Archive for the 'CIO' Category

Facebook Email? Not exactly.

So if you were tuned into the Interewebs today you probably noticed an announcement about enhancements to Facebook Messaging. Clearly, Facebook is attempting to take a chunk out of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google (who combined account for over 600 million email accounts).

Facebook’s claim is that they know who your friends are, so they can us their database to mine for which messages are “good” and which are bad (assuming of course that your friends are not spammers).

I greet this announcement with excitement. Not because I think Facebook is inherently superior to any other messaging service, but because the last great innovation in email was the unveiling of Gmail nearly 7 years ago. Facebook brings over 500 million users to the table, many of whom spend more time on that site than any other on the Internet. This bold announcement may force email’s big three to actually innovate something new for the first time in a while.

Many younger folks already use Facebook as their primary messaging system, preferring the quick, real-time nature of Facebook messages to the formal, staid nature of email. In addition, because Facebook has long encouraged “Friendships” (as opposed to the more traditional Contact List or Address Book), there may be a higher level of implicit trust in messages received through the Facebook system.  On the other hand, the greatest strength of Facebook messaging until now has been the nearly complete lack of junk mail. Massive adoption could turn Facebook Messaging into “just another email client” full of advertisements.

From Davenport’s perspective, regardless of the developments at Facebook, we will see the continued decline of email as preferred means of communication among students. Consider this, 3 years ago we were told that 18 year olds preferred text messages to email nearly 2:1. Those same 18 year olds are now professionals in the workplace bringing that bias into the professional world. If you look forward three more years, you may see a majority of adults preferring to avoid email altogether, sticking to Facebook’s simplified messaging system (after all, Facebook’s largest demographic is 35-54 year olds, not traditional aged students as many believe). As a University seeking to serve both working adults and traditional college students, we may need to push past Facebook as a social network to be used primarily during your personal time, and start to view it more as a communications tool akin to people’s personal email accounts.

The ITS Team will be evaluating the latest developments and if anything pressing comes of this, we will certainly let you know!

Is it time to support Macs?

If you’ve worked here for a few years (like me) you know that officially we don’t support Apple computers here at Davenport.  Sure, there are a few Macs floating around (literally a few) but of the 4,000 computers managed by IT, fewer than 30 are made by Apple, and of those most are in a single gaming lab at Lettinga Campus.

So my question is, do we need to change that policy?  Is it time to start supporting Mac computers?

Three recent bits of information have caused me to question our long-standing policy of a PC-only Davenport.

  • Apple has 91% market share for computers that cost over $1,000.  [source] Frankly I’m stunned to read that, but I trust the data. Recall, iPads are under $1,000 and so are iPhones, so this is just Mac Computers, nothing else.
  • Apple has climbed above 10% overall market share (per-unit) for the first time in 20 years. [source] For August sales, Mac’s market-share was over 20% for the first time since the 1980s.  [source]
  • Apple is the single most popular laptop manufacturer on college campuses. [source]
  • iPad sales have continued at over 1 million per month and are projected to double next year to over 28,000,000 in 2011 [source]

What does this all mean to the CIO?  It’s simple: Technology has been consumer-driven for at least 20 years now and this is merely the latest trend in consumer preference.  As the IT department at university priding itself in technology, we have two duties:

  1. To support faculty, staff and students in the activities around teaching, learning and administration.  This is our customer support role.
  2. To provide technology leadership to the institution, ensuring we are positioned for the future.  This is our strategic role, and we take it as seriously as the customer service role.

Those three bits of Apple information have me thinking about the future of IT here at Davenport.  Davenport is a school that has long prided itself on technology in the classroom, online, and through our various degree programs. We prepare students for careers in technology, and we expose them to the technology they will see in their business and health careers.  If Apple has indeed returned to a powerful role in the personal computing space, perhaps its time to change our tune, incorporating Macs into our computer labs, support procedures, and perhaps even our curriculum.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts through comments on this blog.


Brian Miller
VP of ITS and CIO

Drag and Drop Attachments in Dmail

In another edition of “Campaign Promises Made Good” here is a video demonstrating how to do drag-n-drop attachments in DMail (despite the fact that it’s in a web browser).

This relatively new feature may be new to many consumer users of Gmail, so I wanted to take a brief minute to show you how it works.  The entire video is less than 90 seconds long.  Enjoy!


Uptime, what’s in 0.1%?

Facebook now supports 60,000 servers to serve 400 million users.

Here are a few stats on the massive popularity of Facebook. None of them should be a surprise of course, but they’re a nice illustration of what a system as big as Facebook deals with in terms of performance challenges.

  • Users spend more than 16 billion minutes on Facebook each day
  • Every week users share more than 6 billion pieces of content, including status updates, photos and notes.
  • Each month more than 3 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook.
  • Users view more than 1 million photos every second
  • Facebook’s servers perform more than 50 million operations per second, primarily between the caching tier and web servers
  • More than 1 million web sites have implemented features of Facebook Connect, making it the most popular federated identity solution on the web.

After performing all those functions, Facebook is averaging 99.7% uptime for calendar year 2010 as of June 30th. By comparison, Twitter averages 99.2% uptime. While both numbers sound pretty solid, it would seem neither service has figured out its growth issues.  Those uptimes compute out to 3 hours monthly downtime for Facebook and 6 hours monthly downtime for Twitter.

Many services are contractually bound to provide certain uptime levels.  Blackboard, for example, promises 99.7% uptime.  Anything worse earns us some money back.   Google Mail (which powers student, and staff email here at Davenport) boasts 99.9% uptime (45 minutes per month of downtime on average) as part of their contract, but there are no monetary rewards should they fail to meet this mark (incidentally, they have been at 99.94% for 2010 to date).

When a vendor, or someone on our own internal IT staff quotes an uptime in terms of percentage, it’s helpful to understand what that means, so here is a handy table to calculate downtime in minutes when someone quotes you an impressive sounding uptime number in percentage.

  • 90% uptime is 72 hours a month of downtime
  • 95% uptime is 36 hours a month of downtime
  • 98% uptime is 14 hours a month of downtime
  • 99% uptime is 7 hours a month of downtime
  • 99.5% uptime is 3.6 hours a month of downtime
  • 99.9% uptime is 43 minutes a month of downtime
  • 99.95% uptime is 22 minutes a month of downtime
  • 99.99% uptime is 4 minutes a month of downtime
  • 99.999% uptime is 26 seconds a month (or 5 minutes a year) of downtime
  • 99.9999% uptime is 31 seconds a year of downtime

Everyone would like 100% uptime, of course.  The cost of achieving that is almost always higher than budgets will allow (because it requires massive extra servers, bandwidth, software licenses).  Internally we shoot for 99.9% uptime as that seems to be a balance between cost and performance that we can all live with.

Sources for data:

Middle-aged Women Lead the Way!

I spend a lot of time in meetings discussing social networking with my colleagues both inside and out of IT.  While social networking lives in that blurry space between IT and Marketing, it’s incumbent upon all University employees to understand how the tools work, and how we might better use them to communicate with stakeholders (students, prospects, donors, etc).

Today I read an article that solidified my opinion that social networking is something in which we all must take an interest.  Middle-aged women are no longer described as the “fastest growing” group (which can be a euphemism for “a small group that’s finally decided to try out this new technology”).  Instead, they are now the single most active group on social networks over mobile devices.  Women use social networks 10% more than men, and the largest group online is adults aged 35-54.

Think about that for a second.



Now read that statement again: Middle aged women are the single most active group on social networks over mobile devices.

When I first saw that statement, I honestly didn’t believe it. Surely teens, with their flexible thumbs and never ending stream of text messages are more active?  Surely college students, with their student groups, facebook-publicized lives, and childhood spent plugged into computers would use social networks more than their mothers?

Apparently not.  In fact, teenagers and college students combined account for less mobile-social-network traffic than their parents (adults aged 35-54, which is “middle age” according to the US Census).

So, what does this mean for Davenport IT?  For Davenport as a whole? Well, to me it means that even those groups we previously thought were the domain of stodgy old-school websites, and print-marketing are out there communicating on Facebook and LinkedIn with their smart-phones much more than anyone probably thought.  If you look at the middle-aged adult share of traffic (36% of all social network traffic from mobile devices) compared to teens (7%) and traditional-aged college students (16%) it also suggests that our preconceived notions of the demographics of the mobile audience are completely wrong.

Naive, Old Way of Thinking: Static websites are for digital immigrants who aren’t sure how to use these new fandangled social networks.

How we should be thinking: Teens aren’t that likely to use their smart-phones to access mobile social networks, but their mothers sure are.  In fact, their mothers are the biggest group of users out there, and we should be finding ways to target them through Facebook (where middle-aged women have long been the fastest growing demographic on the site), LinkedIn (the largest social network for professionals… and probably a great place to recruit MBA students), and other social networks too ( has female-focused social networks targeting specific geographic regions: Detroit, Chicago, Lansing and Grand Rapids).  Not only are 35-54 year olds the parents of our traditional-aged students, they are the adult students we seek as well, and apparently they are all over the social interwebs.

As always, if anyone wants to talk about this over a hot cup of Mosaic Coffee, I spend at least one morning a week in the Panther’s Den from 7:30-8am checking email on my phone. Stop by and we can chat!