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December 18th, 2014

SocialMedia_Dec15_AWhen working with social media in your business there are a number of metrics commonly used to determine whether the content you create and share is effective. One of the best metrics to employ is the number of shares each piece of content receives. More shares usually means higher visibility and therefore a greater impact. However, many businesses struggle to get their content shared. Here's four reasons why.

1. The vast majority of people are hesitant to share content

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook over a 17 day period, approximately 15.3 billion comments and posts were written but were then deleted and not posted on Facebook alone.

While the reasons will have been varied, the numbers highlight that the vast majority of users are sensitive to what they post on Facebook, and most most likely other networks as well. What does this mean for businesses? Well, you need to ensure that the content you are posting offers value to not only your audience, but their audience as well.

Think about when you have shared content on any network. You probably didn't do so 100% for yourself, but instead shared the content or created a post so your audience would interact with it, or possibly get something out of it. Think of this as the "hmm, that's interesting, other people will like it too, so I'll post it" mentality. By sharing content others enjoy or respond to you get the benefit of increased recognition.

If you can create content that gets people to think this way, there is an increased chance that they will share it.

2. Facebook users want to be seen in a positive light

According to a study carried out by INC. 80% of respondents share content because it shows that they are being a good friend to those they care about. People use social media to foster good relationships and connect with those they care about. And if somebody regards your posts as potentially able to tarnish their image on social media, they won't share it.

Businesses looking to capitalize on this need to try to create content and campaigns that help users better relate to one another. Combine this with the above example of creating interesting-to-share content and you will be more likely to see an increase in shares.

3. Content doesn't fit our salient identities

Because social media has become an extension of society, many experts apply common social science principles to it. The most commonly applied theory is of the five identities (relational, personal, social, superficial, and collective) that determine how people behave in a certain situation.

If you are posting content that doesn't fit with an an individual's current identity then it's not going to be shared. So, how can businesses capitalize on these changing identifies? One effective way is to get to know your main target audience; how they act and react to certain social cues, and then create content to fit with this behavior.

For example, if your target group for posts is parents, then using language and content that triggers parental instincts could increase shares as parents associate better with it.

You might want to widen your focus too and try developing content that capitalizes on different identities, tracking what works best.

4. Content doesn't mesh with a user's values and goals

The same INC. study found that after being a good friend, 63% of users surveyed noted that they were more likely to share content that reflected their goals, values, and dreams.

How can a business capitalize on this? The best way is to get to know your audience. Look at their posting and sharing habits and the type of content they share on a regular basis. This may change over time, but you will see patterns evolve for different groups. If you can develop and post content that reflects these main goals and values then you are more likely to see your content being shared. Try different approaches and keep in mind who you are developing content for.

If you are looking to learn more about social media, contact us today to see how our systems can help you integrate it with your business success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 12th, 2014

productivity_Dec12_AEmail has become the main form of communication for many businesses. When first launched, many people treated email as simply an electronic version of company memos and letters and therefore created and styled them as such. Over time, email has become much more informal, and while this is great it can lead to problems in overall clarity of communication. However, there is one effective way you can ensure all of your messages are clear and understandable, by adopting PAR.

Better email structure for small businesses

In order for your emails to be clearer and to get the overall message across easily, you might want to implement a PAR structure. This three part framework has been used by many business owners and managers to improve overall communications, and consists of:

Problem

At the very top of the email, below the salutation, provide a brief yet clear overview of the problem which is the subject of the email or the reason you are making contact. When writing this overview don't assume anything, including shared knowledge or agreements, unless you have discussed these with all recipients beforehand. The key here is that you are looking to be able to summarize the main issue.

If you need more than two paragraphs, then you should probably create a longer form report that is attached in the email. The reason for this is because the vast majority of people will simply scan an email, and if it's too long, they will usually skip it, or possibly miss key points. If it is easy to scan and read, then there is a greater chance all parties will be on the same page.

Beyond this, if you are struggling to come up with a short explanation or can't clearly summarize the problem in writing, then email may not be the best medium to be using. Opt instead for a meeting or phone call to discuss the issue more fully.

Action

After stating what the problem is, clearly mark any proposed actions or recommendations using a relevant heading, then specifically lay them out in an easy to read format. You want to be as specific as possible here, ensuring that all parties understand what you want to happen and the actions they will need to take as a result.

For example, if you use vague language, such as: "I need this by the end of the month", people may only carry out what you are asking for on the very last day of the month. Instead, you might be better to give a specific delivery date, and possibly a set time, so that any deadlines are clearly defined. Bulleted and numbered lists can really help here, as long as they are clear and understandable and don't muddle the issue.

Results

Finally, identify the expected results based on the actions you want the recipients to take. This helps ensure that every recipient knows what they should be striving for, as well as serving as an indicator of whether the problem has been specifically solved or not.

If the results aren't met, you have a good opportunity to look back at the process and see if there is any room for improvement, or try to pinpoint exactly why something went wrong or didn't happen as you planned. This in turn, if leveraged correctly, can help improve overall productivity.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
December 11th, 2014

BusinessValue_Dec11_AThe holiday season can be stressful and expensive for everyone, employees and business owners alike. While it is great to start a new year, it can be tough to justify or find the funds for new expenses, even if there is a real need. Instead, you may want to look for cost saving tools that can help improve business operations for less. To help, here are five free or affordable tools that can make your business life easier.

  1. Canva If you are a business owner, chances are that you aren't the world's best graphic designer, unless you run a graphics company of course! In order to design graphics, icons, flyers, and even posters you need specific graphics software. This can be expensive and the software is not going to be easy to use for design novices. You may even need an in-house graphic designer. This is where Canva comes in.

Canva is an online app that allows users to quickly and easily create professional looking graphics using drag and drop functionality and a wealth of free, or affordable, stock images. In other words, you can create designs in a short amount of time.

The service itself is free, but some images do need to be purchased.

  1. FreshBooks Most business owners are not certified accountants either, and even if you understand the basics of accounting and tracking of finances, the money side of your business is often a full time or at least a specialized job. If not handled correctly, this could spell disaster for your business. One solution is cloud-based FreshBooks.

FreshBooks is accounting software that allows you to invoice clients, track payments, accept payments, track expenses, and access financial reports at the click of a button. Beyond this, you can connect FreshBooks with your payroll services to ensure that your employees are paid on time.

The platform offers a free plan that allows you to track and manage one client, while paid subscriptions start at USD 19.95 a month.

  1. Hootsuite Many businesses have a presence on more than one social media network. While this is a great way to reach out to the highest number of customers, it can be a chore to manage and maintain a presence on all of these networks all of the time. Hootsuite is specifically aimed at this task.

Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to manage your social media accounts from one platform. Using Hootsuite you can schedule posts, set up streams, establish keyword tracking, and track engagement. It really is a one-stop-shop for all of your social media platforms.

Hootsuite offers a free subscription which allows you to manage three social media profiles, while a business subscription starts at USD 8.99 and allows you to track up to 50 profiles and gives you access to more advanced analytics and features.

  1. Podio Managing projects and ensuring that all employees are aware of what they should be doing, and what others are doing, can be one of the toughest tasks for any business owner. Sure, spreadsheets and communication work to a point, but there is always room for error and of course improvement, which is what Podio provides.

Podio is a project management app that allows you to easily manage projects, tasks, deadlines, and even files. Using an intuitive dashboard that all users have access to, employees and managers can easily see who is doing what, as well as what needs to be done and what has already been done.

Podio is free with limited features for five users and costs USD 9 per user, per month for the full subscription plan.

  1. CoSchedule If you have a blog, either on WordPress or hosted by WordPress, sharing the articles you post on your social media profiles is a great way to increase content reach and interaction. However, it can be time consuming to actually create posts on each different platform, unless you use CoSchedule.

With CoSchedule you can write your social media posts for a blog article and schedule them to be posted once the article goes live. Think of it as automating the sharing of your blog articles. This will save you time, while making it easier to manage your content, largely because the calendar included in CoSchedule is easy to work with and gives you a good view of your content.

CoSchedule is USD 10 per month, per blog.

If you are looking for more affordable ways to improve your business operations, contact us today to see what boost we can offer you at a price you can afford in 2015.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 9th, 2014

Facebook_Dec08_AAt work, the Internet is both a great tool that enables more efficient work and a massive distraction to many, especially those who are active on social media. Check with any employee and you can probably guarantee that they have accessed Facebook while at work. While this can irk some employers, Facebook is tackling this issue head on and is developing a new social network just for businesses, potentially called Facebook at Work.

What is Facebook at Work?

In late November, Facebook announced that they are developing a new social network which may be called Facebook at Work. As you can guess by the clue in the title, this is going to be a business-oriented venture that will bring the popular social network, or elements of it, to the workplace.

For many businesses, this popular social network is not really a part of every business operation. Sure, marketing and sales may use this platform, and others, as a way to reach out and connect with customers, but few organizations are known to use Facebook internally as a communication and social network for employees.

Those who do use the network in the office often use their personal accounts and have noted that they would like an easy way to separate work from personal life, while still remaining on the network. Many businesses would also prefer that employees didn't bring their personal lives and Facebook accounts to the office because this can lead to breaches in privacy and even important data being compromised, especially if a personal account is hacked.

The best way to think of this new platform is that it is Facebook strictly for work. While it is still in the development stages, some interesting details have emerged. There is no official name for the network, thus far, but sources at Facebook have noted that the codename for the product is Facebook@Work.

What Facebook@Work will look like

From what we can tell, the network will look and work much the same as the existing version of Facebook. Users will be able to create profiles, join groups, post on each other's News Feeds, and even send messages using the popular Facebook Messenger. Where it will differ is that it will have collaborative tools that allow users to share and work on the same documents.

This network will be completely separate from the personal Facebook site, with users having a different password and username. Information between a personal and work account will not be shared either. This should make the network more secure, or at least minimize the use of personal accounts for work-related tasks.

What we don't know

We do know that Facebook@Work, or Facebook at Work, is currently being developed by a London-based branch of Facebook who seem to be also acting as the main testers. However, we are unsure at this time if the network is being developed strictly as an internal network, which will be used only within a company, or if it will be more like LinkedIn, where it will allow you to connect with similar professionals.

Interestingly enough, Facebook has been using its own network and various groups as a major part of their own internal communication tools amongst departments. For example, when an employee joins a new department they are added to a secure group and group chat where updates are posted, questions are asked, and work is supposedly assigned and agreed upon. It could be that the company is developing something along these lines for external release too.

We don't know exactly when this network will be introduced, but you can be sure that it will be debuted sometime in 2015, possibly with a rollout in the next year. If your business uses social platforms, or is looking to integrate social media in the near future, this business-oriented social media platform could be worth keeping your eyes on.

Stay tuned as we will be covering this further in the future. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about how best to utilize Facebook in the office please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 3rd, 2014

Security_Dec01_ASpend even a small amount of time looking at the various massive malware threats out there and you will find that security experts are usually able to figure out who developed it, the intended targets, and where it is most prevalent. In early November, news broke about a mystery security threat called Regin that has been around for years, but which experts seem to know comparatively little about. Many business owners are worried about Regin, but should they be?

What exactly is Regin?

What is most interesting about Regin is that a number of security experts seem to not really fully understand it. They know that it exists, they know it is complex, and they know it is one of the most advanced pieces of malware ever created. But, they don't know what exactly it does, or where it comes from.

What we do know is that Internet security firm Symantec is credited with first bringing Regin to public attention, and that it has been around since at least 2008. So far, the company has said it is similar to the Stuxnet virus that was supposedly developed in (or by) the US and used to attack and subvert the Iranian nuclear program.

Regin is known to infect Windows-based computers and at its core is a backdoor trojan style of infection. From detected infections it is looks like the purpose of the malware is not to steal information but to gather intelligence and facilitate other types of attacks.

What makes this malware so powerful and disturbing is that it is much more advanced than other infections. Using various encryption methods it can hide itself extremely well, making it difficult to detect. It can also communicate with the hacker who deployed it in a number of different ways, thus making it a challenge to block or stop. As a result, it is far from easy to actually figure out what exactly this malware is doing and why.

Who has been infected?

According to various security experts we have been able to compile a list of companies and organizations that have been targeted to date. These include:
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Government institutions
  • Financial companies
  • Research companies
  • Individuals and companies involved in crypto-graphical and mathematical research
At the time of this article, no known attacks have been carried out against companies in the US, Canada, or the UK. The main countries targeted so far have been Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with a smaller number of infections in Malaysia, Indonesia, Ireland, and Iran. A total of 10-15 countries have been targeted since the malware was first discovered in 2008.

Is this a big deal for my company?

Just because your company is operating in a country that hasn't been affected thus far, doesn't mean that you aren't at risk of being attacked by this malware in the future. If you operate in any of the industries or sectors listed above, you could still be at risk, especially if you do business with clients in infected regions.

For now, however, it appears that Regin is only infecting larger government bodies and large companies outside of North America and much of Europe, so the chances of you being infected are relatively low. Although as with any threat, this can change at any moment.

What we recommend is that you ensure your antivirus and antimalware solutions are kept up to date and always switched on. You can rest assured that eventually experts will learn more and block this malware from infecting systems. Beyond this, working with an IT partner, like us, who can ensure that your valuable data and systems are secure, is also be a good idea. The same goes with watching what you download and any emails you open. If you don't know or trust the source, don't download any program, open an attachment, or read an email connected to it.

Looking to learn more about the security of your systems? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 3rd, 2014

HealthGeneral_Dec03_AIDC Health Insights has issued its predictions for health-care in 2015, and just as one might expect, they revolve around cost, technology, and operational efficiency. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Cybersecurity. By 2020, 42% of digital health-care data will be unprotected. That creates a risk. By 2015, half of all health-care organizations will have experienced one to five cyberattacks in the previous 12 months—and one third of those attacks will have been successful.

Cloud computing. Hosted infrastructure will become key to data collection, aggregation and analysis, such as by 2020, 80% of health-related data will pass through the cloud at some point in its lifetime.

Mobility. Health-care organizations will seek to improve consumer experience, leading to 65% of transactions to happen on mobile devices by 2018. This will require health-care organizations to develop multi-channels that cater to various screen sizes.

Chronic-condition management. Around 70% of health-care organizations will invest in consumer-facing wearables, remote monitoring tools, and virtual care and the like in order to better manage patients with chronic conditions.

Big data. All of this will lead to more demand for big data. And, more than half of health-care organizations will manage it with routine operational IT by 2018.

Read more about IDC Health Insights’ predictions here. If you are looking to integrate better technology in your practice, please contact us today to see how we can help.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 25th, 2014

Hardware_Nov25_AThere are many different pieces of technical equipment most businesses need in order to operate successfully, with one of the most essential being the wireless router. Routers allow one network connection to essentially be split into many and then shared by different users and devices, often over a Wi-Fi connection. If you are looking for a new Wi-Fi router for your office there are some important features you should be aware of.

Essential features

For the vast majority of users, there are five main features that all wireless routers must have in order to make them useful in the office. They are:
  • Network type - Look at any router and you will quickly see that there are a number of different networks available. The four most commonly found are 802.1b, 802.1g, 802.1n, and 802.11ac. These designations are for how fast the router can transfer wireless data, with 802.11ac being the fastest of these four. Most offices should be able to get by on n routers, but those who have users connecting via Wi-Fi and cable may do better with 802.11ac routers - which are backward compatible with other slower network versions.
  • Throughput - This is closely associated with the router's network type, and is usually one of the first things listed on router boxes and specifications. To spot the router's throughput, look for Mbps. This indicates the speed at which the router is supposed to transmit data from your connection to users. It is important to note here that if you have a 100Mbps Internet connection, but buy a router that is only say 80 Mbps, then the total speed will be the lower figure, 80Mbps. Therefore, it would be a good idea to get a router with a higher throughput, or a close throughput, to your main Internet connection.
  • Range - This is particularly important for users who will be connecting via Wi-Fi, as they will likely not be sitting right beside the router. Generally speaking, the further you are from your router, the slower and weaker your connection will be. As a rule of thumb: 802.11ac and n routers will offer the strongest connections and greatest range. But this will all depend on where the router is placed and any natural barriers like concrete walls, etc.
  • Bands - On every single router's box you will see numbers like 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz. These indicate the wireless radios on the router. A dual-band router will have both a 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz radio which allows devices to connect to different bands so as not to overload a connection. Those who connect to a 5Ghz band will generally have better performance, but the broadcast range will be much shorter than the 2.4Ghz radio.
  • QoS - Quality of Service is a newer feature that allows the router administrator to limit certain types of traffic. For example, you can use the QoS feature of a router to completely block all torrent traffic, or to limit it so that other users can have equal bandwidth. Not every router has this ability, but it is a highly beneficial feature for office routers.

Useful features

As well as the above features, which are essential for business Wi-Fi routers, there are also some useful features that may help improve overall speeds and usability. Here are three of the most useful, but not essential:
  • Beam-forming - This is a newer feature being introduced in many mid to high-end routers. It is a form of signal technology that allows for better throughput in dead areas of a business or home. In other words, it can help improve the connection quality with devices behind solid walls, or in rooms with high amounts of interference. By utilizing this technology, routers can see where connection is weak and act to improve it. While this is available on routers with many network types, it is really only useful with routers running 802.11ac, so if you have devices compatible with 802.11ac, then this feature could help.
  • MIMO - Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output is the use of multiple antennas to increase performance and overall throughput. Most modern routers don't actually use multiple antennas or extra antennas to increase performance, instead utilizing this concept to ensure that more devices can connect to one router with less interference and better performance.
  • Antennas - Some routers, especially those geared towards home use, don't have physical antennas, while other higher-end routers do. With many wireless routers, the idea behind antennas is that they allow the direction of the best connection to be configured. It can be easy to think that these antennas will help improve connection, but when it comes to real-world tests, there is often only a nominal improvement if the antennas are configured and aimed properly.
While these features can help improve the overall connectivity and speed of a wireless network, they are not necessary for most business users. If you are going to be tweaking networks however, then these may help. Beyond that, concepts like beam-forming only work well if you have a wealth of devices that are 802.11ac compatible and these are still less popular than devices that are say 802.1n compatible.

Features to watch out for

There are a number of router features that manufacturers often tout as essential, important, etc., when in reality these features are often more about marketing and will pose little use to the vast majority of users.
  • Routers with advertised processor speeds - With many pieces of equipment, the processor speed is an important indicator as to how fast it will run, and how well systems will run. With routers however, there is usually a small requirement for processing power. Sure, some features like firewalls require processing power, but the vast majority of routers have the power to run these. Therefore, advertised processor speeds with Wi-Fi routers offer no realizable benefit to the majority of users.
  • Tri-band - While many routers have dual broadcasting bands, some newer ones are now tri-band. The idea and marketing behind this is that with a third band, throughput can be dramatically increased and this is often reflected in the speeds manufacturers say these routers can offer. In reality however, this often isn't the case, as all this extra band really does is allow for more devices to connect. You will most likely not see an increase in overall connection speed.
  • Patented or trademarked features - Almost every router these days will have individual features (also known as proprietary technology) that the manufacturer includes with the idea that it makes the router that much better, or at least uniquely different, than any other. While many of these features can be useful to some users, they should not be the main reason to select a router.

How do I pick the best router?

Go to any hardware retailer and you will quickly find that the sheer number of wireless routers out there is overwhelming. Sure, they all do the same thing, but some will be better than others. One thing to try is to look at the user submitted reviews of different routers online. While the manufacturers may claim one thing, it is the real-world users who can shed the best insight into products. Try to find more business-oriented reviews rather than views based on domestic use.

What we recommend is to contact us. We can work with you to help you find and set up the best router for your business. Get in touch today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
November 25th, 2014

BCP_Nov24_AAs a business owner you must be constantly aware of threats to your business. One of the best ways to mitigate many of these dangers is to develop and implement a Disaster Recovery Plan. In order to help ensure that your business is ready to recover from any disaster, here are five real-world tips that can help see you through.

1. Have a full copy of your data backed up outside of your operating region

Almost every company, regardless of size, has backup measures in place. These backups can be either physical or digital, and are supposed to be carried out on a regular basis. If a disaster strikes, having access to your data can help ensure that you can recover your systems and resume operations in the minimal amount of time.

While backups are great, if you keep your backups in the same area as your main systems, or even if your offsite backups are in the same region, there is a chance that a large disaster, like a flood, or power outage, could also affect these backups too. One of the best solutions is to keep a current backup offsite, and outside of your operating region, with most experts recommending at least 150 miles (250 km) away from your main business area.

How do you achieve this? The best option is to use cloud-backup. Many providers host their backup service at a number of different data centers in various locations, so that should a disaster strike both your business and a nearby data center, your data is still safe at other centers.

2. Realistically test your plan

It can be tempting to simply develop a plan and then test it in a closed environment once or twice a year, make some changes where necessary and then sit back and hope it works. In truth, for any plan to really be effective it needs to be tested in a realistic environment. If this is not carried out then there is a possibility that the plan could fail when activated.

Because disasters come in almost any form and size, you are going to want to first identify as many potential problems as possible. From here, test your recovery plans based on these scenarios and see how effective they are. Be sure to also involve your colleagues and employees, as they too will need to know what to do when disaster strikes and what their role in the recovery of data is.

A good way to look at these tests is to think of them more as practice runs. As with anything, the more your practice the easier and more effective it becomes. In this case, good practice could literally save your business.

3. Update your plan as you update your systems

When you develop a recovery plan, you need to base it on the systems and technology you currently have in your business. However, these systems and devices may not be in use six months, to a year from now, or you may introduce new systems and improvements.

As soon as you make any changes, your existing recovery plan could become obsolete. Therefore, you need to ensure that when you introduce new systems or technology you are also updating the recovery plan to cover and fit with these changes.

4. Create an accessible plan

Many experts agree that having a physical plan that employees can see and access during a disaster is one of the best ways of ensuring that it is actually implemented properly. Therefore, when you develop a Disaster Recovery Plan make sure that all of your employees can access it at any time. This includes during and immediately following a disaster.

Beyond this, you need to make sure that the plan is consistent. If you update the master plan, but fail to update the copies you store in say a public cloud, or at different worksites, this will lead to confusion and even an increased recovery time or complete recovery failure. When you do update your plan, let all parties involved know that it has been updated and remind them where they can find copies of the plan.

5. Don't be the only fully-trained disaster recovery expert in your company

As a business owner or manager it can be easy to try and run everything yourself. Afterall, it is your business and you know exactly how to look after everything, right?. The problem is that if you are the only fully-trained disaster recovery person you are making yourself the weakest link in the plan.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 21st, 2014

Security_Nov17_AIn many western countries we are blessed with a free and open Internet, but in the US there is a battle currently raging over the idea of Net Neutrality. Chances are high that you will have heard this term thrown around by various experts and media outlets. In November, President Obama took a stance on this issue. Here is an overview of Net Neutrality, the stance from The White House, and what this could mean for your company.

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_AOne of the biggest IT expenses for many small businesses is software. Some companies require thousands of dollars of software, which can quickly compound when you hire new employees. Businesses who have purchased Microsoft software may soon be receiving a letter from the tech giant asking for a systems audit. Here is a quick overview of this letter and what you should do if you 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.