Has the Cloud changed the business weather?

Old Car PhoneI have always promoted the ways in which technology can help us, and how its advancement is changing the game in many different areas – from remote surgery via a net connection, to the way we communicate and interact. Some would say that this is great, and these changes are for the better – at least better than the sluggish old ways we used to do things. Others are more sceptical, and suggest some of what is happening is taking away from human interaction, often to the degree that we just can’t interact effectively face to face anymore.

With the above in mind, I must confess that I do a lot more typing than writing, and as a result my writing skills are just not what they used to be. Saying that, some would say my typing skills also leave a lot to be desired.

Anyway, I digress; I titled this article, “Has the cloud changed the business weather?”

This was a direct hit at what the Internet (or as it’s often called, the cloud) is doing to the way we do business. Let’s look back at the history of how it was done; again I will speak from the experience I gained over my working life.

In times gone by

In past lives I have used written reports, sending them back to my direct line manager. Then we got the marvel that was carbon paper copies, which meant I could keep a copy myself.

A fax was installed in my home office and I could fax info straight to main HQ and get it actioned. No more waiting on the snail mail to deliver. This was a revolution.

I was then made the proud owner of a pager. It would bleep to signify that I had to go to a phone and call the office. The next version had a small LCD screen where I could read a streaming text message instead of phoning in. Where was technology taking us?

OK, you have probably guessed by now that I am not a newcomer to the work environment. In fact I have been through a good number of changes to the way things are done.

The next development was a phone mounted in my company car. This was a large brick like device in the cabin, connected to a larger box that was taking up most of my boot space. The aerial was attached to the roof of the car, and off I went. However, my sales area included the highlands of Scotland, and the signal at that time was really very poor, so generally I was uncontactable unless I found a landline.

The car phone I was given after that was the first that could be considered truly mobile, and could be removed from the car and taken, yes taken with you, anywhere. WOW! This was just amazing. I could text and phone from anywhere and no longer needed to be tethered to my car.

I was then simply given a mobile phone, and along with that my first mobile computer. It had details of all the products I used to sell on it, and had the ability to allow searches and pricing on the spot in front of a client…

How could this be I hear you cry? Well that was technology for you, and it was driving sweeping changes to what we were able to do in business.

Obviously things have moved on greatly since these bygone days, and companies have had to accept technology moves one. They also have to deal with the way it has influenced what they do, and landscape of their proposed market places.

Access to the Internet started very slow, I still remember connecting via a dial up modem (33.6k which by today’s standards is the slowest thing ever) but it was new and exciting at the time. Then ADSL has superseded that, and now ADSL is on the wane due to Fibre broadband being rolled out nationwide.

With this advancement, and mobile broadband reaching similar speeds, it finally means that the cloud has come of age. The idea of ‘Always there Internet’ has truly arrived.

What we can do now in the cloud, and through the cloud, is an order of magnitude more impressive than my first work experiences of technology.

Where will it all go?

The question now, I suppose, is where will it all go? But what I want to ask you is where will you take it?

Will you adopt the latest technology and keep pushing what you can do beyond what you do now? Beyond what others are doing? The cloud is truly changing the weather in the business world in ways that a younger me could only dream of.

We can collaborate worldwide as if we were in the same office. We can have instant access to real-time information that allows us to make informed decisions faster than ever before.

We can access information at any time and any place, which means we don’t have to be tied to an office desk. Mobile Internet usage (or cloud usage if you like) has increased year on year to around 68 to 70% of all Internet traffic. Technology has improved beyond a large bulky desktop computer or chunky laptop, the information is now actually in the palm of your hand.

Our mobiles (and remember I started with a brick in my car) have now turned into smart phones. We can do all sorts of tasks using them, and that includes good quality business work.

Conclusion

I am still excited about where technology can take us, and would like to think I’m still a people person. It will never make me a recluse, so that I do not interact, but it can make my life and business world  easier. It can change the weather on the business front, and for me this has meant more sunshine and less rain, even though there will still be clouds.

What are your thoughts on adopting new technology for you or your business?

Do I use Protection?

passwords

Password protection of course.

In this post, we are looking at passwords – and what people do or don’t do with them. It was inspired by a recent report online about the most common passwords of 2013. It scares me when I see what is being used. Strong passwords are one of those things we know we need, and should be using, but tend to put little to no effort into. Then we tend to be the first to shout ‘my details were taken’ when things go wrong.

So what are the rules then? Different camps will give you different instructions, and some will claim a password is strong when in fact it isn’t.

Let’s look at the most common methods:

  1. Use Different passwords everywhere.
    Why should we have to do this when it is so easy to use our pets name at every password prompt? Well it’s simple really. If someone guesses your pets name, and believe me they will, then they have access to every site you use. A study by an online company, called BitDefender, showed that 75% of people will use the same password for their email and Facebook. If that is then also your PayPal password, and it’s discovered, say goodbye to some funds and your friends.
  2. Remember the Underwear Meme
    Seemingly the saying goes like this: Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often, maybe not every day of course. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see. (No Post Its). They should also be mysterious and a secret to others. So make them something that they can’t guess.
  3. Avoid Common Passwords
    If the word can be found in a dictionary, it is not a strong password. If you use numbers and letter as they appear on the keyboard, it’s not a strong password. Relatives names and pets names, NO. Even if you follow them with a number. Birthdays and anniversaries are just as bad sadly. Hackers will try all these things first. They actually run programs to check all these kinds of passwords, and for the love of all that’s techie, if you use “password” as your password, please just sign off the Internet right now. SplashData has been listing the 25 worst passwords for some years now, and “password” has always topped the list as the most common password. This year it was deposed by the long-time second worst password: “123456.” No, really!

So what are you tips I hear you cry!

Don’t cry, here is some advice.

Strong Password Solutions

How to Build Strength

To create a strong password, it is suggested you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, but preferably many more. A lot more. The characters should be random, and not include words, flow alphabetically, or be from your keyboard layout.

So how do you make such a password?

1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn “New York” into “kroywen.”)

2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n.”)

3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n.”)

4) Don’t forget the special character. (Example: Turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^.”)

You don’t have to go for the obvious and use “0” for “o,” or “@” for “a,” or “3” for “e,” either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that’s all that matters. A “^” for an “n” makes sense to me.

The suggested best form today seems to be creating a sentence and type it in, including spaces. It takes algorithms much longer to crack something like that than it does just for straight words – even if you have changed the letters for symbols and numbers. (Example: “I love yellow trousers”). This believe it or not is quite secure, and has the added advantage of being easier to remember. Of course, I could also swap numbers for letters and include symbols as well.

Well I hope you got the point and the Protection is definitely needed.

To finish, here is last year’s list of the 25 most commonly used passwords. I expect to hear the cries of despair as you recognise yours. It also shows their change in rank from the year before, and includes some newcomers for this year as well.

1. 123456 (Up 1)

2. password (Down 1)

3. 12345678 (Unchanged)

4. qwerty (Up 1)

5. abc123 (Down 1)

6. 123456789 (New)

7. 111111 ( Up 2)

8. 1234567 (Up 5)

9. iloveyou (Up 2)

10. adobe123 (New)

11. 123123 (Up 5)

12. admin (New)

13. 1234567890 (New)

14. letmein (Down 7)

15. photoshop (New)

16. 1234 (New)

17. monkey (Down 11)

18. shadow (Unchanged)

19. sunshine (Down 5)

20. 12345 (New)

21. password1 (up 4)

22. princess (New)

23. azerty (New)

24. trustno1 (Down12)

25. 000000 (New)

Let us know what you think, and how you cope with remembering all the various passwords you use.

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Christmas Gadget List……

Christmas gift list

Happy Christmas from us All

It’s that time of the year again when people are eying up their Christmas want lists and gadgets are almost likely to be up there near the very top for many of us.

From a new mobile to a tablet computer there are an array of gadgets that can keep us drooling and wanting the next best thing. So who are doing the most obvious pushing this Christmas Time? Who will Santa be wooed over by when he is choosing your and my presents this year.

Phones

The IPhone 5S is still high in the popularity stakes with its clean looks and fingerprint recognition. Will an Apple at Christmas be your thing. At around £549 to buy.
HTC One is the competitor and again sturdy design with HTC’s proven record of phone technology. Fabulous sound through two front facing speakers. Made from a solid piece of aluminium. At around £479 to buy.

Cameras

The cannon EOS 700d might be the present you are seeking from Father Christmas, get the professional shots you have always wanted. 18 Megapixel sensor and great build quality; this puppy will set you around £750 to buy.
Samsung have their NX300 out as well to compete and being Samsung the name is there as far as technology is concerned. It has a 20.3 Megapixel sensor and talks to all other Samsung devices. It will take around £600 out of your Christmas savings account.

Apple again

Apple MacBook Air is still popular, the 2013 edition. Only a small upgrade to previous versions but still maybe on your Christmas list if you are and avid Apple follower. Apple never does anything by half so this baby will cost you around £849 to buy.

TV’s

A large new TV, which would be a great Christmas present. Samsung again with their Samsung UE46F8000ST, 35mm thick with e tiny 5mm surround bezel has to be a great pick. Image quality is meant to be one of the best from an LED TV. And it includes all the gesture recognition that is coming in. Basically a computer on board containing Quad cores……This screen will steal around £1800 from your savings.
Panasonic have their TX-P60ZT65, which is rumoured to be the best HD TV out there with extremely fine picture detail. Smart with Internet options and also acts as a media streamer. However the elves will raid your bank account to the tune of around £3650.

To finish our Teaser list…..

How about a JL Built-in Wine Cooler, this small cabinet fits in the smallest of spaces in a kitchen and chills the wine, 7 bottles, and is very quiet with a noise count of only 36dB. Doesn’t frost up either it seem? This will cost your around £180, so not such a sting on those savings this time.

Well, have a great Christmas and a fabulous new year and let me know below what your gadget for Christmas would-be this year.

IT Tech Point

Is It Clouding my Judgement………?

cloud storage

As I was sitting at my office window and gazing at the sky, which unfortunately is more times grey than blue, I started to think about the shapes of clouds out there and obviously then being a geek my mind was drawn to cloud computing and all things to do with it.

I have trodden the boards of the IT stage for a number of years now, and it’s always fresh as new development is always on the horizon. The use of the term cloud has always seemed to have been thought up as a throwaway term by some marketing executive or journalist at some point, and has then just stuck with us. In practice – it is simply the Internet to most people, which has been around for many years. Of course, for some of us, the connection has been not too reliable, and it has occasionally been almost impossible to connect to over the years. But basically it all boils down to areas of storage on the Internet where data and websites live and we can all marvel at their content.

It is amazing how it has changed the world’s habits over the short time it has been around. We work there, shop there, talk there, and then we spend a disproportionate amount of our free time there.

Of course things have developed over the years, and we are now able to connect much more easily. In fact when our Internet connection goes down we are sometimes at a loss, all we have and do is attached to it. That feeling of your right arm being cut off … second only to those times when you misplace your phone…

However, I digress, what about this cloud thing. Well I suppose the natural extension to the Internet and surfing web pages is the fact we can put most, if not all, of our lives up on the Internet. It’s then stored on servers sited all around the world, thankfully not in an actual cloud. Although a friend of mine recently told me that his elderly mother had reasoned that this is why the weather is deteriorating, we are putting far too much stuff up in the clouds … an interesting thought.

Cloud storage has become a big thing, and also of course cloud based applications. Both allow mobile devices to carry out what seems to be very complex work, when in fact they are merely displaying it and the work is being done elsewhere.

Companies are now letting us sign up for free online storage space. When we upload data to it,  it can be seen from any handheld connected device we have; we can also share it with others more easily. This all sounds good, and in the opinion of many it is the way ahead. Sceptics have worries about security, who has access and who actually owns your data? What happens if the the server is down and you can’t access your data? All these are reasonable questions and need to be answered, and the cloud is not necessarily the best option for everyone. It may even only be a supplementary solution for some people and companies.

My personal experience has involved using it for storing various documents and information that I may want whilst out and about. There is nothing worse than being somewhere and remembering that the file you want is on your storage at home or office. In the past I used to email myself things, and when out and about if I could access my email account I could retrieve the data. Then came pen drives and I could carry vast amounts of data around in my pocket on something no bigger than a postage stamp. Think of the security risk with that, there have already been a few red faces from such items being left unattended.

With regard to the best cloud storage solution out there, that varies depending on who you speak to. In a lot of cases people have simply stuck with the first one they tried.

I can really only talk about Google Drive and the use of Google Drive and Google Apps. I have used them for some time and found them to be exactly what I need, allowing me to access data from my PC at the office, my Laptop at home and my phone and tablet as I travel. All are working on the same document held in the cloud so there are no duplicates or multiple versions. Google Drive also lets you share documents and I have worked with documents in situations where they were getting updated by a number of people simultaneously. The usability of the Google Apps side I always feel could be much improved, but then I am a Microsoft Office trainer and always use that as a measuring stick I am afraid.

Other offerings out there are many and more are arriving every day, such as Microsoft’s Sky Drive, Dropbox, Justcloud, Live drive, Apples Icloud and many more.

Which is best for you? Well it is difficult to choose, some people choose because of the space they are given, others because they thought they would give it a try and have just stayed there. I chose because I had tried Google Apps and found them an interesting start to online applications. Then I wanted to share files and found that Google would allow me to edit files as well as share them. I then started to get into Android, Google’s mobile operating system, and my account simply and seamlessly joined together and everything worked everywhere. What else did I need?

I hope this explains the move from the hard drive in your machine to the cloud. The use of it will only increase, driven by the 4G network expanding and access to the Internet becoming faster and more available. You may have to jump to a cloud at one point, so check it out – there is loads of information about it out there … where?

In the cloud of course…

Ian Thomson
Consultant at
IT Turning Point

Online or Offline

training and consultancy

Well the debate has heightened again about the use of Online to purchase goods and services. With the closure last month of Jessops, Blockbuster, Comet and HMV where do we stand with regard to keeping a healthy shopping and retail sector and the use of the Internet.

Initially when the Internet came around the speeds were too slow, major companies did not adopt the Internet quickly so choices were limited to what you could purchase. The security element was also a major concern.

However nowadays this has all been overcome and the Internet has flourished into a massive repository of all things. There is very little you cannot find somewhere on the Internet and usually cheaper than in the high street stores. There of course is still the area of security with a customer leak of details almost monthly from somewhere. The sellers are not all major companies and this can lead to failed promises and customers being let down and finally there is the aspect of dealing with someone who is not there face to face.

When we purchase from a shop and have problems we can usually juts go right back there and see someone face to face who will take ownership of the issue and get it resolved. (With some exceptions and horror stories of course). I can relate to the online scenario  having had a problem with a TV I purchased and the manufacturer wanted nothing to do with the faulty unit and the retailer online I had dealt with said there was nothing wrong with it. I was frustrated and felt I had nowhere to go.

So what is the reason we are going over to online so much. Well as you can probably imagine there are various reasons and here are a few I am sure you can identify with: –

  • Convenience of being able to shop from your own home at any time.
  • More and more traffic on the Internet nowadays is via mobile devices and it makes it so convenient to shop.
  • Things can usually be purchased and delivered cheaper than in the local store.
  • The Internet has become of age and is more acceptable to this generation.
  • Media is moving mostly to digital, films, music, etc.
  • And more.

This list is not exhaustible, but it is our fear that we will lose so much by going this way completely. I am a self-confessed GEEK and love where technology is going and the flexibility of the way we can do things. But, I am also sometimes of the opinion that it would be good to go and see and feel some products before we purchase them and also to chat to someone who knows something about them. I also believe in the local market and the local business owners making a living.

What are your thoughts and opinions? Is this move a good thing or a bad thing?

How can business adapt to this and keep them afloat and busy?

Ian Thomson
Founder/Senior Trainer/Consultant
IT Turning Point