Blog

March 23rd, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Mar23_BBusinesses can face disasters at the most unexpected times, whether that’s a flash flood that takes down your servers or a sudden power outage during a thunderstorm. And when these events do happen, you as a business owner must have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place, to ensure that your company doesn’t go out of business for good. But for most people who are new to business continuity, words and terms used by BCP experts may sound like a different language. Here are some popular business continuity terms that are often tossed around.

Battle box - a tool box where necessary equipment and vital information are stored. These objects and pieces of information should be useful in a disaster. Typical items include a first aid kit, laptop, protective equipment, and communication devices.

Business impact analysis (BIA) - a process to evaluate the impact that a disaster may have on a business. The BIA shows what a business stands to lose if some parts of its functions are missing. It allows you to see the general picture of your business processes and determine which ones are the most important.

Call tree - a comprehensive list of employee contacts and their telephone numbers. Call trees are used to notify out-of-office employees about a disaster. Companies can use a software program to contact people on the call tree by sending automated emails and text messages. In order for a call tree to work, employees should provide alternative contact options and their information must be up to date.

Data mirroring - a duplication of data from its source to another physical storage solution or the cloud. Data mirroring ensures that crucial information is safe, and companies can use the copied data as backup during a disaster.

Exercise - a series of activities designed to test a company’s business continuity plan. When an exercise is carried out, there will be an evaluation to decide whether a BCP is meeting standards or not. An exercise can identify gaps in, and the drawbacks of, a BCP and is therefore used as a tool to revise and improve a business continuity plan.

Hot site - an alternate location equipped with computers, communication tools and infrastructures to help a business recover information systems affected by the disaster.

Plan maintenance - a process of maintaining a company’s business continuity plan so that it is in working order and up to date. Plan maintenance includes scheduled reviews and updates.

Recovery time objective (RTO) - a period of time in which companies must recover their systems and functions after a disaster. This is the target time for a business to ideally resume its delivery of products and services at an acceptable level. RTO may be specified in business time (e.g. one business day) or elapsed time (e.g. elapsed 24 hours).

Business continuity plans can be a hassle to design and implement without proper understanding of their requirements. If you want to learn how you can protect your business from disasters, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2015

iPad_Mar20_BFor a long time in the mobile world, it seemed like the only way was smaller. Phones became more miniscule with each and every version released - yet the truth is that reduced size comes at the cost of functionality. Then along came the smartphone, which increased size back to sensible levels but brought with it swathes of apps and other new uses - suddenly a phone was more than just a phone. Now we’re in the age of the tablet and, while things may seem to have been once again erring towards the miniature of late, here’s why you might want to stick with your full-sized iPad for the time being. Better still, opt for a new iPad Air 2.

It’s big enough to share

Whether in meetings or on the go, the full sized iPad screen is better suited to showing documents, images and web sites to others. The iPad Mini may be more easily portable, but its screen size is comparable to that of the iPhone 6, and a phone just isn’t the best platform for displaying information to a group. The screen size on models like the iPad Air makes this much easier and more effective.

It takes great photos

For some time, the iPad camera seemed inferior to that of the iPhone. But the iPad Air 2 changes all that - the 9 Megapixel camera makes it perfect for photo needs in the office. We’re thinking instant capturing of whiteboard scribbles at the end of a brainstorming session, quickly and efficiently scanning documents, and maybe just the odd workplace selfie. It’s suddenly comparable to the camera power of the iPhone and superior to that of the iPad Mini. Combine that with the bigger screen, and the business productivity advantages of the full-sized iPad Air 2 are plain to see.

It’s a productivity machine

Again it comes partly down to the full-sized screen, but a more generously proportioned iPad - whether that’s the new iPad Air 2 or an older model - is simply better for getting the job done. While the iPad Mini boasts the same resolution as the iPad Air 2, the latter’s extra screen area gives you more space to work with. The Mini offers the same amount of limited room for maneuver as the latest iPhone model, which is fine when you’re on the move and want to complete a quick task on the fly, but less so when you need to get serious work done. The larger screen allows you to drag and drop information, move things around and switch between multiple applications at ease.

Getting the highest levels of productivity out of your technology is all about selecting the gear that works best for you. Want to learn how to best deploy iPads and other Apple devices in your business? Give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
March 20th, 2015

VoIPGeneral_Mar20_BAs a small or medium business, you know that costs and overheads need to be kept to a minimum if you’re going to keep the lights on. And let’s face it, if you had the opportunity to knock out some routine business expenses, you would likely do it. VoIP gives you the chance to do just that. If traditional phone line costs are adding up, why not get rid of your system altogether and make your business more efficient by using VoIP for all your telephony needs? Here is how and why this may be a better option.

What is VoIP?

To truly understand how VoIP can help your business, you must first know what it is. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. All that means is that you’re essentially able to talk with others over an Internet connection instead of a traditional phone line. Yes, you can still use your actual phone handset, as well as your tablet or computer. The major difference is in the way the call is transmitted.

VoIP lowers costs

The biggest advantage of VoIP is that your business will save a bundle on costs. VoIP takes efficiency to a whole new level. Since you’ll be receiving phone calls over the Internet, you’ll cut out the expense of a phone line altogether and instead consolidate both your Internet and voice communication costs. To do this, however, you’ll need to upgrade to a high-speed Internet connection (if you don’t have one already), which will of course cost extra money. But knocking out the expense of your phone line will likely be much more cost-effective for your business overall.

If your business makes international calls regularly, VoIP is even more of a no brainer. With VoIP, international calling costs are significantly reduced and in some cases even free. Skype, which is similar to VoIP, is a perfect example of the latter.

Statistically speaking, VoIP services have helped many businesses lower costs dramatically. For some, local call expenses have been reduced by up to 40% and for international calls by a whopping 90%. How’s that for savings?

Many, better features than traditional phones

In addition to reduced costs, VoIP also offers a wide array of innovative features that surpass those of a traditional phone line. While listing them all would take several pages, three notable ones are virtual numbers, call routing and improved conference calls.
    • Virtual numbers - A virtual number allows you to easily have a local number anywhere in the world. That means if you have a large market of clients in London, you can actually get a local London number with the area code of your choice. When someone in the UK dials this number, it will transfer to your phone - whether your business is actually in Seattle or Toronto. This makes it easy for your customers to contact you and will likely garner more business, since we all know customers like things to made as easy as possible for them.
    • Call routing - If you’ve ever worried about missing an important phone call, call routing will have you breathing a long sigh of relief. With this feature, an incoming call will be transferred to multiple devices of your choice. So if your office desk phone rings when you’re not there, that same call will then ring on your mobile, home phone, iPad and other devices before going to voicemail.
    • Better conference calls - With VoIP and a high speed Internet connection, you can include an unlimited number of people on conference calls. And even better, you can also use video conferencing so you can see your colleagues or clients in person.
Interested in learning more about how VoIP can work for your business? Call us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 19th, 2015

Virt 164_BYou’ve heard of Cloud Computing and Virtualization, but you’re not sure which is best for your business. In fact you’re not even sure what the difference is between the two. If either of these thoughts have crossed your mind, then it’s time to get educated and learn how these modern technologies can boost your business. And more importantly, learn which one is better suited to your organization’s immediate future.

The difference between Cloud Computing and Virtualization

To understand which technology you need, you first need to understand the role of that technology in your business.

Virtualization is basically using virtual hardware or software stored off-site, instead of the actual physical asset being in your office. A common asset many organizations choose to virtualize is a server. So if you’re thinking about buying a new server, you may want to consider investing in a virtual one instead. The advantage of this is that you’ll free up office space and save money on the upfront expense of an in-house server as well as its maintenance costs.

Cloud Computing, on the other hand, is not about individual assets, but instead is an operational model. Your business will run through the Cloud, where employees can create documents, interact with each other and customers, and even store files and data. The main advantage of the Cloud is that it increases operational efficiency and boosts organizational productivity.

Arguments for virtualizing

If you’re considering either the Cloud or Virtualization and have done neither, it makes sense to think about Virtualization first. With both Virtualization and the Cloud, you’re essentially changing the architecture of your business - from physical to virtual. Virtualization, however, is a small change, while Cloud Computing is a more dramatic one. If you opt for going all in with the Cloud right away, it may be a bit mind jarring for some of your staff as they get used to the new technology. And this could slow down their productivity. Virtualizing a few technology assets, instead of your entire workflow system, is an easier way to get a grasp of working with virtual technology for the first time.

A more fundamental reason to choose Virtualization is that you’re just looking to create more office space. In this case Virtualization is a no-brainer.

Arguments for the Cloud

If your organization gets to the point of needing to add virtualized machines or servers quickly, the Cloud can automate this process. However, your IT department must be ready and willing to hand this process over to your end users.

Also, if your organization has been using virtualized machines for some time or is simply ready to overhaul its workflow and operational process altogether, then the Cloud is likely a better fit for your business.

Which is the best choice for your business?

What it comes down to is operational efficiency (Cloud Computing) or saving money and space on individual assets (Virtualization). What’s more important to you?

And do you have a progressive organization and staff that are ready to adapt to using virtual technologies? If not, then Virtualization may be the initial step you need to start changing your organization’s infrastructure to compete in the modern business world.

Want to learn more about Virtualization and Cloud Computing? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 18th, 2015

Security_Mar18_BWith the threat of sophisticated intrusion on the rise, there has never been a more important time to be vigilant about IT security. Whether it’s selecting a difficult-to-guess password and then changing it frequently, or remembering to properly log out of social networking sites when using a shared computer, there are plenty of simple steps we can all take to better protect ourselves online. Nowhere is this more vital than when using online banking systems or mobile payment portals. If you’re a user of peer-to-peer payment provider Venmo, you’ll be pleased to hear the service just gave you the benefit of extra security protection.

The Venmo platform is known for its convenience and ease of use, and is commonly used to split the cost of drinks, dinner, taxis and the like. The app is now adding a raft of new security-focused features, in response to criticism of its record for ensuring the security of its customers and their financial transactions.

Back in February, a Venmo user discovered his account had been hacked and used to withdraw almost $3,000 from his credit card. The intruder had also thought to change the email address associated with the Venmo account and to disable notifications of payments, but Venmo did not tell the genuine user about the changes that had been made. Venmo was decried for letting basic lapses in security exist in its trendsetting platform.

Now the service is doing what it can to pick up the pieces and up the ante on the security front. The most obvious change is to incorporate automatic email notifications when changes are made to the basic personal details associated with a Venmo account - a feature which many believe should have been built in from the word go. But the app will also add multi-factor authentication, another name for the two-step verification that can be enabled within Google Apps and other services. This feature makes it more difficult for would-be intruders to gain access to your account, even if they manage to get hold of your password.

Multi-factor authentication works by requiring not only your password for login, but also a second piece of information such as a one-time code - often generated on-the-spot and sent by SMS to the user’s cell phone - or the answer to a pre-set security question. Insisting on two phases to the sign-in process allows another opportunity to stop potential fraudsters in their tracks. The changes being implemented by Venmo also reflect the growing awareness on the part of technology companies for the need to get serious about security and protect the integrity of their systems and their users’ data.

You can put multi-factor authentication to use in your IT systems to keep your business protected. Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 16th, 2015

SocialMedia_Mar16_BRemember years ago when you first saw a number sign followed by an unspaced phrase popping up online? Who would have thought that hashtags would turn out to be one of the most useful tools on social media platforms today. In fact, different social media sites utilize hashtags in different ways. Take a look at how you can make the most of hashtags for your business on different social media platforms.

Twitter

Twitter hashtags don’t support special characters like +, !, $, %, -, ^, &, * but do support letters, numbers and underscores. There are no hashtag limits as long as you keep your message within the usual 140 characters.

The best way to use hashtags in Twitter is through hosting and participating in Twitter chats. You don’t need to be in an event to network with people through the official hashtag; event organizers usually market the official hashtag very well. In other words, you’ll get additional exposure if you use it.

Useful Twitter hashtag tools include:

Hashtagify which tracks trending hashtags and shows related hashtags for any base terms you provide. TwChat lets you discover, participate in and host Twitter chats. This is best used for monitoring and archiving any hashtag streams.

Instagram

Just like Twitter, Instagram hashtags don’t support special characters like +, !, $, %, -, ^, &, *, but do support letters, numbers and underscores. You can add up to 30 hashtags to a single photo or tag your photo after publishing it by listing the hashtags in the comments.

After you tag your post with a hashtag, you’ll be able to tap on the hashtag to see a page that shows all photos and videos people have uploaded with the same hashtag. Instagram hashtags can dramatically increase your following, especially if you use hot and trending hashtags which are easily found here.

The best use of hashtags on Instagram is to participate in hashtag games like #tbt (Throwback Thursday) and #MondayBlues. Both can increase your following and interactions since people click on these specific hashtags to see photos of other participants. Additionally, location-based hashtags also work very well on Instagram, whether abbreviated or in full, for example #LA and #LosAngeles.

Facebook

Facebook hashtags are similar to other social platforms; they support the standard set of characters including numbers, letters and underscore but don’t support special characters.

However, searching by hashtag on Facebook is a little unlike the rest, in that when you search for a hashtag you often end up on a Facebook page instead of a hashtag search result page. But there’s an easier way to generate hashtag search results - simply add the hashtag text after facebook.com/hashtag/, for example facebook.com/hashtag/cats.

You can also bring up hashtag search results by clicking on any hashtag in your Facebook stream. Do keep in mind that Facebook’s ranking algorithm is complex and seems to classify hashtags according to how closely you are related to the person posting the update, as well as how often the two of you interact.

The growing use of hashtags has changed how we use different social media platforms for the better. Still, it’s important to understand how these different platforms make use of hashtags in order to optimize them to your business’s advantage. Looking to learn more about how social media can help your business? Contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 13th, 2015

Facebook_Mar13_BBusinesses have used Facebook to reach their potential customers for many years, and it works well. Whether your goal is to build the reputation of your brand, boost sales, or find new customers, Facebook allows you to do all this with ease. But recently Facebook has decreased the amount of organic reach for pages. While you can pay advertising fees to make your posts visible to a larger audience, you can save on costs by improving the quality of your posts to engage your fans.

In recent months, Facebook has again changed its news feed and pages algorithm, which has resulted in decreased visibility for many companies’ posts. The good news is that you can re-engage with your fans by applying these simple tips to your Facebook posts.

Plan your calendar

You’ll want to devise a weekly or monthly post schedule containing ideas of things to write about. A content calendar is an easy way to make sure you post regularly, and will ensure that your posts are well-planned and interesting. Without a calendar, you’ll find it hard to write when you need to - and no content means no visitors!

Offer value

Facebook is a great way to advertise updates about your company, but don’t get carried away. People don’t want to read long and boring reports about your business’s performance. You need to create value by posting content that revolves around your business, such as product tips, sales events, demonstration videos and photos, while still being relevant and interesting to Facebook users. Be as creative as you wish, but the key is to write posts that give real value to your readers. This builds your credibility and reputation, and there’s a good chance you’ll get repeat visitors to your business page, as well as have readers share your posts to their own profiles.

Keep it short

Nowadays, businesses strive to get their content visible on Facebook’s news feed - and it can get very crowded. Most people tend to scan their news feed quickly and skip the lengthy posts. Facebook itself says that posts of between 100 and 250 characters get more engagement, and shorter and succinct posts are better received. So it’s important to keep your posts short and to the point.

Schedule posts

Facebook has a ‘schedule post’ function, which you can use to your advantage. If you’re feeling extra productive, and have created posts for an entire week, you can schedule them to post automatically at specified times. Scheduling posts help you maintain a consistent presence for your readers.

Want to learn how your business can benefit from a Facebook business page? Get in touch with us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Facebook
March 13th, 2015

InternetSocialNetworkingandReputationManagement_Mar13_BStill trying to crack the code to social media superstardom for your business? If you’re struggling to find strategies that work, then prepare to take notes. There are some integral tactics and principles that have the power to turn your social media efforts around. We’ve got the lowdown on how to grow your social media fan base and get your business the attention it needs and deserves.

Why social media is a must for marketing your small and medium business Social media is at the forefront of the “soft sell” revolution. In fact, social media advertising can sometimes be such a soft sell that, when you’re on the receiving end, you may not even know you’re being sold anything in the first place. For example, you may have a friend who posts fun articles from their blog or pictures of their artwork (that they actually make a profit from) on Facebook. You may enjoy their content so much that you decide to share it and pass it along to friends and family. Know what you just did? You just became a marketer for their business. That simple share may just have garnered them a new customer and more profits.

This is why it’s an absolute must to carve out your piece of the pie in social media. You’ll grow your fanbase, and potentially create a following of loyal supporters who are happy to market your business - some of whom won’t even be aware they’re doing it. Here are a couple of tips on how to grow your social media audience.

Publish content

Every piece of content you publish is an advertisement for your business, regardless of whether you’re directly selling a product or sharing fun information. Not only that, but if you publish valuable content often, your readers will know you’re a reliable go-to source for information on your topic. That leads to a good reputation, people spreading the word about you and, consequently, referrals. You’ll grow your fanbase and online presence simultaneously.

Be human, be genuine

Trust is key. To become a player in social media, your audience needs to trust you. And if you want long term success in social media, that trust needs to be genuine. People can smell a faker, even over the Internet.

So be human and genuine with your customer interaction and published content on social media. If you do, you’ll develop a fan base that truly loves you and will be spread the word about your business without being prompted.

Think about it, how many times have you recommended a business that you love to one of your friends or family? When you did this, you didn’t believe you were marketing someone’s brand, but helping your friend or family member out. You wouldn’t have done this if you didn’t trust this business or believe their product or solution to be genuine.

Give back

To take the point above a step further, why not do a community service project in your local city or town? This gives you an opportunity to document the experience on social media. As mentioned above, this content is free advertising. And if you do something that is unique and genuinely helps your community, people are likely going to share it - growing your fan base in the process. In the end not only do you win, but also your fans and community.

Want more social media tips to help you garner an outstanding online reputation? Get in touch and see how we can assist.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 12th, 2015

Office_Mar12_BMac users have a reason to celebrate - after a long wait since its last update in 2011, the Microsoft Office for Mac suite of productivity applications has been given a makeover. The latest look brings on board the power of the cloud to take Office to new levels for Apple fans, including a move to deliver an experience that’s closer to that of the Windows version of the package. Better still, you can upgrade for free while it’s still in preview stage - here are some of the killer features of Office for Mac 2016.

Cloud power

Office for Mac 2016 takes the power of the cloud and puts it to full use, bringing the advantages of its cloud-oriented Office 365 applications to its flagship package. As a result, you can now access your Office documents whenever and wherever, and no matter which device you are using. Aside from Office 365, the new software is also integrated with OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint.

It’s now possible to jointly author Word and PowerPoint documents with colleagues, and to make challenges simultaneously. Much like Google Docs, you can run a chat conversation alongside the document, in order to discuss the changes you are each making. Word and PowerPoint automatically flag up updates to the document that you might not have spotted already. These features are already available to Windows-based users of Office.

Sharing documents also becomes simpler, with a dedicated sharing button in the applications’ top right corner that allows you to invite colleagues to collaborate on the document you’re working on. It’s possible to share a document either as an attachment or as a link, and of course to control access rights for each person to whom you give access. You can open others’ Office documents right from your email account and get straight to editing.

Ribbon refresh

Until now, there have been differences in the options available on the ‘ribbon’ of icons that appear beneath the File, Edit and other menus at the top of the screen. You might see one thing on your Mac but another on your PC, and another still on your tablet. With Office for Mac 2016, Microsoft has taken the opportunity to fix those inconsistencies, so you’ll now find the options you need in the same places across all the platforms you use. A new task pane is also intended to help simplify graphics editing.

Email grouping

The updates to Outlook, and OneNote too, were actually released in 2014 and so are technically not new with this release. But one such useful update that is carried through to Office for Mac 2016 is the organization of Outlook emails by conversation, as is the case with Gmail. Emails can be sorted using a variety of other criteria, too.

Presentation aids

Office for Mac 2016 makes life a little easier for those presenting using PowerPoint slides. While your audience is shown the final product on your big screen, you can benefit from having ‘presenter view’ open on your monitor. This dedicated view gives you access to all of your presentation’s slides, any associated notes and also a timer to help you keep pace.

The entire suite of Office for Mac 2016 applications - including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook - is available for free upgrade during Microsoft’s preview period, which runs until later this year. Once that comes to an end, you’ll need an Office 365 subscription or perpetual licence in order to keep making the most of the package’s features.

To find out more about boosting your company’s productivity with Microsoft Office applications, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 9th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Mar09_AYou’ve been putting that business continuity plan off for months now, but you’ve finally decided to go through with it. You start by talking to members of your staff, partners and service providers. And it doesn’t take long to see that everyone has a different opinion about what to recover first when disaster strikes. The head of your IT department demands your servers are top priority, while your Vice President argues that without network security being reestablished pronto, your business is left vulnerable to even further damage. Who’s right? It may be difficult to decide. That’s why we’ve compiled these fundamental ideas to consider when drafting your business continuity plan.

Speak to many members of your organization

And not just your IT department - which may sound like a bit of an oxymoron coming from an IT provider’s blog. However, the reason behind this is simple. Suppose you have an IT staff member called Jane, who is responsible for a series of applications that automate your e-commerce system. If you call a business continuity meeting concerning to identify assets to prioritize during a disaster, what do you think Jane will say? She’ll likely point to her group of applications, since to her this is what she prioritizes and spends her days on. And it’s not just Jane; each staff member will probably voice that their particular job (whether that’s security, server maintenance or something entirely different) needs to be prioritized. It’s human nature to think of your responsibility and role first. We all do it.

The key is to get more than one opinion. It’s not a bad idea to start with the leaders of your company, and then work your way down. Leaders generally think in a broader sense about your organization as a whole, rather than one particular facet of it.

Consider where your business is going

When developing your business continuity plan, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about your business as it is today. While you’ll draft your plan in the present, it needs to be created with the future in mind. For example, if you’re considering joining the Cloud or virtualizing your servers in the next year or so, how is this going to impact your plan? It’s smart to think of this sooner rather than later, as it could cause a major shift in your priorities. If you start deploying your business continuity plan but then have to switch gears further down the line, it’ll likely cost your company a lot of money.

Examine the interdependency of your business

Remember to connect the dots between your IT department and business processes. For instance, if your email system can’t run without the use of a particular IT application, it will do no good for you to have your email system as a priority 1 issue and that IT application as a priority 3. In this scenario, the IT application would need the same priority as the email system - if not higher, or else your email system will simply not work.

The point is to map out the interdepencies of your business processes and IT, so that you know what depends on what. That way you’re not left in a pickle when disaster strikes.

Need help getting started with your business continuity plan? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.