How fast an internet connection do you really need?

wiring

For those old enough to remember the old days of dial-up connection with Wi-Fi nowhere to be seen, modern broadband has been a God send. For the most part it allows us to download files in a reasonably fast time and streaming movies usually goes without a blip.

For businesses however this is not always enough, especially larger corporations with offices in different parts of the country or indeed the world. For smaller businesses 10 to 100 mega bits a second is usually adequate.

But for some organisations that simply isn’t fast enough. Some businesses demand speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second – that’s between 10 and 100 times faster than your average business broadband speed.

So what type of business, if any, demands such high-speed internet connections? Is it really necessary and what advantages does it bring them?

Multinational companies

For companies with an international presence, superfast internet speeds are a must. This is particularly true when it comes to video-conferencing calls. For a company who has a presence in different parts of the world, video-conferencing has become an essential tool for effective communication. As this requires high uninterrupted speeds to be carried out effectively, your average home/ office broadband will not suffice.

Leased line connections offer a dedicated line to the user, meaning it doesn’t matter what time of day or night you use it, it will still deliver a fast connection. Click here for a description of the different types of internet connections that are currently available.

City banks  

In large city institutions leased line connections offer both a fast and ultimately a more secure way to conduct business. Take for example a video-conference call going on between London and New York – at the same time someone else wants to monitor stock prices. It is essential that there is sufficient bandwidth to run both applications simultaneously, otherwise one or other – or both will suffer.

Leased line connections also offer more security as they are connected through two points as opposed to over the internet.

E-Commerce Businesses

Basic broadband packages offer download speeds but not always upload speeds. This is ineffective for an e-commerce business or any company that conducts their business online. They need a fast connection that can also guarantee quick uploading times in order to sustain their business.

Of course not everyone needs such superfast speeds; here is an article outlining how much internet speed is right for you.

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. The words and opinions above were provided by a third-party, and as such this should be considered a ‘sponsored post’.

Payleven: Pocket Chip&Pin

Payleven

Cash may well be king as far as investment goes but it’s becoming a downright nuisance in day to day life. Ever handed someone a wad of coins, hard legal tender, yet had to apologise for all the “shrapnel”. Ever struggled to make change? Not wanted to split a 20? Or wandered the streets searching for an ATM? Cash is ubiquitous yet clearly a crazy anachronism in much of modern life.

Payleven hope to change much of that, having developed the first internationally available mobile Chip & PIN solution that enables anyone to take card payments with their Smartphone or tablet. Whilst clearly targeted at more small businesses than the general populace to start with, it’s a step on the road to cashless transactions.

“Not accepting card payments can cause huge problems for UK small businesses in terms of lost sales and unpaid invoices. No matter whether you’re a merchant with a corner shop, a market stall holder or an electrician at a customer’s house. Payleven is the smart way to get paid- it’s mobile, convenient, secure and low-cost with no monthly fees or contracts.”

Ian Marsh, Payleven UK CEO & co-founder

Payleven works via a small bluetooth Chip&Pin device. The interface is chunky and feels like an overweight calculator. But it’s not overly heavy and feels like it could easily be stored in the front of a traders apron at a market. It’s certainly smaller than the giant things they wheel out at restaurants and comes with reassuringly solid rubber keys. It won’t make or break the device, but it puts me at ease popping my card into a device that feels robust. You change the device via micro USB and it hooks up to any Bluetooth tablet or smartphone with the minimum of fuss. There’s a card slot at the bottom for taking payments. The card reader is associated with your merchant account for security reasons so you can’t change them round on the fly – probably very useful for fraud.

Taking payments is quick and easy – it’s just like traditional Chip&Pin except between individuals. This gives Payleven the edge over American rivals Square as the system complies with Visa’s stringent Chip&Pin regulations – a big deal as according to Payleven Visa transactions represent about 80% of all UK debit and credit card transactions. You track payments via the app, which links back to your online account. Payleven is EMV(Europay, Mastercard and VISA) Level 2 approved and compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard’s (PCI-DSS) highest 3.1 level certification. In addition no sensitive data is stored on either on the Chip&PIN device or smartphone/ tablet, and all data traffic is fully encrypted.

Payleven charges purely on a pay-as-you-go basis with no monthly fees, instead charging users a flat 2.75% fee. Depending on your business model this could work out cheaper than working with Square, who charge a substantial monthly fee. The barriers to entry with Square in a way much lower – the Square reader is sent to you free and is a more lightweight device that works directly with your phone/tablet. Payleven’s card reader carries an £89 price of admission. But the lack of monthly fees, added compatibility via Chip&Pin and widespread availability in the UK make it a winning proposition in Europe at least.

For more info check out Payleven

iRobot Ava 500: Enterprise Robotics

Ava-iRobot

The Ava 500 Video Collaboration Robot, produced by iRobot and Cisco, is set to provide an executive remote meeting experience that’s a significant step up from the standard setup of Skype or Google Hangouts combined with a laptop. The Ava 500 can also be used to tour factories, labs, customer service centres and other locations where it’s not possible to be in the flesh.

Built like an all-in-one PC atop a moving platform, the Ava 500 is just about the next best thing to being there. It can be operated remotely via iPad, so you can move between rooms and meetings from the other side of the world, as well as see anything that’s happening on your travels. The large 21.5″ high-definition display means your colleagues can get a good look at you too, wherever you happen to be.

Aimed squarely at the enterprise market, the robot comes with top-grade security protection and interoperability that keeps unwanted interference out while allowing easy interaction with other video collaboration tools. iRobot suggests its latest model could be used for remote team collaboration, executive off-site management, and tours and inspections. Models should start appearing for sale by the start of 2014, though prices have yet to be confirmed.

Ava-500-meeting

Vice President and General Manager of iRobot’s Remote Presence Business Unit Youssef Saleh had this to say: “iRobot is excited to work with Cisco to bring this next generation of telepresence to businesses worldwide. iRobot has been successful in introducing autonomous remote presence platforms to hospitals. Ava 500 will unlock new markets and applications for telepresence in the workplace.”

“Cisco is committed to improving communications, relationships, and productivity by helping people meet face-to-face over distances,” commented Snorre Kjesbu, Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Collaboration Technology Group. “The iRobot Ava 500 is a perfect example of using Cisco’s portfolio of high-definition video collaboration solutions to innovate and expand the reach of telepresence.”

A working model of the robot was demoed at the recent InfoComm 2013 Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. Head to www.irobot.com for more details about the company’s product line and further announcements about the Ava 500.

PlanOn SlimScan: Never lose a receipt again

We allo know what a nightmare it can be trying to collect all of our receipts together when it comes to claiming our expenses back. Usually your entire desk becomes excavated, your ill-fitting suit turned inside out and you end up with your arms shoved behind the sofa desperately trying to locate that elusive cab fare ticket. If this sounds like a familiar story, then PlanOn’s new SlimScan pocket scanner might just be what you need to save the hairs on your head and calm your blood pressure down to somewhat less stressful levels.

SlimScan

Roughly the same size as a credit card, this micro scanner can be used on a wide variety of items to scan and save for when you need them. Anything from business cards, tickets, notes, and yes, even receipts. They can all be scanned and stored in your pocket, saving the need to carry around items of paper that can easily be screwed up or misplaced.

The 300 bit dpi 24-colour scanner is small enough (2” x 3.1” x .12”) to fit into your wallet, meaning it is always to hand whenever needed. You can print your scans when you like, and organise them into folders for easy access – up to 600 images can be stored, meaning you can keep your receipts all year long. You can even create Excel reports containing all your stored information. How handy is that?

Available now directly from PlanOn themselves priced at $139.99 (or around £90), or from ‘leading retailers’. Keep any eye out for this one – if you are as unorganised as I am, it may just save your blushes when it comes to paying your expenses.

For more information on the PlanOn SlimScan, please visit www.planon.com.

Dell’s XPS 14z laptop: Professionally snazzy

Dell recently unveiled its XPS 14z laptop, and it is one of the thinnest in the brand’s history. This delightful model features a 14-inch display in a 13-inch body, an internal optical drive and comforting, discrete graphics option. This is the latest move from Dell made to create a series of powerful solutions that include a snazzy range of thin laptops, desktops and accessories.

Dell-14z

The XPS 14z delivers a strong performance, and it’s design is pretty darn hot as well. Despite it’s sleek and intelligent looks, passionate professionals need not worry because the model still packs in all of the energy one would need for a busy and hectic office day before time spent chillaxing (yeah, we think it’s a good word) in the evenin’ with this system’s HD screen to watch movies or video. Style as well as substance, good eh? It’s got pretty much everything you could possible want; we think. And erm, we should know.

This one is also available with second-generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, an HD WLED display for entertainment purposes, a slot-load optical drive and NVIDIA graphics option along with all the usual suspects ready to rock your tech-starved existence: the backlit, spill-resistant Chiclet keyboard and built-in 1.3MP HD webcam with dual array digital microphones and stereo speakers – ever handy!

“The XPS 14z delivers what professionals want – raw power paired with a stunning, sophisticated design that signals ‘I’ve arrived’,” says Steve Felice, president of Dell’s Consumer and Small/Medium Business group. “The XPS 14z is specifically engineered to help our customers do more in their personal and professional lives – and it advances our industry-leading vision for thin-and-powerful solutions that deliver performance without compromise.”

The 14-inch HD display easily fits into a 13-inch laptop form factor – while offering 10 per cent more viewing area than a 13.3-inch display. It will be easy to manage for most people, weighing in at 4.36 pounds, sliding through at less than an inch thin with an anodised-aluminium finish, this thing is about as sophisticated as it’s marketed to be, and with up to six hours, 49 minutes of battery life, it will see that you stay safely “in the loop” with your commitments at work, home and abroad from wherever you are without causing stress.

Sam Burd, vice president of Dell’s Consumer and Small/Medium Business product group says: “With the XPS 14z, our challenge was to build a laptop that provided customers the performance and portability that they need, with the design and finish they desire.”

This light beast also comes with the Dell Stage user interface, which offers one-click access to content including music, photos and video – swish! Meanwhile, SyncUP powered by Nero can keep content and personal information synced with other Stage-enabled Dell PCs and mobile devices within a home wi-fi network.

The XPS 14z laptop will be available November 15 in the United Kingdom priced from £799 through www.dell.co.uk.

Nuance OmniPage 18 document converter review

OmniPage-18

For an academically inclined nerd I have a surprising amount of upper body strength, a fact I attribute solely to lugging weighty tomes regarding 18th century agrarian poetry around campus for three years. But if you already have a sensible exercise regime in place, you might be looking to cut down on the amount of paper you heave from room to room. Like the cute boy in American teen movies who offers to carry your books for you between classes, Nuance have shyly coughed and are pointing you in the direction of their new OmniPage 18 software.

I know, I reeled you in with that amazing opening sentence that involved nerds, muscles and 18th century agrarian poetry (now there’s a movie idea) only to Sucker Punch you with document conversion software! But wait! Read on! OmniPage 18 really is much more exciting than it sounds.

OmniPage 18 is a conversion and scanning application designed to handle high volumes of documents from multiple devices, document archiving to popular ECM systems and document conversion in Cloud storage – including the ubiquitous and mostly wonderful DropBox. If you have any household or business critical documents and need to store them, OmniPage is your guy.

Check out a tutorial here:

A wide range of scanners are supported so if you have one of those kicking around it should be able to help out. The conversion algorithm has been improved, so the level of accuracy is high and document formatting of tables and charts is preserved – I once worked pdfing financial documents and the production department would often throw a fit when pdf conversion bugs would throw a table out of alignment or change the colour of a chart – so software you can trust matters.

What excited (yes excited) me most about Omnipage is that you can capture text from your iPhone (or any camera) and it will convert it using the magic of OCR into electronic files you can edit, search and share. Omnipage have made document conversion fast, flexible and , dare we say it, fun.

Yours to own for £79.99 from www.nuance.co.uk

Lenovo ThinkPad X220: The ultimate business traveller companion?

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming and unpretentious exterior, as the 12.5 inch Lenovo ThinkPad X220 is bursting with the most advanced and sophisticated of technology.

Lenovo-ThinkPad-X220

One of the greatest marvels of this cunningly unassuming tablet is its phenomenal battery life. With the average battery life of modern laptops being 4 hours, the fact that the ThinkPad X220, boasting just a single 63Wh six-cell battery, lasts for a whopping 8 hours, makes mentioning the battery life worthy of the all-important, attention-grabbing, initial paragraph position of a gadget feature. But that’s not all. In addition to the X220’s ground-breaking standard battery life, for an additional $179, ThinkPad X220 owners can extend their machine’s already prolific battery life by almost twofold, as by strapping a second battery onto the laptop, users can enjoy up to 14 hours 30 minutes wire-free usage.

Given its extensive cord-free potential, its ultraportability and weighing an extremely light 3.6 pounds, the Lenevo ThinkPad X220, is the perfect companion for frequent business travellers, who will now being able to fly from Manchester to Sao Paulo in Brazil, with a new sense of convenience and comfort.

Possessing Intel’s new Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz Core i5-2520M processor, the system’s allegedly noticeable ‘zippiness’, even whilst being pushed to multiple demands, is yet more evidence that Lenevo’s latest creation is paying homage to becoming the ultimate business traveller companion. Although the machine’s zippiness and excessive multi-tasking capabilities, could also be attributed to the tablet’s 4GB of DDR3 RAM and its 320GB 7,200 rpm hard drive.

On the software front, in typical Lenevo fashion, the X220 is loaded with all the Chinese company’s own ThinkVantage utilities. These highly innovative features include fingerprint reader configuration, enhance backup and restore capabilities, and power controls.

According to Engadget, the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 is the “longest lasting and fastest ultraportable” they have ever tested. And who are we to argue? Although with a starting price of $889, it would be fair to surmise that the majority of those fortunate to exploit the X220’s many exploits, will be those seated in business class.

Office 2011 Mac review: Outlook is positive, the rest of the applications, so-so

Microsoft Office 2008 on the Mac is horrible yet unavoidable necessity, that has had me banging my head against the wall for a long period of time. Random formatting glitches when working with complex (and sometimes quite simple) documents, irritating floating windows and the nightmare that was mail via Entourage (which still managed to handle Exchange better than the native Mail.app).

Ballmer

Office 2011 promises to change all this. I raced through the quite simple install process and jumped straight to the new Outlook app. This account set up was, uncharacteristically automagical, importing multiple gmail accounts from my Mail.app and an Exchange account I had on Entourage in just a few clicks. Downloading thousands of messages took a while – but nowhere near as long as downloading my single Exchange account took when I set it up a year or so ago, so that process has been streamlined on some level. You can even preview documents like you can in Mail.

Much like lightweight Mac mail client Sparrow, Outlook groups conversations, following the Gmail paradigm. Initially I thought this was awesome. After a few days use a few annoying bugs appeared to have crept in. The most annoying of which was the algorithm used to group conversations, which seemed to simply operate on Subject line. Which is fine if you have ultra-specific subject lines such as “Office Mac 2011 review” but I had an incredibly long conversation spanning years that collated every email I’d ever used “Hey” as a subject line for. I’m sure there is something I could do to fix this … but I shouldn’t have to.

Outside of Outlook, VBA makes a welcome return, with no real excuse as to why it disappeared in the first place. Sharepoint and Windows Live SkyDrive are also thrown in for corporate users, who obviously have quite demanding document sharing needs. The integration of the Mac Media browser – makes searching for pictures – and other media obviously, pretty nifty.

There are a few confusing choices with regards to user interface choices and consistency with Mac style guidelines – which are dealt with in more detail here. Daring Fireball’s Jon Gruber would probably foam at the mouth at all this.

However, given Microsoft’s dominance in the corporate world you will in all probability be using this, not matter what it looks like, and I’ve seen much worse looking software. Like Office 2008. The ribbon is feature-packed, which can be a little confusing at times – although I do enjoy casually glancing at features I’ve never seen before (in what … 15 years of using Office) and experimenting with them.

My favourite feature is however the actual opposite of the Ribbon’s mild visual clutter. The Full screen mode, removes all controls from the screen, but allows you do basic (in fact most) editing and composing work with a limited control set available with a quick mouseover on the top bar.

Excel has a few refinements and Powerpoint looks a lot more like Keynote, which can only be a good thing. Apple’s iWork suite is pretty competitively priced and does lots of basic features that will work fine for the average user. And there is lots of custom low-priced Mac software, that works well most of the time. But… if your work is mission critical or if you function in a corporate environment then the high reliability and (almost) guaranteed compatibility for the Office suite means you should probably bite the bullet and update.