5 Tech Tools to Watch in 2014

Written By Alerus Small Business Connect, December 4, 2013

technology

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, 2014 is going to be a virtual gift to small business success.

Next year will mark a more robust technological landscape than we’ve ever seen before. From print-free, scan-free contract software solutions to freelance solutions, many new offerings are simple to use, affordable, and save time.

Of course, nothing’s ever perfect, so here is our short list of products and platforms to watch in 2014, including a few pros and cons:

Odesk
Part Angie’s List, part LinkedIn, Odesk is a freelance solution for businesses that rely on outsourcing work. Odesk allows users to post a job, find a professional, make a payment and track a project’s progress in one easy-to-use online dashboard.
The pros: You have access to thousands of experienced professionals in many fields, including web developers, content writers, SEO specialists and more.
The cons: You may spend more time searching for a good candidate when you could have spent that time calling up a trusted colleague and asking for a good, local referral.

Slideshare
PowerPoint is so 1999 now that there’s Slideshare. With it, businesses can share and swap presentations to anyone or any organization across the globe. Much like your Facebook newsfeed, the Slideshare homepage streams a host of trending topics from popular social media sites.
The pros: Analytics, ad removal and file uploads are free.
The cons: If you want to add services and more than one file, you have to sign up for a plan, which can get pricy at $41 a month ($490/year) for standard service.

Square
Ideal for new or very small businesses, Square allows entrepreneurs to make a sale virtually anywhere using a small credit card scanner that attaches to most mobile devices.
The pros: Aside from the fact that you can make a profit anywhere you go, similar to Etsy, Square also hosts an online marketplace where consumers can browse and purchase from other small businesses.
The cons: Square takes 2.75% of each sale you make, meaning if you sell $100 worth of product or service, you’ll get $97.25 in return – funds that are available one to two business days after the transaction.

HipChat
Ever wish Skype would allow drag-and-drop functionality and easier group chats? Well, Atlassian recently unleashed a new kind of instant messaging – HipChat. With mobile and online apps and platforms, HipChat goes with employees anywhere they need to be.
The pros: No server needed, and companies can sign up temporary users for freelancers, interns and other contract associates. Plus, it’s free for teams of five or less.
The cons: While you can switch from a virtual conference room to a private chat, users who like to gossip need to be careful that their message about Greg’s garlic breath doesn’t get posted to an entire team instead of one trusted coworker.

LastPass Enterprise
Between business accounts, accounting software, user profiles, website usernames, you likely have dozens of passwords stored in that noggin’ of yours (or at least you try your best). LastPass Enterprise vaults all of your passwords in one spot. Touted as “the last password you’ll need to remember,” LastPass Enterprise allows businesses to save and store passwords for you and employees, all while instantly adding and deleting profiles and accounts as needed.
The pros: For those of you who are wary of storing passwords in one place, (and for those who actually know what this means) LastPass uses AES 256-bit encryption with routinely-increased PBKDF2 iterations.
The cons: At $24 per user, and depending on the size of your small business, it could be an added expense that just isn’t worth it.

Although lots of these programs and platforms have been around awhile, we’ll likely see most of them gain in popularity among small businesses as the year progresses. It will be interesting to see which ones succeed in enticing – and helping – entrepreneurs gain business without losing money or time.

REBLOGGED:  This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 2:45 pm and is filed under Technology

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Voice calls from planes

Voice calls from planes: A social debate, not a

technology dilemma

FCC to allow public comment on removing an in-flight calling ban, but U.S. airlines say passengers don’t want voice calls

By Matt Hamblen

December 13, 2013 01:59 PM ET

Computerworld – Making voice calls via cell phone aboard a plane doesn’t hold much interest for U.S. airline passengers or airlines, but there isn’t a technological reason to ban them, according to federal authorities.

The debate over making voice calls at 35,000 feet has become like so many debates with technology: Sure, we can do it, but do we want to?

In essence, whether voice calls are banned on planes comes down to a behavioral discussion and not one about technology.

“This is now a political and social question and not one of technology,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. “I personally would not want people talking loudly and incessantly during a six-plus hour trip, and I’m betting most airlines will ban in-flight calls in the U.S. because they are worried it will anger their passengers.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week said that voice call concerns have been aired by airlines, travelers, flight attendants and even members of Congress. “I am concerned … as well,” he said in a statement. The Department of Transportation oversees the U.S. aviation industry.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 to start a long public comment period to consider removing a 22-year-old FCC prohibition on phone calls during flights over concerns they would interfere with cellular networks on the ground.

FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler voted in the majority, saying there is new on-board technology that prevents ground interference and renders the FCC restriction unnecessary. The restriction would remain in place if any airplane didn’t have the new equipment to manage cellular signals installed on its planes.

Wheeler conceded in a statement, “I don’t want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else.” But he added that removing the prohibition would be a de-regulatory move that “gets the government out from between airlines and their passengers…the free market works best to determine the appropriate outcome.”

Wheeler said the DOT would be the body to address “behavioral issues” related to phone calls on planes, not the FCC.

However, at the FCC hearing when the vote was taken, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voted with the majority to let the public comment period start, but said she doesn’t ultimately support removing the FCC prohibition on calls, and asserted that the FCC’s role goes beyond acting only as technicians. She envisioned a future time when planes will have “quiet” sections that cost more than areas of the plane where calls are allowed, and there is also support for the FCC’s changing the regulation, including from the Telecommunications Industry Association, which notes that in countries allowing phone use, the calls usually last less than two minutes with only a few people making them at once. Some of the voice calls are made by passengers checking voicemail, without the passenger doing any talking.

Foreign airlines that allow phone calls are poised to extend that permission in the U.S. if the FCC lifts its ban, but analysts believe it’s pretty clear that such competitive pressure won’t induce U.S. airlines to go along.

British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France, KLM, Emirates, Aeroflot and Virgin Atlantic allow voice calling, but Lufthansa and Aer Lingus do not.

The in-flight voice services of those airlines use small cellular base stations onboard planes called picocells, which communicate with the main cell network via satellite to reduce interference. That’s the category of technology that Wheeler described as making it possible to lift the FCC ban.

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted a longtime ban on using personal devices at takeoff and landing below 10,000 feet, provided the devices remain in airplane mode, which means they aren’t connected via Wi-Fi, a wireless technology now widely available on U.S. airlines. The FAA’s action means a device could stay on during an entire flight without interfering with a plane’s electronics and communications as once feared. Several airlines immediately adopted the policy change.

Conceivably, in-air Wi-Fi could be used as a means to send Internet Protocol voice calls, or even video calls or a service like Skype, but that ability is usually not allowed over Wi-Fi, and airlines would probably ban that approach if they also decide to ban cellular calls.

Wheeler described how an onboard access system would give an airline total control over what type of mobile services to permit, even giving passengers the ability to send texts and emails, surf the Web and make phone calls without the need to sign up for Wi-Fi. That’s because the signal would be managed over the cellular network.

Of course, an airline could also use onboard access systems to shut down voice only, while allowing other services.

Having Wi-Fi for browsing and email, without voice calling distractions, suits some frequent fliers just fine, including Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

“As much as I love having Wi-Fi on planes so I can get some work done, I love even more that I do not get phone calls, so that I can get work done!” she said.

This article, Voice calls from planes: A social debate, not a technology dilemma, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt’s RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

OpenStack Cloud Platform

Dell, Red Hat team to sell OpenStack cloud platform

Dell building high-end system to run Red Hat’s OpenStack implemention

By Joab Jackson

December 12, 2013 03:24 PM ET

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IDG News Service – Dell will start selling systems early next year that run Red Hat’s version of the OpenStack open-source cloud platform.

The offering will be tailored for large enterprises that wish to set up private clouds, said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat general manager for virtualization and OpenStack.

Dell announced the partnership Thursday at the company’s Dell World enterprise users conference in Austin, Texas.

Dell is the second major enterprise systems company to use OpenStack as the basis for a line of enterprise private cloud products. Earlier this week, Hewlett-Packard also announced that the newest version of its own CloudSystem private cloud systems run the company’s HP Cloud OS, which is based on OpenStack.

Both announcements suggest that OpenStack may be ready for enterprise use, or at least coming close to enterprise readiness.

In a recently posted commentary, Gartner research director Alessandro Perilli said that the OpenStack project lacks clarity about its goals, and OpenStack vendors lack transparency around their business models. As a result, enterprises should still be wary of OpenStack, Perilli argued.

“There are definitely parts of OpenStack platform that are still have a ways to go in terms of maturing,” Balakrishnan said at DellWorld, pointing by way of an example to its still nascent technologies for offering networking as a service. The core parts of the software, however, are operationally solid and Red Hat has worked to bring these components to the level of an “enterprise grade implementation,” he said.

“We fundamentally believe that OpenStack will be the new data-center fabric of the future,” Balakrishnan said.

Dell and Red Hat will work together to engineer the system, which will be built using Dell hardware and the next version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. Dell did not delve into details about the possible hardware configurations, though the package will use Red Hat’s Linux OpenStack Platform 4, which is currently in beta.

This Red Hat software package includes the latest version of OpenStack, named Havana, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5.

Dell’s Cloud Services will sell the system, which will be implemented by the unit’s Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform practice.

The offering will be among the first products of a newly expanded partnership between Dell and Red Hat. Dell and Red Hat have been long-time partners. Dell has been using Red Hat software in its own packaged systems for 14 years.

Dell and Red Hat will also work together on a number of projects to further improve OpenStack. They will work on OpenStack Neutron, a project to bring Software-Defined Networking capabilities to OpenStack, allowing the platform to offer networking as a service. They will also collaborate on Ceilometer, a project to improve OpenStack instrumentation for monitoring and billing purposes.

In related private cloud news, Dell also announced Thursday that it would include the open-source Eucalyptus cloud software on its packages of server, storage, and networking equipment.

Eucalyptus replicates the APIs (application programming interfaces) of the Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2), allowing organizations to replicate the AWS service on their own networks.

REBLOG FROM:  Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab’s e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Dell, Red Hat team to sell OpenStack cloud platform

Dell building high-end system to run Red Hat’s OpenStack implemention

By Joab Jackson
December 12, 2013 03:24 PM ET

IDG News Service – Dell will start selling systems early next year that run Red Hat’s version of the OpenStack open-source cloud platform.

The offering will be tailored for large enterprises that wish to set up private clouds, said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat general manager for virtualization and OpenStack.

Dell announced the partnership Thursday at the company’s Dell World enterprise users conference in Austin, Texas.

Dell is the second major enterprise systems company to use OpenStack as the basis for a line of enterprise private cloud products. Earlier this week, Hewlett-Packard also announced that the newest version of its own CloudSystem private cloud systems run the company’s HP Cloud OS, which is based on OpenStack.

Both announcements suggest that OpenStack may be ready for enterprise use, or at least coming close to enterprise readiness.

In a recently posted commentary, Gartner research director Alessandro Perilli said that the OpenStack project lacks clarity about its goals, and OpenStack vendors lack transparency around their business models. As a result, enterprises should still be wary of OpenStack, Perilli argued.

“There are definitely parts of OpenStack platform that are still have a ways to go in terms of maturing,” Balakrishnan said at DellWorld, pointing by way of an example to its still nascent technologies for offering networking as a service. The core parts of the software, however, are operationally solid and Red Hat has worked to bring these components to the level of an “enterprise grade implementation,” he said.

“We fundamentally believe that OpenStack will be the new data-center fabric of the future,” Balakrishnan said.

Dell and Red Hat will work together to engineer the system, which will be built using Dell hardware and the next version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. Dell did not delve into details about the possible hardware configurations, though the package will use Red Hat’s Linux OpenStack Platform 4, which is currently in beta.

This Red Hat software package includes the latest version of OpenStack, named Havana, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5.

Dell’s Cloud Services will sell the system, which will be implemented by the unit’s Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform practice.

The offering will be among the first products of a newly expanded partnership between Dell and Red Hat. Dell and Red Hat have been long-time partners. Dell has been using Red Hat software in its own packaged systems for 14 years.

Dell and Red Hat will also work together on a number of projects to further improve OpenStack. They will work on OpenStack Neutron, a project to bring Software-Defined Networking capabilities to OpenStack, allowing the platform to offer networking as a service. They will also collaborate on Ceilometer, a project to improve OpenStack instrumentation for monitoring and billing purposes.

– See more at: http://feeds.computerworld.com/s/article/9244756/Dell_Red_Hat_team_to_sell_OpenStack_cloud_platform?taxonomyId=158#sthash.U0frauxZ.dpuf