Great New Amazon Web Services (AWS) Announcement – DynamoDB

Solid Logic has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS) since 2008 now with great results.  Today was a big day for the AWS team.  They launched a new NoSQL service -DynamoDB- today around noon.  Like the other AWS offerings (EC2, S3, etc.) it is a scalable, variable cost service.  Here is the product listing page and other relevant info: http://aws.amazon.com/dynamodb/

Werner Vogels’ blog: http://www.allthingsdistributed.com/2012/01/amazon-dynamodb.html

Announcement Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I5PZv6vmZY

DynamoDB Overview Video:

We primarily use EC2, S3, CloudFront, and RDS (MySQL as a service).  AWS allows us to be much more agile and can reduce system complexity.  It removes SLTI from many of the day-to-day demands of setting up and managing physical infrastructure.  By using AWS, we are able to launch an internal or client application in minutes to hours, instead of days to weeks.

There are tons of great reasons to switch many use cases over to an AWS cloud-hosted infrastructure instead of a physical one.  In the future, we will work up our spin on a cost-benefit model for AWS.  There are many good ones available on the web, most notably here – http://aws.amazon.com/economics/.  Unfortunately, many of the ones available do not include any intangible benefits.  In this case, I am defining an intangible benefit as something that is “fuzzy” to put a price figure on and is subjective in nature.  Things like how it can affect focus, hiring practices, time-to-launch, required in-house skill sets, etc. would fit into this category.  These items can have a huge impact on the decision making process, especially for small-to-medium size firms or firms outside of concentrated technology areas with a large pool of qualified candidates.

We are excited about today’s announcement and look forward to using DynamoDB for a product that we have coming to market in 2012.  As we begin to work with it more, we will try to document our findings and include them in the blog.

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Email Productivity – 2 Great Tools to Save Your Time & Sanity

Note: This is the first blog article in an on-going series that will focus on how we effectively use technology to improve our efficiency and get more done in the same time.

Short Version: This post shows how we use several tools, The Email Game & SaneBox, that easily integrate with Gmail or Google Apps for Business to increase your email productivity in a fun way.

Email productivity has been a popular concept recently for a lot of good reasons – . Email has been a huge benefit to corporations and individuals for 10 years now. Its certainly convenient to use and the ‘friction’ of communicating has been reduced but, I would argue this has lead to many abuses (or overuse) of email as well. In speaking to our clients we commonly hear complaints like these:

  • “I get way too much email – 100 or more per day”
  • “I cant get anything done because I keep getting interrupted”
  • “It takes six messages to schedule a meeting”
  • “Each message multiplies like rabbits – sending one generates two to three more!”
  • “I feel like I’m chained to my smartphone”

We’ve been in this same situation and figured out some great ways to attack the problem. Here they are:

  • Use Google Apps for Business. We’ll explain why we use this in a future post, but Google Apps is a GREAT tool to consolidate your email and administrative management while saving your business time and money. It’s like Gmail for business and has a huge number of apps that integrate with it to make it infinitely more useful.
  • Use a tool like “The Email Game” or SaneBox
  • Batch email processing and don’t look at it other times during the day

Recently I started using The Email Game after learning about it on a web interview with Tim Ferriss, author of the acclaimed “4 Hour Workweek”. The game integrates gamification and email management best practices and goes something like this…

[vimeo video_id="31126956" width="500" height="400" title="Yes" byline="Yes" portrait="Yes" autoplay="No" loop="No" color="00adef"]

I’ve used it for a few weeks now and I’m hooked. I’m constantly trying to beat my best score and get points by, ironically enough, checking email less often and dealing with email at a designated point in the day or scheduling a time to handle it. I have a lot more time to focus on more valuable things as a result. Its definitely improved my productivity and reduced my stress level as well. If you use Gmail or Google Apps try this one out and see if you can beat my score below – if you can, add your score in the comments below.

 Eric's EmailGame Score

Another great solution to the email time killer is SaneBox. SaneBox hooks into pretty much any common email system and places all incoming message into a folder for you to review and act upon at a user defined frequency. So far the system, according to their statistics, has save 2.4 MILLION minutes for their users – this is no small feat. The system is very smart about how it categorizes the emails and ‘learns’ from your individual patterns. I think the system is awesome but seem to be a bit more hooked on The Email Game because I get points and am very competitive, even if I’m not competing against anyone else.

Because of these, I’m probably saving about 1-2 hours per day, which works out to an extra 25-30 days a year to work on other things or take a break and go skiing or something else I enjoy.

These are just a few of the methods we use to work smarter, and get more done in the same time. We’ve got a lot more to cover but this should give you an intro of things to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series where I’ll dive into how we use the tools at a deeper level.

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