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February 27th, 2015

Web_Feb27_BIf you’re using the Cloud to collaborate with your teams, you’ll know that its powerful technology speeds up the way we work. Documents can be shared across locations and timezones, which can prove to be a real productivity boost. Dropbox is one such solution, alongside other popular options like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, but until recently its downfall was the relative complexity of sharing files through Dropbox to mobile devices. No longer, though: the Dropbox app’s latest update means it’s now a breeze to collaborate on documents from Android and iOS devices - as easy as it is from your desktop, in fact.

The change, which is now available by updating your existing Dropbox app, relates to the way your phone handles shared file links you receive from others. Essentially, the app now equips your phone to properly support those links, in a way that it hasn’t done before.

When a colleague shares a file with you via Dropbox, you receive a notification that includes a link to allow you to open the shared file. Until now, if you attempted to open this link through your Android or iOS Dropbox app, your phone would unhelpfully navigate out of the app and instead attempt to open the link in your default web browser. That’s hardly helpful when you want to seamlessly access your files all from within the Dropbox app’s own navigation - which is why the changes brought about by this update are so welcome.

Now when you click that shared link, the file or folder will open before your very eyes - right within the app. You can see a preview of the document or photo, and with a tap you can save it to your Dropbox account and then choose to move or rename it, or add it to your list of favorites for speedier opening and even offline access. If it’s a Microsoft Office file and you have the Office apps installed on your device, you can even go right ahead and edit the contents of the document on your phone.

The key here is that this seemingly simple update makes it even more straightforward for you to receive and handle documents from your colleagues, even if you’re not sitting in front of your desktop or laptop. Dropbox is making strides in increasing the ease with which its platform works across mobile devices, and part of that is reducing the number of buttons you need to tap to achieve your goals. All of which is great news for busy business owners and your staff. After all, it further enhances one of the Cloud’s biggest selling points - to literally be able to do anything you could ordinarily do from your office, no matter where in the world you are.

To find out more about implementing Cloud technologies to boost your company’s productivity, drop us a line today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web
February 27th, 2015

Time to take a break.One important decision businesses have to make is choosing the right technology to boost productivity and profitability - and a growing number are turning to smartphones. And when it comes to smartphones for business users, Windows Phones and its features are well-positioned to assist in daily business operations. Let’s take a look at some useful Windows Phone applications that could help drive your business forward.

Data Sense

Nowadays, telecommunication service providers restrict your Internet usage to a few gigabytes of data on a monthly basis. When you’ve exceeded this data limit, your Internet speed goes down drastically, and you might even have to pay extra to maintain speed. Data Sense allows business users to stay productive while on the go by monitoring their data usage. You can set a monthly data limit and Data Sense will help you control background applications and save certain downloads for when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. This way, you can save your precious connection speed for when you need it most.

‘Running late’ notification

At important business meetings, you don’t want to be the one seen as unprofessional for turning up late, especially if you haven’t been able to let people know what's happening. But even if you strive to be on time for every appointment, sometimes things are beyond your control. The ‘running late’ notification in the Windows Phone calendar app lets you send a quick message to your colleagues, to alert them to the fact that you’ll be late for a meeting. Simply do this by setting a default message, then choose a meeting in your calendar. The notification feature will pull contact information from your address book and send an email to attendees of your choice. Just make sure you have a good excuse when you do turn up!

Office Remote

This powerful application turns your Windows Phone device into a remote control for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents. Business presentations are easier with Office Remote, which you can use to jump between PowerPoint slides and control a laser pointer to draw your audience’s attention. You can also use it to store your speech notes, and you can glance down to monitor your presentation time on the screen. Office Remote is simple to implement, requiring only Bluetooth and a small piece of add-in software that allows you to connect your Windows Phone and PC.

TeamViewer

What happens when you’re out of the office, and a client calls to request information stored on your computer? Well, the good news is you don’t need to rush to your desk. With TeamViewer, you can access your PC’s desktop right from your Windows Phone device, as long as the computer is turned on and running the TeamViewer program. This can save you a lot of time when you’re outside and need to check a file or run a program on the go.

Mobile device management

If your business deals with confidential client information, then deploying Windows Phones to your employees can be risky. Microsoft has come up with Windows Intune, an application to centrally manage and secure your employee’s Windows Phone devices. Windows Intune allows the administrator to manage updates, control which applications can be installed, and protect the devices from viruses and malware.

If you want to integrate Windows Phones into your business, contact us today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 26th, 2015

The past couple of years have been a rough ride for anyone who relies on a credit card to make purchases. Data breaches have plagued retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. Credit card providers are set to roll out new, more secure credit cards to consumers this year, catching up to Europe and much of Asia in terms of credit card security. The U.S., in particular, has lagged behind in credit card security due in part to the cost of upgrading both the cards themselves and the pay terminals.

If you are concerned about your credit card information falling into the wrong hands, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself:

Only give your credit card information to secure and trusted web sites. Never enter any personal or financial information on a non-secure web page. If you don’t see “https” in the web address, move along.

Monitor all activity. Regularly check your credit card and bank statements. The simplest way to spot fraud is to monitor all your financial activity. Many credit card providers have custom alerts you can set to notify you if certain purchases are made.

Never save credit card information. Many online retailers and shops now ask if you would like to save your credit card information for future use. While it may seem convenient, skip it.

Delete your cookies and auto-fill data. When you enter information on a web page, that data is stored in your web browser. After you complete a transaction, go into your browser’s options, settings or history tab and delete the data

February 24th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Feb24_BIn today’s technological landscape, companies increasingly rely on sophisticated business intelligence tools to help them to make better and more strategic business decisions. Applying the best technology to your practices can give you an edge over your competitors and increase the thing that matters to your business most - productivity. Read on to find out more about three efficient BI tools that may benefit your bottom line.

The Internet of Things

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is to embed electronic sensors into any physical objects, allowing them to be controlled via the Internet. This includes everything from mobile phones to refrigerators, washing machines and even cars. The idea of IoT is exciting and definitely practical in today’s technology-driven world. While the concept has been around for several years, many business owners still don’t even know what the IoT means. So let’s take a closer look at how IoT will impact businesses.
  • Increased efficiency - Businesses will be able to connect devices for efficient, real-time operations. For instance, IoT can connect a warehouse system and point-of-sale scanners together to provide better inventory management.
  • New business opportunities - Today there are approximately 10 billion connected devices, and this number is growing fast. IoT opens a door to new business opportunities as customers need new devices and services in their everyday lives.
  • More security concerns - While the idea of connecting everything together is exciting, businesses will have to pay extra attention to security. More data stored online means increased chances of information theft and cyber security issues.

3D Printing

Some businesses have probably never considered that 3D printing could be of use to them, partly because they’re so accustomed to the traditional way of printing 2D materials such as posters and flyers. But now 3D printing allows businesses to manufacture three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Since the costs of technology are expected to decrease, 3D printing could be adapted to business practices for various purposes.

The main benefits of 3D printing for businesses are increased productivity and creative, customizable new designs. Product designers can use 3D software to speed up the creation of product prototypes. It also allows for remote cooperation between colleagues, which increases the ability to brainstorm ideas for faster product-development cycles. 3D printing processes are also highly customizable to suit the needs of clients.

The Enterprise Cloud

Companies are now familiar with cloud computing, having used it for data storage and synchronization for the past few years. But the enterprise cloud offers more flexibility and scalability than regular cloud computing, and is noted for its cost efficiency, security, and easy-to-use model. Enterprise cloud computing refers to a firewall protected computer system which is able to offer software, infrastructure and platform and web services. They can provide private access and a virtual scalable environment controlled by either a single company or consortium.

Nowadays, businesses require faster innovation, remote access, and better cross-product integration. This is where the enterprise cloud comes in; to deliver cost savings and provide better security to accommodate business growth. You’ll want to adopt the enterprise cloud to gain advantage over your competitors.

If you’re interested in boosting your business performance with BI tools, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 23rd, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb23_BAre you tired of waffling around on social media in an attempt to boost business? Maybe you have accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and more, but you seem to be making little progress. To make matters worse, you’ve gained less than 50 Facebook likes since starting out. What gives? Well, there are some sensible social media strategies that can pull you out of the trenches. Read on to learn how you can put them into action.

Undoubtedly, the most important strategy to use in your social media plan is...to have a strategy to begin with. Know how much time you can dedicate to social media, block out the hours to focus on it and don’t waste that time checking out friends’ vacation photos or celebrity twitter feeds.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re going to waste time posting irrelevant updates that won’t engage with your audience. To help you plan an effective social media strategy, here are three crucial tips to get you off on the right foot.

Initially focus on the big three

Most social media experts agree that the three platforms that generate the most business leads, engagement and brand exposure are Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. When you’re getting started, your efforts should be primarily focused on these three. After you’ve gained followings here, then you can start forging paths into YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest amongst others.

Post at prime exposure times

Studies have shown that around lunch and dinner time are ideal posting times (since everyone is uploading photos of their meals). As for which days, many marketers agree your posts are most likely to get noticed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So these are the times to deliver those high-impact messages you’ve been randomly shooting out.

Find the value in your post

On social media, you should always be focused on selling your services, right? Wrong. Only 15% of your posts should concern news about your business and its products. The other 85% should focus on providing fun, valuable and timely content.

When you create a new post, you should ask yourself what’s in it for the customer. What do they get from reading it? Seriously, why is someone going to share your post or talk about your business unless it adds value to their life? Think about the posts you share personally. Do they provide value to your friends and family? We’re guessing the answer is yes.

For more tips on how social media can create buzz for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 19th, 2015

RepBFrom an early age, we’re all taught to be wary of strangers. Don’t talk to them, don’t smile at them and, whatever happens, do not accept candy from them! As we become adults, we know it’s okay to talk with strangers and meet new people. But as technology has evolved, there’s a new type of stranger lurking in the shadows who may still pose threats to even us grown-ups. And while they likely won’t offer us candy, they may be asking to connect on LinkedIn. So how do we handle it? Here’s a look at some reasons for accepting or rejecting that LinkedIn invitation.

Why to reject

Rejectors of stranger invitations have a common argument that’s hard to dispute. If you connect with a stranger, and a trusted member in your network (who you actually know) asks for an introduction to that connection, you may look a bit silly saying you’ve never met the guy. This scenario can obviously be a bit awkward. And LinkedIn rejection enthusiasts like to use this argument as their trump card to silence the opposition.

To go along with this, they may further ask what would happen if that stranger started requesting introductions to valued members of your network? Again, you might find yourself in an awkward situation.

The core philosophy of any LinkedIn invite rejector is that your network should be made up of people you know and trust. Some people see a connection on LinkedIn as an endorsement of that person. If strangers in your network have a bad reputation that you don’t know about, and others see that you’re connected with them, it could be a bad reflection on you.

Why to accept

More people seem to lean toward connecting with LinkedIn strangers than against. But does that actually make it the right decision? Why do people choose to accept invitations from people they don’t know?

People with 500+ connections appear powerful, even if most of their connections are with strangers. Seriously, think about it. Who would you be more likely to trust, a person with 70 connections or one with over five hundred?

More connections also mean a higher chance of being found. More and more recruiters are jumping on the LinkedIn bandwagon and, whether you’re looking for freelance work or for a new job, LinkedIn is a great place to be found. The more connections you have, the easier it is for you to appear in search results.

What’s more, a higher connection count can lead to your profile reaching a larger audience. If you have a business, feel like you have something to say or just want to speak your mind in a professional manner (save the posts about your drunken exploits for Facebook), LinkedIn presents an excellent opportunity to get your voice heard. And the more connections you have, the more people you’ll have the opportunity to influence.

The choice is yours

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to connecting with strangers on LinkedIn. It comes down to personal preference and objectives. If you want your network to be trusted individuals you actually have a relationship with, then it’s better for you to reject those stranger requests. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more opportunities and are self-employed, connecting with strangers can be a great way to drill up more business.

But there is middle ground, too. Maybe you don’t connect with just any old stranger (like that guy who works for the Bank of Nigeria), but if there is someone who is a friend of a friend or who works in your field, it might be worth connecting with them. Remember, your friends were once strangers too, so maybe that request from Bill who works at your local hardware store will turn into a blossoming business relationship. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

If you’re looking to learn more about LinkedIn and other social media platforms, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 19th, 2015

A study of computer programmers at Bell Laboratories showed that the star performers outperformed moderate performers by a margin of 8 to 1. If that holds true in your organization, the conversion of five of your moderate performers into star performers would be the equivalent of adding 35 moderate performers to your workforce. Where are you going to find the five additional star performers? You don’t find them. You develop them.

The Bell Labs study identified nine work strategies that characterize star performers. All of them are qualities that can be inculcated through a good corporate education system. According to researchers Robert Kelly and Janet Caplan, these qualities are:

1) Taking initiative: accepting responsibility above and beyond your stated job, volunteering for additional activities and promoting new ideas.

2) Networking: getting direct and immediate access to coworkers with technical expertise and sharing your own knowledge with those who need it.

3) Self-management: regulating your own work commitments, time, performance level and career growth.

4) Teamwork effectiveness: assuming joint responsibility for work activities, coordinating efforts and accomplishing shared goals with workers.

5) Leadership: formulating, stating and building consensus on common goals and working to accomplish them.

6) Followership: helping the leader to accomplish the organization’s goals and thinking for yourself rather than relying solely on managerial direction.

7) Perspective: seeing your job in its larger context and taking on other viewpoints, like those of the customer, manager and work team.

8) Show-and-tell: presenting your ideas persuasively in written or oral form.

9) Organizational savvy: navigating the competing interests in an organization, be they individual or group, to promote cooperation, address conflicts and get things done.

Star performers considered initiative, technical competence and other cognitive abilities to be core competencies. Show-and-tell and organizational savvy were on the outer edge of their circle of importance. Middle performers placed show-and-tell and organizational savvy at the center. While star performers were focused on performance, middle performers were focused on impressing management.

Star performers and middle performers also showed marked differences in their attitudes toward networking. The middle performers waited until after they had encountered problems before looking around for someone who could provide help and support. The star performers built a network of helpers and supporters in advance, so they could call on them immediately when needed.

The study concluded that “Individual productivity… depends on the ability to channel one’s expertise, creativity and insight into working with other professionals.”

Star performers emerge from educational systems tailored to the individual company and the individual job. They don’t want to become clones. Too many companies today are content with training programs that provide people with knowledge and expertise, but skimp on educational processes that teach them to apply what they learn. You can’t train them to seek excellence. You change that attitude through consistent input that appeals to an individual’s self-interest and organizational spirit.

Dr. Nido Qubein is president of High Point University, an undergraduate and graduate institution with 4,300 students from 40 countries. He has authored two dozen books and audio programs distributed worldwide. As a business leader, he is chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company, with 220 stores in 43 states. He serves on the boards of several national organizations, including BB&T (a Fortune 500 company with $185 billion in assets), the La-Z-Boy Corporation (one of the largest and most recognized furniture brands worldwide) and Dots Stores (a chain of fashion boutiques with more than 400 locations across the country). As a professional speaker, Dr. Qubein has received many distinctions, including the Golden Gavel Medal, induction into the International Speaker Hall of Fame and as the founder of the NSA Foundation in Arizona.
To learn more about Dr. Qubein, go to: http://www.nidoqubein.com/

 

February 18th, 2015

Security_Feb18_BWe have become acclimatized to ever-present threats to the security of the information and files we share and store online. But we all still want our data to be as secure as possible and, following high-profile breaches such as the celebrity photo leaks of 2014, if anything the issue of online security is even more prominent in our minds. Since those leaks took place, the security of Apple platforms has in particular been the subject of public scrutiny - it is therefore good news that Apple has now extended its two-step authentication feature to popular applications FaceTime and iMessage.

After the fall-out from the celebrity photo leaks, Apple extended the two-step authentication process (also known as two-step verification) to iCloud, the online storage platform at the center of the scandal. The feature was initially introduced only to the user IDs for access to Apple accounts; the motivation for the launch of that extra security measure was the hacking of a journalist’s data back in 2013. But what is two-step authentication and how does it work to protect your data?

The premise behind two-step authentication, which experts recommend all businesses implement as part of their security strategy, is actually pretty simple. Usernames and passwords are all too easily stolen by malicious parties, whether by phishing emails or a more sophisticated hacking attack. So, rather than typing just your username and password to access your account, the password is teamed up with a four-digit verification code which is newly and uniquely generated each time you attempt to access your account.

The verification code is delivered by text message (meaning that to use the two-step verification feature, you’ll need to have a cellphone to receive the SMS on). As a result, even if a hacker manages to get hold of your password, unless they also have your phone by their side then they won’t be getting into your account. This authentication method is already used by organizations around the world including banks, mobile service providers and other companies who recognize the added layer of security that it brings. And now you can give yourself the same level of protection to ensure that only you can FaceTime your family and send iMessages to your friends.

Fear not, there’s a backup plan to ensure that you can still access your accounts if you happen to forget your password or if something happens to your phone so you can longer receive authentication codes. Apple also provides you with a 14-character recovery key that will get you back in if all else fails. To enable two-step authentication for your FaceTime and iMessage applications, login to your Apple ID account, select Password and Security and then click Get Started under Two-Step Verification.

To find out more about using two-step verification and other security measures to protect your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 17th, 2015

Productivity_Feb12_BIncreasing productivity is one of the most crucial goals for small businesses, and this is where technology comes in. Tablets are merely leisure tools in the eyes of many users, good for games and movies but not much else. But actually these can be valuable productive tools in the office, too. The business community is starting to realize this and work tablets into everyday business practices.

You already know that tablets are flexible in use, portable, and make great devices for entertainment. But you can make your tablet contribute much more to your business practices too; it’s just a matter of selecting the right applications and accessories to get the job done. Here are some strategies to turn your tablet into a powerful productivity tool.

Out with the games

Yes, we use tablets to play games; from typical Angry Birds to the RAM-consuming Assassin’s Creed. But for the sake of your business you need to get rid of all such distractions. Burying the games in folders won’t help when you know they’re there. So if you don’t want to waste your time and are keen to be be more productive, delete the games!

In with the work-friendly apps

The pre-installed apps such as calendar, calculator, email, clock/timer are all useful tools you'll want to have at hand. These are great for quick information checking. But your tablet has the potential to do more than telling you the time or helping with numbers. Just head over to the app store, browse through over a million available apps and take your pick. Here are a few popular ones to get you started:
  • Dropbox - This app lets you store, synchronize, and share files online. You can gain access to your files or share them with your colleagues anywhere, anytime. And what’s more, it’s safe! With Dropbox installed, your tablet becomes a powerful device that enables you to bring up anything you might need for references while working. Alternatives include Google Drive and OneDrive.
  • Skype - Most businesses are starting to take advantage of the features Skype offers. Need to discuss something with your teammates? You can get in touch with them by using the instant messaging or group call features. Skype also allows you to share files with your colleagues with a simple drag-and-drop function.
  • iWork - If you're an iPad aficionado you'll find that iWork boosts your productivity, with three combined apps - Keynote, Numbers and Pages - that can act as your entire office suite whether you're in the office, at home or on the road.

Organize your home screen

You can focus more on work with a well-organized page dedicated solely to productive apps. Make sure all of your work-related apps are on the home screen. The key is to keep the home screen simple and clean. While you can organize it in any way you wish, it’s best to try out a few different schemes before settling on the one you’re most comfortable with.

Get a Bluetooth keyboard

One of the major disadvantages of a tablet is the lack of a physical keyboard. When you need to handle several documents or do a lot of writing, using the tablet’s on-screen keyboard probably isn’t a good idea. Luckily this drawback can be overcome with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. This way you can easily respond to emails or edit documents. So invest in a Bluetooth keyboard to improve your overall tablet experience and productivity. You'll probably find it soon replaces your laptop.

The tablet trend is in town, and many businesses are already benefiting from these devices. But are you ready to take the plunge? Get in touch with us to see how tablets can help your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
February 13th, 2015

BC_164_BDisasters, whether man-made or natural, can happen to anyone. While most people will admit this, a lot of us still have the mindset of “it won’t happen to me.” However, according to one study, storms and extreme weather alone have personally affected one-third of small business owners. And that doesn’t include other disasters such as earthquakes, fires or theft. So if you don’t want your business disrupted in the event of a catastrophe, it’s time to prepare for the worst. Here are a few ideas to get started with a business continuity plan that will ensure you are ready.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity

While it’s easy to overlook the differences between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, there are actually some key variations you should be aware of.

Disaster recovery is the restoration of business operations and IT infrastructure after a disaster has already occurred. Business continuity, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining business operations and profits throughout a disaster. While disaster recovery is mainly focused on the slice of time immediately following a disaster (how you replace your equipment and restore IT infrastructure asap), business continuity looks at the bigger picture - the continuity of the company as a whole. It ensures you can run your business and maintain profits during the process of recovering from a catastrophe. It generally includes a disaster recovery plan as part of it.

Creating your business continuity plan

The first step in creating your plan is to identify which of your IT assets are vulnerable to disaster. To do this, you need to ask yourself some important questions, starting with what might happen if you were to lose the functionality of a specific asset for a day, a week or even longer. Answering this question will help you identify your most critical IT assets; the ones that are integral to your business operations.

Here are some other important questions to ask when drafting your business continuity plan:

  • What is the purpose of my business continuity plan?
  • What disasters can affect my IT infrastructure?
  • What are my key business areas?
  • Which different business areas, assets and departments depend on each other?
  • What is the longest amount of time I can go without functionality of IT assets?
Once you can answer these, it’s time to start planning. Write down your thoughts, and then contact an IT provider like us for assistance. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours prepare themselves in order to remain operational throughout catastrophes. We can also help you identify potential problems that you may not have thought of.

Need help creating your business continuity plan? Contact us today to see how we can help you stay running and turning profits when disaster hits.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.