I’ve been going through lots of the information on the iPad since its release and here’s my very simple take: it’s really cool, possibly even groundbreaking, but it doesn’t have a place in the business world. Yet. Here’s why…
- No keyboard/mouse. Touch screens are amazing multimedia devices. But for typing documents, responding to e-mail, or working within your business application they’re not nearly as productive as a good ol’ keyboard & mouse. And really, what else do you use a computer for in business?
- Integration. Integration is powerful stuff for business these days. Those that have it, love it. Those who don’t are trying to get it. Not enough integration on the iPad as it stands today.
- Marketing. I don’t think the iPad is really being sold as a business device. Oh, I could be wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time), but other than being really cool, what business advantage does it provide? Ease of use? Probably, but what else? Not much, I’m afraid.
Okay, so let’s be clear about something – I’m not knocking the iPad. I think it’s innovative and well designed. And for personal use, I think it’s fantastic. In the business world, however, it doesn’t provide any real advantage over the existing toolset. I will say this though, I once said the same thing about the iPhone and over time the folks at Apple proved me wrong. If I were to be completely honest here, I guess I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong again.
Let’s face it – for most business professionals, their phone is no longer just a phone. In fact the “phone” functionality is, oddly enough, becoming less and less important as a feature. More important to business users now is integration with business applications, ease of use, e-mail compatibility, and wireless synchronization. Take the iPhone for example. Through the multiple iterations of the OS, users have remained stubbornly loyal even though the phone service itself was quite poor (a result of AT&T’s service in my opinion). With the pending release of OS 4.0 for the iPhone, there’s no doubt that Apple will once again make significant improvements on an already excellent product. Now that the Droid has been released and appears to be holding its own within the market, the market has gotten even tighter for all competitors. Add to the mix the new Windows Series 7 phone slated for release near the end of the year and the world of phones has clearly grown far more complicated (and interesting) than it was just a few years ago. So, what does this all mean to us, the business professionals, and moreover, what does this mean for Blackberry (RIM), the once “default” phone for business people? Of course, no one knows for sure, but I’ve got a few predictions…
- Blackberry’s antiquated pricing model and architecture that requires server software be installed on your network will be a thing of the past. With all the other manufacturers providing functionality without the extra piece of software (or cost) this whole “Blackberry Enterprise Server” nonsense has to go away, doesn’t it? I say it does – at least for small and medium businesses.
- The iPhone will continue to gain market share. Apple just has too big of a lead on some of the other competitors and the “brains” at Apple have been exceptionally successful at addressing the business world’s needs. The only thing that will hold Apple back will be AT&T. Anyone hear rumors of a deal with Verizon? Anyone?
- The Windows phone will do well, but feel some of the pain any new system/software does. Be prepared for very cool, yet sometimes irritating, and an overall lukewarm experience.
- The Droid will hang tough, but find it becomes old news very quickly in this ever changing market. Speed is the need in this fickle market.
Ultimately, I think the innovation within the market will continue to grow – possibly far beyond the true needs of users today (in case we aren’t already there). I think the differences between the platforms, however, that will begin to dwindle, with each manufacturer stealing the others quality concepts and good ideas. At the end of the day, I think it will be a benefit to all, providing us with better, more adaptable phones – and we’ll enjoy more choices than ever before.
I’ve gotten quite a few questions lately on the value/pros/cons of online backup. So here’s just a quick overview of the world of online backup…
Online backup technology, when deployed correctly, is well established, both in terms of reliability and security. It is traditionally sold through VARs (like us) or directly through online backup companies themselves. In our case, we resell an established online providers service, but I know some VARs have developed their own online backup service. Things to look for in an online provider are:
- Encrypted communications
- Multiple, geographically-separated backup locations
- Data backed up to SAS 70 compliant data centers (there are different tiers)
- Agent-less client (meaning you can install it on your server and backup a workstation/laptop without installing the software on that device, as well)
- Type of backup (full, incremental, or differential)
- Ability to backup application data (Exchange, SQL, etc.) and how “granular” the backup is. For example, can you restore just one e-mail or is your only option restoring all your e-mail?
- Good user interface
- Number of “generations” backed up (how far back can you restore from? One day, ten days? More?)
Additionally, pricing tends to be all over the place with online providers mostly because they often price out “storage” differently. The two most common pricing models are:
Protected – this means you will get X amount of data backed up with the ability to restore from X days back. In this pricing model you purchase 10 GB of space at say, $5 per GB per month and can go back 30 generations. It costs you $50 per month, but in essence you’re getting 300 TOTAL GBs of backup space (10 GB X 30 generations).
Unprotected – this is just straight data storage. Often vendors using this pricing model will give you a “block” of backup space to use as you see fit (100 GB, 200 GB, or more). This model will be far less expensive than the protected pricing model, but each generation of backup will count against your total space. So if you’re backing up 10 GB of data and you purchase a 100 GB block of space, you’ll get 10 generations from it.
A couple important additional pricing considerations:
- All pricing should be based on the compressed data size.
- Very rough estimates for pricing would be $2 per GB for unprotected and $5 per GB for protected.
- Backup software should be included at no additional cost
Our recommendations when it comes to backup:
- Do a combination of online and onsite backup. Often you can do one or the other “inexpensively” because you’re fully invested in a quality solution for the other. An example of this would be to back everything up online and then just use inexpensive portable drives or a cheap attached storage unit for onsite backup.
- Archive. I know this is a dirty word for many companies, but archiving keeps the online costs down considerably and there are ways to ensure the data is available quickly should anyone need it.
If you have a quality onsite solution now, consider just backing up your firm’s critical data online (accounting, HR, forms, and possibly e-mail) to save money.
At the speed in which business moves today, useful productivity enhancers can make the difference between getting work out the door on time and fighting with endless tight deadlines. Certainly, we’ve all heard about software tools and programs that promise to make us twice as productive as we already are. Oddly enough I’ve never really had one of those programs do anything but waste my time. However, one timesaving tool I’ve never had fail me is learning how to use quick and simple keyboard shortcuts. So, because I’m a big fan of Excel (and wanted to learn a few new keyboard shortcuts) I thought I’d share a few with you.
|Insert a new line within a cell
|Enable editing within a cell
|Add a comment to a cell
|Open Print Preview
|Fill selected cells with an entry you typed in one cell
|Fill data down or to the right through selected cells
||[Ctrl] D or [Ctrl ] R
|Create a name
|Insert the current date or time
||Ctrl] and ; (semicolon) or Ctrl and : (colon)
|Create a chart from a range of data
|Toggle the display of formulas
Another method I’ve used in the past to help me learn the “ins” and “outs” of a program is to use a quick reference guide. For Microsoft Office programs, I’ve found the ones at Brainstorm.com to be quite good, however, you can find them at many different resellers.