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March 5th, 2015

young businessman looking at computer screenWhen it comes to the most widely used operating system, Windows 7 is at the top of the list. In addition to its functionality and business-oriented programs, Windows 7 has many useful features that are unknown to general users who only care about word processing and Internet browsing. These features are very handy and they are right under your nose! Check out these Windows 7 features that will help improve your business performance.

Snipping Tool

While there are many simple screen capturing programs out there, Windows 7 has its Snipping Tool to make screenshots easier. With Snipping Tool, you can take 4 types of screenshots - free-form, rectangular, window, and full screen. So when you come across a great scene in A YouTube video or want to share some screenshots with your friends, simply use Snipping Tool to get the job done. You can even showcase the important parts with the highlight pen function, and you can save the picture in HTML, JPEG, GIF, and PNG formats.

Extended calculator

Calculator has always been a basic but crucial application on smartphone devices and computers. Even if you’re already relying on specific software to analyze data, it’s always handy to have a simple calculator program nearby to help you with the math. Everyone knows that Windows 7 has a calculator, but this specific calculator has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Under the View tab, you’ll find a bunch of powerful unit conversions, including scientific units. It can also do special calculations for programmers and for statistical needs. Don’t take our word for it; go check it out for yourself.

Sticky Notes

Tired of pasting post-it notes all over your computer screen? Sticky Notes allow you to record texts to virtually remind you about important tasks or events. Run a search in the Start menu to find this feature in the Accessories folder. You can create as many notes as you like, color-coded for your convenience. Have an important meeting coming up? Use the red notes. Want to list places for your holiday plans? Put them in the bright yellow one. This tool works well for those who have a busy schedule and always need something to remind them what’s going on.

Taskbar Pins

If you need to access certain programs or folders on a daily basis, then pinning it to your taskbar can be a real time-saver. Simply click and drag your programs to an empty space on the taskbar to keep them close at hand. While you can’t place a folder on the taskbar, you can pin it to the Jump List, accessible via right-clicking on the leftmost folder near the start menu.

You might already be familiar with some of these simple yet effective tools, but it pays to be reminded that you can use them to assist you with your everyday tasks.

Want to learn how to integrate Windows 7 to boost your business productivity? Get in touch with us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 4th, 2015

Sec C 164Are you concerned about internet security? Did you know there are a few simple ways to get increased protection that require only minimal investment of time? We’re not just talking about changing your passwords regularly or installing antivirus software. There are a few other methods that are less often talked about - here are three tips to boost your internet security that you might not have thought of yet.

Embrace two-factor authentication

Also known as two-step verification, most of us have likely dealt with this at one time or another. When you’re logging onto your bank’s website or your email account from a different computer than you normally use, you’re sometimes prompted for a one-time password - sent to you via text message, email or via some other method.

Nowadays, many sites such as Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter also give you the option to use two-factor authentication each time you log in. So if you’re looking for an easy way to up your security, it can give you that extra protection without slowing you down too much.

Update browsers and devices

Did you know that dated versions of browsers, operating systems and even other software packages can create an easy entry point for hackers? Often, new updates are created specifically to fix security holes. And hackers are ever aware that people can be lazy - saving that update for another day that never seems to come. They’ll often try to take advantage of this, searching for outdated devices to infiltrate while their victims watch Youtube on last year’s version of Firefox.

Yes, installing an update might take 15 minutes of your time. But it can pay dividends in preventing a security breach that could cost you or your business thousands.

Use HTTPs

When was the last time you typed those letters into a browser? Probably not this decade. It’s no wonder most people are unaware of this tip. So for those who are oblivious, https is the secure version of http - hypertext transfer protocol. Believe it or not, that last “s” actually adds an extra layer of protection. It encrypts information sent, both ways, between a website’s server and you.

You’re probably thinking, adding that last “s” to http (or even typing in http in general) is a complete pain in the rear. So to make this easier you can actually install a program like “HTTPS Everywhere” that’ll automatically switch an http into an https for you. Currently “HTTPS Everywhere” is available for Firefox, Chrome and Opera.

Looking for more tips to boost your internet security? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 3rd, 2015

Productivity_Mar3_CEmail is not your job. Repeat: email is not your job. Too many of us spend our days slaving over our inboxes, while our real jobs get neglected and we sacrifice the opportunity to be truly productive. But there is a solution, and it starts not with the message itself but with the subject line. By keeping your email subject lines short, focused and consistently structured, both you and your recipient can identify which emails warrant which action. And that means you both spend less time battling with your inbox and free up more precious time to get on with what you’re really paid to do. Embrace a culture of email efficiency in your workplace with these three tips for more productive email subject lines.

Specific subjects spell success

If someone sends you an email that’s headed simply with the word “report”, how are you meant to know what they want from you? Do they need you to write a new report, proofread one they’ve already written, or print a report for them? You inevitably start reading the email without the first idea of what it is you’re being asked to do.

In an ideal situation, when you receive a new email you want to know in an instant - just from the subject line - what the message is about. And that is something you should make possible for recipients of your own emails too. So structure your subject line using keywords - for instance, change that “Report” to “Sales Report for February 2015”. Better still, give your colleague all they need to know at a glance - “Draft Sales Report for February 2015 by Monday, 1pm” - so that the body of the message is preserved for you to get down to details as succinctly as possible.

Use prefixes and suffixes

Another simple way to help your recipient understand at a glance what you need from them - and to make it easier for them to categorize their incoming emails, too - is to specify right in the subject line what type of message it is that you are sending them. Emails come in all shapes and sizes, and by placing a prefix before or a suffix after your main subject line, you’ll get quicker results.

For instance, if your email needs a definitive response from the recipient, start it with “ACTION:” followed by the subject. An example would be “ACTION: Draft Sales Report for February 2015 by Monday, 1pm”. If, on the other hand, you are simply dropping your colleagues a quick notification that the printer is out of order, you can use one or both of “FYI” (for your information) and “NRN” (no reply needed). For example: “FYI: Printer out of order until further notice” or “NRN: Printer out of order until further notice.”

You can take this one stop further. If you can get your entire message across in the subject line alone, then that’s exactly what you should aim to do. That way, your colleague can read the subject line, add the task to their to-do list and delete it straight out of their inbox. To quickly signal that there’s nothing in the email body, you can suffix your subject line with “EOM” (end of message) - for example, “FYI: Printer out of order until further notice. EOM”.

Keep it consistent

These tricks will only help you beat a never-ending inbox if they’re adopted and applied consistently across your organization. Make them a part of your company’s basic IT training, and encourage your staff to use them in their own work and to pull up others who fall back into bad habits. They may be skeptical at first, but they’ll soon jump on the bandwagon once they start to realize how much less time they spend managing their email account!

Think too about introducing standardized formats for subjects of emails you and your teams send on a recurring basis. For example, if you regularly send reports around for review, prefix your subject line with “Report for Review:”, followed by the topic of the report. Or if your employees send you a weekly update on their workstreams, have them title it “Weekly Update:” followed by the date. That way, you can set up filters in your inbox and have those emails smartly stored in one place, ready for you to look through when the time is right, rather than clogging up your inbox and making it look like you have more urgent tasks to complete than you actually do.

Want to learn how to use email systems efficiently to boost your firm’s productivity? Chat to us today about the innovative email solutions we can provide.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 2nd, 2015

Trouble aheadDisasters can happen at any time, which is why it is important for your company to have a business continuity plan. In the event your business gets hit with an unforeseen disaster, you’ll be able to minimize damage, downtime, and impact to your business operations. If you don’t have a contingency plan to protect valuable data and technology, you may face serious consequences, the worst of which is shutting down your business for good.

Relevant factors such as your business’s resources, location, suppliers, customers, and employees must be carefully analyzed before a business continuity plan can be formed. It is also necessary to test the plan and check whether it’s working or not. Here are some proven methods to test your continuity plan’s efficiency.

Review the BCP

You have a business continuity plan ready with all the necessary information, contingency locations, personnel, contacts and service companies. The question is can you really pull it off? Have the plan reviewed regularly, or at least quarterly. Gather a team of individuals, heads of departments and managers to discuss the plan. Focus on the business continuity plan’s feasibility and pinpoint any areas where it might be strengthened.

Determine time and duration to test the plan

You should decide how often you test your business continuity plan, and for how long. Even if you have a solid plan in place, it’s still wise to review it again after a few months. Come up with a schedule for testing the plan and share it with employees. Testing time may take anywhere from one day to two weeks. However it can also take as little as three hours to determine the effectiveness of the plan by monitoring employees’ responses and decision-making abilities, based on the guidelines of the business continuity plan.

Outline objectives to employees

Most business continuity plans fail because they have never been properly relayed to employees. Emphasizing the plan’s importance to your business and demonstrating it to employees is crucial. You need to outline objectives for the business continuity test to your employees, informing them how you plan to measure its success and failure, so that they get a general idea of their roles and your expectations.

Create a scenario

Create a fake scenario that affects your business - whether it’s setting off fire alarms or announcing another disaster. Employees should act as though the scenario is genuine, and refer to their duties in the business continuity plan, going through it step by step. Monitor the time it takes to get everything under control, from contacting customers to checking business resources and temporary meeting locations.

Evaluation

After the business continuity plan is put to test, gather your employees to discuss the plan’s overall performance. Identify where it needs improvement and encourage the parts that worked best. Make changes to key persons and actions where necessary, to ensure that the continuity plan is working at its best.

Having a business continuity plan is good, but testing it regularly is equally important. Contact us today and see how we can help you cope with unexpected disasters.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 25th, 2015

Cloud 3_164Are you tired of hearing all the hype about the Cloud revolution? Do you just want to know what the deal is with this IT service? Will it really help your business gain profit and increase efficiency? If you’re sick of all the fluff surrounding Cloud Computing, read on. We’ll unveil its true value and how you can effectively integrate it into your business.

You might say that many businesses sign up for the Cloud because it is touted as a revolutionary technology. And if you’re one of those that has already hopped on the bandwagon, you may actually be among the soon-to-be disappointed.

The reasoning behind this is simple. Businesses who get the most out of the Cloud know which specific problems it will solve for their organization before they even sign up. They know which workflows and tasks can benefit from, and have their efficiency boosted by, Cloud technologies. And they’ve identified how the Cloud can rewire their work processes.

The true purpose of the Cloud

Did you catch the word “efficiency” in the block of text above? If you did, then you’ve identified the true value the Cloud brings to a business. Don’t believe the hype that the Cloud will somehow magically boost your bottom line. Although it has that potential, the Cloud is all about efficiency. It can save you time searching for important documents, updating software, and replacing documents stored on a lost laptop. And it enhances efficiency and collaboration among your staff. What's more, when your business is in the Cloud, your business is everywhere. And that means increased efficiency.

Where businesses go wrong with the Cloud

Besides jumping on the Cloud bandwagon without considering where it can benefit your business, a major reason the Cloud fails for SMBs is because they’ve chosen the wrong vendor. The truth is, some vendors are going to try and oversell you on Cloud services you don’t need. Instead of getting a whole suite of Cloud services such as software plugins, a new Cloud infrastructure and development platforms, maybe your business would benefit much more by just keeping it simple with Google Apps. Sometimes pork and potatoes are going to beat a steak. It really just depends on your objectives.

Secondly, if you’re a small business, make sure the IT provider you’re talking to caters to small businesses. If their target customers are large enterprises, you’re likely going to be overpaying for a service that doesn’t align with your business model.

Does the Cloud really add value to my business?

Have no doubt that the Cloud can improve efficiency if you know where to implement it. A study of 757 SMBs by Exact and the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research found that one in five SMBs surveyed had implemented Cloud technologies, and 78% of those were operating at levels above industry standards.

In conclusion, is adapting the Cloud going to instantly start making you money? Likely not. But it will impact your business in other valuable ways for the long run. You’ll have increased flexibility, scalability, improved processes and streamlined workflow. Is all this good for business? Well, what do you think?

To figure out how the Cloud can effectively fit into your business model, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 23rd, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb23_CYou’ve been waffling around on social media for months, hoping to get that increased spike in business you’ve heard rumors about. But after storming out of the gates, signing up for Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and others, you’ve seen little by way of results - and have less than a few hundred social media followers to show for it. Not to worry, there are some proven strategies that will leave you smacking your forehead and wondering why you didn’t think of them. Read on for some sensible social media tips that will get your business rolling.

Undoubtedly, the most important strategy to use in your social media plan is...to have a strategy to begin with. Know how much time you can dedicate to social media, block out the hours to focus on it and don’t waste that time checking out friends’ vacation photos or celebrity twitter feeds.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re going to waste time posting irrelevant updates that won’t engage with your audience. To help you plan an effective social media strategy, here are three crucial tips to get you off on the right foot.

Initially focus on the big three

Most social media experts agree that the three platforms that generate the most business leads, engagement and brand exposure are Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. When you’re getting started, your efforts should be primarily focused on these three. After you’ve gained followings here, then you can start forging paths into YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest amongst others.

Post at prime exposure times

Studies have shown that around lunch and dinner time are ideal posting times (since everyone is uploading photos of their meals). As for which days, many marketers agree your posts are most likely to get noticed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So these are the times to deliver those high-impact messages you’ve been randomly shooting out.

Find the value in your post

On social media, you should always be focused on selling your services, right? Wrong. Only 15% of your posts should concern news about your business and its products. The other 85% should focus on providing fun, valuable and timely content.

When you create a new post, you should ask yourself what’s in it for the customer. What do they get from reading it? Seriously, why is someone going to share your post or talk about your business unless it adds value to their life? Think about the posts you share personally. Do they provide value to your friends and family? We’re guessing the answer is yes.

For more tips on how social media can create buzz for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 20th, 2015

VMware_Feb20_CIn this era of ever-increasing technological advancement, many businesses have done away with their traditional ways of storing data and decided to go virtual, in order to save on maintenance costs and improve efficiency. There are many different types of software that get the job done, but for businesses that expect high standards, VMware is a global leader in virtualization software. VMware has developed the all-new vSphere 6 to take virtualization up a notch. Let’s take a look at vSphere 6 and what it has to offer your business.

What is vSphere 6?

After three years of development, VMware has finally released vSphere 6, the latest version of its virtualization platform. vSphere 6 is a cloud system that turns physical resources into virtual ones. It also allows users to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer. The new vSphere 6 is equipped with new capabilities to suit the needs of business users.

What are its new features?

vSphere was recently updated to version 6 and, along with the update, a number of new features were added that could prove useful for businesses.
  • Content Library - This new function enables users to store virtual machine templates, applications, ISO images and script into a centralized management tool of vSphere, the vCenter. It is very useful when you need to install files or maintain your infrastructure. With Content Library, you can keep everything in one place, allowing easy access when needed.
  • vMotion - Migrating data can be one of the most daunting tasks for administrators. With vMotion, you can move an active virtual server from one physical server to another without downtime. vMotion will retain the network’s connections and perform non-disruptive live migration with a high speed network connection. The whole process takes merely seconds to execute, so users won’t even notice that the server has been moved!
  • Fault Tolerance - On those rare occasions when your company is facing power outage, the damage can be severe. vSphere 6’s Fault Tolerance protects up to 4 virtual CPUs and allows your applications to keep running in the event of server failures. This feature ensures zero downtime and prevents data loss. Fault Tolerance is needed for applications that require continuous protection.
  • NVIDIA GRID vGPU - VMware partners with NVIDIA to bring high-quality graphics to their virtual machines. GRID vGPU provides exceptional graphics when sharing desktops and applications on a virtual server. In the past some applications were impractical to use on a virtual server, due to their need for high-quality graphics cards. But GRID vGPU can bring those applications to life on a virtual platform without the need to install a high-end graphics card.
The new vSphere 6 packs in a whole load of new features and innovations that will bolster many enterprises’ virtual performance. If you’re interested in integrating VMware into your business, contact us today to find out how.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VMWare
February 18th, 2015

Security_Feb18_CWhatever services and systems we use to share, store or transfer personal and business information online, we want the reassurance that our data is safe and that everything possible is done to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. But we also know that security breaches happen, as they did with the large-scale celebrity photo leaks in 2014. Since then, Apple platforms in particular have been prevalent in discussions about the security of such platforms - but Apple is now seeking to bolster its security defenses with the launch of a two-step authentication feature for the FaceTime and iMessage applications.

After the fall-out from the celebrity photo leaks, Apple extended the two-step authentication process (also known as two-step verification) to iCloud, the online storage platform at the center of the scandal. The feature was initially introduced only to the user IDs for access to Apple accounts; the motivation for the launch of that extra security measure was the hacking of a journalist’s data back in 2013. But what is two-step authentication and how does it work to protect your data?

The premise behind two-step authentication, which experts recommend all businesses implement as part of their security strategy, is actually pretty simple. Usernames and passwords are all too easily stolen by malicious parties, whether by phishing emails or a more sophisticated hacking attack. So, rather than typing just your username and password to access your account, the password is teamed up with a four-digit verification code which is newly and uniquely generated each time you attempt to access your account.

The verification code is delivered by text message (meaning that to use the two-step verification feature, you’ll need to have a cellphone to receive the SMS on). As a result, even if a hacker manages to get hold of your password, unless they also have your phone by their side then they won’t be getting into your account. This authentication method is already used by organizations around the world including banks, mobile service providers and other companies who recognize the added layer of security that it brings. And now you can give yourself the same level of protection to ensure that only you can FaceTime your family and send iMessages to your friends.

Fear not, there’s a backup plan to ensure that you can still access your accounts if you happen to forget your password or if something happens to your phone so you can longer receive authentication codes. Apple also provides you with a 14-character recovery key that will get you back in if all else fails. To enable two-step authentication for your FaceTime and iMessage applications, login to your Apple ID account, select Password and Security and then click Get Started under Two-Step Verification.

To find out more about using two-step verification and other security measures to protect your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 17th, 2015

Productivity_Feb12_CThink your tablet is only useful for your favorite Youtube videos, social media updates, or handheld gaming? Think again. Since their introduction, tablets have been synonymous with entertainment but, when properly incorporated into your business, they can boost productivity and help your business thrive. For SMBs, adapting tablets into your work environment can even open up new business opportunities.

You already know that tablets are flexible in use, portable, and make great devices for entertainment. But you can make your tablet contribute much more to your business practices too; it’s just a matter of selecting the right applications and accessories to get the job done. Here are some strategies to turn your tablet into a powerful productivity tool.

Out with the games

Yes, we use tablets to play games; from typical Angry Birds to the RAM-consuming Assassin’s Creed. But for the sake of your business you need to get rid of all such distractions. Burying the games in folders won’t help when you know they’re there. So if you don’t want to waste your time and are keen to be be more productive, delete the games!

In with the work-friendly apps

The pre-installed apps such as calendar, calculator, email, clock/timer are all useful tools you'll want to have at hand. These are great for quick information checking. But your tablet has the potential to do more than telling you the time or helping with numbers. Just head over to the app store, browse through over a million available apps and take your pick. Here are a few popular ones to get you started:
  • Dropbox - This app lets you store, synchronize, and share files online. You can gain access to your files or share them with your colleagues anywhere, anytime. And what’s more, it’s safe! With Dropbox installed, your tablet becomes a powerful device that enables you to bring up anything you might need for references while working. Alternatives include Google Drive and OneDrive.
  • Skype - Most businesses are starting to take advantage of the features Skype offers. Need to discuss something with your teammates? You can get in touch with them by using the instant messaging or group call features. Skype also allows you to share files with your colleagues with a simple drag-and-drop function.
  • iWork - If you're an iPad aficionado you'll find that iWork boosts your productivity, with three combined apps - Keynote, Numbers and Pages - that can act as your entire office suite whether you're in the office, at home or on the road.

Organize your home screen

You can focus more on work with a well-organized page dedicated solely to productive apps. Make sure all of your work-related apps are on the home screen. The key is to keep the home screen simple and clean. While you can organize it in any way you wish, it’s best to try out a few different schemes before settling on the one you’re most comfortable with.

Get a Bluetooth keyboard

One of the major disadvantages of a tablet is the lack of a physical keyboard. When you need to handle several documents or do a lot of writing, using the tablet’s on-screen keyboard probably isn’t a good idea. Luckily this drawback can be overcome with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. This way you can easily respond to emails or edit documents. So invest in a Bluetooth keyboard to improve your overall tablet experience and productivity. You'll probably find it soon replaces your laptop.

The tablet trend is in town, and many businesses are already benefiting from these devices. But are you ready to take the plunge? Get in touch with us to see how tablets can help your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
February 13th, 2015

BC_164_CAre you prepared for when the unexpected strikes? According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, approximately 25 percent of businesses don’t reopen following a major disaster. The truth is that disasters happen every day, regardless of location or business size - simply switch on the news for proof. So obviously, it’s wise to think ahead and plan for the worst. Here are some ideas to get you ready for a disaster before it hits.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity

While it’s easy to overlook the differences between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, there are actually some key variations you should be aware of.

Disaster recovery is the restoration of business operations and IT infrastructure after a disaster has already occurred. Business continuity, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining business operations and profits throughout a disaster. While disaster recovery is mainly focused on the slice of time immediately following a disaster (how you replace your equipment and restore IT infrastructure asap), business continuity looks at the bigger picture - the continuity of the company as a whole. It ensures you can run your business and maintain profits during the process of recovering from a catastrophe. It generally includes a disaster recovery plan as part of it.

Creating your business continuity plan

The first step in creating your plan is to identify which of your IT assets are vulnerable to disaster. To do this, you need to ask yourself some important questions, starting with what might happen if you were to lose the functionality of a specific asset for a day, a week or even longer. Answering this question will help you identify your most critical IT assets; the ones that are integral to your business operations.

Here are some other important questions to ask when drafting your business continuity plan:

  • What is the purpose of my business continuity plan?
  • What disasters can affect my IT infrastructure?
  • What are my key business areas?
  • Which different business areas, assets and departments depend on each other?
  • What is the longest amount of time I can go without functionality of IT assets?
Once you can answer these, it’s time to start planning. Write down your thoughts, and then contact an IT provider like us for assistance. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours prepare themselves in order to remain operational throughout catastrophes. We can also help you identify potential problems that you may not have thought of.

Need help creating your business continuity plan? Contact us today to see how we can help you stay running and turning profits when disaster hits.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.