October 5th, 2015

Office_Sep29_BCollaboration is at the heart of the modern business, and those organizations that perform well, get more done and have a healthier bottom line are those that communicate, share and work together most effectively. The latest release of Office 2016, recently made available by Microsoft, puts a renewed focus on tools that empower your employees to collaborate. Here’s the lowdown on the new tools Office 2016 brings to make collaboration easier.

Real-time collaborative editing

Office 2016 adds the collaborative feature that arguably makes its rivals as good as they are - it is now possible to co-author Office documents with colleagues in real time. Known as real-time presence, the feature works for documentations and presentations across both Word and PowerPoint. It also functions across multiple devices; an internet connection and access to Office 2016 are all that you need. In Word, you can also see others’ changes as they make them; to work in either application, though, the document must be stored on either OneDrive or SharePoint, rather than locally.

Simplified sharing

You can finally wave goodbye to the back-and-forth email tag that has been the mainstay of document sharing and collaboration for too long. You send your colleague a document by way of an email attachment, they download it and make their changes, save the file with a new name and then send it back - and so on and so forth. It’s enough to give even the most organized and tech-savvy among us a major headache. Office 2016 relieves this pain, and makes it simple to save files online with SharePoint or OneDrive, right from Office’s in-built ribbon pane.

More efficient email

Of course, for all the file-sharing features in the world, you’ll still need to email your business contacts on a regular basis. Office 2016’s Outlook makes it easy to filter out unwanted messages so that you can quickly see the emails that matter to you. Its Clutter feature learns from the way you use your email, and the way you deal with specific messages, to move to a special folder those messages that you are unlikely to need to deal with immediately. You can then navigate to the Clutter folder at your convenience in order to check through your emails to see which ones you need to take action on - daily and weekly notifications let you know what’s been decluttered on your behalf. Though Clutter won’t begin to do anything until it has a thorough understanding of your email behaviors (in order to avoid it incorrectly classifying useful messages as being of low importance), it’s of course possible to use it as another junk filter, keeping distracting messages out of view and you focused on your job.

While collaboration is at the center of the new developments built into Office 2016, the release includes plenty more besides that you’ll find useful. To discover more about Office 2016 and how to put it to use as a force for increased productivity in your business, just give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.

October 1st, 2015

GoogleApps_Oct1_BGoogle has changed a lot over the past years, from the range of products and services they offer to the evolution of their look and feel. Google was, and still is, globally recognized as a search engine and an ad-placement agency. But now the search engine giant has leveraged the power of cloud computing to offer a set of cloud-based applications for businesses called Google Apps for Work.

In a nutshell, Google Apps for Work is a cloud-based productivity suite and collaboration software application from Google that gives businesses all the benefits of cloud computing, including flexibility, scalability, and cost savings. Let’s take a closer look at all it has to offer.


Gmail is Google’s webmail service, with over 400 million users worldwide. Although Gmail is available free of charge, you can get extended features for a low monthly fee, including custom company email addresses, unlimited group addresses, 30GB of inbox storage, and 24/7 help desk support.


With Hangouts, you can have a chat or group chat with your coworkers, start face-to-face group video calling, and share your screen and documents. Accessible via both desktop and laptop computers and smaller devices like smartphones and tablets, Hangouts is a powerful video chat application that is efficient and simple to use.


Google Calendar allows you to stay in sync with your colleagues from anywhere, and on any device. These shareable calendars integrate seamlessly with Gmail, Drive, and Hangouts, so you can easily manage events, view and edit your schedule, and check your coworkers’ availability.


Google+ is a social network platform designed to help you connect, share, and collaborate with your team members. You can customize and filter the dashboard’s contents in a way that’s suitable for you.


Google Drive is an online cloud storage platform that enables you to store all of your files in one place. These files are accessible from anywhere, at any time, and from any web-enabled device. You can get as much storage as you need, and also view common file formats without having to install extra software on your device.


With Google Docs, you and your colleagues can work on the same documents, in real time, allowing for better collaboration and efficiency. You can also leave comments and communicate through a built-in chat box. What’s more, all edits and changes are automatically saved, and you can restore the revision history in an instant.


Google Sheets contains the fundamental functions of the popular Microsoft Excel application. Whether you’re looking to create spreadsheets and charts, perform calculations, or generate pivot table reports, Sheets has all these capabilities and so much more.


Creating surveys and forms online has never been easier. Forms allow you to build professional-looking surveys and questionnaires. You can collect answers by sending the URL to respondents. It’s that simple! You can track and analyze responses in real time in order to gain valuable insights from your surveys.


With Slides, you can work on a single presentation online with your colleague, your whole team, or even external contacts. You can also control who gets the permission to edit or view the slides with just a few clicks. Again, there is no software installation required.


Looking to create an internal website to train your new hires? Want to build a project site for your team? These can be done easily, and without needing any coding experience. Simply choose a template from Google Sites and determine what needs to be put in place to make your website successful.

For more information about Google Apps for Work and how you can integrate it into your business, give our tech professionals a call today.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Google Apps
September 28th, 2015

164_B_SMFor many small business owners, maintaining an active presence on social media can be a challenge. It takes time and money, and when you see little return on your investment it can be both perplexing and disheartening. If you’ve personally struggled with social media marketing, it may offer you some comfort to know you’re not alone. A recent survey reports that the problem is widespread.

Survey details

The survey was conducted by a small business directory and support network known as Manta. They surveyed 540 of their small business members with the aim of learning how much ROI these companies are gaining from social media marketing.

The results

Based on data on the 540 participants, 41% of businesses are receiving a return from social media marketing, which leaves nearly 60% with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. And as for the businesses that are gaining a return, over 80% earn less than $1,000 a month from their social media efforts. More surprisingly, close to half bring in less than $100 a month.

As a small business owner, should these numbers be cause for alarm? According to the CEO of Manta, John Swanciger, part of the reason the return is so low for most businesses is that their social media priorities are misguided. He notes that social media is less about bringing in new customers, and more about community building. "For a long time, the mantra was that social media could bring in new customers,” he says. “In reality, social media is a community builder, and your biggest fans are your already-loyal customers. When small businesses treat social media as the new word-of-mouth community, the real return will follow."

One of the oldest marketing tactics around is word-of-mouth marketing. Every day, people recommend products, restaurants and businesses they love to friends and family members. And social media is the perfect platform to cultivate your fans’ love of your brand. But according to the Manta survey, less than 8% of business owners cited building community as their primary social media goal.

So how do you build a community on social media?

Besides the obvious investments of time and money, here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Regularly post content that is valuable to your social media following - the keyword here being valuable.
  • Ask your followers questions to start conversations, and then engage with them. This builds a connection between your brand and customers.
  • Show your followers that you genuinely care about them, and they’ll likely do the same for you with glowing recommendations to friends and family.
Of course there is much more to it than this, but these quick tips can help you get started. If you’re struggling with your own social media efforts and would like to learn more, we’re happy to point your business in the right direction. Call us today to speak with one of our experts.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
September 23rd, 2015

AndroidTablet_Sep22_BThe advantages to businesses of putting tablets to use in the office can be huge - not least because of the mobility and flexibility enjoyed by being able to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Yet the cost of equipping an office full of staff with tablets can be prohibitive, at least until now. Amazon could be about to transform the industry with an Android tablet that sells for just $50. Here are the details on this radical move.

The seven-inch Amazon Fire tablet is due to launch on September 30, meaning it will be available just in time for the holiday season - great for individuals looking to treat themselves or loved ones, but also good news for businesses looking to use technology to increase efficiency ahead of the busy peak period.

Given the tablet’s budget positioning - with likenesses to Google’s stripped-back Chromebook, which performs basic functions but is of only limited use without an internet connection - it’s not surprising that it isn’t as powerful as more popular options. While its software is based on Android, the device actually runs on Amazon’s Fire OS 5 Bellini operating system. That means it does not support the Google Play apps used on the vast majority of Android tablets - which will be a drawback for some users - but it does work with the Amazon app store. Other key specs include a 1,024x600 pixel display, a 1.3Ghz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage that can be increased further by using a microSD card. According to Amazon, the Fire supports seven hours of battery life during moderate usage.

Perhaps most interesting, though, is the fact that the Fire comes with built-in advertising-based screensavers displaying Amazon promotions; a small additional payment is required to switch these off. Again, it’s hardly a shock to hear that there’s a semi-catch of this kind when the tablet itself only costs $50. It might also represent a shift in the market positioning of tablet devices, with more focus on business models similar to those of no-frills budget airlines and hotels, where extra payments are required for meals, seat selection, windows, towel rental and so on.

Either way, the Amazon Fire could be the way into tablet use for companies that need their employees to have the ability to work remotely and flexibly, but which don’t require the more intensive capabilities of pricier higher-end devices. To learn more about adapting mobile technology in your business in order to boost efficiency and productivity, give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.

September 23rd, 2015

WindowsPhone_Sep23_BMicrosoft will be revealing the Lumia 950, an all-new and high-end Windows Phone, at its annual event this coming October 6th. In an attempt to target the upper segment of the smartphone market, Microsoft has gone out of its way to install powerful hardware on the Lumia 950, enhancing its features to meet constantly evolving user needs.

Microsoft has been working hard on developing the Lumia 950, the first smartphone to utilize its Windows 10 Mobile operating system. The rumors about the Microsoft Lumia 950, codenamed “Talkman”, have been around for a good while now. Here’s what you need to know about the tech giant’s latest smartphone product.

Design and display

Rumor has it that the latest Lumia 950 will come with a metal frame, coated with matte white or black polycarbonate, with a thickness of just 8.89mm thickness. The device will sport a 5.2-inch screen display, with a Quad HD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.


The Lumia 950 is going to boast a 64-bit Hexa core, most likely the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, as well as 3GB of RAM and an internal storage capacity of 32GB. Users have the option of expanding the memory with a microSD card.


Microsoft will integrate a powerful 20-megapixel PureView primary rear camera, capable of shooting high-definition video, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Additional features include optical image stabilization, autofocus, and social media geotagging.


It is said that Microsoft’s new Lumia 950 will incorporate Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology, allowing for faster battery charging (up to 60% within just 30 minutes). The Lumia 950 will be equipped with a detachable 3,000mAh battery, so you can expect it to last for a full day, even with heavy use.

Price and release date

Although Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed the exact price or a release date for the upcoming Lumia 950, the price point is expected to rival that of the iPhone 6s. The release date is most likely to be on October 10, the very same day Microsoft plans to launch its brand new operating system for smartphones, Windows 10 Mobile.

Overall, the Lumia 950 comes with plenty of improvements that Windows Phone fans will love. It is faster, lasts longer, and is more stable. Want to learn more about Windows Phone and how to use it in your office? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from Source.

September 21st, 2015

Business_Continuity_Sep21_BSomewhere in your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a section detailing what is expected from employees during a disaster. Unfortunately, many companies end up overlooking this aspect of their BCP and assume their staff knows what to do. This can lead to problems, as employees won’t necessarily perform the functions required to keep your company operating. Here are a few steps to take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

Step 1 - Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 - Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 - Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 - Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

Published with permission from Source.

September 16th, 2015

There is nothing quite as annoying as getting a message from your laptop that your battery is about to run out. Even with the longer lasting laptop batteries of today, there will be an occasion where you need every last second from it, and maybe even a little more. Here are some pointers on how you can squeeze a little extra out of your laptop battery.

Dim the screen

The easiest way to conserve your battery is to dim the screen of the laptop. The screen eats up a lot of energy, and chances are you don’t really need it that bright in the first place. The more you dim it, the more energy you will save. If you are desperate for battery life, turning it down to the lowest setting that still renders screen readable to you is the way to go. If you just want to conserve energy, taking it down to halfway will help conserve the battery and give you additional time down the road.

Stop charging your phone

It is almost second nature for people to charge their phones when they have a chance, but doing so while using your laptop can be a serious drain on its battery. If you need to maximize your laptop battery then unplug your phone, tablet or other device from it. You should see a big difference in battery performance almost immediately. In fact, it is best not to have any USB accessories, such as a wireless mouse, plugged in at all. These can also deplete your laptop battery in short order.

Only use what you need

While it’s fine to keep open multiple programs, applications and other features when your laptop is plugged in, these will eat away at your battery life when you’re away from a power socket. You should run a quick inventory on what you are using, and then close out of the rest. Do you really need to be running Skype if you are not talking to anyone? Probably not. Don’t just push them into the background, though. Be sure to close out of them completely. By only running what you need, you can reduce the burden on your battery.

Shutdown Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi can be one of the biggest drags on a laptop battery, because it is constantly using energy to search for new networks or to stay connected to the one it's on. Not only that, but internet browsers, especially ones with multiple tabs open, can increase energy consumption. If you aren’t using the internet, you should shut off the Wi-Fi and close out of any browsers. If you do need to use the internet, avoid opening multiple tabs, watching videos or streaming music.

Plan ahead

If you aren’t sure when you will be able to charge your laptop again, it is best to implement some of these battery-saving techniques before the situation gets critical. Chances are if you aren’t using certain apps now, you probably weren’t using them 30 minutes ago either. The best way to conserve your laptop's battery life is by being vigilant and alert to usage in advance. It is almost always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the battery life left on your laptop.

Let us show you how to get the most out of your laptop. Our trained experts can also answer all your hardware questions. Drop us a line for more information.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Hardware
September 15th, 2015

MobileGeneral_Sep15_BIt’s not long since static biometrics, like fingerprint sensors, first became available on mobile phones, allowing us, in theory, to do away with PIN numbers and security passwords. Still, static biometrics are only available on high-end smartphones and use proprietary technology that limits their use. But things are about to change with what could very well be the next generation of mobile phone security, behavioral biometrics. Here we’ll explore all you need to know about the technology.

What’s it all about?

Behavioral biometrics focus on uniquely identifying characteristics related not necessarily to who you are, but to what you do.The stress is on the recognition and analysis of something all of us do all the time on our smart devices - typing - as a new way of establishing identity.

How does it work?

“The technology profiles how a person interacts with a website on their smartphone by analyzing their typing rhythm, how they hit and release keys, the pressure they put on the screen as they type, the angle they’re holding their phone, and how quick they move across the screen,” says Dr. Neil Costigan, CEO at Swedish IT and security company BehavioSec, which has a patented technology that can be integrated into an app or even a smartphone OS.

Combined with data from a smartphone's built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, it’s possible to come up with a profile of each person. This could allow for monitoring of typing in real time in order to verify a person is who they say they are, just by watching their typing behavior. “The tech works on all models and makes of smartphones and doesn’t require extra hardware,” added Costigan. In fact, Costigan’s continuous process of verification has already been used by banks across Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany as part of efforts to detect and counter fraud. The technology was showcased as possible future-phone tech at Google’s I/O 2015 conference, and has the potential to be installed on every phone rather than just being limited to banking apps.

Looking to learn more about mobile technology and how they can change the way you work? Contact us today; we’re happy to talk.

Published with permission from Source.

September 14th, 2015

Productivity_Sep14_BAnother week buzzes by and half the items on your to-do list are still sitting there untouched. It’s a familiar feeling for many of us, and life - both in and out of the office - only seems to get busier and faster-paced. If you’re struggling to keep on top of your routine tasks, let alone find time for the strategic thinking that will help guide the direction of your business, then more intelligent use of IT might be the answer. Productivity tools can help you make the most of your time and quite simply get more done. Here are a few you need to know about.

Google Alerts

Every business wants to keep track of what others are saying about it and, in this modern age where the likes of blogs and social media rule the roost, it’s more important than ever before. In an ideal world you’ll pick up on positive references to your company, and will be able to share these to enhance your good name further. But of course, every so often even the world’s best companies suffer a blip, and in those scenarios reputation management becomes a question of damage limitation, proactively responding to negative feedback, and putting right what harm has already been caused.

Yet doing all that manually is a real time-drain, if not next to impossible to do effectively - just think of all the websites you would have to scroll through to check for mentions of your company’s name, all the while knowing you’ve not even really scratched the surface. Thankfully Google Alerts relieves the pain of this crucial task; the tool allows you to set up alerts for specific terms, and receive an email notification when something crops up that you ought to know about. It can save you hours and enable you to do more justice to your reputation management efforts than you considered feasible.

Chrome to Mobile

If you’re like the vast majority of modern business people, you’re never sat at your desk for very long. That means you’re not always able to use your desktop computer, and probably have to do what you can to make the most of time spent traveling, between meetings and so on. Yet truly being productive during those down periods necessitates having access to the same materials you have when you’re in the office; that way, you’re actually contributing to clearing your overall to-do list rather than just picking a random task to work on so that you’re at least getting something done.

The Chrome to Mobile extension for Google’s signature web browser allows you to quickly transmit to your phone all the web pages you’re currently viewing on your desktop or laptop. When you’re away from your desk, you can pick up right where you left off without any interruption - no more emailing yourself links to everything you’re working on, and then having to open it all afresh on your phone or tablet. If you know you’re going to be away from a reliable internet connection for a while, you can even opt to send an offline version of those pages, so you can continue working regardless. You just need to have a mobile device that runs Android 4.0 or later, or have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that has Chrome installed.


The inclination to keep too many tabs open in your web browser is practically a chronic condition among business professionals, symptomatic of us trying to get too much done in too little time, and never really finishing one task before moving onto the next. Whatever the cause, it’s something lots of us have to deal with every day; we all stumble across news articles, blogs and other online resources that are infinitely useful to us, but which we don’t have the time to stop and act on there and then.

Pocket solves that problem - this simple tool allows you to save content that you find online to one central place, so that you can go back to it with ease when the time is right. It will save you from needing to keep those hundreds of tabs open until you have a spare moment to go back and plough through your reading list (or more likely until you decide is enough is enough, and close all the tabs to stop them slowing down your computer any further - and in the process you lose all that valuable information without keeping a copy).

Rescue Time

If you’ve ever wondered how much time you waste between tasks while you’re reading your email, updating your social media, checking the news and so forth, then Rescue Time could be the answer to your curiosity - even if you might not actually want to know the truth! Once you activate Rescue Time on your devices, it will track how long you spend not only on different websites but also in the various computer software applications that you use on a day-to-day basis - whether that’s Microsoft Word, Photoshop or Sage.

This helpful little program sends you a regular email report detailing how many hours you’ve logged in total - discovering how long you routinely sit at your computer can be revealing in itself - along with a breakdown of the percentage of time spent on various work- and non-work-related tasks, and an overall ranking for your productivity. It even sets you goals, for example to spend less than two hours a day on what it classes as non-productive activities (which you can customize to suit your line of work, since it’s hardly fair to penalize yourself for being on Facebook if that’s a key part of your job).

Are you ready to use these tools, and other intelligent technology, to streamline your workflow and get more out of your day? Give us a call and see how we can help you put IT at the forefront of a more efficient approach to business.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Productivity
September 9th, 2015

AndroidPhone_Sep09_BFollowing in the foodie footsteps of its predecessors comes Google’s latest operating system for Android devices - Android 6.0 M, otherwise known as Marshmallow. It’s the big sister of Lollipop, the operating system currently installed by most Android users. It’s likely to be some time before a release date is confirmed for the new operating system to be available for download to devices, but the Developer Preview has already been let out of the cage. Here’s what Google has in store for us when Marshmallow does eventually arrive.

Marshmallow was first announced at the Google I/O conference earlier this year, but it’s taken a while for a version to come through that’s ready for developers to get their hands on. However, that’s now happened, and the first publicly available release of the operating system is expected to be on the new Nexus 5 and 6 mobile devices in the coming weeks. Sadly, the rest of us are unlikely to have a crack at Marshmallow until the end of 2015 at the earliest. But when that time does come around, it’s packed with these developments.

Visual voicemail

No more dialing voicemail and listening for long-winded prompts - Marshmallow is set to offer visual voicemail functionality from right within the main phone app. That means you can see at a glance who has left you a message, listen to each voicemail, and quickly hit a button to get more information or call or text back - all without needing to wait for a long list of options to play out first. Since this feature requires work at the carrier’s end to enable compatibility, it’s expected to be available only on a handful of networks to begin with - but the list should grow as time goes on.

Screen rotation

Here’s something that competitor Apple has offered its users since even the earliest iterations of its devices - the simple ability to rotate the screen and use it in landscape as well as portrait view. It’s a wonder it’s taken Google this long to realize this was a big and frustrating gap in the Android’s functionality, but at least the wait is over. You’ll now be able to rotate the screen whether you’re on the home screen or deep in an app.

Improved app drawer

Previous releases of the Android operating system have switched up Apple’s conventional single-level, horizontal-scrolling app drawer - used for accessing apps that are already open - with a bigger and vertical-scrolling drawer. But until now this has been plagued by bugs and apparently poorly-thought-out design, with out-of-place alphabetical organization and an ineffective use of space. Marshmallow sees these fixed, with space for more icons on screen - meaning faster and simpler scrolling - and floating alphabetical icons that both save space and look cleaner.

When it’s finally released in full, Marshmallow will also pack in a range of other smaller updates. If you want to learn more about how to integrate Android devices into your business and optimize productivity in the process, just give us a call.

Published with permission from Source.