Archives for : February2013

F-Commerce/Social Commerce: Business Boom or Bust?

Facebook is often seen as a place where people check out pictures from the party of last weekend. But surprisingly, this social network is evolving into something more. That is a destination where airline tickets, soap and nappies can be bought as well. In this  regard, Levi’s, Procter & Gamble including Delta Airlines are just some of the increasing number of firms that are trying out building what is known as Facebook storefronts.

So what exactly is F-Commerce?

Well, F-commerce or Facebook commerce is a term used to describe the deployment of Facebook as a way to monetize social media. Now this is simply an aspect of the more familiar larger genre, which is known as social-commerce. In other words, consider f-commerce as sale made on the business pages of Facebook through the assistance of applications. By 2015, the f-commerce industry is projected by some analysts to be worth as much as US $30 billion.

With f-commerce there is no need for consumers to leave this social media site as long as their products as well as service are available here.  Also, it is possible for consumers to equally rate, review as well as share products through this commerce store-front.

Benefits to Shoppers

There are quite a number of benefits associated with f-commerce as far as the consumer is concerned. For one thing, he/she will not need to leave Facebook each time there is a need for a product or service that is available on this social media site. And, this might happen often as more and more people open accounts with Facebook with many of these people checking their Facebook pages on a daily basis. It is even estimated that on an average people spend as much as 28 minutes on this social media network.

Also, through Facebook one is able to get recommendations from friends regarding good products to buy as well as great services to patronize since this can be viewed through their walls. Generally, f-commerce makes Facebook a place where consumers can review, rate as well as share products.

Benefits to Companies

With f-commerce companies can gain a wider social following while creating more brand awareness as well as exposure. Some brands like Heinz have used f-commerce as a means of promoting limited editions of their products. Others have taken a different approach by publishing their entire product range on this platform. Now no matter which one they have chosen to do many have realized at the end of the day that getting onboard f-commerce has produced a positive result regarding their bottom-line.

F-commerce Success Tips for Businesses

Be sure that Facebook has your demographic.

Before taking your business to f-commerce please do confirm that your demographic is covered on Facebook. The fact is that this social media site provides businesses with the opportunity of specifically targeting age-groups as well as geography in a much different way that conventional marketing can’t do.

Be ready to seize opportunities.

With Facebook having more than 700 million users that are active, this place is obviously where any company or business should risk diving in. Also, be open as there are new opportunities that will present them selves here only if you are ready to seize them.

Incentivize sharing.

You should be prepared to encourage users in accessing your Facebook application. To do this, you will need to make use of an incentive since by so doing you will more likely get a positive response from them.

Request for feedback.

Asking your customers to honestly provide feedback as par what is working plus what is not can go a long way. It will even make them take your business more seriously.

Author Bio: Jason Phillips has a great experience at entrepreneurship. He comes to know about the benefits of f-commerce and then he used it at his business. He also offers order fulfillment services at his business Xpert Fulfilment.

Computer Repair or Replacement? Tips for Figuring Out What to Decide

There comes a time in every computer owner’s life when he or she must decide whether to hand over money for a computer repair or simply purchase a new system. With new computer costs declining, you may be wondering the same thing. The answer, of course, depends on your budget and the type of repair your computer needs. Below are some guidelines to help you make the right decision for your needs.

 

You Can’t Access Any of the Files

 

If you experience the mother of all crashes and can’t get your computer to turn on or start up correctly, take it to someone with experience in computer repair services. If you’re lucky, the expert can salvage your saved files and make a recommendation about how to proceed. In some instances, your computer may simply need a replacement part. However, keep in mind that data recovery can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

 

When all is lost, ask for a repair estimate and about the likelihood of other parts failing in the near future – particularly if you have an older system. If the cost to repair your computer is more than 50 percent of its original price, or if your machine is more than 5 years old, you may be better off with a new system – especially if it comes with a good warranty.

 

You Want an Upgrade

 

Whether you have computer envy or want to use the latest gadgets, the choice to upgrade or replace your system depends on its components. It’s not uncommon for new products to be incompatible with older computers. If this is the case, figure out the costs of the upgraded parts you’ll need. Then compare the cost of the upgrades with the cost of a new system. If the upgrades are more than 30 to 50 percent of the computer’s original cost (or if your system is 5 years old or older), a new computer may be best.

 

Your Computer Is Broken

 

Spills, overheating, cracked screens and drops are expensive to fix. The cost of the repair will depend on the extent of the damage. You’re most likely going to pay $300 to $500 for a “simple” repair. When deciding between repairing or replacing your system, consider the computer’s age, its general reliability, repair costs and the time (or cost) it would take to transfer your files and install software onto a new computer.

 

Deciding whether a computer repair is the best way to go can be tough. The good news is that many of the maladies a computer can experience are preventable with regular professional maintenance, common sense and care.

 

About The Author: This post was contributed by Jay Sigler, the co-owner and CEO of Happy Hamster Computers, the largest independently-owned computer store in Portland, Oregon. Jay was recently appointed business technology chair of the North and Northeast Business Association of Portland (NNEBA). Jay has a strong appreciation for customer focus and strives to provide genuinely helpful services to people and businesses.

The Application Market Boom: Hopes and Fears

Computer technology has evolved rapidly in recent years. The latest government statistics indicate that software engineers have grown to more than a million strong as people rush to fill an industry demand partly created by the proliferation of mobile devices and the intrinsic application market thereof. Though business applications are already well established as critical in the function of companies small and large alike, the deep foothold that cloud technology and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) have gained in the business world relatively quickly may have some wondering what kind of computing environment businesses will evolve into over the next decade.

Growing Technologies, Growing Markets

Gartner describes the future of IT in terms of a “nexus of forces” that will enhance business growth while driving the growth of each other. These include cloud computing, mobile, social, and big data technologies.

Of particular interest is the nexus of cloud and mobile. Cloud computing has already met with mobile technology in applications such as Dropbox, which offers storage of files as well as synchronization over multiple devices, mobile or otherwise. The cloud also promises to offer relief for mobile devices from applications’ demands of processing power, which has been a focal point for mobile device developers.

Many businesses have turned to Software as a Service (SaaS) for its low cost, efficiency, and lack of IT resource consumption. In 2011, Forrester predicted that the SaaS will reach $92 billion by 2016. According to Strategy Analytics, a large portion of the growth of the SaaS market can be accounted for in mobile applications as mobile device users are increasingly using their device for a number of business purposes, including email, file storage, calendars, note taking, customer relationship management, etc.

Growing Complications

With these applications becoming part of the business’ computing environment, IT management is faced with security and compatibility issues of a greater scope than it has previously dealt with. As application stacks are growing larger and more complex within businesses, the need for IT to have a good application deployment strategy becomes apparent. The more applications brought into an environment, the greater the potential for configuration changes to disrupt the function of other applications as well as compliance regulations to be violated.

As applications move through development and production, they often pass through several different teams, which often leaves the result less streamlined and compatible than IT would like. In a complex application stack, IT has to employ complex analytics that go deep into data to identify the source of a problem.

Growing Opportunity for Improvement

On the bright side, software developers are aware that easier integration of their product makes it more appealing to customers. Keeping the customers in mind is a good practice for developers, especially as computing seems to be in a paradigm shift that involves Gartner’s nexus of forces. Developers also stand to improve development processes using these technologies, cloud in particular.

The mobile application boom also stands to improve the quality of applications in all aspects of concern to IT and consumer alike as the sheer volume of applications being developed skyrockets, disheartening though that may be for those hoping to make money developing apps. Since the point of business applications is to make the business run more efficiently, thus more profitably, it stands to reason that in a growing app market, apps will be offered that are increasingly adapted to the specific goals of a variety of businesses.

The expansion of cloud and mobile technologies is too profitable to be ignored. The key to success over the next several years will be not only keeping up to speed with it, but also being prepared to mitigate the inherent risks and avoid becoming overwhelmed. The complexity of the situation may require careful leadership in order to find the right balance between these developing technologies as well as balance between their usefulness and their disruption of the existing environment.

About The Author: Arthur Nichols is a Systems Analyst with a passion for writing. His interest in computers began when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in a regulation chess tournament. When Arthur isn’t drawing up diagrams and flow charts, he writes for BMC, leading supplier of release management software.

The growth of the mobile wallet in 2013 & the impact on CRM systems

2013 looks set to be the year of mobile wallet technology, with major brands including McDonalds, Barclaycard and Visa announcing they will soon begin offering customers the opportunity to pay using this method. The user base is expected to rise significantly over the next year as knowledge and availability of this platform develops.

Speaking at the Westminster eForum event, Marc O’Brien, managing director of Visa UK & Ireland, revealed that Visa were working towards a “mainstream launch” of contactless and mobile payments in the UK with development proceeding alongside major banking and telecoms partners.

Though the technology was first introduced to the UK, Britain currently holds second place in Visa’s European footprint index of contactless payment uptake rates, behind Poland. However, Visa is planning a series of initiatives to boost the UK’s standing.

The marketing and communication of this technology will be crucial to its success and national brands such as Boots and Greggs have been cited as key to driving widespread adoption. In a recent ICM Research study of UK retailers, it was found that only 11 out of 26 high street stores provided contactless payment facilities. More significantly, only 3 stores from the research sample visibly promoted the use of this technology.

The impact on CRM systems

Mobile wallet technology provides retailers with the opportunity to automatically collect purchase history data and monitor individual customer preferences and purchasing habits. This data can then be incorporated with other powerful CRM data to build a comprehensive profile of each customer. This broad record of each individual customer could not only be used to inform customer service interactions, but could also enable improved profiling of consumers for the sake of promotional activities. For example, a customer who recently purchased a product in-store could then be directly targeted with offers on similar or new products through their mobile handset.

A key benefit of using contactless payments and mobile wallet technology systems is the ability to accurately monitor the success of these strategies and react to particular circumstances. Retailers will be able to identify which platforms are successful, target and segment offers to the individuals they want to attract, and tailor the customer shopping experience like never before.

Author: Dave Lee is the Marketing Manager at numero specialising in world-class multi-channel customer interaction management solutions.

Consumerization of Public Schools: Is BYOD a Viable Option for Learning? Many Questions Must Be Answered Before BYOD Becomes the Norm

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device—this phenomenon, now common to global business culture, is now seeping into educational institutions, and not just colleges and universities.

 

BYOD: A Cost Saving Measure

In 2013, more and more children in grades K-12 have access to technology like smartphones, laptops and tablets.  Thus, these students are able to bring and use their own devices for educational purposes throughout the school day.  Having recognized this many public schools have seen fit to begin asking parents to fund technology needs once provided by the schools themselves through governmental sources and technology grants.

For cash strapped schools in cash-strapped districts, like many other businesses worldwide faced with the trying economic climate, this means a substantial savings not only in the actual procurement of hardware but in the support of the products as well.  In turn, this saved expenditure can be directed toward other resources.

It also follows similar trends in the last decade where schools, faced with shortened budgets while still attempting to maintain programs, have asked parents to foot the bill for athletic, music, and other extracurricular activities once funded by the institution at no extra cost to the student.

However, in light of these developments schools will still be responsible for a great deal of materiel used in the education process, such the purchase of e-textbooks, applications and other online learning tools.

Education for the Future

For educators, BYOD seems a welcome addition to the learning environment, especially for general classroom situations outside of once limited, specialized computer lab times.

When combined with day to day classroom lessons mobile devices allow students access to myriad educational applications, instructional or informative videos and media, online research, digital education involving video creation and editing, word processing and desktop publishing, photography, etc. which can lend to the expansion and reinforcement of concepts and ideas being taught.

This approach, commonly referred to as “blended learning,” is said to be more engaging to the students of today, teaching them skills relevant to the 21st century and increasing learning and educational outcomes.

For students, being able to use their own familiar device both at home and at school is beneficial, allowing them access to each digital learning resource regardless of where they are.

Students + BYOD = Issues Both Great and Small

However, much like the plethora of issues faced by private enterprise as well as governmental agencies that have embraced BYOD schools also have their work cut out for them with regards to the consumerization of the learning environment.

At the top of the list is whether schools, already facing tight budgets, will have the ability to filter out the unending volumes of material sure to be deemed inappropriate for the school environment by administrators.  Another issue related to this includes finding consensus on just exactly what digital material fits this “inappropriate” designation and why.

Therefore, filtering software conforming to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) operating on wireless networks, as well as IT staff to oversee it, would have to be implemented, as likely would a district-wide ‘Best Practice’ protocol need to be developed to address issues sure to transpire in pursuance of BYOD as the practice grew.

For students, a broadened BYOD practice would likely result in the creation of policies pertaining to what is acceptable with regards to searching for information and/or bringing material deemed inappropriate into the school environment.  In turn the creation of a written document meant to be signed by the student would need to be drafted and developed, outlining the consequences associated with inappropriate searches, use of unsavory applications or engaging in playing games while in school.

But this is where things could delve into a litigious waters, as this would likely include not only the physical location of the institution itself but anywhere school-sanctioned activities take place, setting the stage for a great deal of legal wrangling as to what is acceptable where.

For example, would a student on a school-sanctioned DECA or athletic trip 100 miles from the school who downloads inappropriate material found offensive by other students be subject to the repercussions of what is outlined in the school’s ‘acceptable use’ policy?  Such questions are likely to come to fore as BYOD becomes more prevalent.

 

BYOD and Younger Students—A Sticky Wicket

A very common occurrence within the adult-dominated, business-based BYOD culture is the issue of lost/misplaced devices.  This also sheds light on the need for schools to initiate proper encryption and other safety measures in the event that this happens with students.

For students of all ages, let alone those in lower grades, keeping track of expensive, easy to lose (and be stolen) devices is likely to become an issue.  Thus, additional protocols pertaining to this potential eventuality would also need to be developed and implemented.

 

Stressful Economic Times for Schools and Families Alike

Perhaps one of the most pressing questions surrounding the consumerization of public schools is the issue surrounding those students who are simply unable to afford not only the expensive mobile device itself but the monthly fees associated with them.  In similar instances in the past civic groups, school-based organizations like the PTA, and local businesses have picked up the slack for children in need to allow them the same opportunities as other students.

But what if these resources remain unattainable and the charitable giving is simply absent, a very real concern?  It would take a lot of bake sales, car-washes and popcorn drives in order to provide the same technological resources for all students continuously throughout a school year.

Thus, what is seemingly a viable option on paper may do little else but widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t, lending to increased inequality within the realm of education and again laying the groundwork for legal recourse to level the playing field, something most schools can ill afford.

Therefore, additional courses of action must be addressed before BYOD becomes a reality to any extent in public schools.

However, once the planning and policy writing is completed and the IT infrastructure in place students may certainly bring their own technology into the school environment to allow for all that technology-driven learning may provide.  Perhaps one day this dream will be realized to its full extent.  Until then regular chalkboards and paper books may have to suffice.

 

About The Author: Roger Firman is a blogger and business tech enthusiast who spends his time writing about the advancement of technology in the workplace. He writes for Tech Toolbox, a company who specializes in active directory management tools.

Geek Management 101: The Differences Between Network and Systems Administrators, and Tips for Managing Them

Managing IT professionals, aka “IT pros,” aka “Geeks,” can be a challenging endeavor without an understanding of how they operate. The Geek ethos is very unique, and as such, sometimes it takes a slightly different management approach to get the best from your Geeks.

To get a better understanding of IT pros, SolarWinds recently conducted a survey  of 801 systems and network administrators from across the United States. Results of the survey show several key differences between U.S. network and systems administrators:

  • Responsibility and compensation: Network administrators have a wider range of responsibilities, and thus more decision-making power than systems administrators. As a result, 54 percent of network administrators responded that they make final IT decisions in their organizations, compared with just six percent of systems administrators. Not surprisingly, then, the survey found that network administrators make an average of $87,000 per year compared to $78,000 on average for systems administrators.
  • Split frustrations: Systems administrators listed their top work frustrations as too little pay followed by increasing workloads. Network administrators, however, listed not having enough budget first, followed by too little pay.
  • Ambitions: Forty-three percent of network administrators see themselves as an IT department head in five years, and 17 percent see themselves as CIO. Similarly, 39 percent of systems administrators see themselves as IT department head. However, only five percent see themselves as CIO. Also notable is that 19 percent of network administrators say they will cross over to systems management, while 23 percent of systems administrators plan to switch job roles and become network administrators within five years.

The findings also revealed striking similarities between network administrators and systems administrators in overall job satisfaction, optimism, experience and loyalty.

When it comes to effectively managing these two groups, the survey provides insight into the unique demands and rewards of their jobs, which managers in all functions of a business (not just IT managers) should keep in mind to strike a balance of workplace harmony and efficiency. To help utilize the survey results as a means for appropriately managing IT pros, here are some tips based on feedback from the Geeks:

Geeks said: Approximately 70 percent of both network administrators and systems administrators from the U.S. believe that their company does not understand what they do, or the value they bring to the organization.

Management tip #1: Do pet the Geeks. IT pros often toil for hours on critical work that’s completely invisible, and therefore often regarded by management as low priority. As a manager, ask your Geek to tell you about a challenging project they worked on that few people know about. When they discuss how their work resulted in an improved end-user experience, be sure to thank them for sticking with it. As with all type of workers, a simple “thanks” goes a long way.

Geeks said: Too many things to do in the available time and an ever-increasing workload are among the top job frustrations for both network and systems administrators.

Management tip #2: Make wise use of your Geek’s time. Sometimes it’s reassuring to have a smart guy in the room, but the work that keeps your IT department humming often requires considerable attention. “Task switching overhead” is a productivity killer for Geeks, especially when the new task is on another wavelength, such as talking to another department. Being a Geek in crazy meetings is fun.  Being there when you really have stuff to do is not!

Geeks said: Just 32 percent of network and systems administrators strongly believe they are adequately trained in new technology skills to do their job. In addition, less than half of IT pros believe they “always” or “usually” have the necessary budget and monetary resources to perform their jobs properly.

Management tip #3: Empower Geeks to do their jobs. Make sure your Geeks have access to training resources such as books, classes and online resources. Also helpful is access to tools like software, hardware and devices that make their jobs easier, more efficient, and ultimately more effective. Not only will training and access to the proper tools avoid overtime expenses and allow IT pros to spend their valuable time on other projects, but it will also improve morale.

Geeks said: Solving problems, helping users and thinking on their feet are listed as the top three most enjoyable aspects of systems administrators’ jobs. Solving problems and helping users were also listed first and second for network administrators, but getting to work new technologies rounded out their top three.

Management tip #4: Geeks value autonomy and the rewarding feeling that comes with implementing solutions and solving problems. Give Geeks space to do what they love and your organization will reap the benefits. Challenge them to do decision analyses and make final recommendations for solutions, and be able to justify those recommendations with technical and business reasons.

Geeks said: Despite the many similarities when it comes to managing network administrators and systems administrators, they can be quite different when it comes to their extracurricular activities and entertainment choices. For example, network administrators are more likely to own a classic car than their systems administrator counterparts. Both network and systems administrators spend their free time unwinding at home with friends and family. However, network administrators are more inclined toward athletic activities and playing competitive sports. Xbox is the preferred gaming platform, but systems administrators are more likely not be to be gamers at all.

Management tip #5: Geeks are unique! One of the most effective ways to manage your Geeks is to get to know them. You may find that while many Geeks DO love things associated with “Geek Culture” (Call of Duty marathon, anyone?), you probably have more in common with them than you think!

It’s also worthy of being said that these tips are not exclusive of one another. There is an inter-relationship among these ideas and any one tip can feed the health of another. For example, encouraging autonomy also builds managerial skills. Building a business case for a technology solution fosters value of the Geek to the organization, and affords the opportunity for recognition outside of the IT department. Everybody benefits from those results!

About The Author: Lawrence Garvin is a Head Geek and technical product marketing manager at SolarWinds, a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and an eight-time consecutive recipient of the Microsoft MVP award in recognition for his contributions to the Microsoft TechNet WSUS forum

How Secure is your Business’s Data?

It’s impossible to put a price on data. Businesses are entrusted with all sorts of personal details and legal information, all of which needs to be stored safely – sometimes for a number of years. Now, if that data was to be lost, stolen or corrupted in some way, well, that could be quite costly indeed.

So what is the Solution?

Well, you need to employ safeguards. If your files are being stored digitally, this means protecting the data through firewalls and online security. In the case of physical documentation, you need to be doubly careful, particularly if you only keep single copies of each file; this means locking them away in secure filing cabinets or outsourcing to a storage management company.

But all the safeguards in the world can’t always protect you or your data. The more copies you produce, the more risk you create. However, if you only keep a single copy of an important document and it’s lost in a file, you won’t be able to get it back. This is why businesses need to be able to evaluate their needs and the risks they face before deciding on a solution.

Dangers Associated with Digital Files

If your business prefers to store all data and information within a network, or even in the cloud, then you have to take proper precautions. This means providing ample protection from viruses, rogue employees, malware and accidental deletion. Of course you also need to back-up the data, particularly if you don’t have physical copies stored elsewhere. Otherwise, one destroyed hard drive or network server and you could have a whole lot of explaining to do.

Then of course there are the various security issues that need to be addressed. Which systems are you going to implement in order to prevent hackers gaining access to secure files, or stop malware infesting computers within your network and even to stop staff gaining access to sensitive data? While back-ups and physical copies can reduce the risk of loss, they do little to protect against loss. Every possibility needs to be evaluated. Whether this is done in-house or through a security expert is entirely up to you.

Ensuring a Physical Document is Never Lost

Whether your business maintains a long-term archive or you need to keep permanent records of customers and clients, you will often find that you accumulate a substantial amount of paperwork. If this includes sensitive data, then you have a duty to keep it secure. But while storing it all behind lock and key might deter some potential thieves, it can’t prevent damage from fire or flooding.

The sheer mass of documentation in itself can cause problems, particularly in an environment where space is at a premium. As well as costing valuable floor space, there is also more to protect – all of which can be expensive. This is why many businesses choose to simply outsource their document storage to a private firm. As well as securing the data, it can also prove cost effective where you’re paying a premium price for office floorspace.

Reducing Risk through Prevention

While you can never entirely eliminate the possibility of an accident or an act of malicious intent, there are plenty of things that you can do to reduce the risk. Data is now very much a commodity and one which money alone can’t always replace, which is why prevention is better than cure. Here are just a few things you should be doing:

  • Network Security – if you store data on a network, it is imperative that you have effective protection in place across all servers and other access points. You need to protect against malware as well as hackers, so be vigilant and seek expert advice where necessary.
  • Back-ups – Corrupted files can spell disaster, particularly if you don’t have another copy. Most businesses now employ near real-time back-ups of all essential digital documents, but if you’re not doing so currently, now might be a good time to start.
  • Shredding Redundant Documentation – What might seem like trivial forms and documents to you could prove extremely valuable to a data thief. So if you’ve got official documentation that no longer serves a purpose, make sure that it is shredded and safely destroyed. You can either do this yourself or use a professional service to do it on your behalf.
  • Disaster Recovery – Plan for every eventuality.

So while nothing may be entirely water tight, there are plenty of security processes that any business can implement. All you need to do is establish where the risks are and find a solution in each case.

 

This article was provided by Secure Data Management
Ltd, who provide a range of document storage, shredding and scanning services for businesses in and around London.

The US’ Sectoral Approach to Data Protection

Computing and the internet have completely revolutionized human life over the last twenty-five years, expanding our horizons and changing the way we work, play and learn. While the new epoch of readily-available information is, by and large, a positive force, there are some concerns that should be addressed, especially as technology seems to be leading us more and more into a situation where our information, whether personal or business, is stored in the Cloud. The

Cloud is in ‘cyberspace’, made up of hundreds of powerful processing servers, accessible from anywhere at any time. The problem arises with the realization that these servers are based in countries all over the world, from Europe to Asia to the US. How can current Data Protection laws be applied to a European country when the data is physically in the USA? And does the USA’s Patriot Act of 2001 trump the EU Data Protection Directive in those cases?
At present, the EU has the above Data Protection Act, which is agreed upon and enforced by member countries.

Currently the Act is under review to take into account the globalisation of information storage, the speedy and wide coverage of social networks (the recent so-called ‘Twittergate’ scandals have shown the need for revision of rules and regulations on this media) and possible future technological developments. The US does not have one comprehensive data protection policy covering the country as a whole, rather relying on self-regulation by companies, and the enactment of laws as they are deemed necessary, as in the cases of the 2010 Massachusetts’ Data Privacy regulations, the Cable Television Protection and Competition Act of 1992, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act and others. This multiple, apply-as-needed, approach is known as a ‘sectoral’ approach. It is believed that Barack Obama’s administration is likely to be giving serious consideration to implementing a nationwide data protection and privacy policy across the entire United States in the upcoming months. How the two systems have come to be so widely different requires a quick look at the history books.

In America, people are lauded and celebrated for their different backgrounds and overcoming hardship and stigma, and the US Constitution allows the people many freedoms; freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of speech – an explicit ‘permission’ to do what makes them happy. These permissions are removed or amended as they turn out to impose upon other citizen’s rights, hence the willy-nilly enactment of laws as they become necessary.

Europe, on the other hand (from which many early US citizens fled, let us remember) suffered horrendous abuses at the hands of tyrannical regimes who discriminated against, and tried to exterminate, entire nationalities or religions, based only on skin-colour, faith or other criteria of that regime’s choosing.

As a result, European people and governments tend to be very protective about keeping information secure, and out of the hands of those who will use it improperly.

There is a structure by which European regulations seem to be covered, even though the information is being stored on US territory, and this is Safe Harbour, a self-assurance given by US data storage companies, declaring that they adhere to the EU Data Protection regulations. However, the US Patriot Act may trump Safe Harbour.

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, in full, was enacted shortly after 9/11 and involved allowing law enforcement agencies much greater access to medical records, communications (both telephone and email) and financial transactions with the express aim of tracking terrorist activities, hopefully in time to prevent other such attacks.

However, the Patriot Act has been the subject of many complaints already; it has been cited in 1618 cases, but of those, only 15 were found to relate to terrorism. Microsoft was forced to admit that the Patriot Act would trump Safe Harbour, and that any information stored on their US servers would be subject to examination should the Patriot Act be called into play.

When setting up a Cloud account or using any form of off-site data storage, it is vital to ask the questions to find out exactly where data will be stored, and who will have access, or be granted access and under what conditions. Many sites advise that companies should only use off-site storage for non-sensitive information, until stronger guidelines have been implemented.

About The Author: Robert Dean has worked in the confidential shredding industry for several years and believes in the importance of data security and taking adequate steps to prevent data loss. He currently works for The Shredding Alliance.