Solutions Unlimited - March 2020

March 2020

What Gardens and Computer Systems Have in Common The Long-Term Benefits of Upgrading

My grandfather always said, “You reap what you sow.” That means that the seeds you plant determine the harvest you get. If you plant good seeds, you generally get a bountiful harvest. Plant inferior seeds, and you get a disappointing harvest. How does that apply to technology? Well, just like planting good seeds, investing in good technology pays off down the road and every day you use it. Running systems “into the ground” may seem like a good plan to save money, but slow systems are a depreciating asset in more than one way. Better Performance Newer systems are much faster, so upgrading means you spend less time waiting. Slow systems cost every member of your staff at least 15 minutes a day. Assuming they each have a $50,000 salary, that 15 minutes per day is costing you $1,500 a year in lost time. Multiply that by the number of employees running old technology to get an idea of what delaying upgrades is costing you. Upgrading just one PC puts about $3,000 back in your pocket over three years. Better Morale Having the right tool for the job means your staff will get more work done and enjoy their time at work more. Waiting on technology is a waste and is frustrating to everyone. Having a fast PC with larger monitors makes employees feel better and more productive. When your employees feel better, they serve clients better. Better Security Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to get into your network. In general, newer hardware and software are more secure than older technology. Vendors often can’t afford to go back and update older software and hardware, leaving avenues for hackers to get at your valuable data. My rule of thumb is that all hardware and software must be under vendor

support; that way, you receive proper support and ongoing security updates. Newer hardware and software automatically include vendor support. Long-Term Technology Plans I recommend that you have a written technology plan and a budget for replacing older hardware and software on a regular basis. The long-term payoff always outweighs the

initial cost of upgrades. Plus, there are some neat ways to get new hardware without the upfront cost. Either way, your staff will be happier, which translates into happier clients. Happier clients mean better profits, which makes for a healthy business. If you’d like to discuss your technology plan, I’m here to help.

–Kevin Smith 1

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What Is ‘Decentralization’ and How Will It Change Social Media? BREAKING DOWN FACEBOOK

IS EMAIL CLUTTER DRAGGING YOU DOWN? Improve Productivity by Cleaning Up Your Inbox

Nowadays, getting locked out of your Facebook account often means losing access to your Spotify, Tinder, or any of the other sites you can sign into through Facebook. The amount of personal data social media has access to grows all the time, and it can affect your private and professional network. Thankfully, a few tech CEOs, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, believe social media decentralization could give users greater control over their personal information. Social media decentralization was once a pipe dream for activists, but Dorsey has recently revealed his hopes for redesigning his social media software to put the power back in the users’ hands. Zuckerberg also admitted in a Harvard interview that decentralized software is “quite attractive.” Currently, Facebook and Twitter live in relative anarchy. Their sheer size makes them nearly impossible to audit or manage, which makes falsified information and propaganda infamously easy to pass around. This anarchy also makes it much easier to conceal illegal activity. In an age where identity theft, financial fraud, and selling user information are more digital than ever, it’s important that users and businesses alike have full confidence in the security of their online pages where clients interact with them — especially if information, goods, or services are exchanged. A decentralized system could split the massive, unregulated wilderness of Facebook and Twitter into user-managed “neighborhoods.” Rather than relying on one centralized server that holds over 2.45 billion users, businesses and individuals could host their information on their own computer. This would give businesses and individuals much greater control over their information and how they share it. That’s not to say there aren’t risks associated with decentralization. If unprepared, private hosts could be left defenseless against hackers. Some critics even suggest that a push to decentralize could just be an attempt by Twitter and Facebook to dodge responsibility by moving data off of their own servers.

Do you cringe every time you open your email, preparing yourself for a barrage of unanswered messages? If so, then it’s time to take tidying up your inbox more seriously because poor organization results in far worse problems than simply missing out on happy hours with coworkers. According to psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne, mental and physical clutter can impede productivity. It may also have long-term effects on our ability to process information. One University of Toronto researcher has even found evidence that mental clutter may worsen age-related memory loss. Since most people can cite their digital inbox as a source of stress, starting there is a big step toward organizing your mind and your life. Plus, you can declutter it in just one hour by following these steps. 1. Sweep away the junk. Begin by going through your emails from oldest to newest and deleting anything you know you won’t need. When you see an email you want to delete, search to find others from that sender — it’s likely there are multiple you can trash right away. 2. Categorize necessary messages. Create folders to organize the remaining emails. You might use a time-based system, like “First Quarter of 2020,” or descriptive names, like “Receipts” and “Current Projects.” Choose a system that works for your personal preferences. 3. Respond to urgent emails. Have unanswered emails that can’t be filed away? Use the two-minute rule: Immediately respond to anything that will take less than two minutes to answer. For the ones that need more effort, put them on your to-do list and schedule a time on your calendar to respond. 4. Maintain a healthy email habit. Now that your inbox is in a manageable state, develop habits to keep it that way. Check your inbox when you get to work and follow the steps above. Once a week, set aside a few minutes to sort through and organize anything you missed. The more time you devote to decluttering your email first thing, the more time you’ll have to accomplish bigger and more important goals.

While decentralization offers solutions to some the problems of social media, it’s

an approach that requires cautious implementation. Only time will tell if decentralization’s benefits outweigh its risks.

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Is That Picture Worth $1,000? How to Avoid Copyright Infringement for Your Business

or guarantee the image’s use as-is without further alteration. In other instances, ask the photographer, designer, or artist for permission to use the image and agree to include a watermark or a link to their website. Find and use free images instead. Several websites, such as Pexels, Pixabay, and Morguefile, provide hundreds of photos for businesses to use for free and without worry of copyright infringement. Creative Commons is also a great resource to consult. This nonprofit provides free licenses and tools that make copyright material easy to understand. You may need to meet some agreements under a Creative Commons license, but afterwards, you can access and use numerous photos.

We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and for businesses, this is especially true. Images used on a website and in marketing materials contribute to a specific vision and encourage customers to buy into a service or product. However, obtaining and using those images requires much more than a quick search on Google. To make the biggest splash while avoiding heavy penalties that can tank your business, follow these tips when searching for images. Presume all images are protected by copyright. Never assume that an image you find while browsing the internet is free to use. It may be easy to download one you like and use it on your website, social media account, or blog, but it can have devastating consequences. Someone who wrongfully uses copyright material worth at least $2,500 may face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines according to federal statute. Play it safe by assuming every image or photograph you find online is protected by copyright law. Always ask permission for use. Even if an image isn’t under copyright, you still might not have permission to use it. Find the source of the image, and inquire about using it for your own business. The image itself may have certain conditions you need to meet before you can use it. For instance, a licensing agreement may require you to pay a fee, give credit to the original creator, HAVE A Laugh

PUZZLE

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Inside This Edition

1.

Are Your Outdated Systems Costing You?

2.

‘Decentralization’ in Social Media

Productivity Lagging? Check Your Inbox!

3.

Avoiding Copyright Infringement for Your Business

Have a Laugh

4.

The Science Behind Gut Feelings

Heads or Tails? The Scientifically Smarter Way to Make Business Decisions

about it. If you make a conscious decision that agrees with the subconscious solution of your basal ganglia, your brain gives off a subtle reward. The decision doesn’t have to be logical to feel right — that’s your gut feeling. However, if the conscious and subconscious parts of your brain don’t agree, your insula detects the discrepancy and registers a threat. It’s the “I have a bad feeling about this” response. Fabritius and Hagemann note that gut feelings “represent the most efficient use of your accumulated experience.” According to the authors, flipping a coin is the best way to really listen to your basal ganglia and insula. Your subconscious brain has already made a decision; flipping a coin helps you test your intuition about each option.

You have two options in front of you. They both sound great, are backed by research, and could transform your business for the better, but you can only choose one. Which do you commit to? When you’re faced with two equally worthwhile options, science says the best way to make a decision is to flip a coin. When you flip a coin, you’re not really leaving the decision up to chance; you’re actually calling on your intuition to guide you. The practice is often regarded as unscientific, but there’s a lot of research to support making intuitive decisions. Friederike Fabritius and Hans W. Hagemann, authors of “The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier,” explain how we develop that “gut feeling.” Intuitive decisions are driven by two structures in your brain: the basal ganglia and the insula. The basal ganglia are connected to movement and building habits. The insula, part of the cerebral cortex, becomes engaged when you experience pain, feel love, listen to music, or even enjoy a piece of chocolate. Neuroscientists believe the insula is responsible for self-awareness, particularly for recognizing changes in your body.

If the coin lands on heads and you feel relieved, then heads is the right choice. However, if the

coin lands on tails and you’re uncertain or want to flip again, then that’s your intuition saying the other option is the better choice. So, the next time you’re caught in a pickle, grab the nearest quarter and put your intuition to the test.

When you have to solve a problem, your basal ganglia start working on a solution, even if you aren’t consciously thinking

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