Blog

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 www.bookmarksany.com 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 TechAdvisory.org. 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 TechAdvisory.org. 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 TechAdvisory.org. 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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 5th, 2015

164_HW_AWith cyber attacks becoming a seemingly monthly occurrence, more and more these days it seems like simple passwords just aren’t cutting it when it comes to online security. Because of this, a lot of online services use two-factor authentication. But for anyone who has used the technology, they know how much of an annoyance this can be. The extra 30 seconds to a minute it takes to login adds up - especially when you’re signing in to dozens of websites a day. But now there’s a new piece of hardware that hopes to make this process easier than ever, and it’s called Yubikey.

What is two-factor authentication?

Even if you have no idea what two-factor authentication is, you’ve likely been using it already for well over a decade. Two-factor authentication is a security measure that is essentially what it sounds like: you use two different types of identification to verify who you are.

Two common accounts where you’ve likely already used two-factor authentication are email and online banking. Ordinarily when you normally logon to either of these services, you only use a single password - your first method of authentication. However, if you are logging on from a different computer than your usual one, you’re likely asked to go through an additional step to check that you are who you say you are. This happens when you’re prompted for a one-time password - sent to you via text message, email or via some other method. That is your second method of verification, which adds up to two-factor authentication.

Oh, and how have you been using this process for over a decade? Well, another common means of two-factor authentication that’s been in widespread use for over a half century is the ATM. Your physical ATM card is the first form of authentication and your PIN is the second.

Introducing Yubikey - the easy solution for two-factor authentication

Yubikey is a small hardware device that looks similar to a USB drive and is designed to make two-factor authentication on the web easy. In addition to your normal username and password for a given website, it acts as your second form of authentication. Once you’ve registered it, you can use this device with a variety of websites or services that support two-factor authentication. Additionally, you can use Yubikey as a second method of authentication for your computer login, disk encryption for a hard drive, or password manager.

How does it work?

Once you’ve registered your Yubikey with a website or service that supports two-factor authentication, you simply insert the key into the computer, and then tap or touch it to provide your second method of authentication. Bear in mind that the Yubikey is not a biometric device. Similar to an ATM card, its identity protection power lies in the fact that is a physical hardware token. This prevents phishing, malware and other attacks that would need your physical key (in addition to your password) to breach your account.

However, since the Yubikey is a physical piece of hardware, some may wonder, “won’t it be easy to lose?” Well, when was the last time you permanently lost your keys? if the answer is never, then you’re in luck. Yubikey simply attaches to your keychain.

Curious to learn more about the latest hardware developments? Need a new hardware solution for your business? Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
July 30th, 2015

164_Prod_ AYou may have heard of Managed Services, but are clueless as to how they can help your business. You may have heard of how they can boost productivity and increase profits, but are unsure of exactly how they do that. For those who need a better understanding of just how Managed Services can benefit a business, today we’re going to demystify it all. Here is the explanation you’ve been waiting for.

Managed Services essentially amounts to preventative IT maintenance. What this means for your business is that little IT problems are nipped in the bud as soon as they bubble up, and before they have a chance to compound into much bigger, more costly ones. But before we delve deeper into how this increases your business’s productivity levels, it makes sense to look at the history of this service and the role of “preventative maintenance” in our culture.

Why preventative maintenance matters

Managed Services have been around for decades. But despite this, many businesses have been slow to catch on. And really, is it all that surprising? Preventative maintenance is not exactly a priority in mass culture. Whether you hire a mechanic to replace a catalytic converter, a plumber to repair a leaky pipe or doctor to correct your coronary heart disease, many of these oftentimes preventable problems have been culturally accepted as commonplace. Yet people are so used to the mindset of thinking “everything is okay until it’s not”, which is really where the true problem lies.

Additionally, when preventable problems are ignored long enough to the point they explode into emergency repairs, your wallet almost always suffers. This is just as true for a network crash to your business’s IT infrastructure as it is for a trip to the emergency room for a neglected health problem.

Because Managed Services prevent catastrophic IT repairs that surprise you out of nowhere, your bottom line will enjoy long-term savings. Along with this, you’ll also get a significant bump in your productivity levels.

How does Managed Services boost productivity?

To answer this question, it makes sense to look at a fundamental principle of productivity - focus. Imagine if you’re trying to complete a new marketing strategy for the next quarter. You’re doing some research, compiling a list upcoming networking events and trade shows to attend, when suddenly you’re disrupted by an urgent phone call. After you’re off the phone, you return to your research, and then your secretary bursts in with an handful of vendor invoices you need to sign off on. As these disruptions continue to pile up, what happens if your IT breaks down and you’re unable to use your computer? Basically, you don’t get anything done during the day. You become stuck.

When it comes to IT, Managed Services take preventative measures to ensure your IT is always running at its optimal level, so that you don’t suffer technology breakdowns or distractions that blow your focus - preventing you and your staff from getting any work done. Smooth running IT won’t resolve all your productivity problems, such as your staff focusing more on Facebook or their phone rather than their work, but it will resolve all of those that relate directly to technology. No longer will your business be held down by daily computer disruptions and associated repairs, and instead you and your staff can move forward and focus on growing your business. That is the beauty of Managed Services. More productivity, focus and growth for your entire organization.

Have more questions about Managed Services? Give us a call today. We’re happy to provide you the information you need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 15th, 2015

164_Prod_AIt’s easy for anyone to speculate about what the top productivity killers are for today’s workforce. What may come to mind first are distractions such as email, social media, or the personal problems of employees. But last month in a new survey of 2,175 hiring and human resources managers, CareerBuilder revealed what some of the real issues are. The results are a mix of obvious distractions and surprising revelations.

Here are the top 10 productivity busters according to CareerBuilder’s June 2015 survey.

  1. 52% - Cellphones & texting
  2. 44% - Internet
  3. 37% - Gossip
  4. 36% - Social media
  5. 31% - Email
  6. 27% - Coworkers chatting
  7. 26% - Meetings
  8. 27% - Snack and/or smoke breaks
  9. 17% - Loud coworkers
  10. 10% - Sitting in a cubicle

Why are these findings a big deal?

According to the managers who took the survey, the consequences of these distractions can be pretty severe. A few examples they gave were lower quality of work, dissatisfied employees who have to pick up the slack of lower performers, missed deadlines, and even loss of revenue.

So how do you prevent these productivity killers from disrupting your business?

The chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder mentioned that one of the most effective ways to increase productivity is to simply take a break, which may come as quite a surprise since “Snack and/or smoke breaks” is listed as number 8 for productivity killers.

However, it should be noted that not all breaks are created equal. Listening to loud music or getting caught up in gossip on social media may not actually give employees the sense of rejuvenation they need when they return to work. They key is for staff members to take a break that will re-energize and give them a fresh focus. Some suggestions are to simply take a walk or perform some form of light exercise or stretching.

On a more humorous note, the survey also revealed some of the more unusual non-work activities employees partook in while on the clock. Employers reportedly found their staff doing everything from taking a nap on the CEO’s couch, searching for a mail order bride, and even taking a sponge bath in the restroom sink.

Want more tips on how to boost employee productivity. Curious to see how technology can help? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 3rd, 2015

164_Soc_AMost of us know that gaining a foothold on social media takes time and effort. But if you’re at the point where you’ve already put in hundreds of hours of work with few results to show for it, you’re likely doing something wrong. There could be a number of different reasons for this, but here is a common trap that a lot of social media newbies fall into. And it starts with your content creation.

Don’t recycle content

Google any recent news story, and you’re likely to find anywhere from a few to several dozen articles on the same subject. And unfortunately, the content is so similar that you can barely differentiate one from the next.

If you want to stand out from others on the social media scene, find something new to talk about. In general, if you want to get noticed by new customers or followers, it’s best to avoid widely covered topics. Everyone and their grandma will be writing about it, which creates much more competition for your version.

If you must create content about mainstream topics, make sure you take the time to come up with a fresh perspective, and share valuable information that hasn’t been touched on yet.

Be fearless in your content

Similarly, it’s absolutely essential that, across all the content that you produce, you share a unique perspective. Many people end up parroting the same thing as everyone else because they are afraid to offer their true opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be controversial. If you’re going to develop a social media persona that stands out, you need to develop your own voice - and a thick skin. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, especially on the web where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Additionally, there’s a reason that the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is famous. In fact, when you write polarizing content that will have a fair share of supporters and naysayers, people are hardwired to react to it. This is for the same reason that humanity as a whole shares a universal love of stories - whether that’s in the movies, in a novel or around a campfire. A story is nothing without conflict. When you produce content that creates a real life conflict of opinions, you have a better chance of it making some noise on social media.

But - be honest and show integrity

Don’t say something controversial just for the sake of it. Give your honest opinion. The key to every aspect of sales is developing trust. That means that with any customer or potential follower you come into contact with, whether through social media or other means, you should show your true self. You’ll have a better chance of gaining a customer or follower for life.

Controversy or not, always be professional

There’s no reason to start a flame war, or resort to name calling and insults. People are going to have strong feelings about controversial content. Emotions are going to come up and people can say some pretty mean things - especially on the internet. Don’t get caught up in the comments and negativity. If you do, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your current customer base and followers.

Want more insights into growing your social media presence? Speak up today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jun17_AIn today’s fast-paced business environment, business productivity has never been more imperative for keeping up with the competition and boosting opportunities to stay ahead. But the fact is that many of the tips you read about simply don’t work, and they could even make things worse by actually lowering your productivity. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four productivity myths that you should avoid.

Don’t check email first thing in the morning

What’s wrong with this when it sounds like such a good tip? Well, reading and responding to email can derail your entire morning. Your ten minutes spent reviewing emails turns into half an hour, and suddenly you’re late for work. And in many industries you simply won’t have the time in the morning to go through every single email and find out what has been happening overnight.

The fix

You should check your email first thing in the morning but make sure not to respond unless it will take you less than a minute. Something that requires a simple “yes” or “no”, or that can be forwarded to someone who can take care of it for you, is fine. But for anything else that requires research or a longer response, mark the email as “unread” and go back to it later when you have more time. You can also add it to your to-do list so you’ll be sure to check it later. Skimming emails in the morning is a particularly good use of commuting time even if you can’t respond right away, plus it can help you prepare for your day by giving you an idea of what lies ahead.

Tackle the hardest task first

While this sounds reasonable, in most cases your hardest task can really set you back time-wise. Plus, without proper planning in terms of the time, resources and energy you need for it, tackling the hardest job first might end up deflating your hopes of a productive day.

The fix

Instead of starting the day with your most difficult task, build your confidence by starting with something smaller and easier. Simpler tasks will help get your momentum going and ease you into a productive mode. You could also cut that difficult project into smaller bite-sized to-dos, so you can tackle them individually without burning out.

Make one to-do list for everything

While it’s a good idea to get everything out of your head and down onto paper, having just one go-to list for all the things you need to get done is a huge mistake. Why? It can be quite the headache to pick tasks off a never-ending list. Once you see that long list, you’re more likely to be demotivated before you even get started on a task.

The fix

Write everything you need to do onto a list, then rewrite your list into specific, actionable tasks. Break your lists up into a work list, home list, side project list and so on. Having multiple lists that detail the specifics of what you need to do makes it easier for your brain to digest all this information, instead of having to wade through numerous things that you can’t possibly do all at the same time. Keeping your lists separate will help you stay focused on what really needs to get done first.

Stop multitasking

You’re already really busy doing just one thing, so it’s a bad idea to risk compromising the quality of your work by multitasking, right? Wrong! In today’s fast-paced world, you multitask without even knowing, whether it’s by listening to music while working, or when you’re reading an advertizing billboard while walking along the street.

The fix

Be selective with what you choose to juggle! For instance, walking and listening are two tasks that complement each other, whereas it can be too hard for the brain to split itself between simultaneously typing and listening.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because something is named “the best advice” doesn’t mean it’s best for you. Looking to find out more about how to boost productivity in your business? Give us a call; we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_AData backup is one of the most important aspects of your company's infrastructure. Without data availability, your business will come to a standstill. So it's bizarre that most business owners fail to have a proper data backup strategy in place - and when disasters strike, it will be too late to act. You really do need to take a proactive approach to backing up your data and keeping your business functioning normally at all times. There are several methods and devices you can use for backing up data - here are some to consider.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data - medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution - or solutions - best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.