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Choosing the Right Smartphone for You

August 8, 2011 5:30 pm

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.

Ten Reasons You Should Switch to VoIP Phones

August 1, 2011 3:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Keep Yourself Protected While Online

June 20, 2011 3:00 pm

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.

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself about Disaster Recovery

June 13, 2011 3:00 pm

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.

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

June 9, 2011 3:30 pm

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.

Why Cyber-Attacks Commonly Attack SMBs

June 6, 2011 3:00 pm

Many small and medium-sized businesses have the misconception that they are safe from cyber-attacks because of the lesser profits cyber-thieves can make from them. But recent studies show that hackers are now starting to exploit the less strict and intricate security protocols of SMBs. There is a misconception among many SMBs that they are small targets for would-be cyber-attacks. “We’re too small a company to be of any worth” is the mindset of many. However, there is an ongoing trend in which smaller companies actually find themselves victims of the most elaborate and vicious cyber-attacks. Why? Security experts are discovering that SMBs tend to have less or inferior security protocols in place to counter cyber-attacks. While this was of little consequence in the past, cyber criminals are now starting to take notice of the fact, and are exploiting it to their advantage. And it’s profitable too – an attack on one SMB might not amount to as much as a larger organization, but given the greater ease through which hackers can attack smaller businesses, they more than make up for the difference in the volume of companies they target. According to several news reports, these cyber-thieves can make off with as much as $70 million. The more unfortunate fact is that smaller companies are less able to counteract the effects of losses from cyber-attacks. This is why you should stay one step ahead of cyber-thieves by updating your security systems. Short term or long term, it’s a practical solution to keep information and data safe, and your operations stable. Give us a call today – we can help.

The ROI Series: Calculating the ROI of a Technology Investment—Part 3

June 2, 2011 3:30 pm

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 3: Predicting ROI As we explained in part 2 of this series, you can’t measure ROI simply by asking what a technology implementation will do for your bottom line. However, if the new technology leads different parts of your company to collaborate, which in turn produces better goods and services that lead to top-line growth, then your ROI is likely strong. Getting at those indirect ROI numbers, however, may be the greatest challenge of ROI analysis. Few models exist to guide you, and with good reason: determining ROI involves looking at many components, then applying those components to your particular situation. But there are things you must take into account, from both a cost and a benefit perspective, when considering the ROI of a technology investment. Your existing technology infrastructure. There are few companies without existing technologies in place, and any new solution will need to work with these systems to be effective. There will likely be costs associated with the new technology’s impact on existing systems — but there will also be benefits. For example, a new technology might automate the tracking of hourly employees’ work hours. Or, it might offer more efficient collaboration. Your business processes. A new technology can clearly improve your business processes by reducing downtime, improving productivity, and lowering costs. But implementing the new technology will likely involve training staff in using the technology — and that can have associated costs. Your external relationships. Finally, no business is an island. Your systems may link to customer and vendor systems. As a result, any new technology may impose constraints on or require changes of external organizations or individuals — in the way information is delivered or received, for example. To solve this puzzle, it can be helpful to ask three different but related questions about the technology solution’s direct and indirect costs as well as its efficiency. Direct costs: Can you afford the technology — and will it pay for itself? To answer these questions, you’ll need to know the cost of the solution itself and the monetary value of the resources used to implement it, measured in standard financial terms. You’ll then compare the dollar cost of all expenditures to the expected return in terms of the projected savings and revenue increases. You may need to project the cost and return over a multi-month or multi-year time span in order to show a payback period. Indirect costs: How much bang for your buck will you realize? Now the analysis becomes more complex. Analyzing the effectiveness of a technology solution requires you to look at its costs in relation to how effective it is at producing the desired results — in essence, to expand your measurement of ROI beyond cost savings and revenue increases to include performance relative to your company’s goals. Efficiency: Is this the most you can get for this much investment? Finally, you’ll want to ask whether the technology will produce the greatest possible value relative to its direct and indirect costs. That can present difficulties, as it will require you to conduct a similar analysis on many alternatives, perhaps simulating the performance of the alternatives in some way. These three types of measurements differ in several ways. While the first is based simply on financial metrics, the second includes the quality of goods or services, customer satisfaction, employee morale, or in the case of some companies (such as manufacturers of “green” products or non-profits), social or political benefits. All of these measurements, however, will help you answer the same basic question: Which technology investments will pay off in the long term? In the next part of this series, we offer specific tips for measuring ROI.

Beware: Hackers Exploit Loopholes in Public Wi-Fi

June 1, 2011 3:00 pm

Public Wi-Fi is all well and good, but its very nature makes it easy to exploit and allow hackers access into your system – unless you have the proper security protocols in place. These days, Wi-Fi is everywhere. Airports, coffee shops, train and bus stations, malls – almost every public place you can think offers Wi-Fi connectivity. Being connected to the internet has evolved from luxury to necessity, and whether it’s for personal or business reasons people are online as much as possible. This is all well and good, except when you consider that hackers have started to extend their playing field to public Wi-Fi networks. With the volume of sensitive information such as passwords and financial transactions, it’s inevitable that crooks and fraudsters move to public networks where there is more potential to illegally farm large chunks of information. Two things are important about this emerging trend. First, it’s the very nature of public networks that makes them vulnerable to attack. Second, hacking has become much easier these days, with very simple hacking programs such as Firesheep easily downloadable from the web. However, the solution is simple as well: have the proper security protocols on your smartphone or laptop. It’s unfortunate that many people neglect to recognize the importance of such policies, and only have minimal security (if any at all) to guard against attacks. But as long as you have the proper protocols in place, you can stay connected – even through public Wi-Fi – without fear of hacking or any sort of intrusion into your system. If you want to know more about keeping your portable devices safe from attacks, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be glad to explain the issue in more detail and draw up a solution customized to fit your needs.

Can You Get Your Data Back from the Cloud when You Need It?

May 30, 2011 3:00 pm

While the cloud can be a good place to store data and backups, you need to make sure you can quickly get it when you need it. Restoring data is a critical component of any disaster recovery planning initiative. In case of a disaster or unforeseen occurrence that requires you to recover your data, you need to ensure that you can bring it back online within a time frame that meets your business needs. A few weeks ago, Amazon suffered several days of outage in its EC2 and RDS service, bringing down dozens if not hundreds of services along with it — including such high-profile sites as Reddit, Heroku, Foursquare, Quora, and many others. Although the cause of that outage has been analyzed extensively in many forums, the discussion is interesting and relevant because it brings attention to the lesson that wherever or whomever you entrust your data to—be it in the “cloud” or to a big company like Amazon — it pays to be smart about how you manage your data, especially if it’s critical to your business. Understand your options. When someone else is managing your data, it’s easy to leave the details to them. However, making sure that you at least have some understanding of what your options are in what different service providers can offer you will pay dividends later if something goes wrong, since you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on the spot. Things you should look at include: Who is the service provider? What is their history? Who is behind them? What is their track record? Where do they store your data? Do they own the servers where your data is stored or do they rely on someone else? Is your data stored within the local area (i.e., a drive away) or is it distributed all over the map? Do they provide a mirror of your data within your own server, or is everything in their data centers? What measures do they employ to make sure your data is safe? What methods do they employ to ensure you can get to your data when you need it? Do they provide service level assurances or guarantees to back up their claims? These are just some of the basic questions you should be asking of your service provider. Do a test drive. Often you will not know exactly how a service works until the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Ask your service provider for a demo or a trial period. Test how fast it is to back up your data, but more importantly how fast you can bring it back when you need it. This is especially important if you’re talking about gigabytes of data. Understand that doing backups in the cloud can be hampered by your bandwidth and many other components of your system and theirs. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Some service providers give users the option of storing data in multiple sites, to ensure that your data is safe if one site goes down. But why rely on just one service provider when you can get the services of multiple providers instead? Or perhaps better yet, why not manage some of your data on your own? While it may be complex and costly to reproduce what many service providers can provide today, it is relatively easy to set up a simple system to keep at least some of your really, really important data locally by using an unused computer or a relatively cheap, network-attached storage device or secondary/removable drive that you can buy at your local store. Create a plan and write it down . Unforeseen occurrences can and will happen — not only from your side but from your service provider’s as well. When they do happen, you will need to have a contingency plan ready, often referred to as a Business Continuity Plan. Make sure to document your plan in writing, and communicate it to everyone in your organization so they will know what to do in case disaster strikes. With its promise of unprecedented efficiency, reliability, scalability, and cost savings, cloud computing and storing your data in the cloud is the topic du jour these days. However, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the basic due diligence that’s necessary regardless of how or where your data is stored. Ultimately, it is your business on the line—and being prudent and proactive about how your data is stored, managed, and (most importantly) recovered in times of need will save you much grief when you actually need it.

The ROI Series: Calculating the ROI of a Technology Investment—Part 2

May 26, 2011 3:00 pm

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 2: The Indirect Benefits of Technology Implementation It’s easy to see the direct benefits of new technology, such as reduced headcount or increased revenues. That’s because they show up as line items on financial statements. But it’s also important to consider the indirect benefits: an ROI that cannot be easily quantified but is nonetheless realized. A good example of an indirect ROI is employee productivity. When you implement new technology, employees can perform their jobs better and faster. For example, an application that facilitates better communication between attorneys and clients at a law firm may not generate a direct return by reducing head count, but it can significantly improve the quality of service clients receive while giving attorneys more time to focus on value-added tasks, such as sales. That, in turn, will increase clients and profits—a very clear indirect return. All technology generates some indirect returns, but how much is direct and how much is indirect? One research firm found that direct returns account for only half of technology ROI. Less than 50 percent of companies that implemented a document management system saw a direct ROI, while 84 percent saw an indirect ROI in the form of measurable increases in employee productivity. To determine how much of a proposed implementation’s ROI is indirect, you must consider three key factors: the kind of technology being implemented, the areas in which it will be implemented, and your current IT environment. The kind of technology being implemented. While all technology provides some indirect ROI, some technology generates more. For example, supply chain software can improve productivity, but most of its ROI is direct, in the form of reduced inventory and transportation costs. On the other hand, collaboration software may have a huge impact on worker productivity by reducing the time it takes to execute group-oriented tasks, such as sharing information and coordinating meetings. Likewise, content management systems tend to generate significant indirect ROI by leading to faster filing and decreased retrieval times. The areas in which technology will be implemented. Where and how you deploy technology will also impact the portion of its ROI that is indirect. As an example, consider a business intelligence dashboard. Depending on how it is used, ROI could be more direct or indirect. If it is used to give a logistics manager the ability to better monitor and control transportation costs, the ROI is primarily direct. If it is used to provide financial analysts with quicker access to monthly metrics, the primary benefit will be time savings, an indirect ROI. Your current IT environment. Finally, the extent to which a new technology’s ROI is direct or indirect may depend on how much change the technology leads to. Consider an application that tracks employee hours. A company that has manually collected time will see significant direct ROI in a reduction of the number of timekeepers needed. On the other hand, a company that already has an automated attendance process will see more indirect ROI in the form of efficiencies through time savings. Indirect ROI may not be readily visible, but it is critical to driving business value. A business that ignores indirect ROI, choosing not to improve its technology because there is no direct ROI, will not be able to keep up with competitors. In the next part of this series, we offer specific tips for predicting ROI.

IT Support—It’s Really Business Support

May 23, 2011 3:00 pm

Are you investing in IT to win — or just to keep up? Many, if not most, companies use IT as a tool, and in doing so they tend to focus on its cost. A better approach is to consider it a strategic asset. Doing so can differentiate your company and increase your profits. Differentiate your company and increase your profits — with IT It’s easy to think of IT as a tool that comes with a cost — but doing so is a big mistake. That’s because IT, when used properly, can be a strategic asset. It can make your information more accurate, improve your employees’ response time, and even differentiate your company in the marketplace. To make IT a strategic asset as opposed to a tool, it needs to add value. To determine where to make improvement, you’ll want to look at your value chain, which includes all the activities your business performs, and ask which ones earn profits. For example, if you’re a manufacturer, better IT could result in more efficient supply purchasing. If you’re a retailer, better IT could result in fewer units needing after-sales service and repair. Focus on improving IT in those areas and you’ll likely improve profits. An added benefit of this exercise: The use of IT in a new way may create even more opportunities for your company. For example, the Internet allowed Apple to invent iTunes, and now mp3 downloads have overtaken CD sales. Even small businesses can experience this. Case in point: The invention of iTunes has given many startup software companies a distribution channel for apps that otherwise may not have been invented. But the idea doesn’t have to be visionary in this way: YourLittleFilm.com, a small business that creates custom short films, used customer relationship management (CRM) software to help follow up on business leads , and got a 10 percent response rate. How and where you add value with IT developments will depend on your business model. There is little point, for example, in automating production if your customers cherish hand-made products. However, you might find that investing in a CRM system might give you a more efficient way to track your customers’ preferences and provide them with a more personalized service. Using your IT as a strategic asset gives you tools to manage clients worldwide, increases your visibility, and lets you compete with much larger players. Contact us to find out how you can use technology to gain an edge.

The ROI Series: Calculating the ROI of a Technology Investment—Part 1

May 19, 2011 5:00 pm

Cost savings are always important to small businesses — but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on technology. New technology may be necessary for the survival and growth of your business, and may not be as expensive as you think when you consider its return on investment (ROI). In this four-part series, we’ll explain what ROI is, help you understand the types of ROI, and provide guidelines for predicting and measuring the ROI of a technology investment. PART 1: ROI Basics There are two ways to look at the value of technology: total cost of ownership (TCO), which quantifies only the cost of a project, and return on investment (ROI), which quantifies both the cost and expected benefit of the project over a specific timeframe. Traditionally, businesses have used TCO when analyzing the cost of internal infrastructure projects such as upgrading an e-mail system. But even with internal systems, ROI can be a better method. If your old e-mail system goes down, for example, your sales team can’t contact customers electronically and must spend more time making phone calls. If your employees spend two more hours on calls than they would on e-mails, you’ve actually lost money by not upgrading your e-mail system. As an example of how ROI works, consider the case of a small, high-end electronics boutique. The current point-of-sale (POS) software is beginning to show strains from the company’s expansion and increasing inventory, and customer service issues are arising — a problem since the company’s mission is to provide exceptional service. The company’s owner believes implementing a new POS software program will help address these issues, but deploying it will be costly. The key question is which will cost more in the long term: spending the money to provide a solution, or the losses the boutique will incur by not doing so? That question may be easier to ask than to answer. As important as determining ROI is, there is still little consensus about how to measure it accurately. That’s because ROI has many intangibles — things that don’t show up in traditional cost-accounting methods but still maximize the economic potential of the organization, such as brand value, customer satisfaction, and patents. In the next part of this series we’ll discuss these intangibles

Why not buy Macs and PCs for your Office?

May 18, 2011 3:00 pm

We are seeing Macs and PCs together in more and more offices. Here are some tips to make sure these devices can get along with each other — whether it be sharing files between the two systems, sharing printers, having them talk to each other on the same network, and even running apps on both systems. Unlike a few years ago when Microsoft’s Windows operating system virtually dominated office desktops everywhere, today we are increasingly seeing the use of other operating systems in the office. Typically these other systems are some model of Apple’s Macintosh running its own operating system called the OS X. The OS X, known for its sleek graphics, great multimedia handling capabilities, and easy-to-learn user interface, has gained favor among many users and businesses. Sometimes, however, problems arise when having to use different systems in the same office or network environment. Here are some tips to eliminate common issues your users might face when working with others on a different system: File Sharing . There was a time when transferring files between a Mac and a PC was a painful process requiring understanding different file system structures, resource forks, file name limits, and other such nonsense. Thankfully those days are over. Many Mac applications today can open files created on a PC and vice versa — such as office documents, images, video, and more. Getting files from one system to another is also easy as you can transfer via a removable drive. Both systems should recognize the file system on the drive — especially if it was formatted using Window’s file system (doing it the other way around might be a bit more difficult). OS X “Leopard” Macs can also read or write to drives that have been formatted using a special format from Microsoft called NTFS, and other freely downloadable utilities can also help. If this sounds like too much work to understand, you can also simply burn a CD or email files from one system to another — or better yet, set up a network for file sharing. Making Macs and PCs talk on the same network . If you’re a little more tech savvy, you can connect your Macs to your PCs directly or via a network. Typically this requires a network cable connected to both devices and having network sharing turned on. Enabling network sharing is outside the scope of this tip, but many online resources are available to help you connect a PC to a Mac or a Mac to a PC. Running the same desktop applications on both a Mac and a PC . For really advanced users, did you know that you can run Windows on a Mac or OS X on a PC? The former is bit easier and more common, thanks to techniques such as dual booting or virtualization. In dual booting (what Apple calls “Boot Camp”), you essentially install both operating systems on a Mac and on power up, you can choose which operating system to boot. Virtualization on the other hand is way slicker as you can run both operating systems at the same time. In virtualization, you boot Windows in a window within OS X, allowing you to effectively run Windows applications on a Mac. There are also many commercial applications that can help with this. The future: Cloud Applications. As we all start to access more cloud-based applications, the operating system you use is no longer as critical. As long as your systems have an Internet connection and a browser, then you can use different systems and it doesn’t matter what operating system or hardware is being used. So running both Macs and PCs in the same office is not necessarily a bad thing, as it has been in the past. Dozens of options exist today to make the situation manageable, if not downright easy. If you need help, don’t worry — we’re here to assist. Call us today to find out how you can get Macs and PCs to work together for your business today.

Lessons from the Epsilon Incident

May 16, 2011 3:00 pm

One of the world’s leading email service providers, Epsilon, found itself the victim of a phishing attack that saw a significant amount of data lost to cyber-thieves. It’s important to learn from mistakes like these and make sure that both your own and you clients’ data is kept secure and safe from thieves. There’s been a lot of buzz recently about Epsilon, one of the biggest email service providers in the world, as it suffers from the backlash of allowing itself to be a victim of phishing efforts – which has affected the business data of as many as 50 major companies who are clients of theirs. Reports are also citing Epsilon’s failure to heed an alert from a business partner which advised the provider to be on its toes against potential attacks from cyber-criminals targeted towards email service providers. The damage estimates vary, with Epsilon citing only about 2% of their data being stolen, but the impact is undeniable. Cyber-criminals now have access to a sizable number of personal data stored through Epsilon – passwords, account numbers, and even the purchasing / buying habits of the customers of Epsilonงs clients. Many of Epsilon’s clients are now sending out messages to their own customers, warning them that their email addresses may have been compromised. It’s a lesson to companies, big and small, to pay more attention to beefing up their security protocols, since all it takes is one breach to endanger all of your data. In addition to having the right security software, it also helps if you require your employees undergo proper user training to make sure that they won’t be easily baited by scams like phishing, and will be more aware of how to contribute to the safety of your business data. Failing to do so puts not only your company, but also your clients, at risk. If you’d like to make sure your systems are safe, call us and we’ll evaluate your current security measures and suggest ways to make critical improvements.

A +1 for Google +1

May 13, 2011 3:00 pm

Google is making its searches more effective through the introduction of Google +1, an experimental program that allows users to recommend websites by pressing a +1 icon that appears beside Google search results. Visit google.com/experimental and see what the fuss is all about. While still in the experimental stage, there is a lot to be excited about with Google’s new thingamajig, Google +1 from Google Labs. Google +1 is essentially a button next to each search engine result that you can click when you want to recommend a particular link or website. Google describes it as something you use “to give something your public stamp of approval, so friends, contacts, and others can find the best stuff when they search.” The program is not available for everyone just yet, but participating and testing it out is easy. You’ll need a Google profile to participate, then just go to google.com/experimental and click the “Join this experiment”. After a few minutes, you’ll begin seeing a +1 icon / button beside results on any Google search results page. Click the button for sites you want to recommend, and Google will ask you to confirm. On your Google profile, you’ll have a tab where you can see the sites you’ve recommended through +1. You’ll also have the option to uncheck the box that will allow Google to use your +1 information to send you targeted advertisements. Especially for businesses, a +1 for your website can maximize your SEO capabilities as well as lend credibility to your website. Anyone can +1 your website – colleagues, clients, and even friends – so the more +1s for your site, the more visible it becomes. Try Google +1 and see how it works for you.

Have You Done a Test Restore Lately?

May 11, 2011 3:00 pm

A lot of businesses make it a habit to back up their data, and leave it at that. But many do not realize that there is another half to an effective backup system – regularly testing it. One of the most basic actions a company takes – big or small – with its data is back it up. It’s become a mantra in this age in which information is more easily stored and managed digitally: steps must be taken to ensure that data is regularly backed up. If any malfunction, misfortune, or human error occurs, with a good backup system you won’t stand to lose thousands or even millions of dollars in lost data. But there’s more to backups than meets the eye. Let’s say you have a backup system and you lose your data – how sure are you that you will actually be able to get all of it back? It’s surprising that while many companies do back up their data, very few actually conduct tests in actual data restoration. How can you be sure that your backup system will perform as expected when the time comes? It’s especially important for you to iron out all the kinks in a system as essential as your backup before you actually need it. When the worst happens, one of the last things you want on your plate is contending with any glitches or complications that you missed in your data restore system because you failed to test it properly beforehand. Not having a smooth and well tested restore system defeats the purpose of having backups in the first place. After all, what’s the point of having backups if you can’t retrieve your data properly? You need an efficient system that is regularly tested to make sure that your precious data can be easily and smoothly restored when circumstances call for it. If you’re not positive that you’ll be able to access all of your data if disaster should strike, give us a call. We’ll evaluate your backup and restore processes and make recommendations to ensure your business data will be at your fingertips no matter what happens.

Dual Screens: Good or Bad?

May 9, 2011 3:00 pm

Dual or multiple screens may seem excessive for some, but in truth it might just be the thing that helps you boost productivity and efficiency in the workplace. At first glance, people may find the use of dual screens a bit excessive and therefore unnecessary, but the truth is that there is more to it than it may seem. In truth, there are a lot of advantages to using dual screens, provided that you can cope with the cons and challenges of utilizing such a system. The primary advantage of dual or multiple screens is increased productivity. Several studies have shown that using such a system can boost productivity anywhere from 10 to 40 percent. Especially if you use multiple programs at the same time, it allows you to better keep track of workflow, have an improved view (physically and metaphorically) of what tasks you are working on, and divide tasks based on the monitors you are using. For example, you might need to be constantly online on social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Formspring to interact with your clients and give immediate responses to queries and concerns. In addition, you may need to attend to other tasks, which can be confusing when done all in one screen. With a dual monitor setup, you can keep your social networking tasks on one screen, and the rest of your tasks on the other. Space consumption and resources may be an issue for some, but given the increased productivity that goes with adapting such a system, you will find your tasks accomplished much earlier and much more efficiently. This can effectively offset any additional costs, especially in the long run. If you are looking to give this type of system a try, please contact us and we’ll be glad to draw up a proposal that will meet your particular requirements. Additional resources: Advantages and Disadvantages of Working with Multiple Screens

Security: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

May 5, 2011 3:00 pm

A recent study by IT security firm Symantec shows that at least half of SMBs lack the proper security for their systems, which puts both them and their clients at a grave disadvantage. It seems that despite the risk, many SMBs (small and mid-sized businesses) are not taking security seriously enough, according to a recent survey by security giant Symantec. The study reveals that many SMBs lack a security or disaster-preparedness plan. The risks are real enough, with an SMB standing to lose somewhere in the ballpark of $12,500 PER DAY when operations are interrupted because of security breaches or malware attacks. According to Symantec, of the 1288 SMBs they surveyed worldwide, about half have no security or disaster-preparedness plan whatsoever. Of that 50 percent, 36 percent intend to get or create a plan in the future, while the remaining 14% have no plans on their agendas whatsoever. With these figures, it’s hardly surprising that the study also found that many SMBs only act when it’s too late – which causes not only lost revenue for them, but for their clients as well. More than half of the surveyed SMB clients – 552 – said that they have had to switch providers due to unreliable and irresponsible service. Numbers do not lie: security is more important than you might think. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out just how essential it is before enacting a security plan of your own – for your sake as well as that of your clients. Having the right kind of system in place is vital to keeping your operations smooth and efficient, as well as enabling you to better respond to your clients’ needs. If you want to know more about implementing the proper security and disaster-preparedness protocols for your business, please contact us and we’ll be happy to sit down and create a customized plan that will meet your specific needs and requirements.

How to Protect Your Data When Employees Leave

May 3, 2011 3:00 am

The growth of technology in the business environment has been a boon, but it also gives departing employees many methods of taking data with them. In the past, they used CDs; today, they can copy files to a portable USB storage device, email them, or even use a smartphone. Here’s how you can protect yourself. Remember the days when employees kept important information in paper files? They are long gone. According to a study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, almost all of today’s new information is stored electronically. And that could mean trouble for your company when an employee resigns — because electronic documents are both easy to copy, and portable. That makes them more prone to theft than paper documents. Case in point: In August 2009, DuPont filed a lawsuit against a research scientist who allegedly stole more than 600 files by copying them to a portable hard drive. And that wasn’t an isolated incident; another DuPont research scientist was sentenced to an 18 month prison term for stealing proprietary information worth $400 million. Think employee data theft doesn’t apply to your type of business? Think again. A 2009 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute found that data theft is rampant in the business world. According to the study, 59 percent of employees who quit or are fired take confidential business information with them. And when the employee works in IT, the access to confidential data is even greater. A 2008 study by Cyber-Ark Software found that almost 90 percent of IT employees would take sensitive company data with them if they were laid off. The lesson: When employees leave, you must take steps to protect the electronic information they have access to. This may include customer information, financial records, trade secrets, intellectual property, and email lists, to name just a few items. We recommend that when an employee leaves, you prevent his or her account access, set the account for immediate review, save any necessary files (which may involve consulting with other departments for verification of documents), then delete the account. In addition to protecting data, this will also optimize server space and open up more storage space for the company. While some employees might argue that they need access to their personal files before departing, and you may grant such access (supervised, on a case-by-case basis), it is not required; any of the information that is located on a company computer is company property. In a sensitive situation it’s always good to let us know ahead of time so we can help you prepare for a well-managed and secure transition.

Why You Should Encrypt Your Email

April 29, 2011 3:00 pm

We often send out highly sensitive, if not confidential, information through our email accounts such as banking information, passwords, pictures, and more. But how many of us actually take time to make sure the emails we send out are secure? Here is a guide for keeping your email away from prying eyes. Encrypting email is relatively easy with today’s software. Usually it involves the use of a public key and a private key. The public key is available to everyone, and if you want to send someone an email message you would use that person’s public key to encrypt that message. That person in turn would use his private key, to which only he has access, to decode that message. Software such as the latest versions of Microsoft Outlook supports this feature , and even flags you if the recipient’s email software does not support encryption. Some systems take it a step further by allowing you to digitally sign your emails, so that other people can verify that it is you who actually sent the email and not someone else. This is especially important since hackers sometimes spoof or impersonate the identities of others to fool unsuspecting users. If you are interested in finding out more about email encryption and security, contact us today to find out how we can help make sure your messages are safe and secure.

Japan’s Lesson

April 28, 2011 3:00 pm

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the eastern coast of Japan was not a local event; it triggered a tsunami warning for Southern California, impacting many American companies — and reminding all of us just how important it is to have a Business Continuity Plan. What Japan Can Teach Us about Business Continuity When a powerful earthquake rocked northeast Japan in March 2011, the impact was felt across the globe — a powerful reminder of how important disaster recovery plans are to all businesses. You may think of disasters as being relatively rare events, like earthquakes—but however rare in any one location, events such as these can have an effect on many other locations. Case in point: According to Bloomberg, at least 35 companies derive 15 percent or more of their sales from Japan. Among them are Aflac (an insurance company), Rambus (a memory-chip interface manufacturer), and Coach (a retailer). For example, Japan generated about 75 percent of Aflac’s 2010 sales. American ports and shippers were also affected:  the Port of Los Angeles temporarily suspended the transfer of hazardous materials and bunkering fuel operations. The point is that disasters, whether acts of nature or man-made mishaps, can strike unexpectedly at any organization. Recovering from a catastrophe can be very demanding, expensive, and time consuming — especially for those who haven’t taken preventative measures and preparations. What can you do to prepare? Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), which will enable your business to resume normal operations after a significant data loss or network downtime due to natural disasters, sabotage, theft, or equipment failure. Even if you already have a BCP, it’s important to make sure that your plan is flexible and scalable, and can adapt to the natural changes that your business undergoes. For example, software and hardware installations, updates, and modifications are an important part of business continuity planning. Your data should be properly and regularly backed up, and you need storage and recovery systems and procedures that are continually updated with changes that constantly occur in your IT. In addition to having a flexible and scalable BCP, you also need a highly skilled IT staff that is up to speed on the importance of backup and recovery of data. It’s important that this staff is properly trained to implement your BCP in the event that your business experiences a major data loss. Unfortunately, companies routinely suffer significant data loss because they discover the errors in their systems too late — usually while trying to recover the data. Your business is important to you — and to us, too. We’re here to help you create or fine-tune a BCP that is best suited to your unique business needs, as well as prepare and assist your staff in implementing the plan should it become necessary. Contact us for more details.

New Features in Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard

April 25, 2011 3:30 pm

Microsoft has made business operations much simpler and more accessible through the new Windows Small Business Server 2011. Packed with enhanced features and improvements, it is a must for every small business. Microsoft has released an upgrade to its Small Business Server Platform – Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard. Based on the Windows SBS 2008, it carries most of the easy-to-use features that have made it a standard in many businesses, plus several new features that make it a much more efficient and effective business tool. Some key features of Windows SBS 2011 Standard include: the ability to recover files with automatic backup in case files and documents get compromised or lost; the ability to share documents and files from a central hub; access to information both in and outside the office; and new business software and application compatibilities. Microsoft has also made the migration of data and other information from the old platform much easier, based on input from partners who tested the software during the beta phase of its development. Other major changes that Windows SBS 2011 addresses are upgrades to both the Exchange Server and SharePoint foundation, as well as the SQL server. The upgrade also provides better remote access and better security, as well as an easier-to-use internal website that serves as a hub for users and clients to access information and data. If your business is running Windows Small Business Server 2008, it might make sense to upgrade. If you would like to know more about how this upgraded platform can help your business, please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide a free assessment of your options.

Why Go Paperless?

April 18, 2011 3:00 pm

Businesses are constantly looking for ways to maximize productivity and minimize costs without compromising the quality of their output. One of the simplest ways you can go about this is through creating a paperless office. As companies are not only being more conscious of the environmental impact of how they do business but also of how they can create a much more efficient and productive system for operations, one trend that has emerged over the years is the move towards making offices use less paper. While this may seem like a small issue, it actually impacts your business more than you might think. Just calculate the cost of buying paper for your entire business over the course of a whole year. A transition to a paperless office can not only save money, but can also affect operations by making things much more convenient and efficient. Here are some advantages of going paperless: 1.  Cost effectiveness Going paperless significantly reduces costs spent on buying not only paper, but also costly printer consumables such as toner and inks. You also lessen the overall usage of your printers, reducing maintenance and repair costs and increasing the lifetime of your printer. 2.  Neater and greener One of the most obvious advantages of going paperless is that it makes everything much neater. Remember those messy IN and OUT trays you couldn’t make heads or tails of? All gone. And with less paper to throw away, there’s also less waste. Plus, it’s much more environmentally friendly – using less paper, disposable printer consumables, and electricity means you’re doing your part to have a green office. 3.  Save space Storing paper requires file cabinets, and file cabinets take up space. In one example, a company converted the massive documentation they were required to archive to digital copies, and eliminated an entire room of file cabinets. They were then able to use that valuable square footage as office space for a new salesperson. 4.  Better security A paperless operation also enables you to better secure the data that you store. For example, you can set limits on the kind of data and information that is available to employees and workers based on their position and job description. Unlike file cabinets that can be broken into easily, causing possible theft or lost, storing data and information electronically not only makes it much more difficult to obtain that data, but online backups also give you a contingency in case of unforeseen circumstances or natural disasters that can compromise your data. 5.  Better productivity Electronic storage and data management allow authorized employees to have access to information faster and more efficiently. A simple query or search term allows employees to find what they need in a jiffy, allowing them to get their assigned tasks done faster. With well organized file sharing and other document collaboration options, your people can get the documents they need in real time. 6.  Telecommuting and remote working Enabling your team to work from home and while on the road is a key to productivity and keeping your company nimble. However, when you’re out of the office nothing is more frustrating than not having access to a document you need to act on. When your documents are in digital format, you and your employees have the information and documents they need at their fingertips to keep moving forward. Different businesses need different systems and approaches to going paperless. If you’re interested in a paperless office, please contact us and we’ll be happy to present a solution that best meets your unique requirements.

Twitter Turns 5 and Continues as a Powerful Social Networking Tool

April 6, 2011 3:30 pm

Twitter is now five years old, and the social networking website famous for its 140-character “tweets” continues to make waves as both a powerful social networking and social marketing tool. Social networking and “microblogging” site Twitter turned five years old recently, a testament to how effective this kind of approach to social networking is. And in those five short years, the number of users has ballooned to up to 200 million, sending around 140 million tweets a day around the world – and the number continues to grow. March 21, 2006 marked the day Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet that read, “just setting up my twttr.” Since then, people have used the service to broadcast all sorts of things, provided they stay within the 140-character limit – from what they ate that day to updates about news and current affairs. Much more relevant to businesses, though, is how Twitter has become an integral part of internet and social media marketing. Twitter offers a plethora of advantages that enable businesses to share information on the web much faster than traditional means. And it’s not only for small businesses. Big organizations such as ESPN (@espn, 1,098,906 followers), Dell (@DellOutlet, 1,581,201 followers), and Amazon (@amazondeals, 204,838 folowers) use Twitter’s wide reach and large audience to update about promotions, events, and other information. Twitter enables businesses to get in touch with audiences and gain feedback almost instantly. It’s a win-win deal – clients get to say what they want in a short, brief 140-character tweet, and businesses can respond and make the necessary improvements very efficiently. Twitter also helps direct more traffic and visitors to websites and gives the impression of a hands-on, responsive service (provided website updates are timely and relevant). The platform on which Twitter operates makes for a fast-paced exchange of information that, with the right marketing strategies, can be very advantageous for businesses. If you want to know more about how to harness this very effective medium to beef up your internet marketing efforts, give us a call and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and create strategies that meet your needs.

Battling Stubborn Bandwidth Hogs

April 4, 2011 3:30 pm

Major sporting events can be a cause for concern for business owners and managers as employees shift their attention from work to keeping themselves updated through video streaming or engaging in online gambling. It’s important that you have the right tools at your disposal to keep things in check. One of the many challenges businesses face is managing bandwidth and keeping productivity at a maximum. These challenges are especially apparent during major sporting events when hundreds of hours of productivity are lost to non-work activities. During these times, many sports fanatics do their best to stay updated with the latest news in sporting events. And while there is nothing wrong with being a fan, there is a problem when office hours – not to mention precious bandwidth – are wasted on these unproductive activities. Besides video streaming live telecasts or replays of matches and games, there are also those who engage in online betting and gambling, especially during the final legs of a tournament or competition. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some employees to spend the majority of their time at the office on these pursuits, with little to zero accomplishments for the day. The problem is truly a serious one, with studies showing millions of dollars in productivity lost during popular sporting events. That’s beside the bandwidth wasted on what is, from a professional standpoint, useless and irrelevant activities. Naturally, the value of losses in productivity and bandwidth vary from company to company, but any loss is a loss that affects your bottom line. The good news is that these kinds of situations can be prevented. With the right software, you can be immediately alerted when a particular workstation is consuming an unusual amount of bandwidth. This will not only help you cut off the bandwidth usage, but also help you identify employees who are wasting company resources. You can even use this software to catch people who might be illegally downloading content from the web through torrent or peer-to-peer programs, which also pose security threats to your system. If you’d like to learn more about solutions to better manage your bandwidth and productivity, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss a customized approach for your organization.

Outsourcing Your Wi-Fi Hotspot

March 28, 2011 3:30 pm

More and more people are demanding that business establishments they visit provide free Wi-Fi. Setting up the hotspot network yourself might seem to be a good idea, but you’re probably missing a lot of fundamental security protocols that leave your network open to abuse. Many businesses have seen the demand for free Wi-Fi at their establishments jump drastically, as more and more people feel the need to be online as often as possible for personal and business purposes. In response to this demand, one of the most common solutions is to allow clients and customers to use the business’s existing internal network. Some companies provide a password, while others simply leave the connection open to all. However, a better solution is to have an outsourced service or company provide the Wi-Fi hotspot you allow others to use for free. Why? One of the most important benefits is security. Companies trying to handle their own Wi-Fi hotspots – especially small businesses without in-house IT resources – are likely to make fundamental mistakes that leave their networks vulnerable and exposed to abuse and infiltration. Outsourced Wi-Fi providers are experts in giving you a secure system that protects your own network and by extension, your business. Another benefit of using an outsourced Wi-Fi hotspot provider is that you also have greater control over the network, allowing you to impose rules such as bandwidth and website limits. You can also determine whether you want to require the people who’ll be using the hotspot to log in with a password (which you provide), or simply enjoy an open connection. Another important point is the marketing that comes with the free Wi-Fi service – while you are providing your clients with a free internet connection, your primary goal is to promote your business. If you want to know more about outsourced Wi-Fi, feel free to contact us so we can discuss a custom blueprint for a Wi-Fi hotspot for your business.

How Skype TV is Changing Businesses Around the World

March 21, 2011 2:00 pm

Skype, together with its partners Panasonic and Samsung, has developed the first generation of Skype-enabled TVs that allow you to call and receive video calls from anyone who has Skype, and make video calls to users with Skype (v5.0+) for Windows or Mac on their computers or laptops. Technology continues to evolve each day, and the internet especially has made life easier and more convenient. You can shop online, conduct research from any location, bank online, and even have meetings and conferences online. There’s no need to fly from one state or country to another for board meetings, and no need to pay for expensive telephone bills for conference calls. Downloadable internet programs allow you to meet as long as you want, and if both parties have downloaded the same program – it’s free. One such program is Skype. Skype is a software application that enables registered users to make voice calls and group chats over the internet, as well as use offline messaging, instant messaging, and chat history storage. Calls between Skype users are free, and calls to landline and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. In January 2006, video conferencing between two users was introduced, and in 2010 Skype began offering free video conferencing with up to 5 people. Today, Skype has brought video conferencing a step further:  to your widescreen TV. The Skype-enabled TV was developed by David Dinka and his team as a result of interviews conducted worldwide asking respondents about their communication needs. The interviews uncovered a common desire to be able to speak to their colleagues, family, and friends from a more comfortable place than their desks, and they prefer to make video calls on a big screen. Together with its partners Panasonic and Samsung, Skype has developed the first generation of Skype-enabled TVs that allow you to call and receive video calls from anyone who has Skype. You can also video call users with Skype for Windows or Mac (version 5.0 and above) on their computers or laptops. How does it work? You’ll need a Skype-enabled TV (Sony and VIZIO will also offer models later this year) and a webcam developed specifically to work with your TV and Skype. These special webcams have built-in microphones that allow you to make calls from a distance without having to shout or move closer to the TV. Some Panasonic TVs will even allow you to make HD video calls. To maximize your video calls, it’s recommended that you have a 1Mbs symmetric broadband connection. For entrepreneurs with several offices around the country or even around the world, this will be especially useful, allowing them to link offices and have a full-time video connection for free. And with Skype TV, you won’t have to stay glued to your desk staring into the small screen of your computer during conference calls. You can be seated comfortably on your sofa with a clear view of everyone involved. And because the service is free, you won’t have to worry about rushing through meetings to keep operation costs down. You get your work done at the pace that you set. For more details about Skype TV, please visit the Skype website:  www.skype.com.

A Primer of Softphone Technology for PABX

March 14, 2011 2:00 pm

Softphones make communication much easier by using an internet connection to make a call. But for businesses, PABX softphones offer much more secure communication for your day-to-day operations. Technology has always had a profound impact on the way we do business, especially these days with the constant need to stay in touch with bosses, clients, and co-workers. A breakdown in communication often means a dip in productivity – so you always need to have the best and most effective means of communication at your disposal. One of these means is softphones, which are basically software programs that allow you to make calls in much the same way as you do using a telephone or mobile device, except it’s through your internet connection. The most popular softphones include Skype, MagicJack, or Yahoo Messenger’s call feature. However, there are also softphone technologies that can utilize your PABX (private automatic branch exchange) network, which – while more limited in a general sense – are much better for businesses because of the security they offer. Softphones on PABX work better for business purposes because of the nature of the PABX networks themselves. The privacy and exclusivity for your business communications are maintained, and PABX softphones make communication convenient without compromising security. If you want to know more about softphone technology for your PABX network, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss a detailed service blueprint that will work for you.

Understanding Private and Virtual Private Networks

March 7, 2011 2:00 pm

Why are companies rolling out their own private networks? Find out what private networks are and how you can benefit. The world is flat. That is if you ask New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman, who wrote a book of the same name describing just how the world got flatter and flatter thanks to a whole host of factors, one of which is technology. Technology — most notably computers, telecommunication devices, and the Internet — has allowed individuals and organizations to create, communicate, and collaborate like never before. One question that always pops up, however, is how to maintain privacy and security in this brave new world of greater transparency and connectedness. Until recently, the only way was through cumbersome and expensive means. Companies, especially large corporations, previously resorted to setting up their own infrastructure (think miles and miles of cable, satellite uplinks, or large line-of-sight communication links) or leasing infrastructure from telecommunication companies, just to be able to set up and maintain their own private and secure telecommunication networks that can span large distances. With the advent of the Internet, however, setting up private networks has become much cheaper and easier. Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, allow companies to create their own secure, private networks within the public network using technologies such as encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and the data within. The Internet is used only as the transport layer, radically reducing cost and time to set up because of its ubiquity, simplicity, and scalability. Examples of how a VPN can benefit your organization include the ability to: Allow your people to work anywhere at any time — as long as they have Internet access and VPN support. Link together your offices and employees anywhere in the world, securely and cost effectively. Extend your operations around the world — sell online, move goods across borders, recruit talent from anywhere! Can you think of other ways a VPN can help you and your organization? Let us know. Thinking of setting one up right away? Call us and find out how we can help.

What Are QR Codes, Anyway?

March 3, 2011 2:00 pm

In a society where more and more people are relying on smartphones to stay connected, internet marketing strategies must now incorporate smartphones into their approach. One way to do this is marketing through QR codes. Smartphones are becoming more and more popular these days, as both hardware and software developers add features to phones and operating systems that make them much more appealing to potential buyers. And as smartphone technology continues to improve in terms of providing more connectivity to the user – not only through the mobile network but to the internet as well – it follows that your internet marketing strategies will need to incorporate the smartphone factor. One simple strategy that you can employ is using QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, which are simple 2D barcodes that can be scanned using a smartphone. Numerous scanning applications are available to read these barcodes, and once read the code will redirect the user to any link you set up. QR Codes are also fairly easy to create, making them a great on-the-fly strategy if you want to market something quickly and easily. An additional strength of QR Code-driven marketing lies in the volume of people who use smartphones today – which gives you a large audience from the get go. For such a small piece of code, there are countless options for how you can use them to your advantage. If you are interested in learning more about using QR Codes, give us a call and we can come up with several strategies that can cater to your specific needs.

Dispelling the “Mac: No Malware” Myth

February 28, 2011 2:49 pm

Macs are famous for a lot of things – some true, some false. Unfortunately, being virus or malware-proof is one of the myths about the Mac that you need to be aware of. Just because many of the malware and viruses out there are targeted toward the Windows OS, Macs are not impervious to attack as well. And the operative word is “targeted”. Security firms and experts are learning that since people tend to be more complacent security-wise when using a Mac, they make for pretty ripe pickings for unscrupulous online scammers, fraudsters, and thieves. Not only are more security flaws being discovered on the Mac OS and programs, but also more viruses are being created that specifically target those vulnerabilities. Of course, the scale of the threat can be debated – but while it is true that more viruses and malware are designed for Windows, it’s also true that some of these viruses can be applicable to Macs as well, in addition to those specifically designed to attack the Mac OS platforms. If you aren’t convinced, then this video might just turn you into a believer. Here, a Mac anti-virus program catches a would-be Trojan. And that’s just one of the many hundreds of thousands of Mac viruses and malware out there. Is it sound business practice to take risks with your system security? Whether you use Windows or Mac, you need malware protection – because too often all it takes is a single incident to bring your whole system on its knees. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options with you and offer a tailor-made security solution that is guaranteed to keep you safe, regardless of which OS you’re using.

Windows Phone 7: A Primer

February 25, 2011 1:00 pm

With the many choices today in smartphone platforms, one new contender stands out from the pack – Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s new smartphone OS. A growing tech trend these days is the steady increase of smartphone use, as more and more people discover the value – both business and personal – of constant connection to the internet and the ability to remain productive even on the go. There are many options to choose from, and one very viable and promising smartphone platform/OS that’s making waves recently is the new Windows Phone 7 OS, released late last year. A successor of sorts to Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, WP7 has been rebuilt from the ground up and is packed with new features designed to make it perform at par (or better in some cases) than the competition. One major improvement in Windows Phone 7 is the new user interface, which is much more fluid and easy to navigate. It also allows for more customization and organization according to user preferences. Another plus for the platform is the generally faster performance, as well as the smooth response of the virtual keyboard. The WP7 OS will also be available in different smartphones, so you need not worry about it being locked to a single device. A downside of Windows Phone 7 is the lack of applications at this time, though this is largely due to the relative newness of the platform. However, reviews of Windows Phone 7 have been largely positive, and more apps are expected to become available as the platform gains steam in the market. So if you are in the market for a new smartphone, in addition to checking out the standard leaders such as iPhone, Blackberry, and the Google Android-based smartphones, you might want to consider giving the Windows Phone 7 a look as well.

Phishing 101

February 21, 2011 2:30 pm

What makes a phishing message tick? Identify phishing messages from the get go and stop yourself from becoming another statistic. Online oracle Wikipedia defines phishing as: “the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.” We probably don’t need to tell you what kind of damage unscrupulous people can do with that kind of data in their hands. This is why it’s important to identify phishing messages from the get go and prevent becoming a victim. What makes a phishing message tick? How are they different from spam? What makes phishing different from spam is that phishing messages masquerade as official correspondence from a trusted source. While spam can be filtered, many phishing messages manage to bypass these filters precisely because they seem to be legitimate messages. They can be disguised as communication from your bank, your credit card company, or even from a large company such as Microsoft or Google, or social networking sites like Facebook, or MySpace. These messages come complete with official-sounding content and even logos stolen from the legit websites. The website links in the message, however, direct you to a fraudulent but official-looking website where you are asked to divulge personal information. You can check these links by simply hovering your mouse pointer over them – watch out for misspelled or faked / masked websites. Sometimes a telephone number is posted, and when called, you are asked for personal information. Remember, legitimate companies never ask for your password or similar data. Another identifying factor: phishers bait people with everything from ultimatums (such as a deadline or expiry date) to shocking statements (such as, “you’ve won a hundred thousand dollars!”). These kinds of phrases are designed to create a sense of urgency, making users fill out forms and click on links without fully considering the consequences. If you want to know more about phishing and how you can safeguard yourself against it, we’ll be happy to fill you in and discuss a customized security plan to keep you fully protected.

Apps That Can Help You Find Your Lost Gadget

February 14, 2011 3:00 pm

With multiple gadgets being used by a single person, one is bound get misplaced occasionally – or worse, stolen. This can be very annoying and even devastating, but there are certain apps can help. Technology has become part of mankind’s daily existence. Everywhere you look, somebody is sporting a new gadget or two, and sometimes even more. In fact, many use a cell phone, laptop computer, iPod, and even an iPad as part of their daily routines. With multiple gadgets being used by a single person, one is bound get misplaced occasionally – or worse, stolen. This can be very annoying and even devastating, especially if the gadget contains sensitive information. Fortunately, with ongoing improvements in technology, manufacturers of many gadgets have also developed apps that can help locate a lost or stolen gadget. 1.       Find My iPhone, Find My iPad, and Find My iPod touch These three apps work the same way, featuring MobileMe, and now they’re free on every iPhone 4, iPad, and iPod touch 4 th generation with iOS 4.2. If you misplace your gadget, you just sign in to me.com using any computer web browser (or use the Find My iPhone, iPad or IPod touch app on another device) to display the misplaced gagdet’s approximate location on a map. Another option is to write a message and display it on the screen of your gadget. Your message will appear even if the screen is locked. Also, if your gadget is nearby but you can’t find it because it’s under a pile of papers or your bed, you can tell Find My iPhone to play a sound that will override the gadget’s volume or silent setting. 2.       Lookout The Lookout app supports Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile. With this app, you can locate your missing phone on a map from your PC or from another smartphone. If your phone is nearby and you still can’t find it, you can sound an alarm which will play even if your phone is on silent. 3.       BlueRetriever The BlueRetriever app supports Apple (iPhone original, iPhone 3G/3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch), Blackberry (Curve, Storm, Bold, Pearl), Palm (Pre), and Google (G1). This app enables you to create a wallpaper for your phone that includes a site URL and ID number on it. When someone finds your phone, they just go to the website and type in the ID number to learn who owns the phone. With this app, you have the option to offer a reward, which you can set up to $100 in gift cards from Amazon, Target, or Starbucks, or you can give donations with Kiva. 4.       iTag The iTag app supports the Android phone. If you misplace your Android, you can view its location using the website, and you can also make it ring even if it is in silent mode or vibrate. So there’s no longer need to need to panic if you lose your cell phone. Just make use of these apps to help secure your phone or other gadget from loss or theft.

New Potentially Dangerous Vulnerability Found in Windows

February 10, 2011 4:00 pm

New vulnerability can potentially allow hackers to remotely control PCs A new vulnerability found in Microsoft’s Windows operating system can potentially open up your PC to remote attackers. On top of compromising the data within your PC, hackers can also introduce malware into the vulnerable machines to possibly enlist them unwittingly in criminal botnet rings. The newly found bug is particularly dangerous as it can be triggered by just viewing a folder containing a specially crafted image thumbnail, or opening up a malicious graphic file which can be embedded in any Office document. The bug exists in the Windows graphics rendering engine, and although Microsoft has acknowledged the issue, no fix has yet been released. Users of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008 are affected by the bug. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, the latest versions of Windows for PCs and servers respectively, are not affected. Users are advised to be vigilant in monitoring patches or fixes from Microsoft and make sure to install a fix when one does become available. No time or resources to do so? We offer services that can help automate the process of monitoring, updating, and managing your systems for you. Get in touch with us today.

Has Your Email Account been Hacked?

February 2, 2011 9:55 am

Your email account contains much of your private information. If this vital info gets into the hands of email hackers they can do a lot of harm to you and all your email contacts. Email hacking is becoming a common problem of web users. As more people have become dependent on the internet for almost everything they need, a vast amount of sensitive information is now within reach of unscrupulous individuals known as hackers. Cybertopcops.com defines a hacker as “someone who gains unauthorized access to a computer system.” Most hackers just like the thrill of breaking through a computer security system, but there are others who may not be as harmless. Some hack into email accounts and use all the sensitive information that they can access, for own their benefit. How can you tell if your email was hacked? You can’t log into your email account. Your sent folder contains messages that you never sent. Your email contacts inform you that they have been receiving spam messages from your account. What can you do if your email has been hacked? Change your password. If you learn that your email has been hacked, change your password immediately. Choose one that won’t be guessed easily. Check all your other accounts: email, social networks, blogs, etc. Many people use one password for all their accounts because it’s easier to remember. While this may be more convenient, think of the major losses you could suffer if a hacker gets into all your accounts. Delete all accounts that you have not been using for a long time. Hackers love to get into email accounts that you don’t use anymore, since it takes a longer time for you to realize that you’ve been hacked – giving the hacker more time to do damage. Send an apology to all your email contacts. While most internet users are aware that email hackers are the ones sending the spam, some may not understand and may be angry with you. So, it is best to send all your email contacts an explanation and an apology. How can you prevent hackers from getting into your email account? Choose a password that cannot be easily guessed. Many people use easy-to-guess passwords such as their own names with their birthdates at the end, which is very easy for hackers to crack. It’s best to combine upper case and lower case letters along with numbers and symbols such as the ampersand, dollar or percent sign. Change your password at regular intervals. To make it more difficult for email hackers to crack your password, change your password every one to three months. Avoid giving your email address to every website that asks for it. Give your email address only to people and organizations that you trust. Some websites exist only to sending out malware or spyware. Think twice before you provide your email address to websites that you browse. The internet has certainly made life a lot more convenient but unfortunately, it’s also made it easier for hackers so you must be vigilant. Take all necessary precautions so that your email account is always secure.

Beware of Search Engine Registration Scams!

January 24, 2011 1:00 pm

Scammers are getting sneakier these days, using increasingly underhanded tactics to bait unsuspecting victims. One new scam involves asking for a “registration fee” for getting better visibility on search engine search results. As more and more people are becoming increasingly conscious about online scams, it’s expected that scammers and fraudsters need to step up their game and look for better ways to fool people into falling for their swindles. One new tactic these unscrupulous people have employed involves a notice or invoice sent to would-be victims indicating a need to pay a registration fee to be seen on a search engine. The price isn’t very high, less than $100, for a year’s “registration”. The notice claims that without the registration your website will be significantly more difficult to locate through search engines. It also sends you a deadline date indicating that the offer expires soon. The fact is, there is no such thing as an online “registration” for your website to be viewable in search engines. It’s still plain old SEO that gets you listed and seen, and no registration, much less a registration fee, is needed to be included in search engine search results. Cases have been filed against several companies caught sending such invoices. If you want your website to be marketed correctly, it’s best to consult legitimate internet marketing and SEO companies. They’ll give you all the right advice and they’ll have the tools and skills to market your website properly. As for these “offers”, the best thing is to delete them on sight. Don’t click on the links, as these also flag your email as a target for more spam and scams to be sent your way. If you are looking to increase your website’s online visibility, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss a detailed and customized program SEO program that works for you.

Malware Virus Now Targets USB Devices

January 17, 2011 3:00 pm

Plug-in USB devices, such as thumb drives, USB storage hard drives, are a very popular method of transferring digital files. However, they have also lately become a hacker’s favorite way of spreading malware. Find out why your company might be vulnerable to malicious software (malware) brought by infected USB devices. A USB device is indeed a useful, economical way to transfer data. In fact, according to Gartner IT research and advisory company, there were roughly 222 million USB devices shipped in 2009. However, a recent study shows that though USB devices are a convenient means of transferring information, they can also serve as channels to transmit potential threats. In fact, 25% of malware these days is built to spread via USB devices. Most small businesses particularly are utilizing USB drives for the convenience they bring. But as consumers become more technically savvy about malicious attacks via email and other modes, cyber offenders are now shifting to USB devices to spread malware. Moreover, they want an easier and faster way of hacking into secured computers, making malware distribution via USB devices a viable option. Being a small to medium-sized business, your company might also be at risk for the following reasons: Outdated operating systems. Newer versions of operating systems like Windows Vista and Windows 7 definitely provide more security against malware-infected USB devices. If you’re still running on Windows XP, contact us immediately and we will update your operating system to avoid unwillingly sharing your confidential business information to servers across the globe. We will ensure that you have the latest version of Windows, Macintosh, or whatever OS your company uses. Insufficient security knowledge. Not all employees are familiar with malware attacks via USB devices. Some may even plug a misplaced flash drive into their work PC, hoping to find its rightful owner—without knowing that it contains a script that can search sales record and or contact list. As your IT service provider, we will help you implement security guidelines against unsafe USB use to prevent potential malware attacks that can ultimately harm your business operations. No other options to share information. Most small businesses solely rely on USB devices to share data with their employees. While it is convenient, using them on a daily basis can be unreliable and risky. Talk to us about cloud-based solutions and other better and more secure methods to share and store files. We believe that USB-spread malware is even more perilous than email and other means of transmitting malware.  That’s why companies, no matter how big or small, should take this alarming issue seriously. Contact us soon and let us help you protect your business from any would-be malware attacks.

Beware of Malware-Infected Websites

January 10, 2011 3:00 pm

Security firm Dasient warns users against the rising number of malware-infected websites. Dasient , a company specializing in combating malware on websites, has released a new report claiming that over 1.2 million websites were found to be infected by malware in the third quarter of 2010 , more than double the number during same period last year. These infected websites are especially dangerous since, unlike other forms of malware vectors, they don’t require the user to click on a link or open an attachment. They infect users through “drive-by-downloads” or by just visiting the infected website. Hackers take advantage of the dynamic and interactive features of today’s modern websites and social networking sites to deliver their payload. Other dangerous forms of infected websites are those hosting fake antivirus scams, which fool users into downloading malware posing as legitimate antivirus software, as well as malvertisements, which pose as legitimate advertisements but instead are malware vectors. With the growing threat of malware, how confident are you that your systems are safe? Contact us today and find out how we can help.

Latest Hands-Free Apps that Help You Check Your Emails and Text Messages on the Road

January 6, 2011 8:45 pm

The DriveSafe.ly by iSpeech.Org and the Text’nDrive app for Blackberry or iPhone are just two of the latest hands-free apps on the market. These apps rely on text-to-speech technology to read messages to users in a human-like voice, while replies are attached as an audio clip or transcribed back into text before sending. Technology continues to bring out the best in modern inventors today. Mobile devices are updated every few years, and many apps are developed and added to these gadgets, mostly with the purpose of making life easier and perhaps more fun for the users. These days, in addition to desktop computers and laptops, you can get work done with the use of your iPhones, Android, Blackberry, and many other smartphones and mobile devices. However, the increase in the capabilities of mobile devices to include texting and other conveniences has also increased the number of vehicular accidents. As a result, many states have passed laws demanding that drivers only use cellphones that have “hands-free” devices like the Bluetooth and ear buds. The latest trend in mobile working is gadgets or services that use text-to-speech technology to read your text-based correspondence in a human-like voice, and in some cases, even allows you to reply verbally, attaching the reply as an audio clip or transcribed back into text before sending. Examples of these apps are the DriveSafe.ly by iSpeech.Org and the Text’nDrive app for Blackberry or iPhone. These tools can be very handy while on the road, and may seem to be good solutions to making workers more effective – but there are still safety concerns. According to Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst from London, Ontario, “While these new apps hold the promise of maintaining productivity while on the go, they ignore the basic fact that even hands-free communication at the wheel can be a dangerous proposition.” Scott Steinberg, CEO and lead technology analyst for TechSavvy Global in Seattle, Washington agrees with Levy on safety concerns, but says, “. . . this is better than holding the phone up to your ear, which also may be illegal in your state, and certainly safer than texting or emailing while driving.” Steinberg adds that these apps do a “pretty good job … That said, hearing your emails is fine, but those who send out replies will still need to double-check messages if they’ve been transcribed into text to ensure it’s accurate.” While these apps can certainly help you and your employees be more productive, we should always remember that any action taken while driving, even if it’s just talking on the phone with a hands-free kit, is distracting. Perhaps the best policy is to wait until you get to your destination. It’s safer, and you can focus solely on your work.

Are You in Compliance with Identity Theft Regulations?

January 3, 2011 4:12 pm

The federal government’s Red Flag Rule requires all businesses that are potential identity theft targets develop plans to spot red flags and prevent theft. How can you comply? Regulations designed to minimize identity theft went into effect in June of 2010. Are you complying with them? The federal government’s so-called “Red Flag Rule” requires all businesses that are potential identity-theft targets develop plans to spot red flags and prevent theft. Red flags include suspicious photo IDs, unverifiable addresses and Social Security numbers, and questionable account activity, to name just a few. While many companies think the Red Flag Rule only applies to financial institutions, it actually applies to all creditors — with creditors being defined as “businesses or organizations that regularly provide goods and services first and allow customers to pay later,” according to a Frequently Asked Questions guide prepared by the Federal Trade Commission, which will enforce the Red Flag Rule. In other words, if you invoice customers for your goods or services, you’re a creditor — and the Red Flag Rule applies to you. How can you comply?  You’ll need to have a written policy that specifically addresses how you will prevent and handle identity theft. Other recommendations include data encryption, annual updates of your written policy, and staff training. While this may seem onerous, you don’t want to ignore the legislation. Fines are $3,500 per violation — and the threat of a lawsuit from customers whose identity has been stolen. Related articles Do You Comply with the FTC’s Red Flag Fule?

Useful Tools to Effectively Connect with Your Followers on Twitter

December 30, 2010 5:00 pm

Twitter is arguably the most popular and widely used microblogging platform on Internet today. Though each post is limited to only 140 characters, there are various Twitter applications that you can use to easily connect with your network and enhance your Twitter experience. There are countless Twitter tools and apps available today. Here’s a list of six that are sure to be useful and effective in building relationships with your Twitter followers. The first section introduces some basic tools, which you can skip if you’re already a Twitter expert. The second section describes tools that you may not have previously heard of, but are worth checking out since they can boost visibility, traffic, and clients. The Basics Link Shorteners – Most Tweets (posts) on Twitter are not the usual “what I had for lunch” Tweets, but are more often people sharing links of articles, videos, photos, and more. Sharing links is a great way to help people better understand your field of interest and expertise while also helping them discover great content online. However, many links are very long, and do not fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit – so as the term implies, a link shortener shortens a specific link/URL. Try sites like Bit.ly , TinyURL and tr.im to easily condense your very long URLs into just 15-20 characters, leaving you room to comment.In addition to the practical need of shorter URLs, a majority of these tools also provide useful tracking reports so you can monitor the number of people who clicked on your links, which were the most popular, the dates when people clicked them, as well as give you an idea which topics are the most popular with your Twitter community. TweetMeme – That ever-present gray and green “re-tweet” logo enables readers to quickly re-post or “re-tweet” your post to their own Twitter followers. TweetMeme is a wonderful means to encourage your audience to spread the news about your status, tips, and words of wisdom.Like link shorteners, TweetMeme also tracks your links as they pass through the Twitterverse, and shows the total number of times your link was re-tweeted. Aside from helping you determine the popularity of given topics, it also lets the feisty competitor in us compare the success of our posts versus others and even ourselves. TwitPic – This is one of the numerous tools that let you take pictures with your mobile phone and post them directly on Twitter. Other similar tools are: TwitGoo , img.ly and yfrog . These tools are also usually integrated into whatever Twitter mobile application you’re using. You can also obtain statistics to monitor responses on your pictures. You can still also opt to link your followers to a Flickr account, Facebook page, or a web page that displays your pictures. Cast your Twitter net even farther… There are a lot of nifty Twitter applications out there that will help you create a solid and engaged community. When you’re ready to take your Twitter skills to the next level, below are three tools to get you started. TweetSwell – This great app allows you to create Twitter-based polls, wherein each reply doubles as a tweet and helps the poll become viral. TweetSwell  can also help maintain your brand identity by ensuring that your poll pages are synchronized with your custom-made Twitter layout. Similar apps are: Twtpoll and TwtSurvey . TwtVite – Somewhat related to Eventbrite , TwtVite enables you to use Twitter to get together in the real world. Check out the animated video to get a feel for how it works. For an actual example, read this case study about a Milwaukee bar owner who used TwtVite in hosting the biggest Tweetup in the Midwest . TwtQpon – Online coupons offer small businesses a fantastic opportunity to drive lots of new and repeat clients. This app creates online coupons that can be published on Twitter and many other social network sites. While apps such as Groupon and Living Social can also make online coupons, TwtQpon is specifically designed for social networks.

Beware Software Bogeymen

December 27, 2010 3:05 pm

Malicious cyber thieves might be scaring you into buying and downloading software that may harm your computer. Security firm McAfee has published a report early in the year showing that up to a million people worldwide fall victim to so-called “scareware” each year. Scareware, or rogueware, is software that poses as legitimate security software but in reality are dupes to steal credit card information from users, or even worse are Trojan Horses to spread malware. Scareware is distributed primarily through the Internet via malicious websites that pop out windows that fool users into thinking their system may be infected. Users who click on the popup windows are redirected to a website which encourages them to buy fake security software online. Scareware are especially dangerous as it hits users in many ways: by duping them out of their money, injecting viruses or other forms of malware into their system, or even holding them ransom — for instance, by taking over users’ systems then demanding more payment to free the data stored in the infected computer. It’s a good thing that there are many ways to protect your system against scareware. One is using security software from legitimate and well established software vendors — through their legitimate sales channels. Another is by being prudent with offers and downloads when online. For a small business there are other ways such as blocking or filtering these malicious websites to ensure the security of the entire business. If you want to find out more about these solutions to protect small business networks — let us know. We offer managed security services for small business that can protect against online threats.

When Did You Last Update Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

December 23, 2010 5:00 pm

If success is what you aspire to, you need to know what to do when unexpected events cause harm or hassle to your business. You need to be prepared, and you need to know exactly what steps to take to solve the possible plagues to your business when they happen. As you know, businesses must continually evolve, and as a savvy business owner you constantly respond to changes in the market by adjusting your products, services, systems, and processes to meet these changing demands. Your disaster recovery plan should get the same treatment. If it doesn’t, it’s almost as bad as having no plan at all. For example, imagine that the raw materials for your main product did not arrive in time, and you don’t have any stock left. What do you do? Panic? Even the most seemingly minor complication can become a major cause of worry, so it’s always best to be ready when trying times come along. Proper risk management is a must for a successful business. Therefore, the possession of a disaster recovery plan may make or break your business. Therefore, it’s a good idea to review and update your disaster contingency plan every now and then – especially when your business has gone through any type of change. It’s also recommended that you test out what plan is effective for your company, then document what works and what doesn’t. Use this information to adjust your plan as needed. A disaster recovery plan is not just simply a handy thing to have – it’s a necessity. If you don’t have one, or if you think yours might be outdated, you should make this a top priority. If you need help you can always contact us. We’ll guide you every step of the way in coming up the best disaster recovery plan to keep your business safe and sound.

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

December 21, 2010 4:30 pm

Many companies and businesses give in to the temptation to use pirated software, thereby saving on costs. But in the long run, this will prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. Times and technology may have changed drastically through the years, but the good old values of honesty and integrity still hold. With pirated and illegal software experiencing great popularity these days, with virtually every software program known to man floating around in various easy-to-find sources and websites. And since they are free of charge – no need to pay fees for licensing or updates – it’s hardly surprising that many businesses are tempted to cut a few corners and save on costs by using pirated software. Microsoft programs in particular are considered to be one of the most pirated in the world. Since they are widely used, many businesses, big or small, cannot afford to do without them. And more than a few have used or are using pirated software. This is why Microsoft is taking on a new approach to fighting piracy: publicly exposing offenders. Microsoft recently named several offenders who admitted to ‘hard disk loading’, which is selling PCs with pirated software pre-installed. Microsoft has identified Selectweb in Lancashire, Computer Trading in West Sussex, Tech Computers in the West Midlands, PC Academy and Impact Computers in Preston, Call-Tech Support (CTS) in Bolton, PC Practitioners in Derbyshire, MSB Computers in Blackburn, Multi Tech Systems and Ossett PC Centre in West Yorkshire. Many have since mended their ways – it hardly sits well with clients when they discover that their supplier / reseller uses what is basically stolen software – but the damage has already been done. So learn from the mistakes of others, and start using only licensed, legal software. Need more information? We can help make sure your software if above the board so you stay out of trouble.

Investing in Smartphone Damage Protection

December 20, 2010 1:00 pm

A  Smartphone is lightweight and portable, making it very prone to accidental drops. Not only do you risk damaging the phone itself, you also risk losing valuable data stored in the device. Many businesses all over the world issue Smartphones to their employees. While they can seem expensive for many small to medium-sized business owners, with the greater amount of work done at a faster pace, Smartphones are an ideal business solution. However, since Smartphones are lightweight and portable they are carried around everywhere, making them very prone to accidental drops. Despite the advances in technology, some Smartphones are more prone to damage than others. Touchscreens are generally more susceptible to damage because they usually don’t have an extra layer of plastic on their screens. And when these devices are damaged, not only do you incur the cost of repair or replacement, you also risk losing valuable data that’s stored in them. So, should you spend more to protect your employees’ Smartphones? Some people think it depends on your industry. According to Tim Doherty, research analyst for small to mid-sized business markets at research firm IDC, most blue-collar employees should be provided with protective cases for their Smartphones since their work environments are more likely to be physical in nature. Equipping these employees with cases like the OtterBox or rugged devices such as those being offered by Motorola is a good move. Meanwhile, according to Doherty, white-collar employees using Smartphones only have “a moderate risk of drop or damage” because they usually put their devices inside their bags or pockets. Still, providing these employees with “a basic rubberized case makes a lot of sense,” adds Doherty. He also adds that providing cases lessens “the company’s liability to replace damaged devices.” Some analysts think, however, that cases citing damaged Smartphones due to accidental drops have been exaggerated. Analyst and Partner Michael Gartenberg of Altimeter Group believes that cases can protect and personalize your Smartphone, but he does not agree that these cases are essential accessories. Gartenberg claims that, “Most phones are rugged enough to handle the usual bumps and abrasions of everyday life and most screens are quite scratch resistant.” He adds that normal maintenance will ensure that most Smartphones work well. In addition, Gartenberg believes that if users are aware that their Smartphones have additional protection, they may tend to be less careful when using their devices. Still, Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies, a firm that provides industry analysis for the technology sector, believes that a Smartphone case “isn’t much of an investment . . . yet it can go a long way.” As Bajarin says, we should treat these cases as insurance. With just a little extra expense, you not only protect a $200 to $300 Smartphone, you may also save your business from a loss of thousands of dollars worth of data stored in a single device.

Why Use Electronic Signatures?

December 17, 2010 4:00 pm

Studies show that among US companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are copied or printed every year. The associated cost for each document is estimated at $6.50. Five hundred documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year, which means that the total annual cost of using paper documents $3,250. Signatures have been the most accepted means of authentication since ancient times. During the Roman Empire, a combination of seals and signatures were recognized as the primary source for document and legal contract authentication.  In the 1830s, electronic communications became legally recognized “electronic signatures” when the telegraph and Morse Code were invented. In 1976, Martin Hellman and Whitfield Diffie introduced public key cryptography, wherein cryptographic keys were first distributed over an unprotected public network. The first electronically signed document was an agreement between two nations – a Joint Communique signed by Ireland and the United States in 1998. What is an electronic signature or e-signature? There are different definitions for this term, but for the purpose of US law, the US Code defines it as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” Why are businesses using electronic signatures? Electronic signatures help cut costs. Studies show that among US companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are copied or printed every year. The associated cost for each document is estimated to be $6.50. Five hundred documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year, which means that the total annual cost of using paper documents per employee is $3,250. Electronic signatures are good for the environment. The reduction of paper usage will not only cut down operational costs, but will also help save our environment. For every person who uses e signatures, the savings is equal to ¾ of a barrel of oil, ½ of a tree, or 150 pounds of carbon emissions per year. Electronic signatures help reduce fraud. When documents are signed electronically, the integrity of the content is guaranteed. E-signatures also enable real-time verification of the handwritten signature as opposed to a pre-defined biometric profile. Any manipulation within a document that involves an e-signature will automatically result in making the signature invalid. Electronic signatures help increase customer satisfaction. Turnaround times are accelerated with the use of electronic signatures because you don’t keep your customers waiting while you search for contracts or forms. Additionally, adding an electronic signature to a document is just like signing on paper. There is no need to change your customers’ habits, and they are assured that even with remote handling all their documents are secure. Electronic signatures give entrepreneurs more time to increase sales. Because workflow is much faster with the use of electronic signatures, processing times are reduced and sales people and consultants have more time to spend on getting new business. This can significantly increase the company’s revenue. E-Signatures and Mobile Devices Many business owners have come to realize the importance of using e-signatures in business. In fact, some businesses have even adapted this signing process for the smaller screens of mobile devices. If the transaction involves straightforward, simple sales contracts, a mobile e-signature is ideal. The customer sees and agrees to what exactly what is being purchased on the spot, and this allows salespeople to work more efficiently. For lengthy documents however, especially those that have several form fields that require considerable interaction with the client, a PC format is more suitable. How Legitimate are E-Signatures? As for the legitimacy of e-signatures, you need not worry. In 1999, the European Union passed the EU Directive for Electronic Signatures, and on the 30 th of June, 2000, US President Bill Clinton signed into law the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), which signified that all signed electronic contracts and documents are as legally binding as a paper-based contract.

Big Business IT at a Small Business Price

December 16, 2010 4:11 pm

Peace of mind, security, and superior IT are now made available not just for huge enterprises, but for small to medium-sized businesses as well. Using Managed Services, you can enjoy the same benefits big companies have without it costing an arm and a leg. Like a lot of small to medium-sized businesses these days, you perhaps have become greatly reliant on Information Technology (IT). You certainly want your own IT department to offer the functionality and security that huge organizations benefit from. But cost is most likely holding you back — the large amount of money needed to design, install and maintain such a setting is usually too expensive for smaller organizations. Fortunately, today you can have both the best IT and the most cost-efficient solution — because in Managed Services, they are one and the same. Managed Services is an IT model that provides IT management and security remotely. Utilizing the latest and most sophisticated technology, we can readily monitor and manage your network, determine possible issues, and solve them before they harm your business. These are the 2 major advantages: Superior IT – With Managed Services, you can accomplish the functionality and security that previously was only available to large companies. Inexpensive Price – Enjoy better IT without costing a fortune. Because of economies of scale, Managed Services enables you to create an infrastructure that delivers essential IT services to staff and clients without having to build or maintain these services internally. Contact us now to learn how our Managed Services can help improve your IT and save you money.

Electronic Fraud Most Likely Inside Jobs According to Study

December 13, 2010 7:51 am

New research from risk consultancy firm highlights risk from data theft committed by employees. A poll of over 800 senior executives around the world showed that companies for the first time are losing more from the theft of their electronic assets than from physical assets. This was recently revealed by Kroll , a risk consulting firm. The incidents were especially alarming in emerging markets such as China, Colombia, and Brazil — where more than 9 out of 10 businesses report victimization. Most susceptible are firms that deal in information, such as businesses in professional services, media, technology, and finance. Often, according to the respondents, the perpetrators are the company’s own employees. Companies today should closely examine how information is managed within the organization. Appropriate levels of control should be provided, and policies, procedures, and tools need to be implemented to make sure access is carefully controlled and monitored and information is secured. Are you confident that your firm is safe from attack not only from outside the organization but also from within? If not, contact us today to find out how we can help.

Why It’s Impossible to Survive Without a Disaster Recovery Plan

December 10, 2010 5:01 pm

Disasters of all kinds could inevitably hit your business at any time. Therefore, in addition to having a backup plan, you should also create and implement a disaster recovery plan to constantly provide you with business security, as well as avoid financial loss and going out of business. Simply put, organizations that suffer data losses generally fail as a consequence. In fact, that statement is based on study by the Department of Trade and Industry, which discovered that 70% of small businesses that experience a major data loss eventually go out of business within 18 months. This statistics shows that a majority of small businesses have failed to protect themselves against a number of problems. According to Ontrack, data loss is due to the following: Human error – 44% of the time System or hardware breakdown – 32% of the time Software malfunction – 14% of the time Computer virus – 7% of the time Site disaster – 3% of the time Data loss is very catastrophic — because your data is critical to your business. To illustrate this, just imagine the outcome if you lost access to your IT systems, including: Client databases Supplier information Financial reports and documents — from invoices to tax records Product catalogs Marketing materials Emails and correspondences Document templates Employee records Like insurance to your business assets, the same idea is applicable to your data. Regardless of its location, your data needs to be constantly protected from every potential danger. The good news is that with a strong disaster recovery plan and an efficient backup solution, you can easily resume business in just minutes or a few hours in most instances. With these crucial things in mind, it’s best to protect your data to secure your business. Ask us how today.

Putting Your Business on the (Geolocation) Map

December 9, 2010 4:56 pm

There’s a boom in geolocation platforms these days, and experts are seeing vast potential in the way geolocation can help small and medium sized businesses put themselves on the map. Geolocation is a means through which people can track various locations through their mobile phone devices. Experts see a continued rise in the relevance and effects of geolocation, especially for small and medium-sized businesses who are looking for good but cost-effective ways to put themselves on the proverbial map. “When you’ve expanded the ability to track geolocation data from the 200 to 1,000 large businesses that could previously afford it to 26 million small businesses, you’re bound to see a bunch of creative experiences built around that data,” says Yan-David Erlich, CEO of Morpho, a new geolocation firm. The potential is vast, and there is little to lose. Especially considering the success of geolocation-enabled social network platforms such as Foursquare, putting yourself on the geolocation map might just be more than worth your while. Here are a few tips to get you started: Be a direct part of the community. Create an account, participate, and make yourself (or at least someone to represent your online presence) regularly felt. Customization is always key. Share something unique about your business – don’t make your profile generic and ordinary. You have to stand out, so choose a particular trait of your business you are particularly proud of, or something that sets you apart from the rest. Make sure to utilize as many keywords possible – but only within the bounds of practicality. And don’t forget links to your own website. Know what the competition is up to. There’s nothing wrong with checking out what competitors are doing to establish themselves in the geolocation map. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two, and then be able to apply improvements and adjustments to your own strategies. If you are looking at taking some concrete steps to establishing yourself and making your presence much more significant, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to sit down and develop a customized geolocation strategy that works for you. Read the whole article at: http://technology.inc.com/telecom/articles/201007/geolocation.html?partner=newsletter_Technology

Improving Your Business Using a Pocket Video Camera

December 6, 2010 7:17 am

Almost every activity involves the use of technology, and almost everyone uses the internet. So, it’s only logical that if you want to go into business and be successful, you should have maximum exposure – and the best exposure that you can have is to make a video and take it online. Pocket Video Cameras are arguably one of the best gizmos out in the market today. Perhaps its appeal lies in being lightweight, portable, and affordable. They are almost as small as a regular cell phone, making it fit easily into one’s pocket. People use pocket video cameras to record just about anything. But did you know that you can earn money with the help of these pocket video cameras? You’re probably thinking – paparazzi. Well, that is a given. Paparazzi earn top dollar for controversial pictures of movie stars, politicians and royalty – but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Why Buy a Pocket Video Camera? If you’re an entrepreneur with a startup business, you’re still probably asking, “Why should I put a video on my website?” Ask yourself this:  how many people have become rich and famous because of YouTube? Without batting an eyelash, you can probably think of at least one celebrity who was discovered this way. The same holds true for small businesses. We live in the hi-tech age. Almost every activity involves the use of technology, and almost everyone uses the internet. It’s only logical that if you want to go into business and be successful, you should have maximum exposure – and the best exposure that you can have is to make a video and take it online. Sure, you can have the best web designer create your website. But plain text and graphics can sometimes be boring, and nothing beats embedding a dynamic video in your site. A Success Story A great example of successfully using a pocket video camera for business is Aquatic Fitness Concepts, a Southern California-based company that fits its 16 foot by 8 foot swim spas into backyards. Potential customers could not figure out how the company could do such a task. According to Paul Roberts of West Coast Marketing, the company that handles marketing for Aquatic Fitness Concepts, “It’s surprisingly easy using a crane, but everyone is terrified of and fascinated by the process. So, John Trzcinka, the owner, has started using his Flip camera to film these crane installations. It’s quite something to see.” Trzcinka posted the video on his company website and potential clients are reassured by the safety and ease of the installation process. This has brought on increased sales for the Aquatic Fitness Concepts. How to Benefit from Using Video Follow these tips for maximizing your use of your pocket video camera for your business: Establish yourself as an expert in your industry. Shoot a short video of yourself giving tips or a how-to tutorial to show how knowledgeable you are about your business. You’ll be surprised at how many people will try to make contact with you. Tell your story. Most people are interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Videos about how a product is made, how a service is done, or how a project progresses are particularly interesting to most audiences. Provide quick feedback to your clients. The pocket video camera is very useful in giving feedback, especially when you want to demonstrate a point to a client. For example, a business development consultant hired to develop a business on a particular site, shoots a video of the site to prove to the client the feasibility of the site. Create real-life testimonials. With your pocket video camera, you can easily take videos of your clients’ testimonials. Because of its small size, customers are less intimated to share their stories on camera. Use videos to enhance your press releases. Pyxl, a marketing firm in Knoxville, Tennessee mails Flip cameras to its clients whenever they have news to share about their companies. They shoot videos with the camera, return the cameras to Pyxl, and the marketing firm edits the videos and embeds them in online press releases and social media releases. One of the most popular pocket video cameras in the market today is the Flip Ultra HD. Priced at $150 to $200, it’s a small investment compared to the revenue that maximum exposure for your business will generate. Its 8 GB of internal memory allows the user to shoot about 2 hours of video. It has rechargeable batteries that you don’t have to remove from the camera when you’re charging. Just connect the camera to the USB port of your computer. You can also use 2 AA alkaline batteries as backups. Fortunately, these days you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get publicity for your business. Just use your handy pocket video camera and you’re all set for success.

Practicing Proper Hygiene in Your Workspace

December 3, 2010 3:20 pm

Why risk the chance of infection and sickness when you can simply take a few minutes each day to disinfect and clean your workspace? It might be terribly trite, but the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true. Did you know that an average office keyboard and mouse can contain as much as 400 times more germs and bacteria than a toilet seat? That’s pretty disgusting, especially when you start to imagine opening a bag of chips and eating from it – after using your keyboard. Ingesting such dangerous bacteria can cause any number of ailments and illnesses, ranging from mild to seriously life threatening. The good news is that preventing these kinds of health incidents is pretty easy. The solution: regularly cleaning your workspace, especially your keyboard and mouse. Cleaning your workspace and workstation also has the added benefit of making your computer work more efficiently. Dust, dirt, and grime stuck in your keyboard and mouse make them sticky and uncomfortable to use, while de-dusting and cleaning the inside of your CPU enables better ventilation that increases its life span and performance. Cleaning materials don’t cost much (especially when you consider the cost of hospital and medicine bills), and cleaning isn’t all that time consuming – so there’s little reason to put it off. Disinfectant wipes – which can kill about 95 percent of existing bacteria – are available at any grocery store, and you can buy compressed air at most office supply stores to clean the spaces between and under the keys of your keyboard. It takes less than 5 minutes of your time each day. So why risk the chance of infection and sickness when you can simply take a few minutes each day to disinfect and clean your workspace? It might be terribly trite, but the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true.

Three Ways Managed Services Improve Your Business

November 30, 2010 4:12 pm

If you are running a company or a business of your own, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need Managed Services? Is it really worth it considering all the costs?” With the very competitive nature of today’s market, Managing Services may be well worth it. IT problems may be largely minimized or halted even before they occur if you have an IT consultant that constantly monitors your network. With an IT consultant, problems are addressed right away – many times even before they disrupt your operations. But despite this, many companies still tend to shy away from Managed Services. They believe it’s an extra expense that they are better off without, since Managed Services typically involve monthly or annual fees. What companies don’t realize that without Managed Services, they may be spending more than what they thought they save by not signing up. Here are three reasons why you should choose Managed Services: No unplanned expenses – Fixing IT problems will cost you, and more often than not, it’s not a measly cost. You’ll be forced to shell out money unexpectedly so that you can address the problem as soon as possible to minimize the effects on your work. With Managed services, you can allocate your budget accordingly. Lower staffing costs – Filling-in IT staff positions is often expensive, not to mention more tedious, when compared with Managed Services – and remember training costs as well. Managed Services provide you with trained personnel who specialize in managing your network for a much lower cost. Increased operations efficiency – With no network problems occurring, the efficiency of your operations would noticeably increase. You could do more and serve more. Customers would be happy and your employees would be free from frustration. All of this of course leads to higher revenues. So give Managed Services another look – you’ll be glad you did.

How to Assess Your Backup Solution

November 26, 2010 4:52 pm

Most backup solutions available these days certainly do a good job of backing up your data. However, all backup solutions are not the same, and careful assessment is needed to ensure your backup solution is suitable for your requirements. It’s impossible to have a disaster recovery plan without first having an efficient backup solution. So, the question is:  Is your backup solution truly efficient – or just good enough? Traditionally, backup processes use a tape storage method. But unfortunately, tape has many limitations. Tape-based backup systems involve high costs. This is especially true with large capacity backups. Additional problems include complicated upgrades, degradation over time, and sluggish backup and restoration. Traditional backup procedures only capture a single snapshot of your information each day. This means that if your backup is programmed to occur at 12 midnight, you jeopardize losing the entire next day’s work if disaster strikes. Backing up traditionally requires rigorous manual labor . Someone has to make sure that the proper media is in the drive. Someone has to evaluate the backup results to ensure completeness, as well as periodically execute data restorations. Once the backup is complete, someone has to take it offsite for security purposes. Although some companies are equipped to perform all of these backup-related tasks, most aren’t—and many are unsure whether their backups will be available when needed. However, during the last three to five years, the standard backup method has shifted to digital solutions that provide greater capacity and quicker backup and restoration. Here are some ways that you can improve your backup system: Ensure that every bit of your data is backed up several times per day. Remove the human factor from the backup equation. (This reduces the possibility of error as well as operating costs.) Choose a restoration process that is fast yet flexible, so you can easily re-instate your entire data set or any part of it if needed. Ensure that your system has very little impact on your business operations. It should be transparent to you and your employees that the backups are even taking place (that is, until you need them, of course!). Don’t hesitate to contact us for more details. We can help you put together and manage an efficient backup solution that’s ideal for your specific requirements.

Are You a Victim of Online Banking Fraud?

November 22, 2010 4:35 pm

Beware! Someone maybe stealing money from you where you least expect it – your bank! According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, online criminals have been getting away with what they estimate to be over $100 million in bank fraud – mostly at the expense of small to midsized businesses. Typically, hackers plant malicious programs known as Trojans into the networks of target companies, which then steal passwords to various online services such as online banking and fund management. Having gained access to these services, these hackers then commit something called ACH or Automatic Clearing House Network Fraud. Typically, they wire money out of their victim’s accounts and into the accounts of money “mules” who help them launder the money for a cut. These funds are then transmitted to the criminal masterminds – who are often located in countries outside the reach of American law enforcement, such as China and Russia. Small and midsized businesses have become a favored target by hackers lately because they often lack the time and resources to put stringent security controls in place. A survey conducted by security vendor Panda Security reveals that of the 1,400 businesses questioned, around 52 percent employed no basic security measures such as Web filtering, while 29 percent lacked anti-spam protection. How can you protect yourself and your business? Make sure you educate employees about the threat and train them in basic security awareness, such as avoiding opening emails and attachments coming from suspicious senders or with suspicious content. Consider beefing up your network security measures – including installing and using updated antivirus software, network firewalls, and web and mail filtering solutions. Too busy? Don’t know how to start? Then perhaps this is a good time to seek out the services of a professional. Call us today to see how we can help protect your business.

Laptop Stolen? Get it back!

November 18, 2010 4:09 pm

In the wrong hands, a stolen laptop can compromise your personal security and the security of your business, not to mention the actual loss of the data. This is why it’s paramount that you guard yourself against laptop theft and put measures in place that guard your data in the event that your laptop gets stolen. A study by security vendor Symantec cites that in the United States alone, someone’s laptop gets stolen every 53 seconds. And of that number, 97 percent of those are never recovered. Besides the obvious loss of your hardware and the inconvenience that brings, experts cite a much more important concern with stolen laptops: the loss of the information you have inside. Saved passwords, sensitive business and personal information - in the wrong hands, a stolen laptop can compromise your personal security and the security of your business, not to mention the actual loss of the data itself. Symantec and the Ponemon Institute, an independent data, information, and security research firm, pegs the average loss from a stolen business laptop to about a whopping $10 million. This is why it’s paramount that you guard yourself against laptop theft and put measures in place to guard your data in the event that your laptop gets stolen. Fortunately, there are several options you can choose from, such as installing a tracking program on your laptop and regularly backing up your data. You can also use more sophisticated passwords and encryption for your computer, making it harder to crack. Some trace programs also include an option to remotely wipe the data on your laptop in case of theft. Both your laptop and the data on it are important business tools, which is why you might want to consider upgrading your security measures to help prevent losses from theft. Please give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide a blueprint of security policy that works for you.

Printers 101

November 15, 2010 7:15 am

These days, printers have become more than just, well, printers. There are many features and factors to consider in your purchase to make sure the printer you buy is as cost effective as possible. Multi-functionality is one of the most important factors you should consider when buying a printer. With technology moving in leaps and bounds, having a device that just prints out paper won’t cut it anymore. Today’s printers have multiple functions, which make them more versatile. Look for features such as a built in scanner (preferably capable of multiple page scanning), as well as fax and copy options. It’s much more convenient to have everything in a single device, and it saves space too. Another factor to consider is how economical your printer will be to use. One feature that helps reduce costs is called duplex printing, which allows you to print on both sides of the page - saving on paper costs and making your operations much more environment friendly. Make sure that your printer has the option of setting duplex printing as its default mode. Another way to save is by determining which type of printer you need - laser or inkjet. Inkjet printers print slower, but are cheaper to purchase and use. Laser printers print faster and offer better quality output, but are much more expensive to purchase, and the ink cartridges cost a lot more, too. So before buying a printer, it’s essential to determine how you’ll use it first. Also make sure that your printer has the option to print draft and black-only copies for not-so-important documents. When you don’t need professional quality or color prints you should have the option to enable lower quality printing, which will save on ink costs. You should also look into network printing, which lets multiple users print from a single printer. This enables you to monitor ink and paper usage better, and also eliminates the need for multiple printers in the office, saving on purchase, operation, and maintenance costs. An LCD on your printer will also help you diagnose and troubleshoot problems, as well as preview documents that are printing or in the cue. If you are looking for help in buying a new printer for your office, or want to organize your existing printing system to save on costs, please feel free to give us a call so we can discuss options that will meet your particular needs.

Old Programs can Get Stale, in More Ways than One

November 12, 2010 8:41 am

One of the more subtle ways hackers use to get malware into your system is through programs that are not up-to-date. This is why it is essential that your programs be upgraded regularly, especially with the latest security patches that plug up the holes in the system. One of the more subtle ways hackers use to get malware into your system is through exploiting programs that are either old or not up to date. Naturally, most programs are not perfect when they first come out, and hackers are always out to exploit weaknesses in the design and infrastructure of these programs. This is why developers constantly send patches and updates to their clients and subscribers. Programs that do not have these patches and updates that fix vulnerabilities in the system are very viable entry points through which malware can enter your system. Also, older programs on your system might be phased out, which means the developer is not releasing patches or fixes for them anymore. This is why it is essential that your programs be up to date, especially with the latest security patches that plug up holes in the system. And if there are programs that are beyond their expiration date or aren’t being used any longer, it’s a waste of space and resources to keep them installed in your computers. It’s important that you regularly check the status of your programs to make sure that they’re always in tip-top shape. If you’d like to ensure that the programs you use are always patched, updated, and safe, please contact us so we can sit down with you and develop a customized security system that meets your specific needs.

Save Your Business from Data Loss: Have a Business Continuity Plan

November 11, 2010 8:08 am

Some companies have suffered significant data loss because they discovered the errors too late. Put a Business Continuity Plan in place before you experience a major data loss or equipment failure. You’ve probably heard news about companies that have experienced data loss. You may think that these losses can only happen to larger companies because of the huge databases they have. However, small to medium-sized businesses are not safe from data loss, either. Unfortunately, according to recently conducted studies, around 50% of small to midsized businesses are at risk, because they have no Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place. What is a Business Continuity Plan? It’s a comprehensive plan that enables your business to resume normal operations after a significant data loss or network downtime due to natural disasters, sabotage or theft, or equipment failure. Maybe you already have a Business Continuity Plan for your company. Even so, you need to make sure that your plan is flexible and scalable, and can adapt to the natural changes that your business undergoes. Software and hardware installations, updates, and modifications are an important part of business continuity planning. Your data should be properly and regularly backed up, and you need storage and recovery systems and procedures that are continually updated with changes that constantly occur in your IT. If your computer software and hardware are not properly maintained and procedures are not updated, this may lead to backup errors that will result to costly data losses. Unfortunately, companies routinely suffer significant data loss because they discovered the errors too late – usually while trying to recover the data. In addition to having a flexible and scalable BCP, you also need a highly skilled IT staff that is up to speed on the importance of backup and recovery of data. It’s important that this staff is properly trained to implement your BCP in the event that your business experiences a major data loss. Your business is important to you – and to us, too. We’re here to help you create or fine-tune a Business Continuity Plan that is best suited to your unique business needs, as well as prepare and assist your staff in implementing the plan should it become necessary. Contact us for more details.

Using Twitter to Your Business Advantage

November 8, 2010 8:00 am

It’s common knowledge these days that social networking websites such as the hugely popular Twitter can be used not only as an online socializing medium, but also as a powerful business tool. However, not everyone becomes as successful as they want to. Here are a few tips experts recommend you follow when using Twitter: Pick who you follow. Many people think that Twitter is all about getting as many followers as possible and following as many people as possible. However, while it’s true that Twitter numbers can be powerful, it’s also important to remember that the quality of the Tweets you follow also counts for a lot. Plan ahead. Make things short and sweet. If you make it a habit of Tweeting at exactly 140 characters, you might want to rethink that. In case some of your followers decide to re-Tweet you, characters at the end of the Tweet will be lopped off to make room for “RT (insert Twitter username here)”. So if you have valuable information at the end of Tweet – like a link – for example, it becomes incomplete. Tweet at peak times. Try to determine the time when you have the biggest number of people viewing you. That way, you can get your message across much more effectively to as much people as possible. If you want to know more about maximizing your Twitter account for your business, please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.

The More Complicated the Password, the Better

November 5, 2010 4:09 pm

Your passwords hold the keys to most – if not all – of your online presence, so keeping them secure is paramount. In the same way that keys are used to open different doors, passwords are used to access many areas of cyberspace. However, those passwords are vulnerable to hacking, stealing, or random guessing – which makes password integrity and security a main concern. However, for many people, this essential fact is overlooked. Many tend to use either easy-to-guess passwords, or use the same password for all their online accounts - from their online banking to their email – which is a hacker’s dream come true. Because when they steal a password, it’s standard operating procedure for them to test it against popular websites to see if it works there as well. The most basic security measure you can use to guard against this is to have multiple passwords for your different online accounts – whether they are for personal or business use. And don’t just think of easy passwords, like your birthday or wedding anniversary – these are usually the first thing hackers try. The best passwords are alphanumeric – composed of both letters and numbers so that it’s harder to crack. This might be a bit tedious, but it’s better than running the risk of compromising your security online. There are also several programs and applications you can use to help store your passwords, so you only need to remember a few of your most-used ones, and refer to your database for the others. Remember, your passwords hold the keys to most, if not all, of your online presence, so keeping them secure is extremely important. If you’re looking for a security solution for your passwords, please give us a call so we can help you implement a password security system that works for you.

Documenting and Assessing Your IT Needs

November 4, 2010 4:30 pm

Documentation and assessment of your IT needs might expose the fact that your IT environment is not as efficient as you thought it would be. This may explain why you are experiencing problems such as a weak internet signal or a web browser that won’t load. Today’s businesses rely heavily on computers. That’s why most entrepreneurs invest in the best computer hardware and software that their money can buy. Because of this, they expect everything to run smoothly and all their IT needs to be met with the use of these wonderful computers. In reality, however, you wind up experiencing a weak internet signal, your web browser won’t load, or you can’t get your email running. All these occurrences cost you valuable time – time you can’t afford to lose. You can avoid these incidents by using Managed IT Services. Our professionals will conduct a comprehensive analysis of all your existing IT processes and functions. We will gather facts from what you have experienced with your systems, and assess which have been proven to run efficiently and produce the most favourable results for your company. This will all be clearly documented as part of your overall business practices. As the documentation progresses, you may find out that your IT environment is not as efficient as you thought it was. You may also discover specific needs that you were unaware of. If these needs aren’t addressed, they could negatively affect productivity and result in a decline in revenue. In fact, they could even lead to expensive IT network emergencies if you don’t have the right technology and proper maintenance on hand. We understand these risks and challenges, and we’re here to assist you in assessing your needs through this documentation process. We can help you identify the right IT solutions that are best for your business, as well as provide solutions, including outsourcing certain network functions such as email, backup and recovery, and security. We’ll also help you maintain your IT network while making sure that all your systems are updated and running smoothly so that you can avoid system failure or downtime. Give us a call today to learn how we can help you get the most out of your IT investments.

Tracking and Erasing Data from Lost Smartphones

November 1, 2010 7:09 am

Losing a smartphone these days means a lot more than just losing the hardware - it can spell a potentially dangerous threat to your business if the wrong person with the right skills picks it up. A few years ago, mobile phones were basically just a status symbol, a luxury people could do without. But today, they’ve become more than mere tools that make communication easier, and it’s almost unheard of to not have a one. They’re so common that it’s now considered a necessity, and many people cannot leave home without it. Mobile phones have also evolved through the years to cater to the needs of their users, offering a bevy of features from digital camera integration to music and video playback and a lot more. Naturally, these features also extend to those who would like a more mobile approach to business - hence the smartphone. So to lose a smartphone these days means a lot more than just losing the hardware and “fun stuff” - it can spell a potentially dangerous threat to your business if the wrong person with the right skills picks it up. Fortunately, technology also offers a way to counter lost smartphone incidents. Security experts recommend that businesses install smartphone applications that are capable of wiping your smartphone’s data, as well as triangulating your smartphone’s location. “Most consumers could probably care less about this, but it’s incredibly important for businesses to have a remote wipe feature in place for its employees’ phones,” says Ken Dulaney, vice president for mobile computing of Gartner, a research and consulting firm based in Stamford, Connecticut. Through these applications, a small packet of data is sent to your smartphone that is designed to delete all the information and data inside, and through GPS and / or cellular triangulation, direct you to its location. This makes it possible to protect your data and possibly get your phone back at the same time. Regardless of the handset (and the corresponding OS) you are using, there are different apps that will do the job - so if you are looking to secure your business smartphones, please don’t hesitate to contact us so we can draw up a customized mobile security policy for you.

Security Made Easy With Clear Cloud

October 28, 2010 7:15 am

Clear Cloud is a safe, effective, and simple way to check your browsing habits and keep your computer clean. It’s a simple, straightforward approach to getting better security for your computer:  download software, install it, and have it check whether every single website you go to is safe or not. That, in a nutshell, is what Clear Cloud does. This nifty little program is designed to help you filter out and block potentially harmful websites that many people unwittingly stumble into time and again. It’s the perfect solution for anti-phishing and helping keep your system free of malware – at least from stray clicking. While not a replacement for up-to-date anti-virus and other security software, it is an additional tool at your disposal. And yes, Clear Cloud checks every single website you visit. How? Since Clear Cloud belongs to the DNS network, it has access to every website in the world. This enables Clear Cloud to check every website you access or try to access. If the website is clean, Clear Cloud allows you to access the website. On the other hand, if the website proves to be suspicious, then Clear Cloud blocks the website. And if you’re concerned that this may take a toll on your bandwidth, think again – Clear Cloud operates and finishes each task in literally the blink of an eye. If you want to know how you can use Clear Cloud or other tools to keep your systems safe, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to discuss a custom security policy with you.

Microsoft Has Phased Out Windows XP

October 25, 2010 7:15 am

Microsoft sales for Windows XP ceased on October 22, 2010, and support for the old OS will continue only until 2014. If you’ve been using Microsoft XP for a long time – with good reason, XP being one of the most stable operating systems in the Windows line – it might be time to finally migrate over to the new Windows 7. Microsoft has recently ceased sales for the popular OS – the last day to purchase XP was October 22, 2010. The software giant is now dedicating most of its resources and efforts to its latest OS, Windows 7. While XP support will continue until April 2014, that’s less than four years from now, and Microsoft is recommending users switch to Windows 7. As for compatibility issues, Microsoft assures users that most programs that work with XP also work on Windows 7. “Windows 7 is designed to be compatible with the most popular hardware and software products you use every day. Thousands of these will work just fine,” reads a FAQ entry on their website. There is also the Windows 7 Compatibility Center, where you can check programs to ensure they will work on the new Microsoft OS. If you are thinking of switching to Windows 7, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be happy to discuss a customized plan for your business’s smooth transition to Microsoft’s latest OS.

Beware of Documents Containing Viruses!

October 22, 2010 7:00 pm

Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader are probably the most used document editing / viewing applications out there, and documents and PDF files can be used to introduce viruses and malware into your system. It might be common knowledge that Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader are probably the most used document editing /viewing applications out there, but here’s something you might not know: documents and PDF files can be used to introduce viruses and malware into your system. Unfortunately for MS Word and Adobe Acrobat Reader, security experts aren’t too happy about how (not) secure these programs really are. Since they’re so widely used, hackers and malware designers have come up with ways to exploit these programs and the documents associated with them in order to hit as many people possible. As a security measure, consider opening document and PDF files in alternative programs, such as Open Office for MS Office documents, and Foxit Reader or PDF Studio for PDF files. Even if you feel uncomfortable using these programs to create and edit your everyday documents, at least consider using them to open suspicious documents. As for attachments that come with emails, try opening a suspicious file with Gmail. Send suspicious documents to a Gmail account and open it from there - Google Mail runs a virus check on it, and if it passes, open it on Google Docs to see what’s inside. You can also submit suspicious files to an online virus checker such as Virustotal, which will run it through a series of antivirus scanners to see if any red flags pop up. It’s a bit of extra effort, true, but it beats having to deal with a full-fledged virus attack on your system. If you want to make sure that you have all the options available to secure your system, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and discuss security policies that fit your needs.

The Importance of Managed Services

October 21, 2010 3:09 pm

More entrepreneurs these days are using Managed Services for their businesses. Why? Because it’s a good investment that’s sure to help increase a company’s revenue. These days businesses are increasingly dependent on IT, making it essential to have experts to handle the regular maintenance of your IT infrastructure. However, most small and medium businesses cannot afford to hire a qualified, full-time IT administrator. Managed Services is the best solution, since it allows you to concentrate on what you do best - managing the core competencies of your business. When you choose Managed Services, all of your IT operations are handled by a highly qualified and knowledgeable provider who assumes ongoing responsibility for monitoring, troubleshooting, and managing selected IT systems and functions on your behalf. The Managed Services Provider is in charge of network equipment and applications located on your premises, as specified in the terms of a service-level agreement (SLA) established to meet your company’s specific business needs. Why is Managed Services important for your business? 1. Managed Services is cost effective. If you’re not an IT expert, you’ll need to hire consultants for basic IT maintenance - and this is usually too costly for small and medium-sized businesses. The downtime during breakdowns of computers or outages will cost your business more money in the long run than outsourcing costs. 2. It’s easier to predict how much you need to spend. Managed Services offer a choice of service levels which may be priced on a per-month or per-device basis. This subscription model gives you more predictability in expenses as opposed to the as-needed time and billing models used by consultants. 3. Managed Services Providers take full responsibility, but business owners have full control. Although Managed Services are outsourced, you do not surrender complete control of your IT infrastructure. You decide which aspects of your network the service provider will take care of and what you want to handle. You are also informed of everything that happens in the process and management of your systems. 4. Managed Services involves 24/7 IT support. With Managed Services, you get support whenever you need it. You don’t have to wait in line for whatever system problems you need resolved. 5. Knowing your IT is in good hands gives you peace of mind. Knowing that your IT system is in the hands of experts, you are assured that somebody is there to do proper maintenance of all your computer hardware and software. You can also be confident that if you encounter any problems with your IT, there are experts who will help you fix them immediately.

Foursquare: Changing the Social Networking Game for Businesses

October 18, 2010 7:24 am

Just when we thought we’ve seen it all in the social networking scene, along comes Foursquare, a new social networking app that brings things closer to home - literally. If you thought you’ve seen it all in the social networking world - Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other wildly popular social networking websites - take a look at Foursquare. Foursquare is a new social networking application that brings networking closer to home - literally. Foursquare encourages people to explore locations and businesses in exchange for points that can be used to earn ‘badges’ that mark achievements of the user. Users can check in at different venues, and the person with the most check-ins for a particular time period becomes the ‘Mayor’ of that particular venue. Think of it as something like Twitter + GPS. What does this do for your business? In a nutshell, Foursquare allows you to get involved in the game by offering discounts and promotions that are specific to your business, which further encourage Foursquare enthusiasts to visit your business. And with 1.8 million users and growing as of mid-August, the potential traffic for your business is too significant to ignore. Since Foursquare is location based, businesses are bound to attract local (and potentially long-term) clients. Here are some basic steps to help you get started on Foursquare: Take it easy at the beginning. Start by creating a free basic account and see how things go from there. After a week or two, you can start thinking of strategies for using Foursquare to tap into your target market. Be a part of the community . Don’t be passive. Post updates that are related to your business and are also helpful to users as well. Also, be attentive to feedback from other people. Listen to what the market wants, and deliver it. Link your Foursquare account with your Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can post updates simultaneously. While Foursquare is technically a game for consumer, dismissing it because of that fact is a big mistake. The potential for this location-based social networking service is vast.

Why Ink Refills can Leave You with the Short End of the Stick

October 15, 2010 7:16 am

Refilled ink cartridges may seem to be a cheaper alternative, but careful analysis will show that it actually costs more. Throughout recent months, we’ve seen more and more outfits offering services such as ink refilling, re-manufactured toners, and the like. The main selling point of such services is the significantly reduced price compared to buying new ink cartridges, and naturally, many businesses are attracted to these services in order to save on operating costs. However, when you look on a deeper level, using refilled ink cartridges, re-manufactured toners, generic printer cartridges, and other similar products actually costs more in the long run. Here’s why: Generic and refilled cartridges produce lower quality prints, and in many businesses mediocre output is unacceptable. Many times you’ll have to reprint pages, wasting both ink and paper (not to mention time). Generic and refilled cartridges frequently cause alignment problems with your printer, and some may even leak. This type of damage to your printer can result in unexpected repair costs or even the need to completely replace the printer. Studies show that 40% of refilled/generic cartridges or toners result in some sort of problem with the printer. Some say that using refilled/generic cartridges is safer for the environment. This is NOT the case. Reprinting costs you wasted energy, productivity, and materials such as paper. On top of that, many brand-name manufacturers have a recycling program, as opposed to generic cartridges which end up in landfills. On the surface, going for these “cheaper” alternatives might seem to be a great idea to cut costs, but over time it’s much more trouble and expense than what it’s worth. So it’s best to stick with using genuine ink cartridges and toners – you’ll enjoy better quality prints and less trouble in the long run.

GPS for Small Businesses: A Primer

October 14, 2010 7:10 am

Your small business can benefit from tools that track location and position GPS has lately become a near ubiquitous feature in many mobile devices such as car accessories and smart phones. GPS, which stands for Global Positioning Systems, is primarily a navigation system enabled by satellites in orbit around Earth that transmit positional information to devices with a GPS receiver. The system was originally set up by the US government for military or government purposes, but now has been opened up for private use as well. Because GPS is so pervasive and inexpensive to use, there have been a host of applications providing innovative ways to use the system. Today, GPS is instrumental in activities such as navigation, tracking, mapping, surveying, communications, and recreation – as well as many other activities for business and commerce. For many businesses, including small establishments, GPS can be used to boost the bottom line in a number of ways. Here are some of them: Track key assets in the field. Businesses can use GPS to track the location of people and items in the field such as delivery trucks, important packages, field stations, personnel, and more. This allows businesses to more easily monitor movement – and to better control cost and security (such as routes taken and stops along the way) as well as provide key information in real time that may be of value to partners and customers (such as the location of their shipment). Improve speed. By knowing where your people and assets are at any time, you can potentially improve the speed of decision making and response time – especially in areas such as product delivery or resource redeployment. Increase efficiency and optimize resources. Businesses in industries such as logistics and distribution can use GPS to make sure that trucks and personnel are following the proper and best possible routes – optimizing fuel expenses, minimizing maintenance and repair costs, and eliminating idle time. Businesses can also use GPS to eliminate costs associated with maintaining paper logs and the back-and-forth communication expenses associated with them. GPS has the potential to increase the productivity of your business in a big way by providing real-time, dynamic updates on the location and status of your key investments at any time. Contact us for ideas and help in implementing GPS in your operations today.

Beware of Rogue Antivirus Attacks

October 11, 2010 9:00 am

One technique scammers use to bully users into downloading malware is to launch repeated popup attacks prompting users to download their “antivirus” solution. It’s important to stay safe and keep a level head so you don’t get victimized. The modus operandi is this: say you’re browsing a random website, and a message suddenly pops up warning that your computer is infected with a deadly virus and you need to go to their website and download the proper antivirus software. If you close the window, another appears, saying the same message, and this happens over and over again until you visit their site. Naturally, the antivirus they want you to download is fake. The file is usually some sort of malware that doesn’t solve your problem, but compounds it. The key is to address this without having to download anything or visit any suspicious sites. When the popup problem, well . . . pops up, simply press ALT+F4 on your keyboard to force your browser to close, or go to the Task Manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL) and close your browser there. That usually does the trick. Of course, you will need to start a new browser session or else risk going back to the same site the popup attack came from in the first place Another technique scammers use to deceive users into going to their websites is to use a hot news item or trending topic as a lure to get you there. To avoid this, just notice what website you’re going to before you click a link, and only go to websites and news websites that you trust. It’s admittedly a bit of effort on your part to avoid getting scammed or hacked, but it’s a lot more inconvenient if your system becomes majorly messed up by malware. If you want to know more about staying safe from rogue antiviruses and other forms of malware, give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss genuine antivirus protection with you.

Three Business Plan Essentials: Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

October 8, 2010 9:37 am

Erratic by nature, disasters (natural or man-made) can happen anywhere at any time, and often with little or no warning at all. Planning ahead is imperative to ensure that your business can get back to normal operation as quickly as possible, with minimal loss and damage. Small to medium-sized businesses usually think that disaster plans are only important for large enterprises. However, these days even small businesses can’t afford to operate without a disaster plan. Plus, recent technology innovations make disaster planning reasonably priced for virtually every business, regardless of size. For any business owner, three objectives exist for disaster planning:  1) the assurance of never losing critical information, 2) reducing downtime when emergencies happen, and 3) quick recovery after a loss of data. These three objectives translate into three IT services: Backups The process of protecting your data by copying it to a secure device so that it can be easily and and quickly recovered in case of loss. Disaster recovery The process of reinstating crucial business data and procedures after a disaster happens. Business Continuity A carefully constructed plan that specifies exactly how your company will recover and re-establish disrupted functions after disaster strikes. Of these three tasks, Business Continuity is the most comprehensive since it entails much more than a simple discussion of IT matters—it’s a thorough, systematic action plan. And though you definitely need to consider protecting your IT infrastructure and data, you must also consider what you and your staff should do if a disaster occurs. Is there a meeting place where your staff could gather in the event of a building evacuation? Do you have a plan to get in touch with all your staff and their emergency contacts to relay important information? Is there a way for you to communicate with customers to advise when you’ll resume operations? What will you do if one of your main dealers experiences a disaster? The significance of these three services should never be taken lightly, but unfortunately many small and medium-sized businesses ignore them.  Why? Simply because when people think about disaster, the first things that pop in their minds are earthquakes, floods, and fires, and they figure there’s a low chance of those happening. But remember that there are also human-induced disasters such as hackers, unhappy employees who sabotage, and employees who thoughtlessly erase important data. Any of these could easily happen to you. You may already have a backup system in place, and perhaps, you have all three—backup, disaster recovery, and a business continuity plan. However, since business goals and technical environments constantly change, your plan requires regular assessment to ensure it’s still accomplishing all your needs. We can assist you in evaluating your existing disaster preparedness or suggest options if you don’t have plans yet. Contact us now for more details on how we can help you.