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February 20th, 2015

RepCYou just opened up your inbox to see a LinkedIn invitation to connect with John Doe. You’ve never met the guy, but your interest is peaked. “Is he a friend of a friend? Is he interested in hiring me? What’s his motive?” You might check out his profile to get a better idea about him, but then you reach a fork in the road. Do I accept his LinkedIn invitation, or reject? Check out these arguments for accepting and rejecting to help you make the choice that’s right for you.

Why to reject

Rejectors of stranger invitations have a common argument that’s hard to dispute. If you connect with a stranger, and a trusted member in your network (who you actually know) asks for an introduction to that connection, you may look a bit silly saying you’ve never met the guy. This scenario can obviously be a bit awkward. And LinkedIn rejection enthusiasts like to use this argument as their trump card to silence the opposition.

To go along with this, they may further ask what would happen if that stranger started requesting introductions to valued members of your network? Again, you might find yourself in an awkward situation.

The core philosophy of any LinkedIn invite rejector is that your network should be made up of people you know and trust. Some people see a connection on LinkedIn as an endorsement of that person. If strangers in your network have a bad reputation that you don’t know about, and others see that you’re connected with them, it could be a bad reflection on you.

Why to accept

More people seem to lean toward connecting with LinkedIn strangers than against. But does that actually make it the right decision? Why do people choose to accept invitations from people they don’t know?

People with 500+ connections appear powerful, even if most of their connections are with strangers. Seriously, think about it. Who would you be more likely to trust, a person with 70 connections or one with over five hundred?

More connections also mean a higher chance of being found. More and more recruiters are jumping on the LinkedIn bandwagon and, whether you’re looking for freelance work or for a new job, LinkedIn is a great place to be found. The more connections you have, the easier it is for you to appear in search results.

What’s more, a higher connection count can lead to your profile reaching a larger audience. If you have a business, feel like you have something to say or just want to speak your mind in a professional manner (save the posts about your drunken exploits for Facebook), LinkedIn presents an excellent opportunity to get your voice heard. And the more connections you have, the more people you’ll have the opportunity to influence.

The choice is yours

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to connecting with strangers on LinkedIn. It comes down to personal preference and objectives. If you want your network to be trusted individuals you actually have a relationship with, then it’s better for you to reject those stranger requests. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more opportunities and are self-employed, connecting with strangers can be a great way to drill up more business.

But there is middle ground, too. Maybe you don’t connect with just any old stranger (like that guy who works for the Bank of Nigeria), but if there is someone who is a friend of a friend or who works in your field, it might be worth connecting with them. Remember, your friends were once strangers too, so maybe that request from Bill who works at your local hardware store will turn into a blossoming business relationship. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

If you’re looking to learn more about LinkedIn and other social media platforms, contact us today and see how we can help.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Social Media
February 18th, 2015

Security_Feb18_AWhether we use them for business or pleasure, we all want the confidence that the online services we use to store files, post life updates or check our email are given adequate security protection to safeguard our information. But since high-profile breaches such as the celebrity photo leaks of 2014, the security of Apple platforms has been in the limelight. So it is a welcome move that Apple has extended its two-step authentication feature to the popular FaceTime and iMessage applications.

After the fall-out from the celebrity photo leaks, Apple extended the two-step authentication process (also known as two-step verification) to iCloud, the online storage platform at the center of the scandal. The feature was initially introduced only to the user IDs for access to Apple accounts; the motivation for the launch of that extra security measure was the hacking of a journalist’s data back in 2013. But what is two-step authentication and how does it work to protect your data?

The premise behind two-step authentication, which experts recommend all businesses implement as part of their security strategy, is actually pretty simple. Usernames and passwords are all too easily stolen by malicious parties, whether by phishing emails or a more sophisticated hacking attack. So, rather than typing just your username and password to access your account, the password is teamed up with a four-digit verification code which is newly and uniquely generated each time you attempt to access your account.

The verification code is delivered by text message (meaning that to use the two-step verification feature, you’ll need to have a cellphone to receive the SMS on). As a result, even if a hacker manages to get hold of your password, unless they also have your phone by their side then they won’t be getting into your account. This authentication method is already used by organizations around the world including banks, mobile service providers and other companies who recognize the added layer of security that it brings. And now you can give yourself the same level of protection to ensure that only you can FaceTime your family and send iMessages to your friends.

Fear not, there’s a backup plan to ensure that you can still access your accounts if you happen to forget your password or if something happens to your phone so you can longer receive authentication codes. Apple also provides you with a 14-character recovery key that will get you back in if all else fails. To enable two-step authentication for your FaceTime and iMessage applications, login to your Apple ID account, select Password and Security and then click Get Started under Two-Step Verification.

To find out more about using two-step verification and other security measures to protect your business, contact us today.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 17th, 2015

Reposted from Avalara.com

With over 12,000 jurisdictions in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of rule changes annually, sales tax is a moving target in the best of times. Managing sales tax accurately requires a level of expertise many companies simply don’t possess. And 2015 is shaping up to be an even thornier year for sales tax compliance.

In addition to the usual suspects—constantly shifting nexus rules, product and service taxability changes, etc.—states are working even harder to capture untapped sales tax revenue in 2015. One place they’re looking is the cloud.

Take software, for example. As computer technology has expanded from hardware to software to SaaS (software as a service), more companies are transferring data and operations to the Internet. While states have historically lagged behind with applicable sales tax rules, that is beginning to change. New Jersey taxes most cloud services and software, whereas Michigan has courts ruling to leave them non-taxable but a department of revenue that says otherwise. Have a compass and a crystal ball? Hope so.

How states define cloud services is even more complicated. Tennessee considers web conferencing a taxable cloud service. Idaho recently defined cloud-based software as only software that is delivered electronically. In Vermont, custom SaaS software is tax-exempt, whereas out-of-the-box software is subject to tax.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sales tax in the cloud. Be sure to check changes rules and rates by contacting the applicable departments of revenue. Or automate it and eliminate worry.

Learn more by reading the 2015 Sales Tax Survival Guide.

February 17th, 2015

Productivity_Feb12_AAs a business owner, you’ve probably looked into ways of maximizing efficiency in your office. And when it comes to increasing productivity, tablets are highly customizable tools that can be tailored to suit the needs of your business. The problem is that many people still regard tablets as content consumption devices, not content creation devices. Some might go so far as to say that tablets are useless for “real work”, but with this attitude they’re missing out on a revolutionary tool.

You already know that tablets are flexible in use, portable, and make great devices for entertainment. But you can make your tablet contribute much more to your business practices too; it’s just a matter of selecting the right applications and accessories to get the job done. Here are some strategies to turn your tablet into a powerful productivity tool.

Out with the games

Yes, we use tablets to play games; from typical Angry Birds to the RAM-consuming Assassin’s Creed. But for the sake of your business you need to get rid of all such distractions. Burying the games in folders won’t help when you know they’re there. So if you don’t want to waste your time and are keen to be be more productive, delete the games!

In with the work-friendly apps

The pre-installed apps such as calendar, calculator, email, clock/timer are all useful tools you’ll want to have at hand. These are great for quick information checking. But your tablet has the potential to do more than telling you the time or helping with numbers. Just head over to the app store, browse through over a million available apps and take your pick. Here are a few popular ones to get you started:

  • Dropbox – This app lets you store, synchronize, and share files online. You can gain access to your files or share them with your colleagues anywhere, anytime. And what’s more, it’s safe! With Dropbox installed, your tablet becomes a powerful device that enables you to bring up anything you might need for references while working. Alternatives include Google Drive and OneDrive.
  • Skype – Most businesses are starting to take advantage of the features Skype offers. Need to discuss something with your teammates? You can get in touch with them by using the instant messaging or group call features. Skype also allows you to share files with your colleagues with a simple drag-and-drop function.
  • iWork – If you’re an iPad aficionado you’ll find that iWork boosts your productivity, with three combined apps – Keynote, Numbers and Pages – that can act as your entire office suite whether you’re in the office, at home or on the road.

Organize your home screen

You can focus more on work with a well-organized page dedicated solely to productive apps. Make sure all of your work-related apps are on the home screen. The key is to keep the home screen simple and clean. While you can organize it in any way you wish, it’s best to try out a few different schemes before settling on the one you’re most comfortable with.

Get a Bluetooth keyboard

One of the major disadvantages of a tablet is the lack of a physical keyboard. When you need to handle several documents or do a lot of writing, using the tablet’s on-screen keyboard probably isn’t a good idea. Luckily this drawback can be overcome with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. This way you can easily respond to emails or edit documents. So invest in a Bluetooth keyboard to improve your overall tablet experience and productivity. You’ll probably find it soon replaces your laptop.

The tablet trend is in town, and many businesses are already benefiting from these devices. But are you ready to take the plunge? Get in touch with us to see how tablets can help your business.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
February 16th, 2015

Reposted from Avalara.com

For many companies selling online, figuring out where to collect and remit sales tax requires the expertise and bandwidth of the Amazon legal department. Given that most companies don’t have access to those kinds of resources, this quick list will help determine whether you’re overlooking sales tax obligations.

1. Drop shipping
In some states, use of an in-state third-party shipper by an out of state retailer can trigger a sales tax obligation. In California, New York, Texas, and Florida for example, if a drop shipper delivers goods on your behalf, you could be obligated to collect tax.

2. In-state affiliates
An increasing number of states are passing Amazon Tax laws designed to require Amazon and other remote sellers to collect sales tax. In 2014 alone, Amazon started collecting sales tax in Illinois, Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Nevada. Don’t be fooled by the name, however, Amazon Tax laws impact more businesses than just Amazon.

Consider California’s Amazon Tax law: if a business sells more than $1 million to California consumers in the past year and has more than $10,000 in sales referred by an affiliate operating in California, they have to collect sales tax on California sales. Referrals here include online referrals.

3. Fulfillment
Even if your business doesn’t have a warehouse or distribution center physically located in a state, you may have to collect sales tax wherever you house inventory. Sellers that use Amazon’s fulfillment program, for instance, may have a sales tax obligation in any of the thirteen states where Amazon has a fulfillment center. For example, Pennsylvania directly asserts that using fulfillment services creates nexus for remote sellers.

4. Tradeshow attendance
Did you send any employees to any trade shows, like IRCE, last year? If the answer is yes, you may have created the obligation to collect tax in the state where you attended the show. Not all states consider trade show attendance to be a sales tax trigger, but enough do that it’s well worth tracking the tax laws in states where you attend shows.

5. Remote employees

Even if your sales people don’t attend trade shows, they may give you a sales tax obligation if they travel to other states to visit customers or prospects. Variables include how frequently a salesperson travels to a given state and the type of activities they engage in while there.

Of course, there are other activities and connections that can give online sellers the obligation to collect sales tax on remote sales. It’s key to keep up on local and state laws anywhere you make sales so you don’t find yourself out of compliance.

Ready to learn more? Read this free article on the Hidden Costs of Tax Compliance.

February 16th, 2015

Reposted from Avalara.com

Sales tax filing and reporting rules vary between jurisdictions in material ways. Each state has unique filing schedules, forms, payment thresholds and other administrative requirements that can trip you up. Here are some common filing and registration errors and what you can do about them.

1. Not knowing nexus.

The connection between a company and a state, in which the company acts as an agent of the tax authority and collects and remits accordingly, is called “nexus.” In addition to a significant physical presence such as a warehouse or headquarters, nexus can also mean a virtual connection. Large online retailers such as Amazon and Overstock now collect sales tax in states in which they have neither distribution centers nor warehouses.

Whether a company has a sales tax obligation is the crux of the sales tax challenge. There are approximately 11,000 jurisdictions within the U.S. and 100,000+ rules changes annually; that’s a daunting set of variables few manual systems can handle.

2. Failure to register

Once a company determines where they have nexus, they are then required to file and remit sales tax accurately and on time to the applicable jurisdictions. Other than employment and income tax, the most common type of tax requirement is sales tax. If handled manually, companies are required to review individual tax authority sites to find the right registration procedures.

3. Wrong forms

Following the example of the IRS, many states are starting to require electronic filing and payment of tax. Knowing which states have which requirements changes almost daily. Depending on where a company is registered and where they have nexus, they might be required to file electronically for all returns, or some, or depending on the amount of the return.

4. Late filing

Not only is late filing an easy way to incur fines and late fees, the consistent late payment of sales tax obligations can be a red flag for over eager auditors grasping for more revenue on behalf of struggling states.

Depending on the amount of the remittance, states often require multiple filing dates. Some states also offer amnesty for overdue tax liabilities depending on the case. For a list of states with amnesty programs, follow this link.

5. Remittance errors

Return preparation is driven by data, great volumes of which can lead to inaccuracies and oversights, particularly if calculations are handled manually.

It’s critical to review prepayment requirements in all applicable jurisdictions. A number of jurisdictions require prepayment for larger tax amounts (including California, Mississippi, and North Carolina). Some prepayments involve a different filing schedule than regular returns, sometimes more than once a month. Be sure to track these schedules and mark your calendar appropriately!

The best way to avoid these common filing and remittance errors is to automate with a filing and returns management tool such as Avalara Returns. Learn more about automating returns by reading The Definitive Guide to Sales & Use Tax.

February 13th, 2015

BC_164_CAre you prepared for when the unexpected strikes? According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, approximately 25 percent of businesses don’t reopen following a major disaster. The truth is that disasters happen every day, regardless of location or business size – simply switch on the news for proof. So obviously, it’s wise to think ahead and plan for the worst. Here are some ideas to get you ready for a disaster before it hits.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity

While it’s easy to overlook the differences between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, there are actually some key variations you should be aware of.

Disaster recovery is the restoration of business operations and IT infrastructure after a disaster has already occurred. Business continuity, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining business operations and profits throughout a disaster. While disaster recovery is mainly focused on the slice of time immediately following a disaster (how you replace your equipment and restore IT infrastructure asap), business continuity looks at the bigger picture – the continuity of the company as a whole. It ensures you can run your business and maintain profits during the process of recovering from a catastrophe. It generally includes a disaster recovery plan as part of it.

Creating your business continuity plan

The first step in creating your plan is to identify which of your IT assets are vulnerable to disaster. To do this, you need to ask yourself some important questions, starting with what might happen if you were to lose the functionality of a specific asset for a day, a week or even longer. Answering this question will help you identify your most critical IT assets; the ones that are integral to your business operations.

Here are some other important questions to ask when drafting your business continuity plan:

  • What is the purpose of my business continuity plan?
  • What disasters can affect my IT infrastructure?
  • What are my key business areas?
  • Which different business areas, assets and departments depend on each other?
  • What is the longest amount of time I can go without functionality of IT assets?

Once you can answer these, it’s time to start planning. Write down your thoughts, and then contact an IT provider like us for assistance. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours prepare themselves in order to remain operational throughout catastrophes. We can also help you identify potential problems that you may not have thought of.

Need help creating your business continuity plan? Contact us today to see how we can help you stay running and turning profits when disaster hits.

February 12th, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb12_AWhen it comes to social media, most of us have privacy concerns at the forefront of our minds. Who can see what we post? Who owns the photos we upload? It even comes down to wondering what happens to our social media identities when we die. It is part of the reason for the emergence and subsequent popularity of apps like Snapchat, which allow you to send a photo to a friend and at the same time specify when it will self-destruct. Now, a new entrant to the app marketplace is taking things a step further - it wants to protect your privacy by filling Facebook with pictures of cats.

But there is more to it than that: the team behind social messaging app Wickr aren’t looking to post images of our furry friends just for the fun of it. In fact, the feline factor is just one feature of the app, known as the Wickr Timed Feed. Wickr actually promises to offer greater security and privacy controls than similar apps like Snapchat - but whereas Snapchat simply lets you set your images to self-destruct once they have been seen by the recipient, Wickr takes an alternative approach.

As well as allowing only pre-approved friends to see your photos within your Wickr feed, the app lets you share each photo through Facebook and control which of your friends can see it. So where do the cats come in? Well, when you first share to Facebook, no-one will see your photo - instead, they’ll see a decoy image of a funky-looking cat. However, Facebook users then have the option to click through to Wickr and, if they are one of up to 151 people you have pre-approved to have access to your real photo, it will be unlocked and the cat will disappear - at least, until the photo automatically self-destructs 24 hours later, as do images on your feed in the Wickr app itself.

If it all sounds a bit like security overkill, then that’s probably because it is. Sharing Wickr photos to Facebook also sounds a little cumbersome, and even more so the process for unlocking a cat-guarded photo, and this could have an adverse effect on widespread take-up of the feature. But it does address genuine concerns surrounding the far and often uncontrollable reach of images and information we post online. What’s more, it appears to be a way to prevent Facebook from claiming ownership of the photos we upload - as much a concern for professional photographers and companies using Facebook for marketing purposes, as for individuals using the platform to keep in touch with friends. Wickr claims that, because the cat photo is all that will be publicly visible unless the bona fide picture is unlocked, that will be the only thing to which the social network could claim to have ownership or reproduction rights.

Whether it catches on or not, the emergence of apps like Wickr is telling of the growing pressure for the usability of social media networks to be balanced with protection for their users’ privacy. It acts as a reminder to businesses to be aware both of potential issues with usage rights for corporate images shared online, and of the need to keep consumer concerns about data misuse in mind when designing social media marketing strategies.

To learn more about how to effectively put social media to work for your business, get in touch with us today.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 12th, 2015

Manufacturing is growing slowly but steadily in the U.S. The jobs that employee management hires for have changed from what they have been in the past. Formerly, jobs were largely based on labor and working with manual equipment, but the industry has become much more based on machines and robotics, so that the new face of manufacturing is tech-savvy and experienced with computers.

According to the Dayton Daily News, becoming a factory employee is a rewarding and stable job that often pays well. The requirements tend to be higher than they were formerly. For example, one company is looking for someone who can work confidently with automated machines.

“We’re looking for CNC machinists with three to five years’ experience. Programming is a plus, but we do our programming offline, so it’s not a must,” said Terry Kilbarger, manufacturing manager for RB Tool & Manufacturing Co. of Mount Healthy, Ohio.

He added that finding adequate workers can be difficult in today’s environment because the demand for labor is high, but not many people are experts at programming. Some businesses will hire workers with less experience if they have the right mindset. The company will then train those workers to work with machines and become adept at everything they need to know.

A recent Associated Press story described a slowdown in manufacturing. While this may be true in the short run, the long-term outlook of U.S. manufacturing is strong. Gas prices are low, and this means employees have money to spend on material goods. Although the dollar is strong versus foreign currency, which makes products more expensive overseas, people in the U.S. market have been buying more items.

The future of manufacturing HR

Human resources professionals in manufacturing firms will continue to hunt for the best job candidates and train people who are just out of school but have the right mindset. There is a shortage of quality, experienced workers, and hiring new people and training them to a high standard is likely a good solution. An additional thing affecting HR is big data. According to Forbes, manufacturing companies have been using big data to study email traffic and learn about how a high-performing manager does his or her job effectively. This may grow in importance as people begin to apply big data to the factory itself, so that humans become even more focused on maintaining and operating machines.

Employer Solutions Blog | Sage HRMS

February 12th, 2015

Perks are becoming a major part of business for some industries. For example, The tech sector, has created a new job category called workplace coordinator that focuses entirely on managing and delivering new job perks, Human Resource Executive Online reported. People in the technology industry who work at places like Google and Microsoft have become used to having all kinds of things that other businesses couldn’t likely afford, such as sleeping pods and a $2,000 espresso machine in the break room.

It wasn’t always this way

It hadn’t been the case at the beginning that perks would become major parts of business. Twenty years ago, working in the Silicon Valley wasn’t too different from other parts of California, but according to historian Michael S. Malone, it changed when Hewlett-Packard began offering donuts in the morning, plus beer on Friday and a large parcel of land for people to enjoy on the weekends. The company added stock options and other benefits as well, Malone added in an interview with HRE Online.

During the dot-com bubble, the perks became more extreme because it was so necessary to get the programing done for much of the business. Companies offered activities such as laser tag, which gave the offices a college-like feel to make the young men at the firms feel comfortable working the long hours.

Things are beginning to change again as those same young people have grown up to be in their thirties and now want more family-oriented perks.

What companies can do to offer perks in their own offices

Although most businesses won’t be able to lavish their employees with filet mignon every Friday, there are still some things that they can do to keep people happy with their jobs and retain employees longer.

Forbes reminded its readers that the real value of perks is that they make people feel loyal and boost morale. For companies on a budget, simply letting the office become more relaxed might be enough of an incentive for people to begin to form a community that inspires people to stay longer than they otherwise would. The idea is to make people feel welcome and connected. When people have emotional connections to their job, they are going to stay longer and take the business more personally.

One example Forbes cited was giving a $25 bottle of Whiskey versus a $50 gift card. Gift cards are nice, but they don’t reflect the same spirit of knowing someone and what he or she likes that a particular bottle of whiskey does.

In the end, it’s really about providing an employee management system that generates a good community that will grow and prosper.

Employer Solutions Blog | Sage HRMS

February 11th, 2015

Androidphone_Feb11_CAs the number of Android smartphone and tablet users continues to rise, so does the competition to gain market share. Android device manufacturers have worked hard to come up with the cutting-edge technology to stay one step ahead of the game. 2015 is the year to expect big things from technology’s biggest names. If you’re a devoted Android user, you’ll love these upcoming devices that are bound to make a big splash.

Samsung Galaxy S6

If you’re a Samsung Galaxy S5 fan, the new Galaxy S6 will be just what you’re looking for. Samsung plans to change the overall design of this model following criticism of Galaxy S5’s conservative style. There are rumors about its quad-HD screen with 2560×1440 resolution, metal unibody, a 64-bit Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM, and better camera and battery performance. As usual, the S6 will be available in three storage options: 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB.

Galaxy S6 is expected to debut at the Samsung Unpacked event, scheduled for March 1st in Barcelona. The release date should be around a month after the official announcement. It’s unlikely that Samsung will be making the Galaxy S6 any cheaper than the current Galaxy S5. So far, the estimated price for the 32GB model is around $650, the 64GB model around $800, and the 128GB version could cost an extra $100 more.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

The Note series from Samsung has always managed to impress Android users. This means Samsung has to come up with something special to stand out further. Word has it that the Note 5 will employ an Ultra HD, 4K display and a camera with up to 50 megapixels. You can also expect wireless charging and a two-day battery life.

The release date for Note 5 is still yet to be confirmed, but Samsung tradition suggests the launch will be somewhere during September and October. As for the starting price, Samsung’s Note series has always been costly, and Note 5’s additional features could further increase the price up to around $750.

Sony Xperia Z4

After Xperia Z3’s debut in September 2014, Sony has been working around the clock to strengthen its Z-series products. The Xperia Z4 is expected to have a 5.5-inch quad-HD screen with a Snapdragon 810 processor. Sony’s smartphones are well-known for their camera quality, and the Xperia Z4 may pack in an even more impressive camera and image sensor. The new sensor will be able to record videos much faster and smoother than the previous Xperia Z3.

Sony has announced that it will not be presenting Xperia Z4 at the world’s largest mobile trade show this March, so we can assume that it will be released at a later stage in 2015. The price is rumored to be around $600-$650.

LG G4

The one thing LG prides itself on is its innovation, and the new LG G4 is sure to house some extra features. There’s a possibility that the G4 will have an eye scanner to gain secure access to the phone, but a fingerprint scanner would be more likely. LG’s smartphones are already on top when it comes to screen resolution, so G4’s display will probably be ahead of its competitors. Furthermore, a new stylus known as the G Pen will replace the poorly received LG G3 stylus.

Since the G3 is available for $600, we can assume G4 to cost the same or more at its launch. Its release is expected to come in May 2015.

Want to find out how Android phones can fit into your workplace? Get in touch with us today and see how we can help.

Topic Android
February 10th, 2015

Virtualization_C_164You’ve just got word that one of your competitors has virtualized half its IT assets, and that they have almost doubled their profits as a result. You think it’s time for you to jump on the bandwagon and reap the same benefits, BUT…you’re a bit nervous. You have no idea where to start. You may not even know what virtualization is (it basically moves your hardware and software offsite and therefore out of your office). Should you virtualize everything or one thing at a time? What should you virtualize first? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the whole idea and need some guidance, this article will give you some pointers on where to start.

The key to successful virtualization is to not virtualize too much too quickly. Choose one or two items you’d like to test out, and then give it a go. By only focusing on virtualizing a few assets, you’ll be able to accurately measure how much your business is benefiting from virtualization.

Once you’ve decided to make the jump into virtualization, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t virtualize for the sake of virtualizing

If you have 20 PCs running on an older operating system, but they are still producing results you’re happy with, it may be best to save your money and hold off on virtualization until you really have a need for it.

On the other hand, if you’ve been thinking about buying a new server, it may be smarter to consider getting a virtual server instead since the need is already there.

Understand the risks and challenges of virtualizing individual assets

Server, desktop and application vendors have unique and evolving licensing rules concerning virtualization. With vendor licensing audits becoming more and more frequent, you may be in for a major financial penalty if you’re not following the rules.

It’s been reported that one company saved $4 million in hardware expenses through virtualization. However, they lost $52 million for not remaining in compliance with the software licenses.

Try virtualizing more than one asset

If you start out only virtualizing your server and it doesn’t show immediate benefits, that doesn’t mean you should just give up on virtualization completely. The fact of the matter is that virtualization does save businesses millions of dollars every year in IT expenses, giving them a productivity boost in the process.

You can virtualize many physical assets of your business besides servers. This includes applications, laptop hardware, operating systems and more. All the virtualization process does is deliver these assets to you via the internet instead of having the physical product in your office. So if the server virtualization doesn’t work for you, maybe virtualizing another asset will.

Or it could simply be that your IT service provider is the real problem. Maybe you haven’t found the right virtualization vendor that works best for your business. The only way you’ll ever find out is if you don’t give up the first time you encounter a failure.

For more information about virtualization and how to effectively integrate it into your business, contact us today.

February 10th, 2015

BusinessValue_Feb6_AIn today’s society of instant gratification, people have short attention spans. They want to have everything accessible at their fingertips via smartphones and tablets. For businesses with an online presence, this is either a new opportunity – or a missed one. Establishing mobile strategies to target smartphone addicts can give you an edge over competitors who are not going mobile. Here are some mobile marketing tips that could help your business to fly high.

Use QR codes

As far as mobile marketing tools go, QR coding is among one of the most powerful. With QR codes you can set up announcements about special events, coupons, newsletters, updates on your latest products, etc. Your potential customers can simply scan the QR code with their mobile devices and see what you have to offer.

The real benefit of QR codes is they can be put virtually anywhere to lead people anywhere online. Imagine putting a QR code on a T-shirt and having it lead to an online coupon for special deals. While the possibilities for placing QR codes are endless, it’s probably not very useful to put them somewhere that doesn’t make sense, like on a street billboard; people can’t scan your QR code while they’re driving.

Buy Facebook mobile ads

Facebook currently has over 700 million active mobile users. Even if that number’s not increasing at the moment, it’s still huge. Many businesses that are competing online have a Facebook page and advertising plans already. But with the majority of mobile visitors on Facebook, all your content and ads should be easy to read and engage with.

Facebook mobile ads display better than normal ads on the right column on Facebook’s news feed. If you don’t make use of this feature, you might be missing out on a large audience.

Make your website responsive

Back in the old days all websites were static, meaning that content was fixed unless you edited the HTML files. Later came the dynamic website, where content was changeable once you refreshed a web page. Now we have responsive websites, which conveniently adjust themselves to different browser sizes or a mobile device’s screen size.

Responsive websites are the future of the web. Imagine how high the bounce rate is likely to be if a potential buyer visits your website on a mobile device, scrolls around to read your content with difficulty, gives it up as a bad job and finds your competitor’s website that is mobile-friendly. That’s why your business website is better off on a responsive design.

Mobilize your E-mail

There are many up and coming marketing tools, but email is still one of the best ways to get great results for businesses. As with Facebook, most people check their emails on a smartphone or tablet. Make sure your message reads well on mobile devices, or your customers might ignore and delete it or, even worse, unsubscribe from future emails.

There are plenty of mobile marketing tools out there. Before implementing them get in touch with us to find the best solution that works for your business.

February 8th, 2015

For manufacturers and distributors, sales and use tax compliance isn’t always top of mind; yet getting it wrong can result in costly audits, fines, and penalties. Sales tax compliance poses specific challenges for most transaction types, including resale exemptions and direct sales to consumers.

Resale exemptions.

Both manufacturers and distributors make direct sales to retailers or other distributors. Sales of products intended to be resold to consumers can be exempt from sales tax collection under a resale exemption. Since sales taxes are required to be paid only once, the theory behind a resale exemption is simple: the customer (consumer or end user) will pay sales tax on the full retail price so when the reseller purchases from the manufacturer or distributor, they can be exempt from paying sales tax on that transaction.

Resellers who want the benefit of the exemption must present manufacturers and distributors with current and effective proof of their resale intentions. The most common form of this proof is the Exemption Certificate. In order for exempt purchases to be documented properly, a manufacturer or distributor must maintain exemption certificate information for each state or locality where the reseller receives product. The same rules apply for sales made by a manufacturer to a distributor or forwarder who intends to either collect tax on their own direct sales, or who intends to sell the products to another reseller.

Distributors must also ensure their own tax-exempt status is maintained and exemption certificate information is provided to each manufacturer or supplier they work with. After all, they are considered a reseller in a manufacturer or supplier’s eyes.

Sales to Consumers.

Direct sales to consumers include sales of spare parts, updates, or replacement wear items. It is the manufacturer or distributor’s obligation to ensure that accurate and current sales tax rates, taxability rules and boundaries are applied for each taxable sale. Selecting an automated solution that integrates with your online shopping cart to deliver instantaneous and accurate sales tax calculations is critical to customer satisfaction.

Adjusting the sales tax after the shopping cart experience delivers a final cost can cause heartburn with your customers when they see that the online statement does not match their credit card amount.

An automated sales tax solution helps manufacturers and distributors negotiate complex sales tax rules around reselling and direct sales to consumers.

Sales Tax Blog | Avalara.

February 8th, 2015

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is a technology that enables you to make or receive phone calls over the Internet. Highly convenient and cost-effective, VoIP is a popular communication medium for businesses nowadays. But without proper security, using VoIP can expose your conversation to the risk of data theft. Potentially this can lead to something serious, especially if sensitive information gets into the wrong hands. Here are some methods to strengthen your VoIP security.

Encryptions and Passwords

In most cases your VoIP system might not be using any encryption to protect the conversation from prying eyes and ears. It is prudent to set up encryption that will ensure privacy and repel third parties from eavesdropping on your calls. An attacker would have to break encryptions in order to listen in.

Keep in mind that strong passwords will decrease the risk of the call being intercepted. Once you start using VoIP, immediately change the default password to a strong one. For security purposes, if you’re an administrator you should never use default passwords.

Review your Hosted Services

Many VoIP service applications run on commercial server operating systems from an external party. Ask the host provider about which services are enabled and which are disabled. You should only enable the ones you need. Treat this with the same care as you would normally devote to encryptions and password security.

VoIP Firewalls and Security Layers

Deploying a firewall specially designed for VoIP traffic can help protect your system. The firewall limits types of traffic and closes the session once the call disconnects, therefore shutting down the gates to possible abuses. It also identifies unusual calling patterns and watches out for signs of attack.

But using a firewall alone is not enough. Applying security layers around the server is a way to improve authentication and add protection when users exchange messages. Consider adding endpoint security as an additional layer for authorization by blocking devices until they pass security checks.

Implement Strict Security with Users

Security matters in the workplace, and employees shouldn’t take it lightly. Establish ground rules when using VoIP. Assign each user with appropriate access in a restrictive manner, depending on their needs. Ask users to report any abnormal signs of threats. Also, be on the lookout for strange activities within your VoIP system and try to familiarize users with the techniques data thieves use to attack VoIP connections.

Concerned about your VoIP security status? Get in touch with us and see how we can help.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
February 4th, 2015

BI_Feb4_AThe business intelligence market is changing. While most of you are probably familiar with business intelligence software such as Excel, the new wave of BI products is making it easier for you to track down data and organize it into easily viewable graphs and reports. So if you’re looking for data on how well a new product sold this past year, you can save time by not having to gather that information and organize it yourself. Now Microsoft is joining the scene and trying to make noise with its free Power BI product offer.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is a Cloud service which mainly functions as a self-service data analysis tool. What makes it unique is its use of advanced visualization options (graphs, charts, etc.) and the ability to find data by using natural language to ask questions and get answers. For example, you can simply type, “which department had the lowest sales profits last month?” and then get a chart that will visually display the sales from the different departments.

Another distinct characteristic of Power BI is its ability to collect and analyze data from various applications and services. These include Salesforce.com, Marketo, Excel, Zendesk and more.

And lastly, being a Cloud based service, the data is easily shareable, and employees can access it whether they’re in the office or on another continent.

Do I really need data analysis for my business?

It’s easier to get ahead of the competition if you know where you’ve been. With knowledge of your past failings or successes, you’ll know what methods and strategies are working and which ones aren’t. Then you can make appropriate business decisions based on facts and not assumptions.

For some, Excel may give you the ability to track all the Business Intelligence you desire – if the data you need is relatively simple and is kept all in one place. But if you have large amounts of data over various applications, then a product like Power BI can be a huge time saver since you won’t have to waste hours finding and organizing it.

If Power BI is so awesome, why is it free?

Power BI comes in two versions: the free one and a pro version for $9.99 a month. The pro version will feature more support for streaming data, quicker scheduled data refresh, and more storage. But light to medium data analysis users will still gain much from the free version.

Likely the real reason for the free version of Power BI is to capture market share from Tableau software, which currently dominates the self-service analytics market. Microsoft appears to be trying to create a simpler data analytic system that will be less complex than Tableau and more appealing to non-tech users.

And once they get sign-ups, Microsoft can then use this as a gateway to sell other Microsoft business products.

Want to discover how Microsoft’s Power BI or other Business Intelligence products can give your business an edge? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 3rd, 2015

Internet browsing is a piece of cake, thanks to the many browsers available for every level of user. Basic users generally surf the Internet to chat with friends or to look up information for personal reasons. Advanced users, on the other hand, might prefer a technical tool to make browsing even more convenient. The ex-CEO of Opera has launched Vivaldi, a new web browser designed for computer experts and engineers. Below are details about Vivaldi, which may well grab the attention of power users.

What is Vivaldi?

Back in 1994, Jon Von Tetzchner and his team developed the Opera browser, aiming to serve each user’s individual requirements. However, when the company diverted from its initial purpose, Von Tetzchner left Opera and decided the time was ripe to design another browser, Vivaldi.

Packed with various features, Vivaldi focuses on the needs of power users and on those who want to gain more from their browsing experience. Vivaldi is a Chromium-based application and has similar features to its predecessor, Opera. This is a clear attempt by Von Tetzchner and his team to continue remaking what they believe Opera should have been.

As well as the usual components that other browsers possess, Vivaldi packs in a number of functions that could be very useful for the kind of user who works with a lot of content, keeps a lot of tabs open and spends a lot of time on the Internet.

The Features

Here are some neat functions Vivaldi offers to its users. If you make the most out of these tools they might just work wonders.

  • Speed Dial – Vivaldi adopts the speed dial function from Opera. If you’re a fan you’ll realize it makes website navigation so simple. Speed dial allows you to organize websites based on your interests all on one page; e.g. News, Sports, Health, Tech.
  • Tab Stack – opening too many websites at once? Couldn’t find what you wanted under all those excessive tabs? Tab stack lets you arrange those messy tabs by adding multiple tabs on a single one. Simply drag and drop the tabs to your desired spot.
  • Quick Command – another powerful feature for power users. Quick command is an option for keyboard and shortcut users. You can customize and execute various settings such as opening tabs, bookmarks and other features with the keyboard.
  • Notes – taking notes from your favorite website has never been easier. With this function you can easily jot down what’s on your mind while browsing. Notes automatically remember which site you were browsing and allow you to add tags for future reference.

Despite being in its early stages of development, Vivaldi has many advantages and boasts impressive features for high-level users. Its efficiency in the long run remains to be seen. However, with the current functionality Vivaldi provides, it is a browser that all tech savvy users should consider.

Do you want to learn more about the best Internet browsers for your business? Contact us today.

Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 2nd, 2015

There are so many reasons you should consider going paperless. Storing paper documents and moving them around in your organization is expensive and time-consuming. There’s a better way to manage your business processes.

In honor of our upcoming webinar, we wanted to share with you what we think are some of the main incentives for you to look into integrated document management. Don’t miss the full presentation on February 18th where we’ll go through each of the reasons in more detail and show you some product examples.

  1. Save on Document Storage Costs: We have found that companies are spending a lot of money to print, file and store paper documents either in their office or at an off-site storage facility. One such company ended up saving $85,000 on off-site storage fees alone when they moved to an electronic filing system.
  2. Easily Search & Find Documents: One thing that makes paper documents so challenging to work with, is the fact that they are so easily misplaced, buried or lost. Electronic documents can be instantly retrieved from your computer by way of a powerful search engine.
  3. Improve Productivity: When you make the move to go paperless, you’ll find that the hours upon hours that you used to spend filing, copying, searching for documents, or walking documents to someone’s desk can be used in much more effective ways. You can handle the rest of your workload quickly and efficiently.
  4. Better Tracking & Auditing: In a paper world, documents waiting for approvals are probably sitting on someone’s desk or inbox. Or even worse – they may be in the mail heading to a remote office where the approver works. Whatever the case, employees are not empowered to quickly act on documents that need approval and there’s no effective way to manage upcoming deadlines. A paperless solution will come with sophisticated reporting capabilities and plenty of options for approving documents from wherever they are.
  5. Minimize Data Entry: Document management solutions that are integrated with your accounting system will leverage the keystrokes that are part of your normal process and enable you to re-purpose data to make those documents searchable.
  6. Remote Document Access: More and more employees are able to accomplish all their work from home or on the road these days. A document management system will allow users and approvers to search and retrieve documents from a mobile device. They can also complete approvals and make notes on a document before moving it along to the next step in the workflow.
  7. Added Document Security: With document management you have the option to track each document and assign privileges to
every individual who reads these documents. You have the capability to
provide proof to customers, clients or auditors of a chain of custody from
cradle to grave.
  8. Grow Without Adding Headcount: Maybe your company has reached the pivotal moment where the workload has become unmanageable for the staff you currently have, so your options are to hire additional staff or streamline processes. Of course, we always recommend streamlining instead, and going paperless is definitely an effective way to do that.
  9. Going Green: A paperless document management system minimizes your carbon footprint and helps the environment.
  10. Make Life Easier: Systems like Sage ERP Document Management have the capability of automation to simply processes. Users can focus on tasks of greater importance and be more productive overall.

Stay tuned for part two or mark your calendars for our February 18th webinar to learn more. CLICK HERE to register.

February 1st, 2015

Retirement is changing, and it’s an essential part of good human resource planning to get ready for it by explaining the available options to those approaching the age when they can stop working full time. For many people, the idea of retirement doesn’t come up until middle age when it may be too late to invest properly and have enough money for the future. Getting even the youngest members of the staff involved with planning for their retirement is a good idea.

Begin investing early
The best way to have a good retirement fund is to get started early in someone’s career and continue to receive deposits. Many companies will match some of the money going into a retirement fund. HR Morning reported that businesses have begun to change their matching strategies so that employees have to save more money to earn the full benefits. The example cited was companies beginning to match 25 percent of employee contributions up to 12, versus matching 50 percent of contributions up to 6 percent of pay.

The U.S. government is also making it easier to create Roth 401(k)s, which means that employers have begun offering more of these.

Consider a period of semi-retirement
Many workers who don’t have enough in savings to retire fully from work have begun working part time on top of living off of their saved earnings. According to a study by the University of Michigan cited by U.S. News and World Report, about 20 percent of 65 to 67 year olds have extra jobs they use to earn money for paying bills. People who leave work early also have a greater incentive to continue working somewhere else because they often earned less money compared with people who retire later. People who work longer tend to earn higher wages. If someone is already earning a high salary, they will likely keep working past the usual retirement age, while people who earn less cash will work in part-time jobs sometimes through the age of 70 in order to earn enough to live.

Educating workers
It is important to make use of early investments, and many who don’t do this need to take part-time jobs when they retire. As such, workers ought to receive advice and explanations from people who have experience when it comes to explaining the different retirement options available to those who have worked sufficient hours. Even people just beginning their career often have possibilities they don’t know about, and HR needs to inform employees about available investments.

Employer Solutions Blog | Sage HRMS

February 1st, 2015

We all know technology is evolving rapidly – at times it can feel like software companies release a new update each week. It can be exhausting to keep up. But when it comes to business, technology is either helping your company to succeed or holding it back from doing better things. To make life easier, here are four ideas on how to use technology to keep costs down and staff productivity up.

Work together from anywhere

With the onset of Cloud technology, it’s now possible for your employees to work easily from anywhere – be it Bangkok, Belize or Boston. With Cloud-based suite products, employees can log on from remote locations and access company files. All they need is a web-enabled device.

Cloud-based technology also makes it easier than ever for your staff to collaborate. While one employee is in a coffee shop in Vancouver and another is at a desktop in your office, they can both be editing the same document at the same time. This makes it easy for your staff to remain on the same page, both literally and metaphorically, which in turn boosts both productivity and profits.

While many SMBs use public Cloud applications like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote, private pro-level options are available, which come with more security and more features.

Keep all your data in the Cloud

The fact is that searching through spreadsheets for information stored in bloated data sets can be a huge waste of time. By having all your data in the Cloud, all your information will be in one place. So when you’re looking for that critical client receipt for your taxes, you’ll know where it is immediately.

Thanks to its remote access and collaboration possibilities, the Cloud also gives you and your staff easy access to all of your data wherever in the world you are.

Identify bottlenecks and upgrade your technology

Facing the facts about your current technology is key to increasing productivity. Yes we know you love your tablet from way back in 2008. You even named her Susie, after your niece, because they’re both so darn creative. But let’s face it, Susie is old now and is slowing down your business. She’s served you well, but it’s time to upgrade.

And desktops aren’t the only technology that can slow you down. There are also unreliable internet connections, obsolete software and outdated email providers. The list goes on…

The solution is to take a careful inventory of your current IT technology and see what’s keeping your business from reaching its true productivity potential. After you have your list, update your technology accordingly. Then create a plan to regularly upgrade your IT resources, so your employees are never being slowed down.

Outsource your IT

As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Whether you have a part-time contractor or a fully-staffed IT department, the mere presence of tech staff onsite in your workplace can be a distraction. When you’re focusing on sales or setting up meetings with potential clients, a knock at your door from your IT colleague – because he or she has just discovered a glitch in your system – can take you out of the flow of the task at hand.

On the other hand, outsourced IT departments are proactive in preventing technical issues from popping up in the first place. They’ll fix problems without you even knowing they existed, and without distracting you from your core work. All of which means a great boost to your day-to-day productivity – and therefore profitability.

Want to know more ways IT can enhance your company’s productivity? Contact us today to learn how.

Newsletter Sign Up!Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity