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March 2nd, 2015

Trouble aheadBusinesses are exposed to disasters all the time, including IT system failures, power outages, or even natural disasters. These causes will cripple your business unless you have a business continuity plan (BCP) ready. A good BCP allows your business to continue on running everyday operations seamlessly. It makes sure that you can service your customers in a satisfactory manner, even when you’re facing technical issues. Therefore it’s very important to come up with a continuity plan, if you don’t already have one.

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 26th, 2015

Hardware_Feb26_AWearable technology is here to stay - there’s no denying that. Whether it’s Google Glass, watches that monitor heart rate, or jewelry that alerts you to incoming calls and text messages, there is a growing trend for high-tech clothing and accessories, and it represents a growing market. These are the sort of gadgets that can bring innovative technology to your very person, and therefore boost day-to-day productivity in life and business like never before. But since the apparent flop of Google Glass, it seems increasingly likely that Apple’s move to bring its Watch product to market will take time to catch on. Here’s why you might want to hold off jumping on the Apple Watch bandwagon just yet.

The battery dwindles all too quickly

Much like your smartphone - perhaps even more so, in fact - if you buy yourself an Apple Watch then it’s likely you will want it to travel with you everywhere. That means it’s going to be on your wrist, in use and burning through its battery charge, for a good portion of the day. It might not be running at full capacity the whole time, but it’s unlikely to be on complete standby either. You might use it to check the time, the weather, your e-mails. It might sound an alarm when you need to leave the office for a client meeting, display your fitness regime progress at a glance, or help you find directions to the convention you’re attending tomorrow morning.

And while Apple claims its Watch will hold out on you for between three and four days when in one of two standby modes, in truth there’s no way those modes are going to get much use when you’re playing with your brand new toy. In fact, experts believe that with moderate to heavy use you could expect it to begin powering down after just two and a half hours. That’s not much help if you are hoping to use it as a more convenient replacement for your smartphone. Though Apple is rumored to be mulling over a more powerful battery, that will likely be released at some point in the future - in the meantime, less than perfect battery life will be off-putting to potential Watch users.

It’s late to the party

Okay, so Apple has demonstrated before that it can show up after everyone else and still do a great job of ruffling feathers - it certainly wasn’t the first smartphone around, and yet it has managed to do an impressive job of market domination. But Apple’s rivals have been in the smartwatch arena for some time and that means companies like LG, using the Android Wear platform to develop their devices, have the benefit of almost a year of customer feedback behind them. Put simply, they already have more of an idea than Apple as to what consumers are looking for in terms of both design and features. With Apple likely to be playing catch-up for some time, it seems probable that it will be a while before the Apple Watch will become a must-have gadget.

It’s just too Apple - and yet not

Apple has carved a reputation out of devices that sell themselves thanks to killer apps that make them essential purchases. When the idea of the Apple Watch was first touted, it was meant to do the same - a comprehensive fitness regime tracking app that revolutionized your exercise routine would have put it well and truly on the map. Yet technological capability and regulatory compliance appear to have got in the way, and what has made it to market seems to be a watered down version of the dream. Without this, the device looks to be scheduled for release with little to really wow its audience aside from incorporation of the Apple Pay service.

And yet Apple Watch appears to have burned itself on two fronts because, while its apps have failed to impress critics, the distinctive Apple design goes against the grain of industry efforts to make wearable tech look less tech-y. With watches especially, the aim has been to produce devices that look like their traditional, analog cousins, in order to make it feel more socially acceptable to wear them. Nonetheless, having the latest iPhone release has undoubtedly become a status symbol, and Apple’s refusal to rein in its branding could prove to be a worthwhile gamble and make the Apple Watch even more attractive to consumers.

Of course, Apple will count on its legions of fans to make the Watch a success in spite of whatever shortcomings it might have. Wearable technology is certainly here to stay, and the Apple Watch release is a development for both consumers and businesses to keep a close eye on. Though you might want to hold back on the Apple Watch being the productivity boosting device your company has been longing for, it could yet win its way into our technological hearts - you’ll have to watch this space (excuse the pun).

To learn more about the benefits to your business of wearable technology and other hardware solutions, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 25th, 2015

YCloud 1_164ou’ve been thinking about signing up for Cloud services. But you’re skeptical, and lingering questions are still bouncing around your mind. Will the Cloud really help my business? Will it increase profits? What is its true value and purpose? If you still have any doubts about this so-called futuristic technology, read on. We’ll clear up what the Cloud is really all about and how it actually benefits 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 24th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Feb24_ABusiness and technology are increasingly intertwined in today's fast-paced world. What's more, they offer a winning combination to propel your company or organization forward at an incredible pace. That’s why many businesses are now looking into innovations to take their productivity and competitiveness to higher levels. As a business owner, you have to prepare your business to embrace change and adapt accordingly. Here are three modern business intelligence tools that will help your company stay ahead of the game.

The Internet of Things

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is to embed electronic sensors into any physical objects, allowing them to be controlled via the Internet. This includes everything from mobile phones to refrigerators, washing machines and even cars. The idea of IoT is exciting and definitely practical in today’s technology-driven world. While the concept has been around for several years, many business owners still don’t even know what the IoT means. So let’s take a closer look at how IoT will impact businesses.
  • Increased efficiency - Businesses will be able to connect devices for efficient, real-time operations. For instance, IoT can connect a warehouse system and point-of-sale scanners together to provide better inventory management.
  • New business opportunities - Today there are approximately 10 billion connected devices, and this number is growing fast. IoT opens a door to new business opportunities as customers need new devices and services in their everyday lives.
  • More security concerns - While the idea of connecting everything together is exciting, businesses will have to pay extra attention to security. More data stored online means increased chances of information theft and cyber security issues.

3D Printing

Some businesses have probably never considered that 3D printing could be of use to them, partly because they’re so accustomed to the traditional way of printing 2D materials such as posters and flyers. But now 3D printing allows businesses to manufacture three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Since the costs of technology are expected to decrease, 3D printing could be adapted to business practices for various purposes.

The main benefits of 3D printing for businesses are increased productivity and creative, customizable new designs. Product designers can use 3D software to speed up the creation of product prototypes. It also allows for remote cooperation between colleagues, which increases the ability to brainstorm ideas for faster product-development cycles. 3D printing processes are also highly customizable to suit the needs of clients.

The Enterprise Cloud

Companies are now familiar with cloud computing, having used it for data storage and synchronization for the past few years. But the enterprise cloud offers more flexibility and scalability than regular cloud computing, and is noted for its cost efficiency, security, and easy-to-use model. Enterprise cloud computing refers to a firewall protected computer system which is able to offer software, infrastructure and platform and web services. They can provide private access and a virtual scalable environment controlled by either a single company or consortium.

Nowadays, businesses require faster innovation, remote access, and better cross-product integration. This is where the enterprise cloud comes in; to deliver cost savings and provide better security to accommodate business growth. You’ll want to adopt the enterprise cloud to gain advantage over your competitors.

If you’re interested in boosting your business performance with BI tools, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 23rd, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb23_AHave you heard that social media can be used to skyrocket your business to unprecedented heights of success? You probably have; people like to talk. But unfortunately, not a lot of this talk is backed up with practical tips on how to go about it. So if you’re tired of waffling in the social media stratosphere, read on for some smart, focused advice that will breathe new life into your social media efforts.

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 18th, 2015

Security_Feb18_AWhether we use them for business or pleasure, we all want the confidence that the online services we use to store files, post life updates or check our email are given adequate security protection to safeguard our information. But since high-profile breaches such as the celebrity photo leaks of 2014, the security of Apple platforms has been in the limelight. So it is a welcome move that Apple has extended its two-step authentication feature to the popular 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 13th, 2015

BC_164_AIt’s Monday morning, you’re the first one into the office as usual. You take your keys out and unlock the door only to find your office in complete disarray. Documents are thrown everywhere, chairs are knocked over and the worst part - all of your computers are gone. To your right, you notice a smashed window and a trail of keyboards and cables. Then it hits you. You’ve been robbed. Situations like this can happen to businesses of all sizes. The question is, are you prepared? Here’s how you can create a business continuity plan that keeps you open and making profits when the unexpected strikes.

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.

February 12th, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb12_AWhen it comes to social media, most of us have privacy concerns at the forefront of our minds. Who can see what we post? Who owns the photos we upload? It even comes down to wondering what happens to our social media identities when we die. It is part of the reason for the emergence and subsequent popularity of apps like Snapchat, which allow you to send a photo to a friend and at the same time specify when it will self-destruct. Now, a new entrant to the app marketplace is taking things a step further - it wants to protect your privacy by filling Facebook with pictures of cats.

But there is more to it than that: the team behind social messaging app Wickr aren’t looking to post images of our furry friends just for the fun of it. In fact, the feline factor is just one feature of the app, known as the Wickr Timed Feed. Wickr actually promises to offer greater security and privacy controls than similar apps like Snapchat - but whereas Snapchat simply lets you set your images to self-destruct once they have been seen by the recipient, Wickr takes an alternative approach.

As well as allowing only pre-approved friends to see your photos within your Wickr feed, the app lets you share each photo through Facebook and control which of your friends can see it. So where do the cats come in? Well, when you first share to Facebook, no-one will see your photo - instead, they’ll see a decoy image of a funky-looking cat. However, Facebook users then have the option to click through to Wickr and, if they are one of up to 151 people you have pre-approved to have access to your real photo, it will be unlocked and the cat will disappear - at least, until the photo automatically self-destructs 24 hours later, as do images on your feed in the Wickr app itself.

If it all sounds a bit like security overkill, then that’s probably because it is. Sharing Wickr photos to Facebook also sounds a little cumbersome, and even more so the process for unlocking a cat-guarded photo, and this could have an adverse effect on widespread take-up of the feature. But it does address genuine concerns surrounding the far and often uncontrollable reach of images and information we post online. What’s more, it appears to be a way to prevent Facebook from claiming ownership of the photos we upload - as much a concern for professional photographers and companies using Facebook for marketing purposes, as for individuals using the platform to keep in touch with friends. Wickr claims that, because the cat photo is all that will be publicly visible unless the bona fide picture is unlocked, that will be the only thing to which the social network could claim to have ownership or reproduction rights.

Whether it catches on or not, the emergence of apps like Wickr is telling of the growing pressure for the usability of social media networks to be balanced with protection for their users’ privacy. It acts as a reminder to businesses to be aware both of potential issues with usage rights for corporate images shared online, and of the need to keep consumer concerns about data misuse in mind when designing social media marketing strategies.

To learn more about how to effectively put social media to work for your business, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 6th, 2015

BusinessValue_Feb6_AIn today’s society of instant gratification, people have short attention spans. They want to have everything accessible at their fingertips via smartphones and tablets. For businesses with an online presence, this is either a new opportunity - or a missed one. Establishing mobile strategies to target smartphone addicts can give you an edge over competitors who are not going mobile. Here are some mobile marketing tips that could help your business to fly high.

Use QR codes

As far as mobile marketing tools go, QR coding is among one of the most powerful. With QR codes you can set up announcements about special events, coupons, newsletters, updates on your latest products, etc. Your potential customers can simply scan the QR code with their mobile devices and see what you have to offer.

The real benefit of QR codes is they can be put virtually anywhere to lead people anywhere online. Imagine putting a QR code on a T-shirt and having it lead to an online coupon for special deals. While the possibilities for placing QR codes are endless, it’s probably not very useful to put them somewhere that doesn’t make sense, like on a street billboard; people can’t scan your QR code while they’re driving.

Buy Facebook mobile ads

Facebook currently has over 700 million active mobile users. Even if that number’s not increasing at the moment, it’s still huge. Many businesses that are competing online have a Facebook page and advertising plans already. But with the majority of mobile visitors on Facebook, all your content and ads should be easy to read and engage with.

Facebook mobile ads display better than normal ads on the right column on Facebook’s news feed. If you don’t make use of this feature, you might be missing out on a large audience.

Make your website responsive

Back in the old days all websites were static, meaning that content was fixed unless you edited the HTML files. Later came the dynamic website, where content was changeable once you refreshed a web page. Now we have responsive websites, which conveniently adjust themselves to different browser sizes or a mobile device’s screen size.

Responsive websites are the future of the web. Imagine how high the bounce rate is likely to be if a potential buyer visits your website on a mobile device, scrolls around to read your content with difficulty, gives it up as a bad job and finds your competitor’s website that is mobile-friendly. That’s why your business website is better off on a responsive design.

Mobilize your E-mail

There are many up and coming marketing tools, but email is still one of the best ways to get great results for businesses. As with Facebook, most people check their emails on a smartphone or tablet. Make sure your message reads well on mobile devices, or your customers might ignore and delete it or, even worse, unsubscribe from future emails.

There are plenty of mobile marketing tools out there. Before implementing them get in touch with us to find the best solution that works for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 4th, 2015

BI_Feb4_AThe business intelligence market is changing. While most of you are probably familiar with business intelligence software such as Excel, the new wave of BI products is making it easier for you to track down data and organize it into easily viewable graphs and reports. So if you’re looking for data on how well a new product sold this past year, you can save time by not having to gather that information and organize it yourself. Now Microsoft is joining the scene and trying to make noise with its free Power BI product offer.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is a Cloud service which mainly functions as a self-service data analysis tool. What makes it unique is its use of advanced visualization options (graphs, charts, etc.) and the ability to find data by using natural language to ask questions and get answers. For example, you can simply type, “which department had the lowest sales profits last month?” and then get a chart that will visually display the sales from the different departments.

Another distinct characteristic of Power BI is its ability to collect and analyze data from various applications and services. These include Salesforce.com, Marketo, Excel, Zendesk and more.

And lastly, being a Cloud based service, the data is easily shareable, and employees can access it whether they’re in the office or on another continent.

Do I really need data analysis for my business?

It’s easier to get ahead of the competition if you know where you’ve been. With knowledge of your past failings or successes, you’ll know what methods and strategies are working and which ones aren’t. Then you can make appropriate business decisions based on facts and not assumptions.

For some, Excel may give you the ability to track all the Business Intelligence you desire - if the data you need is relatively simple and is kept all in one place. But if you have large amounts of data over various applications, then a product like Power BI can be a huge time saver since you won’t have to waste hours finding and organizing it.

If Power BI is so awesome, why is it free?

Power BI comes in two versions: the free one and a pro version for $9.99 a month. The pro version will feature more support for streaming data, quicker scheduled data refresh, and more storage. But light to medium data analysis users will still gain much from the free version.

Likely the real reason for the free version of Power BI is to capture market share from Tableau software, which currently dominates the self-service analytics market. Microsoft appears to be trying to create a simpler data analytic system that will be less complex than Tableau and more appealing to non-tech users.

And once they get sign-ups, Microsoft can then use this as a gateway to sell other Microsoft business products.

Want to discover how Microsoft’s Power BI or other Business Intelligence products can give your business an edge? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.