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February 20th, 2014

Security_Feb17_COne of the most common threats to business and individual systems is phishing. This form of hacking is well known and many users have educated themselves on the more traditional methods used by hackers. This has forced hackers to come up with different phishing techniques, and one of the methods that is causing problems is spear phishing.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is a specialized type of phishing that instead of targeting a mass number of users, as normal phishing attempts, targets specific individuals or groups of individuals with a commonality e.g., an office.

Generally a hacker will first pick a target and then try to learn more about the related people. This could include visiting a website to see what a company does, who they work with, and even the staff. Or they could try hacking a server in order to get information.

Once they have some sort of information, usually a name, position, address, and even information on subscriptions, the hacker will develop an email that looks similar to one that another organization might send e.g., a bank. Some hackers have been known to create fake email accounts and pose as a victim's friend, sending emails from a fake account.

These emails are often similar to official correspondence and will always use personal information such as addressing the email to you directly instead of the usual 'dear sir or madam'. The majority of these emails will request some sort of information or talk about an urgent problem.

Somewhere in the email will be a link to the sender's website which will look almost exactly like the real thing. The site will usually ask you to input personal information e.g., an account number, name, address, or even passwords. If you went ahead and followed this request then this information would be captured by the hacker.

What happens if you are speared?

From previous attack cases and reports, the majority of spear phishing attacks are finance related, in that the hacker wants to gain access to a bank account or credit card. Other cases include hackers posing as help desk agents looking to gain access to business systems.

Should someone fall for this tactic, they will often see personal information captured and accounts drained or even their whole identity stolen. Some spear phishing attacks aren't after your identity or money, instead clicking on the link in the email will install malicious software onto a user's system.

We are actually seeing spear phishing being used increasingly by hackers as a method to gain access to business systems. In other words, spear phishing has become a great way for people to steal trade secrets or sensitive business data.

How do I avoid phishing?

Like most other types of phishing related emails, spear phishing attempts can be easy to block. Here are five tips on how you can avoid falling victim to them.
  • Know the basic rule of business communication - There are many basic rules of communication, but the most important one you should be aware of is that the majority of large organizations, like banks, social media platforms, etc., will not send you emails requesting personal information. If you receive an email from say PayPal asking you to click a link to verify your personal information and password, it's fake and you should delete it.
  • Look carefully at all emails - Many spear phishing emails originate in countries where English is not the main language. There will likely be a spelling mistake or odd wording in the emails, or even the sender's email address. You should look out for this, and if you spot errors then delete the email immediately.
  • Verify before you click - Some emails do have links in them, you can't avoid this. That being said, it is never a good idea to click on these without being sure. If you are unsure, phone the sender and ask. Should the email have a phone number, don't call it. Instead look for a number on a website or previous physical correspondence.
  • Never give personal information out over email - To many this is just plain common sense - you wouldn't give your personal information out to anyone on the street, so why give it out to anyone online? If the sender requires personal information try calling them or even going into their business to provide it.
  • Share only essential information - When signing up for new accounts online, there are fields that are required and others that are optional. Only share required information. This limits how much a hacker can get access to, and could actually tip you off. e.g., they send you an email addressed to Betty D, when your last name is Doe.
  • Keep your eyes out for the latest scams - Pay attention to security websites like those run by the major antivirus providers, or contact us. These sites all have blogs where they post the latest in security threats and more, and keeping up-to-date can go a long way in helping you to spot threats.
If you are looking to learn more about spear phishing or any other type of malware and security threat, get in touch.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 19th, 2014

BCP_Feb17_CDisaster recovery features have become a vital aspect for small to medium businesses. With systems and networks becoming more complex, there are many things that can go wrong. It’s for this reason that a business needs to have a DRP, or Disaster Recovery Plan. These plans are a good way of protecting your business from unforeseen calamities that could disrupt your business process.

When creating a disaster recovery plan for your business, there are certain key elements that you need to consider.

Basics of a Disaster Recovery Plan

In building an effective disaster recovery plan, you should include thorough documentation that lays out the details of the ins and outs of the plan. You need to know that there is no right type of DRP, nor is there a single template that fits all. But there are three basic aspects to a disaster recovery plan: Preventive measures, detective measures, and corrective measures.

In addition, before building your disaster recovery plan, make sure that it can provide an answer to these basic questions:

  1. What is the objective and the purpose of making one?
  2. Who are the assigned team responsible when certain events occur?
  3. What is the framework and the procedure to be followed?

Plan for the worst case scenario

Since you’re planning for an unforeseen event, you might as well make sure that you have plan for the worst case scenario. That way, you’ll never be overwhelmed and you’re as prepared as you can be for any situation.

Having different tiers of backup plans is also advisable. It gives you a better assurance that when bad comes to worst, you have a system in place to make sure that these disasters are handled correctly, regardless of the disaster’s severity.

Data issues

One of the objectives of disaster recovery plan is to protect the collection of data. Almost half of the total population of business organizations experiences data loss from both physical and virtual environments. This is often due to corruption of the file system, broken internal virtual disks, and hardware failures. Thus, there is a real need for established data recovery plans such as backup features offered by many IT solution vendors.

Test-drive

Before deploying your disaster recovery plan, you need to have a sort of a test-drive to check if it works. Aside from making it work, you also need to know if it’s going to be effective. Through testing, any shortcomings can be identified and will garner corresponding resolutions to improve on your plan. Although the real score of its effectiveness can only be identified once a disaster occurs, at least you will have an idea of how your business and the recovery plan can operate during a disaster.

Building an effective disaster recovery plan is a must for your business. This might not directly lead to a positive impact on productivity but it will surely save you in the events that can possibly crush your business. Anticipating and adjusting for the things that might happen is one of the keys to a company’s success.

Setting up an effective DRP can be quite an intricate process since there are several elements that you need to consider. Should you want to learn more, give us a call and we’ll have our associates help you develop and test a plan that works best for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 14th, 2014

Security_Feb11_CAs information technology systems get more complex, computer malware also gets stronger and more aggressive. An effective security strategy to protect your computer system from a variety of malware is to employ the concept known as defense in depth. In its simplicity, it involves implementing multiple secured layers wrapped around your computer system.

Just like the human body, a computer system can also be attacked by many viruses that can infect and disrupt computer operations. And what's worse is it doesn’t just disrupt the operations of your computer, but these viruses and other malware can gather sensitive information or even gain access to other private and secured computer systems on the same network.

Although computer viruses aren't deadly, they can spread at an unimaginable rate across your entire computer system, affecting your database, networks and other IT-related sources. You can get these viruses by opening bogus email messages, downloading unknown file attachments, and accidentally clicking ads that pop up your screen. This is why there is a need for a strong and effective security system to protect your network.

One of the tested and proven security strategies used today is defense in depth. This concept focuses on the coordinated and organized use of multiple security countermeasures to keep your database safe from intrusive attackers. Basically, this concept is based on the military principle that a multi-layered and complex defense is more difficult to defeat than a single-barrier protection system.

The defense in depth strategy assures network administrators by working on the basis of the following guiding principles:

Defenses in multiple places

The fact that many viruses can attack the network system from multiple points means that you need to deploy strong defense mechanisms at multiple locations that can endure all types of attacks.

Defense in depth focuses on areas by deploying firewalls and intrusion detection to endure active network attacks and also by providing access control on servers and host machines, to resist distribution attacks from the insiders. This multi-layered defense also protects local and area-wide communication networks from denial of service attacks.

Multiple layered defense

Defense in depth is an extremely effective countermeasure strategy, because it deploys multiple layered defense mechanisms between the attacker and its target. Each layer of the defense has a unique mechanism to withstand the virus attacks. Furthermore, you need to make sure that each layer has both detective and protective measures to ensure the security of the network.

The reason for wrapping the network with multiple layers of defense is because a single line of defense may be flawed. And the most certain way to protect your system from any attacks is to employ a series of different defenses that can be deployed to cover the gaps in the other defenses. Malware scanners, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, biometric verification and local storage encryption tools can individually serve to protect your IT resources in a way others cannot.

Perhaps the final layer of defense should be educating your employees not to compromise the integrity of the computer systems with potentially unhealthy computer practices. As much as possible, teach them the dos and don’ts of using the computer, as well as how they can prevent viruses and other computer malware coming in and destroying your system.

If you’re looking to give your computer systems better protection against the harmful elements that the internet can bring, then give us a call now and we’ll have one of our associates take care of you and help defend your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 12th, 2014

SocialMedia_Feb10_CMarketing is an incredibly important lifeline and function of nearly every business. With successful marketing a company will likely be more successful and able to grow. Nowadays, social media has become a large part of marketing, especially platforms like Twitter. While at first glance, Twitter is easy to use, there is a one big mistake many companies make that can harm the reach of their content and posts.

Social media is an always evolving idea, so what works one day won't necessarily work in the near or foreseeable future. Combine this with the various changes and features of the different social media platforms and it is nearly impossible to master every service.

When it comes to Twitter, one of the most popular features is using @username to bring the tweet to the attention of the user and to tweet about them. When you do this you and the person will be able to see it, along with people who follow that person.

What is the #1 mistake Twitter users make?

The problem is, many people put the @username at the beginning of the tweet. What this does, as we stated above, is only make the tweet visible on your feed, to the user and their followers. Why is this a problem? Well, it comes from how most businesses use Twitter. They use it to share content, e.g., a blog article or a video, etc.; to essentially tweet about the person, not at them. You see this in many tweets, for example, "@microsoft's new blog is great. Read it!"

While you want to share the content with people other than those who created it, putting @user at the front of your tweet actually limits the audience to the person who created the content and their followers - in other words the opposite of what you intend, unless Microsoft is your target audience of course!

How do you avoid mistake tweets?

If you are looking to tweet about someone or the content that user has created, using the @user is still a good idea because it will bring to the content-creator's attention that you are sharing their content. This is a great way to form relationships and even have these individuals and businesses share your content. In turn, this can help increase the potential of your content being seen by a wider audience.

For many tweets it makes sense to put the @username first as it helps make the overall tweet easier to read. The problem is, this will also limit your audience. So, for those who want to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak, add a period before @username e.g.," .@microsoft's new blog post is great. Read it!".

What this does is ensure that the tweet isn't addressed only to the user, but can be seen by everyone.

Looking to learn more about utilizing Twitter or any other social media as a part of your marketing strategy? We have a lot to tweet about and can help you tweet too.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 11th, 2014

Security_Feb10_CIt's 2014, and that means that it's an Olympic year. This year the Winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia. As with almost every other Olympics there has been a number of organizational issues to deal with to ensure the Games run smoothly. Unlike other events however, one of this year's big issues is hacking of the computers and phones of attendees and visitors.

Hacking at the Winter Olympics 2014

Well before the Olympics even started in Russia, the Russian government said that they will be surveilling phone and computer communications. Many scoffed at this, writing off the government as being overly ambitious and boasting about a nearly impossible task. The thing is, the Internet in Russia may not be as secure as many believe, being full of hackers. At least according to a report aired on NBC shortly before the games started.

In the report, reporter Richard Engel took new, never opened laptops and mobile devices to Russia and used them. He found that within 24 hours all of the devices had been hacked, exposing the data stored within.

In part of the segment, Engel and a security expert go to a local coffee shop in Moscow and search for Sochi on a mobile device. Almost immediately the device is hacked and malicious software downloaded. Engel notes that the hackers have access to data on the phone along with the ability to record phone calls.

In a follow-up segment, Engel explains a bit more about the laptop issues. When he boots one up and connects to the Internet, hackers are almost immediately snooping around the information, transferring from the machine to the networks. Within a couple of hours, he received a personalized email from a hacker welcoming him to Russia and providing him with some links to interesting websites. Clicking on the link allowed the hackers to access his machine.

One issue is that it hasn't been stated in any reports whether the Russian government is behind this, or if it's hackers out to steal information. While you can be sure that the Russians are monitoring communication during the Winter Olympics, it is highly likely that they are not the ones installing malware on phones, rather it's probably organized crime rings or individual hackers.

I'm not at Sochi so why do I care?

As a business owner half the world away you may be wondering why this news is so important to you, or why you should care. Take a look at any tech-oriented blog or news channel and you will quickly see that the number of attacks on devices, including malware, phishing, spam, etc. is on the rise. It's now likely a matter of when you will be hacked, not if.

Combine this with the fact that many businesses are going global, or doing business with other companies at a big distance. This has caused many people to go mobile and the tools that have allowed this are laptops and smart devices. Because so many people are now working on a laptop, phone or tablet, these devices have become big targets. The main reason for this is that many people simply don't take the same safety precautions they take while on the office or even the home computer.

Hackers know this, so logically they have started going after the easier targets. The news reports concerning Russia highlight this issue and is a warning business owners around the world should be aware of, especially if they are going to be traveling with computers or phones that have sensitive information stored within.

That being said, there are a number of tips you can employ to ensure your data is secure when you go mobile. Here are six:

1. Use cloud services wherever possible

Cloud storage services can be incredibly helpful when traveling. They often require a password to access and are usually more secure than most personal and even some business devices. If you are traveling to an area where you are unsure of the security of the Internet or your devices, you could put your most important data in a trusted cloud storage solution.

This is also a good idea because if your device gets stolen, the data is in the cloud and is recoverable. If you have data just stored locally on your hard drive, and your device is stolen, there is a good chance it's gone forever. For enhanced security, be sure to use a different password for every service.

2. Back up your data before leaving

Speaking of losing data, it is advisable to do a full system backup of all the devices you are taking with you before you leave. This will ensure that if something does happen while you are away, you have a backup of recent data that is recoverable.

3. Secure and update all of your devices

One of the best ways to ensure that your data is secure is to update all of your devices. This means ensuring that the operating systems are up-to-date and any security updates are also installed.

Also, ensure that the programs installed on the devices are updated. This includes the apps on your phone, including the ones that you don't use.

You should also secure your devices by not only having an antivirus and malware scanner but also requiring a password to access your device.

4. Watch where you connect

These days Internet connections are almost everywhere. In many public spaces like airports, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. many of the connections are open, or free to connect to, and don't require a password.

While this may seem great, hackers are known to watch these networks and even hack them, gaining access to every bit of information that goes in and out of the network. When you are traveling, try avoiding connecting to these networks if you can. If you really have to, then be sure not to download anything or log into any accounts that hold private data.

5. Know the risks of where you are going

Before you leave, do a quick search for known Internet security issues in the area you will be visiting. If you find any news or posts about threats you can then take the appropriate steps to secure your system ahead of time.

6. If in doubt, leave it at home

In the NBC report, Engle finishes by telling viewers that if they are at all unsure about the security of their devices, or are worried about their data, they should leave the device at home, or delete the data before going. This is a good piece of advice and maybe instead of deleting data completely, you could move it to a storage device like an external hard drive that you leave behind.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring the security of your devices while you are away from the office contact us today. We have solutions to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Feb03_CMarketing is one of the most challenging aspects of business that companies face. One has to be constantly evolving and trying out new ideas and strategies in order to remain successful. Many businesses start with a website and social media platform, so that they can interact with customers and clients and create business relationships. While these can be effective, there is one really useful marketing tool that shouldn't be forgotten - the blog.

Define business blogging

When we talk about blogging, most people ask two questions: "What is blogging?" and "Is business blogging any different from personal blogging?"

A blog, a portmanteau of Web log, is usually a page on a website where authors post written articles. The content, usually called a post, can be incredibly varied, from along the lines of a journal style to breaking news or even thoughts and opinions to open up debate.

Business blogging is the act of creating content that is related to your business. The topics are usually narrowed down to relate to the products or services you provide. For example, you are reading this post on our blog, which largely focuses on technology in business. The vast majority of business blogs are not profit oriented (the company isn't out to make money directly from their blog articles) and is usually a part of their marketing plan.

Why do businesses blog?

There are 3 main reasons many businesses blog:

1. A blog can increase traffic to your website

One common complaint many business owners have about their website traffic, or the number of people who visit their site, is that it is lower than expected. There can be many reasons behind this, the most common being that the content on the website is static. Think about when it the last time you updated your whole site was.

Even if your site effectively explains what your business does, search engines generally look kindly on websites that are active. It is incredibly hard to keep re-writing your website, so one of the best ways to fix this is by blogging. When you create a new blog post, a new page on your website is usually indexed - added to the site structure, kind of like the index at the back of textbooks. This activity tells search engines that your website is active. Active websites will usually show higher in search results.

Blog articles are also great to share on social media services. By sharing content with your existing customers there is an increased chance of your name and profile being seen by people who aren't your customer yet but could be in the future.

If you have more people seeing your content in different places - search results, social media, etc. - you should see an increase in overall traffic to your website.

2. A blog is a great way to show your expertise

Think about the last time you needed to purchase a new item, say a computer. Did you pick the first shop you saw, then walk in and purchase a computer? Chances are high that you didn't. Most people research companies and retailers who have a good rating or who come across as an expert, and purchase from them.

As many people do this research online, it can be a challenge to establish your company as the expert in your field. Your blog can be the perfect tool to establish your company as a go-to expert. If you answer common questions and provide tips, there is a higher chance that your articles will be regarded as helpful and having potential customers contact you. What this means for you is an increased chance of conversion.

3. Blog articles have a positive long-term effect

When you search on the Internet you will often find a number of blog posts at the top, with some maybe even being from the last year or so. A well crafted blog post will often see a wealth of interest within the first few days of posting largely because of sharing via social media services and users who have subscribed to your posts.

If your posts get a fair number of shares, comments, etc. there is a good chance that search engines will begin to show it higher in results. What this means for you is that the post will continue to be seen in results for a of couple weeks to months or more, depending on keywords, etc. This translates to longer visibility, and a higher chance of traffic and leads in the future.

Of course, not every post will be a smash hit and bring leads pouring in, but an active blog that produces good content could prove to be of great value to your business. It will take time, but most bloggers do see increased payoffs.

Looking to learn more about blogging? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 30th, 2014

BI_Jan27_CThere are many important components of a business, and data is definitely among the most popular. Pause and think for a moment how much of your business relies on it. It would be a challenge for a business to function without it. For business owners that look into data, many will have heard the term 'business analytics' before. However, this term can be a bit ambiguous and confusing.

In this article we will take a brief look at business analytics and why it is so important to businesses of all sizes.

Business analytics defined

When experts talk about analytics most audiences will agree that it is the analysis of data and statistics. The vast majority of business owners have some experience with analytics, with some having even taken courses on it at University. This being said, the idea of business analytics is often hard to pin down - ask 10 people and you will likely get 10 different answers defining what exactly it is.

We like to define business analytics as a process rather than a science. This process uses skills, business experience, technology, applications, and common business practices, to enable business owners, managers, and employees to explore past performance. Simply put, it's the study of the past performance of a business.

With most businesses, the goal of business analytics is to gain insights into the state of the company, and even drive future decisions based on existing data. If you can successfully implement a business analytics process, you and your employees will gain a higher understanding of your business which will lead to better decision making abilities and even higher growth and profits.

What makes up business analytics

As we noted above, this is a process that involves a number of separate components. Four to be exact:
  • Analytics - Using modern data mining and predictive tools to identify patterns that can help make better business decisions and give managers foresight into potential future trends. Usually the questions answered include, "What is the best outcome?", "Why did this work?", etc.
  • Data management - This covers the collection and storage of data. Concepts include how and where the data is stored, who has access to it, how it is accessed, and even when it can be accessed. Some examples of this include using cloud-based storage or even a storage server that is hosted in the office. When looking at data management in terms of analytics, most managers will concentrate on what has worked in the past, why it worked, and what will work in the future.
  • Business Intelligence - This is the use of reporting tools and dashboards to gain an understanding of largely event-based questions like, "How many?", etc. When you implement business intelligence operations you will normally gain better insights into current events and what happened in the past to influence them.
  • Performance Management - This broad term covers actions and tools that are used to track and manage business performance. This includes tasks such a financial reporting and budget forecasting.
The main reason businesses implement the components of business analytics is so that they have a way to not only harness the data their business generates, but to also leverage it in a constructive way so that their business can make better decisions. If used properly, it really helps businesses answer two of the hardest questions to answer: "What do I need to know?" and "What do I need to do?"

If you are looking to learn more about using business analytics or the components that make up this process, contact us today to see how our solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 23rd, 2014

Security_Jan20_CLet's face it, technology, while essential, is getting increasingly challenging to manage. Many business owners are struggling to ensure that all of their systems are not only working properly but are also secure. One solution many turn to is the skills and support of an IT partner. These tech partners offer a wide variety of managed services, including managed antivirus solutions that help ensure systems are more secure. However, many business managers are not totally sure what managed antivirus solutions actually are.

What exactly is managed antivirus?

By now, most people are familiar with the term 'antivirus'. They know that the majority of solutions are a monthly or yearly subscription that they pay for. By subscribing, the company that created the program will update virus databases, allowing scanners to identify viruses during a computer scan. This type of antivirus software is often referred to as unmanaged, largely because the end-user has the ability to deny updates, turn off the scanner, or uninstall it.

A managed antivirus solution is provided by IT partners. These tech experts take care of installing the software on computers and other devices, and will then manage the solution. They will also ensure that scanners are up-to-date and scans are scheduled for a convenient time, thus protecting computers. The best way to think of these solutions is that they are specifically provided by a company to look after your computers and protect them from viruses.

Benefits of managed antivirus solutions

Companies that choose to integrate a managed antivirus solution generally see five main benefits.
  1. All systems will have the same level of security - With a managed service, your IT partner will make sure to install software on all your systems. This means that there should be the same program installed on your systems, and that the antivirus will be updated to ensure that systems are protected from new security threats that come along.
  2. It is easier to manage - Managing your antivirus solution can be a tough task, especially in larger companies where different solutions may need to be employed. By working with an IT partner, your antivirus solutions are managed by tech experts. This is a great solution for business owners who aren't too familiar with technology, or an overworked IT department.
  3. The solutions can be low-cost - Most managed antivirus solutions are offered as a monthly package, where companies pay per user. For some companies, this solution is more affordable per user than a non-managed solution. This is especially true if you have a high number of users and need to purchase multiple licenses.
  4. Management is continual - With unmanaged solutions, many users turn the antivirus protection off because it can slow their computer down or because they believe their usage habits are not compromising security. Managed antivirus solutions usually can't be uninstalled or turned off, meaning your systems are continually protected.
  5. Your systems are truly protected - Regardless of how secure your systems are and the steps you take to ensure that malware doesn't get through, the chances are you will eventually be infected. When you are, it may be tricky to actually completely remove the virus. IT partners are trained in how to do this quickly and efficiently and can usually completely remove the virus, ensuring that your systems are truly secure.
If you are looking for a managed antivirus solution, contact us today as we may have a solution that will work with your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 22nd, 2014

BCP_Jan20_CThere is always the chance of a disaster striking your company. That's why many business owners take steps to prevent negative events from affecting their company, often by implementing a disaster recovery or continuity plan. Both of these strategies and the technology that supports them are an important part of business process and planning. As 2014 is underway, many business owners are wondering that disaster recovery trends they should be aware of.

Certain trends relevant to small to medium size businesses are vital for company leaders to be aware of in 2014:

Recovery will get even faster

When looking into recovery options, almost every company wants a solution that is as fast as possible. Recovery speed often depends largely on bandwidth and the storage method used. Each year, companies are able to access faster bandwidth connections and obtain more affordable, yet faster storage options.

In 2014, this trend is set to continue. Businesses around the world will continue to gain access to faster Internet connections and disaster recovery specialists will likely improve the speed with which they can implement a backup.

Many solutions will also be able to help businesses align or optimize their processes. ln turn, this will enable faster recovery and stronger protection. It's highly likely that with this combination you could see a business up and running again within hours instead of days.

Increased reliance on social media as a communications channel

During a disaster it can often be a challenge to communicate with employees and stakeholders. Traditional communication methods, like the phone, may not be working well, if at all, which make it more difficult for plans to be enacted. One alternative is to use social media to make contact and communicate.

Because most social media platforms are hosted in numerous locations around the world, they are hardly ever down. If you have an Internet connection, you can pretty much guarantee that you will be able to get a message out. Combine this with the fact that almost everyone has a social media account on at least one platform, and this proves to be a great option that allows you to reach people quickly.

We predict that in 2014 companies will realize this in higher numbers and begin to implement social media into their existing plans and even train employees on how to use this platform in an emergency situation where other communication lines are down.

Geographical based backup solutions

There were a number of high-profile disasters in 2013 that affected large areas. Some companies saw their backups and secondary backups wiped out because the location at which they were stored was situated in a disaster zone.

In order to have a truly effective backup solution, many experts are suggesting that multiple backups of data should be made and stored in multiple locations that are as geographically diverse as possible.

There is little doubt that businesses have learnt this lesson from the fate of either themselves or others, and will be implementing or looking for solutions that host backups in different locations more readily. In 2014, we predict that many providers will be marketing multi-location backups as a main feature. What this means for businesses is more secure backup and a higher chance of recovery when faced with disaster.

Growing reliance on managed backup solutions

As systems become increasingly complex they become more challenging for many small business owners to back up and manage at the same time. In 2014, there will likely be an increase in the demand for managed backup services.

These services are managed by an IT partner, who can not only help set up backup and recovery systems, but also support recovery after a disaster. The key here is that they give businesses of all sizes a way to implement a backup and continuity plan properly, at a fraction of the cost as was previously the case. We predict that small to medium businesses will take full advantage of services like this, and providers will begin to focus more on offering this type of service.

If you are looking for a backup solution, why not contact us. We may have something that will work for you. Give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 15th, 2014

SocialMedia_Jan13_CSocial media is now so common that it's expected that a company has a presence on at least one network. Because of the high level of use, sites have started to enter a more mature phase, where users are finding other ways to leverage the services. We will undoubtedly see a change in the way businesses use social media platforms in 2014 and new trends emerging which companies will be acting upon.

Here are five social media trends we believe businesses should track throughout 2014.

Successful content will become more helpful

One of the key rules of marketing is that you need to create content that is relevant to your target audience. If you can't show how your company, service or product will help the customer there is a high chance that they won't invest, or will look elsewhere.

Throughout 2014, we should see a shift of strategy with companies using social media to engage with customers to leverage data and create content aimed at being helpful to 'fans' and followers. This might include tips on how to use products and visual images that show fans how to use products, etc.

The key idea business owners should grasp is that they should not be using social media to promote their company, but rather using social media to help. When you can help your followers, you will see more positive association with your brand and possibly even more sales.

Planning ahead will become increasingly important

It used to be enough to simply have a social media account, but now you need to also be active. As more companies break into social media, you will need to post more content on a regular basis.

Because many managers and business owners are busy, they often lack the time to concentrate on social media, especially as demand grows. This means that companies will have to start planning ahead if they want to be successful on social media. What this means is likely hiring a new employee, or appointing a staff member, to run your social media activities. You will also need to schedule posts and content well ahead of time, as well as set budgets.

If you just post occasionally now, or have a profile that isn't that active, the first step you need to take is to schedule a day each week where content goes out. Take a look at older posts and see what worked well with your audience and create similar content. Schedule the content to be posted at roughly the same time each day. Over time, ramp up when you post - try posting new content on different days to see how reactions and interest changes. The key is to stick with it, and you will begin to see some positive returns - likely an increase in Likes, Shares and Comments.

Content will need to be mobile

It's not difficult to see that the mobile device - smartphone and tablet - has become the gadget of choice for many social media users. Some have even gone so far as to stop using social media on their computers entirely. This trend will grow throughout 2014 and what this means for businesses is that they need to be creating content that can be viewed easily on mobile devices.

Because mobile screens are smaller, and many companies are starting to create mobile oriented content, we should see some more visually oriented posts, including both movies and images. At the very least you should ensure that your content posted on social media platforms can be easily viewed by users on mobile devices and your other social related sites, like your blog, can also scale to fit on smaller screens.

Social data will play a key role in company strategies

As the number of users on social media continues to grow, we are starting to see a trend where many users are basically using social media for everything. Because these systems are online, data regarding nearly everything is being tracked and made available to companies and users. This social data can be a huge help if leveraged properly. For example, it allows you to see what users like and dislike, and the content that works best in certain regions, and different dynamics, etc. You can extrapolate this information to your products or services e.g., if post on how to use your product is liked more than other posts, you can assume that the product is seen to be good.

In 2014, companies will increasingly come to realize that they have access to this data and will start to use it to plot their marketing and social strategies. If you aren't already tracking your social data, now would be a good time to start. It will also pay to learn how to analyze it and develop useful insight.

Social integration is the next step

The first step in social media was to get users, including businesses, online and interacting. Now that this is happening, it's time to move onto the next step. For businesses this means integrating social media into their company. In 2014, that's what we predict we will begin to see businesses doing in larger numbers.

This trend has already started with businesses linking their websites to social media profiles but we predict it will go even further with companies integrating social data and plans into the organization as a whole. This will likely be the connecting of social data with other streams of data to make marketing and overall business decisions. In other words, social media will become an integral part of business.

What do you think the biggest social media trend will be in 2014? Let us know today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media