July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_CBusinesses that are winning in today’s marketplace are the ones that make technology work for them, not the other way round. When used correctly, technology can make every task much faster to execute, from communicating with customers to sending messages, gathering information, and more. So if you’re looking to increase staff efficiency, consider the following methods to implement technology into your day-to-day business operations.

Change office communication

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from Source.

July 22nd, 2015

164_Sec_CEver been infected by malware or a virus? For most internet users, the answer is probably yes. But what is the difference between all the cyber threats out there? What makes a virus different from a trojan or worm? And how can you protect your critical data and your business from these threats? If you’ve never been able to answer these questions, here’s the explanation you’ve been waiting for.


Malware is the short version of the word malicious software. And this is a general term that encompasses many types of online threats including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware and more. Though you likely already know this, the purpose of malware is to specifically infect and harm your computer and potentially steal your information.

But how do the different types of malware differ from one another? How can you protect your business from them? Let’s take a look at four of the most common forms of malware below.

Virus - like a virus that can infect a person, a computer virus is a contagious piece of code that infects software and then spreads from file to file on a system. When infected software or files are shared between computers, the virus then spreads to the new host.

The best way to protect yourself from viruses is with a reliable antivirus program that is kept updated. Additionally, you should be wary of any executable files you receive because viruses often come packaged in this form. For example, if you’re sent a video file, be aware that if the name includes an “exe” extension like .mov.exe, you’re almost certainly dealing with a virus.

Spyware - just like a spy, a hacker uses spyware to track your internet activities and steal your information without you being aware of it. What kind of information is likely to be stolen by Spyware? Credit card numbers and passwords are two common targets.

And if stealing your information isn’t bad enough, Spyware is also known to cause PC slowdown, especially when there is more than one program running on your system - which is usually the case with a system that’s infected.

A common mistake many people make is they assume their antivirus software automatically protects them from Spyware. This is not always true as some antivirus isn’t designed to catch spyware. If you’re unsure if your antivirus prevents Spyware, get verification from your vendor. And for those that are already suffering from Spyware infestation, two programs that work wonders to clean it out are Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware.

Worms - similar to viruses, worms also replicate themselves and spread when they infect a computer. The difference, however, between a worm and a virus is that a worm doesn’t require the help of a human or host program to spread. Instead, they self-replicate and spread across networks without the guidance of a hacker or a file/program to latch onto.

In addition to a reliable antivirus software, to prevent worms from infecting your system you should ensure your firewall is activated and working properly.

Trojan - like the trojan horse from ancient greek mythology, this type of malware is disguised as a safe program designed to fool users, so that they unwittingly install it on their own system, and later are sabotaged by it. Generally, the hacker uses a trojan to steal both financial and personal information. It can do this by creating a “backdoor” to your computer that allows the hacker to remotely control it.

Similar to the other malware mentioned above, antivirus software is a dependable way to protect yourself against trojans. For further safety, it’s wise to not open up suspicious attachments, and also ensure that your staff members aren't downloading any programs or applications illegally at the office - as this is a favorite place hackers like to hide trojans.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
July 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_COne of the best ways to present complex business data and reports is visualization. Good data visualization can significantly help users to take in a vast amount of information in a short period of time. But of course, not everyone is a data visualization expert, which is why much of the visual content we see nowadays is often ineffective and jam-packed with information. If you’re looking to create great data visualization that appeals to readers, make sure to avoid these data visualization pitfalls.

Inconsistent visualizations

It’s important to be consistent when presenting your data, otherwise users will have to stop and figure out how to read each new picture before they can comprehend what it says, wasting time and defeating the purpose of data visualization. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow. For instance, try choosing colors that go well together. Use only 2-3 colors at most throughout your visualization - any more and you’ll find that your pictures might be hard to read. Also, use the same iconography and typography in each picture so your audience can quickly understand the information.

Displaying too much data

Overly complicated data visualizations are sure to turn off most audiences because they can’t figure out where and what to focus on. Your customers, colleagues, and employers want specific, relevant answers. The quicker you can deliver those answers, the better. Irrelevant data gives your presentation a cluttered look, making finding relevant information more difficult for readers. The solution? Find a compromise between showing too much data and not showing enough overall. Use good judgement.

Oversimplifying data

The purpose of data visualization is to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. While it’s all too easy to simplify data, if you go too far and leave out crucial parts, your audiences won’t be able to see or grasp the main point of the presentation. Instead of trying to oversimplify data, it’s better to include all important criteria and organize them into a structure so audiences can easily understand what’s being presented to them.

Choosing the wrong visualization

This is one of the most common mistakes made in data visualization. There are many different types of data out there, and each of those types require different analytics and tools to use. For example, if you want to present a sales growth comparison in the last 5 years, it’s better to use bar charts that can clearly show the difference at a glance. If you want to show a relationship between two metrics, on the other hand, you should use a scatter chart to show results.

The best way to avoid all these errors is to focus on your goals first. It’s likely that you’ll have to make changes along the way, which is actually a good thing, because it will make your presentation more accurate and effective.

Want to learn more about other business intelligence tools to implement in your company? Give us a call today.

Published with permission from Source.

July 16th, 2015

164_C_O365If you’ve recently been thinking about signing up for an Office 365 suite or are a current user, Microsoft made a recent announcement concerning their E4 plan that will have a direct impact on the service. Before the year’s end, the tech giant will phase out their E4 package entirely and replace it with a new, upgraded version known as E5. How will this affect you? Read on to learn more.

What’s included in E5?

According to Microsoft’s Office Blogs July 13th post, the tech giant announced that the E5 plan will include the following new capabilities:

  • Skype for Business services with support for features including Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing
  • Analytic features such as Delve Organizational Analytics and Power BI Pro
  • Advanced security features like Customer Lockbox, eDiscovery, Advanced Threat Protection and Data Loss Protection

With these new service offerings, Microsoft believes that business owners will be able to reach new customers and increase value for their existing ones.

The cost?

While Microsoft’s Office 365 current E4 package costs $22 a month in the US, there was no official announcement of the price for the E5 version.

However, since E5 will include services such as Advanced Threat Protection, which currently costs an additional $2 per user/month, as well as Power BI Pro, which is priced at $9.99 per user/month, a price increase seems inevitable – and very well could be significant.

Your options

Because E4 will be retired when E5 is released, that means that current E4 users will have to either upgrade to E5, or change to E3 plus Cloud PBX.

For those who have yet to sign up for Office 365, however, you’ll also have the additional options to choose an E1 or E3 package with available upgrades.

Is it worth it to upgrade to E5?

That all depends on your business, and likely the price of the upgrade. However, the question you need to ask is, will the new capabilities enhance your organization enough to justify the higher cost? If you need additional help understanding how E5’s new features and capabilities can create value in your business, we’re happy to assist you.

Curious to learn more about the Office 365 E5 package? Get your questions answered, and give us a call today.

Published with permission from Source.
July 15th, 2015

164_Prod_CWith so much technology being utilized in the workspace today, it’s obvious that it has become a source of distraction for some employees, and is having a negative impact on productivity in the process. But is technology really all to blame? A new survey of 2,175 hiring and human resource managers released by CareerBuilder uncovers the real source of today’s most notorious productivity killers - and it’s not all technology. The results are a mix of both obvious distractions and surprising discoveries.

Here are the top 10 productivity busters according to CareerBuilder’s June 2015 survey.

  1. 52% - Cellphones & texting
  2. 44% - Internet
  3. 37% - Gossip
  4. 36% - Social media
  5. 31% - Email
  6. 27% - Coworkers chatting
  7. 26% - Meetings
  8. 27% - Snack and/or smoke breaks
  9. 17% - Loud coworkers
  10. 10% - Sitting in a cubicle

Why are these findings a big deal?

According to the managers who took the survey, the consequences of these distractions can be pretty severe. A few examples they gave were lower quality of work, dissatisfied employees who have to pick up the slack of lower performers, missed deadlines, and even loss of revenue.

So how do you prevent these productivity killers from disrupting your business?

The chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder mentioned that one of the most effective ways to increase productivity is to simply take a break, which may come as quite a surprise since “Snack and/or smoke breaks” is listed as number 8 for productivity killers.

However, it should be noted that not all breaks are created equal. Listening to loud music or getting caught up in gossip on social media may not actually give employees the sense of rejuvenation they need when they return to work. They key is for staff members to take a break that will re-energize and give them a fresh focus. Some suggestions are to simply take a walk or perform some form of light exercise or stretching.

On a more humorous note, the survey also revealed some of the more unusual non-work activities employees partook in while on the clock. Employers reportedly found their staff doing everything from taking a nap on the CEO’s couch, searching for a mail order bride, and even taking a sponge bath in the restroom sink.

Want more tips on how to boost employee productivity. Curious to see how technology can help? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Productivity
July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_CLove them or hate them, selfies are here to stay. And with facial recognition technology becoming both more advanced and more mainstream, selfies have now found their way into the online security world. MasterCard is the most recent global corporation to join in on the trend. Here’s how they’re planning to integrate facial recognition technology into the online payment process.

At the beginning of this autumn, MasterCard will acquire the help of 500 customers to test out a new application that enables people to verify their identity and authenticate online transactions with a facial scan. What does this mean? Instead of using a traditional password at the online checkout, MasterCard wants to give you the option to snap a selfie instead. According to the credit card giant, they’ve partnered with every smartphone company in the business to make this mode of identity verification possible.

Why is this happening?

A quote from Ajay Bhalla, security expert at MasterCard, suggests this is an attempt by the credit card giant to appeal to a younger crowd of digital natives. "The new generation, which is into selfies...I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Bhalla recently said.

That said, the “cool” appeal to youth is likely not the only reason for this change. The firm is likely attempting to make online purchases both more secure and more convenient.

How it works

To use this technology, users will have to download a dedicated app, which they can then use to take a photo of themselves at checkout. But how does MasterCard prevent a thief from using a photo of you to fake your verification? Simple - the app requires you to blink to prove that you’re a living, breathing human being.

However, it’s been noted by critics that, in today’s technological world, even a blink can be animated on a static photo. This leaves those of us with security concerns wondering whether MasterCard will make this app more secure before it’s released.

Note as well, though, that MasterCard is not getting rid of traditional passwords completely. Users will still have the option of the more conventional method of verification, as well as the choice of fingerprint scanning to check your identity.

Is this where the future of online security is headed?

With the release due later this year of a similar Windows 10 security application to identify users using biometrics, it appears that this is where the future of online security is headed. And with ever more applications and online services requiring a password, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average web user to create one that is both unique and secure for each individual service. So whether it’s facial recognition, a fingerprint scan or some other technology that’s yet to be perfected, it seems as though some sort of more advanced security solution is inevitable.

Want more of the latest security news? Looking to implement new security to protect your IT infrastructure from cyber threats? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
July 3rd, 2015

164_Soc_CStill struggling with social media marketing? Have you started posting updates more regularly and developed a consistent brand voice, yet still have barely any results to show for it? Well, there could be many reasons for your lack of progress in social media, but there is one common “content trap” that could be the source. Here’s what it is, and how to fix it.

Don’t recycle content

Google any recent news story, and you’re likely to find anywhere from a few to several dozen articles on the same subject. And unfortunately, the content is so similar that you can barely differentiate one from the next.

If you want to stand out from others on the social media scene, find something new to talk about. In general, if you want to get noticed by new customers or followers, it’s best to avoid widely covered topics. Everyone and their grandma will be writing about it, which creates much more competition for your version.

If you must create content about mainstream topics, make sure you take the time to come up with a fresh perspective, and share valuable information that hasn’t been touched on yet.

Be fearless in your content

Similarly, it’s absolutely essential that, across all the content that you produce, you share a unique perspective. Many people end up parroting the same thing as everyone else because they are afraid to offer their true opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be controversial. If you’re going to develop a social media persona that stands out, you need to develop your own voice - and a thick skin. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, especially on the web where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Additionally, there’s a reason that the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is famous. In fact, when you write polarizing content that will have a fair share of supporters and naysayers, people are hardwired to react to it. This is for the same reason that humanity as a whole shares a universal love of stories - whether that’s in the movies, in a novel or around a campfire. A story is nothing without conflict. When you produce content that creates a real life conflict of opinions, you have a better chance of it making some noise on social media.

But - be honest and show integrity

Don’t say something controversial just for the sake of it. Give your honest opinion. The key to every aspect of sales is developing trust. That means that with any customer or potential follower you come into contact with, whether through social media or other means, you should show your true self. You’ll have a better chance of gaining a customer or follower for life.

Controversy or not, always be professional

There’s no reason to start a flame war, or resort to name calling and insults. People are going to have strong feelings about controversial content. Emotions are going to come up and people can say some pretty mean things - especially on the internet. Don’t get caught up in the comments and negativity. If you do, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your current customer base and followers.

Want more insights into growing your social media presence? Speak up today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
July 1st, 2015

BusinessValue_Jun16_CAs a small or medium-sized business owner, breaking into the market and trying to encourage people to buy your products or services can be a daunting task, because you’ll have to compete with all the big names out there. That’s where online marketing comes in. If implemented properly, you will be able to cost-effectively attract new customers. But if you jump in without a plan, you may end up losing more money than you bargained for. Here are some effective marketing tips to ensure your advertising campaigns are a total success.

Prioritize blogging

Blogging is an excellent marketing tool for businesses. Unfortunately most companies don’t spend much time or effort developing their blogs, which is a huge mistake. To get the most out of your blog, you will need to write quality content that adds value for your website visitors. The benefits of having a blog increase tenfold if you publish regularly, since potential customers will see you as an expert in your field, and are more likely to purchase what you have to offer.

Advertise in the right places

There are a number of online advertising channels out there, among them Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and Youtube Ads. The question is whether you know which one is the right fit for your business. You need to spend your marketing budget on the right advertising method to gain the highest return on investment. Do some research about your potential customers and determine who they are, and what they read, watch and listen to. This way you can pinpoint the best advertising platform to ensure that you reach your target market.

Start using videos

Videos offer an excellent way to market your business. Studies show that customers are more likely to buy if they see a video about your product or service on your landing pages, so make sure you include one if you can. Be creative when you’re making videos to promote your business; you could start building an online reputation by creating instructional videos that help your potential customers solve common problems. Commenting on videos relevant to your niche is also an effective way to increase your brand visibility.

Be active on social media

Prudent businesses are aware of the importance of establishing a social media presence through the main social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But simply posting articles or links is not going to offer many marketing benefits for your business. You’ll need to go the extra mile to maximize the benefits of social media. Some tips include taking the time to respond to your followers’ comments, keeping your profile updated and fresh with new information, and following and sharing content from other users.

Make sure your website is responsive

More and more of us are using mobile devices to browse the Internet and look for local products and services. Make the effort to ensure your website is mobile-friendly and automatically scales to fit all screen sizes, so that it is accessible and functional for mobile users. Major search engines now penalize non-responsive websites by lowering their search rankings when viewed on mobile devices, so you’ll need to adapt accordingly to avoid their wrath.

Contact us today and learn how our IT services can help you gain more customers and add value to your business.

Published with permission from Source.

June 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jun17_CKeeping productivity high is vital to the success of any business. And while many businesses stay up-to-date using productivity tips found online or from so-called experts, little do they know that many of those tips simply don’t work. Here we’ll take a look at four productivity tips to avoid, and how to change them to your benefit.

Don’t check email first thing in the morning

What’s wrong with this when it sounds like such a good tip? Well, reading and responding to email can derail your entire morning. Your ten minutes spent reviewing emails turns into half an hour, and suddenly you’re late for work. And in many industries you simply won’t have the time in the morning to go through every single email and find out what has been happening overnight.

The fix

You should check your email first thing in the morning but make sure not to respond unless it will take you less than a minute. Something that requires a simple “yes” or “no”, or that can be forwarded to someone who can take care of it for you, is fine. But for anything else that requires research or a longer response, mark the email as “unread” and go back to it later when you have more time. You can also add it to your to-do list so you’ll be sure to check it later. Skimming emails in the morning is a particularly good use of commuting time even if you can’t respond right away, plus it can help you prepare for your day by giving you an idea of what lies ahead.

Tackle the hardest task first

While this sounds reasonable, in most cases your hardest task can really set you back time-wise. Plus, without proper planning in terms of the time, resources and energy you need for it, tackling the hardest job first might end up deflating your hopes of a productive day.

The fix

Instead of starting the day with your most difficult task, build your confidence by starting with something smaller and easier. Simpler tasks will help get your momentum going and ease you into a productive mode. You could also cut that difficult project into smaller bite-sized to-dos, so you can tackle them individually without burning out.

Make one to-do list for everything

While it’s a good idea to get everything out of your head and down onto paper, having just one go-to list for all the things you need to get done is a huge mistake. Why? It can be quite the headache to pick tasks off a never-ending list. Once you see that long list, you’re more likely to be demotivated before you even get started on a task.

The fix

Write everything you need to do onto a list, then rewrite your list into specific, actionable tasks. Break your lists up into a work list, home list, side project list and so on. Having multiple lists that detail the specifics of what you need to do makes it easier for your brain to digest all this information, instead of having to wade through numerous things that you can’t possibly do all at the same time. Keeping your lists separate will help you stay focused on what really needs to get done first.

Stop multitasking

You’re already really busy doing just one thing, so it’s a bad idea to risk compromising the quality of your work by multitasking, right? Wrong! In today’s fast-paced world, you multitask without even knowing, whether it’s by listening to music while working, or when you’re reading an advertizing billboard while walking along the street.

The fix

Be selective with what you choose to juggle! For instance, walking and listening are two tasks that complement each other, whereas it can be too hard for the brain to split itself between simultaneously typing and listening.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because something is named “the best advice” doesn’t mean it’s best for you. Looking to find out more about how to boost productivity in your business? Give us a call; we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Productivity
June 19th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jun9_CClued-up companies rely on business intelligence (BI) in order to make informed decisions regarding their future. Yet even though businesses invest in BI, they often make mistakes resulting from a lack of knowledge about how best to implement it, and can end up losing more than they can afford. Here is a round-up of common BI mistakes encountered by businesses, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not defining business problems

One of the biggest mistakes in BI implementation is jumping to conclusions too soon without first identifying what your business wants to accomplish. When it comes to integrating BI into business operations, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking for a single BI tool to solve all analytics problems is one of the main reasons many BI projects fail.

You need to clearly define the business problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the specific tools required to solve those problems. Only then will you be able to select and purchase the BI tool that best suits your needs.

Mistake #2: Not getting buy-in from end users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not properly utilized. Forcing your employees to use newly purchased BI technology without informing them or hearing their thoughts beforehand is a big mistake.

Instead of telling employees they have to use something, first focus on highlighting the benefits of the new BI system. Help employees understand why they’ll want to use it, and convince them by showing them what they stand to gain from the new BI technology.

Mistake #3: Rushing implementation

A rushed deployment of new technology is often times not a successful one. When it comes to deploying BI solutions, patience is key. If you hurry into BI implementation too quickly, your end users may not have enough time to develop the skills required to use the software effectively.

Take an incremental approach to implementing BI solutions. Make a list identifying business problems and, rather than expecting to solve every business problem all at once, try to prioritize specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have solved the first issue, move on to the next one and so on until you have incrementally solved all the problems on the list.

Mistake #4: Insufficient training

New BI systems are complex structures that require a lot of training in order for users to make the most of them. If users lack the skills necessary to operate the software, then bottlenecks can occur. The product may be left dormant for long periods of time as users wait for experienced IT staff to resolve teething problems.

Spend wisely on providing ongoing training, so that users really understand how to use the system. Consider hosting weekly lunch sessions where a different aspect of the BI system is discussed. You could also provide online training videos that enable users to learn more about the new system at their own pace.

Mistake #5: Not making use of information and reports

BI tools are designed to analyze raw data and turn it into valuable information that can be used in business decision making. But some organizations fail to exploit the information fully - it is not shared, not analyzed, and not acted on. BI software can generate reports on various data points, identify risks, and predict trends. It’s important to leverage the information gathered and to apply it to your business’s objectives and goals.

Business intelligence software is a highly useful tool that, when used properly, can drive your business forward. Avoid these mistakes in order to make the most of your BI solutions. If you’re looking to implement BI tools to your company, contact our experienced consultants today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from Source.