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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 18th, 2014

Virtualization_July14_CVirtualization, often defined as the act of moving physical systems to a digital environment, has become one of the most sought after tech improvements, especially for small to medium businesses. While virtualization is popular, it is still complex and has many potentially confusing terms associated with it. To help, we have created a short glossary of 10 popular virtualization terms.

1. Virtual Machine (VM)

You will often hear virtualization experts bandy about the term VM. What they are talking about when they say this is the Virtual Machine. The VM is essentially a virtual representation of the computer on your desk. It can do everything a physical machine does, only everything is virtual and usually delivered over a network connection.

Because VMs are software based, you can often run more than one VM on the same physical machine. This could equate to having say two separate versions of Windows running at the same time, or even running a different operating system, say Windows on your MacBook.

2. Virtual server

A specific type of VM, in this case a server, that is running in a virtual environment. A common setup many offices employ is to have one physical server on premise. This server then hosts separate virtual servers that in turn host different services like email, networking, storage, etc.

Other businesses choose to rely completely on virtual servers. This is where another company hosts the servers which are delivered to you over the Internet. To the computers and users it appears the servers are there on your network, and can be interacted with normally when in truth, the servers are actually virtual.

3. Virtual desktop

Much like the virtual server, the virtual desktop is a specific type of VM. In this case, it is a virtually delivered version of an operating system like Windows, Linux or even OS X.

Since the advent of virtual desktops, the idea that companies have to stick with one type of operating system has started to become irrelevant. For example, if you own a Mac and need to access a Windows only program, one solution is to use a virtual version of Windows. If you have access to one, you will be able to run Windows from your Mac without having to physically install it on your computer.

4. Hypervisor

The hypervisor is essentially a small operating system that enables virtualization. Its job is to take physical hardware resources and combine them into a platform that is then delivered virtually to one, or many different users.

5. Host system

The host system, also referred to as the parent, is where the physical hardware and software is installed. These physical components are then copied by the hypervisor and delivered in a virtual state to the user. If you are creating a virtual desktop environment, then the host system will have the desktop's OS installed on it, along with the necessary software.

6. Guest system

The guest system, also referred to as the child, is where the VM is accessed. To carry the example on from above, the OS that is installed on the host machine is replicated by the hypervisor and the copy is then delivered to the user.

The user can interact with the OS just as they would with the physical host machine, because the guest system is an exact copy of the host. The only difference is, the guest machine is virtual instead of physical.

7. Virtual Infrastructure

When you combine a bunch of different types of VMs together into one solution, including hardware, storage, desktops, and servers you create a virtual infrastructure.

This can then be deployed to businesses who are looking for a completely virtualized solution. The easiest way to think of this is that your whole IT infrastructure is combined into one solution and virtualized. Many companies look for a solution like this because it reduces the need for on-premise hardware, while making it easier for an IT partner to manage.

8. P2V

P2V, or Physical to Virtual, is a term used by IT experts to refer to the act of migrating a physical system to a virtual one. The most common example of P2V is the merging of physical servers into a virtual environment that is hosted on one server.

9. Snapshot

A snapshot is an image of the state of the virtual machine at a specific point of time. This includes all of the data, configurations, and even windows or programs open at that time. Snapshots are used kind of like the Save button on video games - it saves your progress. When you next load up the VM, you will get all of your data, programs, and configurations back.

Snapshots are also kept in case something goes wrong with the VM. You can easily revert back to an older snapshot, one that was taken before the problem.

10. Clone

The action of taking one VM and creating an exact copy that can then be used by another computer or user.

If you are looking to learn more about virtualization, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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

Office_July14_CIn many TV shows and movies about spies there is always one character with a great alias. When it comes to espionage, an alias is important, but it may seem less so for most business owners or managers. However, with Microsoft's Outlook.com there is a great alias related feature that you may find useful.

Outlook.com's alias management feature

If you are using Outlook.com, chances are high that you aren't a spy or superhero and in need of a top-secret alias. There is a good chance however that you may have need for more than one email address.

Maybe you attend a lot of conferences or events and would like a way to keep your main email inbox from being flooded with the usual "nice to meet you" emails and follow ups; or perhaps you are launching a new product associated with your name and would like a way to easily track communication directly related to this one product.

If this sounds like your situation then Outlook.com has a great feature that allows you to create up to 10 new email addresses, or aliases, and manage them from your main account's inbox. The main idea of an alias email is that you get a different email address that is tied to your main account. Your aliases share the same contacts, calendar and even account settings with your primary account.

What's more is you can actually sign into your account using any alias, because the same password is used for every address you create. When sending an email, you also get to pick which alias the message will come from, which is undoubtedly a really useful feature.

How to create an Outlook.com alias

To create an alias email address:
  1. Log into Outlook.com with the account you would like to set as your main or primary account.
  2. Press the Settings icon which is the cog located at the top-right of the screen.
  3. Select Options followed by Create an Outlook.com alias in the window that opens.
  4. Type in the email address that you want.
  5. Click Create an alias.
  6. Untick the box in the pop-up. If you don't, the alias you set up will be set as the primary email address.
  7. Click Done.
When you are sending an email, you should now be able to click your name at the top of the email window which will drop down a menu with your aliases. Click on the alias you would like to send the email from, and you should see the name change. Any responses to that message will be made to the alias email address as well.

If you are looking to learn more about Outlook.com or any other Office program contact us today to see how we 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 2nd, 2014

SocialMedia_June30_CFor many businesses, social media is becoming not only relevant but an important element of overall operations. For business owners, managers, and employees one of the most valuable networks is the business oriented LinkedIn. This network encourages business friendly activities like networking and idea sharing, and is seeing ongoing growth as more business owners and managers continue to join. Like all networks, your profile is key to your success and the question then is how to go about creating a great profile.

In this article we will go over eight important steps you need to take in order to build the perfect LinkedIn profile. In fact, we came across a great infographic on Link Humans that could be a big help when following these steps. We strongly suggest you take a look at this when building your profile.

Step 1: Establish your profile

While you don't have to join LinkedIn, it is a good idea if you are looking to connect with other business owners and colleagues through a more professional, business style networking oriented social network. If you do want to connect at this level, the absolute first thing you need to do is to create a profile. This can be done by:
  1. Going to LinkedIn's website (linkedin.com).
  2. Clicking on Join Today.
  3. Entering the relevant information on the following page. We recommend using the name the majority of your customers and clients know you by and your work email address. Personal email addresses are fine if you don't want to fully represent your company.
  4. Selecting Join LinkedIn.
If you use your Facebook account for business, you can also sign up using your Facebook account. Just follow steps 1. and 2. above and click Sign Up with Facebook. You will be asked to log into your account (if don't already have Facebook open in another tab on your browser) then approve the account access rights. Once you've done this you should see your basic profile pop up.

Step 2: Select an appropriate picture

LinkedIn is a work-related network, and to that end you will need to present the right corporate image; this means uploading a professional profile photo. This image should clearly show your face and be cropped to show mainly your head and upper body. The background should be clear or unobtrusive, allowing you to be the main focus.

If you don't have any professional head shots, it might be a good idea to get some taken. Most photographers can snap a few for you, and will be able to provide you with information about how to pose and dress for the shots.

You can add an image to your profile by:

  1. Logging into your profile.
  2. Hovering over Profile which is located in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Clicking on Edit Profile followed by the camera icon at the top of your profile.
  4. Pressing Change photo and then selecting the image you would like to use as your profile picture from a file on your hard drive.
  5. Ticking Save to set your picture.
The reason a good picture is more important than on other networks is because it has been proven that profiles with professional looking pictures are easier to find and also enhance the potential that other members will want to connect or even recognize you.

Step 3: Fill in your basic information

Once you have a great picture set on your profile go back to the editing screen and add your basic information. This includes your name, role, location, and company. Also, click on the Edit Contact Info tab to the right-hand side of your basic information section. Add as much contact info as you feel comfortable with; we recommend your email address and company website at the very least.

Step 4: Determine who your main audience will be

Before you begin to fill in your profile, you should take time to determine what the purpose of this profile will be. Will it be used to find new colleagues? Or will it be used to connect and communicate with your colleagues? Or, will it used to find prospective clients? Each reason will determine what information you should include in your profile along with the relevant keywords.

For example, if you would like to find new employees you can tailor your profile to show what you do in your job and what makes it so great. You can then also come up with more relevant keywords to use in your content. For example, using the words 'career' and 'job' and including in your summary information about who you are looking for will definitely attract prospective hires. However, this profile likely won't attract colleagues or clients.

Don't feel that you have to limit yourself to one set function however. For example, there are many crossover terms that both clients and prospective employees will search for. So, if you want to use your LinkedIn profile for more than one reason, take some extra time and try to figure out which keywords and ideas you think will work well. The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can always edit everything at any time. So, if you want to switch your audience, you can easily do so by simply editing parts of your profile and changing keywords.

Step 5: Write a solid summary

The summary of your LinkedIn profile is a place where you highlight who you are. Take time to craft this so that you can showcase what you do and your main strengths. Be sure to use relevant industry and position specific keywords and terminology that you believe your audience will be searching for, as this language will make your profile easier to find in searches.

The key here is to write a summary that not only explains what you do and your experience, but showcases who you are. Use active language like 'I', 'my', and 'me', and be sure to include a way for people who don't have a LinkedIn profile to contact you - usually an email, link to your website or a phone number.

Step 6: Add your past and present positions

Once your summary is finished, you should move onto your current and past positions. This section should reflect your resume and highlight the experience you are talking about in your summary. It would be helpful to try and work in some of the keywords you used in the summary or identified earlier in order to really make your experience really stand out.

Chances are you aren't looking for work, so you can deviate a little from your resume here, and highlight what you do best, or how you can help your audience best. Feel free to leave out points that may not be 100% relevant or interesting e.g., how many people you manage, sales goals, etc.

Step 7: Start connecting

Once your profile is mostly complete with experience and a summary, you can start looking for people to connect with. Start by searching for people that you know or work with on a regular basis and inviting them to connect.

Next, join a few groups that are related to your position and industry. These can be found by hovering your mouse over Interests which is located in the menu bar near the top of the window. Select Groups from the menu that drops down and then select Find a group from the right-hand side of the page that opens. Some groups are private and will require you to ask to join them, but don't be afraid of sending in your request.

Once you have joined some groups and started to make connections be sure to be active on the network. It will help to join in on conversations held in your groups and post content on a regular basis. And, if you meet new clients or people don't be afraid of looking them up on LinkedIn and asking to connect with them!

Step 8: Work on your awards and recommendations

Finally, start recommending people that you know. You can do this by going to a colleague's profile and scrolling down to their Skills and Endorsements section. Find skills that you know they possess and press the + Endorse button beside the skill. Most people will also do this for you as well.

If you have won awards in the past, be sure to include these as well, especially if they are relevant to your intended audience. Just be sure to pick the awards that really highlight your skills, as an Employee of the Month award may not be the most relevant.

From here it's really just a matter of tinkering with your profile on a regular basis. Be sure to be active and ensure that your profile really reflects who you are. Doing this will create a stand-up profile you can be proud of.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 26th, 2014

Security_June23_CThe increasing number of businesses turning to a virtual environment is parallel with cyber criminals looking to breach that security. While many businesses think their virtual servers are safe and secure, some are unaware of major security myths that can leave your business vulnerable to attack. With that in mind, isn’t it time you familiarized yourself with five common virtualization security misconceptions to keep your virtual environment secure?

Myth No.1: Existing endpoint security will protect our virtual environment

Most traditional endpoint security solutions are virtual-aware and provide low levels of protection. This simply isn’t enough. Depending on the virtualization platform used (VMware, Microsoft, etc.), your traditional endpoint security suite can probably recognize virtual endpoints. However, this physical software often can’t bring its full tool set of anti-malware to the virtual world, meaning it can only perform basic tasks such as on-access scanning.

Therefore what you need is a solution that has been designed to keep both virtual and physical computing environments secure. There are a wide-number of solutions out there, and the best one for your business will depend largely on the virtual environments you employ. We strongly recommend talking to IT experts like us, as we can help determine, or even offer, the strongest security based.

Myth No.2: My existing anti-malware doesn’t interfere with my virtual operations

Performance issues can create security gaps that don't exist in your physical environment. Traditional endpoint security uses an agent-based model where each physical and virtual machine has a copy of the security program’s agent on it. This agent communicates with the server while performing security tasks. This is fine for physical machines, but if you have 100 virtual machines running off of one main environment that has been infected with malware, you’ll also have 100 instances of malware running on the machines.

This high level of duplication can cause massive performance degradation and waste tons of storage capacity. Therefore, you should make an effort to ensure that all of your systems including the main ones are without malware. This not only makes every system secure, but can also speed up overall operations.

Myth No.3: Virtual environments are inherently more secure than physical environments

Sadly, this just isn’t always true. Virtualization is designed to allow software, including malware, to behave as it normally would, and malware writers will target any and all weak points in a business’s network to accomplish their goals. An attacker who compromises one virtual machine and finds a way to jump to the hypervisor - the system that enables the virtualization - then has access to every virtual machine on that host.

Therefore, malware scanners on both the user and main systems would be a good idea. If it does happen to get on a system, the chances of it spreading are drastically reduced.

Myth No.4: Using non-persistent virtual machines effectively secures a network

In theory, any machine that encounters malware is wiped away and recreated cleanly. However, we are now seeing malware that is designed to survive teardown of individual machines by spreading across the virtual network. This allows it to return when new virtual machines are created.

Additionally, being too eager to create new machines on demand can result in virtual machine sprawl, which happens when virtual machines are created but then forgotten. This leads to an unmaintained virtual endpoint operating without your knowledge. Even if the rest of your virtual machines are secure, it’s possible for one machine to eavesdrop on the traffic of another virtual machine, leading to privacy and security risks.

The best solution to this is to employ an IT manager who can track and maintain systems. Many IT partners offer a solution like this, so experts like us may be able to help ensure your systems are secure.

Myth No.5: Specialized virtual security programs are more or less the same

There are various approaches to virtualization security and your network will probably need a blend of available options. This all depends on what you’re trying to protect.

A non-Web-connected server is going to have entirely different security needs than a virtual desktop of a server that manages customer information. Implementing one without the other simply just won’t do in today’s world, where attackers are set on getting their hands on your data.

Proper security is vital in making virtualization a critical component of your business IT infrastructure. Looking to learn more about virtualization and its components? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security