Public WiFi – What’s all the fuss about?

WiFi hotspot sign

You may have heard a lot of talk in the media recently about Public WiFi – it’s taking off at a serious rate of knots across the globe! It is becoming common place for cities, councils and regional organisations to launch their own Public WiFi networks, providing free or cheap access to fast internet.

But what is Public WiFi all about really? And how can it benefit you?

The answer is – in many different and equally valuable ways!

For starters (and most obviously), it provides access to the internet for locals and tourists alike – so they don’t have to use their precious mobile data. Whether the service is free, comes at a cost, or a combination of both – tourists in particular are desperate to get access to WiFi so that they don’t have to use expensive roaming data.

Secondly, once users are connected to the Public WiFi, this presents an opportunity to provide them with all sorts of information. Using clever technology, users can be routed through a portal that contains a number of advertisements about the local business in the area they are visiting. They could also have ads on normal webpages they browse to replaced with more relevant ads from local businesses. This useful information can heavily influence the buying decisions of tourists in particular, and can mean the difference between them deciding to stay somewhere for a length of time – or move on because they haven’t found anything of interest there!

The next step beyond traditional advertising is to make that advertising more targeted. Imagine if you were walking past an ice-creamery on a warm day, and all of a sudden you receive an SMS on your phone: ‘Ice cream special: show this message to get a double scoop at the price of a single!’

How is that possible you may ask?! Well, using a combination of user registration (when signing up for Public WiFi) and Location Based Services – it is possible to track the location of a mobile and send targeted messages to it based on its location. Product specials, local events and much more.

Isn’t that just going to irritate people? Well, for locals perhaps – but locals don’t tend to use Public WiFi networks anywhere near as much as tourists do. And tourists actually want to receive this sort of information! They’re looking for advice on what/where/how to spend their time and money! By providing them with Public WiFi access and then overlaying targeted and useful advertising, tourists are likely to spend more, and spend more time in the local area – a massive win for the local economy!

So if your local city or region is looking at implementing a Public WiFi network, get behind it – the benefits for all are significant!

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Introducing the new Microsoft Windows …. 10??

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Microsoft officially announced the newest version of their Windows operating system overnight. This OS has been eagerly anticipated by many that have been less than impressed by Microsoft’s efforts with Windows 8/8.1 and are hoping for significant improvements.

Oh yeah, and apparently 9 isn’t a cool number – 10 is the new black!

Microsoft says that Windows 10 will run on all hardware devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones), providing a universal platform that allows developers to write apps that can run on all Windows devices.

The news everyone was waiting for was also confirmed – the Start Menu is back! (cue applause)

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The new Start Menu will bring back quick and simple access to the programs that are used most, but still offers the ability to customise tiles with your favourite apps and functions.

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Windows 10 will allow you to create multiple desktops that are meant for different purposes (work and home perhaps?) and switch between them seamlessly.

And the Task View gets a bit of a makeover too!

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Microsoft says it is focused on winning back the enterprise customers it frustrated with its (consumer focused) Windows 8 and 8.1 releases.  Sounds good and looks promising – but we all know the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

Let’s not forget though – this is a Technical Preview version.  Much more polish and feature improvement is to come over the next few months – much of it based on feedback from those brave enough to test out these early versions!

For more info, check out this video from Microsoft’s VP of the Windows team Joe Belfiore:

Let us know what you think!  More info as it comes to hand…

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Isn’t a cloud a round fluffy thing?

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So you’re wondering what all the fuss about this ‘cloud’ thing is about.  Chances are you’ve heard the term bandied around here and there, maybe you’ve even pretended you know what everyone is talking about to save face!

But what is cloud really?  A ’round white fluffy thing’ is not the right answer, at least in the technology world!

The reality is we’ve been using cloud in one shape or another for many years now, it’s just in recent times the term ‘cloud’ itself has become more widely used (or misused!).

When did you start internet banking?  Online shopping?  Online gaming?  Most of us have been doing these things for years, and the truth is that they are all forms of cloud services.

Cloud services are simply services we access that are located outside of our own environment, in a datacentre out on that crazy big network known as the Internet.

What makes cloud services attractive, is that they typically become ‘consumption-based’ expenditure.  In other words, rather than paying thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars up front on hardware or software, customers pay for them on a month by month ‘pay-for-what-you-used’ basis.  This turns what used to be a massive capital expenditure into small monthly chunks of operating expenditure – something accountant types like to see!

The two most common forms of cloud services are: Infrastructure as a Service and Software as a Service.

Infrastructure as a Service is an offering wherein a Cloud Provider has massive amounts of server computing resources in a datacentre, and these resources are chopped up into small pieces and sold as consumable services to customers that need a server to perform a function for them.

Software as a Service is where software providers take those resources and deploy software applications on them, then provide access to those applications to their customers via the internet.  Good examples of SaaS are Office 365, Xero, and Salesforce.

These products provide ‘big-business’ features to businesses of any size, with the price scaling based on the number of users accessing the platform.

So is cloud for you?  Maybe, maybe not!  The way some businesses operate is perfectly suited to utilising cloud services, but others are not so much.

The key is to get the right advice that puts you on the path to getting the best outcome for your business, whether that’s using cloud or not will depend entirely from one business to another.

One thing is for sure, cloud is here to stay.

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The value of pro-active monitoring!

Flat line alert on heart monitor

When you drove to work today, did you spend most of your time looking in the rear-view mirror to see where you had been?

Of course not you say!  That’s crazy!  Looking through your windshield at what is coming is the most important part of driving.  Making sure you see obstacles before they arrive, keeping the car on the road, and generally having a very strong awareness of everything that is going on ahead of you is crucial to arriving safely at your destination.

In the ICT world, it’s really no different.

Looking backwards (logs, error messages etc) is necessary for solving issues that have already occurred.  But surely we want to try and prevent these issues from occurring in our ICT as much as possible?  Shouldn’t we be looking forward and being pro-active to prevent ‘fender-benders’ from disrupting our day and making us unproductive?

Absolutely.

By employing clever pro-active monitoring techniques, preventing many of the typical ICT issues that can arise in a business becomes as simple as applying the brakes, or turning the steering wheel.

Key indicators such as hard disk space, event logs, resource consumption, antivirus definitions, and service statuses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what can be pro-actively monitored.

By keeping a close watch on indicators such as these, a good IT Pro can see what issues are likely to become a problem in the future and take action to mitigate them – often with little to no effect on the end user!

Ultimately that’s what it is all about.  ICT is meant to increase productivity, by making tasks easier and quicker to perform.  Being pro-active about the way we manage our ICT systems makes it possible to deliver a Hassle Free IT experience.

And that means productive and happy staff who get the job done efficiently and effectively.

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Users want to see real people? Give them real people!

Business people working

There’s no doubt that modern technology allows us to do incredible things these days.

The idea of having someone connect to your PC in a matter of seconds and solving your problem is pretty darn cool.  It’s efficient and effective.

But sometimes it’s just nice to see and interact face-to-face with real people.  It can feel a little less like a business transaction, and a little more like you are working together on something.

A real person can see exactly what you mean when you say that your printer is printing out weird characters on the page, see that yellow line going through your computer monitor, experience exactly what you mean when you say your internet is really really slooooowwwww…

Some users would prefer to ‘save up’ all of the issues for the next time they have a support engineer onsite, and that’s ok!

If this sounds like you and your staff, maybe you should consider a regular scheduled onsite visit to complement your existing remote support arrangements.

Your staff will know exactly when to expect the support engineer, and can make sure he/she is nice and busy whilst onsite!

Whether it is onsite or remote, an IT Pro is a great thing to have!

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