Technically Speaking: Links of the Week – August 12

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features a pen that’s tough on spelling errors, IFTTT for iPhone, and Google re-instating voice calling. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

Spell-Checking Pen Vibrates When You Make an Error

Learnstift Pen

Although some people ignore it, spell check is one of the most useful tools on our computers. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a spell check for all the handwritten work handed in to teachers and professors? Or a heads up that cereal is spelled wrong on the shopping list? Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOM reports that there is now a pen with a spell-check feature to help ensure there are no errors in your handwritten notes. The Lernstift pen was created by two fathers hoping to help their children detect spelling and handwriting mistakes. The pen combines electronics and connectivity to gently vibrate when a person using it spells a word incorrectly. The pen is currently on Kickstarter and can be had for a pledge of about $162.

Popular Website IFTTT Comes to iPhone

IFTTT, a universal automator that allows users to build “recipes” or groups of apps merged together, is now available on iPhone. IFTTT (“If This Than That”) makes apps more useful by merging features with other apps. For example, a recipe of YouTube and Facebook would allow users to easily post their favorite videos directly from YouTube to Facebook. According to Time Magazine, “the new IFTTT iOS app does exactly the same thing as the existing web-based version, but with an interface that’s been nicely rethought for the small screen.” The app is free and currently available in the iTunes app store.

After Users Complain, Google Brings Back Voice Calling to Hangouts

When Google updated its Hangouts feature in May it took away outbound calling services and left many users feeling slighted. Now, according to Todd R. Weiss of eWeek, the company has responded and restored voice calling to Hangouts in Gmail, Google +, and Chrome browsers. The move shows a pretty quick response from Google, which saw voice fans take to Google blogs and Google+ pages to complain when it was taken away. And not only is outbound voice calling back, but it’s also better than ever. Google has added new features to the service, like the ability to add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call, and an integration of the Google Effects app, which allows callers to play sound effects (like applause or laughter) while they are on the line.

The New Vacation: The Always-Connected Employee (and Why Employers Should Pay Attention)

Employees Working on VacationVacation is supposedly a time for relaxation and rejuvenation away from the office, but a new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees suggests that we’re not feeling very good anymore when we unplug.

In fact, many of us are not unplugging from work while we’re away at all.

According to a new survey by networking company Pertino, nearly one half of Americans say they are less stressed on vacation when they are connected to the office. And so, nearly 60% of the polled employees confessed that they regularly work — check e-mail, take calls, etc. — while on vacation.

So, if this is the new normal in our mobile-connected world, let’s look at how Americans are staying in touch with the office this summer, and what that means for the business owners for whom they work.

Employee Vacations Have Changed

One reason that employees work from vacation is that mobile tech has made the office only a click or swipe away.

In fact, 36% of the employees polled said that the beach was their office while on vacation, thanks largely to the ever present smartphone and tablet. Combined, these devices account for 81% of the ways workers connect when it comes to putting in hours from their vacation spots.

And while many are working from the locations where they’re supposed to be relaxing, the numbers tip a bit in terms of who is doing all this extra-office labor.

  • 64% of the men polled said they logged in from vacation.
  • 57% of the women polled said that working from vacation was now a norm.

The Vacation Security Problem: Why Business Owners Should Care

One problem with all of this remote connectivity is not so much that business owners are against the productivity that it breeds, but it’s that the way these employees are logging on can pose a threat. Here’s what the survey revealed about that:

  • 32% of work-from-vacation employees are using unsanctioned or unsecured cloud-file sharing services to access business-related data.
  • 35% of the employees in the survey are simply taking their devices away, loaded with important business files.

Neither of these are scenarios that small-business owners or IT departments want to face.

Rule one, when it comes to vacationing employees and remote access: your business’s policy has to be that they only log in via networks that provide authentication and encryption of traffic over public Wi-Fi and the Internet.

The Healthy Employee: Division of Labor and Play

Beyond the potential of compromised data, another overarching problem of employees working from vacation is that, long-term, they’re courting burnout.

What to do? Encourage healthy vacation habits when it comes to working off the clock.

If it’s almost impossible for many employees, especially senior managers and IT pros, to completely unwind while away, then a key to getting relaxed can sometimes be to not unplug.

But vacationing employees should instead develop a schedule that segregates work and play times. Communicate this division of hours to your family and work associates, then keep to it. Set aside a designated time everyday to connect with office and then spend the rest of the time focused on fun in the sun.

 

Mozy Data Shuttle

 

Chirpify: A Social Media Wallet

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce some of the new programs seeking the way we live and work. This week, Chirpify makes buying on social media easy.

The prestige of carrying cash is for the Baby Boomers generation. Credit cards are convenient for swiping inperson, but aren’t always the most seamless option while shopping online. And while PayPal is the most secure online payment form, the tool itself simply hasn’t kept up with the infrastructure of new social media.

A recent study by Experian indicates that Americans now spend an average of sixteen minutes per hour on social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Chirpify hopes to be the new way to click and buy on these platforms.

Chirpify has developed an integrated, in-stream technology that would enable users to buy, sell, raise money, or even donate simply. Unlike competitors Ribbon or Soldsie, with Chirpify, all users have to do to purchase an item is reply with “buy” or a “like,” and the funds are instantly withdrawn from your account (which can be linked to PayPal). There’s no email confirmation barrier or off-site voyages–it’s all streamlined.

The on-the-fly ease of Chirpify makes it an instant marriage for small business owners who actively market their products online. In fact, that’s how Chris Teso, the founder and CEO of Chirpify, found his inspiration to create the payment tool.

“The impetus for Chirpify came from spending many years in the advertising industry.,”said Teso, whose Oregon-based company currently employs just around a dozen people. “Working with big brands, I saw again and again that their advertising was limited to creating ‘awareness’ or ‘engagement’ — which they hoped would eventually lead to a conversion or transaction — but there was no way to connect the dots directly. I built Chirpify to give that advertising a way convert instantly, in the moment, wherever it lives.”

The approach is already being adopted by the billion-dollar sports and music industries.

Back in February, Tim McGraw, who has sold more than 40 million albums, began to integrate Chirpify technology onto his Facebook page to boost the sales of his latest release. To date, Chirpify has also partnered with Adidas, Green Day, Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dogg. And the Portland Trailblazers, Timbers, and Thorns–all professional sports franchises in Chirpify’s hometown–also decided to utilize Chirpify to integrate an untapped medium to interact with fans. .

“The Portland Timbers and Thorns [for instance] have been offering their fans exclusive experiences via social channels — such as VIP passes to pre-game warm-ups and post-game autographs — using Chirpify as a direct social response platform,” Teso said. “It’s mainly a way for them to thank and reward their fans, but also to establish Facebook and Twitter as a two-way channels for more than just cheering on the team.”

Chirpify is free to use for buyers, but sellers incur slight fees. For the “basic” account, sellers incur a 5% (of the purchase) plus $.30 fee. The basic account also enables sellers to place their item or product on Chirpify’s “social storefront” web site.

If you plan on using Chirpify a little more often, the site offers an “Enterprise” account too. Enterprise sellers get a discounted 2.9% (plus $.30) fee, as well as a flurry of tools. These additional tools include promo/coupon codes, giveaways, e-commerce integration, umbrella accounts, priority support, real-time data, branded registration, account direction, and promoted listings.

With Chirpify adding upwards of 300 new users every day, and boasting a 5% conversion rate, the company is steadily building a new atmosphere of e-commerce. Assuming all the security intangibles are sorted out, it wouldn’t be surprising to witness a huge influx of clothes, electronics, and other big industries jumping on the Chirpify bandwagon to make online retail that much more seamless for prospective customers.

 

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Vote for Mozy – Small Business Influencer Awards

Small Business Influencer AwardsMozy’s MozyPro cloud backup service for business has been nominated for a 2013 Small Business Influencer award in the “Apps” category.

The 2013 Small Business Influencer Awards “honor companies, organizations, vendors, apps and people who have made a significant impact on the North American small business market.”

We need your help! Click here to cast your vote for MozyPro cloud backup in the Small Business Influencer awards. You can vote once every 24 hours between now and September 9, 2013, when the voting will close.

93% of all companies that suffer significant data loss close within 5 years. Traditional backup solutions can be expensive and take weeks to implement, leaving small businesses vulnerable to revenue and productivity loss. MozyPro was designed specifically for SMBs.

Over 100,000 businesses trust Mozy to back up their data. Many of these customers are small businesses who use MozyPro to ensure that their data is safe and secure and is being backed up on a regular basis. One of these businesses is Dr. Earl, a dentist in Las Vegas, Nevada. Learn more about Dr. Earl’s Mozy story in this video:
 

My name is Zac and I work for Mozy

Welcome back to our “My name is … and I work for Mozy” blog series. We started this series about six months ago in an effort to showcase some of the incredible talent that is housed under the Mozy umbrella. We’ve attempted to expand across all our functional areas to show you that Mozy has successfully managed to find the best-of-the-best in talent. And I, for one, am excited to have the opportunity to work with incredible people, day in and day out.

This month, we’d like you to meet Zac Paynter. Zac is one of our Financial Analysts and is part of the Finance Team at Mozy. He handles company headcount, analysis and budgeting for customer support, general/administrative and Research & Development. In addition, he also works on forecasting, cost analysis, monthly close procedures, and financial reporting. As you can see there is a lot that Zac does and we are grateful he found a few minutes to help us with this blog series. The world really needed to know about Zac…and no, you can’t have him!

My name is Zac and I work at Mozy

I define my workspace as …
My home away from home…after all, I spend most of my day here with people that are fun to be around. You could also call it my science lab where financial genius is born.

A device I can’t live without …
A basketball. Nobody said it had to be an electronic device…

When I arrive at work, I typically start off by …
Downing my protein drink, filling my water bottle, answering emails, and taking a deep breath as I prepare for another busy day.

My work routine is …
Changing day by day, but the same month to month. A week of closing the books, a week of reporting, a week of forecasting, and a week of catching up on everything else.

I do/do not listen to music at work and it helps me work better because …
It helps me “get into the zone.” Sometimes it’s nice to shut out any outside distractions coming from extremely loud co-workers and turn up the productivity while enjoying movie scores from The Dark Knight, Inception, Gladiator, Transformers, Sherlock Holmes, and Dirty Dancing….wait… scratch that last one.
Author’s note: Zac is most likely referring to the Marketing team when he refers to “extremely loud co-workers” – he has the unfortunate luck of having been assigned to a cubicle right by us. I will, however, say that he can dish it as well as he can take it and we never get tired of giving him a hard time!

The best advice I can give a recent college graduate looking to do what I do is …
Prepare for the worst and expect the best. Finance is very demanding but also extremely rewarding. On one hand, you come to know the business very well while on the other hand; you have constant deadlines that tend to raise stress levels. Keep that Ibuprofen close by. ☺

Outside of work, I am passionate about …
Family, friends, mountain biking, hiking, camping, pretty much every sport that doesn’t involve a racquet. I’m currently training for a half-marathon, the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay and the Spartan Beast this summer.

My eating habits are …
Sporadic to say the least – green smoothies, brown rice, and veggies one day to pizza and chicken wings the next. I’m a bit of a social eater.

If I could be someone for a day – I would be …
Blake Griffin. Dude can jump! I’ve always wondered what it’s like up there. Plus those Kia commercials he’s in make me laugh pretty hard!

The “secret sauce” that makes me who I am …
Positive attitude, work ethic, spontaneity, sense of humor, and desire to learn.

Data Visualization for SMBs: Helping Make Sense of ‘Little Data’

Data Visualization for SMBs: Helping Make Sense of 'Little Data'Small-business owners are tapping Big Data more than ever before, but their demand for new data-based insights doesn’t mean that they’re immune to the overwhelming effect that a plethora of options and a flood of fresh ideas can bring.

If your sales team wants to see customer data put to use, give it to them in ways that they can use it on the go. That’s the message owners are communicating, loud and clear. Big Data analysis, meet “little data” delivery. Let’s look at a recent study that shows what that can mean.

Recent Study: Big Data in a Smaller Package

A new report from data-interaction specialists at Roambi shows the explosion of demand for Big Data — and also for simple, mobile, and non-traditional ways to share, use, and assess all this information.

Start with the follow stats: while 83% of the business owners polled said they’d discovered surprising things about their business via Big Data, more than a third of the respondents simultaneously found the scale of of the material to be overwhelming and/or anxiety inducing.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the top three spending priorities among the business owners, in early 2013, turned out to be:

(1.) Data-visualization tools

(2.) Mobile hardware and software

(3.) Big Data solutions to business-intelligence questions

These three points come together in the following way: it’s data visualization tools that have taken the lead, in terms of mobile apps — second only to e-mail — among the respondents. Specifically, owners said they want new kinds of interactive charts and graphs to highlight what Big Data has to tell them.

Beyond that, what about how we use such tools? The following section takes a look at strategies for telling Big Data stories on a digestible scale.

Scaling Big Data: 3 Steps for Business Owners

Having the right tools, like the ones the Roambi study addressed, is one thing. But bringing Big Data to your next business project also requires some scaling steps on your part.

The following tips emphasize ways to reap the rewards, when it comes to Big Data’s surprising revelations, all the while scaling the experience to a team-friendly presentations and making them accessible business-wide.

— Quality Over Quantity: It’s tempting to cram every juicy statistic or important metric into one robust chart, but the end result can turn out cluttered and overwhelming. Remove redundant information, background colors, and 3D effects. Data visualization is meant to add clarity, not confusion. Know what story you want to tell and identify the specific data that will help convey your key messages and persuade your audience.

— Think for the Small Screen: Bear in mind that most presentations are opened up on mobile phones or tablets. Scroll through a 1,000-cell spreadsheet on your smartphone screen lately? Applications that are mobile-ready are more affordable than ever, so explore and select ones that allow you convey your Big Data findings in bite-size and graphics-supported segments. Think mobile first.

— Take Your Data to the Cloud: Juggling multiple sources of data is enough to handle already, so take the burden out of management and bring your material to the cloud for secure, affordable, and convenient storage. Most of your key business apps are already in the cloud — it’s time for your data to catch up.

And so, the days of text reports, slideshows, and spreadsheets may be on the wane. The next generation of business intelligence demands new — read: mobile and cloud-based — tools that illustrate the trends and connections all this next-generation analysis can provide.

Data sets and the things they can do for business owners may be bigger than ever, but the way we absorb this information has to match that usefulness in your employees’ everyday lives.

 

MozyPro Online Backup For Business

 

‘Felt’ App Could Revitalize Greeting Card Industry

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at ‘Felt,’ an iPad app that is breathing digital life back into the greeting card industry.

Sending greeting cards in the mail has become more of a novelty than a social standard in the modern, tech-dominated world. Most people would rather send an email or e-card than take the time to pick out a physical card, somehow find a stamp and drop it in the mailbox. In fact, I even recently received a wedding invitation via Facebook.

But ‘Felt’ is making greeting cards cool again. The iPad app enables users to browse through a variety of genres, select a greeting of choice (i.e. Happy Birthday) and write (with a finger or stylus pen) a quick note—all from the comforts of your couch. But Felt then transforms the digital into the physical. A user’s final product is properly printed and sent to your provided recipient.

Felt App - Step 1

(users can swipe through a variety of card genres)

Tomer Albert, Felt’s founder, realizes there might be some competition, but that Felt could still have the upper hand.

“There are a lot of apps that mails cards, but we’re the first app that lets you hand write the message and the address on the
envelope,” Albert said. “You’re drawing your thoughts. You’re putting yourself into the message. Your handwriting is 100% uniquely yours.”

Felt App - Step 2

(with a stylus pen, users can actually use their own handwriting on the cards and change the colors too)

Albert, who created Felt when he himself was confronted with the lack of iPad greeting card apps, wanted the app to be a quality option.

“We both curate designs and create cards ourselves,” Albert said. “The card is thick and crisp and recipients can’t tell that the handwriting is printed. The writing looks completely authentic. We use Kraft envelopes and Mohawk paper, which is regarded by paper aficionados as some of the highest quality paper in the world.”

Felt App - Step 3

(users write the return and recipient address just like a normal card, but Felt takes care of the stamp and shipment)

The price point to use Felt is pretty minimal too. The app itself is free and the card and domestic postage costs $3.99 combined. Considering quality greeting card stores like Papyrus vend their “handmade” cards for upwards of $6.95, Felt’s cost appears to be reasonable. International shipping options are also in the works.

Felt is still looking towards the future and for ways to make the app more attractive to prospective users.

“We have very exciting new features planed for this year, but we don’t want to give away all of our fun surprises just yet,” Albert said. “However, we do want everyone to know that we’re continuously adding new card designs to the app.”

Felt iPad App

(cards are printed on quality paper, turning the digital experience into a physical one)

With technology always changing, it’s inevitable that apps like Felt will have to adapt. But Albert thinks people will still feel the need to personally communicate with one another.

“In five years we’d love to be the most personal, heartfelt way people communicate with whatever smart devices we’re using.”

You can watch Felt’s introductory video here and download their free app at the Apple iTunes store.

 

MozyHome Online Backup

 

The SMB Will: How to Protect What You’ve Built

The Small Business WillLegacy is important. It’s crucial. It’s part of the reason we draft wills. And while it’s a given that caring for legacy is part of what we do when it comes to family, what about when it comes to the infrastructure and ideas that surround your small business?

“There’s a common misconception that a will is just about distributing financial assets,” said Charley Moore, founder of Rocket Lawyer. But company “owners also need ‘business-wills’ to make sure their businesses can live on, even if they don’t.”

Moore and his colleagues offered some advice on how to make a business will happen, highlighting estate-planning tips that owners can use.

  • Address Different Business Structures: When creating a business estate plan, understand the ramifications of the corporate structure you’ve selected. Sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and S-corporations each present different legal challenges.

“It’s important to plan for both disability and death,” said Christopher Johnson, an estate-planning attorney who consults with Moore’s company. “For sole proprietorships and single-owner LLCs and corporations, make sure you’ve given thought to who could take over for you, and how they would do it. This can be done with durable powers of attorney and trusts, and making sure the agent or trustee can handle your business or hand it off to competent people.

“For entities with multiple owners, be sure you have a buy-sell agreement with the other owners and that it coordinates with your LLC operating agreement or corporation’s by-laws,” he said. “If you have an S-corporation, be sure to have ‘qualified subchapter S trust’ language in your trust to keep its tax status. And if you have a trust, be sure to transfer your company to the trust. You can use an assignment form, or re-issue the shares or units in the trust name.”

  • Create a Buy-Sell Agreement: This document details what happens should a principal member of the team leave the business, either voluntarily because of sickness or death.
  • Pick a Knowledgeable Heir: To protect your business in the future you need to designate a successor. Remember, no one knows your business better than you right now, but the next owner has to fill that role — so make sure the heir to your legacy has the smarts and know-how to run things in your place.
  • Death & Taxes: Whether you own your business yourself or share it with partners, consult an accountant, as the IRS offers tax breaks for death and estate taxes.

Digital Considerations

A new survey by Rocket Lawyer showed that 93% of those polled were unaware or misinformed about what would happen to their digital assets should they die.

Don’t leave the decisions about your business’s digital details to someone outside the loop. From your company’s Twitter account to the intellectual property sitting in your servers, each component of the increasingly cloud-based way we work is part of a well-crafted will.

 

MozyPro Online Business Backup

 

New Instagram Platform “Song for Pic” Poses a Unique Avenue for the Music Industry

Song for a PicWelcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at ‘Song for Pic,’ a platform that adds randomized music to your existing Instagram photos (and videos soon too).

As recent as February 2013, Instagram hit 100 million active monthly users. The now-Facebook owned app has certainly introduced the online community to talented photographers and artists—as well as brought out the inner photogs in us all—but as of today, Instagram has yet to create a truly monetizable service.

Song for Pic, a new Instagram platform that randomly assigns music to a user’s uploaded photo, might eventually fill that void. While the platform is still in its infancy, the plan is for the music industry to piggyback on Instagram’s coattails to explore a much more instantaneous, and potentially lucrative connection with prospective users.

The inspiration for Song for Pic was about as straight forward as one would think.

“I loved Instagram from the first moment I tried it,” said Ricardo Fonseca, Song for Pic CEO. “But I also felt it was missing an important artistic component: music.”

A few months later, Song for Pic was born.

The platform is extremely easy to use. When a user enters the main site, they’re prompted to enter their Instagram user name and password. Song for Pic then automatically retrieves a photo from the Instagram account, and assigns four random songs. The songs range features classics and/or very well known songs, “Like from Kris Kross to Michael Jackson to Aretha Franklin—just to name a few,” Fonseca said.

A user then has the option to share their new and improved Instagram photo to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and/or Tumblr, so that friends can vote on which of the four songs they think is the most appropriate for the given photo.

But perhaps the recent news of Instagram incorporating video—in an attempt to challenge Vine’s short-lived monopoly—is a prime case of “right place, right time” for Fonseca’s tune-centered platform.

Perhaps more so than photos,”video already has the audio element,” Fonseca said. “The result of mixing video and one random song would most likely have a music video quality, which with the appropriate song, could be quite fun [and hopefully have mainstream appeal].”

Fonseca, who is currently unaware of any other start-up working on a similar platform, realizes that the market could quickly become flooded with competition. That said, the future is still bright for Song for Pic.

“The possibility of instantly buying the song was always a goal in this project,” said Fonseca. “At the very least, Song for Pic will certainly be a new way for people to discover music [...] and a fresh way for the music industry to reach [them].”

 

Mozy Online Backup with Stash

 

Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – July 22

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features a safer GPS, technology that can read fingerprints even if they’ve been wiped away, and contact lenses that can zoom in and out. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

Garmin Creates GPS that Projects Onto Windshields

Garmin HUD GPS

These days drivers have so many choices when it comes to choosing a GPS for their cars. There’s the built-in versions, the hang-on-the-windshield types, smartphone apps, and more. Garmin, one of the leaders in the GPS industry, has developed new technology aimed to make navigation safer and more useful, according to VentureBeat. The “Heads Up Display”, or HUD, connects to Garmin’s StreetPilot and Navigon apps via bluetooth and projects the navigation information onto the car windshield, keeping details in the driver’s line of sight. The cost of the HUD is $130, and it has to be paired with Garmin’s apps.

Contact Lens Allows Wearers to Zoom in and Out

It’s still in the testing phases, but if all goes well there will soon be a contact lens on the market that will give wearers the ability to zoom in and out on focal points. Nic Halverson of Mashable reports that “the telescopic lens is just over a millimeter thick and is composed of a central unmagnified optical path, surrounded by a ring of movable components that magnify the view 2.8 times.” The creators of the lens have been testing the technology using a pair of Samsung 3D television glasses. Although the prototype is still attached to the glasses, researchers are hopeful further testing will result in being able to bring the lens to market.

Apple’s New Macbook Air has All-Day Battery Life

2013 Macbook Air

On first glance, Apple’s new Macbook Air model doesn’t appear to be much different than the original design created two-and-a-half years ago. But it’s not the look that has techies excited about the product–it’s the life of the battery. According to Brooke Crothers of CNET the original 13-inch Macbook Air battery ran for 7 hours and 27 minutes, and the new version goes for 14 hours and 25 minutes. The design of the computer hasn’t changed, nor has the resolution of the screen, making the battery life the major upgrade for the 2013 model.

New Fingerprint Technology Can Provide ID Even if Surface has Been Wiped

Although it seems like something from the television show CSI rather than real police labs, a new form of fingerprint technology is making things tougher on criminals. TechnoBuffalo’s Brandon Russell writes that Leicester University scientists have developed a color-changing fluorescent film method to capture hidden or latent prints on metal surfaces. It can be used on weapons like guns or knives, as well as surfaces like doorknobs and appliances. There will still be ways around getting caught–like wearing gloves–but the new technology will put an end to being able to wipe away prints from a crime scene.

 

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