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June 9th, 2014

businesscontinuity_June9_CLooking at the majority of natural disasters that strike it appears that many happen in the months of June through August. Regardless of your business location, there is likely an increased chance that you could see a disaster in these months and it is therefore a good idea to prepare for one, even if you think it unlikely. While there are many things you can do to get ready in advance, mobile devices can play an important role, especially the use of apps.

Both Android and Apple mobile devices offer a wide variety of apps that users rely on daily. Because of this, these devices have become an integral part of our lives and would no doubt be on hand if disaster struck. The upside to this is that there are apps that can help you and your employees whatever the disaster. Here are four of the best types of disaster related apps you and your colleagues should download in order to prepare.

Weather apps

It is always a good idea to know what the weather forecast is for your local area. This can help you predict what could happen and even prepare your business should say a big storm be rolling in. There are a wide variety of weather apps out there and it can be difficult to actually pick which is the best to use. We recommend:
  1. The NOAA Weather Radio - Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad users, this app is the official app for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. When installed, you can receive local weather forecasts based on your location and storm or severe weather warnings pushed directly to your device. The app can be found on iTunes and costs USD$3.99
  2. Weather Underground - This app is among the most powerful weather apps out there. Using a wide variety of weather stations and user submitted weather it is up to date and able to offer accurate forecasts. With a Weather Radio feature, and push notifications of weather alerts, you can easily track potential storms. There is also the WunderMap which has radar, reports and IR Sat views as well. The app is available for free on Google Play and iTunes, and is rumored to be coming soon for Windows Phone.
  3. Local weather apps - Many TV stations and weather organizations have localized weather apps that focus on just local conditions. If you live in a disaster prone area, it would be a good idea to see if your local TV station has a weather app, as this could be the quickest way to receive updates.

American Red Cross apps

The Red Cross has a number of excellent survival oriented apps that could really come in handy for when a disaster strikes. These apps provide tips on how to prepare yourself and your family, as well as buildings for disaster, and what to do during and after a disaster strikes.

The best part is that most of the information is available offline, so you will have access to it even if cell networks are down. Some of the apps even provide weather alerts that will sound even if the app isn't open, alerting you about any impending danger.

These apps are all available for free on Google Play and iTunes. The best thing to do is to visit the Red Cross website and look for the apps that are relevant to your local area e.g., if you are in the mountains the Forest Fire and First Aid apps may help. The apps are all free and can be downloaded by clicking the links for your device's app store on the Red Cross site.

Social media apps

Social media services could prove to be a good way to connect and communicate during a disaster. Try setting up a group for your employees to communicate and encourage them to use it when a disaster strikes to share information and enact plans. One of the biggest added advantages to using social networks is that the servers that host the service are located around the world, so the chances of the service being down is fairly slim. If you have Internet access, you will be able to access the service.

It would be a good idea to define which social network you want to use and establish your pages and connections ahead of time. Have each employee sign up for and join the group you have created and also download the app onto their mobile devices.

Google Public Alerts

Google Public Alerts is the company's alert platform that allows for the distribution of emergency messages and notices like evacuation notices, public alerts, and storm warnings. For users in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia alerts will appear in Google Searches, Maps and if you are an Android or iOS user, from Google Now.

Mobile users who have Google Now installed should see relevant alerts pop up when something happens. While you won't see alerts for absolutely everything, Google does a pretty good job at broadcasting useful information. On mobile devices, these alerts will usually pop up in your Notifications Center where they are easy to see.

To get these notifications on your Android device, you will need to download the Google Search app and activate it on your device. You can find it for free on the Google Play Store, and on iTunes. Android users can also download the Google Now Launcher which will add Google Now to your device's home screen, and can be accessed by swiping to the right from your Home Screen.

Tips for using your mobile during an emergency

Here are six tips to help you leverage your mobile device during a disaster.
  1. Install relevant apps - In order to be prepared, you should install the apps necessary to communicate during a disaster, along with a weather app and if necessary a survival app.
  2. Ensure your contacts are up to date - To be sure, you should periodically update your contacts. Should anything happen you will know how to contact people and have a higher chance of being able to get in touch.
  3. Ensure your employees have devices that work - Even if you don't allow mobile devices in the office, or employees to use their own devices, it would be a great idea to ensure that your employees have devices that are in working order so should they need to contact you, or vice versa, you will have a better chance of being able to.
  4. Establish procedures to follow during a disaster - This is arguably the most important preparation you can do. Take the time to establish procedures you and your employees should follow during an emergency. Include where people should meet, backup plans, contact suggestions and the roles you expect your employees to take.
  5. Keep your batteries topped up - Mobile devices rely on batteries to operate, and during a disaster you may be without a power source for an extended amount of time. Therefore, Minimize use during a disaster. Ensure your batteries are full, or charges as often and has high as possible.
  6. Invest in a good power bank - Power banks are useful tools that are essentially big batteries. You can charge them up then use them to charge your devices. Take a look for one that is at least 9000 MHZ, or higher. The higher the number the bigger the charge.
If you are looking to learn more about using mobile devices during a disaster, or how your company can prepare, contact us today. Learn about our services and how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 3rd, 2014

SocialMedia_June02_CSocial media is quickly becoming one of the more useful marketing tools a business has. While a corporate profile can be a great way to connect with existing customers, many businesses find that because of the high number of people actually using these sites, these platforms are perfect for marketing and advertising, and ultimately in reaching and penetrating target markets. One way you can get your ads in front of people is through the use of social PPC.

Define social PPC

Businesses who advertise through social media have a number of ways they can get their ads and content seen on this platform. The most popular is based on one of the Internet's oldest marketing schemes: Pay-per-Click, or PPC.

In a broad sense, PPC is the act of paying an advertiser or website to place ads at strategic locations. Placing these ads is usually free, or comes with a nominal fee, but when a user clicks on the ad and goes to the destination site, the owner of the ad pays the advertiser or site a small fee.

In relation to social media, social PPC is simply ads which are placed on the social networks. For example, you can pay Facebook to place an ad on the right-hand bar of certain user's News Feeds. If they click on the ad, Facebook will then charge you a set amount for that click.

Where social PPC differs from other types of PPC, more specifically search PPC - paying search engines to display your ads - is that it is more display oriented. With search PPC, you pay the engine to show your ad when specific search keywords are entered. With social PPC, you pay the site to display your ad regardless of what the user is looking at.

3 Common misconceptions about social PPC

While this process is becoming more popular with businesses, especially those who have integrated social media into their marketing plans, there are some common misconceptions that seem to be floating around.

1. Starting small is the way to go

As with most strategies in business, when starting something new you often want to test the waters before jumping in full scale. Many companies who are trying social PPC for the first time will often start with one or two campaigns running at the same time. While this may work for small businesses with an unproven profile, those with an established profile and marketing strategy may want to try running 3-5 campaigns at the same time.

The reason for this strategy is that it can help spread out the overall views, along with enhancing the quality of information and results. For example, you can easily compare and establish what is working when you have more than two alternatives to compare.

2. You need to be active on the services you target

Despite what some people in charge of marketing believe, you don't need to be active on a social network in order to be able to use social PPC features. Many networks, like Twitter, simply require that you have an account in order to be able to use the ad features.

If you do want to use the ad features of different social networks, you should be sure to at least have a fully completed profile. This includes address, name, location, and business info. Of course, if you want to enhance the success of your initiative, an active profile will help but it is not necessary.

The best example of this is if you want to use the promoted post feature in Facebook. You will need to have content in order to actually use this feature successfully and the more content and followers you have, the higher the chances of what you promote being seen.

3. You MUST be using Facebook Ads

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, and many businesses already have a Facebook Page. But many feel that in order to maximize the potential of their Page, they need to be advertising using Facebook Ads.

Sure, it can help to use this service, but it isn't the only one out there. You do have other options, including different platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. To really get the most out of a social PPC campaign you should try different platforms anyway. For example, if you want to target other business customers try using LinkedIn, which is where this target group may be more likely to be found than through Facebook.

Looking to learn more about social PPC or using social media in your company? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 29th, 2014

BusinessValue_May26_CSocial media has become such a large part of business strategy and marketing. Many businesses invest time, money and energy into creating a wide variety of content for their social media platforms. One of the most popular types of content is articles. While many businesses go to great lengths to create articles, some have a problem with ensuring or increasing the chance that what they write and post will be shared.

The key to getting your content shared

There are countless blog posts on how to create content that is shareable. And to create content that will be shared by users on social media and other platforms you need to know why content gets shared in the first place.

In order to help, we scoured the Internet and found a great article over at OK Dork, which was written by the content masters at BuzzSumo. This article listed things you can do to increase the shareability of the content you produce. While it is quite a long article, we found there were some great tips worth talking about here. In order to make things a little easier, we have split this article into two parts. Here are the first five tips you can leverage to increase the reach of your content, and more specifically the blog articles you create:

Create longer content

Take a look at what people share on their social media profiles and there is little doubt that the vast majority of content is short, and can range from often photos and videos of funny cats to memes. But look at the articles that are shared and you will often find that the most popular ones are actually longer, or long-form as they are referred to by content experts.

The main reason for this is because there are fewer long-form article creators out there, and there is a demand for higher quality, well researched and well-written articles. Sharing this type of content generally adds some depth to a posting which can create a more involved and sustained dialogue.

You might want to mix it up to increase shareability by creating some articles which follow this longer style approach. You could try writing shorter articles on a regular basis, for example, with a 2000 word article say once a month.

People like images

Think about the last time you read an article in the newspaper without an image, or even saw a link on social media without an image. Did you remember the content, or did you even click on the link? Many people wouldn't. So, if you want your content to be shared on social media add some visuals.

With longer content visuals not only serve to draw the eyes of the reader and break up content to keep the reader engaged. For shorter pieces, an image can attract initial attention and give the reader some an idea about what the subject of the content is.

The key here is to include visuals with every piece of content. Make sure that the image relates to the content and is interesting enough to capture attention, enough that users will want to share what they see and read.

Even Twitter users like images

Although Twitter is largely based on text posts visual content tends to be shared more by users of this platform.

As per the point above, try to have a visual with every piece of content. If you are an avid Twitter user, try coming up with titles or overviews that are 100 characters or less. This will leave room for a link on Twitter to the content. If social media users likes the content, and there is an image too, chances are higher that they will share it via Twitter.

Using certain emotions really helps

If you want people to share your content, you need to write articles that evoke emotion. The three most successful, when it comes to sharing, are:
  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement
If your article inspires one of these three emotions, you have a drastically higher chance of the content being shared. Generally speaking, if content makes someone laugh or think about an issue then are more likely to share what resonates with them.

The other emotion to capitalize on is selfishness. Take a look at your Facebook News Feed and we guarantee that you will see a ton of quizzes shared by people. These quizzes are usually something like "What TV character would you be?, or "What's your dream job?", etc. While entertaining, these quizzes appeal to our more narcissistic sides. They provide little to no value to your followers, but they can be fun and help social media users establish an identity which they can compare with others trying out the same 'test'.

You can also try to create articles that challenge normal assumptions or are opinion pieces on relevant hot-button issues. The spark of debate that the content ignites is sure to attract interaction with comments and sharing, and you can also keep interest going via social media.

Users love infographics and lists

When writing your articles, you have a wide variety of ways you can format your content. Most people will agree that your articles, regardless of length, need to be broken down into easy to read sections, especially if you want to keep mobile users reading. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the two most popular are through infographics and lists.

What this tells us is that readers generally prefer content that can:

  • Display a large amount of information in a clean, easy to read, and visual format i.e., infographics.
  • Are scannable.Take for example list articles. You can format these to be highly scannable, yet still include all the essential information.
  • Tell us what to expect. We like to know what an article is about before we read it.
If you are writing longer articles that contain a large amount of information try creating an infographic, and summarizing the most important parts in a list.

Next month we will reveal five more tips to enhance content sharing. In the mean time, if you have any questions about creating effective content or on social media, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 22nd, 2014

BI_May19_CPredicting the future is a skill many business owners wish they could have. After all, if you could tell what will happen six months from now, you might find that business would be infinitely easier. Of course, this is not possible to such a precise extent. That being said, businesses do have tools at their disposal that they can use to attempt to predict the future, such as predictive analytics.

What is predictive analytics?

Before looking at why businesses might want to implement this type of analytics into their operations, it's worthwhile defining what exactly predictive analytics is. Simply put, predictive analytics is a form of business intelligence that focuses on combing existing information for patterns and useful data that can then be used to make predictions on future outcomes or to identify trends.

It is important to stress that this form of analytics does not tell you what is going to happen. Instead, it is used to figure out what might happen. Think of it as similar to a weather forecast for your business - meteorologists can never tell you what the weather will be like over the next week, they merely use the data they have at their disposal to forecast what the outlook is likely to be in the next few days.

The vast majority of companies who apply these analytics to their business often do so to gain a better understanding of their customers, partners, and other stakeholders. From this they can better identify possible risks and opportunities.

Five reasons to use predictive analytics:

  1. Compete better - Companies who use predictive analysis can generally compete smarter. This is because they can leverage existing data to figure out why their customers choose them. By doing the same, you can then focus on highlighting your strengths. This is especially useful if you have some quality strengths to play with.
  2. Work out how to better meet demand - If utilized effectively, you can predict with some accuracy the level of demand for your products, including sales of specific items at certain times, and high/low times for customer visits. From here, you can schedule deliveries or staff to ensure products and staff will be available.
  3. Exceed expectations - While forecasting customer demand is important, what really keeps customers returning is when you exceed their expectations. One of the best ways to do this is by offering products or services the customers need them; or even before they need them or know they do. By understanding customer buying habits you can develop individualized campaigns that focus on their upcoming needs; offering useful products and/or services.
  4. Increase efficiency - Analyzing your existing data can help predict when you may have supply issues, or where production problems may crop up when launching a new product or service. With this warning system in place you can take steps to limit any negative repercussions or make provisions to guard against a predicted problem. This then can help increase overall efficiency.
  5. Better able to reach clients - By first tracking customer touchpoint data - when did they contact you and how - you can then use this data to forecast when your customers will be looking at social media, more willing to read an email you send, and even when they might be more willing to talk with you on the phone.
These are just a few of the reasons businesses use predictive analytics in their companies. If you are curious to learn more about how to create success for your business and the technology systems that support and allow you to utilize predictive analytics, contact us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 14th, 2014

BCP_May13_CData is an integral part of any business, and it is a good idea to ensure that it is always available to your business too. This means you also need to back it up in case disaster jeopardizes or wipes out your original data. Looking into backup solutions, you will quickly come to see that there are a number of options you can employ. The challenge then is deciding on which one.

Three common backup options

When it comes to backing up your systems, there are three common platforms that are used:
  • Tape
  • Disk
  • Cloud
Some businesses use all three, while others stick to using just one. While each of these options do the same thing - essentially backing up your data - there are differences between each platform.

Tape-based backup

Tape-based backup is the oldest forms of data backup available to businesses, and has been in use since the mid 1960s. Many older, or well established businesses, likely have used this method for a long time, so they may find it easier to stick with it, largely because no infrastructure upgrades are needed.

While this method may seem a little anachronistic, there are still manufacturers creating backup tapes - most notable Sony, who recently introduced a new tape system that can store up to 185TB (terabytes) of data on one tape. That's about equal to the storage capacity of around 11,800 16GB iPhone 5s.

The vast majority of businesses using this system do so as a secondary backup. They use another system to back up their data, and then back up this backup data onto physical tape which can then be moved off-site and stored in a safe location, should disaster strike.

The biggest drawback of tape stem from the fact that it is an older method and it takes longer to back up data compared to other systems. The tapes themselves are also more fragile and can be prone to failure, leading to corrupt data and unreadability. Finally, if you do need to recover from a tape backup, you are going to have to do so in a specific manner, which means it will take longer to recover your systems than other methods.

Disk-based backup

Disk-based backup solutions use a variety of disk storage units to hold backups of your data. The most popular forms of disk storage used are hard drives or optical disks. Because these systems use more modern storage methods, backup and recovery can generally be carried out far quicker than with tape systems, and can be more reliable, especially if you take care of your systems and the disks the backups are stored on.

The added benefit with these systems is that hard disks are constantly dropping in price and increasing in capacity, meaning you can fit more data on fewer devices. This helps keep costs manageable, and may result in reduced costs over time.

Because disk-based systems rely on hard drives or optical disks, there is always the chance that your backups can be lost, ruined or even stolen. Also, many companies choose to keep these physical backups on-site, so if there is a disaster this could result in the loss of these backups.

To get around this, many companies have duplicate systems. They back up to different devices which are kept off-site. This redundancy can help ensure that your data is available, but it can be expensive to purchase multiple backup solutions.

Cloud-based backup

Cloud, or online-based backup, utilizes off-site technology to host your backups. Most small business solutions work with providers who host the servers in their organization. The business then connects to the servers via a network connection in order to backup their data.

The biggest advantage of cloud systems is that they are generally more affordable. This is because you don't need to have the systems in your office, which means you don't need to pay for the data systems and the upkeep associated with them. Cloud systems are also less labor intensive because they can be managed by your IT partner.

Aside from being easier to manage, backup and recovery is usually quicker with the cloud because you can set up a solution that continually backs up. As long as you have an Internet connection, you will usually be able to restore your systems in a matter of hours.

While the cloud is becoming the most popular backup solution, there are some drawbacks. You need a faster bandwidth connection if you want to be able to back up while also working. This may require you to invest in better network infrastructure, which costs. The other issue some companies have is that because this is a new solution, they may not trust that the solution is secure. The vast majority of backup solutions available have been designed to be secure and have become a viable solution for many smaller businesses.

If you are looking to implement a backup solution in your business, contact us today to learn about what solutions we have to offer.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 13th, 2014

Security_May13_CThe tool that allows the vast majority of businesses to utilize the Internet in order to carry out their day-to-day operations is the browser. While there are numerous browsers available, many businesses rely on Internet Explorer (IE). This browser comes pre-installed on all machines using Windows. However, if you use IE, there is a new exploit that you should be aware of.

What exactly is a zero-day flaw?

A zero-day flaw is a security vulnerability that is taken advantage of by hackers on the day it is discovered. In other words, there are zero days between the discovery of the vulnerability and people taking advantage of it.

The way most software programs work is if a user finds a security flaw, they will usually inform the developer who will then develop a fix and release it in a patch that users download. The problem is, sometimes it is a hacker who discovers this vulnerability. Instead of reporting it, they start to capitalize on the flaw, exploiting it to attack other users before the developer becomes aware of it and has a chance to fix it.

The IE zero-day flaw

In late April, news broke that a zero-day flaw had been discovered in Internet Explorer's code. The flaw affects IE versions 6-11 - essentially every supported version of the browser. Hackers had found a previously unknown flaw that allowed them to gain the same access rights as a user.

How it worked is that the hackers sent emails to users with links to a website that hosts a malicious code. These emails were largely phishing in nature, meaning they aimed to get the user to click on a link in the email. Some of the subject lines used in attacks included:

  • Welcome to Projectmates!
  • Refinance Report
  • What's ahead for Senior Care M&A
  • UPDATED GALLERY for 2014 Calendar Submissions
In these emails there was a link to a website that hosted a code which could then be executed if the user visited the site using IE. When executed this could potentially expose the user's system. Once vulnerable, the hackers could install malicious software without the user's knowledge.

How do I guard against this exploit?

The good news is that Microsoft has released a patch that fixes this exploit. This has definitely been welcomed, and what is really interesting is that Microsoft has actually released the update for XP users as well - this coming after the cessation of support for XP.

To guard against the exploit you should firstly update the version of Internet Explorer that you are using. The easiest way to do this is to go to the Internet Explorer website and download the latest version - version 11 - of the browser. Version 11 can run on both Windows 7 and 8, so the vast majority of users should already be running this latest version.

If you are using an older version, Microsoft has pushed the patch out via both IE's automatic update feature - so restarting the browser should install the update. The other option is Windows Update. Simply running the Update program and installing the updates should ensure that the latest version of IE is installed.

For Windows 7 and 8 users, you can do this by:

  • Opening the Control Panel on your system.
  • Clicking on System or Performance and Maintenance followed by System.
  • Selecting Automatic Updates from the menu in the window that opens.
  • Following the instructions in the new window that opens.
Once installed, you should restart your computer if you aren't asked to do so. If you noticed that Automatic Updates was already ticked, try restarting your computer and this should install the updates.

If you are using XP, you can visit the Microsoft Update website using Internet Explorer and following the instructions.

Aside from updating your browser, you should ensure that your anti-virus and malware scanners are up to date and scheduled to scan your system on a regular basis. Be sure to look at all emails closely as well, if one seems a bit dodgy, or you receive one from someone you don't know, it is best to ignore it and delete it right away.

Businesses who are using XP should seriously consider updating because Microsoft will not be introducing security updates in the future, leaving your systems at greater risk of attack. At the very least, it may also be a good idea to switch to another browser like Firefox or Chrome, both of which will work on XP and are updated regularly.

Worried that your systems are not secure enough, or still running XP? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
May 6th, 2014

SocialMedia_May06_CMarketing is an integral part of business operations and there are some useful strategies that can be employed, with one of the most effective being content marketing. This is creating your own branded content and sharing it on various platforms. When carried out successfully, businesses can see increased brand recognition and many more benefits. The question is how exactly a business can be successful with content marketing.

In a recent infographic published on LinkedIn, a number of interesting facts were highlighted about what the most successful content marketers have in common. Here are some of the findings from the infographic and the related reports it is based on.

What do successful content marketers have in common?

Regardless of the industry, the more successful content marketeers have the following four traits in common:
  1. They have a content marketing strategist - According to the statistics, almost 86% of the successful companies have a dedicated content marketing strategist.
  2. They have a strategy - While not 100% necessary, over 66% of successful companies have a content strategy and plan, or roadmap, that dictates what content is produced and when.
  3. They spend a lot more of their marketing budget - It can be tough to split any budget, but the more successful companies spend nearly 40% of their marketing budget on content marketing, as opposed to the least successful who only spend up to 16%.
  4. They find creating content far easier - This one is kind of silly at first glance - of course it follows that whatever you find easier you will be more successful at. However, if you hire a strategist who knows what they are doing, creating content will be easier, and more likely more successful.

How exactly are they successful?

From the figures from the infographic it is easy to see what the successful content marketers have in common, but the question we really should be asking is, "What makes them so successful?"

1. Use lots of social media

The main thrust of content marketing is to get the word out in as many ways as possible. Social media is the best and most versatile way to do this, and that's why over 87% of businesses use this platform. But for a truly successful strategy you need to use more than one site and in fact the most successful use seven sites at least to share their content.

This makes sense as the more platforms you use the higher the chance that your content will be viewed. So which platforms are the most popular? LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the three most popular but other platforms like YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ can also prove effective.

2. Diversify your content

In many cases diversification of services or ideas can be one of the best ways of driving a business forward. This is especially true with regard to content marketing, where the best marketeers use an average of 13 different tactics. In descending order, the five most popular tactics are:
  1. Social media
  2. Articles on your website
  3. e-newsletters
  4. Blogs
  5. In-person events
Some other tactics used include, publishing books, ebooks, and branded content tools.

While 13 may seem like a large amount, especially for small businesses, the message is clear: To be successful with content marketing, you should diversify and utilize a number of different tactics as possible.

3. Have specific goals for your campaigns

As with most aspects of business, you need a clear direction in order to be successful. Without a goal there is a good chance that your content initiatives will be somewhat aimless and lacking in overall effectiveness. There are a near endless number of targets businesses can set for their content initiatives. The three most common are:
  1. Raising brand awareness
  2. Lead generation
  3. Customer acquisition

4. It's not all digital

One interesting finding was that one of the most effective ways to drive a content marketing strategy was through face-to-face events. In fact, over 70% of content marketeers believe that these in-person approaches are effective.

What this indicates is that while digital strategies are useful, and can be a great way to reach a wide number of different customers, these can go hand-in-hand with traditional style marketing. As well as focusing on producing digital content you might want to integrate this with some good old fashioned physical collateral.

At the very least, you should be attending events that are relevant to your industry, as well as networking. By getting your name out in person, you can encourage other to connect to you on the Web where they can view your content on various platforms and interact with you online, increasing the overall effectiveness and reach of your content.

Looking to learn more about content marketing and how our various solutions can help you deliver? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 1st, 2014

Security_Apr28_CAs everyone knows, we use passwords to prevent anyone getting access to our personal accounts and gadgets. But, with ever-growing numbers of hackers determined to grab our data, people need to be extra vigilant. These cyber criminals are using sophisticated technology to steal information whenever there is a slight hint of opportunity. So don't give them a chance. Your passwords are your first defence. Use these tips to stay safer online.

Observe proper web security

With the rapid advancements in technology comes sophistication of methodologies used by hackers to steal data and destroy web security. Cyber crime is continuously evolving as new programs are made to unlock accounts and combine numbers, letters and special characters to determine passwords. The big question for internet users is – how to choose a strong password that can drive hackers away?

Passwords should have at least eight characters. It is highly recommended that you use a combination of uppercase, lowercase and special characters. “P@s$w0Rd45%” is a thousand times better than “Password1”. Veer away from using passwords that are found in dictionaries. Furthermore, avoid using your name, a family member’s name, phone number, birth date, social security number or any public information. Hackers have found a way to crack passwords with the aid of the many databases out there.

To create even more secure passwords, try using a password that is a full sentence, with random words. For example "I am a purple donkey" (with the spaces) will take a long time to crack, which means it's more secure then even the examples above.

Keep malware off your system

Malware are malicious programs that have been crafted in such a way that they appear authentic and trustworthy. Be careful not to click on pop-ups and links that will redirect you to that place where your security walls are torn down. And do not open email attachments from anonymous users. Mechanisms are often embedded in these programs to gain control of your system.

Get professional help by installing security software from a trusted name in the industry. Build your defences as early as possible. Remember the cliché – better to be be safe than sorry – and nowhere is this more true than in computer system and web security.

Keep your passwords private

While this may seem to be a no-brainer, sadly, a lot of people still tend to share their passwords with their office mates or friends. If you’re one of them, then it’s high time that you change your habits and your password again. Think like James Bond -passwords are for your eyes only.

In the event that you need to give your password to a co-worker to get an important document or presentation, make sure that you change them as soon as possible. Never use the same combination again.

Change password regularly

It also helps if you schedule a regular password change. Within a period of 30 to 60 days, you should update passwords across multiple sites. Moreover, never use the same passwords for different websites. If you use the same passwords, you are putting all of your accounts at a high level risk. Hackers are relentless. Once is never enough for them and they can come back time after time.

It’s an unsafe online world out there. These online troublemakers will never be satisfied. So never let yourself or your organization fall prey to hackers. Take note of these safety measures and strengthen your web security arsenal.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 30th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr28_CTechnology, while integral to every business, is one of the most challenging aspects of business operations to manage. This is especially true for small to medium businesses, where margins are thin and people are often employed to do more than one job. One option owners and managers can employ in order to better manage their technology is partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is a Managed Service Provider?

In the IT industry, a Managed Service Provider is a company that offers small to medium businesses the ability to outsource the management of their day-to-day technology and IT needs.

In other words, an MSP is essentially your IT department. If something technology-related breaks, they help fix it. If you need an app devised or want to upgrade hardware and software, or take a look into virtualization, they can often help in these complex areas too. Many of these organizations act as your business partner to help increase the effectiveness of your business operations, and achieve your overall goals.

Do I need an MSP?

While there are a wide variety of IT partners out there, you might be unsure as to whether you actually want or need to work with one. To help make the decision easier, we have come up with a list of five signs that your business could benefit from outsourcing your IT management to an MSP.

1. You don't have a dedicated IT department or staff

A commonality many small businesses have is that employees often wear more than one hat. The problem with this is that those who are not necessarily IT experts, but are perhaps more tech savvy than others, are tapped to look after the company's IT needs. Businesses can suffer from gaps in knowledge of the latest IT developments. It is also a challenge to balance IT needs while also running a business and remaining productive.

While for some small businesses having a knowledgeable tech person look after the IT on top of their main job works, the chances are high that they aren't planning for a future in IT and may not be able to carry out complicated upgrades or even ensure that your systems are secure beyond the current environment. This can undoubtedly lead to increased problems in the future, which are likely not going to be fixed.

Instead of hiring a full-time IT staff member, you could look into using an MSP who can offer the same services, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows your employees to focus on their main roles, while also allowing you to rest easy knowing that your IT demands are being adequately taken care of.

2. You have continuous tech problems

At first glance, many of the systems we use on a daily basis are relatively simple. That is, they are simple when they are working. But, when systems breakdown business owners quickly come to realize that the technology utilized in their businesses and the systems that support it are not only complex, but are becomingly increasingly so.

Complexity aside, all technology will eventually break. When it does, you need to factor into your budget resources to make replacements and repairs. If the technology incorporated into your business is constantly experiencing problems there is a good chance this is having a negative impact on profits and productivity.

By partnering with a quality MSP that looks after your technology, you can be assured that a team of experts are running your technology and systems efficiently and that you are able to meet IT demands and scale to meet future needs. Decreased maintenance and replacement costs can help improve your overall productivity and even profits.

3. The people looking after IT are overwhelmed

Any growing business needs technology to be able to scale to meet and support growth. This often overwhelms even the most seasoned IT professionals. Even if your business has a dedicated IT role or team there is a chance that they can become overwhelmed.

When the pressure is on important issues may not be addressed and corners may be cut in order to meet current demands. This can lead to increased costs and problem issues down the road, resulting in an even more overwhelmed Technology department.

The great thing about quality IT partners is that you often don't have to outsource all of your IT needs to them. If, for example, you have an employee who is a whizz with building computers but does not have the time to oversee the whole of your technology needs, then outsourcing some functions can free up their skills or allow them to work more effectively in their main roles.

4. Your IT budget is unpredictable

The cost of technology is ever changing. Some months you may have to replace a computer while others may see a new server needed or a security issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Because of this, actually budgeting for technology is incredibly hard, especially for small businesses.

Most IT partners offer their services on a flat-fee, monthly basis. This makes it easy for companies to budget for technology. The upside to this is that while your budget is predictable, overall costs and overheads are often reduced because your systems are kept in better working order and will last longer.

5. You have trouble prioritizing your IT needs

It can sometimes seem like a new system is needed on a near monthly basis. From servers to email systems; computers to mobile devices; your business will almost always require ongoing technology. The problem many businesses face is that they simply are not equipped with the skills and the knowhow to recognize what their IT priorities should be.

Do you update a server, or look for a new email solution first? And in what order do you need to implement updates? It is not always obvious what the answers to these questions are, especially when everything seems urgent. If you outsource the management of your technology, the companies you partner with can take the time to get to know your company's needs and demands and prioritize. This will make your organization more efficient and better able to reach business goals.

If you are struggling with technology in your business, contact us today to see how as your IT partner, we can work with you to ensure that your technology is working for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 25th, 2014

BI_Apr22_CWith the increasing amount of technology and data available to a business, the need to make informed decisions and utilize the data at hand is increasingly important. One function that helps with this is Business Intelligence (BI). While BI is becoming ever more popular with small business owners, there are common misconceptions about BI that could hinder its effectiveness.

But many of these misconceptions are easily clarified and addressed. See how by taking a look at these tips.

1. Business Intelligence is all about reports and dashboards

One of the things that make business intelligence sound intimidating is the notion that businesses will be bombarded with daily reports and have to make use of complicated dashboards in order help to understand how it works and get it operational. While there are standard tools that small businesses will need to use to gather information that will help with their operations, these tools should not be seen as an inconvenience. The systems and processes in BI can be simplified in a way that it doesn’t limit resource gathering but actually enhances efficiency and profitability.

An executive, for instance, can easily look into the sales numbers of a given month, without having to go over other variables and metrics. Other models of BI can cater to more than just reporting stats and data, as analysis can be collaborative and interactive, thus providing more efficient solutions that will deliver the correct information to the people who rely on the data for their decision-making.

2. The tools are the same for all organizations

The assumption is that whether a company is big or small, the tools in business intelligence work the same. This is what makes small businesses hesitant to apply such concepts, thinking that it will not have any practical use in an organization of their size.

But the truth is, every BI strategy is unique, and as a company, you can tailor these strategies to fit in with the way you operate. Before adopting any solution, however, you will first have to evaluate what specific needs BI must address using the data architecture, so that it will measure your requirements correctly.

3. It can only measure big data

Large corporations can maximize the tools to use in BI because they have larger needs to fill, and they also have all the resources. But what about small companies that may not necessarily need big data?

The thing is, any company that has data will have a use for business intelligence. Small businesses can start with simple and basic solutions, for instance Google Analytics, and then later on, expand to a more comprehensive tool as the organization grows. Business intelligence measures the quality of data, and not the quantity, so you can accomplish something even with very few resources.

4. It takes up IT resources

While BI used to be considered the responsibility of an IT team or expert, now small businesses, which may not have had the resources to in the past to outsource such resources, can use the tools for themselves. There are solutions out there that offer low maintenance, self-service systems wherein reports and dashboards are created and analyzed without the need for an IT expert whatsoever. There are some advantages to having professional IT help sometimes though, but for small businesses, a user-friendly BI system may be sufficient to cover most of your needs.

If you'd like to know about how you might be able to develop your business intelligence systems further. Consult a reputable IT services provider now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.