular company culture, can go a long way to streamlining conferencing and maximizing overall effectiveness.

Shopping for Cloud Data Migration Tools

shutterstock_222264211The cloud is a productivity enhancing destination for enterprise data centers. That being said, getting there can be problematic. Heterogeneous environments present some significant complexity, time, and cost challenges to data migration. These challenges can result in undesirable outcomes for managers in charge of a business’ bottom line.

Fortunately, this has given rise to new technologies designed to simplify and accelerate the migration process. Utilizing multi-protocol connectivity, dedicated data migration solutions make it possible for data and applications to be transferred easily and effectively between iSCSI, Fibre Channel, and FCoE environments.

Challenges

Translation – If the enterprise has its data stored on an iSCSI SAN, but the cloud environment is Fibre Channel, corresponding cloud infrastructure and protocol translations are needed in order to execute the migration.

Performance (Temporal efficiency) – Carrying out the data migration within a reasonable period of time is essential. IT administrators are pressed to provide utility (remaining online while migration occurs), while ensuring a minimal occurrence of application stops and restarts.

Solutions

Enterprise data centers are complex by their very nature, necessitating administrators’ reliance on single solution utilities in the performance of local or remote data migration across SAN, WAN, or LAN network fabrics. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) has become essential to this process. IaaS provides the ability to execute remote applications deployment, remote site moves, and remote infrastructure changes. With IaaS, application migration includes database services or Exchange Servers as part of the data center virtual machine, server, and storage framework.

Data Migration Solutions (DMS) are appliances that solve the problem of carrying out multi-protocol translation and migration of the Fibre Channel-based (2Gb, 4Gb, or 8Gb), or iSCSI-based (1Gb or 10Gb) data that that is supporting cloud applications. Without such utilities, users are forced to employ multiple-component solutions to these migration problems, increasing time and cost.

With regard to DMS choices, the chosen utility should be able to easily carry out data migration between heterogeneous Fibre Channel- and iSCSI-connected storage arrays from all storage infrastructures.

Specific criteria should include:

  • Solution should have flexible data migration capabilities for Fibre Channel and iSCSI-connected storage in local, remote storage configurations.
  • DMS should be able to function as the exclusive data migration utility.
  • Storage arrays should be identified and a determination made as to the DMS’ ability to handle them (i.e., HP, IBM, Dell, Fujitsu, etc,).
  • Simultaneous Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCoE, and Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) connectivity should be supported.
  • DMS should support SANs from all relevant vendors, and be easily and painlessly upgradeable.
  • With regard to multiple location data centers in the cloud, the DMS should provide minimal interruption during migration.
  • The DMS utility should provide support for thick-to-thin provisioning across varied array types.
  • Migration coordination should be conducted through a wizard-driven GUI tool or CLI scripting.
  • DMS should provide a user-friendly controls for configuring and executing data migration.
  • The DMS should support multiple job-scheduling options and load-balancing to accommodate older, lower-speed arrays.

Although cloud data migration has become a primary concern for enterprise data centers, new heterogeneous technologies such as DMS can remove many burdens for IT managers. DMS solutions allow IT managers to perform the job of management, rather than data migration specialists.