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August 26th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Aug25_CA dashboard is a single display that provides all the information you need to make important business decisions and facilitate the management of your company. While all dashboards are effective, you need to choose the one that works best for your company’s objectives and goals. With that said, here are three types of business dashboards for you to consider.

Strategic dashboards

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

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

Analytical dashboards

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

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

Operational dashboards

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 17th, 2015

164_SM_CIf you’ve been in the online marketing game for some time now, you likely know the value of an email list. It can be the difference between a prosperous business and one that doesn’t go anywhere. What you may not know, however, is that social media can be an instrumental tool in the growth of your list. Here’s how you can use it to gain more subscribers.

Post and share your emails publicly

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

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

Make it easy to sign up

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

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

Create valuable content

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 12th, 2015

164_Virt_CFor many business owners, the server room is one of those places you’d like to ignore, pray there’s never a problem with, and otherwise pretend doesn’t exist. It’s a foreign world, and it may even be a bit scary to you. But your feelings towards it don’t change the fact that it has the potential to skyrocket your electricity bills. Here are a few ideas to get your server room and data center energy expenses under control.

Perform an energy audit

There’s a good chance your IT staff has never once thought about how much energy your server room and data center are consuming. So, the first step to rectifying this problem is to identify just how much power is being sucked up.

To get you started, here are a few questions to ask:

  • How much of the data center’s power budget goes to support systems?
  • How much goes to IT systems?
  • How much IT output do you get for every kilowatt/hour of power sucked up by your data center IT systems?
Answering these questions will help you determine just how efficient, or inefficient, your data center actually is.

Decrease the IT workload

When you save a single watt of energy at the server level, it can result in a total saving of nearly three watts in your data center costs.

So how do you decrease the IT workload? Virtualization is a common and effective tactic. Instead of wasting money on cooling your own servers in your data center, with virtualization you can have them hosted by your IT provider and then their technology delivered to you through the Internet. This allows you to eliminate some of your servers from your office and therefore reduce cooling costs.

For alternate ways to decrease server workload, you can also:

  • Eliminate unused servers
  • Consolidate servers
  • Purchase more energy-efficient technology

Mind your humidity and temperature levels

Because many non-IT personnel are terrified of the data center and simply don’t understand it, often they falsely believe that the room must be kept as cold as the North Pole in order to protect sensitive data. This is simply not true. While it is true that excessively high temperatures, humidity or dry conditions can harm your data, most modern-day data center equipment is incredibly durable and can tolerate a much wider range of humidity and temperatures than in decades past. Because of this, it is highly likely you can get away with a lot less cooling and dehumidification than you thought possible. That said, it’s wise to consult with an IT professional before doing this to ensure you don’t damage your data.

Another innovation that can help you cool down your data center more economically is utilizing an economizer system. This technology uses cool air from the outside to provide “free” cooling cycles for your data center.

Want more tips on reducing your overall IT bill? Curious to learn more about virtualization? Call us today to learn from one of our experts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 10th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Aug10_CBusiness continuity planning (BCP) is critical to all companies regardless of size. If disaster were to strike, an effective BCP would protect your valuable data and prevent your company from falling on its knees. Yet the implementation of a BCP presents challenges in itself. You need to address the following issues to ensure that your organization is on the right track to build and maintain a successful business continuity plan.

Challenge #1: Prohibitive costs

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

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

Challenge #2: High complexity

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

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

Challenge #3: Lack of staff involvement

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 6th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Aug04_CAlmost behind us are the days when you had to adapt your language to suit the limited capabilities of your computer - like searching online for “current time Dubai” and not simply “what time is it now in Dubai?” But developments in this area haven’t come to a stop yet; if anything, the pace is picking up. The use of Natural Language Processing (NLP), just one element of artificial intelligence, is becoming ever more widespread. Here are the facts.

There’s more to Natural Language Processing than voice recognition

Voice recognition might be among the most well-known practical uses of NLP in the technology we encounter in everyday life - but that likely has more to do with the popularity of the services that employ it, like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, than the merits of voice recognition in comparison to other NLP functions that tend to stay out of the limelight.

Truth be told, there’s a whole lot more to artificial intelligence than NLP. In fact, NLP is more effective in analyzing text data than it is sounds, which is precisely why digital assistant apps first use voice recognition to turn your commands into text data, and then use other NLP capabilities to search online for related information.

Natural Language Processing has already moved beyond its infancy

It’s tempting to believe that elements of artificial intelligence like NLP are still in the realm of the sci-fi movies, and that they are a long way from being useful to the technology we use in our everyday personal and business lives. It’s tempting, but further from reality than you might realize. That said, it’s true that to date there has been no commercial use of NLP that has truly exploited its full capabilities; even its deployment in a recently launched project to automate customer service only really scratches the surface.

What is clear is the shape that future uses of NLP will need to take. We already know that NLP alone doesn’t always judge context well, since it needs to learn about its environment first - without turning to other sources, for example, one app employing NLP would struggle to differentiate between providing traffic information and diagnosing a health complaint. The key, at least for now, is to restrict the scope in which NLP operates - by limiting its use to a travel app, for instance, NLP could learn about the various travel arrangements you make and then devise itineraries for you.

It works with more than just large-scale data

While it’s undeniable that NLP can be put to great use in analyzing vast swathes of aggregated information, for example taking masses of social media data and being able to assess the feelings of users towards the subject in question, that’s not the limit of its capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, NLP can also be used to interpret much smaller-scale data in real time. This is where its true value comes into play in terms of being able to take natural-language user input, in an app setting for example, and make decisions that add value to our mobile experience.

Whether for automated customer service or comprehensive sales applications, it’s clear that Natural Language Processing - and other aspects of artificial intelligence - hold the potential to be of value-adding benefit to the business world in the near future. It’s an area that’s very much still in development - and so even more exciting, and important to watch - but now is the time to discover how best to implement NLP technologies into your company. By getting ahead now, you can offer a customer experience that truly sets you apart from the competition. To find out how we can help you achieve just that, and at the same time maximize the value you drive from mobile technologies more generally, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 28th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_CBusinesses that are winning in today’s marketplace are the ones that make technology work for them, not the other way round. When used correctly, technology can make every task much faster to execute, from communicating with customers to sending messages, gathering information, and more. So if you’re looking to increase staff efficiency, consider the following methods to implement technology into your day-to-day business operations.

Change office communication

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 22nd, 2015

164_Sec_CEver been infected by malware or a virus? For most internet users, the answer is probably yes. But what is the difference between all the cyber threats out there? What makes a virus different from a trojan or worm? And how can you protect your critical data and your business from these threats? If you’ve never been able to answer these questions, here’s the explanation you’ve been waiting for.

Malware

Malware is the short version of the word malicious software. And this is a general term that encompasses many types of online threats including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware and more. Though you likely already know this, the purpose of malware is to specifically infect and harm your computer and potentially steal your information.

But how do the different types of malware differ from one another? How can you protect your business from them? Let’s take a look at four of the most common forms of malware below.

Virus - like a virus that can infect a person, a computer virus is a contagious piece of code that infects software and then spreads from file to file on a system. When infected software or files are shared between computers, the virus then spreads to the new host.

The best way to protect yourself from viruses is with a reliable antivirus program that is kept updated. Additionally, you should be wary of any executable files you receive because viruses often come packaged in this form. For example, if you’re sent a video file, be aware that if the name includes an “exe” extension like .mov.exe, you’re almost certainly dealing with a virus.

Spyware - just like a spy, a hacker uses spyware to track your internet activities and steal your information without you being aware of it. What kind of information is likely to be stolen by Spyware? Credit card numbers and passwords are two common targets.

And if stealing your information isn’t bad enough, Spyware is also known to cause PC slowdown, especially when there is more than one program running on your system - which is usually the case with a system that’s infected.

A common mistake many people make is they assume their antivirus software automatically protects them from Spyware. This is not always true as some antivirus isn’t designed to catch spyware. If you’re unsure if your antivirus prevents Spyware, get verification from your vendor. And for those that are already suffering from Spyware infestation, two programs that work wonders to clean it out are Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware.

Worms - similar to viruses, worms also replicate themselves and spread when they infect a computer. The difference, however, between a worm and a virus is that a worm doesn’t require the help of a human or host program to spread. Instead, they self-replicate and spread across networks without the guidance of a hacker or a file/program to latch onto.

In addition to a reliable antivirus software, to prevent worms from infecting your system you should ensure your firewall is activated and working properly.

Trojan - like the trojan horse from ancient greek mythology, this type of malware is disguised as a safe program designed to fool users, so that they unwittingly install it on their own system, and later are sabotaged by it. Generally, the hacker uses a trojan to steal both financial and personal information. It can do this by creating a “backdoor” to your computer that allows the hacker to remotely control it.

Similar to the other malware mentioned above, antivirus software is a dependable way to protect yourself against trojans. For further safety, it’s wise to not open up suspicious attachments, and also ensure that your staff members aren't downloading any programs or applications illegally at the office - as this is a favorite place hackers like to hide trojans.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_COne of the best ways to present complex business data and reports is visualization. Good data visualization can significantly help users to take in a vast amount of information in a short period of time. But of course, not everyone is a data visualization expert, which is why much of the visual content we see nowadays is often ineffective and jam-packed with information. If you’re looking to create great data visualization that appeals to readers, make sure to avoid these data visualization pitfalls.

Inconsistent visualizations

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

Displaying too much data

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

Oversimplifying data

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

Choosing the wrong visualization

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_CLove them or hate them, selfies are here to stay. And with facial recognition technology becoming both more advanced and more mainstream, selfies have now found their way into the online security world. MasterCard is the most recent global corporation to join in on the trend. Here’s how they’re planning to integrate facial recognition technology into the online payment process.

At the beginning of this autumn, MasterCard will acquire the help of 500 customers to test out a new application that enables people to verify their identity and authenticate online transactions with a facial scan. What does this mean? Instead of using a traditional password at the online checkout, MasterCard wants to give you the option to snap a selfie instead. According to the credit card giant, they’ve partnered with every smartphone company in the business to make this mode of identity verification possible.

Why is this happening?

A quote from Ajay Bhalla, security expert at MasterCard, suggests this is an attempt by the credit card giant to appeal to a younger crowd of digital natives. "The new generation, which is into selfies...I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Bhalla recently said.

That said, the “cool” appeal to youth is likely not the only reason for this change. The firm is likely attempting to make online purchases both more secure and more convenient.

How it works

To use this technology, users will have to download a dedicated app, which they can then use to take a photo of themselves at checkout. But how does MasterCard prevent a thief from using a photo of you to fake your verification? Simple - the app requires you to blink to prove that you’re a living, breathing human being.

However, it’s been noted by critics that, in today’s technological world, even a blink can be animated on a static photo. This leaves those of us with security concerns wondering whether MasterCard will make this app more secure before it’s released.

Note as well, though, that MasterCard is not getting rid of traditional passwords completely. Users will still have the option of the more conventional method of verification, as well as the choice of fingerprint scanning to check your identity.

Is this where the future of online security is headed?

With the release due later this year of a similar Windows 10 security application to identify users using biometrics, it appears that this is where the future of online security is headed. And with ever more applications and online services requiring a password, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average web user to create one that is both unique and secure for each individual service. So whether it’s facial recognition, a fingerprint scan or some other technology that’s yet to be perfected, it seems as though some sort of more advanced security solution is inevitable.

Want more of the latest security news? Looking to implement new security to protect your IT infrastructure from cyber threats? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 3rd, 2015

164_Soc_CStill struggling with social media marketing? Have you started posting updates more regularly and developed a consistent brand voice, yet still have barely any results to show for it? Well, there could be many reasons for your lack of progress in social media, but there is one common “content trap” that could be the source. Here’s what it is, and how to fix it.

Don’t recycle content

Google any recent news story, and you’re likely to find anywhere from a few to several dozen articles on the same subject. And unfortunately, the content is so similar that you can barely differentiate one from the next.

If you want to stand out from others on the social media scene, find something new to talk about. In general, if you want to get noticed by new customers or followers, it’s best to avoid widely covered topics. Everyone and their grandma will be writing about it, which creates much more competition for your version.

If you must create content about mainstream topics, make sure you take the time to come up with a fresh perspective, and share valuable information that hasn’t been touched on yet.

Be fearless in your content

Similarly, it’s absolutely essential that, across all the content that you produce, you share a unique perspective. Many people end up parroting the same thing as everyone else because they are afraid to offer their true opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be controversial. If you’re going to develop a social media persona that stands out, you need to develop your own voice - and a thick skin. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, especially on the web where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Additionally, there’s a reason that the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is famous. In fact, when you write polarizing content that will have a fair share of supporters and naysayers, people are hardwired to react to it. This is for the same reason that humanity as a whole shares a universal love of stories - whether that’s in the movies, in a novel or around a campfire. A story is nothing without conflict. When you produce content that creates a real life conflict of opinions, you have a better chance of it making some noise on social media.

But - be honest and show integrity

Don’t say something controversial just for the sake of it. Give your honest opinion. The key to every aspect of sales is developing trust. That means that with any customer or potential follower you come into contact with, whether through social media or other means, you should show your true self. You’ll have a better chance of gaining a customer or follower for life.

Controversy or not, always be professional

There’s no reason to start a flame war, or resort to name calling and insults. People are going to have strong feelings about controversial content. Emotions are going to come up and people can say some pretty mean things - especially on the internet. Don’t get caught up in the comments and negativity. If you do, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your current customer base and followers.

Want more insights into growing your social media presence? Speak up today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media