The risks of remote, and other tech stories you may have missed - (2023)

The risks of remote work, the top SaaS providers, the best password managers and seven other developments that happened in technology this past month and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

Businesses continue to face the security challenges that remote work presents. Data from a 2023 Fortinet study demonstrates that organizations are more vulnerable when supporting a work-at-home model. Of the companies surveyed, 62% reported a data breach as a “partial” result of staff working from home. “Lack of cybersecurity training” was one of the contributors cited. Identity access management — technology that helps organizations employ sophisticated protocols — was another item that has been hampered by remote work. Though companies have invested time and money to avert major breaches, they’re challenged to minimize that risk when supporting a remote or hybrid environment. (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: As malware attacks increase, it’s critical that businesses hire IT firms to provide training, added security software and regularly monitoring of home workers’ routers and device setups to maximize security. Taking more aggressive measures such as multifactor authentication is one of the solutions experts also recommend. This is an investment you need to make this year.

Business banking platform Novo has released its list of the 10 most used software-as-a-service providers. Taken from a sample of 70,000 small business and self-employed customers, the end result indicates these 10 SaaS providers serve an essential need. (Source: Novo)

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Why this is important for your firm and your clients: No surprises here. Top of the list is Intuit, the provider of QuickBooks. Website builder Wix is the tenth most popular. Adobe and Google’s GSuite were Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. I’m betting you and your clients use half of these.

Tech Times has listed the five best password managers — software programs that store encrypted lists of passwords only verified users can access. The first is LastPass, known for their sophisticated cloud technology. The most widely used on the list is Sticky Password. All five have something to offer with free 30-day trials. (Source: Tech Times)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Every business — and every individual — should be using a password manager. The biggest benefit is you can use complex passwords on important sites like banking and ecommerce platforms and then save and retrieve them from the password manager. Good managers will also evaluate the effectiveness of your passwords.

OpenAI, the maker of the enormously popular conversational artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT, released GPT-4, an API that upgrades the underlying technology behind ChatGPT. Users of ChatGPT can access this new technology through their paid membership. There’s a waiting list though. (Source: TechCrunch)

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Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If you haven’t tried ChatGPT you need to give it a whirl. There’s a free version on OpenAI’s website. Once you see how it works, also check out this piece which lists 27 ways you can use ChatGPT in your business right now. I’ll probably need to update that column. Why? Because GPT-4 improves the tool’s capability and adds more functionality, including the ability to interpret images and text. (An example according to the New York Times: It can also answer questions about an image. If given a photograph of the inside of a fridge, it can suggest a few meals to make from what’s on hand). More big things are on the way.

Now that you read about ChatGPT’s new version, should you be worried? The reality of AI apparently has a lot of people unsettled. A new Pew Research Center study showed that half of Americans are aware of the various uses of AI but could only identify three out of five examples of its use. The data indicated those with higher education and income had an increased awareness of AI in their environment. When asked about the societal ramifications of AI, 38% said they were “more concerned than excited” and 46% felt a mix of both. (Source: PCMag)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: AI is going to need a good PR campaign. People get scared when the media reports on how these robots will replace humans and rule the world. Although there’s reason to be cautious, AI — if managed well — can have an enormously positive impact on our way of life. New technology has always replaced the work of humans, but humans always seem to find other stuff to do. I wouldn’t worry about jobs. Embrace these tools that can make the world — and your business — a better place.

Users of Google Workspace will see a 20% hike in pricing on its Business Starter, Business Standard, and Business Plus plans. Google announced the increase on its Workspace blog with an explanation behind the price change. New users will be affected while Google is giving existing users the option of an annual plan — a recent addition — at the old rate. Google has indicated existing users will be billed at the new rate sometime in April. Rates will also depend on the number of users per plan. Experts speculate that the integration of generative AI may be a factor in the increase. (Source: ARS Technica)

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Why this is important for your firm and your clients: My advice is to bite the bullet and switch to the company’s new annual plan. You’re probably already committed so you might as well avoid the price increase, for now.

Workers who are considering earned wage access products beware. The Center for Responsible Lending is cautioning people that taking the EWA route could significantly increase their debt. Employers sometimes utilize payday services to fulfill this type of loan, putting the employee at a disadvantage from an interest rate standpoint once they begin to pay off the debt. Exorbitant rates have led to the abolition of these types of lenders in some states. (Source: Advocate Andy)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Earned wage technologies allow workers to take loans on their earnings before they get their paycheck, and given how many people in this country live paycheck to paycheck, these platforms can be a big financial help. But these products can also dig an employee into an even bigger hole. Before bringing a platform like this into your business you may want to consider the consequences.

PowerPoint Live now includes a closed caption feature, Microsoft announced. Closed caption can be activated during team meetings for the hearing impaired, or users who want to utilize an added communication tool. On the Teams blog page is a step-by-step guide for how to enable closed captions in Windows and macOS. (Source: Microsoft)

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Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The tool allows an individual to use the feature that will only appear at the bottom of a slide presentation on their screen without disrupting other meeting members. As someone who routinely uses closed captioning when watching Netflix, this is a feature I can see using a lot in my meetings, particularly if a person with a Liverpool accent is presenting!

Lenovo customers will experience a boost in performance with a 14-inch display, PC World’s Ashley Biancuzzo reported. ThinkPad E14 now has a faster processor and up to 40GB of DDR4 RAM as well as a significant increase in storage capacity (2TB). First-generation ThinkPad E16 is about the same as the E14 performance-wise except for its maximum brightness setting. Both will be launched this May. Also coming in May is Lenovo’s newest Chromebook — IdeaPad Slim 3. Ashley noted its impressive sound system, battery life and display quality. (Source: PCWorld)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: I’m writing this piece on a Lenovo laptop right now, which I’ve used daily for about five years and it’s been reliable. However, I’m due for an upgrade so maybe I’m doing that come May.

The company confirmed that 100 drones are currently in operation to streamline inventory control and assist workers with certain tasks. The first drone was employed two years ago with 100 now operating in IKEA locations across Europe. (Source: INGKA)

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Why this is important for your firm and your clients: “Introducing drones and other advanced tools — such as, for example, robots for picking up goods — is a genuine win-win for everybody,” Tolga Öncu, head of retail at Ingka Group, said about the technology that has developed in partnership with Verity, a company that specializes in warehouse drone systems. He’s right and I’m seeing more of my smaller and midsized clients using drones to check safety and help with cycle counts.


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