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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.

October 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct08_COne of the keys to business success is your staff. If you as a manager or business owner treat your employees well, your business has a better chance of running far more smoothly and will be far easier to manage too. While this is certainly easy to say, it can be a challenge to effectively manage employees in reality, and that's where systems like Enterprise Resource Planning, or more specifically HR modules, can really help.

What are Human Resource modules?

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated business software applications (often called modules) that allow companies to track and manage data and even automate some business functions, including Human Resources.

Human Resource modules in particular are used to track different people-related functions, such as planning, payroll, administration, development, hiring, and more. Business services, like Standard Operating Procedures, job postings, news, forums, tracking of work hours, and benefits, etc., can all be unified into one module, which makes overall management and decision-making easier.

Benefits of using HR modules

Businesses that have integrated ERP and more specifically HR modules, have been able to benefit in a number of ways. Here are 5:

1. Automated processes that free up management

A large function of HR, as with many other business processes, is data entry and reporting. If you are trying to develop reports without an integrated ERP system, you probably need to pull data from numerous sources which takes time. This is time that can probably be better spent on more relevant tasks.

An ERP module data, once set up, will be more accessible. This simultaneously makes it easier to enter and pull data together into reports. And because large parts of daily tasks can be automated, you can ensure that what you need to complete is actually achieved.

2. Enhanced sharing of information and collaboration

Because HR is a central function of any business, data related to HR needs to eventually be shared with other teams or departments. Without ERP this likely means you will need to ask different people to share their data and then compile it into a useable format.

With ERP for HR, data is stored in a central location, or brought together to a central location, which means that data from different sources can be shared faster and easier. This also ensures that the right data is shared, thus enhancing overall outcomes and making it simpler for other teams to work together.

3. Management gains a clearer picture of HR

It can be tough to gain a short-term picture of your employee resources, especially when it comes to identifying potential resource shortfalls (e.g., double-booked holidays, employees who are constantly late, etc.) and where improvements can be made. For example, in most modules you can track overtime hours of employees, and receive alerts when overtime is past a certain threshold.

If you spot that one department is consistently banking extended overtime hours, you can move quickly to address this.

4. Data is kept up-to-date

As we've stated above, HR systems usually involve data from various locations. This means that there is always a chance of duplicate or incorrect information. A healthcare ERP module can help ensure that the data is not only correct, but also not duplicated, which can in turn speed up decision-making and enable better decisions to be made.

5. Reduced licensing expenses

Without ERP, your HR team could need five or more systems in order to keep track of everything. Each of these systems will need to be licensed, which can often be a serious investment on your behalf, not to mention the costs of setting up and maintaining these systems.

Because HR ERP modules offer an integrated solution, you pay for one license to cover all of your needs. This reduces overall expenses while also making it easier to budget and maintain.

If you are looking to integrate an ERP solution in your business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_CWhen first announced in April of 2014, Heartbleed was one of the biggest security issues ever uncovered. Companies scrambled to patch systems and ensure they were protected from this problem. While big news, there is a recently uncovered security flaw called Shellshock which could make Heartbleed look relatively small in comparison, and it is a potential problem you should be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 9th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct07_CSmall to medium businesses, like restaurants, fashion boutiques, salons, and service-based businesses are constantly looking for ways to minimize expenses. One way to do this is by implementing a mobile payment solution. This form of payment is set to take off in the coming months, especially when you take into account the number of new systems introduced and available already.

What exactly is mobile payment?

Most people would define mobile payment as either using your mobile device as a wallet, or using mobile devices to accept payment. Many services allow users to link credit cards to their mobile device and simply scan it over a pay terminal to have their account charged.

Companies on the other hand usually pay a set per-transaction fee in order to use the system; something along the lines of, or slightly cheaper than, most credit or debit-based payment terminals.

If you are considering switching over, here is a brief overview of the most common payment solutions.

PayPal

In late September Internet auction giant eBay announced that they will be spinning off their popular Internet payment system PayPal sometime in 2015. While many users will utilize PayPal to pay online, there is actually a mobile payment solution called PayPal Here, which is expected to grow immensely.

With Here, you get a payment solution app with a card reader that plugs into most smartphones (Android, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets) and allows you to accept multiple types of payment from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can even track cash payments and record checks.

Vendors can use this app free of charge, however they are charged a 2.7% per swipe fee, based on the amount of the transaction.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple's recently announced mobile payment system that utilizes NFC (Near Field Communication) on the iPhone 6. Users with an iPhone 6 will be able to link their credit cards to their phone and then will hover their device near a terminal and press their thumb on the device's fingerprint reader to pay.

Your payment information (an account number linked to your card. Apple has noted that actual card numbers are not stored) is stored in the Passbook, and will be accepted at an initial 220,000 stores in the US when it launches sometime in October. There is a good chance that small to medium businesses will be able to integrate this solution into their business in the near future, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

What is interesting is that many banks have announced that they are considering accepting, or will accept Apple Pay as a method of payment. This means that businesses with an existing NFC payment terminal - which is often provided by a bank - should be able to accept payment (if the bank does of course).

Rumors have it that merchants will not be charged a transaction fee to use this service; details will be solidified when the system goes live.

Square

Square is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well known, mobile payment system. With a card reader that is compatible with most popular mobile devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) users can set up a whole Point of Sale system via the Square Stand and accept a wide variety of payments.

To use this solution, you need either the card reader (which is free) or the Square Stand (which costs around USD $99). For each transaction there is a fee that starts at 2.75% for credit and debit cards.

Amazon's Local Register

Introduced in mid August, this new card reader is aimed at both PayPal and Square solutions. As with these, there is a card reader that can be plugged into most devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) and an app that goes along with it. Businesses with the reader can then use the device to accept payment.

Where this solution differs is that the reader costs USD $10 to purchase. That being said, the USD $10 is refunded towards your first transaction fees upon signing up. The transaction fees are also quite a bit lower. For businesses that sign up before October 31, 2014, there is a flat rate of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016. Any business that signs up after this date will pay a flat rate of 2.5% per transaction (based on the total transaction amount).

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a hybrid mobile and online payment solution that allows users to add credit cards to their wallet and pay for things either online, or at stores with NFC payment terminals (also called contactless terminals).

While most users who have made a purchase on Google Play, or have used their Google Account to make a payment have used Wallet, this hasn't been the most popular of solutions when it comes to customers using it to pay in-store. The reason for this is because there are only a limited number of devices with the required NFC radio (two to be exact). This system is also currently limited to the US only. Customers around the world can use Google Wallet to pay online however.

There is a good chance that with the recent new announcements and upcoming mobile payment products, Google will be pushing this out to more devices in the near future.

There are other mobile payment system options available, so it is a good idea to contact us before you implement one. We can help you not only find a solution that works for your business, but ensure that it can be integrated into your existing systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 8th, 2014

iPad_Oct07_CUsers who have an iPad 2 or newer are likely well aware of the fact that iOS 8 has been released, and many have probably already updated. While the new version of iOS does bring some interesting features, there are reports from some users that the battery is being drained far quicker than before they installed the update. If you have experienced this, then the first thing you should look at is how to figure out which apps are using the most power.

How to see the battery power apps are using on iOS 8

One of the first things you should do when you notice that your battery is draining faster than normal is to look at how much power each app is using. This can be done by:
  1. Tapping on the Settings app.
  2. Selecting General from the menu bar on the left-hand side of the Settings app.
  3. Tapping on Usage which is located in the menu that opens in the right side of the screen. Selecting Battery Usage.
In the window that opens you will be able to see basic battery information like how long you have used the device since its last charge, and how much power has been used. While this is useful in its own right, there is also valuable information about what apps are using the most power.

This data displays apps that are using the most power first, so you can quickly see what apps are power hungry and take action. In iOS 8, a new tab was actually introduced into the Battery Usage tracker, which shows a seven day running average of the most power hungry apps.

Tapping on the tab that says Last 7 Days at the top of the screen will bring this information up. This is useful because it gives you a better view of the truly power hungry apps.

What do I do with apps that are really draining my iPad's battery?

There are a number of things you can do, including:
  • Uninstalling the app: If the app with the highest battery drain isn't overly useful, then possibly the best step to take would be to uninstall it. Another option may be to look for a similar app and give that a try to see if it fares any better on battery use.
  • Change when you use the app: Some apps, like video recording suites, bandwidth or processing-heavy apps like games, drain your battery quickly when they are running. Instead of using them while on battery power, try to use them when your iPad is plugged into a power source.
  • Limit use until the app is updated: If you are experiencing battery drain, there is a good chance that other users are as well. You can either limit the use of the app until an app update is issued, (most updates will usually fix battery issues), or try to contact the developer directly. Take a look on iTunes for the app and you should see developer contact information there.
  • Dim the display: The iPad has a great display, and many apps look good when you have the display's brightness set at its brightest. The issue with this however, is that a super-bright display will drain your battery quickly. Try turning the display brightness down as low as possible in order to slow how fast the battery is drained.
  • Limit network connections: Similar to your display, having Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios always on will also drain your battery. If you aren't connected to Wi-Fi, or don't have any Bluetooth devices, then it is best to turn them off. The reason for this is because if they are on, they constantly look for a connection which eats up battery power.
If you are looking for more ways to decrease or manage the power drain on your iPad contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad