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November 23rd, 2009

smbEntrepreneur Magazine’s Scott Steinberg shares in his online column Top Ten reasons why Small Businesses should use Windows 7. Among them: lower system requirements than Vista, better multitasking, and enhanced security. And while he says not everything is perfect (for instance, confusing multiple versions, and separate download and installs for email and calendar programs) he says “Windows 7 provides a welcome evolutionary step forward for the platform, significantly improving security, stability and everyday convenience.”

Also check out an online slideshow from bMighty.com which shows 10 Windows 7 Features SMBs Should Love which provides a more visual guide for businesses evaluating whether to upgrade to the new Windows Operating System.

Need help evaluating or migrating to Windows 7 for your business? Contact us today!

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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October 21st, 2009

Isn’t it amazing how you can find new things in the most ridiculous places? This is not one of those times, however I did find something cool in a place where I should have expected it… Google.

It just occurred to me that micro-blogging on twitter etc is going to be short lived and therefore we shouldn’t get too attached to it. However it’s not the microness of twitter that we like; it’s the ease at which we can be heard.

So why aren’t we using proper blogs and just making them easier to upload your info to?

I am writing this from my iGoogle page in a Blogger App. It’s great, a little small and has simple text editing functioanlity. So it’snot perfect.

You know why I like it?

It gives me the ability to blog at the drop of a hat and not have to actually go the blogger site to do so.

This brings me to my idea about great things.

My idea is that great things are those that enable you to do what you need to do without having to go anywhere to do it. You following me?

This is one of those ideas. I have twitter (probably not for long, but anyway), Facebook and Blogger all next to each other on the same page.

I can write this, post it and twitter and facebook status it without leaving this page. It’s incredibly convenient and will probably help keeping my blogs shorter, as even I can get a bit bored with my longer posts.

So here it is. There is heaps of free stuff available on the iGoogle homepage.

If you are not keen on iGoogle in your business, then lets have a chat about SharePoint. Email me at mark.ehlers@evolveit.com.au.

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September 3rd, 2009

what_is_virtualizationVirtualization is generating a lot of buzz in IT circles these days because it promises to dramatically change the way many companies manage and operate their IT infrastructure. Virtualization is a broad term that covers the creation of virtual computing resources—such as storage, the network, or even an entire machine. For example, using virtualization you can create virtual machines on one computer, each running its own operating system.

According to research from the Yankee Group, 26% of medium businesses (100-499 employees) and 43% of enterprises (500+ employees) are using server virtualization today, and within 24 months, the percentage for medium-sized businesses is expected to increase to 69%. Among small businesses (20-99 employees), 23% are using server virtualization in production servers, and 8% of very small businesses (2-19 employees) are following suit.

Here are some examples of how you can take advantage of virtualization:

  1. Reduce capex and opex. If you run a fair-sized organization with multiple servers, you can reduce your capital expenditures for new equipment or upgrades by purchasing a smaller number of machines and running your server workload off of them. Over time, this will reduce operating expenses because you’ll have fewer machines to maintain, less power and space consumed, and more machines more fully utilized.
  2. A cost-effective way to keep IT running. Some virtualization solutions include features that allow virtual machines to quickly recover in case of disaster or application downtime. Virtual machine loads can be transferred in real-time from one physical machine to another. This means that your accounting application or warehouse management system will always run even if the original machine it’s installed on goes down – if it’s installed on a virtual machine that can intelligently transfer the application to a standby system.
  3. Test multiple types of machines and run multiple applications on different operating systems. With machine virtualization, you can run multiple operating systems on a single PC. Thinking of running Windows 7 but are afraid some applications might not run properly on it? Use virtualization to run Windows XP within Windows 7. Want to use a Mac but your email is tied to Outlook? No problem! Buy a Mac, and use third party software to run Windows inside it.

Curious about virtualization and how it can help your business? Contact us today to explore ways that virtualization can increase your efficiency and lower your costs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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August 25th, 2009

Are you a stickynoteaholic? If so, it might be time to look at how technology can break your habit and offer more benefits without the glue!

Yes…yes…we have all been guilty at one time or another of plastering our nice 19” widescreen LCDs with sticky notes. But when your excitement over getting a larger screen stems from the fact there’s more real estate for these pesky little desk litterers – well you should keep reading.

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August 10th, 2009

img1If you enable your employees to work where and when they like, at any hour of any day, you’ll likely see big gains in productivity.

With traditional network infrastructure, when employees are away from the office—because they’re traveling for business purposes are or are taking time off—collaboration is impossible and productivity is lost.

As a result, many companies are helping their employees to work remotely. A 2007 study by Nemertes Research revealed that 83 percent of organizations now consider themselves virtual, with workgroups spread across multiple locations and geographies. In addition, 91 percent of employees work outside of headquarters, and 96 percent use some form of real-time collaboration tools.

A mobile workforce may involve:

  • Real-time access to desktops and documents;
  • Internet and instant messaging access through mobile devices;
  • Real-time collaboration tools (such as editing documents simultaneously); and
  • Audio and video conferencing.

Companies that effectively enable a mobile workforce:

  • Improve productivity through ongoing access to information;
  • Drive business responsiveness through constant communication between employees and clients; and
  • Support work-life balance and improve job satisfaction—which helps attract and retain talent.

However, there are challenges to enabling a mobile workforce:

  • Deployment can be disruptive to your current IT infrastructure;
  • Devices and applications may be incompatible with your current infrastructure;
  • Employees may not know how to use new tools; and
  • Mobile devices and data may not be protected.

We can help you avoid these problems when enabling a mobile workforce—and at the same time, minimize your investment in technology with products that scale to support your evolving needs. Contact us for more information.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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August 10th, 2009

At the recently concluded Microsoft World Wide Partners Conference, the company gave partners a preview of upcoming features in Microsoft Office 2010 that could be very useful for small and midsized companies. Among them:

  1.  Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote 2010 now lets several people work on a document at the same time. Users of the desktop versions of the software will be able to send out a text link that will let anyone click on the link and use Windows Live to open the document and work on the live, with all parties seeing each others’ changes.
  2. Outlook 2010 will have a new feature which will allow users to ignore email threads, deleting everything in that conversation, including existing messages and any new ones that come in.
  3. PowerPoint 2010 will have a Broadcast feature will create a URL that users can share via e-mail or IM. Clicking on the link will let other users see a slideshow streaming directly from the author’s desktop.

To find out more about these new features, visit the Microsoft WWPC website.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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July 29th, 2009

In my last post I discussed ways that small businesses can utilise technology solutions to enhance their customer experience. One of those enhancements was around storing and tracking your customer information. I see lots of small businesses using Excel spreadsheets or their basic accounting system, like MYOB or Quickbooks, as the main database for customer information. Sometimes this works, but often it doesn’t. Here are some signs that indicate you might need a better solution for managing customer information.

  • You communicate with customers via many different methods: Some businesses are simple and have only one touch with a client during a buying cycle. Others have much longer sales cycles and require many touches with the client via different mediums such as the phone, direct mail and email. If you are the latter, then a CRM system will really help in organising and tracking your communications to clients.
  • You have more than a couple of sales people: Once you have a small team of sales people, it becomes hard for them all to know what the others are doing or have already done. There’s nothing more off-putting for a customer than having a sales rep call them one day, only to have another sales rep from the same company call them the next day! CRM helps manage customer accounts and sales tasks and allows the sales team to have visibility of activities in any particular customer account.
  • The types of customers you have vary: If all your customers are in the same vertical market and around the same size, it’s easier to manage them. For businesses that deal with all sorts of different customers from mixed industries and different market segments, managing marketing and sales efforts is a whole different ball game. A CRM system can easily manage the demographics of your customers allowing you to customise different marketing and sales strategies at targeted groups or similar businesses.
  • Your customers are repeat buyers: This point really depends on what you sell. If you sell widgets that last for 20 years and need no attention, then you probably don’t have too much trouble tracking what your customers buy. But if you sell widgets that have lots of different options, that require ongoing servicing, or that are quickly superseded by newer widgets then your customers probably have many more transactions with you which become complex to track. Using a CRM system can simplify this for you and, even more importantly, provide you with terrific sales data with regards to cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. This in itself is often how I prove to a small business that the investment in a CRM system will pay for itself in a very short amount of time due to all the additional sales opportunities it can create.

So there’s some points to think about if you’re wondering whether a CRM system is right for you. And a final word of advice: Don’t rush in to purchasing a CRM system. Trial several to see which fits your needs best and, I think most importantly, which integrates with your existing software tools. You can buy the biggest and best CRM system out there, but if it doesn’t integrate well with your existing tools then your staff aren’t going to use it. Most small businesses tend to use the Microsoft Office suite as one of their main productivity tools (Outlook, Word, Excel etc) so looking for a CRM that integrates with these, such as Microsoft CRM, would be a wise choice.

Clayton Moulynox – Evolve IT Australia. We fix business problems, not computer problems – Develop, Solve, Evolve.

Follow me on Twitter: @claytonhm

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July 24th, 2009

article_outlook

Outlook is surely one of Microsoft’s most popular products, widely recognized as a standard application alongside Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Bundled inside Microsoft Office, Outlook is the personal information manager component of the ubiquitous office suite, blending email, contact management, a calendar, and task management into one package.

Here are some tips to ensure you are making the most out of this popular application:

  1. Use Outlook with Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Sharepoint.
    Microsoft Outlook is a rich and powerful tool on its own, but when used with Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Sharepoint, it provides enhanced functions for collaboration within organization, such as the ability to share mailboxes and calendars. With Exchange, you can create shared folders for important email communication and company-wide memos, as well as invite others to meetings and share your availability information. You can even create a company-wide address book of key contacts for shared use. With Microsoft Sharepoint, you can post all of this information in the company Intranet, and even expose some of this information to customers and partners in the company extranet or public website – allowing you to share information and collaborate more easily with people outside of the organization as well.
  2. Use Outlook Web Access.
    If you don’t have access to your PC, such as when traveling, you can still use Outlook if you use it with Exchange. Just access Outlook Web Access (OWA) using your browser and any internet connection. OWA is the webmail service of Microsoft Exchange Server 5.0 and later, packaged as a part of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and previous versions of Exchange. Its interface resembles the interface in Microsoft Outlook.
  3. Sync your data.
    Because of the popularity of Outlook, there is a host of third-party applications and plug-ins you can use to sync your data. Always on the go? Sync Outlook with your mobile phone, PDA, and even your iPOD or Blackberry. Want to have your data accessible on any PC or device? Sync your email and calendar data to hosted services such as Google Calendar or Google Apps. Need to call a contact from your desktop? No problem – Outlook can integrate with Skype to allow you to do one-click calling from Outlook. Want integration with your company applications and systems? A host of enterprise applications from billing and accounting, CRM, and even ERP systems can sync key data such customer contact information to Outlook.
  4. Use add-ons.
    Many other third-party add-ons and plug-ins are available for Outlook to further expand its already considerable features. One favorite is a tool called Xobni (Inbox in reverse), which allows you to more easily search and organize your inbox. Google Desktop plugs in to Outlook so that you can search the web, your desktop files, and your email and file attachments from within Outlook in one place. There are many more available to check out.
  5. Learn Outlook inside and out.
    Dozens of websites provide useful tips on how to complete tasks faster, make your experience with the application smoother, and simplify your workflow. A good place to start is Microsoft’s website, which regularly offers handy, free tips for using Outlook to its fullest.

Microsoft Outlook is widely used because it is a robust and versatile tool for information management, not only for individual users but for groups within an entire business as well. Time spent learning how to maximize its use is well worth it in terms of saved time and increased productivity. Call us now for ideas on how to get started!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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July 23rd, 2009

article_networkIn today’s challenging economic times, many small businesses like yours are reluctant to spend money. However, a modest investment in network maintenance can ultimately improve your profitability and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your network infrastructure.

Your business depends on your network

Your revenue is directly tied to the availability and performance of your network, because it’s the backbone of your business. Your network houses critical applications, allows your employees to communicate, and gives customers access your goods and services.

When your network fails, your business suffers. Employees cannot access the applications and information they need to keep your business up and running, and basic means of communication, such as printing, filing, and emailing, are unavailable. At the same time, customers cannot access the information they need to buy your products. You’re forced to spend time and money to get the system up and running, increasing your TCO. The end result: productivity declines and revenue decreases.

Managing your network can prevent revenue loss

It pays to minimize network performance degradation and downtime, and a network management system will help you do this. Large companies have long deployed such systems, but as networks become more critical to smaller businesses, they have become important for small- and mid-size enterprises as well.

A network management system will provide tools that improve network performance, help network administrators manage the network more efficiently, and include an early warning system for network outages. These benefits allow your business to operate more efficiently, thereby cutting costs and preventing revenue loss—and reducing the TCO of your network infrastructure.

Need Help?

Finding a good network management system and deploying it correctly is by no means a simple task, but there are plenty of solutions that provide the necessary functionality at a relatively low cost. We can help you deploy an easy-to-use network management system that helps you manage your network more efficiently and save money at the same time. Contact us today for more information.

Related articles:

Assessing the business impact of network management on small and mid-size enterprises

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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June 19th, 2009

Getting-CRMIn today’s tough economic environment, converting your most promising prospects into customers and your current customers into loyal patrons is more important than ever. Whether your business is big or small, you need your marketing, sales, and customer service efforts to work together in sync-and this can only truly be done with a Customer Relationship Management program and system in place.

What is CRM?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a broad term that covers the management of all aspects of a company’s interaction and relationship with customers. It involves strategies, programs, and tactics to put the customer at the center of your business, with the goals of differentiating the company’s competitive positioning, attracting leads, encouraging customer adoption, improving customer satisfaction, encouraging customer loyalty-and ultimately driving revenue growth and profitability.

Why is Automation in Implementing CRM Important?

Among many other outcomes, an effective CRM involves properly identifying exactly who your customers are by not only segmenting them into groups but actually identifying them one by one so you can tailor your interaction with them in a way that meets their individual needs, wants, and expectations. And not only that, you also need to capture, store, and analyze each interaction with them in order to maximize your efforts.

As a business owner, you have a lot to focus on, and to implement CRM effectively, automation is definitely key. Attempting to achieve the goals mentioned above manually with a paper system takes a huge amount of time and effort, with incomplete results that often don’t justify that cost. You need to implement efficient technologies that support coordinated interactions through all customer channels across all customer touch-points, whether they happen through e-mail, phone, fax, instant messaging, via the web, or in face-to-face meetings with your sales people. You can only do all these things efficiently and effectively with an automated CRM system.

What Do You Need to Consider when Evaluating CRM Systems?

These days there are so many CRM options available that choosing the one best for your needs can be confusing. In evaluating your options, it’s important that you weigh a system’s features against your particular circumstances and business goals. As you begin researching different services, keep in mind what your goals are, any constraints you have to work within (such as budget), and who are the expected users of the system.

One of the first things to consider is whether you need an “on-demand” or an “on-premise” solution. On-premise solutions involve purchasing CRM software that runs on your own hardware and server. On-demand solutions are externally hosted systems accessible via the Internet. These convenient internet-based systems have no hardware or software set up requirements – saving you time and money. With employment trends heading more and more toward virtual or mobile employees, on-demand solutions are the best way to go for a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses.

In some cases, however, there is good reason to run CRM software on your own server, inside your own office. For instance, if security is of paramount concern, especially if you’re handling sensitive customer data, then you might be uneasy letting someone else manage your system for you. Also, if an always-on Internet connection is not possible, or if you need to integrate your CRM system with other systems (such as your telephony or accounting package), then an on-premise solution is the way to go.

Another important consideration is deciding what type of CRM system you want. Some CRM systems are geared towards marketing, and provide excellent automated lead generation, lead tracking, and marketing communication packages. Others focus on managing the activities of sales people, providing prospect and account management as well as opportunity management. Still others automate all aspects of the customer service function, such as automated helpdesk systems and knowledgebase. Finally, some focus on customer analytics, converting raw customer data from various systems into information you can act on.

Whichever type of CRM you choose, make sure that you research all the options available to you carefully. Be sure to check with your IT services professional for help in not only finding the right fit for your business, but also in adopting a system that will integrate well with your current or planned IT structure.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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