October 12th, 2015

BusinessValue_Oct12_CSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a complex subject that is constantly on the move, with major search engines always refining the algorithms that determine how to rank websites. That’s why it’s so easy for businesses to make a blunder based on common misconceptions. If you’re looking to create a solid SEO strategy, we’ve highlighted some of the common mistakes below to help you get started.

You skip the keyword brainstorming phase

This is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make in your website creation plan. By not spending time on researching relevant keywords from the start, you are missing out on the opportunity to potentially generate a large amount of traffic. Without a comprehensive keyword list in hand, you will find it hard to add more keywords as your website grows and gains more authority.

Your content has too little or too much text

There’s no fixed formula when it comes to the length of your content - the number of words can vary greatly depending on your audience and the type of your website. The general rule of thumb, however, is to write content that is valuable for your visitors. Make sure your pages only contain relevant information, and don’t try to cram text just to put more copy on the page, because search engines will have a hard time identifying relevant content.

You’re using black-hat SEO techniques

It may be tempting to go after cheap practices that promise quick results, also known as black-hat SEO techniques. These methods include keyword stuffing, hidden keyword text, link buying, and so on. Some of these techniques may actually work, but only in the short run. Search engines are aware of black-hat schemes, and are continuously improving their algorithms to weed out websites that don’t abide by their guidelines to deliver the best user experience. So it’s best to focus your efforts on building a clean and stable SEO strategy.

You’re expecting quick results

Success doesn’t come easy in the SEO world. Ranking high in search results necessitates spending a substantial amount of time and effort. Don’t expect to earn a position on the first page of search engines immediately or overnight, because it will likely take months to see results. Be patient, and focus on creating great content and abiding by SEO best practices.

You’re not using blogging as a strategy

Most businesses don’t really have the chance to update their website often. Why? Because they can’t really update their “About Us” or their service pages as frequently as they would like - so their websites are just going to stand there dormant and outdated. The problem with this is that search engines don’t like inactive sites. If you have a blogging strategy, however, you have the opportunity to add a page, or pages, to your site at least once a month, if not once a week or better yet daily! The more new pages you add to your website, the more chance you have of getting higher rankings, which translates into more traffic and more leads.

Your website has an inefficient structure

Without a good website structure strategy, you’ll have a hard time trying to organize new categories, as well as information and promotional pages. Having a bloated and scattered site structure won’t do you any good when it comes to SEO, because you’ll only make it harder for visitors to navigate around your website.

You’re not going responsive

Search engines are now taking responsiveness into account when determining rankings. A responsive website adapts its page layouts to fit all screen resolutions and sizes, whether it’s being viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can greatly enhance the user experience and decrease bounce rates (the percentage of visitors who leave the website after visiting only one page). So if your website is not mobile-friendly, then it’s time to seriously consider a responsive design.

There are so many factors involved in search engine rankings, some of which are beyond your control. The important thing is to avoid making these SEO mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to online success. Want more SEO tips and techniques to add value to your business? Get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from Source.

October 7th, 2015

Security_Oct2_CNews that a potential security threat in the web-based version of WhatsApp left up to 200 million of its users with their data exposed to hackers and malware acts as a reminder to us all to be vigilant in our online interactions. While the bug affected the popular instant messaging app’s web-based version rather than the mobile app itself, and was remedied by WhatsApp after being detected by an Israeli IT firm, it’s nonetheless a worry for those of us who rely on WhatsApp for both business and pleasure. Here’s the lowdown.

The web-based version of the WhatsApp app was only launched a few months back, initially for WhatsApp accounts on Android and Windows Phone devices and later for those on iPhones, but has already grown in popularity. The recent security vulnerability related to vCards, electronic business cards shared by WhatsApp users, and effectively amounted to a kind of phishing.

An error in the WhatsApp web client meant that less-than-innocuous vCard business cards created by hackers were not properly filtered out by the app. As a result, these phishing-style cards made it through to users who, if they clicked them, were at risk of the cards converting themselves to more harmful executable scripts once downloaded - and potentially accessing and playing foul with users’ personal data. There are even reports of a ransomware approach being taken by hackers in this case, with attempts being made to extort cash from WhatsApp users in exchange for restored access to their infected devices and hijacked data.

WhatsApp put a fix in place, by releasing an updated version of the app, prior to making public news of the security vulnerability. It’s worth making sure you have the latest version of WhatsApp installed on your phone, if you haven’t checked recently - WhatsApp’s phone and web versions are linked to one another, so ensuring you are up-to-date on your phone is the way to ensure you’re safe when using the web client too. The patch is also available directly through the web client, though this won’t update your phone’s version of the app at the same time.

The whole affair also serves as a timely reminder that it pays to be vigilant when it comes to using WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms - including email. Avoid opening links or downloading files that you’re not expecting to receive, and proceed with caution even if you were anticipating them. It’s better to double check with the sender that they’re consciously passing a file to you, and that they’re fully aware of its contents, than to wait until your device has been infected and damage has potentially been inflicted on your vital data.

Want to learn how to keep your devices safe from phishing attempts and other potential security vulnerabilities? Give us a call and let us equip you with tamperproof solutions.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
October 5th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Oct5_CBusiness intelligence (BI) tools offer valuable insights into an organization’s data and allow key decision makers to make faster and more informed strategic choices. But technology is evolving rapidly, and with it comes a new and more efficient BI practice - the self-service approach. Many organizations are now shifting towards this new form of BI, due to its advantages over the traditional system.

What is self-service business intelligence?

Self-service BI is a reporting and analytics platform that business users with limited IT knowledge and experience can use for themselves. Simply put, if an end user trying to find an answer to a business question can access, use, and generate reports without bothering the IT department or data analysts, then they’ve done self-service BI.

The end goal of self-service BI is to eliminate redundant processes where users have to request access and assistance from data analysts and technology experts. With self-service BI, users are able to gather information, analyze it, and share the reports with others, without having to know the technical protocols required to access the data.

Traditional vs. self-service

In traditional BI systems, analysts create reports based on input data, and deliver them to key decision makers. In the case where the decision makers need more detail or different data, or change their business questions, analysts have to adapt the report or create new ones.

Self-service BI is designed to eliminate this time-consuming reporting process, placing much of the responsibility for report creation on end users. It opens the door to data exploration and new possibilities. Instead of asking analysts to generate reports, end users have the ability and tools to find the answers to their own business questions whenever they want.

How self-service BI can benefit your business

Self-service BI helps improve organizations in various key areas. Here are just some of the benefits it has for your business.
  • It saves time - most likely there are far more people asking business questions than there are IT experts creating reports to answer them. By removing the dependency on data analysts and technical staff, companies are able to improve the efficiency of their analytical process and save time, as end users can find the answers to their questions themselves.
  • It eliminates mistakes - the more decisions users have to make, the less likely they are to make the right ones. Self-service BI helps ease the decision-making process by delivering nearly instant reports and visualizations that are easy to understand. Users can analyze their data from any angle and deduce answers without having to consult specialists.
  • It reduces costs - since end users are able to utilize self-service BI with little to no training, training and support costs are significantly lower than other BI solutions. What’s more, self-service BI platforms can be accessed from anywhere and at any time, without the need to install expensive hardware and servers, allowing businesses to save money.
There are plenty of benefits of adopting self-service BI. As more employees are able to analyze and explore data by themselves, decisions can be made much faster and at a far lower cost. Want to learn more about business intelligence and how you can implement it in your organization? Give us a call today.
Published with permission from Source.

September 30th, 2015

Virtualization_Sep30_CEvery IT company around wants to save you money and increase your efficiency. A lot of these solutions are pretty straightforward, but others, like virtualization, can be more complex. You’ve probably heard of the benefits of virtualization by now, but might still have concerns. Let’s separate the fact from fiction when it comes to the benefits of virtualization.

Virtualization involves the creation of a virtual version of your operating systems, servers storage devices or network resources so here's what you need to know.

All virtualization is the same

FICTION - All virtualization is not the same. In fact, you will need to discuss with your IT person the aspects of your business you want to virtualize, in order to see what works best for you. For some companies, it only makes sense to virtualize servers and nothing else. On the other hand, some businesses will want to virtualize their desktops but keep their servers on-site. There are many different scenarios, and you need to find the one that works best for your business.

You can keep your current hardware/software/applications

FACT - Just because you virtualize one or more aspects of your IT doesn’t mean you will lose access to your current hardware, software or applications. As with anything, there are a few exceptions to this, but by and large it shouldn’t be a problem.

Technology flexibility is increased

FACT - Arguably the biggest benefit of virtualization is the flexibility you will have to put up and take down new servers as demand dictates. Like most companies, your business probably has peaks and valleys throughout the year; yet with physical servers, you have your capacity set regardless of if you're using them or not.

This can create a problem for businesses, as often times they end up with a server capacity that isn’t large enough to handle the peak season, but is too much for slow periods. With virtualized servers you are able to customize your capacity throughout the year, giving you unmatched flexibility.

Managing IT is easier

FICTION - You will still need dedicated IT personnel who know what they are doing, regardless of whether you embrace virtualization or not. Like every other aspect of IT, virtualized equipment must be maintained and looked after accordingly. If not, it can fail. If you decide to go through with virtualization, managing your IT won’t necessarily be easier - just different.

Virtualization will save you money

FACT and FICTION - Virtualization can save you money depending on what aspect of your business you decide to virtualize. The greatest savings come with server virtualization, which sees pricey physical servers phased out, and the corresponding electricity costs associated with them removed as well. Of course, virtualized servers might bring more operational costs with them as the infrastructure becomes more complex.

You should perform a cost-benefit analysis before switching over to virtualized desktops. If your company just invested in new computers a year or two a go, switching them for virtual machines probably isn’t the best use of money. However, if it is time to replace your desktops anyway, then going with virtual machines as part of a wide-sweeping office virtualization might a great way to save.

At the end of the day, virtualization is complex, and its benefits will vary from company to company. The positives can be quite exceptional under the right circumstances, but it isn’t the right technology for everyone.

If you're curious to see whether virtualization can help your business, or if you are looking for other IT solutions, contact us today for assistance.

Published with permission from Source.

September 28th, 2015

164_C_SMDo you ever feel like you’re the only business owner who struggles to market their company through social media? Are you confused as to why you’re not gaining any traction? Well, you’re not alone. A recent survey reveals that many small business owners struggle gaining a return on their social media marketing efforts. Here’s how to avoid the mistakes of the majority.

Survey details

The survey was conducted by a small business directory and support network known as Manta. They surveyed 540 of their small business members with the aim of learning how much ROI these companies are gaining from social media marketing.

The results

Based on data on the 540 participants, 41% of businesses are receiving a return from social media marketing, which leaves nearly 60% with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. And as for the businesses that are gaining a return, over 80% earn less than $1,000 a month from their social media efforts. More surprisingly, close to half bring in less than $100 a month.

As a small business owner, should these numbers be cause for alarm? According to the CEO of Manta, John Swanciger, part of the reason the return is so low for most businesses is that their social media priorities are misguided. He notes that social media is less about bringing in new customers, and more about community building. "For a long time, the mantra was that social media could bring in new customers,” he says. “In reality, social media is a community builder, and your biggest fans are your already-loyal customers. When small businesses treat social media as the new word-of-mouth community, the real return will follow."

One of the oldest marketing tactics around is word-of-mouth marketing. Every day, people recommend products, restaurants and businesses they love to friends and family members. And social media is the perfect platform to cultivate your fans’ love of your brand. But according to the Manta survey, less than 8% of business owners cited building community as their primary social media goal.

So how do you build a community on social media?

Besides the obvious investments of time and money, here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Regularly post content that is valuable to your social media following - the keyword here being valuable.
  • Ask your followers questions to start conversations, and then engage with them. This builds a connection between your brand and customers.
  • Show your followers that you genuinely care about them, and they’ll likely do the same for you with glowing recommendations to friends and family.
Of course there is much more to it than this, but these quick tips can help you get started. If you’re struggling with your own social media efforts and would like to learn more, we’re happy to point your business in the right direction. Call us today to speak with one of our experts.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
September 21st, 2015

Business_Continuity_Sep21_CDisasters can come in all shapes and sizes. No matter what happens, your business can be prepared by creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). It’s important for your BCP to address the roles of your staff members, so that they are able to assist in keeping the company running during these stressful occasions. Make sure your employees are always prepared by following these steps.

Step 1 - Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 - Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 - Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 - Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

Published with permission from Source.

September 15th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Sep15_CStatic biometrics like fingerprint sensors should make life a lot easier; no longer do we have to type in security passwords on our mobile phones, or risk having passwords breached. Still, this technology is only available on high-end smartphones, and is not ubiquitous. But thanks to behavioral biometrics, the future of mobile phone security could soon very well change for good. To that end, here’s all you need to know about behavioral biometrics.

What’s it all about?

Behavioral biometrics focus on uniquely identifying characteristics related not necessarily to who you are, but to what you do.The stress is on the recognition and analysis of something all of us do all the time on our smart devices - typing - as a new way of establishing identity.

How does it work?

“The technology profiles how a person interacts with a website on their smartphone by analyzing their typing rhythm, how they hit and release keys, the pressure they put on the screen as they type, the angle they’re holding their phone, and how quick they move across the screen,” says Dr. Neil Costigan, CEO at Swedish IT and security company BehavioSec, which has a patented technology that can be integrated into an app or even a smartphone OS.

Combined with data from a smartphone's built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, it’s possible to come up with a profile of each person. This could allow for monitoring of typing in real time in order to verify a person is who they say they are, just by watching their typing behavior. “The tech works on all models and makes of smartphones and doesn’t require extra hardware,” added Costigan. In fact, Costigan’s continuous process of verification has already been used by banks across Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany as part of efforts to detect and counter fraud. The technology was showcased as possible future-phone tech at Google’s I/O 2015 conference, and has the potential to be installed on every phone rather than just being limited to banking apps.

Looking to learn more about mobile technology and how they can change the way you work? Contact us today; we’re happy to talk.

Published with permission from Source.

September 7th, 2015

Have you ever wondered what value IT is adding to your company? Chances are you’re not alone. Figuring out what, if anything, IT is doing to increase the value of your business can offer helpful insight. The main reason companies struggle to find what IT is adding or subtracting from their business is the fact that they don’t know what to look for. Here are a few things you can do to figure out how IT impacts your company’s value.

Don’t accept metrics

IT people love using metrics to show how they are contributing to your business. The problem is most of these metrics don’t show you anything. Sure, high uptimes sound great and low mean-time resolutions are probably a good thing, but how do these impact your business? Don’t arbitrarily accept these as signs IT is contributing to the value of your bottom line. Dig deeper and get an explanation as to why these metrics matter. There is a reason your IT department wants you to see these metrics, but it is important to have them explain it.

Ban “tech speak”

There was a time in the world when it was impossible to avoid “tech speak”, but that era has passed. Your modern-day IT person should be able to explain just about everything to you in plain English. Realistically, if they are doing a good job, they should want to share that information with you in a way you will understand easily. If you find your IT department relying heavily on “tech speak”, chances are there is something they don’t want you to know about.

Make sure your IT provider understands business goals

If you want your IT working for you and adding value to your company, then those responsible for it have to know what your goals are. It is then, and only then, that they will be able to manage your technology with these goals in mind. Too often companies assume their IT provider knows what their priorities should be, founded on company principles, but the reality is that the contractor will operate on the basis of what it thinks is best. These two entities pulling in separate directions can hurt your business in many ways. By making sure your IT department - again, whether in-house or outsourced - is pulling in the same direction as everyone else, technology can add a whole lot of value to your company.

Meet with your IT provider often

It doesn’t matter if you have in-house IT or use a Managed Services Provider, you should be meeting with them on a regular basis to understand what they are doing. There is no need to banish them to some dark corner of the building, or only summon them when something breaks. By incorporating them into the operations process and maintaining open lines of communication, you are likely to see things in your office run a whole lot more smoothly. Not only will you get a better understanding of how IT is providing value to your business, they will gain a deeper appreciation of how your company operates. This will help both sides understand how the other operates, and enable you to find new ways to help each other.

Listen to IT recommendations

Chances are that whoever is handling your IT has numerous different ideas on how your company can use technology to decrease costs, increase productivity, and become more profitable. You would be foolish to not at least consider what they have to say. One of your company’s most valuable assets is technology,and your IT department should be up-to-date on what improvements can be made. There could be nothing more valuable to your company than an IT department proactively finding ways for you to get ahead of the competition using technology.

Is IT hurting your business value? Want to instead use it to drive increased bottom-line profits for your company? Contact our technology experts and find out how we can help.

Published with permission from Source.

August 31st, 2015

Security_Aug31_CRegardless of what you think about the Ashley Madison hack, it is big news when it comes to data security. While your company may not be as big or deal with such a sensitive topic like Ashley Madison, you can still be at risk. This scandal can serve as a springboard to improving security throughout your company. Here are three lessons from the Ashley Madison hack your business should pay attention to.

1. Make sure your company’s security data is actually secure

You probably tell clients their information is secure, but just about every company makes that claim. One of the biggest mistakes made by Ashley Madison was the failure to know if its data was truly secure. The company publically lauded its security, but it now seems like those claims were rather hollow. In fact, it appears as if no one at Ashley Madison knew a whole lot about its security practices until it was too late.

Don’t simply pass off your business’s security to the IT department. Being involved will allow you to see how it works. You don’t need to be a tech expert to understand how your data is being secured. Your security provider, whether it be in-house or via a managed services provider, should be able to explain security practices in layman’s terms. This will allow you to ask questions and be proactive because chances are if you see a weakness, others will notice it as well.

2. Beware of your employees and their email and Internet activities

Another takeaway from this scandal was the fact many employees, both from private companies and government offices, were using business email accounts to sign-up for Ashley Madison and office Internet connections to access the site. Putting the ethical questions aside for a moment, public sentiment is undoubtedly negative and companies with employees who used Ashley Madison at work have been exposed to the scandal’s backlash.

By placing the appropriate email and Internet security solutions in place at your business, you can reduce the amount of risk your company is exposed to by employees. No one really wants to put restrictions on their employees’ Internet and email access, but it is important to be smart. Being connected to scandals like this can bring unwanted publicity to your business. Worst of all, your employees might not even realize they are putting your company in harm’s way when they access this type of content at work.

3. Be prepared for data loss

As the Ashley Madison case has shown us, massive data theft or loss can be the end of your business. When clients trust your business with their data, they are confident in your ability to protect it. Of course, things do happen and if your data does go missing, it’s important to have a plan of action ready. While it’s unlikely your company’s data breach is unlikely to garner the attention of Ashley Madison, it means a whole lot more to you, your company and your employees. Just because your company isn’t big doesn’t mean it’s invincible.

A disaster recovery plan can help your company ensure it has backups and even backups of your backups. If you believe your data has been stolen by hackers, it is important to act immediately. You’ll need to quickly assess what information has been stolen and inform the appropriate parties so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves. From there, you will want to re-secure your company closing any security loopholes that have been found. Finally, access your backups and make sure your business continues to operate as close to normal during the crisis.

Worried about your security? We can show you how to protect yourself. Contact us today for more information on how to keep your company safe.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
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 Source.