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April 20th, 2015

Disasters, whether in the form of man-made errors or natural causes, are a business’s worst fear. Imagine coming to your office one morning to find the internal servers destroyed overnight by a massive flood. This could be the end of the road for your company, unless you have a business continuity plan (BCP) to cope with the situation. But coming up with a well-thought-out BCP is only the start – you need to test the plan to see whether it works. An exercise process should therefore be included in the plan. Here’s all you need to know about running BCP exercises.

Set objectives

The first step to any efficient exercise is having clear objectives. Think about the results you want to see at the end of the exercise. These outcomes may include, but are not limited to, IT disaster recovery, evacuation routines, off-site recovery plans, and supplier management. If there are measurable targets that can be put into the equation, then all the better. For instance, meeting a recovery objective after a disaster within x number of hours.

Select the right type of exercise

Essentially there are four levels of exercises, each increasing in complexity and difficulty.

  • A walkthrough - this exercise involves a team meeting to discuss whether the present BCP has everything covered and is up-to-date.
  • Desktop exercise – ideal for new or intermediate teams. A desktop exercise takes place in a room where delegates discuss a fictional scenario delivered via a series of powerpoint presentations. Role-playing and dramatic simulations are not part of this stage of the process.
  • Functional exercise – this level allows employees to perform their duties in a simulated environment. It is designed to exercise specific team members, procedures, and resources in the event of a disaster.
  • Live or real time – this is a full-scale exercise performed in real time with normal business suspended. The aim is to see whether people can do what’s expected of them within a set timescale. A live exercise is often complicated and costly to organize, but will generally ensure a much smoother process if the worst does happen.

Develop a scenario

Take what you’ve learned from the team, the objectives and plan to develop a scenario. Depending on the type of exercise, you should have a scenario tailored to suit your objectives. Be creative when simulating incidents. You may need only two or three to keep your employees busy for a couple of hours – during that time you can monitor their performance.

Prepare employees

Assign a group of representatives responsible for making announcements and preparing conference rooms to relay the plan to employees. Be specific about who in the company are participants, observers, and facilitators for the purposes of the exercise. Explain courses of actions to everyone involved in the plan. Remember, your BCP’s success depends on your employees’ cooperation, so do your best when you’re clarifying the plan.

Run the exercise!

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. After careful planning and scheduling, it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you observe the exercise closely and ask yourself these questions: Are there any potential areas that can be improved? What should you do more of, or differently? What went well, and what didn’t? End the exercise with a feedback session where employees can express their opinions and share their ideas.

If you don’t get it right the first time, then go back to the drawing board and schedule another exercise. It only gets better with every practice.

Are you ready even if disaster should strike? Contact us today and we can help you develop a business continuity plan that keeps your company in the game.

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

April 20th, 2015

No matter what company they work for, HR managers and supervisors will always have to deal with good employees leaving the business. People move on, whether it’s for a career change, a higher salary, a promotion or personal reasons.

Finding a proper replacement can be challenging, and no company wants to lose a valuable team player. Are there actions that hint someone is about to turn in his or her notice? And what can managers offer resigning employees to convince them to stay?

Certain behaviors signal a resignation is coming

There are certain actions that clearly indicate someone has either lost interest in his or her work or they’re about to quit. Coming in late and leaving early, disappearing for lengthy periods in the middle of the day and barely getting any work done are obvious signs you’ll soon need to replace someone, but what about less obvious signs?

Research from Utah State University indicated that certain behaviors, when performed consistently, reveal a worker is probably about to leave in one or two months. These activities all had one common thread – they helped an employee start disengaging him or herself from the workplace. Tim Gardner, an associate professor at the university, said that if an employee is engaging in at least six of the following behaviors, the model he created predicted with 80 percent accuracy that the individual was about to resign. These tendencies included:

  • Becoming more quiet
  • Avoiding social gatherings at which upper management would attend
  • Becoming less interested in promotion opportunities
  • Reluctance to commit to long-term projects
  • Speaking up less frequently in meetings
  • Not going above and beyond
  • Minimal interest in developing new skills and participating in training initiatives
  • Reduced productivity
  • Failing to offer up new ideas for improvement

HR managers can train supervisors within their companies to keep an eye out for such behaviors. While they aren’t necessarily always associated with an impending resignation, they are certainly a warning sign.

“It appears that a person’s attitude can create behaviors that are hard to disguise,” said Gardner. “As the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence to you, chances are that others will soon notice that you’ve lost your focus.”

What will convince them to stay?

Employee turnover is costly, with regard to dollars, recruiting costs and employee morale overall. Therefore, after receiving a letter of resignation a manager’s first line of defense should be to save the job and convince the employee to stay.

This may be easier said than done. A whitepaper from the Society of Human Resource Management showed that in initial exit interviews, 38 percent of employees said they were leaving because of salary, while only 4 percent cited poor supervisors. When these same employees were surveyed again year-and-a-half later these numbers changed drastically – 12 percent said salary was their reason for departing while 24 percent said it was poor management. If fewer than 15 percent of people are really quitting because of salary, HR managers shouldn’t necessarily offer a raise to retain someone. Seeing if they’re interested in moving to another department or working with another team could be more beneficial, though if the worker’s problem is with management as a whole, this strategy may not prove effective.

Work-related stress was a significant reason why employees quit, according to Towers Watson data, but this same study showed that concern didn’t resonate with managers, who didn’t think it belonged in the top seven reasons why workers will leave. Supervisors need to rectify this, and soon, especially as constant access to technology may make some workers feel they’re on call 24/7. Trying to determine the underlying cause of staff stress and offering to work with someone who’s quitting on this factor may convince them the job is worth staying in after all.

Employer Solutions Blog | Sage HRMS

April 17th, 2015

SocialMedia_Apr13_AMuch attention in the social media marketing world is paid to the heavyweights of Facebook and Twitter - and, when executed properly, your marketing efforts on these networks can pay great dividends. But there is much more to social media marketing than these two platforms alone, and other channels that are on the rise include Pinterest. What’s more, building Pinterest into your social media marketing strategy just got a lot easier, more efficient and more rewarding. Here’s why.

Pinterest recently announced the launch of an updated and improved browser extension that enables users to save content and pin it to their boards. The platform has supported browser extensions like this for several years already, but the latest enhancements reduce the number of clicks needed to pin images and other content to boards. It is also now simpler to track down the specific board you want to pin an image to, or to create a brand new board from within the browser extension if you don’t already have one that fits.

For casual social media users, the Pinterest button that comes with the browser extension makes for a simple way to bookmark content on Pinterest in order to come back to it later. Pinterest itself gives the example of a food blog - while you’re browsing a recipe, you can click the Pinterest button on your browser and in just a couple of clicks save a visual reference to one of your boards. Then where you’re ready to start cooking, you can easily find the image and click it to return to the blog.

But the benefits are there for those of us using social media for business purposes, too. The extension makes it simpler for you to pin both your own content, which users can then share by re-pinning or clicking on find out more on your web site, and for you to pin and share other relevant content from around the web that will be of interest to your prospective customers. Never forget the golden rule of social media marketing, that your profile - on whichever platform - shouldn’t just be a non-stop stream of promotional messages. Social media is different from conventional advertising, and your content should be a blend of subtle promotion and other, non-sales content that is of genuine interest to prospects.

Pinterest is growing in a big way, meaning now is the perfect time to accelerate your marketing efforts on the platform. There are now said to be over 50 billion pieces of content pinned on the site, spanning over a billion boards, and traffic is both growing and moving to mobile devices. In fact, over 80% of the site’s traffic comes from mobile. And while Pinterest has long been considered to be a predominantly female-friendly site, the channel’s popularity with men is growing, and is outpacing the overall growth in the Pinterest user base.

If Pinterest doesn’t already figure in your social media marketing strategy, it’s about time it did. Give us a call to discuss how we can help you propel your social media efforts forward.

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

Topic Social Media
April 17th, 2015

InternetSocRepMngment_Apr17_CBusinesses are relying on social media more than ever to get their voices heard on the Internet. Social media is a powerful tool to connect with customers and to establish an online presence. However, so many companies make mistakes that are too important to ignore, and which could seriously damage your online reputation. As a business owner you need to keep your organization in check, and avoid these common online reputation management pitfalls.

Choosing the wrong person to manage your accounts

With a vast selection of social media channels out there, it is normal for businesses to have more than one account. But are you employing the right person capable of managing these accounts? Think about it: your company’s social media accounts are used to portray who you are, and to communicate with customers on a regular basis. In short – this is a job that could make or break your reputation, and you should be extra careful when selecting someone for this position.

Expressing your personal opinion

You’re making a big mistake if you let your emotions get in the way when posting content on your business’s social media profiles. Discussing religion, politics, or other controversial issues may turn off people who matter to your business. Unless they’re relevant to the nature of your business, avoid mentioning sensitive topics. Instead, try to keep a neutral tone, since the goal of your social media efforts is to appeal to everyone.

Deleting or ignoring negative comments

Negative feedback can be painful to hear but, if you can put aside your pride, it is a real opportunity for improvement. When customers post a negative comment, deleting or ignoring it can make things go from bad to worse. Customers may think that you’re not taking their issue seriously, and could resort to posting complaints on all sorts of platforms, which quickly become impossible to control. Don’t let things get out of hand – reply in a timely manner and try to solve their problems as best you can.

Posting fake reviews

Another online reputation mistake is to post negative reviews on your competitors’ website to dampen their credibility. This underhanded strategy is ethically wrong. Similarly, hiring someone to leave a good review for your company is inadvisable. Instead, focus on delivering high-quality products and services to generate authentic customer reviews, which can really pay off in the long run.

Being inconsistent

To build a good online reputation, you need to be consistent. Your social media fans followed your page for a reason – they have certain expectations that you will post regular and interesting content. Updating social media with ten posts one day, followed by complete silence for the following few weeks, is a bad example of consistency. Don’t disappear for days or weeks on end. Try to schedule a routine and interact with your audience on a regular basis.

A credible online reputation is an important part of your business’s public image. If you want to discuss how to establish an online presence, contact us today and we can help.

Topic Social Media
April 17th, 2015

164_A_OffHave you ever needed to scan a document, but not had a scanner on hand? Well just think how convenient it would be if you could use your phone as a scanner instead? If you’re a smartphone owner and regular app user, you’re probably aware of the myriad of apps that can do this. What you may not know is that there’s also a phone app out there that can not only scan a document, but also gives you the ability to edit the scanned text. It’s called Microsoft Office Lens, and now it’s available for iOS and Android. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Microsoft Office Lens?

Microsoft Office Lens is virtually a scanner in your pocket. You snap a picture of anything with text on it, and just like that it’s converted into a scanned document. What separates it from other similar apps out there is its ability to make the scanned text editable as if it were in a Word doc.

Unlike most of the other phone scanning apps, Office Lens automatically detects the borders of the item or document you’re scanning. This means you don’t have to bother lining up the edges of the item with a grid – you just point and shoot. The Lens app then optimizes the picture so that the text is easy to read. It does this by cleaning up shadows and straightening awkward angles. Also, the images you snap are automatically synced to OneNote. This allows you to easily store them, transfer to your other devices or share them later. Additionally, the images can also be saved to MS Word, Powerpoint or PDF. Originally launched in March of 2014, up until now Microsoft Office Lens was only available to Windows Mobile users. This seems a god sent to anyone who has had to rewrite scanned docs to make changes or reformat information.

To give you an idea of some of the items Microsoft Office Lens can scan, check out the list below:

  • business cards
  • billboards
  • receipts
  • invoices
  • notes
  • white boards
  • really anything that has text on it

Why is this cool? Well, imagine you’re at a meeting and there have been a long series of notes written on a white board. Instead of having to scribble all these notes down on a piece of paper, you can simply snap an image of the board. Afterwards you can edit the text from the whiteboard as you see fit, adding in your own notes or ideas.

How to get Microsoft Office Lens app

If you use an iOS device, you can download the app for free on iTunes.

As for Android, a fully functional version of the app is not yet readily available. However, you can get a preview version by joining the “Office Lens Android Preview” community on Google +. There you can sign up to become a tester.

Want to learn more about Office Lens and other Office products? Send us a message today.

Topic Android
April 15th, 2015

164_A_SecIs something off in the world of your Android phone or tablet? Is it running slower than usual? Is it eating data faster than a chubby kid in a chocolate store? If any of these situations sound familiar, your phone or tablet may be infected with a virus. That’s why we’ve compiled these six steps to show you how to remove a virus when you suspect an infection.

The lowdown on Android viruses

First off, let’s just put some things out there and clear the air. One, getting a virus on your Android product is actually incredibly rare. Two, when you see pop-up ads prompting you to buy a virus removal app, don’t freak out. This doesn’t automatically mean your device is infected. In fact, buying one of these apps could actually get you a virus! This is because all Android viruses are contracted via apps you install on the device. Which means the safest way to avoid getting one is to only install apps from the Google Play app store. If you must buy one outside of this, it’s wise to do your research first.

Before we get to what we think is the best solution, there are alternative ways to remove a virus that should be noted:

  • Use antivirus apps from Google Play - a lot of these are free and will detect and remove malicious apps, but some have a tendency to report apps as infected when they’re actually completely fine.
  • Perform a factory reset - if there’s a virus on your phone, this is a surefire way to remove it. However, in doing so you return your phone to its original factory settings. That means you’ll lose everything you’ve added since then that isn’t backed up.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the recommended option below.

How to remove the virus

  1. Turn safe mode on: To do this, access the power-off options by pressing the power button, then press and hold Power Off. This gives you the option to restart in safe mode. However, this doesn’t work with all models of the Android phone or tablet. If it doesn’t work with your device, a quick Google will pull up model-specific instructions. And what’s the point of turning on safe mode in the first place? Simple - it prevents any malware from running.
  2. Search for the infected app: Do this by opening Settings and then Apps. Once you’ve done this, be sure you’re looking at the Download tab (since the virus can only be something you’ve downloaded), and then start searching for the suspected app. If you don’t know the virus’s name, it’s likely something that looks out of place.
  3. Uninstall the app: Yes, it’s really that simple. Just click on the suspected app and uninstall it. Then you’re done. But if the name of the app is grayed out and you can’t even tap it, it means the virus has given itself Device Administration Status. In this case, follow the next three steps below.
  4. Remove Administrator Status: Do this by tapping on Settings and Security, then Device Administrators. Simply uncheck the infected app and hit Deactivate on the next screen.
  5. Uninstall the app: Now when you return to the Apps menu, the infected app will no longer be grayed out. Simply uninstall it.
  6. Restart your device: This takes it out of safe mode. Now your phone will be virus-free.
Want more ideas for Android and IT security? Don’t hesitate to give us a call today.
Newsletter Sign Up! Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 14th, 2015

The pre-touchscreen days of cell phones are thankfully long behind us, and we can consign to history all that thumping down on physical buttons just to make a call. With the advent of the smartphone, we’re now all well accustomed to gliding our fingers across the screen to activate our devices’ countless functions. Samsung, though, wants to go a step further – the manufacturer has recently patented technology that will give you a phone you can control with your eye movements.

Some devices, both from Samsung and other manufacturers, already have security features which enable you to scan your face as a way to unlock your phone. This is the kind of eye control function that we might expect from future Samsung devices employing the technology that is the subject of the company’s latest patent. The patent doesn’t limit the application of this technology to phones, either, meaning that we could well see it deployed on devices like tablets, desktop computers and even televisions.

Imagine being able to play a song in your phone’s music streaming application, simply by blinking. Blink a second time and you could pull up various information about the song and artist – other movements allow you to activate further features in the app, whether that’s increasing the volume, pausing, rewinding or downloading other songs by the same artist. The patent lists eye movements including blinking, keeping them closed, and gazing at one spot for a prolonged period, each of which would be linked to specific in-device actions.

The race to implement technology to enable visual control of cell phones is not a new one – back in 2013, LG accused Samsung of having infringed on one of its eye-tracking patents with features available on the Samsung Galaxy 4S. Prior to the launch of the 4S, LG alleged that the phone’s Smart Pause function, which automatically pauses video when you take your eyes off the screen, violated a patent the company had applied for in 2009, and which covered the same technology on its Optimus G Pro device. However, when the 4S was eventually released, the Smart Pause and Smart Scroll features – the latter of which allows for browser and email scrolling without touching the screen – relied on facial recognition rather than eye tracking.

Similar features are available on Apple devices, and intended primarily for those with motor difficulties. Switch Control allows you to connect a switch to your iOS device for easier access, while since iOS 7.1 it has also been possible to use the device’s camera as a head switch, and then customize the settings to define head movements and which actions they trigger. Nonetheless, the ongoing innovations being attempted by firms like Samsung mean that this kind of device control is likely to become even more common and mainstream in the near future.

To find out how we can help you use the latest mobile technology in your business to drive productivity and greater revenue, contact us today.

April 13th, 2015

HealthcareIT_Apr13_AAdvancements in medical technology allow doctors to provide better treatment and diagnosis to their patients. From electronic medical records to mobile devices, patients and physicians are reaping benefits from these new technologies. Additionally, a growing number of healthcare institutions are implementing Google Glass in their medical operations. Google Glass wasn’t originally designed for medical use, but many of its features allow for more efficient medical services.

What is Google Glass?

Google Glass is essentially a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display. Glass has a small prism-like screen in the upper corner of the frame, which allows users to see and interact with information using a voice command system. Google Glass has a wide range of applications available to empower its functionality.

How Google Glass revolutionizes healthcare

Glass allows medical professionals to select and install healthcare applications. These applications are specially designed for medical usage, whether it’s to enable real-time access to patient information or to stream live video for educational purposes. Here are five ways Google Glass can enhance healthcare.
  • EMS communication - During emergency patient transportation, Google Glass provides a connection between EMS ambulance staff and the emergency department team at a hospital. Glass allows paramedics to stream live images and videos from the ambulance to awaiting emergency room doctors, who can view the patient’s injury before arrival. Doctors are able to give initial treatment advice to paramedics. They can also prepare resources such as the operating room and medical equipment, in order to start treatment as soon as the patient arrives.
  • Virtual dictation - According to a survey, doctors typically spend a third of their day on the computer, either to input or retrieve patients’ electronic medical records. Augmedix, a Google Glass application, eliminates these time-consuming processes and allows doctors to gain access to real-time patient data without being tethered to a computer. Doctors can communicate with their patients while browsing data via Glass by using simple voice commands.
  • Patient care instruction - Every patient has different symptoms and medical needs. Healthcare staff with Glass can provide better treatment by viewing a patient’s medical records, what their families have had to say during medical consultations, and instructions from doctors. These recorded instructions ensure a patient’s safety, even if they are unable to recall their own care instructions.
  • Procedure analysis - When it comes to medical services, it is simply not acceptable for patients to be negatively impacted by an error in the healthcare system. Google Glass enables medical staff to review emergency and operation procedures for training purposes. This improves accuracy for future procedures and also reduces the margin for error.
  • Medical training assistance - Glass can literally walk medical students through surgical procedures. Doctors wearing Google Glass can project real-time visibility during surgical operations, giving the perfect point of view for observers. Glass can also record videos for future reference. This gives medical students or trainee staff far better insight into the whole procedure, rather than trying to view it from around a crowded operating table.
Google Glass is here to stay in the healthcare industry. If you want to learn how to implement wearable technology in your medical practice or hospital, give us a call today.
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April 10th, 2015

Browsers_Apr10_AWe now operate in a business world where we no longer work on just one device. Instead, we switch regularly between our office PC or laptop, a smartphone while on the move between meetings, and perhaps a tablet to keep on top of work while on a business trip - or to catch up on emails while watching TV in the evening. You might even hotdesk between different locations in your office or across multiple sites, using a different computer each time. It’s important that, wherever you work, you have access to the information you need to help you do your job smoothly and efficiently. That’s why Opera’s introduction of bookmark syncing on its mobile and desktop browsers is a particularly welcome one.

Bookmark syncing is already standard practice on most browsers, and those who use Google Chrome in particular will already be familiar with being able to log into the browser on different devices and access all your bookmarks just as you left them. Yet, despite its popularity with over 300 million users, it’s a feature that was oddly missing from Opera until an update last month. Bookmark syncing is now supported across Opera’s desktop platform, Opera Mini for iOS, and Opera for Android, with Opera Mini for Android expected to follow soon.

Syncing your bookmarks on Opera browsers is as simple as it is on the likes of Google Chrome. Simply sign into your Opera account on each device that you use (after creating an account if you don’t have one already), and your bookmarks will magically appear for you to access, edit and add to. Of course, if you’re happy as you are, then you can use Opera as you always have done and without signing in - the only difference is that you won’t have access to your bookmarks on any devices where you’re not connected.

Though it may lack the glitz and glam afforded to other, newer browsers like Chrome and Firefox, Opera is a stalwart that has been around since 1995. At the start of this year, one of Opera’s original developers unveiled a brand new browser, Vivaldi, after he became disillusioned with Opera’s change of course from its original functions and purpose. Designed for power users who spend a lot of time online working with high volumes of content, Vivaldi might be for you if you not only like to bookmark lots of pages, but also have a tendency to keep numerous tabs open.

Learn more about how different browsers can help you boost your organization’s productivity - get in touch with us today.

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

Topic browsers
April 9th, 2015

164_A_MWIf Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera were at a cocktail party, Internet Explorer would probably be the butt of all their jokes. That’s not to say Internet Explorer never served a purpose, but it clearly has not kept up with the likes of today’s modern browsers. Microsoft knows this, which is why they’re releasing a new browser later this year. The name of it is Spartan, and there are some nifty features that may just revolutionize the way you use the web.

What is Spartan?

Spartan is Microsoft’s new web browser that will be released later this year along with Windows 10. Microsoft’s aim is to build a browser that is designed for the modern web, which creates a more personable experience when interacting with it. Here are few of the incredible changes Spartan has in store.

Web Note

Also known as inking, Web Note allows you to edit web pages directly. You can do this by either typing them or using an interactive pen that allows you to literally circle, underline, or annotate pages as you see fit. These annotations can then be shared with friends and colleagues via email or social networking. They’ll also be stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage for easy collaboration.

Reading View

A web page can be a busy place, and the guys at Microsoft know that. That’s why they’ve created Reading View, which provides distraction-free reading to keep you focused on the content. Reading View eliminates ads, fancy CSS styling, sidebars and comments, creating a simple format that feels as if you’re looking at an open book.

Cortana, your new personalized assistant

More and more phones are enabling their devices with personal assistants, so why not web browsers? Cortana is designed to make your web browsing experience easier and more personalized. For example if you’re looking up a business or restaurant, Cortana can provide additional information such as opening hours, address and contact info. Another nifty feature of Cortana allows you to get a definition or content explanation without leaving your current page. Just highlight the word, right click and select Ask Cortana. She’ll provide you with the info you’re looking for, right there on your web page.

Want to learn more about Spartan or other Microsoft Windows News and tips? Call us today.

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

April 8th, 2015

164_A_ProdMost of us have this fantasy that technology is going to make everything better automatically. But is that really true? When you stop and take a moment to reflect, does checking your email ten times a day, keeping your break/fix contractor on speed dial, or purchasing yet another workflow app really make your business more productive? The easy answer to these questions is almost certainly no. And, while we’re on the subject, here are a few more questions you need to ask yourself to ensure your technology is speeding up your productivity, not slowing it down.

Is this making my job easier or harder?

There’s no questioning that technology can make our lives better and our jobs easier, but it can also make everything more difficult. Here are a few ways it can slow you down:
  • Distraction - From email to Facebook to Skype or Gchat, technology can be a 24-hour distraction. If you are constantly switching between technology apps and programs - whatever your reason - you’ll certainly end up in a state of distraction, causing your productivity to take a hit.
  • Too complex - Some technology is simply too complex for the average user. To fix this problem, either use technology that is more user-friendly, or leave your IT guy to the job.
  • Too much - There are simply hundreds and thousands of apps and programs that can be used to make your workflow and job easier, but if you use too many you’ll likely be slowed down as you bounce between them all. The trick is to use only what you need, and nothing more.

Does my tech work?

This is almost a no-brainer. Your tech needs to work in order for you to reach your maximum productivity. If you’re still using a break/fix contractor and you’re calling him every other week, is this increasing or inhibiting your productivity? The answer is pretty obvious - it’s probably slowing you down. So what do you do? You need to get a more effective technology solution that is going to “just work”.

If you’re a small business owner, one way to do this is through managed services. This is a hands-off solution where an MSP handles all your IT, usually for a fixed monthly fee, so you never have to think about it. MSPs are proactive about preventing problems from ever occurring in the first place, meaning you’ll have fewer IT issues creating disruption and downtime in your workday.

Is this tech job my responsibility?

Just because you know how to troubleshoot a broken application, does that mean you should? If you’re a business owner or have a job role outside of the tech department, it will benefit you in the long run to leave the job to the tech team. Why? It’s for the same reason the owner of a restaurant doesn’t mop the floors or clean the toilets. They have better things to do with their time, and so do you. You have a specific role for a reason, and you’re creating the most value for your company when you stick to that role. Do yourself and the tech team a favor and leave the tech alone; you have a business to run.

Want more ideas on how to maximize your productivity and use technology to its greatest good? Give us a call and let’s talk today.

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

Topic Productivity
April 8th, 2015

BusinessValue_Apr7_AHowever good you are at running your business, you’ll not get very far without a steady stream of customers. So you need to look after them. One of the factors that differentiates good companies from great ones is customer relationship management, commonly known as CRM. Over the past few years, thanks to the huge growth in online reviews and social media, customers’ expectations have changed, meaning people now have more power and businesses need to adapt accordingly to respond to customer demand.

Imagine a product that you purchased a couple of days ago breaks after its first use. You contact customer support and describe the issue, only to be told to wait for another representative to call you back. You wait for hours, and still nobody calls back. After sending an email to customer support, there’s a chance you get a call back, but it’s from someone unfamiliar with your problem and you awkwardly have to explain yourself for the third or fourth time. An effective customer relationship management system can eliminate this problem and many more. Here’s what you need to know.

Sage CRM defined

Sage CRM is a system that allows businesses to manage, record, and evaluate their customer interactions, in order to provide better services and boost sales. You can use Sage CRM to store customers’ contact details, accounts, leads and sales opportunities all in one place, usually in the cloud so that the information is accessible by anyone in your organization, and at any time.

Why you should invest in Sage CRM

  • Master data management - This is a method of recording and sharing customer data across the Sage CRM process. When customer data is recorded, the Sage CRM system centralizes the data into one file, called a master file. Everyone within the company then has access to this data source, preventing confusion from inaccurate or duplicated data.
  • Collaboration - Nowadays clients want their support from a company’s customer service team to be as fast as possible. But one of the problems in the customer service arena is a lack of consistency. Sage CRM system is able to ensure customer information is shared among departments to better understand circumstances and requirements, and provide a more consistent service.
  • Customer segmentation - A Sage CRM system arranges your customers into groups based on criteria such as age, gender, location, and even their likes and dislikes. This allows you to target marketing messages to your customers more accurately, potentially increasing your sales numbers.
  • Task tracking - Sage CRM has task tracking features that enable your employees to stay on top of important tasks, such as contacting customers via email or phone, and following up on leads. Sage CRM also sends reminders to employees about their assigned tasks, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • In-depth reporting - Another benefit you can derive from implementing Sage CRM is a thorough analysis of your customer base. Sage CRM-generated reports give details including an overview of product sales numbers, the marketing strategies that work best, your most successful products or services to date, and even a prediction of whether your sales target will be met at the end of the month.

If you’re looking to improve customer service and increase sales conversion with Sage CRM, contact us today and see how we can help.

April 7th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr6_AAs a business owner you put everything into its success – your time, skills, and financial resources. With that in mind, you should take important steps to secure your business in the event of a disaster. Disasters, whether in the form of floods or IT system failures, compromise your company’s hard-earned reputation and client trust. You never know when a disaster may strike, and having a disaster recovery plan in advance can help your business get back on its feet more quickly. If you haven’t already put a disaster recovery plan in place, here are four disaster protection tips for your business.

Cloud backup

One of the most serious side effects disasters inflict on your business is preventing access to data. This is a major inconvenience, especially if you need to communicate with clients on a daily basis. Make sure all your crucial data is safe by using a cloud-based backup solution. With the power of the cloud, your files are stored and accessible from anywhere, and at any time. Cloud backup provides convenience and enhanced uptime, ensuring business continuity during a disaster.

Get disaster insurance

Disaster insurance can help cover the costs of repairing damage caused by certain disasters. Many business owners think they have sufficient insurance coverage, only to find out later that their policy didn’t cover a disaster scenario. Take the time to consult with your insurance agent to understand what is, and what is not, covered by your insurance. If necessary, consider buying additional coverage from your insurance provider.

Prepare your employees

Many businesses regard employees as their most valuable assets. In the event of a disaster you will rely on them not only to execute the disaster recovery plan, but to also keep your business running. Unfortunately, if your employees or their families are also affected by a natural disaster, they won’t be able to concentrate on their work. That’s why you need to prepare your staff for coping with a disaster as well as your business. It could be something as simple as issuing a handbook to cope with crises, sending emails to alert employees, or preparing emergency supplies and communication devices to meet immediate needs.

Create a contingency plan

Review all your business operations and identify areas that are crucial for your organization’s survival. Establish a procedure for managing those functions during a disaster. For instance, you can make a list of all suppliers and their contact information. If your suppliers are located near your business, you should have secondary contacts in other locations. Establish an assembly place where your employees can continue to run the business if your main premises become inaccessible. Once you have a contingency plan in place, make sure you review it with your employees at least twice a year so you don’t forget any crucial details.

When your business is hit by a disaster, the top priority is to keep your daily operations running as normally as possible. If you want to learn more about planning for a disaster, give us a call today.

April 3rd, 2015

Planner with sticky note - SeminarYou are not alone in counting on Google power to keep your schedule in check - ever growing numbers of us turn to Google’s cloud-powered Calendar tool for a helping hand in organizing our day-to-day lives. But until now, Android fans have lacked some of the functionality available in the app on other platforms. The welcome news is that you’ll suffer no longer, thanks to a recent update which brings with it usability improvements on numerous fronts.

Google Drive integration

Making for an even more seamless experience using the whole suite of Google apps, Calendar is now more integrated than ever with cloud storage solution Google Drive. Whether it’s a meeting agenda or a hotel booking confirmation, you can now attach files from your Google Drive account directly to a Calendar event. No more emailing files around, only to have to resend them a week later to those who have mislaid them - Calendar even makes sure that all your event invitees can open the files you attach.

A week at a glance

When using Google Calendar on the web, we take it for granted that we can flick between a daily view of our schedule, a look at the work week, the full seven days or even a month at a time. But on Android devices, these have been features missing for too long - at least until now. The app previously supported a monthly view before it was axed; now the seven-day week view returns to allow you to get instant perspective on what’s on the horizon. Couple this with a new pinch-and-zoom capability that allows you to focus in on specific appointments - albeit that this feature frustratingly is only supported in the seven-day view - and it makes for a more efficient and rewarding calendar experience.

Link up with Google+

Take-up of Google’s attempt at a social network has admittedly been lower than some expected but, if you’re one of those who has jumped on the Google+ bandwagon, new integration between it and Calendar means you can quickly and easily import all your friends’ birthdays from your Google+ account. This saves you manually entering them into your diary and, with the option to receive timely reminders by SMS and email, you’ll never miss your colleagues’ special days again.

If you haven’t yet upgraded your Google Calendar for Android app, now’s the time - the latest version is available in the Google Play store. To learn more about deploying Calendar and other cloud-powered Google Apps to transform your company’s organization and productivity, give us a call.

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April 3rd, 2015

164_A_WebWhen you Google your business, does it show up in search results? The chances are it does, but if it's buried on page 20 it's not going to get much traffic. If this sounds like you, Google has started a new initiative to help small businesses rank higher more easily. It’s called Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map and its purpose is to, well, put your business on the map - or at least on the first page of Google search.

Here’s why showing up in search results matters

Google announced Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map on March 25. Along with it, they also shared the following statistics that demonstrate just how important search results are for your business:
  • Four out of five people use search engines to find local information
  • Businesses that are online grow 40% faster than those that aren’t
  • Consumers are 38% more likely to visit and 29% more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with complete listings

Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map puts your business on the map

Essentially, Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map creates a custom website for your town. And not just a few towns, but nearly every one in the US - 30,000 in all. The site teaches you how to enhance the company information that shows up on Google, and also offers instructions on how to make a Google My Business listing. Once implemented, both of these will make it easier for your business to appear in search results.

But that’s not all. There are number of other features Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map offers, including:

  • Access to new diagnostic tools that show how your business is appearing in both Google search results and maps
  • The ability to verify your business for Google searches
  • Tools to add photos, location and operating hours to your business listing
  • A year’s free access to a domain name and website through their partner Startlogic
Additionally, the site will point visitors to Google hosted, in-person training workshops with local organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Development Centers.

To learn more about Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map and the latest web developments, contact us today.

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Topic Web
April 2nd, 2015

SocialMedia_Mar30_AFor businesses using Facebook to promote themselves locally, nationally or even globally, your page like count is pretty much the holy grail. It’s arguably the most important metric you can use to get a handle on the reach of your posts and the effectiveness of, and return on investment, from your Facebook marketing efforts. Yet Facebook recently announced that business page owners would see a drop in their like count. Here’s what you need to know.

Facebook’s announcement means that since March 12 you may have seen a drop in the number of likes, or fans, attributed to your page. If you’ve been wondering what you did wrong to cause the drop, you can rest assured that it’s unlikely to be a result of ineffective marketing or unengaging content on your part. Rather, Facebook has been hard at work removing inactive accounts from the social network.

The kind of Facebook accounts affected by the move are those of deceased users whose friends or family have opted to have the profile memorialized. The page remains visible, but is clearly marked as in remembrance of the user and becomes a place for relatives to share memories. Accounts also affected are those whereby the user has opted to deactivate their profile and take a break from the site. In the case of deactivated profiles, if the user later returns to Facebook and begins using their profile again, the like will be re-added to your page’s count at that point.

In making this move, Facebook aims to ensure that the like count for a page more accurately reflects the number of active users who actually see and engage with the page’s content. There’s no denying that it is easy to become distracted by high like counts, when often the reality is that only a fraction of those users are the people you are aiming to target, or indeed real humans at all. The social network already filters out likes and comments for specific posts from those with deactivated or memorialized accounts, so this change simply represents an extension of this policy to the more visible metric of a page’s overall like count. From Facebook’s perspective, the move also helps it to deliver a better overall experience, since taking the bloatedness out of artificially inflated numbers helps users get a better idea of which pages are popular and which are most relevant to their needs and interests.

Businesses should consider Facebook’s shift a positive one, since it leaves you with a clearer perspective on the real audience your page is getting and removes the potential to be seeking false comfort from a high page count that doesn’t actually reflect the level of active engagement. The move has echoes of recent efforts by Instagram to flush out spam accounts from its system - some high-profile celebrities saw their follower counts drop by the thousands after these accounts were banished. Though the dip in Facebook page likes may continue for a further few weeks as more accounts are flushed out from the count, most page owners will notice only a small difference. If you suffer a more drastic drop, treat it as a wake-up call to try new tactics to deliver engaging content and organically drive a more genuine Facebook audience.

Need advice on how to build a social media audience and use it to generate leads? Get in touch today and see how we can help.

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Topic Social Media
April 2nd, 2015

164_A_HardwareYou just got back from lunch and are settling down into your office chair. You open up your planner to check your schedule, and then wake your PC from sleep. Time to check emails. But wait, something’s wrong. You’re...waiting. Your computer is moving as slow as a brontosaurus and the problem appears to go deeper than internet speed. What happened? When a PC slowdown strikes, there can be a number of culprits. Here are a few ideas to alleviate the problem, so you can get back to business in no time.

Restart

The most obvious but often overlooked fix is to simply restart your PC. Many people get into the habit of leaving their PC on 24/7 and, instead of turning it off, just leave it in sleep mode when they’re not using it. However, restarting it is like vacuuming a carpet or mopping a floor. If you let either of them sit for a while, a lot of temporary gunk builds up. A simple restart can help clean your computer up but, unlike with household chores, you won’t get dirty in the process.

Uninstall new stuff

Did you recently install new hardware or software? If you did, this could be causing your slowdown and, if you don’t need it, it’s worth uninstalling it. Here’s how:
  1. Go to your Control Panel’s Programs and Features section.
  2. If you think a driver is slowing you down, open Device Manager and double click the new driver.
  3. A dialog box will open. Click the Driver tab followed by the Roll Back Driver button.
  4. If that button is grayed out, it means the problem isn’t with that driver. If not, you can continue with uninstalling.
Using the Device Manager, you can also uninstall new hardware.

Free up hard drive space

A lack of hard drive space can slow your PC down as well. To run your system smoothly, it’s recommended you have 15% hard drive space free. Having this extra space gives room for temporary files and swapping.

If you don’t have the space, you may need to purchase a new hard drive or transfer some of your files and programs over to an external one.

Search for the bloated program that’s eating your memory

Another potential problem could be a dysfunctional program that is using up too much of your PC’s memory. To see if this is the source of your problem, go to Windows Task Manager and click the Processes tab. Then look in the CPU or memory column. Either of these will show you if there’s one program that’s eating all your memory.

To solve this problem, click on the program in Windows Task Manager; and then hit End Process. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary fix. You’ll have to uninstall this program and replace it with something that will run more efficiently.

Scan for viruses

Both viruses and malware can also slow down your computer. To check if you’ve been infected, run a system scan. If you do have malicious software on your PC, and your antivirus software hasn’t effectively detected or removed it, contact a local IT Services Provider who will be able to clean your computer and free it of potentially harmful malware. They can also advise you to a reputable solution to avoid future issues.

Want more tips on how to resolve PC slowness and other computer issues? Worried you may have been infected by a virus? Get in touch with us today for help and advice.

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Topic Hardware
April 1st, 2015

Security_Apr1_AIn today’s technology-driven world, everyone uses email as the central hub for their personal internet activities, whether it’s communication, forum registration or newsletter signups. Email is one of the most useful tools the internet has made possible. But as emails become more prevalent, the importance of email security becomes more significant than ever. Applying these email management tips will protect your email account from hackers and viruses.

Use separate email accounts

Most people use a single email account for all their personal needs. As a result, information from websites, newsletters, shopping deals, and messages from work get sent to this one inbox. But what happens when someone breaks into it? There’s a good chance they would be able to gain access to everything else.

Having multiple email accounts will not only boost your security, but also increases your productivity. You can have a personal account to communicate with your friends and family, another solely for receiving emails from work, and one recreational account for various website registrations and getting newsletters. Wise email users never put all their eggs in one basket!

Set strong passwords

Too many email accounts have predictable passwords. You might be surprised to learn that email passwords like ‘123456’, ‘qwerty’, and ‘password’ itself are still the most common around. For the sake of security, be a little more selective with your passwords. Spending a few moments on coming up with a good password will be beneficial in the long run. Mix upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters to form a unique password that makes sense and is memorable to you, but no-one else. Also, never use the same password for all your email accounts. This way, if someone hacks one of your accounts, all of the others are still safe.

Beware of links and attachments

When you see a link in an email, don’t click on it unless you’re expecting the link from a known source, such as from your friend or a confirmation link for your game account registration. The truth is that you never know where those links might lead you. Sometimes they can be safe, but other times they can infest your computer with viruses and malware.

Similarly, if you’re expecting a file from your friend or family, then go ahead and open the attachment. It’s always good to know the person sending the file. But be wary of attachments in emails from strangers. Even if the file name looks like a JPEG image, you should never open it. File names can be spoofed, and innocent files may be a clever virus in disguise, ready to latch itself onto your computer the moment you click on it.

Beware of email phishing

Phishing is a type of online scam when malicious users send you an email, saying that they’re representatives from high-profile websites like eBay, Facebook or Amazon. They claim that there’s a problem with your account, and that you should send them your username and password for verification. The fact is that, even if there was a genuine issue with your account, these companies would never ask for your password. You should ignore these phishing emails and sweep them into your spam box.

It all comes down to common sense when you’re dealing with email security issues. If you’re looking to secure your business emails, give us a call today and see how we can help.

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

Topic Security
March 31st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Mar31_ARegardless of the size of your company, chances are you’ve heard of data warehouses, but perhaps are unsure exactly what they are and how your organization can benefit from them. Successful companies all have one thing in common - they make the best decisions based on the data at hand, which usually lead to good business results. A data warehouse is a business intelligence tool designed to manage huge volumes of data from multiple sources. Here’s what you need to know about data warehouses and the advantages they offer for your business.

Data warehouses defined

A data warehouse is a centralized store of all data generated by the departments of a large organization. It is specially designed for data analysis, generating reports, and for other ad-hoc queries. A data warehouse extracts the huge streams of data from a company’s operational and external databases and turns them into meaningful data, so business decisions can be made based on this information.

Differences between data warehouses and databases

The purpose of a database is to record and store current data from users. A database is suitable for the traditional type of data storage method. For instance, a bank ATM uses a database to record their customers’ money transactions in real-time. A data warehouse, on the other hand, is a type of database but specifically designed for data analysis. It is used to store and summarize large volumes of historical data.

Benefits of data warehouses

A goal common to all businesses is to make better business decisions than their competitors. Once a data warehouse is implemented into your business intelligence plans, your company can benefit from it in many ways.
  • Better decision-making - Corporate decision makers will no longer have to make important business decisions based on limited data and hunches. Data warehouses store credible facts and statistics, and decision makers will be able to retrieve that information from the data warehouse based on their personal needs. In addition to making strategic decisions, a data warehouse can also assist in marketing segmentation, inventory management, financial management, and sales.
  • Quick and easy access to data - Speed is an important factor that sets you above your competitors. Business users can quickly access data from multiple sources from a data warehouse, meaning that precious time won’t be wasted on retrieving data from multiple sources. This allows you to make quick and accurate decisions, with little or no support from your IT department.
  • Data quality and consistency - Since data warehouses gather information from different sources and convert it into a single and widely used format, departments will produce results that are in line and consistent with each other. When data is standardized, you can have confidence in its accuracy, and accurate data is what makes for strong business decisions.
A data warehouse is essential for any business that wants to profit from sound business decisions. If you’re looking to implement a data warehouse into your business, give us a call today.
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March 31st, 2015

The end of support for Windows Server 2003 could signal the beginning of a new stage in your company’s evolution to a cloud based environment. Learning about the new features and improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2 will help you make the transition to this new environment smoother and less burdensome. Here are a few benefits to Migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Benefits.

Windows Server 2012 was the product with which Microsoft really got serious about supporting cloud based deployments of Windows Server. The first major release of an operating system since Windows Server 2008 R2’s release in 2009, Windows Server 2012 brings with it a variety of features to the data center, making it possible for admins to deploy highly available cloud applications. And with features such as PowerShell 3.0, the improved virtualization hypervisor, Hyper-V, SMB 3.0 and more, the potential benefits of the latest release are irrefutable.

PowerShell 3.0 added an additional 2,300 cmdlets, allowing for more granular control over the operating system. PowerShell remoting allows wider control of a data center by executing commands from a remote computer.

Virtualization has made notale strides in Hyper-V 3.0, which supports 64 processors and 1 TB of memory. Introduced with Windows Server 2012, the VHDX format has a larger disk capacity and is more resilient than its predecessor.

Server Core which allows for command-line & remote administration, has greater security than running the graphical user interface (GUI) environment. New in Server 2012, users can switch between the Server Core view and the GUI Server Manager view by installing a role.

Dynamic Access Control (DAC), helps IT pros create more centralized security models for access to network resources by tagging sensitive data both manually and automatically, based on factors such as the file content or the creator. Then claims based access controls can be applied. Read more about DAC in my “First Look” article over on Windowsecurity.com.

SMB 3.0 Server Message Block protocol has significantly improved in Windows Server 2012. The new version of SMB supports new file server features, such as SMB transparent failover , SMB Scale Out, SMB Multichannel, SMB Direct, SMB encryption, VSS for SMB file sharing, SMB directory leasing, and SMB PowerShell. SMB also works with Hyper-V, so that VHD files and virtual machine configuration files can be hosted on SMB 3.0 shares. A SQL system database can be stored on an SMB share, as well, with improvements to performance.

Storage Spaces is a new feature in Server 2012 that lets you use inexpensive hard drives to create a storage pool, which can then be divided into spaces that are used like physical disks. They can include hot standby drives and use redundancy methods such as 2- or 3-way mirroring or parity. You can add new disks any time, and a space can be larger than the physical capacity of the pool. When you add new drives, the space automatically uses the extra capacity.

Hyper-V Replica. Hyper-V is Microsoft’s answer to VMware. Microsoft’s virtualization is a replication mechanism that is a disaster recovery advantage to SMBs. Hyper-V Replica logs changes to the disks in a VM and uses compression to save on bandwidth, replicating from a primary server to a replica server. You can store multiple snapshots of a VM on the replica server and then select the one you want to use. It works with both standalone hosts and clusters in any combination (standalone to standalone, cluster to cluster, standalone to cluster or cluster to standalone).

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) With Windows Server 2012 you no longer need a dedicated GPU graphics card in the server to use RemoteFX, which vastly improves the quality of graphics over RDP. Instead, you can use a virtualized GPU on standard server hardware. USB over RDP is much better, and the Fair Share feature can manage how CPU, memory, disk space, and bandwidth are allocated among users to thwart bandwidth hogs.

DirectAccess was designed to be Microsoft’s “VPN replacement,” a way to create a secure connection from client to corporate network without the performance drain and with a more transparent user experience than a traditional VPN. You can apply group policy using the same tools you use to manage computers physically located on the corporate network. In Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess works with IPv4 without having to fool with conversion technologies, and the server running DirectAccess at the network edge can now be a Hyper-V virtual machine.

ReFS Windows Server 2012 brings us our long-awaited new file system, ReFS (Resilient File System). ReFS gives us data verification and auto correction, and it’s designed to work with Storage Spaces to create shrinkable/expandable logical storage pools. ReFS is all about maximum scalability, supporting more than 270 billion terabytes.

Simplified licensing Server 2012 is offered in only four editions: Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation. The first two are licensed per-processor plus CAL, and the latter two (for small businesses) are licensed per-server with limits on the number of user accounts (15 for Foundation and 25 for Essentials).

System Resource Maximum number Improvement factor
Windows 2008 R2 Windows Server 2012 R2
Host Logical processors on hardware 64 320 5x
Physical Memory 1 TB 4 TB 4x
Virtual processors per host 512 2,048 4x
Virtual machine Virtual processors per virtual machine 4 64 16x
Memory per virtual machine 64 GB 1 TB 16x
Virtual disk capacity 2 TB 64 TB 32x
Active virtual machines 384 1,024 2.7x
Cluster Nodes 16 64 4x
Virtual machines 1,000 8,000 8x
Windows Server 2012 R2 offers industry-leading scalability for server virtualization.

Schedule your FREE Migration Consultation Today

Topic Article