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July 18th, 2014

BCP_July14_CMetrics are used in nearly every business process, including disaster preparedness and any business continuity plan (BCP) you might have at the ready. Businesses who are looking to ensure that their company will make it through any disaster successfully need to have an effective BCP with metrics like RTO and RPO in place.

While both RTO and RPO are important elements of continuity plans, and they both sound fairly similar, they are actually quite different. In this article we define RTO and RPO and take a look at what the difference is between the two concepts.

RTO defined

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is the target time you set for the recovery of your IT and business activities after a disaster has struck. The goal here is to calculate how quickly you need to recover, which can then dictate the type or preparations you need to implement and the overall budget you should assign to business continuity.

If, for example, you find that your RTO is five hours, meaning your business can survive with systems down for this amount of time, then you will need to ensure a high level of preparation and a higher budget to ensure that systems can be recovered quickly. On the other hand, if the RTO is two weeks, then you can probably budget less and invest in less advanced solutions.

RPO defined

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective, is focused on data and your company's loss tolerance in relation to your data. RPO is determined by looking at the time between data backups and the amount of data that could be lost in between backups.

As part of business continuity planning, you need to figure out how long you can afford to operate without that data before the business suffers. A good example of setting an RPO is to imaging that you are writing an important, yet lengthy, report. Think to yourself that eventually your computer will crash and the content written after your last save will be lost. How much time can you tolerate having to try to recover, or rewrite that missing content?

That time becomes your RPO, and should become the indicator of how often you back your data up, or in this case save your work. If you find that your business can survive three to four days in between backups, then the RPO would be three days (the shortest time between backups).

What's the main difference between RTO and RPO?

The major difference between these two metrics is their purpose. The RTO is usually large scale, and looks at your whole business and systems involved. RPO focuses just on data and your company's overall resilience to the loss of it.

While they may be different, you should consider both metrics when looking to develop an effective BCP. If you are looking to improve or even set your RTO and RPO, contact us today to see how our business continuity systems and solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 17th, 2014

Office_July14_CIn many TV shows and movies about spies there is always one character with a great alias. When it comes to espionage, an alias is important, but it may seem less so for most business owners or managers. However, with Microsoft's Outlook.com there is a great alias related feature that you may find useful.

Outlook.com's alias management feature

If you are using Outlook.com, chances are high that you aren't a spy or superhero and in need of a top-secret alias. There is a good chance however that you may have need for more than one email address.

Maybe you attend a lot of conferences or events and would like a way to keep your main email inbox from being flooded with the usual "nice to meet you" emails and follow ups; or perhaps you are launching a new product associated with your name and would like a way to easily track communication directly related to this one product.

If this sounds like your situation then Outlook.com has a great feature that allows you to create up to 10 new email addresses, or aliases, and manage them from your main account's inbox. The main idea of an alias email is that you get a different email address that is tied to your main account. Your aliases share the same contacts, calendar and even account settings with your primary account.

What's more is you can actually sign into your account using any alias, because the same password is used for every address you create. When sending an email, you also get to pick which alias the message will come from, which is undoubtedly a really useful feature.

How to create an Outlook.com alias

To create an alias email address:
  1. Log into Outlook.com with the account you would like to set as your main or primary account.
  2. Press the Settings icon which is the cog located at the top-right of the screen.
  3. Select Options followed by Create an Outlook.com alias in the window that opens.
  4. Type in the email address that you want.
  5. Click Create an alias.
  6. Untick the box in the pop-up. If you don't, the alias you set up will be set as the primary email address.
  7. Click Done.
When you are sending an email, you should now be able to click your name at the top of the email window which will drop down a menu with your aliases. Click on the alias you would like to send the email from, and you should see the name change. Any responses to that message will be made to the alias email address as well.

If you are looking to learn more about Outlook.com or any other Office program contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_CIn part one of our two part article on increasing the shareability of blog content you create, published last month, we revealed five tips. From creating longer content, to playing on specific emotions, and including images, we highlighted ways in which you can potentially increase the shareability of your content. In this article, we take a look at five more tips.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

SocialMedia_June30_CFor many businesses, social media is becoming not only relevant but an important element of overall operations. For business owners, managers, and employees one of the most valuable networks is the business oriented LinkedIn. This network encourages business friendly activities like networking and idea sharing, and is seeing ongoing growth as more business owners and managers continue to join. Like all networks, your profile is key to your success and the question then is how to go about creating a great profile.

In this article we will go over eight important steps you need to take in order to build the perfect LinkedIn profile. In fact, we came across a great infographic on Link Humans that could be a big help when following these steps. We strongly suggest you take a look at this when building your profile.

Step 1: Establish your profile

While you don't have to join LinkedIn, it is a good idea if you are looking to connect with other business owners and colleagues through a more professional, business style networking oriented social network. If you do want to connect at this level, the absolute first thing you need to do is to create a profile. This can be done by:
  1. Going to LinkedIn's website (linkedin.com).
  2. Clicking on Join Today.
  3. Entering the relevant information on the following page. We recommend using the name the majority of your customers and clients know you by and your work email address. Personal email addresses are fine if you don't want to fully represent your company.
  4. Selecting Join LinkedIn.
If you use your Facebook account for business, you can also sign up using your Facebook account. Just follow steps 1. and 2. above and click Sign Up with Facebook. You will be asked to log into your account (if don't already have Facebook open in another tab on your browser) then approve the account access rights. Once you've done this you should see your basic profile pop up.

Step 2: Select an appropriate picture

LinkedIn is a work-related network, and to that end you will need to present the right corporate image; this means uploading a professional profile photo. This image should clearly show your face and be cropped to show mainly your head and upper body. The background should be clear or unobtrusive, allowing you to be the main focus.

If you don't have any professional head shots, it might be a good idea to get some taken. Most photographers can snap a few for you, and will be able to provide you with information about how to pose and dress for the shots.

You can add an image to your profile by:

  1. Logging into your profile.
  2. Hovering over Profile which is located in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Clicking on Edit Profile followed by the camera icon at the top of your profile.
  4. Pressing Change photo and then selecting the image you would like to use as your profile picture from a file on your hard drive.
  5. Ticking Save to set your picture.
The reason a good picture is more important than on other networks is because it has been proven that profiles with professional looking pictures are easier to find and also enhance the potential that other members will want to connect or even recognize you.

Step 3: Fill in your basic information

Once you have a great picture set on your profile go back to the editing screen and add your basic information. This includes your name, role, location, and company. Also, click on the Edit Contact Info tab to the right-hand side of your basic information section. Add as much contact info as you feel comfortable with; we recommend your email address and company website at the very least.

Step 4: Determine who your main audience will be

Before you begin to fill in your profile, you should take time to determine what the purpose of this profile will be. Will it be used to find new colleagues? Or will it be used to connect and communicate with your colleagues? Or, will it used to find prospective clients? Each reason will determine what information you should include in your profile along with the relevant keywords.

For example, if you would like to find new employees you can tailor your profile to show what you do in your job and what makes it so great. You can then also come up with more relevant keywords to use in your content. For example, using the words 'career' and 'job' and including in your summary information about who you are looking for will definitely attract prospective hires. However, this profile likely won't attract colleagues or clients.

Don't feel that you have to limit yourself to one set function however. For example, there are many crossover terms that both clients and prospective employees will search for. So, if you want to use your LinkedIn profile for more than one reason, take some extra time and try to figure out which keywords and ideas you think will work well. The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can always edit everything at any time. So, if you want to switch your audience, you can easily do so by simply editing parts of your profile and changing keywords.

Step 5: Write a solid summary

The summary of your LinkedIn profile is a place where you highlight who you are. Take time to craft this so that you can showcase what you do and your main strengths. Be sure to use relevant industry and position specific keywords and terminology that you believe your audience will be searching for, as this language will make your profile easier to find in searches.

The key here is to write a summary that not only explains what you do and your experience, but showcases who you are. Use active language like 'I', 'my', and 'me', and be sure to include a way for people who don't have a LinkedIn profile to contact you - usually an email, link to your website or a phone number.

Step 6: Add your past and present positions

Once your summary is finished, you should move onto your current and past positions. This section should reflect your resume and highlight the experience you are talking about in your summary. It would be helpful to try and work in some of the keywords you used in the summary or identified earlier in order to really make your experience really stand out.

Chances are you aren't looking for work, so you can deviate a little from your resume here, and highlight what you do best, or how you can help your audience best. Feel free to leave out points that may not be 100% relevant or interesting e.g., how many people you manage, sales goals, etc.

Step 7: Start connecting

Once your profile is mostly complete with experience and a summary, you can start looking for people to connect with. Start by searching for people that you know or work with on a regular basis and inviting them to connect.

Next, join a few groups that are related to your position and industry. These can be found by hovering your mouse over Interests which is located in the menu bar near the top of the window. Select Groups from the menu that drops down and then select Find a group from the right-hand side of the page that opens. Some groups are private and will require you to ask to join them, but don't be afraid of sending in your request.

Once you have joined some groups and started to make connections be sure to be active on the network. It will help to join in on conversations held in your groups and post content on a regular basis. And, if you meet new clients or people don't be afraid of looking them up on LinkedIn and asking to connect with them!

Step 8: Work on your awards and recommendations

Finally, start recommending people that you know. You can do this by going to a colleague's profile and scrolling down to their Skills and Endorsements section. Find skills that you know they possess and press the + Endorse button beside the skill. Most people will also do this for you as well.

If you have won awards in the past, be sure to include these as well, especially if they are relevant to your intended audience. Just be sure to pick the awards that really highlight your skills, as an Employee of the Month award may not be the most relevant.

From here it's really just a matter of tinkering with your profile on a regular basis. Be sure to be active and ensure that your profile really reflects who you are. Doing this will create a stand-up profile you can be proud of.

Looking to learn more about LinkedIn and how to use it for your business? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 2nd, 2014

Office365_June30_CMicrosoft Office 365 is one of the most popular cloud-based solutions for small to medium businesses. With a bevy of powerful features and apps that are immediately familiar to anyone who has used Microsoft's Office apps, utilizing Office 365 is almost a no-brainer. In mid June, Microsoft announced a new program - Office 365 roadmap - that allows you to keep track of upcoming updates.

The Office 365 roadmap

Earlier in 2014, Microsoft announced that they would be moving to a faster rollout schedule for their popular software solutions like Office 365. This means that we can expect to see updates for some software being introduced on a fairly regular basis.

Because of this, it would help to know exactly what Microsoft is working on and when you can expect an update or introduction of new features. To cover this, Microsoft has recently announced an Office 365 roadmap that covers what the company is doing in relation to the business oriented version of Office 365.

You can view the roadmap on this Microsoft website which has been designed to showcase the status of features based on:

  • Launched - Features that have been completed and implemented in various Office 365 apps. These features should be accessible to all Office 365 for Business users.
  • Rolling out - Features that have finished development and are ready to be implemented to the various apps but are not accessible to most users at this time, but will be in the near future.
  • In development - Features that Microsoft developers are working on or testing, but aren't ready to be implemented.
  • Canceled - Features that have been canceled; developers are no longer working on these, and they won't be implemented into Office 365 apps.
When you visit the roadmap site, you can click on the different sections and see the recent features that are relevant to each. For example, if you click on Launched, the recently launched features will drop down. Click on one to see a brief overview of the feature, along with a link to learn more.

This can be a useful site for businesses, especially if you rely on Office 365's features and are interested in which new ones will be introduced. We should stress however that the features listed on the site are relevant only for Office 365 for Businesses and Enterprises. Private and Home users may not necessarily see these features introduced.

Office 365 First Release program

For those users who look at the Rolling Out section of the roadmap site, and would like to have access to fully tested and supported features that are just about ready to roll out, Microsoft has also introduced a new program called First Release.

This program allows Office 365 for Businesses and Education users to sign up and gain access to upcoming features two weeks or more before they are introduced. If you would like to sign up for this program, you can do so as long as you are the admin of your account. If you are the admin for your Office 365 accounts, you can enable First Release by going into the Service Settings area from your management console. You should see an option to enable First Release, which you need to tick to turn on.

Once this is enabled you should be notified within a month letting you know that the first batch of early features is ready to implement. Microsoft has noted that the features implemented early via First Release will apply to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. At this time, other apps like Lync Online will not be part of the program, but you can probably expect this program to expand to cover other apps in the coming months and over the next year.

Both the roadmap and First Release features could prove useful for power users of Office 365. If you are looking to learn more about these concepts and how Office 365 can be used successfully in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 26th, 2014

Productivity_June23_CFor most businesses, Internet connections have gotten a whole lot faster over the past decade. Still, some businesses today are faced with the continuous problem of a slow Internet connection, which often leads to a decrease in productivity and efficiency. If this tech problem resonates with you then don’t give up just yet as there are several things you can do to boost your Internet connection speed and as a result your business performance too.

5 ways to combat a slow Internet connection:

1. Control devices that interfere with the connection:

Wireless devices can be one of the reasons for a slow Internet connection. It’s wise to talk to us about a wireless network analyzer so that you know the sources of interference. Believe it or not, most of these sources might be coming from the company kitchen!

Good examples include the microwave, cordless phone, security alarm, and other wireless devices which use the 2.4GHz band. These can interfere with 802.11g or single-band 802.11n routers. The best solution is to reposition these household electronics to either help solve the problem completely or at least minimize the chances of interference.

2. Control applications that hog bandwidth:

Without your knowledge it’s most likely that employees are using applications that are hogging the bandwidth. It’s vital that you are aware of these applications, especially ones that have video conferencing and streaming abilities which tend to be responsible for weak bandwidth in corporate environments. Other applications such as torrent and gaming apps can also be responsible. It is best to make sure that these apps are not installed on your company computers, of if they are, make sure their use is regulated.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest bandwidth hogs is YouTube. Some companies, when they audit their network usage, have noticed that streaming services like YouTube can take up more than half of their total bandwidth. While in some positions, video streaming may be necessary, it's likely not for the majority of roles. Therefore, it would be a good idea to implement a rule about the use of YouTube during business hours e.g., it should only be used for necessary tasks.

Some would recommend blocking services like this, but if your business uses Google's other services, blocking YouTube could actually end up blocking access to other Google services. It would be a good idea to consult with us as to the best way to limit use.

3. Reposition your router:

As simple as this might sound, your router might also have to be repositioned to help increase your Internet speed. You might want to try raising your router so that broadcast range can be more effective. If this doesn’t work, which sometimes it doesn’t, try placing your router in the center of your office for a more equal signal distribution. The best solution however, is to place your router as near to computers and other receivers as possible.

4. Consider an upgrade:

If your wireless networking equipment is old then it probably needs an upgrade. Keep in mind that technology moves at an extremely fast pace and your wireless network might be outdated in just a few years.

We strongly recommend talking to us, as we can help recommend the best upgrade solution. For example, the two most common upgrades include installation of a new repeater or wireless amplifier and replacement of your current antenna. Because antenna's are so varied, we can help make sure that the antenna being installed is compatible with your router.

5. Use the latest network technologies:

As mentioned earlier, technology moves fast which is why it is essential that you become familiar with its recent advancements, particularly in the area of wireless networking. There are countless apps, software, and hardware out there that can help boost the speed and performance of your router, some of which can even be downloaded for free. Our networking experts can help ensure your business has the latest and greatest, so be sure to consult with us first.

Dealing with a slow Internet connection can be a huge pain. If not taken care of right away, it can have immense impact on your overall work output. Looking to learn more about ways to improve your Internet connection for maximized productivity? Connect with us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 26th, 2014

iPhone_June23_CThe iPhone has become one of the most popular mobile devices among business users. It is widely regarded for its usability which stems from the excellent iOS operating system supporting it. In early June, Apple announced that a new version of iOS - iOS 8 - was on its way in the fall, and with it will come a number of developments and features. One interesting update of note is a drastically improved Notification Center.

About the iPhone's Notification Center

The Notification Center feature was introduced with the release of iOS 5 and is available on every Apple mobile device. The idea behind it is that it can show you an overview of alerts and updates from specific applications. On iPhones and iPads this is an area where all of the most important information can be accessed quickly.

You can access your Notifications Center by swiping down from the top of your screen. When it is open you will see three views:

  • Today - Important information about the day, including upcoming calendar events, the weather, and other relevant information.
  • All - All alerts, including emails, messages, and updates from apps like Twitter.
  • Missed - Notifications that you have missed in the past 24 hours.
If you tap on any notification or alert, the app associated with it will be opened and allow you to view the content or update in full. For example, when you get a new email, Notification Center will alert you and show who it's from and even some of the content. Tapping on the message will open the Mail app, allowing you to interact with it directly from the main app.

For many users, this is among the most useful iOS features, but many have commented that it feels unfinished. Sure it provides a way to quickly access important information but it is largely static and limited in use. Apple aims to change this with the release of iOS 8.

Notification Center's iOS 8 update

When Apple introduced iOS 8 in early June, they announced that the Notifications Center will be getting widgets that will help make the Center even more functional - providing you with greater information all in one place. Those who have used an Android device before are likely well aware of widgets. These tiny versions of apps display useful information without having to open the app itself.

For example, on Android devices you can add an email widget to your main screen that allows you to read and reply to emails directly from your home screen without having to open the full version of the app.

Apple has decided to take another path with the implementation of widgets, instead baking them into the Notifications Center. With iOS 8, you will still be able to swipe down to access your Notifications Center, only now there will be way more information. In the example Apple demonstrated, there were widgets showing the latest scores of a baseball team and eBay auctions that you could bid on directly from the screen, without having to open the eBay app.

Of course this was just a demo, but you can bet that when iOS 8 is launched, you will start to see useful apps updated with widgets that you can add to Notification Center. If for example you use a note app like Evernote, there is a good chance that you will be able to create or edit a note in the Notification Center, without having to open the app itself.

It is clear that with the impending update, Apple is striving to implement a better and easier way for you to interact with your phone. For many business users this will mean less time having to open apps and search for the information they need. It will be interesting to see what business-oriented apps developers come up with next in terms of making the iPhone an even more effective business device.

Contact us today to learn more about the iPhone and how it can help improve your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
June 21st, 2014

Office_June18_CMicrosoft Outlook delivers more than many business people perceive it to do. More than just an email application, this program can also handle important notes, reminders, and details of business matters through Outlook Address Book. Though it is more often used to pull out the email addresses of your contacts, the address book is also a great tool to organize and sync client details to another application.

Since Outlook's Address Book is the go-to application for many distribution lists, email addresses, and other important contact details, knowing how to use it can be really useful. However, before you create a new address book, it is a good idea to keep in mind that Outlook Address Book is NOT your list of contacts but a collection of different folders containing different sets of contacts.

This does sometimes confuse, so to help you understand more easily, here are the types of address books you can create in your Outlook profile:

Global Address Book

This can only be used in conjunction with a Microsoft Exchange account. Global address lists are a collection of all the names connected to your account in Microsoft Exchange Server.

Outlook Address Book

This is used interchangeably with Contacts although they are different in context to each other. Your Outlook Address Book is a collection of your contacts with details added in the e-mail and fax number fields.

Internet Directory Services (LDAP)

The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is used to find email addresses that are not in your local directory. This can only be accessed with the use of a steady Internet connection.

Third-party address books

You can set up address books from third party service providers through their given setup program.

To create an address book for a specified list of clients you can:

  1. From the Info tab, go to File then click Account Settings.
  2. Two options will be listed in the dropdown menu – Account Settings and Social Network Accounts. Choose Account Settings and click Address Books from the pop-up window.
  3. Tick on New then Add Account.
  4. In the Add Account dialog box, more options will appear – Internet Directory Service (LDAP) and Additional Address Books. Choose Additional Address Books and click Next to continue.
  5. You will be directed to the next window with options Outlook Address Book or Mobile Address Book. Mobile address books will create a list of names with the mobile number field filled in. Choose between the two and hit Next.
  6. Your chosen type will be automatically saved to your Outlook profile and to be able to use this, you will have to restart your program first.
Outlook Address Book not only helps sync your business database to several applications but also makes the client database organization an easy task. Understanding how to work this to your advantage can really help streamline and organize your contacts.

We can help you apply better technology tools to your business, so get in touch!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2014

office365_June16_CWouldn’t it be nice if there existed an application with features that can help predict and identify risks and opportunities for your business products or services? Microsoft has turned this concept into reality with Office 365 Power BI’s latest upgrade, which features predictive forecasting. Now that you are able to, it might be time you familiarize yourself with what predictive forecasting is and how it can help your business.

Predictive forecasting uses a variety of statistical techniques, from modeling to data mining, that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about the future.

The predictive forecasting function of Office 365 provides users with the skills to generate reports, interactive charts, and 3D visualizations of business performance. Simply put, users can perform advanced forecasting without the complexity that usually accompanies these kinds of processes.

The new forecasting tool utilizes built-in predictive forecasting models to automatically detect seasonality in the data. It also enables users to see how results are affected by adjusting the parameters of the time or confidence interval assigned to be analyzed.

Power BI’s predictive forecasting can also help fill in gaps with data. Power View, an interactive data exploration and presentation tool, fills in missing values from a data set before carrying out a forecast for a more accurate result.

A few things you need to keep in mind before using the feature:

  1. The line chart has to have one line as multiple line charts won’t work.
  2. The line chart has to have fewer than 1,000 values.
  3. The x-axis value needs to have a date/time format or be a uniformly increasing whole number. It cannot contain text or decimal numbers, and the interval between values has to be at least one day.

How to use predictive forecasting in Office 365:

  1. Simply upload a workbook with a Power View time series line chart to Power BI for Office 365.
  2. Open the file in Power BI and switch to Power View in HTML 5 by clicking Try the HTML 5 version of Power View in the lower-right corner.
  3. Click on the forecast arrow or drag the forecast dot in the line chart and you’ll see the forecasting options appear in the analysis pane to the right of your report.
Do keep in mind that Power View automatically detects what appears to be the seasonality of the data. In other words, a complete cycle of peaks and drops. Note that this works best if the chart has at least four times more values than the data cycle.

Here’s how to override automatic seasonality detection:

  1. Start a forecast by dragging the forecast handle in a line chart.
  2. The Analysis pane will automatically pop up on your right hand side. If you can’t find it, look for Analysis in the upper-right corner.
  3. In the Analysis area, manually set the seasonality to 0, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 24, 52, or 365.
Predictive forecasting, if used properly, can immensely help with the overall strategic planning, market penetration and operation of your business.

Looking to learn more about Office 365 and its features? Call us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 11th, 2014

hardware_June10_CThe battle between Mac and PC users has been raging for decades and for those who are not sure which side to be on then the challenge is deciding between which platform to use. This is always easy, especially with an increasing number of programs that work on both systems or even in the cloud, not to mention the fact that both offer business-friendly operation systems. The real question is what are the differences between a Mac and a PC?

Design

Apple prides itself on its iconic design while PC design depends on which company is making them. Even with the first Macintosh, introduced in 1984, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and monitor were housed in one single unit thus reducing the number of cables necessary and creating a sleeker look. This design forward view has carried throughout the company's history and modern Macs are sleek, light, and designed to look cool.

PCs on the other hand, don’t come from one single manufacturer like Mac so there are countless designs available on the market. If you don’t like the design from one manufacturer you can simply look to others. With Mac, if you’re not keen on their design, you’re out of luck.

Specifications

While both Mac and PC have similar internal parts like RAM, hard drives, and graphics cards, their speed and capacity varies. Macs generally outperform PCs because of better hardware optimization, but tend to skimp slightly when it comes to RAM, hard disk space, and USB ports. PCs offer a wider range of customization, and you can add almost any parts you want.

Connections and optical drives found on Macs and PCs are different too. Mac offers standard selection of features including a Superdrive, audio in and audio out, USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, and Ethernet. PCs on the other hand offer comparable features but with added bonuses like Blu-Ray players, TV tuners, touch screens, and HDMI ports.

The main difference here is that with Macs you have generally limited customization options, while PCs usually allow for a much wider range whilst supporting different kinds of hardware.

Operating System

Most PCs today come preinstalled with Windows 8.1 while Mac runs OS X Mavericks with users having the option to upgrade to the new OS X - Yosemite - this fall. OS X is generally thought to be more user-friendly, while Windows PCs generally see a more comfortable user base and a higher number of programs that work with the OS.

However, with the increasing adoption of virtual desktops and cloud systems, the idea of a separate OS being better is quickly falling to the wayside. This is especially true if you use a virtualized desktop solution where you connect to a server which delivers your desktop.

Software

One of the biggest reasons as to why Mac hasn’t captured a larger share of the market is due to the lack of software for its OS. This is most obvious in business computing where many applications are standardized for Windows but are not available on Mac. That being said, the major programs businesses use on a daily basis are all available for Mac too, so it's more the customized software you will need to look into.

User interface (UI)

While many computer users will proclaim one or the other superior when it comes to user interface, or UI, this is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Highlights of the UI in Mac include Launchpad which is a screen full of app icons for easy access, hot corners that can be customized for various types of views, a dock featuring your favorite apps, full screen mode for apps, and spaces that create as many desktops as you like to help minimize clutter.

With PCs UI, highlights include a touch-friendly interface which contains live tiles or rectangular boxes on the screen that represent an app and which is refreshed with the latest app content. Above all, Windows has the familiar desktop which almost every computer user is comfortable with using, and may even prefer.

There are more components that set Mac and PC apart. Find out more next month where we will dig into security, selections and customer satisfaction between the two.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware