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July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_BAs technology continues to expand and improve, many people have come to prefer to use their own systems over their office's tech offerings. This is largely because many of us have newer personal devices that allow us to do so much more than the computers we use at our office. As a result, the issue of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has become far more important, especially due to the fact that if left unchecked, BYOD could pose a security risk to your organization.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 10th, 2014

BI_July07_BAs businesses continue to become increasingly networked, there is an exponentially increasing amount of data being made available to them. While this data can be really useful, a lot of it can also be less so, or even useless. However, you are going to continue to collect data, and in order not to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume you should have a well defined data collection system in place.

What is well defined data collection?

Everyone collects data, even people who don't use computers. The key to being able to successfully leverage the data you have available to your business lies in a strong foundation - in this case, how you collect your data. With an appropriate system in pace you will know what data to collect and measure, and just how important it is. From here, you can more effectively analyze and interpret it, allowing you to make more informed decisions.

If you are looking to implement a new data collection system, or improve on how you currently collect it, here are six tips that can help:

1. Think about what customer interactions are important

Often the most important data you need is in relation to your customers. Your first step should be to define important customer interactions. For example, if you own an online store, you will likely want to know where your customers come from, the items they click on, items they add to their cart, and items they ultimately buy.

By first identifying important interactions to track, you can then look for metrics and data collection methods related to these interactions. This makes it easier for you to track the most important data.

2. Think about what behavior-related data is important

Don't just focus on those customers who have completed a purchase or followed through the whole business chain. Think about what behavior could produce data that is important to your organization.

To continue the online store example from above, this information could include how far down the page people scroll, how many pages deep they go when looking at product categories, how long they spend on a site, and where those who don't convert leave from.

Collecting and analyzing data like this can be a great determinant of what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

3. Look at important metrics you use

Sometimes the way you collect your data will depend on how you plan to measure it. This includes the different metrics you use to define the success or failure of marketing plans, sales initiatives, and even how you track visitors.

Be sure to identify which ones your business currently uses, as these will often point you towards the relevant data you will need to collect.

4. Identify the data sources you are going to use

In many businesses there are redundancies with data collected. For example, a CMS (content management system) will often have some of the same data points as Web analytics, or a POS (Point of Sale) will have some of the same data points as an inventory system. Due to this, you are going to have to identify what systems will provide what data.

On the other hand, many businesses use data from multiple systems for one key metric. In order to ensure that you are collecting the right data, you will need to identify these sources and ensure that they are compatible with your data collecting system. If they aren't, you could face potential problems and even make wrong decisions based off of incomplete data, which could cost your business.

5. Keep in mind who will be viewing the reports

When implementing data collection systems and subsequent data analysis systems, you will likely start generating reports related to this data. It is therefore a good idea to identify who will be reading these reports and what the most important information they will need is.

This information will be different for each audience, so be sure to identify what data they judge to be important. For optimal results, you should think about who will be reading the data reports and what relevant data needs to be collected in order to generate them.

6. Set a reasonable frequency for collection and analysis

This can be a tough one to get right, especially if you work in an industry with high fluctuation or your business is in a constant state of change. Your best bet is to look at when you think you will be needing data. For example, if you are responsible to submit a monthly sales report it might be a good idea to collect data on at least a bi-weekly basis in order to have enough to develop a report at the end of the month.

You should also look at who will be getting the reports and how long different campaigns or business deals will be in place. The frequency will vary for each business, so pick one that works best for your systems and business.

If you are looking to implement a data collection system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_BIn the first part of this article, last month, we began to take a look at the content companies create for social media and how they can go about not only getting it shared but also increasing the overall shareability of the content they create. From creating longer blog articles, to using images, and playing on certain emotions, we shared five useful content sharing tips. In this month's article, we look at five more tips that can help ensure your blog articles and content are more likely to be shared via social media.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 26th, 2014

Security_June23_BVirtual machines are just gateways to a server, and cyber criminals want access to data on those servers. While you might think you’re keeping your virtual environment safe, there are several virtualization security myths which if believed can have a serious impact on your platforms, leaving them susceptible to attack. It’s vital that you are aware of these untruths to make better decisions about your business’s virtual environment.

Myth No.1: Existing endpoint security will protect our virtual environment

Most traditional endpoint security solutions are virtual-aware and provide low levels of protection. This simply isn’t enough. Depending on the virtualization platform used (VMware, Microsoft, etc.), your traditional endpoint security suite can probably recognize virtual endpoints. However, this physical software often can’t bring its full tool set of anti-malware to the virtual world, meaning it can only perform basic tasks such as on-access scanning.

Therefore what you need is a solution that has been designed to keep both virtual and physical computing environments secure. There are a wide-number of solutions out there, and the best one for your business will depend largely on the virtual environments you employ. We strongly recommend talking to IT experts like us, as we can help determine, or even offer, the strongest security based.

Myth No.2: My existing anti-malware doesn’t interfere with my virtual operations

Performance issues can create security gaps that don't exist in your physical environment. Traditional endpoint security uses an agent-based model where each physical and virtual machine has a copy of the security program’s agent on it. This agent communicates with the server while performing security tasks. This is fine for physical machines, but if you have 100 virtual machines running off of one main environment that has been infected with malware, you’ll also have 100 instances of malware running on the machines.

This high level of duplication can cause massive performance degradation and waste tons of storage capacity. Therefore, you should make an effort to ensure that all of your systems including the main ones are without malware. This not only makes every system secure, but can also speed up overall operations.

Myth No.3: Virtual environments are inherently more secure than physical environments

Sadly, this just isn’t always true. Virtualization is designed to allow software, including malware, to behave as it normally would, and malware writers will target any and all weak points in a business’s network to accomplish their goals. An attacker who compromises one virtual machine and finds a way to jump to the hypervisor - the system that enables the virtualization - then has access to every virtual machine on that host.

Therefore, malware scanners on both the user and main systems would be a good idea. If it does happen to get on a system, the chances of it spreading are drastically reduced.

Myth No.4: Using non-persistent virtual machines effectively secures a network

In theory, any machine that encounters malware is wiped away and recreated cleanly. However, we are now seeing malware that is designed to survive teardown of individual machines by spreading across the virtual network. This allows it to return when new virtual machines are created.

Additionally, being too eager to create new machines on demand can result in virtual machine sprawl, which happens when virtual machines are created but then forgotten. This leads to an unmaintained virtual endpoint operating without your knowledge. Even if the rest of your virtual machines are secure, it’s possible for one machine to eavesdrop on the traffic of another virtual machine, leading to privacy and security risks.

The best solution to this is to employ an IT manager who can track and maintain systems. Many IT partners offer a solution like this, so experts like us may be able to help ensure your systems are secure.

Myth No.5: Specialized virtual security programs are more or less the same

There are various approaches to virtualization security and your network will probably need a blend of available options. This all depends on what you’re trying to protect.

A non-Web-connected server is going to have entirely different security needs than a virtual desktop of a server that manages customer information. Implementing one without the other simply just won’t do in today’s world, where attackers are set on getting their hands on your data.

Proper security is vital in making virtualization a critical component of your business IT infrastructure. Looking to learn more about virtualization and its components? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 25th, 2014

Productivity_June23_BNo matter what business you operate in, today’s fast-paced world calls for a speedy Internet connection to help boost productivity and efficiency. Still, many businesses seem to be saddled with a slow Internet connection which not only frustrates everyone but can hold back performance too. Let’s take a look at five ways that’ll help speed up your Internet connection and hopefully increase your business’s productivity.

5 ways to combat a slow Internet connection:

1. Control devices that interfere with the connection:

Wireless devices can be one of the reasons for a slow Internet connection. It’s wise to talk to us about a wireless network analyzer so that you know the sources of interference. Believe it or not, most of these sources might be coming from the company kitchen!

Good examples include the microwave, cordless phone, security alarm, and other wireless devices which use the 2.4GHz band. These can interfere with 802.11g or single-band 802.11n routers. The best solution is to reposition these household electronics to either help solve the problem completely or at least minimize the chances of interference.

2. Control applications that hog bandwidth:

Without your knowledge it’s most likely that employees are using applications that are hogging the bandwidth. It’s vital that you are aware of these applications, especially ones that have video conferencing and streaming abilities which tend to be responsible for weak bandwidth in corporate environments. Other applications such as torrent and gaming apps can also be responsible. It is best to make sure that these apps are not installed on your company computers, of if they are, make sure their use is regulated.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest bandwidth hogs is YouTube. Some companies, when they audit their network usage, have noticed that streaming services like YouTube can take up more than half of their total bandwidth. While in some positions, video streaming may be necessary, it's likely not for the majority of roles. Therefore, it would be a good idea to implement a rule about the use of YouTube during business hours e.g., it should only be used for necessary tasks.

Some would recommend blocking services like this, but if your business uses Google's other services, blocking YouTube could actually end up blocking access to other Google services. It would be a good idea to consult with us as to the best way to limit use.

3. Reposition your router:

As simple as this might sound, your router might also have to be repositioned to help increase your Internet speed. You might want to try raising your router so that broadcast range can be more effective. If this doesn’t work, which sometimes it doesn’t, try placing your router in the center of your office for a more equal signal distribution. The best solution however, is to place your router as near to computers and other receivers as possible.

4. Consider an upgrade:

If your wireless networking equipment is old then it probably needs an upgrade. Keep in mind that technology moves at an extremely fast pace and your wireless network might be outdated in just a few years.

We strongly recommend talking to us, as we can help recommend the best upgrade solution. For example, the two most common upgrades include installation of a new repeater or wireless amplifier and replacement of your current antenna. Because antenna's are so varied, we can help make sure that the antenna being installed is compatible with your router.

5. Use the latest network technologies:

As mentioned earlier, technology moves fast which is why it is essential that you become familiar with its recent advancements, particularly in the area of wireless networking. There are countless apps, software, and hardware out there that can help boost the speed and performance of your router, some of which can even be downloaded for free. Our networking experts can help ensure your business has the latest and greatest, so be sure to consult with us first.

Dealing with a slow Internet connection can be a huge pain. If not taken care of right away, it can have immense impact on your overall work output. Looking to learn more about ways to improve your Internet connection for maximized productivity? Connect with us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 17th, 2014

businessintelligence_June16_BBusiness intelligence (BI) plays a vital role in most businesses. It helps identify and monitor business trends and facilitate decision making, as well as improve your strategic management processes. Isn't it time you made use of your company’s resources and accessed valuable corporate data to improve your BI for the good of your company success?

5 ways to improve business intelligence value

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 13th, 2014

security_June13_BThanks to rapid technological advancement over the past decade, businesses have been able to flourish with great tech tools at their disposal. But the widespread adoption of new, smarter technologies has also given rise to security issues and the ability to infiltrate networks. These threats, if not taken care of appropriately and at the right time, can have an adverse impact on the success of your company. Having a basic security system in place is no longer enough. Businesses need to act quickly to protect themselves and deploy the best security practices to ensure smooth business operations.

10 Security practice guidelines for businesses

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

Topic Security
June 9th, 2014

businesscontinuity_June9_BHistorically the months of June, July, and August are when the vast majority of natural disasters strike. Regardless of your location, there is a chance that your business could be facing a real challenge if something bad happens. In order to limit the potential damage a disaster can create, it helps to be proactive and introduce a disaster strategy. One essential element that you might find useful is utilizing your mobile device, and looking at the benefit of disaster apps.

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

Weather apps

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

American Red Cross apps

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

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

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

Social media apps

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

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

Google Public Alerts

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

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

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

Tips for using your mobile during an emergency

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

May 29th, 2014

Productivity_May26_BIn today's offices there are an ever increasing number of distractions and competing demands that tasks always seem to take our attention away from the task at hand. As a result, overall productivity can decrease. This is obviously not the best strategy for successful business, especially when the pressure is on to get work completed. If this is happening in your office, there are a number of strategies you can employ to bolster productivity.

When it comes to problems with productivity, it can sometimes be difficult to spot what the main issues are. Productivity can suffer over time as challenges and work habits have an effect on what is achieved and how. Even if you're not aware of any productivity concerns, it is worthwhile checking from time to time where you can boost efficiency.

Prepare for the day ahead

Nothing is as important as knowing which of your tasks matter the most. Collect your thoughts the night before and create a to-do list for the next day. Determine which demand needs immediate attention and which can be done later that day.

A priority list will enable you to focus on those business needs that require immediate attention, allowing you to complete more tasks. By allocating a specific order and time to each individual job you will be able to more clearly achieve and evaluate your progress at the end of the day.

Shut personal connections out

The worst distraction in the office is employee connectivity to the outside world. Social networking sites, emails, and personal calls divert the focus from significant and pressing work concerns to personal matters.

The key here is to look at how you can contain the social aspects which make work enjoyable and employees happy, and balance this personal freedom with the demands of your business. You may find that restrictions are needed, such as limiting personal phone calls. Some companies impose a ban on social media sites and keep a tighter reign on personal communications. Other companies keep a more open policy but instead instill in employees a personal responsibility to impose limits on their own behavior.

Get in the working zone By showing your colleagues that you are busy and concentrating on your work you put up a barrier to them distracting you. By being polite and friendly but putting your work game face on you can show your determination and produce results to show at the end of the day. It's easy for time to drift by with idle chat and unnecessary interruptions which could wait until break time.

Set personal deadlines

You may have a deadline set by the demands of a job you are focusing on, or set by someone working with you, but personal deadlines are also necessary. By giving yourself a set time to furnish reports and deliver outcomes, for example, you keep yourself focused and produce results. Keep your desk free from piled-up paperwork and tasks so you do not have to cram to meet deadlines.

Determine your distractions

Know which, from among the office clamor, distracts you the most and create a way to eliminate, minimize or extract yourself from this problem. Is it noise from other people that is bothering you or perhaps as simple as the pop-up notifications on your computer screen? Do yourself a favor and deal with it.

Focus is at the core of these guidelines. Start asking yourself what is preventing you from concentrating. Look at how you work and what the situation is when you're in the flow and getting what you need to achieve done.

Productivity is essential in the corporate world as it is about fulfilling goals, ambitions and commitments, which can have a spillover effect on your life outside of work too. Determine which from among your tasks need to be fulfilled first, focus and boost your productivity.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
May 29th, 2014

BusinessValue_May26_BAs a business owner, or manager, you probably have a social media profile and create content for it. One of the most common types of content is blog articles, and yet some companies have problems actually getting their content shared. If you post articles to bring in new customers and interact with existing ones, then you need to know how you can enhance the chances that your articles are shared.

The key to getting your content shared

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

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

Create longer content

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

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

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

People like images

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

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

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

Even Twitter users like images

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

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

Using certain emotions really helps

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

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

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

Users love infographics and lists

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.