April 8th, 2015

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

Is this making my job easier or harder?

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

Does my tech work?

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

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

Is this tech job my responsibility?

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 7th, 2015

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

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

CRM defined

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

Why you should invest in CRM

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

April 6th, 2015

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

Cloud backup

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

Get disaster insurance

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

Prepare your employees

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

Create a contingency plan

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 2nd, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 1st, 2015

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

Use separate email accounts

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

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

Set strong passwords

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

Beware of links and attachments

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

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

Beware of email phishing

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 1st, 2015

by David Owen, CSO

Over the past five years, we’ve see wireless demands at small organizations grow from a conference room convenience for guests to an everyday business need for all employees. The need for faster, more secure wireless is even greater when supporting mobile devices and laptops the office. To meet this demand, Sinu offers an enterprise-class managed wireless network as part of our Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offerings – with no upfront costs and no need to budget for support or replacements.

This solution is powered by cloud-controlled Cisco Meraki wireless devices. These devices are significantly more robust than the consumer devices often found in small offices, offer very high speeds, excellent seamless coverage, and extensive options in terms of management tools, security, reporting and flexibility. They allow for the configuration of multiple networks with multiple security levels to keep your sensitive data safe – think corporate network, guest network, tenant network, etc. – a capability often recommended by external auditors. They also allow for detailed reporting on wireless usage.

This solution is provided by Sinu on a per-device basis, based on the wireless demands of your locations. Like most of Sinu’s services, Sinu Managed Wireless is sold as a subscription model, meaning that you would never have to buy wireless access points again in the future. The monthly cost covers the functionality and complete support of an enterprise-class wireless network. Sinu provides this hardware for you as a service and takes care of the hardware, warranty and service for the life of the device. We also replace it before the warranty expires, so there are no more huge up-front payments, and no more outdated and poorly performing hardware. Remember, this is not a lease, but an “evergreen” service in which your hardware is always refreshed before it becomes old and slow and problematic. 

The number of wireless devices your organization will need depends on the size and configuration of your office. In most instances, we are able to install a single, powerful and centrally-located device to serve an entire office. Monthly cost ranges from $29 for a single room device to $49 for a device that covers a multi-room office space up to 5,000 square feet.  

Join other businesses and nonprofits who have discovered what a faster, more reliable and secure wireless network can do for productivity and morale! Contact us today for more information or go the the Sinu Store at www.sinusupport.com/store to learn about Cisco Meraki wireless devices and our other HaaS offerings.

Topic Articles
April 1st, 2015

Microsoft Looks to Compete in ‘Internet of Things’ World with New Browser

By announcing the end of Internet Explorer, Microsoft admits it has lost the current search engine battle, but looks toward the future with its new, not-yet-released browser code-named “Project Spartan” which will be rolled out with Windows 10.

Internet Explorer (IE) launched in 1995 challenging the then dominant Netscape Navigator. In 1996, Microsoft bundled IE with its Windows operating system and soon killed off Navigator.

For more than a decade, IE dominated the browser market, achieving 95% per cent of all browser usage around 2000. At that same time, several competitors such as Apple and Google came into the browser market, and began eroding Microsoft’s share. Over the past decade, IE has faced criticism about its sluggish performance and security flaws, further decreasing its popularity. 

According to a report by the UK’s Independent, while exact figures are hard to calculate, “IE is now clicked upon for 13 to 20 per cent of web sessions, with a similar number for Firefox, while Google’s Chrome accounts for 41 to 60 per cent of all browsing.”

However, many experts point out that Microsoft was a trailblazer for browser technology two decades ago, and IE is responsible for many innovations that make the web what it is today. 

The Independent reports that the Project Spartan browser is likely to be unveiled later this month and will have the “same stripped-down feel as Chrome and integrate Microsoft’s digital personal assistant Cortona – its equivalent of Apple’s Siri – to bring additional information within the same window.”

Microsoft’s marketing chief, Chris Capossela, announced the news about IE’s replacement at a conference earlier this month, explaining:  “We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be.”

In an interview with NPR, AdWeek’s Kristina Monllos talked about the challenges Microsoft will face in shaking off IE’s stigma. “The Internet Explorer brand is so tainted,” she said. “When you think of Internet Explorer the first thing you think of is that it’s slow. Or, ‘that still exists?'”

According to the NPR report, “Monllos said it will be very easy for Spartan, even though it’s new, to be stuck with those types of opinions, so Microsoft will have to work extra hard to prove that Spartan is really different. ‘They don’t want people to see it as if they’re just putting lipstick on the Internet Explorer pig.'”

Project Spartan reminds us that all roads in the tech world today are leading to the Internet of Things (IoT), including browsers. Tech companies need to meet the demands of a world where consumers are mobile and consume the web over several devices. IE could not do that, so it is being replaced. Browsers competing in the today’s interconnected world will anticipated to source more and more information for users across a suite of Internet-linked devices – with automation of websites and/or data providing us with the information we need how and when we want it.

Topic Articles
April 1st, 2015

The new and improved Large Hadron Collider, located in CERN (a high-energy particle physics organization headquartered in Geneva), and credited for discovering the Higgs boson in 2012, is about to make history, once again, when it goes back online in a few weeks.   

The upgrade of the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider promises to shed light on the mysterious Higgs boson. The ‘God Particle’ is known to help other particles acquire mass, but many of its properties are currently unknown to physicists.  

In an interview with ZDNet, Alberto Pace, the IT data and storage services group leader at CERN, says the challenges he faces there are “unmatched in many areas.”

The Grid processes more than two million jobs each day – the equivalent of a single computer running for roughly 1,300 years, according to CERN. The CERN tech team is using a combination of old and new technologies to meet the unprecedented storage and data demands of the Large Hadron Collider.

According to the ZDNet report, some of the technology that IT professionals use at CERN is so new it hasn’t been released publicly. The organization tests many of their new products through a public-private partnership called CERN openlab. Such collaborations help CERN gain access to early technology years before it reaches the market, while companies get to see how their products work in a highly demanding environment. Frederic Hemmer, CERN IT department head told ZDNet that their partnership with Intel, for example, has exposed them to early CPU (central processing unit)technology.

Other partners in CERN openlab are Huawei, Oracle, and Siemens, while Rackspace and Seagate are contributors and Yandex is an associate. “The ongoing collaboration with Huawei is in the area of storage,” says Hemmer. “We have been evaluating the latest solutions for cloud storage, and this is a good example of something that has become a product now available on the market.”

In contrast, there’s one old-school technology that CERN favors. It stores raw data from the experiments on magnetic tapes, a medium first used to record computer information in 1951, on a UNIVAC device. The IT team at CERN uses tapes rather than disks because they find it more reliable, more secure, and cheaper. They also explain that it writes data at a high rate and allows the team to verify data on the fly, synchronously, when the data is written. CERN demonstrates that tape, a 60-plus years old storage medium, is far from being obsolete, and can, in fact, be improved upon to meet high storage demands. ZDNet reports, “For the Large Hadron Collider run two, IT experts have improved the tape infrastructure to support cartridges with over 8TB of capacity each, a measure that will grant an increased archival capacity of the data center.”

So while most of the time it’s the physicists that get all the credit for big breakthroughs at CERN, the tech team and its innovation provides the backbone for the Higgs boson experiment.

An example that supports the importance of the tech team in discovering solutions we use today is the invention of the World Wide Web. According to ZDNet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at CERN to facilitate communications within the organization: “He wrote a memo, passed it on to his supervisor, and after some time he was told he could do this project in his spare time. His supervisor wrote on that piece of paper ‘Vague, but exciting’.”

Topic Articles
April 1st, 2015
    By Larry Velez, Sinu co-founder & CTO

    At Sinu, we standardize the solutions we use across our customers so we can master them and bring more value. Our philosophy is to encorporate proven technology into our platform, know it intrinsically through repetition and experience, and keep it at optimal performance and age.

    While we are always testing new technologies, we typically opt for widely-used and tested technologies for our customers. This allows us to tap into the combined knowledge of a large ecosystem of skilled experts if there is an issue. The shared experience of hundreds of our customers also allows us to use that information to provide guidance on how to best use the technology in a wide variety of situations and for dozens of different industries.

    We also find that our customers are in a much better place when they don’t keep outdated and/or custom solutions for which there are better alternatives off the shelf. As technology ages, its user base becomes smaller and more niche, causing the cost of maintaining that solution to rise and increasing risk. I am seeing this first hand with my old VW hobby car – as it ages there are fewer and fewer people in the world who know how to fix it and the cost of maintaining it continues to increase, plus it’s more of a risk to drive without causing more wear and inevitably breaking something. Some of the techs at a VW dealership were born after my ‘91 VW GTI was made and have never touched one before, which is why I have had to learn to maintain it myself in my rare spare time. That’s okay for a hobby car which I don’t need every day, but a business that holds onto obsolete technology eventually loses productivity and increases risk. The cost of maintaining old technology goes up over time and most companies try to phase out support in about five years. Even if you try to pay a company to continue to support your old solutions, over time fewer people at the company will be familiar with the older versions and compatibility issues will increase as new software which integrates is introduced all around the solution.

    However, the same can happen when solutions are too new; they have a niche audience of early adopters who are willing to ride out the updates to fix the quirks and flaws often inherent before a technology is widely tested. Not only is your team unfamiliar with this new solution, but also there are few experts around to support it. This is why we always advise waiting until a solution has gained enough of a business customer base so that you can easily find experts to support the solution. Like driving a racecar, it’s all about keeping the revs in the right range – not too low and not too high.

    It is a tech balancing act. Your business solutions have to be at the optimal age to produce the greatest value for your business and also have to have a large enough audience to be able to support it with a reasonable budget so you don’t have to seek out the rare expert in a very custom or niche solution. So while some traditional solutions might initially look like they don’t have all the bells and whistles of the newer, just-launched start-up app, some will have decades of history and huge eco-systems behind them that brings incredible value.

    For instance, today you can go to any temp agency and hire someone trained in Microsoft Office, but you will be hard-pressed to get someone who knows Trello or one of the other newer web-based apps at that same agency.

    Balancing the choice of your IT solutions by making sure they have a large enough ecosystem, multiple support options from the maker or from third parties, and are not about to become obsolete is a great way to keep your business solutions delivering the most value to your team.

Topic Articles
April 1st, 2015

By Larry Velez, Sinu co-founder & CTO

In our new world of connectivity, where the Internet of Everything provides us with the opportunity to control our home’s temperature from work and watch our pets on our smartphones while we are away, I sometimes like to step back and take inventory of what really gets the job done. And sometimes, I find, simpler really is better.

Now, I love the latest technology and inventions and how all of it can come together with a simple elegance. That is what I stay up thinking about at night – how the myriad of ever-changing technology can come together to create an elegant, seamless solution for people to make their lives and jobs easier.

But it’s easy to get distracted by the noise – the greatest, shiniest new solution that promises more of, well, everything, and often turns our attention away from the proven solution that just does a better job…simply.

As an example, look at seatbelts. This is simple technology introduced as standard equipment in cars in the 1960s, and few developments to this technology have been made over the past two decades. Yet, use of seatbelts increases your chance of surviving a crash by about 50%. The introduction of airbags, a newer, more complex and costly technology (on average it costs about $3,000-$5,000 to replace them after a collision), increases chances of survival to only 54% when used with seatbelts. (From National Center for Statistics and Analysis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Used alone, the effectiveness of airbags in preventing fatalities is only about 14%.

Add even newer, pricier technologies that promise to help us humans avoid collisions. For example, collision-avoidance systems including radar, cameras, ultrasound and lidar are now available in many cars, with more on the horizon. Global sales of anti-crash sensors will total $9.90 billion in 2020 – up from $3.94 billion in 2014, predicts IHS Automotive, a research firm based in suburban Detroit. While there is some evidence that these technologies do help prevent collisions, it seems there is still no replacement for the effectiveness of the basic seatbelt.

There are many parallels in business technology. For instance, you could have all the encryption on your hard drives but your team is using ‘baseball’ as a password. Studies show that 80% of all data breaches are caused by weak passwords. This is by far our weakest link to data security. It’s like relying on airbags without using the seatbelt. No doubt encryption, like airbags, increases the effectiveness of securing your data when used with good passwords, but the seatbelt is by far is the easiest and most effective way to improve the odds of surviving a car crash. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by the noise – the effective marketing and the shiny new gadget featured on the nightly news. Once in a while it is good to step back, and remember that sometimes the simple solution can provide the best results.

Topic Articles