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October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_AEarlier this year news broke of one of the most widespread and potentially devastating bugs to-date - Heartbleed. While heartbleed was massive and companies are still dealing with the fallout to this day, news has recently broke of an even bigger potential threat: Shellshock. This is a security issue all business owners, managers, and employees should be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 8th, 2014

Office365_Oct07_AWhen it comes to integrating Microsoft Office into your company, you are faced with two main options: Either purchasing Microsoft Office 2013 or signing up for the cloud-based version, Office 365. With both of these options you do get access to the Office suite, but there is some confusion over what the main difference is between the two product offerings.

What is Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office 2013 is the latest version of Microsoft’s popular Office suite. With apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more, it is mostly similar to all previous versions of Office. When you purchase this type of Office you receive a number of licenses allowing you to install this on up to five computers or devices – depending on the version (e.g., Home, Student, Professional) of Office that you get.

You can purchase these products outright, as you have done with previous versions of Office, but Microsoft is really pushing their subscription-based version of Office, what they call Office 365. When you subscribe to the Office 365 version of Microsoft 2013, you get the same software as you would if you purchased it outright, the only difference is you pay for it either monthly or yearly, instead of all at once.

What is Office 365 for business then?

Where it gets confusing for many is that in 2011 Microsoft launched a cloud-based version of Office for businesses also called Office 365. Despite the same name as the subscription-based version of Office 2013, this is a different product that is aimed at businesses.

Office 365 for businesses is a monthly (or yearly) per-user subscription service that offers businesses productivity software, enhanced communication apps like email and video conferencing; guaranteed security; and support for intranet and collaboration solution SharePoint.

With Office 365 for business, companies can sign up for a number of plans. Some of them, like Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business, offer full versions of Office 2013 (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Lync, Outlook, Notes, Access, etc) that users can install on their computers or mobile devices. Other versions, like Office 365 Small Business, come with Office Web Apps which can be accessed via your browser.

Which is better for business?

Most businesses will benefit more from Office 365 because of the extra features and enhanced security. Not to mention the fact that the monthly per-user cost is usually lower when compared to licensing the same version of Office 2013 for each individual.

Some other benefits Office 365 for Business include:

  • All users are on the same version of Office: Because Office 365 for Business is based in the cloud and is managed via a central admin panel, you can ensure that all users have exactly the same version of Office, which in turn ensures that your files will be compatible.
  • Reduced licensing costs: If you were to purchase individual versions of Office 2013 for your employees, you could end up paying over USD $399 for the Professional version which can only be installed on one computer. Compare this with Office 365 Small Business Premium which costs USD $12.50 per user, per month and offers the same version of Office, along with more features.
  • Enhanced security and uptime: Microsoft guarantees that Office 365 software will be up and running 99.9% of the time, which means the programs you rely on will be available when you need them.
  • It’s more mobile: With Office Web Apps and Office 2013 mobile apps you can take your work anywhere. Combine this with solutions like SharePoint which allow you to store documents in a central location, which makes it easier to access your files while out of the office. Beyond that, if you would like to use the Office mobile apps, you will need an Office 365 subscription.

If you are looking to integrate Office 365 into your organization, or would like to learn more, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 8th, 2014

iPad_Oct07_AiOS 8 has been released, and for those who have an iPad 2 and newer, you have likely already upgraded. While the latest version of iOS does bring some great changes, there are reports that older devices have seen a dramatic increase in battery drain. This is never ideal, especially when you might expect a newer version of an operating system to increase battery life. To help, it could be a good idea to track apps using the most battery.

How to see the battery power apps are using on iOS 8

One of the first things you should do when you notice that your battery is draining faster than normal is to look at how much power each app is using. This can be done by:
  1. Tapping on the Settings app.
  2. Selecting General from the menu bar on the left-hand side of the Settings app.
  3. Tapping on Usage which is located in the menu that opens in the right side of the screen. Selecting Battery Usage.
In the window that opens you will be able to see basic battery information like how long you have used the device since its last charge, and how much power has been used. While this is useful in its own right, there is also valuable information about what apps are using the most power.

This data displays apps that are using the most power first, so you can quickly see what apps are power hungry and take action. In iOS 8, a new tab was actually introduced into the Battery Usage tracker, which shows a seven day running average of the most power hungry apps.

Tapping on the tab that says Last 7 Days at the top of the screen will bring this information up. This is useful because it gives you a better view of the truly power hungry apps.

What do I do with apps that are really draining my iPad's battery?

There are a number of things you can do, including:
  • Uninstalling the app: If the app with the highest battery drain isn't overly useful, then possibly the best step to take would be to uninstall it. Another option may be to look for a similar app and give that a try to see if it fares any better on battery use.
  • Change when you use the app: Some apps, like video recording suites, bandwidth or processing-heavy apps like games, drain your battery quickly when they are running. Instead of using them while on battery power, try to use them when your iPad is plugged into a power source.
  • Limit use until the app is updated: If you are experiencing battery drain, there is a good chance that other users are as well. You can either limit the use of the app until an app update is issued, (most updates will usually fix battery issues), or try to contact the developer directly. Take a look on iTunes for the app and you should see developer contact information there.
  • Dim the display: The iPad has a great display, and many apps look good when you have the display's brightness set at its brightest. The issue with this however, is that a super-bright display will drain your battery quickly. Try turning the display brightness down as low as possible in order to slow how fast the battery is drained.
  • Limit network connections: Similar to your display, having Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios always on will also drain your battery. If you aren't connected to Wi-Fi, or don't have any Bluetooth devices, then it is best to turn them off. The reason for this is because if they are on, they constantly look for a connection which eats up battery power.
If you are looking for more ways to decrease or manage the power drain on your iPad contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
October 8th, 2014

AndroidTablet_Oct07_AFor most new Android tablets, or those running Android 4.4 and newer at least, one of the stock apps included with all devices is Google Hangouts. This chat app is available across all Android devices and various Google apps like Gmail. It enables users to chat on a number of devices, and has recently been updated with not only a new look, but calling features.

Looking at the new version of Hangouts

In late September, Google launched a new version of Hangouts for Android devices. With it came a new redesign that reflects the upcoming Android L's Material Design look. When you update and launch the app you will notice that it has changed slightly, with a light green bar across the top and three to four icons:
  • A person: Tapping this will show you your connections, ranked by frequent contacts first, then alphabetical after that. Selecting a contact will open up either a new chat (if you have never messaged the person before), or will open up an ongoing chat (if you have messaged them before).
  • A speech bubble: Tapping this will open up existing chats and SMSs (if you have a SIM card for your device) listed in chronological order.
  • A plus sign: Tapping this will allow you to search for a contact to either start a new chat with, or continue chatting with.
  • A phone: This is a new connectable app called Google Hangouts Dialer (more on that below). It may not show up on some devices.
Tapping your name at the top of the bar will slide a menu in from the left with a number of options including: Invites, Archived conversations, Moods, Settings, etc. Overall, the new update makes the app look much better and even easier to navigate.

Looking at Hangouts Dialer

Since 2009, Google has offered VoIP-like calling features through an app called Google Voice. People who signed up for this could make low cost or free calls to anywhere in the US and Canada, and some other countries as well. Like most other VoIP services, they could also call internationally for low rates.

Users in the US could also pick a local number which could be used for incoming calls. When anyone dialed that number, as they would any other mobile or landline number, the call would go over the Internet or data connection. What is interesting about this is that the number was free, so anyone with an existing data connection or Wi-Fi could theoretically obtain a free phone number.

Earlier this year, rumor broke that Google was going to be getting rid of Google Voice. Instead, the company announced that they would be merging it into Google Hangouts, thereby bringing VoIP calling and Google Voice features into the already useful chat app.

In mid September, shortly after the main Hangouts update, the company introduced the Hangouts Dialer app which, when installed, essentially turns the app into a phone. For those with Google Voice accounts, you will be able to migrate your account into Hangouts and continue using the service as you ordinarily would.

Migrating Google Voice to Hangouts

This migration can be done by launching either Hangouts or Voice. You should see a box pop-up on Hangouts asking you if you want to turn on phone calling in Hangouts. If you select yes, you will need to download the Hangouts Dialer app. From here, open the Google Voice app and you should see a blue box at the top asking you if you would like to migrate to Hangouts. Pressing Turn it on! will start the migration.

Once this is complete, you can use either the Hangouts Dialer or Hangouts app to place VoIP or Google Voice calls. For those who don't have Google Voice, or who live in an area where it isn't available, you can still call other contacts using Hangout's VoIP functionality. Just open a chat, and tap on the phone icon at the top of the screen.

This feature, while currently limited to users in the US and Canada, is great for tablet users who are looking for a way to connect to the office, but don't want to shell out for both a tablet and a phone. If you would like to learn more about this app, or how Android tablets can fit into your organization, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 7th, 2014

GoogleApps_Oct07_AFor those who use Google Apps, more specifically Google Docs, in their office, there is a good chance that many of your documents will need to contain bulleted lists or numbers. These are both included in Docs but did you know that you can format them and that Google has also recently updated their overall behavior?

Creating a bulleted/numbered list in a Google Doc

If you have text in a Doc that you would like to change into a bulleted or numbered list, you can do so by:
  1. Highlighting the content you would like to be turned into a list.
  2. Pressing More in the toolbar above the document.
  3. Clicking on either the button with 1,2,3, or bullets.
This will turn the highlighted content into a list. If you want to include sublists, click where you would like the sublist to start and hit Tab. This will move the list item over one indent and create a sublist. If you have sublists that are supposed to be major list items, then click at the left-side of the point and hit Shift + Tab.

Formatting your bullets or numbers

By default, any numbered lists will start with standard numbers (e.g., 1,2,3) and bulleted lists will start with a round bullet. You can change the type of number or bullet used by pressing on the little gray arrow beside the list type button on the menu bar above the text field. This will bring up a drop-down menu with different types of lists. For example, you can change 1,2,3 lists into A,B,C lists, or Roman Numerals.

You can change the color of the bullets or numbers by clicking on one of the bullets and pressing the text color button. This is located in the menu bar above the text field and looks like an A with a black bar below it. Select the color you want.

The new change to bulleted/numbered lists

In late September, Google introduced a small change to the way Docs handles lists. Now, when you are typing, you can enter a number of characters on a new line and Google will automatically create a list. For example, if you are typing and need to create a numbered list hit Enter to go to a new line and enter: 1. (with the period).

You will notice that this creates an automatic indent. Hitting Enter again will add another list item. The characters you can use to tell Docs to automatically create a list include: *, -, (a), a), a., (A), A), A., I., (1), 1), and 1.

If you don't want to create a list like this, then simply hit Backspace after the list is indented to convert it into a normal line. You can also turn this function off by pressing Tools followed by Preferences… and unticking Automatically detect lists and then Ok.

Looking to learn more about using Google Docs in the office? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 3rd, 2014

Genhealth_Oct02_AFor the first time ever, achieving meaningful use depends on patient behavior: Meaningful use Stage 2 requires at least 5 percent of a health-care provider's patients to be engaged in their own care— either through an electronic medical record (EMR) or an online portal.

The push for patient engagement is understandable, if data provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is accurate. According to the foundation, patients who are not engaged in their own health care can cost 21 percent more than patients who are highly engaged.

But, many health-care providers are worried about the patient engagement requirement, and for good reason: To some extent patient engagement is out of the physician’s control. But it doesn’t have to be, with good communication, both in the office and via electronic followup.

The first step is letting your patients know you have an online portal, which they may not be aware of. According to a survey from Technology Advice, a consulting firm, 40 percent of people who saw a primary-care physician within the last year didn’t even know if the physician offered a portal.

Keep in mind, however, that you may want to do more than create and communicate about a patient portal. By creating a vehicle that connects all stakeholders across the health-care continuum—patients and physicians alike—you truly elevate the patient experience.

If you are looking for help meeting these requirements, contact us today to learn how our systems and experts can support your practice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 2nd, 2014

Security_Sep29_AWith the ever growing number of security threats faced by businesses around the world, the vast majority of business owners have adopted some form of security measures in an effort to keep their organizations secure. But, how do you know the measures you've implemented are actually keeping your systems safe? Here are five ways you can tell if your security measures aren't sufficient.

1. Open wireless networks

Wireless networks are one of the most common ways businesses allow their employees to get online. With one main Internet line and a couple of wireless routers, you can theoretically have the whole office online. This method of connecting does save money, but there is an inherent security risk with this and that is an unsecure network.

Contrary to popular belief, simply plugging in a wireless router and creating a basic network won't mean you are secure. If you don't set a password on your routers, then anyone within range can connect. Hackers and criminal organizations are known to look for, and then target these networks. With fairly simple tools and a bit of know-how, they can start capturing data that goes in and out of the network, and even attacking the network and computers attached. In other words, unprotected networks are basically open invitations to hackers.

Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that all wireless networks in the office are secured with passwords that are not easy to guess. For example, many Internet Service Providers who install hardware when setting up networks will often just use the company's main phone number as the password to the router. This is too easy to work out, so changing to a password that is a lot more difficult to guess is makes sense.

2. Email is not secure

Admittedly, most companies who have implemented a new email system in the past couple of years will likely be fairly secure. This is especially true if they use cloud-based options, or well-known email systems like Exchange which offer enhanced security and scanning, while using modern email transition methods.

The businesses at risk are those using older systems like POP, or systems that don't encrypt passwords (what are known as 'clear passwords'). If your system doesn't encrypt information like this, anyone with the right tools and a bit of knowledge can capture login information and potentially compromise your systems and data.

If you are using older email systems, it is advisable to upgrade to newer ones, especially if they don't encrypt important information.

3. Mobile devices that aren't secure enough

Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are being used more than ever before in business, and do offer a great way to stay connected and productive while out of the office. The issue with this however is that if you use your tablet or phone to connect to office systems, and don't have security measures in place, you could find networks compromised.

For example, if you have linked your work email to your tablet, but don't have a screen lock enabled and you lose your device anyone who picks it up will have access to your email and potentially sensitive information.

The same goes if you accidentally install a fake app with malware on it. You could find your systems infected. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your device is locked with at least a passcode, and you have anti-virus and malware scanners installed and running on a regular basis.

4. Anti-virus scanners that aren't maintained

These days, it is essential that you have anti-virus, malware, and spyware scanners installed on all machines and devices in your company and that you take the time to configure these properly. It could be that scans are scheduled during business hours, or they just aren't updated. If you install these solutions onto your systems, and they start to scan during work time, most employees will just turn the scanner off thus leaving systems wide-open.

The same goes for not properly ensuring that these systems are updated. Updates are important for scanners, because they implement new virus databases that contain newly discovered malware and viruses, and fixes for them.

Therefore, scanners need to be properly installed and maintained if they are going to even stand a chance of keeping systems secure.

5. Lack of firewalls

A firewall is a networking security tool that can be configured to block certain types of network access and data from leaving the network or being accessed from outside of the network. A properly configured firewall is necessary for network security, and while many modems include this, it's often not robust enough for business use.

What you need instead is a firewall that covers the whole network at the point where data enters and exits (usually before the routers). These are business-centric tools that should be installed by an IT partner like us, in order for them to be most effective.

How do I ensure proper business security?

The absolute best way a business can ensure that their systems and networks are secure is to work with an IT partner like us. Our managed services can help ensure that you have proper security measures in place and the systems are set up and managed properly. Tech peace of mind means the focus can be on creating a successful company instead. Contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 2nd, 2014

Hardware_Sep29_AComputers and mobile devices might be high tech but they are still exposed to dust and grime and get dirty after a time. While for many a slightly unclean screen is a minor annoyance, neglecting to clean your devices could result in a decrease in longevity and possibly performance too. Once you commit to regularly cleaning your tech equipment it is important that you know how.

Cleaning desktop monitors

The monitor on your desktop is what many people spend the majority of their days in the office looking at. A clean monitor makes it easier to see your desktop more clearly. The best way to clean your monitor is to turn it off first, then take a microfiber cloth (these can be purchased at many optical stores as well as computer stores) and gently rub in a circular motion.

If there are still spots, then dip the cloth in a tiny bit of water - don't spray the water onto the screen - and try cleaning again. It is important that you don't press hard on the screen, as this could damage your monitor's pixels. Also, it is not a good idea to use paper-based products like paper towel or tissue, as they will not only leave residue, but may actually scratch the monitor slightly.

Cleaning mobile screens

Mobile and other touch screens usually will get your fingerprints all over them, making it harder to see what you are looking at. The best way to clean these screens is with a microfiber cloth. For tougher to remove spots you can dip the cloth into a small amount of water and then gently wipe the screen. Don't splash water onto it before cleaning, as water could get inside the device, which will likely void the warranty while potentially ruin internal components.

Some people suggest rubbing alcohol to remove fingerprints and disinfect the device. While this will be ok for some screens, many manufacturers recommend against it because the alcohol can eat away at the protective film on some devices.

If you notice that there is a lot of dust or gunk on the edges of your screen, or even in cracks, you may need to take the device into a mobile shop for further cleaning. Do not open the device yourself as this could void the warranty.

Cleaning your keyboard

Our fingers are touching keyboards almost all day, and after a while you will notice that your keyboard gets a bit grungy, with debris and dirt even between the keys. Before you do start cleaning, be sure to unplug the keyboard, or turn it off if it is wireless. To clean the upper parts of the keys - where your fingers strike the keys - try dipping cotton swabs into rubbing alcohol and then cleaning the keys with a gentle rub.

To clean between keys you will need compressed air which can be purchased at most office supply and computer stores. Spraying in between keys should be enough to get rid of most of the dust and grit.

Cleaning your mouse

Like the keyboard, the mouse can get quite dirty too, with grime from your fingers and dust in general. The best way to clean a mouse is to first unplug it and then use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean it. You should not need to open your mouse and most models are designed to not be opened by users.

Cleaning your laptop's body

If your laptop's body is dirty the most effective way to clean it is to turn it off, unplug it, and clean it with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Some online articles recommend using a Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or similar cleaning tool. While this does work, it acts in the same way as super fine sandpaper, so you have to be careful that you do not end up actually lightly scratching the body.

Cleaning your computer tower

Some people may want to clean their desktop computer's tower. While this is doable by taking a slightly damp microfiber cloth and wiping down the front and side of your tower, we strongly recommend avoiding the back, and certain areas of the front, as there are ports and components that could be easily damaged.

As always, be sure to disconnect the power source and all wires before cleaning, as any water damage could ruin your computer.

Cleaning the inside of your computer

Dust will eventually get into the inside of your computer and could clog up cooling fans, causing them to stop working properly. This can potentially lead to other components overheating. The internal components of your computer are extremely fragile and need to be handled with great care. Do not take the case off of your computer as this usually voids your warranty.

For all of your computer needs our technicians are here to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 2nd, 2014

The vast majority of business owners are well aware of the fact that disaster can strike at any time. As a result most do take steps to prevent this from happening or at least limiting the potential impact. However, there is always a chance that these plans don’t work. To help prevent this from happening to your business, it might be a good idea to know about the common ways continuity plans do fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

  1. Not customizing a plan

    Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won’t necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

    It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

  2. Action plans that contain too much information

    One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don’t want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

    Instead, try keeping action plans – what needs to be done during an emergency – separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

  3. Failing to properly define the scope

    The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

    While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

  4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

    Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

    Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

  5. Failing to test, update, and test again

    Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis – at least twice a year.

    From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your business continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan with supporting systems, contact us today.

October 1st, 2014

OSX_Sep29_AOver the past decade or so, Apple's laptops have become increasingly popular with business users. From the svelte Macbook Air to the powerful MacBook Pro, you can guarantee that at least one person in your office has a Mac laptop in the house. As with all laptops you will want to configure how the device uses power in order to conserve battery life and this can be done through the Energy Saver function.

What is Energy Saver for Mac?

Energy Saver is a feature included in all versions of OS X after version 10.6 (Snow Leopard) that allows users to configure how their computer users energy - both when running on battery and when plugged in. All Apple computers have this feature, including desktop computers, but it is most useful for those with laptops, where you can configure your laptop to extend battery life.

Accessing Energy Saver preferences

There are two ways you can access the Energy Saver function on your Mac. If you are using a laptop, you should see a battery icon in the top menu bar of the screen, usually located on the right. Press this and select Open Energy Saver Preferences…

If you don't see the battery icon at the top of your screen, or are using a desktop, then press Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight. Type Energy Saver in the bar that opens at the top of the screen and click on Energy Saver from the drop-down search results.

Looking at the Energy Saver preferences

Depending on the type of Mac you are using - laptop or desktop - you should see up to three tabs - modes of power - at the top of the screen:
  • Battery
  • Power Adapter
  • UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply)
Clicking on any of the tabs will bring up power settings related to that particular power source.

Configuring energy use while on Battery

When you click the Battery tab you should see the following options come up (on OS X Mavericks and later.)
  • Turn display off after: This is a slider bar that allows you to set how long the computer needs to be inactive (no buttons clicked, or user interaction) before the display is turned off. When you are operating off the battery, it is a good idea to set this lower so that the display - which draws power - will be turned off quicker, saving more power.
  • Put hard disks to sleep when possible: When ticked, the hard disks will be put to sleep when the system isn't being used, or they are not needed.
  • Slightly dim the display while on battery power: Will lower the brightness of the screen when the power cord is unplugged in order to save more energy.
  • Enable Power Nap while on battery power: Power Nap is a feature that allows the computer to wake up every now and then in order to check for software updates. It is a good idea to turn this function off if you are worried about saving battery life, instead checking for updates when the computer is awake.

Configuring energy use while on Power Adapter

When you click on the Power Adapter tab you should see the following options:
  • Turn display off after: This is a slider which allows you to set when the display will turn off, after there has been no activity for a set period of time.
  • Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off: By default, when the display is off on your computer, it will also go to sleep, which means all non-essential components are turned off. If you are say downloading a large file, or work with an IT team who needs access to your systems at night, then this is a good option to enable.
  • Put hard disks to sleep when possible: When there is no activity, or the hard drives are not being used, your computer will shut them down, saving power.
  • Wake for Wi-Fi network access: When you switch networks, your Wi-Fi turns on, or a program requires access to the Internet, the computer will wake up.
  • Enable Power Nap while plugged into a power adapter: As above, stopping searches for software updates in the short-term to save battery life.

Configuring energy use while on UPS

When you click on the UPS tab you should see the following options:
  • Computer sleep: Is a slider bar that allows you to set how long the computer should wait after inactivity to put itself to sleep.
  • Display sleep: Is a slider bar that allows you to set how long the computer should wait when there is no activity to shut the display off while under UPS power.
  • Put hard disks to sleep when possible: When ticked, the hard disks will be put to sleep when the system isn't being used, or they are not needed.
  • Slightly dim the display while on UPS: Will lower the brightness of the screen when the power cord is unplugged in order to save more energy.
  • Start up automatically after a power failure: The UPS is designed to kick in when the power fails, and if your computer is connected to an UPS, and the power goes out - shutting it down - it will restart automatically when the power comes back on.
  • Restart automatically if the computer freezes: If your computer freezes while connected to a UPS, it will restart automatically.
You can tick each of the options as you see fit and we recommend trying out different choices to see how your power usage fluctuates. If you have any concerns about how much power your systems are using, or their overall configuration, contact us today to learn how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
October 1st, 2014

The cloud has gone from a theoretical concept to being so commonplace that it’s a challenge to find a business that doesn’t have at least one cloud service supporting operations. While there is no dearth of cloud solutions, one of the increasingly popular systems is cloud-based ERP. Here we give you an overview of what exactly this is and reveal some great benefits it offers small to medium businesses.

Define: Cloud-based ERP

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is management software, usually offered as a bundle of applications, that aims to help businesses automate data collection, storage, management, and interpretation from various business sources like accounting, inventory, marketing, service delivery, etc.

Using this automation, business owners and managers can get an integrated real-time view of business processes, resources, and commitments. Beyond this, ERP facilitates the flow of information between departments while integrating systems used into one overall platform, thus reducing the chances of disparate data between departments.

Cloud-based ERP solutions are simply a suite of ERP apps that are delivered to users over their Internet connection, usually accessed via a browser. The software usually does not need to be installed on computers and is offered on a per-user, per-month, flat-rate fee.

Companies that have integrated cloud-based ERP solutions have experienced many benefits, five of the most common being:

Increased ERP performance

One issue many businesses come across when they implement an in-house ERP solution is that it can often require a fair amount of computer power in order to function with the highest efficiency. For small businesses this will likely mean investing in separate servers which will need to be set up and maintained. If this is executed poorly, and you could see performance drop.

Cloud-based solutions however only require a steady Internet connection, which many small to medium businesses already have. The resources to host the solution are taken care of by the provider, which means that the systems should perform better than most in-house offerings, regardless of the systems you currently have.

Decreased operating costs

An in-house ERP solution will require hardware to support it, along with knowledgeable staff to install and maintain it. For small to medium businesses, this will likely entail new hires which won’t come at a low cost.

Combine this with the fact that you will also need to actually purchase the ERP solution, and the related licenses, and it could add up to a large percentage increase in your overall IT budget.

When you choose a cloud-based ERP, you normally only have to pay a flat-rate monthly fee, which means total cost of implementation will likely be far lower. Beyond this, many providers can also manage the solution, taking care of installing and maintaining the systems. This in turn, will even out your operating costs, and if implemented correctly could even result in an overall decrease in expenses.

Enhanced access to information

Companies that don’t have any ERP will likely find that they struggle to find the information they need, when they need it. ERPs can help bring together the relevant information in a more effective manner than say spreadsheets.

Combine this with the fact that cloud-based ERP solutions are accessible via the Internet, and this means you will have access to your information from anywhere you have an Internet connection. This could in-turn increase overall business operations and make accessing information outside of the office far easier.

Increased security

Because of the nature of the information that ERP systems deal with, you are going to want to keep this secure from both outside sources and those in the company who you don’t want to have access to it.

When it comes to keeping your data safe from outside sources, most cloud-ERP solutions offer enhanced security measures which makes sure the data is secure moving from your systems to the host servers and when it is at rest.

For internal matters, data security is ensured because of how the system is accessed. You will need to access your ERP systems using an account, with each user usually being assigned their own account. Access can be controlled via central admin panels, and for people who don’t need to access, you can simply not give them an account.

Generally speaking, cloud-based ERP systems can offer enhanced security over other options, with many providers taking enhanced measures to ensure that data on their solutions is safe.

Continued support

Like other cloud solutions, cloud-based ERP solutions often offer 24/7 support. Should there be an issue, it can usually be solved quickly. Beyond this, the provider will work to keep all solutions updated. So important updates with security fixes and new features get pushed to all users immediately.

This can increase overall security as hackers have been known to attack systems using older, outdated versions of popular in-house ERP programs. It can also help make your employees more productive because if there is an issue they will be able to contact a provider who will likely be able to fix the problem far faster.

If you are looking to learn more about ERP software, or about our Cloud-based ERP Solution – Acumatica, contact us today.

September 30th, 2014

GppgleApps_Sep29_AOne truth about computing is that despite the various efforts you may make, there is always a chance that your data or account information will be leaked. It is because of this that many companies like Google have implemented stronger security controls. If you have a Google account, personal or business, there are a number of things you can do to keep your account and related information secure.

Don't use your main account to sign up/as a login for other sites and accounts

When we hear of account breaches or instances where Google account information has been leaked, many people will turn and blame Google, thinking that it was Google's systems that were breached. While this is a possibility, more often than not the breach occurred with another system where a Google account was used to either sign up, or as the main username.

When hackers get hold of this information they can then use it to launch subsequent malware or phishing attacks against the main Google account, in hopes of actually gaining access to it. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, you should be sure to limit what you use your main Google account to sign up for. Most websites requiring you to sign up for an account ask for an email address, so it is best to create a second dummy account that is only used for this purpose.

If you are asked to set the username as an email address, use this dummy email address and be sure to keep this account separate from your main account.

Don't use your Google password for other sites

Alongside account information breaches, password breaches on other sites are also commonplace. If you have used the same password for a site that you use to access your Google account that is akin to giving hackers direct access to these accounts.

Use a unique password for every site you sign up for, but at the very least make sure your password for your Google account is unique from any other accounts.

Use 2-step verification

Most major websites offer enhanced login security these days, Google included. When enabled, you will need to enter a second code - usually sent to your mobile or generated by a PIN generator - in order to access your account.

The major benefit here is that anyone who tries to access your account will need to enter this PIN, and because the majority of hackers won't have access to your mobile device, your account will be more secure.

You can enable 2-step verification by:

  1. Logging into your Google account.
  2. Going to the 2-step verficiation website (http://www.google.com/landing/2step/).
  3. Pressing Get Started at the bottom of the page.
  4. Selecting Start Setup on the next page.
  5. Logging into your account again.
  6. Following the instructions on the following pages.
In order for this to work, you will need a mobile device. You can either enter a phone number or choose to download the Google Authenticator app onto your mobile device. Regardless of which method you use, you will need to enter a cell number during the setup.

Audit your account security settings

If you are unsure as to how secure your account is, or the security options you have available, one of the first stops you make should be to Google's account checkup page (http://g.co/accountcheckup). Here you will see a number of security options that are available to you which you can enact or modify.

Finally, take a look at your account login locations on a regular basis. This information can be found here: https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity and shows you where recent logins were made, what systems were used, and even the IP address. Should you see some irregular activity, or strange looking login locations, then it is advisable to change your password immediately.

If you are looking to learn more about the security of your accounts, and what you can do to ensure that hackers can't gain access, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 30th, 2014

A common reason many small business owners start up a business is to deliver a specific service or product, and, of course to make a profit. Let’s face it, we are all in business to make money, and creating revenue is enjoyable! But, managing income can be decidedly less entertaining. Looking after your finances can be a time consuming and confusing chore, especially if you are away from the office a lot of the time. Thankfully, there are some mobile financial apps that can help.

There are many financial apps out there on the market. Here is an overview of five of the most popular to help make your life a bit easier.

1. FreshBooks

An app is for small business owners on the move. With powerful features like the ability to take pictures of receipts and bills for filing of expenses, to being able to bill or invoice your clients from nearly any mobile device. When you log into the app, you are able to see how much money you are owed and can access features like billing, time tracking, estimates and reports.

Because this system is based in the cloud, it is always up-to-date and is available on nearly any device that can connect to the Internet. Combine this with the FreshBooks accounting system and you have an incredibly powerful, cloud-based accounting system at your fingertips. The app is available on both iTunes and Google Play.

2. Intuit Online Payroll

Intuit’s accounting software is among the most popular software used by small businesses and personal users. While most mobile apps allow users to invoice and track expenses, few actually allow you to complete the other half of finance: Paying people. With this app, you can pay your employees, contractors and if you are in the US you can pay your taxes from almost any mobile device.

The app is available on both Google Play and iTunes and starts at USD $20.00 a month for the basic package which allows you to pay your employees.

3. Expensify

If you or your employees travel for business, chances are high that they struggle with keeping accurate records of their expenses and filing expense reports when they get back to the office. Expensify is an app that makes the expense process easier.

With this app you take pictures of bills, specify which account they should be filed under, and the app takes care of the rest, creating an expense entry where you can enter a merchant and price. When you are back, simply submit your report and you are done. The app is available for free on iTunes, Google Play, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

4. Square

Square is the mobile cash register solution that has started to gain traction with businesses around the world. By attaching a reader to your mobile device, you can accept cash and debit cards, as long as you have an Internet connection.

Other options include a full POS that can be run on a tablet and even dongles that function as a wallet, allowing customers to pay without their credit cards or cash. The app is available free on Google Play and iTunes. Once you download the app you then sign up for the card reader and swiped transactions cost 2.75% of the total transaction.

5. Mint

While keeping track of your company’s finances on a mobile device may seem like a good idea, what about your personal finances? It’s not uncommon for people to have more than one bank account and multiple credit cards, and keeping track of these can be a tough job. Mint is an app that allows users to monitor their various accounts from one platform.

With this app you can see your investments, bank balances and even retirement savings from your mobile device. You can also set up and maintain budgets, which definitely makes managing personal finances easier. The app also keeps track of your expenses and provides easy to read reports with overviews of how much you are spending and on what. Mint is available for free on Google Play and iTunes.

September 25th, 2014

A frightening number of businesses use free sales tax calculators and ZIP codes to get sales tax rates for customer addresses. For instance, if you need to know how much sales tax to charge a California customer, you might be inclined to take the ZIP code from their address and use a sales tax calculator or free rate table to find the rate. This method can give you inaccurate rates, landing you in trouble with customers and states.

The U.S. Postal Service developed Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) codes in the 1960s, so mail could be delivered more efficiently. What many people don’t know is that these “zones” can not only overlap each other, they can be adjusted and, sometimes, they might not represent a geographic region at all. In any given year, the USPS makes numerous boundary changes to ZIP code areas, making them an unstable data source. Most importantly, tax jurisdictions do NOT correspond with ZIP code regions. That means basing sales tax rates on a ZIP code risks applying not only an incorrect sales tax rate, but remitting it to the incorrect jurisdiction. This can increase your company’s risk of audit and result in penalties, fines, and fees.

Using geolocation technology to find the right sales tax rate, on the other hand, now that’s a different story.

Here are three tips to live by to make sure you’re using the right sales tax rates:

Don’t use scissors to trim your lawn
Why use scissors to trim your lawn, when the latest and greatest self-propelled mower is only feet away? Identifying the taxing jurisdiction associated with your company’s taxable transactions is one of the key components of sales tax compliance. Don’t waste your time with ZIP codes, when a pinpointed methodology is available.

Compliance is as compliance does
Guessing and estimating sales tax rates increases your audit risk. Why take a chance, when better, faster, more efficient technology to get sales tax right is available? Geolocation technology validates addresses and matches them to a current, nationwide database of tax regions. That means accurate tax rates at the rooftop level.

Education is the key
Take the first step to being truly tax compliant by getting educated by checking out this handy infographic “The Perilous Path to Sales Tax Compliance.”

Contact us today if you want to learn more about Sales Tax Automation.

September 24th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_AFor many small to medium businesses, social media has become an integral part of their overall business strategy. Most businesses have a presence on at least one platform, but one issue many business owners and managers struggle with is how they should be using social media effectively. To help, here is an overview of the three most common ways small to medium businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company's services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it's the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media's instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is 'social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What's the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 24th, 2014


As your company grows, there comes a time when you start to think about replacing your accounting system with an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. There are lots of reasons that most growing companies hesitate to make the change, including:


  • Extra work for employees during the implementation,
  • The expected cost of the software and services,
  • Concerns that the system will be hard to use.

While these are all valid concerns, the nature of ERP implementations is changing. There is much greater flexibility in rolling out the software over time to minimize the disruption of business and spread out costs. ERP systems are becoming easier to use, and younger employees want to work with modern systems.

What is the real value of upgrading to ERP?

Interestingly, as the difficulty of ERP implementations has declined, the importance of smaller businesses improving their businesses processes has increased. Customer expectations have changed significantly with the wide adoption of the internet. High service value companies like Amazon set a high bar for all businesses to meet.

Even your long term, loyal customers may be tempted to shop around if your business processes make it difficult for them to work with you.  Switching from an accounting system to ERP allows you to centralize information and automate processes. Employees can focus more on individual customer service and less on paperwork. ERP will help you:

  • Deliver on expectations.  When you know exactly what you have in the warehouse, you can fulfill those special orders faster. When you can schedule services during one call with the customer or provide online self-scheduling, you make your clients life easier. ERP can help you simplify fulfillment processes
  • Deliver better customer service. Your biggest advantage as a small or midsize business is the personal attention you can give to every customer. If your employees spent less time looking for information, could they spend more time understanding customer needs? An ERP system will help your employees automate processes to focus their time on customers. 
  • Spot opportunities.  Data in the systems that you currently run don’t do you any good if you can’t put it all together to analyze. An integrated ERP system allows you to combine data from all points within your business to give you insights into results and trends. Identify the products with increasing sales to build momentum and clear out the products that don’t move.

The benefits of moving to ERP continue to grow, while the challenges continue to dissipate. Let’s talk about how you can get ahead of your customer’s expectations and beat out the competition. Contact us today to learn more about our ERP solutions.

September 24th, 2014

Most small to medium businesses operate on razor-thin margins, with managers and owners on the lookout for ways to minimize costs in hopes of maximizing the bottom line. There are many ways to cut costs, and one area to look at could be your technology. As you likely know, technology isn’t cheap, but there is always a way to keep expenses down.

Here are five ways you can reduce IT spending.

Backup everything
If your business is like most other small to medium companies, the majority of your important files are located on one server or maybe a couple of computers. Technology doesn’t last forever and the machine where you have your data stored on will eventually stop working.

When it does, you will have to replace it, and your files that were on it could be lost. The cost to recover them will be high. To minimize this risk, you should invest in a solid backup platform that runs on a regular basis.

Yes, this will cost money now, but would you rather have a copy of your systems and data from yesterday which can be easily implemented when you have a problem, or would you like to pay to maybe recover a year’s worth of data? Backups will save you costs in the long-run, not to mention the stress they will help you avoid.

Have a strict anti-virus policy
The idea that your employees won’t download programs or browser extensions simply because you tell them not to is like telling a child not to eat candy; they are still going to do it. By simply having computers and devices accessing the Internet through your network, you are at risk. If your systems are hacked or infected, you can face lost data, high recovery costs or worse.

How do you minimize the chance of malware infections and the risk of being hacked? Antivirus software and security solutions installed on every computer that can be run from one machine are your answer. This makes it easier for you or your IT partner to ensure all of your systems’ antivirus software is up to date and scanning when it should be. This will minimize the chance of infection and keep costs down.

Document everything
As your company grows, you will start to use more technology. Over time, it will need to be replaced, and you likely won’t be able to afford replacing all your systems at once. This means that you will have to track down the systems, software, etc. that need to be replaced; which will take time and cost you money.

If you take steps to document all of your systems, computers, software, etc.; where it’s located; when it was implemented; who is in charge of it, etc., you will be able to track things down quickly when needed, thus managing your systems better. This time saving measure will cut your costs.

Look into a CRM/ERP/HRMS solution
There are so many software solutions out there that can help you plan and run your operations. If you’ve been tracking employee data or planning using a simple spreadsheet, you could be getting more out of a tailored solution.

Solutions like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or even Human Resources Management System (HRMS) can help you spot hidden costs or even plan more efficiently, which will reduce costs well into the future.

Look for fixed-price solutions
A major problem with all technology related systems is that predicting costs is nearly impossible. You simply don’t know when/if an important piece of hardware will fail. This becomes even harder if you don’t have expertise in tech.

One of the best ways to save money on IT costs is to outsource. Almost every IT provider offers flat-rate services that cover your systems and can ensure you maximize your IT investment. This makes budgeting for IT easier, as you know what your monthly costs will be. If you are looking to cut your IT expenses, or implement any of these solutions, why not contact us? We may have a solution that will ease the budget burden.

September 23rd, 2014

Office365_Sep22_AMicrosoft's Office 365 is one of the fastest growing productivity software suites, especially when it comes to small and medium business users. When launched a couple of years ago, the company commented that they see Office 365 as one of the best ways to help colleagues get their work done, collaborate, and connect with one another. In an effort to bring this all together, Microsoft has announced a new feature for Office 365 called Office Delve.

What is Office Delve?

The idea behind Office Delve is that it's a tool that helps business users get the most out of their data and information related to Office 365. According to Microsoft, Delve will allow you to:
  • Discover new information - Delve has been designed to show you information from different sources in Office 365 that you may find useful for what you are currently working on.
  • Discover what you need - Documents you have seen before, or have recently worked on, are highlighted and made easier for you to find, regardless of where they are stored. This makes it less taxing to find work you have been doing in the past, and continue from where you left off.
  • Discover new connections - Typing a name in Office 365 will allow you to see what a user is working on, their connections, and even connect with them to build relationships and share information.

How does it work?

In order to provide the information and data that users will likely find useful, Delve is powered by a tool Microsoft calls Office Graph. Graph maps the relationships between the various Office 365 users in your company, and the content/information related to them.

This 'map' is then used by Delve to provide users with what they need, when they need it. Content and information is displayed on a card-based screen, which can be found under the Delve tab in the main Office 365 launch screen.

Aside from content such as profile information, links to documents, or information, users can also see: Likes, views, comments, and tags, which brings a deeper social integration into Office 365.

Delve also orders content a number of different ways, including:

  • What you've recently worked on - Shows you content in card-form that you have recently opened or worked on.
  • Content that has been shared with you - Shows the content your colleagues have shared with you.
  • Content that has been presented to you - Shows content that colleagues have presented recently, or content that has been sent to you.
While this idea works great on the desktop, many Office 365 users access their systems from their mobile devices. Delve will also be available to mobile users. On your device you can browse the cards with files, swipe left or right on each card to view files, and even search for colleagues and view files they have shared with you and their recent activity.

When is Delve available?

Microsoft has noted that Delve is currently rolling out for businesses who have subscribed to the Office 365 Enterprise level plans (E1-E4) and have joined the first release program. Over the following months, it will roll out to all E1-E4 customers. In 2015, Microsoft has noted that they will introduce Delve to Business Essentials, Business Premium, Small Business, Small Business Premium and Mid Sized Business customers.

If you are looking to learn more about Delve, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 23rd, 2014

Google_Sep22_AWhen you want to find the answer to something what do you do? You more than likely 'Google it'. You simply go online and search for it using Google's popular Search. While we can usually find what we are looking for, it can still take some time. Luckily, there are some great tips you can employ to help find what you are looking for faster. Here are seven:

Search inside one site only

Oftentimes, we are looking for an article, words, page, or even image from one site. If you simply search for it on Google, you may find the site right away, but you will also see results from other sites. To narrow down the results a little, try using the search operator site:.

When using site: followed by a web address in the search bar (without a space), Google shows results for that site at the top of the results list. So, if you are looking for an article that has the keywords: 'cloud technology' on CNN, you can enter: site:cnn.com cloud technology.

Search for results based on a page's title

If you are looking for a specific webpage, but don't know the site it is on, you can use the operator: intitle: followed by keywords. This tells Search to look for webpages that contain the keywords in the title.

For example, if you are looking for a webpage that has the title: five cloud tips, you can search for it by entering: intitle: five cloud tips. Note, be sure to add a space between the operator and the keywords/titles.

Do two searches at once

Using an OR operator between two keywords tells Search to show results for both of the keywords at the same time. This can be useful for when you are looking to quickly compare two different ideas or topics.

The key to making this operator work is to make sure that OR (in capital letters) is between the two terms you are looking for, and separated by a space on both sides.

Exclude certain results or keywords

With many Google searches you will often see results for local businesses with a presence on Google first, or results related to your local area. While these can be useful, when you are looking for non-local results, it can take time to sort through these findings.

If you see that there are a number of results with keywords or terms that you are not interested in, then put a - (minus) in front of the term (without a space) e.g., -term, and Search will not show results containing that word.

Quickly find sites that link to yours (or another)

One of the key components of successful SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is link building - the concept of increasing links to and from your site. With Search's various updates, Google is constantly changing the way sites are ranked and displayed in results. Businesses with websites need to ensure that the links they are using to direct to other content, or to bring people into their site are legitimate.

One quick way to see who links to your site is to use the Search operator: link:site.com. Simply enter link:yoursite.com, and Google will display results for all other sites and content that contain links to your site.

Fill in the blank searches

Looking for something where you know the first and last part of say the name, title, sentence, etc? You can use the Search operator * to help. The * (asterix) functions as what is called a wildcard, or unknown, operator. When used, it tells Search that you don't know the words that are missing, and that you want Search to try and fill in the results.

Use quotes to search for exact terms

The way Search works is that when a set of keywords are entered with spaces, Search will return results that contain the words either separately or together in any order. If you know exactly what you are looking for, you can add double quotes (") around the terms.

By using double quotes, Google will show results that only contain those exact words, in that order. While this is useful, longer sentences in quotes will return fewer results, so if you aren't finding what you are looking for, try reducing the number of words inside the quotes.

If you are looking to learn more about Google Search, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 22nd, 2014

CRM services are now expanding their offerings to include social networking platforms – both internal and external – to help boost client relationships.

With the popularity of social networking mechanisms and websites continuing to grow, more and more businesses are adapting their service offerings to include features that are linked into common social networking websites / platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Some are even developing their own features that mimic social networking functions applied specifically for their own customer base – and many are doing both.

CRM, or customer relationship management, services especially are seeing the vast potential of tapping into the social networking phenomenon. With the goal of CRMs being to establish and nurture a company’s relationship with both existing and potential clients, it is only logical for such service providers to use a platform that boasts billions of interactions daily.

Sage CRM, integrates with key social media applications including LinkedIn, Twitter, Yammer and Facebook, so you can engage with prospects and customers in a collaborative manner in order to generate leads, foster loyalty and increase revenue.

Using social networking – both through developing their own apps and / or integrating with existing ones – CRMs are able to get a better and bigger sense of current and possible client bases. Interaction goes much faster, is much more real-time and genuine, and feedback is easier to gather.

Small and medium-sized businesses are especially benefitting from these developments, since their client bases are much smaller and thus much easier to manage and keep track of through the social networking medium.

If you are looking to purchase and implement a CRM solution this year, contact us to see how we can help.