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Could your business survive on a four-day week?

January 28, 2015 by John McGarvey

Working nine to five, five days a week. That’s the accepted norm for the working week.

But have you ever wondered what would happen if you changed working patterns? How about switching to a four-day week?

You might find that the idea of taking every Friday off appeals to many members of your team. And with work time more limited each week, they may find it easier to stay focused and get things done.

Some trailblazing companies already embrace the four-day week. And while bringing a four-day philosophy to an established company would certainly be a challenge, could it also spark new ideas and energy?

Citrix, the company behind online meeting and collaboration tool GoToMeeting, has created this infographic examining the pros and cons of a four-day working week:

Four-day week infographic{{}}]

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IT for Donuts: find out what Google thinks about you

January 26, 2015 by John McGarvey
Google logo{{}}

Image: Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

IT for Donuts is our regular feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

Today, we explain how to find out what sort of data Google is collecting on you, in order to show targeted advertising.

Your Google profile

You might not realise it, but if you browse the internet while you’re signed into Google, the search engine is using information about the sites you visit to create a profile of you.

It does this by tracking your visits to websites that are part of Google’s ad network. This includes any website that shows Google AdSense or banner adverts, such as those in the screenshot above.

This information is used to show you adverts that Google thinks you’ll be interested in.

See your Google advertising profile

If you’re intrigued about the profile Google has built up, you can view this easily when you’re signed in to Google:

  • Go to the Google home page (make sure you’re signed in).
  • At the top right of the screen, choose the small down arrow beside your Google username.
  • Select Account.
  • From the tabs at the top of the screen, choose Account history.
  • Scroll down to the Related settings
  • You’ll see a label for Ads. Next to this, choose Edit settings.
  • The page that appears will tell you what Google thinks it knows about you.

What information does Google build up?

The screen you see will show two columns. The first will show you what Google thinks it knows about you based on your use of Google services.

The second column shows you what information Google has built up as you’ve visited other websites showing Google ads.

This profile includes your:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Languages
  • Interests

You can use this page to edit these items (so you see more relevant ads).

Alternatively, if you’re worried about how Google uses this data, you can also choose to opt-out of interest-based ads. If you do this, you’ll see generic ads instead of targeted ones.

If – like most web users – Google is the first place you turn to find information, it’s worth checking out this profile page.

It provides an interesting insight into what sort of data the web giant holds about its users. And it’s a good illustration of how we pay for these ‘free’ services with data like this.

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

Our technology predictions for 2015

January 19, 2015 by John McGarvey
Contactless card{{}}

Editorial Credit: antb / Shutterstock.com

At the start of the year, it’s traditional for bloggers and internet pundits to predict what will happen over the next 12 months.

Obviously, those predictions are usually completely inaccurate. For instance, at the start of 2013, one expert said 3D presentations would be a big thing.

In the same spirit, here are four things we think might happen this year in business technology. Leave a comment at the bottom to add your own.

1. Contactless payments (finally) take off

Card issuers hoped we’d all start using contactless payments back in 2012. The London Olympics were meant to be a showcase for the technology, which allows you to make payments by tapping your credit or debit card on a card reader. There’s no need to sign or enter a PIN.

Back then, consumer apathy about the tap-and-go payments meant take-up was slow.

Fast-forward to the end of 2014, and contactless was growing more quickly. October 2014 saw UK contactless payments increase 292%, year-on-year.

We expect contactless to become far more common in 2015. As the convenience factor takes hold, consumers will expect retailers to offer it.

2. Wearable technology niches grow

Although Google Glass was much-trumpeted when it arrived back in 2013, its ungainly looks and intrusive nature have held it back — arguably more than its cost, poor battery life and lack of truly useful applications. It was canned last week, to many cries of 'I told you so'.

(As the BBC’s technology correspondent discovered, you’re in real trouble if Boris Johnson is mocking your choice of face-gear.)

However, wearable technology is on the march, and will grow in many niches this year. Although these will include industry-specific applications (Google Glass can be useful in a warehouse), we expect the idea of the ‘quantified self’ to really drive wearables forward.

That means we’re predicting a big increase in the market for gadgets that measure and track what we do, how we behave, and how healthy we are. Think stress management, exercise tracking and sleep monitoring.

3. Everyone catches up with mobile

According to Ofcom statistics, 58% of UK residents access the internet via mobile devices. Yet many business websites still fail to cater for the smaller screens of smart phones and tablets.

There’s no sign of this trend reversing in 2015, and so we think this will be the year when responsive web design becomes the norm.

If you’re redesigning your website, either by doing it yourself or working with an agency, make sure you think about how you cater for mobile users.

If your website doesn’t work properly on smart phones and other mobile devices then you could be excluding potential customers from your website.

4. We learn to live with security threats

The end of 2014 was marked by one of the highest-profile IT security incidents in history. The Sony Pictures hack included A-list names, embarrassing revelations and political intrigue. It was a reporter’s dream.

But while it might have made a good story, it was just one in a long line of security breaches that made the news. Thousands of others didn’t.

The online battles between hackers, security companies and government agencies are take place largely out of sight. But as online criminals become more sophisticated, they’re beginning to target individual organisations and people rather than relying on brute-force attacks.

We think this shift will make 2015 the year businesses start thinking about security in everything they do – and get better at taking precautions to minimise the risks.

Blog written by John McGarvey, editor of the IT Donut.

Posted in The internet | Tagged predictions | 0 comments

How to run a webinar: key tips

January 12, 2015 by IT Donut contributor

How to run a webinar{{}}A few years ago, telling colleagues you were going to run a webinar would have prompted lots of questions.

These days, webinars are an accepted part of the marketing mix, especially when selling to other businesses or making presentations to clients.

However, running a webinar is a skill in itself. Many people get the basics wrong, so here are five tips on how to run a webinar.

1. Run your webinar professionally

Your audience might be on the other side of a computer screen, but that doesn’t mean you should be any less than professional when you host your webinar.

Some people believe they behave more professionally and work more diligently when kitted out in smart attire. If you’re getting ready to run a webinar, consider dressing as if you were attending a real-life meeting.

That means no pyjamas, tracksuits, or — dare I say it — onesies!

2. Don’t multitask while hosting a webinar

If you’re trying to figure out how to run a webinar, one piece of advice is simple: keep your attention on the webinar at all times.

Don't be tempted to send a quick text or check your emails while you’re hosting the webinar. People may twig that you’re not fully engaged. And if you’re not, why should they be?

Shut down any software on your computer that isn’t related to hosting the webinar. You don’t want notifications or embarrassing emails popping up while you share your screen.

3. Be an accommodating host

You’re the one running the webinar, so it’s your job to make sure it starts when schedule. In fact, it’s a good idea to get there early so everyone has a chance to get to grips with your webinar system’s interface.

If people run into difficulties while the webinar is running, be as accommodating as possible. After all, not everyone is tech-savvy.

4. Check your video and audio settings

It's important your webinar’s audio and visuals are as good as possible. Set your screen’s resolution to 1024x786. This should display well on most computers without consuming too much bandwidth.

If you need people to follow what you’re doing on screen, don’t move the mouse too quickly. Double-check your volume, as well. You want to be clear, but not deafening.

5. Be a friendly webinar host

When you start running the webinar, take the time to introduce yourself and everyone else who’ll be presenting. Make sure you explain how the webinar is structured, so people know what to expect.

If you’re hosting an online meeting with discussions, encourage everyone else to introduce themselves too.

Webinars are a powerful way to connect with people in different locations — even when they’re on different continents. Encouraging people to attend is often the hardest bit. Once they’ve logged on, make sure you give them something they won’t forget.

 Copyright © 2014 Gary Gould, co-founder and CEO of Compare Cloudware Ltd

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Will we ever let go of text messages?

January 05, 2015 by IT Donut contributor

Text message{{}}The first text message was sent back in 1992, which means the SMS message is now 22 years old.

Not many technologies make it to that sort of age without a few cracks showing, but text messages are proving remarkably resilient — even in an age of instant messaging services like WhatsApp.

The development of text message

Developed in the 1980s as a part of the GSM mobile phone standard, the first ever SMS with the words Merry Christmas wasn’t actually sent from a phone, but from a computer. Up to that point, mobile phones hadn’t needed to support a messaging function.

And really, it wasn’t until mobile operators dramatically improved the user experience in the late 1990s and early 2000s that SMS really took off.

The development of text messaging was spearheaded by the UK and Scandinavian countries, but it really didn’t take long for SMS to spread globally.

For instance, in the US text messaging really exploded when text voting was introduced in the American Idol TV show.

Text messages and security

New applications keep emerging for text messages, even though the technology is well into its third decade.

Banks have picked up on the fact that professional SMS platforms have greatly improved their security features in the last few years, allowing financial institutions to use text messages to deliver sensitive information.

In fact, security is a common theme for text messages. In 2014, two-factor authentication — which often relies on SMS — has been thrown into the spotlight.

High profile security breaches — such as the iCloud hack — have seen a wide scale roll out of SMS based two-factor authentication. This turns any mobile phone into an extra layer of security, without requiring extra equipment.

The future of SMS

Text messages provide a robust channel that’s ideal for emergencies, allowing public services to broadcast information. It can also be a good fall back option for mobile users when voice or data services are down.

The increasing numbers of cities and counties across the US rolling out text-to-911 services is just one example of how SMS is growing around the world.

To put it simply, text messages aren’t going anywhere. The technology might be 22 years old, but the way in which it continues to adapt and evolve marks it as a technology that will stand the test of time.

Learn more about using SMS in your business:

Copyright © 2014 Silvio Kutic of Infobip.

A new, speedy way to visualise data

December 29, 2014 by John McGarvey

charted.co in action{{}}Businesses create more data than ever before. And even if you’ve not consciously set out to gather more information, your company probably has more statistics in more spreadsheets than you know what to do with.

There’s knowledge buried in that data. The challenge is getting at it.

Visualisations can help

One of the problems with trying to interpret data is that it can be overwhelming. Contained in a spreadsheet or a text document, the figures can be tremendously daunting.

How do you identify the meaning in a list of hundreds or thousands of numbers?

A good way to start is by finding a way to visualise that data. Graphs and charts make it easier for us to see the trends and patterns buried in figures.

(This doesn’t always work, mind you – just witness the flood of bad infographics that have peppered the web over the last couple of years.)

Still, it’s worth a try. And now a new tool has come along to make visualising data that bit quicker and easier.

Introducing Charted

Charted is an online data visualisation tool created by the people who run popular content platform Medium.

It’s not a fully-featured charting app — it’s nowhere near as flexible as Excel’s chart functions, for instance — but that’s kind of the point.

What it lacks in features, it makes up in ease of use. Creating a chart in Charted is exceptionally straightforward. All you need to do is give it the URL of a shared document.

This can be a file that you’ve saved and shared on Google Drive, shared on Dropbox – or uploaded to any cloud storage service that lets you share files.

Once you’ve shared the document, just go to the Charted website and paste the URL into the big box there. Then hit Go. You’ll see a clear representation of your data, along with a couple of options.

Charted is great for sharing visualisations, because you can just send the Charted link to anyone you like.

The chart automatically resizes to fit the window in which it’s displayed. And if your source data changes, so does the chart (it updates itself every 30 minutes).

It’s easy to give it a go, right here.

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