Blog

August 31st, 2015

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Online Reputation Management (ORM) is something ever more companies are investing in. Even small and medium-sized businesses are getting in on the act. In today’s world, a company’s online reputation is more likely than ever to make or break them. The good news is setting up your company’s ORM is probably easier than you think.

ORM is still a relatively new concept, and one that small and medium-sized business owners may not yet be familiar with. Simply put, ORM is the monitoring and protecting of your company’s reputation online. Not only are you looking out for what your company is producing, but also what other people are saying about you.

You only control a limited amount of your company’s message. Consumers using social media control the rest and can often times make or break your company. That is why more and more businesses are investing resources in ORM. While many companies choose to handle their ORM in-house, there are ORM service providers who can take care of the process for you.

Search for your company

Once you’ve determined who will be looking after your ORM, it’s important to see how your business stacks up. The first thing you should do is search for your company on Google. The results are often telling for your business. Being at the top of the search results is a good sign, and shows your website has strong SEO terms and social media presence. If your company doesn’t appear on the first two pages of search results, or the results that come up aren’t what you want people to see, it’s time for your ORM team to get to work.

Bolster your online presence

Creating quality content – to boost where your business shows up in the search results, or push down negative content – is the next step for your ORM. Remember, most people only bother with the first two pages of Google search results, so you want to own those. Other ways to bolster your online presence include registering with online business directories like Yelp or Yellowpages.com. These sites almost always rank very well in search results.

Another positive step would be to expand your social media portfolio to include sites you might not think of right away, like Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and even Tumblr. Being active on just a couple of these channels can further improve your exposure.

Set up a monitoring system

Finally, setting up a monitoring system will ensure your ORM is always up to date with your company’s online profile. Signing up for Google Alerts can guarantee you are always informed of new brand or keyword mentions, while tools like Tagboard and TweetBinder will search various social networks for keywords and hashtags related to your business. These are valuable tools to ensure you’re on top of what’s happening to your business online.

At the end of the day, your online reputation needs to be not only robust, but sterling as well. That is why dedicating resources to ORM can not only protect your business, but help it grow as well. Clients will find your business easily when they search for it, and the results they do find will be the things you want them to see.

Want to know more about ORM or anything else internet-related? Contact us and we can help your business today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic General
August 25th, 2015

164_browsers_BIf you’re like most internet users, you probably use Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera as your web browser of choice. But later this year, there will be a new player in the game. It’s called Edge, and Microsoft’s technologically advanced wonder child may just be the browser of choice for the next generation.

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.
August 24th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Apr28_CWhat does business intelligence mean to you and your company? Most business owners think they have a pretty good idea, when the reality is that our grasp on this most vital of business tools is all too often outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Just like other concepts and tools inside and beyond the corporate world, the ideas behind business intelligence have seen dramatic changes in recent years – fuelled not least by the arrival of a new generation of entrepreneurs who have set out to do things differently. If you can still see these outdated beliefs in your approach to business intelligence, it’s time to change.

Business intelligence should be simple

For too long now, business owners have been fed the idea by business intelligence tool providers that the means by which we understand our organization’s success should be as easy to digest as possible. That has led companies to take an overly simplified view of business intelligence. It is one that just doesn’t deliver the same depth of useful analytical detail that we need if we are going to really understand what’s behind growth (or lack of it). Nor does it allow us to genuinely develop a sense for the direction our companies need to be moving in – and how to get them there.

While simple business intelligence tools will work just fine for some organizations, the majority of us need to be demanding more complex, sophisticated tools to manipulate and generate value from the wealth of data that is at our fingertips. We are in an era where there is still value to be gained, but you have to dig a little deeper for it – and if you’re using outdated software that just isn’t up to the job, you’re going to struggle.

Big data is the be-all, end-all

We have no problem with big data – large-scale changes in industry practices, and our understanding of the ways our businesses work and grow, depend on it. But there’s a mammoth difference between using big data for the sake of it – because we’ve got into the mentality that its ability to deliver industry-wide improvements means it’s the magic cure for our organizations – and putting in place solutions that enable our front-line staff to actually use it.

After all, what’s the point in generating terabytes and terabytes of information if our outdated business intelligence tools aren’t capable of empowering non-technical staff to gain true insights into customer behavior, sales patterns and the like? Recent business intelligence sector developments mean that our companies can benefit from quality tools to visualize simple data collections, but the ability to do the same on a larger scale is still lacking. The lesson? If you’re looking to reap the rewards of large-scale data collection, equip your team with the tools that allow them to perform quality analysis.

The cloud alone is the answer

“The cloud” is the IT industry’s latest buzzword, but too often it gets touted around as an all-round solution that will solve each of our woes, without us really understanding its true purpose or how we can get the most from it. This is particularly the case in relation to business intelligence, where company owners are frequently led to believe that they can instantly enhance their business intelligence capabilities simply by moving everything upstairs to the cloud.

We’re big fans of the cloud and believe that with proper understanding and implementation it can pay real dividends. But the truth is that simply repeating your usual business intelligence routine – but doing so in the cloud – isn’t going to change much. If your business intelligence tools are too conventional and don’t offer enough flexibility, that will still be the case even if you put cloud technology over the top of them. It’s important to address the underlying issues before you contemplate a move to the cloud, so that you can truly reap the advantages of both changes.

If you’re guilty of being stuck with an outdated, or just off-center, view of business intelligence, give us a call to see how we can update you and help you to get the most out of it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
August 20th, 2015

Companies wanting to stay ahead of the curve are implementing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to help drive productivity and reduce travel expenditure. When installed, VoIP allows you to connect to correspondents using broadband Internet. However, you need proper planning and network preparation before deploying VoIP – here are the key components you must consider prior to VoIP implementation.

Network

Implementing a VoIP phone system presents challenges of its own. For one thing, VoIP service cannot tolerate any kind of network interruption. You need to ensure you have alternative physical links to carry all of your VoIP traffic in the event that you lose your primary path. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) should also be installed. This way your Ethernet switches and VoIP devices won’t lose connection and go offline in case of power failure.

Security

As with other networks, VoIP is susceptible to cyber security threats and breaches. If you don’t have reliable and preventative security measures in place, you could fall victim to information theft and malicious attacks. Your best bet is to deploy a dedicated internal firewall to monitor the traffic flow and protect your systems from security threats.

Bandwidth

VoIP is dependent on the bandwidth of your Internet. Therefore, an accurate estimation of bandwidth consumption is crucial for proper planning in order to accommodate VoIP traffic. You need to perform tests to ensure you have enough bandwidth to handle the inbound and outbound call traffic. Relevant information includes the number of users, the number of handsets, the duration of calls, and data usage levels.

Budget

VoIP is no doubt a long-term money saver for your business, but switching over from a traditional phone system, or a fresh installation, involves a cost. You need to take into account the expenses of purchasing the equipment required for VoIP installation, such as VoIP phone cables, external power supplies, and routers. Installation costs may vary greatly, but it is worth the investment if you’re looking to take your communication systems to the next level.

Staff

Employee involvement and understanding is key to a seamless and successful VoIP integration. You can assign one, or a group, of your staff members the responsibility of learning about and managing your new VoIP systems. They can be the go-to person for any enquiries from other staff members. It is recommended that you ask a dedicated specialist to equip your staff with the information needed to utilize VoIP to its fullest potential. While most people are already familiar with video conferencing software such as Skype, it helps to create user guides and manuals to educate those that aren’t as tech-savvy.

VoIP implementation can often be a hassle if you undertake it alone. With the help of dedicated professionals, however, the whole process can become much easier, less expensive, and more rewarding.

Get in touch with us today and we’ll answer any questions you have on preparing your business to embrace this groundbreaking technology.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic VoIP General
August 19th, 2015

Productivity_May6_CWhen it comes to working in the office, a lot of things can hamper your productivity. Some of them are easy to deal with, such as redundant email checking and social media updates, while others are more difficult to handle, such as sudden power outages. The latter can be a real productivity killer, especially if your company relies heavily on Internet connectivity to perform day-to-day operations. But there are several methods to ensure productivity, even during power outages – here’s how.

Install a UPS for each computer

A UPS (uninterrupted power supply), is an alternative, emergency power source. During a power outage, your computer will turn itself off automatically as there’s no power. UPS prevents that by running your computer off its own battery. If you’re working on a file when a power blackout occurs, UPS is especially helpful. It can only buy your computer a few minutes of time at most, but that’s enough time to save vital files and power down. If you still need Internet access, try another method we’ve listed below.

Find a Wi-Fi connection

The advancements in technology made it possible for you to take your work outside the office. You can resume your business activities and Internet connectivity by using the mobile data plan from your smartphone or tablets, and then access your files via cloud storage and file sharing applications. If you don’t have a data plan, then head to the nearest Wi-Fi-friendly place to continue your work, such as a coffee shop. VoIP software installed on your portable devices can help you to connect to your clients efficiently.

Make good use of your batteries

Now is not the time to browse social media or play games. When you take your work offline, it’s best to preserve your devices’ batteries by doing only important tasks and turning off power-sucking applications. Buy an extra charging device to extend your battery life, if necessary.

Finish offline tasks

When no Internet connection is available, you can take the time to clear off any neglected offline duties, whether it’s clearing up desks or arranging files and documents. You can even gather a team to brainstorm new ideas for projects, or discuss any ongoing issues within your organization.

Work from home

If a power outage renders your employees helpless in their duties, then sending them home with a business laptop won’t hurt, if they’re able to continue their work from there. There are many ways to keep them accountable without being intrusive and, as long as they are making progress in their jobs and are able maintain their professional integrity, there’s not much to complain about. Make sure telecommuting is only allowed when necessary though – working alongside colleagues and sharing ideas face-to-face is still one of the best ways to induce productivity.

Achieving power-free productivity is possible when you have a plan prepared for the situation. For more productivity tips to boost your business’s bottom line, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic General
August 17th, 2015

Office_Aug11_CYou can edit that Word document from the runway, input data to an Excel file from the ballpark or create a PowerPoint presentation without the need to open up your laptop with the new Office Mobile apps from Microsoft. The apps, available to users of Windows 10 at no extra cost, are designed for tablets with a “touch-first” interface. The increased functionality makes creating or editing Office documents on your tablet a breeze.

One of the biggest complaints about trying to edit a Microsoft Office file from a tablet is usability, or lack thereof. That has all changed, at least for Windows 10 users, with Microsoft’s recent release of Office Mobile apps. The tablet-friendly versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote have been built from the ground up to improve touch functionality.

Even if you don’t have Windows 10, you still might be intrigued about the potential of having Office apps that are touch-friendly. Here are some of the new features you can enjoy when using Office Mobile apps.

Word

Microsoft Word Mobile has all the tools and features of the PC version including more nuanced tasks like being able to track changes and add footnotes. The Read mode, a mobile exclusive, improves the way documents appear by making them flow better on the smaller screens of a tablet while also letting you zoom in and out with a simple tap of the screen.

Excel

Recommended Charts is the prominent feature of the Excel Mobile app. It allows you to quickly show off your data using a stylish chart or graph with only a few taps. You will also find that reordering columns, adding formulae, changing chart types and the majority of Excel’s other core functions are easier than ever before.

PowerPoint

Of course Office wouldn’t be Office without PowerPoint. The mobile version of the app allows you to edit slides with new touch gestures. This makes it easy to insert and edit pictures, tables, shapes and SmartArt. But the real star here, and of the entire Office Mobile setup, is the Presenter View. This mode gives you full control over what your audience sees on the big screen during a presentation while still letting you view your speaker notes on the tablet.

OneNote

Windows 10 comes installed with OneNote, so you’re probably already using it. Tablet users will notice that changes made by anyone working in the notebook are automatically saved and synchronized for everyone to see.

The release of Office Mobile apps is just one of three big launches to come from Microsoft in 2015. Both Microsoft Office 2016 and Office Mobile for phones are slated for release this fall. Yet, while these tablet applications represent marked improvements for Windows 10 tablet users, they are probably not quite enough to warrant the switch from other operating systems just yet. In fact, even if you’re in love with the idea of having user-friendly, mobile versions of Office, you might want to hang on in there – it’s likely Microsoft will release them for iOS and Android in the near future, too.

Want to know what hardware and software is best for your company? Want to increase productivity in your office? Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how to do it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
August 13th, 2015

164_Prod_CIn today’s world of ever-changing technology, information overload and endless to do lists, it can seem hard to keep up. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to just get more done? While there’ll likely always be tasks to accomplish and something to do, there are certainly things you can change to boost productivity. And that starts with identifying bad habits. Here are five of them you should kick now to bring your productivity to an all-time high.

Constantly checking email

This is an obvious one most people already know of, but how many of us actually follow it? The reason it’s a productivity killer is because it destroys your focus. Even worse, constantly checking email has been linked to anxiety, depression, lower performance and even decreased memory function.

To overcome this habit, designate specific times of the day to check your e-mail. For example, first thing in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, and at the end of the work day. This will prevent constant email checking from breaking up your flow while you’re on the clock.

Working long days

It’s 8pm, you’ve already worked 12 hours, but you just want to knock out one more item on your to do list. You’re exhausted, but you tell yourself to push through anyway – even if it takes another hour. How many of us have been here? If it’s more often than not, it may be a good idea to kick this habit as it’s an absolute productivity killer.

Studies have shown that working more than eight hours a day lowers productivity and raises the risk of burnout. The reasoning is simple…mental fatigue. Once you’ve worked a certain number of hours, your focus will be less sharp and your productivity will consequently drop. Which leads us to our next point…

Not getting enough sleep

Rest is essential to maximizing your productivity. And the most essential type of rest you can get is sleep. Research has shown that getting five hours of sleep or less multiple nights in a row has the same effect on you as a 0.10 blood alcohol level. Not only that, but you’ll also suffer from headaches, be mistake-prone and get distracted more easily. Basically you’ll be an unfocused mess.

Working continuously without a break

Studies have shown that you need to take breaks if you want to achieve maximum productivity. This is because a break allows you to rest your brain. Often during a break, you may even come up with new creative solutions to problems. And the best part is that when you return to work, you’ll feel revitalized with a fresh focus and ready to be challenged.

Multitasking

In this day and age, multitasking is often touted as a positive skill. And while this may be true in small bursts, spending hours juggling tasks is a surefire way of lowering productivity. The reason behind this is that switching between tasks causes a loss of focus and creativity. Think of your brain as a computer with a limited amount of RAM. Now what happens when your computer’s RAM is pushed to the max? It usually slows down and doesn’t function as well. Your brain acts in a similar way, the only difference being that you can’t buy more RAM to install in your brain – not yet, at least.

On the contrary, studies have shown that focusing on one task for a larger block of time (don’t forget to throw your break in, though) allows you to boost your productivity and get into a flow with your work. Try it out and you may find yourself accomplishing more tasks than you ever imagined possible.

Interested in learning about more ways to increase productivity? Want to find out how your technology can help? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Productivity
August 11th, 2015

164_Sec_CLove them or hate them, selfies are here to stay. And with facial recognition technology becoming both more advanced and more mainstream, selfies have now found their way into the online security world. MasterCard is the most recent global corporation to join in on the trend. Here’s how they’re planning to integrate facial recognition technology into the online payment process.

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
August 10th, 2015

164_Soc_CStill struggling with social media marketing? Have you started posting updates more regularly and developed a consistent brand voice, yet still have barely any results to show for it? Well, there could be many reasons for your lack of progress in social media, but there is one common “content trap” that could be the source. Here’s what it is, and how to fix it.

Don’t recycle content

Google any recent news story, and you’re likely to find anywhere from a few to several dozen articles on the same subject. And unfortunately, the content is so similar that you can barely differentiate one from the next.

If you want to stand out from others on the social media scene, find something new to talk about. In general, if you want to get noticed by new customers or followers, it’s best to avoid widely covered topics. Everyone and their grandma will be writing about it, which creates much more competition for your version.

If you must create content about mainstream topics, make sure you take the time to come up with a fresh perspective, and share valuable information that hasn’t been touched on yet.

Be fearless in your content

Similarly, it’s absolutely essential that, across all the content that you produce, you share a unique perspective. Many people end up parroting the same thing as everyone else because they are afraid to offer their true opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be controversial. If you’re going to develop a social media persona that stands out, you need to develop your own voice – and a thick skin. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, especially on the web where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Additionally, there’s a reason that the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is famous. In fact, when you write polarizing content that will have a fair share of supporters and naysayers, people are hardwired to react to it. This is for the same reason that humanity as a whole shares a universal love of stories – whether that’s in the movies, in a novel or around a campfire. A story is nothing without conflict. When you produce content that creates a real life conflict of opinions, you have a better chance of it making some noise on social media.

But – be honest and show integrity

Don’t say something controversial just for the sake of it. Give your honest opinion. The key to every aspect of sales is developing trust. That means that with any customer or potential follower you come into contact with, whether through social media or other means, you should show your true self. You’ll have a better chance of gaining a customer or follower for life.

Controversy or not, always be professional

There’s no reason to start a flame war, or resort to name calling and insults. People are going to have strong feelings about controversial content. Emotions are going to come up and people can say some pretty mean things – especially on the internet. Don’t get caught up in the comments and negativity. If you do, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your current customer base and followers.

Want more insights into growing your social media presence? Speak up today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Social Media
August 7th, 2015

164_Prod_ CFor many small and medium sized business owners like yourself, Managed Services may be a confusing topic. You’ve likely heard that they can lead to greater productivity and profits, but are unsure as to just how they do this. If you’ve been confused for long enough, today you’ll finally understand the process by which Managed Services can lead your business to increased productivity and a higher bottom line.

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.