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October 17th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_CEmail is an essential tool for a business's productivity. While there are a wide variety of email programs out there, almost all of them rely on one of two major protocols: POP or IMAP. As a business owner, it would be a good idea to know what these protocols are and which of the two is better for your business.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.

What this means is that usually, you connect to the server and download all of your messages onto your computer and then disconnect from the server with all messages being deleted from the server. When you connect to the server again, the messages are uploaded from your computer to the server which then sends the messages to the recipients.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a newer protocol that was designed for faster and constant Internet connections. Essentially, the email messages live on the server and the user downloads copies to their computer. When the copy is sent, it is uploaded to the server which then overwrites the message and sends it to the recipient.

Which protocol should my company be using?

While most email servers will support POP, many experts agree that it is best if companies use newer email protocols. The reasons for this are:
  • POP is largely outdated. As stated above, this protocol was first introduced in the '80s. The current, and most popular, version was introduced in 1989.
  • POP can be less secure. By default, older protocols can transmit password and login data unencrypted, which means anyone with access to your network and tools could gain access to the data.
  • POP can't support multiple devices. Due to the way POP works, only the currently connected client can see email messages. If you are on your mobile device, but logged into your email client at work, you won't get messages on your device.
  • POP lacks important business features. Most of us rely on calendars, address books, and task lists that are integrated into most email clients. With POP, these are most likely third-party solutions that live on local machines. This makes it difficult to access this information from other locations.
There are some really great newer email systems out there, including servers that run IMAP protocols, and even Web-based email solutions that pretty much negate the need for email servers in the office. If you are currently using POP, it may be worthwhile to contact us to see how we can help upgrade your email solution.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
October 16th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct13_CBusiness has become a much more mobile affair, thanks largely in part to the various mobile devices and operating systems currently available. These systems all rely on apps to operate and there are a near limitless number of apps, that business users can benefit from. To help, here are five of the most common types of apps business users install on their devices.

1. File creation, management, and collaboration

Many small to medium businesses are implementing cloud-based document systems. These systems enable easy file creation, storage, and collaboration between users in the office, coincidentally they also have mobile apps.

If you have cloud-based document systems like Google Apps or Office 365 in your office, it would be beneficial to install the mobile apps for the system that you use. The reason for this is because the mobile apps have the same functionality as their Web-based versions. From your device you can access files, create new ones, share them, and even edit files which means you can be productive on the go.

2. Lists

A good lists app can go a long way in helping to keep you organized. From creating a daily to-do-list to creating a list of long-term tasks or goals, you can create lists when you think of them and easily sync them with other devices and even colleagues.

Lists apps also help because we often come up with things we need to do while away from the office. Because our mobile device is always with us, we can simply add it to an existing list, or create a new one. No having to track down paper that may be lost, or trying to remember things.

While there are many list apps out there, one of the most useful is any.do which allows users to create both work and personal lists and share them with other users. Wunderlist is also great, as it allows users to create lists with sublists and even assign tasks to other people.

3. Notes

Like a list app, a good note app is essential. If you come up with an idea outside of the office, you can jot it down and have the note sync with other devices for action when you are back in the office. Apps of this type are also useful in meetings outside of the office because many of them allow users to record conversations and even add notes quickly. So, if an important idea comes up or is talked about it is recorded and not missed.

Some of the best Notes apps include Google Keep which syncs with your Google account and allows you to quickly create notes. If your office uses Microsoft Office, or Office 365, the best choice would be OneNote which can sync with your Microsoft account, bringing notes to any system. For those who want a powerful notes suite, the best option is Evernote, which works on almost every system and Web browser.

4. CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become one of the most essential ways for business owners and managers to manage their relationships with their customers. Companies that have integrated a CRM solution have found that overall satisfaction and customer retention has improved.

Because these solutions allow you to quickly view customer data (e.g., contact information, sales history, etc.) it makes sense for mobile apps to be created for anyone working out in the field. In fact, most CRM solutions now have mobile apps that allow you to access customer databases from any mobile device. If you have a CRM solution, especially a cloud-based one, it is worthwhile checking with your provider if there is a mobile app too.

5. Communication

When out of the office, you need a way of keeping in touch with those back at base, or other employees who may also be out of the office. While email is usually enough to cover most communication needs, there are times when you need something more immediate. That's where apps like Google Hangouts, iOS Messages, Microsoft Lync, and even Facebook Messages can help. These chat-oriented apps enable communication wherever you have a data, or Internet, connection.

Beyond this, there are a wide number of VoIP solutions that offer mobile apps. When you install these on your device, you can turn your mobile into your office phone which will function exactly like your desk-based phone. This makes it easier to keep in touch with the office, so be sure to ask your VoIP provider if there is a mobile app you can install on your device.

If you have a favorite business app, let us know. And, if you are looking for a way to increase the value your business can provide customers, contact us to learn how a mobile solution can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 16th, 2014

iPhone_Oct13_CIf you have an iPhone and have updated it to iOS 8, you have likely noticed the drastically improved Notifications Center. Apple has finally added better functionality to this popular feature and even increased the overall usability. If you have been using this function, did you know that you can customize the Notifications Center?

Customizing Notifications Center with widgets

While the Notifications Center has been an iOS feature for a number of versions now, Apple finally added more functionality to the Center in iOS 8 by turning on widget support. Widgets are essentially small apps that are meant to provide some of the functionality of a main app.

In the case of Apple, widgets can be added to your Notifications Center to enhance the overall look and functionality. For example, if you have Evernote installed on your device, you can add a widget to the Notifications Center that allows you to quickly create a new note or recording without having to open the app. Other widgets allow you to add an enhanced weather forecast or even a calculator.

In iOS 8, widgets have been enabled by default and can be interacted with by swiping down from the top of your screen to open the Notifications Center. From here, you can tap on Today to view relevant information for the day. This information is from a widget Apple calls Today Summary. You can add more widgets to the Center by:

  1. Opening your Notifications Center.
  2. Tapping on Today.
  3. Scrolling down to the bottom of the screen and tapping on Edit.
This will open a screen that lists all of the available widgets. Widgets with a red circle and minus sign beside them are already added to Notifications Center, while apps under DO NOT INCLUDE can be added. Tapping the green circle with the plus sign will add the widget, while tapping the red circle with the minus will remove it.

You can change the order of the widgets too, by tapping on the three lines to the right of the name and moving it up or down. When you are finished hit Done at the top of the screen and you should see the changes implemented immediately. If you are looking for more widgets, you will need to install apps that are widget compatible. We've found that a quick Internet search for "iOS 8 apps with widgets" returns lists of some great apps for you to try.

Customizing notifications for various apps

As you install and update apps, you may find that they start notifying you whenever there is a change, or where it is desired that you pay attention to some new information. Some of these notifications can be quite annoying, especially if you aren't really using the app at the moment, or you deem the notifications to be useless.

You can customize your app's notification settings by:

  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Selecting Notifications from the Settings menu.
  3. Tapping on the app you would like to change the notification settings for.
In the screen that pops up you should see a number of options including:
  • Show in Notification Center - The maximum number of notifications to show in the Notification Center.
  • Sounds - Play a sound when you receive a notification from this app.
  • Badge App Icon - Show the app's icon in the notifications.
  • Show on Lock Screen - Show the notification on the device's locked screen.
You can toggle these on and off as you wish.

Turning notifications off

If you would like to turn off all notifications for an app, you can do so by:
  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Selecting Notifications from the Settings menu.
  3. Tapping on the app you would like to change the notification settings for.
  4. Sliding the radio to the right of Allow Notifications to Off.
If you are looking to learn more about iOS 8 and how to get the most out of your iDevice, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
October 11th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct08_COne of the keys to business success is your staff. If you as a manager or business owner treat your employees well, your business has a better chance of running far more smoothly and will be far easier to manage too. While this is certainly easy to say, it can be a challenge to effectively manage employees in reality, and that's where systems like Enterprise Resource Planning, or more specifically HR modules, can really help.

What are Human Resource modules?

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated business software applications (often called modules) that allow companies to track and manage data and even automate some business functions, including Human Resources.

Human Resource modules in particular are used to track different people-related functions, such as planning, payroll, administration, development, hiring, and more. Business services, like Standard Operating Procedures, job postings, news, forums, tracking of work hours, and benefits, etc., can all be unified into one module, which makes overall management and decision-making easier.

Benefits of using HR modules

Businesses that have integrated ERP and more specifically HR modules, have been able to benefit in a number of ways. Here are 5:

1. Automated processes that free up management

A large function of HR, as with many other business processes, is data entry and reporting. If you are trying to develop reports without an integrated ERP system, you probably need to pull data from numerous sources which takes time. This is time that can probably be better spent on more relevant tasks.

An ERP module data, once set up, will be more accessible. This simultaneously makes it easier to enter and pull data together into reports. And because large parts of daily tasks can be automated, you can ensure that what you need to complete is actually achieved.

2. Enhanced sharing of information and collaboration

Because HR is a central function of any business, data related to HR needs to eventually be shared with other teams or departments. Without ERP this likely means you will need to ask different people to share their data and then compile it into a useable format.

With ERP for HR, data is stored in a central location, or brought together to a central location, which means that data from different sources can be shared faster and easier. This also ensures that the right data is shared, thus enhancing overall outcomes and making it simpler for other teams to work together.

3. Management gains a clearer picture of HR

It can be tough to gain a short-term picture of your employee resources, especially when it comes to identifying potential resource shortfalls (e.g., double-booked holidays, employees who are constantly late, etc.) and where improvements can be made. For example, in most modules you can track overtime hours of employees, and receive alerts when overtime is past a certain threshold.

If you spot that one department is consistently banking extended overtime hours, you can move quickly to address this.

4. Data is kept up-to-date

As we've stated above, HR systems usually involve data from various locations. This means that there is always a chance of duplicate or incorrect information. A healthcare ERP module can help ensure that the data is not only correct, but also not duplicated, which can in turn speed up decision-making and enable better decisions to be made.

5. Reduced licensing expenses

Without ERP, your HR team could need five or more systems in order to keep track of everything. Each of these systems will need to be licensed, which can often be a serious investment on your behalf, not to mention the costs of setting up and maintaining these systems.

Because HR ERP modules offer an integrated solution, you pay for one license to cover all of your needs. This reduces overall expenses while also making it easier to budget and maintain.

If you are looking to integrate an ERP solution in your business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct07_CSmall to medium businesses, like restaurants, fashion boutiques, salons, and service-based businesses are constantly looking for ways to minimize expenses. One way to do this is by implementing a mobile payment solution. This form of payment is set to take off in the coming months, especially when you take into account the number of new systems introduced and available already.

What exactly is mobile payment?

Most people would define mobile payment as either using your mobile device as a wallet, or using mobile devices to accept payment. Many services allow users to link credit cards to their mobile device and simply scan it over a pay terminal to have their account charged.

Companies on the other hand usually pay a set per-transaction fee in order to use the system; something along the lines of, or slightly cheaper than, most credit or debit-based payment terminals.

If you are considering switching over, here is a brief overview of the most common payment solutions.

PayPal

In late September Internet auction giant eBay announced that they will be spinning off their popular Internet payment system PayPal sometime in 2015. While many users will utilize PayPal to pay online, there is actually a mobile payment solution called PayPal Here, which is expected to grow immensely.

With Here, you get a payment solution app with a card reader that plugs into most smartphones (Android, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets) and allows you to accept multiple types of payment from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can even track cash payments and record checks.

Vendors can use this app free of charge, however they are charged a 2.7% per swipe fee, based on the amount of the transaction.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple's recently announced mobile payment system that utilizes NFC (Near Field Communication) on the iPhone 6. Users with an iPhone 6 will be able to link their credit cards to their phone and then will hover their device near a terminal and press their thumb on the device's fingerprint reader to pay.

Your payment information (an account number linked to your card. Apple has noted that actual card numbers are not stored) is stored in the Passbook, and will be accepted at an initial 220,000 stores in the US when it launches sometime in October. There is a good chance that small to medium businesses will be able to integrate this solution into their business in the near future, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

What is interesting is that many banks have announced that they are considering accepting, or will accept Apple Pay as a method of payment. This means that businesses with an existing NFC payment terminal - which is often provided by a bank - should be able to accept payment (if the bank does of course).

Rumors have it that merchants will not be charged a transaction fee to use this service; details will be solidified when the system goes live.

Square

Square is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well known, mobile payment system. With a card reader that is compatible with most popular mobile devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) users can set up a whole Point of Sale system via the Square Stand and accept a wide variety of payments.

To use this solution, you need either the card reader (which is free) or the Square Stand (which costs around USD $99). For each transaction there is a fee that starts at 2.75% for credit and debit cards.

Amazon's Local Register

Introduced in mid August, this new card reader is aimed at both PayPal and Square solutions. As with these, there is a card reader that can be plugged into most devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) and an app that goes along with it. Businesses with the reader can then use the device to accept payment.

Where this solution differs is that the reader costs USD $10 to purchase. That being said, the USD $10 is refunded towards your first transaction fees upon signing up. The transaction fees are also quite a bit lower. For businesses that sign up before October 31, 2014, there is a flat rate of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016. Any business that signs up after this date will pay a flat rate of 2.5% per transaction (based on the total transaction amount).

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a hybrid mobile and online payment solution that allows users to add credit cards to their wallet and pay for things either online, or at stores with NFC payment terminals (also called contactless terminals).

While most users who have made a purchase on Google Play, or have used their Google Account to make a payment have used Wallet, this hasn't been the most popular of solutions when it comes to customers using it to pay in-store. The reason for this is because there are only a limited number of devices with the required NFC radio (two to be exact). This system is also currently limited to the US only. Customers around the world can use Google Wallet to pay online however.

There is a good chance that with the recent new announcements and upcoming mobile payment products, Google will be pushing this out to more devices in the near future.

There are other mobile payment system options available, so it is a good idea to contact us before you implement one. We can help you not only find a solution that works for your business, but ensure that it can be integrated into your existing systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 9th, 2014

iPad_Oct07_CUsers who have an iPad 2 or newer are likely well aware of the fact that iOS 8 has been released, and many have probably already updated. While the new version of iOS does bring some interesting features, there are reports from some users that the battery is being drained far quicker than before they installed the update. If you have experienced this, then the first thing you should look at is how to figure out which apps are using the most power.

How to see the battery power apps are using on iOS 8

One of the first things you should do when you notice that your battery is draining faster than normal is to look at how much power each app is using. This can be done by:
  1. Tapping on the Settings app.
  2. Selecting General from the menu bar on the left-hand side of the Settings app.
  3. Tapping on Usage which is located in the menu that opens in the right side of the screen. Selecting Battery Usage.
In the window that opens you will be able to see basic battery information like how long you have used the device since its last charge, and how much power has been used. While this is useful in its own right, there is also valuable information about what apps are using the most power.

This data displays apps that are using the most power first, so you can quickly see what apps are power hungry and take action. In iOS 8, a new tab was actually introduced into the Battery Usage tracker, which shows a seven day running average of the most power hungry apps.

Tapping on the tab that says Last 7 Days at the top of the screen will bring this information up. This is useful because it gives you a better view of the truly power hungry apps.

What do I do with apps that are really draining my iPad's battery?

There are a number of things you can do, including:
  • Uninstalling the app: If the app with the highest battery drain isn't overly useful, then possibly the best step to take would be to uninstall it. Another option may be to look for a similar app and give that a try to see if it fares any better on battery use.
  • Change when you use the app: Some apps, like video recording suites, bandwidth or processing-heavy apps like games, drain your battery quickly when they are running. Instead of using them while on battery power, try to use them when your iPad is plugged into a power source.
  • Limit use until the app is updated: If you are experiencing battery drain, there is a good chance that other users are as well. You can either limit the use of the app until an app update is issued, (most updates will usually fix battery issues), or try to contact the developer directly. Take a look on iTunes for the app and you should see developer contact information there.
  • Dim the display: The iPad has a great display, and many apps look good when you have the display's brightness set at its brightest. The issue with this however, is that a super-bright display will drain your battery quickly. Try turning the display brightness down as low as possible in order to slow how fast the battery is drained.
  • Limit network connections: Similar to your display, having Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios always on will also drain your battery. If you aren't connected to Wi-Fi, or don't have any Bluetooth devices, then it is best to turn them off. The reason for this is because if they are on, they constantly look for a connection which eats up battery power.
If you are looking for more ways to decrease or manage the power drain on your iPad contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
October 8th, 2014

Office365_Oct07_CWhile there are numerous popular software suites out there for businesses, one of the most popular has got to be Microsoft's Office. Over the past couple of years, different versions of Office have surfaced, including Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365. While both types include Office, there is confusion as to the difference between them.

What is Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office 2013 is the latest version of Microsoft's popular Office suite. With apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more, it is mostly similar to all previous versions of Office. When you purchase this type of Office you receive a number of licenses allowing you to install this on up to five computers or devices - depending on the version (e.g., Home, Student, Professional) of Office that you get.

You can purchase these products outright, as you have done with previous versions of Office, but Microsoft is really pushing their subscription-based version of Office, what they call Office 365. When you subscribe to the Office 365 version of Microsoft 2013, you get the same software as you would if you purchased it outright, the only difference is you pay for it either monthly or yearly, instead of all at once.

What is Office 365 for business then?

Where it gets confusing for many is that in 2011 Microsoft launched a cloud-based version of Office for businesses also called Office 365. Despite the same name as the subscription-based version of Office 2013, this is a different product that is aimed at businesses.

Office 365 for businesses is a monthly (or yearly) per-user subscription service that offers businesses productivity software, enhanced communication apps like email and video conferencing; guaranteed security; and support for intranet and collaboration solution SharePoint.

With Office 365 for business, companies can sign up for a number of plans. Some of them, like Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business, offer full versions of Office 2013 (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Lync, Outlook, Notes, Access, etc) that users can install on their computers or mobile devices. Other versions, like Office 365 Small Business, come with Office Web Apps which can be accessed via your browser.

Which is better for business?

Most businesses will benefit more from Office 365 because of the extra features and enhanced security. Not to mention the fact that the monthly per-user cost is usually lower when compared to licensing the same version of Office 2013 for each individual.

Some other benefits Office 365 for Business include:

  • All users are on the same version of Office: Because Office 365 for Business is based in the cloud and is managed via a central admin panel, you can ensure that all users have exactly the same version of Office, which in turn ensures that your files will be compatible.
  • Reduced licensing costs: If you were to purchase individual versions of Office 2013 for your employees, you could end up paying over USD $399 for the Professional version which can only be installed on one computer. Compare this with Office 365 Small Business Premium which costs USD $12.50 per user, per month and offers the same version of Office, along with more features.
  • Enhanced security and uptime: Microsoft guarantees that Office 365 software will be up and running 99.9% of the time, which means the programs you rely on will be available when you need them.
  • It's more mobile: With Office Web Apps and Office 2013 mobile apps you can take your work anywhere. Combine this with solutions like SharePoint which allow you to store documents in a central location, which makes it easier to access your files while out of the office. Beyond that, if you would like to use the Office mobile apps, you will need an Office 365 subscription.
If you are looking to integrate Office 365 into your organization, or would like to learn more, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 3rd, 2014

Hardware_Sep29_CChances are good that if you look down at your keyboard, or at your monitor, or even at your most used mobile device, one of them will be a little dusty and grimy. It really is inevitable that your computer or devices will get dirty and therefore it's important that you take steps to keep them clean. But do you know how to go about cleaning your devices?

Cleaning desktop monitors

The monitor on your desktop is what many people spend the majority of their days in the office looking at. A clean monitor makes it easier to see your desktop more clearly. The best way to clean your monitor is to turn it off first, then take a microfiber cloth (these can be purchased at many optical stores as well as computer stores) and gently rub in a circular motion.

If there are still spots, then dip the cloth in a tiny bit of water - don't spray the water onto the screen - and try cleaning again. It is important that you don't press hard on the screen, as this could damage your monitor's pixels. Also, it is not a good idea to use paper-based products like paper towel or tissue, as they will not only leave residue, but may actually scratch the monitor slightly.

Cleaning mobile screens

Mobile and other touch screens usually will get your fingerprints all over them, making it harder to see what you are looking at. The best way to clean these screens is with a microfiber cloth. For tougher to remove spots you can dip the cloth into a small amount of water and then gently wipe the screen. Don't splash water onto it before cleaning, as water could get inside the device, which will likely void the warranty while potentially ruin internal components.

Some people suggest rubbing alcohol to remove fingerprints and disinfect the device. While this will be ok for some screens, many manufacturers recommend against it because the alcohol can eat away at the protective film on some devices.

If you notice that there is a lot of dust or gunk on the edges of your screen, or even in cracks, you may need to take the device into a mobile shop for further cleaning. Do not open the device yourself as this could void the warranty.

Cleaning your keyboard

Our fingers are touching keyboards almost all day, and after a while you will notice that your keyboard gets a bit grungy, with debris and dirt even between the keys. Before you do start cleaning, be sure to unplug the keyboard, or turn it off if it is wireless. To clean the upper parts of the keys - where your fingers strike the keys - try dipping cotton swabs into rubbing alcohol and then cleaning the keys with a gentle rub.

To clean between keys you will need compressed air which can be purchased at most office supply and computer stores. Spraying in between keys should be enough to get rid of most of the dust and grit.

Cleaning your mouse

Like the keyboard, the mouse can get quite dirty too, with grime from your fingers and dust in general. The best way to clean a mouse is to first unplug it and then use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean it. You should not need to open your mouse and most models are designed to not be opened by users.

Cleaning your laptop's body

If your laptop's body is dirty the most effective way to clean it is to turn it off, unplug it, and clean it with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Some online articles recommend using a Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or similar cleaning tool. While this does work, it acts in the same way as super fine sandpaper, so you have to be careful that you do not end up actually lightly scratching the body.

Cleaning your computer tower

Some people may want to clean their desktop computer's tower. While this is doable by taking a slightly damp microfiber cloth and wiping down the front and side of your tower, we strongly recommend avoiding the back, and certain areas of the front, as there are ports and components that could be easily damaged.

As always, be sure to disconnect the power source and all wires before cleaning, as any water damage could ruin your computer.

Cleaning the inside of your computer

Dust will eventually get into the inside of your computer and could clog up cooling fans, causing them to stop working properly. This can potentially lead to other components overheating. The internal components of your computer are extremely fragile and need to be handled with great care. Do not take the case off of your computer as this usually voids your warranty.

For all of your computer needs our technicians are here to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 2nd, 2014

BCP_Sep29_CThe vast majority of business owners are well aware of the fact that disaster can strike at any time. As a result most do take steps to prevent this from happening or at least limiting the potential impact. However, there is always a chance that these plans don't work. To help prevent this from happening to your business, it might be a good idea to know about the common ways continuity plans do fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

1. Not customizing a plan

Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won't necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

2. Action plans that contain too much information

One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don't want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

Instead, try keeping action plans - what needs to be done during an emergency - separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

3. Failing to properly define the scope

The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

5. Failing to test, update, and test again

Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis - at least twice a year.

From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan and supporting systems, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 25th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_CAs a business owner, chances are high that you are aware of social media and even have your business established on one or more services. While this is a great start, many businesses often struggle with how exactly they should be using social media to their advantage. If this sounds like you, here are three common ways your business can effectively use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company's services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it's the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media's instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is 'social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What's the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media