Blog

July 24th, 2014

BusinessValue_July21_CWhile technology is without a doubt the backbone of almost every business, it can be difficult for business owners to manage or implement it. To many, technology has become so complex that a dedicated IT team is necessary. One solution that may prove more favorable however is to outsource your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

When small to medium businesses look to outsource the management of their technology, many turn to a Managed Services Provider. These service providers function as partners in the management of a business's technology and often assume responsibility for managing, installing, and monitoring all, or at least a large part, of your tech on your behalf.

Because many of these IT partners are focused on technology services, they can often provide technology services equal to, or better than, hiring an in-house IT team. Beyond that, most IT partners offer services at a fixed monthly rate, thus allowing your business to effectively budget for IT expenditures.

5 Ways an IT partner can help

Aside from stabilizing costs and offering powerful IT solutions, there are many ways an IT partner can help your business. Here are 5:

1. Provide stability and direction

Technology is always changing, and the number of services and solutions available is simply staggering. Do you go with Windows, OS X, or Linux for your operating system? What about servers? Do you want cloud services? If so, which? Simply picking the right solution for your business requires an IT expert.

IT partners know technology and take the time to get to know your business needs and goals. From there, they can help pick and implement the best solutions that will support your current demands and provide the necessary IT platform on which you can stably expand your business.

2. Allow you to focus on your core business function

Anyone who is not an IT expert but has been thrust into the role of managing technology quickly comes to realize that technology management and implementation is a full time job. What this means in many small businesses is that someone has to give up time focusing on their main role to focus on technology. This inevitably results in a loss of overall productivity.

By outsourcing your IT, you and your employees can focus on core business functions, without having to worry about pressing technology issues and staying up-to-date with tech developments. This results in an overall increase in productivity.

3. Help you learn how to leverage technology to meet your business goals

To many, new technology like the cloud, advanced databases, and web languages like HTML and CSS are simply too confusing. They may even be downright scary! When people feel overwhelmed by technology, they will often not be able to use it in the best possible way or they will shy away from it. This can lead to decreased productivity, unused technology, and a wasted investment.

Many IT partners don't just install and manage systems, they also take the time to ensure that employees are comfortable with them and understand how to use them. This increases overall tech buy-in and can in turn reduce wasted investments, saving you money in the long run.

4. Enable you to use the latest technology

A common complaint of many who work in small to medium businesses is that the technology systems in the company are old or slow. This is largely due to the fact that many businesses operate on thin margins and simply cannot afford to update systems or integrate new ones.

IT partners offer their services to many different companies and therefore need to ensure that they are using the latest technology. Because most of these services are offered over the Web, they can pass along the features and updates to your business without you having to invest in new technology.

Beyond this, many MSPs offer full-service solutions that include picking the best technology for your business. They can install systems based on your budget and also manage them, ensuring that systems remain up-to-date and fully support your business needs.

5. Ensure compliance

Many industries like healthcare, education, finance, and real estate, require that businesses comply with strict regulations regarding technology and its use. Some governments even require that all businesses meet privacy regulations, making it difficult for businesses to know what the requirements are and if they are actually compliant.

IT partners also operate in these industries and are compliant. This means that they can often ensure that your business and systems are also meeting regulations.

If you are looking for an IT partner who can help your business get the most out of your technology, contact us today to learn more about our managed services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 23rd, 2014

BCP_July21_CBacking up your data is an essential business task that should not be ignored. Believe it or not, it's not a matter of if your systems will crash putting your data at risk, but when. There's a good chance that you could face data loss if systems crash, and backing up your data will reduce this loss. In case you are struggling with backing up your data, we have come up with eight tips that can help.

1. Pick the backup solution that works best for your business

When it comes to backing up the data on your company's computers and systems, most companies consider five main options:
  • Internal hard drives - You can either use another hard drive installed in your computer or partition an existing hard drive so that it functions as a separate drive on which you back your data up. This is a quick option, however should your computer or the hard drive fail - two of the most common computer failures - then you will lose this data.
  • External hard drives - These drives are essentially separate hard drives that you connect to your computer via a USB or other connection. Many of these drives allow for one touch backup and can be configured to back up data at certain times. While these can be useful, especially if you want to keep data backups easily accessible, they are prone to the same potential failure as internal drives.
  • Removable drives or media - For example, USB flash drives, DVDs, etc. These are great for backing up work you are doing at the moment or for transferring small files from one machine to another. These options are limited by smaller storage sizes however, so backing up even one computer will likely require multiple disks or drives.
  • Cloud-based backup - This is the act of backing up your files to a backup provider over the Internet. Your files are stored off-site and can be restored as long as you have an Internet connection. For many businesses, this has become the main form of backup employed, largely due to cost and convenience - files can be backed up in the background. The biggest downside of this backup option however is that you do need an Internet connection for it to work and you will see more bandwidth being used, which could result in slower overall Internet speeds when files are being backed up.
  • NAS - Network Attached Storage, is a physical device that has slots for multiple hard drives. You connect this to your network and the storage space on the hard drives is pooled together and delivered to users. This solution is like a mix of cloud-based and external backup, only the device is usually in your office. While it is a good backup solution, it can get expensive, especially if you have a large number of systems to back up.
There are a wide variety of backup solutions available, so it is a good idea to sit down and figure out which are best for your business. The vast majority of companies integrate multiple solutions in order to maximize the effectiveness of their backups and spread the risk of losing data around a bit.

2. Split your backup locations

Despite all of the backup options available, you can narrow these down to two categories, the fact that the backups are kept in two locations:
  • On-site - Data backup solutions that are kept in your office. This could include internal hard drives, or NAS, and more. The idea here is that the data backup is kept in your office. Some like USB drives may leave the office, but the main idea is that they are used primarily in the office.
  • Off-site - Data backup solutions are stored off-site, or out of the office. The best example of this is cloud-based backup where your data is stored in a data center, most likely in another city. Another example is backing up to hard drives and storing them in a secure location outside of the office.
In order to ensure that your data backups are available should you need them you could split up the locations where they are kept. Should you keep all of your backups on hard drives in the office and there is damage to the premises, you could see your data disappear. One of the most effective strategies is to have one set of backups on-site, and another off-site which will ensure that should there be a disaster in one location, the other will likely be safe and you will still be able to access your data.

3. Establish a standard naming and filing system

Have you ever seen how people organize their hard drives? Some like to use folders and subfolders that are organized neatly, while others tend to throw files into one general folder. The same can be said for they way files are named - there's just so many differences.

Because of these differences, it can be difficult to back up and recover files properly. We recommend that you pick a naming and file system that every file and folder will follow across all systems. This means backups will be quicker, you will be able to see what is new, and you will spend less time organizing files.

Beyond this, an efficient naming and organization structure goes a long way toward making it easier to find files and recover them should your systems go down.

4. Determine which files need to be preserved

While it may be tempting to back every file and folder up, in an effort to maximize efficiency of your solution, it is better to not back everything up. We aren't saying don't back anything up, but you should take time to identify what files and folders are to be backed up. For example, screenshots that have been uploaded to the Web may not need to be kept.

The same can be said for non-work related files. While these may be important to your personal life, they likely aren't to the business so should not be backed up onto your business backups.

Look at each file and folder and see if it has something to do with business decisions, or is in anyway tied to your business. If it is then it is probably a good idea to keep it.

Stay tuned for the next four tips coming soon. If you would like to learn more about data backups in the mean time however, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 23rd, 2014

iPhone_July21_CMessaging apps have become an increasingly popular application that most business operators rely on. Not only do they help with getting information and visuals across, but messaging apps these days allow for voice recording and video integration too. Paired with the number of iPhone users, it’s safe to say that many people are dependent on the iPhone’s messaging capabilities. With that in mind, isn’t it time you had a comprehensive view of some iPhone messaging tips to help ease your communication process?

1. Create Shortcuts

Have you ever typed phrases that you often use on the iPhone messaging app only to correct the typos that often come from typing on the touchscreen? To do away with this annoyance, you can create shortcuts for phrases by going to Settings>General>Keyboard>Shortcut and clicking on Add new shortcut. Now, whenever you type in a particular word that matches the shortcut you’ve entered, you won’t have to type out that entire phrase again.

2. Voice Messages

While voice messages have been ignored by many people, they’re actually a fast and effective way to communicate in the iOS messaging app. Simply record any message through the Voice Memo that is available in the Utility folder and tap on the arrow symbol in your recording page to share them on your messaging app. Now you won’t have to worry about typing your message or there being any sort of miscommunication again.

3. Share Contacts

Sharing contacts is handy for business operators. And while you’d usually go into your contact page and type in a contact’s phone number, there is a quicker way to get the job done. Simply tap into contact information and then scroll down and hit the Share Contact option. Not only will you eliminate having to type that contact’s phone number, but other information from that contact such as their email or work address will also be shared without you having to copy and paste it.

4. Share Messages

Sharing of information is a basic task in any business, and if you want to share a message but don’t want to type it out or even copy and paste it, the iPhone messaging app features another alternative. All you have to do is tap and hold down the message, tap on More and then on the blue arrow on the bottom right corner of the prompt command. By doing this, your message will be placed in a new message screen and you can simply choose your recipient.

5. Hide Message

We all need some privacy, especially where work is concerned, and the messaging app on the iPhone allows you to keep your messages to yourself by stopping the message preview from showing in the Notification Center. Go to Settings>Notification Center >Messages, then tap Show Preview to turn the message preview off. Now, when you receive a message, your iPhone will only display who sent that message without compromising its content.

Familiarizing yourself with iPhone’s messaging capabilities will save you time and frustration - and in chaotic business environments that can be a huge advantage. Looking to learn more about iPhone and its capabilities? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
July 17th, 2014

BCP_July14_CMetrics are used in nearly every business process, including disaster preparedness and any business continuity plan (BCP) you might have at the ready. Businesses who are looking to ensure that their company will make it through any disaster successfully need to have an effective BCP with metrics like RTO and RPO in place.

While both RTO and RPO are important elements of continuity plans, and they both sound fairly similar, they are actually quite different. In this article we define RTO and RPO and take a look at what the difference is between the two concepts.

RTO defined

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is the target time you set for the recovery of your IT and business activities after a disaster has struck. The goal here is to calculate how quickly you need to recover, which can then dictate the type or preparations you need to implement and the overall budget you should assign to business continuity.

If, for example, you find that your RTO is five hours, meaning your business can survive with systems down for this amount of time, then you will need to ensure a high level of preparation and a higher budget to ensure that systems can be recovered quickly. On the other hand, if the RTO is two weeks, then you can probably budget less and invest in less advanced solutions.

RPO defined

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective, is focused on data and your company's loss tolerance in relation to your data. RPO is determined by looking at the time between data backups and the amount of data that could be lost in between backups.

As part of business continuity planning, you need to figure out how long you can afford to operate without that data before the business suffers. A good example of setting an RPO is to imaging that you are writing an important, yet lengthy, report. Think to yourself that eventually your computer will crash and the content written after your last save will be lost. How much time can you tolerate having to try to recover, or rewrite that missing content?

That time becomes your RPO, and should become the indicator of how often you back your data up, or in this case save your work. If you find that your business can survive three to four days in between backups, then the RPO would be three days (the shortest time between backups).

What's the main difference between RTO and RPO?

The major difference between these two metrics is their purpose. The RTO is usually large scale, and looks at your whole business and systems involved. RPO focuses just on data and your company's overall resilience to the loss of it.

While they may be different, you should consider both metrics when looking to develop an effective BCP. If you are looking to improve or even set your RTO and RPO, contact us today to see how our business continuity systems and solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 16th, 2014

AndroidTablet_July14_COne of the biggest business trends is the idea of going mobile. With the heavy adoption of devices like Android tablets, business owners are able to connect with the office from nearly anywhere. This is great news and one of the mains reasons why so many businesses are thinking about adopting Android tablets at work. For those who are, here is a brief guide on some dos and don'ts for Android in the office.

Do:

  • Use separate profiles - Tablets that use newer versions of Android (4.3 and newer) have a unique feature that is incredibly useful for business users: You can set up more than one account on the device. This means you can have a personal account and a work account on the same device without the two crossing over. Each account has their own apps and layout, which makes it perfect for the BYOD crowd.
  • Pick responsibly - Android tablets come in all shapes and sizes, and with different versions of the operating system. It is therefore a good idea to do some research before you buy one for your business. Take the time to try and identify what you will be using the device for, what features you would like, and most importantly, if the device is compatible with your existing systems. We strongly recommend going with one of the big name brands like Samsung, LG or Acer, or the Nexus line.
  • Develop a usage and management plan - Before you implement the device into your office, be sure to develop a plan on how the device is to be used and managed. Will each employee be in charge of managing their own device, or will your IT partner manage them for you? Be sure to also develop a list of approved apps, including important ones like email and messaging; and that users are familiar with how to use them.
  • Look into accessories - One common factor many businesses forget to look into when implementing Android devices is the numerous accessories available for tablets. In order to extend the life of the devices it is a good idea to get protective cases and screen covers. Also, look and see if the device you have chosen has a removable battery or SD card. If it does, you may want to invest in extra batteries and cards.

Don't

  • Skimp on security - As Android tablets become more popular, the devices are seeing an increase in malicious attacks. It would therefore a good idea to implement mandatory security measures on all devices. This includes an antivirus scanner and daily check for app updates. Also be sure to educate the staff who will be using the device on common security issues, such as how to spot fake apps, use an antivirus scanner, and how to enable secure browsing on the Web.
  • Allow third party app stores - Because of the openness of Android, you can install apps from almost any location. This has resulted in many third-party app stores (stores not run by Google) popping up. Some of these stores host any kind of app, including ones that contain malware. So, it is a good idea to just outright ban these stores; only allowing apps from Google Play to be installed on devices.
  • Force the tablet on users - Some employees won't want a tablet, preferring instead to stick with their laptop or desktop. Don't force your employees to adopt the device if you know they won't use it. This will just lead to you wasting your tech budget and to unused devices.
  • Worry about fragmentation - Yes, Android is very fragmented - devices are running different versions of Android. While this may seem like a big deal, it doesn't have to be. We recommend that when selecting tablets, pick a newer version of Android and purchase tablets using the same version. Once you get used to the tablet, the issue of fragmentation will usually disappear, especially if everyone is on the same version.
If you are looking for help selecting and managing an Android device for your office, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_CA common issue many businesses face, regardless of their size, is that their computer systems and devices get progressively older and slower, unless they are constantly updated. This can frustrate some employees who may have up-to-date personal devices, so much so that they simply start to bring these devices into the office. The idea of BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is not all that new, but it is a growing concern and if it's not handled properly it can pose a security risk.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 10th, 2014

BI_July07_CTake a step back and think about the data available to your business. Chances are it has grown exponentially, and will likely continue to do so into the future. While this can be useful as more data equals a better, clearer picture of what is going on in your business, there is still a large amount of data that is useless. In order to prevent you and your company from being overwhelmed, you should have a well defined data collection system in place.

What is well defined data collection?

Everyone collects data, even people who don't use computers. The key to being able to successfully leverage the data you have available to your business lies in a strong foundation - in this case, how you collect your data. With an appropriate system in pace you will know what data to collect and measure, and just how important it is. From here, you can more effectively analyze and interpret it, allowing you to make more informed decisions.

If you are looking to implement a new data collection system, or improve on how you currently collect it, here are six tips that can help:

1. Think about what customer interactions are important

Often the most important data you need is in relation to your customers. Your first step should be to define important customer interactions. For example, if you own an online store, you will likely want to know where your customers come from, the items they click on, items they add to their cart, and items they ultimately buy.

By first identifying important interactions to track, you can then look for metrics and data collection methods related to these interactions. This makes it easier for you to track the most important data.

2. Think about what behavior-related data is important

Don't just focus on those customers who have completed a purchase or followed through the whole business chain. Think about what behavior could produce data that is important to your organization.

To continue the online store example from above, this information could include how far down the page people scroll, how many pages deep they go when looking at product categories, how long they spend on a site, and where those who don't convert leave from.

Collecting and analyzing data like this can be a great determinant of what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

3. Look at important metrics you use

Sometimes the way you collect your data will depend on how you plan to measure it. This includes the different metrics you use to define the success or failure of marketing plans, sales initiatives, and even how you track visitors.

Be sure to identify which ones your business currently uses, as these will often point you towards the relevant data you will need to collect.

4. Identify the data sources you are going to use

In many businesses there are redundancies with data collected. For example, a CMS (content management system) will often have some of the same data points as Web analytics, or a POS (Point of Sale) will have some of the same data points as an inventory system. Due to this, you are going to have to identify what systems will provide what data.

On the other hand, many businesses use data from multiple systems for one key metric. In order to ensure that you are collecting the right data, you will need to identify these sources and ensure that they are compatible with your data collecting system. If they aren't, you could face potential problems and even make wrong decisions based off of incomplete data, which could cost your business.

5. Keep in mind who will be viewing the reports

When implementing data collection systems and subsequent data analysis systems, you will likely start generating reports related to this data. It is therefore a good idea to identify who will be reading these reports and what the most important information they will need is.

This information will be different for each audience, so be sure to identify what data they judge to be important. For optimal results, you should think about who will be reading the data reports and what relevant data needs to be collected in order to generate them.

6. Set a reasonable frequency for collection and analysis

This can be a tough one to get right, especially if you work in an industry with high fluctuation or your business is in a constant state of change. Your best bet is to look at when you think you will be needing data. For example, if you are responsible to submit a monthly sales report it might be a good idea to collect data on at least a bi-weekly basis in order to have enough to develop a report at the end of the month.

You should also look at who will be getting the reports and how long different campaigns or business deals will be in place. The frequency will vary for each business, so pick one that works best for your systems and business.

If you are looking to implement a data collection system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_CIn part one of our two part article on increasing the shareability of blog content you create, published last month, we revealed five tips. From creating longer content, to playing on specific emotions, and including images, we highlighted ways in which you can potentially increase the shareability of your content. In this article, we take a look at five more tips.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

AndroidTablet_June30_CAndroid, Google's mobile operating system, is one of the most popular mobile systems out there. Each year, at Google's annual I/O conference, it is expected that the company introduces the next version of Android, and at this year's conference held on June 25 and 26, the company didn't disappoint, announcing a new version of Android that will bring about some big changes.

Coming soon: A new version of Android

It's true that you can pretty much guarantee a new version of Android to be announced at I/O. This year, Google was true to form and spent the better part of the whole keynote speech talking about the upcoming changes expected with the next version of Android - Android L. Why Android L? Well, the latest version of Android to date is 4.4, codenamed: KitKat. It makes sense that the next big release of Android will start with the letter L. At this time however, it has not been assigned a dessert related name like the other versions of Android because it is still in development.

Names aside, there were a number of interesting changes talked about by the Google staff. Here are five that business users of Android devices will be interested to know about.

1. Material design - A drastic change to the UI

Practically one of the first things talked about, regarding Android L at least, was a newly designed UI or User Interface. In fact, when released, this will be the biggest change to the look of Android since the Ice Cream Sandwich update in 2011. Powering this change will be a new look Google calls material design.

Material design creates a drastically different look from existing versions of Android. This will bring a flatter design with lots of rounded elements and softer edges that will extend to all versions of Android - tablets, phones, Chromebooks, and even Google's apps themselves. From this, it appears that Google wants to extend Android to other devices and it will do so by implementing a card-based design. These cards will play a front-and-center role with Android L, and according to Google they will be able to scale to meet screen size and dimensions. This means that one app will be able to work on different devices, without the need for a specific tablet, or phone version.

From the demo of material design that Google played, the new UI looks great. It looks clean, modern, and more colorful than ever before. If you are wondering what this design will look like when it comes to apps, take a look at the latest version of the Google+ app for Android, it has already been switched over to reflect the upcoming new style from Google. Or, check out this YouTube video from Google that highlights what the material design UI will look like.

The company also showcased a number of new changes to the UI that will make Android even easier to use. One of the biggest was how the apps interacted. Using the new version, the presenter searched for a restaurant and one of the search results was to an app installed on the phone. Tapping on it opened the app, without you having to close the results, to be able to then search for the restaurant. Overall, this will be a big change in the way Android looks and interacts with other apps.

2. Improved notifications

While a drastic change to the UI is pretty big news, Google wasn't content to just redesign the look of Android. They also showcased an improved notifications function. In current versions of Android, you need to unlock your device and swipe down from the top of the screen to view your notifications which are displayed in chronological order.

In Android L, your notifications will be viewable, and actionable from your locked screen. For example, if you get a new SMS, you can read it directly from your phone's screen, without having to unlock the device and open the relevant app or notifications center.

The other big change will be to how your notifications are displayed. Google is going to take a different approach to this and instead of showing these chronologically, it will display notifications sorted by relevance and importance.

Finally, Google will fix one of the biggest annoyances with Android - if you are working in an app, say giving a presentation, and you receive a call your device will no longer close the presentation and open the phone dialer. Instead, it will show what Google calls a 'Heads Up Notification'. This is a small notice displayed on top of the app that you currently have opened. In the example shown, a game was being played when someone called. Instead of the game closing, you saw the call info hover on top of the app. You could answer, hang up or even send a quick auto-reply SMS (e.g., I am busy, will call you back later) without the current app being closed.

3. Trusted environments

Having a screen lock on your device, such as a pattern or number lock, is essential for all users. This is one of the best ways to ensure that others can't physically access your device and the data within. While screen locks are a security must, there are times when they are more of an inconvenience than anything.

Take for example during a presentation. If you are using your Android device to show a slideshow, and pause for a time on one slide, long enough for your phone's screen to switch off, it is a hassle to unlock the screen and reopen the app.

Google's fix for this is a feature which establishes a trusted environment or device e.g., an Android smartwatch or your Office Wi-Fi. When you are in range of the watch, or the Wi-Fi connection, your device will automatically be unlocked and accessible without having to enter your PIN or code.

Move out of range however, and your device will lock, requiring the PIN or swipe code to unlock. This could be a useful feature for many businesses, especially those who use Android devices on a regular basis.

4. Deeper ties with Chrome and the Web

Many Android users utilize the recent app button on a regular basis. With one tap of the button, usually located on the bottom right of your device, or by pressing the home button, you can open previous apps. With the introduction of Android L, this will also show tabs that you have open in Chrome. This could be useful, especially if you use Chrome on your desktop and want to quickly access the same page on your device.

5. Business oriented APIs

The API, or application programming interface, is an essential part of the mobile device. It is the API that specifies how different apps should work together. With Android L, Google will include some business oriented APIs, with the most important being a set that allows both personal and business data to exist on the same device, without being mixed. In other words, you will be able to use a personal device for work, likely without mixing accounts, something which the BYOD crowd should find incredibly useful.

When can we expect Android L to arrive?

As of the writing of this article, there is no set release date for Android L. During the keynote numerous mentions were made of it being released sometime in the fall. Bear in mind that this is for Nexus, Google Play, and likely new devices released just after Android L. When, or if, it will be made available for other users is unknown, but likely won't be until early next year.

In the meantime, keep reading our blog for updates. And, if you have any questions regarding Android in your business please give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

AndroidPhone_June30_CAndroid devices are one of the most popular business tools, largely because of the increasing number of business oriented apps being released. Earlier this year, Google released standalone versions of their office productivity apps, but one - Slides - was missing. Google said they would release it at a later date, and this June they did exactly that.

What exactly is the Google Slides app? I thought it was part of Google Drive...

As many who use Google Apps know, productivity apps like Slides, Docs, and Sheets are part of Google's cloud storage app - Drive. If you have used the Drive app on your phone or tablet, you likely also know that you can create, edit, and share documents via this app.

This development is an effort to extend the capabilities of Drive, while simultaneously making it easier for users to access their individual files. For example, if you are a heavy user of Slides it can be a little annoying and time consuming to open the Drive app, search for the file you want, open it, and start editing. Now, if you have the app installed you can open it for immediate access to your related files, in this case Slides.

The key here is to think of the Slides app as a branch of the Google Drive App, as all of your files are still linked to Drive. Create a presentation using the Slides app and it will show up automatically on Google Drive as well as in the app. This app has all the same features as the Drive version, it is just that the app has been specifically written for mobile devices and designed for ease of use.

What can I do with this app?

As we stated above, the main focus of the Slides app is to allow you to create and edit presentations from your Android device. As such, there are a number of useful features:
  • The ability to create and edit presentations offline. As long as you have accessed a Slides presentation while online, it will be made available for you to open and edit offline as well. You can also save individual presentations to your device's hard drive and have the file updated when the presentation is.
  • Advanced sharing features. You are able to share your presentation from a mobile device and have users on their devices or computers collaborate on the same file.
  • Automatic saving of presentations created and edited on the Web. As long as you have an Internet connection, changes made to files via the app will be synced with Google Drive and reflect on all versions of the presentation. If you are offline, the changes will sync when you are next online.
  • The ability to open, edit, and save Microsoft PowerPoint presentations directly from the app. This is a big feature, largely due to the fact that many businesses use PowerPoint instead of Slides. What this means for you is that you can view these files without PowerPoint installed on your device.
  • Full editing capabilities. You are able to create slides, add text, edit slide order and the overall format of your text and slides.
  • Present directly from your device. You can run presentations on your device or connect to a projector using adapters that can usually be purchased for your device.

Where can I find the Slides app?

This app is available now on Google Play. To install it you can:
  1. Open the Google Play app on your device.
  2. Press the magnifying glass and type in Google Slides.
  3. Tap on the app and select Install.
  4. Open the app when it has been installed.
When you open the app, you should see all of your slides related to your Google account pop up in the app.

If you are looking to learn more about Google's apps on your Android device contact us today to see how we can help ensure that you get the apps your business needs most.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.