Tag Archives: IT Consulting

What can hosted workspaces do for your business?

16 Dec 15
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As our culture continually evolves more and more toward mobility and flexibility with the use of tablets, smartphones and notebook computers, business is happening all the time, everywhere, in places we never would have dreamed. Companies are implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies to make it easy for their employees to maintain a productive pace after they leave the office. And there’s a growing trend emerging to make it work to a company’s advantage.

The concept of a hosted workspace involves a desktop environment situated on a remote server that provides a “virtual office” where employees’ own personal devices can be used to do business seamlessly and relatively safely. Users have easy access from their various devices, from virtually anywhere they may be—inside or outside the office.

It provides a nice little setup giving users a way to interact and work with all of a company’s data, applications and programs just as they would a traditional desktop computer environment—but without the stationary, cumbersome, and costlier machines anchoring them to workstations.

The hosted workspace means that, as a business, you are saving on equipment costs and the constant software upgrades that go along with these conventional setups. Hosted workspaces work and grow with you no matter what the size of your company.

If you fear less security with a mobile environment, your fears are unfounded. The opposite is actually true. Hosted workspaces are proven more secure—providing built in security features, including virus protection and secure cloud server storage for your data. And if you think about what you could lose should your security be breached in a traditional office computer environment, you’re looking at what can be a devastating loss.

So for many businesses, hosted workspaces offer the best advantages that mobile technology has to offer, while keeping your employees nimble and efficient—to do business anywhere. We think that’s a pretty cool idea. Contact us here to find out how TechnoAdvantage can help you craft your own hosted workspace.

Getting Your Tweet On: What Businesses Need To Know

28 Oct 15
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Part of using technology to your advantage includes having a social media presence where your customers are. And that may mean Twitter is a part of your mix. Even if you’re uncomfortable with (or fearful of) this environment, you need to push past that if you want to be a player.

So the primary question now isn’t really Should my business be tweeting? But rather How often? And to follow up on that: What do I tweet?

There are no perfect answers to these questions. The best approach is to just go for it—develop some sort of plan and implement it and see what feels right for your business and your audience. Then keep tweaking it.

The plan might include:

  • Set days you will tweet. Example: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • A balanced mix of tweet types: stories, news, case studies, offers, “asks”
  • Relevant posts—not posting just to post. Don’t blast the universe every day with meaningless tweets. Think about whether you’d engage with it. Is it interesting? Are you helping someone? Are you offering something?
  • Engage with what is happening. If you tweet but never keep an eye on the responses, you won’t know if your audience is being engaged in our message. You should check Facebook and Twitter every day, and respond to your customers in real time.
  • Be flexible. Try posting tweets at different times of the day to determine when your customers are most active. Test different types of tweets to see what gets attention. Keep refining your strategy.
  • Research your audiences’ tweeting habits. While Facebook offers analytical tools to determine customer activity, Twitter does not, unfortunately.

There are many third-party resources out there to help you, including:

  • Tweriod: This free Twitter tool will tell you when the best times are to tweet as well as analyze your tweets and your customers’ tweets.
  • SocialBro: Helps you optimize your Twitter strategy by analyzing your top 100 twitter followers and producing a report to help you engage specifically with that audience. It also has expanded Social Marketing and Listening and Insight services available at reasonable cost.
  • HootSuite Auto-schedule: Use this tool to schedule tweets to post automatically for you at the prime times when past tweets have performed well.

We give a tweet about your business and keeping it lively and engaging for your customers, using technology to your advantage. For more ideas, contact Techno Advantage today!

 

Running your business on relics? Time to think of cleaning house.

15 Sep 15
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You’re small, nimble, and don’t need the latest and greatest expensive technologies—we get that. It’s costly. It’s time consuming to research the stuff. You may not even know what exists out there. However, some of the old technology you’re still hanging onto to run your business may be costing you more money than avoiding a new purchase is worth in the long run. And you may be unwittingly blocking new profitable opportunities.

Now might be the time to embrace new technologies as you purge your office of the relics. So what are these old technologies you should think about getting rid of? Consider moving away from:

  1. Big old honkin’ desktop computers. They were once the standard, just like landlines. We all know what’s happened there. You no longer need these clunky space hogs that chain your employees to their desks. Today’s business is done on the go. Give your employees the freedom to get the job done anytime anywhere. Today’s laptops have all the power, speed and affordability that desktops had. There’s no reason not to make this change.
  2. Mobile phones for your business. To be clear: Mobile phones for your employees—yes, great. Paying for them—no, don’t. A more cost-effective and preferred route is the “Bring Your Own Device” policy. Most businesses today are doing this—and savings thousands of dollar each month. Don’t forget to protect your business with a written BYOD policy.
  3. Purchasing localized software. Used to be that businesses would buy software they needed for any old computer function: word processing, image/ graphics, accounting. These often came bundled in expensive packages along with a lot of crap they don’t need but were paying for.  If this is the way you’re still doing it, consider a move to Software as a Service (SaaS). You pay only for what you need and it’s stored on the fluffy white cloud. Many of the networks, platforms, and software you need are available as a service with more being added all the time.
  4. Using portable onsite storage exclusively. Backing up your valuable data with physical onsite storage devices has its place—external hard drives, flash drives, CD burners. They make sense for a lot of situations. But if that’s your only line of defense against data loss, you are putting a lot at risk. If a device fails or is stolen or damaged, you’re in trouble. Wise is the business owner who employs the cloud or offsite storage to back up his or her data.  There’s an efficient and cost-effective way to combine the best of both onsite and offsite data backup that will give you peace of mind.

Get in touch with TechnoAdvatange for more ways we can help your business flow with the best IT solutions.

Is Cryptovirus back as a worm?

03 Sep 15
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19798163_s (2)Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does—it seems likely there is a new variant to the Cryptolocker virus—that insidious virus known to encrypt all your files and hold them ransom for $300. This new strain may or may not be Crypt, but it was reported recently to have been able to replicate to other workstations and begin encrypting user folders, though many IT peers do not believe that capability exists as yet.

Whether it is possible or not, it’s something to watch out for. The affected business not only was infected across multiple workstations, but also its server by way of mapped drives. The victim in this case saw a web page open at the workstation with a threatening hijack message and links to download the solution that unlocks the user’s data.

Its evil authors no doubt immediately began working on this new poison once researchers from FireEye and Fox-IT were able to reverse-engineer the virus and provide a solution to Cryptolocker’s victims in May of this year. Of course, half a million people had already been affected and 1.3 percent had paid cash to free their files from the criminals—to the tune of $3 million.

Following the forum discussion about this new case reveals that the most likely source of this virus may actually be a flash-based ad on a compromised site that many people in the office could have accessed. It is possible that someone shared a link containing the virus, or perhaps everyone had a program installed already that popped up an embedded ad that was clicked on.

No matter whether the new strain is able to actually replicate to other stations or not, this is a good reminder to take every measure available to safeguard your files. Number one, add this virus’s file names to your file screens: *.aaa and restore_. Two, backup always! Three, get legit anti-virus and monitoring software. Four, patch your workstations. Five, contact the team at Techno Advantage for help selecting the right cloud-based or on-premise backup and storage solutions.

Need more help deciding how to protect your business from a malware attack? Contact a Techno Pro today! And watch this blog for updates on any new malware. We want to keep you informed.

Why and How to Get Password-Smart NOW!

18 Aug 15
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It seems the more we advance technologically and the more we rely on the security of our online accounts, the harder it gets to keep them secure. As fast as new protection is created, hackers find ways to crack the code. How to keep your passwords secure as your front line of defense? We need to be smart about it. Here are some ways:

  1. Change your flippin’ passwords! An online survey reported in a Dell Power More article found half of all passwords were more than 5 years old! A whopping 77% had not changed their password in at least one year. And even scarier, 21% use passwords they created more than 10 years ago! Come on, people.
  2. Don’t use duplicate passwords on multiple accounts. The same article states that 73% of you are doing this. You must realize that when a hacker cracks your password code, they then have access to ALL of the accounts you are “protecting” with that password.
  3. Use password management tools, like Last Pass, or those built into browsers like Chrome. Though this is not 100% safe from a hack attack (as we experienced a couple of months ago), it is still one of the best ways to add a strong layer of protection to your accounts and allow you to need only remember one master password.
  4. Be random. The more random the password, the more secure. People often create easy to use and remember passwords like Il0vemyd0g! but thieves know these patterns and can quickly generate these passwords to gain entry to your accounts. Using nonsensical passwords is a strong protection. Some password management tools like last pass will even generate them for you.
  5. Use two-step verification (aka two-factor authentication). They may be able to get past a password, but if you have two-step verification required, this means you must also provide a second bit of personal data to access your account. It might be an email or text sent to you with a code. This type of tool is good especially for sensitive accounts like banking and credit cards.
  6. Use password recovery. You’re going to need a lot of passwords if you’re the average user with 24 online accounts. And many companies will make you change your password frequently. You’re going to forget–let’s just agree to that. So use password recovery options to retrieve them. Some let you validate an account through a code sent to you via text message or a phone number you call to give personal information only you would know. Always think in terms of backup when it comes to securing your accounts.

We’ve got to be smart to outsmart our foes. It takes a little extra effort, but well worth the peace of mind knowing your precious personal data is safe. We hope these tips will give you new ways to combat the enemy.

What other tools or ideas do you have to protect your online accounts? We’d like to share those here. If you need help setting up a secure online defense, talk to us at TechnoAdvantage. We’re in the business of helping you do business smarter.

The Legal (And Smart) Way to Spy on your Competitors: Business Intelligence

04 Aug 15
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It used to be that Business Intelligence (BI) was reserved only for large corporations with IT budgets to match. But with the advent of the cloud, the growth of software-as-a-service and more competition overall, BI is now within reach for small businesses too, and they’re reaping the benefits.

One 2013 study done by Oxford Economics reported that more than half of firms having sales under $100,000 planned to use BI within three years—representing an increase of 43%. While that offers optimism, you should be careful before embarking on a BI plan. In an article published by Computer World, Gartner research stated that between 70% and 80% of business intelligence projects fail.

So take your time to find out some key indicators of its advantages for your business. Understand, first, what it means, second, what it can do for your business, and third how you can execute it successfully.

What is Business Intelligence? Sounds very James Bond, but a little less thrilling. BI is a software technology that focuses on finding trends in varied sets of data to deliver intelligence you can use to make smart business decisions. It’s facts, figures, data analysis generating reports and charts and other helpful insights you can put to work for you.

Some larger software giants like Microsoft and Intuit have developed solutions for small businesses, giving you the opportunity to leverage this market without a huge investment—and without employing a full-time data expert to use it.

Three top solutions you’ll want to explore and compare are Tableau, Birst, and QlikView. All have user-friendly platforms and each has nuances you’ll want to discover for yourself. But know that BI is an involved process no matter what software you use. So before you step into it, it’s best to define the business need you’re trying to solve, and then determine if you have the operational data required to pull from.

Ready to gather more intelligence on taking advantage of IT in your business? Contact TechnoAdvantage today!

We’re Windows Watchers

22 Jul 15
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We all recall the giant leap we took when Windows 8 launched. Its new interface was a bit traumatic for many, and definitely took some getting used to. For better or worse, it’s the new direction of Windows, and now with Window 10, they’re settling in and building on that, encouraging us along with more empowering features that play off the familiarity we’ve grown into with the past two Windows releases.

Windows 10 is like a new friend you’ve started to get comfortable around but still has a few more tricks up their sleeve. A recent Windows Blog post had this to say:

“It’s the best combination of the Windows you already know, plus lots of great improvements you’ll love having. The familiar Start menu is back in a more robust and expanded format that provides one-click access to the functions and files you use most. You can quickly reach your most frequently used apps, PC settings, and there is plenty of space to add your favorite Live Tiles.”

We think the redesigned Start menu is going to bring smiles to both the confused Windows 8 crowd and the Windows 7 die-hards. Here are some of its nicer features:

  • Your most used apps are right there in your face, easy to get at
  • Microsoft will place in front of you new suggested/recently added apps for you, based on what you like and own already, so you don’t have to go searching. It knows you. Plus the new apps you’ve downloaded are right there to easily access or pin to Start.
  • All Apps is every app you’ve got, neatly ordered alphabetically, to let you browse like a champ.
  • Places gives you a quick portal to tap into File Explorer, Settings and Power.

As we approach the July 29 launch date, we’re seeing more and more efforts by Microsoft to educate the public on the newest features and how to get the most out of them. Here’s hoping that’s enough for the average Windows user. We’ll try to bring you more helpful information and keep you informed.  Have questions?  Contact Techno Advantage today!

The New Windows 10 Cometh! Are You Ready?

09 Jun 15
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As operating systems go, Windows 7: a sturdy workhorse. Windows 8: not so great. Windows 9: no you’re not crazy, there isn’t one (don’t ask). Now comes Windows 10, and all eyes are on Microsoft to make it work and make it good in order for them to remain a major player and help us forget our sadness from Windows 8. From all reports, this may just be the ticket.

Windows 10 is coming July 29, 2015. So you need to plan.

 Should I upgrade? When?

If you’re a Windows 7 platform, you’ve got a good thing going but you should still plan on taking advantage of the free upgrade sometime within the first year.  You don’t want to miss out on it.

If you’re a Windows 8 or 8.1 user, upgrading to 10 will be like satisfying that itch that never got scratched when you upgraded to 8.  Upgrade within twelve months, for free. After that you’ll have to pay to upgrade, but then you’ll receive free updates beyond that. Why not right away? Bugs, that’s why. Wait a bit and let those pesky critters get discovered and worked out before you take the plunge.

What’s are some great things about it?

Unlike its predecessors, Windows 10 will be standardized to work across-platform, which means the same code will work on all your company’s devices–computers, tablets, phones, and even Xbox when everything is said and done. This is huge in terms of simplifying the user experience, allowing employees to sync up and manage all their communications. And making everything smoother for programmers—no separate PC version, mobile version, etc.

This standardized platform means it’s going to be easier to get all the benefits from its new features. And the truth is that most people probably only use about 20 to 30% of any business applications’ capabilities. You could likely be taking advantage of some pretty cool features that can make your people more productive. One of these features is the enhanced, voice-drive Cortana tool. Or the new Edge browser, designed to let you search right from the address bar. Or the Hub where you can keep all the things you collect on the web. And Web Notes, that lets you write, doodle, take notes and highlighting directly on webpages.

We’ve got a good feeling about Windows 10 and will be reporting more on it as we go. This upgrade goes hand in hand with the new CEO at Microsoft, Satya Nadella—I don’t think it’s coincidence. He’s making big changes at Microsoft; some cool innovative things are happening and he’s putting Microsoft back on the map as a company that helps customers work and play better. Let’s keep our eyes on this.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Connect with us on social media using the icons below!

 

Are You Ready to Migrate Away from Windows Server 2003?

21 Apr 15
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Last fall we wrote a post about planning for Windows Server 2003 end of life.  In that post, we recommended migrating to new server hardware and upgrading to the current version of Windows Server which is Server 2012 R2.  Well, now just a few months remain until Windows Server 2003 reaches the end and we thought it was worth another mention.  As of July 14th, 2015, security updates will no longer be released, new applications and programs will no longer support the OS, and systems will fall out of compliance.

You may be asking…”What steps can I take to prepare?”  Well, you can start with these 3 actions:

Step 1: Make an Applications List

The first thing you’ll want to do is assess the installed applications. For instance, do you have programs that currently run on a 32-bit Windows Server 2003 installation? Some of those programs may have issues when moving to a 64-bit environment such as Server 2012.  Identify items that will be affected and document them. Now is the time to think about updating legacy applications and solutions.  It may also be useful to create a list of users for each application.  Finding applications that no longer have active users potentially simplifies the migration plan.

Some applications such as an exchange server may be easily moved to a cloud solution such as Office 365.

Step 2: Determine Risks

Many things can go wrong during a server migration.  Consider the costs if a critical system would become unavailable.  During this phase of planning, get to know your backups and determine what could go wrong.  You don’t want to find out that one key application no longer works post-migration and have no backup in place.

Step 3: Make a Rollback Plan

As its name implies, a rollback plan lets you roll back or revert any changes you made so everything goes back to the original state—before you made any changes. It is important to have a rollback plan just in case something does go wrong. If downtime during the migration becomes unacceptably long, you should have a plan to revert back to Server 2003 and get everything back to normal.

An execution plan is the final step in the process and you need a strong team of IT professionals by your side to make sure your plan is solid.   Techno Advantage stands ready to guide you through the whole migration process from purchasing the equipment to implementation.  Don’t wait!  If you haven’t started thinking about this…you need a plan.

Read more about Windows Server 2003 End of Life on our blog.  CLICK HERE

The New Look of Techno Advantage

24 Mar 15
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Have you heard the saying “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”? Well, we’re growing and we want to share the latest news with you in today’s post.

Like many businesses, our previous website was little more than an outdated placeholder on the World Wide Web.  It wasn’t “working” for us at all.  We knew that the Techno Advantage website needed a makeover if we we’re going to keep pace with our competitors, be found online and continue to provide excellent service to our existing clients.  An informative, optimized and mobile responsive website was a critical next step. This winter, we located a talented design partner and began the planning process.

Since spring has officially arrived in Indianawe’re very excited to announce that the Techno Advantage website has a fresh new look. Everything from the navigation and images to the behind the scenes SEO infrastructure has been updated and improved.  What is SEO you ask….great question, follow this link to read the Wikipedia definition.  One of the main goals of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to improve your ranking, which was one of the driving factors behind our website remodel. We wanted to ensure that those businesses that need us could find us.  Consider this…there are, on average, ten positions on a typical search results page. The pages that fill those positions are ordered by rank. The higher your page is on the search results page, the better your click-through rate and ability to attract searchers.  Results in positions 1, 2, and 3 receive much more traffic than results down the page, and considerably more than results on deeper pages.

On the new Techno Advantage site, you’ll find well organized and helpful content, as well as blog posts right at your fingertips on a variety of topics, such as: data backup and disaster recovery, cloud computing, VoIP phone systems, and all things Microsoft.  Our blog has a new name – we’re calling it the Techno Forecast.  Get it…?  Lightning bolt logo, weather, technology…forecast.  Genius right?

We hope that you enjoy the new features of the website and promise to continue to provide useful information to help you stay on top of your technology.  You can expect to see new blogs from Techno Advantage twice per month on a variety of IT related topics.

Be sure to friend, follow, circle and link up with Techno Advantage on your favorite social media platforms!