Blog

June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_CBusinesses today are relying on data to run their day-to-day operations. We use it to build client relationships, generate sales reports, develop marketing strategies, and so much more. But if something were to happen to it, a devastating disaster for example, you could risk losing your whole business if you haven’t properly backed up. With that in mind you should take necessary precautions to protect your data in the event of a crisis. Let’s take a look at some devices you can use to keep your information out of harm’s way.

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 23rd, 2015

164_browsers_CIf you’re like most people, you probably have a preferred browser you use when surfing the web. You may even consider yourself set in your ways, and think there’s no chance you’d ever consider testing another browser. Well, Microsoft’s new wonder child, aptly called Edge, may have you thinking twice. With a wide set of game-changing features, Edge is poised to shake up the way you access the web.

With Windows 10 launching later this year, Microsoft has a new browser packaged with it. Formerly known as Project Spartan, you can test out a beta version of this browser as part of the Windows Insider Program. But if you’re not ready to jump on the bandwagon and try it just yet, here are three reasons why the world is getting excited about Edge.

1. Speedy browsing

A major reason Internet Explorer made surfing the web as slow as a tortoise was the support of legacy technologies such as ActiveX, Browser Helper Objects and others. Now, without the excess baggage, Edge is operating at a speed eons better than its predecessor. What may come as even more of a surprise is the fact that in recent tests it also outperformed both Chrome and Firefox in terms of speed.

2. Features, features, and more features

There are tons of cool features Edge offers that are sure to get anyone excited. From the Reading View function that allows you to view content without any ads, to the Annotation feature that enables you to write notes on a web page and share them with friends or colleagues, Microsoft appears to be set on pushing boundaries and wow-ing users with their focus on the future of internet browsing.

3. There will be extensions

If you love the extensions that Google and Firefox have on offer, you can let out a long sigh of relief. Microsoft Edge will have extension capabilities as well. And even better, you can “steal” extensions from Chrome and Firefox and use them on Edge too. Bear in mind, however, that extensions will not be available right away.

Is Edge the real deal?

While it may have felt like the creators of Internet Explorer were spending more time napping than updating their browser for the 21st century, this appears not to be the case with Edge. In a recent post on the Windows blog, the Microsoft Edge team wrote that “improving performance is a never ending theme” when referring to Windows 10. It seems Microsoft is now committed to staying current, which didn’t really feel true with Internet Explorer.

Want to learn more about Microsoft Edge and other browsers? Curious to discover the best browser for your business? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Browsers
June 22nd, 2015

Hardware_Jun11_CThe Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the annual occasion on which the technology giant announces all the goodies it has in the pipeline in the coming months and years. The event, which took place just earlier this month in San Francisco is watched closely by Apple fans the world over for signs of the projects and releases the company has up its sleeve. Here are the biggest takeaways from the event’s keynote speech.

New operating systems

The big news from the WWDC was about operating systems. Apple took the opportunity to unveil three new releases - for mobile devices, Mac desktops and laptops, and the Apple Watch. Access to all three has been given to developers as of now, with public beta testing and full availability expected to follow later in the year.

iOS

On the mobile front, iOS 9 ups the ante on intelligence, with a focus on allowing devices to learn more about our behavior and so tailor the user experience to suit. At the root of these improvements are upgrades to both Siri and search; expect mobile devices running iOS 9 to be better at launching apps before you realize you need them - great for productivity - and reminding you about (and getting you to) upcoming meetings and appointments. Among other changes, upgrades to the iPad will enable enhanced productivity and multitasking, great news for the hurried business user who needs to make the most of the time available.

OS X

The desktop and laptop operating system upgrade to OS X 10.11 is seen as a stepping stone from Yosemite rather than an entirely new approach - but it’s a significant upgrade all the same. Among the most exciting developments are search improvements that will allow you to use natural language when you’re on the hunt for important information and files; likewise, the release is intended to make multitasking across windows even more of a breeze. The productivity and communication apps most commonly used by our business clients - the likes of Mail, Safari and Notes - have also been tuned up both in terms of visible features and behind-the-scenes upgrades to their running speed and overall performance.

watchOS

Finally, though the Apple Watch might not yet be at the stage of being a game-changer on the office productivity scene, the second release of its operating system lays the way for an enhanced user experience. watchOS 2 will, most crucially, lessen the requirement for you to use your iPhone alongside your watch - one of the notable drawbacks when the watch came on sale - and instead allow the device to do more, and run more apps, on its own.

Apple also used WWDC to reveal details of improvements to Apple Maps that will see the service include transit information for cities including San Francisco, New York and London - making it easier for you to get to your meeting on time if you’re taking public transportation. Equally exciting is the news that Apple Pay continues to grow; the mobile payment system is being rolled out to more and more retailers across the US, and is making the jump across the pond to the United Kingdom, where it’s being rolled out in banks, stores and on public transportation.

Want to learn more about the latest Apple technology developments, and how you can put them to use to drive greater efficiency in your business? Talk to our helpful team today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
June 19th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jun9_CClued-up companies rely on business intelligence (BI) in order to make informed decisions regarding their future. Yet even though businesses invest in BI, they often make mistakes resulting from a lack of knowledge about how best to implement it, and can end up losing more than they can afford. Here is a round-up of common BI mistakes encountered by businesses, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not defining business problems

One of the biggest mistakes in BI implementation is jumping to conclusions too soon without first identifying what your business wants to accomplish. When it comes to integrating BI into business operations, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking for a single BI tool to solve all analytics problems is one of the main reasons many BI projects fail.

You need to clearly define the business problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the specific tools required to solve those problems. Only then will you be able to select and purchase the BI tool that best suits your needs.

Mistake #2: Not getting buy-in from end users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not properly utilized. Forcing your employees to use newly purchased BI technology without informing them or hearing their thoughts beforehand is a big mistake.

Instead of telling employees they have to use something, first focus on highlighting the benefits of the new BI system. Help employees understand why they’ll want to use it, and convince them by showing them what they stand to gain from the new BI technology.

Mistake #3: Rushing implementation

A rushed deployment of new technology is often times not a successful one. When it comes to deploying BI solutions, patience is key. If you hurry into BI implementation too quickly, your end users may not have enough time to develop the skills required to use the software effectively.

Take an incremental approach to implementing BI solutions. Make a list identifying business problems and, rather than expecting to solve every business problem all at once, try to prioritize specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have solved the first issue, move on to the next one and so on until you have incrementally solved all the problems on the list.

Mistake #4: Insufficient training

New BI systems are complex structures that require a lot of training in order for users to make the most of them. If users lack the skills necessary to operate the software, then bottlenecks can occur. The product may be left dormant for long periods of time as users wait for experienced IT staff to resolve teething problems.

Spend wisely on providing ongoing training, so that users really understand how to use the system. Consider hosting weekly lunch sessions where a different aspect of the BI system is discussed. You could also provide online training videos that enable users to learn more about the new system at their own pace.

Mistake #5: Not making use of information and reports

BI tools are designed to analyze raw data and turn it into valuable information that can be used in business decision making. But some organizations fail to exploit the information fully - it is not shared, not analyzed, and not acted on. BI software can generate reports on various data points, identify risks, and predict trends. It’s important to leverage the information gathered and to apply it to your business’s objectives and goals.

Business intelligence software is a highly useful tool that, when used properly, can drive your business forward. Avoid these mistakes in order to make the most of your BI solutions. If you’re looking to implement BI tools to your company, contact our experienced consultants today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 11th, 2015

164_C_MacWe’re all busy. That’s why if you’re a Mac user and not familiar with your computer’s shortcuts and tips, they can be a useful advantage that will save hours of your time in the long run. For those who are not well versed in shortcuts and other handy tricks for their beloved Apple computer, here are four tips that will make using your Mac even easier.

Open Programs and Files Faster

Want a quicker way to open files and programs faster? If you’re tired of opening Finder and scrolling through the hundreds of applications and files you have stored, there is a much more efficient solution – Spotlight Search.

To use Spotlight Search, follow these steps:

  1. Press Command and the space bar to launch your search.
  2. Type the first few letters of the file or app you’d like to open.
  3. From the drop down menu that appears, scroll down to the app or file you’re searching for and hit the enter key.

Force Quit Apps

When the pinwheel of death rears its ugly head, your application stalls and your productivity comes to a standstill. There is no better time to make use of the Force Quit shortcut. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Press Command-Option-Esc to display the list of all applications that are running.
  2. From here simply choose the one you’d like to quit.

Take a Screenshot

Pictures speak a thousand words, and sometimes you may need an image of your display to more thoroughly communicate a message. Here are three easy ways to take a screenshot on your Mac OS.

  • Take a snapshot of your entire display – press Command-Shift-3.
  • Take a screenshot of any open window – press Command-Shift-4, followed by the space bar. Then, simply click on the window you’d like an image of.
  • Snap a customized image of your display – press Command-Shift-4. When the crosshairs appear, use them to drag a frame over the portion of the screen you’d like to capture.

Launch frequently used Apps, Files and Server Connections automatically

This trick allows you to save time by automatically launching a program when you log in. Follow these steps to do this:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Choose Users & Groups
  3. Select your account
  4. Click on Login Items
  5. Use the plus and minus signs to add or remove programs, files, folders, etc. you’d like to automatically launch upon login
  6. Click Add to save

These are just a few of the dozens of shortcuts and features Mac OS has to offer. If you’d like to learn more or need other IT-related assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
June 8th, 2015

HealthcareIT_Jun8_AThe past few years have seen rapid technological advancements in the medical industry, and healthcare institutions are focusing more than ever on implementing devices that deliver cheaper, faster, and more efficient patient care. Thought leaders in the healthcare industry are pushing out new ideas and technologies that are capable of increasing patient safety and survival rates - here are the latest innovations in medical practice.

Electronic aspirin

For people who suffer from daily or chronic headaches, or excruciating facial pain, taking ordinary aspirins may no longer do the trick. Now scientists have invented a new technology that is attached to Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG) in order to alleviate migraines and other similar pains. The electronic aspirin is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache.

The system involves the permanent implant of a small nerve-stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head. The tip of the implant connects to the SPG, and when a patient feels the first signs of an imminent headache, they simply place a remote controller on their cheek, next to the implant. This triggers an electronic charge to stimulate nerve cells and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters. In tests, the end results showed clinical improvement in 68 percent of patients, who stated that they felt less pain.

Insulin patches

Diabetes self-care is a pain - literally. As well as conducting your own glucose blood tests, you also need to take daily insulin shots, which increases the risk of infection. Insulin patches are designed to deliver insulin painlessly through the skin similar to how transdermal patches like nicotine patches and muscle pain relief patches work.

An insulin patch is placed on the skin, and agents in the patch help insulin to pass through the skin and into the blood vessels. It can also be used to read blood analytes through the skin without actually drawing blood. The technology utilizes an electronic device that removes top-layer skin cells to place the patient’s blood chemistry within the signal range of the patch’s biosensor. The data is transmitted data wirelessly to a remote sensor, which emits an audible alarm if glucose levels are too high.

Cancer scanner

A surgical biopsy is an effective way to identify and diagnose skin cancer. But more often than not doctors find it hard to make the right call, and patients are left with unnecessary biopsy scars and end up paying for the high cost of surgery. The cancer scanner is a handheld tool used for tissue analysis and is not used to confirm a clinical diagnosis of cancer, but rather for when a dermatologist needs additional information to make the decision to perform a biopsy.

These healthcare innovations can reduce the overall cost of medical care, and help medical experts and patients to respond to health issues quickly, as well as to take preventative measures. If you’re looking to implement technology to your healthcare business, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_CSocial media marketing has made it possible for businesses to reach targeted audiences easily, and it’s becoming a growing trend. When we talk about social media marketing, Facebook advertising is by far one of the most popular methods out there. More and more companies are starting to advertise on Facebook, and for a good reason - Facebook advertising’s new features allow for better audience targeting, giving an increased return on investment. With that in mind, here’s a rundown on how to advertise on Facebook.

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
June 3rd, 2015

164_C_ProdWhen many people think of remote working, they imagine a person lounging on the couch in their pajamas with a laptop. Does this vision stir up images of productivity? We doubt it. That’s why it’s important to instill the proper habits of a work-from-home culture into your remote workers’ minds. Here are a few principles every employee should consider when working remotely.

Don’t change your routine

Would you go to the office without brushing your teeth or combing your hair? Probably not. Believe it or not, it’s not a good idea when you’re working remotely either. Sometimes the simple act of preparing for your workday - jumping in the shower, shaving and so on - can put you in the right frame of mind to work. If you or your staff are finding it difficult to be productive at home, try sticking to a pre-work routine and see if it makes a difference.

Designate a specific workspace

Attempting to work while sitting in your bed or lounging on the couch can be a recipe for a productivity disaster. So instead, try designating a specific space where you work everyday. It can be as simple as a desk set apart from the rest of your living room or bedroom, but just make sure it’s not cluttered with non-work items (like a TV remote or fiction novel), and that it’s properly lit and comfortable.

If you’re working from a coffee shop, airport or other public place, consider using a pair of headphones to help drown out the noise so you can focus. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, and the productivity will come.

Stay connected to your team

Thankfully, cloud computing has made it unbelievably easy for your remote workers to stay connected to the office wherever they are. If your business is setup with Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 or another cloud product, make it a requirement that your employees access it daily and remain available. When your staff is connected to your business this way, it will strengthen their relationship with other employees and the organization as a whole. Generally speaking, more connected employees are more productive ones.

Log off

When you work remotely, the line between work and personal life blurs more than ever. To avoid burnout, it’s important you discipline yourself to log off after you’ve put in a full day’s work. Whether you choose to work from 9 to 5 or 4pm to midnight, define work hours and stick to them. This will help you completely disconnect at the end of the day, which will ensure that you’re properly rested and prepared for the next.

Want more tips on productive habits for remote working? Are you ready to empower your staff with cloud computing to help them along? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 2nd, 2015

Virtualization_May28_CVirtual machines have been gaining much popularity for the past couple of years, providing businesses with efficient data and application storage space that allows more to be done with less effort. But with the arrival of containers, another virtual storage option, how do you know which is better for your company? Here, we’ll explore and answer exactly that.

Containers, just like virtual machines, are used for storing files, critical data and applications in an organized manner following specific access rules. So how do they differ from virtual machines, and what are the pros and cons of containers? We’ll take a look below.

Containers can pack a lot more applications into a single cloud or data center than a virtual machine can. And because containers only require little memory from an operating system and its supporting programs and libraries, you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with a container than you can with a virtual machine. In addition, containers allow you to create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing and deployment.

Still, there's a lot more to containers than how many apps you can put in a box, and not everything about them is sweet. One of the problems with containers that is often overlooked is security. Simply put, containers do not contain. What this means is that if a user or application has superuser privileges within the container, the underlying operating system could be cracked. And while you can secure containers by mounting a /sys filesystem as read-only among other options, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

Another container security issue stems from the release of many containerized applications. This is a problem because if you happen to install the first container that comes to hand, you’re likely to have brought a Trojan Horse into your server. You need to inform your staff and employees that they simply can’t download apps from the Internet into a container like they do games for their smartphone. Not only that, but breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts using a container is possible, but means more parts for you to manage. The whole point of a container is to run a single application, so the more functionality you stick into a container, the more likely it is you should actually be using a virtual machine in the first place.

So how do you decide between containers and virtual machines? Ask yourself whether you need to run the highest possible number of instances of a particular application on the fewest possible servers, because if so then containers are the best option for you. But if you want the flexibility of running multiple applications on your servers and you have a variety of operating systems, virtual machines are your safest bet.

Looking to learn more about how virtualization can help your business prosper? Contact us today - we’re sure we can tailor a solution that meets your unique needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 2nd, 2015

BusinessValue_June2_COver the past few years, technology has taken the business world by storm. With so many people using search engines to find answers, products, and local service providers, you really are missing out if you’ve failed to establish a business website. As more and more business owners jump into the website game, the scramble for the search engines’ prime spots becomes more fiercer than ever. But applying a well thought-out search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can take you straight up to the top. Here’s what you need to know to build an online presence.

SEO defined

The practice of SEO has been around just about as long as search engines themselves. SEO is basically a methodology of techniques and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in search engine results. There are a lot of crackpot theories about SEO out there, and you’ll have to sift through them to find the techniques that really work for your business.

There’s a saying in the world of SEO that if you’re not first, you’re last. When it comes to SEO there’s no short cut, and the idea of getting your business website ranked on the first page of Google search results in one day is ludicrous. To make things clearer, we’ve compiled a list of the basic SEO practices business owners tend to overlook.

1. Research keywords Keywords are key to your online presence. Add the right keywords to your website and your chances of being found are much higher. First, invest time in keyword research. Find out which keywords your customers are using in search engines, and gather all crucial data for SEO purposes, whether it’s search volume, trends, or competition. Make a list of keywords related to your niche. Don’t be tempted to only go after phrases with the highest search volume - they will be very hard to rank for and might be too broad.

2. Create quality content Based on the researched keywords, generate high quality content with the focus on your readers. Make sure this content reads naturally for human visitors - don’t overdo it by stuffing keywords into your text in the hope of getting high rankings, as most search engines will penalize your website for using this underhand tactic. Good content has relevant keywords in it, but a great one has the keywords while also providing real value to visitors.

3. Place call-to-action buttons A business website should always have a call-to-action to convert visitors into customers. Make sure you add a call-to-action button to each of your most important pages, whether that means the About Us page, service pages, FAQs, or case studies. Call-to-action buttons may vary. They don’t always have to lead to a contact form; they can be links to other content, incentive offers, free downloads - the list goes on.

4. Create an internal link structure After you have quality content, you must show the search engines that your site has a page hierarchy. The general rule of thumb is, all your articles should link back to the home page, service pages, and even other articles. Linking internally allows for easier navigation for your visitors, and there’s a good chance they will spend more time on your website, which is good for SEO purposes.

5. Install analytics tools Tracking your visitors’ behavior on your website is important. Connect your website to analytics tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to gain valuable insight into your website’s statistics. By closely monitoring performance, you can eliminate keywords that aren’t generating you leads, and tweak content that visitors ignore.

SEO is an ongoing process that requires patience and time. These suggestions are meant to set a stronger foundation for your business to expand. If you’re looking for other ways to increase business value, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.