October 6th, 2015

164_B_Int RepYou may have heard the recent news that a dislike button is coming to Facebook. And while you may imagine that now customers will have the ability to dislike your post or even potentially your business fan page, the truth of the matter is not so black and white. Here’s what’s really happening with the Facebook “dislike button” and how it impacts your business.

For many years people have been clamoring for a dislike button on Facebook. But up until now, perhaps the world was not ready. According to research from Piper Jaffray and the Pew Research Center, the demographics of Facebook users have changed dramatically over the past decade. While 10 years ago the world’s most popular social media platform was frequented mostly by teenagers and early 20-somethings, today over 60% of Facebook users are over the age of 25. And you may have noticed that this change of user is reflected in the posts you likely see in your news feed. While users once posted more pictures of parties, now you’re more likely to see pictures of babies, news articles, or political stories.

So, why does this age difference matter? According to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, he didn’t want the social media network to turn into a forum where “people are voting up or down on people’s posts.” This could quite possibly have been the outcome had Facebook introduced a dislike button while it had a younger fan base.

Will users be able to dislike your business?

It is highly unlikely this will happen. Remember, Facebook is a publicly traded company that aims to turn a profit. Advertisers and brands would not be too happy if their ads or businesses were suddenly disliked, and Zuckerberg is undoubtedly aware of this.

What’s the point of the dislike button then?

To clarify, Zuckerberg never directly came out and said Facebook is getting a dislike button. Instead, he said they are working on a new button that will express sympathy or empathy. And with a now-older user base that’s more likely to share emotive news stories or sad news about family matters, it makes sense for a button like this to be introduced now. Here’s what the Facebook CEO had to say about the new button: “Not every moment is a good moment, right? And if you are sharing something that is sad…like the refugee crisis that touches you…it might not feel comfortable to Like that post.”

Be wary of third party offers to download a dislike button now

Be aware that a dislike button is not available now. While you or your employees may see ads from third parties offering early access to the “dislike button”, do not be fooled by them. If you are tricked into installing or signing up for them, you could risk your computer being infected with malware.

Want more social media news and advice on how to manage your reputation online? Call us today to talk with one of our experts.

Published with permission from Source.

October 5th, 2015

Office_Sep29_BCollaboration is at the heart of the modern business, and those organizations that perform well, get more done and have a healthier bottom line are those that communicate, share and work together most effectively. The latest release of Office 2016, recently made available by Microsoft, puts a renewed focus on tools that empower your employees to collaborate. Here’s the lowdown on the new tools Office 2016 brings to make collaboration easier.

Real-time collaborative editing

Office 2016 adds the collaborative feature that arguably makes its rivals as good as they are - it is now possible to co-author Office documents with colleagues in real time. Known as real-time presence, the feature works for documentations and presentations across both Word and PowerPoint. It also functions across multiple devices; an internet connection and access to Office 2016 are all that you need. In Word, you can also see others’ changes as they make them; to work in either application, though, the document must be stored on either OneDrive or SharePoint, rather than locally.

Simplified sharing

You can finally wave goodbye to the back-and-forth email tag that has been the mainstay of document sharing and collaboration for too long. You send your colleague a document by way of an email attachment, they download it and make their changes, save the file with a new name and then send it back - and so on and so forth. It’s enough to give even the most organized and tech-savvy among us a major headache. Office 2016 relieves this pain, and makes it simple to save files online with SharePoint or OneDrive, right from Office’s in-built ribbon pane.

More efficient email

Of course, for all the file-sharing features in the world, you’ll still need to email your business contacts on a regular basis. Office 2016’s Outlook makes it easy to filter out unwanted messages so that you can quickly see the emails that matter to you. Its Clutter feature learns from the way you use your email, and the way you deal with specific messages, to move to a special folder those messages that you are unlikely to need to deal with immediately. You can then navigate to the Clutter folder at your convenience in order to check through your emails to see which ones you need to take action on - daily and weekly notifications let you know what’s been decluttered on your behalf. Though Clutter won’t begin to do anything until it has a thorough understanding of your email behaviors (in order to avoid it incorrectly classifying useful messages as being of low importance), it’s of course possible to use it as another junk filter, keeping distracting messages out of view and you focused on your job.

While collaboration is at the center of the new developments built into Office 2016, the release includes plenty more besides that you’ll find useful. To discover more about Office 2016 and how to put it to use as a force for increased productivity in your business, just give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.

October 1st, 2015

GoogleApps_Oct1_BGoogle has changed a lot over the past years, from the range of products and services they offer to the evolution of their look and feel. Google was, and still is, globally recognized as a search engine and an ad-placement agency. But now the search engine giant has leveraged the power of cloud computing to offer a set of cloud-based applications for businesses called Google Apps for Work.

In a nutshell, Google Apps for Work is a cloud-based productivity suite and collaboration software application from Google that gives businesses all the benefits of cloud computing, including flexibility, scalability, and cost savings. Let’s take a closer look at all it has to offer.


Gmail is Google’s webmail service, with over 400 million users worldwide. Although Gmail is available free of charge, you can get extended features for a low monthly fee, including custom company email addresses, unlimited group addresses, 30GB of inbox storage, and 24/7 help desk support.


With Hangouts, you can have a chat or group chat with your coworkers, start face-to-face group video calling, and share your screen and documents. Accessible via both desktop and laptop computers and smaller devices like smartphones and tablets, Hangouts is a powerful video chat application that is efficient and simple to use.


Google Calendar allows you to stay in sync with your colleagues from anywhere, and on any device. These shareable calendars integrate seamlessly with Gmail, Drive, and Hangouts, so you can easily manage events, view and edit your schedule, and check your coworkers’ availability.


Google+ is a social network platform designed to help you connect, share, and collaborate with your team members. You can customize and filter the dashboard’s contents in a way that’s suitable for you.


Google Drive is an online cloud storage platform that enables you to store all of your files in one place. These files are accessible from anywhere, at any time, and from any web-enabled device. You can get as much storage as you need, and also view common file formats without having to install extra software on your device.


With Google Docs, you and your colleagues can work on the same documents, in real time, allowing for better collaboration and efficiency. You can also leave comments and communicate through a built-in chat box. What’s more, all edits and changes are automatically saved, and you can restore the revision history in an instant.


Google Sheets contains the fundamental functions of the popular Microsoft Excel application. Whether you’re looking to create spreadsheets and charts, perform calculations, or generate pivot table reports, Sheets has all these capabilities and so much more.


Creating surveys and forms online has never been easier. Forms allow you to build professional-looking surveys and questionnaires. You can collect answers by sending the URL to respondents. It’s that simple! You can track and analyze responses in real time in order to gain valuable insights from your surveys.


With Slides, you can work on a single presentation online with your colleague, your whole team, or even external contacts. You can also control who gets the permission to edit or view the slides with just a few clicks. Again, there is no software installation required.


Looking to create an internal website to train your new hires? Want to build a project site for your team? These can be done easily, and without needing any coding experience. Simply choose a template from Google Sites and determine what needs to be put in place to make your website successful.

For more information about Google Apps for Work and how you can integrate it into your business, give our tech professionals a call today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Google Apps
September 30th, 2015

Virtualization_Sep30_B When it comes to IT, it is always important to separate fact from fiction. Too often you will have IT people looking to get themselves a bigger piece of your budget by proposing technology solutions you don’t really need. Virtualization is one of those items you have probably heard about, but is it right for your company? Here are some of the facts and fiction about virtualization to consider.

Virtualization involves the creation of a virtual version of your operating systems, servers storage devices or network resources so here's what you need to know.

All virtualization is the same

FICTION - All virtualization is not the same. In fact, you will need to discuss with your IT person the aspects of your business you want to virtualize, in order to see what works best for you. For some companies, it only makes sense to virtualize servers and nothing else. On the other hand, some businesses will want to virtualize their desktops but keep their servers on-site. There are many different scenarios, and you need to find the one that works best for your business.

You can keep your current hardware/software/applications

FACT - Just because you virtualize one or more aspects of your IT doesn’t mean you will lose access to your current hardware, software or applications. As with anything, there are a few exceptions to this, but by and large it shouldn’t be a problem.

Technology flexibility is increased

FACT - Arguably the biggest benefit of virtualization is the flexibility you will have to put up and take down new servers as demand dictates. Like most companies, your business probably has peaks and valleys throughout the year; yet with physical servers, you have your capacity set regardless of if you're using them or not.

This can create a problem for businesses, as often times they end up with a server capacity that isn’t large enough to handle the peak season, but is too much for slow periods. With virtualized servers you are able to customize your capacity throughout the year, giving you unmatched flexibility.

Managing IT is easier

FICTION - You will still need dedicated IT personnel who know what they are doing, regardless of whether you embrace virtualization or not. Like every other aspect of IT, virtualized equipment must be maintained and looked after accordingly. If not, it can fail. If you decide to go through with virtualization, managing your IT won’t necessarily be easier - just different.

Virtualization will save you money

FACT and FICTION - Virtualization can save you money depending on what aspect of your business you decide to virtualize. The greatest savings come with server virtualization, which sees pricey physical servers phased out, and the corresponding electricity costs associated with them removed as well. Of course, virtualized servers might bring more operational costs with them as the infrastructure becomes more complex.

You should perform a cost-benefit analysis before switching over to virtualized desktops. If your company just invested in new computers a year or two a go, switching them for virtual machines probably isn’t the best use of money. However, if it is time to replace your desktops anyway, then going with virtual machines as part of a wide-sweeping office virtualization might a great way to save.

At the end of the day, virtualization is complex, and its benefits will vary from company to company. The positives can be quite exceptional under the right circumstances, but it isn’t the right technology for everyone.

If you're curious to see whether virtualization can help your business, or if you are looking for other IT solutions, contact us today for assistance.

Published with permission from Source.

September 28th, 2015

164_B_SMFor many small business owners, maintaining an active presence on social media can be a challenge. It takes time and money, and when you see little return on your investment it can be both perplexing and disheartening. If you’ve personally struggled with social media marketing, it may offer you some comfort to know you’re not alone. A recent survey reports that the problem is widespread.

Survey details

The survey was conducted by a small business directory and support network known as Manta. They surveyed 540 of their small business members with the aim of learning how much ROI these companies are gaining from social media marketing.

The results

Based on data on the 540 participants, 41% of businesses are receiving a return from social media marketing, which leaves nearly 60% with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. And as for the businesses that are gaining a return, over 80% earn less than $1,000 a month from their social media efforts. More surprisingly, close to half bring in less than $100 a month.

As a small business owner, should these numbers be cause for alarm? According to the CEO of Manta, John Swanciger, part of the reason the return is so low for most businesses is that their social media priorities are misguided. He notes that social media is less about bringing in new customers, and more about community building. "For a long time, the mantra was that social media could bring in new customers,” he says. “In reality, social media is a community builder, and your biggest fans are your already-loyal customers. When small businesses treat social media as the new word-of-mouth community, the real return will follow."

One of the oldest marketing tactics around is word-of-mouth marketing. Every day, people recommend products, restaurants and businesses they love to friends and family members. And social media is the perfect platform to cultivate your fans’ love of your brand. But according to the Manta survey, less than 8% of business owners cited building community as their primary social media goal.

So how do you build a community on social media?

Besides the obvious investments of time and money, here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Regularly post content that is valuable to your social media following - the keyword here being valuable.
  • Ask your followers questions to start conversations, and then engage with them. This builds a connection between your brand and customers.
  • Show your followers that you genuinely care about them, and they’ll likely do the same for you with glowing recommendations to friends and family.
Of course there is much more to it than this, but these quick tips can help you get started. If you’re struggling with your own social media efforts and would like to learn more, we’re happy to point your business in the right direction. Call us today to speak with one of our experts.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
September 23rd, 2015

AndroidTablet_Sep22_BThe advantages to businesses of putting tablets to use in the office can be huge - not least because of the mobility and flexibility enjoyed by being able to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Yet the cost of equipping an office full of staff with tablets can be prohibitive, at least until now. Amazon could be about to transform the industry with an Android tablet that sells for just $50. Here are the details on this radical move.

The seven-inch Amazon Fire tablet is due to launch on September 30, meaning it will be available just in time for the holiday season - great for individuals looking to treat themselves or loved ones, but also good news for businesses looking to use technology to increase efficiency ahead of the busy peak period.

Given the tablet’s budget positioning - with likenesses to Google’s stripped-back Chromebook, which performs basic functions but is of only limited use without an internet connection - it’s not surprising that it isn’t as powerful as more popular options. While its software is based on Android, the device actually runs on Amazon’s Fire OS 5 Bellini operating system. That means it does not support the Google Play apps used on the vast majority of Android tablets - which will be a drawback for some users - but it does work with the Amazon app store. Other key specs include a 1,024x600 pixel display, a 1.3Ghz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage that can be increased further by using a microSD card. According to Amazon, the Fire supports seven hours of battery life during moderate usage.

Perhaps most interesting, though, is the fact that the Fire comes with built-in advertising-based screensavers displaying Amazon promotions; a small additional payment is required to switch these off. Again, it’s hardly a shock to hear that there’s a semi-catch of this kind when the tablet itself only costs $50. It might also represent a shift in the market positioning of tablet devices, with more focus on business models similar to those of no-frills budget airlines and hotels, where extra payments are required for meals, seat selection, windows, towel rental and so on.

Either way, the Amazon Fire could be the way into tablet use for companies that need their employees to have the ability to work remotely and flexibly, but which don’t require the more intensive capabilities of pricier higher-end devices. To learn more about adapting mobile technology in your business in order to boost efficiency and productivity, give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.

September 21st, 2015

Business_Continuity_Sep21_BSomewhere in your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a section detailing what is expected from employees during a disaster. Unfortunately, many companies end up overlooking this aspect of their BCP and assume their staff knows what to do. This can lead to problems, as employees won’t necessarily perform the functions required to keep your company operating. Here are a few steps to take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

Step 1 - Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 - Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 - Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 - Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

Published with permission from Source.

September 9th, 2015

AndroidPhone_Sep09_BFollowing in the foodie footsteps of its predecessors comes Google’s latest operating system for Android devices - Android 6.0 M, otherwise known as Marshmallow. It’s the big sister of Lollipop, the operating system currently installed by most Android users. It’s likely to be some time before a release date is confirmed for the new operating system to be available for download to devices, but the Developer Preview has already been let out of the cage. Here’s what Google has in store for us when Marshmallow does eventually arrive.

Marshmallow was first announced at the Google I/O conference earlier this year, but it’s taken a while for a version to come through that’s ready for developers to get their hands on. However, that’s now happened, and the first publicly available release of the operating system is expected to be on the new Nexus 5 and 6 mobile devices in the coming weeks. Sadly, the rest of us are unlikely to have a crack at Marshmallow until the end of 2015 at the earliest. But when that time does come around, it’s packed with these developments.

Visual voicemail

No more dialing voicemail and listening for long-winded prompts - Marshmallow is set to offer visual voicemail functionality from right within the main phone app. That means you can see at a glance who has left you a message, listen to each voicemail, and quickly hit a button to get more information or call or text back - all without needing to wait for a long list of options to play out first. Since this feature requires work at the carrier’s end to enable compatibility, it’s expected to be available only on a handful of networks to begin with - but the list should grow as time goes on.

Screen rotation

Here’s something that competitor Apple has offered its users since even the earliest iterations of its devices - the simple ability to rotate the screen and use it in landscape as well as portrait view. It’s a wonder it’s taken Google this long to realize this was a big and frustrating gap in the Android’s functionality, but at least the wait is over. You’ll now be able to rotate the screen whether you’re on the home screen or deep in an app.

Improved app drawer

Previous releases of the Android operating system have switched up Apple’s conventional single-level, horizontal-scrolling app drawer - used for accessing apps that are already open - with a bigger and vertical-scrolling drawer. But until now this has been plagued by bugs and apparently poorly-thought-out design, with out-of-place alphabetical organization and an ineffective use of space. Marshmallow sees these fixed, with space for more icons on screen - meaning faster and simpler scrolling - and floating alphabetical icons that both save space and look cleaner.

When it’s finally released in full, Marshmallow will also pack in a range of other smaller updates. If you want to learn more about how to integrate Android devices into your business and optimize productivity in the process, just give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.

September 8th, 2015

164_Web_BAs we all spend more and more time on the Internet, business web presence is becoming increasingly important. And having a website is not enough anymore. If you’re not converting visitors into customers, your competition is likely snatching them up instead. So how can you create a website that converts and leads to greater profits? Here are five tips to point you in the right direction.

Make it mobile-friendly

These days, more and more of us are surfing the web on the go - via smartphones, tablets and laptops. And if you want a piece of this traffic, you need to make your design responsive to all mobile devices.

To give your visitors an enjoyable mobile experience, make sure your design adjusts to fit the screen of any device. Additionally, all elements of your website - pages, resources, actions, and so on - should be easily accessible. If they’re not, visitors will quickly become frustrated and click away to a competitor. And really, who can blame them? You’d probably do the same.

Make it easy for customers to contact you

That means displaying your phone number in the upper-right corner of every page, and providing a simple, easy-to-find contact form. While some people prefer not to list an email address for fear it will be picked off by spam robots, it can serve as another contact option for those who hate web forms. Whatever you choose, the two main ideas are options and ease. Give your visitors a choice, make it easy, and they will come.

Keep it simple

Have you started to notice a theme here? If you haven’t, it can be summed up in one word: easy. In today’s fast-paced world, people are busy. They don’t have time to navigate a complicated website, dig through dozens of pages to find a contact number, or try and figure out what it is that you’re selling because your mobile site doesn’t display content properly.

So when it comes to design, simplicity just makes sense. To produce the content of a simple website, every page, word, and image you create must have a singular purpose: to get visitors to contact you. Don’t waste time distracting them with excessive information, stupid games, or flashy animations. Instead, have a nice clean layout so they can understand what you’re offering quickly and can contact you with a click.

Include personal photos whenever possible

Say you have to choose between services offered by two different websites. They both sell the exact same thing, and the sites look virtually the same. The key difference is that one uses real photos of the owner and his or her staff, while the other uses generic stock images of business people. Assuming images from both sites are of the same quality, which one are you more likely to choose? Undoubtedly, you chose the real people.

So next time you have to choose between stock images and shooting real photos of you and your staff, invest some time and money in quality pictures taken at a studio - it’ll be worth every penny.

Move social media icons to the bottom of the page

Everyone loves throwing social media icons on their websites, and it’s not a bad idea to show your credibility. However, if you put these at the top of the page, your visitor is more likely to click on them immediately. Sounds cool, right? Wrong. When this happens, you just created an exit for them to leave your site and never return - we all know how easy it is to get distracted on social media. Instead, place your social media icons at the bottom of the page in the footer. Remember the goal of your website is to convert. If your visitor leaves before they get a chance to explore your services, content and offering, you’ve lost them before you ever even had them.

Want more tips and news about the web? Looking for a dependable IT provider? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Web
September 4th, 2015

Office365_Aug27_BWhile there are plenty of email services available today, businesses have been turning to Outlook in Office 365 for good reason: it allows users to stay connected with ease and, more importantly, safely and securely. But things just got even better, for Microsoft has rolled out new features for Outlook on the web, aiming to enhance efficiency and usability. Here, we take a look at the new features found in Outlook.

Cleaner UI

Outlook in Office 365 now features a simplified, cleaner user interface (UI) that aims to help you work more efficiently. A new Action bar is available across Mail, Calendar, People and Task experiences, for utmost convenience and ease of use. The Action toolbar provides quick access to commands like clearing your inbox, replying to an email or adding an event to your calendar.

The email subject line is larger and more prominent, and messages in the reading pane are now indented for easier reading. More buttons in Calendar allow for simpler navigation and quicker creation of new meetings.

Enhanced inbox control

New tools have been added to help you sort through your email and identify the most important items to tackle first.
  • Pin - you can now pin any message in your inbox to have it highlighted in yellow and kept at the top of your inbox. This keeps important messages handy and prevents them from getting lost in your inbox.
  • Sweep - provides a simple set of actions to manage emails from specific senders, great for managing recurring messages like newsletters and special promotions. You can choose to keep messages from a specific sender for a specified number of days, only keep the most recent message, or delete all messages from the sender.
  • Archive - quickly move messages out of the inbox to a folder of choice with one-click archiving.
  • Undo - undo unintended actions with a single click.
  • Improved single-line view - a preview of the message contents in line with the subject, allowing you to perform common actions in bulk and more quickly.
  • Immersive reading pane - when in single-line view, clicking a message now displays the message in the same window.

Visually engaging emails

Outlook in Office 365 now provides the ability to easily resize images, add custom borders, apply shadow effects, rotate images, and more. Emojis have also been added, so you can express yourself better than ever before. You can also find the people you want to reach more easily; when you place your cursor on the recipient line, Outlook shows a list of the people and distribution groups you most commonly email. The list of recipients is automatically refined as you type, and adapts as the people you email change over time.

Calendar improvements

Calendar now features a five-day weather forecast. Icons next to each day give you a quick look at the forecast, and clicking on one will show a more detailed view. Calendar now supports charms - icons you can choose from to apply as visual cues that help you quickly identify different types of events. For instance, you can add an airplane charm to an upcoming flight, a music note for a piano class, and so on.

You can also create email reminders for any Calendar event and specify the recipient list, include a quick message, and set the day and time you want the email reminder to be sent. Birthday and holiday calendars are also available, and can be either overlaid across your work calendar or viewed separately.

Better mobile browser experience

A number of UI and navigational improvements has been made to enhance the mobile browsing experience, including updates to more closely resemble the UI of Outlook apps on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Navigation has been improved in order to simplify switching between Mail, Calendar and People, and comes along with more prominent search commands. A better UI allows for the simpler creation of new events and ease of using the scheduling assistant in Calendar, and the Time strip has been updated to show the full week within the calendar. You can now switch between emails without returning to the message list, too.

Looking to learn more about Office 365, its applications and how they can benefit your business? Talk to one of our Office 365 experts; contact us today.

Published with permission from Source.