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I Know What You Did Last Summer

Word of warning! You might be a little bit freaked out if you visit the Royal College of Arts this summer. There’s a filing cabinet on the loose following unsuspecting guests around the place. Strange you say? Not ‘alf mate! But there’s a story behind this madness and it goes a little something like this…

It is art! The artwork, going by the name of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, is the culmination of RCA student Jaap de Maat’s final year project, a finale to a two-year-long MA in Information Experience Design.

And it does what it says on the proverbial art tin, a stark and clear-cut allegory of the constant data trail that surrounds everyone in every aspect of their lives. Whether that be on Facebook, our browsing history or even our unopened post or CCTV images catching us as we walk past. The artist, inspired by the whistle blower Edward Snowden, is representing our online lives in a literal form. Interesting and topical stuff.

So with these themes in mind, surely there is no more important time than now to get yourself and your online lives sorted out. By managing your data and networks in an easy and simple to use way, you might be saving yourself a heap load of headaches in the future.

The first most obvious benefit of sorting yourself out is improving your security – first step, use cloud computing to triple protect your files, data and communication. Hosted exchange email programme allows users to communicate freely and widely on the move, whilst also preventing spam and viruses from taking you down from out of nowhere.

Secondly, hosted sharepoint allows you to share files, presentations or networks with others in a secure context whilst also allowing the work flow to well, er, flow!

But there’s more to love in all this, the sheer effect of a weight of responsibility and worry being lifted from your shoulders, there’s already lots to think about these days so why not cross one (or more even!) things off your list and let The Cloud take care of it. Meanwhile with your new found freedom, I can recommend some thought-provoking art works to go and see!

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The latest cabinet reshuffle is hitting the headlines this week as the Prime Minister chops and changes his core team of ministers at the heart of Downing Street.

It’s not unusual for the government to have huge cabinet changes at this point in time, under a year before the next general election. New blood is needed to invigorate a stale coalition, new ideas brought in to enhance existing policy and all brought together with enough time to embed and revitalise before it might all change again in 9 months (likelihood = high). And you know what they say, a change is as good as a holiday. (Holiday for all MPs? Yes please!)

Anyway, as I write the reshuffle is panning out before us and it made me think about how large changes in our lives that happen every so often. Key moments and key decisions that make big impacts that you are likely to remember and appreciate in times to come.

Sometimes one big change can cause a chain reaction  – good or bad – but I like to think mostly good…!

One such change I recommend to people on a ridiculously regular basis is in relation to migrating systems to The Cloud, especially in a work context.  With the number of people becoming self employed on the rise, and looking set to keep rising, when than now, is a more pertinent time to manage your data and networks in a more secure and efficient manner?

I also like to remind folks that with the triple layered bonus of The Cloud’s security comes the super double bonus of always being up to date with the latest software and applications.  No need to reinstall drivers, CDs, software etc, simply let The Cloud do the talking and plugging in.

So that’s my own personal reshuffle – one simple change and a whole new world will be opened up to you. One word of advice though, don’t get me started on The Cloud or politics down the pub on Friday night as you might never get away.

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The blink of an eye

We are so used to being right at the thick of the latest news, the latest Orange is the New Black episode or the latest fashion week event thanks to the wonder of the internet, social media, smart phones and super handy apps. So it makes sense that sometimes we forget how maybe two or three years ago things weren’t quite so accessible, prevalent or some might say, in our faces.

Now it seems that everyone knows everything, everyone has read the latest #hashtag trends or the Daily Mail sidebar of shame or other such pressing reports. And sometimes that can feel a little, bit well, rubbish.

It’s not to say that I, myself, don’t take part in these newsworthy announcements. Over my lunch break, there’s nothing I enjoy more than reading a bit of something (cloud computing blog anyone?) on the old interweb.

But it’s also important to remember that the world online doesn’t rule your own personal offline life too.

A very good friend of mine runs a web streaming start-up company. Within that growing industry they have seen a rise in customers, demand and inevitably profit as a result. and it got me thinking that perhaps one day, in a Orwellian twist of fate, perhaps everything we do will be streamed live, The Truman Show made real and the world will be our oyster of things to see and watch over our futuristic lunch breaks (or rather our meal replacement supplement pills).

Privacy laws being as they are, it seems unlikely but as we now know, things in two or three years can change drastically and suddenly things that were unusual, are now the norm.

Another clear cut example of this, is of course The Cloud. One minute a forward thinking technology preserved for the likes of big internet companies such as Amazon or Google, now the world and his wife have all migrated and placed their most loved online data and networks to a place unseen and physically mysterious to most. Incredible really when you think about it. But that’s what it is really; amazing and in a blink of an eye, the norm.

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Happy talk

Andy Murray is out, finished, kaput. All Wimbledon hopes for a repeat of last year, dashed. Not just that, Glastonbury’s over and done with and I don’t want to be a doom monger or anything, but it’s going to rain at the weekend.

Hope you don’t mind my gloomy post this week listeners, but frankly sometimes things just suck.

Look at the latest data infringement scandal perpetrated by serial privacy offender, Facebook. They have been experimenting on their ‘clients’ or ‘friends’ without consent, generating emotionally biased timelines for users, so either allowing people to view only happy or sad updates, all in a bid to see whether it affects people’s emotional posts in a similar vein. The answer was yes of course! Or as one columnist put it yesterday, it’s simply what we humans call ‘empathy’ – people are affected by the way other people feel or act. Fact (I could have told them that to be honest).

Sharing (or sometimes over sharing) can of course be beneficial in lots of way – a problem shared is a problem halved and all that jazz, and it’s only blooming true, but in the same way that if you hang out with someone a bit miserable, it’s likely you’re going to start being a bit more grumpy than perhaps you were earlier.

But there are ways of sharing and collaborating through technology that I promise won’t make you unhappy, sad or mildly anxious in the same way that someone’s supposed paradisical holiday snaps might do.

One secret to technological happiness people is through the abundant benefits of cloud computing, sharing in The Cloud and using applications such as hosted exchange or hosted sharepoint.

All simply easy to use, making your life more straightforward and easier to manage with none of that emotional baggage that other technology spouts without purpose or promise.

Case in point, I used hosted sharepoint whilst working on a big project with client situated in multiple locations across the globe. Not only did it allow ease of collaboration, which in turn produces much more creative output, but also it was straightforward and easy. And when you are working on something that is already stressful enough, something so simple allows your work to fly.

So it’s not all doom and gloom (and the less I say about the tennis the better) and maybe my little note of cheer will spread a little love across the web, in an open and upfront manner, with no hidden agendas and no hidden catches.


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Email top tips

Whilst skiving off work one day this week I found myself (as per usual) arriving at a certain national, left leaning newspaper’s comprehensive website full of fascinating articles and stories not to mention, the latest news.

And it was on said site that I came across an article about how to manage your email life. Top tips for not getting embroiled in unnecessary communication, reducing your think time and therefore making your life more efficient and by proxy, better. So with that in mind I thought I would share my findings.

Top of the list came this recommendation; use ‘canned responses’. Meaning many email programmes have such things as pre-written responses, beautifully composed and ready to insert in to an email that may have previously been a headache or for want of a better phrase, a pain in the er, neck. So instead of thinking for ten minutes about how to break the news to Jim in facilities that you can’t make that weekly meeting, why not just respond with a template? Easy.

‘Undo Send’ was another handy hint and this to me seems like one of the best ideas to have been invented, like, EVER. Just sent a hasty response that you now regret? Well undo send was sent from email heaven to make you a better person. Definitely a keeper.

Number three on the email improvement list was using programmes to schedule responses or memos at some magical point in the future, not only making it easier for you to plan your day and workload, but also meaning that you can send those tricky messages when everyone is asleep or perhaps when rather handily, you know you won’t be around to have to face the music.

Another brilliant idea (or reminder perhaps) was to archive your messages, thus clearing your inbox of message that are no longer relevant or needed to be in your line of vision on a daily basis. And I have to say, I love moving old messages to their own specific folder, it just makes me feel good.

But despite this list of wondrousness, I still would highly recommend hosted exchange as my top tip for making your email life a billion times better. It completely opens up your communication to be multi-platform, available for multiple people and super safe and spam free. Now put that in your email pipe and smoke it.

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What can we learn from The Cloud?

So while school is still going on for the summer term despite exams finishing, the sun shining (well, mostly shining) and the blatant knowledge that no one does any school work in the last few weeks of the summer term (teachers, I am also talking to you…!), pupils and staff alike still have to make their way in to the great learning buildings of our land for a few more weeks at least.

An article caught my attention recently and had me thinking about all the technological and design changes that we have seen take place in education over the past few years.

So much has changed since I was at school, I am sure I would hardly recognise the layout of a modern day classroom with its interactive whiteboard and ipads on tap. Plus, not forgetting the socialisation aspect of learning areas: cafes and meeting spaces now forming part of typical secondary school building design.

But I digress (as per normal – ten points from Gryffindor!) the article was about how The Cloud and cloud computing was changing the way that pupils were learning, transforming how the curriculum was taught and also how parents could monitor and aide young people’s learning.

By creating groups in classes and translating these groups into online communities, pupils could work from assignments posted online, shared by others, collaborating with peers, marked by teachers online and seen and monitored by parents who could also log in and share too.

A new way of working is born and this is for definite a complete and total bonus for all involved, mirroring how pupils will inevitably be working in the future and how many of us work today.

The Cloud gives so many more opportunities to those signed up than any other way of working, it truly is transformational and important and not just for those of us still in education (we are all still learning!) but for all of us working away at our own projects in our own time and at our own pace.

So spare a thought for those pupils stuck inside on a hot (ish) summer’s day but do also remember some of those lucky devils are at the forefront of learning and technology, tapping into things as yet unknown or undiscovered and that is the future right there and it’s just plain fantastic.


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World Cup transformations

The world cup is almost upon us (come on England!) and it’s the one football tournament that I actually enjoy getting involved in, watching and being patriotic about.  Not many other football based competitions can muster up any vague enthusiasm from me but for some reason the world cup is special, different and important.

Maybe because it’s the summer and there’s a real feeling of school’s out, term is over and it’s holiday time. Even though blatantly I am quite substantially past the school leaving age and for that matter, I am not on holiday. But hey! Old habits die hard…

The fantastic international rivalry is such a powerful force in bringing people together to celebrate as one. During the last world cup I happened to be in Argentina, and boy, do they love their football there. It was a real insight into a country’s cultural fervour and a pure love of the game.

Yet, nothing beats being at home or in your local pub with your friends and family to get the atmosphere going. We of course might have changed the way that we watch the world cup since the last time around. Maybe we will use more applications like iplayer or now we have completely different devices to catch the latest game.

It seems weird to me to think that no hardly anyone would have been using a tablet last time around, or unlikely to have been watching it using wifi in the park. Whereas now, these things are the norm, taken for granted, completely acceptable and everyday.

How far things have come in a short space of time, even things like The Cloud we now take for granted, plugging in remotely whenever we feel like we need for work or pleasure, no more heading for an office bound existence for certain jobs or tasks.

And much like the world cup, The Cloud makes us think more internationally, look to a more global existence and this in turn makes us think bigger.

Thinking big can only be a good thing because if we dare to think outside the norm perhaps in another four years time everything around us could have transformed again or maybe we might even be returning world champions…? Who knows? But what I do know is that it’s all to play for and that is exciting.

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One of the most satisfying things one can do on a free afternoon, annual leave day or bank holiday is to simply, sort stuff out. Some may call it pottering about, as in; “what did you do on your day off? Well I just pottered about, bit of this bit of that, you know, nothing major.”

We can of course all relate. Well just this morning I sorted my wardrobe full of old clothes out, sorting it into piles: the keep pile, charity shop pile, bin bag and the inevitable ‘what was I thinking?!’ pile.

It felt good, I can’t deny it. I love a clear out and there’s something really freeing about getting rid of stuff that you don’t need (often creating space for more stuff but that’s another blog altogether!)

It put me in mind of other consolidation techniques that we use, ideas from companies that often allow us to be more efficient in our use of technology, take up less space or data and allow us to access multiple applications through one portal. Brilliant.

One such app I use is to manage my social media accounts, letting me get my head round everything that is happening in one easy place rather than faffing about with multiple accounts and log ins. SO much easier.

And much like said idea, The Cloud and hosted exchange allows me to consolidate all my data, email and networks in one easy place. Accessible from everywhere, but also centralised for both ease of access and maximum useability.

Why scatter your online needs amongst various different points in the ether? By creating a hub of email communication it allows businesses to talk to each other and share documents, ideas, networks worldwide in one completely secure and collaborative space.

So I have slimmed down my technological demands in a very quick and easy way, some might call it pottering about others might call it sorting ones life out, but all I know is that it makes my life easier and makes everything so much more efficient.

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Hack It

If you could face tuning in after the doom and gloom of the local and European elections you may have seen on the news that someone had managed to hack into ebay’s user accounts and compromise their online security with the company requesting that all users (all 128 million of them worldwide!) change their passwords and increase their own security measures to protect themselves and their data from being corrupted.

I say, absolutely change your password, absolutely increase your security around your online life and use passwords that don’t actually comprise of ‘password123’ so as to protect yourselves against online fraud and hacking. It’s a fairly straightforward procedure, up your password game and you will be fine, but is there more we can be doing to ensure that we are safeguarded and our data secured?

Well there is one simple way of defending yourself in one easy step; cloud computing. The very heart of cloud computing is to increase security and protection online. By storing your data, be that work or personal data, you are creating a barrier between it and any online fraudsters that may want to tap into your wealth of knowledge, finance or resources.

This barrier is created in several ways, namely by using the most up to date and secure hardware and software installed by experts, maintained by specialists and with that there is a guaranteed little chance of interception.

Another way of preventing security failures is through triple layered anti-spam settings on email communications with Giacom’s hosted exchange programme. By keeping out the spam and junk constantly trying for phishing scams, you can rest easy knowing that your data isn’t being compromised.

Furthermore by having support and help on hand 24/7 you can always get in touch with someone who knows their stuff at a touch of the button and all this at a reasonable price.

I vote for simplifying your life, increasing your security and entrusting your online life to The Cloud, it will bring with it a huge sigh of relief and in these days of over communication, that’s one less thing to talk about.

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Networking the Room

Networking. The very word makes me feel slightly sick. We’ve probably all been in a work situation, conference or meeting where half an hour or an hour has been dedicated to just that. It’s an awkward state of affairs to say the least.

Basically the premise being as follows: you don’t know anyone, you are sober and you have to go and talk to some random, besuitted individuals about a very, very dry topic that you need to pretend to be interested in / be an expert in. Nightmare.

I can’t lie. I avoid networking at all costs and have been known to either hide in the toilets, nearby bar or cafe whilst it happens. I also carry round an emergency notebook and pen so I can always find a corner to sit in and doodle away or make lists of quite literally no importance. Now of course there’s always the smartphone option, just sitting there in your bag, waiting to take away our social pains in one easy finger swipe.

So while ACTUAL real life networking, mingling or schmoozing is utterly horrendous, there’s another kind of networking which is just so darn easy it’s almost like a dream.

That’s right and I’m not talking about online dating, I’m talking networking in the computing, data orientated, communication sense of the word. Hallelujah for The Cloud and all it’s networks, sat right up there in the server sky, taking a load off whilst you can do something far more interesting then worrying about where all your data is stored.

The networks The Cloud provide will not only allow you to migrate your already established data (probably on an in house server) to a remote server with ultra, ultra secure back-ups, but it will also allow you to access said networks wherever and whenever you like.

The Cloud networking will get you communicating faster and easier than ever before. It will get you talking, sharing and working collaboratively. It will allow you to get on board with hosted exchange and hosted sharepoint. It will make your life better, your overheads less and those worry lines on your forehead smaller.

Simple really. This networking rules. Other networking sucks.

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