October 12th, 2015

BusinessValue_Oct12_BEstablishing a well-thought-out search engine optimization (SEO) strategy goes a long way in ensuring your website gets the top spot in search results. Unfortunately, most business owners fail to recognize the importance of SEO, and are taken in by get-ranked-quick schemes that will not only damage their website reputation but also get them penalized by major search engines. Here are seven well-known SEO pitfalls you need to avoid at all cost.

You skip the keyword brainstorming phase

This is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make in your website creation plan. By not spending time on researching relevant keywords from the start, you are missing out on the opportunity to potentially generate a large amount of traffic. Without a comprehensive keyword list in hand, you will find it hard to add more keywords as your website grows and gains more authority.

Your content has too little or too much text

There’s no fixed formula when it comes to the length of your content - the number of words can vary greatly depending on your audience and the type of your website. The general rule of thumb, however, is to write content that is valuable for your visitors. Make sure your pages only contain relevant information, and don’t try to cram text just to put more copy on the page, because search engines will have a hard time identifying relevant content.

You’re using black-hat SEO techniques

It may be tempting to go after cheap practices that promise quick results, also known as black-hat SEO techniques. These methods include keyword stuffing, hidden keyword text, link buying, and so on. Some of these techniques may actually work, but only in the short run. Search engines are aware of black-hat schemes, and are continuously improving their algorithms to weed out websites that don’t abide by their guidelines to deliver the best user experience. So it’s best to focus your efforts on building a clean and stable SEO strategy.

You’re expecting quick results

Success doesn’t come easy in the SEO world. Ranking high in search results necessitates spending a substantial amount of time and effort. Don’t expect to earn a position on the first page of search engines immediately or overnight, because it will likely take months to see results. Be patient, and focus on creating great content and abiding by SEO best practices.

You’re not using blogging as a strategy

Most businesses don’t really have the chance to update their website often. Why? Because they can’t really update their “About Us” or their service pages as frequently as they would like - so their websites are just going to stand there dormant and outdated. The problem with this is that search engines don’t like inactive sites. If you have a blogging strategy, however, you have the opportunity to add a page, or pages, to your site at least once a month, if not once a week or better yet daily! The more new pages you add to your website, the more chance you have of getting higher rankings, which translates into more traffic and more leads.

Your website has an inefficient structure

Without a good website structure strategy, you’ll have a hard time trying to organize new categories, as well as information and promotional pages. Having a bloated and scattered site structure won’t do you any good when it comes to SEO, because you’ll only make it harder for visitors to navigate around your website.

You’re not going responsive

Search engines are now taking responsiveness into account when determining rankings. A responsive website adapts its page layouts to fit all screen resolutions and sizes, whether it’s being viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can greatly enhance the user experience and decrease bounce rates (the percentage of visitors who leave the website after visiting only one page). So if your website is not mobile-friendly, then it’s time to seriously consider a responsive design.

There are so many factors involved in search engine rankings, some of which are beyond your control. The important thing is to avoid making these SEO mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to online success. Want more SEO tips and techniques to add value to your business? Get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from Source.

October 9th, 2015

Browsers_Oct8_BWhether it's Chrome, Firefox or Safari, you use your web browser everyday. But what you might not know is that, each time you surf the web, you give your personal data to unsecure sites and risk having that data tracked. Failure to protect your online privacy can result in data breaches, malware attacks, and other mischief hackers are looking to cause. So what do you do? Browser extensions are your safest bet, and here we take a look at the best ones.

AdBlock Plus (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)

AdBlock Plus blocks ads, scripts and popups on your browser. It kills third-party scripts and widgets that send your data to who-knows-where. Be careful you use it properly, the extension can break the sites you read, which is why you have to first figure out what to allow and what to block. AdBlock Plus also stops you from visiting known malware-hosting domains, and it allows power users to play with different subscription lists while basic users can just enable it and walk away. Best of all, it is completely free.

Disconnect (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)

Disconnect Private Browsing protects you from tracking, malware and malvertising while offering secure Wi-Fi and bandwidth optimization features. Third party tracking cookies become a thing of the past, and you can enjoy total control over all site scripts and elements from a user-friendly toolbar menu. You’re completely guarded from ads injected by malware or ad networks that are hijacked by embedded malware.

Disconnect also protects you from tracking by social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google, which use your browsing experience even when off-site in order to collect data about you. What’s more, you’ll never have to worry about sidejacking, which is where an attacker uses stolen cookies to access your personal data without having to know your password. Available in free version and Premium, the main difference is that Premium adds mobile malware blocking and tracking to its arsenal, too.

HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome/Firefox/Opera)

One of the must-have tools for your browsing experience, HTTPS Everywhere shunts your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit. This protects your browsing experience and online privacy without you really having to do anything. Updates have also just been rolled out to keep you safe on thousands more sites around the web, and this extension is free for download.

Tunnelbear (Chrome)

This Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts all of your internet traffic, secures your browser data, and offers robust protection from prying eyes. Best of all, this won’t cost you a dime. Unfortunately, though, Tunnelbear is only available on Chrome at the moment; Safari and Firefox users will have to wait a little longer for this extension to come their way.

Web of Trust (Chrome/Firefox/Safari/IE)

Web of Trust (WOT) is a free extension that ranks sites by reputation and shows you whether a specific site has been known to host malware, or is loaded with tracking cookies and scripts that could wreak malware or adware havoc on your system.

If you’ve been browsing the web without any protection, or feel like your online privacy is at risk, talk to one of our experts and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Browsers
October 7th, 2015

Security_Oct2_BPopular mobile instant messaging app WhatsApp was at the center of a recent security breach which saw the information of as many as 200 million users potentially exposed to the mercy of hackers and malware. The threat, which affected the recently launched web-based version of WhatsApp, was detected by an IT security firm in Israel and patched up before news of it became public. Yet it serves as a reminder to remain vigilant when using web and mobile apps, whether for business or pleasure. Here’s what you need to know.

The web-based version of the WhatsApp app was only launched a few months back, initially for WhatsApp accounts on Android and Windows Phone devices and later for those on iPhones, but has already grown in popularity. The recent security vulnerability related to vCards, electronic business cards shared by WhatsApp users, and effectively amounted to a kind of phishing.

An error in the WhatsApp web client meant that less-than-innocuous vCard business cards created by hackers were not properly filtered out by the app. As a result, these phishing-style cards made it through to users who, if they clicked them, were at risk of the cards converting themselves to more harmful executable scripts once downloaded - and potentially accessing and playing foul with users’ personal data. There are even reports of a ransomware approach being taken by hackers in this case, with attempts being made to extort cash from WhatsApp users in exchange for restored access to their infected devices and hijacked data.

WhatsApp put a fix in place, by releasing an updated version of the app, prior to making public news of the security vulnerability. It’s worth making sure you have the latest version of WhatsApp installed on your phone, if you haven’t checked recently - WhatsApp’s phone and web versions are linked to one another, so ensuring you are up-to-date on your phone is the way to ensure you’re safe when using the web client too. The patch is also available directly through the web client, though this won’t update your phone’s version of the app at the same time.

The whole affair also serves as a timely reminder that it pays to be vigilant when it comes to using WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms - including email. Avoid opening links or downloading files that you’re not expecting to receive, and proceed with caution even if you were anticipating them. It’s better to double check with the sender that they’re consciously passing a file to you, and that they’re fully aware of its contents, than to wait until your device has been infected and damage has potentially been inflicted on your vital data.

Want to learn how to keep your devices safe from phishing attempts and other potential security vulnerabilities? Give us a call and let us equip you with tamperproof solutions.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
October 7th, 2015

VoIP General_Oct7_BSwitching from a traditional phone system to a VoIP one is actually easier than you might think. There isn’t much equipment necessary for installation, and training your staff doesn’t require all that much effort either. Of course, before you make the switch, you’ll need to give some thought to whether or not it will actually be of use to your company. These are a few of the signs that your business could benefit from VoIP.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, has been helping businesses communicate more effectively for a few years now. You probably use it in your personal life, with applications like Skype, but your company just might be able to take advantage of the technology as well. Look for these signs that might indicate your business is ready to make the jump to VoIP.

Your number doesn’t match your target area

As your business expands, it can be easy to forget that your phone number will stay static. This may not seem like a big deal when conducting business in your own neighborhood, but what happens when your company’s reach expands beyond its original area code? Chances are prospective clients who don’t reside in your current area code aren’t too inclined to call another one.

Despite the fact that most cell phone packages now include free long-distance calling, there is still a stigma around dialing those three extra, and unfamiliar, numbers, for fear of extra charges. The only way around this with a traditional telephony solution is to set up another office and install a new phone system in that area code.

However, with a VoIP telephony solution, you can get a number in just about any area code imaginable and have it direct back to your office. If your business covers a greater area, you can opt for a toll-free number which means customers everywhere will never worry about having to pay to call your office.

You employees use personal devices at work

It is commonplace for employees to use a cell phone to take work calls when they aren’t in the office. However, unless you have issued cell phones to your staff, there probably isn’t a reason for them to use their personal devices to talk to clients while at the office. If this is happening, there are two things you need to consider.

You first need to think about the fact that you have no way to monitor your employees’ phone usage and behavior. Are they dealing with clients in a friendly and polite manner? Are they keeping with your company’s message when speaking on the phone? Are they even talking to customers at all?

The second issue is figuring out why employees aren’t using your phone system. Chances are it has to do with some usability or performance issues that ought to be addressed. There is no point in spending money on your current phone system if it isn’t being used by your staff anyway.

Switching to a VoIP telephony solution can take care of both issues. For starters, it will provide an easy-to-use phone system for your office with far more features than you currently have.

More importantly, for staff who still wish to use their cell phones, calls can be forwarded from their work number to their personal device. This allows you to keep track of their usage without forcing them to give up their preferred method of communication. Since the call is still going through the VoIP phone system, you’ll also be able to monitor it should you wish to.

Clients can’t reach you

Sure, your clients probably have your work, cell and home phone numbers, but that doesn’t mean they want to call them all trying to get a hold of you. VoIP can give your clients anytime access to you with a couple of different features. The find me/follow call routing system will see your work phone ring a few times, followed by your cell and then home phone, until you pick up or the call goes to voicemail. You can also set it up to have incoming calls ring on all your phones at once - useful if you would rather be able to pick up your calls on whichever device is most convenient at the time.

Give us a call and we’ll show you how to pick up the phone on all types of VoIP and IT solutions.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic VoIP General
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.

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 23rd, 2015

WindowsPhone_Sep23_BMicrosoft will be revealing the Lumia 950, an all-new and high-end Windows Phone, at its annual event this coming October 6th. In an attempt to target the upper segment of the smartphone market, Microsoft has gone out of its way to install powerful hardware on the Lumia 950, enhancing its features to meet constantly evolving user needs.

Microsoft has been working hard on developing the Lumia 950, the first smartphone to utilize its Windows 10 Mobile operating system. The rumors about the Microsoft Lumia 950, codenamed “Talkman”, have been around for a good while now. Here’s what you need to know about the tech giant’s latest smartphone product.

Design and display

Rumor has it that the latest Lumia 950 will come with a metal frame, coated with matte white or black polycarbonate, with a thickness of just 8.89mm thickness. The device will sport a 5.2-inch screen display, with a Quad HD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.


The Lumia 950 is going to boast a 64-bit Hexa core, most likely the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, as well as 3GB of RAM and an internal storage capacity of 32GB. Users have the option of expanding the memory with a microSD card.


Microsoft will integrate a powerful 20-megapixel PureView primary rear camera, capable of shooting high-definition video, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Additional features include optical image stabilization, autofocus, and social media geotagging.


It is said that Microsoft’s new Lumia 950 will incorporate Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology, allowing for faster battery charging (up to 60% within just 30 minutes). The Lumia 950 will be equipped with a detachable 3,000mAh battery, so you can expect it to last for a full day, even with heavy use.

Price and release date

Although Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed the exact price or a release date for the upcoming Lumia 950, the price point is expected to rival that of the iPhone 6s. The release date is most likely to be on October 10, the very same day Microsoft plans to launch its brand new operating system for smartphones, Windows 10 Mobile.

Overall, the Lumia 950 comes with plenty of improvements that Windows Phone fans will love. It is faster, lasts longer, and is more stable. Want to learn more about Windows Phone and how to use it in your office? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from Source.