Free Services Your Business Needs Right Now. Here’s a list of FREE and discounted services for your school, church, or business

With so many people now telecommuting from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organizations around the world are scrambling to adopt remote-work practices. Whether its video conferencing, remote team collaboration, virtual classrooms, or other activities, there are free and discounted services available to you. We’ve put together a curated list to help you sort through the chaos of work-from-home!

Google Hangouts Meet

Focus: Video conferencing service and online productivity tools.

Offer: Google Cloud has announced free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet videoconferencing capabilities for all customers of its G-Suite and G-Suite for Education services. This enables calls of up to 250 people and also allows meetings to be recorded and saved on Google Drive.

Loom

Focus: Video messaging service.

Offer: Loom is scrapping a limit on the number of videos that a user can access under its free plan through July 1 (previously the limit was 25) and extending the free trial period of its premium Loom Pro service from 14 to 30 days. It’s also making Loom Pro free for students and teachers at K-12 schools, universities and other educational institutions with no time limit.

Microsoft Teams

Focus: Team collaboration and communication platform.

Offer: Microsoft Teams, the company’s collaboration and communication platform, is scrapping the user limit on its free version, which was previously restricted to 300 people. Microsoft has also announced it is making the basic version of its Office 365 enterprise suite of productivity tools such as Word and Excel free for six months to organizations, which gives users access to the premium version of Microsoft Teams.

Slack

Focus: Team collaboration and communication platform.

Offer: Slack is offering free upgrades to paid plans for organizations working on coronavirus research, response or mitigation, as well as to local media organizations and scientific publications covering these areas. The company has also removed the 250-user cap on its Standard Plan service for all nonprofits for three months.

Zoom

Focus: Video conferencing service.

Offer: Zoom has removed a 40-minute meeting limit on its free Basic accounts for students and teachers at K-12 schools in America. The company has partnered with Clever, the most widely used single sign-on service used by U.S. school districts, so that schools who don’t have access to its service can get it quickly. It has also scrapped time limits on meetings for K-12 schools in a growing list of other countries impacted by COVID-19.

And as always, Stickboy

Focus: Technology Partner

Offer: With a flip of a switch any of our clients can have remote access to any of their workstations inside their office as long as they have internet access.  We are giving away two months FREE of our services to get you through this time.

If you need any help implementing these or other remote-work solutions, please contact us today.

239-206-1193 | [email protected]

Reimagining ‘The Office’: An Experiment In A.I.

Hello fellow humans!

In the Spring of 2019, Elon Musk’s OpenAI research lab made quite the splash, announcing its GPT-2 artificial intelligence was too dangerous to release to the public. This A.I. was able to generate believable text, staying on topic and using proper grammar. Fears abounded that soon malicious bots would be writing novel and dangerous news articles, social posts, and more.

Well, that didn’t really come to pass, and OpenAI soon made their pretrained models available to the general public.

Naturally, we did what anyone would do and promptly fed the model all the sitcom scripts we could find. The end product? A brand new script for the hit show The Office.

How It Works

Conceptually, the GPT-2 artificial intelligence model isn’t too scary. It takes a sequence of tokens (words) and tries to predict the next token (word) in the sequence. For example:

  • Input: I ran
  • Output: I ran faster

After that, it takes the output and pipes it right back through the machine.

  • Input: I ran fast
  • Output: I ran faster than

It repeats that process until you have your great new sentence!

  • Final Output: I ran faster than a rocket-powered squirrel.

Easy, right?

Where Things Get Interesting

With GPT-2, OpenAI has release a pretrained model that is fully capable of generating organic text. In fact, you can see it in action on line. Right now. Right here. 

But that’s boring.

Where things get interesting with GPT-2 is that you can train it unique text sets in such a way that your retrained model will match any desired formatting. For example, innovators around the world have used retrained A.I. models to generate: food recipes, screen plays, Twitter bots, and more!

A Brand New Episode of The Office

Naturally, we jammed as much lore from the hit classic, The Office, to see what we’d get out. Without further ado: The Office – The Lost Chapter!

The opening plays and the scene opens. We’re welcomed by Michael and Dwight in heated debate.

MICHAEL: (whispering) All the stuff that happens in this office. I love it. I love this chair. This is so comfortable. I love this system. I love this computer. I love this phone. I love this workspace.

DWIGHT: This is all mine.

MICHAEL: (jumps onto desk)

DWIGHT: This is my office.

MICHAEL: (to camera) Can you tell who’s ahead of his time?

DWIGHT: (stares)

MICHAEL: (to camera) Everyone, just hope that I can spend as little time here as I can.

DWIGHT: This is my desk.

MICHAEL: Yes. I just need to cross some t’s and dot some i’s. Alright, three people, three paintings, three drawings, three sounds. Why don’t you just walk away we’ll go our separate ways.

Sounds like there’s drama in Scranton! Hijinks ensue, I’m sure. Later in the episode, we’re happen upon Pam. She appears worried.

PAM: (to camera) I’ve been listening to some noise. I think it could be the receptionist.

MICHAEL: (scoffs) Yes. That’s Angela. She’s terrific. She’s so cute. She’s so sweet. You know what? I love her. I think she’s so important to this office. I don’t want her to be the victim of a hate attack. Because I don’t want to see her hurt again. You know what? I don’t want to see her again. I have to step away. I have to go.

DWIGHT: Jim!

JIM: Who is this?

DWIGHT: Meredith.

JIM: What’s she worth?

DWIGHT: $1 billion.

PAM: She’s not only the single greatest granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln, but she’s the only woman in this office who has never worked outside of her office’s hands.

DWIGHT: Great. She’s strong. She’s soft. She’s clean.

End scene.

And there we have it! A (short) episode of The Office generated entirely by artificial intelligence. Who needs screenwriters anyways.

Got Your Own Great Idea?

Want to find out what artificial intelligence can do for you? Let’s talk!

Preempting & Resolving Health Crises Through Artificial Intelligence

 

We’ve got two quick thoughts for you:

In 2018, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia estimated that the development of a single vaccine takes more than 10 years.

A vaccine for COVID-19 is projected to begin human testing in Q3 2020, less than a year after the initial infections were first reported.

A.I. is powering that.

The 2021 White House budget allocates $249M to go towards the research and adoption of artificial intelligence technologies, and with good reason. A.I. is everywhere, and its domain is ever growing.

A.I. has been popularized as a tool for growing sales, improving customer retention, and driving product innovation; but non-commercial organizations are turning the power of artificial intelligence to new and greater problems.

Ye Olde Disease Control

The first academically recognized vaccination was performed in 1796 by Edward Jenner. He immunized a young boy from Smallpox by infecting him with an equally nasty (but less deadly) version of the disease: Cowpox. And how was this vaccine discovered? The ever popular guess-and-check method.

Let’s fast forward. One of the most widely hailed vaccines, the Polio vaccine, debuted in 1955. It’s creator, Jonas Salk, became a national hero. The vaccine works by injecting “dead” Poliovirus strains into the recipient, triggering an immune response. And how was this vaccine discovered? Guess-and-check again, but with monkeys this time.

(Not-so-fun fact: over 9,000 monkeys were forced to contract poliovirus during the course of mankind’s research into this disease.)

West Nile Virus? Guess-and-check, but with horses. Ebola? Guess-and-check with mice. Then more monkeys. Prion diseases? More mice, more monkeys, and a smattering of guinea pigs. 

You get where I’m going with this, right? There’s a better way.

Enter Artificial Intelligence

It’s a whole new world. With the explosive growth of cloud computing, A.I. has gained traction and is quickly expanding outside the bounds of corporate America. Particularly exciting and impacting humankind as a whole, the healthcare industry has made a whole-hearted embrace of these emerging technologies.

Which brings us back to Coronavirus and our quick stats. With over 3,000 deaths and 93,000 infected, we do not have the luxury of waiting 10+ years for a vaccine to be developed by traditional means. Luckily, we don’t have to.

Innovative research labs are utilizing A.I. to fully synthesize and digitally test vaccines before animal or human testing even begins.

From a high level, the process is really quite simple.

  • An artificially intelligent “chemist” synthesizes medical compounds. (Sounds difficult, but it’s a process we’ve been doing since 1832.)
  • Another A.I. (this one a “doctor”) administers the compound to digital “patients”.
  • The results of the compound’s application are documented fed back to the synthesizer.
  • New compounds are synthesized by mutating and cross-breeding previously generated compounds.

The best part? It’s already been done. In 2019 Australian researchers announced a new flu vaccine that was developed entirely by artificial intelligence.

And that’s just the flashiest use. When you dig down deeper, A.I. has made great splashes in pandemic management.  Data company, BlueDot, has been using A.I. to predict outbreaks for community and zoonotic diseases. Epidemiologists are using A.I. to determine common disease “features” and target outreach efforts. The field of genomics is exploring the use of deep learning to identify genetic diseases well before they begin to express symptoms.

A Whole New World

We live in a scary world, but we have an exciting future. We are face-to-face with a technological revolution. Innovation is taking us to a brighter horizon. Artificial intelligence is saving the monkeys.

Want to keep your business on the forefront of this new wave of emerging technology? Get in touch today.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Server Edition

Why does your business still own a server? With the accessibility of cloud technology, having a physical on-premises server represents a point of vulnerability and liability for your business.

The Good

The benefits of cloud-based servers and desktops are endless: anytime and anywhere access, predictable operating expenses, worry-free IT maintenance, high level digital and physical security (the CIA uses it!), and the list goes on. What wins special attention in this issue of GBU though is Amazon’s introduction of the WorkSpaces product. Access your desktop from anywhere without that clunky and finicky remote desktop setup.

The Bad

After factoring in “hidden costs” such as storage costs, labor, and lost productivity (from server outages and communication with your IT team), the average monthly cost of maintaining a physical server is $1,476 per month. Gross, right? Have you ever stopped to think how much are you paying in hidden costs?

We put a lot of trust in our IT providers. We lean on them to provide us with business continuity. Sometimes that trust backfires when on-premises servers are in the mix. Hancock Regional Hospital’s operations were crippled in recent years by a ransomware attack targeting their physical servers through a security hole introduced by their IT partner, costing hundreds of thousands in recovery costs. They have since begun moving their operations to the cloud.

The Ugly

Quotable

“Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.’”

- Vivek Kundra, former Federal CIO, speaks to the security of cloud server technology.

So what's next?

At Stickboy, we leverage our software development knowledge and background to bring our clients into the twenty-first century. Our unique Technology Partnership focuses on divesting our clients of the liability of physical hardware. Contact us today and let’s talk about true business continuity!

239.206.1193 | [email protected]

The Dirty Secrets Your IT
Provider Isn’t Telling You

Spoiler Alert: If your company’s technology budget is going exclusively to IT and MSP services, you’re wasting money. But we’ll come back to that.

Managed Services Demystified

What is an MSP? Simply put, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is responsible for maintaining and improving your business operations through the strategic application of software technologies. From your email to your backups, to your wireless Internet: many things can fall under the umbrella of “managed services”.

The bigger question: Does your MSP really want to help you transform your business or are their recommendations actually holding you back?

Dirty Secrets From The IT World

Secret No. 1: MSPs are selling you the wrong software.
Let’s be real: You’re not a technology expert. Unfortunately, many MSPs recognize this and are taking advantage of that fact. Let’s look at a quick list of software and services. Do any of these look familiar?

  • ConnectWise
  • Webroot
  • ShadowProtect

What we’ve listed out above are a remote device manager, an antivirus, and backup software. Pretty innocuous, right? Not so much.

These services and many others, offer MSP incentives (also known as kickbacks) for your IT provider to use them. What that means is that your trusted technology partner is putting together a plan that leads to higher bills and poorly executed solutions.

When building out your technology plan, the focus for many MSPs is more on their bottom line than your needs.

Secret No. 2: MSPs are selling you dangerous software.
Cost isn’t even the primary concern here. Even more alarming: many of these technologies are downright dangerous! (Go ahead and click on some of those links. It’s scary out there!)

Did you notice an uptick in strange, potentially worrisome communication from your MSP in 2019? Perhaps long rambling emails, discussing cybersecurity. Were you subjected to surprise “security audits” without any context or followup? Or worse, were you the victim of a data breach?

In 2019 alone, ConnectWise (a device management software used by many MSPs) was subject to at least three separate cybersecurity attacks. These attacks compromised thousands of businesses, large and small, leading to spikes in data leaks and ransomware.

The average cost of a ransomware attack is $84,000. What damage could this mass-market device management software be doing to your business?

Secret No. 3: MSPs are inflating your bill with unnecessary hardware.
Let us ask a sensitive question: Why do you own a server? Seriously, what purpose does your server fulfill? Your firewall? That rat’s nest of USBs and cords?

Chances are, you didn’t ask for all that equipment. Many MSPs are keen to recommend hardware that a) you’ll purchase from them at a nice markup, and b) you’ll pay them monthly to maintain.

The secret they don’t want you to know? There’s a better solution.

We Do Technology Smarter

Stickboy started its life as a software development company, driving innovation within each business it touched. We’re bringing that same mindset to IT.

We don’t believe in funneling your technology budget and dollars into more and more hardware. You won’t catch us selling you lackluster services just because it puts a few more pennies in our pocket. That’s a gross way to run your business.

Instead, here at Stickboy we strive to downsize your IT and hardware needs. Fewer hardware costs means you can put those savings towards smarter technology investments, including software and cloud-based infrastructure. That expensive dark web monitoring package your MSP tried to sell you? We include that free of charge. Cybersecurity? We have it on lockdown, with artificial-intelligence powered protection software keeping you safer.

At Stickboy, we’re crazy about making your business run smarter.

So What Now?

The world of IT and managed services can be a confusing one, but Stickboy specializes in emerging technologies that focus on taking businesses to the next level. It’s easier than ever to take action and innovate for your business and your team.

First, ask yourself whether you are paying too much for outdated technology.

Then, bring in the bill from your current IT provider and let’s see how much money you could save every month!

Contact us today.

239.206.1193 | [email protected]

More Than Money:
Is Blockchain In Your Future?

Spoiler Alert: If your company’s success hinges on the accuracy and credibility of the data you collect, blockchain is in your future. But we’ll come back to that.

Blockchain Demystified

At its simplest, blockchain represents an append-only ledger. But what does that mean? Let’s use an analogy: pencils versus pens.

Pencils

  • Information is recorded, same as with pens.
  • Pencil marks can be erased, leaving room for fraud or unsolicited edits.
  • Mistakes can be resolved with a simple erasure, but no record of the adjustment is kept.

Pens

  • Information is recorded, same as with pencils.
  • Pen marks cannot be erased, leaving no room for fraud or unsolicited edits.
  • Mistakes must be resolved by appending additional data to the erroneous mark. The original mark is maintained, keep a record of the mistake.

In the analogy above, blockchain is the pen. Traditional database methods are the pencil. You wouldn’t complete a form with a pencil, would you?

Blockchain renders your data immutable through the clever use of hashing algorithms. Every data entry in the “chain” is compared against the previous entries, ensuring at every step that the data still “adds up”. If any manipulation to previous data is detected, the chain is compromised and the administrator is notified. That data is no longer credible.

With blockchain all edits are transparent (to those with privileged access to the data), allowing you to report on your data with 100% accuracy.

Use Cases For Blockchain

There is a misconception that blockchain is just for cryptocurrencies or other monetary transactions. That’s simply not true. Blockchain has a place in any industry where performance and income is judged on the credibility of the data coming into and out of a business.

Blockchain is exciting because it offers both transparency and agility in any contractual or reporting relationship an organization has.

Some great use cases include:

  • Healthcare — As consumer demand for an increase healthcare transparency and accountability increases, healthcare is ripe for a blockchain revolution. From patient records to prescription changes, to in-home visitation; any data collected on a patient or client should be recorded in a permanent, immutable fashion.
  • Agriculture — Sustainable and fair sourcing of food products is a hot topic for today’s consumer. Blockchain allows food providers to track a product from source to shelf. Fairtrade is getting re-imagined!
  • Service-based Anything — You only get paid when your technician shows up to the customers’ house or business. What if they’re not home? What if they claim your tech never came? A blockchain-secured timeclock system provides your billing and legal team a verifiable activity record. Your clients can’t dodge the invoice, and your techs can’t game the system.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So What Now?

Blockchain adoption can be a tricky bit of development, but Stickboy Creative specializes in developing exactly these sorts of solutions. Contact us today. Chances are you’ll get to talk to me!

3 Ways Automated Builds Will Save Your Day

3-Ways-Automated-Builds-Will-Save-Your-DayOne of the goals of software automation is to make your work day easier.

It’s no different when also developing software.

Having your computer handle repeatable and manual tasks frees you up to focus on the more important issues in your day. The more you can offload to a piece of software, the easier your day becomes.

Automating builds are one of the most important things for your development team to adopt. Your development cycle becomes faster, more consistent, and easier to manage between teams.

What can automating your software builds do for your team? Read on.

Read More “3 Ways Automated Builds Will Save Your Day”

3 Things A Business Metrics Dashboard Needs To Be Awesome

Graphic with text 3 Things A Business Metrics Dashboard Needs To Be AwesomeDo you want your business tools to be second-rate?

No! You want them to be awesome! You want your company to be using the most streamlined and modern software around, and your dashboards should be no different.

When building your business metrics dashboard, there are nearly an unlimited number of things that it can do.

But the important thing is to focus on what it should do.

Read More “3 Things A Business Metrics Dashboard Needs To Be Awesome”

Your Business Metrics Dashboard Done Right: 5 Things It Needs

Graphic with text: Your Business Metrics Dashboard Done Right: 5 Things It NeedsYou need to know what’s going on in your business to get the most out of it.

That means data. All the measurable data flowing through your business are known as “metrics”, and being able to track these is vital to ensuring your key performance indicators (KPIs) are meeting their goals.

A business metrics dashboard can give you up-to-the-minute updates on the status of your critical company data.

But in a sea of options to weigh, how do you make sure that you’re focusing on the right features for your dashboard?

This blog post will show you.

Read More “Your Business Metrics Dashboard Done Right: 5 Things It Needs”

Why User Experience (UX) Matters in B2B Software

Graphic with text: Why User Experience UX Matters in B2B SoftwareEveryone loves to use a well-designed app.

Consumer apps get all the love and adoration. And why not? They have to succeed on their own and the competition is fierce.

So a great design and a stellar experience is key to a consumer app’s success.

But why isn’t B2B software given any love?

You probably have that same picture in your head of an endless stream of bland, gray menus with boring icons. The reason why is because too many companies don’t care about this.

What does this mean? An easy way for your software to stand out from the crowd.

But that’s not the only reason. Well-designed B2B software improves efficiency, makes for happier customers, and increases sales. We’ll show you why in this blog post.

Read More “Why User Experience (UX) Matters in B2B Software”