Blog

October 29th, 2014

BCP_Oct27_BBusiness continuity plans are an important part of any business, especially if owners and managers want to see a business through any disaster. In order to have an effective plan, it is important that businesses integrates technology that can support a plan. The fact is though that this technology will eventually need to be replaced. Here are five tips that can help you determine whether you need to upgrade to a new system, or replace existing ones.

1. New technology and systems offer increased resilience

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

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

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

2. Enhanced data protection and availability

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

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

3. Systems offering increased communication

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

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

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

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

5. Technology that decreases costs

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

Windows_Oct20_BIn late September, Microsoft introduced the next version of Windows - Windows 10. At the announcement event, the company showed off a number of exciting new features that many users have been requesting. While it will be a while before it is released, here is a brief overview of some of the upcoming features you can look forward to.

Why Windows 10?

When first announced, many eyebrows were raised regarding Windows 9 being skipped. In the tech world, missing out a number with a sequence is not the norm, yet Microsoft stated that they believe that the next version of Windows will be such a drastic improvement over Windows 8 that calling it Windows 9 would not do it justice. From what we can see of the new system, there really are some drastic improvements, including:

One operating system (OS), many systems

When Windows 8 was released, a slightly modified version of the OS was also released for mobile devices. While this was good news, especially for mobile users, the systems were still largely separate, with different apps, app stores, and more.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has noted that the OS has been designed to run across all systems. This means that different devices will likely have slightly different interaction experiences but the underlying system will be the same. For example, there will be one way to write programs for all devices, one app store, and updates will be applied to all versions of the same app, on all devices, at the same time.

A new, yet familiar, Start menu

Windows 8 was a drastic departure from the familiar Windows desktop layout. For the most part, it was despised by business users, who instead have largely bypassed this layout for the traditional Desktop mode. Windows 8.1 allowed users to boot directly into the Desktop, but one large feature has been lacking: a Start menu.

Windows 10 welcomes it back! As with older versions of Windows, the Start menu will be at the bottom-left of the screen, and pressing it will bring up the familiar menu of programs and options. Only now, the old Tile-based layout has also been merged into this section. Think of the traditional Start menu bar, but with a mini-tile based section to the right that will be customizable.

Everything opens in a window

If you've ever downloaded an app from the Windows App store, you likely have noticed that they automatically run in fullscreen mode. With Windows 10, any Windows Store apps will open in window-format, similar to any desktop app.

When apps open you will see the familiar taskbar, along with the maximize, minimize and close buttons. This will make it much easier to work in multiple programs at the same time.

Multiple Desktops

Microsoft Virtual Desktops is a feature that will allow users to create different desktops for different purposes and switch between them quickly and easily. While you will only need to install Windows 10 once, you can have a different desktop setup for say home, personal, and business use all under one user.

Each desktop can display different icons and layouts, but all desktops will have access to the programs installed for that user. Essentially, this will make it easier for business users who also use their devices for personal use or those who need to switch roles at work.

An enhanced File Explorer

File Explorer has been a part of Windows for a while now, and its main function is that it helps you to find your files and folders. In Windows 10, this feature will be upgraded to now search for not only your files and folders, but also to scan the Internet as well. You will also be able to quickly see recent and most popular files and folders, meaning you'll be more likely to be able to find what you are looking for in less time.

When will it be available?

Microsoft has already released what they call a Technical Preview of Windows 10. Anyone can sign up to download Windows 10 and install it on their computers. We would advise against this however, as this version is incomplete and there will be bugs and compatibility issues.

The company has noted that this current version is really for tech experts to install on secondary computers and test, so business users will have to wait! At the time of this article there has been no actual release date set for Windows 10, but you can probably expect it sometime in early 2015. Microsoft has also been quiet about the price, but rumors are circulating that it will either be free or affordable for users to upgrade to if they already have an older version of Windows installed.

Get ahead of the curve and find out what benefits Windows 10 can bring to your business, by dropping us a line first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

SocialMedia_Oct20_BWhile social media has become an important and integral part of many business's marketing plans, it can be easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut when it comes to developing dynamic content and varied posts. This often sees companies sticking with the same content types, which can get quite boring for all parties. To help, here are five types of content that you should be sharing.

1. Selfies

The 2013 "word of the year", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has become so popular it's no mean feat to avoid it these days. Truth be told, the selfie is popular for a reason: It is a quick way to get people to engage with your content.

The key here is to know when to take a selfie for your social media sites. What you want are selfies that make your company look more human, for example a group lunch meeting or after-work game night that shows people having fun. When done in the right way, selfie posts can increase interaction. Just be sure to limit the number you post, as too many could lead to you being perceived as being too focused on your company and not your customers.

2. Inside looks

When we find a product or service we like, we are often curious to learn more about it. This includes learning more about the company that makes the products or services and how it operates.

If you have a growing fan base, why not create content that provides customers with an inside look at some aspect of your business. Take pictures of your office, videos about how your products are made, or perhaps write content about how certain services are created and delivered. Basically, try to come up with content that gives people an inside view of the company.

The reason this type of content works is because it often gives customers a deeper understanding about a business, and creates a closer connection to the products and services. If you can increase overall attachment, you can increase the chances that customers will interact with content, stay loyal to your brand, and even share information about your company or recommend you.

3. Quotes

Famous quotes can be a great way to get a message across in a strong way. If for example you are hosting a Thanksgiving party, or Halloween party, adding a themed quote to your post could be a great way to encourage social media users to interact with it.

Also, if you can find quotes that are relevant to your industry, you could post these whilst asking for opinions or to further a point you're trying to make.

4. Fill in the blanks

While this may sound a little simple, posts that ask your audience to fill in a blank can be a great way to drive engagement while giving your customers a chance to tell their own story. For example, if you are a bakery who produces well-known donuts, asking a question like: "The first time I had this donut was _." could be a good way to inspire customers to interact with you.

5. Videos

One of the more drastic changes many social media sites like Facebook have implemented in the past couple of years is a feature that automatically plays a video when someone pauses on it while scrolling. While not fully welcomed by all users, this move has actually led to the number of video views increasing by as much as two times.

While creating a video because everyone else is, is a bad idea, if you have content that you know can be turned into a useful video e.g., a how-to video, then this could be a great way to reach your target market in an interesting way.

If you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
October 16th, 2014

VoIP_Oct13_BVoIP has become one of the most popular communication systems implemented in small to medium businesses. While there are many different systems out there offering different solutions and features one element you should really look into is what experts call QoS, or Quality of Service. Here is a quick overview of what QoS is and some important questions to ask potential providers.

What is QoS?

When you hear VoIP providers or IT experts talking about Quality of Service what they are referring to is the overall performance of a VoIP system or network. This performance is usually measured by what the end-users think of as the system's performance and by looking at other statistics like bandwidth use, transmission (call) delay, error rates, etc.

Why is it important?

QoS is not just used for VoIP systems, in fact it has been something even traditional phone providers strive for. Think back to your original landline service, chances are that 99% of the time call quality was perfect, or near perfect. This is because traditional phone network providers invested in physical networks and connections that offer high QoS, all of the time. If you switch from one provider to another, there is a good chance that quality doesn't change.

With these well established physical networks, you are going to have to pay more though. Most traditional phone systems are more expensive than VoIP, because the network providers have to physically maintain their transmission network (phone lines, switches, etc.). This high-maintenance cost is also the reason why there are only a couple of phone providers in your area - it's just too costly for small companies to launch a traditional phone network.

The Internet, more specifically broadband connections, have enabled VoIP and therefore lead to a high number of VoIP providers, largely because you don't need to own the transmission network (in this case the Internet) to launch a VoIP platform. Because of this, the QoS amongst providers varies drastically.

What this means for you is that you should be taking a provider's QoS into account when looking for new VoIP systems. To help you ensure that you are getting the best possible, here are three questions you should ask each prospective provider:

1. How much of the network infrastructure your system uses do you own?

Almost every VoIP provider will rely at some point on public Internet in order to transmit their services. Essentially, the less infrastructure a company owns, the higher the risk that quality will be lower. Conversely, using more public systems means lower prices, so it really is a trade off you need to think about.

For businesses that rely on phone systems, one of the best options is to look for facilities-based providers. These companies own all, or most, of the network that carries VoIP calls and can therefore offer better services and quality.

2. How much traffic will run over public Internet?

This answer will vary amongst providers. Some of the most popular solutions amongst really small businesses and home users like Vonage will use almost 100% public Internet for their traffic. Other companies will use a mixture or public and private networks, often using public for more affordable services and private for high-end users.

For example, cable providers who offer VoIP calling will often use public Internet to carry lower-level traffic, while high-end business plans will often run on private networks. The reason to ask this question is because traffic that goes over public Internet networks will be subject to bandwidth sharing. If there is a high demand for bandwidth in the general area, call quality may drop.

3. What level of quality can you guarantee

Good providers will be able to guarantee a QoS that is comparable, or even better, than traditional networks. This is especially important for businesses who are looking to switch to a full VoIP solution. What a provider should do is run a few tests on your network and then give you a quality assurance. If it is too low, then look for another provider.

Want to know more about how VoIP can benefit your business? Get in touch with us first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
October 15th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct13_BMobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become essential tools to almost every business manager and owner. Regardless of the system you use, there are hundreds of different types of apps out there. From the simple to the complex, it can be a task to pick the types of apps to install on your phone. To help make things easier, here are five of the most common types of apps business users should have on their devices.

1. File creation, management, and collaboration

Many small to medium businesses are implementing cloud-based document systems. These systems enable easy file creation, storage, and collaboration between users in the office, coincidentally they also have mobile apps.

If you have cloud-based document systems like Google Apps or Office 365 in your office, it would be beneficial to install the mobile apps for the system that you use. The reason for this is because the mobile apps have the same functionality as their Web-based versions. From your device you can access files, create new ones, share them, and even edit files which means you can be productive on the go.

2. Lists

A good lists app can go a long way in helping to keep you organized. From creating a daily to-do-list to creating a list of long-term tasks or goals, you can create lists when you think of them and easily sync them with other devices and even colleagues.

Lists apps also help because we often come up with things we need to do while away from the office. Because our mobile device is always with us, we can simply add it to an existing list, or create a new one. No having to track down paper that may be lost, or trying to remember things.

While there are many list apps out there, one of the most useful is any.do which allows users to create both work and personal lists and share them with other users. Wunderlist is also great, as it allows users to create lists with sublists and even assign tasks to other people.

3. Notes

Like a list app, a good note app is essential. If you come up with an idea outside of the office, you can jot it down and have the note sync with other devices for action when you are back in the office. Apps of this type are also useful in meetings outside of the office because many of them allow users to record conversations and even add notes quickly. So, if an important idea comes up or is talked about it is recorded and not missed.

Some of the best Notes apps include Google Keep which syncs with your Google account and allows you to quickly create notes. If your office uses Microsoft Office, or Office 365, the best choice would be OneNote which can sync with your Microsoft account, bringing notes to any system. For those who want a powerful notes suite, the best option is Evernote, which works on almost every system and Web browser.

4. CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become one of the most essential ways for business owners and managers to manage their relationships with their customers. Companies that have integrated a CRM solution have found that overall satisfaction and customer retention has improved.

Because these solutions allow you to quickly view customer data (e.g., contact information, sales history, etc.) it makes sense for mobile apps to be created for anyone working out in the field. In fact, most CRM solutions now have mobile apps that allow you to access customer databases from any mobile device. If you have a CRM solution, especially a cloud-based one, it is worthwhile checking with your provider if there is a mobile app too.

5. Communication

When out of the office, you need a way of keeping in touch with those back at base, or other employees who may also be out of the office. While email is usually enough to cover most communication needs, there are times when you need something more immediate. That's where apps like Google Hangouts, iOS Messages, Microsoft Lync, and even Facebook Messages can help. These chat-oriented apps enable communication wherever you have a data, or Internet, connection.

Beyond this, there are a wide number of VoIP solutions that offer mobile apps. When you install these on your device, you can turn your mobile into your office phone which will function exactly like your desk-based phone. This makes it easier to keep in touch with the office, so be sure to ask your VoIP provider if there is a mobile app you can install on your device.

If you have a favorite business app, let us know. And, if you are looking for a way to increase the value your business can provide customers, contact us to learn how a mobile solution can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 14th, 2014

Facebook_Oct13_BBusinesses on Facebook have many different goals as to why they use the platform, but there is one thing in common that they all strive for: The perfect post. The issue with finding the 'perfect post' is that it can be actually quite difficult, especially when you take into account the large amount of data out there. A recent study by TrackMaven however highlights a number of useful factors that could help you create a post that works well for your business.

About the study

TrackMaven focuses on providing digital marketers with competitive intelligence. The company commissioned a study that looked at 1.5 million posts across 6,000 different Facebook Pages, in an effort to try and figure out what makes a so-called perfect post. According to the study, the idea of 'perfect' is a post that has gone viral on News Feeds and has extended overall content reach.

Essentially what they found is that there is no one perfect post! Rather, there are a number of post elements that, when combined, will usually lead to an increase in overall post reach and success. Here is a brief overview of the five common elements the most successful posts include.

They ask questions

The study found that on average, posts that ask a question will see 23% more engagement than other posts. While this makes sense, after all a question is really a call to action that aims to get the reader to do something, not every post works with a question.

If, for example, you are introducing a new event, or posting updates about a recent company gathering, questions may not make the most sense in this context. The key is to only include questions when they seem appropriate or a natural fit. If you want to inspire some action in your customers then a question can work well and urges people to actually do something more than simply look at a post.

The hashtag is used (sparingly)

In Facebook, as in other social networks, the hashtag is used to not only highlight words in a post, but to also make the post searchable. If you click on a hashtag on a post, you should see other posts also using that tag. When used in the right way, a hasthag can really increase engagement with your posts.

Interestingly enough, the TrackMaven study found that posts with hashtags saw 60% more engagement than those without. The key here is to use them sparingly! In other words, don't hashtag every word, or cram them all at the end. Instead, try to hashtag common words, or words associated with the company or content, directly in the content.

They post on weekends or off hours

There are hundreds, if not thousands of studies online looking at when the best time to post content is. Many conclude that the ideal time is different based on industry, type of business, audience, etc. While this is true, this study highlighted that companies who post after business hours and on the weekend can see increased interaction.

For posts on Sunday, interaction rate was 25% higher than similar content posted on a Wednesday, while posts that show up on News Feeds after 5:00 pm Monday to Friday will see over 10% higher interaction rates.

The key point here is that it could be a good idea to post your content when your audience is more likely to look at Facebook. Most business managers, owners, and even customers probably aren't looking at Facebook during business hours, so try scheduling content after the working day or on weekends.

They are visual

Take a look at your own News Feed and you will notice that a large majority of content on there is visual in nature. Be it videos, images, links with images, etc, Facebook is a highly visual platform.

The study, unsurprisingly, found that posts with visual content had higher interaction than posts with just text. In fact, posts with visual content had an average of 2.35 interactions per post while posts with just text had 1.71 interactions. While these numbers aren't high, it stresses that if you want your content to be shared or interacted with, visuals help.

They reach a general word count

A lot of people, when using social media, tend to be viewing Facebook on their mobile devices, or when they have a couple of spare minutes. What this equates to is people quickly scanning their News Feed and moving onto another post after only a few seconds, or less.

It is best to strive for a wordcount that is easily scannable for most posts. The study found that posts with 80-89 words inspired more engagement than shorter posts. This indicates that a good word count might be in the range of 70-100 for maximum effect. That being said, there are a number of professionals out there who use Facebook as an almost-blog and post longer content, who are relatively successful. We recommend trying out a few longer posts as well, just to see how people interact with them.

If you are looking to learn more about Facebook for your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct08_BAs a business owner there are many different keys to success, one of the most important being your staff. If you take care of your employees, there is a good chance that your business will not only be successful but will hopefully also operate with healthy margins. What is sometimes a challenge though is actually managing employees and dealing with all the related information. An Enterprise Resource Planning solution, more specifically a Human Resources module, can be an effective tool that allows you to better manage your employees.

What are Human Resource modules?

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated business software applications (often called modules) that allow companies to track and manage data and even automate some business functions, including Human Resources.

Human Resource modules in particular are used to track different people-related functions, such as planning, payroll, administration, development, hiring, and more. Business services, like Standard Operating Procedures, job postings, news, forums, tracking of work hours, and benefits, etc., can all be unified into one module, which makes overall management and decision-making easier.

Benefits of using HR modules

Businesses that have integrated ERP and more specifically HR modules, have been able to benefit in a number of ways. Here are 5:

1. Automated processes that free up management

A large function of HR, as with many other business processes, is data entry and reporting. If you are trying to develop reports without an integrated ERP system, you probably need to pull data from numerous sources which takes time. This is time that can probably be better spent on more relevant tasks.

An ERP module data, once set up, will be more accessible. This simultaneously makes it easier to enter and pull data together into reports. And because large parts of daily tasks can be automated, you can ensure that what you need to complete is actually achieved.

2. Enhanced sharing of information and collaboration

Because HR is a central function of any business, data related to HR needs to eventually be shared with other teams or departments. Without ERP this likely means you will need to ask different people to share their data and then compile it into a useable format.

With ERP for HR, data is stored in a central location, or brought together to a central location, which means that data from different sources can be shared faster and easier. This also ensures that the right data is shared, thus enhancing overall outcomes and making it simpler for other teams to work together.

3. Management gains a clearer picture of HR

It can be tough to gain a short-term picture of your employee resources, especially when it comes to identifying potential resource shortfalls (e.g., double-booked holidays, employees who are constantly late, etc.) and where improvements can be made. For example, in most modules you can track overtime hours of employees, and receive alerts when overtime is past a certain threshold.

If you spot that one department is consistently banking extended overtime hours, you can move quickly to address this.

4. Data is kept up-to-date

As we've stated above, HR systems usually involve data from various locations. This means that there is always a chance of duplicate or incorrect information. A healthcare ERP module can help ensure that the data is not only correct, but also not duplicated, which can in turn speed up decision-making and enable better decisions to be made.

5. Reduced licensing expenses

Without ERP, your HR team could need five or more systems in order to keep track of everything. Each of these systems will need to be licensed, which can often be a serious investment on your behalf, not to mention the costs of setting up and maintaining these systems.

Because HR ERP modules offer an integrated solution, you pay for one license to cover all of your needs. This reduces overall expenses while also making it easier to budget and maintain.

If you are looking to integrate an ERP solution in your business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_BIn late spring of this year news broke of the biggest security issue to date - Heartbleed. Many companies leapt to secure themselves from this, but the fallout from it is still being felt. That being said, there is a new, even bigger, security problem called Shellshock that all businesses need to now be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 9th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct07_BBusinesses, like restaurants, boutique fashion stores, and even some delivery operations have flocked to mobile payment systems largely because you don’t have to invest in expensive Point of Sale equipment and can instead run it all from a device like an iPad. With the recent new mobile payment announcements and continued enhancements, it is highly likely that mobile payment solutions will see explosive growth in businesses the world over.

What exactly is mobile payment?

Most people would define mobile payment as either using your mobile device as a wallet, or using mobile devices to accept payment. Many services allow users to link credit cards to their mobile device and simply scan it over a pay terminal to have their account charged.

Companies on the other hand usually pay a set per-transaction fee in order to use the system; something along the lines of, or slightly cheaper than, most credit or debit-based payment terminals.

If you are considering switching over, here is a brief overview of the most common payment solutions.

PayPal

In late September Internet auction giant eBay announced that they will be spinning off their popular Internet payment system PayPal sometime in 2015. While many users will utilize PayPal to pay online, there is actually a mobile payment solution called PayPal Here, which is expected to grow immensely.

With Here, you get a payment solution app with a card reader that plugs into most smartphones (Android, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets) and allows you to accept multiple types of payment from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can even track cash payments and record checks.

Vendors can use this app free of charge, however they are charged a 2.7% per swipe fee, based on the amount of the transaction.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple’s recently announced mobile payment system that utilizes NFC (Near Field Communication) on the iPhone 6. Users with an iPhone 6 will be able to link their credit cards to their phone and then will hover their device near a terminal and press their thumb on the device’s fingerprint reader to pay.

Your payment information (an account number linked to your card. Apple has noted that actual card numbers are not stored) is stored in the Passbook, and will be accepted at an initial 220,000 stores in the US when it launches sometime in October. There is a good chance that small to medium businesses will be able to integrate this solution into their business in the near future, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

What is interesting is that many banks have announced that they are considering accepting, or will accept Apple Pay as a method of payment. This means that businesses with an existing NFC payment terminal – which is often provided by a bank – should be able to accept payment (if the bank does of course).

Rumors have it that merchants will not be charged a transaction fee to use this service; details will be solidified when the system goes live.

Square

Square is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well known, mobile payment system. With a card reader that is compatible with most popular mobile devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) users can set up a whole Point of Sale system via the Square Stand and accept a wide variety of payments.

To use this solution, you need either the card reader (which is free) or the Square Stand (which costs around USD $99). For each transaction there is a fee that starts at 2.75% for credit and debit cards.

Amazon’s Local Register

Introduced in mid August, this new card reader is aimed at both PayPal and Square solutions. As with these, there is a card reader that can be plugged into most devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) and an app that goes along with it. Businesses with the reader can then use the device to accept payment.

Where this solution differs is that the reader costs USD $10 to purchase. That being said, the USD $10 is refunded towards your first transaction fees upon signing up. The transaction fees are also quite a bit lower. For businesses that sign up before October 31, 2014, there is a flat rate of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016. Any business that signs up after this date will pay a flat rate of 2.5% per transaction (based on the total transaction amount).

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a hybrid mobile and online payment solution that allows users to add credit cards to their wallet and pay for things either online, or at stores with NFC payment terminals (also called contactless terminals).

While most users who have made a purchase on Google Play, or have used their Google Account to make a payment have used Wallet, this hasn’t been the most popular of solutions when it comes to customers using it to pay in-store. The reason for this is because there are only a limited number of devices with the required NFC radio (two to be exact). This system is also currently limited to the US only. Customers around the world can use Google Wallet to pay online however.

There is a good chance that with the recent new announcements and upcoming mobile payment products, Google will be pushing this out to more devices in the near future.

There are other mobile payment system options available, so it is a good idea to contact us before you implement one. We can help you not only find a solution that works for your business, but ensure that it can be integrated into your existing systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Oct02_AThe deployment and utilization of electronic medical records (EMRs) is driving a health-care technology revolution as physicians find that their EMRs complement their other systems, enabling the establishment of patient portals, medication tracking, and electronic prescribing among other things.

Physicians are making strides in regard to technology adoption, however, in many cases it’s the result of necessity rather than desire. As the industry moves away from the fee-for-service model, and places more emphasis on quality reporting, physicians have to pay attention to workflows so they can capture data in a timely manner.

What some physicians don’t understand is the benefit of technology to their practices. In addition to giving physicians more time to spend with their patients, it allows them to serve as caretakers of personal health information, and this puts them in a position to be more dominant in accountable care organizations and control relationships with provider partners.

One area in which physicians are behind is ICD-10 conversion. Many who had hoped for the delay, and now that they have it, aren’t moving forward fast enough. Indeed, some industry analysts believe the one-year delay to October 2015 may have actually slowed down the process of conversion.

If you are struggling with the technology in your practice, contact us today. Our wide-variety of services can be tailored to help make technology not only easier to use but also manage. We can also help ensure that your practice is ready for ICD-10 well ahead of the projected deadline.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.