It’s Tech Thursday from Smallbiztechnology.com. Each week we take a quick look at recent small business and technology news and updates for the small business community and share them with you in a quick and simple round-up.
Windows 8.1 Available Now
Brings together a unique and personal experience across the broadest range of devices.
Microsoft Corp. today announced the global availability of Windows 8.1, a feature-rich update to its popular Windows 8 operating system, enabling customers to create experiences that keep pace with their lives — at work, at home or on the go. Beginning Oct. 17, consumers with a Windows 8 device in more than 230 markets and 37 languages can download the free update via the online Windows Store. Windows 8.1 will also be available on new devices and as boxed software starting Oct. 18 at retail locations around the world.
Windows 8.1 evolves the Windows vision for highly personalized computing while showcasing Microsoft’s continued commitment to rapid and responsive development. It marks a wave of new, innovative devices coming for consumers and businesses — from the convenience and mobility of tablets and 2-in-1s to the productive experience expected from laptops, all-in-ones and specialized industry devices. Many of these new devices are touch-enabled and will deliver advancements in processing power, battery life and design, across a range of price points.
Windows 8.1 offers a host of increased customization refinements and functional improvements, including the following:
- Highly personal. An improved and more customizable Start screen offers variable tile sizes, more background designs and colors so each Windows device looks unique and personal to the individual. In addition, customers can choose how to start their Windows experience — at the Start screen or directly in the familiar Windows desktop — while all their Windows devices stay in sync with their Microsoft account.
- More familiar and easy to navigate. As an iconic part of the Windows experience, Windows 8.1 brings back the Start button as a familiar point of navigation. An updated apps view lets users see all their apps at once for easy access and new clicks and cues, as well as a Help + Tips app that gets them up to speed quickly.
- Enhanced search. The new Bing Smart Search provides the easiest way to find what users need on the device or on the Web in one beautiful and easy consolidated view that’s built for touch. Simply swipe or type from the Start screen, and Smart Search will find it — whether it’s a document on a PC, a photo album on SkyDrive, a favorite app, a song from Xbox Music or a website.
- Wide range of apps and services from the Start. Windows 8.1 is the most complete out-of-the-box experience. It offers a range of apps and services from the Start screen, allowing customers to quickly and easily do the things they love on Windows, such as catching up with friends and family via Skype, emailing effortlessly in the Mail app, watching movies and TV shows on Xbox Video, finding new recipes with the Bing Food & Drink app, or listening to free streaming music via Xbox Music. Windows 8.1 also comes with the new Internet Explorer 11, which is fast, fluid and perfect for touch. Internet Explorer 11 brings enhanced touch performance, speed boosts, and synchronized browsing history, favorites and settings across all Windows 8.1 devices. Windows 8.1 also provides native support for 3-D printing, meaning it will have plug-and-play support for 3-D printers, enable apps to seamlessly print 3-D jobs and understand 3-D file formats.
- The best for multitasking and productivity. Windows 8.1 includes the display and use of up to four apps side by side, flexible windows sizing for each app on the screen, the ability for one app to launch another app, and improved multimonitor support so users can view the desktop or apps from the Windows Store on any or all monitors.
- Deep cloud integration with SkyDrive. Windows 8.1 makes it easier than ever to work from anywhere and know that files are always accessible — across devices and locations. With SkyDrive, users can create, edit, save and share files anywhere, anytime, on whatever device they’re using.
- A beautifully redesigned Windows Store. The new design of the Windows Store improves how great apps are showcased and makes it easier for customers to get the apps they want. Fresh layouts and categories, such as New & Rising, make it easier to stay up to date on the hottest new entries to explore. Personalized recommendations use the Bing advanced recommendation and relevance system to help find new favorites. And with Windows 8.1, apps are updated automatically by default, so users always have the newest and best version of any app, such as Fresh Paint, which now includes watercolor, a new graphite pencil set and a new clean, modern user interface for the latest painting or drawing creations. New and updated apps are also continually being delivered to the Windows Store, including Evernote, Facebook for Windows 8.1, Hulu Plus, Adobe Photoshop Express, eBay, Netflix and NOOK.
Customers can go to http://www.windows.com/shop to learn about the wide variety of new Windows devices available now and throughout the holiday season to find the one that best fits their needs and budgets. More information about Windows 8.1 is at http://blogs.windows.com andhttp://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news.
IBHS Launches Free Online Continuity Planning Tool For Small Businesses
New online tool from IBHS will guide business owners through a streamlined process to help them quickly recover after a disaster
As the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has launched a free, online version of its popular business continuity planning toolkit, OFB-EZ™ (Open For Business-EZ). This streamlined program guides users through an easy process to create a recovery plan that will help even the smallest business recover and re-open quickly after a disaster.
“OFB-EZ Online, our newest free tool for small business owners, continues IBHS’ commitment to helping create stronger, safer, more resilient communities,” said Gail Moraton, business resiliency manager, IBHS. “As a web-based program, OFB-EZ offers business owners the convenience and confidence of developing and storing their business plan in a secure, third-party location on IBHS’ Disaster Safety website.”
“Users create a free, password-protected account and then work through the online modules in the toolkit at their convenience. The program saves all of the user’s information on the website for easy access at any time and from any location,” explained Moraton.
OFB-EZ™ Online includes several components, such as:
- evaluation checklists to help business users understand their risks
- business continuity best practices and resources
- forms for users to enter and store important contact information for employees, key customers, suppliers, and vendors; and
- a tabletop exercise for business owners to conduct with their employees to test their plan
Additional supplements will be added to the program in 2014, including a disaster response checklist, recovery location planning, and a property protection checklist.
For more on this new tool from IBHS, click here.
Chase To Awared $3 Million to Small Businesses Through Mission Main StreetsSM Grants; Premier Sponsor Google Provides Special Advertising Offer
Mission Main StreetSM Grants Demonstrates Chase’s Commitment to Helping Small Businesses Grow
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to small business, Chase today launched Mission Main StreetSM Grants, a program that will award 12 grants of $250,000 to small businesses across America. All businesses that apply for a grant and meet the eligibility requirements will gain access to a Social Media Toolkit and receive a special advertising offer from Premier Sponsor, Google. In addition, the 12 grant recipients will be eligible to receive a trip to Google for an exclusive small business marketing workshop with Google experts and a Google Chromebook Pixel computer.
Now through October 31, any for-profit business that has been engaged in current business activity for at least two consecutive years, has less than 100 year-round,
full-time employees and meets all other eligibility requirements may apply. Businesses must receive at least 250 votes to be eligible for a grant. Full eligibility requirements are available here.
“Small businesses inspire us every day, and Mission Main Street Grants is just one way that Chase can say ‘thank you’ for all that small businesses do in their local communities and across the country,” said Donna Vieira, head of marketing and product for Chase Business Banking. “Chase’s commitment to small business is a long term investment through products, services and Mission Main Street Grants, so small businesses can take big steps for their business and community.”
To help drive small business participation, Chase garnered the support of a diverse group of organizations with a passion for small business. Having long-standing relationships with Chase, these organizations will each also provide one representative to participate on the panel of judges.
The 12 grant recipients will be selected by expert panelists, including:
- Ali Brown, entrepreneur mentor and CEO, Ali International
- David C. Chavern, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- Marco De Leon, Vice President, Government Affairs & Policy, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- Mark Garzone, Senior Vice President, Marketing, National Federation of Independent Business
- Jon Kaplan, Vice President, US Sales & Operations, Google Inc.
- Joset Wright-Lacy, President, National Minority Supplier Development Council
- Chance Mitchell, CEO & Co-Founder, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
- Marc H. Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League
- J.P. Torres, PR & Communications Director, U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation
- Len Vermillion, Media Manager, National Veteran Owned Business Association
- Donna Vieira, head of marketing and product for Chase Business Banking
- Candace Waterman, Chief of Staff, Certification & Program Operations, Women Business Enterprise National Council
“Small businesses employ millions across the country, and continue to be a driving force in our nation’s economic recovery,” said David Chavern, the Chamber’s executive
vice president and chief operating officer. “Small businesses take risks and drive innovation, and we are proud to support Chase in recognizing the important role they play in our economy.”
Mission Main StreetSM Grants recipients will be announced in January 2014. For more on this story, click here.
Neat and Microsoft Announce New Strategic Partnership
Neat to Integrate Microsoft SkyDrive into NeatConnect, Industry’s First Direct-to-Cloud Scanner
Neat®, a leader in Digital Filing Systems for the small business and consumer markets, today announced a partnership with SkyDrive, a leading cloud storage service. Neat will integrate SkyDrive into NeatConnect allowing users to scan documents directly to SkyDrive without the need for a computer. The partnership will significantly enhance Neat’s direct-to-cloud capabilities for its latest offering, NeatConnect, and enable SkyDrive to further its leadership position in cloud storage by providing customers a seamless method to transform paper into digital documents that are always with them. NeatConnect debuted as the first wireless scanner to include direct scan-to-cloud functionality featuring an integrated touchscreen interface.
This collaboration represents Neat and SkyDrive’s commitment to provide their customers with solutions that make it easy to access and share their paper and digital documents and manage their important information in the cloud. The scan-to-cloud technology offered through NeatConnect provides users with a simple way to connect to SkyDrive, all without being tethered to a computer or requiring an intermediate device or software application.
“Today, we all expect an easy way to upload, store, share and access our personal and professional information, while always having our files with us,” said Angus Logan, Group Product Manager for SkyDrive. “Scanning directly from NeatConnect to SkyDrive gives customers the ability to reach our service and enrich their digital filing experience. Additionally, SkyDrive users will be able to leverage Neat’s cloud, mobile, and desktop solutions to simplify tasks such as the creation of expense and tax reports.”
- Intuitive touchscreen – makes it easy to select cloud or email destinations and quickly turn paper into digital information
- Multiple user settings – accommodates the needs of small businesses and families
- Integrated Wi-Fi antenna – allows users to situate NeatConnect in a place that best serves their workflow and lifestyle – a common area in the office or at home in a place where paper and mail tends to pile up
- Scan to NeatCloud and email – scan directly to NeatCloud and also send documents via email directly from the device
- Scan to Cloud Storage Services – with easy set-up, scan directly to leading cloud services, such as SkyDrive
- Additional Scan locations – scan wirelessly to FTP, direct to SD Card, and direct to desktop computers via USB with included software
To experience NeatConnect first-hand, please view this short overview video that details the available features and functions.