by Martin Pollins | Sep 9, 2014 | Technology
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this: You have switched your TV on and navigate to Sky. You go to a Sports channel, Channel 404. You settle down in your chair to watch your favourite programme. Ten minutes later, the ads cut in.
Let’s stretch your imagination a little further: Your neighbour across the road is watching the same programme on Sky. He’s tuned in to Channel 404 too.
The scary thing is that the commercials you see are different to what your neighbour sees.
Welcome to the world of targeted advertising in which advertisers know what you like and promote accordingly.
Targeted Ads are about to take control of your TV (they probably already have!)
Earlier this year, The Washington Post ran a story (here) suggesting that targeted ads were about to take control of your TV and that “there’s almost no escape”. They said that satellite TV providers (who were already in on the act) were about to be caught up by the cable industry. Targeted advertising is about to mushroom. And most people are blissfully unaware of what’s been going on.
To build your profile as a viewer, a TV-service provider simply combines subscriber information about you with information it has sucked in from other sources: such as online credit card purchases, loyalty card purchases, box office sales and even car registrations.
Targeted TV ads sell different people different stuff
This month, New Scientist published an article – Targeted TV ads sell different people different stuff.
Scarily, the article’s author says that:
“TV Networks are tapping into your personal data to show you ads based on your demographic or even your voting record”.
We now live in a world in which TV providers can show different ads to different people in the hope of better targeting customers. It’s all made possible by your smart set-top box.
This is how New Scientist describe it:
“Networks designate a particular 30 second slot as “addressable”, meaning ads can be swapped in and out, then download a collection of ads to your box in advance. When the slot comes up, the box chooses which ad to play based on your customer profile.
Networks don’t know who is watching TV at any one time, so they target households rather than individuals using publicly available data. Since January , satellite network Sky has worked with credit agency Experian to target households in the UK according to their income, whether they own their home and other demographic and lifestyle factors.”
The Sky’s the limit
Huffington Post say that Sky has launched a new ‘targeted’ ads service which it says can direct commercials straight to your TV based on information about what you watch, what you don’t, and even what websites or products you enjoy. This new service – called AdSmart – was launched in January after a six-month trial. If you want to know how it works, go to: www.skymedia.co.uk/sky-adsmart/about-sky-adsmart.aspx
The only thing that your TV cannot seem to do (at present) is to determine who is actually staring at the screen. Is it you, your partner or spouse or one of your children? It’s more than possible with today’s technology… maybe Apple is about to announce something today with the launch of the iPhone 6?
Maybe very soon when your TV can recognise who is looking at it, we may decide to watch less TV. We’ve had enough of Big Brother haven’t we?
by Martin Pollins | Sep 2, 2014 | Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
Not everything you read these days has been written by a human… Welcome to the world of automated journalism in which robots write news articles and news stories.
It may sound far-fetched but it’s absolutely true.
Look, I will be completely straight with you: I always write my own articles and blogs, including this one.
Back Then: Automated newspaper production
Let me take you back to the early days of the Internet… back to the days of CompuServe, one of the early Internet Service Providers, I came across some software called Journalist. My recent search efforts to find the latest incarnation of this program have been to no avail and I assume it has disappeared into the ether. Journalist was a great program. Fire it up and it would then dial up the Internet via a modem and with the help of CompuServe, it would go off and find news that matched previously chosen criteria and hey presto, an automated newspaper was produced.
Searching for an alternative hasn’t met with any success, so far, although Paper.li seems to come close. Blazoned on their home page (at: paper.li) were these words that caught my attention:
Create your online newspaper in minutes. Automatically find, publish & promote engaging articles, photos and videos from across the web.
Today: Automated, Journalism by Robots
May I ask – have you read any books written by Philip M Parker? He is probably the world’s most prolific author thanks to a series of computer algorithms he has developed that can automatically generate books, crossword puzzles and even poetry.
You’ll be happy to learn that Mr Parker is a real person. Born in 1960, he is the INSEAD Chair Professorship of Management Science. He has patented a method to automatically produce a set of similar books from a template, which is filled with data from database and Internet searches. Through his company, Icon Group International, he produces many titles that are printed on demand, ranging from books on medicine to Indian bath mats.
A Guardian article earlier this year confirmed that media organisations are increasingly looking to developers to come up with smart ways to incorporate computer algorithms into the daily grind of the news industry. The article said that; “Forbes.com already uses an artificial intelligence platform provided by the technology company Narrative Science to generate automated news from live data sets and content harvested from previous articles. What makes it possible is that business news content tends to be formulaic and data-heavy, listing places, stocks and company names. The LA Times, meanwhile, uses robotsto report on earthquakes: the organisation relies on an algorithm that pulls in data on magnitude, place and time from a US Geological Survey site.”
In July, Kevin Roose in Daily Intelligencer wrote an interesting article titled: Robots Are Invading the News Business, and It’s Great for Journalists. He mentions a North Carolina-based company called Automated Insights whose software, Wordsmith, could change the way in which words are written everywhere. Already, they claim: Automated Insights’ patented Wordsmith platform writes insightful, personalized reports from your data. It’s like an expert talking with each user in plain English.
And what about tomorrow?
Artificial intelligence will render human efforts redundant, or so says Dave Coplin a senior executive (that’s a real person) from Microsoft (actually, his full title is chief provisioning officer). According to Mr Coplin, within 10 years, robots will be running the City rendering investment bankers and analysts etc redundant. He talks about something called Moravec’s Paradox. This came about, at approximately the same time when CompuServe was king of the ISPs. Articulated by Hans Moravec, Rodney Brooks, Marvin Minsky and others in the 1980s, the Paradox hypothesis says that what we think is easy to do, computers find hard to do but what we think is really hard, computers find easy to accomplish. Rebecca Burn-Callander wrote a good piece on this in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, on page B3, here.
Looking just 11 years ahead, John Mauldin, in Business Insider explains How Robots Could Change The World By 2025. It’s widely accepted that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance.
Here, in this article (written by me), it is not the right place to argue the pros and cons of these fast-moving technological advances or to second-guess the impact it will have on what we read. But I’d be interested to hear what you think. Email me or add your comment below.
Is the future: Woof, Woof?
Harping back to a previous blog post, I explained things about dogs and their brains and how they often make better doctors than doctors themselves… so, is it just possible that one day a dog will write a book or blog like this? Can we expect a time to arrive when we humans would be referred to as “Dog’s Best Friend.”?
by Martin Pollins | Aug 26, 2014 | Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
The horrible events in Iraq leading to the execution of a journalist have created an international manhunt for the jihadist, believed to be British, who appeared in video footage widely distributed across the Internet showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley. Clues are being examined in minute detail amid suggestions that the executioner extremist, identified by a former hostage as “John”,comes from London. The FBI is on the case and are confident that they will identify and catch “John”.
70 or so years ago
We have all heard about the marvellous work done during World War II at Bletchley Park, The code-breaking activities involved up to 9,000 or 10,000 people (about three-quarters of this number were women). Often talked about is the Enigma machine but lesser known is the “eavesdropping” into what appeared to be innocuous German communications.
Examining clues closely often pays dividends and it doesn’t always have to be voices. I recall reading how someone who claimed not to have been at a Nazi death camp was caught out by analysts (I think Israelis) who were able to confirm his exact height and other measurements in a photograph (even though he had his back to the camera) using the yardstick of the known length of the particular rifle he was holding at the time. That was over 70 years’ ago.
Today, there are other tools available: for example, Hal Hodson wrote in New Scientist (issue 2968) about software that listens to your voice to assess your mood at the time. It gives call centre agents a dashboard that shows how the conversation with them is going. There’s a company called Cogito in Boston. Their algorithms work away in the software, apparently, at the author says; “while people talk, highlighting awkward pauses, tense tones of voice and one-sided conversations. Next time you call your insurer, bank or any other call centre, a version of Cogito’s software called Dialog could be running in the background, helping the customer service agent deal with you. If you start to get upset or angry, the agent can see that and take action to soothe you.”
Cogito, based in Boston MA, USA, has released a smartphone-based version of its voice analysis software, called Companion. This is what they say about it: “At the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, Cogito was engaged in a clinical trial involving Cogito Companion, a smartphone application that continuously and passively monitors psychological health and well-being using built-in mobile sensors and survey questions. The bombing offers a unique pre-and post-disaster dataset for understanding the longitudinal trajectories and risk factors for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) following trauma.”
Your telephone is a powerful tool. Use it wisely. Otherwise, it could catch you out. Together with emails and faxes, it is your firm’s link with the outside world. If your firm receives say 100 calls in a day and you work on an average for 200 days a year… that’s 20,000 opportunities for first impressions for callers – whether they are clients, prospects or whatever.
The effect of all those opportunities is incredibly far reaching – perhaps more so than you’ve ever thought. Just to illustrate how far reaching it is, the results of an oft-quoted survey conducted a few years ago revealed these staggering statistics as to why customers no longer deal with a particular company – or, put that another way, the survey reveals why customers go to your competitors:
- 3% of customers said they went to the competitor because it was more convenient for them to deal with the competitor.
- 5% gave a variety of reasons which come under the heading of miscellaneous.
- 9% said that they changed because of a relationship at a high level.
- 15% of people said that they changed from one company to another because of a product range, price or the delivery time.
That leaves 68 percent. The survey showed that almost seven out of ten people left to go to competitors because of what they called “perceived indifference”. Perceived indifference is another way of saying “the company did not seem to care about me” or “the company treated me as if I were not at all important”.
Although 68 percent is a huge number, it is a number over which you now have the power to change. This is where the telephone is important. You see, perceived indifference is what you often hear on the phone on the first contact. If you don’t believe it, do some eavesdropping of your own and listen in on how your firm greets callers. It’s very likely that you will be surprised at what you hear!
I covered this in an article I wrote last week, Telephone Interrogation – why it’s bad for the health of your firm.
by Martin Pollins | Aug 20, 2014 | Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
It sounds easy enough: Buy 10,000 email addresses from an online vendor, use one of the many free email broadcasting programs, such as MailChimp and send away…
Actually, it’s not that simple. Most, if not all, reputable email marketing vendors don’t let you use lists that you have purchased. They will insist that you use opt-in email lists where the recipient has given permission to make contact with them by email or where you have been communicating with them for a long time and haven’t chosen to unsubscribe. Using a purchased list can damage your company and get you into hot water with your Email Service Provider, rather than get you the results you desire. Read Sheera Eba’s take on purchasing lists in his blog post ‘Why Purchasing Email Lists is a Bad Idea‘.
Think: What’s in it for them?
So, the secret is to find ways to persuade people to give you their email address of their own volition. Obvious ways include asking people you are in touch with to give you their email address so you can communicate effectively and quickly with them, or asking for a prospect’s email address if they are downloading something from your website. Whatever method you use, try to start with a reason “why” someone should join your email list and provide their email address.
Growing your list
There’s a useful blog on Hubspot (here) which provides 25 ways to grow your email marketing list. Here are three of them:
- Host an online webinar and collect email addresses at registration.
- Collect email addresses at offline events like trade shows, and import them into your database. Be sure to send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list.
- When creating content for guest blogging opportunities, include a call-to-action and link for readers to subscribe to your site’s blog or email database in your author byline.
The road to success in email marketing is to offer something of value so that to get it, your prospect will readily provide their email address. The “something of value” can be a discount, exclusive deals, advance access, tips, how-to-do something, a free newsletter, a regular news communication or other download. Remember to show a picture of what it is that they’ll get (“a picture says a thousand words”).
A good tip is to make your emails or blogs easy to share in the Social Media world. You can do this by including icons for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, YouTube, Tumblr, Flicker, Vimeo, to name but a few.
Try this: www.pure360.com/whitepapers and you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about email marketing and a lot more besides. After a simple registration, you can access an Aladdin’s Cave of free whitepapers and marketing guides on the subject. They are excellent and provide a comprehensive learning platform for anyone engaged in this area of marketing.
There are, if I’ve counted accurately, a staggering 45 free publications in this series. If you want a list of them, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If that’s not enough, and you want 60 ways to grow your email list, try: img.constantcontact.com/docs/pdf/60-ways-to-grow-your-list.pdf
This free ebook explains:
- How to ask people to Join your list “face-to-face”
- How to use Social Media to grow your list
- How to Grow your list on your website or blog
- How to Design your emails to help reach new contacts
- How to use Print Material to get people to sign up
- How to use Events to help grow your list
- How to use Incentives and Giveaways to grow your list
And if you want even more, try this.
This free publication has 50 Ways to Grow Your Email List. The publishers have sorted the ideas by content, and all the tips in this guide are helpful for any business to grow their list.
by Guest Author | Jul 4, 2014 | Guest blogs, Technology
Guest Blog by Sonia Blizzard
Accountants are used to dealing with complex sets of data and recognise the sensitivity of the information they hold on behalf of clients. As with other professions, technology is presenting challenges which require careful consideration by accountancy firms.
In this guest blog, internet security expert and MD of Beaming, Sonia Blizzard, talks through a few of the ways you can make sure you can make your security add up.
Security vs Flexibility
The first of these is security versus flexibility. Most accountants [and other professionals too] like to have the ability to access their systems from clients’ sites or working from home, as this is efficient for their company, and they want to achieve this safely.
Remote working solutions such as Terminal Services or Citrix and hosted software platforms achieve this, as long as the company knows the servers are based in a secure location in the UK and if in a shared data centre, that this data centre complies with the highest security standards.
Ultimately the accountancy firm is responsible for the data they hold on their client and it is their duty to know where it is held and that it is safe. Under no circumstances, do they want to become the weakest link in the chain of their client’s defence against online criminal activity.
Added to this there is the more basic issue of connectivity. In our experience, firms often look at the speed at the server location but forget about the experience at their office location, if different. It is pointless investing in technology if you cannot access it. A broadband connection aimed at the residential market is not going to deliver an efficient way of working and what happens to the office if there is a fault when it takes days, rather than hours, to fix? What would happen if this was towards the end of January when last minute tax returns are being filed? In the same way that accountants are highly familiar with the regular software upgrades which need to take place for accountancy software, partners should routinely review their systems and connectivity to ensure that they have the correct network in place.
Protecting against threats on each site
For larger firms, with a number of locations, there may be a range of solutions to consider and when doing so, with the recent increase in cyber hacking in mind, security should be paramount. Each site should be protected against such threats and this can soon add up in terms of cost of hardware, but how about a private network where there is only one route in and out to the public internet?
This saves on the cost of equipment and it can also consolidate any historically different ways of working at each site to those under one arrangement, which will bring huge benefits when it comes to managing staff.
Changing attitudes towards data security
The second challenge is managing clients’ attitude to data security and technology. In our experience, accountants are, on one hand, dealing with clients who have suffered from online fraud or system failures, and on the other, those who are nervous about the security of their financial information but do not know what is best practice. They turn to their trusted professional, their accountant, for advice. Those accountancy firms who have invested in their own solution to this problem and who are confident about the advice they can give will have the advantage. Imagine as well if a firm was to be compromised or to lose its systems for days. What would happen to its client base?
Accountancy firms work alongside external parties, such as bookkeepers. The trusted relationship between accountant and bookkeeper should also include an evaluation of how seriously each party takes security of the shared client’s data.
Data storage and back up
Another challenge that faces accountants is data storage and backup. By the very nature of what they do, accountants hold large amounts of historic paperwork, all safely under lock and key. For those who have moved to a paperless solution, this still needs to be safe. Data backup is then the solution.
Offsite backup is essential. This is an easy piece of advice which accountants can also give to their clients. It does not require them to become IT experts or have a forensic understanding of how the client runs their systems. With the right kind of offsite backup, such as Beaming’s DataChest which holds seven copies at a time in an encrypted form, if the client is compromised by ransomware such as Cryptolocker or loses their key financial information due to a system problem, the backup files will not be overwritten and they will be able to restore the files and ultimately continue to trade. That’s good for them and good for the accountant.
Sonia Blizzard is the MD of Beaming (www.beaming.biz)
Beaming is a company that provides secure internet connectivity and data back-up services to a number of businesses across the UK.
by Martin Pollins | Jul 3, 2014 | Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
Quite what it has to do with data protection, I am not sure, but the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is planning to ask some questions about a psychological study carried out by Facebook on users without their permission. In the test, apparently Facebook played around with the news feeds of nearly 700,000 Facebook users to control the emotional expressions to which the users were exposed.
Playing with our minds, or something more sinister?
The authors of the controversial Facebook study have apologised (but for what, other than conducting the study with the permission of their users?) after an effort to see if emotional states are contagious. Researchers in the study in early 2012, toyed with the feelings of some 700,000 randomly selected English-speaking Facebook users by changing the contents of their news feed, according to a paper published in the June edition of the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists’ (PNAS), described, somewhat weirdly and worryingly as Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.
Here is one conclusion from the people conducting the survey – see what you think: “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks,” said the authors of the paper, who include researchers from Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California. “We also observed a withdrawal effect: People who were exposed to fewer emotional posts (of either valence) in their News Feed were less expressive overall on the following days.”
Worried? I think you should be.
The 1938 public were outraged when they thought Martians were coming
It reminds me of events which took place in 1938… In an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, Orson Welles worried most of America. The episode that was aired was called The War of the Worlds, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel of the same name. The first two thirds of the 62-minute broadcast (without commercial breaks) were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which caused many listeners to believe that an alien invasion by Martians had actually taken place.
Just as now, following Facebook’s incursion into the hidden mysteries of human responses to an uncertain stimulus, the 1938 public were outraged for the “cruel deception” imposed on innocent listeners. Still, it probably changed the course of Orson Wells’ career who went on to become a famous actor, film director and producer.
How realistic was the Orson Wells’ broadcast? You decide… it’s available here.
Humans monitored by technology
It isn’t just big companies that are interested in the way in which we humans do things – computer programmes can also monitor the habits of a computer user so that it is possible to tell the software whether the person using the computer is who they claim to be. It means that the way we type and click with our mouse could make passwords a thing of the past. Paul Marks wrote about this on page 20 of New Scientist, 28 June.
Measurement by technology is commonplace in the supermarket world. Did you know that where you walk, what you looked at, what products you bought, and whether or not you have been looking for a Wi-Fi signal, can be and are measured as you wander up and down the aisles in your local supermarket?
A Spanish company called Proximus using movement sensors placed around a supermarket or large store can track exactly what you’re doing. A firm in Bedford, New York, called Shopperception say that informing shoppers that they will be monitored might make the process palatable. The co-founder of that company thinks that monitoring technology “may be the inevitable next step in a world where you are already monitored by banks, social networks and online retailers”. Aviva Rutkin reported on this last week here in New Scientist.
Where will this all lead to? It’s one thing have a computer analysing what we do but having a computer program that actually influences what we do is perhaps taking it too far, isn’t it?
The Rise and Fall of Shopping Malls
This brings me onto shopping malls – they may be ubiquitous today but it wasn’t always that way. We have to go back to the middle of the Great War, 1916 to be precise, to find that the first supermarket was introduced to retail shopaholics when Clarence Saunders’ opened the first Piggly Wiggly store in Memphis, Tennessee and introduced America to self-service shopping.
It took a few years but then chain stores, slowly but inexorably became a dominant force in American food (and other) retailing. It took a long time for the UK to catch on though and even by 1947, there were only ten self-service shops in the whole country. The London Co-operative Society opened Britain’s first supermarket, in Manor Park, London in early 1948, followed soon afterwards by Marks & Spencer who introduced self-service in the food department of their Wood Green, London store.
The next stage in retail explosion happened when supermarkets and big stores huddled together in what is called a shopping mall – a collection of independent retail stores, services, restaurants plus parking galore. As with self-service supermarkets, the world’s first shopping mall opened in America, probably just before 1920 although some claim that open-air malls started in the late 1890s.
But the days of shopping malls may be over, courtesy of the power of the Web.
Who wants to travel a few miles down a busy motorway, park in a busy mall car park, trudge around for hours, collect your shopping at the end of the day, trudge back to the car and then drive home when the alternative is available (often cheaper) online?
Few and fewer people it seems, is the answer.
Here’s some confirmation of the shift, from the New Yorker earlier this year:
“When the Woodville Mall opened, in 1969, in Northwood, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, its developers bragged about the mall’s million square feet of enclosed space; its anchor tenants, which included Sears and J. C. Penney; and its air-conditioning—seventy-two degrees, year-round! Two years later, the Toledo Blade published a front-page article about the photo-takers and people-watchers who gathered around the mall’s marble fountain, “that gushing monument to big spending and the shopping spree.” The story quoted an anonymous businessman: “The water has a great calming effect on a person, especially when you’ve been badgered all morning.”
This week [in March 2014], Woodville is being torn down. So are countless other malls across the U.S.—so many that there’s a Web site devoted to “dead malls” that are out of commission.” The dead malls website is at: www.deadmalls.com
Possibly, the good news is that closed, defunct shopping malls could be fantastic building sites for the millions of new houses the UK needs so badly.
by Martin Pollins | Jun 17, 2014 | Accountants, Auditors and Other Professionals, Lawyers, Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
Accountants and Lawyers should take note: this affects your firms as well as most of your clients.
The UK’s Alan Turing Institute for Data Science is set to benefit from a £42 million government investment spread over 5 years. It will strengthen the UK’s aim to be a world leader in the analysis and application of something called big data.
Financial Benefits of big data
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that the big data marketplace could benefit the UK economy by £216 billion and create 58,000 new jobs in the UK before 2017. And a Deloitte report estimates that the direct value of public sector information alone to the UK economy is around £1.8 billion per year, with wider social and economic benefits bringing this up to around £6.8 billion.
There’s more: Research by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) also shows that UK data-driven firms are 40% more likely to report launching products and services ahead of their non-data savvy competitors.
But, what is it?
All very interesting, but what exactly is “big data?”?
Barry Urquhart a regular Better Business Focus author defines big data as:
The utilisation of the cloud software capacity to rapidly retrieve, collate and to enable analysis of information from multiple sources.
Another definition is:
big data is the continuously growing collection of datasets that derive from different sources, under individualised conditions and which form an overall set of information to be analysed and mined in a manner when traditional database technologies and methods are not sufficient.
I like this definition of big data: data sets that are too large and complex to manipulate or interrogate with standard methods or tools.
Barry Urquhart says that the concept and processes in big data favours big businesses, which have been quick to embrace and deploy the attractively enveloping concept to their own short and long-term competitive advantage, and to enhance the effectiveness of communications and relationship initiatives.
There a great video from Intel about big data here and a planning guide here.
Previously, when I blogged on this topic, I wrote that the use of big data by organisations today raises some important legal and regulatory concerns. The use of big data systems and cloud-based systems is expanding faster than the rules or legal infrastructure to manage it. Risk management implications are becoming more critical to business strategy. Businesses must get ahead of the practice to protect themselves and their data. The main problem area typically relates to consumer privacy but legal compliance, such as legal discovery and preservation obligations, are also very important too.
Any organisation that interacts with technology in some way or another (that means everyone, doesn’t it?) is facing a big challenge with integrating and processing the high velocity influx of data from multiple sources and in a variety of formats. On the one hand, traditional database management tools were not built to address large volumes and unstructured data. On the other hand, new technologies, such as Hadoop, which were developed to handle big data, are extremely difficult and expensive to set up, manage and develop for.
Big data cloud services: Introducing Xplenty
To address the challenges mentioned above, a new generation of big data cloud services is emerging. One of these is Xplenty.
Xplenty is powered by Hadoop (see below) under the hood, so it can handle structured, semi-structured and unstructured big data volumes.
A word or two about Hadoop: With nothing available at the time, in Google’s early days, Hadoop was developed so they could index all the information they were collecting so as to present meaningful and actionable results to users. Its current form, Apache Hadoop, is an open-source software framework for storage and large-scale processing of data-sets on clusters of commodity hardware – for big data! It’s used in several markets from finance, to weather analysis, to database engines and much more.
Xplenty lets you process large volumes of data within minutes, yet it does not require any expertise in Hadoop. It lets you deploy Hadoop clusters in the cloud with a single click. The visual interface allows users to design sophisticated data flows without the need for writing a single line of programming code.
It’s free to try. You can learn more at: xplenty.com/data-transformation
“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” – Daniel Keys Moran (American computer programmer and a science fiction writer)
by Martin Pollins | Mar 27, 2014 | Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
How can an SME be sure that an IT supplier is ‘secure’? This is a question that many SMEs should be asking, especially if the supplier has no kitemark, etc.
There is no magic formula for SMEs to ensure that there IT suppliers are secure but there are some golden rules which, if followed, should see SMEs on pretty safe ground. These are my top six tips:
1. Know your service provider
This applies to all SME service providers (whether that’s the cleaning contractor you use or the company that comes in to water the plants). However, since IT functionality is increasingly central to most SME businesses, knowing your IT service provider inside out is absolutely essential. All of the other protections you can get (like contractual protections) are nowhere near as important as this essential first step. In practice, it means doing your research. Who is the provider? What is their reputation and track record? What industry certifications do they have? Do they meet any industry standards (like ISO standards)? All of this information should be available online or on request from the service provider.
2. Ask a lot of questions
If you’ve got a shortlist of providers, you need to be ready to ask them a lot of questions about cybersecurity. The kinds of things I would usually ask are:
• Where is the service provider based and where will they be storing data? If it’s outside of the EU, then you need to ask them what measures they have in place to comply with data protection laws. The problem with the Cloud is that often you won’t know where your data is going, but a good service provider will be able to tell you.
• How do they make sure data is kept secure? This is a real risk factor for SMEs. Ideally the service provider will be able to confirm what industry standards they meet (for example, ISO standards). Most SMEs won’t have the budget or inclination to audit the service provider’s standards but most good service providers are independently audited, and they should be able to share with you the results of those audits.
• What is their track record? Can they provide any evidence to back up their sales and marketing claims? Are they happy for you to contact any of their existing clients?
• Ask to see a copy of their Business Continuity Plan. This will explain what will happen if there is a serious IT issue. If they don’t have one, that would be a serious concern.
• How will they keep you informed when things go wrong? Ideally you would get regular reports from the service provider as to current status. Of course, if anything goes wrong, you want to be the first to know.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s the job of the service provider to have the answers. If they can’t answer these questions, you probably need to look somewhere else.
3. Pick a provider with a good customer service function
Like any service, there’s a good chance that things will go wrong. It’s how problems are dealt with that separates a good provider from an average one. Ideally, you would have some kind of 24/7 dedicated support number with a real person on the other end of the line. If your business is 24/7, then it’s no use if the help desk goes home at 5pm on Friday evening.
4. Get the right contract in place
A key way to control your risk is to have a good contract in place. If the worst happens, you will be able to fall back on the contract for some protection. If you have the budget, get a law firm to support you on this. Otherwise, a good tip is to look at the service provider’s marketing materials and ask them to point you to the relevant sections of their terms and conditions that cover their marketing claims. If they’re not willing to stand behind the claims contractually, what they do offer may well be a lot of hot air.
5. Be particularly careful if you’re operating in a regulated sector
SMEs in regulated sectors (banking, insurance, law, etc.) need to be especially careful because they are subject to a whole extra level of obligations. In other words, if a company in one of these sectors suffers a cybersecurity issue, the implications are potentially even more serious because their regulator will come down on them like a ton of hot bricks. Speak to your regulator (e.g. ask the Law Society if you are a small law firm or ICAEW/ACCA if you are an accounting firm) and see if they have any tips or guidance.
6. Plan for exit
Breaking up is hard to do. A mistake that happens time and time again is that SMEs start using a supplier and become increasingly dependent on them over time, to the extent that the possibility of ending the relationship is unthinkable. The supplier becomes entrenched, and that’s dangerous territory because it can lead to complacency, slipping standards and, ultimately, you paying more than the standard market price.
Believe it or not, the best time to plan for exit is right at the start of the arrangement. Don’t worry about asking the supplier how they assist companies at the end of the relationship. For example, ask them how they transfer all of the data back to the SME (or to the SME’s new provider)? You want to be sure that they won’t just switch the service off and disappear.
See my other Blogs on this subject:
by Martin Pollins | Mar 27, 2014 | Miscellaneous, Tax, Business and Management Issues, Technology
I came across this on the website for The Independent.
You can view (free of charge) crucial video interviews with today’s leading IT business thinkers.
IT Thought Leaders give a comprehensive insight in the world of IT, discussing key drivers and trends in the current market, and allowing companies to be better informed when making critical IT business decisions in turbulent times.
Here’s a screen shot on the videos available at the time. It looks like it’s worth bookmarking the link.
by Martin Pollins | Mar 7, 2014 | Accountants, Auditors and Other Professionals, Technology
People, particularly accountants (like me and probably you), who work with a lot of documents on a daily basis need to file them away for later use or reference. When doing so, there’s a good chance that the files will be converted into PDFs (portable document format) as files in that format are usually much smaller than space-hungry Microsoft Word or Excel files.
But there are some issues with this.
On the plus side:
- PDF files are very compact, which makes them ideal for storage or distribution.
- The format is universal and can be read on all platforms, without the person viewing the file needing the program that created the original file in the first place.
On the negative side: PDF files cannot usually be edited once they are created. So if you want to edit any of these documents that you have stored as PDFs, you are going to have to return them into their original file formats or work on the original file.
A great software solution to overcome the above problem is the Able2Extract program from InvestinTech.com. This powerful PDF conversion software makes light work of extracting information from a PDF and turning it back into a more editable file format. It claims to be the first PDF converter on the market compatible on the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.
How it works
Let’s say you want to convert a PDF spreadsheet back into an Excel file so that you can manipulate the information once again. Once you have launched Able2Extract, click on the “Open” button in the main toolbar and select the PDF you want to convert.
Now you have a choice of either converting the entire file into an Excel spreadsheet or just portions that you need. To convert the entire file, click on “All” in the Select menu. If you want to convert only part of the file, click on “Area” and then select the data you want to convert using your mouse.
Now click on “Excel” in the Convert to File Type menu.
Of course, Excel conversions need to be very accurate in order for the process to be as convenient as possible. Converting an Excel file and then having to further edit the output file defeats the purpose of conversion via software. That’s why there’s a special “Custom” option for Excel conversions so that you can clearly define what your output file needs to look like before committing to the conversion. Click “Define” on the Custom Excel conversion menu to do this.Now you will be able to make sure that the output file comes out just as you intended it to look. You can add, delete and replot tables, define column and row settings, and make a variety of other custom changes. Once you believe that you are satisfied, select the “Show Preview” box to see what your finished Excel file will look like.
If you are satisfied, you can then click the green “Convert” button to complete the process and save the file to your computer.
Your output file will be incredibly accurate, which will allow you to start working on your newly created Excel file without having to make additional changes to the formatting of the spreadsheet.
Whilst Able2Extract is particularly useful for performing conversions to Excel, this only scratches the surface of the conversion options that are offered by the software. You can effortlessly and accurately convert PDFs into Word, PowerPoint, OpenOffice, AutoCAD file formats, HTML, image formats, and quite a lot more.
The latest version of the software (Able2Extract 8) boasts a new preview pane. It provides users with better navigational control over pages, bookmarks, and attachments. Navigating through lengthy PDF documents is now more convenient and done directly from within the viewing window itself.
Able2Extract’s algorithm allows users to convert PDF to MS Word forms which users can digitally fill in. Regardless of the textual format, the conversion output is precise. Layout, graphics, formatting, and text are faithfully preserved and kept intact.
Are there alternatives?
The answer is, of course, yes. But from what I’ve read about them, none are quite as efficient as Able2Extract. Try them for yourself to see if I’m right:
• PDF Converter 8 from Nuance
• Adobe® Acrobat® XI
• PDFLite from pdflite.com
• Foxit PhantomPDF™ Standard 6.1
• Oracle PDF Import Extension
No Risk Trial with Able2Extract
Able2Extract 8 is sleek and powerful and is compatible with Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP, as well as being backwards compatible with other Windows platforms going back to, and including, Windows 98. Mac aficionados can get Able2Extract 8 for the latest OS X Mountain Lion (it probably also works on OSX Mavericks). For Linux, users can download Able2Extract 8 on the popular Ubuntu and Redhat distributions.
If this sounds like a tool that you can’t live without for another day, visit the Investintech.com website to try out Able2Extract for a free trial version of seven days in order to experience the software’s benefits first hand. Let me know if you are as impressed with it as I am.
by Martin Pollins | Mar 7, 2014 | Accountants, Auditors and Other Professionals, Technology
As further evidence of the growing interest in Intranets (actually Extranets really), John Stokdyk has posted an article on AccountingWEB (“Tax season drives adoption of client portals”). Quite rightly, he says that collaborative web portals are now becoming an accepted feature of accountancy practices.
John says that out of more than 1,100 tax season survey respondents, 13% said they planned to introduce a portal. And as reported previously on AccountingWEB, the buzz around document-sharing portals has been circulating for a couple of years. But the way that technology adoption works is that once all the hype has died down and the early adopters have overcome the initial hurdles, the wider market quietly goes about implementing tools that deliver practical benefits.
John says that technology enthusiast Kevin Salter says portals are “old hat” now although he accepts it will be a big topic again, because “ICAEW’s IT Faculty has been told that practice assurance reviews are still finding firms who are emailing returns to their clients – and that is no longer acceptable,”
I think portals have come of age. Several reasons for this include:
- The growing acceptance of cloud-based technology.
- Faster broadband access becoming commonplace.
- The explosion in smartphone technology driving desire to access information anytime from anywhere.
- Improved security.
There seems to have been a shift from describing Intranets by that name to a new name “Client Portals”. I prefer Extranets – that’s when a firm allows clients to have access to information rather than for it to be sent by post or email (or, I suppose, hand-delivered).
There are ways that accountants can save a fortune. Processing paper as our grandfathers did is a complete waste of time and money when you look at the options available today.
In case you missed it, I blogged on this earlier this week: “No Dead Trees allowed here! The world of the paperless office”.
by Matt Pollins | Feb 24, 2014 | EU and International, Technology
More established e-commerce businesses, led by the likes of Alibaba and Rakuten, are investing heavily in social to maintain growth momentum and give them direct access to millions of users via social networks and messaging apps. One only needs to look at Rakuten’s $900 million acquisition of chat app Viber just last week, and Alibaba’s $586 million investment in the Sina Weibo microblogging platform last year, to see that e-commerce businesses are betting big on social.
Read the full blog on Connected Asia here.
by Martin Pollins | Feb 24, 2014 | Technology
I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her and I realised how she could change my life. “She” was a Wang computer that came with software to process accounting entries and produce statutory accounts for companies, it was the size of an average kitchen table. Printing was via a dot matrix printer. It mattered not that the software came from an Australian company called Hartley. I learned afterwards that the marketing genius behind Hartley belonged to a certain Paul Dunn who later achieved fame with RAS who ran the accountants’ boot camps all over the world.
The cost of the Wang was about £188,000 in today’s money. Wow! For that, I got a kitchen-table size computer with 64k of memory, 13.5’ floppy discs, the best accounts production software money could buy and a dot matrix printer. And a box of paper and some blank disks. Oh, and for those who don’t know, this printer had a print head running back and forth, or in an up and down motion on the page and printed by impact, striking an ink-soaked cloth ribbon against the paper which was held in leaves as continuous stationery. And you can still buy these printers today. But sadly not the Wang computer – founded in 1951, at its peak the company had annual sales of $3 billion but in 1999 filed for bankruptcy, probably beaten by the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Apple.
Today, the object of my attention is technology for eye tracking and the direction of sound. Both technologies will, in my view, have considerable influence in the world of business and marketing as well as in product design.
Eye tracking can be defined as “the process of measuring either the point of gaze or the motion of an eye relative to the head.” It needs an eye tracker – a device for measuring eye positions and eye movement. Eye trackers are used in research in psychology, in cognitive linguistics and in product design. There are a number of methods for measuring eye movement. The most popular variant uses video images from which the eye position is extracted. The technology pinpoints exactly where users look and for how long.
Why is that of interest in the business and marketing world? For example, it can be a great way to test a new design to check that it’s optimised for your customer and business requirements. There’s a good summary on the webcredible website. They say that eye tracking analysis can provide:
- Recommendations on the very best way to design, layout and position key page items and help chose the most effective design from a selection of concepts.
- Results showing how quickly and for how long your customers noticed features, key content, adverts, and branding.
- Heatmaps showing an amalgamation of where participants looked and for how long. The ‘hotter’ the area the more it was noticed and looked at by users.
Eerie? Yes, but incredibly valuable for those in the business of marketing.
Take cars for example. An article by Richard Yarrow, here, is interesting. He says that when you’re sitting comfortably in your car, that’s exactly when you might start to feel sleepy and accidents can occur. But a safer driving future is on the horizon – the next big leap forward in crash prevention is technology that can digitally track your eyes and facial expressions to see when you’re in danger of dozing off. Richard Yarrow says that the Automated Fatigue Monitoring System (AFMS) has been developed by Seeing Machines, an Australian company. After successful use in open-cast mining hardware, the firm has just signed a deal to trial the technology in vehicles operated by a European coach tour company. The pilot project is expected to produce new research data that will pave the way for the next step – installation in cars.
Last month, Paul Heaton wrote: Eye tracking technology – how it works and why it’s valuable, here. In it, he asks:
- What do we look at and what do we ignore?
- How do our eyes react to different stimuli?
Paul Marks wrote in New Scientist: “Devices able to log everything you read will soon go mainstream, letting you see for yourself whether your reading habits need revamping”. What he says is well worth reading.
Controlling the direction of Sound
Paul Marks has also written about sound in New Scientist. He says: “From restaurant music that only certain tables can hear to flying emails, the ability to place sound exactly where you want it has all kinds of unusual uses.”
It’s the “flying emails” bit that’s really interesting. This is what Paul Marks wrote: “If you’re sick of wading through a clogged email inbox or scrolling through endless Twitter timelines, Jörg Müller has a more fun way of sifting through your messages: sound. In his audio-enabled “BoomRoom” at the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, emails and tweets fly around you like a flock of birds, each chirping a subtly different sound that identifies the sender. More urgent messages whizz directly over your head. Touch one and a computer reads it out.”
There’s more about Müller’s Berlin BoomRoom, on the Consumer Labs website.
The flying email concept might still seem a bit far-fetched, but steering sound exactly where it is wanted is already catching on elsewhere in a number of different real-world applications, says Paul Marks. “One day, it might even help create smart homes that can speak to their visually impaired owners,” he adds.
The soothing sound of Rain
Unless you live in the area of the UK affected by the floods, if all the above is too much for you then listening to the sound of rain could be soothing. Rain Play on Google Sounds, free from here, allows you to play soothing, looping sounds of rain to help you get some rest. You can choose from a variety of rain types and you also have the ability to set a sleep timer to turn off the sound after a certain period of time.
by Martin Pollins | Feb 21, 2014 | Technology
I had a problem the other day when trying to send a large file by email. Actually, I didn’t think that the file wasn’t all that big – around 21mb – but Outlook didn’t like it at all. Now I know: Microsoft Outlook blocks attachments that exceed 20 megabytes (20480 KB). If your attachments exceed this limit, the error message “The attachment size exceeds the allowable limit” appears.
I did some research and found a solution called ShareFile. It’s a Citrix-owned business so it should be pretty reliable (Citrix has annual sales of over $2.5 billion). I thought it said it could handle 10mb files so I didn’t immediately jump up and down with excitement. However, when I looked again, it said it could handle files up to 10GB – now that’s more like it.
Free Trial: Email Big Files with Confidence
The other thing that caught my eye is that the company offers a free trial and, important for me and probably you too, you don’t have to provide any credit card details.
With ShareFile, you can send files of any size to clients in just a few clicks – without the hassle of emails bouncing back. And, with encryption and password protection, your files are always secure.
ShareFile also offers a dedicated account manager upon signup – as well as telephone and same-day email support. Which means you can rest assured that you have access to the help you need. Plus, with ShareFile you get:
- No software to install – it’s 100% web-based
- Custom-branded web page with your company logo and colours
- No more clogging your inbox with huge files
- Tracking and alerts to confirm clients have received files
- Extra features such as upload/download email notifications and detailed usage reports
The ShareFile system has many security and privacy measures in place to protect data. These security measures can be divided into four main categories: Software, Backups, Servers and Policies. To make it easy for you to read up on this, I’ve included some of what ShareFile say about these categories, below.
The ShareFile software has been created with security in mind. Each user in the system has a unique login and password. All user-created passwords are hashed in the ShareFile database, meaning that not even ShareFile support personnel have the ability to determine a user’s password. Granular access permissions allow users to be given access to information on an account on a need-to-know basis.
ShareFile has a daily third party security scan through McAfee® SECURE.
All uploaded files are scanned by anti-virus software. Any files that are flagged as potential viruses are denoted with a red exclamation point icon within the application, and a warning will be displayed before attempting to download these files.
All communications between ShareFile and the user are encrypted using either Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security encryption protocols and up to AES 256-bit encryption. This is the same industry-standard protocol used by online banking and popular e-commerce services such as Amazon.com for secure communication over the internet.
All files are stored with 128-bit encryption.
ShareFile employs multiple backup measures to minimize data loss in the event of natural disaster, terrorism, fire or any other unexpected event that could result in the destruction of the hardware that hosts the service: (There is a data sheet for security, available here which details how ShareFile safeguards your data)
- Disaster Recovery: Client files are backed up to ShareFile’s disaster recovery data centre every four hours. All client files are mirrored in real time to multiple storage zones. In the event of a failure in the primary storage zone, the secondary zone within that region is used automatically. In the event of a natural disaster or catastrophic hardware failure at the primary data centre that services an account, resources at the disaster recovery data centre can be brought online to minimize the disruption to the service.
- Redundant File Storage: ShareFile maintains the capability to leverage alternate regions to store files if any one region is rendered unavailable. Additionally, ShareFile maintains a geographically separate backup and file recovery site that provides it the capability to recover a client files in case of accidental client-side file deletion. All client files are backed up to their alternate site within four hours of initial upload time.
- Lazy File Deletion: To protect against the accidental deletion of files, ShareFile maintains copies of all deleted files for 28 days total before permanently purging the files from the backup and file recovery centre. This helps protect clients from file loss due to user error. If a file is deleted in error, the file can be restored through ShareFile’s Recycle Bin feature.
Each of ShareFile’s data centres has attained third-party SSAE 16 Type II certification, which verifies all data centre facilities operate with strict security procedures. Physical access is strictly controlled at the perimeter and building entrance points, and access to each data centre is accessed with two-factor authorisation. In addition, ShareFile’s servers are protected by dedicated firewalls, which constantly scan for and protect against malicious threats. The firewalls provide zero-day protection against any traffic that does not conform to standard Internet protocols, behaviours or patterns.
ShareFile also has several corporate policies in place to help protect the security of data in the ShareFile system. All support functions are conducted by their own employees, and access is restricted by IP address so that support functions can only be performed from within the secure ShareFile physical office facilities. In addition to hardware and software policies, ShareFile also maintains a business liability insurance policy to protect the company and its clients against any data loss.
How ShareFile Works
You can see how the ShareFile system works by clicking here.
There are several pricing modules. I think most firms will go for the professional version at around £37 a month. For that, it covers up to 10 people in the firm and includes 10 GB of Storage/Bandwidth as well as:
- Unlimited client users
- Your own customised branding
- Free telephone and email support
- Encrypted transfer and storage
- Outlook Plugin
- Desktop Sync
Are there any alternatives to ShareFile? The answer is yes. Masses of them in fact. Here are two I came across:
Send This File and Dropsend
- Use a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive).
- Use something called a “cyberlocker” such as Rapidshare or MediaFire.
- Send large files using a service such as Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) or WeTransfer.
- Even host it in your own office using a Pogoplug “personal cloud”.
My preference is still ShareFile, Sure, there are cheaper options, even free options but ShareFile just feels right for me.
ShareFile employs multiple backup measures to minimize data loss in the event of natural disaster, terrorism, fire or any other unexpected event that could result in the destruction of the hardware that hosts the service.
There is a data sheet for security, available here which details how ShareFile safeguards your data.
by Martin Pollins | Feb 21, 2014 | Accountants, Auditors and Other Professionals, Lawyers, Technology
Are you worried about the security of client data and other sensitive information you are routinely including in your Outlook emails? You ought to be.
But perhaps more importantly, what are you doing about it?
The Microsoft website, here, says that: “sometimes you want additional protection for your e-mail communication to keep it from unwanted eyes. Encrypting an e-mail message in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 protects the privacy of the message by converting it from (readable) plaintext into (scrambled) ciphertext. Only the recipient who has the private key that matches the public key used to encrypt the message can decipher the message for reading. Any recipient without the corresponding private key would see only garbled text.”
That didn’t make much sense to me when I first read it so I tried to get a better handle on it from the wisegeek.com website: “Encryption software turns readable text into unreadable cipher by applying algorithms that can only be reversed by the passphrase or key. There are secure forms of encryption and insecure forms, as weak algorithms can be broken by the same computer power that generates strong algorithms. The current standard adopted by the US Government is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), based on 128-bit blocks. The former standard known as the Data Encryption Standard (DES) is based on 56-bit blocks and is now considered insecure.”
Now you know. It’s like the German secret codes – but remember that they were broken at Bletchley Park during World War II.
Encrypt was a television movie that premiered in June 2003 on the Sci-Fi Channel. Set in the year 2068, the Earth’s surface is in a cataclysmic upheaval, much of it transformed into wasteland by unstoppable storms (the by-product of the destruction of the ozone layer). There’s been a small earthquake this week in North Devon and it seems as if anywhere in the UK that’s flat and near water, is suffering a cataclysmic upheaval.
This all sounds a little bit Q’ish (I’m sure you remember Q from the James Bond films), so earlier this week when I read that a US company (IronBox) who are just down the road from Microsoft in Redmond, had launched E-Mail Encryption for Accounting and Law Firms, I investigated further.
Ironbox say: “Due to significant fines, class-action lawsuits, NSA snooping, embarrassing corporate data breach disclosures and increased regulation, secure email communication has ne ver been more important. Tools to protect (encrypt) email communications have historically been quite difficult to use for both sender and recipient, were cost prohibitive and required significant ongoing maintenance.”
IronBox say that they have changed all that with the introduction of IronBox for Microsoft Outlook. Claiming its ease of use, they say: “The IronBox Outlook plugin is designed so that users with no encryption experience or skills can easily apply sophisticated security to their emails and attachments. To send an encrypted email, compose the email message as usual, including any attachments. When it is ready to send, simply click on the IronBox button, and it automatically encrypts the message.”.
The IronBox plugin for Outlook claims to make encryption easy to apply, offering a single button that users can hit to encrypt a particular e-mail. With other solutions, most users run into the problem of handling digital certificates. They don’t know how to acquire/setup their own digital certificate and ID, and certainly their customers if they are not technical users won’t either. That’s no problem with IronBox.To protect against unintentional data breaches, the tool also uses its proprietary IronSight technology to automatically scan all outgoing Outlook messages and attachments for known sensitive data, and alerts the sender before the message is sent. I tried it and it works.
Specific benefits from IronBox include:
- Email recipients might not be using a client that supports encryption (for example if they are using a Web interface from GoDaddy).
- Costs – some places charge you for a digital cert, and others do not – and you have to renew every year).
- Easier workflow, people know how to double click on Word and PDF documents and enter passwords, but probably not selecting/installing encryption keys/digital certs.
To sum things up,IronBox provides an easier and more convenient user experience for both senders and recipients.
IronBox is currently offering a 30-day free trial; the monthly subscriptions is $9.99.
IronBox for Accounting and Law Firms
Accounting and Law firms caught the attention of IronBox as a very interesting market. Both handle lots of sensitive information every day for their clients. IronBox say that these firms are not regulated like other industries that have very strict and specific data protection requirements – I’m not sure that is entirely true, by the way. Even so, the IronBox plugin for Outlook gives accountants and lawyers a really simple way to meet those client expectations.
A big driver for IronBox was to create a plugin that just about anyone could use. It provides “Click a button, enter a password and away you go” functionality.
It’s important to point out that IronBox aren’t the only ones who are in this markeplace. Google “email encryption” and you will find several offerings from other companies. Here are a few that I found:
I couldn’t say whether or not IronBox is unbreakable or infallible, but in most situations it seems to me that it’s miles better than nothing at all.
The only concern I had was whether the IronBox solution also handled encryption of emails sent from mobiles etc. – the company assures me that IronBox does work in a mobile environment: sending the encrypted email as a PDF will give the best compatibility since most devices don’t natively support Microsoft Word. The sending process is the same as with laptops, and desktop computers, with no additional steps.
by Martin Pollins | Feb 17, 2014 | Employment, Technology
With the proliferation of smartphones and other devices with access to emails and the Internet, many employers are now introducing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work policy. This policy is concerned with allowing, and in some cases, requiring employees to bring personally-owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, smart phones and notebooks – together defined as “devices”) to their workplace, and to use those devices to access privileged company information and application.
Careful thought needs to be made before BYOD is introduced into any organisation. Some say that it may help employees to be more productive. They also say it increases employee morale and convenience by using their own devices and makes the organisation look like a flexible and attractive employer. But others say it increases the exposure of an organisation’s network to cyberattacks and the spreading of malware. Allowing the use of personal devices, without first implementing an appropriate policy and technical controls, is courting danger.
By the way, perhaps I should explain that BYOD may also be called Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) or Bring Your Own PC (BYOPC). References to POD mean personally-owned device.
Good Practice Guide
Dell publish a good practice guide, here: It says that an organisation needs to decide which platforms will be supported and how. This includes determining whether to support BlackBerry, iOS, Android, Windows, or Symbian operating systems (or some combination of those). At a minimum, Dell suggest that the organisation must answer the following questions:
- What devices and mobile operating systems can we support?
- What are our security requirements at each level: devices, applications, and data access?
- What risks are we introducing by letting employees access corporate data through their personal devices? What level of tolerance do we have for those risks?
- How can we manage our mobile deployment in a BYOD world without risking sensitive data or intruding on employee’s rights to privacy on devices they own?
On the subject of security, IBM has published a very useful guide called: Security Essentials for CIOs and it can be downloaded free of charge from here.
Recommendation and Notes
It is strongly recommended that employers should take legal and IT advice from experienced professionals before implementing a BYOD policy. As with all work policies, you should obtain legal advice before implementation if you are uncertain about anything. There may be issues of ownership (Computer Misuse Act 1990), which do not normally arise where devices are company-owned.
In any event, developing a company BYOD policy should be carefully thought through before allowing employees to use their own smartphones, tablets or notebooks within an organisation’s network.
Irrespective of the security precautions mentioned elsewhere in the BYOD policy, employees should use their device in an ethical manner and in accordance with the Acceptable Use Policy provisions that are set by the employer.
Employees who prefer to use their personally-owned IT equipment for work purposes must be explicitly authorised to do so, must secure corporate data to the same extent as on corporate IT equipment, and must not introduce unacceptable risks (such as malware) onto the corporate networks by failing to secure their own equipment.
Employers must document the terms of their BYOD policy to address the rights and obligations of both owners of a POD used for the company’s work and the company’s rights and obligations to protect and own its data on these devices.
The employers should have the right to withdraw the privilege of POD usage at work if users do not abide by the policies and procedures outlined in the policy document: the policy is intended to protect the security and integrity of company data and technology infrastructure.
Ideally, employees must agree to the terms and conditions set out in the formal policy in order to be able to connect their devices to the company network.
The BYOD policy should also address the following issues:
- Employees’ Privacy
- List of permitted Devices and Support provided
- Device Security
- Other Security
- Acceptable Business and Personal Use
- Permitted Access
- Forbidden Usage
- Reimbursement policy
- Compliance with the Law
- Software and Data
Businesses and professional firms may well require IT experts to review the implementation of a BYOD policy. Likewise, they will also need to be sure that they are complying with the law and that their BYOD policy is soundly structured from a legal point of view.
With this in mind, we are in the process of establishing arrangements with lawyers across the country and and already have an arrangement with an IT specialist firm able to give advice on the important considerations involved.
Click here to view the latest list of specialist advisors for BYOD
If you are interested in getting involved or have any queries, please email me at email@example.com.
I’ve recently written an outline of a BYOD work policy, which is soon to become part of Bizezia’s Work Manual system (see www.bizezia.com/products/work-manual for details and subscription rates). If you would like to see the draft policy statement, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Updated 19 February 2014]
How did BYOD emerge
My research shows that BYOD first entered the business world in 2009, courtesy of Intel when it recognised an increasing tendency among its employees to bring their own phones to work and connect them to the corporate network. It started slowly but took off in 2011 when IT services provider Unisys and software vendors VMware and Citrix Systems started to share their perceptions of this emergent trend. My view is that BYOD started for real when the smartphones came onto the scene and accelerated when the iPhone was introduced. Blackberry also had a big influence on the early BYOD movement when large organisations, as well as even smaller ones, required employees to have a Blackberry.
Also, the awareness of technology among employees has risen exponentially with the advent of smartphones. Perhaps it started out as COPE (corporate-owned personally-enabled) – a business model in which firms provide employees with mobile computing devices and allows them to be used as if they were personally-owned. But BYOD (bring your own device) now leads the field even though companies can usually buy IT products at better prices than employees can.
The emergence of the Windows operating system and SkyDrive (now named OneDrive) used across devices coupled with Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia, will push the BYOD further.
The research revealed that despite the BYOD (bring your own devices) trend continuing to surge with more than two thirds (71%) of establishments admitting to ‘bringing their own devices’, almost a third (30%) are still without a specific IT strategy in place to manage the process, putting their IT systems at detrimental risk.
The new kid on the block may well be WYODAW (wear your own device at work) – particularly if Google Glass has anything to do with it!
How do accountants go about embracing BYOD for their firms and clients?
A useful source of information for me has been BYOD Enterprise Mobility Policy Guidebook published by Fiberlink, an IBM company at trials.maas360.com. They provide plenty of downloads at www.maas360.com. Their BYOD Policy Guide is particularly helpful and, combined with the draft work policy I have drafted, will form a useful base from which accountants and their clients can roll out a programme to implement BYOD in their own firms and also for clients.
Does the manual also cover the best tax treatments of BYOD?
I have been asked whether the Work Manual covers the best tax treatment for BYOD: it doesn’t – at least at present. I have spoken with Mark Lee (former ICAEW Tax Faculty Chairman and now Consultant Practice Editor of AccountingWeb) and he is looking into what tax information might be made available to accountants who wish to go down (or up) the BYOD road. His initial thought is that unless the employer makes a contribution towards the costs of the device – for example, to pay a monthly contribution to cover work-related use of the personal device – there are probably no tax factors to take into account, at least for the employers.
By the way, I read a good strap line somewhere on the web: “With BYOD smartphones on the rise, IT headaches will become migraines”. I also read that a study by Altodigital has revealed a “potential IT nightmare waiting to happen” as educational institutions fail to properly manage BYOD. This serves to confirm the need to plan and implement a policy before linking up and allowing access to corporate networks from PODs (personally-owned devices).
There may be insurance factors to consider when implementing a BYOD or WYODAW policy – I will research this and blog on it at a later date.
Will Wear Your Own Device At Work be the thing of future?
[Updated 4 March 2014]
Now an earpiece PC can track behaviour based on facial expressions
I see that a team of Japanese engineers are testing a tiny personal computer that fits into your ear, and is controlled by eye blinks or tongue clicks. The article in PCMag, says that “as if talking into an almost hidden Bluetooth earpiece didn’t make you look crazy enough, this 17-gram wireless device gets its cues from wearers through tongue clicks and facial expressions, according to The Japan Times.”
It follows in the footsteps of wearable computing hardware like Google Glass, this miniature machine—planned to launch as a consumer device by the end of 2015 — includes a microchip and data storage. It can also be connected to another gadget, like an iPod, a tablet, or a smartphone, to navigate apps using facial expressions. Want to open iTunes? Just raise your right eyebrow. Or stick out your tongue to browse the Web, wiggle your nose to send a text message, and clench your teeth to take a photo.
[Updated 17 March 2014]
Public WiFi security risks prompts a BYOD policy poser, says expert
It would be “impractical” for many businesses that operate a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy to completely ban employees from carrying out work activities over public WiFi networks despite the associated security risks, an expert from Pinsent Masons has said.
The expert, information law specialist Marc Dautlich of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said, however, that businesses can take steps to mitigate the risks of mobile working over public WiFi connections. He said that businesses have to decide whether to accept the risks and which approach to addressing them best meets their needs.
Dautlich was commenting after Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, warned about the methods criminals are using to access information sent over public WiFi networks. Troels Oerting, assistant director of Europol and head of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), told the BBC that mobile internet users should not send sensitive information over public WiFi networks.
You can read what Marc Dautlich said, here.
by Martin Pollins | Feb 17, 2014 | Employment, Technology
The answer is that everyone needs an Email Etiquette Guidance Policy. Email continues to be an evolving communication media and although it shares many of the qualities of the telephone, letter and face-to-face conversation, it is different in its etiquette.
More established methods of communication have defined etiquette that we all recognise; stating your name when you answer the phone, signing your name to letters you write or saying goodbye at the end of a conversation. Apart from being polite, this etiquette provides the important framework with which people communicate with each other. Email is still comparatively new (don’t forget that the Internet itself as we know it, is still only 25 years old) and therefore some people remain unsure how to communicate with it, which leads to confusion, misunderstanding and possibly hurt feelings where none were intended.
Gradually, a worldwide Email etiquette is developing, and as such many firms are recommending, but not enforcing, guidance for the use of Email. Some of the issues to consider are listed below:
- Have a clear subject, title or topic line: It is frustrating for those who receive a lot of Email not to be able to quickly gauge the relevance and subject matter of a message they have received. Similarly searching for a previously opened ambiguously titled message amongst other ambiguously titled messages wastes time. The subject/topic/title line of an Email should therefore be worded clearly and accurately to represent the content of your message. Consider this carefully when replying or forwarding an Email, as you have the opportunity to make changes in the subject line.
- One message, one topic: Don’t try to cram multiple topics into one message, particularly if you require replies to different questions. It is usually less anxiety producing and easier to read when receiving several shorter Emails rather than one long one. It also makes it easier for your recipient to manage their Emails, as specific messages can be categorised easily.
- Be responsive: People expect a reply to most messages. Ensure you check your Email account regularly and when you receive a message attempt to read and respond to it within a reasonable amount of time (couple of days at most). Even if you cannot thoroughly read it or create a response it is polite to send a short reply to the sender to let them know you have received the Email and will provide a proper rely when you can. It would be a good idea to offer a date or time as to when they can expect a reply from you. When you are away from your Email system for a reasonable amount of time, be sure to have an automated response or colleague responding for you, to tell senders that you are away and when you will be back.
- Stay organised: It is a very good idea to manage your Email folders. Delete unwanted and unimportant Emails (keeping in mind any policies required to keep records) and organise and archive your remaining messages in a logical fashion. This helps you keep track of your Emails and, in the event that you are away and someone needs access to your messages, they will have a reasonable chance of finding what they are looking for.
- Always read your Email before sending: Read your Email before you send it. This will help you catch any mistakes and keep your recipients from being confused. Particularly if you wrote it in the heat of the moment or off the cuff you may want to rethink the tone and content. Remember that once you send something, you’ve lost control of the information. It is also a good idea to check your intended recipients, particularly when replying.
- Be Explicit: When writing Emails it is very important to explicitly convey the sense in which you write it. Readers of your Emails may easily get the wrong impression, particularly if you use irony or humour in your messages. Although not particularly professional, and to some people very annoying, the use of emoticons (emotional icons) provides some ability to insert a sense of how you are saying something. An example of a simple emoticon is the “smiley face” 🙂 Emoticons can have a specific meaning so it is not recommended to use complex ones without knowing their specific etiquette.
- Cautiously include Personality: Writing the way you speak is a very natural way of writing. However those not familiar with who you are will most likely not be able to appreciate the extra personality you put into messages. It is a good idea not to write in your personal style unless you know the person you are sending the mail to you and you are sure that message will go to no one else.
- Keep it Brief: Most people do not enjoy reading Emails off of a computer screen, particularly if they are longer than the visible height of the screen. Where possible, keep it short. The following section has some helpful suggestions on how to do so.
- Paste only the useful bits for a reply: When replying to a statement and pasting the original statement into your message, only use the most relevant bits of it, rather than the whole of the original message.
- Break up the block of text: If write a long message, ensure there are appropriate indentations or line spaces to keep the text from become one giant block of works. Give your recipient’s eyes some reference points.
- Keep it Simple: Email tools usually provide a variety of ways to format the messages you send. Not all of the options available aid in communication and changes from the standard template of black lettering in a standard font on a white background should be used sparingly. The following section offers things to consider.
- Make it readable: Colour changes to the text and backgrounds are often available in Email tools. If you choose to change the colours of such things, make sure that the end product is easy to read. For instance, yellow text on a white background is not particularly easy to see. Additionally, there may be a variety of fonts to use. Although it can be fun to change fonts, remember that deviation from the standard Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman can be annoying to some people, and may give the wrong impression depending on the style of font. Remember that Arial or Verdana text is easiest to read on a computer screen, while Times New Roman is best on a printed page.
- DON’T USE ALL CAPITALS or all lower case: Using all capitals is the equivalent of Shouting. Using all lower case letters looks lazy and unprofessional, but has no particular meaning.
- Use correct punctuation: Punctuation is an important part of written communication. Strange punctuations are as bad as missing punctuations. Most people will appreciate not having to decipher your message due to punctuation mistakes.
Implementing an Email Etiquette Guidance Policy
Email is so easy and convenient to use people tend to send them without considering how many Emails their recipient may get in a day. In the Email Etiquette Policy (part of Bizezia’s Work Manual) it offers additional advice to keep the number of Emails down and to handle what you receive as effectively as possible. If you are getting too many Emails, this guidance provides some etiquette on how to ask people to reduce the amount of Emails they send to you. There’s also a section on common courtesies you should always use.
There’s an Email Etiquette Guidance Policy, which is part of Bizezia’s Work Manual system (see details and subscription rates). If you would like to see the policy statement, please email me at: email@example.com
by Martin Pollins | Feb 3, 2014 | Technology
Here are a couple of items I came across over the weekend.
Technology is tied directly to Revenue
This article asked: How important is keeping up with new technology? Consider this: Tech-savvy – and especially cloud-savvy – small and medium-size businesses increase revenues 15 percentage points faster than technology laggards, according to a new study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Tech-savvy SMBs also create new jobs twice as fast.
No business can afford to be behind the technology curve. Modern Technology for Small Business Growth, a new guide from Inc. and Microsoft, offers a wide-ranging perspective on the benefits of maintaining up-to-date technology; how to assess current technology needs; and how to put the right hardware and software solutions in place. At the end of the day, staying on top of technology needs can help you boost your profits and productivity.
To download your free copy of Modern Technology for Small Business Growth visit inc.com/microsoft. The story was reported here:
Facebook Unveils ‘Paper’ News Reader App
This is really interesting, and for me it’s exciting as it seems to resurrect a concept from way back when CompuServe (what happened to them I wonder?) was king of the web-world and worked with a program called Journalist which created your own daily newspaper.
Now, Stephanie Mlot wrote on pcmag.com, here, that Facebook has introduced Paper—a hybrid mobile reader that combines updates from family and friends with worldwide news. The app will roll out to the iPhone on 3 February, offering those interested in news a more personal approach than rival newsreaders like Flipboard or Feedly, Facebook said. You can make Paper your own with stories and themed sections based on your interests—not what an algorithm thinks you’ll like.
The first section, of course, is the Facebook News Feed. But instead of a timeline you scroll through on the dedicated mobile app, a new design shows off photos, videos, and longer posts. From there, Paper is yours to build: Customise it with any of the dozen-plus sections—from photography and sports to food, science, and design. Each includes a mix of content from new voices and popular publications.
The upcoming application comes with the familiar Like, Comment, and Share buttons to which Facebook users have grown accustomed. But it also sports new features like high-resolution panoramic photos, viewable by tilting the phone to explore from corner to corner. It also takes video watching to a new height with full-screen, auto-play videos.
This is the first product from Facebook Creative Labs, where engineers and developers are crafting new apps to support diverse ways of storytelling. Take a tour of Paper online ahead of the 3 February launch, and check out Paper in action in Facebook’s video at the source link provided below.
Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2014
Written by Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell and published on 27 January on entrepreneur.com there’s a round up the top apps that will help any entrepreneur take 2014 by storm, a selection from which is shown below.
Top apps – a selection
- TrackMaven: This app streamlines your ability to monitor data on your competition, without going through the hassle of consulting multiple sources.
- EchoSign: There’s no longer an excuse to delay the closing of a deal – this Adobe app allows you to electronically sign documents easily and securely. It also records and stores each document’s history, so you have automatic audit trails — saving you the time and trouble of backtracking in case the need arises.
- Venmo: is the perfect app for nights out with friends. Don’t waste quality time doing math on the back of a napkin. Simply link Venmo to your bank account and then easily exchange cash virtually with friends anytime, anywhere.
- Mint: An entrepreneur probably knows a thing or two about managing finances, but it’s always good to be able to easily access information about personal cash flow. Mint allows you to record expenses, create budgets and manage savings plans, all from your phone.
- Pocket: As entrepreneurs, we’re full of great ideas, so much so that they hit us when we least expect them. Enter Pocket, a phone-based bookmarking app which can save all types of content – anything from a lengthy article to a work report – to all your electronic devices.
- Unroll.me: There is nothing we hate more than a crowded email inbox. Thankfully, Unroll.me was created to fix that exact problem. Simply sign up with your email address and let Unroll.me find all of your subscriptions for you. Then easily scroll through and unsubscribe from the ones you’d rather never hear from again. You can also make sure the right emails break through all the noise.
The article is here.
What’s a Maven?
I’m reading a Malcolm Gladwell book at the moment: The Tipping Point. In it, he mentions Maven. I looked it up. In case you don’t already know, a Maven is an expert or connoisseur. Now you know.
by Martin Pollins | Jan 31, 2014 | Technology
There been a lot written about the Cloud but some other interesting news too.
Picture tomorrow’s workday in the Cloud
I found this website by accident and it won my prize of the day. It says that global traffic generated by cloud computing services will increase 12-fold by 2015 compared with cloud traffic in 2010, while data centre traffic will increase four times by 2015.
Regardless of your impact, your world tomorrow will not be served by one giant cloud. Each business and individual will choose different cloud solutions: Some will build private clouds; others will build public clouds; some will prefer hybrid solutions; others will utilize cloud services to create a world of many clouds. By 2015, we will create the data equivalent of 92.5 million Libraries of Congress in one year (that’s a lot of books!).
In less than two years’ time, the amount of business done in the cloud will grow exponentially. So, what does your cloud future look like?
Are you prepared? You can find out when you use this free assessment tool which can help build your cloud vision today.
Access “The cloud: Too much (or Too Little) of a Good Thing?”
The searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com website says that one of the major benefits of cloud services is efficiency. Without proper cloud capacity management, however, companies can miss out on that benefit.
A free handbook is being promoted which includes best practices on how to avoid provisioning too many or too few resources; it also provides guidance on how to address cost concerns with respect to cloud capacity.
The handbook is available for download here.
Winner: Best cloud management software product
On the searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com website there’s an article which tells us that the best cloud management software product winner is Dell Cloud Manager.
As cloud services mature, improved performance, lower costs and fewer outages are enticing enterprises to the cloud. However, not all cloud providers offer exactly what your enterprise needs when it comes to building, monitoring and managing a private cloud infrastructure or hybrid cloud deployment. To fill that void, many IT pros turn to third-party cloud management software.
Dell Cloud Manager – formerly both Dell Multi-Cloud Manager and Enstratius – allows enterprises to deploy, automate and manage applications on a multitude of public, private and hybrid clouds.
Seven new Internet Domains go live, hundreds more to come
This week, Web users will get to stake their claim on website names for seven new domains, the first of many to be introduced in 2014. Donuts Inc., a generic top-level domain (gTLDs) registry, went live with seven new domains this week: .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles, and .ventures. Going forward, Web users can now register names on these domains – like tech.guru or womens.clothing.
“This is a unique opportunity for businesses, brands, organizations, and individuals to find an online identity that speaks precisely to their products, services, and interests,” Donuts CEO Paul Stahura said in a statement.
New domains will roll out on a weekly basis this year. On 5 February for example, Donuts will launch .camera, .equipment, .estate, .gallery, .graphics, .lighting, and .photography.
The article on pcmag.com says that before this week, there were 22 gTLDs, including .com, .org, and .net. In June 2011, however, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved a plan that would allow people to apply for new gTLDs, like .pcmag, for example. The application process closed in May 2012, and officials started sorting through the submissions. Last year, ICANN said the rollout of hundreds of new Web address suffixes was expected by mid-2013, and that started in October with the rollout of domains in Arabic, Chinese, and Cyrillic scripts. Now, the rollout of domains in the Latin alphabet begin.
Web users interested in learning more about purchasing new and existing domain names can find details online. If multiple people request the same domain name, it may be auctioned to those who have pre-registered, according to Web.com.
Dell’s Cloud Connect Dongle puts Enterprise Computing on a Stick
There’s another story (on Wednesday) about Dell on pcmag.com which informs us that Dell’s long-promised, cloud-tapping, enterprise-computing-environment-on-a-stick is finally here.
I have to confess I wasn’t aware of this.
Del has announced the general availability of the Dell Wyse Cloud Connect dongle, first unveiled way back in January 2013 with the code name Project Ophelia. Dell Wyse Cloud Connect devices are priced at $129 per unit and plug into any compatible monitor to deliver access to the desktops, data, apps, and corporate networks used by business users. The upshot is that the dongle, which runs a hardened version of Android, offers access to those assets and data from virtually anywhere a user can plug it in, whether it’s the corporate office, home office, or on the road.
Armed with the Cloud Connect device, enterprise users can tap into their own desktops and secure corporate networks, he said, provided they have a Citrix, Microsoft, or VMware back-end, of course
What is it?
- Cloud Connect is a fully functional mobile thin-client solution, with an extreme emphasis on both “thin” and “mobile.”
- It’s a working PC, albeit a very small one that’s roughly the size of a very hefty thumb drive, but with an HDMI tip rather than USB.
- The dongle sports an ARM-based application processor, 8GB of on-board storage, 1GB of system memory, and runs a version of Android 4.3 that’s been “hardened” with enterprise-class security and networking technologies.
- It supports Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware virtualized desktop environments and provides remote access to both PCs running Windows and Apple Macs.
- Cloud Connect also provides access to the Google Play store and a “wide array” of familiar Android apps available to smartphone and tablet users.
- Cloud Connect has no battery and supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
- It is powered through MHL connections or can use a separate USB cable for un-powered HDMI ports.
- The device offers “quick and secure” access to virtual desktops and corporate cloud assets, Dell said, while also affording enterprise users the ability to run “plug-and-play interactive presentations in full HD directly from the cloud or device, on any compatible display.”
Dell Wyse Cloud Connect can be ordered now at www.dell.com/cloudconnect and through Dell’s channel partners. The device is available in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, India, Japan, Brazil, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
I’m off to buy one straightaway!
by Martin Pollins | Jan 30, 2014 | Technology
There seems to be a lot going on in the tech world at the moment although it may be that I’m a little more tuned in than normal. Here are a few things I found in the last 24 hours.
The growth of mobile messaging and automated text messages: Control Shift
Andrew Sadauskas, in Smart Company, Australia wrote asking: “Would it be handy to receive a text message from your oven notifying you that your dinner’s ready? How about the ability to use a text message to instruct your air conditioner to switch itself on before you get home?”
Andrew asked this question presumably because earlier this week, LG revealed it will give users the ability to add their appliances as contacts to selected mobile messaging apps, including What’sApp. After adding an appliance as a contact, you will be able to send it instructions as a text message, while the appliance can send you notifications as a message.
LG hopes the new feature will help set its products apart in an increasingly crowded marketplace. As Chinese manufacturers flood western markets with low-cost white goods, LG hopes smart technology will help to differentiate its product offering.
The big question, however, is whether this is a feature anyone will actually bother to use. What do you think? Often, the crazier something sounds, the more successful it turns out to be.
Zoho Revamps Online Accounting Software
In a story on accountingTODAY, here, I see that Zoho has refreshed its Zoho Books online accounting software for small businesses. There’s a new user interface and more than 100 new features, along with new mobile apps for Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows devices. Analytics features are available via an online dashboard to answer key questions about business performance and cash flow. The banking module now automatically identifies uncategorised transactions from bank feeds and matches them with existing transactions in Zoho Books. New calendar and weekly timesheet views make it easier to bill time to clients. New customisable invoice templates have also been added to the system.
Is Cloud Migration Right for Your Business?
The move to the cloud is happening – and it’s happening now, says a pro.techtarget.com article, here. But before you jump start your cloud migration project, be sure you understand how to adequately prepare your existing infrastructure for the transition. You can download this free E-Guide now to ensure success on your cloud migration. Registration is required.
In this E-Guide you’ll get tips on:
- Assessing existing infrastructure resources
- Retrofitting networking to your cloud
- Implementing security safeguards
- And much more, all focused on preparing your data centre for cloud’s demands
Thinking outside the ‘box’ for cloud orchestration strategies
Sticking with the cloud, another article on pro.techtarget.com, here, says that for most of the history of IT, building an application was done in a “box-based” model. In this model, components are linked into a machine image, and the image is hosted on a static server in a data centre. The cloud, with its goal of resource flexibility and agility, demands a more dynamic association among app components and their resources. Cloud orchestration is the way that’s achieved – but only if planned and implemented correctly:
- Orchestration is the process of automating deployment and redeployment of app components so that inter-component and inter-application links are correctly established and maintained. In practice, orchestration will involve two fundamental elements:
- Deploying application components, including software components and database components; and
- Creating network connections to allow for inter-component communication and connections to users and other apps.
To read the full story you will need to register here.
Prescription Version of Google Glass Revealed
You’re vision isn’t as good as it used to be. You have to wear prescription glasses. Don’t worry, Google has announced that it will start selling prescription versions of Google Glass via its new Titanium Collection. Google quotes: “If we had a nickel for every time someone has asked about prescription lenses for Glass… well, we’d have a lot of nickels,” the Glass team said on Google+. “So we want you to be the first to know that the Titanium Collection is here, with a handful of new styles for Glass so you can make it your own.”
Titanium is for those who need prescription lenses, as well as those who might just want a new look, Google said. The search giant is offering four feather-light titanium frames, “and if you need prescription lenses and have vision insurance (such as VSP), your policy might even help cover your new frames,” Google said.
“Explorers can access the Titanium Collection [tomorrow afternoon], along with two new styles of twist-on shades,” Google said on Tuesday of this week.
Google Glass, still in beta, will set you back $1,500, and it’s not generally available. To be considered, sign up on the Google Glass website (or sign up for Google Play Music All Access).
For more, check out Google Glass: Everything You Need to Know.
Full story and other information, here.
Was your account hacked? How to find out
This is worrying – particularly as there was some fraudulent activity on one of my credit cards recently. I read a story on pcmag.com, here, which says that credit card hacks and other data breaches have made headlines on an almost daily basis lately. With so many attacks at major national chains, from Target to Neiman Marcus to Michaels, affecting millions of customers, it’s very possible that your credit card has been compromised just as mine has.
The FBI has said that more hacks are likely to surface, due in part to the accessibility of malware as well as the potential profit.
You could, of course, simply eschew modern technology and only use cash, but for many, that’s not an option. So what should you do if you are worried that your credit card might have been compromised, and how do you keep yourself safe going forward?
Here are some tips from the article:
- Check your statement.
- Call your credit card company and your bank.
- Set up fraud monitoring.
- Stay informed.
- Get organised about your personal finances.
For more tips, check out PCMag software analyst Jill Duffy’s tips on organizing your personal finances.
Excerpted from full story at: Pcmag.com
Carphone set to run 60 Samsung stores in Europe
Apple stores need to watch out – Samsung and Carphone Warehouse have signed an agreement for the high street retailer to convert 60 of its stores across Europe into dedicated Samsung stand-alone stores.
Of the 60 stores, that will stock only Samsung products, around 20 will be opened in the UK with the others spread across Ireland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands over the next three months.
“The stores will have a premium look and feel and will sell Samsung mobile communications products across Samsung’s full range of mobiles, tablets, laptops and wearables,” said Carphone Warehouse.
Smartphone rival Apple already has around 100 stores in Europe that it owns and operates. Samsung’s deal with Carphone Warehouse – along with its own retail stores – will increase Samsung’s European retail presence to roughly the same number of stores as Apple.
The story is here.