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June 13th, 2014

security_June13_CThe parallel rise of technological advancement and malicious Internet activity is evident. With advances in technology comes an increase in security threats which, if not taken care of right away, can severely affect your business’ efficiency and overall success. With that in mind, it’s time you familiarized yourself with the top security best practice guidelines which will go a long way to ensuring your business is safe and secure.

10 Security practice guidelines for businesses

  1. Encrypt your data: Encryption of stored data, filesystems, and across-the-wire transfers is essential to protect sensitive data as well as to help prevent data loss due to equipment loss or theft.
  2. Use digital certificates to sign all of your sites: You should obtain your certificates from a trusted Certificate Authority, and instead of saving your certificates on the Web server, save them to hardware devices like routers or load balancers.
  3. Implement a removable media policy: Devices like USB drives, external hard disks, external DVD writers or any writeable media facilitate security breaches coming into or leaving your network. Restricting the use of those devices is an effective way to minimize security threats.
  4. Implement DLP and auditing: Be sure to use data loss prevention and file auditing to monitor, alert, identify, and block the flow of data into and out of your network.
  5. Use a spam filter on your email servers: Using a time-tested spam filter such as SpamAssassin will remove unwanted email from entering your inbox and junk folders. It is important that you identify junk mail even if it’s from a trusted source.
  6. Secure websites against MITM and malware infections: Start using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which creates a secure connection between a user and server, over which any amount of data can be sent securely. Through SSL, you’ll be able to scan your website daily for malware, set the Secure flag for all session cookies, as well as use SSL certificates with Extended Validation.
  7. Use a comprehensive endpoint security solution: Using an antivirus software alone is not enough to provide defense against today’s security threats. Go for a multi-layered product to prevent malware infections on your devices.
  8. Network-based security hardware and software: Start using firewalls, gateway antivirus, intrusion detection devices, and monitoring to screen for DoS attacks, virus signatures, unauthorized intrusion, and other over-the-network attacks.
  9. Maintain security patches: Make sure that your software and hardware defenses stay up-to-date with new anti-malware signatures and the latest patches. If your antivirus program doesn’t update on a daily basis, be sure to set up a regular scan and a remediation plan for your systems.
  10. Educate your employees: As simple as it sounds, this might be the most important non-hardware, non-software solution available. An informed user will more likely behave more responsibly and take fewer risks with valuable company data resulting in fewer threats to your organization.
Businesses cannot afford to take chances with security. Why? Because doing so can trigger a domino effect, causing a cascade of problems that can lead to operational outages, data loss, security breaches, and the subsequent negative impact to your company's bottom line. Looking to learn more about security for your business? Call us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 9th, 2014

businesscontinuity_June9_CLooking at the majority of natural disasters that strike it appears that many happen in the months of June through August. Regardless of your business location, there is likely an increased chance that you could see a disaster in these months and it is therefore a good idea to prepare for one, even if you think it unlikely. While there are many things you can do to get ready in advance, mobile devices can play an important role, especially the use of apps.

Both Android and Apple mobile devices offer a wide variety of apps that users rely on daily. Because of this, these devices have become an integral part of our lives and would no doubt be on hand if disaster struck. The upside to this is that there are apps that can help you and your employees whatever the disaster. Here are four of the best types of disaster related apps you and your colleagues should download in order to prepare.

Weather apps

It is always a good idea to know what the weather forecast is for your local area. This can help you predict what could happen and even prepare your business should say a big storm be rolling in. There are a wide variety of weather apps out there and it can be difficult to actually pick which is the best to use. We recommend:
  1. The NOAA Weather Radio - Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad users, this app is the official app for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. When installed, you can receive local weather forecasts based on your location and storm or severe weather warnings pushed directly to your device. The app can be found on iTunes and costs USD$3.99
  2. Weather Underground - This app is among the most powerful weather apps out there. Using a wide variety of weather stations and user submitted weather it is up to date and able to offer accurate forecasts. With a Weather Radio feature, and push notifications of weather alerts, you can easily track potential storms. There is also the WunderMap which has radar, reports and IR Sat views as well. The app is available for free on Google Play and iTunes, and is rumored to be coming soon for Windows Phone.
  3. Local weather apps - Many TV stations and weather organizations have localized weather apps that focus on just local conditions. If you live in a disaster prone area, it would be a good idea to see if your local TV station has a weather app, as this could be the quickest way to receive updates.

American Red Cross apps

The Red Cross has a number of excellent survival oriented apps that could really come in handy for when a disaster strikes. These apps provide tips on how to prepare yourself and your family, as well as buildings for disaster, and what to do during and after a disaster strikes.

The best part is that most of the information is available offline, so you will have access to it even if cell networks are down. Some of the apps even provide weather alerts that will sound even if the app isn't open, alerting you about any impending danger.

These apps are all available for free on Google Play and iTunes. The best thing to do is to visit the Red Cross website and look for the apps that are relevant to your local area e.g., if you are in the mountains the Forest Fire and First Aid apps may help. The apps are all free and can be downloaded by clicking the links for your device's app store on the Red Cross site.

Social media apps

Social media services could prove to be a good way to connect and communicate during a disaster. Try setting up a group for your employees to communicate and encourage them to use it when a disaster strikes to share information and enact plans. One of the biggest added advantages to using social networks is that the servers that host the service are located around the world, so the chances of the service being down is fairly slim. If you have Internet access, you will be able to access the service.

It would be a good idea to define which social network you want to use and establish your pages and connections ahead of time. Have each employee sign up for and join the group you have created and also download the app onto their mobile devices.

Google Public Alerts

Google Public Alerts is the company's alert platform that allows for the distribution of emergency messages and notices like evacuation notices, public alerts, and storm warnings. For users in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia alerts will appear in Google Searches, Maps and if you are an Android or iOS user, from Google Now.

Mobile users who have Google Now installed should see relevant alerts pop up when something happens. While you won't see alerts for absolutely everything, Google does a pretty good job at broadcasting useful information. On mobile devices, these alerts will usually pop up in your Notifications Center where they are easy to see.

To get these notifications on your Android device, you will need to download the Google Search app and activate it on your device. You can find it for free on the Google Play Store, and on iTunes. Android users can also download the Google Now Launcher which will add Google Now to your device's home screen, and can be accessed by swiping to the right from your Home Screen.

Tips for using your mobile during an emergency

Here are six tips to help you leverage your mobile device during a disaster.
  1. Install relevant apps - In order to be prepared, you should install the apps necessary to communicate during a disaster, along with a weather app and if necessary a survival app.
  2. Ensure your contacts are up to date - To be sure, you should periodically update your contacts. Should anything happen you will know how to contact people and have a higher chance of being able to get in touch.
  3. Ensure your employees have devices that work - Even if you don't allow mobile devices in the office, or employees to use their own devices, it would be a great idea to ensure that your employees have devices that are in working order so should they need to contact you, or vice versa, you will have a better chance of being able to.
  4. Establish procedures to follow during a disaster - This is arguably the most important preparation you can do. Take the time to establish procedures you and your employees should follow during an emergency. Include where people should meet, backup plans, contact suggestions and the roles you expect your employees to take.
  5. Keep your batteries topped up - Mobile devices rely on batteries to operate, and during a disaster you may be without a power source for an extended amount of time. Therefore, Minimize use during a disaster. Ensure your batteries are full, or charges as often and has high as possible.
  6. Invest in a good power bank - Power banks are useful tools that are essentially big batteries. You can charge them up then use them to charge your devices. Take a look for one that is at least 9000 MHZ, or higher. The higher the number the bigger the charge.
If you are looking to learn more about using mobile devices during a disaster, or how your company can prepare, contact us today. Learn about our services and how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 4th, 2014

Windows_June02_CDid you know that cleaning up your storage improves not only your computer’s performance but your productivity as well?

Remember… If you are a Total Support Client of Apex Technology, there’s no need to do this, we take care of it as part of our service!

While there are many ways you can do this, one of the most effective is to use the Disk Cleanup tool which clears up unwanted files. These unnecessary items might be eating your storage space and preventing your computer from performing at its best. Disk Cleanup also has the intelligent capability to clear up registries and detect virus-infected or redundant files.

How to operate the Disk Cleanup tool

Disk Cleanup can easily be accessed through the start menu or by searching Disk Cleanup. Once it has been opened, this tool will automatically select Drive C, although you can switch to other drives, and will show a list of file locations containing files that can be removed. Adjacent to each file location is data about the size it is taking up from your hard disk.

Each file location has a corresponding checkbox that needs to be selected in order to delete the unnecessary files it contains. Upon highlighting or selecting certain files, the description of the files will appear at the bottom of the window so that you know exactly which files you are removing.

When Disk Cleanup completes you need to restart your system to remove the unnecessary Windows Update files. Remember, the Disk Cleanup tool only removes those files that it thinks are no longer needed, hence usually very few are deleted.

The benefits of Disk Cleanup

  • Saves time and increases your efficiency - The traditional way of opening folders to find old files to delete may suffice for some, but not for those who prioritize productivity. Although files can be deleted manually, you may not know how, and the Disk Cleanup is faster too.
  • Makes your computer more reliable - Some programs are automatically downloaded through the Internet and are often virus-infected, therefore infecting other files as well. The Disk Cleanup tool can clean unwanted programs and virus-infected files which are decreasing your computer’s reliability.
  • Maximizes your drive’s memory - The ultimate advantage of cleaning up your disk is the maximization of your computer’s storage space, increased speed, and improvement of functionality. Upon clearing the disk drive, the computer can perform at greater speed enabling you to use your device to run at peak performance levels.

The Disk Cleanup tool is as handy to launch and operate as any basic program, so there is no hassle of installing new software and tools to clean your computer. Not only does this allow you to use your disk space for necessary files but also improves your productivity. If you are looking to improve the speed of your systems, contact us today to learn more about our services and how they can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 3rd, 2014

SocialMedia_June02_CSocial media is quickly becoming one of the more useful marketing tools a business has. While a corporate profile can be a great way to connect with existing customers, many businesses find that because of the high number of people actually using these sites, these platforms are perfect for marketing and advertising, and ultimately in reaching and penetrating target markets. One way you can get your ads in front of people is through the use of social PPC.

Define social PPC

Businesses who advertise through social media have a number of ways they can get their ads and content seen on this platform. The most popular is based on one of the Internet's oldest marketing schemes: Pay-per-Click, or PPC.

In a broad sense, PPC is the act of paying an advertiser or website to place ads at strategic locations. Placing these ads is usually free, or comes with a nominal fee, but when a user clicks on the ad and goes to the destination site, the owner of the ad pays the advertiser or site a small fee.

In relation to social media, social PPC is simply ads which are placed on the social networks. For example, you can pay Facebook to place an ad on the right-hand bar of certain user's News Feeds. If they click on the ad, Facebook will then charge you a set amount for that click.

Where social PPC differs from other types of PPC, more specifically search PPC - paying search engines to display your ads - is that it is more display oriented. With search PPC, you pay the engine to show your ad when specific search keywords are entered. With social PPC, you pay the site to display your ad regardless of what the user is looking at.

3 Common misconceptions about social PPC

While this process is becoming more popular with businesses, especially those who have integrated social media into their marketing plans, there are some common misconceptions that seem to be floating around.

1. Starting small is the way to go

As with most strategies in business, when starting something new you often want to test the waters before jumping in full scale. Many companies who are trying social PPC for the first time will often start with one or two campaigns running at the same time. While this may work for small businesses with an unproven profile, those with an established profile and marketing strategy may want to try running 3-5 campaigns at the same time.

The reason for this strategy is that it can help spread out the overall views, along with enhancing the quality of information and results. For example, you can easily compare and establish what is working when you have more than two alternatives to compare.

2. You need to be active on the services you target

Despite what some people in charge of marketing believe, you don't need to be active on a social network in order to be able to use social PPC features. Many networks, like Twitter, simply require that you have an account in order to be able to use the ad features.

If you do want to use the ad features of different social networks, you should be sure to at least have a fully completed profile. This includes address, name, location, and business info. Of course, if you want to enhance the success of your initiative, an active profile will help but it is not necessary.

The best example of this is if you want to use the promoted post feature in Facebook. You will need to have content in order to actually use this feature successfully and the more content and followers you have, the higher the chances of what you promote being seen.

3. You MUST be using Facebook Ads

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, and many businesses already have a Facebook Page. But many feel that in order to maximize the potential of their Page, they need to be advertising using Facebook Ads.

Sure, it can help to use this service, but it isn't the only one out there. You do have other options, including different platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. To really get the most out of a social PPC campaign you should try different platforms anyway. For example, if you want to target other business customers try using LinkedIn, which is where this target group may be more likely to be found than through Facebook.

Looking to learn more about social PPC or using social media in your company? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 29th, 2014

Productivity_May26_CThe corporate workspace is an area where focus is as critical as productivity. However, because of office distractions, many employees often struggle to focus on what needs to be achieved, resulting in increased company expenses and less effective output. While a drop in productivity sometimes cannot be avoided from time-to-time, there are ways to ensure that it doesn't decline too much.

When it comes to problems with productivity, it can sometimes be difficult to spot what the main issues are. Productivity can suffer over time as challenges and work habits have an effect on what is achieved and how. Even if you're not aware of any productivity concerns, it is worthwhile checking from time to time where you can boost efficiency.

Prepare for the day ahead

Nothing is as important as knowing which of your tasks matter the most. Collect your thoughts the night before and create a to-do list for the next day. Determine which demand needs immediate attention and which can be done later that day.

A priority list will enable you to focus on those business needs that require immediate attention, allowing you to complete more tasks. By allocating a specific order and time to each individual job you will be able to more clearly achieve and evaluate your progress at the end of the day.

Shut personal connections out

The worst distraction in the office is employee connectivity to the outside world. Social networking sites, emails, and personal calls divert the focus from significant and pressing work concerns to personal matters.

The key here is to look at how you can contain the social aspects which make work enjoyable and employees happy, and balance this personal freedom with the demands of your business. You may find that restrictions are needed, such as limiting personal phone calls. Some companies impose a ban on social media sites and keep a tighter reign on personal communications. Other companies keep a more open policy but instead instill in employees a personal responsibility to impose limits on their own behavior.

Get in the working zone By showing your colleagues that you are busy and concentrating on your work you put up a barrier to them distracting you. By being polite and friendly but putting your work game face on you can show your determination and produce results to show at the end of the day. It's easy for time to drift by with idle chat and unnecessary interruptions which could wait until break time.

Set personal deadlines

You may have a deadline set by the demands of a job you are focusing on, or set by someone working with you, but personal deadlines are also necessary. By giving yourself a set time to furnish reports and deliver outcomes, for example, you keep yourself focused and produce results. Keep your desk free from piled-up paperwork and tasks so you do not have to cram to meet deadlines.

Determine your distractions

Know which, from among the office clamor, distracts you the most and create a way to eliminate, minimize or extract yourself from this problem. Is it noise from other people that is bothering you or perhaps as simple as the pop-up notifications on your computer screen? Do yourself a favor and deal with it.

Focus is at the core of these guidelines. Start asking yourself what is preventing you from concentrating. Look at how you work and what the situation is when you're in the flow and getting what you need to achieve done.

Productivity is essential in the corporate world as it is about fulfilling goals, ambitions and commitments, which can have a spillover effect on your life outside of work too. Determine which from among your tasks need to be fulfilled first, focus and boost your productivity.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
May 29th, 2014

BusinessValue_May26_CSocial media has become such a large part of business strategy and marketing. Many businesses invest time, money and energy into creating a wide variety of content for their social media platforms. One of the most popular types of content is articles. While many businesses go to great lengths to create articles, some have a problem with ensuring or increasing the chance that what they write and post will be shared.

The key to getting your content shared

There are countless blog posts on how to create content that is shareable. And to create content that will be shared by users on social media and other platforms you need to know why content gets shared in the first place.

In order to help, we scoured the Internet and found a great article over at OK Dork, which was written by the content masters at BuzzSumo. This article listed things you can do to increase the shareability of the content you produce. While it is quite a long article, we found there were some great tips worth talking about here. In order to make things a little easier, we have split this article into two parts. Here are the first five tips you can leverage to increase the reach of your content, and more specifically the blog articles you create:

Create longer content

Take a look at what people share on their social media profiles and there is little doubt that the vast majority of content is short, and can range from often photos and videos of funny cats to memes. But look at the articles that are shared and you will often find that the most popular ones are actually longer, or long-form as they are referred to by content experts.

The main reason for this is because there are fewer long-form article creators out there, and there is a demand for higher quality, well researched and well-written articles. Sharing this type of content generally adds some depth to a posting which can create a more involved and sustained dialogue.

You might want to mix it up to increase shareability by creating some articles which follow this longer style approach. You could try writing shorter articles on a regular basis, for example, with a 2000 word article say once a month.

People like images

Think about the last time you read an article in the newspaper without an image, or even saw a link on social media without an image. Did you remember the content, or did you even click on the link? Many people wouldn't. So, if you want your content to be shared on social media add some visuals.

With longer content visuals not only serve to draw the eyes of the reader and break up content to keep the reader engaged. For shorter pieces, an image can attract initial attention and give the reader some an idea about what the subject of the content is.

The key here is to include visuals with every piece of content. Make sure that the image relates to the content and is interesting enough to capture attention, enough that users will want to share what they see and read.

Even Twitter users like images

Although Twitter is largely based on text posts visual content tends to be shared more by users of this platform.

As per the point above, try to have a visual with every piece of content. If you are an avid Twitter user, try coming up with titles or overviews that are 100 characters or less. This will leave room for a link on Twitter to the content. If social media users likes the content, and there is an image too, chances are higher that they will share it via Twitter.

Using certain emotions really helps

If you want people to share your content, you need to write articles that evoke emotion. The three most successful, when it comes to sharing, are:
  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement
If your article inspires one of these three emotions, you have a drastically higher chance of the content being shared. Generally speaking, if content makes someone laugh or think about an issue then are more likely to share what resonates with them.

The other emotion to capitalize on is selfishness. Take a look at your Facebook News Feed and we guarantee that you will see a ton of quizzes shared by people. These quizzes are usually something like "What TV character would you be?, or "What's your dream job?", etc. While entertaining, these quizzes appeal to our more narcissistic sides. They provide little to no value to your followers, but they can be fun and help social media users establish an identity which they can compare with others trying out the same 'test'.

You can also try to create articles that challenge normal assumptions or are opinion pieces on relevant hot-button issues. The spark of debate that the content ignites is sure to attract interaction with comments and sharing, and you can also keep interest going via social media.

Users love infographics and lists

When writing your articles, you have a wide variety of ways you can format your content. Most people will agree that your articles, regardless of length, need to be broken down into easy to read sections, especially if you want to keep mobile users reading. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the two most popular are through infographics and lists.

What this tells us is that readers generally prefer content that can:

  • Display a large amount of information in a clean, easy to read, and visual format i.e., infographics.
  • Are scannable.Take for example list articles. You can format these to be highly scannable, yet still include all the essential information.
  • Tell us what to expect. We like to know what an article is about before we read it.
If you are writing longer articles that contain a large amount of information try creating an infographic, and summarizing the most important parts in a list.

Next month we will reveal five more tips to enhance content sharing. In the mean time, if you have any questions about creating effective content or on social media, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 22nd, 2014

BI_May19_CPredicting the future is a skill many business owners wish they could have. After all, if you could tell what will happen six months from now, you might find that business would be infinitely easier. Of course, this is not possible to such a precise extent. That being said, businesses do have tools at their disposal that they can use to attempt to predict the future, such as predictive analytics.

What is predictive analytics?

Before looking at why businesses might want to implement this type of analytics into their operations, it's worthwhile defining what exactly predictive analytics is. Simply put, predictive analytics is a form of business intelligence that focuses on combing existing information for patterns and useful data that can then be used to make predictions on future outcomes or to identify trends.

It is important to stress that this form of analytics does not tell you what is going to happen. Instead, it is used to figure out what might happen. Think of it as similar to a weather forecast for your business - meteorologists can never tell you what the weather will be like over the next week, they merely use the data they have at their disposal to forecast what the outlook is likely to be in the next few days.

The vast majority of companies who apply these analytics to their business often do so to gain a better understanding of their customers, partners, and other stakeholders. From this they can better identify possible risks and opportunities.

Five reasons to use predictive analytics:

  1. Compete better - Companies who use predictive analysis can generally compete smarter. This is because they can leverage existing data to figure out why their customers choose them. By doing the same, you can then focus on highlighting your strengths. This is especially useful if you have some quality strengths to play with.
  2. Work out how to better meet demand - If utilized effectively, you can predict with some accuracy the level of demand for your products, including sales of specific items at certain times, and high/low times for customer visits. From here, you can schedule deliveries or staff to ensure products and staff will be available.
  3. Exceed expectations - While forecasting customer demand is important, what really keeps customers returning is when you exceed their expectations. One of the best ways to do this is by offering products or services the customers need them; or even before they need them or know they do. By understanding customer buying habits you can develop individualized campaigns that focus on their upcoming needs; offering useful products and/or services.
  4. Increase efficiency - Analyzing your existing data can help predict when you may have supply issues, or where production problems may crop up when launching a new product or service. With this warning system in place you can take steps to limit any negative repercussions or make provisions to guard against a predicted problem. This then can help increase overall efficiency.
  5. Better able to reach clients - By first tracking customer touchpoint data - when did they contact you and how - you can then use this data to forecast when your customers will be looking at social media, more willing to read an email you send, and even when they might be more willing to talk with you on the phone.
These are just a few of the reasons businesses use predictive analytics in their companies. If you are curious to learn more about how to create success for your business and the technology systems that support and allow you to utilize predictive analytics, contact us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 22nd, 2014

Virtualization_May19_CModern technology makes it easier for owners to operate their business. Knowing which technology to use and the right time to implement it is essential if you want to boost productivity as well as reduce operating costs. One of the best ways to do this is to virtualize. While virtualization is being integrated more widely by business owners, many are still questioning what it actually is and whether or not to implement it.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is the act of migrating physical systems into a virtual environment. In other words, it is the creation of a virtual version of a device or resource; anything from a server to an operating system. By providing a virtual view of computing resources, this allows you to turn one server into a host for a group of servers that all share the same resources.

How is it different from other systems?

With virtualization, you can instantly access nearly limitless computing resources which allow for faster and broader business capabilities. It also gets rid of haphazard IT rooms, cables, and bulky hardware; reducing your overall IT overhead as well as management costs.

While many look at virtualization as the cloud, in reality the cloud is just a part of virtualization. The most important function of virtualization is the capability of running multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer or server. This means increased productivity achieved by fewer servers. Virtualization can usually improve overall application performance due to technology that can balance resources, and provide only what the user needs.

When to virtualize?

Virtualization can be a solution for many businesses, but not for all. The key is to know exactly when to virtualize. Here are four situations where a business could virtualize systems:
  • Virtualize if you rely on technology - Companies that rely on technology often use several servers and technology from hardware like laptops and networks. Basically, if your company needs technology to operate, virtualization can help you reduce the overall operation costs.
  • Virtualize if your company exceeds 20 employees - Many tech experts agree that there is no need for virtualization if you have a business with less than 10-20 employees. With that number, traditional servers are usually more than enough to cater to your needs.
  • Virtualize if you can cover the costs - While virtualization is meant to reduce costs, like any modern technology it requires an initial investment. The cost of virtualization can be high for smaller businesses to implement, however you do have an option of working with an IT partner like us. We can help you realize cost-savings or even a Return On Investment (ROI). For companies with servers in place, virtualization can be as simple as installing a free program.
  • Virtualize if you want space - Certain business operators throw away a big chunk of their money on an extra room to house large server racks, wires or even IT personnel to maintain them. The issue here is the cost of maintenance, as well as limited office space. In this situation, virtualization can help make better use of space while reducing hardware costs.
There are several reasons as to why many businesses look into virtualization. Like any type of technology, it’s a tradeoff between practicality and money. If you think you’re ready to move your systems to a virtual world or are looking to learn more about virtualization solutions, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 20th, 2014

Office_May19_CThe word processor is one of the integral pieces of software at a business's disposal. While there are more than a few options available to users, the most useful has to be Microsoft Word. With a variety of useful features, users can create almost any style of document. Many of us use Word on a daily basis, yet we still find new features to make our jobs easier. One such example is the Spike.

What is the Spike?

If you have worked in the restaurant industry, or worked in offices that use older systems you are likely familiar with what a spike is.. It is literally a spike that is used to hold paper that you have finished with but want to keep hold of, perhaps to collate or check through later. Think of chefs spiking orders once the food's left the kitchen or a secretary spiking an invoice that's been paid.

Much like this physical tool, the Spike in Word allows users to essentially hold different items together until they need to be used. This feature is similar to the standard 'copy'' that we are all used to. The main difference is that the Spike can store information and content from different sources of your document, not just the last part you copied.

Say for example you have a 10-page sales report and want to create an executive summary. Instead of copying and pasting the main points from each section one at a time, you can copy each section to the Spike and then paste all of them at once.

How this feature works

You can add content to the Spike by simply highlighting it and pressing Ctrl + F3. This will cut the text you have highlighted and place it onto the Spike. From there, go and select the other content you would like to use.

Once you have all of the content spiked, you can paste it by:

  1. Clicking the mouse cursor where you would like to place the content. You can do this in your existing document or in a new document.
  2. Pressing Ctrl + Shift + F3.
This will take all of the content you have cut to the Spike and paste it into the document, and erase all of the content saved in the Spike. If you want to keep the content stored in the Spike and still paste it, you can do so by:
  1. Clicking the mouse cursor where you would like to place the content. You can do this in your existing document, a new document or another open document.
  2. Typing spike.
  3. Hitting F3.
This will put the content into your document while keeping a copy of it in the Spike. Be warned however, when using the Spike, your content will be cut from the source document. If you are staying within the same document, we recommend that you copy the content you would like to post into a new document and paste it there. Then, Spike it from there.

Viewing what you have spiked

If you forget what you have spiked, you can view what is stored there by:
  1. Clicking on the Insert tab.
  2. Clicking Quick Parts.
  3. Selecting AutoText from the drop down menu.
  4. Clicking on Spike.
As long as you don't click Insert or anything else, you should be able to see the content.

If you are looking to learn more about using Word or any other Office program, talk to us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 15th, 2014

SocialMedia_June04_BOne of the most popular Internet based services is social media. It has drastically changed the way we communicate and interact with one another. One of the bigger platforms, Google+, has been consistently playing catch-up with other more popular services. However, Google recently announced and rolled out a big update to Google+ that should make it more appealing for many users.

Here is an overview of the new Google+ features recently introduced.

A new layout

One of the first things you will notice about the updated Google+ is the layout has been drastically changed. On the main (Home) screen you will notice that posts have been changed to individual cards, similar to the Google Now cards, and are arranged in either one, two or three columns. These posts now take up more space horizontally which makes it far easier to view more content at the same time.

The menu bar that took up the left-hand side of the previous layout has been moved and is now collapsible. If you hover over Home on the upper-left of the screen the menu will pop out from the left-side. Circles and related feeds have also been added at the top of the window and clicking on a related circle name will bring up content only from your friends in that circle.

Adding new posts has also been turned into a card layout which is found at the top-left of the content stream. The different options e.g., Text, Photos, Link, Video and Hangout, are now big buttons that you can push to create a related post.

Improved Hangouts

Possibly the most intriguing new feature introduced is actually an update to the existing Hangouts. The numerous Google chat functions have been merged into a single chat and video messaging app available for Google+, iPhone, iPad, Android, Gmail and Chrome.

This means that you can host group chats for up to 10 participants which users can access through various systems. What this means for businesses is that you now have an easier way to communicate across multiple systems without having to worry about compatibility.

Better pictures and albums

A key component of any social media platform is visual content like pictures and videos. Google has introduced some interesting photo based features that could help make your content even more attractive. One feature is Auto Enhance, which will touch-up photos by looking at factors such as blur, contrast, saturation, etc. From what we have seen, the touch-ups are effective in making your pictures look better.

There is also a new feature called Auto Awesome, which looks at the types of photos you upload and can do various impressive things. For example, if you upload a series of similar pictures, say a sequence of images taken one after the other in a short amount of time, Auto Awesome will create an animated GIF which you can share on your wall. This function can also create panorama or HDR images.

Auto Highlight is another recently introduced feature which uses an algorithm to analyze pictures and skip over duplicate, blurry or underexposed pictures while uploading them, supposedly leaving you with only the best pictures.

Hashtags

The hashtag (#) has become popular on many social media platforms and is an easy way to find similar content. Google+ has improved the hashtag system and will now automatically add relevant tags to your posts. You will see these as small blue tabs on the right of the card, and hovering over these will show the relevant hashtag. If you click on it, the card will flip over and show you other posts that have the same tag. This could be a great way to find similar content and could help bring more exposure to your profile.

The new Google+ layout is definitely a big change compared to previous versions and could prove to be useful for your company’s profile and online presence. If you would like to learn more about using Google+ please contact us.

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