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January 7th, 2016

BusinessIntelligence_Dec28_AUnderstanding how your visitors are using your website is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your online presence and generate more leads and revenue. Google Analytics remains the top analytic tool, allowing you to keep track. Yet many companies tend to focus on the overall performance without taking the time to understand other key metrics that contribute to the end result. Here, we’ve compiled a list of Google Analytics’ metrics that are worth knowing about.

What exactly is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free website analytic product offered by Google. It is an application that collates visitor data from your website and provides basic statistics and analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO). The data is used to generate reports that give you insights as to how your visitors are engaging with your website.

With Google Analytics, you can analyze your traffic to discover whether your target market is finding your website, how they’re finding it, and if they’re taking the actions you expect them to take while on your site. By tracking and analyzing your traffic you can increase the engagement and enhance your marketing strategies.

Google Analytics’ Key Metrics

Navigating Google Analytics can be mind-numbing, since you are likely to get lost in its many features, variables, and settings. Check out these basic key metrics that will help you analyze your website traffic.

Unique Visitors Most people tend to confuse this metric with “Visits”. The Unique Visitors metric can give you an accurate number as to how much real traffic you receive on a daily basis because, unlike the Visits metric, it doesn’t solely rely on cookies to count. This means any of your visitors would be counted once, even if they cleared their computer of cookies.

Pageviews The Pageviews metric should increase in direct proportion to the numbers shown in Unique Visitors. This metric represents how deep your unique visitors go into your website pages. If the percentage is low, your content may not be engaging enough to encourage visitors to explore the your website further than the home or landing page.

Bounce Rate The Bounce Rate metric will tell you the percentage of visitors who left your website after viewing only one page. High bounce rates can mean that your website is not appealing to visitors in certain aspects such as the design, content, navigation, and so on. Tracking your website’s bounce rate will quickly help you identify things that are not working well on your website, so you can fix the problem accordingly and ensure you grab visitors' attention from the first click.

Traffic Sources This metric shows which sources drive the most and least traffic to your website. Generally there are four types of metrics: Referral, Direct, Organic Search, and Social.

  • Referral traffic - These visitors found your site via your off-page marketing efforts, such as backlinks and blog articles on other websites.
  • Direct traffic - These visitors are highly targeted, since they type your URL directly into their web browser.
  • Organic search - These visitors discover your site after searching a keyword in a search engine, usually from Google.
  • Social traffic - These visitors came from social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
These are the metrics that matter to tracking your website’s visitors. They consist of basic numbers that are easy to understand and interpret. Once you get a handle of these metrics, you can make your way to more advanced metrics that provider deeper level and more accurate insight.

For more tips on how to utilize your business data with Google Analytics, contact our specialists today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 5th, 2016

BusinessContinuity_Jan4_AWhen people think of the causes of downtime and the need for a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), they tend to think big. Powerful storms, massive blizzards, fires and floods are usually what springs to mind when business continuity is mentioned. And while these disasters can disrupt your business, a small power outage can be just as problematic if you’re not prepared. Here’s what to do to make sure your company isn’t halted when a power outage occurs.

Power outages are one of the only disasters that can strike just about anywhere in the United States. If you are in Seattle chances are tropical storms are not going to be an issue and if you’re in Miami you aren’t going to fret over a blizzard, but losing power can occur anywhere, at any time and without warning.

A Department of Energy report noted that power outages cost American businesses nearly $150 billion in 2014 and added that increasing demand for energy coupled with an aging infrastructure could see the number of blackouts increase. While weather-related events are the most common cause of power outages in the U.S., it is far from the only thing that can disrupt energy service.

Since this is a problem that will continue to plague businesses, especially those ones that are unprepared, it’s important to be ready should a blackout strike. Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to power outages.

Power outages hurt in more ways than you think

The most notable issue a business faces when a power outage occurs is an inability to work. Employees often times sit around unable to do anything until the power is turned back on. Once the power does return, additional time is needed to safely turn everything back on and to check if all your files are still there.

There are also numerous indirect consequences that your business may face either during or after a power outage. These include a loss of revenue from potential sales, a decrease in customer satisfaction and a drop in your company’s reputation. The more your company is prepared for a power outage, the better continuity you will see and the less damage will be done. While it may be impossible to completely avoid issues caused by blackouts, you can minimize their impact.

Be ready in case of an outage

One of the biggest sources of frustration for employees during a blackout is losing files they had been working on. Autosave features do help prevent this but sometimes you’ll still lose that one important note or sentence you didn’t have the chance to save. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are one way to buy your employees a little extra time should the power go out. You're able to plug your computer into these devices and they will operate as a battery when the power goes out. The life of these power stations is anywhere from ten minutes to an hour for some models which should give you enough time to save your work and properly shutdown your computer.

If you want to stay in business during a power outage, a standby commercial generator can help. These normally run on propane or natural gas and immediately switch on as soon as your main power supply goes out. If you aren’t concerned about the lights but want to keep your employees productive, equipping them 4G enabled devices with Office 365 or Google Apps will let them continue to work on files that have been saved and stored on the cloud.

Always test your outage plans

Regardless of what your company's plans are during a power outage, you will need to test them on a regular basis to ensure everything runs smoothly when the real thing does happen. If you utilize a UPS or standby generator, you will want to test these out every six months at the very least to make sure they function properly. If your business has special plans for what employees need to do during a power outage, you should run a practice drill on a yearly basis to ensure everyone is up to speed on their duties.

They key to business continuity is preparation. Let our team of experts help prepare your business for anything thrown its way in 2016 and beyond.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 4th, 2016

Multiethnic Group of People Meeting with SymbolIt’s possible you take your access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for granted. Maybe you’ve never thought about what a world without news feeds and constant updates and selfies from your friends and acquaintances is like. While there are moments when we’re all fed up of so-and-so’s latest attention-seeking Facebook status or their endless stream of glamorous vacation photos, the stark reality is, if our social media platforms were suddenly taken away from us, many of us would be at a loss. So what is it like to live in a country where many of these forms of communication are banned?

While China is probably the most well known country for restricting their population’s ability to view certain websites, whether through a desire to restrict access to information that might harm the country’s image or because of industry competition, there are other nations which also exercise strict control over what their people can and cannot see online.

Take Iran for example. Its citizens are denied access to Facebook and Twitter while Instagram is partially blocked due to the fact that it is possible to block individual accounts whilst leaving other parts of the platform online. Of course, anyone wanting to update their Facebook status, send tweets or upload a risqué selfie can do so using a VPN. But most VPNs charge a monthly subscription for their services and even then the access can be sketchy at best. However there is one social media platform in Iran that is freely available and that is Line, the instant messenger chat application. Unlike China which has blocked Line (something that is more to do with it being direct competition to the homegrown chat app WeChat than freedom of speech), in Iran Line is big news. In particular its social media function, called Timeline, is connecting people throughout the country, and in some surprising ways.

Texting someone is yesterday’s news, and messaging apps are the primary form of quick communication for people everywhere. And in Iran the app of choice used to be Viber – at least it was until it was blocked by Iranian officials at the end of last year. In its place came Telegram, a Russian chat app which has almost 60% of its total users in Iran. Line doesn’t currently compete with Telegram when it comes to messages, but that could change at any time, mainly thanks to some users of the latter’s penchant for spreading pornographic content.

In direct contrast to that, the Japanese owned Line is intent on maintaining its wholesome image – and Iranian companies are recognizing that and using Line as a platform to market themselves. And it’s no great surprise when you look at the numbers: well known for being one of, if not the, biggest blogging communities in the world, Iranian citizens are devout readers and creators of online content. What is particularly attractive to marketers in Iran is that a staggering 90% of people in Iran who use Line are actually active on a daily basis on Timeline.

But using Timeline in an official capacity is not as simple as merely opening an account and updating your status as it is on say, WeChat, Twitter or Facebook. Line stipulates that anyone who wants to open an ‘Official Account’ – be they a corporation or a celebrity - must apply to be a Line Partner. Line can decide whether or not to accept their ‘partner’ and, if deemed a good match for the platform, the company or person in question will then be made to sign an agreement and pay a subscription – and periodic fees. Harsh as this may seem when compared to free platforms, it is precisely this which enables Line to ensure its content is continually updated whilst also being of a permissible standard. And it is this policy of control and moderation that allows Line to operate unfettered in Iran.

So who are the Iranian celebrities who have signed up for an official Line account? The country’s first adopter was AlireSaa, a viral celebrity famous for humorous musical clips and anecdotes. At the time of signing up with Line he had around 320,000 Instagram followers – a number which took him two years to build. But after just five weeks on Line he had already beaten this – and his number of followers doesn’t show signs of abating any time soon – his fan base is already tipping the 500,000 mark.

So why is AlireSaa so phenomenally popular on Line but less so on Instagram? The answer lies in the fact that, aside from being partially blocked in Iran (although AlireSaa’s account was not) there are a number of features that Line offers to its official account holders that other social media platforms do not. One of these is Line’s ‘On Air’ sessions which uses live chat. AlireSaa used this feature to run a video contest for followers. His fans were treated to a two hour long live chat with their hero and were able to submit videos of themselves performing one of AlireSaa’s musical clips.

A staggering amount of people engaged with AlireSaa, who let’s remember is not a global superstar - 50,000 of them in fact and 10,000 of them submitted videos during the two hour window. When he announced the live chat, AlireSaa had 215,000 Line followers – a number which exploded as news of the contest spread like wildfire on the app’s Timeline feature.

If you’re still of the opinion that social media is a waste of time and can’t do anything for your business, maybe it’s time to take another look. If you want to follow in AlireSaa’s shoes and become a viral success, why not get in touch with us today. We can’t promise to make you an Internet superstar but we can help point you in the right direction.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 4th, 2016

“Should auld technology be forgot, 
And never brought to mind?”

The New Year is often a time for reflection and for resolutions designed to better ourselves. The same is true for IT! Do a New Year’s “reboot” by adopting five simple tech resolutions for your organization.

1)  Domain Renewals. Use the New Year reminder to review all domains that expire in 2016. Do you plan to retire them or keep them? Doing this task once a year, regardless of what month they expire, helps ensure you don’t lose access to your domains and not paying for ones you no longer need. It’s also helpful to ensure all your domains are sourced through one site to make it easier to keep track. 

2)  Server Warranties. Now is a great time to check for any server warranties that may be expiring in 2016. If you have warranties that are expiring, see if you can extend the warranty. If not, start thinking about a replacement plan, comparing what hardware needs to be replaced and whether the cloud might offer more effective solutions.  

3)  Life Cycle Management. We recommend businesses and organizations plan to retire a quarter of their computers each year and budget accordingly. Start your year off right by doing a technology inventory and listing any technology that should be retired in 2016. Sinu customers can consult their “My Computer Replacement Plan” for a quick report. Learn more about how Sinu can help with hardware replacement cycles and budgeting from our recent blog

4) Password Security. Strong passwords are often the first line of defense against hackers and they should be changed every 3-6 months and not reused. Use the New Year to update and secure your passwords. Remember, a strong password should contain upper and lowercase letters, punctuation, a number and be 8-14 characters long, do not store your password list in the cloud, and use two-factor authentication for services that provide it. 

5) Review Internet Plans. If your business has had the same Internet contract for years, you may be paying too much for too little speed. This is a great time of year to review your plan and Sinu can help! As a part of our all-inclusive service, Sinu customers can send us their Internet Service Provider (ISP) invoices and we’ll see if we can negotiate faster connectivity for less money.

2016 marks Sinu’s sixteenth year in business and we are grateful to be the IT partner of hundreds of small businesses and nonprofits. Thank you and Happy New Year!

Topic Articles
December 29th, 2015

Security_Dec14_AThere are numerous strains of malware out there, but one particularly unpleasant one is ransomware. While this malicious software has been around for some time, recently a newer, nastier upgrade was discovered. Posing a threat to businesses of all sizes, the program, called Chimera, has upped the ante when it comes to scaring its victims out of their hard-earned cash. But what exactly is this malware, and what do you need to look out for?

Business is booming in the world of cyber crime, and scammers, extortionists, phishers and hackers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit our fears and naivety in order to boost their bank accounts, steal our data, or simply cause us mayhem for their own twisted pleasure. One of worst types of malware for playing with our emotions - and therefore increasing the likelihood of us capitulating to its demands - is ransomware. If you don’t know how this program works, read on for an introduction.

If your computer has been infected by ransomware, the first sign that something is wrong is normally discovering that you are unable to open one or more of your files. That’s because the malware encrypts them, rendering them completely inaccessible. The next thing you see will be a ‘ransom note’, either in the form of an email or a notice that appears directly on your screen. You will be told that if you want to see your files again you will need to pay a sum of money. After making payment you will (allegedly) be sent a code that will allow you to decrypt your files.

Some types of ransomware up the fear factor even further by pretending that the FBI, CIA or other national law enforcement or government agency is behind the ‘kidnapping’. You will be told that your files are being held hostage because you have downloaded pirated software or files, or visited an illegal or illicit website - such as those depicting extreme pornography or threatening national security. Regardless of whether or not you are guilty of any of the above - be it a visit to an x-rated website, or downloading a pirated copy of the latest episode of The Walking Dead, your first instinct is probably to panic. The thought of no longer having access to any of our information, files or data is enough to make most of us break out into a cold sweat. If you haven’t backed up, everything from your vacation pictures to your company’s data could be lost for good.

The problem for ransomware creators, however, is that many users have wisened up to their tactics, and are refusing to pay, instead calling in an IT specialist to try and restore their encrypted files. This has left cyber criminals needing to find a way to boost ‘trade’. And that is where Chimera comes in. Christened by the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre - a part of Germany’s Association of the Internet Industry - unlike previous forms of ransomware, which were indiscriminate when choosing their victims, this latest threat primarily targets businesses.

An employee will receive an email, purporting to be an application for a job within your firm, or some kind of corporate deal. This email will include a link ostensibly to the applicant’s resume or to details of the offer, but will in fact go to an infected file stored in Dropbox. Chimera then infects the user’s computer and encrypts any local files. Once the PC has been rebooted, the ransom note will be displayed on the desktop. Payment is usually set at around $680 USD, which must be paid in Bitcoins. And in order to further scare the victim into paying, the note will also state that failure to make payment will result in the user’s files being published online.

If there is a slight silver lining to the Chimera cloud, it is that the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre has not found any proof that files have been published - at least not yet. In fact, it is still unknown whether the ransomware does actually take the encrypted files or if it is just an empty threat. Regardless, it is still a threat which could easily convince many users to pay the ransom. And should Chimera make good on its threats, the ramifications for a business are huge - and that’s without taking into consideration the nightmare of having your files encrypted in the first place. With Chimera targeting businesses of all sizes, and random employees within the business at that, isn’t it time you took another good look at your organization’s security posture?

Contact us today and talk to one of our security experts. We’ll be more than happy to help ensure that your small or medium-sized business isn’t taken hostage by Chimera or any other type of ransomware.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 28th, 2015

Security_Dec24_AOnline security has probably never been such a hotly debated subject as it was in 2015. From recent numerous high-profile attacks on Sony and others, to this year’s leaking of data stolen from the extramarital-affair-facilitating website Ashley Madison website, have pushed cyber security firmly into the spotlight. So what can we expect from 2016? Experts predict that this year will only see cyber crime increasing yet further. Here’s what you need to know.

If you think that only big corporations and prominent organizations are targeted by cyber criminals, you are making a deadly mistake. It might be tempting to sweep cyber crime under the carpet and assume that you are flying below the average hacker’s radar, but that simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s the polar opposite, since smaller enterprises are actually far more likely to be at risk than larger ones, owing to their typically less sturdy security postures.

So where does that leave you as a small or medium-sized business owner or manager? Does it mean you need to be taking your cyber security even more seriously? You can bet your bottom dollar it does, as industry experts predict that 2016 is only going to become more of a minefield when it comes to online crime.

The headline trend that IT security professionals pinpointed this year was that no longer were criminals hacking into websites purely to bolster their bank accounts. 2015 has seen the emergence of another strain of hackers, launching cyber attacks as part of a moral crusade. These people are not purely after money although in some cases this may also be a contributing factor - instead, their claimed motivation is revenge, or righting what they perceive as wrong. It is this diversification in the hacking community that has led security watchers to predict that, as we enter 2016, we are likely to see some different behavior from hackers.

Among the unpleasant predictions being made, a number of experts agree that hacks of a destructive nature will be on the rise. The fact that hackers are using attacks for retribution rather than simple monetary gain means that a wider cross-section of organizations may well find themselves being preyed upon, all the way from government agencies - traditionally ignored by hackers - to online retailers and other commercial websites.

Remember when Snapchat got hacked back in October 2014, and the hackers threatened to make public as many as 200,000 photos? Well, the bad news is that apps are going to continue to be targeted. In particular, those mobile apps that request access to your list of contacts, emails and messages can, in the wrong hands, be used to create the kind of portal that enables a cyber criminal to steal data or gain access to a company’s entire network. All this means that in 2016, hackers could be taking advantage of apps to do more than just steal your social media photos - they might have in mind the takedown of your entire company.

As a local business owner, social engineering - a means of tricking an individual into disclosing revealing or personal information about themselves or their company - is something you definitely need to be concerned about. You might pride yourself on being too savvy to fall for a cyber criminal’s tricks, but what about your employees? Can you be sure that each and every one of them exhibits the same amount of self control, cynicism, and wariness that you do? Not only that but, as we enter a new era of online threats, the criminals that use social engineering are growing in confidence and creativity. Dodgy emails from a bizarrely named sender containing a link to an unheard-of website are yesterday’s news. Modern social engineering is highly evolved and extremely cunning, and has the potential to convince even the most streetwise internet user.

How confident are you that your entire team of employees would be completely infallible in the face of a stealth attack from a seemingly innocent source? Could you trust them to restrain from divulging not only their personal details but also information pertaining to your company? Multiply the number of employees in your company by the number of phone apps they potentially use, and add to that the fact that any one of them could at any time be targeted by a social engineering scam, and the end result is a less-than-perfect security posture.

The sad fact is that there are people who want to do you harm - regardless of whether you hold confidential information about celebrity salaries, or are privy to a database full of cheating spouses. People, no matter how well meaning or vigilant, are the weakest link in any security chain, which means that ensuring your business’s safety necessitates educating your staff and ensuring that your network is impenetrable.

Professional training and a vulnerability assessment are two great places to start, so why not get in touch with us? We’ll make sure your business is as hack-proof as it can be.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 25th, 2015

Satisfied man holding two money bagsOne of the biggest, buzziest phrases making the rounds in corporate circles at the moment is “big data”. But what does big data actually mean? What is it and, more importantly, what can it do for your business or organization? The good news is that it’s not just another tired old buzz word that actually has very little meaning (“pushing the envelope”, we’re looking at you!) Using big data within your company can actually help you increase profit. Let’s take a look at how.

So, we’ve established that big data is causing a stir and creating a buzz in companies that are in the know. In fact, it’s become hip to bandy about the phrase whenever one is trying to impress their boss, senior management or fellow co-workers. But like any lingo or jargon that is currently cool, it really doesn’t count for a whole lot if it doesn’t mean anything, particularly in the workplace.

The good news is that, unlike some of the more hackneyed expressions thrown around by those colleagues that are so desperate to impress their seniors, big data does actually mean something. And, more to the point, it can help your business thrive. Big data can help you achieve that end result that everyone in business is chasing: profit.

This is why big data is trending so sharply at the moment - after all, every owner or manager of a small or medium-sized business wants to grow their bottom line. Times are hard in many industries: increasing competition from abroad, the threat of the internet to bricks-and-mortar stores, a difficult economic climate - the list goes on. But what if something as simple as using your business’s data could push you heads and shoulders above the competition, and help turn around that downwards or flatlining arrow on your sales chart and point it upwards in the direction of success?

But before we get to that; what actually is “big data”? Why is it big? Well, we may have said that using data to grow profit is simple but, in actual fact, it’s really not as easy as all that. Big data is used to refer to various sets of data that are so huge and so complex that the traditional methods of processing data are virtually useless. Database management tools and other processing applications become redundant and are just not up to the task of capturing, storing, searching for, sharing, transferring, analyzing, and visualizing data.

Instead of looking at separate small sets of data, big data - as the name implies - looks at larger sets that contain far more information. This enables anyone analyzing the results to cross-check the sets and pinpoint trends, both positive and negative, across the entire business. As a result, owners and managers can make more informed decisions that affect the company in a more beneficial way than is possible by merely looking at small, isolated sets of data.

Big data therefore plays a valuable role in strategy and planning, and also helps troubleshoot worrying or problematic trends that threaten the performance and profitability of the business. Put simply, using big data to assist in making decisions for your company is about being able to see the bigger picture (to use another tired corporate buzz phrase). Decisions made with all the facts at hand will naturally help increase revenue, as opposed to blindly feeling in the dark and making changes to one area or department that may negatively affect another.

There are a number of ways that you can use big data analytics to make better decisions and increase profit. Crucially, it allows you to see what really makes your customers tick. Nowadays many businesses offer different ways for their customers to communicate with them. From email to a website, to phone calls and human interaction, all of these present you with meaningful information about your clients’ behavior. Knowing what your customers rely on you for, how they interact with you, and where they may hesitate or stumble when using your services, provides a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be mined. However, a lot of this data is unstructured and therefore cannot be analyzed using traditional means. That’s where big data comes in: it can help you uncover the information you need to really understand your customers.

Of course it goes without saying that a deeper understating of your customers can help you grow your customer base, increase repeat business, heighten customer loyalty, and reduce bounce rates and the number of dissatisfied customers. But that’s not all - analyzing this data will allow you to develop new products or services, create stronger, more effective marketing campaigns, and create an all-round better experience for the people that matter most – the people you serve.

Want to learn more about big data, and find out how it can have a seriously positive impact on your business’s revenue? Talk to us today - we have the knowledge and experience to help you really get the most out of your company’s intel.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 25th, 2015

Productivity_Dec25_AIs there anything worse than an unproductive meeting? The feeling of those minutes and even hours slipping by you as you sit ‘brainstorming’ with co-workers, only to leave the room with a big fat nothing. The frustrating part is that, when run effectively, meetings can result in great ideas, and can add huge value to your company. But how do you make that shift from pointless meetings to productive ones? That’s where Do.com comes in. Here’s how to make the change in your organization.

We all know that an unproductive meeting is bad for business. Wasted minutes turn into wasted hours, and wasted hours turn into wasted days - and so on. Not using any of your team’s time effectively - whether they are the COO or the receptionist - is a big waste of money, simple as that. On the other hand, you know that meetings are essential for regrouping, hashing out new processes, gathering feedback, brainstorming marketing strategies, and simply touching base. But if, over the years, your company’s meeting culture has gone from energetic and idea-generating to stale, uninspiring, and - dare we say it - downright pointless, it can be hard to turn that around.

The good news is that there is a way to swing the pendulum back in the other direction, so that you can begin holding meetings that are productive and, crucially, that STAY productive. And that’s by using a software platform called Do.com. Do’s purpose is to help companies of all sizes start running more productive meetings, and it has already been adopted by well-known clients, including tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Do aims to help make meetings enjoyably productive, too – after all, whether we’re a high flyer at Microsoft or the owner of a local law firm or beauty salon, we all feel good when we are contributing something useful. So, if you’ve noticed that, every time a meeting is held in your workplace, a groaning line of worker ants clutching iPads and notepads heads begrudgingly towards the meeting room, this could be your chance to turn things around and re-energize your employees. If you do it properly, you’ll get some great ideas for moving your business forward at the same time. It’s a win-win situation!

So what does Do actually DO to make meetings more motivating and productive? For a start, it helps structure them more effectively, so that more time is spent getting to the point and less time is spent discussing weekend plans, or moaning about other departments or staff. Do gives you the tools to properly manage agendas, notes and actions, as well as allowing you to share files that are needed for discussion. It also features a timer, which turns red if you overrun, so that you can set limits as to the amount of time devoted to a topic – ideal for reigning in those debates that go round in circles but never actually end up getting anywhere.

The founder of Do, Jason Shah, has stated that his goals with the platform are to “bring three central themes to every meeting: structure, transparency, and automation.” To help facilitate this, Do is geared to bringing an agenda to meetings, thus putting the end to directionless and ill-prepared attendees. It allows the meeting organizer to easily import notes from previous meetings, and upload relevant files or documents. This is something that will save huge amounts of time in the average workplace, where meetings are generally accompanied by a shuffling of notes and people going to print out forgotten documents, or to email the group mid-meeting. That’s probably not the kind of thing that Steve Jobs tolerated with any degree of patience!

Do also prioritizes eliminating the “so what do I need to do again?” factor that so often follows meetings, by centralizing information pertaining to the subject, as well as highlighting follow-ups and outcomes. The software prompts the meeting organizer to assign discussed tasks to a specific person, who then receives an email and push notification outlining the task, as well as a link to a dedicated meeting page, where further information can be found.

With other features that aid prioritization of tasks, plus analytics that give managers an overview of how their team, department, and indeed the whole company are spending their time in meetings, it’s little wonder that Do’s client list boasts some pretty high-profile companies. As well as Apple et al, other adopters of the platform range from social media big-hitters Facebook and Twitter to other tech clients including Dropbox and Salesforce. Consumer platforms, such as Netflix, Spotify, Uber and Airbnb, are also onboard - as are Disney, Domino’s Pizza, the NBA, and certain sectors of the US government.

It’s probably safe to say that these clients like the way that Do.com can be integrated with other tools and software such as Office 365, Google Drive and Docs, and Evernote. In fact, Do even considers its competitors to include other cloud-based productivity platform providers like Google Apps, Evernote, Dropbox, and Trello. However, Do.com has the edge on all of those by virtue of its meeting-centric approach. You may use Google Docs to work on a task after a meeting, but Do.com walks you through the whole process, from agenda to follow-up and subsequent meetings.

Although adopted by major players such as Apple, Google and Disney, Do.com is for use by companies of any size – including yours! If you want to learn more about productivity, including how to install the tools and how to instill the culture within your company, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
December 23rd, 2015

BusinessValue_Dec23_AWe all know that data is valuable. After all, the more we know about the inner workings of our business and how our customers behave, the better. But knowing that data is crucial in helping to move your organization forward, and knowing exactly how to use that information to do so are two very different things. Here are some ways to overcome the hurdles and add real value to your business by harnessing the power of data.

Many small and medium-sized businesses shy away from data analytics due to the perceived complexities of dealing with the myriad of facts and figures. A head for figures is something many of us lack – and, even if you have no problem with the math, there’s the time involved in setting aside a part of your busy schedule to track your analytics.

But the sooner you embrace your data, the sooner you can start adding real value to your business through this extremely valuable, and often untapped, source. But just how does a smaller enterprise actually set about doing that? After all, even the most humble of mom and pop stores or home-office-based entrepreneurs has access to an often bewildering array of trackable metrics.

The key point is that, if data is to be of any value, it needs to be easy to collect, collate and analyze. There’s no point spending half your working week mired in incomprehensible spreadsheets and charts if you can’t extract useful information and then apply it in a meaningful way that meets your end goals.

When thinking about analytics, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Not only that, but the vast majority of business owners would much rather spend their working lives filling dental cavities, laying flooring, solving legal disputes or selling fitted kitchens - whatever your own particular specialist skill might be - than learning about and trying to apply data analysis techniques. That’s where an analytics dashboard can help. These take the hassle out of unearthing all that data, and present your metrics to you in a more understandable format. But with an array of different tools to choose from, what should you consider if this is the route you decide to take?

  • How easy is it to use? There’s no point investing in a dashboard solution if you don’t understand the way the data is presented to you; you still won’t be able to apply it in any meaningful way.
  • How deep will the analysis go? You’ll likely want to be able to track trends, compare results over time, and chart your success.
  • Is the data easy to apply? You want your dashboard to simplify the application of data within your business environment, and make it easy for you to take action.
  • Does it save you time? If you’re currently spending frustrating hours sifting through reams of facts and figures, this is a huge consideration. You need your dashboard to supply pertinent information in an easy-to-read format.
  • Is it compatible with other programs and apps? If you’re operating an online store, you will want the dashboard to work with your POS and shopping cart. You may also want it to track website analytics and social media engagement.
Once you’ve decided on a data analytic dashboard, how do you know which metrics to look at? Every business will differ depending on their industry and individual needs or challenges, but there are a couple of points you will want to bear in mind.

Look for data trends To make the leap from looking at data to making plans and actually doing something, you need to highlight your most important metrics and use them as something to action. Let’s say you find it hard to retain customers; you know this and your data backs it up. Clearly you’re not doing enough to ensure your customers return. That could indicate you’re spending too much time and money on attracting new clients. Now you can take action: do you need to improve your customer service or offer more products or services? Create a marketing plan that targets past customers by telling them about something new or by offering them a discount.

Analyze your past customers Now you have easy access to data that shows you your best selling products or services, your peak selling periods, and more. This will help you get to know your customers far better, track their behavior, and plan ahead when it comes to adding services, buying inventory, or preparing for busy spells.

Whether your aim is to attract new customers, retain old ones, expand your offering, or discern whether opening a new location is a viable option, your data will prove to be an indispensable friend. After all, customers may come and go – but your data will always be there for you.

If you’d like to learn more about adding value to your business with data analysis, or want to explore data analysis dashboard options, get in touch with us today - we’ll be happy to advise you on the options best suited to your needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 22nd, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Dec22_AWhile it is highly likely that you have an insurance policy that will cover your small or medium-sized business in the event of a disaster, chances are you don’t have business interruption insurance. The majority of smaller companies tend to overlook interruption policies, believing (or at least hoping) that regular insurance will be enough to protect them. But in the face of rising natural disasters, you may want to think again.

So why do small and medium-sized organizations tend to forego business interruption insurance policies? Chances are it, like so many things, comes down to cost. But can you really afford to ignore the additional protection that interruption insurance offers, or is it safe to cut corners and hope that your regular business insurance will have you covered in the event of a disaster?

While an interruption insurance policy may cost you anywhere from $750 to $10,000 or more (the cost is normally dependent on the size of your business), the fact is that your standard insurance policy will not cover you completely when a catastrophe strikes.

Take for example the spate of superstorms that have ravaged the United States over the past decade. From Hurricane Katrina to the more recent Sandy, small businesses and enterprises throughout the US have been left devastated after feeling the wrath of Mother Nature. While a best-case scenario may entail losing a few days sales during a power outage, at the other end of the scale you could find yourself dealing with a destroyed warehouse, an office that no longer has a roof, or thousands of dollars worth of stock destroyed by flooding.

And the reality is that your regular insurance is probably not going to reimburse you for storage or relocation costs if you need to move operations elsewhere, temporarily or otherwise. The majority of policies will only cover the loss of, or damage to, physical items like stock, equipment and property. They will usually not cover you for any loss in profit if a disaster means that you need to temporarily cease trading. On the other hand, tightly drawn up business interruption insurance should cover you in the event you need to move. It should also cover a decrease in sales due to power failures that shut your communication lines down, as well as a drop in profits due to delays in the delivery of stock or equipment.

Think the chances of a natural disaster affecting you are still slim despite the scenes of chaos and devastation reported in the media? Consider that a recent survey conducted by insurance giant Allianz found that there are now typically 600 major incidents per year – compare that to the previous 400 per annum and it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that disasters are on the rise.

So, as a small or medium-sized business owner, what do you need to know before you consider purchasing interruption insurance? If you’re thinking of adding interruption coverage to your existing policy, first record your current net income - but watch out because, if your net profit is high, you might be hit by a low per-incident limit. You could find your insurer has limited your coverage and left you inadequately protected.

Is business booming? If you are undergoing rapid growth, keep records spanning many months so you have proof of revenue increase. Without this, you will not be able to forecast month-on-month profit growth and your insurer might cap coverage at the rate of the previous year’s profit, not at your accelerated one. Be aware, too, that the type of interruptions you want protection for should reflect the areas covered in your general business policy. If your existing policy doesn’t include coverage for fire damage, neither will your interruption insurance.

There are many other aspects of an interruption policy to take into account – such as add-ons that protect you in the event of a power outage (something that standard policies normally don’t normally cover), and knock-on effects caused by a disaster at your supplier’s end.

Once you have taken out interruption insurance, should you have to use it then the most important aspect for you will be getting reimbursed. Crucially, you need to be able to provide your insurer with as many details concerning profit loss as possible. Consider storing files electronically, either offsite or in the cloud. That way, if your office or store is destroyed, you’ll still have access to your documents – and a far greater chance of recovering your losses.

If you’d like to learn more about protecting your data, files and documents, as well as about business continuity planning to help you get back up and running should disaster strike, please get in touch with our team today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.