Category: Tech Trends

Things are looking up for a drone takeover

We’ve all seen them in the news: A drone lands on the White House lawn. Drone racing is the next sport of the modern age. Dutch police train eagles to attack surveillance drones. A drone is used to drop illegal drugs into an Ohio prison yard. Amazon plans to use drones to deliver packages. Google announces the use of suborbital drones to broadcast wifi to remote areas of the planet …

Unmanned aerial vehicles once were a small recreational niche but now are becoming the headlines of major stories in security, technology, sports and overall controversy. So what has caused such an accelerated market growth in these small, yet powerful devices?

Advancements in technology. The features and technology used in drones are rapidly developing, exceeding even the smartphone industry. It seems that every year, new devices hit the market with improved components and at a lower sticker price. Some drones now utilize 4K video recordings and have the ability to set GPS coordinates to accurately record precise footage and measurements. eHang, a Chinese company, is even testing an automated drone large enough to carry humans (for an entry price of $200,000 to $300,000). Much of this advancement in technology is driven by the consumers whom demand bigger and better products year after year.

Investments are booming. Despite an overwhelming increase in Federal Aviation Administration regulations regarding the usage of UAVs, investments in drone conglomerates have grown exponentially over the past year. According to CB Insights, in 2015 drone startup companies raised more than $450 million, an increase of more than 300 percent versus 2014 data. A January report by BI Intelligence highlights more dramatic figures to consider:

• Projected revenues from drone sales could top $12 billion in 2021.

• Shipments of consumer drones will more than quadruple over the next five years.

• Safety technologies such as geo-fencing and collision avoidance will relax FAA regulations and enable large numbers of drones to take to the sky.

• Sports markets have been stimulated by large investments for competitive drone-racing leagues.

Applications on the rise. Drones continue to fill the skies as demand continues to parallel the amount of manufacturers in the market. As technologies continue to develop, more industries are seeing plausible applications for drone usage. The commercial markets of agriculture, land management, energy, construction, and oil and gas all have found lucrative ways to utilize drones in their respective fortes. Large defense-focused manufacturers also are emerging as government and security entities begin to enter the market.

Expect to see drones trending through more facets of our economy as the year continues. As technology and applications continue to expand, the FAA and government agencies will continue to be pressured to regulate both the commercial and recreational usage of UAVs.

For the recreational enthusiasts: Use common sense when flying these devices for personal use.  Keep your drones under 400 feet in altitude, steer clear of airports, pedestrians and vehicles, and always keep your device in visual sight while operating.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins, can be reached at hbroman@ipoint-tech.com.

Mobile-friendly websites more important than you think

Last April, Google released a major change in its search engine that will dramatically impact the online traffic for mobile-friendly websites. In fact, it is pushing responsive websites to the top of search results, while moving nonresponsive websites further down.

You may have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about the hype over recent mobile website trends.

Responsive (mobile-friendly) websites are a great way to improve your online traffic, considering that more than 50 percent of searches today are performed from mobile devices.  However, the benefits of a website built for all devices can have other dramatic impacts on more than just the online experience:

Gain more traffic: Simply put, responsive websites will receive more online traffic than those that are not. You have to consider this path if you are to remain competitive with your online competitors. Google called its algorithm change in April “Mobilegeddon” for good reason.

Convert more sales: With more traffic comes more sales. By having an improved user experience, people will spend more time on your website and enjoy interacting within it. This is especially crucial for eCommerce businesses where the shopping environment must be quick, organized and efficient.

Look professional: Your website is often the first impression a user will have of your business.  You want your audience to be engaged and impressed by your brand, and a website built for mobile devices can do just that. It is difficult to gauge how many missed opportunities could come from a negative website experience.

Tablet and smartphone sales are exploding and have been surpassing PC purchases since 2012.  The mobile market is not going away, and neither is Google and the other search engines. Be sure that you stay ahead of the trend and remain competitive in your industry by optimizing your website to suit the needs of your consumers.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins, can be reached at hbroman@ipoint-tech.com. 

The basics on turning back a hack attack

In late November, a cybercriminal group called the Guardians of Peace gained access to Sony Entertainment’s computer network and stole more than 100 terabytes of confidential employee documents, unreleased movies and more.

It has been widely suggested that the group resides in North Korea, and that the hack was in response to Sony’s plans to release the movie “The Interview” in theaters. The plot of the comedy revolves around an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. After the initial online attacks were discovered, the hackers installed a “wiper” malware onto Sony’s network – a software designed to permanently wipe data from Sony’s servers.

Regardless of who was involved in the attack, the event is a reminder of the importance of securing computer networks. Even Sony, a company that recorded $72 billion in revenue in 2013 and had an assumingly robust IT security barrier, was compromised – and not for the first time. The organization learned a great deal from the attack, and so did the public – in some cases, gaining access to extremely sensitive information the hackers released.

So, what measures can you take to secure your own business IT network?

Install a firewall

Every network security system begins with a firewall. These control the barrier between trusted internal connections (LAN) and un-secure external sources (WAN). Firewalls can be in the form of software or actual hardware, and are recommended for most businesses with internal servers. However, a firewall alone could not prevent the Sony hack, which is why the next two actions described here are equally important.

Monitor your network

Experts say the Sony hack may have been going on for at least a year before being discovered in November. Monitoring PCs and servers can identify irregularities and alert the user to a problem much sooner, mitigating restoration time in case of a hack. Penetration testing, intentionally attacking a computer system to discover security weaknesses, can also be performed by third-party software to evaluate the quality and vulnerabilities of a system’s security.

Back up your data

The potential loss of a huge portion of important business files poses a massive headache for Sony. Backing up information in a secure, off-site location is like data insurance. It ensures that original network files can be restored in the event of data loss during a breach.

It is difficult to gauge just how much damage has been done to Sony as a company and brand by this event. In 2011, the company’s PlayStation and Qriocity services were hacked and data from 77 million users was stolen.  The network restoration process took 24 days, and the incident cost Sony $172 million.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins, can be reached at hbroman@ipoint-tech.com.

Put money back in your pocket with Web apps

Web applications are programs that use a remote server to deliver information through the Internet to a browser. Applications can be as minimal as a community message board or as complex as a program that runs entire daily business functions.  When you consider the time and energy saved by using Web-based applications, it’s clear that they actually can put money back in your pocket at the end of the day.

They improve employee productivity and efficiency, allow easy access to information and data online from any location at any time, improve interconnectivity with consumers and business partners, allow management of multiple business function and are easy to use and comprehend.

Web applications can be as simple or complex as the business chooses them to be. They also can start with a very basic structure and have additional functions added as needed.

The following examples highlight the differences between simple versus complex Web-based apps:

Google Calendar is a simple Web application. It allows users to quickly create events, such as “Client Meeting, 9 a.m, 123 Main St.,” and then populates an online calendar which can be accessed through the PC, phone, etc.

The best part of this application is the straightforward way that it helps users organize their schedule personally and with co-workers. Additionally, you can create different calendars to share with different people – a “kid’s calendar” versus a “business calendar.” You can view both the kid’s and business calendars at the same time, or you can deselect one calendar to focus on another. It is a very useful tool with a simple concept.

Complex web applications can manage entire daily business operations. Basecamp is a great example of a complex app. It is a project-management tool that helps users manage multiple projects with to-do lists, file sharing, messaging, event calendars and time tracking.

Using Basecamp enables employees to manage their time, tasks and projects in an organized way, making life a lot easier for business owners. While these complex applications often incur a much larger price tag, the ease of use that comes with them makes these programs a cost-effective tool when considering return-on-investment over the long haul.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins,
can be reached at
hbroman@ipoint-tech.com.

Easy ways to extend life of your computer

Just as cars need oil changes, personal computerss require ongoing maintenance to maximize the lifespan of the device. When you consider that some IT components can actually cost as much as a motor vehicle, it’s easy to see why this is crucial for your business technology. These steps will keep your equipment running smoothly, and the only cost is a few minutes of your time.

Clean components monthly
You can’t always see it, but the tiniest of dust particles can build up inside your computer over time. When grime and debris begin to clog the internal workings of your device, it generates more heat, and the dust itself can act as insulation, trapping heat in the device. Higher temperatures mean cooling fans have to work harder, stressing your machine further. I recommend purchasing a can of compressed air and taking five minutes to spray down all vent openings and circuit boards at least once a month.

Ventilate your system
Devices have more trouble operating when they are overheated. Proper ventilation helps cooling fans move fresh air through the components, bringing down the device’s internal temperature. Look at how your IT systems are set up and be sure there is enough airflow in the area. Avoid placing your server or PC in an enclosed cabinet or near heat vents.
Protect against power surges
Plugging power cords into a surge protector is a step that you should take with every IT device. The circuits and components in your PC are sensitive to minor fluctuations in power, which can hinder their performance. In extreme cases, components can be damaged or destroyed.
Prevent power loss
A sudden loss of power can cause problems such as losing unsaved documents or causing drive or file corruption. To avoid this, consider installing an Uninterruptible Power Supply. It is essentially a large surge protector with a built-in battery that kicks on if there is ever an interruption in your regular power supply.

Optimize startup programs
Although not always necessary, this can greatly increase startup time when you reboot your PC. During this process, the computer loads everything that is running on your desktop, including nonessential items such as iTunes, Adobe, Microsoft Office, etc. You can specify which programs you do and do not want to load on the initial reboot by following these steps:
Go to the start menu and search for “MSConfig.”
Select the “Startup” tab.
Deselect any programs that aren’t necessary every time you restart the computer.
This will greatly increase reboot speeds.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins, can be reached at hbroman@ipoint-tech.com.