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April 24th, 2015

VoIPGeneral_Apr24_AIt has been a long time coming, but WhatsApp has finally introduced free voice calling - at least for Android users. The free calls, which work between WhatsApp users and operate on the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platform in the same way as those on Skype, are now available to all WhatsApp users on Android, following a slow invite-only release program. Here’s what you need to know; how to enable this capability and a trap to watch out for.

WhatsApp’s plan for the introduction of voice calling was first announced by its CEO Jan Koum in February 2014, and was due to have been available by last October. However, technical problems delayed the release until the first quarter of this year. When the voice calling feature did arrive, it was subject to a slow and somewhat complex invite-only rollout program whereby, unless you were personally selected by WhatsApp to try it first, you could only access voice calling if you had a friend with existing access who then called you with it. After taking their call, the feature was unlocked on your app and you could use it to call others too. The latest move to make the feature available to all users means no invite is now required.

To take advantage of the voice calling option, make sure you have downloaded at least version 2.12.5 of the free app from the Google Play store. Within the app’s Calls tab, tap the phone icon in the top right-hand corner. Select from the list of available contacts - which only includes those also setup with WhatsApp voice calling, and therefore for now only those on Android - and you’re off! iOS users need to wait a little longer, though WhatsApp founder Brian Acton has promised the feature is on the way in the near future (the voice calling button has been spotted in the latest release of WhatsApp for iPhone, but has yet to be activated). Yet an unofficial Cydia tweak known as WhatsApp Call Enabler makes this possible now, if not exactly recommended, on jailbroken iPhones.

Those eagerly anticipating the arrival of WhatsApp’s voice calling feature should be on their guard against attempts to prey on that enthusiasm. A number of phony messages are currently circulating on WhatsApp, by email and on the web, inviting users to click a link to activate voice calling within the app. Since no additional download is required to access voice calling - and indeed activating the capability this way is not possible - clicking the link will not achieve the desired outcome, and will instead leave you vulnerable to unintentionally installing malicious software and spreading the malware further.

Since its launch in 2009, WhatsApp has become a hugely popular instant messaging app worldwide. The platform now boasts 700 million active monthly users, and claims to handle 30 billion messages each and every day. Prior to the introduction of voice calling, the app’s use was limited to sending and receiving text messages, images and short sound recordings - meaning that a conversation of sorts was still technically possible by sending recordings back and forth, albeit in a more long-winded manner. But the implementation of live voice calling puts it on a par with the likes of Skype, and makes it more likely that VoIP will become mobile users’ preferred means of placing a call.

That is something which other apps have arguably failed to do on a large scale - despite Skype and others having long been mobile compatible - since the majority of mobile users still opt to make regular calls unless doing so is prohibitively expensive, for example to overseas. Provided it can get the user experience right and make the process of placing a call so intuitive that it becomes as natural feeling as it currently does to phone someone the old-fashioned way, WhatsApp could be about to tip that balance and make VoIP huge.

Want to learn how to implement VoIP in your business - whether on your office or cell phones - to cut costs and increase mobility and productivity? Give us a call and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
April 23rd, 2015

164_Virt_AThere’s no question about it, powering your IT equipment costs money. But the real question is just how much money? If you’ve never taken the time to run the numbers, you may be in for a big surprise. That’s why we’ve compiled four questions you need to ask yourself when you’re considering virtualization.

Studies have shown that over 70% of IT budgeting is put towards simply “keeping the lights on.” If that sounds like a lot of money, that’s because it is. You’re likely spending thousands of dollars powering your IT equipment and paying your staff to manage it. And the truth is that it just doesn’t have to be that way. Virtualization can eliminate all those costs for a smoother running solution that you’ll never have to worry about.

So if you’re ready to examine your IT budget and see for yourself, here are 4 questions you need to ask:

1. What’s the cost of your data center?

We’re talking about the whole kit and caboodle: your servers, backup power supplies, air conditioning, security devices, and the overhead costs for the space to store all of this.

2. How much do you spend on cooling your servers?

Keeping your servers cool is a fact of life. Have you ever considered how much this is costing you?

3. How much is being budgeted towards cabling and adapters?

Don’t forget about these. We’re talking about not only the physical cables and adaptors, but also the costs of maintenance.

4. How much does it cost your IT staff to manage these resources?

It takes time for your staff to manage your IT. Time is money.

How does virtualization eliminate these costs? With virtualization you can kiss the data center, servers, cables and adapters goodbye (hello new office space). Instead, we store all your equipment off-site and deliver it to you via the Internet. Your computers and network continue to function normally. The only difference is they’re out of sight and out of mind. This equals lower maintenance costs, fewer overheads, less equipment, and fewer headaches.

And let’s not forget the time it costs to manage all of your IT equipment. With virtualization, we do this for you. This frees up the time of your current IT staff, allowing them to focus on more important things - like your business’s IT strategy and market changes. Better still, you may even have the option to completely eliminate the need for in-house IT staff. How’s that for cost savings?

Ready to make the switch to virtualization? Need more of your questions answered? Let’s talk today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Apr14_AMicrosoft just upped the ante on the business intelligence front once again by acquiring the three-year-old business intelligence and data visualization platform Datazen. The purchase increases Microsoft’s hold on the business intelligence market, an area on which it is clearly already focused its free Power BI product for mobiles was released earlier this year. Every smart entrepreneur knows that business intelligence systems are critical to understanding and executing growth so, whether you are already a Datazen user or are contemplating the switch, here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s latest move.

Datazen stands out from the business intelligence crowd in that the tool is built with mobile users in mind. The goal with the conception of Datazen, which was previously known as ComponentArt, was to create a user-friendly business intelligence product that balanced power, simplicity and a pleasant experience for the end user. The software is compatible with iOS, Android and Windows devices, and last year the firm released an update allowing offline use across all platforms.

The move means that Datazen now provides mobility to its users, allowing them to continue working with their business intelligence data wherever they are based and no matter whether they have an internet connection. Connected to the launch of offline capabilities, the same release also improved the synchronization process between the Datazen app and live data sources. This allows users to work with up to 100,000 records locally on any device, and enjoy immediate data retrieval.

In addition to Microsoft’s wider push on business intelligence tools, the company is focused on specifically doing so with the cloud and mobile in mind. This forms part of the corporation-wide priority for innovation in mobile-first, cloud-first IT solutions, identified by CEO Satya Nadella last year. Microsoft says that Datazen’s offering will complement that of Power BI and that, over time, the IT giant aims to integrate the two in order to bridge the gap between on-site and cloud-based business intelligence tools. Datazen is already optimized for Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services.

According to Datazen, its current users can continue to access and use all of its products in their current form. Microsoft has also announced that SQL Server Enterprise Edition customers with at least version 2008 can now access Datazen software at no additional cost. The company claims the move will bring Datazen’s mobile data visualization and interaction possibilities to millions of business users globally.

Learn more about how to implement business intelligence to grow your company - call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 21st, 2015

BusinessValue_Apr21_AAfter designing your company’s website, writing perfect pitch pages, and driving traffic to landing pages, you finally made a new online sale to a first-purchase customer. This customer has seen the value of your products or services. Why else would they purchase from you? But in addition to a nice increase in revenue, you also received a piece of information that could generate even more income: your customer’s email address. Existing customers, their email addresses, and a good email marketing strategy are all you need to get repeat business. Here are some email marketing tips to retain your customers.

Offer promotional codes

Offer your customers a promotional code that provides a special discount or a freebie on their next purchase. You can place the code in an email as a thank you for your customers’ sign-up or first purchase. Also consider adding an expiration date as a way to monitor whether your customers have used the code or not. Promotional codes are a great tool to express gratitude to your customers, and show that you value their business.

Rewards program

This is one of the simplest email marketing strategies as you can offer anything to make your customers feel special. You could go for a “buy one, get one” promotion or offer an extra month of service after a yearly subscription. If applicable to the nature of your business, you can create points programs for your customers to collect, and they can redeem the points for something afterwards.

Host contests

The purposes of contests are to excite your customers, increase engagement, and increase brand awareness. You will also have the opportunity to find out more about your customers by asking detailed questions as part of the contest entry process. For instance, you could ask them to complete a quick survey about your products or services, giving you ideas for future email campaigns.

Give freebies

Send freebies via emails occasionally, or on your customers’ birthdays. You can give away anything related to your business that your customers will find helpful, such as eBooks, videos, or other tools. Add an expiration date to these freebies to enable you to follow up if they haven’t claimed it.

Send notifications

When you have a new product or service, you can notify every customer on your email list. In addition, when you run promotional codes with expiry dates, rewards programs, or contests, you can send reminder emails to alert your customers, encouraging them to take action on your offers.

Email marketing is best used to retain existing clients. Since it’s much cheaper to retain an existing client than acquire a new one, email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective marketing solution that is well worth a try.

If you’re looking to implement email marketing to improve sales, give us a call today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 20th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr20_AUnexpected disasters can completely catch your business off guard, and when they do you’ll have a hard time trying to get things back in order. Most business owners are aware of potential problems, so they usually have a business continuity plan (BCP) already in place. But testing these plans to find loopholes and room for improvements is equally as important as creating one in the first place. That’s why every BCP has an ‘exercise’ phase where the plan is put through a series of trials by the whole company. Here are some tried-and-true procedures.

Set objectives

The first step to any efficient exercise is having clear objectives. Think about the results you want to see at the end of the exercise. These outcomes may include, but are not limited to, IT disaster recovery, evacuation routines, off-site recovery plans, and supplier management. If there are measurable targets that can be put into the equation, then all the better. For instance, meeting a recovery objective after a disaster within x number of hours.

Select the right type of exercise

Essentially there are four levels of exercises, each increasing in complexity and difficulty.
  • A walkthrough - this exercise involves a team meeting to discuss whether the present BCP has everything covered and is up-to-date.
  • Desktop exercise - ideal for new or intermediate teams. A desktop exercise takes place in a room where delegates discuss a fictional scenario delivered via a series of powerpoint presentations. Role-playing and dramatic simulations are not part of this stage of the process.
  • Functional exercise - this level allows employees to perform their duties in a simulated environment. It is designed to exercise specific team members, procedures, and resources in the event of a disaster.
  • Live or real time - this is a full-scale exercise performed in real time with normal business suspended. The aim is to see whether people can do what’s expected of them within a set timescale. A live exercise is often complicated and costly to organize, but will generally ensure a much smoother process if the worst does happen.

Develop a scenario

Take what you’ve learned from the team, the objectives and plan to develop a scenario. Depending on the type of exercise, you should have a scenario tailored to suit your objectives. Be creative when simulating incidents. You may need only two or three to keep your employees busy for a couple of hours - during that time you can monitor their performance.

Prepare employees

Assign a group of representatives responsible for making announcements and preparing conference rooms to relay the plan to employees. Be specific about who in the company are participants, observers, and facilitators for the purposes of the exercise. Explain courses of actions to everyone involved in the plan. Remember, your BCP’s success depends on your employees’ cooperation, so do your best when you’re clarifying the plan.

Run the exercise!

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. After careful planning and scheduling, it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you observe the exercise closely and ask yourself these questions: Are there any potential areas that can be improved? What should you do more of, or differently? What went well, and what didn’t? End the exercise with a feedback session where employees can express their opinions and share their ideas.

If you don’t get it right the first time, then go back to the drawing board and schedule another exercise. It only gets better with every practice.

Are you ready even if disaster should strike? Contact us today and we can help you develop a business continuity plan that keeps your company in the game.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 17th, 2015

SocialMedia_Apr13_AMuch attention in the social media marketing world is paid to the heavyweights of Facebook and Twitter - and, when executed properly, your marketing efforts on these networks can pay great dividends. But there is much more to social media marketing than these two platforms alone, and other channels that are on the rise include Pinterest. What’s more, building Pinterest into your social media marketing strategy just got a lot easier, more efficient and more rewarding. Here’s why.

Pinterest recently announced the launch of an updated and improved browser extension that enables users to save content and pin it to their boards. The platform has supported browser extensions like this for several years already, but the latest enhancements reduce the number of clicks needed to pin images and other content to boards. It is also now simpler to track down the specific board you want to pin an image to, or to create a brand new board from within the browser extension if you don’t already have one that fits.

For casual social media users, the Pinterest button that comes with the browser extension makes for a simple way to bookmark content on Pinterest in order to come back to it later. Pinterest itself gives the example of a food blog - while you’re browsing a recipe, you can click the Pinterest button on your browser and in just a couple of clicks save a visual reference to one of your boards. Then where you’re ready to start cooking, you can easily find the image and click it to return to the blog.

But the benefits are there for those of us using social media for business purposes, too. The extension makes it simpler for you to pin both your own content, which users can then share by re-pinning or clicking on find out more on your web site, and for you to pin and share other relevant content from around the web that will be of interest to your prospective customers. Never forget the golden rule of social media marketing, that your profile - on whichever platform - shouldn’t just be a non-stop stream of promotional messages. Social media is different from conventional advertising, and your content should be a blend of subtle promotion and other, non-sales content that is of genuine interest to prospects.

Pinterest is growing in a big way, meaning now is the perfect time to accelerate your marketing efforts on the platform. There are now said to be over 50 billion pieces of content pinned on the site, spanning over a billion boards, and traffic is both growing and moving to mobile devices. In fact, over 80% of the site’s traffic comes from mobile. And while Pinterest has long been considered to be a predominantly female-friendly site, the channel’s popularity with men is growing, and is outpacing the overall growth in the Pinterest user base.

If Pinterest doesn’t already figure in your social media marketing strategy, it’s about time it did. Give us a call to discuss how we can help you propel your social media efforts forward.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 17th, 2015

InternetSocRepMngment_Apr17_AWe all know how important social media is to create and maintain a business’s online reputation. As a small business owner, you’ve probably used social media to establish a connection with your customers and share stories that will shine a positive light on your brand. While social media is a great tool to foster your business name, if used incorrectly it could just shatter your online reputation. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when implementing social media marketing in your business.

Choosing the wrong person to manage your accounts

With a vast selection of social media channels out there, it is normal for businesses to have more than one account. But are you employing the right person capable of managing these accounts? Think about it: your company’s social media accounts are used to portray who you are, and to communicate with customers on a regular basis. In short - this is a job that could make or break your reputation, and you should be extra careful when selecting someone for this position.

Expressing your personal opinion

You’re making a big mistake if you let your emotions get in the way when posting content on your business’s social media profiles. Discussing religion, politics, or other controversial issues may turn off people who matter to your business. Unless they’re relevant to the nature of your business, avoid mentioning sensitive topics. Instead, try to keep a neutral tone, since the goal of your social media efforts is to appeal to everyone.

Deleting or ignoring negative comments

Negative feedback can be painful to hear but, if you can put aside your pride, it is a real opportunity for improvement. When customers post a negative comment, deleting or ignoring it can make things go from bad to worse. Customers may think that you’re not taking their issue seriously, and could resort to posting complaints on all sorts of platforms, which quickly become impossible to control. Don’t let things get out of hand - reply in a timely manner and try to solve their problems as best you can.

Posting fake reviews

Another online reputation mistake is to post negative reviews on your competitors’ website to dampen their credibility. This underhanded strategy is ethically wrong. Similarly, hiring someone to leave a good review for your company is inadvisable. Instead, focus on delivering high-quality products and services to generate authentic customer reviews, which can really pay off in the long run.

Being inconsistent

To build a good online reputation, you need to be consistent. Your social media fans followed your page for a reason - they have certain expectations that you will post regular and interesting content. Updating social media with ten posts one day, followed by complete silence for the following few weeks, is a bad example of consistency. Don’t disappear for days or weeks on end. Try to schedule a routine and interact with your audience on a regular basis.

A credible online reputation is an important part of your business’s public image. If you want to discuss how to establish an online presence, contact us today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 16th, 2015

164_A_OffHave you ever needed to scan a document, but not had a scanner on hand? Well just think how convenient it would be if you could use your phone as a scanner instead? If you’re a smartphone owner and regular app user, you’re probably aware of the myriad of apps that can do this. What you may not know is that there’s also a phone app out there that can not only scan a document, but also gives you the ability to edit the scanned text. It’s called Microsoft Office Lens, and now it’s available for iOS and Android. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Microsoft Office Lens?

Microsoft Office Lens is virtually a scanner in your pocket. You snap a picture of anything with text on it, and just like that it’s converted into a scanned document. What separates it from other similar apps out there is its ability to make the scanned text editable as if it were in a Word doc.

Unlike most of the other phone scanning apps, Office Lens automatically detects the borders of the item or document you’re scanning. This means you don’t have to bother lining up the edges of the item with a grid - you just point and shoot. The Lens app then optimizes the picture so that the text is easy to read. It does this by cleaning up shadows and straightening awkward angles. Also, the images you snap are automatically synced to OneNote. This allows you to easily store them, transfer to your other devices or share them later. Additionally, the images can also be saved to MS Word, Powerpoint or PDF. Originally launched in March of 2014, up until now Microsoft Office Lens was only available to Windows Mobile users. This seems a god sent to anyone who has had to rewrite scanned docs to make changes or reformat information.

To give you an idea of some of the items Microsoft Office Lens can scan, check out the list below:

  • business cards
  • billboards
  • receipts
  • invoices
  • notes
  • white boards
  • really anything that has text on it
Why is this cool? Well, imagine you’re at a meeting and there have been a long series of notes written on a white board. Instead of having to scribble all these notes down on a piece of paper, you can simply snap an image of the board. Afterwards you can edit the text from the whiteboard as you see fit, adding in your own notes or ideas.

How to get Microsoft Office Lens app

If you use an iOS device, you can download the app for free on iTunes.

As for Android, a fully functional version of the app is not yet readily available. However, you can get a preview version by joining the “Office Lens Android Preview” community on Google +. There you can sign up to become a tester.

Want to learn more about Office Lens and other Office products? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 15th, 2015

164_A_SecIs something off in the world of your Android phone or tablet? Is it running slower than usual? Is it eating data faster than a chubby kid in a chocolate store? If any of these situations sound familiar, your phone or tablet may be infected with a virus. That’s why we’ve compiled these six steps to show you how to remove a virus when you suspect an infection.

The lowdown on Android viruses

First off, let’s just put some things out there and clear the air. One, getting a virus on your Android product is actually incredibly rare. Two, when you see pop-up ads prompting you to buy a virus removal app, don’t freak out. This doesn’t automatically mean your device is infected. In fact, buying one of these apps could actually get you a virus! This is because all Android viruses are contracted via apps you install on the device. Which means the safest way to avoid getting one is to only install apps from the Google Play app store. If you must buy one outside of this, it’s wise to do your research first.

Before we get to what we think is the best solution, there are alternative ways to remove a virus that should be noted:

  • Use antivirus apps from Google Play - a lot of these are free and will detect and remove malicious apps, but some have a tendency to report apps as infected when they’re actually completely fine.
  • Perform a factory reset - if there’s a virus on your phone, this is a surefire way to remove it. However, in doing so you return your phone to its original factory settings. That means you’ll lose everything you’ve added since then that isn’t backed up.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the recommended option below.

How to remove the virus

  1. Turn safe mode on: To do this, access the power-off options by pressing the power button, then press and hold Power Off. This gives you the option to restart in safe mode. However, this doesn’t work with all models of the Android phone or tablet. If it doesn’t work with your device, a quick Google will pull up model-specific instructions. And what’s the point of turning on safe mode in the first place? Simple - it prevents any malware from running.
  2. Search for the infected app: Do this by opening Settings and then Apps. Once you’ve done this, be sure you’re looking at the Download tab (since the virus can only be something you’ve downloaded), and then start searching for the suspected app. If you don’t know the virus’s name, it’s likely something that looks out of place.
  3. Uninstall the app: Yes, it’s really that simple. Just click on the suspected app and uninstall it. Then you’re done. But if the name of the app is grayed out and you can’t even tap it, it means the virus has given itself Device Administration Status. In this case, follow the next three steps below.
  4. Remove Administrator Status: Do this by tapping on Settings and Security, then Device Administrators. Simply uncheck the infected app and hit Deactivate on the next screen.
  5. Uninstall the app: Now when you return to the Apps menu, the infected app will no longer be grayed out. Simply uninstall it.
  6. Restart your device: This takes it out of safe mode. Now your phone will be virus-free.
Want more ideas for Android and IT security? Don’t hesitate to give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 9th, 2015

164_A_MWIf Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera were at a cocktail party, Internet Explorer would probably be the butt of all their jokes. That’s not to say Internet Explorer never served a purpose, but it clearly has not kept up with the likes of today’s modern browsers. Microsoft knows this, which is why they’re releasing a new browser later this year. The name of it is Spartan, and there are some nifty features that may just revolutionize the way you use the web.

What is Spartan?

Spartan is Microsoft’s new web browser that will be released later this year along with Windows 10. Microsoft’s aim is to build a browser that is designed for the modern web, which creates a more personable experience when interacting with it. Here are few of the incredible changes Spartan has in store.

Web Note

Also known as inking, Web Note allows you to edit web pages directly. You can do this by either typing them or using an interactive pen that allows you to literally circle, underline, or annotate pages as you see fit. These annotations can then be shared with friends and colleagues via email or social networking. They’ll also be stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage for easy collaboration.

Reading View

A web page can be a busy place, and the guys at Microsoft know that. That’s why they’ve created Reading View, which provides distraction-free reading to keep you focused on the content. Reading View eliminates ads, fancy CSS styling, sidebars and comments, creating a simple format that feels as if you’re looking at an open book.

Cortana, your new personalized assistant

More and more phones are enabling their devices with personal assistants, so why not web browsers? Cortana is designed to make your web browsing experience easier and more personalized. For example if you’re looking up a business or restaurant, Cortana can provide additional information such as opening hours, address and contact info. Another nifty feature of Cortana allows you to get a definition or content explanation without leaving your current page. Just highlight the word, right click and select Ask Cortana. She’ll provide you with the info you’re looking for, right there on your web page.

Want to learn more about Spartan or other Microsoft Windows News and tips? Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.