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How cloud computing saves businesses big money

Cloud computing has long been a hot topic, but many still don’t grasp what it is or understand the cost savings associated with operating in the cloud. It’s not a sci-fi term, it’s a simple tech term that can save businesses big money.

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Hot topic: cloud computing

Everyone is talking about cloud computing – AGBeat first wrote on the topic five years ago. It’s been a long-standing hot topic and it’s not hard to see why. Cloud technologies offer many key benefits to businesses both small and large.

A simple definition of cloud computing without getting too technical is software that’s hosted on the internet. It’s the ability to access data and applications from anywhere you have an internet connection. Conversely, software not on the cloud is software that’s downloaded on a computer. Let’s explore cloud computing in a bit more depth and why it may be a good idea for you to move to the cloud.

One key benefit is reduced cost. With a system hosted on the internet (think of a web-based real estate CRM), upgrades, product enhancements, and support are included. There’s also less capital investment required because of the fact that the pricing structure for a web-based system involves a monthly subscription fee and little or no upfront cost. And oftentimes, you’ll actually save a lot of money in the long-term as well – when you purchase a product and have to pay every year for support and upgrades, it can be extremely costly.

Risk, commitment, mobility, and security

Cloud based technology also involves less risk and commitment. Let’s say you purchase a PC-based software solution and you then realize you made the wrong decision. At this point, there’s nothing you can do other than eat your losses and move on. Cloud computing utilizes a “pay as you go” model meaning that as soon as you want to stop using the technology, or feel it’s not right for you, you can usually cancel without a penalty.

Moreover, cloud technologies are more secure due to advanced security technologies that cloud-based systems employ and the frequent real-time data backups that occur. Your data is much more at risk on your PC than when it’s not hosted online, in the cloud.

Mobility is another key reason why you should consider a move to the cloud. When your data is hosted on the internet, you can access it from wherever you are, provided you have an internet connection. Think about the convenience this affords. Imagine working on your CRM from your iPad or tablet. Cloud technology also allows for greater team collaboration as multiple team members can access and work on the system at the same time, regardless of where they happen to be located.

Lastly, when you’re required to download software to your computer(s), this takes up space on your hard drive. With cloud technologies, you don’t have to worry about running out of space. Furthermore, you’re able to store more data on the web than you can on a private computer system.

A business decision

Smart business decisions mean making the right choices when it comes to technology. Key considerations like cost effectiveness, accessibility, and security should drive decision-making. It’s very possible you’ll realize that moving to the cloud and transitioning to a cloud-based business model is the right decision for you and your business.

Matthew Collis is part of the Sales and Marketing Team at IXACT Contact Solutions Inc., a leading North American real estate CRM firm. In addition to overseeing many of IXACT Contact’s key sales and marketing programs, Matthew works with REALTORS® to help them achieve their real estate goals through effective contact management and relationship marketing. IXACT Contact is a web-based real estate contact management and marketing system that helps REALTORS® better manage and grow their business. The system includes powerful email marketing capabilities and a professionally designed and written monthly e-Newsletter.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Roland Estrada

    March 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I like the cloud concept to a degree. For example syncing services such as Dropbox, Box, iCloud and others. Where I personally draw the line is CRM. I don’t care for the idea of paying someone to host a database that I already own. Part of that is a personal gripe – it grinds me that so many utilities in real estate demand a monthly fee. You get nickel-and-dimed to death.

    I run Daylite as a client and server solution on my Mac mini. I can access my data base from anywhere via my iPhone or iPad. I can also access the full program form home on my laptop. One key feature of Daylite I would never give up is the ability to tag every email that is sent and received to an individual, a transaction or both. I can then delete the emails and they are permanently store in Daylite. And by the way accessible on my phone or ipad. There are some things cloud based CRMs just can’t do.

    Real Estate Success Tools (REST), is another similar solution that runs on Mac and Windows.

    Remember, unless you are a large corporation, data takes up a very small portion of your disk space.

    • Matthew Collis

      March 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      Roland, thanks for your comment. I know you’re a big proponent of Daylite from past comments you’ve made on my columns and I’m glad you found a solution you like. With cloud-based CRMs, yes there is a monthly fee but very often this is less expensive than paying upfront to own a system. Why? Customer support is free as well as continual product upgrades and enhancements. At IXACT Contact, we’ve done many analyses for customers and we found that compared to many other CRMs where you pay upfront to own the system, the cost savings long-term is much greater with a web-based solution like IXACT, where a monthly fee is involved. Think of Microsoft, for instance, and how often you’re often required to pay for upgrades. Charging an upgrade cost every year is how people are often nickel and dimed to death by software companies.

      • Roland Estrada

        March 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

        Matthew, I can appreciate your viewpoint, but I’ve never paid for a Daylite update update or for updates to REST when I used that program. As far as paying for Microsoft updates, well that’s why I own Macs.

        In terms of upfront costs, REST is around $400 and Daylite $230. Both in my past experience have great free customer support.

        If you are paying say $30 a month for a cloud CRM, you are looking at $360 per year and $3,600 over 10 years. I haven’t spent a dime over my initial investment in Daylite aside from the Touch license. And even that is only $50 per year.

        I think there is a place in real estate for cloud based systems. Agents just need to decide what is best given their unique needs. And most agents I run into don’t even know what’s available that is any good at all. I’ve seen a lot of what is available for agents and most of it looks like it was written in the 1980’s including Top Producer before it went web-based. I do have to commend you for having a slick looking modern product.

        • Matthew Hardy

          March 20, 2012 at 3:49 am

          Purchasing OS-level software for the Mac is indeed great… and the Mac App Store handles updates particularly well. Here’s a list of apps I like:

          Cocktail
          Hype
          OmniGraffle Professional
          Pituresque
          Pixelmator
          RapidWeaver
          ScreenFlow
          TextWrangler
          Transmit
          VMWare Fusion

  2. Matthew Hardy

    March 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    @ Roland

    I concur. It’s silly to me that we’re sold devices with enormous storage capacities then told we need the cloud because we can’t be trusted to backup or understand what an IP address is.

    > monthly fee… nickel-and-dimed to death.

    And the lock-in — hosted vendors that make it difficult to leave.

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Tech News

Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller

(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.

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Google Meet Series One is a new meeting kit that puts people first.

Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.

Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”

The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.

The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”

These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”

According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”

Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.

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One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data

(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Man walking on crosswalk with phone, but his private data could be vulnerable.

By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.

How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.

At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.

Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.

With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.

This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.

Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.

If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.

These and other tips can be a great way to help you avoid not just geofence warrants, but others who want to use your electronic information for their own gain.

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Tech News

Incoming! Amazon drones will be dropping off packages soon (we hope)

(TECH NEWS) The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon for drone delivery service, but when will the drones actually take flight?

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One of Prime Air's drones ready for test flights.

Amazon has finally received the stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deliver packages by drones. This pivotal step brings the online retailer closer to their promise of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

In 2013, during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, said drones would be delivering customers’ packages within five years. Although the estimate is a couple of years off, it seems like that day might be right around the corner.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when little floating presents are sailing through the sky (Animal Crossing balloons, anyone?). Despite our excitement to see our latest Amazon impulse purchase land on our doorstep, it isn’t going to happen overnight.

The Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Amazon obtained for its fleet of Prime Air drones will allow the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” Although the FAA certification is allowing Amazon to begin test trials, Bloomberg reports that the retail giant still has “regulatory and technical hurdles” to overcome.

In addition, the FAA has yet to set regulations that will “serve as a framework to expand drone flights over crowds, a building block necessary for deliveries.” Amazon hasn’t said when and where it will start testing the delivery service either.

David Carbon, Amazon Vice President who oversees Prime Air, made this statement: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

This approval is definitely a step forward, but Amazon has been working on the drone delivery service for years. Early last year, the giant retailer revealed they would start offering one-day shipping. They have followed through on this, at least. And during a Las Vegas Conference in June 2019, they revealed their “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” But it still doesn’t answer when we can expect to see whizzing drones overhead.

I’m not sure when Amazon will fulfill their last promise. But it is getting closer. What I do know is that I look forward to the Amazon drones taking flight. I can’t wait to place my orders knowing that I will get that last-minute present I ordered just in time.

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