ESP Projects Ltd - Newsbolt
4th February 2013
Editorial Both Cloud Computing and Tablets feature highly in the Newsbolt this month.
And that's no surprise - both are still hot topics in a world of IT that is facing a lot of changes. In both areas, we think that there is a fair old gap between the hype and the reality. But we also know that there is no excuse for ignoring them. Indeed, building a knowledge of their strengths *and* their weaknesses seems to be the best policy. For example, we've sold tablets that will be put to some fantastic uses, and have implemented cloud solutions for several of our smaller clients, saving them £100's if not £1000's when compared with hardware solutions. But we're also aware of situations and environments where tablets and cloud solutions just don't do the job, and we aren't afraid to say so! We hope that in sharing our opinions of these technologies and continuing to advise in an impartial way we have struck the right balance for you, our all-important customers! Morgan Killick Managing Director 0845 4657229 - http://www.espprojects.co.uk So You Think You Want to Move to the Cloud? This month sees the publication in the LASA IT Knowledgebase of an in-depth article on Cloud Computing by ESP's MD Morgan Killick. The article is aimed at organisations thinking of 'Moving to the Cloud' and debunks some of the myths and marketing hype and focuses instead on the real world scenarios warts and all where the Cloud can bring benefits. Excerpt from the full article: -Cloud Computing is a simple concept to understand it's just the idea of shifting IT functions away from hardware and software stored in your offices, and onto hardware and software stored by the professionals, who then provide this to you as a service in exchange for a monthly fee. Yet this fundamental simplicity has been shrouded in hubris. Its portrayal in some quarters as an almost miraculous solution to a variety of IT challenges is often self-serving or one-sided. Cloud Computing does however offer some genuine benefits to organisations facing particular circumstances. Although any decision to adopt it is in reality far more nuanced than the sales patter would have you believe, if you happen to be in those situations, it is certainly worth looking at. The knowledge in this article should help you keep your feet on the ground when your head's in the cloud! If you want to discuss cloud solutions - and their advantages and disadvantages - in more detail with ESP, then please do scroll down to the article in this months' Newsbolt on ESP's new Cloud Specialist Service. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tablets: What's the Point? Our love affair with tablet computers shows no sign of abating, with 100m reportedly sold in 2012, compared with just 20m or so in 2010. According to some analysts, tablet sales may well exceed those of PCs before long and even last years' sales are said to be more than trebling by 2015. Such high sales figures just can't relate to trendy 'early adopter' types sporting the latest sexy designs, so who is going to be buying all of these tablets? Surprisingly, according to one source, as many as 63% of tablets already sold in the UK were purchased 'for business use'. According to another, these aren't just flashy boardroom toys, all sorts of really practical uses in schools, retail, manufacturing and healthcare have been found for the 'must-have' gadgets, such that the public sector and large enterprises are buying them up by the vanload. Here in the more humble world of IT support for the smaller organisation, we don't get to see a lot of that action! But we are starting to see more than a trickle of interest in what tablets can do. In this article, we take a look beyond the hype and try to get to the bottom of what uses they can be put to in a business context. So what exactly is the point of a tablet? Whilst serious fanatics will have you thinking that they can do pretty much anything, back in the real world, the truth is that they aren't a replacement for a full computer system. Not yet at least! Instead, the overwhelming majority of those purchased will be used as an accessory a peripheral that is bought in addition to existing kit - to fill specific gaps where a PC or Laptop just doesn't cut the mustard. Their innovative size and shape has lead to several functions that tablets are particularly adept at, such as: 1) The Portable Mini-Office: There are some standard business tasks that tablets are much more convenient for than a laptop by virtue of their size, weight and speed to boot up. These 'portable office' functions include casual web browsing, taking notes, accessing calendars, and emailing. 2) Data Capture: Tablets have considerable versatility thanks to their shape, size and 'touch' screens. You can draw diagrams, take photos, hold video calls or pass them around for others to see. Moreover they are great for any task that involves simple data input such as signatures, making choices on forms by keying in text and by pressing buttons etc. 3) App-Specific Functions: Given the huge market and ease of developing software for tablets, apps now exist for almost anything you can think of, and many things you would never have thought of! The overwhelming majority of these are functionally useless for businesses and not-for-profits. However there are a handful that are excellent, and the possibiltity exists that one of these or indeed your own app that you might commission could revolutionise the way you manage your company or deliver your services. 4) Leisure and Pleasure. Lets face it, tablets are a portable entertainment centre that can be taken home with ease and used by all the family for a variety of activities from facebook to e-books, games to education, music to films. Some now even suggest the opposite - that you can 'Bring Your Own Device' to work on. In either case, whilst there exist methods to secure tablets for more business-like functions, in the main it is easier to accept that 'users will do, what users will do' with them! Based on this analysis, the 'Data Capture' and 'App-Specific' functions would seem to have the most appeal as far as the needs of the small/medium organisation are concerned. The current crop of tablets led by the iPad - have greater potential to be used for quite specific and pre-identified purposes, not as generic computers. This is because they are particularly good for unlocking new places, new audiences and new ways in which data can be captured and shared. If you have a need for data entry, searching or sharing when working in the field whether in the form of handwriting, text, drawing, photos, filling in forms, or simply pressing buttons on a website then a tablet may be the ideal device. Lets not underestimate though that the hardware itself is only part of the story, the full 'solution' may also involve investment in wider changes to your main IT system or the creation of suitable apps. And within that thinking, you'll need to consider your approach to the risks of 'Leisure and Pleasure' use! As for the 'Portable Mini-Office' concept, we are at a very significant crossroads. At current, the convenience factor of using tablets for this type of functionality comes at a high price. Not only is the cost of the tablet itself (at £250-£600) an extra cost to pay when any old laptop would probably do the job, but also the apps that allow you to do browsing, emailing and note-taking only give you basic features- features that are typically indentical to what you will find on your smartphone, just on a bigger screen. Unless your IT system has been designed around the proclivities of the available tablet/smartphone software, you'll probably have to keep another computer with a bigger screen, mouse and keyboard in order to work with shared files, and to use Word, Outlook and Excel fully. And that means two devices, two sets of IT purchases and often two rather incompatible software eco-systems being forced to 'play nicely' with each other. However, with the introduction in December 2012 by Dell, Samsung and others of Windows 8 Professional-based tablets, things could be about to change. The concept of a tablet being 'everything the business user needs in one package' is becoming closer to a reality. These tablets differ from Android and Apple products in that they can and do run the full Windows experience and the normal, full versions of Windows-compatible software packages. They can be centrally managed and controlled to reduce 'Leisure and Pleasure' risks. Combined with a dock, they can link to a regular monitor, mouse and keyboard with ease and they therefore have both the power and software to become genuine laptop or PC replacements. Expect to pay £600-£1200 for one of these right now, but that price may well come down as manufacturers enter this potentially massive new market. In summary, there can be no doubt that the iPad was a revolution in IT terms. It created the possibility for computers to be used in ways that were never before possible, and tablets are already being put to use in some highly innovative solutions for Private, Public and the Third Sector alike. But if you don't have a 'problem' that tablets could resolve, they may well seem like luxury accessories that are more likely to end up in the hands of the kids than doing any serious work! That said, tablet computing is still in its infancy, and a new breed of much more powerful tablets are just around the corner. Thanks to these, a future in which your organisation buys tablets instead of PCs or laptops is becoming a distinct possibility. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Cloud Specialist Service If you are one of the many organisations trying to get to grips with cloud computing, we may have just the service for you. We are offering a free consultation from our Cloud Specialist who can discuss whether or not it's something that might be of benefit. As with everything ESP does, there's no pressure, we are pledged to be wholly impartial and we will always tell you if any product is just not right for you. Take a look at our website for more info on our Cloud Computing services, or Contact Us to arrange this jargon-free consultation. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Get What Your Charity Wants With Wish Lists A couple of our Charity clients have mentioned recently that setting up an Amazon Wish List is an excellent way of obtaining products they would otherwise have to raise cash for. The way it works is that you do some hypothetical shopping, and then create and share a link to your Wish List via your website, twitter, email or facebook page. Potential donors can now easily buy you these products - or indeed suggest an alternative source - rather than giving you money. Many think that this increases the donor's 'feelgood factor' as this allows people to easily identify the difference they have made rather than simply paying into a generic pot. There are of course a huge range of products on Amazon, but Wish Lists also have a feature that allows you do add products to your list from other websites too! Setting up a Wish List is easy. All you need is an Amazon account in the name of your Charity. Log into this, and on the 'Your Account' page, at the bottom under 'Lists', you will find the Wish List link. Click on this. Your 'List Profile' now appears on the left of the screen. If you click on 'Show List Profile' you can now add more text. As your list is publicly viewable you can describe your charity or say why you want these products. Once done, it's now time to go shopping! Find the products you want and instead of adding items to your shopping basket, you 'Add to Wishlist'. Install the Wish List Bookmarklet to add products from other websites. You can manage your list from the 'Your Account' screen as described above. All that remains is to publicise the list. Amazon provides some useful tools to do this for you, but you can also just copy and paste the link and use your own imagination! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Thank You Microsoft Safety Scanner! Regular readers might be interested to know of a handy little tool that few have heard of but that has been around for over year now. The Microsoft Safety Scanner is a natty little utility designed to run a one-off scan for viruses. It can't be installed permanently and offers no 'ongoing' protection, so it's not a substitute for Antivirus software. However, it's free for all and easy to use- all you do is download and run it, and it can do a 'Quick Scan' in a few minutes. It really came into its own this week - managing to find and ultimately get rid of a Trojan that was causing problems at ESP. Indeed, we have much to be grateful for, as other AV software had not spotted this particularly powerful threat. One caveat is that removal of the virus wasn't totally straightforward. After the Quick Scan it reported that the problem had been tackled. We ran it again following a reboot, just to be sure.. Lo and behold the stubborn little blighter was still there! Instead then, a boot into Safe Mode with Networking (hold down F8 when restarting) followed by a Full Scan was required. About an hour and a half later the virus was gone for good. If you find yourself needing a second opinion on whether your machine is infected with malicious software, the Microsoft Safety Scanner could be just the ticket!