Blog

June 29th, 2015

Windows_Jun18_BFollowing the let-down that was Windows 8, Microsoft is keen to impress - so much so that it’s skipped number 9 and jumped right to Windows 10. Now the new operating system’s release has been confirmed for July 29, and Windows-based small businesses are clamoring to try out its impressive new features. Here is the rundown of the things you need to know before you spend your summer upping the ante with Windows 10.

You can get it for free

They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access - at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay - the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.

It’s being launched in phases

Although the official release date is July 29, in reality Microsoft is expected to undertake a phased launch. This means that you might not end up using the brand new Windows 10 on July 29 itself - instead, Microsoft is likely to make the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.

It’s the last you’ll see of Windows

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds - this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates - far beyond the WIndows Updates that we know at the moment.

It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future - in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.

Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call and let us walk you through it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_BData is essential for running an organization, and it is certainly the central component of any business continuity plan. Without immediate and constant access to data, your business will come to a grinding halt. Worse still, in the event of a disaster you could risk losing valuable data if you don’t have a backup strategy in place. Backing up data should be at the top of your list of priorities, so here are some devices you can use to protect your data.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data - medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution - or solutions - best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 26th, 2015

HealthcareEMRGeneral_June15_AGovernment officials are determined to see that every healthcare institution has electronic medical record (EMR) systems, but many physicians are still reluctant to implement them. While EMR possess many useful features to help streamline healthcare processes, some people find the whole system overly complex and feel that they could take good care of patients even without it. But when implemented properly, EMR serves as a great tool to preserve critical medical information and increase workflow efficiency. With that said, there are a number of challenges that you need to overcome if you want to reap the full benefits of EMR.

Challenge #1: EMR is breaking your budget

It’s no secret that the cost of purchasing and installing EMR is huge. This includes hardware, software, implementation assistance, training, support, and ongoing network fees. In fact, the cost of EMR is the number one reason why many healthcare institutions haven’t yet made the switch. But the benefits of EMR are numerous, and greatly outweigh the cost of implementation. If you find EMR costs to be beyond your budget, you should make a thorough assessment of your needs, and consult with vendors to develop economical EMR solutions.

Challenge #2: EMR doesn’t fit with workflow

Some medical institutions may find that, even after careful planning and implementation, EMR just doesn’t provide the functionality they need. Imagine a scenario where you have invested a substantial amount of money in the technology, but are unable to use it to its fullest potential. Yet you can avoid this problem by putting more time into the planning process. Instead of making rushed decisions, ask potential vendors to provide an in-depth demonstration of the features and functions of EMR. It’s also wise to have your physicians and staff test-drive it, and provide some feedback, prior to the purchase.

Challenge #3: Training employees is difficult

Scheduling EMR training sessions for your employees can be a challenging feat, given the amount of work they already have to contend with on a day-to-day basis. The whole program might even be overwhelming to them, so much so that they shut their minds to the training completely. The solution is to designate key employees who are prepared to dedicate their time and effort to get to know all about EMR, and who can serve as ambassadors for the technology and as a resource for physicians and other staff members.

Challenge #4: Physicians resist using EMR

Some physicians simply refuse to accept new technology, either because they don’t believe in its capabilities, they’re convinced that their way of doing things can produce better results, or perhaps because they’re intimidated by it. Once again, you need to identify a superuser who can encourage others to adopt EMR and feel more comfortable about it. A peer-to-peer approach will work best in this situation.

Challenge #5: EMR doesn’t meet Meaningful Use requirements

It’s hard to keep up with regulations, and in particular the requirements to comply with Meaningful Use. Sometimes even vendors fall behind, which means you risk facing penalties for not meeting obligations. The best way to address this is to assign someone to communicate with vendors regarding Meaningful Use requirements and deadlines, so you don’t miss a step.

If you’re looking to implement EMR in your healthcare business, get in touch with us today and we can support you from planning right through to implementation.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 8th, 2015

HealthcareIT_Jun8_AThe past few years have seen rapid technological advancements in the medical industry, and healthcare institutions are focusing more than ever on implementing devices that deliver cheaper, faster, and more efficient patient care. Thought leaders in the healthcare industry are pushing out new ideas and technologies that are capable of increasing patient safety and survival rates - here are the latest innovations in medical practice.

Electronic aspirin

For people who suffer from daily or chronic headaches, or excruciating facial pain, taking ordinary aspirins may no longer do the trick. Now scientists have invented a new technology that is attached to Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG) in order to alleviate migraines and other similar pains. The electronic aspirin is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache.

The system involves the permanent implant of a small nerve-stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head. The tip of the implant connects to the SPG, and when a patient feels the first signs of an imminent headache, they simply place a remote controller on their cheek, next to the implant. This triggers an electronic charge to stimulate nerve cells and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters. In tests, the end results showed clinical improvement in 68 percent of patients, who stated that they felt less pain.

Insulin patches

Diabetes self-care is a pain - literally. As well as conducting your own glucose blood tests, you also need to take daily insulin shots, which increases the risk of infection. Insulin patches are designed to deliver insulin painlessly through the skin similar to how transdermal patches like nicotine patches and muscle pain relief patches work.

An insulin patch is placed on the skin, and agents in the patch help insulin to pass through the skin and into the blood vessels. It can also be used to read blood analytes through the skin without actually drawing blood. The technology utilizes an electronic device that removes top-layer skin cells to place the patient’s blood chemistry within the signal range of the patch’s biosensor. The data is transmitted data wirelessly to a remote sensor, which emits an audible alarm if glucose levels are too high.

Cancer scanner

A surgical biopsy is an effective way to identify and diagnose skin cancer. But more often than not doctors find it hard to make the right call, and patients are left with unnecessary biopsy scars and end up paying for the high cost of surgery. The cancer scanner is a handheld tool used for tissue analysis and is not used to confirm a clinical diagnosis of cancer, but rather for when a dermatologist needs additional information to make the decision to perform a biopsy.

These healthcare innovations can reduce the overall cost of medical care, and help medical experts and patients to respond to health issues quickly, as well as to take preventative measures. If you’re looking to implement technology to your healthcare business, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 3rd, 2015

164_B_ProdDo you have a staff of young employees who are working remotely around the country? How do you know they’re staying productive and not watching YouTube videos all day? For employees who are undisciplined and new to the remote working world, working from home or a coffee shop can be a breeding ground for unproductivity. How can you help your staff develop the habits they need to remain productive while they’re out of the office? Here are a few ideas that will help any remote worker keep their head on straight and focused on the job.

Don’t change your routine

Would you go to the office without brushing your teeth or combing your hair? Probably not. Believe it or not, it’s not a good idea when you’re working remotely either. Sometimes the simple act of preparing for your workday - jumping in the shower, shaving and so on - can put you in the right frame of mind to work. If you or your staff are finding it difficult to be productive at home, try sticking to a pre-work routine and see if it makes a difference.

Designate a specific workspace

Attempting to work while sitting in your bed or lounging on the couch can be a recipe for a productivity disaster. So instead, try designating a specific space where you work everyday. It can be as simple as a desk set apart from the rest of your living room or bedroom, but just make sure it’s not cluttered with non-work items (like a TV remote or fiction novel), and that it’s properly lit and comfortable.

If you’re working from a coffee shop, airport or other public place, consider using a pair of headphones to help drown out the noise so you can focus. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, and the productivity will come.

Stay connected to your team

Thankfully, cloud computing has made it unbelievably easy for your remote workers to stay connected to the office wherever they are. If your business is setup with Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 or another cloud product, make it a requirement that your employees access it daily and remain available. When your staff is connected to your business this way, it will strengthen their relationship with other employees and the organization as a whole. Generally speaking, more connected employees are more productive ones.

Log off

When you work remotely, the line between work and personal life blurs more than ever. To avoid burnout, it’s important you discipline yourself to log off after you’ve put in a full day’s work. Whether you choose to work from 9 to 5 or 4pm to midnight, define work hours and stick to them. This will help you completely disconnect at the end of the day, which will ensure that you’re properly rested and prepared for the next.

Want more tips on productive habits for remote working? Are you ready to empower your staff with cloud computing to help them along? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 2nd, 2015

Virtualization_May28_BBusinesses today rely on their applications and critical documents more than ever before to stay efficient and competitive. With that in mind, virtual machines are often the go-to platform to ensure precisely that; but things may change with the increasing popularity of containers. What exactly are containers, though? Are they better than virtual machines? Here we take a look at which will best fit your business.

Containers, just like virtual machines, are used for storing files, critical data and applications in an organized manner following specific access rules. So how do they differ from virtual machines, and what are the pros and cons of containers? We’ll take a look below.

Containers can pack a lot more applications into a single cloud or data center than a virtual machine can. And because containers only require little memory from an operating system and its supporting programs and libraries, you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with a container than you can with a virtual machine. In addition, containers allow you to create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing and deployment.

Still, there's a lot more to containers than how many apps you can put in a box, and not everything about them is sweet. One of the problems with containers that is often overlooked is security. Simply put, containers do not contain. What this means is that if a user or application has superuser privileges within the container, the underlying operating system could be cracked. And while you can secure containers by mounting a /sys filesystem as read-only among other options, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

Another container security issue stems from the release of many containerized applications. This is a problem because if you happen to install the first container that comes to hand, you’re likely to have brought a Trojan Horse into your server. You need to inform your staff and employees that they simply can’t download apps from the Internet into a container like they do games for their smartphone. Not only that, but breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts using a container is possible, but means more parts for you to manage. The whole point of a container is to run a single application, so the more functionality you stick into a container, the more likely it is you should actually be using a virtual machine in the first place.

So how do you decide between containers and virtual machines? Ask yourself whether you need to run the highest possible number of instances of a particular application on the fewest possible servers, because if so then containers are the best option for you. But if you want the flexibility of running multiple applications on your servers and you have a variety of operating systems, virtual machines are your safest bet.

Looking to learn more about how virtualization can help your business prosper? Contact us today - we’re sure we can tailor a solution that meets your unique needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 2nd, 2015

BusinessValue_June2_BThe Internet has transformed the way businesses approach clients. More and more people are using the Internet to search for what they want, and if your company’s website is ranked high in popular search engines then you can easily attract more visitors - which means more potential clients. But the question is, how can you get to that top spot in the search engines when there are a large number of competitors out there? The answer is simple - by integrating search engine optimization (SEO) into your website. Want to learn how? Here’s an overview of SEO and how to boost your online presence.

SEO defined

The practice of SEO has been around just about as long as search engines themselves. SEO is basically a methodology of techniques and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in search engine results. There are a lot of crackpot theories about SEO out there, and you’ll have to sift through them to find the techniques that really work for your business.

There’s a saying in the world of SEO that if you’re not first, you’re last. When it comes to SEO there’s no short cut, and the idea of getting your business website ranked on the first page of Google search results in one day is ludicrous. To make things clearer, we’ve compiled a list of the basic SEO practices business owners tend to overlook.

1. Research keywords Keywords are key to your online presence. Add the right keywords to your website and your chances of being found are much higher. First, invest time in keyword research. Find out which keywords your customers are using in search engines, and gather all crucial data for SEO purposes, whether it’s search volume, trends, or competition. Make a list of keywords related to your niche. Don’t be tempted to only go after phrases with the highest search volume - they will be very hard to rank for and might be too broad.

2. Create quality content Based on the researched keywords, generate high quality content with the focus on your readers. Make sure this content reads naturally for human visitors - don’t overdo it by stuffing keywords into your text in the hope of getting high rankings, as most search engines will penalize your website for using this underhand tactic. Good content has relevant keywords in it, but a great one has the keywords while also providing real value to visitors.

3. Place call-to-action buttons A business website should always have a call-to-action to convert visitors into customers. Make sure you add a call-to-action button to each of your most important pages, whether that means the About Us page, service pages, FAQs, or case studies. Call-to-action buttons may vary. They don’t always have to lead to a contact form; they can be links to other content, incentive offers, free downloads - the list goes on.

4. Create an internal link structure After you have quality content, you must show the search engines that your site has a page hierarchy. The general rule of thumb is, all your articles should link back to the home page, service pages, and even other articles. Linking internally allows for easier navigation for your visitors, and there’s a good chance they will spend more time on your website, which is good for SEO purposes.

5. Install analytics tools Tracking your visitors’ behavior on your website is important. Connect your website to analytics tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to gain valuable insight into your website’s statistics. By closely monitoring performance, you can eliminate keywords that aren’t generating you leads, and tweak content that visitors ignore.

SEO is an ongoing process that requires patience and time. These suggestions are meant to set a stronger foundation for your business to expand. If you’re looking for other ways to increase business value, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 1st, 2015

Security_May27_BData breaches are all too common and, without adequate protection, every business is at risk of external attack. In fact, it’s never been more important to ensure your organization’s policies and procedures are foolproof, and that you have contingency plans in place should something go wrong. Google just made that easier for Drive for Work users, by adding physical Security Keys to its safeguarding toolbox. Here’s what you need to know.

Google already offers security precautions like two-step authentication, which provides additional protection by requiring you to enter not only your password but also a one-time code received by SMS or similar. This is a crucial weapon in the fight against hackers, since weak usernames and passwords are still be the primary reason for accounts being breached. Security Keys now take things one step further, strengthening your Google Drive account’s coat of armor to an even greater extent.

The Security Key is a physical USB device that is plugged into your computer, and which sends an encrypted signature, instead of a password or other code, to verify your identity and permit you access to your Google account. Crucially, Security Keys are inexpensive - starting from around $6 per unit - and require no additional software for deployment, use or management. Administrators have the ability to track when and where each key is used, as well as being able to disable them if lost and issue backup codes to allow staff uninterrupted access even if they do misplace their key.

Simplifying the login process is also a key part of what Google has tried to achieve with Security Keys. To that end, the first time you use your key to access your Google account on a particular computer, you can opt for Google to remember that device. On subsequent occasions you can quickly sign in using only your password, and without requiring either your key or a two-step authentication code. You can still sign in using your key on other machines, and if a hacker tries to access your account without your key they will also be prompted for a two-step verification code (which, unless they have access to your cell phone, they shouldn’t be able to provide).

Security Keys aren’t an entirely perfect solution, though - there are some significant limitations to the technology. For one, you can’t use them on mobile devices, since they require a USB port to work, and they only allow you to access your Google account through the Chrome browser. Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS and Linux operating systems are all supported, but if you’re working from your phone or on a browser other than Chrome then you’ll need to continue using two-step authentication. Google says you can mix and match different methods of verification, opting to use Security Keys where they are supported and two-step verification otherwise (or if you don’t have your key with you).

What’s more, only Google Drive currently supports Security Keys - it’s not yet possible to use them with Google Apps, for example. But, while the technology is primarily targeted at Google Drive for Work users, it’s possible to link a single key to multiple accounts, meaning you can use it to access both your work and personal Google accounts. Some users have also queried how much of a safeguard the technology really provides in the absence of an additional PIN code or fingerprint authentication being required for activation, suggesting that a stolen Security Key could be used to access a computer that a user has previously asked Google to remember. But Security Keys do appear to offer at least some additional protection, which will be of comfort to businesses handling sensitive data.

Give us a call to find out how to employ Security Keys and other technology solutions to bolster your protection against network intrusion and data breaches.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 1st, 2015

BusinessContinuity_June1_BUnforeseen disasters can strike at any time and, when they do, your business could come to a grinding halt. A business continuity plan could prevent this from happening by securing your precious business data at another location. But all too often, data backup can be too complicated for the average IT personnel to manage. Should you get hit by disaster, a lack of proper data backup could mean the end of your business - all the more reason to integrate cloud hosting in your data backup strategies. Here’s why the cloud is better than internal backups.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your computer, you lose the hard drive and the backup. Natural disasters or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. Your company could face expensive downtime if your backups are lost or damaged. With cloud-hosted backup, however, things are different. The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available when you need it. Top cloud service providers will offer redundancy, which means they will make a backup of your backups. This increases uptime and ensures optimum levels of data availability.

Fast resource provisioning

When backups are being implemented, spikes in user activity or cloud environment accessibility can rise rapidly and slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in. By closely monitoring user activities, providers can see spikes either before or as they are happening. The provider will provision more resources and virtual machines to manage the influx of users. This type of flexibility is particularly useful for when data backups are in process.

Backup frequency

Most companies work on files and update information throughout the day, so it’s important to have a real-time backup plan ready in case an unexpected disaster occurs. When you backup data to the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. Most cloud-hosted providers offer hourly, daily, monthly, or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own backup schedule. Some of the services offered by these providers will back up files as you make changes, so you’ll know that the very latest version of files and data are always backed up.

Distributed infrastructure

Cloud-hosted backup literally means the delivery of data backup to users all over the world. Selecting the right type of cloud hosting partner is equally as important as having a cloud backup plan in the first place. If international users are trying to access database or download applications through your business website, latency will become a factor - the closer the user is to the data, the faster they’ll be able to access information. A suitable cloud hosting partner will be able to provide backup servers at the location that best suits your company’s business continuity needs. Distributed infrastructure is beneficial if you’re looking to support a large number of worldwide users.

Businesses everywhere are utilizing cloud backup solutions - don’t be the one left behind. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 29th, 2015

164_B_iPhoneIn our fast-paced, interconnected culture where nearly everyone is equipped with a media device, privacy is becoming a valuable commodity that’s harder and harder to retain. And if you’re an iPhone user and business owner who’s oftentimes on the go, you may be texting confidential information on on a daily basis that, if made public, could have a negative impact on your company. Don’t let that happen. Here are three easy steps to take to ensure your iPhone text messages are kept private.

Turn off message previews

Have you ever accidentally left your iPhone on your desk while taking a bathroom break? When your phone is left unguarded in a public place, this is a golden opportunity for a passerby to glimpse a confidential message on your phone’s display. Here are the steps to take to prevent this from happening. Click on the following:
  1. Settings
  2. Notifications
  3. Messages
  4. Show Previews (turning it off)
With the preview setting off, you’ll still be alerted to a new text message. The only difference is that not a single line of said message will be viewable if someone sneaks a peek at your display.

Automatically delete texts

If you lose your phone or it gets stolen, there’s always the chance of it falling into the wrong hands. When that happens, you don’t want your sensitive or valuable information exposed to a stranger.

To avoid this nightmare scenario, there’s an easy solution to ensure your messages are deleted automatically after a designated time period of your choosing. Follow these steps for this additional security. Click on:

  1. Settings
  2. Messages
  3. Keep Messages
From here you now have the option to keep your messages for 30 days, a year or forever.

Turn off read receipts

When the word “Read” appears under a text message you’ve sent, this is a read receipt. It informs you that the the receiver of the text has seen your message. This works both ways, and also alerts the person you’re messaging with that you’ve read their text as well. So, why would you want to turn this off?

Maybe you don’t want to respond immediately to a client or colleague who is corresponding with you via text. If that’s the case, you may not want him or her to know that you’ve seen their message and are waiting to respond. In this scenario, turn off your read receipts and whoever it is you’re texting with will never know you saw their message.

To turn off read receipts, click on:

  1. Settings
  2. Messages
  3. Send Read Receipts (turning it off)
With these additional privacy measures in place, you can rest assured that a confidential text message will never be seen by the wrong person.

Want more iPhone tips or need a technology question answered? Don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone