2020 And Beyond: Data Center Designs for the Future

The state of innovation, and the resurgence of technology disrupts has reached unprecedented levels. In the coming years, there will be a high rate of change, that will see the migration from legacy systems to new age ones. Such changes will redefine the very nature of how all aspects of technology interact with one another.

Core technology apart, there will be significant considerations given to environmental and business concerns. Energy efficiency will emerge as a dominant factor in decision making, and so will increasing data center densities and throughput.

Power independence: Increasing consumption and pressures on governments’ power supplies, have translated as risks for businesses vested in large data centers. For such businesses, mitigating this risk will focus on future proofing power supplies. Large consumer businesses such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have already adopted and achieved partial independence in their power supplies.

Privacy and data legalities: A heightened sensitivity to data security and privacy is steadily changing the dynamics of how businesses store their data. The penetration of cloud based services, and advances in user behaviour tracking, will only further it. Privacy norms and laws will now decide how and where data is stored. And, this will become only murkier with wide scale adoption of the internet of things (IoT) and its supporting infrastructure. Given this context, there is a significant possibility that most businesses would focus on core services, and leverage data centers either on-demand or with colocation providers.

Decentralized, edge centric deployments: Rising demand in services will require data centers to be ‘closer to consumption’. This will help nurture new age services such as streaming, IoT, among others. Such a deployment will help reduce latency, increase connectivity and bandwidth availability.

Localized nodes: Edge deployments could also see the shape of self-contained servers that could be deployed in urban areas – such deployments could leverage basements and terraces of buildings.

Convergence: An emerging trend is convergence of servers and storage into a single box. The availability of super fast memory express, and solid state drives, have enabled unified server-storage combinations.

Penetration of solid state drives: The penetration of solid state drive products has already reached critical mass in consumer tech. In the next few years, data centers will include adoption of such drives, and by 2020, bulk hard-drive boxes may have been completely replaced.

Docker containers: Docker containers help wrap software as ready to run code. These containers include everything that is required to run an application – anything that is required to be installed on a server. Such container instances have seen steady uptake, and are expected to increase. Docker containers will lead to a major reduction in server count and space.

In the coming years, IT admin teams will focus on procedures and policies, not on hardware. The nature of these changes will put immense pressures on legacy systems. There will be a paradigm shift that will see further commoditization of data center hardware, and focus on an economical, consumer centric and future ready design.

In the Age of AI, Our Human Workforce Must Remain Relevant

As artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are developing how can we ensure that the well-being of human value and the human experience remain significant? AI is becoming faster and more human-like, but questions are being raised whether or not this technology is a prerequisite to the alienation and extinction of solid human workforces. Can such know-how as the rise of quantum computing go awry? By all accounts, artificial intelligence whether we like it or not is here for the long run.

With the proliferation of AI technology comes the trepidation of what will become of the human workforce as we know it. We must find common ground to merge the two together without severing our human labor force. Aside from businesses expecting their revenues to increase and costs to decrease significantly, there are also ethical concerns involved in the application of artificial intelligence. Here are a few considerations organizations should keep in mind:

  • Organizations must retrain or redeploy employees by investing in developing their skill sets. Can AI technologies equip and build robots so much so that they mimic human cognition? Human issues should remain at the forefront of an organization’s artificial intelligence applications.
  • Most consumers like human interaction, but the customer typically does not care whether they are interacting with a bot or real person, just as long as their customer experience is satisfactory and stimulates humanization. We witness such interactions through the use of digital assistants. Will super-human technology and machines be able to decipher and optimize ergonomics (human factors) and influencers to produce a satisfactory customer experience?

Creative teams are beginning to add an element of entertainment to make the shopping experience fun. Artificial Intelligence is ushering in a new era of technology. Business leaders must invest in people to instill a workplace culture that will encourage learning new skills to reduce the appearance of discrimination against certain cultural segments of our population.

The CRAZY MATH to Growing YOUR Business

If you have room in your business growth plans for a small book that will make a big impact in your business… then read on.

When the home inspector finished inspecting my house, he handed me a DIY book. It probably cost him $10 at the store… but in return, he got every home inspector referral from me for years and years!

THE CRAZY MATH: Countless referrals = one $10 book

I tried the same approach myself. When looking to buy a new home, I gave the realtor a copy of a recent book I had published. “Thanks,” he replied… then he said, “If you buy a house from me, I’ll knock a $1000 off the price.”

THE CRAZY MATH: $1000 discount = one $3 book

I honestly do not know what your math will be, but I guarantee it will be good! It will be far more than 1 + 1 = 2. That is because books have an uncanny way of making a big, long-term, highly beneficial impact.

Maybe it will come back to you in the form of referrals, open doors, respect, more sales, happy customers, higher speaking fees, or word of mouth marketing. Either way, it’s a great return on your investment… especially if the book you gave away only cost you $2!

THE CRAZY MATH: Limitless referrals = $2 book

THE CRAZY MATH: More sales = $2 book

THE CRAZY MATH: Higher speaking fees = $2 book

Yes, one book can bring you limitless referrals. It can bring you a whole lot more. Whatever you are looking to grow in your business, the right book can add fuel to your fire and light things up… for your benefit.

To meet that very real need, I went to work and created a series of gift books for businesses to give out… for the specific purpose of doing THE CRAZY MATH! Those books include:

  • SUCCESS – How to Have More Of It
  • POTENTIAL – How to Reach It
  • MY BUCKET LIST – What’s Important to Me

These small books are 5×7 paperback books, only 64 pages long… the perfect size these days to make an impact in busy people’s lives. And they cost only $2 each.

When you buy a box (100 books in a box), a steep 75% discount off retail of $7.99 per book applies. And the S/H for your box of 100 books is FREE with all pre-orders. (Regular price is $249 for a box of 100 books.)

Simply give a copy of the book to your prospects, customers, clients, leads, friends, and fans… and stand back and watch what happens!

For just $2 per book, you can do your own CRAZY MATH.

Want Better Ideas? Then Stop Brainstorming!

I used to be a fan of brainstorming. What could be better for generating ideas than gathering your team around a table, presenting the challenge, and then letting the ideas flow! No bad ideas here! Just open the mental floodgates and let the brilliance pour out! Each idea sparking another, and another! Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Except it doesn’t work.

Brainstorming-despite the positive press it’s gotten, and still gets-doesn’t work. Why? Two words: human nature.

As humans (sorry puppies, I’m speaking to the humans here), we can be influenced and swayed by authority. When it comes to brainstorming, there are two types of authority that are particularly prevalent: the authority of the leader and the authority of the crowd.

Here’s how they play out:
You’re in a brainstorming session. Frank, sitting across from you, throws out an idea (because remember, there are no bad ideas in a brainstorming session!). But you notice the boss give a slight, flickering frown. Prior to noticing the boss’s expression, you were going to toss out a similar idea, building on Frank’s. But now you decide to hold back and see how this plays out.

In the meantime, Sloane shares a thought, and you can feel the excitement! The majority of the team is instantly enthusiastic! You don’t fully agree with Sloane, but it’s clear you’re in the minority. Sensing the current, you decide to get on board. And Sloane wins the day, while Frank fades into oblivion.

Brainstorming is supposed to be judgment-free. But we’re human, and we are influenced by those around us.
So is there a better way? Absolutely!

When I was the Executive Producer of a hit comedy TV show, our job was to be creative, week after week after week. And over the years, I gradually discovered that the best ideas tended to be generated individually, and then developed collectively. Here’s how it would work.

When we had our weekly “pitch meetings” (the meeting where we pitched our ideas for the upcoming show), each writer would come to the meeting with the ideas and scripts that they’d come up with, generally on their own. When an idea got a favorable response, we’d work as a team to develop and improve it.

How can you put this technique to work?

The next time you and your team are in need of a creative idea, instead of holding a brainstorming session, try this process:

1. Gather the team and clearly define the question for which you’re seeking ideas (and make sure you’re defining the right question!).

2. Send them off to generate individual ideas. But here’s the important part: give them a quota and a time limit. The key is to give them not quite enough time to reach the quota. For example, you might say, “I want 20 ideas from each of you, and you have a half hour. Come back here with your ideas in 30 minutes.” The odds are that few, if any, of your team members will be able to generate 20 ideas in 30 minutes. But that’s not the point. The point is force them to think beyond the easy answers; to force them to get creative.

3. Now have your group meeting where each person pitches their ideas. Because the ideas are written down, there should be no withholding because of peer pressure. Another option is to gather the group and immediately have each person pass their ideas to the person on their right, and have that person read the ideas.

By using this (or a similar) system, you get around the bias of human nature. You’ll find that you’ll get more ideas, and better ideas, than you would with a pure brainstorming session.

It certainly worked for my team-and I’m certain it will work for yours as well.

 

Stop Treating Creativity As an Option

Turning creativity into money.

That’s how I sometimes described my job as an Executive Producer.

Turning creativity into money.

See, our job, week after week, was to be creative-on demand. BUT, that creativity had to lead to profit. If what we created-jokes, comedy sketches, parodies-didn’t draw an audience that advertisers would pay to reach, our creativity would have gone nowhere (and our careers would have quickly followed). But we did draw that audience, and the station made a healthy profit. And it all began with our creativity.

Our creativity was the engine that powered the profits.

But this doesn’t apply just to comedy TV shows. It applies to your business as well. (Of course, there may be times when you think your business is a comedy TV show-but that’s an entirely different issue.)

In 2010, a survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide concluded that creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business. That being the case, why is it that so many leaders refuse to invest time, money, and/or energy into improving their own creativity and that of their teams? (Not you, of course. It’s the others.) Why won’t they invest in the “most important leadership quality for success in business”?

I think it’s because when they think of “creativity,” they form a picture in their minds of hippies in headbands going off into the woods and juggling beanbags while singing about “possibility.”

With this picture (or one like it) firmly in mind, they then say, “We’re not going to have any of that foolishness around here!” and go off and hire yet another sales trainer.

They just don’t seem to get that the road to profits begins with creativity.

Here’s the sequence: CREATIVITY leads to INNOVATION which leads to NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES which leads to PROFITS.

Leaders: This is how you stay in business!

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t hire the occasional sales trainer. But without continuous creativity, you won’t have anything to sell!

EVERY product, EVERY service that ever made a dollar (or a million, or a billion, dollars) began with a creative idea.

Kill your creativity, kill your business. Grow your creativity, grow your business.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Creativity is not a soft skill. Creativity is not an expendable option. Creativity is not a frivolous game.

Creativity is the most important leadership quality for success in business. Start treating it that way.

5 Ways Supermarket Chains Are Working to Build Their Businesses

Creative initiatives will drive supermarket sales

In the very competitive supermarket space, uniquely creative initiatives by food retailers are essential. Consumers want healthier, clean-label foods, as well as more variety regarding cultural (ethnic) culinary offerings. They also desire inventive in-store offerings that whet their appetites.

Many food retailers are embracing this challenge and coming up with resourceful ways to grow their sales. Here are 5 ways supermarket chains are working to build their businesses:

Partnerships

Whole Foods Market now has a partnership with Purple Carrot – a provider of vegan meal kits. Purple Carrot is a home delivery service. Whole Foods is starting a pilot project to sell vegan meal kits from Purple Carrot in Whole Foods’ grocery store located in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Purple Carrot will provide this Whole Foods Market store with a revolving choice of three recipes at a time. Purple Carrot will add a new recipe every three weeks, while taking out one current recipe.

The full-service in-store restaurant concept

This is a very innovative concept that is unfolding, albeit carefully. Consider Golub Corp., the parent company of Market 32 and Price Chopper. Golub has its full-service restaurant offering named Chef’s Grill. Golub opened this eatery in 2014, inside its Market Bistro store in Latham, New York.

Moreover, Wegmans Food Markets runs 12 Pub restaurants inside its stores in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Additionally, the Company has its Amore Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar within its Rochester, New York store.

Embracing the Internet of Things (IoT)

Supermarkets must remain up-to-speed on the ways that consumers desire to go about their shopping. It’s all about involving consumers who conduct much of their shopping and other activities in the digital space. Many supermarkets are continuing to develop their e-commerce programs to engage consumers.

Furthermore, much consumer data can be obtained from digital connections with consumers. Digital connections include Mobile POS (Point-of-Sale), RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags, and more.

The key for food retailers is to compile and analyze this data to learn more about customers’ preference. The next step is to tailor their strategies and initiatives to meet the ever-changing desires of their customers. The IoT allows them to do this.

Artisan/Craft products

Quality, unique products that appeal to specific niches can help drive supermarket sales. Meijer has its supercenter model, and the Company is selling craft beers from Michigan.

The Company has over 40 Michigan brewers represented. Meijer said that Michigan craft beer is progressively popular across Meijer’s six-state network. Meijer is going after that segment of beer drinkers that appreciate distinctive craft beers.

Being aggressive with center store initiatives

Center store products include pet food, baby food, drinks, snacks, private label products, frozen food, baking needs, cleaning supplies, easily prepared packaged dinners, canned goods, shelf-stable groceries, and more.

In Supermarkets News’ Survey of Center Store Performance, food retailers responded that price is the best strategy to battle competitors such as Amazon, Walmart, Dollar Stores, Club stores and others for consumers’ dollars. The second-best strategy that food retailers prefer is private label products.

Well thought out and uniquely creative initiatives by food retailers can foster increased supermarket sales. It takes a dedicated commitment of resources, financial and otherwise to attain this goal. Moreover, sourcing products that other grocers are not carrying is a great way to develop customer loyalty. Constant innovation and creativity can keep supermarket chains and independent grocers competitive and thriving.

The Corporate Communication Imperative

Think about this for a moment: A corporate facility or office park can be a campus-sized puzzle for visitors. Often, even getting timely messages out to employees scurrying about the office complex can be daunting! Digital signage addresses this problem by combining dynamic and interactive media that supplements architectural signage to form a web of real-time communications. It reaches both employees and visitors while on the move or while waiting to move-like at an elevator-with timely updates that are noticed at a passing glance and appreciated.

Additionally, corporate managers can implement this dynamic communication tool to build universal brand value and culture, yet diversify messages between the floors, buildings, and departments where needed. Can you imagine the impact of acknowledging birthdays within the department, announcing company events with funny quips, and just reinforcing company values and standards? All of this is just the beginning of better communication that helps foster teamwork and community within larger corporate or institutional environments.

Since corporate event spaces often convene hundreds if not thousands of people, it’s paramount that event managers have the ability to adjust messaging instantaneously near meeting rooms, corridors, visitor centers and interlinking pathways to adjacent buildings and amenities. Digital signage can be placed on wheels and moved where needed. Or, it can also be permanently installed near meeting rooms and intersect points-keeping everyone on time and track with up-to-the-minute agenda changes.

Digital signage can create brand value too, by bridging into an art form called techorating, which creates a pleasing and aesthetic environment as architectural media.

With a cloud-based digital signage system, company-wide news updates to far-flung employees around the globe are easy. Reaching staff and visitors promptly is no longer a communication headache! The better systems are hardware agnostic, so it can be installed anywhere–even as desktop screen savers–to make sure corporate events and news are noticed ASAP. Multiple geographical and even international locations are connected to the same system for easy, centralized control via the Internet.

Regardless if digital signage is used for corporate or retail applications, all successful deployments share four common characteristics: a clear understanding of the purpose behind the rollout; compelling content that attracts viewers, holds their attention and conveys a message; generating a satisfactory return on investment; and being mindful of key installation considerations.

Timely, relevant, and impactful is the hallmark of better communications in the digital era. Isn’t it time to consider a communication tool that will improve the quality of your corporate communications?

Shipping Fulfillment Companies Make Virtual Businesses A Possibility

Why is a fulfillment company such a good idea if you are a business that sells online and wants to reduce risk exposure and maximize profits? The answer comes in the form of a third-party business that acts as the only aspect of your business that is not virtual, essentially enabling you to have nearly no employees or physical spaces. When an entrepreneur begins selling online, they are generally looking to take advantage of a few key aspects that are not available to the traditional sales world. You are looking to allow customers from a far wider demographic to purchase your items, no longer being tied to the market that physically drives to your location. This can expand your customer base from the thousands to the millions, and the utilization of a transport company enables the ability to deliver goods to those customers. However, transporting purchased items to areas of the country that are long distances from your headquarters will increase shipping charges on all orders outside of the local market, making the savings that would be seen be made up instead through shipping charges. A fulfillment company allows you to position your inventory closer to your clients, and also allows you to utilize the employees of that fulfillment company to do the processing of the orders. These elements allow you to no longer have to manage employees yourself and deal with the hassles that go along with having employees. It also allows you to no longer need to speculate on warehouse sizes and long-term leases, as you only pay for the amount of space that is necessary and the orders that are processed. By removing the physical aspects of shipping from your plate, you are allowed to concentrate on growing the business.

The way fulfillment companies make this possible is through the use of specialized software that communicates with your shopping cart on your website. Order information is transmitted to the fulfillment company when an order is places, and that order is then processed and delivered to the customer from the facility closest to them where inventory is housed. This process enables the cheapest shipping charges to be absorbed while also removing the ownership from the responsibility of managing the inventory or processing the orders.

Businesses can now be completely virtual, operating with sales happening only through websites and warehouse space being an issue of the past. Companies can sell to customers anywhere in the world, and shipping fulfillment companies have made that happen.

Pushing Past the Fear in Business

Burning the ships

Have you ever been told to “burn the ships”? Probably not. However you would have heard the saying to “take the plunge” or “take a leap of faith”. To “burn the ships” is not new but I believe it resonates more today than ever before.

So where did ‘burning the ships’ come from?

In 1519 Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz (what we now know as Mexico) to overthrow the Aztecs and take hold of the vast treasures of Gold and Silver if they won. Cortes landed with only 600 men and they reportedly didn’t have any amour unlike their Aztec counterparts. Cortes demanded the ships be burnt. I imagine an army up in arms on the shores of Mexico looking at each other thinking their leader had turned into a madman. The idea was simple, creative, thought provoking and most of all – it worked. Cortes army had no way to retreat. No way to get back home if things didn’t go their way. This army was either going to be successful or go down fighting. There was no turning back here. The idea of having no other option spurred the army into a “grit” mindset that was so motivating that it was almost genius. The troops wanted to get home to their family and the only way that would happen would be from winning every battle they faced over the next two years. They won and now it is used as a great example of how people can do extraordinary things when they put their minds to it and get rid of the exit strategy.

Fears in business…

Too often we get scared when the going gets tough. Too often we have a get out of jail free card. The “we could just leave/end it/not start it at all” mindset is the first of our doubts that come creeping in. Within no time some people have listened to their doubts and fears and the great conquest at hand becomes a project that never gets off the ground. In business CEO’s make decisions to change direction for financial and strategic reasons. That doesn’t mean they have taken the easy path to get back on those ships. It sometimes means that the consumer has spoken and the market for the product isn’t viable. I can think of many products that didn’t last long due to this. What about the products that were great that didn’t make it as it was “too hard” or the going got “tough”. Those products more than likely were replicated and then created by a business who didn’t listen to fears and had determination to succeed. Barriers and obstacles in business appear every day and it is those businesses that let go of fear and navigate through the obstacles, rather than turning back are the ones that should endure the test of time. Yes there are other external factors but the big one is grit and determination. How determined are you to make the business succeed?

Let’s talk about exit strategy…

Exit strategy – what is yours? How could you get out of this quite easily, what fears and doubts are you holding onto? If you have something that you want to work then I would suggest getting rid of the exit strategies, the plan B’s and anything that you can fall back on because until you do your mind will more than likely stop you from achieving the dreams you have. If there is no other way than to move forward, then and only then will your mind be free to ensure success.

Next time you take on a new project or a change in direction, have a think about what will stop you. Will you block out the fears and have the determination to burn the ships?

Pens Should Be Simple – Ballpoints Are Not Rocket Science

For many years I have bought pens I refer to as “non-statement” pens, and put them everywhere; in my cars, bedside, in all my coat/jacket pockets, in the spiral binding on my journal, golf bag and of course my office. From buying lots of pens I formed opinions about what ones are the best for my use. I like fountain pens too, but those are a different subject and they are really not practical for every application.

I have “statement pens” such as Lamy, Monte Blanc and Pelican that I like for high level meetings and signing documents (fountain pens primarily) but now I want to address some top-of-the-mind considerations in selecting economical, workhorse, office pens that you don’t mind being a little rough with.

It may be ridiculous to most, but pens are very personal tools for writing in business and for casual use. We all write letters, sign credit card receipts, we may keep logs and journal entries, etc. Sometimes we use pens for tools and sundry chores for which they were not intended; they may be abused is my point.

I want to bring the simple task of pen selection to a slightly higher level of consciousness. Here are some of my considerations when buying a new style pen. Bear in mind that the real task of a pen is to simply put ink on paper concisely, but still the process needs to be enjoyable and comfortable; it’s just nice to see something written with clean lines and might also communicate a subliminal message about your style; nice colored ink, no blobs, no smudges and the right thickness of ink.

Basically, there are 4 bottom-line considerations: the tactile aspect, look of the pen (the barrel), mechanicals (retractable or twist style), the ink formulation and how it performs relative to your needs, paper you write on, preferences, and the refill/cartridge design that comes with the pen. Probably in the end you are only interested in getting an impression or line of link on paper.

Here are some of the attributes you might consider when looking for an everyday yeoman’s type pen-ballpoint, gel, or rollerball.

Look and Feel

· How does it feel in your hand and specifically, how does it feel in the writing position? Some pens are fat and some thin and this is the first thing you will notice.

· Texture-because some people’s hand/fingers get oily or feel like they perspire, some kind of texturing in the area where you hold the pen is desirable. Smooth barrels tend to slip between the fingers during use.

· In the area where you hold the pen, is there a contour that naturally fits the fingers or is it perfectly round? The reason to consider this is, a pocket clip rubbing against the hand during writing can become annoying.

· Metal versus plastic-some all metal pens are heavier; that may be positive.

· Appoints-Most pens are all plastic and some come with chrome finished clips, silver tips and silver retractable plunger mechanisms. I get selective relative to the color of the barrel.

· Stick versus retractable pens-often a stick pen is what is called for, especially with a cap closure.

· Size of the refills/ink cartridge-I have one pen that is 0.30 mm and I never use it because of the width of the line and also a wimpy line of ink is not the image I want. Conversely, when I proof read documents I like a stick pen, red or burgundy ink color, and a 0.50 mm ink line.

· Writing environment-consider if you write in bed, in cold, or in damp weather. If you write in such environments you will be limiting your choices to 3 or 4 manufacturers who put out pens capable of writing in these conditions and angles.

Ink

Look and feel is only half of the equation, what about the ink and how that ink looks on paper? Ink color-I am in a wine related business and I like to write with burgundy colored ink. Some pens do not come in ink colors and yes, some pens do come with colored ink (in new pens) but they do not sell refills of that original color-go figure.

· Color-I prefer blue and burgundy colored ink. In companies they specify use of a certain color ink. For example, black ink shows up better when copying documents. Personally, I do not like black ink and is less impressionable.

· Styles-today pen manufacturers offer: ballpoint pen ink, gel, and a new emulsion type ink. Ballpoint inks have evolved and come in multiple colors, they dry quickly and the ink flows well. This latter point can also become a problem; the newer ballpoint ink formulations can leave blobs and bleed. Some new ballpoint pens also offer little resistance on the paper when writing as new ballpoint inks flow so smoothly. Some people like the positive feedback with a slight drag on paper.

· Gels don’t seem to be bold in color. In addition, with gel and emulsion inks, the ink seems to dry on the tip relatively quickly and when you start writing after a lengthy pause the ink is dry and the line of ink tends to skip or leave voids until the flow resumes.

· Emulsions still tend to have a bleed through issue with certain paper and colored ink selections.

Gels and Emulsions type inks I do not enjoy because they write with a gliding sensation. I like a pen that has a little bit of paper drag to them allowing me to be a little more deliberate in my writing style.

Refill/Cartridge

A common problem with all manufacturers is that some ink cartridges/tubes leave huge blobs of ink when writing cursively. Looping letters such as “S’s” or “T’s” are especially prone to lay down a thick blob where the pen changes direction quickly and does not dry quickly. Lefties are left with smudges.

Some pen designs made by major mass market manufacturers use proprietary refill designs for each style pen they make-gel, ballpoint, roller ball. One manufacture uses the Parker design refill for their pen refills but use a proprietary technology to put the ink under pressure to allow it to write in cold, heat, on damp surfaces and upside down.

The ink reservoir/refill/cartridge unit (whatever nomenclature you prefer) is the mechanism that contacts the paper to apply the ink. Often times a brand, or a style within the brand, has the refill that will drag, scratch or dig into the paper which causes the ink to seriously skip and leave a scratch mark on the paper. If you can live with that then no real issue.

An equally serious issue with some refills and their ink is that the ink will simply not get used up. Some of my refills still have tubes half full of ink that will not dispense. Even with some manipulation such as using hair dryers or running hot water over the ink tube, the ink simply will not start running again.

Interestingly, most mass market pens are manufactured in Japan. Brands such as Uni-ball, Zebra, Pentel, and Pilot are all Japanese brands. Bic owns many styles of ballpoint pens. If you include high-end pens and fountain pen manufacturers worldwide, there are about 115 manufacturers of all varieties of pens. It seems that some of the manufacturers have been around since the late 1800’s.

Personally I like smaller diameter pens, plastic or metal barrels, click retractable, burgundy and blue ballpoint ink, a refill with a 0.7 mm thickness ink tip, rubberized or textured grip and a metal pocket clip. I have found that all pens (ballpoint, gel or new emulsion inks) will skip and leave blobs of ink on paper. The one that fits my style best today are some of the Zebra styles.

Mass market pens are priced as high as $8.00 and as little as $0.50. But, I do remember when Bic ballpoint pens sold for $0.25 each, we called them Bic Bananas. For business purposes, pens are a standard promo product with personalized imprints. Some of these pens offer a very nice feel and quality of writing. There are hundreds of shapes and sizes of these promo pens and most can be had from $0.35 each to $2.50 each with advertising imprints with quantity orders.

Office supply chains do carry a vast supply of pens but they are bundled with multiple colors and quantities in a package. Yet some stores also have manufacture displays where you can try out pens. Personally, I have now reverted to going on-line to see available pens and read reviews. But if you think you are odd to be interested in a simple mass market pen, just check out pen blogs on-line; there are a plethora of blogs that focus on most all types of writing instruments, even the cheap “everyday” models.