Blog

December 6th, 2016

2016december6_business_cMarketing automation was once a technology reserved for mega corporations and enterprise-level businesses. Fortunately, the IT industry is making business tools cheaper and more accessible all the time. Nowadays, if you’re a small business owner, you’d have to be crazy to pass up all that marketing automation has to offer. If you haven’t already implemented this wonderfully profitable technology, read up on the five best reasons to do so here.

Instant responses to email requests

If a customer or prospect sends your business an email via your website or a "Contact Us" form, any delay in response could ultimately cost you a client. But if you have a marketing automation plan in place, you can customize automatic email responses to respond to these leads as soon as an email is received. This lets potential customers know either the information they requested or that you will be responding in more detail soon.

Stop leaving voicemails and start closing deals

There’s a reason most people prefer to communicate via email: Keeping in touch over phone can be tough if both parties are always busy. An automated system solves this by logging when you’ve contacted leads and automatically emailing them about follow-up times. The call, email, and its response are all logged in your CRM and calendar without a single minute wasted entering mundane information.

Inbound lead assignment

When you have phone calls, emails, and meetings piling up, it’s hard to keep track of which customer goes where and who is working with them. With marketing automation software and tracking, customer service representatives are automatically assigned to inbound leads based on specialities and demographics so they can begin working on building profitable rapport right away.

Give and you shall receive

Potential clients and leads get dozens, sometimes hundreds of business emails every day. You need something to set your business apart from the rest. By offering valuable content such as “How to” guides and “Total Cost of Ownership” tools in exchange for contact information, you can provide prospects with content they actually want.

All it takes is a web form and some creative writing that ultimately leads visitors back to your products and/or services. Your automation software delivers content to anyone who provides contact information, and it downloads metrics that can be tracked and analyzed by your solution.

Never type another phone number again

Networking events mean new contacts and new leads. Although that used to mean thick stacks of business cards, cutting-edge marketing tools make it possible to take a picture of contact information and automatically convert it into a cloud database. Call-ins, scanned business cards, and received emails all get organized into a single digital rolodex with recommendations for whom to contact, and when is best to do so -- without one minute of tedious data entry.

Every business owner knows that automating mindless tasks is a worthwhile investment. But not everyone knows just what sort of tools are available to help you cut down on wasted work. Our team specializes in using technology to add value to your business, and we believe that if you’re not utilizing any of the solutions above -- that’s the best place to start. Get in touch with us today to make your marketing technology work for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
November 25th, 2016

2016november25_security_cBusiness technology has become one of the most important components for successful companies big and small. In an overwhelmingly digital landscape, businesses depend on IT for marketing, data storage, and financial transactions. And with that comes the need to secure every bit of private information cyber criminals might want to feast their eyes on. And while an outsourced security professional is a must, there are a few simple steps you can do yourself to get started. Check out five of our favorites here.

Limitation of lateral data transfers

Employees not being educated on data sharing and security is one of the biggest reasons for internal data breaches. It’s a good idea to limit access to important data and information by restricting access privileges to only a small number of individuals. Also, you can decide to use network segmentation to cut unnecessary communication from your own network to others.

Keeping your machines and devices updated

Internal breaches might also occur when employees work with unguarded or unprotected machines. They might unknowingly download malware, which normally wouldn’t be a problem if machines were properly managed. Updating your operating systems, antivirus software, business software, and firewalls as often as possible will go a long way toward solidifying your defense systems.

Use monitoring and machine learning to sniff out abnormalities

It’s not all on your employees, however. Network administrators should employ monitoring software to prevent breaches by analyzing what is “normal” behavior and comparing that to what appears to be suspicious behavior. Cyber criminals often hide in networks to exploit them over a long period of time. Even if you miss them the first time, you should monitor suspicious activity so you can recognize impropriety and amend security policies before it goes any further.

Creating strong security passwords and credentials

No matter how often we say it, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to your passwords and login procedures. In addition to text-based credentials, you should require other methods whenever possible. Great for fortifying your network, fingerprints and smart cards, for example, are much harder for cyber criminals to fake. Regardless of which factors are used, they must be frequently updated to prevent breaches, accidental or otherwise.

Security Insurance

In the end, no system is perfect. Zero-day attacks exploit unknown gaps in security, and human error, accidental or otherwise, can never be totally prevented. And for this reason, small businesses need to start embracing cyber insurance policies. These policies help cover the damages that might occur even under a top-of-the-line security infrastructure. Considerations for selecting a policy include legal fees, first and third-party coverage, and coverage for reputation rehabilitation.

The field of cyber security is overwhelming -- even for seasoned IT professionals. But not for us. We spend our days researching and experimenting to craft the best security solutions on the market. If you're interested in one of our cutting-edge cyber-security plans, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
November 23rd, 2016

2016november23_hardware_cMovies have been showing audiences the dangers of artificially-intelligent devices for half a century. After last month's cyber attack on Dyn that sidelined Netflix and was caused by the cooperation of an army of bots created from hacked “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices, it seems the movies were right. If you want to know how security firms are fighting the rise of the machines through IoT scanners, read on.

The Dangers of IoT

The "Internet of Things" is a relatively new phrase that basically refers to a network of connected devices. The network might include your computer and smartphone, but could also include apps that you have downloaded, your Fitbit, a remotely monitored home security system, routers, printers and any other wireless device that needs an internet connection. Although all these devices are but convenience items, they can also be potentially dangerous considering how much personal and business information is stored on your personal computer, which is connected to the same network.

How can I protect my IoT devices?

Every device that connects to the internet must connect through your network. If you are technologically challenged and have only a laptop in your office and a couple of desktop computers scattered throughout the building, chances are you don't worry too much about the security of your connection. It's easy to install a firewall and antivirus program that will keep your network connection secure. But internet security isn't that simple for the business owner anymore.

The internet security vendor Bullguard has released a new tool that business owners can use to locate any vulnerabilities that might be found on their network. The program uses on online directory to double-check whether your device uses an "open" or unsecure port to connect to your network. If it determines that your network or any of your devices are connected with an open line, it gives you the location of the detected vulnerability.

What can the IoT Scanner Do?

While the scanner only points to places of invulnerability and does not attempt to fix anything, it provides the information you need to take that next step. Many times the real danger of a smart device is that it connects to your network without your knowledge, allowing hackers an "open door" to wreak havoc. Knowing where the hackers might enter can keep you vigilant to fix that breach.

Scanners like this are exactly what we hope to accomplish with our blog. We want you to provide you with useful tools that help educate you about your network and your IT, while also showcasing what we can do for you as an outsourced IT consultant. Bullguard’s IoT scanner will help you get one step closer to enterprise-level security, but we’re the partner you need to cross the finish line. Get in touch with us to start making improvements today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
November 21st, 2016

2016november21_businesscontinuity_cData is vital to your business. It’s how you keep records, track activities, and function as a business in general. However, with all of the data that your business generates on a regular basis, it can be difficult to keep everything backed up at all times. Fortunately, there is a way to better prioritize your data backups. By appropriating one of the IT industry’s favorite solutions, you can revolutionize your data backup protocols.

Too much data may sound like a good thing, but depending on your organization, backing up everything à la minute may be out of your price range or just flat out impossible with the amount of information you create. The problem then becomes: How do I structure my backup plan to prioritize the critical files? We believe the answer is analytics.

In order to avoid backing up unneeded data, you’ll require a “smarter” backup solution. This is where an experienced MSP (managed services provider) really earns its keep. We’ve spent years becoming experts in backup solutions and designing systems that keep your mission-critical data healthy, and we can offer something few others can’t: a backup solution that learns.

The first step in ensuring all of your customer information is safely duplicated and quarantined is to install sophisticated analytics engines that help determine what is most essential to your business's day-to-day operations. These ever-evolving engines will prioritize data in order of importance and translate that to a backup structure that ensures the right data is safe and sound should disaster strike.

Using analytics maintains your existing data-backup solution, but provides it with a map of what to save first, and what to leave for later. What does that mean? Drastically reduced recovery times in the event of untimely outages or disruptions. And, the use of analytics also helps increase efficiency and decrease overall backup costs by providing a better picture of what is unimportant or unnecessary.

Small- and medium-sized businesses have been the drivers of innovation for decades because, as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” And we’re here to deliver some good news: Whether you’re interested in implementing a cutting-edge analytics engine or simply want to start with a more straightforward solution, we’re ready to create a new system that prioritizes backups, just for you. Take a second to analyze that, then give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
November 10th, 2016

2016november10_security_cScam artists will stop at nothing to make an extra buck, which means that people need to be vigilant about protecting their valuable information. While the phone is still a popular method of approach, the Internet has opened a new avenue for the scammer to attempt to steal your money. Keep reading to find out why younger consumers are more prone to falling for new scamming tactics.

Results Conclude Youth is more Gullible

Microsoft recently conducted a survey of 1000 computer users of all ages and from many of the largest countries in the world to find out how many of them had been scammed by phony "technicians" claiming to be employees of Microsoft or other major computer conglomerates. The results were startling when studied demographically. Researchers discovered that seniors, who were traditionally viewed as the major victims of such fraudulent schemes, were not the most likely group to fall for the scam.

Research indicated that although seniors were most likely to buy into a telephone scam, they still did not fall for the act as much as younger age groups. The study found, in fact, that between the ages of 18 and 24, people were 2.5 times more likely to fall for the scam than seniors. Those between the ages of 25 and 34 were three times more likely than seniors to be tricked.

The scam that the Microsoft company recently studied involved the following scenario: Either a person calls claiming to be a technical support technician, or an email or pop-up alerts you that your computer is locked or otherwise compromised. In order to fix the problem, you need to call someone and pay for a program or provide access to your computer so some purported technician can solve the problem "remotely."

If you fall for this scam, you are giving them funds for a false program or access to your computer -- which also allows them access to your personal data and the ability to install malware onto your system. The study revealed that two-thirds of those surveyed (around 660 people) had experienced the scam first-hand. One in five had listened long enough to hear the story, and 1 in 10 actually gave the scammer money.

Why the Younger Demographic Became Easy Victims

While older adults often respond more to phone calls, younger people have learned to ignore phone calls, saving them from being phone victims. However, because younger adults spend the majority of their time online and often remain acutely aware of the status of their computer and online presence, they are more prone to react to a pop-up or email claiming that their computer is in danger. Nearly 60% of the adults aged 18-24 in the study say they were exposed to the scam through pop-up ads or online correspondence.

The takeaway here is simple: Cybersecurity is about more than just firewalls and antivirus software. You need to shore up the human side of your protection protocols. The best way to start is by doing some quick research on social engineering in our previous blogs, but ultimately you’ll need something a little more thorough. Contact us today for more tips and to ask about scheduling a cybersecurity training for your employees.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
November 8th, 2016

2016november8_hardware_cWith the advent of e-commerce and online storefronts, global commerce has opened a whole new world for the small business owner. It has never been easier to find customers for your product or service. Of course, you still need to have to right tools. One tool that you cannot do without is the computer. But what computer hardware is best for your SMB: a desktop or laptop? Here is some advice to consider when weighing your options.

Portability

Modern desktop computers aren't nearly as immobile as they used to be. In many cases the screen is thin and light, and all-in-one desktops are easy to unplug, move and plug in on the road. But there are still places the desktop cannot go. Laptops allow you to go anywhere, even places without electricity. But this ability to take your work anywhere can be counterproductive by creating more stress on employees who think they must work all the time.

Memory/Speed

Desktop computers often have more memory than laptops, and they’re faster speeds due to better processors. This is now changing as a result of advancing technology, but until the cost of high-powered laptops becomes affordable to the general public, the desktop computer is going to provide businesses with more speed. If your employees’ work is limited to word processing and emailing, laptops should be enough. However, anything more will probably require a desktop machine.

Security

An SMB’s computer hardware needs to be secure to ensure that private company information doesn't end up in the wrong hands. On a desktop computer, the hardware is easier to defend against malware and adware. It’s also more physically secure because the desktop is often kept in one location and not easy to snatch. If you do choose the laptop route, make sure to have strict policies on how to protect machines that leave the office.

Price

Traditionally, the laptop has been cheaper and available to more people. This is true particularly for smaller notebook-style laptops. But desktop computers are becoming more affordable as more people have access to them through local channels. With a capable IT service provider, cost probably won’t be a deciding factor between the two options.

Quality

Although laptop computers provide the convenience of portability, over time they’re prone to problems with the battery and charging cord. They are also easily damaged. By contrast, desktops are generally more sturdy. But when they do experience a problem, it often leads to expensive repairs.

Final Recommendation

The desktop versus laptop debate is an old one, with supporters on both sides touting the advantages of their choice to all who will listen. A growing company really needs a combination of both types of computers. However, a desktop computer will be generally more reliable for the fledgling company owner to start with. Laptops should be added as budget permits to provide that extra portability and convenience.

If you have questions regarding the best choice for your company, give us a call. We'll be happy to provide you the assistance you need to improve your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
November 7th, 2016

2016november7_socialmedia_cFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram have changed the way we interpret the word social. Whereas it used to mean just catching up with a friend over tea, being social online now has blurred the lines between friends and customers. But far beyond the “big three” lies dozens of untapped social networks. If you’re hoping to get into some of the biggest rising stars in online marketing, you’ve come to exactly the right place.

Having great content on your site is the magnet that attracts visitors. However, when there is too much competition on the most popular platforms, it's hard for your social media reputation management to deliver the results you expect. To reap nominal rewards from social media marketing, you need to devise new methods to stand out from the crowd.

Meetup

For people with similar interests, Meetup is a great site to plan face-to-face meetings. Does your company sell hiking, camping, and backpacking products? Organize a meetup for the people in your community to go on a hike. You really can’t get a better customer interaction than engaging them in the activities they love.

Eventbrite

If you’re looking for a more formal event platform, Eventbrite helps you to organize, plan, and market your event so you can ensure its success. Another way it differs from Meetup is its recruitment potential. You can easily market yourself as an expert in an industry to either attract freelancers or educate potential customers about the problems you aim to solve for them. Townscript, and Picantic, offer similar services and can go to great lengths to improve your social media reputation.

Answer Forums

How many times have you scoffed at the amatuer responses to the questions posted on sites such as Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Reddit? However, if you take a step back you’ll realize that these people are often searching for information about certain industries or products. When providing helpful answers to their questions, establish your credibility by identifying your expertise and product.

Disqus

It’s easy to get stuck in a narrow interpretation of ‘social media.’ It’s just web technology that helps us to communicate with each other, right? By embedding apps such as Disqus into your online content, you can connect with readers and external websites to boost your material as well as your reputation. What’s more social than getting people talking about about your products or industry?

Slack

Most people who use the messaging app Slack see it as a way to communicate with friends and coworkers. However, with a little creativity you can join conversations from all over the world to boost your online presence. There are countless channels devoted to industries, categories, hobbies and more. All you have to do is insert yourself and your company into the conversation to get people talking about your business!

It’s hard to deny that technology has made our lives more complicated. We still believe it has made up for this downside ten fold, but we understand it can feel a little overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the answer is simple: a managed technology provider. For a never-ending source of information on reputation and social media management, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
November 3rd, 2016

2016november3_businessintelligence_cWith Business Intelligence software, companies have the ability to pull data from various sources throughout the company, from human resources to accounting and marketing reports. By combining information from across departments, owners have all the data they need to make the best decisions for their company. Let's see how BI technology can help companies budget for the new fiscal year.

Compiling Data Across the Board Business Intelligence is not a new concept. Companies regularly compile data from many of their departments to make important business decisions. The manual process of gathering spreadsheets of data is cumbersome and time-consuming. BI software allows company owners to look at data from the various departments in one location, an online dashboard that can be manipulated to provide the exact information needed at the time.

Putting it all Together Business intelligence software extracts information from raw data provided by various departments to help business owners make important decisions in marketing, budgeting and financial planning/prediction. All on one dashboard, marketing campaigns can be tracked and evaluated for effectiveness, money can be moved from one department to another, and companies can see the financial health of the company.

In the past, IT companies provided BI solutions that used complex algorithms to gather intelligence. Now, the use of BI software is geared for the end user, providing self-service reporting for the individual business owner.

Moving Forward As the new fiscal year approaches, it is important for companies to incorporate business intelligence software into their yearly budget. The price of BI software varies, but because you are probably already spending the money on BI solutions for various segments of your business, it won't be a huge investment to compile the data in one location.

Today's business infrastructures are technologically driven. They need a solution that uses the same level of sophistication to make the best financial decisions for their companies. Business intelligence technology is that solution. Contact us today if you’re ready to take the next step.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
October 25th, 2016

2016october25_security_cWith all the recent hacking scares all over the world, you know and understand that your cyber security and your business’s cyber security are extremely important. However, when it comes to authentication processes, you may not be sure what the real deal is. There are two seemingly similar types of authentication that are often confused. Those are, of course, two-step and two-factor authentication. Find out more about the differences between the two here to ensure your cyber security will always be top of the line.

If you are seeking out a way to improve your business's cyber security, both for your business itself as well as for your customers, you are likely looking at your authentication process. Two-step and two-factor authentication are two of the most commonly used options in cyber security. And in current cyber security, many businesses use the terms two-step and two-factor authentication interchangeably.

There are, however, subtle differences between the two. A two-step authentication process requires a single-factor login (such as a memorized password or biometric reading) as well as another of the same type of login that is essentially sent to the user. For example, you may have a memorized password for your first step and then receive a one-time-use code on your cell phone as the second step.

Two-step authentication does function to add an extra step in the authentication process, making it more secure than a single-step authentication (i.e. just the password). However, if a person or business is hacked, it will do only a little to stop hackers from getting a hold of whatever they are looking for.

On the other hand, there is two-factor authentication (sometimes referred to as multi-factor authentication), which is significantly more secure. This type of authentication requires two different types of information to authenticate. For example, it could be a combination of a fingerprint or retinal scan as well as a password or passcode. Because the types of information are different, it would require a hacker a great deal more effort to obtain both forms of authentication.

In essence, every two-factor authentication is a two-step authentication process, but the opposite is not true. With this information in mind, you can be certain that you are using the right type of authentication in your business to keep your business and customer information as secure as possible.

Your network needs the best security technology has to offer. What type of authentication that results in is just one of hundreds of choices that must be made to achieve that end. To take the stress out of securing and protecting your network, call us today for all the help you could ever ask for.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 21st, 2016

2016october21_hardware_cHaving access to high-speed internet is important for people who work, chat, or stream online. Sadly, most WiFi systems are unreliable and unresponsive, and depending on the layout of your office, they can create internet dead zones. For businesses that manage most of their tasks online, this simply won’t do. Ideally, internet connections should be fast and available in every nook and cranny of your office. And with the development of Google WiFi, your business may be able to achieve that.

WiFi everywhere Google WiFi is able to offer fast WiFi across your home or business. Today, people install WiFi expecting it to simultaneously support multiple devices that might even be engaged in high-bandwidth activities such as VoIP and live streaming. The problem, however, is that the WiFi signal is often affected by the thickness of internal walls and the distance from the router. Google alleviates this problem by developing a WiFi system that’s expandable.

You can add Google WiFi points in different areas of your office to spread a strong network signal throughout your entire company. Google uses WiFi mesh technology, where every Google WiFi point builds a high-powered signal where all points combined offer the ideal path for data. As a result, high-speed WiFi is built across the house as all points connect to each other to broadcast a strong, high-speed connection. This means your company can say goodbye to slow downloads, poor call quality, and service interruptions.

Automatically optimize your connection Google WiFi can also keep operating at high speeds. It employs Network Assist Technology, a feature that automatically optimizes your wireless connection, keeping it fast without any fussing or manual adjustments on your end. Just imagine taking your office laptop or your iPad from your desk to the meeting room, without experiencing internet connection problems. Google’s Network Assist feature allows your devices to seamlessly transition between Google WiFi points in real time, meaning no delays or dead spots.

Manage your network with an app Google WiFi also comes with a companion app for when you want to manage your network. Available on iOS or Android, the WiFi manager app allows you to reduce bandwidth usage for a particular website, or pause the WiFi connection on certain devices when they’re not in use. You can also prioritize bandwidth for specific devices connected to your network so that you can conduct important VoIP conference calls without any interruptions.

Of course, when it comes to WiFi, security and privacy are top priority. With that in mind, the Google WiFi manager app comes with enhanced security and privacy settings that enable easy management of cloud content, user access control, wireless encryption systems, and automatic updates to keep your business safe at all times.

There’s no telling how well Google WiFi will perform in the market, but if your company values advanced security systems, fast internet speeds, and an easy-to-manage network, then Google WiFi is definitely hardware you should have.

Want to stay on top of the latest hardware trends and developments? Simply give us a call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware