Typing Out Loud: Business Messaging Apps

Typing Out Loud: Business Messaging Apps

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Blog, IT News

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When the first human being had something worth saying, there’s a good chance that they didn’t say it very well. In the 21st century, quality communication still isn’t second nature to us. It’s a challenge for some organizations, maybe a bit simpler for others, but even that is dynamic. What works today may not work for a different team tomorrow. Or even the same team once personnel promote, or change roles. However, humans love to talk. So how do we do it better?

In the early days of the internet, AOL instant messenger gained huge traction, based solely how easily it brought people together to discuss anything and everything, from video games to history to music. One could type a quick message, rather informally, and receive a quick message back. The conversation continued almost in real time. It is neither time-consuming, nor complicated. This paradigm eventually that gives rise to SMS text messaging, and now anyone can choose from an array of images to convey everything from love to sarcasm, that much quicker.

How does this work in the modern business climate? As millennials occupy an increasing share of the workforce, so too does the number of people who still use phone calls as the primary method of communication. This can be reflected too in the quantity of emails sent every day: 205 billion, or more easily stated as 29 emails daily for every man, woman and child on Earth. Email has many advantages, but for quick, internal communication, those advantages don’t work. Email isn’t seen as immediate, often causing delays & bottlenecks in decision making when more and more of the workforce doesn’t occupy the same space.

Enter the team chat apps.

These apps encourage quick, brief messages to transmit messages on a total ‘opt-in’ basis. Even in a group chat, you can parse what you need and get back to another task, or contribute to the conversation as you see fit. If someone specifically needs an individual, there are ways to alert them through the app to get their attention. Also, messaging apps create an ongoing and persistent conversation among multiple contributors simultaneously, either based on need or topic.

Slack, Microsoft Teams, HipChat, and Google Hangouts have grown in popularity primarily for the need for instant communication that was missing in the workplace. And while each one has their advantages and disadvantages, they all provide a baseline of instant communication with varying features, depending on an organization’s operations. Software development teams tend to use Slack, or HipChat, because of their seamless integrations with other applications & tools that developers use often. If you already have Office 365, depending on your plan you already have Microsoft Teams available, and that is useful to almost any business for instant chat communication, from retail stores to supermarkets to doctor’s offices.

If you’d like to know more about which app is right for you and your business, talk to our expert engineers today.

Infrastructure as a Service

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Cloud Hosting

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There are some major advantages to utilizing infrastructure-as-a-service, especially for businesses concerned with up-time and scalability as they grow in their respective markets. IaaS goes beyond simply virtualizing infrastructure, by also adding a software management layer with single pane of glass administration to allocate resources, both external and internal, and to maximize support.

‘Going to the cloud’ is a phrase you’ve no doubt heard before. But does the experience live up to the hype in technology circles and current best practices? These questions are important enough to have decision-makers question whether they can really benefit from the Iaas model.  The Benefits include:

Cost savings – At the first sight, any good look into long term cost-savings are not that obvious. However, cost saving is going to be tangible, although not necessarily direct. Overall costs are bound to go down- you will require less people, streamline your operations and have time and resources to focus on business growth.

Cutting edge technology – Because of their own competitive market constraints, datacenters and data architects are feeling the pressure to always provide the latest and greatest at an easy-to-adopt cost platform.

IaaS saves IT staff time – In examining time savings, it is important to factor in the benefits of automation that some service providers offer. In some cases, automation will not only offset the operational costs, but also optimize the way your data is loaded and saved. This automated optimization can save a lot of money in direct storage and compute costs, as well as the time spent on data prep by your staff.

Focus on business growth – The savings in time and resources, along with the added benefit of knowing fixed costs of expansion of employee needs, enable an important shift in focus, allowing your team to keep critical business imperatives front-and-center.

Scalability and elasticity – IaaS provides an extraordinary level of flexibility and scalability in response to an enterprise’s requirements.  .

Support for Disaster Recovery (DR)/Business Continuity (BC) – IaaS services provide high-level, consolidated DR/BC solutions, further reducing costs and increasing manageability.

The current generation of IaaS providers is all-in on managing complexity by helping businesses optimize with the help of machine learning and the latest developments in artificial intelligence, as well. This last generation includes self-optimizing analytics infrastructure in the cloud, adapting to ever-changing data needs from across many different industries and verticals. These technologies aim to abstract away the vast complexity of components and configurations required to maintain a robust infrastructure allowing companies to instantly utilize their data, processes and environment, no matter what size they happen to be. Easy migration and rapidly decreasing costs make a cloud infrastructure as a service a viable option for everyone looking to increase efficiency, create turn-key growth and forecast costs for IT to a level of predictability not yet seen. SOS is proud to offer this option to our clients and new friends. Contact us to learn more and to organize a complimentary assessment.

Technology Impact: Deep AI Learning and Facial Recognition

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Security, Technology

4 Tips For Placing Security Cameras

For a surveillance camera to be truly effective in times past, it required at least two elements: a system to manage multiple cameras at once, and a human being watching that system to respond to threats and questionable activities. Since then, many practical and useful enhancements have come to market, so much so that even the smallest businesses can now protect their investments, employees and property to the fullest, without investing human capital on hours spent.

Very recently, Google has pioneered the use of deep convolutional neural networks to identify objects in static images with a very high degree of accuracy. They achieved this by using a multitude of finely networked and highly specific processing units tied to massive data storage containers, combined with dense replicating algorithms. What this means in layman’s terms is that each computer taught itself how to identify photos by holding on to every bit of data about that photo, sharing it with other computers, and then comparing the differing results. You may already be using a reduced version of this software, if you are using facial recognition to log into your mobile phone or a specific app.

Current IP-based camera video is ultimately nothing more than a lot of individual photos that are sequenced together to create a video that’s really just a moving set of pictures. It’s only been a matter of time that this same kind of machine learning could be used to identify specific features of a human face, or even the shape of raised letters on a vehicle’s license plate, in real time monitoring of a video stream and then compare those results to a database of known quantities – a very specific example being a former employee who may be barred from entering a restricted area gets captured by a camera and his face is compared to a record of employee ID badges for the past 5 years. And while an organization is still investing in a physical security presence, using an automated facial recognition software system frees up a large amount of man hours, effectively becoming a force multiplier and allowing less staff to achieve more.

Another way that advanced video analytics provide value outside of security is for visitor metrics, put simply how many different individuals are entering your space at any given time. This can be incredibly valuable for retail stores, transportation infrastructure, or large public spaces such as sports stadiums or convention centers to measure human traffic throughout a space. A well rounded video management system is rapidly becoming a must-have for any organization, and as facial recognition and video analytical software become better, they also become more cost-efficient as well. If you’ve ever wondered about how to get the most out of your camera network, or to have a new camera network protect your facility, contact us today.

 

Office 365- The Best Option for Business Email

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Cloud Hosting, IT News

Since the early 1980s, Microsoft is the premier choice in business software. Certain industries might use proprietary software specific to their products or services, but it’s almost impossible to find a company that doesn’t use a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation planning software in their daily operations.

On-premise servers have been a significant barrier to entry for smaller organizations that required a stable and secure email platform that was also easy to use and familiar to current and new employees alike. Another server was needed to share files and folders to everyone in the company, along with other essential services. This is no longer the case with Office 365. However, Microsoft makes it a bit difficult to understand the exact difference between the packages it offers, by constantly improving and expanding its business functions and security features.  Sorting through the available options to find the ones essential to your business can be a daunting challenge in of itself.

 

Here’s a brief breakdown of the packages available:

 

Office 365 Business Essentials: $5 per user per month.

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based services (Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams & Skype)
  • There are no additional security features offered at this level.

 

Office 365 Business: $8.25 per user per month

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based OneDrive & Teams (Free Tier)
  • Desktop downloads of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)

 

Office 365 Business Premium: $12.50 per user per month

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based services (Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams & Skype)
  • Desktop downloads of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Additional Security features such as two-factor authentication, and secure encryption in transit

 

Determining which of these plans fits your business best begins with assessing factors like the number of users you have, which features those users will need on an individual basis, and just how beneficial some of the newer Microsoft products might become.

 

Another huge benefit to Office 365 is the ability to upgrade at any time, so it makes sense to start with a smaller plan with fewer features to be decisively cost-effective as your business needs change or your organization grows. Along with the feature to subscribe to small business focused apps like Microsoft Invoicing or Connections, which are included in Office 365 Business Premium, this is truly a robust platform that gives control of services and pricing back to the user.

 

SOS helps thousands of users across the nation get the most from Office 365, and ensuring that migrations to the platform occur seamlessly with as little downtime as possible. If you’re thinking of making the jump, contact us today to consult on getting the most from your IT services.

Hate Cannot Prevail: The Modern Day Fire Alarm

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Security, Technology

On December 1, 1958, a fire broke out in the basement of Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago. Due to a grandfather clause in building construction, the school did not have to comply with upgrades to the Illinois Fire Code. The school was well-maintained, clean and relatively modern. However, the school’s failure to have important updates in fire prevention led to this tragedy. The building had only one fire escape, no direct alarm wire to the Chicago Fire Department, no heat detectors, no automatic fire sensor, no fire doors and no sprinkler system. There were two unmarked fire alarm switches and only four fire extinguishers, mounted out of the reach of all the children and most of the adult staff, seven feet off the floor.

In the aftermath, 92 children and three nuns perished. A year after this tragedy, 16,500 older school buildings in the US were brought up to modern fire code.

We all remember fire drills from our school years. At surprise intervals, the fire alarm system was tested for its performance and ability to notify all students and teachers of a fire. Student preparedness was also critical to these drills, as knowing how to react without panic or emotional duress is just as important as a warning klaxon or strobe light.

This system is impressive in that, even as adults, we instinctively know what to do when we hear a fire alarm. And it’s so effective that not a single child has died in a school fire since 1958.

Not a single fatality.

In 60 years.

In that same time frame, 458 students have been murdered in by active shooters in schools and colleges. Why are these fire drills and alarms systems so effective? What makes them work?

The answer is layering.

Layer: a fire alarm klaxon, that makes a loud noise that every can hear clearly and easily recognize.

Layer: sprinklers. When they get hot, they activate and suppress the fire with water, slowing its spread.

Layer: backlit exit sign. With an attached battery backup, the sign will light up indefinitely, showing anyone who views it how to escape the building.

Layer: human drilling and practice. This reinforces the process, creates familiarity with all the other layers and allows a calm process to be followed without taxing critical thinking skills that can lead to panic.

The merger of reliable technology and consistent reinforcement of best actions through assessment and drilling have reduced the number of fatalities in school fires to zero. School fires still occur, to be certain. There are even a few injuries every year. But ZERO fatalities.

There is now a ‘fire alarm’ for the active shooter nightmare. With the Guardian Indoor Gunshot Detection System, first responders, and occupants receive real-time location and confirmation of a gunshot inside a building, and act with confidence instead of fear and panic. Law enforcement gains tactical intelligence to stop the threat, and everyone inside can follow their processes for crisis management safely and confidently but most importantly, faster.

In response to the vicious and hateful attacks at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, SOS has committed to bringing this life saving technology to particularly at-risk faith centers and places of worship, along with schools both public and private, and sites around the country. We will not watch as these attacks of senseless hate and violence continue to hurt our communities and our hearts, and take the lives of loved ones & friends.

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