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Mobility demands more storage

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The evolution of mobile devices means that employees are able to work anywhere they want. However, this has led to the need for suitable storage solutions, additional capacity and adequate backup and protection, writes ANAMIKA BUDREE.

The evolution and proliferation of a vast array of mobile devices has resulted in the ‘mobile warrior’ becoming the stalwart of many businesses. From large multinationals with branch offices in multiple regions, to local entrepreneurs with their own business who visit their clients personally, the ability to work on the go has dramatically changed the business world. Thanks to compact and efficient devices like laptop, smartphones and tablets, these ‘mobile warriors’ are empowered to work from any location, at any time. In addition, always-on connectivity has created a new brand of consumer who is always online at the touch of a button, with access to a world of information at their fingertips. The mobility megatrend, while it offers numerous benefits, has highlighted the need for suitable storage solutions, both for additional capacity and for adequate data backup and protection.

One of the biggest challenges with compact mobile devices is that they feature limited on board storage capacity. In a world where digital content creation is exploding, this can be problematic. In addition, the connected digital realm also leads to other content-related requirements. Working across multiple devices means users want to be able to access the same information and documentation from each device with consolidated and synchronised content. Consumers too wish to be able to access and share all of their content with ease, no matter where they are. Furthermore, mobile devices are highly susceptible to theft and accidental damage, which makes effective backup and data protection critical.

One of the simplest storage solutions for some of these challenges is direct-attached storage (DAS), also known as the external hard drive. This is often the most basic and affordable option to help expand storage capacity as well as provide a solution for data backup. DAS solutions are available as desktop hard drives which require an external power source, as well as portable solutions that are more compact and are powered through a USB port on a computer. Many solutions also offer automatic backup software to take away the chore of doing this manually, which adds an element of convenience.

In a connected world, however, simply expanding capacity or providing a basic backup solution is no longer enough. Many users need to centralise their storage to enable their files to be shared and accessed remotely. While consumers have turned to the public cloud to provide a solution. Personal cloud solutions offer the ideal alternative. These solutions consist of an external hard drive that also includes the ability to create your own cloud. Compared to a DAS drive, you do not need to carry it around with you, and they can be accessed by multiple devices including laptops, smartphones and tablets.  Users therefore benefit from having all of their content easily sorted by folder in a central location that is completely in their control and allows them to access and share this content anywhere.

Network-attached storage (NAS) solutions are another option ideal for small to medium enterprises (SME) and even consumers with high storage capacity requirements. These solutions, which were previously only available to large enterprises, have begun to emerge in the smaller business and consumer market at an affordable price. The enclosures contain a number of hard drive bays, typically between one and four for the SMB market, which can be populated with purpose-built hard drives of capacities up to 6 TB each. This offers up to 24 TB of centralised storage capacity. In addition, NAS solutions can be configured in a variety of formats including RAID, which offers additional data protection and redundancy. NAS also enables a level of sharing and access through file server functionality.

The growing need for a variety of storage solutions presents a significant opportunity for resellers to think out of the box. For example, any business that needs notebooks and servers could benefit from NAS in order to provide not only storage server functionality but also the ability to centralise and consolidate content storage, provide additional data redundancy and offer an element of data sharing. Prosumers like photographers or other users with large storage requirements and the need for data redundancy would also benefit from NAS solutions. Laptops users may benefit from portable DAS solutions to provide additional storage capacity on the move. For both consumer and business customers, personal cloud solutions enable content consolidation, sharing and access across multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets.

In addition, resellers can cross sell solutions such as backup software. They are also in an ideal position to help to educate the market on the requirement for consolidated storage, additional storage capacity and the need for backup and data protection. This in turn will help them to become a trusted partner and advisor and a provider of complete solutions for business and consumer needs.

Note: External hard drives serve as an element of an overall backup strategy. It is recommended that users keep two or more copies of their most important files backed up or stored on separate devices or online services. Features, apps, and services are subject to change and may not be available depending on where you live, your service provider, device, or software version. Network connectivity, and a data service contract may be required to use certain features. A service contract may be required; fees and other restrictions may apply.

* Anamika Budree is a Sales Manager in Western Digital’s South Africa office. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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