It’s just good business

Living in a capitalist country and working for a large corporation, I often find myself in conversations discussing about companies are big evil entities that feed on the poor and make the rich richer. There are countless stories of where businesses have exploited a cheap workforce, or driven down costs of the supplier to increase margins, Coca Cola, Nike and Primark are just three of the Corporate bullies that are guilty of this. Although there are a number of very good examples that this behaviour exists, I personally do not think that this is the behaviour most businesses follow. When a revealing story shows the impact of very poor decision making by a firm, those firms around it will be labelled the same. I would argue that similar to the rest of our lives, we remember the things that went badly far more than we do those that went well, because after all, for our own survival, vividly remembering what went badly and why is essential. So, when a dog bites you as a child, you are likely to dislike all dogs, a natural instinct to try and prevent this from ever happening again.

There are times when any successful business achieves what economists call super normal profits, which is, put simply, when a business earns higher profits than one would usually expect. This level is often unsustainable unless the business has a position of power where they can dictate the price of their product or supplies, an example of this is the Apple iPhone. Where these profits go and how they are invested is how companies who are grown in a culture of capitalism can give back.

There can be a perception that only Non-Profit Organisations are capable of humane actions, which is just not true at all. If we look at just the skin of things, there are companies investing the money they made from selling their products in sustainable projects, and helping the poorer nations of the world by creating filtered water sources. Although these efforts can be seen as a feeble attempt at gaining positive publicity, there are projects going on that are really changing the world for the better from these corporate bullies.

IBM for example has Watson, which was once seen as a gimmick at beating the winners of Jeopardy at their own game, is now seen as a path for the future of cognitive computing. The way Watson can interpret real language into computable data has benefits across industries and countries. For example, Watson is currently being used to analyze Cancer patients files over a long period of time from a large number of surgeries. What does this mean to the world? A doctor in the middle of a poor country simply needs an internet connection and they will be able to tap into all of that knowledge saving lives all over the world, and with greater accuracy as it continues to learn from even more sources.

Another example from a big bad corporation and its owner is Bill Gates and Microsoft. The company has become a household name and essential to most of our lives today and turns over a vast sum of money every year. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft has benefited from this as you can imagine, but he refuses to pass on his fortune to his children when he passes away. Instead he has a moderate sum set aside for inheritance and his day to day life, the rest of his fortune is spent making the world a better place, founding various charities and giving money to those in need.

The third company I want to highlight is Virgin. This conglomerate expands its reach everywhere from drinks to air transport, but also drives a number of charities and is always creating new and innovative ways of helping those less fortunate than those in most Western Economies, a simple yet effective demonstration of this is its donation website. It enables busy people to donate money with very little effort at all and ensures every penny goes to the charity unlike some of these sites.

I don’t claim or believe that all companies are angels, but what I do think is that a change of perception is needed to understand that large companies are not evil, they are run by people, humans, who care just like you. I have picked these three because of the story they tell, but there are many, many more like this, people just need to look at companies for what they do, not what the news says they do.

Our Security on the Internet

Internet Security

The words internet and secure don’t really go together to well in peoples minds. Sure there are risks, just like anything really! Sending a cheque or cash in the post to a relative, would this be safer than a bank transfer over the internet? Think abut how many hands that letter has to go through, it only takes one of those people to realise it has money inside. Personally I don’t know which is safer, but what I do know is that internet transactions aren’t going to get lost in the post, or delayed by holidays.

The reason why a lot of people are scared for the on-line security is really due to the press, and its availability. There have been many recent issues in the news about on-line safety, one of the biggest ones was the Playstation network. Millions of people saw their data taken from a place which they thought was secure, passwords, credit card details and more. Another far more recent issue has been the Facebook hacking, where 45,000 of its users have had their password stolen. A third story was around hacking organisations like anonymous, and the effect they had on any website they chose. Sadly these things do happen, but writing endless stories scaring people into not using the technology isn’t the way forward. The older generation are often terrified by these stories and what might happen if they buy something off Amazon.

But out of all of this that happens, the amount of issues people have is minuscule, for example every 60 seconds over 618,000,000 e-mails are sent, or 695,000 facebook updates. What are the chances of your small transactions being actually affected? I haven’t done the math, but they are going to be pretty slim. I think that figures like these should be given more attention, those who are afraid of using the internet should know how small they really are on the internet, and their chances of actually being affected by an attack.

Then we have other stories of how Facebook helped gangs organise attacks, or riots. This is the downside of helping people with shared interests get connected, we can’t say which groups can’t get together! But the we have groups of people like “Occupy” who believe that Facebook have too much control and that its wrong for the server to search through the information we freely give Facebook to try and prevent these problems! That I am afraid I do not understand, and I am a little concerned about them creating their own Open-Source social media service, if there is a risk to our personal information being on the internet, then Open-source options aren’t going to be the way forward in my opinion.

The final thought about security on the internet is about storing your files on the internet. A lot of people are afraid of putting their data on the internet for storage, not matter the encryption used because they believe the internet isn’t secure. When you save something on Google, it doesn’t stay in the “internet” its on a server owned by Google, in what’s known as a data warehouse. A data Warehouse is what it says on the tin, they are huge compounds storing information on millions of servers, which share their information with other compounds around the world to make sure that if one entire warehouse stops operating, you can still access all of your data. The amount these companies spend on securing your data is in the millions, because the safety of your data is basically their interest! It’s going to be safer there than on your laptop, because if your laptop hard drive breaks, that data is gone! Even if you back -up your data, if you don’t keep your back-ups in a separate building, a flood or house fire could mean you have lost it all.

Security is at the forefront of a lot of peoples minds, which is a good thing! However, it should be put into context, which, from my experience so far, is something that most of us don’t do so well.

New Years Resolutions

2012 New Years

2012 New Years

New years eve, often a time of drinking, smoking, and pretty much all of the “vices” that we all do. All in one night! Then the very next day, in the dimly lit room with the TV turned down, we decide on our new years resolutions. These are often things like, drinking less, smoking less, walking more, cycling more, or something along those lines. One guy that is very famous for his actions he decides on once a year is Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently only eating meat that he himself has killed for a year! This has a great effect on each person, not only on your health, but your bank balances, because we all know how expensive fuel is getting in the UK now.

But it is not the same story for everyone. The tax man suffers a lot at this time of the year, the only thing the tax man has to cling onto around January is that these resolutions are very short-lived normally. This may sound like a good thing, because lets face it, everyone hates the tax man. But this can have quite an effect on the our government. Vice taxes contributes around 10 % towards total tax the government generates, and the money spent on services such as civil servants, police, and health care.

We don’t really notice it too much, but the amount we spend on vice taxes a year can mount up when you consider that 53p of a pint of beer is tax, or £2.18 on a typical bottle of wine, and 63% of the cost of petrol is tax, nearly 75% of the cost of cigarettes is tax.

Considering the state of the UK economy now, a decrease in the tax generated is painful for the government! Although there are certain benefits to the government too of the population giving up these “vices”. Such as the decrease in the demand for health services in the short-run. For example, one year after the smoking ban was implemented in the UK, there were 1,200 less admissions for emergency heart attacks. This reduces the pressure on our health services, and means less money needs to be spent there. Good news! But this is only a short-term benefit really as the same people will probably have health problems later in life.

The government cant simply increase taxes to counter this because it just means people will be more likely to buy them using the black market, or from another country avoiding the British taxes. In 2000 78% of the tobacco consumption didn’t pay duty! Or maybe the population and industries will look at alternative ways to reduce costs. For example the average car in 2000 did 34 mpg, whereas a car in 2011 averaged at 44mpg, and on top of that, the miles travelled in cars and vans is decreasing year on year because of the cost of fuel, because a lot of the car journeys made are less than 2 miles, which means there are plenty of other methods of travelling that distance when you come to decide your new years resolutions.

I personally have never had any new years resolutions because I know I won’t stick to them. But a lot the population do, and it makes people feel better about themselves for the time they stick to it, they may even feel better and have more money to spend or save. I don’t think the government quite sees it like that somehow, and they suffer somewhat hoping we return to our vices so they can generate a little more cash to get us out of the hole we have found ourselves in!

Clouds

OK, so technology is my thing, I love reading about it, and talking about it, and I’m sure there will be many things I’ll put on here about it. But Cloud Technology is a fascinating topic at the moment I think, most people have seen or heard about it whether its word of mouth, at work, or maybe and advert at the train station. The thing is, how many of those people actually know what cloud technology is? Even the proprieters of this new form of computing haven’t defined what it is, and if you ask everyone in that company to write down 10 words to describe cloud computing, most of the words they wrote wouldn’t be the same as each other.

So why is it so hard to understand? Technology is supposed to make our life easier, not more difficult (although I know plenty of elderly who would beg to differ) and cloud technology is all about making it even easier, by turning the software we use into a utility, just like gas and electric. Put simply, that is cloud technology, it is the ability to outsource you computing needs. Although there are lots of variations, SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, that’s really what it is.

Outsourcing though causes issues, as I’m sure everyone on the planet knows. Although the famous economists Smith and Ricardo demonstrate that people doing what they are good at means the we can help the world become a better place, a lot of people see outsourcing as a negative thing. People lose jobs, and careers are lost, are often arguments that I receive when talking about cloud computing. But, in reality, this is not true.

So lets say the business you work for now outsources its IT to a company like Google. The IT staff within your company will have less need to do maintenance, but now they can focus on making sure everything that the IT systems are doing is going to help the business develop faster. If a business cuts down on IT staff, those people are not out of work, Google will need IT staff for example. But one of the main things that change, is that careers will move into different areas, instead of needing someone to maintain servers, jobs will be created to ensure a smooth transition to the cloud, and to ensure the cloud technology is working well for them as a company. Consultants are in even mre need as the number of cloud computing providers increase to find out who will serve the customer the best, and how can they make sure it happens? and so, Cloud Specialists are born. Just like when the UK moved from industrial to services, yes jobs will be removed from one organisation, but jobs will be created elsewhere.

The we all progress in our chosen specialisations the more we will benefit! The faster the world will become, we will be able to do more in less time. Is this a good thing? That’s for another time.

My first blog

I’ve seen and heard of plenty of blogs before, and have wanted to start one for a while. Never really thought I had much to say or share with everyone, but after a while and discussing with a good friend, I thought, why not? So onto the topic for my first post on the endless space of the world wide web…

People underestimating themselves. Why do we all do it, a famous person once said (I don’t know who), friends will always know you better than you can know yourself. I can see where that came from, most of us see ourselves as a lesser version of who we really are! of course there are exceptions, but most of us think we are less attractive, intelligent, charismatic, etc. than we really are, and its just silly! Why do we do it to ourselves? If we had more confidence in ourselves, or knew more about ourselves, then we could do so much more!

One of my very good friends mocks me about how the only books I really read are factual, or development books. I don’t know why I read them more than fiction, maybe it’s because I want to be better than I am now, maybe I want to be the person my friends say I am, maybe it’s to get the job I want, or maybe it’s to try and find my place in life. Whatever the reason, I have been told today that I simply underestimate myself, as we all do, its part of being a human almost I think!

Anyway, that’s one of my thoughts of the day, and have plenty of ideas of things to write about as a brain dump!