Andrew Canion

Thoughts on technology, business and productivity.

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Home Network Architecture


Tonight I’ve sketched out my basic IT storage system and the cloud services I use on a regular basis.

Ensuring that my storage network all hangs together with everything accessible from multiple devices and platforms while also maintaining redundancy through an appropriate backup strategy is not easy. I think I have my bases covered but it’s not particularly simple.

Despite the complexity it remains a problem worth worrying about. I don’t ever want to stress about losing data. Photos especially are memories that cannot be recreated so I really want to make sure I’ve got them secured in multiple locations, while also ensuring that an accidental deletion in one location will not replicate that deletion across the entire network.

Cloud sync services

My cloud sync services; iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, all provide mechanisms to make data available across multiple devices. iCloud of course also offers additional photo sync services, and sync of device settings.

My work lives in OneDrive because corporations and Microsoft.

None of these should be considered a true backup because deletions replicate and there is limited version management. I see these as a sync platform only, and never rely on them as a backup.

I am annoyed by the number of cloud services I am having to use. It would be great to have a single sync service to rule them all. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be happening anytime soon.

Other cloud services

OmniPresence is a service that keeps documents made by OmniGroup synced between macOS and iOS. I wish I could ditch it, but I’m not entirely confident that moving these files to iCloud will work, so I continue to have it running.

Adobe Creative Cloud is a service I’m not taking full advantage of because I still prefer the Lightroom Classic and managing photos from local storage.

Local storage

I have a Network Attached Storage for mass storage of data, which is primarily photos and video. This is necessary because my local Mac hard drive is a relatively tiny SSD which almost always seems on the verge of filling up.

Local backups

I maintain a few local backups:

  • a Time Machine backup that is stored on my NAS.
  • a SuperDuper! clone of my MacBook’s drive. If something goes wrong I can boot from this clone and run from that external drive, or recover files as necessary.
  • a USB hard drive that connects to my Mac, and with the help of Chronosync, ensures that photos are copied from my NAS to this storage that is seen as a drive locally connected to my Mac1.

The last resort

Backblaze is my backup of last resort. If anything goes horribly wrong, I should be able to retrieve data from this location. Backblaze operates to ensure that my MacBook, and any locally attached drives, are backed up to their cloud storage, which includes all the data that is also stored across the cloud services such as Dropbox and OneDrive.

All this might seem like overkill but there is no way that I want to risk losing data that I can’t get back. The little bit of effort, and the little bit of money to pay for the software and services I consider a worthwhile exchange for peace of mind.


  1. This enables me to essentially achieve a backup of my NAS to Backblaze, a hack made necessary as they don’t support the backup of network attached storage. 

A Place for Everything

Over the past five years I’ve spent a lot of time learning the fundamental philosophies of a production system known as lean. I’ve read books and articles, I’ve taken a study tour to see lean in action in Japan. I’ve developed lean guides for business, and coached companies in the theory and implementation. Yet despite all of this, I still consider myself a beginner1.

Most of my lean work has been in relation to the manufacturing sector but the principles can also be applied to healthcare, food preparation, administration, and software development, to name a few. IT has even created further derivations such as kanban and agile.

Lean origins

Toyota is the company that can be credited for originally demonstrating the value of lean through their own Toyota Production System. Implemented with the help of Edward Deming after World War II, the company has embraced the lean philosophy of continuous improvement ever since. The company is now the gold standard with respect to lean implementation.

The theory of lean is much like an onion: there are many layers to it (and implementing it might sometimes make you cry!) Trying to emulate the Toyota Production System at the outset is an effort not worth taking, but any company can do implement some simple elements without too much trouble if they commit.

The best way to start

To get started I recommend following the exact same advice my Grandma used to give:

“a place for everything and everything in its place”

Yes, it’s as easy as that.

This concept represents one of the basic tenets of 5S. 5S is all about keeping things neat and orderly within the context of a lean workplace. Make sure if you take something, use something, or move something, that it gets put back once it has served its purpose. This approach will make it easier for your future self or somebody else to find a thing in the future. It will prevent the need to buy another thing because you couldn’t find the original thing. It will reduce stress and anger when you can’t find the thing you need at the time you need it.

Simply make sure everything has a home and that it always lives at home when not in use. Good tip, Grandma.


  1. In lean of course, maintaining a ‘beginner’s mind’ is a good thing as it keeps you open to new ideas and opportunities for improvement. 

Micro Blogging

Twitter continues to descend into a morass of bad behaviour while simultaneously floundering in search of a viable business model that might deliver a return for the billions in capital it has consumed1. The future of Twitter does not look bright, either socially or financially. As a result, I am experimenting with other platforms for expressing my random and (inconsequential?) thoughts.

Facebook, while having a more profitable and successful business model, is still yucky for a bunch of other reasons. These are predominantly centred around the fact that all of the content is just grist for their sales model. Facebook is a classic walled garden, and the business depends on keeping you active and contained within their domain.

One of the things that got me interested in the internet in the early-to-mid 1990’s was the open-ness of it all. Anybody could publish anything, and it was all equally accessible. The Internet removed the barriers created by Bulletin Board Systems and Compuserve and delivered an open, level playing field. Since then, we have gone full circle, and now we are providing our content free of charge, directly to private companies like Twitter and Facebook (including Instagram) which they are then able to monetise for their own benefit.

Micro.blog

Manton Reece has built an interesting alternative to these closed systems. With the help of Kickstarter funding, he created micro.blog. This is a system designed to allow the publishing of short posts, in the same style as tweets, but built upon a foundation of open access. In my instance, I can post an entry at micro.blog. Through the magic of RSS, micro.blog makes available a content feed but the material is actually being published and hosted via my own WordPress blog. For the time being, I have set up a separate page from this blog to display my micro.blog entries.

Of course, this is far from a mainstream approach. It’s not nearly as easy as setting up a new Twitter account. There is only a relatively small, pretty nerdy community using micro.blog at the moment. Of course, that’s also how Twitter started, back when it was good.

Cross-posting

Discoverability of content becomes the challenge when working outside the established networks. For the moment, I still have my micro-blog entries cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter. If I didn’t do that, it’s likely that nobody 2 would be able to enjoy my witty repartee. While cross-posting is not ideal, at least I’m only providing those sites with links that track back to my own content – I’m not just feeding their machines. If I quit the service, or if they fail, I will still have my content in my possession, at my own hosted site.

The Open Web

This concept of my content being mine, and to have it accessible outside the walled gardens created by the Internet behemoths that are private companies with their duty to act in the interests of shareholders – not users, is the essence of the open web.

Being able to link to content with direct URLs, and to have that content able to be indexed by search engines, is part of the open web also.

Of course there are still financial transactions and business relationships involved but they are apparent. I pay a hosting company money. In exchange they provide me with storage space, access to a web server and a connection to the Internet. There is no middle-man, no other services are trying to monetise or advertise against my content. It’s pure and straightforward. The content remains mine, to do with as I wish.

Finally, of course, noodling around with all of this is also a really great hobby.


  1. On 26 December 2013, Twitter was valued at US$39.9 billion. On 20 October 2017, it’s valued at US$13.2 billion. 
  2. As opposed to a tiny few. 

Part 3: My Business Philosophy

This is the final of a three-part series focused on explaining my business philosophy. Parts One and Two are also available.

On my home page I call out my personal business philosophy:

Andrew’s business philosophy is built upon the value of mutual respect, the skill to leverage process for continuous improvement, and the ability to ultimately achieve self-actualisation.

Self-Actualisation

My philosophical statement finishes with the rather grand sounding ambition of achieving self-actualisation. I will elucidate what self-actualisation is and why I consider it so important that I place it as the anchoring element of my philosophy.

Etymology

The concept of self-actualisation was brought into broad awareness when it was presented as the pinnacle of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s rationale was based upon the understanding that only after the more immediate human needs are taken care of, is there capacity to focus effort on what brings us satisfaction and joy.

Maslow explicitly defines self-actualisation to be “the desire for self-fulfilment, namely the tendency for the individual to become actualised in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”1

Fortunately, in my country and its society there is a reasonable (but not guaranteed) chance to achieve the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy. This unlocks the potential to aim for and potentially achieve that final goal of self-actualisation.

Building a framework

I don’t see self-actualisation as an end-point; as the win achieved at the conclusion of a life-long progression up the hierarchy of needs. I believe we can reach the point of self-actualisation early and often, but what it is represented by will change over time. As we move through the stages of our life, commencing with childhood, then into the teens, marriage, career building, parenting, middle age and senior citizenship, different experiences will facilitate the goal.

The degree to which we are realising self-actualisation is likely to ebb and flow over time. Building a framework for our life that supports personal growth and improvement will help ensure a reasonable chance of reaching periods of self-actualisation even as we deal with the trials and tribulations thrown at as by life.

Without a structure and a consistent philosophical and ethical approach to life to fall back upon in challenging times it is less likely that consistent self-actualisation will be achievable.

Measuring success

Society has a tendency to measure success by outward facing and tangible measures such as wealth, fame and status. I prefer to think about success as the achievement of one’s potential and the personal joy imbued from doing what makes us happy. Precisely what the activity is that delivers said joy will vary as we grow and change. Exactly what it is matters less than the feeling it provides.

At one point of my life, playing basketball delivered a feeling of self-actualisation. Then later it was finding flow in a work assignment. Now it is linked to experiences of successful parenting. I am sure it will be other things later. None of these achievements are important to others2 but that doesn’t mean I am not being successful in my own right. If we are seeking external validation it will a frustrating and largely unrewarding experience, because that’s not delivered with any regularity.

The journey is the reward

There is no prize for ‘winning life’. External plaudits cannot be the arbiter of a life well-lived. We have been gifted a single life which even at the most optimistic is probably going to span less than 100 years. Against the timeline of humanity we are but granted a short window of opportunity. To bring meaning and purpose to our time on the planet we may as well participate with an aim of achieving joy and self-satisfaction.

It doesn’t matter how many symbols of success we collect along life’s journey. The true measure should be our own happiness and fulfilment. Recognising each day as a gift to be enjoyed and maximised is a path towards self-actualisation. Find your joy, wherever it may be.

Bringing the philosophy together

So, ultimately, I like to think that in respect of my business philosophy:

  1. Mutual respect will help avoid many worries, anger and pettiness that can derail us as we build a career and/or a business.
  2. Establishing a process for continuous improvement will free our mind to focus on truly meaningful work, rather than busy work.
  3. By adopting a respectful approach to others and having a focus on always getting better, a person can grow self-confidence, self-satisfaction and their enjoyment of life in its entirety, which will form a pathway towards achieving self-actualisation.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization 
  2. Apart from my kids, who at this point assign no value to this. I hope the payoff will come much later. 

Part 2: My Business Philosophy

This is the second of a three-part series focused on explaining my business philosophy. Part One is also available.

On my home page I call out my personal business philosophy:

Andrew’s business philosophy is built upon the value of mutual respect, the skill to leverage process for continuous improvement, and the ability to ultimately achieve self-actualisation.

Leverage Process for Continuous Improvement

I am a big believer in the value of process. This can be the big, organisational processes that dictate how companies do things, like build a component, or undertake customer service, or issue a refund. Or process can be an individual’s personal to-do list that helps them to get things done on a daily basis. Ideally the latter should represent a subset of the former but I think we are probably some way from that ideal being standard practice.

When processes are documented they provide an anchor point as to the way things are done now. That’s not to say that it is the way things will always be done. In fact, changes to processes should be welcomed. However, a documented process enables everybody involved to have a shared understanding of how things should be done. If something goes wrong it should be evident where the process broke down. That can enable improvements to improve efficiency and simplify things for those involved.

Embrace change

A process should never be considered a finalised product. Stagnation is the enemy of improvement. No way of work should be considered beyond reproach. No process should be sacrosanct.

A current process is merely the way in which one group of people at one point in time thought would be the best way to achieve an outcome. With new information, new technology, changed inputs, or changes in customer demand, there might be a need to change the process to achieve a better — or just different — outcome. Go ahead, make the change. The only way to drive improvement is to change stuff. Otherwise, you already know what you’re going to get before even starting. Repeating this approach of making and trialling small changes, over and over again, is how to achieve better outcomes.

Trial and error and small incremental improvements are the crux of continuous improvement.

Once a process of documenting processes and updating this documentation upon each change is established a traceable (and reversible) process history is created. In software development, this is standard practice – managing versions and being able to compare code differences is a key element of development and debugging.

More generalised process management can benefit from a similar approach. Make a change and see if it works. If things get better after the change, stick with it. If things get worse, revert the changes and try something different.

Process at a personal level

At a personal level I implement process management for my own work. I rely primarily on OmniFocus to manage standard operating procedures for projects that are repetitive in nature. I use project templates that enable a framework to guide work that is similar in nature. As I learn and discover better ways of doing things I refine and improve my templates.

This makes my work more effective in the short-term because I don’t have to think about the how/when/where’s of the repetitive work elements. Instead I can focus my energy on doing great work on the value-adding elements of the project that matter to my clients.

Facilitating creativity

At first blush, the concept of defined processes can seem staid and boring. In actuality it is freeing. Defined and documented processes allows people to forget about thinking about the steps to achieve a goal and instead allows them to focus on using their skills and expertise to add value to create a better end product.

Process doesn’t restrain creativity; it unleashes it. For this reason it forms the key middle component of my personal business philosophy.

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