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House on show via Skype and iPad

Realtors International have conducted a first for South Africa and possibly internationally ‚ a live, virtual showhouse using Skype and an iPad.

Technology is set to cause a dramatic shift in the traditional property business, say Realtors International chief brand manager Toni Enderli and real estate agent Sean Britt.

The past few years have seen a sharp decline in traditional showhouses, placing as it does everything at risk from the safety of the agent on show, to the security of the home being shown.

‚However,‚ says Britt, ‚with a virtual showing in real time you not only deal with these challenges but you also open an avenue for people from all over the country and even globally to see a home over the web ‚ and to see exactly what they want as they can literally call the shots – before they spend time and money to travel to Cape Town for viewings.‚

The proof of the system is that the particular property that was on show via Skype has been sold to a buyer from Johannesburg based on what they saw live online. Explains Enderli: ‚We had a buyer from Johannesburg who was looking for something for his daughter. Instead of flying all the way down, he viewed the property online during the designated time that we were on show and put in an offer.‚

The idea of the virtual, live showhouse had been brewing in Britt’s mind for a while, but came to fruition recently with a prospective buyer from Durban:

‚I have a client that wants to fly down in a few weeks. By showing her a number of properties first via Skype, I have not only been able to work out what type of properties she would be interested in seeing, but I can concentrate on showing her, in real time and while we are having a live conversation about it, exactly what she wants to see more of.‚

For the meantime, all properties advertised as being on show via the live, virtual viewing system, will also continue to be advertised as open houses with on-site physical showings.

Explains Enderli: ‚We acknowledge that it may take some time for a mindshift to happen with both clients and buyers. As with any innovation, particularly one that involves technology, it takes a while for people to get use to the idea of doing things differently. But all the clients that we’ve taken the idea to thus far are very excited by the live, online showhouse concept.

‚In a world where technology is designed to reduce face time, we’re using it to increase it and actually deliver a better service because in this instance the consumer actually has more time with our staff, building trust and long term relationships. It also increases our levels of efficiency, as we can deal with multiple enquires from different clients during one showhouse session.‚

Says Britt: ‚The most incredible thing for us is that we conducted a large amount of research online before we tested our first virtual showhouse and were very surprised that no one has yet seem to have thought of using something like an iPad for live viewings. Not even in the USA ‚ the heart of fast internet connections and real estate innovation!‚


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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Why a messy fridge means a messy digital life

Businesses across the world are struggling to secure their data due to employees not recognising their responsibility for digital clutter; the proliferation of digital documents and files without thought for managing the security consequences. The global report “Sorting out digital clutter in business” from Kaspersky Lab1 found a number of correlations between the creation of digital clutter at work and human habits behind it, such as… organising a fridge. It revealed that nine out of ten (95%) people who see their fridge as organised said the same about their working digital life. 

Digital clutter includes the files, documents and data created at work without the business’s full visibility or control over how they are stored and who has access to them. It becomes a security risk when we consider that 72% of employees store documents at work that contain personally identifiable or sensitive data, which if exposed could either reputationally or financially damage a business, its employees and potentially its customers.

Tackling digital clutter is a challenge for businesses and one of the most important steps is understanding who is responsible for it. Nearly three quarters (71%) of employees believe either business leaders, the IT or security team should be responsible for ensuring emails, files and documents have the appropriate access rights, rather than themselves. The problem is that while IT and security teams can control the access given to employees to access files and folders, there is room for human error. Whether accidentally or intentionally, for example, employees could give their colleagues or those outside the business access credentials or bypass IT administrators with new collaboration tools. With employees creating and collaborating on multiple documents simultaneously, they all must take responsibility for their actions causing digital clutter.

Source: ‘Sorting out digital clutter in business’, Figure 2

As the report showed, in employees’ everyday life there are habits that may correlate with the creation of digital clutter. As well as the majority of people who have similar habits with their fridge organisation as they do their digital life, 88% of those who re-organise their fridge before a holiday, also do so for their work files. 

Source: ‘Sorting out digital clutter in business’, Figure 4

“With data volumes increasing exponentially, business leaders should take notice of digital clutter and its potential security risk,” said Maxim Frolov, Vice President of Global Sales at Kaspersky Lab. “It is true that organising your fridge won’t guarantee your defense against security breaches, but implementing the same mindset towards digital clutter will make you more resilient against cyber threats. Employees need to be educated on how to best manage their digital assets, and there should be simple but effective protection in place; one that does not add complexity but reduces it.” 

To avoid becoming a victim of digital clutter, Kaspersky Lab urges businesses to consider:

  • Getting employees trained up – it is very important that training teaches practical skills applicable to employees’ daily work such as with Kaspersky Automated Security Awareness Platform.
  • Regularly reminding staff how important it is to follow cybersecurity rules to not to let cyber skills fade away, for example by hanging posters with advice around the office
  • Making backups of essential data to ensure corporate information is safe and regularly updating IT equipment and applications to avoid unpatched vulnerabilities
  • Finding a dedicated solution for small and medium businesses with simple management and proven protection features; such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud.

To read the full report on digital clutter, please follow this link.

[1] Kaspersky Lab commissioned research specialist OnePoll to survey 7,000 employed adults from December 2018 to January 2019 across UK, USA, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Brazil, China, Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, South Africa, Russia, and Turkey who work in an office and use computers

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