How to turn an idea into a product in 5 days

google-ventures-sprint

 

The book that many people were waiting for has already gone on sale. Sprint is a mini-guide in which Google Ventures shows how to boost start-ups. helping them through this book to achieve their goals addressing issues such as design, prototyping, customers, strategy, innovation, thinking and teamwork.

For a price of £12.65 you can read and learn about how other companies have achieved their objectives. They also address that these techniques are applicable for any team size and also any kind of idea no matter how small it is.

The book is written by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz, three Google Ventures partners.

Via: TNW News

The false economy of budget IT equipment

economy

Companies that skimp on investing in technology end up paying the price with increased maintenance, servicing and thus staff downtime. This is a real issue and can cost up to 2% of an employee’s salary in downtime and upgrading costs.

To tackle this problem companies such as Toshiba have put a large emphasis into reducing the total cost of ownership in the equipment’s lifecycle. Their enterprise notebooks such as Tecra and Portege come with a three-year warranty, with phone support in addition to courier pick-up and return for repairs. Computer equipment in general has always had a false economy, while cheaper equipment may look enticing it certainly can cost you in the long run:

Support Cost Increase

When you require IT support and you need us to diagnose and fix a problem, it will cost you more because we charge for our time. On a slow computer that work will obviously take longer. Over the lifespan of your cheap computer that could cost you hundreds of pounds.

Reduced Reliability

In theory a slow computer should not be any less reliable than a faster one, but in practice they are because of the way they are treated. Many users who are impatient with a slower computer will for example try and start a program twice, resulting in a greater chance of a software problem. Programs could appear unresponsive when they are just being slow and users could ‘kill’ those programs. That behaviour further decreases reliability.

Low Staff Morale

The initial buzz that many users experience after getting a new computer is soon replaced by a general dissatisfaction when the computer starts to slow down. Many users feel undervalued by management when they are stuck with a slow computer and this can lead to a lack of job satisfaction.

Shorter Equipment Life

Cheaper computers tend to be manufactured from older technology that can’t be upgraded as far. This is another reason why you’ll have to replace it sooner.

Daniel Brown

Software Developer

Apples & Pears

Apples&Pears

Once again, our conversation comes back to the cloud. On this occasion we are not talking about backup however, but everyday storage which you use to collaborate with your colleagues.

With offerings from Microsoft and others such as Office 365 beginning to look increasingly attractive, it’s easy to start asking ourselves is it time to move?

Well, that depends on your current situation, how you use your IT and your budget. How many seats do you need licensed and what kind of control do you want over your data.

Moving 15 users to a cloud solution from a server based option would have a lower capital expenditure, but it would have an ongoing cost that may match or even exceed the one off cost of a new server install over the life of the physical product. But this depends on the package and features chosen, so in this respect it is difficult to compare as you may find you are comparing apples with pears – they are two different technologies helping you to achieve the same end.

The best way to move forward would be to sit down and draw up a list of the features you need, and then see which solution can offer that to you. Only then can you start making comparisons based on price.

Paul Cox

IT Director

How to reduce hidden IT costs in your business.

Look after your computers and they’ll look after you!

How many times have you heard a colleague say they “go away and make a cup of tea” while their computer is starting up in the morning? How many computers are left forgotten under the desk, caked in dust as the cleaners won’t touch them, hidden by stacks of files and a handbag? Do you even know how old your computers are and when they should be replaced?

Now add up the total time that your computers are used over the day, the month and the year. Most likely this all day, every working day.

With all this in mind it is vital the computers you use are given some important consideration and TLC to help them run as efficiently as possible. Total lost minutes every day waiting for the computers to initially be useable added to the time waiting for certain common tasks to complete (or those annoying crashes and errors) and you can potentially lose many days of productivity over a year for each computer.

To mitigate some of these losses, scrutinise your IT equipment to ensure it is working best for you. It’s often commonplace for those responsible for IT equipment acquisition to wait for failure prior to replacement or maintenance, but as discussed this can lead to hidden costs in productivity. Then there is unplanned downtime, impending software and hardware incompatibility and other factors to consider…

Based on this it is advisable practice to have a planned upgrade & replacement programme combined with regular maintenance how ever many computers are involved. By doing this you will maintain high levels of productivity, manage and increment inevitable software releases (avoiding potentially costly “jumps” in releases), dodge probable downtime and ultimately show employees you value what they do by giving them the right tools for the job. Often the cost of a new computer is not as much as you may think and can be more than recouped by the advantages of such a programme.

So move those handbags, dig out those files and reach for the duster – it’s time to start looking after those warm dirty metal boxes under the desk as they are one of the most important and hard working tools your business has. Imagine trying to work without them.

Mark Warburton – Technical Consultant

Do you need to be compliant?

It’s possible you may have heard about PCI DSS compliance but are unsure of what it is and if it applies to you. Firstly, what does it mean? It stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, a bit of a mouthful isn’t it?

Does it apply to me and my business? – most probably. If you accept, store or transmit payment card data then you need to become compliant with this standard or risk facing a fine.

Quite how you do this depends on how you handle transactions. For example, a shop with a single card machine connected to an analogue telephone line will have a much less complicated process to fulfil the criteria; than a business with a full ecommerce website and telephone ordering system.

As a business accepting card payments, most likely you will have been asked by your merchant acquirer to undertake the compliance process. They will also have suggested an accredited partner, who will help you complete the relevant questionnaire for your business and any external security scans that need to take place.

The questionnaires are relatively straightforward, but for anybody with an internet connected card machine the process may start to become more complicated. It’s not good enough to just plug the machine in to the corporate network anymore and let it connect to the internet this way, it needs to be isolated from the rest of the network. This can be achieved either through segmenting your network or placing the machine in a DMZ (Demilitarized zone) – not something that your accredited PCI partner will help you with, it will either need to be configured by your IT department or an external support consultant. You will also need to answer many other technically biased questions regarding the setup of your corporate network.

Another stumbling block where things become more complicated is ecommerce sites. Although your third party payment gateway such as SagePay may be compliant, the server that your website sits on may not be. Many people use hosting packages that include web space on shared servers. By their very nature, these servers will allow connections on a multitude of ports and all of the admin staff at your hosting company will have root access. This will not be compliant. The only answer is to host the site on its own dedicated server or a VPS (Virtual Private Server); where you will have sole access and full control over what services are or are not running and which ports are open or closed. This will need to be addressed by your Website administrator.

Of course, the above is just the tip of the iceberg and the topic merits much further investigation. So it’s something that’s worth addressing sooner rather than later so as not to let it become a Skeleton in the closet for your business.

PCI DSS is not just a one off event; it’s an ongoing process that will require regular maintenance tasks to ensure that once you become compliant, you stay compliant. The standards required are always changing so it is in effect a moving target.

If you haven’t already, do it soon!

Paul Cox – Technical Consultant

Identity Crisis

When running your own business, be it a single member of staff or a large team, it is important to give the right impression.

A major factor in creating this impression, particularly in an increasingly on-line market place, is owning and utilising your own domain name.

Letting as many people know who you are and what you do as possible is vital and the best place to start is a website. By hosting this site using your own domain name you will show you mean business and may provide your potential customers the confidence required to become actual customers.

Purchasing a domain name is an easy and low-cost process. The most difficult consideration will be what domain name to purchase from the pool of names available. For most UK based businesses a .co.uk domain is perfect and cost as little as a few pounds per annum. An international company may require a .com, or a charity .org for example and depending on this suffix the price may vary – but in all cases still remain affordable. Once you own a domain name then the services relating to it (such as website hosting and email) can be accessed and managed with a hosting package. Again this is a low-cost service starting from a few pounds per month depending on your requirements.

Having consistency with your online presence by matching up your web address with email addresses that relate to your business will add credibility and make you easier to remember and identify with. Crucially you also have control over what email addresses you want, forwarding, blocking and allowing addresses, filtering junk, mailbox sizes and so on, rather than relying on limited capabilities of a free or “home user” type service.

And yes, you can still use an established email address – simply forward this to your new email address as appropriate. So if you’re clinging on to an old BTConnect, Blueyonder, Yahoo or other unrelated email address it’s time to take steps towards owning your own domain name, taking advantage of the services this provides and presenting a professional image. It’s not as hard as you may think – any reputable domain hosting company will be able to guide you through the process and start you on your way.

Mark Warburton – Technical Consultant