AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC ACCESS NETWORK ASSOCIATION INC
ARBN 081 355 722
ABN 74 766 293 648
2006 ANNUAL REPORT
The last year has seen yet increasing demands placed on APANA and higher expectations that APANA can provide services identical, if not cheaper than, commercial operations. Whilst being the "cheapest" is not necessarily a goal for many regions, APANA continues to offer services to Members that the commercial sector either cannot, or will not, offer:
Regions have been taking on these challenges, amidst tough times, where the need is to maintain services and constantly reduce the bottom line. It is always reassuring to see that even despite differences, the services somehow continue to run and a loyal Members chip in to get services up and running again.
It is with regret and a hint of sadness to report that due to recent deteriorating health issues, it is time for me to hand the baton over to a new President and extend my very best wishes to APANA as a whole. I am continuing to assist with Perth’s needs as much as possible and I don’t plan to change this.
The last ten years on the Management Committee has been a fantastic experience and it is hard to believe the change seen in APANA over that time. Thank you to Members like John Childs, Mirko Fluher, Carolyn Baird, Jeff Toll, John Fisher, Garry Ford, Pauline Sheppard, Jeremy Macolm, Adam Frey, Peter Childs, Dave Edwards, Matin Bull and Mark Purcell, just to name a few – you all know who you are!
On closing, I’d like to extend my very best wishes and hopes to APANA as a whole. May it continue onwards for a very long time to come.
The past year has seen a large decline in our membership numbers. We have lost 62 members during the year.
Region Members Members Change
Oct 2006 Oct 2005
-------- ---------- ----------- --------
Brisbane 39 66 down27
SA 54 61 down7
Hunter 42 43 down1
Perth 19 24 down5
ICR 15 23 down8
Sydney 14 21 down7
Melbourne 14 18 down4
ACT 3 6 down3
------- --------- ---------- --------
TOTAL 200 262 down62
All regions have lost members. Although credit must be given to Hunter and SA for the minimal losses they incurred throughout the year.
One of my first ideas as Secretary was to increase communication between members. From this, the APANA web forum (http://forums.apana.org.au/) was created and is now up and running and in addition I have written several newsletters distributed to members via email. Whilst increased communication has probably had little impact on members leaving APANA I feel it is the right thing to do, in keeping members informed of APANA issues. One regret is not writing enough newsletters due to lack of time. Perhaps having a number of people contributing to the newsletter is worthy of consideration.
Looking towards the future.
2006/2007 is going to be a tough year for APANA. In its present form, the best we can do is maintain membership numbers, but more than likely we will continue to lose members. Maintaining interest and enthusiasm in a non profit-volunteer organisation is a constant uphill battle. What was of interest in the past, may no longer be relevant or of interest today and in the future. The needs of members change and the lives of members change. To complicate matters, the members wants(needs) are not always clear and, what APANA can provide, is also unclear, so we sit here in a smokescreen, without clear direction. How do you know if you want something if you don't even know if it's available?
We must keep ideas coming in and being presented to Regional Committees and to the Management Committee for discussion. We must think of ideas that can be of benefit to the community whereby a group of people with a common need can come together to achieve something that would be unobtainable or difficult for the individual. We may also try thinking on a global scale rather than limiting APANA to Australia only. For example, we could offer Telnet accounts to anyone in the world, provided they pay their fees & membership and abide by APANA rules. I also feel we should be doing much more with wireless networks and possibly Wi-Fi phones. If anything, informing our members of the possibilities of wireless networks is a start.
Making things happen is not an easy task. It takes planning, time, skill and patience and if there ever is a time to think beyond what APANA can do, then now is the time to do it.
On a final note I'd like to wish outgoing APANA President Dean Hollister all the best for the future and thank him for his efforts on the APANA Management Committee, which he has been part of for many years, firstly as Secretary and then as President. Dean will still continue on in Perth RC managing equipment and software for the region and no doubt will assist in giving good advice to other regions where possible.
The loss incurred in the past year while substantial was not as great as the previous year and was mainly the result of declining membership numbers. The failure of some regions to respond in a timely manner to equipment failures led to many members not renewing although the availability of cheaper broadband bundles with the major carriers was also a factor.
In the past year 3 regions have lost around 40% of their membership (Brisbane, Sydney and ACT); 3 have lost around 20% (Perth, Melbourne and ICR) while only 2 regions (South Australia and Hunter) loss less than 10%. In terms of financial performance over the whole year, Hunter and Melbourne were the only two regions to record a surplus while ACT recorded the smallest deficit, followed by Perth, then South Australia and Sydney while Brisbane recorded the largest deficit.
Equipment failures were the main trigger for Brisbane’s poor performance but this was compounded by failure to rectify problems in a timely manner resulting in many disgruntled members while still having to pay a hefty ISP bill. This was also true for Sydney. However, prompt action by Perth and South Australia when confronted by a loss of members saved those regions from incurring far greater losses.
The extent to which National can financially support non-viable regions is limited and at the present rates of decline of some regions that limit may well be reached within the next 12 months. It is imperative, therefore, that all regions acknowledge the seriousness of APANA’s financial situation and take immediate measures to ensure that if that limit is reached they have sufficient funds each month to cover their own expenses.
I would so like to end this report on a positive note, so all I can say is that APANA is at the moment alive and well in the South Australia, Hunter and Melbourne regions.
No report submitted
Brisbane has not had a good year, with many outages, falling numbers
and therefore income, problems with hardware, and lack of interest both
from serving members on the BRC and support, and members.
We have gone from the largest branch of APANA two years ago, to about half our numbers.
Our focus for the coming year will be to increase our membership, lower our outgoings, and get Gargoyle back on line. A new Gargoyle has been built but I am loathe to give my approval for it to go back online unless we have everything exactly right, including members' logins and passwords.
Lack of interest with running the region is another big problem. Unless we get more people on board to help run it, especially those with technical knowledge, then I am not sure where that will leave the region by this time next year.
Over the past year the Hunter Region has remained viable financially and stable in membership numbers. The only problems which beset our network at various times throughout the year were related to equipment failures and the inadequacy of our Internet Service Provider to provide a 'quality' service.
Independently Connected Region:
No report submitted.
No report submitted.
Throughout the year Perth has steadily cut costs to ensure we remain
financially viable. Though we still have a debt to National of nearly
$2700 we are now in a position of making a small surplus each month.
Membership stands at 19
Significant events in Perth throughout the year:
A few ideas about holding a wireless security workshop were discussed at one RC meeting though nothing has come of this yet. I also proposed that Perth phase out dialup connections altogether, and encourage the remaining dialup users to move to DSL with an APANA shell account to retain their email address and webpage(if any)
South Australia Region:
The last twelve months have seen a large number of changes for the SA region, some of which will determine both our form and our survival for years to come.
Like all regions, we were suffering from a gradual attrition of dial up members, but that was manageable - until we lost four permanents at about the same time. In just one month we went from being the most profitable region to the least profitable, with a forecast deficit of around $150 per month.
The reduction in dialup members meant that we were "over serviced" with lines, but could not reduce the count of ISDN lines below 10. That prompted a move to using the ECN dialup facility used by Brisbane, which substantially improved our financial position, as we only used five lines. The move was accomplished with very little drama, and together with the generous "forward payment" by many of our members, we were able to get back into the black (just!).
We have also worked on reducing our electrical bills, and have also taken decisions to migrate from our PAPL-based feed to an ADSL feed from Internode, (to reduce costs) and also to combine pasa and chuckie into one server.
In addition to cost savings, we have upgraded our main server (tierzero) during the year, and operated the national DNS on chuckie. The web hosting membership seems to have potential for gaining new members, so will be further pursued.
We also implemented some very effective "anti-spam" measures during the year – we even had a complaint from one member who no longer had to spend time deleting mailbox spam and so was being asked to do more housework! But we estimate a 95% reduction in spam to our members.
The monthly regional newsletter continues to provide contact with many members who do not attend meetings. However our web pages are badly out of date, and so this is an area for attention during the next year. We have had a trial content management system (Joomla) in place during the year, but this has not been very active.
In conclusion, having "outsourced" our dial in facilities, and rationalized our systems, we have become smaller, leaner and more agile operation. This should place us well for continuing survival. I would like to thank the active members of the region, especially the tech group, for their support during the year – without them we would not have survived at all.
It's been another rough year for Sydney region. Continuing member losses, combined with networking problems (mostly telco-related) have conspired to erode the membership base. From a region which had around 400 members to less than 20 is quite a remarkable decline.Financially, the spiral continues. No sooner does a step get taken to significantly reduce costs when something else happens which prevents further financial recovery. At one stage we'd worked the deficit back to around $9k, but it's now over $11k again.
We have gained a new member recently which is a small positive blip on what's been an overwhelmingly negative 'radar' for the region.
The other positive factor is that our primary server - Goliath - continues to run well despite one outage recently caused by the failure of a SCSI device we weren't using. My systems have morphed around and changed a few times. I've tried to re-invigorate Jedi's dial-up service several times but hardware failures, software problems, and general decline in requests for regular dial-up have made me decide to let that aspect of Jedi's service slip away into the abyss so I can keep other things (like the web-hosting server, the news/ntp/etc. server) going.
We've never been able to get anything happening with wireless despite wanting to - the overall problem is that David, myself and John have run out of the high level of enthusiasm from previous years and now we just keep things going at a much lower ebb.More changes to network arrangements look like happening soon as we need to abandon (again!) the present arrangement and move to something more cost-neutral. A few of use have shifted over the ADSL connections (and I'll be doing that soon) and actually stayed with APANA, but almost all the people who have left Sydney region in the last few years are leaving because of ADSL. Bridging the 'gap' where members feel like we provide a viable option for DSL service provision compared to commercial providers is the hard part. We all know the things we do that the commercials don't - personalised help, fixed IP subnets, ultra-low-cost additional services like web-hosting, etc., access to a substantial base of mostly tech-savvy members, etc.What the next year will hold for Sydney region is unclear. We're in effect no longer a 'region' since we don't have our own network anymore (except for my private network and David Fisher's which both provide services to other members), so other that the member networks Sydney region is really just another 'ICR' that happens to operate some privately-owned member networks.