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October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_CEmail is an essential tool for a business's productivity. While there are a wide variety of email programs out there, almost all of them rely on one of two major protocols: POP or IMAP. As a business owner, it would be a good idea to know what these protocols are and which of the two is better for your business.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.

What this means is that usually, you connect to the server and download all of your messages onto your computer and then disconnect from the server with all messages being deleted from the server. When you connect to the server again, the messages are uploaded from your computer to the server which then sends the messages to the recipients.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a newer protocol that was designed for faster and constant Internet connections. Essentially, the email messages live on the server and the user downloads copies to their computer. When the copy is sent, it is uploaded to the server which then overwrites the message and sends it to the recipient.

Which protocol should my company be using?

While most email servers will support POP, many experts agree that it is best if companies use newer email protocols. The reasons for this are:
  • POP is largely outdated. As stated above, this protocol was first introduced in the '80s. The current, and most popular, version was introduced in 1989.
  • POP can be less secure. By default, older protocols can transmit password and login data unencrypted, which means anyone with access to your network and tools could gain access to the data.
  • POP can't support multiple devices. Due to the way POP works, only the currently connected client can see email messages. If you are on your mobile device, but logged into your email client at work, you won't get messages on your device.
  • POP lacks important business features. Most of us rely on calendars, address books, and task lists that are integrated into most email clients. With POP, these are most likely third-party solutions that live on local machines. This makes it difficult to access this information from other locations.
There are some really great newer email systems out there, including servers that run IMAP protocols, and even Web-based email solutions that pretty much negate the need for email servers in the office. If you are currently using POP, it may be worthwhile to contact us to see how we can help upgrade your email solution.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
October 15th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct13_CBusiness has become a much more mobile affair, thanks largely in part to the various mobile devices and operating systems currently available. These systems all rely on apps to operate and there are a near limitless number of apps, that business users can benefit from. To help, here are five of the most common types of apps business users install on their devices.

1. File creation, management, and collaboration

Many small to medium businesses are implementing cloud-based document systems. These systems enable easy file creation, storage, and collaboration between users in the office, coincidentally they also have mobile apps.

If you have cloud-based document systems like Google Apps or Office 365 in your office, it would be beneficial to install the mobile apps for the system that you use. The reason for this is because the mobile apps have the same functionality as their Web-based versions. From your device you can access files, create new ones, share them, and even edit files which means you can be productive on the go.

2. Lists

A good lists app can go a long way in helping to keep you organized. From creating a daily to-do-list to creating a list of long-term tasks or goals, you can create lists when you think of them and easily sync them with other devices and even colleagues.

Lists apps also help because we often come up with things we need to do while away from the office. Because our mobile device is always with us, we can simply add it to an existing list, or create a new one. No having to track down paper that may be lost, or trying to remember things.

While there are many list apps out there, one of the most useful is any.do which allows users to create both work and personal lists and share them with other users. Wunderlist is also great, as it allows users to create lists with sublists and even assign tasks to other people.

3. Notes

Like a list app, a good note app is essential. If you come up with an idea outside of the office, you can jot it down and have the note sync with other devices for action when you are back in the office. Apps of this type are also useful in meetings outside of the office because many of them allow users to record conversations and even add notes quickly. So, if an important idea comes up or is talked about it is recorded and not missed.

Some of the best Notes apps include Google Keep which syncs with your Google account and allows you to quickly create notes. If your office uses Microsoft Office, or Office 365, the best choice would be OneNote which can sync with your Microsoft account, bringing notes to any system. For those who want a powerful notes suite, the best option is Evernote, which works on almost every system and Web browser.

4. CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become one of the most essential ways for business owners and managers to manage their relationships with their customers. Companies that have integrated a CRM solution have found that overall satisfaction and customer retention has improved.

Because these solutions allow you to quickly view customer data (e.g., contact information, sales history, etc.) it makes sense for mobile apps to be created for anyone working out in the field. In fact, most CRM solutions now have mobile apps that allow you to access customer databases from any mobile device. If you have a CRM solution, especially a cloud-based one, it is worthwhile checking with your provider if there is a mobile app too.

5. Communication

When out of the office, you need a way of keeping in touch with those back at base, or other employees who may also be out of the office. While email is usually enough to cover most communication needs, there are times when you need something more immediate. That's where apps like Google Hangouts, iOS Messages, Microsoft Lync, and even Facebook Messages can help. These chat-oriented apps enable communication wherever you have a data, or Internet, connection.

Beyond this, there are a wide number of VoIP solutions that offer mobile apps. When you install these on your device, you can turn your mobile into your office phone which will function exactly like your desk-based phone. This makes it easier to keep in touch with the office, so be sure to ask your VoIP provider if there is a mobile app you can install on your device.

If you have a favorite business app, let us know. And, if you are looking for a way to increase the value your business can provide customers, contact us to learn how a mobile solution can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 15th, 2014

iPhone_Oct13_CIf you have an iPhone and have updated it to iOS 8, you have likely noticed the drastically improved Notifications Center. Apple has finally added better functionality to this popular feature and even increased the overall usability. If you have been using this function, did you know that you can customize the Notifications Center?

Customizing Notifications Center with widgets

While the Notifications Center has been an iOS feature for a number of versions now, Apple finally added more functionality to the Center in iOS 8 by turning on widget support. Widgets are essentially small apps that are meant to provide some of the functionality of a main app.

In the case of Apple, widgets can be added to your Notifications Center to enhance the overall look and functionality. For example, if you have Evernote installed on your device, you can add a widget to the Notifications Center that allows you to quickly create a new note or recording without having to open the app. Other widgets allow you to add an enhanced weather forecast or even a calculator.

In iOS 8, widgets have been enabled by default and can be interacted with by swiping down from the top of your screen to open the Notifications Center. From here, you can tap on Today to view relevant information for the day. This information is from a widget Apple calls Today Summary. You can add more widgets to the Center by:

  1. Opening your Notifications Center.
  2. Tapping on Today.
  3. Scrolling down to the bottom of the screen and tapping on Edit.
This will open a screen that lists all of the available widgets. Widgets with a red circle and minus sign beside them are already added to Notifications Center, while apps under DO NOT INCLUDE can be added. Tapping the green circle with the plus sign will add the widget, while tapping the red circle with the minus will remove it.

You can change the order of the widgets too, by tapping on the three lines to the right of the name and moving it up or down. When you are finished hit Done at the top of the screen and you should see the changes implemented immediately. If you are looking for more widgets, you will need to install apps that are widget compatible. We've found that a quick Internet search for "iOS 8 apps with widgets" returns lists of some great apps for you to try.

Customizing notifications for various apps

As you install and update apps, you may find that they start notifying you whenever there is a change, or where it is desired that you pay attention to some new information. Some of these notifications can be quite annoying, especially if you aren't really using the app at the moment, or you deem the notifications to be useless.

You can customize your app's notification settings by:

  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Selecting Notifications from the Settings menu.
  3. Tapping on the app you would like to change the notification settings for.
In the screen that pops up you should see a number of options including:
  • Show in Notification Center - The maximum number of notifications to show in the Notification Center.
  • Sounds - Play a sound when you receive a notification from this app.
  • Badge App Icon - Show the app's icon in the notifications.
  • Show on Lock Screen - Show the notification on the device's locked screen.
You can toggle these on and off as you wish.

Turning notifications off

If you would like to turn off all notifications for an app, you can do so by:
  1. Opening the Settings app.
  2. Selecting Notifications from the Settings menu.
  3. Tapping on the app you would like to change the notification settings for.
  4. Sliding the radio to the right of Allow Notifications to Off.
If you are looking to learn more about iOS 8 and how to get the most out of your iDevice, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
October 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct08_COne of the keys to business success is your staff. If you as a manager or business owner treat your employees well, your business has a better chance of running far more smoothly and will be far easier to manage too. While this is certainly easy to say, it can be a challenge to effectively manage employees in reality, and that's where systems like Enterprise Resource Planning, or more specifically HR modules, can really help.

What are Human Resource modules?

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated business software applications (often called modules) that allow companies to track and manage data and even automate some business functions, including Human Resources.

Human Resource modules in particular are used to track different people-related functions, such as planning, payroll, administration, development, hiring, and more. Business services, like Standard Operating Procedures, job postings, news, forums, tracking of work hours, and benefits, etc., can all be unified into one module, which makes overall management and decision-making easier.

Benefits of using HR modules

Businesses that have integrated ERP and more specifically HR modules, have been able to benefit in a number of ways. Here are 5:

1. Automated processes that free up management

A large function of HR, as with many other business processes, is data entry and reporting. If you are trying to develop reports without an integrated ERP system, you probably need to pull data from numerous sources which takes time. This is time that can probably be better spent on more relevant tasks.

An ERP module data, once set up, will be more accessible. This simultaneously makes it easier to enter and pull data together into reports. And because large parts of daily tasks can be automated, you can ensure that what you need to complete is actually achieved.

2. Enhanced sharing of information and collaboration

Because HR is a central function of any business, data related to HR needs to eventually be shared with other teams or departments. Without ERP this likely means you will need to ask different people to share their data and then compile it into a useable format.

With ERP for HR, data is stored in a central location, or brought together to a central location, which means that data from different sources can be shared faster and easier. This also ensures that the right data is shared, thus enhancing overall outcomes and making it simpler for other teams to work together.

3. Management gains a clearer picture of HR

It can be tough to gain a short-term picture of your employee resources, especially when it comes to identifying potential resource shortfalls (e.g., double-booked holidays, employees who are constantly late, etc.) and where improvements can be made. For example, in most modules you can track overtime hours of employees, and receive alerts when overtime is past a certain threshold.

If you spot that one department is consistently banking extended overtime hours, you can move quickly to address this.

4. Data is kept up-to-date

As we've stated above, HR systems usually involve data from various locations. This means that there is always a chance of duplicate or incorrect information. A healthcare ERP module can help ensure that the data is not only correct, but also not duplicated, which can in turn speed up decision-making and enable better decisions to be made.

5. Reduced licensing expenses

Without ERP, your HR team could need five or more systems in order to keep track of everything. Each of these systems will need to be licensed, which can often be a serious investment on your behalf, not to mention the costs of setting up and maintaining these systems.

Because HR ERP modules offer an integrated solution, you pay for one license to cover all of your needs. This reduces overall expenses while also making it easier to budget and maintain.

If you are looking to integrate an ERP solution in your business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_CWhen first announced in April of 2014, Heartbleed was one of the biggest security issues ever uncovered. Companies scrambled to patch systems and ensure they were protected from this problem. While big news, there is a recently uncovered security flaw called Shellshock which could make Heartbleed look relatively small in comparison, and it is a potential problem you should be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 9th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct07_CSmall to medium businesses, like restaurants, fashion boutiques, salons, and service-based businesses are constantly looking for ways to minimize expenses. One way to do this is by implementing a mobile payment solution. This form of payment is set to take off in the coming months, especially when you take into account the number of new systems introduced and available already.

What exactly is mobile payment?

Most people would define mobile payment as either using your mobile device as a wallet, or using mobile devices to accept payment. Many services allow users to link credit cards to their mobile device and simply scan it over a pay terminal to have their account charged.

Companies on the other hand usually pay a set per-transaction fee in order to use the system; something along the lines of, or slightly cheaper than, most credit or debit-based payment terminals.

If you are considering switching over, here is a brief overview of the most common payment solutions.

PayPal

In late September Internet auction giant eBay announced that they will be spinning off their popular Internet payment system PayPal sometime in 2015. While many users will utilize PayPal to pay online, there is actually a mobile payment solution called PayPal Here, which is expected to grow immensely.

With Here, you get a payment solution app with a card reader that plugs into most smartphones (Android, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets) and allows you to accept multiple types of payment from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can even track cash payments and record checks.

Vendors can use this app free of charge, however they are charged a 2.7% per swipe fee, based on the amount of the transaction.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple's recently announced mobile payment system that utilizes NFC (Near Field Communication) on the iPhone 6. Users with an iPhone 6 will be able to link their credit cards to their phone and then will hover their device near a terminal and press their thumb on the device's fingerprint reader to pay.

Your payment information (an account number linked to your card. Apple has noted that actual card numbers are not stored) is stored in the Passbook, and will be accepted at an initial 220,000 stores in the US when it launches sometime in October. There is a good chance that small to medium businesses will be able to integrate this solution into their business in the near future, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

What is interesting is that many banks have announced that they are considering accepting, or will accept Apple Pay as a method of payment. This means that businesses with an existing NFC payment terminal - which is often provided by a bank - should be able to accept payment (if the bank does of course).

Rumors have it that merchants will not be charged a transaction fee to use this service; details will be solidified when the system goes live.

Square

Square is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well known, mobile payment system. With a card reader that is compatible with most popular mobile devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) users can set up a whole Point of Sale system via the Square Stand and accept a wide variety of payments.

To use this solution, you need either the card reader (which is free) or the Square Stand (which costs around USD $99). For each transaction there is a fee that starts at 2.75% for credit and debit cards.

Amazon's Local Register

Introduced in mid August, this new card reader is aimed at both PayPal and Square solutions. As with these, there is a card reader that can be plugged into most devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) and an app that goes along with it. Businesses with the reader can then use the device to accept payment.

Where this solution differs is that the reader costs USD $10 to purchase. That being said, the USD $10 is refunded towards your first transaction fees upon signing up. The transaction fees are also quite a bit lower. For businesses that sign up before October 31, 2014, there is a flat rate of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016. Any business that signs up after this date will pay a flat rate of 2.5% per transaction (based on the total transaction amount).

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a hybrid mobile and online payment solution that allows users to add credit cards to their wallet and pay for things either online, or at stores with NFC payment terminals (also called contactless terminals).

While most users who have made a purchase on Google Play, or have used their Google Account to make a payment have used Wallet, this hasn't been the most popular of solutions when it comes to customers using it to pay in-store. The reason for this is because there are only a limited number of devices with the required NFC radio (two to be exact). This system is also currently limited to the US only. Customers around the world can use Google Wallet to pay online however.

There is a good chance that with the recent new announcements and upcoming mobile payment products, Google will be pushing this out to more devices in the near future.

There are other mobile payment system options available, so it is a good idea to contact us before you implement one. We can help you not only find a solution that works for your business, but ensure that it can be integrated into your existing systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 8th, 2014

iPad_Oct07_CUsers who have an iPad 2 or newer are likely well aware of the fact that iOS 8 has been released, and many have probably already updated. While the new version of iOS does bring some interesting features, there are reports from some users that the battery is being drained far quicker than before they installed the update. If you have experienced this, then the first thing you should look at is how to figure out which apps are using the most power.

How to see the battery power apps are using on iOS 8

One of the first things you should do when you notice that your battery is draining faster than normal is to look at how much power each app is using. This can be done by:
  1. Tapping on the Settings app.
  2. Selecting General from the menu bar on the left-hand side of the Settings app.
  3. Tapping on Usage which is located in the menu that opens in the right side of the screen. Selecting Battery Usage.
In the window that opens you will be able to see basic battery information like how long you have used the device since its last charge, and how much power has been used. While this is useful in its own right, there is also valuable information about what apps are using the most power.

This data displays apps that are using the most power first, so you can quickly see what apps are power hungry and take action. In iOS 8, a new tab was actually introduced into the Battery Usage tracker, which shows a seven day running average of the most power hungry apps.

Tapping on the tab that says Last 7 Days at the top of the screen will bring this information up. This is useful because it gives you a better view of the truly power hungry apps.

What do I do with apps that are really draining my iPad's battery?

There are a number of things you can do, including:
  • Uninstalling the app: If the app with the highest battery drain isn't overly useful, then possibly the best step to take would be to uninstall it. Another option may be to look for a similar app and give that a try to see if it fares any better on battery use.
  • Change when you use the app: Some apps, like video recording suites, bandwidth or processing-heavy apps like games, drain your battery quickly when they are running. Instead of using them while on battery power, try to use them when your iPad is plugged into a power source.
  • Limit use until the app is updated: If you are experiencing battery drain, there is a good chance that other users are as well. You can either limit the use of the app until an app update is issued, (most updates will usually fix battery issues), or try to contact the developer directly. Take a look on iTunes for the app and you should see developer contact information there.
  • Dim the display: The iPad has a great display, and many apps look good when you have the display's brightness set at its brightest. The issue with this however, is that a super-bright display will drain your battery quickly. Try turning the display brightness down as low as possible in order to slow how fast the battery is drained.
  • Limit network connections: Similar to your display, having Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios always on will also drain your battery. If you aren't connected to Wi-Fi, or don't have any Bluetooth devices, then it is best to turn them off. The reason for this is because if they are on, they constantly look for a connection which eats up battery power.
If you are looking for more ways to decrease or manage the power drain on your iPad contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
October 8th, 2014

AndroidTablet_Oct07_CThe tablet, more specifically Android tablets, offer a wide variety of functions to business users, one of which is the ability to chat or even call other colleagues and customers. One app that enables this is Google Hangouts, which has recently been updated with not only a new look, but also enhanced calling features.

Looking at the new version of Hangouts

In late September, Google launched a new version of Hangouts for Android devices. With it came a new redesign that reflects the upcoming Android L's Material Design look. When you update and launch the app you will notice that it has changed slightly, with a light green bar across the top and three to four icons:
  • A person: Tapping this will show you your connections, ranked by frequent contacts first, then alphabetical after that. Selecting a contact will open up either a new chat (if you have never messaged the person before), or will open up an ongoing chat (if you have messaged them before).
  • A speech bubble: Tapping this will open up existing chats and SMSs (if you have a SIM card for your device) listed in chronological order.
  • A plus sign: Tapping this will allow you to search for a contact to either start a new chat with, or continue chatting with.
  • A phone: This is a new connectable app called Google Hangouts Dialer (more on that below). It may not show up on some devices.
Tapping your name at the top of the bar will slide a menu in from the left with a number of options including: Invites, Archived conversations, Moods, Settings, etc. Overall, the new update makes the app look much better and even easier to navigate.

Looking at Hangouts Dialer

Since 2009, Google has offered VoIP-like calling features through an app called Google Voice. People who signed up for this could make low cost or free calls to anywhere in the US and Canada, and some other countries as well. Like most other VoIP services, they could also call internationally for low rates.

Users in the US could also pick a local number which could be used for incoming calls. When anyone dialed that number, as they would any other mobile or landline number, the call would go over the Internet or data connection. What is interesting about this is that the number was free, so anyone with an existing data connection or Wi-Fi could theoretically obtain a free phone number.

Earlier this year, rumor broke that Google was going to be getting rid of Google Voice. Instead, the company announced that they would be merging it into Google Hangouts, thereby bringing VoIP calling and Google Voice features into the already useful chat app.

In mid September, shortly after the main Hangouts update, the company introduced the Hangouts Dialer app which, when installed, essentially turns the app into a phone. For those with Google Voice accounts, you will be able to migrate your account into Hangouts and continue using the service as you ordinarily would.

Migrating Google Voice to Hangouts

This migration can be done by launching either Hangouts or Voice. You should see a box pop-up on Hangouts asking you if you want to turn on phone calling in Hangouts. If you select yes, you will need to download the Hangouts Dialer app. From here, open the Google Voice app and you should see a blue box at the top asking you if you would like to migrate to Hangouts. Pressing Turn it on! will start the migration.

Once this is complete, you can use either the Hangouts Dialer or Hangouts app to place VoIP or Google Voice calls. For those who don't have Google Voice, or who live in an area where it isn't available, you can still call other contacts using Hangout's VoIP functionality. Just open a chat, and tap on the phone icon at the top of the screen.

This feature, while currently limited to users in the US and Canada, is great for tablet users who are looking for a way to connect to the office, but don't want to shell out for both a tablet and a phone. If you would like to learn more about this app, or how Android tablets can fit into your organization, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 7th, 2014

Office365_Oct07_CWhile there are numerous popular software suites out there for businesses, one of the most popular has got to be Microsoft's Office. Over the past couple of years, different versions of Office have surfaced, including Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365. While both types include Office, there is confusion as to the difference between them.

What is Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office 2013 is the latest version of Microsoft's popular Office suite. With apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more, it is mostly similar to all previous versions of Office. When you purchase this type of Office you receive a number of licenses allowing you to install this on up to five computers or devices - depending on the version (e.g., Home, Student, Professional) of Office that you get.

You can purchase these products outright, as you have done with previous versions of Office, but Microsoft is really pushing their subscription-based version of Office, what they call Office 365. When you subscribe to the Office 365 version of Microsoft 2013, you get the same software as you would if you purchased it outright, the only difference is you pay for it either monthly or yearly, instead of all at once.

What is Office 365 for business then?

Where it gets confusing for many is that in 2011 Microsoft launched a cloud-based version of Office for businesses also called Office 365. Despite the same name as the subscription-based version of Office 2013, this is a different product that is aimed at businesses.

Office 365 for businesses is a monthly (or yearly) per-user subscription service that offers businesses productivity software, enhanced communication apps like email and video conferencing; guaranteed security; and support for intranet and collaboration solution SharePoint.

With Office 365 for business, companies can sign up for a number of plans. Some of them, like Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business, offer full versions of Office 2013 (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Lync, Outlook, Notes, Access, etc) that users can install on their computers or mobile devices. Other versions, like Office 365 Small Business, come with Office Web Apps which can be accessed via your browser.

Which is better for business?

Most businesses will benefit more from Office 365 because of the extra features and enhanced security. Not to mention the fact that the monthly per-user cost is usually lower when compared to licensing the same version of Office 2013 for each individual.

Some other benefits Office 365 for Business include:

  • All users are on the same version of Office: Because Office 365 for Business is based in the cloud and is managed via a central admin panel, you can ensure that all users have exactly the same version of Office, which in turn ensures that your files will be compatible.
  • Reduced licensing costs: If you were to purchase individual versions of Office 2013 for your employees, you could end up paying over USD $399 for the Professional version which can only be installed on one computer. Compare this with Office 365 Small Business Premium which costs USD $12.50 per user, per month and offers the same version of Office, along with more features.
  • Enhanced security and uptime: Microsoft guarantees that Office 365 software will be up and running 99.9% of the time, which means the programs you rely on will be available when you need them.
  • It's more mobile: With Office Web Apps and Office 2013 mobile apps you can take your work anywhere. Combine this with solutions like SharePoint which allow you to store documents in a central location, which makes it easier to access your files while out of the office. Beyond that, if you would like to use the Office mobile apps, you will need an Office 365 subscription.
If you are looking to integrate Office 365 into your organization, or would like to learn more, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 2nd, 2014

Security_Sep29_CIt's probably safe to say that the security of your networks and systems is something you are concerned about. In truth, the majority of businesses do have security measures in place. The question you therefore need to ask yourself is if the measures you have implemented are sufficient enough. To help answer that question, here are five common security flaws business owners should be aware of.

1. Open wireless networks

Wireless networks are one of the most common ways businesses allow their employees to get online. With one main Internet line and a couple of wireless routers, you can theoretically have the whole office online. This method of connecting does save money, but there is an inherent security risk with this and that is an unsecure network.

Contrary to popular belief, simply plugging in a wireless router and creating a basic network won't mean you are secure. If you don't set a password on your routers, then anyone within range can connect. Hackers and criminal organizations are known to look for, and then target these networks. With fairly simple tools and a bit of know-how, they can start capturing data that goes in and out of the network, and even attacking the network and computers attached. In other words, unprotected networks are basically open invitations to hackers.

Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that all wireless networks in the office are secured with passwords that are not easy to guess. For example, many Internet Service Providers who install hardware when setting up networks will often just use the company's main phone number as the password to the router. This is too easy to work out, so changing to a password that is a lot more difficult to guess is makes sense.

2. Email is not secure

Admittedly, most companies who have implemented a new email system in the past couple of years will likely be fairly secure. This is especially true if they use cloud-based options, or well-known email systems like Exchange which offer enhanced security and scanning, while using modern email transition methods.

The businesses at risk are those using older systems like POP, or systems that don't encrypt passwords (what are known as 'clear passwords'). If your system doesn't encrypt information like this, anyone with the right tools and a bit of knowledge can capture login information and potentially compromise your systems and data.

If you are using older email systems, it is advisable to upgrade to newer ones, especially if they don't encrypt important information.

3. Mobile devices that aren't secure enough

Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are being used more than ever before in business, and do offer a great way to stay connected and productive while out of the office. The issue with this however is that if you use your tablet or phone to connect to office systems, and don't have security measures in place, you could find networks compromised.

For example, if you have linked your work email to your tablet, but don't have a screen lock enabled and you lose your device anyone who picks it up will have access to your email and potentially sensitive information.

The same goes if you accidentally install a fake app with malware on it. You could find your systems infected. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your device is locked with at least a passcode, and you have anti-virus and malware scanners installed and running on a regular basis.

4. Anti-virus scanners that aren't maintained

These days, it is essential that you have anti-virus, malware, and spyware scanners installed on all machines and devices in your company and that you take the time to configure these properly. It could be that scans are scheduled during business hours, or they just aren't updated. If you install these solutions onto your systems, and they start to scan during work time, most employees will just turn the scanner off thus leaving systems wide-open.

The same goes for not properly ensuring that these systems are updated. Updates are important for scanners, because they implement new virus databases that contain newly discovered malware and viruses, and fixes for them.

Therefore, scanners need to be properly installed and maintained if they are going to even stand a chance of keeping systems secure.

5. Lack of firewalls

A firewall is a networking security tool that can be configured to block certain types of network access and data from leaving the network or being accessed from outside of the network. A properly configured firewall is necessary for network security, and while many modems include this, it's often not robust enough for business use.

What you need instead is a firewall that covers the whole network at the point where data enters and exits (usually before the routers). These are business-centric tools that should be installed by an IT partner like us, in order for them to be most effective.

How do I ensure proper business security?

The absolute best way a business can ensure that their systems and networks are secure is to work with an IT partner like us. Our managed services can help ensure that you have proper security measures in place and the systems are set up and managed properly. Tech peace of mind means the focus can be on creating a successful company instead. Contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security