Category Archives: Business Technology

Tips for Keeping your Business Technology Running Smoothly

In a time when even the most basic jobs require some kind of IT related knowledge, the need for the management of business related technology cannot be ignored. Business technology management can entail everything from your phone lines to expensive servers located in the server room of your organization. Even small businesses need some kind of maintenance for computers and other IT equipment.

Unfortunately, the worldwide workforce has struggled to keep pace with the growing need for IT related knowledge that has accompanied the cutting edge technology around us. A small example is the fact that most people have little or no knowledge of IP addressing and cannot even release an APIPA (Automatic Private IP Address), which can be one of the most common reasons for internet disruptions. The lack of employee knowledge about such minor issues means that companies require hiring some form of IT support.

While some medium sized and large corporations hire and maintain their own IT departments, this is not a financially feasible option for most organizations. At the same time, not having IT based advice can lead to heavy expenditure on unwanted items. For instance, in the wake of virtualization, one can easily create virtual servers and save an extravagant amount of cash on the acquisition of physical computers. However, in order to benefit from such luxuries, one needs to hire IT based support or advisers.

A simple solution to the above mentioned problem can be to hire an IT based service provider. This way, one can outsource IT support to an organization that can provide such a service at an economical cost. Some service providers deliver on call, remote support to a number of companies and therefore, charge a small amount for their services. Similarly, acquiring an IT based advisor, such as a specialist firm, can also help reduce costs. Such companies can offer valuable advice that can help your existing IT department or support provider.

Furthermore, some companies also provide a virtual CIO. A virtual Chief Information Officer is naturally more economical than hiring a full time CIO who can have a salary package as expensive as $160K a year.

Outsourcing IT based service and acquiring third-party advice can not only reduce costs but also help in running the business technology of your organization in a smooth way. It will probably take many years for upcoming workforces to be able to understand the complexity behind cutting edge business technology. Until then, the hiring of a reputable service provider seems to be the only viable solution for businesses in the short run.

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The Evolution of the USB Drive

Like most gadgets related to computers, USB flash drives are constantly evolving. No longer are they novelty items used only by geeks and other tech enthusiasts. The days of the diskette are gone, and the days of the CD are numbered, leaving the USB drive to be the primary means of physically storing and transporting data files. The market likes variety and price options, so there are USB flash drives in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, capacities and prices. In some cases they can even be customized with a logo and used for promotional purposes. The greatest difference over the years, however, has been in the area of size, both size in terms of storage capacity and the physical size of the drive itself.

The first commercial USB flash drive held 8MB. Not gigabytes, megabytes. Basically, it could fit the data equivalent of what amounted to roughly 5 floppy diskettes. As for the physical size, it was a little over 3 inches long. By today’s standards it was gigantic, but back then it was remarkably compact. Compare that to the small USB drive of today. Over the years, the progressive reduction in size has followed a similar pattern to that of the mobile phone. The second generation utilized USB 2.0 and improved in the area of physical size and speed, meaning the speed with which data is transferred from the USB drive to the computer and vice versa. The recent release of USB 3.0. devices also improves in the area of speed even though the drives are still roughly the same size as the USB 2.0 drives. Many computers are not optimized to use USB 3.0, so the drives are also compatible with the 2.0 ports. The popularity of 3.0 ports is increasing, so more and more personal computers will have those included.

Compared to the first USB, more modern USB drives are tiny, many of them collapsible to hide the A-plug, which makes them even smaller. The A-Plug is the part of the USB drive that is inserted into the USB port on the computer. Most are a little over 2 inches long, but many drives are smaller, consisting of little more than the A-Plug itself. In most cases, the interior design of the drives are similar. The reason most are not smaller is largely due to branding and the fact that the plastic outer shells of the USB drives are often larger than necessary in order to make for a more striking appearance. Manufacturers do this to set their product apart from the competition. A small USB drive loses nothing in the area of storage capacity, however, with sizes ranging from a standard 16GB to as much as 128GB.


Why Should My Website Have Live Chat?

The business community has come to realize that an online presence is necessary to their success in today’s marketplace. A web presence can take a local business from being a small town commodity to having an international market share. If a business owner asks the question: Why should my website have live chat or use live chat software? The answer becomes clear asking them: “Why do you have a website?” That answer is very simple: to generate more business. This is true even if no products are actually sold through the website and the ostensive purpose is to educate people about the company, or create brand recognition.

Most people don’t realize what the most powerful advertising source they have actually is. The number one secret that generates loyal customers, is responsible for high volume sales and customer retention is customer service! What usually happens when someone has questions or wants more information online? They can e-mail for information or ask their questions. They might be able to fill out a form and submit it online. They could call the telephone numbers and listen to the recordings and possibly leave a message.

None of these things are particularly satisfying. None of these represent good customer service. You have produced genuine interest from the time, energy and creativity, you’ve spent forging an effective web presence. You do not want it to go to waste. One of the biggest advantages of a web presence is that “the store is open 24 hours a day.” Live chat software can keep your customer service going 24 hours a day as well. That means people working late, or in any time zone, can access your information with a pleasant exchange.

With online presence, it is best to use expected online solutions. Practically without exception, that means you should have live chat capabilities. By using live chat software, you can have the friendly voice of your online customer service representative immediately demonstrate that your company will be there for them. With a small amount of preparation, you can prepare answers to questions for customer service, who can also get more customer information. You can have live chat software enabled, so company personnel can take over and talk directly to customers if they are needed. This is particularly handy when technical questions are involved. So, if you want your customers to be there for you, you need to use the technology that helps you be there for them.


Three Business Technology Trends for 2011

Halfway through 2011 and it may seem as though it’s hard to imagine technology growing more than it did in 2010. Technology has definitely evolved, with mobile technology like smartphones and tablets continuing to rise as the year continues its countdown to 2012. The year isn’t over, but businesses have learned where the next trend will come and how they can use it for their benefit.

#1 – Outsourcing

When you think of outsourcing, you might think of American companies turning to our overseas counterparts or the job loss that many Americans may experience because of it. However, outsourcing isn’t just the point of sending an in-house job to someone outside of the country; outsourcing essentially means using a third party to work on or complete a task that is commonly done by someone within the country.

Due to the economic turmoil that marked the Great Recession, many businesses made use of freelancers – individuals who are not part of the company, but are paid for their work. This included many things, such as outsourcing help desk duties or that of reception duties. This allows the company to cut down on expenses as most freelancers do not receive health care or medical insurance from these companies, and in most cases the project is a contract for several weeks or months.

Outsourcing is also turning into cloud sourcing, where the use of cloud computing is gaining more prominence. The ability to access files, documents, pictures, and music from anywhere is a popular topic, especially as mobile technology continues to grow with more smartphone features and the appeal of tablets. Will 2011 be the year in which a business doesn’t even a physical office?

#2 – Information Security

The latest woes that have plagued Sony and their PlayStation Network has brought the focus back on making sure that a company keeps the information provided by their clients as safe as possible.

In April, hackers managed to infiltrate the accounts of millions of users that use the PlayStation Network, finally prompting Sony to take down the network. The outage lasted until May, and just when it looked as though the troubles could be over, the Sony Pictures Entertainment website was hacked on June 2, 2011.

While it is too early to determine how 2011 will fair against the attacks by hackers and thieves in 2010 or even 2009, the fiasco involving Sony has placed more concern on how businesses secure their clients’ personal and financial information.

#3 – Mobile Technology

As mentioned, mobile technology has taken off more now than ever before. While laptop computers are still in use, smartphones and tablets are starting to grow with the ability of a light weight computing system that is nearly capable of performing tasks that you would do on your desktop.

Smartphone users can easily check email, surf the web, and complete other tasks thanks to mobile apps. Tablets seem to be in the middle of mobile phone and laptop technology, giving users the ability to be even more mobile than they are now. With the continued rise in mobility, companies are looking to get their names on the small screen.

It’s still too early to see what marvels 2011 will present to us, but so far, it seems to be shaping up to be a very trendy year.


Cloudy With a Chance of Efficiency: Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing

It seems that every technophile with a blogging platform is talking about some new cloud-based service. Whether it’s a basic online cloud backup service or an extensive cloud-based server system, new services are popping up all over the place. For the average business owner looking to leverage the benefits of the cloud, this is good news. Not just because of the efficiency that comes with moving data and customer management to the cloud. While cloud services offer a great deal of improved performance and reduced IT budgets, there still remains concerns over cloud security. This became apparent with the recent Wikileaks related attacks on the likes of Amazon and PayPal in 2010.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the usefulness of leveraging cloud services for business. If you’re not familiar with what’s available, it will serve you well to familiarize yourself with the four types of cloud computing technologies available. All cloud services are broken down into four different categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Desktop-as-a-Service. Depending on your server needs, renting space in a data center can easily add up to thousands of dollars in rental fees each year.

Source: http://cloudcomputingleaders.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/cloud-computing.jpg

IaaS is perhaps the most advanced cloud computing deployment method. Basically, IaaS serves as a virtual server that can be accessed online. IaaS systems are typically accessed and developed in a server virtualization platform. From a business perspective, outsourcing an IaaS virtual server costs only a fraction of the cost of renting server rack space at a data center.

If you’re new to cloud computing, and have done a Wikipedia search on PaaS, you may have ended up more confused than when you started. Most definitions of PaaS leave the layman business person with a bunch of buzzwords and tech-speak that are indiscernible at best. PaaS is essentially a powerful virtual computing environment for business and enterprises. It has found other uses, but without getting too technical, cloud-based platform services offer a wide range computing power, data storage and networking infrastructure for enterprise. Some common examples of the PaaS model include Google Apps, SalesForce and Microsoft’s Azure Platform services.

SaaS is perhaps among the most popular of the cloud computing platforms. Sometimes referred to as on-demand software, SaaS computing applications are typically accessed from a specific website that is primarily hosted from a single or set of websites. This allows users to access software without having to download the application onto a physical hard drive. One of the most popular examples of SaaS is Amazon’s Web Services or S3 application that offers cloud-based subscription hosting services.

DaaS, sometimes referred to as Virtual PC or Parallel desktop, is pretty self explanatory. Basically, the service allows you to have multiple operating systems on a single machine. The main attraction to this type of service is that the SaaS system take up virtually no physical hard drive space. It is not uncommon for a single machine to run Linux, OS X, Windows 7 and Ubuntu simultaneously, and without the need for massive storage space.

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Two Reasons to Manage a User’s Workspace in the Office

There are many reasons to manage a user’s workspace. Following is a look at two: (i) ensuring company security; and (ii) increasing employee productivity.

Managing a User’s Workspace to Protect Company Data

Employees are most company’s most valued asset. But, as the 1970s R&B hit by The Persuaders touted, “There’s a thin line between love and hate.” A most valued employee today can be a firm’s biggest enemy tomorrow.

Corporate espionage costs companies hundreds of millions of dollars per year. One of the most famous cases happened at DuPont in 2005 when one of its scientists stole $400 million in intellectual property. How did he do it? By accessing sensitive scientific information from the server which contained the firm’s electronic data library.

Although most employees are loyal, hardworking and trustworthy, it’s cases like this that highlight the need for companies to manage user workspaces by monitoring and controlling who has access to what and when.

As one executive said in an article in SC Magazine, a publication for IT security professionals:

“There are people who when it comes down to securing their critical information assets, their strategy is hope . . . hope is not a strategy. You have got to have very clear policy, you’ve got to implement controls [i.e., manage user workspaces] on that policy and then you’ve got to audit usage.”

Managing a User’s Workspace to Increase Productivity

Corporate espionage aside, a more common reason many companies manage user workspaces is to help them to do their jobs better. This has become increasingly difficult in today’s environment. System upgrades, the ability to share desktops and remote application infrastructures are just some of the reasons it’s difficult.

But companies realize the need to allow employees to personalize their workspace. How Employee A works may be different from Employee B, who is different from Employee C.

To overcome this, many companies use technology that allow them to manage a user’s desktop to a certain degree, while still allowing employees the autonomy to independently craft their user settings to meet their personal workflow needs.


Too Busy to Grow Up, Too Small to Keep Up?

In the real world, the IT changes and upgrades you could have completed when everyone had time will probably show up as problems when things are going really well. When your marketing bears fruit, the sales guys close deals, and everyone is productive, life is otherwise good. Except that the whole company is at full throttle just to fulfill expectations. The last thing you have time for now is the detail you needed to pay attention to when you had other things going. Growing the business to get through this is going to involve taking care of upgrades, changes, and work that’s going to be needed to keep bad things from happening, and more importantly, to keep good things happening.

This is where judicious application of a specific set of skills from a professional IT consultant will help do what needs done – the process details that you can’t get to because you are busy working for the company. There are better times this kind of work could happen, but the critical time is when things are going well for your company, when the revenues are there and you want them to stay. Except nobody has the time, skills or resources. There are three ways a professional IT consultant can help you grow from here.

First, you can think about how they can assist you in making the right decisions regarding business technology. They will understand your goals and bring the detailed knowledge of best practices and systems right into your office and tell you what will or won’t get you where you need to be. You don’t want to trust someone who’s barely got the time to come to an easy answer, let alone the right one, just to move it off his desk. To have their whole attention on the project, your person needs help to do regular work, or help to do the project, but they really can’t do both.

Second, they can help you plan changes and help get them done. The best IT consultants will bring not only their own expertise, but they will also know about the people needed to get it done, or have them on staff, and can help to predict what it will cost.

Third, you need to have real accountability – someone focused on the project and fully accountable to you, as your go-to when you need to know. They won’t be tied up with daily emergencies your IT person has to deal with just to keep things together.

Here are a few additional resources to assist with your decision in choosing the right IT consultant for your needs: