Blog

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 11th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Mar06_BThere’s big business in mobile payment platforms, and they are here to stay. Consumers are increasingly attracted to the ease and convenience of Apple Pay and Google Wallet, and adopting these platforms means turning more prospects into clients - and then keeping them hooked for the long haul. Now Google has given the sector a further boost, by announcing its new Android Pay platform. Here’s what you need to know about getting on board with this and other mobile payment platforms.

When Google launches Android Pay, it will act as more than just another app like Apple Pay, or Google’s existing Wallet app (which will continue to be in use, and will be powered by Android Pay). This means it will be useful to developers and retailers looking to allow users to make payments for products and services from right within their apps on Android devices.

Apple technology already enables iPhone users to buy goods in real-life stores using near-field communication (NFC), and Google’s Android Pay system will do the same. A similar technology to Apple's is Google’s local storage of bank card information, which takes away the need for you to have a phone signal to make payments. There are also benefits to security - another feature that Android Pay will adopt from its rival is the use of one-time, automatically generated credit card numbers for each transaction. This helps to fight fraud because even if the retailer you shop with subsequently suffers a data breach, any card numbers the fraudsters get hold off would have expired already.

Google ultimately hopes that its Android Pay system will also include support for fingerprint scanning and other security features, further boosting the peace of mind you can have while using it to shop and settle up.

Competition is beefing up in the mobile payment platform arena. While Google Wallet failed to gain much traction when it first launched in 2011 - it was considered by many to be ahead of its time - the recent growth of Apple Pay appears to have revived hope in the Google alternative. What’s more, Samsung recently debuted Samsung Pay, which is big on payment security and will come as default on the latest models of the Galaxy and Edge range of devices. The Samsung system has the potential to quickly achieve far greater reach since, while Apple Pay only works where retailers already have NFC installed, Samsung recently acquired the firm LoopPay, and as a result Samsung Pay will also support the use of conventional magnetic credit card readers.

And even PayPal is moving in on mobile payment territory. Though the company has for some time had its own apps that make it easy to send cash to friends or suppliers, or to make purchases at participating retailers, PayPal is still better known for its web-based payments system. However, PayPal recently acquired Paydiant, a startup due to launch later in 2015 with a competitor to all the other mobile payment platforms, known as CurrentC. It could prove stiff competition indeed, since it’s backed by retailers like Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your business can ignore the rapid growth of mobile payments. To find out how to leverage them to your benefit, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 11th, 2015

BusinessValue_11Mar_BTechnology underpins nearly every aspect of the modern business process. The problem is that business owners can find it hard to manage technology, and this is where Managed Services Providers (MSPs) come in. Whether it’s software to record customers’ data, network infrastructure management or cloud technology, MSPs can provide these services and much more to suit an organization’s business model. So instead of spending a large portion of their budget on establishing IT systems and relying on break/fix solutions, businesses are turning to MSPs in ever greater numbers to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

MSPs defined

Managed Services Providers boast a range of capabilities. They create IT options and provide solutions to facilitate businesses in their everyday activities. Simply put, a Managed Services Provider is your IT department, and they are experts at what they do. MSPs perform IT-related tasks to your exacting requirements, whether it’s installing software, virtualizing data, or other complex duties. Best of all, because they are taking care of your IT systems, you have more free time to focus on your business.

Selecting the best MSP

You can only achieve optimum IT results by selecting the right Managed Services Provider - preferably one that can demonstrate competency and consistency. Here are some criteria to keep in mind when choosing an MSP.
  • Depth of skills and experience - Any Managed Services Provider should, at the very least, have skills that go beyond basic software installation, maintenance and upgrades. Your business will likely need some advanced IT functions, such as database management, virtualization, cloud technology, security, and cross-platform integration. An MSP should have strong expertise in these models in order to meet the expectations and needs of your company.
  • Consistent global service - In addition to the services provided, MSPs should have global service capabilities. These include the ability to manage IT systems in multiple countries, local language support for foreign subsidiaries, and IT implementation in new locations. Businesses can expand globally with an MSP’s global service offering.
  • Broad range of services - The IT needs of businesses are continually changing, and MSPs tend to provide a suite of managed services to respond to these changes. This could mean anything from updates to software, security patches, antivirus and firewall protection, or even new compliance measures. Make sure that such services can be delivered without additional costs.
  • Financial stability and reputation - A Managed Services Provider’s length of time in the market doesn’t guarantee their longevity. Do your research into a potential MSP’s annual reports and financial statements. Also ask the MSP to provide evidence of their reputation by way of customer references and testimonials.
Choosing the right Managed Services Provider is a very important step that will impact on your business’s performance and success. If you want to learn how MSPs can support your business, contact us 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.

March 6th, 2015

Android 164 BWhat if you could be in two places at once? On that beach chair in the Bahamas and at an office meeting in Indiana simultaneously? Sound too good to be true? Maybe not. Telepresence robots are making this scenario more likely than you think. And with the power of the Android tablet, the future may be just around the corner. Here’s an inside look at a new technology that could revolutionize the way you work by allowing you to attend meetings while taking care of grandma.

What is a telepresence robot?

A telepresence robot is a remote controlled mechanism that acts as a robot when you can’t physically be somewhere in person. It uses a video enabled device that allows you to see and be seen, giving you a physical presence while you’re somewhere else in the world.

The telepresence robot that pairs with Android is not the first of its kind on the market. Both iRobot and Double Robotics have wheeled versions that were released in the past few years. The latter pairs with the iPad and navigates its environment using a segway.

What’s the deal with the Android version?

The Android tablet version that couples with the telepresence robot is called Origibot and is currently being crowdfunded on Indiegogo. Yes, that means there is a chance it may not see the light of day but, after raising 30% of its $18,000 goal in just three days (and with another 38 to go), people are clearly excited about the tech behind it.

The Origibot is roughly 29.5 inches high, made from both aluminum and stainless steel. It has wheels so that it can move around. And it comes with an optional arm and gripper. According to its creators, the Origibot can fill your pet’s bowl with water, carry drinks, water your plants and even bring Grandma her meds!

From a business perspective, an Origibot can take your place at the office if you’re a telecommuter. Then you’ll literally have a physical presence for meetings while you’re at home on your sofa or taking care of another matter.

How does it work?

Simply attach your Android tablet to the Origibot. Your tablet then connects with another Internet-enabled device that you control, through the company’s secure Cloud service.

Your connected device acts as a remote control for the Origibot, while the tablet allows you to see and hear what is happening in the space your Origibot occupies.

The advantages of Origibot

There are other telepresence robot options available. But what makes Origibot different is its price. If you pledge in advance on Indiegogo, you can get an Origibot from anywhere between $329 and $599. Once it hits retail, that price is projected to rise to $499-$899.

Compared to its competitors, this is extremely affordable - iRobot and Double Robotics both cost over $2,000.

The other difference is its size. The metal bar of the Origibot’s body is just a few inches in diameter and the wheeled base is 12.5 by 14 inches. This will make it easy to get through narrow places or maneuver around people. Perfect for serving drinks at that cocktail party you’re out of town for.

Want to learn more about the possibilities of the Android tablet? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.