New Focus on Monitoring Soil

There is nothing new about monitoring soil in arid conditions. South Africa and Israel have been doing it for decades. However climate change has increased its urgency as the world comes to terms with pressure on the food chain. Denizon decided to explore trends at the macro first world level and the micro third world one.

In America, the Coordinated National Soil Moisture Network is going ahead with plans to create a database of federal and state monitoring networks and numerical modelling techniques, with an eye on soil-moisture database integration. This is a component of the National Drought Resilience Partnership that slots into Barrack Obama?s Climate Action Plan.

This far-reaching program reaches into every corner of American life to address the twin scourges of droughts and inundation, and the agency director has called it ?probably ?… one of the most innovative inter-agency tools on the planet?. The pilot project involving remote moisture sensing and satellite observation targets Oklahoma, North Texas and surrounding areas.

Africa has similar needs but lacks America?s financial muscle. Princeton University ecohydrologist Kelly Caylor is bridging the gap in Kenya and Zambia by using cell phone technology to transmit ecodata collected by low-cost ?pulsepods?.

He deploys the pods about the size of smoke alarms to measure plants and their environment.?Aspects include soil moisture to estimate how much water they are using, and sunlight to approximate the rate of photosynthesis. Each pod holds seven to eight sensors, can operate on or above the ground, and transmits the data via sms.

While the system is working well at academic level, there is more to do before the information is useful to subsistence rural farmers living from hand to mouth. The raw data stream requires interpretation and the analysis must come through trusted channels most likely to be the government and tribal chiefs. Kelly Caylor cites the example of a sick child. The temperature reading has no use until a trusted source interprets it.

He has a vision of climate-smart agriculture where tradition gives way to global warming. He involves local farmers in his research by enrolling them when he places pods, and asking them to sms weekly weather reports to him that he correlates with the sensor data. As trust builds, he hopes to help them choose more climate-friendly crops and learn how to reallocate labour as seasons change.

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Without Desktop Virtualisation, you can’t attain True Business Continuity

Even if you’ve invested on virtualisation, off-site backup, redundancy, data replication, and other related technologies, I?m willing to bet your BC/DR program still lacks an important ingredient. I bet you’ve forgotten about your end users and their desktops.

Picture this. A major disaster strikes your city and brings your entire main site down. No problem. You’ve got all your data backed up on another site. You just need to connect to it and voila! you’ll be back up and running in no time.

Really?

Do you have PCs ready for your employees to use? Do those machines already have the necessary applications for working on your data? If you still have to install them, then that’s going to take a lot of precious time. When your users get a hold of those machines, will they be facing exactly the same interface that they’ve been used to?

If not, more time will be wasted as they try to familiarise themselves. By the time you’re able to declare ?business as usual?, you’ll have lost customer confidence (or even customers themselves), missed business opportunities, and dropped potential earnings.

That’s not going to happen with desktop virtualisation.

The beauty of?virtualisation

Virtualisation in general is a vital component in modern Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery strategies. For instance, by creating multiple copies of virtualised disks and implementing disk redundancy, your operations can continue even if a disk breaks down. Better yet, if you put copies on separate physical servers, then you can likewise continue even if a physical server breaks down.

You can take an even greater step by placing copies of those disks on an entirely separate geographical location so that if a disaster brings your entire main site down, you can still gain access to your data from the other site.

Because you’re essentially just dealing with files and not physical hardware, virtualisation makes the implementation of redundancy less costly, less tedious, greener, and more effective.

But virtualisation, when used for BC/DR, is mostly focused on the server side. As we’ve pointed out earlier in the article, server side BC/DR efforts are not enough. A significant share of business operations are also dependent on the client side.

Desktop virtualisation (DV) is very similar to server virtualisation. It comes with nearly the same kind of benefits too. That means, a virtualised desktop can be copied just like ordinary files. If you have a copy of a desktop, then you can easily use that if the active copy is destroyed.

In fact, if the PC on which the desktop is running becomes incapacitated, you can simply move to another machine, stream or install a copy of the virtualised desktop there, and get back into the action right away. If all your PCs are incapacitated after a disaster, rapid provisioning of your desktops will keep customers and stakeholders from waiting.

In addition to that, DV will enable your user interface to look like the one you had on your previous PC. This particular feature is actually very important to end users. You see, users normally have their own way of organising things on their desktops. The moment you put them in front of a desktop not their own, even if it has the same OS and the same set of applications, they?ll feel disoriented and won’t be able to perform optimally.

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Spreadsheet Risk Issues

It is interesting to note that the riskiness of operational spreadsheets are overlooked even by companies with high standards of risk management. Only when errors amount to actual losses do they realize that these risks have been staring them in the face all along.

Common spreadsheet risk issues

Susceptibility to trivial manual errors

Due to the fundamental structure of spreadsheets, a slight change in the formula or value in any of their inhabited cells may already affect their overall output. An

  • accidental copy-paste,
  • omission of a negative sign,
  • erroneous range selection,
  • incorrect data input or
  • unintentional deletion of a character,cell, range, column, or row

are just some of the simple errors spreadsheet users frequently encounter. Rarely are there any counter-checking controls in place in a spreadsheet-based activity and manual errors therefore easily go undetected.

Possibility of the user working on the wrong version

How do you store spreadsheet files?

Since the most common reports are usually generated on a monthly basis, users tend to store them using variations of these two configurations:

spreadsheet storage

If you notice, a user can accidentally work on the wrong version with any of these structures.

Prone to inconsistent company-wide reporting

This happens when a summary or ?final? spreadsheet is fed information by different departments coming from their own spreadsheets. Even if most of the data in their spreadsheets come from one source (the company-wide database), erroneous copy-pasting and linking, or even different interpretations of the same data can result to contradicting information in the end.

Often defenceless against unauthorised access

Some spreadsheets contain information needed by various individuals or department units in an organisation. Hence, they are often shared via email or through shared folders in a network. Now, because spreadsheets don’t normally use any access control, any user can easily open a spreadsheet file and view or modify the contents as he wishes.

Highly vulnerable to fraud

A complex spreadsheet system with zero or very minimal controls provides the perfect setting for would-be fraudsters. Hidden cells with malicious formulas and links to bogus information can go unnoticed for a long time especially if the final figures don’t deviate much from expected values.

Spreadsheet risk mitigation solutions may not suffice

Inherent complexity makes testing and logic inspection very time consuming

Deep testing can uncover possible errors hidden in spreadsheet cells and consequently mitigate risks. But spreadsheets used to support financial reporting are normally large, complex, highly-personalised and, without ample supporting documentation, understandably hard to follow.

No clear ownership of risk management responsibilities

There?s always a dilemma when an organisation starts assigning risk management responsibilities for spreadsheets. IT personnel believe users in the business side of the organisation should be responsible since they are the ones who create, edit, store, duplicate, and share the spreadsheet files. On the other hand, users believe IT should be responsible since they have always been in-charge of managing IT infrastructure, applications, and files.

To get rid of spreadsheet risks, you’ll have to get rid of spreadsheets altogether

One remedy is to have a risk management activity that involves both IT personnel and spreadsheet users. But wouldn’t you want to get rid of the complexity of having to distribute the responsibilities between the two parties instead of just one?

Learn more about Denizon’s server application solutions and how you can get rid of spreadsheet risk issues.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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Excel Spreadsheet Conversion to SQL Reports

Spreadsheets are flexible, inexpensive and easy to use. They are especially handy when it comes to beating report submission deadlines or making impromptu data computations.

Unfortunately, organisations heavy reliance on spreadsheets have made these User Developed Applications (UDA) into high-risk office tools. Simple spreadsheet errors like leaving out a negative sign or a cut-and-paste mistake have already caused million-dollar discrepancies. Also, when a fraudulent employee enters into the picture, the risks become unimaginable.
Think TransAlta’s spreadsheet cut-and-paste glitch (the company later called this a ‘simple clerical error’) which caused the energy firm a whopping $24 million loss or Fidelity’s overstatement of its earnings owing to the omission of the minus sign on the spreadsheet of a $1.3 billion net capital loss.

Denizon can convert your Excel Spreadsheets to a web based SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). It does not import Excel data, rather it allows the creation and deployment of reports in a more efficient manner by querying the data.

So what is the problem with Spreadsheets?

  • Plagued with risk issues and vulnerable to fraud
  • Lacking in control features especially when copied, edited and emailed between many users
  • A burden to regulation compliance e.g. SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley)
Moreover:
  • Accidental copy-paste/Omission of a negative sign/Erroneous range selection
  • Incorrect data input or unintentional deletion of a character, cell, range, column, or row
  • Possibility of the user working on the wrong version
  • Prone to inconsistent company-wide reporting
  • Often ‘defenceless’ against unauthorised access

See Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

What makes SQL Server Reporting Services better than Spreadsheets?

  • Free from spreadsheet risks & equipped with built-in controls that substantially reduce risks to data
  • Less prone to fraud
  • More suitable for regulatory compliance e.g. SOX
  • Designed for an agile business environment

Automatic consolidation eliminates errors and wasted time caused by tedious copy-pasting of data and linking of cells
Better collaboration capabilities allows team members to bring their heads together for planning, budgeting, and reporting even while on the go
Mobility support enables users to input data or retrieve information through their wireless mobile device

Superior sharing features ensures that everyone is exactly on the same page and viewing real-time information
Dashboards provide insightful information at-a-glance through KPIs, graphs, and various metrics
Drill-downs enable users to investigate unusual figures and gain a better understanding of the details that contribute to the big picture
Easy to learn interfaces allow your organisation to cope with fast personnel turnaround or Mergers & Acquisitions

Don’t know how to shift from Spreadsheets to SQL Server Reporting Services?

We’ve got the knowledge and expertise to assist you in:

  • Making a smooth and cost-efficient transition from risky spreadsheets to reliable reports
  • Designing and implementing SOX-compliant report-generating methods and procedures
  • Putting exposure to high-risk reporting methods a thing of the past

Ready to work with Denizon?