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Info Advantage has been serving the Upstate New York area since 1993 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Job Automation: Robots Aren't Taking Over Quite Yet

Job Automation: Robots Aren't Taking Over Quite Yet

 

Companies are always looking to improve their operations by eliminating unnecessary costs. It’s a part of business, no matter how you look at it. However, as automation technologies grow more advanced, some of the more mundane (and even some professional) positions are at risk of getting replaced by cheaper, more efficient robotic systems.

We see this all the time in certain industries like manufacturing and retail, where there’s no longer a need for specific positions due to autonomous systems taking their place. While this trend is capable of increasing these organizations’ bottom lines, it simultaneously puts people out of work. Surprisingly, the quality of work by automated systems could be largely variable and unpredictable. So, until the details get sorted out, it’s likely that automated systems will have to be babysat, with humans jumping in to save the day should something go wrong.

This presents another possibility; rather than replacing workers, automated technology could be used to augment their capabilities. For example, there are writing programs that are capable of putting together articles much faster than the way the human mind can. However, these articles are often devoid of emotion and can’t connect on the same level as a human author can. So, for now, there are certain jobs that automation can’t touch, but how long will it take for automation technology to catch up?

Please keep in mind that we’re not insinuating that technological advancement is bad; we’re just trying to raise awareness for how it affects the worldwide economy and job market. It doesn’t matter if a specific technology can eliminate work for manufacturers and businesses if it puts hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

Yet, in many cases, technological advancement can be exceptionally beneficial. Consider, for a moment, how outsourcing can help your business. When you outsource to a third party, you’re essentially receiving a good or service from someone else. You’re purchasing their professional skills for the good of your business. So, in a manner of speaking, you’re augmenting your business’ IT with a valuable automated service in the form of our talented technology professionals.

At Info Advantage, we aren’t looking to replace your internal IT department. Rather, we want to work with them and help your business achieve its greatest potential. Regardless of your current IT’s role in management and maintenance, we can pick up the slack where they fall short. We’re firm believers in working together for the betterment of our clients. If your internal staff doesn’t have the time or skill necessary to perform regular IT maintenance, Info Advantage can step in and handle this responsibility for you. If the opposite is true, and your team doesn’t have time to implement new innovative solutions, we can perform this role for you.

Ultimately, our professional IT technicians are more potent and valuable than any robotic IT system can be. To learn more about co-managed IT, give us a call at (585) 254-8710.

 

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Proactive Cyber-Security: How to Stop Data Breaches Before They Happen

Proactive Cyber-Security: How to Stop Data Breaches Before They Happen

These days you can’t go anywhere on the Internet without hearing about some sort of data breach. With cyber-attacks on the rise, many companies are trying a new approach to data security; proactive security plans. These plans focus on preventing data breaches, rather than reacting to an attack as it happens.

Understand the Threats

Knowledge is one of the most important tools used to fight against data breaches. Before you’re able to work towards creating a system that prevents cyber-attacks, you need to make sure that everyone involved knows what threats they are dealing with. Companies should take the time to review the different attack types that are common in their particular industry, and should have a meeting with whoever handles their IT at least twice a year to make sure they are up-to-date on the newest threats.

Map Out Your Protection

After you create your list of major attack types you want to look out for, you will need to map out your company’s technology environment to see how these attacks could threaten each individual piece. This includes any device that connects to the Internet, what services are currently protecting those devices, and the type of data they have access to. This will give you a better picture of what areas need more attention.

Create a Security Baseline

Once you get a better understanding of the current threats and how they apply to your IT environment, it’s time to create a baseline for your company security. This can be done by creating a variety of different real-life scenarios, and testing them out on your current network. This will help you to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your network.

Once you have your system mapped out, it’s time to implement your security plan. These plans will allow you to focus on preventing things that cause data leaks or downtime, rather than reacting to issues as they come along. This will lead to an increase of productivity and efficiency.

If you’re looking to buff up your security, don’t wait any longer! Call Info Advantage at (585) 254-8710 to speak to a security professional about how you can prevent potential cyber-attacks.  

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RAM Prices Are on the Rise, and Won't Be Getting Better Any Time Soon

RAM Prices Are on the Rise, and Won't Be Getting Better Any Time Soon

The price of desktop RAM has been on the rise in the last few months, and experts believe the trend won’t be stopping any time soon. According to a blog post by Newegg Business, RAM prices have been on the rise since June 2016. Newegg reported that prices jumped up 20-30% over the summer, affecting all desktop memory brands. Since then, prices have continued to gradually climb as supply fell just below the level of demand.

So how much is the cost of RAM rising by? According to PC Part Picker’s pricing history, a 2 x 8GB kit of G.Skill DDR4-2400 RAM cost about $75 at Newegg back in November. At the time, they were the lowest price available. Now, over three months later, the same system can be found on Newegg for $111. These trends have shown persistent for nearly all types of RAM, no matter the make or manufacturer.

There are a few factors that can be blamed for the increase in RAM pricing. One of the major reasons for the price change is the industry shift to DRAM chips for mobile devices, which have been on the rise as smartphones continue advance in technology. According to Nanya Technology president Pei-Ing Lee in an interview with DigiTimes, higher demand for DRAM chips have pushed up both price and production levels. The sudden increase of demand pushed manufacturers to focus their efforts on DRAM production, placing server and desktop memory production on the back burner.

Lee believes this is a trend that will continue throughout 2017, with prices stabilizing by the third quarter (July through September.) However, prices are not expected to go back down any time soon. That means if you’re looking to buy RAM for a new system, or were looking to upgrade your current system, now is the time to buy. Prices are expected to steadily rise in the next few weeks, and demand will only continue to swell as consumers look for the newest in mobile technology.

Looking to upgrade your current RAM but not entirely sure what you need? Contact Info Advantage at (585) 254-8710 today to speak with technology professionals who can help you figure out exactly what your system needs, and at the right price.

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Microsoft Now Pushing Into the Technology as a Service Market

Microsoft Now Pushing Into the Technology as a Service Market

One of Microsoft’s latest moves to appeal to business owners has been to establish a Technology as a Service program, allowing small businesses to purchase Surface products, accessories, and support by subscribing to a monthly payment plan. What’s more, when time comes to upgrade, customers can do so, although some fees may apply as dictated by the lease.


Through Microsoft’s TaaS agreement, a customer can select to pay for their device over 12, 24, or 36 months. Prices vary based on the customer’s length of lease, choice of device, and features included. Their most affordable offering is a basic model Surface 3 device paid for over 30 months, while a Surface Book costs considerably more per month as it is billed over 18.

Membership in this program comes with a few select benefits, including seven-day-a-week support by phone or in-store, one-on-one personal training, and in-store discounts on hardware and software for your device.

However, there are a few catches to this deal Microsoft has set up. First of all, this is a business-exclusive service: in the General Terms section of the TaaS Program Benefits Summary, it is explicitly stated that the service is for “Business Customers Only; No purchase for resale.” Microsoft goes on to explain that the program sells and ships to end-users only and that any orders may be canceled if resale activity is suspected.

Additionally, not all products will be available under the service, and the devices will only be official Microsoft products.

Of course, for a service of this type, one doesn’t necessarily have to turn to the Microsoft Corporation. Info Advantage can help select the right devices to fit your needs, whatever they may be, without the stresses brought about by lease terms, purchase option fees, and cancellation fees.

Furthermore, when dealing with Info Advantage, you won’t have to deal with leasing your equipment through a third-party vendor. Microsoft, on the other hand, is financing Surface Membership through LiftForward, a marketplace loan platform. With a solution from Info Advantage, we can handle your dealings with all the solutions that are right for your needs, allowing you to focus on your business.

If you’re looking for advice and access to the latest in computing systems and devices to assist your business operations, give Info Advantage a call at (585) 254-8710. We can help you select the solution that will best fit your needs.

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This Breakthrough By MIT Will Propel Artificial Intelligence to New Heights

This Breakthrough By MIT Will Propel Artificial Intelligence to New Heights

No security solution is perfect. Each one has its own set of pros and cons. For example, relying completely on an automated solution is thorough, but it will flag plenty of threats that aren’t really threats (aka, false positives). Meanwhile, a human overseeing security is great for spotting worrisome trends, but a human can’t possibly catch every single attack. With this dynamic in mind, a team of researchers from MIT has successfully blended the two.


The team, hailing from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, developed a security platform combining the strength of human involvement with the effectiveness of artificial intelligence. Given the name A.I.², this new platform is capable of detecting 85 percent of incoming attacks while reducing reported false positives by 20 percent.

How A.I.² combines AI and human involvement is actually quite genius. To begin, the “untrained” machine reports a sample set of results to a human expert. These results are informed by machine learning and are checked against the 200 most important problems. The human expert then checks over and corrects the machine’s work, with the intention of finding mistakes and false positives. Subsequently, the human-checked results are inputted to A.I.², the machine learns, and the next set of tests will have fewer errors. This process is then repeated with the security platform adapting each time to look for what its human teacher looks for.

In a paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Big Data Security, research scientist Kalyan Veeramachianeni summarized, "You can think about the system as a virtual analyst. It continuously generates new models that it can refine in as little as a few hours, meaning it can improve its detection rates significantly and rapidly."

Of course, the precedent of effectiveness set here by combining human expertise and oversight with A.I. has far-reaching ramifications for other A.I. initiatives currently in development; initiatives that have both humanity’s best and worst interests in mind. Although, for now, those of us in the IT world are celebrating this A.I.-enabled technology for being one giant leap forward in security analysis accuracy.

It’s important to keep in mind that a platform like A.I.² is still years away from being available to the average business. Therefore, we recommend that you stay on top of your network security by following best practices, which combines automated software solutions and human vigilance in order to combat the latest threats. Info Advantage is standing by to assist you with all of your company’s network security needs. To equip your business with the most comprehensive IT security solutions on the market, call us today at (585) 254-8710.

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3 Built-in Windows 10 Security Tools that Keep Hackers at Bay

3 Built-in Windows 10 Security Tools that Keep Hackers at Bay

Windows is perhaps the most widely-used computing tool in the workplace, and as such, it remains a huge target for hackers of all kinds. Criminals are always trying to uncover vulnerabilities in the operating system, but this time around, Microsoft has truly outdone themselves. Windows 10’s built-in security, according to hackers at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, allows for the most secure Windows operating system in several years.


It was expressed that, in comparison to its previous incarnations, Windows 10 is much more difficult to break into. That hasn’t stopped some hackers from trying, though. Among the Black Hat hackers at the convention were many who had tried to pinpoint potential outlets for malicious threats, and while they still managed to come up with a couple of solutions, it became clear that Windows 10 is much more challenging for hackers to infiltrate. Below are a few of the proposed attack models, and how Windows 10 challenges them.

Windows 10 Uses Built-In Anti-Malware Tools
Windows 10 uses what’s called the antimalware scan interface (AMSI), which is capable of identifying and capturing malicious scripts in memory. The idea is that applications can access this information, and any antivirus or antimalware program can process it. For example, Windows Defender and AVG use AMSI. The reason that this is such a huge problem for hackers is that many prefer to use script-based attacks. The kicker here is that while AMSI is a valuable tool to detect and prevent attacks, it requires secondary security protocol in order to be most effective. While it’s great for detecting scripts executed in PowerShell, since PowerShell records logs, it still requires someone to regularly monitor the logs in order for it to be most effective.

Active Directory
Active Directory is a crucial part of how Windows administration functions, and it’s useful for both managing workloads in the cloud, and controlling identity and authentication management on in-house networks. Microsoft Azure uses Active Directory, which can provide exceptional security for an Azure-based cloud computing platform. The problem that admins run into in most circumstances is that any user account can access Active Directory, unless the administrator removes those permissions. Therefore, it falls to your IT administrators to ensure that the credentials for your Active Directory authentication are secured, and to control user permissions to mitigate potential access to AD.

Virtualization
Virtualization-based security is a series of security features that are built into the hypervisor of Windows 10. In essence, Hyper-V can create a virtual machine that isn’t connected to the root partition. This virtual machine can then execute security commands as needed. The idea here is that Hyper-V creates a virtual machine that can’t be compromised, even if the root partition has been taken over. It’s a way of minimizing the extent of data breaches, should they happen in the first place. Of course, if the root contains credentials that allow hackers to access the virtual machine, it’s all over. Therefore, administrators need to take measures to ensure that hackers cannot access the VBS machine.

Of course, no matter how secure an OS is, hackers will always find a way to get in. One way or another, criminals who are determined to bypass defenses will create a way to do so. Microsoft patches known vulnerabilities as soon as they’re discovered to be active, so it comes down to outplaying the opponent. Hackers will inevitably find ways to crack Windows 10’s innate security, so it’s your responsibility to complement your OS’s security with your own solutions.

If you need assistance securing your Windows 10 devices, or any other workstations, servers, or network components, reach out to Info Advantage at (585) 254-8710.

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2 Free Tools that Will Read Documents and Web Pages to You

2 Free Tools that Will Read Documents and Web Pages to You

These days, who has time to read? For busy business owners, reading is a luxury. This is what makes audiobooks such a valuable tool. They allow busy people to consume information while accomplishing a mindless task like cleaning the house. While this arrangement works wonders for titles found on Audible.com, what about the documents you must read that haven’t been made into an audiobook?


For example, what if you have to read a long Word document about a project, or a blog article about an important development in your industry, but, dang it, you just don’t have the time? Thankfully, there are some great text-to-speech tools available online that will do this heavy lifting for you. Granted, the narrator comes off sounding a bit robotic, but when it comes to helpful freeware, beggars can’t be choosers.

SpeakIt!
SpeakIt! is an extension for Chrome that reads text on a webpage back to you. With the extension downloaded, all you have to do is highlight the text you’d like read to you and then click on the SpeakIt! icon in the upper-right corner of Chrome. Then, just like that, it’s storytime.

SpeakIt! boasts of a few handy features, like the ability to adjust the playback speed 10x faster or slower than the standard 330 words/minute, as well as the ability to translate text and utilize different languages.

On the downside, a quick read through of the reviews reveal that some users experienced bugs after using SpeakIt! for more than a few minutes. Additionally, while SpeakIt! works great for static web pages, playback is painfully slow for pages in Chrome that allow for text to be edited, like apps in Google Drive, Gmail, Adobe Reader, etc.

@Voice Aloud Reader
For busy audiobook aficionados on the go, @Voice Aloud Reader for Android is a great mobile solution. It’s available for free on the Google Play Store. The app also has plugins available designed to enhance the functionality of reading specific files, like @Voice PDF Crop Plugin.

@Voice Aloud Reader works by uploading text to the app, then, with the app open, select play and it will be read aloud to you. The app does a good job at retaining the formatting of the uploaded article. Additionally, while the text is being read, the app highlights the current sentence that it’s on, making it easy to follow along. Like Speak It!, @Voice Aloud Reader lets you adjust playback speed, and it’s compatible with a variety of files, like PDF, DOC, TXT, EPUB, FB2, and more.

Overall, @Voice Aloud Reader is a highly-rated app. The biggest annoyance may be advertisements, but you can make these go away by upgrading to the pro version. Plus, the fact that the advertisements only show up in the display and they don’t interrupt the audio playback, makes this a non-issue.

So go ahead and download these two free text-to-speech tools, knock out that list of assigned readings you’ve been putting off, and then share your review with us in the comments below!

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How Virtual Reality May Make Walking a Reality for These Paralyzed Patients

How Virtual Reality May Make Walking a Reality for These Paralyzed Patients

Virtual reality is quickly becoming a smash hit with many industries, but one of the most incredible and unexplainable phenomenons has to do with VR’s use in the medical sector. While it’s been thought that VR can be used to help paraplegic patients to walk again using brain-controlled robotic limbs, recent innovations have shown that this has the ability to go above and beyond its expectations.


The project, titled the Walk Again Project, was first introduced in 2013. Scientists came together from all over the world with the goal of giving paraplegics the ability to walk again using the power of technology. The study examined eight patients who had been diagnosed as being entirely paraplegic (they can’t move or feel their legs). There were several simulations performed, but they required the use of a haptic feedback device, which issued sensory feedback when their thoughts translated to movement.

The first experiment used brain-machine interface therapy combined with virtual reality. The patient would wear a device that sent brain signals to an Oculus Rift (a recently launched commercial VR headset). The patient would then see themselves walking. In the other type of therapy, the patient would use a robotic walker to help with walking therapy. The patient was suspended over a treadmill, with their legs being controlled by a robot. This activity was then sent to a computer, where the data could be analyzed.

However, the most interesting type of therapy involved using the robotic legs to send brain signals back to the patient. The legs used electronic sensors, which were placed at key locations along the leg, to send signals to the patient. The idea was to offer some sort of stimulation to the patient, so that they knew when their legs were supposed to be moving.

Thanks to ongoing long-term brain machine interface therapy, these patients found that they could sometimes feel--or move--their paralyzed limbs again. In particular, the treatment improved bladder and bowel function, and the treatments were so overwhelmingly successful that in many cases doctors changed the diagnoses to only partial paralysis.

Scientists still aren’t sure what has caused this magnificent development, but it’s anticipated that when they do, they might be able to restore mobility to those who have been long-paralyzed. To the unfortunate victims of paraplegia, this moonshot was once impossible, but technology has provided them with a sense of hope for the future.

What do you think about this development? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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Your Employees May Accidently Be Mishandling Your Company Data

Your Employees May Accidently Be Mishandling Your Company Data
While it’s good for a company to have trust in their employees, turning a blind eye to their practices may result in the mishandling of sensitive business data. According to a recent survey by MediaPro, nearly 90% of employees lack the proper security and privacy knowledge needed to successfully manage a business. A majority of employees see themselves as a novice when it comes to security issues, and are unsure of the proper way to identify and dispose of potential threats. What might cause an employee to mishandle a company’s information? Another study by CEB suggests that convenience might be a major cause. Roughly two thirds of the study participants admitted that they regularly send company data to personal email addresses so they may be able to work from home. While an email from work might seem like a secure connection, there are a multitude of different threats that can lurk outside your company’s network. Employee leniency of security issues may stem from a more wide-spread reliance on cloud-based solutions and mobile device use for work. Employees may believe that the software or device they are using is secure, when in reality there are plenty of opportunities to leak data. Something as simple as connecting to a public Wi-Fi on a mobile device could lead to major data loss. There are a few ways companies can help strengthen employee security protocol. Provide your employees with education on digital security and how to keep company data. Frequent surveillance of employee security practices can help find any potential areas of data leakage, and can help a company develop a comprehensive set of security protocols. If you are worried about whether or not your employees are keeping your data safe, contact Info Advantage today at (585) 254-8710 and let us help. Our qualified staff will survey your current security system and make suggestions based on your company’s needs and goals.
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How to Search Within the Content of the Webpage You are On

How to Search Within the Content of the Webpage You are On

Not all Internet search tools are created equal. For example, sometimes you may use a website’s search feature, only to discover that it doesn’t provide the quality of results you’re used to getting from a major search engine like Google Search. When finding yourself in such a predicament, you’ve got a few options to help narrow down your search.


To give you a better idea of the problem we’re referring to, let’s shine a light on an all-too-common example; website search features that don’t support quotation marks. With a more robust search tool like Google Search, users have the ability to search for exact phrases by adding quotation marks before and after the phrase. Without this quotation mark feature, a search tool will provide results pertaining to every word in the phrase, making the results potentially worthless.

Make Use of Ctrl+F
For websites lacking this search feature, you can combine the in-site search with your browser’s search tool to narrow down what you’re looking for. To do this, simply enter your query into the website's search form like you normally would, then hit Enter to display the results.

If the results provided aren’t to your liking, you can narrow the results down by selecting Ctrl+F. This will cause a drop down menu to appear where you can enter a second word relating to what you’re looking for. Upon doing this, every corresponding word that’s specifically displayed on the web page will be highlighted. You can then cycle through these highlighted words to better find what you need.

Use Google to Specifically Search a Website
Another way to accurately search the content of a website is to bypass the website’s search feature altogether by using Google Search. With the website selected that you want to search, enter its URL into Google Search, minus the “http://” and “www.” Before the URL, you will add “site:” to end up with an entry looking like this: site:website.com.

Next, enter whatever it is you want to search for, following the site:website.com. You will then select Enter to display search results pulled only from the website with the matching URL.

Add Quotation Marks to Google’s In-Site Search
Whereas some websites’ search features don’t utilize quotation marks, Google Search does and you can add a phrase in quotation marks following site:website.com to make use of quotes this way. This will essentially achieve what we were showing you with the first tip, but you’ll still want to remember how to combine an in-site search with Ctrl+F because not every website allows Google to crawl all of its content, like websites containing scholarly research, for example.

Using these tips correctly can open up a whole new world of online searching. Did you find these tips to be helpful? Do you have any additional tips to add that will help narrow down online searches even further? Let us know in the comments.

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Sharing Your Netflix Password Now Makes You a Federal Criminal

Sharing Your Netflix Password Now Makes You a Federal Criminal

Sharing your Netflix password with a friend so they too can enjoy a vast catalogue of movies seems harmless enough. However, due to a recent ruling by judges of the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, this common action is now a federal crime.

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Wireless Retinal Implants Give Functionally Blind People a Second Lease on Sight

b2ap3_thumbnail_retinal_implants_400.jpgTechnology has unlocked some marvelous advancements for human civilization, and thanks to the Argus device by Second Sight, it can now provide a cure for blindness!

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Tip of the Week: 5 Tips From the 90s That are Useless Today

b2ap3_thumbnail_useless_90s_hacks_400.jpgThe 1990s were a golden time of technology with VHS, floppy disks, and beige computing hardware aplenty. Back then, learning of new technology shortcuts was totally rad. Although, looking back, many of these cool tech tips are now obsolete. Yet, they still hold a special place in our hearts. Here are some of our favorite technology tips from the ‘90s. Which ones do you remember?

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Tip of the Week: Adjust the Brightness of Your Device’s Screen to Prevent Eye Strain

b2ap3_thumbnail_control_your_brightness_400.jpgComputer monitors have become streamlined in appearance and design over the years. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of the LCD screen, which in comparison to the old CRT monitors is more pleasing to the eye. However, its brightness means that there are side effects that can lead to eye strain and headaches. You can lower your screen brightness to preserve both your eyesight and your sanity, in addition to saving precious battery life.

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“95 as in 1995?” Watch Today’s Teenagers React to Windows 95

b2ap3_thumbnail_teens_confused_windows_95_400.jpgWindows 95 changed the way that consumers saw personal computing, and it heavily influenced future versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Over twenty years later, you can expect to see significant changes and improvements, to the point where those who weren’t exposed to older technology don’t have any clue what it is. Nowhere is this more painfully true than watching how teens react to Windows 95.

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Let's Talk Tablets

Tablets are definitely becoming a staple in the consumer electronics world. For the longest time, the tablet PC was an expensive, clunky device that just didn't wow consumers. Some businesses had adopted tablets back in the day, but they were difficult to use, hard to support, and they simply didn't perform for the price tag. However, like many consumer electronics, Apple reinvigorated the tablet market with the original iPad, and now it would seem tablets are here to stay. The question is, are they right for businesses?

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