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November 14th, 2014

VoIP_Nov10_BA common trend in many households is the adoption of mobile devices as the main home phone. In fact, in 2013 it was estimated that almost 41% of households in the US were only using mobile devices. This number continues to grow as mobile devices continue to become more popular. Because of this, many business owners are considering getting rid of their landline or VoIP solution and switching exclusively to mobile devices for their business.

Why a fully mobile system is tempting

Mobile systems and devices can be tempting for many business owners largely because they offer decreased costs and better overall calling features, not to mention business-centric apps that allow you and your employees to be more mobile.

This, combined with the fact that many employees are increasingly adopting mobile devices, means that it is certainly tempting to make the switch away from traditional landline systems. However, this might not necessarily be the best idea for your business.

Why you shouldn't switch to a full mobile system just yet

As part of a business, you and your employees likely rely heavily on your phone system and the various features it offers. Within many businesses, the phone system - VoIP or landline - is the backbone of a larger, more unified communications system.

You need these to work flawlessly and seamlessly together so that you are reachable when your clients need to contact you, with minimal downtime and dropped calls. While mobile devices and networks do offer generally large percentages of uptime and reliability, there are still issues with dropped calls and less-than-clear communications. This can pose a real issue for employees who rely on phones.

Beyond this, it can be tricky to manage mobile devices in the company, as these devices are quickly becoming prime targets for thieves and hackers. This means an increased security risk for your company, especially if you don't have systems in place to efficiently manage these devices. Ultimately, a full mobile system integrated at this time could lead to increased costs, if not set up and handled in the right way, despite the perceived lower costs initially.

Mobile still has a place however

As we said above, mobile systems can help businesses enhance the overall effectiveness of office communications especially when combined with existing phone systems like landlines or VoIP. Firstly, they offer employees who are working remotely, or away from the office, a quick and easy way to check in without having to invest in potentially costly phone systems. This is especially true because of the number of communication apps that can be installed.

Secondly, they really do enable teams to be more mobile within the office. For example, if you have employees talking with customers, they can quickly check the status of a product or service on a mobile device instead of having to find a phone and call someone.

Essentially, in a few years, mobile systems will be powerful and reliable enough to fully replace existing systems, but for now, it is best to stick with VoIP or landlines in the office with mobile devices playing more of a support role.

If you are looking to learn more about communication systems in your office, contact us today to see how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
November 13th, 2014

Security_Nov10_BIn October of last year news broke about a new form of malware called Cryptolocker. This malware posed a particularly large threat to many business users and led to many quick and important security updates. Now, almost a year later, it appears that the second version of this - CryptoWall - has been released and is beginning to infect users.

What is Crypto malware?

Crypto malware is a type of trojan horse that when installed onto computers or devices, holds the data and system hostage. This is done by locking valuable or important files with a strong encryption. You then see a pop-up open informing you that you have a set amount of time to pay for a key which will unlock the encryption. If you don't pay before the deadline, your files are deleted.

When this malware surfaced last year, many users were understandably more than a little worried and took strong precautions to ensure they did not get infected. Despite these efforts, it really didn't go away until earlier this year, when security experts introduced a number of online portals that can un-encrypt files affected by Cryptolocker, essentially neutralizing the threat, until now that is. A recently updated version is threatening users once again.

Cryptolocker 2.0, aka. CryptoWall

Possibly because of efforts by security firms to neutralize the Cryptolocker threat, the various developers of the malware have come back with an improved version, CryptoWall and it is a threat that all businesses should be aware of.

With CryptoWall, the transmission and infection methods remain the same as they did with the first version: It is most commonly found in zipped folders and PDF files sent over email. Most emails with the malware are disguised as invoices, bills, complaints, and other business messages that we are likely to open.

The developers did however make some "improvements" to the malware that make it more difficult to deal with for most users. These changes include:

  • Unique IDs are used for payment: These are addresses used to verify that the payment is unique and from one person only. If the address is used by another user, payment will now be rejected. This is different from the first version where one person who paid could share the unlock code with other infected users.
  • CryptoWall can securely delete files: In the older version of this threat, files were deleted if the ransom wasn't paid, but they could be recovered easily. In the new version the encryption has increased security which ensures the file is deleted. This leaves you with either the option of paying the ransom or retrieving the file from a backup.
  • Payment servers can't be blocked: With CryptoLocker, when authorities and security experts found the addresses of the servers that accepted payments they were able to add these to blacklists, thus ensuring no traffic would come from, or go to, these servers again. Essentially, this made it impossible for the malware to actually work. Now, it has been found that the developers are using their own servers and gateways which essentially makes them much, much more difficult to find and ban.

How do I prevent my systems and devices from being infected?

Unlike other viruses and malware, CryptoWall doesn't go after passwords or account names, so the usual changing of your passwords won't really help. The best ways to prevent this from getting onto your systems is:
  • Don't open any suspicious attachments - Look at each and every email attachment that comes into your inbox. If you spot anything that looks odd, such as say a spelling mistake in the name, or a long string of characters together, then it is best to avoid opening it.
  • Don't open emails from unknown sources - Be extra careful about emails from unknown sources, especially ones that say they provide business oriented information e.g., bank statements from banks you don't have an account with or bills from a utilities company you don't use. Chances are high that they contain some form of malware.
Should your files be attacked and encrypted by this malware, then the first thing you should do is to contact us. We can work with you to help find a solution that will not end up in you having to pay the ransom to recover your files.

If you are looking to learn more about CryptoWall malware and how to boost your security and protect your data and systems, then we could you your first line of tech defence.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
November 12th, 2014

Productivity_Nov10_BAs a business owner, you probably send out emails pretty regularly. Some of these emails are likely to colleagues who will then send a message to a third party on your behalf. This inevitably entails going back-and-forth between you and your employee. This can cut down productivity and lead to mistakes. One way to avoid this is to pre-draft the message that will be sent along.

What exactly is a pre-draft?

The idea behind pre-drafting an email message is that it helps to reduce the amount of back and forth between two parties when one of the parties is contacting a third party. If you have ever had an employee draft a message that came from you then you are likely well aware of the number of emails that can go back and forth before the email actually goes out.

Essentially a pre-draft is a message included in the original message that is to be sent along to a third party. When you include a draft message, the person who will be sending the message can then just cut and paste the content, personalize it, maybe tweak a sentence here or there, and then send it along.

How do I create one?

If you are currently working on an email message that will be sent by another employee on your behalf, try to come up with the outline and basic message yourself. It's best to clearly mark this message in the original email by using a flag like: "Message to send", and changing the actual message to another font or color.

Because most of these messages will be personalized, include placeholder text where your staff member can personalize the message. For example, To . This not only makes it easier to spot areas that need to be personalized, it also means messages can be sent out quickly and easily.

When is this useful?

To be honest, pre-drafting won't work for every type of email you send. But, there are some situations when this comes in handy, including:
  • When you are asked to provide a testimonial on a service. You can write a basic testimonial with areas for customization.
  • When you need to send follow up emails connected to a recently sent email campaign or message. You can draft a basic follow up message that can then be customized as your employees see fit.
  • When you want to post something on numerous social media sites. You can simply write the post once, then provide spots to customize based on the network.
  • Introductions and references. If you have been asked to provide a reference or an introduction, then draft a standard message which can then be changed as needed.
If you mark these emails as a pre-draft, or place them in a pre-draft folder, they can then be quickly found and modified in the future.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your business? Contact us today to see how our systems can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
November 11th, 2014

Facebook_Nov10_BFacebook, like many other Internet-based operations, has a habit of constantly implementing changes to their platform. Back in August of this year, the company implemented a number of changes to their Graph algorithm, including the way businesses can use the Like feature. On November 5, 2014, these changes came into effect and you should be aware of the new rules regarding how Facebook Pages can leverage Likes. In short: forcing people to Like your Page to gain access to content - a practice called Like-gating - is no longer tolerated.

Like-gates to be left open

In the past, it was a fairly common trend for businesses with Facebook Pages to limit the access followers had to their Pages or other information and campaigns. One of the most popular examples of this is if having to Like a company to enter a contest with them.

Facebook considered this an unfair practice, largely because it essentially defeats the purpose of a Facebook Page - which is to provide all Facebook users with equal access to business information and content. So, in August of this year, they announced that Like-gating would no longer be allowed as of November 5, 2014. This is being enforced through Facebook's recent update to the Graph algorithm which ranks Facebook Pages and other content in search results.

Companies that have been using this method to limit access to content and campaigns on Facebook will now likely see a negative drop in overall Page ranking - where you show up in search results. If this applies to you and you want to avoid this there are three things you should do as soon as possible:

1. Remove all existing Like-gates

This is important, because all Like-gate related content or campaigns are now likely going to hurt your overall Page ranking. You should audit your company's Facebook Page and look for any content or tabs that you have set a Like-gate restriction on. This includes campaigns or tabs that you have enabled using third-party apps (i.e. apps not designed by Facebook).

Essentially, you want to ensure that all content on your Facebook Page, and all marketing campaigns that use Facebook, are open to all users, not just the ones who have clicked Like on your Page.

2. Change your access gates

What is interesting about this change is that Facebook has not outright eliminated the right to limit access to your campaigns. For now, they are just focusing on ensuring that you don't need to Like something to gain access to it.

The reason for this is largely because of the way many business use Facebook - to run campaigns that gather information while offering a benefit to followers. Think of contests that give something away. Before, some businesses required that users Liked the content in order to gain entry to the campaign. Now that this is not possible you could try implementing gates such as a form that needs to be filled out in order to enter.

This method, often referred to as action-gating (requiring someone to take an action before being allowed to access content) is still fine to use, largely because it doesn't force users into taking an action, it is up to them whether they want to say fill out a form to enter a contest or not. Beyond that, the idea of filling out a form to enter a contest to gain access to information has been a standard business practice since long before Facebook.

By action-gating some content and contests or promotions, you should also be able to limit spammers, and increase the overall quality of data you gather, and of your followers.

3. Ask for Likes

Facebook has been quite clear that the new Graph algorithm will punish Facebook Pages that require users to click Like to gain access to content. So, instead of forcing people to Like something, why not just ask them to Like it instead?

Companies that have been following this method of gaining Likes have found that simply asking people for a Like won't necessarily work. Instead, you should try to include some benefits or reasons as to why users should click Like. For example, creating a badge that goes onto Facebook campaigns that says "Like us for updates, new contests, great freebies, etc." will likely see more interaction.

Similarly, putting a suggestion at the end of emails and forms on your website has also proven to work well. The key here is if you provide your followers with value and a reason to Like your page, they generally will. With some creative thinking and a different strategy you may find that overall interaction with your Page increases beyond what it would have done with a Like-gate approach.

If you are looking to learn more about this change, and how it can affect your company, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 6th, 2014

BI_Nov03_BFor many businesses it is important that there is steady and productive interaction with clients and that they can capture important data from these interactions. While there are many ways to achieve both these objectives, there is one way that is gaining traction with many companies, especially those who want to capture better data: gamification.

What is gamification?

It's human nature to be competitive, and many of us exercise this nature by playing games. Be it team sports, board games, video games, or even office-related games, many of us partake in some form of game on a regular basis. Gamification is the incorporation of game elements, such as points, rules of play, competition, etc. into business-related processes.

By implementing game elements into areas like marketing or training, you can drive engagement, while also collecting better data, primarily because most people will be more willing to provide relevant information when they are invested in a game.

When it comes to implementing these elements into business processes, many companies tend to focus on either customer gamification or employee gamification.

Customer gamification

The vast majority of customer-oriented gamification relates to rewards programs and repeat customers. Small to medium businesses who have successfully implemented these elements usually do so via social media and mobile apps. Repeat customers gain points for each purchase and when they reach a certain level receive a freebie perhaps or a rebate. This in turn drives the need to keep purchasing and to "win".

Many businesses have been successful in implementing this game characteristic into social media, where people who interact gain levels and therefore access to such benefits as discounts. Businesses implementing customer-oriented gamification often see both increased engagement and better data flowing into the organization. In fact, many businesses have found that the data implemented through these elements has been useful in decision-making and overall business intelligence efforts.

Employee gamification

Employee-based gamification is usually employed by businesses to encourage teams and individuals to work together towards a common goal. For example: Implementing a point or badge-based sales system where at certain sales levels badges are awarded, which can then be used for a reward, has proven to be incredibly successful for many sales-oriented companies. Publicly announced results and recognized rewards can also be a great employee motivator.

As with customer gamification, employee gamification can be a great source of data. For example, by tracking where employees are, and their results, you can quickly see weak spots or places where help may be needed. Essentially, more data means the ability to make better decisions.

Should my company implement gamification?

While this may sound like an exciting, and useful tactic to implement in your business, it's not for everyone and it won't fit well with all activities. What you should do is to look at whether the objectives and goals of the program you wish to implement can also be paired with gamification.

If you find that gamification, or elements of it, won't benefit your business program, then it's best not to implement it for the sake of it.

How to implement gamification

There are a wide number of mobile apps developed around gamification, along with social elements and ideas. What we suggest is talking to us to see how we can help first. We can work with you to find solutions and ways to implement your solutions. Contact us today to start the game of business success.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 5th, 2014

iPad_Nov03_BWhen Apple launches a new or updated product the company usually holds a press event where they announce the release in style. This was the case with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but did you know that the company has quietly released new versions of the iPad Air and iPad mini? If you are looking for a new tablet, here is a brief overview of these latest Apple devices.

The iPad mini 3

First up is the third version of Apple's smaller iPad - the iPad mini 3. The immediately noticeable changes with this year's device is the home button. It now has the metal ring right around it which enables the Touch ID feature so that you can unlock your device using your fingerprint.

Touch ID also enables users to pay for items using the Apple Pay feature that has just been released. Sadly, for the iPad mini 3, this is limited only to in-app and iTunes purchases as there is no NFC chip in the device to enable it to work with in-store terminals.

Aside from a slightly changed exterior and the extra Apple Pay related features, the device is more or less exactly the same as the iPad mini 2. It still boasts a 7.9 inch retina display and the same A7 processor found in the mini 2.

The major difference is that you can purchase the mini 3 with 64 GB or 128 GB of storage, which is not available for the mini 2. Unfortunately, the price of the device starts at USD 100 more (USD 399 for the 16 GB version) than the mini 2, which costs USD 299 for the 16 GB version. In other words you are paying USD 100 for the fingerprint unlock and semi-functional Apple Pay.

At this time, Apple has noted they will continue to sell the mini 2, which for many businesses will remain the better deal largely because it is less expensive yet offers exactly the same hardware and size.

The iPad Air 2

As the name implies, the iPad Air 2 is the second version of the popular iPad Air which was introduced last year. As with the mini 3, the Air 2 has seen a slight change to the home button with the introduction of the Touch ID feature that allows users to unlock their devices using their fingerprint.

The new version also enables the Apple Pay feature so users can use their fingerprint to approve purchases. Sadly, there is no NFC chip in the device, so you won't be able to use the device to make purchases at stores.

Beyond this, there are a number of interesting changes that many business users will find useful including:

  • A faster processor - With what Apple calls the A8X processor, the iPad Air 2 is one of the fastest and most powerful tablets on the market. Users have already noted faster website loading times and better overall responsiveness, especially when running graphics intensive apps.
  • A thinner, more mobile body - Apple reduced thickness with the iPad Air 2, making it thinner than any other iPad. At 6.1 mm, you will be able to use the device all day without it feeling awkward in your hand.
  • A less reflective display - While the displays on the iPad have always been top of the line, there have been complaints in the past about how the glass on the device is a bit too reflective. With the Air 2, a less reflective display is being used which supposedly cuts glare down by as much as 56%. This means you will be able to see what is on the screen more easily in more locations and situations.
  • The Apple Sim - For users in certain countries like the US and UK, the cellular version of the iPad comes with what is called the Apple Sim. This sim card is universal in that it allows you to connect to the mobile network of your choice without having to switch cards. This also makes switching networks and plans much easier.
If you are considering picking up the iPad Air 2, the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version starts at USD 499. If you would like to learn more about how these devices can be used in your office, contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
November 5th, 2014

AndroidTablet_Nov03_BWith the upcoming release of Android 5.0 Lollipop, there will be a subsequent release of new tablets and devices running the operating system (OS). Many of these users are likely to be business users who need increased security. In an effort to ensure that the next version of Android is indeed more secure, Google has included a number of security updates and features.

1. Smart Lock

One of the first steps to ensuring that your Android device is secure is to put a lock code on the screen. Adding a pin code, or pattern code, to your device makes it more difficult for someone else to gain physical access. On the downside, constantly entering the code can be annoying, especially if you need access to your device on a regular basis.

In an earlier version of Android, the ability to use your face to unlock your device was introduced, but it hasn't really been all that popular. With Android 5.0, Google has introduced a feature called Smart Lock.

This feature uses either NFC, Bluetooth, or your face to unlock your device. Essentially, you pair your device with another device and when it is in range it will automatically unlock. For example, you can pair your computer with your phone via bluetooth. When your phone is near your computer, it unlocks and allows you access without having to enter the pin. If you prefer to use your face to unlock your device, this feature has now been improved and moved to be part of Smart Lock.

2. Automatic encryption from first boot

As businesses continue to integrate tablets and other devices, the amount of data stored on these devices increases. As a result, you eventually end up with important data on your device that you need to keep secure. One of the best ways to do this is to encrypt your device.

On older versions of Android, device security was fairly complicated when not automatic. Now, any device running Android 5.0 is automatically encrypted when the device is started up for the first time.

This encryption will ensure that the data on the device is secure from the start, something which many business users will likely find quite useful.

3. SELinux

SELinux, or Security Enhanced Linux, is a security model implemented in Android last year which is configured to help minimize security threats. All developers must include SELinux enforced security on their apps. What this has done is increased the overall security of apps installed on devices and reduced the number of vulnerabilities that could compromise device security.

For most users, the updated requirements and measures introduced by Android Lollipop will lead to increased overall device security from the apps through to other features.

If you are looking to learn more about the latest Android release features get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Nov03_AMedical Group Management Association (MGMA) 2014 annual conference attendees were fortunate to get some tips for improving patient satisfaction from Joan Hablutzel, senior industry analyst with the MGMA—because doing so is essential to the success of a medical practice in an increasingly competitive health-care marketplace. Here are 10 of them.

  1. Say hello and smile when patients arrive to acknowledge their presence.
  2. Answer the phone in three rings with a consistent greeting to show the practice views the patent as an individual.
  3. Show empathy in your communication with the patent by observing his or her mannerism sand responding in kind.
  4. Explain what is going to happen, whether it’s a process or a procedure.
  5. Don’t interrupt when a patient is talking.
  6. Look for signs that a patient is dissatisfied or concerned—and when you hear concerns, don’t ever leave it at “I don’t know.” Find someone who does.
  7. Always respect patient confidentiality.
  8. Live up to your promises. Set time estimates and update patients if they change, apologizing when necessary.
  9. Say goodbye and wish the patient well upon departure to affirm respect.
These steps may be simple, says Hablutzel, but implementing them can truly transform the way staff members interact with patients, boosting their perception of your practice and driving growth. Contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthGeneral_Nov03_AA Westchester County, New York, practice has surged from 16 physicians in 1996 to 250 physicians today thanks to care transformation driven by analytics.

Westmed Medical Group, which operates five large ambulatory care sites staffed by both primary care and specialist physicians, currently has more than 250,000 patients and $285 million in annual revenue.

Under the group’s “industrial” care model, process and procedure data is analyzed to determine what clinical tasks can be shifted from physicians to nurses, what workflows can be streamlined to enhance patient care, and what tests can be reduced, for example. Westmed CEO Simeon Schwartz says “That allows us to get our arms around the care process. If a neurologist is doing twice the number of MRIs for headaches than anyone else, we now understand why that's happening and we've put in a headache approval form.”

Strengths and weaknesses in clinical staff performance are shown in user-friendly dashboards so care providers can see what they are doing. This is key to the group’s success, says Schwartz. “The fundamental nature of our management strategy is that we do not tell doctors what to do—we show them what they are doing,” he says, noting that physicians are highly data-driven and tend to do the right thing.

The results of Westmed’s efforts have been monumental. Staffing is 3.91 employees per physician vs. 5.5 for the average multispecialty group. And, Westmed operates at 12.8 percent below the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) median for practice overhead even though it’s located in one of the most expensive areas of the country.

Do these numbers feel unattainable in your practice? The truth is, with a properly implemented and maintained system and analytics platform, they are actually quite attainable. If you are looking to learn more about how you can improve your practice, contact us today to learn about the systems we offer and how they can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 31st, 2014

Security_Oct27_BAs businesses continue to implement more and more Internet-based systems, there is always the risk that systems could be breached and security compromised. If you conduct business online, there are a number of measures you can take to ensure that your activities and your company's vital information are secure. Here are five.

1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

Two-factor authentication, or two-step authentication as it is also known, is the idea of using two pieces of information to log into accounts: Your usual password and a code that is usually sent to a mobile device or generated by a code generator.

By utilizing this safety feature, you can further increase the security of your accounts, largely because the chances of someone getting their hands on both the generated code and your password are slim.

Some sites don't use a code and instead ask a question that needs to be answered every time you log in. If this is the case, make the question something that is difficult for a hacker to guess. For example, use your address from 10 years ago instead of your current address.

2. Audit who has access to what data

Between all of your online accounts and social media profiles you will likely be surprised at just how much information about you can be found online. There are a multitude of scare stories online, where someone has had their accounts hacked and identity stolen, largely because they had left pertinent information online without even thinking about it.

It is a good idea to audit what information you have online. This includes looking at the contact and personal information you have on social media profiles, account information, etc. Ideally, if it is not necessary information, then it shouldn't be shared. As for social media profiles, make sure only the absolute basic personal information is online and limit who can see this information.

3. Watch what is posted on social media

Because of the nature of social media, we often feel the need to share our whole lives online. This can often lead to oversharing, and even sometimes oversharing of personal information. There are stories online of thieves monitoring social media for businesses posting about how they are going to be closed for a holiday, with all staff gone. Once a thief finds this information, they then break into the business without worrying about people being there.

If you are going to share information online, be sure to limit the potentially sensitive information that you post, especially if the content is shared with the public.

4. Change your passwords regularly

It seems like almost every week news breaks of a password or account information breach. What this translates to is the fact that your accounts are always facing a potential risk. Therefore, you should make it a habit to change your passwords on a regular basis.

Most experts recommend at least once every three months, but if there is a breach where your account information may have been leaked then naturally change your passwords straightaway.

To ensure maximum security, you should use a different password for each account, and keep these as separate as possible.

5. Work with an IT partner who can offer enhanced Internet security

Ensuring that your business is secure online can be an on-going battle that you will likely not win easily. One of the best steps to take is to work with an IT partner like us. We offer a variety of Internet security solutions that can help stop malware intrusions before they infect your systems, block access to potentially harmful sites, and even scan Internet-based email solutions. In other words, we can help improve your overall online security.

If you are looking to learn more about how we can help your business be secure online, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security