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June 1st, 2015

BusinessContinuity_June1_ACompanies of all sizes today are aware of the data security risks posed by unexpected disasters, and so have a business continuity plan in place to prevent data loss. But entrusting data backup to the average IT guy is a certain way to lose your critical business data, since making configurations and changes to managed backups can be downright complex and confusing. That’s why you should turn to cloud hosting for a more simple data backup and recovery process. Here’s why you’ll want to utilize cloud computing in your business continuity plan.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your computer, you lose the hard drive and the backup. Natural disasters or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. Your company could face expensive downtime if your backups are lost or damaged. With cloud-hosted backup, however, things are different. The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available when you need it. Top cloud service providers will offer redundancy, which means they will make a backup of your backups. This increases uptime and ensures optimum levels of data availability.

Fast resource provisioning

When backups are being implemented, spikes in user activity or cloud environment accessibility can rise rapidly and slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in. By closely monitoring user activities, providers can see spikes either before or as they are happening. The provider will provision more resources and virtual machines to manage the influx of users. This type of flexibility is particularly useful for when data backups are in process.

Backup frequency

Most companies work on files and update information throughout the day, so it’s important to have a real-time backup plan ready in case an unexpected disaster occurs. When you backup data to the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. Most cloud-hosted providers offer hourly, daily, monthly, or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own backup schedule. Some of the services offered by these providers will back up files as you make changes, so you’ll know that the very latest version of files and data are always backed up.

Distributed infrastructure

Cloud-hosted backup literally means the delivery of data backup to users all over the world. Selecting the right type of cloud hosting partner is equally as important as having a cloud backup plan in the first place. If international users are trying to access database or download applications through your business website, latency will become a factor - the closer the user is to the data, the faster they’ll be able to access information. A suitable cloud hosting partner will be able to provide backup servers at the location that best suits your company’s business continuity needs. Distributed infrastructure is beneficial if you’re looking to support a large number of worldwide users.

Businesses everywhere are utilizing cloud backup solutions - don’t be the one left behind. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 27th, 2015

Verizon is betting on online content and distribution with its $4.4 billion AOL acquisition. According to the New York Times, with the purchase of AOL, Verizon will add a layer of entertainment, advertising and services to its vast network of smartphones in order to attract more customers and find new sources of revenue. The deal is expected to close this summer, pending regulatory approval.

This tactic to preserve the value of Verizon’s distribution channel – their mobile service – by developing exclusive content is not new. Prior to the AOL offer, Verizon had already been investing in its mobile video services and said it plans to launch its own mobile video service later this year, reports ZDNet. AOL has been making original video for a number of years, often viral and reality-TV based, and this content will likely be added to the Verizon offerings.

Verizon is not alone in its focus toward video content and distribution. In the NYT report, “Verizon is following other big media companies down the same path. Comcast, the biggest cable operator, acquired NBCUniversal, the big television and movie studio group. AT&T, Verizon’s nearest rival, is in the process of acquiring DirecTV, the satellite television business. And Sprint, another wireless operator, is making its own forays into content.”

It isn’t just big business that can gain by focusing on video in their marketing. According to The Guardian, small businesses should pay attention to this trend: “With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, small businesses that fail to include it in their internet marketing strategies will do so at their peril.”

The Guardian makes a good argument for using video in content marketing campaigns: “Engage viewers and they will share the video with others. They will spend longer on your website and more time interacting with your brand. For any social media campaign, any SEO exercise, video is without doubt one of the best tools in the kit.”

The Guardian reported some interesting statistics to bring home the point:

  • By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic (source: Cisco)
  • Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trippled by 2017 (source: Cisco)
  • More than half of companies are already making use of video marketing
  • 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their marketing strategies in the near future (source: Nielsen) 
  • YouTube receives more than one billion unique visitors every month
  • If a picture paints 1,000 words then one minute of video is worth 1.8 million (Forrester)
  • Seven in 10 people view brands in a more positive light after watching interesting video content from them (Axonn Research)

In the past, video content development has been expensive, difficult to create in-house, and often beyond the budget of most small businesses. The Guardian argues that today most businesses can take advantage of the popularity of video to reach consumers because production costs have fallen and video is easier to produce. The report also suggests that apps such as Twitter’s Vine, with its six-second maximum clip length, have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses on a limited budget to participate. 

There are several considerations to keep in mind should your business want to maximize return on a video marketing campaign investment, advised The Guardian:

  • Know the audience you are trying to reach and make sure the content is relevant
  • Consider whether online video is the most appropriate means of getting your message across
  • Use social media and be sure to promote your video across multiple channels – make it easy for users to find and share it
  • Don’t neglect mobile – 10% of all video plays happen on mobiles and tablets, and it’s a growing segment 
  • Be creative with the video content as well as the campaign and its delivery

There is no one “silver bullet” to create a successful content marketing campaign, however data show that video – when done right – can be a powerful vehicle to engage customers and distribute your message.

Topic Articles
May 27th, 2015

While Sinu always offers full-time support and management for its customers as part of its monthly subscription service, we have found that some organizations would like to supplement the Sinu Solution with a dedicated on-site technician. Along with its SaaS (Software as a Service), HaaS (Hardware as a Service), and unlimited support, Sinu offers ‘Tech as a Service’ for those businesses and nonprofits that have more demanding on-site technical needs.

With Sinu’s ‘Tech as a Service,’ your organization can have a dedicated on-site technician as a subscription service. There are several benefits to Sinu’s ‘Tech as a Service’ as compared to hiring an in-house technician:

  1. You can choose your tech for as many days as you need – from one to five days per week.
  2. The technician is hired by Sinu, so we take care of payroll, insurance, and vacation time.
  3. Because the technician is a Sinu employee, he/she will experienced with the Sinu Solution you use daily.
  4. Your organization will continue to have the full support of the Sinu management and support team.

To learn more about Sinu’s ‘Tech as a Service, ‘ contact Sinu CSO, David Owen, dowen@sinu.com.

Topic Articles
May 27th, 2015

There are a number of reasons employees may ask for local administrative rights, or the ability to download software on their workstations, with convenience and expediency topping the list. However, business owners may not be fully aware of the risk: the more people and time spent working on desktops with local administrative rights, the greater the chance that malicious software exploits a weakness.

With local administrative rights, the security controls used to protect a company’s systems, including password controls, anti-malware software, and similar tools, can be shut off. Unapproved software could also be installed, breaking business-critical applications and causing disruption and downtime. A company can also be exposed to malware, including a number of different phishing scams that can deliberately run code on systems with full permissions if someone inadvertently clicks on a malicious link or opens infected email content.

Today’s malware is harder to detect and uses sophisticated social engineering that can leave most people unaware of the problem before it is too late. For example, Bank Info Security reports that there have been increased incidences of phishing scams using a malware called Dyre Wolf, which is usually distributed via an attached document or zipped executable. IBM senior researcher John Kuhn was quoted in the report: “The Dyre Wolf malware was used to make fraudulent wire transfers totaling between $500,000 and $1.5 million from various businesses that are IBM customers in recent weeks.” IBM was not aware of any institution or business that had recovered stolen funds or stopped fraudulent wires linked to a Dyre Wolf attack.

According to Sinu co-founder and COO, John Christie, “We have seen Trojans execute six figure wire transactions and major banks deny responsibility. We’ve had multiple networks crippled for days – even up to 2 weeks – because of a virus inadvertently installed on a person’s machine, which then replicated as an auto-run on the file server, then spread to every machine that touched the file server. It also used peer-to-peer methods exploiting machines that did not have a patch applied.”

Christie explained, “IT best practices dictate that employees not be given local administrative rights. Auditors also frown upon the practice because of its inherent risk. At Sinu, we install software updates and patches weekly to protect our customers, however the system is only as strong as its weakest link. By allowing local administrative rights, companies expose themselves to malicious attacks and the risk of losing time, data, and money.”

Topic Articles
May 26th, 2015

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

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

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

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

Mistake #2: Using only words, not actions

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake #4: Not dealing with your employees first

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

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

Mistake #5: Reacting rather than communicating

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 26th, 2015

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

How do you measure engagement?

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

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

Why does engagement matter?

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

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

1. Track engagement over a long period of time

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

2. Measure all pages

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

3. Compare the average time visitors spend on a page

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

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

4. Mind the Green bars

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2015

164_Biz V_AAs a small or medium sized business owner, you likely have your hands full. Between managing your staff, looking for growth opportunities and keeping clients happy, you probably have little time to dedicate to new technology purchases. Being so busy, it can be easy to make a mistake when choosing an IT solution. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common IT investment missteps that every business owner needs to avoid.

Investing in the newest technology instead of the best fit

It’s the job of every marketer to make you believe the newest technology on the market will resolve all your problems. And while the latest cloud or virtualization offering is likely to make things better for many individuals and organizations, it isn’t going to work for everyone.

Don’t let the flash and hype of a new product deceive you. Take the time to think about the results you’re trying to achieve with technology. Make a list of them, and when you’re done match those criteria with the product that fits. Any good IT provider will be happy to serve as your consultant to ensure you make the best choice.

Believing everything will magically work together

As technology evolves, it is inevitably becoming simpler to use. Consumers want user friendly products and solutions that are easy to implement, and nowadays that’s what they’re getting - at least most of the time. Because of this belief that all products are going to be plug-and-play, many business owners hold the misguided assumption that any new technology they implement is automatically going to synchronize with their other IT. It is simply not true.

Though many technologies are compatible with one another, your business is taking a big risk - that could result in massive downtime and wasted money - if you implement a new tool that doesn’t integrate well into your current system and workflow. Be smart, do some research or consult with an IT professional before making a purchase.

Assuming your team doesn’t need support and training

Now that you’ve found the perfect fit technology and you’re sure it will integrate into your current IT setup, you go ahead and purchase it. You let out a sigh of relief as you kick back and let your sparkly new IT solution power your company to new levels of success and profits in a SMB “happily ever after” fantasy. Sound too good to be true? That’s probably because it usually is.

Don’t forget that not all of your employees are going to instinctively know how to use the new technology. Consult with your IT provider to see if they offer support and training. If not, you may want to look elsewhere or find an alternative solution before you buy.

Forgetting to create a budget

More and more IT solutions are packaged with pay-as-you-go monthly pricing. While this is a great way to help you avoid large upfront capital investment, if you implement too many different technologies too fast - and without thinking about the recurring costs - you could quickly run out of money before having properly created a complete technology platform.

Think about what you’re comfortable spending on IT before you open your wallet. Do some research, and either draft a budget on your own or acquire the assistance of a consultant to help you along.

Failing to get staff input

It’s wise to consult with the employees who will be using the new technology you implement, on a daily basis. It’s even wiser to do it before you purchase it.

The truth is that not all of your employees may be on board with the new product. They may actually even know some downsides to it you weren’t aware of. Regardless, it’s smart to consult with them beforehand, or you may find yourself in a constant fight getting them to adopt it.

Need to consult with an IT professional to create a complete technology solution for your business? We’re happy to serve you in any way possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2015

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

Tweet regularly

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

Follow trends

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

Use visuals

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

Retweet great content

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

Track mentions

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

Integrate with other marketing efforts

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 20th, 2015

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

Set clear goals

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

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

Be personable with your employees

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

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

Listen to your employees’ feedback

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

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

Provide reliable equipment

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
May 13th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security