Blog

July 17th, 2014

BCP_July14_AWhen it comes to ensuring that your business will not only recover from the next disaster, but also be able to continue to operate, it is essential that you implement a business continuity plan (BCP). When developing and fine-tuning these plans there are a number of key metrics you should be aware of, with the two most important being RTO and RPO.

While both RTO and RPO are important elements of continuity plans, and they both sound fairly similar, they are actually quite different. In this article we define RTO and RPO and take a look at what the difference is between the two concepts.

RTO defined

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is the target time you set for the recovery of your IT and business activities after a disaster has struck. The goal here is to calculate how quickly you need to recover, which can then dictate the type or preparations you need to implement and the overall budget you should assign to business continuity.

If, for example, you find that your RTO is five hours, meaning your business can survive with systems down for this amount of time, then you will need to ensure a high level of preparation and a higher budget to ensure that systems can be recovered quickly. On the other hand, if the RTO is two weeks, then you can probably budget less and invest in less advanced solutions.

RPO defined

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective, is focused on data and your company's loss tolerance in relation to your data. RPO is determined by looking at the time between data backups and the amount of data that could be lost in between backups.

As part of business continuity planning, you need to figure out how long you can afford to operate without that data before the business suffers. A good example of setting an RPO is to imaging that you are writing an important, yet lengthy, report. Think to yourself that eventually your computer will crash and the content written after your last save will be lost. How much time can you tolerate having to try to recover, or rewrite that missing content?

That time becomes your RPO, and should become the indicator of how often you back your data up, or in this case save your work. If you find that your business can survive three to four days in between backups, then the RPO would be three days (the shortest time between backups).

What's the main difference between RTO and RPO?

The major difference between these two metrics is their purpose. The RTO is usually large scale, and looks at your whole business and systems involved. RPO focuses just on data and your company's overall resilience to the loss of it.

While they may be different, you should consider both metrics when looking to develop an effective BCP. If you are looking to improve or even set your RTO and RPO, contact us today to see how our business continuity systems and solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 11th, 2014

Hardware_July07_AIn the last article, we looked at how Mac and PC differ in terms of specifications, operating systems and software; and here we continue to explore other differences between the two rivals. When it comes to buying a computer, it’s not just about design and specs, but also about models, availability, security, customer satisfaction, and of course price.

Models

Apple offers five computer lines comprising of the Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro. This limited selection is not a sign of weakness but a part of the company’s 'less is more' approach to marketing.

PCs have a larger variety to choose from, with industry giants such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, who offer numerous configurations of both desktop and laptop models. This can be beneficial in helping you find a specific computer that meets your needs.

Availability

When it comes to third party retail stores, Apple is more selective than PC manufacturers about where it sell its products. As of April 2014, Apple has 424 retail stores in 16 countries and an online store available in 39 countries. However, Macs are still not available at many stores that sell PCs.

PCs are the most numerous and popular computers out there, and can be found at every store that sells computers, except for Apple stores. This makes it easier to find PCs, especially if you don't live near an Apple store.

Security

With the vast majority of computers running on Windows, most attacks focus on PCs. Malware like Trojans, which trick users into installing the software by pretending to be a useful program, or botnets, are common to PCs, but rarely harm Macs.

This doesn’t mean that Macs are 100% secure. As Macs become more popular, threats are increasing. Nonetheless, a Mac user is still less likely to be a victim of successful attack than a PC user.

Customer satisfaction

Recent surveys conducted by PCWorld and PCMag revealed that personal users choose Mac over every single brand of PC available. Businesses on the other hand still prefer to stick with PCs.

While Apple does score high on many surveys, especially because of the value placed on face-to-face service, there are a number of PC manufacturers that offer a comparable service. Also, there are more smaller repair shops that offer unrivalled customer service.

Price

One of the most cited differences between a Mac and a PC is price. Generally speaking, Macs are more expensive than PCs due to their preference of building products around higher-end computers with more costly components. The cheapest Mac computer is the Macbook Air which starts from USD$899, while various models of PCs can be found at a much lower price.

Mac and PC both have strong and weak points. It’s best to try both and see which is the better tool for you and which will cover your business needs. If you are looking for a new system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_ABYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is one of the most common business trends of the past couple of years. To many, the idea of bringing their own phone, tablet, laptop, or even computer to the office is ideal because it is a system they are undoubtedly familiar with. They may also view personal devices as better than the office models. Even if you don't allow your employees to bring their own devices to work, there is a good chance they do anyways. However, this could pose a security risk that needs to be dealt with.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 10th, 2014

BI_July07_AAs businesses of all sizes continue to integrate more technology, the amount of data available to companies will grow exponentially. However, not all of that available data will be important or even useful. And, as you collect more and more data, it will be harder to process and analyze it without becoming overwhelmed. In order to avoid this, you should ensure you have a well defined data collection system in place.

What is well defined data collection?

Everyone collects data, even people who don't use computers. The key to being able to successfully leverage the data you have available to your business lies in a strong foundation - in this case, how you collect your data. With an appropriate system in pace you will know what data to collect and measure, and just how important it is. From here, you can more effectively analyze and interpret it, allowing you to make more informed decisions.

If you are looking to implement a new data collection system, or improve on how you currently collect it, here are six tips that can help:

1. Think about what customer interactions are important

Often the most important data you need is in relation to your customers. Your first step should be to define important customer interactions. For example, if you own an online store, you will likely want to know where your customers come from, the items they click on, items they add to their cart, and items they ultimately buy.

By first identifying important interactions to track, you can then look for metrics and data collection methods related to these interactions. This makes it easier for you to track the most important data.

2. Think about what behavior-related data is important

Don't just focus on those customers who have completed a purchase or followed through the whole business chain. Think about what behavior could produce data that is important to your organization.

To continue the online store example from above, this information could include how far down the page people scroll, how many pages deep they go when looking at product categories, how long they spend on a site, and where those who don't convert leave from.

Collecting and analyzing data like this can be a great determinant of what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

3. Look at important metrics you use

Sometimes the way you collect your data will depend on how you plan to measure it. This includes the different metrics you use to define the success or failure of marketing plans, sales initiatives, and even how you track visitors.

Be sure to identify which ones your business currently uses, as these will often point you towards the relevant data you will need to collect.

4. Identify the data sources you are going to use

In many businesses there are redundancies with data collected. For example, a CMS (content management system) will often have some of the same data points as Web analytics, or a POS (Point of Sale) will have some of the same data points as an inventory system. Due to this, you are going to have to identify what systems will provide what data.

On the other hand, many businesses use data from multiple systems for one key metric. In order to ensure that you are collecting the right data, you will need to identify these sources and ensure that they are compatible with your data collecting system. If they aren't, you could face potential problems and even make wrong decisions based off of incomplete data, which could cost your business.

5. Keep in mind who will be viewing the reports

When implementing data collection systems and subsequent data analysis systems, you will likely start generating reports related to this data. It is therefore a good idea to identify who will be reading these reports and what the most important information they will need is.

This information will be different for each audience, so be sure to identify what data they judge to be important. For optimal results, you should think about who will be reading the data reports and what relevant data needs to be collected in order to generate them.

6. Set a reasonable frequency for collection and analysis

This can be a tough one to get right, especially if you work in an industry with high fluctuation or your business is in a constant state of change. Your best bet is to look at when you think you will be needing data. For example, if you are responsible to submit a monthly sales report it might be a good idea to collect data on at least a bi-weekly basis in order to have enough to develop a report at the end of the month.

You should also look at who will be getting the reports and how long different campaigns or business deals will be in place. The frequency will vary for each business, so pick one that works best for your systems and business.

If you are looking to implement a data collection system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 7th, 2014

Microsoft Excel is such a powerful tool. We all know it, but most of what we use the program for are simple calculations and data collections while we know there is so much more there. The problem for most is that there are TOO MANY functions and tools to use, so we get lost, don’t know what we could or should use and don’t even try.

To help you out, we’ve picked 3 of our favorites to share with you. Using any one of these functions is certain to improve your company and make you more productive.

1. Conditional Formatting. Did you know that you can apply this simple tool to a collection of data and Excel will automatically format your data via color coding so it will “pop out” based on any criteria you choose? If you have any size data set that you need to analyze, this function greatly simplifies your job.

2. CountIF, SumIF and AverageIF. These rarely used functions are amazing when you apply them. If you have a spreadsheet full of data with common classifications or labels, you can easily count, sum or average each label using these 3 formulas. And the supercool part is that if you update any data, your functions will automatically update based on your changes. If you’ve never used any of these 3 IF functions, give them a whirl on your next spreadsheet.

3. Paste Special. I’m sure you may have used this function before, but you probably never realized the power it contains that we hardly use. Use the paste special function to convert your spreadsheet data from rows to columns (and vice versa), divide (or multiply) a whole series of numbers and more!

Topic Articles
July 7th, 2014

FREE Executive WEBINAR

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

10:30—11:00 AM

During this WEBINAR you’ll discover…

  • What cloud computing is and why many companies are considering this technology for their business.
  • How cloud computing can lower your IT costs , and what are the risks.
  • Answers to important questions about security, where your data is stored, and how it is backed up.

If you missed our “Cloud Computing” Lunch & Learn in June, here’s your opportunity to join other business leaders in learning more about the benefits and risks of cloud computing!

Register: www.zanacore.com/cloudwebinar

Topic Articles
July 7th, 2014

1. “Miracle On 34th Street”

What You’ll Learn: The greatest lesson in salesmanship that no one follows.
The Entrepreneur’s Lesson: Santa Claus, working at Macy’s, goes out of his way to help customers, often encouraging them to shop elsewhere for the best deals. Instead of losing customers, Macy’s becomes overwhelmed with customers seeking Santa’s help. Macy’s sales increase simply by doing what’s best for the customer – too bad they don’t do this in the real world, but you should.

2. “Click”

What You’ll Learn: What it’s like to fast-forward life.
The Entrepreneur’s Lesson: Adam Sandler wants to keep fast-forwarding to the major accomplishments of his career. He loses the balance between work and home, and misses the lessons hidden in life’s daily routine. Entrepreneurs are generally of the “I want it all now” breed, and this movie will show you how wrong that is. Take the good with the bad, and never stop pursuing your entrepreneurial AND family dreams.

3. “Glengarry Glen Ross”

What You’ll Learn: Lying, cheating and stealing never work long-term.
The Entrepreneur’s Lesson: Hard-close sales work…for a single sale. Ultimately your reputation is ruined, and deceived people lie in your wake. This movie is all about what not to do as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, too many businesses still follow these practices. Get in an industry with a “Glengarry” reputation and be honest, reliable and go out of your way to be helpful. Your business will flourish.

4. “Office Space”

What You’ll Learn: If you don’t like what you are doing, change.
The Entrepreneur’s Lesson: Follow your gut. If you hate what you do, change. Just don’t steal – that never works. Instead, find your passion and pursue it. And if you already own a business you love, don’t mess with Melvin. He might just burn down your entire building.

5. “Jerry Maguire”

What You’ll Learn: What you expect when launching your business never comes true.
The Entrepreneur’s Lesson: Hands down, the best movie of all time for entrepreneurs. Jerry leaves his big-money agency position to go out and start his own shop. Just like any entrepreneur who leaves to start their own business, he suspects every client will leave with him. There is no easier way to start a business, right? This movie shows the real deal. Nothing ever goes as planned.

michael

Topic Articles
July 6th, 2014

prospectFor many businesses, advertising on Facebook can be a big time and money suck. Even though Facebook is the #1 social media tool, it can be difficult to get a great ROI since you’re marketing to a wide range of prospects.

The biggest problem is getting a qualified prospect to “Like” your company Facebook page so you can market to them…but who goes out and likes a potential vendor’s page? Nobody, that’s who! And if you market based on demographics, then you’re targeting a bunch of people who don’t know you on a platform where they’re not looking for your product or service in the first place. They are there for cat pictures and videos of their 2-year-old nephew. The answer that solves a big part of this dilemma…“Facebook Audiences.”

Facebook Audiences allows you to display your Facebook ads specifically to just about anyone that you have an e-mail address for, without them even knowing you are marketing to them this way. Plus, based on market testing, ads directed to a targeted “house list” instead of demographics (or interest-based lists) cost about 75% less with 4 times the results. Not too shabby.

So ask yourself…who do you have e-mail addresses for? Clients… Prospects… Membership lists from groups you belong to… E-mail opt-ins… You can segment your list in any way you want.

Have a list of clients or prospects who expressed interest in a product but never bought? Create an audience of just these people to remind them about the product with a special Facebook offer. The list segmentation is nearly endless.

To use Facebook Audiences, you upload your e-mail list to Facebook and they will match these e-mail addresses up to Facebook user accounts. Not everyone has a Facebook account, but based on our testing so far, somewhere between 35%-60% of your e-mail list should match up with Facebook.

To find out more about custom audiences and how to get started, simply Google “Facebook custom audiences” and you’ll find all of the “how to” that you need.

Topic Articles
July 6th, 2014

Do you have mountains of information stored on your server that you’ll never use, but feel like you should keep? You are not alone. Given expanding regulatory rules, some businesses save every bit of data they have, just to be safe.

You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal in keeping everything?” While it is true off-site data storage costs have gone down by about 25% every year, the fact is that keeping your data forever can create big management challenges and lead to retrieval headaches. Most often companies that save everything don’t do so because they think it’s the best way, but because they aren’t sure what needs to be saved.

Every organization needs to save data for its own purposes, such as transactions, accounting records and so on. Not only that, but industry regulations require companies to save certain kinds of content for a prescribed period.

So what should you be doing? Here are 4 data-retention strategies you must consider:

1. Start with the storage analysis, not the storage technology or procedures. Know what data has to be kept and for how long. Many times requirements are dictated by industry or legal requirements.

2. Segment user populations. Use categories such as executives, back-office employees, sales and people who deal with the company’s intellectual property and treat their data differently.

3. Be precise and consistent with data-retention policies.

4. Don’t confuse backup with archiving. Since backup systems don’t generally have the granular control needed to save some types of information for a short time and others for longer, using them as archival systems can be costly and risky.

We can assist you in identifying best practices and cost-effective software tools for your business. Contact us by July 31st at 678-822-5815 to receive a FREE DATA STORAGE AUDIT (normally $297!)

Topic Articles
July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_ALast month, in the first part of our article about how to successfully share content on social media we covered five tips to follow. From writing longer content, to using images, and playing on specific emotions we highlighted some great information that can really help get your content shared. This month, we take a look at the next five tips.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.