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January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_CRegardless of the industry in which you operate, it’s undeniable that social media has become an essential platform for many businesses of all sizes to easily engage and interact with customers and potential customers, as well as boost visibility. But there’s more to social media than market reach and penetration and it can prove to be a powerful tool for driving dynamic business development too.

In most cases, a business development manager already has an idea of the kind of company with which to partner. Their next step is to contact that company via a phone call or email. However, this can be an unreliable way to reach out, especially when your potential partner has never heard of you. Social media speeds up this process by identifying the best person to contact, as well as determining if you have any mutual connections.

Simply put, social media lets you understand the background of different companies and gives you an idea of the different players involved, before you even engage in a dialogue. With this in mind, let’s take a look at four ways you can utilize information available on social media to enhance your business development success.

  1. Social media is an extra pair of eyes Social media allows you to see first-hand what potential partners, competitors, and customers are doing, which is a major asset when it comes to your business development and performance. This can also reveal business-relationship possibilities or even warn where it is best to stay away. It’s crucial to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing mind-blowing content as well as highlighting recent successes.
  2. There’s no universal message in social media The way people behave and connect across different social media platforms varies, therefore it is important to adjust accordingly. For instance, you might use Twitter to promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share content, and direct customer service requests. You may use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives, such as showcasing a company’s culture and resources. It’s important to remember that there’s no universal rule to utilizing social media and that it is beneficial to be flexible. Think about what your individual goals are and work out which social media platform is the best avenue to explore.
  3. Leverage employee relationships If you’re looking to connect with an individual in a specific company, make it a habit to check and see if anyone in your company has a pre-existing relationship with that person. Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn make it fairly easy to spot mutual connections, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking. Whether you ask your colleague to help make an introduction or to arrange a meeting, a mutual connection gives you the competitive edge in effective business development.
  4. Use social media as a touchpoint Social media is not only essential to business development, but also complements other more traditional practices, such as when you’ve sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that has gone unanswered. It’s understandable that people get so busy they can delay, forget or pass over an inquiry, but instead of passively waiting for a reply, why not make it standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other social media platforms? This way you can build additional opportunities with potential partners, increase the likelihood of a response, and even forge a future business relationship.
The fundamentals of business development are strong relationships with a partner or companies with a good reputation, who will have a positive impact on your business, such as marketing an initiative collaboratively. Social media can get this whole process started, so the next time you’re looking to contact a business prospect or potential partner, start by visiting their social media channels to get the heads up to help you in your quest.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of social media in business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release of, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of Antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization, and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful, and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses, and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated Antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms - it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have - which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data - think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it - in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations - the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_CAn antivirus scanner is one of the most essential parts of any security plan. These useful programs scan computers and systems for potential infections and get rid of them, ensuring your files and systems are safe. Because many of these protection programs are subscription based however, it can be easy to let the validity expire. If this does happen, is it really such a big deal though?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.

Other programs will stop updating the essential virus and malware databases that are used by the program to identify and clean new malware. This means that while you will be secure from known viruses and security flaws up to the date of the last database update, you will not be secure against newly discovered viruses.

Some popular programs like Kaspersky offer an antivirus scanner trial version or a program that comes with a newly purchased computer.With programs like these, they will normally stop functioning once the trial period is over. Yes, they will still open, but you won't be able to scan or perform any tasks.

In short, when your subscription expires, your systems will no longer be secure, or as protected as they should be. Interestingly enough, in mid-November 2014, Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report 17. This report found that computers and systems with expired malware were only slightly less likely to be infected than systems without any malware scanners installed.

What do I do if my subscription is about to expire?

Before your subscription expires you should take steps to back up all of your systems and data. The reason for this is that should something happen you have a clean backup to revert to. Once this is carried out, then consider renewing your subscription. Most programs allow you to do this directly from the scanner itself, so it is often fairly straightforward.

As a business owner however, you are going to need to keep track of your systems and licenses. What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet with information on the subscription applied to all systems. Take account of when the scanner was installed on each system, how long the subscription period is for, and when it will expire.

What if my subscriptions are about to expire, but I don't like my current program?

There may come a time when the scanner you have selected simply isn't living up to your expectations. Maybe it takes too long to scan, uses too many resources, or simply isn't able to protect all of your systems. Regardless of the reason, switching scanners is always an option.

If you are thinking of moving to another scanner, we strongly recommend that before you do anything, you back up your systems. You can then start looking for other systems. We strongly recommend that you contact us, as we can help identify a solution that will work for your business and systems. We can then help ensure that the transition is carried out in a way that will not leave your systems open to attack.

We may have a managed antivirus solution that will work for your business. By using a system like this, we can help protect your systems, keeping them secure and always up to date, all without you having to get involved. All you need to do is get in touch to find our more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_CWhen looking into the ways companies are hacked, you quickly realize that there are so many different tactics out there that it is mind-boggling. One of the more effective methods used recently is spear phishing, and in early December 2014, a new spear phishing attack was uncovered. This threat, while directed at larger organizations, could be turned against smaller businesses as well, and is therefore worth you knowing about.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.

More often than not, these links are to websites where you enter account information, passwords, and even bank account details, or any other personal information which can be used to break into computers and even steal your identity.

What is this latest spear phishing attack?

This new form of spear phishing, being carried out by an organization who calls themselves FIN4, has actually been around since as early as mid 2013. When they attack Wall Street listed companies they are doing so to steal valuable plans and insider information.

What we know is that they send highly savvy and targeted emails to people at a company, trying to harvest Microsoft Outlook account information. Once they have this crucial data they then target others inside, or connected to, the organization, with the same email, while also injecting the code into ongoing messages. This method can spread the attack quickly, leading to a potentially massive security breach.

In the email examples of this phishing threat, the attackers write mainly about mergers and other highly valuable information. They also include a link to a forum to discuss the issues raised further. These emails come from people the recipient already knows, and the link is to a site that asks them to enter their Outlook account and password before gaining access. When this information is entered, it is captured by the attacker and used to launch more attacks.

What can we do to protect our systems?

From what we know, this attack is being carried out largely against law firms, finance companies, and other large organizations. While this discounts many small businesses, there is a good chance that the attackers will turn to small businesses operating with larger companies at some point.

Because this is an email-based attack, you need to be extra vigilant when opening all emails. Be sure to look at the sender's address, and read the body of the email carefully. While hackers generally have good English skills, they aren't fully fluent, which means you will notice small mistakes. Also, keep in mind previous emails sent by the recipient. If the tone and style is off, then the email may be fake.

It is important to always look carefully at all links in email messages. If a link looks suspicious, then ask the recipient for more information or to tell you where the link goes. If you come across any site asking you to enter account information, be extra careful. Look at the URL address in your browser, if it doesn't sat HTTPS:// before the address, then it may be a good idea to avoid this.

If you have any questions on spear phishing and how you can prevent it, contact us today to see how we can protect your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 30th, 2014

BCP_Dec23_CThere are many different backup solutions out there available to small and medium sized businesses. While most owners are aware of the fact that any backup solution is important for a Disaster Recovery Plan, it can be tough to pick the right one for your business. One of the most popular is online backup. If you are considering which backup solution to choose then our overview should help you decide.

What exactly is online backup?

In a wide sense, online backup is a backup system where your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.

When you back up your files and systems to an online solution, your files are stored off site, usually in redundant data centers. This means that should something happen to your files you can access the system via another computer and restore your backups onto that computer, as long as you have an Internet connection.

For many companies, this is arguably the most efficient form of backup, not because of the backup method itself, but because of the fact that your backups are stored remotely The chance your data will be accessible if your business faces disaster increase, as data can be recovered quicker than most other systems.

How do online backups work

Like most other technical systems out there, there are numerous varieties of online backups. Some of the most effective are image-based, which take a snapshot of a computer or server at a specific time and then upload this to the remote backup servers. This snapshot contains the whole system as it is and can be easily recovered.

Other solutions can be automated to back up specific files and folders, and run through a Web-based interface that can execute a backup from almost anywhere. Beyond this, many systems can be managed by a company like us. We can implement a system that works best for your company and your data, and then manage it so that your data will always be available when you need it. Should something go wrong, we can even help you recover your systems.

4 Benefits of online backup

Companies that implement an online-based backup have been able to realize the following benefits:
  1. Decreased recovery time - Because your data is stored online, as long as you have an Internet connection you can begin recovery at the click of a button; there is no having to go find your backup, then figure out how to recover it. Most companies see a generally reduced backup recovery time when they implement an online system.
  2. Increased backup reliability - Over time, physical systems break and need to be replaced, and this can happen at any time. Because online systems are managed by other companies, whose main job is to ensure backups are always available, you see increased reliability with these systems.
  3. Decreased costs - Physical backup systems can be costly, especially if you have a large number of systems or a large amount of data to back up. Many online providers charge a flat monthly fee that often works out to be less costly than other solutions. Beyond this, you don't need to invest in physical backup solutions and the storage space to house and maintain these. As a result you should see lower costs.
  4. Increased data availability - As long as you have an Internet connection, your data will be available. This means you don't have to worry about your offsite physical data being okay, if you have a problem or disaster strikes on your premises. With online services data is available when you need it.
If you would like to learn more about online backup, contact us today and let us reveal just how dynamic and effective our solutions can be. Don't wait until you have to face a backup issue to back up your vital data!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 18th, 2014

SocialMedia_Dec15_CMeasuring the overall success of a marketing campaign is often dependent on a number of metrics. When it comes to measuring the success of your social media campaigns, the most common metric employed is the number of shares. Companies who post content online often find it difficult to get their content shared through. If this resonates with you then here are four common reasons as to why your content might not be be shared and what you can do about that.

1. The vast majority of people are hesitant to share content

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook over a 17 day period, approximately 15.3 billion comments and posts were written but were then deleted and not posted on Facebook alone.

While the reasons will have been varied, the numbers highlight that the vast majority of users are sensitive to what they post on Facebook, and most most likely other networks as well. What does this mean for businesses? Well, you need to ensure that the content you are posting offers value to not only your audience, but their audience as well.

Think about when you have shared content on any network. You probably didn't do so 100% for yourself, but instead shared the content or created a post so your audience would interact with it, or possibly get something out of it. Think of this as the "hmm, that's interesting, other people will like it too, so I'll post it" mentality. By sharing content others enjoy or respond to you get the benefit of increased recognition.

If you can create content that gets people to think this way, there is an increased chance that they will share it.

2. Facebook users want to be seen in a positive light

According to a study carried out by INC. 80% of respondents share content because it shows that they are being a good friend to those they care about. People use social media to foster good relationships and connect with those they care about. And if somebody regards your posts as potentially able to tarnish their image on social media, they won't share it.

Businesses looking to capitalize on this need to try to create content and campaigns that help users better relate to one another. Combine this with the above example of creating interesting-to-share content and you will be more likely to see an increase in shares.

3. Content doesn't fit our salient identities

Because social media has become an extension of society, many experts apply common social science principles to it. The most commonly applied theory is of the five identities (relational, personal, social, superficial, and collective) that determine how people behave in a certain situation.

If you are posting content that doesn't fit with an an individual's current identity then it's not going to be shared. So, how can businesses capitalize on these changing identifies? One effective way is to get to know your main target audience; how they act and react to certain social cues, and then create content to fit with this behavior.

For example, if your target group for posts is parents, then using language and content that triggers parental instincts could increase shares as parents associate better with it.

You might want to widen your focus too and try developing content that capitalizes on different identities, tracking what works best.

4. Content doesn't mesh with a user's values and goals

The same INC. study found that after being a good friend, 63% of users surveyed noted that they were more likely to share content that reflected their goals, values, and dreams.

How can a business capitalize on this? The best way is to get to know your audience. Look at their posting and sharing habits and the type of content they share on a regular basis. This may change over time, but you will see patterns evolve for different groups. If you can develop and post content that reflects these main goals and values then you are more likely to see your content being shared. Try different approaches and keep in mind who you are developing content for.

If you are looking to learn more about social media, contact us today to see how our systems can help you integrate it with your business success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 11th, 2014

BusinessValue_Dec11_BThe start of a new year can be a stressful time for all. Businesses are usually tied up planning for the rest of the year. This often means looking for new, yet affordable, business systems that can make tasks and business operations easier. To help, here are five free or affordable business systems that could be a real help to your business.

1. Canva

If you are a business owner, chances are that you aren’t the world’s best graphic designer, unless you run a graphics company of course! In order to design graphics, icons, flyers, and even posters you need specific graphics software. This can be expensive and the software is not going to be easy to use for design novices. You may even need an in-house graphic designer. This is where Canva comes in.

Canva is an online app that allows users to quickly and easily create professional looking graphics using drag and drop functionality and a wealth of free, or affordable, stock images. In other words, you can create designs in a short amount of time.

The service itself is free, but some images do need to be purchased.

2. FreshBooks

Most business owners are not certified accountants either, and even if you understand the basics of accounting and tracking of finances, the money side of your business is often a full time or at least a specialized job. If not handled correctly, this could spell disaster for your business. One solution is cloud-based FreshBooks.

FreshBooks is accounting software that allows you to invoice clients, track payments, accept payments, track expenses, and access financial reports at the click of a button. Beyond this, you can connect FreshBooks with your payroll services to ensure that your employees are paid on time.

The platform offers a free plan that allows you to track and manage one client, while paid subscriptions start at USD 19.95 a month.

3. Hootsuite

Many businesses have a presence on more than one social media network. While this is a great way to reach out to the highest number of customers, it can be a chore to manage and maintain a presence on all of these networks all of the time. Hootsuite is specifically aimed at this task.

Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to manage your social media accounts from one platform. Using Hootsuite you can schedule posts, set up streams, establish keyword tracking, and track engagement. It really is a one-stop-shop for all of your social media platforms.

Hootsuite offers a free subscription which allows you to manage three social media profiles, while a business subscription starts at USD 8.99 and allows you to track up to 50 profiles and gives you access to more advanced analytics and features.

4. Podio

Managing projects and ensuring that all employees are aware of what they should be doing, and what others are doing, can be one of the toughest tasks for any business owner. Sure, spreadsheets and communication work to a point, but there is always room for error and of course improvement, which is what Podio provides.

Podio is a project management app that allows you to easily manage projects, tasks, deadlines, and even files. Using an intuitive dashboard that all users have access to, employees and managers can easily see who is doing what, as well as what needs to be done and what has already been done.

Podio is free with limited features for five users and costs USD 9 per user, per month for the full subscription plan.

5. CoSchedule

If you have a blog, either on WordPress or hosted by WordPress, sharing the articles you post on your social media profiles is a great way to increase content reach and interaction. However, it can be time consuming to actually create posts on each different platform, unless you use CoSchedule.

With CoSchedule you can write your social media posts for a blog article and schedule them to be posted once the article goes live. Think of it as automating the sharing of your blog articles. This will save you time, while making it easier to manage your content, largely because the calendar included in CoSchedule is easy to work with and gives you a good view of your content.

CoSchedule is USD 10 per month, per blog.

If you are looking for more affordable ways to improve your business operations, contact us today to see what boost we can offer you at a price you can afford in 2015.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 3rd, 2014

Security_Dec01_CMalware is a constant threat to a business's security. However, with many malware infections we tend to be able to learn a lot about them in a very short amount of time, which weakens the power of each attack. There is a new threat called Regin however, that is leaving many security experts baffled. Here is an overview of Regin and what it means exactly for businesses.

What exactly is Regin?

What is most interesting about Regin is that a number of security experts seem to not really fully understand it. They know that it exists, they know it is complex, and they know it is one of the most advanced pieces of malware ever created. But, they don't know what exactly it does, or where it comes from.

What we do know is that Internet security firm Symantec is credited with first bringing Regin to public attention, and that it has been around since at least 2008. So far, the company has said it is similar to the Stuxnet virus that was supposedly developed in (or by) the US and used to attack and subvert the Iranian nuclear program.

Regin is known to infect Windows-based computers and at its core is a backdoor trojan style of infection. From detected infections it is looks like the purpose of the malware is not to steal information but to gather intelligence and facilitate other types of attacks.

What makes this malware so powerful and disturbing is that it is much more advanced than other infections. Using various encryption methods it can hide itself extremely well, making it difficult to detect. It can also communicate with the hacker who deployed it in a number of different ways, thus making it a challenge to block or stop. As a result, it is far from easy to actually figure out what exactly this malware is doing and why.

Who has been infected?

According to various security experts we have been able to compile a list of companies and organizations that have been targeted to date. These include:
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Government institutions
  • Financial companies
  • Research companies
  • Individuals and companies involved in crypto-graphical and mathematical research
At the time of this article, no known attacks have been carried out against companies in the US, Canada, or the UK. The main countries targeted so far have been Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with a smaller number of infections in Malaysia, Indonesia, Ireland, and Iran. A total of 10-15 countries have been targeted since the malware was first discovered in 2008.

Is this a big deal for my company?

Just because your company is operating in a country that hasn't been affected thus far, doesn't mean that you aren't at risk of being attacked by this malware in the future. If you operate in any of the industries or sectors listed above, you could still be at risk, especially if you do business with clients in infected regions.

For now, however, it appears that Regin is only infecting larger government bodies and large companies outside of North America and much of Europe, so the chances of you being infected are relatively low. Although as with any threat, this can change at any moment.

What we recommend is that you ensure your antivirus and antimalware solutions are kept up to date and always switched on. You can rest assured that eventually experts will learn more and block this malware from infecting systems. Beyond this, working with an IT partner, like us, who can ensure that your valuable data and systems are secure, is also be a good idea. The same goes with watching what you download and any emails you open. If you don't know or trust the source, don't download any program, open an attachment, or read an email connected to it.

Looking to learn more about the security of your systems? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 3rd, 2014

BI_Dec2_COften, when companies look to integrate business intelligence processes the first department that systems are applied to is sales. By employing metrics that track sales activity and any sales-related activity, business owners can gain a better picture of overall success. The problem is, it can be tricky to pick which metrics to track. To help, here are five of the most commonly tracked sales metrics.

The sales pipeline

This metric is often employed by businesses to show current sales opportunities and estimate the number of sales or revenue the sales team will bring in over a set period of time, usually a couple of months. When employed correctly, team members are better able to track and remain in control of their sales. Managers can also be assured that targets are more accurately set and reached.

When companies set up their sales pipeline metrics they often set out to measure:

  1. Average time deals remain in the pipeline.
  2. Average percentage of converted leads.
  3. Average worth of every deal.
  4. The number of potential deals in the pipeline.

Overall sales revenue

This metric is often seen to be the most important sales-related metric to implement, largely because it provides managers and owners with a good overview of the health of their company and overall performance. In short, sales revenue allows you to accurately view the profitability of your business, even if your profits aren't presently growing.

Beyond giving a useful whole-business overview, this metric can also uncover exactly how much each sale influences or contributes to the bottom line. This can be calculated by using the standard profit-ratio equation - net income over sales revenue.

Accuracy of forecasts

Any sales manager knows that forecasts are just that, predictions. But, because so much of sales is based on informed speculation it is important to track the overall accuracy of any future forecasts. By doing so, you can uncover gaps in processes and reveal any forecasting tools that need to be improved.

From here, you can track improvements and tweak forecasts to ensure that they become as accurate as possible. After all, if you can show that you are meeting your goals, or are close to meeting them, you can make more reliable decisions and be assured that your company is doing as well as it appears to be.

Win rate

The win rate, also known as the closure rate, is the rate that shows how many opportunities are being translated into closed sales. Because this rate looks at the number of sales, you want it to be as high as possible, especially when you look at the time your sales team puts into closing sales.

While a high rate is preferable, low win rates are also useful largely because they can highlight areas where improvement is needed. For example, if your team has constantly low win rates across the board, then it could signify that there is a need for more training on closing sales, or that sales staff may not be knowledgeable enough about the products or services being offered. A fluctuating rate could show increased industry competitiveness and highlight when a sales push could be beneficial.

Loss rate

The loss rate can be just as important as the win rate, largely because it focuses on how many potential customers did not purchase products and/or services from you. It can really highlight problematic areas in the early sales process. For example, by tracking the loss rate you may be able to see that response time is low, causing potential customers to walk away.

Essentially, when measured correctly, you can use loss rate to improve the overall sales process and hopefully bump up your overall win rate. You can also compare the two rates to really see how big of a gap there is and give your team a solid goal to try and find ways to reduce this gap.

If you are looking for solutions that allow you to track and measure your sales and any other data you generate, contact us today to learn how we can help turn your data into valuable, viable business information to lead your company to better success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 25th, 2014

Hardware_Nov25_CSelecting a Wi-Fi router, much like selecting any other piece of equipment for your business, can be a complicated task. There are so many different models and manufacturers out there that it can be a chore to work out the best option for your business. To help, here are some important features all routers for business should have, and what elements to look out for.

Essential features

For the vast majority of users, there are five main features that all wireless routers must have in order to make them useful in the office. They are:
  • Network type - Look at any router and you will quickly see that there are a number of different networks available. The four most commonly found are 802.1b, 802.1g, 802.1n, and 802.11ac. These designations are for how fast the router can transfer wireless data, with 802.11ac being the fastest of these four. Most offices should be able to get by on n routers, but those who have users connecting via Wi-Fi and cable may do better with 802.11ac routers - which are backward compatible with other slower network versions.
  • Throughput - This is closely associated with the router's network type, and is usually one of the first things listed on router boxes and specifications. To spot the router's throughput, look for Mbps. This indicates the speed at which the router is supposed to transmit data from your connection to users. It is important to note here that if you have a 100Mbps Internet connection, but buy a router that is only say 80 Mbps, then the total speed will be the lower figure, 80Mbps. Therefore, it would be a good idea to get a router with a higher throughput, or a close throughput, to your main Internet connection.
  • Range - This is particularly important for users who will be connecting via Wi-Fi, as they will likely not be sitting right beside the router. Generally speaking, the further you are from your router, the slower and weaker your connection will be. As a rule of thumb: 802.11ac and n routers will offer the strongest connections and greatest range. But this will all depend on where the router is placed and any natural barriers like concrete walls, etc.
  • Bands - On every single router's box you will see numbers like 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz. These indicate the wireless radios on the router. A dual-band router will have both a 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz radio which allows devices to connect to different bands so as not to overload a connection. Those who connect to a 5Ghz band will generally have better performance, but the broadcast range will be much shorter than the 2.4Ghz radio.
  • QoS - Quality of Service is a newer feature that allows the router administrator to limit certain types of traffic. For example, you can use the QoS feature of a router to completely block all torrent traffic, or to limit it so that other users can have equal bandwidth. Not every router has this ability, but it is a highly beneficial feature for office routers.

Useful features

As well as the above features, which are essential for business Wi-Fi routers, there are also some useful features that may help improve overall speeds and usability. Here are three of the most useful, but not essential:
  • Beam-forming - This is a newer feature being introduced in many mid to high-end routers. It is a form of signal technology that allows for better throughput in dead areas of a business or home. In other words, it can help improve the connection quality with devices behind solid walls, or in rooms with high amounts of interference. By utilizing this technology, routers can see where connection is weak and act to improve it. While this is available on routers with many network types, it is really only useful with routers running 802.11ac, so if you have devices compatible with 802.11ac, then this feature could help.
  • MIMO - Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output is the use of multiple antennas to increase performance and overall throughput. Most modern routers don't actually use multiple antennas or extra antennas to increase performance, instead utilizing this concept to ensure that more devices can connect to one router with less interference and better performance.
  • Antennas - Some routers, especially those geared towards home use, don't have physical antennas, while other higher-end routers do. With many wireless routers, the idea behind antennas is that they allow the direction of the best connection to be configured. It can be easy to think that these antennas will help improve connection, but when it comes to real-world tests, there is often only a nominal improvement if the antennas are configured and aimed properly.
While these features can help improve the overall connectivity and speed of a wireless network, they are not necessary for most business users. If you are going to be tweaking networks however, then these may help. Beyond that, concepts like beam-forming only work well if you have a wealth of devices that are 802.11ac compatible and these are still less popular than devices that are say 802.1n compatible.

Features to watch out for

There are a number of router features that manufacturers often tout as essential, important, etc., when in reality these features are often more about marketing and will pose little use to the vast majority of users.
  • Routers with advertised processor speeds - With many pieces of equipment, the processor speed is an important indicator as to how fast it will run, and how well systems will run. With routers however, there is usually a small requirement for processing power. Sure, some features like firewalls require processing power, but the vast majority of routers have the power to run these. Therefore, advertised processor speeds with Wi-Fi routers offer no realizable benefit to the majority of users.
  • Tri-band - While many routers have dual broadcasting bands, some newer ones are now tri-band. The idea and marketing behind this is that with a third band, throughput can be dramatically increased and this is often reflected in the speeds manufacturers say these routers can offer. In reality however, this often isn't the case, as all this extra band really does is allow for more devices to connect. You will most likely not see an increase in overall connection speed.
  • Patented or trademarked features - Almost every router these days will have individual features (also known as proprietary technology) that the manufacturer includes with the idea that it makes the router that much better, or at least uniquely different, than any other. While many of these features can be useful to some users, they should not be the main reason to select a router.

How do I pick the best router?

Go to any hardware retailer and you will quickly find that the sheer number of wireless routers out there is overwhelming. Sure, they all do the same thing, but some will be better than others. One thing to try is to look at the user submitted reviews of different routers online. While the manufacturers may claim one thing, it is the real-world users who can shed the best insight into products. Try to find more business-oriented reviews rather than views based on domestic use.

What we recommend is to contact us. We can work with you to help you find and set up the best router for your business. Get in touch today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware