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August 21st, 2014

BValue_Aug18_CThe vast majority of countries in the West have some requirement or law that states that businesses need to meet the needs of their employees. For many businesses this means implementing systems that afford a duty of care and allow employees to do their job adequately. As such, it is a good idea for companies to have an accessible technology plan.

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology, also commonly referred to as assistive technology, is the idea of creating or implementing technology and systems that cater to employees with disabilities. While not every company will have or require accessible technology, it is required by many countries that businesses meet the needs of disabled employees.

To that end, it is a good idea to develop a plan on how to implement accessible technology. To help, here are five steps you could take:

1. Defining your strategy

The accessible technology strategy should be the first thing you develop as it will be the foundation of the overall plan. When looking at your strategy you should define how accessible technology fits into your overall organization plan and how it will fit with your existing strategies.

What you are looking to do is to figure out how this form of technology will fit with existing systems and increase overall operating effectiveness. From here, you can define the overall objectives, budget, and vision for the plan.

2. Identifying requirements

In this step, you should look closely at existing technology in the organization and the needs of your employees. Because each company is different and the needs of employees are different you should be careful to also identify the technology needs of your employees.

When looking at both the needs and existing systems you can work to come up with an overall set of requirements, along with a general priority. For example, will you need to modify existing computers or purchase new ones?

The key idea here is that you need to figure out exactly what you need.

3. Picking the new technology

Once you have identified what changes you need to implement, what new technology you will need, and your budget, you can then begin looking for the best solutions. The most effective way to do this is to work with it experts like us who can help you find and integrate the best technology and changes that will meet your adaptive technology needs.

4. Implementing and training

Once you have defined the changes, and new technology to integrate, you need to implement it. This may include altering physical devices and machines where necessary, and then testing the systems to make sure they are working properly.

It is also be a good idea to train your employees who will be using the systems, and the team who will be managing the systems.

5. Maintaining

As with all tech systems, it is important to realize that the solution you implement will not work forever, and will eventually require maintenance, updating, or even replacing. You should take steps to audit systems on a regular basis to ensure they are still meet the needs of your company and employees.

This can be a time consuming and potentially costly step, especially if you neglect it. We strongly recommend working with a company like ours, who can help manage your solution and ensure that updates and any necessary changes are implemented when they are needed, and that should needs change, systems are subsequently updated to meet the new requirements.

If you are looking to implement accessible technology in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 20th, 2014

iPhone_Aug18_CPeople today are relying on their iPhones more than ever before, especially when it comes to keeping contact information like names, numbers, and email addresses. Despite its ease of access, having to update your contact information every time someone changes their number can be a pain. And what do you do if your iPhone breaks or get stolen? Bear this in mind when we take a look at five essential apps that’ll help keep your iPhone’s address book secure and convenient for contact management and recovery.

Five essential apps to boost your iPhone address book’s capabilities:

  1. Contacts+ (Free): This app lets you sort contacts into groups and import personal information from Facebook and LinkedIn. A quick tap lets you jump to a contact’s social networking profile, or even map a live route to their home or office. It also adds birthdays to your contact list.
  2. Sync.ME (Free): Sync.ME brings widgets to your iPhone’s Contacts app, adding a powerful set of tools that let you do everything from capturing business cards by photograph to recording some phone calls. This is particularly helpful when it comes to recalling previous conversations and connecting names with faces.
  3. Cloze (Free): Cloze compiles Twitter updates, Facebook posts, LinkedIn snippets, text messages and emails from each of your contacts, then combines all of it into one master feed, organized by person rather than by time. It automatically figures out who the most important people in your network are and puts their information at the top of the feed.
  4. ABBYY Business Card Reader (USD $5.99): Contrary to today’s digital world, old-school business cards are still an essential. And while transcribing cards into digital data is time consuming, ABBY does exactly that in a flash. Just snap a photo of each card and this scanning system instantly does the translation work, bringing contact information on business cards right into your iPhone’s address book.
  5. iCloud (Free): iCloud is Apple's cloud storage app that everyone with an Apple account has access to. Chances are high that when you first setup your device, you signed up for an Apple account in order to purchase/download apps from iTunes. On your device, open the Settings app and select iCloud. Enable it and login with your Apple account and you should be able to backup important data, including contacts. If you lose your device, or get a new one, simply log into your account again, and your contacts should pop right up.
While iPhone’s address book is a convenient tool for contact management, proofing it with these applications will not only make it more powerful but also more secure, so you won’t have to worry about losing your contact information or missing out on updated information again. Looking to learn more about iPhone and its features? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
August 14th, 2014

The data your business generates and captures is among the one of the most important assets available to yourself and your and employees. Unfortunately, the amount of data available is growing exponentially and it can quickly overwhelm many positions. One solution that allows businesses to better manage data is the data warehouse. The only question, is how can you tell when you need one for your business?

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a system used by companies for data analysis and reporting. The main purpose of the data warehouse is to integrate, or bring together, data from a number of different sources into one centralized location. The vast majority of the data they store is current or historical data that is used to create reports or reveal trends.

Possibly the biggest benefit of a data warehouse is that it can pull data from different sources e.g., marketing, sales, finance, etc. and use this different data to formulate detailed reports on demand. Essentially, a data warehouse cuts down the time required to find and analyze important data.

While not every business will need one right this minute, a solid data warehouse could help make operations easier and more efficient, especially when compared with other data storage solutions. That being said, it can be tough to figure out if you actually need one. In order to help, we have come up with five signs that show your business is ready to implement a data warehouse.

1. Heavy reliance on spreadsheets

Regardless of business size, the spreadsheet is among the most important business tools out there. Used by pretty much every department in a company, they can be a great way of tracking data. The problem many business owners run across however is that spreadsheets can grow to immense sizes and can become unwieldy.

Combine this with the fact that each department has spreadsheets that you will likely need to pull data from in order to generate a report. If this is the case, you are creating manual reports, which can take a lot of your time.

If you are struggling to find the data you need because it is spread out across different sheets, in different departments, then it may be time to implement a data warehouse.

2. Data is overwhelming your spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are designed to operate with a set amount of data (rows and columns). Reach, or exceed this limit, and you will find that the file becomes sluggish or will downright prevent you adding more data.

While it can take a while to get to this point, companies will reach it if they keep adding to their data. At this point you will see a drop in productivity and overall effectiveness in how you use your data. Therefore, a data warehouse that can combine data from different sheets may be a great solution.

3. You spend too much time waiting

If you set out to develop a report, only to find out that you need to wait for colleagues to provide the information on their spreadsheets, or to analyze their data, you could find yourself waiting for a longer than expected time.

This makes you highly ineffective and can be downright frustrating, especially if employees are too busy or just can't provide the information needed. Implementing a data warehouse can help centralize data and make it available to all team members more effectively. This cuts down the time spent actually having to track it down and communicating with colleagues.

4. Discrepancies in data and reports

Have you noticed that when team leaders or members in different departments create reports that the data or findings are different from yours, or other reports? Not only is this frustrating, it is also time consuming to sort out and could lead to costly mistakes.

This can be amplified if some departments have data sources that they don't share with other teams, as this can throw doubt into the solidity of your data and other reports. If you have reached this point, and realize that there are discrepancies in your data, it may be time to look into a data warehouse which can help sort out problems while ensuring mistakes like duplicate data are eliminated.

5. Too much time spent generating reports

Ideally, we should be able to generate a report using existing data almost instantly, or with as few clicks as possible. If you find that when generating a report you have to keep going to different sources to check if the data is updated, or to keep manually updating other sources, you could quickly see the amount of time needed to develop a report grow.

Because data warehouses consolidate data, you only have to turn to one source for data. Combine with the fact that many data warehouses can be set up to automatically update if source data is updated or changed, and you can guarantee that the data you are using is always correct.

Looking to learn more about data warehouses, or about the different data solutions we offer? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 13th, 2014

AndroidTablet_Aug11_CWhile Android is one of the most popular mobile operating systems out there, many business owners often view it as being not secure enough, or being difficult to manage. In an effort to make the system even more useful for businesses, and more secure, the company has announced a new program called Android Work which will be released with the next version of Android.

What exactly is Android Work?

Android Work is a program that is being developed by Google that will be introduced in the next version of Android – Android L. Because of the overall open and somewhat fragmented nature of Android, many businesses have been struggling to manage devices. In an effort to attract business customers, device manufactures have come up with their own business-centric suite of features that boost device security and manageability.

While there are a number of options out there, Samsung has had the most success with KNOX. This is essentially a secure version of Android that can be managed by businesses. With devices running KNOX, administrators can separate personal and work features, as well as manage and secure business apps and content on a user’s device.

The best way to think of this program is that it enables a completely separate business profile, that can be managed by a company, on a personal device. Users with a system like this will be able to separate work and personal apps, content, and data, but still be able to use the same device. This is what mobile experts refer to as containerization – business apps and data are essentially stored in a container that is kept within the overall Android system.

Google found this idea of being able to separate personal lives and work on the same device to be something worth investing in, and have subsequently developed Android Work based on the KNOX platform. This will allow all Android users, not just users with Samsung devices, to take advantage of this program.

When launched there will be a number of key business oriented features beyond just the KNOX support. Here are two of the most talked about.

Seamless transition between personal and work data

Containerization is usually referred to as creating a separate system on one device, kind of like having a work and personal profile on your computer. While this is great, it can be annoying to switch between profiles on your device. So, Google has decided to modify the way containers work, making them more seamless.

With Android Work, IT will be able to install and manage apps on a user’s device – they have to agree to this of course. Only, these apps will appear on the device beside personal apps and will be useable just like any other app. In the background however, the Android Work managed apps will sit in their own container. This container will apply heavy encryption to related data going in and out of the device, and restrict what users can do with the app (based on whatever rules the IT admin has set).

The key here is that while the apps and security are separate, the user will not notice any major difference and will be able to interact with both personal and business apps from the same profile. They will be able to tell the difference between work and personal apps as apps installed, managed or related to Android Work will have an identifying badge on the icon.

Easier deploying and managing of apps

With Android Work, IT admins or managers will be able to bulk purchase apps from the Google Play store and have them automatically installed on user’s devices. If you use separate apps, or have developed apps for use in-house, you will also be able to push these to devices.

Beyond that, there will be admin panels that can push updates to apps on all devices, or even bulk manage existing apps. While the user will see no real difference, the apps in the Work container are managed by the administrator, not the user.

Will Work be useful?

Many business owners have been asking this question over the past few months, and the answer really depends on how you use devices in the office. If you support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), you will be able to easily manage the apps, data, and security of just the business related apps, while still allowing personal apps and data to be installed on the same device.

Companies who provide their employees with mobile phones or tablets will also find Android Work useful as it will enable easier management and enhanced security across a variety of Android devices.

When will Android Work be available?

As of now, Android Work is still in development, but Google has noted that it will be released as a feature of the next version of Android, which is slated to be released this fall.

If you are looking to learn more about Android Work, or how to manage Android devices, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_CSecurity of your systems and technology is always an on-going battle and one you will likely never completely win. There are definitive steps you can take to ensure that your systems are secure, but we find that one of the most effective tools is knowledge. If you know a bit about how your systems can be breached, you can ensure a higher level of caution and security. To help, here are five common ways businesses see their systems breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 6th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_CRegardless of the industry you operate in, or the size of your business, you should be taking steps to ensure that your business is ready for any disaster. While there are many paths you can take to ensure your business is ready, there is one element that is central to all plans: backing up your data. In the first part of this article, we took a look at four points that will help improve the effectiveness of your backups. Here are another four.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 31st, 2014

AndroidPhone_July28_CAndroid phones are currently the most popular devices being sold by many carriers. While these devices are popular, many come preinstalled with apps that have been developed by the carrier. This apps are often referred to as bloatware and are usually ignored by users. However, if you have ever tried to uninstall them, you know this is easier said than done. The good news is that there is a solution.

Bloatware defined

Read Android themed blogs and you will eventually come across this term. When it is used to refer to mobile phones, bloatware is software that has been installed by carriers or device manufacturers. These apps are generally useless, unwanted, or are value-added apps - meaning apps which you need to pay extra for in order to use e.g., a music service run by your carrier.

The kicker with bloatware is that you don't get a choice as to whether or not it is installed on your phone. The reason for this is because carriers and manufacturers install the apps before you purchase the phone. Many carriers have contracts with manufacturers to actually install the software before the device leaves the factory.

Is bloatware bad?

Mobile bloatware often gets a bad rap, especially because much of it is unwanted by users. That doesn't mean the apps are 'bad', or malicious. In fact, some users do actually use the software that comes installed by mobile carriers. The issue many have is that they have had no say in the matter and as a result feel forced into using certain apps, when they would rather be using something else, or would never have downloaded these apps in the first place.

In short, the vast majority of bloatware is not overly useful but it is by no means malicious. It's really more of an annoyance to many users.

Can I get rid of bloatware?

The short answer to this question is: No, you usually can't get rid of bloatware. Some of it can be uninstalled, but most of the apps installed by the carrier or manufacturer aren't able to be deleted.

That being said, there are two options you can consider:

1. Disable bloatware on your device

While you usually can't uninstall bloatware, phones running Android 4.X and newer do have the option of disabling it.
  1. Open your device's Settings panel. This is usually done by sliding down from the top of the screen and selecting the person icon with five squares followed by Settings.
  2. Tap on Apps and swiping right so All is highlighted at the top.
  3. Scroll to the app you would like to disable and tap on it.
  4. Press Disable.
  5. Tap Ok in the warning that opens.
  6. Once you do this, the app will be removed from the home screen and will no longer run in the background.

2. Purchase devices without bloatware

If you are currently looking for a new device, or are looking to upgrade your current phone, an option would be to purchase a device that doesn't have bloatware. For example, most phones you purchase separately from your carrier won't have carrier specific bloatware. Take for example Nexus devices. These phones, when bought outright, only have stock Google apps like Calendar, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Play store installed. Of course, if you buy the device from your carrier, there is a good chance it will have the apps on them. So it is best to look at the big-box stores or retailers.

If you are unsure as to whether the device you are looking at has bloatware installed, try asking the salesperson or looking at online reviews. As a general rule of thumb: If you buy the device from a carrier, or on a contract, the device will have some bloatware on it - most carriers have a stipulation on the agreement you sign giving them permission to install it, or noting that it is installed. When you sign the contract you thereby agree to have the apps on your device.

The major downside to buying devices like this for some users is that you have to pay full price for the device. For some this is worth it, while others are ok with the odd bit of bloatware if they get to pay less for their device.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2014

SocialMedia_July28_CA common use of LinkedIn is the curation and sharing of content with fellow colleagues and users. The business oriented social platform has a wide variety of features that encourage users to share content, and earlier this year its own content creation platform was implemented for select users. Now, the company has rolled out the new publishing platform for all users to take advantage of.

About LinkedIn's new publishing platform

Like other social networks, LinkedIn allows users to publish posts on their profile which are then visible to other users. In the past, there was a limit as to how long the posts could be, which influenced how users shared the content they generated. Most would simply copy and paste a link to their content into a post on their LinkedIn profile.

In an effort to make sharing thoughts, ideas, expertise, etc. easier, LinkedIn has implemented the long-form post. This feature allows you to create longer content, such as blog articles and opinion pieces, and post this directly on LinkedIn. In other words, you can now use LinkedIn as a blog which is shared with your connections.

If you create long-form content, this could be a useful way to get posts out to an even wider audience than through your blog. This is because when you publish a post on LinkedIn, it becomes part of your overall profile, with the post being visible under the Posts section of your profile. New long-form posts will also be published and shared with all of your contacts automatically.

This means that you could technically increase the overall reach of your content, especially if the content you produce is useful to your LinkedIn connections.

Writing long-form content on LinkedIn

If you would like to start publishing long-form content using your LinkedIn profile, you should be able to do so by:
  1. Logging into your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Pressing the pencil in the box that says Share an update…
Note: This update is still rolling out to users, so you may not be able to produce long-form content just yet. If you don't see the pencil in the Share an update… box, you will need to wait for a few weeks, or until you get an email from LinkedIn saying the feature is ready for you to use.

If you do see the pencil icon, click on it to open the long-form post screen. It looks like most other Web-based publishing and writing platforms with the usual formatting buttons and text field where you input the content.

You can write your article directly on this page, but many choose to write using a program they are comfortable with and then copy and paste into the text field. If you want to add images to your post, you can simply click where you would like the image to slot into the content and select the camera icon from the menu bar above the text field. Select the image and hit Submit. You can then resize the image by clicking and dragging on it.

Saving and editing your content

Once you have finished writing we strongly recommend you hit the Save button at the bottom of the text field. This will save the content to your profile, but will not post it. This means you can edit the content before publishing. To do this, click on Preview which will open your post in another window, allowing you to see what the post will look like on your profile.

While in Preview mode, be sure to check the spelling and grammar, along with the overall formatting. If you spot anything that needs to be changed simply switch back to the editing tab on your browser and make any amendments.

When you have finished writing, formatting, and editing you can then hit the Publish button. This will then publish the content on your profile and share it with your connections.

If you have content that you think your connections and colleagues would benefit from reading, then this new LinkedIn feature could prove to be useful and should be considered as a larger part of your overall content strategy.

Looking to learn more about LinkedIn and how you can leverage it in your business? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
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.