Should i save my data on cloud?

I recently read a story about how amazon had scrapped their unlimited clouds services package to all its users. This in a way got me thinking about the realities of cloud based services. I have almost tried all cloud based services that are popular but still struggling with reliability aspect among them. In 2015, Microsoft announced a similar move where they also scrapped the unlimited package for overdrive  making it less than what was previously offered. I was among those affected by this move. A similar incident happened when my Dropbox was resented and i lost all files saved. With these incidences am still wondering how sustainable these services are and whether in the long run this is the solution to conventional ways of storage.

It’s pretty simple to understand where a file goes when you save it on your PC. It lives on your hard drive, possibly housed in a set of folders you’ve created and organized yourself. That file is only stored on your computer, unless you decide to email it to yourself or save it on an external hard drive or USB.

Now what about the cloud?

At its most basic level, “the cloud” is just fancy-talk for a network of connected servers (a server is simply a computer that provides data or services to other computers). When you save files to the cloud, they can be accessed from a computer connected to that cloud’s network. Now take that idea and multiply it to understand how the cloud works for you. The cloud is not just a few servers, but a network of many servers typically stored in a spaceship-sized warehouse—or several hundred spaceship-sized warehouses. These warehouses are guarded and managed by companies such as Google (Google Docs), Apple (iCloud), or Dropbox.

So it’s not just some nebulous concept. It’s physical, tangible, real.

When you save files to the cloud, you can access them on any computer, provided it’s connected to the Internet and you’re signed into your cloud services platform. Take Google Drive. If you use Gmail, you can access Drive anywhere you can access your email. Sign in for one service and find your entire library of documents and photos on another.

Benefits of cloud storage

On the flip side, the data you save to the cloud is far more secure than it is on your own hard drive. Cloud servers are housed in warehouses offsite and away from most employees, and they are heavily guarded. In addition, the data in those servers is encrypted, which makes hacking it a laborious, if not formidable, task for criminals. Whereas a malware infection on your home computer could expose all of your personal data to cyber-crooks, and even leave your files vulnerable to ransomware threats. In fact, we recommend backing up your files to a cloud service as a hedge against ransomware.

Another benefit to storing data on the cloud is cost effectiveness and ease-of-access. You can store tons of data, often for free, using the cloud. Measure that against the number of external hard drives and USBs you’d have to purchase, and the difficulty accessing data once you’ve stored to multiple other devices, and you can see why cloud storage has become a popular option for businesses and consumers alike.

Risks of cloud storage

Cloud security is tight, but it’s not infallible. Cybercriminals can get into those files, whether by guessing security questions or bypassing passwords. That’s what happened in The Great iCloud Hack of 2014, where nude pictures of celebrities were accessed and published online.

But the bigger risk with cloud storage is privacy. Even if data isn’t stolen or published, it can still be viewed. Governments can legally request information stored in the cloud, and it’s up to the cloud services provider to deny access. Tens of thousands of requests for user data are sent to Google, Microsoft, and other businesses each year by government agencies. A large percentage of the time, these companies hand over at least some kind of data, even if it’s not the content in full.

The other risk is the fact that there is guarantee that your information/data will not be deleted incase of changes in package subscriptions like the case of amazon unlimited to 30Tb limit.

Final verdict

Yes, despite all the challenges, your data is relatively safe in the cloud—likely much more so than on your own hard drive. In addition, files are easy to access and maintain. However, cloud services ultimately put your data in the hands of other people. If you’re not particularly concerned about privacy, then no big whoop. But if you have sensitive data you’d like keep from prying eyes…probably best to store in a hard drive that remains disconnected from your home computer.

If you’re ready to store data on the cloud, we suggest you use a cloud service with multi-factor authentication and encryption. In addition, follow these best practices to help keep your data on the cloud secure:

  • Use hardcore passwords: Long and randomized passwords should be used for data stored on the cloud. Don’t use the same password twice.
  • Back up files in different cloud accounts: Don’t put all your important data in one place.
  • Practice smart browsing: If you’re accessing the cloud on a public computer, remember to logout and never save password info.

Is there Value attached to international days?

There are quite a number of national and international days celebrated in the remembrance and commemoration of issues as per sector or national courses. In the development world a number of these days are celebrated to put emphasis on certain issues affecting people globally or nationally though it’s still tricky to attach impact to these days. Having worked in the development sector for a while there is a feeling that Meaning has been lost FOR these days. Between January and March there were about 20 international days to commemorate and among these some of which you know and some you probably don’t. I bet  all these celebrations had a good theme and a call for action to which certain commitments were made and supposed to be followed up. To this i feel very little is done  year in and year out and we keep repeating the same mistakes. So is there value in celebrating these international days ? Comment and let me know what you think

The Top Small Business Software

When it comes to software, i hold a soft spot here because almost all of the of the things we do or create by a means uses software. From a personal perspective i feel this is any area that is very important but most often few of us know the answers to what would be helpful. Having worked with both small and large companies i feel i can give some ideas on what productive software one needs in day today work. The reality is not all software is created equally. Here are a few of the top small business software solutions to consider in 2017.

Having the right software for your business needs can mean the difference between getting things done or… having tasks linger, unaddressed, on your to-do list.

Unfortunately, most top software companies often focus on larger businesses, rather than small enterprises. As a result, many of their solutions are either unaffordable or loaded with features smaller companies don’t need.

Not all software is this way. More and more, software providers are offering small business versions of their enterprise solutions or are targeting the small business market with programs uniquely designed to meet its needs. If you’re in the market for a new tool, here are a few of the top small business software solutions to consider in 2015.

Accounting

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, chances are you’re good at what you do–but significantly less practiced at the administrative side of running a business. But whether you’re knowledgeable or not, needs like accounting must be taken care of. Any of the following tools will help get your books in order, whether you do so in order to manage your own finances or to pass your information on to your CPA.

QuickBooks

One of the most recognized names in small business accounting, QuickBooks offers both desktop and online versions (depending on the needs of your company and the experience of your team members), you may prefer one over the other. Regardless of the option you choose, Quickbooks is reasonably affordable, though taking full advantage of the program does require a bit of training.

As an added bonus, most accounting firms are experienced with QuickBooks. If you plan to seek outside support for your business’s finances, give this program a shot, as its widespread familiarity will make transmitting your data to your accountant a snap.

FreshBooks

If QuickBooks proves to be a bit of an overkill for your startup’s needs, check out FreshBooks. This cloud-based accounting software program is easier to use than QuickBooks and supports over 50 integrations–including payroll and email programs. FreshBooks features a 30 days free trial and subscription-based pricing from $19.95 per month up to $39.95 per month after this period.

Wave Accounting

Another cloud-based accounting tool, Wave Accounting has been named the best free accounting software for small businesses by Business News Daily. It’s important to note that Wave is for very small businesses–in particular, companies with fewer than 10 staff members will get the most out of this QuickBooks alternative. That said, it provides excellent functionality for free, with free user forums for support or live support packages starting at $9 per month if your needs are more complex.

Human Resources

Scaling your startup by bringing on employees is a major milestone for small businesses. But despite the game-changing nature of this step forward, few entrepreneurs take the time to fully address their human resources needs or to implement the HR technologies that can streamline these systems.

Instead of letting your human resources needs get out of control as you expand, put one of the following tools into place as soon as possible:

Zenefits

This all-in one human resource software program gives you access to benefits management, payroll processing, onboarding tools and more. Even better, many Zenefits features can be set to run automatically after your initial configuration, significantly reducing the amount of time you need to spend on these tasks on an ongoing basis.

As an added bonus, if your small business uses contractors rather than–or in addition to–regular employees, Zenefits makes it easy to manage their details as well, allowing you to track their compensation and handle their tax needs from within a single program.

BambooHR

Like Zenifits, BambooHR is a cloud-based HR system that’s simple interface and intuitive design make it a great fit for small and medium sized businesses. Although the program is exclusively an online human resource information system, it does integrate with other payroll solutions or applicant tracking software, giving you easy access from one central dashboard.

sumHR

Finally, sumHR is a great small business HR software program that focuses on attendance, leave, and payroll functions. If you’re looking to take your employee directory out of the spreadsheets and into a professional program, sumHR may be the solution for you. The company is also planning on adding new features soon, including reporting and performance reviews, making it one to watch into the future.

HRMagic

HRMagic has Employee Profile Management, Recruitment, Leave, Time Sheet Management, Payroll, Commission/Contract Invoice Management among other modules ) and HR consultancy to various companies.

Scheduling

Plenty of small businesses have scheduling concerns to deal with, whether yours come in the form of hourly workers or customer appointments to be booked. But despite the widespread nature of this problem, many of these companies still rely on outdated pen and paper scheduling books which are both time-consuming to manage and vulnerable to human error.

There’s got to be a better way–and there is! Check out any of the following programs for your scheduling needs:

When I Work

Scheduling staff hours doesn’t have to be difficult–When I Work makes the process intuitive and simple, helping to reduce absences and avoid employee miscommunications. When I Work offers mobile accessibility so that staff can see their schedules, trade shifts among themselves and request time off while on-the-go. The program’s pricing comes as a monthly subscription fee that’s based on the number of staff you manage–up to 20 staff can be scheduled for $29 per month.

Booker

If you have clients that need to make appointments or you offer classes that your customers need to sign up for, Booker makes it easy. Once installed, you can attract customers from your website or social media profile and bring them to a central site where they can then book appointments. The site is optimized for mobile users, making it easy to build relationships with clients through the program’s provided messaging and retention tools.

Genbook

Another solution for online booking, Genbook allows your customers to book appointments while also giving you the tools needed to manage your business, staff, and reputation. Genbook allows your former customers to post reviews of your company, giving you immediate credibility with new clients. Your staff can access the schedule and receive reminders, and you can publish promotions and share them on social media. To give this innovative program a try, take advantage of Genbook’s 30-day free trial (post-trial prices range from $20-$70 per month).

Google Keep

Free, cheap, no complicated training needed and good for scheduling. I must say I use Google Keep more than I thought I would. I have an Evernote account and I think it a great application, which I do use daily. The two applications have similarities and different users will definitely see different strengths in both.

Simple. That’s how I would best describe Google Keep. If you have ever used sticky notes, you will get the idea.  Once you start playing with Google Keep, you’ll figure it out quickly.

I think the three neatest features that it offers are: sharing, optical character recognition (OCR), and labeling. Again, once you execute the function the first time, you will remember how you did it.

Small business software can be a difficult world to navigate, but the good news is that there are plenty of companies out there doing it right. Whether you need help with your accounting, human resources or scheduling needs, the software listed above will help launch your company successfully into 2015.

What’s your favorite small business software program? Why? Share your recommendations by leaving a comment below!

Fed up with Skype? Here Are 6 of the Best Free Alternatives

For a long time, Skype was the world leader when it came to VoIP apps. It was so popular, in fact, that “Skyping” became a verb. But with so many complaints of low quality calls, too many crashes, and a general distrust of Microsoft, for many, Skype lost its appeal, despite its recent overhauls.

Since Skype’s heyday, however, many other apps have launched that enable you to call others from your devices. If you’re fed up with Skype then, you might want to try these alternatives.

For something much simpler than Skype, a service like Appear.in might be for you. If you want something with even more features, try out Viber. And then there are all the options in between.

1. Google Hangouts (Web, Android, iOS)

A direct competitor to Skype, offering free user-to-user calls and (mostly) free calls within the U.S. and Canada.

Since its launch just a few short years ago, Google Hangouts has rapidly grown to rival Skype in terms of user numbers while, according to many, surpassing Skype’s call quality.

While you could use Hangouts as just another messaging app, that’s the last thing we need. It’s first-and-foremost a way for you to voice and video call up to 10 contacts (simultaneously) on iOS, and Android. The regular Google Hangouts Web app is pretty impressive, too. On your smartphone, this works over data (or Wi-Fi if you’re connected), so calls over Hangouts do not use any of your included minutes.

The contacts that Google Hangouts adds to your account can be both from your phone contacts, and your email contacts. If those contacts are Google Hangout users, you can call them entirely for free. You can call landlines and mobiles from Hangouts, too.

Almost all calls to Canada and the US are entirely free from any country where Hangouts is available. To make other calls though, you’ll have to add some credit to your account., and pay a relatively small per-minute call charge.

2. Appear.In (Web, iOS)

One of the easiest ways to start a voice or video call. No sign ups, no downloads.If you want an incredibly simple way to start a call, Appear.in is what you’re looking for. You don’t need to sign up to anything. You don’t even need to download anything! There is an iOS app, though, if you’re interested.

Simply create a “Room” link, and share that link with whoever you want to chat with (up to eight people). When a recipient clicks the link, the room will open in their browser (this works on mobile, too).

You can choose to either have a voice or video call, and you can also share your screen. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can “lock” your call to prevent anyone else from joining if they somehow found your unique link.

3. ooVoo (Web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)

Like WhatsApp, you can make domestic and international calls too.

Like a lovechild between WhatsApp and Skype, ooVoo is a free cross platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Web) app that allows free calls to other ooVoo users, and paid calls to landlines and mobiles. It’s group video calls are of particularly high quality, which is the main reason it’s included in this list.

If you start a Web-Based ooVoo chat, up to 12 people can join for free, without signing up or downloading anything. All you have to do is send them a unique link. All calls can be recorded, and screens can be shared.

It’s unlikely many of your contacts use the app, but if they do, it also doubles up as a messaging app, where you can record and send text messages and videos. It’s basically like WhatsApp, but also allows calls to landlines and web-based calls to non-users.

5. Talky (Web, iOS)

Like Appear.In, an extremely easy way to host a group video chat. No download required.

Just like Appear.in, Talky sells itself as “a truly simple video chat [with] screen sharing for groups”.

Again, simply pick a room name, get a unique URL, then share this URL with up to 15 people. The call is then accessible via each person’s browser (or via the iOS app).

Once a call is live, you can easily turn your webcam or microphone on and off, and chat via text. Once everyone’s online, you can also lock the call for extra privacy.

And again like Appear.In, you can’t use Talky to make international or domestic calls.

6. Voca (Android, iOS)

Free user-to-user calls, and some of the cheapest international calls on the market.

Working through your Wi-Fi or data connection, Voca gives you extremely easy access to very affordable international calls to over 230 countries. For instance, U.S.-to-U.S. calls to landlines and phones cost $0.001. You can find full rates on Voca’s site.

If your friends and family are also using the app, then text, voice, and video calls are completely free, though the app will use your data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For the security conscious, all calls and messages are encrypted.

And, The App You Know About: WhatsApp

Free voice or video calls to any other WhatsApp users (on mobile). But no calls to anyone who’s not on WhatsApp.And then we have WhatsApp (and its security-obsessed alternatives). Although the app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web, WhatsApp calls are only available on Android, iOS and Windows.

It’s popularity in the U.S., Canada, Europe (and elsewhere) has seen the app attract over one billion users. At first, the app was mainly just for messaging your friends. Now it’s grown to also offer voice and video calling. These calls are made via your data plan, not over your network (so you may be charged for using data, but not your included minutes).

When using WhatsApp’s call features, you can only call other WhatsApp users (one person at a time, no group calls). If they don’t have WhatsApp, you can easily send them an invite.

Will You be Abandoning Skype?

Although Skype is usually the default option for calls over the internet, there are many great alternatives out there. These range from the super simple, to the feature-rich, with plenty in between.

Do you think any of these will be good enough for you to start moving away from Skype?

If so, what frustrated you so much about Skype to make you start searching for alternatives?

Originally written by Joel Lee on Sep 7, 2012.

The freelancer and the entrepreneur

Which are you?

A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.

Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run. The entrepreneur builds an organization that creates change.

The trap is simple: Sometime freelancers get entrepreneur-envy and start hiring other freelancers to work for them. This doesn’t scale. Managing freelancers is different from being a freelancer. Managing freelancers and saving the best projects for yourself gets you into trouble. The cash flow gets you into trouble. Investors don’t want to invest in you because you can’t sell out if you’re a freelancer at heart.

If you’re an entrepreneur, it is impossible to succeed by using your own labor to fill the gaps. That’s because your labor is finite. It doesn’t scale. If it’s a job only you can do, you’re not building a system, you’re just hiring yourself (and probably not paying enough either).

This problem has been around for awhile, and it’s tempting to think that more effort can let us solve it — that we can be both. New tools give freelancers more leverage than ever before, and our culture continues to push us to get big, right now.

The thing is, more effort can’t solve this dilemma for you. Sooner or later, more effort doesn’t scale. Travis doesn’t drive the Uber that picks you up, Sheryl doesn’t do any coding and Jacqueline can’t work with every investment, every day.

The solution is surprisingly easy.

If you’re a freelancer, freelance. Figure out how to do the best work in your field, the best work for the right clients. Don’t fret about turning away work, and don’t fret about occasional down time. You’re a freelance for hire, and you need to focus on your reputation and the flow of business. Find leverage in the form of assistants and outsource the commodities if you can, but your work is always going to be your work.

Freelancers get ahead by becoming more in demand, by charging more (and being worth it). They get ahead by being more connected, smarter, more effective.

If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t hire yourself. Build a business that works, that thrives with or without you. It might not be good for your ego, but it will be good for your bank account.

It’s possible to switch hats, to have side projects, to have two ‘jobs’. But we can’t wear both hats at the same time, can’t freelance our way to entrepreneurial success.

Reblogged from www.medium.com

Giving a Keynote Speech That Everyone Will Remember

What makes a keynote speech compelling? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. In this post i borrowed the mind of Josh Levs, Author, Former CNN & NPR Journo, on Quora on how to give a keynote that everyone will remember. 

Every keynote you do is an honor. Understanding this is the first, and most important, rule. Even when I have a busy week doing three keynotes in one city, or in three cities for that matter, I am acutely aware that my stepping onto each stage is the result of a group of organizers, and a hopeful audience, looking to me for deliverable.

So my job as keynote speaker is to make sure they get what they came for — and more. That means knowing about them, the organization, the reason they’re there. It means knowing the ethos and goals of the group. It also means knowing what else they’re hearing from other speakers that day.

That’s why I speak directly with the organizers of each event in advance, to find out whether they have specific requests for what I will and won’t touch on. It’s also why I try to attend as many of the other speeches and events as I can. I use that time to tweak and fine tune my talk, so it’s a natural accompaniment.

People respond to passion. So a great keynote is driven by that. When you’re passionate about what you’re there to say, people can feel it. When I train keynote speakers, I go over things like body language and eye contact that help invoke passion in a positive way.

It’s crucial to design your talk as a human story. You can’t be all about facts and figures. Share your journey as it relates to the topic. Take the audience on an emotional ride, through what you felt.

Be honest. People sense what’s fake very quickly. It’s a major turnoff.

Don’t boast. Talk about your struggles and failures as much as your successes, or even more. Explain the lessons you learned and how they apply to the topic.

I never write down what I’m going to say. I know that some people need to — particularly those who are invited to speak because of their fame, not because they’re particularly good speakers. But I feel much better just knowing the general order of the points I plan to make, looking at the audience the entire time, and talking.

Feel the energy in the room. Notice how people are responding. If they’re not focused on you, punch up your energy.

Don’t use lots of slides with lots of text and numbers. No one will remember what’s there. If you use slides, keep them simple with just a couple of points, all bolstering the central thesis. I like to use video clips and images along the way, but just a few.

Remember that every second you have up there is a gift, and treat it as such. This room full of people has given you one of the biggest gifts anyone can give — their time. The more you focus on earning and deserving that gift, the more the audience will see and appreciate you. They’ll know you respect them. And they’ll respect you.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Executing strategy the best way possible

Of late my mind has been awash of many things, most importantly on how to go forward on the things i want to achieve.  I thought utilizing my skills more would earn me the extra cash which true but the execution on how i move forward is what keeps puzzling me.Of late i built a team of people i work with but how to implement the company strategy is still challenging: the key question i ask myself is:How can I align everyone’s efforts and help them accomplish the organization’s most important work? For a while this has got me thinking and i got in touch with a process called Big Arrow that has helped me work better. Here are a few tips i felt like sharing  on executing strategy effectively;

  • Define the Big Arrow (aligning the strategic direction of your company)
  • Once the big arrow is clear, we to identify highest impact people to enable forward the momentum of the company.
  • Determine What They Should Focus On

    Once we have established the key people, to work with each we work with them to determine their:

    • Key contribution to moving the Big Arrow forward
    • Pivotal strength that will allow them to make their key contribution
    • Game changer, the thing that, if the person improves, will most improve their ability to make their key contribution 
  • Hold laser -focused coaching sessions to  make clear headway on their key contribution to the Big Arrow.
  • Amplify performance

For info about the Big Arrow read the Harvard Business Review on Strategic Execution (More)