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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

New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper

(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.

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Apple Watch being worn on wrist showing weather for Montreal.

The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.

Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.

Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.

More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.

Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.

It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.

And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.

The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.

Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.

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Tech News

Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?

(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?

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Code on screen, powering AI technology

The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.

While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.

Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.

“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”

OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.

While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.

Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.

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Tech News

What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!

(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.

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Woman browsing web, made easy with UI/UX

There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.

Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.

The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.

According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.

UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.

Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.

The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.

2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.

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