10 Must-Have Apps for Your Small Business

Today, tablets and mobile phones are enabling every industry, every line of business and every employee to work in astounding new ways. This capacity is fueling a new generation of apps, delivering more power, more insight and more capability to businesses than ever before.

This is true for businesses of all sizes – both large and small. Leveraging the right kinds of apps can make for a cohesive business ecosystem, valuable in increasing productivity, streamlining business processes, and instilling creativity overall. So where to start? This slideshow offers a look at some of the best types of apps for kicking your small business off the ground or to a higher level, as identified by JAMF.

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Must-Have Business Apps

Click through for 10 apps small businesses should consider to help improve productivity, streamline business processes and engender overall creativity, as identified by JAMF.

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Mind Mapping

The practice of mind mapping goes beyond the brainstorming exercises you did in elementary school. When you’re beginning a business, it’s important to think through everything, and being able to collect your thoughts in a flexible way, especially when you’re on the go, is valuable.

MindMeister is just one example of a great, simple mind-mapping tool that creates maps to help you organize your thoughts, build out cohesive workflows, and communicate them easily with others. When you’re brainstorming, the last thing you want to do is be hampered by your technology. By making it so easy to note and map out your thoughts, MindMeister helps you free up headspace so that you can focus on your next big idea.

MindMeister – iOS / Android
Also check out 10 iOS Brainstorming Apps to Organize Your Ideas

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Spreadsheet Management

Spreadsheets — if you own or run a business, it’s impossible to get away from them. From financials, to inventory, to overall tracking, spreadsheets are crucial. But using them doesn’t have to be painful!

Some good apps to help you create and manage your spreadsheets include Numbers and Microsoft Excel, which is now available for iOS, and maturing quickly. You’ll need an Office 365 subscription to unlock the full Excel experience, but for many small businesses, Office 365 is the way to go for acquiring your office licenses.

Numbers – iOS
Microsoft Excel – iOS / Android

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File Management and Syncing

Spreadsheets aren’t the only types of files your business will use. That’s where file management and syncing services such as Box and Dropbox come in handy for managing, editing, sharing, and syncing almost any type of file quickly and easily. Since the data lives in the cloud, these apps free up the infrastructure to purchase, manage, and back up in your office. Now it’s easy to share that marked up PDF of your business plan from your angel investor.

Apple also provides some storage for iCloud accounts, but when you’re looking at building out new workflows, it’s important to think about scaling beyond one person in the future (which is what iCloud Drive is really built for).

Box – iOS / Android
Dropbox – iOS / Android

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Accounting

Especially when starting your business, seeing your cash flow in a simple and accessible manner is super helpful. Until you have dedicated staff looking at numbers and handling accounting, it’s important to easily keep tabs on your money in one place. The simpler the app is to use, the more frequently you’ll look at this data and the more financially aware you’ll be.

That’s where great tools like Xero and Freshbooks come in. Look for an easy-to-use cloud-based accounting software for small businesses – until you can hire an accountant.

Xero – iOS / Android
Freshbooks – iOS / Android

 

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Point of Sale (POS)

Whether you’re opening up an IT consultancy or a boutique shoe store, you will need a way for people to pay you. Among the list of apps that enable credit card payments are Vend Register, Revel POS, Shopkeep, talech Register, Square Register, Kounta, and other Point of Sale (POS) applications.

Again, your specific needs will determine exactly which app is best for you. For example, if you have inventory, a feature-rich option that allows you to track it in real time is ideal. If your business operates on billable hours, you’ll need an app that allows you to track and bill accordingly. In the beginning, it’s best to keep things simple until you’re able to research and invest in a more robust solution that works best for the business.

Vend – iOS
Revel – iOS
Shopkeep – iOS
talech Register – iOS
Square Register – iOS / Android
Kounta – iOS / Android

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Social Media Management

Social media offers huge potential for getting the message out about your business and communicating with customers. Staying consistent is hard, but it’s a must-do. For instance, tweeting just once in a blue moon won’t give you the result you’re looking for. This is hard though, since you can’t be online all the time.

Thankfully, a batch of tools has emerged to help. For example, the HootSuite app makes it easy to schedule posts, find things worth posting, analyze your activity and much more. Plus, it lets you do all this across a number of different social networks – from YouTube to Facebook and Twitter – and there are options to integrate all this information into a CRM such as Salesforce! Along with HootSuite, other tools like Google Analytics and Moz can help measure the results of any social campaigns.

HootSuite – iOS / Android
Google Analytics – Android
Moz

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Sales

If you can’t get people to buy your product or service, then no matter what you’re selling, you will fail. Having your customer relationship management (CRM) software accessible from your mobile devices is a huge advantage in supporting more sales. Solutions like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Oracle, and SAP are all big software packages that offer plenty of features and complexity.

If you’re a new business, you might consider a simpler option that is scalable when you eventually grow and need something more complex. While there are a lot of options out there, Elements CRM is a good one. You can search the app store for CRM along with your industry in case you find an app more suited to your specific needs.

Microsoft Dynamics – iOS / Android
Salesforce – iOS / Android
Oracle – iOS / Android
SAP – iOS / Android
Elements CRM – iOS

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Surveying

Feedback is important to every small business, and even more so for new ones. In order to improve, gaining insight from customers on the work and experience you provide is crucial. You can easily gain such information through surveying tools like SurveyMonkey.

The app provides a super simple way to create, manage, and distribute surveys. And, when you get bigger and need more capabilities, SurveyMonkey lets you upgrade to a paid plan with more features. A plus is that as a SaaS tool, SurveyMonkey offers some great options for analyzing your survey results. No matter how you use it, make sure your surveys encourage real feedback to your business rather than force your customers into a positive review.

SurveyMonkey – iOS / Android

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Marketing Automation

Strategic and well-executed email campaigns offer a great way to keep in touch with your contacts and prospects as well as provide value to them. While there are many marketing automation software packages out there, some are more complicated than others and require the assistance of a specialist.

MailChimp is a popular and simple tool that helps you handle and automate your email marketing campaigns, even if you’re not an expert. Not only does it make your life easier by helping you format emails, manage lists and outreach, it also offers tools to measure how impactful your email campaigns are.

MailChimp – iOS / Android

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Mobile Device Management

Like many businesses, you’re probably using mobile devices like iPhone and iPad to submit orders, serve as a cash register replacement and a whole lot more. Not only is it important to make sure you’re making the most of what your mobile devices can offer, it’s also imperative to keep them safe and secure.

Bushel is a cloud-based solution designed from the ground up to make it easy for regular people to set up, manage and protect their Apple devices anytime from anywhere – without the need for an IT guru. Complex tasks, including Apple device setup, security and management, are simple and quick, enabling users to focus on their business, rather than getting caught up with managing technology.

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Bonus: That Killer App for Your Industry

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a category of business-management software, typically encompassing a suite of integrated applications. These help an organization with a range of activities, including collecting, storing, managing, and interpreting data from many sources.

You know the saying “There’s an app for that”? Well, truth be told, there usually is in the form of an ERP tool. Before you go through the trouble to cobble together your own solution, be sure to check if there’s something already out there that might help fulfill your needs. You never know, it might even be a software solution developed by a competitor!

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Conclusion

As you go through this list, it’s ok to look beyond the specific apps mentioned. More important than these recommendations is the process of exploring each category to find the apps that work best for you, your employees and your particular business.

In any case, it’s important that any apps you decide on are easy for employees to use immediately without any training or third-party assistance to get them set up and going. The easier it is to start using an app, the more likely your team is to make a habit of using it. The result is increased productivity over all, along with consistency – both major pluses in helping your business take off and succeed.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/10-must-have-apps-for-your-small-business.html

5 Tips for Effectively Implementing a Desktop Virtualization Solution

The introduction of hyper-converged appliances, enhancements to brokering software and new management solutions have made virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) easier to plan, deploy and run than ever before. The cost per seat has decreased significantly, and there are fewer steps required to get a VDI appliance up and running, making the adoption of desktop virtualization more accessible across a variety of industries. With the threat of security breaches increasing exponentially, and continued BYOD use in several highly regulated industries like health care, VDI continues to grow in relevance and importance as a way to deliver security-by-design. In this slideshow, Jeff McNaught, executive director and chief strategy officer, Dell Cloud Client-Computing, has identified five tips organizations can use to effectively implement a VDI solution.

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How to Implement a VDI Solution

Click through for five tips on effectively implementing a desktop virtualization solution, as identified by Jeff McNaught, executive director and chief strategy officer, Dell Cloud Client-Computing.

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Understand Users’ Needs

Understand the various technology needs within the organization before designing your VDI solution.

So you think you know what everyone does in the organization. But do you really? Many people within the same organization have vastly different technology needs and different security profiles. In a design firm for example, the designers need a lot more horsepower than the HR department, and those working on confidential prototypes likely need greater security than the marketing department. Architects may work on plans in the office, but review and update them with clients at building sites. Hospitals may have terminals accessed by multiple health care workers to view and update patient records on the ward – and patient information is governed by HIPAA compliance regulations – but doctors and health care professionals continue to demand access to this information using the consumer devices they own or love. In order to design an effective VDI solution, the IT manager first needs to understand the unique needs of the end users and the various ways those users will need to access data so that the solution selected has the right level of flexibility and performance to ensure end user productivity and satisfaction.

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Outline Desired Outcomes

Decide on the outcomes from a VDI solution.

Just as end users have a variety of needs and expectations when it comes to the technology they use every day, the IT manager must also determine what they want to get out of deploying VDI. Whether it’s lowering IT costs over time, the need to secure and control data, or reduce maintenance on endpoints (or all the above), knowing the desired outcomes and building a solution to meet those needs is key. Blueprint assessments offered by major vendors can objectively identify gaps and help to customize a solution to fit the organization’s unique needs. An added benefit to this is the ability to clearly communicate the benefits to end users during the transition and deployment phase.

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Start with a Pilot Program

Before deploying your VDI solution to the entire group, consider starting with a pilot program for a small group of users, including the potential endpoints (thin clients, PCs, tablets and even smartphones). This will enable you to deploy the solution in a small setting, work out any issues, and get end-user feedback before rolling it out to a wider group. This will minimize end-user downtime and decreased productivity. It will also increase end-user satisfaction as the deployment is done gradually, measured and assessed before being rolled out broadly across the organization. This has become easier than ever with the recent introduction of hyper-converged VDI appliances, which can reduce planning and deployment from months to days.

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Consider Long-Term Needs

Make sure the VDI solution can support future scalability needs.

Understandably, many of us tend to focus on immediate needs – there is always something that needs to be fixed now. However, when deploying a VDI solution, fixating on the short term can lead to potentially outgrowing the infrastructure much earlier than planned. To avoid this, it’s important to consider long-term needs and projected company growth up front. Today, many hyper-converged appliances have built-in scalability features so it’s easier to “right-size” the investment. In other words, not just knowing that it can scale, but precisely how high, and in what increments it can scale. This takes the guesswork out of VDI and ensures that you’re not under or over investing for your needs.

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Minimize Downtime

Consider deployment and managed services as a means to minimize downtime.

In order to quickly start seeing a return on investment, organizations need to deploy new solutions without losing employee productivity. While deploying virtual desktops no longer requires a VDI specialist in the IT department, some organizations with a limited in-house IT staff may want to consider on or off-premise management services to help deploy and maintain the solution over time. Services may also include IT or end-user training and compliance reporting, in addition to maintenance and support. With the right solutions provider, managed services can ensure that the solution works for you over the long term.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/5-tips-for-effectively-implementing-a-desktop-virtualization-solution.html

6 Steps to Transform Email into a Center for Business Productivity

Email is driving enterprises to the cloud in droves, and according to a recent harmon.ie survey, cost savings on email storage and maintenance are the number one reason. In fact, while industry pundits predicted email’s looming demise in favor of other social tools just a year or two ago, the cloud is now giving email a new breath of life. A 2015 Email Statistics Report from Radicati, the technology research firm that has published definitive email statistics for more than 20 years, revealed that the number of worldwide email users is expected to increase from 2.6 billion today to 2.9 billion by 2019, and that the average business user will receive 96 emails per day by 2019.

While email will continue to play a crucial role in the modern enterprise for decades to come, turning email from a source of distraction into a center for business productivity requires a new playbook. In 2012, consulting firm McKinsey discovered that reading and answering emails constituted 28 percent of an employee’s weekly work tasks – this percentage has only increased in the absence of widespread behavioral and technological advances for reducing email overload.

In this slideshow, David Lavenda, vice president of product strategy at harmon.ie and information overload researcher, walks readers through the immediate and future steps enterprises must take to end email overload and embrace email as the center of business connectivity in a cloud environment.

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Creating an Email Productivity Center

Click through for steps organizations can take to end email overload and embrace email as a center of business connectivity, as identified by David Lavenda, vice president of product strategy at harmon.ie.

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Understand Email Overload

Email is perhaps the most ubiquitous workplace tool of the past 20 years, and its evolution over time has turned it into a primary source of information overload. Email was designed for simple, short-form communication, yet thanks in large part to its near 100 percent adoption across workplace environments, today email is used as the solution to countless enterprise communication challenges.

Employee inboxes contain dozens of new requests, status updates, work orders, contracts and more. Each of these incoming messages has the potential to negatively affect a typical office worker’s productivity for up to 23 minutes, according to the University of California, Irving’s Gloria Mark.

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Play to Its Strengths

Reducing email overload: Play to its strengths.

You can reduce the massive overload of email by playing to its strengths – short communication messages – and using dedicated tools for other types of communication. Don’t shoehorn email into use cases such as quick, transient conversations; instead, use instant messenger clients like Skype for Business, Slack or HipChat.

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Stop Spamming Your Contacts

Reducing email overload: Stop spamming your contacts with email.

Even if you move all transient conversations to instant messaging, workers still deal with dozens of emails a day. To further lower email overload, you should:

  • Cap the number of email recipients at the absolute minimum number of people. Anyone who doesn’t immediately need the information contained in your email can either be updated in person, or later on with a recap that consolidates multiple emails.
  • Stop the email thread: If an email thread goes beyond two steps, pick up the phone or walk over to your coworker’s desk.

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Process Emails More Efficiently

Reducing email overload: Break the habit of responding to each email immediately.

Responding to 100 emails as they come in every day is a great strategy for killing your productivity. To deal with the influx of email efficiently, you should:

  • Limit your “on” time: Check email only a few times a day; repress the urge to stay connected to email all day long.
  • Triage email: Deal with only the most important messages first, writing quick responses and referrals that enable other people to do their jobs. Scan and archive most of the messages you’re copied on, and save the rest for a short block of time dedicated to focusing on email uninterrupted.
  • Set aside time in the morning (before you start your workday) to deal with the emails that require uninterrupted attention. That way you don’t have to divide your attention between productive tasks and email throughout the day.

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Create a Center of Business Productivity

Turn email into the center of business productivity.

Once you’ve reduced your email overload, you can begin transforming email into a center for business productivity. As a first step, start using the rules, filters and folders built into Outlook 2016, Gmail, etc. to further reduce the deluge of email and make finding the right business information easier.

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Create a Single Email Repository

Improving email productivity: Create a single central repository for emails and documents.

Take email classification a step further and start storing email in SharePoint or other content management systems just like any other document – this will empower business users to manage email with the full capabilities offered by these systems, while allowing IT and ops to meet compliance and audit requirements. The combination turns email into a true center for business productivity.

You can store email in document repositories by physically saving each email to your hard drive and manually uploading/adding metadata, or you can implement technology that does the heavy lifting for you. Evaluate your budget and needs, and pick the best solution for your team.

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Leverage Contextual Cloud Filtering

Improving email productivity: Leverage contextual cloud filtering.

Take advantage of the machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) available via the cloud to automate email search and prioritization based on advanced filters and contextual information. Microsoft Clutter, IBM Verse and Google Inbox are all available today, and future tools will include deeper capabilities like the ability to automatically and manually filter by topic, location, time and more. These tools surface the right information with no manual input, making email in the cloud even more powerful.

Enjoy your contextual filtering capabilities, but remember the email prioritization tips mentioned earlier in this slideshow – Clutter, Verse and the like are effective, but are still bound to miss an important email here and there. Combine the automatic filtering capabilities with your manual processes.

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Reassess Email Use

Improving email productivity: Continuously reassess your company’s use of email.

Email will outlast the majority of today’s tech fads, but its true potential has yet to be unlocked, and long-term success requires an ongoing effort. Even with the tips and technology discussed in this slideshow, you need to periodically reassess your company’s use of email.

Email overload has a way of creeping up on us. Only with consistency and vigilance can enterprise teams turn email from a source of distraction into a central command center delivering an aggregated view of business activities and priorities in a complex cloud world.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/6-steps-to-transform-email-into-a-center-for-business-productivity.html

The Role of IT in the Cloud Era

“Can I get this done without going to IT?” simply wasn’t an option for most enterprise projects in the past. However, the explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings has led non-IT people to start questioning when–and even if–they need to bring IT into the picture. IT has often been perceived as the bottleneck, creating pent-up frustrations that lead people to look for ways to decrease IT’s involvement or bypass it altogether.

The availability of enterprise SaaS offerings has given business users options that require significantly less IT involvement or even none at all. These solutions eliminate much of the infrastructure work that used to consume IT, giving people outside of IT new alternatives. Take the case of CRM systems — CRM implementation used to be a huge IT project, but with the rise of cloud-based CRM systems it’s now become something that is commonly driven and owned by sales operations, with only a small amount of IT involvement. Add to that the share of spend and budget that is not owned by IT and there’s a real question of whether IT has lost its influence.

It’s clear that IT’s role needs to change, but how? In this slideshow, Snowflake‘s CEO, Bob Muglia, outlines a few tips on how IT organizations are adapting to their role in the era of the cloud.

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IT’s New Role in the Cloud

Click through for tips on how IT organizations can adapt to their role in the era of the cloud, as identified by Snowflake’s CEO, Bob Muglia.

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Integrate Data and Applications

Whereas IT used to focus on integrating infrastructure, a new focus is on integrating cloud applications. The ease of deployment of the cloud has created a proliferation of special-purpose offerings that fragment and silo data and access. Leading IT organizations bring expertise in tying that together — creating the connectors that use the web-based interfaces (e.g., REST and other APIs) that cloud applications provide, identifying and choosing data integration tools, and designing data pipelines to collect and bring together data.

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Establish and Enforce a Consistent Approach to Security

In the rush to get projects done, security is something that frequently gets left by the wayside, particularly when those projects don’t involve IT. IT can help mitigate the risks that process creates by defining and applying policies for secure authentication, data encryption, access control, auditing and validating that cloud options under consideration can support those policies.

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Determine and Apply SLAs

A key challenge of the cloud is that SLAs for performance, remediation, and availability are no longer under direct control of the company. Leading IT organizations bring an understanding of designing applications to leverage the cloud elasticity needed to deliver consistent performance, of how and where to incorporate redundancy to ensure availability in the cloud, of implementing disaster recovery in a cloud context, and of tools and approaches to use in the cloud for scalable monitoring and alerting when problems occur.

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Deliver More, Faster

A common IT challenge is that the number of project requests far exceeds what IT can deliver. Using the cloud and SaaS, IT can deliver more projects faster, increasing innovation and productivity across the organization.

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Prevent Silos and Ensure Integration

By proactively helping to choose and deploy SaaS applications in a coherent, integrated way, IT can prevent shadow IT from leading to incompatible and inaccessible silos of information and insight that get in the way of business planning and decision making.

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Deliver World-Class Solutions

It’s prohibitively difficult and expensive for IT to be the best-in-the-world at everything it’s traditionally been asked to do – world class at data center operations, at monitoring, at capacity planning, at security, at application tuning, at application troubleshooting, etc. But the cloud and SaaS enable IT to raise the bar in finding and choosing vendors and products that deliver the highest standards of capability, performance, security, availability, and more.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/the-role-of-it-in-the-cloud-era.html

5 Hidden Costs of Cloud Backup

Backup and disaster recovery are typically cited among the top use cases for cloud computing. Companies are increasingly realizing that cloud-based backup is more efficient, more reliable, easier to use and less error prone than traditional methods such as tape or other rotational media, not to mention it enables extremely effective disaster recovery. In 2015, we saw a major upswing in cloud adoption for storing backup copies. In 2016, expect to see cloud backup and disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) options become the norm for new backup deployments at organizations of all sizes.

Most companies can easily lower OPEX and CAPEX with cloud backup. But not all cloud backup options are the same, and a true cost comparison entails evaluating more than just each offering’s top line cost per GB. In this slideshow, cloud-recovery leader Unitrends details five “hidden” charges that companies must consider when researching the best and most cost-effective cloud backup solution for their business.

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Cloud Backup’s Hidden Charges

Click through for five “hidden” charges that companies must consider when researching the best and most cost-effective cloud backup solution for their business, as identified by Unitrends.

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Compounding Storage Needs

Hidden Cost No. 1: Compounding Storage Needs

Retaining backup copies is now a necessity for many companies for a variety of reasons, from protection against human error, natural disasters and system failures, to compliance with regulatory or policy requirements.

The storage required to retain multiple copies of your backups can be substantially larger than the original source data. A common strategy for keeping data for long-term retention is the grandfather-father-son (GFS) backup scheme, which results in a lot of backup copies. In this scheme, a set of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly backups are retained using a first-in-first-out (FIFO) pattern. Even if only the data that is changing daily is stored in the cloud and the backups are being compressed, the amount of cloud storage used can add up over time.

Consequently, it matters a great deal where the gigabytes (GBs) and terabytes (TBs) you are purchasing reside. Most cloud storage and backup solutions charge for every GB of storage used in the cloud. So, as your backups grow and consume more cloud storage, so does your bill. But there are cloud backup solutions that only charge for the amount of data protected on the source side. Evaluate each cloud backup solution to determine whether you’ll be paying for protected data or raw cloud storage.

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Retrieval Fees

Hidden Cost No. 2: Retrieval Fees

Many of the low-cost hyperscale cloud storage solutions are designed as cold storage, meaning they are intended for storing data that does not need to be frequently accessed. These cold storage solutions charge a retrieval fee to users who need to access their data. Though these fees are typically 1 cent per GB, they can quickly add up if you need to access your data frequently throughout the year.

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Network Egress Fees

Hidden Cost No. 3: Network Egress Fees

All clouds allow you to insert your data for free (network ingress). However, many clouds charge network fees to move your data out of the cloud to another location or to the Internet (network egress). These network egress fees vary greatly by cloud provider and depend on the amount of data moved in a month as well as the geography where the data resides, though they tend to range between 5 and 23 cents per GB.

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Getting Data Into and Out of the Cloud

Hidden Cost No. 4: Getting Data Into and Out of the Cloud

Getting your data into and out of the cloud has both hard costs and soft costs beyond network egress fees. The impact of those costs depends on which option you use to move your data – a WAN connection or physical seeding. The most obvious method to move data to and from the cloud is to send it over a WAN connection. However, this may not be ideal for moving large amounts of data because, even with a high-speed Internet connection, transferring multiple TBs of data can take a substantial amount of time.

Physical seeding is an alternative method to get an initial set of data into the cloud without having to wait days or weeks to transfer many TBs. Physical seeding uses physical disks and overnight shipping to quickly create an initial dataset in the cloud. Media is sent to the cloud provider to “seed” the initial full set of data and avoid the WAN challenge.

Physical seeding can greatly speed up the cloud backup initialization process, reducing setup time from weeks to a single day, even for hundreds of TBs. However, not all vendors offer a seeding option and almost all charge a nominal fee for it.

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Getting Data Into and Out of the Cloud

Hidden Cost No. 4: Getting Data Into and Out of the Cloud (Continued)

Even more important than seeding your data to get started is the requirement for “reverse seeding,” or a data shipment service level agreement (SLA), to get data back within 24 hours in the event of a disaster. This works the same as seeding but in reverse. If you have a disaster and lose all or a large amount of your data, the cloud vendor places your data onto disks or a new backup appliance and ships the data to you.

Whether an organization can obtain reverse seeding or not can be the difference between achieving or missing recovery time objectives (RTOs). With reverse seeding, you avoid the challenge of sending large amounts of data over a WAN, and downtime can be minimized from weeks to hours.

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Cost of Not Having a Solid SLA

Hidden Cost No. 5: The Price of Not Having Rock Solid SLAs

Many clouds have soft SLAs. It pays to read the fine print and determine how the cloud you are relying on for mission-critical backup and recovery will perform when it matters most. Consider the following questions when evaluating cloud providers:

  • What does the cloud provider guarantee for recovery? Does the provider guarantee a specific recovery time?
  • What is the guarantee for uptime?
  • If you have concerns about data sovereignty, does the provider validate that your data will stay in the geography that you choose?
  • What are the SLAs for response time for service? Is there a person to answer the phone or is it email/chat only?
  • Are there multiple vendors involved? Does that affect the SLAs?

SLAs are particularly important for backup and recovery. You need to make sure that you have a supplier who will be there with you when you have a disaster or emergency. Without such SLAs in place, you may find that you have just purchased cheap offsite storage rather than a true backup and recovery partner.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/five-hidden-costs-of-cloud-backup.html

How to Get Control of Your Email Inbox

Email has been likened to zombies: The more you delete (or kill), the more come to get you. Just about every professional today struggles to stay on top of email. According to a McKinsey study, U.S. employees spend 28 percent of their workweek on email, and research from the University of California, Irvine indicates that email overload can elevate stress levels and reduce focus. Add in the chaos of the modern inbox and important messages can easily get lost in the shuffle — only 6 to 7 percent of emails actually receive a response.

Email is an integral part of working, but for far too many workers, it hurts rather than helps their productivity. They spend so much time communicating that it is difficult to get into a flow and get actual work done. Keeping email overload at bay and optimizing your inbox requires honing specific skills and developing a strategy so you control your email, rather than letting it control you.

In the following slideshow, SaneBox has identified six tips for overcoming email overload, achieving inbox zero, and boosting your productivity.

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Managing Your Inbox

Click through for six tips for overcoming email overload, achieving inbox zero, and boosting your productivity, as identified by SaneBox.

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Scan-Block-Ask

The most efficient emailers use the three-step Scan-Block-Ask system.

Step 1: Scan. Scan your inbox for emails with urgent and important items, and take care of them first thing in the morning. Then, close your email and work on your top priorities.

Step 2: Block. Block 30 to 60 minutes later in the day to process your non-urgent and less important emails. Having a set time in your calendar will help you stay focused on your tasks and ensures that you won’t miss or forget about emails.

Step 3: Ask. Ask yourself if clearing your Inbox is the best use of time right now. Do this every time you are in your email and every time you think about opening your email. If the answer is no, wait until the next block of time that you scheduled for email.

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Triage Your Inbox

When “checking email” is your main focus, you’re letting other people dictate your priorities. Stop hitting refresh repeatedly in your inbox, and instead save hours of time (and sanity) with email triage. Email triage is a strategy for processing email in a fraction of the time. First, you want to divide emails into three camps.

For emails that are a lost cause, delete or archive them, because they are not the best use of your time. If you can tell by the subject line and sender that an email is not important, don’t even take the time to open it. If you know that you will never need to reference the email in the future, delete it. If you aren’t sure or know you will need it, archive it. Whenever possible, process these messages in bulk.

For emails that can be quickly addressed with the likelihood of positive outcome, defer, delegate or respond. Defer emails that are not urgent until later by moving them out of your inbox until you are ready to deal with them. Delegate the email or task with a simple forward if someone on your team can deal with it.

Finally, for emails that require time and energy for a positive outcome to occur, move them into a separate folder, star it, and then work out of your star folder. Or you can keep the “to do” emails in your inbox. The key is to ensure all the top priority messages are in one place.

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Email Notifications

Email notifications are the no. 1 productivity killer. Studies have shown that every time we are interrupted by events like an email notification, it takes us 90 seconds to recover and return to the task at hand. Considering that the average person manages over 100 emails per day, this really adds up. What’s more, 40 percent of the time when we are interrupted, we fail to complete the interrupted task.

When you let every email that arrives in your inbox interrupt you, you destroy your productivity, which is why setting up dedicated blocks of time to check emails is key. To regain and maintain your focus, turn off notifications everywhere you receive email, including on your smartphone, tablet and computer. If you’re really ready to take it to the next level, remove the email app from your phone entirely.

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Treat Your Inbox Right

Treating your inbox right entails a couple of different things. To start, properly filter your bacn — the legitimate emails like newsletters and social media alerts that you have subscribed to and may be interested in, but which should not interrupt your day. It’s best to make sure these messages never set foot in your inbox by filtering them out. At minimum, be sure to process these messages in bulk so they don’t waste your time or linger in your inbox.

Secondly, don’t always email. Be vigilant about deciding which email threads are productive and which are not. Sometimes a phone conversation might be better, some recipients should be removed from a thread, or a new thread is needed altogether.

Third, don’t use your inbox as an archive. It’s the equivalent of stuffing your snail mail back into your mailbox after reading it and is terrible for your productivity. Instead, use your email’s search function to find messages and create folders for categories you will want to reference in the future.

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The Best Follow-Up Reminders

For many of us, it is hard to keep track of all the emails being sent from our inbox. Often, we forget or people never respond — things just fall through the cracks. One of the best hacks for this challenge is to stop waiting on responses, and instead systematize using reminders. Services to help you do this include Yesware and its reminder feature, which alerts you to follow up and focus on emails that haven’t been responded to; Boomerang for Gmail, an extension that removes messages from your inbox until you need them; and SaneBox’s SaneReminders, which notifies you when an email you sent was not responded to by a certain time. It’s also a great way to send a reminder to your future self rather than creating a calendar event that has little context.

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Snooze Emails Until You Are Ready

What do you do with an email that you do need to act on, but not right now? If you’re like most people, you probably leave that message in your inbox, possibly even marking it as unread. This causes you to look at it (i.e., spend time and focus on it) over and over. A much better way is to move it out of your inbox.

If you ever receive an email that isn’t actionable at that specific time, get it out of your inbox. Remember, triage. We’re talking an itinerary for a trip months from now, directions to your friend’s wedding next year, or an email you want to follow up on tomorrow, but not today. These messages are irrelevant until the time you need them, at which point they become incredibly important, so snooze them.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/how-to-get-control-of-your-email-inbox.html

4 Enterprise Technology Trends to Be Mindful of in 2016

With 2015 practically in the rearview mirror, it’s time to gear up for 2016 and the different business verticals that you’ll need to fulfill as the year progresses.

To that end, once you’ve had a celebratory glass of champagne to commemorate all the quality work you’ve completed within the past year, it’ll be in your best interest to look towards some of the most pressing enterprise technology trends set to heat up in 2016. Here are four hot trends Himanshu Sareen, CEO at Icreon Tech, has identified for the coming year.

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Click through for the enterprise tech trends that will be heating up in 2016, as identified by Himanshu Sareen, CEO at Icreon Tech.

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Machine Learning

Machine learning comes to the fore.

With Amazon releasing its machine learning (ML) service earlier this year (and with other companies rushing in to take advantage of the machine learning API landscape) ML technology is set to explode in 2016.

Why? Just as all of the major cloud companies (Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, etc.) provide analytics as a service, so do these companies provide machine learning APIs in the cloud. These APIs allow everyday developers (read: developers without much background in machine-learning technologies) to “build smart, data-driven applications that can not only analyze what’s happening in real-time or what happened in the past, but also predict what’s going to happen in the future.”

The end result of the ‘Rise of Machine Learning’ will mean that companies will have access to better, faster, and more comprehensive data that — when combined with IoT capabilities — will lead to everything from better security applications to more accurate systems for medical diagnoses.

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Adaptive Security Advancements

It’s already common knowledge that many CIOs — whether in the tech space or otherwise — list security as their top priority. And it’s no wonder when you consider that large companies like Sony and Staples have been hit by major cyber attacks within the last two years.

To that end, Gartner predicts that adaptive security will be a big trend in 2016. As the Internet of Things (IoT) gains shape more companies will acquire predictive security tools that allow them to take a more proactive approach when it comes to safeguarding their end-to-end business processes.

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New Media Technologies

New media technologies will make or break inbound marketing programs.

You might have heard about this little thing called content marketing — of course you have, and a big reason why is because it’s an effective (and typically cheaper) method of marketing that has sort of become the rival to more traditional marketing tactics. What you may or may not know, though, is that creating a content marketing department is essentially the same as creating a media brand — when done the right way at least.

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New Media Technologies

Being that the success or failure of any type of marketing program depends on being able to retrieve and implement relevant data, it makes sense then that new media technologies spending is set to really help grow (or break) inbound marketing programs across the board in 2016. Take for example Marriott, which has now adopted a full-blown media company to help grow its business.

With content marketing technology startups such as Contently, Percolate, and others drawing in big-time investment (Contently has raised over $12M in funding through five rounds and Percolate has raised close to $75M through four rounds) and with total investment in content marketing technology (through Sept 2015) in the billions already, 2016 looks to be a big year in terms of companies adopting more advanced media strategies to help promote their businesses, and grow their bottom lines.

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Internet of Things

Competition in the IoT space gets fierce.

There really hasn’t been a sexier topic of discussion and debate in 2015 than the Internet of Things. Where’s it going, what’s it doing, and what has it already done for enterprises/the general public?

Here’s a snapshot of what we already know:

Gartner predicts that around 6.4 billion “things” will be connected to the Internet by 2016 (an estimate that’s up 30 percent from 2015) and that projection grows to 20.8 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of endpoints to connect and make secure, and with adoption happening this quickly, one thing that’s for certain is that we’re all hurtling extremely quickly towards the “age of IoT.”

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Internet of Things

With Amazon Web Services (AWS) continuing to be the current gold standard of data management platforms — and with data management being a key cog in the development of the IoT’s commercial and industrial viability — there is sure to be plenty of competition in not only the manufacturing of smart devices but in shoring up all those endpoints.

We’ve simply never seen anything within the enterprise space grow to scale as quickly as the IoT has thus far. And it’s because of the lightning pace of adoption that security and implementation will become essential to the further success of how we integrate the IoT into our daily business lives. Whether that comes in better analytic capacities, industrial advances (such as making machines working more efficiently), or in wearable technology that lets us know the state of our personal health — the race to see how far we can take the IoT in 2016 has already begun.

 

Reference: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/four-enterprise-technology-trends-to-be-mindful-of-in-2016.html