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July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_ATechnology has allowed businesses to get more work done with less time and expense. When properly implemented, it serves as a great tool that allows your employees to work remotely, collaborate more efficiently, and manage their time more effectively. If you want to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to make technology work for you. Here are some things you can do to make your employees more productive.

Change office communication

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 22nd, 2015

164_Sec_AOver the decades of the internet’s existence, cyber threats have evolved at a rapid pace. When once there were only viruses and malware to watch out for, now you have to protect your business from worms, trojans, ransomware and dozens of other online threats. But what’s the difference between all of them? Let's take a look. Here are four of today’s most common cyber threats and the tips you need to protect your business from them.

Malware

Malware is the short version of the word malicious software. And this is a general term that encompasses many types of online threats including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware and more. Though you likely already know this, the purpose of malware is to specifically infect and harm your computer and potentially steal your information.

But how do the different types of malware differ from one another? How can you protect your business from them? Let’s take a look at four of the most common forms of malware below.

Virus - like a virus that can infect a person, a computer virus is a contagious piece of code that infects software and then spreads from file to file on a system. When infected software or files are shared between computers, the virus then spreads to the new host.

The best way to protect yourself from viruses is with a reliable antivirus program that is kept updated. Additionally, you should be wary of any executable files you receive because viruses often come packaged in this form. For example, if you’re sent a video file, be aware that if the name includes an “exe” extension like .mov.exe, you’re almost certainly dealing with a virus.

Spyware - just like a spy, a hacker uses spyware to track your internet activities and steal your information without you being aware of it. What kind of information is likely to be stolen by Spyware? Credit card numbers and passwords are two common targets.

And if stealing your information isn’t bad enough, Spyware is also known to cause PC slowdown, especially when there is more than one program running on your system - which is usually the case with a system that’s infected.

A common mistake many people make is they assume their antivirus software automatically protects them from Spyware. This is not always true as some antivirus isn’t designed to catch spyware. If you’re unsure if your antivirus prevents Spyware, get verification from your vendor. And for those that are already suffering from Spyware infestation, two programs that work wonders to clean it out are Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware.

Worms - similar to viruses, worms also replicate themselves and spread when they infect a computer. The difference, however, between a worm and a virus is that a worm doesn’t require the help of a human or host program to spread. Instead, they self-replicate and spread across networks without the guidance of a hacker or a file/program to latch onto.

In addition to a reliable antivirus software, to prevent worms from infecting your system you should ensure your firewall is activated and working properly.

Trojan - like the trojan horse from ancient greek mythology, this type of malware is disguised as a safe program designed to fool users, so that they unwittingly install it on their own system, and later are sabotaged by it. Generally, the hacker uses a trojan to steal both financial and personal information. It can do this by creating a “backdoor” to your computer that allows the hacker to remotely control it.

Similar to the other malware mentioned above, antivirus software is a dependable way to protect yourself against trojans. For further safety, it’s wise to not open up suspicious attachments, and also ensure that your staff members aren't downloading any programs or applications illegally at the office - as this is a favorite place hackers like to hide trojans.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_AData visualizations are common in business presentations today. They can provide us an overview of information and results in a simple and easily digestible way. Good data visualization helps users to understand data in order to make informed decisions based on the findings. Bad data visualization, on the other hand, will provide little to no value for readers and make complex data even more difficult to comprehend. With that said, you can present data in a better way by avoiding these common mistakes.

Inconsistent visualizations

It’s important to be consistent when presenting your data, otherwise users will have to stop and figure out how to read each new picture before they can comprehend what it says, wasting time and defeating the purpose of data visualization. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow. For instance, try choosing colors that go well together. Use only 2-3 colors at most throughout your visualization - any more and you’ll find that your pictures might be hard to read. Also, use the same iconography and typography in each picture so your audience can quickly understand the information.

Displaying too much data

Overly complicated data visualizations are sure to turn off most audiences because they can’t figure out where and what to focus on. Your customers, colleagues, and employers want specific, relevant answers. The quicker you can deliver those answers, the better. Irrelevant data gives your presentation a cluttered look, making finding relevant information more difficult for readers. The solution? Find a compromise between showing too much data and not showing enough overall. Use good judgement.

Oversimplifying data

The purpose of data visualization is to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. While it’s all too easy to simplify data, if you go too far and leave out crucial parts, your audiences won’t be able to see or grasp the main point of the presentation. Instead of trying to oversimplify data, it’s better to include all important criteria and organize them into a structure so audiences can easily understand what’s being presented to them.

Choosing the wrong visualization

This is one of the most common mistakes made in data visualization. There are many different types of data out there, and each of those types require different analytics and tools to use. For example, if you want to present a sales growth comparison in the last 5 years, it’s better to use bar charts that can clearly show the difference at a glance. If you want to show a relationship between two metrics, on the other hand, you should use a scatter chart to show results.

The best way to avoid all these errors is to focus on your goals first. It’s likely that you’ll have to make changes along the way, which is actually a good thing, because it will make your presentation more accurate and effective.

Want to learn more about other business intelligence tools to implement in your company? Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 15th, 2015

164_Prod_AIt’s easy for anyone to speculate about what the top productivity killers are for today’s workforce. What may come to mind first are distractions such as email, social media, or the personal problems of employees. But last month in a new survey of 2,175 hiring and human resources managers, CareerBuilder revealed what some of the real issues are. The results are a mix of obvious distractions and surprising revelations.

Here are the top 10 productivity busters according to CareerBuilder’s June 2015 survey.

  1. 52% - Cellphones & texting
  2. 44% - Internet
  3. 37% - Gossip
  4. 36% - Social media
  5. 31% - Email
  6. 27% - Coworkers chatting
  7. 26% - Meetings
  8. 27% - Snack and/or smoke breaks
  9. 17% - Loud coworkers
  10. 10% - Sitting in a cubicle

Why are these findings a big deal?

According to the managers who took the survey, the consequences of these distractions can be pretty severe. A few examples they gave were lower quality of work, dissatisfied employees who have to pick up the slack of lower performers, missed deadlines, and even loss of revenue.

So how do you prevent these productivity killers from disrupting your business?

The chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder mentioned that one of the most effective ways to increase productivity is to simply take a break, which may come as quite a surprise since “Snack and/or smoke breaks” is listed as number 8 for productivity killers.

However, it should be noted that not all breaks are created equal. Listening to loud music or getting caught up in gossip on social media may not actually give employees the sense of rejuvenation they need when they return to work. They key is for staff members to take a break that will re-energize and give them a fresh focus. Some suggestions are to simply take a walk or perform some form of light exercise or stretching.

On a more humorous note, the survey also revealed some of the more unusual non-work activities employees partook in while on the clock. Employers reportedly found their staff doing everything from taking a nap on the CEO’s couch, searching for a mail order bride, and even taking a sponge bath in the restroom sink.

Want more tips on how to boost employee productivity. Curious to see how technology can help? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_ALog on to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or even simply take a walk in a city park, and one thing is clear: the selfie revolution is upon us. And now it looks as though this contemporary pastime is becoming more than just a social media trend. Major industry players are now using facial recognition technology to replace passwords as the new method of online identification. MasterCard is the most recent corporate bigwig to join the party.

At the beginning of this autumn, MasterCard will acquire the help of 500 customers to test out a new application that enables people to verify their identity and authenticate online transactions with a facial scan. What does this mean? Instead of using a traditional password at the online checkout, MasterCard wants to give you the option to snap a selfie instead. According to the credit card giant, they’ve partnered with every smartphone company in the business to make this mode of identity verification possible.

Why is this happening?

A quote from Ajay Bhalla, security expert at MasterCard, suggests this is an attempt by the credit card giant to appeal to a younger crowd of digital natives. "The new generation, which is into selfies...I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Bhalla recently said.

That said, the “cool” appeal to youth is likely not the only reason for this change. The firm is likely attempting to make online purchases both more secure and more convenient.

How it works

To use this technology, users will have to download a dedicated app, which they can then use to take a photo of themselves at checkout. But how does MasterCard prevent a thief from using a photo of you to fake your verification? Simple - the app requires you to blink to prove that you’re a living, breathing human being.

However, it’s been noted by critics that, in today’s technological world, even a blink can be animated on a static photo. This leaves those of us with security concerns wondering whether MasterCard will make this app more secure before it’s released.

Note as well, though, that MasterCard is not getting rid of traditional passwords completely. Users will still have the option of the more conventional method of verification, as well as the choice of fingerprint scanning to check your identity.

Is this where the future of online security is headed?

With the release due later this year of a similar Windows 10 security application to identify users using biometrics, it appears that this is where the future of online security is headed. And with ever more applications and online services requiring a password, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average web user to create one that is both unique and secure for each individual service. So whether it’s facial recognition, a fingerprint scan or some other technology that’s yet to be perfected, it seems as though some sort of more advanced security solution is inevitable.

Want more of the latest security news? Looking to implement new security to protect your IT infrastructure from cyber threats? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 3rd, 2015

164_Soc_AMost of us know that gaining a foothold on social media takes time and effort. But if you’re at the point where you’ve already put in hundreds of hours of work with few results to show for it, you’re likely doing something wrong. There could be a number of different reasons for this, but here is a common trap that a lot of social media newbies fall into. And it starts with your content creation.

Don’t recycle content

Google any recent news story, and you’re likely to find anywhere from a few to several dozen articles on the same subject. And unfortunately, the content is so similar that you can barely differentiate one from the next.

If you want to stand out from others on the social media scene, find something new to talk about. In general, if you want to get noticed by new customers or followers, it’s best to avoid widely covered topics. Everyone and their grandma will be writing about it, which creates much more competition for your version.

If you must create content about mainstream topics, make sure you take the time to come up with a fresh perspective, and share valuable information that hasn’t been touched on yet.

Be fearless in your content

Similarly, it’s absolutely essential that, across all the content that you produce, you share a unique perspective. Many people end up parroting the same thing as everyone else because they are afraid to offer their true opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be controversial. If you’re going to develop a social media persona that stands out, you need to develop your own voice - and a thick skin. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, especially on the web where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Additionally, there’s a reason that the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is famous. In fact, when you write polarizing content that will have a fair share of supporters and naysayers, people are hardwired to react to it. This is for the same reason that humanity as a whole shares a universal love of stories - whether that’s in the movies, in a novel or around a campfire. A story is nothing without conflict. When you produce content that creates a real life conflict of opinions, you have a better chance of it making some noise on social media.

But - be honest and show integrity

Don’t say something controversial just for the sake of it. Give your honest opinion. The key to every aspect of sales is developing trust. That means that with any customer or potential follower you come into contact with, whether through social media or other means, you should show your true self. You’ll have a better chance of gaining a customer or follower for life.

Controversy or not, always be professional

There’s no reason to start a flame war, or resort to name calling and insults. People are going to have strong feelings about controversial content. Emotions are going to come up and people can say some pretty mean things - especially on the internet. Don’t get caught up in the comments and negativity. If you do, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your current customer base and followers.

Want more insights into growing your social media presence? Speak up today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 1st, 2015

BusinessValue_Jun16_ANo matter how wonderful your company’s product or service, if you don’t advertise then no one will know about it. The goal of any advertising campaign should be to reach the largest audience for the lowest cost possible. If executed properly, advertising will serve as a powerful tool to boost your business’s profits sky high. But if you get it wrong, advertising can become a huge money sink. With that said, we have compiled some marketing tips to ensure that your online advertising campaigns deliver results.

Prioritize blogging

Blogging is an excellent marketing tool for businesses. Unfortunately most companies don’t spend much time or effort developing their blogs, which is a huge mistake. To get the most out of your blog, you will need to write quality content that adds value for your website visitors. The benefits of having a blog increase tenfold if you publish regularly, since potential customers will see you as an expert in your field, and are more likely to purchase what you have to offer.

Advertise in the right places

There are a number of online advertising channels out there, among them Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and Youtube Ads. The question is whether you know which one is the right fit for your business. You need to spend your marketing budget on the right advertising method to gain the highest return on investment. Do some research about your potential customers and determine who they are, and what they read, watch and listen to. This way you can pinpoint the best advertising platform to ensure that you reach your target market.

Start using videos

Videos offer an excellent way to market your business. Studies show that customers are more likely to buy if they see a video about your product or service on your landing pages, so make sure you include one if you can. Be creative when you’re making videos to promote your business; you could start building an online reputation by creating instructional videos that help your potential customers solve common problems. Commenting on videos relevant to your niche is also an effective way to increase your brand visibility.

Be active on social media

Prudent businesses are aware of the importance of establishing a social media presence through the main social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But simply posting articles or links is not going to offer many marketing benefits for your business. You’ll need to go the extra mile to maximize the benefits of social media. Some tips include taking the time to respond to your followers’ comments, keeping your profile updated and fresh with new information, and following and sharing content from other users.

Make sure your website is responsive

More and more of us are using mobile devices to browse the Internet and look for local products and services. Make the effort to ensure your website is mobile-friendly and automatically scales to fit all screen sizes, so that it is accessible and functional for mobile users. Major search engines now penalize non-responsive websites by lowering their search rankings when viewed on mobile devices, so you’ll need to adapt accordingly to avoid their wrath.

Contact us today and learn how our IT services can help you gain more customers and add value to your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jun17_AIn today’s fast-paced business environment, business productivity has never been more imperative for keeping up with the competition and boosting opportunities to stay ahead. But the fact is that many of the tips you read about simply don’t work, and they could even make things worse by actually lowering your productivity. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four productivity myths that you should avoid.

Don’t check email first thing in the morning

What’s wrong with this when it sounds like such a good tip? Well, reading and responding to email can derail your entire morning. Your ten minutes spent reviewing emails turns into half an hour, and suddenly you’re late for work. And in many industries you simply won’t have the time in the morning to go through every single email and find out what has been happening overnight.

The fix

You should check your email first thing in the morning but make sure not to respond unless it will take you less than a minute. Something that requires a simple “yes” or “no”, or that can be forwarded to someone who can take care of it for you, is fine. But for anything else that requires research or a longer response, mark the email as “unread” and go back to it later when you have more time. You can also add it to your to-do list so you’ll be sure to check it later. Skimming emails in the morning is a particularly good use of commuting time even if you can’t respond right away, plus it can help you prepare for your day by giving you an idea of what lies ahead.

Tackle the hardest task first

While this sounds reasonable, in most cases your hardest task can really set you back time-wise. Plus, without proper planning in terms of the time, resources and energy you need for it, tackling the hardest job first might end up deflating your hopes of a productive day.

The fix

Instead of starting the day with your most difficult task, build your confidence by starting with something smaller and easier. Simpler tasks will help get your momentum going and ease you into a productive mode. You could also cut that difficult project into smaller bite-sized to-dos, so you can tackle them individually without burning out.

Make one to-do list for everything

While it’s a good idea to get everything out of your head and down onto paper, having just one go-to list for all the things you need to get done is a huge mistake. Why? It can be quite the headache to pick tasks off a never-ending list. Once you see that long list, you’re more likely to be demotivated before you even get started on a task.

The fix

Write everything you need to do onto a list, then rewrite your list into specific, actionable tasks. Break your lists up into a work list, home list, side project list and so on. Having multiple lists that detail the specifics of what you need to do makes it easier for your brain to digest all this information, instead of having to wade through numerous things that you can’t possibly do all at the same time. Keeping your lists separate will help you stay focused on what really needs to get done first.

Stop multitasking

You’re already really busy doing just one thing, so it’s a bad idea to risk compromising the quality of your work by multitasking, right? Wrong! In today’s fast-paced world, you multitask without even knowing, whether it’s by listening to music while working, or when you’re reading an advertizing billboard while walking along the street.

The fix

Be selective with what you choose to juggle! For instance, walking and listening are two tasks that complement each other, whereas it can be too hard for the brain to split itself between simultaneously typing and listening.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because something is named “the best advice” doesn’t mean it’s best for you. Looking to find out more about how to boost productivity in your business? Give us a call; we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_AData backup is one of the most important aspects of your company's infrastructure. Without data availability, your business will come to a standstill. So it's bizarre that most business owners fail to have a proper data backup strategy in place - and when disasters strike, it will be too late to act. You really do need to take a proactive approach to backing up your data and keeping your business functioning normally at all times. There are several methods and devices you can use for backing up data - here are some to consider.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data - medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution - or solutions - best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 27th, 2015

To help address stalling iPad sales, Apple appears to have turned its attention toward business applications.

Enterprise trends towards cloud-based applications and services, mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices have also created a more favorable climate for Apple devices in businesses.our blog earlier this year, we wrote about the partnership announced last year between Apple and IBM to produce an anticipated 100 business apps for iPhones and iPads by the end of 2015.

Apple’s efforts to capture more of the enterprise market share appear to be part of a long-term strategy: Apple announced several features of the new iOS9 operating system that cater to businesses at their WorldWide Developer Conference for 2015 (WWDC 2015) in San Francisco. According to ZDNet, the iOS 9 updates designed for the iPad – including better multitasking, text management, and split screens could set the stage for an iPad Pro for enterprise. Experts speculate that Apple is trying to make it easier for businesses to adopt iPads as replacements for laptops in the coming years.

Other announcements from Apple’s WWCD 2015 include updates to OS X, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay, as well as a new streaming music service called Apple Music and a live 24/7 radio station called “Beats One Radio.”

Topic Articles