Blog

August 26th, 2015

Windows_Aug26_AEver wondered what the Cortana thing that keeps showing up on Windows 10 is? It’s actually a digital voice assistant similar to Siri or Google Now. While you might be apprehensive about talking to your laptop, utilizing Cortana is easier and cooler than you might think. Here’s all you need to know about getting Cortana set up and what she can help you with.

If you are using Windows 10, it’s likely you have come across Cortana at least once or twice. While you might fear that the effort involved in setting up the feature isn’t worth the time you will save once Cortana is up and running, you would be mistaken. Configuring her is quite simple and she is more helpful than you might realize.

Setup

For starters, you will want to have your microphone turned on if you plan on using voice commands, and all the privacy and locations settings enabled. Cortana will not work if these have not been activated. From there, she will give you a brief overview of her capabilities and ask you a few questions to get to know you better.

Once that is completed, you are going to want to spend a few minutes testing her out and seeing what she can do for you. This awkward, getting-to-know-you stage might seem like a waste of time but, once you have a good feel for Cortana, you’ll be more inclined to use her in the future.

Maximize Cortana

Now that Cortana is ready to assist you, it’s important to utilize her as a personal assistant. Here are a few areas she can really come in handy:

Find that document - Ever saved a document somewhere to later forget where it was stored? Simply ask Cortana to look for it by saying, “Hey Cortana, find (file name),” and she will bring it up for you. Let’s say you are looking for Word documents located in multiple folders on your computer; all you have to say is, “Hey Cortana, find my Word documents,” to have her pull up all your Word files.

Easily start tasks - Football season is nearly upon us and that means fantasy football season is here. Utilizing Cortana could give you the extra edge needed to win your league this year. If you want to check on Tony Romo’s status, say, “search for Tony Romo injury,” and the search results will pop up for you. Want to make a sneaky trade offer to John before your rivals? Say “email John Fantasy Football,” and a window with his e-mail address will pop-up. Of course, these features are universal and you don’t have to like or even know what fantasy football is to use them.

Answer your questions - One of the coolest features about Cortana is the fact that when you ask her a question she will not only show you the answer, but speak it as well. Want to know what the weather is like in Denver? Just say, “Hey Cortana, what’s the weather in Denver,” and she’ll give you the lowdown on it. Need to know when your next meeting is taking place? Ask Cortana and she’ll reply with the answer. This is especially nice when you’re in your office but away from the computer.

Talking to Cortana is nice, but speaking with a person about your IT is better. Contact us today for all your technology needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 19th, 2015

Voice over Internet Protocol, commonly known as VoIP, is on the rise among businesses of all sizes, owing to its numerous benefits and advantages. It allows you and your employees to make and take phone calls over the Internet using your existing broadband connection, saving substantial amounts of money while increasing workflow efficiency. If you’re considering VoIP for your business, here are some of the most important aspects you need to address before making the switch.

Network

Implementing a VoIP phone system presents challenges of its own. For one thing, VoIP service cannot tolerate any kind of network interruption. You need to ensure you have alternative physical links to carry all of your VoIP traffic in the event that you lose your primary path. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) should also be installed. This way your Ethernet switches and VoIP devices won’t lose connection and go offline in case of power failure.

Security

As with other networks, VoIP is susceptible to cyber security threats and breaches. If you don’t have reliable and preventative security measures in place, you could fall victim to information theft and malicious attacks. Your best bet is to deploy a dedicated internal firewall to monitor the traffic flow and protect your systems from security threats.

Bandwidth

VoIP is dependent on the bandwidth of your Internet. Therefore, an accurate estimation of bandwidth consumption is crucial for proper planning in order to accommodate VoIP traffic. You need to perform tests to ensure you have enough bandwidth to handle the inbound and outbound call traffic. Relevant information includes the number of users, the number of handsets, the duration of calls, and data usage levels.

Budget

VoIP is no doubt a long-term money saver for your business, but switching over from a traditional phone system, or a fresh installation, involves a cost. You need to take into account the expenses of purchasing the equipment required for VoIP installation, such as VoIP phone cables, external power supplies, and routers. Installation costs may vary greatly, but it is worth the investment if you’re looking to take your communication systems to the next level.

Staff

Employee involvement and understanding is key to a seamless and successful VoIP integration. You can assign one, or a group, of your staff members the responsibility of learning about and managing your new VoIP systems. They can be the go-to person for any enquiries from other staff members. It is recommended that you ask a dedicated specialist to equip your staff with the information needed to utilize VoIP to its fullest potential. While most people are already familiar with video conferencing software such as Skype, it helps to create user guides and manuals to educate those that aren’t as tech-savvy.

VoIP implementation can often be a hassle if you undertake it alone. With the help of dedicated professionals, however, the whole process can become much easier, less expensive, and more rewarding.

Get in touch with us today and we’ll answer any questions you have on preparing your business to embrace this groundbreaking technology.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
August 17th, 2015

164_SM_AOne of the most valuable tools available to the modern-day marketer is the email list. A large one can make you millions, and a small or nonexistent one can prevent your business from properly taking off. So how do you grow yours? Using social media is one way that is often less talked about. Here are three tips on how you can leverage it to grow your email list.

Post and share your emails publicly

If you create great content for your email list and no one sees it except your subscribers, how are your non-subscribers going to know what they’re missing out on? They won’t, which is exactly why you should give your social media fans and followers a taste of the valuable content that awaits them after sign up.

Now let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean you should share every single email you send out to your list. If you did, there would be less of a need to subscribe. Instead, try sharing or posting an email once every few weeks or once a month.

Make it easy to sign up

Let’s face it. Many of us will take the easier, simpler path whenever possible. This is just as true in marketing as it is in other more primal aspects of human nature. Take eating, for example: if you’re short on time and have a choice between two restaurants for lunch, and one delivers and the other doesn’t, which one are you going to take? Likely the delivery. Even if you prefer the one that doesn’t deliver slightly better, you’d probably still take the delivery for the simple fact that they’ve made it easier for you.

In the online marketing world, the same concept works for gaining subscribers. This is why you need to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up after they’ve read your publicly shared email. To do this, simply add a sign-up link to the emails you share.

Create valuable content

You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king”. However, whoever came up with this catchphrase left out a very important keyword. It should instead read “valuable content is king.” If you’re shelling out dozens of blog posts, emails, podcasts or videos a month but the content is useless to the reader, you’re not going to make any traction with your email list.

When trying to gain subscribers, always ask yourself, “what’s in it for them if they sign up?” If you simply have a signup box on your website or social media page, but no valuable content to go along with it, why would someone sign up? Would you sign up? The point is that there needs to be a reason for someone to subscribe to your email list. And valuable content is a very good reason.

Lastly, don’t forget to demonstrate why it’s more valuable for your future audience to subscribe rather than simply follow you on social media. To do this, give them an incentive to sign up. This could be in the form of an exclusive offer or a free ebook, course, report, or something similar.

Want more tips on leveraging social media to grow your business? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 12th, 2015

164_Virt_AIs your data center sucking up energy? Are the costs of maintaining your server rooms out of control? For many business owners, the server room and data center are foreign lands they’d like to pretend don’t exist. But whether you acknowledge it or not, they could be costing you hundreds of extra dollars every month. Here’s what you can do to reduce costs.

Perform an energy audit

There’s a good chance your IT staff has never once thought about how much energy your server room and data center are consuming. So, the first step to rectifying this problem is to identify just how much power is being sucked up.

To get you started, here are a few questions to ask:

  • How much of the data center’s power budget goes to support systems?
  • How much goes to IT systems?
  • How much IT output do you get for every kilowatt/hour of power sucked up by your data center IT systems?
Answering these questions will help you determine just how efficient, or inefficient, your data center actually is.

Decrease the IT workload

When you save a single watt of energy at the server level, it can result in a total saving of nearly three watts in your data center costs.

So how do you decrease the IT workload? Virtualization is a common and effective tactic. Instead of wasting money on cooling your own servers in your data center, with virtualization you can have them hosted by your IT provider and then their technology delivered to you through the Internet. This allows you to eliminate some of your servers from your office and therefore reduce cooling costs.

For alternate ways to decrease server workload, you can also:

  • Eliminate unused servers
  • Consolidate servers
  • Purchase more energy-efficient technology

Mind your humidity and temperature levels

Because many non-IT personnel are terrified of the data center and simply don’t understand it, often they falsely believe that the room must be kept as cold as the North Pole in order to protect sensitive data. This is simply not true. While it is true that excessively high temperatures, humidity or dry conditions can harm your data, most modern-day data center equipment is incredibly durable and can tolerate a much wider range of humidity and temperatures than in decades past. Because of this, it is highly likely you can get away with a lot less cooling and dehumidification than you thought possible. That said, it’s wise to consult with an IT professional before doing this to ensure you don’t damage your data.

Another innovation that can help you cool down your data center more economically is utilizing an economizer system. This technology uses cool air from the outside to provide “free” cooling cycles for your data center.

Want more tips on reducing your overall IT bill? Curious to learn more about virtualization? Call us today to learn from one of our experts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 11th, 2015

Office_Aug11_ATablets with Windows 10 installed received a boost recently with the unveiling of the new Office Mobile applications. The mobile versions of the iconic Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications are specifically designed for use on tablets. The "touch-first" interface allows users to easily edit documents while on the go. The best news of all is the fact that Office Mobile apps are free for users of Windows 10.

One of the biggest complaints about trying to edit a Microsoft Office file from a tablet is usability, or lack thereof. That has all changed, at least for Windows 10 users, with Microsoft’s recent release of Office Mobile apps. The tablet-friendly versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote have been built from the ground up to improve touch functionality.

Even if you don’t have Windows 10, you still might be intrigued about the potential of having Office apps that are touch-friendly. Here are some of the new features you can enjoy when using Office Mobile apps.

Word

Microsoft Word Mobile has all the tools and features of the PC version including more nuanced tasks like being able to track changes and add footnotes. The Read mode, a mobile exclusive, improves the way documents appear by making them flow better on the smaller screens of a tablet while also letting you zoom in and out with a simple tap of the screen.

Excel

Recommended Charts is the prominent feature of the Excel Mobile app. It allows you to quickly show off your data using a stylish chart or graph with only a few taps. You will also find that reordering columns, adding formulae, changing chart types and the majority of Excel’s other core functions are easier than ever before.

PowerPoint

Of course Office wouldn’t be Office without PowerPoint. The mobile version of the app allows you to edit slides with new touch gestures. This makes it easy to insert and edit pictures, tables, shapes and SmartArt. But the real star here, and of the entire Office Mobile setup, is the Presenter View. This mode gives you full control over what your audience sees on the big screen during a presentation while still letting you view your speaker notes on the tablet.

OneNote

Windows 10 comes installed with OneNote, so you’re probably already using it. Tablet users will notice that changes made by anyone working in the notebook are automatically saved and synchronized for everyone to see.

The release of Office Mobile apps is just one of three big launches to come from Microsoft in 2015. Both Microsoft Office 2016 and Office Mobile for phones are slated for release this fall. Yet, while these tablet applications represent marked improvements for Windows 10 tablet users, they are probably not quite enough to warrant the switch from other operating systems just yet. In fact, even if you’re in love with the idea of having user-friendly, mobile versions of Office, you might want to hang on in there - it’s likely Microsoft will release them for iOS and Android in the near future, too.

Want to know what hardware and software is best for your company? Want to increase productivity in your office? Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how to do it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 10th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Aug10_AIn the current world, business continuity planning (BCP) is imperative to the sustainability of your business. Without a well-thought-out plan in place, it is highly unlikely that your company will be able to survive and recover from disasters. However, there are several major roadblocks to the successful implementation of a business continuity plan. If you’re struggling with BCP, check out our list of some common challenges organizations face, and learn how to address them properly.

Challenge #1: Prohibitive costs

Business continuity planning has become exponentially expensive as availability requirements increase. Many solutions require substantial investments on the installation and maintenance of additional hardware, software, and data center infrastructure. These requirements drive up the cost of business continuity, and many company owners are reluctant to invest in protective measures.

The solution Instead of relying on costly physical servers to accommodate your backups, consider using efficient and affordable cloud computing solutions. You can transfer your important business files to the cloud and eliminate the expense of having to install and manage hardware infrastructure and software licenses.

Challenge #2: High complexity

Traditional business continuity planning is complex to implement, manage and execute. From managing the recovery infrastructure to updating disaster recovery documentation and testing the BCP to find and close potential loopholes, the prospect of embarking on a BCP project can be daunting, and the whole experience can prove time consuming. Combine with the pressure of your ordinary day-to-day duties, it can seem almost impossible to focus your attention on initiating a BCP.

The solution With all this in mind, it makes more sense to hire a professional IT service provider to plan, implement, and execute your business continuity plan. This way you can leverage their experience and expertise to ensure that, in the event of a disaster, your company will be able to get back on its feet and resume business operations as quickly as possible.

Challenge #3: Lack of staff involvement

There are so many requirements to be considered in a business continuity plan. And the more employees your organization has, the more difficult it is to relay the essence of the plan for everyone to understand. Staff involvement isn’t an option - it’s an absolute necessity if you wish for a successful BCP implementation!

The solution Depending on the size of your organization, you can either hold a company meeting to announce the essentials of your BCP, or schedule a meeting with key staff members who take an active role in the planning process. To create a long-lasting BCP program, you need to get everyone on the same page by emphasizing the importance of the plan in an easy-to-understand way.

Business continuity planning is one of the most important things you need to have in place. You never know when, or in what form, a disaster will strike - all the more reason to take a preventative approach to securing your company and all you’ve worked for.

Need a reliable partner to take care of all your business continuity planning needs? Get in touch with us today - we have exactly what you need to prepare and protect your company.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 6th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Aug04_AIt might all seem a bit too much like something out of a sci-fi movie, but artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a big part of the IT landscape. One segment of artificial intelligence in particular, Natural Language Processing (NLP) - essentially a computer’s ability to take unscripted human words and turn them into something useful - is playing an increasing role in the way we use our devices. Here are three things you probably didn’t know about NLP.

There’s more to Natural Language Processing than voice recognition

Voice recognition might be among the most well-known practical uses of NLP in the technology we encounter in everyday life - but that likely has more to do with the popularity of the services that employ it, like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, than the merits of voice recognition in comparison to other NLP functions that tend to stay out of the limelight.

Truth be told, there’s a whole lot more to artificial intelligence than NLP. In fact, NLP is more effective in analyzing text data than it is sounds, which is precisely why digital assistant apps first use voice recognition to turn your commands into text data, and then use other NLP capabilities to search online for related information.

Natural Language Processing has already moved beyond its infancy

It’s tempting to believe that elements of artificial intelligence like NLP are still in the realm of the sci-fi movies, and that they are a long way from being useful to the technology we use in our everyday personal and business lives. It’s tempting, but further from reality than you might realize. That said, it’s true that to date there has been no commercial use of NLP that has truly exploited its full capabilities; even its deployment in a recently launched project to automate customer service only really scratches the surface.

What is clear is the shape that future uses of NLP will need to take. We already know that NLP alone doesn’t always judge context well, since it needs to learn about its environment first - without turning to other sources, for example, one app employing NLP would struggle to differentiate between providing traffic information and diagnosing a health complaint. The key, at least for now, is to restrict the scope in which NLP operates - by limiting its use to a travel app, for instance, NLP could learn about the various travel arrangements you make and then devise itineraries for you.

It works with more than just large-scale data

While it’s undeniable that NLP can be put to great use in analyzing vast swathes of aggregated information, for example taking masses of social media data and being able to assess the feelings of users towards the subject in question, that’s not the limit of its capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, NLP can also be used to interpret much smaller-scale data in real time. This is where its true value comes into play in terms of being able to take natural-language user input, in an app setting for example, and make decisions that add value to our mobile experience.

Whether for automated customer service or comprehensive sales applications, it’s clear that Natural Language Processing - and other aspects of artificial intelligence - hold the potential to be of value-adding benefit to the business world in the near future. It’s an area that’s very much still in development - and so even more exciting, and important to watch - but now is the time to discover how best to implement NLP technologies into your company. By getting ahead now, you can offer a customer experience that truly sets you apart from the competition. To find out how we can help you achieve just that, and at the same time maximize the value you drive from mobile technologies more generally, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2015

164_Prod_ AYou may have heard of Managed Services, but are clueless as to how they can help your business. You may have heard of how they can boost productivity and increase profits, but are unsure of exactly how they do that. For those who need a better understanding of just how Managed Services can benefit a business, today we’re going to demystify it all. Here is the explanation you’ve been waiting for.

Managed Services essentially amounts to preventative IT maintenance. What this means for your business is that little IT problems are nipped in the bud as soon as they bubble up, and before they have a chance to compound into much bigger, more costly ones. But before we delve deeper into how this increases your business’s productivity levels, it makes sense to look at the history of this service and the role of “preventative maintenance” in our culture.

Why preventative maintenance matters

Managed Services have been around for decades. But despite this, many businesses have been slow to catch on. And really, is it all that surprising? Preventative maintenance is not exactly a priority in mass culture. Whether you hire a mechanic to replace a catalytic converter, a plumber to repair a leaky pipe or doctor to correct your coronary heart disease, many of these oftentimes preventable problems have been culturally accepted as commonplace. Yet people are so used to the mindset of thinking “everything is okay until it’s not”, which is really where the true problem lies.

Additionally, when preventable problems are ignored long enough to the point they explode into emergency repairs, your wallet almost always suffers. This is just as true for a network crash to your business’s IT infrastructure as it is for a trip to the emergency room for a neglected health problem.

Because Managed Services prevent catastrophic IT repairs that surprise you out of nowhere, your bottom line will enjoy long-term savings. Along with this, you’ll also get a significant bump in your productivity levels.

How does Managed Services boost productivity?

To answer this question, it makes sense to look at a fundamental principle of productivity - focus. Imagine if you’re trying to complete a new marketing strategy for the next quarter. You’re doing some research, compiling a list upcoming networking events and trade shows to attend, when suddenly you’re disrupted by an urgent phone call. After you’re off the phone, you return to your research, and then your secretary bursts in with an handful of vendor invoices you need to sign off on. As these disruptions continue to pile up, what happens if your IT breaks down and you’re unable to use your computer? Basically, you don’t get anything done during the day. You become stuck.

When it comes to IT, Managed Services take preventative measures to ensure your IT is always running at its optimal level, so that you don’t suffer technology breakdowns or distractions that blow your focus - preventing you and your staff from getting any work done. Smooth running IT won’t resolve all your productivity problems, such as your staff focusing more on Facebook or their phone rather than their work, but it will resolve all of those that relate directly to technology. No longer will your business be held down by daily computer disruptions and associated repairs, and instead you and your staff can move forward and focus on growing your business. That is the beauty of Managed Services. More productivity, focus and growth for your entire organization.

Have more questions about Managed Services? Give us a call today. We’re happy to provide you the information you need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_ATechnology has allowed businesses to get more work done with less time and expense. When properly implemented, it serves as a great tool that allows your employees to work remotely, collaborate more efficiently, and manage their time more effectively. If you want to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to make technology work for you. Here are some things you can do to make your employees more productive.

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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 15th, 2015

164_Prod_AIt’s easy for anyone to speculate about what the top productivity killers are for today’s workforce. What may come to mind first are distractions such as email, social media, or the personal problems of employees. But last month in a new survey of 2,175 hiring and human resources managers, CareerBuilder revealed what some of the real issues are. The results are a mix of obvious distractions and surprising revelations.

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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity