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July 18th, 2017

Workplace Analytics is a program that helps managers determine staff productivity levels using data gathered from their email, calendar, documents, and other applications within Office 365. Previously, Microsoft’s MyAnalytics allowed only employees to view their individual data, but with this updated version, managers now have access to this data, too.

How it works

Now available as an add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from Office 365 email, calendar, documents, and Skype. This means that any data an employee types into their email and calendar -- whether it’s on the subject line or the main content itself -- can be used to indicate their productivity status.

The program has an overview dashboard that provides specific information:

  • Week in the Life provides an overall view of how the entire organization spends time and how members collaborate
  • Meetings shows the amount of time spent in meetings
  • Management and Coaching gauges staff-manager one-on-one meetings
  • Network and Collaboration takes a look at how employees connect to colleagues

What does it aim to do?

Workplace Analytics aims to address what, according to Microsoft, are businesses’ most common challenges: complexity, productivity, and engagement.

Using Analytics data, managers and human resources departments can form productivity strategies for the entire company. If, based on Workplace Analytics data, a majority of your employees are spending 60% of their time attending meetings and not enough time doing creative work, they can come up with a strategy that reduces meeting time and focuses more on productive tasks.

It also identifies how employees collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose one of your sales staff frequently communicates with certain contacts. By using Workplace Analytics data, the employee’s manager would be able to determine whether this particular collaboration pattern is helping the employee hit sales targets or whether he or she is missing out on other more critical contacts. Also, based on this info, managers would be able to determine which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Data gathered by Workplace Analytics also allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement (i.e., whether the organization’s collaboration patterns are good for the company) and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

Is it useful for small businesses?

Large corporations have been using Workplace Analytics, but small businesses can also benefit from it. For one, the data used to provide the insights are all based on data generated by employees themselves -- how much time they spend on meetings, whom they frequently communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

Aside from letting managers examine their staff’s working behavior, Workplace Analytics also provides an overall look into what happens at an organizational level. If you want your organization to harness the capabilities of Workplace Analytics and other Office 365 tools, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
July 13th, 2017

The WannaCry ransomware, which infected 200,000 business globally and made over $100,000 in ransom payments, is said to be one of the worst cyber attacks in history. However, a new ransomware strain named Nyetya is shaping up to be a more formidable security threat. It has already affected businesses globally, and security firms and researchers believe it to be stealthier and more sophisticated than WannaCry.

Worse than WannaCry

Nyetya is deemed worse than WannaCry mainly because it spreads laterally, meaning it targets computers within networks and affects even systems that have been patched. Because it also spreads internally, it needs to infect only one device to affect several others within a single network.

Cyber researchers trace its origins to a tax accounting software called MEDoc, which infected 12,500 systems in Ukraine. Since the initial infections in June, it has spread to thousands of networks in 64 countries. And although it hasn’t spread as fast as WannaCry, it might have a wider reach soon because it uses three attack pathways to infect a system. It hasn’t made as much money as WannaCry, which is why cyber researchers are concluding that the attacks are not economically motivated.

Don’t pay the ransom

Cyber security firms and researchers strongly recommend affected businesses to avoid paying the ransom. According to them, paying the ransom would be a waste since the infected user won’t be able to receive a decryption key to unlock their files or systems. This is because the email provider has blocked the email address on the ransomware message.

Although it operates like a ransomware -- locking hard drives and files and demands a $300 ransom in Bitcoin -- it functions more as a wiperware that aims to permanently wipe out data and/or destroy systems. So far, it has affected big-name multinationals in various industries, including Merck, Mondelez International, and AP Moller-Maersk, among others.

Perform backups and update outdated security patches

The only way businesses can be protected is by performing backups and staying on top of patch updates.

It’s safe to say that in case of a Nyetya attack, there’s no chance of getting back your data. In such a scenario, you would have only your backup files -- whether on an external storage or in the cloud -- to fall back on. But backing up is not enough; you should also ensure that your backups are working, which you can do by testing them regularly. Given the nature of Nyetya, you should also make sure that your backups are stored off-site and disconnected from your network.

Like its predecessor, Nyetya exploited vulnerabilities in unpatched Microsoft-run computers. As a business owner, make it a part of your cyber security routine to update your systems with the latest security patches, or risk having your files or systems permanently corrupted.

As a business owner whose operations’ lifeline depends on critical files, your backups are your insurance. If your systems’ network security needs another layer of protection, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic Security
July 11th, 2017

Everyone wishes there were more minutes in a day. Between repetitive emails and seemingly endless meetings, it’s hard to find time for important tasks. Thanks to the increasing affordability of enterprise-level IT however, SMBs can start getting at least half of those problems under control with email automation.

What is email automation?

Usually included in customer relationship management (CRM) software, email automation centers around the idea of combining your business data into emails to customers and prospects. This allows you to draft templates with placeholders for names, addresses, and other variables that the platform will match with individuals from your email list.

Even better however, is personalizing how and when your emails go out to clients. Automatically inserting customer data into an email is great, but it still requires that you draft the content that surrounds it and hit Send. Email automation grants you the ability to create templated emails that are automatically merged with client data and sent when certain conditions are met.

Examples of email automation

To really get an idea of how valuable this solution is, it’s important to see what it looks like in action. Say you own an eCommerce site that sells complementary goods, like golf clubs and golf balls. You could create a campaign wherein anytime someone buys a set of clubs, pre-written emails automatically go out one month later on how high-quality golf balls improve your handicap.

You’re not limited to two-step workflows either. Take a look at this example:

  • Step 1: Send a personalized email with a special offer on golf balls for existing customers.
  • Step 2: Send a follow-up based on how customers interacted with the offer email:
    • If a customer cashed in the offer, send a thank you email.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with a similar offer three months later.
    • If a customer visited the promo page but didn’t convert, send a promo email for another type of product, like golf bags.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with either a thank you email or another promo for golf clothes.
    • If a customer didn’t even open the email, send a survey email asking about their interests.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with email campaigns based on what they selected.
Email automation means there’s no need to micromanage your customer relationships. As long as you define the path to purchase for high-volume products, you can program workflows to nurture customers and prospects automatically.

For as little as a couple hundred bucks a month, your customer outreach campaigns can compete on the same level as your corporate counterparts with little effort from your team. Add in an expert IT provider and you have the ability to blow the competition out of the water. To learn more, contact us today!

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic business
July 6th, 2017

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing growth. For the longest time, many believed that they had to purchase workstations with its own processing power, RAM, and hard drive. But thanks to virtualization, companies can save money and get the computing processes they need with thin and zero clients.

What are thin and zero clients? Thin clients are stripped-down computers with minimum processing power and memory. They rely on a basic operating system and a network connection to access a more powerful system where almost all computing processes take place.

Zero clients work the same way. The only difference is that there’s no local storage or operating system installed on the device; all the software, storage, and processing power sits on a server until you need it. This setup makes it ideal for cutting costs, and here’s why.

Reduced hardware costs When it comes to upfront costs, thin and zero clients are the obvious choice. Conventional desktops start at $300 per user, while thin clients can go for as low as $90 per user. And since they have no hard drive or other moving parts, lean devices tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan than their traditional counterparts.

Simplified IT management Another benefit of thin clients is that they can be managed from a server. Suppose a new software update was released. Instead of manually downloading the patch on each computer, you can simply install the update on your server and roll it out to all thin clients. Apart from upgrades, you can make backups, security configurations, and application deployments in the data center. This quickens setup, reduces downtime, and increases employee productivity.

Minimized security risks Thin clients also help you avoid costly malware attacks and data breach incidents. Your employees and poorly managed endpoints are the biggest vulnerabilities with traditional desktops. Thin and zero clients reduce these problems by limiting direct access to the operating system. This prevents employees from copying sensitive data to removable media and installing software, malicious or otherwise.

If your thin client is damaged or corrupted, you don’t have to worry about your data, as it’s originally stored in an impenetrable server.

Decreased energy consumption Because processing is done locally, traditional desktops generate a lot of heat and require more power, which results in huge power and cooling bills at the end of the month. By contrast, thin and zero clients consume only 4-6.5 watts of power, almost 1/50th of thick client requirements. What’s more, they require little to no cooling, allowing you to enjoy significant cost savings.

When looking for cost-cutting solutions, thin and zero clients should never be overlooked. The reduced hardware costs, power bills, and security risks are just too good to pass up. But if you’re still unsure about this technology, give us a call. We’ll assess your tech needs and determine whether or not thin or zero clients can help you succeed.

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic Hardware
June 29th, 2017

If you wished Microsoft would streamline its Office 365 ProPlus update schedule, your prayers have been answered. The cloud solution, which includes the Enterprise E3 and E5 plans, will be updated twice a year, rather than three times a year. Here’s everything you need to know about the new ProPlus update schedule.

Why the new schedule?

Feedback has almost always been Microsoft’s impetus to make changes of any kind, and this is no exception. The software giant wanted to simplify the update process and improve coordination between Office 365 and Windows, and the new schedule should handle both of those aims.

This is particularly helpful for those using Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE). SPE was bundled with Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, meaning subscribers had to deal with two separate upgrades prior to the new schedule. Moving forward, things will be simplified as a single update twice a year will suffice.

What else changed?

Microsoft is extending support for ProPlus from 12 months per update to 18 months. This means you can technically update once or twice a year, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

They’ve also changed the following terminology used in their updates:

  • Current Channel → Monthly Channel
  • First Release for Deferred Channel → Semi-annual Channel (Pilot)
  • Deferred Channel → Semi-annual Channel (Broad)
The Semi-annual Channel (Pilot) and Semi-annual Channel (Broad) describe the twice-a-year feature updates and how they will be deployed: the former to be used as deployment testing and the latter for actual deployment to an organization’s users.

When will the first ProPlus upgrade be released under the new schedule?

The first Pilot channel will be available on September 12, 2017, the same day as that month’s Patch Tuesday. The first Broad channel will be available four months later on January 9, 2018, also on a Patch Tuesday.

The second release will bring a new Pilot on March 13, 2018 and a new Broad on July 10, 2018.

Can you skip a ProPlus features upgrade?

While you can in fact choose only to upgrade once a year, you will eventually have to conduct a second upgrade to get the most up-to-date support. Microsoft is giving you two months of overlap in the next update to do this.

So, say your firm deploys the Broad channel in January 2018, but skips the July 2018 upgrade, you would have to upgrade within the two-month span between January 2019 and March 2019 to be eligible for the latest support.

What happened to the ProPlus upgrade for June 2017?

Microsoft released new Deferred Channel and First Release for Deferred Channel upgrades on June 13, 2017. You will have three months to conduct enterprise pilots and validate applications with this upgrade before the final Deferred Channel release on September 12, 2017. The last Deferred Channel will be supported until July 10, 2018.

Changes to the support life cycle of Office 365 ProPlus will ultimately save you time and reduce the hassles of conducting upgrades. That said, it might take some time getting used to the new schedule and nomenclature, so if you have any questions about Office 365 or the new schedule, just give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
June 27th, 2017

When we write about how antivirus software isn’t enough to keep you safe from malware, it’s not just scare tactics. There are so many ways hackers can break into your system that antivirus solutions will never catch. For a real-world example, look no further than the router exploit kit recently leaked from the CIA.

The Wikileaks CIA documents

For several months, the notorious website famous for leaking government data has been rolling out information it obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency. The documents detail top-secret surveillance projects from 2013 to 2016 and mainly cover cyber espionage.

In the most recent release, documents describe government-sponsored methods and programs used to exploit home, office, and public wireless routers for both tracking internet browsing habits and remotely accessing files stored on devices that connect to compromised networks.

Is my router one of them?

According to the documents, 25 models of wireless routers from 10 different manufacturers were being exploited by the CIA. They weren’t off-brand budget devices either; the list includes devices from some of the biggest names in wireless networking:
  • Netgear
  • Linksys
  • Belkin
  • D-Link
  • Asus
Those brands account for over a third of wireless routers on the market, which means there’s a good chance you’re at risk.

After WannaCry used a previous CIA leak to fuel its global spread, you need to worry about more than just being a target of government espionage too. Over the past few years, almost all of these leaks have quickly made their way into criminal hands.

Patching vulnerabilities

Fixing security gaps in hardware is tricky business, especially when they’re mainly used to monitor rather than corrupt. In most cases, there will be no visual cues or performance problems to indicate your hardware has been infected. As such, you should plan on regularly updating the software on your hardware devices whenever possible.

Accessing your router's software interface isn’t a user-friendly experience for non-IT folks. Usually, to access it, you need to visit the manufacturer’s website and log in with the administrator username and password. If these are still set to the default “admin” and “password” make sure to change them.

Once logged in, navigate through the settings menus until you find the Firmware Update page. Follow the instructions and confirm that the firmware has been properly installed.

The CIA’s router leaks were vague, so we’re not even sure how recent they are. We are fairly certain, however, that all of the manufacturers have since patched the vulnerabilities. Regardless, updating your router’s firmware will protect from a number of cyber security risks. If you’re unable to finish the task on your own, one of our technicians can fix it, as well as any other firmware vulnerabilities, in a matter hours. All you need to do is call!

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic Security
June 23rd, 2017

As machine learning, digital storage, and analytics software get more advanced, data is becoming more valuable than ever. Even businesses that don’t rely on data to operate are starting to find ways to get more value out of their information. Microsoft’s newest platform is an excellent example of that -- and it’s free!

What is Power BI?

Released in the spring of 2016, Power BI is Microsoft’s business analytics platform. Regardless of whether or not data is stored within a Microsoft platform, connecting Power BI to a database allows you to create detailed graphs, charts, maps, and more. For example, if you upload sales records, dragging and dropping two columns is all it takes to map out where your product sees the most demand.

Recently, Microsoft announced a brand new feature for business owners who want to get more value out of their software subscriptions. The Office 365 adoption content pack collects information about how your employees use Microsoft productivity software, and feeds it directly into Power BI’s analytics. There are four types of insights you can work with:

Adoption

These metrics give you visibility into how much each O365 platform is being used. You may be paying for OneDrive accounts for the entire organization, only for Power BI to reveal that less than a quarter of your team is using it. Compare enabled users and active users to get a clearer picture of your investments.

Communication

You can also see exactly how employees are using communication solutions. If nearly everyone on the team is accessing Skype for Business from a mobile data connection, it might be time to reduce your investments in cellular-based minutes.

Collaboration

Microsoft has several collaboration platforms, and without proper guidance, employees are likely to use the easiest one rather than the best one. Power BI shows you how much time users spend time in their own Word, PowerPoint, and SharePoint documents compared to the time they spend in documents from colleagues. This shows you which platforms encourage the most collaboration and which ones are struggling.

Activation

- The activation insights give you under-the-hood visibility into which versions of O365 users are running, and what devices they use to access them. That may seem like trivial information, but it can have huge impacts on cyber security.

Power BI comes in three different plans: Desktop, Pro, and Premium. Best of all, both the Desktop plan and the Office 365 adoption content pack are totally free. If you like what you see, consider enlisting us to set up and optimize either a Pro or Premium Power BI deployment -- we’re only a phone call away!

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic business
June 21st, 2017

Power outages caused by utility failure, accidents, and natural disasters such as storms, flooding, or earthquakes are inevitable. There’s very little you can do to prevent any of these from happening, but you can avoid the consequences to your business by using an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

What is an uninterruptible power supply?

An uninterruptible power supply is an essential piece of hardware that protects both your computer and your data. It provides a backup power source in case of main power failures caused by electrical current problems such as blackouts, brownouts, and power spikes.

Smaller UPS units can protect individual computers while larger models can power multiple devices or an entire office. Small businesses can opt for individual UPS units, which should be enough to back up critical computers and other devices that are key to business continuity.

Benefits of having UPS

It’s a known fact that power outages can damage or completely destroy electronic equipment, especially computers. Unexpected computer shutdown can cause great damage to your computer hardware and make you lose unsaved data. A UPS ensures you never experience such a scenario.

Here are other ways that a UPS benefits your systems:

  • Uninterrupted power flow during power surges

When you have UPS, the voltage that passes from the main electrical lines to your devices is consistently stabilized. This protects your computers from power surges, which happen when the voltage in other equipment suddenly rises.
  • Refined and filtered power supply

It normalizes power levels so that your computers are protected against dips and spikes caused by lightning or an abnormal power supply that usually comes from restored power after a blackout.
  • Instant power during brownouts

An uninterruptible power supply guarantees your operations’ continuity. In the event of short-term interruptions, it gives you enough time to switch to a larger, more stable power supply such as a generator. But unlike a generator, it provides instant power to your equipment at the exact moment the power goes out.

Does your business need a UPS?

If you’re purchasing new computers for your small business, a UPS is an invaluable add-on. Businesses that require constant power to function such as hospitals, banks, academic institutions, manufacturing companies, and any business for which storing and processing data are critical tasks can benefit from uninterrupted power.

Determining the type of UPS for your business as well as installing and maintaining it may require the expertise of professionals. We have experts who could provide you with information on properly operating a UPS, replacing its battery, identifying devices that should never be connected to it, and other safety tips. Call us today for advice.

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic Hardware
June 14th, 2017

By now, you’re probably familiar with popular Office 365 productivity features like Skype for Business, and real-time collaboration in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You might even remember a few time-saving keyboard shortcuts that will make your Office 365 experience a lot smoother. But even after all that, there’s still much to learn about Office 365. Here are some more tricks that can boost your productivity.

Declutter your inbox If you’re having trouble managing the overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox, then using Office 365’s “Clutter” feature can clear up some space. To enable this feature go to Settings > Options > Mail > Automatic processing > Clutter then select Separate items identified as Clutter. Once activated, you need to mark any unwanted messages as “clutter” to teach Office 365. After learning your email preferences, Office 365 will automatically move low-priority messages into your “Clutter” folder, helping you focus on more important emails.

Ignore group emails Are you copied on a long email thread you don’t want to be part of? If so, simply go to the message and find the Ignore setting. Doing this will automatically move future reply-alls to the trash so they never bother you again. Of course, if you ever changed your mind, you could un-ignore the message: Just find the email in your trash folder and click Stop ignoring.

Unsend emails In case you sent a message to the wrong recipient or attached the wrong file, Office 365 has a message recall function. To use this, open your sent message, click Actions, and select Recall this message. From here, you can either “Delete unread copies of this message” or “Delete unread copies and replace with a new message.” Bear in mind that this applies only to unread messages and for Outlook users within the same company domain.

Work offline Whenever you’re working outside the office or in an area with unstable internet, it’s a good idea to enable Offline Access. Found under the Settings menu, this feature allows you to continue working on documents offline and syncs any changes made when you have an internet connection. Offline access is also available in your SharePoint Online document libraries.

Use Outlook plugins Aside from sending and receiving emails, Outlook also has some awesome third-party plugins. Some of our favorite integrations include PayPal, which allows you to send money securely via email; and Uber, which lets you set up an Uber ride reminder for any calendar event. Find more of productivity-boosting plugins in the Office Store.

Tell Office applications what to do If you’re not a fan of sifting through menus and options, you can always take advantage of the Tell Me function in your Office 2016 apps. When you press Alt + Q, you bring up a search bar that allows you to look for the functions you need. Suppose you need to put a wall of text into columns on Word but can’t find where it is specifically. Just type ‘column’ and Microsoft will help you with the rest.

These tricks and features themselves will definitely increase productivity. And fortunately, there’s, there’s more coming. Microsoft continues to expand Office 365’s capabilities, and if you truly want to make the most out of the software, don’t be afraid to explore its newly released features.

For more Office 365 tips and updates, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
June 12th, 2017

Last October, Pinterest launched its first paid advertising service, “Promoted Pins,” which is geared toward large enterprises. Recently, a similar product named “DIY Promoted Pins” was released for small- and medium-sized businesses. This shows how popular social media has become in helping to establish an online presence for your business, and here are some tips to get you started.

Know your audience According to a study conducted by Ahalogy and AcuPOLL Precision Research, Inc., Pinterest is largely used by women, mostly “Millennial Moms.” If your typical customer demographic is predominantly male, your marketing efforts would probably be better spent elsewhere. But if your business caters to women between the ages 15-29, you should consider creating an online presence on Pinterest.

Think like a content marketer Users are looking for engaging content, which is why 59% of active Pinterest users go for Pins that lead to blog posts, articles, and even photos. The most popular topics on the platform are more visual (e.g., food, fashion, decor, etc.), so if you don't have highly visual content, then infographics, images from blog entries, and even photos of staff members also do the trick.

Look for inspiration Getting stuck in a creative rut happens to the best of us, so check out the boards that are saving your Pins to get some fresh insight. There's a good chance that people saving your Pins have related content that can help you gain insight into what your typical customer is interested in. Not only that, it also helps you identify trends and come up with new ideas for a marketing campaign.

Categorize your boards By creating and properly labeling multiple boards -- one for each of your products or services -- your users are able to engage not only with your general content but also with content they’re more interested in.

Determine posting frequency Excessive pinning might overwhelm or simply annoy your audience, but not pinning enough might cause followers to lose interest. Create a posting schedule and gauge audience reaction before making any changes to the frequency of Pins.

In order to surpass the stiff competition, you’ll need all the help you can get, and that includes social media marketing. If you have any questions about Pinterest and how it can help your business grow, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from Why SMBs should use Google Posts. Source.

Topic Social Media