October 9th, 2015

Browsers_Oct8_AProtecting your privacy online is crucial in today’s world to avoid data breaches, malware attacks, and other mischief hackers can throw your way. The easiest way to do this is through browser extensions, but the question is which is best? Here, we’ll take a look at the most popular browser extensions that promise to protect your online privacy.

AdBlock Plus (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)

AdBlock Plus blocks ads, scripts and popups on your browser. It kills third-party scripts and widgets that send your data to who-knows-where. Be careful you use it properly, the extension can break the sites you read, which is why you have to first figure out what to allow and what to block. AdBlock Plus also stops you from visiting known malware-hosting domains, and it allows power users to play with different subscription lists while basic users can just enable it and walk away. Best of all, it is completely free.

Disconnect (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)

Disconnect Private Browsing protects you from tracking, malware and malvertising while offering secure Wi-Fi and bandwidth optimization features. Third party tracking cookies become a thing of the past, and you can enjoy total control over all site scripts and elements from a user-friendly toolbar menu. You’re completely guarded from ads injected by malware or ad networks that are hijacked by embedded malware.

Disconnect also protects you from tracking by social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google, which use your browsing experience even when off-site in order to collect data about you. What’s more, you’ll never have to worry about sidejacking, which is where an attacker uses stolen cookies to access your personal data without having to know your password. Available in free version and Premium, the main difference is that Premium adds mobile malware blocking and tracking to its arsenal, too.

HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome/Firefox/Opera)

One of the must-have tools for your browsing experience, HTTPS Everywhere shunts your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit. This protects your browsing experience and online privacy without you really having to do anything. Updates have also just been rolled out to keep you safe on thousands more sites around the web, and this extension is free for download.

Tunnelbear (Chrome)

This Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts all of your internet traffic, secures your browser data, and offers robust protection from prying eyes. Best of all, this won’t cost you a dime. Unfortunately, though, Tunnelbear is only available on Chrome at the moment; Safari and Firefox users will have to wait a little longer for this extension to come their way.

Web of Trust (Chrome/Firefox/Safari/IE)

Web of Trust (WOT) is a free extension that ranks sites by reputation and shows you whether a specific site has been known to host malware, or is loaded with tracking cookies and scripts that could wreak malware or adware havoc on your system.

If you’ve been browsing the web without any protection, or feel like your online privacy is at risk, talk to one of our experts and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Browsers
September 28th, 2015

164_A_SMDo you ever feel like your social media efforts are going nowhere? Does it feel like you spend more and more time marketing your small business on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, but with little return? Well, a recent survey reveals just how much ROI small business owners are actually gaining from their social media efforts, and the results are eye-opening.

Survey details

The survey was conducted by a small business directory and support network known as Manta. They surveyed 540 of their small business members with the aim of learning how much ROI these companies are gaining from social media marketing.

The results

Based on data on the 540 participants, 41% of businesses are receiving a return from social media marketing, which leaves nearly 60% with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. And as for the businesses that are gaining a return, over 80% earn less than $1,000 a month from their social media efforts. More surprisingly, close to half bring in less than $100 a month.

As a small business owner, should these numbers be cause for alarm? According to the CEO of Manta, John Swanciger, part of the reason the return is so low for most businesses is that their social media priorities are misguided. He notes that social media is less about bringing in new customers, and more about community building. "For a long time, the mantra was that social media could bring in new customers,” he says. “In reality, social media is a community builder, and your biggest fans are your already-loyal customers. When small businesses treat social media as the new word-of-mouth community, the real return will follow."

One of the oldest marketing tactics around is word-of-mouth marketing. Every day, people recommend products, restaurants and businesses they love to friends and family members. And social media is the perfect platform to cultivate your fans’ love of your brand. But according to the Manta survey, less than 8% of business owners cited building community as their primary social media goal.

So how do you build a community on social media?

Besides the obvious investments of time and money, here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Regularly post content that is valuable to your social media following - the keyword here being valuable.
  • Ask your followers questions to start conversations, and then engage with them. This builds a connection between your brand and customers.
  • Show your followers that you genuinely care about them, and they’ll likely do the same for you with glowing recommendations to friends and family.
Of course there is much more to it than this, but these quick tips can help you get started. If you’re struggling with your own social media efforts and would like to learn more, we’re happy to point your business in the right direction. Call us today to speak with one of our experts.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
September 21st, 2015

One of the most neglected aspects of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is what happens to employees. Much emphasis is put on protecting and recovering data, but your employees are just as valuable to keep your company running. By setting up your company’s BCP with detailed instructions on working from home during a disaster, your employees can help you make it through anything. Here’s how you can do it.

Step 1 - Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 - Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 - Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 - Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

Published with permission from Source.

September 16th, 2015

Hardware_Sep16_AEven in today’s world where electrical outlets are more numerous than ever before, there will still be times you need to push your laptop’s battery to the edge. Ever wish you could buy yourself a few extra minutes by extending your battery life? Here are a few tips to help you get every last drop of energy from your laptop battery.

Dim the screen

The easiest way to conserve your battery is to dim the screen of the laptop. The screen eats up a lot of energy, and chances are you don’t really need it that bright in the first place. The more you dim it, the more energy you will save. If you are desperate for battery life, turning it down to the lowest setting that still renders screen readable to you is the way to go. If you just want to conserve energy, taking it down to halfway will help conserve the battery and give you additional time down the road.

Stop charging your phone

It is almost second nature for people to charge their phones when they have a chance, but doing so while using your laptop can be a serious drain on its battery. If you need to maximize your laptop battery then unplug your phone, tablet or other device from it. You should see a big difference in battery performance almost immediately. In fact, it is best not to have any USB accessories, such as a wireless mouse, plugged in at all. These can also deplete your laptop battery in short order.

Only use what you need

While it’s fine to keep open multiple programs, applications and other features when your laptop is plugged in, these will eat away at your battery life when you’re away from a power socket. You should run a quick inventory on what you are using, and then close out of the rest. Do you really need to be running Skype if you are not talking to anyone? Probably not. Don’t just push them into the background, though. Be sure to close out of them completely. By only running what you need, you can reduce the burden on your battery.

Shutdown Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi can be one of the biggest drags on a laptop battery, because it is constantly using energy to search for new networks or to stay connected to the one it's on. Not only that, but internet browsers, especially ones with multiple tabs open, can increase energy consumption. If you aren’t using the internet, you should shut off the Wi-Fi and close out of any browsers. If you do need to use the internet, avoid opening multiple tabs, watching videos or streaming music.

Plan ahead

If you aren’t sure when you will be able to charge your laptop again, it is best to implement some of these battery-saving techniques before the situation gets critical. Chances are if you aren’t using certain apps now, you probably weren’t using them 30 minutes ago either. The best way to conserve your laptop's battery life is by being vigilant and alert to usage in advance. It is almost always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the battery life left on your laptop.

Let us show you how to get the most out of your laptop. Our trained experts can also answer all your hardware questions. Drop us a line for more information.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Hardware
September 15th, 2015

taking photo with cellphoneStatic biometrics emerged from the theory that a password or a PIN number can be stolen, while something unique to your body like the face, fingers, eyes and ears can’t. But the fact is that static biometrics have their shortcomings - the system uses proprietary technology with limited use, and is only available on high-end smartphones. With that comes behavioral biometrics, a technology that could very well be the next generation of mobile phone security.

What’s it all about?

Behavioral biometrics focus on uniquely identifying characteristics related not necessarily to who you are, but to what you do.The stress is on the recognition and analysis of something all of us do all the time on our smart devices - typing - as a new way of establishing identity.

How does it work?

“The technology profiles how a person interacts with a website on their smartphone by analyzing their typing rhythm, how they hit and release keys, the pressure they put on the screen as they type, the angle they’re holding their phone, and how quick they move across the screen,” says Dr. Neil Costigan, CEO at Swedish IT and security company BehavioSec, which has a patented technology that can be integrated into an app or even a smartphone OS.

Combined with data from a smartphone's built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, it’s possible to come up with a profile of each person. This could allow for monitoring of typing in real time in order to verify a person is who they say they are, just by watching their typing behavior. “The tech works on all models and makes of smartphones and doesn’t require extra hardware,” added Costigan. In fact, Costigan’s continuous process of verification has already been used by banks across Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany as part of efforts to detect and counter fraud. The technology was showcased as possible future-phone tech at Google’s I/O 2015 conference, and has the potential to be installed on every phone rather than just being limited to banking apps.

Looking to learn more about mobile technology and how they can change the way you work? Contact us today; we’re happy to talk.

Published with permission from Source.

September 14th, 2015

Productivity_Sep14_AWe’re all in the same boat - a million and one things to get done, and seemingly never enough hours in the day to fit them all in. But technology can come to your aid and, by using the best productivity tools you can find, you’ll add valuable minutes and hours to your workday. That all adds up, and you’ll quickly discover there’s more time to squeeze in the strategic tasks that so often fall by the wayside, but which are so crucial to defining the future direction of your business. Here are four tools to start using if you’re not already.

Google Alerts

Every business wants to keep track of what others are saying about it and, in this modern age where the likes of blogs and social media rule the roost, it’s more important than ever before. In an ideal world you’ll pick up on positive references to your company, and will be able to share these to enhance your good name further. But of course, every so often even the world’s best companies suffer a blip, and in those scenarios reputation management becomes a question of damage limitation, proactively responding to negative feedback, and putting right what harm has already been caused.

Yet doing all that manually is a real time-drain, if not next to impossible to do effectively - just think of all the websites you would have to scroll through to check for mentions of your company’s name, all the while knowing you’ve not even really scratched the surface. Thankfully Google Alerts relieves the pain of this crucial task; the tool allows you to set up alerts for specific terms, and receive an email notification when something crops up that you ought to know about. It can save you hours and enable you to do more justice to your reputation management efforts than you considered feasible.

Chrome to Mobile

If you’re like the vast majority of modern business people, you’re never sat at your desk for very long. That means you’re not always able to use your desktop computer, and probably have to do what you can to make the most of time spent traveling, between meetings and so on. Yet truly being productive during those down periods necessitates having access to the same materials you have when you’re in the office; that way, you’re actually contributing to clearing your overall to-do list rather than just picking a random task to work on so that you’re at least getting something done.

The Chrome to Mobile extension for Google’s signature web browser allows you to quickly transmit to your phone all the web pages you’re currently viewing on your desktop or laptop. When you’re away from your desk, you can pick up right where you left off without any interruption - no more emailing yourself links to everything you’re working on, and then having to open it all afresh on your phone or tablet. If you know you’re going to be away from a reliable internet connection for a while, you can even opt to send an offline version of those pages, so you can continue working regardless. You just need to have a mobile device that runs Android 4.0 or later, or have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that has Chrome installed.


The inclination to keep too many tabs open in your web browser is practically a chronic condition among business professionals, symptomatic of us trying to get too much done in too little time, and never really finishing one task before moving onto the next. Whatever the cause, it’s something lots of us have to deal with every day; we all stumble across news articles, blogs and other online resources that are infinitely useful to us, but which we don’t have the time to stop and act on there and then.

Pocket solves that problem - this simple tool allows you to save content that you find online to one central place, so that you can go back to it with ease when the time is right. It will save you from needing to keep those hundreds of tabs open until you have a spare moment to go back and plough through your reading list (or more likely until you decide is enough is enough, and close all the tabs to stop them slowing down your computer any further - and in the process you lose all that valuable information without keeping a copy).

Rescue Time

If you’ve ever wondered how much time you waste between tasks while you’re reading your email, updating your social media, checking the news and so forth, then Rescue Time could be the answer to your curiosity - even if you might not actually want to know the truth! Once you activate Rescue Time on your devices, it will track how long you spend not only on different websites but also in the various computer software applications that you use on a day-to-day basis - whether that’s Microsoft Word, Photoshop or Sage.

This helpful little program sends you a regular email report detailing how many hours you’ve logged in total - discovering how long you routinely sit at your computer can be revealing in itself - along with a breakdown of the percentage of time spent on various work- and non-work-related tasks, and an overall ranking for your productivity. It even sets you goals, for example to spend less than two hours a day on what it classes as non-productive activities (which you can customize to suit your line of work, since it’s hardly fair to penalize yourself for being on Facebook if that’s a key part of your job).

Are you ready to use these tools, and other intelligent technology, to streamline your workflow and get more out of your day? Give us a call and see how we can help you put IT at the forefront of a more efficient approach to business.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Productivity
August 26th, 2015

Browsers_Aug20_AChrome might be among the most popular web browsers around, but it’s not the only one available. Even if you’re a Google fan and swear by using Chrome when you can, chances are you use a device that either doesn’t have Chrome installed or on which you simply prefer to browse via another application. And it makes good productivity sense to have your list of internet bookmarks on hand, whichever device you’re on. That’s why this handy tip, which lets you access your Chrome bookmarks in any browser, is a useful one to keep in mind.

Whereas in the past it was possible to sync bookmarks saved in Chrome to your Google Docs account, this ceased with the transition from Google Docs to Google Drive. You can still save your bookmarks, but they are now only accessible on other devices if you use Chrome there too. Go online with Firefox or one of the other alternatives and you’ll be left without the easy bookmark access you rely on. The alternative is to use the Bookmarks Anywhere browser extension, which syncs your Chrome bookmarks to your other browsers and updates them live as you add to the list. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Within Chrome on the device that contains the bookmarks you want to sync, download the Bookmarks Anywhere extension from the Chrome Web Store.
  2. Once the extension has been added, a popup will appear. If you’re not already logged in, sign in to the Google account you use in Chrome; you’ll then need to grant Bookmarks Anywhere the browser permissions it requires.
  3. Your Chrome bookmarks will now be synced to the Bookmarks Anywhere site. To access them from non-Chrome browsers on your other devices, just sign in to using your Google account and a list of your bookmarks will appear. You can also manually add new bookmarks from this page, though these don’t appear to sync back to your Chrome bookmarks menu.
If you want to discover other simple ways to boost your productivity through better use of IT, give us a call and we’ll show you how.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Browsers
August 17th, 2015

164_SM_AOne of the most valuable tools available to the modern-day marketer is the email list. A large one can make you millions, and a small or nonexistent one can prevent your business from properly taking off. So how do you grow yours? Using social media is one way that is often less talked about. Here are three tips on how you can leverage it to grow your email list.

Post and share your emails publicly

If you create great content for your email list and no one sees it except your subscribers, how are your non-subscribers going to know what they’re missing out on? They won’t, which is exactly why you should give your social media fans and followers a taste of the valuable content that awaits them after sign up.

Now let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean you should share every single email you send out to your list. If you did, there would be less of a need to subscribe. Instead, try sharing or posting an email once every few weeks or once a month.

Make it easy to sign up

Let’s face it. Many of us will take the easier, simpler path whenever possible. This is just as true in marketing as it is in other more primal aspects of human nature. Take eating, for example: if you’re short on time and have a choice between two restaurants for lunch, and one delivers and the other doesn’t, which one are you going to take? Likely the delivery. Even if you prefer the one that doesn’t deliver slightly better, you’d probably still take the delivery for the simple fact that they’ve made it easier for you.

In the online marketing world, the same concept works for gaining subscribers. This is why you need to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up after they’ve read your publicly shared email. To do this, simply add a sign-up link to the emails you share.

Create valuable content

You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king”. However, whoever came up with this catchphrase left out a very important keyword. It should instead read “valuable content is king.” If you’re shelling out dozens of blog posts, emails, podcasts or videos a month but the content is useless to the reader, you’re not going to make any traction with your email list.

When trying to gain subscribers, always ask yourself, “what’s in it for them if they sign up?” If you simply have a signup box on your website or social media page, but no valuable content to go along with it, why would someone sign up? Would you sign up? The point is that there needs to be a reason for someone to subscribe to your email list. And valuable content is a very good reason.

Lastly, don’t forget to demonstrate why it’s more valuable for your future audience to subscribe rather than simply follow you on social media. To do this, give them an incentive to sign up. This could be in the form of an exclusive offer or a free ebook, course, report, or something similar.

Want more tips on leveraging social media to grow your business? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
August 10th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Aug10_AIn the current world, business continuity planning (BCP) is imperative to the sustainability of your business. Without a well-thought-out plan in place, it is highly unlikely that your company will be able to survive and recover from disasters. However, there are several major roadblocks to the successful implementation of a business continuity plan. If you’re struggling with BCP, check out our list of some common challenges organizations face, and learn how to address them properly.

Challenge #1: Prohibitive costs

Business continuity planning has become exponentially expensive as availability requirements increase. Many solutions require substantial investments on the installation and maintenance of additional hardware, software, and data center infrastructure. These requirements drive up the cost of business continuity, and many company owners are reluctant to invest in protective measures.

The solution Instead of relying on costly physical servers to accommodate your backups, consider using efficient and affordable cloud computing solutions. You can transfer your important business files to the cloud and eliminate the expense of having to install and manage hardware infrastructure and software licenses.

Challenge #2: High complexity

Traditional business continuity planning is complex to implement, manage and execute. From managing the recovery infrastructure to updating disaster recovery documentation and testing the BCP to find and close potential loopholes, the prospect of embarking on a BCP project can be daunting, and the whole experience can prove time consuming. Combine with the pressure of your ordinary day-to-day duties, it can seem almost impossible to focus your attention on initiating a BCP.

The solution With all this in mind, it makes more sense to hire a professional IT service provider to plan, implement, and execute your business continuity plan. This way you can leverage their experience and expertise to ensure that, in the event of a disaster, your company will be able to get back on its feet and resume business operations as quickly as possible.

Challenge #3: Lack of staff involvement

There are so many requirements to be considered in a business continuity plan. And the more employees your organization has, the more difficult it is to relay the essence of the plan for everyone to understand. Staff involvement isn’t an option - it’s an absolute necessity if you wish for a successful BCP implementation!

The solution Depending on the size of your organization, you can either hold a company meeting to announce the essentials of your BCP, or schedule a meeting with key staff members who take an active role in the planning process. To create a long-lasting BCP program, you need to get everyone on the same page by emphasizing the importance of the plan in an easy-to-understand way.

Business continuity planning is one of the most important things you need to have in place. You never know when, or in what form, a disaster will strike - all the more reason to take a preventative approach to securing your company and all you’ve worked for.

Need a reliable partner to take care of all your business continuity planning needs? Get in touch with us today - we have exactly what you need to prepare and protect your company.

Published with permission from Source.

August 6th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Aug04_AIt might all seem a bit too much like something out of a sci-fi movie, but artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a big part of the IT landscape. One segment of artificial intelligence in particular, Natural Language Processing (NLP) - essentially a computer’s ability to take unscripted human words and turn them into something useful - is playing an increasing role in the way we use our devices. Here are three things you probably didn’t know about NLP.

There’s more to Natural Language Processing than voice recognition

Voice recognition might be among the most well-known practical uses of NLP in the technology we encounter in everyday life - but that likely has more to do with the popularity of the services that employ it, like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, than the merits of voice recognition in comparison to other NLP functions that tend to stay out of the limelight.

Truth be told, there’s a whole lot more to artificial intelligence than NLP. In fact, NLP is more effective in analyzing text data than it is sounds, which is precisely why digital assistant apps first use voice recognition to turn your commands into text data, and then use other NLP capabilities to search online for related information.

Natural Language Processing has already moved beyond its infancy

It’s tempting to believe that elements of artificial intelligence like NLP are still in the realm of the sci-fi movies, and that they are a long way from being useful to the technology we use in our everyday personal and business lives. It’s tempting, but further from reality than you might realize. That said, it’s true that to date there has been no commercial use of NLP that has truly exploited its full capabilities; even its deployment in a recently launched project to automate customer service only really scratches the surface.

What is clear is the shape that future uses of NLP will need to take. We already know that NLP alone doesn’t always judge context well, since it needs to learn about its environment first - without turning to other sources, for example, one app employing NLP would struggle to differentiate between providing traffic information and diagnosing a health complaint. The key, at least for now, is to restrict the scope in which NLP operates - by limiting its use to a travel app, for instance, NLP could learn about the various travel arrangements you make and then devise itineraries for you.

It works with more than just large-scale data

While it’s undeniable that NLP can be put to great use in analyzing vast swathes of aggregated information, for example taking masses of social media data and being able to assess the feelings of users towards the subject in question, that’s not the limit of its capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, NLP can also be used to interpret much smaller-scale data in real time. This is where its true value comes into play in terms of being able to take natural-language user input, in an app setting for example, and make decisions that add value to our mobile experience.

Whether for automated customer service or comprehensive sales applications, it’s clear that Natural Language Processing - and other aspects of artificial intelligence - hold the potential to be of value-adding benefit to the business world in the near future. It’s an area that’s very much still in development - and so even more exciting, and important to watch - but now is the time to discover how best to implement NLP technologies into your company. By getting ahead now, you can offer a customer experience that truly sets you apart from the competition. To find out how we can help you achieve just that, and at the same time maximize the value you drive from mobile technologies more generally, give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.