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March 11th, 2014

Office365_Mar10_AThere is more to a PowerPoint presentation that just adding words and images to your slides. If you aren’t careful, chances are your audience will end up sleepwalking while you're in the middle of your presentation. While that may sound scary, you don’t necessarily have to experience that. Given that you follow the tips we’ll be sharing, your PowerPoint presentation should end up becoming an effective one.

Choose a font size and style that can be seen by your audience from a distance

There is no point in creating a PowerPoint presentation if your audience can’t even see or understand what’s on your slide. One of the best ways to ensure that your audience does in fact understand what’s written is for you to use the proper font size and a simple font style.

You have to consider how far back your audience might be sitting when watching your presentation along with the technology you will be presenting on. For example, if you are in a theater using older projection technology, it may be hard to read certain types of font, colors, etc. So it is better to use a larger font size and contrasting colors.

If you can, try to practice the presentation ahead of time and sit at the back to see whether your slides can be seen and read.

Emphasize on the information and not the look of your slides

Don’t ever compromise how your information is presented for the sake of how the slides look. Remember that the point of doing the presentation is to convince your audience to act and not to impress them with a beautifully made presentation.

In order to do this simply create your presentation with only the information your audience needs. Leave out any visuals and focus on outlying the information first. Once you have the information on the slides, then you can add the effects and visuals, being sure to keep them minimal so the information shines and is highlighted.

Avoid handing out printouts of your presentation

One of Seth Godin’s - a marketing and presentation guru - tips for avoiding a really terrible PowerPoint presentations that focus on selling products or services, is to have a maximum of 6 words or lines per slide. The slides are more for points that you will talk about and expand upon. Anymore than that is less than ideal.

Now imagine what would happen if you give your audience a print out of your presentation. They probably won’t be able to make out what your message is since there are only a maximum of 6 words per slide. Beyond that, note packages often lead to people reading ahead and paying attention to the notes in front of them, rather than you, the speaker. Plus, the rustling of paper when people flip pages can also be distracting for the audience and presenter alike.

What we suggest is instead at the beginning of the presentation note that you will make the presentation available online after the presentation is over and providing scrap paper or notebooks for people who wish to take notes. That being said, if the presentation you are giving in educational, notes with a copy of the slides would be a good idea, but be sure to keep the content of the actual slides minimal, more just talking points.

Be consistent

Whether we’re talking about the message that you’re trying to convey, the theme of your slides or the tone/pacing of your presentation, you have to be consistent.

The more consistent you are, the more focused your audience will be. This is because consistency helps establish and give clarity to your message, making sure that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Phrase your points in a way that it talks directly about the benefits

We all like to be on the receiving end of something good right? If you focus on telling your audience about the benefits that they can acquire, chances are they’ll be very attentive because your presentation is all about their benefits.

These PowerPoint presentation tips can help you get more results out of your presentations. If you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage PowerPoint for better presentations, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 7th, 2014

Productivity_Mar03_AAre you looking for a tried and tested way of increasing your productivity? If so, then there are a number of solutions. One of the most effective is writing a to-do list to help you really get on top of your day-to-day tasks.This guide will help you craft an effective one so you can skyrocket your productivity each day.

Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:

Add a notes section

A notes section is a general area for all the tasks in your to-do list. Its main purpose is to provide you with space to add notes about your tasks. Or, instead you can use this area to type in challenges that you encountered when handling specific tasks.

On the flip side, it could also contain the best practices that you employed which enabled you to finish the task effectively and efficiently. These notes are important because by revisiting these jottings you can learn from them and be better able to optimize your way of doing things and your approach.

Prioritize

Ignoring client meetings because you're supposed to be fixing your cabinet, for example, based on what’s written in your to-do list, is a sure fire way of negatively impacting your business.

Your to-do list needs to be devised in such a way that there is a clear sense of priority. The most important tasks should be added to the top most part of your list just to make sure that you don’t miss these and they are tackled and completed first.

Break down your tasks to bite-size activities

Can you imagine writing down 'work' in your to-do list? Having a to-do list with broad topics like this won’t help you in the slightest bit.

You need to break down your lists into more specific tasks so that they provide the clarity that you need to achieve. Here’s a good example of a well-constructed list:

  1. Send 20 outreach emails to prospects.
  2. Discuss with the team the concept of having a systems' mindset.
  3. Review the offer of client X and decide whether to accept it or not.
Notice how the examples above are more tangible compared to simply writing down 'work'? With a list like the one above, you should be able to comfortably tick each task with a clear idea of when it has been completed.

Add a deadline whenever possible

Adding a deadline helps you gauge your output. By being able to see whether you’re lagging behind you can make any necessary changes.

A deadline also prevents you from procrastinating since you’ll be more conscious of time and a definitive end point.

Be realistic

Adding a week's worth of tasks to your daily to-do list will just discourage and frustrate you. Be as realistic as you can when writing up your list. If you honestly think that you can’t finish all of the tasks within one day, then add some of them to the next. That way you won’t be frustrated with a long list of tasks that you haven’t completed at the end of each day.

If you are faced with productivity issues and are struggling to get the kind of output you're hoping for in your business, then put giving us a call at the top of your to-do list.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 6th, 2014

VoIP_Mar03_AWhy settle for good when you can have the best? Choosing the best VoIP system can be quite confusing if you aren’t in the know about how things work. If you’re looking to get the biggest bang for your buck by choosing the best VoIP system, then we hope this article will give you some much needed clarity and point you in the right direction.

Consider these tips when choosing a VoIP system and you'll stand a much better chance of ending up with the best one for your business:

The cheapest ones aren’t always the best

Just like bidding for projects, you need to be wary of those systems that offer full services at incredibly low prices. Don’t be tempted with how low the fee might be, as in the long run, you might end-up with a system you're not happy with. You don't want dissatisfied customers because they won't be able to reach you, or a system that's not a good fit for your business.

A good way of going about this is to test the service to see if the quality is in fact on a par with what you’re looking for. Another factor to consider is how seamlessly the new VoIP system will integrate with your business

Think about what your phone system’s key roles are

When you have a clear idea of the “what”, your “how”, “when” and “whom” will be a lot easier to determine. This is where you determine what kind of features you’ll need your VoIP system to have. Consider whether you need voicemail, auto-attendant or voicemail to email capabilities (among many others). Once you have a clear picture of what you need, you’ll have a better idea of which package or provider to obtain your VoIP system from.

Review different packages

There are many packages that are packed with features, making them seem incredibly appealing. Don’t get carried away with how seemingly amazing these packages are though. Instead, focus on what your business needs are and stay within the bounds of these demands. There is no point in having unlimited calls to Canada or other countries when your customers are based in the US, for example.

Look for excellent customer support with an almost zero downtime record

Regardless of how seemingly perfect and tailor-made your system is to your business, if you’re experiencing a lot of downtime from your provider it just isn’t going to work. You need to do a background check on your provider to make sure that their system has a near zero downtime.

Another factor to look into is their customer support. You’ll always encounter situations where you have a question about the system, such as a technical issue or maybe even to ask about upgrades. In cases like these, your provider must have an excellent customer service so you know that your questions and issues are going to be dealt with properly and quickly.

Work out what the real costs are

Don’t just think about the package that’s being sold, think about the equipment you’ll need and the manpower needed to get the system up and running. As your company grows, you’ll have to add more users to your system too. You have to think about the costs relating to upgrades and purchasing add-ons.

If you only consider the upfront payment and neglect the upgrades, maintenance, and any other factors of operating with a VoIP system, chances are you might end-up spending more than expected.

If you are looking for the perfect VoIP system, then we can help. Contact us now for our expert advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 6th, 2014

Security_May03_AKeeping systems and computers secure can seem like a full time job, largely because there is a near constant stream of security issues being discovered. From malware to bugs in software, you can bet that you will eventually find a security breach in your systems. The other week news broke of a bug that posed a critical security flaw in Apple's operating systems.

About the bug

News broke on many security websites mid-February about a potentially critical security flaw in Apple's systems following the company releasing an update to their mobile operating system, iOS.

The update notes released by Apple noted that the patch "provides a fix for SSL connection verification." This is a fairly common update as it is aimed at improving the security of communications between websites and the device. However, security experts found out that without the update attackers who can connect to a network are able to capture sensitive information being sent in banking sessions, email messages, and even chat messages using what's called an SSL/TSL session.

What exactly is SSL/TSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TSL) are used in networks to essentially establish an encrypted link between a server and your computer. They are most commonly used to secure websites and the transmission of data. Take a look at some websites and you may see a padlock on the URL bar, or https:// in the URL. This indicates that the website is using SSL or TSL encryption to protect the data that is being transmitted e.g., your bank account information on a website.

In other words, SSL and TSL are used to ensure that information is exchanged securely over the Internet.

What was the problem and what software was affected?

It was found that there was a bug in the code Apple's software uses to establish a SSL connection which causes the whole SSL system to fail, potentially exposing data that should have been encrypted to anyone connected to the network with the right tools.

According to security experts, this bug has been found to affect devices running older versions of iOS 7, OS X 10.8 and newer, Apple TV, and possibly iOS 6. It is important to note that the bug is only found in Apple's SSL technology. Any app that uses Apple's version of SSL could be affected.

Has Apple solved this?

Luckily, Apple has released updates to all of their devices that should solve this security exploit. If you have not updated your device or computer since the middle of February you could be at risk.

How do I prevent my systems from being affected?

The first thing you should do is to update all Apple related apps and devices, including all mobile devices. If you are unsure about whether your apps are secure enough, try using another app, especially another browser. The reason for this is because browsers like Chrome and Firefox all use a different SSL technology and are unaffected by this bug.

You should also remain vigilant and not connect to any open or public Wi-Fi connections or even secured Internet connections that could be easy to break through. Basically, as long as you update you should be fine. However, it may be worthwhile using another browser if you are really worried about whether you have a secure connection.

If you are looking to learn more about this security flaw, or how you can secure your business from threats like this, contact us today. We can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_AThere are many ways businesses can improve not only their value but how they connect with their customers. Sure, having a website is a great step, as is having a social media presence, but you need to produce quality content to post on your site or profiles in order to get people to keep coming back. One of the best ways to do this is with blogging.

If you're looking to get people more involved and connected with your company, spread your brand image and message, and perhaps establish your company as an industry leader, then blogging might just be the answer.

There is little doubt that companies that blog effectively do see an increase in overall value. That being said, it can be a challenge to develop and maintain a successful blog.

Here are 7 tips for businesses looking to start a blog or develop an existing one into a more successful platform:

1. Define your topics and your audience

As with almost every business process, there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build your blog, such as the topics you write about and your audience.

Take a minute to establish who your target audience is, such as your average customer. Pick some basic characteristics that cover the majority of this group. Focusing on who you are writing articles for can make writing not only easier but more relevant and effective.

Many of the most successful business blogs choose blog topics based on their services or products and news. The key is to select topics based on what you think your audience will find useful or interesting. You might not want to spread your blogs over too many topic areas as these can be hard work to cover on a regular basis. About 4-8 is a good amount to aim for.

2. Be consistent

With defined topics and a target audience in mind, you are well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for your blog. The next element is to devise a calendar of how often you write blogs and cover certain topics. If, for example, you picked four topics this could equate to one article a month for each topic.

What you are striving for is consistency. You should be writing and posting a new article at least once a week, or more. If you establish a calendar based around your topics you will find it easier to write content on a regular basis and soon it will become a natural part of your weekly tasks.

3. Be relevant

Even with defined topics, it can be a struggle to come up with new ideas for blogs. It can be tempting to write about a new product or feature, but you have to be careful that it doesn't read too much like boring marketing material.

Instead, focus on what your audience would like to read. Often the most successful articles are those that answer common questions asked by clients, or talk about how a product or service can help a client. Other articles could be related to your products rather than directly about them. For example, if you own a coffee shop then writing about food that goes well with coffee might be an interesting blog idea.

Personal opinions can provide an interesting perspective and many readers find these types of business blogs refreshing. However, you do need to be careful of ostracizing those who might not agree with you or putting people off with negative blogs.

4. Don't forget the CTA

Remember, your business blog needs to have a purpose: You want to not only develop interest in the company, but to drive business. At the end of most if not all of your articles you can include a call to action (CTA) that suggests to the reader to contact you, come in for a visit or email.

5. Keep articles easy to read

It can be tempting to write a 4,000 word article with a ton of great information. Google and many search engines do look positively at long-form content and this might work well for your search rankings. The only problem is that when many of us read articles online we skim them, looking for salient points and skipping up to 90% of the article.

To that end, keep articles on the shorter side - around 500-1,000 words. Use shorter sentences and headings like H3 and bold to separate content and make it more scannable. Writing a longer article? Split it into two, three or even four parts. This helps drive interest to return to check out the new parts when they are posted.

6. Promote and share your content

Share your blog content on your social media profiles. This increases the reach of your blog, but also drives traffic to your website. You can put an easy to see link to your blog on your homepage and even in email headers.

Many writers also find success in contributing, or writing a blog for other websites. This helps not only spread your ideas, content, and company name, but can also help find content for your blog as other writers contribute to yours. Try contacting friends and colleagues to see if they would like you to write a post for their blog.

7. Remember you don't have to be the only contributor

Finally, you don't have to be the only person writing your blog. Ask your employees if they have any article ideas they would like to write about. The more writers contributing, the more content there is. This also takes the pressure off of you having to develop, write, and post everything, as well as offering a different voice for variety.

If you are looking to launch a blog, contact us to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 4th, 2014

Facebook_Mar03_AFacebook had a pretty big February this year. First, the company celebrated its 10 year anniversary by creating a video for every user that showcases the best from their profiles. Then, there was the news that the platform is reaching 1.25 billion active users. Finally came the news of a new mobile app - Paper - that has piqued the interest of many.

What is Facebook Paper?

The mobile device is quickly becoming the main way people access their Facebook profiles. While some open the browser on their device and navigate to the website from there, most use the Facebook app. This app is really a smaller version of Facebook that is formatted for mobile devices.

While the app is heavily used, many users are unimpressed with the layout and general functionality of the app as a whole. It's really Facebook minus some functionality and a slight bit clunkier to navigate.

To address this and other issues the company launched a new division called Creative Labs, where teams can develop new ideas and features that could one day be incorporated into Facebook. One of the first major developments to come out of this division is Paper.

Paper is a new app for the iPhone that combines your traditional Facebook News Feed with something like an online newspaper. The whole idea of Paper is essentially Facebook reimagined into something that not only looks better but is easier to use.

How Paper works

When you download and open Paper using your iPhone you see a brief tutorial video of how the app works. Essentially, your Facebook Feed has been broken down into about 20 different categories, including: Headlines, Tech, Cute, Score, About, Photos, etc. Each section contains relevant stories and posts from your News Feed and from popular posts and publicaly shared content on Facebook. The posts are displayed differently and look more visually appealing.

These sections are then individually displayed in a horizontal manner, often with pictures and text, much like a mini article. For example, when you start the app you may be looking at the Headlines section and all relevant content. If you swipe to the left or right a new section will be brought up allowing you to view the content related to that new section.

What's cool about this app is that you are in charge of what categories you see. If you want to see the Headlines section (news headlines from around 40 sites) first, you just have to rearrange the sections. This is interesting because the app allows you to customize how you view Facebook.

Is Paper good for business users?

This app could be great news for businesses, largely because it gives them yet another avenue to have their content seen by users. The creators of the app want it to be content forward. In other words, content displayed in a visually appealing way that draws the eye and potentially increases interest. Businesses creating visually appealing posts will really shine on Paper.

Can I get Paper?

For now, Paper is currently only available for Apple's mobile devices and can be found on the iTunes store for free. Unfortunately, the app is only available to users in the US for the time being.

We are unsure as to when this app will be made available to more countries and devices, largely because the team developing this is small. We will undoubtedly see it come out in more countries and on other platforms but we can't say when.

If you are looking to learn about Facebook and how your business can get more out of it, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 1st, 2014

HealthcareIT_Feb25_AMore than half of health-care organizations have not implemented business-intelligence systems, according to a survey, and that could hurt their bottom lines.

Business intelligence is the transformation of raw data into useful information for business purposes. It shows you what’s going on in your practice and how your practice could improve.

According to the survey of 250 health-care professionals by TEKsystems, 58 percent of physician practices and hospitals have not implemented a business-intelligence system. That includes 21 percent that plan to implement a business-intelligence system in the next 24 months, and 26 percent that have no plans whatsoever.

This is a problem, because data will be at the heart of how health-care organizations get paid as the industry changes from a fee-for-service model to a pay-for-performance model. The survey supports this idea, as 76 percent of respondents expect a business-intelligence system to be widely used in finance.

One reason health-care providers haven’t implemented business-intelligence systems, the study found, is that there is a lack of resources and skills available to help them do so. Thirty-four percent of respondents said that data complexity is the biggest obstacle. That’s where an IT expert can help. If you want to implement a business-intelligence system, and don’t have the IT resources on staff, consider reaching out to an IT expert like us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 1st, 2014

HealthcareGeneral_Feb25_AThe Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has issued proposals for 2015 electronic health record (EHR) certification criteria.

Notably, implementation of the 2015 certification criteria is voluntary. Health-care providers that have EHRs certified to the 2014 criteria do not need to re-certify to 2015 criteria to participate in meaningful use. The idea, says the ONC, is that EHR developers and health-care providers can move to the 2015 criteria at their own pace.

This is the first time the ONC has proposed certification criteria separate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' meaningful-use regulations, and the change marks a new regulatory approach. The ONC will likely make more frequent changes to rules to improve standards. National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo says it reflects the “ONC's commitment to incrementally improving interoperability and efficiently responding to stakeholder feedback.”

Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule - published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2014 - through April 28. If you are looking to learn more about this change and how you can implement it in your practice, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 28th, 2014

BI_Feb24_ABusiness Intelligence (BI) has become an essential function of many businesses. Those who employ some form of BI often see increased sales, or at the very least the ability to make quicker informed decisions more often. When looking into BI solutions however, you will likely come across a number of terms that may be a little confusing. Three of these somewhat puzzling terms relate to data - data mart, data warehouse and data mining.

What is a data warehouse?

The concept of a data warehouse is an interesting one and also a difficult one to define and pin down largely because it can cover such a broad area. The most concise definition we can give is that it is a database that integrates data from many different locations and databases into one consolidated database.

Data warehouses store both current and historical data, and rarely contain unique data. Instead, they aggregate data from other sources in order to make this more accessible. They might store important information from sales, marketing, ERP, customer interactions, and any form of database in order to quickly generate BI related reports.

The name undoubtedly conjures up the idea of a large warehouse-like building storing infinite amounts of data. However, most data warehouses are actually tables which are created by taking data from various sources and cleaning it up so that relevant data is stored in the warehouse in a way that makes it easier to reach when needed.

What is a data mart?

A data mart is a smaller data warehouse that stores data. These are based on a specific area or business function e.g., finance or marketing, etc. In fact, most modern data warehouses are actually made up of a series of smaller data marts.

The key difference between a data mart and a data warehouse is that data marts are usually smaller, focusing on one specific area, while a data warehouse covers the whole organization.

What is data mining?

When talking about Business Intelligence, many experts will refer to data mining. This is the act of analyzing data in order to identify patterns. The data that is mined can then be transformed into useable information. Many companies store this mined data in databases, a data warehouse, or a data mart.

Want to learn more about these terms and how your company can benefit from a BI solution? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 27th, 2014

Virtualization_Feb24_ARunning a small/mid-sized business can be just as daunting as operating a large enterprise. If you are ambitious to improve your business, then virtualizing your systems might be just the development you're looking for. Aside from being a cost-effective solution, virtualization can also boost the efficiency of your enterprise's IT infrastructure.

While it may seem like virtualization is only advantageous to large businesses, in truth, even small companies can take advantage of this rising and sophisticated innovation. That being said, there are many companies still holding back. To help you understand virtualization, here are five good reasons why you need to virtualize your business now.

You can optimize servers

Perhaps the most compelling reason to virtualize your systems is to make your computing resources (such as the RAM and processor cycles) more efficient. And with efficient computing resources, businesses can reduce their capital expenses. Furthermore, small and mid-sized business are able to manage fewer physical servers, because virtualization allows users to combine, or virtualize, physical servers into fewer physical machines.

You get cutting-edge disaster recovery plans

Since catastrophes are possible, businesses should be prepared before they are faced with a disaster. The advantage of virtualization is that many solutions come with a disaster recovery plan to get your business back to a normal operational state after a problem strikes.

It can be far easier to fully back up your entire virtualized infrastructure than trying to do the same with separate hardware servers.

It increases business continuity

While business continuity is similar to disaster recovery, the goals of each operation are different. The aim of business continuity is to achieve zero, or minimal, business operation interruptions. However, many businesses find this difficult to achieve with traditional business systems.

Many virtualization solutions offer live migration, a feature that helps preserve the continuity of business operations by eliminating the need for downtime. This system works by rapidly transferring systems from one virtual environment to another when the original is affected. This enables a business to continue operations, despite some system failures.

It's a time-saver

Compared to setting up physical hardware, which can take months to establish, test, and maintain, setting up a virtualized system for your business can usually be achieved in a matter of minutes.

You get centralized control

Virtualization makes it possible to manage your entire system using one central tool. This is one cutting-edge advantage that suits many businesses, especially small and mid-sized ones. Moreover, security and compliance features can be built in, leading to systems that are even more secure than before.

The benefits to be gained by virtualizing can prove to be a real game changer for your business. Though it may seem complex at first, considering the new lingo and foreign functions, you’ll soon realize that it's just a matter of finding the right IT partner to work with.

Our virtualization experts are here for you and can help you from start to finish. If you want to know more about virtualization and its benefits to your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.