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August 26th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Aug25_ADashboards have become an extremely useful tool for companies to make the most of their raw data. With proper implementation, a dashboard can display essential information in an easy-to-understand format, allowing business owners to take in the most important data about their company at a glance. But a dashboard can say a lot of things depending on its setup, and it’s important to choose one that can best serve your purpose. Here are three types of business dashboards to consider.

Strategic dashboards

Ideal for senior managers and executives, strategic dashboards are designed to help identify potential opportunities for business expansion and improvement. This type of dashboard doesn’t provide information in-depth enough to make complex decisions, and is typically is updated once a month or quarter.

Benefits of strategic dashboards As the name suggests, strategic dashboards are designed to provide strategic guidance. The dashboards give a bird’s-eye view of your business. They can contain anything from overall sales numbers to sales and revenue comparisons, or inventory levels, making it easy for executives to understand the overall health of the organization.

Analytical dashboards

This type of dashboard provides users with insights from a volume of data collected over time, enabling you to understand why certain things are happening, and what changes should be made in the future in order to accommodate them. The data presented in analytical dashboards tends to be complex, and usually requires advanced training to use. That’s why they are generally used by business analysts, instead of being widely deployed to other employees and across all departments.

Benefits of analytical dashboards When it comes to creating and implementing strong business strategies, understanding the trends and events in your data is crucial. Analytical dashboards provide detailed information that allows you to compare current against historic data. Implementing analytical dashboards allows you to enjoy in-depth analysis, identify patterns and opportunities in your data, and determine why processes are working in certain departments.

Operational dashboards

Operational dashboards are used to monitor the real-time operations of employees, allowing them to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of their work performance. This type of dashboard is commonly found in departments where it’s essential to respond to critical information quickly, such as those working in sales and marketing.

Benefits of operational dashboards Business owners rely on operational dashboards to track their employees’ progress, and to be notified of issues as they come up in order to respond quickly. What’s more, the dashboards provide up-to-date information, all bundled in one place, making it easy for employees to make quick decisions without having to dig through large amounts of data.

Dashboards concentrate all data, metrics, and parameters in one place, bringing a totally new dimension to business intelligence. Your company can significantly benefit from the right dashboard. If you’re looking to implement dashboards for the first time, or to enhance the functionality of your current dashboard, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 20th, 2015

InternetSocialNetworkingandReputationManagement_Aug18_AThe more your company expands, the bigger its online presence will become. This means keeping eye on what your company puts online, as well as what others are saying about you, becomes a vital task. Online Reputation Management (ORM) is important, and here’s how you can get started with it.

ORM is still a relatively new concept, and one that small and medium-sized business owners may not yet be familiar with. Simply put, ORM is the monitoring and protecting of your company’s reputation online. Not only are you looking out for what your company is producing, but also what other people are saying about you.

You only control a limited amount of your company’s message. Consumers using social media control the rest and can often times make or break your company. That is why more and more businesses are investing resources in ORM. While many companies choose to handle their ORM in-house, there are ORM service providers who can take care of the process for you.

Search for your company

Once you’ve determined who will be looking after your ORM, it’s important to see how your business stacks up. The first thing you should do is search for your company on Google. The results are often telling for your business. Being at the top of the search results is a good sign, and shows your website has strong SEO terms and social media presence. If your company doesn’t appear on the first two pages of search results, or the results that come up aren’t what you want people to see, it’s time for your ORM team to get to work.

Bolster your online presence

Creating quality content - to boost where your business shows up in the search results, or push down negative content - is the next step for your ORM. Remember, most people only bother with the first two pages of Google search results, so you want to own those. Other ways to bolster your online presence include registering with online business directories like Yelp or Yellowpages.com. These sites almost always rank very well in search results.

Another positive step would be to expand your social media portfolio to include sites you might not think of right away, like Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and even Tumblr. Being active on just a couple of these channels can further improve your exposure.

Set up a monitoring system

Finally, setting up a monitoring system will ensure your ORM is always up to date with your company's online profile. Signing up for Google Alerts can guarantee you are always informed of new brand or keyword mentions, while tools like Tagboard and TweetBinder will search various social networks for keywords and hashtags related to your business. These are valuable tools to ensure you’re on top of what's happening to your business online.

At the end of the day, your online reputation needs to be not only robust, but sterling as well. That is why dedicating resources to ORM can not only protect your business, but help it grow as well. Clients will find your business easily when they search for it, and the results they do find will be the things you want them to see.

Want to know more about ORM or anything else internet-related? Contact us and we can help your business today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 17th, 2015

164_SM_AOne of the most valuable tools available to the modern-day marketer is the email list. A large one can make you millions, and a small or nonexistent one can prevent your business from properly taking off. So how do you grow yours? Using social media is one way that is often less talked about. Here are three tips on how you can leverage it to grow your email list.

Post and share your emails publicly

If you create great content for your email list and no one sees it except your subscribers, how are your non-subscribers going to know what they’re missing out on? They won’t, which is exactly why you should give your social media fans and followers a taste of the valuable content that awaits them after sign up.

Now let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean you should share every single email you send out to your list. If you did, there would be less of a need to subscribe. Instead, try sharing or posting an email once every few weeks or once a month.

Make it easy to sign up

Let’s face it. Many of us will take the easier, simpler path whenever possible. This is just as true in marketing as it is in other more primal aspects of human nature. Take eating, for example: if you’re short on time and have a choice between two restaurants for lunch, and one delivers and the other doesn’t, which one are you going to take? Likely the delivery. Even if you prefer the one that doesn’t deliver slightly better, you’d probably still take the delivery for the simple fact that they’ve made it easier for you.

In the online marketing world, the same concept works for gaining subscribers. This is why you need to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up after they’ve read your publicly shared email. To do this, simply add a sign-up link to the emails you share.

Create valuable content

You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king”. However, whoever came up with this catchphrase left out a very important keyword. It should instead read “valuable content is king.” If you’re shelling out dozens of blog posts, emails, podcasts or videos a month but the content is useless to the reader, you’re not going to make any traction with your email list.

When trying to gain subscribers, always ask yourself, “what’s in it for them if they sign up?” If you simply have a signup box on your website or social media page, but no valuable content to go along with it, why would someone sign up? Would you sign up? The point is that there needs to be a reason for someone to subscribe to your email list. And valuable content is a very good reason.

Lastly, don’t forget to demonstrate why it’s more valuable for your future audience to subscribe rather than simply follow you on social media. To do this, give them an incentive to sign up. This could be in the form of an exclusive offer or a free ebook, course, report, or something similar.

Want more tips on leveraging social media to grow your business? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 10th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Aug10_AIn the current world, business continuity planning (BCP) is imperative to the sustainability of your business. Without a well-thought-out plan in place, it is highly unlikely that your company will be able to survive and recover from disasters. However, there are several major roadblocks to the successful implementation of a business continuity plan. If you’re struggling with BCP, check out our list of some common challenges organizations face, and learn how to address them properly.

Challenge #1: Prohibitive costs

Business continuity planning has become exponentially expensive as availability requirements increase. Many solutions require substantial investments on the installation and maintenance of additional hardware, software, and data center infrastructure. These requirements drive up the cost of business continuity, and many company owners are reluctant to invest in protective measures.

The solution Instead of relying on costly physical servers to accommodate your backups, consider using efficient and affordable cloud computing solutions. You can transfer your important business files to the cloud and eliminate the expense of having to install and manage hardware infrastructure and software licenses.

Challenge #2: High complexity

Traditional business continuity planning is complex to implement, manage and execute. From managing the recovery infrastructure to updating disaster recovery documentation and testing the BCP to find and close potential loopholes, the prospect of embarking on a BCP project can be daunting, and the whole experience can prove time consuming. Combine with the pressure of your ordinary day-to-day duties, it can seem almost impossible to focus your attention on initiating a BCP.

The solution With all this in mind, it makes more sense to hire a professional IT service provider to plan, implement, and execute your business continuity plan. This way you can leverage their experience and expertise to ensure that, in the event of a disaster, your company will be able to get back on its feet and resume business operations as quickly as possible.

Challenge #3: Lack of staff involvement

There are so many requirements to be considered in a business continuity plan. And the more employees your organization has, the more difficult it is to relay the essence of the plan for everyone to understand. Staff involvement isn’t an option - it’s an absolute necessity if you wish for a successful BCP implementation!

The solution Depending on the size of your organization, you can either hold a company meeting to announce the essentials of your BCP, or schedule a meeting with key staff members who take an active role in the planning process. To create a long-lasting BCP program, you need to get everyone on the same page by emphasizing the importance of the plan in an easy-to-understand way.

Business continuity planning is one of the most important things you need to have in place. You never know when, or in what form, a disaster will strike - all the more reason to take a preventative approach to securing your company and all you’ve worked for.

Need a reliable partner to take care of all your business continuity planning needs? Get in touch with us today - we have exactly what you need to prepare and protect your company.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 9th, 2015

Technology is, by its very nature, complex and often misunderstood. And we find that too often small businesses are misinformed by IT firms that either lack the knowledge they need to properly support their clients, or who put their own interests ahead of their client’s. In speaking with different clients and prospects in the valley, we find a lot of misconceptions.

These are a few of the more common ones:

  1. Macs aren’t suitable for business: For a long time Macintoshes were certainly thought of as oddballs in a business environment, usually relegated to graphic designers and occasionally as “Executive” computers. Although Apple emphasizes design and aesthetics, these factors are often seen as unnecessary in a business environment. But more and more Macs are being used more widely or exclusively at many companies. Macs have the advantage of being engineered as an integrated package, both software and hardware, so compatibility issues are not a problem. They also now integrate well with Windows servers and networks so there is less of a disadvantage when accessing network resources. Application compatibility remains a challenge, but there are 3rd party applications that can be used to run Windows programs on a Mac.
  2. The Cloud is not secure: Aside from the fact that we’ve been storing very sensitive information on the “cloud” for years in the form of online banking, credit cards, and now health information, the fact remains that cloud technology providers like BCS partner Dropbox, have everything to lose if they suffered any sort of major data breach. In most cases, data is encrypted in a way that cannot be defeated by anyone except the owner(s).
  3. Hackers aren’t interested in small businesses: Smaller companies often provide an enticing target for hackers, most of which are overseas and beyond the reach of the American justice system. Many do not have the level of security of larger firms so hackers may find it easier to compromise their systems. And since many small firms work with Fortune 500 they can be used as a round-about way to attack these firms. Keep in mind that most hacker attacks target users instead of a network directly. Also be aware that most firewalls that are currently used by small businesses are obsolete and unable to block modern hacking attacks.
  4. Desktop PCs are obsolete: You may have read about the demise of the PC (read “The PC is Dead” Washington Times, January 8th 2014). The detractors argue that they can be replaced with a portable devices or by PCs that can only be used to access the internet (i.e. Chromebooks). While this may be true with some users, particularly with consumers, it’s unlikely to take hold in the workplace any time soon. People who do real work using computers require a large display, keyboard, and mouse. And in fact, dual monitors have been shown to increase productivity even further. So for most workers, replacing their PC with a tablet and/or smart phone could never work.
  5. Your IT provider tells you your system will run faster if you upgrade your switch/cabling/server/other costly item: While equipment sometimes fails or becomes obsolete, it’s rare that a given problem can be solved with a network related or server upgrade. Network equipment in particular will last for years if properly maintained. We find that many companies who were told to upgrade the network or replace their server only to find that the problem they were trying to solve is still there.

About BCS: We are Apple and Microsoft certified. We have active partnerships with Dropbox, Fortinet, ESET, and Hitman Pro. We carry our own brand of custom PCs and often include them in our monthly agreements for free. We perform a thorough analysis before recommending the purchase of any piece of equipment and most importantly, we guarantee results.

July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_ATechnology has allowed businesses to get more work done with less time and expense. When properly implemented, it serves as a great tool that allows your employees to work remotely, collaborate more efficiently, and manage their time more effectively. If you want to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to make technology work for you. Here are some things you can do to make your employees more productive.

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 22nd, 2015

164_Sec_AOver the decades of the internet’s existence, cyber threats have evolved at a rapid pace. When once there were only viruses and malware to watch out for, now you have to protect your business from worms, trojans, ransomware and dozens of other online threats. But what’s the difference between all of them? Let's take a look. Here are four of today’s most common cyber threats and the tips you need to protect your business from them.

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 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_AData visualizations are common in business presentations today. They can provide us an overview of information and results in a simple and easily digestible way. Good data visualization helps users to understand data in order to make informed decisions based on the findings. Bad data visualization, on the other hand, will provide little to no value for readers and make complex data even more difficult to comprehend. With that said, you can present data in a better way by avoiding these common mistakes.

Inconsistent visualizations

It’s important to be consistent when presenting your data, otherwise users will have to stop and figure out how to read each new picture before they can comprehend what it says, wasting time and defeating the purpose of data visualization. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow. For instance, try choosing colors that go well together. Use only 2-3 colors at most throughout your visualization - any more and you’ll find that your pictures might be hard to read. Also, use the same iconography and typography in each picture so your audience can quickly understand the information.

Displaying too much data

Overly complicated data visualizations are sure to turn off most audiences because they can’t figure out where and what to focus on. Your customers, colleagues, and employers want specific, relevant answers. The quicker you can deliver those answers, the better. Irrelevant data gives your presentation a cluttered look, making finding relevant information more difficult for readers. The solution? Find a compromise between showing too much data and not showing enough overall. Use good judgement.

Oversimplifying data

The purpose of data visualization is to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. While it’s all too easy to simplify data, if you go too far and leave out crucial parts, your audiences won’t be able to see or grasp the main point of the presentation. Instead of trying to oversimplify data, it’s better to include all important criteria and organize them into a structure so audiences can easily understand what’s being presented to them.

Choosing the wrong visualization

This is one of the most common mistakes made in data visualization. There are many different types of data out there, and each of those types require different analytics and tools to use. For example, if you want to present a sales growth comparison in the last 5 years, it’s better to use bar charts that can clearly show the difference at a glance. If you want to show a relationship between two metrics, on the other hand, you should use a scatter chart to show results.

The best way to avoid all these errors is to focus on your goals first. It’s likely that you’ll have to make changes along the way, which is actually a good thing, because it will make your presentation more accurate and effective.

Want to learn more about other business intelligence tools to implement in your company? Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 10th, 2015

Facebook_Jul10_AWhen it comes to social media marketing, most businesses would think of Facebook before all other platforms. Over the past few years, the number of Facebook users has been growing at an astounding pace, and many businesses are advertising on Facebook, allowing them to better target their audiences. Yet plenty of Facebook advertisers have been burned by low engagement, high costs, and negative feedback from followers. With that in mind, you need to watch out for these Facebook marketing mistakes.

Mistake #1: Treating Facebook like a one-way communication tool

The content you post on Facebook should encourage followers to express their thoughts. Think of it this way - Facebook is a social media network, which means that people use it to connect with friends and communicate with family members. They don’t want to be showered with advertising messages! Instead of speaking at customers, create dialogues that promote engagement and feedback. Try asking probing questions, sharing fun quizzes, or posting images and videos that get your followers talking. Remember that engaging content has a better chance of going viral and attracting more followers to your profile.

Mistake #2: Ignoring follower metrics

There’s no telling whether your content is going to appeal to your followers or not. All audiences are different, and the only way to find out what’s going to work for them is to head over to Facebook Insights in your admin panel. Take a look at the metrics there to determine if your posts are resonating with your readers. Some of the best insights include your top posts, where you can find the types of posts that rank high on the list (they can either be text, links, images, or videos). You can analyze the statistics and pick up things from there.

Mistake #3: Targeting ads poorly

It is true that Facebook has more than one billion active users. But guess what? Most of these people don’t want to see your ads! So don’t waste time and money to show them ads when you can use Facebook’s powerful set of audience targeting tools. Facebook allows you to choose potential ad viewers based on their location, age, education, interest, and more. You can easily weed out people who are unlikely to click on your ads. You can create multiple ad groups to be displayed at different times to various audience groups. This is a method to test and see which ones work best.

Mistake #4: Abandoning your audience

This is probably one of the worst things you can do. When it comes to Facebook marketing, consistency matters. People won’t be very impressed if they visit your page and see that your last post was a few months ago. When you post at regular times, on the other hand, your followers will get into the habit of expecting posts from you - they’ll even look forward to them if the content is really good! If you find it hard to stick to a schedule, try using tools that can automate your posting for you like Hootsuite.

If you’re not using Facebook to expand your online business presence, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. Want more tips on how to expand your business through Facebook? Get in touch today and our experts will be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_ALog on to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or even simply take a walk in a city park, and one thing is clear: the selfie revolution is upon us. And now it looks as though this contemporary pastime is becoming more than just a social media trend. Major industry players are now using facial recognition technology to replace passwords as the new method of online identification. MasterCard is the most recent corporate bigwig to join the party.

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