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November 6th, 2014

BusinessValue_Nov03_AIT is in a near constant state of evolution, largely because of the sheer number of technology-based systems and products released on a weekly basis. This fast-paced development has led to the creation of three major IT areas. It is essential that companies invest in these three areas if they want their business to succeed.

1. Commodity-oriented IT

IT is made up of systems that support day-to-day operations, so it is essential that you invest in this area because it is what supports your core business practices. Without proper investment, your employees may not be able to carry out their tasks adequately. Commodity IT is essential but it does not bring increased value to your company. Sure, implementing a new email system could save money but it does not directly lead to increased profits.

One of the best ways businesses can get the most out of commodity IT is to first identify which systems the business relies on. From here, you can look to see if improvements can be made that will reduce overall expenses and increase productivity. Regardless of what you do with commodity IT, all changes and improvements should be operations-oriented; making jobs easier.

2. Business value focused IT

Business value IT involves any system that supports key operations and processes that drive overall business value. Essentially, these systems are not only essential, but they allow businesses and customers to do what they need to do. A good example of business value IT for companies with online stores is the technology that supports the store. Without it, customers would not be able to make purchases from the company.

With this form of IT you want to invest in systems that increase the value you offer customers and employees, while increasing your bottom line.

3. New opportunity IT

New technology and systems can help give your business a competitive advantage when properly integrated, while increasing overall business value. A good example of this is leveraging a new social media platform to help gain customer insights, or implementing technology that allows your business to capture and analyze data quickly and easily.

Companies able to incorporate new technology will often find that they have somewhat of a first mover advantage, and if leveraged correctly you could see increased profits and customer retention.

Get a good IT strategy

The vast majority of companies choose to focus a large percentage of their IT budgets on commodity IT. What this results in is a focus on simply maintaining existing IT systems, without actually investing in new systems. Ideally, you want to minimize your technology upkeep expenses, and invest more in discovering new technology and systems.

How do you do this? That's where a company like us comes in. As your IT partner, we can help ensure that your systems are managed effectively, costs are minimized, and we can even go so far as to help you find and implement new systems. Contact us today to see how our solutions can help maximize your IT investments.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 5th, 2014

iPad_Nov03_AWhen it comes to releasing new products, Apple usually holds a massive press event where developers talk about the device and then unveil it to a generally enthusiastic crowd. This happened with the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but in mid-October the company quietly introduced two new versions of the iPad. If you, like many others, missed this release, here is an overview of the latest two versions of the iPad.

The iPad mini 3

First up is the third version of Apple's smaller iPad - the iPad mini 3. The immediately noticeable changes with this year's device is the home button. It now has the metal ring right around it which enables the Touch ID feature so that you can unlock your device using your fingerprint.

Touch ID also enables users to pay for items using the Apple Pay feature that has just been released. Sadly, for the iPad mini 3, this is limited only to in-app and iTunes purchases as there is no NFC chip in the device to enable it to work with in-store terminals.

Aside from a slightly changed exterior and the extra Apple Pay related features, the device is more or less exactly the same as the iPad mini 2. It still boasts a 7.9 inch retina display and the same A7 processor found in the mini 2.

The major difference is that you can purchase the mini 3 with 64 GB or 128 GB of storage, which is not available for the mini 2. Unfortunately, the price of the device starts at USD 100 more (USD 399 for the 16 GB version) than the mini 2, which costs USD 299 for the 16 GB version. In other words you are paying USD 100 for the fingerprint unlock and semi-functional Apple Pay.

At this time, Apple has noted they will continue to sell the mini 2, which for many businesses will remain the better deal largely because it is less expensive yet offers exactly the same hardware and size.

The iPad Air 2

As the name implies, the iPad Air 2 is the second version of the popular iPad Air which was introduced last year. As with the mini 3, the Air 2 has seen a slight change to the home button with the introduction of the Touch ID feature that allows users to unlock their devices using their fingerprint.

The new version also enables the Apple Pay feature so users can use their fingerprint to approve purchases. Sadly, there is no NFC chip in the device, so you won't be able to use the device to make purchases at stores.

Beyond this, there are a number of interesting changes that many business users will find useful including:

  • A faster processor - With what Apple calls the A8X processor, the iPad Air 2 is one of the fastest and most powerful tablets on the market. Users have already noted faster website loading times and better overall responsiveness, especially when running graphics intensive apps.
  • A thinner, more mobile body - Apple reduced thickness with the iPad Air 2, making it thinner than any other iPad. At 6.1 mm, you will be able to use the device all day without it feeling awkward in your hand.
  • A less reflective display - While the displays on the iPad have always been top of the line, there have been complaints in the past about how the glass on the device is a bit too reflective. With the Air 2, a less reflective display is being used which supposedly cuts glare down by as much as 56%. This means you will be able to see what is on the screen more easily in more locations and situations.
  • The Apple Sim - For users in certain countries like the US and UK, the cellular version of the iPad comes with what is called the Apple Sim. This sim card is universal in that it allows you to connect to the mobile network of your choice without having to switch cards. This also makes switching networks and plans much easier.
If you are considering picking up the iPad Air 2, the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version starts at USD 499. If you would like to learn more about how these devices can be used in your office, contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
November 4th, 2014

GoogleApps_Nov03_AWhen it comes to the security of online systems, every security expert is quick to agree that two-step verification is a much stronger way to secure your accounts, especially when compared to using just a password. In fact, many suggest that if it is offered by an online platform, you should enable it. Google does indeed offer two-step verification and has even introduced a new way to secure your accounts using a USB key.

Google and two-step verification

In order to further secure your Google account, beyond a difficult-to-guess password, your main option is two-step verification. The way this works for Google accounts is you need to provide a cellphone number for your account. When you try to log in you are either called or sent an SMS with a code to enter. Alternatively, you can download the Google Code generator which generates a code which you then need to enter when logging into your accounts.

While this works well when you have your mobile device with you, or when you are near the phone number linked to your account, it doesn't work so well when you aren't. In order to make things a little easier, Google has introduced a new two-step verification method that utilizes a special kind of USB key.

Two-step verification via USB key

Take a look around your desk, chances are high that you probably have a USB key or USB storage device within easy reach. While it would be cool to be able to use one of these to log into your account, you can't use just any USB key. Instead, you need to use one that is FIDO Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) compliant.

If you have one of these keys, once configured, you can stick it into one of your computer's USB ports and press a button. The coding on the stick will then talk to Google servers, sending cryptographic code back and forth, thereby unlocking your account.

This guarantees two things: Firstly, that you are logging in using two-factor verification and are therefore you; and secondly, that the Google site you are logging into is actually Google and not a malicious or fake site. Essentially, this further increases your overall account security.

A few caveats

While these security measures are a good idea in practice, there are a few caveats regarding this authentication method:
  1. You have to buy your own key, which costs anywhere from USD 15 and up.
  2. It will only work with Google Chrome and Chrome OS. This means that if you are trying to log into your account on another browser, or a mobile device, it won't work.
If you are worried about account security, then using a USB key like this could be a good idea, and if you are looking to learn more about implementing this method and ensuring all of your accounts are secure, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Nov03_AMedical Group Management Association (MGMA) 2014 annual conference attendees were fortunate to get some tips for improving patient satisfaction from Joan Hablutzel, senior industry analyst with the MGMA—because doing so is essential to the success of a medical practice in an increasingly competitive health-care marketplace. Here are 10 of them.

  1. Say hello and smile when patients arrive to acknowledge their presence.
  2. Answer the phone in three rings with a consistent greeting to show the practice views the patent as an individual.
  3. Show empathy in your communication with the patent by observing his or her mannerism sand responding in kind.
  4. Explain what is going to happen, whether it’s a process or a procedure.
  5. Don’t interrupt when a patient is talking.
  6. Look for signs that a patient is dissatisfied or concerned—and when you hear concerns, don’t ever leave it at “I don’t know.” Find someone who does.
  7. Always respect patient confidentiality.
  8. Live up to your promises. Set time estimates and update patients if they change, apologizing when necessary.
  9. Say goodbye and wish the patient well upon departure to affirm respect.
These steps may be simple, says Hablutzel, but implementing them can truly transform the way staff members interact with patients, boosting their perception of your practice and driving growth. Contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 31st, 2014

Security_Oct27_AOne of the biggest business technology trends of the past half decade or more is the increasing amount of business that is conducted online. These days, many businesses have integrated online solutions into daily operations and have reaped the benefits. The downside to this is the on-going threat to online security. With an ever-increasing number of online attacks, it is important that you take steps to ensure that you remain secure. Here are five tips on how to maintain security while working on, or browsing, the net.

1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

Two-factor authentication, or two-step authentication as it is also known, is the idea of using two pieces of information to log into accounts: Your usual password and a code that is usually sent to a mobile device or generated by a code generator.

By utilizing this safety feature, you can further increase the security of your accounts, largely because the chances of someone getting their hands on both the generated code and your password are slim.

Some sites don't use a code and instead ask a question that needs to be answered every time you log in. If this is the case, make the question something that is difficult for a hacker to guess. For example, use your address from 10 years ago instead of your current address.

2. Audit who has access to what data

Between all of your online accounts and social media profiles you will likely be surprised at just how much information about you can be found online. There are a multitude of scare stories online, where someone has had their accounts hacked and identity stolen, largely because they had left pertinent information online without even thinking about it.

It is a good idea to audit what information you have online. This includes looking at the contact and personal information you have on social media profiles, account information, etc. Ideally, if it is not necessary information, then it shouldn't be shared. As for social media profiles, make sure only the absolute basic personal information is online and limit who can see this information.

3. Watch what is posted on social media

Because of the nature of social media, we often feel the need to share our whole lives online. This can often lead to oversharing, and even sometimes oversharing of personal information. There are stories online of thieves monitoring social media for businesses posting about how they are going to be closed for a holiday, with all staff gone. Once a thief finds this information, they then break into the business without worrying about people being there.

If you are going to share information online, be sure to limit the potentially sensitive information that you post, especially if the content is shared with the public.

4. Change your passwords regularly

It seems like almost every week news breaks of a password or account information breach. What this translates to is the fact that your accounts are always facing a potential risk. Therefore, you should make it a habit to change your passwords on a regular basis.

Most experts recommend at least once every three months, but if there is a breach where your account information may have been leaked then naturally change your passwords straightaway.

To ensure maximum security, you should use a different password for each account, and keep these as separate as possible.

5. Work with an IT partner who can offer enhanced Internet security

Ensuring that your business is secure online can be an on-going battle that you will likely not win easily. One of the best steps to take is to work with an IT partner like us. We offer a variety of Internet security solutions that can help stop malware intrusions before they infect your systems, block access to potentially harmful sites, and even scan Internet-based email solutions. In other words, we can help improve your overall online security.

If you are looking to learn more about how we can help your business be secure online, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 30th, 2014

Hardware_Oct27_AFollow any tech blog for a couple of months and it quickly becomes apparent that there are new devices, systems, and hardware introduced on a near daily basis. Because of this, it can be tempting to feel pressure to rush out and upgrade your hardware on a regular basis. As a small business this can be prohibitively expensive. The problem is, how do you really know when it's time to upgrade your systems? Here are five tips that could help.

1. Replacement parts are difficult to find

Computers, servers, and even mobile devices are made up of a number of different parts of hardware that rely on other parts in order to operate properly. If one breaks down, there is a good chance that the whole system will stop working.

Luckily, for many newer pieces of hardware and systems, replacements are easy to come by. But, if something breaks and you are having trouble finding replacement parts then it might be a good idea to consider upgrading. The reason for this is because parts that are more difficult to find are usually going to cost more when you can actually find them. While this may be ok for one system, if you have more than one system using the same components there is a good chance that these will also need to be replaced, leading to increased costs.

2. Repair costs outweigh replacement costs

Some hardware components can only be repaired by experts with highly specialized skills. What this means is that should this hardware break, you will likely be facing a fairly high repair bill. What we recommend is to always get a quote on how much it will cost to repair your broken hardware first.

When you have this quote, look at the price of replacement components. If it's more affordable to replace, then this is usually a better option. Of course, you are going to want to ensure that any replacement parts are actually compatible with your system, so before you go purchasing be sure to ask check with your IT partner.

3. You are running 'legacy' systems

Legacy systems are computers and technology deemed to be old by experts. For example, computers running Windows XP, or computers purchased before the release of Windows 7 would be considered legacy systems.

While these may be working like a charm now, they will eventually break. When this happens, you will see higher repair costs when compared with new technology. Beyond replacement costs is the fact that many manufacturers and software developers have stopped supporting older systems. This means that should an error occur, you will not necessarily be able to get support from the company who made the hardware. This can lead to repair delays and lost productivity.

Now, not every "old" system will need to be replaced right away. What we recommend is talking to an IT partner like us. We can help you determine if your older systems do actually need to be replaced, and suggest affordable alternatives.

4. Hardware is impeding productivity

If you or your employees are struggling to complete work because of constant computer crashes, or slow systems, productivity will be lower than it could be. Should you notice this in your office, it is a good idea to look into upgrading your systems in order to enable employees to do their jobs properly.

5. Your systems don't meet minimum requirements

If you are going to install new software or systems that require other hardware components, be sure to look at the minimum requirements. Almost every piece of software indicates which requirements must be met in order for the software to work.

If your systems don't meet these minimum requirements, then the software won't work. Should they meet them, but just barely, the software will work but there is a good chance that it won't work as well as it could do. Should you not meet the requirements, you will need to upgrade your hardware.

Looking to upgrade, or for some advice on how you can keep your systems working? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 29th, 2014

BCP_Oct27_AWhen it comes to business continuity plans, many companies need technology in order to support their plan and systems such as backups and recovery. While this technology may be in place to support current continuity needs, there will come a time when this needs to be upgraded. The issue is how to know when an upgrade is really necessary? Here are five tips that can help you determine this.

1. New technology and systems offer increased resilience

When it comes to continuity and the systems supporting it, businesses need to ensure that they are resilient. This means implementing hardened systems that will remain working in adverse environments; systems like UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), etc., so that should a disaster occur services will still be available.

Beyond this, it is a good idea to implement systems that can be switched from one location to another quickly and easily. A good example of this is implementing cloud storage and backup which can be recovered to other systems with minimal fuss.

Technology that increases the resilience of your systems and continuity plans is worth implementing.

2. Enhanced data protection and availability

During and after a disaster, it is vital that businesses have access to their data. If your data is not protected in an efficient manner, or easily accessible once it has been backed up, you could see a decrease in business effectiveness and delays in fully recovering.

Technology or systems that enhance data protection and availability over your existing systems are worth including in an upgrade, so that you can benefit from data being available when you need it most.

3. Systems offering increased communication

Communication during and after a disaster is crucially important if your business is to survive and recover full operations. When a company faces disaster, communication networks need to be strong and available at any time. So, if you can find systems that enhance the ease and effectiveness of your communications then these could be worthwhile upgrading to.

4. New technology is available to simplify plan development and auditing

If you have developed a continuity plan in the past, you know that it can be a time consuming task. While essential, many business owners do not have the necessary time to commit to this. This is where systems and technology can help.

A system that makes the auditing and development of plans easier may be worth including in an update.

5. Technology that decreases costs

With businesses operating on narrower margins, many business owners want systems to keep costs low or at the very least ensure costs don't rise. If the systems you are looking at have been proven to reduce operating costs, then it may be a good idea to consider them.

It is important however to not integrate technology simply to save money. You should aim for solutions that are affordable, but that will also offer these worthwhile benefits and more.

We recommend talking to us to find out how we can help you find the services and technology your business needs to ensure your business continuity is not only working but will also deliver when you need it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 29th, 2014

OSX_Oct27_AIn mid-October, Apple released the much anticipated next version of their popular operating system OS X. This year's version of OS X is named after America's most popular National Park, Yosemite. This latest version, like many before it, sees a number of new changes introduced. Here is an overview of the major changes incorporated in Yosemite.

Upgrading to Yosemite

The good news about Yosemite is that Apple has made this a free upgrade for users with compatible Macs. You can get it by going to the Apple Store on your Mac, and logging in using your Apple account. For businesses, we strongly recommend contacting us before you do this as we can help back up your systems and install the update so that your systems will work perfectly.

A new look for OS X

Last year Apple released a drastic redesign of their popular mobile operating system - iOS. This redesign brought about a modern look to the system with translucent menus and a clean, semi-transparent design. Apple has brought this style of design to Yosemite.

When you first start up Yosemite you will notice that bars like the launch bar at the bottom are translucent. Many icons have also been updated with clean and consistent design and menus have been somewhat flattened, making them easier to read.

Overall, the new look makes systems running this version of OS X easier to look at, while modernizing them and bringing them more in line with other Apple systems.

Enhanced continuity between devices

Apple has noted before that they are striving to bring their desktop OS and mobile OS closer together, eventually reaching a point where they are more or less one and the same. With Yosemite, they make a big jump forward by introducing a number of mobile and desktop features. One of the most useful being Handoff which allows users to start a task on their iPad or iPhone and continue this on their laptop, or vice versa.

Instant Hotspot is another feature that allows users to instantly share their iPhone's data connection with their desktop - no need to enter a password as the system uses iCloud to ensure that the connection is secure.

If you have an iPhone that is running iOS 8 and a laptop or desktop with Yosemite installed, and connected to the same Wi-Fi network, you will be able to answer calls to your iPhone from your computer, or even send and answer text messages via the Messages app on any device.

Improved AirDrop

AirDrop is a feature that Apple has been trying to get working properly for a number of years now. When it works, it works really well, but with the last update to iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, it simply didn't work when you needed to transfer files from your phone to your computer.

Yosemite fixes this, as this version of AirDrop now has the same protocols as the mobile versions, so you can swap files between devices on the same Wi-Fi network.

Notifications Center

This feature has been updated to make it much more useful, mainly due to the introduction of the Today view. Similar to the view introduced in iOS 8, this shows you, at a quick glance, useful information for the day. By default you can see your calendar, stocks, weather, etc.

There is also support for widgets. Because Apple has enabled this, software developers can now create widgets that can be placed in the Today view of the Notifications Center. This is similar to the new feature that was introduced with iOS 8, and can be accessed by swiping four fingers from the left of the track-pad to the right on your laptop, or pressing the bulleted icon at the top-left of your menu bar.

Improved Spotlight

While Spotlight has long been a feature of OS X, it has been updated in Yosemite. Now, instead of just searching for files on your computer it can also search for applications. You can also use it to search the Web, so when you enter a term you see results from pages like Wikipedia, the Apple Store, iTunes, and more.

As in other versions of OS X, you can access Spotlight by hitting Command + Spacebar. You then see a search bar pop up in the middle of your screen. Simply type what you are looking for and a window will drop down with results.

These are just a few of the new features that business users will benefit from when they upgrade to Yosemite. If you would like to learn more, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
October 28th, 2014

GoogleApps_Oct27_AWhen working with cloud-based services like Google Apps, there are a number of important features that business users require. One being the all-important Spell Check. While this has been a feature of Google Docs, it has been largely missing in newer versions of other apps like Sheets; until now that is.

Spell Check in Google Sheets

When Google introduced their new version of Google Sheets they brought back a much requested feature - Spell Check. In Google Sheets, Spell Check works much the same as it does in other apps like Docs; you can select whether to check the entire sheet, worksheets, columns, and even individual cells.

In order for this feature to work best you need to ensure that the spreadsheets you are using are created using the new version of Google Sheets. You can check this by looking for a green checkmark on the lower-right of the file you would like to check for spelling.

This checkmark indicates that the sheet is running the latest version of Google Sheets. You can then run Spell Check on the whole sheet by:

  1. Opening the sheet you would like to check for spelling.
  2. Clicking Tools followed by Spelling.
The Spell Check should highlight any errors, along with replacement suggestions. If there are errors you should see a drop-down window open with options to:
  • Change - Will change the error to the selected word.
  • Ignore - Will ignore the error.
  • Add to dictionary - Will add the word that is highlighted to the dictionary.
If you would like to check either a column, row, or number of cells, you can do so by selecting this area first and then pressing Tools followed by Spelling. Interestingly enough, this feature is also available in sheets that were created in the older version of Google Sheets and then updated to the new version.

Looking to learn more about Google Sheets, or other Google Apps? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 23rd, 2014

WindowsPhone_Oct20_ASmall to medium business owners who purchase a Windows Phone have access to a multitude of features. One of the more useful benefits is the fact that many devices actually support expandable storage through the use of MicroSD cards. Did you know that it your device has a MicroSD card you can install apps onto it? Here's how.

Before you start moving apps to your MicroSD card, you should be aware that this feature works best on devices running Windows Phone 8.1. So, if you are not running this version on your device, the following tips may not work. Also, not every Windows Phone device has an expandable memory slot, so it is best to first check the technical specifications for your device.

Installing new apps to a MicroSD card

This option is best for when your device's main hard drive is full and you want to install apps while keeping existing ones. You can set it so that any future apps will be automatically installed onto your device's MicroSD card instead of the hard drive, by:
  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Scrolling down and tapping on Storage Sense.
  3. Tapping on the box labeled Store new apps on my.
  4. Selecting SD card.
Note that because the MicroSD card is removable from your device, you will need to have the card that has the apps installed on it plugged into your device in order for these to work.

Moving installed apps to a MicroSD card

If you have apps installed that you would like to move to the SD card, such as apps that you don't use as often, you can do so by:
  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Scrolling down and tapping on Storage Sense.
  3. Tapping on Phone which should be located at the top of the screen.
  4. Selecting Apps + Games followed by the app you would like to move.
  5. Tapping on Move or Move to SD card followed by Yes.
While this is useful, not every app can be moved over to your SD card as this is actually up to whether the developer has selected for their app to be movable or not.

If you are looking to learn more about using your Windows Phone and to find out what you can achieve with it, make the call to us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.