Blog

February 24th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_195098972Facebook might be the biggest name in social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all platform, there are trendier options such as Instagram and Snapchat, with a burgeoning millennial base to choose from. With that in mind, it’s essential for business owners to understand the pros and cons of each platform before settling on one.

Facebook According to the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, Facebook is the most utilized social media of all the options. Out of the survey’s 1,100+ respondents, 68 percent used Facebook as an integral part of their marketing strategy, with LinkedIn coming in second at 39 percent.

One of the contributing factors to Facebook’s popularity is the fact that it’s currently approaching a total of 2 billion personal users, making it the first place companies go to when they want to increase their brand awareness. Other marketing-specific reasons businesses choose Facebook are social media referral traffic, terrific conversion rates for e-commerce traffic, and a huge impact on user purchasing decisions.

YouTube YouTube is considered an undervalued social media resource for two main reasons. Firstly, although it’s the second-largest search engine on the internet, it still looms in the giant shadow of its rival Google Search. But when properly utilized, YouTube allows you to create channels for your products or services to be discovered by users, with little more than search optimizations.

Secondly, Google actually owns YouTube, and videos are reportedly 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than other organic content. Keep in mind that video production quality is more important than ever, so your content needs to be well-produced in order to make an impact.

Google+ Engagement and content on sharing might pale in comparison to Facebook, but an active Google+ page measurably contributes to the Google search ranking of your website -- just another way you can ensure your site’s position on the first page of Google results should be done. Also, Google+ has hundreds of millions of users and some of the platform’s features -- such as live Hangouts -- can be utilized to share content across all Google channels, including YouTube.

Snapchat and Instagram If your target audience is on the younger end of the scale, Snapchat is the way to go. The important thing to keep in mind when you want to connect with 18-24 year olds is to always be fun and creative. Your content doesn’t need to be overly-polished or corporate. Currently, there are over 100 million active users on Snapchat.

As for Instagram, it boasts over 400 million monthly users as well as a more well-rounded user base in terms of age and geography. The content on Instagram should look more professional and more artistic, and there’s an added benefit of direct integration with Facebook every time you post a new picture or video.

Yelp Review sites might not be the purest form of social media, but Yelp is another great way to connect with users and respond to (hopefully positive) feedback. If you’re concerned about the controversy and negativity that have arisen from Yelp reviews, the Yelp team is known for helping businesses improve their online status and rise above the harsh comments.

If you still have questions about social media platforms and how to utilize them to your advantage, feel free to contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 23rd, 2017

2017February23_Hardware_CDo you have security measures in place for your office’s printers? By “security,” we don't mean locked doors or watchful guards; we're referring to security against hackers that use printers as a weapon. Despite many companies going paperless, printers are still essential in most offices. And based on recent reports, popular printer brands are targeted for corruption.

Which printers are prone?

Based on the study made by Ruhr University Bochum researchers, printer brands such as Hewlett Packard (HP), Brother, Dell, Samsung, and several others are prone to different types of cyber attacks. Online printers from these brands could serve as cyber criminals’ path in which to steal credentials, corrupt a printer, or leak sensitive data from printed documents obtained through a printer’s memory.

Printers serve the basic purpose of turning computer documents into paper and have never been a typical entry-point of hackers’ attacks. Government and corporate offices, business establishments, non-profit organizations, and homes own one, and when you think about the fact that most printers are linked to computer owners’ internal networks, this expansion of cyber theft to printers begin to make even more sense.

How can attacks be made?

Researchers identified security vulnerabilities that would enable hackers to corrupt common printer languages such as PostScript and PJL, which they could then use to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks or reset the corrupted printer to its factory defaults, also termed as ‘protection bypass.’ Other ways in which hackers could exploit their access are through print job manipulations, which could lead to minor cases of printing corruptions or persistent printing distortions, and information disclosure, the leaking of sensitive information.

What safety measures are being developed?

The researchers who discovered the vulnerabilities developed the PRinter Exploitation Toolkit (PRET), a program designed to determine if a printing device is a likely target. This toolkit ‘connects to a device via network or USB and exploits the features of a given printer language, and is complemented by a wiki page that documents attacks made. It’s worth noting that more printer models and brands haven’t been tested due to the team’s lack of resources. But with this open-source toolkit, vulnerabilities of many brands and models may soon be identified.

Stealing information online is far from being a novelty in cyber security. But to do so through printers requires a special set of skills. It’s too soon to tell whether this form of cyber thievery is going to pose serious threats in the future, but regardless of how further studies progress, failing to implement security protocols for your network can cost you dearly. Get ready for any security threat by contacting our security experts now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 21st, 2017

2017February21_Virtualization_CImplementing a virtualized data storage solution at your business is no small feat. It’s a complicated process that requires immense amounts of technical expertise. Unfortunately, getting it up and running is only half the battle. For the most efficient solution possible, watch out for the three most common management issues outlined in this post.

Poorly structured storage from the get go

Within a virtualized data storage framework, information is grouped into tiers based on how quickly that information needs to be accessible when requested. The fastest drives on the market are still very expensive, and most networks will have to organize data into three different tiers to avoid breaking the bank.

For example, archived or redundant data probably doesn’t need to be on the fastest drive you have, but images on your eCommerce website should get the highest priority if you want customers to have a good experience.

Without a virtualization expert on hand, organizing this data could quickly go off the rails. Ask your IT service provider to see a diagram of where your various data types are stored and how those connect to the software-defined drive at the hub of your solution. If there are too many relays for your server to pass through, it’ll be a slower solution than the non-virtualized alternatives.

Inadequately maintained virtualized storage

How long will your intended design last? Companies evolve and expand in short periods of time, and your infrastructure may look completely different months later. Virtualized data storage requires frequent revisions and updates to perform optimally.

Whoever is in charge of your virtualization solution needs to have intimate knowledge of how data is being accessed. If you’re using virtual machines to access your database and move things around, they need to be precisely arranged to make sure you don’t have 10 workstations trying to access information from the same gateway while five other lanes sit unoccupied.

Incorrect application placement

In addition to watching how your data is accessed as the system shifts and grows, administrators also need to keep a close eye on the non-human components with access to the system. Virtualized applications that access your database may suffer from connectivity problems, but how would you know?

The application won’t alert you, and employees can’t be expected to report every time the network seems slow. Your virtualization expert needs to understand what those applications need to function and how to monitor them closely as time goes on.

Deploying any type of virtualized IT within your business network is a commendable feat. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Without the fine-tuning of an experienced professional, you risk paying for little more than a fancy name. For the best virtualization advice in town, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 15th, 2017

2017February15_Security_CAs technology consultants, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. We want to provide our clients with enterprise-level IT, but that requires that we specialize in overwhelmingly intricate technology. Explaining even the most foundational aspects of our cyber-security would most likely put you to sleep before convincing you of our expertise. But if you really want to know, here are a few summaries of how we focus on proactive strategies rather than reactive ones.

Understand the threats you’re facing

Before any small- or medium-sized business can work toward preventing cyber-attacks, everyone involved needs to know exactly what they’re fighting against. Whether you’re working with in-house IT staff or an outsourced provider, you should review what types of attack vectors are most common in your industry. Ideally, your team would do this a few times a year.

Reevaluate what it is you’re protecting

Now that you have a list of the biggest threats to your organization, you need to take stock of how each one threatens the various cogs of your network. Map out every device that connects to the internet, what services are currently protecting those devices, and what type of data they have access to (regulated, mission-critical, low-importance, etc.).

Create a baseline of protection

By reviewing current trends in the cyber-security field, alongside an audit of your current technology framework, you can begin to get a clearer picture of how you want to prioritize your preventative measure versus your reactive measures.

Before you can start improving your cyber-security approach, you need to know where the baseline is. Create a handful of real-life scenarios and simulate them on your network. Network penetration testing from trustworthy IT professionals will help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your current framework.

Finalize a plan

All these pieces will complete the puzzle of what your new strategies need to be. With an experienced technology consultant onboard for the entire process, you can easily parse the results of your simulation into a multi-pronged approach to becoming more proactive:
  • Security awareness seminars that coach everyone -- from receptionists to CEOs -- about password management and mobile device usage.
  • “Front-line” defenses like intrusion prevention systems and hardware firewalls that scrutinize everything trying to sneak its way in through the front door or your network.
  • Routine checkups for software updates, licenses, and patches to minimize the chance of leaving a backdoor to your network open.
  • Web-filtering services that blacklist dangerous and inappropriate sites for anyone on your network.
  • Antivirus software that specializes in the threats most common to your industry.
As soon as you focus on preventing downtime events instead of reacting to them, your technology will begin to increase your productivity and efficiency to levels you’ve never dreamed of. Start enhancing your cyber-security by giving us a call for a demonstration.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 10th, 2017

2017February10_Business_CGoogle’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365? That’s the question. One that many business owners ask themselves but often put aside because weighing the individual functionality seems like a monumental task! We’re here to help end that indecisiveness, so let’s take a look at what each has to offer.

Cost and commitment G Suite offers two pricing plans: $5 and $10 per user per month. The $5 plan offers company email addresses, video and voice calls, integrated online calendars, online documents, presentations and spreadsheets and more.

The $10 plan offers all the features of the $5 plan plus unlimited storage or 1TB per user for less than 5 members, advanced admin control panel for Google Drive, and audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing, to name a few.

  • Office 365 offers a number of pricing plans, including:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials ($5.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business ($8.25 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month)
  • Office 365 ProPlus ($12.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 ($8.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 ($20.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 ($35.00 per user per month)
We’ll compare two plans from Office 365 with the same pricing as G Suite below; you can find more details about Office 365’s other plans here.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials will cost $5 per user per month with annual subscription. Monthly subscription will cost $6 per user per month, meaning you’ll save $1 user per month with G Suite.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 will cost $2 less than G Suite’s $10 plan
Applications

Google Apps are designed for cloud-based collaboration. For instance, Google Docs lets you make permanent changes in the file or provide feedback using “suggestion” mode. Other advanced features in G Suite include machine intelligence in Google Calendar (which helps you find a time when invitees are free), Dynamic layout suggestions in Google Slides, and better file management and granular content ownership.

Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are designed based on desktop versions of their products with enhanced cloud capability -- you’ll be able to use cloud versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more while still being able to work offline. More advanced integration with Microsoft’s cloud solutions like SharePoint, Dynamic CRM, and Azure are also available.

Security

G Suite leverages machine learning capabilities to detect suspicious logins and block most advanced types of spam. It automatically scans every email attachment before you download it to prevent the spread of viruses.

Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a new email filtering service that targets specific advanced threats like unknown malware and viruses in real time to protect against malicious URLs.

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer a clean interface, the difference lies in the way emails are organized. Gmail lets you apply multiple labels to an email and offers 30GB of storage space across Gmail and Drive.

Office 365 uses classical folder structure to categorize emails and offers a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1-TB storage space. Unlimited storage is also available in its Enterprise E3 $20 per user per month plan.

Third-party integration

G Suite’s integration with CRM, productivity and customer service software gives you plenty of options. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Office 365, as Microsoft hasn’t been adopting a developer integration approach when compared with Google.

Support

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer 24/7 phone and email support. However, G Suite also offers live chat support and forums to seek clarification, give feedback and request additional functionality.

To sum up, G Suite is a better solution if you need native integration with third-party apps and support for various operating systems and devices. Despite that, Office 365 makes sense if you prefer a number of options when it comes to your pricing plans or need integration with other Microsoft cloud solutions. No matter the solution, maximizing productivity is imperative to stay ahead of competitors. If you need help finding the right solutions to enhance efficiency, just give us a call; we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
February 8th, 2017

2017February8_Hardware_CMany IT experts predict that more businesses will gravitate towards the Internet of Things (IoT). This statement is hard to dispute considering that smart thermostats and refrigerators are already in widespread use. But internet-connected appliances aren’t the only thing IoT has to offer. Here are four other ways your business can take advantage of this exciting new technology.

Improved logistics With IoT sensors, supply chain management and order fulfillment processes improve markedly to meet customer demand. For example, sensors on delivery containers and trucks in transit give managers real-time status updates, allowing them to track their items and ensure they reach the right location at the right time.

Streamlined inventory IoT also presents automation opportunities for businesses that need to manage and replenish their stock. When data recorded from IoT devices are tied to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you can accurately monitor your inventory, analyze purchase and consumption rates of a particular product, and automatically reorder items when IoT sensors detect that supply is running low. This minimizes out-of-stock incidents and prevents excess stock build-up.

Fast payment Given how most payments are done electronically via point-of-sale systems or the internet, IoT has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses process transactions. We’re already seeing a few examples of this today as ApplePay not only allows users to purchase goods and services using smartphone applications, but through wearable technology as well.

Soon enough, IoT devices might even allow restaurants and retailers to register or charge their customers the moment they walk through the door.

Market insight Businesses that can somehow make sense of IoT-collected data will gain a competitive edge. Marketers, for example, can gather valuable insight into how their products are used and which demographic is utilizing them the most. This information can then inform future marketing efforts and give businesses more direction on how to improve their products and services for their customers.

Although businesses will certainly face many challenges in implementing the Internet of Things, those who manage to overcome them will reap all the benefits of this burgeoning technology.

Want to know if an IoT deployment is right for your business? Contact our certified IT consultants today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 6th, 2017

2017February6_SocialMedia_CScroll, double-tap, repeat, might have been the original Instagram-ing routine, but not anymore. After partnering with global advertising giants, IG is introducing its latest feature: Stories. With it, you can share short videos, or even personally decorated snapshots of your daily life. But many of you might ask, “What does this have to do with online marketing?” Read on and find out.

Jim Squares, director of product marketing, said in an interview with Fortune that “a two or three-week test period” will be carried out before releasing it to all its active advertisers. Let’s face it, the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads are undeniable. But with Snapchat ads, they work mainly with larger brands and keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to collaborate with big boys like Netflix or Coca-Cola, you’re looking at a budget bigger than what you might have. By contrast, Instagram ads are self-serving and employ auction-based pricing.

When it comes to setting up and paying for video ads inside Stories, it’s a pretty straightforward process, much like Facebook advertising. Not only do you have the ability to target your audience, but the benefits of working with demographic and Internet-based targeting capabilities definitely give Instagram a competitive advantage. On top of this, users can expect more goodies when the format officially takes off. For the time being, Stories seems to be a simple yet efficient way to test out advertising placement.

Instagram also announced that analytics from Stories will also be included in the Business Tools dashboard, sharing basic insights including reach and impressions -- with a good chance of more analytics to be seen in the future. It’s estimated that up to 71 percent of US businesses will begin to market on Instagram in 2017, and these efforts will not go unnoticed since 75 percent of users initiate some sort of action after seeing a post.

It took Instagram quite a while before it rolled out any type of advertising or introduced any kind of business feature. When it finally did, however, they didn’t beat around the bush in monetizing the platform. Yet, several months after Stories’ initial launch, Instagram is already making plans to leverage its power.

That’s because Stories represents a stellar opportunity at getting back at its biggest rival -- Snapchat -- while simultaneously providing an immersive advertising experience. Because Stories take up the entire mobile screen, so will the ads. Sponsored Stories isn’t exclusive to just images; videos are an optional format for both advertisers and consumers alike. Meaning that full-screen multimedia truly makes it both an interactive and engaging experience. There won’t be a difference in engagement between organic and Sponsored stories; both enable viewers to like, comment and share.

It might not be the traditional once-upon-a-time kind of story, but Instagram’s latest feature is poised to bring happy endings to many -- if utilized properly, of course. If you are still uncertain or would like to ask further questions, feel free to give us a call. Allow us to partner with your business, so you can #succeed that much quicker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 3rd, 2017

Modern web network and internet telecommunication technology, big data storage and cloud computing computer service business concept: server room interior in datacenter in blue light

Modern web network and internet telecommunication technology, big data storage and cloud computing computer service business concept: server room interior in datacenter in blue light

Virtualization is great, but it is awfully confusing. And although the whole point of hiring a managed services provider is to hand off these issues to the experts, we believe a cursory understanding is helpful for everything, including bragging to competitors and making executive decisions. The latest trend in virtualization is hyperconvergence, and it’s all about automating repetitive server tasks to make your infrastructure simpler and more efficient than ever. Let’s take a look at some of its benefits.

Using a hyperconvergence model to structure your network is very representative of the current trends in small- and medium-sized business technology. It’s about making enterprise-level solutions more accessible to those looking for a smaller scale. So although a lot of these benefits sound like the same points we argue for other technologies, let’s take a look at how they are unique to hyperconvergence.

Software-centric computing

It may not sound huge at first, but by packing everything you need into a single box, and wrapping that box with a flexible and adaptable management software, you empower your hardware infrastructure to receive more regular patches and updates. This makes it much easier to add more hardware later, or restructure what you’re currently using.

Unified administration

Hyperconvergence consolidates a number of separate functions and services into one piece of technology. Whoever is managing your virtualization services can tweak storage, cloud, backup, and database settings and workloads from one place.

Streamlined upgrading

Different hyperconvergence “boxes” come in different sizes and capabilities. So all it takes to scale up is buying another unit based on your forecasted needs. If you’re in a place where all you need is a little extra, purchase a smaller upgrade. But when you’re expecting rapid growth, a bigger box will ensure your IT can expand with your business.

Stronger data protections

Complexity is the achilles heel of most networked IT. When a small group of people are trying to stay on top of a mounting pile of account management settings, malware definitions, and data storage settings, it’s hard to keep constantly probing cyber-attackers from finding a security hole. But with a hyperconvergence infrastructure, your virtual machines aren’t built by bridging a series of third-party services together -- it’s all one service.

Keep in mind that while hyperconvergence is simpler than most virtualization solutions, it’s not so simple as to be managed by in-house IT departments at more small- and medium-sized businesses. The benefit of a more unified virtualization solution when you already have a managed services provider is the speed at which your growth and evolution can be managed.

The better your technology, the faster we can make changes. And the faster we can accommodate your needs, the less downtime you experience. Call us today to find out more about a hyperconverged system.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 27th, 2017

2017January27_Security_CDoes filling in web forms sap all your browsing energy? Do you find it especially taxing to shop or register online using a mobile device? Google’s Chrome alleviated this dilemma when it introduced the Autofill feature in 2011, which made filling in forms much faster and making credit card purchases online more convenient. Unfortunately, it didn’t take that long for cyberthieves to find a way to take advantage.

How do they do it?

By concealing other fields in a sign-up form, users are tricked into thinking they only have to fill out a few fields. The trickery at work is that upon auto-sign up, other fields, which could include your billing address, phone number, credit card number, cvv (the 3-digit code used to validate credit card transactions), and other sensitive information, are auto-filled with the user none the wiser.

This sinister trick is nothing new, but since there hasn’t been any countermeasure since it was first discovered, the threat it poses is worth emphasizing. Finnish whitehat hacker Viljami Kuosmanen recently brought to light how users of Chrome and Safari are particularly vulnerable, and he even came up with a demonstration of how this phishing technique is perpetrated. The technique is so sneaky, it’s enough to make one give up online shopping forever.

Using plugins and programs such as password managers is also fraught with the security risk, as having access to such a utility empowers cyberthieves to do more than just obtain your credit card info; it opens them up to a great amount of personal details.

Preventing an autofill-related theft

So what can you do to avoid falling prey?

Using Mozilla Firefox is one of the easiest available solutions. As of today, Mozilla hasn’t devised a mechanism that affords its users the same convenience that Chrome and Safari users enjoy with autofill. When filling web forms on Firefox, users still have to manually pre-fill each data field due to a lack of a multi-box autofill functionality – a blessing in disguise, given the potential for victimization in autofill-enabled browsers.

Another quick fix is disabling the autofill feature on your Chrome, Safari and Opera (for Apple mobile devices) browsers. This would mean that when filling out web forms, you'd have to manually type responses for every field again, but at least you'd be more secure.

It’s not exactly the most sophisticated form of online data and identity theft, but complacency can result in being victimized by cyber swindlers. Take the first step in ensuring your systems’ safety by getting in touch with our security experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 26th, 2017

2017January26_Business_CInvesting in customer relationship management (CRM) software is absolutely essential for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to up their sales performance. It helps sales departments understand their clients, tailor their marketing efforts, and more. If your business isn’t already using CRM, here are five reasons why you should definitely give it a chance.

Grows with your business The ol’ Rolodex may have been useful for managing a few clients, but you’re going to need a better solution if you plan to maintain relationships with hundreds, possibly thousands, more. CRM scales with your business, meaning it can handle larger data sets and more clients as you expand your sales operation.

Organizes your data CRM software acts as a central database for all your sales records and transactions. This means important customer information can be retrieved in just a few clicks rather than rifling through thousands of documents, sticky-notes, and disorganized cabinets. And since CRM is hosted in the cloud, sales data, customer interactions, and other actionable information are available for the entire company.

Improves customer service Your sales team could be the most persuasive individuals in the world, but this means nothing if they can’t recall anything about their clients and their preferences. When your sales staff follows up on leads or existing customers, CRM will automatically retrieve contact history, past purchases, and customer preferences from your client database and display them on a single page during the call.

From here, sales representatives, armed with detailed customer information, will be able to recommend products and services that meet the client’s needs. So instead of struggling through a sales call, marketing employees can focus on delivering a professional sales pitch.

Streamlines your sales funnel CRM comes equipped with workflow management functions, supporting your sales pipeline in a number of ways. For example, you can configure your CRM to send instant follow-up emails when a lead visits a particular product page. You can even use automation to track where certain leads are in the sales pipeline and delegate the task to one of your closers.

Analyzes sales data With real-time sales information, business managers can track marketing campaigns and adjust their strategy accordingly. For instance, you might notice that click-through-rates for promotional emails and company newsletters are higher during Tuesday afternoon rather than Friday night. Having this information can help you focus your marketing efforts and message to generate more leads.

In addition, you can use CRM to analyze customer calling activity, market demographics, lead conversion rates, and key performance indicators to help inform future business decisions.

Understanding your customers can put you several steps ahead of the competition. If you need to manage contacts, eliminate time-consuming procedures, and improve your sales performance, CRM is the perfect business solution.

Contact us today to find out whether CRM is the right fit for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business