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March 20th, 2014

Security_Mar17_ASecurity of a business's systems and networks should be important to many business owners and managers. In fact, an increasing number of companies are implementing security strategies. While these strategies do keep businesses secure, there is one critical element that could cause plans to fail, leading to an increased chance of a breach of security: The audit.

Auditing and the security security strategy

Auditing your company's security is important, the only problem business owners run across is where and what they should be auditing. The easiest way to do this is to first look at the common elements of developing security strategies.

These elements are: assess, assign, audit. When you develop a plan, or work with an IT partner to develop one, you follow the three steps above, and it may be obvious at the end. In truth however, you should be auditing at each stage of the plan. That means you first need to know what goes on in each stage.

During the assessment phase you or your IT partner will need to look at the existing security you have in place. This includes on every computer and server and also focuses on who has access to what, and what programs are being used. Doing an assessment should give you an overview of how secure your business currently is, along with any weak points that need to be improved.

The assignment phase looks at actually carrying out the changes you identified in the assessment phase. This could include adding improved security measures, deleting unused programs or even updating systems for improved security. The main goal in this phase is to ensure that your systems and networks are secure.

Auditing happens after the changes have been made and aims to ensure that your systems are actually secure and have been implemented properly. Throughout the process you will actually need to continually audit and adjust your strategy.

What exactly should be audited?

When conducting an audit, there are three factors you should focus on:
  1. The state of your security - Changing or introducing a security plan usually begins with an audit of sorts. In order to do this however, you need to know about how your security has changed in between audits. Tracking this state and how it changed in between audits allows you to more efficiently audit how your system is working now and to also implement changes easier. If you don't know how the state of your security has changed in between audits, you could risk implementing ineffective security measures or leaving older solutions open to risk.
  2. The changes made - Auditing the state of your security is important, but you should also be auditing the changes made to your systems. For example, if a new program is installed, or a new firewall is implemented, you will need to audit how well it is working before you can deem your security plan to be fully implemented. Basically, you are looking for any changes made to your system that could influence security while you are implementing a new system. If by auditing at this point, you find that security has been compromised, you will need to go back to the first step and assess why before moving forward.
  3. Who has access to what - There is a good chance that every system you have will not need to be accessed by every employee. It would be a good idea that once a security solution is in place, that you audit who has access to what systems and how often they use them. This stage of the process needs to be proactive and constantly carried out. if you find that access changes or system access needs change, it would be a good idea to adapt your the security strategy; starting with the first stage.
If you are looking for help developing a security strategy for your business, contact us today to see how our managed solutions can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 20th, 2014

Hardware_Mar17_AIt’s hard to imagine printers completely disappearing in offices. While no one can refute how most documents are now housed in the digital realm, there will always be a need to have these documents printed out for one reason or another. While offices do have printers, it may be confusing to pick a new printer when you need a new one.

These three printers below are the most common printers found in offices these days.

Multi Function Printers (MFP)

Multi Function Printers are also commonly known as all-in-one printers. With this type of device, your printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying needs are covered! These printers usually come in a variety of sizes with many being small enough to fit onto a small desk.

Aside from the multi function features that MFPs have, these are the common benefits that business owners can gain from this type of printer.

  • They take up less room.
  • They are usually lower in cost. Though it may seem expensive compared to the other types of printers, if you consider buying a fax machine, scanner, photocopier and a printer, you’ll find that buying an MFP is actually a lot more affordable.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjets print documents by spraying ink onto paper, and can usually produce prints with a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) with some actually able to print documents as high as 600dpi. This makes them ideal for printing saller images and reports.

What most business owners like about inkjet printers is the fact that they are usually affordable, making them an ideal device for businesses that just want printers. Since most offices (if not all) have computers, you’ll most likely see inkjet printers in the majority of offices. Here are some more benefits that people like about inkjet printers.

  • Fast printing speeds.
  • Can produce really high quality print.
  • Easy to use.
  • They can produce vivid colors.

Laser Printers

If there’s one very notable feature that you’ll love about laser printers, it would be the printer's capability of producing very high quality documents. In fact, laser printers can produce copies with a resolution of 600 dpi - 1200 dpi.

One of the main differences that laser printers have is the fact that they use toner (colored or black powder) instead of the inks that are used in most other printers.

Laser printers offer users many enticing benefits including:

  • Very high resolution.
  • Fast results.
  • High volume printing.
  • No smears at all.

What type of printer should my business get?

If you are looking for a new printer, it can be a little confusing as to which you should get. If you don't have a scanner or fax machine, it would be a good idea to look into a Multi Function Printer. Looking to print smaller or shorter documents or only occasionally? An Inkjet would probably be a better choice. If you need to print on a regular basis, or print in mass quantities a laser printer could be the best choice.

With all the types of printers available in the market, choosing a specific printer to use in your office can be quite confusing. If you need help in choosing which printer to go for, then give us a call and we’ll give you our expert advice on the matter.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_AA business without a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) is like a circus acrobat without a safety net. The question is, are you willing to take that kind of a risk with your business? Considering how attacks to your business can come in many forms be it cyber, natural disaster or man made (among many others), it makes perfect sense to have an effective DRP in place.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 12th, 2014

Facebook_Mar10_AAnyone who has used Facebook for any period of time is likely to know that the company is constantly making changes to the platform. One week they are introducing a new update to their mobile app, the next they are changing how we view posts and so on. Many of these changes are made to policies regarding use. Over the past few months Facebook has changed the Pages policy for businesses. These changes are something any business using Facebook for promotion needs to know about.

Background on Facebook Promotions

Business that have Facebook profiles orient the majority of their activity around their Page. Much like a user's profile this is where all the content and information about and from the business is posted. When business Pages were first launched many companies started to join and run promotions, often to the point of spamming or at least annoying users.

To curb this, Facebook implemented a series of regulations as to how companies can run promotions. Break these regulations and you could see your posts and content punished in the form of showing up lower on user's News Feeds, or not at all. This is obviously something many companies don't want, so it would be a good idea to keep up with the rules supporting how you can use the platform for promotions.

The problem with this is that it's easier said than done especially since Facebook is known to change regulations on a regular basis, often making it hard for businesses to know whether the promotion they are running meets regulations or not. In recent months, Facebook has actually changed their Page guidelines around promotions, actually eliminating some that you should be aware of. Below are four of the old guidelines along with the recent changes made.

Old guideline 1: Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App.

This guideline meant that if you wanted to run a promotion, you had to use an app from facebook.com, usually on your Page. Facebook dropped this rule in the summer of 2013, and now allows businesses to use third party apps (not developed by Facebook) to host a promotion on their Timeline.

Old guideline 2: You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.

This guideline stated that you could not have a promotion where people can enter by using Facebook features, for example liking a post or commenting on it. With the removal of this guideline, you can now encourage people to enter a promotion by liking a post or commenting on it.

You can't however ask your fans to enter a contest by sharing the promotion on their timeline.

Old guideline 3: You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

In conjunction with the change above, Facebook had to also allow users to vote using the established features. The most common example of this is a promotion that encourages users to comment which counts as an entry. Then others vote on the comment they like by pressing Like. The comment with the most likes at the end of the promotion wins.

Old guideline 4: You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.

This has been removed and Facebook is now allowing businesses to contact promotion winners through a status update or a direct message. You can also use other methods such as direct email, an update on a blog or even another social media service like Twitter.

While Facebook has removed some of the guidelines, they didn't get rid of all of them. It would be a good idea to read their guidelines for Facebook Pages which cover not only how to use promotions but your Page properly.

If you are looking to learn more about using Facebook as a part of your marketing strategy or to represent your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 12th, 2014

Windows_Mar10_AWindows is the most popular operating system in use today, with many businesses relying on it as their main system. Windows, along with the apps and programs used with it can sometimes be time consuming to navigate or even find, especially if you have a large number of icons on your desktop. In an effort to make things quicker, many programs use keyboard shortcuts but, did you know that you can use keyboard shortcuts to open programs on your desktop?

These steps will help you create keyboard shortcuts which allow you to open apps on your Windows 7 or 8 desktop.

Windows 7

  • Right click on the desktop shortcut of the application.
  • Click Properties and a popup will appear.
  • Click the Shortcut tab.
  • Scroll to the section where it says Shortcut key. Enter a Shortcut key followed by a combination. They key combination should either be ctrl + alt + a number or a letter OR ctrl + shift + a number or a letter.
  • Click the Apply button on the lower right part of the popup box.
Once you have established the shortcut, go to your desktop and give it a try. Be sure that when you establish the shortcut you take note of the key strokes in the section. If you want to use another key aside from Ctrl, press it instead. We recommend Shift or Alt.

Windows 8

  • Go to the start menu
  • Right click and a menu at the bottom will appear. Click the Start Apps button on the lower right part of the page.
  • Right click on the app that you want to assign a keyboard shortcut to and click Open File Location from the menu at the bottom.
  • Right click the shortcut and select Properties.
  • Enter a combo key in the Shortcut Key box. They key combination should either be ctrl + alt + a number or a letter OR ctrl + shift + a number or a letter.
  • Click the Ok button to assign the shortcut.
Keyboard shortcuts used to open programs may not seem to be a big deal to some, but for business owners, knowing these simple tricks can help us focus on the more important things like growing our business.

If you have keyboard shortcuts or tricks for Windows 7 and 8 that you find very useful, please share them in the comments section below.

You can also call or email us for any inquiries, we’d be more than happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 7th, 2014

Productivity_Mar03_AAre you looking for a tried and tested way of increasing your productivity? If so, then there are a number of solutions. One of the most effective is writing a to-do list to help you really get on top of your day-to-day tasks.This guide will help you craft an effective one so you can skyrocket your productivity each day.

Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:

Add a notes section

A notes section is a general area for all the tasks in your to-do list. Its main purpose is to provide you with space to add notes about your tasks. Or, instead you can use this area to type in challenges that you encountered when handling specific tasks.

On the flip side, it could also contain the best practices that you employed which enabled you to finish the task effectively and efficiently. These notes are important because by revisiting these jottings you can learn from them and be better able to optimize your way of doing things and your approach.

Prioritize

Ignoring client meetings because you're supposed to be fixing your cabinet, for example, based on what’s written in your to-do list, is a sure fire way of negatively impacting your business.

Your to-do list needs to be devised in such a way that there is a clear sense of priority. The most important tasks should be added to the top most part of your list just to make sure that you don’t miss these and they are tackled and completed first.

Break down your tasks to bite-size activities

Can you imagine writing down 'work' in your to-do list? Having a to-do list with broad topics like this won’t help you in the slightest bit.

You need to break down your lists into more specific tasks so that they provide the clarity that you need to achieve. Here’s a good example of a well-constructed list:

  1. Send 20 outreach emails to prospects.
  2. Discuss with the team the concept of having a systems' mindset.
  3. Review the offer of client X and decide whether to accept it or not.
Notice how the examples above are more tangible compared to simply writing down 'work'? With a list like the one above, you should be able to comfortably tick each task with a clear idea of when it has been completed.

Add a deadline whenever possible

Adding a deadline helps you gauge your output. By being able to see whether you’re lagging behind you can make any necessary changes.

A deadline also prevents you from procrastinating since you’ll be more conscious of time and a definitive end point.

Be realistic

Adding a week's worth of tasks to your daily to-do list will just discourage and frustrate you. Be as realistic as you can when writing up your list. If you honestly think that you can’t finish all of the tasks within one day, then add some of them to the next. That way you won’t be frustrated with a long list of tasks that you haven’t completed at the end of each day.

If you are faced with productivity issues and are struggling to get the kind of output you're hoping for in your business, then put giving us a call at the top of your to-do list.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 6th, 2014

Security_May03_AKeeping systems and computers secure can seem like a full time job, largely because there is a near constant stream of security issues being discovered. From malware to bugs in software, you can bet that you will eventually find a security breach in your systems. The other week news broke of a bug that posed a critical security flaw in Apple's operating systems.

About the bug

News broke on many security websites mid-February about a potentially critical security flaw in Apple's systems following the company releasing an update to their mobile operating system, iOS.

The update notes released by Apple noted that the patch "provides a fix for SSL connection verification." This is a fairly common update as it is aimed at improving the security of communications between websites and the device. However, security experts found out that without the update attackers who can connect to a network are able to capture sensitive information being sent in banking sessions, email messages, and even chat messages using what's called an SSL/TSL session.

What exactly is SSL/TSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TSL) are used in networks to essentially establish an encrypted link between a server and your computer. They are most commonly used to secure websites and the transmission of data. Take a look at some websites and you may see a padlock on the URL bar, or https:// in the URL. This indicates that the website is using SSL or TSL encryption to protect the data that is being transmitted e.g., your bank account information on a website.

In other words, SSL and TSL are used to ensure that information is exchanged securely over the Internet.

What was the problem and what software was affected?

It was found that there was a bug in the code Apple's software uses to establish a SSL connection which causes the whole SSL system to fail, potentially exposing data that should have been encrypted to anyone connected to the network with the right tools.

According to security experts, this bug has been found to affect devices running older versions of iOS 7, OS X 10.8 and newer, Apple TV, and possibly iOS 6. It is important to note that the bug is only found in Apple's SSL technology. Any app that uses Apple's version of SSL could be affected.

Has Apple solved this?

Luckily, Apple has released updates to all of their devices that should solve this security exploit. If you have not updated your device or computer since the middle of February you could be at risk.

How do I prevent my systems from being affected?

The first thing you should do is to update all Apple related apps and devices, including all mobile devices. If you are unsure about whether your apps are secure enough, try using another app, especially another browser. The reason for this is because browsers like Chrome and Firefox all use a different SSL technology and are unaffected by this bug.

You should also remain vigilant and not connect to any open or public Wi-Fi connections or even secured Internet connections that could be easy to break through. Basically, as long as you update you should be fine. However, it may be worthwhile using another browser if you are really worried about whether you have a secure connection.

If you are looking to learn more about this security flaw, or how you can secure your business from threats like this, contact us today. We can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_AThere are many ways businesses can improve not only their value but how they connect with their customers. Sure, having a website is a great step, as is having a social media presence, but you need to produce quality content to post on your site or profiles in order to get people to keep coming back. One of the best ways to do this is with blogging.

If you're looking to get people more involved and connected with your company, spread your brand image and message, and perhaps establish your company as an industry leader, then blogging might just be the answer.

There is little doubt that companies that blog effectively do see an increase in overall value. That being said, it can be a challenge to develop and maintain a successful blog.

Here are 7 tips for businesses looking to start a blog or develop an existing one into a more successful platform:

1. Define your topics and your audience

As with almost every business process, there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build your blog, such as the topics you write about and your audience.

Take a minute to establish who your target audience is, such as your average customer. Pick some basic characteristics that cover the majority of this group. Focusing on who you are writing articles for can make writing not only easier but more relevant and effective.

Many of the most successful business blogs choose blog topics based on their services or products and news. The key is to select topics based on what you think your audience will find useful or interesting. You might not want to spread your blogs over too many topic areas as these can be hard work to cover on a regular basis. About 4-8 is a good amount to aim for.

2. Be consistent

With defined topics and a target audience in mind, you are well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for your blog. The next element is to devise a calendar of how often you write blogs and cover certain topics. If, for example, you picked four topics this could equate to one article a month for each topic.

What you are striving for is consistency. You should be writing and posting a new article at least once a week, or more. If you establish a calendar based around your topics you will find it easier to write content on a regular basis and soon it will become a natural part of your weekly tasks.

3. Be relevant

Even with defined topics, it can be a struggle to come up with new ideas for blogs. It can be tempting to write about a new product or feature, but you have to be careful that it doesn't read too much like boring marketing material.

Instead, focus on what your audience would like to read. Often the most successful articles are those that answer common questions asked by clients, or talk about how a product or service can help a client. Other articles could be related to your products rather than directly about them. For example, if you own a coffee shop then writing about food that goes well with coffee might be an interesting blog idea.

Personal opinions can provide an interesting perspective and many readers find these types of business blogs refreshing. However, you do need to be careful of ostracizing those who might not agree with you or putting people off with negative blogs.

4. Don't forget the CTA

Remember, your business blog needs to have a purpose: You want to not only develop interest in the company, but to drive business. At the end of most if not all of your articles you can include a call to action (CTA) that suggests to the reader to contact you, come in for a visit or email.

5. Keep articles easy to read

It can be tempting to write a 4,000 word article with a ton of great information. Google and many search engines do look positively at long-form content and this might work well for your search rankings. The only problem is that when many of us read articles online we skim them, looking for salient points and skipping up to 90% of the article.

To that end, keep articles on the shorter side - around 500-1,000 words. Use shorter sentences and headings like H3 and bold to separate content and make it more scannable. Writing a longer article? Split it into two, three or even four parts. This helps drive interest to return to check out the new parts when they are posted.

6. Promote and share your content

Share your blog content on your social media profiles. This increases the reach of your blog, but also drives traffic to your website. You can put an easy to see link to your blog on your homepage and even in email headers.

Many writers also find success in contributing, or writing a blog for other websites. This helps not only spread your ideas, content, and company name, but can also help find content for your blog as other writers contribute to yours. Try contacting friends and colleagues to see if they would like you to write a post for their blog.

7. Remember you don't have to be the only contributor

Finally, you don't have to be the only person writing your blog. Ask your employees if they have any article ideas they would like to write about. The more writers contributing, the more content there is. This also takes the pressure off of you having to develop, write, and post everything, as well as offering a different voice for variety.

If you are looking to launch a blog, contact us to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 4th, 2014

Facebook_Mar03_AFacebook had a pretty big February this year. First, the company celebrated its 10 year anniversary by creating a video for every user that showcases the best from their profiles. Then, there was the news that the platform is reaching 1.25 billion active users. Finally came the news of a new mobile app - Paper - that has piqued the interest of many.

What is Facebook Paper?

The mobile device is quickly becoming the main way people access their Facebook profiles. While some open the browser on their device and navigate to the website from there, most use the Facebook app. This app is really a smaller version of Facebook that is formatted for mobile devices.

While the app is heavily used, many users are unimpressed with the layout and general functionality of the app as a whole. It's really Facebook minus some functionality and a slight bit clunkier to navigate.

To address this and other issues the company launched a new division called Creative Labs, where teams can develop new ideas and features that could one day be incorporated into Facebook. One of the first major developments to come out of this division is Paper.

Paper is a new app for the iPhone that combines your traditional Facebook News Feed with something like an online newspaper. The whole idea of Paper is essentially Facebook reimagined into something that not only looks better but is easier to use.

How Paper works

When you download and open Paper using your iPhone you see a brief tutorial video of how the app works. Essentially, your Facebook Feed has been broken down into about 20 different categories, including: Headlines, Tech, Cute, Score, About, Photos, etc. Each section contains relevant stories and posts from your News Feed and from popular posts and publicaly shared content on Facebook. The posts are displayed differently and look more visually appealing.

These sections are then individually displayed in a horizontal manner, often with pictures and text, much like a mini article. For example, when you start the app you may be looking at the Headlines section and all relevant content. If you swipe to the left or right a new section will be brought up allowing you to view the content related to that new section.

What's cool about this app is that you are in charge of what categories you see. If you want to see the Headlines section (news headlines from around 40 sites) first, you just have to rearrange the sections. This is interesting because the app allows you to customize how you view Facebook.

Is Paper good for business users?

This app could be great news for businesses, largely because it gives them yet another avenue to have their content seen by users. The creators of the app want it to be content forward. In other words, content displayed in a visually appealing way that draws the eye and potentially increases interest. Businesses creating visually appealing posts will really shine on Paper.

Can I get Paper?

For now, Paper is currently only available for Apple's mobile devices and can be found on the iTunes store for free. Unfortunately, the app is only available to users in the US for the time being.

We are unsure as to when this app will be made available to more countries and devices, largely because the team developing this is small. We will undoubtedly see it come out in more countries and on other platforms but we can't say when.

If you are looking to learn about Facebook and how your business can get more out of it, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 1st, 2014

HealthcareGeneral_Feb25_AThe Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has issued proposals for 2015 electronic health record (EHR) certification criteria.

Notably, implementation of the 2015 certification criteria is voluntary. Health-care providers that have EHRs certified to the 2014 criteria do not need to re-certify to 2015 criteria to participate in meaningful use. The idea, says the ONC, is that EHR developers and health-care providers can move to the 2015 criteria at their own pace.

This is the first time the ONC has proposed certification criteria separate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' meaningful-use regulations, and the change marks a new regulatory approach. The ONC will likely make more frequent changes to rules to improve standards. National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo says it reflects the “ONC's commitment to incrementally improving interoperability and efficiently responding to stakeholder feedback.”

Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule - published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2014 - through April 28. If you are looking to learn more about this change and how you can implement it in your practice, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.