Blog

January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_CRegardless of the industry in which you operate, it’s undeniable that social media has become an essential platform for many businesses of all sizes to easily engage and interact with customers and potential customers, as well as boost visibility. But there’s more to social media than market reach and penetration and it can prove to be a powerful tool for driving dynamic business development too.

In most cases, a business development manager already has an idea of the kind of company with which to partner. Their next step is to contact that company via a phone call or email. However, this can be an unreliable way to reach out, especially when your potential partner has never heard of you. Social media speeds up this process by identifying the best person to contact, as well as determining if you have any mutual connections.

Simply put, social media lets you understand the background of different companies and gives you an idea of the different players involved, before you even engage in a dialogue. With this in mind, let’s take a look at four ways you can utilize information available on social media to enhance your business development success.

  1. Social media is an extra pair of eyes Social media allows you to see first-hand what potential partners, competitors, and customers are doing, which is a major asset when it comes to your business development and performance. This can also reveal business-relationship possibilities or even warn where it is best to stay away. It’s crucial to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing mind-blowing content as well as highlighting recent successes.
  2. There’s no universal message in social media The way people behave and connect across different social media platforms varies, therefore it is important to adjust accordingly. For instance, you might use Twitter to promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share content, and direct customer service requests. You may use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives, such as showcasing a company’s culture and resources. It’s important to remember that there’s no universal rule to utilizing social media and that it is beneficial to be flexible. Think about what your individual goals are and work out which social media platform is the best avenue to explore.
  3. Leverage employee relationships If you’re looking to connect with an individual in a specific company, make it a habit to check and see if anyone in your company has a pre-existing relationship with that person. Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn make it fairly easy to spot mutual connections, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking. Whether you ask your colleague to help make an introduction or to arrange a meeting, a mutual connection gives you the competitive edge in effective business development.
  4. Use social media as a touchpoint Social media is not only essential to business development, but also complements other more traditional practices, such as when you’ve sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that has gone unanswered. It’s understandable that people get so busy they can delay, forget or pass over an inquiry, but instead of passively waiting for a reply, why not make it standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other social media platforms? This way you can build additional opportunities with potential partners, increase the likelihood of a response, and even forge a future business relationship.
The fundamentals of business development are strong relationships with a partner or companies with a good reputation, who will have a positive impact on your business, such as marketing an initiative collaboratively. Social media can get this whole process started, so the next time you’re looking to contact a business prospect or potential partner, start by visiting their social media channels to get the heads up to help you in your quest.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of social media in business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization, and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful, and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses, and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms - it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have - which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data - think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it - in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations - the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_CAn antivirus scanner is one of the most essential parts of any security plan. These useful programs scan computers and systems for potential infections and get rid of them, ensuring your files and systems are safe. Because many of these protection programs are subscription based however, it can be easy to let the validity expire. If this does happen, is it really such a big deal though?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.

Other programs will stop updating the essential virus and malware databases that are used by the program to identify and clean new malware. This means that while you will be secure from known viruses and security flaws up to the date of the last database update, you will not be secure against newly discovered viruses.

Some popular programs like Kaspersky offer an antivirus scanner trial version or a program that comes with a newly purchased computer.With programs like these, they will normally stop functioning once the trial period is over. Yes, they will still open, but you won't be able to scan or perform any tasks.

In short, when your subscription expires, your systems will no longer be secure, or as protected as they should be. Interestingly enough, in mid-November 2014, Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report 17. This report found that computers and systems with expired malware were only slightly less likely to be infected than systems without any malware scanners installed.

What do I do if my subscription is about to expire?

Before your subscription expires you should take steps to back up all of your systems and data. The reason for this is that should something happen you have a clean backup to revert to. Once this is carried out, then consider renewing your subscription. Most programs allow you to do this directly from the scanner itself, so it is often fairly straightforward.

As a business owner however, you are going to need to keep track of your systems and licenses. What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet with information on the subscription applied to all systems. Take account of when the scanner was installed on each system, how long the subscription period is for, and when it will expire.

What if my subscriptions are about to expire, but I don't like my current program?

There may come a time when the scanner you have selected simply isn't living up to your expectations. Maybe it takes too long to scan, uses too many resources, or simply isn't able to protect all of your systems. Regardless of the reason, switching scanners is always an option.

If you are thinking of moving to another scanner, we strongly recommend that before you do anything, you back up your systems. You can then start looking for other systems. We strongly recommend that you contact us, as we can help identify a solution that will work for your business and systems. We can then help ensure that the transition is carried out in a way that will not leave your systems open to attack.

We may have a managed antivirus solution that will work for your business. By using a system like this, we can help protect your systems, keeping them secure and always up to date, all without you having to get involved. All you need to do is get in touch to find our more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_CWhen looking into the ways companies are hacked, you quickly realize that there are so many different tactics out there that it is mind-boggling. One of the more effective methods used recently is spear phishing, and in early December 2014, a new spear phishing attack was uncovered. This threat, while directed at larger organizations, could be turned against smaller businesses as well, and is therefore worth you knowing about.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.

More often than not, these links are to websites where you enter account information, passwords, and even bank account details, or any other personal information which can be used to break into computers and even steal your identity.

What is this latest spear phishing attack?

This new form of spear phishing, being carried out by an organization who calls themselves FIN4, has actually been around since as early as mid 2013. When they attack Wall Street listed companies they are doing so to steal valuable plans and insider information.

What we know is that they send highly savvy and targeted emails to people at a company, trying to harvest Microsoft Outlook account information. Once they have this crucial data they then target others inside, or connected to, the organization, with the same email, while also injecting the code into ongoing messages. This method can spread the attack quickly, leading to a potentially massive security breach.

In the email examples of this phishing threat, the attackers write mainly about mergers and other highly valuable information. They also include a link to a forum to discuss the issues raised further. These emails come from people the recipient already knows, and the link is to a site that asks them to enter their Outlook account and password before gaining access. When this information is entered, it is captured by the attacker and used to launch more attacks.

What can we do to protect our systems?

From what we know, this attack is being carried out largely against law firms, finance companies, and other large organizations. While this discounts many small businesses, there is a good chance that the attackers will turn to small businesses operating with larger companies at some point.

Because this is an email-based attack, you need to be extra vigilant when opening all emails. Be sure to look at the sender's address, and read the body of the email carefully. While hackers generally have good English skills, they aren't fully fluent, which means you will notice small mistakes. Also, keep in mind previous emails sent by the recipient. If the tone and style is off, then the email may be fake.

It is important to always look carefully at all links in email messages. If a link looks suspicious, then ask the recipient for more information or to tell you where the link goes. If you come across any site asking you to enter account information, be extra careful. Look at the URL address in your browser, if it doesn't sat HTTPS:// before the address, then it may be a good idea to avoid this.

If you have any questions on spear phishing and how you can prevent it, contact us today to see how we can protect your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 30th, 2014

BCP_Dec23_CThere are many different backup solutions out there available to small and medium sized businesses. While most owners are aware of the fact that any backup solution is important for a Disaster Recovery Plan, it can be tough to pick the right one for your business. One of the most popular is online backup. If you are considering which backup solution to choose then our overview should help you decide.

What exactly is online backup?

In a wide sense, online backup is a backup system where your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.

When you back up your files and systems to an online solution, your files are stored off site, usually in redundant data centers. This means that should something happen to your files you can access the system via another computer and restore your backups onto that computer, as long as you have an Internet connection.

For many companies, this is arguably the most efficient form of backup, not because of the backup method itself, but because of the fact that your backups are stored remotely The chance your data will be accessible if your business faces disaster increase, as data can be recovered quicker than most other systems.

How do online backups work

Like most other technical systems out there, there are numerous varieties of online backups. Some of the most effective are image-based, which take a snapshot of a computer or server at a specific time and then upload this to the remote backup servers. This snapshot contains the whole system as it is and can be easily recovered.

Other solutions can be automated to back up specific files and folders, and run through a Web-based interface that can execute a backup from almost anywhere. Beyond this, many systems can be managed by a company like us. We can implement a system that works best for your company and your data, and then manage it so that your data will always be available when you need it. Should something go wrong, we can even help you recover your systems.

4 Benefits of online backup

Companies that implement an online-based backup have been able to realize the following benefits:
  1. Decreased recovery time - Because your data is stored online, as long as you have an Internet connection you can begin recovery at the click of a button; there is no having to go find your backup, then figure out how to recover it. Most companies see a generally reduced backup recovery time when they implement an online system.
  2. Increased backup reliability - Over time, physical systems break and need to be replaced, and this can happen at any time. Because online systems are managed by other companies, whose main job is to ensure backups are always available, you see increased reliability with these systems.
  3. Decreased costs - Physical backup systems can be costly, especially if you have a large number of systems or a large amount of data to back up. Many online providers charge a flat monthly fee that often works out to be less costly than other solutions. Beyond this, you don't need to invest in physical backup solutions and the storage space to house and maintain these. As a result you should see lower costs.
  4. Increased data availability - As long as you have an Internet connection, your data will be available. This means you don't have to worry about your offsite physical data being okay, if you have a problem or disaster strikes on your premises. With online services data is available when you need it.
If you would like to learn more about online backup, contact us today and let us reveal just how dynamic and effective our solutions can be. Don't wait until you have to face a backup issue to back up your vital data!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 25th, 2014

Traditions and superstitions abound and may differ according to regions of the world. Here are a few you may know about and a few that may befuddle or amuse you.

New Years celebrations:  The U.S. and Canada have observed January 1st for over 400 years. The noise from fireworks and other trinkets is believed to drive out evil spirits.

Images of a baby with a banner:  They represent the birth of a new year. The Greeks used this imagery in 600 B.C.

Kissing at midnight: Smooching our favorite people ensures our ties continue throughout the new year.

Resolutions: Early Babylonians made promises to return borrowed farm equipment, but modern people are more likely to swear off smoking and liquor.

Eat black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread:  This Southern tradition has gained favor nationally. Black-eyed peas symbolize prosperity because peas swell when cooked, collard greens represent money, and cornbread symbolizes gold.

Common superstitions about New Year’s Day.  Here are a few interesting ones you may not have heard about.

Take nothing out of the door: Nothing, not even garbage, should leave your house on New Year’s Day. Don’t even take Grandma home.

Don’t eat chicken or turkey on January 1: Like these birds, you’ll scratch in the dirt all year long for your dinner.

Don’t wash your laundry on New Year’s Day: If you do, a family member may be washed away.

Don’t cry on the first day of the year:  Tears set the tone for the next 12 months of the year.

Let out the old year:
At midnight, open all the doors of your house to let the old year escape unimpeded.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Topic Article
December 25th, 2014

Your company’s success depends on more than how smart you are.  When you see lists of successful and less-successful companies, you may think successful leaders must be smarter than those that didn’t make the list, but in most cases that’s not true, one business strategist says.

The right stuff…  To determine the right success factors, Inc. Magazine asked for the insights of Patrick Lencioni, president of the Table Group and author of 10 best-selling books on organizational management. He says that intelligence, knowledge and product expertise are vastly overrated as the driving forces behind competitive advantage and success.  Meanwhile, the importance of organizational health is severely underrated. Organizational health includes management, strategy, operations, and a culture that fits them all together.

What qualities are needed?  Academics and analysts have attributed business success to knowledge of their market and brilliant ideas — two qualities that are essential to success.  But those qualities don’t account for continued success. Leaders of long-time brand winning companies — Whole Foods and Southwest Airlines, for example — will tell you over and over that they value their corporate cultures more than any single strategy or intellectual property.

Organizational health as a business goal.  To develop organizational health, Lencioni advises leaders to be sure their top team is clear about the identity and direction of the company, and that they act in ways that indicate they are aligned. These leaders should not tolerate any violation of corporate identity and culture.

Walk the walk.  Address problems like passive aggressiveness, outbursts, or other poor behavior in meetings immediately to back-channel second guessing and develop solutions. Lencioni says the benefits of organizational health include lower hiring costs, higher employee retention, better word-of-mouth marketing and greater customer loyalty.

 

Topic Article
December 25th, 2014

Picture3Your computer just crashed, you can’t even get the darn thing to turn on and you’ve called for IT support, but how long will it take until you are back online? Can you work on your laptop? Are your files ok?

Sometimes things fail.  While hardware and software fails, a firm foundation with nightly back-ups and a secure file server offers priceless support in your time of need. Back-up and restoration procedures generally don’t take longer than a few hours. Even if your computer isn’t repairable on the spot or salvageable at all, you can retrieve all your data from a file server and have you working on a temporary machine in no time.

A firm foundation.  Make sure your company is covered for any storm. Setup a file server or cloud data solution to house your sensitive information so it is easily retrievable in case of an emergency. Don’t let mother nature’s tantrum storms dictate your progress. Give your organization the best chance for continued success with a secure storage solution that is accessible when you need it from anywhere.

Don’t rely on fortune.  Computers are not 100% reliable. There will always be turmoil with technology, but you can rest assured data loss doesn’t have to be a huge risk for your business. Fortunately, secure file servers and cloud solutions are available. Give us a call for more details. We’re here to help.

 

Topic Article
December 25th, 2014

Picture2Has you network grown into a heavy weight monster that’s costly to maintain? If you’ve been on the fence about cloud computing, here are a few examples of the enormous opportunity it can bring to your business.

What is cloud computing?  Cloud computing is when a company uses a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to handle things like storage, management, security and standard data processing tasks. Although many business owners recognize cloud computing is a technology game changer, it is difficult to envision and therefore remains virtually untapped. Take a moment to evaluate whether a cloud strategy can help your organization slim down on hardware and boost profits.

Flexibility:  Cloud computing developed a huge shift for IT spending in 2014 and according to Forbes is expected to increase 46% for 2015. However, this spending is not all upfront which is why many business owners are ready to give cloud computing a try. The pay-as-you-go cost structure of cloud based operations allows you to match your spending to the needs of your business. Cloud completely eliminates the need to build out expensive hardware systems, install a multitude of software programs or pay costly licensing fees all up front when it’s time to make a change. You have the flexibility you need.

Scalability: Cloud solutions also give you room to grow. As you add employees, you are able to simply add a “seat” to your cloud program. This “seat” gives your new user access to the programs they need immediately without jumping though hoops. You have the ability to keep a close eye on your company’s services and implement what you need swiftly when it is time.

Efficiency:  Everyone looks for new ways to keep their business agile. Getting the resources you need, when you need them, slims down the time it takes to complete tasks. Cloud computing solutions deliver the tools you need faster, cheaper and generally with more quality that will keep your company nimble.

Connectivity:  Staying connected these days is must for all businesses to keep a competitive edge. Whether you are collaborating with partners or selling to a potential client, the cloud can help you better facilitate the information exchange. Cloud computing offers accesses to your work documents and correspondence on your laptop, tower computer and even your smartphone or tablet. Imagine all of your work resources available like accessing your Gmail or Hotmail account. Everything is available online all the time without a hitch.

Business in the here and now.
Kick the new year off with a great start.
A cloud solution for your business will take care of these four resolutions all in one fail swoop: flexibility, scalability, efficiency and connectivity.

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Break out of the box with a new solution for the new year and watch your business thrive.

Ready to explore your options?
Give us a call today. We will work with you to review your systems and give you a better idea of the latest applications and cloud services that will benefit your business. Cloud computing can do nothing but improve and benefit your business and for a fraction of the costs.

Autopilot Marketing (255)229-6862

 

Topic Article
December 18th, 2014

SocialMedia_Dec15_CMeasuring the overall success of a marketing campaign is often dependent on a number of metrics. When it comes to measuring the success of your social media campaigns, the most common metric employed is the number of shares. Companies who post content online often find it difficult to get their content shared through. If this resonates with you then here are four common reasons as to why your content might not be be shared and what you can do about that.

1. The vast majority of people are hesitant to share content

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook over a 17 day period, approximately 15.3 billion comments and posts were written but were then deleted and not posted on Facebook alone.

While the reasons will have been varied, the numbers highlight that the vast majority of users are sensitive to what they post on Facebook, and most most likely other networks as well. What does this mean for businesses? Well, you need to ensure that the content you are posting offers value to not only your audience, but their audience as well.

Think about when you have shared content on any network. You probably didn't do so 100% for yourself, but instead shared the content or created a post so your audience would interact with it, or possibly get something out of it. Think of this as the "hmm, that's interesting, other people will like it too, so I'll post it" mentality. By sharing content others enjoy or respond to you get the benefit of increased recognition.

If you can create content that gets people to think this way, there is an increased chance that they will share it.

2. Facebook users want to be seen in a positive light

According to a study carried out by INC. 80% of respondents share content because it shows that they are being a good friend to those they care about. People use social media to foster good relationships and connect with those they care about. And if somebody regards your posts as potentially able to tarnish their image on social media, they won't share it.

Businesses looking to capitalize on this need to try to create content and campaigns that help users better relate to one another. Combine this with the above example of creating interesting-to-share content and you will be more likely to see an increase in shares.

3. Content doesn't fit our salient identities

Because social media has become an extension of society, many experts apply common social science principles to it. The most commonly applied theory is of the five identities (relational, personal, social, superficial, and collective) that determine how people behave in a certain situation.

If you are posting content that doesn't fit with an an individual's current identity then it's not going to be shared. So, how can businesses capitalize on these changing identifies? One effective way is to get to know your main target audience; how they act and react to certain social cues, and then create content to fit with this behavior.

For example, if your target group for posts is parents, then using language and content that triggers parental instincts could increase shares as parents associate better with it.

You might want to widen your focus too and try developing content that capitalizes on different identities, tracking what works best.

4. Content doesn't mesh with a user's values and goals

The same INC. study found that after being a good friend, 63% of users surveyed noted that they were more likely to share content that reflected their goals, values, and dreams.

How can a business capitalize on this? The best way is to get to know your audience. Look at their posting and sharing habits and the type of content they share on a regular basis. This may change over time, but you will see patterns evolve for different groups. If you can develop and post content that reflects these main goals and values then you are more likely to see your content being shared. Try different approaches and keep in mind who you are developing content for.

If you are looking to learn more about social media, contact us today to see how our systems can help you integrate it with your business success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media