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August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_BWhen it comes to business security, many small to medium business owners and managers often struggle to ensure that their systems and computers are secure from the various attacks and malware out there. While there are a million and one things you can do to secure systems, one of the most useful approaches is to be aware of common security threats. To help, here are five common ways your systems can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 6th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_BMost IT experts will agree that in order for a business to survive, they need some sort of recovery or continuity plan in place. Regardless of the type of plan, or systems integrated, all systems need to have a back up mechanism. In the last article, we took a look at four tips to help improve your data backups, and continue this article with the final four.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 4th, 2014

googleapps_Aug4_BBoth tech and Web experts have been reporting that the number of people accessing the Internet from their mobile devices has been really growing over the past half decade or so. With the ever increasing number of devices out there, mobile browsing is set to surpass desktop browsing and Google has recently implemented a small change that could increase this further.

First, a bit of background

Earlier this year, Matt Cutts from Google indicated that the company was on track to see the number of worldwide mobile Google Search queries surpass the number of desktop-based Google Search queries. This makes sense when you take into account the fact that there are an estimated 5+ billion mobile devices in the world, and only around 2 billion computers.

What figures like this mean is that mobile devices are quickly becoming the main way people use the Internet. Think about it for a second, when you suddenly want to find out some information online, you will often not be around a computer but will almost certainly always have your mobile device at the ready.

This trend will only increase, as more people spend more online time on their mobile devices. Essentially, the more people search on Google using their mobile device the more mobile traffic is driven to websites. Chances are, the number of mobile visits to your site has been increasing. Some businesses like those in the service industry, have seen the number of mobile visits on their sites increase year-on-year.

Google's recent Search for mobile change

In early July the company announced that, "In English search results in the US, we will indicate to searchers when our algorithms detect pages that may not work on their devices." What this means is that when using Google Search on your mobile device you should see a warning message in the results list. This message will show up under the site name and address and will tell you that some page elements aren't compatible with mobile devices and therefore won't load.

For example, if you search for a restaurant and one of the pages in the results has an Adobe Flash-based site - which isn't usually supported by most mobile operating systems - you will see a warning, telling you the site may not load correctly.

What does this mean for my business's site?

The major issue here is that many businesses have sites that have been written in older programming languages, like Adobe Flash, which are no longer used by the major mobile systems. If a mobile user sees that your site won't load properly on their mobile device, there is an extremely high chance that they will ignore it. This in turn means a likely decrease in the number of page visits and potential business.

Google has noted that they will not penalize sites not catering to mobile devices by showing them lower in mobile-based search results. But you can bet that sites with code that is not understood by mobile devices will see a decrease in traffic and over time come down lower in the results.

What can my business do?

Let's face it, mobile is here to stay so it would be a good idea to ensure your site is mobile optimized - it doesn't have to be strictly mobile, but it needs to be accessible and readable on mobile devices. The first thing we recommend is to grab a mobile device - iOS or Android 4.1 and newer - and search for your site using the major search engines. When you find it, try to load the pages. If you can't load the site, or see blank pages then you need to take steps to fix that.

In other words, if your site is older than a couple of years, you may want to think about redesigning, or modernizing it. We agree that this is an investment, but if your business relies on your website it is well worth it.

Looking for help ensuring your site is mobile optimized? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2014

Windows_July28_BHave you ever seen a colleague's desktop that is covered in icons, shortcuts, files, and folders? Or maybe it's you that is disorganized. It's not uncommon for desktops to get cluttered, especially if you have been using your computer for a number of years. The issue with this however, is that desktop clutter can make it harder to find what you are looking for and can even slow your computer down.

Want to tidy up your desktop? Here are six tips on how you can get your desktop more organized and even reduce virtual clutter too.

1. Before you begin do a bit of recon

Before you go about simply deleting everything off of your desktop, it is worthwhile thinking about what you really want to keep on your desktop. This will be vary from person to person, of course, but most people treat their desktop as a place where they put files, folders, and app shortcuts that they want to quickly access.

Take the time to think about what you use the most and which files and folders you really need to access instantly or which you use all the time. An easy way to figure this out is to simply auto-arrange your icons by right-clicking on an empty area of your desktop (where there are no icons) and selecting Auto arrange icons. This will arrange your icons into a grid format that makes them easier to see and work with. Then, right-click on empty space and hover your mouse over Sort by and select Date modified to order the icons by the date they were last modified, or opened, with the latest at the top.

2. Create holding and app shortcut folders

People often use their desktop to hold files like downloads, photos, screenshots, and even email attachments. This can lead to an incredibly cluttered desktop in a short amount of time.

In truth, you probably don't need all these shortcuts on your desktop. What you can do is create a folder on your desktop where all non-essential files and folders go. A folder like this is great to hold downloads or files that will only be used for a short amount of time.

The key here, is this folder is used for non-important, or temporary items. If you don't plan on keeping it, put the file, icon, etc. into this folder. Once you are done with the file, simply go into the holding folder and delete it.

It could help to also create a shortcut folder. When you install new programs on Windows, a shortcut icon is often automatically added to your desktop. However, these desktop shortcut should be for frequently used programs only. For programs that aren't really used that often, it is best to create a separate folder the shortcuts. This not only reduces desktop clutter, but puts shortcuts in one central location, making them easier to find.

3. Be ruthless

Once you have your folders set up, it's time to start getting rid of the clutter. As with any clearout you should be ruthless. If you haven't used a file, folder, etc. in the past two months or so, you should seriously question whether you can get rid of it.

To make this easier, open your desktop via the File Explorer. You can do this by opening any folder and clicking Desktop from the left-hand menu bar. This will make all of the icons and files on your desktop easier to see and work with.

Go through these and uninstall programs you no longer use, delete images you no longer need, move unimportant files, and place files in their relevant folders. Once complete, take a look at your browser to see where it downloads files too. If you have your browser set to download files to your desktop by default, try going into the settings and changing the download location to another file like the Downloads folder.

4. Stick with it

Once you have de-cluttered your desktop, try to stick with the rules you have set. With downloads ask yourself whether these need to be on the desktop or whether they can go into a folder somewhere else.

Of course, sticking with it won't always be easy, so maybe take time once every month or two to revisit your desktop and clean it up a bit.

5. Use the taskbar or Start for apps, not the desktop

With Windows 8 and 8.1 you can actually pin apps to the Start menu, so when you click it the apps are available in the window that pops up. This is a great alternative to simply having program shortcuts on your desktop. Pin apps to the Start menu on Windows 8 and 8.1 by opening your apps list (clicking the down arrow from the Windows Start screen) and right-clicking on the program you would like to pin. Select Pin to Start to be able to access it when you hit the Windows key on your keyboard.

If you prefer the traditional desktop view of Windows 7, or are using Windows 7, why not pin your important programs to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen? This can be done by right-clicking on an open app and selecting Pin to Taskbar. The programs will remain at the bottom of the screen, and can be opened by simply clicking on them.

6. Strategically pick your wallpaper

An interesting way to minimize clutter is to pick a wallpaper that you enjoy looking at. Be it a favorite picture, slogan, etc., try to frame the image so the focus is in the center of your desktop. Then, place your icons around the image in a way that they still allow you to see the image. If you can't see the image, then you have too many icons and it may be time to get rid of a few.

Also, having an image you like also serves as a reminder to try to keep icons to a minimum in the first place. This could be a proactive solution to keeping desktop clutter down.

If you are looking to learn more about using Windows in your office, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2014

SocialMedia_July28_BLinkedIn is one of the best social platforms for business users who want to share thoughts, ideas, and content with their colleagues and connections. This professional oriented network offers a wide number of features that allow and encourage this, including the newly implemented ability to create long-form content for your profile and connections.

About LinkedIn's new publishing platform

Like other social networks, LinkedIn allows users to publish posts on their profile which are then visible to other users. In the past, there was a limit as to how long the posts could be, which influenced how users shared the content they generated. Most would simply copy and paste a link to their content into a post on their LinkedIn profile.

In an effort to make sharing thoughts, ideas, expertise, etc. easier, LinkedIn has implemented the long-form post. This feature allows you to create longer content, such as blog articles and opinion pieces, and post this directly on LinkedIn. In other words, you can now use LinkedIn as a blog which is shared with your connections.

If you create long-form content, this could be a useful way to get posts out to an even wider audience than through your blog. This is because when you publish a post on LinkedIn, it becomes part of your overall profile, with the post being visible under the Posts section of your profile. New long-form posts will also be published and shared with all of your contacts automatically.

This means that you could technically increase the overall reach of your content, especially if the content you produce is useful to your LinkedIn connections.

Writing long-form content on LinkedIn

If you would like to start publishing long-form content using your LinkedIn profile, you should be able to do so by:
  1. Logging into your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Pressing the pencil in the box that says Share an update…
Note: This update is still rolling out to users, so you may not be able to produce long-form content just yet. If you don't see the pencil in the Share an update… box, you will need to wait for a few weeks, or until you get an email from LinkedIn saying the feature is ready for you to use.

If you do see the pencil icon, click on it to open the long-form post screen. It looks like most other Web-based publishing and writing platforms with the usual formatting buttons and text field where you input the content.

You can write your article directly on this page, but many choose to write using a program they are comfortable with and then copy and paste into the text field. If you want to add images to your post, you can simply click where you would like the image to slot into the content and select the camera icon from the menu bar above the text field. Select the image and hit Submit. You can then resize the image by clicking and dragging on it.

Saving and editing your content

Once you have finished writing we strongly recommend you hit the Save button at the bottom of the text field. This will save the content to your profile, but will not post it. This means you can edit the content before publishing. To do this, click on Preview which will open your post in another window, allowing you to see what the post will look like on your profile.

While in Preview mode, be sure to check the spelling and grammar, along with the overall formatting. If you spot anything that needs to be changed simply switch back to the editing tab on your browser and make any amendments.

When you have finished writing, formatting, and editing you can then hit the Publish button. This will then publish the content on your profile and share it with your connections.

If you have content that you think your connections and colleagues would benefit from reading, then this new LinkedIn feature could prove to be useful and should be considered as a larger part of your overall content strategy.

Looking to learn more about LinkedIn and how you can leverage it in your business? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 29th, 2014

GoogleApps_July28_BIn late June, Google announced that they would be introducing a new version of Google Drive in the near future. By mid July, the new version had started to roll out to users around the world, with many being asked if they would like to try the updated version. If you use Google Drive, there is a good chance that the update is available now, so here is a brief overview of the latest changes to Drive.

How to activate the new Google Drive

If the overall look of Google Drive hasn't changed for you yet, you may be able to trigger the update by:
  1. Logging into Drive.
  2. Pressing the Settings cog at the top-right.
  3. Selecting Experience the new Drive.
The app will reload with the new version. If you don't see the option to upgrade to the new Drive, try signing out of your account and then signing in again. Should that not work, you may have to wait a few weeks or talk to your account admin as they may not have enabled the update.

Looking at the new Drive

When the new Drive loads you will notice that the menu bar that goes across the top of the screen has been enlarged and the icons have changed slightly. Now, there is a tab that says My Drive with a gray arrow beside it. Clicking the arrow will allow you to create new folders in My Drive or upload documents or files.

Another icon of note is the information icon (i in a grey circle). Clicking this will enable the information panel, which shows you useful information about the file or folder you are looking at. For example, if you click on a document you will see the Activity Feed with information about who has worked on the file, who created it, etc. Clicking on Details will bring up an overview of the file along with information such as where the file is stored, who owns it, and the last time it was modified.

Aside from the bigger toolbar at the top of the page, the files and folders have also been modified, and enlarged, with files having live previews of the text and information they contain.

Creating files in Drive

The next thing you will notice about the new version of Drive is that the Create button is gone, replaced by the New button. Pressing it will bring up a drop-down menu with the following options:
  • Folder - Create a new folder at your current location. E.g., if you are in the My Drive folder, a new folder will be created in My Drive.
  • File upload - Upload a file to the folder you are currently looking at.
  • Folder upload - Upload a folder which will become a subfolder in the folder you are currently looking at.
  • Apps - e.g., Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides. Click on one of these Google Drive apps to create a new file. This will be placed in the folder you are currently looking at.

Managing files in Drive

Google has made managing and interacting with your files on Drive much more similar to interacting with files on your desktop. You can now click and drag around files and folders to select more than one at the same time. Right-clicking on files brings up a menu that allows you to interact with files and folders.

You can also use the same commands on Drive to select multiple files or folders on your computer. For example, holding down CTRL and clicking on files will allow you to select multiple files. You can then interact with these by right-clicking on them, or move them by simply clicking and dragging.

Possibly the biggest change however is that to open files in the new Drive, you are going to have to double click on them - the same as you do on most desktops. While this will take a few minutes for some users to get used to, it really makes Drive feel more like a Web-based desktop which is something many users will undoubtedly appreciate.

If you are looking to learn more about Google Drive and how it can fit into your organization, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 29th, 2014

Office365_July28_BCloud-based applications, like Microsoft's Office 365, are increasingly gaining popularity in today’s fast-paced world. With various updates and increased integration with Microsoft apps, most businesses are quick to adapt to these changes for better work solutions. With that in mind, Office 365 just introduced its latest update, a simplified login solution to Yammer. If you’re not familiar with the name, don’t worry, we’ll take a quick look at Yammer and how this simplified login works to help your business.

What is Yammer?

Yammer is Microsoft’s social network platform, focusing on your business and your organization’s clientele. In order to join, you must have a working email address from your company’s domain, which will also enable you to create external networks to allow non-employees like suppliers and customers to communicate with your company effectively and easily.

What is simplified login and how do I turn it on?

Simplified login integrates Yammer and Office 365 through user mapping to save you time when signing into Yammer via Office 365. Here’s how to turn on the simplified login feature:
  1. Administrators must sign into Office 365 using the global administrator account.
  2. Select Admin, Sharepoint; and once in Sharepoint admin center, select Settings.
  3. On the Settings page, under Enterprise Social Collaboration, select Use Yammer.com service.
  4. Click on Yammer from Office 365 to check that you won’t have to log in again and can start connecting with people right away.
If you previously made Yammer the primary social experience for your organization, you can enable this for your Office 365 users by following these steps:
  1. Access Sharepoint admin center and select Settings.
  2. Under Enterprise Social Collaboration, click the Use Sharepoint Newsfeed button to clear previous settings
  3. Select Use Yammer.com service and click Ok to apply changes. Each of these two updates might take up to 30 minutes to complete
  4. Once you’re done, Yammer will replace Newsfeed in the Office 365 navigation.
Keep in mind that users without existing Yammer accounts are taken to a streamlined signup and verification process. And although user mapping saves time, it’s not a complete single sign-on solution, meaning when you go to Yammer.com directly or use Yammer mobile apps, you still need to log in with your Yammer.com credentials. Looking to learn more about Office 365 and its functions? Call us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 25th, 2014

VoIP_July21_BModern communication methods are quickly moving away from the traditional phone networks and favoring network based strategies that allow communication via the Internet. If you do some research into different solutions available you will generally hear about two major options: VoIP and Unified Communications.

What is VoIP?

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a modern communication method that enables voice communication over a business's network connection. With many VoIP solutions you are able to use the same phones you do on traditional networks. You just need a small adapter that turns your voice into a digital signature that travels on top of data on your network.

VoIP is common these days because many businesses have high bandwidth Internet connections that can support it, and many solutions offer considerable cost savings compared to traditional phone lines.

What is Unified Communications?

The other main modern communication solution many business owners come across is Unified Communications (UC). This is a group of modern real-time and non-real-time communication services that provide businesses with a consistent user-interface and experience across multiple devices and platforms.

Many UC solutions include:

  • Internet telephony (VoIP)
  • Instant messaging
  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • Call control
  • Speech recognition
  • Email
  • Voicemail
  • SMS
These solutions are often delivered via a number of programs that can be combined to look the same and interact with other systems.

One of the best examples of UC in use is the idea of a customer calling to ask a question about one of your products. They unfortunately call after business hours and decide to leave a voicemail message. After they hang up, software that powers the phone system translates the message into digital form and emails it to your marketing team. Your marketing manager receives the message, in email form, on their mobile device and is then able to call the client back.

This scenario likely happens using three different systems - voicemail, email, and VoIP - and three different programs. The thing is, these programs are all 'unified', so they work as one unit.

What's the difference between the two?

The biggest difference between the two communication concepts is the scope. Many VoIP solutions focus just on Internet-based calling, while UC focuses on company-wide communication. More times than not, the voice part of UC is powered by a VoIP platform.

That being said, many VoIP solutions offer some form of UC features like voicemail, instant messaging, and video calls.

Which option is best for my business?

This is a question businesses often ask us, and the answer is that it really depends on your company and your current situation. If you already have a traditional phone system in place in your office, and are looking just to cut your phone bills then a VoIP solution may be the best solution.

One of the biggest downsides of a UC solution is that it can require a fairly large investment; certainly larger than VoIP. If your business is operating on narrow margins you probably won't be able to implement a full UC solution all at once, instead having to implement it in steps.

Our best recommendation is that before you consider either, give us a call to learn more our solutions and how we can help your business get the right type of communication that will work for your business and budget.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
July 24th, 2014

BusinessValue_July21_BTechnology is constantly evolving, and many businesses simply struggle to keep up with the changes, or even to manage their own existing solutions. While some may have come to terms with this and accept it as a challenge to running their business, there is an option available which could help many small business owners - outsourcing your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

When small to medium businesses look to outsource the management of their technology, many turn to a Managed Services Provider. These service providers function as partners in the management of a business's technology and often assume responsibility for managing, installing, and monitoring all, or at least a large part, of your tech on your behalf.

Because many of these IT partners are focused on technology services, they can often provide technology services equal to, or better than, hiring an in-house IT team. Beyond that, most IT partners offer services at a fixed monthly rate, thus allowing your business to effectively budget for IT expenditures.

5 Ways an IT partner can help

Aside from stabilizing costs and offering powerful IT solutions, there are many ways an IT partner can help your business. Here are 5:

1. Provide stability and direction

Technology is always changing, and the number of services and solutions available is simply staggering. Do you go with Windows, OS X, or Linux for your operating system? What about servers? Do you want cloud services? If so, which? Simply picking the right solution for your business requires an IT expert.

IT partners know technology and take the time to get to know your business needs and goals. From there, they can help pick and implement the best solutions that will support your current demands and provide the necessary IT platform on which you can stably expand your business.

2. Allow you to focus on your core business function

Anyone who is not an IT expert but has been thrust into the role of managing technology quickly comes to realize that technology management and implementation is a full time job. What this means in many small businesses is that someone has to give up time focusing on their main role to focus on technology. This inevitably results in a loss of overall productivity.

By outsourcing your IT, you and your employees can focus on core business functions, without having to worry about pressing technology issues and staying up-to-date with tech developments. This results in an overall increase in productivity.

3. Help you learn how to leverage technology to meet your business goals

To many, new technology like the cloud, advanced databases, and web languages like HTML and CSS are simply too confusing. They may even be downright scary! When people feel overwhelmed by technology, they will often not be able to use it in the best possible way or they will shy away from it. This can lead to decreased productivity, unused technology, and a wasted investment.

Many IT partners don't just install and manage systems, they also take the time to ensure that employees are comfortable with them and understand how to use them. This increases overall tech buy-in and can in turn reduce wasted investments, saving you money in the long run.

4. Enable you to use the latest technology

A common complaint of many who work in small to medium businesses is that the technology systems in the company are old or slow. This is largely due to the fact that many businesses operate on thin margins and simply cannot afford to update systems or integrate new ones.

IT partners offer their services to many different companies and therefore need to ensure that they are using the latest technology. Because most of these services are offered over the Web, they can pass along the features and updates to your business without you having to invest in new technology.

Beyond this, many MSPs offer full-service solutions that include picking the best technology for your business. They can install systems based on your budget and also manage them, ensuring that systems remain up-to-date and fully support your business needs.

5. Ensure compliance

Many industries like healthcare, education, finance, and real estate, require that businesses comply with strict regulations regarding technology and its use. Some governments even require that all businesses meet privacy regulations, making it difficult for businesses to know what the requirements are and if they are actually compliant.

IT partners also operate in these industries and are compliant. This means that they can often ensure that your business and systems are also meeting regulations.

If you are looking for an IT partner who can help your business get the most out of your technology, contact us today to learn more about our managed services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 23rd, 2014

BCP_July21_BWhile there are many different and important tasks a business needs to do, one of the most important is to back up data. Your data is important, and it really is a matter of when, not if, you will face a crisis where data will be lost. Most business owners realize this and do back up their data, but it can be a challenge to find a complete solution. In order to help, we have come up with eight data backup tips.

1. Pick the backup solution that works best for your business

When it comes to backing up the data on your company's computers and systems, most companies consider five main options:
  • Internal hard drives - You can either use another hard drive installed in your computer or partition an existing hard drive so that it functions as a separate drive on which you back your data up. This is a quick option, however should your computer or the hard drive fail - two of the most common computer failures - then you will lose this data.
  • External hard drives - These drives are essentially separate hard drives that you connect to your computer via a USB or other connection. Many of these drives allow for one touch backup and can be configured to back up data at certain times. While these can be useful, especially if you want to keep data backups easily accessible, they are prone to the same potential failure as internal drives.
  • Removable drives or media - For example, USB flash drives, DVDs, etc. These are great for backing up work you are doing at the moment or for transferring small files from one machine to another. These options are limited by smaller storage sizes however, so backing up even one computer will likely require multiple disks or drives.
  • Cloud-based backup - This is the act of backing up your files to a backup provider over the Internet. Your files are stored off-site and can be restored as long as you have an Internet connection. For many businesses, this has become the main form of backup employed, largely due to cost and convenience - files can be backed up in the background. The biggest downside of this backup option however is that you do need an Internet connection for it to work and you will see more bandwidth being used, which could result in slower overall Internet speeds when files are being backed up.
  • NAS - Network Attached Storage, is a physical device that has slots for multiple hard drives. You connect this to your network and the storage space on the hard drives is pooled together and delivered to users. This solution is like a mix of cloud-based and external backup, only the device is usually in your office. While it is a good backup solution, it can get expensive, especially if you have a large number of systems to back up.
There are a wide variety of backup solutions available, so it is a good idea to sit down and figure out which are best for your business. The vast majority of companies integrate multiple solutions in order to maximize the effectiveness of their backups and spread the risk of losing data around a bit.

2. Split your backup locations

Despite all of the backup options available, you can narrow these down to two categories, the fact that the backups are kept in two locations:
  • On-site - Data backup solutions that are kept in your office. This could include internal hard drives, or NAS, and more. The idea here is that the data backup is kept in your office. Some like USB drives may leave the office, but the main idea is that they are used primarily in the office.
  • Off-site - Data backup solutions are stored off-site, or out of the office. The best example of this is cloud-based backup where your data is stored in a data center, most likely in another city. Another example is backing up to hard drives and storing them in a secure location outside of the office.
In order to ensure that your data backups are available should you need them you could split up the locations where they are kept. Should you keep all of your backups on hard drives in the office and there is damage to the premises, you could see your data disappear. One of the most effective strategies is to have one set of backups on-site, and another off-site which will ensure that should there be a disaster in one location, the other will likely be safe and you will still be able to access your data.

3. Establish a standard naming and filing system

Have you ever seen how people organize their hard drives? Some like to use folders and subfolders that are organized neatly, while others tend to throw files into one general folder. The same can be said for they way files are named - there's just so many differences.

Because of these differences, it can be difficult to back up and recover files properly. We recommend that you pick a naming and file system that every file and folder will follow across all systems. This means backups will be quicker, you will be able to see what is new, and you will spend less time organizing files.

Beyond this, an efficient naming and organization structure goes a long way toward making it easier to find files and recover them should your systems go down.

4. Determine which files need to be preserved

While it may be tempting to back every file and folder up, in an effort to maximize efficiency of your solution, it is better to not back everything up. We aren't saying don't back anything up, but you should take time to identify what files and folders are to be backed up. For example, screenshots that have been uploaded to the Web may not need to be kept.

The same can be said for non-work related files. While these may be important to your personal life, they likely aren't to the business so should not be backed up onto your business backups.

Look at each file and folder and see if it has something to do with business decisions, or is in anyway tied to your business. If it is then it is probably a good idea to keep it.

Stay tuned for the next four tips coming soon. If you would like to learn more about data backups in the mean time however, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.