Blog

February 8th, 2017

2017February8_Hardware_CMany IT experts predict that more businesses will gravitate towards the Internet of Things (IoT). This statement is hard to dispute considering that smart thermostats and refrigerators are already in widespread use. But internet-connected appliances aren’t the only thing IoT has to offer. Here are four other ways your business can take advantage of this exciting new technology.

Improved logistics With IoT sensors, supply chain management and order fulfillment processes improve markedly to meet customer demand. For example, sensors on delivery containers and trucks in transit give managers real-time status updates, allowing them to track their items and ensure they reach the right location at the right time.

Streamlined inventory IoT also presents automation opportunities for businesses that need to manage and replenish their stock. When data recorded from IoT devices are tied to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you can accurately monitor your inventory, analyze purchase and consumption rates of a particular product, and automatically reorder items when IoT sensors detect that supply is running low. This minimizes out-of-stock incidents and prevents excess stock build-up.

Fast payment Given how most payments are done electronically via point-of-sale systems or the internet, IoT has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses process transactions. We’re already seeing a few examples of this today as ApplePay not only allows users to purchase goods and services using smartphone applications, but through wearable technology as well.

Soon enough, IoT devices might even allow restaurants and retailers to register or charge their customers the moment they walk through the door.

Market insight Businesses that can somehow make sense of IoT-collected data will gain a competitive edge. Marketers, for example, can gather valuable insight into how their products are used and which demographic is utilizing them the most. This information can then inform future marketing efforts and give businesses more direction on how to improve their products and services for their customers.

Although businesses will certainly face many challenges in implementing the Internet of Things, those who manage to overcome them will reap all the benefits of this burgeoning technology.

Want to know if an IoT deployment is right for your business? Contact our certified IT consultants today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 7th, 2017

2017February7_Android_CWindows and Apple apps available on laptops and Macs, respectively, are more than enough to keep their devoted users happy. But wouldn’t it be great if Android apps, which are most popular for mobile devices, could be used with laptops? 2017 could be the year Android becomes a staple in laptops when Chromebooks, Google Chrome OS-backed notebooks, adopt Google Play.

Simplicity, functionality, variety

Chromebooks are marketed as no-frills computers that bank on their simplicity, functionality, and security. By giving Chromebooks access to Google Play, the search engine giant’s application store, users can access thousands of apps, including Skype, and manage Office files more seamlessly.

Certain types of Chromebooks are now able to install Android apps, but they are few. The good news is that 2017 Chromebook models from manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, Dell, H&P, and Lenovo are included in the list of Chromebooks that will work well with Android. If this move proves successful, other operating systems, especially Windows, may struggle to find a way to keep up.

Benefits of a Chromebook-Android combination

The most obvious benefit would be the increased number of options for Chromebook users. While Chromebooks have their own set of useful Google apps, having the capability to download Android apps is a substantial enhancement. For instance, users can now download and use Skype on their Chromebook.

As Chromebooks welcome Google Play in its environment, they usher in more capacity without increasing the prices. Manufacturers such as Lenovo and Acer have Chromebook models that are competitively priced at just under $300.

A caveat for those looking to switch to Chromebook

If you’re thinking of switching to Chromebooks to get the most of Google apps, there are a few things you should remember. Since Android apps are designed for touchscreen devices, it might be a bit of a letdown for users of Chromebooks that have no such feature. Android will definitely adjust the specifications of Chromebooks apps, but non-touchscreen Chromebook users won’t enjoy the same benefits that users of the new models have. Moreover, not all Android apps may be fully optimized for laptop (or Chromebooks), although the masterminds behind this merger will certainly make the necessary tweaks soon after the initial verdict comes in.

Is it time to buy a Chromebook?

If you’re a Google apps power user, Chromebooks are a good way to go. They’re sleek, functional, and adaptable. But don’t ditch your current laptops or Macs just yet. The integration is yet to be finalized, so the Android-powered Chromebooks may well be “unfinished products” at this stage.

There’s always a good reason to assess the computers your business uses. Your system’s speed, functionality, and security dwindle over time and upgrades or replacements may be necessary. If you need dependable recommendations on computers that are best for your office, get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
February 6th, 2017

2017February6_SocialMedia_CScroll, double-tap, repeat, might have been the original Instagram-ing routine, but not anymore. After partnering with global advertising giants, IG is introducing its latest feature: Stories. With it, you can share short videos, or even personally decorated snapshots of your daily life. But many of you might ask, “What does this have to do with online marketing?” Read on and find out.

Jim Squares, director of product marketing, said in an interview with Fortune that “a two or three-week test period” will be carried out before releasing it to all its active advertisers. Let’s face it, the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads are undeniable. But with Snapchat ads, they work mainly with larger brands and keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to collaborate with big boys like Netflix or Coca-Cola, you’re looking at a budget bigger than what you might have. By contrast, Instagram ads are self-serving and employ auction-based pricing.

When it comes to setting up and paying for video ads inside Stories, it’s a pretty straightforward process, much like Facebook advertising. Not only do you have the ability to target your audience, but the benefits of working with demographic and Internet-based targeting capabilities definitely give Instagram a competitive advantage. On top of this, users can expect more goodies when the format officially takes off. For the time being, Stories seems to be a simple yet efficient way to test out advertising placement.

Instagram also announced that analytics from Stories will also be included in the Business Tools dashboard, sharing basic insights including reach and impressions -- with a good chance of more analytics to be seen in the future. It’s estimated that up to 71 percent of US businesses will begin to market on Instagram in 2017, and these efforts will not go unnoticed since 75 percent of users initiate some sort of action after seeing a post.

It took Instagram quite a while before it rolled out any type of advertising or introduced any kind of business feature. When it finally did, however, they didn’t beat around the bush in monetizing the platform. Yet, several months after Stories’ initial launch, Instagram is already making plans to leverage its power.

That’s because Stories represents a stellar opportunity at getting back at its biggest rival -- Snapchat -- while simultaneously providing an immersive advertising experience. Because Stories take up the entire mobile screen, so will the ads. Sponsored Stories isn’t exclusive to just images; videos are an optional format for both advertisers and consumers alike. Meaning that full-screen multimedia truly makes it both an interactive and engaging experience. There won’t be a difference in engagement between organic and Sponsored stories; both enable viewers to like, comment and share.

It might not be the traditional once-upon-a-time kind of story, but Instagram’s latest feature is poised to bring happy endings to many -- if utilized properly, of course. If you are still uncertain or would like to ask further questions, feel free to give us a call. Allow us to partner with your business, so you can #succeed that much quicker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 3rd, 2017

Modern web network and internet telecommunication technology, big data storage and cloud computing computer service business concept: server room interior in datacenter in blue light

Modern web network and internet telecommunication technology, big data storage and cloud computing computer service business concept: server room interior in datacenter in blue light

Virtualization is great, but it is awfully confusing. And although the whole point of hiring a managed services provider is to hand off these issues to the experts, we believe a cursory understanding is helpful for everything, including bragging to competitors and making executive decisions. The latest trend in virtualization is hyperconvergence, and it’s all about automating repetitive server tasks to make your infrastructure simpler and more efficient than ever. Let’s take a look at some of its benefits.

Using a hyperconvergence model to structure your network is very representative of the current trends in small- and medium-sized business technology. It’s about making enterprise-level solutions more accessible to those looking for a smaller scale. So although a lot of these benefits sound like the same points we argue for other technologies, let’s take a look at how they are unique to hyperconvergence.

Software-centric computing

It may not sound huge at first, but by packing everything you need into a single box, and wrapping that box with a flexible and adaptable management software, you empower your hardware infrastructure to receive more regular patches and updates. This makes it much easier to add more hardware later, or restructure what you’re currently using.

Unified administration

Hyperconvergence consolidates a number of separate functions and services into one piece of technology. Whoever is managing your virtualization services can tweak storage, cloud, backup, and database settings and workloads from one place.

Streamlined upgrading

Different hyperconvergence “boxes” come in different sizes and capabilities. So all it takes to scale up is buying another unit based on your forecasted needs. If you’re in a place where all you need is a little extra, purchase a smaller upgrade. But when you’re expecting rapid growth, a bigger box will ensure your IT can expand with your business.

Stronger data protections

Complexity is the achilles heel of most networked IT. When a small group of people are trying to stay on top of a mounting pile of account management settings, malware definitions, and data storage settings, it’s hard to keep constantly probing cyber-attackers from finding a security hole. But with a hyperconvergence infrastructure, your virtual machines aren’t built by bridging a series of third-party services together -- it’s all one service.

Keep in mind that while hyperconvergence is simpler than most virtualization solutions, it’s not so simple as to be managed by in-house IT departments at more small- and medium-sized businesses. The benefit of a more unified virtualization solution when you already have a managed services provider is the speed at which your growth and evolution can be managed.

The better your technology, the faster we can make changes. And the faster we can accommodate your needs, the less downtime you experience. Call us today to find out more about a hyperconverged system.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 2nd, 2017

2017February2_Office_COffice 365 subscribers have a little less than a month to enjoy a fully-supported Office 2013 productivity suite. In an effort to push users towards the 2016 version of Office 365, Microsoft will no longer focus on their Office 2013 offerings. Although the announcement is hardly surprising -- considering Microsoft’s track record with software upgrades -- there are extra details you should know.

Effective February 28, Office 2013 client applications and language packs will no longer be available from the Office 365 self-service portal and Admin Center. On top of that, Microsoft will no longer release feature updates for Office 2013 and will focus solely on upgrading the recent 2016 version. And because Office 2016 doesn’t support Microsoft Exchange Servers 2007 or earlier, you’ll need to upgrade your mail server as well.

The end-of-support changes apply to Office 365 Pro Plus, Small Business Premium, Business, Project Pro, and Visio Pro subscriptions. Although critical security updates for 2013 products extend to April 10, 2018, businesses should really consider making the move to Office 2016 to take advantage of the latest productivity features.

With Office 2016 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, users can look up web information right from the document interface. What’s more, employees have access to advanced, collaborative features like Skype integrations, Office 365 Planner, and Delve.

If your business plans to migrate to Office 2016, don’t forget to consider the minimum system requirements:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3 GB of available disk space
  • 1280 x 800 screen resolution
  • Windows 7 OS, or above
To make the transition process smoother, Microsoft is offering FastTrack migration, a service providing organizations with the tools to help them make the move from one Office version to another.

However, if you need more advice on moving to Office 2016, contact us today. We’ll make sure your Office 365 is always up-to-date.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
January 31st, 2017

img-window7-170px-op3When you grow accustomed to something -- like a morning routine, a particular type of coffee, or in this case, an operating system -- attempts at change aren't always successful. Case in point, the struggle between Windows 7 and Windows 10. Users have until 2020 to make up their minds, and unless you don’t mind other businesses leaving you in the dust, it’s time to make a move.

Windows 7 was given extended support in 2015. And with that, Microsoft warned its users that this outdated version would drive up operating costs due to remediating software attacks that Windows 10 systems could otherwise avoid. The three-year countdown toward Windows 7’s twilight officially kicks off with a warning to enterprises that they could face hefty fines for sticking with the platform’s outdated security.

According to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany: Windows 7 does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. How would this make current Windows 7 users feel? Why are users choosing to remain faithful to the platform’s outdated security? Users can delay upgrades until January 13, 2020, after which extended support for the 2009 OS will end and it will no longer receive patches -- unless the customer is paying for a pricey Microsoft Custom Support Agreement.

Markus also added that “As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs." The message came as Microsoft published studies that showed Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s built-in security managed to neutralize zero-day exploits, even without patches needed to protect earlier versions of Windows.

Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 means that you and your networks will miss out on noteworthy security features such as the Windows Hello biometric login, the AppContainer sandboxing technology, and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which will gain new features after upcoming Creators Update.

On top of missing out on all the security features that Windows 10 has to offer, enterprise organizations on Windows 7 soon won’t have the additional zero-day protection that EMET, or the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, offered since 2009. Last November, EMET’s expiration date was extended from January 2017 to July 31, 2018.

With the help of newer tools, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is considerably easier when compared with migrations from XP. Microsoft is still urging corporate users to make the shift before Microsoft permanently terminates support for Windows 7, stating that their business could be looking at real trouble if they fail to comply.

Business owners always do their best to ensure the future of their organization. That includes knowing which tech resources to rely on and which ones to avoid. If you still have questions about Windows 7, feel free to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
January 30th, 2017

2017January30_HealthcareArticles_BAlthough totally necessary, data privacy regulations are often a gigantic headache. And king among the various compliance standards is HIPAA. Despite the legislation’s enactment back in 2003, the rules governing electronic medical records and protected health information continue to change and evolve every year. Let’s take a moment to go over three things you need to remember for HIPAA compliance as 2017 unfolds.

Compliance leaves the office with you

When you take your phone, laptop, or tablet with you -- as you return home, or go to a meeting outside your office or a seminar out of state -- your data needs to get the same treatment it does inside the office. If you access data from unsecured devices or connections, you could be looking at stiff penalties when audit time rolls around.

As an extension of this principle, business partners with any involvement in your data storage, transfer, or protection are also required to employ best practices. If you have a legal firm on retainer with access to your network, it’s your responsibility to ensure that firm also adheres to compliance rules. Business Associate Agreements are the best way to shield yourself from mistreatment of data by a business partner, and they should be reviewed at least every year.

Most “optional” measures...aren’t actually optional

Confusingly, HHS’s Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule page has a heading titled Required and Addressable Implementation Specifications. The synopsis can be interpreted as, “Although we listed some safeguards as addressable, we actually mean that they have to be implemented. But how you do so is up to you.”

2016 saw a massive uptick in the number of HHS audits and the fines the government entity doled out. Consequently, whenever safeguards or measures allow for wiggle room or subjective interpretation, we always recommend going above and beyond. Compared to fines that soar into the millions of dollars, hiring a managed IT service provider is more than worth it.

This is about more than being “careful”

Some providers are quick to point out that compliance is about stringent safeguards to prevent even the tiniest of breaches. How do you think those practices would respond if you told them one Ponemon survey found that 90% of healthcare practices experienced a data breach during a two-year period?

Managing cyber security is becoming a problem for organizations in every industry. Business owners need to acknowledge that the threats are real, and that solutions must be exhaustive. In fact, most states have enacted their own variation of patient privacy legislation. So if you’ve found a thorough walkthrough of compliance written by someone located in another state, that’s not going to cut it.

To confidently achieve HIPAA compliance, you need IT technicians with experience adapting to years of changes to this complicated legal framework. Call us today so we can help you secure and manage your electronic medical records and protected health information.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare
January 27th, 2017

2017January27_Security_CDoes filling in web forms sap all your browsing energy? Do you find it especially taxing to shop or register online using a mobile device? Google’s Chrome alleviated this dilemma when it introduced the Autofill feature in 2011, which made filling in forms much faster and making credit card purchases online more convenient. Unfortunately, it didn’t take that long for cyberthieves to find a way to take advantage.

How do they do it?

By concealing other fields in a sign-up form, users are tricked into thinking they only have to fill out a few fields. The trickery at work is that upon auto-sign up, other fields, which could include your billing address, phone number, credit card number, cvv (the 3-digit code used to validate credit card transactions), and other sensitive information, are auto-filled with the user none the wiser.

This sinister trick is nothing new, but since there hasn’t been any countermeasure since it was first discovered, the threat it poses is worth emphasizing. Finnish whitehat hacker Viljami Kuosmanen recently brought to light how users of Chrome and Safari are particularly vulnerable, and he even came up with a demonstration of how this phishing technique is perpetrated. The technique is so sneaky, it’s enough to make one give up online shopping forever.

Using plugins and programs such as password managers is also fraught with the security risk, as having access to such a utility empowers cyberthieves to do more than just obtain your credit card info; it opens them up to a great amount of personal details.

Preventing an autofill-related theft

So what can you do to avoid falling prey?

Using Mozilla Firefox is one of the easiest available solutions. As of today, Mozilla hasn’t devised a mechanism that affords its users the same convenience that Chrome and Safari users enjoy with autofill. When filling web forms on Firefox, users still have to manually pre-fill each data field due to a lack of a multi-box autofill functionality – a blessing in disguise, given the potential for victimization in autofill-enabled browsers.

Another quick fix is disabling the autofill feature on your Chrome, Safari and Opera (for Apple mobile devices) browsers. This would mean that when filling out web forms, you'd have to manually type responses for every field again, but at least you'd be more secure.

It’s not exactly the most sophisticated form of online data and identity theft, but complacency can result in being victimized by cyber swindlers. Take the first step in ensuring your systems’ safety by getting in touch with our security experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 26th, 2017

2017January26_Business_CInvesting in customer relationship management (CRM) software is absolutely essential for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to up their sales performance. It helps sales departments understand their clients, tailor their marketing efforts, and more. If your business isn’t already using CRM, here are five reasons why you should definitely give it a chance.

Grows with your business The ol’ Rolodex may have been useful for managing a few clients, but you’re going to need a better solution if you plan to maintain relationships with hundreds, possibly thousands, more. CRM scales with your business, meaning it can handle larger data sets and more clients as you expand your sales operation.

Organizes your data CRM software acts as a central database for all your sales records and transactions. This means important customer information can be retrieved in just a few clicks rather than rifling through thousands of documents, sticky-notes, and disorganized cabinets. And since CRM is hosted in the cloud, sales data, customer interactions, and other actionable information are available for the entire company.

Improves customer service Your sales team could be the most persuasive individuals in the world, but this means nothing if they can’t recall anything about their clients and their preferences. When your sales staff follows up on leads or existing customers, CRM will automatically retrieve contact history, past purchases, and customer preferences from your client database and display them on a single page during the call.

From here, sales representatives, armed with detailed customer information, will be able to recommend products and services that meet the client’s needs. So instead of struggling through a sales call, marketing employees can focus on delivering a professional sales pitch.

Streamlines your sales funnel CRM comes equipped with workflow management functions, supporting your sales pipeline in a number of ways. For example, you can configure your CRM to send instant follow-up emails when a lead visits a particular product page. You can even use automation to track where certain leads are in the sales pipeline and delegate the task to one of your closers.

Analyzes sales data With real-time sales information, business managers can track marketing campaigns and adjust their strategy accordingly. For instance, you might notice that click-through-rates for promotional emails and company newsletters are higher during Tuesday afternoon rather than Friday night. Having this information can help you focus your marketing efforts and message to generate more leads.

In addition, you can use CRM to analyze customer calling activity, market demographics, lead conversion rates, and key performance indicators to help inform future business decisions.

Understanding your customers can put you several steps ahead of the competition. If you need to manage contacts, eliminate time-consuming procedures, and improve your sales performance, CRM is the perfect business solution.

Contact us today to find out whether CRM is the right fit for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 25th, 2017

2017January25_Apple_CWe love Mac computers as much as anyone does, but even we have to admit the notion of superior cybersecurity can be a bit overblown. Malware still finds its way onto Apple devices, and the only remedy is preparedness. Take a minute to brush up on the first Apple malware of 2017 before it puts a damper on your new year.

Where did it come from?

Dubbed ‘Fruitfly’ by the powers that be at Apple, it looks as though this relatively harmless malware has been hiding inside of OS X for several years. Fruitfly contains code that indicates it was adapted to move from a previous build of OS X to ‘Yosemite,’ which makes it at least three years old.

In fact, there are some lines of code from a library that hasn’t been used since 1998. It’s possible these were included to help hide Fruitfly, but experts have no idea how long it has been holed up inside the infected machines, or who created it.

What does it do?

So far, most of the instances of Fruitfly have been at biomedical research institutions. The administrators who discovered the malware explained that it seems to be written to grab screenshots and gain access to a computer’s webcam.

Considering the specific nature of its victims, and what it can accomplish, Fruitfly seems to be a targeted attack that won’t affect the majority of Mac users. However, Apple has yet to release a patch, and dealing with malware is not something to be put off for another day.

How should I proceed?

We’re always harping on the importance of network monitoring, and now we finally have proof that we are right. Fruitfly was first discovered by an administrator that noticed abnormal outbound network traffic from an individual workstation. Until Apple releases a patch, a better-safe-than-sorry solution is to contact your IT provider about any possible irregularities in your network traffic.

If you don’t have a managed IT services provider, this is the time to start considering one. Despite misconceptions, Apple devices need just as much care and attention as Microsoft and Linux PCs. And it’s not just security; if you want to optimize workstation performance, create a disaster recovery plan, or upgrade your database. Message today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple