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October 30th, 2014

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

1. Replacement parts are difficult to find

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

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

2. Repair costs outweigh replacement costs

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

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

3. You are running 'legacy' systems

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

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

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

4. Hardware is impeding productivity

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

5. Your systems don't meet minimum requirements

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 29th, 2014

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

1. New technology and systems offer increased resilience

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

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

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

2. Enhanced data protection and availability

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

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

3. Systems offering increased communication

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

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

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

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

5. Technology that decreases costs

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 28th, 2014

Web_Oct27_AFor many businesses the cloud has become a driving factor that supports numerous technical systems. These systems have been proven to reduce costs, increase productivity, and ensure security of vital data. However, there are still a large number of cloud related terms that can confuse. To help, here is an overview of 10 commonly used cloud terms.

1. Cloud app

A cloud app, or cloud application, is any application that is supported by a cloud service, or is accessed over the Internet. The key difference from other apps is that the vast majority of cloud apps are not installed on a device, rather they are accessed via a Web browser.

Some mobile apps are cloud-based, whereby an app is installed on the device and allows you to access data that is stored in the cloud.

2. Cloud burst

Cloud burst is a term used to reference a specific setup that many companies employ. Essentially, this is the idea of implementing a private cloud solution that provides for most usage requirements. When demand exceeds capacity, the company can integrate a public solution to cover the excess demand thereby "bursting" into another cloud.

A good example of this is when a company uses a private cloud solution to store data. When the threshold for maximum data storage is reached, they can implement a public cloud solution to increase overall storage. All essential information stays in a private cloud, while non-essential information is moved to the public cloud.

3. Cloud

The cloud is any service or solution that is delivered to a user via their Internet or network connection. To many, this term has come to be associated with the Internet.

4. Cloud management

Cloud management is often used to refer to a set of software or administrative panels that are specifically designed to allow business managers, owners, and IT teams to monitor and manage their cloud-based solutions. This often includes data, applications, and cloud services.

These tools are of strategic importance because they help to ensure that your cloud resources are functioning optimally and that users are able to interact with them properly. They also allow you to audit who has access to what and even add new accounts when needed.

5. Cloud provisioning

Cloud provisioning is the actual deployment of a cloud strategy. This often includes the selection of solutions and then which data and solutions will reside on either public or private clouds. Services are then deployed and data is migrated, usually with the help of an IT partner.

During the provisioning process, IT partners will also take the time to develop processes regarding how you will interface with the cloud solutions you will be implementing and set who has access to solutions.

6. Cloud storming

Cloud storming is the act of connecting multiple cloud services into a useable platform for your business. Some companies also use this term to refer to the idea of brainstorming about the cloud and how to use, or implement, it in daily operations.

A good example of cloud storming is where a company implements a cloud-based CRM solution from one provider, a cloud-based productivity suite, and cloud-based email at roughly the same time in order to better support operations while reducing operating costs.

8. Public cloud

Public cloud services and solutions are just that: public. They are available for any person or company to purchase or subscribe to and implement. With these services, all data or apps are hosted outside of the company and accessed over the usual Internet connections.

Public cloud services are usually the most common type of cloud implemented by companies who are first moving over to the cloud.

8. Private cloud

A private cloud is any cloud solution that is hosted by a company's own resources. This could be on servers kept on-site, or rented servers that are then configured so that the solution is only available to the company, not the public.

While mainly large companies will employ private clouds, smaller companies looking for a niche cloud solution are starting to implement these as well.

9. Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud is a solution implemented by companies that has elements of both public and private cloud solutions. Essential data or business processes are hosted or delivered by a company's own cloud service, while less essential services are delivered by public clouds.

Many larger companies employ this model of cloud computing for data storage as it allows them greater control over where their data is being stored, while ensuring that essential or highly regulated data can be stored in a secure manner; managed by the company.

10. Cloud portability

This is the level at which data maintained or stored in one cloud service can be moved to another. It is also used by experts when moving whole systems, such as apps, from one provider to another. If the overall portability is low, then it will be difficult for the user to move either apps or data from that provider.

Another similar term used by experts is 'Vendor lock-in', which is used to describe a dependency on a certain cloud provider and the general difficulty of moving away from this provider due to lack of other solutions or mechanisms that enable transfer. For many companies, it is a good idea to look for a provider that won't lock you into their cloud, or at the very least offers some portability options.

If you want to know more about how the cloud can benefit your business then connect with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web
October 23rd, 2014

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

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

Installing new apps to a MicroSD card

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

Moving installed apps to a MicroSD card

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

Windows_Oct20_AAt the end of September, Microsoft held their now annual Windows event, where they announced the next big version of Windows - Windows 10. While it seems a little odd that they are skipping 9 completely, from what we can see, 10 is shaping up to be the best version of Windows to date. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect from the latest version of Windows.

Why Windows 10?

When first announced, many eyebrows were raised regarding Windows 9 being skipped. In the tech world, missing out a number with a sequence is not the norm, yet Microsoft stated that they believe that the next version of Windows will be such a drastic improvement over Windows 8 that calling it Windows 9 would not do it justice. From what we can see of the new system, there really are some drastic improvements, including:

One operating system (OS), many systems

When Windows 8 was released, a slightly modified version of the OS was also released for mobile devices. While this was good news, especially for mobile users, the systems were still largely separate, with different apps, app stores, and more.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has noted that the OS has been designed to run across all systems. This means that different devices will likely have slightly different interaction experiences but the underlying system will be the same. For example, there will be one way to write programs for all devices, one app store, and updates will be applied to all versions of the same app, on all devices, at the same time.

A new, yet familiar, Start menu

Windows 8 was a drastic departure from the familiar Windows desktop layout. For the most part, it was despised by business users, who instead have largely bypassed this layout for the traditional Desktop mode. Windows 8.1 allowed users to boot directly into the Desktop, but one large feature has been lacking: a Start menu.

Windows 10 welcomes it back! As with older versions of Windows, the Start menu will be at the bottom-left of the screen, and pressing it will bring up the familiar menu of programs and options. Only now, the old Tile-based layout has also been merged into this section. Think of the traditional Start menu bar, but with a mini-tile based section to the right that will be customizable.

Everything opens in a window

If you've ever downloaded an app from the Windows App store, you likely have noticed that they automatically run in fullscreen mode. With Windows 10, any Windows Store apps will open in window-format, similar to any desktop app.

When apps open you will see the familiar taskbar, along with the maximize, minimize and close buttons. This will make it much easier to work in multiple programs at the same time.

Multiple Desktops

Microsoft Virtual Desktops is a feature that will allow users to create different desktops for different purposes and switch between them quickly and easily. While you will only need to install Windows 10 once, you can have a different desktop setup for say home, personal, and business use all under one user.

Each desktop can display different icons and layouts, but all desktops will have access to the programs installed for that user. Essentially, this will make it easier for business users who also use their devices for personal use or those who need to switch roles at work.

An enhanced File Explorer

File Explorer has been a part of Windows for a while now, and its main function is that it helps you to find your files and folders. In Windows 10, this feature will be upgraded to now search for not only your files and folders, but also to scan the Internet as well. You will also be able to quickly see recent and most popular files and folders, meaning you'll be more likely to be able to find what you are looking for in less time.

When will it be available?

Microsoft has already released what they call a Technical Preview of Windows 10. Anyone can sign up to download Windows 10 and install it on their computers. We would advise against this however, as this version is incomplete and there will be bugs and compatibility issues.

The company has noted that this current version is really for tech experts to install on secondary computers and test, so business users will have to wait! At the time of this article there has been no actual release date set for Windows 10, but you can probably expect it sometime in early 2015. Microsoft has also been quiet about the price, but rumors are circulating that it will either be free or affordable for users to upgrade to if they already have an older version of Windows installed.

Get ahead of the curve and find out what benefits Windows 10 can bring to your business, by dropping us a line first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

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

1. Selfies

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

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

2. Inside looks

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

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

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

3. Quotes

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

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

4. Fill in the blanks

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

5. Videos

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
October 21st, 2014

Office365_Oct20_AMicrosoft is working hard to ensure that their popular cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365, is constantly being improved. Because of the great products and support offered, businesses are continually migrating to the platform. If you are considering moving to Office 365, you should be aware of five factors that can cause a migration to fail, so you can avoid them.

1. Slow Internet connection speeds

Because Office 365 is primarily cloud-based, you are going to need a solid bandwidth connection to use it. When migrating your files and system over to Office 365, you will likely need to consume a large quantity of bandwidth. This demand will often be enough to to tax most small business lines, resulting in lower Internet speeds all around while the migration is happening. If this is being carried out during business hours, employees might struggle to do their jobs properly if they are reliant on the Internet.

Beyond this, Office 365 is most often delivered over an Internet connection, rather than in-house servers. This means that the day-to-day demand for bandwidth will increase. If you are already noticing slow speeds and service interruptions before implementing Office 365, you will likely see these issues compounded after implementation.

To avoid this, you should ask an Office 365 provider to test your existing network connections to ensure that your Internet connection can handle the migration and day-to-day operation of Office 365. If not, a provider should be able to offer you a solution.

2. Mailboxes and files are too big

While the business versions of Office 365 do come with 50 GB of email storage and over 1 TB of file storage per user, actually getting your emails and files online could take a while, especially if you have users whose email inboxes are approaching the storage limit.

As a general rule of thumb, larger files will cause the migration of files to take longer. If this is not prepared for, then you could see migration affecting work or even continual issues of data not being available when it's needed.

To avoid this, you should encourage your staff to archive their email inboxes and either delete or remove emails with large attachments that aren't necessary.

3. Uninformed users

The average Office 365 migration takes from one to three days, depending on the size of the business and the amount of data moving over. If you start a migration without informing users that some files and emails won't be accessible over this time, or that even some systems may not be working, you could end up with employees unable to do their jobs and creating resentment of the new platform.

To avoid this, you should inform your employees about how the migration will run and what they can expect during the migration. Beyond this, you should try to run training sessions on how to use the new systems to ensure that everyone is familiar with it before they start to use it. This will increase the overall chance that the platform migration and subsequent use will be successful.

4. Older, less compatible software installed on systems

While many versions of Office 365 do come with subscriptions to the latest version of Microsoft Office, there is support built in for systems that are running slightly older versions of Office. If your business is using a version of Office that is older than Office 2010 (e.g., Office 2003), you will not be able to properly use Office 365.

Beyond this, you will also need to be using the latest version of Internet browser. If you use Chrome or Firefox, this won't be a problem, however if you use Internet Explorer you will need to be sure that you are using the latest version. Should you be using older systems, especially those no longer supported by Microsoft, you may also have trouble accessing Office 365 because you may be unable to upload to the latest version of Internet Explorer.

The good news about Office 365 is that actual systems requirements are low, so almost every business will be able to integrate it. We recommend that in order to avoid failure, or being unable to use all of the features, you should ask your provider to ensure that your software and systems are able to support Office 365.

5. Migrating yourself

On paper, migrating to Office 365 is a fairly simple and straightforward process. What many companies find, when they choose to migrate themselves, is that the process is often much more difficult than expected. Many companies come across unexpected issues that require an IT expert to solve.

In order to ensure a smooth migration from start to finish, it is a good idea to work with an IT provider like us. We can ensure that your systems are ready and the migration is smooth. Contact us today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 16th, 2014

VoIP_Oct13_AWhen looking at a new VoIP system, or even upgrading an existing one, there are a number of factors you need to take into account if you want to get the best solution possible. One of the most essential aspects you should look at is Quality of Service, or QoS. If you can't get a guaranteed QoS you could see performance and call issues. To help, here is a quick overview of QoS and questions you should ask any provider.

What is QoS?

When you hear VoIP providers or IT experts talking about Quality of Service what they are referring to is the overall performance of a VoIP system or network. This performance is usually measured by what the end-users think of as the system's performance and by looking at other statistics like bandwidth use, transmission (call) delay, error rates, etc.

Why is it important?

QoS is not just used for VoIP systems, in fact it has been something even traditional phone providers strive for. Think back to your original landline service, chances are that 99% of the time call quality was perfect, or near perfect. This is because traditional phone network providers invested in physical networks and connections that offer high QoS, all of the time. If you switch from one provider to another, there is a good chance that quality doesn't change.

With these well established physical networks, you are going to have to pay more though. Most traditional phone systems are more expensive than VoIP, because the network providers have to physically maintain their transmission network (phone lines, switches, etc.). This high-maintenance cost is also the reason why there are only a couple of phone providers in your area - it's just too costly for small companies to launch a traditional phone network.

The Internet, more specifically broadband connections, have enabled VoIP and therefore lead to a high number of VoIP providers, largely because you don't need to own the transmission network (in this case the Internet) to launch a VoIP platform. Because of this, the QoS amongst providers varies drastically.

What this means for you is that you should be taking a provider's QoS into account when looking for new VoIP systems. To help you ensure that you are getting the best possible, here are three questions you should ask each prospective provider:

1. How much of the network infrastructure your system uses do you own?

Almost every VoIP provider will rely at some point on public Internet in order to transmit their services. Essentially, the less infrastructure a company owns, the higher the risk that quality will be lower. Conversely, using more public systems means lower prices, so it really is a trade off you need to think about.

For businesses that rely on phone systems, one of the best options is to look for facilities-based providers. These companies own all, or most, of the network that carries VoIP calls and can therefore offer better services and quality.

2. How much traffic will run over public Internet?

This answer will vary amongst providers. Some of the most popular solutions amongst really small businesses and home users like Vonage will use almost 100% public Internet for their traffic. Other companies will use a mixture or public and private networks, often using public for more affordable services and private for high-end users.

For example, cable providers who offer VoIP calling will often use public Internet to carry lower-level traffic, while high-end business plans will often run on private networks. The reason to ask this question is because traffic that goes over public Internet networks will be subject to bandwidth sharing. If there is a high demand for bandwidth in the general area, call quality may drop.

3. What level of quality can you guarantee

Good providers will be able to guarantee a QoS that is comparable, or even better, than traditional networks. This is especially important for businesses who are looking to switch to a full VoIP solution. What a provider should do is run a few tests on your network and then give you a quality assurance. If it is too low, then look for another provider.

Want to know more about how VoIP can benefit your business? Get in touch with us first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_AIn order for email to work, systems rely on what are called protocols. These are essentially a set of rules that dictate how data moves from system to system. When it comes to email, there are currently two major protocols: POP and IMAP. While most email systems will support both, it is a good idea to know the difference between the two and which is generally better for you.

Difference between POP and IMAP

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

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

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

Which protocol should my company be using?

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

Topic Productivity
October 15th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct13_AMobile technology like phones and tablets has become essential for businesses of all sizes. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you are not only more mobile, but can also be more productive. While these devices are being integrated in higher numbers, it really is the apps that enable users to do more. The question many business owners ask however is what apps should they invest in if they want to be able to attend to business on their device. Here are five types of apps you should have on your device.

1. File creation, management, and collaboration

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

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

2. Lists

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

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

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

3. Notes

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

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

4. CRM

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

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

5. Communication

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.