Blog

February 23rd, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb23_CYou’ve been waffling around on social media for months, hoping to get that increased spike in business you’ve heard rumors about. But after storming out of the gates, signing up for Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and others, you’ve seen little by way of results - and have less than a few hundred social media followers to show for it. Not to worry, there are some proven strategies that will leave you smacking your forehead and wondering why you didn’t think of them. Read on for some sensible social media tips that will get your business rolling.

Undoubtedly, the most important strategy to use in your social media plan is...to have a strategy to begin with. Know how much time you can dedicate to social media, block out the hours to focus on it and don’t waste that time checking out friends’ vacation photos or celebrity twitter feeds.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re going to waste time posting irrelevant updates that won’t engage with your audience. To help you plan an effective social media strategy, here are three crucial tips to get you off on the right foot.

Initially focus on the big three

Most social media experts agree that the three platforms that generate the most business leads, engagement and brand exposure are Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. When you’re getting started, your efforts should be primarily focused on these three. After you’ve gained followings here, then you can start forging paths into YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest amongst others.

Post at prime exposure times

Studies have shown that around lunch and dinner time are ideal posting times (since everyone is uploading photos of their meals). As for which days, many marketers agree your posts are most likely to get noticed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So these are the times to deliver those high-impact messages you’ve been randomly shooting out.

Find the value in your post

On social media, you should always be focused on selling your services, right? Wrong. Only 15% of your posts should concern news about your business and its products. The other 85% should focus on providing fun, valuable and timely content.

When you create a new post, you should ask yourself what’s in it for the customer. What do they get from reading it? Seriously, why is someone going to share your post or talk about your business unless it adds value to their life? Think about the posts you share personally. Do they provide value to your friends and family? We’re guessing the answer is yes.

For more tips on how social media can create buzz for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 19th, 2015

RepCYou just opened up your inbox to see a LinkedIn invitation to connect with John Doe. You’ve never met the guy, but your interest is peaked. “Is he a friend of a friend? Is he interested in hiring me? What’s his motive?” You might check out his profile to get a better idea about him, but then you reach a fork in the road. Do I accept his LinkedIn invitation, or reject? Check out these arguments for accepting and rejecting to help you make the choice that’s right for you.

Why to reject

Rejectors of stranger invitations have a common argument that’s hard to dispute. If you connect with a stranger, and a trusted member in your network (who you actually know) asks for an introduction to that connection, you may look a bit silly saying you’ve never met the guy. This scenario can obviously be a bit awkward. And LinkedIn rejection enthusiasts like to use this argument as their trump card to silence the opposition.

To go along with this, they may further ask what would happen if that stranger started requesting introductions to valued members of your network? Again, you might find yourself in an awkward situation.

The core philosophy of any LinkedIn invite rejector is that your network should be made up of people you know and trust. Some people see a connection on LinkedIn as an endorsement of that person. If strangers in your network have a bad reputation that you don’t know about, and others see that you’re connected with them, it could be a bad reflection on you.

Why to accept

More people seem to lean toward connecting with LinkedIn strangers than against. But does that actually make it the right decision? Why do people choose to accept invitations from people they don’t know?

People with 500+ connections appear powerful, even if most of their connections are with strangers. Seriously, think about it. Who would you be more likely to trust, a person with 70 connections or one with over five hundred?

More connections also mean a higher chance of being found. More and more recruiters are jumping on the LinkedIn bandwagon and, whether you’re looking for freelance work or for a new job, LinkedIn is a great place to be found. The more connections you have, the easier it is for you to appear in search results.

What’s more, a higher connection count can lead to your profile reaching a larger audience. If you have a business, feel like you have something to say or just want to speak your mind in a professional manner (save the posts about your drunken exploits for Facebook), LinkedIn presents an excellent opportunity to get your voice heard. And the more connections you have, the more people you’ll have the opportunity to influence.

The choice is yours

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to connecting with strangers on LinkedIn. It comes down to personal preference and objectives. If you want your network to be trusted individuals you actually have a relationship with, then it’s better for you to reject those stranger requests. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more opportunities and are self-employed, connecting with strangers can be a great way to drill up more business.

But there is middle ground, too. Maybe you don’t connect with just any old stranger (like that guy who works for the Bank of Nigeria), but if there is someone who is a friend of a friend or who works in your field, it might be worth connecting with them. Remember, your friends were once strangers too, so maybe that request from Bill who works at your local hardware store will turn into a blossoming business relationship. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

If you’re looking to learn more about LinkedIn and other social media platforms, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 18th, 2015

Security_Feb18_CWhatever services and systems we use to share, store or transfer personal and business information online, we want the reassurance that our data is safe and that everything possible is done to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. But we also know that security breaches happen, as they did with the large-scale celebrity photo leaks in 2014. Since then, Apple platforms in particular have been prevalent in discussions about the security of such platforms - but Apple is now seeking to bolster its security defenses with the launch of a two-step authentication feature for the FaceTime and iMessage applications.

After the fall-out from the celebrity photo leaks, Apple extended the two-step authentication process (also known as two-step verification) to iCloud, the online storage platform at the center of the scandal. The feature was initially introduced only to the user IDs for access to Apple accounts; the motivation for the launch of that extra security measure was the hacking of a journalist’s data back in 2013. But what is two-step authentication and how does it work to protect your data?

The premise behind two-step authentication, which experts recommend all businesses implement as part of their security strategy, is actually pretty simple. Usernames and passwords are all too easily stolen by malicious parties, whether by phishing emails or a more sophisticated hacking attack. So, rather than typing just your username and password to access your account, the password is teamed up with a four-digit verification code which is newly and uniquely generated each time you attempt to access your account.

The verification code is delivered by text message (meaning that to use the two-step verification feature, you’ll need to have a cellphone to receive the SMS on). As a result, even if a hacker manages to get hold of your password, unless they also have your phone by their side then they won’t be getting into your account. This authentication method is already used by organizations around the world including banks, mobile service providers and other companies who recognize the added layer of security that it brings. And now you can give yourself the same level of protection to ensure that only you can FaceTime your family and send iMessages to your friends.

Fear not, there’s a backup plan to ensure that you can still access your accounts if you happen to forget your password or if something happens to your phone so you can longer receive authentication codes. Apple also provides you with a 14-character recovery key that will get you back in if all else fails. To enable two-step authentication for your FaceTime and iMessage applications, login to your Apple ID account, select Password and Security and then click Get Started under Two-Step Verification.

To find out more about using two-step verification and other security measures to protect your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 13th, 2015

BC_164_CAre you prepared for when the unexpected strikes? According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, approximately 25 percent of businesses don’t reopen following a major disaster. The truth is that disasters happen every day, regardless of location or business size - simply switch on the news for proof. So obviously, it’s wise to think ahead and plan for the worst. Here are some ideas to get you ready for a disaster before it hits.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity

While it’s easy to overlook the differences between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, there are actually some key variations you should be aware of.

Disaster recovery is the restoration of business operations and IT infrastructure after a disaster has already occurred. Business continuity, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining business operations and profits throughout a disaster. While disaster recovery is mainly focused on the slice of time immediately following a disaster (how you replace your equipment and restore IT infrastructure asap), business continuity looks at the bigger picture - the continuity of the company as a whole. It ensures you can run your business and maintain profits during the process of recovering from a catastrophe. It generally includes a disaster recovery plan as part of it.

Creating your business continuity plan

The first step in creating your plan is to identify which of your IT assets are vulnerable to disaster. To do this, you need to ask yourself some important questions, starting with what might happen if you were to lose the functionality of a specific asset for a day, a week or even longer. Answering this question will help you identify your most critical IT assets; the ones that are integral to your business operations.

Here are some other important questions to ask when drafting your business continuity plan:

  • What is the purpose of my business continuity plan?
  • What disasters can affect my IT infrastructure?
  • What are my key business areas?
  • Which different business areas, assets and departments depend on each other?
  • What is the longest amount of time I can go without functionality of IT assets?
Once you can answer these, it’s time to start planning. Write down your thoughts, and then contact an IT provider like us for assistance. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours prepare themselves in order to remain operational throughout catastrophes. We can also help you identify potential problems that you may not have thought of.

Need help creating your business continuity plan? Contact us today to see how we can help you stay running and turning profits when disaster hits.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 12th, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb12_CLong gone are the days when the only photos you would see on your Facebook page were snaps of weddings, holidays and the like. Now, alongside countless selfies in unremarkable situations and obligatory dish-pics of restaurant foods, we are blessed with the meme. Among the most popular memes are photos of cats in odd positions with humorous captions - well, one new entrant to the social media marketplace wants to take that a bit further. It could be about to flood Facebook with lots more cat photos in a bid to protect your online privacy.

But there is more to it than that: the team behind social messaging app Wickr aren’t looking to post images of our furry friends just for the fun of it. In fact, the feline factor is just one feature of the app, known as the Wickr Timed Feed. Wickr actually promises to offer greater security and privacy controls than similar apps like Snapchat - but whereas Snapchat simply lets you set your images to self-destruct once they have been seen by the recipient, Wickr takes an alternative approach.

As well as allowing only pre-approved friends to see your photos within your Wickr feed, the app lets you share each photo through Facebook and control which of your friends can see it. So where do the cats come in? Well, when you first share to Facebook, no-one will see your photo - instead, they’ll see a decoy image of a funky-looking cat. However, Facebook users then have the option to click through to Wickr and, if they are one of up to 151 people you have pre-approved to have access to your real photo, it will be unlocked and the cat will disappear - at least, until the photo automatically self-destructs 24 hours later, as do images on your feed in the Wickr app itself.

If it all sounds a bit like security overkill, then that’s probably because it is. Sharing Wickr photos to Facebook also sounds a little cumbersome, and even more so the process for unlocking a cat-guarded photo, and this could have an adverse effect on widespread take-up of the feature. But it does address genuine concerns surrounding the far and often uncontrollable reach of images and information we post online. What’s more, it appears to be a way to prevent Facebook from claiming ownership of the photos we upload - as much a concern for professional photographers and companies using Facebook for marketing purposes, as for individuals using the platform to keep in touch with friends. Wickr claims that, because the cat photo is all that will be publicly visible unless the bona fide picture is unlocked, that will be the only thing to which the social network could claim to have ownership or reproduction rights.

Whether it catches on or not, the emergence of apps like Wickr is telling of the growing pressure for the usability of social media networks to be balanced with protection for their users’ privacy. It acts as a reminder to businesses to be aware both of potential issues with usage rights for corporate images shared online, and of the need to keep consumer concerns about data misuse in mind when designing social media marketing strategies.

To learn more about how to effectively put social media to work for your business, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 10th, 2015

Virtualization_C_164You’ve just got word that one of your competitors has virtualized half its IT assets, and that they have almost doubled their profits as a result. You think it’s time for you to jump on the bandwagon and reap the same benefits, BUT...you’re a bit nervous. You have no idea where to start. You may not even know what virtualization is (it basically moves your hardware and software offsite and therefore out of your office). Should you virtualize everything or one thing at a time? What should you virtualize first? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the whole idea and need some guidance, this article will give you some pointers on where to start.

The key to successful virtualization is to not virtualize too much too quickly. Choose one or two items you’d like to test out, and then give it a go. By only focusing on virtualizing a few assets, you’ll be able to accurately measure how much your business is benefiting from virtualization.

Once you’ve decided to make the jump into virtualization, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t virtualize for the sake of virtualizing

If you have 20 PCs running on an older operating system, but they are still producing results you’re happy with, it may be best to save your money and hold off on virtualization until you really have a need for it.

On the other hand, if you’ve been thinking about buying a new server, it may be smarter to consider getting a virtual server instead since the need is already there.

Understand the risks and challenges of virtualizing individual assets

Server, desktop and application vendors have unique and evolving licensing rules concerning virtualization. With vendor licensing audits becoming more and more frequent, you may be in for a major financial penalty if you’re not following the rules.

It’s been reported that one company saved $4 million in hardware expenses through virtualization. However, they lost $52 million for not remaining in compliance with the software licenses.

Try virtualizing more than one asset

If you start out only virtualizing your server and it doesn’t show immediate benefits, that doesn’t mean you should just give up on virtualization completely. The fact of the matter is that virtualization does save businesses millions of dollars every year in IT expenses, giving them a productivity boost in the process.

You can virtualize many physical assets of your business besides servers. This includes applications, laptop hardware, operating systems and more. All the virtualization process does is deliver these assets to you via the internet instead of having the physical product in your office. So if the server virtualization doesn’t work for you, maybe virtualizing another asset will.

Or it could simply be that your IT service provider is the real problem. Maybe you haven’t found the right virtualization vendor that works best for your business. The only way you’ll ever find out is if you don’t give up the first time you encounter a failure.

For more information about virtualization and how to effectively integrate it into your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 29th, 2015

Security_Jan28_CThink your security is taken care of with a frequent anti-virus scan? Think again. While we’ve all become used to the idea that viruses, worms and other malware - however much disruption and damage they cause to our systems - can be detected and removed thanks to the tracks they leave as they create havoc, that’s no longer something to count on. Proving the point is Poweliks, an invisible trojan horse that evades being picked up by anti-virus software. Read on to find out all you need to know about Poweliks and how to fight it.

What is Poweliks?

Security firm Symantec describes Poweliks as a trojan horse that performs malicious activities on the compromised computer. But it’s no ordinary trojan - unlike the majority, which infect your computer with malicious files, Poweliks is a silent and invisible threat that hides away in the memory registry of your system. It’s not entirely new for a virus to seek to cover its tracks by making itself "file-less" but, in contrast with Poweliks, most are wiped when you restart your computer and its memory is cleared. Worse still, Poweliks hijacks the legitimate processes and applications running on your network, inserting its code into them where it can largely evade detection.

First discovered back in August 2014, Poweliks has therefore created something of a headache for firms behind conventional security solutions like anti-virus software. Symantec and others have admittedly managed a number of updates to their protection in response to the threat posed by Poweliks. But although very minor records of the presence of the trojan are left behind by way, for instance, of registry logs, the signs of its destructive presence are much lower key than the computer world is used to, meaning Poweliks is unlikely to show up on most system scans.

Poweliks has links to Kazakhstan, the home of two servers the malware connects to once it is up and running from within your computer. The servers in Kazakhstan then send commands to the bug to tell it what to do next. In theory, this then makes way for the tool to be used to download other undesirable programs that could infect your system without your knowledge. It could equally be used to steal and disseminate data from your network.

How can I best protect myself?

As well as the anti-virus updates that have gradually been released - but which are still likely to have only a limited impact on threats of this type compared with those of the past - a number of Poweliks removal guides are now available online. Nevertheless, prevention as ever, remains better than cure. One method reported to have been employed in the distribution of the Poweliks infection is embedding it in a Microsoft Word document, which is then sent as an attachment to spam emails, and which the attackers hope your curiosity will lead you to open. Among the senders that these spam messages have masqueraded as being from are the United States Postal Service and Canada Post. Of course the best advice remains to be suspicious of any and every email attachment you open, particularly if you weren’t expecting mail or it's from someone you don’t know.

Should I be concerned?

In fact, revisiting your everyday security precautions is probably pretty good advice all round, since experts predict that this type of threat is likely to become ever more common as attackers seek to exploit the techniques of Poweliks in order for their infiltration to remain unnoticed for as long as possible. Sure enough, a number of copycat threats have already been detected by security specialists as of the start of 2015.

General awareness around web sites you choose to visit is also recommendable in particular, since others have also reported the bug making its way onto their systems thanks to so-called ‘drive-by download attacks’ - whereby simply visiting a malicious web site is enough to trigger the infection, and actively downloading a file isn’t even necessary. As a result, organizations may wish to consider more comprehensive filtering of internet access, or at the very least reactive blocking of known malicious sites, in order to prevent employees from inadvertently infecting a company network.

To find out more about IT security solutions and protecting your technology from attack, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 23rd, 2015

Office365_Jan21_CWhile what the cloud is about may seem a little foggy to many business users, a great many are already taking advantage of the collaborative power of such cloud platforms as Office 365. There is a big amount of trust and belief that data is safe in the cloud, however, there are security issues to consider and some of these relate to problems with data protection from the user end. Spanning is set to offer an extra layer of protection for Office 365 in 2015.

Data backup provider Spanning is widening its ambit to include Office 365 this coming year. With an increasing amount of data located in cloud applications, this expansion will likely be welcomed by business bosses all over the world.

Isn't my data protected in the cloud? Well, yes it is, but not 100%, and it is this gap that users need to be wary of. A 2014 report by IT hardware storage providers, EMC, who recently acquired Spanning, points to a 400% rise in data loss since 2012. With platforms such as Office 365, each end-user represents an opportunity for data to be compromised. In other words, it is not the solid core of the cloud and its backup and recovery services that is the issue, but this increase in cloud-based collaboration and file sharing.

How can data be lost? Each cloud provider offers certain protections and terms which it is vital you understand first and foremost. On top of this, an awareness of how data is at risk from user influence is essential too. Some data loss issues include:

  • Accidentally deleting files.
  • Intentionally deleting files with malicious intent.
  • File corruption and data wipes due to tech glitches.
  • Retrieving files deleted over 30 days previously or locating a previous file version due to errors in current documents.
What will Spanning offer Office 365 users? Spanning allows for automated and manual daily backups of mail, calendar and contacts, whilst ensuring there is a copy of data from applications and cloud files. Other benefits include:
  • Ability to find previous backups and restore these.
  • Ability for data restoration, from one Office 365 account to another to allow for smoother and security-conscious recruitment and end-of-employment changes.
  • Protection through 256 bit encryption with intrusion detection.
  • Data control with compartmentalized access.
When it comes to data loss there is clear and present danger that could spell financial ruin for your business. There is always need for a copy of your data so that recovery is possible. To ignore cloud security and not consider data protection for Office 365 could be costly and for many businesses even deliver a fatal blow.

According to some recent statistics from IDG Research, 58% of businesses surveyed had suffered some hosted software data loss in the last year and 31% were debating whether to invest in backup and recovery for this data. Cloud data storage protection does not cover human error or problems with system configurations, nor IT service management process errors.

Find out how to protect your Office 365 data by getting in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office 365
January 22nd, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 14th, 2015

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

Don’t let basic security habits slip

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

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

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

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

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

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

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

Backup, backup, backup

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security