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August 4th, 2011

Photo courtesy of Lucian Savluc on Flickr

To help our customers and anyone else, we’re starting a new education series here on the IT On Demand blog.

The goal will be to keep it simple. Not everyone is an IT consultant and we understand that.

Feel free to give us feedback and ask questions. Also, if you have any topics that you want to know more about, let us know!

Here is the first post in our new series: Introduction to Cloud Computing.

Cloud computing has three primary service types: Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). In each case, a company may subscribe to a particular service in order to reduce overhead costs, such as hardware and individual software licenses, while still receiving the full functionality of the service.

A company that wishes to use a particular set of software can spend far less money by using a cloud computing service provider than by buying the software as a hard copy and spending money on individual licenses. Additionally, those who use SaaS will always have the most updated version of the software without the hassle of installing individual updates. Transitioning to cloud computing is not expensive, either. Services such as VMware View allow companies to quickly transform their existing desktop computers into cloud computing friendly terminals. Much as a television receives signals from an outside provider, VMware View acts as a kind of a cable box for cloud computing.

Cloud computing is also inherently scalable. Should a company wish to design and build a particular application or software suite, they may use PaaS or IaaS services. When the project is completed, they can stop using the services, or scale them down to a level more suited to day to day activities. This makes it easy for companies to focus on design and not on more technical issues like server maintenance. Should they wish to start on another large project, they can immediately increase their PaaS or IaaS functionality in the same way one would flip a light switch.

Many organizations also are fond of cloud computing because it acts as a cost-effective storage solution. Information inputted into the cloud is far safer than information stored on a single hardware device. There’s no danger that the information will become lost or inaccessible because the cloud has been designed to be inherently accessible from any properly equipped device or equipment. While information can be password protected to guarantee its security, natural disasters will not destroy valuable information.

In many ways, cloud computing can be likened to a utility. It is relatively inexpensive, delivers reliable service, and requires no maintenance on the part of those who subscribe to the service. Cloud computing providers are responsible for the integrity of their product. Companies that use cloud computing services can focus on their business, not on IT problems.

April 3rd, 2014

VoIP_March31_CVoice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is one of the most popular modern methods of communication. It allows voice communication like a regular phone does, but it uses the Internet instead of the usual phone line. Many companies of all sizes in a multitude of industries have successfully adopted this technology. If you are still using landline phones for business communication you might want to look at the various advantages of adopting this technology.

More affordable communication costs

Using VoIP services like users communicate to other users either for free or at drastically lower call rates than regular providers, as long as they are connected to the Internet.

Other VoIP services let you use your existing phones that are connected to the Internet to enjoy unlimited calls for a lower price compared to the per minute charge of telephone companies. These service providers offer different packages to choose from, many of which might suit the size of your company, your business needs, and your budget.

More affordable hardware and software

If you are having second thoughts about using VoIP because you are concerned that the hardware and software used would cost you a fortune, fret not. The vast majority of VoIP systems require little to no installation and many can run using existing equipment.

When it comes to the hardware, companies that choose to use VoIP through a computer need a working sound card, which your computer probably already has, as well as a headset or microphone and speaker, whichever you prefer.

Other service providers may also require the use of VoIP phones. The price of these phones is also not that costly and in some cases these phones might be provided by the VoIP providers for a nominal monthly fee.

VoIP supports multiple calls at the same time

A regular phone line normally only lets you talk to one person at a time. VoIP allows multiple calls, including conference and group calls, which is an important advantage to many businesses. This makes it easier for employees, management, and business associates to collaborate with each other and to communicate with clients.

It’s also faster for clients to connect with customer support. As a result, their concerns can be handled and resolved faster, which in turn improves the customer experience and strengthens your business relationship with them.

VoIP offers more features that traditional systems

Aside from supporting multiple calls simultaneously, there are also several more features that you can enjoy from using VoIP. These features may vary from one particular service to another, but the most common features include:
  • Fax
  • Voicemail
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • Call forwarding
  • Call blocking
  • 411 directory
  • Last number redial
There are also advanced features that some service providers offer, including call transfer, return call, speed dialing, SMS, and area code selection. Many of these features come included in VoIP subscriptions, which help keep costs of add-ons low.

These are just some of the reasons why you might choose to switch to VoIP for your business communication. If you have further questions about VoIP, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 6th, 2014

VoIP_Mar03_COnce you do your research, you’ll find that choosing which VoIP provider to go for can be quite confusing (if not downright perplexing). Because of how critical the functions of a VoIP system are, it's not just important for you adopt this, but also that you get the best one! The question is, how you're going to do that.

Consider these tips when choosing a VoIP system and you'll stand a much better chance of ending up with the best one for your business:

The cheapest ones aren’t always the best

Just like bidding for projects, you need to be wary of those systems that offer full services at incredibly low prices. Don’t be tempted with how low the fee might be, as in the long run, you might end-up with a system you're not happy with. You don't want dissatisfied customers because they won't be able to reach you, or a system that's not a good fit for your business.

A good way of going about this is to test the service to see if the quality is in fact on a par with what you’re looking for. Another factor to consider is how seamlessly the new VoIP system will integrate with your business

Think about what your phone system’s key roles are

When you have a clear idea of the “what”, your “how”, “when” and “whom” will be a lot easier to determine. This is where you determine what kind of features you’ll need your VoIP system to have. Consider whether you need voicemail, auto-attendant or voicemail to email capabilities (among many others). Once you have a clear picture of what you need, you’ll have a better idea of which package or provider to obtain your VoIP system from.

Review different packages

There are many packages that are packed with features, making them seem incredibly appealing. Don’t get carried away with how seemingly amazing these packages are though. Instead, focus on what your business needs are and stay within the bounds of these demands. There is no point in having unlimited calls to Canada or other countries when your customers are based in the US, for example.

Look for excellent customer support with an almost zero downtime record

Regardless of how seemingly perfect and tailor-made your system is to your business, if you’re experiencing a lot of downtime from your provider it just isn’t going to work. You need to do a background check on your provider to make sure that their system has a near zero downtime.

Another factor to look into is their customer support. You’ll always encounter situations where you have a question about the system, such as a technical issue or maybe even to ask about upgrades. In cases like these, your provider must have an excellent customer service so you know that your questions and issues are going to be dealt with properly and quickly.

Work out what the real costs are

Don’t just think about the package that’s being sold, think about the equipment you’ll need and the manpower needed to get the system up and running. As your company grows, you’ll have to add more users to your system too. You have to think about the costs relating to upgrades and purchasing add-ons.

If you only consider the upfront payment and neglect the upgrades, maintenance, and any other factors of operating with a VoIP system, chances are you might end-up spending more than expected.

If you are looking for the perfect VoIP system, then we can help. Contact us now for our expert advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
February 12th, 2014

SocialMedia_Feb10_CMarketing is an incredibly important lifeline and function of nearly every business. With successful marketing a company will likely be more successful and able to grow. Nowadays, social media has become a large part of marketing, especially platforms like Twitter. While at first glance, Twitter is easy to use, there is a one big mistake many companies make that can harm the reach of their content and posts.

Social media is an always evolving idea, so what works one day won't necessarily work in the near or foreseeable future. Combine this with the various changes and features of the different social media platforms and it is nearly impossible to master every service.

When it comes to Twitter, one of the most popular features is using @username to bring the tweet to the attention of the user and to tweet about them. When you do this you and the person will be able to see it, along with people who follow that person.

What is the #1 mistake Twitter users make?

The problem is, many people put the @username at the beginning of the tweet. What this does, as we stated above, is only make the tweet visible on your feed, to the user and their followers. Why is this a problem? Well, it comes from how most businesses use Twitter. They use it to share content, e.g., a blog article or a video, etc.; to essentially tweet about the person, not at them. You see this in many tweets, for example, "@microsoft's new blog is great. Read it!"

While you want to share the content with people other than those who created it, putting @user at the front of your tweet actually limits the audience to the person who created the content and their followers - in other words the opposite of what you intend, unless Microsoft is your target audience of course!

How do you avoid mistake tweets?

If you are looking to tweet about someone or the content that user has created, using the @user is still a good idea because it will bring to the content-creator's attention that you are sharing their content. This is a great way to form relationships and even have these individuals and businesses share your content. In turn, this can help increase the potential of your content being seen by a wider audience.

For many tweets it makes sense to put the @username first as it helps make the overall tweet easier to read. The problem is, this will also limit your audience. So, for those who want to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak, add a period before @username e.g.," .@microsoft's new blog post is great. Read it!".

What this does is ensure that the tweet isn't addressed only to the user, but can be seen by everyone.

Looking to learn more about utilizing Twitter or any other social media as a part of your marketing strategy? We have a lot to tweet about and can help you tweet too.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 6th, 2014

VoIP_Feb03_CVoIP apps can help improve your communication. That’s a fact! However, not that many business owners are familiar with how VoIP works, thus leading to them missing out on the many potential advantages that it brings. When many business bosses first set out to integrate a new solution they look at what free services are available. The question to ask is: Are these free options good for business?

Here are four of the most popular free VoIP apps available and a look at what they can offer businesses.

1. Skype

Skype is one of the pioneering apps that revolutionized VoIP. As a leading VoIP app, It has a large user base, with about 50 million users logged-in at least once during January 2013.

This service lets users make free Skype-to-Skype audio and video calls, group calls, and instant messaging. But, if you want more advanced calling features like call forwarding, SMS messages, caller ID, calling landline or other mobile phones around the globe, video conferencing, and having your own Skype number, you are going to have to subscribe to a business plan.

2. ooVoo

ooVoo, another free app, offers the optimal basics like free audio and video calling services to other users, instant messaging, and even 12-way video conferencing, which can be great for individual users and small businesses.

The biggest downside to this app is that while it does allow calls to landlines and other numbers, you need to purchase credits or a premium account which can prove a bit expensive for many users.

3. Viber

Viber offers users free calling and instant messages to other Viber users and is one of the most popular VoIP services for mobile users.

Although Viber has already released a version for Windows and Mac, this app is definitely made for Smartphones. You need to have a Viber mobile account before you can use its desktop version. This is a good solution for individual users, but may not be the best option for businesses that need to make calls to landlines or non-Viber users.

4. Jitsi

Jitsi is a free open source VoIP program formerly known as SIP Communicator that is primarily written using a popular Java script. Jitsi supports multiple operating systems as well as a variety of internet telephony.

Aside from video calling, Jitsi also offers you the features of instant messaging, desktop streaming, call recording, encryption for calls, and file sharing. Jitsi's broad compatibility and powerful encryption support may make it seem like a great tool for business. However, because it is open source it could pose potential security risks and be a challenge to manage for your business.

Is free really better?

In all honesty, the free aspects of the services above will satisfy many of the communication needs of individual users. The problem is, that many businesses still rely on traditional landline style communication e.g., people calling the business. This means that you need a service that can port - transfer - your number from the old provider to the VoIP one, while also allowing others to call the business. Many of the free services don't allow this. What this means for your business is that you will be able to call people with the program for free, but others who don't use it likely won't be able to call you so easily.

The VoIP systems provided by IT partners like us however are designed for business use and can offer the same benefits as many of the free solutions - video calls, text messaging, etc. - along with the traditional phone requirements, only delivered through a digital connection and at a cost that is usually far below traditional landline subscriptions.

The other main problem with choosing free services is that they may not be able to handle a high volume of communication, largely because many of them are designed for personal or home use, rather than a business environment. Adopting the business features will usually require a paid subscription that could end up costing you more, especially if you subscribe on a per-user basis.

If you are looking to use one of the free apps above or are considering another solution, we strongly recommend you talk to us first. We can talk you through the process, and help ensure that any service is truly right for your business. Beyond that, we can also make recommendations for a system that will truly fit your business.

If you want to know more about VoIP, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
January 15th, 2014

SocialMedia_Jan13_CSocial media is now so common that it's expected that a company has a presence on at least one network. Because of the high level of use, sites have started to enter a more mature phase, where users are finding other ways to leverage the services. We will undoubtedly see a change in the way businesses use social media platforms in 2014 and new trends emerging which companies will be acting upon.

Here are five social media trends we believe businesses should track throughout 2014.

Successful content will become more helpful

One of the key rules of marketing is that you need to create content that is relevant to your target audience. If you can't show how your company, service or product will help the customer there is a high chance that they won't invest, or will look elsewhere.

Throughout 2014, we should see a shift of strategy with companies using social media to engage with customers to leverage data and create content aimed at being helpful to 'fans' and followers. This might include tips on how to use products and visual images that show fans how to use products, etc.

The key idea business owners should grasp is that they should not be using social media to promote their company, but rather using social media to help. When you can help your followers, you will see more positive association with your brand and possibly even more sales.

Planning ahead will become increasingly important

It used to be enough to simply have a social media account, but now you need to also be active. As more companies break into social media, you will need to post more content on a regular basis.

Because many managers and business owners are busy, they often lack the time to concentrate on social media, especially as demand grows. This means that companies will have to start planning ahead if they want to be successful on social media. What this means is likely hiring a new employee, or appointing a staff member, to run your social media activities. You will also need to schedule posts and content well ahead of time, as well as set budgets.

If you just post occasionally now, or have a profile that isn't that active, the first step you need to take is to schedule a day each week where content goes out. Take a look at older posts and see what worked well with your audience and create similar content. Schedule the content to be posted at roughly the same time each day. Over time, ramp up when you post - try posting new content on different days to see how reactions and interest changes. The key is to stick with it, and you will begin to see some positive returns - likely an increase in Likes, Shares and Comments.

Content will need to be mobile

It's not difficult to see that the mobile device - smartphone and tablet - has become the gadget of choice for many social media users. Some have even gone so far as to stop using social media on their computers entirely. This trend will grow throughout 2014 and what this means for businesses is that they need to be creating content that can be viewed easily on mobile devices.

Because mobile screens are smaller, and many companies are starting to create mobile oriented content, we should see some more visually oriented posts, including both movies and images. At the very least you should ensure that your content posted on social media platforms can be easily viewed by users on mobile devices and your other social related sites, like your blog, can also scale to fit on smaller screens.

Social data will play a key role in company strategies

As the number of users on social media continues to grow, we are starting to see a trend where many users are basically using social media for everything. Because these systems are online, data regarding nearly everything is being tracked and made available to companies and users. This social data can be a huge help if leveraged properly. For example, it allows you to see what users like and dislike, and the content that works best in certain regions, and different dynamics, etc. You can extrapolate this information to your products or services e.g., if post on how to use your product is liked more than other posts, you can assume that the product is seen to be good.

In 2014, companies will increasingly come to realize that they have access to this data and will start to use it to plot their marketing and social strategies. If you aren't already tracking your social data, now would be a good time to start. It will also pay to learn how to analyze it and develop useful insight.

Social integration is the next step

The first step in social media was to get users, including businesses, online and interacting. Now that this is happening, it's time to move onto the next step. For businesses this means integrating social media into their company. In 2014, that's what we predict we will begin to see businesses doing in larger numbers.

This trend has already started with businesses linking their websites to social media profiles but we predict it will go even further with companies integrating social data and plans into the organization as a whole. This will likely be the connecting of social data with other streams of data to make marketing and overall business decisions. In other words, social media will become an integral part of business.

What do you think the biggest social media trend will be in 2014? Let us know today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 18th, 2013

SocialMedia_Dec17_CWebsites like LinkedIn have quickly become the most popular, influential and arguably most useful to business users. LinkedIn is a social network, so if you have a profile it is a good idea to interact with other users. However, it is slightly different than other social media sites in that it's mainly aimed at businesses looking to to connect with other businesses and professionals to connect with their colleagues.

To get the most out of your personal profile on LinkedIn follow our five top tips:

1. Specialize

A popular feature of LinkedIn is endorsement. You can view other people's profiles and endorse their skills. Some popular users have hundreds of different endorsements. The purpose of these endorsements is to highlight the important skills of each user.

If a user has say 30 so-called important skills that they are all endorsed for, it kind of looks like these aren't really that important. It is a good idea to pare down your skills and endorsements to 3-5 which you feel best represent what you have to offer.

2. Don't connect with people in order to grow your following

One of the main goals many users have with other social media networks is developing content that encourages people to essentially connect with the business. This in turn increases the reach and popularity of the business. With LinkedIn, connections and content are still the goal, only the type of desired connection is different.

You shouldn't be aiming to connect for the sake of connecting. Instead, try to develop connections that will help your business meet its goals and objectives. Some good examples of this include connecting with suppliers, colleagues and even other businesses you work with.

3. Think socially (What's in it for them?)

LinkedIn is really just online networking, and as with most forms of networking you are looking to build rapport and establish a connection. This is usually done by being interesting, which means creating content.

When creating content or developing your profile you should keep in mind that it is for the people looking at your profile and not you. With everything you write or create, try to keep in mind: WIIFT (What's In It For Them?). If you can create something that your connections and profile viewers will be able to benefit from, they will be more willing to listen to you when you actually need to contact them.

4. Look at your profile

As we stated above, your content and profile should be oriented towards your viewers and connections. Look through your profile and posts to see that the information does reflect this purpose.

Try looking at the different sections of your profile and focus on how you can help your connections. This includes giving detailed descriptions on your roles and how you helped the company or customers. Above all else, make sure your profile contains the information that is relevant to the people you want to connect with. If it isn't, you likely don't need it.

5. Join groups

Possibly the best way to get the most out of LinkedIn is to join groups. There are groups that cover nearly everything in the professional world. Try joining groups that are relevant to your profession and interests. There are usually some great conversations going on that you can really learn and benefit from. If you are an active member, you will become well known over time.

This is positive, as it makes other members more approachable and willing to listen to you, and engage with the content you share. Joining groups also gives you a great way to connect with people of varying experience. If you need the help of a specialist you can look through group members until you find an expert with the experience you need.

LinkedIn can be a useful platform for business users and if you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage it, connect with us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 13th, 2013

VoIP_Dec09_COne of the biggest business trends over the past decade is the modernization of business systems. Take for example the cloud, which companies are adopting in droves. There is one system that doesn't seem to be moving as fast however - the phone. Many companies still rely on traditional networks, unaware that there is a powerful option available to them: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

If you are using older, more traditional phone systems, here are five reasons you should switch over to VoIP.

1. It offers more than just voice calls

Aside from offering voice calls, many VoIP programs also allow for video calls, video conferencing, and even screen sharing. For those who don't have a phone - say someone who is out in the field, or who is working in a noisy environment, many VoIP systems also have chat capabilities that are also integrated into the service.

In other words, they allow for a wider range of communication from one system and can really help with collaboration.

2. It's more flexible and scalable

Because VoIP systems rely on the Internet to send data and calls, they can be easily expanded. Adding a new line or number is usually as simple as clicking a button. If you have lines that aren't being used, you can also remove these easily too. This means that as you grow, you can easily scale VoIP connections and lines.

This level of flexibility and scalability is not easily achieved with older, more traditional phone systems.

3. The cost is usually lower

If you make a large number of calls in your business, or are calling long distance on a regular basis, you know that telephone bills can become a large expense, especially when you begin to add in extra features and lines.

With VoIP, you often get cheaper calling rates and lower monthly fees, which means you usually save money. Costs are also lower because you won't need to install new lines for each office or cubicle. As long as there is an Internet connection, you can often just plug an existing phone into an adapter and start making calls.

4. It's easy to set up

With many VoIP connections, there is no need to install extra wires, switching boards, or phone connections. Some systems can be installed by simply downloading an app to your computer. Other systems require that you install an adaptor to your existing phones that converts the analog voice signals into digital, before sending them over the Internet. These adaptors are small and usually all you have to do is plug the phone's cable in, then plug the adaptor into an Internet connection socket.

Many systems also offer Web or app-based management which allows you to easily manage everything related to VoIP. Because the management tools are light, you likely won't need to invest time or money into actually running the system, which is great for many small businesses.

5. There are more features included

When you use traditional systems you usually have to pay extra for features like call display, call holding, call forwarding, fax lines, etc. These are often features that businesses need, and having to pay extra for them seems at times nonsensical. Most VoIP providers, on the other hand, include many important features in their products, meaning businesses won't have to pay extra for them.

If you are interested in implementing a VoIP system into your company, contact us today to see what we have to offer and how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
November 20th, 2013

SocialMedia_Nov18_CThere is a common trend on social media of trying to make your personal profile difficult to find, perhaps because of issues about privacy and security. However, logic dictates that as a business this should be the opposite. You want to be easily found in order to connect and interact with your loyal and potential customers. The problem is, many businesses simply aren't easy to find on social media, something which could be hurting their overall success.

If you are struggling to make your existence known on social media, and missing out on those all important connections, then here are five tips to make you easier to find.

1. Use your actual name When it comes to social media, you want to be easily found. When your customers try to find you, they will almost always enter the name they call your company by. Therefore, your profile on social media needs to register this name even if it isn't your company's official name. Use the same name in various places on your profile e.g., in the About us section and even in your posts if it fits. If they can find more than one of your social media profiles (because you have used the same company name for all of them), there is a higher chance they will connect with you.

2. Become more recognizable We are highly visual people and when we see patterns, will normally begin to associate it with something. Many of us are also on more than one social media platform, so companies can leverage this in order to gain more connections.

Try having the same profile picture on all of your profiles too. What this does is make you and your brand more recognizable. If people are looking at other social networks that you have a presence on and they see the same profile picture, they are more likely to recognize you as the same company and potentially be more willing to connect with you. If you change your picture on one profile, be sure to update it on the others.

3. Create more social emails We don't mean start emailing people asking them to connect, as this will likely drive people away because they will think you are spamming them. Instead, try putting links to your social media profiles in your email signatures with a suggestion to connect. Because you likely send a fair number of emails out on a daily basis, having links to your social media profiles can help increase the chances of people reaching out and connecting with you.

4. Don't use multiple email addresses It can be tempting to use different email addresses for each social media platform - this can help track integration and engagement - but in truth, this can actually confuse people and could make more unnecessary work for those who manage your profiles.

Many personal users have only one email for social media, largely because it's easier to manage and quickly look at traffic. So, in order to make things easier for you or whoever manages your company's social media, it might make sense to just use one email address for all of your profiles.

If you have already used more than one email address for different social media profiles you have two options: You can choose to change the email addresses so that they are all the same, or you can simply link the other email addresses so that they are included in all of your profiles.

The most professional looking option is to pick just one email as it will reduce uncertainty as to what email address to use when customers want to contact you via your social media pages - e.g., email you about your products.

5. Make your website social Finally, you likely have a website. While many people will find you on social media, it is a good idea to include links to your social media profiles on your website. The reason for this is because it helps you build your brand image. It is a way of letting people know that you are not only on the Web, but also have social media profiles and that as a company you interact.

The most popular way to display your social media presence on your website is to include icons on the homepage, or in the footer. When you click on each of these, a new window or tab opens and takes you to the relevant social media page.

In general, the more locations you broadcast your social media presence, the higher the chance of gaining more connections. It follows that the more connections you have and the more active you are on your social media profiles, the greater consumer interest and engagement is, and the stronger your brand identity becomes. Over time, you should see an increase in sales and ultimately profitability.

If you are looking to learn more about how to leverage social media in your business, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
November 20th, 2013

Did you know that Microsoft is pulling support for their popular, yet aging, operating system Windows XP on April 8, 2014? This may seem like ages away yet, but for businesses still using this version of Windows, this is a big issue. When Microsoft does pull the plug, you could see an increase in security issues, along with a cessation of all support, and ultimately higher IT costs. Is your business prepared?

April 2014 is rapidly approaching and it would be a good idea to prepare your organization for the end of XP. Here are four questions you can ask yourself in order to help you get your business ready, with our suggestion for the best way to go about upgrading.

  1. What systems use XP?
  2. This should be the first question you ask yourself. You should take some time and look at all laptops and desktops currently in use, and in storage (if any). Take note of how many of these systems use XP. You should also look at other systems like Point of Sale, alarms, and basically anything with an operating system. If these run XP, take note, because you will need to make replacements.

  3. Do we need Windows 7 or 8?
  4. No matter what you do, you are going to have to upgrade to a new operating system. There are two viable options – Windows 7 or Windows 8. Despite what Microsoft’s marketing machine will tell you, Windows 8 may not be the best option for your business. This is especially true for businesses still running XP. The reason for this is because if you are still running XP then your systems are likely older, and may not be able to run Windows 8 efficiently.

    Another reason to consider Windows 7 is that it is an older OS, but still supported by Microsoft and will continue to be so until at least 2015 for mainstream support and 2020 for extended support. For information on what both types of support entail, please check out the table in part three of Microsoft’s Lifecycle policy page. What this means for businesses is that you will have essential support for another seven years at least.

    The final reason to still consider Windows 7 is that it is generally easier to update to from XP, and it also has a larger market share, with over 45% of Windows systems are running Windows 7. However, if you are buying completely new systems, Windows 8 could be more viable.

  5. Do we need to update hardware and software?
  6. Chances are high that if you use Windows XP, there are a number of important/essential programs that your business relies on. You should take stock of these programs and systems and find out if they will run on Windows 7.

    For hardware, you should check and see that this is compatible with, and meets the minimum requirements for Windows 7 or Windows 8. If hardware doesn’t meet the requirements, even if you are choosing to upgrade to Windows 8 (which requires slightly more computing power), you will need to upgrade your systems and hardware.

    If you determine that upgrades are needed, you should develop an upgrade plan that will minimize downtime and disruptions, while having all upgrades done before April.

  7. What about Microsoft Office?
  8. Microsoft Office 2013 was released last year, and what this means for companies using older versions of Office, like 2007 and 2003, is that support will be soon ending. In other words, it is time to upgrade Office as well. When Microsoft pulls support for Office 2007, you can bet that there will be an increase in the potential of security breaches and maybe even a lack of document support.

    If you are running an older version of Office, it will be worth upgrading to at least Office 2010, or even Office 365. Again, you will need to be sure that your systems can support any changes.

What is the best way to go about upgrading my systems?

Microsoft ending support for XP may not seem like a big issue, after all, many users should be able to simply install Windows 7 or 8 and be on their way. But, many businesses have other systems, like servers, networks, computers, etc. that they also need to consider. This can quickly turn a seemingly easy update into a never ending and costly nightmare.

This is why we recommend contacting an IT partner like us as soon as possible. We can be a big help in not only preparing your systems, but also helping you find the system that will best fit into your organization for the future at a budget you can afford.

If you are still running XP, please contact us today in order to be ready for the cessation of service in less than a year from now.

October 23rd, 2013

SocialMedia_Oct21_CSocial media has become one of the best marketing tools for businesses of all sizes. While Facebook is definitely the most popular network, the other networks that connect with it like Instagram are equally powerful. Instagram for example, is perfect for creating visual content that you can share on other platforms or even your website.

Here are three ways your company can leverage Instagram for better marketing.

1. Post at the most opportune time Many social media platforms like Facebook, have a strategic time for you to post content in order to have a higher chance of getting your name and content in front of users. But with Instagram, the time is actually different.

Because Instagram is largely mobile based, users tend to be accessing the platform at nearly all hours. One would think that if users access the platform mainly from their mobile devices, optimal time to post content would be after working hours. But, most people use their phones throughout the day, so there really is no major difference; users are online at all hours.

Therefore, the best time to post is almost any time. This means you need to figure out when the best time to post is for your company. Try picking a time when you think your audience will be looking at their devices and post then. Keep track of how many shares, likes and comments you get. Be sure to do this for a few weeks, then try another time. Over time, you should find when you get the most interaction, which becomes the best time to post.

Also looking at your industry could help. If you are a restaurant who is only open for dinner, posting pictures in the evening may not be the best. Instead post in the afternoon, before you open.

2. Hashtag it! Like Twitter and now Facebook, Instagram supports hashtags. By adding one in front of the terms in the image or video's description, you will make your post searchable and could increase the chances others will see it. Unlike the other networks however, numerous hashtags could actually increase interactions.

That being said, not every word should have a hashtag. Instead, hashtag words related to the image or video and try to integrate them seamlessly into the description. By putting all of the tags at the bottom or first, you could risk driving users away, largely because they are jumbled.

3. Videos or photos? Instagram recently introduced videos, which have proven to be useful for many marketers. While this is still a new feature, the bigger companies are using it while the smaller ones haven't begun to adopt it.

If you can find a use for your 15 second videos, for example how to use your product, you could see an increase in traffic and interactions. Because you can also upload or link these to your Facebook and even your website, Instagram could turn out to be a valuable tool for short video promotions.

Of course, you can do this with photos as well, so be sure to try incorporate both features. There are also numerous filters you can apply to both your videos and photos, so be sure to look through them all to see what makes your content look the best.

If you are looking to learn more about Instagram and how it can help with your social media and marketing presence, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media