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February 24th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_321247400The first thing that comes to mind when you think of social media is Facebook and for good reason. Not only does it boast the most users, but it also has the biggest reach and cultural impact. Since there is no one-size-fits-all social media platform, it’s imperative for small- and medium-sized businesses to examine their options before making an investment.

Facebook According to the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, Facebook is the most utilized social media of all the options. Out of the survey’s 1,100+ respondents, 68 percent used Facebook as an integral part of their marketing strategy, with LinkedIn coming in second at 39 percent.

One of the contributing factors to Facebook’s popularity is the fact that it’s currently approaching a total of 2 billion personal users, making it the first place companies go to when they want to increase their brand awareness. Other marketing-specific reasons businesses choose Facebook are social media referral traffic, terrific conversion rates for e-commerce traffic, and a huge impact on user purchasing decisions.

YouTube YouTube is considered an undervalued social media resource for two main reasons. Firstly, although it’s the second-largest search engine on the internet, it still looms in the giant shadow of its rival Google Search. But when properly utilized, YouTube allows you to create channels for your products or services to be discovered by users, with little more than search optimizations.

Secondly, Google actually owns YouTube, and videos are reportedly 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than other organic content. Keep in mind that video production quality is more important than ever, so your content needs to be well-produced in order to make an impact.

Google+ Engagement and content on sharing might pale in comparison to Facebook, but an active Google+ page measurably contributes to the Google search ranking of your website -- just another way you can ensure your site’s position on the first page of Google results should be done. Also, Google+ has hundreds of millions of users and some of the platform’s features -- such as live Hangouts -- can be utilized to share content across all Google channels, including YouTube.

Snapchat and Instagram If your target audience is on the younger end of the scale, Snapchat is the way to go. The important thing to keep in mind when you want to connect with 18-24 year olds is to always be fun and creative. Your content doesn’t need to be overly-polished or corporate. Currently, there are over 100 million active users on Snapchat.

As for Instagram, it boasts over 400 million monthly users as well as a more well-rounded user base in terms of age and geography. The content on Instagram should look more professional and more artistic, and there’s an added benefit of direct integration with Facebook every time you post a new picture or video.

Yelp Review sites might not be the purest form of social media, but Yelp is another great way to connect with users and respond to (hopefully positive) feedback. If you’re concerned about the controversy and negativity that have arisen from Yelp reviews, the Yelp team is known for helping businesses improve their online status and rise above the harsh comments.

If you still have questions about social media platforms and how to utilize them to your advantage, feel free to contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 21st, 2017

2017February21_Virtualization_BData storage may be one of the easiest facets of virtualization to explain, but that doesn’t make it immune to problems arising from confusion. There are a few things that can cause virtualized data storage to underperform, and most of them can be easily fixed by technicians who know their stuff. Read on to find out whether you might have fallen for one of these mistakes.

Poorly structured storage from the get go

Within a virtualized data storage framework, information is grouped into tiers based on how quickly that information needs to be accessible when requested. The fastest drives on the market are still very expensive, and most networks will have to organize data into three different tiers to avoid breaking the bank.

For example, archived or redundant data probably doesn’t need to be on the fastest drive you have, but images on your eCommerce website should get the highest priority if you want customers to have a good experience.

Without a virtualization expert on hand, organizing this data could quickly go off the rails. Ask your IT service provider to see a diagram of where your various data types are stored and how those connect to the software-defined drive at the hub of your solution. If there are too many relays for your server to pass through, it’ll be a slower solution than the non-virtualized alternatives.

Inadequately maintained virtualized storage

How long will your intended design last? Companies evolve and expand in short periods of time, and your infrastructure may look completely different months later. Virtualized data storage requires frequent revisions and updates to perform optimally.

Whoever is in charge of your virtualization solution needs to have intimate knowledge of how data is being accessed. If you’re using virtual machines to access your database and move things around, they need to be precisely arranged to make sure you don’t have 10 workstations trying to access information from the same gateway while five other lanes sit unoccupied.

Incorrect application placement

In addition to watching how your data is accessed as the system shifts and grows, administrators also need to keep a close eye on the non-human components with access to the system. Virtualized applications that access your database may suffer from connectivity problems, but how would you know?

The application won’t alert you, and employees can’t be expected to report every time the network seems slow. Your virtualization expert needs to understand what those applications need to function and how to monitor them closely as time goes on.

Deploying any type of virtualized IT within your business network is a commendable feat. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Without the fine-tuning of an experienced professional, you risk paying for little more than a fancy name. For the best virtualization advice in town, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 16th, 2017

Windows-170px-02If your small- or medium-sized business has yet to get a Windows 10 upgrade, fret not! Microsoft has just announced the good news. The tech giant is bringing back free Windows 10 upgrades exclusively for SMBs that passed on the previous offer. If you’re still doubting about getting that upgrade, these additional facts might help you change your mind.

They’re extending the free upgrade to this segment of customers to help them get to Windows 10,” said Wes Miller, an analyst at Direction on Microsoft, specializing in complex licensing rules and practices. Much like the 12-month upgrade deal that ended last August, this offer applies to personal computers running on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The only difference is, the offer is exclusive for businesses that have subscribed to one of the Windows Enterprise plans.

According to Nic Fillingham, a small business product manager: "Customers subscribed to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 as well as Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5, can now upgrade their Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs and devices to Windows 10 without the need to purchase separate upgrade licenses."

The Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscriptions are priced at $7 per user per month and $14 per user per month, or $84 and $168 per user annually. Unlike Microsoft's historical licensing -- which permanently licensed the operating system on a per-device basis -- the E3 and E5 subscriptions are per-user licenses, and payments must be maintained to run the OS. This was introduced to target customers that didn’t want to sign a long-term volume licensing agreement.

In order to qualify for a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription -- which are delivered through a CSP (cloud service provider) -- devices must already be running on Windows 10 Pro. SMBs could upgrade their devices for free last year if those devices ran older Windows 10 versions, and SMBs can upgrade the devices they newly acquire this year if those devices are already equipped with Windows 10 Pro.

"When the CSP originated, the only qualifying OS was [Windows] 10 Pro Anniversary Update," said Miller. "You had to be on 10 Pro. So, if you missed the consumer upgrade window, you would have to buy the underlying 10 Pro license." It’s this license that Microsoft is giving away to customers subscribing to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5. The acquired license is “perpetual” and will be tied to the specific device. “This means the license will not expire or be revoked if the customer chooses to end their Windows cloud subscription in the CSP program," added Fillingham.

Since the upgrade is considered a subscriber benefit, a PC upgrade might be needed -- from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise -- and if the user isn’t already covered by an E3 or E5 subscription, an additional $7 or $14 monthly is needed to run the system. Miller stated that the likeliest reason Microsoft brought back the free upgrade was to get more people onto the User Subscription License (SL). Providing upgrades from older editions makes more of a customer's PCs eligible for use under the SL model of E3 and E5 (which is licensed per user, not per device). Another motivation could be to promote a partner-centric CSP.

Microsoft has officially confirmed the Windows 7/8.1-to-Windows 10 Pro upgrade offer is a permanent addition to the benefits for subscribers to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5, and not a time-limited pitch. If you’re still hesitating or would like to ask some more questions, feel free to give us a call anytime!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
February 15th, 2017

2017February15_Security_BShopping around for a managed IT services provider is tough. You’re looking for a business to manage extremely complex and delicate technology, so they can’t be expected to get into the nitty gritty details of DNS-layer security, intrusion prevention systems, and encryption in their marketing content. But one thing does need clarification: What exactly are “proactive cyber-security” measures?

Understand the threats you’re facing

Before any small- or medium-sized business can work toward preventing cyber-attacks, everyone involved needs to know exactly what they’re fighting against. Whether you’re working with in-house IT staff or an outsourced provider, you should review what types of attack vectors are most common in your industry. Ideally, your team would do this a few times a year.

Reevaluate what it is you’re protecting

Now that you have a list of the biggest threats to your organization, you need to take stock of how each one threatens the various cogs of your network. Map out every device that connects to the internet, what services are currently protecting those devices, and what type of data they have access to (regulated, mission-critical, low-importance, etc.).

Create a baseline of protection

By reviewing current trends in the cyber-security field, alongside an audit of your current technology framework, you can begin to get a clearer picture of how you want to prioritize your preventative measure versus your reactive measures.

Before you can start improving your cyber-security approach, you need to know where the baseline is. Create a handful of real-life scenarios and simulate them on your network. Network penetration testing from trustworthy IT professionals will help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your current framework.

Finalize a plan

All these pieces will complete the puzzle of what your new strategies need to be. With an experienced technology consultant onboard for the entire process, you can easily parse the results of your simulation into a multi-pronged approach to becoming more proactive:
  • Security awareness seminars that coach everyone -- from receptionists to CEOs -- about password management and mobile device usage.
  • “Front-line” defenses like intrusion prevention systems and hardware firewalls that scrutinize everything trying to sneak its way in through the front door or your network.
  • Routine checkups for software updates, licenses, and patches to minimize the chance of leaving a backdoor to your network open.
  • Web-filtering services that blacklist dangerous and inappropriate sites for anyone on your network.
  • Antivirus software that specializes in the threats most common to your industry.
As soon as you focus on preventing downtime events instead of reacting to them, your technology will begin to increase your productivity and efficiency to levels you’ve never dreamed of. Start enhancing your cyber-security by giving us a call for a demonstration.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 14th, 2017

Apple-170px-02Support is defined as providing assistance, encouragement, or comfort to help someone achieve a certain goal. For Mac’s version of Microsoft Office, support comes in the form of add-ins that aim to enhance user experience. Although usability testing is currently underway, you can still read about the latest developments here:

Office add-ins are applications running within the suite’s constituent programs that provide features not available by default. In terms of usage, they’re similar to browser extensions, but add-ins are tailored to the tasks users carry out in Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. For example, one popular add-in allows users to look up words and phrases on Wikipedia without leaving Word. Another introduces additional chart types that can be used in Excel.

Add-ins are usually free, but some require either a one-off payment or a monthly subscription. If Microsoft wants its Office Store to flourish, it makes a lot of sense to provide support for add-ins to the Mac version of the Office Suite. According to a report from MS Power User, to access add-ins, Mac users need to be members of the Insider program and opt into its Fast Ring. From there, you should check that the installation of your Office for Mac is build 170124 or later.

You can find the “Add-ins” option from the Insert menu in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and then select the store. Once at the storefront, find an add-in you’re looking for and install it. Currently, there’s no word on when add-ins will be available to all Office users on the Mac platform. But if the functionality is ready for public testing, it’s safe to assume the official release is already on its way.

If you have further questions or would like to be notified of the latest advancements, feel free to get in touch with us!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
February 10th, 2017

2017February10_Business_BWith our busy schedules, we all could use more time to ourselves and loved ones. Getting back home in time for a real meal is now a luxury for many. Thanks to productivity tools like Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365, we’re able to regain some of our lost time. But unless money is no obstacle, you need to choose one over the other. So, should you go for G Suite or Office 365? We’ll address all crucial factors below.

Cost and commitment G Suite offers two pricing plans: $5 and $10 per user per month. The $5 plan offers company email addresses, video and voice calls, integrated online calendars, online documents, presentations and spreadsheets and more.

The $10 plan offers all the features of the $5 plan plus unlimited storage or 1TB per user for less than 5 members, advanced admin control panel for Google Drive, and audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing, to name a few.

  • Office 365 offers a number of pricing plans, including:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials ($5.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business ($8.25 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month)
  • Office 365 ProPlus ($12.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 ($8.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 ($20.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 ($35.00 per user per month)
We’ll compare two plans from Office 365 with the same pricing as G Suite below; you can find more details about Office 365’s other plans here.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials will cost $5 per user per month with annual subscription. Monthly subscription will cost $6 per user per month, meaning you’ll save $1 user per month with G Suite.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 will cost $2 less than G Suite’s $10 plan
Applications

Google Apps are designed for cloud-based collaboration. For instance, Google Docs lets you make permanent changes in the file or provide feedback using “suggestion” mode. Other advanced features in G Suite include machine intelligence in Google Calendar (which helps you find a time when invitees are free), Dynamic layout suggestions in Google Slides, and better file management and granular content ownership.

Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are designed based on desktop versions of their products with enhanced cloud capability -- you’ll be able to use cloud versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more while still being able to work offline. More advanced integration with Microsoft’s cloud solutions like SharePoint, Dynamic CRM, and Azure are also available.

Security

G Suite leverages machine learning capabilities to detect suspicious logins and block most advanced types of spam. It automatically scans every email attachment before you download it to prevent the spread of viruses.

Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a new email filtering service that targets specific advanced threats like unknown malware and viruses in real time to protect against malicious URLs.

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer a clean interface, the difference lies in the way emails are organized. Gmail lets you apply multiple labels to an email and offers 30GB of storage space across Gmail and Drive.

Office 365 uses classical folder structure to categorize emails and offers a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1-TB storage space. Unlimited storage is also available in its Enterprise E3 $20 per user per month plan.

Third-party integration

G Suite’s integration with CRM, productivity and customer service software gives you plenty of options. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Office 365, as Microsoft hasn’t been adopting a developer integration approach when compared with Google.

Support

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer 24/7 phone and email support. However, G Suite also offers live chat support and forums to seek clarification, give feedback and request additional functionality.

To sum up, G Suite is a better solution if you need native integration with third-party apps and support for various operating systems and devices. Despite that, Office 365 makes sense if you prefer a number of options when it comes to your pricing plans or need integration with other Microsoft cloud solutions. No matter the solution, maximizing productivity is imperative to stay ahead of competitors. If you need help finding the right solutions to enhance efficiency, just give us a call; we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Business
February 9th, 2017

2017February9_WebandCloud_BThe web browser battle has been raging for decades. The feud between Internet Explorer and Netscape has long since passed, and now we’re dealing with a much larger field of competition. Today, there are at least four browsers vying for domination, and we’ve broken down each one by its pros and cons.

Google Chrome

By just about any metric, Google Chrome has been the browser of choice for most internet users over the last couple years. It’s easy to use and its graphics interface has a low profile. However, if you want to customize Chrome with extensions and apps, there are more than enough options. The bottom line is: this is the best browser for users who spend a lot of time in G-Suite documents, or want the security benefits of frequent patches and updates.

Apple Safari

We might as well start off with the one, glaring drawback of Safari: It’s available only to Apple users. However, if you are working on a macOS or iOS device, Safari has a lot going for it. Ad blocking is built right into the browser, as well as RSS support for aggregating lots of information in one place. And because tabs can be automatically synced across all your Apple devices, we highly recommend Safari for anyone in a Mac environment.

Microsoft Edge

Note that Edge is a different browser than Internet Explorer. The latter still exists, but we’ve decided to skip it for various reasons. Although Edge works only on Windows 10 systems, it has two things going for it. First, Microsoft has announced a feature that will incorporate virtualization into Edge to quarantine downloads for testing before they’re opened on your computer. Second, the Windows 10 browser comes with some fantastic Office 365 integrations. We highly recommend Edge for users working in a business enterprise environment.

Opera

We’ve saved the most controversial for last. The Opera browser isn’t one of the most popular browsers available, but it does deserve consideration. Although it requires more customization and under-the-hood-work than its competitors, its privacy settings are unmatched. With a built-in virtual private network feature and some of the most robust ad blocking on the market, Opera is a great way to take a break from cookies and targeted advertisements.

Choosing a web browser may seem like such an inconsequential thing, but just think about the rate of cloud adoption. If you plan on utilizing more software-as-a-service solutions in the coming years, one tiny feature in a browser could make all the difference. Contact us today about planning your cloud deployment over the coming years.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
February 6th, 2017

2017February6_SocialMedia_BBehind the application is the business, and behind the business is the need to drive revenue. With Stories, Instagram aims to capitalize on their platform and the enormous consumer reach it has -- an impressive following of over 600 million monthly active users. Teaming up with global advertising giants, IG is now dipping its toes into uncharted waters.

Jim Squares, director of product marketing, said in an interview with Fortune that “a two or three-week test period” will be carried out before releasing it to all its active advertisers. Let’s face it, the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads are undeniable. But with Snapchat ads, they work mainly with larger brands and keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to collaborate with big boys like Netflix or Coca-Cola, you’re looking at a budget bigger than what you might have. By contrast, Instagram ads are self-serving and employ auction-based pricing.

When it comes to setting up and paying for video ads inside Stories, it’s a pretty straightforward process, much like Facebook advertising. Not only do you have the ability to target your audience, but the benefits of working with demographic and Internet-based targeting capabilities definitely give Instagram a competitive advantage. On top of this, users can expect more goodies when the format officially takes off. For the time being, Stories seems to be a simple yet efficient way to test out advertising placement.

Instagram also announced that analytics from Stories will also be included in the Business Tools dashboard, sharing basic insights including reach and impressions -- with a good chance of more analytics to be seen in the future. It’s estimated that up to 71 percent of US businesses will begin to market on Instagram in 2017, and these efforts will not go unnoticed since 75 percent of users initiate some sort of action after seeing a post.

It took Instagram quite a while before it rolled out any type of advertising or introduced any kind of business feature. When it finally did, however, they didn’t beat around the bush in monetizing the platform. Yet, several months after Stories’ initial launch, Instagram is already making plans to leverage its power.

That’s because Stories represents a stellar opportunity at getting back at its biggest rival -- Snapchat -- while simultaneously providing an immersive advertising experience. Because Stories take up the entire mobile screen, so will the ads. Sponsored Stories isn’t exclusive to just images; videos are an optional format for both advertisers and consumers alike. Meaning that full-screen multimedia truly makes it both an interactive and engaging experience. There won’t be a difference in engagement between organic and Sponsored stories; both enable viewers to like, comment and share.

It might not be the traditional once-upon-a-time kind of story, but Instagram’s latest feature is poised to bring happy endings to many -- if utilized properly, of course. If you are still uncertain or would like to ask further questions, feel free to give us a call. Allow us to partner with your business, so you can #succeed that much quicker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 3rd, 2017

2017February3_Virtualization_BDon’t worry, we’ll keep this one simple. Virtualization is confusing enough, and hyperconvergence is one of the newest solutions within the field, making it even harder to grasp. The quick and easy summary is this: Hypconvergence is about virtualizing the hardware and software components required to deploy and manage databases and virtualized desktop infrastructures. Not simple enough? No problem, all we’re covering today is the great benefits you can achieve with this solution.

Using a hyperconvergence model to structure your network is very representative of the current trends in small- and medium-sized business technology. It’s about making enterprise-level solutions more accessible to those looking for a smaller scale. So although a lot of these benefits sound like the same points we argue for other technologies, let’s take a look at how they are unique to hyperconvergence.

Software-centric computing

It may not sound huge at first, but by packing everything you need into a single box, and wrapping that box with a flexible and adaptable management software, you empower your hardware infrastructure to receive more regular patches and updates. This makes it much easier to add more hardware later, or restructure what you’re currently using.

Unified administration

Hyperconvergence consolidates a number of separate functions and services into one piece of technology. Whoever is managing your virtualization services can tweak storage, cloud, backup, and database settings and workloads from one place.

Streamlined upgrading

Different hyperconvergence “boxes” come in different sizes and capabilities. So all it takes to scale up is buying another unit based on your forecasted needs. If you’re in a place where all you need is a little extra, purchase a smaller upgrade. But when you’re expecting rapid growth, a bigger box will ensure your IT can expand with your business.

Stronger data protections

Complexity is the achilles heel of most networked IT. When a small group of people are trying to stay on top of a mounting pile of account management settings, malware definitions, and data storage settings, it’s hard to keep constantly probing cyber-attackers from finding a security hole. But with a hyperconvergence infrastructure, your virtual machines aren’t built by bridging a series of third-party services together -- it’s all one service.

Keep in mind that while hyperconvergence is simpler than most virtualization solutions, it’s not so simple as to be managed by in-house IT departments at more small- and medium-sized businesses. The benefit of a more unified virtualization solution when you already have a managed services provider is the speed at which your growth and evolution can be managed.

The better your technology, the faster we can make changes. And the faster we can accommodate your needs, the less downtime you experience. Call us today to find out more about a hyperconverged system.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 31st, 2017

img-window7-170px-op2Kicking off the three-year countdown to end extended user support, Microsoft is bringing an end to the Windows 7 era -- and for good reason. Because it’s so outdated, security patches are no longer able to keep it safe. Without a solid operating system, not only will users work at sluggish speeds, but they’ll also be susceptible to numerous cyber threats that could ruin their business.

Windows 7 was given extended support in 2015. And with that, Microsoft warned its users that this outdated version would drive up operating costs due to remediating software attacks that Windows 10 systems could otherwise avoid. The three-year countdown toward Windows 7’s twilight officially kicks off with a warning to enterprises that they could face hefty fines for sticking with the platform’s outdated security.

According to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany: Windows 7 does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. How would this make current Windows 7 users feel? Why are users choosing to remain faithful to the platform’s outdated security? Users can delay upgrades until January 13, 2020, after which extended support for the 2009 OS will end and it will no longer receive patches -- unless the customer is paying for a pricey Microsoft Custom Support Agreement.

Markus also added that “As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs." The message came as Microsoft published studies that showed Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s built-in security managed to neutralize zero-day exploits, even without patches needed to protect earlier versions of Windows.

Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 means that you and your networks will miss out on noteworthy security features such as the Windows Hello biometric login, the AppContainer sandboxing technology, and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which will gain new features after upcoming Creators Update.

On top of missing out on all the security features that Windows 10 has to offer, enterprise organizations on Windows 7 soon won’t have the additional zero-day protection that EMET, or the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, offered since 2009. Last November, EMET’s expiration date was extended from January 2017 to July 31, 2018.

With the help of newer tools, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is considerably easier when compared with migrations from XP. Microsoft is still urging corporate users to make the shift before Microsoft permanently terminates support for Windows 7, stating that their business could be looking at real trouble if they fail to comply.

Business owners always do their best to ensure the future of their organization. That includes knowing which tech resources to rely on and which ones to avoid. If you still have questions about Windows 7, feel free to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows