Blog

June 1st, 2015

BusinessContinuity_June1_BUnforeseen disasters can strike at any time and, when they do, your business could come to a grinding halt. A business continuity plan could prevent this from happening by securing your precious business data at another location. But all too often, data backup can be too complicated for the average IT personnel to manage. Should you get hit by disaster, a lack of proper data backup could mean the end of your business - all the more reason to integrate cloud hosting in your data backup strategies. Here’s why the cloud is better than internal backups.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your computer, you lose the hard drive and the backup. Natural disasters or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. Your company could face expensive downtime if your backups are lost or damaged. With cloud-hosted backup, however, things are different. The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available when you need it. Top cloud service providers will offer redundancy, which means they will make a backup of your backups. This increases uptime and ensures optimum levels of data availability.

Fast resource provisioning

When backups are being implemented, spikes in user activity or cloud environment accessibility can rise rapidly and slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in. By closely monitoring user activities, providers can see spikes either before or as they are happening. The provider will provision more resources and virtual machines to manage the influx of users. This type of flexibility is particularly useful for when data backups are in process.

Backup frequency

Most companies work on files and update information throughout the day, so it’s important to have a real-time backup plan ready in case an unexpected disaster occurs. When you backup data to the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. Most cloud-hosted providers offer hourly, daily, monthly, or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own backup schedule. Some of the services offered by these providers will back up files as you make changes, so you’ll know that the very latest version of files and data are always backed up.

Distributed infrastructure

Cloud-hosted backup literally means the delivery of data backup to users all over the world. Selecting the right type of cloud hosting partner is equally as important as having a cloud backup plan in the first place. If international users are trying to access database or download applications through your business website, latency will become a factor - the closer the user is to the data, the faster they’ll be able to access information. A suitable cloud hosting partner will be able to provide backup servers at the location that best suits your company’s business continuity needs. Distributed infrastructure is beneficial if you’re looking to support a large number of worldwide users.

Businesses everywhere are utilizing cloud backup solutions - don’t be the one left behind. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 29th, 2015

164_B_iPhoneIn our fast-paced, interconnected culture where nearly everyone is equipped with a media device, privacy is becoming a valuable commodity that’s harder and harder to retain. And if you’re an iPhone user and business owner who’s oftentimes on the go, you may be texting confidential information on on a daily basis that, if made public, could have a negative impact on your company. Don’t let that happen. Here are three easy steps to take to ensure your iPhone text messages are kept private.

Turn off message previews

Have you ever accidentally left your iPhone on your desk while taking a bathroom break? When your phone is left unguarded in a public place, this is a golden opportunity for a passerby to glimpse a confidential message on your phone’s display. Here are the steps to take to prevent this from happening. Click on the following:
  1. Settings
  2. Notifications
  3. Messages
  4. Show Previews (turning it off)
With the preview setting off, you’ll still be alerted to a new text message. The only difference is that not a single line of said message will be viewable if someone sneaks a peek at your display.

Automatically delete texts

If you lose your phone or it gets stolen, there’s always the chance of it falling into the wrong hands. When that happens, you don’t want your sensitive or valuable information exposed to a stranger.

To avoid this nightmare scenario, there’s an easy solution to ensure your messages are deleted automatically after a designated time period of your choosing. Follow these steps for this additional security. Click on:

  1. Settings
  2. Messages
  3. Keep Messages
From here you now have the option to keep your messages for 30 days, a year or forever.

Turn off read receipts

When the word “Read” appears under a text message you’ve sent, this is a read receipt. It informs you that the the receiver of the text has seen your message. This works both ways, and also alerts the person you’re messaging with that you’ve read their text as well. So, why would you want to turn this off?

Maybe you don’t want to respond immediately to a client or colleague who is corresponding with you via text. If that’s the case, you may not want him or her to know that you’ve seen their message and are waiting to respond. In this scenario, turn off your read receipts and whoever it is you’re texting with will never know you saw their message.

To turn off read receipts, click on:

  1. Settings
  2. Messages
  3. Send Read Receipts (turning it off)
With these additional privacy measures in place, you can rest assured that a confidential text message will never be seen by the wrong person.

Want more iPhone tips or need a technology question answered? Don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
May 26th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_May26_BEven with a business continuity plan in place, the success of an organization means more than safe and secure critical data. It is crucial that business owners make sure they can take care of their most important asset — their employees. To that end, here are five business continuity mistakes to avoid in order to ensure your employees’ peace of mind.

Mistake #1: Assuming your employees will be there to support you

Companies that survive unexpected incidents are the ones that thought about their employees’ needs. It is important that your management team are aware of the business continuity plan’s SWOT analysis, which examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you face in a disaster. Review and obtain formal management sign-off on the SWOT analysis and have your management team make decisions in advance about actions that require expenditure.

Review decisions on paying all employees during a period of business interruption for a minimum period of time. Communicate your strategy and message to your employees to let them know that you will be there to support them and their families in the event of a crisis. This way, your employees will have peace of mind knowing you and the company are there for them, and in turn they will be there to support you.

Mistake #2: Using only words, not actions

Once you have your business continuity plan documented and your SWOT signed off, you need to think about the small stuff to ensure your plan is executable. This includes logistical considerations like food, travel and living requirements, medical aid and monetary support.

Walk the walk and ensure your medical providers have made arrangements in advance. Have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place to make sure your employees have access to people who can give them support in the event of an incident. Staff will remember if you provided them with care and support, and will remember even more clearly if you didn’t.

Mistake #3: Not showing your employees how the plan will work

While many business owners worry about downtime, they overlook the fact that explaining the plan and its execution to employees is critical to minimizing lost productivity.

As part of your maintenance program, include your employees as well as your security, medical and EAP team in the testing process. Execute a live test where various providers can demonstrate their capability to support your employees. This way, your employees will know that you care and can have faith you will be able to support them when the tables have turned.

Mistake #4: Not dealing with your employees first

When an incident occurs, the first assessment most businesses make is to determine the impact it has on the company. But how do you execute that process without people? When disaster strikes, your employees will naturally want to be taking care of their families, not your business.

Ensure your crisis management team addresses the people issues first. Where are they? What do I need to do for them? Are there any special employee needs I must address? After having accomplished this, you gain the ability to show your people that you’re in control and that you truly care.

Mistake #5: Reacting rather than communicating

In the event of a disaster, the most important thing to get right is communication. It is imperative that your employees know you can provide them with the most up-to-date information.

Set up a toll-free hotline so your employees can call in for regular updates, or create an open forum where your employees can tell you what you could have done better and what failed. With that, you provide consistent messaging and you can eliminate second-hand information and employee guesswork, while gaining insight into what could have been improved.

If your business continuity plan takes into account that your employees are your biggest assets, you’ll have peace of mind knowing the core of your organization is still standing strong even if the worst should happen.

Looking to learn more about business continuity and how it can help your business? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2015

164_Biz V_BRunning a business is time consuming. You likely are so busy managing staff, looking for growth opportunities and satisfying your clients that you have little time to search for technology solutions that can benefit your business. Even worse, you may be so frustrated with your current IT system that you make an impulsive technology purchase that causes more harm than good. To help you avoid this pitfall, we’ve listed five IT investment mistakes every business owner needs to be aware of.

Investing in the newest technology instead of the best fit

It’s the job of every marketer to make you believe the newest technology on the market will resolve all your problems. And while the latest cloud or virtualization offering is likely to make things better for many individuals and organizations, it isn’t going to work for everyone.

Don’t let the flash and hype of a new product deceive you. Take the time to think about the results you’re trying to achieve with technology. Make a list of them, and when you’re done match those criteria with the product that fits. Any good IT provider will be happy to serve as your consultant to ensure you make the best choice.

Believing everything will magically work together

As technology evolves, it is inevitably becoming simpler to use. Consumers want user friendly products and solutions that are easy to implement, and nowadays that’s what they’re getting - at least most of the time. Because of this belief that all products are going to be plug-and-play, many business owners hold the misguided assumption that any new technology they implement is automatically going to synchronize with their other IT. It is simply not true.

Though many technologies are compatible with one another, your business is taking a big risk - that could result in massive downtime and wasted money - if you implement a new tool that doesn’t integrate well into your current system and workflow. Be smart, do some research or consult with an IT professional before making a purchase.

Assuming your team doesn’t need support and training

Now that you’ve found the perfect fit technology and you’re sure it will integrate into your current IT setup, you go ahead and purchase it. You let out a sigh of relief as you kick back and let your sparkly new IT solution power your company to new levels of success and profits in a SMB “happily ever after” fantasy. Sound too good to be true? That’s probably because it usually is.

Don’t forget that not all of your employees are going to instinctively know how to use the new technology. Consult with your IT provider to see if they offer support and training. If not, you may want to look elsewhere or find an alternative solution before you buy.

Forgetting to create a budget

More and more IT solutions are packaged with pay-as-you-go monthly pricing. While this is a great way to help you avoid large upfront capital investment, if you implement too many different technologies too fast - and without thinking about the recurring costs - you could quickly run out of money before having properly created a complete technology platform.

Think about what you’re comfortable spending on IT before you open your wallet. Do some research, and either draft a budget on your own or acquire the assistance of a consultant to help you along.

Failing to get staff input

It’s wise to consult with the employees who will be using the new technology you implement, on a daily basis. It’s even wiser to do it before you purchase it.

The truth is that not all of your employees may be on board with the new product. They may actually even know some downsides to it you weren’t aware of. Regardless, it’s smart to consult with them beforehand, or you may find yourself in a constant fight getting them to adopt it.

Need to consult with an IT professional to create a complete technology solution for your business? We’re happy to serve you in any way possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2015

SocialMedia_May25_BSocial media marketing is one of many effective methods to expand your business’s reach to a wider group of audience that could eventually turn into potential customers. When we think of social media marketing, our thoughts immediately turn to Facebook. Yet there is another alternative social media platform worth looking into - Twitter. As a small business owner you should leave no stone unturned, so consider using Twitter to market your business and drive more customers. Here are some Twitter best practices.

Tweet regularly

Consistent tweeting indicates an active, healthy profile. If you only tweet only once a week, or worse still once a month, most of your followers will forget about you. You’ve worked hard to get them to follow you, so make an effort to keep them engaged by interacting with them on a regular basis. Make sure you tweet relevant or useful information, content your followers will read, retweet, and favorite. Come up with a tweet schedule and refer to it when you’re running out of ideas.

Follow trends

It pays to stay on top of the latest happenings in your industry. Try to put your business in the light by following relevant hashtags and trending topics. This way you’ll always have something new to share with your followers. Add trending hashtags to your tweets, in order to reach new users that have similar interests.

Use visuals

People tend to understand visual content more than text. You should try to create a dynamic experience for your Twitter audience by adding different types of media to your tweets, such as images and videos, which are proven to receive more views, clicks, and shares than plain-text tweets.

Retweet great content

Don’t be afraid to retweet when you see something worth sharing with your followers. Retweeting somebody else’s Twitter content has its own benefits - you create a good relationship with other influencers on Twitter, and it shows your followers that you’re an active member of your online community.

Track mentions

Know what’s being said about you by tracking brand mentions and keywords. This is a great method to provide distinctive customer service or to reach out to new customers. For instance, when someone is tweeting feedback on your products or services, take the opportunity to respond politely. And when you see someone tweet about their needs for a specific service you can provide, jump in to the conversation and introduce your company.

Integrate with other marketing efforts

Twitter is much more effective when integrated with your other marketing activities, such as email subscriptions. For example, if you’re running a promotion or contest via Twitter, let your email subscribers know about it, since they are another customer base who want to receive messages from you - that’s why they signed up in the first place.

If you want to implement Twitter to your business’s social media marketing campaigns, get in touch with us today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 22nd, 2015

iPad_May22_BAccording to Apple, its iPad sales are on the decline, down to 12.6 million units from 16.4 million a year earlier. The tech giant has responded by unveiling a new advertising campaign that’s built around the tagline “everything changes with iPad”. The new ad highlights the many ways that each of us can use the tablet to assist in our daily life activities. Here’s what you need to know about Apple’s latest marketing campaign.

Why iPad sales are declining

The iPad’s initial sales growth has been in steady decline over the past few years, and there are many reasons behind it. For one thing, tablets aren’t like smartphones. More consumers are opting to buy bigger-screened iPhones, such as the iPhone 6 Plus. In addition, consumers usually hold on to a smartphone for a certain period of time, and then upgrade to a new model that promises better performance and new features. Tablets, on the other hand, have a much longer replacement cycle, with fewer advances in each new model release. They are usually passed between family members, reducing the need for new purchases.

“Everything changes with iPad”

Determined to turn things around with this new slogan, Apple has presented the new ad in a 90-second video displayed on its official website. The film shows adults and children using the iPad to assist with a variety of tasks - from cooking to picking up new hobbies, traveling, redecorating, learning, and communicating with loved ones.

Apple went a step further to promote its ad campaign by creating a dedicated marketing micro-site, and pooling in popular iPad apps like Green Kitchen, MailChimp, Google Maps, and Pinterest. These pitch pages provided solid reasons for us to consider buying an iPad - the argument being that it can change the way we do things every day. To cap it all, they have included a “Why iPad?” section, outlining the key features of an iPad and providing more justification for consumers to purchase one.

A deeper look into the iPad micro-site

Let’s take a closer look at Apple’s dedicated micro-site. It highlights the capabilities of an iPad to make the user’s life easier in many ways.
  • Cooking - If you need inspiration for out-of-the-box recipes, the iPad’s Green Kitchen provides you with creative ideas from some of the best chefs. Cooking is made easier with iPad apps that are able to show you a detailed recipe of your choosing, or instructions to make the most of the ingredients you have at hand.
  • Learning - Children can benefit and learn from interactive games that engage them through sight, sound and touch. Whether it’s visual puzzles, basic programming, stargazing, or academic lessons - the iPad has them all.
  • Small business - The iPad offers an array of productivity apps, allowing you to do business anywhere, anytime. From managing business appointments to tracking projects and making online payments, the iPad has opened new possibilities for business owners.
  • Traveling - The iPad could be a traveler’s new best friend, with its ability to book hotels and flights, display routes without the need for an Internet connection, and provide entertainment with its music and movie apps.
  • Redecorating - House decoration has never been easier. With the iPad, you can create an accurate floor plan without a tape measure. You can find fresh ideas from Pinterest to lighten up your rooms. DIY projects are also a breeze with the iPad’s step-by-step guides.
Apple is expecting an increase in revenue following the launch of this new iPad commercial. If you want to learn how to best implement the iPad into your office, give us a call today and we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
May 22nd, 2015

InternetSocRepMngmnt_May22_BHow often do you use your favorite search engine to check on a company’s products, services, and feedback before dealing with them? That’s exactly what most people do these days - they research a company and see what others have to say. The same thing applies to your business. If you have a bad online reputation, you’re going to feel it hit your bottom line hard. Managing and maintaining your online reputation is therefore as important as having one in the first place. Let’s take a look at the reasons your business needs a positive online reputation.

Trust and credibility

Trust and credibility are two important factors and could either make or break your business’s online reputation. If you can over-deliver on your customers’ expectations, there’s a good chance they will spread the word about their experience - and that’s great for your business. Take the time to earn your clients’ trust, and you’ll be rewarded with a strong brand image that will attract more potential clients for years to come.

Increased sales

Customers are more likely than ever to research brands, products, and services online before they make the decision to purchase. Make sure you have social media accounts ready, and ask your existing customers to follow you. Post regularly about your products, along with other valuable content related to the nature of your business to grab your customers’ attention. Personal interaction with customers is a great strategy to boost sales, so don’t let their comments go unanswered - see that you respond in a timely manner to every one of them to show that you value their business.

Online insights

Today, it’s very common to see negative feedback on a business’s social media pages. If things aren’t addressed properly, a negative comment or review could be the start of your business’s downfall, since they spread like wildfire online. By establishing an online presence you will gain a valuable insight into what your clients and competitors are saying about you and, if it’s something bad, you can step in and rectify the issue before it goes viral.

Show your best side

Potential customers are online right now, researching your company before doing business with you. Some of them don’t know you well enough to make immediate decisions, and so will judge your business on the basis of the information that is available to them. Whatever the products or services you provide for customers, once the feedback appears online, it sticks. This is a chance to present your company in a good light to attract more customers, which converts into increased revenue.

Always remember that it can only take a few seconds to destroy a brand’s online reputation that took years to build. Contact us today for advice on how to build an online reputation for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 21st, 2015

164_Office_BWith Google Apps and Office 365 revolutionizing the way people work, you may feel that Microsoft Office is quickly becoming a dated product that will soon be packed away to the back of the closet. But with the 2016 version set to launch in autumn of this year, Microsoft is looking to change your mind. Now they’re adapting their classic Office package for today’s modern workforce. Here are four of the new features that are reinventing the way you look at your Office applications.

Cloud focus for Outlook attachments

Microsoft knows that sharing attachments amongst co-workers and teams can be a hassle. With many collaborators still sharing documents and files the old fashioned way - attaching it to an email and then sending to others - it’s easy for users to get confused and send an incorrect or outdated version.

To solve this problem, Microsoft is gently nudging us to use the cloud. Now when you add an attachment to an email, you’re now asked if you’d also like to share a link to a file on your OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint account.

Showcasing easy ways to use Office better

If you’re like most people, you probably aren’t using Office to its full potential. And who can blame you? Between Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more, there are literally hundreds of features and tools you can use - if only you had the time to discover them all.

To help you get the most out of Office, Microsoft has now added a Tell Me box in the top center of your program title bar. This tool gives you an easy way to get questions answered. For example, if you want to project your desktop screen to a second monitor or create a graph in Excel, simply type your question into the Tell Me box and Microsoft will find the answers that most closely fit your search criteria.

Sway

Look out PowerPoint, here comes Sway - the new, hipper Office application that makes creating fluid, stylish presentations easy. With Sway, you can now gather content from various sources across the web, and then easily organize it into a presentation that can be viewed on a smartphone, laptop, iPad or other device.

What makes Sway more exciting than PowerPoint is in the process of gathering content: simply drag files, photos or video from YouTube, OneDrive and various social networks into the app. Once you have your content, you can easily organize it and adjust your design to create a unique look and feel for your presentation.

Better Data Protection

With Office 2016, Microsoft has raised the bar for data security. Now administrators can set and enable Data Loss Protection policies for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Unlike in older versions of Office, administrators now have a range of security options at their disposal. For example, they can prevent data from being copied and pasted outside of Office 2016 applications, restrict files from being sent to certain individuals, and implement file-level encryption for Word, Excel and Outlook.

Want to learn more about Microsoft Office 2016? Have questions about other Office products? Give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 20th, 2015

164_Prod_BAre you struggling to find ways to make your employees more productive? Do they seem distracted by Facebook and not committed to their job or your company? In today’s social media saturated world, it may seem difficult to keep your employees focused. So what can you do? Here are four ideas to get staff on your side and have them producing results.

Set clear goals

In order for your employees to produce results and reach their productivity potential, they need to know what is expected of them. At some organizations, it may be perfectly acceptable to spend one hour surfing the Internet everyday and seven hours working; or it may be considered normal to count a lunch break towards the eight hours worked. The truth is that more and more employees are bouncing between jobs from company to company, and each organization has a different set of standards and expectations. If it’s not communicated to your employees what yours are, you can be certain that they’ll make up their own.

Additionally, your employees need to know what results you expect them to produce. Maybe that means they need to sell a certain volume of products each month, or maybe it means they need to consistently score a four-star customer satisfaction rating. Whatever it is, your employees need to be aware of your expectations and have some sort of goal to shoot for. This gives you a way to see the results each employee is producing. Then you can try to find a solution to increase the productivity of your lower performing staff.

Be personable with your employees

Have you ever had a boss that rarely interacted with employees and that everyone feared? Maybe he stayed locked away in his office most days or ignored staff members as he quickly strode through the office never cracking a smile. Do you think employees want to produce results for a boss like this? They might, but it may be out of fear of losing their job rather than genuinely wanting to help that boss and the company at large.

Interact with your employees. And not only about work. Ask them how their weekend was. Find common interests to talk about. Take the time to get to know them. It’s easy for employees to not produce results or care about their job if the business owner is unapproachable and distant. On the contrary, if the owner is personable and friendly with staff, it is harder for an employee to slack off and not commit to the company’s growth. It’s natural for employees to work harder for a person they know, rather than one who’s “all business” and persistently unavailable.

Listen to your employees’ feedback

To go along with being personable, take the time to gather and listen to your employees’ feedback. If you show that you value their opinions, they’ll feel part of the team and organization. When this happens, they’ll be more committed to your goals and will want to see the company succeed as much as you do.

Of course that doesn’t mean you need to take every bit of employee feedback and run with it - it simply means keeping an open mind. Your team will respect you more and work harder for you as a result.

Provide reliable equipment

This is a no brainer. But if an employee doesn’t have the reliable equipment and tools to complete their job, their productivity levels will plummet. A broken computer, crashed server or faulty Internet connection will have your staff twiddling their thumbs and playing with their phones in no time. If it’s your technology that’s the culprit in this situation, Managed Services represent an exceptional solution to prevent your IT from ever breaking down in the first place. What does that mean for your staff? Less downtime, more productivity and more results.

Interested in discovering more ways to boost employee productivity? Want to learn how Managed Services can ensure the reliability of your IT and prevent downtime? Contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
May 15th, 2015

MobileGeneral_May15_BEven if you think your company is on top of its social media marketing efforts, chances are there is yet more that you could be doing. In particular, the mobile arena continues to grow and develop seemingly without slowing down - and if you’re not harnessing the potential that this segment represents, it’s about time you started to. New data from Twitter demonstrates just how important it is not only to be harnessing access to mobile social media users, but to be doing so through video. Here’s what you need to know.

The Twitter report shows that globally, 90 percent of videos watched on Twitter are now being seen through a mobile device - whether that’s a smartphone or tablet - rather than on a desktop or laptop. Of all Twitter users, 82 percent use the social network - which until relatively recently has been primarily text-based - to watch video content.

Also evidenced in the report is the different use that is served by video on Twitter as opposed to that on other platforms, like YouTube. The report drives home the fact that Twitter represents a means for users to discover new video content, even if they weren’t necessarily looking for it. 70 percent of those surveyed said they primarily watch videos that they have discovered on the platform, whereas the majority - 63 percent - of those actively looking for particular videos use YouTube, rather than Twitter, to do so. In Twitter’s own words, consumers go to Twitter to discover content they don’t already know about rather than searching for something specific.

This is good news for advertisers - showing the value that can be driven for brands using videos that Twitter users discover while interacting on the platform in other ways. So too is the fact that video content directly embedded into tweets, rather than hosted on third-party players like Youtube, generates higher engagement - 2.5 times as many replies, 2.8 times as many retweets, and 1.9 times as many favorites. This is likely because of the lesser effort required to watch and interact with native video, as opposed to third-party content which typically involves additional clicks before being able to view it.

The report says two main things to advertisers. Firstly, sharing video content needs to be an increasingly essential part of your social media strategy - and will bring particular value in helping you to connect with the growing proportion of users who access sites like Twitter through mobile devices. Additionally, the research highlights the success stories that businesses are seeing using Twitter advertising methods like Promoted Video - so now could be the time to consider whether sponsored tweets are a good fit for your organization.

To learn more about harnessing mobile devices and social media to boost your business, give us a call - or drop us a tweet!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.