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The Lost Art of Service

Dec 26, 2017

The twelfth edition of a weekly Question and Answer column with Gary Stern, President and Founder of Canary Labs. Have a question you would like me to answer? Email askgary@canarylabs.com  


Dear Mrs. Fan,
I am so thankful you took the time to let me know of your experience.  There are two types of emails I love opening, pictures of my grandson Jay and happy letters from customers!  I get tons of grateful customer letters and not nearly enough pictures (I hope you are reading this Jenny).
Your note only confirms what many of us have learned the hard way.  It seems the good old days of customer service have given way to automated and outsourced call centers.  Let me share one of my experiences.
I recently bought a laptop online from a major computer supplier.  As you can imagine, the order was not correct, requiring me to call customer support.  I knew I was in trouble when the call was answered by one of those automated menus where I was presented with fifty different options.  Trying to deduct the correct one was a challenge in itself.  Since my particular problem wasn’t on the list, I used the scientific method of  "eenie, meenie, miny, moe... what to press, I don't know".
This resulted in my being connected with a very nice individual who I believe really wanted to assist me.  However, he and I were half way around the world from each other and both of us were having a difficult time understanding the other.  He tried to verify my 9 digit order number several times and was unable to do so.  I suggest he transfer me to someone else, which he gladly did.  Round two.
I was transfered to Kevin (there is zero chance this man's name was actually Kevin).  I still struggled to communicate clearly, but we did better this time.  After a difficult conversation, Kevin informed me I should be speaking to someone in another department and states he is transferring me.  Before I can object or plead for help, I am transferred back to the original phone menu and am forced to start over. 
As you can imagine, it doesn't go any better the second time around, and I eventually sat the phone down (with a bit of force) and gave up.  I concluded I would simply send the laptop back and source it from another company; resolving my problem with this one simply wasn’t worth the pain.  Evidently, the upper management of that company had never called their support, or they certainly would have changed something.
At Canary, we do things quite differently.  During normal business hours, we answer the phone directly.  No menus, no robots, just real people picking up, usually in less than three rings.  After hours, we pay a professional service to do the same thing.  Regardless of when you call, you are guaranteed to speak with talented team members that understand our product, know how to address your issue, and can communicate clearly.  
Our support works hard to properly resolve your issue in a timely fashion.  If they don’t know the answer, they have full authority to go directly to the software engineering department for additional assistance.  I would like to say we always have the answer to your issue readily available, but the truth is sometimes we don't.  We occasionally encounter odd problems and stand alone issues that require time to “figure things out”.  When this happens, we keep the customers informed and begin working on a solution.  Our end goal is simple, we want to deliver a product that exceeds your expectations and always provide phenomenal value in our solution as well as our service.  
I thank you for your kind compliment, it really does mean a lot to myself and the entire Canary team.

Sincerely,
Gary Stern
President and Founder
Canary Labs

Have a question you would like me to answer?  Email askgary@canarylabs.com


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Which Way Is Your Joy Trending?

Dec 20, 2017

The eleventh edition of a weekly Question and Answer column with Gary Stern, President and Founder of Canary Labs. Have a question you would like me to answer? Emailaskgary@canarylabs.com



Dear Intrigued,

OK, I admit it, no one really wrote this question.  But at least once or twice a year I should get a chance to just write what I want, so humor me.

This month I noticed a spike in the number of packages being delivered by the big brown truck (which happens to be manufactured by Morgan Olson, a new Canary client for 2017).  When I asked my wife why she was ordering so much online she replied "it's the people Gary, I hate seeing people act so rudely towards one another".  I thought about it and you know what?  She's right!  I hadn't realized it but I had been avoiding going places I knew would be crowded for the same reason.

I'm not sure what it is about the Christmas holiday that can sometimes bring out the worst in us, but I certainly wish it wasn't the case.  Maybe we are all a little stressed by trying to find the perfect gift, making our dollars stretch a bit further, or the knowledge that a family argument is only one Christmas dinner away.  Should we be surprised?  Probably not, especially when we consider how the very first Christmas started.

Mary and Joseph were certainly stressed and things seemed to be trending down and to the right.  A tyrannical Roman government was requiring a census that would certainly lead to more taxes.  Not to mention this caused a long journey during the final days an already controversial pregnancy.  And then the final blow... no room in the inn, just a stable for accommodations.  Yet, somehow, through all of this, they found an irresistible source of joy.  A joy that not only transformed their hearts but spread around the world and even 2,000 years later is still a cause for celebration.

This year I am challenging myself, our company, and you to remember that first Christmas.  When you encounter people at their worst, respond with your best.  Repay anger with grace and hatred with love.  That is what this world so desperately needs and it starts with me and you.

God Bless each of you and remember the words from one of the Christmas classics....

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on your troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on your troubles will be miles away"

Sincerely,

Gary Stern
President and Founder
Canary Labs


Have a question you would like me to answer?  Email askgary@canarylabs.com


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Redundancy and Disaster Recovery Options

Dec 12, 2017

The tenth edition of a weekly Question and Answer column with Gary Stern, President and Founder of Canary Labs. Have a question you would like me to answer? Email askgary@canarylabs.com



Dear Mr. Little,

There is certainly nothing wrong with being prepared for "worst case scenarios" and what you are working toward is certainly a best practice.  Many of our customers selected Canary due to the flexibility of our architecture which greatly lends itself to redundancy as well as disaster recovery.

For Canary, redundancy starts at the logging process.  The Canary Logger is unlicensed software, allowing you to create as many logging sessions as you would like, including duplicate ones.  Since the Canary Historian receives data on a "first come, first stored" basis, it has no issue with duplicate data feeds.  The Canary logger can point to a single or multiple historians.  This means not only can you create duplicate logging sessions, but you can also direct each logging session to redundant historians.

To ensure no data loss when network troubles strike, the Canary Sender and Receiver Service uses store and forward technology.  This means that if communication is lost between the logging machine (Sender Service) and the historian server (Receiver Service), the Sender Service will cache data to local disk.  When communications return, the cached data is transferred to the historian in time sequence order and removed from the Sender Service.

For disaster recover, the Canary Historian also has a Mirror Service.  The Mirror Service allows you to pull data from one historian to another.  This data extraction can be scheduled based on time interval or time of day.  It can also occur in real time.  Many of our clients find the Mirror Service useful for sharing data across the enterprise as well as for disaster recovery.

Finally, Canary makes it easy to back up your historical files using third party tools.  Since historical files are saved in an accessible Window's directory and are easily identifiable, you should have no problem scheduling routine backups.

I hope this helps you plan for the unforeseen.  Feel free to contact me or my staff with any further questions.

Sincerely,
Gary Stern
President and Founder
Canary Labs


Have a question you would like me to answer?  Email askgary@canarylabs.com


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The Benefit of Local Logging

Nov 30, 2017

The ninth edition of a weekly Question and Answer column with Gary Stern, President and Founder of Canary Labs. Have a question you would like me to answer? Email askgary@canarylabs.com


Dear C.S.,

While you certainly could keep the Logger in the cloud we usually recommend logging data at the local source rather than logging data remotely.  By local source, we mean installing the Canary Logger and Sender Service on the same machine as the OPC server.  Even though the overall purpose of most cloud applications can vary, there are two major benefits to logging locally.
First, is the advantage of the Canary Store and Forward Service which is comprised of two components, the Sender and the Receiver.  The Sender Service is designed to move information to the Receiver which is installed local to the Canary Data Historian.  If contact is lost between the Sender and Receiver Service, the Sender Service will cache data to local disk. When communications return, the cached data is transferred to the historian in time-sequence order and removed from the Sender Service.  This prevents data loss due to network issues and also allows you to take the historian offline for version updates or maintenance as needed.
Secondly, when installed locally, the Logger communicates to the OPC server via COM.  When installed remotely, it will use DCOM to communicate.  DCOM requires a dynamic port range, making it firewall unfriendly.  You should always pick you IT battles wisely, this is one you would probably not win.
Your question does bring up an interesting side point.  The IIoT push is driving more and more "non-traditional" Canary installs.  We are working with many clients that are leveraging cloud solutions to grab just a small handful of data points from a multitude of sites.  Overall, you must look at your individual application and decide how important is the data, are there potential security risks, and are additional hardware costs justified.  If the largest concern is hardware costs, you might be interested to know that some engineers have successfully logged data from small Linux devices like the Raspberry Pi using our .CSV import feature.

We are here to offer further support as needed, we would love to talk through your individual needs.  

Sincerely,
Gary Stern
President and Founder
Canary Labs


Have a question you would like me to answer?  Email askgary@canarylabs.com

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The Process of Upgrading TrendLink to Axiom

Nov 26, 2017

The eighth edition of a weekly Question and Answer column with Gary Stern, President and Founder of Canary Labs. Have a question you would like me to answer? Email askgary@canarylabs.com  




Dear Cali,

Good question, one that we actually get quite a lot.  Yes, Axiom and TrendLink are both sold apart from our data historian.  To your second question, the update process from a TrendLink license to Axiom is simple.  Canary offers a discounted Axiom crossgrade license that converts an existing TrendLink license to Axiom.  To qualify, your company needs to be an active member of Canary CustomerCare.  Otherwise, you would simply purchase a new version of Axiom.

Once the license has been obtained, simply install Axiom and connect to the existing Canary data historian.  Assuming you are running the most current version of historian software, Axiom will install without interrupting your logging or historian software.  Both Axiom and TrendLink can connect to the same data historian as well.

Existing TrendLink chart files can be easily converted to Axiom chart files using a conversion tool that Canary offers at no additional charge.  If you need help, we will gladly walk you through the process, again, no charge.

Axiom has a very similar feel to TrendLink and most staff are able to make the switch without having to bother with additional training.  For Axiom crossgrade customers, we allow you a full 90 days of Axiom installation before requesting you surrender your existing TrendLink licenses.  We have found this is very helpful when on-boarding old guys like me that don't like change.

Sincerely,

Gary Stern
President and Founder
Canary Labs


Have a question you would like me to answer?  Email askgary@canarylabs.com
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Take Time for Thanksgiving

Nov 21, 2017

The seventh edition of a weekly Question and Answer column with Gary Stern, President and Founder of Canary Labs. Have a question you would like me to answer? Email askgary@canarylabs.com           
             

Dear Gary Stern,

How thoughtful of you to ask!  Yesterday while making a cup of my notoriously bad coffee (although I imagine you would find it quite delicious), I heard a sound clip from the TV that caused me to pause.  The national news was covering the last White House press briefing before the holiday break, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was at the podium.  I heard her tell the entire press corps that before she would answer any of their questions, they must first state what they were thankful for.

I sat down and watched.  Over the next five minutes, I noticed the entire atmosphere of the room change.  What is often an edgy or even hostile environment was magically transformed into a room filled with warmth and dare I say appreciation!  So, inspired by Mrs. Sanders, I ask you to answer the same question.  What are you thankful for?

Myself, I am thankful for my wife Anne, our six wonderful children, their spouses, and our new grandson Jay.  I am thankful for my church family, our community, and this beautiful part of Central Pennsylvania I call home.  I am thankful to live in a country that has afforded me the opportunity to create a business that helps men and women like yourself succeed in theirs.  I am thankful for each of my employees, not just for their performance and diligence, but that they have chosen to align their lives with mine.

Let the magic of a thankful heart transform your holiday, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sincerely,

Gary Stern
President and Founder
Canary Labs

Have a question you would like me to answer?  Email askgary@canarylabs.com
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One Million Tags on a Single Server

Nov 17, 2017

Recently Canary has received several questions regarding max capacity of our Unlimited solution.  Particularly, exactly how many tags can be stored on a single server.  Although we have addressed this question before, we thought it would be a good time to provide a new test.

Most customers considering an Unlimited license would fit into one of two scenarios.  First, they have a facility with a large number of tags (more than 100,000) and users (more than 25), and do not want to worry about the future cost to add tags or users.    The Unlimited license is perfect for this use case. A second likely scenario would be a large network of facilities with a strong network infrastructure.  By taking advantage of Canary's unlicensed Logging Service, each remote site could have multiple loggers collecting data and migrating it to a centralized, unlimited server.  Users at each site would simple connect across the network and use tools like Axiom and the Excel Add-in remotely.  As long as the network connection from site to site was reliable, Canary would function well in this environment, especially with our Store and Forward technology which caches logged data in the event of a network outage.

To test these scenarios, we created a local server with one million tags.  The tags were logged in twenty separate 50,000 tag logging sessions.  Each log session featured unique tag resolution, ranging from one second data to five minute data.  The change rates were varied across the logging sessions as well to best represent real-world application.  As you can see from the trend chart below, the average number of tag values (TVQ) written per second over the past 7 day period has been between 40,000 and 44,000 (orange trend).  The blue trend represents the maximum number of TVQ per second in thirty minute increments.  Quite a few periods saw peaks over 300,000 TVQs per second being logged.


The server has had no complications with handling this amount of data, nor was it expected to.  CPU system usage has been very light and other than a one-time peak of usage by the historian at 49.6%, the average CPU usage of the historian has been less than 3%.

Previously we have successfully tested much larger tag counts, however few if any customers have ever approached tens of millions of tags on a single server.  We feel very comfortable recommending one, two, or three million tags on a single server assuming a variation of tag resolution and change rate.





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