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April 16th, 2015

164_A_OffHave you ever needed to scan a document, but not had a scanner on hand? Well just think how convenient it would be if you could use your phone as a scanner instead? If you’re a smartphone owner and regular app user, you’re probably aware of the myriad of apps that can do this. What you may not know is that there’s also a phone app out there that can not only scan a document, but also gives you the ability to edit the scanned text. It’s called Microsoft Office Lens, and now it’s available for iOS and Android. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Microsoft Office Lens?

Microsoft Office Lens is virtually a scanner in your pocket. You snap a picture of anything with text on it, and just like that it’s converted into a scanned document. What separates it from other similar apps out there is its ability to make the scanned text editable as if it were in a Word doc.

Unlike most of the other phone scanning apps, Office Lens automatically detects the borders of the item or document you’re scanning. This means you don’t have to bother lining up the edges of the item with a grid - you just point and shoot. The Lens app then optimizes the picture so that the text is easy to read. It does this by cleaning up shadows and straightening awkward angles. Also, the images you snap are automatically synced to OneNote. This allows you to easily store them, transfer to your other devices or share them later. Additionally, the images can also be saved to MS Word, Powerpoint or PDF. Originally launched in March of 2014, up until now Microsoft Office Lens was only available to Windows Mobile users. This seems a god sent to anyone who has had to rewrite scanned docs to make changes or reformat information.

To give you an idea of some of the items Microsoft Office Lens can scan, check out the list below:

  • business cards
  • billboards
  • receipts
  • invoices
  • notes
  • white boards
  • really anything that has text on it
Why is this cool? Well, imagine you’re at a meeting and there have been a long series of notes written on a white board. Instead of having to scribble all these notes down on a piece of paper, you can simply snap an image of the board. Afterwards you can edit the text from the whiteboard as you see fit, adding in your own notes or ideas.

How to get Microsoft Office Lens app

If you use an iOS device, you can download the app for free on iTunes.

As for Android, a fully functional version of the app is not yet readily available. However, you can get a preview version by joining the “Office Lens Android Preview” community on Google +. There you can sign up to become a tester.

Want to learn more about Office Lens and other Office products? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 10th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Apr10_AWe’ve all become accustomed to controlling our touchscreen smart phones with our fingers. It is something which just a few years ago seemed unthinkable, as we were grappling with now ancient looking Nokia models. Now the next revolution is on the way - Samsung has recently patented new technology that, if it comes to fruition, will see your phone respond to eye movement as a way of controlling what it does.

Some devices, both from Samsung and other manufacturers, already have security features which enable you to scan your face as a way to unlock your phone. This is the kind of eye control function that we might expect from future Samsung devices employing the technology that is the subject of the company’s latest patent. The patent doesn’t limit the application of this technology to phones, either, meaning that we could well see it deployed on devices like tablets, desktop computers and even televisions.

Imagine being able to play a song in your phone’s music streaming application, simply by blinking. Blink a second time and you could pull up various information about the song and artist - other movements allow you to activate further features in the app, whether that’s increasing the volume, pausing, rewinding or downloading other songs by the same artist. The patent lists eye movements including blinking, keeping them closed, and gazing at one spot for a prolonged period, each of which would be linked to specific in-device actions.

The race to implement technology to enable visual control of cell phones is not a new one - back in 2013, LG accused Samsung of having infringed on one of its eye-tracking patents with features available on the Samsung Galaxy 4S. Prior to the launch of the 4S, LG alleged that the phone’s Smart Pause function, which automatically pauses video when you take your eyes off the screen, violated a patent the company had applied for in 2009, and which covered the same technology on its Optimus G Pro device. However, when the 4S was eventually released, the Smart Pause and Smart Scroll features - the latter of which allows for browser and email scrolling without touching the screen - relied on facial recognition rather than eye tracking.

Similar features are available on Apple devices, and intended primarily for those with motor difficulties. Switch Control allows you to connect a switch to your iOS device for easier access, while since iOS 7.1 it has also been possible to use the device’s camera as a head switch, and then customize the settings to define head movements and which actions they trigger. Nonetheless, the ongoing innovations being attempted by firms like Samsung mean that this kind of device control is likely to become even more common and mainstream in the near future.

To find out how we can help you use the latest mobile technology in your business to drive productivity and greater revenue, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2015

164_A_MWIf Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera were at a cocktail party, Internet Explorer would probably be the butt of all their jokes. That’s not to say Internet Explorer never served a purpose, but it clearly has not kept up with the likes of today’s modern browsers. Microsoft knows this, which is why they’re releasing a new browser later this year. The name of it is Spartan, and there are some nifty features that may just revolutionize the way you use the web.

What is Spartan?

Spartan is Microsoft’s new web browser that will be released later this year along with Windows 10. Microsoft’s aim is to build a browser that is designed for the modern web, which creates a more personable experience when interacting with it. Here are few of the incredible changes Spartan has in store.

Web Note

Also known as inking, Web Note allows you to edit web pages directly. You can do this by either typing them or using an interactive pen that allows you to literally circle, underline, or annotate pages as you see fit. These annotations can then be shared with friends and colleagues via email or social networking. They’ll also be stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage for easy collaboration.

Reading View

A web page can be a busy place, and the guys at Microsoft know that. That’s why they’ve created Reading View, which provides distraction-free reading to keep you focused on the content. Reading View eliminates ads, fancy CSS styling, sidebars and comments, creating a simple format that feels as if you’re looking at an open book.

Cortana, your new personalized assistant

More and more phones are enabling their devices with personal assistants, so why not web browsers? Cortana is designed to make your web browsing experience easier and more personalized. For example if you’re looking up a business or restaurant, Cortana can provide additional information such as opening hours, address and contact info. Another nifty feature of Cortana allows you to get a definition or content explanation without leaving your current page. Just highlight the word, right click and select Ask Cortana. She’ll provide you with the info you’re looking for, right there on your web page.

Want to learn more about Spartan or other Microsoft Windows News and tips? Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 8th, 2015

164_A_ProdMost of us have this fantasy that technology is going to make everything better automatically. But is that really true? When you stop and take a moment to reflect, does checking your email ten times a day, keeping your break/fix contractor on speed dial, or purchasing yet another workflow app really make your business more productive? The easy answer to these questions is almost certainly no. And, while we’re on the subject, here are a few more questions you need to ask yourself to ensure your technology is speeding up your productivity, not slowing it down.

Is this making my job easier or harder?

There’s no questioning that technology can make our lives better and our jobs easier, but it can also make everything more difficult. Here are a few ways it can slow you down:
  • Distraction - From email to Facebook to Skype or Gchat, technology can be a 24-hour distraction. If you are constantly switching between technology apps and programs - whatever your reason - you’ll certainly end up in a state of distraction, causing your productivity to take a hit.
  • Too complex - Some technology is simply too complex for the average user. To fix this problem, either use technology that is more user-friendly, or leave your IT guy to the job.
  • Too much - There are simply hundreds and thousands of apps and programs that can be used to make your workflow and job easier, but if you use too many you’ll likely be slowed down as you bounce between them all. The trick is to use only what you need, and nothing more.

Does my tech work?

This is almost a no-brainer. Your tech needs to work in order for you to reach your maximum productivity. If you’re still using a break/fix contractor and you’re calling him every other week, is this increasing or inhibiting your productivity? The answer is pretty obvious - it’s probably slowing you down. So what do you do? You need to get a more effective technology solution that is going to “just work”.

If you’re a small business owner, one way to do this is through managed services. This is a hands-off solution where an MSP handles all your IT, usually for a fixed monthly fee, so you never have to think about it. MSPs are proactive about preventing problems from ever occurring in the first place, meaning you’ll have fewer IT issues creating disruption and downtime in your workday.

Is this tech job my responsibility?

Just because you know how to troubleshoot a broken application, does that mean you should? If you’re a business owner or have a job role outside of the tech department, it will benefit you in the long run to leave the job to the tech team. Why? It’s for the same reason the owner of a restaurant doesn’t mop the floors or clean the toilets. They have better things to do with their time, and so do you. You have a specific role for a reason, and you’re creating the most value for your company when you stick to that role. Do yourself and the tech team a favor and leave the tech alone; you have a business to run.

Want more ideas on how to maximize your productivity and use technology to its greatest good? Give us a call and let’s talk today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 7th, 2015

BusinessValue_Apr7_AHowever good you are at running your business, you'll not get very far without a steady stream of customers. So you need to look after them. One of the factors that differentiates good companies from great ones is customer relationship management, commonly known as CRM. Over the past few years, thanks to the huge growth in online reviews and social media, customers’ expectations have changed, meaning people now have more power and businesses need to adapt accordingly to respond to customer demand.

Imagine a product that you purchased a couple of days ago breaks after its first use. You contact customer support and describe the issue, only to be told to wait for another representative to call you back. You wait for hours, and still nobody calls back. After sending an email to customer support, there's a chance you get a call back, but it's from someone unfamiliar with your problem and you awkwardly have to explain yourself for the third or fourth time. An effective customer relationship management system can eliminate this problem and many more. Here’s what you need to know.

CRM defined

Customer relationship management is a system that allows businesses to manage, record, and evaluate their customer interactions, in order to provide better services and boost sales. You can use CRM to store customers’ contact details, accounts, leads and sales opportunities all in one place, usually in the cloud so that the information is accessible by anyone in your organization, and at any time.

Why you should invest in CRM

  • Master data management - This is a method of recording and sharing customer data across the CRM process. When customer data is recorded, the CRM system centralizes the data into one file, called a master file. Everyone within the company then has access to this data source, preventing confusion from inaccurate or duplicated data.
  • Collaboration - Nowadays clients want their support from a company’s customer service team to be as fast as possible. But one of the problems in the customer service arena is a lack of consistency. CRM systems are able to ensure customer information is shared among departments to better understand circumstances and requirements, and provide a more consistent service.
  • Customer segmentation - A CRM system arranges your customers into groups based on criteria such as age, gender, location, and even their likes and dislikes. This allows you to target marketing messages to your customers more accurately, potentially increasing your sales numbers.
  • Task tracking - CRM systems have task tracking features that enable your employees to stay on top of important tasks, such as contacting customers via email or phone, and following up on leads. CRM systems also send reminders to employees about their assigned tasks, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • In-depth reporting - Another benefit you can derive from implementing a CRM system is a thorough analysis of your customer base. CRM-generated reports give details including an overview of product sales numbers, the marketing strategies that work best, your most successful products or services to date, and even a prediction of whether your sales target will be met at the end of the month.
If you’re looking to improve customer service and increase sales conversion with CRM, contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 6th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr6_AAs a business owner you put everything into its success - your time, skills, and financial resources. With that in mind, you should take important steps to secure your business in the event of a disaster. Disasters, whether in the form of floods or IT system failures, compromise your company’s hard-earned reputation and client trust. You never know when a disaster may strike, and having a disaster recovery plan in advance can help your business get back on its feet more quickly. If you haven’t already put a disaster recovery plan in place, here are four disaster protection tips for your business.

Cloud backup

One of the most serious side effects disasters inflict on your business is preventing access to data. This is a major inconvenience, especially if you need to communicate with clients on a daily basis. Make sure all your crucial data is safe by using a cloud-based backup solution. With the power of the cloud, your files are stored and accessible from anywhere, and at any time. Cloud backup provides convenience and enhanced uptime, ensuring business continuity during a disaster.

Get disaster insurance

Disaster insurance can help cover the costs of repairing damage caused by certain disasters. Many business owners think they have sufficient insurance coverage, only to find out later that their policy didn’t cover a disaster scenario. Take the time to consult with your insurance agent to understand what is, and what is not, covered by your insurance. If necessary, consider buying additional coverage from your insurance provider.

Prepare your employees

Many businesses regard employees as their most valuable assets. In the event of a disaster you will rely on them not only to execute the disaster recovery plan, but to also keep your business running. Unfortunately, if your employees or their families are also affected by a natural disaster, they won’t be able to concentrate on their work. That’s why you need to prepare your staff for coping with a disaster as well as your business. It could be something as simple as issuing a handbook to cope with crises, sending emails to alert employees, or preparing emergency supplies and communication devices to meet immediate needs.

Create a contingency plan

Review all your business operations and identify areas that are crucial for your organization’s survival. Establish a procedure for managing those functions during a disaster. For instance, you can make a list of all suppliers and their contact information. If your suppliers are located near your business, you should have secondary contacts in other locations. Establish an assembly place where your employees can continue to run the business if your main premises become inaccessible. Once you have a contingency plan in place, make sure you review it with your employees at least twice a year so you don’t forget any crucial details.

When your business is hit by a disaster, the top priority is to keep your daily operations running as normally as possible. If you want to learn more about planning for a disaster, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 2nd, 2015

SocialMedia_Mar30_AFor businesses using Facebook to promote themselves locally, nationally or even globally, your page like count is pretty much the holy grail. It’s arguably the most important metric you can use to get a handle on the reach of your posts and the effectiveness of, and return on investment, from your Facebook marketing efforts. Yet Facebook recently announced that business page owners would see a drop in their like count. Here’s what you need to know.

Facebook’s announcement means that since March 12 you may have seen a drop in the number of likes, or fans, attributed to your page. If you’ve been wondering what you did wrong to cause the drop, you can rest assured that it’s unlikely to be a result of ineffective marketing or unengaging content on your part. Rather, Facebook has been hard at work removing inactive accounts from the social network.

The kind of Facebook accounts affected by the move are those of deceased users whose friends or family have opted to have the profile memorialized. The page remains visible, but is clearly marked as in remembrance of the user and becomes a place for relatives to share memories. Accounts also affected are those whereby the user has opted to deactivate their profile and take a break from the site. In the case of deactivated profiles, if the user later returns to Facebook and begins using their profile again, the like will be re-added to your page’s count at that point.

In making this move, Facebook aims to ensure that the like count for a page more accurately reflects the number of active users who actually see and engage with the page’s content. There’s no denying that it is easy to become distracted by high like counts, when often the reality is that only a fraction of those users are the people you are aiming to target, or indeed real humans at all. The social network already filters out likes and comments for specific posts from those with deactivated or memorialized accounts, so this change simply represents an extension of this policy to the more visible metric of a page’s overall like count. From Facebook’s perspective, the move also helps it to deliver a better overall experience, since taking the bloatedness out of artificially inflated numbers helps users get a better idea of which pages are popular and which are most relevant to their needs and interests.

Businesses should consider Facebook’s shift a positive one, since it leaves you with a clearer perspective on the real audience your page is getting and removes the potential to be seeking false comfort from a high page count that doesn’t actually reflect the level of active engagement. The move has echoes of recent efforts by Instagram to flush out spam accounts from its system - some high-profile celebrities saw their follower counts drop by the thousands after these accounts were banished. Though the dip in Facebook page likes may continue for a further few weeks as more accounts are flushed out from the count, most page owners will notice only a small difference. If you suffer a more drastic drop, treat it as a wake-up call to try new tactics to deliver engaging content and organically drive a more genuine Facebook audience.

Need advice on how to build a social media audience and use it to generate leads? Get in touch today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 25th, 2015

Productivity_Mar25_AMeetings are meant to be hotbeds of production, where decisions get taken, people get updates and projects get moved forward. Yet all too often, they become a strain on your workforce’s productivity, hours out of the day when staff are taken away from their jobs to sit in inefficient sessions which are too long and lack pace and focus. But meeting productivity platform Do.com is trying to change that. The service just made two important announcements - here’s why you’ll want to add Do.com to your productivity suite.

Do.com aims to end what it terms ‘meeting hell’, and the platform is currently used by more than 5,000 organizations from top businesses like Dominos to sectors of the US government. When you add Do.com to your company’s productivity strategy, you benefit from a host of meeting-oriented features including management of agendas, notes and actions. The tool can also be used to share files for the purpose of discussion during meetings, and to display a timer to keep deliberations on track and avoid that ultimate hell of never-ending meetings.

The cloud-focused application has signaled it is on an upward trajectory, recently adding $2 million in funding. The additional capital will be used to further expand Do.com and its features, as well as the team behind it. Consequently, it appears that now is a great time to be getting onboard, with lots more to come from it. The most recent technical development to be announced is its new integration with Office 365. This will give Do.com further relevance and usability value to business owners around the world who are already taking advantage of the numerous benefits of the Microsoft cloud-based suite of productivity applications.

Do.com can already be used in conjunction with Evernote and Google Apps like Drive and Docs, but the move to integrate with Office 365 puts it in reach of an ever larger audience. Those not yet accustomed to high-tech meeting solutions may still be using pen and paper to manage their company get-togethers. But Do.com identifies its technology-based competitors as core cloud applications such as Dropbox, Trello, Evernote, Google Apps - everything from Docs to Calendar to Drive - and even good old email. Yet Do.com does something these individual apps don’t - while they all tackle one particular element of the organization and follow-up to a meeting, Do.com handles the whole lot with a single holistic, meeting-centered approach. With its latest moves, that’s what the platform hopes will be attractive to productivity-deprived business owners.

Want to find out more about Do.com and other productivity and cloud-based technologies? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 24th, 2015

164 BizV_AYou’ve been using your break/fix contractor for years. For the most part, he’s been reliable and helped your business run a smooth IT operation. But you’ve been hearing more and more about Managed Services, and it’s peaked your interest. If you’re thinking about making the jump from break/fix to Managed Services, here are a few compelling ideas to consider.

The ultimate break/fix nightmare

Your business is running smoothly. Profits and staff productivity have been up, and you haven’t had a single IT expense in months. Times are good. You kick back in your leather chair and break out that Cuban cigar you’ve been saving for just such an occasion.

But then the BIG ONE hits. Your servers crash. No, not just one - all of them! Your business comes to a grinding halt. None of your staff can work. You call your go-to break/fix IT provider, but he’s overloaded with work and can’t make it out to your offices till next week. Next week?! In a panic, you call the first IT contractor you find on Google. Thankfully he’s available. But since you need this work done immediately, he charges an unbelievable fee for a last minute fix. You have no other choice, you hire the contractor. You’re left hoping he fixes everything properly and none of your crucial data is lost in the process.

This is the precarious nature of break/fix IT services. And while this is a worst case scenario, situations like this can and have happened. So let’s look at the reasons why it pays to to hire a Managed Services Provider (MSP) instead.

MSPs prevent problems. Break/fix profit from them.

Think about the relationship dynamics of Managed Services compared to break/fix. If you’re a business owner who currently use a break/fix contractor, when your IT goes down your contractor gains profit. Your problem equals his reward.

How motivated do you think he is to do an effective job of fixing your issue? If that problem pops up again later, it equals more reward for him. Now that’s not to say all break/fix contractors aren’t fixing your IT to the best of their abilities. But think about the basic mindframe of a break/fix contractor: problem=profit.

The MSP system works differently. You pay a set fee every month to your IT provider. So the reward for the MSP comes every month. If something goes wrong during that month, you don’t pay anymore. Yet it costs the MSP more money, and therefore affects their profit margin. Because of this, the MSP is rewarded for taking preventative measures to ensure your IT is working as effectively as possible, always.

That’s not to say problems won’t happen with an MSP. But when they do, they’ll end up costing the MSP provider, and they certainly don’t want that. So for an MSP, the basic mindframe is: healthy IT=profit.

MSPs extinguish budget surprises

Everyone likes surprises, except when it comes to losing money. And when you have a break/fix IT service provider, big surprises can and do happen - and not the good ones, either.

An MSP is working to prevent problems from happening in the first place. You pay a monthly flat fee, so you always know what you’re paying. You can plan and predict your budget accordingly.

With break/fix, it’s true that some months you won’t have any IT expenses from your contractor, which is great. But other months, you could have bills that are astronomical. So you never know just what you’ll be paying for your IT budget in any given month. And if you don’t have that money set aside, then what?

MSPs might just make you happier

Yes, as silly and simple as it sounds, with an MSP you’ll probably be happier. The main reason is you won’t have to deal with the frustration of unexpected IT problems eating away at your budget and the downtime that comes with it. Your IT will run more smoothly (which will create a foundation for your business to do the same) and your budget will be predictable.

Even better, you’re more likely to have a fruitful relationship with your MSP provider since you both have the same goal: effective smooth running IT for your business. What business owner doesn’t like the sound of that?

Want to learn more about Managed Services? Contact us today to learn more about this effective alternative.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 23rd, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Mar23_AA business continuity plan (BCP) is often defined as a method of putting businesses back on their feet in the event of a disaster. With this in mind, companies are increasingly concentrating their efforts on developing a BCP so that, when unexpected disasters strike, they can minimize damage and continue to function as normally as possible. But with many abbreviations and terms that may sound unfamiliar to average employees, or even business owners or managers, understanding these common BCP terms is vital.

Battle box - a tool box where necessary equipment and vital information are stored. These objects and pieces of information should be useful in a disaster. Typical items include a first aid kit, laptop, protective equipment, and communication devices.

Business impact analysis (BIA) - a process to evaluate the impact that a disaster may have on a business. The BIA shows what a business stands to lose if some parts of its functions are missing. It allows you to see the general picture of your business processes and determine which ones are the most important.

Call tree - a comprehensive list of employee contacts and their telephone numbers. Call trees are used to notify out-of-office employees about a disaster. Companies can use a software program to contact people on the call tree by sending automated emails and text messages. In order for a call tree to work, employees should provide alternative contact options and their information must be up to date.

Data mirroring - a duplication of data from its source to another physical storage solution or the cloud. Data mirroring ensures that crucial information is safe, and companies can use the copied data as backup during a disaster.

Exercise - a series of activities designed to test a company’s business continuity plan. When an exercise is carried out, there will be an evaluation to decide whether a BCP is meeting standards or not. An exercise can identify gaps in, and the drawbacks of, a BCP and is therefore used as a tool to revise and improve a business continuity plan.

Hot site - an alternate location equipped with computers, communication tools and infrastructures to help a business recover information systems affected by the disaster.

Plan maintenance - a process of maintaining a company’s business continuity plan so that it is in working order and up to date. Plan maintenance includes scheduled reviews and updates.

Recovery time objective (RTO) - a period of time in which companies must recover their systems and functions after a disaster. This is the target time for a business to ideally resume its delivery of products and services at an acceptable level. RTO may be specified in business time (e.g. one business day) or elapsed time (e.g. elapsed 24 hours).

Business continuity plans can be a hassle to design and implement without proper understanding of their requirements. If you want to learn how you can protect your business from disasters, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.