Carrollton Dermatology Associates
Dr. Thomas H. Lamb, MD.
Brighter Image, Inc.
RA-Lin and Associates
North Georgia Turf, Inc.
Computing power has more or less doubled every two years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. While our computers are becoming increasingly powerful, it simply isn't feasible for many small to medium businesses to update their hardware or systems every couple of years. This often leads to businesses with aging systems facing increased costs, decreased productivity and the need (but not the budget!) to replace systems. One solution to this very real problem is to virtualize existing systems.
Virtualization is the act of taking an existing system, say a server, and creating a virtual copy of it that is hosted either in a physical unit or somewhere out of the office. Some systems you can virtualize include: Desktops, Operating Systems, servers, hardware and storage. Most small businesses start with storage and server virtualization as this can usually be done with relative ease and at an affordable cost.
Benefits of virtualization The question many business owners ask when they are looking into virtualization is what benefits it can bring. While the positives are numerous, here are the five most common:
1. Reduced space Physical hardware can take up a lot of space, and the common trend among many businesses is that the space available per person is shrinking in order to save costs. Take for example your servers. If you virtualize these, you can probably fit all of them onto one or two units. This will reduce the space your hardware takes up, freeing up extra storage capacity or possibly another desk.
2. Reduced overhead Having hardware and servers in an office can be expensive to maintain. You have to have climate control to start with which means higher electricity bills and higher maintenance costs. Virtualization will often reduce overhead costs and save you money. Beyond that, many solutions offer a pay-per-use pricing model which makes predicting costs easier.
3. Quicker backup and recovery Many virtualization solution providers also offer backup services that can be automated. This means that your vital data is always backed up and protected. Beyond that, the backups can be stored at a different location, meaning that if there is a disaster, you can recover lost data quickly and easily.
4. Longer hardware replacement cycles Virtualized solutions and platforms often require lower computing resources because they are hosted on the provider's servers. This means that you won't have to replace existing tech hardware. Beyond that, existing systems can be used for longer which will save you money.
5. Virtualization is scalable If your company is growing, you will eventually have to add new systems. In an already cramped office this means finding the space for hardware or servers needed to support your growth, not to mention investing in systems that are compatible with existing hardware. Virtualization is highly scalable, and can grow with your company, often without the need for extra services.
In general, virtualization could help your business grow, while IT costs remain stable, or are even decreased. If you would like to learn more about how virtualization of your systems can help your company, contact us today.
In an increasingly interconnected world, it's becoming harder and harder for business owners and managers to decide between choices. That's why many have started to implement Business Intelligence (BI) solutions, in the hopes that it will help them make better, more informed decisions. An increasingly popular component of BI is social data. The question is though, what is it and can small businesses benefit from it?
Here's an overview of social data and three ways small business owners and managers can use it to make decisions.
What is social data? Social data is any data or information collected from the various social media sites available. The easiest way to define social data is to differentiate it from social media. Social media is content that a user has created, copied or linked with the idea of sharing it with other people using a platform i.e., Facebook. Social data is the information that is linked to this content, such as shares, likes, location, time posted, etc.
It is social data that powers analytics and social media monitoring, (how popular your content, profile, etc. is), and if utilized efficiently could go a long way in helping you make better business decisions and a more focused marketing strategy.
Because there is so much data relating to and generated by social media activities, it can be nearly impossible to track and analyze it all. But, it is quickly becoming an important part of Business Intelligence, and will continue to become even more so as the number of social media sites and users continues to expand. That's why many BI solutions are starting to integrate social data gathering and analysis tools. While you may be able to track and analyze this data, do you know what you can do with it?
Three uses of social data
If you would like to learn more about social data and how your company can use it effectively, call us today for a chat.
Hackers and other cyber criminals are an ever present danger on the Internet. This is a fact that we simply can't escape, and what's more, you can be pretty sure that we will see an increase in the number of attacks against sites as the internet continues to expand and be used by more and more people. One of the latest major sites to be hacked is LivingSocial, so if you have an account with this website, you may want to keep reading.
LivingSocial is a daily deals website that focuses on bringing bargains and original deals to users based on their geographical location. In late April, news broke that the website had suffered a massive cyber attack with 50 million accounts being compromised.
From the reports we have seen, the attack targeted accounts world-wide with only account holders in Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines being unaffected. An email sent out by Tim O'Shaughnessy, LivingSocial's CEO shortly after the incident said, "We recently experienced a cyber-attack on our computer systems that resulted in unauthorized access to some customer data from our servers. We are actively working with law enforcement to investigate this issue."
The company assured users that their credit card data had not been compromised, as they are kept in another database. Account passwords were also encrypted, which means they are harder to crack but not impossible.
What should you do? If you have a LivingSocial account, we recommend that you go and change your password immediately. This can be done by:
It is advisable to pick a new password, one that is as different as possible from your old password and, as always, the longer, the better.
Is there anything I can to do protect my company? If you are a business owner who has websites that encourage customers to sign up for updates, accounts, etc. you may be wondering how you can keep your user's information secure from cyber attack. In truth, you can't keep your important information 100% secure, if a hacker is committed enough, they will be able to get the information they need or wreak the havoc they want to. But what you can do is to make it as hard as possible for cybercriminals to get your information. This could be as simple as using multiple databases to store different bits of information, or as complex as using the latest encryption methods and systems.
Each business is unique, and the best way to ensure your valuable data is secure is to work with an IT partner who takes the time to get to know your security needs and develop a solution that is as near to 100% secure as possible.
If you are worried about the security of your systems, contact us today. We may have the perfect solution that will meet your needs and budget.
Computers are complex machines. If you’ve ever looked inside one you know it’s a confusing mess of wires and components. Like all machines, over time they will start to slow down and run slower than before. When this happens it can be troublesome for your productivity, and you may not be able to afford to purchase a new machine. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep your machine running smoothly.
Below are four things you can do to keep your PC running smoothly.
1. Shutdown properly
If you turn your computer off at the end of the day, or it freezes, it may be tempting to flick the off switch on the power bar, or press the power button until it turns off. This isn’t ideal for your computer’s health because when a computer is unexpectedly shut down, there could be damage to the operating system.
You may notice that when your computer crashes, it takes longer to reboot. This is because Windows is actually searching for, or trying to repair any damage that may have been done. There is a chance that powering down improperly could cause files to become corrupted which may make the system inoperable.
Therefore, you should follow proper shutdown procedures. If you need to shut down quickly, try pressing Control+Alt+Delete and selecting Shut Down from there.
2. Close unnecessary programs running in the background
Some programs are written to be always running in the background. If you look in the bottom right of your screen, you should see programs running beside the clock. In truth, most of these likely don’t need to be open. You should be able to right click on the icon and close them. This will save computing resources and make your computer run smoother.
A word of warning: It’s best not to shut down the antivirus or security software as this will leave your computer open to attack. Also, don’t shut down anything from NVIDIA or AMD as this is your video card software. Closing programs like this could cause your computer to crash.
3. Utilize Add/Remove on a regular basis
Chances are high that you have installed a fairly high number of programs on your computer, some of which you may not use anymore. Those you don’t use just take up valuable hard drive space, and should be removed on a regular basis. You can do this by:
It may take a few minutes to scan your system for programs, but a window will open with all the programs you have installed. Click on those you don’t use anymore and remove them. We strongly recommend that you do not go into different files and delete programs, this could damage your system.
4. Use a malware scanner and antivirus program
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is still worth mentioning that having an antivirus program and malware scanner is a good idea. Many viruses and other malware often hijack system resources causing the computer to run slower, or crash. A regular scan can go a long way in minimizing this, which means your computer will likely run better for longer.
If you are looking for ways to keep your older systems running at their optimal levels, please contact us today to see how we can help you.
Pause for a minute and ask yourself if your business is prepared for a disaster. Chances are you have some plan for a large scale disaster like hurricanes, earthquakes and fire, but what about other disasters like hackers or human error? The truth is, many businesses with a disaster recovery plan often forget to ensure they cover all potential disasters.
Here are five tips to help ensure that your business is fully ready for the next disaster.
1. Backup everything While it can be tempting to only backup the most important data and programs, it can be a chore to identify what is deemed to be important. Who knows, a file that is non-essential today may become essential in the future. If it is lost due to a disaster, this could prove to be a problem.
It would be a good idea to look for a backup solution that covers all data and programs. But, having a full backup solution isn't enough, you also need to ensure that recovery is easy and can be implemented quickly.
2. Look into tiered recovery Establishing a tiered recovery method means identifying the value and importance of existing systems and utilizing a recovery method that meets needs. It would be a good idea to identify mission critical systems and adopt a recovery method that can have these systems up and running as quickly as possible. From there you can tier different systems and match a recovery method. For example, archived files are likely not needed right away, so they can be recovered at a later date, using a slower recovery method.
3. Keep copies of all keys and licenses With the amount of software and programs businesses use on a daily basis growing, it would be a good idea to keep copies of the activation keys (the string of digits and letters you enter to activate the full version of software) and purchased licenses.
While many of these are now distributed electronically through email, there are still software developers that distribute keys by mail or with the physical install CDs. If you lose the codes in a fire, you will be out of luck and have to purchase the software again. This is an extra charge you likely don't want.
4. Pick the right recovery locations The best recovery plans offer numerous backup solutions which are hosted in different locations. A good provider knows this and will utilize data storage centers as far apart as possible. If you choose to backup your own data, it would not be a good idea to keep the backups in the office.
Similarly, if you are preparing for a big disaster, you likely have physical locations that you can move to if your main business location is damaged or destroyed. Optimal plans will have more than one location identified, and have them as far apart as possible. This will minimize the chances of losing full operations and increase your business's ability to bounce back quicker.
5. Match your recovery plan to your business There are so many different backup and recovery options that it can be tough to pick one. The best course of action is to look at your systems and how they work. If you operate strictly offline, a cloud based backup solution likely isn't your best bet. Or, if you operate fully in the cloud, a physical tape or hard disk backup may not be optimal.
If you are looking to beef up, or establish a disaster recovery plan, try working with an IT partner like us, who can help you find the optimal solution that can meet your needs and budget.
Social media has become an important part of any business's marketing strategy. By having an active presence on the main networks, you will likely see increased sales or at the very least an increase in brand recognition. So, while social media is an invaluable marketing tool, there are also other departments which could benefit from it.
Below are four non-marketing oriented uses of social media that businesses could benefit from.
Hiring LinkedIn is a social network dedicated to helping professionals and organizations connect and find jobs and new talent. Most social savvy companies will have a presence on this network and may even hire exclusively from here.
If you are looking for new employees, it wouldn't hurt to have a LinkedIn profile. To find the best talent, you need to forge and maintain connections (usually starting with people you know), and be somewhat active in groups and on message boards.
It's also important to not forget the other major networks when it comes to hiring. Tweeting a job opening on Twitter, or posting ads on Facebook could also help you find your next employee. Facebook can be particularly useful because you can pay to target ads (in this case, job openings) at specific demographics.
Internal communications Communication is an important part of business, and most people choose to communicate using email. You have probably seen emails with jokes, invitations to after work events, lunch orders, etc. sent to the whole company and also received the many replies that go with it. This can get very annoying, and also confusing.
Why not utilize social media for non-essential (aka. not related to work) communication. Set up a Facebook group where your employees can share content, invitations to lunch or after work gatherings, interesting stories, etc. That way you can limit email to more important, business-related aspects.
Using social media for internal communication is also beneficial for companies with younger workers. Most already see Facebook, Twitter, etc. as their main form of communication, some even feel more comfortable communicating over this medium as opposed to speaking out in meetings. Having a group portal or Facebook page could give less-empowered employees a way to voice their ideas, and maybe even improve on them with feedback from others.
Learning A common complaint of many business owners is that they have a tough time staying on top of ever-changing trends and what currently interests their customers. Using social media to connect with your customers can be a great way to learn not only hot trends but also about new ideas.
Customer service When it comes to social media, users will often complain publicly on their wall or through their tweets. This is bad for you, as the reach of this complaint can go a long way and make you look bad. Some companies have decided to confront this head on by having specific customer service accounts. If a customer complains, has an issue, or even compliments you, be active and respond using that account.
If done properly, over time, you will see more and more people reaching out to your customer service account through social media. This also gives you another way to please clients or turn around negative customer experiences.
Social media and the various platforms are not only great for marketing, but can be incredibly useful for other business functions. Do you have any other ways you use social media? Let us know. Or, if you would like to learn more about how it can help your company, then contact us today.
It seems that there is a security threat or leak in the news almost every week. The majority of these leaks tend to revolve around account information and passwords being stolen and released on the Internet for anyone to view. In truth, most of the passwords released are secure, but not 100% secure. Anyone with a powerful enough computer and the right tools can crack almost any security measure. The only thing you can really do is come up with strong passwords.
If you want to minimize the chances of your password being hacked, here are five things you should NOT do.
1. Don't pick short passwords
While short passwords are easier to remember, they are also easier and quicker to hack. The most common way to hack passwords is by using brute force: Developing a list of every possible password, then trying this list with a username.
Using a mid-range computer like the one many have on their desk, with a normal Internet connection, you can develop a list of all potential passwords astonishingly quickly. For example it would take 11.9 seconds to generate a list of all possible passwords using five lowercase characters (a,b,c,d,etc.) only. It will take about 2.15 hours to develop a list of all possible passwords using five of any computer character. Once a hacker has the list, they just have to try every potential password with your user name.
On the other hand, a list of all 8 character passwords with at least one special character (!,@,%,etc.) and one capital letter would take this computer 2.14 centuries to develop. In other words, the longer the password, the harder it will be to hack. That being said, longer passwords aren't impossible to hack, they just take more time. So, most hackers will usually go after the shorter passwords first.
2. Don't use the same password
The way most hackers work is that they assume users have the same password for different accounts. If they can get one password, it's as simple as looking through that account's information for any related accounts and trying the original password with the other accounts. If one of these happens to be your email where you have kept bank information, you will likely see your bank account drained.
It's therefore important to use a different password for every online account. They key here is to try and use a password that's as different as possible. Don't just add a number or character onto the end of a word. If you have trouble remembering all of your passwords, try using a password manager like LastPass.
3. Don't use words from the dictionary or all numbers
This article published last year on ZDnet highlights the 25 most popular passwords. Notice that more than 15 contain words from the dictionary, and most of the rest are strings of common numbers. To have a secure password, most security experts agree that you should not use words from the dictionary or number combinations that are beside each other (e.g., 1234).
4. Don't use standard number substitutions
Some users have passwords where they replace letters with a number that looks similar, for example: h31lo (hello). Most new password hacking tools actually have combinations like this built in and will try a normal word, followed by replacing letters with similar numbers. It’s best to avoid this.
5. Don't use available information as a password
What we mean by this is using information that can be easily found on the Internet. For example, doing a quick search for your name will likely return your email address and social media profiles. If you have pictures of your kids, spouse, pets, family, their dates of birth, etc. on your Facebook profile and have put their names in captions, it's possible for a hacker to see this (assuming the pictures are shared with the public).You can bet that they will try these names as your password. You would be surprised with the amount of personal information on the web. We suggest searching for yourself using your email address(s), social media profile names, etc. and seeing what information can be found. If your passwords are close to what you find, it would be a good idea to change them immediately.
There are numerous things you can do to minimize the chance that your passwords are stolen and accounts hacked.
Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR for short, is the idea of integrating social and environmental ideas into your company, daily operations and interactions with all stakeholders. One of the more common CSR practices adopted by companies of all sizes is the idea of 'going green', or helping the environment. This is a great idea, not only does it make the Earth a better place, it makes your company look more caring; human even. The thing is, it can be hard to actually go green, but there are some apps that can help.
Here are four great apps that can help you and your employees make your company a little more green.
GoodGuide is an app that can help you find out more about products. Utilizing a barcode scanner, it can provide you with information like where the product comes from, whether it's safe and if it's green.
With over 170,000 ranked products in the app's database, it's a great way to start learning about sustainable and environmentally friendly products. The only downside of this app is that it currently focuses on the US only, and there is no word as to when, or if, service will expand. You can download it to your Apple and Android device for free.
While we are currently living in a digital age, we still get a lot of paper-based junk mail. This is incredibly wasteful, as most people just throw it away. PaperKarma is an app that aims to reduce or eliminate waste paper.
How it works is you take a picture of unwanted mail, the developers will then contact the distributor and ask that they stop sending mail to you. This app could go a long way in helping reduce the amount of paper your office uses, which will mean lower costs for you and less trees felled. It's really a win-win. You can download it to your iPhone or Android device for free.
An important part of any green initiative is recycling. The problem is, it can be hard to find out what, how and where to recycle. iRecycle is an app that aims to set this straight. It provides information on how to recycle almost everything and the nearest recycle points to you.
If your company has a fleet of vehicles, you are probably always on the lookout for ways to make them more efficient. Whether it be switching tires used, driving at slower speeds to conserve gas or carpooling, finding a way to cut costs is important. greenMeter is an app that could help. What it does is use your iPhone's accelerometer and manually entered data to assess your vehicle's power and gas usage.
While driving, this app provides real-time feedback on how efficient your driving is and how much gas you are using. This will help you conserve fuel (as you can see when you are burning more than usual) which will reduce operating costs and negative environmental impact. It's available for the iPhone and costs USD$5.99.
These are just four apps that can help your company go green. What other CSR initiatives do you take in your company? Let us know! And if you would like more tips on how technology can help you reduce your environmental impact, let us know, we can help.
Social media: you've heard of it and may have a personal profile, but does your business? It's pretty much expected that a business, regardless of their size, has a presence on at least one social media platform. In most cases, this platform is Facebook. If you have a Facebook Page for your company, it can be hard to figure out how to get the most out of it.
Here are five tips that you can use to help you get more out of your Facebook page.
1. Don't be a zombie Facebook, and all social media for that matter, is more like a talk show than the Walking Dead (a TV show about survival in a zombie apocalypse). You can't simply set up a profile with basic information and let it 'wander around mindlessly'. A zombie account that has no interaction, posts, updated information etc, will likely be avoided.
The key to a good Facebook presence is that you are active. This means sharing, posting, commenting, liking, etc. Having an active page will go a long way in cementing your brand. Like a good talk show, if users can interact they will likely stay interested and willing to learn more. This will positively affect your brand.
Beyond being active, you need to come across as human. Actions like signing your posts with your name, making an odd mistake (yes, we know, mistakes? But you are human, you make them), interacting with people, etc., will do you good. A great way to come across as human on your business's profile is to reply to all comments, even the bad ones.
2. Eat your Wheaties A healthy body is a regular body; a healthy Facebook page is similar to this: Content is posted on a regular basis. The frequency of your posts will tend to vary depending on which expert you talk to. However, most will agree that fewer than two posts a week will not engage your followers. Many recommend that small businesses post between five and seven times a week - once a day basically.
3. Be a boastful Bob Many of us grew up being told not to brag. When it comes to social media, bragging is not only ok, it's a part of life. If something great happens in/to the company, by all means brag about it. Just be careful, it's still not professional to constantly brag.
A good example of when to brag is when your business is featured in a trusted source (news, blog, radio, etc) or receives an award. Sharing this news makes your business not only look more credible, but more professional; a real expert in your field.
4. Share and share a lot Businesses often struggle to come up with unique content on a regular basis. If this sounds like your company, don't worry. The first thing you have to realize about Facebook is that almost nothing is original. Peruse any profile and you will see that people share a lot of content, most of which isn't theirs.
For businesses, it's perfectly acceptable to share content that isn't yours. If you come across a great article that's relevant to your company and you think your followers will enjoy, go ahead and share it. Have you found a funny comic, picture, video, site, etc.? Share it.
There is no limit on what you can share, as long as you attribute it. Writing a post like: 'Check out this great article on customer service from this company [use the name].' is fine. That being said, you should have some original content. A successful strategy may be to have one post out of five being content you have created, three to four shared content and one company news.
5. Highlight and pin what's important to your company If you have some important information or news that you want your followers to see, you can highlight them on your page. This will expand the post, so that it takes up the whole width of the Timeline, making it easier to see. Combine this with a bigger image, and the news will really stand out.
To highlight a post/status, hover over the top-right of the post (after you have posted it to your timeline) and look for the star beside the pencil. Press it, and the post will be highlighted.
If you want a post to stay at the top of your Timeline, you can pin it there for one week. This is done by hovering over the top-right of the post and pressing the pencil icon. From the dropdown menu, select Pin to top.
Facebook can be a useful tool in growing your business or establishing a quality brand. If you are looking for more ways you can leverage your company's page, please contact us today.
It's safe to say that every business has goals, some are more clearly defined than others, but there is always something managers and owners strive for. During operations, you need a way to figure out how and if you are reaching your goals, this is usually done through the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The question many ask though, is what exactly are KPIs?
Below is an overview of KPIs for business.
Define: KPI The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a tool used to measure performance of a business or employees. Many businesses use this tool to look at either the overall performance and success of all or specific operations. To many, the terms performance and success are synonyms.
How do KPIs work? Most modern versions of this tool come in the form of software applications that track specific data and criteria set by managers or owners. The software allows them to compare these criteria, commonly referred to as Score Cards, with the established goals and gauge overall performance or success.
This data, usually collected from spreadsheets, databases or even manual data entry, is displayed to the user in an easy to read format called a dashboard. The dashboard is typically a graph or similar visual display.
A common dashboard is the traffic light. Let's say for example that a company is measuring the success of their latest marketing campaign. A green light indicates that the expected number of conversions is being met or exceeded, yellow means actual conversions are slightly below normal and red means actual are well below expected.
Benefits of KPIs The biggest benefit of these tools is that they allow users to easily gauge the performance of a business. Beyond that you can set many KPIs with triggers that will alert you when the measurements are poor. This will allow the company to figure out ways to fix issues before they can cause bigger problems.
Effective KPIs For many businesses, effective KPIs are tailored to the needs of the business. For the majority of businesses, KPIs need to be: Measurable, achievable, specific and result-oriented. The best way for a business to figure out the which will be the most effective is for the manager or owner to look at the aspects that are most important to a business.
This can be hard to figure out, especially for business owners who often think that everything related to their business is important. A business intelligence expert or IT partner can help define what really matters most and help to implement the tools needed.
If you are looking for a better way to measure the success or performance of your business, please contact us today.