IT

How the Cloud is Transforming Education

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School IT departments have generally been on the forefront when it comes to embracing new technologies, and teachers who also embrace the latest technologies can reap the benefits faster. The cloud has opened up their world, and technology is poised to finally deliver on its promise to transform education.

Assisting teachers

The cloud has reversed a disappointing trend for teachers. Previously, clunky hardware and failing technology meant wasted time and frustration – hindering rather than assisting them.

All that is changing as the cloud delivers a more flexible, responsive and less device-specific form of technology into the classroom, and the way information is stored, accessed, presented and managed is transformed. Coursework can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. But it’s more than just storage.

Education apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the tracking of individual student performance. In a context where there is a five or six-year difference between the most advanced and least-capable student in a classroom, distinguishing instruction is not only a worthy goal, but a practical necessity. And that's where cloud-based technology can help. Connected apps and services such as Mathletics and Duolingo allow students to work at their own pace and adjust the order and difficulty of tasks in line with their progress.

With such innovative data on students, teachers can make better informed decisions about the next steps in learning.

Improving student outcomes

Exercise books and textbooks are increasingly becoming relics. Cloud-based student learning management systems such as EdumateMoodleEdmodo and Blackboard are now staples in most schools across The United States and other countries. Their connectivity means students have access to the most up to date case studies instead of relying on textbooks, which quickly date and become unusable.

Cloud based applications like Microsoft Outlook and Google Docs allows students greater opportunities for collaboration, as documents can be edited simultaneously by multiple authors – including the teacher. This allows for more instant, targeted feedback.

Saving money

And perhaps the biggest impact the cloud can have on academics is the resolution of overstretched budgets. The security and maintenance of expensive infrastructure and internal servers are becoming redundant. Cloud-based storage services such as Amazon, Google and Office 365 provide huge amounts of space with the added benefit of the collective skill of world-class engineers to protect information.

Large upfront costs for software are also giving way to modest subscription fees for services that are continually improved and updated. And even better, many are free! The flexibility of these apps also means students no longer have to shell out big bucks for a laptop, with the ability to access many of the applications on their smartphones or tablets.

For initiative-fatigued teachers who are after a more convenient and efficient way to improve the teaching and learning cycle, a cloud solution from Current Technologies might just be the technological breakthrough they need to re-engage with technology.

We can make the Cloud work for you

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What is the Internet of Things?

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The “Internet Of Things” is the existence of uniquely identifiable devices interconnected via the Internet. The interconnection of these devices is expected to introduce automation in nearly all fields from medicine to your own home.

There is a lot of hype about IoT, and we are at the point of wondering what it will mean for us as individuals, employees, and businesses.

The IoT will change our lives.

One example could be that your toothbrush might have a chip in it and via Bluetooth will communicate with your mobile device to tell you stuff like how long it has been since you started using it or in the case of the kids' tooth brushes, have they been used recently? Technological advances like these have people wondering, is that too invasive? We will be faced with all sorts of questions about what we do and don’t want connected to the internet.

Wearable technology is already beginning to monitor health vitals and offer connected watches that monitor or report on our movements or calories burnt. One day your refrigerator could know what is inside it and your trash can knows what you threw out. Those will work together so the shopping list on your connected fridge door can ask you to confirm the online order for replacing everything you have consumed this week for delivery tomorrow.

IoT will have very practical uses across our infrastructure as well. The ability to monitor how every piece of your internet technology is running and quickly addressing problems will be vital or businesses in the long run. The Internet of Things will also have a big impact on things like street lights and traffic lights. These will soon have sensors, so those in charge of maintenance know where to replace a burned-out bulb. Pipes will be able to detect where a leak is occurring so that water wastage is reduced (today 30% of our water supply is currently lost to leaks). The infrastructure cost savings by this sort of technology in smart-pipes will equate to billions of dollars and save many valleys from being flooded by new dams.

There are plenty more examples of this sort of sensor information making big differences in our personal lives, and when this is tied to big data and data analytics the world will change quickly and significantly. The impact the IoT will have on businesses will be huge.

IoT will affect your business, so be prepared.

Some of the technology is here today and much of it is in development now. Large companies have embarked on ambitious big data projects, and many small-medium organizations have started collecting what data they can. This is leading to a growing need for data storage systems and analytics tools today.

If your business is not paying attention to the current changes in IoT technology and looking at what it means to your industry, whether you are in education, manufacturing, healthcare or consulting services, there are changes coming to technology and the IoT that will change the way your industry thinks and works. The IoT will allow organizations to minimize waste and overall be more efficient.

We will post more updates on how IoT is affecting local businesses, but in the meantime stay alert, not alarmed, and proactively seek out how the IoT changes in your industry.

How can we make the IoT work for you?

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IT Standardization Is Key For Any BYOD Policy

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It may have been inconceivable ten years ago, but it didn't take long for today’s workers to get used to bringing their own technology to work. Driven by claims that they can work more productively on their own devices, workers now take bring your own device (BYOD) policies for granted, even though they have created management and security headaches for IT administrators.

Businesses have long standardized their equipment to make it easier to swap in new PCs when old ones break or need to be upgraded. Yet the lack of control over laptops and other BYOD devices is challenging this practice, presenting issues for IT administrators and the integrity of business data.

Administrators often have no way of finding out, or improving, a device’s security profile. This leaves businesses exposed when a new software vulnerability is discovered since administrators have no way to patch or upgrade the software on users’ personal devices; studies regularly attribute most security breaches to unpatched vulnerabilities that had been fixed years ago but were never applied to users’ devices.

Standardize Your Apps

These problems create a compelling case for standardization—if not of the devices themselves, then of the applications that they are running. It’s not just about making system administrators’ lives easier, but by mandating a consistent set of applications, for example, it’s easier to help employees communicate smoothly and effectively regardless of where they go or what device they’re using.

Standardizing productivity applications ensures that documents can be easily shared and used, minimizing the need for costly and time-consuming manual entry of information. It also reduces the need for staff training and making it easier to move employees between locations. It also reduces the number of applications needing support. With the average business already running well over 100 different applications, any reduction in complexity can only be a good thing.

Consolidating your applications also offers considerable cost benefits: you’re likely to be able to spend less on licensing costs than you would when buying multiple applications, and because you’re buying an application for a large number of users you will have better bargaining power with your suppliers.

Consider Cloud Solutions

It’s worth noting the value of cloud-based productivity tools in meeting these goals. Although some users require sophisticated productivity tools for certain jobs, in most environments users could make do just as well with a cloud-based tool such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. These store data in a central place where all users can easily access, view, and change information from any device, at any time.

The BYOD cat may already be out of the bag, but by standardizing your IT applications and infrastructure, you can reduce costs while remaining competitive, and improve flexibility. By identifying the best opportunities for standardization, you’ll be able to reduce technology-management overheads and ensure that your users are more productive, more often.

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Six Easy Steps To Tune Up Your PC

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Computer Crash Avoidance

Does your PC crash all the time? Does it take what feels like hours just to load one program? You are probably thinking that it's time for a new computer, well that might be an unnecessary expense. Just like healthy eating and good personal hygiene, good computer hygiene is important. No matter what computer you’re using, there are a few things you should do regularly to ensure that everything is running as well as possible. These include:

  • Minimize Startup Tasks

Many programs install plug-ins that automatically load every time you turn on your computer, whether you need them to or not. Keep these unwanted hidden programs from slowing you down. In Windows 8 and 10, use the Task Manager by right-clicking on the Taskbar, clicking “More Details,” and switching to the Startup tab.

Bonus Tip: Pay close attention when installing downloaded software. Even many reputable programs will install extra items you may not be aware of that can slow your system down.

  • Remove Bloatware

Bloatware is any unnecessary and often obtrusive program that comes pre-loaded on many PCs, or software that gets added during the installation of legitimate software. These unwanted programs often increase boot time, waste memory, and clutter up your system tray, desktop, and context menus.
 
You can uninstall programs manually by opening your PC's Control Panel and clicking on "Programs," then "Programs and Features." And to keep from accumulating bloatware in the first place, check to make sure you're not loading unwanted programs as you install new software by reading through the installation dialogue boxes and unchecking any options to install additional programs that pop up.

  • Defragment (if you need to)

Because of the way file systems work, over time small chunks of disk space can be left stranded and unavailable for use, which means the computer needs to work harder than it should to find space to store new files. Regular defragmenting will pull together pieces of files stored all over the disk, leaving more large, contiguous blocks of empty space that will help your computer run faster. Especially be sure to defragment after you’ve deleted large numbers of files.

The more places your computer has to search to find files, the slower its performance. That makes defragmenting the hard drive an essential step in any tune-up of a PC with a traditional hard drive. In Windows 7 and earlier, defragment by using the included Disk Defragmenter tool. In Windows 8 and 10, use the program Optimize Drives. If you have one of the newer solid state drives (SSDs), however, you're in luck—they never need to be defragmented.

  • Look For Memory And CPU Hogs

If your computer is running slow, it may be due to software that’s hoarding more of your CPU and disk resources than it should. Open Windows Resource Monitor (click "Start" > type "Resource Monitor" > click on the result) and you’ll be able to identify which programs are using large chunks of CPU time. If they’re slowing you down too much, it’s worth uninstalling them and finding alternatives that are more efficient.

  • Update Your Operating System And Applications

It might seem counterintuitive, but newer versions of operating systems often run better on old hardware because they have been optimized to do so. If performance is an issue for you, update your operating system—and make sure you also update all of your applications, particularly security tools and Web browsers, to keep yourself safe online.

  • Upgrade Your System

When many users consider upgrading their computer to improve performance, their first thought is often to add more RAM. If you're currently using most or all of your RAM, then adding more will provide a noticeable boost. If, however, you're not regularly using all of your current memory, adding more may make little difference to your computer’s performance. Search for Resource Monitor in the Windows search box to find out how much of your system's resources you're currently using. However, even if you're not using all your current resources, switching from a traditional hard drive to an SSD can provide a significant speed boost.

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How To Give Employees The PCs They Want

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Employees Want (and need) More


Remember the days when no one had a PC at work, let alone at home? When a few people punched cards into computing machines that occupied whole rooms? Probably not. These days, an employee might not go on vacation without half a dozen computers—laptop, a couple of tablets, phones (that are really computers), e-readers, smart watches, and so on.

Long ago, the bar for technology started being set in the home, not the workplace. This means IT departments must recognize that choosing computers is not merely about finding a sweet spot between cost and functionality.

Like it or not, the bar is set at:

  • Powerful
  • Functional
  • Easy to look at

It doesn’t matter whether you’re ordering desktops, laptops, or tablets. Your desk warriors don’t want to look at a beige box, and your road warriors don’t want to be embarrassed in front of clients or competitors. The evidence shows that employees will look for another job if they don’t think the IT in their current workplace is good enough.

What’s the answer for IT?

1. Think outside the old model

Conventional procurement methodologies had IT departments balancing cost and functionality. Today, you have permission to take a broader view of cost.

What will it cost the company if employee retention rates fall because employees won’t work on clunky, ugly devices? What will it cost the company if it can’t attract quality employees because they don’t want to work in a dated workplace? What are lost productivity costs from slow, outdated machines? Often times the lowest cost machine ends up costing more in the long run due to repairs and lost time spent loading applications.

2. Loosen the reins

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies create freedom (great for your employment brand) and, to an extent, put the ball back in the employee’s court. Think ours are ugly or clunky? Bring your own.

The technology to manage employee devices—selecting software, rolling out security features, and so on—is mature enough to create room for a policy that allows both parties to get what that they need. Plus the money your company saves in hardware can be invested in other areas to assist employees like security and higher quality software.

If you’re uncomfortable with BYOD, a choose-your-own-device approach is a solid alternative. Employees don’t get to bring their own device but they do get to choose from a range of devices curated by IT. There’s less freedom, yet there’s self-determination.

3. Shorten your cycle

Refreshing organizational IT every three to five years means falling behind quickly. Advances in computing are faster than they were when those cycles were set. That means productivity losses occur sooner. Going back to the question of cost, the cost of refreshing faster should be considered against the productivity gains that come with new hardware and employee retention.

Are Your PCs Helping Or Hurting You?

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Allocating Your SMB's IT Budget in Today's Environment

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Where Small- Medium Businesses are Currently Spending their IT Budgets

Businesses are in a tricky spot in 2018.  Global political uncertainty and flat company revenues mean IT budgets most likely won't be increasing. The good news is technological advances are allowing businesses to get more for less, and with a properly allocated budget your business can do the same.

Hardware and software

Research from Spiceworks, a network of IT professionals, suggests the bulk of financial allotment for the year ahead should remain with hardware (37% of overall budget) and software (31%). A combined 68% from these hand-in-hand tools is no surprise since these are the essential building blocks of any business. In order to skyrocket your business, you need a solid foundation. 

What will force IT departments to spend money on software this year is less likely to be new features than simple end-of-life replacements. According to Spiceworks, 46% of companies still use Microsoft Office 2003 on at least one computer. Even more startling is the ghost of Office 97 is still haunting 3% of companies. Software that is old enough to have a beer needs to be dropped in order to get the most out of your employees and their time.

Virtualization and productivity are at the top of the tree when it comes to priority updates.

Cloud and Hosted Services

This coming year there will be more spending than ever on cloud-based services – 38% of respondents consider the cloud very or extremely important to their current business practices (compared to 29% last year). This is due to the cloud's increased safety and ease of use in recent years. Email hosting is predicted to take up much of the 14% overall budget allocation in the cloud sector with online backup and recovery a close second.

Managed Service Projects

Remote Management and outsourcing of company IT infrastructure will take up 13% of the budget total. As headcounts shrink, IT departments are going to have to be more strategic in how they use people and outsourcing to managed service providers will become a necessity.

AI, VR and 3D

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 3D printing are out of the lab and into real world applications. The remaining 5% of budget spend is predicted to be invested in making these systems a part of everyday use.

For the Visuals out There

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What do I do with this Information?

As you know by now every business is vastly different in their needs and budgets. This is a snapshot of where businesses like yours are currently allocating their IT budget. Also take into account that as technology advances and becomes more practical, you can expect to see the percentages allotted to the cloud and AI increase. Being on top of new technology in your industry can really set your business apart from competition and make your employees much more efficent.

Get Custom Solutions Tailored To Your Budget And Needs

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