Waypoint News

The 5 Tech Trends SMBs Should Follow

04.17.15

There’s a million trends in tech for business. Not only could you not follow them, most of them are,by the law of averages, going to lead nowhere. Remember Iridium, or Microsoft Bob? No? Exactly. But some of the trends we’re watching now are actually seismic shifts in the way the tech landscape supports business. Here are five that deserve to have you on board.

1: Lock the Door!

…before the horse bolts. In a world where malware and cyber-attacks are the rule not the exception, you will be attacked, so get prepared. Verizon found in a survey earlier this year that the most popular type of cyberattack is one that could affect small businesses, not just giants. Get the best cybersecurity system you can afford.

2: Take Your Business Mobile

By 2017, mobile ecommerce will be worth almost ten times what it was worth in 2012. It’s going to be a $114 billion market- and yet, 93% of small and medium business’ websites don’t work on mobile. To succeed in a marketplace where the same customer might view your site on three or four different devices, you need a responsive website that looks great on everything.

3: Take Your Payments Mobile Too!

In 2013, 15% of smartphone users worldwide payed for something with their smartphone. And as an online payment system battle between Apple and Google gets underway and PayPal and BitCoin exemplify two radically different models, we don’t know exactly which form of mobile payment is going to triumph. But we do know that mobile payments are set to become ubiquitous.

4: Get Professional About Being Social

If you’re restricting your contact with your customers to those occasions when they actually ring you up or walk into your premises you’re leaving a lot on the table. At the same time, while customers now expect social media interaction, these networks aren’t the panaceas they once seemed. Generating organic reach is getting harder and harder,and while they’ve never cost money by comparison with traditional marketing channels social media networks have always been a time suck. Hire a professional to manage your company’s social media presence and get the most out of it.

5: Small Businesses Need Big Data

All businesses collect huge quantities of data now. When processes are digitised records are generated automatically so there’s little effort involved in generating the information in the first place, but the effort you put into analysing it yields real rewards. You’ll see patterns in customer behavior or responses to your efforts that will show you where to go next. That’s big data in action, and it’s not just for big businesses.

Facebook’s Plans To Shoot Internet at You From the Skies

04.15.15

At the F8 conference in Fort Mason, San Francisco on Thursday, Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, announced plans to roll out a new piece of hardware.

Codenamed ‘Aquila,’ for the eagle the Greek god Zeuss rode across the sky (really!), the innovative piece of tech Facebook announced on Thursday is a drone designed to beam the internet down to millions of people worldwide,allowing the company to effectively supply its own infrastructure to difficult-to-reach areas.

Aquila has the same wingspan as a 747 but is constructed of ultra-lightweight materials and is mostly wing, meaning it weighs less than a small car.

It’s going to need that light weight. It’s designed to stay in the air for as long as three months at once. The design uses solar power to drive propellers, and will also require sufficient energy to let drones stay in contact with one another across wider areas to supply continuous access to the web.

The drone will connect people below it to the internet via lasers fired from about 90, 000 feet (about 17 miles) above the surface of the earth, where drag is sufficiently low and there is little atmospheric turbulence.
So how soon can you expect to see one of these slow-moving monsters in the skies over your home?

Well,Facebook is cagey about the specifics, but the New York Times notes that commercial deployment ‘may take years,’ though the machines are due to be trialled this year. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg gets further into the details: ‘As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we’ve designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky. Today, I’m excited to share that we’ve successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK.’ Zuckerburg went on to explain that: ‘Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure.’
The drones are currently under development at a UK company, Ascenta, that Facebook acquired last year. Eventually, the social media giant hopes to be running a fleet of 1, 000 drones, though how it hopes to get the governments of the world to ’like’ the idea of filling their airspace with giant, remote-controlled laser platforms isn’t certain.

The Big Concerns On CIOs’ Minds? Virtualisation and Security

04.10.15

CIOs and IT professionals are under pressure from all quarters.In an increasingly fast-paced environment they’re struggling to implement more compex IT solutions on one hand and fend off a range of security threats with the other. What are their key concerns?

CIOs are seeing their job scopes continue to expand and develop, but they share a small number of key concerns. Overwhelmingly, research indicates, they’re thinking about just a few key things – but they’re thinking about them a lot.

The big concerns for CIOs are virtualisation and security. Protiviti’s 2015 IT Priorities Survey found that, of the 1000-plus CIOs, IT VPs and IT directors who responded, 86% cited virtualisation as this year’s ‘most significant’ concern.

Why? Well, for well over half of the companies polled, they expected to undergo a major IT transformation starting this year, but which they expect to last a year or longer. That transformation is likely to leave IT staff architecting and implementing complex systems in partnership with new companies or alone – all while keeping the lights on at the same time. The three main reasons IT staff gave for undergoing IT transformations were cost and simplification at 64%, new functionality at 55% and service assurance at 48%. These concerns, and the benefits that virtualization can bring, are likely to be magnified for smaller enterprises, with the slashed TCO offered by virtualization making more of a difference to a smaller balance sheet. Whether an SMB opts to repurpose existing servers for virtualization or look for a fully managed solution, or something in between, it’s an issue the majority of IT leaders will have to decide on going forward.

The other major concern for IT leaders is security, with 83% citing malware and virus threats as their main concern and the same number pointing instead to data breach and privacy laws. Proviti’s managing director, Jonathan Wyatt, commented: ‘gone are the days when information security and data privacy issues are viewed as just technical issues,’ arguing that they now called into play questions of ‘critical business policy, governance, compliance and communications that must be addressed across the enterprise.’ That’s probably why many CIOs and IT leaders were working to extend and strengthen their internal relationships, reaching out to C-level and senior executives, boards of directors and business-unit leaders. One result of the changes in IT implementation might be a more integrated approach to data handling, security and infrastructure across the whole enterprise.

Other major concerns for IT leaders included enterprise architecture, at 81%, and patch management, pointing to the ‘cleft stick’ many IT staff find themselves in: running to keep up means they struggle to implement newer, more efficient and secure solutions.

4 Undercover Google Drive Tips

04.08.15

Google Drive is how most of us are meeting SaaS for the first time. No more hunting for data sticks, no more ‘it’s on my other computer’ – but while we might be pleased with it, how well do we really know it? Here are four ways to get more out of Google Drive.

Google Drive is intuitive to use. For one thing, it quite closely resembles certain other applications… for another, it’s simple and there’s help available. But using it and getting the most out of it are two different things. Here’s how to use Google Drive to push your productivity like never before.

1: You Can Work Offline

Yes, it’s the equivalent of boasting that your airplane also has wheels. But sometimes you do have to work offline, and when that happens you can stay with Google Drive. There’s an ‘offline’ mode that lets you view, edit and create documents, though you need Chrome to use it. In Chrome, go to your Google Drive account, click on the gear icon and select Settings. In the General tab, select ‘Sync Google Doc, Sheets, Slides, & Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline.’ Chrome will save all your changes, then sync them with Google Drive when you’re back online.

2: Track Revision History

If multiple people are working on a document, it can get hard to remember what it looked like to start with. Losing your past versions can be hard if you’re used to desktop apps that let you go back and compare. Actually, Drive does too: go to File and click See revisions history, and you can select from multiple prior versions of the same document. You can even use the Show more detailed revisions option to group revisions by your own criteria.

3: The Web Clipboard

One of the least-known features of Google Drive is its Web Clipboard feature, which is weird because it’s one of the most useful. You can copy and paste data across multiple Docs, Sheets and Slides, it holds multiple items at once (unlike OS clipboards!) and you can access its contents from any of your devices. If you want to use it, select an item and go to Edit > Web Clipboard > Copy to web clipboard. Items you haven’t accessed within 30 days get automatically deleted, though, so don’t start using it for storage!

4: Search for Links in Documents
Normally when you want to add links to a document, you have to go to the page and copy the link. Not any more. Instead, highlight some text, go to Insert > Link, and a search box appears, letting you do the whole process right in your Doc.

Disaster-Proofing Your Data

04.03.15

What stands between your data and disaster? You do.

IT disasters cost US businesses $1.2 trillion every year. Worldwide, the total is $6.2 trillion. And more of that comes from so-called ‘silent disasters’ software bugs or malware and hardware failures than you’d think. Everyone thinks about preparing for floods or hurricanes, because they’re high-profile and high-impact. Fact is, they’re also low-probability.

And with leaking, hacking and security risks riding front-of-mind for so many, it’s easy to forget that many of the the disasters that put your whole company IT system up on blocks are just that – accidents. It really doesn’t matter, after all, where they come from. What matters is how you respond to them.

1: Plan For Disaster

Anticipate likely problems before they arise. No, you can’t get ready for everything – but you can build data loss templates that reflect the most likely threats you face. Map out two to four of the most likely scenarios and base your preparations on those. Look at the data losses you’ve suffered in the past, or those that affected other enterprises in your business vertical and geographic location, and build on that knowledge to prepare.

2: Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Ensure that the processes and technology to deal with the treats you’ve identified are in place. Have backup and recovery, snapshot and replication capacity ready for when it;’s needed. A good disaster recovery plan will need all these in place to cover any eventuality. Augment their efficacy and prevent overuse by building in a monitoring tool that’s sensitive and accurate, with a low number of false positives.

3: Test It!

Just like a fire alarm system is only as good as the last fire drill, so a data recovery plan, too, is only as good as its last test. When was the last time you tested yours? If the last time you tested your data recovery plan, the solution involved switching out a blown valve, you need to step up testing. Otherwise you just think you’re ready – when you need your data recovery plan the most, it might let you down.

With a resiliency plan in place, you’ll be equipped to hit the ground running if disaster does strike, as well as being more likely to catch internal problems like ailing hardware or buggy programs in the bud, before they can trigger a disaster.

3 Essential Elements of a Secure Mobile Strategy

04.01.15

Mobility and BYOD are a gift for companies looking for improved agility and productivity. But they come with downsides built in, including security worries. If you strategise them right, though, you can get their benefits without falling prey to any of the pitfalls.

These are the top 3 essential elements of a secure mobility strategy.

1: Manage What Matters…

…and stop trying to manage everything else.

The days when the IT department had a realistic chance of controlling data flows through an enterprise are over. Instead, it’s time to triage: vital data must be managed and protected, while the majority of data can simply be ignored by IT. One way to do this is MDM – Mobile Device Management. This allows you to check whether a device remains secure before it accesses your company network – whether it’s owned by a worker or the company. Another is MAM – Mobile Application Management, which involves diffusing an app but centralizing its security settings and controls. Finally, virtualization and sandboxing holds out the hope of making the spread of conventional malware all but impossible and preventing large-scale hacking too.

2: Automate the Outcome You Want

It’s the things we don’t have to think about that boost productivity. How many business bloggers have you seen, talking about the power of habit? It’s the same in IT. Set up your systems so the right thing happens automatically. When an employee gets a new device, whoever owns it, make all their work materials available on it with the click of a single URL. When employees move from one physical location to another, pre-configured controls adapt the level of access that’s available to avoid security risks – and tell the person what’s going on and why. Use Active Directory to assign containers – sets of information, apps and access privileges – to roles rather than individuals, so that when someone new enters or leaves a role, everything they need is available.

3: Avoid the Dreaded Quadruple Bypass

A ‘quadruple bypass’ refers to the leakiest, most insecure setup you can have: BYOD on a consumer-grade device, handling sensitive company information and going straight to cloud. Completely sidestepping the control and monitoring of IT at every stage, this ‘bypass’ is ripe for hackers, leaks and malware. This is the structure you’ll find if IT hasn’t been involved in implementing BYOD and cloud!

This is the nightmare scenario for IT and it must be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, that’s not that difficult. It has to be by making other options more attractive, though. Give workers a superior user experience on IT-approved, secure systems and they won’t wander from it. It’s the best guarantee of security.

Getting Ahead of the Internet of Things

03.27.15

IT techs need to be ready when the IoT lands. It’s estimated that well over 20bn devices will be a part of the IoT, ranging from consumer goods like toasters to complex sensor arrays in smart homes and vehicles. The volume of data created by this network will be gigantic, requiring a rethink from organizations in terms of how they view, manage, store, and even think about data.

Getting Ready for IoT

Over the next decade, the growth in the number of IoT networks will be very large and very fast. Every industry vertical will be involved, because no-one will be able to afford to turn down the benefits associated with IoT. Its effects will be felt everywhere from manufacturing to healthcare, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

Re-evaluate Database Architecture and Data Management Strategies

Right now, most companies have a core database that houses transactional data. IoT data won’t replace that, but it won’t behave the same way either. Look for solutions that will support multiple deployment scenarios. Your database technology should be capable of scaling up and down, to be device-agnostic while having the potential to accommodate a huge amount of data.

Remember: Not Every Database Will Cope With IoT

You need to select a database that’s built to cope with the volume, velocity and variety of data that’s going to come to you from IoT sources. Time-series and geospatial-oriented databases will cope far better than general purpose databases.

Deploy Data Management Technology

Consider the potential value of deploying data management technology both within the network and on its borders. As the volume of data generated by IoT networks grows this is likely to become an unavoidable necessity, and those enterprises that implement data management, processing, and analysis will have a significant advantage in that, while they might not have more data than their competitors, they will have more useable data.

There’s More to IoT Than Coping With The Data

At first glance, IoT seems to offer one main challenge: how to cope with all that data. But how well companies emerge from the early days of IoT is going to depend more on how they respond to some other challenges, including the access IoT will grant to new markets and new applications within existing markets. As the number of devices capable of gathering and sharing data grows, so more and more enterprises will find it cost-effective to leverage the increase.

Why BYOD Has a Bright Future

03.25.15

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – was an incipient trend in 2014, but it’s expected to fully breach the mainstream in the year ahead as enterprises learn how to make the most of it.

BYOD Teething Troubles

BYOD faced some troubles starting out. The trend comes with some privacy concerns, since workers naturally tend to take their own devices home with them and connect them to non-work-approved networks. There was even a major lawsuit in California that, by ruling that company workers for the ri use of their own devices, seemed to presage the end of the BYOD trend. What really happened was that the trend went from strength to strength as other technologies and techniques caught up with it. 2015 looks set to be the year when it enters the mainstream for good.

Contractors

BYOD makes sense in a world where enterprises are decentralising everything from IT to workforces. An increasing number of white collar workers – just the people most likely to bring their own tablet into work – are independent contractors rather than employees. They’ll take their own devices with them from gig to gig, allowing companies to hire workers and working equipment at the same time rather than acquiring hardware.

Cloud

As data increasingly moves onto the cloud, public, private or hybrid, the privacy concerns over BYOD become less prominent. BYOD is a natural fit for cloud. And when everything from data to unified communications, calendaring to email, is cloud-based, the importance of the device used to access it recedes. Privacy concerns about sensitive company data stored on someone’s iPhone also recede, for the same reason.

Momentum

While companies figure out what to do about BYOD, it’s already happening. Many companies have adopted a ‘if they want to, let them’ attitude to worker-led BYOD adoption. The longer an ‘unofficial BYOD’ policy persists, the more likely a data breach is, but by the time it comes, it’s going to be almost impossible to get rid of BYOD.

Hybridization and Split Billing

Many companies are going to wind up with mixed BYOD/CYOD policies. Senior staff will be using BYOD while lower-level employees will be on a more secure CYOD setup. Data accessible to both via the cloud will mean the main division will be between high-ranking salespeople and C-level staff, and the rest of the company.

BYOD is so underreported that the chances are that it’s not just coming, but really is already here. And this year, it’s going to take over.

Peak App: Do We Really Need More?

03.20.15

The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ has achieved the ultimate in internet acceptance – it’s a hashtag and a meme. It’s also increasingly true – apps have proliferated at a massive rate. But does that mean there are now too many, and should you think of building one?

Apps are the lifeblood of mobile internet, and they’re among the fastest growing sectors anywhere in the economy, so it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people want to get in on the action. But it’s not always a good idea to become an app creator.

Apps are an explosively growing sector. Between January and November 2014, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and iOS App Store each grew by more than 50%. And it’s part of a long term trend going back to at least 2010. iOS App Store is worth 10 times what it was then, and in 2014, iOS App Store sold $10 bn worth of apps. Maybe that’s why the three big players now have 1, 024, 000 developers working on apps between them – over half of whom work at Google.

All of which sounds like a digital gold rush. Why wouldn’t you want some of that?

Apps take up 86% of a typical mobile web user’s online time. That sounds like another fabulous stat showing why apps are the market to get into. But it’s actually deceptive. It sounds like, if you’re an app maker, you’re competing for 86% of a mobile user’s attention.

The reality, though, is that if you don’t make games, which account for 32% of app time, you’ll struggle. Facebook and social messaging account for another 27% of app time, leaving 41% to play for. Twitter, Youtube and utilities absorb another 18%, leaving just 23% of app time actually in play. That’s spread across an average of 26 apps used on a monthly basis. If you’re one of them, you’re competing for less than a percent of the typical user’s time.

What will that competition look like? In an increasingly frantic marketplace, it will often look like financial outlay. Each app download costs the developer an average of $1.30, but some run far higher, as much as $70 in some cases. And half the users you acquire this way will be gone in just three months.

None of this is a reason not to build an app: some apps are massively successful, and plenty that aren’t are providing value for their users and profits for their developers. But it is a good reason to think about whether you need an app – and to reconsider search. Mobile search has been eclipsed by consideration of that 86% figure – but in fact, as we’ve just seen, a new app developer is competing for just 5% of the average mobile user’s internet time, as against the 14% accounted for by browsing.

5 Creakily Ancient, But Still Really Useful Office Tips

03.18.15

So Microsoft Office isn’t exactly a hot new app. In fact, you probably have it open in the background right now, right? And no doubt, you feel like over the past million years you’ve been using it, you’ve figured out how to use it pretty well. But there are shortcuts and tips that can save you hours of time – and they’re not always obvious, even to experienced users.

Microsoft Office is kind of like what John Lennon said about life: it’s the application you use while you’re busy making other plans. That means it isn’t very glamorous. But most people who sit down at a keyboard for a living will be using Office most days. Let’s look at some ways to cut corners, trim fat and boost performance. You can even use Office for things you’ve been opening other programs for!

1: Remove the Background From An Image

You can remove the background to an image in MS Office. Here’s how:
first, select the image and click the contextual Format tab in Picture Tools. Go to the Adjust options, select Color and choose Set Transparent Color. Then click on the image, and like that… no more background.

2: Select By Style

In MS Word, you can find text by selecting it by style. That’s especially useful if you want to check all your subheadings, titles and so on. Click the dialog launcher for the Styles group, then right-click the style you want to locate instances of. You’ll be asked to confirm that you want all instances of that style, and told how many there are, in the drop-down.

3: Close Docs, Not Apps

If you want to keep Word open when you close your last document, press [Ctrl]+[F4] when you close the last document. The document will close, but the application will remain open.

4: Quickly Select Rows and Columns in Excel

There’s a keyboard shortcut to quickly select rows and columns in Excel. To select the current column, do [Ctrl]+[spacebar]. To expand the rows, it’s [up arrow] and [down arrow], without releasing the [Ctrl] key. To select the current row, press [shift]+[spacebar]. To expand the columns, it’s [right arrow] and [left arrow] without releasing the [shift] key.

5: Nudge to Budge in PowerPoint

Sometimes you want to move an object in PowerPoint without dragging it. We’ve all had the problem where just picking it up to drag it moves it too far and sends you running to that old favorite among-st Office shortcuts, [Ctrl]+[Z]. Nudging can be the answer here. Select the object, then hold down [Ctrl] and press the appropriate arrow key. You’ll see the object move a tiny amount, enough to fine-tune your layout.

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