The Value of Usability

by James McKenna


The Value of Usability BlogThere’s always a more complicated way to do most things. Rube Goldberg showed us how laughable it is to combine crazy machinations to accomplish simple tasks. Look around at your video post workflow; any pulleys and strings out of place? Is the cue ball hitting the frying pan at just the right angle? It’s comical to think of these mechanisms in normal life because all technology will eventually converge around one attribute – Usability.

Of course, usability can be relative; some people go to school for years to learn how to operate the most usable equipment certain industries have to offer. And then there’s the iPhone. Apple obviously had something – make the PDA less business and more personal, less machine and more companion. It made the once dominant Blackberry feel like a typewriter in the age of word processing. I’m an Android user these days, but had a couple ‘berries, and I don’t really miss them.

Such is the case with technology that requires too much effort and doesn’t repay the effort by accomplishing its core function any better. The problem for manufacturers in the shared storage industry is that the underlying technology used to accomplish the task is complicated. Hiding that complexity, and as a result enhancing usability, is more difficult than actually building something that works. I wouldn’t say that building a storage network is easy, but it certainly has never been easier. Allowing non-engineers to fully utilize and administrate that network is difficult.

So, there are a lot of solutions that on paper will accomplish the same goal. They will get the data to your desktop quickly, your video will play, and you’ll be able to deliver the product. The details of how all that is done can be the difference between success and failure. At Facilis (even the name means “simple”), our goal from the beginning has been to support the creative owner/operator with not only a realistic price point, but also a clearly defined functionality and consistent administrative workflow. What you see is what you get, like it says on the tin; no surprises.

Some examples: You have a freelancer coming in, but you have several projects with another client in the facility and they are very worried about piracy. How easy is it to secure that data with a standard “bit-bucket” (one big media volume) NAS? You’d better have some experience with directory services and enterprise permission lists. With Facilis it takes 10 seconds to create a storage allocation dedicated to that project, and protect all other volumes on the system from that new user. The new user doesn’t even have to log into your domain or be added to your AD database. So you set up your freelance editor with a secure project volume and she immediately fills the space you thought would last three weeks. How many steps does it take with a less usable shared storage system to resize that volume larger, and can she be working while you do it. With Facilis, one easy step, and… Yes.

There are so many other examples from authentication to drive set expansion where Facilis systems live up to their name. Giving you the confidence to self-administrate, and avoid relying upon IT talent that can be transient. Large facilities have been held hostage by technical staff members that have supreme knowledge of the shared storage network necessary for day to day operations. Certainly most facility engineers will be happy to cross-train your staff on the operation and troubleshooting of the network to avoid exposure to this situation. However, there’s always the chance that when your IT person offers to build you a cheaper solution, they’re really building themselves a long term contract with impunity. Besides, if I were your systems administrator, I’d like to take a vacation once in a while without being called to a remote session just to change a permission or resize a volume.

Facilis offers the performance, scalability and compatibility of any custom built solution, but with a simple operation, and help that’s always a phone call away. With over 3000 systems in the field, we’ve seen everything, and because it’s a turn-key product, we already know more about your system than you do. So do yourself a favor and leave the string and pulley, rubber band propeller approach to the cartoons, and go with a company that makes it all look easy.