Blog

January 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jan29_BWe all know technology is evolving rapidly - at times it can feel like software companies release a new update each week. It can be exhausting to keep up. But when it comes to business, technology is either helping your company to succeed or holding it back from doing better things. To make life easier, here are four ideas on how to use technology to keep costs down and staff productivity up.

Work together from anywhere

With the onset of Cloud technology, it’s now possible for your employees to work easily from anywhere - be it Bangkok, Belize or Boston. With Cloud-based suite products, employees can log on from remote locations and access company files. All they need is a web-enabled device.

Cloud-based technology also makes it easier than ever for your staff to collaborate. While one employee is in a coffee shop in Vancouver and another is at a desktop in your office, they can both be editing the same document at the same time. This makes it easy for your staff to remain on the same page, both literally and metaphorically, which in turn boosts both productivity and profits.

While many SMBs use public Cloud applications like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote, private pro-level options are available, which come with more security and more features.

Keep all your data in the Cloud

The fact is that searching through spreadsheets for information stored in bloated data sets can be a huge waste of time. By having all your data in the Cloud, all your information will be in one place. So when you’re looking for that critical client receipt for your taxes, you’ll know where it is immediately.

Thanks to its remote access and collaboration possibilities, the Cloud also gives you and your staff easy access to all of your data wherever in the world you are.

Identify bottlenecks and upgrade your technology

Facing the facts about your current technology is key to increasing productivity. Yes we know you love your tablet from way back in 2008. You even named her Susie, after your niece, because they’re both so darn creative. But let’s face it, Susie is old now and is slowing down your business. She’s served you well, but it’s time to upgrade.

And desktops aren’t the only technology that can slow you down. There are also unreliable internet connections, obsolete software and outdated email providers. The list goes on…

The solution is to take a careful inventory of your current IT technology and see what’s keeping your business from reaching its true productivity potential. After you have your list, update your technology accordingly. Then create a plan to regularly upgrade your IT resources, so your employees are never being slowed down.

Outsource your IT

As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Whether you have a part-time contractor or a fully-staffed IT department, the mere presence of tech staff onsite in your workplace can be a distraction. When you’re focusing on sales or setting up meetings with potential clients, a knock at your door from your IT colleague - because he or she has just discovered a glitch in your system - can take you out of the flow of the task at hand.

On the other hand, outsourced IT departments are proactive in preventing technical issues from popping up in the first place. They’ll fix problems without you even knowing they existed, and without distracting you from your core work. All of which means a great boost to your day-to-day productivity - and therefore profitability.

Want to know more ways IT can enhance your company’s productivity? Contact us today to learn how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
January 30th, 2015

The formula for profitability has been established for ages. Every business owner, CEO, freelancer and entrepreneur knows it. It is required by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which is enforced by the SEC in the US and the International Accounting Standards Board internationally. GAAP’s fundamental formula for profit is simple: Sales – Expenses = Profit

There is just one problem…the formula hurts profitability. There is a reason that 21 million out of 28 million small businesses in the US are surviving check to check. It’s not that 21 million people are smart enough to start and build a business, yet not smart enough to turn a profit—it’s that they are relying on a flawed formula. “Sales – Expenses = Profit” is a lie. The formula doesn’t yield a profit.

Logically, of course, the formula is sound. A business must first sell in order to generate inbound cash flow. Then the business deducts the expenses utilized to deliver its product or service and to run its operations. What remains is profit.

While the GAAP formula makes logical sense, it ignores the fact that it is managed by people. We are, first and foremost, emotional beings, prone to ignore (or even defy) logic.

Arguably, money is the ultimate resource. In GAAP’s “Sales – Expenses = Profit” formula, the business owner sees the cumulative deposits (resource) from sales and has a propensity to conclude that all the money is available for expenses (the demand expands to match the supply). The new equipment purchase is justified because the money is there. A new hire starts, because the money is there. Profit? It is an afterthought. Therefore, there rarely is any.

Now consider a new formula, where a business takes profit first: Sales – Profit = Expenses

Mathematically, the formula is identical to GAAP’s. But from the perspective of human behavior, the Profit First formula is radically different. In the Profit First formula, a preset percentage of deposits generated through sales are first allocated to profit. The remainder is used to pay expenses.

In practice, as deposits from sales come in, a predetermined percentage—for example 15%—is immediately transferred to a separate profit account. The remainder is available for the business leader to run business as usual. The business owner will see his available cash (which has had the profit already deducted) and make decisions accordingly. The new equipment purchase may be delayed, or a more cost-effective alternative may be found. A new hire won’t be made because the money is not there, and perhaps the entrepreneur will conclude it was unnecessary in the first place.

GAAP offers so much more in business insights than most entrepreneurs could imagine, but it does fall short on working with an entrepreneur’s “bank balance” habit. I have become an advocate for the Profit First approach to cash management, because of the one thing it does do extremely well. It works with the natural habit of business owners.

Profit First has transformed my own businesses for the better (if you consider consistent profits better). Admittedly, Profit First is not the panacea to all cash-flow problems, but it surely makes profit a habit.

MIKE MICHALOWICZ (pronounced mi-KAL-o-wits) started his first business at the age of 24, moving his young family to the only safe place he could afford—a retirement building. With no experience, no contacts and no savings, he systematically bootstrapped a multimillion-dollar business. Then he did it again. And again. Now he is doing it for other entrepreneurs. Mike is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting firm that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued; a former small-business columnist for The Wall Street Journal; MSNBC’s business makeover expert; a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship; and the author of the cult classic book The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. His newest book, The Pumpkin Plan, has already been called “the next E-Myth!” For more information, visit http://www.mikemichalowicz.com/

January 29th, 2015

Security_Jan28_BMost of us have suffered the horrors of a computer virus at some point, and we know the damage that can be caused by these security infections. Our work gets disrupted as IT systems go down and, if we’re really unlucky, sensitive and valuable data might be lost or even leaked. But there’s a silver lining to most viruses, worms and other such malware, in that they can at least be tracked down and removed. Well, not always - enter the invisible Poweliks, which even your most sophisticated anti-virus software might not be able to protect you against. So, what do you need to know and how can you protect yourself?

What is Poweliks?

Security firm Symantec describes Poweliks as a trojan horse that performs malicious activities on the compromised computer. But it’s no ordinary trojan - unlike the majority, which infect your computer with malicious files, Poweliks is a silent and invisible threat that hides away in the memory registry of your system. It’s not entirely new for a virus to seek to cover its tracks by making itself "file-less" but, in contrast with Poweliks, most are wiped when you restart your computer and its memory is cleared. Worse still, Poweliks hijacks the legitimate processes and applications running on your network, inserting its code into them where it can largely evade detection.

First discovered back in August 2014, Poweliks has therefore created something of a headache for firms behind conventional security solutions like anti-virus software. Symantec and others have admittedly managed a number of updates to their protection in response to the threat posed by Poweliks. But although very minor records of the presence of the trojan are left behind by way, for instance, of registry logs, the signs of its destructive presence are much lower key than the computer world is used to, meaning Poweliks is unlikely to show up on most system scans.

Poweliks has links to Kazakhstan, the home of two servers the malware connects to once it is up and running from within your computer. The servers in Kazakhstan then send commands to the bug to tell it what to do next. In theory, this then makes way for the tool to be used to download other undesirable programs that could infect your system without your knowledge. It could equally be used to steal and disseminate data from your network.

How can I best protect myself?

As well as the anti-virus updates that have gradually been released - but which are still likely to have only a limited impact on threats of this type compared with those of the past - a number of Poweliks removal guides are now available online. Nevertheless, prevention as ever, remains better than cure. One method reported to have been employed in the distribution of the Poweliks infection is embedding it in a Microsoft Word document, which is then sent as an attachment to spam emails, and which the attackers hope your curiosity will lead you to open. Among the senders that these spam messages have masqueraded as being from are the United States Postal Service and Canada Post. Of course the best advice remains to be suspicious of any and every email attachment you open, particularly if you weren’t expecting mail or it's from someone you don’t know.

Should I be concerned?

In fact, revisiting your everyday security precautions is probably pretty good advice all round, since experts predict that this type of threat is likely to become ever more common as attackers seek to exploit the techniques of Poweliks in order for their infiltration to remain unnoticed for as long as possible. Sure enough, a number of copycat threats have already been detected by security specialists as of the start of 2015.

General awareness around web sites you choose to visit is also recommendable in particular, since others have also reported the bug making its way onto their systems thanks to so-called ‘drive-by download attacks’ - whereby simply visiting a malicious web site is enough to trigger the infection, and actively downloading a file isn’t even necessary. As a result, organizations may wish to consider more comprehensive filtering of internet access, or at the very least reactive blocking of known malicious sites, in order to prevent employees from inadvertently infecting a company network.

To find out more about IT security solutions and protecting your technology from attack, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 27th, 2015

iPhone_Jan27_B

We’re all busy. Our schedules are loaded with work, fitness regimes, kids’ soccer practices - it’s enough to make your head spin. So when your son or daughter gets sick, how do you squeeze their care into your day? The iPhone’s latest health apps and accessories may be the solution you’ve been searching for, giving you the ability to book a virtual doctor appointment from home and even keep track of your own medical history to speed up those in-person doctor visits. For three ways the iPhone is revolutionizing health care, read on.

At-home ear infection diagnosis

If you have a young child, you'll already know that ear infections are a common nuisance. By the age of 3, roughly 80% of all children have suffered from this affliction. And this problem alone costs the medical industry roughly 3.5 billion dollars annually.

In today’s world, full of long work hours and overloaded schedules, it can be difficult to find the time to visit a doctor. And if you live in a remote area, the challenge is even greater. But when little Johnny’s ear infection means you're waking up at night to deal with a screaming toddler, you know that something needs to be done. The iPhone’s new Oto Home device could be your solution.

For $79 you can bring the technology of an otoscope (the device your doctor uses to look into your ear at a checkup) directly into your home. Not the whole thing of course. Instead, the Oto Home is just the small black cone-like part at the tip of the otoscope that the doctor inserts into your ear. Now you can attach this tool to your iPhone’s camera, and use it to take a video of the inside of your child’s ear, which can then be sent to your doctor via email. For a $49 fee, your doctor can diagnose and provide a prescription almost instantly.

At this time, the device is only available in California, but will likely be approved for use in more states soon.

Medical history for quicker doctor appointments

Whether you need to keep a close eye on a sick relative’s temperature or want to have a record of your own medical history, iPhone’s new Swaive app can help. Like the Oto Home device, the Swaive also involves your ear. But instead of diagnosing ear infections, the Swaive acts as an in-ear thermometer.

In combination with Apple’s Health app, the Swaive can keep track of your temperature over weeks, months or years. With this app, you can also record any kind of recurring physical symptom or medication you’re taking. This information can then be sent to your physician.

Even better, the next time you pop in for an in-person doctor visit, this info can speed up the process as it acts as a recent medical history.

Virtual doctor appointments from anywhere

But if you’d rather not visit the doctor at all, now you can make a virtual appointment through an app called Amwell. This allows you to Facetime with your physician at anytime, with no appointment necessary.

The way Amwell works is simple. A patient can open the app and scroll through the physicians who are part of the Amwell network. Just like other online health databases, you’ll be able to see the doctor’s years in practice, education and patient rating. Once you’ve made your choice, you can sign up for a $49 virtual visit where a doctor can provide instant feedback, diagnosis and treatment. Best of all, Amwell visits are covered by some insurance providers. So once you get your printable receipt, you can still get reimbursed.

Looking for more tips on how your iPhone can make life easier? Contact us today and learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
January 26th, 2015

Despite constant development in security and stability, the Internet still remains very much a Wild West landscape. You can navigate through it, but you never know when you might encounter a hidden danger. Threats exist on a global scale.

Cybercriminals want information. They don’t care whose information they access and steal, or what damage they do. They want to take what they can get and they want to sell it. There are people who do this for a living. This morning, in the period of one minute, there were hundreds of cyber-attacks originating in China, targeting the United States.

What can you do? Stay vigilant.

Visit web sites you know and trust: This is the simplest and most effective way to keep safe.

Keep your web browser and computers up-to-date with the latest patches and security updates: While your office computers are kept up-to-date automatically as long as you’re covered by any of our maintenance plans, you still need to keep an eye on updates for your home computer(s). Don’t ignore these updates!

Know web sites you input personal information or credit card information into are secure: Look at the address bar. If you see “https” you are on a secure web page. If you see “http” you are not on a secure web page.

Make web sites you visit more secure: Browser extensions, such as HTTPS Everywhere, help make web browsing more secure. HTTPS Everywhere takes standard “http” web pages and secures them with “https” by automatically directing you to the secure version of the site. It’s not compatible with every web page, but it goes a long way in protecting you.

January 23rd, 2015

New social media marketing tools seem to pop up every day, so here’s some help sorting the best from the rest:

  1. Mention: Google Alerts for the social web. Mention helps you monitor your brand’s presence on social networks, forums, blogs and more. It also includes social features that allow you to respond to mentions of your brand and to share industry news that you find.
  2. Buffer: Social media publishing plus powerful analytics. Buffer is a powerful social media tool that lets you schedule your updates to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and App.net.
  3. Feedly: Content discovery. Finding great content to share with your audience is easy with Feedly. Not only can you subscribe to RSS feeds to keep on top of industry blogs and news sites, you can also use Feedly to discover new content related to your topics of interest.
  4. Twitter Counter: Track Twitter progress. It can be easy to lose track of how your Twitter account is growing; that’s where Twitter Counter comes in. It’s a free service that tracks changes in your follower count and predicts future growth over time.
  5. Zapier: Link favorite social services. Zapier connects the services you use independently. For example, if your team uses HipChat to keep in touch, you can use Zapier to set up automatic notifications inside HipChat rooms for Tweets, MailChimp campaigns or new RSS items.
  6. Bottlenose: Intelligence for social networks. Bottlenose features a real-time search engine that queries all public information from social networks and groups and displays it in algorithmic order of importance. The result is a stream of content ranked by most to least important.
  7. Followerwonk: Follower analysis for Twitter. Although you can use a tool like Twitter Counter to watch the growth of the number of your Twitter followers, you may need to analyze your followers more carefully. Followerwonk breaks down your followers into demographics so you can understand them better.
  8. Quintly: Social analytics for brands. Quintly is a powerful tool for in-depth social media analytics, helping you track your business’s social media performance on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram. Quintly also has benchmarking features that help you understand how your performance compares to that of competitors and to industry averages.
January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_BIn today’s digital world, social media has become a vital tool that effectively helps accelerate business development and the relationship-building process between different organizations. And with solid communication being at the core of business development, let’s take a look at how social media can help drive partnering processes for the better.

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 19th, 2015

If you think you have outgrown your current phone system and are tired of constant downtime, dropped calls, repairs and maintenance, it might be time for you to consider a VoIP system for your office.

The right VoIP system can likely save a considerable amount of money AND give you more features and flexibility to support customers, drive sales and manage calls throughout your office.

Here Are 3 Big Reasons Why Thousands Of               Small Businesses Are Trading In Their                   Current Phone System For VoIP:

  1. Drastically reduces your phone bill. If you have multiple offices, or even remote workers, new voice-over IP technology integrates your data and voice networks to drastically reduce long distance and lease line charges you are currently paying.
  2. Eliminates expensive technician visits. These new systems are built so that your current IT person or company could easily maintain it in-house. No more waiting around for high-priced phone technicians to show up or paying high service call fees.
  3. FREE voice mail, auto attendant, call processing, automatic call distribution. New VoIP systems come with all features included. À la carte add-ons are now a thing of the past. Imagine a phone that can automatically get to you anywhere and everywhere with a click of the button and much more.

Free Phone Audit Shows You How To Save $1,000 to $3,000 Guaranteed In 2015

If you currently have an old PBX legacy system, sign up to receive a Free Phone Audit and we will come out to your office and do a complete communications analysis for your company. At the end of our audit, we’ll summarize our findings and show you exactly where we can save you a bundle this year.

Call our office today at 203-268-5947 x101 to get started.

January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_BAny business can become the victim of security breaches on a mass scale, as shown by the debacle which recently eclipsed Sony and forced it to temporarily cancel the release of blockbuster movie The Interview. Beneath the dramatic headlines are lessons for small business owners everywhere in how simple errors in IT security management can have grave consequences. These tips will help prevent your firm being the next to suffer Sony’s fate.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

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

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

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

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

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

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

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

Backup, backup, backup

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 13th, 2015

iPad_Jan12_BSince the arrival of the iPad back in 2010, businesses have been able to stay connected and easily work on-the-go like never before. Still, many people are constantly looking to increase their iPad’s versatility through different applications available in the App Store. And now, thanks to Duet Display, you can effortlessly turn your iPad into your second Mac screen!

Duet Display, developed by a former Apple engineer, Rahul Dewan, will turn your iPad into an external screen for your Mac, and does so using a cable that you already use to charge and sync your iPad. To be precise, it’s actually two apps — one for your iOS device and a companion app for your Mac that lets it recognize an iPad or iPhone as a second screen.

How does Duet Display work?

  1. Download Duet Display from the Apple Store for $14.99
  2. Install Duet Display for OS X
  3. Duet Display will add a little settings icon to the right side of your menu bar and requires a password when you’re installing it on your Mac. This is because the app needs to install display drivers.
  4. Open the Duet Display app on your iPad and plug it into your Mac with a lightning cable (or a 30-pin cable if you’ve got an older iPad that’s still supported).
  5. Now you can enjoy working with two screens!
Because your iPad is plugged in, you won’t have to worry about your iPad’s battery. And while you’re using Duet Display on the iPad, you’ll still get your regular iOS notifications. You can also set your computer to use all the pixels on your iPad’s Retina display (2,048x1,536 pixel resolution), or you can set your iPad to regular resolution too. Duet Display works with all Macs running on OS X Yosemite and any iPads or iPhones running iOS 5.1.1 or above, meaning it will work with your old iPad. The only downside is you can only connect a single iOS device for now.

The growing number of applications in the App Store means there are often new ways to make use of your iPad being introduced. Looking to learn more about the iPad and its capabilities? Contact us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad