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Necessity or luxury?

So it’s been 15 years (can you believe it?) since ebay first graced the beautiful shores of the United Kingdom in all its glory. I often think about how I would be able to manage these days if it wasn’t for this one stop shop where you can * literally * buy anything that your heart or wallet desires, needs or more to the point, REALLY doesn’t need.

I have purchased many an item in a rash haze of consumer greed and unecessity. I have bought shoes that I would never wear, clothes that were both far too big and too small (not at the same time), furniture for pennies and random memorabilia for NO apparent reason. But yet, whilst it may increase or spending habits, it also provides a brilliant and unique service and I have acquired so many amazing things that I probably never would have known existed or realised that I needed if it wasn’t for the fabulous online auction site we all know and love.

There aren’t many things out there that you probably couldn’t live with out once you get them in your life. I know that ebay might be on my list of ‘MUST HAVES’ to make my life and work possible in the same way that having access to The Cloud and using cloud computing would definitely be up there.

The main reason I say this is because of the nature of my business. I am a freelance graphic designer and I need to be able to share and access documents wherever I am and whenever I or my client or colleague needs them.

It’s not only the accessibility of it all, it’s also the size issue. The documents I work with and design are big and weighty in the MB department. I need to be able to place them and store them somewhere that I can rely on being safe and secure.

I need to be able to have the latest and greatest software up to date and ready to go and I need it to not be a nuisance and not allow viruses into my workstream.

So whilst maybe thinking about it, I could PROBABLY live without ebay (thankfully I won’t have to) I definitely couldn’t do without all the benefits that cloud computing and hosted exchange bring me. Ask me again in another 15 years and I’ll say the same thing.


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No hidden extras

I am pretty confident that I am not alone here in getting a little bit fed up of buying into one thing and then subsequently finding out that what you thought was the true and genuine price, turned out to be a load of old rubbish. Or what you thought was a massively awesome, tweet-worthy bargain, was in fact a huge jaw-clenching rip off?

Forsooth, I think I am not the only one experiencing this on a regular basis. For example, the old mobile phone contract: at first glance – just plain brilliant, hurrah, check me out, I’m the new money saving expert etc. etc. First bill comes in and SURELY something has gone amiss here? Preeeedy sure I was getting some sort of good Del Boy deal here but turns out I wasn’t reading the small print, didn’t note the VAT or overseas roaming charges. Turns out it was really rather a bad deal and I’m tied in for 24 months. Grrrrr….

Well people of blog-dom, I am here to cheer us with super news, definitely money saving expert worthiness and perhaps even a means to get a little bit more money in your pocket.  This comes in the uber form of Giacom’s hosted exchange programme.

Here’s what you get for your money:

  • Lowest like-for-like UK price promise
  • UK based data-centres and tech support
  • Every mailbox triple-hosted for super-resilience
  • Full-featured Hosted Exchange
  • Up to 2,000 mailboxes per account

So whilst you are not only getting a superior service plan you are also getting fantastic value for money.

There are no hidden extras in this plan my friends unless you count the added brucey–bonus of top notch customer service that will save your business money, increase your security and provide you with a platform that will aid your business to grow and develop beyond where it stands today.

So whilst you may bemoan the every increasing onslaught of monthly bills for little improvement, I can promise you that this is one investment worth making and it’s worth making today.

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Three step plan

I thought it might be useful to take down The Cloud to its simplest form this week, a small guide that may or may not benefit you at some point when deciding whether or not to sign up to The Cloud (or as I like to call it – becoming a future thinking technological master).

Picture the scene – you are a small to medium business owner, your client base is growing quicker than you can say Boris Johnson, your IT department is basically an old mate and your email security is non-existent.  Frankly, it’s time for your business to move onward and upward, forward not backward and moved to The Cloud. And here’s how to get ahead in the knowledge stakes in three easy steps…

Cloud One – for personal use. Think flickr, Spotify on your phone or Dropbox. Easy ways to share photos, music and files that don’t often cost the consumer anything or at most a minimal amount a month to share media across devices and avoid advertising.

Cloud Two: developers – a specialist cloud computing area. The Cloud for developers is invaluable to building and sharing apps and web-based infrastructure – important for general technological progress, which perhaps we might take for granted.

Cloud Three: The Cloud for businesses, a means of hosting your data files, email and networks remotely. This Cloud is completely invaluable for business growth and effective communication networks. Cloud computing gives you the freedom and mental capacity to concentrate on more pressing matters and to stop worrying about sustaining a secure infrastructure when someone else can do all that for you.

Initial successful migration is the key here. Giacom will migrate all your emails, data and networks in a method that won’t affect your day-to-day work. Your email security will increase by using hosted exchange with unprecedented email spam and security filtering. Multiple email addresses will be available and accessible across multi-platforms wherever you are in the world.

But there’s more and it’s the good bit: The Cloud will save you and your business money. Data loss costs companies millions of pounds every year but with cloud computing back-ups, data security and maintenance all taken care of you can put your feet up and spend that extra bonus on something superficial and whimsical seeing as you’ll have the cash to spare.

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Mind blowing stuff

Some things we just take for granted, get used to and completely accept at once. Things that perhaps a little while ago we may have been surprised at or incredulous at the continual onslaught and speed at which technology is moving on and at which we have to keep abreast of.

For example the smartphone revolution I have talked about before but also other things non-technological like, university students have to pay for their education these days or perhaps that everyone you know has been on a plane. Things change and we all do our best to keep up and fit in.

But there was one story in the news this week that struck me as utterly mind-blowing and surprising all at once. Driverless cars will soon be hitting the road in the UK (for want of a better phrase), from as early as January 2015.

Completely baffling to me at first, although on further research it does seem to make sense (kind of) regarding fuel efficiency and safety. And it seems that while this may be news to you or I, research companies have been developing the technological capability for the past ten years.

So yes, mind blown, but again perhaps in a few months or years we will all be used to seeing driverless vehicles around the place in a James Bond style action sequence (without Q sadly).

And in the same vein, while it seems that while more and more SMEs are using The Cloud as the norm, they too would have perhaps questioned its very usefulness two or three years ago.

According to a recent report, sixty-one percent of IT professionals are using cloud services today with an additional eight percent planning to deploy a cloud service in the next six months. And while that’s completely encouraging and unsurprising, there is still a marked difference in the percentages between Europe and the US, in which the US are ahead at sixty-five percent of people using The Cloud and only fifty-eight percent in Europe.

So things change, industries grow, cars will soon be driving themselves and we will all be using cloud computing but until then, I am still enjoying my mind being blown on a regular basis and all the benefits that follow as a result.

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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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