Latest blog entries | MA | Automation Concepts & Technologies https://www.actco.com/blog Wed, 20 Jun 2018 13:13:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Getting to Know Technology: Processor https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/getting-to-know-technology-processor https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/getting-to-know-technology-processor Getting to Know Technology: Processor

A computer is a complicated device, so it needs something to help it “think.” Because of this weighty responsibility, the component that serves this purpose is arguably one of the most important of all a computer’s pieces. Known as a CPU, this little chip is truly essential to the computer’s function. For today’s Tech Term, we’ll examine it a little more closely.

What Does a CPU Do?
A CPU, or central processing unit, sits atop the motherboard and decodes the instructions that it receives from the RAM, or Random Access Memory, before sending these instructions to the appropriate components of the computer. Whether you’re accessing a document from your computer’s local memory or even starting up the operating system, your CPU is playing a key role.

This is not to say that a better CPU necessarily translates into better performance, mind you. What it will do is help your programs, applications, and system-as-a-whole run faster. Other beneficial effects require other components to be improved.

How Does the CPU Work?
The CPU has worked in essentially the same way since it was first introduced. Its function can be effectively split into three distinct tasks: fetch, decode, and execute.

  • Fetch - First, the CPU receives its instructions from the RAM in the form of a series of numbers. These instructions are small portions of the greater operation that the computer is performing. As the CPU receives each instruction, it is stored in what is called an Instruction Register.
  • Decode - Once the instruction is stored, it is sent to a specialized circuit, referred to as the instruction decoder. The decoder translates the instruction into actionable signals to the rest of the CPU.
  • Execute - Finally, the instruction is forwarded to the part of the CPU that can enable it to be completed. This final version is also written to the memory on the CPU register, so it can be quickly accessed later.

Choosing Your Next CPU
If you’re considering an upgrade, switching your CPU for a better one can be an effective way to improve some aspects of your computer’s performance. A good rule of thumb to remember: the more cores, the better. While the earliest CPUs only had one, the latest go all the way up to 18 cores and beyond. Most modern PCs have two to four cores.

Of course, you should also consider other factors when selecting a CPU. For instance, you may have heard the terms “32-bit” or “64-bit” tossed around in reference to CPUs. This determines the size of the data sample that the processor can handle. Frequency is another variable you should keep in mind, as it refers to the operating speed of the processor itself. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility for a faster dual-core CPU to outpace a slower quad-core. On top of all of this, your computer’s motherboard might only support a limited number of CPUs on the market.

Want Help?
For assistance and consultation into upgrading your systems, the trustworthy technicians at Automation Concepts & Technologies are here for you. Call (508) 285-5080 for assistance.

]]>
BMcCafferty@actco.com (Brian McCafferty) Best Practices Wed, 20 Jun 2018 12:30:17 +0000
What You Need to Know About the Growing FinTech Market https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-growing-fintech-market https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-growing-fintech-market What You Need to Know About the Growing FinTech Market

Money needs to move in order for the economy to work. Traditionally, banks are the major lending institutions, and as a result have to adhere to a myriad of regulations. To provide an equitable system that people aren’t afraid to utilize, there are a lot of checks and balances that have put in place by the bank and regulators, alike. Today, there is growth of what are called marketplace lenders (MPLs) that are changing the way people (and organizations) can access capital and it is fueled by what is referred to as FinTech, or financial technology. Today, we will take a short look at FinTech and how it is changing the way we manage, borrow, pay, see, and use money.

While the banking institutions have to deal with stringent lending regulations, MPLs are relatively new, and use what is known as FinTech (financial technology) to lend, collect, and distribute the capital they have. Consumers are starting to catch on, and in all, over $7 trillion is at risk of being displaced from the financial services market as a result of the growth of these organizations. MPLs are in an advantageous position because they are in a position where they utilize modern technology which insulate them from runaway systemic risk inherent in non-regulated financial transactions. Today, legislators are trying to figure out ways to regulate these organizations that won’t necessarily hinder their ability to innovate, but will work to keep them from taking advantage of consumers.

What is FinTech?
FinTech is technology used to track and manage finances. Your credit card, your PayPal account, and your personal account dashboard on your bank’s website is all FinTech. Using technology for finances isn’t new, but like many other technologies that have advanced as hardware and software improvements have been made, it’s just being repurposed outside of the traditional banking structure. FinTech today covers a whole lot of ground. So while banks have been doing this for a long time MPLs are backed with enough VC to start a small country and that capital allows these organizations to invest like no independent companies have been able to before. It often provides nice returns for a lot of investors. So while it is an affront to the banks, investors aren’t having to limit their sights to banks for financial services.

Nowadays, most of the money is flowing through asset managers who are taking the capital that is entrusted to them by investors and investing it in non-traditional ways through technology. Defining FinTech can be a challenge in itself as the language differs substantially depending on where the company operates and what type of lending facility it is being used for, but as far as the need to adhere to federal regulations, new FinTech models present gray areas that are likely going to have to be addressed at local or state levels as regulations haven’t been implemented yet. Federal investigators have been looking at the sector for much of the past five years. So while the traditional banking structures are threatened by these restrictions on what they can and can’t do with the capital, the new marketplace lenders have been able to do more with less.

Payday Loans
Independent lenders have been around forever. Tales around the shylock that will come and pay people a visit if you don’t pay their bookie are all over the culture. One lending organization that has been very controversial is the payday loan market. In essence a person that needs fast money can take out a short-term, high-interest loan. If they pay it back by the next paycheck, no harm, no foul, the lender takes its small fee and everyone is happy.

The bad things start happening when they can’t pay the whole loan back on time. Once the loan is past due, it is basically renewed with interest added. Most of the people that will utilize this service need a couple hundred dollars quick and can’t wait until their next paycheck. If the borrower can’t pay, they are making a situation that was already dire, much, much worse. These loans have been outlawed in several U.S. states for their predatory nature, but in the places that haven’t outlawed them, they are seeing new challenges in the form of FinTech lenders.

FinTech lenders like LendUP and Elevate are now seeking to disrupt the payday lending industry by offering people who are in need of small, short-term loans, money on dramatically different terms. The biggest difference is that instead of resorting to heavy-handed, predatory tactics, they work with borrowers so they don’t get in too deep. So while the payday loans may have been convenient for the borrower, one misstep would put them up against it--the new FinTech model is helping people rebuild their credit through data driven analysis.

What FinTech services do you currently use? Would you recommend one to others? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

]]>
BMcCafferty@actco.com (Brian McCafferty) Automation Concepts & Technologies Blog Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:30:14 +0000
Your IT is Your Business’ Health... We Can Help Take Care of It https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/your-it-is-your-business-health-we-can-help-take-care-of-it https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/your-it-is-your-business-health-we-can-help-take-care-of-it Your IT is Your Business’ Health... We Can Help Take Care of It

Uh oh - your critical business systems are acting up again, and you aren’t sure what’s causing the problem. Fortunately, you aren’t caught up in this alone. There are those that can help you, just like a doctor would if you were ill. However, instead of calling your healthcare provider, you want to call a managed services provider.

When you don’t feel well, or something’s wrong, you visit the doctor’s office. They examine you, diagnose the problem, and prescribe a solution. This process has been in place for millennia. Much more recently, it was also adopted by a very different sector: the information technology industry.

When most people think about IT, their thoughts turn to a few stereotypes. They either think about the predictable phone calls to tech support that take forever and feel like they do little to move the recovery process along, or they think about the technician who comes in to repair something onsite, making a huge mess and causing a distraction. Naturally, this has made many business owners and users loath to call in IT services, preferring to make do as best they can with what they have. More often than not, this doesn’t end well for the business.

This phenomenon has led to a shift in the IT service industry that is now possible thanks to the improved technology we have today and the capabilities it provides us. Now, instead of trying to fix a problem after the fact, we work to avoid the problem in the first place.

Think about how many doctors spend a good portion of their office hours - it isn’t performing complicated surgeries and procedures on their patients. More often, it is spent checking up on their patients to make sure they’re remaining healthy. IT services now emulate this approach, saving everyone time and money by catching issues early.

This approach is referred to as managed services, and in many ways, it works even better for your IT than it does for your physical health.

For a predictable monthly fee, your technology is kept under the careful watch of your provider. This managed service provider, or MSP, can not only monitor your infrastructure remotely, they can often take action remotely to resolve the issue before it actually has an effect on your business’ operations. If that isn’t an option, your MSP can send out a technician to discreetly assist you at your location - much like a doctor making a house call would.

Also, just as a doctor can proactively prescribe scripts to be refilled, your MSP can proactively review and update your existing solutions to further improve your technology experience.

When you really consider it, a doctor’s purpose is to assist us in living as effectively as we can, despite the circumstances. Your MSP’s purpose is to do the same for your business’ efficacy by caring for your solutions. Reach out to Automation Concepts & Technologies to find out how else an MSP’s services could potentially benefit your business, and maybe even schedule an appointment for your next check-up. Call (508) 285-5080 today.

]]>
BMcCafferty@actco.com (Brian McCafferty) Automation Concepts & Technologies Blog Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:30:55 +0000
Tip of the Week: Using Microsoft Word to Edit a PDF Document https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/tip-of-the-week-using-microsoft-word-to-edit-a-pdf-document https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/tip-of-the-week-using-microsoft-word-to-edit-a-pdf-document In case you’re looking for a nice alternative PDF file-editing software, the most recent version of Microsoft Word can do so. Since the investment for Adobe Acrobat isn’t for everyone, you can instead turn to the tried-and-true all-purpose word processing software to edit your PDF files.

Open the PDF
The first step is to open up your PDF. You can do this by opening up Microsoft Word and selecting Open Other Documents from the menu to your left.

_ib_word_pdf_1.jpg

You should see the Open menu. In this, click on Browse.

_ib_word_pdf_2.jpg

Another message should appear informing you that Word will convert the PDF to an editable Word document. If you’re fine with this, click on OK.

_ib_word_pdf_3.jpg

You should see the PDF open up in Word. Before you can make any edits, you’ll have to disable protected view. Word opens up these documents in protected view because they could potentially be infected with malware or other threats. If you trust this document, you can click on Enable Editing to start making changes.

_ib_word_pdf_4.jpg

Once you’ve done this, you’ll get another notification that shows you that Word will convert the PDF into a Word document. Just click on the checkbox or click OK to close this message.

_ib_word_pdf_5.jpg

You can now edit your PDF.

_ib_word_pdf_6.jpg

After you make your edits, you need to convert it back to a PDF format. You can do this by selecting File > Save As and setting the type to PDF via the dropdown menu under the file name. You should rename the document slightly as well before saving it in a file folder.

_ib_word_pdf_7.jpg

Once you’re finished, the edited PDF should open up in your default PDF viewer, whether it’s Microsoft Edge or another program.

_ib_word_pdf_8.jpg

What are some other Microsoft Word features that you want us to investigate? Just let us know in the comments.

]]>
BMcCafferty@actco.com (Brian McCafferty) Automation Concepts & Technologies Blog Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:30:41 +0000
How to Compose a Successful Business Continuity Plan https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/how-to-compose-a-successful-business-continuity-plan https://www.actco.com/blog/entry/how-to-compose-a-successful-business-continuity-plan How to Compose a Successful Business Continuity Plan

If you don’t consider the worst-case scenario when preparing your business’ disaster recovery strategy, you’ll inevitably suffer from it when it does happen. Taking into account all of these nuances is one of the main ways your organization can prepare for such an occasion. All of these instances need to be considered when putting together your organization’s business continuity plan. We’ll discuss some of the major parts of it, and why they are crucial.

To make sure that your business continuity plan is as effective as possible, you’ll want to be comprehensive. If you’re not, chances are that a disaster will still cause issues for you, whether it’s data loss or an inability to access important applications. A complete business continuity plan will consider the following information:

  • Threat Matrix: What kind of threats will your business be targeted by? This shouldn’t be limited to just simple threats that can be prevented with little-to-no effort. You should consider all threats, from the smallest viruses to the most devastating vulnerabilities. Treat each and every one of these possible threats as major problems that need to be addressed in some way.
  • Critical Processes: The next step is to identify what your workflows are and who is accomplishing them. What processes does your business absolutely need to keep going in a worst-case scenario? You should be able to both identify these and ensure that they can happen with minimal interruption.
  • Command Chain: Who are your mission-critical personnel? Who is in charge in the event of a disaster? You should designate someone as the leader in these situations and make sure that everyone knows it. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of chaos taking over.
  • Employee Safety and Evacuation: Employees are essential to the success of your business. If you don’t take their safety into consideration, you could be risking the future of your business. You should have an evacuation plan in place to keep them safe.
  • Communication Plan and Contact Information: If you experience a disaster, everyone involved with your company will want to know. You should inform them of what’s happening and give them a timeframe for how long you suspect it to last. You should also have a plan in place to update them on major developments during this time.
  • Backup Processes and Location: Do you have an off-site location where operations can continue uninterrupted? Is your data being backed up to an off-site location where it can be safe from external factors? In the event your office and internal data infrastructure is destroyed, you’ll want to have both of these to keep your organization going.
  • Inventory and Infrastructure: Your business’ infrastructure is full of moving parts. This includes hardware and software. You’ll need to make sure that any and all assets that your organization takes advantage of are accounted for. Having an inventory helps you assess a loss scenario when it comes time to order replacements or file insurance claims.
  • End of Incident Criteria: You should have clearly defined terms that determine when your business is outside the realm of a disaster incident. You can start by creating a list of conditions that need to be fulfilled before declaring that your organization is no longer suffering from an incident. This keeps you from beginning the recovery process prematurely, potentially causing more damage in the long run.
  • Post-Incident Debriefing: Once you’re in the clear, you should take some time to determine why the incident happened and how it could have been prevented. Consider ways that you can improve processes and reduce damage the next time something like this happens (and yes, there will always be a next time). You should put together a questionnaire for all of your contacts so that you can get objective feedback regarding the disaster scenario.

Does your business need a business continuity plan? Automation Concepts & Technologies can help. To learn more, reach out to us at (508) 285-5080.

]]>
BMcCafferty@actco.com (Brian McCafferty) Automation Concepts & Technologies Blog Mon, 11 Jun 2018 12:30:44 +0000