The Top Apps of 2013

The end of the year is here, and with it comes a slew of “Top {fill in the blank} of 2013” lists. Our first one to cover on the WAMS blog? The Top Apps of 2013.

I have a ton of apps on my phone and tablet, but I’m always on the lookout for ones that I may have missed. Apple and Google just released their year-end best apps lists, so read on for some of the highlights…

Google’s Top Apps List

Google made their list different this year and went to the users to ask them to share their top picks. They had more than one million people vote, and here are the Google Players’ Choice Awards winners.

  • Knights & Dragons (free) – a fantasy- based, action game
  • The Hobbit: Kingdoms (free) – an action/strategy game set in Middle-earth
  • Movies by Flixster (free) – movie reviews, trailers and showtimes
  • Ingress (free) – a global game of mystery, intrigue, and competition
  • NewsHog: Google News & Weather (free) – a mobile news aggregator
  • Bejeweled Blitz (free) – Popcap’s enduring puzzle matching game
  • Duolingo: Learn Languages Free (free) – Teaches Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English
  • YouTube (free) – For your daily dose of internet culture
  • Samurai Siege (free) – a multiplayer combat strategy game
  • SwiftKey Keyboard ($3.99) – a word-prediction based onscreen keyboard replacement

Google also did a Best Apps of 2013: Apps You’ve Never Heard Of list, which was interesting to look at. My favorite one on that list?  Space HD – explore the breathtaking beauty of our entire solar system in 3D!

Apple’s Top Apps List

Apple determines its top list based on the number of downloads, so there aren’t too many surprises here. Although I haven’t given into the Candy Crush craze, most of the others are apps I use on a daily basis.

  • Candy Crush Saga (free) – I’m sure we all know someone who has played this addictive game
  • YouTube (free) – Many great features including search by voice
  • Temple Run 2 (free) – A sequel that is superior to the original game, surprisingly
  • Vine (free) – Twitter for video
  • Google Maps (free) – One of the best driving direction apps out there
  • Snapchat (free) – The choice of teens for sending pics
  • Instagram (free) – The choice for foodies for sharing pics
  • Facebook (free)  – Watch out for those autoplay videos coming your way!
  • Pandora Radio (free) – Great music streaming service
  • Despicable Me: Minion Rush (free) – This game is a guaranteed hit with the kids

WAMS Top Apps List

What are WAMS’ top picks for apps for 2013? Most of ours relate to business, but we’ve got a few fun ones in there, too.

  • Citrix Receiver (free) – Businesses everywhere are taking advantage of Cloud Computing, and if you’re on WAMS Cloud Connect, the Citrix Receiver allows you to access your full, virtual desktop from anywhere on any device .The exact same desktop and data you experience in the office can be right on your smartphone or tablet. That’s awesome! Read more about WAMS Cloud Connect here.
  • 12 Days of Gifts (free) – This app gives you access to free content, including apps, videos and music, between December 26, 2013 and January 6, 2014.
  • CardMunch (free) – This free app, owned by LinkedIn turns your business cards into LinkedIn Connections simply by taking a photo.
  • Evernote (free) – Evernote allows users to store notes, photos, to-do lists, ideas, and voice reminders to be accessed across all platforms, and the notes are completely searchable.
  • Wi-Fi Finder (free) – The name of this app says it all: It helps you find free or paid public WiFi hotspots and it will even give you directions on how to get to the hotspot of your choice.

I hope that you found a few new apps to try. If you’re interested in how to use a simple Citrix app and cloud computing at you firm to access all of you data anywhere at anytime, please contact us! We’d be happy to provide you with a free Cloud Readiness Assessment.

Technology and Business Continuity

On November 8, typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines leaving a trail of unimagined destruction. Watching the various news channels covering the disaster and recovery, firms can’t help but reflect how a disaster would affect their ability to cope and survive, as well as the safety of those they work with, of course. This is why many businesses implement business continuity plans. However, in doing so, they may not necessarily know how technology can help.

Technology can help small to medium sized firms and businesses develop and execute both disaster recovery and business continuity plans in many ways. Here are five:

1. It helps enable more efficient communication

The majority of business owners and employees now have smartphones, tablets and laptops that they use on a daily basis. What these devices have done is enable better communication, which is also a major part of a continuity plan.

With a multitude of chat apps like WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and iMessenger, companies can set up group chats that can be accessed via multiple devices from nearly anywhere. This means that you can get information out fast, with a higher chance of reaching the people you need to during and after a disaster.

Combine this with virtualized systems like email and VoIP, both of which are usually hosted off-site and are highly likely to remain optional during a disaster, and you further boost the chances and effectiveness of communication.

2. It makes developing plans easier

Let’s face it, when developing a recovery or continuity plan, there is a ton of factors that you need to consider and actually plan for. These plans can get complicated and hard to track and manage very quickly, and any plan that is either overcomplicated or poorly managed runs the risk of failing when implemented.

This is why there are numerous well-designed software options that allow businesses to not only develop, but track, implement and share recovery and continuity plans with greater effectiveness than manual systems.

What’s more, is many of these solutions are created using industry standards and can often help you apply proven methods that may not have been previously possible.

3. It makes recovery easier and quicker

Traditional data backup systems require a physical backup like a hard drive or tape. When you do need to recover systems, it can take hours or days. Now, many IT partners offer cloud backup services which store your information in the cloud.

When you need to recover data, you can usually log on to any computer with an Internet connection and have your files and data back in a fairly short amount of time. This means that your company can return to as near full operation status as quickly as possible without much loss of time and consequently, profit.

4. It makes coordination during a disaster easier

As stated above, most professionals have multiple devices that allow them to connect with colleagues and customers with ease. Business owners therefore have a variety of quick and easy ways to try and connect to employees in a time of emergency, allowing for a higher chance of coordinating and executing a plan of action.

5. It helps minimize disruptions

By employing technical solutions like virtualization and cloud services, essentially moving services off site, you will be able to remain operational or recover quickly. This is largely because many solutions have redundant servers, so if one fails another can take over and still keep your systems available.

There are many ways technology can be employed in order to make planning for disasters and even recovering from them less challenging. If you are looking to learn more about how technology can help your business, get in touch.

 

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

The 5 Biggest Challenges Cloud Computing Can Solve

I’m sure we can all agree that cloud computing and its definition has certainly evolved over the years. Although the term has been around for almost a decade, the concept has just recently starting gaining popularity and momentum (we’re all familiar with the “to the cloud!” phrase from Microsoft now). There still isn’t a set explanation for cloud computing. Ask five different people in the IT industry what their definition of cloud and you’re bound to get five different responses.

For the purpose of this article, the cloud we’ll be referring to throughout is a virtual private and all-inclusive cloud, meaning that it’s your own closed, secure cloud and that it’s your entire network that is being hosted (data, email, applications, printing, scanning, backup, etc.) in the same environment. Now let’s take a look at how this cloud can solve many of the common problems we see in small to medium-sized businesses…

Business Challenge #1: Network Upgrades

Although we here at WAMS think that network upgrades are fun, I’m pretty sure that just about everyone else reading this would skew towards the side that dreads network upgrades. They’re capital intensive, tedious, usually disruptive, and getting everyone in the company adjusted to new technology can be harder than getting democrats and republicans to agree on the healthcare issues.

With cloud, you can eliminate the need to ever go through a network upgrade ever again. Everything is hosted in the cloud, so you don’t have to upgrade onsite servers anymore. Your cloud hosting provider takes care of the upgrades to the backend infrastructure and even provides all relevant Microsoft licensing as well. You always have access to the latest and greatest Microsoft Office software on your own timing and without having to invest in them on your own.

Cloud computing breaks the “cycle of IT” where your network repeatedly gets old, you replace it, you use it, it gets old; you replace it, you use it, it gets old… you get the idea.  With technology advancements and cloud, you can now avoid the endless and repetitive upgrade cycle.

Business Challenge #2: Mobility

The need for staff in today’s businesses to be able to access the network remotely is growing to the point of necessity. Attorneys want to work from home, you need to view a document from your iPad, your managing partner wants to work while he’s on vacation; work is no longer a 9-5 in the office gig. You and the employees need to be able to get the data you need wherever you are and on any device you like to use.

Cloud enables you to do just that. Since all of your data, applications and email are built into a virtual desktop, you can securely access everything you need from anywhere on any device.

Some of you may already be able to access your desktop by using something like LogMeIn, VPN, terminal servers, or maybe even an in-house Citrix solution. But be honest – how reliable and fast is the connection usually? A lot of these solutions that we see are very slow, problematic and even a little buggy. Many people don’t believe it until they see it, but a solid cloud solution is often faster than what you currently have when you access your network in the office. You’re using the data center’s Internet bandwidth and the data center’s reliability, which typically guarantees 99.99% uptime.

Business Challenge #3: Security & Disaster Recovery

There are a lot of scary IT possibilities out there. Server crashes, power outages, desktop crashes, cybercrime, natural disasters, and employee sabotage all present serious issues to the lifeblood of the business – your data.

Of course, cloud solutions can’t completely eliminate these threats, but it can protect you exponentially more than what you have right now. You benefit from the Tier 4 data center that your data resides on. Tier 4 means that it has the highest levels of security measures in place, including things like biometric hand scanners, redundant power systems, video surveillance, 24x7x365 security staff onsite, and more. Plus, data backups are built into the solution, so the worry that you could lose your data at any time can now be erased from your mind.

Business Challenge #4: Scalability & Flexibility

Businesses are constantly changing. They’re adding offices, moving, merging, hiring seasonal/temporary staff, adding employees, splitting…if anything is constant, it’s change itself. With a traditional, onsite network, you’re stuck with what you pay for. If you invest in a brand new server and then the next month you have to let go of half of your staff and don’t need the server anymore, good luck telling HP or Dell that you want to return the server since you don’t need it.

It’s hard to accurately predict what your IT needs will be over the next few years, but with cloud, you don’t have to. It’s flexible, meaning that you can scale up or scale down as needed. If you have file clerks coming on for two months to work on a case, you can just add them and what resources they need quickly and remove when the case is over. You’re adding an office? Just ask to add the users to the cloud network. Cloud changes with you, so you’re never stuck with a network that doesn’t fit your needs anymore.  Think of cloud like an elastic band – it stretches and contracts based upon your company’s business needs.

Business Challenge #5: Cost Control

We’ve touched on this in previous points, but cloud can be a good financial choice, too. Since you don’t have to invest in a bunch of hardware and software, your capital expenditures significantly decrease, and IT goes from a capital expense to a monthly operating cost. You also no longer have to factor in depreciation of the equipment anymore.

And forget about maintenance and other extra and unpredictable IT costs. Just the maintenance and ongoing support for an onsite network can cost as much as a complete cloud solution that requires minimal ongoing support.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud? That is the Question

In many cases, the benefits of a cloud-based network greatly outweigh the benefits of staying with an onsite solution, but every business is different. You have different budgets and IT needs, so it’s important to look at both options. Work with your IT provider to examine both cloud and onsite networks to figure out which will work best for your business. As always, please feel free to reach out to WAMS if you have any additional questions or contact us through the website here!