External hard drive repair is normal when it comes to electronic gadgets. It is also necessary once your computer starts to malfunction. This is because the hard disk has vital information stored in it. Its ruin would make it difficult to access and configure.
The usual culprit for this malady is a head crash. This happens when the read and write head of the hard disk taps on the platter or graze on the surface of the magnetic storage device. Supposedly, a minute layer of lubricant should protect its surface but once this is gone, the damage is easy. This would then cause irrecoverable loss of important data. Amateurish attempts to recover these data will only result in more damage and additional expenses. The smart thing to do is to have it fixed by a professional. External hard drive repair should only be done by trained specialists who have the right kind of tools – see here. A defective air filter is another reason for failure. Since it cannot maintain it can no longer balance the atmospheric pressure, motes of dust can scratch the platter again causing a bad sector. This will then make the hard drive inoperable.
Other reasons can be exposed to natural elements like extreme heat or fire and water or condensation. Elevated magnetic waves as well as dropping the external hard disk from a great height can also cause a head crash. These are some of the other causes for external hard drive repair.
Prior to an external hard drive repair, clearing it up should be on top of your list. Nobody wants to see their private photos or videos splattered on the internet! So, back all your data in a new hard drive or a flash drive. You can also use a CD or a DVD if the volume is small.
The process for reformatting or erasing memory on your drive depends on the operating system used. For external hard drive repair on Windows, the external hard drive should be attached to your computer before starting the process. Once you are ready, you can click on the Start menu and look for My Computer. Right click on it then looks for Manage. Click on it because it will lead you to Disk Management. Here, pick the location of the external drive you want to purge then click on Format. Give the external hard drive a name then finish it up. If a dialog prompt appears, just click Ok again to process the formatting. Everything will be deleted forever.
With the Macintosh, the first things to do is click on Applications folder then go to Disk Utility to be able to boot the program. Then click on the external drive you want to lose. After that click on erase and everything is gone (checking harddrivefailurerecovery.net may help).
The best way I think to save on hard drive recovery problems is to stay away from risks of losing data. You have to remember that every single data and file you save and store into your computers or laptops are intangible things. Meaning, it has no physical existence. Given this, it is very susceptible to eventual loss. The best way to avoid loss is to back up data on a regular basis. Backing up data is way easier compared to having to go through data recovery methods.
The best way to back up data is to store it a in multiple devices. You can choose to store in on your USB, on a DVD-R, or through emails. You can send yourself important files. Or you can even save these files through storage sites. These helps dummies avoid hard drive recovery pains at all.
On the other hand, movie, TV and music lovers opt to use the external hard drive due to its portability .All you need to do is connect it to a USB port in any computer wherever you will be either at home, at a friend’s house or even in the office and continue to enjoy yourself. The quality of portability is very unique and that is a major reason why most people prefer using the external hard drive. It is of great importance that you take lots of care while in transit to avoid inflicting damage to the hard drive. Bumps and falls can cause damage leading to frequent external hard drive repair. It is worth mentioning that these hard drives experience the same problems related to system failures just like the internal hard drives.
Hard disk drives are a very popular and important form on data storage medium for the computers. They are compact and can support large volumes of information. But with the complexity of its design, it is usually pretty difficult for a layman to predict what exactly a hard drive problem is when it occurs. They end up doing more damage to it than good because of their dabbling in things quite out of their area of expertise.
One such hard drive problem occurs when one starts hearing scarping sounds even though the hard disk seems to be powering up just fine. If such a situation occurs, it is highly recommended that you immediately stop using that hard drive to avoid any further damage. These types of sounds are caused by loose read/write heads, which affects the disk platter and causes damage to the magnetic storage medium. It is possible to solve this hard drive problem if you try and replace the broken read/write arm with a working one. Special care must be taken when trying to clean off the broken fragments on the disk platter as you may cause scratches, which may lead to further data loss. It is recommended that you save your hard drive in a cool and dry place and seek technical assistance to improve your chances of data recovery and avoid hard drive problems in the future.
Data recovery from damaged hard drives might seem a very daunting and ominous task to anyone who has not had some previous encounters which these sorts of hard drive issues. But most of the times the problem is not as complicated as it may seem and you can save yourself quite some time and hassle if you can properly diagnose the problem and perform the steps necessary to save your data. One such hard drive problem is that although the hard disk powers up, it does not mount and no distinct sound of the read/write arm is audible. This usually occurs because of the overheating of the hard drive, which causes the metal components to expand and stick to one another. This will cause deletion of files and folders and you may be prompted to format your hard drive.
In order to remedy this hard drive problem, first detach the hard disk drive from your computer and allow it cool to room temperature. Then by using a vacuum pump remove all air from an antistatic container and place the hard disk in it. It is very important that the container be antistatic as sparks may cause further data loss and damage to the ICs. After placing the disk in the container, place the container in a refrigeration unit and allow it to cool for 30 minutes. After taking it out of the refrigerator, allow it to settle for 5-10 minutes before attempting data recovery. You should have an alternate data storage unit on hand to store the recovered data.
Hard drives problems are tough to analyze, especially when you’re talking laptops. A few problems occur because of software program issues or perhaps several occur because of physical hard disk breakdowns. A few identification symptoms related with hard disk issues will reviewed in this article.
The first issue to look at is a slow OS. This might be due to lots of things. That means there is definitely something mechanically incorrect. Mechanical problems, in many cases in point cannot be recovered unless you have access to proper laptop data recovery facilities. The hard drive should be changed immediately, no matter the laptop brand. Your next critical issue is a blue screen error. Blue screen errors are the error message shown in white lettering on a blue background. It happens when a Microsoft operating system has troubles managing an activity. The code 0x0000000E, or “UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME”" message indicates a serious hard drive problem. Another issue is computer freezing. A bad sector is a corrupted part of the existing hard disk that may lockup your notebook computer when trying to access it. An effective approach to deal with this specifically is to run chkdsk from the command prompt. When sufficient bad blocks are found, then a substitute disk drive will be important. Last issue may be ‘Fixed Disk not found’. These kinds of problems occur if the hard drive is just not found. This is the most classic trigger.
Common Hard Disk Errors To Watch For
While operating their computer, people often see error messages like ‘Data error reading drive’, ‘Hard disk drive failure’, ‘I/O error’, ‘Disk not found’ etc. These messages are shown when the OS cannot locate the boot device or booting code. Consequently, the computer hangs and shows a blue or black screen. The main reason is a structural hard drive problem. Most likely, the hard drive is not well attached to the pc or laptop or maybe there is a damage to the hard drive. Hard drive problems can also be caused by computer malware, cyclical redundancy defects or bad sectors.
In order to resolve your hard drive problem, the connection should be checked out first. If no problem is found, then it is the cause of defective or damaged hard drive. Get in touch with the provider or manufacturer to repair or solve the hard drive problem. Sometimes the hard disk can be crashed, or all the stored data seems gone. It might be a serious problem for the user. Firstly, the damaged hard drive should be repaired. There are several companies that offer standard laptop data recovery.
Hard drive recovery is one of the most sought after skills in today’s world. There are numerous cases everyday where people lose their data due to hard disk failure and wind up clueless about how to remedy this problem. Especially in Asia, because of the regular power outages and fluctuations the hard disk may stop working properly or may even stop “winding up”. Therefore, it is recommended that you regularly backup all your data to rid yourself of the pain that comes with hard drive crash.
Due to these sudden fluctuations in power, the ICs on the logic board of the hard drives may exhibit signs of corrosion. Components may even appear to be smoldered. The one good thing about this type of problem is that the damage is localized and is easy to spot. If such is the case with your hard drive you may want replace the damaged logic board with a working one from a similar hard disk drive. Doing this will allow you the time to access the data on your hard drive and make a back up of it on another storage medium. The best thing to do would be to note the make and model of your logic board. This is very important, as it will improve your chances of compatibility. But if you do not feel comfortable or you don’t have any idea about what you are doing it is highly recommended that you hire someone who specializes in damaged hard drive recovery. One such company, Hard Drive Recovery Associates, is located here.
Many software solutions have been introduced in the computer market to use for recovering damaged hard drives. Damaged hard drive recovery involves two main functions. The first is recovering the damaged parts of the hard drive. The second function is accessing the data stored on the magnetic platters. The software you are going to choose should be successful in these two functions. Also there are some other most important features should be available with the software that you are going to choose. It should support the operating system of your computer. Most of the damage recovery software solutions are designed to support most commonly used operating systems such as Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Buying such software will help you going forward. Also, the recovery software should support file systems such as NTFS, FAT32 and Exfat, which are used by windows to mange files stored in the hard disk.
Losing files in a hard drive can be a seriously bad nightmare. You will be in a critical situation mentally until you understand get to know that your files are recoverable. Therefore, even in a panic situation, it should be very careful to find out the best service provider for the damaged hard drive recovery process. And based on that, what you expect from this service provider? Before you select a data recovery company, you should ask the preceding question that will help you to select the best provider.
The most important feature you should expect from a hard drive recovery company is recovery effectiveness. However, the effectiveness depends on the type of files have to be recovered. A severely damaged hard drive will take lot of effort and time to be recovered. A professional team can address any kind of hard disk recovery effectively with their experience and knowledge. The other most important factor you should expect from the service provider is security. The service provider should be more reliable in providing ISO 9001 security to your files. If the files are very confidential, security is the most important factor. Also, security includes the security of your computer parts. Doing all hard disk recoveries in a clean environment will ensure this kind of security. That will reduce additional risk. The quality management certifications of the company adds value to the service of the company. Find the right guys, won’t you?
New disk drive technology from Quinta Corp. could give traditional drives a run for their money through enhanced reliability and higher capacity.
OAW (Optically Assisted Winchester) technology uses a combination of optics and a Winchester-style flying head to change the way data is recorded. This new method increases the density of hard disk drives an estimated three to five times over existing Winchester disk drives.
The head and the media are kept twice as far apart as traditional Winchester disk drives. This minimizes data corruption because there isn’t as much contact between the head and the actual disk surface, said officials of the San Jose, Calif., company. Lenses using conventional optics will focus a laser beam onto the media to assist writing, reading and tracking on the disks.
Although OAW will operate more slowly than hard disk drives, analysts suggest it could end up saving IT professionals money because of its potential to increase disk density, leading to lower costs for storage.
“It will be a best fit for medium-latency applications,” said Wolfgang Schlichting, an analyst with International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass.
Sixteen-month-old Quinta Corp., which agreed to be acquired by Seagate Technology Inc. in early July for $230 million, will be rolling the technology into a line of disk drives due in the first quarter of next year. No pricing is available for the products. As part of the agreement, Seagate expects to use Quinta technology in its future products.
OAW technology at first will be targeted for online applications at the high end of the storage industry-corporate databases where audio and digital content is used, and larger data warehouses, company officials said.
“It will migrate anywhere magnetic media is today,” said Bob Teal, vice president and chief financial officer at Quinta. “This is a technology, not just a product, and it will enable a new generation of various form factors, removable cartridges and multidisk fixed drives.”
But it also will become a factor in the growing storage for PC servers, letting IT managers mirror databases by using disk drives based on the technology and eliminating the need to do separate backups, officials said.
Quinta’s Optically Assisted Winchester
* Integrates optical elements into a Winchester-style flying disk drive head
* Offers greater distance between head and media
* Offers less data corruption than traditional Winchester-style disk drives
* Offers three to five times the capacity of current disk drives
* Will be rolled into disk drive technology by Q1 1998.
A laptop user may have trouble using his laptop. This may be due to the fact that he cannot access files from his hard drive, with the reason being the hard drive may be old or may have some software problems. With time, the laptop may hang up and even force the user to re-boot; risky actions that may cost him lose of his data or work. As well, there is a possibility that the laptop may crash because it is unable to store or run some application software.
Laptop hard drive recovery is a step-by-step procedure that is strict and must be followed and adhered to. Recovery involves accessing a computer disk as part of an effort to salvage pertinent data. If there has been no backup of the laptop hard drive then it is incredibly necessary to get that data retrieved.
Typical Laptop Hard Drive Damage Causes
A laptop hard drive may experience damage arising from blunt force such as dropping or hitting, excessive heat or many other factors. The above causes lessen the chances of easy recovery as they canmajorly damage the hard drive. Damages arising from “writing head”, ”head arm” malfunctions or corruption cannot be dealt with using recovery software. The nature and extent of the drive platter damage determines the amount of data that is recoverable. Another consideration is the status of the restore disks for the laptop; manufacturers may not offer restoration disks and many users unfortunately forget to create them. This is one of the points that drive many companies that offer laptop recovery services, such as the company at http://www.harddrivefailurerecovery.net.
Laptop Data Recovery at a Glance
Laptops at times become very noisy, which is due to the fan that cools the system and prevents it from overheating. But if the noise is not coming from the fan but rather from the hard drive, then there is reason to check its functionality since this is not a normal situation. This simply means that your drive may be at risk of getting damaged because of poor head alignment.
If you install a recovery disk and the hard drive still makes funny and unfamiliar noises then it is advisable to not attempt any traditional file recovery methods. If you make any rash moves you risk degrading the state of the hard drive. If physical damage was caused then it is usually advisable not to connect the laptop to a power source as you’ll put it at a larger risk of getting damaged.
Some laptop manufacturers may provide a recovery disk and once you have purchased such software, then adhere strictly to its instructions. Seek professional advice in case you are unable to install the software and use the tools, which are in the recovery disk.
Laptop hard drive recovery is a procedure that tends to boost the drives memory thus improving its efficiency. Manufacturers at times may disapprove of some particular methods because professional data recovery techniques will often void the warranty. Remember that your data is the most important thing here; a warranty is something that is not important if all of your valuable data had been destroyed because of a damaged laptop hard disk.
Identifying the most common hard drive failure symptoms is a recommended exercise prior to embarking on any diagnostic operation. A hard disk drive is incredibly sensitive and users without knowledge of repairing the hardware should not be tempted to open it for whatever reason. Early hard drive failure symptoms serve as sound claims from which users can claim their warranty from the dealers they acquired the hardware from. Therefore, end users are advised to avoid tampering with the hard drives to ensure the warranty won’t be denied.
Common Hard Disk Noises
Some strange thrashing and grinding noises are common symptoms of a failing hard drive. This symptom is in most cases because of a crashed head. This symptom is severe and a hard drive experiencing such symptoms is bound not to survive. Rampant disk errors and data disappearing is yet another symptom associated with hard drive failure. With such errors, computers won’t let a user save a document and when saved, and the document disappears within a short while. Slow access time(s) are synonymous hard drive failure symptoms. This happens any time a user performs a task for instance emptying a recycle bin. A lot of time is taken in such a simple task and could be a sign of a failing hard drive. Sudden rebooting and regular blue screens might also be signals of a failed drive.
Any time one is using a computer system, it is hard to predict challenges that might crop up. Therefore, users are advised to be ready to backup their data at any point because doing so is one of the best forms of computer maintenance available to the novice. A hard drive failure is one of the fatal occurrences that interferes the normal functioning of a computer. The fact that hard drive failure symptoms are in most cases notable make places a user in a better position in taking up challenges that might arise.
Once convinced that the signs experienced are hard drive failure symptoms, a user should not focus on being a hero. In fact, trying to be a hero in such a scenario might ruin the last minute operations of data back up. Rampant nasty noises are of course major hard drive crash symptoms and the first operation after this phenomenon should be getting the drive from the computer. Then, it is advisable that you wrap the drive with aluminum foil or anti static plastic since the drive is a delicate piece of hardware that demands a lot of care when handling. Later, you can send the hardware to a professional for inspection. As a way to avoid the adverse effects of data loss, hard drive back ups are recommended.
The high ground Unix holds is getting some fortification.
Recent initiatives from the top Unix vendors are shoring up the operating system on two fronts: by helping to cement Unix’s lead in the high-end database and application server markets, and by extending its reach into the emerging Internet, electronic-commerce and mainframe-replacement markets.
New reports from market researchers such as International Data Corp. (IDC), Gartner Group, Inc. and Forrester Research, Inc. all concur that Microsoft Corp.’s Windows NT is mounting a successful assault on Unix workstations and low-end servers. But high-margin, high-end Unix server sales are healthy and so far are immune to NT, the reports said (see story at right).
Microsoft officials have said that the company doesn’t expect to have a 64-bit version of Windows NT or have support for scalable clustering for another two years at least.
Meanwhile, “The Unix vendors are taking the `best defense is a good offense’ approach to the enterprise server market by building their value proposition,” said James Greene, an analyst at Summit Strategies, Inc. in Boston.
Sun Microsystems, Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) and Digital Equipment Corp. have all recently announced technologies designed to increase the scalability, reliability and transaction processing capabilities of their Unix platforms (see chart).
Those moves should give Unix a solid three- to five-year technology lead over Windows NT servers, according to 12 users and analysts contacted by Computerworld.
“There’s no doubt that Unix holds the high ground in the enterprise server wars on every front: 64-bit processing, high-level clustering, zero downtime and excellent scalability,” said Neil MacDonald, an analyst at Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn.
Users agreed. They said Unix delivers the goods now.
“It’s going to take Windows NT at least three years to provide the same level of functionality that Unix offers today,” said Dennis Courtney, chief information officer at Dunlop Tire Corp. in Amherst, N.Y. The company has been migrating applications from its mainframes to Unix servers for the past few years.
David Krauthammer, MIS director at Parker Hannifin Corp. in Rohnert Park, Calif., agreed. “Whenever we have a database application or any application that requires high bandwidth and processing capability, Unix is really the only choice available right now,” he said.
Superior processing power, proven reliability and unparalleled security are “must have” features for the burgeoning Internet and electronic commerce markets, observers said. One of the key advantages of using NT as well is that professional raid recovery is far easier to perform as opposed to on UNIX systems. This assertion is backed up by raid recovery firm Hard Drive Recovery Associates, of Irvine CA.
Because Unix fits all those criteria, the high-end server market is growing. After declining in 1995, high-end Unix server sales bounced back and registered a 5% gain last year, according to preliminary 1996 figures from IDC. Similarly, midrange Unix server revenue grew 34%, from $6.7 billion to $9 billion, IDC said.
Underscoring the trend at the high end are recent moves by Sun and SGI to incorporate interconnect technology from supercomputer vendor Cray Research, Inc. into their respective Unix servers.
The interconnect technology allows the vendors to scale their Unix servers significantly beyond current levels. For example, Sun’s recently announced UltraEnterprise 1000 scales to 64 processors from a previous high of 30.
Similarly, all the top Unix vendors are following Digital’s early lead and moving rapidly to 64-bit architectures with support for performance-boosting features such as Very Large Memory and large file sizes.
Microsoft nibbles at low end
A recent crop of studies confirms that Unix has a solid hold on the high-end server market and is likely to retain it at least in the short term.
A recent survey of 1,300 users worldwide conducted Datapro Information Services Group, Inc. in Delran, N.J., found that 31% of existing Unix users plan to expand their crop of high-end Unix servers by the year 2000.
“Unix outperforms Windows NT on the high end. For that reason, we intend to run more Unix applications and also buy more Unix servers,” said Barry Flachsbart, vice president of information systems at Skyway Freight Systems, Inc. in Watsonville, Calif.
And a Forrester survey of 50 Fortune 1,000 companies found that 76% of users will buy both Unix and NT over the next two years. But only 13% of the information technology managers surveyed said they believe that NT is ready to handle their most important enterprise applications.
“IT managers said NT can’t scale, is immature, unstable and lacks the tools necessary to build high-end systems,” said Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Forrester.
This HP laptop may have different hard drive failure symptoms than…
The hard disk drive is the primary storage device in almost every computer. Companies as well as individuals store several types of data in a hard disk drive, and those hard drives can be either regular spindle and platter hard drives, SSD drives, or hybrid hard drives. However, due to an array of reasons, a hard drive may suffer partial to severe malfunction leading to the inability to access stored data. Basically, hard drive failure symptoms are often quite easy to detect, but also can be difficult. Depending on the nature of a hard disk failure, different computers can portray different behaviors.
Since a hard drive failure symptoms can be noted by how a computer behaves, data recovery specialists recommend early diagnosis to counter the effects of the last minute rush to copy files. However, other hard drives may crash without a single sign – leading to complicated
This Dell PowerEdge RAID server…
troubleshooting procedures. In some instances, recovering data from a hard drive that has crashed abruptly might be impossible. Therefore, relying on hard drive failure symptoms solely might not be the most efficient way of dealing with the unpredictable issues behind crashes. Instead, an end user should ensure that he has a steadfast back up to make data restoration possible in case of an abrupt drive crash. Hard drive failure signs are broadly categorized into performance and sound problems.
Causes of Hard Disk Drive Failure and Broad Symptoms
Ever since the invention of computers, hard drive failure symptoms have remained a topic of mystery among many end users. Owing to this revelation, specialists have found it necessary to embark on a thorough study of the nature of hard drives in order to enlighten users so they understand what to do in case of a sudden crash. This has influenced a broad classification of reasons showcasing why hard disk drives fail constantly.
Logical failures are a major problem with many spindle and platter hard drives. This type of failure is witnessed when the firmware develops a problem. Logical failures are the easiest and cheapest to fix. However, the fact that this type of failure is uncommon makes it difficult to embark on troubleshooting operations right away. Media failures occur when the surface of the hard is handled roughly. This can be in the form of platter scratching or even errors in the read write.
Head failures might be seen as suitable hard drive failure symptoms since they are common and their effects are more notable as compared to logical breakdowns. With head failures, the read/write head is crashed into the surface of the platter, leading to nasty behavior such as that clearances. Mechanical failures form the fundamental base of most hard drive problems and malfunctions.
In the world of computers, a broken hard drive is a most common and almost inevitable occurrence. Computers run quite a huge volume of information, some of which can be malicious and destructive. There are a number of factors that can leave you with a broken hard drive, and these include falls and earthquakes. When the worse comes to worst, it is important that you understand the steps you need to take to ensure that your information is recovered from the hard drive. There are many companies like HDRA, which repair broken hard drives that can assist you with this and you only need to choose the best.
After you realize that you have a broken hard drive in your computer, you should take it out of the case; if this is too much of a task for you, it is essential that you call in a computer technician to assist you with this. You should take this hard drive to a professional data recovery service for a thorough check to confirm that it is broken. The expert will give you a report and will tell you whether the information in it can be recovered or not, and the costs you have to pay for recovery services.
What Leads To a Broken Hard Drive?
If you have been working with computers for a while now, then a broken hard drive is probably not news to you. Hard drives break often because of different factors. The reasons for a broken hard drive issues can range from physical factors such as physical failures to more software related elements like the attack by viruses, worms and any malicious software. It is up to the user to protect the information contained on their hard drives from such occurrences. As for blunt trauma from falls, you just need to be careful. Any software related issues require that the user put all necessary measure to protect their systems.
Sometimes accidents and incidents are unavoidable and you might end up with a physically or mechanically busted hard drive. If it comes to this, you need to be prepared and know what to do. If your hard drive breaks, you should have the contact information of a technician and get him to check and confirm that it is actually non-functional. You will also need to know of some good data recovery companies around you. Though hard drives break, this does not spell doom for the information in them. There is technology that enables data recovery and you can benefit a lot from it if you know what to do when yours breaks.
These days, it seems as though the ads for SkyTel’s two-way pagers are inescapable. In newspapers, magazines, and in-flight programming, I’m barraged with the question, “Can your pager do that?”
Kickin’ it old skool!
No, my digital pager can’t do that. But then again, neither could the two-way pager that SkyTel loaned me earlier this year. My laundry list of problems with the pager was so long, I couldn’t fit all my complaints into a recent post.
I’ve never received as many responses from one area of the country to a column as I did to that one, and most of the comments came from the Washington, D.C., area. Those readers had an entirely new two-way wireless communications service to tell me about.
Recall that in 1994 the Federal Communications Commission embarked on its auction of PCS (Personal Communications Services) licenses. PCS is a wireless technology that overcomes many of the limitations of Cellular Digital Packet Data.
The FCC’s first-round auction of PCS licenses netted the feds $6 billion (despite going directly into the treasury, the funds made barely a scratch in the national debt), and Sprint acquired the lion’s share of those licenses.
Readers wrote to tell me about the first fruits of Sprint’s success at the PCS auction: a service called Sprint Spectrum, which so far is only available in the Washington area. Users seemed so excited about the service that I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl.
After trying the service out, I understand why the Sprint Spectrum users who wrote in were excited. If there ever was a Ginsu knife of two-way wireless communications, this service is it.
The device, which looks like a cellular phone, is a wireless phone, a two-way pager, and a voice-mail mailbox all in one.
Like SkyTel’s pager, the Sprint device’s two-way communications capability guarantees delivery of all messages and pages. If the unit is out of range and the network loses touch with it, the network waits until the unit is within range and notifies the user that messages (either voice mail or pages) are awaiting retrieval. Unlike SkyTel’s two-way pager, however, this feature worked quite well with Sprint Spectrum.
Like the two-way pager, Sprint’s service is capable of preprogrammed responses to alphanumeric pages. If the page is just a phone number, the phone can automatically dial the number back and can also store it for future use.
The service also provides caller ID. When PC Week Labs analyst Matt Kramer called me from his home in Massachusetts, I instantly recognized his number. Caller ID numbers could be stored in the phone for future use, too.
When used for voice, the service was exceptionally clear on both ends. I never heard a cell-hop, nor was I bumped from the network in the middle of a call.
Even more impressive was the modest cost. The most expensive plan offered 600 minutes of peak time and 600 minutes of off-peak time for $150.
I liked the service so much, it left me wanting more–more availability than just the D.C. area, and a way to connect my PC to it. Both are planned, according to company officials, and I can’t wait.
If there ever was a Ginsu knife of two-way wireless communications, this is it.
“The intranet allows you to provide a lot of information to a fairly diverse audience easily,” says Tom Shea, vice president of sales and marketing at Logical Design Solutions, an intranet integrator firm in Morristown, New Jersey. “It allows people very intuitive access to information that was previously difficult to get to.” And, he says, it allows you to access information in a way that can be updated rather quickly.
Shea adds, “It’s the ideal solution for a mobile sales force, or a diverse sales force that needs access to a lot of rapidly changing information.” Indeed, such corporate giants as AT&T, Tyson Foods, and Turner Broadcasting have begun using intranets.
A Single Information Source
Cadence Design Systems, a software-solutions company based in San Jose, California, knows the advantages an internal network can provide. As a result of changing from a company that sold software to one that now consults on software, Cadence hired about 50 new salespeople and lost nearly 20 in the first quarter of 1996. Suddenly, says Barry Demak, manager of worldwide sales operations, the company had an urgent communications problem.
“We basically changed our business, and that changed the bag of tricks our salespeople had to work with,” Demak says. “We needed an infrastructure to help them navigate that shift. We had sales reps with notebooks and specific sales software and such, but our most urgent need was to develop a single place where they could go for information.”
Cadence created that place through an intranet system it calls OnTrack. The solution serves as the primary purveyor of information to the company’s worldwide, 200-person sales force. Instead of using weighty manuals and countless photocopied memos, Cadence simply posts its sales data– everything from information about the sales process to news about competitors and product specifications–on its internal intranet server. Salespeople can access the information whenever they need it from wherever they are, straight from their PCs, using a standard Netscape browser. What they see when they log in is similar to a typical Web page, complete with graphics and point-and-click maneuverability.
The advantages over paper manuals are clear. For example, Cadence is trying to get its salespeople to focus on understanding their customers’ business objectives, so they can design a service solution that makes sense. With OnTrack, a rep can go directly to that step in the online sales process and see any suggestions, guidelines, and information that might help him execute the step more quickly–down time. “It’s kind of like having someone with ten to fifteen years of experience embedded in here as a coach, instead of trying to force the district manager to be all things to all people,” says Tim Herbert, Cadence’s director of worldwide sales operations.
That type of one-way publishing application marks the biggest use of intranets today. Dave Rosenlund, vice president of product marketing and strategy at Process Software Corporation, an intranet-software developer in Framingham, Massachusetts, says that most of his clients start with a desire to easily and quickly disseminate information. “Most people are using intranets for distributing information–electronic publishing,” he says. “Sales andmarketing information is perfect for it, because it’s largely static although there are issues associated with dynami content, like when your competitor
“Using the Sales example, our assumption is that there are already a bunch of documents effective intranet application for those, you’re talking about moving them to HTML (hypertext markup language, the language of the Internet), not starting from scratch, which you might be inclined to do if you were creating a glamorous Internet site. That’s not the important consideration when you’re trying to come up with an effective sales tool for your sales organization.”
Cadence has a system in place, for instance, that enables anyone with the right access code to post information; all a sales manager has to do is write a document in his or her word processor, then send it to an editor for approval, and it’s on the intranet that very same day. “In terms of cost, paper versus the intranet, a lot of companies are opting for the intranet because it’s so much more efficient,” adds Kelly Lee, director of client services at Logical Design Systems. “You can provide the latest information very quickly.”
Intranet growth is being spurred by the fact that once a company sees the value of intranet access, it will likely want to move to the next stage—transaction-based applications that are more interactive. Rosenlund of Process Software sees “the folks who have been doing electronic publishing for a year or so moving into more of an interactive application:
‘Tell me the status of customer 123′s order.’ Basically, it’s what everyone’s been talking about for years and years, but has always been difficult for the mobile sales force to actually do. Now that’s happening-people are accessing a database back at the company, entering a simple form, and getting results.”
Another way to increase employee participation is by using a dally news service like the one Cadence has introduced. Through a deal with a licensing company called Paracel, Cadence can offer its salespeople direct and immediate access to almost 2,500 publications–none of which are themselves proprietary, but many of which charge subscription fees for their information. Cadence pays one fee for alt of it–everything from Electronic Engineering Times to The Wall Street Journal. What does that mean for its salespeople? They can get information about their prospective and current customers at the touch of a button.
“For example, we’re trying to get the salespeople to stop calling on technical guys and start calling on executives and business managers,” Demak says. “This lets them get background on the executives they need to see, who they are, and the company. So if I’m preparing to make a call, I can literally go to one screen, enter a guy’s name, and find out every article that’s available on him–in about thirty seconds. Previously, that would have to be done through a costly service like Lexis/Nexis or be funneled through a researcher.”
Intranets aren’t just for internal communications. Some companies are offering intranet access–albeit limited–to select customers and vendors. Vanguard Group, a financialservices company in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, set up an intranet not for its own employees but for its customers’ people instead. For example, when Compaq Computer said it wanted to educate its diverse workforce about the value of investing, Vanguard agreed to develop kiosks at Compaq that link directly to a Vanguard Web server. Once in the Vanguard system, Compaq employees can get information about their own accounts, as well as tips and educational materials on finance in general. Shea of Logical Design Solutions says his company helped Vanguard develop the system. “Originally we talked about a CD-ROM. But we recommended an intranet solution, because it’s more flexible and always up-to-date,” he says. “From a sales perspective it may not be a core offering, but it’s certainly an added value.”
Of course, letting people from outside the company into your server does raise certain security issues, but none of them are insurmountable–or even as big as you might think. “Suffice it to say that the often written-about security issues around the Web are largely hype,” says Rosenlund of Process Software. “Like most security, even physical security, the same rules apply. You have to give it some forethought. Who’s going to walk through the front door–your Web site–unescorted? And what precautions do you need to take to ensure that only people who are authorized can get in? The security mechanisms are there, but they’re only as good as the extent to which you take advantage of them. People can always break into your building, too.”
Process uses a system that not only checks user names and passwords. but can also be set to allow a user access to certain information oNly if he or she is dialing in from a recognized address–that is, a computer the company knows.
Finally, there are those intranet users who are ready to move beyond interactive applications to collaborative computing-the kind of group work people do with Lotus Notes, the leading groupware product. And that, according to those in the know, is where the intranet roads all lead. “Computers have gone through an evolution,” Rosenlund says. “In the sixties, they dealt with bits and bytes. Then in the seventies and early eighties, it was data. In the late eighties and early nineties, information. Now we’re in a paradigm shift from information technology to knowledge networking. People will collaborate on information and create corporate knowledge.”
It’s one road sure to be heavily traveled, even if, at the moment, it’s still the one less taken.
Intranets: Pros and Cons
* Relatively inexpensive
* Fast access to information
* Easy to learn and navigate
* A streamlined, safe introduction to the Internet
* Enhances productivity
* Still in development stage
* Some security issues
* Some groupware capabilities not yet available
Okay, you say, this intranet stuff sounds great–but what’s it gonna cost me?
Surprisingly, not as much as you might think. The hardware (computer server) and software add up to very little; a small company—one with a dozen salespeople, for example–could probably get set up for a few thousand dollars. Cadence Design Systems, a software-service company, spent $30,000 on hardware and software, and another $200,000 on consulting fees. Turner Broadcasting Corporation’s worldwide, 4,500-employee system ran about $500,000.
Considering the relatively small up-front cost, the payoff can be immense. Tim Herbert, Cadence’s director of worldwide sales operations, estimates that OnTrack, the company’s intranet system, saves Cadence $2 million each quarter. He credits this savings to the fact that it helps bring new salespeople quickly up to speed. “People ramp up about two months sooner than normal,” he says. That adds up when each rep is carrying $3 million in accounts. Moreover, reps constantly use the intranet to cull information on customers and prospects from Cadence’s daily news service.
Intel, which has gathered together key players to promote the use of mobile phone networks for data applications, may find the task harder than expected, but users should benefit eventually.
New alliances in the IT business usually mean there is something wrong with the present state of affairs. And Intel’s push to create a group promoting the use of mobile phone networks for data applications is no exception.
It is possible to use wireless networks for E-mail and other data applications, but it is not easy. And yet it could be, particularly in Europe.
Mobile phone networks have gone over to digital technology following the introduction of the Global System for Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) standards. So data communications should be easier than transmitting over ordinary analogue fixed-line services.
European service providers have established roaming agreements so a subscriber in the UK can use the GSM networks in France and Germany and still be billed, in sterling, in the UK.
Laptop computers can be fitted with a data card which can plug into a mobile phone. And Nokia has launched a mobile phone which opens up to reveal a communicating personal organiser.
All the pieces seem to be in place. Yet you still see executives struggling with a case of cables, converters and connectors for power and telephone. And Intel reckons that only one in 50 subscribers to GSM phones will have access to a data adapter by the end of the year.
But the company believes there is a huge opportunity for European companies to seize the advantage of GSM and affordable laptops and achieve the traditionally touted benefits of faster, better decision-making and business processes, leading to higher productivity. And Intel has gathered support from a number of key players to make mobile data communications easier.
The first group in Intel’s initiative includes leading laptop suppliers Compaq, IBM and Toshiba; mobile phone manufacturers Nokia and Ericsson; and service providers Cellnet, De Te Mobil, Mannesman, Telia, and Vodata. And, of course, there is Microsoft. They also have discussed plans with Hard Drive Recovery Associates to offer exclusive laptop data recovery service plans. It’s a plan that will be necessary, as laptop hard drive failure rates continue to grow.
Intel reckons the mix of industries and players is about right for now. Andy Keates, European marketing manager for Intel’s mobile products group, said the company tried to keep the group small enough to work together but powerful enough to make a difference.
He said none of the companies they approached with the idea refused to join, and he expected Motorola to do so in due course.
That will be the real test, because IT industry alliances are often better understood by absentees than members.
Those who have pioneered mobile data communications using packaged but proprietary solutions will have mixed feelings about the initiative. On the one hand, they will see a threat to their networks and solutions, while on the other, they will welcome moves to popularise the idea of mobile data.
And that, more than any great technical challenges, seems to be Intel’s aim. Keates admitted that the exercise was very much an awareness campaign.
Intel said few Europeans realise that data can be sent over GSM networks. There is a general perception that achieving general mobile data solutions would be difficult, insecure and expensive.
“Very often, the cost is misunderstood and the benefit not appreciated,” said Keates. Few realised that GSM service providers can already provide fast connections to the Internet. In the UK, a voice conversation can cost 20p a minute whereas a data connection can cost 18p.
Getting the three sides of the business to talk to each other should certainly help the awareness challenge.
Intel has already held an interoperability “plug fest” to help nine data card manufacturers check their products with GSM phones. And Keates said the next release of Windows 95 from Microsoft should include software so that GSM traffic can be recognised and data pipes accepted by the operating system.
What the group does not seem to have addressed are questions that users want answered now: what has to be done to add mobile data to existing equipment, and how do you manage secure connections to existing corporate networks? Companies such as Shiva, which specialise in software and servers for remote access, are not yet in the initiative.
This omission is odd given that research company Dataquest, in a report prepared for the initiative, pointed out that “most users require applications, not just technology platforms”.
Intel and its allies may have underestimated the amount of work that needs to be done to achieve what Keates described as the objective. “We would like it to be a no-brainer to connect together the laptop and the phone,” he said.
But a glance around any European airport or conference centre will show the potential. Europe lags behind the US in adoption of E-mail and PCs. But Dataquest reckons there are more than 19 million subscribers to digital phone networks in Europe, against fewer than three million in the US.
Even if Intel’s initiative takes longer to realise than the group would like, the alliance seems to be one which could do some good for users.
“Customers really don’t care about frequency, whether it’s 1,900 MHz or 850 MHz,” said Robert Allen, AT&T chairman. “They care about services.”
To handle heavy roaming, AT&T will tap Nokia Mobile Phones to build dual-band, dual-mode phones for its new Digital PCS wireless communication service.
Under a three-year $240-million deal, Nokia will build TDMA phones that will operate at both the 800-MHz and 1,900-MHz bands. Jointly, the two networks will reach a potential 212 million customers. The phones will also run on analog networks when the user is outside AT&T’s digital network territory.
Dual-mode, dual-band phones should be available early next year. Customers who buy a $150 to $250 phone this year for Digital PCS will be able to upgrade.
With the announcement, AT&T is essentially integrating its existing cellular network with its forthcoming PCS network to offer a larger digital footprint to its customers, said Michael King, a research analyst with Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn. However, the name may be confusing to some customers who have heard all the hype around the multibillion-dollar Federal Communications Commission’s auctioning off of the 1,900-MHz spectrum, which is usually referred to as the PCS spectrum, King said.
AT&T was the second-largest spender in the PCS license auction last year, second only to Sprint, King said. Some competitors have already begun to offer service in the 1,900-MHz band, but King sees AT&T as a bit overconfident.
“AT&T’s trying to capitalize on a lot of the excitement and notoriety of PCS,” King said. “They won’t have a PCS network running for some time.”
An analyst called the new service a “pre-emptive strike” against major launches of PCS networks planned later this year, such as a joint venture by Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile and Airtouch.
“It’s the largest digital rollout in history, in the world, really,” said Mark Lowenstein, vice president of wireless research at Yankee Group Inc., in Boston. “It really spotlights AT&T as a big player in digital.”
Digital personal communication services are expected to be a big factor in the growth of the cellular market, according to market research company Dataquest Inc.
The cellular market is expected to grow 30 percent this year in the United States, to 41.8 million subscribers, Dataquest officials said. Growth will slow down next year, to only 50.6 million customers. But by 2000, more than half of the 69.8 million cellular customers are expected to be on digital networks, spurred on by the need for personal communication services. Customers can also expect lower cellular prices with the growth of PCS.
Smart phones — phones that offer e-mail, voice, facsimile, and paging — will be on the U.S. market by the middle of next year, rising from 14,800 units in 1997 to 22.4 million units by 2020.
Communication has become a maddening thing over the past 10 years. Telephones, cable, VOIP – it all costs money, and it adds up.
How did we get in such a state? It’s easier than it looks, Start with the mailbox and residential phone line, then add business and fax/data lines, as well as an e-mail address, for a home office. That’s five channels. Add a car phone for each worker and then pagers (to cut down on skyrocketing car-phone bills) and you’re up to nine. Include a phone extension, fax line, and two e-mail addresses (one internal, one external) for my office and you’ve achieved a 13-channel mini-communications network without breaking a sweat.
Longing for the old days…
The five electronic gizmos were even easier to accumulate: a computer for each office, one for the house, and a PDA–which takes the place of a paper planner, electronically storing schedules, names, addresses etc.–for each career.
Suddenly your family needs a CIO.
The amazing thing, of course, isn’t how many phones or e-mail addresses we have but how much your house looks–or will look–like ours in the near future. Researchers report that the multiple-phone, multiple-computer household will soon be the norm, with all of us furiously dialing and voice-mailing and Web-surfing and scratching out little notes to ourselves.
That’s where you and I need the help. Because while I appreciate the benefits of the anywhere, anytime office as much as anyone–I am writing this column in Dallas, will e-mail it from Houston, and then review the final version in Cleveland–I’m getting awfully tired of looking in 13 different places several times a day for messages. And it is one of the ironies of the modern era that despite our supposedly enhanced ability to reach each other via various telecom devices, the best way for my colleagues to find me during the day is still to ask my assistant–who then directs them to the appropriate channel.
The help we need will require technology, starting with some kind of unified, wireless mailbox that combines e-mail, voice-mail, and pages into a single storage medium. Including the element of choice will be important, too. The boom 15 years ago in answering machines had as much to do with allowing us to screen our calls as it did with not missing messages. When our unified mailbox arrives, it had better allow us the ability to choose which missives to answer when, and how.
What technology can’t help, of course, is what we do—or don’t do–with all our new communications bandwidth. To cite just one example, while my once-peaceful morning and evening commutes are now filled with phone calls, I can’t say that I’m in any closer touch with friends or business partners. And the quality of those conversations–filled with dead air and sudden exclamations as I swerve to avoid all the other unfocused drivers gabbing on their car phones–is not the same as those conducted from my office or home. Lately I’ve been wondering if I might not be more productive by disconnecting the car phone–and maybe a few other lines–in favor of some old-fashioned quiet time. In fact, there’s only one question I have about dropping out of the race to be as wired as the next executive: