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5 ways the cloud is reshaping business in 2015

(Business) Everyone knows about the cloud, but do you know how it is reshaping business right before our eyes?

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Cloud technologies are changing our world

The cloud has become widely adopted by brands of all size as a money saving expense and globe-busting tool. With cloud technologies, staff can be scattered all over the nation, yet effectively working in one spot, and it has changed the way companies operate.

The changes have come quickly and the intensity of these changes is ramping up. So what is on the horizon, and how can you benefit?

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Kira Makagon, RingCentral’s EVP of Innovation points out five ways that cloud technologies are reshaping the future of business, in her own words below:

1. Pay-as-You-Grow

Cloud is enabling businesses to grow faster than traditional on-premise infrastructure could accommodate. From a management perspective, setting up new locations and users on a cloud-based system is as simple as installing software or an app and making a few clicks to configure specific settings. Features and user access privileges can be added or revoked from a single management console in seconds, without having to rely on time-consuming and costly outside technical support.

In addition to offering a flexible and scalable technology, ease of use and minimal management, cloud based business communication solutions are a pay-as-you-grow. Subscription fees are based on the number of users and features, rather than a blanket monthly fee that you must pay regardless of whether you use the full capacity or feature set of your plan. And, an all-inclusive cloud-based system eliminates the need for multiple vendors, which adds even more savings.

2. Eliminating Geographic Costs

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a tremendous shift in how and where employees work. Broadband Internet accessibility, Wi-Fi and cellular technology have ushered in an explosion in mobility. Many employees are no longer confined to an office, or even a specific building, and now enjoy the freedom to work quite literally anywhere at any time – the corner coffee shop at 6 a.m., at home after midnight or on the beach while soaking up the midday sun.

At the same time, companies have leveraged the power of cloud technology to branch out, setting up distributed office locations while still connecting staff with shared resources like cloud-based productivity software, document storage and collaboration suites, not to mention an entire industry of apps that have emerged to fulfill specific niche needs.

3. Reapproaching Integration

Adding new locations or new users can be very costly and time-consuming, and existing technologies often don’t integrate. That leaves companies forced to pay exorbitant fees for disparate systems that don’t scale and require specialized third-party assistance to maintain, all while taxing internal IT resources and the bottom line.

Adding new features is cumbersome and expensive, and complex systems require massive IT involvement and investment to maintain. Conventional landlines simply don’t work at the pace of modern businesses. Cloud solutions are enabling businesses to integrate without the land-locked ties and costly means of integrating at scale.

4. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Challenges

Add in the mobility challenge and things really get messy. Companies can either provide devices to employees and assume the responsibility for device management and cost, or allow employees to use their own. But, BYOD environments can pose a major security threat if not handled properly.

Not only does it require employees to give up their personal identity (their cell phone number) to business associates – something they’d never do with a home phone or personal email address – BYOD is also difficult to control from a cost standpoint. For BYOD environments, cloud communication solutions are designed for mobility, with apps that keep business contacts, conversations and data usage separate from users’ personal information for added security.

Now, employees can have one number that works to reach them anywhere – no more dialing three numbers and still not getting through.

5. Changing the Perception of IT

Cloud communication solutions can have a powerful impact on raising the overall perception of IT within the organization. Often IT is viewed as a cost center – a necessity of doing business in the modern age, tasked with keeping the systems up and running to enable the “real” business drivers, like sales, marketing, manufacturing and customer service, to do what they do best.

However, by initiating strategy to evaluate and switch to a cloud-based communications platform that saves time and money, and supports the business growth objectives of the organization, IT can transform from a cost center into a value center. Elevating IT’s position as a strategic business component allows any company to adopt a more integrated growth strategy with all departments and services contributing directly to grow the bottom line.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Tech News

Google is giving back some privacy control? (You read that right)

(TECH NEWS) In a bizarre twist, Google is giving you the option to opt out of data collection – for real this time.

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Open laptop on desk, open to map privacy options

It’s strange to hear “Google” and “privacy” in the same sentence without “concerns” following along, yet here we are. In a twist that’s definitely not related to various controversies involving the tech company, Google is giving back some control over data sharing—even if it isn’t much.

Starting soon, you will be able to opt out of Google’s data-reliant “smart” features (Smart Compose and Smart Reply) across the G-Suite of pertinent products: Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Opting out would, in this case, prevent Google from using your data to formulate responses based on your previous activity; it would also turn off the “smart” features.

One might observe that users have had the option to turn off “smart” features before, but doing so didn’t disable Google’s data collection—just the features themselves. For Google to include the option to opt out of data collection completely is relatively unprecedented—and perhaps exactly what people have been clamoring for on the heels of recent lawsuits against the tech giant.

In addition to being able to close off “smart” features, Google will also allow you to opt out of data collection for things like the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other Google-related services that lean into your Gmail Inbox, Meet, and Chat activity. Since Google knowing what your favorite restaurant is or when to recommend tickets to you can be unnerving, this is a welcome change of pace.

Keep in mind that opting out of data collection for “smart” features will automatically disable other “smart” options from Google, including those Assistant reminders and customized Maps. At the time of this writing, Google has made it clear that you can’t opt out of one and keep the other—while you can go back and toggle on data collection again, you won’t be able to use these features without Google analyzing your Meet, Chat, and Gmail contents and behavior.

It will be interesting to see what the short-term ramifications of this decision are. If Google stops collecting data for a small period of time at your request and then you turn back on the “smart” features that use said data, will the predictive text and suggestions suffer? Only time will tell. For now, keep an eye out for this updated privacy option—it should be rolling out in the next few weeks.

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Tech News

Looking to refresh your virtual rooms? Check out Zoom’s Immersive View

(TECH NEWS) Zoom’s new Immersive View feature will help you feel like you’re back in the workplace or classroom again – or wherever you want to be.

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Zoom's new Immersive View allows users to be creative and place participants on landscapes, like this field of flowers.

If you’re tired of feeling separated from your coworkers, friends, or classmates, Zoom has a new feature that will make you feel like you’re all in the same place once again. At Zoomtopia, Zoom’s annual user conference, the company announced its Immersive View feature that they say will allow for a “more engaging and collaborative way to meet”.

With Immersive View, video participants can all be arranged in a single virtual space. Hosts can choose from one of Zoom’s immersive virtual scenes and embed video participants within that scene.

To make sure your scene is as natural as possible, hosts can move around and resize a participant’s image so they can look like they are sitting on a chair in a classroom or conference room. For added fun, you can even set a custom background. So, if you’d rather be part of the Galactic Senate Chamber, you can create your own scene.

Up to 25 video participants can be in the same virtual space. Any additional people after that will show up as a thumbnail strip on the top of the screen. And, at any time, you can change the view back to Speaker View or Gallery View if you want to.

How to get started with Zoom’s Immersive View
Immersive View is available on Windows and macOS for desktop. By default, all Free and single Pro accounts using Zoom 5.6.3 or higher will have the feature enabled.

To use the feature, first start your Zoom meeting or webinar on your desktop. In the top-right corner, click “View” and select “Immersive View”.

To place participants into the scene, choose between automatically and manually. By choosing automatic, as many participants as the layout will allow will be added to the scene. If you choose manual, you can add and remove participants as you’d like. Since Immersive View will use the first 25 participants, manual works well for larger meetings. If participant No. 26 needs to speak up, you can remove someone and add No. 26 in.

After you’ve made your choice, select one of the provided virtual backgrounds or upload your own image. If you choose to use your own custom background, make sure to follow Zoom’s virtual background specs for the best results.

Finally, click “Start” to launch your scene, and, now, you’re all set!

Those that aren’t using Zoom 5.6.3 or higher will not be able to see the Immersive View. Instead, they will see either the Gallery View or Speaker View with a black background.

Currently, Immersive View isn’t available in breakout rooms yet. Also, recordings of Immersive Views aren’t supported. Depending on your recording settings, recordings will appear in Gallery View or Speaker View.

Considering all the video call fatigue going on right about now, the timing of Zoom’s Immersive View feature couldn’t come at a better time. It will be refreshing to see a video call without just heads inside boxes.

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Tech News

Create a pandemic-friendly sign-in with this touchless technology

(TECH NEWS) In an era where touchless communication is paramount, Wellcome brings touchless employee and visitor sign-in technology to the workplace.

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Logo page for Wellcome, a touchless technology sign-in.

Touchless technology is becoming more and more common these days and for good reasons — health and safety. Due to the COVID pandemic, social distancing is crucial in helping decrease the amount of positive coronavirus cases.

Unfortunately, some work environments require in-person employees, contractors, and visitors. And now, some businesses are even starting to bring more of their workforce back into the office. While we can hopefully assume they all have some safety protocols in place, the front desk interactions haven’t changed much. This makes it difficult to manage and see who’s in and out.

But to fill in that gap, meet Wellcome. Wellcome is a touchless sign-in platform for employees and visitors. According to their website, the app “helps you manage the workplace effectively, making it safe and easy for everyone” who’s in the office.

And the platform does this by implementing the following features in its tool.

Employee Touchless Check-in
By uploading a list of employees to the Admin, employees automatically receive an email with a one-click “Wellcome Pass”. This pass can be added to their Apple or Android digital wallet.

Once at work, employees scan their pass on an iPad at the reception desk. Then, they will see a customizable confirmation screen with the company’s health and safety guidelines messaging. This reminder can help ensure everyone is following the rules and staying safe.

Visitor Touchless Check-in
For visitors without a Wellcome Pass, they can still scan the QR code on the iPad using their device. The QR code will direct them to a customized check-in form where they can select their host and fill out a health questionnaire on their mobile device.

COVID-Safe Visitor Screening
Based on how a visitor answers the health screening questionnaire, it will grant or deny them access to the office. This health COVID screening will help HR managers “protect the office by restricting access to visitors that might be infected.”

Host Notifications
Via email, Slack, and/or SMS, Wellcome will immediately notify the host when they have a visitor and send them the visitor’s contact details. It will also let them know if their visitor was granted or denied access based on the health screening. If a visitor is denied access, the host is instructed to not meet the visitor, but contact them another way.

Contact Tracing
If there is a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case at work, Wellcome makes it easy to identify and notify anyone who may be at risk. To do this, the HR manager just needs to search by a person’s name and date range in the Admin. Search results will pull up anyone that could have come in contact with the infected person.

The Admin will also notify all employees and visitors that need to self-isolate and get tested. If needed, Wellcome also lets you download and submit a tracing report.

Manage Office Capacity
Wellcome tracks workplace capacity and occupancy data to help maintain social distancing. If occupancy reaches the capacity limit, the Admin will be notified to “take steps to reduce occupancy in order to stay within the required limits.”

In the Admin Dashboard, reports are available to view the status of current capacity. It can also predict what the occupancy will be each day so companies can plan ahead.

Book Workdays
Employees have the option to pre-book when they want to come into the office. The app displays how many slots are available for each day, and it can send out a calendar reminder. Through the Admin, HR managers can see who will be coming into the office. This is Wellcome’s other way of making sure capacity limits are always within range.

Also, setting up Wellcome is pretty simple. All you need is an iPad. You install the app on it and leave it at the reception desk for employees and visitors to check-in.

For companies who have employees and visitors in and out of the office. Wellcome does sound appealing, and it looks like they will benefit a great deal from the platform. And, if you’d like to check it out, Wellcome lets you use the app free for 14 days. Afterwards, you can select a plan that works best for you.

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