The Register Columnists

Dave Cartwright

Contact Mail Follow Twitter RSS feed
Dave Cartwright has worked in most aspects of IT in his 20-year-or-so career, though the things he claims to be quite good at are strategy, architecture, integration and making broken stuff become unbroken. His main pastime is shouting at people who try to install technology without considering whether it actually fits the business or the requirement. Dave is a Chartered Engineer, Chartered IT Professional and Fellow of the BCS, and lives with his family on a small rock in the English Channel.
microsoft_clippy_648

There's more to life than Windows

When you run a corporate IT infrastructure, the chances are you run Active Directory underpinning a predominantly Windows-based array of servers, desktops and laptops. And that's fine: it probably serves 90 per cent of the kit you have and is a secure, easy-to-use way of authenticating user logins. But it's very unusual to …
Dave Cartwright, 28 Apr 2016
Man with head in the cloud

All that is white and fluffy isn't always cloud: Hybrid infrastructure

The hybrid infrastructure. People have been banging on about them for a few years now – not least the vendors who want to sell you kit that will let you spread your infrastructure between on-premises, private data centres and the cloud. Now that much of hype about the cloud has started to die down (that doesn't mean it's gone …
Dave Cartwright, 20 Apr 2016
Hair inside an ASUS S6F

Managing infrastructure, a newbie's guide: Simple stuff you need to know

We all have IT and telco infrastructure equipment that's getting older. Time marches on and few of us have the funds or resources to renew everything when it reaches its official point of being written off by the bean-counters. We all, then, have some kind of legacy kit clinging onto its existence – even if it doesn't quite …
Dave Cartwright, 07 Apr 2016
10 image via Shutterstock

We bet your firm doesn't stick to half of these 10 top IT admin tips

IT is perceived in mixed ways by users. Some look on the amazing stuff it does and think there must be witchcraft going on in there somewhere. Others think that because they configured their Wi-Fi printer and Sky box at home, they're a genius of computing. If you're to preserve order, security and governance in the use of your …
Dave Cartwright, 06 Apr 2016
Poster for the movie Cable Guy. Copyright:  Columbia Pictures Corporation,

Call the Cable Guy: Wireless just won't cut it

Wireless networking is regarded by many as the way to go for corporate networking. No need for expensive structured cabling, no need to re-patch stuff when someone moves desk, and sufficiently secure to make it suitable for corporate use. I am inclined to agree with that last point: rank up the encryption to WPA2-AES and use …
Dave Cartwright, 01 Apr 2016

When should you bin that old mainframe? Infrastructure 101

It's very easy to forget that buying kit for your infrastructure is just the first step on a long, long road. It's also easy to forget that everyone keeps their infrastructure kit going for years longer than their accountants depreciate it: we've all got something in the comms room that's still clinging to life. And this is …
Dave Cartwright, 31 Mar 2016

OK, so the users want corporate apps on the move. Don't Panic

People want to be able to do their job from wherever they happen to be. It's understandable – if you don't need to be in an office chained to your desk then why not work somewhere more convenient? Let's look at five ways to make this achievable. Remote access to local apps At the most basic level you have the traditional …
Dave Cartwright, 30 Mar 2016

Confused by crypto? Here's what that password hashing stuff means in English

Cryptography is dead hard. But being conversant in the key aspects of cryptography – to the extent that you could even explain some of it to colleagues and management – puts you one step ahead of most. Here are five things that'll make you sound like you know what you're talking about. 1. Digital certificates The most common …
Dave Cartwright, 25 Mar 2016
Doctors run to save patient. Photo by Shutterstock

Wait... who broke that? Things you need to do to make your world diagnosable

You only ever discover the inadequacy of your system management, monitoring and diagnosis tools when something goes wrong and there's a gulf between what you want to do and what you need to do. Here are 10 things you can do to maximise your chances of diagnosing the problem when the brown stuff hits the ventilator. Ladies and …
Dave Cartwright, 24 Mar 2016

Okay IT pros, change happens. But here's your Reg guide to staying in control

When I started my IT career, the organisations I worked with didn't really do formal change management. And that wasn't really a problem: either they were small enough for it not to matter (we just told the handful of users: “We're about to upgrade X”), or the departments I worked in were sufficiently small and autonomous that …
Dave Cartwright, 23 Mar 2016

Who watches over your data – and how do you know it won't go AWOL?

There are a couple of alternative interpretations of the concept of data ownership. The first relates to the legal ownership of data – the intellectual property aspects such as copyrights, designs and trademarks. Now, while that's a world I did work in for a few years it's the other interpretation I'm concerned with here: the …
Dave Cartwright, 15 Mar 2016

Polite, helpful? Stop it at once in the name of security

In this article I'm going to talk about the second most important aspect of being an IT manager or engineer. “The second?” I hear you cry. Yes, the second, because the most important aspect is terribly dull and doesn't take 800 words to describe: safety. (And if you think I'm mad, ask yourself whether you'd break down the door …
Dave Cartwright, 14 Mar 2016
This Damn War image via Shutterstock

Computer says: Stop using MacWrite II, human!

This Damn War My first proper job was at the university at which I'd been studying; when I graduated in Computing Science there were a couple of tech support jobs going and I managed to bag one of them. I started as the Unix guy (these were the days when SunOS was still SunOS – the Solaris name was yet to come) but later on I gravitated into …
Dave Cartwright, 14 Mar 2016
Dyson DC58 Animal

SMBs? Are you big enough to have a serious backup strategy?

One of the TLAs* we come across all the time in IT is CIA. It's not, in this context, a shady American intelligence force: as far as we're concerned it stands for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability – the three strands you need to consider as part of your security and data management policies and processes. Most …
Dave Cartwright, 02 Mar 2016
David Caruso as famously sunglasses-lowering cheeseball crime scene investigator Horatio Crane in CSI: Miami. Photo copyright CBS

CSI: Let's get out of the lab, interview the suspect, then do a warrantless search

Is CSI a real thing? No, I don't mean the American TV series about investigating crime scenes: that's clearly a very broad-strokes* take on a real job. I'm talking about Continual Service Improvement – that thing that you see on business cards and on LinkedIn profiles from time to time, and think to yourself: “Is that actually a …
Dave Cartwright, 10 Feb 2016
Afraid of the dark, image via Shutterstock

Lights out! Newbie IT manager's dark basement trip

This Damn War Hello and welcome to a brand-new Register series taken from the front line of high tech and business, encompassing war stories from our readers and writers about clumsy contractors, slippery suppliers, and the machinations of management. It's tales of fail, "I told you so" moments, and of getting away with it. Kicking off is …
Dave Cartwright, 11 Jan 2016
Shoppers escalators1 photo via Shutterstock

Black Friday Blues: How to dodge a thankless day's online sales crush

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, the day when – having celebrated the Pilgrim Fathers' survival of their first winter – the public celebrate by going shopping. Indeed, so enthusiastic was their celebration, retailers would see their balances slide into the black. Increasingly, Black Friday has moved into the …
Dave Cartwright, 09 Nov 2015
Roundabout. Pic: Roundabout Fun, Flickr

How to get the fun stuff back in your data centre

The cloud is a fabulous concept. If you want to try something out, or prototype your latest idea, or give yourself a relatively inexpensive disaster recovery setup, get in there and run up a cloud-based installation. There's something that the cloud lacks, though: it's just not fun or cool. Lists of virtual machines in the …
Dave Cartwright, 29 Oct 2015
Woman drawing  boxes and arrows

When hyperconvergence meets the cloud (but who will need it?)

Hyperconvergence is a term that's being bandied about all over the place. Whatis.com tells us that it's “a type of infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources and other technologies from scratch in a commodity hardware box supported …
Dave Cartwright, 26 Oct 2015

The enterprise IT landscape: Five key ways it will change

Blog The more IT managers (of which I'm one in my day job) I talk to, the more I head people wondering where IT will be going over the next five years. The times are, as a Mr. Zimmerman sang in 1964, a-changin': but what will be different? I reckon things will evolve in five key ways. Cloud storage Storage in the cloud is already …
Dave Cartwright, 20 Oct 2015

External vs internal: Why hybrid cloud is the way to go

A never-ending stream of cloud providers tells us that they can do a better job than our internal IT departments. And occasionally we come across surveys claiming the same thing. Is it all marketing puff or is there some substance in claims that external is better than internal? They look after the servers for you … but ... …
Dave Cartwright, 12 Oct 2015
Boats storm girl photo via Nikolina Mrakovic Shutterstock.com

Don't panic, biz bods: A guide to data in the post-Safe Harbor world

The Safe Harbor agreement this week suddenly became of interest to a lot more IT managers than had previously given a stuff about it. But what is Safe Harbor, exactly? The Safe Harbor agreement between the US and the EEA - which comprises the member states of the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein – dating from 2000, …
Dave Cartwright, 09 Oct 2015
Speedy Gonzales surrounded by cheese

Behind the curve: How not to be a technology laggard

I came across a wonderful term the other day: the “technical laggard”. I hadn't actually realised that this was an accepted term that's in (reasonably) wide usage – turns out it's the name given to people at the opposite end of the technology take-up spectrum from the early adopters. Although I've worked for, and with, largely …
Dave Cartwright, 01 Oct 2015
Mist and condensation, image via Shutterstock

Whoops, there goes my cloud: What to do when AWS foresakes you

Comment It's been an interesting period for cloud services, with both Amazon and Skype suffering major outages. In Amazon's case it was a good old-fashioned network interruption that caused significant knock-on effects (it released a very frank explanation that is well worth a read). As for Skype it was a configuration change that broke …
Dave Cartwright, 28 Sep 2015
Chinese fence

If you absolutely must do a ‘private cloud’ thing, here's how

I dislike the term “private cloud". As far as I'm concerned, there's really no difference between what I'd call a “traditional” homespun virtualised infrastructure and what they call “private cloud” these days. As Gartner puts it, private cloud is: “A form of cloud computing that is used by only one organisation, or that …
Dave Cartwright, 23 Sep 2015
that's all folks featuring Porky Pig

Eight things people forget when buying infrastructure

IT people start on their journeys through infrastructure provision lacking one fundamental thing: experience. You emerge from school, college or university knowing something about technology (unless of course you did one of those nancy IT degrees that doesn't teach you anything about proper IT, in which case your usefulness to …
Dave Cartwright, 21 Sep 2015
Example of tidy cabling

Bigger – and better? How your IT infrastructure budget will change

I was reading in a report recently that the majority of firms intend to increase their overall investment in IT infrastructure over the next two years. Which got me wondering: will this be in-house infrastructure? And if not, where will the money go outside the organisation? Bill will get richer Office 365 – specifically the …
Dave Cartwright, 16 Sep 2015
Chain expressing freedom (Stepph / Wikimedia)

When the IT department is 'just another supplier'

The traditional approach to IT within the average company is to have a central group that manages the technology and applications. This makes perfect sense, in principle: the underpinning technology has always been complex and has required a certain skill level in order to keep it running, patched and up to date. But things …
Dave Cartwright, 09 Sep 2015

You gotta be in it to win it: The Register presents its official Programming Competition

Competition Calling all you programmers out there! We have a simple challenge for you – and if you win, you bag yourself a rather smart Smart TV. Read on to find out how you can get involved... Sign up for a trial account with IBM Bluemix. Actually do this now! Check out the competition questions here. Implement and publish your three …
Dave Cartwright, 13 Aug 2015
Weightlifting, photo via Shutterstock

Lean machines: Data centre consolidation done right

We've written extensively on the whys and wherefores of moving some or all of your infrastructure into a data centre. But what about when you need to do the opposite and move out of a data centre? Sometimes this will be because you're downsizing, but often it'll be because you need to consolidate two or more data centres into …
Dave Cartwright, 11 Aug 2015
Parachutists and cloud image via Shutterstock

Cloud computing’s refuseniks: How long can they hold out?

Umpty-squillion surveys come out every week, and they generally disagree with each other. Personally I tend to take notice of the ones that tell me that red wine is good for weight loss and long life. I read one recently, though, in which no fewer than 51 per cent of managers said they're not presently investing in cloud …
Dave Cartwright, 10 Aug 2015
The Art of Social Media

Be quick or be silent: Social media as a business tool

As many readers know I live in the Channel Islands. A while back someone started a very popular Facebook group called “Bad or Good Jersey Businesses”, and the locals are not backward in coming forward with both bouquets and brickbats for businesses they've recently dealt with. Unsurprisingly, more and more business people I …
Dave Cartwright, 03 Aug 2015
Rolling shelves at the National Archive

You must remember: An archive isn't a thing, it's a strategy

The biggest asset your organisation has is its data. And since IT is a world of compromises and paradoxes, the thing you have to work hardest to manage is...your organisation's data. The task of data management is a big one. First you have to purchase or rent somewhere to put it – buy storage or run up a cloud repository. Then …
Dave Cartwright, 02 Aug 2015
Security guard, picture via Shutterstock

Don't want Windows 10 FILTH on the company network? Step this way

Windows 10 is here. Now, while I have Windows Upgrade Fatigue and I'm in no rush to make the change, plenty of people out there received the upgrade when it arrived. There will certainly going to be a mighty spike in net traffic that day – not least because the upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8 is a free one. If you're a …
Dave Cartwright, 31 Jul 2015

IT as a profit centre: Could we? Should we?

Let us agree that technology is or should be a big differentiator for business. Let us also agree also that particularly in very large companies, the IT department may be more cost effective, reliable, agile and so on than external service providers. And of course, getting IT to think and act as a services organisation where …
Dave Cartwright, 21 Jul 2015
Conrad Schnitzler

El Reg hosts the IBM Bluemix Programming Competition 2015

Competition So, what do I have to do? We'll go into more detail, but the basics are: Sign up for a trial account with IBM Bluemix, actually do this now and have a go, so you're ready when the questions are published. Enter our competition and learn about the Ts & Cs here. Implement your three solutions using the Bluemix environment ( …
Dave Cartwright, 21 Jul 2015
yellow measuring tape - black writing

Make sure your storage can grow with your business

The average SME has a modest infrastructure which has grown organically: a file server of some sort, probably an email server, then a handful of application servers hosting things like finance systems or the database back-ends to business applications. In most cases server A is pushing the limits of its storage capacity while …
Dave Cartwright, 16 Jul 2015
Giant burger

My top three IT SNAFUs - and how I fixed them

Everyone's had experiences where something just inexplicably didn't work. Or apparently inexplicably, anyhow. Here are three of mine. What’s yours? Please share in the comments below. Why is our application so slow? Giant burger We're going to need a bigger table A funky new application (HTML GUI with a SQL Server back …
Dave Cartwright, 14 Jul 2015
Shounting man in suit image via Shutterstock

Want to spoil your favourite storage vendor's day? Buy cloud

Organisations continue to buy storage. In fact, I was talking to a storage salesman not so long ago who was telling me that one of his customers regularly calls asking for a quote for “a couple more petabytes." However, on-premises storage is not the end of the story. Yes, you need to have storage electronically close (with …
Dave Cartwright, 01 Jul 2015
server room

How do we train the next generation of data centre wranglers?

There's a world of difference between what the average IT person does today and what they'd have done ten or fifteen years ago. So where's it going? What will we need to teach the next generation of data centre staff? The shifting focus The big difference between yesteryear and now is the growth in managed hosted services. “The …
Dave Cartwright, 30 Jun 2015

Does your company really need all that storage?

I was chatting not long ago to a sales guy from one of the big storage vendors. The market he serves is one of those where some of his customers buy a petabyte at a time – which I am sure he is happy about when it comes to hitting his sales quotas. The thing is, though, most companies have much more modest requirements. These “ …
Dave Cartwright, 30 Jun 2015
Baby in t-shirt - with logo "I'm recording everything"

10 things you need to avoid SNAFUs in your data centre

Despite my apparently youthful good looks, I've been in the IT industry since 1989. Which means I've been around the block a bit, and have learned rather a lot of lessons – some of them the hard way. To avoid you having to find them out yourself, here are ten to be going on with. 1. Always carry a torch in your laptop bag …
Dave Cartwright, 24 Jun 2015
Agricultural silos in Paraguay

Three things you need to break down those company silos

If you’re the guy tasked with breaking down silos, should you be breaking down the people who police those silos first? We explore how to de-mine your team ahead of your brownfield project. I've worked with a number of companies, as both an employee and a contractor, since I started working in IT in the late 1980s. And of course …
Dave Cartwright, 18 Jun 2015
Monks at their laptops

Shine a light on the rogue IT that hides in the company shadows

The rapid development of technology over the years has brought us a culture where people use technology wherever they are and whatever they are doing. Only 20 years ago a portable PC or Mac that you could use to work on the move was very expensive, and if you wanted to do serious work on a spreadsheet then you had to drive into …
Dave Cartwright, 10 Jun 2015
The Seeing Eye by Valerie Everett, Flickr, CC2.0

Hyperconvergence: Just where is the technology going?

When I started in business IT back in 1989, the machine room housed an IBM System/38 and an IBM PC-AT. The latter was the Novell NetWare 2.0a server. The S/38 had its proprietary connections, and the PCs were connected by traditional Token Ring. In fact a couple of PCs had IBM 5250 adaptor cards and terminal emulators so they …
Dave Cartwright, 09 Jun 2015
A humpback whale shows its open mouth as it breaches the surface of the sea.

Fire, flood and vomit: Defeating the Great White Whale of Fail

I've met a lot of IT people over the years who have a problem comprehending what Business Continuity (BC) actually is. On one hand this is fairly understandable, since to the average IT person “continuity” means making their systems robust and resilient so they can live with a power cut or the loss of one of their sites. Real IT …
Dave Cartwright, 05 Jun 2015
Mist and condensation, image via Shutterstock

Hybrid cloud: Define what it is, then decide what you want

First, there was software as a service, infrastructure and then platform as a service, then public and private cloud, and today hybrid cloud — but is the latter vendor-driven cloud washing or something more? Lending credence to the latter is the fact EMC last week spent a juicy $1.2bn buying Virtustream to increase its presence …
Dave Cartwright, 03 Jun 2015
Legoland Windsor Knight's Kingdom

Spoiling staff with toys could turn against your business

Many companies put staff engagement high on the agenda: they reason that if you keep staff happy they are likely to be productive and stick with you through difficult times as well as when it is all going swimmingly. It is a perfectly sensible thing to do – so long as you involve the IT department in the process. My first IT …
Dave Cartwright, 02 Jun 2015
management mobile

Where’s the best place for your infrastructure bottleneck?

As technology evolves, bottlenecks in the infrastructure move around. The switch speed leapfrogs the server speed, then the servers are upgraded with faster LAN cards and the spinning disks in the SAN become the weak link, so you upgrade and find that the SAN fabric is holding you back. How does everything interact? And as the …
Dave Cartwright, 01 Jun 2015
Our happy travellers surrounded by armed police at LAX

Governance the key if you don't want mobile workers escaping your control

Mobile computing is great. No longer are we chained to our desks when using technology and doing proper work. Not only are laptops getting smaller, lighter and cheaper, it is also possible to do real, productive stuff even more freely using phones and tablets. As is always the case in computing, though, the positives of …
Dave Cartwright, 21 May 2015