Modified on by DiLabrien
Bitcoin and blockchain. It’s still a mystery to many, including C-level corporate executives. And yet Bitcoin has come to its own, as a cryptocurrency, having closed on October 3, at a price of about $4300/coin. It has become a major disruptor of traditional financial institutions and financial transactions, despite naysayers like Jamie Dimon.
But it is not the bitcoin currency itself that is causing such a stir. It is the technology behind the transactions – blockchain. And it is this technology that is now capturing the attention of a variety of industries, not just financial.
Just What is Blockchain?
Consider that financial transactions in traditional banks are all housed in huge databases of ledgers. When a customer wishes to access his/her account online, he can see every transaction over a selected period of time and be given a real-time balance. This is a personal banking ledger and it is a part of the larger ledger databases that are reconciled overnight, every night.
Here is the issue: these ledgers can be altered, either by those who have digital permission to access them or, unfortunately, by hackers. They are therefore not unalterable, permanent records.
Blockchain technology was developed to make financial ledgers permanent and unalterable. Here is how that works:
All activity (e.g., a banking transaction) is entered as a part of a block of transactions over a specified period of time (e.g. ten minutes). These transactions are verified by multiple people, and the block of activity is then “hooked” to the previous block and to the block that follows it. Blocks are permanent and can never be altered once verified and entered. No one has permission to access and modify, and, if anyone did attempt to do so, the other verifiers would immediately know and shut that down.
The use of blockchain transactions is especially attractive to enterprises that wish to do business in countries in which financial institutions and currencies are unstable. Using a cryptocurrency and an unalterable ledger of financial transactions keeps such transactions safe and secure from corrupt governments as well.
Ethereum is another blockchain organization that began with a cryptocurrency of sorts (called an ether), and individuals can purchase Ethereum tokens just as they do Bitcoins. But these individuals or organizations can use ethers to conduct far more than just financial transactions, as is the case with Bitcoin.
Early Ethereum Blockchain Adopters Have “Shown the Way”
The UN has been an early adopter of Ethereum, with the following activities:
Getting financial aid to organizations in countries with unstable/corrupt governments and financial institutions.
Monitoring the actual activities of countries in climate change initiatives. Right now, there is discussion of using Ethereum blockchain to record the activities of all signers to the Paris Climate Change Accord, as well as the trading of carbon assets. Interestingly, IBM and a company called Energy Blockchain Lab are collaborating to use blockchain technology to record the carbon trading market in China.
Permanent record of people’s identities. More than a billion people are unregistered as citizens of any country. This means that they are not eligible for critical benefits of their home countries. The ID2020 Alliance is a new UN organization with a goal of providing everyone in the world a digital identity, using Ethereum blockchain. In fact, Microsoft and Accenture have already developed a prototype for doing just this.
Corporations are Coming On Board
The prospects of creating blockchains through Ethereum for a host of business activities is what is now attracting corporations to this organization. In addition to financial transactions, Ethereum has opened its technology to a host of organizations and corporations, and all sorts of activity can be permanently recorded on the back of Ethereum blockchain technology. Ethers can be purchased by corporations for the use of this technology.
Consider the following corporate uses of Ethereum blockchain technology:
All of a company’s financial records can be housed in unalterable blocks, not only for its own use but for “proof” if ever needed for tax or legal purposes
Personnel records and all personnel actions can be entered into blocks and never changed – a permanent record that can never be altered by anyone
Financial transactions between suppliers, wholesalers, and customers can be memorialized permanently
Contracts become permanently recorded and cannot be altered. And any agreed upon modifications to contracts can be entered in blocks of the chain as well.
Corporations that deal in Bitcoin can enjoy the collaborative effort between the two blockchain technologies as well as the use of Eidoo.io, a clearinghouse of sorts, which simplifies buying, transferring, and exchanging cryptocurrencies by both individuals and corporations.
Permanent, distributed public ledgers makes blockchain technology a “natural” for supply chain management. If a company has multiple suppliers from multiple states and countries, it is hard to keep track of them all, when orders were placed and fulfilled.
Smart contracts. These are a major part of the Ethereum technology. All parties have access to all terms, and, because the record is permanent, the contracts enforce themselves.
The potentials for blockchain technology are just now beginning to be understood by many more organizations and enterprises than just the financial industry. Already, education is being disrupted, by allowing a permanent irrefutable record of students’ coursework, especially when it comes from multiple institutions and some online. And, no matter what industry niche corporations are in, the use of blockchain can provide security, consistency, permanent records of every transaction and internal activity – records that are publicly available and that provide a transparency that has not previously been there.
Once business owners and C-level executives see the value of blockchain technology, and what it can do to streamline and provide transparency within their operations.
This is An IBM Redbooks publication
This IBM® Redbooks® publication gives a broad understanding of storage clouds and the initial functionality that was introduced for mainframes to have Transparent Cloud Tiering.
IBM DFSMS and the IBM DS8880 added functionality to provide elements of serverless data movement, and for IBM z/OS® to communicate with a storage cloud. They introduced the following key areas:
- A gateway in the DS8880, which allows the movement of data to and from Object Storage be using a network connection.
- DFSMShsm enhancements to support Migrate and Recall functions to and from the Object Storage. Other commands were enhanced to monitor and report on the new functionality.
- DFSMShsm uses the Web Enablement toolkit for z/OS to create and access the metadata for specific clouds, containers, and objects.
- DFSMSdss enhancements to provide some basic backup and restore functions to and from the cloud.
This IBM Redbooks publication is dived into the following parts:
- Part 1 provides you with an introduction to clouds. You might be new to clouds or have a confused view of cloud terminology. If so, Part 1 is helpful in providing you with the basic knowledge you need.
- Part 2 shows you how we set up the Transparent Cloud Tiering in a controlled laboratory and how the new functions work. We provide points to consider to help you set up your storage cloud and integrate it into your operational environment."
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for e-book readers
Points to consider buying a good mattress and assuring Improved Sleep
Spending in bed around a third of every day is common, regardless of whether this time is spent slumbering blissfully or turning and tossing. All these depend on the mattress. There is no doubt that a mattress has a great impact on the sleep of a person. Mattresses affects sleep also relates to the network of capillaries, the fine blood vessels running beneath your skin.
Lying on your body for a period of time means the weight reduces the blood flow to those blood vessels, thereby depriving the nutrients and oxygen to the skin. This causes pain sensors and nerve cells sending your brain a message to roll over. Rolling over assures good blood flow, but it also disturbs your good sleep.
Ideally, a good mattress improves your sleep and can be more productive at work. This is because a good mattress reduces on your body the pressure points and gives a better night's sleep. However, note that the ideal mattress varies with each person. The productivity level depends on our activity and inactivity. People failing to acquire good sleep at night cannot recharge their brain and body fully. The performance will surely deteriorate.
There is a need to change the mattresses after a span of 5 to 7 years. Likewise, while investing for good bedding significantly, there is a need to ensure there is the original bounce even after 7 or 10 years, so that it proves to be a good mattress improving your sleep and you can be more productive at work. Alongside good pillows are equally important.
Things to consider
- Buy mattresses that are not too soft or too firm.
- Mattresses too firm may cause misalignment and too soft sinks your body causing bad posture while sleeping, leading to pain.
- Consider adjustable beds and if possible take mattress on a test drive
- Check and confirm about trial periods or comfort guarantees before buying
- Without fail, check the warranty period.
A good mattress improves your sleep and can be more productive at work is true, but as such there is no definition making a mattress firm or soft. This is because a person who is 250-pound may say the mattress is soft, while the same mattress for a person with 125- pound may find it firm.
Which Mattress Is Right?
Finding a right mattress is not like looking for some top-tech brand. In fact, even an expensive mattress may not be as per your expectation. A high price tag alone does not determine the mattress. So, avoid concentrating on brand name or price, and think that you expect in a mattress that is really very personal. The choices vary, some prefer softer, while some firmer.
Of course, there is no scientific evidence proving the mattress type that can ensure you sleep better. Thus, consider buying a medium-firm mattress with a softer pillow that will offer the required cushioning and balance of support.
An adjustable bed also is a good buy if you prefer sleeping positioning your head raised. Such beds allow adjusting your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle and relieve sore joints.
Modified on by CreativeWorks
This is An IBM Redpaper publication
This IBM® Redpaper™ publication is a comprehensive guide that covers the IBM Power System™ S822LC for High Performance Computing (HPC) server (8335-GTB model). The S822LC for HPC server is designed for high-performance computing applications that support the Linux operating system and high-performance data analytics, the enterprise data center, and accelerated cloud deployments.
This paper introduces the major innovative S822LC for HPC server features and their relevant functions:
- Powerful IBM POWER8® processors that offer 16 cores at 3.259 GHz with 3.857 GHz turbo performance or 20 cores at 2.860 GHz with 3.492 GHz turbo
- A 19-inch rack-mount 2U configuration
- NVIDIA NVLink technology for exceptional processor-to-accelerator intercommunication
- Four dedicated connectors for the NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU
This publication is for professionals who want to acquire a better understanding of IBM Power Systems products and is intended for the following audience:
This paper expands the set of IBM Power Systems documentation by providing a desktop reference that offers a detailed technical description of the S822LC for HPC server.
This paper does not replace the latest marketing materials and configuration tools. It is intended as an additional source of information that, together with existing sources, can be used to enhance your knowledge of IBM server solutions."
Below, you can read a review which includes more details about one of our clients from Sales and marketing professionals
In today’s world, social media is becoming more and more relevant by the day. With billions logging into Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram and many more every single day the business and marketing opportunities of the sites are endless. People using these sites to gain publicity for their business or their own personal brand have been able to make huge amounts of money by using the convenient format for placing advertisements and their own personal content. As a result of this movement, there are many services on the internet which can be used to increase your social media presence quickly and without having to put in any hard work in order to try and reap the rewards. This may be very risky as it is likely to look very obvious that you have done so but there are certainly positives to using a service such as this to gain thousands of followers and kick start your career.
The effort required
Creating interesting content or growing a successful and exciting business are extremely difficult thing to do. This means that only very few people manage to find a niche online as social media personalities or online businesses which become successful and widely used by the public. Whilst it may not be as honest as using your own ingenuity to come up with great ideas to use on social media platforms, it is far quicker. Using services online where you can simply pay money for Facebook likes or Twitter follows for your personal or business channel is potentially a very quick way to gain a large number of followers. This will therefore quickly increase the amount of exposure you get and will hopefully increase the number of followers you will be able to amass from there on in. This can cut down dramatically on months or years of struggling to get people on the internet to notice you.
The investment made
Making content that is going to grab people’s attention on social media doesn’t come cheap. With millions of viewing options online, there has to be something specific about the message you are creating if you are a new online presence and you want to get people to notice you. Using an instant famous scheme, however, can circumnavigate this problem however as your increased exposure will already have come from a small investment with a company for followers, rather than spending a lot of money on making potentially unsuccessful content to attract people to what you are trying to do.
Social media can be a goldmine
Using social media in the right way can bring an individual or new business huge amount of money and exposure very quickly. Those with large followings on platforms such as Instagram can be paid thousands per post for simply taking photos with products from businesses who want their product exposed on a wider stage. This brings about opportunities to earn huge money from simply having a large following; something that can be greatly helped by the use of instant famous social media schemes. Businesses also can attract higher profile personalities to work with them simply because they have a large social media presence. This allows entrepreneurs to grow into hugely successful individuals or to take their ideas and transform them into a great business, all because they were able to quickly find followers.
Having more followers will lead you to greater advertising opportunities. On social media, there are always people looking for spaces to sell advertising and if you are a presence with a large following already you may have access to some of the most premium advertising spots on the internet. At the beginning, these may be too expensive but if you can take advantage of your quick growth then your bank account should grow and you would then be able to afford the best advertising opportunities possible for your idea or brand. This would then further increase your exposure and let you take your idea even further.
When you are perceived as someone who is successful then you will be granted with a wider range of opportunities for whatever it is you are seen to be growing. This may not happen instantly but after the initial investment and careful management you could hugely increase your online footprint and work yourself into a host of other possible opportunities. Whether they are advertising based or possible investment opportunities in other growing social media presences. The chances you will be given should give you the best possible chance of growing even further and allowing more development of your personal or professional brand. If people see you as a great investment they may even interact with you that way and this could help boost your followers up even further than you ever thought.
Modified on by CreativeWorks
This is An IBM Redpaper publication
IBM® Tivoli® Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On enables users to access all their applications, including web, desktop and heritage, and network resources, with the use of a single strong password. The solution helps simplify password management, protects information with strong authentication, and secures kiosks and shared workstations.
Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On helps strengthen security and meet regulations through stronger passwords and an open authentication device interface with a wide choice of strong authentication factors. It also facilitates compliance with privacy and security regulations by leveraging centralized auditing and reporting capabilities.
In this IBM Redpaper™, we take a closer look at how to integrate web-based applications into Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On by using its AccessProfile technology.
This IBM Redpaper is a good resource for security administrators who are responsible for configuring and integrating Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On into their organization's IT infrastructure."
Here are a few good points you need to take in serious when you try to approach space communities like IBM developers platform.
Communication is an essential skill required invariably to acquire success in any field of like. Writing is again one the most effective communicating modes which plays commanding role in business. Effective, thoughtful and clear writing for managers, entrepreneurs or business professionals can enhance potential scopes of success, better grip over the market and good network.
You can actually never undermine the fact that clear writing reflects clarity of thinking. However, not everyone is born with the power packed communicating skill of impressive and nailing writing skills. At the same time as Bryan Garner, the author of The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing believes everyone has the scope and capacity for improvement. Thus, you can essentially improve your business-oriented writing skills with an effective implication of few strategic movements and tips.
Determining your purpose essentially means collecting your thoughts, understanding the purpose of the business writing. While you write a business mail it can be dedicated to several purposes. Like for example if your purpose is to call your employees for annual talent hunt, then it is not desirous that you bore them describing the activities, its utility in team building efforts etc. You need to be relaxed yet professional in tone. Therefore, understand what to you want to convey to your audience through the writing. It is kind of directional thinking to obtain clarity of thoughts. Therefore, you can frame your writing accordingly once you determine your purpose that is:
- To invite
- To persuade
- To inform
- To notify
- To reject a proposition
- To argue for a proposition
- To Inquire
- To seek for approval, etc.
Cut it Short and be Direct
No one has time for reading lengthy paragraphs and phrases when you are dealing in serious business. You need to pinpoint your purpose of writing in the first paragraph itself instead of dragging to the mid of the writing. Postponing the revealing of the purpose to the middle of writing loses the attention of the reader. While injecting the purpose right in the top of the writing you actually purposefully sharpen your argument as well.
Moreover, while framing business writing it is highly recommended to cut off the unnecessary ornamentations and fat in writing. Like, opt for “viewpoint” rather than “point of view”, skip the use of is, are, was, were and use active verbs instead like for instance “indicates” rather than “is indicative of”. You can also essentially avoid the use of ion words with action verbs.
Do not Jargon your write up
Intelligence reflects in simple words as well only if you can clarify your thoughts, nail in your perspective. There is no need of using too much of buzzwords, acronyms and grandiose words. Complicated writing, as well as too much use of acronyms, implicates laziness of mind. Thus it is better to express in simple, easy to understand and direct language and communicative style rather than going other ways. Business writing experts essentially believe that clarity and active conciseness never go out of style in any field of action.
In recent years there has been much talk about cloud computing, the cloud, the change this entails in our way of developing and managing our applications ... But what is cloud computing really?
Large companies began using this term to refer to those services hosted on the network. In fact that is the first thing most of us come to mind about "Cloud Computing". Therefore, we can say that the word cloud would be equivalent to what we know as the Internet. However, the concept has much more scope and is something that we intend to relate in this article.
Types of cloud
There are currently 3 types of clouds:
- Public clouds: These are those that are administered by the service provider. The great advantage of them is that they do not require an initial investment to start using them and do not entail a maintenance expense for the consuming customer. These clouds are shared with other customers within the provider's data centers.
- Private clouds: Private clouds, unlike public clouds, are managed by the client to gain greater control. Due to this, it implies an initial investment in the infrastructure since it will be hosted on-premise, ie at the client's premises. As a main advantage, the customer enjoys a cloud of his property where he is the only one who resides in it, although the maintenance costs are borne by the owner.
- Hybrid clouds: Finally we have this intermediate option between the two previous clouds. While they say that this type will be the most widespread in the future, it is not as defined as the rest. The main idea is that the customer will be able to keep control of those main applications and delegate the administration in which they consider secondary.
Types of services
Once you have covered the types of clouds that exist, what can we do with them?
Depending on the need we need to cover, there are different types of services within cloud computing:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This type of service offers us the necessary infrastructure to be able to upload our environment and also to run proprietary software on it. The two fundamental pillars are computing and storage as a service. Sometimes they refer to IaaS as HaaS (Hardware as a Service). As examples of this type of services we can mention GoGrid and Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud).
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): When we talk about the platform within the cloud, the service we offer is the environment where we can directly deploy our applications. The clearest examples in this section are the Windows Azure platform by Microsoft and Google App Engine .
- Software as a Service (SaaS): The last service, and one of the best known by the market, are those transformed into final applications provided by the provider, ready to be used by customers. In this type of service we are assured the maintenance, the support and the availability of the software. Within this set, we can find Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard(BPOS) which is a set of well-known applications in its online version like SharePoint Online , Exchange Online , Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online . Another group of applications within this area would be Salesforce, Known mainly for its CRM in the cloud, and Basecamp where its flagship product is its collaboration tool for projects.
As an advantage of this administration and development model, we can highlight the cost savings as the most important, in addition to the high scalability, reliability, as well as the abstraction of hardware maintenance, something up to now innovative in large companies with its own department ITEM.
One of the concepts that best define the cloud environment is the term "Pay as you go", which means that we only pay for usage and not a monthly fixed fee, such as traditional hosting services.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning the agility with which we have these services, achieving in a matter of minutes a putting into production that could take months, when dealing with the traditional on-premise process.
While it is true that the advantages of cloud computing are worth considering, there are some points that can be crucial when it comes to hitting the cloud:
First, there is the perception of insecurity in moving our information out of our physical reach, which can manifest a sense of vulnerability. To solve this "fear" among potential customers, large cloud companies have efficient, high-security systems to keep data safe from potential attacks.
Another drawback is dependence on an Internet provider. Due to the location of the services, we are tied to this need, so it is advisable to have a second connection in case of failure of the main.
Although less and less, there is still some immaturity in some of the services offered by lack of functionality, in relation to similar products designed to meet these needs in servers within the client.
In this section, we have been able to know the concept of cloud computing as the technological proposal of large companies to refer to the different services hosted on the Internet, as well as the different types of clouds available in the market. In addition we have listed the types of services available to date and how some companies already offer them to the public.
Modified on by DiLabrien
According to Gartner, there will be at least 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020; other research predicts as many as 100 billion. And the largest possessors of IoT devices will be consumers – people who want to control everything from their refrigerators and home security systems to their utility costs, cars, and beyond. In fact, according to data published by SYK Cleaning:
61% of older generations want smart technology for its cost savings’
52% of Gen X’ers have priorities for home security
39%of millennials just think smart devices are trendy and cool. And 72% of them would pay up to $3000 more for a home that has smart technology.
Generation Z, just entering the consumer marketplace will consider IoT a given part of their lifestyles.
But all of this boom in manufacturing and distribution of IoT technology does not come without its challenges. And manufacturers have much work to do in some key areas in order to truly ensure that IoT will and can become fully mainstream. Here are the six of them.
The IoT ecosystem at its current state comes with a lack of unified standards in the areas of data exchange and connectivity. This is particularly frustrating for consumers and serves to slow down wholesale and widespread adoption.
What that means for manufacturers is that they must take off their competitive “gloves” and collaborate on standards for the good of everyone. In doing so, they will all reap the benefits of greater consumer adoption and market demand.
This is an ongoing concern for both businesses and individual consumers. When an entire ecosystem can be threatened through hacking into just one individual device, the concern is real.
Just recently, we learned that a couple of our power grids were compromised, and researchers at the University of Oklahoma demonstrated how easy it was by hacking into a wind farm through a single unit.
Security testing of all devices must include identifying any potential vulnerabilities, processes for validating user access, and data encryption, etc. fortunately, there are some pilot programs investigating the use of blockchain technology, and this may indeed hold some effective solutions.
3. User Experience
For IoT devices to go thoroughly mainstream, users have to be comfortable with them, and they have to see them as more valuable than traditional devices. This means ease of understanding and use.
Manufacturers must conduct a lot of testing of devices before putting them on the market, including the following:
Compatibility of device hardware, operating systems, software versions, and communication protocols
Reliability of all components in a variety of environments and conditions.
User friendliness of application as well as usability in a variety of network connections, so that everything operates seamlessly regardless of platform.
This will be the key to success of any manufacturer of IoT devices. Devices and connectivity will certainly become less expensive, making them more attractive, but applications that allow devices to connect and share information with other devices, aka platforms, are numerous and growing That manufacturer who will be able to bundle multiple platforms into a single product will meet a challenge that will give him a huge competitive edge.
These will proliferate in the coming years, and there will definitely be “battles” among them. Ultimately, however, a few will emerge victorious and will dominate entire sectors – smart homes, smart cities, healthcare, etc. This is just another reason why manufacturers need to find ways to collaborate to achieve standardization.
6. The Need for Real-Time Data Streams and Scaling.
While a refrigerator will not necessarily need to provide real-time data to its owner (other than alerts if there is a malfunction), the need for real-time data will become critical in some IoT device use and management, for instance - smart cities. For manufacturers of devices that require real-time data streams, there will be a need for continual updating as newer technologies and apps are developed.
Blockchain, again, has been named among the possible solutions to more efficient, near-real time data exchanges. Yet, this technology currently lacks proper scaling mechanism, making it a questionable choice for larger ecosystems i.e. those created for smart cities.
IBM, however, may be close to solving this issue. The new pending patent application outlines a solution that would ditch the proof-of-work algorithm utilized by most public blockchains in favor of a dynamically adjusted alternative mechanisms that would limit the mining difficulty and associated power consumption by IoT devices to a determined threshold. This adjustment becomes possible after limiting the number of nonces – one-time-use numbers required to validate a transaction on the blockchain. This way, each IoT device connected to the blockchain will have equal chance to solve proof-of-work problem.
For any business that is gearing up to achieve success in the IoT marketplace, there will need to be a shift in thought processes that may actually involve a change in its corporate structure. Producing smart devices is simply not the same as producing a physical object. Mechanical engineers and product developers design physical objects. But smart device manufacturing will involve far more than these traditional roles. Interdisciplinary structures that provide for the necessary collaboration between physical and technological leader and developers may change the entire corporate landscape.
Modified on by C_Weber
If you’ve taken the leap towards starting your own business or going freelance, you probably envision days of flexible scheduling, self-determination, and direct dealing with clients. What doesn’t figure into this idyllic picture is the endless flow of back end accounting and communications—the turning gears of your business operations.
Luckily there are a seemingly infinite number of startups out there trying to smooth the way for this burgeoning generation of “solopreneurs” by making sure that these tasks take up as little of your precious time as possible. It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly customizable and automated world where our phones track our daily movements, supermarket checkout lanes are becoming obsolete, and email servers generate auto-responses.
Rather than shortcuts, think of automation as a set of tools that help you leverage the work of your business along the pathway towards growth. Automation allows you to streamline many aspects of your interaction with clients, leaving you more energy to devote to the things that matter— the creative work that only you can customize.
1. Accounting and Invoicing
Keeping up with your accounts and sending invoices to clients is an inescapable part of running a business. Sloppy accounting can hurt your relationships with clients and late or incorrect invoices will only lead to late or incorrect payments.
Rather than slogging through manual invoicing, you can use free online invoicing platforms such as Invoice Ninja which provides the ability to transform approved quotes into invoices and automate reminders for ongoing clients. Rather than maintaining project management, account tracking and payment processing across separate platforms, Invoice Ninja offers the option of integrating all of these functions into one.
Unlike other online invoicing platforms, Invoice Ninja also includes the option of partial payments or deposits and live PDF creation for ease of transferring data. Flexibility can be a boon to those running their own businesses, and having one online suite of apps creates ease of access for you and your clients alike.
2. Marketing Across Platforms
Social media presence has become a must for any business, and while information moves across platforms at a seemingly breakneck pace, there’s no need to strain yourself when it comes to coordinating content and maintaining your presence. Tools such as HootSuite and Buffer offer the capability of scheduling content alongside integrated analytics. Let your social media work for you by setting aside a weekly or monthly time to generate content and scheduling it to keep your accounts live and relevant.
3. Email Communications
While platforms such as Slack have changed the shape of workplace communications, email is not going away anytime soon. Email communications are essential to interfacing with current and potential clients, but they can also take up a great deal of time and attention.
The problem with email communications is that you can’t schedule when you receive them. Except...you can. Tools such as Boomerang for Google Suite allow you to snooze emails that aren’t high priority, schedule responses for appropriately timed delivery, and turn on read receipts for outgoing messages.
The free version of Boomerang only provides 10 message credits, so its usefulness is limited. More affordable options such as Gmelius exist, but the bottom line is that scheduling responses is a savvy move that ties in to effective marketing. As your business grows, platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp provide a comprehensive email marketing and automated messaging that can ramp up your communication capacity.
4. Backing Up Your Information
Automating backups is not only easy, it’s an essential safety measure. Keeping a backup of your digital data should be a natural housekeeping task, equivalent to locking the doors and shutting the windows of your office overnight.
If you have a Mac, it’s easy to set up backups to the cloud or an external drive in time machine. Simply enter “Time Machine Preferences” and check the “Backup Automatically” box. Windows has a similar function called (funnily enough) “Backup and Restore.”
Both functions allow you to schedule automatic backups and choose which folders and files should be included. So if you have certain files that are updated frequently, you can prioritize those. Carbonite and other services offer backups in the cloud for an added level of security that goes beyond an external disc drive.
5. Client Data Collection
A Customer Relationship Management Platform (CRM) such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Pipedrive could be the next step in scaling your business. CRMs allow you to track customer relationships on one integrated platform and generate reports based on that data.
Effective client relationship tracking is crucial to growing your business, and centralizing data collection ensures that wires don’t get crossed and clients receive tailored attention. By storing data in a digestible format, CRM software also allows you to come up with effective strategies based on real life input from your customers. Most CRM platforms offer free trials, and this automation could be a game-changer in managing your client relationships.
While there is certainly no shortage of administrative tasks associated with running a business, the good news is that there are countless startups devoted to automating these processes to allow you to focus on the relevant data you need to grow your business. What’s more, most of these platforms offer their services for free so that you can continue to grow your business at a sustainable rate without increasing your overhead.
Modified on by DiLabrien
Mainstream sectors have come to see the value of blockchain and the potential it holds for businesses and governments alike, especially financial services, insurance, logistics, healthcare, travel, law, education and more.
What every sector is beginning to notice is that the option to have a distributed, immutable ledger to record and store everything from contracts to records and data holds great promise of innovation.
But blockchain technology is not without some major challenges. Sectors and even individual businesses are looking at blockchain for solutions and are working with developers for customized blockchain functionality. Many developers/firms are also working on their own to garner a market edge as they see the future of blockchain technology going mainstream.
Still other businesses, in an attempt to move quickly, are “piggybacking” on existing public blockchains. This may or may not hold the ultimate solution for them, because customized, private and permission-based blockchains seem to hold the real promise.
That said, there are a few technologies currently in the works that should resolve current challenges and propel blockchain technology as a far more mainstream business solution.
Solving The Interoperability Challenge
Imagine this scenario. You own Ether and you want to use it to trade for Bitcoin. You cannot send that Ether directly to Bitcoin to make the trade, because the two blockchains cannot talk to one another. You will have to sell your Ether first, exchanging it for a fiat currency and then purchase Bitcoin as an entirely new transaction. The same is true for exchanging different tokens built atop of the Ethereum blockchain. The good news is that the Ethereum platform now includes a standardized protocol for creating new tokens: ERC-2 that solves the interoperability problem of Ethereum-based tokens.
Another solution for crypto trading is to use a third-party “transactor.” There are many of those cropping up globally and the announcement of eToro launching in the US offers just one prime example of this. One of the key features of eToro’s investment platform is its easy usability and while it does have a social media element available to those who want to use it, it can also act like a clearing house, enabling investors to make coin trades with ease without the inefficiency of personal interaction.
But blockchain is moving far beyond these public ledgers for crypto, and here is where the real issues come in. As it moves into use by businesses and governments, private blockchains are being developed, and they cannot “talk” to each other.
Consider this: a citizen of Canada has all of his identification and travel documents stored in the Canadian government blockchain. He can travel about Canada with no paper documents. If he should travel to another country that has its own blockchain, however, he must carry physical documents. Those two blockchains cannot communicate and transfer his documents back and forth.
The same is true for businesses and sectors that are developing private blockchains.
The solution, of course, is for there to be a method of relaying messages, data, and records among separate blockchains, and this is just what many developers are working on right now.
The proposed solutions fall into two categories:
Developing side-chains that connect two or more blockchains together, operated by a third-party with verification of all transactions before they are passed from one chain to another.
Development of what is known as “atomic” swaps, which users themselves control, without the intervention of a third party. Both users must verify a transaction for it to be relayed.
Blockchain To Satisfy Individual Consumer Demands
Currently, consumers who make online purchases must provide their personal and financial information to a third-party processor, and the recent hacking of those payment systems has resulted in a plethora of expense and inconvenience.
While the blockchain technology may not be ready to handle a large volume of consumer transactions just yet, it can serve another important purpose - protect customers’ personal data. As the legislature is changing towards increased data protections, there may be an increased demand for blockchain-based identity management systems that will empower the consumer to selectively give access to their personal and payment data, and preference. Consumers will “own” their own information rather than giving it up to someone else and leaving it open to cybercrime.
Currently, Microsoft is working on a pilot blockchain-based identity management system that will let users secure and control access to their personal and financial information, through an encrypted database.
Alternatives To Current Consensus Algorithms
When blockchain was new, and still today, the verification process occurs by what is called PoW, or proof of work. Miners attempt to solve cryptographic problems, and the one who first hits the solution confirms the transaction and packs it into a block. The reward for this is financial, of course, and so there is plenty of incentive for a miner to get that solution.
But there are clear drawbacks to the PoW consensus mechanism:
It is costly, and miners must have plenty of funds to engage in the activity. With so many thousands of miners working on the same problem, the energy costs are huge; and they also must buy the latest hardware to function competitively.
Centralization of power can occur as well. Miners can set up collaborative agreements that allow them to control a large chunk of the processing power, and the possibility for nefarious action is increased.
For these reasons, some developers have turned to Proof of State (PoS). This model of consensus algorithm and recording is based upon a miner purchasing a “stake” by buying tokens used in the blockchain system. One individual miner is then selected for each new block commitment, usually occurring every few minutes. This eliminates the need for costly equipment and thousands of miners draining energy resources by working on the same problem and the need for such sophisticated hardware is also eliminated. The one drawback here is that miners who hold the most tokens are usually given preferential treatment – the rationale being that the more a stakeholder has, the more he will be incentivized to do it right. He will not attack his own investment.
There are drawbacks to the PoS model too, one of which is that miners will operate on more than one chain. A Delegated Proof of State (DPoS) has been an early modification, but more consensus algorithms are certain to come, as newer technologies continue to be developed. Here are just three other alternatives that may hold promise.
One new consensus algorithm has been developed, now commonly known as Proof of Activity (PoA). It combines PoW and PoS, as sort of a hybrid. It has advantages of reducing the 51% attack risk and it looks to be more secure than either of the other two when used separately. The downside is that resource usage is not significantly reduced.
Proof of Authority: This is actually a centralized system in which transactions are verified by approved “administrators” of a system. Other miners will receive the “truth” from these authorities. This may be a valuable consensus algorithm for private blockchains.
Block Lattice: This is a structure in which each user gets their own chain and only they can write to it. But everyone has a copy of all of the chains. Each transaction is broking into the sender’s and the receiver’s blocks. If the potential for attacks can be eliminated, this might prove an extremely usable algorithm for business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions.
Clearly, 2018 will bring new innovations and technologies with respect to blockchain. These three plus those to come will all help to push blockchain into the mainstream, both for sectors and individual organizations. It is a classic case of “supply meeting demand.”
It’s hot – blockchain, that is. By now, almost everyone has heard of Bitcoin and many have heard the term for the underlying technology – blockchain. In fact, it is being touted as the “latest and greatest” method for recording and storing transactions, contracts, public and confidential data, and more. What started out as the best “fit” for fintech has expanded to be a “fit” for governments, education, travel, insurance, real estate, etc. – any business niche that needs permanent and secure (and transparent) records.
Blockchains can be public or private. Bitcoin, and most cryptocurrencies, use public blockchain, and the technology is pretty well standardized. But, more and more, individual businesses are developing their own private blockchain, with proprietary technology used only by and for themselves.
There is clearly a lot of excitement about this technology, and so there should be. It promises to bring a new level of trust between consumers/users and the businesses they frequent. It also cuts out costs of middlemen and their fees. And this is why businesses are looking to the technology as they develop their apps.
Is blockchain a Fit for Your App – Some Initial Questions
This, of course, is the question. And it has to be answered by looking at the benefits and challenges of both developing and implementing the technology. So, here are some initial questions you should ask yourself before you rush into adoption.
Why do you need blockchain technology?
Is your niche engaging in business activity that is subject to fraud? This is a common issue with travel and insurance sectors. Is there a need for security and confidentiality in transactions? Bitcoin sales require transparency in a similar way to the healthcare industry. Are there contracts involved in your business, and do you need an immutable record of them? Do you need to track purchases and transport of goods? Those involved in logistics and transportation niches could find blockchain valuable.
How Will You Develop the Technology?
As new as it is, skilled developers are not as prevalent as they should be, and the demand is high. And in the development process, there are all sorts of challenges. Building and testing distributed applications is hard and full of hurdles and roadblocks. In-house developers with expertise in traditional databases will not be useful here. For most businesses, any app using blockchain will probably be an outsourced project.
The cost – It’s Important
The average loss to business, due to fraud alone, is about 5%. For an airline, for example, this is a large amount. It makes sense, then, for companies that look at large annual losses to go the cost of developing blockchain technology, where identities, sales, etc. can be verified, recorded, and stored. For a small online retailer, not so much.
As the technology evolves, and as more skilled developers enter the marketplace, costs will obviously go down. It may make sense, then, to wait until that happens, depending on your current business needs.
Weighing the Benefits
There is no doubt that blockchain provides some key attractions:
Transparency: Because all transactions are entered into immutable blocks, with access permission provided to those involved (but not modification capabilities), anyone involved in a transaction, contract, etc. can see it in original and verified form.
Reduction in Costs, Disputes, and Errors: Because all transactions and data are stored in blocks, and time-stamped, there is a permanent record. Errors that occur with “paper-heavy” documents are eliminated; legal disputes will be reduced; and, as stated, earlier, middlemen and fees go away.
Fraud and Hacking Prevention: Again, as stated earlier, it is almost impossible for hackers to get into a block and alter documents or records. This provides a level of security that a lot of niches demand.
Weighing the Challenges
In addition to those listed above, businesses must also consider the following:
Compatibility: Public blockchains use standardized technology. As private blockchains continue to be developed, there will be lack of consistency, and varied technologies will not be able to “talk” with one another. Standardization for private blockchains will eventually come, but it may be a way out yet.
Government Acceptance: Currently, a few states recognize the validity of contracts within blockchains as evidentiary material for legal disputes. But the majority do not. This obviously poses problems for businesses engaged in interstate commerce. Ultimately, there may need to be some federal regulations that speak to the validity of transactions and contracts that involve parties from different states.
Security: Yes, this is a huge benefit of blockchain. But there is also a human factor involved. When access keys are given to involved parties, how they store those keys will be critical. One irresponsible individual can create a crisis.
Blockchain holds great promise, and the technology will probably prove to be a huge disruptor in every sector of public and private enterprises. The concepts of trust, transparency, immutability, security, reduced costs, and greater efficiency are too attractive to ignore. Is this technology beneficial for your app? Take time to consider the questions listed above to find out.
It’s all about the customer. It always has been.
In the days before the Internet, how did businesses keep their customers happy? They greeted them when they entered their premises. They directed them to the place where they could find the item(s) they wanted. They took care of returns and exchanges in a friendly way that left the customer satisfied. If customers had a good experience they came back, and they “brought” their friends by recommendations. If the experience was bad, they also told their friends.
In this digital age, where face-to-face customer service is fast giving way to web-based interactions, businesses need to be mindful that customer relations must emulate those traditional experiences as much as possible. It’s not enough to have a call center and/or a live chat feature. Customers need to feel that they are receiving personal, friendly, and satisfactory care, or they will simply go elsewhere.
How Great CRM Software Can Provide Customer Satisfaction
Fortunately, there is technology that can accomplish great customer experiences, in the form of customer relations management software (CRM). And businesses that are growing beyond a hundred customers will need to acquire this software if they intend to continue to grow.
Basically, the purpose of CRM software is to be able to collect, store and retrieve all information related to each individual customer, so that when that customer makes contact, they understand that the business “knows” them and is ready to serve their needs.
Some CRM software products are quite complex; others quite simple. Only you can gauge your needs, and thus you need to find a product that satisfies those needs and that can also grow in features as your needs expand. So, the first thing you need to look for are the basics that are going to work, not only for your customers but also for your customer service personnel.
Basic Critical Features of CRM Software
First, a few statistics and insights
In 2017, CRM usage by all types of businesses increased from 56% to 74%.
80% of consumers will go online to research products and services prior to a purchase
87% of these consumers will use mobile devices as they research and shop and engage in customer service activities with businesses
47% of businesses surveyed state they plan to increase spending on customer service software. Any business that intends to remain competitive, keep existing customers, and generate new leads will take heed.
So, what should a solid CRM package include? Given today’s consumer and given that a business needs to reach that consumer where he is and provide the kind of personalized service he expects.
Obviously, consumers want to reach and be reached on mobile devices. And customer service staff, often from remote locations, also need to be able to use their mobile devices to connect with customers. Businesses are actually seeing higher satisfaction and adoption rates, when staff have options of devices to use.
Other research shows that 65% of sales staff that can use mobile CRM have achieved sales quotas, while only 22% of those not using mobile devices have. This alone should drive businesses to ensure that any CRM they choose has mobility features.
As for consumer use of mobile CRM – it is obviously becoming a preferred method as the above stats show.
Because both users and personnel are now using many devices, there is a rising requirement that CRM solutions are in the cloud. At this point, about 87% of businesses that have CRM packages are using cloud-based ones.
This is an area that is perhaps the biggest challenge for customer relations. Business do not see their customers in person. It is critical that they use all of the technology available to reach customers at a personal level. Recent studies show that businesses intend to increase their email marketing budgets for both sales and customer service by 60%. This will allow them to segregate leads, current customers, etc. into groups for far more personalized service. Any CRM package a business purchases must provide for this.
And do not discount the value of “old school” direct mail campaigns. Consumers still go to their physical mailboxes, and there can be those who do so more than others, especially older leads and consumers. Adding a software piece, such as Physical Address that will provide a physical address and virtual mail handling services, can be valuable in certain circumstances.
Compete Customer History in One Place
Probably the most important aspect of CRM is that all of the information on the history of leads and customers be housed in a database that allows sales and customer relations personnel to bring up that entire history on one screen.
This is often called “contact management.” Being able to track every lead as it moves through a sales funnel is a must for any CRM software. Such software should provide a lead/customer calendar, follow-up reminders, and tickets for all contacts and actions. And it should also provide for the sharing of all of this history by multiple departments within the business. This can improve customer retention rates, as studies show.
Every business is unique. Buying a pre-packaged CRM solution that does not provide for customization is useless. A business needs to be able to integrate CRM with its existing systems, giving that business the ability to mine and analyze data that it needs to modify and improve its customer relations.
Keeping it Simple
Unless sales, marketing, and customer service staff see a CRM package as easy to use, they won’t adopt it. Keep it simple in the beginning. Complexities can always be added later, if the right package is purchased to begin with.
Every customer wants to feel important to you, before, during, and after the sale. You can achieve this through the right CRM software. Identify your needs, your customer needs, do the research and find the package that will work for you right now and grow as your business does.