Blog

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
July 3rd, 2015

164_Soc_AMost of us know that gaining a foothold on social media takes time and effort. But if you’re at the point where you’ve already put in hundreds of hours of work with few results to show for it, you’re likely doing something wrong. There could be a number of different reasons for this, but here is a common trap that a lot of social media newbies fall into. And it starts with your content creation.

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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 1st, 2015

BusinessValue_Jun16_ANo matter how wonderful your company’s product or service, if you don’t advertise then no one will know about it. The goal of any advertising campaign should be to reach the largest audience for the lowest cost possible. If executed properly, advertising will serve as a powerful tool to boost your business’s profits sky high. But if you get it wrong, advertising can become a huge money sink. With that said, we have compiled some marketing tips to ensure that your online advertising campaigns deliver results.

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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jun17_AIn today’s fast-paced business environment, business productivity has never been more imperative for keeping up with the competition and boosting opportunities to stay ahead. But the fact is that many of the tips you read about simply don’t work, and they could even make things worse by actually lowering your productivity. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four productivity myths that you should avoid.

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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 30th, 2015

164_Mic_AImagine a world where you no longer rely on passwords. What would it look like? Would there be flying cars speeding through the skies? Would there be robots serving you coffee in Starbucks? While these two changes are still probably decades away, a password-free world is not. Here’s how Microsoft Windows 10 is taking the first steps to eliminating passwords now.

The problem with passwords

The problem with passwords is simple - they can be stolen. And from Facebook to iTunes to Flickr and thousands more, nearly every major website and thousands of niche ones require a password to use. And because we Internet users are logging onto dozens of these sites and services everyday, it’s virtually impossible for us to create a unique, complex password for each one. So people resort to using only a handful of passwords, or even just one master password, since it’s easier. But of course, this poses a security risk. So what’s an Internet user to do?

Microsoft Windows 10 is pioneering a new technology that is ready to flip this dated system on its head and eliminate the password problem for good.

Login to your devices with biometrics

Passwords can be stolen easily, but how easy is it to steal a person’s physicality? Microsoft’s new technology, named Hello, uses biometrics - such as your fingerprint, or face or iris scan - to log into your computer, laptop or other device. This ensures that no one can login to your device but you.

Well, what about using a photograph to login instead, you might ask? It won’t work. Using technology that takes a detailed map of your face in 3D, Hello is trained to reject the token photograph or selfie on login attempt. This makes it virtually impossible for anyone, besides you, to login to your device.

Use biometrics to login on the web

Logging into your computer with biometrics is great, but what most users really want is a more secure solution to login to websites while not having to remember a bazillion passwords. This is where Microsoft’s Passport comes in. Passport allows you to login into applications and online content without the need for a password. For example, instead of using your typical password to sign into your Microsoft Windows Account, you can now use Windows 10 facial recognition (or other biometrics) to log you in instead. That means you can access Skype, Xbox Live, Office 365 and more without a standard password. In addition to your Microsoft Windows Account, you’ll be able to use the biometric capabilities of Passport to access thousands of enterprise Azure Active Directory online services. Bear in mind, though, that it will be quite some time before you can use Passport to replace all your standard logins, since not every website has implemented this technology yet.

Want to hear more exciting Windows 10 news, or need assistance with your Windows device? Get in touch with one of our technology experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 29th, 2015

Windows_Jun18_AIt’s finally here - the long-awaited release of the new Windows 10 operating system from Microsoft has been confirmed for July 29. The tech giant is skipping number 9, making this the latest release since Windows 8 failed to live up to expectations. That means Microsoft has gone back to the drawing board, and emerged with countless impressive features. If you’re ready to get started with Windows 10 this summer, here’s what you need to know.

You can get it for free

They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access - at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay - the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.

It’s being launched in phases

Although the official release date is July 29, in reality Microsoft is expected to undertake a phased launch. This means that you might not end up using the brand new Windows 10 on July 29 itself - instead, Microsoft is likely to make the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.

It’s the last you’ll see of Windows

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds - this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates - far beyond the WIndows Updates that we know at the moment.

It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future - in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.

Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call and let us walk you through it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_AData backup is one of the most important aspects of your company's infrastructure. Without data availability, your business will come to a standstill. So it's bizarre that most business owners fail to have a proper data backup strategy in place - and when disasters strike, it will be too late to act. You really do need to take a proactive approach to backing up your data and keeping your business functioning normally at all times. There are several methods and devices you can use for backing up data - here are some to consider.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data - medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution - or solutions - best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_AWith social media being such a big part of everyday life, it likewise plays a huge role in online marketing. There are many social platforms a business can use to reach out to audiences, but the one that stands out from the crowd is Facebook. Over the past few years, Facebook advertising has seen steady growth in revenue, thanks to its specific audience targeting methods that allow business owners to lower their new customer acquisition cost significantly. If you haven’t tried Facebook ads, you’re truly missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. To that end, here’s a step-by-step guide to implement Facebook ads in your business.

1. Create a Facebook Business Page

First things first: before you can advertise on Facebook, you must have a Facebook Business Page. Log in to your Facebook account and, on the news feed page, click on Create a Page from the left column. Choose the category of your Page that best describes the nature of your business. Then fill out all your business information, including your website, hours of operation, phone number, address, and email. Finally, add creative profile and cover images to attract potential visitors.

2. Define your Facebook ads goals

Facebook offers a variety of advertisement options to choose from, depending on your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to create goals for your ads, to make sure you’re spending your money wisely while achieving your business goals. Start by asking yourself why you’re utilizing Facebook ads in the first place; defining advertising goals and strategies will help you choose the right type of Facebook ad.

3. Choose an objective for your campaign

Now that you have a Facebook ad goal in mind, it’s time to translate those goals into objectives for your campaign. For instance, if you want to drive more visitors to your business website, your Facebook ad objective is to Send people to your website, but if you want to increase your number of social media followers you would choose the objective Promote your Page. From your Page, click on Create ads and choose an objective to get started.

4. Target your audience

This is the step where most businesses fail at Facebook advertising. You can target your ads based on location, age, gender, language, interests, and behavior. By defining the right audience group, your Facebook ads will be shown to the right people and will give a high conversion rate. After you’ve chosen your target audience, you can decide how much money you want to spend, and choose the time to run your ad.

5. Customize your ad

This process is equally as important as audience targeting. In this step you have the option to choose how your ad will look, by adding up to five images and text that will accompany them. The text is only 90 characters long, so make sure your copy portrays what the content is about, so it will encourage people to click on your ad. Then choose where you want your Facebook ad to show from four options - the news feed, mobile news feed, right column, or audience network.

6. Place your order

The last step is to click on the Place Order button to submit your ad to Facebook for review. You’ll receive an email from Facebook once your ad has been reviewed and approved and is ready to launch.

Facebook advertising requires effective planning, testing, and measuring. You need to experiment in order to find the campaign that works best for your business. If you’re interested in advertising on Facebook or through other social media platforms, drop us a line and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media