Here are six big things that happened in the world of technology this past month and why they’re important for your business (and mine).
Did you miss them?
1. Microsoft continues its hybrid push with a stretchable SQL Server. From PC World: “The new feature allows database administrators to set up certain tables to stretch from their on-premises infrastructure to Microsoft’s cloud, while still allowing applications to access all the data across both environments.”
Why this is important for your business: Another great “hybrid” idea. While the cloud is hugely popular, many of my clients still have on-premise applications due to security and performance reasons. On-premise has proved to be more expensive to maintain, so now Microsoft is giving its customers the ability to “stretch” (move) older, lesser-used data to its less expensive Azure platform while still being able to be viewed and shared. This way, storage and maintenance costs would be lower.
2. Google will start ranking “mobile-friendly” sites even higher in May. Per Venture Beat: “Google announced this week it is rolling out an update to mobile search results in May that ‘increases the effect’ of its mobile-friendly ranking signal. The goal is to ‘help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly,’ though the company didn’t share exactly how much of an impact it expects the change to have.”
Why this is important for your business: Many of my clients and readers still do not have mobile-friendly Web sites, and it’s costing them business. And now those companies will suffer even more as Google “increases the effects” of search results for mobile-friendly sites starting in May. Talk to your Web designer or Internet service provider and make sure you have a mobile-friendly Web site up and running soon, or your customers and prospects will be finding your competitors much more easily.
3. Apple starts providing customer service on Twitter. From The Verge: “It’s already fielding questions about Apple Music, Apple IDs, and enabling smart quotes (‘curly’ quotation marks, rather than ‘straight’ marks). It’ll also be tweeting out tips on how to use Apple products. By and large, it looks like a pretty standard customer service account.”
Why this is important for your business: As Jacob Kastrenakes points out on The Verge, this is not unique; lots of companies do it, and Twitter encourages it with special features like making it easier for businesses to initiate a direct message with a customer. Apple and other companies’ use of Twitter for its customer service should encourage more smaller companies to do the same.
4. New code from MIT makes Web pages load 34 percent faster in any browser.From Gizmodo: “‘As pages increase in complexity, they often require multiple trips that create delays that really add up,’ explains Ravi Netravali, one of the researchers. ‘Our approach minimizes the number of round trips so that we can substantially speed up a page’s load-time.’ The new system, known as Polaris, was developed by the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.”
Why this important for your business: If you’re like me, you find yourself waiting, waiting and waiting as pages load videos, ads and other nonsense before you get to the information you really came for. All of this amounts to lost productivity. Look for this technology to be adopted by browsers for a faster and better experience in the next year or two.
5. Cloud accounting service Xero launches a new application to help freelancers manage business expenses. Per the company’s press release: “The proliferation of ride-sharing, food delivery and personal assistant apps have become a growing source of work for the 54 million freelancers in the U.S. Xero TaxTouch is a new app developed specifically for anyone who submits a Schedule C form with their tax filings.”
Why this is important for your business: If you have freelancers as clients, you know how messy their paperwork can be. And, if my calculations are correct, you probably yelled at them this tax season as you tried to make sense of their receipts from 2015. Xero’s new application aims to help the millions of freelancers, contractors and independents who need help organizing their accounting so they can focus more on their clients and customers.
6. Ransomware is now hitting Apple computers for the first time. Per Forbes: “KeRanger is believed to be the first instance of fully functional ransomware on OSX and if downloaded and allowed to run its course, will encrypt a user’s hard drive. This will result in an affected user being locked out of their Mac and unable to access files until they pay a ransom demand of one bitcoin (which is roughly $400).”
Why this is important for your business: As Forbes staffer Thomas Fox-Brewster points out, the infection is very limited and only affects a small portion of Apple products. But it’s a milestone for those who think that only PCs are vulnerable to viruses and ransomware. If your business (or your clients) has Apple machines, don’t ignore this threat.
Oh, and it seems that scientists have developed a robot arm that can catch anything you throw at it. So maybe there’s hope for my Phillies yet?
Gene Marks, CPA, is the owner of the Marks Group. Besides Accounting Today, he writes for The New York Times, Forbes and Inc.com.
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