Blog

May 28th, 2015

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

Tweet regularly

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

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

Use visuals

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

Retweet great content

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

Track mentions

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

Integrate with other marketing efforts

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

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

May 28th, 2015

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

Trust and credibility

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

Increased sales

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

Online insights

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

Show your best side

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

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

May 28th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_May26_AEvery business owner knows that having a business continuity plan in place is crucial to the success of their organization. Yet even if your business continuity framework is at the ready, when the unexpected does happen the question that many overlook is how confident they are in taking care of the backbone of the business — their employees? With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five deadly business continuity mistakes to avoid at all costs.

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

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

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

Mistake #2: Using only words, not actions

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake #4: Not dealing with your employees first

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

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

Mistake #5: Reacting rather than communicating

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

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

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

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

May 26th, 2015

164 A_Biz IntelFor businesses that want to track how much traffic their website is receiving, a Google Analytics account is a no-brainer. However, while it’s easy to use this powerful application to measure traffic, how do you know if those visitors are engaged with your website content or just bouncing the second they hit your homepage? Engagement is as important as traffic – follow the four steps below to learn how to track this metric.

How do you measure engagement?

Just because a page receives a large amount of traffic, doesn’t mean it has quality content on it that visitors value. Half of the visitors to your most trafficked blog post or service page can easily bounce within seconds. So to figure out which pages your customers like, you need to measure engagement. And the easiest way to do that is by looking at the amount of time a visitor spends on a page.

Generally speaking, if a visitor is on a page for five minutes or more, they’re likely reading, watching or listening to some form of content you posted. Of course there’s the off chance that maybe he or she took an extended bathroom break after landing on your page or forgot to close it and continued surfing the web in another window. But if a consistent number of visitors are spending several minutes on a given page, you can feel confident that most of them are engaging with the content.

Why does engagement matter?

Simple. The more your visitors engage with your content, the more likely they’ll visit your website again or – even better – become a loyal customer.

You can measure engagement by following these four steps in Google Analytics:

1. Track engagement over a long period of time

We’re not just talking a month or two, but more like years. This will show you which pages are performing best in the long run. To do this, open Google Analytics. Then in the top right corner of the screen, input your date range and then click Apply.

2. Measure all pages

You need to look at time spent on all your pages to see what’s performing best. In the navigation bar to the left of your screen, click on the following in the order below:

  1. Behavior
  2. Site Content
  3. All Pages

3. Compare the average time visitors spend on a page

Under the main graph that displays visitor numbers to your site, you’ll see a search box with the word “advanced” next to it. To the right of that, you’ll see five buttons. Click on the second button from the right – the Comparison button. To be sure you’re clicking on the correct one, hover your mouse over it and the word “comparison” will pop up.

Slightly below the comparison button and to the left, choose Average time on page as your secondary metric.

4. Mind the Green bars

After you’ve followed the above steps, green bars will appear to the right of some of the pages displayed. The higher the bar, the greater amount of time a visitor is spending on a page.

With this data at your disposal, now you can understand what content your customers find valuable – and then focus on creating more of it.

Want to know more about how to gain valuable insights from your business data? Give us a call today.

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

Topic Web
May 25th, 2015

HealthcareIT_May25_AHealthcare institutions today are increasingly opting for mobile devices to increase their employees’ productivity and collaboration, and to deliver better patient care and customer service. Yet the benefits come with the potential risks of data breaches and threats. Without proper security measures in place, hackers could steal patients’ healthcare data and use it for personal gains. Protecting patients’ information is a must for your healthcare organization - here’s how you can secure healthcare data.

Encrypt data

Data encryption stops hackers in their tracks of stealing information. When you set up connected device systems with service providers, whether it’s cloud systems or data transfer channels, make sure that data traffic of the device and its software application is encrypted when communicating your institution’s private networks and those of your outsourcing providers’. Personal healthcare information can be compromised during the collection and transmission processes. Encrypt data to protect information from being stolen.

Protect passwords

When setting up a system, connected devices are automatically deployed with default usernames and passwords, most of which are all too familiar for attackers. After setup is complete and before critical information is collected and transmitted, you should change the password immediately. Also, the connected device network shouldn’t be configured in a way that exposes authentication credentials in your institution’s network.

Authorize devices

Privacy protection can be strengthened by securing device and authorizing permissions. The devices should be configured to prevent data from being accessed or removed by all others except the authorized device holders. Restrict devices from accessing data beyond its intended operation, and set up permissions so that the generated data can only be accessed by an authorized person with a need to handle the information.

Inspect personnels

One of the loopholes in healthcare data security lies in employees. Former employees - both of your healthcare institution, vendors and its subcontractors - can be the source of unauthorized disclosure. Check for potential data breaches regularly, detect and repair the damage before it spreads. Additionally, issue security policies and watch over your current employees to ensure good personnel practice. This is especially important at the network administrator level, since that manager holds the key to your healthcare data.

As a healthcare business owner you should enter into agreements with your IT service provider to ensure the connected devices and network system is up-to-date and protected by multiple layers of security.

If you want to learn how to protect your healthcare institution from hackers, get in touch with us today - our cybersecurity experts are on hands to help.

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

May 25th, 2015

SocialMedia_May25_AMuch of a business owner’s attention in social media marketing is directed towards Facebook. But Twitter is also a great platform to focus your marketing efforts on - and, when implemented properly, could give you a high return on investment in the long run. So how are you to leverage the power of Twitter to improve your business’s bottom line? We have compiled a list of top Twitter tips to get you started.

Tweet regularly

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

Follow trends

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

Use visuals

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

Retweet great content

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

Track mentions

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

Integrate with other marketing efforts

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

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

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

Topic Social Media
May 22nd, 2015

Business leaders may be surprised to hear environmentally friendly practices are excellent employee engagement strategies. Business leaders may be even more surprised to learn human resources professionals can help corporations and their employees become more green. In fact, if there’s one department that’s well-equipped to head up such an endeavor, it’s HR.

American workforce growing more environmentally conscious
It’s important to note employees today, especially millennials, enjoy working for companies invested in social and environmental causes. Switch and Shift compiled research from a variety of sources outlining the goals of millennials today. It found a 23 percent increase in volunteerism among 16- to 24-year-olds between 1989 and 2005. Of those who volunteer, 79 percent are motivated purely by passion to help others. Millennials, more so than any other generation, are faced with the task of preserving the environment for their futures, so green initiatives and matters pertaining to natural surrondings will be of greater importance to them.

In addition, a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management on HR and environmental sustainability found 49 percent of businesses with green workplace practices claimed these environmentally conscious actions helped them recruit top talent. On top of that, 40 percent believed a green work environment led to greater employee retention.

So, where does HR come into the picture?

HR and going green
Corporations have enormous influence over decisions and opinions made on a global scale. Business leaders’ actions can affect those of other companies, industries, governments and local communities. HR is the only department in a corporation that truly interacts with everyone. Executives, managers, entry-level employees, administrative assistants, mail room employees and more all spend time with HR in some capacity. Working with people at all levels is the key to building a sustainable, green office, and HR is the right team for the job.

Currently, according to the SHRM survey, 68 percent of companies already have implemented environmentally friendly procedures in their offices. These businesses found the green initiatives improved employee morale and loyalty, boosted brand recognition among consumers and yielded more efficient output.

To be effective, HR must help their businesses incorporate green guidelines into employees’ daily activities; the environment must become a central focus and consideration on a fundamental level. Formal policies, used by 52 percent of those businesses surveyed, are highly recommended.

Some formal policies HR departments currently use include:

§ Going paperless – EcoSeed stated cloud platforms are excellent tools for businesses looking to go green. Rather than printing multiple copies of a single document, work teams can share items with each other via the cloud, making changes together and avoiding printing at all. In addition, all businesses should offer direct deposit for employees. This eliminates the need for envelopes or printing checks every few weeks.
§ Recycling – Companies should have blue recycling bins next to every printer in an office and under every employee desk if possible. Some businesses take this one step further and add compost bins to office kitchen areas. This decreases the amount of waste produced by the organization as a whole.
§ Offering telecommuting – One growing trend in business operations is telecommuting. SHRM reported companies like Dell, Aetna and Xerox allow certain employees to work from home. In fact, these three corporations were able to save 95,294 metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2014 simply by allowing employees to telecommute. Not only has this move improved Dell, Aetna and Xerox’s employee satisfaction ratings, but it’s made the hiring and retention processes easier.

One thing HR must remember is to design a reliable method for each policy and measure return on investment. SHRM found in its survey that 47 percent of companies with both green initiatives and ROI measurements saw a positive return, and 46 percent responded it was too early to tell with their current practices. None of the respondents claimed a negative ROI.

To increase employee engagement, retention and recruitment, HR should look into spearheading environmental policies in their offices.

Employer Solutions Blog | Sage HRMS

May 22nd, 2015

iPad_May22_AIn a clear attempt to rekindle its waning iPad sales, Apple has launched a new marketing campaign to attract more potential buyers. Apple has revealed that its iPad sales are declining, from 16.4 million units last year to 12.6 million units in this year. And so a new ad campaign titled “everything changes with iPad” has been launched to explore how an iPad can fit into and enrich the life of each of us. Here’s a quick rundown of the tech giant’s new strategy.

Why iPad sales are declining

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

“Everything changes with iPad”

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

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

A deeper look into the iPad micro-site

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

Topic iPad
May 20th, 2015

164_Prod_AWith social media distractions, difficult-to-monitor remote employees, and increasing numbers of staff working on personal tasks at the office, achieving maximum team productivity can seem virtually impossible. So what can the business owner do? Here are a few tips that are sure to have your staff more focused and producing results.

Set clear goals

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

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

Be personable with your employees

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

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

Listen to your employees’ feedback

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

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

Provide reliable equipment

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

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

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

Topic Productivity
May 20th, 2015

WindowsNews&Tips_May14_ADo you have the Facebook marketing blues? Are you struggling to find any practical tactics that will boost your traffic? Facebook can be a tough market for small business owners to break into. It’s getting more and more crowded by the day; however, there are a few tested strategies you can employ to gain a foothold on the mother of all social media networks. But first, you need to ask yourself a very simple question.
Do you really have a Facebook audience?

It’s time to face the cold hard facts. Does your business actually have a Facebook audience? In today’s over-saturated social media market, a customer base on Facebook is not a given.

Think about it. Why do people go on Facebook? It’s usually to interact with friends and family, or for other social purposes. If your business is a software company that targets a B2B audience of technical engineers, your company will likely not benefit from a Facebook presence. On the other hand, if you sell posters of Justin Bieber or cute and cuddly teddy bears, then a customer base likely eagerly awaits.
Learn which content performs best in your niche

Want to know how to discover the content that has been performing best in your niche over the past year? Of course you do! And there’s actually an easy way to do it with a tool called BuzzSumo. Here you can type in a keyword and see what articles and content are getting the most shares on Facebook, as well as other social networks. Once you have this information, you can then start posting content covering similar topics. This will help your business stand out and gain traffic.
Write short, eye-catching headlines

Headlines are just as important on Facebook as they are on other platforms and media outlets. For your best shot at one of your posts going viral, keep your headlines to between 5 and 15 words.

As for headline content, remember it’s not about selling you and your business but about the value you provide for your customer. Remove the words “I” and “we”, and replace them with “you” as much as possible.
Use Visuals

It’s easy to forget about this obvious truth, but posts with visuals almost always outperform non-visual content. A picture not only speaks a thousand words; it also has the potential to get you a thousand shares.
If you’re getting lots of traffic on Facebook, pay for ads

Ads on Facebook work in essentially the same way as Google AdWords. So if you see that a keyword is performing well for you on the platform, it’s worth investing some money to test the ad service out. Because Facebook ads are much less targeted, they don’t typically convert into sales as well as their Google counterparts. However, they are certainly a lot less expensive – chiming in at as little as $1 a day. With a small investment, you’re likely to gain some visitors to and conversions on your business website.

Want to learn more about Facebook marketing or other ways to use technology to grow your business? Send us a message today.

May 14th, 2015

WindowsNews&Tips_May14_AWindows 8 was a disappointment. The user interface was too complex for general users and many critics were not impressed with Windows 8’s features. And so Microsoft plans to leave the Windows 8 blunder behind and move on to Windows 10. Numerous changes have been made and new features added to Microsoft’s new flagship operating system. Here are the top features that Microsoft hopes will be enough to regain its reputation and clients’ confidence.

Microsoft Edge

Windows 10 comes with a new Internet browser called Microsoft Edge. Formerly named Project Spartan until around three months ago, Edge is officially a replacement for the aging Internet Explorer. Edge allows you to add notes, while accessing web pages, for future reference. It also comes with a new reading mode that removes all the other distracting elements of a web page and leaves you with just the text. This allows for a good reading experience, not to mention faster loading time.

Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft’s personal assistant and the rival to Apple’s Siri. When Cortana first arrived in preview versions of Windows 10, there were several bugs and compatibility issues. But Microsoft has been working hard to address these. Just like on Windows Phone devices, you can interact with Cortana using either text or natural voice queries. Cortana can perform many basic tricks and tasks, such as taking notes, scheduling meetings, setting alarms, calling people on Skype, and playing music. She can also scour your computer, OneDrive account, and even your business network to find files based on your input.

Continuum

Windows 10’s Continuum feature is designed to make the OS work seamlessly on hybrid desktop and tablet devices. Users are able to switch between touch and desktop modes, depending on the device they’re using. When you unplug your keyboard and mouse, a small popup will appear asking whether Windows should switch to tablet mode. Once tablet mode is enabled, all the windows on the desktop will immediately go to full screen. On the other hand, if you plug in a keyboard and mouse, Windows 10 will launch another pop-up asking whether you wish to return to desktop mode. Another impressive feature of Continuum is the ability to connect your Windows Phone with a PC, essentially turning your smartphone into a pocket-friendly desktop.

Start Menu

The absence of the the Start menu in Windows 8 caused dissatisfaction among most Windows OS fanatics. Microsoft won’t make the same mistake twice. And so the Start menu will be returning to Windows 10 at the front and left of the home screen. When opened, the menu splits into two columns - one the traditional list of programs, the other app-style icons. A universal search function has been added to the Start menu, making for easier file browsing.

Windows 10 is made first and foremost for desktop users, whereas its predecessor Windows 8 was aimed at mobile and touchscreen devices. Microsoft has hinted that Windows 10 will be launching in late July 2015, available in 190 countries and 111 languages.

If you’re looking to incorporate Windows OS into your business, contact us today and see how we can help.

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

May 13th, 2015

164_Security_AWhile many IT providers often tout the revolutionary benefits of the cloud, very few address the security aspect of it. But the fact of the matter is that when you’re using a cloud service, you’re moving information out of your hands and into those of a third party. So doesn’t it make sense to take precautions? Dropbox alone has previously had the accounts of nearly seven million users hacked. That being said, it’s wise to take precautions and ask the right questions of a cloud computing provider. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of actions you can take to ensure security when you’re in the cloud.

The cloud is playing more and more of a significant role in business. Yet, as more companies jump on the bandwagon, very few of them seem to be taking cloud security seriously. According to a recent survey, the “Security of Cloud Computing Users Study” , only 50 percent of those surveyed had investigated the security of the cloud services they used.

To ensure you put in place proper security measures when beginning your cloud venture, here are five actions every small business owner should take.

Ask your IT provider what cloud security policies they have in place – this is probably the single most important security measure you can take. Find a trusted IT provider and have a candid conversation with them about their cloud security policies.

Ask where the location of the physical cloud servers are – when you have “the conversation”, don’t forget to ask about this. Believe it or not, some cloud servers may not even be stored in your own country. Wherever they are, it’s wise to make sure they’re located in a safe data center area with proper security afforded to them.

Create unique usernames and passwords – your login credentials represent one of the cloud’s main security vulnerabilities. Take the time to come up with a better password than “12345” or “football.”

Use industry standard encryption and authentication protocols – IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) is a reliable technology choice.

Encrypt data before it’s uploaded to the cloud – whether you do it yourself or your cloud computing provider does it for you, this is a must to ensure security.

When it comes to trusting the security of a cloud service provider, transparency is key. The provider should take security seriously, be able to explain their security policies clearly, and be willing to answer any questions. If they can’t do one of these, it’s a clear sign of a red flag.

Are you ready to talk cloud security and transition your business into the cloud? Call us today. We’re happy to answer all your questions.

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Topic Security
May 12th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_May12_AMost companies measure and gauge their performance and success by analyzing data. And the fact that we humans are visual creatures means our ability to interpret visual data tends to be far greater than with written words. This is the reason most businesses turn to dashboards as a business intelligence tool to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. Dashboards have become a critical part of any analytics process. Here are some common uses of dashboards across various business functions.

Marketing insights

The marketing department in an organization typically analyzes a significant amount of data from various channels. Whether the purpose is to forecast monthly sales, predict trends, or build marketing strategies, marketing officers need to compare, sort, and analyze raw data in order to present it in an understandable format using dashboards. Once raw data has been polished into meaningful information and presented to business executives, key decision makers are able to make choices based on that information.

Tracking sales opportunities

Sales dashboards are perfect for tracking various products and services throughout their lifecycle. With sales dashboards, you can identify sales opportunities by monitoring top-selling products and comparing the growth in revenue on a periodical basis. The implementation of sales dashboards eliminates the need to spend hours manually entering data and preparing sales reports, spreadsheets, charts, and manual data.

Social media management

There’s more to social media management than posting regularly on your business’s social media accounts. And in most cases, the default dashboard offered by your social media platform doesn’t give you a deep insight into your social media campaigns. What’s more, managing multiple social media accounts can quickly become a cumbersome process since you have to use several login credentials. That’s where dashboards come in. You can manage your accounts all at once through a comprehensive social media dashboard, saving you valuable time and effort.

Financial reports

Presenting financial data is so complex that, if not handled by competent employees, will often lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of critical data. Dashboards make creating financial reports much easier, and financial analysts can take advantage of dashboards to display sensitive data in a comprehensible graphical format – be it customer invoices, progress toward revenue goals, or business expenses.

Project collaboration

Businesses of all sizes require their employees to collaborate on projects, whether it’s on-site or online. Project supervisors need to get their teams together, in order to give them an insight of the projects’ requirements, deadlines and responsibilities, and to learn about the projects’ progress. With the help of project collaboration dashboards, members will see the complete workflow of the project, allowing for a more efficient and collaborative working environment.

Dashboards can truly take away the complications of presenting complex business data. If you’re looking to implement business intelligence tools to simplify your company’s data analysis process, drop us a line today and we can help.

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May 11th, 2015

HealthcareIT_May11_AWe are living in an age where technology is transforming every aspect of the way we live. Perhaps the most important area in which innovations are making a huge impact is the healthcare industry. Healthcare institutions are leveraging technology to drive better medical practices, increase access to information, and improve the overall patient experience. Here are some tech trends we can expect in today’s healthcare operations.

Health information exchange

Electronic Health Information Exchange (HIE) allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other healthcare providers and patients to access and share a patient’s medical information through a secured network. HIE systems facilitate the efforts of physicians to meet high standards of patient care. They also cut medical expenses on information transmission, including physical mailing of patient records, manual printing, scanning and faxing of documents, and phone bills.

3D printing

As 3D printing technology evolves, its medical uses are becoming increasingly apparent. It could assist in the development and manufacture of medical devices, such as prosthetic limbs and other body parts, and fluidic modeling. Professional 3D printers allow doctors to plan complex surgery by converting the patient’s bone structure, blood vessels and internal organs into a 3D-printable digital file that can be manipulated and studied beforehand. It is therefore likely that 3D printed medical and surgical guides will become a standard procedure for several operations, including heart surgery, knee replacements, cranial implants, hip operations, and many more.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine makes it possible for patients to connect with doctors using mobile devices and video-calling applications. It implements a variety of communications media, ranging from teleconferencing to image sharing and patient monitoring, to provide better medical services to patients. It is considered a cost-effective approach to treating health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea - physicians could monitor a patient’s condition and proceed to treatment immediately when something is wrong.

E-prescriptions

Doctors having to manually write prescriptions for patients is now a thing of the past for a growing number of healthcare providers. With the introduction of e-prescriptions, doctors are able to enter a prescription directly into the computer. The prescription is then transferred to a local pharmacy’s store. E-prescriptions are fast and reliable, sending information to the pharmacy through a private, secure, and closed network, before you have even left your doctor’s office.

Cloud computing

Researchers are taking advantage of the cloud by virtualizing massive amounts of healthcare data. Doctors can transition paper medical records to a digital format and store them in the cloud, allowing for easier access and analysis. With the cloud, patients are granted access to their medical information and doctors are able to see a more complete picture of a patient’s medical history.

Tech trends in healthcare are rapidly moving forward, and it’s important for healthcare institutions to keep up with the ongoing changes to provide better clinical services. For more information on how to implement technology into your healthcare business, get in touch today.

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May 11th, 2015

SocialMedia_May11_AIt has surely been a long time coming, and now it is official - the days of advertising-free conversations on Facebook Messenger are numbered. The social networking giant has confirmed that its private messaging service, a recent addition to its suite as a standalone app, is to become supported by advertising. While the move is unlikely to prove popular with ordinary users, it marks an interesting development for social media observers and presents new marketing opportunities to businesses. Here’s what you need to know.

As well as Facebook Messenger, which the company has definitively announced will feature advertisements, it looks likely that WhatsApp will also become ad-supported. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in February 2014 for $22 billion, despite the company only generating 2013 revenues of $10.2 million and overall making a net annual loss of $138.1 million. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg indicated that the company would not seek to monetize either service until they had reached a billion users, while WhatsApp founder and CEO said that the plan remained for the app to focus for several years on growth rather than monetization.

The latest announcements appear to signal a change in those tactics. While there has so far been no concrete decision on the form that advertising in either app would take, the intention appears to be for Facebook Messenger to test the water, with WhatsApp following its lead once a successful formula has been found. Executives have suggested that they wish to explore alternatives to conventional banner ads. They have also reinforced the message that the two apps, which seek to serve different purposes and audiences, will remain independent of one another.

The sheer number of users now communicating on the WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger platforms each month is testament to the value that Facebook could drive from placing advertisements on the services. Unlike its main site, which serves advertisements, the Facebook Messenger app currently makes no profit. Until now, WhatsApp’s only revenue stream has been the nominal $0.99 annual subscription fee it collects from users after a year’s free trial - and the service remains completely free in developing countries outside of Europe and North America. But for businesses, too, the potential of advertising on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp provides exciting new marketing opportunities and the chance to interact more closely with both potential and existing customers.

Learn more about using Facebook and other networks - both for advertising and wider social media marketing - to grow your business; give us a call today.

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Topic Social Media
May 8th, 2015

AndroidTablet_May08_AWhile folks on iOS limit themselves to friendship with Siri and Windows Phone users make do with Cortana, greater support on Android for the Google Now digital assistant means it’s becoming possible for you to achieve even more on your Android tablet with reduced effort. Though Google Now has for some time been supported on Android, the recent addition of cards from a further 70 third-party apps - giving a total of over 100 - means the experience just became even richer. Here’s what you need to know.

Google Now works by interacting with other apps on your tablet, as well as information from your Google account, browser history and elsewhere, to deliver information and reminders at the very moment you need them. It displays information from each app as a card, and acts intelligently to learn your habits and determine which information is useful to you and at which time and location you’re likely to want to see it.

The ability to talk to Google Now and use it to access information from its Google app siblings has been around for a while. Examples include telling it to load all your Google+ photos from a specific location, or the particularly helpful way you can set reminders not only by time but also location - meaning you can nudge yourself with a pop-up to buy bread the next time your tablet detects you’re at your local store. But with the latest release, it’s the third-party enhancements - bringing in features from other, non-Google apps that live on your tablet - that are really the talking point.

Exciting additions to the suite of apps supported by Google Now include the likes of Spotify, TuneIn and Youtube, making it easy for you to quickly pull up a playlist based on the music you’ve recently been listening to. A breaking news feed is supported by a number of apps, while Google Now can sync with apps like Eat24 and FoodPanda to remind you that your food is due to arrive soon. With the Zipcar app you’ll get not only a reminder that your rental slot is coming to an end, but also help in navigating to the drop-off point - alternatively, receive an automated notification when you arrive at an airport where app-based taxi booking services like Easy Taxi and GrabTaxi are available. You can even get help sticking to your goals in various fitness and sleep monitoring apps.

Third-party apps aside, Google Now continues to use the power of search to bring up helpful prompts like nearby attractions, events and public transit options; another recent addition even alerts you when a sale promotion begins on a product you’ve searched for. While this functionality was previously limited to flight bookings, it’s now extended to support all kind of products. If you search for an item a number of times, Google assumes you’re thinking of making a purchase, and will let you know if the price drops so you can swoop in and secure the deal.

Getting the most out of Google Now support for third-party apps necessitates having the latest versions of both the Google app and the apps you want cards to appear from. To learn more about implementing Android or Google technologies in your business, give us a call.

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May 8th, 2015

Web_May8_AWhatsApp has quickly become the world’s leading mobile instant messaging app. Launched in 2009, the service now boasts over 700 million active monthly users, and has hopes to increase that to a billion. But one feature that WhatsApp enthusiasts have been hoping for some time is the ability to use the system to chat on desktop and laptop devices. Now, at last that’s possible, with the recent launch of WhatsApp’s web-based chat client. So here’s the scoop on what this development means and some tips on how to get in on the action.

To get started with WhatsApp Web, you’ll need to open a QR code on the WhatsApp website on your desktop computer and then scan it in WhatsApp on your Android, BlackBerry, Nokia or Windows Phone mobile device. That’s right - for reasons unknown (WhatsApp puts it down to “Apple platform limitations”), users of Apple mobile devices running iOS are as yet unable to access the web client, and it’s not clear when that will change (though, as ever, hacks have emerged to make this possible).

The other drawback is that the web chat client is only available within Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera - but if you’re currently using another browser, that’s easily achieved with a quick switch. Once you’ve scanned the QR code, which identifies your mobile WhatsApp account to the web client so that the two can be synced up, you’re ready to get on with chatting on the web - whether that’s for work or pleasure.

The web client acts as an extension of the mobile app, meaning that those conversations you’ve started on your phone are mirrored across to the web but not actually stored there - all data remains on the phone. This means that, in order for the web client to work, your phone needs to remain connected to the internet in order for remote access to those chats to be possible. In addition, to be able to use the service at all, you need to ensure that your phone is equipped with the latest version of WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is growing in significance for businesses, the service recently having added VoIP calling capabilities. Get in touch with us to find out how to make it work for you.

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Topic Web
May 7th, 2015

164_HW_AGoogle’s new Chromebook, the Pixel, is finally here. Those who’ve been patiently awaiting its arrival, or are curious about giving it a try, might be wondering about the pros and cons of this new laptop. We’ve taken the time to break it down for you and list the important features you need to know about when considering whipping out that credit card.

Pros

Slim and lightweight - who doesn’t love a sleek, compact new computer that’s easy to pack up and take with you on the go? The Pixel weighs in at 3.3 pounds and is only 0.6 inches thick. If portability is something you’re looking for in a laptop, then the Pixel is certainly an attractive option.

High-resolution touch screen - want a hi-res screen that’s more advanced than Apple’s latest offering? The Pixel doesn’t disappoint and surpasses the latest MacBook with a high-resolution touchscreen that is 13 inches, 239-pixel-per-inch.

Battery life - For people on the go, battery life is one of the main considerations when choosing a laptop. And in this respect, the Pixel truly delivers. Not only does it promise 12 hours of battery life when fully charged, but it can also charge up to two hours of battery in just 15 minutes.

USB Type C ports - still scratching your head wondering how the Pixel’s battery is able to charge so quickly? The USB Type C ports are what gives it this ability. Additionally, these ports speed up data transfers.

Cons

Price Tag - for a computer that relies heavily on a working internet connection, many users may question the $999 price tag. With previous versions of the Chromebook costing less than $200, it might be hard to justify purchasing the new version when it still has relatively limited capabilities.

Lack of storage space - when it comes to storage space, the Pixel only offers 32 and 64GB options. To help users swallow this deficiency more easily, the company is offering a free terabyte of storage on Google drive for three years. For those who want to create and edit documents on Google Docs, this is a near perfect solution. But for those who would like to actually edit and create documents on the Pixel itself, their options are limited. Downloading the familiar Microsoft Word, as well as other other apps and software, is not possible.

There’s little doubt that the Pixel’s new features, design and capabilities are impressive. But at the end of the day, it’s still a Chromebook - meaning it will be as heavily reliant on the internet as its predecessors are. And you have to ask yourself, is a Chromebook - regardless of features - really worth $1,000? Ask yourself what you'd really be using it for, how often you work offline and whether you're getting good value when compared with other laptops on the market.

Have more questions about the Pixel or other new hardware on the market? Give us a call and talk with one of our qualified hardware consultants.

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Topic Hardware
May 6th, 2015

Productivity_May6_AIt’s late afternoon - you’re working on your desktop computer, providing live support to one of your clients. Suddenly your screen goes black and your Internet connection drops. Too bad your IT department announces that it will take several hours to restore power. Sometimes disturbances like sudden power outages can impair your business reputation and productivity. Consider applying the following tips to keep your productivity humming during power blackouts.

Install a UPS for each computer

A UPS (uninterrupted power supply), is an alternative, emergency power source. During a power outage, your computer will turn itself off automatically as there's no power. UPS prevents that by running your computer off its own battery. If you’re working on a file when a power blackout occurs, UPS is especially helpful. It can only buy your computer a few minutes of time at most, but that’s enough time to save vital files and power down. If you still need Internet access, try another method we’ve listed below.

Find a Wi-Fi connection

The advancements in technology made it possible for you to take your work outside the office. You can resume your business activities and Internet connectivity by using the mobile data plan from your smartphone or tablets, and then access your files via cloud storage and file sharing applications. If you don’t have a data plan, then head to the nearest Wi-Fi-friendly place to continue your work, such as a coffee shop. VoIP software installed on your portable devices can help you to connect to your clients efficiently.

Make good use of your batteries

Now is not the time to browse social media or play games. When you take your work offline, it’s best to preserve your devices’ batteries by doing only important tasks and turning off power-sucking applications. Buy an extra charging device to extend your battery life, if necessary.

Finish offline tasks

When no Internet connection is available, you can take the time to clear off any neglected offline duties, whether it’s clearing up desks or arranging files and documents. You can even gather a team to brainstorm new ideas for projects, or discuss any ongoing issues within your organization.

Work from home

If a power outage renders your employees helpless in their duties, then sending them home with a business laptop won’t hurt, if they’re able to continue their work from there. There are many ways to keep them accountable without being intrusive and, as long as they are making progress in their jobs and are able maintain their professional integrity, there’s not much to complain about. Make sure telecommuting is only allowed when necessary though - working alongside colleagues and sharing ideas face-to-face is still one of the best ways to induce productivity.

Achieving power-free productivity is possible when you have a plan prepared for the situation. For more productivity tips to boost your business’s bottom line, give us a call today.

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Topic Productivity
May 5th, 2015

The Windows Phone suite is one of the biggest names in the smartphone industry, with millions of users around the world. Since its debut in 2010, Microsoft has tried to close the gap to keep pace with the competition, however they have received feedback from users about functionality issues. Nevertheless, Microsoft is addressing most of them and the Windows Phone stills packs a bundle of interesting features that enhance the user experience. Some of these features may well be worth looking into if you’re a Windows Phone user, or are thinking of becoming one.

Projecting screen to other devices

You can show off your videos and photos on a much larger screen by activating the Project My Screen function located in the Settings>System menu. Your phone will automatically start searching for any nearby devices that support wireless screen projection. In addition, you can install Project My Screen on your PC and connect it to your phone using a USB cable for a portable projector.

Find My Phone

Afraid of losing and being unable to find your phone? Don’t worry – Windows Phone has a Find My Phone application that allows you to ring, lock, locate and wipe clean your phone from the official Windows Phone website. Check first in case you’ve lost your phone at home, as Find My Phone will make it ring even if the volume is off or set to vibrate mode.

Word Flow

Word Flow is a built-in application on devices with Windows Phone 8.1 installed, allowing for fast and accurate typing. Instead of typing each letter individually, you can slide your finger across the letters on the screen, and Word Flow’s intelligent system will automatically input the exact word that comprises the letters your finger came across. It will even display an emoticon relevant to the word you typed.

Data Sense

If you’re using a monthly plan for your Windows Phone, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with your current data usage. Data Sense displays your mobile’s data usage, and allows you to set very specific data limits. If you want to save some bandwidth, you can also restrict background applications from using data and command your phone to compress images while browsing the Internet.

Storage Sense

The way Storage Sense works is very similar to Data Sense. Storage Sense gives you an overview of the applications installed on your Windows device. You can see a quick breakdown of the apps that are taking up the most space and delete any bloated apps, videos, or audio files that you no longer need. It’s a very handy tool for giving your phone a spring clean!

Volume Control

The Windows Phone has two different volume channels: volume levels for ringer and notifications, and media and app volume. You can take control of these two individual volume levels. In other words, you can listen to music or play games at a higher or lower volume than your ringer and notifications, and vice versa. To access this feature, tap the small arrow on the top right screen when you adjust your phone’s volume, and a new settings window will open for you to customize volume levels.

You’re not yet using your Windows Phone to its greatest potential if you’re missing out on these features. Want to learn how to implement the Windows Phone into your business? Contact us today and we can help.

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