1. Is the low-end laptop obsolete?

NexDock 2.jpg
Yahoo reviewed The NexDock 2 this past month, sharing that the new device could serve as a replacement for laptops that are considered low-end. At first glance the NexDock 2 — which goes for $259 — looks like any other normal laptop. The device has a full-sized display, regular keyboard, and contains standard USB ports. What sets the device apart from a typical low-end laptop is that it comes without a fan, internal memory or CPU. The way NexDock 2 works is by hooking it up to LG, Huawei or Samsung phones, turning it into a full-sized computer by mirroring phone displays. (Source: Yahoo)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: A laptop/phone mashup? Hey, why not, particularly if it can replace more expensive laptops and keep costs low, while still delivering satisfactory performance. According to Yahoo’s tests, the device performed as pretty darn well as any other laptop and comes at a much lower cost.

2. Microsoft Teams went down because of a really dumb reason

Microsoft offices
Last month Microsoft Teams was down for several hours, causing multiple issues with the service for its users. The snafu that caused the major disruption ended up being a very basic oversight — Microsoft simply neglected to renew the SSL certificate. That’s dumb. The SSL certificate is what permits a secure connection to form between a web server and a web browser. Instead of being able to start off their work week efficiently, users were getting a notification about a failed HTTPS connection. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The outage disrupted hundreds of thousands of users and — like any outage — undermined the confidence in the company’s cloud-based system. And for what reason? Not renewing an SSL certificate? It’s pretty dumb and, yes, we can feel sorry for the person at Microsoft who let this slip by. But there’s another lesson here: When did your web team last check to make sure your SSL certificates and domain registrations were completely up to date? If a giant tech company like Microsoft can make this mistake — and suffer an outage as a result — I’m thinking that your firm and many small-business owners could also be at risk and suffer even greater consequences.

3. Amazon invested $15B and launched 225 new tools and services in 2019

Sign at Amazon.com fulfillment center in Hemel Hempstead, U.K.
A sign hangs in the reception at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Hemel Hempstead, U.K., on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015. Wal-Mart and Amazon's toy pricing was almost equal on a three-week average leading into the holiday season, as both companies continue to provide the most competitive prices in the marketplace. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Amazon revealed last month in a press release that it invested $15 billion and launched 225 services and tools. The services and tools — geared mostly toward small and medium-sized businesses and worldwide third-party sellers — resulted in U.S. small businesses selling on Amazon breaking records of their own, with over 15,000 of those businesses reaching more than $1 million in sales, and over $500,000 in sales for just about 25,000 businesses. Some of the services credited with the growth are Amazon Live, Growth Navigator, New Product Optimizer and the company’s Brand Analytics and Brand Dashboard, to name a few. (Source: Amazon)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Amazon has certainly had a negative effect on some small businesses. But many others have prospered by selling on the online giant’s platform. And, as the company likes to remind us, it continues to invest billions in tools to help these same small partners. If your clients are selling products online, you can help them weigh the pros and cons of being an Amazon merchant. But to me, it’s a tough place to avoid, considering the tools it provides and the markets you can reach. And no, I’m not being paid to write this.

4. Ransomware attacks have grown, and they’re crippling cities and businesses

According to newly released data, 205,280 businesses and organizations indicated they fell victim to a ransomware attack in 2019, which is up 41 percent from 2018. Security companies have provided data showing that ransomware attacks have escalated in severity compared to years ago when typically, only individuals fell victim and had to provide a couple of hundred dollars to get their information and files returned. Ransomware attacks have become so sophisticated that they are now capable of crippling businesses and cities across the United States. In the last part of 2019, the average ransom to get files returned was $84,116, nearly double what it was earlier in the year. (Source: New York Times)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Ransomware continues to be a major security challenge for businesses, particularly small businesses that lack the resources to properly defend against it. But there are things you and your clients can do: Get training. Get anti-virus software. Get an online backup application. Most importantly, make sure you’re running the most recent versions of your operating systems. Doing that will go a long way toward helping you avoid being shut down by a ransomware attack.

5. Macs now twice as likely to get infected by adware

Apple sign outside the company's Williamsburg store in Brooklyn
Apple Inc. signage hangs outside of the company's Williamsburg store in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S. Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg
Research has revealed that there has been a more than 400 percent increase in Mac security threats for both businesses and consumers over the past year. According to a report, in 2019, detections of adware were at 11.0 detections per system, as compared to 4.8 in 2018, nearly double the number of threats detected on PCs last year. Apple has not been able to contain “potentially unwanted programs,” or PUPs, and adware in the same way that they have been able to catch malware, which has made it simpler for cybercriminals to go after Macs. Although the adware and PUP threats are not as detrimental as malware, the rise in this issue is becoming a cause of nuisance and concern for Mac users. (Source: PCGamer)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Once upon a time it was Microsoft that was far and away the No. 1 target for malware. But that’s changed a lot over the years. The takeaway is that securing your network and individual devices is no less important regardless of whether you have a Windows or macOS environment.

6. Payments power small businesses’ mobile banking adoption

Research published at the end of last year by J.D. Power revealed there has been a significant year-over-year increase in the portion of SMBs using their banks’ mobile banking apps, rising to 61 percent from 53 percent in 2018. The surge is speculated to have come from the desire that small-business owners have to be able to access similar convenience and automated digital opportunities that they have access to in their own lives on a day-to-day basis. Being able to give and receive payments appears to be at the center of this growth, as small-businesses owners can save time in their daily tasks by paying rent and utilities easily and also use their mobile apps to accept payments on-the-spot at a jobsite as well. (Source: Pymts)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: It’s slow, but it’s happening: more and more businesses are biting the bullet, incurring the expense and moving toward more online and mobile payments. Fewer checks are being sent in lieu of electronic payments. Yes, doing this is initially time-consuming, costly and disruptive. But once the transition has been made you’ll find your cash management (and projections) to be much improved.

7. Vimeo’s new app helps small businesses create professional videos

Video platform Vimeo revealed last month its newest creation, called Vimeo Create, which contains several creative video tools geared toward helping marketers and small businesses more easily take advantage of the benefits of using video on social media or marketing platforms. Businesses are able to either utilize templates that are designed by professionals or choose to create a brand new video. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: While YouTube may have a greater reach, Vimeo arguably offers more features, more storage and potentially more bang for the buck if you’re just looking for a platform to host videos that will be used for business purposes and your intention is not to become a YouTube celebrity. The idea of Vimeo Create is that it will provide more and better resources for businesses who may not have the funding or time to put into video production.

8. Voice ordering will soon be impacting restaurants in a big way

There are now 74.2 million Americans who use smart speakers, but only 7.9 percent of them have used the devices to buy food and beverage products. That's going to change. Voice shopping is projected to grow to reach $40 million in revenue by 2022. (Source: Street Fight Mag)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Steve Fredette, the co-founder of point-of-sale service provider Toast, writes that "in advance of this increase in adoption, restaurants will need to ensure they will be compatible with connected consumer devices. In order to keep up with the likes of Dunkin’, Denny’s and Domino’s, restaurants of all sizes need to optimize their tech stacks and diversify their strategies. As voice ordering gains ground as the next big idea in restaurant technology, industry players must consider investments and partnerships needed to integrate virtual voice-ordering assistants into their ordering apps and optimize menus for digital-first experiences."

9. CRM watch list 2020 winners have been revealed

Paul Greenberg — an author and expert focusing on CRMs — announced on tech website ZDNet his picks for the CRMs to watch this year. Greenberg analyzes CRM systems based off of various criteria such as privacy, marketing and corporate social responsibility, to name a few. Microsoft scored highest in the financial statement category, which included multiple criteria and didn’t rely solely on revenue. Salesforce scored highest when it came to the quality and focus of its mission and vision and how well it defines its vision and mission statements. For the outreach category, Salesforce came out on top for the larger program distinction, while Zoho won in the single person distinction. All CRMs that were submitted are scored in several categories based on the impact they had during the previous year. (Source: ZDNet) (Disclosure: My company, The Marks Group PC, sells some of the above products).

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Greenberg’s annual “watch list” is required reading for any partner, small-business owner or manager looking to either replace their existing CRM system or buy one for the first time. Paul’s experience in the CRM industry is unmatched and his recommendations should be taken seriously.

10. This machine makes 700 pieces of sushi per hour

California roll, anyone? The Suzomo machine is the newest player in the culinary robot field, with the ability to make perfect sushi rolls in mere seconds. While finding a talented sushi chef at a reasonable wage is proving to be difficult, the machine is able to make approximately 700 pieces of fresh sushi per hour, tasting just like handmade sushi rolls. The company says the popularity of its machines has grown quickly, allowing restaurants to run efficiently with less staff. (Source: ABC 7)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: “Less staff” are the two most important words here. As minimum wage and other benefits drive up compensation costs, many smaller restaurants are looking for ways to keep overhead (and employment headaches) to a minimum — and so they’re investing in technology. An automatic sushi maker is only one example of how robotics are speeding up food preparation … with no bathroom breaks needed. Smart advisors should be making their restaurant clients aware of this major trend.