Microsoft Starting OneDrive Downgrade Process

Microsoft was once one of the best free cloud storage providers. With OneDrive, you could get 15GB of free storage that could be doubled if you installed OneDrive on your phone as well. That is all set to come to an end in July after Microsoft announced changes late last year. In an effort to smooth the storage capacity downgrade, Microsoft has started warning users about the July 13th deadline to either buy more space or migrate enough data so you are below the new 5GB cap.

When Microsoft first starting cutting storage space, the failure to grandfather current users led to widespread and vocal protests over the changes. In the end, Microsoft relented from the public pressure and allowed current users to keep their 15/30GB of free storage provided they filled out a form requesting as such. After the whole debacle, Microsoft admitted they had rushed things and screwed up. With the early warning to users, it looks like the lesson has been learned.

With a 5GB tier, OneDrive will have the same capacity as Apple’s iCloud free tier and 3GB more than what Dropbox offers. Still, it is less than what Google, Amazon and box all offer and much lower than the 40GB glory days when OneDrive was still SkyDrive. At least we know Microsoft will take user privacy seriously. For those of you who haven’t signed up to keep your free storage, be sure to migrate your data away or buy more storage before the July 13th deadline.

Cloud-Compatible Pen-and-Paper Notebook Can be Reused After Microwaving

Have you ever had to compromise between traditional pen-and-paper work and digital organisation? Do you find yourself having to scan documents in order to store them alongside computer records, or just have an ever-increasing stack of notepads? Thankfully, a new cloud-compatible pen-and-paper notebook is aiming to bridge the gap between traditional paperwork and digital storage.

The Rocketbook Wave looks like a normal notebook, with the only unusual addition being a series of symbols at the bottom of each page. Once you’ve filled in a page – writing, drawing, or doodling – using a Pilot FriXion pen, you can use the Rocketbook phone app (available for Android and iOS) to scan and upload the page through the built-in camera to your desired cloud storage service, which includes Dropbox, Evernote, OneNote, Google Docs, and e-mail.

The symbols at the base of each page can be assigned to different services, so all you need to do is put a cross over the symbol that represents the service you’d like to use; for example, if you’ve assigned the diamond symbol to upload to your Evernote account, then a cross over the diamond will upload your document direct to Evernote.

The Rocketbook app uses your smartphone’s camera to detect, crop, and enhance every image that is scanned before it is uploaded, so there is no need to post-processing of scanned images.

But what happens once you’ve filled your Rocketbook Wave? Well, thanks to the thermochromic ink used by Pilot FriXion pens, the whole book can be erased by exposure to microwaves. Simply pop your Rocketbook Wave in the microwave until the logo on the front turns white, and the book is fresh for use again.

The Rocketbook Wave Kickstarter has already demolished its $20,000 goal, raising $144,436 in pledges with 52 days remaining.

Microsoft Will Grandfather OneDrive 15GB Free Storage Users

Just a little over a month ago, Microsoft announced some wide sweeping and controversial changes for their OneDrive cloud storage platform. Due to apparent customer abuse, the unlimited storage option as was going away and a new pricing tier system introduced. Free users also saw their capacity cut down from 15GB + 15GB to 5GB. The complaint though was that current users were going to see their plans change without being grandfathered in. This changes today at least for the free users.

From now till the end of January 2016, current OneDrive users can sign up here in order to keep their 15GB of free storage and 15GB of Camera Roll bonus if they have that as well. Customers will also be able to get Office 365 Personal free for one year along with the 1TB of storage that comes with that.

If Microsoft had done this in the first place, there likely wouldn’t have been the uproar or backlash that occurred. It ended up taking over 70,000 votes on the OneDrive feedback site to get Microsoft to change their tune. Ironically, paying users will still lose their unlimited storage and some of their plan options.

In the end, this is part of the transition that Microsoft is doing to try to make OneDrive more profitable and more of a way to glue together their Windows ecosystem rather than as pure cloud storage. By offering some free storage that most users likely won’t use, Microsoft may get back some of the free will they’ve lost with their initial debacle. You can find Microsoft’s full statement here.

Google Maps Reviewers to be Rewarded With 1TB Free Cloud Storage

Google has outlined a new rewards system for users of its Local Guides program. Regular reviewers will earn points for contributing to Google Maps, with redeemable rewards ranging from early access to Google products to 1TB of free cloud storage via Google drive. Users who reach the level 5 points threshold will even be invited to attend the 2016 Google Local Guides summit at the Google Campus.

Google is offering the following rewards:

  • Level 1 (0 – 4 points): Enter exclusive contests (think new Google devices!) in select countries. 
  • Level 2 (5 – 49 points): Get early access to new Google products and features. 
  • Level 3 (50 – 199 points): Show up in the Google Maps app with your official Local Guides badge. 
  • Level 4 (200 – 499 points): Receive a free 1 TB upgrade of your Drive storage, allowing you to keep all the stories, photos, and videos from your travels in one safe place. 
  • Level 5 (500+ points): The very top Local Guides will become eligible to apply to attend our inaugural summit in 2016, where you’ll be able to meet other top Guides from around the world, explore the Google campus, and get the latest info about Google Maps. Look out for details early next year.

Progress can be tracked via the ‘Contributions’ tab on the Google Maps for Android and iOS.

Microsoft to Host Data in Germany to Protect it From US Spying

Microsoft has announced that it is to open a number of data centres in Germany, in partnership with T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom AG, to offer cloud storage to European customers away from the prying eyes of US intelligence programs. The data centres are expected to be live by the end of 2016 and serve customers within the European Union or member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every individual on the planet to achieve more,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, said. “Our new datacenter regions in Germany, operated in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, will not only spur local innovation and growth, but offer customers choice and trust in how their data is handled and where it is stored.”

Microsoft assures customers that the quality of its cloud storage services – which have come under fire for false advertising following its withdrawal of unlimited data storage from OneDrive accounts due to “user abuse” – will not be affected, only where the data is stored.

“Microsoft is pioneering a new, unique, solution for customers in Germany and Europe. Now, customers who want local control of their data combined with Microsoft’s cloud services have a new option, and I anticipate it will be rapidly adopted,” Timotheus Hottges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, added.

Further Microsoft datacenters are planned for the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

Over 20,000 Users Petition Microsoft to Stop OneDrive Capacity Downgrades

Just days after Microsoft announced wide sweeping changes for OneDrive, users have started pushing back. Microsoft is planning to remove its unlimited storage option, restore a 1TB cap, remove the 100 and 200GB options and cutting free users down to 5GB from 30GB (15GB + 15GB Camera Roll). Given these changes, it’s not surprising that petitions on Change.org and the OneDrive forums have taken off.

The Change.org petition is the tamer and less ambitious of the two. It simply asks for the 100 and 200GB tiers to remain as options. With the new changes, only the a new 50GB and 1TB option are available. It also asks that the 15GB Camera Roll bonus for all users be reinstated. In regards to the “abuse” of the unlimited storage which prompted these changes, the petition suggests a 2TB cap for the highest tier and notes that the limited capacities of the other tiers couldn’t have led to abuse, meaning they shouldn’t have been changed. This petition has 5,500 signature so far.

 

On the OneDrive forums, the protest is much more vocal. Here, it asks that Microsoft cancel their planned changes and keep things as they are. They note that 5GB is pretty much useless in today’s world and want Microsoft to deal with the “abusers” in such a way that normal users won’t be affected. Not surprisingly, there are at least 18,720 votes for this suggestion. Given that way voting works on the forums, there may be as many as 56,165 users who have voted for this petition.

Given the retroactive application of the new policies, it’s not surprising that many current and future OneDrive users are up in arms about the whole thing. Even if Microsoft felt there was a need to change their plans, applying it only to future customers (excepting the abusers) would have been much more palatable. In the end, given the response to the even greater backlash from Windows 10, Microsoft will probably soldier on and do things their way.

Microsoft OneDrive Downgrade Will Apply Retroactively

When we first heard about the change to OneDrive capacity, we were expecting that Microsoft would grandfather current users. We’re now getting word that all current and future users will be affected by the new policy. This means for users with unlimited storage, they will get their capacity reduced to 1TB and free users from 15/30GB max down to 5GB.

We’re no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage. Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued.

For at least the first 12 months, unlimited users who are above their limit will be able to keep their increased storage over 1TB. The same goes for free users who will be able to access their stored files for at least 12 months as well. Given this wording, we can expect that users might not be able to add files to their OneDrive till they’ve decreased their use to below the limits once the policy takes place.

The move to cut back on unlimited users comes as some outliers are using as much as 75TB of storage, about 14,000 times more than the average user. This puts the average user at about 5.7GB of usage. Interestingly enough, even though the focus of the policy change is on unlimited users, the new amount of free storage offered 5GB (down from 15+15GB Camera Roll Bonus), is just a tad short of what an average user will need. Older SkyDrive users will be hit even harder as they drop from a potential free 40GB down to 5GB, an 87.5% cut in capacity. At least Microsoft is offering a 1-year subscription to Office365 + 1TB of OneDrive for those willing to provide credit card details, though this might be upsetting to paying users.

With OneDrive integrated so deeply into Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, Microsoft is really doing a disservice to their brand with such a move. 5GB of cloud storage isn’t much these days and even the top tier plan of 1TB won’t do much when many users are not sporting multiple TerraBytes of data on their devices. By pulling such a switch from unlimited to limited, Microsoft risks losing the trust of users and future more users may be more hesitant to commit. It seems like a more nuanced approach that offered unlimited with conditions or tiers about 5-10TB would have been better this nuclear option. In the end, Microsoft wasn’t able to deliver the unlimited storage it promised.

Kim Dotcom’s Mega 3.0 Will Be Fully Encrypted and Non-Profit

Kim Dotcom just won’t let it lie. After Megaupload, his first stab at a file-sharing service, was taken down amid a flurry of legal action, which resulted in the German entrepreneur having his assets seized by the US government, Dotcom launched Mega, which offered users free and secure cloud storage. However, Dotcom recently revealed that he was forced out of the company after a hostile takeover by alleged Chinese crook Bill Liu (aka William Yan), with the business later appropriated by the New Zealand government. But Dotcom already has plans afoot for a third attempt.

Dotcom made an exclusive statement to WIRED, reaffirming his fear that Mega has been compromised. “I don’t trust the new control group of Mega and it saddens me to see Mega in the hands of bad actors like Bill Liu and copyright extremists like Hollywood. And of course the New Zealand Government,” he said.

The man behind New Zealand’s Pirate Party, though, is determined to bring the people a fully encrypted, safe, and secure third iteration of his Mega experiment, both in terms of file security and legality, which he aims to do under the banner of a non-profit organisation.

“No shareholders, no seizures, no trouble,” Dotcom told WIRED. “I’m working with the best copyright experts and Mega is pretty much bullet proof against legal attacks. The new site will be even better. Hard disk sizes are massively increasing and hardware prices have dropped to all-time lows. Bandwidth is getting cheaper too. This new site will cover its operating costs easily from donations. You give users something they love and they will keep you going. I will probably not be living in a mansion, but I will sleep well knowing that I make millions of people happy every day.”

Thank you WIRED for providing us with this information.

It Might Be Time to Delete Your Mega Account

Controversial German web entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, founder of defunct file sharing site Megaupload, and its sister cloud-sharing service Mega, has warned that Mega has been forced out of his control via a hostile takeover and into the hands of the New Zealand government, via a Chinese businessman wanted for fraud.

Dotcom revealed the news during a Q&A session on Slashdot, during which he responded to user questions ranging from his foray into politics with the Internet Party in New Zealand to his dealing with US law enforcement. When asked, “What assurance could you give someone to the point that their files may not be kept secret while hosted on [Mega]?”, Dotcom replied:

 I’m not involved in Mega anymore. Neither in a managing nor in a shareholder capacity. The company has suffered from a hostile takeover by a Chinese investor who is wanted in China for fraud. He used a number of straw-men and businesses to accumulate more and more Mega shares. Recently his shares have been seized by the NZ government. Which means the NZ government is in control. In addition Hollywood has seized all the Megashares in the family trust that was setup for my children. As a result of this and a number of other confidential issues I don’t trust Mega anymore. I don’t think your data is safe on Mega anymore. But my non-compete clause is running out at the end of the year and I will create a Mega competitor that is completely open source and non-profit, similar to the Wikipedia model. I want to give everyone free, unlimited and encrypted cloud storage with the help of donations from the community to keep things going.

Mega, if it was ever trustworthy, certainly isn’t now. Deleting your files and closing your account seems like a sensible move.

Thank you Slashdot for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wired.

Vodafone Makes Deal with Dropbox for Smartphone Data Backups

Vodafone has secured a significant deal with cloud storage provider Dropbox that will provide its customers with 25GB free space and integration with Vodafone’s new Backup+ service.

Backup+ allows Android and iPhone users to restore content to their devices, but can also be used for device migration, making the switch between Android and iOS smartphones much easier. The service also allows customers to share data with other people.

New Vodafone customers who set up a Dropbox account through Backup+ will receive a free gift of 25GB storage for a year. Other offers, yet to be unveiled, will be made available to all Backup+ users.

Though the Backup+ app will be made available to customers on the Vodafone network by the end of March, it will take a few months to roll out to most Vodafone areas.

Source: Engadget

PayPal Pulls MEGA Support

PayPal has ceased supporting customer payments for MEGA as of Friday. A post on MEGA’s blog suggests that PayPal has refused to handle the cloud storage service’s transactions due to its presence in a NetNames report accusing it of being an illegitimate business, and subsequent pressure by Visa and Mastercard.

The blog reads:

MEGA is aware of a report published by NetNames (partially funded from the MPAA supported Digital Citizens Alliance) that incorrectly claims MEGA’s business to not be a legitimate cloud storage service. MEGA is aware that Senator Leahy (Vermont, Chair Senate Judiciary Committee) then pressured Visa and MasterCard to cease providing payment services to the companies named in that report.

Visa and MasterCard then pressured PayPal to cease providing payment services to MEGA.

Though PayPal later acknowledged that it considers MEGA to be a legitimate operation, it decided to maintain its embargo, citing the “unknowability of what is on the platform,” effectively penalising MEGA for using effective end-to-end encryption.

While PayPal continues to withhold its service, MEGA says it will not punish its customers over it:

Until new payment systems are implemented, MEGA will temporarily not enforce its storage limits or suspend any accounts for non-payment and has extended existing subscriptions by 2 months free of charge.

MEGA has 15 million customers across 200 countries using its cloud storage service. It was launched by web entrepreneur Kim Dotcom as a secure alternative to the likes of Dropbox, after the service gave the NSA access to user data through the PRISM initiative.

Source: MEGA

Get 2GB Extra Google Drive Storage for Taking Security Check-Up

To celebrate Safer Internet Day, an initiative to encourage computer users to consider the security of their systems, Google is offering 2GB of storage to Google Drive users to anyone who takes a security check-up by 17th February.

The check-up reviews your sign-in activity, your app permissions and asks you to check that your account recovery details are up-to-date.

After completing the check-up, users will receive their 2GB storage boost on 28th February. Interested users should click this link to complete the security check-up.

Source: The Next Web

3TB Seagate Hard Drives Have 43% Failure Rate, According to Backblaze

Cloud storage provider Backblaze, in its 2014 ‘Hard Drive Annual Failure Rate’ graph, reports that the 3TB Seagate Barracuda drives it used for its storage service had a 43.1% failure rate over 2014. Other Seagate models also performed badly, with the 1.5TB Barracuda 7200.11 failing 23.8% of the time.

It must be noted that Backblaze exposed the drives to heavy stress, using them 24/7 to support user data. Seagate’s drives, designed purely to serve as home external storage devices, are not expected to handle more than eight hours use a day, nor be used as part of a massive vibrating enclosure, so it is baffling why Backblaze would continue to use Barracuda HHDs for a task they are so ill-suited to.

Not every hard drive manufacturer fared as badly as Seagate, though. HGST drives in particular proved to be very reliable under heavy use, with its 2 to 4TB drives boasting only a 2.3% rate of failure for the year, and the 2TB 7K2000 model leading the pack with a 1.1% failure rate.

Source: Ars Technica

Dropbox Adapts Web Interface For Faster Sharing

Dropbox has adapted its user interface to facilitate easier sharing on its website. When you log in, next to each Dropbox folder is now a Share button, with the option to either invite people – giving them full read/write access – or send a direct link – even if the recipient doesn’t have their own Dropbox account – to your folder of choice.

These sharing facilities were already previously available, but the new interface gives users faster access to them, and is more intuitive than having to navigate dropdown menus. In the increasingly competitive cloud storage market, with Google Drive, Copy, and Microsoft’s OneDrive all jostling for position, any move to attract entry-level users is a positive one.

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft Forced To Rename SkyDrive After Trademark Dispute With BSkyB

The Verge reports that Microsoft has been forced by a UK court to rename its SkyDrive service after Microsoft lost a trademark dispute with the British Sky Broadcasting Group, BSkyB. As part of the settlement in their defeat to BSkyB, Microsoft has agreed to change the name of its product worldwide to avoid further trademark conflict.

“We’re glad to have resolution of this naming dispute, and will continue to deliver the great service our hundreds of millions of customers expect, providing the best way to always have your files with you,” Microsoft reportedly said in a statement.

The agreement has financial terms to it too and Microsoft has agreed to pay compensation to BSkyB to be able to continue using the trademark for enough time to make a transition to a new service. The “reasonable period of time” was not given a specific public time frame but no doubt that information was agreed on behind closed doors.

The name change of SkyDrive follows the name change Microsoft had to make towards its Windows 8 UI which it previously called a “Metro UI” or “Metro interface” and this invoked a rather large European trademark dispute. Now it is merely called the Windows 8 UI.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Google Trialing “NSA-Proof” Encryption For Its Drive Storage

According to a CNET report Google is preparing a new method of encrypting its Google Drive files to prevent the NSA and other intelligence organisations from accessing the files. This is apparently being designed to increase user privacy of its cloud storage and synchronisation service.

Google has been mentioned in the NSA PRISM scandals so taking such measures, according to two unnamed Google sources, is being done to improve Google’s public image and the public’s confidence in their services. By securing users’ private files with high-level encryption Google would not be able to give out the contents of storage data even if intelligence agencies demanded it with the help of a legally obtained warrant.

Widely circulated rumours have recently implicated Microsoft in assisting the NSA to get around its encryption for its SkyDrive service. Microsoft of course denied all allegations but the damage to their public reputation is unmeasurable. That said the Microsoft example dictates that encryption just isn’t enough for cloud storage as legal protection is also necessary to prevent companies being forced into sharing user data. As we mentioned a while back this has contributed to a growth of Swiss data storage as Switzerland has strong data protection laws.

Image courtesy of Google

NSA Scandal Will Cost American Cloud Storage Industry Millions

Vice President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, has made some dire predictions for the American cloud storage industry according to Russia Today. Neelie Kroes believes that U.S cloud storage providers are now going to suffer steep losses of revenue thanks to revelations about the NSA’s extensive spying programs.

“If businesses or governments think they might be spied on, they will have less reason to trust cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out…Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes?”

He then went on to say he believes the scandal could cost the U.S cloud storage industry dearly with “multi-billion euro” consequences.

“It is often American providers that will miss out, because they are often the leaders in cloud services. If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government, then maybe they won’t trust US cloud providers either. If I am right, there are multibillion-euro consequences for American companies. If I were an American cloud provider, I would be quite frustrated with my government right now.”

With the NSA’s PRISM program giving them unprecedented access to internet data and their spying activities covering emails, phone calls and numerous other things companies do not  feel safe operating in the USA.  This is hardly surprising and we may even see an exodus of U.S cloud storage companies from the USA to other countries in an attempt to prevent loss of earnings.

Image courtesy of Adaptivity Labs

NSA Leaks Have Seen Business For Swiss Data Centers Boom

The NSA spying scandal has heightened concerns across the world about data integrity. Businesses and private individuals are queuing up in abundance to move their files and servers to Swiss Data Centers. Companies like Artmotion, Switzerland’s biggest offshore hosting company, has reported that it is seeing a rapid increase in revenues this year as people look to take advantage of data anonymity in Switzerland.

Artmotion’s secure data services are only subject to Swiss law which states that only a warrant proving criminal intent or liability is enough to allow anyone access to the data except the owners. In the USA and the EU the governments can gain access to any data, sometimes without any paperwork, and in most cases warrants issued do not have to prove any intent or liability just that the data is needed for an ongoing investigation by government authorities.

It is expected that cloud-based European and North American data hosting services will suffer at the hands of the recent NSA scandal that has left businesses and individuals worrying about who can access their data. While the dubious nature of the data Switzerland’s cloud storage hosts may be called into question, at least people know their data will be safe. Switzerland has a long history of protecting people’s privacy, money and data. The “Swiss Bank Account” is probably the most commonly held association with Switzerland.

Image courtesy of ArtMotion

Samsung Buy Set Top Box Company Boxee

South Korean electronics giant Samsung is reportedly buying out the Israeli firm “Boxee” who make media streaming devices according to the BBC. The deal is reportedly worth around $30 million. Samsung stated that the takeover allowed it to acquire “key talent and assets” which “will help us continue to improve the overall user experience across our connected devices”.

Boxee’s products let subscribers record TV shows onto cloud storage and then stream them to TVs, computers and smart devices from this cloud storage. Given that Samsung is struggling to shift a lot of its smart TVs this could be a wise move for them as Boxee has a well recognised and trusted reputation with its consumer base. Now Samsung doesn’t have to struggle to convince people to use its smart TV services over that of its competitors because it now owns one of its competitors.

Despite this Boxee did struggle to make money because smart TVs are in their infancy. The acquisition by Samsung will help the Boxee concept to stay alive until smart TVs pick up in popularity a bit more, which is expected to happen in 2017 when an estimated 221 million will ship according to Informa Telecoms and Media. Only 54 million were sold in 2012.

Image courtesy of Boxee

Microsoft Introduces SkyDrive Pro Client For Windows Download

SkyDrive, Microsoft’s free cloud storage client, has been mainly used with your online email client such as Outlook or Hotmail, or with your Microsoft Office packages that allow syncing to Microsoft’s SkyDrive.

Recently Microsoft have released SkyDrive Pro, which is a new standalone client for Windows that allows you to sync files on your Windows based system with your SkyDrive account. SkyDrive Pro does not require any version of Microsoft Office to be installed to use it either. The new client is mainly targeted at Office 365 users and towards the business/enterprise market.

“The standalone SkyDrive Pro sync client allows users of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online in Office 365 to sync their personal SkyDrive Pro and any SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 team site document libraries to their local machine for access to important content on and offline. The SkyDrive Pro client can be installed side-by-side with previous versions of Office (Office 2010, Office 2007, etc),”

If you are a more “normal” user and have no uses for the SkyDrive “Pro” client then a standard SkyDrive app/client has already been made available for Android, iOS and Windows.

With all that said you can see the download links below:

Do you use SkyDrive? What are your thoughts on it? Will SkyDrive Pro be useful to you?

Source

5 Innovations That Improve Business Efficiency

Advances in Technology have led to increased efficiency throughout all areas of our lives. No other area has seen more improvements than the workplace. From warehouses to the office, technology has greatly improved productivity. Here’s a look at 5 of the best innovations for business efficiency.

1. Grexit

Image via Grexit.com

Grexit is innovative software developed to integrate all areas of communication within a company. It collaborates with Gmail software and streamlines project management. An individual can share an email with others and monitor the progress of various assignments — all within a Gmail inbox.

Labels allow the project manager to delegate assignments, and tracking features help to keep the project going full steam ahead.

2. Job Scheduling

If you’re working for a company that wants to minimize over- or under-scheduling, maximize work efficiency, and utilize all your resources, then look into improving your job scheduling. ORSYP’s job scheduling software offers a scalable approach to managing employees.

It gives real-time updates to its users, while insuring auditing standards are met. Job-scheduling software is an innovative way to ensure maximum production from your most important assets, your employees.

3. Stock Market Apps

Image via Google Play 

To be successful and efficient, businesses need to be fully aware of their surroundings. This includes knowing the economic climate. It can be difficult staying on top of the varying situations, but luckily technology has solved this problem through the use of applications.

There are several apps that easily display the current stock market situation and many of which provide understandable explanations. This will help any business prepare for fluctuations in the economy and adjust accordingly.

4. Cloud Storage

There are several available cloud storage programs that greatly improve workflow efficiency. With applications like DropBox, Google Drive, Soonr, and their like, cloud storage is a perfect solution for the hectic work place. It allows people in the office to simultaneously work on documents and share them with anyone who’s connected to the storage network.

Employees can edit, share, ad save documents to the cloud storage and then access them anywhere on a tablet, computer, or smartphone. This capability is unprecedented, and companies are just beginning to recognize the benefits of using cloud storage.

5. Video Conferencing 

Image via Flickr by Video Conferencing Solutions

The days of company managers traveling to obscure lands for business meetings are now a thing of the past. Advances in video conferencing have revolutionized the way we hold meetings. Owners no longer have to waste funds traveling and staying in hotels, they can easily communicate with people from across the world in the comfort of their office.

This is streamlining productivity because it allows a manger to meet with multiple clients in a personal manner building strength in those relationships. It also allows them to devote more time to the company because they do not have to travel as much. Video Conferencing is an excellent innovation in business efficiency.

An inefficient company is likely to struggle, especially in today’s competitive market. Companies need to take any steps they can to ensure productive expenditures. From video conferencing and job scheduling to accessible storage, technology has developed many useful innovations.

What other business innovations do you know of that can improve efficiency?

5 Ways Cloud Computing Can Streamline Your PC Use

Michael Irving is a freelance writer and blogger, who’s investigating colocation options for his small home business.

Cloud computing is a fascinating area of IT that’s quickly emerging to streamline many processes we take for granted. Whether you’re running a business or looking to improve your personal computer use, the cloud can help.

Wondering how this piece of technology can best benefit you? Here are five ways that cloud computing can help streamline your PC use.

Portability

Perhaps the simplest and most useful benefit that cloud services offer is portability. No more carrying things between work and home on USB drives or CDs, or emailing files to yourself. Cloud storage means files are accessible from potentially any device with an internet connection. You won’t accidentally leave important files at home anymore: save it to the cloud, and it will be in the office before you are.

Collaboration

Maybe you already have a reliable system for transporting your own files. That’s good. But we all know that collaborating with others can throw the most carefully laid plans out the window. Sure, you might never forget to update your USB stick with the latest versions of your work, but co-workers may not be so organised.

Easy access to the cloud from anywhere means that anyone contributing to a project can simply save the work as normal, and have it automatically update the online version. They can’t forget to save the work, surely. In this way, the cloud streamlines that most painful of practices: version control.

Less hardware is required

While programs like Microsoft Office aren’t too intensive on your computer’s memory, others, like the Adobe Creative Suite, can be. And once it’s on your hard drive, the license system makes it difficult to work anywhere else, without purchasing another license and installing the software on another device.

Running these programs through the cloud has several advantages. For one, your PC only really needs enough processing power to access the internet and run the operating system. The heavy lifting is handled by the servers. Pairing back the hardware requirements will save you money both immediately and in the long run, as you won’t need to update as often to keep up with advancing technology. And, of course, it keeps your PC clear of the clutter of rarely-used programs.

Secure data storage

If digital data storage is a key element of your business, the cloud can provide safer and more cost-effective alternatives to setting up and managing your own storage.

Third-party colocation data centres, such as Macquarie Telecom, are designed with security and stability in mind. The infrastructure will let you access your information from anywhere with an internet connection, keep it secure to ensure only you and those you authorise can access it, and protect against data loss with backups and advanced safety measures within the facility.

You may believe it’s best to only trust yourself with your vital data, but data centres can take the stress and expense out of the equation for you, without sacrificing availability or security.

Expandable – multiple servers as required

Online businesses can suffer if their servers can’t support the traffic they receive. Traditional single-server hosting may not be able to handle a sudden increase in visitors to your site, meaning some customers may be left waiting, and will likely take their business elsewhere.

In the past, the only way to prevent this was to purchase additional servers to support the traffic flow – a risky strategy in itself, if the traffic levels fluctuate.

Cloud computing streamlines this, in terms of cost and effort. From the cloud, your business can automatically connect to as many servers as the traffic requires, without the need for you to estimate a specific amount. When your visitors increase, the host will assign as many additional servers as required. When it wanes, the servers hosting your content will decrease, to prevent unnecessary expenses.