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November 21st, 2014

Security_Nov17_CNet Neutrality is one of the biggest tech-related issues currently making its way through the American Government. In mid-November President Obama made his stance on the issue known, while also introducing a plan for it and thereby bringing the subject to worldwide attention. Here is an overview of what Net Neutrality is and how it can affect you.

What is Net Neutrality?

In order to define Net Neutrality, we should first look at the main idea behind what the Internet is: a free and open medium where individuals can express and house thoughts, ideas, and more. It was founded on one principal, and one principal alone: All information and Internet traffic MUST be treated equally.

This free, open, and fair principle is what we call Net Neutrality. In practice, this idea prevents Internet providers, and even governments, from blocking legal sites with messages they disagree with, and restricting access to services and sites that don't meet their business needs.

What exactly is the issue?

At this time, major telecommunications companies providing Internet access are trying to push legislation through the US court systems that will essentially make it legal for them to throttle Internet speeds; asking other providers to pay fees in order to speed up access to sites and to even block some sites.

There are laws currently in place, set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), that prohibit providers from collecting, analyzing, and manipulating user traffic. In other words, according to the FCC, the role of the Internet providers should be to simply ensure traffic and data gets from one end of the network to the other.

Last year, it was uncovered that US telecommunications giant, and Internet Service Provider, Comcast demanded that Netflix pay them millions of dollars or they would limit the Internet speed of Comcast users trying to access the streaming service. Netflix tried to negotiate but the result was that Comcast did indeed cut user speeds. Netflix paid to avoid this from happening again. This act is an obvious breach of the main tenet of Net Neutrality: Equal access for everyone.

Combine this with the January 2014 ruling that the FCC had overstepped its bounds in regards to this topic and the increased lobbying by telecommunications giants against Net Neutrality, and you can quickly come to realize that the Internet as we know it is under threat.

How will this affect my business?

If nothing is done, there is a very high chance that you will be paying higher rates for Internet-based services (because the providers will be asking other companies to pay to guarantee speedy access which will then be passed along to you via higher rates). You may even be forced to use services you don't want to use because they offer better access speeds on your network.

Beyond this, because so many businesses rely on websites and the hosting companies that enable us to access them, there is a very real risk that these hosts may have access speeds cut. This in turn could mean that it will take more time for some users to access your website and services. Think of how you react when you can't access a website, you probably just search for another similar site which loads easily - now imagine this happening to your site. In other words, you could see a decrease in overall traffic and therefore profits.

What can I do about this?

First off, we highly recommend you visit The White House's site on Net Neutrality, and read the message that President Obama has recently posted there. To sum it up, he believes that Net Neutrality should be protected and the Internet should remain open and free. He has even laid out a plan with four rules that the FCC should enact and enforce:
  • No blocking - Internet providers are not to block access to any legal content.
  • No throttling - Internet providers cannot slow or speed up access speeds based on their preferences.
  • Increased transparency - The FCC is to be more transparent and push providers to follow the Net Neutrality rules.
  • No paid prioritization - There is to be a ban on providers insisting other companies pay to have equal access speeds.
You can bet that this plan will be met by stiff resistance both in government and by the telecommunications companies themselves. The FCC is an independent organization and it is up to them to select whether or not they want to enact President Obama's plan. One thing you can do is to publicly submit your comments to the FCC via this website. Any comments made will be seen by the FCC and are are publicly viewable. In the past, enough public pressure has been able to sway FCC decisions, so share this article and the links in it with everyone you know, asking them to take action as well.

What about other countries?

For now, the Net Neutrality battle is largely US based. The vast majority of Internet traffic starts or at least passes through the US. This means that if the telecommunications providers (many of whom own international subsidiary providers) can limit access to sites in the US it could very quickly become a world issue. Beyond this, other countries often follow laws that the US enacts, so it could only be a matter of time before we see similar bills passed in other countries.

In short, this is a major issue that could see the end of the Internet as we know it. If you would like to learn more about Net Neutrality and how you can help ensure the Internet remains free and open, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
November 20th, 2014

Windows_Nov18_CWhile there are many IT expenses business owners need to worry about, one of the biggest is usually software. In order to remain compliant and avoid potential legal disputes, businesses often invest heavily in software. If you have Microsoft software licenses, you may receive an email from the company asking you to audit these licenses. Here is an overview of what you should do if you do receive one.

The Microsoft Software Asset Management Review

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that they will be sending out over 30,000 letters to small businesses who have purchased Microsoft software licenses. These letters or emails are focused on checking that you have the right number of licenses for your systems.

This program actually has three audit elements, or emails, that are being sent out to businesses.

  1. Internal self-audit email - This is the most common letter businesses have been receiving. It asks them to verify that they are compliant with Microsoft's licenses, which is usually done by sending Microsoft the software keys for each license or product purchased. They then compare this to their records.
  2. Software Asset Management (SAM) Engagement - This is a voluntary process where Microsoft sends a Software Asset Management partner to your business to audit your systems and see if you are over or under licensed. For companies who do agree to this, the audit is paid for by Microsoft. The downside is, if you are found to be non-compliant, you will likely face a fairly large bill.
  3. Legal Contract Compliance (LCC) audit email - This audit can be enacted by Microsoft if you put off a SAM or self-audit for an extended period of time. Essentially, this is a legal audit that you must comply with. If you are found to be non-compliant under this audit, you could face stiff legal penalties.

What happens if I receive one of these emails?

Should you receive one of these emails you will be asked to carry out the audit by a set date. Most of the emails contain a spreadsheet that you will need to put your license information into. This can take time because you will likely need to physically check every machine using Microsoft software for relevant information.

Auditors who come to your business will ask you for network and server access and any other form of information they think they can ask for.

Should you be found to be non-compliant or under-licensed, you will likely then be presented with a bill for the extra licenses. If you happen to be highly under-licensed, this bill could be quite large.

What should I do if I am worried about this audit?

An audit like this could be time consuming, costly, and above all is frustrating for any business owner. What we recommend is working with us. We can help ensure that your business is using appropriate licenses and, should you face a request to do an audit, we can help you through the process.

So, contact us today to ensure that your business is compliant.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 20th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Nov17_CAndroid users, especially business owners and managers who use Google Apps, often rely on Google Calendar as a handy tool to help ensure that they stay on schedule. With the recent new version of Android, 5.0. Google has released some updated versions of their mobile apps as well. Google Calendar is one of the latest to undergo an upgrade, with some interesting new features introduced.

The idea behind the new Google Calendar

According to Google, the new Calendar app has been designed to truly help make lives easier. With the older version of Calendar, you have to take time to copy and paste information like location, phone numbers, and details into each event. This leads many users to simply skip adding important information when they create new events on their mobile devices.

With the latest version of Google Calendar, Google aims to make the creation of events and addition of information far easier. To do this, the new app has some useful features including:

Events pulled from Gmail

These days, when you book a flight or confirm a meeting, etc. you usually receive an email with a confirmation number and some contact information. In the new Calendar, events like this will be pulled automatically from Gmail emails and added to Calendar, along with relevant information.

For example, if you book a flight to attend a conference, you will see a new Calendar entry added with the flight information. Beyond this, events will be updated in real time, so if there is a delay with the event or you are sent an email update, Calendar will update this information on your calendar.

Assists

This new feature allows you to quickly and easily create group events. Now, when you create a new event and begin to type in information Calendar will make suggestions based on what you are typing.

For example, if you want to set a meeting with John at Starbucks around the corner you can start typing: 'Meet' and Google will come up with a list of suggested events. Tap Meeting from the drop-down menu and this will pop up in the text box. The drop-down menu changes to allow you to select more options, such as With. Tap this and enter the first letter of a name, and then select who to invite. The drop-down menu will change again and allow you to select a location by simply typing a few letters.

From the demo we have seen, this works quite well and definitely speeds up the creation of events.

Schedule View

This is a new view that has been designed to provide you with an in-depth view of the events you have scheduled. According to the Google blog, this view, "includes photos and maps of the places you’re going, cityscapes of travel destinations, and illustrations of everyday events like dinner, drinks, and yoga."

Essentially, this view makes it easier for you to see what is going on at a quick glance. Many mobile users find Schedule View particularly useful as they don't have to navigate their main calendar which can be tricky to read when you have a wealth of events planned.

How do I get the latest Google Calendar?

As of the writing of this article, the app is available on the Google Play store for all Android devices running Android 4.1. You should be able to get the app by updating the existing Google Calendar app. If you don't have the app, you can find it by searching for Google Calendar from the Google Play Store app.

If you are interested in learning more about Android, contact us today to see how our systems and experts can benefit your business too.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 19th, 2014

Windows_Nov17_CThe discovery of the Heartbleed bug earlier this year was thought to be the biggest security issue of the year. While it has largely been dealt with, Microsoft has recently announced a similar and equally large potential threat. While details are fairly scarce, and there is a fix to avoid this issue, it is a threat all businesses with Windows Servers should be aware of.

The new security problem

On November 11, 2014 Microsoft released a patch for nearly all versions of Microsoft Server, along with patch notes that included the reason why the patch was released. In short, it was released to plug a security gap that the company calls Schannel Remote Code Execution Vulnerability.

This cryptically-named vulnerability essentially allows hackers remote code access by sending specific packets of data to a server. Data packets are made up of basic units of data communication combined in order to send data over a network.

Hackers can structure certain data into packets then breach a bug in Microsoft Server software, potentially allowing a hacker full remote access to that server and the ability to execute whatever code they so choose, including giving themselves full access to the systems and data hosted on your server.

This bug is particularly destructive because it affects the Schannel library on servers, which is responsible for encryption and authentication in Windows.

What versions of Windows server are affected by this bug?

This bug can potentially be found on nearly every version of Windows and Windows Server currently in use by companies, including:
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8/8.1
  • Windows Server 2012/2012 R2
  • Windows RT/RT 8.1
In other words, pretty much any business using Windows and Windows Server is at risk.

What should we do?

While this appears to be a big issue, and in truth it is, Microsoft has noted that they are unaware of anyone actually exploiting this bug as of the writing of this article. The company has also released a patch - MS14-066 that is supposed to fix the problem.

Therefore, the best action you can take is to update all of your systems running Windows. While it primarily affects servers, this could become a widespread issue if systems are not updated. What we recommend is contacting us as soon as possible. We can help ensure that all of your systems are updated and protected from this bug.

If you would like to learn more about Windows and how you can keep your systems secure, please do call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 19th, 2014

SocialMedia_Nov17_CYou've heard it before, and will hear it again: In order to have an effective social media presence you need to be active on more than one network. Many businesses realize this fact and are active on networks such as Twitter. The problem with Twitter, however, is that it can be difficult to master. To help, here are 10 Twitter tips.

  1. Keep posts on the shorter side - This may seem ridiculous, after all there are only 140 characters allowed per tweet, but keeping tweets short allows users to add their own comments and ideas when they retweet. Try keeping your tweets below 100 characters.
  2. Twitter is not about promotion - Studies have proven that tweets that promote a company or product don't usually do as well as messages that are more conversational in nature. If you want to ensure maximum interaction, aim for a mixture of tweets that consists of about 80% conversational and 20% promotional.
  3. Know what time to tweet - Each market is different, so take the time to research tweeting habits. If you see that the majority of your target audience is active during after-work hours, then it would make sense to tweet when they are more likely to be online. Remember, many Twitter users are connecting via their mobile devices, so you are probably better off tweeting during lunch hours, as well as pre- and post-work.
  4. Know what days to tweet - Much like knowing what time to tweet, it is a good idea to also know which days are best to tweet in order to maximize engagement. For example, if you are trying to interact more with other businesses (B2B) then it is best to tweet on days when the companies are open and an owner or manager is more likely to be looking at business systems and social accounts. Customers, however, are usually more receptive to messages on days when they aren't working e.g., Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Use hashtags - Hashtags in Twitter allow for categorization and make tweets searchable. For example, if you use the hashtag #fresh in a tweet and then search for 'fresh' on Twitter, you should see similar posts using the same hashtag.
  6. Use hashtags sparingly - There is a common trend in social media to use hashtags for nearly every word. This makes posts difficult to read and usually leads to people not sharing or retweeting your content. Instead, try to work one to three hashtag, at most, into your tweets naturally.
  7. Realize Twitter moves fast - The average trend on Twitter lasts about one hour, to one day. So, if you see a trend developing or beginning, act quick to join the conversation. Posting after the trend has faded will usually lead to tweets being ignored.
  8. Don't act on every trend - Trends come and go so quickly on Twitter that it can be tempting to try to jump on each one, or as many as possible, in order to get your message out to as many people as possible. However, not every style and subject will be relevant to your business. By shoehorning content to fit trends you could come across as insincere and lose interest from followers.
  9. Watch who you follow - Following people is one of the quickest ways to grow your own follower base - usually because users will follow those who follow them. But, when it come to business, you want to be sure to follow users who are relevant. For example, follow your customers, strategic partners, and even competitors. Following Twitter users who aren't relevant to your business is not going to get your messages read by the right people.
  10. Keep an eye on Twitter - In order to effectively spot trends and see what your target market is saying, it is worthwhile to use a program like Tweetdeck, which allows you to see all tweets, track hashtags, topics, and more.
If you would like to learn more about using Twitter in your business, contact us today to see how our services and solutions can boost your social media presence.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
November 18th, 2014

Office365_Nov17_CAn increasingly large number of businesses are integrating Office 365 and Macs into their offices. One issue with this however is that Office for Mac usually lags behind, version wise, when it comes to Office. This is starting to change though, as Microsoft has recently introduced a new version of Outlook for Mac and a roadmap as to when we will see new versions of other Office for Mac programs introduced.

New Outlook for Mac

Historically, when a new version of Office has been released, Mac users have had to wait six or more months for Mac versions to be introduced. With Office 365, users have had to wait even longer, as the company decided to focus on developing mobile apps first. This has now changed, and a new version of an Office app for Mac users - Outlook - has been released.

There are a number of improvements being implemented with the new version of Outlook for Mac, including:

  • A more modern user interface - Throughout the past year, Microsoft has been steadily updating the look of Outlook across all devices and versions, to create a more modern style. The new version for Mac introduces this updated design, which brings it more in line with the other newer versions of Outlook. Beyond this, scrolling has been made smoother which makes the program feel as if it runs much better.
  • Increased performance and reliability - Because email is an integral part of any business, Microsoft has re-tooled the database that supports Outlook for Mac and the way the program uses resources. This relates to increased reliability, less crashes, and generally faster performance.
  • Office 365 push email support - If you enable this for your business's Office 365 accounts, emails will be pushed automatically to users. This means messages will be delivered faster; in real-time for many.
  • Enhanced online support for searching Exchange archives - If your business employs either an onsite or hosted Exchange server, the new version of Outlook for Mac will enable online searching for message archives stored on Exchange.
  • Faster first-run and email downloads - When you first open Outlook to check your email, you will now see your emails far quicker, with email downloads faster too thanks to better syncing with Exchange servers.
There are a number of new features included in the latest version of Outlook for Mac. Overall, it looks much better and many users will notice that it is not only easier to use but also faster. If you would like to update to the newest version you can do so by:
  1. Logging into Office 365 via your browser.
  2. Pressing the Gear icon followed by Office 365 Settings.
  3. Selecting Software followed by Outlook for Mac.
  4. Downloading the program and installing it.
Before you do this however, we strongly recommend contacting us. We can help ensure that all of your files are backed up and ready for an update. Beyond that, we can work with you to ensure that the program is installed and set up so that you can simply open the program and go.

New versions of Office for Mac coming soon

Upon announcing the new version of Outlook for Mac users, the company also introduced their roadmap for the release of new versions of Office programs for Mac users. The company has noted that in the first half of 2015 they will release beta versions of the next versions of Word for Mac, Excel for Mac, PowerPoint for Mac, and OneNote for Mac. Final releases will be made available in the second half of 2015.

From what we know, businesses with Office 365 subscriptions will be able to update to the new versions for free, while other users will likely have to wait, as a price list has not been made available at this time.

If you are looking to learn more about Office 365 for Mac, or any other system, contact us today to see how we can help ensure tech developments work for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 13th, 2014

Security_Nov10_CLast year saw a number of highly publicized security threats that many companies struggled to deal with. One of those was some nasty malware called Cryptolocker, which held your files for ransom. While this has now largely been dealt with, news is surfacing of a second version - called CryptoWall - that has begun to infect users.

What is Crypto malware?

Crypto malware is a type of trojan horse that when installed onto computers or devices, holds the data and system hostage. This is done by locking valuable or important files with a strong encryption. You then see a pop-up open informing you that you have a set amount of time to pay for a key which will unlock the encryption. If you don't pay before the deadline, your files are deleted.

When this malware surfaced last year, many users were understandably more than a little worried and took strong precautions to ensure they did not get infected. Despite these efforts, it really didn't go away until earlier this year, when security experts introduced a number of online portals that can un-encrypt files affected by Cryptolocker, essentially neutralizing the threat, until now that is. A recently updated version is threatening users once again.

Cryptolocker 2.0, aka. CryptoWall

Possibly because of efforts by security firms to neutralize the Cryptolocker threat, the various developers of the malware have come back with an improved version, CryptoWall and it is a threat that all businesses should be aware of.

With CryptoWall, the transmission and infection methods remain the same as they did with the first version: It is most commonly found in zipped folders and PDF files sent over email. Most emails with the malware are disguised as invoices, bills, complaints, and other business messages that we are likely to open.

The developers did however make some "improvements" to the malware that make it more difficult to deal with for most users. These changes include:

  • Unique IDs are used for payment: These are addresses used to verify that the payment is unique and from one person only. If the address is used by another user, payment will now be rejected. This is different from the first version where one person who paid could share the unlock code with other infected users.
  • CryptoWall can securely delete files: In the older version of this threat, files were deleted if the ransom wasn't paid, but they could be recovered easily. In the new version the encryption has increased security which ensures the file is deleted. This leaves you with either the option of paying the ransom or retrieving the file from a backup.
  • Payment servers can't be blocked: With CryptoLocker, when authorities and security experts found the addresses of the servers that accepted payments they were able to add these to blacklists, thus ensuring no traffic would come from, or go to, these servers again. Essentially, this made it impossible for the malware to actually work. Now, it has been found that the developers are using their own servers and gateways which essentially makes them much, much more difficult to find and ban.

How do I prevent my systems and devices from being infected?

Unlike other viruses and malware, CryptoWall doesn't go after passwords or account names, so the usual changing of your passwords won't really help. The best ways to prevent this from getting onto your systems is:
  • Don't open any suspicious attachments - Look at each and every email attachment that comes into your inbox. If you spot anything that looks odd, such as say a spelling mistake in the name, or a long string of characters together, then it is best to avoid opening it.
  • Don't open emails from unknown sources - Be extra careful about emails from unknown sources, especially ones that say they provide business oriented information e.g., bank statements from banks you don't have an account with or bills from a utilities company you don't use. Chances are high that they contain some form of malware.
Should your files be attacked and encrypted by this malware, then the first thing you should do is to contact us. We can work with you to help find a solution that will not end up in you having to pay the ransom to recover your files.

If you are looking to learn more about CryptoWall malware and how to boost your security and protect your data and systems, then we could you your first line of tech defence.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
November 12th, 2014

Productivity_Nov10_CAs a business owner or manager, you likely send out a large number of emails each day. A certain percentage of your emails are probably sent to other colleagues, with the idea that they then create a message to send to a third party on your behalf. One way to ensure that the message gets through, while avoiding too much back and forth communication between you and your colleague, is to pre-draft the email.

What exactly is a pre-draft?

The idea behind pre-drafting an email message is that it helps to reduce the amount of back and forth between two parties when one of the parties is contacting a third party. If you have ever had an employee draft a message that came from you then you are likely well aware of the number of emails that can go back and forth before the email actually goes out.

Essentially a pre-draft is a message included in the original message that is to be sent along to a third party. When you include a draft message, the person who will be sending the message can then just cut and paste the content, personalize it, maybe tweak a sentence here or there, and then send it along.

How do I create one?

If you are currently working on an email message that will be sent by another employee on your behalf, try to come up with the outline and basic message yourself. It's best to clearly mark this message in the original email by using a flag like: "Message to send", and changing the actual message to another font or color.

Because most of these messages will be personalized, include placeholder text where your staff member can personalize the message. For example, To . This not only makes it easier to spot areas that need to be personalized, it also means messages can be sent out quickly and easily.

When is this useful?

To be honest, pre-drafting won't work for every type of email you send. But, there are some situations when this comes in handy, including:
  • When you are asked to provide a testimonial on a service. You can write a basic testimonial with areas for customization.
  • When you need to send follow up emails connected to a recently sent email campaign or message. You can draft a basic follow up message that can then be customized as your employees see fit.
  • When you want to post something on numerous social media sites. You can simply write the post once, then provide spots to customize based on the network.
  • Introductions and references. If you have been asked to provide a reference or an introduction, then draft a standard message which can then be changed as needed.
If you mark these emails as a pre-draft, or place them in a pre-draft folder, they can then be quickly found and modified in the future.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your business? Contact us today to see how our systems can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
November 12th, 2014

BusinessValue_Nov10_CBusinesses in different industries often have unique needs when it comes to the technical systems they integrate. One system however is universal in that every business needs it: The phone system. If your business is looking for a new communications set-up you will quickly find a wealth of options out there. Here are tips you can follow to make sure that you get the best system for your business.

1. Know the types of systems out there

Phone systems, as with many other types of technology, have evolved and changed drastically from the traditional phones that we are all familiar with. As a result, it pays to be aware of the four main types of phone systems available for small to medium businesses:
  • Key systems - These systems are commonly found in many older small businesses as they were designed for up to 40 users. Typically, a Key system offers businesses basic features like hold, line switching, line management, etc.
  • PBX - Private Branch Exchange, is private phone networking technology that enables businesses to manage up to hundreds of phone lines and numbers. PBX is usually employed by larger businesses who need multiple phone lines and the ability to network offices together.
  • Hosted PBX - These are PBX systems that are managed and hosted by a provider. The system itself is usually housed offsite, which means less up-front investment for the company.
  • Centrex - These are specific business features and packages developed for your business by a major telecommunications provider which are usually added onto your monthly phone bill.
Generally speaking, these four types of phone systems are available in two ways:
  1. Analog - Traditional landline phone systems offered by phone companies, commonly referred to as PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Analog is familiar to many business owners as it uses existing lines strung by telephone companies.
  2. Digital - Newer phone systems that use network connections to transmit voice communication. The most common of these systems is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
While there are four main systems, the increasingly popular adoption of digital systems like VoIP has led to Key and PBX systems essentially merging together into one platform. Some providers however do offer scaled down versions of PBX over network connections that they refer to as Key systems.

2. Consider these four questions

As you are looking for a new system? If so, it might be a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:
  1. How many lines and phones will I need? This will likely be one of the first questions a vendor will ask when you start looking for a new system. Take some time to think how many phone lines you will need. For example, will you need one for every employee? Or will a line for every major office or department be enough? You will quickly find that some teams won't need lines at all, while others will need one for every person.
  2. How much do I want to manage this system? If you want to have complete control over every line, the supporting systems, and the hardware itself, then going for a hosted solution may not be the best of ideas. On the other hand, if you are looking for a solution that is simple to manage for you, then hosted or managed solutions might be the answer.
  3. How fast will my business grow? If you are expanding quickly, then you will need a system that can develop with you. Many landline systems require technicians to install new lines which can take time, so businesses that are growing quickly may benefit more from digital systems.
  4. What other equipment will I be using? This is important to know before you talk to vendors because some systems may not work well with existing technology, or other systems you may be using. If you make a list, vendors can then help you quickly find a system that is compatible with your other equipment.

3. Ask your users what features they need

Before looking for a new phone system, you should ask the people who will be using the system what features they need in order to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Some teams may need wireless devices in order to better talk to customers, while others might find video conferencing worthwhile; others still may need a more unified communications platform, including text and instant messages.

The key here is to develop a list of features that your business will need before looking for a new phone system. This will make it easier to find one that fits your needs.

4. Work with your IT partner

We can work with you to help you find the best solution for your business; be it managed, digital, or analogue. If you are looking for a new phone system, contact us today to learn more about our solutions and how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 11th, 2014

Facebook_Nov10_CChange is a constant process with Facebook and most of the time it's for the better. Earlier this year, the social media company announced some pretty big changes to the Graph algorithm that powers search results. One of the more important changes companies with Facebook Pages need to know about centers around the way Likes can be used. In short: forcing people to Like your Page to gain access to content - a practice called Like-gating - is no longer tolerated.

Like-gates to be left open

In the past, it was a fairly common trend for businesses with Facebook Pages to limit the access followers had to their Pages or other information and campaigns. One of the most popular examples of this is if having to Like a company to enter a contest with them.

Facebook considered this an unfair practice, largely because it essentially defeats the purpose of a Facebook Page - which is to provide all Facebook users with equal access to business information and content. So, in August of this year, they announced that Like-gating would no longer be allowed as of November 5, 2014. This is being enforced through Facebook's recent update to the Graph algorithm which ranks Facebook Pages and other content in search results.

Companies that have been using this method to limit access to content and campaigns on Facebook will now likely see a negative drop in overall Page ranking - where you show up in search results. If this applies to you and you want to avoid this there are three things you should do as soon as possible:

1. Remove all existing Like-gates

This is important, because all Like-gate related content or campaigns are now likely going to hurt your overall Page ranking. You should audit your company's Facebook Page and look for any content or tabs that you have set a Like-gate restriction on. This includes campaigns or tabs that you have enabled using third-party apps (i.e. apps not designed by Facebook).

Essentially, you want to ensure that all content on your Facebook Page, and all marketing campaigns that use Facebook, are open to all users, not just the ones who have clicked Like on your Page.

2. Change your access gates

What is interesting about this change is that Facebook has not outright eliminated the right to limit access to your campaigns. For now, they are just focusing on ensuring that you don't need to Like something to gain access to it.

The reason for this is largely because of the way many business use Facebook - to run campaigns that gather information while offering a benefit to followers. Think of contests that give something away. Before, some businesses required that users Liked the content in order to gain entry to the campaign. Now that this is not possible you could try implementing gates such as a form that needs to be filled out in order to enter.

This method, often referred to as action-gating (requiring someone to take an action before being allowed to access content) is still fine to use, largely because it doesn't force users into taking an action, it is up to them whether they want to say fill out a form to enter a contest or not. Beyond that, the idea of filling out a form to enter a contest to gain access to information has been a standard business practice since long before Facebook.

By action-gating some content and contests or promotions, you should also be able to limit spammers, and increase the overall quality of data you gather, and of your followers.

3. Ask for Likes

Facebook has been quite clear that the new Graph algorithm will punish Facebook Pages that require users to click Like to gain access to content. So, instead of forcing people to Like something, why not just ask them to Like it instead?

Companies that have been following this method of gaining Likes have found that simply asking people for a Like won't necessarily work. Instead, you should try to include some benefits or reasons as to why users should click Like. For example, creating a badge that goes onto Facebook campaigns that says "Like us for updates, new contests, great freebies, etc." will likely see more interaction.

Similarly, putting a suggestion at the end of emails and forms on your website has also proven to work well. The key here is if you provide your followers with value and a reason to Like your page, they generally will. With some creative thinking and a different strategy you may find that overall interaction with your Page increases beyond what it would have done with a Like-gate approach.

If you are looking to learn more about this change, and how it can affect your company, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.