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Don Stavneak

I Want You to Want Volano

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I want our employees to want to come to work.

I believe you should go to work to do something you like to do. For me, coding is my hobby, is my job, is my pastime. Of course not everyone is built this way, but if you’re going to work not liking what you do – you’re not doing it right. So whether your a developer here or a receptionist, we want people that want to do what they came here to do.

I don’t want employees that show up in the morning:

  • for a paycheck
  • to punch the clock
  • because they have nothing else to do

Volano has some fundamentals that will make our company fulfilling to the right people:

  • Good Work (New Technologies, Variety of Tasks/Business Verticals)
  • Minimal Barriers (Direct Interaction with Clients, No Politics, Rod and my Full Support)
  • Fun Environment (Music, Darts, Drinks)

This all plays into our Core Values that we’ll finally be coming up with and posting. I guess after five years, we’re ready to formalize and publish what Rod and I have always believed with Volano.

Traditions

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I realized last night that even though Volano is a little over four years old, we have a bit of tradition. I think tradition comes from taking a routine and making it significant. I worked for a company once that had beers on Fridays. The department responsible for picking up the beer order was on the corporate calendar. They did not miss a beer:30 during the 14 years (at the time). I enjoyed that tradition and is probably where some of my want for tradition at Volano stems from.

We have drinks and play darts on Friday.

Everyone gets a Herman-Miller chair on their one year anniversary (I didn’t think about attrition when I came up with this one, so we have some newbies sitting in nice chairs now – it just doesn’t seem right to have nice chairs sitting in the corner).

We have purchased an office Christmas present every year.
1. We were just 3 months old and were probably naughty – so no present.
2. Dart Board
3. Mini Bar
4. Desks from IKEA (we were using plastic folding tables previously).

And now it’s the 5 year, I really wanted a couch and area rug for Rod and my office. I want a place for us to sit and discuss the projects we have on the board, a more creative space to architect the solutions and troubleshoot the problems at hand. Make the office a little cozier.

So Rod and I went to NFM and picked up the couch and a coffee table. I think it makes a nice addition to our office.

Welcome Brandon

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Volano would like to welcome it’s newest and most valuable employee to the Volano Team. Brandon just recently started with the company, but has already shown signs of super-human intellect and mental prowess. It won’t be long now until he’s signing paychecks and weeding out the rest of the slackers ( your days are numbered Jeremy ).

Ordinarily we would wish a new employee luck, but we already know he’s destined for greatness. Today marks a new chapter in the Volano saga: The Age of Brandon…

Source Control

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The Tenets of Source Control

Source control has been around for a long time. There’s nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking to say about it here. So, I’m going to borrow from Eric Sink creator of SourceGear, one of the tools we’ve used at Volano:

There are many source control tools, and they are all different. However, regardless of which tool you use, it is likely that your source control tool provides some or all of the following basic features:

  • It provides a place to store your source code.
  • It provides a historical record of what you have done over time.
  • It can provide a way for developers to work on separate tasks in parallel, merging their efforts later.
  • It can provide a way for developers to work together without getting in each others’ way.

Different Flavors

The various source control products out there can be categorized by two attributes: Repository Model and Concurrency Model. The Repository Model can be Client-Server or Distributed and the Concurrency Model can be Merge or Lock. Other things you take into consideration include: Is the product open-source or proprietary? And what operating system is it available on?

But Still

A lot of developers don’t get the importance of source control or are just too lazy to do it. They give excuses like “but I’m the only one working on the project, so it’s not that important.” BACKUPS ARE NOT SOURCE CONTROL!

The Volano Audit

We’re building a product around custom application audits. The audit is a discovery process that will result in an assessment of best practices along with important application development documentation in the form of a system master document. This will encompass the current application state and we will offer recommendations regarding how best to move forward. These recommendations will be structured as an actionable plan and will include an estimated effort, costs and proposed timeline.

For the source control component of this audit, we identify the following:

Assessment

  • Can the current software version be obtained, compiled, and released?
  • Can the project be ‘rolled back’ to a previous version?
  • Are all custom software applications and libraries in one structured repository?

Information

  • Source Control product & version in use
  • Location of repository
  • How to log into repository
  • Administrator username & password

Looking Forward

Database Version Control

Perhaps it’s my DBA background, but I’ve been very interested in database version control. I’m talking a real product – not just saving the database scripts in one of the standard tools. Red Gate is one of my favorite companies for developer tools. I’ve been using their flagship software, SQL Compare, since 2000 and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Red Gate has introduced SQL Source Control and though I have not tried it yet, it’s on my list to look into.

3 Years Old – Open House

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Back on August 15th, Volano turned 3 years old! That was the first day that I sub-contracted at Jelecos. Rod and I had been talking about various ideas to start off on our own with for quite a while, but a consulting company was never really one of them. A few stars (clients) aligned and we thought it was the right time to take the leap. Our original plan was to have a network sub-contractors to work with on projects. Kent Templien (X-eqt) had a similar vision with his ability to sell solutions and have a network of trusted and able consultants to fill the needs of his clients. Rod and I met Kent back in our days with Customer Service Profiles when Rod and I were working on an internal system and needed some help. Kent was selling for Quilogy then and was able to bring in a very talented guy, Andrew. That was our help with sales, next, we needed help with coding. I knew Harry Berman from our kids going to preschool together. Harry had been coding as an independent for quite a while and we needed his help right off the bat. We also needed a junior and we talked Luis Pineda into becoming an independent. We were always able to keep those guys busy, along with ourselves, but we found it very difficult to find more independents in the Microsoft application development space – so we decided to hire. Luis converted to an employee about the same time we hired Doug Dawson. We had Jeremy Heeg do some contract work for us, then he came back as an employee. Our last hire was about a month ago when we picked up David Carnley as ASC IT was going down.

So that puts the total at eight for the holiday party this year! This year it’s a midtown crossing theme!

But this was suppose to be a post about our open house so here:

Pictures from our open house!

RFP’s and NBA

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It’s been a while since Big Omaha so my memory is fading, but I believe one of the presenters said that companies can identify themselves by figuring out what they won’t do. At Volano, we won’t respond to RFP’s any more.

RFP’s are like the NBA championships… rigged.

Of course the championship is going to go to 7 games – there’s just too much money involved for it not too. So it comes down to the last game and the foul stats pretty much say how the game was called and who was picked to win before the tip off.

We haven’t won an RFP, but that’s not the main reason we won’t respond. It’s not our target market – our sweet spot. Our clients are between 20 and 200 employees and are relatively flat organizations. We work with the top level execs and the people who perform the actual work. We bridge the gap between the management’s vision and the worker’s know-how. If your company is putting out an RFP, the environment is most likely not there for us to do that. The project at hand, with how we do things, won’t be successful.

We like to build relationships and become our client’s technical guru’s. We don’t want to just be another vendor that supplied a chunk of code that met the spec’s of an RFP and leave. We love dynamic organizations where the spec’s might change a handful of times before the project is over and help facilitate that process.

It is with those flatter, dynamic organizations where we’ll win every time – not win an RFP but win with a successful project and a happy client.

Volano Email Hosting

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Volano Solutions does not provide hosting services of e-mail. What we do offer is assistance in the initial configuration and ongoing support of e-mail for our clients. The solutions we suggest do not tie our client to us – switching from one hosting solution to another is usually difficult, painful and may result in the loss of old e-mail. You are tied to the solution of your choice until you deem it necessary to change providers. At that time, we can assist the best we can at easing the pain of switching providers.

Converting e-mail providers also entails reconfiguring your e-mail client, e.g. Outlook, Entourage, Mail, smart phones, etc. You probably have a desktop support company handling these types of requests, but if you need us to help out in this area we charge $100/hour to show up and assist your staff.

Lastly, the monthly prices below are if you purchase the service directly from the vendor below without any mark-up from Volano. Volano does charge a $300 set-up fee to help you configure the mailboxes and point the DNS records to the new service. Migrating the existing emails using the migration tools of Options 2 and 3 would be charged at the hourly rate.

Option 1 – Basic e-mail from the company you registered your domain name

Many domain registrars such as GoDaddy, Vox Domains and VIP Connect have the same systems driving their e-mail hosting and similar price points for this service

Pros:

  • Low price point
  • Unlimited Storage
  • Group Calendar
  • 24/7 phone and email support for critical issues

Cons:

  • Limited to sending 250 emails/day per mailbox
  • Web mail interface average
  • No conversion tool to bring old emails into new mailbox

Price:

  • $300 initial set-up fee
  • 10 addresses, unlimited storage, $2.70/month

Option 2 – Google Apps Premier Addition

Google provides e-mail storage of 25GB/user

Pros:

  • 25GB/user storage
  • Google Calendar
  • 24/7 phone and email support for critical issues
  • 99.9% uptime guarantee SLA
  • Google Email Uploader Tool for Windows and Mac users to import existing emails

Cons:

  • No corporate rolodex

Price:

  • $300 initial set-up fee
  • $50/user/year

Option 3 – Microsoft Online Services Hosted Exchange

Microsoft offers a hosted Exchange solution that gives you e-mail, shared calendaring and corporate rolodex through the use of a SharePoint list.

Pros:

  • 25GB/user storage
  • Outlook Web Access web mail
  • 24/7 Web form and phone-based Tier-2 support for IT administrators
  • 99.9% scheduled uptime with financially backed service level agreements
  • Migration tool to import existing emails

Cons:

  • Corporate rolodex requires Microsoft Office 2007

Price:

  • $300 initial set-up fee
  • $5/user/month (minimum of 5 users)

Finally… Office Space

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My first post for Volano (or any blog for that matter) was about Office Space. Rod and I have been looking for space for about a year now and we have finally, yes finally signed a lease. The building is two blocks south of where we currently are, which makes moving not so bad as long as we can roll the server rack down the street.

We are moving between May 1st and May 15th and there are a lot of things to get lined up before then: paint colors, business cards, phone and internet switch over, how to move the bar and should we stock it differently in the new space. Many important things.

Our new space is on the 8th floor of the Exchange building and the landlord who is also in the building is the AIM Institute. AIM has been great to work with so far and should be a thousand times better than a random from Alaska (nothing against Alaskans, just out-of-town developers).