Blog

May 22nd, 2015

InternetSocRepMngmnt_May22_CThe Internet isn’t merely developing - it’s growing and expanding rapidly. For businesses, this means ample opportunity to extend their reach to a wider audience. When it comes to buying products and services, most people turn to the Internet for advice on the best providers. And naturally, companies that have established and maintained a great online reputation are well ahead of their competitors. This is why it is more important than ever for businesses to monitor what is said about them online. Here are some benefits you can derive from paying attention to your online reputation.

Trust and credibility

Trust and credibility are two important factors and could either make or break your business’s online reputation. If you can over-deliver on your customers’ expectations, there’s a good chance they will spread the word about their experience - and that’s great for your business. Take the time to earn your clients’ trust, and you’ll be rewarded with a strong brand image that will attract more potential clients for years to come.

Increased sales

Customers are more likely than ever to research brands, products, and services online before they make the decision to purchase. Make sure you have social media accounts ready, and ask your existing customers to follow you. Post regularly about your products, along with other valuable content related to the nature of your business to grab your customers’ attention. Personal interaction with customers is a great strategy to boost sales, so don’t let their comments go unanswered - see that you respond in a timely manner to every one of them to show that you value their business.

Online insights

Today, it’s very common to see negative feedback on a business’s social media pages. If things aren’t addressed properly, a negative comment or review could be the start of your business’s downfall, since they spread like wildfire online. By establishing an online presence you will gain a valuable insight into what your clients and competitors are saying about you and, if it’s something bad, you can step in and rectify the issue before it goes viral.

Show your best side

Potential customers are online right now, researching your company before doing business with you. Some of them don’t know you well enough to make immediate decisions, and so will judge your business on the basis of the information that is available to them. Whatever the products or services you provide for customers, once the feedback appears online, it sticks. This is a chance to present your company in a good light to attract more customers, which converts into increased revenue.

Always remember that it can only take a few seconds to destroy a brand’s online reputation that took years to build. Contact us today for advice on how to build an online reputation for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 20th, 2015

164_Prod_CAn unfocused staff is a recipe for a lack of productivity. And with distractions like social media, broken equipment and technology, and employees who’d rather spend their day chatting than doing their job, it may seem impossible to get your team to produce the results you desire. So what’s a business owner to do? Here are four tips that are sure to get your staff more focused and productive.

Set clear goals

In order for your employees to produce results and reach their productivity potential, they need to know what is expected of them. At some organizations, it may be perfectly acceptable to spend one hour surfing the Internet everyday and seven hours working; or it may be considered normal to count a lunch break towards the eight hours worked. The truth is that more and more employees are bouncing between jobs from company to company, and each organization has a different set of standards and expectations. If it’s not communicated to your employees what yours are, you can be certain that they’ll make up their own.

Additionally, your employees need to know what results you expect them to produce. Maybe that means they need to sell a certain volume of products each month, or maybe it means they need to consistently score a four-star customer satisfaction rating. Whatever it is, your employees need to be aware of your expectations and have some sort of goal to shoot for. This gives you a way to see the results each employee is producing. Then you can try to find a solution to increase the productivity of your lower performing staff.

Be personable with your employees

Have you ever had a boss that rarely interacted with employees and that everyone feared? Maybe he stayed locked away in his office most days or ignored staff members as he quickly strode through the office never cracking a smile. Do you think employees want to produce results for a boss like this? They might, but it may be out of fear of losing their job rather than genuinely wanting to help that boss and the company at large.

Interact with your employees. And not only about work. Ask them how their weekend was. Find common interests to talk about. Take the time to get to know them. It’s easy for employees to not produce results or care about their job if the business owner is unapproachable and distant. On the contrary, if the owner is personable and friendly with staff, it is harder for an employee to slack off and not commit to the company’s growth. It’s natural for employees to work harder for a person they know, rather than one who’s “all business” and persistently unavailable.

Listen to your employees’ feedback

To go along with being personable, take the time to gather and listen to your employees’ feedback. If you show that you value their opinions, they’ll feel part of the team and organization. When this happens, they’ll be more committed to your goals and will want to see the company succeed as much as you do.

Of course that doesn’t mean you need to take every bit of employee feedback and run with it - it simply means keeping an open mind. Your team will respect you more and work harder for you as a result.

Provide reliable equipment

This is a no brainer. But if an employee doesn’t have the reliable equipment and tools to complete their job, their productivity levels will plummet. A broken computer, crashed server or faulty Internet connection will have your staff twiddling their thumbs and playing with their phones in no time. If it’s your technology that’s the culprit in this situation, Managed Services represent an exceptional solution to prevent your IT from ever breaking down in the first place. What does that mean for your staff? Less downtime, more productivity and more results.

Interested in discovering more ways to boost employee productivity? Want to learn how Managed Services can ensure the reliability of your IT and prevent downtime? Contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
May 13th, 2015

164_Security_CCloud computing marketing can be deceiving. When you see an image of the cloud, it’s often a happy, bubbly white puffball floating delightfully in front of a blue sky background. Its presence is both calming and reassuring, and makes you believe that anything is possible. Security would never be an issue, right? Ask one of the nearly seven million Dropbox users who had their accounts hacked, and they’ll give you the definitive answer. While it’s worth noting that not every cloud provider has had security breaches like Dropbox, the point is to be aware that cloud security is not something to be taken lightly. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself as a business owner.

The cloud is playing more and more of a significant role in business. Yet, as more companies jump on the bandwagon, very few of them seem to be taking cloud security seriously. According to a recent survey, the "Security of Cloud Computing Users Study" , only 50 percent of those surveyed had investigated the security of the cloud services they used.

To ensure you put in place proper security measures when beginning your cloud venture, here are five actions every small business owner should take.

Ask your IT provider what cloud security policies they have in place - this is probably the single most important security measure you can take. Find a trusted IT provider and have a candid conversation with them about their cloud security policies.

Ask where the location of the physical cloud servers are - when you have “the conversation”, don’t forget to ask about this. Believe it or not, some cloud servers may not even be stored in your own country. Wherever they are, it’s wise to make sure they’re located in a safe data center area with proper security afforded to them.

Create unique usernames and passwords - your login credentials represent one of the cloud’s main security vulnerabilities. Take the time to come up with a better password than “12345” or “football.”

Use industry standard encryption and authentication protocols - IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) is a reliable technology choice.

Encrypt data before it’s uploaded to the cloud - whether you do it yourself or your cloud computing provider does it for you, this is a must to ensure security.

When it comes to trusting the security of a cloud service provider, transparency is key. The provider should take security seriously, be able to explain their security policies clearly, and be willing to answer any questions. If they can’t do one of these, it’s a clear sign of a red flag.

Are you ready to talk cloud security and transition your business into the cloud? Call us today. We’re happy to answer all your questions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
May 12th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_May12_CThe data dashboard has become increasingly popular for businesses over the past few years - it is a great data visualization tool that allows you to have an overview of your business at a glance. Since we all are more accustomed to taking in visual data than written words, dashboards are an important part of any successful data analytics process. There are many types of dashboards, depending on the area of use. Let’s take a look at how dashboards can support your business activities.

Marketing insights

The marketing department in an organization typically analyzes a significant amount of data from various channels. Whether the purpose is to forecast monthly sales, predict trends, or build marketing strategies, marketing officers need to compare, sort, and analyze raw data in order to present it in an understandable format using dashboards. Once raw data has been polished into meaningful information and presented to business executives, key decision makers are able to make choices based on that information.

Tracking sales opportunities

Sales dashboards are perfect for tracking various products and services throughout their lifecycle. With sales dashboards, you can identify sales opportunities by monitoring top-selling products and comparing the growth in revenue on a periodical basis. The implementation of sales dashboards eliminates the need to spend hours manually entering data and preparing sales reports, spreadsheets, charts, and manual data.

Social media management

There’s more to social media management than posting regularly on your business’s social media accounts. And in most cases, the default dashboard offered by your social media platform doesn’t give you a deep insight into your social media campaigns. What’s more, managing multiple social media accounts can quickly become a cumbersome process since you have to use several login credentials. That’s where dashboards come in. You can manage your accounts all at once through a comprehensive social media dashboard, saving you valuable time and effort.

Financial reports

Presenting financial data is so complex that, if not handled by competent employees, will often lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of critical data. Dashboards make creating financial reports much easier, and financial analysts can take advantage of dashboards to display sensitive data in a comprehensible graphical format - be it customer invoices, progress toward revenue goals, or business expenses.

Project collaboration

Businesses of all sizes require their employees to collaborate on projects, whether it’s on-site or online. Project supervisors need to get their teams together, in order to give them an insight of the projects’ requirements, deadlines and responsibilities, and to learn about the projects’ progress. With the help of project collaboration dashboards, members will see the complete workflow of the project, allowing for a more efficient and collaborative working environment.

Dashboards can truly take away the complications of presenting complex business data. If you’re looking to implement business intelligence tools to simplify your company’s data analysis process, drop us a line today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 11th, 2015

SocialMedia_May11_CIf you enjoy being able to use Facebook Messenger without seeing endless advertisements, then prepare to be disappointed. It appears that those days are numbered, since the social networking giant has announced its plans to make the service ad-supported. Though the move will likely prove unpopular with regular users, it marks an interesting turn in the platform’s development and presents new marketing opportunities to businesses. Here’s what you need to know about the change.

As well as Facebook Messenger, which the company has definitively announced will feature advertisements, it looks likely that WhatsApp will also become ad-supported. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in February 2014 for $22 billion, despite the company only generating 2013 revenues of $10.2 million and overall making a net annual loss of $138.1 million. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg indicated that the company would not seek to monetize either service until they had reached a billion users, while WhatsApp founder and CEO said that the plan remained for the app to focus for several years on growth rather than monetization.

The latest announcements appear to signal a change in those tactics. While there has so far been no concrete decision on the form that advertising in either app would take, the intention appears to be for Facebook Messenger to test the water, with WhatsApp following its lead once a successful formula has been found. Executives have suggested that they wish to explore alternatives to conventional banner ads. They have also reinforced the message that the two apps, which seek to serve different purposes and audiences, will remain independent of one another.

The sheer number of users now communicating on the WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger platforms each month is testament to the value that Facebook could drive from placing advertisements on the services. Unlike its main site, which serves advertisements, the Facebook Messenger app currently makes no profit. Until now, WhatsApp’s only revenue stream has been the nominal $0.99 annual subscription fee it collects from users after a year’s free trial - and the service remains completely free in developing countries outside of Europe and North America. But for businesses, too, the potential of advertising on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp provides exciting new marketing opportunities and the chance to interact more closely with both potential and existing customers.

Learn more about using Facebook and other networks - both for advertising and wider social media marketing - to grow your business; give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 7th, 2015

164_HW_CFans of Google’s Chromebook line of laptops will be happy to know that its latest edition, the Pixel, is here. With a high-resolution touchscreen that’s more advanced than the latest MacBook, as well as other cutting-edge features, it's a pretty tempting piece of kit. But before you shell out your hard earned cash for this luxurious new laptop, take a minute to read about the pros and cons. That way you can decide if the Pixel is truly right for you.

Pros

Slim and lightweight - who doesn’t love a sleek, compact new computer that’s easy to pack up and take with you on the go? The Pixel weighs in at 3.3 pounds and is only 0.6 inches thick. If portability is something you’re looking for in a laptop, then the Pixel is certainly an attractive option.

High-resolution touch screen - want a hi-res screen that’s more advanced than Apple’s latest offering? The Pixel doesn’t disappoint and surpasses the latest MacBook with a high-resolution touchscreen that is 13 inches, 239-pixel-per-inch.

Battery life - For people on the go, battery life is one of the main considerations when choosing a laptop. And in this respect, the Pixel truly delivers. Not only does it promise 12 hours of battery life when fully charged, but it can also charge up to two hours of battery in just 15 minutes.

USB Type C ports - still scratching your head wondering how the Pixel’s battery is able to charge so quickly? The USB Type C ports are what gives it this ability. Additionally, these ports speed up data transfers.

Cons

Price Tag - for a computer that relies heavily on a working internet connection, many users may question the $999 price tag. With previous versions of the Chromebook costing less than $200, it might be hard to justify purchasing the new version when it still has relatively limited capabilities.

Lack of storage space - when it comes to storage space, the Pixel only offers 32 and 64GB options. To help users swallow this deficiency more easily, the company is offering a free terabyte of storage on Google drive for three years. For those who want to create and edit documents on Google Docs, this is a near perfect solution. But for those who would like to actually edit and create documents on the Pixel itself, their options are limited. Downloading the familiar Microsoft Word, as well as other other apps and software, is not possible.

There’s little doubt that the Pixel’s new features, design and capabilities are impressive. But at the end of the day, it’s still a Chromebook - meaning it will be as heavily reliant on the internet as its predecessors are. And you have to ask yourself, is a Chromebook - regardless of features - really worth $1,000? Ask yourself what you'd really be using it for, how often you work offline and whether you're getting good value when compared with other laptops on the market.

Have more questions about the Pixel or other new hardware on the market? Give us a call and talk with one of our qualified hardware consultants.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
May 7th, 2015

Communications apps have come and gone, but new tools might solve problems inherent in e-mail.

Slack. San Francisco-based start-up Slack is bringing a new approach to communication. Writing in Time, analyst Jack Linshi says Slack melds chat and search in a simple interface, which helped it gain a half-million users in one year. Slack can help you host chats with either one colleague or more, an alternative to endless e-mail threads.

Convo is a mobile app that can auto-zoom to the exact line of a document flagged by a colleague.  It sorts data on the basis of relevance to your projects, not message history, which makes it easier to work with files on phones.

A Facebook-based app tries to simplify sharing.  FB@Work uses Facebook’s algorithms to display relevant information about projects, plus news or company updates an employee might have missed. Still in testing, it could well be available in months to come.

The Yammer app is integrated with Microsoft Office 365. It lets you have group conversations with co-workers in Word, Excel and PowerPoint accounts.

 

Topic Article
May 7th, 2015

Everyone is still talking about the Apple watch and what it can do and will do, but what we humans are probably seeing is one step in a rapid technological revolution.

The Apple watch  might be the last word in fashion today.  But it’s probably not going to be the last word in technology tomorrow, according to tech observers.What the Apple watch will probably do is revive the sluggish smart watch market. According to Apple Insider, 6.8 million smart watches were sold in 2014 with an average selling price of $189.  The Apple watch doubles the average price, but also, arguably, adds functionality. Smart watch makers Sony and LG, among others, might benefit from the Apple entry.

Like other smart watches, the Apple watch is a mini-computer, with 4 GB storage, connecting wirelessly to your smart phone.  The Apple watch can carry your credit cards, track flights, open hotel doors, display texts, turn your home lights on and off. And it will do more in time, so to speak.

Technology seers say that eventually all personal computers are going to be worn like smart watches or Google glass. Technology won’t be in your pocket or purse, they say.  It will be something you put on in the morning, or even keep on all the time.

For now, all smart watches are dependent on smart phones.  If you love the idea of the Apple watch, you’ll be charging both your phone and your watch, connecting devices, troubleshooting things. And on and on.  You’ll be considering whether you actually want the guy next to you to read the text from your husband or wife, points out Ben Popper, blogging for TheVerge.com.  After all, your life, not just the time, will now be on your wrist.

To think that 18th century, people thought it was strange to wear time at all.  Now you’ll be wearing your health stats. Probably because of these drawbacks there are other ideas in the wearable technology sphere. You can keep your mechanical watch, and just buy a smart band from a maker like Kairos.  The band connects to your phone and displays info, making it presumably more private. Or, you can just get a simple band without a display that will notify you of messages or track your health as does the Jawbone Up24.

Topic Article
May 7th, 2015

My mother had a boat load of sayings when I was growing up like, “How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tasted it?” She was right. You can’t just look at something from the outside and know what is on the inside. This concept applies to many realities in business today. Take IT services for example, how do you know you won’t like managed services if you’ve never tried it?

Buzzwords.  Unfortunately, IT service organizations all say the same thing, “We will provide excellent service”, “We will take care of all your IT needs”, and “We will keep your data safe with ongoing monitoring.” So, how do you really know your company is receiving all the services you deserve and need to thrive? Here’s a list of flavors to consider when evaluating your IT service needs.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  Does your IT support team leave you waiting, longing for better service? Do you receive voicemail when you call in for service? If you’re frustrated with leaving messages and just can’t think of something nice to say about your support services it’s time to explore other service options. You shouldn’t be chasing your support technicians down for services.

If wishes were horses, we’d have a herd.  Do you find yourself stockpiling the list of things you wish your IT provider would just take care of? Don’t waste another minute. You need comprehensive services you can count on that can scale up with your organization as you grow.

Life isn’t fair.  Have you ever called for IT support and found after hours of troubleshooting, there really isn’t any resolution? No final resolve to help you move forward. No way your technician can assist you and no suggestions for the future? Look for a provider that will relentlessly advocate for your business’ needs. If your business relies on computing for everyday functions, you can’t afford to waste time with uneducated under prepared technical support.

You could have called.  Did you ever miss calling your mother when you were out with friends. Remember her disappointing face when you walked in the door. Do you feel that way when your 24/7/365 monitoring misses a huge attack on your network? You shouldn’t have to call in for every little update or infection. Your IT support company should be monitoring your equipment to ensure your company is safe from harm. If they don’t know what’s going on, how can you trust that they can fix it?

I don’t KNOW is not an answer. 
You have enough to worry about with the daily operations of your company. Why should you need to be your own network administrator, too? Isn’t that why you began searching for an IT company to partner with and take care of the technology you need? You shouldn’t have to learn every inch of your systems to receive quality service. Seek out a knowledgeable IT provider that can support all your current needs and in the future.

You can’t find it? Where did you leave it last?   If you already had all the answers for your IT needs, you wouldn’t need an IT support company. Don’t play games with your IT support team. Give them the facts and let them take the helm. Their job is to solve your IT woes. Asking questions when you have questions is just a way to distract you from the truth. They really don’t know how to help you. No matter how large or small your IT problems are, you need an IT specialist that is dedicated to each and ever service call.

What will be will be.  Absolutely not! Managed service companies have helped businesses operate for decades. This industry is no spring chick. It all started with break-fix services, something broke and you called for service, and later the concept of managed services evolved to give companies ongoing support with continual monitoring, updates, and preventative procedures.

A good managed service provider will take on all of your vendor relationships from issues with the Internet to specialty software companies, you’re covered. Remember, a well maintained, proactively serviced computer network will always run better and more efficiently than an unmanaged network. Your support provider should be aggressively assessing every situation and monitoring every minute, every day so they can keep your IT costs down.

Money doesn’t grow on trees. 
Nope, it sure doesn’t. That’s exactly why flat rate managed services make since. Simply put, one of the biggest benefits of managed services is the proactive approach to fixing problems before they catastrophically impact your business.

Proactive network monitoring, desktop optimization, updating, and patch management performed on a regular schedule give businesses increased stability. You will see a tremendous difference in your operations if you’ve never experienced such services.

Answer me this…  I hated this line. My mother would say this when she wanted to extract information from me. But, it works. So, answer me this…

  • Do you know immediately when your back-up fails?
  • Do you know if you have anti-virus on all your computers and servers?
  • Do you know if all the latest patches are installed?
  • Do you know who to call if you need help?

If you can’t answer these questions with confidence, give us a call. We will conduct a FREE Network Security Assessment. You will receive a full report of your current operations and our suggestions to improve your operations. As mother’s often say, “Don’t you have something better to do?” Leave IT in the capable hands of a trusted provider.

ThinkTech

(508) 570-3040

 

Topic Article
May 6th, 2015

Productivity_May6_CWhen it comes to working in the office, a lot of things can hamper your productivity. Some of them are easy to deal with, such as redundant email checking and social media updates, while others are more difficult to handle, such as sudden power outages. The latter can be a real productivity killer, especially if your company relies heavily on Internet connectivity to perform day-to-day operations. But there are several methods to ensure productivity, even during power outages - here’s how.

Install a UPS for each computer

A UPS (uninterrupted power supply), is an alternative, emergency power source. During a power outage, your computer will turn itself off automatically as there's no power. UPS prevents that by running your computer off its own battery. If you’re working on a file when a power blackout occurs, UPS is especially helpful. It can only buy your computer a few minutes of time at most, but that’s enough time to save vital files and power down. If you still need Internet access, try another method we’ve listed below.

Find a Wi-Fi connection

The advancements in technology made it possible for you to take your work outside the office. You can resume your business activities and Internet connectivity by using the mobile data plan from your smartphone or tablets, and then access your files via cloud storage and file sharing applications. If you don’t have a data plan, then head to the nearest Wi-Fi-friendly place to continue your work, such as a coffee shop. VoIP software installed on your portable devices can help you to connect to your clients efficiently.

Make good use of your batteries

Now is not the time to browse social media or play games. When you take your work offline, it’s best to preserve your devices’ batteries by doing only important tasks and turning off power-sucking applications. Buy an extra charging device to extend your battery life, if necessary.

Finish offline tasks

When no Internet connection is available, you can take the time to clear off any neglected offline duties, whether it’s clearing up desks or arranging files and documents. You can even gather a team to brainstorm new ideas for projects, or discuss any ongoing issues within your organization.

Work from home

If a power outage renders your employees helpless in their duties, then sending them home with a business laptop won’t hurt, if they’re able to continue their work from there. There are many ways to keep them accountable without being intrusive and, as long as they are making progress in their jobs and are able maintain their professional integrity, there’s not much to complain about. Make sure telecommuting is only allowed when necessary though - working alongside colleagues and sharing ideas face-to-face is still one of the best ways to induce productivity.

Achieving power-free productivity is possible when you have a plan prepared for the situation. For more productivity tips to boost your business’s bottom line, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity