October 12th, 2015

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

You skip the keyword brainstorming phase

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

Your content has too little or too much text

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

You’re using black-hat SEO techniques

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

You’re expecting quick results

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

You’re not using blogging as a strategy

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

Your website has an inefficient structure

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

You’re not going responsive

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

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

Published with permission from Source.

October 7th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
October 7th, 2015

VoIP General_Oct7_CHave you ever wondered if your business is ready to make the switch to a VoIP phone system? You’ve probably heard the benefits of VoIP and thought they sounded pretty good, but perhaps you weren’t certain it was the right technology fit for your business. Here are a few signs that your business might be ready for VoIP.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, has been helping businesses communicate more effectively for a few years now. You probably use it in your personal life, with applications like Skype, but your company just might be able to take advantage of the technology as well. Look for these signs that might indicate your business is ready to make the jump to VoIP.

Your number doesn’t match your target area

As your business expands, it can be easy to forget that your phone number will stay static. This may not seem like a big deal when conducting business in your own neighborhood, but what happens when your company’s reach expands beyond its original area code? Chances are prospective clients who don’t reside in your current area code aren’t too inclined to call another one.

Despite the fact that most cell phone packages now include free long-distance calling, there is still a stigma around dialing those three extra, and unfamiliar, numbers, for fear of extra charges. The only way around this with a traditional telephony solution is to set up another office and install a new phone system in that area code.

However, with a VoIP telephony solution, you can get a number in just about any area code imaginable and have it direct back to your office. If your business covers a greater area, you can opt for a toll-free number which means customers everywhere will never worry about having to pay to call your office.

You employees use personal devices at work

It is commonplace for employees to use a cell phone to take work calls when they aren’t in the office. However, unless you have issued cell phones to your staff, there probably isn’t a reason for them to use their personal devices to talk to clients while at the office. If this is happening, there are two things you need to consider.

You first need to think about the fact that you have no way to monitor your employees’ phone usage and behavior. Are they dealing with clients in a friendly and polite manner? Are they keeping with your company’s message when speaking on the phone? Are they even talking to customers at all?

The second issue is figuring out why employees aren’t using your phone system. Chances are it has to do with some usability or performance issues that ought to be addressed. There is no point in spending money on your current phone system if it isn’t being used by your staff anyway.

Switching to a VoIP telephony solution can take care of both issues. For starters, it will provide an easy-to-use phone system for your office with far more features than you currently have.

More importantly, for staff who still wish to use their cell phones, calls can be forwarded from their work number to their personal device. This allows you to keep track of their usage without forcing them to give up their preferred method of communication. Since the call is still going through the VoIP phone system, you’ll also be able to monitor it should you wish to.

Clients can’t reach you

Sure, your clients probably have your work, cell and home phone numbers, but that doesn’t mean they want to call them all trying to get a hold of you. VoIP can give your clients anytime access to you with a couple of different features. The find me/follow call routing system will see your work phone ring a few times, followed by your cell and then home phone, until you pick up or the call goes to voicemail. You can also set it up to have incoming calls ring on all your phones at once - useful if you would rather be able to pick up your calls on whichever device is most convenient at the time.

Give us a call and we’ll show you how to pick up the phone on all types of VoIP and IT solutions.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic VoIP General
October 6th, 2015

164_C_Int RepIf you heard the recent news that a dislike button is coming to Facebook, you may have suddenly broken out into a cold sweat, fearing the negative repercussions it could have on your business. “What if customers dislike my posts or my business fan page?” you may think to yourself. The real purpose of the “dislike button,” however, is not exactly what it sounds like. Here’s what you need to know about it, and how it will affect your business.

For many years people have been clamoring for a dislike button on Facebook. But up until now, perhaps the world was not ready. According to research from Piper Jaffray and the Pew Research Center, the demographics of Facebook users have changed dramatically over the past decade. While 10 years ago the world’s most popular social media platform was frequented mostly by teenagers and early 20-somethings, today over 60% of Facebook users are over the age of 25. And you may have noticed that this change of user is reflected in the posts you likely see in your news feed. While users once posted more pictures of parties, now you’re more likely to see pictures of babies, news articles, or political stories.

So, why does this age difference matter? According to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, he didn’t want the social media network to turn into a forum where “people are voting up or down on people’s posts.” This could quite possibly have been the outcome had Facebook introduced a dislike button while it had a younger fan base.

Will users be able to dislike your business?

It is highly unlikely this will happen. Remember, Facebook is a publicly traded company that aims to turn a profit. Advertisers and brands would not be too happy if their ads or businesses were suddenly disliked, and Zuckerberg is undoubtedly aware of this.

What’s the point of the dislike button then?

To clarify, Zuckerberg never directly came out and said Facebook is getting a dislike button. Instead, he said they are working on a new button that will express sympathy or empathy. And with a now-older user base that’s more likely to share emotive news stories or sad news about family matters, it makes sense for a button like this to be introduced now. Here’s what the Facebook CEO had to say about the new button: “Not every moment is a good moment, right? And if you are sharing something that is sad…like the refugee crisis that touches you…it might not feel comfortable to Like that post.”

Be wary of third party offers to download a dislike button now

Be aware that a dislike button is not available now. While you or your employees may see ads from third parties offering early access to the “dislike button”, do not be fooled by them. If you are tricked into installing or signing up for them, you could risk your computer being infected with malware.

Want more social media news and advice on how to manage your reputation online? Call us today to talk with one of our experts.

Published with permission from Source.

October 5th, 2015

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

What is self-service business intelligence?

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

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

Traditional vs. self-service

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

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

How self-service BI can benefit your business

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

September 28th, 2015

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

Survey details

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

The results

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

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

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

So how do you build a community on social media?

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

Topic Social Media
September 21st, 2015

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

Step 1 - Prepare

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

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

Step 2 - Give them the right tools

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

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

Step 3 - Practice

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

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

Step 4 - Be alert

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

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

Published with permission from Source.

September 7th, 2015

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

Don’t accept metrics

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

Ban “tech speak”

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

Make sure your IT provider understands business goals

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

Meet with your IT provider often

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

Listen to IT recommendations

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

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

Published with permission from Source.

August 31st, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Be prepared for data loss

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

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

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

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
August 26th, 2015

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

Strategic dashboards

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

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

Analytical dashboards

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

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

Operational dashboards

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

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

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

Published with permission from Source.