Posts Tagged ‘technology’

How is Technology Taking Over a Bookkeeper’s Job?

There are certainly some businesses which couldn’t help but be conservative when it comes to accounting and bookkeeping services, which is sad to say, leaving them in the Jurassic era. Business owners should never be intimidated with advances in accounting technology. No matter how many years your business stood using traditional methods, it’s about time you consider and embrace that big technological change for better productivity and profit.

Intelligent Data Entry

Yes, the human mind is responsible for developing technology. However, we’re only humans and we’re not as perfect as these online tools were programmed to be. Online accounting tools such as Quickbooks has the capabilities of downloading bank transactions directly, organising payrolls, and providing tax reports with just one click. Shoeboxed can organise and archive receipts with great ease. Xero can do automatic bank reconciliation and has the feature of online invoicing so you can collect payments from your customers and get paid faster. The main point is that these tools make calculations easier and keep everything in one place, saving you time, energy, and money. All information is accessible 24/7, yet highly reliable for confidentiality.

Businesses Should Keep Up with the Times

During this time of rapid technological evolution, people want products and services FAST. Time is of the essence to everyone, so whoever can provide clients with quality goods and services in the least amount of time, wins. How can you provide for your clients when you spend too much time on manual accounting? The competition is growing every day and your business needs to keep up, gradually at least, or else you’ll lose your clients to your competitors which possibly leads to a slow death of your business.

The Bookkeeper’s New Role

The technological advances in the accounting world would not necessarily mean the elimination of a bookkeeper. The bookkeeper’s job now is not limited to clerical data entry; because they are familiar with the financial data flow of your business, they can now assist you in interpreting the real VALUE from your financial information and how it affects your business. You can now make sound decisions on how to move forward with your business or what expenses to trim.

Benefits for the Business

Overall, there are so many great advantages of utilising technology for accounting. The paperless method takes out the hassle of mailing and sorting. All documents are neatly organised and shared in one space. Data entry is way easier and there’s less probability for miscalculations. And you can even save more time as the tools can help you calculate taxes, payrolls, and other aspects of your business with just a few clicks. How great is that!

Your bookkeeper, however, is still the greatest ‘tool’ that you have. They are trained not just to do clerical entries, but also to track the flow of finances, analyse, and interpret all your financial information. They can help you make sound decisions and help you plan your business move. By succumbing to the advances of accounting technology, you are now able to free up more time to spend on generating more customers and making your business grow.

Putting the Cart Before the Smart: 4 Ways to Bend Technology to Your Favor

 

The smart cart has been dumbed down.

More than a decade ago, retail pundits were practically breathless over the possibilities of magical smart carts that would transform the customer experience. In reality, they were putting the cart before the smart.

While the path of the American shopping cart has been a storied one, its most compelling chapters may just be arriving now, through beacon technology and on-demand home ordering. Still, with everyone holding their own little smart carts in their hands in the forms of smartphones, the key for retailers is not making the cart – or phone – smarter, but designing the technology they deploy with the shopper experience in mind.

Those experiential opportunities are increasingly plentiful. Nearly 70 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to find a brand or product before they go grocery shopping, while 86 percent use their devices to plan their shopping trips, according to research by NinthDecimal, a mobile intelligence consultant. Almost 60 percent of consumers use their phones while grocery shopping.

Still, while the possibilities are plentiful, they are not without limit, as a look into the fleeting opportunities of the grocery cart reveal.

A rolling history

The first grocery carts rolled into the aisles of Piggly Wiggly stores almost 80 years ago. In less than four years, entire supermarkets were being planned around them, with wider aisles and larger checkout counters to accommodate the increased amount of products people were buying. One could credit the shopping cart for 64-ounce detergent packages, and 16-roll toilet paper bundles.

Over the years, the basic design of the shopping cart has not much changed, though its technology – or technological potential – has. From tracers that showed grocers how we shopped to LCD screens that could map out the store and alert us to sales, the cart had been earmarked as a central device for improving the shopping trip. Consider this excerpt from a 2003 USA Today story:

“The smart shopping cart looks like a normal one except for an interactive screen and scanner mounted near the shopper. Once the shopper swipes his store card, his shopping history is available for all kinds of purposes, from presenting a suggested shopping list to alerting him to discounts or reminding him about perishables purchased a month ago.”

Sound familiar? It turns out that hitching the customer experience to the shopping cart is expensive. Instead we have smartphones doing much of that work for us, pretty affordably. They enable beacon technology that can identify a shopper in close range of a specific product, map out a store and deliver a host of other in-the-aisle features.

A central problem remains, however: Retailers have yet to enable the phones to deliver the kinds of relevant experiences that elevate the task of grocery shopping from featureless to fun.

New shopping list

Can a phone, regardless of its smarts, transform the task of selecting just-the-right banana bunch and bone-in chicken breasts into something one can look forward to? The resolution exists not in how much technology a shopper really needs to get the job done, but in what specific experiences the technology can deliver to make the job a pleasure.

At a time when grocers are competing with drug stores, gas stations, mass merchants, online merchants and even some department stores for the grocery dollar, technology alone will not give the supermarket an edge.

However, all the pieces are there to reshape the in-aisle encounter to an event that includes an element of happy surprise. It is up to grocery retailers to build the infrastructure and test what will bring this journey to fruition. My simple suggestions:

Learn how to connect: Let’s all assume we can bypass the smart cart and go straight for the smartphone. How will you use it to connect with the customer in a way that is personally relevant? Beacons are popular, but note that in-store promotions do not necessarily translate to a happy experience, especially if the shopper is in a hurry. Perhaps a greeting at the beginning of the trip that asks, “What brings you here today?” can be used to inform the rest of the trip communications.

Be brand true: A grocer’s personal shopper communications, whether by smartphone or cashier, should hinge on its brand promise, mission and why its shoppers choose that brand. Once this is determined, the company can build a platform so its specially appointed team can hear customers in real time and then craft appropriate experiences to reinforce the brand promise.

Pass it on: A customer message that sits with the marketing team is a message in a vacuum. By developing an in-house system for sharing what the customer says throughout the organization, it can discover unexpected potential in its marketing efforts, product placement and customer interests.

Deliver: As with any experience-enhancing endeavor, the company should ensure it has the budget to deliver on the initiative’s promise. It sounds simple, but sometimes customer reaction differs from what we might expect. A recent case in point involves British grocery chain Waitrose, which offered free coffee or tea to its myWaitrose loyalty members, and ended up getting hordes of free drinkers who bought no groceries – irritating lots of paying customers.

No cart, or phone, can outsmart that sort of oversight.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com, where Bryan serves as a retail contributor. You can view the original story here.

Is OpenStack Ready for Enterprises?

Currently there is a lot of talk justifiably about OpenStack because Enterprises, Telco Providers and SaaS vendors are all looking for an open source based Cloud OS stack alternative for their clouds. The early adopters in the hype cycle have already started deploying it, but the real question is whether OpenStack is ready for Enterprises to run their business critical applications on it. Before I answer this question, I will briefly describe what OpenStack is and will then give my opinion about OpenStack readiness.

OpenStack is a conglomeration of a number of distributed services like Compute (Nova), Network (Neutron), Storage (Cinder, Manila, Swift), GUI (Horizon), Monitoring (Ceilometer), Database (Trove) etc that together represent a Cloud OS. Companies such as HP, RedHat, Cisco, EMC, Mirantis are packaging these various services into distributions (similar to what RedHat does for Linux) and are providing support services.  In some cases these companies are also providing their own public clouds that are based on OpenStack.  For many of the current OpenStack services, the publically available code is not enterprise ready, and in these cases, vendors are augmenting the open source code with their own proprietary plugins. In essence, these companies are trying to become the private data center infra-structure provider of choice and are projecting themselves as the single neck to choke.

OpenStack definitely has momentum because of the amount of money big companies like Cisco, HP, EMC, Huawei and the Telco providers are ploughing into it. The attendance at the OpenStack conferences is steadily increasing every 6 months and a lot of new functionality is being delivered in each new OpenStack release (every 6 months).  It is safe to say that currently OpenStack seems to be having more momentum than other open source based cloud stacks like CloudStack.

However, here are my thoughts on what needs to be done in order for OpenStack to really become main-stream:

  • Too many Networking Initiatives: Currently, there are way too many networking initiatives like Neutron, OpenDaylight, ETSI-NFV, OP-NFV, ONF, and ONOS that at the end of the day are trying to provide a framework for SDN, NFV and Cloud OS networking. Some of these initiatives are being driven by networking vendors and others are being driven by Telco providers. Dust still has to settle with respect to which ones will gain traction. OpenStack networking community cannot do everything on its own, and they need to strategically adopt code bases/designs from these other standards groups.
  • Too many disparate services: Linux was successful because Linus Torvalds ensured that there was a single cohesive vision for the Linux Kernel. Currently, in OpenStack, there are many developer cliques that are driving the different OpenStack components. Hence, currently there is a lack of a cohesive vision with respect to the development of the features for these various OpenStack services. At Google, Microsoft and Amazon, there is a single individual whose neck is on the line for providing a set of cohesive cloud services. Thus, there is a need for a benevolent dictator in the OpenStack community.
  • AWS APIs Rule:  Many graduating students are getting their training in building applications using the Amazon AWS APIs because many universities have started letting their undergraduate students do their projects on AWS due to agility and cost reasons. Since OpenStack is playing catchup with AWS, it is critical for OpenStack to mimic AWS APIs in order to make it easier for new graduating students to code to OpenStack APIs.  So far Amazon has not started any litigation against OpenStack, and thus, copying AWS APIs is a positive strategy to pursue.
  • Difficult to Deploy and maintain:  Most of the enterprises that have successfully deployed OpenStack have either employed an army of consultants or are large government agencies with an army of internal hackers/developers. Furthermore, since the APIs/content is changing with every release of OpenStack, it requires expensive full-time technically savvy people to constantly maintain OpenStack deployments.

In conclusion, I want people to have an open source alternative in the Cloud OS space in order for people to have choice and also a vehicle to innovate. I want to see the OpenStack initiative succeed, and that is why I am highlighting the issues that I want to see get addressed.

Equinix Programmable Network (EPN): A Dynamic Foundation for Multi-cloud

Cloud computing is here to stay. Most enterprise CIOs I speak with are turning to the cloud to increase business agility and enable elasticity for both their application portfolios and business processes. And, in almost all cases, they are adopting more than one cloud platform to support their business applications – applications that require multiple services that run on multiple clouds. This practice of multi-cloud, multi-platform deployments addresses the unique requirements of these business applications, while also providing better value via higher availability and scale than single cloud deployments.

Yet, the move to this multi-cloud architecture can be hindered by the time and effort it takes to provision individual ports and connections to each cloud platform – often measured in weeks, not the seconds that are required to be truly agile. We designed the Equinix Cloud Exchange specifically to meet these provisioning needs and enable customers to connect to multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) either via colocating in an Equinix data center, or through their choice of network services providers (NSPs) through a single port connection.

At the heart of Equinix Cloud Exchange is the Equinix Programmable Network (EPN), the foundational layer that enables this.  EPN takes a software-defined networking (SDN) approach and allows customers to self-provision these connections instantaneously. It’s highly scalable, provides ease of management via automation and ensures customers can maintain a vendor-neutral strategy.

As we continue to develop the EPN platform, we are ensuring that the core of the EPN software adheres to the following principles:

  • Agility and Management at Scale: Manually provisioning, monitoring and trouble-shooting network connections isn’t practical in an agile, multi-cloud era, in which CSPs, NSPs and cloud integrators deal with thousands of enterprises. EPN allows users to control network service management via a proven set of APIs that allow customers to self-provision multiple new connections instantaneously. Equinix Cloud Exchange is able to manage at scale because EPN has been architected to leverage an SDN-based approach, where users specify their requirements in high-level service-based terms and EPN automates the underlying low-level network management operations.
  • Modular Architecture: EPN employs a modular, service-based architecture through which new services are described via high-level YANG language models. Today, EPN provides Layer 2 connection management, virtual local area network (VLAN) management and link aggregation services. However, its modular architecture makes it easy for EPN to roll out new services in future releases at higher Open System Interconnection (OSI) networking layers and also to orchestrate third-party network management services.
  • Multi-Cloud Awareness: From the very beginning, EPN has been designed to operate in a multi-cloud environment. Thus, it uses the notion of “transactions” to configure distributed resources (e.g. switches) across multiple clouds as a single atomic operation.
  • Vendor Neutrality: EPN is a logically centralized SDN subsystem that is hardware vendor-agnostic. The SDN subsystem abstracts the underlying network topology. This allows both cloud providers and enterprises using EPN to seamlessly deploy switches from multiple vendors and maintain a vendor-neutral strategy.

In sum, just as Equinix has grown to become a leader in providing interconnectivity solutions to Enterprises and NSPs, we are also leading the cloud interconnectivity industry through the capabilities of Equinix Cloud Exchange.  Equinix Cloud Exchange is a multi-cloud interconnectivity solution that satisfies the high performance, availability and security requirements of today’s CIOs.  With Equinix Programmable Network (EPN) at its core, it provides us with a software-defined, next-generation network management platform. EPN and Cloud Exchange put Equinix, its customers and its partners squarely at the forefront of the cloud industry.

Everyone is Talking about Docker Containers

Recently at the Google Cloud Platform Live, Amazon re:Invent, VMWare VWorld and at the OpenStack conference, everyone was talking about Docker containers. Even Microsoft has recently announced that it will provide support in the Windows operating system for Docker containers.  In this blog I will briefly talk about what is Docker, why is there so much excitement about it, and my take on how this development offers more choices to the end customers.

Simply put, Docker is an application level container mechanism. The main difference between a Docker container and a Virtual Machine container is that a Docker container is a lighter weight container that does not package the guest OS inside it, whereas, a Virtual Machine container is a heavier container that packages a guest OS. Thus, multiple Docker containers share the same underlying OS, whereas, each VM container has its own guest OS.  The Docker container paradigm allows one to have stateless application level compute containers, and it also allows for the storing of the persistent state of an application in a separate Docker storage container that can be shared across multiple Docker application containers.

In addition to a Docker container, one also needs a container orchestrator to move a Docker container between the nodes in a cluster, and eventually, across clouds. Google and Amazon are both supporting competing Docker container orchestrator initiatives. Google is putting its weight behind the Kubernetes open source initiative, and Amazon has recently announced the EC2 Container Service.  Cisco and VMWare are also planning to provide support for Docker containers in their multi-cloud initiatives such as InterCloud and vCloud Air.

The reason why there is so much excitement about Docker containers is because of the light-weight nature of these containers one can pack more Docker containers on to a physical server than VM containers.  Thus, this leads to higher resource utilization. Docker containers also allow for the seamless movement of applications across physical machines regardless of the hypervisors running on those physical machines. Eventually, the goal of the Docker paradigm is to allow developers to specify the infra-structure level policies with respect to performance, disaster recovery, security etc. at the Docker container level, and for the orchestrator to interpret these policies and take the necessary actions. This key development gives more control to the application developer with respect to the underlying infra-structure.

In addition to the above mentioned benefits, I am particularly excited about the following additional benefit which I think has not been talked about much in the community. Currently, it is not easy for a customer to easily move the entire state of their application across the different IaaS vendors because each of the IaaS vendors uses a different hypervisor or container mechanism. Thus, in future, if applications are architected into a combination of stateless application compute Docker containers, and stateful Docker storage containers, then this gives an application the freedom to move the stateless compute containers across the different IaaS providers, while keeping the stateful storage containers in a common location such as an Equinix datacenter that can be efficiently accessed from all of the IaaS vendors’ infra-structure.

Furthermore, this also allows various storage and database vendors (both SQL and NoSQL) to host their storage/database as a service in the Equinix datacenter. The net winner out of this entire paradigm shift will be the customers because they will be able to build their distributed multi-cloud applications by leveraging the services across multiple IaaS vendors while maintaining the stateful components of their applications in a common location like the Equinix datacenter. I am a strong believer in giving more choices to the customers, and whenever, there is a paradigm like the Docker containers, that allows customers to separately shop for compute and storage services, I am all in favor of it.

The Cloud Means (Agile, Scalable, Productive) Business

It’s been 385 years to the month since Gov. John Winthrop founded and named “Boston,” a hilly peninsula that had been settled earlier in 1630 by his fellow Puritans. This week, that historic U.S. city becomes a destination for people looking for insight into the cloud, a technology that’s reshaping the history of the digital world. 

The 2015 “Cloud Means Business” conference is sponsored by Cloud Partners and is being held in Boston from Sept. 16 – 18. Equinix will be there, along with a host of our partners.

As its title suggests, the conference will focus on the cloud’s impact on business, with its opening session specifically looking at how new technologies – including software-defined networking and the Internet of Things – are redefining the cloud marketplace. As we gear up for the Boston conference, our mind is focused on how these technologies will be impacting what companies will be doing in the cloud.

The current and future impact of cloud on the enterprise is well-documented, including in the recent report by Oxford Economics, “The Cloud Grows Up.” The report indicated that nearly 70% of businesses surveyed plan to make “moderate-to-heavy” cloud investments over the next three years. Other findings with implications for the cloud marketplace:

  • 61% of survey respondents expected their companies to have developed new products or services via the cloud within three years, up from 26% that had done so.
  • 51% expected to have developed new lines of business via the cloud in three years, compared to 28% that had done so.
  • 50% expected to have entered new markets in three years, compared to 40% that had done so.

Given the pace of cloud change in the past three years, the cloud marketplace three years from now could look nothing like what we can conceive today. But the two technologies singled out by conference organizers will play a huge role in getting us from now to whatever’s next.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN): SDN’s huge advantage is that it frees the enterprise to shift network control from physical network devices it has to “touch” and maintain (i.e. switches, routers) onto software applications that allow centralized, end-to-end network provisioning and visibility. SDN is at the heart of the kind of cloud services and infrastructures that are becoming less a feature of this interconnected era and more a necessity to operate in it.

That’s because business is changing to require instant, simultaneous interconnection between cloud partners to reach increasingly mobile end users at anytime, anywhere, on any device. That kind of agility can’t happen without a dynamic, software-based architecture. Equinix already offers this capability with our Cloud Exchange, which at its core, uses SDN within the Equinix Programmable Network.

Internet of Things (IoT): A lot of the excitement about the IoT centers around the new business insights it can offer. Until now, we’ve never had sensors on deep sea ships, for instance, spilling out information about weather changes, ocean currents, cargo conditions, so we’ve never had a chance to see the innovations and efficiencies that information might lead to. IBM midmarket business general manager John Mason calls data “the new natural resource.” But this resource can’t exist without the cloud, and it can’t be mined without the cloud, so the growing significance of the IoT in the cloud marketplace is clear – for businesses of every size.

“I think eventually every business has to have somewhere in its portfolio and go-to-market approach a range of cloud services,” Mason told Forbes.

At Equinix, we agree with the folks in Boston that “cloud means business.” Click the link to learn more about how our cloud infrastructure solutions can help the enterprise do business.

Easy Ways to Integrate Technology into Classroom Routines

Many academic institutions now take advantage of technology to make the educational process a lot more effective and interesting. The access to the internet has really made it easier for students to learn new things and even visit sites like Payforessayonline.com where they can pay for essay online and get comprehensive writing assistance.

Educational experts are of the view that technology can be even more effective when integrated into the learning experience rather than being used separately. Many schools have already realized it and are actively taking measures to integrate technology into the curriculum. Of course, there are challenges to overcome. For instance, it is difficult to find ways to use technology and help students find time from core educational activities to use it. Many teachers don’t have enough personal experience with technology, so they find it difficult to incorporate technology-based projects and activities into the curriculum.

Here are some easy ways in which teachers can get familiar with technology and integrate it into classroom routines.

Start Using an Online Weather Forecast

Instead of simply talking about the date and local weather, elementary grade teachers can visit a site like The Weather Channel, UM Weather, or USA Today Weather to explain things better.

Add URLs in Monthly Calendar

Teachers can find a printable and editable coloring calendar that they can distribute among their students with some URLs of a few sites talking about specific months events. A September calendar can have links to sites about Grandparents’ Day, Labor Day, and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Access Online Weather Forecast in Different Languages

Teachers can start foreign language classes with a discussion about the date and weather and get information online in German, French, Spanish, and other languages.

Find Mathematics Problems Online

Teachers can integrate technology into classroom by adding a weekly mathematics challenge to their math lessons. Many online forums offer math problems in several categories that teachers can use.

Write a URL instead of a Quote

Teachers can also start their class by providing a URL instead of writing a quote on the chalkboard. They can encourage students to check those URLs and then discuss them. Similarly, they can also include an online word in students’ daily activities to build their vocabulary.

Make History Interesting

History can be a boring subject, but teachers can help students travel back in time by sharing URLs to specific historic places and events.

Make Use of Online Work Sheets

One simple way for teachers to integrate technology into classroom routine is to utilize online worksheets. Several sites such as Education World offer some printable worksheets that promote creative writing activity. Teachers can use them for better effects.

Assign Online Reading Comprehension and SAT Practice

A great piece of advice for teachers who want students to get familiar with technology is to offer online SAT practice. Students can always benefit from additional SAT and PSAT practice. Similarly, they can also add a reading comprehension activity to their students’ language arts curriculum. Several sites offer vocabulary completion exercises, vocabulary matching exercises, written discussion exercises, and much more.

Take Advantage of Online News Sources

Teachers can encourage students to search online media for current events contributions. They can search MSNBC and CNN for national and international news. Teachers can also help students connect news with their own lives. Students can use other online news resources to further explore the issues of the day. Science teachers can gain access to online science related to NASA, Godard Space Centers, etc. and make it easier for students to understand the science behind the latest events and scientific advancements.

Use Online Maps in Geography Class

Maps can be boring but teachers can use online geography resources to raise students’ awareness about this subject. There’s so much a teacher can use, ranging from resources offered by the National Geographic Geography Bee to Map Machine and more.

Try Online Games

One super effective way to integrate technology into the learning process is to encourage students to play some stimulating online games that test their problem-solving skills. Games like checkers, Battleship, BreakOut, tic-tac-toe, etc., will all work.

Products
December 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
  • America's Best Colleges
    Forbes' list of public and private colleges and universities ranks the best schools--from the students' point of view.
  • Twelve Nasty Work-From-Home Scams
    Does the offer of making a mint in your pajamas sound too good to be true? It surely is.
  • The World's Most Powerful Celebrities
    Oprah Winfrey takes back her crown while pop chart phenomenon Lady Gaga catapults to No. 4 on this year's Celebrity 100.
  • The World's Leading Companies
    This comprehensive report analyzes the world's biggest companies and the best performing of these titans.
  • The World's Billionaires
    Carlos Slim Helu takes the No. 1 spot on Forbes' annual list of the world's richest as a record 164 billionaires return to the ranking amid the global economic recovery.
NY Business