Blog

October 31st, 2014

Security_Oct27_CAny business with Internet-based systems should be taking the appropriate steps to ensure that their activities and information are secure from the ever-expanding number of online threats. This can be tough, especially for businesses who operate almost exclusively online. To help, here are five tips that can help keep your online activities safe from attacks.

1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

Two-factor authentication, or two-step authentication as it is also known, is the idea of using two pieces of information to log into accounts: Your usual password and a code that is usually sent to a mobile device or generated by a code generator.

By utilizing this safety feature, you can further increase the security of your accounts, largely because the chances of someone getting their hands on both the generated code and your password are slim.

Some sites don't use a code and instead ask a question that needs to be answered every time you log in. If this is the case, make the question something that is difficult for a hacker to guess. For example, use your address from 10 years ago instead of your current address.

2. Audit who has access to what data

Between all of your online accounts and social media profiles you will likely be surprised at just how much information about you can be found online. There are a multitude of scare stories online, where someone has had their accounts hacked and identity stolen, largely because they had left pertinent information online without even thinking about it.

It is a good idea to audit what information you have online. This includes looking at the contact and personal information you have on social media profiles, account information, etc. Ideally, if it is not necessary information, then it shouldn't be shared. As for social media profiles, make sure only the absolute basic personal information is online and limit who can see this information.

3. Watch what is posted on social media

Because of the nature of social media, we often feel the need to share our whole lives online. This can often lead to oversharing, and even sometimes oversharing of personal information. There are stories online of thieves monitoring social media for businesses posting about how they are going to be closed for a holiday, with all staff gone. Once a thief finds this information, they then break into the business without worrying about people being there.

If you are going to share information online, be sure to limit the potentially sensitive information that you post, especially if the content is shared with the public.

4. Change your passwords regularly

It seems like almost every week news breaks of a password or account information breach. What this translates to is the fact that your accounts are always facing a potential risk. Therefore, you should make it a habit to change your passwords on a regular basis.

Most experts recommend at least once every three months, but if there is a breach where your account information may have been leaked then naturally change your passwords straightaway.

To ensure maximum security, you should use a different password for each account, and keep these as separate as possible.

5. Work with an IT partner who can offer enhanced Internet security

Ensuring that your business is secure online can be an on-going battle that you will likely not win easily. One of the best steps to take is to work with an IT partner like us. We offer a variety of Internet security solutions that can help stop malware intrusions before they infect your systems, block access to potentially harmful sites, and even scan Internet-based email solutions. In other words, we can help improve your overall online security.

If you are looking to learn more about how we can help your business be secure online, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 30th, 2014

Hardware_Oct27_CTechnology is an integral part of any business. The problem with this is technology ages and eventually needs to be replaced. Because of the sheer amount of new systems and hardware components being introduced on a daily basis, it can be confusing to work out whether you should upgrade or not. To help, here are five signs that might want to consider updating your business's hardware.

1. Replacement parts are difficult to find

Computers, servers, and even mobile devices are made up of a number of different parts of hardware that rely on other parts in order to operate properly. If one breaks down, there is a good chance that the whole system will stop working.

Luckily, for many newer pieces of hardware and systems, replacements are easy to come by. But, if something breaks and you are having trouble finding replacement parts then it might be a good idea to consider upgrading. The reason for this is because parts that are more difficult to find are usually going to cost more when you can actually find them. While this may be ok for one system, if you have more than one system using the same components there is a good chance that these will also need to be replaced, leading to increased costs.

2. Repair costs outweigh replacement costs

Some hardware components can only be repaired by experts with highly specialized skills. What this means is that should this hardware break, you will likely be facing a fairly high repair bill. What we recommend is to always get a quote on how much it will cost to repair your broken hardware first.

When you have this quote, look at the price of replacement components. If it's more affordable to replace, then this is usually a better option. Of course, you are going to want to ensure that any replacement parts are actually compatible with your system, so before you go purchasing be sure to ask check with your IT partner.

3. You are running 'legacy' systems

Legacy systems are computers and technology deemed to be old by experts. For example, computers running Windows XP, or computers purchased before the release of Windows 7 would be considered legacy systems.

While these may be working like a charm now, they will eventually break. When this happens, you will see higher repair costs when compared with new technology. Beyond replacement costs is the fact that many manufacturers and software developers have stopped supporting older systems. This means that should an error occur, you will not necessarily be able to get support from the company who made the hardware. This can lead to repair delays and lost productivity.

Now, not every "old" system will need to be replaced right away. What we recommend is talking to an IT partner like us. We can help you determine if your older systems do actually need to be replaced, and suggest affordable alternatives.

4. Hardware is impeding productivity

If you or your employees are struggling to complete work because of constant computer crashes, or slow systems, productivity will be lower than it could be. Should you notice this in your office, it is a good idea to look into upgrading your systems in order to enable employees to do their jobs properly.

5. Your systems don't meet minimum requirements

If you are going to install new software or systems that require other hardware components, be sure to look at the minimum requirements. Almost every piece of software indicates which requirements must be met in order for the software to work.

If your systems don't meet these minimum requirements, then the software won't work. Should they meet them, but just barely, the software will work but there is a good chance that it won't work as well as it could do. Should you not meet the requirements, you will need to upgrade your hardware.

Looking to upgrade, or for some advice on how you can keep your systems working? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 29th, 2014

BCP_Oct27_CBusinesses of all sizes should take the time to implement business continuity plans if they want their business to survive a potential disaster. In order to do this, you need technology to support your plans. Even businesses with plans in place need to replace their technology eventually. The issue is how you know when to do this. To help, here are five tips that can signify when new technology is needed.

1. New technology and systems offer increased resilience

When it comes to continuity and the systems supporting it, businesses need to ensure that they are resilient. This means implementing hardened systems that will remain working in adverse environments; systems like UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), etc., so that should a disaster occur services will still be available.

Beyond this, it is a good idea to implement systems that can be switched from one location to another quickly and easily. A good example of this is implementing cloud storage and backup which can be recovered to other systems with minimal fuss.

Technology that increases the resilience of your systems and continuity plans is worth implementing.

2. Enhanced data protection and availability

During and after a disaster, it is vital that businesses have access to their data. If your data is not protected in an efficient manner, or easily accessible once it has been backed up, you could see a decrease in business effectiveness and delays in fully recovering.

Technology or systems that enhance data protection and availability over your existing systems are worth including in an upgrade, so that you can benefit from data being available when you need it most.

3. Systems offering increased communication

Communication during and after a disaster is crucially important if your business is to survive and recover full operations. When a company faces disaster, communication networks need to be strong and available at any time. So, if you can find systems that enhance the ease and effectiveness of your communications then these could be worthwhile upgrading to.

4. New technology is available to simplify plan development and auditing

If you have developed a continuity plan in the past, you know that it can be a time consuming task. While essential, many business owners do not have the necessary time to commit to this. This is where systems and technology can help.

A system that makes the auditing and development of plans easier may be worth including in an update.

5. Technology that decreases costs

With businesses operating on narrower margins, many business owners want systems to keep costs low or at the very least ensure costs don't rise. If the systems you are looking at have been proven to reduce operating costs, then it may be a good idea to consider them.

It is important however to not integrate technology simply to save money. You should aim for solutions that are affordable, but that will also offer these worthwhile benefits and more.

We recommend talking to us to find out how we can help you find the services and technology your business needs to ensure your business continuity is not only working but will also deliver when you need it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 24th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Oct20_CEvery system needs a benchmark, and for Android that standard is Google's Nexus line of devices. These phones and tablets offer users a pure Android experience, along with hardware that sets the trend for the coming year. In mid October, Google launched not one but three new Nexus devices and officially named the next version of Android.

Android L becomes Android 5.0 - Lollipop

While Google announced Android L earlier this year, little was said about what the full name of the next version of Android would be. The company finally laid speculation to rest with the announcement that the next version of Android will be 5.0 - Lollipop.

This is the first major update to the Android platform pretty much since Android 4.0 was released back in 2011. While the different versions of 4.0 introduced useful features and changes, the overall look of the system has largely remained the same. Android 5.0 will change this, with what is called Material Design, which brings a universal look (user interface) to apps across all devices.

Beyond a new look, 5.0 will introduce a new operating environment and coding that allows apps to run faster and more efficiently on existing hardware. Support for faster and more powerful processors is also being included so over the next few years you can expect to see phones and tablets become even more powerful.

To begin with, Android 5.0 will be available on the newly announced Nexus devices, along with older Nexus devices (7, 7 (2012), 5 and 4), some Motorola devices, and all Google Play Edition devices. The company has not set an official release date for this update, but you can probably expect it sometime in mid-November. Other devices will have to wait until the manufacturers can adopt this version of Android to their systems.

The Nexus 6

Like most other popular devices, there have been solid rumors about the Nexus 6 all over the Internet. True to these ruminations, the 6 will be made by Motorola and will be a large phone - 6 inches in fact. Here is a brief rundown of the important specs for business users:
  • Screen size - The display is 5.96 inches diagonally, with the total size being 6 inches from top-left to bottom-right.
  • Battery - The battery is 3220 mAh, which should be more than enough to see you through a day. Motorola has also included their fast-charging technology which can produce six hours of use from a 15 minute charge.
  • Processor and RAM - The processor is a top of the line Snapdragon 805 quad core 2.7 GHz. There is also 3 GB of RAM, which means there is more than enough processing power to run everything you need.
  • Memory - The device is available with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage.
  • Price and availability - Unlike previous Nexus devices, this phone starts at USD 650 for the 32 GB version, while the 64 GB version costs USD 700. Pre orders for this device start on the Google Play store on October 29 with the device being released in mid-November of this year.

The Nexus 9

The Nexus 9 is the newest tablet in the Nexus line. Made by HTC, it looks to have been designed to compete directly with the iPad Air. Here is a brief rundown of its tech specifications:
  • Screen size - The display on this device is 8.9 inches diagonally, with the total size being 9 inches from top-left to bottom-right.
  • Battery - The battery is a 6700 mAh, which should be more than enough to see you through a couple of days of use.
  • Processor and RAM - There is a high-quality processor running at 2.3 GHz. There is also 2 GB of RAM, which means there is more than enough processing power.
  • Memory - The device is available with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage.
  • Price and availability - This tablet starts at USD 400 for the 32 GB version. There is also be a keyboard case, which looks similar to those purchased for Microsoft's Surface. The device is available to pre order from the Google Play store on October 17, with a release date of November 3 of this year.

The Nexus Player

This new Nexus device is the next step in the evolution of the Chromecast, or Google's device-to-TV broadcasting device. Like similar solutions, it allows users to stream content from their devices, or stations like Netflix, onto their TV or HDMI monitors. While at first glance this may not be the most useful device for businesses, there is one feature that could prove popular: You will have the ability to broadcast what's on your device's screen on your television screen.

This includes Chrome tabs, so if you use cloud-based software like Google Apps you can technically use this to stream presentations or to collaboratively work on documents in a meeting format.

Coming in at USD 99 per set, this could be an affordable solution for companies who don't want to invest in a projector, or who already have a television screen in their office. The system went up for pre order on the Google Play store on October 17.

If you would like to learn more about Google's Nexus devices contact us today and we can help you make the right tech decisions for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

Windows_Oct20_CSince the release of Windows 8, Microsoft has noted that they will be releasing an update to Windows nearly every year. This year, in late September, the company announced the next version of Windows - Windows 10. When it is released users will benefit from a number of useful features being introduced. Here is a quick overview of some of the more interesting ones we know about so far.

Why Windows 10?

When first announced, many eyebrows were raised regarding Windows 9 being skipped. In the tech world, missing out a number with a sequence is not the norm, yet Microsoft stated that they believe that the next version of Windows will be such a drastic improvement over Windows 8 that calling it Windows 9 would not do it justice. From what we can see of the new system, there really are some drastic improvements, including:

One operating system (OS), many systems

When Windows 8 was released, a slightly modified version of the OS was also released for mobile devices. While this was good news, especially for mobile users, the systems were still largely separate, with different apps, app stores, and more.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has noted that the OS has been designed to run across all systems. This means that different devices will likely have slightly different interaction experiences but the underlying system will be the same. For example, there will be one way to write programs for all devices, one app store, and updates will be applied to all versions of the same app, on all devices, at the same time.

A new, yet familiar, Start menu

Windows 8 was a drastic departure from the familiar Windows desktop layout. For the most part, it was despised by business users, who instead have largely bypassed this layout for the traditional Desktop mode. Windows 8.1 allowed users to boot directly into the Desktop, but one large feature has been lacking: a Start menu.

Windows 10 welcomes it back! As with older versions of Windows, the Start menu will be at the bottom-left of the screen, and pressing it will bring up the familiar menu of programs and options. Only now, the old Tile-based layout has also been merged into this section. Think of the traditional Start menu bar, but with a mini-tile based section to the right that will be customizable.

Everything opens in a window

If you've ever downloaded an app from the Windows App store, you likely have noticed that they automatically run in fullscreen mode. With Windows 10, any Windows Store apps will open in window-format, similar to any desktop app.

When apps open you will see the familiar taskbar, along with the maximize, minimize and close buttons. This will make it much easier to work in multiple programs at the same time.

Multiple Desktops

Microsoft Virtual Desktops is a feature that will allow users to create different desktops for different purposes and switch between them quickly and easily. While you will only need to install Windows 10 once, you can have a different desktop setup for say home, personal, and business use all under one user.

Each desktop can display different icons and layouts, but all desktops will have access to the programs installed for that user. Essentially, this will make it easier for business users who also use their devices for personal use or those who need to switch roles at work.

An enhanced File Explorer

File Explorer has been a part of Windows for a while now, and its main function is that it helps you to find your files and folders. In Windows 10, this feature will be upgraded to now search for not only your files and folders, but also to scan the Internet as well. You will also be able to quickly see recent and most popular files and folders, meaning you'll be more likely to be able to find what you are looking for in less time.

When will it be available?

Microsoft has already released what they call a Technical Preview of Windows 10. Anyone can sign up to download Windows 10 and install it on their computers. We would advise against this however, as this version is incomplete and there will be bugs and compatibility issues.

The company has noted that this current version is really for tech experts to install on secondary computers and test, so business users will have to wait! At the time of this article there has been no actual release date set for Windows 10, but you can probably expect it sometime in early 2015. Microsoft has also been quiet about the price, but rumors are circulating that it will either be free or affordable for users to upgrade to if they already have an older version of Windows installed.

Get ahead of the curve and find out what benefits Windows 10 can bring to your business, by dropping us a line first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

SocialMedia_Oct20_CSocial media, for many companies, has become an integral part of their overall marketing strategy. In order to be successful with your social marketing initiatives, you need to develop content that users will share. This is easier said than done though, especially when it comes to selecting the type of content to develop. Here are five types of popular content that should be shared.

1. Selfies

The 2013 "word of the year", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has become so popular it's no mean feat to avoid it these days. Truth be told, the selfie is popular for a reason: It is a quick way to get people to engage with your content.

The key here is to know when to take a selfie for your social media sites. What you want are selfies that make your company look more human, for example a group lunch meeting or after-work game night that shows people having fun. When done in the right way, selfie posts can increase interaction. Just be sure to limit the number you post, as too many could lead to you being perceived as being too focused on your company and not your customers.

2. Inside looks

When we find a product or service we like, we are often curious to learn more about it. This includes learning more about the company that makes the products or services and how it operates.

If you have a growing fan base, why not create content that provides customers with an inside look at some aspect of your business. Take pictures of your office, videos about how your products are made, or perhaps write content about how certain services are created and delivered. Basically, try to come up with content that gives people an inside view of the company.

The reason this type of content works is because it often gives customers a deeper understanding about a business, and creates a closer connection to the products and services. If you can increase overall attachment, you can increase the chances that customers will interact with content, stay loyal to your brand, and even share information about your company or recommend you.

3. Quotes

Famous quotes can be a great way to get a message across in a strong way. If for example you are hosting a Thanksgiving party, or Halloween party, adding a themed quote to your post could be a great way to encourage social media users to interact with it.

Also, if you can find quotes that are relevant to your industry, you could post these whilst asking for opinions or to further a point you're trying to make.

4. Fill in the blanks

While this may sound a little simple, posts that ask your audience to fill in a blank can be a great way to drive engagement while giving your customers a chance to tell their own story. For example, if you are a bakery who produces well-known donuts, asking a question like: "The first time I had this donut was _." could be a good way to inspire customers to interact with you.

5. Videos

One of the more drastic changes many social media sites like Facebook have implemented in the past couple of years is a feature that automatically plays a video when someone pauses on it while scrolling. While not fully welcomed by all users, this move has actually led to the number of video views increasing by as much as two times.

While creating a video because everyone else is, is a bad idea, if you have content that you know can be turned into a useful video e.g., a how-to video, then this could be a great way to reach your target market in an interesting way.

If you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
October 21st, 2014

Office365_Oct20_COffice 365, the cloud-based version of Office, is quickly becoming one of the most popular software suites used by small and medium businesses. With an ever increasing number of businesses migrating to this solution, it is not surprising that so many businesses consider making the move. However as there is always a chance of failure it is best to learn how to avoid this by being aware of the five of the most common ways an Office 365 migration can fail.

1. Slow Internet connection speeds

Because Office 365 is primarily cloud-based, you are going to need a solid bandwidth connection to use it. When migrating your files and system over to Office 365, you will likely need to consume a large quantity of bandwidth. This demand will often be enough to to tax most small business lines, resulting in lower Internet speeds all around while the migration is happening. If this is being carried out during business hours, employees might struggle to do their jobs properly if they are reliant on the Internet.

Beyond this, Office 365 is most often delivered over an Internet connection, rather than in-house servers. This means that the day-to-day demand for bandwidth will increase. If you are already noticing slow speeds and service interruptions before implementing Office 365, you will likely see these issues compounded after implementation.

To avoid this, you should ask an Office 365 provider to test your existing network connections to ensure that your Internet connection can handle the migration and day-to-day operation of Office 365. If not, a provider should be able to offer you a solution.

2. Mailboxes and files are too big

While the business versions of Office 365 do come with 50 GB of email storage and over 1 TB of file storage per user, actually getting your emails and files online could take a while, especially if you have users whose email inboxes are approaching the storage limit.

As a general rule of thumb, larger files will cause the migration of files to take longer. If this is not prepared for, then you could see migration affecting work or even continual issues of data not being available when it's needed.

To avoid this, you should encourage your staff to archive their email inboxes and either delete or remove emails with large attachments that aren't necessary.

3. Uninformed users

The average Office 365 migration takes from one to three days, depending on the size of the business and the amount of data moving over. If you start a migration without informing users that some files and emails won't be accessible over this time, or that even some systems may not be working, you could end up with employees unable to do their jobs and creating resentment of the new platform.

To avoid this, you should inform your employees about how the migration will run and what they can expect during the migration. Beyond this, you should try to run training sessions on how to use the new systems to ensure that everyone is familiar with it before they start to use it. This will increase the overall chance that the platform migration and subsequent use will be successful.

4. Older, less compatible software installed on systems

While many versions of Office 365 do come with subscriptions to the latest version of Microsoft Office, there is support built in for systems that are running slightly older versions of Office. If your business is using a version of Office that is older than Office 2010 (e.g., Office 2003), you will not be able to properly use Office 365.

Beyond this, you will also need to be using the latest version of Internet browser. If you use Chrome or Firefox, this won't be a problem, however if you use Internet Explorer you will need to be sure that you are using the latest version. Should you be using older systems, especially those no longer supported by Microsoft, you may also have trouble accessing Office 365 because you may be unable to upload to the latest version of Internet Explorer.

The good news about Office 365 is that actual systems requirements are low, so almost every business will be able to integrate it. We recommend that in order to avoid failure, or being unable to use all of the features, you should ask your provider to ensure that your software and systems are able to support Office 365.

5. Migrating yourself

On paper, migrating to Office 365 is a fairly simple and straightforward process. What many companies find, when they choose to migrate themselves, is that the process is often much more difficult than expected. Many companies come across unexpected issues that require an IT expert to solve.

In order to ensure a smooth migration from start to finish, it is a good idea to work with an IT provider like us. We can ensure that your systems are ready and the migration is smooth. Contact us today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_CEmail is an essential tool for a business's productivity. While there are a wide variety of email programs out there, almost all of them rely on one of two major protocols: POP or IMAP. As a business owner, it would be a good idea to know what these protocols are and which of the two is better for your business.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.

What this means is that usually, you connect to the server and download all of your messages onto your computer and then disconnect from the server with all messages being deleted from the server. When you connect to the server again, the messages are uploaded from your computer to the server which then sends the messages to the recipients.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a newer protocol that was designed for faster and constant Internet connections. Essentially, the email messages live on the server and the user downloads copies to their computer. When the copy is sent, it is uploaded to the server which then overwrites the message and sends it to the recipient.

Which protocol should my company be using?

While most email servers will support POP, many experts agree that it is best if companies use newer email protocols. The reasons for this are:
  • POP is largely outdated. As stated above, this protocol was first introduced in the '80s. The current, and most popular, version was introduced in 1989.
  • POP can be less secure. By default, older protocols can transmit password and login data unencrypted, which means anyone with access to your network and tools could gain access to the data.
  • POP can't support multiple devices. Due to the way POP works, only the currently connected client can see email messages. If you are on your mobile device, but logged into your email client at work, you won't get messages on your device.
  • POP lacks important business features. Most of us rely on calendars, address books, and task lists that are integrated into most email clients. With POP, these are most likely third-party solutions that live on local machines. This makes it difficult to access this information from other locations.
There are some really great newer email systems out there, including servers that run IMAP protocols, and even Web-based email solutions that pretty much negate the need for email servers in the office. If you are currently using POP, it may be worthwhile to contact us to see how we can help upgrade your email solution.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
October 15th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct13_CBusiness has become a much more mobile affair, thanks largely in part to the various mobile devices and operating systems currently available. These systems all rely on apps to operate and there are a near limitless number of apps, that business users can benefit from. To help, here are five of the most common types of apps business users install on their devices.

1. File creation, management, and collaboration

Many small to medium businesses are implementing cloud-based document systems. These systems enable easy file creation, storage, and collaboration between users in the office, coincidentally they also have mobile apps.

If you have cloud-based document systems like Google Apps or Office 365 in your office, it would be beneficial to install the mobile apps for the system that you use. The reason for this is because the mobile apps have the same functionality as their Web-based versions. From your device you can access files, create new ones, share them, and even edit files which means you can be productive on the go.

2. Lists

A good lists app can go a long way in helping to keep you organized. From creating a daily to-do-list to creating a list of long-term tasks or goals, you can create lists when you think of them and easily sync them with other devices and even colleagues.

Lists apps also help because we often come up with things we need to do while away from the office. Because our mobile device is always with us, we can simply add it to an existing list, or create a new one. No having to track down paper that may be lost, or trying to remember things.

While there are many list apps out there, one of the most useful is any.do which allows users to create both work and personal lists and share them with other users. Wunderlist is also great, as it allows users to create lists with sublists and even assign tasks to other people.

3. Notes

Like a list app, a good note app is essential. If you come up with an idea outside of the office, you can jot it down and have the note sync with other devices for action when you are back in the office. Apps of this type are also useful in meetings outside of the office because many of them allow users to record conversations and even add notes quickly. So, if an important idea comes up or is talked about it is recorded and not missed.

Some of the best Notes apps include Google Keep which syncs with your Google account and allows you to quickly create notes. If your office uses Microsoft Office, or Office 365, the best choice would be OneNote which can sync with your Microsoft account, bringing notes to any system. For those who want a powerful notes suite, the best option is Evernote, which works on almost every system and Web browser.

4. CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become one of the most essential ways for business owners and managers to manage their relationships with their customers. Companies that have integrated a CRM solution have found that overall satisfaction and customer retention has improved.

Because these solutions allow you to quickly view customer data (e.g., contact information, sales history, etc.) it makes sense for mobile apps to be created for anyone working out in the field. In fact, most CRM solutions now have mobile apps that allow you to access customer databases from any mobile device. If you have a CRM solution, especially a cloud-based one, it is worthwhile checking with your provider if there is a mobile app too.

5. Communication

When out of the office, you need a way of keeping in touch with those back at base, or other employees who may also be out of the office. While email is usually enough to cover most communication needs, there are times when you need something more immediate. That's where apps like Google Hangouts, iOS Messages, Microsoft Lync, and even Facebook Messages can help. These chat-oriented apps enable communication wherever you have a data, or Internet, connection.

Beyond this, there are a wide number of VoIP solutions that offer mobile apps. When you install these on your device, you can turn your mobile into your office phone which will function exactly like your desk-based phone. This makes it easier to keep in touch with the office, so be sure to ask your VoIP provider if there is a mobile app you can install on your device.

If you have a favorite business app, let us know. And, if you are looking for a way to increase the value your business can provide customers, contact us to learn how a mobile solution can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 14th, 2014

Facebook_Oct13_CAs a business owner, there is a good chance that you have a Facebook Page. Many Page owners are keen to help expand their customer base and regularly post content on the platform, looking for increased interaction. While it is certainly easy to keep the posts flowing, posting successful content is more difficult to achieve consistently. A recent study by TrackMaven has made things a bit easier for businesses by highlighting useful elements that make up effective posts.

About the study

TrackMaven focuses on providing digital marketers with competitive intelligence. The company commissioned a study that looked at 1.5 million posts across 6,000 different Facebook Pages, in an effort to try and figure out what makes a so-called perfect post. According to the study, the idea of 'perfect' is a post that has gone viral on News Feeds and has extended overall content reach.

Essentially what they found is that there is no one perfect post! Rather, there are a number of post elements that, when combined, will usually lead to an increase in overall post reach and success. Here is a brief overview of the five common elements the most successful posts include.

They ask questions

The study found that on average, posts that ask a question will see 23% more engagement than other posts. While this makes sense, after all a question is really a call to action that aims to get the reader to do something, not every post works with a question.

If, for example, you are introducing a new event, or posting updates about a recent company gathering, questions may not make the most sense in this context. The key is to only include questions when they seem appropriate or a natural fit. If you want to inspire some action in your customers then a question can work well and urges people to actually do something more than simply look at a post.

The hashtag is used (sparingly)

In Facebook, as in other social networks, the hashtag is used to not only highlight words in a post, but to also make the post searchable. If you click on a hashtag on a post, you should see other posts also using that tag. When used in the right way, a hasthag can really increase engagement with your posts.

Interestingly enough, the TrackMaven study found that posts with hashtags saw 60% more engagement than those without. The key here is to use them sparingly! In other words, don't hashtag every word, or cram them all at the end. Instead, try to hashtag common words, or words associated with the company or content, directly in the content.

They post on weekends or off hours

There are hundreds, if not thousands of studies online looking at when the best time to post content is. Many conclude that the ideal time is different based on industry, type of business, audience, etc. While this is true, this study highlighted that companies who post after business hours and on the weekend can see increased interaction.

For posts on Sunday, interaction rate was 25% higher than similar content posted on a Wednesday, while posts that show up on News Feeds after 5:00 pm Monday to Friday will see over 10% higher interaction rates.

The key point here is that it could be a good idea to post your content when your audience is more likely to look at Facebook. Most business managers, owners, and even customers probably aren't looking at Facebook during business hours, so try scheduling content after the working day or on weekends.

They are visual

Take a look at your own News Feed and you will notice that a large majority of content on there is visual in nature. Be it videos, images, links with images, etc, Facebook is a highly visual platform.

The study, unsurprisingly, found that posts with visual content had higher interaction than posts with just text. In fact, posts with visual content had an average of 2.35 interactions per post while posts with just text had 1.71 interactions. While these numbers aren't high, it stresses that if you want your content to be shared or interacted with, visuals help.

They reach a general word count

A lot of people, when using social media, tend to be viewing Facebook on their mobile devices, or when they have a couple of spare minutes. What this equates to is people quickly scanning their News Feed and moving onto another post after only a few seconds, or less.

It is best to strive for a wordcount that is easily scannable for most posts. The study found that posts with 80-89 words inspired more engagement than shorter posts. This indicates that a good word count might be in the range of 70-100 for maximum effect. That being said, there are a number of professionals out there who use Facebook as an almost-blog and post longer content, who are relatively successful. We recommend trying out a few longer posts as well, just to see how people interact with them.

If you are looking to learn more about Facebook for your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.