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July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_BAs technology continues to expand and improve, many people have come to prefer to use their own systems over their office's tech offerings. This is largely because many of us have newer personal devices that allow us to do so much more than the computers we use at our office. As a result, the issue of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has become far more important, especially due to the fact that if left unchecked, BYOD could pose a security risk to your organization.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 10th, 2014

BI_July07_BAs businesses continue to become increasingly networked, there is an exponentially increasing amount of data being made available to them. While this data can be really useful, a lot of it can also be less so, or even useless. However, you are going to continue to collect data, and in order not to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume you should have a well defined data collection system in place.

What is well defined data collection?

Everyone collects data, even people who don't use computers. The key to being able to successfully leverage the data you have available to your business lies in a strong foundation - in this case, how you collect your data. With an appropriate system in pace you will know what data to collect and measure, and just how important it is. From here, you can more effectively analyze and interpret it, allowing you to make more informed decisions.

If you are looking to implement a new data collection system, or improve on how you currently collect it, here are six tips that can help:

1. Think about what customer interactions are important

Often the most important data you need is in relation to your customers. Your first step should be to define important customer interactions. For example, if you own an online store, you will likely want to know where your customers come from, the items they click on, items they add to their cart, and items they ultimately buy.

By first identifying important interactions to track, you can then look for metrics and data collection methods related to these interactions. This makes it easier for you to track the most important data.

2. Think about what behavior-related data is important

Don't just focus on those customers who have completed a purchase or followed through the whole business chain. Think about what behavior could produce data that is important to your organization.

To continue the online store example from above, this information could include how far down the page people scroll, how many pages deep they go when looking at product categories, how long they spend on a site, and where those who don't convert leave from.

Collecting and analyzing data like this can be a great determinant of what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

3. Look at important metrics you use

Sometimes the way you collect your data will depend on how you plan to measure it. This includes the different metrics you use to define the success or failure of marketing plans, sales initiatives, and even how you track visitors.

Be sure to identify which ones your business currently uses, as these will often point you towards the relevant data you will need to collect.

4. Identify the data sources you are going to use

In many businesses there are redundancies with data collected. For example, a CMS (content management system) will often have some of the same data points as Web analytics, or a POS (Point of Sale) will have some of the same data points as an inventory system. Due to this, you are going to have to identify what systems will provide what data.

On the other hand, many businesses use data from multiple systems for one key metric. In order to ensure that you are collecting the right data, you will need to identify these sources and ensure that they are compatible with your data collecting system. If they aren't, you could face potential problems and even make wrong decisions based off of incomplete data, which could cost your business.

5. Keep in mind who will be viewing the reports

When implementing data collection systems and subsequent data analysis systems, you will likely start generating reports related to this data. It is therefore a good idea to identify who will be reading these reports and what the most important information they will need is.

This information will be different for each audience, so be sure to identify what data they judge to be important. For optimal results, you should think about who will be reading the data reports and what relevant data needs to be collected in order to generate them.

6. Set a reasonable frequency for collection and analysis

This can be a tough one to get right, especially if you work in an industry with high fluctuation or your business is in a constant state of change. Your best bet is to look at when you think you will be needing data. For example, if you are responsible to submit a monthly sales report it might be a good idea to collect data on at least a bi-weekly basis in order to have enough to develop a report at the end of the month.

You should also look at who will be getting the reports and how long different campaigns or business deals will be in place. The frequency will vary for each business, so pick one that works best for your systems and business.

If you are looking to implement a data collection system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 8th, 2014

GoogleApps_July07_BFor tech giants like Google and Apple, it has become a tradition to host an annual conference where they announce new products and services they are working on. Google calls their conference I/O, and usually holds it at the end of May or June. This year, it was on June 25 and 26, and the company did not disappoint, especially when it came to announcements beneficial to business users.

During I/O, Google announced a ton of new products and features, while also holding seminars and sessions all related to developing programs and solutions using Google's various programs and devices. The most popular event however is the keynote, where the company provides a high-level glance at the most exciting developments to come in the next year or so. Here is a brief overview of the five most business-relevant announcements.

Android L

Overall, Android has grown immensely over the past five or so years. It's now the world's most popular mobile operating system and there are a wide range of businesses using Android devices. On an almost yearly basis, Google has announced a new version of Android, but over the past few years there hasn't really been a major overhaul to the system. Google aims to change that this year with Android L.

The next version of Android will feature a redesigned User Interface that is not only more modern but also smarter and more colorful. Using a new layout system, called material design, Android L aims to provide a consistent look across all apps and devices. For example, the Gmail app will look the same on a tablet as it does on your phone.

Aside from a new look and interface, there are also a number of features introduced with Android L, including:

  • A new way to display notifications - These will also be displayed on your locked screen.
  • Increased dependence between apps - Google is aiming to make it so that apps work better together. The example showcased at the conference displayed a Google search for a restaurant using Chrome, and a search result allowing you to book a table directly from another app, without having to close Chrome and open the table booking app.
  • Faster operation - Google has developed a new way to put the OS together, which will allow apps to run faster, smoother, and more efficiently on the same hardware.
  • Better battery life - A new mobile project Google is working on, called project Volta, will allow app developers to track and easily see where their app is using increased battery power. This can then be investigated and changes implemented wherever possible to limit this energy drain. This will help ensure better battery life overall. There will also be a new power saving mode, allowing users to lengthen battery life by up to 90 minutes when their device's battery is low.
There are also likely to be a slew of new and improved features introduced when Android L is released which, according to Google, should be sometime in the fall - likely late September or October.

Android Wear

The company noted that they were going to get into the smartwatch game earlier this year, and at I/O they introduced a number of new smartwatches and an Android Wear app you install on your phone that gives these watches functionality. Think of these watches as an extension of your phone; showing relevant information and notifications. In other words, they are really kind of like Google Now on your wrist.

In the demo we saw, your watch will show upcoming events and information related to your location. So, for example, if you have a flight in three hours, you will be able to access your flight information, boarding pass, and even receive updates about the status on your watch, without having to look at your phone.

It can also function as your notification center. You can set your phone to buzz when you receive a new email and read it without looking at your phone. You can even interact with it using your voice. For example, you can dictate emails or even Internet searches.

There are currently two watches available to order, with a third coming later this summer. Because these devices are new, it's not easy to tell whether they will be useful for all business users. However, if you spend a lot of time on the road or out of the office, this could prove to be a good way of keeping track of your day and important notifications.

Android Auto

Governments around the world are increasingly implementing tough laws regarding the use of mobile phones whilst driving. While safety is paramount, the restrictions can be tough for those who spend a lot of time traveling with work.

In an effort to make things safer, Google has introduced Android Auto. This system is designed to be integrated into new cars and connect to your phone. With Android Auto you will be able to access your phone's music, notifications, contacts, and messages while on the road. The idea is that these will show up on your car's navigation screen and can be interacted with via steering wheel controls or your voice.

In the demo shown at I/O, the driver received a text message which was read to him aloud, and he then responded using his voice. He was also able to set reminders, play music and find directions - all without picking up his phone.

Generally speaking, when this system starts to show up in cars later this year, it should allow you to interact with your phone while still focusing on driving and not breaking any distracted driving laws of course.

New features for Drive

I/O wasn't all about Android however, Google also talked about a slew of new features and an overhaul to their popular cloud storage and collaboration platform, Google Drive. In the new version, the overall platform is quicker. You will be able to see file information at the click of a button, and open new files by double clicking on them. You can also select multiple files, just as you do on your computer, and easily add these to one folder or action the files as a group.

Possibly the biggest, and most useful, feature in the new version of Drive. This version will bring enhanced editing options, which are available in the three main collaboration apps - Slides, Sheets and Docs. In the new version, you should see a pencil icon in the menu bar above the document. Click on this to access the new editing options. For example, Suggesting will allow you to edit the doc, but instead of the edits being made, they will show up as comments that need to be approved to implement the suggested change.

With the update, a common issue with Drive was also fixed: The ability to add and edit Microsoft Office documents. Now, Google says, you will be able to add Office files and edit them directly from Drive, without having to convert them to their Google equivalent. These features should be available now in Google Drive, or will be within the next month or two, so be on the lookout.

A premium option for Google Apps

Finally, at the I/O keynote, Google talked about a new version of Google Apps they like to call Google Drive for Work. This package, aimed at getting businesses to move over to the paid version of Google Apps, is a premium version of the basic version of Google Apps.

For USD 10 a month, users get unlimited cloud storage, enhanced audit reporting and security controls. For companies with less than five users however, the storage amount is set to 1TB per user. If your business is seeing an increase in the amount of data you need to store, this new premium account could be right up your alley.

Looking to learn more about the products and updates announced by Google? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_BIn the first part of this article, last month, we began to take a look at the content companies create for social media and how they can go about not only getting it shared but also increasing the overall shareability of the content they create. From creating longer blog articles, to using images, and playing on certain emotions, we shared five useful content sharing tips. In this month's article, we look at five more tips that can help ensure your blog articles and content are more likely to be shared via social media.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 2nd, 2014

Windows_June30_BHow did we ever manage without hibernation in the past? The feature was first introduced with Windows XP and is one of the operating system's (OS) most useful power functions. However, with Windows 8 this feature is not readily visible, so you need to find out not just what this feature is about but also how you can enable it on Windows 8.

What is Hibernation mode?

Hibernation allows you to power down your computer while retaining its current operating state e.g., leaving programs open. In other words, with hibernation, your computer saves the contents of its Random Access Memory (RAM) to your hard disk or other non-volatile storage, so that when you want to resume your work you can start where you last left off. Available on every Windows OS, hibernation can usually be set in your power settings manually or even automatically so that it activates when your laptop's battery is low.

How to enable hibernation on your laptop or computer running Windows 8:

  1. In your system tray, click the battery icon and select More power options from the panel that pops up.
  2. In the Power Options window, select either Choose what closing lid does or Choose what the power button does from the left panel.
  3. In the power options window, click on the blue text that says Change settings that are currently unavailable.
  4. At the bottom of the window, a new set of options will become available. Check the box next to Hibernate and click Save changes. Voila, the hibernate feature will now show up in the power options window that is displayed when you press the power button on your computer or laptop.
This feature allows you to resume work from where you left off within seconds, since you don’t have to boot up your computer nor re-open programs you were using. Not only that, but hibernation saves more battery power than sleep mode and uses no power while hibernated, a feature most laptops can really benefit from.

Hibernation is also useful if hardware maintenance has to be performed which requires powering down the hardware. For servers which need to be started up as quickly as possible after maintenance, hibernating and getting going again can be much quicker than shutting down and restarting the server applications.

Despite the benefits of hibernation, it is important to note that your computer does need to be shut down every once in a while to avoid performance degradation. Moreover, you should avoid hibernating your computer when you know you won’t be using it for a long period of time.

Hibernation mode can help boost productivity, decrease boot-up time, as well as help save your computer’s battery time. Interested in learning more about Windows 8/8.1 and its features? Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 2nd, 2014

SocialMedia_June30_BThere are numerous social networks a company can join, but if they are looking to connect to other businesses, colleagues or potential hires the network of choice should be LinkedIn. This powerful network is designed for professionals and offers many benefits that other networks, like Facebook and Twitter, don't or are not able to. As a result, many business owners attempt to build a profile that will work well for them on LinkedIn. The question many ask however is how to go about achieving this.

In this article we will go over eight important steps you need to take in order to build the perfect LinkedIn profile. In fact, we came across a great infographic on Link Humans that could be a big help when following these steps. We strongly suggest you take a look at this when building your profile.

Step 1: Establish your profile

While you don't have to join LinkedIn, it is a good idea if you are looking to connect with other business owners and colleagues through a more professional, business style networking oriented social network. If you do want to connect at this level, the absolute first thing you need to do is to create a profile. This can be done by:
  1. Going to LinkedIn's website (linkedin.com).
  2. Clicking on Join Today.
  3. Entering the relevant information on the following page. We recommend using the name the majority of your customers and clients know you by and your work email address. Personal email addresses are fine if you don't want to fully represent your company.
  4. Selecting Join LinkedIn.
If you use your Facebook account for business, you can also sign up using your Facebook account. Just follow steps 1. and 2. above and click Sign Up with Facebook. You will be asked to log into your account (if don't already have Facebook open in another tab on your browser) then approve the account access rights. Once you've done this you should see your basic profile pop up.

Step 2: Select an appropriate picture

LinkedIn is a work-related network, and to that end you will need to present the right corporate image; this means uploading a professional profile photo. This image should clearly show your face and be cropped to show mainly your head and upper body. The background should be clear or unobtrusive, allowing you to be the main focus.

If you don't have any professional head shots, it might be a good idea to get some taken. Most photographers can snap a few for you, and will be able to provide you with information about how to pose and dress for the shots.

You can add an image to your profile by:

  1. Logging into your profile.
  2. Hovering over Profile which is located in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Clicking on Edit Profile followed by the camera icon at the top of your profile.
  4. Pressing Change photo and then selecting the image you would like to use as your profile picture from a file on your hard drive.
  5. Ticking Save to set your picture.
The reason a good picture is more important than on other networks is because it has been proven that profiles with professional looking pictures are easier to find and also enhance the potential that other members will want to connect or even recognize you.

Step 3: Fill in your basic information

Once you have a great picture set on your profile go back to the editing screen and add your basic information. This includes your name, role, location, and company. Also, click on the Edit Contact Info tab to the right-hand side of your basic information section. Add as much contact info as you feel comfortable with; we recommend your email address and company website at the very least.

Step 4: Determine who your main audience will be

Before you begin to fill in your profile, you should take time to determine what the purpose of this profile will be. Will it be used to find new colleagues? Or will it be used to connect and communicate with your colleagues? Or, will it used to find prospective clients? Each reason will determine what information you should include in your profile along with the relevant keywords.

For example, if you would like to find new employees you can tailor your profile to show what you do in your job and what makes it so great. You can then also come up with more relevant keywords to use in your content. For example, using the words 'career' and 'job' and including in your summary information about who you are looking for will definitely attract prospective hires. However, this profile likely won't attract colleagues or clients.

Don't feel that you have to limit yourself to one set function however. For example, there are many crossover terms that both clients and prospective employees will search for. So, if you want to use your LinkedIn profile for more than one reason, take some extra time and try to figure out which keywords and ideas you think will work well. The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can always edit everything at any time. So, if you want to switch your audience, you can easily do so by simply editing parts of your profile and changing keywords.

Step 5: Write a solid summary

The summary of your LinkedIn profile is a place where you highlight who you are. Take time to craft this so that you can showcase what you do and your main strengths. Be sure to use relevant industry and position specific keywords and terminology that you believe your audience will be searching for, as this language will make your profile easier to find in searches.

The key here is to write a summary that not only explains what you do and your experience, but showcases who you are. Use active language like 'I', 'my', and 'me', and be sure to include a way for people who don't have a LinkedIn profile to contact you - usually an email, link to your website or a phone number.

Step 6: Add your past and present positions

Once your summary is finished, you should move onto your current and past positions. This section should reflect your resume and highlight the experience you are talking about in your summary. It would be helpful to try and work in some of the keywords you used in the summary or identified earlier in order to really make your experience really stand out.

Chances are you aren't looking for work, so you can deviate a little from your resume here, and highlight what you do best, or how you can help your audience best. Feel free to leave out points that may not be 100% relevant or interesting e.g., how many people you manage, sales goals, etc.

Step 7: Start connecting

Once your profile is mostly complete with experience and a summary, you can start looking for people to connect with. Start by searching for people that you know or work with on a regular basis and inviting them to connect.

Next, join a few groups that are related to your position and industry. These can be found by hovering your mouse over Interests which is located in the menu bar near the top of the window. Select Groups from the menu that drops down and then select Find a group from the right-hand side of the page that opens. Some groups are private and will require you to ask to join them, but don't be afraid of sending in your request.

Once you have joined some groups and started to make connections be sure to be active on the network. It will help to join in on conversations held in your groups and post content on a regular basis. And, if you meet new clients or people don't be afraid of looking them up on LinkedIn and asking to connect with them!

Step 8: Work on your awards and recommendations

Finally, start recommending people that you know. You can do this by going to a colleague's profile and scrolling down to their Skills and Endorsements section. Find skills that you know they possess and press the + Endorse button beside the skill. Most people will also do this for you as well.

If you have won awards in the past, be sure to include these as well, especially if they are relevant to your intended audience. Just be sure to pick the awards that really highlight your skills, as an Employee of the Month award may not be the most relevant.

From here it's really just a matter of tinkering with your profile on a regular basis. Be sure to be active and ensure that your profile really reflects who you are. Doing this will create a stand-up profile you can be proud of.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 1st, 2014

Office365_June30_BFor many businesses, the cloud and cloud-based solutions are becoming increasingly popular. Microsoft Office 365 is one of the most commonly integrated cloud-based solutions amongst small to medium businesses. With a suite of familiar and powerful apps, it offers a wide variety of features. In mid June, Microsoft announced a new program, the Office 365 roadmap, that allows business users to see what new features are coming soon.

The Office 365 roadmap

Earlier in 2014, Microsoft announced that they would be moving to a faster rollout schedule for their popular software solutions like Office 365. This means that we can expect to see updates for some software being introduced on a fairly regular basis.

Because of this, it would help to know exactly what Microsoft is working on and when you can expect an update or introduction of new features. To cover this, Microsoft has recently announced an Office 365 roadmap that covers what the company is doing in relation to the business oriented version of Office 365.

You can view the roadmap on this Microsoft website which has been designed to showcase the status of features based on:

  • Launched - Features that have been completed and implemented in various Office 365 apps. These features should be accessible to all Office 365 for Business users.
  • Rolling out - Features that have finished development and are ready to be implemented to the various apps but are not accessible to most users at this time, but will be in the near future.
  • In development - Features that Microsoft developers are working on or testing, but aren't ready to be implemented.
  • Canceled - Features that have been canceled; developers are no longer working on these, and they won't be implemented into Office 365 apps.
When you visit the roadmap site, you can click on the different sections and see the recent features that are relevant to each. For example, if you click on Launched, the recently launched features will drop down. Click on one to see a brief overview of the feature, along with a link to learn more.

This can be a useful site for businesses, especially if you rely on Office 365's features and are interested in which new ones will be introduced. We should stress however that the features listed on the site are relevant only for Office 365 for Businesses and Enterprises. Private and Home users may not necessarily see these features introduced.

Office 365 First Release program

For those users who look at the Rolling Out section of the roadmap site, and would like to have access to fully tested and supported features that are just about ready to roll out, Microsoft has also introduced a new program called First Release.

This program allows Office 365 for Businesses and Education users to sign up and gain access to upcoming features two weeks or more before they are introduced. If you would like to sign up for this program, you can do so as long as you are the admin of your account. If you are the admin for your Office 365 accounts, you can enable First Release by going into the Service Settings area from your management console. You should see an option to enable First Release, which you need to tick to turn on.

Once this is enabled you should be notified within a month letting you know that the first batch of early features is ready to implement. Microsoft has noted that the features implemented early via First Release will apply to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. At this time, other apps like Lync Online will not be part of the program, but you can probably expect this program to expand to cover other apps in the coming months and over the next year.

Both the roadmap and First Release features could prove useful for power users of Office 365. If you are looking to learn more about these concepts and how Office 365 can be used successfully in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 1st, 2014

GoogleApps_June30_BThe cloud has become one of the most commonly implemented IT concepts for small to medium businesses. While the type of cloud service put in place does vary, one of the more common is the collaboration and document production suite, of which Google Apps is one of the most popular. While useful and affordable, many business owners are still unsure about what it is and whether it can actually help.

What exactly is Google Apps for Business?

Google Apps for Business is a specifically designed bundle of popular Google Apps that are meant to be used to support your business online. Every business that signs up for Google Apps gets access to a variety of crucial apps like Gmail for email; Drive for document production and storage; Hangouts for instant messaging and video calls; and Calendar for integrated business calendars. All of these apps are easily managed from a central admin platform, and are delivered at a cost that is highly affordable, even for the smallest of businesses.

Possibly the biggest draw to this solution is that you don't have to invest in expensive office related software and hardware. Because all of Google's solutions are delivered over the Web, all you need is a device that can connect to the Internet and you will be able to access your systems and files. This makes it ideal for companies with lower budgets, as well as for companies with remote workers who can access Google's Apps from anywhere on almost any system.

When looking at Google Apps, there are three main reasons companies select this solution:

1. It offers good value

To some, this may sound a bit like it's almost too good to be true, while other business owners question whether there really is a value to switching over to Google Apps. Well, according to a recent report published by Forrester Research, on behalf of Google, Google Apps can yield an average ROI of 329% over three years and, on average, pays off in slightly over 1.4 months.

This is evident largely because the service starts at USD 5 per user/per month. Compare this to other offerings, including already-in-place physical solutions and it is easy to see that Apps is often the more valuable solution.

2. It allows employees to work better

According to the Forrester Research report mentioned above, companies surveyed listed four main ways switching to Google Apps has helped improve their overall business and how their employees work.
  1. All apps are in a single place - Almost every app you could need in business is accessed online, using one account. Log in and your apps are all available at your fingertips, at the click of a button. This means you no longer have to close or switch programs, which helps improve productivity.
  2. You can access it from anywhere - As we mentioned above, you access Google Apps via your browser. This means as long as you have an Internet connection, you will be able to log into your email and productivity suite and work.
  3. There are strong collaboration tools - Google Drive and the included productivity apps like Docs and Sheets come with powerful collaboration features, including the ability for users to edit files at the same time. This increases collaboration while decreasing the overall amount of time needed to edit and work on documents.
  4. There is efficient email - Email is an essential tool for businesses and with Google Apps, you are able to use Gmail. As an added feature, you can add your own domain to get personalized email addresses that are accessed through Gmail. As you probably know, Gmail is quick and simple to use and comes with a number of built-in security features like spam protection and filtering.

3. It decreases IT load

Finally, the third most popular reason companies choose Google Apps for Business is that it makes IT jobs easier. The companies who participated in the Forrester Research survey noted three ways Google Apps can help lower IT spending by as much as 38% per year.
  1. Anyone can manage it - With simple to use admin panels and programs, it is easy for business owners, even those without tech experience, to pick up and manage the different apps.
  2. They are low maintenance - Because the apps are hosted on Google's servers, there is no need to ensure that your software is up-to-date and compatible with your existing hardware, or with new solutions you are considering. This means there are no servers or software to install and manage.
  3. It has simple licensing - Apps for Business is delivered on a per-user, monthly fee. All you do is pay the per-user cost, and you will have access to your programs. There are no set contracts or expensive licenses to maintain which is not always the case with many on-premise solutions.
If you are looking to learn more about Google Apps for your business, contact us today to see how we can help get you started.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 26th, 2014

VoIP_June23_BTechnological advancement has played a huge role in helping businesses increase productivity and save money. One such tool is Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), which moves phone communications to a network connection, allowing you to access communication services from anywhere. Though VoIP is quickly gaining popularity, many businesses are still on the sidelines, doubtful whether VoIP is right for them. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about VoIP to help decide if it’s the right system for your business.

Quality improvement

Since its inception, the quality of VoIP service has come a long way. Today’s VoIP services allow you to make and receive calls using standard phones. Sound quality has improved tremendously, to the point where many businesses have abandoned traditional phone systems in favor of VoIP.

Reduction of telecommunications costs

Operating costs for the majority of VoIP service providers are significantly lower than traditional phone companies. This allows VoIP providers to charge customers - you - much less than their competitors, both in calling rates and monthly fees. With VoIP, businesses no longer have to maintain separate networks for phones and data which also helps save money.

And while some businesses do pay their current phone company extra for features like call holding, call display, and call forwarding, most VoIP providers include these features in their product, meaning you don’t have to pay extra for the features you need.

Easy to set up

With most VoIP connections, there’s no need to install switching boards or phone connections. Some systems can be installed easily by downloading an app to your computer, while others might require that you install an adaptor that converts voice signals into digital signals using your existing phones. These adaptors are small and in most cases all you have to do is plug the phone’s cable in before plugging the adaptor into an Internet connection socket.

More than just voice calls

Many VoIP programs also allow for chat capabilities, video calls, video conferencing, and even screen sharing. Not only that, but you’ll be able to see if your employees are available through presence technology, as well as giving them more ways to stay connected.

Highly flexible phone systems

VoIP systems allow you to do far more than is possible with traditional phone technology. You can:
  • Take your phone system with you: As long as you have access to a broadband connection you can use your VoIP system anywhere.
  • Talk on your laptop: Many VoIP systems include telephone software that enables you to send and receive calls using a headphone unit connected to your computer. This helps eliminate the risk of you missing an urgent call when you’re on your laptop.
  • Receive voicemail and faxes via email: Many VoIP services allow you to have voicemail and faxes forwarded to your email inbox. You then receive all your messages in one place, and your voicemail and faxes can be easily archived or forwarded.
  • Have virtual phone numbers: Your phone number can have any available area code, meaning you can have a business based in one place but can have a phone number with a different area code; advantageous if your business has, or wants, customers in specific areas.
  • Increase productivity: Many VoIP phone numbers can be configured to simultaneously ring on multiple devices, such as your cell and landline phones. This eliminates time-consuming phone tag. According to a recent survey conducted by Sage Research, the increased productivity enabled by Internet telephony added up to 3.9 hours per week, per employee.
No matter what industry you operate in, VoIP is a surprisingly flexible, affordable, and continuously evolving technology. Interested in implementing a VoIP system into your company? Contact us today to see what we have to offer and how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
June 26th, 2014

Security_June23_BVirtual machines are just gateways to a server, and cyber criminals want access to data on those servers. While you might think you’re keeping your virtual environment safe, there are several virtualization security myths which if believed can have a serious impact on your platforms, leaving them susceptible to attack. It’s vital that you are aware of these untruths to make better decisions about your business’s virtual environment.

Myth No.1: Existing endpoint security will protect our virtual environment

Most traditional endpoint security solutions are virtual-aware and provide low levels of protection. This simply isn’t enough. Depending on the virtualization platform used (VMware, Microsoft, etc.), your traditional endpoint security suite can probably recognize virtual endpoints. However, this physical software often can’t bring its full tool set of anti-malware to the virtual world, meaning it can only perform basic tasks such as on-access scanning.

Therefore what you need is a solution that has been designed to keep both virtual and physical computing environments secure. There are a wide-number of solutions out there, and the best one for your business will depend largely on the virtual environments you employ. We strongly recommend talking to IT experts like us, as we can help determine, or even offer, the strongest security based.

Myth No.2: My existing anti-malware doesn’t interfere with my virtual operations

Performance issues can create security gaps that don't exist in your physical environment. Traditional endpoint security uses an agent-based model where each physical and virtual machine has a copy of the security program’s agent on it. This agent communicates with the server while performing security tasks. This is fine for physical machines, but if you have 100 virtual machines running off of one main environment that has been infected with malware, you’ll also have 100 instances of malware running on the machines.

This high level of duplication can cause massive performance degradation and waste tons of storage capacity. Therefore, you should make an effort to ensure that all of your systems including the main ones are without malware. This not only makes every system secure, but can also speed up overall operations.

Myth No.3: Virtual environments are inherently more secure than physical environments

Sadly, this just isn’t always true. Virtualization is designed to allow software, including malware, to behave as it normally would, and malware writers will target any and all weak points in a business’s network to accomplish their goals. An attacker who compromises one virtual machine and finds a way to jump to the hypervisor - the system that enables the virtualization - then has access to every virtual machine on that host.

Therefore, malware scanners on both the user and main systems would be a good idea. If it does happen to get on a system, the chances of it spreading are drastically reduced.

Myth No.4: Using non-persistent virtual machines effectively secures a network

In theory, any machine that encounters malware is wiped away and recreated cleanly. However, we are now seeing malware that is designed to survive teardown of individual machines by spreading across the virtual network. This allows it to return when new virtual machines are created.

Additionally, being too eager to create new machines on demand can result in virtual machine sprawl, which happens when virtual machines are created but then forgotten. This leads to an unmaintained virtual endpoint operating without your knowledge. Even if the rest of your virtual machines are secure, it’s possible for one machine to eavesdrop on the traffic of another virtual machine, leading to privacy and security risks.

The best solution to this is to employ an IT manager who can track and maintain systems. Many IT partners offer a solution like this, so experts like us may be able to help ensure your systems are secure.

Myth No.5: Specialized virtual security programs are more or less the same

There are various approaches to virtualization security and your network will probably need a blend of available options. This all depends on what you’re trying to protect.

A non-Web-connected server is going to have entirely different security needs than a virtual desktop of a server that manages customer information. Implementing one without the other simply just won’t do in today’s world, where attackers are set on getting their hands on your data.

Proper security is vital in making virtualization a critical component of your business IT infrastructure. Looking to learn more about virtualization and its components? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security