September 17, 2009

As a service provider, "I told you so" is not a phrase we say to our clients (we say it a lot internally). That said, there are times when that phrase is so apropos it's virtually impossible not to utter it in one form or another. The past week has presented us with multiple opportunities to do just that.

Outlook is not an unlimited repository for your e-mail. Regardless of the version of Exchange you run, you cannot keep every e-mail you ever sent or received stored in Outlook. We have seen - almost without fail - that Outlook starts to flake out when you approach 2GB of storage. Beyond 2GB, Outlook's performance degrades rapidly and issues start to spring up that cause users constant headaches. Before you say it - no, we don't know why this is the case; it just is.

We have had at least 12 users in the last week who have experienced significant issues with Outlook due to storage size. We tell our clients constantly to manage their Outlook storage size; we give them the tips below (plus directions); we walk through the steps with them. But you cannot save people from themselves. That said, we are here to help and want to do so. We present our 4 tips for managing Outlook (there are more, but these are the primary tips).

1. Empty your Deleted Items folder. This is not a backup folder in case you need an e-mail in the future; this is the place where e-mails go to disappear. Either set Outlook to empty the Deleted Items folder when you close the program or do it manually when you leave at night (right click, select Empty "Deleted Items" Folder).

2. Your Sent Items count against your storage size. It's not just your Inbox; everything in Outlook counts against the storage size. So be sure to manage your sent folder (see archiving below). And since you can organize your sent folder by the recipient, it's simple to delete multiple e-mails at one time.

3. Create Archive folders. Do not use the auto archive feature; manually create archive folders for your Inbox and Sent Items based on dates. Archiving moves the e-mails from Outlook onto your local machine (you should create backups of these archive folders), so Outlook is not constantly searching/indexing the e-mails. This is the most effective way to reduce the storage size.

4. Delete e-mails. It's amazing the e-mails people keep for no apparent reason than deleting them just doesn't come to mind. If you have an e-mail thread running with someone, delete all but the last e-mail received (all the back and forth will be captured below the last message); if your get an "OK" response to your happy hour plan, delete it; in fact, you can probably get rid of 1/4 of your Inbox total without really working at it.

These tips could go on and on, but start with these and we'll talk later about more advanced options that can help you in the short and long runs.

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September 10, 2009

If you've been following our little blog here you know there are three owners of Syzygy 3 (Syzygy 3 Principals). Well, one of us (William Chan) is a gadget guy. He loves the latest and greatest and if we had unlimited resources, he'd have the first off the assembly every time. That said, William is the exception not the rule.

The first off the line is not the best of the bunch - in most cases, it's the worst. Everything has bugs that cannot be worked out during product testing (yes, even the iPhone). These bugs can be annoying to downright debilitating. Now I hate painting everyone with a generality, but when it comes to tech gadgets, humans are not very patient. You should be. Waiting six months for others to help the manufacturer work out the kinks and bugs will make your life less stressful and your user experience more enjoyable and productive. (I don't even have kids and I sound like a parent.)

This concludes today's advice column.

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September 03, 2009

I thought the news this week from the Arkansas behemoth was important enough to mention twice - here and on next week's Syzygy 3 newsletter (sign up here).

Wal-Mart finally learned what eBay and Amazon have known since their inceptions -- holding inventory is not necessary for an Internet presence. On Monday, WM (to its close friends) announced that it would start selling products from other vendors through its online store (Wal-Mart announcement). This was major news because it'll be the first time WM won't be selling its own inventory. Amazon and eBay have been at the forefront of this model; sometimes it takes awhile for the big guys to be as agile as the new kids on the block (can you believe that group is back touring?).

Now I'm not a big Wal-Mart shopper (I prefer Target), but this is just another indication of how far technology has taken the online retail community. The whole process can now be controlled through a centralized tool that processes the order, submits it to an external vendor, allows for tracking, and even handles the payments. This middleware (it sits between the site and the supplier) will provide WM's online users with more options and give them better pricing on these niche items (b/c WM seems to carry everything).

But this isn't just a boon for WM. Now the niche suppliers have another outlet option for their goods/services. The major change I've seen since the economy hit the skids is willingness of the unemployed to start their own gig. (Technology is a bit to blame for the rise in unemployment - firms found they could do more or the same with less people because technology has created greater efficiencies.) Those who start their own t-shirt business, or food specialty, etc., will now have a greater opportunity to get exposure online (though don't underestimate the hoops WM will make them navigate).

Like all things, it will be a gradual process, but it will happen.

"George Washington had a vision for this country. Was it three days of uninterrupted shopping?" Jeff Melvoin

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