Hire and inspire all of your mobile employees

reprinted with permission from the HP Small Business Center

The economic downturn that sent financial shivers through all businesses and the unemployment rate skyrocketing has a silver lining especially for small and medium businesses. With the economy turning around, and your business poised for growth, you have access to perhaps the world’s greatest talent pool ever.

The new era of connected mobility collapses time and distance; you can tap the potential of motivated and highly skilled individuals located almost anywhere! 

The ‘perfect’ candidate three time zones away may prove a better choice for your business than the ‘very good’ candidate located in the same city as your operations. Outsourcing repetitive tasks and some functions offers many benefits. But other times your business demands having the sustained contribution of a full-time employee.

So how do you find, equip, and maximize the potential of these mobile workers? Here are a few ideas to consider:

To find them, think like them. . .

Make sure the job description on your web site stands out! What intangible qualities do want your employee to possess? One music-related business in search of a marketing manager wanted to know which song they’d play at the office. Be creative. 

Put your social network to work. Spread the word to your LinkedIn connections. Your employees may be willing to do the same to their connections. Increasingly, Twitter is used to match employers with potential employees. 

Check references, as well as your candidate’s online presence. Arrange a video teleconference rather than only a phone interview. Some businesses rely on firms such as PI Worldwide that use surveys to make science-based decisions on individual’s potential. 

Provide the right tools, the right mobile infrastructure 

Now that you’ve made an important investment in human capital, it’s time to make the right technology investment. Technology, simply put, is the lifeblood of your mobile workforce. It enables them to connect, collaborate, create, report, print, prospect, code, propose, and much more.

The specific function of an employee will determine whether she requires a laptop, a desktop PC or a powerful workstation.

The ability to print high quality color or black and white documents, locally and remotely, is often a key requirement.
A support plan can minimize downtime.

Inspire! 

Despite having access to the best technology, working remotely is sometimes isolating. Engage your extended, mobile workforce as you do your employees who sit nearby.

Face-to-face meetings, even once a year, promote relationship building among team members. 

Be aware of the challenges your mobile workers face. If they participate in meetings by phone, for example, it is difficult to hear soft-spoken individuals, and impossible to participate in side conversations.

Set goals and objectives together and ask for regular status updates in writing—a best practice for all employees.

Take advantage! 

Incredible talent is out there! Find, equip, and inspire the newest members of your mobile team, and your business will reap the benefits of the potential you unleash.

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Personal Device Management

by Ed Correia, President & CEO, Sagacent Technologies, Inc.

 

Mobile-devices

Looking back over my last three decades in computers (actually 34 years now), technology has come a very long way and changed a lot. I saw the introduction of the personal computer, the very first computer networks, email, the dawn of the Internet, only very recently Cloud computing – and now tons of personal mobile devices.

And these new personal devices are now making their way into nearly every business environment in a multitude of ways, but most concerningly as: USB memory sticks or jump drives, smart phones, laptops and tablet computers. These personally purchased and unmanaged devices are becoming integrated into business environments that already had business-purchased and securely managed laptops, smart phones and tablet PCs. In fact, many businesses are now encouraging their employees to BYOD – or Bring Your Own Device.

So now the business networks that we care for are quickly becoming networks of previously un-imanageable complexity. The world of technology is clearly changing again and my business must change too – and find solutions fast!

Our immediate challenges to be answered greatly center around MDM (or Mobile Device Management):

  • How do we manage business data on so many different devices?
  • How do we manage all of these devices, even those not actually owned by the company?
  • How to we protect the business data and isolate it from people and devices that are not authorized?
  • If required, how do we remove business data from a personal device without harming the personal data?
  • How do we then maximize the usability, function and productivity of these environments and all these new devices?

While a lot of people and vendors are already proposing products and solutions to address these issues, the truth is that no one knows all these answers – yet. But we are already attending industry conferences with peers, participating in online seminars, meeting with vendors and looking at lots and lots of products. Some of the early answers that we are sharing with clients today include:

  • Making business owners aware of these challenges and discussing options.
  • Establishing computer usage policies and acceptable use agreement for employees.
  • Only allowing personal devices access to company data if that device can be remotely managed and if required, remotely wiped of all company data.

Related, but not exclusive to managing personal mobile devices, we have been encouraging clients to allow us to initiate:

  • Regular automated remote backups of laptops.
  • Encryption of data or hard drives on laptop computers.
  • Purchase laptops, or programs for them, which allow the easy segregation of company-owned and personal data.

So change is nothing new for technology, and as usual, it is never boring – the answers are out there and we’ll find them for you.

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The Future of Windows

written by David Tan, Chief Technology Office, CHIPS Technology Group LLC

 

Windows

Microsoft held their first ever Build Conference in Anaheim in September. It’s a new annual event for Windows developers to gather and learn about building applications for the Windows platform. This one was special not only because it was the first, but also because leading up to it, all the buzz was about how much of Windows 8 Microsoft would show and what details we would learn about the next version of the most popular operating system in the world.

 

Microsoft did not disappoint. They have showed demos, talked about features and functions, and even made an open beta immediately available to all who are interested to download, play with, and Microsoft hopes develop applications for. The buzz leading up to the conference has grown into a fever pitch with partners, developers, and customers all extremely excited about the next Windows release. What is it about this platform that Microsoft is doing right, and why is everyone so excited?

First off, Windows has a new look and feel. The next interface, dubbed “Metro” represents the single biggest change to the Windows interface since the additions of the Start button back in 1995. It has been completely revamped from the ground up. It is a radical departure. The traditional desktop and icons have been replaced by dynamic tiles. These tiles will not only allow you to interact with program, but will allow the applications to communicate with the user by surfacing key messages, data, or photos, depending on the needs.

Speaking of revamped, the operating system has been rebuilt from the ground up. According to Microsoft, this version requires about half the memory of Windows 7, allowing for things like longer battery life, and more importantly, much better performance on less powerful processors. This last point is very key. Microsoft’s vision is to have a single operating system that runs on all hardware platforms – phones, tablets, PCs, etc. More importantly, they are trying to enable developers to write a single version of an application that will work on anything, unlike their counterparts from Apple, which currently requires 3 different builds of a program to work across the entire Apple hardware universe. This philosophy will be extremely popular with developers and will no doubt help Microsoft gain market share in the smart phone and tablet space very rapidly.

Getting back to the interface for a minute, it looks like it was built from the ground up to be touch enabled. Microsoft is most definitely designing this operating system to work on the next generation of hardware – tablets and otherwise. Even though a commercial version of a Windows tablet will probably not be available till next year, Microsoft distributed 5,000 early version units at the Build Conference. Just a further effort to get developers working on building “Metro” versions of their applications as soon as possible. In addition to being designed for future hardware platforms, this operating system looks to be the first designed from a user-centric point of view. In other words, Microsoft finally took a page out of the Apple playbook and built a user interface with the user in mind. Working with it just feels really natural. There is no doubt it will be a considerable adjustment for most users, but I’m pretty confident from my early experiences that the changes will be wildly successful.

Microsoft still has a lot of work to do to catch Apple and Google in the mobile and tablet space. Windows 8 will be a giant leap in the right direction. Coupled with the fact that they already own the desktop space so dominantly, I think people will flock to the new version when they see what it can do. I’m fairly certain that Microsoft will be solidly second in that space at this time next year, passing Google’s Android platform without much problem. I also truly believe Apple will be firmly in their sites. If Windows 8 lives up to the early demos and hype, Microsoft is finally on the right track to establish a leadership position in this critical market space. Let’s hope this new “reimagined” Microsoft (as Steve Ballmer called them during his Build keynote) stays the course because that will be the best possible scenario for any business looking to expand their use of mobile and tablet devices going forward.

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Remote working is no longer an employee perk, it’s a business necessity

Remote_working

Reprinted with permission from the Microsoft Small Business Center

 

The kind of office most of us are familiar with is a building with four walls and a roof that we probably drive to 40 or so hours each week, Monday through Friday. Today, many companies still maintain traditional offices, but the decision makers are also discovering that to compete in the current economy, employees must be able to do their jobs anywhere, anytime.

Microsoft recently commissioned a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs among more than 4,500 information workers in 15 U.S. markets to better understand opinions and attitudes related to mobile and internal business technologies and capabilities. The survey results further underscore the growing requirement for mobile work solutions – more than half of respondents (57%) report that their company has a formal telework policy and more than three quarters of information workers (77%) say their company provides access to technology support for working remotely.

Working without walls – what it is, and isn’t At Microsoft, we like to describe remote working as “working without walls,” because it’s becoming much more than simply handing employees laptops and giving them the ability to check e-mail outside the office . . . though that’s a start. Rather, today’s business climate demands that employees be able to work just as effectively inside the office as they can outside the office. This means being able to use laptops as well as handheld devices to securely access vital business information, collaborate with colleagues (even face-to-face), make critical business decisions, and more.

Tools that can help A range of technology tools exists to help businesses effectively mobilize employees. Here are a few that are particularly helpful for working without walls.

Cloud-based software: One of the primary benefits the cloud has delivered to businesses of all sizes is access to software that formerly only existed on local servers and required employees to be in the office to use the applications. Now, thanks to the cloud, workers can use many of the programs they formerly only had access to in the office wherever they have a secure Internet connection.

Microsoft recently launched the beta version of Office 365 — an all-in-one solution that combines SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and Office in an up-to-date cloud service. Ideal for letting employees remain productive in and out of the office, Office 365 makes things like videoconferencing, document and desktop sharing easy for mobile workers, as well as tasks like e-mail, chat, calendaring and document creation.

Smartphones: Sometimes, when working without walls, it’s just not efficient to conduct work from a laptop. For instance, you might be at a business lunch and can’t lug your laptop to the table, or it could already be stowed in the overhead compartment of an airplane when you realize you need to send off a quick e-mail before your plane departs.

In these instances, having a smartphone can make all the difference. A phone like Windows Phone 7, designed specifically for the business user, includes applications that make it possible to do virtually everything you already do on a desktop PC or laptop. It also includes numerous data protection features that help safeguard your business information should your phone be lost or stolen. What’s more, Office 365 will be available on Windows Phone 7, ensuring that users get the maximum productivity benefits this software provides.

Security enhanced operating systems: In those instances when using a laptop makes more sense than working from a smartphone, it’s vital that your computer’s operating system is security enhanced.

Windows 7, Microsoft’s newest operating system, is its most secure operating system to date and provides data encryption features through BitLocker — for hard drives, as well as BitLocker to Go — for removable disk drives. Another feature included in the Enterprise version of Windows 7 that’s particularly beneficial to mobile workers is DirectAccess, which gives users security enhanced and easy access to corporate networks without a VPN.

Collaboration, connection and security are business essentials inside, and outside the four walls of your office. Fortunately, today’s technology tools can easily help you empower employees to work productively from any location and will likely make your business leaner and more efficient as a result.

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5 Ways To Make Your Website More Mobile Device Friendly

One of the big things on business owners’ minds when it comes to their website is making it usable on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Here are some ways to make it easier for your viewers to get valuable information from your website while using a mobile device.

Enlarge Click-able Elements

It is important to keep in mind that nobody’s index finger is as accurate as a mouse pointer. To make it easier for your visitors to use your site, make click-able features like navigation, buttons, and form fields large enough to press.

Simplify Navigation

Though usable on non-mobile devices, drop-down navigation can be the most annoying feature of a website when viewed on a mobile device. This is because there is no way to “hover” over items on a touch screen. Some devices have made it possible to show hover events when an elements pressed and held for a couple seconds, but not everyone has this capability. Your best bet is to lose the drop-downs and go with something simpler.

Also, make sure your navigation is text-based and not graphic-based. Even though mobile networks have made great improvements when it comes to bandwidth, loading is still not as speedy or reliable as a fixed data connection. This means images may not load quickly, making navigation difficult to use.

 

Do Not Use Flash

Using flash to display featured content, video, audio, etc. may look sleek on a monitor. However, it is not viewable on most mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad. Without getting technical, here are some JavaScript based alternatives to using flash on your website:

Reduce Clutter

Because of reduced loading speed on mobile devices, it is important to make sure your website is light-weight. This means limiting the amount of graphics, advertisements, and irrelevant content that is displayed on each page of your website. Not only will this help your site load faster, but it will give it a cleaner look on mobile browsers; making it easier for visitors to find information.

Get a Mobile Site

If some of the options above are not enough to make your website mobile device friendly, getting a separate mobile site may be your best option. Having a separate mobile site ensures that all pages of your website will render in mobile browsers without issues. Just make sure the visitor is redirected to the mobile site when viewing from a mobile device. Here are some examples of mobile web addresses you could use for your mobile site:

m.yourcompany.com
mobile.yourcompany.com
www.yourcompany.mobi
www.yourcompany.com/mobile

If you have any questions about your website being supported on mobile browsers, contact the Media Services Team and Network Management Group, Inc.

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