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IT Support | Are Tablets a Good Idea for SMB?

  
  
  
  
  

 

IT Solutions, Apple, iPad, Amazon, Tablet

 

Yet another tablet has entered the marketplace when Amazon announced its new tablet this week which has touched off a bevy of questions around tablets. Apple set the bar with a massive media blitz during last year’s launch of the iPad. On the day it was announced Apple sold 300,000 units. By day 80 that global sales number was 3,000,000 for the iPad alone. (http://www.ipadinsider.com/tag/ipad-sales-figures/ ) Clearly, Apple had hit consumer gold. Total tablet sales for 2010 were 17.6 million units. Fast forward to this week where total tablet sales are on pace to top 60 million units for 2011 and Amazon announced its own color tablet to start shipping this year. With all this activity the question remains; are tablets a good idea for SMB?

“Within 90 days of its release, the (first generation) iPad had penetrated 50% of the Fortune 100 companies.” ( FROM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPad#cite_note-164 --Clevenger, Nathan (July 29, 2011). "How the iPad Conquered the Enterprise". Datamation. http://www.datamation.com/mobile-wireless/the-ipad-and-enterprise-it.html.)  Using the same interface and design to its little sister, the iPhone, Apple made early adoption of the iPad a smashing success. With this kind of immediate penetration it was very evident that Apple had hit enterprise gold as well. As other manufacturers scramble to throw their respective hats into the ring the line between consumer and business has become frenzied over the past few months. The question is what problems do tablets solve? A tablet’s increased portability over their slightly larger and heavier netbook brothers of a couple years ago coupled with ease of internet access make tablets extremely attractive. To pull out a tablet and in a matter of seconds be checking email or hit a favorite website and avoid the annoying boot up time is very appealing. The format is far more inviting from both a reading and writing perspective in contrast to a smart phone and produces less wear on the shoulder than a conventional laptop. These gains in productivity and portability along with low cost make tablets an extremely attractive notion to today’s SMB owners.

2010 and 2011 tablet sales show only a 3% market penetration yet by 2015 that number should be between 30 and 35%.  (http://www.informationweek.com/news/smb/hardware_software/229400338 ) With the frenetic activity surrounding this new format it’s time to take a step back and ask the question of whether or not tablets really are a good idea for business. Size, horsepower and portability make tablets viable; the last question that remains is whether or not the application base exists to really benefit your particular business. When you look at the number of applications in the Android App store or iTunes it really does justify the truth in “there’s an app for that.” As an IT consultant the instant access to our own web applications with minimal investment and ease of internet access make the jump into the tablet space a no brainer. The worker bee is continually driving the element of flexibility in the workplace and today’s tablet when matched up with the right software platform are a natural low cost extension and the next generation of what we came to expect from the smart phone of four and five years ago. Contact us to discuss your mobile initiatives. Who knows, maybe tablet sales will save the global economy? Think about it….

 

Trigon Technology, IT Support, Mobile Solutions, Philadelphia

IT Support | Amazon Beats Apple, Google To Cloud Storage & Media Streaming

  
  
  
  
  

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Amazon:

Amazon Cloud Drive is your hard drive in the cloud. Store your music, videos, photos, and documents on Amazon's secure servers. All you need is a web browser to upload, download, and access your files from any computer. Get more details about using Cloud Drive

Your Cloud Drive comes with 5 GB of free storage—enough space to store up to 1000 songs. This space is yours to use as you like and you will never be charged for it.

Use your Amazon Cloud Drive as the go-to location for all your important files. At work, at home, during your commute or while on vacation—you'll always have access to everything you've uploaded to your Cloud Drive through your Amazon account.

Both Apple and Google have been flirting with the idea for some time to allow for storage and streaming in a way that it out-of-mind for the consumer. It looks like Amazon beat them both to the punch, however.

If you're a Dropbox user, you'd find Amazon's service familiar but with a few choice differences. For me, the big dealbreaker is that Amazon Cloud Player has no iOS app. In fact, when you load the website for Cloud Player inside of Mobile Safari, it suggest that you use Internet Explorer. Burn.

Also, there is no desktop version of Cloud Player. As a heavy Dropbox user myself, the ability to drag and drop files into Dropbox folders is a huge reason for using their services. The Dropbox website is a nice Plan B. However, the Cloud Drive website is Plan A, as there is no desktop version of the app.

The Cloud Drive pricing is very appealing, though. 5GB free as opposed to Dropbox's 2GB free per month. And if/when you buy an album from Amazon, it automatically upgrades you to 20GB/per month free for a year. Not too shabby. That's a big difference w/ Dropbox. Many people use Amazon to buy and rent movies as well as purchase music and services. It may be a perfect fit for most folks.

You're not able to share folders, however. This is another great reason to have Dropbox. You can share multiple folders with family and friends or ever co-workers. My wife and I share a folder for our son's pictures. Whenever we snap a new picture of him on our iPhones, we'll upload them to his Dropbox folder to share them with each other. Also, it's the ultimate backup for those photos.

In terms of streaming media, Amazon has definately beaten Apple and their iTunes service to the punch. But will the consumer be able to see through the famous Apple Reality Distortion Field when iTunes streaming is announced?

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IT Support | Is Amazon Preparing Their Own Tablet?

  
  
  
  
  

Amazon Appstore Support resized 600

Dan Frommer:

While the company is still only selling simple Kindle e-readers, Amazon has quietly built all the tools it needs to compete against Apple and the other tablet makers with its own Android-based tablets.

Amazon just launched its Android app store today. It could easily end up better than Google's built-in Android Market. Why? Because Amazon cares about building a better storefront than Google. And because Amazon has better e-commerce tools and vision than just about anyone.

Amazon's music store and video streaming service are as close to Apple's iTunes as it gets. That's one of the big problems with the Motorola Xoom, for example -- nice, big screen, but no legit source of movies to stream. Amazon tablets would have an answer. Amazon Prime members can stream unlimited movies and TV episodes from a small (but inevitably growing) library of content. That sounds like a great bonus feature for Amazon tablets.

Would Amazon be able to make a play in the tablet space? Their new Amazon Appstore is a curious move for the company unless they're indeed planning a tablet. Amazon is the only competitor to Apple that would be able to compete with movies, music, and apps all at the same time. Google has proven unreliable when it comes to offering similar media. Their own App Store is a muddled mess of spam or apps that seem to rip each other off. Some with exactly the same icons. 

The Kindle has been slowly dropping in price ever since it's been released, and some have speculated that in you follow the pattern, it will become free this November. My guess is that the current form Kindle will become free when signing up for an Amazon Prime account. Then, Amazon will reveal their Android tablet, specially customized with their Appstore built-in. You'd be able to seamlessly buy Kindle books via the tablet, and also peruse their Appstore without having to go through the convoluted process that you need to when installing on an Android phone now. Also, you can't even install the Amazon Appstore on an AT&T Android phone.

The Xoom has been released but doesn't look like it can complete. An Amazon tablet could very well be the answer.

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IT Support | Wireless Network Security - Secure, Encrypt, and Be Safe!

  
  
  
  
  

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- by Chad, "The Dream", Weaver.

I wanted to finish up my series on wireless networks with just a little bit more on open and or WEP encrypted networks.  You won’t always have a choice on which network you are going to connect to but there are some important things you should consider when doing so.  When you are connected to either of these networks your traffic isn’t protected from prying eyes.  WEP, a little more so, but it uses the same key to encrypt the traffic, which allows a listener to be able to decrypt the stream with almost no effort to ready what is being transmitted.  So if you want to keep what you are doing private, whether it is changing your Facebook status, or tweeting about the great cup of coffee you are now drinking at a coffee shop, you might want to take a couple extra steps.

Now a little while back there was an add-on released for Firefox web browsers that would allow anyone running Firefox and this add-on to watch the traffic in the air for session data with popular websites.  I don’t want to give any one any ideas about this so I won’t even mention its name. It is still around and has plenty of downloads out there.  Not only were they able to see these sessions they could “sidejack” or step in as the user effectively taking over a session as that user including sites again like Facebook Twitter, Flickr and so on.  Now to get started; this works best on an open network like a coffee shop or airport where the network is gated by a website providing access once terms are accepted.

So what can you do to keep your awesome status updates your own or those hot tweets about the weather or what-not all yours?  One way is to be sure you are using SSL when connection to websites, this is even more important when connection over wireless networks.  This encryption prevents data from being read as all transfers between you and the website are encrypted with the help of a digital certificate.  So make sure your address bar reads HTTPS rather than HTTP to make sure you’re using this method, also look for the padlock icon to verify the site is secure.  One of the biggest flaws with this is that the websites don’t always use HTTPS for every page usually only encrypting the data during login protecting your password but not you against attacks like the one I mentioned above that only needs to have your session information, which is then returned to you unencrypted in some occasions.

Now how can we do better, the first option is VPN, if you can establish a VPN connection to a trusted location and send all your traffic down that new tunnel then everything you will be doing is secure between you and that endpoint, protecting you completely.  There are online servers that provide access to VPN servers in various locations across the globe for this and other purposes.  This way is 100% secure to their servers so anyone trying to read your wireless traffic would be unsuccessful.  You could even create one to your home network using different programs which I won’t go into here. 

The next method is to use SSH to encrypt your web traffic by sending all web traffic down an SSH tunnel to a more secure trusted endpoint and from there accessing the internet.  This can be done in various operating systems, including Windows Mac and Linux.  You can run a small SSH server at home and build a tunnel to it, and then when you are on the road use this to protect your web browsing traffic.  Another way and one I have tested myself, which is also sort of fun in a nerdy sort of way is to use an Amazon EC2 cloud server to build the tunnel too, and direct your web browser to use this tunnel for internet traffic through a SOCKS proxy.  I used a free micro instance in the cloud and started it up, I have also built and installed other pieces of software on this server but the base install is all you need to protect your traffic for web browsing needs.  After you get through the process of logging in creating your key pairs and launching your first instance, just be sure you pick the micro if you want to do this 100% free.  You can use your SSH client to create a tunnel through SSH specifying a local port to bind to the tunnel. In this example, 8899, but you can use whatever port number you wish.  In your web browser, go to your proxy settings and chose manual settings SOCKS proxy at address localhost and the port number you created the tunnel at.  And like magic all your traffic to the web will go through this tunnel to the Amazon cloud before going to the internet.  This will protect your internet traffic from any prying eyes, and if you use a site to find your IP you will see that it is changed to the IP of your cloud instance.  This has a nice side effect of bypassing some web filtering services also as the traffic would not be coming from the port for HTTP and would be unreadable as it is over a SSH tunnel anyway.  If I hear that anyone is interested in a step by step in creating such a proxy I shall make a good write up on how to get it started.

Remember when you are using public networks unless you are protecting your data in some way everything you are doing is well public.  If you are not do, not do anything you wouldn’t want anybody to see or have access to, including anything involving private data, work data and anything you wouldn’t want to be public knowledge.  Be safe. If you'd like to know more about the secure solutions Trigon Technology provides, be sure to contact us post haste!

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