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October 2nd, 2014

Security_Sep29_BBusiness owners and managers are becoming increasingly worried about the security of their systems and networks. While the vast majority have implemented some form of security, this may not be enough. In fact, we have helped a number of businesses with flawed security measures in place. The issue is, how do you know if your security is working sufficiently? Here are five common security flaws you should be aware of.

1. Open wireless networks

Wireless networks are one of the most common ways businesses allow their employees to get online. With one main Internet line and a couple of wireless routers, you can theoretically have the whole office online. This method of connecting does save money, but there is an inherent security risk with this and that is an unsecure network.

Contrary to popular belief, simply plugging in a wireless router and creating a basic network won't mean you are secure. If you don't set a password on your routers, then anyone within range can connect. Hackers and criminal organizations are known to look for, and then target these networks. With fairly simple tools and a bit of know-how, they can start capturing data that goes in and out of the network, and even attacking the network and computers attached. In other words, unprotected networks are basically open invitations to hackers.

Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that all wireless networks in the office are secured with passwords that are not easy to guess. For example, many Internet Service Providers who install hardware when setting up networks will often just use the company's main phone number as the password to the router. This is too easy to work out, so changing to a password that is a lot more difficult to guess is makes sense.

2. Email is not secure

Admittedly, most companies who have implemented a new email system in the past couple of years will likely be fairly secure. This is especially true if they use cloud-based options, or well-known email systems like Exchange which offer enhanced security and scanning, while using modern email transition methods.

The businesses at risk are those using older systems like POP, or systems that don't encrypt passwords (what are known as 'clear passwords'). If your system doesn't encrypt information like this, anyone with the right tools and a bit of knowledge can capture login information and potentially compromise your systems and data.

If you are using older email systems, it is advisable to upgrade to newer ones, especially if they don't encrypt important information.

3. Mobile devices that aren't secure enough

Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are being used more than ever before in business, and do offer a great way to stay connected and productive while out of the office. The issue with this however is that if you use your tablet or phone to connect to office systems, and don't have security measures in place, you could find networks compromised.

For example, if you have linked your work email to your tablet, but don't have a screen lock enabled and you lose your device anyone who picks it up will have access to your email and potentially sensitive information.

The same goes if you accidentally install a fake app with malware on it. You could find your systems infected. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your device is locked with at least a passcode, and you have anti-virus and malware scanners installed and running on a regular basis.

4. Anti-virus scanners that aren't maintained

These days, it is essential that you have anti-virus, malware, and spyware scanners installed on all machines and devices in your company and that you take the time to configure these properly. It could be that scans are scheduled during business hours, or they just aren't updated. If you install these solutions onto your systems, and they start to scan during work time, most employees will just turn the scanner off thus leaving systems wide-open.

The same goes for not properly ensuring that these systems are updated. Updates are important for scanners, because they implement new virus databases that contain newly discovered malware and viruses, and fixes for them.

Therefore, scanners need to be properly installed and maintained if they are going to even stand a chance of keeping systems secure.

5. Lack of firewalls

A firewall is a networking security tool that can be configured to block certain types of network access and data from leaving the network or being accessed from outside of the network. A properly configured firewall is necessary for network security, and while many modems include this, it's often not robust enough for business use.

What you need instead is a firewall that covers the whole network at the point where data enters and exits (usually before the routers). These are business-centric tools that should be installed by an IT partner like us, in order for them to be most effective.

How do I ensure proper business security?

The absolute best way a business can ensure that their systems and networks are secure is to work with an IT partner like us. Our managed services can help ensure that you have proper security measures in place and the systems are set up and managed properly. Tech peace of mind means the focus can be on creating a successful company instead. Contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 2nd, 2014

Hardware_Sep29_BTake a look at your computer screen or mobile device. Chances are that at least one of them is slightly dirty, possibly along with your keyboard or laptop as well. It is inevitable that your computers and mobile devices will eventually get dirty with dust and grime, what's important is that you know how to go about cleaning them.

Cleaning desktop monitors

The monitor on your desktop is what many people spend the majority of their days in the office looking at. A clean monitor makes it easier to see your desktop more clearly. The best way to clean your monitor is to turn it off first, then take a microfiber cloth (these can be purchased at many optical stores as well as computer stores) and gently rub in a circular motion.

If there are still spots, then dip the cloth in a tiny bit of water - don't spray the water onto the screen - and try cleaning again. It is important that you don't press hard on the screen, as this could damage your monitor's pixels. Also, it is not a good idea to use paper-based products like paper towel or tissue, as they will not only leave residue, but may actually scratch the monitor slightly.

Cleaning mobile screens

Mobile and other touch screens usually will get your fingerprints all over them, making it harder to see what you are looking at. The best way to clean these screens is with a microfiber cloth. For tougher to remove spots you can dip the cloth into a small amount of water and then gently wipe the screen. Don't splash water onto it before cleaning, as water could get inside the device, which will likely void the warranty while potentially ruin internal components.

Some people suggest rubbing alcohol to remove fingerprints and disinfect the device. While this will be ok for some screens, many manufacturers recommend against it because the alcohol can eat away at the protective film on some devices.

If you notice that there is a lot of dust or gunk on the edges of your screen, or even in cracks, you may need to take the device into a mobile shop for further cleaning. Do not open the device yourself as this could void the warranty.

Cleaning your keyboard

Our fingers are touching keyboards almost all day, and after a while you will notice that your keyboard gets a bit grungy, with debris and dirt even between the keys. Before you do start cleaning, be sure to unplug the keyboard, or turn it off if it is wireless. To clean the upper parts of the keys - where your fingers strike the keys - try dipping cotton swabs into rubbing alcohol and then cleaning the keys with a gentle rub.

To clean between keys you will need compressed air which can be purchased at most office supply and computer stores. Spraying in between keys should be enough to get rid of most of the dust and grit.

Cleaning your mouse

Like the keyboard, the mouse can get quite dirty too, with grime from your fingers and dust in general. The best way to clean a mouse is to first unplug it and then use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean it. You should not need to open your mouse and most models are designed to not be opened by users.

Cleaning your laptop's body

If your laptop's body is dirty the most effective way to clean it is to turn it off, unplug it, and clean it with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Some online articles recommend using a Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or similar cleaning tool. While this does work, it acts in the same way as super fine sandpaper, so you have to be careful that you do not end up actually lightly scratching the body.

Cleaning your computer tower

Some people may want to clean their desktop computer's tower. While this is doable by taking a slightly damp microfiber cloth and wiping down the front and side of your tower, we strongly recommend avoiding the back, and certain areas of the front, as there are ports and components that could be easily damaged.

As always, be sure to disconnect the power source and all wires before cleaning, as any water damage could ruin your computer.

Cleaning the inside of your computer

Dust will eventually get into the inside of your computer and could clog up cooling fans, causing them to stop working properly. This can potentially lead to other components overheating. The internal components of your computer are extremely fragile and need to be handled with great care. Do not take the case off of your computer as this usually voids your warranty.

For all of your computer needs our technicians are here to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 1st, 2014

BCP_Sep29_BWhen it comes to business continuity, many business owners are aware of the fact that a disaster can happen at any time, and therefore take steps to prepare for this, usually by implementing a continuity plan. However, the reality is that many businesses implement plans that could lead to business failure. One way to avoid this with your continuity strategy is to know about the common ways these plans can fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

1. Not customizing a plan

Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won't necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

2. Action plans that contain too much information

One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don't want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

Instead, try keeping action plans - what needs to be done during an emergency - separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

3. Failing to properly define the scope

The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

5. Failing to test, update, and test again

Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis - at least twice a year.

From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan and supporting systems, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 24th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_BSocial media has become an integral part of many business strategies, with an ever increasing number of companies adopting a variety of platforms. However, many business owners and managers are often unsure as to exactly how they can, or should, be using these platforms. In order to make things a bit easier, here is an overview of the three most common ways businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company’s services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it’s the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media’s instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is ‘social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What’s the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 19th, 2014

Security_Sep15_BToday’s technology advancement has one obvious parallel: increasing security threats. One such issue which has been growing both in number and intensity is data breach. And while many businesses have turned to the cloud in the hope of improving security, there is still a chance of a collision between data breaches and cloud usage. But don’t panic just yet, there are measures you can take to avoid the headache of a cloud and data security breach.

The cloud opens up some great tech advancements for businesses and is here to stay. However, as with all tech developments, you need to also be aware of any vulnerabilities and security issues as they change and develop at the same time too. If you use the cloud and want to proactively prevent cloud-and-data security breaches then here are five tips to follow:

  1. Know your cloud apps: Get a comprehensive view of the business readiness of apps and which ones render you more or less prone to a breach. Ask yourself these questions: Does an app encrypt data stored on the service? Does it separate your data from that of others so that your data is not exposed when another tenant has a breach? The idea here is to know exactly what each cloud service employed offers and how your company uses them.
  2. Migrate users to high-quality apps: Cloud-switching costs are low, which means that you can always change and choose apps that best suit your needs. If you find ones that don’t fit your criteria, take the time to talk to your vendor or switch; now more than ever you have choices, and the discovery process in step one will help you find out what these are.
  3. Find out where your data is going: Take a look at your data in the cloud. Review uploads, downloads, and data at rest in apps to get a handle on whether you have potential personally-identifiable information (PII), or whether you simply have unencrypted confidential data in or moving to cloud apps. You wouldn’t want cloud-and-data breaches with this critical data.
  4. Look at user activities: It’s important to understand not only what apps you use but also your data in the context of user activity. Ask yourself: From which apps are people sharing content? According to tech news source, VentureBeat, one-fifth of the apps they tracked enable sharing, and these aren’t just cloud storage apps, but range from customer-relationship management to finance and business intelligence. Knowing who’s sharing what and with whom will help you to understand what policies to best employ.
  5. Mitigate risk through granular policy: Start with your business-critical apps and enforce policies that matter to your organization in the context of a breach. For example, block the upload of information covered by certain privacy acts, block the download of PII from HR apps, or temporarily block access to vulnerable apps.

The key to preventing a cloud-and-data security breach lies in careful attention to your cloud applications and user activity. Analyzing your apps and looking into user activities might be time consuming, but the minimization of cloud-and-data security breaches makes this task worthwhile. Looking to learn more about today’s security? Contact us and let us manage and minimize your risks.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
September 18th, 2014

Productivity_Sep15_BTechnology is an important part of almost every role in every business. We have come to rely so heavily on it, that when we do have a problem with a device or system our productivity can easily grind to an almighty halt. While many of us know our systems will eventually breakdown, do you know what to in this situation? Are you prepared?

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic, or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed but may be at a loss as to what to do.

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!” - One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is “don’t panic”. This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred - This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems - Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again - When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system – be it your computer, an app, server, etc. – off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it - If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn’t load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider’s website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don’t rush into a supposed fix - It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some ‘fixes’ can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components, and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don’t overreact - Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk - If the system doesn’t work after restarting we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like us. We have the experience to investigate the problem, and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn’t mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems, and implementing security standards.

We also strongly recommend working with an IT partner like us. We can help manage your systems and implement measures to keep them working long into the future. Beyond that, we can help monitor systems so that should something start to go wrong, we can begin to implement a fix even before you notice it. And, if something should break down, we can either fix it ourselves or recommend an expert who will be able to help.

Looking for help keeping your systems running and employees productive? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how they are designed to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
September 17th, 2014

BusinessValue_Sep15_BMany business owners and managers are well aware of the fact that if they really want to maximize their customer base they need to have a presence on the Internet. It used to be that having a website was enough to satisfy this, but now many customers are looking for businesses that are active online. One of the best ways to demonstrate this activity is through content marketing. The question then is how to ensure your efforts are successful.

What are the benefits of content marketing?

Before looking into ways you can implement content marketing that works, it is a good idea to look at the benefits of this type of marketing for businesses. One of the biggest pluses is that it boosts online engagement between you and your customers. If a customer sees that you are producing quality content that appeals to them, they will be more likely to interact and consider you when they need your products or services.

The other major advantage of a good content marketing strategy is that it helps show search engines like Google that your website and online presence are active. Because of the way search engines work, more active sites are usually ranked higher in results. If your website and overall Internet presence is seen to be active on a regular basis, you could possibly reach the first page of search results, which can lead to a boost in site visits, inquiries, and even sales.

If you have been considering implementing a content marketing campaign, or are looking to improve your existing efforts, the following four tips could help.

1. Always have a goal

The main thrust of many successful content marketing initiatives is that they tell a story. As with any narrative there needs to be an ending and in the case of content marketing this endpoint is a goal – something you want the reader to do. What do you want to achieve? Do you want customers to call? Do you want them to learn how to use your product?

By working backwards, you can then determine the right voice to use and best way to reach those customers who are most likely to react positively to the content. This also makes it easier for you to separate your campaigns and even launch multiple strategies at the same time.

Beyond this, having a goal can really help you narrow down the type of content you need to create. If for example, you know what customers you want to attract and how you want them to ultimately act, you can create content that is more appealing to them.

2. ABT

One of the most popular sayings amongst content marketers is to, “Always Be Testing (ABT)”. When developing content you should be striving to test your content. Consider if certain images work better than others, as well as headlines, layouts, and content types, etc.

This could be as simple as developing three different social media posts and testing them with different market segments, or locations. You can then take what you have learnt from the tests and apply this to future posts.

The same can be said for more advanced content like blog posts or white papers. If you create different versions and layouts, and track the general downloads and interaction with the content, you can usually figure out how various people are reacting in different ways to a variety of content.

It is important to note here that content marketing is not a quick payoff style of marketing. You need to invest time, money, and effort into this and be willing to always be tweaking content. It takes time to pay off, but the time invested in testing what works and what doesn’t work will help you develop better, more useful content.

3. Share and share alike

Creating content and just putting it on existing sites or sharing it with existing clients is not the most efficient way of making your content marketing show returns. Combine this with the fact that you will likely be using platforms like social media which are constantly changing and adding new content, and there is a good chance your content won’t even be seen.

What you should aim to do is to share the content as much as possible. Share it on all of your social media platforms, link to it on your site, add it to emails, use the various social media content promotion features, and most of all: Share it again.

If you truly believe content is useful to your target market, you should aim to post it at least three to four times on social media. One of the most effective strategies is to share it on different days at different times, usually with a space of at least a week or two between posts. This can help maximize the numbers who see it.

4. Be prepared to fail

Failure is a part of business, and coincidently, it is also a part of content marketing. Face it, you might create content that just simply won’t click as you intended. If this happens, your first reaction might be to pull the content and try something different. This may not be a good idea.

Sure, if the content is stirring up trouble, or has offended people, then it is likely best to remove it. But even if you aren’t seeing the results you had hoped for, stick with the content for a bit. Try reposting it, and promoting more vigorously. It could very well be that users just didn’t see the content.

As we stated above, successful content marketing takes time and effort. Once you realize this, and combine it with the fact that not everything will work, you should see a viable strategy surface over time.

If you are looking to learn more about content marketing and how our systems can help support it then get in touch and we can share our thoughts on how to be proactive and get results.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 11th, 2014

BI_Sep08_BWhen it comes to the success of your business, you likely rely, at least in part, on predictions made off of existing data. While simple forecasts are easy enough, it can be more difficult to set down long-term theories about what the future may or may not entail. That's why many businesses employ predictive analytics. While long used by enterprises, many smaller companies are also now starting to use these methods as well. At first glance, predictive analytics can be overwhelming, so, to help, here is an overview of the three main components.

Together, these three elements of predictive analytics enables data scientists and even managers to conduct and analyze forecasts and predictions.

Component 1: data

As with most business processes, data is one of the most important and vital components. Without data you won't be able to make predictions and the decisions necessary to reach desired outcomes. In other words, data is the foundation of predictive analytics.

If you want predictive analytics to be successful, you need not only the right kind of data but information that is useful in helping answer the main question you are trying to predict or forecast. You need to to collect as much relevant data as possible in relation to what you are trying to predict. This means tracking past data, customers, demographics, and more.

Merely tracking data isn't going to guarantee more accurate predictions however. You will also need a way to store and quickly access this data. Most businesses use a data warehouse which allows for easier tracking, combining, and analyzing of data.

As a business manager you likely don't have the time to look after data and implement a full-on warehousing and storage solution. What you will most likely need to do is work with a provider, like us, who can help establish an effective warehouse solution, and an analytics expert who can help ensure that you are tracking the right, and most useful, data.

Component 2: statistics

Love it, or hate it, statistics, and more specifically regression analysis, is an integral part of predictive analytics. Most predictive analytics starts with usually a manager or data scientist wondering if different sets of data are correlated. For example, is the age, income, and sex of a customer (independent variables) related to when they purchase product X (dependent variable)?

Using data that has been collected from various customer touch points - say a customer loyalty card, past purchases made by the customer, data found on social media, and visits to a website - you can run a regression analysis to see if there is in fact a correlation between independent and dependent variables, and just how related individual independent variables are.

From here, usually after some trial and error, you hopefully can come up with a regression equation and assign what's called regression coefficients - how much each variable affects the outcome - to each of the independent variables.

This equation can then be applied to predict outcomes. To carry on the example above, you can figure out exactly how influential each independent variable is to the sale of product X. If you find that income and age of different customers heavily influences sales, you can usually also predict when customers of a certain age and income level will buy (by comparing the analysis with past sales data). From here, you can schedule promotions, stock extra products, or even begin marketing to other non-customers who fall into the same categories.

Component 3: assumptions

Because predictive analytics focuses on the future, which is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy, you need to rely on assumptions for this type of analytics to actually work. While there are likely many assumptions you will need to acknowledge, the biggest is: the future will be the same as the past.

As a business owner or manager you are going to need to be aware of the assumptions made for each model or question you are trying to predict the answer to. This also means that you will need to be revisiting these on a regular basis to ensure they are still true or valid. If something changes, say buying habits, then the predictions in place will be invalid and potentially useless.

Remember the 2008-09 sub-prime mortgage crisis? Well, one of the main reasons this was so huge was because brokers and analysts assumed that people would always be able to pay their mortgages, and built their prediction models off of this assumption. We all know what happened there. While this is a large scale example, it is a powerful lesson to learn: Not checking that the assumptions you have based your predictions on could lead to massive trouble for your company.

By understanding the basic ideas behind these three components, you will be better able to communicate and leverage the results provided by this form of analytics.

If you are looking to implement a solution that can support your analytics, or to learn more about predictive analytics, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 10th, 2014

Office_Sep08_BExcel is heavily dependant on formulas, and it seems like there is literally a formula for everything. For example, have you ever been working in Excel and needed to combine the contents of two different cells into a new one without adding them together? While you can copy and paste the content of the different cells you can also use the concatenate formula.

Using the concatenate formula to combine cells

If, for example, you have a spreadsheet with first names in column A, last names in column B, and want to combine them into column C to display the full name you can do so by:

  1. Clicking on cell C2 (or the row where the information you want to combine is)
  2. Typing =concatenate(
  3. Clicking on cell A2 and then adding a comma (,)
  4. Clicking on cell B2 and closing the formula with a closing bracket
  5. Hitting Enter

You should see the two cells are now combined in cell C2, with the formula for cell C2 reading:

=CONCATENATE(A2,B2).

The problem is, there will be no space inbetween the letters or numbers, so you will need to edit the formula to read:

=CONCATENATE(A2,” “,B2)

The double quotations with a space in between them tells Excel to add a space to the cell in between the contents of A2 and B2.

If you have more than two columns you would like to combine, then simply add a comma after each cell. If for example you have three columns (A1, B1, and C1) you would enter the formula:

=CONCATENATE(A1 ” “,B1 ” “,C1) in column D1.

Combining two cells without concatenate

While concatenate works well, there is actually a shortcut that you can use which involves the ampersand ‘&':

  1. Click on cell C2 (or the row where the information you want to combine is)
  2. Type =
  3. Click on cell A2 and then type & in the formula.
  4. Click on B2 and hit Enter

You should see the contents of A2 and B2 combined together in C2. If you click on cell C2 and look at the formula, it should read: =A2&B2.

The only problem is, there won’t be a space between the content. To add a space, you can edit the formula so that it reads:

=A2&” “&B2

Note the space between the two quotation marks. This tells Excel to add a space between the contents of A2 and B2.

Once you have the base formula on one cell, you can press the small box at the bottom of the cell and drag it down the row so that the other information can be quickly compiled. This makes it much easier than having to copy and paste the content individually. And, If you would like to learn more Excel tips, contact us today. We can save you valuable time and resources.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 4th, 2014

Security_Sep02_BEveryone today seems to be constantly relying on their smartphones to help complete daily tasks which has resulted in the need to recharge subsequently increasing. And when you’re far from your charger, public charging kiosks can seem like a good substitute. However, this can lead to juice jacking of your smartphone. If this is news to you then let’s find out what juice jacking is and how you can avoid it.

What’s juice jacking?

Regardless of the kind of smartphone you have, whether it’s an Android, iPhone or BlackBerry, there is one common feature across all phones: the power supply and the data stream pass over the same cable. This setup allows for juice jacking during the charging process whereby user access is gained on your phone by leveraging the USB data/power cable to illegitimately access your phone’s data and/or inject malicious code onto the device.

The attack can be as simple as an invasion of privacy, wherein your phone pairs with a computer concealed within the charging kiosk and information such as private photos and contact information are transferred to a malicious device. However, on the other hand, it can also be as invasive as an injection of malicious code directly into your phone. According to security researchers at this year’s Black Hat security conference, your iPhone can be compromised within one minute of being plugged into a harmful charger.

Exposure to a malicious kiosk can also create a lingering security problem even without the immediate injection of malicious code. Once a device is paired to a computer, it can access a host of personal information on the device, including your address book, notes, photos, music, sms database, typing cache, and even initiate a full backup of your phone, all of which can be accessed wirelessly at anytime.

How do I avoid it?

The most effective precautions center around simply not charging your phone using a third-party system. Here are some tips to help you avoid using public kiosk charger:
  • Keep your devices topped off: Make it a habit to charge your phone at your home and office when you’re not actively using it or are just sitting at your desk working.
  • Carry a personal charger: Chargers have become very small and portable, from USB cables to power banks. Get one and throw it in your bag so you can charge your phone anytime you’re at the office or while on-the-go if you use a power bank.
  • Carry a backup battery: If you’re not keen on bringing a spare charger or power bank, you can opt to carry a full spare battery if your device has a removable battery.
  • Lock your phone: When your phone is truly locked as in inaccessible without the input of a pin or equivalent passcode, your phone should not be able to be paired with the device it’s connected to.
  • Power the phone down: This technique only works on phones on a model-by-model basis as some phones will, despite being powered down, still power on the entire USB circuit and allow access to the flash storage in the device.
  • Use power only USB cables: These cables are missing the two wires necessary for data transmission and have only the two wires for power transmission remaining. They will charge your device, but data transfer is made impossible.
Even the tiniest detail like charging your phone from a kiosk charger could affect the security of your device. While there are many substitutes to using a third-party system, ultimately the best defense against a compromised mobile device is awareness. Looking to learn more about today’s security and threats? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security