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January 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jan29_CDoes it seem like everyday another PC breaks down or your IT contractor interrupts you with questions about your software budget? In today’s world, technology shouldn’t be slowing down your business, it should be speeding it up. If it’s not helping you, it’s time to admit you have a problem before your employees organize an intervention. Here are four ideas on how technology can blast your business into the future.

Work together from anywhere

With the onset of Cloud technology, it’s now possible for your employees to work easily from anywhere - be it Bangkok, Belize or Boston. With Cloud-based suite products, employees can log on from remote locations and access company files. All they need is a web-enabled device.

Cloud-based technology also makes it easier than ever for your staff to collaborate. While one employee is in a coffee shop in Vancouver and another is at a desktop in your office, they can both be editing the same document at the same time. This makes it easy for your staff to remain on the same page, both literally and metaphorically, which in turn boosts both productivity and profits.

While many SMBs use public Cloud applications like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote, private pro-level options are available, which come with more security and more features.

Keep all your data in the Cloud

The fact is that searching through spreadsheets for information stored in bloated data sets can be a huge waste of time. By having all your data in the Cloud, all your information will be in one place. So when you’re looking for that critical client receipt for your taxes, you’ll know where it is immediately.

Thanks to its remote access and collaboration possibilities, the Cloud also gives you and your staff easy access to all of your data wherever in the world you are.

Identify bottlenecks and upgrade your technology

Facing the facts about your current technology is key to increasing productivity. Yes we know you love your tablet from way back in 2008. You even named her Susie, after your niece, because they’re both so darn creative. But let’s face it, Susie is old now and is slowing down your business. She’s served you well, but it’s time to upgrade.

And desktops aren’t the only technology that can slow you down. There are also unreliable internet connections, obsolete software and outdated email providers. The list goes on…

The solution is to take a careful inventory of your current IT technology and see what’s keeping your business from reaching its true productivity potential. After you have your list, update your technology accordingly. Then create a plan to regularly upgrade your IT resources, so your employees are never being slowed down.

Outsource your IT

As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Whether you have a part-time contractor or a fully-staffed IT department, the mere presence of tech staff onsite in your workplace can be a distraction. When you’re focusing on sales or setting up meetings with potential clients, a knock at your door from your IT colleague - because he or she has just discovered a glitch in your system - can take you out of the flow of the task at hand.

On the other hand, outsourced IT departments are proactive in preventing technical issues from popping up in the first place. They’ll fix problems without you even knowing they existed, and without distracting you from your core work. All of which means a great boost to your day-to-day productivity - and therefore profitability.

Want to know more ways IT can enhance your company’s productivity? Contact us today to learn how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
January 29th, 2015

Security_Jan28_CThink your security is taken care of with a frequent anti-virus scan? Think again. While we’ve all become used to the idea that viruses, worms and other malware - however much disruption and damage they cause to our systems - can be detected and removed thanks to the tracks they leave as they create havoc, that’s no longer something to count on. Proving the point is Poweliks, an invisible trojan horse that evades being picked up by anti-virus software. Read on to find out all you need to know about Poweliks and how to fight it.

What is Poweliks?

Security firm Symantec describes Poweliks as a trojan horse that performs malicious activities on the compromised computer. But it’s no ordinary trojan - unlike the majority, which infect your computer with malicious files, Poweliks is a silent and invisible threat that hides away in the memory registry of your system. It’s not entirely new for a virus to seek to cover its tracks by making itself "file-less" but, in contrast with Poweliks, most are wiped when you restart your computer and its memory is cleared. Worse still, Poweliks hijacks the legitimate processes and applications running on your network, inserting its code into them where it can largely evade detection.

First discovered back in August 2014, Poweliks has therefore created something of a headache for firms behind conventional security solutions like anti-virus software. Symantec and others have admittedly managed a number of updates to their protection in response to the threat posed by Poweliks. But although very minor records of the presence of the trojan are left behind by way, for instance, of registry logs, the signs of its destructive presence are much lower key than the computer world is used to, meaning Poweliks is unlikely to show up on most system scans.

Poweliks has links to Kazakhstan, the home of two servers the malware connects to once it is up and running from within your computer. The servers in Kazakhstan then send commands to the bug to tell it what to do next. In theory, this then makes way for the tool to be used to download other undesirable programs that could infect your system without your knowledge. It could equally be used to steal and disseminate data from your network.

How can I best protect myself?

As well as the anti-virus updates that have gradually been released - but which are still likely to have only a limited impact on threats of this type compared with those of the past - a number of Poweliks removal guides are now available online. Nevertheless, prevention as ever, remains better than cure. One method reported to have been employed in the distribution of the Poweliks infection is embedding it in a Microsoft Word document, which is then sent as an attachment to spam emails, and which the attackers hope your curiosity will lead you to open. Among the senders that these spam messages have masqueraded as being from are the United States Postal Service and Canada Post. Of course the best advice remains to be suspicious of any and every email attachment you open, particularly if you weren’t expecting mail or it's from someone you don’t know.

Should I be concerned?

In fact, revisiting your everyday security precautions is probably pretty good advice all round, since experts predict that this type of threat is likely to become ever more common as attackers seek to exploit the techniques of Poweliks in order for their infiltration to remain unnoticed for as long as possible. Sure enough, a number of copycat threats have already been detected by security specialists as of the start of 2015.

General awareness around web sites you choose to visit is also recommendable in particular, since others have also reported the bug making its way onto their systems thanks to so-called ‘drive-by download attacks’ - whereby simply visiting a malicious web site is enough to trigger the infection, and actively downloading a file isn’t even necessary. As a result, organizations may wish to consider more comprehensive filtering of internet access, or at the very least reactive blocking of known malicious sites, in order to prevent employees from inadvertently infecting a company network.

To find out more about IT security solutions and protecting your technology from attack, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_CRegardless of the industry in which you operate, it’s undeniable that social media has become an essential platform for many businesses of all sizes to easily engage and interact with customers and potential customers, as well as boost visibility. But there’s more to social media than market reach and penetration and it can prove to be a powerful tool for driving dynamic business development too.

In most cases, a business development manager already has an idea of the kind of company with which to partner. Their next step is to contact that company via a phone call or email. However, this can be an unreliable way to reach out, especially when your potential partner has never heard of you. Social media speeds up this process by identifying the best person to contact, as well as determining if you have any mutual connections.

Simply put, social media lets you understand the background of different companies and gives you an idea of the different players involved, before you even engage in a dialogue. With this in mind, let’s take a look at four ways you can utilize information available on social media to enhance your business development success.

  1. Social media is an extra pair of eyes Social media allows you to see first-hand what potential partners, competitors, and customers are doing, which is a major asset when it comes to your business development and performance. This can also reveal business-relationship possibilities or even warn where it is best to stay away. It’s crucial to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing mind-blowing content as well as highlighting recent successes.
  2. There’s no universal message in social media The way people behave and connect across different social media platforms varies, therefore it is important to adjust accordingly. For instance, you might use Twitter to promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share content, and direct customer service requests. You may use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives, such as showcasing a company’s culture and resources. It’s important to remember that there’s no universal rule to utilizing social media and that it is beneficial to be flexible. Think about what your individual goals are and work out which social media platform is the best avenue to explore.
  3. Leverage employee relationships If you’re looking to connect with an individual in a specific company, make it a habit to check and see if anyone in your company has a pre-existing relationship with that person. Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn make it fairly easy to spot mutual connections, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking. Whether you ask your colleague to help make an introduction or to arrange a meeting, a mutual connection gives you the competitive edge in effective business development.
  4. Use social media as a touchpoint Social media is not only essential to business development, but also complements other more traditional practices, such as when you’ve sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that has gone unanswered. It’s understandable that people get so busy they can delay, forget or pass over an inquiry, but instead of passively waiting for a reply, why not make it standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other social media platforms? This way you can build additional opportunities with potential partners, increase the likelihood of a response, and even forge a future business relationship.
The fundamentals of business development are strong relationships with a partner or companies with a good reputation, who will have a positive impact on your business, such as marketing an initiative collaboratively. Social media can get this whole process started, so the next time you’re looking to contact a business prospect or potential partner, start by visiting their social media channels to get the heads up to help you in your quest.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of social media in business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization, and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful, and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses, and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms - it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have - which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data - think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it - in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations - the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_CAn antivirus scanner is one of the most essential parts of any security plan. These useful programs scan computers and systems for potential infections and get rid of them, ensuring your files and systems are safe. Because many of these protection programs are subscription based however, it can be easy to let the validity expire. If this does happen, is it really such a big deal though?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.

Other programs will stop updating the essential virus and malware databases that are used by the program to identify and clean new malware. This means that while you will be secure from known viruses and security flaws up to the date of the last database update, you will not be secure against newly discovered viruses.

Some popular programs like Kaspersky offer an antivirus scanner trial version or a program that comes with a newly purchased computer.With programs like these, they will normally stop functioning once the trial period is over. Yes, they will still open, but you won't be able to scan or perform any tasks.

In short, when your subscription expires, your systems will no longer be secure, or as protected as they should be. Interestingly enough, in mid-November 2014, Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report 17. This report found that computers and systems with expired malware were only slightly less likely to be infected than systems without any malware scanners installed.

What do I do if my subscription is about to expire?

Before your subscription expires you should take steps to back up all of your systems and data. The reason for this is that should something happen you have a clean backup to revert to. Once this is carried out, then consider renewing your subscription. Most programs allow you to do this directly from the scanner itself, so it is often fairly straightforward.

As a business owner however, you are going to need to keep track of your systems and licenses. What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet with information on the subscription applied to all systems. Take account of when the scanner was installed on each system, how long the subscription period is for, and when it will expire.

What if my subscriptions are about to expire, but I don't like my current program?

There may come a time when the scanner you have selected simply isn't living up to your expectations. Maybe it takes too long to scan, uses too many resources, or simply isn't able to protect all of your systems. Regardless of the reason, switching scanners is always an option.

If you are thinking of moving to another scanner, we strongly recommend that before you do anything, you back up your systems. You can then start looking for other systems. We strongly recommend that you contact us, as we can help identify a solution that will work for your business and systems. We can then help ensure that the transition is carried out in a way that will not leave your systems open to attack.

We may have a managed antivirus solution that will work for your business. By using a system like this, we can help protect your systems, keeping them secure and always up to date, all without you having to get involved. All you need to do is get in touch to find our more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_CWhen looking into the ways companies are hacked, you quickly realize that there are so many different tactics out there that it is mind-boggling. One of the more effective methods used recently is spear phishing, and in early December 2014, a new spear phishing attack was uncovered. This threat, while directed at larger organizations, could be turned against smaller businesses as well, and is therefore worth you knowing about.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.

More often than not, these links are to websites where you enter account information, passwords, and even bank account details, or any other personal information which can be used to break into computers and even steal your identity.

What is this latest spear phishing attack?

This new form of spear phishing, being carried out by an organization who calls themselves FIN4, has actually been around since as early as mid 2013. When they attack Wall Street listed companies they are doing so to steal valuable plans and insider information.

What we know is that they send highly savvy and targeted emails to people at a company, trying to harvest Microsoft Outlook account information. Once they have this crucial data they then target others inside, or connected to, the organization, with the same email, while also injecting the code into ongoing messages. This method can spread the attack quickly, leading to a potentially massive security breach.

In the email examples of this phishing threat, the attackers write mainly about mergers and other highly valuable information. They also include a link to a forum to discuss the issues raised further. These emails come from people the recipient already knows, and the link is to a site that asks them to enter their Outlook account and password before gaining access. When this information is entered, it is captured by the attacker and used to launch more attacks.

What can we do to protect our systems?

From what we know, this attack is being carried out largely against law firms, finance companies, and other large organizations. While this discounts many small businesses, there is a good chance that the attackers will turn to small businesses operating with larger companies at some point.

Because this is an email-based attack, you need to be extra vigilant when opening all emails. Be sure to look at the sender's address, and read the body of the email carefully. While hackers generally have good English skills, they aren't fully fluent, which means you will notice small mistakes. Also, keep in mind previous emails sent by the recipient. If the tone and style is off, then the email may be fake.

It is important to always look carefully at all links in email messages. If a link looks suspicious, then ask the recipient for more information or to tell you where the link goes. If you come across any site asking you to enter account information, be extra careful. Look at the URL address in your browser, if it doesn't sat HTTPS:// before the address, then it may be a good idea to avoid this.

If you have any questions on spear phishing and how you can prevent it, contact us today to see how we can protect your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 18th, 2014

SocialMedia_Dec15_CMeasuring the overall success of a marketing campaign is often dependent on a number of metrics. When it comes to measuring the success of your social media campaigns, the most common metric employed is the number of shares. Companies who post content online often find it difficult to get their content shared through. If this resonates with you then here are four common reasons as to why your content might not be be shared and what you can do about that.

1. The vast majority of people are hesitant to share content

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook over a 17 day period, approximately 15.3 billion comments and posts were written but were then deleted and not posted on Facebook alone.

While the reasons will have been varied, the numbers highlight that the vast majority of users are sensitive to what they post on Facebook, and most most likely other networks as well. What does this mean for businesses? Well, you need to ensure that the content you are posting offers value to not only your audience, but their audience as well.

Think about when you have shared content on any network. You probably didn't do so 100% for yourself, but instead shared the content or created a post so your audience would interact with it, or possibly get something out of it. Think of this as the "hmm, that's interesting, other people will like it too, so I'll post it" mentality. By sharing content others enjoy or respond to you get the benefit of increased recognition.

If you can create content that gets people to think this way, there is an increased chance that they will share it.

2. Facebook users want to be seen in a positive light

According to a study carried out by INC. 80% of respondents share content because it shows that they are being a good friend to those they care about. People use social media to foster good relationships and connect with those they care about. And if somebody regards your posts as potentially able to tarnish their image on social media, they won't share it.

Businesses looking to capitalize on this need to try to create content and campaigns that help users better relate to one another. Combine this with the above example of creating interesting-to-share content and you will be more likely to see an increase in shares.

3. Content doesn't fit our salient identities

Because social media has become an extension of society, many experts apply common social science principles to it. The most commonly applied theory is of the five identities (relational, personal, social, superficial, and collective) that determine how people behave in a certain situation.

If you are posting content that doesn't fit with an an individual's current identity then it's not going to be shared. So, how can businesses capitalize on these changing identifies? One effective way is to get to know your main target audience; how they act and react to certain social cues, and then create content to fit with this behavior.

For example, if your target group for posts is parents, then using language and content that triggers parental instincts could increase shares as parents associate better with it.

You might want to widen your focus too and try developing content that capitalizes on different identities, tracking what works best.

4. Content doesn't mesh with a user's values and goals

The same INC. study found that after being a good friend, 63% of users surveyed noted that they were more likely to share content that reflected their goals, values, and dreams.

How can a business capitalize on this? The best way is to get to know your audience. Look at their posting and sharing habits and the type of content they share on a regular basis. This may change over time, but you will see patterns evolve for different groups. If you can develop and post content that reflects these main goals and values then you are more likely to see your content being shared. Try different approaches and keep in mind who you are developing content for.

If you are looking to learn more about social media, contact us today to see how our systems can help you integrate it with your business success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 17th, 2014

Office365_Dec15_CMicrosoft is one of, if not the, world's largest software developer. One of the more increasingly popular solutions being adopted by businesses is the cloud-based Office 365. While popular, one problem many business owners face is selecting which of the many different versions to implement. To help, here is an overview of the most popular Office 365 options for businesses.

A brief look at Office 365

The easiest way to classify Office 365 is as a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office aimed at businesses. This subscription-based service offers businesses all the productivity software they need plus a solid platform for their communications. Think of Outlook combined with Lync (or Skype) and Office apps, all of which are accessible via your browser, or can be installed on your own servers.

Beyond this, there is a supporting layer called SharePoint that links all of these apps together, thereby giving you a central place to store all of your documents which can then be collaborated on using various Microsoft apps.

As noted above, Office 365 is subscription based. The business-oriented subscriptions are broken down into two main categories: Business and Enterprise subscriptions. Of course, there are other subscriptions for other categories like Education and Government, but we will focus this overview on the two main small to medium business categories.

Business subscriptions

There are three plans under the Business subscription category:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials - Comes with online versions of Office apps (Office Web Apps), Lync for business, online storage through OneDrive and a corporate email address. This plan is ideal for businesses who don't need full versions of Office apps. Plans cost USD 5 per user, per month on an annual commitment.
  • Office 365 Business - For businesses who need installable versions of Office along with cloud-storage through OneDrive. It does not come with hosted email or business communication tools like Lync. If you already have hosted email, and are just looking for Office apps, then this could be a good plan for you. Plans cost USD 8.25 per user, per month on an annual commitment.
  • Office 365 Business Premium - This subscription is for businesses who want the whole package. It combines all the elements of the above plans into a solution which is ideal for smaller businesses or even enterprises. If you are looking for a full solution, then this plan could be the best fit for your business. Plans cost USD 12.50 per user, per month on an annual commitment.
It is worth noting here that all three of these plans have a limit of 300 users per plan, giving you a maximum of 300 subscriptions.

Enterprise subscriptions

These subscriptions are aimed more at larger organizations, or businesses who need more control over Office 365 and access to features like Business Intelligence, Enterprise Management apps, and even business portals. As with the Business subscription category, there are three main plans in the Enterprise subscription category:
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 - Comes with online versions of Office apps (Office Web Apps), Lync for business, online storage through OneDrive, a corporate email address, and a corporate video portal. This plan is ideal for businesses who don't need full versions of Office apps. Plans cost USD 8 per user, per month on an annual commitment.
  • Office 365 Pro Plus - This plan is for businesses who need installable versions of Office along with more advanced apps like Access, and cloud-storage through OneDrive. It does not come with hosted email or business communication tools like Lync. If you already have hosted email, and are just looking for Office apps, then this could be a good plan for you. Plans cost USD 12 per user, per month on an annual commitment.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 - This subscription is ideal for companies who want absolutely all Office 365 has to offer. This includes all of the above, plus advanced business intelligence tools, compliance protection, enterprise management, and more. If you are looking for a full solution, then this plan could be a good match for your business. Plans cost USD 20 per user, per month on an annual commitment.
Businesses who subscribe to Enterprise plans can sign up for an unlimited number of subscriptions.

Which plan is best for my business?

This is a tough question to answer outright. What we recommend is contacting us. As experts in all things Microsoft, we can work with you to not only help you pick the plan that is best for your business, but ensure it is installed correctly. This can help further reduce costs and increase productivity.

Contact us today to learn more about how Office 365 can enhance your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 12th, 2014

productivity_Dec12_CEmail is now the most essential form of communication in business. Over the years, email has become much more informal than when it was first introduced. Sure, this makes it feel more natural, but there can be times when this casual style leads to misunderstanding, and in turn this can lead to lost productivity. There is, however, one effective way you can structure important emails to avoid this, and that's by using PAR.

Better email structure for small businesses

In order for your emails to be clearer and to get the overall message across easily, you might want to implement a PAR structure. This three part framework has been used by many business owners and managers to improve overall communications, and consists of:

Problem

At the very top of the email, below the salutation, provide a brief yet clear overview of the problem which is the subject of the email or the reason you are making contact. When writing this overview don't assume anything, including shared knowledge or agreements, unless you have discussed these with all recipients beforehand. The key here is that you are looking to be able to summarize the main issue.

If you need more than two paragraphs, then you should probably create a longer form report that is attached in the email. The reason for this is because the vast majority of people will simply scan an email, and if it's too long, they will usually skip it, or possibly miss key points. If it is easy to scan and read, then there is a greater chance all parties will be on the same page.

Beyond this, if you are struggling to come up with a short explanation or can't clearly summarize the problem in writing, then email may not be the best medium to be using. Opt instead for a meeting or phone call to discuss the issue more fully.

Action

After stating what the problem is, clearly mark any proposed actions or recommendations using a relevant heading, then specifically lay them out in an easy to read format. You want to be as specific as possible here, ensuring that all parties understand what you want to happen and the actions they will need to take as a result.

For example, if you use vague language, such as: "I need this by the end of the month", people may only carry out what you are asking for on the very last day of the month. Instead, you might be better to give a specific delivery date, and possibly a set time, so that any deadlines are clearly defined. Bulleted and numbered lists can really help here, as long as they are clear and understandable and don't muddle the issue.

Results

Finally, identify the expected results based on the actions you want the recipients to take. This helps ensure that every recipient knows what they should be striving for, as well as serving as an indicator of whether the problem has been specifically solved or not.

If the results aren't met, you have a good opportunity to look back at the process and see if there is any room for improvement, or try to pinpoint exactly why something went wrong or didn't happen as you planned. This in turn, if leveraged correctly, can help improve overall productivity.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your office? Contact us today to see how our systems can benefit your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
December 11th, 2014

BusinessValue_Dec11_CAs the end of the year approaches, stress levels go up within businesses. There is often the pressure to finish end-of-year reports and budget for the next year, not to mention that there can often be extra expenditure requirements during the holiday season too. This is also the time when many businesses begin to look for newer business systems that are not too expensive. To help, here are some free or affordable solutions that could make your business run far easier.

  1. Canva If you are a business owner, chances are that you aren't the world's best graphic designer, unless you run a graphics company of course! In order to design graphics, icons, flyers, and even posters you need specific graphics software. This can be expensive and the software is not going to be easy to use for design novices. You may even need an in-house graphic designer. This is where Canva comes in.

Canva is an online app that allows users to quickly and easily create professional looking graphics using drag and drop functionality and a wealth of free, or affordable, stock images. In other words, you can create designs in a short amount of time.

The service itself is free, but some images do need to be purchased.

  1. FreshBooks Most business owners are not certified accountants either, and even if you understand the basics of accounting and tracking of finances, the money side of your business is often a full time or at least a specialized job. If not handled correctly, this could spell disaster for your business. One solution is cloud-based FreshBooks.

FreshBooks is accounting software that allows you to invoice clients, track payments, accept payments, track expenses, and access financial reports at the click of a button. Beyond this, you can connect FreshBooks with your payroll services to ensure that your employees are paid on time.

The platform offers a free plan that allows you to track and manage one client, while paid subscriptions start at USD 19.95 a month.

  1. Hootsuite Many businesses have a presence on more than one social media network. While this is a great way to reach out to the highest number of customers, it can be a chore to manage and maintain a presence on all of these networks all of the time. Hootsuite is specifically aimed at this task.

Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to manage your social media accounts from one platform. Using Hootsuite you can schedule posts, set up streams, establish keyword tracking, and track engagement. It really is a one-stop-shop for all of your social media platforms.

Hootsuite offers a free subscription which allows you to manage three social media profiles, while a business subscription starts at USD 8.99 and allows you to track up to 50 profiles and gives you access to more advanced analytics and features.

  1. Podio Managing projects and ensuring that all employees are aware of what they should be doing, and what others are doing, can be one of the toughest tasks for any business owner. Sure, spreadsheets and communication work to a point, but there is always room for error and of course improvement, which is what Podio provides.

Podio is a project management app that allows you to easily manage projects, tasks, deadlines, and even files. Using an intuitive dashboard that all users have access to, employees and managers can easily see who is doing what, as well as what needs to be done and what has already been done.

Podio is free with limited features for five users and costs USD 9 per user, per month for the full subscription plan.

  1. CoSchedule If you have a blog, either on WordPress or hosted by WordPress, sharing the articles you post on your social media profiles is a great way to increase content reach and interaction. However, it can be time consuming to actually create posts on each different platform, unless you use CoSchedule.

With CoSchedule you can write your social media posts for a blog article and schedule them to be posted once the article goes live. Think of it as automating the sharing of your blog articles. This will save you time, while making it easier to manage your content, largely because the calendar included in CoSchedule is easy to work with and gives you a good view of your content.

CoSchedule is USD 10 per month, per blog.

If you are looking for more affordable ways to improve your business operations, contact us today to see what boost we can offer you at a price you can afford in 2015.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.