Business Technology

SEMA Data Co-op: Past, Present and Our Vision for the Future

Chris KerstingThe idea of an industry-owned product-information data repository, run like a utility company for the benefit of the industry, was a topic of discussion at SEMA for many years. Then, as web searches increasingly became a driving factor behind sales growth, the need for high-quality product data to power wholesale, retail and web-based business systems became more obvious. And the benefits to specialty parts manufacturers—improving speed to market and providing information capable of driving consumer purchase decisions—became “must-have” capabilities linked to success in the marketplace.

Score One for the Little Guy

Score One for the Little GuyAs of June 2015, telecommunications and cable companies were knocked back on their heels when new government regulations took effect prohibiting those companies from allowing some company websites to download faster than others. The move restores what has commonly become known as net neutrality—or equal access to the Internet.

Windows 10

Windows 10 comes equipped with a new, search-engine-powered voice assistant called Cortana.Microsoft’s Mea Culpa to PC Users

Businesses that reacted to Windows 8 with howls of incredulity can take heart: Microsoft is bending over backward with its next Windows release to win back the mouse-and-keyboard crowd. With Windows 10 (there will be no Windows 9), due for release in the summer of 2015, Microsoft will make it simple once again to navigate the operating system with a keyboard and a mouse. Moreover, the Redmond Goliath will be bringing back other features, such as the Start Menu that made Windows a hit in previous incarnations. “It’s a practical approach, which is ‘customer first,’” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

Ransomware

IT security experts warn that there’s been a spike in the scourge of ransomware—malicious software that freezes a computer, encrypts all of its data and demands a ransom for the system’s restoration. Since February 2013, more than 600,000 victims worldwide have reportedly been infected with just one variant of the malware, CryptoWall, according to an October 2014 report released by DellIT security experts warn that there’s been a spike in the scourge of ransomware—malicious software that freezes a computer, encrypts all of its data and demands a ransom for the system’s restoration. Since February 2013, more than 600,000 victims worldwide have reportedly been infected with just one variant of the malware, CryptoWall, according to an October 2014 report released by Dell.

“This is the next generation of ransomware, and you can expect this new version to spread like wildfire,” said Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, a firm that specializes in IT security awareness training for small- and medium-size businesses.

AntiVirus Software is Dead: Now What?

Earlier this year, antivirus king Symantec sent shockwaves through the business community with the statement that antivirus software was “dead”—leaving businesses wondering, now what? Symantec dropped the bombshell to make a point: These days, a PC armed with a good firewall and some topflight antivirus software is simply no match against a sophisticated, determined hacker. The reason: The number of new viruses unleashed on the public every day can be as many as 200,000, according to Kapersky Lab, a computer security firm.

The New Sexy

Social media is now a serious player in employee recruitment, in many cases significantly reducing the cost per hire for companies while simultaneously bringing in higher-quality talent, according to many recruiters.E-Mail Retains the Title

While digital marketing always seems to have its own version of the “It Girl” each year, one thing has remained constant for nearly 30 years: E-mail is still the new sexy. According to a barrage of studies released during the past year, e-mail marketing still surpasses all others in the digital realm when it comes to return on investment (ROI) and increasing sales. And companies still see e-mail marketing as a stalwart when they’re looking to hang on to customers, build loyalty and increase website traffic.

QR Code Marketing

These days, 21% of smartphone owners say they’ve scanned a QR code, with 2% saying they scan QR codes at least once a day.With the Right Demographic, a Potential Boon

Businesses with a significant demographic skewed toward “hipper,” generally younger tech users—people who like to stay on the edge of what’s happening digitally—should take a serious look at QR-code marketing. Most of us have come across a QR (quick reach) code in our travels. It’s that framed square of hieroglyphic-like symbols that we flip to in a magazine, which triggers our smartphones to reveal a company website when scanned. Or it’s on that advertisement we see at an airport or train station that, when scanned, conjures up an electronic coupon on our tablets that can be used at a coffee shop, often only steps away.

Web Analytics Update

IBM continues to spin off projects from its Watson analytics computer, which gained fame after beating top human contestants on the game show “Jeopardy.”The Latest Tools for Getting the Most From Your Web and Social-Media Marketing

Businesses looking to evaluate the return on their efforts in web and social-media marketing can take heart: There are scores of analytical tools available that can precisely show them how well their campaigns are doing.

In social media, those just getting started in analytics would do well to check out Hootsuite. A powerful social-media dashboard that allows users to manage all of their postings and other activities on all the major social-media networks, Hootsuite is also packed with a wide variety of analytical tools that show how well you’re doing on social media.

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