Security in the IT arena is not a new topic, but corporate awareness of its presence (or lack thereof) is at an all-time high. Not a day goes by without seeing a headline somewhere relating to stolen data, hacked company computers or leaked private information. When Sony’s Playstation® Network got hacked, there were estimates reported around $24 billion in losses. Then there were security breaches at Citigroup or Lockheed Martin. They were both juggernauts of industry with hardened defenses and yet were victims of stolen sensitive information. It appears no one is safe, but does obscurity or anonymity still qualify as protection for your small organization?

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a board room discussion with a couple of partners at a smaller private CPA firm and the topic of their network security came up. Mind you, these two gentlemen had a basic understanding of technology as most business owners do, but could not wrap their heads around why it was so important to purchase and install a firewall. A firewall! The most basic of network security devices and here I was trying to justify such a basic, yet mandatory, investment to any business, much less a financial firm.

It was a confirmation of a truth that is common no matter the size of the company. That truth is simple – most business owners have a difficult time appreciating or valuing technology unless they have experienced some type of pain relating to technology. That pain may be lost data, bad support, frustrating software… etc. Whenever I meet with prospective clients, one of the questions I ask in the beginning is “Are you ‘technology dependent’ or ‘technology strategic’?” This sets the tone for what direction we recommend.

Technology Dependent – This is most common among small, private firms. Your business may rely on your computers and networks, yet your decisions regarding technology are typically reactive and cost is commonly the biggest factor on whether or not you proceed. The inherent problem with technology-dependent firms is the unseen lack of efficiency and super high risk factors. Time and productivity are commonly overlooked as assets to the company. Here are some factors common in technology dependent firms:

a. Computers are older (4+ years old) and sometimes are even beige or off-white (a sign of age).

b. Few important proactive tasks are being performed, such as testing backups, patches and risk assessments.

c. There is no guidance on how to leverage technology to contribute to profits or increased productivity.

d. The company is still paying someone to fix things when they break on an hourly basis.

e. There is little to no network security.

Technology Strategic – A business that has seen the true purpose of technology and has enabled itself to do more is strategic. “More of what?” you may ask. It can be more productivity, more efficiency, more revenue and/or more contented staff. Firms that I work with that are “technology strategic” appreciate what technology can do for them and are not resistant to change. Here are some factors that make up a technology strategic firm:

a. Computers are maintained (optimized, clean and typically under 3 years old).

b. Network operations and security is being actively monitored.

c. Security policies are in place both in hardware and software.

d. An IT budget exists and is fixed.

e. The IT solution is a regular topic in your business planning meetings.

If you want to have growth in your firm, confidence in your IT security, and the best return on investment, you need to find ways to start moving to the strategic side of the spectrum. It will not happen overnight but the process needs to occur or risk falling behind your competition.

Where do you start? You need a trusted technology resource whether it’s a friend, your nephew, your executive assistant, or an established IT firm. Much like your clients rely on you for the best in professional financial advice and guidance, you should expect the same in terms of technology advice from a trusted technology partner. That said, have a look at this technology grocery list. If you don’t have these 10 items in place, you should seriously consider implementing them:

– Documented and tested backup process both local and off-site. You should be getting regular reports of these backups.
– Network security policy (passwords, data access, acceptable usage policy are examples).
– Basic alerts when there is a failure on your critical systems, such as a server or email.
– A firewall
– Antivirus and Antimalware software
– Anti-spam for email
– Data and email encryption
– Regular computer and network maintenance
– Secured wireless access
– Internet filtering

Implementation of the technology solutions above can get your company on the road to reaping the benefits of becoming “technology strategic”. An IT firm with certified engineers can develop a strategic and tactical plan to ensure you are getting the most from your technology.

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It just had to happen one day and it has been on the cards for some time, but the real Digital Book has finally arrived in the guise of the Sony Reader Digital Book PRS505S.

Before the advent of digital books audio books had taken the market place not exactly by storm but well enough to become a billion dollar industry world wide.

Whilst audio books have many upsides however one of the down sides is that nothing quite compares to sitting quietly and reading a book, but all that is about to change with the emergence of another technology….The Digital Book.

Its going to be interesting to see where this technology goes and what will become the main market place. On the one hand you have the book reading fraternity that really prefer the written word.

This market sector will be able to download “real books” and enjoy them as they traditionally would, although perhaps until the no doubt on the way waterproof version comes along, it will probably be best to stick to traditional paperbacks for your beach vacation.

With living space becoming increasingly smaller you will now be able to have a huge digital library that doesn’t require you to be sitting at your computer to read which is a real plus in my opinion.

But there is another market place where the digital book could make an impact and see huge sales and this is in the business market.

Each day sees the transfer and downloading of literally millions of .PDF and word documents world wide. Quite often a busy exec or professional will take these home on the laptop to read in a more relaxed atmosphere, or perhaps while they are commuting on a train where it is not always convenient to open up your laptop or notebook.

Having spent hours all day possible on a laptop or computer the last thing many want to do is spend even more time at a desk or with a laptop sat on their lap so the idea of a truly digital book reader will be utopia and very appealing to the busy professional.

A digital book will make the quest for knowledge and information much more relaxing as it can be done almost anywhere.

For example, if you have ever tried to use a laptop out side or in the garden perhaps you will probably have given up as on a sunny day a laptop screen can be almost un-readable

Well technology always seems to prevail and this fact has been a real problem in the past and has obviously not gone unnoticed, the Sony Reader Digital Book for example employs a new technology called E Ink Technology to overcome this traditional problem.

Essentially this new display technology allows the text to be displayed almost book like and the resultant page can be read in direct sunlight which is a major advantage. Equally the page can be seen at very wide angles as opposed to having to be read face on.

In addition to making the text readable in bright sunlight the display is also very much comfortable on the eye making the reading experience far more enjoyable than reading of a standard screen.

Quite often battery life for portable devices can be a real problem as well, but another benefit the new display technology has is that once the image is displayed no power is required to maintain it.

This gives the Sony Reader outstanding longevity and by all accounts the reader will be able to display around 7000 pages between charges which is absolutely amazing.

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Business Technology in Small Business

Business technology in small businesses can mean a lot of different things and can be interpreted in many different ways. But it will always come down to the same thing – the technology implemented and used by a business must provide the maximum amount of efficiency for the minimum amount of cost and maintenance.

Technology in business must be well planned and implemented in a sensible manner and a plan for technology management must be developed and adhered to. This may mean moving more of your business systems onto the internet to increase the mobility of your business, or identifying and investing in new systems which will do the same job but in a more efficient manner.

How Can the Internet Help My Business?
If you are looking to save money for your business, the internet is an excellent place to start. If your business includes a small call centre to provide customer service, you could save a lot of money in the long run by investing in changing the phone system to an IP telephony system. This would mean that rather than incurring massive phone bills using normal phones, all calls would be routed over the internet and customers would be able to call in using a normal local telephone number.

It is much cheaper to call someone through the internet than through a standard phone line and the savings you would make here would more than cover the cost of implementing such a system.

You would need to ensure that your business’ internet connection is powerful enough to manage this of course. If there is not enough bandwidth to accommodate all of the calls being made, the sound quality can suffer. As long as both parties can hear what the other is saying, this does not have to be too much of an issue – making allowances for this would need to be part of your business’ strategy for technology management.

What about My People in the Field?
If you have a large team of sales reps in the field, the savings which you could enjoy through the implementation of internet based telephony can be carried on to this side of your business as well. Nowadays, there are many mobile phones available which are capable of making calls over the internet using the 3G network. This would mean a possible upgrade of your corporate mobile phone contract and possibly some retraining for your staff – but ultimately it would save you money on phone bills.

How do I Know that My Company is Now More Efficient?
Technology in business also encompasses the assessment and monitoring of work performed by the employees. With modern networking and targeted technology management, it would be possible to not only make your company run more efficiently for less money; but also allowing you to keep an eye on exactly what is going on in real-time.

There are many products available which will allow you to monitor your employees’ statistics – be it the amount of time they are spending on each call or the amount of time they take to finishing each file before they are able to move onto the next one. Through this, you would be able to address any possible issues which may arise and discuss them with the employee.

Business technology should broaden the horizons. You should be able to do more for spending less. Something as simple as making phone calls cheaper or something as involved as identifying areas of concern in an employees performance and having more information which can be used to develop strategies for the employee to avoid this.

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Enterprise software applications are rising at staggering rate. More and more companies are looking for agile solutions to streamline their operations to expand their global footprint. Software development and business technology consulting companies are busy in developing and designing enterprise-centric, coherent solutions to improve enterprises’ abilities. Enterprises also seek strong yet flexible applications to stay ahead and carve their own niche in the business stratosphere. Software development and consulting companies focus on a wider spectrum of innovative technologies to create an ideally helpful software solutions or applications that can enhance company’s image and fulfill the clients’ needs.

Highly adroit, experienced application developers and programmers offer their help in business application development, e business solutions, iPhone app development, e-commerce website design, and complete IT consulting services. They extend their unwavering help to fulfill the particular needs of the companies. Their intuitive technology software solutions focus on your pain points and give a suitable and research-based solution. Developers and programmers use specialized tools, resources, frameworks, and platforms to strengthen your business structure.

Some of the most important services offered by technology consulting firms are as follows:

Custom Software Solutions

Experienced developers and programmers analyze the needs of your company and draw a model to propose you a practical system that is specific, coherent, and budget-friendly. Upon your accent, developers and business analysts kick-start the project in a professional way. They use several high-end platforms (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.), to develop the basic framework of the software solution.

Application Development

Software developers and programmers develop suitable business solutions, mobile apps to streamline the decentralized business processes. This enables competitive advantage for your company and allows it to expand its broad scale operations. They develop powerful, robust, flexible, secure, reliable, and fully featured applications that allow business aims. These applications will simplify business complexities and offer end-to-end facilities in an amazing fashion.

The best advantage is that business application development experts develop low-cost yet smart solutions that will bring quality in the executions. Software consulting firms also give custom-fit managed IT services to better cater the needs of the growing businesses. Businesses also need an IT consulting firm to discuss their growing challenges, concerns and develop a perfectly versatile, innovative, aligned, and creative solution that will improve collaboration, automation process, business operations, and overall workflow. The promising solutions not only improve capabilities, but also remove bottlenecks.

Today, software and IT consulting firms also recommend holistic & advanced enterprise applications and software solutions over traditional, because advanced solutions are measurable and allow companies to make critical business decisions quickly by using real-time information. No doubt, business applications offer truly competitive advantage to the businesses.

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A Business Technology Holiday Wish List

It’s not uncommon to experience a lull at work in December. Between the lengthy Thanksgiving weekend and countdown to Christmas, you’ll find many employees have days earmarked for vacation and some clients just aren’t as active as they are in the spring. It’s a good time to evaluate progress from within the company and determine if some things can be improved. When it comes to your business communication, you should definitely look into enhancements that will prove invaluable in the coming year.

What would you put on a business holiday wish list? If you rely on Internet connectivity, you definitely need to think about software that protects your assets and simplifies communication between your staff and clients. When the budget allows, put this on your holiday list and start shopping.

1) Updated virus software. Many of us home may forget to update anti-virus software on the ground that if we’re careful, we shouldn’t have any problems. When it comes to the job, however, you shouldn’t take such risks. One wrong click on a phishing e-mail can lead to problems that affect everybody in your office, so if it’s been a while since you updated your anti-virus software make sure it gets done before you get busy again.

2) Data recovery software. When a storm breaks, or something else happens that causes you to lose power, you risk damage to your computers. If your data server is on-site, that can increase the chances of losing sensitive information – everything from credit card numbers to Social Security information from customers. You can’t risk putting clients and employees in a position where their privacy is compromised, so it’s good to have quality data recovery in place. Protect the information you store for your work.

3) Video conference equipment. If you plan to expand your business, you may not have the opportunity every time to visit potential clients in other cities. Since most communication at work is done via e-mail, it makes sense to set up video conference capabilities using the Internet to connect with business partners and clients. This is the next best thing to having everybody in the same room.

4) Mobile connectivity. As mobile Internet grows, your office expands. We use mobile phones and tablets to conduct business out of the office, so much that we could feasibly never stop working. You may wish to take a break once in a while, but if you need to leave the office and wait for importance messages a mobile setup can make that happen for you.

Your business connectivity wish list can help you plan for a new year of growth and success. Pay attention to what your business needs to survive.

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