Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Climate change creates a loud buzz across the globe. People are talking about how extreme the weather is, how polluted the environment has become or how devastating the results of carbon emissions are. While it is true that humans contribute a large impact to the worsening climate situations, people are also the most influential key towards making this world a better place. As much as the increase in carbon emissions results from what you do, the healthy change can also start in you.

Although it is a bit difficult to determine what you can do to help the society, do not be disheartened. The devastating forces may be massive for you to work through, but there are countless simple actions?you can take to reduce your carbon footprints day by day.

Home

While you are in the comfort of your home, you can start saving energy to reduce your carbon emission. You could’replace your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. A compact fluorescent bulb saves more than 2/3rds or up to 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide in its lifetime. This bulb contains mercury, so make sure to choose a brand that has lower mercury than others.

Another thing, you can do to reduce your carbon footprint at home, is to mind your electronics. When you do not use your gadgets and appliances, make sure you unplug them. If you buy new ones, take time to look at the energy rating of the electronics to save you more energy in future use.

Alternative renewable energy is also a good thing to shift into. Try solar, hydro or wind power at home. Setting up your own residential solar panels and building your own turbines are excellent ways to choose green energy.

Food

The food industry is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions. You may not have control over the food processing, but you can lower your carbon footprint by buying local products in the market. These local products are not transported from far off places, so the carbon dioxide released from them is lower compared to imported ones. Take a look at the packaging as well; less packaging means less waste.

If you have a big backyard, you could use your it to grow food. ?Eating food, either fruit or vegetable, which you grow at home is energy efficient. No more fuel combustion from transportation and other consequent food processing.

Travel

When you have your own car, accelerating it slowly and smoothly, as well as maintaining speed while driving will help lower your carbon emissions. If you drive a lot, it would be better to get a green car. As of now, you can consider using?public transportation and go for road travel rather than air travel when you take long distance trips. But when you need to take planes, better choose a non-stop flight instead of connecting ones.

Indeed, there are many ways you can combat global warming and climate change. The road to improved life quality through energy efficiency might be hard, but a transformed lifestyle can make a big difference. Start now ? lighten your carbon footprint and help save the world.

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Why Spreadsheets can send the Pillars of Solvency II Crashing Down


Solvency II is now fast approaching and while it may provide added protection to policy holders, its impact on the insurance industry is not all a bed of roses. Expect insurance companies to restructure, increase manpower, and raise spending on actuarial operations and risk management initiatives. Those that cannot, will have to go. But what have spreadsheets got to do with all these?

Well, spreadsheets aren’t really the main casts in this blockbuster of a regulatory exercise but they certainly have a significant supporting role to play. Pillar I of Solvency II, which calls for improved supervision on internal control, risk management, and corporate governance, and Pillar II, which tackles supervisory reporting and public disclosure of financial and other relevant information, both affect systems that have high-reliance on spreadsheets.

A little background about spreadsheets might help.

Who needs an IT solution when you can have spreadsheets?

Everyone in any organisation just love spreadsheets; from the office clerk to the CEO. Because they’re so easy to use (not to mention they’re a staple in office computers), people employ them for processing numbers and as an all-around tool for planning, forecasting, reporting, complex modelling, market data analysis, and so on. They make such tasks faster and easier. Really?

You probably haven’t heard of spreadsheet hell

Unfortunately, spreadsheets do have certain shortcomings. Due to their inherent structure and lack of controls, it is so easy to commit simple errors like an accidental copy paste, an omission of a negative sign, an incorrect data input, or an unintentional deletion. Such shortcomings may seem harmless until your shareholders discover a multi-million discrepancy in your financial report.

And because spreadsheet errors can go undetected for a long time, they are constant targets of fraudsters. In other words, spreadsheets are high risk applications.

Solvency II Impact on Spreadsheet-based Financial and IT Systems

Regulations like Solvency II, are aimed at reducing risks to manageable levels. Basically, Solvency II is a risk-based system wherein a company?s capital requirements will depend on its measured riskiness. If companies want to avoid facing onerous capital requirements, they have to comply.

The three pillars of Solvency II have to be in place. Now, since spreadsheets (also known as User Developed Applications or UDAs) are high-risk applications with weak control features and prone to produce inaccurate reports, companies will have a lot of work to do to establish Pillars II and III.

There are at least 8 articles that impact spreadsheets in the directive. Article 82, for example, which requires firms to ensure a high level of data quality and accuracy, strikes at the very core of spreadsheets? weakness.

A whitepaper by Raymond Panko entitled ?Spreadsheets and Sarbanes-Oxley: Regulations, Risks, and Control Frameworks? mentioned that 94% of audited real world operational spreadsheets that were included in his study were found to have errors and that an average of 5.2% of all cells in the audited spreadsheets had errors.

Furthermore, many articles in the directive call for the enforcement of better documentation. This is one thing that’s very tedious and almost unrealistic to do with spreadsheets because just about anyone uses them. Besides, with different ‘versions? of the same data existing in different workstations throughout the organisation, it would be extremely difficult to keep track of them all.

Because of spreadsheets you now need an IT solution

It is clear that, with the growing number of regulations and the mounting complexity of tasks needed for compliance, spreadsheets no longer belong in this era. What you need is a server-based solution that allows for seamless collaboration, data reliability, data consistency, increased security, automatic consolidation, and all the other features that make regulation compliance more doable.

One important ingredient for achieving Solvency II compliance is sound data risk management. Sad to say, the ubiquitous spreadsheet will only expose your data to more risks.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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Knowing the Caveats in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has become such a buzzword in business circles today that many organisations both small and large, are quick to jump on the cloud bandwagon – sometimes a little too hastily.

Yes, the benefits of the cloud are numerous: reduced infrastructure costs, improved performance, faster time-to-market, capability to develop more applications, lower IT staff expenses; you get the picture. But contrary to what many may be expecting or have been led to believe, cloud computing is not without its share of drawbacks, especially for smaller organisations who have limited knowledge to go on with.

So before businesses move to the cloud, it pays to learn a little more about the caveats that could meet them along the way. Here are some tips to getting started with cloud computing as a small business consumer.

Know your cloud. As with anything else, knowledge is always key. Because it is a relatively new tool in IT, it’s not surprising that there is some confusion about the term cloud computing among many business owners and even CIOs. According to the document The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, cloud computing has five essential characteristics, three basic service models (Saas, Paas and Iaas), and four deployment models (public, community, private and hybrid).

The first thing organisations should do is make a review of their operations and evaluate if they really need a cloud service. If they would indeed benefit from cloud computing, the next steps would be deciding on the service model that would best fit the organisation and choosing the right cloud service provider. These factors are particularly important when you consider data security and compliance issues.

Read the fine print. Before entering into a contract with a cloud provider, businesses should first ensure that the responsibilities for both parties are well-defined, and if the cloud vendor has the vital mechanisms in place for contingency measures. For instance, how does the provider intend to carry out backup and data retrieval operations? Is there assurance that the business’ critical data and systems will be accessible at all times? And if not, how soon can the data be available in case of a temporary shutdown of the cloud?

Also, what if either the company or the cloud provider stops operations or goes bankrupt? It should be clear from the get go that the data remains the sole property of the consumer or company subscribing to the cloud.

As you can see, there are various concerns that need to be addressed closely before any agreement is finalised. While these details are usually found in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of most outsourcing and servicing contracts, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of cloud contracts.

Be aware of possible unforeseen costs. The ability of smaller companies to avail of computing resources on a scalable, pay-as-you-go model is one of the biggest selling points of cloud computing. But there’s also an inherent risk here: the possibility of runaway costs. Rather than allowing significant cost savings, small businesses could end up with a bill that’s bound to blow a big hole in their budget.

Take for example the case of a software company cited on InformationWeek.com to illustrate this point. The 250-server cluster the company rented from a cloud provider was inadvertently left turned on by the testing team over the weekend. As a result, their usual $2,300 bill ballooned to a whopping $23,400 over the course of one weekend.

Of course, in all likelihood, this isn’t going to happen to every small and midsize enterprise that shifts to the cloud. However, this should alert business owners, finance executives, and CEOs to look beyond the perceived savings and identify potential sources of unexpected costs. What may start as a fixed rate scheme for on-demand computing resources, may end up becoming a complex pricing puzzle as the needs of the business grow, or simply because of human error as the example above shows.

The caveats we’ve listed here are among the most crucial ones that soon-to-be cloud adopters need to keep in mind. But should these be reasons enough for businesses to stop pursuing a cloud strategy? Most definitely not. Armed with the right information, cloud computing is still the fastest and most effective way for many small enterprises to get the business off the ground with the lowest start-up costs.

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How SOA can help Transformation

Undoubtedly, today’s business leaders face myriad challenges ranging from fierce market competition to increasing market unpredictability. In addition, the modern consumer is more informed and in control of what, where and how they purchase. Couple these challenges with effects of globalization, and you will appreciate that need for business transformation is more of a necessity than a privilege.

As recent business trends show, top companies are characterized by organizational and operational agility. Instead of being shaken by rapid technological changes and aftershocks associated with market changes, they are actually invigorated by these trends. In order to survive in these turbulent times, business leaders are opting to implement corporate transformation initiatives to develop leaner, more agile and productive operations. In line with this, service oriented architecture (SOA) has emerged as an essential IT transformation approach for implementing sustainable business agility.

By definition, service oriented architecture is a set of principles and techniques for developing and designing software in form of business functionalities. SOA allows users to compile together large parts of functionality to create ad hoc service software entirely from the template software. This is why it is preferred by CIOs that are looking to develop business agility. It breaks down business operations into functional components (referred to as services) that can be easily and economically merged and reused in applicable scenarios to meet evolving business needs. This enhances overall efficiency, and improves organizational interconnectivity.

SOA identifies shortcomings of traditional IT transformation approaches that were framed in monolithic and vertical silos all dependent on isolated business units. The current business environment requires that individual business units should be capable of supporting multiple types of users, multiple communication channels and multiple lines of business. In addition, it has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing market needs. In case one is running a global business enterprise, SOA-enabled business transformation can assist in achieving sustainable agility and productivity through a globally integrated IT platform. SOA realizes its IT and business benefits by adopting a design and analyzing methodology when developing services. In this sense a service consists of an independent business unit of functionality that is only available through a defined interface. Services can either be in the form of nano-enterprises or mega-enterprises.

Furthermore, with SOA an organization can adopt a holistic approach to solve a problem. This is because the business has more control over its functions. SOA frees the organization from constraints attributed to having a rigid single use application that is intricately meshed into a fragmented information technology infrastructure. Companies that have adopted service oriented architecture as their IT transformation approach, can easily repurpose, reorganize and rescale services on demand in order to develop new business processes that are adaptable to changes in the business environment. In addition, it enables companies to upgrade and enhance their existing systems without incurring huge costs associated with ‘rip and replace’ IT projects.

In summary, SOA can be termed as the cornerstone of modern IT transformation initiatives. If properly implemented great benefits and a sharp competitive advantage can be achieved. SOA assists in transforming existing disparate and unconnected processes and applications into reusable services; creating an avenue where services can be rapidly reassembled and developed to support market changes.

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