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January 4th, 2016

vipreFor the first half of 2015, almost all of our customers’ devices depended on VIPRE antivirus software to protect them from malware and other cyber security threats. A year later, we now protect the devices we support with Webroot SecureAnywhere.

Why did we make this change?

In late spring, we started receiving support requests from our customers that were identical across all companies. Outlook would get stuck “loading add-in 7/9: VIPRE antivirus object” and never move past that screen, even after a full reboot. The only way to resolve the issue once it had occurred was to disable VIPRE, leaving their mailboxes unprotected.

At the same time, many of our customers were hit by CryptoWall 3.0, a variant of the Cryptolocker ransomware virus, after opening infected email attachments. This occurred on systems that had antivirus software fully enabled, meaning that VIPRE simply wasn’t able to detect the malware. Fortunately, none of our customers lost any data, as we were able to restore their files and systems from our off-site backups, but affected individuals still suffered downtime as we worked to remove the infection from their systems.

We quickly realized that we were using an antivirus software that not only couldn’t protect our customers from the most malicious virus out there, but was also actively causing issues with known, safe programs and seriously disrupting workflow.

WebrootWe immediately began looking for a replacement. After extensive research, we decided to go with Webroot. It’s the smallest antivirus software on the market, using just over 1MB of disk space, and received top ratings from two independent testing labs in 2015. It also received a perfect score in PC Magazine’s hands-on malware blocking test.

More importantly, Webroot doesn’t interfere with universally important applications like the Microsoft Office Suite – and our customers haven’t had a single email-related malware infection since the summer.

December 21st, 2015

If you read our blog post a few weeks ago, you’ll be able to recognize the signs that you need to purchase a new computer (or several). A new computer is a pretty large commitment, as you’ll expect it to last for approximately the next five years, and provide you with all the functionality you need during that time. Before you hand over the cash for a new machine, make sure you’ve followed these three steps:

Understand your needs

Purchasing a computer that doesn’t do what you need it to is about as useful as buying a cheeseburger for a vegan, and significantly more expensive. The product you ultimately end up purchasing will depend on the kind of workplace you have, as well as the requirements of the employee(s) who will be using it. At minimum, you should consider the following:

  1. How many people will use it? Will this computer be devoted to just one employee, or will it rotate between many employees working separate shifts?
  2. Will this computer be used as a full workstation, or is it just intended to connect to a virtual machine or Terminal server session?
  3. What is this computer being used for? Employees focusing on graphic design or web development may prefer to use a Mac, while users performing data analysis would benefit from a computer running Windows. Additionally, answering this question will tell you how powerful the computer needs to be.
  4. Does the computer need to be portable? Is your employee going to be transferring it between home and work or from site to site, or will it be stationed on top of a desk for the duration of its use?

Understand how the new computer will fit into your existing infrastructure

If your entire company works in a PC environment, introducing a Mac can be a risky move. Not all applications are available on both operating systems, and unexpected issues can arise from conflicts between the two. Connecting a Mac to a Terminal server hosted on a Microsoft server, for example, is frequently glitchy and results in bugs such as malfunctions in simple tasks like copy or paste commands. This same warning should be heeded for introducing a PC into a Mac environment.

It’s also important to ensure the computer’s hardware meets your requirements; some newer, lighter laptops don’t include Ethernet ports, but these are absolutely essential if your office doesn’t have a corporate wireless network.

Talk to your MSP!

Your MSP is better equipped than anyone else to advise you on your options. They will know which computers can best support your requirements, and have an in-depth knowledge of your network that enables them to inform you which systems will best integrate into your existing infrastructure.

Even if you have a good idea of the computer you need, it’s best to run it by your MSP first. They’ll may be able to offer you an alternative option, or even get you a better deal on the purchase than if you bought the computer through retail—and if you’re about to buy a computer that won’t work for you, you can be sure that they’ll let you know.

December 14th, 2015

Most current CRM, database, or accounting software include the functionality to export reports to Excel. This is useful for situations such as mail merges in Microsoft Word, or for sharing the information with someone who may not have the same software. However, export functions can sometimes be limited in the content of the reports they create. If the data needs to be pulled from two separate sections of a database, for instance, then the software may not be able to properly compile it. Fortunately, Excel doesn’t have this limitation. This allows you to export individual reports from your software, and combine them into one using Excel.

For the example below, we have generated one report containing all company names and addresses, and a second report containing company names and sales totals for our top 4 companies. Our goal is to add the company addresses to the spreadsheet that lists our sales totals. The difficulty in this is created by the fact that our second report doesn’t include all company names, while the first one does.

Follow the steps below to learn how to merge this data into one location:

  1. We’ll call our first spreadsheet Company Locations and our second spreadsheet Sales by Company. Make sure Company Locations is sorted alphabetically; this will make it easy to check that everything is correct once we’re finished.

Excel1             Excel2

  1. Create a column in between column A and column B in the Sales by Company spreadsheet, then paste all of the information from the Company Locations spreadsheet into Sales by Company.Excel3
  2. Select the addresses, cut them, and paste them into a separate Excel sheet. Column B should be blank once you do this, but you’ll need to hang on to the information you just removed.
  1. Remove all duplicates from Column A by opening the DATA tab and selecting “Remove Duplicates.”

    Excel4

  2. Sort your spreadsheet alphabetically from A to Z. This tool is also located in the DATA tab. Make sure you select the whole spreadsheet, not just column A.

    Excel5

  1. Paste the addresses you cut out in step 3 back into column B.
    Excel7
  1. Highlight column C. Press F5 on your keyboard, click the button that says “Special…” and select “Blanks.”

    Excel8  Excel9

  1. Hold down Ctrl and press the hyphen button on your keyboard (located between the 0 and the +/= keys). Select “Entire row” in the window that appears.

    Excel10

  2. Press okay and you’re done! You can also sort by highest numerical value again by highlighting column C, sorting from Z to A in the DATA tab, and selecting “expand the selection” when prompted.

Excel11

 

December 7th, 2015

businessmeetingWhether your business’s network is managed internally or by an MSP, you should be conducting regular reviews of your IT team to ensure they’re meeting all agreed-upon expectations, and are consistently working to improve the systems they support. This will also enable you to maintain regular, open communication regarding any future or ongoing projects that will be implemented by your IT team. We conduct quarterly business reviews with all our customers, but you may prefer to meet every six months, or on an annual basis.

During this process, we strongly recommend that you make sure you know the answers to the following questions:

  1. Are SLAs consistently being met?

SLAs, or Service-Level Agreements, outline the contracted delivery time for a particular service or performance level. SLAs for MSPs may include initial response times to HelpDesk support requests, the timeframe within which a technician will begin working on an issue, and the duration of time it will take to resolve the problem.

If SLAs are not being met, this is almost always indicative of a larger problem. Either they were unreasonable to begin with (expecting all issues to be resolved within two hours, for example, is highly unrealistic for any large-scale or complex problems), your IT team’s quality of service is dropping, or there is a lack of employee resources available to tackle the existing problems.

An MSP is in charge of their own hiring process, and should always ensure they have enough technicians to keep up with their workload. In the case of internal IT, however, recent struggles to meet SLAs may indicate the need to hire another team member, or consider balancing the work between internal IT and an MSP.

  1. Do you know when your last backup was completed? Is your IT team conducting regular, successful backups of all systems?

Consistently backing up all data to a secure, off-site location is crucial to your business’s survival. According to the US Bureau of Labor, 93 percent of companies that suffer a significant loss of data are out of business within five years. After a situation such as fire, natural disaster, or even system infection by ransomware like Cryptowall, your data needs to be fully intact and recoverable. If your IT team isn’t conducting regular backups, or the backups are failing, you’re just one bad day away from going out of business.

  1. Is your IT team consistently reviewing the software and hardware it uses to ensure you have best-fit, up-to-date options in place?

Technology is a rapidly evolving sector. Products that were top of the line five years ago are now considered out of date, and products from ten years ago are no longer being supported by the companies that created them. We recently wrote a blog post on the best time to purchase new computers, but workstations aren’t the only hardware in your system that may eventually need an upgrade.

Your IT team should be monitoring servers, switches, wireless access points, BDRs, UPSs, and any other network-connected devices to determine if they’re nearing end of life and if they are experiencing performance or other issues that may indicate they will soon fail. They should also proactively keep themselves informed of new hardware releases so that they can identify the best replacement or learn of hardware with additional functionality that may serve you better than the current systems you have in place.

This same review process should also be enacted for any line-of-business applications on which your business relies. Your IT team should be aware of more recent versions, software patches, and entirely new programs that could give you functions you were previously unable to utilize.

  1. Can your IT team tell you what proactive work it’s doing?

In addition to reviewing the hardware and software used by your company, your IT team should also consider larger-scale network upgrades if your company is growing, keep informed of current infection threats and the best protection against them, and monitor the network for connectivity issues, system failures, and issues such as failed backups. If you’ve hired an MSP that isn’t working proactively to ensure your technology is functioning at its best, then they’re only conducting break-fix operations and can’t be considered a true MSP.

  1. Is there consistent communication between you and your IT team?

This is the most important question to ask yourself. Your IT team will need a degree of autonomy to function at its best, but you should still be kept informed of any major issues, the progress of current projects, and any future network changes they may be considering.

There should always be open lines of communication between you and your IT team, whether they’re an MSP or an internal department within your company. Regular meetings and reviews are a good way to initiate communication, but if you don’t feel that you can bring questions or concerns to your IT team at any time, it may be time to take a closer look at your working relationship, and determine just how well it actually is working.

November 30th, 2015

This new desktop computer comes with Windows 10.Computers are expensive. If you haven’t budgeted for it, purchasing a new machine means you may need to take a bit of a hit. It’s tempting to just keep trying to repair existing computers for as long as possible, but eventually the cost of replacing parts or otherwise repairing the machine will add up to more than you would have spent on a brand new one—and then, after all that, you’ll still have to purchase a new system when the old one dies. After a certain point, repairs can only delay a purchase, but not prevent it.

With that in mind, here are a few signs that you’ll need to purchase a new computer sooner rather than later:

Your company is growing, and you will soon have more employees than computers.

Although this seems like a bit of a no-brainer, it’s important to plan ahead. If you’re bringing on new employees before you have computers ready for them to use, you’ll just end up wasting their time and your money while they wait. It’s best to speak to your MSP about purchasing new workstations as soon as you know you’ll be bringing more people on board.

This is also a great time to review your existing infrastructure and make sure it can handle your expansion. You’ll want to discuss server capacity with your MSP before all of your new computers are up and running on the network in order to make sure that any upgrades that may need to occur are put in place before they’re needed.

An existing computer’s warranty has expired and it needs repair or new parts.

Sometimes it can be more cost-effective to repair a computer or replace a hardware part than it would be to purchase a new one. However, the amount that this will extend the computer’s lifespan needs to be taken into consideration. Most computers are projected to last anywhere from 3 to 7 years, but if you’re using your computers for more intensive work than just word processing and internet browsing, that number may come down a bit to 3-5 years.

The most clear sign that your computer’s hardware is about to fail is a new or louder noise coming from the system. Something may have come dislodged inside it and is causing damage to itself or to other parts, or the fan is having to work significantly harder to keep up with the work being demanded of it. Any change in the sounds you hear while your computer is running normally is a cause for concern.

If you’ve purchased an extended 3-year warranty for the computer and it experiences major hardware issues after this point, it’s likely time to consider whether you can get more value out of repairing the computer or purchasing a new one. Once it hits the 5-year benchmark, it’s highly unlikely that any repair will extend its life for much more than a year, and possibly even less.

It’s important to keep track of the age of the workstations at your company, because once their warranty expires, it’s time to start budgeting for their replacement.

New software can’t be installed because hardware specs don’t meet the minimum requirement, or you can’t install the latest operating system.

old computerAfter a point, old hardware is no longer compatible with new software. Old operating systems can also be problematic; Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, for example, which means that they will no longer provide technical assistance or release security patches. It’s usually possible to install a new operating system, but there are hardware requirements for more recent operating systems that older machines may not be able to meet.

Rather than waste time trying to find workarounds for software that can’t be installed on an old operating system, and an operating system that can’t be upgraded due to limited hardware specs, it’s best to just purchase a new computer that won’t have these problems.

The computer is running more slowly than before, and there is nothing your IT team can do to fix it.

Computers run more slowly as they age. You know the signs: you can make a cup of coffee while it boots up, websites take longer to load than it takes you to send a text, and you can type half a sentence before any words start to appear on the screen. Up until a certain point, your IT team usually has quite a few tricks up their sleeve to improve your computer’s performance: rebooting the system to clear temporary files, run scans for malware, check for CPU usage and drive space, etc.

If your IT team has exhausted their options, and the system is still running slowly enough to impact your work, age may be the cause. If this is the case, then the only solution is to purchase a new machine.

In general, if your IT team strongly suggests that you replace a computer, it’s worth taking their advice into serious consideration. They should be tracking the number of issues your computer experiences, as well as the cause of these issues. If that number significantly increases, but it can be lowered by purchasing a new computer, they’ll let you know.

Remember—replacing a device doesn’t mean you have to completely retire it.

It can feel like a waste of money to recycle a computer that may still have a year of life left in it. If it’s functioning poorly, but still functioning, consider keeping it as a spare. Employees may need temporary replacements in case of unexpected hard drive failures, or if situations such as the Cryptolocker virus arise and their computer needs to be physically sent in to your IT team for them to handle. In these situations, a slow but working computer can get an employee through the few days it may take to repair their workstation or set up a new one.

If you’re unsure about whether you need to purchase new computers, it’s best to get in touch with your IT team. They’ll have intimate knowledge of your existing computers, and will be able to answer any questions you may have about their future functionality. They will also be able to advise you on your options for replacement.

Overall, you should err on the side of caution. In order to ensure stable and continuous workplace productivity, too many computers are better than not enough.

November 23rd, 2015

Most people never think about their computer names. Some people affectionately name their machines like they would name a car, but very few actually bother changing the name the computer uses for identification on the network. Your MSP or IT team, however, relies entirely on this system of identification in order to keep track of all the computers they manage, and will likely put their own naming scheme in place for this purpose.

In businesses where the same computer can be used by many people, or one person may be using multiple computers, it’s important to be able to tell your IT team which computer is experiencing the issue you’re reporting. Although your IT team should be able to walk you through finding this information, knowing it in advance will save you time and will enable your MSP to solve the problem more quickly. Once you’re familiar with the process, it will only take you a few seconds to locate the name of any computer.

Here are five different ways you can find your computer’s name:

1. Press and hold the Windows key, then press the Pause/Break key.

Your computer name can be found under the “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings” section of the window that appears. This window will look almost identical regardless of which operating system you’re running.

Find your computer name under the section titled Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings

If you use a full keyboard with your desktop computer, the Pause/Break key will be located to the right of your function keys in the top row. If you’re using a laptop, your keyboard may not include this key. In this case, you can use the following sequence to find the name of your computer:

2.  Press and hold the Windows key, then press the R key. Type the letters “cmd” into the prompt box that appears. Type the word “hostname” and press enter.

Depending on the permissions your IT team has put in place, you may not be able to open the Command Prompt window. If you run into this issue, you can try one of the following three options, depending on your operating system:

3. Windows 7: Click on the start menu, right-click on Computer, and select Properties.

This will open the same window as option number 1, allowing you to find your computer name under the section titled “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings.” The information you’re looking for is just the computer name, not the full computer name.

win7


4. Windows 8: Hover your mouse over the top right-hand corner of your screen. In the sidebar that appears on the right, click on the settings icon and select PC Info.

Windows 8.1 is a little different. If you’re running this version, you’ll need to right-click on the Start button and select System. If you aren’t certain which operating system you’re running, simple trial-and-error should tell you pretty quickly.

5. Windows 10: Open the Start menu and click Settings. Select System, then About.

Strangely, the newest version of Windows also requires the most steps to find your computer name. Fortunately, each click is fairly intuitive and shouldn’t be difficult to remember.

If you can’t find the name of your computer using any of these options, it’s worth sending a quick email to your IT team asking them if they know what your computer name is or if they’re able to walk you through finding it. Once you know your computer name, it’s best to memorize it or write it down somewhere so that you’ll have it on hand in case of an issue. After all, if your hard drive crashes or your operating system freezes, none of the above steps will be of much use to you.

November 12th, 2015

Every time something goes wrong with one of your employees’ computers and they have to call their IT support, they lose time and your company loses money. MSPs understand this, which is why they work proactively to prevent problems before they occur. However, computers will inevitably experience technical or hardware-related problems, so it’s important that your employees have a basic level of knowledge that will enable them to recognize problems when they occur, allow them to try a few simple troubleshooting steps that may resolve the issue more quickly than calling IT support, and take a few easy steps to prevent small issues from blowing up into big problems.

With that in mind, here are the top three things that we think all employees should know about computers:

  1. When and why you should restart your computer

Restart your computer frequently.This is more extensively covered in a previous blog post, but the conclusion is simple: you should restart your computer at least once a day in order for it to perform at its best. Restarting your computer frees up memory space and clears temporary files that have been stored on it, allowing it to run faster. It can also resolve the following issues:

  • Frozen applications or frozen operating system
  • Disconnected network drives
  • Hardware issues such as loud fan noise or an unusually hot system

Finally, restarting your computer is required in order to install Windows Updates, and may be necessary to finish installing other software or software updates.

  1. How to recognize when you have a virus

Malware comes in many forms, including spyware, ransomware, keyloggers, and other malicious code. Listing the symptoms of every existing virus would be impossible, but as a general rule, it’s a good idea to run a virus scan every time your computer behaves unusually. Ignoring a virus or failing to recognize it for too long can have disastrous consequences.

This is an example of "scareware" that is actually attempting to steal your personal information.

This is an example of “scareware” that is actually attempting to steal your personal information.

If a computer starts running slowly and a reboot doesn’t speed it up, there may malware running in the background that is slowing it down. If you start receiving strange pop-up messages on normally secure websites, or when you aren’t browsing the internet at all, it’s an almost guaranteed sign of a virus. The same can be said for any time your default browser window is set to a strange search engine or other unfamiliar page, and almost every time a toolbar has been installed either without your permission or packaged as part of an unrelated software.

However, it’s also important to recognize when you are being tricked into believing you have a virus. Malicious code on websites frequently relies on scaring people into downloading a virus disguised as antivirus software. Another common tactic is to scare you into calling the scammer, who will use that opportunity to try to steal your personal information. If you suddenly receive a message while browsing the internet warning that you have a virus and need to download antivirus software or call a phone number, chances are you don’t yet have malware on your computer. It’s best to simply close the tab or window in which you received the message, then run a virus scan from an antivirus software you trust.

  1. Why you should save your files on the network

Most businesses today use a NAS to store network drives. Depending on what permissions are set, network drives can either be accessed by some or all employees, or can be restricted to a single user. When each user is given their own network drive, they are presented with the option to either save their files on the network drive or save them on their local machine (e.g., in their My Documents folder).

It is extremely important that all employees save their files on network drives instead of on their local computers. In case of a system infection such as the Cryptolocker virus, where all files are encrypted and held for ransom, or in another situation involving data loss, it’s necessary to be able to restore all information quickly and accurately. Loss of data can also lose companies time, money, and trust from their customers.

It’s important to always back up your files. However, if regular backups are made of data stored on servers but not on local machines, or if backups run more frequently on servers than individual computers, any files that were saved on an employee’s computer may not be recoverable, or may be restored from a much older version.A NAS, or Network Attached Storage device.

This is also the case for any system or hardware malfunctions that may render a hard drive unsalvageable. Files saved on the local computer may not be recoverable if the hard drive crashes, but it only takes minutes to connect a user’s network drive to a new computer without any loss of data..

Ensuring your employees know when to restart their computers, how to recognize when they have a virus, and why they should always save their files on the network, will significantly decrease the amount of time they spend on the phone with their IT team, and will help prevent potentially disastrous situations for your company. We would highly recommend including this knowledge as a part of the training process for all new employees.

November 2nd, 2015

Have you tried turning it off and on again?As the stereotype goes, your IT team’s first question when a problem is reported is often, “have you tried restarting your computer?” or “have you tried turning it off and on again?” It’s easy to get offended when this question is asked, but the truth is that many problems can be resolved by a simple reboot. In fact, the longer you leave your computer on without restarting it or shutting it down, the more likely it is to start experiencing issues.

As a general rule, computers running old versions of Windows should be shut down every night to achieve their best performance. Computers running newer versions of Windows, as well as Mac computers, can be shut down or restarted less frequently. Note that a computer going into sleep mode is not the same as being shut down; there are still processes running in the background while it’s in sleep mode.

If you begin experiencing issues and your computer has been up and running for over a week, it’s best to try restarting it before you or your IT team attempt any further troubleshooting. It’s natural for a computer to start running more slowly if it has been left on for a long time, and restarting it will usually speed things up. This works because a reboot will free up memory space and clear temporary files that were stored by various pieces of software.

Most commonly, restarting your computer can fix issues with freezing or applications that get stuck at “not responding.” If your computer is frozen and you’re unable to click on the start menu to restart it, you can manually shut it off by pressing the power button, waiting a few seconds after it shuts down, then pressing the power button again to turn it back on. If the issue is still present after the restart, a call to your IT team may be necessary.

CTRL + ALT + DELAny time you install a Windows update, your computer will need to be restarted. This is also true for many software updates or installations, so if you notice any expected changes that have yet to take effect, a reboot may be necessary to complete them.

Restarting a computer can also resolve issues with network drives. If you can’t connect to one or all of your network drives, rebooting your computer will force it to try connecting again, which may resolve any temporary glitches which were previously preventing it from connecting.

Finally, restarting your computer can even resolve a few hardware issues. If you notice a laptop is unusually hot or its fan is particularly loud, it may just be working too hard and need a quick reboot to bring it back to a fresh state.

Restarting your computer on a regular basis, and particularly when you experience any of the above issues, will save you a lot of calls to IT support, which will in turn save you time and your business money. It will also make it easier for your IT team to pinpoint the source of the problem if they already know it couldn’t be resolved by rebooting your computer. And, perhaps most importantly, won’t it be satisfying to answer “have you tried restarting your computer?” with “yes, of course”?

February 20th, 2012

Thinking of adopting a "bring your own device", or BYOD, policy at work? Learn more about what it is, why it's becoming popular – and what you need to consider before rolling it out.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the "consumerization" of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a "bring your own device" or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today's younger generation of workers (a group called "millenials") not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.
However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:
  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don't employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn't belong to them, or it's against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.
Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2012

For smaller companies and businesses who are constantly on the lookout for great free finds on the web: here are a few nifty and free online tools that might potentially help you, both in saving costs and boosting your productivity and efficiency.

It is a constant challenge for small businesses to meet ever-changing and ever-evolving IT requirements while balancing a budget and keeping costs reasonable. And with software applications being one of the major factors that contribute to IT maintenance costs, it is always welcome news to come across free tools that work well and efficiently despite the lack of a price tag.

ThinkFree Online Office One of these applications is ThinkFree Online Office, which is a cloud application that enables you to create and edit documents in common formats. It also comes with free 1GB of storage and allows you to work from anywhere, since the documents are stored online. And with its own app for Android users, ThinkFree is particularly advantageous to people who need to work on the go.

ReqMan Another free cloud-based application that can prove useful is ReqMan, an online project management tool. You can use this to manage and track your different projects using various templates the service provides. And since it's in the cloud, mobile personnel and staff who are given access to your ReqMan account can work even when they're out of the office.

Gliffy Gliffy is a free tool that you can use to create all sorts of technical illustrations – diagrams, floor plans, flowcharts, and more. The basic plan is free, but you also have the option to subscribe to their more fully featured plans for a minimal fee.

ScheduleOnce For managing schedules, calendars, and the like, ScheduleOnce allows you to keep better track of all your appointments, meetings, and deadlines through a single tool. It integrates with your calendar on Google, and then allows other people to see your open times when they can schedule a meeting with you. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for your scheduling needs.

If you want to know more about these tools and how you can best utilize them, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to guide you and help you make the most out of these types of applications to improve your efficiency and bottom line.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.