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The Case for a Three-Year Workstation Refresh Cycle

This article first appeared on ThinkFWD


It’s not about hardware – it’s about achieving your peak performance

Competitive businesses stay that way, partly by affording themselves a consistent technology advantage. But, the question is: what’s the most cost-effective way to sustain that advantage?

Workstation refresh cycle of up to three years can easily pay for itself in performance gains, improved reliability, and new levels of flexibility. Three years is the expected useful life of a typical workstation, especially in a growing business environment that consistently places new and more complex demands on its IT resources.

Here are five sensible reasons for instituting a three-year refresh cycle with Lenovo ThinkStation®workstations.

1. A workstation refresh can pay for itself

A new workstation, like a Lenovo ThinkStation P-Series can deliver up to 73% greater performance over a comparable three-year-old device.1 Beyond performance, the added reliability of an entry-level Intel®Xeon® processor-based workstation can deliver significant savings in the form of reduced downtime and fewer costly onsite repairs. Together, improved performance and reliability add up to an investment worth making.

2. A refresh provides the flexibility to fine-tune capabilities.

As businesses evolve, so do their workstation requirements: the entry-level model that handled tasks with ease three years ago might be lagging under vastly increased workloads and more complex demands. A scheduled refresh cycle enables businesses to anticipate future needs – not react after systems are already overstressed.

3. A refresh keeps star producers at peak productivity

If businesses invest in standout engineering or design talent, it makes sense to provide those high-value users with workstations that enable them to perform at full potential. And it reduces employee frustration with aging workstations that may be holding them back.

4. A refresh is preferable to half-measures that may not deliver.

It might be tempting to defer a workstation refresh in favor of additional memory, an upgraded graphics card or other improvements to existing systems. But, doing so deprives users of important performance gains made possible by the latest Intel Xeon processors

5. In the end, it’s all about the ROI

Ultimately, the case for adopting a three-year refresh cycle, like any other acquisition, comes down to one determination: can it deliver a LENOVO THINKSTATION® P SERIES compelling return on investment?

For example, a new workstation that can triple performance might speed products to market sooner than the competition, providing an important first-mover advantage. Or, a new workstation that reduces the need for physical prototypes by half could make a significant impact on the speed and cost of the product design cycle.

Consider this: A Lenovo ThinkStation workstations render CAD and handle complex 3D designs almost twice as fast as comparable 3 year old systems.2

That means CAD professionals can nearly double their productivity, accruing more billable hours in half the time it used to take for projects to render. These are just few possible scenarios that can come from refreshing your engineering resources with new Lenovo workstations on a sensible three-year cycle.

Businesses that live or die on the speed and capacity of their technology tools are already preserving their advantage profitably with a prudent workstation refresh cycle; shouldn’t you keep up, too?



1. According to internal testing using SPECwpc benchmark. Comparison between D30 (2x Intel Xeon E5-2687W Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro Q6000) and P900 (2x Intel Xeon E5- 2687Wv3 Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K6000).

2 According to internal testing using SPECwpc benchmark. Comparison between C30 (2x Intel Xeon E5-2690 Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro Q5000) and P700 (2x Intel Xeon E5-2690v3 Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5200).

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Top five apps for home workers

With more of the workforce seeing the benefits of working from home or on the move, digital tools are popping up to replace your traditional scanner, accounts ledger or diary. In fact, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) one in three employed Aussies spend at least some time working from home, either as employees, freelancers or small business owners.

If you fall into the latter two categories, you’re likely working unpredictable hours that don’t neatly fall into the nine-to-five time bracket. And for those without a dedicated HR, accounts or IT department, you’ll also need to find time for any day-to-day admin on top of your workload.

Thankfully, there’s a host of digital tools available to help manage your time and boost your productivity. We take a look at five must-have mobile apps for home workers to make your life easier.

DocuSign

Best for: Fast digital approvals.

Benefit: If you can sign documents without printing them out, you don’t need a printer – or the costly toner top-ups that come with it. Check and sign documents securely from any internet-connected device, or share them with others who need to add their signature. Not only will this app give you back the office space that would’ve gone to a printer, it will also help remove the clutter of unsigned contracts sitting on your desk.

Wunderlist

Best for: Organising your tasks.

Benefit: It’s an intuitive digital diary. Log and track your to-dos, manage multiple projects and collaborate with others. You can also send reminders, turn pressing emails into to-do items and access them from any connected device. This app is convenient for those who work on the move and rely on their phones to track and manage multiple tasks.

Scanbot

Best for: Scanning documents.

Benefit: Turn your smart device’s camera into a scanner that functions pretty much the same as the real thing. With clear imaging and optical character recognition, Scanbot can even turn scanned items into editable digital documents.

Toggl

Best for: Tracking your time.

Benefit: Do you struggle keeping track of your hours to make sure you’re not spending too long on tasks? Then Toggl is the app for you. Track your time with ease, as this digital timer records how long you spend on each task. Even when your work doesn’t require you to log hours, it’s still useful to see how you spend your time to identify areas where you could manage it better.

SugarSync

Best for: Storing your stuff online, securely.

Benefit: While Google Drive is a popular choice for storing documents on the cloud, SugarSync is different in that it also allows you to back up your existing file structure. You can then access this data across any device. SugarSync even lets you sync files via email.

Take advantage of the digital tools out there to make the most of your valuable time so you can focus on growing your business.

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What’s the future of management?

Business management in the digital age

When automation transformed the manufacturing sector across the Western world during the 1980s and ’90s, many white-collar workers were nonplussed at the wave of job losses. But now artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies have come knocking for their jobs – and managers and skilled workers alike will need to fashion new tools to survive.

With new technologies increasingly able to perform complex cognitive tasks, office managers will face a glass half full or half empty, depending on your view. Some only see job losses, while others see opportunity. Like or if not – the office of the future is changing today.

Engaging with customers

Managers will have to learn to approach their customers in entirely new ways. AI and machine learning are taking over many functions once performed by humans, like staffing showrooms and call centres.

This requires evermore sophisticated algorithms, business models and engagement tools. So, while the old jobs may go, new ones will emerge to supply the technologies, processes and insights needed to keep businesses running.

In particular, the nuances of human behaviour will need to be captured and coded. For example, how does a robot show compassion? Or respond to a customer’s frustrations? How does it detect a customer’s humour or the meaning of vocal inflections? Managers will lead this learning.

Communicating with customers has always been at the heart of the sales process, but now it needs to be much more finely tuned. Building customer engagement will also become a more precise science.

Encouraging creativity

Creative thinking will be another essential tool for the managers of tomorrow. Being flexible, responsive and adaptable to changing technologies will keep them fresh and open to new challenges and opportunities.

‘Innovation’ is the key word here. Managers who can spot a gap in the market, develop a solution and then realise it will become indispensable in tomorrow’s offices. Along with creativity and a clear vision of the path ahead, good leaders will need to encourage innovative thinking among staff to ensure their businesses become the disruptors – not the disrupted.

Boosting productivity

Technology in the workplace almost always helps cut costs and increase margins. While the short-term impact of technology might mean a drop in prices, low prices often fuel demand. This means that it all evens out in the end. Knowing where to find savings and create new demand then, is another tool for tomorrow’s manager.

For all the doom and gloom about technology taking our jobs, there is equally an argument for technology replacing our jobs with better ones. On the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the outcomes of three other revolutions suggest this will indeed be the case.

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Four ways to enhance your endpoint security

It’s quite likely you use several devices, such as a smartphone and a laptop or desktop PC, to run your business. Each device, however, represents an access point for threats like viruses and malware. Endpoint security aims to secure these network ‘endpoints’ so that suspicious online activities are blocked at the point of entry.

The need for endpoint security has risen sharply, particularly in response to the rise in mobile threats and the growing internet of things (IoT). Most vulnerable are SMBs with offsite employees who need to access the company’s network. But the reality is that all businesses are at risk, given today’s ever-shifting and undefinable security perimeter.

So, what are today’s SMB leaders doing when it comes to endpoint security? How can you ensure every tech outpost in your business is secure? Here are four key strategies.

1. Remove or limit administrative access

Most employees don’t need administrative rights to perform their day-to-day jobs. If an endpoint app does require administrative access to your network, it can be added to a database of approved programs by an access control tool. Limiting administrative access in this manner can greatly limit damage within your core network caused by an attacker who is targeting the endpoint device.

2. Use advanced authentication

Many successful endpoint breaches are the result of employees using the same password across multiple sites. If just one site is compromised, it’s only a matter of time before yours is broken into. Two-factor authentication fixes this problem by requiring extra credentials to access the system, such as a token code or smart card. This blocks attackers even if the password has been stolen.

3. Keep your systems up to date

New security vulnerabilities are being discovered all the time. Hackers are constantly keeping watch – and using them against SMBs to find out which ones neglected to patch their systems. If you use various endpoint devices in your business, it’s important to ensure your business apps, anti-malware programs and other security tools are kept up to date with the latest security patches and virus definitions.

4. Conduct security training and awareness sessions

A recent IBM study found that 60 per cent of business data breaches originate from employees, with about a quarter of these being accidental. Ongoing awareness and training on security best practices, in areas such as data encryption, password security and BYOD (bring your own device), can help keep your network safe.

As your data network gains more endpoints, the number and variety of cyber risks will only increase. These steps will help to ensure that your SMB is better protected and more resilient against online attacks.

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Secure and stable storage strategies for businesses

Even the smallest of businesses can generate a huge amount of data, and that data has to go somewhere.

Government regulations require businesses to keep and back up certain data for legal reasons; many firms choose to retain information like employee records, emails and instant messages; and every new version of a software application has to be stored somewhere. All that information must then be backed up to protect the business against viruses, ransomware and spyware that might infect their system and put a halt to trading. And that’s not even considering those firms that want to analyse their big data to further profits and business goals.

What are the options?

Despite the mission-critical status of all this data, many small and medium sized businesses lack an overarching storage strategy that can ensure the business keeps trading no matter what. There are a number of options, and the good news is the price-per-gigabyte of storage has never been cheaper – even outside the cloud.

Small and medium sized businesses can opt for:

  • Direct attached storage (DAS): Devices connected to PCs or servers, usually via USB. Good for information that’s frequently accessed.
  • Network attached storage (NAS): Devices that connect directly to the network and operate as a file server. Good for storing large files.
  • Cloud storage: Online storage that comes in public, private or hybrid configurations. Good for mobile access.
  • Offline media: Backing up data on to tape drives, DVDs or Blu-rays sounds a bit old-fashioned, but Google still backs up Gmail onto tape as a last resort and Facebook has its Blu-ray Cold Storage Data Center. Good for archiving.

How to choose your storage strategy

For most small and medium sized businesses, a combination of these storage solutions will make up a good strategy, but figuring out the ideal combination can be challenging. Small and medium-sized businesses need to analyse their storage needs closely, looking at which applications generate the most data, how quickly and from where most data needs to be accessed. They also need to assess how old the data is, if it’s being unnecessarily duplicated, and if it’s business related or operations related.

Mission-critical data, like operations-related software applications and the business website, is the most important regardless of the size of the company. Firms need to consider having at least two complete separate copies of this – with one offline – to ensure business continuity.

In the end, the budget and volume of data will help determine the combination of solutions an SMB requires. However, careful assessment of the data, the legal and regulatory ramifications, and business continuity are all essential for a secure and stable storage strategy.

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Do you need to upgrade your network?

Upgrading your company’s network isn’t likely to be cheap or straightforward. Your network affects every aspect of your business’ ICT, and downtime or making the wrong decisions will impact everyone.

Whether you’re replacing outdated technology or expanding your network infrastructure, regular upgrades are essential for keeping your business productive and profitable as well as your data secure. On the other hand, if your network is already fit for purpose, upgrading too early will mean unnecessary expenditure and hassle.

If you’re the one responsible for making that call, you should be able to evaluate your network’s suitability and decide whether it really needs an upgrade right now, what type of upgrade and how to make the switchover with as little impact on the day-to-day as possible.

What types of upgrades?

Networks aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution — they’re as diverse as your business needs them to be. Networks can be upgraded to:

  • Expand your range or capacity: As your business grows, so does your network. You could be adding more computers to your office, linking to remote locations or hiring more cloud storage to host your growing data.
  • Improve security: Network upgrades are an opportunity to improve your business’ resilience to cyberattacks. Updating hardware and software will help protect your company’s data and the privacy of your staff.
  • Boost productivity: Like any good investment, your network upgrade should pay for itself before long by improving productivity, saving time and reducing maintenance.

Figuring out what you need

Everyone on your network has unique needs and, while an upgrade may not be able to satisfy them all, you should aim for the best compromise. Talking to department heads and sending out surveys can offer valuable insights that you might not have considered.

You should also check capacity and usage statistics to see whether network speeds and storage need improvement. If you don’t have the resources or the know-how to evaluate your network capabilities, you can hire consultants to do it for you.

Planning the upgrade

Your survey results offer an idealistic guide to work from, but you first need to think about practicalities, such as:

  • How many devices need to connect to your network?
  • Will people connect to your network outside the office?
  • What type of software will they be using?
  • How much data is sent and received every day?

Any upgrades you make should primarily help your business achieve its objectives, which also means minimising the negative impact on the business and on users as much as possible.

You’ll never truly be finished upgrading your network but, through careful planning and projections, you can establish a flexible network capable of supporting future growth. Technology comes and goes, but the infrastructure you lay down today can future-proof your business for years to come — not to mention making subsequent upgrades a lot easier.

Wired or wireless?

One decision you could face when rolling out your new network is whether to replace your wired connection with a wireless network hosted in the cloud.

While wireless connections are more convenient, on-premise networks have traditionally been faster and more reliable, as they experience less downtime and don’t have the same range of limitations. This has started to change, however, and cloud services also offer adequate security for most business needs.

For many companies, a hybrid model is the ideal middle ground — storing less sensitive data and apps in the cloud while keeping more critical data on your premises. This can reduce costs and improve convenience while ensuring you’ll always have access to your data when you need it.

And that’s the key consideration — are you providing the people who use your network the speed, access and capabilities they need? If not, then it’s time to upgrade and ensure you’re not holding your business back.

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