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June 22nd, 2015

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the technology giant’s opportunity to announce its intentions in the coming months and years. It’s the time when the firm makes public the projects and releases it has in the pipeline, and it’s watched with anticipation by Apple fans across the globe. This year’s event took place in San Francisco earlier this month - here are the biggest takeaways from the all-important keynote speech.

New operating systems

The big news from the WWDC was about operating systems. Apple took the opportunity to unveil three new releases - for mobile devices, Mac desktops and laptops, and the Apple Watch. Access to all three has been given to developers as of now, with public beta testing and full availability expected to follow later in the year.

iOS

On the mobile front, iOS 9 ups the ante on intelligence, with a focus on allowing devices to learn more about our behavior and so tailor the user experience to suit. At the root of these improvements are upgrades to both Siri and search; expect mobile devices running iOS 9 to be better at launching apps before you realize you need them - great for productivity - and reminding you about (and getting you to) upcoming meetings and appointments. Among other changes, upgrades to the iPad will enable enhanced productivity and multitasking, great news for the hurried business user who needs to make the most of the time available.

OS X

The desktop and laptop operating system upgrade to OS X 10.11 is seen as a stepping stone from Yosemite rather than an entirely new approach - but it’s a significant upgrade all the same. Among the most exciting developments are search improvements that will allow you to use natural language when you’re on the hunt for important information and files; likewise, the release is intended to make multitasking across windows even more of a breeze. The productivity and communication apps most commonly used by our business clients - the likes of Mail, Safari and Notes - have also been tuned up both in terms of visible features and behind-the-scenes upgrades to their running speed and overall performance.

watchOS

Finally, though the Apple Watch might not yet be at the stage of being a game-changer on the office productivity scene, the second release of its operating system lays the way for an enhanced user experience. watchOS 2 will, most crucially, lessen the requirement for you to use your iPhone alongside your watch - one of the notable drawbacks when the watch came on sale - and instead allow the device to do more, and run more apps, on its own.

Apple also used WWDC to reveal details of improvements to Apple Maps that will see the service include transit information for cities including San Francisco, New York and London - making it easier for you to get to your meeting on time if you’re taking public transportation. Equally exciting is the news that Apple Pay continues to grow; the mobile payment system is being rolled out to more and more retailers across the US, and is making the jump across the pond to the United Kingdom, where it’s being rolled out in banks, stores and on public transportation.

Want to learn more about the latest Apple technology developments, and how you can put them to use to drive greater efficiency in your business? Talk to our helpful team today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
June 19th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jun9_BBusiness intelligence (BI) involves the use of a variety of software and applications to analyze a company’s raw data, and present it in a way that’s easy to understand and enables effective business decisions to be taken. But in reality, many businesses fail to have an effective BI strategy in place, causing them to lose large sums of money. Here are five common BI mistakes you need to know, so you can take deliberate measures to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not defining business problems

One of the biggest mistakes in BI implementation is jumping to conclusions too soon without first identifying what your business wants to accomplish. When it comes to integrating BI into business operations, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking for a single BI tool to solve all analytics problems is one of the main reasons many BI projects fail.

You need to clearly define the business problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the specific tools required to solve those problems. Only then will you be able to select and purchase the BI tool that best suits your needs.

Mistake #2: Not getting buy-in from end users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not properly utilized. Forcing your employees to use newly purchased BI technology without informing them or hearing their thoughts beforehand is a big mistake.

Instead of telling employees they have to use something, first focus on highlighting the benefits of the new BI system. Help employees understand why they’ll want to use it, and convince them by showing them what they stand to gain from the new BI technology.

Mistake #3: Rushing implementation

A rushed deployment of new technology is often times not a successful one. When it comes to deploying BI solutions, patience is key. If you hurry into BI implementation too quickly, your end users may not have enough time to develop the skills required to use the software effectively.

Take an incremental approach to implementing BI solutions. Make a list identifying business problems and, rather than expecting to solve every business problem all at once, try to prioritize specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have solved the first issue, move on to the next one and so on until you have incrementally solved all the problems on the list.

Mistake #4: Insufficient training

New BI systems are complex structures that require a lot of training in order for users to make the most of them. If users lack the skills necessary to operate the software, then bottlenecks can occur. The product may be left dormant for long periods of time as users wait for experienced IT staff to resolve teething problems.

Spend wisely on providing ongoing training, so that users really understand how to use the system. Consider hosting weekly lunch sessions where a different aspect of the BI system is discussed. You could also provide online training videos that enable users to learn more about the new system at their own pace.

Mistake #5: Not making use of information and reports

BI tools are designed to analyze raw data and turn it into valuable information that can be used in business decision making. But some organizations fail to exploit the information fully - it is not shared, not analyzed, and not acted on. BI software can generate reports on various data points, identify risks, and predict trends. It’s important to leverage the information gathered and to apply it to your business’s objectives and goals.

Business intelligence software is a highly useful tool that, when used properly, can drive your business forward. Avoid these mistakes in order to make the most of your BI solutions. If you’re looking to implement BI tools to your company, contact our experienced consultants today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2015

Office365_Jun4_BHow many emails do you receive a day? And how many are of actual value to you or your business? In an internet-driven business environment, plenty of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email we receive, and the amount of productive work time it takes us to deal with it all. Even if an email is not a spam message, but something related to your job, it won’t always be something that you need to deal with right there and then, in the process distracting you from the task in hand. Despite all the email management hacks out there, the messages keep on coming - but Outlook’s Clutter feature could be about to change that.

Originally announced at Microsoft’s Exchange Conference at the start of 2014, the Clutter add-on for Outlook began rolling out last November to Office 365 business customers who had signed up for the first release. During the initial trial period for Clutter, the function was disabled by default - now that’s been changed, and as of June 15 the tool was due to be turned on by default for all Office 365 users.

At the heart of Clutter is a desire to prioritize email, and move less important messages from your inbox so that you can review and deal with them at your convenience. With only your highest priority emails waiting for you in your main inbox, the idea is that you enjoy fewer distractions and so enhance productivity in your real job - which, for most of us, isn’t email at all. Clutter is an intelligent tool, meaning it picks up hints on which emails are important to you based both on the type of the message and how you are addressed in it. It also uses the Office Graph social feature to track your prior actions both within the Outlook Web App and on Outlook clients for desktop and mobile devices.

Messages identified as lower priority are whisked away to a specific Clutter folder for you to review when you have the chance. Alternatively, you can simply choose to ignore the messages, treating the Clutter folder as another kind of junk filter, and the messages will remain conveniently out of view. In order to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently start mis-identifying messages as low priority, Microsoft is keen to stress that Clutter won’t do anything until it is confident it has a thorough understanding of your behaviors and your email preferences - for most people this will happen within a matter of days, depending on the volume of email you receive.

You’ll receive daily and weekly notifications so you’re aware which messages Clutter is moving, and don’t miss something important - significantly, these notifications are no longer sent as emails, since replacing an inbox-cluttering message with another one would seem to somewhat detract from Clutter’s purpose. If a message is wrongly picked up as low priority and moved to your Clutter folder, you can move it back to your inbox to be dealt with sooner, and Clutter will learn from the mistake in order to improve its handling of your messages in the future. In the same way, you can choose to proactively teach Clutter about your preferences by marking specific low-priority messages as Clutter.

According to Microsoft, Clutter already shifts more than a million low-priority messages daily, and saves its users almost an hour and a half in productivity each month - figures which are expected to rise as the tool is adopted more widely. If you’ve already enabled Clutter manually, or have enabled it but later switched it off, nothing will change; if you haven’t yet taken any action at all, it will be automatically turned on for you if it hasn’t been already. If you want to disable it, you can do so from the Options page of either Outlook on the Web or the Outlook 2016 Preview, or can simply click the turn it off link at the bottom of notifications.

Clutter gives you a highly personalized email filter that knows which messages are of interest. If you want to learn more about using Office 365 in your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 11th, 2015

164_B_MacIf you’re like most people, you may not have time to search through the bowels of the Internet to find the shortcuts and tips that make it easier to use your Mac. You may think Macs are already so easy to use that you don’t even need shortcuts. But if a shortcut helps you save just five minutes a day - five days a week - that time quickly adds up. In fact, over a course of a year, that equals 21+ hours of extra productivity. These bonus hours can likely help cut the stress of hitting deadlines and attending to other priorities. That’s why we’ve gathered these four tips and tricks that will make using your Mac easier.

Open Programs and Files Faster

Want a quicker way to open files and programs faster? If you’re tired of opening Finder and scrolling through the hundreds of applications and files you have stored, there is a much more efficient solution - Spotlight Search.

To use Spotlight Search, follow these steps:

  1. Press Command and the space bar to launch your search.
  2. Type the first few letters of the file or app you’d like to open.
  3. From the drop down menu that appears, scroll down to the app or file you’re searching for and hit the enter key.

Force Quit Apps

When the pinwheel of death rears its ugly head, your application stalls and your productivity comes to a standstill. There is no better time to make use of the Force Quit shortcut. Here’s how to do it.
  1. Press Command-Option-Esc to display the list of all applications that are running.
  2. From here simply choose the one you’d like to quit.

Take a Screenshot

Pictures speak a thousand words, and sometimes you may need an image of your display to more thoroughly communicate a message. Here are three easy ways to take a screenshot on your Mac OS.
  • Take a snapshot of your entire display - press Command-Shift-3.
  • Take a screenshot of any open window - press Command-Shift-4, followed by the space bar. Then, simply click on the window you’d like an image of.
  • Snap a customized image of your display - press Command-Shift-4. When the crosshairs appear, use them to drag a frame over the portion of the screen you’d like to capture.

Launch frequently used Apps, Files and Server Connections automatically

This trick allows you to save time by automatically launching a program when you log in. Follow these steps to do this:
  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Choose Users & Groups
  3. Select your account
  4. Click on Login Items
  5. Use the plus and minus signs to add or remove programs, files, folders, etc. you’d like to automatically launch upon login
  6. Click Add to save
These are just a few of the dozens of shortcuts and features Mac OS has to offer. If you’d like to learn more or need other IT-related assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_BWhen it comes to using social media advertising to reach out to targeted audiences, Facebook is by far one of the most efficient platforms out there. The numbers speak clearly - advertising on Facebook has grown over 680% since 2010. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon, moving their budgets away from traditional advertising methods and increasing their social spending. If Facebook advertising isn’t in your marketing arsenal, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools available. Here’s all you need to know about setting up a Facebook ad campaign.

1. Create a Facebook Business Page

First things first: before you can advertise on Facebook, you must have a Facebook Business Page. Log in to your Facebook account and, on the news feed page, click on Create a Page from the left column. Choose the category of your Page that best describes the nature of your business. Then fill out all your business information, including your website, hours of operation, phone number, address, and email. Finally, add creative profile and cover images to attract potential visitors.

2. Define your Facebook ads goals

Facebook offers a variety of advertisement options to choose from, depending on your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to create goals for your ads, to make sure you’re spending your money wisely while achieving your business goals. Start by asking yourself why you’re utilizing Facebook ads in the first place; defining advertising goals and strategies will help you choose the right type of Facebook ad.

3. Choose an objective for your campaign

Now that you have a Facebook ad goal in mind, it’s time to translate those goals into objectives for your campaign. For instance, if you want to drive more visitors to your business website, your Facebook ad objective is to Send people to your website, but if you want to increase your number of social media followers you would choose the objective Promote your Page. From your Page, click on Create ads and choose an objective to get started.

4. Target your audience

This is the step where most businesses fail at Facebook advertising. You can target your ads based on location, age, gender, language, interests, and behavior. By defining the right audience group, your Facebook ads will be shown to the right people and will give a high conversion rate. After you’ve chosen your target audience, you can decide how much money you want to spend, and choose the time to run your ad.

5. Customize your ad

This process is equally as important as audience targeting. In this step you have the option to choose how your ad will look, by adding up to five images and text that will accompany them. The text is only 90 characters long, so make sure your copy portrays what the content is about, so it will encourage people to click on your ad. Then choose where you want your Facebook ad to show from four options - the news feed, mobile news feed, right column, or audience network.

6. Place your order

The last step is to click on the Place Order button to submit your ad to Facebook for review. You’ll receive an email from Facebook once your ad has been reviewed and approved and is ready to launch.

Facebook advertising requires effective planning, testing, and measuring. You need to experiment in order to find the campaign that works best for your business. If you’re interested in advertising on Facebook or through other social media platforms, drop us a line and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 3rd, 2015

164_B_ProdDo you have a staff of young employees who are working remotely around the country? How do you know they’re staying productive and not watching YouTube videos all day? For employees who are undisciplined and new to the remote working world, working from home or a coffee shop can be a breeding ground for unproductivity. How can you help your staff develop the habits they need to remain productive while they’re out of the office? Here are a few ideas that will help any remote worker keep their head on straight and focused on the job.

Don’t change your routine

Would you go to the office without brushing your teeth or combing your hair? Probably not. Believe it or not, it’s not a good idea when you’re working remotely either. Sometimes the simple act of preparing for your workday - jumping in the shower, shaving and so on - can put you in the right frame of mind to work. If you or your staff are finding it difficult to be productive at home, try sticking to a pre-work routine and see if it makes a difference.

Designate a specific workspace

Attempting to work while sitting in your bed or lounging on the couch can be a recipe for a productivity disaster. So instead, try designating a specific space where you work everyday. It can be as simple as a desk set apart from the rest of your living room or bedroom, but just make sure it’s not cluttered with non-work items (like a TV remote or fiction novel), and that it’s properly lit and comfortable.

If you’re working from a coffee shop, airport or other public place, consider using a pair of headphones to help drown out the noise so you can focus. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, and the productivity will come.

Stay connected to your team

Thankfully, cloud computing has made it unbelievably easy for your remote workers to stay connected to the office wherever they are. If your business is setup with Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 or another cloud product, make it a requirement that your employees access it daily and remain available. When your staff is connected to your business this way, it will strengthen their relationship with other employees and the organization as a whole. Generally speaking, more connected employees are more productive ones.

Log off

When you work remotely, the line between work and personal life blurs more than ever. To avoid burnout, it’s important you discipline yourself to log off after you’ve put in a full day’s work. Whether you choose to work from 9 to 5 or 4pm to midnight, define work hours and stick to them. This will help you completely disconnect at the end of the day, which will ensure that you’re properly rested and prepared for the next.

Want more tips on productive habits for remote working? Are you ready to empower your staff with cloud computing to help them along? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 2nd, 2015

Virtualization_May28_BBusinesses today rely on their applications and critical documents more than ever before to stay efficient and competitive. With that in mind, virtual machines are often the go-to platform to ensure precisely that; but things may change with the increasing popularity of containers. What exactly are containers, though? Are they better than virtual machines? Here we take a look at which will best fit your business.

Containers, just like virtual machines, are used for storing files, critical data and applications in an organized manner following specific access rules. So how do they differ from virtual machines, and what are the pros and cons of containers? We’ll take a look below.

Containers can pack a lot more applications into a single cloud or data center than a virtual machine can. And because containers only require little memory from an operating system and its supporting programs and libraries, you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with a container than you can with a virtual machine. In addition, containers allow you to create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing and deployment.

Still, there's a lot more to containers than how many apps you can put in a box, and not everything about them is sweet. One of the problems with containers that is often overlooked is security. Simply put, containers do not contain. What this means is that if a user or application has superuser privileges within the container, the underlying operating system could be cracked. And while you can secure containers by mounting a /sys filesystem as read-only among other options, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

Another container security issue stems from the release of many containerized applications. This is a problem because if you happen to install the first container that comes to hand, you’re likely to have brought a Trojan Horse into your server. You need to inform your staff and employees that they simply can’t download apps from the Internet into a container like they do games for their smartphone. Not only that, but breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts using a container is possible, but means more parts for you to manage. The whole point of a container is to run a single application, so the more functionality you stick into a container, the more likely it is you should actually be using a virtual machine in the first place.

So how do you decide between containers and virtual machines? Ask yourself whether you need to run the highest possible number of instances of a particular application on the fewest possible servers, because if so then containers are the best option for you. But if you want the flexibility of running multiple applications on your servers and you have a variety of operating systems, virtual machines are your safest bet.

Looking to learn more about how virtualization can help your business prosper? Contact us today - we’re sure we can tailor a solution that meets your unique needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 1st, 2015

Security_May27_BData breaches are all too common and, without adequate protection, every business is at risk of external attack. In fact, it’s never been more important to ensure your organization’s policies and procedures are foolproof, and that you have contingency plans in place should something go wrong. Google just made that easier for Drive for Work users, by adding physical Security Keys to its safeguarding toolbox. Here’s what you need to know.

Google already offers security precautions like two-step authentication, which provides additional protection by requiring you to enter not only your password but also a one-time code received by SMS or similar. This is a crucial weapon in the fight against hackers, since weak usernames and passwords are still be the primary reason for accounts being breached. Security Keys now take things one step further, strengthening your Google Drive account’s coat of armor to an even greater extent.

The Security Key is a physical USB device that is plugged into your computer, and which sends an encrypted signature, instead of a password or other code, to verify your identity and permit you access to your Google account. Crucially, Security Keys are inexpensive - starting from around $6 per unit - and require no additional software for deployment, use or management. Administrators have the ability to track when and where each key is used, as well as being able to disable them if lost and issue backup codes to allow staff uninterrupted access even if they do misplace their key.

Simplifying the login process is also a key part of what Google has tried to achieve with Security Keys. To that end, the first time you use your key to access your Google account on a particular computer, you can opt for Google to remember that device. On subsequent occasions you can quickly sign in using only your password, and without requiring either your key or a two-step authentication code. You can still sign in using your key on other machines, and if a hacker tries to access your account without your key they will also be prompted for a two-step verification code (which, unless they have access to your cell phone, they shouldn’t be able to provide).

Security Keys aren’t an entirely perfect solution, though - there are some significant limitations to the technology. For one, you can’t use them on mobile devices, since they require a USB port to work, and they only allow you to access your Google account through the Chrome browser. Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS and Linux operating systems are all supported, but if you’re working from your phone or on a browser other than Chrome then you’ll need to continue using two-step authentication. Google says you can mix and match different methods of verification, opting to use Security Keys where they are supported and two-step verification otherwise (or if you don’t have your key with you).

What’s more, only Google Drive currently supports Security Keys - it’s not yet possible to use them with Google Apps, for example. But, while the technology is primarily targeted at Google Drive for Work users, it’s possible to link a single key to multiple accounts, meaning you can use it to access both your work and personal Google accounts. Some users have also queried how much of a safeguard the technology really provides in the absence of an additional PIN code or fingerprint authentication being required for activation, suggesting that a stolen Security Key could be used to access a computer that a user has previously asked Google to remember. But Security Keys do appear to offer at least some additional protection, which will be of comfort to businesses handling sensitive data.

Give us a call to find out how to employ Security Keys and other technology solutions to bolster your protection against network intrusion and data breaches.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 1st, 2015

BusinessContinuity_June1_BUnforeseen disasters can strike at any time and, when they do, your business could come to a grinding halt. A business continuity plan could prevent this from happening by securing your precious business data at another location. But all too often, data backup can be too complicated for the average IT personnel to manage. Should you get hit by disaster, a lack of proper data backup could mean the end of your business - all the more reason to integrate cloud hosting in your data backup strategies. Here’s why the cloud is better than internal backups.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your computer, you lose the hard drive and the backup. Natural disasters or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. Your company could face expensive downtime if your backups are lost or damaged. With cloud-hosted backup, however, things are different. The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available when you need it. Top cloud service providers will offer redundancy, which means they will make a backup of your backups. This increases uptime and ensures optimum levels of data availability.

Fast resource provisioning

When backups are being implemented, spikes in user activity or cloud environment accessibility can rise rapidly and slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in. By closely monitoring user activities, providers can see spikes either before or as they are happening. The provider will provision more resources and virtual machines to manage the influx of users. This type of flexibility is particularly useful for when data backups are in process.

Backup frequency

Most companies work on files and update information throughout the day, so it’s important to have a real-time backup plan ready in case an unexpected disaster occurs. When you backup data to the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. Most cloud-hosted providers offer hourly, daily, monthly, or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own backup schedule. Some of the services offered by these providers will back up files as you make changes, so you’ll know that the very latest version of files and data are always backed up.

Distributed infrastructure

Cloud-hosted backup literally means the delivery of data backup to users all over the world. Selecting the right type of cloud hosting partner is equally as important as having a cloud backup plan in the first place. If international users are trying to access database or download applications through your business website, latency will become a factor - the closer the user is to the data, the faster they’ll be able to access information. A suitable cloud hosting partner will be able to provide backup servers at the location that best suits your company’s business continuity needs. Distributed infrastructure is beneficial if you’re looking to support a large number of worldwide users.

Businesses everywhere are utilizing cloud backup solutions - don’t be the one left behind. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 29th, 2015

164_B_iPhoneIn our fast-paced, interconnected culture where nearly everyone is equipped with a media device, privacy is becoming a valuable commodity that’s harder and harder to retain. And if you’re an iPhone user and business owner who’s oftentimes on the go, you may be texting confidential information on on a daily basis that, if made public, could have a negative impact on your company. Don’t let that happen. Here are three easy steps to take to ensure your iPhone text messages are kept private.

Turn off message previews

Have you ever accidentally left your iPhone on your desk while taking a bathroom break? When your phone is left unguarded in a public place, this is a golden opportunity for a passerby to glimpse a confidential message on your phone’s display. Here are the steps to take to prevent this from happening. Click on the following:
  1. Settings
  2. Notifications
  3. Messages
  4. Show Previews (turning it off)
With the preview setting off, you’ll still be alerted to a new text message. The only difference is that not a single line of said message will be viewable if someone sneaks a peek at your display.

Automatically delete texts

If you lose your phone or it gets stolen, there’s always the chance of it falling into the wrong hands. When that happens, you don’t want your sensitive or valuable information exposed to a stranger.

To avoid this nightmare scenario, there’s an easy solution to ensure your messages are deleted automatically after a designated time period of your choosing. Follow these steps for this additional security. Click on:

  1. Settings
  2. Messages
  3. Keep Messages
From here you now have the option to keep your messages for 30 days, a year or forever.

Turn off read receipts

When the word “Read” appears under a text message you’ve sent, this is a read receipt. It informs you that the the receiver of the text has seen your message. This works both ways, and also alerts the person you’re messaging with that you’ve read their text as well. So, why would you want to turn this off?

Maybe you don’t want to respond immediately to a client or colleague who is corresponding with you via text. If that’s the case, you may not want him or her to know that you’ve seen their message and are waiting to respond. In this scenario, turn off your read receipts and whoever it is you’re texting with will never know you saw their message.

To turn off read receipts, click on:

  1. Settings
  2. Messages
  3. Send Read Receipts (turning it off)
With these additional privacy measures in place, you can rest assured that a confidential text message will never be seen by the wrong person.

Want more iPhone tips or need a technology question answered? Don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone