Blog

July 30th, 2015

164_Prod_ BHave you heard of Managed Services, but are still unsure of how they can help your business? Do you often hear IT providers trying to sell them with words and phrases like “productivity” and “more profits”? If you’re looking for a clearer description of just how Managed Services can increase your productivity, today is your day. Here’s the truth about how this common IT service can take your productivity levels to heights you’ve never seen.

Managed Services essentially amounts to preventative IT maintenance. What this means for your business is that little IT problems are nipped in the bud as soon as they bubble up, and before they have a chance to compound into much bigger, more costly ones. But before we delve deeper into how this increases your business’s productivity levels, it makes sense to look at the history of this service and the role of “preventative maintenance” in our culture.

Why preventative maintenance matters

Managed Services have been around for decades. But despite this, many businesses have been slow to catch on. And really, is it all that surprising? Preventative maintenance is not exactly a priority in mass culture. Whether you hire a mechanic to replace a catalytic converter, a plumber to repair a leaky pipe or doctor to correct your coronary heart disease, many of these oftentimes preventable problems have been culturally accepted as commonplace. Yet people are so used to the mindset of thinking “everything is okay until it’s not”, which is really where the true problem lies.

Additionally, when preventable problems are ignored long enough to the point they explode into emergency repairs, your wallet almost always suffers. This is just as true for a network crash to your business’s IT infrastructure as it is for a trip to the emergency room for a neglected health problem.

Because Managed Services prevent catastrophic IT repairs that surprise you out of nowhere, your bottom line will enjoy long-term savings. Along with this, you’ll also get a significant bump in your productivity levels.

How does Managed Services boost productivity?

To answer this question, it makes sense to look at a fundamental principle of productivity - focus. Imagine if you’re trying to complete a new marketing strategy for the next quarter. You’re doing some research, compiling a list upcoming networking events and trade shows to attend, when suddenly you’re disrupted by an urgent phone call. After you’re off the phone, you return to your research, and then your secretary bursts in with an handful of vendor invoices you need to sign off on. As these disruptions continue to pile up, what happens if your IT breaks down and you’re unable to use your computer? Basically, you don’t get anything done during the day. You become stuck.

When it comes to IT, Managed Services take preventative measures to ensure your IT is always running at its optimal level, so that you don’t suffer technology breakdowns or distractions that blow your focus - preventing you and your staff from getting any work done. Smooth running IT won’t resolve all your productivity problems, such as your staff focusing more on Facebook or their phone rather than their work, but it will resolve all of those that relate directly to technology. No longer will your business be held down by daily computer disruptions and associated repairs, and instead you and your staff can move forward and focus on growing your business. That is the beauty of Managed Services. More productivity, focus and growth for your entire organization.

Have more questions about Managed Services? Give us a call today. We’re happy to provide you the information you need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_BWhen it comes to increasing your employees’ efficiency and productivity, technology can provide countless opportunities to streamline workflows, eliminate redundant processes and reduce costs within your organization. If you’re looking to stay ahead of the competition, you need to ditch the traditional ways of working and implement technology to your practices to encourage more employee productivity – here’s how.

Change office communication

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 27th, 2015

AndroidPhone_Jul27_BAndroid phone users can expect a new OS coming soon with Google’s announcement at this year’s Google I/O, its annual software developer conference. While they did not announce which dessert it will be named after yet, the Android M as they are calling it at the moment comes with many improvements worth mentioning. To that end, let’s take a look at the new features you can expect to see in the next Android OS.

Custom Chrome Tabs

If you’re annoyed by having to switch to the Chrome browser while you’re in a particular app, you’ll be glad that those days are over. Android M delivers a better web experience with Chrome Custom Tabs that allow you to include Chrome web view within an app making it easy to multitask. The Chrome browser will run atop your app in case you click on any link within the app, and features automatic sign-in, saved passwords and autofill.

Android Pay

Android Pay is Google’s new mobile payments system designed to make the checkout process easier and faster. Set to be available at 700,000 stores across the United States, Android Pay will work at any payment terminal equipped with NFC. Using it is simple; just unlock your phone and place it in front of an NFC-compatible POS terminal.

Fingerprint Support

Google aims to standardize support for fingerprint scanners on all phones running on Android M. This new function will allow fingerprint scanners to be used to unlock phones as well as for making purchases using Android Pay.

Google Now on Tap

With Android M, Google Now will become smarter than ever before. You’ll be able to get contextual information on anything you have running on your phone’s screen. For instance, if you’re watching a video on YouTube, holding down the home button will provide you with more information about someone in that video.

Doze Mode

This feature uses your device’s motion sensors, be it your phone or tablet, to detect when a device has no activity for a period of time, and to then automatically shut down certain processes in order to help save battery life. While in the Doze state, the system can still be activated by alarms and high-priority notifications. According to Google, Doze helped increase the standby time on the Nexus 9 by almost double when compared to the Android 5.0 Lollipop.

App Permissions

Currently, you have to accept all permissions when you install an app, which could lead to a security breach. With Android M, you can decide which permissions you want to allow or revoke, based on when those particular functions are used. For example, you can give WhatsApp access to your camera but not your microphone.

App Links

With Android M, it will be easier than ever to link from one app to another without having to land on a web page in-between. How? A special verification method ensures that app-specific links go to the right place; for instance, clicking a Facebook link in an email will take you directly to the Facebook app instead of a redirected Facebook web page that you’ll likely have to sign in to.

Direct Share

This new feature lets you share content with your most frequent contacts or apps with a single click. Android M will learn which app you share content with the most and place it at the top of a list, as well as letting you also share content with the people you contact more often. Everything will be placed directly in the share sheet for your convenience.

Simplified Volume Control

This new simplified volume control will let you independently change ringtones, media or alarm volume directly from the volume rocker instead of having to go into different settings.

Auto App Backups

Accidentally deleted an app? Not to worry; auto app backups allow you to download it again and set it up like it was before. For now, Google is limiting the backup size to 25MB per app, though this space is not counted towards the free 15GB storage space offered in Google Drive.

Android M is expected to be released later this year but you can download the Developer Preview here now if you have a Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9 or Nexus Player. Interested in learning more about how an Android Phone could benefit you? Just give us a call; we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 24th, 2015

164_iPhone_BIt’s Friday night, and you’re getting ready to go out for the evening. You’ve got your wallet, keys, and extra cash - you’re good to go. You quickly glance at your iPhone to check the time, and that’s when you notice the problem all iOS users dread. You have 20% battery! While you do have access to the power supply in your car for the next 15 minutes or so, after that you’re on your own. So what can you do to get the most out of your charge in a limited amount of time? Here are four steps below that can help.

Put your iPhone in Airplane mode

The key ingredient to supercharging your iPhone in the shortest amount of time is to switch it to Airplane mode. By doing this, you essentially shut your phone off from the outside world so it’s unable to receive calls, texts, push notifications or other information. Additionally, your iPhone will be unable to search for a wireless network or better signal while in this mode. And because it’s not wasting power with any of these processes, that electricity is instead directed to your iPhone’s battery which in turn allows it to charge faster.

Take off your iPhone case

Funny as it may sound, your iPhone case may actually be slowing down the speed of your battery charge. Apple’s consumer website notes that their products don’t do well in the heat. And when it comes to iPhone, certain cases can create excess heat - which can have an effect on your battery capacity. What does this mean for you? If you have a case on your iPhone, take it off when you’re charging it.

Use an iPad adaptor

An iPad adaptor, which is about twice the size of the small adaptor that’s included with your iPhone, reportedly charges an iPhone 40% faster than its native counterpart. Therefore, if you have an iPad charger, use it.

Turn off your display, and don’t use your iPhone

As already mentioned with Airplane mode, the more your iPhone is in use the less power it will have leftover to store in your battery. While Airplane mode prevents outside forces from sucking up power, you too can also not use your phone during this time to maximize the rate at which the battery charges. To do this, make sure you turn off your display, and then simply set your iPhone aside and leave it alone.

Want more tips to get the most out of your iPhone? Curious to learn about the latest iPhone news and updates? Get in touch now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
July 22nd, 2015

164_Sec_BSince many of us out there have been using the internet for decades, it’s likely that most of us have had our systems infected by malware at one point or another. But how many of us actually know what the differences are between malware, viruses, trojans, and other online threats? For those without a clue, here’s a description of four of the most common ones and the security measures you can take to keep your business protected.

Malware

Malware is the short version of the word malicious software. And this is a general term that encompasses many types of online threats including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware and more. Though you likely already know this, the purpose of malware is to specifically infect and harm your computer and potentially steal your information.

But how do the different types of malware differ from one another? How can you protect your business from them? Let’s take a look at four of the most common forms of malware below.

Virus - like a virus that can infect a person, a computer virus is a contagious piece of code that infects software and then spreads from file to file on a system. When infected software or files are shared between computers, the virus then spreads to the new host.

The best way to protect yourself from viruses is with a reliable antivirus program that is kept updated. Additionally, you should be wary of any executable files you receive because viruses often come packaged in this form. For example, if you’re sent a video file, be aware that if the name includes an “exe” extension like .mov.exe, you’re almost certainly dealing with a virus.

Spyware - just like a spy, a hacker uses spyware to track your internet activities and steal your information without you being aware of it. What kind of information is likely to be stolen by Spyware? Credit card numbers and passwords are two common targets.

And if stealing your information isn’t bad enough, Spyware is also known to cause PC slowdown, especially when there is more than one program running on your system - which is usually the case with a system that’s infected.

A common mistake many people make is they assume their antivirus software automatically protects them from Spyware. This is not always true as some antivirus isn’t designed to catch spyware. If you’re unsure if your antivirus prevents Spyware, get verification from your vendor. And for those that are already suffering from Spyware infestation, two programs that work wonders to clean it out are Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware.

Worms - similar to viruses, worms also replicate themselves and spread when they infect a computer. The difference, however, between a worm and a virus is that a worm doesn’t require the help of a human or host program to spread. Instead, they self-replicate and spread across networks without the guidance of a hacker or a file/program to latch onto.

In addition to a reliable antivirus software, to prevent worms from infecting your system you should ensure your firewall is activated and working properly.

Trojan - like the trojan horse from ancient greek mythology, this type of malware is disguised as a safe program designed to fool users, so that they unwittingly install it on their own system, and later are sabotaged by it. Generally, the hacker uses a trojan to steal both financial and personal information. It can do this by creating a “backdoor” to your computer that allows the hacker to remotely control it.

Similar to the other malware mentioned above, antivirus software is a dependable way to protect yourself against trojans. For further safety, it’s wise to not open up suspicious attachments, and also ensure that your staff members aren't downloading any programs or applications illegally at the office - as this is a favorite place hackers like to hide trojans.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 17th, 2015

iPad_Jul17_BApple holds their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) each year to introduce their new products and platforms. This year, the tech giant has announced the arrival of the latest iOS version, which contains several application additions and revamps, as well as changes to design and interface. The new iOS 9 is coming soon to all Apple mobile devices, and iPad users seem to benefit most from this release - here’s what you need to know.

Design changes

There’s a minor change in the typography, where Apple has replaced the ‘Helvetica Neue’ system font with a font called ‘San Francisco’. Apple also deploys its typography in a clearer way, with more space around the lettering. Although these are subtle changes, the new font should be easier to read as well as remaining easy on the eye.

Interface changes

Following complaints from users, Apple has made a small modification to its ambiguous Shift key system. The former version is hard to use, since only a change in the Shift key’s color indicated the letter’s case change - when it’s on, it looks off and when it’s off, it looks on. When you press the new Shift key, however, all the letters on the screen will change to uppercase. This will put an end to the frustration at having to delete letters because you mistakenly type an uppercase letter instead of a lowercase one, and vice versa.

The new features

Apple has revealed a number of new features in the WWDC, and has released a public beta of iOS 9 for developers to test drive its capabilities. Here are some of the new features that Apple users can benefit from.
  • Split View - This long-awaited feature is exclusively available on iPads. iOS 9 finally allows two applications to coexist on one display, making multitasking possible. You can activate Split View simply by swiping inwards from the right hand side, and you’ll be offered a range of apps that can run in the activated sidebar. You can have your email stay on the side while you browse for information in Safari, or catch up on the latest news. The possibilities are endless!
  • Picture in Picture - While using a live video chat or watching a video, you can press the Home button to activate this feature and scale down your video screen to a corner of your display. You can now chat with your friends or watch your favorite shows while you reply to emails. What’s more, you can move the video screen to wherever you prefer with a swipe, adjust the size by pinching, and close the screen by tapping the close button.
  • On-screen Trackpad - The default keyboard that pops up when you type on-screen is now equipped with an extra function. Now you can hold two fingers down on the keyboard to turn it into a trackpad, which allows you to easily navigate through the text without having to tap the exact spot on the screen. This makes document navigation much faster, especially when writing or replying to emails.
  • News app - This fresh addition will draw news stories from various sources that you can choose, from Daily Mail to Bloomberg Business, CNN, The New York Times, and more. The News app is intelligent; it is able to learn about your interests based on what you are reading, and will show you articles from sources you didn’t select if they match your interests. So basically, the more you read, the more personalized your news becomes.

When will it be available?

For Apple fans, and especially iPad users, the new features alone in iOS 9 are worth waiting for. The first public beta testing version of iOS 9 is available now, and Apple will most likely release the final version of the software in September 2015.

With the new iOS 9 release, iPad business users can be more productive than ever. Want to learn how to best implement the iPad in your business? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
July 16th, 2015

164_B_O365Microsoft recently announced its plans to phase out their current Office 365 E4 suite and replace it with a new, premium package known as E5. While a release date has yet to be specified, Microsoft has stated that they intend to make the product available by the end of this year. What does this mean for current E4 users and those thinking about signing up for an Office 365 package? Well, get the full scoop below.

What’s included in E5?

According to Microsoft’s Office Blogs July 13th post, the tech giant announced that the E5 plan will include the following new capabilities:
  • Skype for Business services with support for features including Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing
  • Analytic features such as Delve Organizational Analytics and Power BI Pro
  • Advanced security features like Customer Lockbox, eDiscovery, Advanced Threat Protection and Data Loss Protection
With these new service offerings, Microsoft believes that business owners will be able to reach new customers and increase value for their existing ones.

The cost?

While Microsoft’s Office 365 current E4 package costs $22 a month in the US, there was no official announcement of the price for the E5 version.

However, since E5 will include services such as Advanced Threat Protection, which currently costs an additional $2 per user/month, as well as Power BI Pro, which is priced at $9.99 per user/month, a price increase seems inevitable - and very well could be significant.

Your options

Because E4 will be retired when E5 is released, that means that current E4 users will have to either upgrade to E5, or change to E3 plus Cloud PBX.

For those who have yet to sign up for Office 365, however, you’ll also have the additional options to choose an E1 or E3 package with available upgrades.

Is it worth it to upgrade to E5?

That all depends on your business, and likely the price of the upgrade. However, the question you need to ask is, “will the new capabilities enhance your organization enough to justify the higher cost? If you need additional help understanding how E5’s new features and capabilities can create value in your business, we’re happy to assist you.

Curious to learn more about the Office 365 E5 package? Get your questions answered, and give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 15th, 2015

164_Prod_BPeople like to speculate about what the most disruptive productivity killers are in offices around the country, but do they really have a clue? It’s easy to point fingers at email, social media, or lack of discipline as sources of common distractions, but what are the real issues? In a survey of 2,175 hiring and human resource managers released by CareerBuilder last month, the true sources of lost productivity on the job are revealed.

Here are the top 10 productivity busters according to CareerBuilder’s June 2015 survey.

  1. 52% - Cellphones & texting
  2. 44% - Internet
  3. 37% - Gossip
  4. 36% - Social media
  5. 31% - Email
  6. 27% - Coworkers chatting
  7. 26% - Meetings
  8. 27% - Snack and/or smoke breaks
  9. 17% - Loud coworkers
  10. 10% - Sitting in a cubicle

Why are these findings a big deal?

According to the managers who took the survey, the consequences of these distractions can be pretty severe. A few examples they gave were lower quality of work, dissatisfied employees who have to pick up the slack of lower performers, missed deadlines, and even loss of revenue.

So how do you prevent these productivity killers from disrupting your business?

The chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder mentioned that one of the most effective ways to increase productivity is to simply take a break, which may come as quite a surprise since “Snack and/or smoke breaks” is listed as number 8 for productivity killers.

However, it should be noted that not all breaks are created equal. Listening to loud music or getting caught up in gossip on social media may not actually give employees the sense of rejuvenation they need when they return to work. They key is for staff members to take a break that will re-energize and give them a fresh focus. Some suggestions are to simply take a walk or perform some form of light exercise or stretching.

On a more humorous note, the survey also revealed some of the more unusual non-work activities employees partook in while on the clock. Employers reportedly found their staff doing everything from taking a nap on the CEO’s couch, searching for a mail order bride, and even taking a sponge bath in the restroom sink.

Want more tips on how to boost employee productivity. Curious to see how technology can help? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_BA picture is worth a thousand words - and now a selfie may even be worth more. Later this year, MasterCard plans to jump into the facial recognition-based trend of online security with an app that allows users to verify online purchases with a selfie. But is this technology secure? Will it replace traditional passwords for good? Here’s what you need to know.

At the beginning of this autumn, MasterCard will acquire the help of 500 customers to test out a new application that enables people to verify their identity and authenticate online transactions with a facial scan. What does this mean? Instead of using a traditional password at the online checkout, MasterCard wants to give you the option to snap a selfie instead. According to the credit card giant, they’ve partnered with every smartphone company in the business to make this mode of identity verification possible.

Why is this happening?

A quote from Ajay Bhalla, security expert at MasterCard, suggests this is an attempt by the credit card giant to appeal to a younger crowd of digital natives. "The new generation, which is into selfies...I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Bhalla recently said.

That said, the “cool” appeal to youth is likely not the only reason for this change. The firm is likely attempting to make online purchases both more secure and more convenient.

How it works

To use this technology, users will have to download a dedicated app, which they can then use to take a photo of themselves at checkout. But how does MasterCard prevent a thief from using a photo of you to fake your verification? Simple - the app requires you to blink to prove that you’re a living, breathing human being.

However, it’s been noted by critics that, in today’s technological world, even a blink can be animated on a static photo. This leaves those of us with security concerns wondering whether MasterCard will make this app more secure before it’s released.

Note as well, though, that MasterCard is not getting rid of traditional passwords completely. Users will still have the option of the more conventional method of verification, as well as the choice of fingerprint scanning to check your identity.

Is this where the future of online security is headed?

With the release due later this year of a similar Windows 10 security application to identify users using biometrics, it appears that this is where the future of online security is headed. And with ever more applications and online services requiring a password, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average web user to create one that is both unique and secure for each individual service. So whether it’s facial recognition, a fingerprint scan or some other technology that’s yet to be perfected, it seems as though some sort of more advanced security solution is inevitable.

Want more of the latest security news? Looking to implement new security to protect your IT infrastructure from cyber threats? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 6th, 2015

HealthcareIT_Jun22_AWe’ve been hearing about nanotechnology for a while now, but it still seems a long way off. However, recent advancements in nanotechnology could revolutionize the healthcare and medical device industry, and change the landscape of healthcare delivery forever. Nanotechnology, the science of extremely small materials, holds the key to improving healthcare, from delivering drugs more effectively to providing better patient care and much more. You’re truly missing out if you’re not taking advantage of this groundbreaking innovation. Here’s how nanotechnology could change healthcare for the better.

Nanotechnology and cancer

The traditional method for curing cancer is chemotherapy, whereby patients take certain drugs to kill cancer cells before they spread. The powerful medication circulates in the bloodstream and directly damages the cancer cells that are growing and multiplying. But chemotherapy has the unfortunate side effect of also killing regular cells, which makes patients extremely sick and susceptible to other ailments.

Through the use of magnetic nanoparticles in a miniature resonance sensor, doctors are able to detect cancer early, increasing the patient’s chance of survival. Scientists have started using nanotechnology to devise a highly specific method of killing cancer cells. The process involves inserting nanotubes into cancer cells and exposing the tissue to laser light, heating up the nanotubes and killing the cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells unharmed.

Nanotechnology and brain disorders

Nanotechnology has made it possible for researchers to collect in-depth data on the human brain. By using nano-scale diamond particles, the brain’s activities are converted into frequencies of light that can be registered by external sensors, allowing researchers to study the brain in much greater detail.

With a microscopic size of just a billionth of a millimeter, nanoparticles are able to cross the blood brain barrier and access the brain’s remote areas. They have also shown tremendous potential in being a useful alternative to diagnosing and treating neurodegenerative diseases.

Nanotechnology and diagnostics

Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the way we collect medical data. Doctors are able to distribute nano-scale diagnostic devices throughout the body in order to detect chemical changes on the spot. This allows for real-time tracking of a patient’s health status.

Diagnosis techniques based on nanotechnology also provide several advantages, including complete diagnosis and treatment with just one visit to the doctor, rather than needing multiple follow-up visits. Another benefit is the accurate and early detection of diseases, which allows doctors to potentially stop diseases before they can cause more damage to the patient.

Want to learn how you can implement nanotechnology into your medical practices? Drop us a line today and get advice from our experts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.