Archive for January, 2012

Partnerships Support Local Schools

January 29, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]It is not easy running a school.  Managing the logistics of a medium-sized business, the politics of a small town and a budget under stress challenges all principals. Principals need perseverance and confidence to tackle the opportunities that each day brings, but they balance it with hugs, hall art, smiles and the desire to succeed. And in each classroom, teachers are the glue providing instruction, guidance and inspiration.

A school is an energetic place.  In business, we expend great deal of thought, energy and resource to make our employees enthusiastic.  For the young, enthusiasm is natural.  Just imagine if we could capture that energy and make that enthusiasm last into adulthood, the world would be a lovelier place.

Undoubtedly, children are the future or more accurately – the hope of the future.  They need every advantage we can off to make them competitive, informed and successful.  It takes a community to raise a child.  A community made up of parents, teachers, friends, family, business and civic leaders committed to our competitive advantage.

Recently, the Norcross Cluster Schools Partnership (NCSP) through the annual Gala raised over $18,000 to fund initiatives using a grant application program.  Teachers requested funding for projects they felt were important and needed which may not be otherwise financed. The grants were awarded to 9 schools and included Kindles, a Literacy Academy, Butterfly Life Cycle and a State-of-the-Art Playground.  Additionally, several local businesses have funded programs that concentrate on math and science education and participate as volunteers to help deliver the curriculum.

Schools have many ways that the community can participate. Whether you volunteer your time and talent, donate money or attend a fund-raiser, you become part of the hope for our future. So look for ways to become involved, be an active component and make a difference.

For more information on the NCSP, visit: www.norcrosscsp.org.

The best offense is a good defense: Disaster preparedness essentials

January 12, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest blog by Cindy Bates, Vice President of Microsoft’s US SMB Organization

Planning for “the worst” isn’t quite as fun as refining a business plan or coming up with new ways to market your products or services, but doing so just might make the difference between the success or failure of your company. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen following a disaster; and, of the remaining companies, at least 25 percent will close in two years.

Yet, small businesses that take time to develop a disaster preparedness plan that includes preventive measures as well as actions to be taken in the event of disaster greatly increase their odds of withstanding catastrophe. To get started with creating a disaster preparedness plan, I recommend small- business decision makers consider the following:

  • Insurance plans and policies – Understanding the intricacies of an insurance plan or policy requires a good bit of time, but it’s a step well worth taking now since it’s unlikely there will be much time to do so when disaster strikes. Also, you might notice gaps in your plan that can be addressed before it’s too late.
  • Money management – It’s always wise to keep your finances in order, but all the more so when it comes to disaster preparedness. Have all financial obligations, including bill payments, payroll details and account information, in a safe place, since these responsibilities will still require attention even in the midst of dealing with a disaster.
  • Cloud-based software for storage and more – Cloud-based software services designed for small businesses store data in secure, offsite locations and provide access to data from anywhere employees have an Internet connection. If your physical office is hit by a natural disaster, you’d still be able to access your information for business continuity. Furthermore, many small businesses have found cloud-based software to provide a host of other benefits, including access to enterprise-class capabilities at an affordable price.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home or small- business PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install and easy to use and that is automatically updated to protect your PC with the latest technology. The greater the security of your PCs, the less the chance that a virtual disaster like cybercrime could impact your business.
  • Technology      updates – By maintaining updated technology, small businesses can      prevent many virtual disasters from happening in the first place. Install updates      whenever prompted to do so, or set company PCs to install updates      automatically.
  • Virtualization –      Virtualization consolidates physical server hardware onto virtual machines      that live in the cloud. This not only helps small businesses recover more      swiftly from disaster but also can lead to cost savings and more efficient      operations.

Small businesses that need to implement new technology systems to better prepare for disaster should engage the help of a qualified IT services provider and can find a list of Atlanta-based providers here.

Also, for more advice on preventing and preparing for disaster, check out this free eGuide on disaster preparedness. Finally, I encourage you to keep tabs on my blog, where I regularly address a range of business and technology issues relevant to small businesses.

Cynthia (“Cindy”) Bates is the Vice President of Microsoft’s US SMB Organization where she is responsible for the company’s end-to-end SMB sales and marketing efforts, including SMB strategy, business development, regional field sales and national distribution sales, channel marketing, and customer marketing. 

Cindy and her team align Microsoft’s resources across customer and partner engagement to drive success in serving the millions of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in the US, helping them start, grow and thrive by leveraging today’s powerful and affordable technologies. At the pillar of these technologies lies cloud computing, in which Microsoft has more than 15 years of experience and understands how to meet the demands of SMBs for simplicity and impact, with enterprise-grade capabilities, flexibility and affordability in a familiar environment. 

Top IT Trends for 2012

January 6, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]In keeping with our new year’s tradition, we have compiled our list of the top technology trends for 2012. We scanned the available data, reviewed our previous predictions and made some leaps of faith. We are optimistic about the economy and expect many delayed IT expenditures to be completed this year. Advances in business technology continue their steady progression with many smaller businesses adopting leading edge technologies.  This year will be interesting for consumer electronics.  Maybe Steve Jobs left his next great invention in the Apple pensieve.

Local Data Centers – As Cloud Computing gains acceptance and market share, more business will move their equipment and applications to the cloud.  Companies will look for neighborhood data centers that are accessible and provide boutique services. This provides an opportunity for IT service providers and managed service providers (MSPs) because smaller businesses will be looking for help in managing their collocated equipment and cloud applications.  Many small businesses are accustomed to contracting IT services rather than maintaining in-house IT expertise and will look for service providers that can meet their changing IT model.

mCommerce – Mobile commerce is not only for impulsive buyers, but for smart, savvy shoppers looking for the best deal.  The 2011 holiday season broke all records for mCommerce and this will continue as increasing numbers of merchants and consumers embrace mobile applications.  Powerful processors will give handhelds a big boost in acceptance for those that have been reluctant to adopt the technology.  Near field communication (NFC) will take off as applications are developed that use NFC for everything from sharing contact information to reading garment labels to purchasing anything with the swipe of your phone.  In 2012, if you are in the consumer market – become an expert in NFC and mCommerce.

Speech Recognition – This could be a breakout year for speech and voice technologies.  Speech recognition has been used by medical and legal for years and widespread acceptance is just around the corner for all types of businesses.  As mobile device users embrace speech recognition for on-the-go computing, they will bring this technology into the office for a variety of efficiency improvements.

Handhelds Replace Laptops – With more powerful CPUs, handhelds can replace many of the features of laptops.  The keyboard and screen size continue to be obstacle but projection and foldable technology will bridge the gap.  One day we will think and our computer (probably won’t be called a computer) will translate our thoughts into input and output, but in the meantime virtual docking stations will be used to interface with our analog (hands and eyes) systems.

Another Social Media Surge – With Google+ claiming that it will have 400 million members by the end of 2012, we are expecting another surge as social media expands its audience. Online aficionados will continue to be plagued with spam and scams, but new strategies will emerge to catch and isolate the offenders.   The number of users and the average time spent online will increase, but there are too many platforms for the market.  Users will consolidate around the most beneficial and productive sites.  Facebook may take over the world in 2012, but then again it may not.

Disclaimer: Like horoscopes, our predictions for the Top IT Trends of 2012 are general in nature and for entertainment purposes only.

If you have your own 2012 trends, please send to me at mary@lansystems.com.