April 06, 2015

Protect your Data with Affordable Storage

(The methods contained within this blog post are focused on a windows system, however the concepts are applicable across most platforms.)

With the drop in price of portable storage, gone are the days where anyone should not be backing up their valuable personal data, such as photos, taxes, etc.  Cloud-based technologies indeed provide convenience for backup and transporting files, but you are hard pressed to find large capacity at low dollars.  On average a subscription fee to a cloud storage provider runs in the neighborhood of $50 - $100 a year.  An external hard drive provides a cost effective solution in maintaining a backup, in the event that something should happen to your original data.

But Mike, my computer is less than a year old.  Shouldn’t my hard drive be safe for at least a few years?  

In an ideal world, yes.  Nothing would ever break down, and user error would be unheard of.  The fact of the matter is we need to protect ourselves.  According to an article by Lifehacker (http://lifehacker.com/how-long-your-hard-drive-is-likely-to-last-1462918832) , 80% of the average consumer hard drives will last four years.  The issue is hard drive failure is not the only reason why you should be backing up.  Uncontrollable events such as viruses/malware, a power blip that causes data corruption and accidental deletion are systematic events outside of our control.

 Ok, you convinced me.  I went out and bought a USB hard drive.  I should just plug it in and start copying…right?

As most drives come pre-formatted, you could do that, or perhaps give a little bit of thought as to how you want to use this new-found storage.  I always recommend people take the extra few seconds prior to using the drive to assess how you will use it.  Will you require access to the data on multiple computers?  Will those computers use different operating systems such as Windows, OSX, or Linux?  After you have answered those quick questions, you should probably format the drive yourself using one of the format methods (please refer to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_formatting for more information on formatting drives) that best suit your needs.  This can help best avoid other problems with accessing the data later on. 

My drive is ready for action.  How do I get my files over?

If you know which files are vital, and are savvy enough to know where they are, a simple copy/paste will be sufficient.  If you want to take the added step towards a better guarantee, using the built-in Windows application File Recovery (Win 7) or File History (Win 8) to create a system image will backup your entire system.  The best method (and one I recommend to all Windows users) is to use Windows Backup.  This will create daily, weekly, and/or monthly backups for you to your newly connected USB drive.  Simply go to your Control Panel, and click on Backup and Restore.  Best of all, your computer is now responsible for backing up the data.

Now that you have setup a file backup regime, it does not mean that you can simply forget about the care of your data.  You should still ensure that you have a good quality and up to date anti-virus / anti-malware program installed onto your computer to prevent any future damage to your system. On top of that, you might find it worthwhile to transfer the backed up files to another location on occasion such as a second portable drive, or another computer. This will ensure that you still have a copy should the ones on your original computer become corrupted and you either lose or break your backup. 

On a side note, a lot of portable drives from reputable manufacturers come with pre-installed, and proprietary, software.  Although the functionality of the software is relatively sound, I typically shy away from using it as if you are required to use the drive on more than one system; it means you will need to install the software multiple times.  Often it is bloat-ware, and with the backup function built into most operating systems anyways, the majority of the time the software found on the drive is simply not required.

I’m Mike M

November 03, 2014

The Threat of Social Media

Back in August I published a blog posting regarding social media’s impact on revolutionizing the enterprise (for reference it can be found by clicking here).  Based on the feedback and questions that were sent to me, it was well received.  One of the themes from the comments were how social media was perceived as a threat towards the corporate presence as well as how information regarding the business has been made available.  Over the past few years social media has truly altered how news is reported.  Not only has it modified the timing of when we receive news and information, but it has also essentially turned 3 billion plus internet connected people (http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/) into a reporter of some kind.  So why is this concept of information sharing still seen today as a threat by the majority of enterprises?

IT Industry experts are predicting that we will begin to see more social media updates and blog posts in 2015 from companies, but only because they have to.  In order to obtain a competitive edge in not only attracting new talent, but being seen as a stand out employer and retaining talent, companies recognize the need to use social media.  Thesocialskinny.com has stated that 58% of people are more likely to want to work for a company if they use social media on a regular basis, while 20% of existing employees will stay for the same reasons.  Really?  By using only one technology tool not only are you able to attract talent, but keep it?  The reasoning behind this is that people want to work for interesting companies, as well as honest and transparent companies.  Candidates feel that if they see social media posts, it gives them a better sense of what the organization is all about.  They don’t want to see only corporate websites and press releases on financials.  They are looking for something more “real” and of which they can relate to.  

When harnessed properly, social media has tremendous potential to impact business operations in a positive manner.  Not only can it be used to influence your brand, but it can also be used to separate yourself from the competition.  Even with these large upsides, the feeling by businesses continues to see social media as a threat, and surround such mechanisms with very tight policies around its use, primarily restricting work discussions or job functions on your personal profiles.  Given that about one in five status updates on Facebook are job or career related, one wonders if this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

On almost a weekly basis I have discussions with company leaders discussing how their employees have used a social media site while on the job, and what recommendations do I have in order to restrict this.  I respond with there should be no threat in what people are posting, and that the control lies in how they manage their people.  If your employees feel the need to air “dirty laundry” on social media, perhaps the root cause stems from management style.  My belief is that departmental leaders need to accept people will use social media to talk about work.  Instead of taking a hardline stance by banning or blocking its use, we should instead implement policies that educate staff about potential damage to the business.  Corporations should consider giving guidance about constructive comments, rather than simply penalizing them over indiscretions.  The impact on the brand and how potential employees see the organization will leave a positive impression.  Without even trying, a company will be seen as embracing new technologies and understanding the importance of using social media tools as it relates to an employee’s need for self-expression.  And truthfully, if we do not embrace an employee’s want for this freedom, they will simply rely on under-cover tools such as glassdoor.com to get their point across anyways.

As a job seeker, many organizations will provide career opportunity for them to use their skillset.  It is the added experience of training, technology tools, and user policies surrounding things like social media that can separate you as an organization from the others.  Some companies have begun to advertise this along with job postings just to show the kind of business they are.  I know I like to use the latest and greatest in technology tools.  It’s this drive that keeps consumers lining up during cell phone release days.

As a decision maker on hiring the next candidate to fill a vacancy, ask yourself do you simply want an individual who puts in their 40 hours a week, and does the bare minimum?  Or are you looking for an individual who not only fulfills a niche, but is willing to bring fresh ideas to improve efficiency, a flexible person who can use more than the corporate technology and someone who is engaged in the daily process?  What is social media if not simply a tool to engage and encourage people?

I’m Mike M.

October 23, 2014

Who is the new consumer and how do I get more customers?

The digital consumer has blurred the separation between the use of technology and customer behavior.  This is quite a powerful statement, yet very apparent for any organization that quickly continues to react to the ongoing demand for information. 

Within today’s business world, the digital consumer has become supreme, and marketing quickly adapts in unlocking the potential purchasing power.  Information Technology departments everywhere are forced to learn new skills and become proficient in new areas simply in order to support the business.

In the past, consumer power resided in where a purchaser chose to spend their almighty dollar.  Unless accompanied by a weekly flyer, there was no such thing as “price-match guarantees”.  If you wanted to pay a cheaper price, your choice was to shop around brick-and-mortar stores hoping you would find what you were looking for. 

The revolution did not occur overnight, however thanks to advancements of the Internet, as well as mobile technology, yesterday’s voiceless consumer has been granted the ability to provide product and service opinions to a very critical and captive audience.  Combine that with the ability to buy anything from anywhere in the world and now the purchasing public controls the outcome of a product or service rather than commercialism dictating what we can have and when.  This ideology is backed up by Forrester who published in 2000, 12% of all airline tickets where purchased online.  In 2013, this had increased to 62%. 

Companies and enterprises have recognized this shift in power, but embracing it is another thing.  The key issue at hand in order to do so, is the massive technology requirements driven by eCommerce, customer analytics, marketing automation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and of course, mobile technology.

“By 2017, nearly a third of all US corporate and government tech purchases will be business technology.  Spending will rise by 10 percent or more per year, and business technology will compromise over half of new product purchases in 2015.  In contrast, traditional IT spending will grow by only 2 percent to 4 percent per year through 2017.” – Forrester

So what is the end result for companies?

Simply put, marketing and technology departments need to work more closely together.  Enterprise technology must remain within the IT Department but without close consultation with marketing or communications departments, they will never completely understand customer behavior and how customers use technology.  Furthermore, CIO’s and IT Directors alike need to help the enterprise change the way they think about technology.  IT can no longer be seen as a cost centre, or a means of which to simply conduct business.  The paradigm shift now needs to focus on a customer first, top-down approach, where the associated cost is a direct result of doing, and improving, business.  Not an easy task by any means.  Essentially CIOs and IT Directors need to build a business technology agenda for the organization, and have it accepted.  To become and remain successful, organizations will quickly realize this new approach.  The enabled consumer is dictating this new methodology.  Organizations will quickly see the returns in better sales, once technology leaders are a part of the corporate solution.  Today, software and mobile technology is not simply one method of doing business.  It is your business.

I’m Mike M.