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April 5th, 2016

2016Apr5_Facebook_AYour news feed is about to get a lot more expressive, thanks to Facebook reactions. Aside from ‘Liking’ a status update, you now have five more options to express what you feel about a post. The new feature not only makes it easier for you to appropriately react to a piece of bad news but it also provides you with exciting ways to manage your business’s social media page. So how can you use Facebook reactions effectively? Here are a few ways you can use the new emojis to your advantage.

Ask your audience for reactions

Sometimes, audiences won’t know how to react to your posts. You can point them in the right direction by giving call to ‘reaction’ phrases like “Did you learn something new? Give us a ‘wow’ by hovering over that like button”.

As Facebook reactions are a relatively new feature, you can increase the total engagement of your posts by simply asking your fans to use one of the six available expressions on your post. This will not only increase your overall engagement and reach but will also give your fans the opportunity to learn about the new Facebook reactions.

Soften the blow of negative reviews

If your service ever experiences any technical difficulties, reactions can be a lifesaver. Back when there were no Facebook expressions, people would often resort to negative comments or trolling when they are unhappy with a particular post. This could lead to a toxic page environment and may encourage others to do the same or even unfollow your page entirely. With Facebook reactions, you can minimize the effect of negative reviews with a more innocent ‘angered’ or ‘saddened’ emoji. Overall, this looks better on your page rather than lines of nonsensical text in all caps.

Gain more visibility with your page

Commenting and reacting to other local pages on your business’s Facebook account increases your chances of being discovered by potential customers. And, as an added benefit, engaging with other local pages can encourage them to return the favor.

Use reactions as constructive feedback

Facebook reactions add an extra level of depth to measuring how well your posts are doing. Before, more likes would mean more engagement. But now, reactions show that people are invested in your content.

What’s more, you can now measure what people feel about your content. This allows you to tailor your next post so that it gets the most engagement. For instance, if you notice that people are leaving more ‘Haha’ reactions to your posts, then this could suggest that your audience engages with your posts if they see more humor included in your content.

Check out your competition

You should note that page posts are public and can be see by anyone, even those who haven’t liked your page yet. This also means you can review your competitor’s posts and find out how people are reacting to their posts. This is valuable information to gauge what type of content, announcements, or status updates work for your target audience. Or if you find that your competitor is only getting likes rather than reactions, you can try experimenting with creative posts to get people to engage with your content instead.

Facebook reactions create a new and exciting way for people to express how they feel about certain posts. While some social media marketers would not pay too much attention to this feature, focusing on reactions can give you an edge when it comes to measuring how your target audience feels about your service. So the next time you’re going to make a new post, consider some or all of these tips to make the most out of those Facebook emojis.

Need more advice on managing your Facebook page? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 4th, 2016

2016Apr4_BusinessValue_AYour technology needs to produce a return on investment. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting you and your staff’s time and money. But how can you ensure you gain that coveted ROI you’re after? What does it actually mean to have a positive ROI? And how can you tell if you have one? Here are a few tips for calculating the true costs of a new technology investment.

ROI basics

What does it mean to have a positive return on investment? It’s pretty simple. A positive ROI means the results a technology produces are greater than or equal to the amount of time and money invested. Obviously you want a positive ROI, but when is the right time to consider it? Should it be before or after you make a technology purchase? The answer is both. Before purchasing, you want to carefully consider whether a technology service or product is worth your money. Then months after you’ve implemented it, you should analyze whether or not you made a good investment. Doing this enables you to learn from your mistakes (if you made one) and make a wiser technology purchase next time.

Also, don’t forget to look at your technology currently in use. Ask yourself, is your technology simply keeping the lights on? Or is it providing a solid foundation for your business to grow? If the answer is the former, there are likely better options out there worth trying.

How to calculate ROI

When calculating ROI, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Here is a simple formula to get you started.

ROI = net gain/cost Example: You spend $100 and make $150. Your net gain is $50 ROI = 50/100 = 50%

If you’ve yet to purchase a service or new equipment, you obviously don’t know how much profit it will generate. So you’ll have to do a bit of guesswork and estimation. It’s also important to consider some intangibles. Think about the productivity costs of staff time, disruption, and frustration (because most of us don’t work effectively when frustrated). Let’s take staff time for example. How much time will your staff save if you implement a Managed Services solution? With your employees no longer having to put out IT fires daily, what if your entire staff saves 50 hours a week because of it? How much does that add up to in saved salary expense? It’s important here not just to think about the savings in time, but also what your staff could be doing with those extra 50 hours. They could put those hours towards marketing or growing your business. And that alone could make up for the costs of the technology investment itself.

Intangibles don’t just apply to saving time, frustration and disruptions, but also the costs of implementing the new technology. For example, how much time will be required to train your staff on the new technology? What’s the cost of that? Also, how much time will it take to migrate from your old system to the new one? You should consider all of these when estimating your ROI.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the unique circumstance of subscription purchases. Since you are usually paying these on a monthly basis, it can be a bit tricky to add up real costs. That’s why it’s important to use a timeline for these. For example, if you subscribe to software as a service, what’s the cost of that plan over the course of one year or five? How much money will you save over that time span?

What’s the benefit?

Besides the staffing example mentioned above, consider how a technology investment can create new revenue streams. For example, an investment in VoIP opens up an opportunity to offer video consulting to clients in parts of the country (or even world) that would normally be out of reach. This obviously leads to a new revenue stream and increased profits. So ask yourself, can the technology you’re considering create new revenue streams?

Next steps

Before making a technology purchase, it’s wise to talk with both management and end users about your decision. If you fail to consult your end users before implementation, they may disagree with your decision and therefore take longer to adapt or even rebel against it. Checking with them beforehand gives them a chance to offer valuable feedback on how it will be used in the trenches, and will get them onboard with the technology if you implement it. As for your management team, they can be a valuable resource to bounce ideas off of and gain insights about the technology you may have overlooked.

Lastly, ROI does not need to be calculated for every purchase. If you need to buy something small, like a new keyboard, just go and buy it. Save your ROI calculations for much larger investments that can have a dramatic impact on your business.

If you need help determining the ROI of a potential technology investment, feel free to give us a call for a chat. Our experts can help you determine the true benefits of a given technology and help you make a wise investment.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
April 4th, 2016


Mark Zuckerberg walks to the stage at Samsung’s Galaxy S7 launch event. Photo from Forbes, “Mark Zuckerberg and Virtual Reality Outshine Samsung’s Galaxy S7,” 2/22/16.

When Samsung released its new phone, the Samsung 7, the buzz was less about the phone and more about virtual reality (VR) and a surprise appearance by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

At the launch event held in Barcelona on February 21, guests sampled Samsung’s Gear VR headsets, through which they could watch a 360-degree video of people playing freestyle soccer on the streets of Barcelona. Samsung also unveiled its Gear 360, a camera for shooting virtual reality videos.

According to Forbes, Zuckerberg wasn’t there to talk about the S7, “but the promise of virtual reality. Virtual reality was the next platform, he told the audience. ‘It’s going to change the way we live and work and communicate.’”

Virtual reality has been around for decades, but experts say that this could be the year VR goes mainstream. TechCrunch reports that Oculus Rift VR headsets took the spotlight at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, HTC and Sony have confirmed launch dates for their headsets in the first half of 2016, and Google announced they are staffing up for their new virtual reality unit.

So what’s the big deal about VR? According to Daniel Rosenfeld, TechCrunch contributor, “It’s gearing up to be the next frontier after the web.”

While most people think about using VR headsets for immersive entertainment and gaming experiences, as the cost comes down and new applications are developed, there are exciting applications for enterprise. VR has been making traction in several industries over the past few years, including medicine and education, and promises to change the way businesses use technology for training, product development and communications. For example, Ford Motor Company already uses VR headsets to design new vehicles, develop autonomous vehicle technologies and collaborate with teammates across the globe. Ford reports using these VR tools has resulted in an increase in productivity and a drop in costs and time.

Others see VR as providing a whole new set of marketing opportunities. Through VR, companies can immerse consumers in their brand, evoke emotion, and market to them in a more persuasive way. A few media companies have already stuck their toe in the VR water to help cross promote their product. Last November, The New York Times gave more than 1 million Google Cardboard devices to its print subscribers late last year to watch immersive video associated with one of its print articles. On February 23, ABC’s Good Morning America partnered with IM360 and broadcasted a two hour, live show in 360-degree virtual reality from Tanzania. People could view the virtual safari using an Android or iOS app along with the Google Cardboard, or with Samsung Gear VR.

If successful, it will no doubt become the largest advertising platform on earth,” writes Rosenfeld. “In fact, one could argue that virtual reality is more about controlling reality than it is virtual.”

Topic Articles
April 4th, 2016

By Larry Velez, Sinu co-founder and CTO


IBM’s Watson supercomputer chats with researchers and other professionals about natural solutions to big problems (Photo Credit: Georgia Tech as reported in Gizmag article, “IBM’s Watson gets chatty to act as a sounding board,” 11/13/15)

Seamless transitions from connectivity to no connectivity are the key to the future of software. Siri, Google Now and Amazon Alexa – all audio-based interfaces, by the way – are possible today because the software is connected to a very powerful and smart Artificial Intelligence (AI) cloud from these companies. Consumers can tap into that always-on intelligence directly and through third-party apps that harness its power.

One such app made me realize the value of being seamlessly connected to audio. I began using the NPR One app recently which seems to cache some data so that I can continue to listen to content even when I’m in the subway.

I have long thought that cached data is an important part of any software, especially for an app, so a person can continue to access content without worrying about being connected or not; no more waiting to access that service or data. In some ways, it creates more time – a commodity people report they are beginning to value even more than money. And, unlike money, time (we only have 24 hours in a day) is inherently scarce. So if we cannot buy more time, we can buy devices, apps and services that save us time and/or make us feel like we have more time.

Cached data is data stored on a device so future requests for that data can be served faster (like for stored passwords) or it duplicates the data stored elsewhere (like in the case of NPR One when I could listen to audio content offline). While apps running on cached data are convenient, they can take up quite a bit of memory on mobile devices and need to be cleared regularly. The real future lies in development of apps that can run locally on devices which have limited storage space.

Google is currently developing such an app. According to ZDNet, “the company has developed a speech-recognition system that’s small enough to run ‘faster than real time’ on a Nexus 5 without an internet connection.”

The new system, which was developed for smartphone for dictation and voice commands, promises to “overcome the need for a reliable network connection to use speech recognition on a smartphone, smartwatch or any other memory-constrained gadget.”

Another company, IBM, introduced its first voice-driven native mobile apps with IBM Watson and IBM MobileFirst last summer. The apps are available for both iOS and Android, and are designed to simplify and streamline integration with speech-to-text and text-to-speech services.

This is just the beginning. Not unlike adding mobile versions of software a few years back, I believe we will see a big push toward software and app development that leads with audio and speech recognition. Why? The human race has spent tens of thousands of years fine tuning the ability to communicate in two ways: audio and face gestures. Huge parts of our brain are dedicated to these two communication methods so it seems logical that technology will work best for humans when it communicates the way we have evolved to communicate. Adding audio and speech recognition interfaces (APIs) to software also allows a us to complete complex actions seamlessly with minimal interaction with the device. Something we humans will likely prefer over the tedious, time-consuming, and often clumsy, process of typing, touching and swiping. One day, we will look back and wonder why we even used these archaic devices called keyboards!

Topic Articles
March 29th, 2016

2016Mar29_Security_AYour computer has been acting up a lot lately. It keeps crashing, it’s slow and, to top it off, you keep getting pop-ups you don’t want to see. If these problems keep occurring then your computer may have a virus. So is there a way to prevent things like this from happening again? While there are various antivirus solutions you can take, it’s best to know how malware affects your computer first so you can quickly recognize and deal with the problem. These are a few ways to find out if your computer has a virus before it’s too late.

Slow computer

The most common symptom of a malware infection is a slow running computer. Are your operating systems and programs taking a while to start up? Is your data bandwidth suspiciously slow? If so, your computer may potentially have a virus.

However, before you immediately assume your computer has a virus, you should check if there are other causes to your computer slowing down. Check if you’re running out of RAM. For Windows, open task manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc) and go to the Performance tab and check how many gigabytes of RAM you are using under the Memory section. For Mac OS users, you can open the Activity Monitor app and under System Memory you should be able to find out your RAM usage.

Other causes of a slow system include a lack of space on your hard drive and damaged hardware. Once you’ve ruled out the other potential causes, then a virus may have infected your device.

Blue screen of death (BSOD)

If your PC crashes regularly, it’s usually either a technical problem with your system or a malware infection. You might not have installed the latest drivers for your device or the programs you’re running could possibly be incompatible with your hardware. If none of these problems are apparent in your PC then the virus could be conflicting with other programs causing your crashes. To check what caused your last BSOD go to Control Panel> System and Security> Administrative Tools> Event Viewer and select Windows Logs. Those marked with an “error” are your recorded crashes. For troubleshooting solutions, consult forums or your IT department to figure out what to do next.

Programs opening and closing automatically

Malware can also be present when your programs are opening and closing automatically. However, do check if some programs are meant to behave this way or if they are simply incompatible to run with your hardware first before coming to the conclusion that your computer has a virus.

Lack of storage space

There are several types of malware that can manipulate the files saved on your computer. Most tend to fill up your hard drive with suspicious files. If you find any unknown programs that you have never installed before, don’t open the application, search up the program’s name over the Internet and use antivirus protections once you’re certain that it’s malware.

Suspicious modem and hard drive activity

Combined with the other warning signs, if your hard disk is working excessively while no programs are currently running or if you notice that your external modem is always lit then you should scan your computer for viruses.

Pop-ups, websites, toolbars and other unwanted programs

These are irritating signs that your computer has a virus. Pop-ups come from clicking on suspicious pages, answering survey questions to access a website’s service or installing free applications. Don’t click on ads where Jane says she earned $8000 a month staying at home. When you get pop-ups appearing out of the blue, refrain from clicking anywhere on the pop-up page and just close out of the window and use your anti-malware tool immediately.

Equally, free applications allow you to download their service for free but the installation process can be riddled with malware. When you’re installing a program from the Internet it’s easy to just skim over the terms and conditions page and repeatedly press next. This is where they get you. In the process of skipping over certain installation steps, you might have agreed to accepting a new default browser, opening unwanted websites and other programs filled with viruses. Just be cautious the next time you download something for free. It’s best to try avoiding any of these practices when you can in order to protect your computer.

You’re sending out spam

If your friends are telling you that you’ve been offering them suspicious messages and links over social media or email, you might be a victim of spyware. These may be caused from setting weak passwords to your accounts or forgetting to logout of them.

In the end, it’s best to know how malicious software affects your computer so you can take steps to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Regardless of whether or not your system has experienced these symptoms, it’s always smart to perform regular malware scans to ensure your business is safe. To find out more about malware and IT security, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 21st, 2016

2016Mar21_BusinessContinuity_ADisaster Recovery ain’t what it used to be. Long gone are the days where a DR solution cost over a hundred thousand dollars and predominantly relied on tape backups. With the onset of cloud computing, today’s DR landscape has dramatically changed. But, unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions about DR still hanging around. Here are a few of the myths that no longer apply.

Tape Backups are the best DR solution

Like a car, computer or television, tape is a physical object that deteriorates over time. Don’t believe us? Go ahead and listen to your favorite cassette. One day your tape backups will become distorted and no longer work. And hopefully, that day isn’t the same one when your business suffers a disaster. However, there is a good chance all your tape backups will work. So does that mean there’s nothing to worry about? Well, consider where you store your tape backups. Are they on-site or in a location within a few miles of your office? If so, remember that if your business is hit by a natural disaster, chances are those tapes nearby will be hit as well. And if they’re damaged or become inaccessible, say goodbye to your business continuity.

While tape backup is better than nothing, many of today’s DR providers will backup your data to an offsite location that is far away from the neighborhood your office is at. That way, if your business is affected by a disaster, your backup is located hundreds of miles away in a safe place that is likely untouched.

It’s also worth noting that modern day DR solutions also provide another valuable commodity - time. So ask yourself, is the mindless task of backing up tapes really worth the time of your IT staff? Wouldn’t you rather have them working on more valuable tasks that require a skill? Today’s DR service providers eliminate this need, as they take care of nearly everything. You or your staff will never have to bother with it.

The RTO you want will be too expensive

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is of primary importance to most business owners. And who can blame them. If you’re going to invest in a Disaster Recovery solution, you want to be able to rely on it to recover quickly (on a timetable that won’t damage your business). In the old days before the cloud, a quick recovery time could cost you well into six figures. Today, tools such as the cloud and virtualization have made this much more affordable, and faster than ever. Most DR providers can backup all your critical data in a matter of minutes. And if you ever need to recover it, most services can do so in hours, rather than days. That’s the power of the cloud. And when it comes to DR, it truly has changed everything.

Disaster Recovery is for big business, not SMBs

Well, it once was. Again, the cloud has really leveled the playing field. And it is making a truly valuable service accessible to businesses of all sizes. From dental offices to small retail operations, SMBs can now easily take advantage of the best DR solutions on market, as the barriers of complexity, costs, and insufficient IT resources no longer apply. Modern IT advances and the cloud have eliminated these obstacles.

We hope these three myths will help you see how Disaster Recovery is more affordable and efficient than ever. If you’d like to learn how our DR solutions can safeguard your business, send us a message. We’re happy to fill you in.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 15th, 2016

2016Mar15_Security_AWhether or not to monitor your employees' computers can be a tricky decision. While part of you may think it’s unethical, you also may question if your staff are spending too much time on non-work related activities, and taking advantage of you in the process. So, should you monitor? Here are some pros and cons of monitoring, and some tips to effectively do it if you decide it’s right for your business.

The case for monitoring

There are a number of reasons why monitoring your employees is a good idea. Doing so can help you:
  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm - because some disgruntled employees may try to steal from you or corrupt your data.
  • Ensure you have a harassment free workplace - because cyber harassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
  • Ensure staff are complying with policies - not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit - heaven forbid this happens, but if an employee participates in illegal activities on your business’s computers, monitoring can provide evidence of it.
The sad fact of the matter is that many businesses who monitor end up discovering that employees are doing things they’re not happy about. Research by Nancy Flynn, the executive director of the ePolicy Institute in Columbus, Ohio, revealed that two thirds of companies monitor their employees, and half of them have fired employees due to their behavior on email and the web.

Cons

Of course there are some potential downsides to monitoring that you should be aware of as well. These include:
  • Productivity loss - monitoring can kill employee morale, and therefore you may see a hit in their productivity if they feel you distrust them.
  • TMI and lawsuits - you’ll likely learn about the personal lives of your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation or medical problems. This could potentially open up your business to privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team act negatively on this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies

When you decide to monitor, ask yourself, are you doing it for security purposes? Is it to ensure your employees are not wasting large amounts of time on Social media? Whatever the reasons, it’s smart to balance your policies with the expectations of your employees. If you’re too strict with your monitoring, you could create that atmosphere of distrust we mentioned above. So set guidelines for acceptable use of email, social media, web surfing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, in your policy, include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Tell your employees

It’s important to inform your employees about your monitoring. If they find out you’re doing it without their knowledge, you could create resentment among them or even face legal issues. And just by letting staff know, you may actually see a boost in productivity as it could deter them from wasting time on the web.

When you tell your employees, explain why you’re doing it and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but only attempting to create a compliant and law abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to keep their personal communication to their smartphones. Also, provide a copy of your written policy to employees to read over and sign.

3. Get the right technology tools

While there are many technology tools to monitor your employees, bear in mind, you don’t need to follow their every move. In fact, you shouldn’t as it will not only waste your time, but also cause you to find out more information than necessary. So look for technology that will alert you to potential problems, so you can focus on more important things. Lastly, you may also want to consider technology that can block certain content, like porn or hate websites, as employee access to this content could create larger problems.

Whether or not to monitor your employees can be a tricky decision but, if implemented correctly, could benefit your business in making it more secure and even more productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch. We’ll make our best effort to help however we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 14th, 2016

2016Mar14_SocialMedia_AAs a small business owner, you only have so many hours in the day, and managing your social media accounts is likely at the bottom of your to-do list. But while it can be easy to simply put off those social media updates, you know in the back of your mind your business can surely benefit from them. They can help you gain new customers and increase profits in the process. So how can you find the time to get it done? These 10 tools can help you better utilize your social media marketing time, and help produce more results.

Headlines

Let’s face it, most small business owners are not experts at writing compelling headlines. Thankfully, there are several social media tools that can help you get it right. Here are two of them.
  • Headline Analyzer - When it comes to spurring people to action, appealing to emotions can be very effective. This free tool analyzes and scores the emotional aspect of your headline and then informs you of which emotions are being communicated the loudest.
  • Optimizely - It’s one thing to hear a so called expert claim that a specific type of headline will work, and it’s another to see it for yourself. This tool enables you to A/B test your headlines, images or variations of them to see which are most effective.

Content Generation

When you’re generating new blogs, marketing messages and other content on a regular basis, sometimes the creative juices run dry. This is where these three tools can come in handy.
  • Portent - Whether it’s blogs, memes, videos or other social content, Portent provides easy idea generation. Simply enter a subject you want to create content for, and Portent will give you some ideas.
  • Hubspot Blog Topic Generator - Similar to Portent, but for blogs only. Enter three topics into this tool, and it will instantly give you a week’s worth of blog titles to write about.
  • Banner Ads Creator - Creating an effective ad can be a real pain in the rump. But this easy-to-use tool enables users to generate ads almost effortlessly in a matter of minutes. Use it to create ads for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, your website and more.

Management

Perhaps the most difficult part of social media marketing is the management aspect of it. These tools will help you be more efficient with your time and create maximum impact.
  • Social Rank - Curious to know which of your followers are most engaged? Well, now you can with Social Rank. This nifty tool enables you to identify, manage and organize your followers on Instagram and Twitter.
  • Riffle - Mingling with influencers can have a huge impact on the number of your followers. While doing that may sound easier said than done, this tool enables you to do just that. Riffle will help you find and connect with social influencers on Twitter, and engage with them when they’re active on the platform.
  • Hootsuite - How would you like to manage all your social media accounts from one location? That would probably save a lot of time, right? Hootsuite offers just that, and enables you to grow your brand by allowing you to schedule updates and engage with your audience from a single platform.

Video and Images

What many consider the bane of social media marketing, finding affordable images and videos on a weekly basis can be both frustrating and costly. These two tools will hopefully make your efforts a bit easier.
  • Unsplash - This tool gives you free access to thousands of high resolution photos that you can use however you please. And to ensure there is an influx of fresh new images to choose from, the service adds 10 new photos every day.
  • Mazwai - To go along with your free images, how about some free video? That’s exactly what Mazwai does, offering you the ability to download videos under the free creative common license. All you need to do is credit the video producer, and then you are allowed to use the footage.
We understand that for the small business owner, social media marketing can seem like a monumental chore, and we hope these tools will help make it a smoother process. If you need any advice or assistance with your own social media marketing, give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 10th, 2016

2016JMar10_BusinessIntelligence_ABusiness Intelligence (BI) has conventionally been the preserve of big business, given the need for specialist knowledge meant hiring pricey experts was often the only way to leverage its value. But the rise of self-service BI tools has leveled the playing field, allowing small- and medium-sized businesses to get in on the game too. And with small businesses now producing far greater volumes of data than in the past, there’s never been a better time to put BI to use in your organization. Make your first steps towards smarter business planning by dispelling some popular beliefs about BI – here’s what you need to know.

You’ve already got the data you need

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of data your small- or medium-sized business already has at its disposal. In every area of your business from finance and sales to customer relations and website management, the software packages you use to simplify your everyday operations are packed with reams of information that most of us don’t even think twice about. By talking to key stakeholders in your organization’s various departments, you can get an idea for the kind of data you already have, how it’s generated, and where it’s stored. You’re then in a good place to begin thinking about using BI tools to transform that information into meaningful business insights that inform key decision-making – all while reducing the resources you need to invest in time-consuming data generation from scratch.

Self-service BI tools are plentiful – and affordable

The real beauty of the emergence of self-service BI is that it puts useful business analytics within reach of smaller business owners who lack the fancy-pants budgets of larger corporations. In fact, there are numerous self-service BI tools that you can use to get started in this area without even spending a dime. Microsoft Power BI is a powerful application that’s pleasingly user-friendly, and most businesses will find the functions they need in the free version. Zoho Reports has a low entry-level cost, too, and the slightly pricier yet still affordable Tableau is another option that’s worth exploring.

It’s easy to get started

BI is an intimidating term, and just the thought of delving into it can send a shiver down the spine of the average business owner. But by taking small steps, it’s easy to get started – and before you know it you’ll have the benefit of real-intelligence-based business insights that enable you to make better decisions for your organization’s long-term success. Most self-service BI tools come with built-in suggestions for reports that businesses commonly run and find useful. Other worthwhile statistics to explore include the percentage of your clients who cancel within a set period; website landing pages that generate the longest visits; your most profitable individual products or services; the days or months in which you generate your highest revenues; and which of your clients brings in the most revenue and profit.

Truly harnessing data is the future of the business world – it’s how companies like yours can make smarter decisions that increase efficiency and profitability. And self-service tools mean smaller organizations no longer need a crazy budget to be able to afford the benefits of BI in the first place. To find out more about putting in place the tools that can help make your business more intelligent, just give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 2nd, 2016

With Internet costs rising and broadband speed increasingly important for day-to-day business operations, more people – including the government – are questioning whether consumers are receiving the broadband speeds they are paying for. Sinu can do something to help you negotiate faster Internet speeds now. If your business has had the same Internet contract for years, you may be paying too much for too little speed. Send Sinu your Internet Service Provider (ISP) invoices and we’ll see if we can negotiate faster connectivity for the same or less than you are paying for today. This is a free service to Sinu customers.

The question of getting the advertised Internet speeds you are paying for is getting national attention. After several complaints, the Office of the New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, started a probe into Internet speeds delivered by top providers in the state. According to a report by Bloomberg, letters were sent last October to top Internet service providers (ISPs) from the AG’s new senior enforcement counsel, Tim Wu. Wu, a prominent open-Internet policy advocate known for coining the term “net neutrality,” warned the ISP companies that actual performance of broadband service “may deviate far enough from the speeds advertised to render the advertising deceptive.” The letters were based on consumer complaints, the AG’s own analysis and a report by M-Lab, a group that tracks Internet data. The Federal Communications Commission

While we are all aware that the Internet can slow down during peak usage times, M-lab reports that the real problem lies with the “interconnection points” where an ISP (your broadband company) meets what’s known as a transit ISP, a company that usually operates in the background carrying content (such as Netflix) to ISPs.

The Federal Communications Commission oversees the Internet and is looking into advertised broadband speeds by ISPs. The FCC’s Open Internet rules, which took effect last June, strive to provide “consumers and businesses access to a fast, fair, and open Internet,” however they don’t definitively address interconnections between ISPs and transit providers.

So how can you test your real Internet speed? There are several free tools available. The AG’s office is encouraging New Yorkers to test their own broadband speed at home using Internethealthtest.org and submit the test results to help determine Internet speed accuracy. If you’re not in New York, or if you just want to check your Internet speed without participating the AG’s study, the New York Times lists several free tools and many factors that might affect broadband speeds. Some of the tools include Ookla Speedtest.net, Speedtest.net, MegaPath SpeakEasy Speed Test and Bandwidth Place.

Check with your Relationship Manager for more information about renegotiating with your ISP, and other ways, such as installing a super fast Cisco Meraki wireless device, to ensure your Internet keeps pace with the demands of your employees.

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