Archive for the ‘Internet Information’ Category

The Cloud and Microsoft Office 365

February 14, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest blog by Geoff Rigsby, Microsoft Account Manager at Synnex

On a weekly basis I am asked, “What is Office 365 and how can it help me?”

For instance, if you’re running a small business with 5-10 employees, setting up your own IT infrastructure can be a monumental task.  First, you have to purchase the hardware and software like an HP Server and Windows Server 2008 software.  Second, if you want to have your own email domain, you’ll need to purchase Exchange Server software.  And if you want to share files between employees, you will need SharePoint Server software and you can’t run that without SQL Server software.  It adds up and before you know it, you’ve just spent $50,000!  In addition, you will need someone to configure and maintain.

This is a great deal of expense for just a few employees to communicate, collaborate, and work.  Here is where Office 365 is beneficial.  It eliminates the need for a large infrastructure investment and allows you to take advantage of enterprise IT tools for a fraction of the cost. Office 365 will give you the same productivity and collaboration tools delivered in a subscription based service.  It is licensed on a per-user per-month plan and allows you to scale up or down easily and as-needed.

Depending on the needs of your company, you can obtain every option; Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Professional Plus in a nice, neatly bundled package or as separate units.  This allows  all of your employees to easily and securely access the same information, from anywhere, anytime – whether it be on a PC, phone, or web browser. User management is made easier by using a single administration access point that allows you to set up new user accounts, control access to features, and receive status updates on all services and tools in real time.  Support is available directly through Microsoft but I recommend working with a Microsoft Partner.  Partners can help you choose the right services, provide added capabilities, and assist with the transition.  They can efficiently manage your network and provide ongoing support for Office 365 giving you more time to run your business.

Paying for Office 365 is easy!  Just work with a Partner. They will send you a quote.  Then you accept the agreement and submit your credit card information in a secure transaction.  Payments are scheduled automatically each month to the card on file.

For more information on Office 365 and how it can help your company, visit www.microsoft.com/office365 and make sure to work with a Microsoft Partner in your area.

Geoff is a Microsoft Partner Account Manager working at Synnex.  You can contact Geoff at: v-grigsb@microsoft.com

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.

Weathering Storms in the Cloud

September 12, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Twice over the past few weeks Microsoft’s Office 365 suffered interruptions.  The first occurred on August 17th and was reported as a network interruption.  Several blogs reported the cause as faulty Cisco equipment, but that fact was not verified by Microsoft.  The interruption lasted for three hours and Microsoft has offered a 25% discount to Office 365 customers for the trouble. The second interruption was on September 9th and seems to be tied to the widespread Western US power outage.  Any discount has yet to be announced for the second occurrence.

Microsoft is not the only Cloud service to see outages. Clouds, networks, communications and power that make up the Internet have all been down either briefly or for extended periods.  Although it is frustrating, it is part of the risk we all accept in using and being dependent on technology.

Power and phone outages have always been disruptive to business.  If the power and phones are out, often you have not choice except to close the store or the office.  Only in rare cases are backup generators used and then only to keep essential systems like emergency lights and security systems on until the building can be cleared.  Hospitals, data centers and essential services are the exception, but even hospitals have limited backup power.  Our modern power system is extremely reliable, but it is not faultless. That’s why we keep candles and flashlights in the kitchen.

Cloud Computing relies on centralized servers and the Internet to receive and deliver data to the users. If the servers or the Internet are down, the users experience an interruption.  Just like you have a power out kit in your kitchen, you need a Cloud out kit for your office.  Your Cloud power out kit should consist of a computer or mobile device so you can continue to work offline locally and save your work until the system is back on.

When email is down, you just have to wait whether you are using a Cloud service or your own email server.  If the server didn’t confirm receipt of the email message, the sending server will usually try again for a couple of days before giving up.  That means that for short outages, it will be delayed but you’ll get your email.  It is always surprising that people perceive email as more reliable than FedEx and as verifiable as Certified Mail – it is not.  Email is a great tool and 99.44% of our mail gets through but you have to allow for the .56 % that gets lost.  Certainly, the email that you can’t miss will be in the later.  Use delivery and read receipts to make email verifiable.  (The Ivory soap reference to 99.44% is a bit of humor.)

During an interruption, if you still have access to your computer or mobile device, you can compose messages but will have to wait for the system before you can transmit them. With Microsoft Office 365, you can use your Office products offline and transmit to the Cloud when available.  For other Cloud products, you have similar options to work offline and locally.

Using Cloud Computing gives you economy of scale and the benefit of redundant systems that you probably don’t have in your home or business. Most problems with power or communications will still be on the user side so be sure you have the ability to work offline locally to prevent disappointment and loss of productivity.

Social Media Tactics: Part 1

March 31, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]By Katie Sewell, TAG and Mary Hester, LAN Systems

social_media_tacticsBy now you have heard that Social Media is a revolution.  A big change is coming in the way businesses market and communicate their message.  To understand Social Media you have to spend time studying the concept, method and strategy.  Don’t worry if it seems complicated and time consuming at first.  We have a few proven strategies that we personally use to give your social media campaign a boost. We’ll start with Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter – Twitter is a social networking site which enables news sharing and connectivity among people and businesses through short updates. It’s hard for some to understand the Twitter sensation.  Why would anyone tweet their lunch menu or location? There is a great deal of self-indulgence on Twitter and you should always be conscious of your personal safety. Try these few tips to propel you to the top.

1)      Be interactive – reply to and retweet items of interest.  Post articles about you and your company.  Give information of interest to your community.  Minimize the sales pitch.

2)      Use and create hash tags for topics and events.  TAG promoted the 2011 Technology Summit with #GTS2011 on Twitter.  You can use the hash tag term to search and it may “trend” on Twitter which is similar to going viral on YouTube.

3)      Keep it real and meaningful – don’t tweet just for the sake of tweeting.  Automated tweets and pre-canned quotes and messages are obvious. Twitter is a conversation that you have in your own voice.  The voice can be business or personal, but be genuine.

Facebook – If you are going to use Facebook for business, be sure to keep it separate from your personal account.  Being on the Internet is like being in a magnified fishbowl where every imprudent act is available to all and kept forever.  Even with the risks, Facebook can be a fabulous business tool if used wisely.

1)      Create a company Facebook page where you can write about your company values, events and people. Post tasteful pictures and items of interest.

2)      Invite Facebook users to “like” your page.  Remember, it’s about quality here, not quantity. While it’s important to have a high number of “likes” on your company’s page, it’s more important to keep the content fresh and updated.

3)       An important goal to have for your organization’s social media sites, especially Facebook, is to encourage interactive behavior from your users. A good way of accomplishing this is to have contests where a prize is given. When you want feedback and user interactivity, offer a reward or prize that makes it worthwhile for the user to participate. LAN Systems is having a contest for a copy of Microsoft Office Pro 2010 for liking its Facebook page. We’ll let everyone know how it turns out on our page.

4)      Share links and Tag others in your posts and status updates. This creates exposure from both sides. Be polite and considerate when sharing.

5)      Like and or comment on photos, articles and posts. Depending upon your online persona, you may want to avoid controversial topics.  In any case, always review your posts before submitting for content, spelling and grammar.  A typo isn’t the end of the world, but it can be embarrassing.

Once you create your Twitter and Facebook page, it’s important to check on a regular basis. Your company needs to appear to be responsive to the users. Answer messages and keep the conversation going!

Next time, tips for LinkedIn and Blogging.  Until then, please send us a comment or leave a message.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

December 2, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]This year just about every retailer is using the term Black Friday and Cyber Monday to advertise their special “specials” and grab the attention of holiday shoppers.  Those seem strange terms, not very glamorous or even illustrative of a bargain.  In fact, they sound more like viruses and cyborg attacks out of a sci-fi movie.  So why have they caught on? 

Used to describe sinister or catastrophic events occurring on a particular day of the week, Black Friday has been used for everything from massacres to meltdowns.  Today, we most often use the term for shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Coined in the late 1960s by the Philadelphia police because of the choking traffic and crowds, the moniker caught on and by the mid-1970s was being widely used.  Later the term Black Friday was redefined to mean the day that retailers become profitable or put some black ink on the ledger. It is an urban legend that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year.  Actually the Saturday before Christmas handily wins as the top shopping day fueled by procrastinators and bargain hunters alike. But Black Friday has risen as a contender most likely because of all the hype and ads promoting the day. 

Cyber Monday invented by shop.org (that’s a dead give-a-way) as the Monday after Black Friday where all the returning workers shop online for the bargains they missed over the weekend.  This does have negative connotations in that people are spending otherwise productive time shopping at work and that they don’t have the ability to shop at home. Both of these facts are probably widely exaggerated especially with Cyber Sunday overtaking Cyber Monday as the biggest online shopping day.   But there is no doubt that online shopping is deeply rooted in our shopping psyche especially if free shipping applies. 

We all love a bargain especially as we go into the holiday shopping season.  Our habits as consumers are researched, analyzed and baked into marketing strategies that grab even the most resistant shopper. Successful marketing campaigns are the stuff of legend giving the next generation of business school graduates an idea to admire and study for years to come.  Whether highly orchestrated or completely accidental, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are here to stay at least for a while.

 But it’s not bad to see consumers spend money. It could help our anemic economy and put us all in a festive mood.   Early indications say there might even be a 3% increase over last year’s holiday sales.  So shop in earnest, virtually and physically, but always beware of deals that are too good to be true!

If you have suggestions or comments, please contact me at: mary@lansystems.com.

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

Should information on the Internet be free?

June 23, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Information is an essential resource for any decision, but some data is more valuable than other.  Information that is current, accurate, scarce or can be used to make high value decisions is quite important and therefore, expensive. When data loses its timeliness, accuracy or scarcity, it loses its value.  This is not a new concept, but the Internet has changed the perception.

Research on the Internet is so much easier than going to the library and digging through stacks of books.  Information on the Internet is easily accessible, but you have to check its authenticity and correctness.  Books in libraries have more validation by the fact that they made it to the library shelf.  There is no guarantee that the information in library books is correct and authentic, but there are facts about the author, publisher, copyright and sources that give some credibility to the work.  Information on the Internet that is not cited should be viewed with suspicion.

Information in the public domain is vast and available on the Internet which makes it free for the taking, reading and repeating.

Should information that is not in the public domain be accessible and free? Much debate has surrounded Stewart Brand’s statement that “information wants to be free.”  But he also said that information wants to be expensive.  This is a wonderful paradox.

Holding and discussing the two opposing views that information wants to be free and expensive gives depth and dimension to the argument. So take the free information the Internet has to offer and purchase information that has value to you.  It’s your choice.

Please leave a comment or contact me at mary@lansystems.com.

For technical tips, please visit our website: http://www.lansystems.com/resources.html