Three Habits of Successful IT Pros

Three Habits of Successful IT Pros

1. Keep Your Head in the Clouds

Sounds like the opposite of what your mother use to tell you, but the Cloud is becoming increasing important. As more and more business professionals are becoming more tech savvy with individual device. However, more and more of these devices can now interact with one another and it’ll take an IT pro to keep it all running smoothly. Click here to learn more about Cloud hosting.

2. Planning for the Worst

In today’s world, IT professionals are most needed during crisis time. In the past, a computer going down could mean inconvenience, but today it means disaster. The ability to at least come up with a stop-gap measure when systems cease functioning should be on the top of everyone’s list. Like how Gawker Media went down during Hurricane Sandy. They had virtually no plan when their servers got flooded.

3. The Lingua Franca

The smoothest run businesses have good communication. People need to be able to understand one another. Teaching non-IT workers basic terms can help increase the speed at which issues are resolved. It’s a two way street. IT workers learning business terms can help them frame solutions that are more productive. Less foreignness between these two sectors can foster a more cohesive company and may led to a more relaxed atmosphere.

The Economics of Tech Businesses

Everyone seems to be talking about the economy.  Politicians, school teachers, and even that guy holding up the sign at the street corner are all asking if we are better than we were four years ago.  At the core of that question is faith and belief.  Publilius Syrus once said that, “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.”  Recently, the Nasdaq reached its highest levels since 2000, when the Internet bubble burst.

Many fault the slow economic recovery to low demand.  However, major tech companies are still chugging money into R&D.  Both Google and Apple are preparing for major product launches.  A Piper Jaffray report stated that Apple may be able to sell 10 million iPhone 5s in a week.

Not only is demand for hardware on the rise, but also for the consumption of data.  A Motorola executive, Daniel Woodward announced that there are 15 million users and counting on LTE services when talking about the new Droid Razor coming out.


BBC Investigates Facebook Ads

For many companies, Facebook fans are a much sought-after commodity. After all, plenty of people spend hours glued to the social media site, and having your business’s messages show up there makes you a part of their virtual community.

But an investigation by the BBC may make marketers think twice before buying Facebook ads asking people to “like” their pages. Graham Cluley of the security firm Sophos told the BBC that spammers and malware distributors create fake Facebook profiles capable of automatically hitting the little thumbs-up button on thousands of pages. By making all those connections, they build bigger communities of people to reach out to with their spam and scams, but they may also give businesses a false impression of how well their Facebook ads are working.

Facebook has revealed that 5 to 6 percent of its users, may be fake. That’s not a huge percentage, but it adds up to about 54 million profiles, and they may be disproportionately the ones that end up “liking” business pages.

To test how big the problem is, the BBC created a page for a fake business called VirtualBagel and bought ads designed to attract fans. In just a day, the investigation found VirtualBagel got 1,600 likes, “despite the fact that the page offered no products and no interesting content.” And, although the ads were aimed at the U.S., the U.K. and parts of the Middle East and Asia, almost all the likes came from profiles in India, Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines, and many of them appeared to be fake.

Facebook told the BBC that it doesn’t see a “wave of likes” coming from false users, but Cluley suggested the social media giant has reason to downplay the problem. After all, its biggest revenue source is ads.

So, what can you do to make sure your business page is getting real Facebook friends? Of course, posting interesting, useful content is a major part of any good social media strategy. It’s also a good idea to keep track of the statistics that Facebook provides, and to use other tools like Google Analytics to see if Facebook fans are becoming customers.

Beyond that, different kinds of companies will have different strategies that fit them best, so an IT consulting firm can help you figure out your own best practices.

Sales at Light speed

At first there was barter.  People exchanged goods and services for other goods and services.  But this was bulky and inconsistent.  Then came species based currency, gold, silver, silk and even seashells served as a medium of exchange.  However, they were heavy and difficult to transport, maintain, and safeguard.  Paper money and currency promises followed.  These forms of money ran on promises and faith.  Finally, we’ve entered the stage where there is so much faith that there can be no physical representation of the medium exchange, like a credit card or a wallet app.  Then what’s the next step?  It’s time to bridge the digital and physical world.

Lightspeed is an app that has just received 30 million in venture capital and it aims to enhance the brick and mortar shopping experience.  The way it works is that sales personal carry around iPads.  When a shopper comes in and wants to make a purchase, the sales rep can show them other items in the store on the iPad.  This way the sales rep can show the customer a dozen different items without having to run around the store.  Also, the customer can look at items that are carried by the retail, but are not currently in stock. When all browsing is concluded the app can accept payment and signatures or print/e-mail an invoice.

Will it work?  Well, according to an IBM survey, 79 percent of all Canadian shoppers prefer purchasing items in a physical store.  However, that same data showed that the majority of them found information online.  Lightspeed seems to combine the best of both worlds.  Customers get the secure feeling of being able to touch and see the item in person while being able to quickly browse and ask questions from a live sales representative.  From on site IT services to clothing stores, the digital world will keep encroaching on the real one.  Whether or not that is a good thing is yet to be seen.

Ebay Makes Some Green

Ebay announced that it will expand the usage of Bloom Energy Cells at their Utah data center.  The increase to thirty fuel cells will allow the green tech to become the facilities primary power source with the standard electric grid as its backup.  Bloom Energy Fuel Cells use a solid oxide ceramic material as an electrolyte.  It requires an initial burst of energy to heat the system to 800 C and a reformed methanol fuel be placed on one side of the fuel cell.  This attracts oxygen ions (air) into the system where the ions are stripped of their electrons, thus creating electricity.  In theory, once the system gets started it can provide the energy needed to heat itself up and provide electricity to the facility.  The question is: does this make good business sense for Ebay?

My gut feeling is yes.  Having your own power plant next door does allow for greater efficiency that is often lost when electricity travels long distances.  The growing trend seems to be that more and more businesses want to have more control over their power consumption.  Switching to an alternative energy source has a plethora of benefits, not least of which is the benefit to the Earth that we all live on, but also endearing yourself to the public and locking down the variable of power costs.  When even Walmart is has started a program of having wind turbines in their parking lots, it has to be an effective move.

Well, most businesses can’t afford a wind turbine or a 800,000 dollar fuel cell, but of course there are plenty of smaller things a business can do to save power.  Talk to an IT consultant about increasing your techs efficiency.  One simple trick I’ve learned over the years is changing your background on your phone or computer to something black.  OLED, LED backlit LCD screens and older CRT monitors consumer less energy when the background is black.  An informal study found that an OLED phone saves about 20% more energy when it simply had its wallpaper changed to black.  That’s not much, but considering many people have multiple phones and computers, it adds up.


Why IT Consulting?

For some business owners, the notion of outsourcing anything to an outside firm might seem a little scary. It’s attractive to have everyone who’s doing anything for your company working as a dedicated full-time employee.

But these days most businesses can benefit from advanced technologies like cloud computing, remote backup and systems that integrate computer and phone networks.  Often, you won’t even know what technological solutions make sense for them until you see them in action.

That’s where IT consulting comes in. An IT firm can look at the big picture and suggest what investments might make sense. Because they work with multiple clients, they have up-to-date expertise in what other companies are finding useful, which means you can benefit from the experiences of others.

Consulting firms also have a surprising cost benefit. If a company has its own internal IT department, a handful of employees probably have to do everything from overhauling the entire email system to setting up voicemail for a new hire. That means they have to be seriously overqualified—and overpaid—for some of their assignments. With an outside firm, you’re hiring a team that includes people with a variety of experience levels. Often it also means you can have several IT professionals on hand when you need them and none when you don’t.

Here’s another thing about outsourcing IT—it’s probably inevitable, at least for some things. More and more of us are using the cloud every day, even if that just means throwing a file into Dropbox or sharing something on Google Docs, and that means trusting our data to outside parties. IT consulting firms can help businesses do these kinds of things in ways that are more secure—and that also offer extra benefits like emergency backup.

IT firms can work with companies a variety of ways—from troubleshooting email problems to developing a cloud strategy for connecting remote offices. But you probably won’t know which solutions might make sense for your office until you start asking.

Elementary, AT&T’s Watson

The voice recognition software known as Siri is one of Apple’s most iconic services. There is nothing quite like speaking to your smart phone and getting a response. It invokes a very futuristic feeling. Well, AT&T would chime in and say that its voice recognition software has been around for over twenty years. Now, to take it to next level, AT&T is going to release a limited number of Watson API’s to developers to plug directly into their apps.

The move is smart. Watson works best when it works within a certain category in order to anticipate what you’re talking about. For example, if Watson is in a restaurant app it will make more assumptions that what you’re trying to tell it is about food and dinning. So if you said, “Blue Plate Special” it’d bring up information about diners rather than a place that has a sale on blue plates. Further, Watson is also designed to transcribe spoken words into text. That’s pretty impressive. There’s little detail out there about how the central server will communicate with mobile devices, more information is to come.

What does this mean to you? Since the program is being sent out to independent developers, anything is possible. More than likely, every niche will be filled. IT service providers could transcribe troubleshooting logs while they work, gamers could play completely hands free, when you’re talking to an automated customer service system, it’ll finally understand that you don’t want to talk it.

That does bring up a point. Is this a first step of automated systems becoming more efficient than human service providers? There is something appealing to dealing with a machine. It never has an attitude or get annoyed when you can’t understand what they are saying. On the other hand, automated service is limited by its programming. Only time will tell if Watson and Siri will evolve into dynamic systems that can actually understand the complexities of human language all the way down to sarcasm and turns of phrase.

About Apple’s new iCloud service, and its impact on business

Cloud services have been a hot topic in recent years – companies are moving further and further into the cloud, while consumers seem a bit slower to adopt.

Apple’s new iCloud services is poised to bring consumers (and small business owners) radically forward with a highly integrated cloud offering designed to keep all of your technology in sync at all times.

What iCloud does:

In the past, if you had a laptop, desktop, smart phone and a tablet computer, they all had their own data and none shared very well with each other.  Your smart phone might sync with one of your computers, but that leaves the other two computers “in the dark”.  Multimedia like music and pictures are very rarely common across all computers.  In short, it was pretty hard to keep all of your data straight, and very inconvenient to keep everything in line with each other.

iCloud seeks to change that by keeping all devices in sync with one another at all times.

How iCloud works:

For small business owners, iCloud keeps your calendar completely updated across all devices, in real time.  Your emails and business documents are also automatically updated, so you can always be sure that you’re working from completely up-to-date information.

For consumers, your multimedia (like music, books and pictures) are also kept up-to-date across all of your devices.

Advanced iCloud features:

In addition to keeping all of your devices in sync, iCloud also offers special add-ons designed to keep your family and close friends “in the loop” at all times.

One such feature is the “Find My Friends” feature.  “Find My Friends” allows your friends to see where your iPhone is on a map at any time.  This option can be extended to your friends or family for a limited time – say, a day while you’re on the ski hills or in the shopping mall, or for a longer period, in case you’d like your friends to know where they can meet you for drinks!

Another handy feature is the “Find my iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac”.  This is very much like it sounds – it allows you the ability to see exactly where your device is.  Accidentally left your iPhone somewhere, but not sure exactly where?  Just bring up this iCloud feature on your Mac, and you can see exactly where your iPhone is, on a map, in realtime.

You can even have your iPhone display a message to someone who finds it, so they can return it to you!

In Conclusion:

The iCloud service changes the way that devices interact with each other for the better.  Rather than having many devices that are independent from one another, iCloud makes transitioning between them completely seamless.