Archives for August 2012

Platform Becomes Important

Top Technology Initiative Article
Randy Johnston

2012 promises to be a big year from a computer hardware perspective with new Ultrabooks, tablets and phones, but the real news for 2012 will be in software. The basic building blocks of software, the operating systems, have been quietly going through a metamorphosis during the past few years. We will see the results of these changes positively affect our working style and ability this year and beyond. Operating systems are converging into what are called platforms, and the platform is now important as we will see later. Some of the operating system changes were motivated by remote connectivity, portability and the cloud and some were motivated by trying to simplify the way we work. Applications have been swept along this sea change…perhaps it should be called a rip tide.

Since 2012 is a year of radical technology change, we have to plan our strategies. During my attendance at the Top 25 Thought Leaders in Accounting Symposium, sponsored by this publication in February, I surmised the key success items for CPA firms are: 1) strategic vision, 2) client focus, 3) working with your team, 4) managing compliance standards, and 5) technology. Choosing the right strategy and tools to service your market and clients the best way you can is a winning approach.

The Big Shifts

The vision is simple: 1) hardware is changing, 2) the operating systems that support these systems are changing into platforms, 3) the applications have to change to support mobility, web and ease of use, and 4) the backbone and infrastructure that supports all of our computing is changing, including virtualization, backup, private and public clouds, SaaS, and hosting.

First, let’s consider some background issues. We believe that brand name computers will generally have a lower cost of ownership over the life of owning the product. White box clones may be cheaper to purchase initially, but operational and compatibility issues can eat up any potential savings rather quickly. Second, there is a notable revolution in progress for the size and speed of end-user computer hardware and phablets (=phones/tablets) in the market leading to the bring your own device (BYOD) revolution. Third, we believe that the system software that runs these devices is converging and your choice of platform determines many of your options or choices. Most accounting firms have standardized on Microsoft Windows in the last two decades. We see three main platforms evolving currently: Windows 8/Microsoft, iOS/Apple, and Android/Google. Fourth, access to software through hosting or using Software as a Service (SaaS) is leading some firms to a simpler configuration of computers in house. Some refer to this approach as the public cloud. We can very effectively run our entire firm in-house with today’s remote support tools, and build our own private cloud. The support approach used for in-house systems, often called managed services, allows a trusted and knowledgeable technician to maintain your system, often to the level of installing updates to applications such as tax or your operating systems from anywhere. Because of these factors, you should pick an end-user computer hardware strategy that fits your needs. However, it is pretty clear that computer hardware platforms matter less today than they did five years ago.

In our last article, we covered the impact of Ultrabooks and phablets. Consider the end-user computing hardware today:

  Desktop Notebook Ultrabook Netbook Tablet
Speed Fastest Can be close to desktop speed Light, yet close to Notebook Low cost, slow Slowest
Size Largest Heaviest and largest portable Close to tablet Heavier than Ultrabook Smallest
Portability None Heaviest Close to tablet Between Notebook and Ultrabook Lightest
Cost $300-1100 $600-3500 $700-1100 $300-600 $200-1000

All of these computing tools can be used to run in the cloud. The netbook, tablet and smartphone do the worst job of running applications at high speed today, but they are very portable. The backbone is getting stronger and the applications are getting better to make these devices more usable. However, they are still best for consuming content, reading results, answering a few emails or taking notes, but are not very good for heads-down data entry.

But the big news?

The big news in technology is the seismic shift in operating system convergence to a single platform. For example, in 2012, it is pretty clear that technology platforms and operating systems will converge. Think: Windows 8, iOS/Mountain Lion, or Android Ice Cream Sandwich on phablets and computers. These three platforms are being designed so the same operating system, or one that looks and operates in a similar fashion, runs on your phone, tablet or computer. When you buy into a platform from a vendor, the way applications integrate and work together is largely controlled by the vendor. As you can guess, this is a fight between Microsoft, Apple and Google right now. Some of the fight is controlled by intellectual property, patents and lawsuits, some is controlled by innovation and ease of use and some is controlled by application availability. A future that allows applications to seamlessly run between a phone, tablet and computer could be very attractive as long as the application behaves appropriately on the different devices. Even more attractive would be a future that allowed applications to run on any platform and seamlessly work together.

Platform limits choice while enabling ease of use. If we choose a particular vendor, we get the most benefits and the most restrictions by adhering to the vendor’s rules. Think of iCloud and iTunes as enabling your ability to shop easily and restricting your choice to what is in the Apple Store. Microsoft and Google are trying to mimic this model. Is a single supplier in your firm’s best interest? Some say yes, while others say best of breed supports their strategy most effectively.

Some of our greatest frustrations come from hardware failures, inconsistent results or confusing design. Platform will minimize the differences between hardware run within the family. Each device will work in a similar fashion. Most of us could care less what the hardware or software is or whose brand is on it as long as it runs reliably 100% of the time and helps us get our job done. Platform will help us build our ideal future. Consider your platform choice carefully.

 

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How to publish your slideshow as a YouTube video

Picture this: you’ve just given a great presentation about your company’s latest product. People loved it and you’ve been asked if you could share your slides. You love the idea of sharing your presentation – but how? Enter the PowerPoint “save as video” feature! All you need to reach a global audience is a few clicks in PowerPoint and a video host like YouTube.

Publishing your PowerPoint slideshow as a video is a great, easy, and free, way to share your information with other people across the globe. In this how-to, you will learn how to do it with the most popular way to host and share videos – YouTube.

  1. To start, open up your presentation slides in PowerPoint.
  2.  Click on File > Save As.
  3. In the window that opens up, select Windows Media Video (*.wmv) from the Save as type drop-down list.

  4. Click Save.

If you go to the location where you saved the file, you should now see and be able to play the video file. Now it’s time to upload to YouTube – and you’ll need a YouTube account for this if you don’t already. (It’s free and no hassle at all to sign up.)

  1. Go to http://www.youtube.com/ and sign in to your YouTube account.
  2. Click Upload near the top right corner.

  3. Click Select files from your computer, locate your video, and then click Open.
  4. In the drop-down box below that says Privacy settings, pick whether you want it to be public (for everyone to see), unlisted (you must provide viewers with the URL), private (only you can see it), or scheduled.
  5. Wait for the video to upload (you’ll see a message when it’s done). While you’re waiting, you can edit the video’s information, e.g. title, privacy, tags.

Once the video is done uploading and processing, you can view it and share it!

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10 cool things about HP ProLiant servers

used with permission from HP Technology at Work

In today’s data centers, an IT manager’s life is more hectic than it should be. Error alerts, system events, installation and update issues, and calls to support desks make it hard to get anything done. But HP’s next generation of servers—HP ProLiant Gen8—revolutionalizes that experience. Allowing IT professionals to monitor networks remotely and lightening their loads via a slew of automated, intelligent features, these really are the world’s most self-sufficient servers. Here’s why:

  1. Early video. We designed in the ability to display video within 3 seconds after the server is powered on. This is in contrast to previous generation servers which could take one or more minutes to receive video, thus giving customers status and error alerts where previously they would receive a black screen no boot error.
  2. HP Intelligent Provisioning. Everything you need is pre-loaded for painless system setup and deployment. In fact, this leads to 45% fewer steps and 3 times faster deployment.
  3. HP Active Health. Your 24/7 mission control for automated monitoring, diagnostics, and alerting. The goal of HP Active Health is to log potentially useful information before any failure occurs, giving you 5 times faster problem analysis.
  4. Agentless Management. Get all core management functions for internal system components including health monitoring and alerting without ANY drivers or agents installed. Enhanced intelligence = higher performance for managed systems.
  5. HP Smart Update. Part of our new “smart movement” in Gen8 servers, this technology lets you sequence, stage and schedule consistent updates across hundreds of servers at once, resulting in 69% less admin time.
  6. HP Smart Storage. Smart drive carriers and solid state-optimized, HP Gen8 servers provide a balanced system architecture consisting of HP Smart Storage, HP SmartMemory and HP Flexible Networking technology, delivering 6 times faster solid state storage performance versus previous generations.
  7. Discovery Services. With embedded intelligence across three dimensions (location, power utilization and thermal demand), users gain a unique level of visibility and control over their data center energy efficiency.
    • HP Location Discovery Services: Enable energy-aware workload placement and automate asset management.
    • HP Thermal Discovery Services: Reduce energy usage and increase compute capacity.
    • HP Power Discovery Services: Eliminate power configuration errors and precisely track power usage by rack and server.
  8. HP Insight Online. The industry’s first cloud-based management and support portal gives you anywhere, anytime, any-device (and user-friendly) access to track server health and events and rapidly resolve issues.
  9. Elegant system design. Virtually eliminate common problems that cause downtime and data loss with designed-in quality throughout and intuitive simplicity—like a Smart Socket Guide to eliminate bent pins.
  10. FlexibleLOM. A choice of LOM gives you flexibility, cost savings, and component serviceability. In fact, you can customize your server’s networking today and change to meet future needs without overhauling server infrastructure.
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BYOD – What Is It?

An acronym that’s been popping up in businesses recently, BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. It’s becoming a hot topic of late because more and more businesses are allowing employees to bring in their own smartphones, notebooks, tablets, etc. This trend can be attributed to the development of cloud technology and smartphones, specifically the iPhone, due to their ability to view and share documents anywhere.

Benefits of BYOD

The most obvious benefit of adopting BYOD practices is the money saved. Since employees bring their own devices into the office, the cost of that hardware is not your burden, thus saving you money. You also don’t have to train your workers on how to use their devices, which saves even more money. Also, many of the devices brought in are cutting edge. When the cost of the new technology is on the employee, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep up with the times.

Another benefit of BYOD is worker satisfaction. There is a reason why employees bring their own devices to work: they prefer those devices. They are much more familiar with them, which make them easier to use. Bringing their own devices can decrease many of the frustrations that can be caused by unfamiliar tech.

Concerns

While BYOD may seem like a wonderful idea, there are some drawbacks. When the company provides the hardware, they can manage its use. Telling workers what is or isn’t acceptable use is much easier. When workers bring in the own devices, it becomes a bit more difficult to tell them what they can and cannot do on their own device. The need for an acceptable use policy is imperative, however, because for all an employer knows, employees are surfing the internet or engaging in other activities that are not conducive to productivity.

The bigger issue with BYOD is security of your data. If an employee is let go or leaves of his own free will and his device contains company data, then that data needs to be retrieved. Companies that fall under PCI DSS, HIPAA, or GLBA mandates regarding data must enforce their guidelines, regardless of device ownership.

Overall, the BYOD trend is a logical option if the proper safety measures are implemented.

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How to Use Field Codes in Microsoft Word 2010

Field codes are one of Microsoft Word’s key elements, frequently used by many users. If you have ever inserted a date or a page number to a document, you have used a field code. Despite their heavy use, many people are unaware of how they actually work.

What is a Field Code?

A field code is “smart” text – when used, they can update when needed. There are hundreds of various codes for various purposes, one of the most common being the code for the current date – 29at24-Ti1824 Pictu十一24. Any time the field updates, the information within the field updates.

What Do They Do?

Field codes enable you to:

  • Build a document automatically in response to information provided by the user.
  • Insert information about the document into the document itself.
  • Perform calculations.
  • Produce complex numbering systems that go beyond the capabilities of the Bullets and Numbering dialog.

How Do I Insert a Field?

There are two ways to insert a field code. The first way is, if you know the syntax, to pressCTRL+F9 and enter the code for the function you wish to perform. The other, and simpler, way is to:

  1. Click on the Insert tab.
  2. Within the Text section, click Quick Parts.

  1. Select Field from the drop-down menu.
  2. From the Field window, select your desired field on the left under Please choose a field. You can modify its display on the right under Field properties.

  1. Click OK.

Voila! You have successfully inserted a field!

Common Field Codes

Common field codes that are most useful include:

  • Author (the author of the current document)
  • AutoNum (automatic numbering format, e.g. for numbered lists)
  • Date (the current date)
  • Page (automatic page numbers)
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Mobile Security: Why You Need to Go Beyond the Basics

used with permission from Symantec

Just how quickly are enterprises adopting mobile applications?

Very, very quickly.

According to one recent survey, as many as 71% of organizations are using or planning to use custom mobile applications.

“We have reached a tipping point in the business use of mobile devices,” concludes Symantec’s 2012 State of Mobility Survey. “Most organizations are making line-of-business applications available [to mobile devices].”

The reasons for this, of course, are clear: Businesses want to improve agility, increase workplace effectiveness, and take less time to accomplish business-critical tasks.

But there is a price to pay. Survey respondents said they are keenly aware of the potential risks mobility can pose, ranking mobile devices as one of their top three IT risks. Specifically, they’re worried about losing devices, data loss, and malware infecting the corporate network through smartphones and tablets.

Continue reading to learn how this mobility tipping point is affecting IT and what steps organizations need to take to improve the effectiveness of their mobile initiatives.

Mobile devices now considered critical business tools

The State of Mobility Survey underscores just how rapidly mobility has gone “mainstream.” For example, it wasn’t long ago that organizations routinely banned mobile devices from the corporate network or restricted them to accessing email. Today, nearly 60% of organizations are making line-of-business applications accessible from mobile devices. And nearly three-quarters (71%) of them are even looking into implementing a corporate “store” to distribute their mobile applications.

At the same time, the survey found that mobile initiatives have a significant impact on IT resources. Nearly half of the organizations surveyed (48%) see mobile computing as “somewhat to extremely challenging,” adding that their top priorities are security, backup, and dealing with lost or stolen devices. On average, nearly one-third of the IT staff (31%) is involved in some way with mobile computing.

While IT organizations recognize that mobile adoption is not without risks, fewer than half of the respondents have implemented such security measures as antivirus software and remote disabling of devices.

That could pose a serious problem, particularly as cybercriminals are now turning their full attention to mobile technology. The recent increase in mobile malware—especially that targeting the Android platform—is most likely only the beginning of the story.

Case in point: A recent research report from Symantec, “Motivations of Recent Android Malware,” sheds light on the current monetization schemes behind the growing wave of malware focusing on this new mobile computing platform. The report suggests that the Android’s open platform and surging popularity provide attackers with more than ample motivation to concoct increasingly sophisticated revenue-generating schemes.

Regardless of the operating system they deploy, organizations large and small are seeing damages mount due to mobility-related security issues, according to the State of Mobility Survey. Over the last 12 months, mobile incidents for enterprises—including data loss, damage to the brand, productivity loss, and loss of customer trust—averaged $429,000.

Despite these very real losses, most organizations still feel that mobility continues to be worth the challenges and risks involved. Nearly three-quarters (71%) said they at least break even when it comes to risks versus rewards.

Don’t choose between productivity and security

The dramatic shift in the nature of mobility, from being an email extension to a core business enabler, means that enterprises must begin thinking beyond the simple case of lost or stolen mobile phones. Symantec recommends the following steps:

  • Enable broadly. Plan for line-of-business applications that have mainstream use. Employees will use mobile devices for business one way or another—make it on your terms.
  • Think strategically. Think beyond email. Explore all the mobile opportunities that can be introduced and understand the risks and threats that need to be mitigated.
  • Manage efficiently. Mobile devices are endpoints that require the same attention given to PCs and laptops. The management of mobile devices should therefore be integrated into your overall IT management framework and administered the same way. Don’t treat mobile applications as a separate “silo.”
  • Enforce appropriately. You need to enforce acceptable usage policies that accommodate both corporate-owned and privately owned devices. Plan for this legally, operationally, and culturally.
  • Secure comprehensively. Look beyond basic password, “wipe,” and application-blocking policies. Focus on the information and where it is viewed, transmitted, and stored. Integrate with your existing data loss prevention, encryption, and authentication policies.

Symantec advances enterprise mobility strategy

Symantec recently announced several advances in core areas of its enterprise mobility strategy, with enhancements specifically for the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 platforms. Symantec’s mobility strategy addresses enterprises’ concerns by stressing the application of corporate security policies uniformly on all mobile devices, endpoints, and applications. The aim is to help organizations secure mobile data and enable business productivity for both corporate-managed and personally owned, unmanaged devices. This enhanced support is intended to give enterprises the visibility and control they need to confidently embrace the proliferation of mobile devices.

Conclusion

A tipping point has been reached in the business use of mobile devices. That’s why it’s more important than ever that the hundreds of millions of employees throughout the world who use mobile devices such as smartphones to access corporate information do so securely. Organizations that want to realize the competitive advantages offered by mobile computing need to apply corporate security policies uniformly on all mobile devices, endpoints, and applications.

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When to consider a server

reprinted with permission from the HP Small Business Center

You read business technology articles and you talk with savvy IT professionals. The message from both is that key business systems are built on servers, but what exactly does that mean? “Server” is a broad term that may quickly bring a host of questions immediately to mind:

  • How is a server different from a desktop system and can you use a high-end desktop in place of a server?
  • What are storage area networks?
  • How do you know when you need a server?
  • Do you need more than one server?
  • How much memory and disk space will it need?
  • Will you have to replace it in six months?
  • And of course, how much will it all cost?

How is a server different from a desktop?

The answer to this key question is more straightforward than you might imagine. A server is a system specifically designed to hold, manage, send and process data. The technology behind servers:

  • Makes them more reliable than desktop systems
  • Helps them process data faster and more efficiently
  • Can be extended to support data backup and security
  • Reduces data bottlenecks so information flows more freely and quickly
  • Is designed to scale as your needs scale

In short, a server is much more than a supercharged desktop system and can’t be replaced by one. Desktop systems are optimized to run user-friendly operating systems, desktop applications and facilitate other “desktop” tasks. Even if a desktop sports the same processor speed, memory and hard disk space as a server, they aren’t the same because the technologies behind them are engineered for different usage.

Do you need a server?

Server technology and benefits notwithstanding, you don’t want to make technology purchases that won’t benefit your bottom line, facilitate key business processes or otherwise make your life easier. While there is no single litmus test that you can use to determine if you need a server, some general guidelines do apply.

If your office only has three or four staff members who share files across networked computers, surf the Web or send email, you may not need a server at all. However, once you have five or more employees working together on a network, a server can provide a central location for your important files, shared applications and other resources you regularly use, like project documents and even an image library. In addition, if you want to implement any of the following systems or applications you’ll need a server:

  • File and print server
  • Microsoft Exchange system or other e-mail server
  • Firewall or other security system
  • Website or company intranet
  • Database
  • ERP or CRM solution
  • E-commerce solution

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. In general, if you need to put a computer system in place that processes, shares or otherwise manages data, you’ll need a server.

The right server for you

The questions of how a server differs from a desktop and when a server is the right hardware solution are easy to answer. But the answers to the remaining questions — how much server you need to buy, what kind of configuration you need and of course, how much it will all cost you in the end — are based entirely on what you plan to use the server for. One of the significant benefits of servers is that you can customize their configurations to meet your very specific needs, so you can concentrate your money in those areas where you need it most.

It probably won’t surprise you to find out that a server typically costs more than a desktop, but then again, a server is designed to do more than a desktop. It might, however, surprise you to find out a solid entry-level server doesn’t cost that much more than a high-end desktop and may fit more comfortably into your technology budget than you might have imagined. As you’ll see in the Do it section, many file/print and Web servers (two of the most common uses for servers in small and medium businesses) come well equipped for a reasonable price.

The most important thing you can do to ensure that your server meets your needs and fits your budget is to devote a bit of time and energy to assessing those needs. Until you have a good understanding of exactly what you want to use your server for, you run the risk of not buying enough server power or spending too much of your valuable budget on features you simply don’t need. A little planning in the beginning can make for significant savings and proper equipment sizing in the end.

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