Blog

April 28th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Apr28_CIf you think you understand business intelligence and its importance, think again. Plenty of business owners think they have a realistic grasp on this tool that can and should inform your organization’s decisions and help you to plan for growth and development. But, in reality, many have a concept of business intelligence that is grounded in outdated practice. If it’s been a while since you gave yourself a refresher on what business intelligence really means, what it can do for your company and what you need to do to draw the most from it, then keep your eyes open for these mistruths and be prepared to show them the door.

Business intelligence should be simple

For too long now, business owners have been fed the idea by business intelligence tool providers that the means by which we understand our organization’s success should be as easy to digest as possible. That has led companies to take an overly simplified view of business intelligence. It is one that just doesn’t deliver the same depth of useful analytical detail that we need if we are going to really understand what’s behind growth (or lack of it). Nor does it allow us to genuinely develop a sense for the direction our companies need to be moving in - and how to get them there.

While simple business intelligence tools will work just fine for some organizations, the majority of us need to be demanding more complex, sophisticated tools to manipulate and generate value from the wealth of data that is at our fingertips. We are in an era where there is still value to be gained, but you have to dig a little deeper for it - and if you’re using outdated software that just isn’t up to the job, you’re going to struggle.

Big data is the be-all, end-all

We have no problem with big data - large-scale changes in industry practices, and our understanding of the ways our businesses work and grow, depend on it. But there’s a mammoth difference between using big data for the sake of it - because we’ve got into the mentality that its ability to deliver industry-wide improvements means it’s the magic cure for our organizations - and putting in place solutions that enable our front-line staff to actually use it.

After all, what’s the point in generating terabytes and terabytes of information if our outdated business intelligence tools aren’t capable of empowering non-technical staff to gain true insights into customer behavior, sales patterns and the like? Recent business intelligence sector developments mean that our companies can benefit from quality tools to visualize simple data collections, but the ability to do the same on a larger scale is still lacking. The lesson? If you’re looking to reap the rewards of large-scale data collection, equip your team with the tools that allow them to perform quality analysis.

The cloud alone is the answer

“The cloud” is the IT industry’s latest buzzword, but too often it gets touted around as an all-round solution that will solve each of our woes, without us really understanding its true purpose or how we can get the most from it. This is particularly the case in relation to business intelligence, where company owners are frequently led to believe that they can instantly enhance their business intelligence capabilities simply by moving everything upstairs to the cloud.

We’re big fans of the cloud and believe that with proper understanding and implementation it can pay real dividends. But the truth is that simply repeating your usual business intelligence routine - but doing so in the cloud - isn’t going to change much. If your business intelligence tools are too conventional and don’t offer enough flexibility, that will still be the case even if you put cloud technology over the top of them. It’s important to address the underlying issues before you contemplate a move to the cloud, so that you can truly reap the advantages of both changes.

If you’re guilty of being stuck with an outdated, or just off-center, view of business intelligence, give us a call to see how we can update you and help you to get the most out of it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 27th, 2015

164_Soc_CWhen it comes to social media, there are unspoken rules that must be followed in the business world. If you break them, it could damage your reputation and turn off customers. On the flip side, there are also strategies that can help you grow your network and build brand awareness. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick rundown of how to use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to optimize your business’s social media efforts and help you network like a pro.

Facebook

Many people think of Facebook as a useful platform to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues. However, in a business sense, it can be used to exchange ideas and opinions, promote your brand, and interact with customers.

A proven strategy to grow a more engaged network here is to share informative, valuable articles that will benefit your followers. Additionally, posting photos that emphasize your unique selling proposition and mission is a strategic way to personalize your brand.

There are, however, a few no-nos when it comes to Facebook. With Facebook being predominantly a place to connect with family and friends, it’s easy to fall into the trap of posting whatever comes to mind. So when you’re wondering whether or not you should post a particular comment or image, ask yourself, “Would I be okay publishing this on the front page of a newspaper?” If the answer is no, it’s best to hold off on hitting the post button. Finally, if you’re using the platform in a business sense, avoid sharing pictures of your dinner, newborn baby or anything too personal. Your customers are likely to be confused or turned off.

LinkedIn

The social network that is most obviously suited for professional purposes is LinkedIn, and it’s an exceptional platform to grow your business. To do that, it’s important to keep your company information up to date and remain active on the platform. A couple of ways to generate activity are to share or comment on articles, join professional groups and update your network with current company milestones, events you’re attending and other news about your organization.

When it comes to growing your network on LinkedIn, there’s a big debate as to whether or not to connect with every Tom, Joe, Dick and Sally who sends you an invite. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but as far as brand awareness is concerned it makes sense to connect with more people. However, it’s a good idea to take a moment and do a quick profile check on the potential connection. Not everyone retains a professional profile and image on LinkedIn, and connecting with the wrong people could potentially hurt your reputation.

Twitter

Want to connect with people from around the world, stay on top of trends and share your ideas with professionals you respect? Twitter is the platform to do just that. Like the other two platforms mentioned above, you can also share articles and advice, and ask questions.

An element that makes Twitter especially unique is the hashtag, and you can use it to take your networking to another level. For example, if you’re attending an industry event or other networking opportunity, you can search Twitter for the associated event hashtag. This will help you discover who will be in attendance - like colleagues and professionals you’d like to meet - which gives you a great opportunity to maintain and grow your network.

Interested in finding out how else you can use social media to boost your business? Send us a message to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 23rd, 2015

164_Virt_CYou’ve probably had someone tell you before that “virtualization saves money.” But have you ever thought about what this actually means? And do you know just how virtualization does this? The truth is that, in this day and age, choosing not to virtualize can actually hurt your profits. To demonstrate this, we’ve compiled four questions you need to ask yourself about your current IT expenses to prove once and for all that virtualization is a better solution.

Studies have shown that over 70% of IT budgeting is put towards simply “keeping the lights on.” If that sounds like a lot of money, that’s because it is. You’re likely spending thousands of dollars powering your IT equipment and paying your staff to manage it. And the truth is that it just doesn’t have to be that way. Virtualization can eliminate all those costs for a smoother running solution that you’ll never have to worry about.

So if you’re ready to examine your IT budget and see for yourself, here are 4 questions you need to ask:

1. What’s the cost of your data center?

We’re talking about the whole kit and caboodle: your servers, backup power supplies, air conditioning, security devices, and the overhead costs for the space to store all of this.

2. How much do you spend on cooling your servers?

Keeping your servers cool is a fact of life. Have you ever considered how much this is costing you?

3. How much is being budgeted towards cabling and adapters?

Don’t forget about these. We’re talking about not only the physical cables and adaptors, but also the costs of maintenance.

4. How much does it cost your IT staff to manage these resources?

It takes time for your staff to manage your IT. Time is money.

How does virtualization eliminate these costs? With virtualization you can kiss the data center, servers, cables and adapters goodbye (hello new office space). Instead, we store all your equipment off-site and deliver it to you via the Internet. Your computers and network continue to function normally. The only difference is they’re out of sight and out of mind. This equals lower maintenance costs, fewer overheads, less equipment, and fewer headaches.

And let’s not forget the time it costs to manage all of your IT equipment. With virtualization, we do this for you. This frees up the time of your current IT staff, allowing them to focus on more important things - like your business’s IT strategy and market changes. Better still, you may even have the option to completely eliminate the need for in-house IT staff. How’s that for cost savings?

Ready to make the switch to virtualization? Need more of your questions answered? Let’s talk today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 22nd, 2015

164_Prod_CIn today’s world of ever-changing technology, information overload and endless to do lists, it can seem hard to keep up. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to just get more done? While there’ll likely always be tasks to accomplish and something to do, there are certainly things you can change to boost productivity. And that starts with identifying bad habits. Here are five of them you should kick now to bring your productivity to an all-time high.

Constantly checking email

This is an obvious one most people already know of, but how many of us actually follow it? The reason it’s a productivity killer is because it destroys your focus. Even worse, constantly checking email has been linked to anxiety, depression, lower performance and even decreased memory function.

To overcome this habit, designate specific times of the day to check your e-mail. For example, first thing in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, and at the end of the work day. This will prevent constant email checking from breaking up your flow while you’re on the clock.

Working long days

It’s 8pm, you’ve already worked 12 hours, but you just want to knock out one more item on your to do list. You’re exhausted, but you tell yourself to push through anyway - even if it takes another hour. How many of us have been here? If it’s more often than not, it may be a good idea to kick this habit as it’s an absolute productivity killer.

Studies have shown that working more than eight hours a day lowers productivity and raises the risk of burnout. The reasoning is simple...mental fatigue. Once you’ve worked a certain number of hours, your focus will be less sharp and your productivity will consequently drop. Which leads us to our next point...

Not getting enough sleep

Rest is essential to maximizing your productivity. And the most essential type of rest you can get is sleep. Research has shown that getting five hours of sleep or less multiple nights in a row has the same effect on you as a 0.10 blood alcohol level. Not only that, but you’ll also suffer from headaches, be mistake-prone and get distracted more easily. Basically you’ll be an unfocused mess.

Working continuously without a break

Studies have shown that you need to take breaks if you want to achieve maximum productivity. This is because a break allows you to rest your brain. Often during a break, you may even come up with new creative solutions to problems. And the best part is that when you return to work, you’ll feel revitalized with a fresh focus and ready to be challenged.

Multitasking

In this day and age, multitasking is often touted as a positive skill. And while this may be true in small bursts, spending hours juggling tasks is a surefire way of lowering productivity. The reason behind this is that switching between tasks causes a loss of focus and creativity. Think of your brain as a computer with a limited amount of RAM. Now what happens when your computer’s RAM is pushed to the max? It usually slows down and doesn’t function as well. Your brain acts in a similar way, the only difference being that you can’t buy more RAM to install in your brain - not yet, at least.

On the contrary, studies have shown that focusing on one task for a larger block of time (don’t forget to throw your break in, though) allows you to boost your productivity and get into a flow with your work. Try it out and you may find yourself accomplishing more tasks than you ever imagined possible.

Interested in learning about more ways to increase productivity? Want to find out how your technology can help? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Apr14_CEvery on-the-ball business owner knows that without business intelligence tools, it’s impossible to know where your company is doing well, where the flaws lie and which is the best path to growth and development. So it’s an exciting move for Microsoft to have recently acquired Datazen, a business intelligence and data visualization service that was launched three years ago. Microsoft’s purchase comes in the wake of its release earlier this year of the free Power BI product, and suggests Microsoft is taking the business intelligence market ever more seriously. Wherever you’re at with business intelligence, here’s what you need to know.

Datazen stands out from the business intelligence crowd in that the tool is built with mobile users in mind. The goal with the conception of Datazen, which was previously known as ComponentArt, was to create a user-friendly business intelligence product that balanced power, simplicity and a pleasant experience for the end user. The software is compatible with iOS, Android and Windows devices, and last year the firm released an update allowing offline use across all platforms.

The move means that Datazen now provides mobility to its users, allowing them to continue working with their business intelligence data wherever they are based and no matter whether they have an internet connection. Connected to the launch of offline capabilities, the same release also improved the synchronization process between the Datazen app and live data sources. This allows users to work with up to 100,000 records locally on any device, and enjoy immediate data retrieval.

In addition to Microsoft’s wider push on business intelligence tools, the company is focused on specifically doing so with the cloud and mobile in mind. This forms part of the corporation-wide priority for innovation in mobile-first, cloud-first IT solutions, identified by CEO Satya Nadella last year. Microsoft says that Datazen’s offering will complement that of Power BI and that, over time, the IT giant aims to integrate the two in order to bridge the gap between on-site and cloud-based business intelligence tools. Datazen is already optimized for Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services.

According to Datazen, its current users can continue to access and use all of its products in their current form. Microsoft has also announced that SQL Server Enterprise Edition customers with at least version 2008 can now access Datazen software at no additional cost. The company claims the move will bring Datazen’s mobile data visualization and interaction possibilities to millions of business users globally.

Learn more about how to implement business intelligence to grow your company - call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 21st, 2015

BusinessValue_Apr21_CAs a small business owner you’ve gone through the painstaking effort of making your products or services known to potential clients. Once you’ve managed to close the deal, the next step is to plan how to get repeat business from those clients. You can do just that by using email marketing to retain clients for longer, and build profits over an extended timeline. Here are some email marketing ideas to use on your list of subscribers.

Offer promotional codes

Offer your customers a promotional code that provides a special discount or a freebie on their next purchase. You can place the code in an email as a thank you for your customers’ sign-up or first purchase. Also consider adding an expiration date as a way to monitor whether your customers have used the code or not. Promotional codes are a great tool to express gratitude to your customers, and show that you value their business.

Rewards program

This is one of the simplest email marketing strategies as you can offer anything to make your customers feel special. You could go for a “buy one, get one” promotion or offer an extra month of service after a yearly subscription. If applicable to the nature of your business, you can create points programs for your customers to collect, and they can redeem the points for something afterwards.

Host contests

The purposes of contests are to excite your customers, increase engagement, and increase brand awareness. You will also have the opportunity to find out more about your customers by asking detailed questions as part of the contest entry process. For instance, you could ask them to complete a quick survey about your products or services, giving you ideas for future email campaigns.

Give freebies

Send freebies via emails occasionally, or on your customers’ birthdays. You can give away anything related to your business that your customers will find helpful, such as eBooks, videos, or other tools. Add an expiration date to these freebies to enable you to follow up if they haven’t claimed it.

Send notifications

When you have a new product or service, you can notify every customer on your email list. In addition, when you run promotional codes with expiry dates, rewards programs, or contests, you can send reminder emails to alert your customers, encouraging them to take action on your offers.

Email marketing is best used to retain existing clients. Since it’s much cheaper to retain an existing client than acquire a new one, email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective marketing solution that is well worth a try.

If you’re looking to implement email marketing to improve sales, give us a call today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 20th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr20_CBusiness continuity plans (BCP) are designed to protect your company’s resources and data in the event of a disaster. Backing up data, getting insurance and marking rally points are some of the main components of a BCP. One of the most important processes is running an exercise to test whether the BCP actually works. But a business continuity exercise can be a challenge in its own way, as it involves all your employees and executives. Don’t be overwhelmed - we have a few proven steps to get you started.

Set objectives

The first step to any efficient exercise is having clear objectives. Think about the results you want to see at the end of the exercise. These outcomes may include, but are not limited to, IT disaster recovery, evacuation routines, off-site recovery plans, and supplier management. If there are measurable targets that can be put into the equation, then all the better. For instance, meeting a recovery objective after a disaster within x number of hours.

Select the right type of exercise

Essentially there are four levels of exercises, each increasing in complexity and difficulty.
  • A walkthrough - this exercise involves a team meeting to discuss whether the present BCP has everything covered and is up-to-date.
  • Desktop exercise - ideal for new or intermediate teams. A desktop exercise takes place in a room where delegates discuss a fictional scenario delivered via a series of powerpoint presentations. Role-playing and dramatic simulations are not part of this stage of the process.
  • Functional exercise - this level allows employees to perform their duties in a simulated environment. It is designed to exercise specific team members, procedures, and resources in the event of a disaster.
  • Live or real time - this is a full-scale exercise performed in real time with normal business suspended. The aim is to see whether people can do what’s expected of them within a set timescale. A live exercise is often complicated and costly to organize, but will generally ensure a much smoother process if the worst does happen.

Develop a scenario

Take what you’ve learned from the team, the objectives and plan to develop a scenario. Depending on the type of exercise, you should have a scenario tailored to suit your objectives. Be creative when simulating incidents. You may need only two or three to keep your employees busy for a couple of hours - during that time you can monitor their performance.

Prepare employees

Assign a group of representatives responsible for making announcements and preparing conference rooms to relay the plan to employees. Be specific about who in the company are participants, observers, and facilitators for the purposes of the exercise. Explain courses of actions to everyone involved in the plan. Remember, your BCP’s success depends on your employees’ cooperation, so do your best when you’re clarifying the plan.

Run the exercise!

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. After careful planning and scheduling, it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you observe the exercise closely and ask yourself these questions: Are there any potential areas that can be improved? What should you do more of, or differently? What went well, and what didn’t? End the exercise with a feedback session where employees can express their opinions and share their ideas.

If you don’t get it right the first time, then go back to the drawing board and schedule another exercise. It only gets better with every practice.

Are you ready even if disaster should strike? Contact us today and we can help you develop a business continuity plan that keeps your company in the game.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 17th, 2015

SocialMedia_Apr13_CWhich social media networks does your company focus the majority of its marketing efforts on? Chances are, if you’re anything like the majority of organizations, you spend more time thinking about Facebook and Twitter than any other channels. Yes, it’s true that these leading platforms can drive results when they are used to employ effective marketing strategies. Yet there is more to social media than these two sites - and with recent changes meaning it’s now easier than ever to keep up with regular pinning, Pinterest is one such network you’ll want to become more active on.

Pinterest recently announced the launch of an updated and improved browser extension that enables users to save content and pin it to their boards. The platform has supported browser extensions like this for several years already, but the latest enhancements reduce the number of clicks needed to pin images and other content to boards. It is also now simpler to track down the specific board you want to pin an image to, or to create a brand new board from within the browser extension if you don’t already have one that fits.

For casual social media users, the Pinterest button that comes with the browser extension makes for a simple way to bookmark content on Pinterest in order to come back to it later. Pinterest itself gives the example of a food blog - while you’re browsing a recipe, you can click the Pinterest button on your browser and in just a couple of clicks save a visual reference to one of your boards. Then where you’re ready to start cooking, you can easily find the image and click it to return to the blog.

But the benefits are there for those of us using social media for business purposes, too. The extension makes it simpler for you to pin both your own content, which users can then share by re-pinning or clicking on find out more on your web site, and for you to pin and share other relevant content from around the web that will be of interest to your prospective customers. Never forget the golden rule of social media marketing, that your profile - on whichever platform - shouldn’t just be a non-stop stream of promotional messages. Social media is different from conventional advertising, and your content should be a blend of subtle promotion and other, non-sales content that is of genuine interest to prospects.

Pinterest is growing in a big way, meaning now is the perfect time to accelerate your marketing efforts on the platform. There are now said to be over 50 billion pieces of content pinned on the site, spanning over a billion boards, and traffic is both growing and moving to mobile devices. In fact, over 80% of the site’s traffic comes from mobile. And while Pinterest has long been considered to be a predominantly female-friendly site, the channel’s popularity with men is growing, and is outpacing the overall growth in the Pinterest user base.

If Pinterest doesn’t already figure in your social media marketing strategy, it’s about time it did. Give us a call to discuss how we can help you propel your social media efforts forward.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 16th, 2015

164_C_OffYou may have heard that now there are apps on your phone that allow you to scan documents. And for those who don’t own a scanner, this is extremely convenient. But with the release of Microsoft Office Lens scanning app last year, this technology has became a whole lot better. Here’s why you should you should be excited it’s finally making the transition to iOS and Android.

What is Microsoft Office Lens?

Microsoft Office Lens is virtually a scanner in your pocket. You snap a picture of anything with text on it, and just like that it’s converted into a scanned document. What separates it from other similar apps out there is its ability to make the scanned text editable as if it were in a Word doc.

Unlike most of the other phone scanning apps, Office Lens automatically detects the borders of the item or document you’re scanning. This means you don’t have to bother lining up the edges of the item with a grid - you just point and shoot. The Lens app then optimizes the picture so that the text is easy to read. It does this by cleaning up shadows and straightening awkward angles. Also, the images you snap are automatically synced to OneNote. This allows you to easily store them, transfer to your other devices or share them later. Additionally, the images can also be saved to MS Word, Powerpoint or PDF. Originally launched in March of 2014, up until now Microsoft Office Lens was only available to Windows Mobile users. This seems a god sent to anyone who has had to rewrite scanned docs to make changes or reformat information.

To give you an idea of some of the items Microsoft Office Lens can scan, check out the list below:

  • business cards
  • billboards
  • receipts
  • invoices
  • notes
  • white boards
  • really anything that has text on it
Why is this cool? Well, imagine you’re at a meeting and there have been a long series of notes written on a white board. Instead of having to scribble all these notes down on a piece of paper, you can simply snap an image of the board. Afterwards you can edit the text from the whiteboard as you see fit, adding in your own notes or ideas.

How to get Microsoft Office Lens app

If you use an iOS device, you can download the app for free on iTunes.

As for Android, a fully functional version of the app is not yet readily available. However, you can get a preview version by joining the “Office Lens Android Preview” community on Google +. There you can sign up to become a tester.

Want to learn more about Office Lens and other Office products? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 15th, 2015

164_C_SecThere are things that all of us hold dear to our hearts: family, a stable career, and our smartphone and tablet. Okay, maybe those last two aren’t as important as the others. But still, your smartphone or tablet is likely an integral part of your life. And you’re probably using them to foster that stable career or family life. So when your device becomes infected, what’s to do? We’re specifically talking Android, and we’re going to show you six steps to take when you suspect infection.

The lowdown on Android viruses

First off, let’s just put some things out there and clear the air. One, getting a virus on your Android product is actually incredibly rare. Two, when you see pop-up ads prompting you to buy a virus removal app, don’t freak out. This doesn’t automatically mean your device is infected. In fact, buying one of these apps could actually get you a virus! This is because all Android viruses are contracted via apps you install on the device. Which means the safest way to avoid getting one is to only install apps from the Google Play app store. If you must buy one outside of this, it’s wise to do your research first.

Before we get to what we think is the best solution, there are alternative ways to remove a virus that should be noted:

  • Use antivirus apps from Google Play - a lot of these are free and will detect and remove malicious apps, but some have a tendency to report apps as infected when they’re actually completely fine.
  • Perform a factory reset - if there’s a virus on your phone, this is a surefire way to remove it. However, in doing so you return your phone to its original factory settings. That means you’ll lose everything you’ve added since then that isn’t backed up.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the recommended option below.

How to remove the virus

  1. Turn safe mode on: To do this, access the power-off options by pressing the power button, then press and hold Power Off. This gives you the option to restart in safe mode. However, this doesn’t work with all models of the Android phone or tablet. If it doesn’t work with your device, a quick Google will pull up model-specific instructions. And what’s the point of turning on safe mode in the first place? Simple - it prevents any malware from running.
  2. Search for the infected app: Do this by opening Settings and then Apps. Once you’ve done this, be sure you’re looking at the Download tab (since the virus can only be something you’ve downloaded), and then start searching for the suspected app. If you don’t know the virus’s name, it’s likely something that looks out of place.
  3. Uninstall the app: Yes, it’s really that simple. Just click on the suspected app and uninstall it. Then you’re done. But if the name of the app is grayed out and you can’t even tap it, it means the virus has given itself Device Administration Status. In this case, follow the next three steps below.
  4. Remove Administrator Status: Do this by tapping on Settings and Security, then Device Administrators. Simply uncheck the infected app and hit Deactivate on the next screen.
  5. Uninstall the app: Now when you return to the Apps menu, the infected app will no longer be grayed out. Simply uninstall it.
  6. Restart your device: This takes it out of safe mode. Now your phone will be virus-free.
Want more ideas for Android and IT security? Don’t hesitate to give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security