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Beware IT scare tactics

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It’s a common misperception is that SMEs using old software could put their companies at risk as many vendors maintain a range of platforms based on technologies ranging from legacy to cutting-edge, says STEVEN COHEN of Sage One.

It’s good practice to support customers using your older software as best you can. Even with vendors trying to frighten them into buying new software, many businesses know that these security risks are reasonably small once you quantify them.

Those that are concerned should remember Chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic books who worried the sky may fall on his head. Of course, it never did. As far as we’re concerned when SMEs are ready to upgrade to new technology, they should do so for the right business reasons, and not out of fear.

IT vendors have so often used scare tactics to move users onto new software that customers are disillusioned with the industry as a whole. The Year 2000 panic was one example. We all woke up on 1 January 2000 after the New Year’s celebration, only to find that the sky had not fallen.

A new horizon

The sad thing is that when something comes along that offers true transformation for the industry, many end-users are cynical. The cloud presents such a change, and it has already revolutionised our private lives, through the Apple iCloud, web-based email, Dropbox, and so many other online services we use every day.

Businesses are also using some of these services, but they are a little slower in moving their business processes to the cloud. All the fear they’re being sold by the industry leaves them unmoved; they want to know what the business benefits are. I believe there are three obstacles to them adopting the cloud more aggressively.

1.     Maturity

The cloud was an opportunity for software vendors to get a fresh start – cut away the bloat and the complexity of today’s desktop software, reduce clutter and improve ease of use. The downside is that cloud software – for example, an accounting and payroll solution – doesn’t contain as many features as their desktop equivalents.

That means some worry that a cloud offering won’t have a feature they have grown to depend on. While cloud software contains most features mainstream users need, it hasn’t had the benefit of maturing over 20 years. We have written documents for our 200,000 desktop users explaining the exact feature differences that exists between our cloud and desktop offerings and they make their decisions accordingly.

2.     Low speed and poor reliability of the South African Internet

This is still a concern for some business owners, but it’s increasingly a perception rooted in the past rather than a reflection of reality. It was unthinkable 2 years ago to stream a high definition movie to your home TV. Today, we have Netflix and we watch YouTube to our heart’s content. Users with a 2.5 Mb or better connection are good to go.

3.     Inertia

We all leave things to the last minute, whether it’s paying more for air tickets after booking an overseas holiday at the last minute or neglecting to upgrade our business software. Steven Covey talked about the “urgent but not important” quadrant; we spend so much time on “non-important issues” that seem urgent to us that we don’t get the important things done.

We think it’s important for our customers to use the latest technology to save money and be more efficient. However, we also know that with the challenges they fight every day, upgrading to the cloud from an accounting package that is working well is not an urgency for them.

Closing words

We recommend that our customers ask themselves two questions about their software: does it need to be done and will it become easier to do later? For most SMEs, the answer about upgrading their software and migrating to the cloud will be respectively yes and no.

Cloud applications can help SMEs to modernise their setup and access world-class security without needing to spend a fortune on hardware, consulting and software. I think that getting it done and being ready for the future offers peace of mind that makes it all worthwhile.

In a time of seismic technological change and digital innovation, Sage is using the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business accounting. For us, today’s smartest technology is in the cloud. But we’d rather sell our users on the benefits of the cloud than try to scare them into moving. It’s time for the IT industry to move beyond fear as a sales tool.

* Steven Cohen, Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East, Asia and Brazil)

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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