Blog

January 14th, 2015

GoogleApps_Jan12_ATime is at a premium for every small business owner and, for all its benefits in modern communication, email is one of the major drains on your schedule. If you’re feeling choked by the amount of time you spend dealing with email on a day-to-day basis, try some of these Gmail productivity hacks to give your schedule a new lease of life in 2015.

Customize your email address and harness filters

Did you know that, if you use Gmail, you can customize your existing email address? Whether you have a regular @gmail.com or @company.com address, you can adjust your username depending on who you are giving it to and what you are likely to receive. For example, if your basic address is theboss@company.com, you could give theboss+friends@company.com to friends and use theboss+blog@company.com to invite blog comments.

Combine this feature with Gmail’s native filters to add labels to emails depending on which address they are sent to - so you can keep work and play separate, or file blog comments to deal with at a set time. Don’t want to see Facebook email notifications? Change your profile to use the email address theboss+spam@company.com and set up a filter to direct those messages to the trash. Your email is compartmentalized and you can see what you need to, when you really need to.

Can frequent responses to save time

Do you get similar email enquiries every day? If you currently pen a fresh reply to each message that arrives, then kick that habit right now and save yourself a heap of time. Gmail’s built in Canned Responses function allows you to store messages that you frequently send so they are ready to use at the touch of a button.

Enable Canned Responses from the Labs tab of the Gmail settings page, then when composing a new message just click the arrow icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and select Canned Responses. From here you can use an existing canned response or add a new one. Then just hit send!

Schedule emails and reminders with Boomerang

The Boomerang add-on, which comes as a web extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers and as an Android app, enables you to bounce new emails right out of your inbox and schedule their return when it suits you. The emails are stored remotely, freeing you up to concentrate on more urgent tasks.

Likewise, if you need to send one or more emails at a specific time but won’t be at your desk, with Boomerang you can schedule the emails in advance to send automatically when you need them to. You can also put this feature to use to schedule emails to send to yourself that act as task reminders.

Quick question? Chat instead

Don’t underestimate the value of Gmail’s chat system, or Hangouts as it is known in the age of Google+. Save yourself the time spent composing a long-form email, and the back-and-forth of conversation between recipients, by penning a brief chat message when you just need to ask a question.

Chances are too that colleagues will be less daunted by an instant message than an email, and more likely to respond right away than put it off. Hangouts need not be limited to one-to-one conversations - to start a group chat, open a chat with one colleague and then click the stick person icon beneath their name. You’ll see a list of contacts that you can add to the conversation.

Treat your email like a relay race

Of course, the best way to save time on email is to limit the amount of time you spend on it - one great way is by using the browser extension Mail Timer. This nifty add-on allows you to set yourself a maximum amount of time - say two minutes - to respond to each email. After that, a pop-up message will let you know you’re out of time and encourage you to continue to your next message. Not only will Mail Timer train you to be more concise in crafting emails, but it is a great way to get into the habit of swiftly clearing your inbox of messages that only need a brief reply - you can archive others to deal with at a set time (or use Boomerang to bring them back automatically when it suits you).

If you would like to learn more about using Gmail, or any other Google app, please get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release of, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of Antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization, and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful, and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses, and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated Antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms - it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have - which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data - think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it - in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations - the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 13th, 2015

iPad_Jan12_AEver since the first iPad came out, many people have wanted to use it as their second computer monitor to help boost efficiency and productivity. The only problem was that most software that makes the transfer possible uses Wi-Fi which comes paralleled with a lagging screen and inconsistency. However, a new application that will seamlessly turn your iPad into your second Mac screen is now available.

Duet Display, developed by a former Apple engineer, Rahul Dewan, will turn your iPad into an external screen for your Mac, and does so using a cable that you already use to charge and sync your iPad. To be precise, it’s actually two apps — one for your iOS device and a companion app for your Mac that lets it recognize an iPad or iPhone as a second screen.

How does Duet Display work?

  1. Download Duet Display from the Apple Store for $14.99
  2. Install Duet Display for OS X
  3. Duet Display will add a little settings icon to the right side of your menu bar and requires a password when you’re installing it on your Mac. This is because the app needs to install display drivers.
  4. Open the Duet Display app on your iPad and plug it into your Mac with a lightning cable (or a 30-pin cable if you’ve got an older iPad that’s still supported).
  5. Now you can enjoy working with two screens!
Because your iPad is plugged in, you won’t have to worry about your iPad’s battery. And while you’re using Duet Display on the iPad, you’ll still get your regular iOS notifications. You can also set your computer to use all the pixels on your iPad’s Retina display (2,048x1,536 pixel resolution), or you can set your iPad to regular resolution too. Duet Display works with all Macs running on OS X Yosemite and any iPads or iPhones running iOS 5.1.1 or above, meaning it will work with your old iPad. The only downside is you can only connect a single iOS device for now.

The growing number of applications in the App Store means there are often new ways to make use of your iPad being introduced. Looking to learn more about the iPad and its capabilities? Contact us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
January 8th, 2015

googleapps_Dec26_AAs a business owner or manager there is always some task that needs to be completed and some project that needs your attention. While we often like to think of ourselves as super human, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that needs to be done. One useful tool that can help us follow our to-do-list successfully is the Google Tasks function in Gmail.

What is Google Tasks?

Google Tasks is a sub-feature included in all versions of Gmail. As the name suggests, its main function is to allow you to set up tasks directly in Gmail. With this feature you can create itemized lists, set due dates, add notes, and create tasks directly from Gmail messages.

When you use this feature, you will see a chat-like window appear at the bottom-right of the screen. The window looks and functions a lot like a Hangouts chat in that you can minimize it and even pop it out of the Gmail window.

How to use Google Tasks

As we noted above, Google Tasks is a feature of Gmail, and can be accessed by:
  1. Going to your Gmail Inbox.
  2. Pressing on Mail which is located at the top-left side of the window.
  3. Selecting Tasks from the drop-down menu.
When you do this, you should notice the Tasks window open at the bottom-right of the screen, beside any open chats or emails you may be composing. Once you have opened this you can add a new task by clicking on the + at the bottom right, or by clicking in any blank area in the window. You should then notice a square box appear with a blinking cursor beside it. You can then enter the task you would like to make note of.

Once a task is finished you can tick the box beside it and it will be struck through, indicating it has been completed. You can then click on it and press the trash can icon at the bottom to delete the task from your list.

Other useful Google Tasks features

  • Create sub-tasks - If you want to create a task with sub-tasks, simply create each task normally and then hit Tab to indent tasks so that they are identified as sub-tasks. Hit Shift + Tab to move any indented tasks to the left.
  • Add a due date and notes - Click on a task and then click on the black arrow to the right of the task to assign a due date and add any notes.
  • Create new lists - Create multiple lists by clicking on the list icon at the bottom-right of the window and selecting New list.
  • Move tasks up or down the list - To change the priority of a task, hover your mouse over the square beside the task name and click on the grey dots, then drag the task up or down.
  • Email a task list - You can send a task list to other Gmail users by selecting the list you want to send, then clicking Actions at the bottom of the window, followed by Email task list.
If you would like to learn more about using Google Tasks, or any other Google app please get in touch with us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Google Apps
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_AIf you want to keep your business data and systems secure it is essential that you have an antivirus or antimalware scanner installed on every system. While the install rates of these programs in businesses is nearly 100%, there is an increasing trend where some companies are letting their subscriptions expire. So, if your antivirus subscription expires is this really a big deal?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.

Other programs will stop updating the essential virus and malware databases that are used by the program to identify and clean new malware. This means that while you will be secure from known viruses and security flaws up to the date of the last database update, you will not be secure against newly discovered viruses.

Some popular programs like Kaspersky offer an antivirus scanner trial version or a program that comes with a newly purchased computer.With programs like these, they will normally stop functioning once the trial period is over. Yes, they will still open, but you won't be able to scan or perform any tasks.

In short, when your subscription expires, your systems will no longer be secure, or as protected as they should be. Interestingly enough, in mid-November 2014, Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report 17. This report found that computers and systems with expired malware were only slightly less likely to be infected than systems without any malware scanners installed.

What do I do if my subscription is about to expire?

Before your subscription expires you should take steps to back up all of your systems and data. The reason for this is that should something happen you have a clean backup to revert to. Once this is carried out, then consider renewing your subscription. Most programs allow you to do this directly from the scanner itself, so it is often fairly straightforward.

As a business owner however, you are going to need to keep track of your systems and licenses. What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet with information on the subscription applied to all systems. Take account of when the scanner was installed on each system, how long the subscription period is for, and when it will expire.

What if my subscriptions are about to expire, but I don't like my current program?

There may come a time when the scanner you have selected simply isn't living up to your expectations. Maybe it takes too long to scan, uses too many resources, or simply isn't able to protect all of your systems. Regardless of the reason, switching scanners is always an option.

If you are thinking of moving to another scanner, we strongly recommend that before you do anything, you back up your systems. You can then start looking for other systems. We strongly recommend that you contact us, as we can help identify a solution that will work for your business and systems. We can then help ensure that the transition is carried out in a way that will not leave your systems open to attack.

We may have a managed antivirus solution that will work for your business. By using a system like this, we can help protect your systems, keeping them secure and always up to date, all without you having to get involved. All you need to do is get in touch to find our more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_AThere are so many ways that hackers can gain access to your computers and systems it boggles the mind. One of the more popular tactics employed is the increasingly common spear phishing. In early December 2014, news broke of a new, super savvy, spear phishing campaign that had succeeded in scamming top Wall Street companies and could be a danger to small businesses as well.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.

More often than not, these links are to websites where you enter account information, passwords, and even bank account details, or any other personal information which can be used to break into computers and even steal your identity.

What is this latest spear phishing attack?

This new form of spear phishing, being carried out by an organization who calls themselves FIN4, has actually been around since as early as mid 2013. When they attack Wall Street listed companies they are doing so to steal valuable plans and insider information.

What we know is that they send highly savvy and targeted emails to people at a company, trying to harvest Microsoft Outlook account information. Once they have this crucial data they then target others inside, or connected to, the organization, with the same email, while also injecting the code into ongoing messages. This method can spread the attack quickly, leading to a potentially massive security breach.

In the email examples of this phishing threat, the attackers write mainly about mergers and other highly valuable information. They also include a link to a forum to discuss the issues raised further. These emails come from people the recipient already knows, and the link is to a site that asks them to enter their Outlook account and password before gaining access. When this information is entered, it is captured by the attacker and used to launch more attacks.

What can we do to protect our systems?

From what we know, this attack is being carried out largely against law firms, finance companies, and other large organizations. While this discounts many small businesses, there is a good chance that the attackers will turn to small businesses operating with larger companies at some point.

Because this is an email-based attack, you need to be extra vigilant when opening all emails. Be sure to look at the sender's address, and read the body of the email carefully. While hackers generally have good English skills, they aren't fully fluent, which means you will notice small mistakes. Also, keep in mind previous emails sent by the recipient. If the tone and style is off, then the email may be fake.

It is important to always look carefully at all links in email messages. If a link looks suspicious, then ask the recipient for more information or to tell you where the link goes. If you come across any site asking you to enter account information, be extra careful. Look at the URL address in your browser, if it doesn't sat HTTPS:// before the address, then it may be a good idea to avoid this.

If you have any questions on spear phishing and how you can prevent it, contact us today to see how we can protect your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 30th, 2014

BCP_Dec23_AWhen it comes to backing up your important business data, there are many options available to your company. One of the increasingly common choices is to use online or cloud-based backups. Despite the popularity of these systems, there is still confusion over what exactly online backup is and the benefits it can bring businesses.

What exactly is online backup?

In a wide sense, online backup is a backup system where your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.

When you back up your files and systems to an online solution, your files are stored off site, usually in redundant data centers. This means that should something happen to your files you can access the system via another computer and restore your backups onto that computer, as long as you have an Internet connection.

For many companies, this is arguably the most efficient form of backup, not because of the backup method itself, but because of the fact that your backups are stored remotely The chance your data will be accessible if your business faces disaster increase, as data can be recovered quicker than most other systems.

How do online backups work

Like most other technical systems out there, there are numerous varieties of online backups. Some of the most effective are image-based, which take a snapshot of a computer or server at a specific time and then upload this to the remote backup servers. This snapshot contains the whole system as it is and can be easily recovered.

Other solutions can be automated to back up specific files and folders, and run through a Web-based interface that can execute a backup from almost anywhere. Beyond this, many systems can be managed by a company like us. We can implement a system that works best for your company and your data, and then manage it so that your data will always be available when you need it. Should something go wrong, we can even help you recover your systems.

4 Benefits of online backup

Companies that implement an online-based backup have been able to realize the following benefits:
  1. Decreased recovery time - Because your data is stored online, as long as you have an Internet connection you can begin recovery at the click of a button; there is no having to go find your backup, then figure out how to recover it. Most companies see a generally reduced backup recovery time when they implement an online system.
  2. Increased backup reliability - Over time, physical systems break and need to be replaced, and this can happen at any time. Because online systems are managed by other companies, whose main job is to ensure backups are always available, you see increased reliability with these systems.
  3. Decreased costs - Physical backup systems can be costly, especially if you have a large number of systems or a large amount of data to back up. Many online providers charge a flat monthly fee that often works out to be less costly than other solutions. Beyond this, you don't need to invest in physical backup solutions and the storage space to house and maintain these. As a result you should see lower costs.
  4. Increased data availability - As long as you have an Internet connection, your data will be available. This means you don't have to worry about your offsite physical data being okay, if you have a problem or disaster strikes on your premises. With online services data is available when you need it.
If you would like to learn more about online backup, contact us today and let us reveal just how dynamic and effective our solutions can be. Don't wait until you have to face a backup issue to back up your vital data!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 23rd, 2014

androidphone_Dec22_AAndroid 5.0 has been released and devices are starting to get updates. With this latest development comes a number of new features and a fully redesigned look. One of the new features introduced is a tweak to the way open and recent apps are displayed (officially called Overview). While this new version of Overview is great, the way it handles Chrome tabs can be a little frustrating for some users.

A brief look at Overview in Android 5.0

Android 5.0 brings about a useful change to the way Android handles multitasking. On older versions, you have the "Recent apps" feature which is accessed by pressing the square button (usually at the bottom-right of the screen) or tapping on the home button twice. When opened, you usually see a list of recent apps listed either with small snapshots or as a live list showing content.

In Android 5.0, the recent apps list has been changed to Overview which now displays open apps in cards, much like Google Now cards. You scroll through the cards to see your apps and swipe them away to close them.

How Overview works with Chrome

While the new multitask view is a great, and certainly attractive, way to see your open or recent apps, one niggling issue for some users is that each tab in Chrome is given its own card. If you are like most users and have linked your desktop browser with your phone so that tabs open in the browser show up on Chrome on your device, you will likely see a large number of cards pop up in Overview.

If you are trying to find an app, scrolling through these cards can be annoying. Luckily, there is a way to turn this feature off and set it so that Chrome itself is assigned only one card.

How to disable individual Chrome tabs in Overview

To disable individual cards for each tab:
  1. Open Chrome on your Android device.
  2. Press the three vertical dots at the top-right of the screen.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Tap Merge tabs and apps.
  5. Slide the radio at the top right to the left (Off).
  6. Press OK in the pop-up window.
Chrome will reload with tabs being contained within the app itself. The number of open tabs will be displayed at the top-right of the window with a number inside a small box. Tapping on this number will display your existing tabs.

If you are looking to learn more about Android and how you can use it in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 18th, 2014

SocialMedia_Dec15_AWhen working with social media in your business there are a number of metrics commonly used to determine whether the content you create and share is effective. One of the best metrics to employ is the number of shares each piece of content receives. More shares usually means higher visibility and therefore a greater impact. However, many businesses struggle to get their content shared. Here's four reasons why.

1. The vast majority of people are hesitant to share content

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook over a 17 day period, approximately 15.3 billion comments and posts were written but were then deleted and not posted on Facebook alone.

While the reasons will have been varied, the numbers highlight that the vast majority of users are sensitive to what they post on Facebook, and most most likely other networks as well. What does this mean for businesses? Well, you need to ensure that the content you are posting offers value to not only your audience, but their audience as well.

Think about when you have shared content on any network. You probably didn't do so 100% for yourself, but instead shared the content or created a post so your audience would interact with it, or possibly get something out of it. Think of this as the "hmm, that's interesting, other people will like it too, so I'll post it" mentality. By sharing content others enjoy or respond to you get the benefit of increased recognition.

If you can create content that gets people to think this way, there is an increased chance that they will share it.

2. Facebook users want to be seen in a positive light

According to a study carried out by INC. 80% of respondents share content because it shows that they are being a good friend to those they care about. People use social media to foster good relationships and connect with those they care about. And if somebody regards your posts as potentially able to tarnish their image on social media, they won't share it.

Businesses looking to capitalize on this need to try to create content and campaigns that help users better relate to one another. Combine this with the above example of creating interesting-to-share content and you will be more likely to see an increase in shares.

3. Content doesn't fit our salient identities

Because social media has become an extension of society, many experts apply common social science principles to it. The most commonly applied theory is of the five identities (relational, personal, social, superficial, and collective) that determine how people behave in a certain situation.

If you are posting content that doesn't fit with an an individual's current identity then it's not going to be shared. So, how can businesses capitalize on these changing identifies? One effective way is to get to know your main target audience; how they act and react to certain social cues, and then create content to fit with this behavior.

For example, if your target group for posts is parents, then using language and content that triggers parental instincts could increase shares as parents associate better with it.

You might want to widen your focus too and try developing content that capitalizes on different identities, tracking what works best.

4. Content doesn't mesh with a user's values and goals

The same INC. study found that after being a good friend, 63% of users surveyed noted that they were more likely to share content that reflected their goals, values, and dreams.

How can a business capitalize on this? The best way is to get to know your audience. Look at their posting and sharing habits and the type of content they share on a regular basis. This may change over time, but you will see patterns evolve for different groups. If you can develop and post content that reflects these main goals and values then you are more likely to see your content being shared. Try different approaches and keep in mind who you are developing content for.

If you are looking to learn more about social media, contact us today to see how our systems can help you integrate it with your business success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 16th, 2014

GoogleApps_Dec15_AGoogle Chrome is one of the most popular browsers in use today. With steady updates, fast speeds, and the ever useful tabs, it's difficult to imagine working without it. For users who have the same tabs constantly open, did you know that there is a useful feature in Chrome that allows you to ensure that these tabs are always available?

What is Chrome's Pin Tab feature

When using Chrome's tabs, you will notice that tabs open from left to right. When you browse the Internet, you likely open the most used or important sites first, which means they will open to the left. The problem with this is we often have so many tabs open that it can be tricky to find or quickly navigate to the tabbed sites we use the most.

One way to solve this problem is by pinning these to the tab bar. When you do this, the tab will be pinned to the left-hand side and made smaller. This makes it easier to find your important tabs and keep these sites and tabs more organized.

How do I pin tabs?

If you would like to pin tabs:
  1. Open the site you would like to pin in a new tab.
  2. Right-click on the tab.
  3. Select Pin Tab.
This will shorten the tab to just the site's icon and move it to the far left of the tab bar. Pinning other tabs will also move them to the left, beside the other pinned tabs. Any new tabs will be opened to the right of pinned tabs.

It is important to note here that because the pinned tabs are smaller any live tabs, such as Gmail's unread message counter, or Facebook's chat reminder, will no longer be updated. For most tabs this is not an issue, but for tabs like Gmail you will have to physically click on the tab to check if you have any new emails.

How do I unpin or move tabs?

You can unpin tabs by right-clicking on the pinned tab and selecting Unpin Tab. You can also move the order of pinned tabs by clicking and holding on the pinned tab you would like to move and moving it left or right. As you do so, you will notice other tabs change order.

If you would like to close the pinned tab, either unpin it first and then press the X at the right-hand side of the tab, or right-click on the tab and select Close Tab.

Looking to learn more about using Chrome? Contact us today and we can show you how to enhance your business functions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.