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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 They’ll often try to take advantage of this, searching for outdated devices to infiltrate while their victims watch Youtube on last year’s version of Firefox.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 26th, 2015

Hardware_Feb26_CYou’ve been for your morning run while wearing a watch that checks your heart rate. You pop on your Google Glass headset to check the morning’s emails, and the chain hanging around your neck begins to vibrate with an incoming text message. Even if you are not the world’s biggest wearable tech user at the moment, this is a big trend and one that’s here to stay. Having productivity boosting technology attached to your person can make you more effective in your business and personal life than you imagined. Yet many consider Google Glass to have been something of a flop, and the Apple Watch could be headed for slow consumer take-up - here’s why you shouldn’t go throwing caution to the wind when it’s released.

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

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 25th, 2015

It’s the season for green all around. St. Patrick’s day brings luck, Irish and celebrations abound. So, where did the legends begin? Check out our St. Patrick’s Day question and answers to learn more.

Q: Where did the gold come from? 

A: Vikings.  Yep, Vikings inhabited Ireland many moons ago and stored hordes of treasure all over the land. Legend states, they left or forgot to take several stashes of gold. Later, the gold was found by leprechauns and divided among themselves.

They knew the Viking treasures were acquired through wicked deeds and didn’t want humans to get ahold of it for fear of what the greed would do to them. So, they stored the gold in pots underground for safe keeping.

Q: Why are rainbows involved?

A: They show where the treasures where hidden by the leprechauns.  There really is no end to a rainbow. According to physics rainbows are really a full circle except the earth often gets in the way of its projection. Rainbows are said to fall right on the spot where a leprechaun has hidden a pot of gold as a marker of sorts so they can find their stashes again quickly.

Q: Where do leprechauns live?

A: Some folklore states that leprechauns were driven underground. Others state, they inhabit the forests of Ireland. Usually residing in hollowed-out trees and small caves. They just remain carefully hidden from view to avoid greedy encounters with humans.

Q: Do leprechauns have more than just one pot of gold?

A: Leprechauns are much richer than people think. Some people believe that leprechauns made up the pot of gold folklore to deter humans from finding or asking for their larger stashes when captured.

Topic Article
February 25th, 2015

Don’t let time tick away without exploring your options to overcome Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Server 2003 End of Support deadline on July 14th.

Don’t wait to migrate!  The end of service for Windows Server 2003 is quickly approaching, only four months left to get your ducks in a row. There are four key steps to help you move to a new solution.

  1. Explore your options. Even if you don’t choose us, explore your options. Even Microsoft recommends that you start by looking at your workloads and evaluating how you use your server.
  2. Assess your current situation. Make sure to take an inventory of all your current systems. This will help you make a better decision and possibly consolidate some systems into one great solution.
  3. Make goals and buy. Shoot for the stars. Create a plan that helps your company grow. If your migrating to a new server, why not have it do more?
  4. Migrate. Schedule your migration early and pick a time that will cause the least interruption. New IT investments shouldn’t cost you extra in down time. Partner with an IT resource that can take care of your migration after hours or on weekends for a smooth transition.

Give us a call, we’re here to help!

Topic Article
February 25th, 2015

laptopSure, we all try to plug in when we’re on the go, but you can do more. Here are some great tips to help you conserve your laptop battery life.

  1. Activate battery saver mode or eco mode on your laptop. Manufacturers are now more conscious of battery life than ever. Every laptop is designed with a cluster of settings that will automatically make changes to lengthen your usable battery life.
  2. Disable unused devices.
    The quickest way to reduce your power consumption is to turn off things you are not using. Ever piece of your computer needs power to operate, but it doesn’t mean you need them all powered on all the time. Start by disconnecting things like peripherals and turning off the big hogs like Wi-Fi, radios, and graphic processors. Visit the Control Panel and find the Device Manager to explore everything that is working behind the scenes.
  3. Turn off extra applications too. Hardware isn’t the only part of your computer that takes juice. Your applications eat away at your battery life too. In windows systems, start by looking at your system tray just to the left of the clock to see what is running in the background. Open your Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del and review the apps, you may find a few extra programs that are set to run simply because you forgot to close a window or they came with a program you installed.
  4. Treat your battery right. You may have heard old tricks about not leaving your battery on chargers all night or only charging to 80%. Unfortunately, these old tricks are outdated. Keeping your battery cool and clean is truly the best advice. Make sure there is no debris in habiting its contacts. If it gets dirty clean it with a cotton swab and alcohol.
  5. Tune up your laptop. The most effective way to keep your battery pumping longer is to make sure your machine is running at its peak. Remove all unused programs and clean out those files just collecting dust. Keep your cache and temporary file folders cleaned out too. Decluttering your computer will make it run more efficiently and help your laptop run smoother overall.
Topic Article
February 25th, 2015

Big companies generally have large IT departments to assist them with technology installations, integrations, and maintenance keeping their systems running 24/7/365. Don’t rely on luck when it comes to your technology needs. Partner with a managed service provider that can care for your technology like a corporate giant.

Don’t Blame luck for your misfortune.
For many business owners, hiring a full-time IT manager in-house is out of the question. So, they often buy computers or servers based on the needs of their company and advise of friends or family who are self dubbed computer wizzes. Then one day, they fall on hard luck. The server crashes or computers become infected and their technology seems to hold their business hostage.

Businesses don’t succeed because they are lucky.  Luck really has nothing to do with success. Hard work and dedication are the roots of progress. Be proactive when assessing your company’s needs. Develop a set of goals for your organization to achieve and create an actionable plan for your success. Here are three ways to turn your hard luck into profitable harmony.

  1. Build a winning team. Your company’s greatest assets are the people that fuel your operations and the tools they use to keep your organization running each day. If you want to retain the best employees provide them with encouragement, efficient tools, learning opportunities, clear roles, and your company’s goals or vision. Develop an “open door policy” that encourages your employees to offer suggestions or ideas and give feedback. This will foster an environment of respect, high performance and collaboration.
  2. Give your company a competitive advantage with the right tools.
    Regardless of the type of business you run, your company needs technology to thrive. However, tools like computers, printers, e-mail services, and specialty software require an investment and ongoing maintenance to run efficiently. Work with a trusted advisor to develop a plan for your technology purchases to ensure that your investments will give you the foundation you need to succeed.
  3. Partner with a local resource for your IT management. Managed services will help you control and reduce the overall operating costs for your technology. Other benefits include increased operational efficiency, cost-effective solutions and support, minimized downtime, and peace of mind knowing your network is safe. Move away from paying for repairs and waiting for them to be done when things are horribly broken. Take a proactive approach and manage your IT before it manages your business.

Success shouldn’t be about luck.  Your company wasn’t developed on luck, why operate on it? Embrace technology as a pathway to achieve your goals not a necessary risk. Give us a call today if you would like to explore a Managed Services solution for your business.

ThinkTech
(508) 570-3040 

Topic Article
February 24th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Feb24_CTechnology is having an enormous impact on business. No matter what industry you work in, it is important to implement the right tools to support your business strategy and growth. But in this ever-changing world, technology is always on the move. That’s why a business owner like you should always be on the lookout for new technology trends to adapt to your needs. Here are some modern business intelligence tools you ought to know about.

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.