Blog

March 12th, 2014

Facebook_Mar10_BFacebook is well known as a company that embraces change, introducing them on a regular basis. Many of these changes are often related to the Terms of Use or other policies Facebook has for users. Over the past few months, the company has integrated a number of changes to the Pages policy, more specifically to the Promotions section. It is these changes that businesses should know about.

Background on Facebook Promotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 6th, 2014

VoIP_Mar03_BIt’s widely known how the benefits of having a VoIP system greatly outweigh the costs or of simply not having one. Not only are you able to utilize the great variety of features that it offers, but the fees are also usually very manageable too. The only question many have regarding VoIP is, whether they are getting the best system.

Consider these tips when choosing a VoIP system and you'll stand a much better chance of ending up with the best one for your business:

The cheapest ones aren’t always the best

Just like bidding for projects, you need to be wary of those systems that offer full services at incredibly low prices. Don’t be tempted with how low the fee might be, as in the long run, you might end-up with a system you're not happy with. You don't want dissatisfied customers because they won't be able to reach you, or a system that's not a good fit for your business.

A good way of going about this is to test the service to see if the quality is in fact on a par with what you’re looking for. Another factor to consider is how seamlessly the new VoIP system will integrate with your business

Think about what your phone system’s key roles are

When you have a clear idea of the “what”, your “how”, “when” and “whom” will be a lot easier to determine. This is where you determine what kind of features you’ll need your VoIP system to have. Consider whether you need voicemail, auto-attendant or voicemail to email capabilities (among many others). Once you have a clear picture of what you need, you’ll have a better idea of which package or provider to obtain your VoIP system from.

Review different packages

There are many packages that are packed with features, making them seem incredibly appealing. Don’t get carried away with how seemingly amazing these packages are though. Instead, focus on what your business needs are and stay within the bounds of these demands. There is no point in having unlimited calls to Canada or other countries when your customers are based in the US, for example.

Look for excellent customer support with an almost zero downtime record

Regardless of how seemingly perfect and tailor-made your system is to your business, if you’re experiencing a lot of downtime from your provider it just isn’t going to work. You need to do a background check on your provider to make sure that their system has a near zero downtime.

Another factor to look into is their customer support. You’ll always encounter situations where you have a question about the system, such as a technical issue or maybe even to ask about upgrades. In cases like these, your provider must have an excellent customer service so you know that your questions and issues are going to be dealt with properly and quickly.

Work out what the real costs are

Don’t just think about the package that’s being sold, think about the equipment you’ll need and the manpower needed to get the system up and running. As your company grows, you’ll have to add more users to your system too. You have to think about the costs relating to upgrades and purchasing add-ons.

If you only consider the upfront payment and neglect the upgrades, maintenance, and any other factors of operating with a VoIP system, chances are you might end-up spending more than expected.

If you are looking for the perfect VoIP system, then we can help. Contact us now for our expert advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 6th, 2014

Security_May03_BEnsuring the security of your systems and computers can sometimes seem like a full time job and an uphill battle, especially with the increasing number of security issues being discovered. From bugs in software to malware, there is almost always some attack challenging the system security and potentially leading to a security breach. The other week a number of articles highlighted a bug in Apple's systems that poses a potential security flaw.

About the bug

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

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

What exactly is SSL/TSL?

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

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

What was the problem and what software was affected?

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

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

Has Apple solved this?

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

How do I prevent my systems from being affected?

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_BMany business owners are looking for different ways in which they can connect with their customers while also building a company brand or adding value to their products or services. While a business website and a presence on social media sites can be a big help, blogging can sometimes be a better way to connect with your customers and potential customers.

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

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

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

1. Define your topics and your audience

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

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

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

2. Be consistent

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

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

3. Be relevant

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

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

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

4. Don't forget the CTA

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

5. Keep articles easy to read

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

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

6. Promote and share your content

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 4th, 2014

Facebook_Mar03_BFebruary this year was an important month for Facebook. First of all they celebrated their 10 year anniversary by presenting each user with their own video highlighting the best of their profiles. Then news broke that the platform was nearing 1.25 billion active users. Finally, the company launched a new mobile app – Paper – that changes the way you use the platform on your device.

What is Facebook Paper?

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

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

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

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

How Paper works

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

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

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

Is Paper good for business users?

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

Can I get Paper?

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 1st, 2014

HealthcareIT_Feb25_AMore than half of health-care organizations have not implemented business-intelligence systems, according to a survey, and that could hurt their bottom lines.

Business intelligence is the transformation of raw data into useful information for business purposes. It shows you what’s going on in your practice and how your practice could improve.

According to the survey of 250 health-care professionals by TEKsystems, 58 percent of physician practices and hospitals have not implemented a business-intelligence system. That includes 21 percent that plan to implement a business-intelligence system in the next 24 months, and 26 percent that have no plans whatsoever.

This is a problem, because data will be at the heart of how health-care organizations get paid as the industry changes from a fee-for-service model to a pay-for-performance model. The survey supports this idea, as 76 percent of respondents expect a business-intelligence system to be widely used in finance.

One reason health-care providers haven’t implemented business-intelligence systems, the study found, is that there is a lack of resources and skills available to help them do so. Thirty-four percent of respondents said that data complexity is the biggest obstacle. That’s where an IT expert can help. If you want to implement a business-intelligence system, and don’t have the IT resources on staff, consider reaching out to an IT expert like us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 1st, 2014

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 28th, 2014

BI_Feb24_BIf there is one thing all businesses rely on it’s data. As the integration of new systems and features continues, the amount of data available to a businesses grows. In order to be able to get more out of this data, businesses have started looking at adopting Business Intelligence (BI) systems. These come with their own language, and three of the more confusing terms are data mart, data warehouse, and data mining.

What is a data warehouse?

The concept of a data warehouse is an interesting one and also a difficult one to define and pin down largely because it can cover such a broad area. The most concise definition we can give is that it is a database that integrates data from many different locations and databases into one consolidated database.

Data warehouses store both current and historical data, and rarely contain unique data. Instead, they aggregate data from other sources in order to make this more accessible. They might store important information from sales, marketing, ERP, customer interactions, and any form of database in order to quickly generate BI related reports.

The name undoubtedly conjures up the idea of a large warehouse-like building storing infinite amounts of data. However, most data warehouses are actually tables which are created by taking data from various sources and cleaning it up so that relevant data is stored in the warehouse in a way that makes it easier to reach when needed.

What is a data mart?

A data mart is a smaller data warehouse that stores data. These are based on a specific area or business function e.g., finance or marketing, etc. In fact, most modern data warehouses are actually made up of a series of smaller data marts.

The key difference between a data mart and a data warehouse is that data marts are usually smaller, focusing on one specific area, while a data warehouse covers the whole organization.

What is data mining?

When talking about Business Intelligence, many experts will refer to data mining. This is the act of analyzing data in order to identify patterns. The data that is mined can then be transformed into useable information. Many companies store this mined data in databases, a data warehouse, or a data mart.

Want to learn more about these terms and how your company can benefit from a BI solution? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 27th, 2014

Virtualization_Feb24_BOften described as the future of business systems, virtualization has taken the world of IT to greater heights than ever before. With the advent of virtualization, businesses can now optimize their systems. In addition, this innovation allows them to do what they have never been able to do before, such as centralizing the control of the business environment, and a whole lot more.

While it may seem like virtualization is only advantageous to large businesses, in truth, even small companies can take advantage of this rising and sophisticated innovation. That being said, there are many companies still holding back. To help you understand virtualization, here are five good reasons why you need to virtualize your business now.

You can optimize servers

Perhaps the most compelling reason to virtualize your systems is to make your computing resources (such as the RAM and processor cycles) more efficient. And with efficient computing resources, businesses can reduce their capital expenses. Furthermore, small and mid-sized business are able to manage fewer physical servers, because virtualization allows users to combine, or virtualize, physical servers into fewer physical machines.

You get cutting-edge disaster recovery plans

Since catastrophes are possible, businesses should be prepared before they are faced with a disaster. The advantage of virtualization is that many solutions come with a disaster recovery plan to get your business back to a normal operational state after a problem strikes.

It can be far easier to fully back up your entire virtualized infrastructure than trying to do the same with separate hardware servers.

It increases business continuity

While business continuity is similar to disaster recovery, the goals of each operation are different. The aim of business continuity is to achieve zero, or minimal, business operation interruptions. However, many businesses find this difficult to achieve with traditional business systems.

Many virtualization solutions offer live migration, a feature that helps preserve the continuity of business operations by eliminating the need for downtime. This system works by rapidly transferring systems from one virtual environment to another when the original is affected. This enables a business to continue operations, despite some system failures.

It's a time-saver

Compared to setting up physical hardware, which can take months to establish, test, and maintain, setting up a virtualized system for your business can usually be achieved in a matter of minutes.

You get centralized control

Virtualization makes it possible to manage your entire system using one central tool. This is one cutting-edge advantage that suits many businesses, especially small and mid-sized ones. Moreover, security and compliance features can be built in, leading to systems that are even more secure than before.

The benefits to be gained by virtualizing can prove to be a real game changer for your business. Though it may seem complex at first, considering the new lingo and foreign functions, you’ll soon realize that it's just a matter of finding the right IT partner to work with.

Our virtualization experts are here for you and can help you from start to finish. If you want to know more about virtualization and its benefits to your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 26th, 2014

Office_Feb24_BMicrosoft Office is without a doubt one of the world’s most renowned and cutting-edge office suites. MS office can be used in any work environment because of its user-friendly and not-so-complicated functionalities. This tool can be the single most powerful and reliable tool your business needs for success. That being said, there may come a time when you need help with the program.

When it comes to helping you with solutions for your Office issues, here are five of the most common go-to places:

F1

Let’s assume you’ve already installed Microsoft Office Suite and an application is already up and running. However, the problem is you need to figure out how to do something. Finding a solution can sometimes be frustrating, so follow one of two options to get a quick answer to your questions.

The first is to press F1 to open the help database. You can then search for a solution to your problem. The second option is to press the question mark ‘?’ located in the upper right corner of any Office program. This will open the same solution database.

MS Diagnostics

Microsoft Office failures, such as your program crashing or not launching, don’t necessarily mean that the software is corrupt or needs to be reinstalled. There might be another root cause. But there’s no need to panic, as Microsoft offers an in-house physician for your Office problems called MS Diagnostics.

This tool runs a number of tests on Office programs, identifying existing and potential problems. Basically, the MS Diagnostic tool is like an MRI that thoroughly scans your Office software application, and which can usually provide repair options too.

Office Support

If the issues with your Office applications are not repaired using MS Diagnostics, then you possibly need the help of Office Support. This is one of the six main tabs on the Microsoft Office website.

Once you open Office Support, it welcomes you with an opening question: “What do you need help with?”. You can then select a specific application or product or select All products in that field. In the search box, you can also enter certain keywords that are relevant to the issue. A consolidated list of results will be generated that match any words you have entered. Many users are able to find a solution to their problems by visiting this page.

Community forums

Sometimes, the information on the Microsoft website is too general and doesn’t go far enough in helping you find the solution you need. One way to get a more thorough and updated fix for your Office application problems is to look at the various Office oriented forums on the Internet. Many of these forums tackle issues regarding Microsoft Office, with corresponding solutions that have already been tested. Joining forums can be helpful, especially when you want to learn new information, such as the latest software upgrades.

Tech support

There are some issues that cannot be resolved using MS Diagnostics, website support, and community forums. If all else fails, then you might need to get in touch with Microsoft’s technical support. You can directly air out your concerns with a person who is an expert with technical Office issues.

If you’ve tried to fix problems with MS Office and don’t seem to be getting anywhere or issues keep recurring, then give us a call now and we will find the best solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.