Ten mostly-pandemic-related technology developments from the past month, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. Microsoft 365 bundles Office 365 with AI and cloud-powered features
Microsoft announced last month that Office 365 will be making some changes toward the end of the month to Microsoft 365. The newest version of the suite will include Office 365 features while adding on robust templates and content, cloud-powered elements, and newer AI. Office 365 will now be known as Microsoft 365 Personal, while Office 365 Home will go by Microsoft 365 Family. (Source: Venture Beat)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The subscription costs won’t change — with Microsoft 365 Personal costing $7 a month and Microsoft 365 Family $10 a month. The plans laid out for Microsoft 365 will contain all of the newest features, as well as the older favorites such as 60 Skype minutes, technical support, security features, and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage for each user. This may be all that you need for your home workers to use if you don’t have other licenses available.
2. Google told workers they can’t use Zoom on laptops anymore
Google announced that they are banning Zoom — the well-known videoconferencing software — and will no longer allow their employees to use the software on their devices. While Zoom is a top competitor to Google’s videoconferencing app, Meet, the company said they are banning the software due to the many security breaches Zoom has faced over the past several weeks. As of mid-April the company announced that Zoom will no longer work on Google employee laptops. (Source: Buzz Feed)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Of course the first question you have to ask, why were Google employees allowed to use a competitive product to begin with? Oh, that’s right … because it’s better! Putting that aside, Google’s ban has highlighted the significant security issues affecting Zoom users. We’re all using Zoom, so aren’t you also concerned? Clearly, the collaboration app’s management is concerned and the company’s CEO admitted mistakes. If your company is using Zoom you should be keeping up with its security updates and possibly evaluating alternatives.
3. Working from home? Turn your old laptop into a Chromebook
Stack of old, broken and obsolete laptop computer for repair and recycle
THAM KEE CHUAN/ThamKC - stock.adobe.com
With more and more people working from home due to COVID-19, some are finding that their laptops may not be equipped to handle the amount of work they need to get done in their home office. Employees who have the ability to complete all of their tasks within a browser could potentially capitalize on being able to transform their older macOS or Windows machine into a more efficient Chromebook. Neverware — a company that helps schools and businesses refurbish their aging devices — can transform nearly any laptop into a Chromebook through their CloudReady branch and is now offering a free version of the software to individual users. (Source: Android Police)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Have a lot of employees working from home that need devices? Don’t have the budget to go out and buy a new laptop? Or do you just want to have better control over the devices your work-from-home people are using when they access your network? A Chromebook checks those boxes and this method of conversion may be a big help to your precious cash flow.
4. Microsoft is rolling out a money management app
Microsoft announced that they are going to be releasing an app to help manage money, called Money in Excel. The new feature will be a part of Microsoft 365 and is going to mirror many of the features and qualities available in the tech giant’s Excel spreadsheets both in appearance and the way it works. Users will be able to sync their credit card and bank accounts to the new app in order to automatically keep track of purchases, deposits, and each accounts’ balance. Money in Excel will be able to help users identify trends and patterns in their spending along with several key components to keep users up-to-date on their accounts. (Source: Motley Fool)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: One of the more popular benefits that I’ve seen businesses — usually larger businesses — offer their employees is help with their personal finances. Some actually hire accountants and financial planners as consultants. Others have signed on to money management apps. Microsoft’s new app, which is part of their Office suite, gives small-business owners a chance to do the same. The better your employees manage their money in these uncertain times, the more stable they’ll be at work.
5. The bartering economy has exploded on Nextdoor
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, people are avoiding stores more and more and turning instead to Nextdoor to trade items or supplies of theirs for items they need. Nextdoor is an app that allows users from the same community or neighborhood to interact and share information. While trading through the popular app is not a new concept, the app has seen a rise in these types of exchanges. Hand sanitizer being traded for sugar, potatoes for toilet paper, or activities for children in exchange for vegetables are only some of the ways that people are getting creative in how to manage without going out to stores in order to avoid exposing themselves to the virus. (Source: One Zero)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Nextdoor has been growing significantly over the past year, and with the coronavirus pandemic it’s become an even more popular way for communities — including business owners — to share information, news … and products. Given the number of people that are using the platform during these shelter-in-place days, it could be a great way to build relationships for when you re-open your doors.
6. YouTube launched a video-building tool
YouTube rolled out their free video-building feature called Video Builder in order to assist in businesses staying in touch with their customers throughout the shutdown due to COVID-19. While the current release is YouTube’s beta version, the company shared that they decided to release the tool sooner than originally planned in order to ease the burden on businesses that are currently struggling with limited resources and may not have access to outside video equipment. With Video Builder, business owners can produce either 15-second videos or six-second videos, as well as pick from various layouts, colors, and fonts to use for their videos. (Source: CNET)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: My business, like many small businesses, produces lots of YouTube videos to help our clients better use the products we sell. But we’re not video producers and we’re not experts with this technology. So tools like Video Builder help … a lot. Many it can help you as much.
7. SBA may have exposed data of 8,000 SMBs seeking relief loans
According to a statement given by the Small Business Administration, almost 8,000 small businesses who applied for small-business loans provided by the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program may have had their information exposed due to a massive data breach. The SBA shared that they disabled the section of their website that was compromised and relaunched the portal with the application. Personal information that is thought to have been compromised may be made up of email addresses, citizenship status, insurance information, birth dates, phone numbers, addresses, and Social Security numbers. (Source: Pymnts)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Unfortunately, the SBA has been so inundated processing and approving loan applications submitted in the wake of the CARES Act stimulus program that just trying to find out if you’ve been affected will likely be a frustrating experience. I think it’s a safe bet, however, that if you were one of the earliest filers for Economic Injury Disaster Loans your data has probably been exposed. The impact of all of this is unknown, unfortunately.
8. WhatsApp is trialing video calls with up to 8 people
start up business people group attending videoconference call with senior investitior at modern office
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WhatsApp is working on a feature to allow eight individuals to participate in video or group voice calls. In order for this new feature to work, everybody participating in the call will be required to install the most up-to-date version of the iOS or Android beta updates on their device. This new attribute will allow users to start calls using two options, either dialing through an existing group with the option to add additional contacts, or by going into the calls section and selecting “new group call” and choosing the individuals you want on the group call. This feature is currently in beta with potential for a broader rollout. (Source: Engadget)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Videoconferencing is expanding to many platforms, so maybe if you’re not so comfortable with Zoom, you can consider other options. As popular as WhatsApp is in the U.S., the service is even more popular overseas, and if your business has customers around the world that are comfortable using the app, the new videoconferencing capabilities could be a very useful communication tool for you.
9. Amazon is deploying thermal cameras to scan for fevers faster
A worker gathers products for a shipment at the Amazon.com fulfillment center in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Amazon.com Inc. held a giant job fair at nearly a dozen U.S. warehouses as part of its effort to hire 100,000 people in the U.S. by 2018. Photographer: Jim Young/Bloomberg
According to some Amazon employees, the tech giant has begun utilizing thermal cameras throughout warehouses in order to make their screening for COVID-19 more efficient. The cameras are able to calculate the amount of heat that an individual is giving off compared to their environment. Using the cameras will take much less time to take temperatures, and will also require less human contact than the forehead thermometers that Amazon had previously been using to try and track the virus. (Source: Venture Beat)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: As more businesses restart in the new post-pandemic economy, the safety of both customers and employees will be the No. 1 priority. Heat-seeking cameras may be an option, depending on their cost and feasibility. But low-tech solutions like frequent temperature checks are also going to be important.
10. Instagram announced new features for small businesses
A Facebook Inc., employee demonstrates the new video feature with Instagram during an event at Facebook Inc. headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Facebook Inc., operator of the largest social network, plans to unveil video-sharing tools, bringing its Instagram into closer competition with Twitter Inc., a person with knowledge of the matter said. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Facebook said that small businesses will be getting some help from Instagram, which will be providing ways to simplify the way small businesses can highlight gift cards, fundraisers, and online food orders within their Instagram stories or profiles. Instagram users will now be able to tap on a food order or gift card in order to buy something through the small busines’ website. In addition to the new feature, small businesses using Instagram will now be able to advertise their food, gift cards, and fundraisers through Stories by resharing stickers in an effort to promote followers to throw their support behind other small businesses. (Source: CNBC)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: These are even more reasons for your firm and clients to consider using Instagram as a platform to build your community, advertise and offer products and services. If you’ve got some downtime while quarantined, I recommend taking the opportunity to test out some of these new features.
Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.
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