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What’s XNet President Arthur Zards Doing This Week?

St. Baldrick's Foundation Head Shaving

You may notice something different about XNet President Arthur Zards every year about this time - he becomes bald. Not permanently, but he sports a cleanly shaved head right around every St. Patrick’s Day. Why? Because every year Arthur chooses to support his community by participating in St. Baldrick’s Foundation shaving events and fundraisers.

Collectively, XNet actively pursues community development opportunities like TEDxNaperville and SiliconPrairieSocial to give back to the area. However, each XNet employee also has their own individual passions and endeavors that make XNet more than just a company. One of XNet President Arthur Zards’ passions is raising awareness of kids fighting cancer in an effort to help find a cure.

Each year, Arthur donates his time and his hair to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity that funds more childhood cancer research grants than any other organization, except the U.S. government. On March 18th, Arthur will be at Ballydoyle Irish Pub and Restaurant in Aurora, Illinois having his head shaved to honor Kids like Lilly, a 10-year-old from Frankfort who was diagnosed with an extremely rare

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Desmoid Tumor at the age of 3.

Lily P.

Read more about Lily

Arthur would like your support helping kids like Lily by raising money to find a cure. He’s looking for five dollar donations to help him reach his goal of giving $500. To make a donation, visit Arthur’s St. Baldrick’s Foundation Participant page and click “Make a Donation.”

Posted on March 13th, 2012 by XNet
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XNet’s Big Project - SiliconPrairieSocial

SiliconPrairieSocial

SiliconPrairieSocial (SPS)

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is the brainchild of entrepreneur and XNet President Arthur Zards and former XNet marketing employee Tim Courtney. The idea formed as a social networking event for tech-minded individuals in the suburbs to share and learn, as well as have fun and build community. Most people know there is an obvious tech presence in Chicago, but not many people truly know the unique and interesting technology coming out of the suburbs.

SPS works to build knowledge about the amazing things happening every day outside of Chicago in what is called the “Silicon Prairie.”

SPS has three main mission points:

1. Connect local people with others in their industry and build community

2. Raise the profile of the Silicon Prairie through publicly generated events

3. Share information affecting the Chicago suburban tech community

SiliconPrairieSocial accomplishes this mission in a few ways. First is the most obvious, the SiliconPrairieSocials themselves. The events take place at various hotspots in the suburbs and usually include raffles, tech booths, food and drink, giveaways, and a lot of tech-minded individuals in one room. If you would like to see what our past events have been like, check out our Flickr page.

SiliconPrairieSocial also publishes a semi-weekly newsletter that updates subscribers on the latest tech news and events happening solely in the Chicago suburbs. This is not just any newsletter though; it’s quick, concise articles on the suburban tech industry - three articles and two events only. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Additionally, XNet publishes the articles in a blog format at www.siliconprairiesocial.com. The blog includes photos of past events and a calendar of upcoming events. You can even add your own suburban tech events to our calendar. Check it out!


So why is XNet doing this?

XNet has always strived to be more than a company whose purpose is to generate profit. From sending shipments of supplies to our troops overseas to hosting TEDxNaperville, a conference built on sharing ideas worth spreading, XNet works to put the “responsibility” in “corporate responsibility.” To that end, XNet is heavily invested in the suburban business and tech scene and is always actively seeking ways to enrich it. SiliconPrairieSocial is one of those ways. Through sharing news and events, as well as creating and hosting events, XNet works to give back to the community and highlight the fascinating people and technologies that exist outside Chicago.

If you would like to know more or just check out what’s happening in the suburbs today, head over to www.siliconprairiesocial.com and sign up for our newsletter.

Posted on March 7th, 2012 by XNet
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What’s XNet President Arthur Zards Doing this Week?

TEDx Name Badges

What’s XNet President Arthur Zards doing this week?

Well, Arthur is at TEDActive 2012 in Palm Springs, California to inspire minds and exchange ideas worth spreading. The four-day program features many of TED’s famous 18-minute talks as well as short talks, music, dances, and other surprises.

An interesting feature of TEDActive is the TEDActive Projects, a central element of the event focusing on

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having attendees dream, plan, and execute six projects to solve challenging problems and spark initiatives discovered at TED. Assisting in this endeavor are on-site topic experts and facilitators that move discussion and consolidate goals. Arthur signed up as one of these experts. His topic - name badges.

A seemingly trivial part to any event or conference, a properly designed and personalized name badge can inspire networking and create conversation between strangers at an event, which is at the core of many conferences and events. Arthur outlines three rules to building a badge that will greatly increase the quality and reputation of an event.

Arthur Zards at TEDActive

Arthur Zards of TEDxNaperville shows images of amazing TEDx event badges from around the world, and emphasized their importance in fostering interaction between attendees. - Click on the image to read the full story.


1. Engage

Having attendees answer interesting questions about themselves and placing that information on the badge immediately levels the playing field for starting conversation. It serves as an ice breaker by giving attendees a first topic of conversation. Having the badge formatted for interaction facilitates conversation between individuals at a conference and makes it more enjoyable for the attendee.

Robin William's badge at TED 2009 literally tells an attendee what to talk about upon greeting the actor/comedian.  It also includes a fun picture of the person it's hanging around. Image from Pichaus.com

Robin William's badge at TED 2009 literally tells an attendee what to talk about upon greeting the actor/comedian. It also includes a fun picture of the person it's hanging around. Image from Pichaus.com


2. Rockstar

Name badges should make attendees feel special because frankly, they are! Personalizing a name badge with say, an attendee’s Facebook picture, or other information specific to that attendee (see Robin Williams’ badge above) can make them applaud your event’s originality. When an attendee brings home their name badge as a keepsake because it, and the event, was just so darn cool, you know you hosted a quality conference.

The 2010 TEDxBoulder badge features a booklet with a fold-over booklet cover so that attendees can hang the badge around their neck during the conference as well as view the booklet to get additional information.  The whole badge becomes a cool collectable. Photo courtesy of smokeproof on flickr. Second Image from undergroundconsideration.com

The 2010 TEDxBoulder badge features a booklet with a fold-over booklet cover so that attendees can hang the badge around their neck during the conference as well as view the booklet to get additional information. The whole badge becomes a cool collectable. Photo courtesy of smokeproof on flickr. Second Image from undergroundconsideration.com


3. Be Different

You want your attendees leaving your event on a high, feeling that every part was just…awesome. If your event isn’t a typical, boring conference, then why should your name badges be? Make your badge out of wood, make it out of metal, use decals and stickers, add interaction features to make your badge fun. Try using QR codes for the tech savvy or just throw your social media on it. How about buttons to add flare? Do what you want, but be different. It will pay off in increased interaction during and after the event.

TEDxSunnyvale 2012 Name Badge

TEDxSunnyvale’s 2012 event used wood badges made on a laser cutter. Details can be read on TEDx organizer Stacie Tamaki’s blog The Flirty Blog.


For many events, especially TEDx events, 50% of the value, energy, and contribution comes directly from the attendees. Continuing the conversation after the event is also dependent on how quality of a time they had. Knowing these factors, it makes sense to put a good amount of effort into a name badge that inspires an attendee. One good way to do this is to follow Arthur’s rules: Engage, Rockstar, and Be Different.


BONUS! Here’s the “Host” version of the badge built for TEDxNaperville 2011. The front consisted of the attendee’s name and three nouns (yes, nouns) that describe each attendee. Attendees were able to converse and interact with each other based on the self-descriptor nouns they provided. Hmm…I wonder why Arthur put bridge…not to mention bacon. Well, you could always ask him! Badges were drafted in five colors, each representing the following types of individuals: Host, partner, speaker, volunteer, and attendee.

Along with the event’s schedule, links to the event’s social media were placed on the back with a clear call to action stating, “Continue the Conversation!” On our social media, attendees could continue to talk and share ideas about the event or even plan for next year’s event.

TEDxNaperville's 2011 host badge for host sponsor XNet

TEDxNaperville's 2011 host badge for host sponsor XNet

Posted on February 28th, 2012 by XNet
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Waident and the Cloud - A blog post by John Ahlberg

This is a guest blog post from XNet customer John Ahlberg, CEO of Waident Technologies. You can visit his website at www.waident.com.

To cloud, or not to cloud, that is the question

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

The cloud is everywhere nowadays. But what the heck is “the cloud” and why would anyone care?
The basic definition The cloud has many different definitions which is why it can be difficult to fully understand what it is and how it can benefit it you or not. The cloud to me, at the highest level, and simplest definition, is any software, server, or system, which lives outside of your office and is accessed over the internet.
More detailed definition The next level of the definition comes down to software and hardware. The software level has been around for many years and most likely you are using it today. This can be in the form of Goggle’s Gmail, hosted Microsoft
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Exchange, Salesforce.com, and many others. All of these systems live outside of your office and users access them over the internet – in the cloud. For the hardware side, this pertains to having your own server, just like the one in your office, except it resides in the cloud and you do not own any hardware. Like all cloud offerings you pay monthly instead of a capital cost of equipment or sometimes software.

Security distinctions To complicate things even further, you can have a public cloud and a private cloud. Basically this just means that if your software or system is in a pool of shared resources, then it is most likely in a public cloud and if you have dedicated resources then it is in a private cloud. In general, a private cloud is more secure but also more expensive. Not to say that a public cloud is insecure since that is not the case at all – a public cloud is often more secure than a lot of companies own servers/system in their office. A private cloud just gives you more options and flexibility for security.
Soooo, to cloud, or not the cloud? There is no one right answer for all situations. We have clients that are 100% cloud based, some who don’t use the cloud at all, and many using some cloud system and some on-premise systems. We look at the cloud as just another business case scenario to leverage technology. We look at all of the systems individually and not just as a whole.
  • What is the business goal for each system?
  • How do the users work in the system?
  • What would the end user impact be if it was cloud based?
  • What is the risk for having the system in the cloud or in the office?
  • How would downtime impact the business and users?
  • Are there any regulations that would impact this?
  • What are all of the advantages to putting the system in the cloud?
  • Are the users that access the system all in the same office or distributed in different locations?
  • Can the internet access handle accessing a cloud based system? Speed, redundancy, reliability, etc.
  • What is the ROI for all of this?

Once you have done a review of a system and gathered some answers and feedback, the direction to head is usually pretty obvious. Some systems like email will be much easier to determine compared to line of business applications or whole server platforms. Spend a little time thinking it all through since you might find that leveraging the cloud could be a smart thing to do for your organization.

How does Waident use the cloud? We leverage the cloud almost exclusively now. We just migrated all of our internal servers to cloud based servers, leveraging the systems from XNet Information Systems. We did this because it made economic sense, was more reliable, has more redundancy, and just as importantly, it fit the way the users work in the systems.

  • Economics – Our server hardware was aging and needed to be upgraded. We could go out and buy a new robust server and rebuild our own servers on that platform or we could just use another company’s hardware which was much better than anything else we could do. Running the numbers showed that we could cut a big check for new hardware and by the time we added up that cost along with the other costs (offsite backups, collocation fees, etc.) we found that using the cloud was a cost effective option and also afforded us the benefit of greatly increasing our reliability and redundancy.
  • Reliability and Redundancy – There is no way we could have cost effectively built our own server with the same high level of redundancy and reliability. XNet has multiple internet providers, redundant power, redundant air-conditioning, and everything else you would expect from a collocation facility. The cloud servers are in a cluster and minimize hardware failure. There is also the additional benefit of the servers being backed up nightly. This is an optimal environment if there ever was one.
  • End users – All of the Waident team is distributed amongst several offices and locations. Most people were already accessing all of the systems over the internet. Moving our servers from an office to the cloud would have no negative impact on how they work and need to get things done. It turned out that it was all positive impact since the cloud servers are much faster than what we had previously.
In Conclusion So should you be looking in to leveraging the cloud? Maybe. Depends on what the business driver is. Just because something is in the cloud does not make it less expensive. If the driver is just about cutting cost, you may be disappointed. If you have aging servers then it would be a good exercise to investigate how the cloud compares to a traditional hardware upgrade. If you need a higher level of security, reliability, and redundancy, then look at the cloud options as well. “The Cloud” is really what you make it so it is up to you to see if you can take advantage of it or not.
-This blog post was written by John Ahlberg and taken from the Waident website. You can see it in its original form by clicking here.
Posted on February 22nd, 2012 by XNet
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