Blog

July 30th, 2015

164_Prod_ AYou may have heard of Managed Services, but are clueless as to how they can help your business. You may have heard of how they can boost productivity and increase profits, but are unsure of exactly how they do that. For those who need a better understanding of just how Managed Services can benefit a business, today we’re going to demystify it all. Here is the explanation you’ve been waiting for.

Managed Services essentially amounts to preventative IT maintenance. What this means for your business is that little IT problems are nipped in the bud as soon as they bubble up, and before they have a chance to compound into much bigger, more costly ones. But before we delve deeper into how this increases your business’s productivity levels, it makes sense to look at the history of this service and the role of “preventative maintenance” in our culture.

Why preventative maintenance matters

Managed Services have been around for decades. But despite this, many businesses have been slow to catch on. And really, is it all that surprising? Preventative maintenance is not exactly a priority in mass culture. Whether you hire a mechanic to replace a catalytic converter, a plumber to repair a leaky pipe or doctor to correct your coronary heart disease, many of these oftentimes preventable problems have been culturally accepted as commonplace. Yet people are so used to the mindset of thinking “everything is okay until it’s not”, which is really where the true problem lies.

Additionally, when preventable problems are ignored long enough to the point they explode into emergency repairs, your wallet almost always suffers. This is just as true for a network crash to your business’s IT infrastructure as it is for a trip to the emergency room for a neglected health problem.

Because Managed Services prevent catastrophic IT repairs that surprise you out of nowhere, your bottom line will enjoy long-term savings. Along with this, you’ll also get a significant bump in your productivity levels.

How does Managed Services boost productivity?

To answer this question, it makes sense to look at a fundamental principle of productivity - focus. Imagine if you’re trying to complete a new marketing strategy for the next quarter. You’re doing some research, compiling a list upcoming networking events and trade shows to attend, when suddenly you’re disrupted by an urgent phone call. After you’re off the phone, you return to your research, and then your secretary bursts in with an handful of vendor invoices you need to sign off on. As these disruptions continue to pile up, what happens if your IT breaks down and you’re unable to use your computer? Basically, you don’t get anything done during the day. You become stuck.

When it comes to IT, Managed Services take preventative measures to ensure your IT is always running at its optimal level, so that you don’t suffer technology breakdowns or distractions that blow your focus - preventing you and your staff from getting any work done. Smooth running IT won’t resolve all your productivity problems, such as your staff focusing more on Facebook or their phone rather than their work, but it will resolve all of those that relate directly to technology. No longer will your business be held down by daily computer disruptions and associated repairs, and instead you and your staff can move forward and focus on growing your business. That is the beauty of Managed Services. More productivity, focus and growth for your entire organization.

Have more questions about Managed Services? Give us a call today. We’re happy to provide you the information you need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 29th, 2015

Web_Jul29_AIf the worry of losing all your valuable WhatsApp messages keeps you awake at night, then WhatsApp’s integration with Google Drive should set your mind at ease. The feature, which was added to the messaging giant’s app back in April, allows you to backup just about everything stored in WhatsApp to your Google Drive account - ready to retrieve no matter what happens. Here’s what you need to know.

The introduction of Google Drive as a backup option within the app will prove a relief in the event that you need to reinstall your existing WhatsApp account - either on your existing phone or a new one. Once activated, a backup takes place at 4am at the frequency selected in your app’s settings; it’s also possible to manually force a backup at the time of your choosing.

WhatsApp makes its backups locally before moving the data across to Google Drive. Each backup is incremental, meaning that the first one WhatsApp makes will be of all your account’s data - including messages and photos but not, for the time being at least, videos - and will subsequently update that backup with any new files and changes to existing data. This is presumably intended to keep the size of each backup transfer to a minimum; though you should still anticipate that first attempt taking quite some time, and chugging through a lot of data if you’re doing it over your cellular connection rather than wi-fi.

Once the data is safely within your Google Drive account, it’s hidden and only accessible from within WhatsApp, in order to populate a new account. In the event that you need to use it, after logging into WhatsApp with your phone number the app will search for backups both locally and on Google Drive. Assuming it finds something, it will then give you the opportunity to transfer it back across.

Google Drive integration has been available since the release of WhatsApp version 2.12.45 for Android, which debuted in April. The feature isn’t yet available on Apple devices, however. It’s simple to enable - just follow these steps:

Enter the app’s Settings menu. Select Chat Settings. Select Chat Backup. The screen will display your last backup time and a selection of grayed-out Google Drive settings. Adjust the frequency from Off to the option of your choice. Select the Google account you’d like to use, and whether to use your wi-fi connection alone to conduct the backups, or combined with cellular data.

Want to learn how to implement messaging services like WhatsApp in your business, as well as how to protect your organization’s data? Give us a call to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web
July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_ATechnology has allowed businesses to get more work done with less time and expense. When properly implemented, it serves as a great tool that allows your employees to work remotely, collaborate more efficiently, and manage their time more effectively. If you want to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to make technology work for you. Here are some things you can do to make your employees more productive.

Change office communication

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 24th, 2015

164_iPhone_AIf you’ve owned an iPhone for more than a few months, maybe even weeks, you’ve likely been caught in a situation where you need to charge your battery fast but have only a limited amount of time to access a power supply. While the obvious solution is to simply plug it into the nearest outlet and hope it powers up quickly, there’s actually a few simple steps you can take to speed up the rate at which your battery charges. Here’s what you can do.

Put your iPhone in Airplane mode

The key ingredient to supercharging your iPhone in the shortest amount of time is to switch it to Airplane mode. By doing this, you essentially shut your phone off from the outside world so it’s unable to receive calls, texts, push notifications or other information. Additionally, your iPhone will be unable to search for a wireless network or better signal while in this mode. And because it’s not wasting power with any of these processes, that electricity is instead directed to your iPhone’s battery which in turn allows it to charge faster.

Take off your iPhone case

Funny as it may sound, your iPhone case may actually be slowing down the speed of your battery charge. Apple’s consumer website notes that their products don’t do well in the heat. And when it comes to iPhone, certain cases can create excess heat - which can have an effect on your battery capacity. What does this mean for you? If you have a case on your iPhone, take it off when you’re charging it.

Use an iPad adaptor

An iPad adaptor, which is about twice the size of the small adaptor that’s included with your iPhone, reportedly charges an iPhone 40% faster than its native counterpart. Therefore, if you have an iPad charger, use it.

Turn off your display, and don’t use your iPhone

As already mentioned with Airplane mode, the more your iPhone is in use the less power it will have leftover to store in your battery. While Airplane mode prevents outside forces from sucking up power, you too can also not use your phone during this time to maximize the rate at which the battery charges. To do this, make sure you turn off your display, and then simply set your iPhone aside and leave it alone.

Want more tips to get the most out of your iPhone? Curious to learn about the latest iPhone news and updates? Get in touch now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
July 24th, 2015

164_A_MacLater this fall, Apple will be releasing their new operating system, El Capitan. For all those Mac lovers who are anxiously chomping at the bit to test out this new OS, you’re in luck. A beta version has been released, and users can sign up to try it out through the Apple Beta Software Program. Though if you’d rather learn about the features first, here are four exciting ones people are talking about.

Find your cursor more easily

While not the most difficult of problems computer users face, many of us have all probably ran into the situation where we lose the cursor and have to carefully scan the screen and wiggle the mouse to find it. El Capitan resolves this minor annoyance in a fun way. Now if you lose your cursor, you can wiggle your finger on the trackpad and the cursor will blow up to a larger size which makes it easier to spot instantly.

Better Spotlight feature

El Capitan’s new version of Spotlight now allows you to search news and information from the Internet. For example, you can use it to find the weather forecast, sports scores, stock market information and even videos from Vimeo and YouTube.

Another useful feature of the updated Spotlight is the ability to use natural language to find files on your Mac. That means you can search for locally stored files with phrases such as “video I edited last week”, which will then bring up results for any videos you edited in that time period.

Run apps side by side in a split screen

Deciding how to best handle multiple windows on your display can be a daily annoyance. If you have too many open, your screen can become a disorganized mess that leaves you less productive and perhaps even with a headache. Split view aims to bring order to your display by allowing you to go full screen with a pair of apps running side by side. Similar to the Windows 8 split-screen app, you can also resize each window to your liking.

More functional Notes app

With El Capitan, the Notes application has also gotten a makeover and now allows you to add a variety of types of content. For instance, you can drop in videos, pictures, PDFs and other file types directly into the application. Even better, you can sync Safari with Notes. This means that with a simple click of your trackpad, you can send content from a web page directly to the app.

Last but not least, Notes now gives users the ability to create checklists easily. With a single click, you can turn a bulleted list into an interactive checklist. So whether you’re looking to create a to-do list, grocery list or wish list, Notes has you covered.

While it’s worth noting that none of these new features are revolutionary, these small improvements will come as a welcome upgrade of Yosemite for many Mac users.

Want more of the latest Mac news? Need to service your Apple IT? Feel free to give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
July 22nd, 2015

164_Sec_AOver the decades of the internet’s existence, cyber threats have evolved at a rapid pace. When once there were only viruses and malware to watch out for, now you have to protect your business from worms, trojans, ransomware and dozens of other online threats. But what’s the difference between all of them? Let's take a look. Here are four of today’s most common cyber threats and the tips you need to protect your business from them.

Malware

Malware is the short version of the word malicious software. And this is a general term that encompasses many types of online threats including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware and more. Though you likely already know this, the purpose of malware is to specifically infect and harm your computer and potentially steal your information.

But how do the different types of malware differ from one another? How can you protect your business from them? Let’s take a look at four of the most common forms of malware below.

Virus - like a virus that can infect a person, a computer virus is a contagious piece of code that infects software and then spreads from file to file on a system. When infected software or files are shared between computers, the virus then spreads to the new host.

The best way to protect yourself from viruses is with a reliable antivirus program that is kept updated. Additionally, you should be wary of any executable files you receive because viruses often come packaged in this form. For example, if you’re sent a video file, be aware that if the name includes an “exe” extension like .mov.exe, you’re almost certainly dealing with a virus.

Spyware - just like a spy, a hacker uses spyware to track your internet activities and steal your information without you being aware of it. What kind of information is likely to be stolen by Spyware? Credit card numbers and passwords are two common targets.

And if stealing your information isn’t bad enough, Spyware is also known to cause PC slowdown, especially when there is more than one program running on your system - which is usually the case with a system that’s infected.

A common mistake many people make is they assume their antivirus software automatically protects them from Spyware. This is not always true as some antivirus isn’t designed to catch spyware. If you’re unsure if your antivirus prevents Spyware, get verification from your vendor. And for those that are already suffering from Spyware infestation, two programs that work wonders to clean it out are Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware.

Worms - similar to viruses, worms also replicate themselves and spread when they infect a computer. The difference, however, between a worm and a virus is that a worm doesn’t require the help of a human or host program to spread. Instead, they self-replicate and spread across networks without the guidance of a hacker or a file/program to latch onto.

In addition to a reliable antivirus software, to prevent worms from infecting your system you should ensure your firewall is activated and working properly.

Trojan - like the trojan horse from ancient greek mythology, this type of malware is disguised as a safe program designed to fool users, so that they unwittingly install it on their own system, and later are sabotaged by it. Generally, the hacker uses a trojan to steal both financial and personal information. It can do this by creating a “backdoor” to your computer that allows the hacker to remotely control it.

Similar to the other malware mentioned above, antivirus software is a dependable way to protect yourself against trojans. For further safety, it’s wise to not open up suspicious attachments, and also ensure that your staff members aren't downloading any programs or applications illegally at the office - as this is a favorite place hackers like to hide trojans.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_AData visualizations are common in business presentations today. They can provide us an overview of information and results in a simple and easily digestible way. Good data visualization helps users to understand data in order to make informed decisions based on the findings. Bad data visualization, on the other hand, will provide little to no value for readers and make complex data even more difficult to comprehend. With that said, you can present data in a better way by avoiding these common mistakes.

Inconsistent visualizations

It’s important to be consistent when presenting your data, otherwise users will have to stop and figure out how to read each new picture before they can comprehend what it says, wasting time and defeating the purpose of data visualization. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow. For instance, try choosing colors that go well together. Use only 2-3 colors at most throughout your visualization - any more and you’ll find that your pictures might be hard to read. Also, use the same iconography and typography in each picture so your audience can quickly understand the information.

Displaying too much data

Overly complicated data visualizations are sure to turn off most audiences because they can’t figure out where and what to focus on. Your customers, colleagues, and employers want specific, relevant answers. The quicker you can deliver those answers, the better. Irrelevant data gives your presentation a cluttered look, making finding relevant information more difficult for readers. The solution? Find a compromise between showing too much data and not showing enough overall. Use good judgement.

Oversimplifying data

The purpose of data visualization is to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. While it’s all too easy to simplify data, if you go too far and leave out crucial parts, your audiences won’t be able to see or grasp the main point of the presentation. Instead of trying to oversimplify data, it’s better to include all important criteria and organize them into a structure so audiences can easily understand what’s being presented to them.

Choosing the wrong visualization

This is one of the most common mistakes made in data visualization. There are many different types of data out there, and each of those types require different analytics and tools to use. For example, if you want to present a sales growth comparison in the last 5 years, it’s better to use bar charts that can clearly show the difference at a glance. If you want to show a relationship between two metrics, on the other hand, you should use a scatter chart to show results.

The best way to avoid all these errors is to focus on your goals first. It’s likely that you’ll have to make changes along the way, which is actually a good thing, because it will make your presentation more accurate and effective.

Want to learn more about other business intelligence tools to implement in your company? Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 16th, 2015

164_A_O365Earlier this month, Microsoft announced they’ll be replacing their current E4 Office 365 suite with the new upgrade - E5. With an unspecified release date for later this year, E5 will have a direct effect on current E4 users and those who are thinking about signing up for a new Office 365 package. Here’s what you need to know about this new version, and how it could impact your business.

What’s included in E5?

According to Microsoft’s Office Blogs July 13th post, the tech giant announced that the E5 plan will include the following new capabilities:
  • Skype for Business services with support for features including Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing
  • Analytic features such as Delve Organizational Analytics and Power BI Pro
  • Advanced security features like Customer Lockbox, eDiscovery, Advanced Threat Protection and Data Loss Protection
With these new service offerings, Microsoft believes that business owners will be able to reach new customers and increase value for their existing ones.

The cost?

While Microsoft’s Office 365 current E4 package costs $22 a month in the US, there was no official announcement of the price for the E5 version.

However, since E5 will include services such as Advanced Threat Protection, which currently costs an additional $2 per user/month, as well as Power BI Pro, which is priced at $9.99 per user/month, a price increase seems inevitable - and very well could be significant.

Your options

Because E4 will be retired when E5 is released, that means that current E4 users will have to either upgrade to E5, or change to E3 plus Cloud PBX.

For those who have yet to sign up for Office 365, however, you’ll also have the additional options to choose an E1 or E3 package with available upgrades.

Is it worth it to upgrade to E5?

That all depends on your business, and likely the price of the upgrade. However, the question you need to ask is, “will the new capabilities enhance your organization enough to justify the higher cost? If you need additional help understanding how E5’s new features and capabilities can create value in your business, we’re happy to assist you.

Curious to learn more about the Office 365 E5 package? Get your questions answered, and give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 15th, 2015

164_Prod_AIt’s easy for anyone to speculate about what the top productivity killers are for today’s workforce. What may come to mind first are distractions such as email, social media, or the personal problems of employees. But last month in a new survey of 2,175 hiring and human resources managers, CareerBuilder revealed what some of the real issues are. The results are a mix of obvious distractions and surprising revelations.

Here are the top 10 productivity busters according to CareerBuilder’s June 2015 survey.

  1. 52% - Cellphones & texting
  2. 44% - Internet
  3. 37% - Gossip
  4. 36% - Social media
  5. 31% - Email
  6. 27% - Coworkers chatting
  7. 26% - Meetings
  8. 27% - Snack and/or smoke breaks
  9. 17% - Loud coworkers
  10. 10% - Sitting in a cubicle

Why are these findings a big deal?

According to the managers who took the survey, the consequences of these distractions can be pretty severe. A few examples they gave were lower quality of work, dissatisfied employees who have to pick up the slack of lower performers, missed deadlines, and even loss of revenue.

So how do you prevent these productivity killers from disrupting your business?

The chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder mentioned that one of the most effective ways to increase productivity is to simply take a break, which may come as quite a surprise since “Snack and/or smoke breaks” is listed as number 8 for productivity killers.

However, it should be noted that not all breaks are created equal. Listening to loud music or getting caught up in gossip on social media may not actually give employees the sense of rejuvenation they need when they return to work. They key is for staff members to take a break that will re-energize and give them a fresh focus. Some suggestions are to simply take a walk or perform some form of light exercise or stretching.

On a more humorous note, the survey also revealed some of the more unusual non-work activities employees partook in while on the clock. Employers reportedly found their staff doing everything from taking a nap on the CEO’s couch, searching for a mail order bride, and even taking a sponge bath in the restroom sink.

Want more tips on how to boost employee productivity. Curious to see how technology can help? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_ALog on to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or even simply take a walk in a city park, and one thing is clear: the selfie revolution is upon us. And now it looks as though this contemporary pastime is becoming more than just a social media trend. Major industry players are now using facial recognition technology to replace passwords as the new method of online identification. MasterCard is the most recent corporate bigwig to join the party.

At the beginning of this autumn, MasterCard will acquire the help of 500 customers to test out a new application that enables people to verify their identity and authenticate online transactions with a facial scan. What does this mean? Instead of using a traditional password at the online checkout, MasterCard wants to give you the option to snap a selfie instead. According to the credit card giant, they’ve partnered with every smartphone company in the business to make this mode of identity verification possible.

Why is this happening?

A quote from Ajay Bhalla, security expert at MasterCard, suggests this is an attempt by the credit card giant to appeal to a younger crowd of digital natives. "The new generation, which is into selfies...I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Bhalla recently said.

That said, the “cool” appeal to youth is likely not the only reason for this change. The firm is likely attempting to make online purchases both more secure and more convenient.

How it works

To use this technology, users will have to download a dedicated app, which they can then use to take a photo of themselves at checkout. But how does MasterCard prevent a thief from using a photo of you to fake your verification? Simple - the app requires you to blink to prove that you’re a living, breathing human being.

However, it’s been noted by critics that, in today’s technological world, even a blink can be animated on a static photo. This leaves those of us with security concerns wondering whether MasterCard will make this app more secure before it’s released.

Note as well, though, that MasterCard is not getting rid of traditional passwords completely. Users will still have the option of the more conventional method of verification, as well as the choice of fingerprint scanning to check your identity.

Is this where the future of online security is headed?

With the release due later this year of a similar Windows 10 security application to identify users using biometrics, it appears that this is where the future of online security is headed. And with ever more applications and online services requiring a password, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average web user to create one that is both unique and secure for each individual service. So whether it’s facial recognition, a fingerprint scan or some other technology that’s yet to be perfected, it seems as though some sort of more advanced security solution is inevitable.

Want more of the latest security news? Looking to implement new security to protect your IT infrastructure from cyber threats? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security