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The Differences Between a Chatbot vs Virtual Agent

When people discuss conversational technology, it isn’t uncommon for them to use terms like chatbot and virtual agent interchangeably. Even though they all let the user gather information or request specific actions using a natural discussion approach, those terms actually describe different kinds of tech.

By understanding the differences between the technologies, you can discuss them with more accuracy. With that in mind, here’s a look at what chatbots and virtual agents are and how they differ from one another.

Innovative Ways that Technology can Make the Holidays Easier

The holiday season is a joyous time, but it can also be very stressful. Handling all of the obligations that come with this time of year can be challenging, particularly if you are already pressed for time.

How You Can Stand Out in the Tech Industry this Upcoming Year

As a tech professional, standing out from the crowd can be challenging. Often, if you are trying to land a new job, you are up against others who have similar technical capabilities and education. You can’t expect your college or hard skills alone to make a lasting impression, as there is a decent chance that other candidates look at least as good as you do on paper.

Staying Relevant

The moment you graduated from college, your skills were well on their way to becoming obsolete.  Sounds depressing, but that's a fact of life for an IT professional. Technology changes daily, seemingly at the speed of light. It's up to you to keep up if you want to remain relevant and marketable in your field. Here are a few tips that may help:

Be a people person

The IT field is rife will professionals who are highly knowledgeable, but unable to communicate what they know to people who don't speak IT. Increasingly, employers are adding communication skills and other soft skills to their list of “must haves”. Become a more well-rounded candidate, and you'll have your pick of opportunities.

Make keeping up a priority

Between your career and your outside obligations, remaining relevant in the IT field can seem like just one more thing to fit into an already overbooked day. But taking some time to focus on your professional development is essential to your career. Schedule some time into each week to keep up on industry news and advancements.

Keep on learning

Commit to continuing education as part of your career strategy. Work towards new certifications each year, learn new programming languages and technologies, or return to school to obtain advanced degrees. Your employer will likely encourage this initiative and offer reimbursement or allow you to expense at least part of the cost. If not, consider it an investment in your own future.

Stay connected

Stay in touch with others in your field.  Join groups, either online or by networking in person. Attend conferences and speeches by industry leaders so that you are always abreast of new developments. It's easy to work in a vacuum, but by making that regular commitment to engage, you increase your knowledge and marketability.

In a field where staying cutting-edge is essential to the industry and your career, it's important to make the time to improve your interpersonal and technical skills, that way you will always be ready for the next big opportunity that comes your way.        

Published in Staffing News

Microsoft Invests

At Microsoft's recent Ignite conference for IT professionals, Microsoft executives unveiled new security measures and services, and called out competitor Google for lax security practices.

“Google takes no responsibility to update their customers’ devices, leaving end-users and businesses increasingly exposed every day they use their Android devices,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems. “Google just ships a big pile of code, and then leaves you exposed with no commitments.”

Microsoft is refining how it distributes security updates, starting with the upcoming releases of Windows 10 and Office 2016, Myerson said.

Changes to Update Protocols

Currently, Microsoft sends updates for Windows on the second Tuesday of each month on "Patch Tuesday." Many consumer machines are configured to download and apply the patches automatically, but enterprises may prefer to control the update process with Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager.

With Windows 10, consumers can now get security updates as they are released from Microsoft, along with other updates and new features, resulting in a “steady stream of innovation every month,” Myerson said.

Businesses can choose to get their updates as soon as they arrive, or wait to see if the patches cause any additional issues first. Microsoft will also offer the option to receive security updates only, not new feature updates, which offers organizations more control without exposing them to security gaps.

Administrators can now specify when they want patches to be applied, so the patches aren’t deployed during a busy time, or at when machines may be shut down. For organizations with limited bandwidth, Windows 10 computers can share the updates in a peer-to-peer network, rather than downloading patches for each machine.

New Services from Microsoft

In addition to updating the patching process, Microsoft also unveiled a number of new services to help better secure systems against data leakage and compromised identities:

Device Guard limits the computer to running only applications that have been administrator approved to run on that machine. This safeguard could prevent the user from unwittingly installing malware, thinking it came from an approved source.

Azure Rights Management Services is a service designed to guard against corporate data leakage. This service provides the ability to protect access to files, even after they leave the individual computer. Before sending a file to someone, a user can specify what permissions that recipient has with that file. The sender can specify, for instance, if that file can be forwarded to additional parties. The sender can even revoke access to the document after it is sent out.

Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics provides a simple way for organizations to identify network intruders. It's based on technology developed by Israeli startup Aorato, which Microsoft acquired in November. This service can show that someone is using a brute-force attack to compromise a user account, when that account was breached and can then follow any additional actions on other machines.

These updates and service offerings give peace of mind to network administrators who must constantly remain alert to new and dangerous security threats.

10 topics it leaders

There is no shortage of change in the IT industry. Leaders can find themselves pulled in multiple directions if they try to follow every development, blog and press release. Here are a few topics that are worthy of your attention.

Cloud Technology

IT leaders must decide how to best use cloud technologies in their organization. Users want to access their data from anywhere and across multiple platforms. Balancing benefits with security is an area of great concern, especially when employees may want to use the cloud to access files from home at work and vice versa, increasing your organization's risk and exposure.

SaaS and SDN

How can you best implement Software as a Service (SaaS) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) in your organization to access and manage applications? What benefits and risks do they bring to your organization?


The dwindling supply of IPv4 addresses has been an area of concern for IT professionals for several years. IPv6 is commonly considered to be the solution. Are your systems ready for this protocol if the need arises?


As access to tablets, smartphones and other mobile platforms increases, the need to develop software that operates cross-platform grows. What plans do you have to manage your mobile infrastructure, monitor it and provide for expansion and security?


Increasingly, employees want to bring their own devices from home to the office. Decisions must be made regarding what access the employees will have to your network and other internal resources. Analyze the risks of exposure with the rewards of having more comfortable and engaged employees.

Internet of Things

Nothing will keep your IT administrators up at night more than the Internet of Things. With the proliferation of Internet-enabled and connected devices, how can you manage risk and reduce exposure?

Big Data

Organizations collect data from a variety of sources. But that data must be segmented and analyzed to be useful. Do you have the applications and infrastructure you need to make the most of collected data?


Famously Al Capone once said that he robbed banks because that's where the money is. That is no longer necessarily the case. Personal information is the new currency and hackers have the knowledge and determination to obtain it. How can you protect your data?


Employees are bringing their own devices. Applications are moving to the cloud. Cybercrime is on the rise. Each of these creates security risks. What strategies can you develop to keep your organization safe and anticipate other areas of concern?

Privacy and Regulation

IT leaders are expected to put systems in place to protect privacy of users and remain compliant with regulations. The challenges lie in the variety of regulations you need to keep up with and the many areas where systems can be breached.

As an IT leader, it falls on you to keep your organization's technology up-to-date, secure and seamlessly integrated. Keep these topics in mind when considering where to concentrate your efforts.