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January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_CRegardless of the industry in which you operate, it’s undeniable that social media has become an essential platform for many businesses of all sizes to easily engage and interact with customers and potential customers, as well as boost visibility. But there’s more to social media than market reach and penetration and it can prove to be a powerful tool for driving dynamic business development too.

In most cases, a business development manager already has an idea of the kind of company with which to partner. Their next step is to contact that company via a phone call or email. However, this can be an unreliable way to reach out, especially when your potential partner has never heard of you. Social media speeds up this process by identifying the best person to contact, as well as determining if you have any mutual connections.

Simply put, social media lets you understand the background of different companies and gives you an idea of the different players involved, before you even engage in a dialogue. With this in mind, let’s take a look at four ways you can utilize information available on social media to enhance your business development success.

  1. Social media is an extra pair of eyes Social media allows you to see first-hand what potential partners, competitors, and customers are doing, which is a major asset when it comes to your business development and performance. This can also reveal business-relationship possibilities or even warn where it is best to stay away. It’s crucial to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing mind-blowing content as well as highlighting recent successes.
  2. There’s no universal message in social media The way people behave and connect across different social media platforms varies, therefore it is important to adjust accordingly. For instance, you might use Twitter to promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share content, and direct customer service requests. You may use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives, such as showcasing a company’s culture and resources. It’s important to remember that there’s no universal rule to utilizing social media and that it is beneficial to be flexible. Think about what your individual goals are and work out which social media platform is the best avenue to explore.
  3. Leverage employee relationships If you’re looking to connect with an individual in a specific company, make it a habit to check and see if anyone in your company has a pre-existing relationship with that person. Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn make it fairly easy to spot mutual connections, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking. Whether you ask your colleague to help make an introduction or to arrange a meeting, a mutual connection gives you the competitive edge in effective business development.
  4. Use social media as a touchpoint Social media is not only essential to business development, but also complements other more traditional practices, such as when you’ve sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that has gone unanswered. It’s understandable that people get so busy they can delay, forget or pass over an inquiry, but instead of passively waiting for a reply, why not make it standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other social media platforms? This way you can build additional opportunities with potential partners, increase the likelihood of a response, and even forge a future business relationship.
The fundamentals of business development are strong relationships with a partner or companies with a good reputation, who will have a positive impact on your business, such as marketing an initiative collaboratively. Social media can get this whole process started, so the next time you’re looking to contact a business prospect or potential partner, start by visiting their social media channels to get the heads up to help you in your quest.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of social media in business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 20th, 2015

AppleMacOS_Jan16_CDespite Macs being full of shortcuts and tricks and tools to speed up your work processes, we all know how easy it is to fall out of the habit of using them and instead to go back to our old habits. Yet with the New Year comes the perfect opportunity to get back on top of your game and put all those shortcuts to good use in using your Mac to ease work pressures. Speed up, wise up and clean up with these productivity-boosting Mac hacks.

Make searching easier

Need to hunt down a file? You can make the process easier by not searching for just one word, or even a series of words in sequence, but by instead searching for a logical combination of terms as a Boolean expression. Boolean expressions combine search terms with conditions like ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ to specify whether you want results that contain all, or only some, of your search terms. These expressions are supported by native Mac apps including Spotlight, Mail and Calendar, and by plenty of third-party apps too.

For instance, if you wanted to track down client invoices that have not yet been marked as paid, you might begin by searching for files containing the word ‘invoice’. This term alone would bring up plenty of results you had no interest in, but by using a Boolean expression which takes the terms ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ to create a logical statement, you could run a search for ‘invoice NOT paid’.

Protect your passwords

We’ve all heard the recommendation that our passwords should be long, difficult to guess and full of unnatural-feeling characters like mixed-case letters, numbers and punctuation - easier said than put into practice. Add to that the fact that, if we want to be truly secure, we shouldn’t use the same password for more than one account, and suddenly creating hack-roof passwords becomes a real challenge. Even once you’ve invented them, how on earth are you supposed to remember all of these different passwords?

Well, there’s an app for that. Or several, to be precise - the Apple-specific iCloud Keychain syncs your passwords across your devices and then fills them in when necessary, remembering what you can’t. On other operating systems, 1Password and LastPass are good alternatives.

Simplify your coding

Does your day-to-day work involve writing of some kind? You can make your job simpler by forgetting often difficult to read HTML code in favour of much friendlier, more attractive and easier to work with Markdown code. Based on plain text, Markdown is compatible with almost all word processors, meaning you don’t need to worry about using a specific text editor for fear of risking the corruption of your code. Simplified codes, such as Marketing to create a hyperlink, are transformed into formatted documents by a converter that takes the effort out of writing.

Numerous versions of Markdown have expanded upon the original idea to add additional features and bring further design richness to your finished document, but all of them offer the basics you’ll need to produce in your writing. Examples of apps that act as dedicated Markdown editors are Marked 2, iA Writer and Editorial.

If you’re looking to learn more about productivity tips or other Mac features, get in touch today and see what we can do to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization, and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful, and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses, and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms - it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have - which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data - think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it - in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations - the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 13th, 2015

iPad_Jan12_CWorking with two computer screens can prove to be quite useful in speeding up work processes and boosting efficiency and productivity. And while many people might not want to incur the expense of a large external monitor, or might lack the space for the addition, you no longer have to do so if you have an iPad.

Duet Display, developed by a former Apple engineer, Rahul Dewan, will turn your iPad into an external screen for your Mac, and does so using a cable that you already use to charge and sync your iPad. To be precise, it’s actually two apps — one for your iOS device and a companion app for your Mac that lets it recognize an iPad or iPhone as a second screen.

How does Duet Display work?

  1. Download Duet Display from the Apple Store for $14.99
  2. Install Duet Display for OS X
  3. Duet Display will add a little settings icon to the right side of your menu bar and requires a password when you’re installing it on your Mac. This is because the app needs to install display drivers.
  4. Open the Duet Display app on your iPad and plug it into your Mac with a lightning cable (or a 30-pin cable if you’ve got an older iPad that’s still supported).
  5. Now you can enjoy working with two screens!
Because your iPad is plugged in, you won’t have to worry about your iPad’s battery. And while you’re using Duet Display on the iPad, you’ll still get your regular iOS notifications. You can also set your computer to use all the pixels on your iPad’s Retina display (2,048x1,536 pixel resolution), or you can set your iPad to regular resolution too. Duet Display works with all Macs running on OS X Yosemite and any iPads or iPhones running iOS 5.1.1 or above, meaning it will work with your old iPad. The only downside is you can only connect a single iOS device for now.

The growing number of applications in the App Store means there are often new ways to make use of your iPad being introduced. Looking to learn more about the iPad and its capabilities? Contact us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
January 6th, 2015

osx_Dec25_CLooking back at it, 2014 was a great year for Apple. From the iPhone 6 to iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, along with other new products, there were many useful products and systems introduced. Now it is time to look forward to 2015 and what tech developments we might benefit from in the year ahead. Here are five changes we expect from Apple in the foreseeable future.

1. Apple focuses more on business solutions

Early in 2014, Apple announced that they would be entering a long-term partnership with enterprise giant IBM. The idea behind this was that Apple would work with IBM to develop a better way to bring mobile solutions to businesses and whole industries.

Up until now there has been little announced beyond this initial partnership. However, you can expect that both IBM and Apple are working on big developments that could debut in 2015. One indicator of this is the way many Apple products, mobile devices especially, are being integrated into businesses. Most devices, like the iPad, enter the business via an employee bringing them to the office (BYOD), and using their own device for work.

While this has worked well for many companies, the business side (apps, marketing, company-wide management, etc.) has largely been lacking or unsupported. It is a fair belief to think that Apple will continue to develop products in 2015, but leverage the IBM partnership to make devices easier to use and integrate into business; while also taking advantage of IBM's wide industry expertise to launch industry-specific apps and services.

2. A larger iPad

Rumors started to fly about Apple developing a larger iPad for release some time in 2015. The word is that they are working on a 12.9 inch device that is supposedly being targeted to be a replacement for low-end PC's small netbooks. This device could be great for businesses, especially those with employees who are on the road a lot, or who work directly with clients. Think about it: A highly portable tablet with enough screen space to run most apps, combined with a subscription to Office 365 or Google Apps, with a possible keyboard case. It could very well be a great solution for many businesses.

We can't say when, or 100% for sure if this device will be released, but signs and rumors are pointing to a likely launch in 2015.

3. Apple Watch

This prediction is pretty much a no-brainer, largely because it has already been announced. Scheduled to be released in the spring of 2015, the Apple Watch should be the wearable of the year. Like most other Apple products, this will no doubt be a popular product with high demand from the domestic market.

At this time however, it really doesn't look like there will be much use for this product for businesses for the time being. Sure, it provides a convenient way to interact with your phone, but many businesses will likely see it as more of a distraction than a help. That being said, some employees will probably purchase one privately so you do need to aware of this device, especially when it comes to your BYOD program and it the device is used for business activities.

4. An incremental update to the iPhone

With 2014 seeing the release of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple brought some high-powered devices to the market that were a big step over even the iPhone 5. In 2015, Apple will likely have a hard time outdoing the iPhone 6, so will likely introduce a small update to the phone instead.

This version will probably have an improved processor and some small improvements that will make the phone a little more competitive, with other devices released in the coming year. We don't however expect an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus this year.

5. A smaller update to OS X

The past two years have seen back-to-back big versions of OS X drop. The most recent version, Yosemite, was a new design introduced along with a number of new features that brought the desktop operating system closer to Apple's mobile operating system iOS.

In 2015 you can expect a new version of OS X to be unveiled and likely released, but we are pretty sure that it won't be as big of an update as the last two. From what Apple has said about these systems, it looks like most features introduced in the next version of OS X will bring the iOS and OS X even closer together.

We're curious to know what you would like to see from Apple in 2015. Let us know!. And, if you would like to learn more about implementing any existing Apple devices into your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_CAn antivirus scanner is one of the most essential parts of any security plan. These useful programs scan computers and systems for potential infections and get rid of them, ensuring your files and systems are safe. Because many of these protection programs are subscription based however, it can be easy to let the validity expire. If this does happen, is it really such a big deal though?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.

Other programs will stop updating the essential virus and malware databases that are used by the program to identify and clean new malware. This means that while you will be secure from known viruses and security flaws up to the date of the last database update, you will not be secure against newly discovered viruses.

Some popular programs like Kaspersky offer an antivirus scanner trial version or a program that comes with a newly purchased computer.With programs like these, they will normally stop functioning once the trial period is over. Yes, they will still open, but you won't be able to scan or perform any tasks.

In short, when your subscription expires, your systems will no longer be secure, or as protected as they should be. Interestingly enough, in mid-November 2014, Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report 17. This report found that computers and systems with expired malware were only slightly less likely to be infected than systems without any malware scanners installed.

What do I do if my subscription is about to expire?

Before your subscription expires you should take steps to back up all of your systems and data. The reason for this is that should something happen you have a clean backup to revert to. Once this is carried out, then consider renewing your subscription. Most programs allow you to do this directly from the scanner itself, so it is often fairly straightforward.

As a business owner however, you are going to need to keep track of your systems and licenses. What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet with information on the subscription applied to all systems. Take account of when the scanner was installed on each system, how long the subscription period is for, and when it will expire.

What if my subscriptions are about to expire, but I don't like my current program?

There may come a time when the scanner you have selected simply isn't living up to your expectations. Maybe it takes too long to scan, uses too many resources, or simply isn't able to protect all of your systems. Regardless of the reason, switching scanners is always an option.

If you are thinking of moving to another scanner, we strongly recommend that before you do anything, you back up your systems. You can then start looking for other systems. We strongly recommend that you contact us, as we can help identify a solution that will work for your business and systems. We can then help ensure that the transition is carried out in a way that will not leave your systems open to attack.

We may have a managed antivirus solution that will work for your business. By using a system like this, we can help protect your systems, keeping them secure and always up to date, all without you having to get involved. All you need to do is get in touch to find our more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_CWhen looking into the ways companies are hacked, you quickly realize that there are so many different tactics out there that it is mind-boggling. One of the more effective methods used recently is spear phishing, and in early December 2014, a new spear phishing attack was uncovered. This threat, while directed at larger organizations, could be turned against smaller businesses as well, and is therefore worth you knowing about.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.

More often than not, these links are to websites where you enter account information, passwords, and even bank account details, or any other personal information which can be used to break into computers and even steal your identity.

What is this latest spear phishing attack?

This new form of spear phishing, being carried out by an organization who calls themselves FIN4, has actually been around since as early as mid 2013. When they attack Wall Street listed companies they are doing so to steal valuable plans and insider information.

What we know is that they send highly savvy and targeted emails to people at a company, trying to harvest Microsoft Outlook account information. Once they have this crucial data they then target others inside, or connected to, the organization, with the same email, while also injecting the code into ongoing messages. This method can spread the attack quickly, leading to a potentially massive security breach.

In the email examples of this phishing threat, the attackers write mainly about mergers and other highly valuable information. They also include a link to a forum to discuss the issues raised further. These emails come from people the recipient already knows, and the link is to a site that asks them to enter their Outlook account and password before gaining access. When this information is entered, it is captured by the attacker and used to launch more attacks.

What can we do to protect our systems?

From what we know, this attack is being carried out largely against law firms, finance companies, and other large organizations. While this discounts many small businesses, there is a good chance that the attackers will turn to small businesses operating with larger companies at some point.

Because this is an email-based attack, you need to be extra vigilant when opening all emails. Be sure to look at the sender's address, and read the body of the email carefully. While hackers generally have good English skills, they aren't fully fluent, which means you will notice small mistakes. Also, keep in mind previous emails sent by the recipient. If the tone and style is off, then the email may be fake.

It is important to always look carefully at all links in email messages. If a link looks suspicious, then ask the recipient for more information or to tell you where the link goes. If you come across any site asking you to enter account information, be extra careful. Look at the URL address in your browser, if it doesn't sat HTTPS:// before the address, then it may be a good idea to avoid this.

If you have any questions on spear phishing and how you can prevent it, contact us today to see how we can protect your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 23rd, 2014

androidphone_Dec22_CGoogle's Android 5.0 has finally been released and many devices are starting to be upgraded. With the update comes a new layout and a number of new features, including a tweak to the way open and recent apps are handled. Dubbed Overview, this development offers enhanced views of open and recent apps. That being said, there is some grumbling over the way open Google Chrome tabs are handled by this feature.

A brief look at Overview in Android 5.0

Android 5.0 brings about a useful change to the way Android handles multitasking. On older versions, you have the "Recent apps" feature which is accessed by pressing the square button (usually at the bottom-right of the screen) or tapping on the home button twice. When opened, you usually see a list of recent apps listed either with small snapshots or as a live list showing content.

In Android 5.0, the recent apps list has been changed to Overview which now displays open apps in cards, much like Google Now cards. You scroll through the cards to see your apps and swipe them away to close them.

How Overview works with Chrome

While the new multitask view is a great, and certainly attractive, way to see your open or recent apps, one niggling issue for some users is that each tab in Chrome is given its own card. If you are like most users and have linked your desktop browser with your phone so that tabs open in the browser show up on Chrome on your device, you will likely see a large number of cards pop up in Overview.

If you are trying to find an app, scrolling through these cards can be annoying. Luckily, there is a way to turn this feature off and set it so that Chrome itself is assigned only one card.

How to disable individual Chrome tabs in Overview

To disable individual cards for each tab:
  1. Open Chrome on your Android device.
  2. Press the three vertical dots at the top-right of the screen.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Tap Merge tabs and apps.
  5. Slide the radio at the top right to the left (Off).
  6. Press OK in the pop-up window.
Chrome will reload with tabs being contained within the app itself. The number of open tabs will be displayed at the top-right of the window with a number inside a small box. Tapping on this number will display your existing tabs.

If you are looking to learn more about Android and how you can use it in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 22nd, 2014

windows_Dec18_CLove it, or hate it, the Windows 8 and 8.1 Start Screen is here to stay. While many business users have selected to boot directly into Desktop mode with Windows 8.1, the Start Screen still has some great features to offer. For those who do decide to use it, actually finding your installed apps can be a bit tricky at first.

How to find all of your installed apps from the Start Screen

When you install a new app on your computer, regardless of whether it is a Metro style app, or a traditional desktop style app, you are going to need to be able to find and open it. Because we often install a large number of programs on our computers, it can be a challenge to actually locate these apps via the file explorer used in Windows.

The easiest way to do find your apps is to:

  1. Switch to the Start Screen if you are currently in Desktop mode. This can be done by tapping on the Windows key.
  2. Hover your mouse at the lower-left of your screen.
  3. Click the arrow that is pointing down.
You can also access the apps screen by hitting: Control + Tab from anywhere in the Start Screen. Once open, you should see a list of all the apps you have installed. Apps that have been recently installed will have a NEW tag beside the name.

If you would like to sort your apps differently, such as by name or date installed, click the drop-down arrow beside APPS at the top of your screen and select the sorting option you prefer. Should you have a large number of apps installed and want to quickly find an app, click on the magnifying glass at the top-right of your screen and enter the name of the app you are looking for.

Adding apps to the Taskbar or the Start Screen

When 8.1 was introduced, Microsoft removed the feature where tiles were automatically created in the Start Screen and apps were automatically pinned to the taskbar. If you would like to either pin an app to the Start Screen or the taskbar you can do so by:
  1. Opening the Apps menu via the Start Screen.
  2. Searching for the app you would like to pin, either by scrolling through the list, or clicking the magnifying glass and entering the name.
  3. Right-clicking on the app.
  4. Selecting either: Pin to Start or Pin to taskbar.
This will subsequently pin the app to the taskbar on the Desktop, or create a new tile on the Start Screen.

If you are looking to learn more about Windows 8.1, and how it can be used in your business effectively, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 22nd, 2014

windowsphone_Dec18_CIf your business has integrated Windows Phones into operations, or is considering doing so, there are a number of steps you are going to need to take in order to be able to manage this properly. One of the first should be to rename devices so that they are easier to track. Here is how you can select new names for each of your devices.

How to see the name of your Windows Phone

Before we look into changing the name of your Windows Phone, you might want to know how to locate the present name of your phone. To do this:
  1. Open the Settings app on your device.
  2. Tap on System.
  3. Select About.
In the screen that opens you should see useful device information like the name of your phone, model, version number, etc. By default, your device's name will be Windows Phone.

Changing the name of your Windows Phone

To change the name of your phone plug it into your computer, which needs to have the Windows Phone app for desktops installed. This app can be found here. If you have already synced your phone with your computer, then you should have this app installed already. To change the name of your device:
  1. Plug your phone into your computer using a USB cord.
  2. Open the Windows Phone app via your desktop. With some systems this will open automatically.
  3. Click on Settings followed by Preferences.
  4. Scroll down to the section that says Name Your Phone and click.
  5. Input the new name of your phone.
When you plug the device into your computer from now on, the name should be different. The same goes for when you turn on BlueTooth - the phone's name will become the name of the network.

Another way to change your phone's name

There is another way to change the name of your device, if for example you don't have the Windows Phone app installed on your computer. To do this:
  1. Plug your phone into your computer via a USB cable.
  2. Open File Explorer on your computer. The easiest way to do this is to open any folder on your desktop.
  3. Click on Computer which should be in the left-hand vertical bar.
  4. Right-click on your phone. It should show a phone icon and the name of your phone (Windows Phone by default).
  5. Select Rename.
  6. Type in a new name for your device.
If you would like to learn more about using the Windows Phone in your office, contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.