Blog

March 26th, 2015

O365_164_ACyber threats, rising healthcare costs and overloaded inboxes. These are some of the problems of modern life. Thankfully, Office 365 now has a solution for the latter. If your inbox is bursting to the brim with social media alerts and junk mail from newsletters you don’t remember signing up for, now you’ll have one less problem to worry about. Learn how Office 365’s new Clutter feature can bring order back to your inbox.

The problem with today’s email spam filtering

In everyday life, we’re faced with some issues that are of major importance, others minor, and many completely insignificant. Our email inboxes are no different. Some mails need to be attended to immediately, others can wait awhile, and some we never want to see at all.

But in our current email landscape, there is no gray area. A message either goes to your spam folder or to your inbox. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of middle way? This is where Office 365’s new Clutter feature comes into play.

How Clutter works

Clutter works by creating a folder for your emails that are of ‘minor’ importance. This folder is aptly named Clutter, and it works in essentially the same way as your junk folder.

How does it know which emails to put in the Clutter folder? The feature monitors your inbox behavior and then accordingly determines which folder to put an email. For example, if there are specific senders you always reply to immediately, perhaps several times a day, then those messages are clearly important to you. However, if you’re receiving emails from a company and deleting them without opening, then that also says something about the importance of messages from that sender. Clutter works by tracking the patterns of this behavior, observing them and then filtering each message into the appropriate folder. This leaves the messages you need to respond to now in your inbox and hides the ones that can wait, delightfully out of sight.

Want to learn more about Clutter and other Office 365 features? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office 365
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.

March 20th, 2015

VoIPGeneral_Mar20_ATraditional phone lines are still the preferred choice of many businesses. However, the times they are a-changin’. And there are some good reasons to consider other options. No, that doesn’t mean getting rid of your phone altogether, but considering an alternative method that turns the whole idea of traditional phone use on its head. We’re talking VoIP, the telephony solution for the future. And it may be time your business took notice. Here are some of the unique advantages of VoIP.

What is VoIP?

To truly understand how VoIP can help your business, you must first know what it is. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. All that means is that you’re essentially able to talk with others over an Internet connection instead of a traditional phone line. Yes, you can still use your actual phone handset, as well as your tablet or computer. The major difference is in the way the call is transmitted.

VoIP lowers costs

The biggest advantage of VoIP is that your business will save a bundle on costs. VoIP takes efficiency to a whole new level. Since you’ll be receiving phone calls over the Internet, you’ll cut out the expense of a phone line altogether and instead consolidate both your Internet and voice communication costs. To do this, however, you’ll need to upgrade to a high-speed Internet connection (if you don’t have one already), which will of course cost extra money. But knocking out the expense of your phone line will likely be much more cost-effective for your business overall.

If your business makes international calls regularly, VoIP is even more of a no brainer. With VoIP, international calling costs are significantly reduced and in some cases even free. Skype, which is similar to VoIP, is a perfect example of the latter.

Statistically speaking, VoIP services have helped many businesses lower costs dramatically. For some, local call expenses have been reduced by up to 40% and for international calls by a whopping 90%. How’s that for savings?

Many, better features than traditional phones

In addition to reduced costs, VoIP also offers a wide array of innovative features that surpass those of a traditional phone line. While listing them all would take several pages, three notable ones are virtual numbers, call routing and improved conference calls.
    • Virtual numbers - A virtual number allows you to easily have a local number anywhere in the world. That means if you have a large market of clients in London, you can actually get a local London number with the area code of your choice. When someone in the UK dials this number, it will transfer to your phone - whether your business is actually in Seattle or Toronto. This makes it easy for your customers to contact you and will likely garner more business, since we all know customers like things to made as easy as possible for them.
    • Call routing - If you’ve ever worried about missing an important phone call, call routing will have you breathing a long sigh of relief. With this feature, an incoming call will be transferred to multiple devices of your choice. So if your office desk phone rings when you’re not there, that same call will then ring on your mobile, home phone, iPad and other devices before going to voicemail.
    • Better conference calls - With VoIP and a high speed Internet connection, you can include an unlimited number of people on conference calls. And even better, you can also use video conferencing so you can see your colleagues or clients in person.
Interested in learning more about how VoIP can work for your business? Call us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 19th, 2015

Virt 164_ATo migrate to the Cloud or virtualize your machines? That is the question. Both Virtualization and Cloud Computing have benefits. But figuring out which one is right for your organization is another story. If you’re having trouble deciding which technology is the best choice for the future of your business, this article will help you figure it out.

The difference between Cloud Computing and Virtualization

To understand which technology you need, you first need to understand the role of that technology in your business.

Virtualization is basically using virtual hardware or software stored off-site, instead of the actual physical asset being in your office. A common asset many organizations choose to virtualize is a server. So if you’re thinking about buying a new server, you may want to consider investing in a virtual one instead. The advantage of this is that you’ll free up office space and save money on the upfront expense of an in-house server as well as its maintenance costs.

Cloud Computing, on the other hand, is not about individual assets, but instead is an operational model. Your business will run through the Cloud, where employees can create documents, interact with each other and customers, and even store files and data. The main advantage of the Cloud is that it increases operational efficiency and boosts organizational productivity.

Arguments for virtualizing

If you’re considering either the Cloud or Virtualization and have done neither, it makes sense to think about Virtualization first. With both Virtualization and the Cloud, you’re essentially changing the architecture of your business - from physical to virtual. Virtualization, however, is a small change, while Cloud Computing is a more dramatic one. If you opt for going all in with the Cloud right away, it may be a bit mind jarring for some of your staff as they get used to the new technology. And this could slow down their productivity. Virtualizing a few technology assets, instead of your entire workflow system, is an easier way to get a grasp of working with virtual technology for the first time.

A more fundamental reason to choose Virtualization is that you’re just looking to create more office space. In this case Virtualization is a no-brainer.

Arguments for the Cloud

If your organization gets to the point of needing to add virtualized machines or servers quickly, the Cloud can automate this process. However, your IT department must be ready and willing to hand this process over to your end users.

Also, if your organization has been using virtualized machines for some time or is simply ready to overhaul its workflow and operational process altogether, then the Cloud is likely a better fit for your business.

Which is the best choice for your business?

What it comes down to is operational efficiency (Cloud Computing) or saving money and space on individual assets (Virtualization). What’s more important to you?

And do you have a progressive organization and staff that are ready to adapt to using virtual technologies? If not, then Virtualization may be the initial step you need to start changing your organization’s infrastructure to compete in the modern business world.

Want to learn more about Virtualization and Cloud Computing? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 18th, 2015

Security_Mar18_AWe all know that it’s important to maintain high security vigilance across whole spectrum of your IT, from changing your email password regularly to locking your work computer when you are away from your desk. But there are few areas where it couldn’t be easier to score an own goal and make life easy for fraudsters than in the realm of financial services. From your online banking system to mobile payment platforms, these are accounts where it’s absolutely vital to be on your guard against possible intruders. Peer-to-peer payment provider Venmo just made it a little easier to do that.

The Venmo platform is known for its convenience and ease of use, and is commonly used to split the cost of drinks, dinner, taxis and the like. The app is now adding a raft of new security-focused features, in response to criticism of its record for ensuring the security of its customers and their financial transactions.

Back in February, a Venmo user discovered his account had been hacked and used to withdraw almost $3,000 from his credit card. The intruder had also thought to change the email address associated with the Venmo account and to disable notifications of payments, but Venmo did not tell the genuine user about the changes that had been made. Venmo was decried for letting basic lapses in security exist in its trendsetting platform.

Now the service is doing what it can to pick up the pieces and up the ante on the security front. The most obvious change is to incorporate automatic email notifications when changes are made to the basic personal details associated with a Venmo account - a feature which many believe should have been built in from the word go. But the app will also add multi-factor authentication, another name for the two-step verification that can be enabled within Google Apps and other services. This feature makes it more difficult for would-be intruders to gain access to your account, even if they manage to get hold of your password.

Multi-factor authentication works by requiring not only your password for login, but also a second piece of information such as a one-time code - often generated on-the-spot and sent by SMS to the user’s cell phone - or the answer to a pre-set security question. Insisting on two phases to the sign-in process allows another opportunity to stop potential fraudsters in their tracks. The changes being implemented by Venmo also reflect the growing awareness on the part of technology companies for the need to get serious about security and protect the integrity of their systems and their users’ data.

You can put multi-factor authentication to use in your IT systems to keep your business protected. Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic security
March 16th, 2015

SocialMedia_Mar16_AWhen taking your business online, it’s crucial you make use of different tools to help boost your online presence. Hashtags are an example of such tools; they are the key to social media buzz and have been added to various social media platforms. Isn’t it time you got a comprehensive view of how different social media sites make use of hashtags, as well as how you can get the most out of them for your business?

Twitter

Twitter hashtags don’t support special characters like +, !, $, %, -, ^, &, * but do support letters, numbers and underscores. There are no hashtag limits as long as you keep your message within the usual 140 characters.

The best way to use hashtags in Twitter is through hosting and participating in Twitter chats. You don’t need to be in an event to network with people through the official hashtag; event organizers usually market the official hashtag very well. In other words, you’ll get additional exposure if you use it.

Useful Twitter hashtag tools include:

Hashtagify which tracks trending hashtags and shows related hashtags for any base terms you provide. TwChat lets you discover, participate in and host Twitter chats. This is best used for monitoring and archiving any hashtag streams.

Instagram

Just like Twitter, Instagram hashtags don’t support special characters like +, !, $, %, -, ^, &, *, but do support letters, numbers and underscores. You can add up to 30 hashtags to a single photo or tag your photo after publishing it by listing the hashtags in the comments.

After you tag your post with a hashtag, you’ll be able to tap on the hashtag to see a page that shows all photos and videos people have uploaded with the same hashtag. Instagram hashtags can dramatically increase your following, especially if you use hot and trending hashtags which are easily found here.

The best use of hashtags on Instagram is to participate in hashtag games like #tbt (Throwback Thursday) and #MondayBlues. Both can increase your following and interactions since people click on these specific hashtags to see photos of other participants. Additionally, location-based hashtags also work very well on Instagram, whether abbreviated or in full, for example #LA and #LosAngeles.

Facebook

Facebook hashtags are similar to other social platforms; they support the standard set of characters including numbers, letters and underscore but don’t support special characters.

However, searching by hashtag on Facebook is a little unlike the rest, in that when you search for a hashtag you often end up on a Facebook page instead of a hashtag search result page. But there’s an easier way to generate hashtag search results - simply add the hashtag text after facebook.com/hashtag/, for example facebook.com/hashtag/cats.

You can also bring up hashtag search results by clicking on any hashtag in your Facebook stream. Do keep in mind that Facebook’s ranking algorithm is complex and seems to classify hashtags according to how closely you are related to the person posting the update, as well as how often the two of you interact.

The growing use of hashtags has changed how we use different social media platforms for the better. Still, it’s important to understand how these different platforms make use of hashtags in order to optimize them to your business’s advantage. Looking to learn more about how social media can help your business? Contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 16th, 2015

HealthcareIT_Mar16_AMedical institutions rely on their healthcare systems to facilitate the needs of their patients, whether through electronic medical records, prescription management or data entry software. Unfortunately, most healthcare service providers don’t realize how vulnerable their IT systems are to cyber attacks. One of the contributing factors to data breach is digitization. While there are several benefits of converting medical data from paper records into electronic files, there is no denying that it increases the risk of data theft. And since stolen healthcare information can be used to commit identity theft and financial crimes, securing healthcare data has become more important than ever.

According to healthcare security experts, healthcare data breaches are on the rise due to the high prices the data can command on the black market.

From financial information to medical information

In the past few years, cybercriminals’ focus has been on stealing financial data, including credit card numbers and personal information. But things are taking a turn, the result of financial institutions fortifying their database and raising client awareness of the problem. This is making it more difficult for hackers to steal financial data, let alone use them. Banks do their bit to protect their customers, too, by quickly identifying and canceling compromised credit cards.

Stronger data protection measures have forced criminals to turn their attention to medical data, which is typically much less secure. Patient data includes an individual’s date of birth, medical and physical records and social security number - information that can’t be easily reset, and that is significantly more valuable than credit card data.

Securing healthcare data

Healthcare data has become more attractive to criminals, and it’s crucial that medical institutions take necessary precautions to secure their patients’ information from data thieves. Here are some best practice measures to secure healthcare data.
  • Protect the network and Wi-Fi - As hackers use a variety of tools to break into IT systems and obtain medical records, healthcare organizations need to invest in secure firewalls and antivirus software to deploy on their healthcare devices. Network segregation is also a wise move so that, in the event that a breach does occur, the attacker can’t instantly access all of your organization’s information at once.
  • Educate employees - Staff members need to receive lessons about information security, including setting passwords, spam filters, protection against phishing, and other kinds of data breach methods.
  • Data encryption - Encrypting data is one of the safest ways to secure it. Healthcare institutions can encode patients information in such a way that only authorized users can access it. Multi encryption is also an effective way to keep out intruders.
  • Physical security - Most healthcare institutions still retain their patients’ records on paper, stored in cabinets. Ensure that all loopholes are covered by installing surveillance cameras and other physical security controls, such as electronic door locks.
It is of crucial importance for healthcare providers to secure sensitive information, in order to gain and retain the trust of your patients. If you want to know how your organization can better protect your patients information, give us a call.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 13th, 2015

Facebook_Mar13_AFacebook has become a popular platform for companies looking to expose their business to a wider audience. Completely free and equipped with a user-friendly interface, Facebook can prove to be an efficient tool for increasing your customer base. Simply create a Facebook page and you can post your latest products or services and promotions, reaching thousands of your fans in a matter of minutes. But there’s more to posting on Facebook than meets the eye. Why does a business page with over a million followers get only a couple of hundred likes to each of their posts?

In recent months, Facebook has again changed its news feed and pages algorithm, which has resulted in decreased visibility for many companies’ posts. The good news is that you can re-engage with your fans by applying these simple tips to your Facebook posts.

Plan your calendar

You’ll want to devise a weekly or monthly post schedule containing ideas of things to write about. A content calendar is an easy way to make sure you post regularly, and will ensure that your posts are well-planned and interesting. Without a calendar, you’ll find it hard to write when you need to - and no content means no visitors!

Offer value

Facebook is a great way to advertise updates about your company, but don’t get carried away. People don’t want to read long and boring reports about your business’s performance. You need to create value by posting content that revolves around your business, such as product tips, sales events, demonstration videos and photos, while still being relevant and interesting to Facebook users. Be as creative as you wish, but the key is to write posts that give real value to your readers. This builds your credibility and reputation, and there’s a good chance you’ll get repeat visitors to your business page, as well as have readers share your posts to their own profiles.

Keep it short

Nowadays, businesses strive to get their content visible on Facebook’s news feed - and it can get very crowded. Most people tend to scan their news feed quickly and skip the lengthy posts. Facebook itself says that posts of between 100 and 250 characters get more engagement, and shorter and succinct posts are better received. So it’s important to keep your posts short and to the point.

Schedule posts

Facebook has a ‘schedule post’ function, which you can use to your advantage. If you’re feeling extra productive, and have created posts for an entire week, you can schedule them to post automatically at specified times. Scheduling posts help you maintain a consistent presence for your readers.

Want to learn how your business can benefit from a Facebook business page? Get in touch with us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Facebook