Big Data is Making Its Way to Small Business

Posted May 08, 2018 by

Concept Art - A person looking up at a wave represented by binary code.You may have noticed that there has been a lot of discussion about data recently; specifically, how it has become a driving force in organizational decision making. This month we will take a look at the data revolution, how the data (created by the analysis of other data) has become a commodity, and what the real value of an individual’s data is.

What is Big Data?

The data revolution we refer to is often referred to as big data. Big data is more about the analysis of all the data an organization takes in than it is about the data itself. As technology evolves, business practices have to as well. With every part of a business transforming somewhat, organizations are looking hard at the data to get the most out of their budgets, their staff, and their strategies.

Small businesses are just now starting to understand how data analytics can work, albeit in a much simpler manner than larger companies. This is largely because an efficient small business still doesn’t have the strategies put in place to quantify and analyze the data they take in, despite their increased usage of many of the same software resources that enterprises use. This presents two major questions:

  • Why haven’t many small businesses started with big data initiatives?
  • What would it take to make your company’s data work for you?

Small Business, Big Data

Traditionally small businesses have been at the forefront of championing technologies designed at keeping them competitive. With innovative data analytics, however, the opposite seems to be true. Look at the market for these systems, and it quickly becomes evident that because smaller businesses perceive they cannot legitimately afford analytics platforms, they plan their technology investments by practicality, not value.

In leveraging the right kind of technology, small businesses can aggressively take advantage of their inherent lack of rigidity. This provides ways to simplify their production processes while completely overhauling their customer experience. Data, when analyzed properly, tells very poignant truths. By accepting that they don’t need to be a Fortune 500 company to utilize business analytics, small businesses can take the steps necessary to start using their data in innovative ways.

You Have to Make Investments

It’s one thing to plan on implementing a full-scale business intelligence platform for your business, and another to actually do it. To get today’s most predictive and prescriptive analytics, there has to be some time and capital invested. If you would like to know when to run a promotion, how your customer base reacts to your marketing, or how your investments are categorically improving your business’ output and revenue growth, the numbers will tell you.

By consulting with the technology professionals at Excalibur Technology and committing to using the data your organization collects, you are committing to making your business better. For more information about Big Data and how you can make it work for your business, call us today at (877) NET – KING.


A Managed Service Provider Makes Sense for IT Support

Posted May 08, 2018 by

Two people looking at a server rack.It’s not uncommon to hear about small businesses having difficulty with managing and maintaining IT solutions. Even the most basic topics regarding business technology can be troublesome for businesses with limited budgets and resources. It makes sense that you would want to remove this responsibility from whoever is doing it, but how can you do so without destroying your bottom line?

The best answer to this dilemma is to implement managed IT services. Since small businesses just don’t have the assets to hire an in-house IT staff, outsourcing is the best option. These skills are often in high demand due to how technically complex they are, and physical barriers can also contribute to this dry spell in IT talent in your area.

Instead of going the extra mile for IT service that they either can’t find or can’t afford, businesses will generally do one of two things; have their current employees shoulder the burden, or not get the work done at all. It’s safe to say that your business’ employees are probably not trained IT technicians, so they might wind up doing the same work over again in the event that it’s not up to snuff. This further increases costs and puts more pressure on your organization in the long run.

It’s crucial that your business has someone to rely on exclusively for IT management and maintenance. While managed IT might seem like a privilege reserved only for the most lucrative companies, it can be taken advantage of by pretty much any organization, as services are scaled and flexible enough to suit the needs of any company. Excalibur Technology can help your business take full advantage of managed IT, including either partial or full-on management of your in-house infrastructure. Here are some of the services that we can offer for your organization:

If your company has trouble managing technology, reach out to us a Excalibur Technology. Our trained and trusted IT professionals want to help you get the most out of your technology. To learn more, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


Monitoring and Automation Make for a More Secure System

Posted May 07, 2018 by

Concept Art: Network SecurityInformation technology, in many ways, is a necessary evil. Sure, modern businesses more or less require it to remain competitive, but it also opens up your business to a multitude of threats. Maintaining your security is made much easier with automated monitoring tools. Today, we’ll discuss how to use these tools to protect your business.

The Situation at Hand

Let’s face it, there is a mammoth amount of cyberthreats out there that could potentially infiltrate your business during your daily goings-on. What’s worse, it only takes one to find a weak point in your security and cause you and your business no small amount of trouble – and as though that wasn’t enough, this mammoth amount of cyberthreats is always growing and adapting to be more effective.

Frankly, unless your entire staff is devoted to maintaining the business’ security, it is highly unlikely that your business can keep up with the threats to it.

Unless…

There are a few solutions to this quandary – the first of which being the monitoring services that a trusted MSP like Excalibur Technology can provide. With the assistance of top-of-the-line automated tools to help detect and identify threats to your security, our team can ensure that your business remains safe.

Why Automation Helps

One of the reasons that our automated tools are so effective is that the slim chance of human error on our end is effectively mitigated. Rather than having our eyes trying to detect the minute warning signs of impending issues or threats, we have systems and software that utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to catch threats before they darken your door, so to speak.

As a result, you can devote less of your valuable time, energy, and focus on keeping threats out, and more time on innovating and optimizing other, income-generating parts of your business.

If you would like assistance in setting up an automated system or would like to discuss our monitoring solutions a little further, please give us a call at (877) NET – KING.


The Internet of Things Moves Forward

Posted May 07, 2018 by

Concept Art - Digital web that says "Internet of Things"More devices are taking advantage of Internet connectivity now than ever before, including some that have no business having a connection to the Internet whatsoever. While there are some practical uses for connective technology on devices on security systems, thermostats, and vehicles, others simply can’t be justified. Even blenders and refrigerators have access to wireless communication nowadays. These types of connected devices are part of the reason why so many businesses are worried about the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Internet of Things is made up of the multitude of devices out there that have some sort of connective features. In many cases, these devices actually find their way onto your business’ network, whether you want them to or not. Therefore, you need to have a game plan to handle potential Internet of Things devices on your network, both now and in the future. Of course, it’s also important to start thinking about the future of the Internet of Things, as remaining cognizant of the places this technology is headed can help you better prepare for it.

In fact, some Internet of Things devices can provide a considerable benefit for your organization. We’ll provide some examples of how industry professionals believe that 2018 will see the Internet of Things growing into a major part of the world economy.

The Internet of Things Will Be Commercialized

A new initiative in European countries could hint toward a further trend in the value of data provided by IoT devices. According to Forbes, the European Commission will follow in the footsteps of the United States by commercializing data collected by the Internet of Things. Forty-Five (45) percent of American decision makers already commercialize IoT data, whereas only about 35 percent of French and 38 percent of German decisions makers currently do.

Wearables Will Dwindle, but Marketers Will Rejoice

Wearables might seem to be all the rage, but the industry experts at Forrester predict that they will remain a niche and nothing more. Even though there will be roughly 12 million smartwatches sold by the end of 2018, it’s likely that they will remain a user-friendly device rather than a practical one, which limits its potential to truly change the industry. Meanwhile, the explosive success of devices like Amazon’s Alexa have driven the demand for connected technology that has a practical use.

IoT Devices Will Be Planned for in Design and Integration

Previous trends saw that the Internet of Things devices were being used to collect and disseminate information. While this remains true today, there is going to be more of a focus on designing around this capability. Devices still collect information, but there needs to be a software behind the scenes that is processing this data, analyzing it, and turning it into something usable. This same solution also needs to be implemented into your business workflow so that you don’t have to spend so much time micromanaging each individual IoT device.

How is your business going to leverage the Internet of Things in 2018? Excalibur Technology can help you integrate any number of devices into your infrastructure in a safe and efficient way. To learn more, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


What Star Wars can Teach About Mentorship

Posted May 04, 2018 by

Leadership ClassThe Star Wars saga has many recurring themes – the struggle between desire and destiny, good and evil, impulse and discipline. However, a theme that particularly stands out throughout the series is the examination of the relationship between student and teacher. This theme is similar to the relationship that an IT provider should strive to have with their clients.

For today’s Star Wars Day blog, we’ll review some of the lessons that a professional can learn from the Star Wars films, as well as what the insights that the relationships shared by the characters can reveal about being a mentor, as well as the mentored. To do so, we’ll examine some moments and characters from the complete series thus far – Episodes I through VIII – and the stand-alone Rogue One.

WARNING: this article may spoil a few key moments from the series, so continue at your own caution.

How to Be a Mentor, According to Star Wars

There is no shortage of those who could be considered mentors throughout the series. From Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan/Old Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, and finally, Yoda, many characters accept the mantle of mentor… albeit begrudgingly, at times.

In order to be a mentor, there are two requirements that each of these characters present during the series. Likewise, many characters also exhibit just one or the other characteristic. Yet, as they do not exemplify both qualities, they don’t quite qualify as a true mentor. We will explore these characters in more detail later.

These two requirements are to be a committed educator, as well as an equally committed leader. Each of the mentors listed above have had the opportunity to be both. Qui-Gon took the initiative to take a young slave into his care, campaigning to the Jedi Council for the ability to teach him. When Qui-Gon was dispatched by Darth Maul, Obi-Wan rose to the occasion and took up Anakin Skywalker as his padawan learner.

Years after Anakin succumbed to his fear and hubris to be reborn as Darth Vader, Obi-Wan continued to be a mentor under the name Ben Kenobi, teaching the Skywalker of the next generation how to embody the principles of the Jedi. Once this Skywalker, Luke, had learned to be a leader, he teamed up with his long-lost sister, Princess Leia Organa, to defeat the Empire. While Leia continued to lead an underground organization committed to fighting the Empire’s last remnants, Luke retreated to a sanctuary to ensure he was able to train the next worthy Jedi.

Finally, we would be amiss if we neglected to mention Yoda’s involvement as a leader throughout the saga. From the very beginning of the story, Yoda was a respected leader of the Jedi Order, proving his worth on the battlefield and in the Senate. When the Empire rose, he retreated to his home planet in wait of the next generation of Jedi to train. He then passed on but returned as a Force ghost to impart his wisdom again, later in the series’ timeline.

Lining Up Star Wars Mentorship with Our Own (and with The Odyssey)

As one might imagine, the concept of mentorship has been around for much longer than Star Wars has been. In fact, we get the word “mentor” from a character in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Mentor was entrusted by the protagonist, Odysseus, to care for his son in his absence, and later assisted the young prince Telemachus in reuniting with his long-lost father by serving as his guide and, well, mentor.

In this way, Mentor serves a very similar purpose as many of the characters from Star Wars. By teaching another character and acting as a leader, he allows the protagonists to succeed in their quest – or, in the terminology more likely to be used in Star Wars, their mission. Furthermore, like the mentors to be found in Star Wars, Mentor shares a few characteristics with the mentors we see in the business world.

What Makes a Mentor, a Mentor

We’ve already established that a mentor should be a sort of amalgamation of a teacher, and a leader. This is admittedly a tricky balance to find, until you describe what kind of leader and teacher makes a mentor.

First, as a leader, you have to be able to be supportive as you take charge. As you work with a mentee, commit the time that the mentee needs to grow and devote your full attention to them. Just as Ben Kenobi understood Luke’s rage and bitterness after his aunt and uncle were slaughtered by the Empire’s stormtroopers, you need to be able to emphasize with your acolyte and guide them towards the higher purpose you can see them achieving.

As a teacher, it is important to also challenge those who you mentor. Not only should you assign tasks for your student to complete, these tasks should test the limits of their ability and set a standard that you expect them to meet. As Yoda challenged Luke to lift his X-wing fighter out of the swamps of Dagobah, he wasn’t coddling his student. Neither should you.

It is also important that, as their teacher, you review the lessons that have been imparted. These discussions will not only help ensure the information is retained, it will also encourage your mentee to draw their own conclusions. Remember, teachable moments happen all the time – it’s up to you to embrace them.

Finding Poor Examples in Rogue One

Alternatively, Rogue One offers a few examples of how to very much not be a positive leader. At the very beginning of the film, protagonist Jyn Urso’s father, Galen, is pressured into returning into the Empire’s service and designing the ultimate superweapon: the planet-destroying Death Star. In addition to being forced to work on a project he detests, he is stuck in a thoroughly unpleasant work environment. Oh, and did we mention that his wife was murdered and his daughter lost to him during the attack?

It should be no wonder, then, that instead of being loyal to his ‘employers,’ Galen instead decides to sabotage their operation from the inside. Hiding a critical weakness in the Death Star and sending word of it to the Rebel Alliance, Galen embodies the corporate espionage that a disgruntled employee could leverage against your business. A good leader sees the value in keeping an employee happy in two ways – first, it helps to keep that employee engaged and productive, and secondly, it reduces, if not eliminates, any ill will toward the organization.

In another example of the Empire’s failings in Rogue One, the antagonists of the film also leverage shady office politics to get a leg up on their superiors. For instance, Director Krennic elects to go over his commander’s head and out of the traditional chain of command, reporting directly to Darth Vader. As a commanding officer himself, Krennic serves as an example of what happens when office politics supersede the typical chain of command – and winds up being Force-choked into oblivion for his troubles. While it is highly unlikely that deviating from the chain of command will get you strangled like Krennic, it certainly doesn’t reflect well on you and shows a distinct lack of leadership and respect for the chain of command.

All this only goes to show that lessons in leadership can be found anywhere you look – even in a galaxy far, far away. Do you have any Jedi masters or mentors in your life? What have you learned from them? Share your thoughts in the comments and may the Force be with you!

 

 


Tip of the Week: Working from Google Home

Posted May 02, 2018 by

Concept Art: Google HomeIt is no secret that Google can serve a great utility in the office through its many services and applications. However, have you ever considered how the Google Assistant can, well, assist you through devices like your smartphone and the assorted smart speakers that Google has produced? For today’s tip, we’ll review how some of the features of the Google Assistant can lend you a hand in the professional environment.

Basic Automation

Since productivity is one of the top goals in almost any office, it only makes sense to first focus on how using Google Home can boost your productivity through automation. While the device can serve many purposes on its own, it truly blossoms as a productivity tool through integrations with other devices and services.

For example, if you have equipped your office with smart lights or smart thermostats, you can adjust your office’s environment simply by telling Google to make the change you want. As a result, you can take greater control over your business environment without interrupting your productivity. After all, doesn’t it take much less time and effort to simply say, “Hey Google, turn off the lights in the conference room,” or “Hey Google, set temperature to 73 degrees,” than it would to interrupt what you were doing and go manually make the same changes?

More Advanced Automation (Kind Of)

If you’re at all familiar with the web service IFTTT, you can integrate it with your Google Home device to automate a variety of outcomes, based on predetermined triggers. It’s right in IFTTT’s name: If This, Then That.

Using IFTTT, you can connect your Google Home (or whichever Google device you’re using) to design your own commands that require the use of the Google Home. All you have to do is set “this” to be the Google Assistant, and choose the trigger you want your command to use. These triggers will all be of the spoken word variety, and each command can feature a few different variations. Once you’ve assigned the words to the command, click Create Trigger. To add the desired action you want automated, click through “that.”

You can then search through the available channels that you can trigger through your Google Assistant, select the one you want, and fill in the required configuration fields. Once you hit finish, your automated action will be active and ready to go when you are.

Activating More Commands

The Google Home devices have other utilities baked in that can be of some use to you in an office setting, especially if multiple devices are in use.

For instance, if your office is large and you can’t get ahold of someone through message or phone call, your Google Home device can function as an intercom. By accessing the Assistant on your smartphone, you can command the Google Home to “broadcast” and it will replay whatever message you speak into it afterwards to any Home devices connected to your account.

Of course, the Google Home devices are receptive to commands from multiple users, with up to six accounts being able to use the devices in their own way. The Google Home will even customize their answers based on the user making the request through its Voice Match training.

Finally, if a visitor to the office has something to share over the Google Home, the Guest mode allows them to connect directly to the device, without needing to connect to Wi-Fi. This means that you can keep your Wi-Fi password to yourself, and not give it out to every visitor to your office.

How else can you think of to use the Google Home to augment your day-to-day activities in the office? Share your ideas in the comments!


Notice to Excalibur Technology Clients: Update to Spam Filtering Service

Posted May 01, 2018 by

Barracuda logoTo all Excalibur Technology Spam Filtering Clients,

In our ongoing efforts to best serve our clients, we want to make everyone aware of a recent security upgrade to your service.

Overview

This weekend Excalibur will be upgrading the Barracuda Spam Filtering services we provide. When the upgrade completes, access to the daily quarantine will now require your password to login and view. Here is the official statement from Barracuda:

As a result of a security vulnerability, customers updating to firmware version 8.0.3.004 will experience a change in behavior to quarantine notification emails. End users will no longer have the ability to click on a link in the quarantine notification email to log directly into a quarantine inbox without the use of a password. Please notify your end users of this change before updating the firmware on your Email Security Gateway.

Finding Your Password

If you only access the quarantine from the daily email reports, you may not be aware that your account has a password. Passwords can be customized, but if you haven’t changed yours, it is a unique password to your account that Barracuda creates on the fly.

To access your password, follow these steps:

  1. Access the Barracuda Spam Filter here: https://filter1.excaltech.com.
  2. Enter your email address in the field.
  3. Click on the ‘Create New Password’ button.

We truly value each of you as a client, and ensuring your satisfaction, as well as the quality and security of the services we provide, are of the upmost importance to us. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. Feel free to contact your Technology Sales Consultant or give us a call at (877) NET – KING.


These 3 Industries are Being Fundamentally Changed by Smart Technology

Posted April 30, 2018 by

Hands holding a smartphoneSmart technology has seen explosive growth in recent years, leading to an uptick in startups popping up to capitalize on smart tech and the innovative ways it can be leveraged. With demand for such devices increasing exponentially, it’s little wonder that many industries are diving into this technology. Today, we’ll discuss three of them.

Energy and Conservation

It should come as no surprise that a major driving force behind the use of smart technology is for this technology to use energy and natural resources more intelligently. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that smart technology allows us to save time and money as well, through the automation of processes that once required a human touch to complete. In addition to making homes ‘smarter’ and more accommodating to the needs of those living in them, smart tech has been proven to be a major player in environmental conservation. Automated devices have been able to track and report on various types of environmental data, including water flow, plant health, migration patterns, and many other variables, allowing us to use this data to improve our treatment of our environment.

Fitness and Health

Ever since the first ‘smart’ shoe – the Micropacer – was introduced in 1984 by Adidas, smart technology and fitness have been close companions. In just the past few years, devices like fitness bands and smartwatches have exploded in popularity, and more innovations have followed fast.

As fitness bands and watches have become more intelligent, the technology that powers them and their functions has improved as well. Now, features like application integration, improved functionality, and quicker response times are available in fabric form. These smart fabrics have led to innovations like smart socks and undergarments, fitness rings, shoe inserts, and other activewear and accessories hitting the market en masse. Using these technologies, everyone from the active exerciser to the casual enthusiast will be able to better measure and optimize their workout regimen, even avoiding injury.

Transportation

All over the world, one of the biggest time sinks is the battle to get from point A to point B. In many places, the commute to work can be stretched due to traffic congestion, and in others, impractical traffic patterns extend the amount of time spent sitting behind the wheel. This is one issue that is actively being worked on through smart technology now, as is evident by the aggressive research and development into driverless transportation. After all, with machine learning and AI behind the wheel, traffic as a whole could become a cohesive network, rather than the mass of individual, autonomous bodies all looking out for number one.

This is a concept that has long been considered as a solution for the persistent issues with mass transportation that have been evident since mass transportation became a common thing. We have never been closer to successfully revolutionizing automated transportation in a way that is practical for widespread application. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other places have experimented with concepts like Uber’s driverless cars. While this initiative didn’t go quite according to plan, it still demonstrated that this technology is on the cusp of market readiness.

What are your opinions on smart technology? Do you see it being adopted in more aspects of life, or do you see it as being a short-lived interest? Let us know in the comments!


What is Nanotechnology, and How Can it Be Used?

Posted April 27, 2018 by

Technology is seemingly being made smaller and smaller. Just think about the size of the computers from the mid ‘90s until now. Sure, you can still buy huge a gaming PC with a four-foot tower with liquid cooling, or one that is a fish tank (complete with fake fish); but, the computer you use the most fits in the palm of your hand.

Nanotechnology is the smallest “technology” yet. At its core, it’s a manipulation of the smallest elements of matter, measured in nanometers. Consider that your fingernails grow at about a rate of a nanometer per second, or that a single molecule of water is about a quarter of a nanometer across, and it will give you an idea just how small a nanometer is. It is quite literally one-billionth of a meter.

That’s really the start. Nanotechnology deals with anything in that arena that measures between 1 and 100 nanometers, and largely consists of the engineering of structures that function inside or alongside nature’s nanomachine, cells.

How Is This Technology?

It really is a true combination of science, engineering, and technology. To answer the question, engineers are currently at work attempting to create smaller, more powerful microprocessors that could be used to adjust the practical uses of every material of the physical world. You could make structures stronger, cure disease, and alter matter at the subatomic level. If that’s not technology, I don’t know what is.

When semiconductor manufacturers create the latest and greatest processors or microprocessors for use in a myriad of devices, they measure their nodes in nanometers. Today, these manufacturers are working on the five nanometer chip–a feat thought impossible by many – until IBM announced they had developed one. If DNA is only two nanometers across, we may only be a short time until machines will fit everywhere.

Why Don’t People Know About It?

Nanotechnology is in its relative infancy. In 2017, Dr. George Tulevski of IBM spoke to the challenges the field faces going forward. His perspective was that nanotechnology development and research actually has slowed since the 1980s. In the same TED Talk, he opined that the use of carbon nanotubes could potentially improve computing tenfold, but the development of this technology is just in its early stages.

Is This Technology a Good Thing?

With people today only having a limited understanding of the technology, there aren’t a lot of trustworthy opinions on the issue. Intellectia even seem hedged about the applications of nanotechnology. On one hand, theoretically it could do more than any other technology to help the human race. On the other, any technology made from wonder, and with benevolent intentions, can also be manufactured for malevolent use. Like with other contemporary technologies such as artificial intelligence, researchers will have to move slowly and not let potential profits influence their release of products involving nanotechnology.

Do you consider nanotechnology to be interesting? Would you like to see how far this rabbit hole goes, or should we as a people leave well enough alone? Leave your thoughts in our comments section below, and return to read more great technology blogs from Excalibur Technology.


Tech Term: Bandwidth

Posted April 25, 2018 by

Here’s a question we want you to take a second to consider…How much do you rely on the Internet? The answer for almost everyone is that it is essential to your current quality of life. Technologies have been developed, industries have been launched, and literally billions of people use it every day, making it one of the predominant inventions in human history. At the heart of this phenomenal technology is bandwidth.

The term bandwidth, in the context of the Internet, is the volume of information per unit of time that a transmission medium can handle. Simply put, the larger the bandwidth your connection has the faster the data can move through the medium. Bandwidth is measured in the amount of data transferred per second, specifically megabits per second (mostly written Mbps or Mb/s). Megabytes, written MB is not typically used in measuring bandwidth as a connection that is advertised as 15 MB is actually 1.875 Mbps since there are eight bits in every byte.

Most Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, will sell packages of a certain megabits, but if you really want to ascertain the bandwidth your computer is running on, your best bet is to use one of the numerous Internet speed test sites like the one at speedtest.net.

The best analogy, and the one that we’ll use, is that of plumbing. It’s said that data is to available bandwidth as water is to the size of a pipe. As bandwidth increases more data can be transferred through it, just as a larger pipe passes more water. Increasing bandwidth, or finding a larger pipe, will allow for even more data/water transfer. For the average user that only uses a couple of apps, a web browser, and doesn’t stream media, a small bandwidth connection will work fine. For tech-savvy families or very small businesses that have multiple devices connected to the Internet at once, they will find they will need more bandwidth to do the things they want to do seamlessly. Larger businesses will need enterprise-level bandwidth of multiple hundred Mbps.

Your Internet connection isn’t the only place where bandwidth comes into play. If you have a website, you will have to pay for a bandwidth level that is commensurate with the traffic and data interaction. In many cases, the more bandwidth you need, the more you will need to pay for hosting.

For more information about technology terms that confuse you, visit our blog, or contact our technology professionals at (877) NET – KING.



Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology