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November 6th, 2014

BusinessValue_Nov03_AIT is in a near constant state of evolution, largely because of the sheer number of technology-based systems and products released on a weekly basis. This fast-paced development has led to the creation of three major IT areas. It is essential that companies invest in these three areas if they want their business to succeed.

1. Commodity-oriented IT

IT is made up of systems that support day-to-day operations, so it is essential that you invest in this area because it is what supports your core business practices. Without proper investment, your employees may not be able to carry out their tasks adequately. Commodity IT is essential but it does not bring increased value to your company. Sure, implementing a new email system could save money but it does not directly lead to increased profits.

One of the best ways businesses can get the most out of commodity IT is to first identify which systems the business relies on. From here, you can look to see if improvements can be made that will reduce overall expenses and increase productivity. Regardless of what you do with commodity IT, all changes and improvements should be operations-oriented; making jobs easier.

2. Business value focused IT

Business value IT involves any system that supports key operations and processes that drive overall business value. Essentially, these systems are not only essential, but they allow businesses and customers to do what they need to do. A good example of business value IT for companies with online stores is the technology that supports the store. Without it, customers would not be able to make purchases from the company.

With this form of IT you want to invest in systems that increase the value you offer customers and employees, while increasing your bottom line.

3. New opportunity IT

New technology and systems can help give your business a competitive advantage when properly integrated, while increasing overall business value. A good example of this is leveraging a new social media platform to help gain customer insights, or implementing technology that allows your business to capture and analyze data quickly and easily.

Companies able to incorporate new technology will often find that they have somewhat of a first mover advantage, and if leveraged correctly you could see increased profits and customer retention.

Get a good IT strategy

The vast majority of companies choose to focus a large percentage of their IT budgets on commodity IT. What this results in is a focus on simply maintaining existing IT systems, without actually investing in new systems. Ideally, you want to minimize your technology upkeep expenses, and invest more in discovering new technology and systems.

How do you do this? That's where a company like us comes in. As your IT partner, we can help ensure that your systems are managed effectively, costs are minimized, and we can even go so far as to help you find and implement new systems. Contact us today to see how our solutions can help maximize your IT investments.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 5th, 2014

iPad_Nov03_AWhen it comes to releasing new products, Apple usually holds a massive press event where developers talk about the device and then unveil it to a generally enthusiastic crowd. This happened with the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but in mid-October the company quietly introduced two new versions of the iPad. If you, like many others, missed this release, here is an overview of the latest two versions of the iPad.

The iPad mini 3

First up is the third version of Apple's smaller iPad - the iPad mini 3. The immediately noticeable changes with this year's device is the home button. It now has the metal ring right around it which enables the Touch ID feature so that you can unlock your device using your fingerprint.

Touch ID also enables users to pay for items using the Apple Pay feature that has just been released. Sadly, for the iPad mini 3, this is limited only to in-app and iTunes purchases as there is no NFC chip in the device to enable it to work with in-store terminals.

Aside from a slightly changed exterior and the extra Apple Pay related features, the device is more or less exactly the same as the iPad mini 2. It still boasts a 7.9 inch retina display and the same A7 processor found in the mini 2.

The major difference is that you can purchase the mini 3 with 64 GB or 128 GB of storage, which is not available for the mini 2. Unfortunately, the price of the device starts at USD 100 more (USD 399 for the 16 GB version) than the mini 2, which costs USD 299 for the 16 GB version. In other words you are paying USD 100 for the fingerprint unlock and semi-functional Apple Pay.

At this time, Apple has noted they will continue to sell the mini 2, which for many businesses will remain the better deal largely because it is less expensive yet offers exactly the same hardware and size.

The iPad Air 2

As the name implies, the iPad Air 2 is the second version of the popular iPad Air which was introduced last year. As with the mini 3, the Air 2 has seen a slight change to the home button with the introduction of the Touch ID feature that allows users to unlock their devices using their fingerprint.

The new version also enables the Apple Pay feature so users can use their fingerprint to approve purchases. Sadly, there is no NFC chip in the device, so you won't be able to use the device to make purchases at stores.

Beyond this, there are a number of interesting changes that many business users will find useful including:

  • A faster processor - With what Apple calls the A8X processor, the iPad Air 2 is one of the fastest and most powerful tablets on the market. Users have already noted faster website loading times and better overall responsiveness, especially when running graphics intensive apps.
  • A thinner, more mobile body - Apple reduced thickness with the iPad Air 2, making it thinner than any other iPad. At 6.1 mm, you will be able to use the device all day without it feeling awkward in your hand.
  • A less reflective display - While the displays on the iPad have always been top of the line, there have been complaints in the past about how the glass on the device is a bit too reflective. With the Air 2, a less reflective display is being used which supposedly cuts glare down by as much as 56%. This means you will be able to see what is on the screen more easily in more locations and situations.
  • The Apple Sim - For users in certain countries like the US and UK, the cellular version of the iPad comes with what is called the Apple Sim. This sim card is universal in that it allows you to connect to the mobile network of your choice without having to switch cards. This also makes switching networks and plans much easier.
If you are considering picking up the iPad Air 2, the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version starts at USD 499. If you would like to learn more about how these devices can be used in your office, contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
November 5th, 2014

AndroidTablet_Nov03_AWith the impending release of the new Nexus and other tablets, all of which will be running the latest version of Android, there is a good chance many businesses will be integrating these tablets. As with any new version of a mobile operating system, there are new security features introduced. Android 5.0 is no different; in fact, there are three new security features business users can benefit from.

1. Smart Lock

One of the first steps to ensuring that your Android device is secure is to put a lock code on the screen. Adding a pin code, or pattern code, to your device makes it more difficult for someone else to gain physical access. On the downside, constantly entering the code can be annoying, especially if you need access to your device on a regular basis.

In an earlier version of Android, the ability to use your face to unlock your device was introduced, but it hasn't really been all that popular. With Android 5.0, Google has introduced a feature called Smart Lock.

This feature uses either NFC, Bluetooth, or your face to unlock your device. Essentially, you pair your device with another device and when it is in range it will automatically unlock. For example, you can pair your computer with your phone via bluetooth. When your phone is near your computer, it unlocks and allows you access without having to enter the pin. If you prefer to use your face to unlock your device, this feature has now been improved and moved to be part of Smart Lock.

2. Automatic encryption from first boot

As businesses continue to integrate tablets and other devices, the amount of data stored on these devices increases. As a result, you eventually end up with important data on your device that you need to keep secure. One of the best ways to do this is to encrypt your device.

On older versions of Android, device security was fairly complicated when not automatic. Now, any device running Android 5.0 is automatically encrypted when the device is started up for the first time.

This encryption will ensure that the data on the device is secure from the start, something which many business users will likely find quite useful.

3. SELinux

SELinux, or Security Enhanced Linux, is a security model implemented in Android last year which is configured to help minimize security threats. All developers must include SELinux enforced security on their apps. What this has done is increased the overall security of apps installed on devices and reduced the number of vulnerabilities that could compromise device security.

For most users, the updated requirements and measures introduced by Android Lollipop will lead to increased overall device security from the apps through to other features.

If you are looking to learn more about the latest Android release features get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthGeneral_Nov03_AA Westchester County, New York, practice has surged from 16 physicians in 1996 to 250 physicians today thanks to care transformation driven by analytics.

Westmed Medical Group, which operates five large ambulatory care sites staffed by both primary care and specialist physicians, currently has more than 250,000 patients and $285 million in annual revenue.

Under the group’s “industrial” care model, process and procedure data is analyzed to determine what clinical tasks can be shifted from physicians to nurses, what workflows can be streamlined to enhance patient care, and what tests can be reduced, for example. Westmed CEO Simeon Schwartz says “That allows us to get our arms around the care process. If a neurologist is doing twice the number of MRIs for headaches than anyone else, we now understand why that's happening and we've put in a headache approval form.”

Strengths and weaknesses in clinical staff performance are shown in user-friendly dashboards so care providers can see what they are doing. This is key to the group’s success, says Schwartz. “The fundamental nature of our management strategy is that we do not tell doctors what to do—we show them what they are doing,” he says, noting that physicians are highly data-driven and tend to do the right thing.

The results of Westmed’s efforts have been monumental. Staffing is 3.91 employees per physician vs. 5.5 for the average multispecialty group. And, Westmed operates at 12.8 percent below the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) median for practice overhead even though it’s located in one of the most expensive areas of the country.

Do these numbers feel unattainable in your practice? The truth is, with a properly implemented and maintained system and analytics platform, they are actually quite attainable. If you are looking to learn more about how you can improve your practice, contact us today to learn about the systems we offer and how they can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 31st, 2014

Security_Oct27_AOne of the biggest business technology trends of the past half decade or more is the increasing amount of business that is conducted online. These days, many businesses have integrated online solutions into daily operations and have reaped the benefits. The downside to this is the on-going threat to online security. With an ever-increasing number of online attacks, it is important that you take steps to ensure that you remain secure. Here are five tips on how to maintain security while working on, or browsing, the net.

1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

Two-factor authentication, or two-step authentication as it is also known, is the idea of using two pieces of information to log into accounts: Your usual password and a code that is usually sent to a mobile device or generated by a code generator.

By utilizing this safety feature, you can further increase the security of your accounts, largely because the chances of someone getting their hands on both the generated code and your password are slim.

Some sites don't use a code and instead ask a question that needs to be answered every time you log in. If this is the case, make the question something that is difficult for a hacker to guess. For example, use your address from 10 years ago instead of your current address.

2. Audit who has access to what data

Between all of your online accounts and social media profiles you will likely be surprised at just how much information about you can be found online. There are a multitude of scare stories online, where someone has had their accounts hacked and identity stolen, largely because they had left pertinent information online without even thinking about it.

It is a good idea to audit what information you have online. This includes looking at the contact and personal information you have on social media profiles, account information, etc. Ideally, if it is not necessary information, then it shouldn't be shared. As for social media profiles, make sure only the absolute basic personal information is online and limit who can see this information.

3. Watch what is posted on social media

Because of the nature of social media, we often feel the need to share our whole lives online. This can often lead to oversharing, and even sometimes oversharing of personal information. There are stories online of thieves monitoring social media for businesses posting about how they are going to be closed for a holiday, with all staff gone. Once a thief finds this information, they then break into the business without worrying about people being there.

If you are going to share information online, be sure to limit the potentially sensitive information that you post, especially if the content is shared with the public.

4. Change your passwords regularly

It seems like almost every week news breaks of a password or account information breach. What this translates to is the fact that your accounts are always facing a potential risk. Therefore, you should make it a habit to change your passwords on a regular basis.

Most experts recommend at least once every three months, but if there is a breach where your account information may have been leaked then naturally change your passwords straightaway.

To ensure maximum security, you should use a different password for each account, and keep these as separate as possible.

5. Work with an IT partner who can offer enhanced Internet security

Ensuring that your business is secure online can be an on-going battle that you will likely not win easily. One of the best steps to take is to work with an IT partner like us. We offer a variety of Internet security solutions that can help stop malware intrusions before they infect your systems, block access to potentially harmful sites, and even scan Internet-based email solutions. In other words, we can help improve your overall online security.

If you are looking to learn more about how we can help your business be secure online, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 30th, 2014

Hardware_Oct27_AFollow any tech blog for a couple of months and it quickly becomes apparent that there are new devices, systems, and hardware introduced on a near daily basis. Because of this, it can be tempting to feel pressure to rush out and upgrade your hardware on a regular basis. As a small business this can be prohibitively expensive. The problem is, how do you really know when it's time to upgrade your systems? Here are five tips that could help.

1. Replacement parts are difficult to find

Computers, servers, and even mobile devices are made up of a number of different parts of hardware that rely on other parts in order to operate properly. If one breaks down, there is a good chance that the whole system will stop working.

Luckily, for many newer pieces of hardware and systems, replacements are easy to come by. But, if something breaks and you are having trouble finding replacement parts then it might be a good idea to consider upgrading. The reason for this is because parts that are more difficult to find are usually going to cost more when you can actually find them. While this may be ok for one system, if you have more than one system using the same components there is a good chance that these will also need to be replaced, leading to increased costs.

2. Repair costs outweigh replacement costs

Some hardware components can only be repaired by experts with highly specialized skills. What this means is that should this hardware break, you will likely be facing a fairly high repair bill. What we recommend is to always get a quote on how much it will cost to repair your broken hardware first.

When you have this quote, look at the price of replacement components. If it's more affordable to replace, then this is usually a better option. Of course, you are going to want to ensure that any replacement parts are actually compatible with your system, so before you go purchasing be sure to ask check with your IT partner.

3. You are running 'legacy' systems

Legacy systems are computers and technology deemed to be old by experts. For example, computers running Windows XP, or computers purchased before the release of Windows 7 would be considered legacy systems.

While these may be working like a charm now, they will eventually break. When this happens, you will see higher repair costs when compared with new technology. Beyond replacement costs is the fact that many manufacturers and software developers have stopped supporting older systems. This means that should an error occur, you will not necessarily be able to get support from the company who made the hardware. This can lead to repair delays and lost productivity.

Now, not every "old" system will need to be replaced right away. What we recommend is talking to an IT partner like us. We can help you determine if your older systems do actually need to be replaced, and suggest affordable alternatives.

4. Hardware is impeding productivity

If you or your employees are struggling to complete work because of constant computer crashes, or slow systems, productivity will be lower than it could be. Should you notice this in your office, it is a good idea to look into upgrading your systems in order to enable employees to do their jobs properly.

5. Your systems don't meet minimum requirements

If you are going to install new software or systems that require other hardware components, be sure to look at the minimum requirements. Almost every piece of software indicates which requirements must be met in order for the software to work.

If your systems don't meet these minimum requirements, then the software won't work. Should they meet them, but just barely, the software will work but there is a good chance that it won't work as well as it could do. Should you not meet the requirements, you will need to upgrade your hardware.

Looking to upgrade, or for some advice on how you can keep your systems working? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 29th, 2014

BCP_Oct27_AWhen it comes to business continuity plans, many companies need technology in order to support their plan and systems such as backups and recovery. While this technology may be in place to support current continuity needs, there will come a time when this needs to be upgraded. The issue is how to know when an upgrade is really necessary? Here are five tips that can help you determine this.

1. New technology and systems offer increased resilience

When it comes to continuity and the systems supporting it, businesses need to ensure that they are resilient. This means implementing hardened systems that will remain working in adverse environments; systems like UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), etc., so that should a disaster occur services will still be available.

Beyond this, it is a good idea to implement systems that can be switched from one location to another quickly and easily. A good example of this is implementing cloud storage and backup which can be recovered to other systems with minimal fuss.

Technology that increases the resilience of your systems and continuity plans is worth implementing.

2. Enhanced data protection and availability

During and after a disaster, it is vital that businesses have access to their data. If your data is not protected in an efficient manner, or easily accessible once it has been backed up, you could see a decrease in business effectiveness and delays in fully recovering.

Technology or systems that enhance data protection and availability over your existing systems are worth including in an upgrade, so that you can benefit from data being available when you need it most.

3. Systems offering increased communication

Communication during and after a disaster is crucially important if your business is to survive and recover full operations. When a company faces disaster, communication networks need to be strong and available at any time. So, if you can find systems that enhance the ease and effectiveness of your communications then these could be worthwhile upgrading to.

4. New technology is available to simplify plan development and auditing

If you have developed a continuity plan in the past, you know that it can be a time consuming task. While essential, many business owners do not have the necessary time to commit to this. This is where systems and technology can help.

A system that makes the auditing and development of plans easier may be worth including in an update.

5. Technology that decreases costs

With businesses operating on narrower margins, many business owners want systems to keep costs low or at the very least ensure costs don't rise. If the systems you are looking at have been proven to reduce operating costs, then it may be a good idea to consider them.

It is important however to not integrate technology simply to save money. You should aim for solutions that are affordable, but that will also offer these worthwhile benefits and more.

We recommend talking to us to find out how we can help you find the services and technology your business needs to ensure your business continuity is not only working but will also deliver when you need it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 24th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Oct20_AOctober has become the de-facto month where Google announces and even releases new mobile devices for their Nexus line. This range offers a pure Android experience, without manufacturer overlays or delays with updates. On October 15, Google officially introduced not one, but three new Nexus devices, along with the next version of Android.

Android L becomes Android 5.0 - Lollipop

While Google announced Android L earlier this year, little was said about what the full name of the next version of Android would be. The company finally laid speculation to rest with the announcement that the next version of Android will be 5.0 - Lollipop.

This is the first major update to the Android platform pretty much since Android 4.0 was released back in 2011. While the different versions of 4.0 introduced useful features and changes, the overall look of the system has largely remained the same. Android 5.0 will change this, with what is called Material Design, which brings a universal look (user interface) to apps across all devices.

Beyond a new look, 5.0 will introduce a new operating environment and coding that allows apps to run faster and more efficiently on existing hardware. Support for faster and more powerful processors is also being included so over the next few years you can expect to see phones and tablets become even more powerful.

To begin with, Android 5.0 will be available on the newly announced Nexus devices, along with older Nexus devices (7, 7 (2012), 5 and 4), some Motorola devices, and all Google Play Edition devices. The company has not set an official release date for this update, but you can probably expect it sometime in mid-November. Other devices will have to wait until the manufacturers can adopt this version of Android to their systems.

The Nexus 6

Like most other popular devices, there have been solid rumors about the Nexus 6 all over the Internet. True to these ruminations, the 6 will be made by Motorola and will be a large phone - 6 inches in fact. Here is a brief rundown of the important specs for business users:
  • Screen size - The display is 5.96 inches diagonally, with the total size being 6 inches from top-left to bottom-right.
  • Battery - The battery is 3220 mAh, which should be more than enough to see you through a day. Motorola has also included their fast-charging technology which can produce six hours of use from a 15 minute charge.
  • Processor and RAM - The processor is a top of the line Snapdragon 805 quad core 2.7 GHz. There is also 3 GB of RAM, which means there is more than enough processing power to run everything you need.
  • Memory - The device is available with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage.
  • Price and availability - Unlike previous Nexus devices, this phone starts at USD 650 for the 32 GB version, while the 64 GB version costs USD 700. Pre orders for this device start on the Google Play store on October 29 with the device being released in mid-November of this year.

The Nexus 9

The Nexus 9 is the newest tablet in the Nexus line. Made by HTC, it looks to have been designed to compete directly with the iPad Air. Here is a brief rundown of its tech specifications:
  • Screen size - The display on this device is 8.9 inches diagonally, with the total size being 9 inches from top-left to bottom-right.
  • Battery - The battery is a 6700 mAh, which should be more than enough to see you through a couple of days of use.
  • Processor and RAM - There is a high-quality processor running at 2.3 GHz. There is also 2 GB of RAM, which means there is more than enough processing power.
  • Memory - The device is available with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage.
  • Price and availability - This tablet starts at USD 400 for the 32 GB version. There is also be a keyboard case, which looks similar to those purchased for Microsoft's Surface. The device is available to pre order from the Google Play store on October 17, with a release date of November 3 of this year.

The Nexus Player

This new Nexus device is the next step in the evolution of the Chromecast, or Google's device-to-TV broadcasting device. Like similar solutions, it allows users to stream content from their devices, or stations like Netflix, onto their TV or HDMI monitors. While at first glance this may not be the most useful device for businesses, there is one feature that could prove popular: You will have the ability to broadcast what's on your device's screen on your television screen.

This includes Chrome tabs, so if you use cloud-based software like Google Apps you can technically use this to stream presentations or to collaboratively work on documents in a meeting format.

Coming in at USD 99 per set, this could be an affordable solution for companies who don't want to invest in a projector, or who already have a television screen in their office. The system went up for pre order on the Google Play store on October 17.

If you would like to learn more about Google's Nexus devices contact us today and we can help you make the right tech decisions for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 23rd, 2014

WindowsPhone_Oct20_ASmall to medium business owners who purchase a Windows Phone have access to a multitude of features. One of the more useful benefits is the fact that many devices actually support expandable storage through the use of MicroSD cards. Did you know that it your device has a MicroSD card you can install apps onto it? Here's how.

Before you start moving apps to your MicroSD card, you should be aware that this feature works best on devices running Windows Phone 8.1. So, if you are not running this version on your device, the following tips may not work. Also, not every Windows Phone device has an expandable memory slot, so it is best to first check the technical specifications for your device.

Installing new apps to a MicroSD card

This option is best for when your device's main hard drive is full and you want to install apps while keeping existing ones. You can set it so that any future apps will be automatically installed onto your device's MicroSD card instead of the hard drive, by:
  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Scrolling down and tapping on Storage Sense.
  3. Tapping on the box labeled Store new apps on my.
  4. Selecting SD card.
Note that because the MicroSD card is removable from your device, you will need to have the card that has the apps installed on it plugged into your device in order for these to work.

Moving installed apps to a MicroSD card

If you have apps installed that you would like to move to the SD card, such as apps that you don't use as often, you can do so by:
  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Scrolling down and tapping on Storage Sense.
  3. Tapping on Phone which should be located at the top of the screen.
  4. Selecting Apps + Games followed by the app you would like to move.
  5. Tapping on Move or Move to SD card followed by Yes.
While this is useful, not every app can be moved over to your SD card as this is actually up to whether the developer has selected for their app to be movable or not.

If you are looking to learn more about using your Windows Phone and to find out what you can achieve with it, make the call to us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

SocialMedia_Oct20_ASocial media has come to play an important part of an overall marketing strategy for many small to medium businesses. An essential component to any social media plan, regardless of the platforms you use, is the creation of content to post onto these networks. When it comes to content, many businesses tend to rely on 2-3 different types, which can get a little boring. To help, here are five types of content you should be sharing on social media.

1. Selfies

The 2013 "word of the year", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has become so popular it's no mean feat to avoid it these days. Truth be told, the selfie is popular for a reason: It is a quick way to get people to engage with your content.

The key here is to know when to take a selfie for your social media sites. What you want are selfies that make your company look more human, for example a group lunch meeting or after-work game night that shows people having fun. When done in the right way, selfie posts can increase interaction. Just be sure to limit the number you post, as too many could lead to you being perceived as being too focused on your company and not your customers.

2. Inside looks

When we find a product or service we like, we are often curious to learn more about it. This includes learning more about the company that makes the products or services and how it operates.

If you have a growing fan base, why not create content that provides customers with an inside look at some aspect of your business. Take pictures of your office, videos about how your products are made, or perhaps write content about how certain services are created and delivered. Basically, try to come up with content that gives people an inside view of the company.

The reason this type of content works is because it often gives customers a deeper understanding about a business, and creates a closer connection to the products and services. If you can increase overall attachment, you can increase the chances that customers will interact with content, stay loyal to your brand, and even share information about your company or recommend you.

3. Quotes

Famous quotes can be a great way to get a message across in a strong way. If for example you are hosting a Thanksgiving party, or Halloween party, adding a themed quote to your post could be a great way to encourage social media users to interact with it.

Also, if you can find quotes that are relevant to your industry, you could post these whilst asking for opinions or to further a point you're trying to make.

4. Fill in the blanks

While this may sound a little simple, posts that ask your audience to fill in a blank can be a great way to drive engagement while giving your customers a chance to tell their own story. For example, if you are a bakery who produces well-known donuts, asking a question like: "The first time I had this donut was _." could be a good way to inspire customers to interact with you.

5. Videos

One of the more drastic changes many social media sites like Facebook have implemented in the past couple of years is a feature that automatically plays a video when someone pauses on it while scrolling. While not fully welcomed by all users, this move has actually led to the number of video views increasing by as much as two times.

While creating a video because everyone else is, is a bad idea, if you have content that you know can be turned into a useful video e.g., a how-to video, then this could be a great way to reach your target market in an interesting way.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media