Author Archives for Avagio

Choosing the Right Smartphone for You

August 8, 2011 5:30 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

With so many smartphones out on the market these days, many would-be users find it difficult to choose which one works best for them. There is no right brand or model, only the right set of features for the intended use. Here are a few tips that might help confused buyers consider the right smartphone for them. For many people these days, smartphones have become more of a necessity than a luxury. Being able to stay in touch through constant access to the internet and the thousands of mobile smartphone applications available has made smartphones an indispensable tool. But with the boom in smartphone use, there also comes a conundrum for many: Which smartphone should I get? With so many choices out there, it’s becoming difficult and confusing to pick the right one. Here are a few quick and simple tips that you might find useful when canvassing the market: 1. Know what you want. What do you need a smartphone for? Each handset has its own strengths and weaknesses. There are smartphones that integrate email and web browsing and put more focus on multimedia such as audio and video – while there are other no-frills, no-nonsense models that trim features down to those that are the most basic and essential. 2. Consider your carrier. Carriers are important because there are some smartphones that are only available with certain carriers, or carriers that limit certain features of a particular smartphone. You do have the option of getting an unlocked phone (meaning the device does not come with carrier requirements), but this has its own set of pros and cons that you have to weigh as well. 3. Get a feel for your choices. Nothing beats actual experience, so visit local stores to get the physical feel of each phone. Is the keypad big (or small) enough for you? Is the device too thick or too thin? Do you like the user interface or is it too complicated for you? These are just some of the questions that you can answer once you get an idea of how it actually feels to use them yourself. 4. User feedback is important. Talk not only to sales people but also to other people you know. Your friends and acquaintances have actual experience with various smartphones, so ask them what concerns and issues they have with their particular models. If you have additional inquiries about how you can better use your smartphone for your business, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to assist you.

It’s Almost the End of the Line for Windows XP

August 3, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

As systems and market demands continue to require better productivity and efficiency, it only follows that the software that businesses use also needs to upgrade sooner or later. Such is the case with Windows XP, which Microsoft will stop issuing support for in 2014. Part of using any sort of software is the inevitable need to upgrade. Most if not all software needs to either be replaced and upgraded as the demands of the market entail more efficient processing of the various data and information a business handles. Such is the case with Windows XP. While many continue to use this proven straightforward operating system, Microsoft has decided to stop support by the year 2014. Microsoft further recommends upgrading to its latest OS, Windows 7, in order for users to continue to receive OS support. While there are some lines of business applications that have not been upgraded to work with Windows 7, most have — and there are alternative approaches. Also, your business needs the security and protection that only a current, up-to-date operating system can provide. We understand that changing your OS will entail some expense, including new licenses, hardware, and some training. Fortunately, these things are designed to help you operate more efficiently and increase your productivity in the long run. But such change will take time, and if you are interested in starting to plan for an upgrade now, we’ll be happy to sit down with you and develop an upgrade process that meets your specific needs.

Ten Reasons You Should Switch to VoIP Phones

August 1, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Check out these top ten reasons why you should consider switching to VoIP phones for your business. Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) is basically technology that allows you to make and receive calls over data networks. Instead of traditional phone services which channel analog signals such as the sound of your voice over copper wires, VoIP converts these sounds to digital form first — so that they can be sliced, diced, packaged, and routed over a digital network. Because VoIP technology uses the same ideas behind data networking, and allows the use of the same networks used by computers, voice traffic can also be routed through the Internet as well. Suddenly you can now dramatically reduce the cost of voice communications, as well as achieve creative combinations of both services to create new applications for use. With today’s advancements in technology, and the constant lowering of prices as technology achieves mass adoption, VoIP is now within easy reach for most businesses — even small ones. In fact, many have already made the switch to an all-VoIP infrastructure, using a combination of VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. Here are ten reasons why you may want to consider switching to VoIP for your phone and office communication systems: VoIP can allow you to dramatically reduce the cost of communications, especially for interstate or international communications, since everything can go through the Internet instead of having to go through expensive long distance toll charges. You can make and receive calls from multiple devices — for instance, on a dedicated phone, your PC via a software-based phone, or even a mobile phone with VoIP capabilities. It’s easier to add extensions to your phone. You can provide a local number or extension for all your staff without additional costs or cabling. VoIP allows companies to maximize investments already made in their network infrastructure. The same network that handles the flow of data such web access and email can now accommodate voice as well — no need to add and maintain additional wires and devices. VoIP allows your employees to be more productive and efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make calls anywhere with a data connection. VoIP reduces the complexity associated with having to manage multiple networks and devices for communication. A company can potentially set up their office network so that each employee can use a single device such as a computer or a smart fixed or mobile phone to handle everything from email, chat, messages, faxes, and more. You can use VoIP as a tool for real-time collaboration along with video conferencing and screen sharing. You can potentially unify your communication channels, streamlining communications and information management — for instance, marrying email with fax and voice in one inbox. You can employ presence technologies that come standard with VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. This technology can tell colleagues about your presence or give you info on the status and whereabouts of your staff. You can employ intelligence into how your calls are handled, such as: providing automatic call routing based on the number, time of day, etc; providing an interactive voice response when a call comes in, such as voice prompts that guide callers; call reporting; and more. VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It’s cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use. Interested? Contact us and we can help you make the switch to VoIP for your business today!

Is the iPad Ready for Business?

July 29, 2011 2:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

There is no doubt that the iPad has changed the computing market, specifically the tablet computing segment. With nearly 25 million sold so far, with 9.25 million of that just last quarter alone , more and more of these devices are being bought and used, making it just a matter of time before they start becoming a more common sight in the workplace. For many large companies this may already be happening. Citing numbers released by Apple recently, nearly 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the US report deploying or testing the iPad . Is your business thinking of doing the same? Read on to find out how you can use the iPad in your business. The iPad for many is a revolutionary device in that it brings the full power and experience of computing into a form that is easy to hold, easy to transport, and easy to use. Manufactured by Apple, the device uses the same operating system as its earlier iPod Touch and iPhone devices. And just like its smaller brethren it does away with conventional input devices like the mouse or keyboard, instead requiring just the user’s fingers to touch, navigate, and interact with the operating system and installed applications. Key to the success of the device has been the availability of thousands of applications from third-party software vendors – in fact, nearly a hundred thousand of them . These applications range in categories from entertainment, media, education, and even productivity and business. Using these productivity and business applications for the iPad, you can effectively use these devices in the workplace. Here are some specific work scenarios in which you may want to consider the iPad in your business operations: For presentations. Because of its portability, the iPad makes a great device for showing and sharing presentations. Applications like Apple’s Keynote allow you to import and edit PowerPoint presentations. Accessories allow you to connect the device to a monitor or projector. If you’re thinking of doing virtual presentations, there are iPad apps that allow you to do that as well — letting you stream your presentation via the Internet. For Communication and Collaboration. The iPad has built-in applications for emailing, plus more can be added to support audio and even video conferencing. If you want to manage meetings, the iPad’s built-in calendar and address book apps make it a great replacement for a planner, while its larger screen makes it easier to read and manage than your cellphone or smartphone. It has built-in support for third-party mail and calendar applications like Microsoft Exchange, Google Mail, and Calendar. You can also download and use additional applications to help you manage your tasks, monitor projects, share files, post and read stuff in your social networks, and much more. For field assignments. The iPad’s light weight and portability make it a great companion while out on the road. You can install and configure VPN clients to securely connect to your office network when in the field, or use any of the business applications you use in the office — especially cloud-based ones. Again, using the built-in productivity tools you can use the iPad to manage your itinerary while on assignment. For travel. As a travel companion the iPad is unmatched, with a wide breadth of apps for managing flight and hotel booking information, expenses, and more. Use the built-in tools to manage your travel itinerary, and use the communication and collaboration tools to check on progress at the office. During lulls, breaks, or after office hours, easily shift modes and use the iPad as a media viewer or news reader for information and entertainment. Industry-specific apps. There are dozens more business cases in which the iPad can be put to work. For example, as a store or point-of-sale display, or even a point-of-sale device. Companies are using it to replace manuals, and schools are using it to replace stacks of books. There are many more ways the iPad can be used for business. Are you considering using it for your business as well? Do you know of other uses? Let us know!

“Cookiejacking” Discovered in Internet Explorer

July 11, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

While Microsoft’s Internet Explorer continues to enjoy a wide audience – businesses included – a new flaw has been discovered in the browser. Called “cookiejacking”, the flaw allows hackers to access passwords and other personal information stored in any cookie from any website. Despite a few flaws, Internet Explorer remains one of the most commonly used browsers in businesses today, making it a ripe target for hackers looking for security flaws to exploit. One such flaw has been discovered recently by a security researcher in Italy. Dubbed “cookiejacking”, the flaw allows hackers to hijack a cookie of any website, thereby allowing them to gain access to passwords, credit card information, and various other data stored in the cookie. The flaw is found in any version of Internet Explorer in any version of Windows. However, users must first drag and drop an item before the exploit can be activated. It might sound like a bit of a stretch, but hackers are known for their creativity, so expect that a seemingly appropriate situation will be presented in which you will find it perfectly normal to do a drag-and-drop action. Microsoft responded to the threat by labeling it as “low risk”, citing the level of user interaction required for cookiejacking to occur. It did, however, encourage users to be more vigilant and alert, as well as to refrain from clicking suspicious links and visiting dubious websites. Regardless of what platform or OS you use, there is always the constant threat from cyberattacks – all it takes is one attack to break through and put important business data at risk. It is essential to always educate users on how to avoid being victimized by scams and hacks, and to have the right security software to ensure that your company’s information is safe and secure. If you are interested in user training for security and / or better security protocols, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to draw up a custom security blueprint that’s tailor-made to meet your needs.

Factoring the Human Element into our IT Security Equation

July 4, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Keeping your IT system safe is more than just getting the right security software – it also entails training your employees to become more responsible users and making them more aware of how to prevent becoming unwitting accomplices in letting malware into your system. One of the things many people fail to realize is that securing business data from malware and other sorts of cyber-attacks doesn’t stop with implementing the right security software. These days, cyber-criminals also use all sorts of tricks to bait unsuspecting employees into being catalysts for malware entering your system. Reports cite that as much as 60 percent of cyber and malware attacks on businesses are done through social engineering – meaning that instead of a direct attack on your system, hackers are using ploys found on email and social networks to get people in your organization to unwittingly introduce malware into your IT infrastructure. This is why it’s equally important to put emphasis on training your employees to recognize common cyber-attack strategies such as phishing, or how to use proper virus scanning software so any external or thumb drives they plug into their computers are malware-free. Remember, it only takes one mistake from a gullible employee to open the gates of your system to keyloggers and other sorts of malware and viruses. Keeping your company’s IT system safe is an investment. Getting the right security protocols and then training your employees to not only use and respect these protocols but also be more aware about security risks goes a long way in keeping your data safe and your operations stable.

New Mac Malware Discovered

June 30, 2011 4:30 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

If you’re one of those people who believe that Macs are impervious to virus attacks, it may be time to rethink that belief: A new threat to Mac systems has been discovered. Called MacDefender, this malware deceives and bullies users to pay for fake anti-virus software. It is a widely held belief that one of the reasons Macs are superior to other systems is because of their ‘invulnerability’ to viruses, malware, and similar threats. All well and good, except for the fact that a recent rogue anti-virus malware that specifically attack Mac OS X systems has been discovered. So much for the ‘Mac = no virus’ myth. Called the ‘MacDefender’ and also known as Mac Security and Mac Protector, this malware tricks users by having them think that their system is under attack. It begins when users visit a malicious website where the program automatically downloads itself to the computer. If you have the “Open safe files after downloading” option selected, it automatically installs itself onto the system. The original installation package is then also automatically deleted. Next, a new menu item appears on the Mac OS X menubar. You’ll see a small orange shield that becomes red, which supposedly means that there are viruses in your system. You’ll then be prompted to “register” – which involves giving out your credit card information – to a website to clean the virus. If you don’t, the malware will then direct your browser to porn sites to ‘encourage’ you to register and pay up. To know more about how MacDefender works, check out this video . While Macs are certainly targeted less than Windows systems, the threat of getting infected by viruses and malware is very real, especially if myths like Macs being impervious to viruses persist. To know more about protecting yourself from threats like these, please contact us so we can draw up a plan to keep your system safe and secure.

Google Ventures into the Retail and Online Shopping Market with Google Wallet

June 28, 2011 3:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Want to pay for merchandise without whipping out a credit card? Google makes this possible with an electronic internet-based service called Google Wallet. You simply swipe your smartphone over a participating outlet’s cashier, and the transaction is complete. Smartphone technology has grown by leaps and bounds these past few years, and having a smartphone these days is almost synonymous to being online all the time. Software giant Google has decided to tap into this phenomenon with a new service called “Google Wallet”, which enables users to make purchases and payments from their smartphones. Partnering with Mastercard, Macy’s, Subway, American Eagle, Citibank, and Sprint, Google assures users that their e-wallet service is safe. The service requires that smartphones have a special chip that allows the user to simply “tap” or “swipe” the phone at participating stores to pay for merchandise or services. When you swipe your smartphone’s e-wallet, you also earn coupons and points for rewards. The technology is also designed so that the user can turn the chip off when Google Wallet is not being used, making it safe from hackers. If the smartphone is lost, the data can also be wiped remotely. A similar system to Google Wallet has been operational in some countries including Japan for some time now, but its use is limited to only certain areas and stores there. While the concept of Google Wallet has great potential, there are still several limitations to the system as Google continues to look for more partners for the enterprise before its official launch, which is slated for within a month or two.

Modify the Page Margins in Excel While in Print Preview

June 23, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Have you ever struggled with fitting the contents of your Excel spreadsheet on one page? There are several ways to get around this, one of which is to use the Print Preview option in Excel. While in Print Preview mode, click the Margins button or tick the Show Margins checkbox to display the margins in Excel. You can now drag the right, left, top, and bottom margins just the way you want to be able fit the data onto the page.

Keep Yourself Protected While Online

June 20, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Identity theft is one of the most common cyber-crimes these days, as more and more people become dependent on the internet for many of their needs. Fortunately, following some simple tips can do wonders to help your online experience become much more secure. Security experts are seeing a rise in the incidence of cyber-crime these days as more and more people use the web for their day-to-day needs. No one is spared – both businesses and private individuals have become victims of opportunistic cyber-criminals who take advantage of loopholes in security systems and a lack of foresight and alertness on the part of users. One common cyber-crime is identity theft, in which hackers steal and assume the identity and personal information of someone else. Under the guise of the usually unknowing victim, these unscrupulous individuals commit fraud or other crimes. While there is no 100% guaranteed way to be safe from identity theft when online, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your identity and your data. Have the right security software. One of the keys to keeping your identity and data secure is having the proper security software in place to protect your system. Also make sure to update the software regularly. Know the modus operandi. It’s also important to be aware of the different scams and techniques hackers use, such as phishing, which involves duping the user into clicking a legitimate-looking (but fake) link that has the victim enter personal information or download a file that introduces malware into the system. The rule of thumb is that if an email is unsolicited, there is a high probability of it being a scam or phishing email. Be stingy with your personal information. Be sure to only fill out personal information on sites that are legitimate and that you trust, and even then, only if you absolutely need to. Check and double check things like the URL or the company’s tag line to know if a site is what it says it is and whether it is secure. Phishing sites also look legit – but a careful look should be enough to tip you off that something’s amiss. Create unique passwords. The more complicated your passwords are, the harder they are to guess or hack. So don’t pick generic passwords like “password” or “12345″ or things like your birthday or wedding anniversary. The best passwords are alphanumeric – a combination of both letters and numbers. Secure wireless networks. It’s important to allow only the right people to have access to your wireless networks. Besides saving bandwidth, this also prevents leechers and hackers from using your connection to tap into your system or use it for unscrupulous activities. To know more about keeping your identity and data secure, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss a custom security solution that meets your specific needs.

Change the Default Download Location for Mozilla Firefox

June 16, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Want to change the default download location for Mozilla Firefox? Perhaps you want to have it default to your desktop, or a special folder on your hard drive? To do so, go to the Options menu in Firefox, then under the General tab look for the Downloads section. Browse to a location in the “Save files to” option screen, then click on OK and you should be good to go. Alternatively, you can have Firefox prompt you for a location for every download by choosing the option “Always ask me where to save files” instead.

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself about Disaster Recovery

June 13, 2011 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

One of the most dangerous yet common mistakes business owners make is assuming “it will never happen to me”. However, there are only two types of people: those who have had a data loss and those who are about to. What would happen to your business if you had a major data loss? The possibility is definitely there; this can’t be denied. Data loss disasters come in many forms, ranging from simple human errors to “acts of God” that cannot be controlled. However, you can control how you prepare for them. Here are eight questions you can ask yourself to test your disaster preparedness. First: Do we back up our data? It’s amazing how many small businesses do not have a backup system in place. It’s so easy to assume disaster won’t strike you. But data loss doesn’t always come from huge, cinema-worthy disasters. They can result from simple everyday errors – yet have huge disastrous results. Don’t let this be you. Do we back up all of our account information? Many small businesses tend to keep their accounts data on one employee’s PC, instead of the network which is on their backup schedule. But what if you lose your customer database? Be sure it’s included in the files to be backed up. Do we back up our email files? Ever wish you had that one email from a few months back, in which a customer gave you the “go ahead” – but now they’re refusing to pay for your work? These days, email is increasingly used as legal evidence of agreements or notices to proceed. If they’re included in your backup, you can easily pull up even deleted emails – received or sent. Is our Calendar and Contact information backed up? What if you came to work one morning and your online calendar and address book was gone? What appointments and communications would you miss, and at what cost? Most of the time, by default your Outlook Contact and Calendar files are stored on the individual PCs. Make sure these files are included in your backup set. Do we back up folders and files from each computer? In addition to important information that is stored in shared networks, think about the files that each of your employees create and use on their own hard drives. Spreadsheets, letters, memos, databases – wouldn’t it be a shame to lose all that work? Are we always saving our files to an area that will be backed up? Consider where each and every file your work on is being saved. Will it be included in your backups? Develop policies and educate your employees on where to save their work so it’s included in your backup schedule. Do we back up data frequently enough? This answer to this question is – how much work are you willing to risk? Say you complete an important contract on Tuesday morning, and an employee accidentally deletes it that afternoon. But you only run backups on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Bye-bye contract! A more frequent backup schedule would have saved the day. Do we know where our backups are and how to use them? If you use USB drives, external hard drives, or backup tapes for your backups, are you storing them offsite in a safe place? Even if your files are backed up to the cloud, do you know how to recover them in case of an emergency? Knowing your backup system and keeping it safe will ensure you can get back to business quickly and efficiently. Even if you already have a backup system in place, take a few moments to think about your specific business. If the unthinkable happened, exactly what data would you need to get back up and running? What could you not operate without? Once you identify these things, simply make sure they are included in your backup. Need help? We’re experts in guiding small businesses in setting up a backup system that meets their unique needs. Give us a call today to discuss the options available to keep your business data safe and sound.

Recover Disk Space by Changing the Default Recycle Bin Size

June 11, 2011 5:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

On some computers with really large drives, the Recycle Bin’s default size setting (10% of your hard drive space) can be too much and may be an inefficient use of space. Over time, you may need to recover this extra space, and it’s easy to do so. Just right-click on the Recycle Bin and move the slider to the left to reduce its allocated disk space. Click on OK, and you might be surprised at just how much space you were able to recover.

The ROI Series: Calculating the ROI of a Technology Investment—Part 4

June 9, 2011 3:30 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Cost savings are usually important to small businesses even in the best of times. New technology solutions may be necessary for survival and growth, however — and they may not be as expensive as you think when you consider their return on investment (ROI). In this four-part series, we’ll explain what ROI is, help you understand indirect ROI, and provide guidelines for predicting and measuring the ROI of a technology investment. Part 4: Measuring ROI If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already learned what ROI is and how you can use it to make sure your technology implementations are profitable. But the process doesn’t stop there: it’s important, once you’ve implemented a new technology solution, to track its benefits. There are many direct and indirect benefits of implementing new technology, as we’ve described — but in most cases, companies don’t know what they are. In many cases, what you measure is clear. Consider a service company that implements customer service software designed to help phone representatives more quickly resolve customer issues. To determine ROI, the company simply measures the number of calls per employee before and after implementing the software. In other cases, companies don’t measure what we call the relevant “value drivers.” Some companies don’t know what to measure; others know what to measure but don’t know how to do it. The end result: only 17 percent of CFOs measure ROI for outsourcing projects, according to Hewitt Associates. As an example of how this could happen, consider a manufacturing company that implements software designed to reduce errors in a product line, thereby improving quality. While the company may be tracking the increase in quality (in the form of fewer returned goods, for example), it may not be considering other value drivers. How about waste? We can assume that quality has improved, fewer products have been scrapped — but the company doesn’t have a business process in place that can track costs incurred from waste. How do you identify value drivers? Follow the workflow. IT will always impact your business processes in some way. For example, it might eliminate, create, or change a business process. So to identify value drivers, look at the results you hope to achieve from these business process changes. As an example, consider the service company we referenced previously. As a result of its new customer service software, the company might reduce its customer service employees from five to four. This change in business process shows that one value driver is the reduction in labor costs due to increased efficiency, resulting in a direct ROI. Another value driver might be improved customer service, resulting in an indirect ROI. As another example, consider a company that implements software to track employee performance against objectives. In the past, it has paid bonuses randomly; now it has a methodology. This change in business process shows that one value driver is the savings in bonuses not paid due to non-performance, resulting in a direct ROI. Another value driver might be improved employee morale and effort, resulting in an indirect ROI. Generally, a year of data collection should be sufficient to determine the changes in costs and revenues that will drive both direct and indirect ROI, providing you with solid data to determine just how effective your IT investment has been.