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October 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct08_BAs a business owner there are many different keys to success, one of the most important being your staff. If you take care of your employees, there is a good chance that your business will not only be successful but will hopefully also operate with healthy margins. What is sometimes a challenge though is actually managing employees and dealing with all the related information. An Enterprise Resource Planning solution, more specifically a Human Resources module, can be an effective tool that allows you to better manage your employees.

What are Human Resource modules?

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated business software applications (often called modules) that allow companies to track and manage data and even automate some business functions, including Human Resources.

Human Resource modules in particular are used to track different people-related functions, such as planning, payroll, administration, development, hiring, and more. Business services, like Standard Operating Procedures, job postings, news, forums, tracking of work hours, and benefits, etc., can all be unified into one module, which makes overall management and decision-making easier.

Benefits of using HR modules

Businesses that have integrated ERP and more specifically HR modules, have been able to benefit in a number of ways. Here are 5:

1. Automated processes that free up management

A large function of HR, as with many other business processes, is data entry and reporting. If you are trying to develop reports without an integrated ERP system, you probably need to pull data from numerous sources which takes time. This is time that can probably be better spent on more relevant tasks.

An ERP module data, once set up, will be more accessible. This simultaneously makes it easier to enter and pull data together into reports. And because large parts of daily tasks can be automated, you can ensure that what you need to complete is actually achieved.

2. Enhanced sharing of information and collaboration

Because HR is a central function of any business, data related to HR needs to eventually be shared with other teams or departments. Without ERP this likely means you will need to ask different people to share their data and then compile it into a useable format.

With ERP for HR, data is stored in a central location, or brought together to a central location, which means that data from different sources can be shared faster and easier. This also ensures that the right data is shared, thus enhancing overall outcomes and making it simpler for other teams to work together.

3. Management gains a clearer picture of HR

It can be tough to gain a short-term picture of your employee resources, especially when it comes to identifying potential resource shortfalls (e.g., double-booked holidays, employees who are constantly late, etc.) and where improvements can be made. For example, in most modules you can track overtime hours of employees, and receive alerts when overtime is past a certain threshold.

If you spot that one department is consistently banking extended overtime hours, you can move quickly to address this.

4. Data is kept up-to-date

As we've stated above, HR systems usually involve data from various locations. This means that there is always a chance of duplicate or incorrect information. A healthcare ERP module can help ensure that the data is not only correct, but also not duplicated, which can in turn speed up decision-making and enable better decisions to be made.

5. Reduced licensing expenses

Without ERP, your HR team could need five or more systems in order to keep track of everything. Each of these systems will need to be licensed, which can often be a serious investment on your behalf, not to mention the costs of setting up and maintaining these systems.

Because HR ERP modules offer an integrated solution, you pay for one license to cover all of your needs. This reduces overall expenses while also making it easier to budget and maintain.

If you are looking to integrate an ERP solution in your business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_BIn late spring of this year news broke of the biggest security issue to date - Hearbleed. Many companies leapt to secure themselves from this, but the fallout from it is still being felt. That being said, there is a new, even bigger, security problem called Shellshock that all businesses need to now be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 9th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct07_BBusinesses, like restaurants, boutique fashion stores, and even some delivery operations have flocked to mobile payment systems largely because you don't have to invest in expensive Point of Sale equipment and can instead run it all from a device like an iPad. With the recent new mobile payment announcements and continued enhancements, it is highly likely that mobile payment solutions will see explosive growth in businesses the world over.

What exactly is mobile payment?

Most people would define mobile payment as either using your mobile device as a wallet, or using mobile devices to accept payment. Many services allow users to link credit cards to their mobile device and simply scan it over a pay terminal to have their account charged.

Companies on the other hand usually pay a set per-transaction fee in order to use the system; something along the lines of, or slightly cheaper than, most credit or debit-based payment terminals.

If you are considering switching over, here is a brief overview of the most common payment solutions.

PayPal

In late September Internet auction giant eBay announced that they will be spinning off their popular Internet payment system PayPal sometime in 2015. While many users will utilize PayPal to pay online, there is actually a mobile payment solution called PayPal Here, which is expected to grow immensely.

With Here, you get a payment solution app with a card reader that plugs into most smartphones (Android, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets) and allows you to accept multiple types of payment from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can even track cash payments and record checks.

Vendors can use this app free of charge, however they are charged a 2.7% per swipe fee, based on the amount of the transaction.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple's recently announced mobile payment system that utilizes NFC (Near Field Communication) on the iPhone 6. Users with an iPhone 6 will be able to link their credit cards to their phone and then will hover their device near a terminal and press their thumb on the device's fingerprint reader to pay.

Your payment information (an account number linked to your card. Apple has noted that actual card numbers are not stored) is stored in the Passbook, and will be accepted at an initial 220,000 stores in the US when it launches sometime in October. There is a good chance that small to medium businesses will be able to integrate this solution into their business in the near future, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

What is interesting is that many banks have announced that they are considering accepting, or will accept Apple Pay as a method of payment. This means that businesses with an existing NFC payment terminal - which is often provided by a bank - should be able to accept payment (if the bank does of course).

Rumors have it that merchants will not be charged a transaction fee to use this service; details will be solidified when the system goes live.

Square

Square is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well known, mobile payment system. With a card reader that is compatible with most popular mobile devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) users can set up a whole Point of Sale system via the Square Stand and accept a wide variety of payments.

To use this solution, you need either the card reader (which is free) or the Square Stand (which costs around USD $99). For each transaction there is a fee that starts at 2.75% for credit and debit cards.

Amazon's Local Register

Introduced in mid August, this new card reader is aimed at both PayPal and Square solutions. As with these, there is a card reader that can be plugged into most devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) and an app that goes along with it. Businesses with the reader can then use the device to accept payment.

Where this solution differs is that the reader costs USD $10 to purchase. That being said, the USD $10 is refunded towards your first transaction fees upon signing up. The transaction fees are also quite a bit lower. For businesses that sign up before October 31, 2014, there is a flat rate of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016. Any business that signs up after this date will pay a flat rate of 2.5% per transaction (based on the total transaction amount).

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a hybrid mobile and online payment solution that allows users to add credit cards to their wallet and pay for things either online, or at stores with NFC payment terminals (also called contactless terminals).

While most users who have made a purchase on Google Play, or have used their Google Account to make a payment have used Wallet, this hasn't been the most popular of solutions when it comes to customers using it to pay in-store. The reason for this is because there are only a limited number of devices with the required NFC radio (two to be exact). This system is also currently limited to the US only. Customers around the world can use Google Wallet to pay online however.

There is a good chance that with the recent new announcements and upcoming mobile payment products, Google will be pushing this out to more devices in the near future.

There are other mobile payment system options available, so it is a good idea to contact us before you implement one. We can help you not only find a solution that works for your business, but ensure that it can be integrated into your existing systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 7th, 2014

Office365_Oct07_BMicrosoft Office is one of the most popular, and most installed, software suites in the world. For those looking to integrate it into their office, there are essentially two ways you can do so: Purchase Microsoft Office 2013, or Office 365. While you get Office with both of these options, there is confusion as to what the difference is between the two.

What is Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office 2013 is the latest version of Microsoft's popular Office suite. With apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more, it is mostly similar to all previous versions of Office. When you purchase this type of Office you receive a number of licenses allowing you to install this on up to five computers or devices - depending on the version (e.g., Home, Student, Professional) of Office that you get.

You can purchase these products outright, as you have done with previous versions of Office, but Microsoft is really pushing their subscription-based version of Office, what they call Office 365. When you subscribe to the Office 365 version of Microsoft 2013, you get the same software as you would if you purchased it outright, the only difference is you pay for it either monthly or yearly, instead of all at once.

What is Office 365 for business then?

Where it gets confusing for many is that in 2011 Microsoft launched a cloud-based version of Office for businesses also called Office 365. Despite the same name as the subscription-based version of Office 2013, this is a different product that is aimed at businesses.

Office 365 for businesses is a monthly (or yearly) per-user subscription service that offers businesses productivity software, enhanced communication apps like email and video conferencing; guaranteed security; and support for intranet and collaboration solution SharePoint.

With Office 365 for business, companies can sign up for a number of plans. Some of them, like Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business, offer full versions of Office 2013 (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Lync, Outlook, Notes, Access, etc) that users can install on their computers or mobile devices. Other versions, like Office 365 Small Business, come with Office Web Apps which can be accessed via your browser.

Which is better for business?

Most businesses will benefit more from Office 365 because of the extra features and enhanced security. Not to mention the fact that the monthly per-user cost is usually lower when compared to licensing the same version of Office 2013 for each individual.

Some other benefits Office 365 for Business include:

  • All users are on the same version of Office: Because Office 365 for Business is based in the cloud and is managed via a central admin panel, you can ensure that all users have exactly the same version of Office, which in turn ensures that your files will be compatible.
  • Reduced licensing costs: If you were to purchase individual versions of Office 2013 for your employees, you could end up paying over USD $399 for the Professional version which can only be installed on one computer. Compare this with Office 365 Small Business Premium which costs USD $12.50 per user, per month and offers the same version of Office, along with more features.
  • Enhanced security and uptime: Microsoft guarantees that Office 365 software will be up and running 99.9% of the time, which means the programs you rely on will be available when you need them.
  • It's more mobile: With Office Web Apps and Office 2013 mobile apps you can take your work anywhere. Combine this with solutions like SharePoint which allow you to store documents in a central location, which makes it easier to access your files while out of the office. Beyond that, if you would like to use the Office mobile apps, you will need an Office 365 subscription.
If you are looking to integrate Office 365 into your organization, or would like to learn more, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 7th, 2014

GoogleApps_Oct07_BGoogle Apps users who have integrated the solution into their office are probably using apps like Docs to produce the majority of their office documents. Because of this, there is a good chance that some of the docs include bulleted or numbered lists. As a Google Docs user, do you know how to add these and modify them? Did you also know that Google has implemented a new way that lists are created?

Creating a bulleted/numbered list in a Google Doc

If you have text in a Doc that you would like to change into a bulleted or numbered list, you can do so by:
  1. Highlighting the content you would like to be turned into a list.
  2. Pressing More in the toolbar above the document.
  3. Clicking on either the button with 1,2,3, or bullets.
This will turn the highlighted content into a list. If you want to include sublists, click where you would like the sublist to start and hit Tab. This will move the list item over one indent and create a sublist. If you have sublists that are supposed to be major list items, then click at the left-side of the point and hit Shift + Tab.

Formatting your bullets or numbers

By default, any numbered lists will start with standard numbers (e.g., 1,2,3) and bulleted lists will start with a round bullet. You can change the type of number or bullet used by pressing on the little gray arrow beside the list type button on the menu bar above the text field. This will bring up a drop-down menu with different types of lists. For example, you can change 1,2,3 lists into A,B,C lists, or Roman Numerals.

You can change the color of the bullets or numbers by clicking on one of the bullets and pressing the text color button. This is located in the menu bar above the text field and looks like an A with a black bar below it. Select the color you want.

The new change to bulleted/numbered lists

In late September, Google introduced a small change to the way Docs handles lists. Now, when you are typing, you can enter a number of characters on a new line and Google will automatically create a list. For example, if you are typing and need to create a numbered list hit Enter to go to a new line and enter: 1. (with the period).

You will notice that this creates an automatic indent. Hitting Enter again will add another list item. The characters you can use to tell Docs to automatically create a list include: *, -, (a), a), a., (A), A), A., I., (1), 1), and 1.

If you don't want to create a list like this, then simply hit Backspace after the list is indented to convert it into a normal line. You can also turn this function off by pressing Tools followed by Preferences… and unticking Automatically detect lists and then Ok.

Looking to learn more about using Google Docs in the office? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 2nd, 2014

Security_Sep29_BBusiness owners and managers are becoming increasingly worried about the security of their systems and networks. While the vast majority have implemented some form of security, this may not be enough. In fact, we have helped a number of businesses with flawed security measures in place. The issue is, how do you know if your security is working sufficiently? Here are five common security flaws you should be aware of.

1. Open wireless networks

Wireless networks are one of the most common ways businesses allow their employees to get online. With one main Internet line and a couple of wireless routers, you can theoretically have the whole office online. This method of connecting does save money, but there is an inherent security risk with this and that is an unsecure network.

Contrary to popular belief, simply plugging in a wireless router and creating a basic network won't mean you are secure. If you don't set a password on your routers, then anyone within range can connect. Hackers and criminal organizations are known to look for, and then target these networks. With fairly simple tools and a bit of know-how, they can start capturing data that goes in and out of the network, and even attacking the network and computers attached. In other words, unprotected networks are basically open invitations to hackers.

Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that all wireless networks in the office are secured with passwords that are not easy to guess. For example, many Internet Service Providers who install hardware when setting up networks will often just use the company's main phone number as the password to the router. This is too easy to work out, so changing to a password that is a lot more difficult to guess is makes sense.

2. Email is not secure

Admittedly, most companies who have implemented a new email system in the past couple of years will likely be fairly secure. This is especially true if they use cloud-based options, or well-known email systems like Exchange which offer enhanced security and scanning, while using modern email transition methods.

The businesses at risk are those using older systems like POP, or systems that don't encrypt passwords (what are known as 'clear passwords'). If your system doesn't encrypt information like this, anyone with the right tools and a bit of knowledge can capture login information and potentially compromise your systems and data.

If you are using older email systems, it is advisable to upgrade to newer ones, especially if they don't encrypt important information.

3. Mobile devices that aren't secure enough

Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are being used more than ever before in business, and do offer a great way to stay connected and productive while out of the office. The issue with this however is that if you use your tablet or phone to connect to office systems, and don't have security measures in place, you could find networks compromised.

For example, if you have linked your work email to your tablet, but don't have a screen lock enabled and you lose your device anyone who picks it up will have access to your email and potentially sensitive information.

The same goes if you accidentally install a fake app with malware on it. You could find your systems infected. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your device is locked with at least a passcode, and you have anti-virus and malware scanners installed and running on a regular basis.

4. Anti-virus scanners that aren't maintained

These days, it is essential that you have anti-virus, malware, and spyware scanners installed on all machines and devices in your company and that you take the time to configure these properly. It could be that scans are scheduled during business hours, or they just aren't updated. If you install these solutions onto your systems, and they start to scan during work time, most employees will just turn the scanner off thus leaving systems wide-open.

The same goes for not properly ensuring that these systems are updated. Updates are important for scanners, because they implement new virus databases that contain newly discovered malware and viruses, and fixes for them.

Therefore, scanners need to be properly installed and maintained if they are going to even stand a chance of keeping systems secure.

5. Lack of firewalls

A firewall is a networking security tool that can be configured to block certain types of network access and data from leaving the network or being accessed from outside of the network. A properly configured firewall is necessary for network security, and while many modems include this, it's often not robust enough for business use.

What you need instead is a firewall that covers the whole network at the point where data enters and exits (usually before the routers). These are business-centric tools that should be installed by an IT partner like us, in order for them to be most effective.

How do I ensure proper business security?

The absolute best way a business can ensure that their systems and networks are secure is to work with an IT partner like us. Our managed services can help ensure that you have proper security measures in place and the systems are set up and managed properly. Tech peace of mind means the focus can be on creating a successful company instead. Contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 1st, 2014

BCP_Sep29_BWhen it comes to business continuity, many business owners are aware of the fact that a disaster can happen at any time, and therefore take steps to prepare for this, usually by implementing a continuity plan. However, the reality is that many businesses implement plans that could lead to business failure. One way to avoid this with your continuity strategy is to know about the common ways these plans can fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

1. Not customizing a plan

Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won't necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

2. Action plans that contain too much information

One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don't want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

Instead, try keeping action plans - what needs to be done during an emergency - separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

3. Failing to properly define the scope

The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

5. Failing to test, update, and test again

Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis - at least twice a year.

From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan and supporting systems, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 30th, 2014

GppgleApps_Sep29_BFor many business owners, the security of their accounts is paramount, especially when using cloud systems. Many systems, like those offered by Google, do offer strong security, but there is always a chance that information can be leaked, or accounts can be hacked. To help, you should be aware of the extra security measures available that can help ensure the security of your Google accounts.

Don't use your main account to sign up/as a login for other sites and accounts

When we hear of account breaches or instances where Google account information has been leaked, many people will turn and blame Google, thinking that it was Google's systems that were breached. While this is a possibility, more often than not the breach occurred with another system where a Google account was used to either sign up, or as the main username.

When hackers get hold of this information they can then use it to launch subsequent malware or phishing attacks against the main Google account, in hopes of actually gaining access to it. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, you should be sure to limit what you use your main Google account to sign up for. Most websites requiring you to sign up for an account ask for an email address, so it is best to create a second dummy account that is only used for this purpose.

If you are asked to set the username as an email address, use this dummy email address and be sure to keep this account separate from your main account.

Don't use your Google password for other sites

Alongside account information breaches, password breaches on other sites are also commonplace. If you have used the same password for a site that you use to access your Google account that is akin to giving hackers direct access to these accounts.

Use a unique password for every site you sign up for, but at the very least make sure your password for your Google account is unique from any other accounts.

Use 2-step verification

Most major websites offer enhanced login security these days, Google included. When enabled, you will need to enter a second code - usually sent to your mobile or generated by a PIN generator - in order to access your account.

The major benefit here is that anyone who tries to access your account will need to enter this PIN, and because the majority of hackers won't have access to your mobile device, your account will be more secure.

You can enable 2-step verification by:

  1. Logging into your Google account.
  2. Going to the 2-step verficiation website (http://www.google.com/landing/2step/).
  3. Pressing Get Started at the bottom of the page.
  4. Selecting Start Setup on the next page.
  5. Logging into your account again.
  6. Following the instructions on the following pages.
In order for this to work, you will need a mobile device. You can either enter a phone number or choose to download the Google Authenticator app onto your mobile device. Regardless of which method you use, you will need to enter a cell number during the setup.

Audit your account security settings

If you are unsure as to how secure your account is, or the security options you have available, one of the first stops you make should be to Google's account checkup page (http://g.co/accountcheckup). Here you will see a number of security options that are available to you which you can enact or modify.

Finally, take a look at your account login locations on a regular basis. This information can be found here: https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity and shows you where recent logins were made, what systems were used, and even the IP address. Should you see some irregular activity, or strange looking login locations, then it is advisable to change your password immediately.

If you are looking to learn more about the security of your accounts, and what you can do to ensure that hackers can't gain access, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 24th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_BSocial media has become an integral part of many business strategies, with an ever increasing number of companies adopting a variety of platforms. However, many business owners and managers are often unsure as to exactly how they can, or should, be using these platforms. In order to make things a bit easier, here is an overview of the three most common ways businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company's services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it's the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media's instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is 'social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What's the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 23rd, 2014

Office365_Sep22_BMicrosoft's cloud-based office suite - Office 365 - is one of the most popular software solutions among small to medium businesses. Offering a wide variety of plans and the familiar Office programs, it's not difficult to see why. The issue many offices face however is staying on top of all the information generated within Office 365. To help, Microsoft has recently announced a new Office 365 feature called Office Delve.

What is Office Delve?

The idea behind Office Delve is that it's a tool that helps business users get the most out of their data and information related to Office 365. According to Microsoft, Delve will allow you to:
  • Discover new information - Delve has been designed to show you information from different sources in Office 365 that you may find useful for what you are currently working on.
  • Discover what you need - Documents you have seen before, or have recently worked on, are highlighted and made easier for you to find, regardless of where they are stored. This makes it less taxing to find work you have been doing in the past, and continue from where you left off.
  • Discover new connections - Typing a name in Office 365 will allow you to see what a user is working on, their connections, and even connect with them to build relationships and share information.

How does it work?

In order to provide the information and data that users will likely find useful, Delve is powered by a tool Microsoft calls Office Graph. Graph maps the relationships between the various Office 365 users in your company, and the content/information related to them.

This 'map' is then used by Delve to provide users with what they need, when they need it. Content and information is displayed on a card-based screen, which can be found under the Delve tab in the main Office 365 launch screen.

Aside from content such as profile information, links to documents, or information, users can also see: Likes, views, comments, and tags, which brings a deeper social integration into Office 365.

Delve also orders content a number of different ways, including:

  • What you've recently worked on - Shows you content in card-form that you have recently opened or worked on.
  • Content that has been shared with you - Shows the content your colleagues have shared with you.
  • Content that has been presented to you - Shows content that colleagues have presented recently, or content that has been sent to you.
While this idea works great on the desktop, many Office 365 users access their systems from their mobile devices. Delve will also be available to mobile users. On your device you can browse the cards with files, swipe left or right on each card to view files, and even search for colleagues and view files they have shared with you and their recent activity.

When is Delve available?

Microsoft has noted that Delve is currently rolling out for businesses who have subscribed to the Office 365 Enterprise level plans (E1-E4) and have joined the first release program. Over the following months, it will roll out to all E1-E4 customers. In 2015, Microsoft has noted that they will introduce Delve to Business Essentials, Business Premium, Small Business, Small Business Premium and Mid Sized Business customers.

If you are looking to learn more about Delve, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.