Death by 1000 Cuts

14 11 2012

Just a quick warning about monthly and yearly subscription fees this morning. Right now we pay period subscription fees to Dropbox, Google Apps, Evernote, German Servers, US Servers, Domain Name companies, Confluence (Project Management Apps), Wufoo etc. When you start by using some Apps there is no issue with $10 here $5 there, then it slowly creeps up. If you don’t manage this well and keep track of things you may find that your expenses may begin to outweigh your benefits.

I call this effect the Death by 1000 Cuts. Wikipedia describes Death by 1000 Cuts as:

Death By A Thousand Cuts can refer to:

The lesson we learn from this is, every time you subscribe to a service, ask yourself a couple of questions and then record it! Some questions you could ask yourself are:

  • Do you really need this app?
  • What will you use it for… is it worth it?
  • Will you actually use it?
  • Is there an app that could do this for free or less cost?

Ok, once you are sure you need yet another application and service, you need to know how much money your are spending and on what. If you have an accounting software program you could isolate these charges, ie. have one account or job code for your Cloud Services. If that is all too difficult you could simply start a spread sheet, make sure you have the Name, Details (what it does for you), Frequency and Amount of charge.

Now, if you are not worried about the expenses you are simply moving into the Cloud for continuity and mobility reasons they you may not have to think about this. However, if one of your main reasons for moving to the Cloud was cost savings then you will NEED to watch this.

This is why I suggest to migrate in stages, you need to break your business and workflow into systems and processes and then identify your apps and then move. If you realise your main issues are keeping track of events, to do lists and projects then address these issues with the apps that help you solve the problem. If you need yourself and a few staff to have access to communications and data anytime anywhere then you need to address those issues.

If you think about a service business there are a few obvious systems:

  • Communications – email and chat between staff
  • Data – storage and access
  • Accounting – software and access
  • Documents – collaboration and centralisation
  • Customer Relations – consistency and access

So before you start picking apps, I suggest that you look at your workflow, be objective and ask yourself what needs to be improved? How can you increase your efficiency? For myself I have learnt that my calendar and Evernote are my best friends, I need reminders and notes and calendar events. To be really honest the bins will not go out on time if I don’t have a reminder in my phone or calendar, I keep my phone with Evernote open at night because I will not remember that awesome idea I had at 2am if I don’t write it down then.

Ok, back to the point! Look at your workflow, think about what can be improved, look at the apps out there, pick a couple, and then move. In most projects have stages and logical progression, this situation is no different. So excuse the fact that I sound like a drill sergeant and a broken record but think before you click the “Agree & Download” button.

…ShantiBK

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Requirements vs Capabilities?

13 11 2012

Salesforce has a great series of videos on Youtube about Cloud Computing. In fact, they were my first real introduction to Software as a Service (SaaS). I was at a conference about 6 years ago and Salesforce had a stand there. It was amazing for me to think that the software didn’t need to be on my computer or server. Now this is standard practice!

In the video (link below) they talk about a lot of the issues you will run into trying to come up with your own in house IT solutions. They also talk about some of the benefits of using Cloud Computing.

One of the most important points that I haven’t discussed yet on this blog is the fact that most of the time our requirements of our IT solution are far bigger than our capabilities. For most businesses it is just not possible for them to host their own web server, mail server, file server, phone system and managed desktops. Thinking about how much really goes into an office blows my mind. Paying fixed small monthly fees is simply a “better way to run your business”. Unless you can afford a IT geek squad and get what you need from them there is really now other affordable way to run your business.

Like they say in the video, you do not have to spend time or money on Servers & Storage, a Technical Team & Upgrades. For example when you use Xero you log into your customised front page, you do not need to pay for servers or storage. You pay about $50 per month and you get any upgrades that come out, access any time anywhere. All you need to do is log in, customise for your personalised version of the app, and “play”.

In business we simply want our IT solutions to be safe, scaleable and reliable, we do not want our email to be down for 3 hours while our technical team take their time to fix things. We also want all this to cost less. The great thing is in today’s world this is possible!

Now days you can also get apps built just for you! For example you have a restaurant, you have many staff on a rotating roster, you could ask a developer to build you a simple app that enables your staff to accept or decline shifts, this app could also help your management staff to plan their shifts. This could be linked into your booking and payment system. These could be linked to your accounting system. Each week your bookkeeper, you hired from ODesk for a bargin, can log in and reconcile your recorded income from the bookings system and the bank feeds. She would then let you know if anything is out of order. Your accountant would be able to double check everything and do your BAS/VAT return at the end of the period. You would have less headaches because your system doesn’t go down because it is in the Cloud, your Accountant and Bookkeeper may also charge you less because everything is simpler and takes less time to do.

This is all possible and for a lot of businesses it is already a reality!

…ShantiBK

Click Here to access the video I have been talking about.





Cloud Computing Kids!!

11 11 2012

I found an amazing video a couple of days ago about the Basics of Cloud Computing. They interview children for their perspectives of Cloud Computing. I’m 23, I have always had some sort of access to the internet, it may not have been a great connection but it did exist. The kids that are growing up now days have always had good interent and even better devices to use it with. In a very short time frame these may be your new customers… so it’s a great idea to start thinking like they do.

One of the kids on this video has a better website than a lot I have seen, one is building a video game and one can already articulate why Cloud Computing is important for organisations. It’s truly amazing to see the next generation of super geeks evolving, although, even I am starting to feel left behind!

This new generation does not understand inefficiency, unreasonable IT expenses, paying for shipping, or having to wait for anything. We may not like it but depending on your business you may need to include these people into your target market.

So what will they want from you?

  • a great customer experience
  • some free IP
  • a differentiator
  • quick response time
  • global access
  • competitive pricing

How do you produce this?

  • provide 24/7 global access – website, YouTube
  • personal introduction and IP videos done by you or someone in your company that are free and accessible – Website, YouTube
  • easy to use website
  • quick, personal responses from people in your company because they have access to their comms 24/7 – Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+
  • you need to be aware of your market and competitors

There are simple and sometimes automatic systems that you can put in place to produce these results. Sometimes the difference between a happy customer and a disgruntled soap box is one simple message.For example I bought some garlic from a supermarket the other day 3 out of 6 bulbs were mouldy on the inside. I wet to their Facebook page and I put in a little complaint. Because their tag line is “the fresh food people”, I wanted them to be honest, because this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Well, about 1 hour later I had a response to my post from someone saying sorry, you are able to return the goods for your money back or some undamaged items. I replied saying I don’t care about the money I just want you to deliver what you promised. They replied with we are sorry, thank you for letting us know we will try to do better in the future. Of course it was a bogus response they have written one hundren times but it doesn’t matter. A simple response is better than none at all. I did refrain from running a week long smear campaign so it did it’s job.

The moral of the story is, you may not have a team of people watching your Facebook page, however, you can set up Facebook to send you an email every time someone puts a comment on your page or sends you a private message. You can then log in an reply. It is the little things like this that make a big difference in this online world.

Click here to watch the video – it’s a quickie don’t worry 🙂





Cloud Computing Basics

8 11 2012

I found a video on YouTube and have since looked into Eli the Computer Guy more. It is amazing what he is teaching online and all for free! There is a lot he has on the techy and the not so techy of the computer world.  I wanted to see what was out there for people who searched for Cloud knowledge on You Tube. There is a lot of introductory videos but Eli’s was the most detailed and explanatory by far.

There is a lot of information in this video… probably more than what you are interesting. I will give you a brief overview of the bits I think will be relevant for you. Then there is a link below where you can watch the video.

There are a few key central points to Cloud Computing. When operating in the Cloud you have inherent redundancy, you are not dependant on your computer, your email will not just go down for a few hours while the IT guys fix the server. You will be accessing an application or a platform you do not need to have a dedicated piece of heavy duty hardware. Also your data will be centralised, for example when he talks about the accountant and bookkeeper in the company needing access to Quickbooks so the datafile is stored in a central location where both parties have access to it.

When you do not have to worry about the infrastructure i.e. you pay a monthly fee to use only the infrastructure that you need, your world becomes so much more simple. You don’t have to worry about your server getting full and then paying $5K for a new one. If your laptop gets lost or stolen you just remotely wipe it and start fresh on a new one, you may need to download a couple of apps but you might even have a Google spread sheet that tells you which ones you need.

One distinction Eli makes in the first section of this video is very important. The difference between you using Cloud technology and using an application that is built on Cloud technology. When you use the Cloud you will be accessing a hosted network, you will need to log into a “thin client”, you will be logging into a private network that you have permission to access. When you use an application such as Dropbox or Google Apps, you are simply using a written application on the web, the company you pay for these applications has to worry about their own infrastructure. They either host your application and data one their infrastructure or they hire it from a hosting provider.

I understand there is heaps of information out there. You are probably sick of people telling you what piece of technology you need to start using. Once you start using the couple of apps or services help you it will help speed up your processes and you will have time to digest some of that information.

For anyone who watches the video from Australia when Eli says my seequl, this is mySQL. You may have heard of SQL before, MYOB just changed their software to mySQL.

For the Video I have been talking about Click Here





Take the First Step into the Cloud!

6 11 2012

What makes you think “The Cloud” or even using technology is not for you? Are you fed up with your current IT solution? Do you spend too much time trying to understand geeks? Do you have to rush into the office at night to finish emailing quotes? These are all really normal problems to have. The great thing is, they can all be solved over time by migrating your operations and administration to the Cloud.

There are a couple of small steps that you can take to increase the efficiency of your work flow. For example you could start to use your Gmail in a web browser instead of outlook on your desktop. This will ensure are your emails are saved in the Gmail database and you can access them from your smart phone or tablet when you are on the road. Another thing you can do to help yourself is collate your passwords. Choose a couple of different passwords that you like then use one for social media, one for email accounts and one for storage applications. The best way to ensure you get the most from your security is make it easy for you to access your data but hard for someone else to. If you have a word/excel,text file with passwords on your computer then you are making it too easy for people. Try to start storing things in your Dropbox account rather than on your desktop. I personally set aside some time each week to tidy up my files, I move anything from my desktop into my Dropbox folders and I order my Dropbox folders the more I use them.

Technology does change all the time, even I can’t keep up with all the millions of apps out there. That is ok, you don’t need to know it all! What you do know, make that work for you, if there are a couple of applications that you like and you use get comfortable with those first.   Going online is like stepping into a whole new world that looks different every minute, but it does’t need to be scary. Just find a couple of applications that are helping you at the moment and get used to them.

For example, I started with Dropbox and Evernote. Once I got my iPad, Evernote became the best thing since sliced bread! I went from bits of information in my terrible hand writing, on pieces of paper floating around my messy desk, to a structured note storing system that is synced between all my devices and is available anywhere I need it. I can sort, search, tag and fins any piece of info I need. Dropbox is equally as life changing. Now once I am bored doing data entry in MYOB at my computer I can save the data file onto my dropbox folder, take my laptop downstairs and continue entering data while I am watching TV, because my Dropbox folder is synced on all my devices also.

By now you can tell I live a very interesting life!! But really we do need to get our work done, that is life. The difference is, now you can do it anywhere!

…ShantiBK

 





What is Stopping You?

27 09 2012

I am a stationary horder. I love coloured pens, paper and anything else that goes on your desk, I love Officeworks and all the new stuff they come out with. So my biggest hesitation to moving to the cloud was I wouldn’t need to write notes anymore… what about all of those pretty pens and things that I have? Now I have my IPad and most of my stuff got donated to kids clubs. I don’t miss it at all. Occasionally I find myself in a meeting needing to draw something, so I do that on some paper and that is ok, I take a picture of it and add it to my Evernote note. So my biggest issue with moving to the cloud was my IPad has no texture. Efficiency won though, now I take notes with Evernote, copy and paste into an email and there you have emailed action points.

Some people I talk to have this fear of some hacker in his mum’s basement hacking into their personal data and stealing their identity, then travelling around Europe on a new credit card. Then I explain that there are way you can protect yourself like using correct passwords, going to known websites, and being smart when you see a weird email. Being aware of this sort of activity actually helps you when you are online. Having no fear and no awareness could lead to clicking on something you shouldn’t have. As long as fear doesn’t stop you from making your business better it is ok. Use your awareness and think about where you are and what you are doing online.

Some people have a fear of the big crash… the internet goes down because of some reason and the companies go bust. I understand this fear because the internet is so unknown to most people, they don’t understand how it works and they don’t need to. In all fairness, the same thing could happen to any business, their office could go down in flames or get burgled. The great thing about the internet is that most of the hardware base for the internet is in secured data centers that are set up to hold the most important treasures in the world. They have security measures like I have never seen anywhere else and each new data center gets more and more secure. In a later post I will show you around a data center if they let me.

These are a couple of the fears I have heard. What are yours? What is now coming between your business and your future online business?

…Shanti BK





Is Technology Scary?

21 09 2012

What makes you think “The Cloud” or even using technology is not for you? Are you fed up with your current IT solution? Do you spend more time trying to understand the geeks than they are worth? Do you have to rush into the office at night to finish emailing quotes? These are all really normal problems to have. The great thing is, they can all be solved over time by migrating your operations and admin to the cloud. Starting to use your Gmail instead of outlook is a really good step. Gradually becoming used to saving documents into dropbox instead of on your computer screen. Changing some passwords to something you can remember but harder to guess so you have less security concerns.

The thing about technology is it does change all the time, even I can’t keep up with all the millions of apps out there. That is ok, you don’t need to know it all! Take what you do know, make that work for you and if there is anything else you should know thats where these updates might come in handy.

Going online is like stepping into a whole new world that looks different every minute, but it does’t need to be scary. There are things you probably already know about or have heard of, these are simple and you can learn to use them over time. Applications such as Gmail, Dropbox and Facebook.

This is just like any other transition, you figure out what you need and find out what fits those needs. If you need email anywhere anytime you get onto Gmail. If you need to boost your public profile and awareness you start using Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest or WordPress depending on what type of business you have. If you need online storage you can use something like Dropbox, or you can hire a server somewhere.

You can probably already think of 10 different things you need for your business. This is great! There are millions of applications out there and most likely there will be something that will help you. We have a series of applications we recommend because we know them and we have tested them. Of course we hear about more and more everyday so we update our clients when we know they would benefit.

Eventually you will find a suite of apps that suit you perfectly and you won’t be tied to your office. You will be spending less money. You will not have to decipher IT speak. You will not need much more than a smart phone, tablet or laptop with an internet connection to run your business.

Any period of change can seem difficult but it is really worth it!

…ShantiBK








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