Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Benefits of Cloud Computing


Cloud Computing provides a simple way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the internet. Services are offered via a subscription instead of via a purchase or lease. Here's why you would be wise to consider a cloud computing model when you need to replace or upgrade your technology.
Savings
The technology is offered as a subscribed service. The subscription cost is often offered on a monthly basis and covers all use, hosting, maintenance and support, as well as technology upgrades. Therefore, you do not have a large upfront (or recurring) capital expense. Because the technology is typically installed and running at the technology provider's data center, you will not have to maintain a large data center facility and staff. Instead, you have a recurring operating expense which can often be more cost effective than a purchase/lease and support model.

Accessibility 
Your primarily access cloud technology services via the internet. The connectivity access methods and security are provided with your subscription. Your access to those services can be from virtually anywhere you have an internet connection. Therefore, you can securely access your technology from your office, a client site, hotel or even when you are at home. Your user experience is the same from all locations.

Flexibility
As your needs change, your use of technology will change. In a service offering model, you contract for what you need when you need it. When you add staff, you add software licenses at that time. When you take on that big project, you subscribe for short-term use software licenses, servers and infrastructure for use through the project life-cycle. Then, eliminate that short-term cost from your subscription at the completion of the project.

Innovation
One of the best ways to accelerate innovation is to invite a new technology into your organization. For some, this could be a new way for teams to work. Teams that reside in several locations can easily communicate and collaborate as if they are in the same office. For others, cloud computing will allow your organization to prototype new technologies. Without a big cost commitment, you can effectively find the best technology to give your organization a competitive advantage

Efficiency
With a cloud computing implementation, you will see that you will always contract for the optimal amount of needed technology and support. You will no longer have under utilized servers and an excess of purchased licensing. Your IT assets are utilized at a level that will yield the greatest effect for your organization, while your IT staff are able to focus on key business initiatives.

Opportunities
Because of the benefits stated above, cloud computing has the ability for organizations to innovate new products, services and business models that decrease time to market, create operational efficiencies and engage customers in new ways. The cloud can impact your entire enterprise: strategy, finance, operations, governance, culture and technology.

Cloud-based services are ideal for businesses with growing or fluctuating demands. If your needs increase, it’s easy to scale up your capacity. As you need to scale down again, the flexibility is included in your subscription. This level of flexibility, along with the efficiencies and potential cost savings, can give your business a real advantage over your competitors.


I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Turn Your Expertise into Your Brand

Whether you are self-employed, employed by an organization, or a freelance contractor, developing a reputation as an expert can lead to new assignments and it can open up professional opportunities. Your reputation will help to build your brand. Your brand is what separates you from everyone else.
To Become an Expert
First realize that you don’t need to be the world’s foremost expert on something. Being an expert means knowing enough or being good enough to accomplish your projects and assignments well. Becoming an expert does not happen overnight. In addition, it's not just about your in-born talents. What makes people exceptionally skillful top performers in their field are:
  • Focus enables you pay attention to the task at hand. In addition, it helps you to ignore all the possible distractions that can pull you off your path.
  • Experience allows you to leverage what you have learned so that you can apply it to the next opportunity.
  • Keep working on assignments. You are going to have to put a lot of time and dedication into becoming an expert at anything. Doing so will improve your competency and skills. Remember that "practice makes perfect".
  • Humility will ensure that you understand your current level of expertise. In turn, you will look to learn what you need to move forward. Additionally, it allows you to see the importance to reaching out to others for assistance when needed.

Turn your Expertise into your Brand
  • Teach others what you know. When you can teach something, you are perceived as someone that must know a lot about that subject. Mentoring is a terrific way for people to develop a positive impression of you and your abilities. In turn, they may tell others.
  • Promote yourself via social media and other marketing tools. When doing so, focus on facts, not opinions. Tell the stories of your successes and where you implemented your expertise. It's difficult to convince others you are an expert simply by telling them you are an expert. When you demonstrate examples of your expertise, they believe that for themselves.
  • Advocate the subject of your expertise. Write articles or posts in blogs, comment on blogs and articles written by others, seek out and accept speaking engagements, and get interviewed by local newspapers and radio programs. With these opportunities, explain the topic of your expertise and why that is important to the reader/listener.
  • Expand your range of talents. Emphasize other skills that compliment your primary skill set. That demonstrates that you have a broad knowledge base in addition to your expertise. Also, you will not pigeon hole yourself into just one skill set.
Once you are seen as an expert in your particular field or with a specific skill, you will begin to establish your brand. That will open up the door for higher paying jobs and new business opportunities. In turn, that will help you to fuel your success even more.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What Cloud "...aaS" Could Mean to You


Are you confused about what technology is in "The Cloud"? If so, you might also be confused by "aaS". Simply, "aaS" is the acronym for "as a Service". Delivering information technology "as a service" is a licensing model where the software and hardware asset, and related maintenance and support, are offered as a subscription instead of being owned or leased. This is the essence of Cloud Computing.
In a traditional information technology asset acquisition model, you would purchase or lease hardware for placement in your own facility, or a leased facility under your control. For software, you would purchase licenses, either for perpetual use or for a fixed term. In addition, you would pay for maintenance and support on the hardware and software on a recurring basis for the useful life of the product at a cost annually of about 20-25% of the original purchase. In this model, you typically have a large capital cost for a product that continually diminishes both in terms of a financial and technological value.

In Cloud Computing, software and hardware are offered as a service by the technology provider, and the technology is typically (not always) installed and running at the technology provider's data center, not in your local data center. Instead of purchasing or leasing the technology, you subscribe to use it. The subscription cost is typically on a monthly basis, and covers all use, hosting, maintenance and support, as well as technology upgrades. Therefore, you do not have a large upfront (or recurring) capital expense. Instead, you have a recurring operating expense which can often be more cost effective.

What has allowed Cloud Computing to become more prevalent over the past few years is a result of an improved and more readily available high speed, high bandwidth internet. Internet Service Providers now offer high bandwidth internet connections at very reasonable costs. Many organizations need the high bandwidth internet connections to support the large amount of data transferred between the technology provider and their organization.

Cloud Service Models
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) - The service provider hosts servers, storage and other hardware, mostly virtually, with all hardware supporting services. The provided servers will host and run user applications and the service provider will handle all tasks related to system management, monitoring, maintenance, backup and resiliency planning for the subscribed infrastructure.

Platform aa Service (PaaS) - The service provider delivers hardware and software tools needed for application development. A PaaS provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure. As a result, PaaS frees users from having to install in-house hardware and software to develop or run a new application.

Software aa Service (SaaS) - The service provider distributes software (programs/apps) via their own hosted environment and makes the software available to clients over a network, typically the Internet. In addition, they include all support and upgrades for the subscribed software.
How Cloud Computing is Offered
Public Cloud - The service provider makes the technology, such as software applications and hardware, available to their clients over the Internet. The clients connect to the service provider's system to access the subscribed technology.

Private Cloud - Typically found in larger companies and organizations, the organization itself becomes the service provider. The organization's facility hosts and manages the technology and offers the services to their business groups. User costs are typically incurred and managed via internal budgeting practices.
Cloud Computing provides a simple way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the Internet. You would be wise to consider a Cloud Computing model when you need to replace or upgrade your technology. While there are many advantages to using or implementing a Cloud Computing methodology, I will address that in a future post.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Friday, October 16, 2015

Debrief at the End of Each Project


Making mistakes during a project, although sometimes painful, can be valuable as long as we learn from them. The same can be said for the project successes. More than a casual conversation about what did and didn’t work, a debriefing digs into why things happened, and can help accelerate progress on future projects.
Not all failures are bad. Some of them are actually good because of the valuable learning opportunities they present. Dividing your project's failures into categories will help you distinguish the good, useful failures from the bad, useless ones. In turn, you can be prepared to deal with them and learn from them:
  • Preventable failures. These are caused by inadequate training, inattention to task details, or lack of skills and ability. They’re typically easy to diagnose and fix. Using a robust checklist at the very beginning of a project is a good tool to identify potential points of failure.
  • Unavoidable failures. Every project has built-in uncertainty of tasks and work effort. Projects that are very complex, have tight timelines or involve high risk will have an increased opportunity for unavoidable failures. Good project due diligence at the start of a project will mitigate most failures. Have a plan to triage such events, and even add some time into your project plan to deal with these should they arise. However, accept that some failure is possible and may not be avoided.

What is a Debriefing?
Start by talking with your team about why a debriefing is important. Maybe you want to improve for the next time, or you want to analyze a unique situation that arose. Perhaps you hope to capitalize on your strengths or learn from mistakes. Others may want to continuously learn and improve.

What to Ask When You Debrief
  • What were we trying to accomplish? Every debriefing should start by restating the objectives you were trying to hit. The project team should have agreed on clear objectives prior to taking action in the first place. If the objectives were not clear, the rest of the debriefing will be of little value because you won’t know how to judge your success.
  • Where did we hit and miss our objectives? With clear objectives, you can clearly identify if you did or didn’t hit them. Review your results, and ensure the group is aligned.
  • What caused our results? This is the "root-cause analysis" step for your successes and failures. It should go deeper than obvious, first-level answers to missed objectives. Don’t be satisfied with answers like, "We needed more time". Keep digging and ask why you needed more time. For example, it may be the time was adequate if the project team had a different skill set.
  • What should we start, stop, or continue doing? Given you uncover the root causes, determine what you should do next now that you know what you know.
Make sure you capture lessons learned in a usable format for later use. At a minimum, take notes and distribute them to the project team members. In addition, make the information readily available to other project teams or even to a broader organizational audience. In the end, you may find the most successful process changes are the easiest to implement.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bring Your Own Device


Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is an increasing trend toward employee-owned devices within the workplace. Smartphones are the most common example. However, employees may also take their own tablets, laptops and USB drives for use in the workplace.

BYOD encourages company employees to work on the device they choose, accessing corporate email and applications via their own technology. The driving force behind BYOD is an IT self-sufficiency among company employees who already own and use personal technology. These devices are often newer and more advanced than the equipment deployed by many IT departments. Some key advantages to operating a BYOD strategy:
  • Increased employee satisfaction - Employees can work more comfortably and flexibly on equipment they know well.
  • Cost savings - Reduced corporate hardware spend, software licensing and device maintenance.
  • Better work-life balance - Employees who need to work from home already have the technology they need.
  • Productivity gains - Employees are happier, more comfortable and often work faster with their own technology.
While BYOD promises many benefits, it also increases pressure on the IT infrastructure to manage and secure devices and data:
Company-issued IT typically comes with an acceptable use policy, and it is protected by company-issued security that is managed and updated by the IT department. It can be trickier telling an employee what is, or is not, an acceptable use of their own equipment. 

Businesses that fall under compliance mandates (e.g. PCI DSS, HIPAA, or FDA) have certain requirements related to information security and safeguarding specific data. Those rules must be followed even if the data is on a laptop owned by an employee.

In the event that a worker leaves the company, segregating and retrieving company data can be a challenge. Obviously, the company will want to keep its data while the employee wants to keep his/her data out of the company.
What You Can Do
Make sure you have a clearly defined policy for BYOD that outlines the rules of use, ownership of data, and states up front what the expectations are. Lay out minimum security and virus protection requirements, or even mandate company-sanctioned security tools as a condition for allowing personal devices to connect to company data and network resources. Include this in your Employee Handbook, and get the policy agreement of all new hires.

Investigate deploying virtual desktop infrastructure, such as VMWare, Citrix and Remote Desktop. This is using the organization's server hardware to run desktop operating systems and application software, as well as controlling access to file-stored data, inside a virtual machine. Users access these virtual desktops using their existing PCs. All corporate security is managed on the virtual server.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Proper Netiquette for Business



"Netiquette" is network etiquette: The do's and don'ts of online communication. While Netiquette covers both formal (professional) and the informal rules for communicating on line, we'll focus on the formal communication rules in this post.
Writing can be divided into many different categories. One of the main divides is between informal online and formal writing:
Informal online writing is seen in text messages (texting) and also in personal emails. For many people, personal emailing is being replaced by texting. In order to more quickly type what they are trying to say, many people use abbreviations and acronyms instead of words. The language created by these abbreviations is called "text speak".

Formal writing includes business writing, formal letters, and academic writing.
The vehicle for writing (text, email, paper) is not the distinction between informal and formal writing. The style of writing is.

Some people believe that using text speak is hindering the writing abilities of students, and the communication effectiveness of professionals. While this is a debate issue, the first thing to understand is that informal writing is not "wrong", nor is formal writing "right". Each is appropriate for certain circumstances. As an analogy, while it's perfectly acceptable to go out in jeans and a t-shirt, that may not be the best choice of what to wear when working in the office or going on a job interview.

When deciding whether your message should be written formally, consider who will be reading it and why. If your audience is just your friends and the purpose of your message is to let them know about where you will meet later in the day, you probably don't need to use the rules of formal writing. However, if you are presenting a proposal to your boss, writing a cover letter for job application, or writing a research paper for a teacher, the formal rules of writing typically apply.

Some Basic Rules of using Netiquette for Formal Writing
  • Use a sophisticated vocabulary with terms that are accepted in the topic's field.
  • Keep a serious tone with literal meanings.
  • Organize the writing into paragraphs that fit together.
  • Avoid contractions (i.e. can't, don't, etc.).
  • Use standard spelling. No text speak or chat acronyms, such as "CUL8R" or "LOL".
  • Use proper grammar and standard punctuations.

For more information about Netiquette and formal writing, here are some great resources:
"The Elements of Style", William Strunk & E.B. White: First published in 1959 and updated many times since, this is one of the most influential books on writing style. 

"Netiquette IQ: A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email", Paul Babicki. Paul Babicki is an email grammar, tone and content software subject matter expert, and developed an email IQ rating system called Netiquette IQ.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Don't be Scared to Make a Presentation


You’re about to give a big presentation (or be the focal point in a meeting), and your nerves set in. You feel pressure in your chest, your breathing gets shallow, and you hear your heartbeat in your head. And suddenly, it seems inevitable that you’re going to mess this up and everyone will see.

The average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of their own death. However, there are ways to conquer your nerves before your next big presentation:

Prepare Thoroughly: The first and most obvious way to calm your fears is to do everything you can to prepare. Nerves are often triggered by surprises. There will always be surprises. However, you can limit their number and impact by researching your topic thoroughly, organizing your thoughts, identifying the key points you want to make, anticipating tough questions, and practicing your delivery. Know your presentation cold.

Give Your Presentation to Another Person: There are plenty of people you can practice on with whom you feel safe and comfortable. Examples of people you can practice on are your spouse/significant other, a friend, relative or coworker. Speaking directly to another person will help you relax, give you confidence and presentation experience, and you will become comfortable receiving questions from someone.

Be sure to tell that person to be completely honest with you in their critique, and to ask you questions after the program. If they have questions about your presentation, it is likely that members of the audience will have the same questions. So, practice giving your answers.

Expect That You May be Looking at Blank Faces: When you’re talking to someone one-on-one, they give physical and verbal cues that they’re listening, such as head nodding and making sounds of agreement. Groups of people don’t always do that. It's not that they are judging you. They’re most likely trying to listen to your presentation. Or, they might simply be in a world of their own.

Imagine Giving the Presentation: Picture every moment of the presentation in detail. Imagine the point of having the meeting turned over to you or being introduced on stage. Think about what that will feel like, how will you launch into your talk, and what the audience will look like. This will make you even more prepared so that your presentation will actually feel like an encore, not a first time occurrence.

Stay Calm and Loose: In most cases, people can’t tell that you’re nervous. If you stumble, act as though it's no big deal or that it didn’t even happen.

Now You are Ready
With proper preparation, you now have to trust that you’ve done all you can to be ready to give your presentation. The likelihood that your worst fears will come true is very slim. And once you get through the first 1-2 minutes, the rest will be easy.

So now consider this... You were asked (and earned the right) to give your presentation because you are the best person to do so. Plus, the audience is there to listen to you for a reason. Enjoy the experience!


I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Email Marketing: Target Your Customers

Email marketing is when a company or person sends a message to a group of people via email. Most commonly used for advertisements, business requests, sales or donation solicitation, any email communication is considered email marketing if it helps to build customer loyalty, trust in a product or company, or brand recognition. 
Grow Your Personal Relationships
Small businesses and individuals can develop a personal relationship with their network, prospects and customers in ways that their larger counterparts simply can't match due to their size. However, growing personal connections can be time consuming with so much other work to be done.  With email marketing, you can more easily connect with your prospects without getting pulled away from the work you need to get done.

Promote Your Brand
If you were shopping for a car today, would you consider buying a Toyota or Honda? Many people would say "yes". But with all of the recent news of problems with these brands, specifically injuries from defective air bag, why would you consider these brands? The reason why is that the auto makers have used robust email marketing and social media campaigns to counter the affects of negative news reports and assure their customers and prospective customers just how much effort they continue to put into the quality of their products. The automakers are winning.

Keep Your Customers & Network Informed
Email marketing is very effective at helping business owners and consumers stay connected. Consumers often seek out email marketing campaigns from their favorite brands and local stores. On March 5, 2014, Nielsen reported that 28 percent of US online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to stay informed (http://goo.gl/gufyoh). There is a real value to staying connected to customers, and email marketing makes that easy to do.

Email Marketing Drives Sales by Promoting Brand Loyalty
The same Nielsen study mentioned above also reported that 27 percent of US online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to save money. Though consumers are looking to save money, it can turn into increased revenue for your business. E-coupons and e-promotions are big business, and email marketing is at its heart.


Promoting your business and brand through email is one of the most visible aspects of social media marketing. It's a great way to keep and win new customers, enhance existing relationships and promote your brand. In addition, you will be able to accomplish all that and keep your marketing costs and effort minimal and manageable.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Keeping Your Email Inbox Better Organized


Email plays an important role in our daily lives, whether it’s personal or business. And we all get tons of emails whether we want them or not. When we use it appropriately, email is an incredibly useful communication tool. But, many of us feel overwhelmed by the amount of email that we receive and need to respond to.
Whether you’re catching up from last week, working through a post-vacation backlog, or just clearing out junk, taking time to organize your email will help you work more efficiently. Not keeping your email organized can create challenges for you during the day, which may compound over time:
  • We can't find that important message: - It's always a terrible experience to miss an important email or not be able to locate a specific message in the mess that we call our “Inbox”. 
  • An overflowing Inbox can be a big distraction: The amount of time and effort to navigate a disorganized Inbox or email account will make you less productive. Spending excess time searching for specific messages will make you less focused on the important tasks and people that you really need to attend to.
  • No longer receive messages: All email accounts have set maximum disk space limit. If emails are left on the email server indefinitely, your email Inbox may get full. Email messages with attachments take up more space than emails containing only plain text. So, your email account will fill more quickly if you have a lot of messages with attachments. Once your email account has reached its maximum limit, your email account will not accept new messages.

Here are some steps to take to get control of your email account:
  • Purging messages: Start by sorting your emails by sender. This will help you identify the messages you no longer need and the ones you have already responded to. Go through the messages quickly and delete as much as you can. But, don’t let yourself get bogged down by any one message. Messages that are candidates for quick deletion are solicitations from vendors, stores or shopping sites, contain expired coupons and invitations, and from senders you don't know.
  • Organize your existing messages into folders:
    • "Follow up" where you’ll file the messages you need more than a few minutes to respond to. 
    • "Hold" for messages that refer to an event in the future, like an invitation.
    • "Archive" for those messages you’ve responded to and want to keep a record of. For additional organization, you can have sub-folders under "Archive" by category, sender, etc.
    • Going forward, move new messages into these categories based on the matching folder, and then get rid of everything else. Once you respond to the "Follow up" and "Hold" messages, delete those too.
  • Create rules and filters: Most email systems allow you to create rules or filters that will act upon incoming messages even before you see them. You can instruct your email system to route messages into specific folders (or delete messages) based on the sender's email address, keyword content, and other criteria.
  • Spam: Flagging unwanted messages in you Inbox as spam will cause your email system to treat similar massages as spam in the future. Check your spam folder frequently. Delete the messages that are truly spam.
  • Trash Folder; Your email system usually moves deleted messages in a "Trash" folder. While no longer in your Inbox, those messages are still in your email system hogging valuable space. Delete the messages in your Trash folder to permanently delete. then and recoup the space Better yet, change the setting on your Trash folder to auto delete.
  • Export and save important attachments: Download and save important attachments to your desktop or server. Then, delete those messages with the attachment from your email account.
  • Tweak your social media profile notification settings: Most social media sites have the ability for you to control the frequency and content for when the sites send you messages. Doing so will reduce the number of email messages you receive.
  • Export messages that you must keep: Doing so will enable you to remove the messages from your email system. But, you will maintain the messages in a file outside of your email system for posterity.
Taking control of your Inbox isn’t a once-and-done job. But, maintaining order doesn’t have to be complicated or a pain. Once you put the processes in place that work best for you, it won’t take long to turn your process into habit.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Effect of Micromanagement

Micromanagement is, "to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details" - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.

In general, micromanagement has a negative meaning and implication, and is viewed unfavorably by supervised employees. Let's discuss the issues of micromanaging employees and how to identify if you are a micromanager.
Most people who have been in the workforce for any length of time have occasionally been exposed to a boss who micromanages. A micromanager is the manager who must personally make every decision, take a lead role in the performance of every significant task and, in extreme cases, dictate every small step the workers take. The micromanager hovers over people who are trying to get their work done and rarely, if ever, seriously considers their ideas and opinions.

Some Critical Effects of Micromanagement
The micromanager often punishes mistakes instead of counseling & educating staff. No effort is made to challenge employees with learning situations. This type of management can inhibit employee development. In the end, employees will learn to hide their mistakes and avoid taking risks.

Most employees are unhappy in the work place when they are micromanaged. Unhappy employees are less productive than happy employees. In addition, this may cause a high turnover on your team as unhappy employees leave, which will further affect your team's productivity.

A manager who has done nothing to develop one or more potential successors is usually viewed as a poor candidate for promotion. The manager who is perceived as poor at delegation and staff development is often not considered for promotion to a level where delegation takes on even greater importance.

You Might be a Micromanager if you...
  • Cannot delegate effectively or delegate at all.
  • Often hand out only the easy, boring or dirty tasks while delegating nothing of interest or importance to your team.
  • When you do delegate, you put the employee in a position of deciding nothing of significance without prior approval.
  • Hand out work, supposedly delegating, but hover instead, providing detailed direction, dictating methods rather than providing proper preparation, making the employee responsible for results and not allowing him or her to figure anything out and learn by doing.
  • Hand out a task, but pull it back at the first sign of trouble, failing to provide the employee with a condition essential to growth and development: the reasonable freedom to fail.
When Micromangment may Actually be Helpful
Most managers have to deal with a poorly performing employee at some point. Poor employee performance is a concern because it affects team and organizational performance.

The goal of improving a poor performer is to improve their performance. A means to doing so is to meet privately and frequently with the employee to discuss the performance issues. Assign tasks and provide specific direction, expectations and a timeline to the employee. Then, monitor, measure and discuss their performance during those frequent meetings. To some, this approach seems like micromanagement, and it may well be. The difference is that once the employee's performance improves, you will meet with them less frequently.

Letting Go of Micromanagement
The difference between managing and micromanaging is the focus on eliminating the “micro.” Start by looking at your to-do list to determine what tasks you can pass on to an employee. Clearly explain what the task result and due date should be, but don't dictate how the employee should work on the task. Ask, don't tell, your employee about how they plan to approach the assignment. You might be surprised that their approach, while different, may yield great results.


I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

About Mobile App Development

In today’s busy world, people are wondering what really is mobile app development, and what is involved in producing a mobile app for their business. Mobile application development is the process of making or creating a computer application to run on one or more mobile platforms. A mobile platform is the operating system used on a mobile device.

Apple’s mobile operating system is called iOS, Google’s mobile platform is Android, RIM is Blackberry OS, and Windows is Windows Mobile.  Each platform has its own rules and requirements to make and deploy a mobile application. This is very important to understand because when making an application for mobile app development on the various mobile platforms you cannot just make one app and port it over to the next platform. You must recreate the application for each mobile platform.

When deciding which mobile application development is right for you, first consider what your overall goal is. Are you making a game, informational, utility or e-commerce product? Once you know what you’re making, then decide what platform(s) would be best for your mobile application and your targeted user community. Android has a very high market penetration. However due to the various operating system variations, Android development can be more challenging. Apple has a high number users and people are willing to pay for them. However development is more challenging to meet Apple’s requirements on being published.

When thinking about how and why to build a mobile application and begin development, it is important to think about how you plan to proceed.  Consider the following:

  • Set Your Expectation for Success: Is success x number of downloads, x amount of money earned, or x active users? Be realistic.
  • What is Your budget? The average cost of an application can range from a few thousand dollars to over a million dollars, depending on the complexity of the programming and number of mobile platforms to accommodate. It is important to define your budget.
  • What Platforms are You Going to be on? It is important to decide where your market is, what the best way to reach them is, and what gives you the biggest opportunity. Android is used on 46.9% of mobile devices*, Apple iOS on 42.6% of mobile devices, Windows is on 2.7% of mobile devices, and Blackberry and others comprise the remainder of the mobile device market.
  • What are Your Needed Features? Apps are not websites, you need to create good features that people want to use and have a good user interface. 
  • Does the Application Need Internet Access? While internet (or WiFi) access is needed to download the mobile application, consider if the mobile application needs internet access in order to be actively used (e.g. upload or download data). If it does, you need to plan for if/how it can be used when users do not have internet access.

Looking forward, it is expected that a large percentage of mobile application development will focus on creating browser-based applications that are device-agnostic (e.g. responsive web design). Browser-based applications are simply websites that are built to effectively work on mobile internet browsers.

For more information on this topic, contact Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC.


* Netmarketshare, February 2015

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Monday, June 1, 2015

What is the "Internet of Things"?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is where objects (or even living things) are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring a person-to-person or person-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electronics, electro-mechanical systems and the Internet. 

The impact of IoT is bigger than any of us may realize.
A "thing" in IoT can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a thermostat that alerts of exceeding the desired temperature threshold, an automobile that can alert the driver when a mechanical issue arises, a farm animal with a bio chip transponder, or any other object that has a sensor which can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. So far, IoT has been most closely associated with machine-to-machine communication. A product built with machine-to-machine communication capabilities, usually called an Internet appliance, is often referred to as being "smart".

The first Internet appliance was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in the early 1980s. The programmers could connect to the machine over the Internet, check the status of the machine, and determine whether or not there would be a cold drink awaiting them in case they decided to make the trip to the machine.

How IoT Will Be Used
In 2007, a road bridge collapsed in Minnesota killing many people because the steel plates became inadequate to handle the bridge’s load. As we rebuild bridges, we can use beams, plates and cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses and cracks. The sensors in the bridge will alert the bridge authority to fix problems before an issue causes a catastrophe.

The agriculture industry will use IoT to more effectively manage their production in order to feed a growing population. Smart farming will allow farmers to better understand the wide range of conditions that affect their yield. Embedding intelligence into the soil, as well as into the design and operation of machines, will allow sensor information to be combined with other data and the knowledge of the farmer. Farmers will water the crops only when needed and without over watering, and they will apply fertilizer only if necessary. For livestock farming, IoT includes monitoring the condition of animals to provide the right type of intervention at the right time, and only if necessary.

At home, we already have home security systems and thermostats connected to the internet. Looking forward, your refrigerator can inform you when you need to go shopping based on its contents and how your family uses the refrigerator.

The application of IoT technology is almost limitless.

IoT Comes at a Price
IoT will enable a future where every day devices are connected to the internet. In a world with billions of connected devices, privacy and data security becomes extremely important. IoT will collect data at a very granular level. When overlaid across devices and applications, companies are able to analyze and capitalize on this information quickly and in near real-time.

We have come to accept that some smart devices, such as our mobile phone, capture data associated with individual interactions. But, the ownership of this data is a matter of debate. Does the device owner or service provider own the data? Who can share that data with whom? Who must ensure data security? As consumers, we have never had to consider that for an appliance or a vehicle. 

There is no doubt that consumers should be able to control their own data. In addition, consumers must have confidence in how that information is protected and to be used.

What Should be Next?
Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, perhaps the biggest one is IoT. It’s going to give us the most opportunity over the next several years. But, it has the potential to be the most disruptive and exploited. With the ever-increasing number of internet appliances and the amount of data that is generated in our increasingly connected world, it is essential that guidelines are developed to address privacy and security concerns.

It will be important to educate consumers on where and how their data is being shared. Consumers must become aware and accept that not all data is equally sensitive.  For example, data such as health, financial and individual communications should be subject to the more stringent privacy and security requirements than data that has been voluntarily given.


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David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors

Friday, May 1, 2015

It's OK to Disagree With Your Manager

If you disagree with your manager about something, it’s important not to panic or retreat. You can disagree constructively by showing respect for his/her point of view, and demonstrating that you care about achieving the best result for the organization. You want to show that you’re truly working to collaborate. So how do you navigate this significant professional relationship without playing political games or compromising your character?
How you approach disagreement is critical when you want to disagree with your manager. Managers who are confident in their own skills and position want employees who will disagree with them when necessary. With disagreement comes alternative ideas, solved problems, stronger relationships, better products for your customers, and personal growth and development. 

Be Specific About Your Ideas
Don’t just list objections. Have facts available to support your position. Present supporting data to show that your proposal is fact-based rather than emotional.

Research the area of disagreement. Identify the practices of other departments or companies, and talk with other industry professionals about best practices. These will bring the necessary verification to support your opinion. This is especially important when the decision involves serious business issues that might require a disruptive change in management strategies, financial commitments, or have an emotional effect on employees.

Try to Give a Range of Options
Suggesting different possibilities signals your flexibility, demonstrates your thoughtfulness, and invites your manager to be flexible too. Understand the alternatives and be able to make your case in the context of a strong set of options. Offer examples of how your idea will succeed. If you have tested your approach on a small scale with good results, share that information. Inform the boss what you have learned from your approach.

Be Prepared to Win
If your argument prevails, be ready to move it forward. Demonstrate your commitment to ensuring success. Work with your manager to develop a final action plan. Your manager will expect you to act on your suggestion, and will respect you for seeing your idea through its completion.

If You Have Not Changed the Manager's Mind
What happens if you have done your best job of disagreeing with the direction and your manager decides to stay on the current path or rejects your solution? You tell the manager that while you disagree, you will perform the request as the manager has decided. Remember, the manager has the decision making authority and responsibility. At this time, you will know the point at which it becomes no longer okay to disagree further.


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David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Does Net Neutrality Mean to You?

Net neutrality (also known as "network neutrality", "internet neutrality", or "net equality") is the principle that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the internet equally, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, or mode of communication.*
In May 2014, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a plan that would have allowed internet service provider companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to discriminate online and create pay-to-play fast lanes. Essentially, the big internet providers would have had the power to decide on what content moves the fastest on the web based on who pays the most. 

Thanks to a huge public and political outcry, Chairman Wheeler shelved his original proposal. In February 2015, he announced that he would base new Net Neutrality rules giving internet users protections from any attempt to pay-to-play. The core net neutrality provisions are bans on blocking and throttling traffic. Broadband providers will not be allowed to block or degrade access to content, applications, websites, and services, or favor some traffic over others in exchange for payment.

Why Net Neutrality is Important for Businesses
Net Neutrality is crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs who rely on the open Internet to launch their businesses, create a market, advertise their products and services, and distribute products to customers. It ensures the web is a level playing field. It’s because of Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive on the internet. They use the internet to reach new customers and showcase their goods, applications and services. We need the open internet to foster job growth from small businesses, competition and innovation.

Why Net Neutrality is Important for Individuals
The open internet allows individuals and community organizations to tell their own stories. The open internet gives marginalized voices opportunities the opportunity to be heard. But without Net Neutrality, internet service providers could have blocked unpopular topics from reaching the masses. And without Net Neutrality, many small businesses would not be able to compete against larger corporations online.

"An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known." - Barack Obama: November 2014


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David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors
* Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Don't Buy or Lease Your Infrastructure, Get a Subscription

In an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model, a third-party provider hosts hardware, software, servers, storage and other infrastructure components on behalf of its clients. For you, it means your organization will not own or lease the infrastructure, you pay for its use. Now, imagine extending that model to infrastructure in your own facilities, and include monitoring & management. Sound far fetched? It's not!
The next time your business needs new internet appliances, networking equipment or other technology, the traditional question you would ask yourself is should you buy it or lease it? Both options have their pros and cons. Ultimately, your method of acquisition will be based on several factors. Let's look at some of the benefits & costs of the purchase and lease options for your on-premises equipment. Then, we'll look at the new IaaS subscription model for your on-premises equipment.

Purchase Your Equipment
  • It's easier than leasing. Buying equipment is easy. You decide what you need, then go out and buy it. While you may negotiate the price, there are typically no contracts to sign.
  • Your equipment is deductible. The IRS currently lets you deduct the full cost of newly purchased assets, such as technology equipment, starting in the first year. Of course, the IRS can (and has) changed that regulation (Section 179 Qualifying Property).
  • The initial outlay for needed equipment may be too much. Your business may have to tie up lines of credit or invest hefty funds to acquire the equipment you need. Those lines of credit and funds could be used for other functions that can help grow your business.
  • Eventually, you're stuck with outdated equipment. Most technology equipment becomes outdated quite quickly. A growing business may need to refresh and invest in its technology every 18-36 months to remain competitive. You may be stuck with outdated equipment that you will be responsible to donate, sell or recycle.
Lease Your Equipment
  • Leasing keeps your equipment up-to-date. All technology equipment eventually become obsolete. With a lease, you pass the financial burden of obsolescence to the equipment leasing company.
  • You'll have predictable monthly expenses. You have a predetermined monthly line item expense, which can help you budget more effectively. 
  • You'll pay more in the long run. While leases rarely require a down payment, leasing is almost always more expensive than purchasing.

Another business decision you will make with a purchase or lease option is if/how you will manage the maintenance and support of the equipment. Even if the hardware is not obsolete over the life of the equipment, you will need to upgrade the firmware, apply security patches, update configurations, etc. to keep the performance of the equipment in top form. The cost of maintenance and support from the equipment vendor can cost 20% or more annually of the equipment purchase. In addition, you need to account for the cost of personal (staff or contracted) to keep your equipment supported.

Infrastructure as a Service now extends to on-premises implementation. Like a hosted IaaS model, you will not own or lease the equipment under contract. Your on-premises equipment (routers, firewalls, internet appliances, etc.) will be owned by the service provider. And, the all of the support responsibilities will be included in your subscription contract. 

On-Premises IaaS
    • You'll have predictable monthly expenses. Like a lease, you will have a predetermined monthly cost, which can help you budget more effectively. In addition, this will include your maintenance and support costs.
    • You won't be stuck with outdated equipment. Your contract will ensure all firmware, security patches, configuration settings, etc. will be current. In addition, you will get hardware upgrades as your current hardware reaches its end-of-life.
    • Completely monitored and managed. Your subscription will completely monitor, maintain and mange the equipment, including on-site service calls if needed. The vendor will likely know of service issues or upgrade needs before you will.
    • Cost. When you consider all of the actual expenses with the tradition purchase and leasing options, including the cost of manpower time and effort that can be reallocated to actually growing your business, on-premises IaaS can be a very efficient model

    On-premises IaaS is a solution worthy of your consideration. You will have many factors to consider when you need to acquire technology equipment. Now, you have another option to consider as to how you will acquire and implement that new equipment.

    For more information on this topic, contact Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC.


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    David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    Responsive Website Design: Can This Replace Mobile Apps?


    Many business owners struggle with whether they should design a responsive website that works across devices or focus exclusively on building native mobile apps. Choosing between a responsive website or a native mobile app is more of a business call than that of technical capabilities. Since mobile app development may require a large investment, a responsive web design may be a terrific solution.
    Why Have a Mobile Presence
    Mobile access gives your business the opportunity to interact with customers in real time. In addition, it allows you to expand your customer base beyond traditional website users by providing on-demand access to valuable information wherever the user is located. An effective mobile presence can produce an engaged customer, which often translates into a paying customer.

    A Challenge with Native Mobile Apps
    Native mobile apps are software programs that are developed specifically for smaller, handheld devices, such as tablet computers or mobile phones. Properly developed, they present a user experience optimized for each viewing device. The challenge you may experience in choosing to build a mobile app is that it can become an expensive proposition for when you want to reach mobile users. That's because mobile app development is platform specific, and the apps must be recreated for each desired platform.

    As of February 2015*, the most common mobile platforms in the US are Android (46.9%), iOS (42.6%), Windows Phone (2.7%) and all others (7.8%). In order to reach the maximum number of mobile users, you must plan to individually build each mobile app for multiple platforms. If, for example, you chose to only build one instance of a mobile app on the Android platform, you are missing 53.1% of the mobile market users.

    What is Responsive Web Design?
    Responsive web design is building a website suitable to work on a browser on most every device and every screen size, no matter how large or small, mobile or desktop. Responsive web design is focused around crafting websites to provide an intuitive and gratifying experience for everyone. Websites created with a responsive design adapt the layout to the viewing environment. 

    Unfortunately, most websites are not optimized for mobile and other devices with smaller screens. They are designed for large screen displays such desktop monitors. Mobile devices are often constrained by display size and require a different approach to how content is laid out on screen.

    There is a multitude of different screen sizes across desktops, laptops, tablets, 2-in-1's, phones, game consoles, TVs, and wearables. The use of mobile devices to surf the web is growing at an almost astronomical pace. Since the screen sizes are different and always changing, it’s important that your website can adapt to any screen size, today or in the future.

    Click on the video image to see how a Responsive Web Design responds to size changes.

    The User Experience
    In order for a user to have a mobile app, they usually must download it and install it on their device one time. Typically, the installation includes placing an icon on the device's interface used to start the mobile app.

    In order to access a responsively designed website, the user must start the web browser already installed on their device, and then enter the website's URL (web address). It is easier and faster to start a mobile app by clicking the app's icon. In addition, the information presented will be formatted specifically for the platform. However, once the user accesses the website via the browser, they can save the URL as a "favorite" so as not to have to reenter it each time they want to access the website. 

    If You Want an Effective Mobile Presence
    If your current website is not responsive, you will need to upgrade or replace your website to effectively accommodate mobile devices. Or, you will need to build native mobile apps for one or more mobile platforms. In general, the cost to build a mobile app for one or more platforms will far exceed the cost of upgrading your website to be of a responsive design.

    Deciding between a having responsive website or mobile app is a business decision where you will need to consider several factors (e.g. user experience, industry norms, your competition, etc.) in addition to the cost. When cost is a large factor in your decision, consider a responsive website design as a cost effective means to gain a strong mobile presence.

    For more information on this topic, contact Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC.


    *Netmarketshare

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    David Schuchman


    Sunday, March 1, 2015

    What Went Wrong with Your Last Presentation?

    You are about to give the most important presentation of your career. If you convince the audience and gain their approval, you could change your business forever. You worked hard on the presentation and are well prepared. However, not long after you start to present to the audience, their eyes glaze over. They seem bored or distracted. Deep down, you know you've lost their attention. What went wrong with this presentation?
    Reflect Back on Your Performance
    While your memory is fresh, assess your talking points. You may discover glitches, such as a missing step in a process you outlined. Make a list of these flaws as soon as possible and promptly incorporate the changes into your slides and presentation.

    Did You Engage the Audience?
    You may see trouble spots regarding the audience’s reaction: Are people nodding, or nodding off? Are they taking notes, or engrossed in their phones? Try to recall specific weak moments, and develop specific fixes to sharpen your skills. For example, engage in a little Q&A with your audience. Questions arouse interest, pique curiosity, and involve audiences. Create tension or anticipation by posing a question and letting your audience think a moment before moving to the next slide with the answer.

    The Audience Doesn't Seem to Like You
    Whether the vibe in the room feels wrong or the audience acts like they don't respect you, you still need to get through the presentation. Afterwards, find out if there were external factors, such as a recent layoff announcement or other bad news that might be on people's minds. Ahead of your next presentation, check with the meeting organizer to see if there are such events that you should know about before you start. If you have time before your presentation, speak with some of the attendees to help gauge their mood and show your interest in them.

    Did You get Interrupted or Heckled?
    These are people who want attention at that moment, want to prove you wrong, are insecure with the spotlight on you, or are just having a bad day. The audience is usually as frustrated by the hecklers as you. A good approach is to acknowledge them and their questions or comments. Then mention to them that it is either off track, or give them a short answer if the comment is relevant. If their interruptions continue, offer to meet with them after the presentation to answer any questions or concerns they may have. Keep in mind that if the meeting gets out of control because of a heckler, the attendees will blame the you for not keeping your presentation moving along.

    Speak With a Trusted Person in the Audience
    No matter how well you planned your presentation in advance, the actual delivery will often expose flaws, gaps, or other shortcomings, even for polished presenters. Feedback from a trusted attendee will help you identify minor problems with the delivery, like weak opening remarks or awkward attempts at humor.

    With a little attentiveness to the needs of your audience, you will effectively deliver the important information from your next presentation.


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    David Schuchman

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Using the Cloud for Data Backups

    There are two kinds of organizations in the world: Those that have lost critical data, and those that will. If you use technology long enough and neglect to back up your data, a single unfortunate incident can destroy your data and negatively impact your business. The solution is to back up everything that is important. Using an external hard drive or tape system can be an inconvenient or time-consuming task. That’s why more organizations are turning to managed cloud services for data backup.

    The reason you want to think about the cloud for your backup storage is because it offers tremendous protection and availability to protect your data. One of the biggest benefits of protecting data in the cloud is that the cloud is not in your own data center. It doesn't take the resources of your data center. If something were to happen in your data center, you would still be able to fall back to this external resource.

    Another advantage to backing up your data to the cloud is that, with a proper service level agreement, you'll have an actively managed, proven technology and expertise supported by your service provider. In addition to your in-house IT resources, which may be limited, you will have access to your service provider's professional resources should you need to recover your data.

    Additional advantages of a cloud-based backup solution, which you may need to request and verify that your storage service provider offers, are:
    • Backups of backups: Your data is always stored off-site and is redundantly copied to other servers in different locations. If one location becomes unavailable, your data can be backed up or retrieved from elsewhere on the backup network without a service interruption.
    • Security: Data is encrypted by the backup service provider’s software program from your computer or network before it is sent to the cloud, so thieves on the internet cannot access it.
    • Virus protection: The backup service software detects any virus or infection before data is sent. If a virus is found, that file is not copied to the backup service. You will be notified that the corrupted file has not been deleted from your computer. In this case, you won’t lose any data, but that data won’t be backed up online.

    There are some caveats about using cloud based backup solutions. While these can often be mitigated via your backup and recovery strategies, you need to be aware they exist:
    • Cost: While usually less costly from a capital expense perspective, a cloud-based backup solution can be more expensive from an operating expense perspective as compared to on-site backups . Typically, you will pay a monthly or annual subscription based on the amount of data stored on the service provider's servers as well as for their professional services.

    • Perform a business risk assessment. Also, do a cost-benefit analysis of your backup storage options. You may see that the risk mitigation benefit will exceed the cost.
    • Capacity: Cloud-based backups may not be best for large backups such as a large number of files, or very large files such as data bases. Since some internet providers limit the amount of data you can send and receive in a month. You may need to avoid large backups that cause you to exceed their stop-limits or trigger over-utilization charges.

    • Perform incremental backups. That is, instead of sending all of your data to the backup site on a scheduled basis. Send all of your data only once when you implement your solution. Then, only send the changes to the data on a scheduled basis. Make sure that your service provider can properly archive incremental changes, and restore your data at any point of time. While you typically do not have a need to recover large blocks of data, have a recovery strategy in place for when you need to do so.
    • Speed: It can take a long time to back up large backups online, even with a broadband connection.

    • The same Mitigation for "Capacity" applies here

    Considering your resources with the consequences of hardware malfunctions, human errors, software corruption and man-made or natural disasters can keep you from focusing on your many strategic initiatives. With a cloud data backup solution, you can gain the peace of mind that your data are protected and available for recovery when the time comes.


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    David Schuchman