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Info-graphically Challenged?

As a jobbing graphic designer and part time doodler, I have recently been commissioned to design an infographic depicting an institution’s achievements over the past year. I jumped at the chance as there is something super lovely and geeky about this kind of work which not only allows me access to lots of data and facts but also allows me the means to interpret it in a creative and interesting way using lots of lovely graphics and bold bright colours. FUN TIMES GEEK FRIENDS.

In reality of course, it’s a bit of a bloomin’ nightmare with just too much information to show to the world that can not only be easily digested but also presented in an interesting manner. But never one to shy away from a challenge, I said yes and at this present moment I can’t say how it will turn out as I am mid-flow, but it’s good to push oneself in these situations.

We all live with so much information around and about us these days (I can’t not check my phone less than every ten minutes without a slight sense of impending anxiety and or doom…) so it seems to make sense that we are trying to communicate in more effective and original ways.

So be that through infographics, diagrams, Snapchat, tweeting with limited number of characters or just good old fashioned phone calls (really? It’s soo 2005), we are now at the mercy and possibly the danger of succumbing to having too much data to take in all the time at the very real threat of not being able to switch off.

So the solution other than designing everything to be beautiful and easy to digest, is to let someone else take the heat. That is, by transferring over your business communications to an outside company and let them filter the information for you.

Take for example Giacom’s hosted exchange email programme, a great value and effective way of improving your communication, increasing security and allowing more people you work with to join, chat and grow in one central, easily accessible space. No more stretching yourself to filter out all the ‘noise’ we surround ourselves with, but rather one simple plan, made to make your life easier.

Hopefully some advice that may be of benefit as I know it certainly helps me. Or, if you need more information perhaps I could draw you a diagram…

Space age

Of late I have been completely and utterly fascinated with space travel. Yes that’s right readers, you heard it here first; we, yes you, me and us (that is ordinary people and not astronauts) are going to be able to go up into space very soon.* YES. SPACE…

Thanks to the wonderfulness of Virgin Galactic you and I can all be heading up to the final frontier, the great beyond, the sky or as I like to call it, the universe * mind boggling as typing *.

It’s not all just PR guff, it really is going to happen. Norman Foster has designed and built ‘Spaceport America’ and everything (look it up – it’s amazing). Instead of your bog standard Heathrow / Gatwick / Manchester airport misery, you will now be transported into outer space from officially the coolest building. EVER.

True, it may be only those financially more privileged amongst us that may be heading star ways, but perhaps for everyone else there are other ways that we can think beyond the norm, reach up to skies above and make our everyday lives slightly more futuristic, transformational and cutting edge.  And here’s what I recommend; the fantastic form of Cloud Computing.

By adopting cloud computing you will be putting your business, company or even your personal life way up there in the stratosphere, allowing access to limitless resources, advantages and capabilities.

So once where you may have been constrained to a life less ordinary, The Cloud allows us all to become extraordinarily efficient, proficient and more importantly than ever before, secure.

By migrating your files skyward (in a very easy and straightforward way) you will have access to the latest software, the ability to multi-sync across devices across the globe and work remotely wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

So when we were children, we were sold a vision of the future in comic books and films like Dan Dare or Star Trek, creating a vision where we could speak to each other with our super duper television screen watches from every remote outpost across the universe. Well now, the future has arrived and space and the beyond has become a reality and there’s only one direction that’s the right way, and that’s upwards to the sky and all that The Cloud can offer.

*Spare 1 million pounds required

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Free enterprise

There’s definitely something to be said about the power of social media marketing. You can now go about your business setup, growth or diversification through employing the wonderful world, and let’s not forget free world of social media. I mean for goodness sakes some people’s company’s just do that alone. The mind doth boggle.

So I was thinking about this as a good friend of mine’s about to embark on a dance venture involving touring, festivals and workshops that are going to be marketed solely through this online enterprise. This is amazing.

Relying on this kind of marketing for ticket sales, box office income and sales performances could be seen as risky because no matter how good your show, your product, your business or your idea, if you don’t market it out, there is little point in ploughing all your energy into producing something that isn’t going to reach beyond your own circle of friends.

Fair point I hear you say, marketing is obviously key to any SME. Employing an agency to deliver your marketing agenda is a costly endeavor that many businesses choose to do. You have to speculate to accumulate right? Correct. However thanks to The Cloud and Social Media Marketing, perhaps the only thing you have to speculate on now is your time and energy and perhaps your perfectly chosen profile pic.

Social Media Marketing or SMM is free. Free to deliver, free to strategise, free to receive. The only thing that costs you is your time. This is invaluable to a small business, start-up or soon to be west-end, theatre production.  It is a truly simple way to engage people beyond your community, all the tools are already in place to ensure that it is not only easy but also incredibly effective.

Now while your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In networks are all good to go, events have been set-up, tweets queued and invitations to join your network sent out, there is one further tool that will really boost your SMM to perform beyond your expectations. The Cloud.

The Cloud will ensure all your SMM devices are synced, using hosted exchange to provide high-end email security and performance and last but definitely not least, to be able to access your online life, networks and latest ‘likes’ no matter where you are in the world whether that be the stage of the National Theatre or in your off-off-Broadway rehearsal room.

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Rating game

Your online rating; it’s a subject I have written about before and it’s one that will become more and more pertinent as time goes by. That is to say, when I talk about your online rating I am referring to not your credit score or anything as some might see as ‘official’, but rather your profile or feedback rating on websites such as Ebay, Airbnb, Amazon or even ASOS.

Surely not, some might say, that these aren’t important in the grand scheme of things? These do not reflect our true selves, online or offline and often we use ridiculous usernames, avatars or pseudonyms when shopping or communicating onine. Yet as we transfer our business, personal and all other lives more and more into the ether, we can expect to be judged within these scoring, feedback or rating parameters.

Personally I don’t have an issue with this, in some ways we say goodbye to retaining a certain level of privacy if we choose to opt-in to certain websites. We all make choices as to what we do and don’t do. And how we act or behave online shouldn’t be any different from how we act with someone face to face (trolls take note).

So yes, while we open ourselves up to certain things online, there are some things that we shouldn’t have to worry about. Things such as spam, junk mail, unwanted pop-up windows, gambling (or worse) adverts being shoved down our throats when simply going about our business with day to day emailing or social media.

So this is where Giacom’s hosted exchange comes into its own. Triple filtered anti-spam software will guarantee that you won’t receive the rubbish that certain companies seem to want to bombard you with. Hosted exchange will also allow your business to expand, communicate and develop without facing security problems, migration issues or difficulty syncing across devices.

So get your online self sorted, whether that be by leaving some super nice feedback for your latest purchase, or by giving an online customer excellent service. There’s such a thing as online karma and it’s definitely the future of things to come.

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Plain English

Having started to watch the latest BBC comedy series W1A, a continuation of the London Olympics Twenty Twelve public relations and spin satire, I have been totally taken with utter amazement at the marketing and gobble-de-gook speak in the comedy series and the actual true and real campaign for plain English that has been in the press of late.

It is an anti-spin take encouraging us all to speak the truth, speak in a clear and concise way and avoid the BS that so often comes with work talk, memos and corporate hyperbole.

So whilst W1A of course is highly highly amusing, it also rings incredibly true. Ever found yourself muttering ‘going forward’ at work when you wanted to move a meeting agenda on? Ever uttered the words ‘blue sky thinking’ when you wanted to get people to think creatively? Well then you will know what I am talking about.

It’s basically a disease of the modern working world, saying something without really saying anything at all. And while we may all be trying to decipher business and corporate talk perhaps there is a way of cutting to the chase and filtering out what we need to know in a much more straightforward and obvious way than we may have thought before. And this comes in the form of the easy communication that comes naturally with hosted exchange email accounts, calendar syncing and cloud computing.

With no need for adding on a layer of PR or spin, there is a means of direct and easy communication technology through hosted exchange that means that you and your colleagues, customers and future potential clients can talk freely and easily whenever and wherever you are, across multiple devices, time-zones and office spaces.

There’s not only easy communication methods that need to be celebrated but also a secure and safe environment in which to send emails, files and share appointments and meetings. With multiple layers of anti-spam software you can guarantee that you and your business will be straight-talking in a highly effective and secure method that even the biggest spin doctor couldn’t argue with.

 

 

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The cloud changes your head

The cloud is flexible, scalable and enormously powerful. That means any business using it should be too, right? It’s all too easy to assume because you are using what is billed as an innovative piece of software that, by default, you are too.  Yet the cloud changes things and like any other piece of kit or technology you need to know what and why to change to make the most of it.

Train fully

Know that the cloud isn’t just the same as what you had before. If you opt for SaaS or IaaS you might think you’re handing the difficult elements of your IT to a cloud provider. In fact if you consider the cloud as a platform from which to have a greater level of self-service and control over both your functionality and services you will have more success and opportunity to innovate. Take responsibility for security and performance instead of thinking you are leaving the responsibility to someone else. Ensure not only you but also your staff are fully trained so can offer a full service and use the system effectively.

Encourage innovation

The capacity of the cloud to encourage innovation is increasingly being talked about. Businesses can be more agile, spend less time focusing on IT issues and how their computer infrastructure slows them down. With those restrictions removed they can focus on other things, like ideas, development and how they can offer a better and more cost-effective service to their customers.

Tell your customers about the benefits

If you are using the cloud because of its cost implications and flexibility then tell your customers. Can you pass on savings and an improved service? How and why? Customers want to know if you are storing their data in a different way but also if they can benefit.

Change how you sell

The cloud has had an enormous benefit on e-commerce. Offering simplified applications and systems means you can change user experience, reliability and performance. You can engage customers differently. Customers have a greater control and you can slot your services into their lives much easier via mobile platforms. Is this something that sets you apart from your competition?

Revenue models are changing

The cloud is changing almost every sector. Even academic journals are being affected by the model of open access. The cloud revolutionizes accessibility but also how we make money from services. You are not paying for hardware and software upfront, instead embracing more of a “[pay as you go” model. This has a knock on effect as it is a change of mentality especially in those industries that have relied on a subscription model. It makes it tougher to plan for the future but if you plan what you buy and tie it in with your workload it becomes much simpler.

 

 

 

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Money saving expert

So Budget time again is it? Get your self down the pub as there’s been a one pence reduction in the price of beer. Not only that party people, but personal tax allowance has increased by some £500 and there’s new benefits for savers and pensioners alike. So yep, not all bad and even a planned rise in the cost of petrol has been scrapped so maybe it really is time to celebrate in a small way.

All these little things all add up to affect us, the general public at large, in a variety of different ways.  However when you start thinking about saving money in your own personal life it can be at first a little daunting, a little depressing and more than a little pain in the backside. But bear with me dear reader as when you get going, get changing things up and making savings, it can be wholly and utterly satisfying like nothing else.

One way I would recommend to people looking to economise their lives would be 1) stop buying pointless rubbish and 2) sort your online life out and get going with The Cloud and cloud computing. The latter point of course is most pertinent and imperative when I am talking to friends or colleagues who are self employed or run their own companies as by investing a small amount of money in setting up your business to migrate to The Cloud you can quite happily save money in the long term.

A small monthly fee applies to take care of the lot, including hosted exchange email accounts, hosted sharepoint and triple-filtered anti-spam software and a whole heap of security with it as standard.

So whilst you will be (hopefully) raking it in with your fantastic kick-ass business venture (be it new or established) you are saving yourself some cash at the same time and allowing your prospects to grow and exceed expectations in a safe and secure online environment.

Thank you Mr. Chancellor for some small savings and some even smaller budgetary gains but it’s ok as we here have got all the big ones sorted, tucked away under our belts, stuffed under the mattress and saved up for a rainy day.

Happy Birthday Internet!

So the internet is 25 years young this week. Let’s all take a deep breath and think about that for a moment.

Yep, a moment of awareness done but now let’s go further. What on earth or what I really mean to say is, what the frigging HECK would we all be doing RIGHT NOW if it wasn’t for the internet? * mind boggles *

Well, for a start it would mean I never would have seen those super cute bunny rabbits doing super cute bunny rabbit show jumping last night or it would have meant that I never would have bought the latest Warpaint album this morning when I should have been working…woops.

Anyway I am getting off track, as per usual. What I am trying to say is; the internet is awesome, we all know this, we all use it all the time for all sorts of reasons and I so many of us would be truly and utterly lost without it.

HOWEVER. There’s more. There’s more that we can do with the internet and more that we can expand our collective consciousness with and more that we can do when it comes to work, growth and communication and here’s the number one way how; The Cloud and cloud computing.

You may have got the whole social networking ‘thing’ down but have you migrated all your online life to The Cloud?

Or perhaps you may have ‘liked’ the latest sneezing gerbil on YouTube but have you saved all your latest holiday photos to a remote storage space instead of that potential melt hazard the external hard drive?

You may be thinking, ‘oh yeah …I don’t need any more internetty type knowledge’ but I’ve got news for you – The Cloud really is a better way.

So yes, while we all remain young at heart while the internet might be pushing thirty but it doesn’t matter what age it is really as the future of what it can really do and be is still yet to be realised and that’s definitely a reason to celebrate.

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Great Railway Journeys

Since the proper advance of smartphones, (what year are we talking? 2010? 2011?), we are now of course completely used to and blasé about seeing people CONSTANTLY on their phones in any given social, work, sporting or let’s be honest, inappropriate situation. It is the way of the world we live in. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t.

And of course on the train, commuting into your city of choice, you can see nearly everyone is plugged-in in some way, either listening to music on their phones, texting, emailing, reading a book or scrolling through their latest twitter news feed #justsayin.

So far so obvious you say – clearly I am not relaying rocket science to you dear readers, however the shift from using one’s mobile idiot device as a leisure or perhaps, more likely, a boredom busting apparatus, is slowly transforming from fun to becoming a more purpose led operation.

That is to say, with train wifi, transportable technology and multi device synchronisation available at the touch of a button, all equals a means to work on the move, a means to turn your daily journey into an extension of the working day by using those early and late hours to tap into The Cloud and your networks, allowing you to access everything you need while everything around you moves.

The Cloud provides me with fantastic accessibility whilst travelling to London with an impending deadline looming ahead.

It lets me get my files from The Cloud, mess about with them, save them and email them forthwith all with such ease and flexibility that there’s actually no real need for me to go to the big smoke, I could just as easily stay on the train and work as everything I need is there. (the only downside being the swaying from side to side – not so good when trying to design something or let’s be frank, the toilets ain’t all that either).

Anyway I digress! The Cloud doth provide and it just makes my life easier. Companies have listened to their customers and they are allowing them to expand, flourish and work more readily in any situation that is required and that is to be celebrated. Now point me in the direction of the buffet car because this morning’s journey is going to require more than a little caffeinated assistance.

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Change It Up

Change is hard but change is good. As a designer in my normal day to day life I endeavor to develop and deliver ideas for various companies and their marketing strategies.

So one day I might be laying out a brochure and the next day brainstorming ideas to engage customers through websites or email communications.

Whatever the thing is, you can guarantee there will be amendments to any design, text or layout job. And of course there should be as that’s how something grows and develops, improves and exceeds expectations.

However sometimes it’s just plain annoying. For example this week, waking up to 8 emails from one client with a variety of changes can be a little trying.  Yet at the same time, when I look back on a project, it is often these little things that make a difference despite my reluctance to embrace change.

Tiny changes can make huge differences and when I think back to how I used to work in the days before The Cloud, it slightly blows my mind.  How else would I be able to travel on a train and access everything I need whilst whizzing my way up the country? How else would I be able to share all my holiday photos with friends and family, if it weren’t for The Cloud? Well of course we all learned to adopt certain techniques in the past but my goodness, it’s so much easier now.

One of the key small changes that reaps giant benefits is through Hosted SharePoint that allows multiple users to access the same files and networks on their own personal page. Frankly, making it oh so much more straightforward to collaborate on projects across the globe and across time zones without having to rely on emails and well, someone being awake in Australia when it’s their middle of the night.

So far so good but there’s more as Hosted SharePoint neatly fits into Giacom’s Hosted Exchange programme, integrating emails, calendars and the whole shebang in one fail swoop.

These are tiny changes with big improvements and no matter how hard it might seem to be able to make small adjustments in your business or online life, I can guarantee that you will be glad you did, just don’t repeat my words back to me at 7am in the morning with a list of amends…

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