Here’s a truth about technology, one which makes some people shudder and others celebrate: Everything we understand about it today will definitely change tomorrow. Remember the days when faxing represented cutting-edge tech? Those times are long gone. But look at e-mail. Is e-mail ready to go the way of faxing? The ever-evolving nature of technology is a fact that CIO Magazine highlighted in a recent article checking out tech trends that may change the way you do business in 2013. This is a look at some of the big changes that CIO Magazine predicts will hit businesses this year.
Hospitals and BYOD
The BYOD movement — bring your own device — has already changed the way many organizations operate. By allowing their employees to bring their own computers and tablets to the workplace, organizations have boosted their workers’ productivity and saved themselves big dollars. CIO Magazine, though, predicts that the BYOD movement will this coming year move to hospitals. The magazine’s editors say that a growing number of hospitals across the nation will encourage their doctors, nurses and administrators to bring their iPads and laptops to their stations.
3-D Printing Continues to Soar
3-D printing is still a marvel to a lot of people. It feels almost like magic. But in 2013, 3-D printing will become less awe-inspiring and more of a given. That’s great news for the industry. It signifies that a growing number of companies are recognizing the value of 3-D printers. 3-D printers today let businesses fabricate their own plastic parts. That’s pretty incredible. It’s little surprise that business owners will continue to embrace this technology in 2013.
The End of Passwords?
Passwords have always been a technological problem for businesses. A great number of their employees make use of their children’s names, street addresses or favorite baseball team when deciding on passwords. These passwords are easier for hackers to guess. When hackers guess a password, they are able to quickly access confidential company information. But what if companies instead used biometrics to secure their computers and confidential data? That day is on its way, predicts CIO. In biometrics, companies use such body parts as the iris’ of their workers’ eyes or their fingerprints as replacements for passwords. It truly is a secure way for businesses to protect their critical data.
Small business people are very busy people. You’re hiring staffers, balancing your business’ budget, developing new services and developing marketing campaigns. You’ve even the person in charge of setting your business’ hours and scouting out new areas for expansion. So you’re probably not thrilled that business experts are telling you you need to study big data, too, to have a competitive advantage. You might not know what big data is — the majority of people don’t. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not vital to the success of your small business.
Defining Big Data
John Weathington, while writing for the TechRepublic Web site, defines big data as massive amounts of rapidly moving and freely available information that serves an important need in the business marketplace. Companies that have access to big data about their own customers’ needs and wants, and their willingness to pay to have what they want, can gain a big competitive advantage, especially in a challenging economy. Unfortunately, as Weathington writes, it’s hard for small business owners to access and analyze big data. The ones that do it, though, will be rewarded.
Big Data In Action
Big data gives companies, even small ones, a competitive advantage. CIO Magazine provides three examples. The magazine cites a financial company that uses large financial data sets and data analytics tools to help clients decide how to best plan their retirements. This, not surprisingly, gives this financial firm an edge in attracting new clients.
Exmobaby uses big data to attract parents who would like their babies to be as healthy and well as possible. The business sells pajamas that come with built-in sensors. These sensors monitor the babies wearing the pajamas and sends health information in real time to parents. It’s easy to see how big health data sets can help this company attract the business of concerned parents. Finally, the CIO story cites Parchment. This company analyzes such education information as grade point averages, SAT scores and college acceptance data to help students apply to those colleges that are most likely to accept them. Through the use of big sets of data in order to save their clients both time and disappointment, Parchment has been able to steadily build its customer base.
Business owners like to think that paper will soon become a thing of the past. Not surprisingly, we send the majority of our correspondence through e-mail today, right? Then there’s texting and social media. When it comes to storing documents, it’s much easier to keep them in the cloud. That way, companies don’t have to clutter their offices with reams of paper and printouts. Nevertheless the unfortunate fact is that small companies today aren’t free of paper.
Can’t turn away business
As writer Paul Mah with Small Business Computing.com says, small business owners will frequently run into clients who demand real paper trails of their transactions. These purchasers are either unable or unwilling to move toward a paperless business model. Small business owners today are rarely in the position of turning away any customers, even those who refuse to adjust to new technology. It’s important, then, for business owners to purchase the appropriate printer. Fortunately, Mah provides some choices.
First, you need to determine whether you need a multi-function printer. Such printers, as their name suggests, do more than just print. In addition they scan, photocopy and fax. Such printers make sense for companies that perform these other functions. However, these printers, because of their many functions, are usually more expensive. If your company rarely faxes or makes photocopies, a unit dedicated solely to printing might make more sense.
Laser vs. Inkjet
The old debate has always focused on whether laser printers or inkjet printers make more sense for small businesses. The truth is, both kinds of printers have downsides and upsides. Consider laser printers. As Mah writes, it’s widely acknowledged that laser printers produce cleaner, more vibrant copy than inkjet printers. On the down side? Laser printers cost more. Then check out inkjet printers. These are usually more affordable and their technology has improved so that the prints from them are clearer than ever before. But you will discover downsides here, too. For instance, you’ll need to replace those printer heads often if your business does a lot of printing. Secondly, the printer heads tend to clog up on an inkjet printer in the event the printer is not used often enough. There are other things to consider when choosing a printer for your business. The more you print, the higher-end printer you’ll need. If you need to print in color, you’ll need to decide whether to use a printer that contains both black and color cartridges or one that utilizes a single-cartridge system to produce all colors.
Much of the tech press has reported about Windows 8, although it has only recently come out. This is good for you, as you can learn a little of the ins and outs before you use it. One article we found particularly interesting was one written by InfoWorld’s J. Peter Bruzzese. It covers several useful features about Windows 8. We have highlighted a few below.
The charms bar
The charms bar is essentially a shortcuts bar that exists on the right side of the screen in Windows 8. An example of a shortcut available to users is that by clicking “settings” then clicking “power” they can put their computer to sleep. The charms bar has several settings for searching, switching to the Windows 7 desktop, if you liked that better, and for sharing.
Retrieving lost files
What’s worse than losing a file? Not much with regards to computing. Fortunately, Windows 8 can help. The operating system comes with a new way of saving copies of files that lets users recover previous versions if their current file is lost or damaged. This feature works in much the same way as does OS X’s Time Machine utility.
Windows on the go
Here’s an especially nifty feature: With the Enterprise Edition of Windows 8, users can put their entire Windows environment on a USB drive and then take it with them. They can then pull it up on any PC that is compatible with Windows 7 or 8.
Have you ever heard of ransomware? It is a particularly frightening new form of malware. A recent story published by Slate goes into the details of how it attacks your computer. After clicking on a dubious link from an email or a webpage, your screen will instantly turn grey. Then a message pops up that is branded to look like it’s from the FBI. Additionally, it has you on a live webcam feed!
That isn’t even the scariest part. A message will then appear on your screen telling you that you have violated copyright laws and have two choices. One, pay a fine within 48 to 72 hours, or two, go to prison for as much as three years. You are also told that if you do not pay your computer will be locked indefinitely.
A real threat
Obviously you will not be charged with anything if you don’t pay, it is a scam. However, they may actually be able to lock you out of your computer according to a senior security advisor quoted by Slate. So should you just pay the fine to prevent this, it’s usually in the $100 range, or not? Maybe not, once they have your money there is no guarantee they won’t lock your computer anyway to get more money.
McAfee, the well-known maker of antivirus software, noted that it recorded more than 120,000 new examples of ransomware attacks in the second quarter of 2012. How to protect yourself? Exactly the same way you protect yourself from any type of malicious code. Make certain you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Just as significantly, don’t visit dubious websites, illegally download files to your computer, or click on strange links in email addresses.
And if your computer is infected? This is a pretty complex type of malware. To revive your computer, you might need to recruit the help of a computer security expert. Slate also suggests that you contact the real FBI by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov.
When you are traveling for business, it can be difficult to be as productive as you are in the office. The Internet connection at the hotel can be inconsistent, and it can be tough to stay on top of your email when you are in business meetings or traveling from one place to another. Luckily, there are several tech tools that can help greatly while you are away from the office. We have highlighted a few below.
GroupMe: Sometimes while you’re on the road you have to communicate quickly with certain groups of employees or partners. You can make this a lot easier with the GroupMe app. This app permits you to create groups from lists of employees. You can then send messages or updates to everyone on these lists with just one text message.
Belkin Mini Surge Protector DUAL USB Charger: With this powerful tool you can instantly charge all of your mobile devices at once. It features three AC outlets and two USB outlets, in addition to being a surge protector. You can see how this would prove useful!
Campfire: If you wish to talk, not just send a quick text, to your whole team, you can utilize the Campfire app. It allows you to set up a chat room with any amount of people you want. Everyone in the group will be able to see all of the messages people are sending. You can even make conference calls with it!
Smartphones have made it simpler to digest the news, find that new Thai restaurant, and connect with associates. They’ve also made it simpler to annoy people, too. That’s the problem with smartphones: They’re so addicting that they encourage bad habits that we’d otherwise rarely tolerate in others. Below are several of the most bothersome habits of smartphone users. As the saying goes, admitting that you have a problem is the first step in solving that problem. Are you guilty of any of the bad habits listed below? If so, knock it off.
Texting and driving
This is not only bothersome, it can also be deadly. Besides the fact that this is illegal in most states, plenty of people still insist on doing it. If you find that you are guilty of this, think about the consequences of your actions. Not only could you get in an accident, which may put a damper on your day, but you could perhaps hurt yourself and others. So, it is very beneficial to resist texting while driving.
Paying more attention to your phone than your friends
Have you ever observed people eating dinner together but they are both on their smartphones? This behavior is very annoying for people. When you make plans with your friends and family, the purpose is to spend time with them, right? How do you do that if you are checking your email the entire time or texting? Remember how you have felt if you have been in the midst of a discussion and a friend has answered a text? Maybe you felt less important. If you do not want your companions to feel this way, avoid your phone when out with them.
When you navigate through your phone or type does it make little clicking sounds or beeps? You may not realize this, but it is probably annoying the people around you. When you are waiting in line at the supermarket and texting your friend, the people around you don’t want to listen to the clicks of your fingers moving across the keys. It is simple to turn this off for the comfort of those who are around you.
Most of us think it’s vital that you keep your antivirus software up-to-date. This is how we can protect our systems from viruses. Recently MIT’s Technology Review published an article that opposes this “given” we have all lived by.
Antivirus Software: Unreliable?
The antivirus software that we have paid for and long trusted to shield our information may not be effective. The technology is running a race with malware programs and malware is winning. More sophisticated and tricky to detect malware comes out every day and this is very concerning to those of us who access the Internet on a daily bases.
Burned by Flame
One of the most complex examples of malware to date is Flame. Flame copies documents, audio, network traffic, and keystrokes made on a computer that has been infected by it. The scary thing is, Flame has been active for a couple years now. During all of this time, no security software has been developed to detect this malware.
An Industry Under Siege
As the Technology Review story says, though, Flame is far from the only malware to slip past antivirus software. Several complex malware attacks in recent years have avoided detection by antivirus software. The story quotes an official with an antivirus firm who labeled Flame as a major failure of the antivirus industry. What’s this mean for you? Only that your computer probably isn’t nearly as safe as you’ve thought. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t install any antivirus software on your computer. Until the security side of the computer industry catches up, antivirus software remains your very best chance of thwarting a virus attack. Just don’t be overly surprised if that antivirus software fails.
Have you ever traveled overseas and been struggling to speak the language? Constantly fumbling with a dictionary is not ideal. Instead, how about next time you employ your smartphone. There are lots of apps on the market that were designed for this purpose. We have laid out three below that we think are worth your time and money.
Jibbigo costs $4.99, this app is available for both the iPhone and Android. It has such an massive dictionary you would be hard pressed to find a language this app cannot translate. To use it, users speak right into their smartphone and Jibbigo will give you a translation via text or voice. This app can be quite useful to people touring remote locations as it does not require a network connection.
Dean Foster’s Culture Guides
If you are looking for something more powerful then Jibbigo, Dean Foster’s Culture Guides may be what you are looking for. These guides are available for 12 countries so far. They offer not only translation of the languages of these countries but maps, up-to-date weather reports, and exchange rates.
If you need to translate the written word, Word Lens is a great app. It utilizes your smartphones camera. You take a photo of a sign, menu, book, etc. and the app will translate it for you. You will see how this might be handy. The only languages this app presently works with are Spanish, French, Italian, and English. The basic app is free, but if you need to buy any of the languages it will cost you $4.99 per language.