Cyber Security Tips

Safe computing practices include a combination of physically and technically protecting your computing devices with software and by your actions. You need both. With cyber security, there is no substitute for user awareness and behavior. Cyber security begins with you.

  1. Software Updates: Many software applications including security software and browsers when configured automatically connect and update. Configure your computer for automatic software and operating system updates.  Check that anti-virus software is always up to date.  An unpatched computer, tablet or mobile device is more likely to have vulnerabilities.
  2. Password Management: Practice good password management. Use strong passwords by combining uppercase and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a strong, secure password. Do not use the same password for multiple sites. Do not share your password. Do not write it down. Use a password manager software such as SplashID, 1Password or LastPass.
  3. Device Access: Never leave your devices unattended, especially in public places. If you need to leave your computer, phone, or tablet lock it while you’re gone. If you keep sensitive information on a flash drive or external hard drive, lock it up.  Physical security of your device is just as important as technical security.
  4. Firewalls: Macintosh and Windows computers have operating system firewalls. When set up properly, these firewalls protect your computer.
  5. Trust: Always be careful when clicking on attachments or links in email or web sites. Ignore unsolicited emails, and be wary of attachments, links and forms in emails that come from sources you do not trust, you do not know or seem "phishy."  If it’s unexpected or suspicious, do not click on it.  Avoid untrustworthy downloads from freeware or shareware sites.  Be careful what you plug in to your computer. Malware can be spread through infected flash drives, external drives and smartphones.
  6. Secure Connections: When connected to the Internet use secure connections. Look at the URL to ensure you are on a HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) site. With unsecure connections your data is vulnerable in transit.  Sensitive browsing, such as banking or shopping, should only be done on a device you own and on a network that you trust.  Whether a friend’s phone, a public computer or free WiFi, your data can be stolen. 
  7. Backup:  Back up your data regularly and automatically.  Backing up your machine regularly can protect you from the unexpected. Keep several months' worth of backups and verify the files can be restored.
  8. Sharing: Watch what you are sharing on social networks. Criminals will befriend you and gain access to information that helps them gain access to more valuable data.
  9. Social Engineering: Offline, be wary of social engineering, where someone attempts to gain information from you through manipulation. If someone calls or emails you asking for sensitive information, say no. Call the company directly to verify credentials before giving out information.
  10. Monitoring: Monitor your accounts and transactions for suspicious activity. If you notice something unfamiliar, it may be a sign that you were compromised.  Many financial institutions offer activity notifications for your protection.
  11. Stay Informed: Stay current with the latest security threats and developments.  The following are additional resources. 

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What are Managed Services?

Every service provider knows that the managed services business model is superior to the break-fix model, right?  You don’t need me to tell you that a proactive, preventative approach to IT service is more efficient than running around putting out fires.  It leads to lower total cost of ownership and higher return on investment.  However, convincing business leaders is a different story. Generally, they are happy with the service.  They simply don’t know any better.

Even more important than what we build, is how we service and support our solutions, offering management, remote monitoring and diagnostics, software stack management, and configuration management to maximize system performance, ensure long life, and deliver high availability. 

Managed Services are customized and proactive services solution designed to minimize downtime through 24x7x365 proactive monitoring and remote incident remediation with a “live” team utilizing best practice thresholds to ensure maximum system availability.  Comprehensive managed services are an extension of the service team providing trend analysis with recurring incident reporting, proactive system health reporting, and best practice recommendations to ensure your application is operating at peak performance.  Perhaps most important, managed services allow service providers to diagnose and correct issues before they affect your productivity.

Typically management functions are integrated within a common framework and a single tool from which to implement maintenance and remediate issues.  Management data flows throughout the platform, arming technicians with the information they need to proactively (and sometimes reactively) solve issues.  

As a result, systems are more productive and costs less, productivity increases, and the risk of security breaches and data loss are dramatically reduced.

 

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Workplace Communications Channels

Communications was simpler from the perspective of communications methods in the workplace when there were fewer choices.  Technology gave us more communication choices and more communication bad habits, misuse and abuse.  We have chat, Intranet, email, phone, voice mail, mobile phone, in-person meetings, presentation meetings, web meetings, micro blogs, blogs, social networks, text messaging, recorded audio, digital display, and analog letters.  We tend to gravitate toward and overuse communications methods we are comfortable with and under utilize other communications methods.  Some people prefer verbal communications methods such as meetings or phone calls.  Other people are more comfortable with written communications methods. 

Email is effective when the topic is a simple question/answer or a response that benefits from written documentation.  Email is not for conversations.  Multiple responses in an email thread is a sign another communications method is more effective.   Email is non-intrusive and does not cause interruption.

Chat is appropriate for short, less formal conversation similar to a phone call or hallway conversation.  Chat is effective as a parallel communications or back channel communications.  Chat is useful for requesting information privately in the background that benefits the primary conversation.  For example, chatting with a co-worker while on a customer conference call to coordinate question response.  Another example is while on a customer support call to answer question while talking with the customer.  

A company Intranet is effective for mass communications such as an announcement.  An Intranet using tools such as Microsoft SharePoint is effective as a central shared repository with shared open authoring.  Intranets are effective for memorialize information and knowledge sharing, since the information is available to anyone with access.  Unlike email which is held by the audience on the distribution list. 

Phone communications typically provides immediate clarification, feedback and confirmation.  Phone conversation are generally undocumented communications.   Phone communications is effective when the topic requires a dialog yet fairly straight forward and does not require visual aids or body gesture interpretation.

Mobile phone are best for informal conversation with established relationships.  A colleague or friend may excuse a bad connection or disconnection.

Voice mail is an effective independent, standalone form of communications when not used to request a call back.  Voice mail works well when communications is informational and verbal communications is more efficient than written communications.  Purposely using voicemail is an underutilized method of communications that is an alternative to email when traveling. 

Meetings come in many forms and formats.

In-person meetings are best when a topic requires collaboration, work, or discussion to achieve an objective.  Use in-person meetings when the topic is sensitive or requires interpretation of non-verbal communications, context and nuances.  In-person group meetings are relatively inefficient and more time consuming to organize.  In face-to-face discussion, participants usually are unable to deeply think about the discussion even when there is agenda or meeting preparation.   In-person meetings are over-utilized.   

Presentations are best when communications is one-way and requires physical visual communications.  Technology affords us the opportunity to present through various channels such over the web, video conference and live or prerecorded. If a presentation benefits from questions or discussion, consider providing the lecture in advance and meet for questions and answers and discussion.   This provides a significant time saving and time shifting opportunity that many college courses use.

Use web meetings, such as a WebEx, for topics requiring clarification, feedback and confirmation and visual aids, but does not require interpretation of non-verbal communications.  On-demand web meetings is an underutilized tool.  Unfamiliarity with the web tools often leads to struggling through verbally describing a software application or working off two copies of a document.

Using a company micro blog, such as Yammer, is effective for company informational topics that benefits from socialization or crowd sourcing analysis.   Use public micro blogging, such as Twitter, for public informational topics that similarly benefits from socialization or crowd sourcing analysis but are not company confidential or sensitive. 

Blogs work best for communications in the form of an article that is informational, educational, or relevant to a target audience.

Social networking, such as LinkedIn, similar to a blog is useful when informal communications is generally informational, educational, or interesting and benefits from socialization or crowd sourcing analysis.

Text messaging is best for urgent communications that requires a short or no response.  Younger generations may debate this.  At limited times, it is useful as back channel communications in meetings between colleagues to quietly get the speaker a reminder or a correction. 

Recorded audio is an underutilized channel of company communications useful in one-way communications that does not require visual communications.  Audio offers time shifting opportunities for the recipient by listening while driving or exercising. 

Digital displays are the contemporary version of the bulletin board with more messaging and format opportunities.  Digital displays unlike a bulletin board are capable of displaying video.   In some environments a digital display can include audio.  Digital displays are capable of displaying real-time content, such as company news feeds, blogs and micro blogs.

Analog letters remain a channel for marketing, legal or special communications.

We have bad habits carried over from old communications channels.  For example, writing an analog letter or memo and attaching and sending it to an email message.  This prevents the reader from previewing the messages, the message attachment is most likely not searchable and probably not mobile friendly. 

How effectively are you using the available forms of communications today?  Do you communication through channels outside your comfort zone?


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TIP: Voice Mail Management

Instead of managing multiple voice mailboxes from multiple phones, forward your phones to one voice mail system.  For example, I forward my mobile iPhone on AT&T to my direct work phone number for unanswered, busy or phone off.   If I do not answer this transfers the call to voice mail.  Then I have one voice mail system to learn and manage.  Plus, in my case, I take advantage of the Cisco voice mail features such as unified messaging, inbox rules, notifications and alternate greetings.  The link is a tutorial on call forwarding for the iPhone on AT&T.  It is a similar process for other mobile phones and service providers. Remember first to setup your voice mail (i.e. greeting) and test it.


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Mobile Device Security

The proliferation of mobile computing devices presents a significant opportunity and risk.  Mobile devices may contain sensitive or confidential information.  The security of mobile devices is often voluntary or unmanaged in most organizatoins and therefore, a vulnerability. The best security for mobile storage such as a laptop drive or USB drive is not using mobile storage.  Many organizations have secure, shared storage.  However if it is necessary,  many encryption security tools are available for securing data on mobile devices.  The following are a few examples.

  • BitLocker: BitLocker is a Microsoft encryption tool available in Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. BitLocker can encrypt laptops, desktops and USB jump drive devices. BitLocker integrates with Active Directory allowing for basic reporting and auditing. However, if the password is lost, data will be unrecoverable. BitLocker supports Windows 7 and Vista, with read only capacity in XP. 
  • TrueCrypt: A free, open-source multi-platform encryption software tool. It runs on multiple platforms. It has no central network based administrative controls. Therefore, if the password is lost, data will be unrecoverable. TrueCrypt supports multiple platforms including laptops and desktops running Windows 7/Vista/XP, Linux and Macintosh operating systems. It can encrypt USB devices and external drives. Also, TrueCrypt does not provide basic reporting and auditing and therefore may not meet certain regulatory requirements.
  • IronKey:  A USB storage device that has hardware based encryption. Although IronKey has no central reporting, it does have a mechanism to recover passwords using the IronKey secure website.

The most prevalent mobile device threat is email account access.  Mobile device access typically allows access to email accounts.  Many applications will reset a password via an email account.  Therefore email account access can compromise application security.  This is another reason why mobile device security is important.  Use a password to secure your mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.).

Organiztions need to consider Mobile Device Management (MDM) as a security measure.  In the meantime, users should become familiar with remote wipe and remote lock features such as Apple offers through iCloud.


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The Importance of Tuesday's Election on Wisconsin Business

A letter from Ed Krajcir, President of the Milwaukee office of Sunbelt Business Brokers. Our firm works directly with hundreds of businesses on an annual basis.  As business owners and residents of the state of Wisconsin we have a very important decision to make next Tuesday June 5th. Our decision will have a far reaching effect for the future of our State.

Our vote will impact:

Perception outside of Wisconsin on our business environment

We are in competition with 49 other states and 160 foreign countries to attract businesses to Wisconsin.  Speaking from someone who has worked in many countries around the world including China and countries in Europe, the upper Midwest has one of the strongest work ethics anywhere.  Companies want to move here and employ people from our great state but the tax, political and regulatory environments have been perceived to be adversarial for business.  The best example is the Iron Ore Mine proposal in northern Wisconsin which was shot down because of political reasons.  

Tuesday our votes will make a statement; will we welcome new businesses to Wisconsin or send them elsewhere?

State workers

What has been lost in all the political rhetoric is the intentions of the politicians being recalled.  Our state and local municipalities could not afford to continue to provide the same level of service to our residents.  The options were to make drastic cut backs in service which would have meant massive layoffs of teachers and public workers. Option two was huge tax increases which would have sent a bad message to business and would have stunted if not cost the state more jobs.  The third and chosen option was some small shared sacrifices by public workers. This option allowed many of them to keep their jobs all the while providing the same level of service to the residents of the State of Wisconsin. In addition, it allowed individual employees to be rewarded based on their work performance. In the past these exceptional employees could not be rewarded individually for their outstanding performance. Workers were also given the opportunity to decide whether or not they wanted to be in the union. This is one of the most basic of decisions that a public worker should be allowed to make. 

Since the passing of Act 10, local school boards are now able to shop their health insurance. In the past they were forced to buy the health insurance from WEA Trust. Facts have shown WEA Trust over charged the school districts tens of millions of dollars. This money could have been used to hire more teachers, reduce class sizes or provide other opportunities for our children.

Tuesday our votes will decide if we want to maintain our level of services, not have massive layoffs of public workers and do this while welcoming business to Wisconsin.

What has the last 17 months meant to Wisconsin business?
The following are some pro business bills that have passed over in the last 17 months.

  1. Qualified Production tax credit
  2. No tax hike budget
  3. Control and cap of property taxes
  4. Control of wage & benefit spending
  5. Capital gains exclusion for Wisconsin Investment
  6. A 2 year corporate income tax holiday for re-locating businesses
  7. Job Creation tax credit
  8. Tax deduction for HSA’s
  9. Legal reforms requiring guilt for judgment
  10. Comprehensive lawsuit reform
  11. Punitive damage limits
  12. Product liability time limits
  13. Expert witness reform
  14. Revamping of rules & regulations with Governor’s ability to veto new regulations
  15. Cost benefit analysis
  16. Eliminating local government’s ability to impose sick leave laws
  17. DNR wetland reform legislation and a complete revamp of the Departments with a focus on the tax payer as a customer

These bills have led to some major changes in the perception of our business community.  A survey conducted of the Wisconsin Manufacturer’s & Commerce Business Climate in 2010 said 10% of State C-level executives think the State was headed in the right direction compared to 94% thinking we were headed in the right direction in January of 2012.

CEO Magazine released their annual rankings a few weeks ago and Wisconsin has gone from the 41st ranked State to conduct business to the 20th best in the past 2 years. This is also the most rapid ascension in the history of the Magazine.

On Tuesday our votes will decide the direction of our state. Please remember to go and vote on Tuesday!

Warm regards,

Ed Krajcir


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Portfolio Management

We face an environment that is rich in need, complexity and opportunity. No single opportunity can dominate our attention or define the path forward. Technology's use has become widespread. It facilitates our collaboration. Our success in using technology has made technology strategy and prioritization more challenging and more essential, requiring a framework for making choices and a discipline for making technology investments.

Portfolio management is the application of systematic management of information technology initiatives, projects, and ongoing services.  Portfolio management is the quantification of efforts, enabling measurement and objective evaluation of investments.

We advise our clients to use a portfolio management approach that includes the following metrics to evaluate and prioritize investments and initiatives.  Further evaluation is done after performing high level prioritization.

  • Return On Investment -  Estimated Return On Investment calculating 3 year payback or return/benefit: 1) >100%; 2) 100%-75%; 3) 75%-50%; 4) 50%-25%; 5) 25%-0%
  • Time - Estimated time the project would require: 1) <100hrs, 2) 100-499hrs, 3) 500-1999hrs, 4) High 2000-5000hrs and 5) >5000hrs
  • Impact - Estimated number of customers impacted: 1) All users; 2) Most users;  3) 3 or more departments; 4) one or two departments and 5) few users
  • Service Value - Estimated Service Value (customer orientation) not measured in ROI 1) High Value - 5) Low Value
  • Compliance – State, Federal and Industry Legal and Regulatory Compliance: 1) Yes or 5) No

These values are multiplied to calculate a Relative Prioritization Number (RPN).

This approach aids planning efforts and diffuses conflict, because leaders understand you are spending limited resources to best support organizational priorities. 


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Calendaring Tips

Most of us use electronic calendar to stay organized and to collaborate with others.  These applications enable efficiency when used effectively.  The follow are tips for effective electronic calendaring.   
When setting up a calendar event or appointment considering the following.
  • Block time in your calendar to complete, review and update tasks, meeting preparation time and responding to email.
  • Review calendar weekly to make sure it aligns with priorities, and reschedule or delegate. appropriately.  Otherwise, it is easy to get side-tracked with less important duties/obligations and the must-haves don't get done.
  • Use descriptive locations for directions/address for the meeting.
  • Use the calendar notes for meeting agenda, information, links to documents.
  • If schedule meeting in different zones, display time zone to meeting.
  • Include meeting agenda, email or document in calendar notes for meeting.
  • Set reminders 5-15-30 minutes before meeting.
  • Include travel time and actual meeting start time on calendar
  • Scheduling resources features allow you to reserve a room, portable projector or speaker phone
  • Calendar sharing features grants permission to other people to view your calendar. Co-workers can display your free/busy times.  If you choose to share your calendar be sure to use the private lock for sensitive subjects.
  • Publish or share subject and location with co-workers to faciliate scheduling.
What you should not do in calendar.
  • Ask for availability when someone is granting you access to their calendar.
  • Send an email that you are scheduling an appointment.
  • Sending an email instead of an appointment request.
  • Sending an email after sending the appointment request with information about the appointment.

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VoIP – What’s Not to Like?

VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology has been around since the mid-90’s, yet for many IT managers, the benefits still don’t outweigh the risks. Since we sell, use (and love) the technology, we respectively beg to differ with those faint-at-heart IT managers. Let us tell you why:
COST SAVINGS
In a down economy, you need to save a buck wherever you can, and implementing VoIP technology can save you plenty of dough. You’ll realize reduced equipment and maintenance costs (why?). Support and administrative costs can be reduced by as much as 50% (source) with easy-to-manage moves, adds and changes. And network carrier costs can be reduced through the cost savings on long distance and international calling.
INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY
If you’re like most businesses, customer service is paramount to the success of your company. With VoIP-specific features like Find Me/Follow Me, employees can take calls on the shop floor, warehouse or wherever they may happen to be, meaning customers don’t have to wait for their calls to be returned. And because a company’s voice and data is integrated employees can access customer information and check inventory in real-time. In addition, employees can be as productive out of the office as they are in it because they can route calls made to their office number to their mobile or home phone. And VoIP technology makes sharing resources like directories, daily calendars, email and voice mail on LCD displays a breeze.
IMPROVED CALL QUALITY
OK, we have to admit that ten years ago call quality was a legitimate VoIP issue. But not today. Most businesses are using IP telephony across their own managed private networks because it allows them to better handle security and service quality. Using their own networks, companies have more control in ensuring that voice quality is as good as, if not better than, the services they would have previously experienced with their traditional phone system.
ENHANCED FUNCTIONALITY
For many people, Internet Protocol (IP) is more than just a way to transport data, it’s also a tool that simplifies and streamlines a wide range of business applications. VoIP is the foundation for more advanced unified communications applications – like Web and video conferencing – that can transform the way you do business. This rich-media conferencing application seamlessly integrates voice, video and Web conferencing capabilities to make setting up, attending and managing meetings a breeze, and you’ll never have to leave your office.( Not to mention the cost and environmental savings associated with reducing your carbon footprint!)
DON’T TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT
According to the marketing research company Dell’Oro Group, IP lines will grow to almost 60 percent of small business line shipments by the end of 2011, while digital and analog shipments are expected to decline at an average of 10 percent per year. It may be time for you to trade in your legacy TDM-based telephony system for the cost savings and productivity gains associated with a VoIP solution. 


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Who Is Your Information Curator?

Data retention is an issue that goes beyond the risk of retaining data subject to legal discovery. There is a cost to retaining data, which is much greater than the cost of storage. We risk our own productivity as we accumulate and retain data that has lost its usefulness. Google, Bing and other search tools are working to improve the relevance of search results. This battle is escalating as data accumulates at a rapid pace. We experience information fatigue, especially when we cannot find relevant information in a sea of data. As information workers, our ability to efficiently and effectively access relevant data can be a competitive advantage. Cleaning, possibly by eliminating outdated or redundant data, is part of the solution. We have opportunities to organize, store and manage information collectively to improve our productivity. Who is your information curator?  How do you managing information effectively? These are burning question many organization are facing.  Technology is only part of the solution.  My colleagues and I are addressing these challenges with clients.  Are you feeling this pain?  Contact us or contact me.


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Notes and Notebooks

My method similar to my task list is to maintain one “notebook” or notes location.  My notes become an important preparation tool.  I prepare for meetings by copying the meeting agenda into the note and then adding my notes or questions.  In preparation, I add documents and links into the note.

When notes contribute to a product such as meeting minutes, a plan or task, I’m avoiding the note step and recording the information in the target document.  I’m recording or assigning a task directly or asking a question by composing an email rather than recording a note only to transfer it to a later.  This saves a step or transfer.  Therefore, notes are a temporary record.  My notebook does not become a personal storage cabinet.  The information is stored in a shared location in the form of minutes, assignments, task, emails, etc.  This gives my co-workers access to the information.

My note taking application is Evernote.  Evernote has clients for Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android and Web. Notes are stored in the cloud and synced to the clients for access offline.  There are other features such as the ability to email notes to your Evernote notebook, tags and shared notebooks.


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Task Management

The foundation of my work flow is based on the bestselling book, Getting Things Done by David Allen43 folders is a productivity blog that’s name, 43 folders, comes from this book.  I practice the 4 D’s when processing stuff such as email – do it, delegate it, defer it or delete it.

All my to do’s are in my Outlook Task list.  I’ve eliminated multiple to do lists such as a day planner, note pads, post-it notes and email inbox.  There is typically no email in my inbox.  It does not become another to do list.   The Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook is a good guide for task management using Microsoft Outlook.  I reference my tasks on the go with IMExchange, which synchronizes directly with tasks in Microsoft Exchange/Outlook. With mobile access to tasks, I can complete tasks such as making or returning phone calls while out of the office. 

Tasks format and task content is important for effectively completing task while mobile or out of the office. For example, including a phone number in the tasks description allows me to select the link from my mobile phone to place the call. 

I’ve separated my work tasks from my personal tasks.  For managing personal tasks, I prefer using Toodledo, which synchronizes with Outlook and offers web and mobile access. 

Effective work flow management and effective use of tools make a difference managing work and priorities.


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Information Consumption: Manage the Flood of Information

One job duty of information workers is information consumption.  Efficient information consumption makes a difference in job performance.

My day begins with exercise, which is an excellent time for learning by listening to books or Podcasts, which I download to my iPhone 4. My source for audio books is audible.com. iTunes is my source for Podcasts. My favorite Podcast are business, computer and technology topics. For example, I’m a Podcast subscriber to Educause, Harvard Business Review IdeaCast and Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Walking between appointments or my commute is another great time to listen to audio books and Podcasts content.

For the car, I have an iPhone car kit from iCarKits and a fitted iPhone holder from ProClips. The iPhone mount makes the iPhone accessible for touch input. The Bluetooth interface in the car allows hands free calling.

When I read versus listen to books I use the Kindle eReader on my iPad and iPhone. The books I buy in written digital form are typically reference books. This allows me to carry a library of reference books and material with me. With the Kindle eReader, I can highlight, add notes and bookmark, which also travels with me. The search feature allows me to search my entire library for information on a particular topic. In the past several years I’ve given away most of my paper books.

My reading list is shared on Facebook using the weRead application and on LinkedIn using the ReadingList by Amazon application. By sharing my reading list I have access to other reading list and discovery good books.

For news, my iPad delivers this content from a variety of sources. Paper is almost non-existent in my work or personal life including newspapers and magazines. I find the iPad to be the best device for information consumption, especially if designed for the device. Sitting in an easy chair with my iPad versus sitting at a desk looking at computer screen is better experience for reading. I’ve modified my workflow to set aside reading for a time when I can sit comfortably with my iPad. Some of my favorite sources include USA Today, Mashable, Wired, and Zinio for digital magazines. Digital magazines are great for travel because they do not add any weight to your travel pack and they are typically less expense than if purchase from the news stand.

Another important tool for news is Google Reader. Google Reader aggregates RSS news feeds from a variety of sources, providing me filtered news. Skimming through headlines on my iPhone is a great use of time when you are walking between appointments or waiting for an appointment. With the Google Reader I can quickly mark items for reading later. On my iPad I use NewsRack to review headlines and read full news articles at optimal times and places. As a rule I stay away from general news sites such as msnbc.com because most news is a distraction and you get sucked into unimportant, although possibly entertaining, time wasting junk.

Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google search results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. For example, I use Google Alerts to track “Tushaus”. This pushes time sensitive information to me in near real-time.

Our organization uses Yammer to facilitate communications with our co-workers. It provides a forum for user to post work activities and work news. My posts intend to inform and share important and relevant work communications.

Twitter is useful if managed effectively. By following interesting people, it uses crowd sourcing curates news.
My browser of choice is Google Chrome, although it is sometimes necessary to use Microsoft Internet Explorer due to incompatible applications. The most important feature is the bookmark synchronization. With a Google account my bookmarks synchronize automatically on multiple computers. My browser is set to remember web sites open in tabs when I closed the applications and reopen them again when I start the browser. I’ve found I regularly use 10 web sites that I keep open in a tab at all times. By using a Google account, Google tracks my search and browsing activity. Google uses this information to improve or personal search results based on past activity. Google keeps a history of search my activity which I find useful.

Information management will only become more important.


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Make Time for Discovery and Learning

My work habits include constant, deliberate discovery and experimentation, which leads to change, innovation, improvement and refinement.  How I work today is the result of years of effort.  My work week includes time for deliberate discovery and experimentation. It is a component of lifelong learning.  During the week I may bookmark an article, idea or observation.  This time is spent searching and exploring for applications, software and methods.  The time is spent experimenting with new applications or work flow. Wakoopa leverage “friends” for the discovery of software application and web applications.  Wakoopa records application you use and shares them with your friends or co-workers.  Follow greggtushaus on Wakoopa to see the applications I use. Appolicious uses a similar concept applied to iPhone and iPad applications, plus it includes reviews.   Friend greggtushaus on Appolicious for a complete list of iPhone and iPad applications I use. Both services are free.


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iPhones Are Everywhere. Really?

In Las Vegas there is a lot to observe.  While there recently and walking the strip, one observation I made is iPhones seem to be everywhere.  Why is this?  It is not because the iPhone has the largest market share.  In fact, Apple has only 16% of the global smart-phone market share. Why is the iPhone "everywhere"?  Because the iPhone is the smart-phone that people use.  These people are not just the geeks.  Beyond, phone calls and email, people are using iPhones for many applications.  I have nearly 90 applications on my iPhone.  Half of these applications I use frequently.  This explains why we see what seems like so many iPhones.  Other devices are in peoples pockets or purses.  People really use iPhones.  Is this a reflection of the people buying these devices or of the device itself.  Probably both.  These buyers want more than a phone but so do presumably other smart-phone buyers.  The iPhone along with the applications is making a difference in people's lives.  We need to take notice and understand it.  It is not enough or maybe it is too much to create appealing, "open" products with a zillion features.  It seems Apple understands ordinary people.  This is good.  For the rest of us delivering computer products and services, do you understand?


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Microsoft Word Features Everyone Should Use

Companies and people invest in useful tools yet barely use 2% of the features. Everyone should invest the time learning at least basic features. Effective use of software will improve your productivity. Microsoft Word is possibly the most commonly used software applications. While it has been in use for many years it is not uncommon to find users not using basic features. Features which will improve efficiency with co-workers since we often share documents for collaboration. The following are basic features drawn from my experience of the most common misuses of a word processor (Word).

  • Page Break. Hitting the return key until the text breaks to the next page is bad form. As soon as text is added or deleted it troughs off the paging. In Word use Control-Enter. It inserts a page break that maintains its position as text is added or deleted.
  • Bullets. Entering letters, numbers, or symbols manually as bullets will eventually lead to frustration and unnecessary work as the content develops. Applying bullet formatting automatically adjusts the bullets as content develops. Further, using the proper style of bullets such as outlining and then indenting the levels eases the editing.
  • Decimal Tabs. Using a left aligned tab and spaces to right align numbers will lead to madness. Use the ruler and select and set decimal tab when aligning numbers.
  • Thesaurus. The built-in thesaurus is a important feature for good writing. In Word position the cursor on the word and press Shift F7.
  • Styles. Using and applying styles versus changing fonts, sizes, paragraph settings, etc. is a big time saver since one change to a style changes the text in the entire document. It is painful watching a user change text formatting line by line in a document because styles were not used. Along the same lines, use Clear Formatting to strip the manual formatting applied to text before applying a style.
  • Track Changes. The use of track changes feature is essential for effective collaboration. Saving multiple version copies of a document or exchanging changes via email is cumbersome. Track changes identifies the editor and allows the owner to easily accept of reject changes.
  • Comments. It is painful to watch users highlight text, change colors, or use color to make inline "comments", when Word has commenting functionality that does not get in the way of the document content and flow. Then later removing the colors, text, etc. is very time consuming. In Word, simply highlight the text that is the subject of the comment and select comment under on the review ribbon. Comments can be removed easily and excluded when printing.
  • Tables. With a little effort understanding tables and column and row formatting simplifies many formatting and alignment needs.
  • Headers and Footers. Repeating a heading on each page by inserting it in the flow of the text is extra work when Word provides a header and footer feature that automatically places a header and footer on every page, every odd page, every even page, etc.
  • Watermarks. The watermark is a great way to indicate a document is in draft form. Imbedding draft in the title or footer tends to get lost and is more difficult to remove once a document reaches final form.

Microsoft provides free online training course for all of these basic features, which are found from the links above.


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Is the iPad a Business Tool?

With every computing device there are limits and trade offs.  We need to ask, what business problem are we solving and then find the best solution.  Desktop, notebook, sub-notebook, tablet and mobile all serve a purpose.  Although the days are numbered for the sub-notebooks as we know them.  When we have a "new" category the problem may not be evident.  The category is not new.  Rather the design and innovation applied by Apple to the category is new.  It is also important to recognize that technologies supporting this device such as cloud computing, pervasive wireless and digitization are coming of age.  The iPad (and other tablets) can not succeed without these supporting technologies.  There is a technology convergence underway that makes the business solution possible.

Specifically here I'm examining the use case for the executive or manager. The business use case for the iPad requires different thinking.  It requires different working.  The benefits are more informed, efficient and effective work, resulting in better decisions.  Most importantly accomplishing this requires access to information anywhere, anytime.  Accessing a document from your iPad when you need it cannot happen if the document is in a paper filing cabinet or on your desktop "C:" drive.  Storing and sharing information in the cloud using a service such as box.net or Dropbox makes the information accessible from a tablet or any device with Internet access.  Along with this, efficient and effective tablet utilization requires a commitment to working "paperless".  The change in work habits, not the technology is the biggest challenge for most people.  Many businesses therefore need to change how they operate.  IT organization may need changes to support this paradigm shift.

Given these prerequisites, the applications make the use case possible.  The usability depends on thoughtful redesign of applications for the iPad not just iPhone application transfers.  iPhone applications, while they run on the iPad, are awkward and inadequate.  The initial wave of applications provide, for the executive or manager, the critical or essential applications.  More applications are needed.  The following is a list of essential functions and application recommendations.
  • Email.  The native email application is good for consumption and basic composition of email.   
  • Book and Magazine Reading. - The Kindle and iBooks applications are good book readers.  Books and magazines from smart publishers will become applications and in time will barely resemble the paper form.  Digital books and magazines have the potential to offer more then the paper form.  We are seeing this already. 
  • News Reading.  Feeddler RSS Reader is an early favorite for news.  My news consumption is through Google Reader.  Feeddler RSS Reader, among others, synchronizes with Google Reader. There is room for improvement here.
  • Document Reading.  Similar to the traditional paper inbox, contracts, proposals, letters, etc. end up in a folder on box.net or Dropbox for reading and review including when offline.
  • Notes.  The iPad replaces the paper notebook.  Evernote is a good choice for notes.  Notes are stored and synchronized in the cloud.  Therefore notes are accessible anywhere you have Internet access.  The iPad keyboard is good for basic note taking. A voice recorder such as iRec is also useful.
  • Information Access.  Information and the sources are pervasive.  Bloomberg is a favorite for financial information.  Internet and search access is useful in a meeting.  Access to corporate data or documents on-time, at your finger tips while away from your desk is possible with the iPad.  With box.net or Dropbox an assistant or co-worker can drop documents in cloud based shared folders for access during a meeting.
  • Tasks. I'm waiting for an iPad version of my favorite task management application for Microsoft Exchange users - iMExchange.
  • Analytics.  This is a wide open area that has opportunity for improvement and growth. Executives and managers use many tools now.  An iPad based dashboard is very appealing.
  • Remote Access.  If you have not found an iPad application for traditional, Microsoft Windows or IE bound applications, then Citrix Receiver is a delivery solution for many organization with Citrix infrastructure.
This is just the beginning.  In time creative developers will produce applications that will continue enhancing the tools and IT organizations will evolve the infrastructure to support it.


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Reading On Time

A fair amount of my work time requires reading that is not always available on the web.  This reading includes contracts, proposals, articles, etc.  In some cases, I still receive paper documents, which I scan to PDF.  It has become my habit to schedule time for reading when reading can be done without interruptions or when other work is not practical.  To facilitate this practice, I use Dropbox to collect my reading materials in the cloud.  This tool provides access to the documents anywhere and anytime I have Internet access including with my iPhone.  Reading on an iPhone is not always the best form factor but when you no alternative you can make use of otherwise wasted time.  This is one reason I'm looking forward to the Apple iPad.  Using this method, the Dropbox folder becomes my reading queue that is ready on time.  With these technologies my reading is always ready. 


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iPad - First Impressions

The Apple iPad is different tablet (not a laptop hybrid).  As the delivery date approaches, I suspect it will replace my laptop (and eReader) because it will allow the way I work to evolve.  Instead I will have a powerful desktop at each desk (home and work) and the iPad will be a more suitable or friendly portable device.  This may actually save money because desktops are less expensive than laptops, typically last longer and do not require replacing the monitor with each replacement cycle.  A laptop is still necessary for the traveling professional.  The tablet seems a fit for the, non-traveling, active manager.  The number of times I need a full function portable computer is rare.  Synchronization, connectivity and integration are important.   Therefore the iPad applications are important. Applications will make the difference.


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Apps, Apps and More Apps

“SmartPhones” have become pervasive.  SmartPhones are computers with a phone.  The applications (apps) were the game changer.  This will be the decade of the apps.  We will see applications in phones, printers, cars, TVs, appliances . . . everywhere.  My phone or portable computer has become an invaluable tool.  Just think about everything this device supplements or replaces. Here is my list, so far.

Phone, Rolodex, Date Book, Calculator, To Do List, Notebook, Dictionary, Map, Weather Channel, Radio, Compass, Flashlight, Clock/Watch, White Pages, Yellow Pages, Portable White Board, Medical Reference, Password Keeper, Remote Access, Voice Recorder, Camera, Video Camera, Dictation, Remote Access, Speed Tester, Wi-Fi Locator, Journal, Newspaper, eBook Reader, Bookshelf, Personal Assistant, GPS, Finance Manager, Stock Ticker, Investment Management, Shopping List, Restaurant Critic, Coupon Keeper, TV Guide, Movie Guide, Remote Control, Score Keeper, Game Console, Comics, Personal Trainer, Ski Report, Trail Map, Personal Reminders, School Tutor, Conversation Starter.

iPhone users can learn more about the applications others use on Appolicious.  My Appolicious user name is greggtushaus.


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