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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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November 6th, 2009

social networkIf you have decided to use Social Networking technologies for your business in your marketing, public relations, employee relations, or any other initiative, congratulations – it’s a good move. However, bear in mind that there are some issues you should be aware of before starting.

As we pointed out in a previous post, social networks allow people to create communities on the Internet around shared relationships, interests, and activities. In business, social networks can be used as tool for marketing, public relations, sales, customer service, employee relations, and more. Many case studies show how companies are able to use social network services to generate new leads, strengthen relationships with customers and employees, and improve their business operations.

Here are some guidelines for avoiding pitfalls when implementing a social networking campaign:

  1. Filter information. Actively filter personal or private or sensively information about yourself, your company, your employees and partners, and your customers from the information you or your employees post online. Make sure that none of the information you post is covered by any non-disclosure, patent applications, or contractual agreements, which could quickly get you into hot water.
  2. Provide value. Post only information relevant to your audience online. Before any post, ask yourself: Is this information interesting and useful to my audience, or does it only serve us? Your audience will quickly tune you out if you continually post marketing fluff and self-serving promotional ads.
  3. Be truthful. Be as forthright and honest as possible. Remember that these types of media are interactive and can quickly get around. You’ll find that unhappy customers and disgruntled employees are not shy in posting negative comments about you and your company for all to see – especially if they find you evasive or less than truthful.
  4. Be vigilant. Social networking sites are a target for malware, hackers, and all sorts of online fraudsters. Before joining a social networking site, make sure to read their terms of use and privacy guidelines. How secure is their setup? Are they vetted by third-party security and privacy assurance services? Will they share your information with third parties?  Do mechanisms exist to allow you to control who can and cannot see what you share online? Find out and to protect yourself.
  5. Provide clear guidelines. Take a cue from IBM and provide clear guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable, and who does and does not speak in behalf of your company. Make sure your employees know the guidelines and follow them. Let them know that whatever they post online can remain there for years to come and could come back to haunt them later on.

Despite the risks of using social networking services, there are risks of not using them as well. If you don’t shape your image on the Web, people will do it for you. Social networks make it quick and easy to set up a basic profile, and that’s the first step toward gaining control of your business’s reputation online.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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October 26th, 2009

twitterTwitter, the microblogging service used by CNN, Oprah and none other than President Obama seems to have taken the world by storm, and is fast becoming an indispensable tool for many small and midsized businesses as well

Twitter allows company owners to share short “tweets” or posts a maximum of 140 characters each to give quick, live updates to “followers” on the Twitter service. A few days ago, the Wallstreet Journal published an interesting article on how Twitter has become a life saver for many business owners in a crisis. One company used the service to update customers when their website went down because of a hacker. Another study from Warrillow, a consulting firm, says that small businesses are also using the service to search for deals and promotions online. In fact, according to the company, they use the service a whopping 7 times more than other social networks.

It’s interesting to learn the many ways that businesses are using services such as Twitter to their advantage. How about your business? Are you using it as well? Let us know!

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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October 22nd, 2009

workplaceWith many people using the same computers, printers, copiers, and telephones every day, there are a myriad of diseases that can be caught at work if you’re not careful. And with the H1N1 virus in full swing right now, it’s especially important to keep the workplace clean. Here are a few tips to stop the spread of germs in the workplace:

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before handling food and after using the bathroom. It is recommended that you scrub your hands with soap and warm water for 10-15 seconds, then rinse well before drying with a disposable paper towel.
  • Keep keyboards, phones, and copiers germ free by using disinfectant wipes to regularly clean items you share with others.
  • Have your office dusted regularly. Dust and dirt can accumulate indoors, which pose risks especially to people with allergies and asthma.
  • Make sure that your ventilation system is working properly.
  • To prevent dust and dirt from settling on your keyboard you can buy a plastic cover fitted to your keyboard’s keys – they’re easier to clean, too.
  • Make it a habit to keep a small bottle of disinfectant alcohol or hand sanitizer handy.
  • If your office is carpeted, have it regularly vacuumed.
  • Have the trash cans – preferably with lids – taken out and emptied every day.
  • Simple illnesses such as common colds and the flu can spread very quickly in a workplace, so if you happen to get sick, do every one a favor by staying home – and come back only when you’re well. If you really must go to the office, avoid shaking hands with people and wear a mask or have a handkerchief or face towel handy for sneezing and coughing to help stop the virus from spreading.

No one likes to be sick, and following these simple measures will help make your workplace a much healthier and cleaner place to work.

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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October 19th, 2009

There are many different forms of computer support available these days, and this is no longer a linear equation of pre-paid hours and time based SLA’s. Whether you are a business owner looking for a new network support provider, or a provider looking to breathe new life into the way you service your customers, then you should read this article.

In the world of network support there is so much hidden stuff out there that the customer never sees that it’s important that we, as support providers, are alerting them to the fact that this service exists.

So what support do you need and what do you actually get?

1. Proactive Services

These are all the things related to the maintenance of the network. Proactive Services includes installing patches and upgrades, ensuring all monitoring is picking up faults and small issues that the client may not necessarily see and ensuring that backups is working and antivirus updates are being installed.

At Evolve IT we look at the amount of support calls required each month for a particular client and we analyse these numbers. If a client has an increasing number of calls due to failure every month, we look at this as a failure on our part. If this number diminished then this is good, as this means the client is experiencing more up-time.

“I am talking about genuine benefits based planning so that your clients can achieve actual goals…”


If the client is not calling this means that our proactive services are working perfectly by maintaining and maximising the up-time of the network.

As a potential managed support services client ask the vendors you are selecting what they do in the background and how they report this to you.

2. Account Management

Account Management is important for the client to get a handle on what it is that they are paying for. As stated in the last point, if we are truly doing our job perfectly then the client should never call.

But what happens when it comes time for renewal of the service? A client that is never spoken to will turn around and say “Well, we never call you, so we are not continuing the service”.

And there is no point in pulling out these figures only when you are bringing up the renewal of a service contract either – that is just bad service.

Monthly Account Management meetings are important so that your client knows what is being done in the background to ensure that they are experiencing the maximum up-time that they can from their network.

3. Network Planning

What are you doing to improve your clients network infrastructure?

I am NOT talking about selling here. I am talking about genuine benefits based planning so that your clients can achieve actual goals such as increase collaboration ability, hands free backup, or faster VPN connections.

These plans need to be done regularly and the client needs to know what is proposed to enhance the goal.

For example – if my client came to me and said “we need to have a space where we can all work on a document together and have a person in charge of it like a project” then obviously the suggestion is SharePoint, however this means nothing to the client.

But what if I said “there is a solution by Microsoft which enables the company to have their own virtual workspace called an Intranet. Everyone has their own site and teams can have sites too, like an internal website. Instead of having products on these pages though, each one is a workspace which enables more than one person to work on a document at the same time and a moderator who can approve changes and control document versions as well”?

This is less techie, enables the client to actually understand what I am talking about and I am not selling them a product – I am providing a solution to a problem.

4. Business Planning and Advice

Noe this is something that you can offer your clients if you have savvy people as Account Managers or business owners that meet with the clients regularly.

At Evolve IT we have business planning meetings with our clients to ensure that we are working with them towards their business goals. If there are ways that technology can help the client move forward then we can suggest and scope and the client can budget this into the business plan.

“Now the receptionist can also have a business building capacity part time and the business isgoing to see immediate advantages and long term cost saving and improved revenue as aresult of one little change”

For example I have been working with a client recently who has been using an old custom built Access database to capture their customer information over the last few years.

This client wants to become more efficient and have their staff increasing productivity without increasing wages or hours worked. Looking at the processes involved in capturing information it became obvious to me was that they need to breath new life into the way that they capture the customer data and use it within the business.

So now we are moving to an improved Customer Information System which is going to automate processes and leave more time for the staff to do their jobs. Now the receptionist can also have a business building capacity part time and the business is going to see immediate advantages and long term cost saving and improved revenue as a result of one little change in the technology behind the way that they work, not changing the way they work itself.

This is what I see as the difference between good service and fantastic service in the field of IT support. Layers of support, not merely restricted to computers and switches, but an investment in the business of the people we are supporting. If we help all of our customers grow, then they will always be our customers.

If you want some more information on this, just flick me an email

.

Topic Articles
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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