Fresh-Picked Gadget: Pebble Steel

pebble

Pebble Steel, a smart watch, displays e-mail, text messages, caller ID and other notifications from your favorite apps, reading them straight from your smart phone.

Want to see these gadgets in real life? Come visit our “gadget grove” of tech toys you can try out yourself.

Nervous About Cloud Computing?

CloudThere is a huge trend in technology to move towards cloud computing services. Everyone is advertising that it’s better, faster, cheaper, safer. Cloud services are accessible from anywhere, and you don’t need your IT guy anymore, right? At the same time, those subscription fees add up fast, new security breaches are making headlines almost every day, and you still need your IT guy around to interpret all that technobabble for you (and troubleshoot the computer glitches that still happen all too often!). No wonder it’s so confusing. Here are the answers to your biggest questions about the cloud.

Is it safe?

The most common concern with cloud services is security. Large cloud computing providers are able to set up security infrastructure far better than most small businesses, which makes them safer. However, hackers enjoy the challenge of newsworthy targets, which creates greater risk. There is also financial gain: credit card numbers and bank accounts generate a lot of money for hackers. The reality is that security issues are a problem no matter how you manage your technology. All you can do is follow security best practices and make sure your vendors do the same. Be especially careful with smaller cloud service providers since they may not have the security resources and policies of a larger company.

You will also need to be careful if you are subject to regulatory compliance policies like HIPAA, PCI, SOX, FISMA, etc. Penalties for non-compliance can be steep, so it’s critical to verify that your vendor can guarantee compliance with whatever regulatory requirements impact your company.

What if it goes down?

If your cloud provider has an outage and their services go down, there’s not a whole lot you can do. You can call them for support, and they may have a portal or Twitter feed for status updates. But really, all you can do is alert them and then wait. It’s not the same as calling up your local IT guy who you know and trust.

You could also lose access if your Internet service goes down. You may want to get a secondary Internet service so that if one goes down, you can access the Internet over the backup service. You can also go to another location with Internet service and connect from there.

How do I get to my data?

As long as you like your vendors, you don’t have to worry too much about accessing your data. If you want to move from one cloud to another, or one software vendor to another, this can become a huge problem. It can also come up as an issue if you have reason to archive your data or don’t trust their disaster recovery procedures. Some cloud vendors make it very difficult to download your data. This is a very common issue when it comes to software. Even if access is provided, it can be a highly time-consuming process to identify and download every piece of data. Email and file storage is usually relatively easy to transfer from one company to another.

Do I still need a server at my office?

Maybe. If you only have a few computers, you probably don’t need one; in fact you may not have one now. Once you get past ten or fifteen computers, there are definite advantages to having a server in place. It will allow you to set security policies and password requirements; it will give you control and administrative access to the computers on the network; and it will make it easier to install and share printers.

The other main reason to keep a server in-house is to run software. If you have an application that runs on your server now, you will have to keep a server or find out if your vendor offers a hosted version in the cloud.

Will it really save me money?

Not always. The promise is that the cloud is less expensive due to efficiencies and economies of scale. The bottom line is that you have to run the numbers. You can purchase (or lease) software and servers, which involves a large upfront expense and a relatively low ongoing maintenance fee. If you go with cloud services, your initial expense will be low, but you will always have a monthly expense as long as you use that service. If you rely heavily on cloud services you will probably add another expense: a backup Internet connection. Cloud services hit the books differently, which can impact taxes: a server install is a capital expense, but cloud services are considered an operating expense. When doing your calculations, bear in mind that servers run about 4-5 years before risk of failure becomes a significant issue.

How do I decide if it’s right for my business?

Whether they realize it or not, most companies are already using at least a few cloud services. When it comes to personal use, nearly everyone is in the cloud. You may already use hosted email, like Office365 or Google Apps; perhaps you use Dropbox or Box.com to share files; you might handle video calls with Skype or Gotomeeting; if you have an iPhone you probably back up your data with iCloud. Don’t forget: Facebook and Twitter are cloud services too.

The question is whether you should move more of your technology into the cloud, and there is no one right answer. The best time to evaluate this move is when you have an aging server ready for replacement. Run the numbers, look at the security risks, and think through how much control you need to feel comfortable. Don’t forget to weigh the advantages too: reduced infrastructure in your office, easy access for your staff who work remotely, low startup costs and less need for in-house IT services, just to name a few. There are a lot of great services available to make your team more productive, so don’t let any hesitation about the cloud keep you from doing what’s best for your business.

Juicy Read: 1001 Deductions And Tax Breaks 2014

 

1001 Deductions And Tax Breaks 2014: Your Complete Guide To Everything Deductibledownload (3)

By Barbara Weltman

Okay, so this probably isn’t a very juicy read, but a smart business owner is always looking for more ways to save money! Call CIO      before December 31st, and we will send you a FREE copy of the book. See the front page for more details!

 

 

 

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Set To Expire In 2015

Microsalertoft has announced that as of July 14, 2015, it will discontinue support for its 11-year-old server operation system, Server 2003. This follows in the wake of its recent discontinuation of support for Windows XP this past spring. Failure to upgrade your server off of this operating system dramatically increases any company’s cyber-security risks.

With server migrations taking on average 200 days from planning to completion (industry average), if you still have a server running this software active on your network, now is the time to start planning.

End of support for Windows Server 2003 means:

  • No further updates or security patches released. 37 critical updates were released for Server 2003 in 2013 alone. No updates will be released after 7/14/15.
  • Loss of compliance. Various industry regulations and industry standards will no longer be able to be achieved if you are using Server 2003 actively on your network.
  • Increased security risks. Any server running this operating system will be completely exposed to serious hacker attacks aimed at taking control of your network, stealing your data or crashing your systems.

Call CIO for a Free Server 2003 Migration Plan!

 

Yes, I Walked Through Fire

wendy fireWhen I was younger, I was always looking for new, bigger, better, more exciting…whatever the subject, I was all about living my life and having adventures. Fast forward a decade or two…at some point I stopped fighting so hard against the status quo. I started settling. I tolerated situations that the younger me never would have accepted. I called it reality.

This year I’ve been fighting back against this so-called reality. Making dramatic changes in my life. Breaking through insecurities that have been holding me back. When I got stuck, I decided it was time to walk through fire. Literally!

Tony Robbins is well-known for coaching huge crowds of people to walk through a bed of 2000 degree coals, so off I went. Yes, I walked on the coals. Yes, I was barefoot. Yes, they were extremely hot. No, it didn’t hurt. And no, not a single blister. IT WAS SO EMPOWERING! He does this to prove so much in life is mind over matter. Your attitude and approach make all the difference.

Surprisingly, the firewalk is at the end of day 1 of 4. It’s not the end; it’s the beginning. Facing your fears in such a tangible way prepares you to dig deep and get real with your emotions. Tony likes to say that the quality of your life is based on the quality of your emotions. If you feel good, life is good. It’s that simple. He teaches you how to put yourself into a positive, productive state of mind. He also guides you to break through limiting beliefs that hold you back.

It was an incredible experience. Still, I was afraid I might not be able to hang onto it once I got back to “reality.” Turns out, once you see how your emotions create unnecessary turmoil, it seems silly to keep letting that happen. I feel calm, centered, and unstoppable. Raising my expectations means I’m back to having adventures and living my best life. So what’s holding you back and how can you break thorough?

 

Fresh-Picked Gadget the NEO Grab

Picture1

The NEO GRAB allows you to mount and remove your phone one-handed. It attaches to any smooth, non-porous surface, like glass, drywall, plastic, wood and metal. Purchase at

http://www.SkyMall.com.

 

Want to see these gadgets in real life? Come visit our “gadget grove” of tech toys you can try out yourself.

 

Battle of the Smartphones

Most phonBYOD_0e contracts last two years, which is a lifetime when it comes to technology. There are more choices than ever, and it’s hard to tell the difference. What’s clever marketing hype, and what’s real value? Here’s the scoop on how to choose the right phone for you.

Operating System (OS)

Are you a Mac fan? A Droid rebel? A Windows 8 convert? Smartphones come in all three flavors these days. If you already have other devices on any of these platforms, you may want a smartphone to match.

The iPhone, which runs iOS from Apple, set the standard for smartphones when it first came out in 2007. Each new release still makes big headlines every year. It is well-known for superb design and ease-of-use. If you have a Mac or iPad, you will probably want an iPhone.

Droid phones run the Android operating system. Android was developed by Google to compete with the iPhone and iOS. It is well established and very popular. Power users favor Droid for its flexibility and ability to customize. Amazon.com created a special Droid variation they call the “Fire OS.” They use it on the Kindle Fire tablet and the newly-introduced Fire phone. It combines the power of the Android OS with the ease of use normally associated with Apple.

Microsoft, never one to be left behind for long, has been paying close attention to the phone market. They now offer the Windows Phone, which has the same look and feel as Windows 8. Their app store isn’t as robust as the iPhone and Droid stores, but it is growing rapidly.

For those Crackberry addicts out there: you can still purchase Blackberry phones from a few carriers, but this is a dying platform. You’ll be better off with a different choice.

Cellular Service Provider

Your carrier makes a huge difference in your phone experience. Some are more reliable than others, some offer faster data connections, and everyone’s coverage is a little different. There is no one right answer but generally Verizon and AT&T are the highest-ranked. Others may have a cheaper price tag, but that is usually an indication of more limited services. Travelers will benefit from the top-tier carriers, since they are more likely to offer coverage nearly anywhere you might go. If that’s not an issue, just make sure you have good coverage at home and the office, and anywhere else you spend a lot of time.

Sorting through plans is frustratingly complex. Usually you will pay for talk time, in minutes; texting, in quantity; and data, in gigabytes. Bundled plans are starting to offer unlimited talk and text, so all you have to do is predict how much data you will use. Most people don’t use as much data as they expect – a few gigabytes a month – and you can keep it to a minimum by setting your phone to connect to wifi whenever you are at home or work. The main thing to watch out when it comes to data usage is music, pictures, and video. If you are sending or receiving these over the Internet all the time, you can blow through a small data plan in a few hours.

All the Other Details

Once you’ve sorted through the operating system and the carrier, the rest is a piece of cake. Here are some of the key features to explore:

  • Battery life: this varies widely. Bigger phones typically have bigger, longer-lasting batteries.
  • Screen size/phone size: some people prefer the large phones because they can substitute for a tablet. Others prefer smaller phones that fit better in a pocket. This is strictly personal preference.
  • Durability: some phones offer more rugged cases, and a few are now water resistant. This is a huge benefit for some people. If you like a phone without these features, there are cases that can provide these same benefits.
  • Speed: you’ll see CPU and processor speed on some phone comparison lists, but be careful, as this can be confusing and misleading. Test the phone yourself to see how it performs.
  • Camera: pixel counts are so high these days you can take a great picture with any smartphone. Look for software features that allow for editing, focusing, video, etc. Offering front and rear cameras gives you more flexibility.

Top Picks

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the latest release from Apple. They offer noticeably larger screens to compete with some of the most popular Droid phones. The operating system has been redesigned again, with a slew of new and intuitive features designed to make it even more effortless than ever.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is one of the leading iPhone competitors. Cutting edge features and a large display have set it apart from the crowd and won over loyal fans.

Since Google created the Android operating system, it’s no surprise they offer their own phone, the Google Nexus 5. You can buy this directly from retailers, unlocked, to use with the carrier of your choice. (Check with your carrier before purchasing, just to be sure.)

As mentioned above, Amazon has rolled out the new Fire Phone, using their own version of the Android OS originally built for the Kindle Fire. This phone is currently only available with AT&T.

The Nokia Lumia 635 offers the latest in Windows Phones, with a new voice recognition feature called Cortana (much like Siri on the iPhone). The HTC One is also available for Windows or Droid.

Not Sure Yet?

The best way to decide is to visit your local wireless or electronics store. Check out models in real life to see how they look and feel, and ask plenty of questions to make sure you have all the facts. With so many phones on the market, there is no “one” right choice for everyone. Do your homework before buying, but don’t sweat the final decision. In the end it all comes down to what you like best.