Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

5 Innovative Cloud Applications for Busy Entrepreneurs

The working world is a very different place to what it was ten or even five years ago. Over four million people choose to work from home, making cloud applications a must-have item for the small business owner.

Cloud-based apps ensure you’re fully connected when you’re on the road or grabbing a coffee with a client. Gone are the days of carrying around a hefty Filofax and stack of business cards. All you need nowadays is a smartphone and wifi connection. An estimated ninety per cent of internet users worldwide are already using the cloud for a variety of business uses.

We’ve curated the best five cloud applications for busy entrepreneurs who are looking to streamline their processes. Read on to find out which ones could suit your business.

CRM

Salesforce: Salesforce offers eight different customer management applications. The simple, easy to user interface streamlines customer details, making it easy to access history and other information. The data can be accessed from a variety of devices and on a choice of operating systems including Linux, Android, OSX and Windows.

You don’t need to download any hardware or software and video training is offered, so you can start working with Salesforce straight away.

Salesboom: You really have nothing to lose with Salesboom, as it offers a no obligation seven day free trial. Salesboom works with small, medium and large enterprises managing online lead management, customer service, support service and sales force automation. It works on a wide range of operating systems including Windows, Android, Apple iOS and OSX.

Finance

Sage One: Choose from three different Sage One cloudware services, including Cashbook, Accounts and Payroll. Sage One Cashbook is the ideal solution for entrepreneurs, helping you manage your accounts and taxes efficiently. Sage One Accounts is perfect for smaller businesses that may not have a dedicated accounts team, but still need a trusted solution for account management. Sage One Payroll is great for small and medium businesses to gain greater ownership of their pay roll system, but who may not have the resources to employ a pay roll department.

All Sage One systems are HMRC compliant, so you can have peace of mind that you’re doing everything by the book.

Outright: There are two different Outright solutions: Plus and Standard. Already over 100,000 people are using Outright to manage their accounts. Outright supports more than 4,000 credit cards and banks as well as eBay, PayPal, Freshbooks, Shoeboxed and Harvest. Both versions of Outright offer a free trial.

Conferencing

GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting is part of the GoTo series of packages that also offers GoToWebinar and GoToTraining.

GoToMeeting offers high definition video conferencing, enabling your employees to collaborate on projects from around the world or hold client meetings all without leaving the office.

You have the flexibility of recording any meetings and the innovative ‘Show My Screen’ feature allows users to pass control of keyboard and mouse over to correspondents, for speedy collaboration.

The flat fee pricing structure means GoToMeeting is easy to budget for, making it an integral part of your business.

Communications

Skype: There are seven different Skype packages available, including the free service, Unlimited Single Country, Unlimited Europe and Unlimited World. Choose the package to suit you based on your client needs and where you see your business growing.

Skype can be used on a smart TV, mobile phone, tablet or computer and lets you see the body language and facial expressions of the person you are talking to. Sometimes that can be more telling than the words they speak!

Storage

Box: Box offers four different options: Starter, Personal, Enterprise and Business. You can access your files, photos and any other data from your choice of device, including smartphone or laptop. Over ten million people trust Box to keep their files safe.

The Business and Enterprise solutions allow you to create and share folders across devices, so you can work on documents with colleagues and not have to worry about whose device you are saving your files too.

There’s no denying that life as an entrepreneur is hard. However, we are fortunate to live in an era where there are apps and programmes at our disposal to help us grow our businesses.

New apps and technology to make our lives easier are released daily, many of them with free trials. Make sure you give your business the best chance of success by taking advantage of these trial periods so you can find the best apps for your business.

Everything as a Service: 7 New Service Types in the Cloud

Remember when cloud computing first appeared, there were only three delivery models and easily represented as a pyramid, which you’ve probably seen repeatedly. At the top of the pyramid is the SaaS – Software as a Service, which includes all kinds of applications and services that companies rent in strict accordance with the requests. The next in the pyramid is the PaaS – Platform as a Service, which includes more complex hierarchical structures – operating systems, database management, development and testing environment. And in the bottom of the pyramid is the IaaS, or infrastructure as a service, which is in essence, a virtualized data center.

But if you try to systematize the solutions existing on the market today, you’ll not be able to represent them in the form of a pyramid. This is because the cloud service models are too diverse. Therefore, I suggest you should  just look into this diversity and to try to understand the basic models of aaS today.

Logging as a Service (LaaS)

Accordance with national standards and safety – these are the key concepts in business for many companies around the world. Most of them log almost every action (i.e., store in log files), as this is needed for a future audit of the company. Service providers create cloud services for these businesses, which are able to store and process logs for auditing purposes in any environment. Even if you have a distributed data center, LaaS application helps to centralize the logging process.

Recovery as a Service (RaaS)

The first thing to understand in relation to this model is that the Recovery as a Service is not a BaaS, i.e. it is not a backup service. If using a backup you save all your data in the cloud and have access only to a monolithic image of their data, then RaaS is a fundamentally different model. RaaS gives access to individual files and applications, allowing you to quickly recover a particular service (ex. call center) in the event of an accident. Therefore, you’ll sometimes see the letter D in the model name – DRaaS, which stands for disaster recovery. Advantages of this model are clear: companies do not have to store the whole data in the cloud entirely – only critical parts. Of course, it is much cheaper.

Storage as a Service (STaaS)

This model is designed for large business, as for big companies produce large amount of data, which has become too much to store internally. Storing data in the cloud, you can count on the dynamic storage, growing in proportions as your needs grow. For example, the solution EMC Atmos offers storage platforms, object-based approach that enables users to access data, organize and archive them on a large scale. Strictly speaking, the basic idea of STaaS is the creation of a unified platform for data management.

Backend as a Service (BaaS)

Two years ago, the market of Backend as a Service was estimated at $ 216.5 million. This figure has increased significantly. What is BaaS? Imagine that your company develops applications that will run in the cloud. These applications need backend, i.e. user management, notifications, integration with social networks. Using BaaS, developers can quickly get all the necessary backend and platform for data storage and processing of applications. And considering that the mobile and cloud-based applications are gaining momentum, BaaS market will only grow in the near future.

Network as a Service (NaaS)

More and more workload previously taking place only within the office is moving to the cloud now. And all these new types of services, of course, put forward specific requirements on the network infrastructure. You can use the cloud VPN or engage in mobile virtualization – you will definitely need NaaS. With this type of service you can dynamically control the network load.

API as a Service (APIaaS)

Cloud applications have triggered a real boom of API. Along with their growing numbers, urgent need for interaction of these applications has arisen. But instead of writing your own API, why not use an existing service? The basic idea of such services is to create a powerful platform for the creation, storage and management of all kinds of API. These platforms are already appearing on the market.

Security as a Service (SECaaS)

Today, when companies are developing in the cloud, the cloud security becomes a very interesting business. Companies that provide their customers with cloud services based on a subscription model, are required to pledge protection in this model. This can be a cloud antivirus service or a service to detect threats. Anyway, the idea of SECaaS is to create proactive protection cloud environment.

The Cabinet vs the Cloud: Why You Need to Get Out of the IT Closet

Setting up a full computing system in an office can be pricey, especially for small businesses, which are always looking at ways to save money and space. If you’re fed up with paying endless IT costs, barricading your IT closet and shunning the ‘traditional’ way of doing things won’t necessarily do your business any harm thanks to the growing popularity and improving security of the Cloud, which is fast becoming a more viable means of hosting and managing data for small companies with big ideas.

Why are so many businesses still storing their systems in the IT ‘cabinet’?

Despite the many benefits to migrating to the Cloud, many people are still skeptical. It’s understandable. Sending your data to third parties and losing an element of control is off-putting, especially if you need to make sure you comply with all those pesky data protection laws. But this really shouldn’t concern you too much. These companies look after masses of data, and pride themselves on their multi-layer, military-grade encryption (for those who are interested, a more detailed explanation of what is meant by ‘military grade’ can be found here).

With the sophisticated security systems they have in place, they should do a better job of looking after your data then you would.

The real question is, why would you want to store your valuable company data in what is essentially a dark corner or cupboard in the office when your information will, in most cases, be much more secure sitting behind multiple layers of impossible-to-crack coding in the Cloud?

The cost-saving benefits offered by the Cloud

Few small businesses are blessed with the sums of money sufficient to support expensive hardware and software licenses. Just a few years ago, these budgetary restrictions might have stopped some businesses from ever starting up. At the very least, small enterprises would have had to dedicate whole rooms to servers that housed their data and powered their company. These units filled up valuable office space and incurred plenty of budget-draining servicing and maintenance costs.

The Cloud works differently. You don’t need to invest in expensive hardware to run ‘cloudware’ (a name commonly given to software that is hosted and run on a remote server). In many cases, cloudware providers won’t charge an initial start-up fee – and if they do, it’s likely to be minimal. Instead, businesses pay a far more manageable monthly subscription, saving them large sums of money, particularly in those all-important early days.

According to a recent Hurwitz white paper, the total cost of ownership for cloud-based services versus those hosted on-premise was 55% lower; add to this the fact that there are no infrastructure costs involved in running applications in the Cloud, and the potential savings really begin to stack up.

Although after a while a monthly subscription fee will eventually overtake the one-off bulk fee you’d normally pay for on-site computing but even then running costs are surprisingly high for non-Cloud services. And the convenience and scalability offered by working in the Cloud more than justifies the long-term cost: all software updates will be taken care of, you won’t need to pay to have any faulty gear replaced, and, should you want to cancel or upgrade your package, this can usually be done online with minimal hassle. Put simply, cloudware is a great choice if you want to safeguard your business against any obstacles or surprise expansions it may encounter as it grows.

Finding a compromise

For those who, even after working their way through our very convincing argument for cloud adoption, still have their concerns, this whitepaper from GFI.com is worth a read. The report suggests a ‘hybrid’ halfway home between on-premise and the cloud; a model which maximizes the strengths of both systems and presents minimal risk.

The point reiterated by this piece is that decision makers need to adapt their system to fit the needs of their business. Indeed, it’s crucial that companies aren’t swayed by trends and are not tempted to invest in cloudware purely because it’s seen as the ‘thing to do’.

Finding the right solution for your business

Moving to the Cloud is a big step, so all plans need to be strategically thought through. This is no time for knee-jerk decisions. You’ll reap more rewards in the long term if you can accurately pinpoint the area of your business that will be the most improved by a new cloud-based system, then expand your adoption from there on in.

In a nutshell, don’t blindly transfer over to the Cloud for the sake of cutting costs – make the move count.

Ultimately, the cost and deliverance benefits of moving to the Cloud should outweigh the cons, and quite simply the hassle, of setting up or retaining an on-site computing system and continuing to bury your data in your dusty, and somewhat dated, IT cabinet.

Cloud Computing: Will Amazon Web Services Retain Its Top Position In Cloud?

The last week of July witnessed Chinese internet firm Alibaba investing US$1 billion in its cloud computing division Aliyun. It had recently expressed a wish to beat Amazon in the cloud services business. Though Alibaba has a long road to tread, it is not the only competitor that Amazon has. Should the latter be worried about its future in the cloud services market.

Latest Developments in Cloud Computing Market: Security Emerges as Key Issue

Amazon Web Services has been a revenue driver for Amazon in the last two quarters. The e-commerce giant’s cloud business has led it to earn handsome quarterly profits. However, its arch rivals in the cloud services market have recently made some smart moves to bolster their businesses.

  • Microsoft plans to buy Israeli cloud-security firm Adallom: If Microsoft buys Adallom Inc. for a whopping US$320 million, it would ensure the expansion of the technology giant’s cyber-security-focused operations in Israel. Adallom offers services aimed to ensure the security of the cloud-based applications such as Google’s Google Apps, Microsoft’s Office 365, and the applications developed by Service Now Inc., and Salesforce.com Inc. By monitoring the use of cloud application by individual employees, Adallom’s services point out the anomalies as possible security breaches. The Israeli firm has an envious list of clients that includes LinkedIn, NetFlix, and SAP SE.
  • IBM gains FedRAMP approval for cloud services: IBM’s cloud-based MaaS360 is the first enterprise mobility management solution to meet all the stringent security requirements of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) Joint Authorization Board. MaaS360 offers advanced security by allowing organizations to monitor and control smartphones, tablets, PCS, and other personally-owned devices.
  • Google Offers ‘Encryption Keys’: To address the security issue, Google Compute Engine is offering a “bring your own encryption keys” feature in trial form. Though GCE already supports the AES-256-bit encryption, the current feature will let users control the keys to access data. Google has mentioned that no one would be able to access the data without obtaining access to the encryption keys.

Interestingly, Amazon Web Services had already raised the bar last year when it announced BYO encryption keys for its S3 storage service. Also, the company offers Cloud HSM to allow customers to manage their own keys.

How Does Amazon Web Services Manage to Retain Top Position in Cloud Services Market?

Amid the price war between the top cloud service providers, aggressive pricing has been the key word for Amazon to manage its stronghold in the cloud services market. Recently, Amazon Web Services massively slashed prices by 28% – 51% for its various services. Though this has made investors worry about the company’s long-term profitability, it has helped Amazon register revenue worth US$1.57 billion from its cloud services arm in the first quarter of this year.

Aggressive pricing has also helped Amazon to expand its clientele across different geographical regions. Amazon Web Services has recently opened its office in Johannesburg to tap the expanding customer base in South Africa. Adcorp and Medscheme are some of the established clients of Amazon’s cloud services in the region.

What Does the Future Hold for Amazon’s Cloud Services?

Last week of August saw Amazon and Microsoft winning a huge contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), led by IT consultant CSC. The FAA is in the process of shrinking its data centers and moving data to both Amazon’s cloud Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s cloud, Azure. This contract might lead to new opportunities for Amazon to offer its cloud services to other government agencies.

However, a growing number of players in the cloud services market will threaten the top position enjoyed by Amazon Web Services in the market so far. Further price cuts will definitely affect the company’s profitability goals in the future. Also, potential customers are increasingly becoming reluctant to outsource their operations to cloud service providers due to security threats. Under these circumstances, Amazon has to come up with innovations and strategies to protect its stronghold in the cloud services market.

Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook: Could These 5 Gadgets Lead to a Mini Cooking Revolution?

OK, so I have to start this off with something of a confession; as much as it pains me to admit, I am a terrible cook. Despite the fact that I have lived in England for most of my life, I am still incredibly proud of the fact that I am French born, and obviously not being able to cook causes me a great deal of embarrassment. This is especially the case when I enthusiastically inform strangers where I was born and they then jokingly invite themselves round for dinner as only the British are able to do.

Luckily for those who are as gastronomically-challenged as myself, there has been an array of gadgets that have entered the market recently. These have taken my fancy so much recently that they have galvanised my intention of finally being able to cook something other than the English speciality of ‘beans on toast’. While being able to master Coq au Vin or embark on creating my own brand of luxury biscuits may still be several years in the future, there are certainly enough items out of there to assist me in my foray into the world of culinary delights.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

If you are like me and struggle to even cook a bacon sandwich, I am sure that you will agree that cooking meat is one of the most challenging things that you can do. Luckily for us, there is a man who has the intention of helping us woo anyone with our cooking skills, while at the same time helping keep off those troublesome calories from finding a new home around our waists.

Yes that’s right, I’m talking about George Foreman’s revolutionary range of electric grill plates.

Slice It Up

While I can just about cut up a carrot adequately enough into circles of varying thicknesses, which is literally about it, I struggle to do much else. That is until I found this handy little slicer that even features a julienne blade, which enables me to fool even the most expert of cooks that I actually have a degree of French flair when it comes to cooking. Not only will you ensure that you don’t end up cutting off half of your finger, you will impress everyone who gets the privilege of sampling your cooking. One word of advice though, you will need to think about buying something to carry this nifty little friend around in just in case you end up being asked to chop vegetables by others!

Can’t Cook? Now You Can!

This is exactly what you have been waiting for! I guarantee that this will change your life in more ways than you can imagine. This really is a piece of beauty and is perfect if you struggle to keep tabs on more than one pot when cooking. Basically the Stone Microwave cooker prepares all of your main courses and side dishes all together under one lid in a microwave. What’s more, there is also a handy recipe blog if you need inspiration!

Now You Can Rest Easy

If you are like me and have spent several hours in A & E after burning your hand badly, then you will appreciate just how valuable the Snug is. In my defence, I didn’t quite realise just how hot a wooden spoon could get, and that is where the Snug becomes invaluable. This nifty gadget holds your spoon in place on the side of the pan while you are cooking and is worth every penny.

It Must Be Love, Love, Love

To conclude I am delighted to be able to bring your attention to a gadget which combines both my English and French tastes in food. Not only that, it also enables me to impress a lucky lady, whether I am cooking a fried-egg sandwich or a croque madame. Please do not think of me as something of a lothario, I actually consider myself to be quite the opposite. As you can see, these heart-shaped-eggs will help get you in your belle’s good books, while at the same time making her believe that it doesn’t take you 6 attempt to crack an egg!

Convert FAT32 to NTFS Without Formatting or Losing Data

You have a flash drive or probably an external hard drive that currently has FAT32 file system and you want to change it to NTFS, because FAT32 does not support handling large files (over 4GB) or it is just simply old for your taste but there is just one problem, you don’t want to lose your saved data. This article is for you then as it explains exactly how you can achieve seamless transition from FAT to NTFS without involving any data loss.

While it is generally recommended to use the NTFS file system because of its stability, security and lesser defragmentation time, most of us end up using FAT32 because that is what most disks are preformatted with. Unless, we notice the “Not enough disk space error” despite disk space being available, we don’t bother to change the file system. Moreover, most of us don’t change it because of the risk of losing important data and lack of time (read laziness). As Microsoft was aware of this scenario, they added a capability in the command prompt to overcome this by executing a simple command. There are many software that support this too but the Convert command is one of the easiest ways to do so. Follow the steps below to know how:-

Important: While this method works perfectly, I would still advise you to backup your data in case anything goes wrong.

FAT 32 to NTFS Conversion Steps

1) Go to Computer, and note the name of the drive whose file system you wish to convert.
2) Click on Start.
3) Type cmd in the search bar if you use Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows Vista. If you use Windows XP, click on Run and then execute cmd.
4) Execute “chkdsk h: /f ” (without quotes) where H is the letter of the drive to undergo conversion. This checks the drive for errors and fixes them automatically.
5) Execute “Convert H: /FS:NTFS” (without quotes). H is again the letter of the drive to be converted.
6) The command prompt will start the conversion process and after a few minutes, CMD will say that conversion was successful.
7) You can check it in the properties of the drive through right click<Properties.

This command can also be used to convert FAT16 disks and works on Windows 8, Windows 8.1,Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista. I converted my flash drive’s file system using these steps and it worked flawlessly. It is interesting to note that this method cannot be used to reconvert NTFS file system back to FAT32. To reconvert back to FAT32, you will need to format the entire drive which will definitely cause data loss.

How Can You Find Faster Broadband Options for Your Business?

n Scotland, like the rest of the UK, a number of people are asking, ‘How do I find the fastest broadband in my area?’. Fortunately the chances of having access to broadband itself are high, with only one percent of the Scottish population not able to receive the service. However due to lacking infrastructure in some parts of the country, a large proportion of the population are currently unable to embrace the next generation of online access, the world of superfast broadband.

Improving the Superfast Broadband Scotland Has to Offer

New technology takes a long time to weave its way into people’s homes and businesses. It usually starts with pioneer buyers that purchase new technology at high prices. As the technology improves and comes down in price, we see it more and more. A great example, of course, is mobile phones. People originally bought expensive mobile phones the size of small bricks, and now we are at the point where there are more mobile devices than people in the world.

The UK government are 100% behind fibre technology, and are currently helping businesses realise the increased efficiencies of superfast broadband through the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme. For companies eligible for the £3,000 grant, upgrading business broadband no longer has to be delayed or postponed until the price falls. Thanks to the UK Government’s focus on it, we are already seeing significant improvements in the superfast broadband Scotland has to offer, resulting in over 220,000 Scottish homes and businesses able to access its increased speeds and benefits. However, the government is now warning that the £40m broadband grant scheme is rapidly running out due to a stampede from businesses looking to capitalise on the opportunity to install superfast broadband. Our advice? Take advantage of the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme while you still can.

Where to Find Your Broadband Options

There are lots of broadband comparison sites for businesses but they have a limited range of options when compared to business-to-business negotiation with a telecommunications company and we wouldn’t recommend them. Right now, the most important site for a business to check is https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/ to find out if your business is eligible for a Connection Voucher. Once you know that your business is in a fibre broadband grant eligible postcode, the next logical step would be to talk to a local supplier for advice before leaping into any new business broadband contract. And don’t worry if your post code isn’t eligible for a Connection Voucher, you could still benefit from superfast broadband.

Why Bother With Superfast Broadband?

“For many businesses across Scotland and the UK, high speed broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.” said Danny Alexander, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, when he spoke in Glasgow recently on the subject. The governments increased investment in the broadband voucher scheme shows that it understands its importance to our economy, which is vital due to the number of benefits which it brings our businesses.

Significant operational savings can be made due to the increased business efficiency and productivity benefits that superfast broadband provide. This is especially true if you are one of the many companies using the cloud for data storage, or if you use cloud tools for shared workspaces / online collaborations. Sending, receiving and uploading files can now be carried out in a fraction of the time.

With improved broadband speeds you can conduct higher quality conference calling and media-intensive two-way communication with customers and clients, allowing you to enter new markets and save on transportation costs and the time staff are out the office. It means you can offer faster responses, less lag, and even a more sophisticated customer-relationship-management (CRM) system. You can even conference with your suppliers and staff via video messages whilst still conducting your internet heavy business. Even peak-time traffic shouldn’t affect your service, as long as you have a good host server and service relating to your business activities.

Have a look at the superfast broadband (FTTC) area of our site to view more benefits as well as further information on superfast broadband.

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