Blog

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
June 20th, 2014

Office_June18_CMicrosoft Outlook delivers more than many business people perceive it to do. More than just an email application, this program can also handle important notes, reminders, and details of business matters through Outlook Address Book. Though it is more often used to pull out the email addresses of your contacts, the address book is also a great tool to organize and sync client details to another application.

Since Outlook's Address Book is the go-to application for many distribution lists, email addresses, and other important contact details, knowing how to use it can be really useful. However, before you create a new address book, it is a good idea to keep in mind that Outlook Address Book is NOT your list of contacts but a collection of different folders containing different sets of contacts.

This does sometimes confuse, so to help you understand more easily, here are the types of address books you can create in your Outlook profile:

Global Address Book

This can only be used in conjunction with a Microsoft Exchange account. Global address lists are a collection of all the names connected to your account in Microsoft Exchange Server.

Outlook Address Book

This is used interchangeably with Contacts although they are different in context to each other. Your Outlook Address Book is a collection of your contacts with details added in the e-mail and fax number fields.

Internet Directory Services (LDAP)

The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is used to find email addresses that are not in your local directory. This can only be accessed with the use of a steady Internet connection.

Third-party address books

You can set up address books from third party service providers through their given setup program.

To create an address book for a specified list of clients you can:

  1. From the Info tab, go to File then click Account Settings.
  2. Two options will be listed in the dropdown menu – Account Settings and Social Network Accounts. Choose Account Settings and click Address Books from the pop-up window.
  3. Tick on New then Add Account.
  4. In the Add Account dialog box, more options will appear – Internet Directory Service (LDAP) and Additional Address Books. Choose Additional Address Books and click Next to continue.
  5. You will be directed to the next window with options Outlook Address Book or Mobile Address Book. Mobile address books will create a list of names with the mobile number field filled in. Choose between the two and hit Next.
  6. Your chosen type will be automatically saved to your Outlook profile and to be able to use this, you will have to restart your program first.
Outlook Address Book not only helps sync your business database to several applications but also makes the client database organization an easy task. Understanding how to work this to your advantage can really help streamline and organize your contacts.

We can help you apply better technology tools to your business, so get in touch!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2014

virtualization_June17_CVirtualizing your server can result in the gain of efficiencies and capabilities that aren’t possible within a physical platform. While many businesses are rushing to server virtualization due to its increasing popularity, a lot of companies suffer rather than seep the benefits of a virtual server, mainly due to rush of deployment. With that in mind, it’s wise that you take the time to get a comprehensive view and see if server virtualization will actually save you money as intended.

10 ways to identify if server virtualization will save you money:

  1. Expert IT personnel: Some small businesses don’t have an IT person on the payroll, or if they do, that person deals with tasks such as security or desktop management which often means they are ill-equipped to deal with the technological sophistication that virtualization demands. If you don’t have an IT expert, virtualizing might not be right for you.
  2. Technology as core competence: If your company’s core competence is technology, or if you have lots of servers which require abundant storage and skilled IT veterans, server virtualization is sure to help save your company money. Not only will you improve on storage efficiency, but you won’t have a payroll replete with lots of IT personnels.
  3. Busy servers: If your servers are taking up floor, rack or shelf space, or if they are dedicated to particular applications; your business is likely to save money through server virtualization. Moreover, if your server equipment is aging, server virtualization might help with significant server consolidation, meaning fewer servers, lower power bills and more floor space, too.
  4. Sensitive applications: Note that not all applications do well in virtual environments. Some critical or sensitive applications require a lot of processor or memory resources and you don’t want them sharing those resources with other virtual servers. Find out about your applications performance needs, if they’re not sensitive they may be ripe for a virtual server.
  5. Shared storage: Some people will tell you that virtual servers must have a virtual storage, however those themes usually come from vendors whose livelihoods are tied to virtual storage. If your business focuses on having a centralized storage that is shared between users, virtualization can be very beneficial.
  6. Speed of deployment: Some businesses need to be able to provision servers rapidly since failure to do so is a distinct competitive disadvantage. If thats the case in your business, virtualization is a must. Ordering a physical server and deploying it can take days if not weeks; unlike a virtual framework which once in place deployment can be done in no time.
  7. Server virtualization test drive: Why not try virtualization on a small scale before deciding if you should go all virtual? You can buy inexpensive tool such as VMware Workstation which costs around USD$199 for your IT staff to try out and see the potential value of server virtualization.
  8. Do research: Even if you think you know all the basics about server virtualization, be safe than sorry by doing more research before implementing anything. A good place to start is Virtualization for Dummies. It provides a thorough basic understanding of the idea as well as what it can do for your business.
  9. Ignore server virtualization hype: With so much hype around virtualization these days it would be easy for some businesses to rush into. Don’t do that! Instead, do some research and analyze your business’ components and needs before deciding to go all virtual.
  10. Get help: Server virtualization can be quite complicated, the good news is that vendors are making it much easier to deploy. If you decide to virtualize your servers, getting help from a reputable vendor can pay off in the long run. Most vendors offer solution bundles which include servers and storage pre-installed virtual servers for turnkey operation.
While server virtualization proves to be an efficient and cost-effective solution for many businesses, the most important thing here is to not rush into a virtual server. Take a little time and go through a checklist to see if your business is right for the idea because if not, you’re likely to be losing both time and money. Looking to learn more about server virtualization? Call us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 17th, 2014

businessintelligence_June16_CMost businesses are continuously looking for ways to improve visibility, efficiency, and gain valuable insights into consumer behavior. By utilizing your company’s business intelligence (BI) system, you can achieve all this and more. Many companies spend anywhere between USD $100 thousand and $1 million for their BI system but fail to make proper use of it. Do you think your BI system could use an extra push in the right direction?

5 ways to improve business intelligence value

1. Pump customer data into your analysis Most companies are chasing after a 360 degree view of their customers, and while this seems like an elusive goal, it can be achieved. Take the first steps by integrating data from your CRM, accounting, and customer support systems into your BI dashboards and reports to allow analysis of customer growth, profitability, and lifetime value. Understanding these KPIs can help you spot trends as well as identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell. 2. Set up alerts and delivery Your business intelligence can instantly improve its standing and value with alerts and report delivery. Notifications, in the form of email alerts, are useful for managers to keep an eye on business operations without having to log into the BI system. The added perk here is that managers can stay on top of KPIs and new updates even when they're on the move as reports and dashboards can be emailed to them according to a set schedule. 3. Reassess your dashboards If it’s been a while since your BI dashboards were first designed, try updating them with modern charts and stylish fonts. While this may seem unnecessary to some companies, attractive dashboards attract more users and you’ll likely see an uptick in adoption after a dashboard refresh. 4. Deploy existing content on mobile devices By increasing your BI content’s availability, you can quickly increase the number of users accessing it. A great way to do this is by deploying your dashboards and reports on mobile devices. This is especially useful for decision makers who travel frequently or need to be able to access KPIs from anywhere; after all it’s easier for them to pull out a phone or tablet rather than drag out a laptop. Your BI system likely includes some way to make your existing BI content mobile. Allowing users to access BI the way they want can be a great way to boost your BI value. 5. Make it predictive While BI has traditionally been used to present historic data for manual analysis, now more than ever it’s incorporating predictive analytics. By leveraging stored data from your BI system and applying predictive analytics, you can project future performance and make better business decisions based on more accurate forecasts.

Modern BI platforms come with many options, from multi-data source connectivity to mobile BI. It is up to you to leverage the full breadth of your BI software’s capabilities to ensure that you’re getting all the value it can deliver. Looking to learn more about business intelligence and its functions? Get in touch.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 13th, 2014

security_June13_CThe parallel rise of technological advancement and malicious Internet activity is evident. With advances in technology comes an increase in security threats which, if not taken care of right away, can severely affect your business’ efficiency and overall success. With that in mind, it’s time you familiarized yourself with the top security best practice guidelines which will go a long way to ensuring your business is safe and secure.

10 Security practice guidelines for businesses

  1. Encrypt your data: Encryption of stored data, filesystems, and across-the-wire transfers is essential to protect sensitive data as well as to help prevent data loss due to equipment loss or theft.
  2. Use digital certificates to sign all of your sites: You should obtain your certificates from a trusted Certificate Authority, and instead of saving your certificates on the Web server, save them to hardware devices like routers or load balancers.
  3. Implement a removable media policy: Devices like USB drives, external hard disks, external DVD writers or any writeable media facilitate security breaches coming into or leaving your network. Restricting the use of those devices is an effective way to minimize security threats.
  4. Implement DLP and auditing: Be sure to use data loss prevention and file auditing to monitor, alert, identify, and block the flow of data into and out of your network.
  5. Use a spam filter on your email servers: Using a time-tested spam filter such as SpamAssassin will remove unwanted email from entering your inbox and junk folders. It is important that you identify junk mail even if it’s from a trusted source.
  6. Secure websites against MITM and malware infections: Start using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which creates a secure connection between a user and server, over which any amount of data can be sent securely. Through SSL, you’ll be able to scan your website daily for malware, set the Secure flag for all session cookies, as well as use SSL certificates with Extended Validation.
  7. Use a comprehensive endpoint security solution: Using an antivirus software alone is not enough to provide defense against today’s security threats. Go for a multi-layered product to prevent malware infections on your devices.
  8. Network-based security hardware and software: Start using firewalls, gateway antivirus, intrusion detection devices, and monitoring to screen for DoS attacks, virus signatures, unauthorized intrusion, and other over-the-network attacks.
  9. Maintain security patches: Make sure that your software and hardware defenses stay up-to-date with new anti-malware signatures and the latest patches. If your antivirus program doesn’t update on a daily basis, be sure to set up a regular scan and a remediation plan for your systems.
  10. Educate your employees: As simple as it sounds, this might be the most important non-hardware, non-software solution available. An informed user will more likely behave more responsibly and take fewer risks with valuable company data resulting in fewer threats to your organization.
Businesses cannot afford to take chances with security. Why? Because doing so can trigger a domino effect, causing a cascade of problems that can lead to operational outages, data loss, security breaches, and the subsequent negative impact to your company's bottom line. Looking to learn more about security for your business? Call us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 9th, 2014

businesscontinuity_June9_CLooking at the majority of natural disasters that strike it appears that many happen in the months of June through August. Regardless of your business location, there is likely an increased chance that you could see a disaster in these months and it is therefore a good idea to prepare for one, even if you think it unlikely. While there are many things you can do to get ready in advance, mobile devices can play an important role, especially the use of apps.

Both Android and Apple mobile devices offer a wide variety of apps that users rely on daily. Because of this, these devices have become an integral part of our lives and would no doubt be on hand if disaster struck. The upside to this is that there are apps that can help you and your employees whatever the disaster. Here are four of the best types of disaster related apps you and your colleagues should download in order to prepare.

Weather apps

It is always a good idea to know what the weather forecast is for your local area. This can help you predict what could happen and even prepare your business should say a big storm be rolling in. There are a wide variety of weather apps out there and it can be difficult to actually pick which is the best to use. We recommend:
  1. The NOAA Weather Radio - Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad users, this app is the official app for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. When installed, you can receive local weather forecasts based on your location and storm or severe weather warnings pushed directly to your device. The app can be found on iTunes and costs USD$3.99
  2. Weather Underground - This app is among the most powerful weather apps out there. Using a wide variety of weather stations and user submitted weather it is up to date and able to offer accurate forecasts. With a Weather Radio feature, and push notifications of weather alerts, you can easily track potential storms. There is also the WunderMap which has radar, reports and IR Sat views as well. The app is available for free on Google Play and iTunes, and is rumored to be coming soon for Windows Phone.
  3. Local weather apps - Many TV stations and weather organizations have localized weather apps that focus on just local conditions. If you live in a disaster prone area, it would be a good idea to see if your local TV station has a weather app, as this could be the quickest way to receive updates.

American Red Cross apps

The Red Cross has a number of excellent survival oriented apps that could really come in handy for when a disaster strikes. These apps provide tips on how to prepare yourself and your family, as well as buildings for disaster, and what to do during and after a disaster strikes.

The best part is that most of the information is available offline, so you will have access to it even if cell networks are down. Some of the apps even provide weather alerts that will sound even if the app isn't open, alerting you about any impending danger.

These apps are all available for free on Google Play and iTunes. The best thing to do is to visit the Red Cross website and look for the apps that are relevant to your local area e.g., if you are in the mountains the Forest Fire and First Aid apps may help. The apps are all free and can be downloaded by clicking the links for your device's app store on the Red Cross site.

Social media apps

Social media services could prove to be a good way to connect and communicate during a disaster. Try setting up a group for your employees to communicate and encourage them to use it when a disaster strikes to share information and enact plans. One of the biggest added advantages to using social networks is that the servers that host the service are located around the world, so the chances of the service being down is fairly slim. If you have Internet access, you will be able to access the service.

It would be a good idea to define which social network you want to use and establish your pages and connections ahead of time. Have each employee sign up for and join the group you have created and also download the app onto their mobile devices.

Google Public Alerts

Google Public Alerts is the company's alert platform that allows for the distribution of emergency messages and notices like evacuation notices, public alerts, and storm warnings. For users in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia alerts will appear in Google Searches, Maps and if you are an Android or iOS user, from Google Now.

Mobile users who have Google Now installed should see relevant alerts pop up when something happens. While you won't see alerts for absolutely everything, Google does a pretty good job at broadcasting useful information. On mobile devices, these alerts will usually pop up in your Notifications Center where they are easy to see.

To get these notifications on your Android device, you will need to download the Google Search app and activate it on your device. You can find it for free on the Google Play Store, and on iTunes. Android users can also download the Google Now Launcher which will add Google Now to your device's home screen, and can be accessed by swiping to the right from your Home Screen.

Tips for using your mobile during an emergency

Here are six tips to help you leverage your mobile device during a disaster.
  1. Install relevant apps - In order to be prepared, you should install the apps necessary to communicate during a disaster, along with a weather app and if necessary a survival app.
  2. Ensure your contacts are up to date - To be sure, you should periodically update your contacts. Should anything happen you will know how to contact people and have a higher chance of being able to get in touch.
  3. Ensure your employees have devices that work - Even if you don't allow mobile devices in the office, or employees to use their own devices, it would be a great idea to ensure that your employees have devices that are in working order so should they need to contact you, or vice versa, you will have a better chance of being able to.
  4. Establish procedures to follow during a disaster - This is arguably the most important preparation you can do. Take the time to establish procedures you and your employees should follow during an emergency. Include where people should meet, backup plans, contact suggestions and the roles you expect your employees to take.
  5. Keep your batteries topped up - Mobile devices rely on batteries to operate, and during a disaster you may be without a power source for an extended amount of time. Therefore, Minimize use during a disaster. Ensure your batteries are full, or charges as often and has high as possible.
  6. Invest in a good power bank - Power banks are useful tools that are essentially big batteries. You can charge them up then use them to charge your devices. Take a look for one that is at least 9000 MHZ, or higher. The higher the number the bigger the charge.
If you are looking to learn more about using mobile devices during a disaster, or how your company can prepare, contact us today. Learn about our services and how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 3rd, 2014

SocialMedia_June02_CSocial media is quickly becoming one of the more useful marketing tools a business has. While a corporate profile can be a great way to connect with existing customers, many businesses find that because of the high number of people actually using these sites, these platforms are perfect for marketing and advertising, and ultimately in reaching and penetrating target markets. One way you can get your ads in front of people is through the use of social PPC.

Define social PPC

Businesses who advertise through social media have a number of ways they can get their ads and content seen on this platform. The most popular is based on one of the Internet's oldest marketing schemes: Pay-per-Click, or PPC.

In a broad sense, PPC is the act of paying an advertiser or website to place ads at strategic locations. Placing these ads is usually free, or comes with a nominal fee, but when a user clicks on the ad and goes to the destination site, the owner of the ad pays the advertiser or site a small fee.

In relation to social media, social PPC is simply ads which are placed on the social networks. For example, you can pay Facebook to place an ad on the right-hand bar of certain user's News Feeds. If they click on the ad, Facebook will then charge you a set amount for that click.

Where social PPC differs from other types of PPC, more specifically search PPC - paying search engines to display your ads - is that it is more display oriented. With search PPC, you pay the engine to show your ad when specific search keywords are entered. With social PPC, you pay the site to display your ad regardless of what the user is looking at.

3 Common misconceptions about social PPC

While this process is becoming more popular with businesses, especially those who have integrated social media into their marketing plans, there are some common misconceptions that seem to be floating around.

1. Starting small is the way to go

As with most strategies in business, when starting something new you often want to test the waters before jumping in full scale. Many companies who are trying social PPC for the first time will often start with one or two campaigns running at the same time. While this may work for small businesses with an unproven profile, those with an established profile and marketing strategy may want to try running 3-5 campaigns at the same time.

The reason for this strategy is that it can help spread out the overall views, along with enhancing the quality of information and results. For example, you can easily compare and establish what is working when you have more than two alternatives to compare.

2. You need to be active on the services you target

Despite what some people in charge of marketing believe, you don't need to be active on a social network in order to be able to use social PPC features. Many networks, like Twitter, simply require that you have an account in order to be able to use the ad features.

If you do want to use the ad features of different social networks, you should be sure to at least have a fully completed profile. This includes address, name, location, and business info. Of course, if you want to enhance the success of your initiative, an active profile will help but it is not necessary.

The best example of this is if you want to use the promoted post feature in Facebook. You will need to have content in order to actually use this feature successfully and the more content and followers you have, the higher the chances of what you promote being seen.

3. You MUST be using Facebook Ads

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, and many businesses already have a Facebook Page. But many feel that in order to maximize the potential of their Page, they need to be advertising using Facebook Ads.

Sure, it can help to use this service, but it isn't the only one out there. You do have other options, including different platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. To really get the most out of a social PPC campaign you should try different platforms anyway. For example, if you want to target other business customers try using LinkedIn, which is where this target group may be more likely to be found than through Facebook.

Looking to learn more about social PPC or using social media in your company? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 29th, 2014

BusinessValue_May26_CSocial media has become such a large part of business strategy and marketing. Many businesses invest time, money and energy into creating a wide variety of content for their social media platforms. One of the most popular types of content is articles. While many businesses go to great lengths to create articles, some have a problem with ensuring or increasing the chance that what they write and post will be shared.

The key to getting your content shared

There are countless blog posts on how to create content that is shareable. And to create content that will be shared by users on social media and other platforms you need to know why content gets shared in the first place.

In order to help, we scoured the Internet and found a great article over at OK Dork, which was written by the content masters at BuzzSumo. This article listed things you can do to increase the shareability of the content you produce. While it is quite a long article, we found there were some great tips worth talking about here. In order to make things a little easier, we have split this article into two parts. Here are the first five tips you can leverage to increase the reach of your content, and more specifically the blog articles you create:

Create longer content

Take a look at what people share on their social media profiles and there is little doubt that the vast majority of content is short, and can range from often photos and videos of funny cats to memes. But look at the articles that are shared and you will often find that the most popular ones are actually longer, or long-form as they are referred to by content experts.

The main reason for this is because there are fewer long-form article creators out there, and there is a demand for higher quality, well researched and well-written articles. Sharing this type of content generally adds some depth to a posting which can create a more involved and sustained dialogue.

You might want to mix it up to increase shareability by creating some articles which follow this longer style approach. You could try writing shorter articles on a regular basis, for example, with a 2000 word article say once a month.

People like images

Think about the last time you read an article in the newspaper without an image, or even saw a link on social media without an image. Did you remember the content, or did you even click on the link? Many people wouldn't. So, if you want your content to be shared on social media add some visuals.

With longer content visuals not only serve to draw the eyes of the reader and break up content to keep the reader engaged. For shorter pieces, an image can attract initial attention and give the reader some an idea about what the subject of the content is.

The key here is to include visuals with every piece of content. Make sure that the image relates to the content and is interesting enough to capture attention, enough that users will want to share what they see and read.

Even Twitter users like images

Although Twitter is largely based on text posts visual content tends to be shared more by users of this platform.

As per the point above, try to have a visual with every piece of content. If you are an avid Twitter user, try coming up with titles or overviews that are 100 characters or less. This will leave room for a link on Twitter to the content. If social media users likes the content, and there is an image too, chances are higher that they will share it via Twitter.

Using certain emotions really helps

If you want people to share your content, you need to write articles that evoke emotion. The three most successful, when it comes to sharing, are:
  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement
If your article inspires one of these three emotions, you have a drastically higher chance of the content being shared. Generally speaking, if content makes someone laugh or think about an issue then are more likely to share what resonates with them.

The other emotion to capitalize on is selfishness. Take a look at your Facebook News Feed and we guarantee that you will see a ton of quizzes shared by people. These quizzes are usually something like "What TV character would you be?, or "What's your dream job?", etc. While entertaining, these quizzes appeal to our more narcissistic sides. They provide little to no value to your followers, but they can be fun and help social media users establish an identity which they can compare with others trying out the same 'test'.

You can also try to create articles that challenge normal assumptions or are opinion pieces on relevant hot-button issues. The spark of debate that the content ignites is sure to attract interaction with comments and sharing, and you can also keep interest going via social media.

Users love infographics and lists

When writing your articles, you have a wide variety of ways you can format your content. Most people will agree that your articles, regardless of length, need to be broken down into easy to read sections, especially if you want to keep mobile users reading. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the two most popular are through infographics and lists.

What this tells us is that readers generally prefer content that can:

  • Display a large amount of information in a clean, easy to read, and visual format i.e., infographics.
  • Are scannable.Take for example list articles. You can format these to be highly scannable, yet still include all the essential information.
  • Tell us what to expect. We like to know what an article is about before we read it.
If you are writing longer articles that contain a large amount of information try creating an infographic, and summarizing the most important parts in a list.

Next month we will reveal five more tips to enhance content sharing. In the mean time, if you have any questions about creating effective content or on social media, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 22nd, 2014

BI_May19_CPredicting the future is a skill many business owners wish they could have. After all, if you could tell what will happen six months from now, you might find that business would be infinitely easier. Of course, this is not possible to such a precise extent. That being said, businesses do have tools at their disposal that they can use to attempt to predict the future, such as predictive analytics.

What is predictive analytics?

Before looking at why businesses might want to implement this type of analytics into their operations, it's worthwhile defining what exactly predictive analytics is. Simply put, predictive analytics is a form of business intelligence that focuses on combing existing information for patterns and useful data that can then be used to make predictions on future outcomes or to identify trends.

It is important to stress that this form of analytics does not tell you what is going to happen. Instead, it is used to figure out what might happen. Think of it as similar to a weather forecast for your business - meteorologists can never tell you what the weather will be like over the next week, they merely use the data they have at their disposal to forecast what the outlook is likely to be in the next few days.

The vast majority of companies who apply these analytics to their business often do so to gain a better understanding of their customers, partners, and other stakeholders. From this they can better identify possible risks and opportunities.

Five reasons to use predictive analytics:

  1. Compete better - Companies who use predictive analysis can generally compete smarter. This is because they can leverage existing data to figure out why their customers choose them. By doing the same, you can then focus on highlighting your strengths. This is especially useful if you have some quality strengths to play with.
  2. Work out how to better meet demand - If utilized effectively, you can predict with some accuracy the level of demand for your products, including sales of specific items at certain times, and high/low times for customer visits. From here, you can schedule deliveries or staff to ensure products and staff will be available.
  3. Exceed expectations - While forecasting customer demand is important, what really keeps customers returning is when you exceed their expectations. One of the best ways to do this is by offering products or services the customers need them; or even before they need them or know they do. By understanding customer buying habits you can develop individualized campaigns that focus on their upcoming needs; offering useful products and/or services.
  4. Increase efficiency - Analyzing your existing data can help predict when you may have supply issues, or where production problems may crop up when launching a new product or service. With this warning system in place you can take steps to limit any negative repercussions or make provisions to guard against a predicted problem. This then can help increase overall efficiency.
  5. Better able to reach clients - By first tracking customer touchpoint data - when did they contact you and how - you can then use this data to forecast when your customers will be looking at social media, more willing to read an email you send, and even when they might be more willing to talk with you on the phone.
These are just a few of the reasons businesses use predictive analytics in their companies. If you are curious to learn more about how to create success for your business and the technology systems that support and allow you to utilize predictive analytics, contact us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 22nd, 2014

Virtualization_May19_CModern technology makes it easier for owners to operate their business. Knowing which technology to use and the right time to implement it is essential if you want to boost productivity as well as reduce operating costs. One of the best ways to do this is to virtualize. While virtualization is being integrated more widely by business owners, many are still questioning what it actually is and whether or not to implement it.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is the act of migrating physical systems into a virtual environment. In other words, it is the creation of a virtual version of a device or resource; anything from a server to an operating system. By providing a virtual view of computing resources, this allows you to turn one server into a host for a group of servers that all share the same resources.

How is it different from other systems?

With virtualization, you can instantly access nearly limitless computing resources which allow for faster and broader business capabilities. It also gets rid of haphazard IT rooms, cables, and bulky hardware; reducing your overall IT overhead as well as management costs.

While many look at virtualization as the cloud, in reality the cloud is just a part of virtualization. The most important function of virtualization is the capability of running multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer or server. This means increased productivity achieved by fewer servers. Virtualization can usually improve overall application performance due to technology that can balance resources, and provide only what the user needs.

When to virtualize?

Virtualization can be a solution for many businesses, but not for all. The key is to know exactly when to virtualize. Here are four situations where a business could virtualize systems:
  • Virtualize if you rely on technology - Companies that rely on technology often use several servers and technology from hardware like laptops and networks. Basically, if your company needs technology to operate, virtualization can help you reduce the overall operation costs.
  • Virtualize if your company exceeds 20 employees - Many tech experts agree that there is no need for virtualization if you have a business with less than 10-20 employees. With that number, traditional servers are usually more than enough to cater to your needs.
  • Virtualize if you can cover the costs - While virtualization is meant to reduce costs, like any modern technology it requires an initial investment. The cost of virtualization can be high for smaller businesses to implement, however you do have an option of working with an IT partner like us. We can help you realize cost-savings or even a Return On Investment (ROI). For companies with servers in place, virtualization can be as simple as installing a free program.
  • Virtualize if you want space - Certain business operators throw away a big chunk of their money on an extra room to house large server racks, wires or even IT personnel to maintain them. The issue here is the cost of maintenance, as well as limited office space. In this situation, virtualization can help make better use of space while reducing hardware costs.
There are several reasons as to why many businesses look into virtualization. Like any type of technology, it’s a tradeoff between practicality and money. If you think you’re ready to move your systems to a virtual world or are looking to learn more about virtualization solutions, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.