Blog

May 20th, 2014

Office_May19_BMicrosoft Word is one of the most popular and useful programs for business owners and managers. With a wide variety of features, you can create a nearly limitless number of different documents. There are so many features in fact, that even long-term users still come across new ones all the time. A good example of this is the Spike.

What is the Spike?

If you have worked in the restaurant industry, or worked in offices that use older systems you are likely familiar with what a spike is.. It is literally a spike that is used to hold paper that you have finished with but want to keep hold of, perhaps to collate or check through later. Think of chefs spiking orders once the food’s left the kitchen or a secretary spiking an invoice that’s been paid.

Much like this physical tool, the Spike in Word allows users to essentially hold different items together until they need to be used. This feature is similar to the standard ‘copy” that we are all used to. The main difference is that the Spike can store information and content from different sources of your document, not just the last part you copied.

Say for example you have a 10-page sales report and want to create an executive summary. Instead of copying and pasting the main points from each section one at a time, you can copy each section to the Spike and then paste all of them at once.

How this feature works

You can add content to the Spike by simply highlighting it and pressing Ctrl + F3. This will cut the text you have highlighted and place it onto the Spike. From there, go and select the other content you would like to use.

Once you have all of the content spiked, you can paste it by:

  1. Clicking the mouse cursor where you would like to place the content. You can do this in your existing document or in a new document.
  2. Pressing Ctrl + Shift + F3.

This will take all of the content you have cut to the Spike and paste it into the document, and erase all of the content saved in the Spike. If you want to keep the content stored in the Spike and still paste it, you can do so by:

  1. Clicking the mouse cursor where you would like to place the content. You can do this in your existing document, a new document or another open document.
  2. Typing spike.
  3. Hitting F3.

This will put the content into your document while keeping a copy of it in the Spike. Be warned however, when using the Spike, your content will be cut from the source document. If you are staying within the same document, we recommend that you copy the content you would like to post into a new document and paste it there. Then, Spike it from there.

Viewing what you have spiked

If you forget what you have spiked, you can view what is stored there by:

  1. Clicking on the Insert tab.
  2. Clicking Quick Parts.
  3. Selecting AutoText from the drop down menu.
  4. Clicking on Spike.

As long as you don’t click Insert or anything else, you should be able to see the content.

If you are looking to learn more about using Word or any other Office program, talk to us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 15th, 2014

hardware_may12_BWhether you’re running a coworking space, consultancy firm or your own business; investing in high-quality hardware can save you from headaches and lost time. Making use of the fast-growing technologies with the right hardware can lead to a smooth operating business. Without adequate hardware, you could see your business come to a staggering halt. It is important to not only leverage technology but to know what is the most important tech solutions.

The desktop or laptop computer

The computer has quickly become the workhorse of almost every business, without which most modern businesses would likely not be able to operate. Whether operating a multi-user workstation, laptop or a desktop, investing in a reliable computer will surely save you from stress and sweat.

When looking for a computer for your business, You’re likely going to use a computer for your business for at least three to five years, so go for one that requires low maintenance. Many businesses opt for a reputable choice, like a Mac, or a PC running Windows. Many of the bigger name brands are known for their friendly user interface and minimal upkeep. For those looking for one with portability, try a laptop or ultrabook.

Regardless which system you choose, you need to ensure your new computer is compatible with your existing software and systems. The last thing you want is to invest in us a brand new machine and have to spend even more on new software or hardware updates.

Mobile devices

If you’re constantly on-the-go, having a trusty mobile device can be like having a personal assistant. Think tablets, e-book readers or even smartphones. Not only are these devices easy to carry around, but a lot of them are equipped with useful work applications and specifications that are capable of performing tasks you would usually accomplish using a computer. Many business owners find that the versatility of a mobile device compensates for its cost.

When it comes to mobile devices, there are three main systems businesses have to choose from:

  • Android - Owned by Google, you will find a wide variety of devices suitable for any need.
  • iOS - Owned by Apple, offers reliable products and a wide number of apps for your business.
  • Windows Phone - Owned by Microsoft, these devices are most suitable for offices that utilize Microsoft’s other services. This is largely due in part to the deep integration between systems.

Laserjet printers

Not every business uses a printer but even if your business is one that encourages a paperless work space; investing in a durable laser-jet printer can save time and energy. At some point you will need to print, whether that is a contract, documents or image files.Some laserjet printers are also equipped with a scanner, photocopy and fax function. With a price tag starting from approximately USD$100, having one in-house beats needing one any day.

Wireless routers

Broadband modems are an integral part of any Internet-connected business, but get your hands on a wireless router and you won’t look back at cables again. Not only does a wireless router keep your office connected to the Internet without cables, it also acts as an Internet splitter, meaning all your devices can be connected from anywhere within router range. Not only that, but most modern wireless routers come with built-in firewalls as well as the ability to limit a network to computers you trust, which means more safety for your computer.

Network servers

While personal computers are capable of acting as a network server, a dedicated server will give you the advantages of faster CPU (Central Processing Unit), high-performance memory and increased storage capacity. A good network server solution can effectively support your database, email applications and other files, as well as provide comprehensive security and backup options.

We recommend talking to a specialist to make sure you are buying the right package for both current and future needs. An IT partner like us can be a huge help in selecting, implementing and managing a comprehensive network solution.

Hardware is available in every market and the sheer amount can make choosing the right solutions difficult. However, once equipped hardware can enhance workflow as well as results.

Looking to learn more about hardware and network server solutions? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
May 14th, 2014

BCP_May13_BYour systems and data are undoubtedly an important part of your business and to protect these valuable assets you should be taking steps to ensure that your data is backed up in case of an emergency. Looking into backup solutions, it is easy to see that there are a number of different backup options that support various solutions. From tape to the cloud, it can be a challenge to figure out what you need.

Three common backup options

When it comes to backing up your systems, there are three common platforms that are used:

  • Tape
  • Disk
  • Cloud

Some businesses use all three, while others stick to using just one. While each of these options do the same thing – essentially backing up your data – there are differences between each platform.

Tape-based backup

Tape-based backup is the oldest forms of data backup available to businesses, and has been in use since the mid 1960s. Many older, or well established businesses, likely have used this method for a long time, so they may find it easier to stick with it, largely because no infrastructure upgrades are needed.

While this method may seem a little anachronistic, there are still manufacturers creating backup tapes – most notable Sony, who recently introduced a new tape system that can store up to 185TB (terabytes) of data on one tape. That’s about equal to the storage capacity of around 11,800 16GB iPhone 5s.

The vast majority of businesses using this system do so as a secondary backup. They use another system to back up their data, and then back up this backup data onto physical tape which can then be moved off-site and stored in a safe location, should disaster strike.

The biggest drawback of tape stem from the fact that it is an older method and it takes longer to back up data compared to other systems. The tapes themselves are also more fragile and can be prone to failure, leading to corrupt data and unreadability. Finally, if you do need to recover from a tape backup, you are going to have to do so in a specific manner, which means it will take longer to recover your systems than other methods.

Disk-based backup

Disk-based backup solutions use a variety of disk storage units to hold backups of your data. The most popular forms of disk storage used are hard drives or optical disks. Because these systems use more modern storage methods, backup and recovery can generally be carried out far quicker than with tape systems, and can be more reliable, especially if you take care of your systems and the disks the backups are stored on.

The added benefit with these systems is that hard disks are constantly dropping in price and increasing in capacity, meaning you can fit more data on fewer devices. This helps keep costs manageable, and may result in reduced costs over time.

Because disk-based systems rely on hard drives or optical disks, there is always the chance that your backups can be lost, ruined or even stolen. Also, many companies choose to keep these physical backups on-site, so if there is a disaster this could result in the loss of these backups.

To get around this, many companies have duplicate systems. They back up to different devices which are kept off-site. This redundancy can help ensure that your data is available, but it can be expensive to purchase multiple backup solutions.

Cloud-based backup

Cloud, or online-based backup, utilizes off-site technology to host your backups. Most small business solutions work with providers who host the servers in their organization. The business then connects to the servers via a network connection in order to backup their data.

The biggest advantage of cloud systems is that they are generally more affordable. This is because you don’t need to have the systems in your office, which means you don’t need to pay for the data systems and the upkeep associated with them. Cloud systems are also less labor intensive because they can be managed by your IT partner.

Aside from being easier to manage, backup and recovery is usually quicker with the cloud because you can set up a solution that continually backs up. As long as you have an Internet connection, you will usually be able to restore your systems in a matter of hours.

While the cloud is becoming the most popular backup solution, there are some drawbacks. You need a faster bandwidth connection if you want to be able to back up while also working. This may require you to invest in better network infrastructure, which costs. The other issue some companies have is that because this is a new solution, they may not trust that the solution is secure. The vast majority of backup solutions available have been designed to be secure and have become a viable solution for many smaller businesses.

If you are looking to implement a backup solution in your business, contact us today to learn about what solutions we have to offer.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 13th, 2014

Security_May13_BFor many businesses, the browser is one of the most important pieces of software you can install on your computer. It not only provides access to the Internet, but also to a myriad of other systems, including email, documents, and more. Many Windows users stick with Internet Explorer (IE) because it is automatically installed on all Windows computers. However, those who use this browser should be aware of a recent security flaw.

What exactly is a zero-day flaw?

A zero-day flaw is a security vulnerability that is taken advantage of by hackers on the day it is discovered. In other words, there are zero days between the discovery of the vulnerability and people taking advantage of it.

The way most software programs work is if a user finds a security flaw, they will usually inform the developer who will then develop a fix and release it in a patch that users download. The problem is, sometimes it is a hacker who discovers this vulnerability. Instead of reporting it, they start to capitalize on the flaw, exploiting it to attack other users before the developer becomes aware of it and has a chance to fix it.

The IE zero-day flaw

In late April, news broke that a zero-day flaw had been discovered in Internet Explorer’s code. The flaw affects IE versions 6-11 – essentially every supported version of the browser. Hackers had found a previously unknown flaw that allowed them to gain the same access rights as a user.

How it worked is that the hackers sent emails to users with links to a website that hosts a malicious code. These emails were largely phishing in nature, meaning they aimed to get the user to click on a link in the email. Some of the subject lines used in attacks included:

  • Welcome to Projectmates!
  • Refinance Report
  • What’s ahead for Senior Care M&A
  • UPDATED GALLERY for 2014 Calendar Submissions

In these emails there was a link to a website that hosted a code which could then be executed if the user visited the site using IE. When executed this could potentially expose the user’s system. Once vulnerable, the hackers could install malicious software without the user’s knowledge.

How do I guard against this exploit?

The good news is that Microsoft has released a patch that fixes this exploit. This has definitely been welcomed, and what is really interesting is that Microsoft has actually released the update for XP users as well – this coming after the cessation of support for XP.

To guard against the exploit you should firstly update the version of Internet Explorer that you are using. The easiest way to do this is to go to the Internet Explorer website and download the latest version – version 11 – of the browser. Version 11 can run on both Windows 7 and 8, so the vast majority of users should already be running this latest version.

If you are using an older version, Microsoft has pushed the patch out via both IE’s automatic update feature – so restarting the browser should install the update. The other option is Windows Update. Simply running the Update program and installing the updates should ensure that the latest version of IE is installed.

For Windows 7 and 8 users, you can do this by:

  • Opening the Control Panel on your system.
  • Clicking on System or Performance and Maintenance followed by System.
  • Selecting Automatic Updates from the menu in the window that opens.
  • Following the instructions in the new window that opens.

Once installed, you should restart your computer if you aren’t asked to do so. If you noticed that Automatic Updates was already ticked, try restarting your computer and this should install the updates.

If you are using XP, you can visit the Microsoft Update website using Internet Explorer and following the instructions.

Aside from updating your browser, you should ensure that your anti-virus and malware scanners are up to date and scheduled to scan your system on a regular basis. Be sure to look at all emails closely as well, if one seems a bit dodgy, or you receive one from someone you don’t know, it is best to ignore it and delete it right away.

Businesses who are using XP should seriously consider updating because Microsoft will not be introducing security updates in the future, leaving your systems at greater risk of attack. At the very least, it may also be a good idea to switch to another browser like Firefox or Chrome, both of which will work on XP and are updated regularly.

Worried that your systems are not secure enough, or still running XP? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
May 7th, 2014

Office365_May06_BIf you are thinking about purchasing an Office 365 subscription, you might want to read up on the different plans that Microsoft is offering first. With lots of valuable features, you just need to make sure that the plan you opt for fits with your business setup. This article aims to guide you in making a wise and informed choice in deciding which Office 365 subscription plan will bring the most value to your business.

The world can’t seem to get enough of the options that Office 365 offers. However, the variety of subscription plans can challenge your decision-making skills. Arming yourself with good research and knowledge allows you to gain more confidence in making wise business choices. You are off to a good start by reading about this article’s comparison of the different Office 365 subscription plans.

Choosing the right subscription should start by identifying your business size. Whether you are running a small enterprise or a business empire, Office 365 has the subscription plan to fit every business need. In Microsoft standard definition, a business with 1-10 employees is considered small-sized. A medium-sized business has between 25-300 employees. Anything beyond is deemed to be a large-scale enterprise.

Office 365 for small businesses

If you anticipate having more than 25 employees in the near future, it is highly recommended to skip to the medium-scale subscription. If you are certain about your business size and you don’t have plans to expand, you can choose from two small business subscription plans.The Office 365 Small Business has all the standard features as follows: hosted email, Web conferencing and hosting, spam protection, 24/7 phone support, guaranteed uninterrupted service, SharePoint and file management via Web browser. The other subscription plan is The Office 365 Small Business Premium which comes with three additional functions on top of the standard features, namely the ability to download desktop versions of office applications, site mailbox access and mobile functionality.

Office 365 for midsize businesses

For medium-size businesses with up to 300 users there is a plan that has all the inclusions of the Small Business Premium Plan but provides reinforcement for your business IT infrastructure through better management of user permission credentials. If your business uses a huge chunk of Excel spreadsheets, this plan is for you as it has the Excel add-ons, with Power Query, Powerpivot, Power View and Power Map from multiple sources. In addition, this plan also includes a desktop version of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013.

Office 365 for large businesses

The high rollers in the business realm can choose from three plans, namely E1, E3 and E4. E1 has more or less the standard features of the Office 365 Small Business Plan and can support an unlimited number of users, plus it has the feature of user credential management, Yammer integration and access to a site mailbox. With E3 and E4 you can install the desktop version of the office applications. The only difference is that E4 has call capabilities via Lync Online calling, which is ideal for companies in countries where there are no VoIP prohibitions.

There are a lot of productivity tools in the market today and it can be a challenge to choose between the sea of options. In the realm of business, critical thinking should be observed, whether for small or big decisions, as any one of these choices could impact the success and productivity of your business. These decisions can range from low-impact, such as deciding which productivity tool to use for your day-to-day business functions, to high-impact, such as your long-term business plans.

Choosing the right productivity tool to use in your business needs to be taken seriously as this can take create a lot of difference. A good productivity tool makes a better organized work style and this can only mean a business that is easier to manage.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office 365
May 6th, 2014

SocialMedia_May06_BWhen it comes to marketing, there are a wide variety of strategies a business can employ, with one of the most potent being content marketing. This is the act of creating your own branded content and sharing it on different mediums. When this is successful, a business can benefit from an expanded market share and customer base. The question then focuses on how to achieve successful content marketing.

In a recent infographic published on LinkedIn, a number of interesting facts were highlighted about what the most successful content marketers have in common. Here are some of the findings from the infographic and the related reports it is based on.

What do successful content marketers have in common?

Regardless of the industry, the more successful content marketeers have the following four traits in common:
  1. They have a content marketing strategist - According to the statistics, almost 86% of the successful companies have a dedicated content marketing strategist.
  2. They have a strategy - While not 100% necessary, over 66% of successful companies have a content strategy and plan, or roadmap, that dictates what content is produced and when.
  3. They spend a lot more of their marketing budget - It can be tough to split any budget, but the more successful companies spend nearly 40% of their marketing budget on content marketing, as opposed to the least successful who only spend up to 16%.
  4. They find creating content far easier - This one is kind of silly at first glance - of course it follows that whatever you find easier you will be more successful at. However, if you hire a strategist who knows what they are doing, creating content will be easier, and more likely more successful.

How exactly are they successful?

From the figures from the infographic it is easy to see what the successful content marketers have in common, but the question we really should be asking is, "What makes them so successful?"

1. Use lots of social media

The main thrust of content marketing is to get the word out in as many ways as possible. Social media is the best and most versatile way to do this, and that's why over 87% of businesses use this platform. But for a truly successful strategy you need to use more than one site and in fact the most successful use seven sites at least to share their content.

This makes sense as the more platforms you use the higher the chance that your content will be viewed. So which platforms are the most popular? LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the three most popular but other platforms like YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ can also prove effective.

2. Diversify your content

In many cases diversification of services or ideas can be one of the best ways of driving a business forward. This is especially true with regard to content marketing, where the best marketeers use an average of 13 different tactics. In descending order, the five most popular tactics are:
  1. Social media
  2. Articles on your website
  3. e-newsletters
  4. Blogs
  5. In-person events
Some other tactics used include, publishing books, ebooks, and branded content tools.

While 13 may seem like a large amount, especially for small businesses, the message is clear: To be successful with content marketing, you should diversify and utilize a number of different tactics as possible.

3. Have specific goals for your campaigns

As with most aspects of business, you need a clear direction in order to be successful. Without a goal there is a good chance that your content initiatives will be somewhat aimless and lacking in overall effectiveness. There are a near endless number of targets businesses can set for their content initiatives. The three most common are:
  1. Raising brand awareness
  2. Lead generation
  3. Customer acquisition

4. It's not all digital

One interesting finding was that one of the most effective ways to drive a content marketing strategy was through face-to-face events. In fact, over 70% of content marketeers believe that these in-person approaches are effective.

What this indicates is that while digital strategies are useful, and can be a great way to reach a wide number of different customers, these can go hand-in-hand with traditional style marketing. As well as focusing on producing digital content you might want to integrate this with some good old fashioned physical collateral.

At the very least, you should be attending events that are relevant to your industry, as well as networking. By getting your name out in person, you can encourage other to connect to you on the Web where they can view your content on various platforms and interact with you online, increasing the overall effectiveness and reach of your content.

Looking to learn more about content marketing and how our various solutions can help you deliver? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 1st, 2014

Security_Apr28_BWhether it’s an online account, a computer log in or network access, passwords are used to prevent unauthorized access. But far too many people choose weak and easy-to-guess passwords putting themselves at the risk of cyber attack. Don't fall into the trap of these cyber criminals. Secure your perimeters and never let anyone access your personal information by following these helpful tips.

Observe proper web security

With the rapid advancements in technology comes sophistication of methodologies used by hackers to steal data and destroy web security. Cyber crime is continuously evolving as new programs are made to unlock accounts and combine numbers, letters and special characters to determine passwords. The big question for internet users is – how to choose a strong password that can drive hackers away?

Passwords should have at least eight characters. It is highly recommended that you use a combination of uppercase, lowercase and special characters. “P@s$w0Rd45%” is a thousand times better than “Password1”. Veer away from using passwords that are found in dictionaries. Furthermore, avoid using your name, a family member’s name, phone number, birth date, social security number or any public information. Hackers have found a way to crack passwords with the aid of the many databases out there.

To create even more secure passwords, try using a password that is a full sentence, with random words. For example "I am a purple donkey" (with the spaces) will take a long time to crack, which means it's more secure then even the examples above.

Keep malware off your system

Malware are malicious programs that have been crafted in such a way that they appear authentic and trustworthy. Be careful not to click on pop-ups and links that will redirect you to that place where your security walls are torn down. And do not open email attachments from anonymous users. Mechanisms are often embedded in these programs to gain control of your system.

Get professional help by installing security software from a trusted name in the industry. Build your defences as early as possible. Remember the cliché – better to be be safe than sorry – and nowhere is this more true than in computer system and web security.

Keep your passwords private

While this may seem to be a no-brainer, sadly, a lot of people still tend to share their passwords with their office mates or friends. If you’re one of them, then it’s high time that you change your habits and your password again. Think like James Bond -passwords are for your eyes only.

In the event that you need to give your password to a co-worker to get an important document or presentation, make sure that you change them as soon as possible. Never use the same combination again.

Change password regularly

It also helps if you schedule a regular password change. Within a period of 30 to 60 days, you should update passwords across multiple sites. Moreover, never use the same passwords for different websites. If you use the same passwords, you are putting all of your accounts at a high level risk. Hackers are relentless. Once is never enough for them and they can come back time after time.

It’s an unsafe online world out there. These online troublemakers will never be satisfied. So never let yourself or your organization fall prey to hackers. Take note of these safety measures and strengthen your web security arsenal.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 30th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr28_BTechnology is an integral part of any business, regardless of the industry or company size. A common problem many business owners and managers run across though is that managing technology can be increasingly tough. One option available to companies is to partner with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who can help manage your business technology needs by offering budget-friendly solutions.

What is a Managed Service Provider?

In the IT industry, a Managed Service Provider is a company that offers small to medium businesses the ability to outsource the management of their day-to-day technology and IT needs.

In other words, an MSP is essentially your IT department. If something technology-related breaks, they help fix it. If you need an app devised or want to upgrade hardware and software, or take a look into virtualization, they can often help in these complex areas too. Many of these organizations act as your business partner to help increase the effectiveness of your business operations, and achieve your overall goals.

Do I need an MSP?

While there are a wide variety of IT partners out there, you might be unsure as to whether you actually want or need to work with one. To help make the decision easier, we have come up with a list of five signs that your business could benefit from outsourcing your IT management to an MSP.

1. You don't have a dedicated IT department or staff

A commonality many small businesses have is that employees often wear more than one hat. The problem with this is that those who are not necessarily IT experts, but are perhaps more tech savvy than others, are tapped to look after the company's IT needs. Businesses can suffer from gaps in knowledge of the latest IT developments. It is also a challenge to balance IT needs while also running a business and remaining productive.

While for some small businesses having a knowledgeable tech person look after the IT on top of their main job works, the chances are high that they aren't planning for a future in IT and may not be able to carry out complicated upgrades or even ensure that your systems are secure beyond the current environment. This can undoubtedly lead to increased problems in the future, which are likely not going to be fixed.

Instead of hiring a full-time IT staff member, you could look into using an MSP who can offer the same services, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows your employees to focus on their main roles, while also allowing you to rest easy knowing that your IT demands are being adequately taken care of.

2. You have continuous tech problems

At first glance, many of the systems we use on a daily basis are relatively simple. That is, they are simple when they are working. But, when systems breakdown business owners quickly come to realize that the technology utilized in their businesses and the systems that support it are not only complex, but are becomingly increasingly so.

Complexity aside, all technology will eventually break. When it does, you need to factor into your budget resources to make replacements and repairs. If the technology incorporated into your business is constantly experiencing problems there is a good chance this is having a negative impact on profits and productivity.

By partnering with a quality MSP that looks after your technology, you can be assured that a team of experts are running your technology and systems efficiently and that you are able to meet IT demands and scale to meet future needs. Decreased maintenance and replacement costs can help improve your overall productivity and even profits.

3. The people looking after IT are overwhelmed

Any growing business needs technology to be able to scale to meet and support growth. This often overwhelms even the most seasoned IT professionals. Even if your business has a dedicated IT role or team there is a chance that they can become overwhelmed.

When the pressure is on important issues may not be addressed and corners may be cut in order to meet current demands. This can lead to increased costs and problem issues down the road, resulting in an even more overwhelmed Technology department.

The great thing about quality IT partners is that you often don't have to outsource all of your IT needs to them. If, for example, you have an employee who is a whizz with building computers but does not have the time to oversee the whole of your technology needs, then outsourcing some functions can free up their skills or allow them to work more effectively in their main roles.

4. Your IT budget is unpredictable

The cost of technology is ever changing. Some months you may have to replace a computer while others may see a new server needed or a security issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Because of this, actually budgeting for technology is incredibly hard, especially for small businesses.

Most IT partners offer their services on a flat-fee, monthly basis. This makes it easy for companies to budget for technology. The upside to this is that while your budget is predictable, overall costs and overheads are often reduced because your systems are kept in better working order and will last longer.

5. You have trouble prioritizing your IT needs

It can sometimes seem like a new system is needed on a near monthly basis. From servers to email systems; computers to mobile devices; your business will almost always require ongoing technology. The problem many businesses face is that they simply are not equipped with the skills and the knowhow to recognize what their IT priorities should be.

Do you update a server, or look for a new email solution first? And in what order do you need to implement updates? It is not always obvious what the answers to these questions are, especially when everything seems urgent. If you outsource the management of your technology, the companies you partner with can take the time to get to know your company's needs and demands and prioritize. This will make your organization more efficient and better able to reach business goals.

If you are struggling with technology in your business, contact us today to see how as your IT partner, we can work with you to ensure that your technology is working for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 30th, 2014

Productivity_Apr28_BIn a perfect world, we'd all be able to choose to do the tasks we love and leave any dull jobs for someone else. But in reality, few of us really have this luxury, especially when it comes to successful business. Tedious or not, certain tasks simply need to be finished with no excuses. However, even with the most mundane of task there are ways to inject some enjoyment if you know how.

Alternate what you love and hate doing

Finding motivation when placed in a difficult or dull situation can be tough. But, it’s going to feel even more arduous if lack of motivation leads to a poor result and you're forced to do the job again.

So what do you do when you’re in this situation? Simple. You incorporate the tasks that you do enjoy doing into the cycle.

This balances good and bad experiences so you are not constantly employed for long periods doing hateful tasks. Compared to a situation where you are repeatedly being pounded with tasks that you don’t like, this is way better.

Create a schedule for unwanted tasks

Goal setting and scheduling will allow you to mentally prepare for unpleasant tasks and see beyond them. If you've got a plan to get through your tasks and have something to look forward to, they won't seem so onerous.

Create a timeline of milestones to be accomplished. Evaluate your performance and accomplishments on a daily basis. Try your best not to procrastinate and always adhere to what you have initially planned. Delay merely means more annoying moments for you in the future. Be half-hearted about it or veer off-plan and you might have to redo a project because the quality of your work failed to meet expected standards.

Look at the bigger picture

Your perception has a great influence on your mindset. Instead of focusing on how tiresome and uninteresting an assignment is, you could try getting inspiration from focusing on the possible positive outcome. This might be recognition at work, monetary gains or increased productivity and business success.

Take baby steps

If you feel you have tried everything and yet stress and boredom keep growing with certain aspects of your time at work then it’s time to take a step back and reinvent. Forcing yourself to do something you dislike will merely increase the pressure that’s already keeping you from obtaining good results.

Break the job into smaller tasks. Set realistic goals every hour. You’ll be surprised at how taking baby steps can help you get things done - even monumental tasks that started out seeming impossible.

Take a break

Working on a job that you don’t enjoy is exhausting. It can be mentally draining and you might feel as if to achieve certain tasks you really are pushing until the last drop of your energy has run out. You might benefit from recharging from time to time. Take a break and listen to your favorite music. Relax and revitalize your nerves and muscles.

Reward yourself

Celebrate little victories. Whenever you accomplish a goal or target, no matter how big or small, reward yourself. Think of ways you could treat yourself, whether it be a grand gesture such as a weekend away or a meal out, or even a night at the movies. Find a reward that's worth looking forward to.

It’s also worthwhile asking for help from your colleagues and team at work. If you feel that tasks are insurmountable or you know you will struggle to complete them by yourself then reach out to attract the skillsets and interests of those around you. And after you've achieved what you set out to do you can reap the benefits of greater productivity.

Another option is to contact us to see how our services can help allow you to focus on running your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 25th, 2014

BI_Apr22_BBusiness Intelligence (BI) is quickly becoming one of the most integral functions for many small businesses. Owners and managers are increasingly finding that by implementing BI functions they can make better and more informed business decisions. While BI is popular, there are however many misconceptions that could actually inhibit the effectiveness of your efforts.

But many of these misconceptions are easily clarified and addressed. See how by taking a look at these tips.

1. Business Intelligence is all about reports and dashboards

One of the things that make business intelligence sound intimidating is the notion that businesses will be bombarded with daily reports and have to make use of complicated dashboards in order help to understand how it works and get it operational. While there are standard tools that small businesses will need to use to gather information that will help with their operations, these tools should not be seen as an inconvenience. The systems and processes in BI can be simplified in a way that it doesn’t limit resource gathering but actually enhances efficiency and profitability.

An executive, for instance, can easily look into the sales numbers of a given month, without having to go over other variables and metrics. Other models of BI can cater to more than just reporting stats and data, as analysis can be collaborative and interactive, thus providing more efficient solutions that will deliver the correct information to the people who rely on the data for their decision-making.

2. The tools are the same for all organizations

The assumption is that whether a company is big or small, the tools in business intelligence work the same. This is what makes small businesses hesitant to apply such concepts, thinking that it will not have any practical use in an organization of their size.

But the truth is, every BI strategy is unique, and as a company, you can tailor these strategies to fit in with the way you operate. Before adopting any solution, however, you will first have to evaluate what specific needs BI must address using the data architecture, so that it will measure your requirements correctly.

3. It can only measure big data

Large corporations can maximize the tools to use in BI because they have larger needs to fill, and they also have all the resources. But what about small companies that may not necessarily need big data?

The thing is, any company that has data will have a use for business intelligence. Small businesses can start with simple and basic solutions, for instance Google Analytics, and then later on, expand to a more comprehensive tool as the organization grows. Business intelligence measures the quality of data, and not the quantity, so you can accomplish something even with very few resources.

4. It takes up IT resources

While BI used to be considered the responsibility of an IT team or expert, now small businesses, which may not have had the resources to in the past to outsource such resources, can use the tools for themselves. There are solutions out there that offer low maintenance, self-service systems wherein reports and dashboards are created and analyzed without the need for an IT expert whatsoever. There are some advantages to having professional IT help sometimes though, but for small businesses, a user-friendly BI system may be sufficient to cover most of your needs.

If you'd like to know about how you might be able to develop your business intelligence systems further. Consult a reputable IT services provider now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.