Microsoft Power BI and Office 365 analytics

June 24th, 2017

As machine learning, digital storage, and analytics software get more advanced, data is becoming more valuable than ever. Even businesses that don’t rely on data to operate are starting to find ways to get more value out of their information. Microsoft’s newest platform is an excellent example of that -- and it’s free!

What is Power BI?

Released in the spring of 2016, Power BI is Microsoft’s business analytics platform. Regardless of whether or not data is stored within a Microsoft platform, connecting Power BI to a database allows you to create detailed graphs, charts, maps, and more. For example, if you upload sales records, dragging and dropping two columns is all it takes to map out where your product sees the most demand.

Recently, Microsoft announced a brand new feature for business owners who want to get more value out of their software subscriptions. The Office 365 adoption content pack collects information about how your employees use Microsoft productivity software, and feeds it directly into Power BI’s analytics. There are four types of insights you can work with:

Adoption

These metrics give you visibility into how much each O365 platform is being used. You may be paying for OneDrive accounts for the entire organization, only for Power BI to reveal that less than a quarter of your team is using it. Compare enabled users and active users to get a clearer picture of your investments.

Communication

You can also see exactly how employees are using communication solutions. If nearly everyone on the team is accessing Skype for Business from a mobile data connection, it might be time to reduce your investments in cellular-based minutes.

Collaboration

Microsoft has several collaboration platforms, and without proper guidance, employees are likely to use the easiest one rather than the best one. Power BI shows you how much time users spend time in their own Word, PowerPoint, and SharePoint documents compared to the time they spend in documents from colleagues. This shows you which platforms encourage the most collaboration and which ones are struggling.

Activation

- The activation insights give you under-the-hood visibility into which versions of O365 users are running, and what devices they use to access them. That may seem like trivial information, but it can have huge impacts on cyber security.

Power BI comes in three different plans: Desktop, Pro, and Premium. Best of all, both the Desktop plan and the Office 365 adoption content pack are totally free. If you like what you see, consider enlisting us to set up and optimize either a Pro or Premium Power BI deployment -- we’re only a phone call away!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
June 8th, 2017

The chances of your business being hit by a hurricane are slim. But this year, the odds are actually alarming -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts up to four unusually active hurricanes. If you don’t want to fall victim to data loss and tarnish your business’s reputation in the process, read on.

The NOAA forecasts 11 to 17 tropical storms in the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane season has officially begun and is expected to last until the end of November. The four allegedly active hurricanes are presumed to be Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (Category 1 is the weakest and 5 the strongest).

But don’t panic just yet; here are five steps you can take to protect your business during hurricane season.

1. Schedule a DR drill

Despite having a DR plan, many companies don’t test their plan, at least not as often as they should. So if you’re one of those companies, it’s crucial to conduct a DR drill now. A lot can change in the months or years since you have last tested your plan -- systems updates, infrastructure upgrades, employee turnover and more. By scheduling a drill, you’ll be able to make sure everyone knows their roles and that all critical systems are covered.

Note that you should try to perform desktop walkthrough exercises, operational tests, and simulated recovery exercises on a regular basis.

2. Make sure your staff are prepared

All your staff should know what the evacuation procedures are as well as their responsibilities in the DR process. If not, coordinate with HR to make sure everyone in your company understands what the plan of action is for hurricane season. Staff with specific responsibilities need to get the documentation needed to effectively manage their roles in the event of a hurricane.

Set meetings with your DR team and schedule training for new team members. Your DR team should be able to quickly mobilize other employees to the DR site before bad weather hits. Don’t forget to touch base with any providers you are supposed to work with in case of an emergency, too.

3. Secure your backup site

In addition to a secondary location for data storage, your DR plan should also include another backup site so that you can continue your operations. In the event of a hurricane, dedicated space is imperative since your backup sites will likely be occupied with employees.

You should also consider the redundancy of utilities at your DR site, making sure you have enough power feed, fiber carriers, and anything else you’ll need to remain operational.

4. Check for amenities at your DR site

Whether your DR site is in the hurricane zone or in the nearest city, chances are hotels will be overbooked as people fight for a place to stay. This means your staff will likely be stuck onsite around the clock, so you need to make sure there is enough amenities to get them through this hectic period. Is there a place for employees to shower and sleep? Is there enough food and water to last them for at least a couple of days? These amenities will help your staff pull through as they restore your operations.

5. Update your DR plan’s appendix

Your DR plan should have an appendix with contact information, SLAs, and systems inventories information. More importantly, this information needs to be up-to-date; the last thing you need is calling your IT vendor when a server goes down only to reach the wrong number.

Go through all critical information in your DR plan and add any other information as needed. Vendors and shipper's contact information are a must as they will guarantee that you get hardware and power supplies backup without any hassles.

Unlike a fire drill which can be conducted on a yearly basis, your business continuity and disaster recovery plan needs to be tested regularly to meet your company’s changing needs. If you don’t already have a DR plan, or have any further questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
May 24th, 2017

Both businesses and individuals across dozens of countries are scrambling to fix their computer systems after a ransomware, named WannaCry, caused major disruptions earlier this month. Like most ransomware, WannaCry encrypts files and demands a Bitcoin payment for their release. What’s worse, more WannaCry variants will likely be developed in the near future, according to security researchers. Fortunately, there are some common strategies you can use to mitigate the damage of the ransomware.

Update your software The first (and probably best) defense against WannaCry ransomware is to update your operating system. New research from Kaspersky shows that machines running Windows XP, 7 and outdated Windows 10 versions were affected by the ransomware. To check whether your systems are up to date, open your Windows search bar, look for Windows Update, click Check for Updates, and install any major updates.

Also, don’t forget to download the latest security patches for your business applications and security software.

Run security programs Many antivirus programs now have mechanisms for detecting and blocking WannaCry malware; so when you’ve fully updated your security software, run a full system scan.

Keep in mind that antivirus isn’t a foolproof security solution. Instead, run it alongside other security applications like intrusion prevention systems and firewalls.

Use data backup and recovery tools If WannaCry does infect your computers, only a solid data backup and recovery solution can save your business. Before ransomware strikes, periodically back up your files in both an external hard drive and a cloud-based backup service.

External hard drives will serve as your local backup solution for quick recovery times. However, we recommend keeping the external drive disconnected when it’s not being used and plugging it in only when you need to back up files at the end of the day. This is because when ransomware infects a computer, it will usually look to encrypt local backup drives as well.

Cloud-based backups, on the other hand, allow you to store files in remote data centers and access them from any internet-enabled device. When selecting a cloud services provider, make sure they provide the appropriate cloud protections to your files. For example, your backup vendor should provide reporting tools to keep track of any anomalies in your files. Document versioning features are also important. This allows you to recover older versions of a document in case the current version is encrypted.

After your local and cloud backups are set up, perform regular tests to ensure your disaster recovery plan works.

Stay informed Finally, it’s important to stay on guard at all times. WannaCry is just one of many ransomware strains affecting businesses today, and in order to stay safe you need to be constantly up to date on the latest cybersecurity- and business continuity-related news.

For more ransomware prevention tips and services, call us today. We’ll make sure hackers don’t hold your business hostage.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
May 6th, 2017

Good things come to those who wait, and this is especially true for small- and medium-sized businesses that plan on creating an eCommerce website. According to Vistaprint's study on 1,800 consumers, 42 percent of respondents are “very unlikely” to buy from unprofessional or ugly websites. Go through your site and ensure everything is in order. These key indicators might help:

A variety of clean photos Always take photos under professional lighting to really get the best images of your products. When customers are browsing, it’s normal for them to want to see as much detail as possible, so try to include as many photos, from as many angles your prospects might want.

Clear descriptions The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. That’s why it’s important to include all of your products’ technical information and dimensions before creating simple and straightforward product descriptions.

Establish policies Returns and refunds are an inevitable part of online shopping. In fact, a large percentage of online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on how streamlined the returns policy is. Make sure to establish clear policies for returning and refunding items that are easy to find for customers.

About page Customers unfamiliar with your brand need a story they can relate to on your website. In your About Us page, include information on who you are and what you do that sets you apart from the competition. Whatever you write, make it accessible from any page on your site.

Navigation Fix broken links, make navigation straightforward, and remove outdated pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if your site doesn’t make it easy to find what they’re looking for, game over.

Design Not everyone is a web design expert, luckily you can always hire one. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. Or with a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can hire a managed website provider.

With more revenue originating online, small- and medium-sized-business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional eCommerce website. Prior to going live, it’s essential to go through your entire site and resolve any mistakes before consumers see them. For further information on completing eCommerce websites, feel free to call us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
April 21st, 2017

2017April20Business_AThere was a time when mobile phones were used exclusively for calling and texting. Now, they can do so much more. Regardless of your level of tolerance or skill for managing documents in such a small gadget, mobile devices allow you to send and receive email, download and upload media files, store data, and even close business deals. As mobile devices became indispensable in everyone’s personal and professional life, the security risks have also increased -- and backing up became more critical than ever.

Malware on mobile

More than 50% of the world’s adult population use a mobile phone with internet connection, so dangers in these handy devices are to be expected. Scarier than the thought of being offline is being online and exposed to malware.

If you use your mobile devices as an extension of your work computers, backing up is a must. Mobile phones have become as vulnerable to malware as laptops and desktops have, especially if you consider the fact that many professionals and business owners use them for emailing confidential documents and storing business-critical files.

Device disasters

Other than malware, other types of disasters can happen on your device. Because you carry it wherever your go, your device can easily be stolen, misplaced, or damaged. They may be easily replaceable, but the data contained in them may not. Having completely backed up data on your devices helps prevent a minor inconvenience from turning into a disastrous situation.

Backup options

Performing backups in iPhone and Android devices is a seamless process. Their operating systems require only minimal effort from users, and backing up entails nothing more than logging into their Apple or Google account. However, other users have different devices with different operating systems, slightly complicating the process.

Mobile devices’ safety is essential to business continuity plans. So whether your office users are tied to a single operating system or prefer different devices, there are options to back up all your organization’s mobile devices. There are cloud backup services that enable syncing of all devices and that back up files, contacts, photos, videos, and other critical files in one neat backup system. These mobile backup tools are offered on monthly or lifetime subscription schemes, which provides small businesses with enough flexibility to ensure protection.

Mobile phones have become so ubiquitous to how people function that many feel the need to have two or more phones, mostly to have one for personal use and another for business. With all these options on hand, there’s no excuse for not backing up data on your mobile devices.

Our experts can provide practical advice on security for your business’s computers and mobile devices. Call us for mobile backup and other security solutions today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 18th, 2017

2017March17Business_AAdding value to your organization is very different than it was a few decades ago. Whereas business owners previously sought more tangible boosts like equipment and staff, cloud technology has totally changed the game. Now, a single piece of software is all it takes to totally revolutionize your fulfillment and shipping process.

First off, we need to clarify that inventory management systems (IMSs) are not the same as order management systems (OMSs). The former is a solution for analyzing your sales history as a means to forecast demand for your product and the materials you will need in the future, while the latter is all about the here and now.

What does an OMS do for you?

One of the toughest things about managing an eCommerce store is juggling a growing number of sales, each at totally different steps in your shipping process. An OMS service is all about organizing your orders into a coherent and manageable workflow. Here are just some of the difficulties it helps you wrangle:
  • Your eCommerce store can be connected to your inventory. If something is out of stock, it can be reflected on your site so customers aren’t misled about the availability of your product.
  • Payment authorizations can be automated and integrated with your shipping services.
  • You can provide reports to your customers about their order's shipping status. From intra-warehouse movements to on-the-truck updates, one page will have all the information they need.
  • Products and materials can be automatically restocked once they dip below a certain threshold.
  • Refund and returns can be automatically processed by your OMS.
And like any industry, there are dozens of OMS platforms with niche functionalities that may be better for your specific business model. The most important thing is that you find a solution that decreases the most tedious organizational tasks for tracking your store’s orders.

The cloud-based OMS

Orders are streaming in at all hours of the day, and you can’t guarantee that you’ll always be in the office when you need to check the status of an order. A cloud-based OMS stores all your information in a centralized location so you can access your information from home, the warehouse floor, or even while waiting for takeoff.

The cloud is generally one of the most reliable ways to add value to your business. There are dozens of platforms, just like OMSs, that require virtually no hardware and allow you to pay for exactly what you use. For advice on which solutions are best for your business, and how to deploy them, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 1st, 2017

2017February28_Business_AWe can write about disaster recovery planning (DRP) until our fingers bleed, but if we never discuss real-world scenarios it’s all just fumbling in the dark. Examining these successes and failures is the best way to improve your business continuity solutions, and the recent audit of a state government office is rich with valuable takeaways.

Hosting certain types of data, or managing a government network, legally binds you to maintain DRPs. After an audit of the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget, several failures lead to a trove of helpful tips for small- and medium-sized businesses attempting to create a bulletproof disaster recovery plan.

Update and test your plan frequently

One of the first and most obvious failures of the department’s DRP was that it didn’t include plans to restore an essential piece of their infrastructure. The plan didn’t include steps to restore the department’s intranet, which would leave employees unable to complete even the most basic of tasks.

The reason for the oversight? The last time the plan was updated was in 2011 -- leaving out more than six years of IT advancements. If annual revisions sounds like too much work, just consider all of the IT upgrades and improvements you’ve made in this year alone. If they’re not accounted for in your plan, you’re destined to fail.

Keep your DRP in an easy-to-find location

It may seem a bit ironic that the best way to store your top-of-the-line business continuity solution is in a binder, but the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget learned the hard way that the alternatives don’t work. Auditors found the DRP stored on the same network it was meant to restore. Which means if something had happened to the network, the plan would be totally inaccessible.

Your company would do well to store electronic copies on more than one network in addition to physical copies around the office and off-site.

Always prepare for a doomsday scenario

The government office made suitable plans for restoring the local area network, but beyond that, there was no way for employees to get back to work within the 24-hour recovery time objective.

Your organization needs to be prepared for the possibility that there may not be a local area network to go back to. Cloud backups and software are the best way to keep everything up and running when your office is flooded or crushed beneath a pile of rubble.

DRPs are more than just an annoying legal requirement, they’re the insurance plan that will keep you in business when disaster strikes. Our professionals know the importance of combining both academic and real-world resources to make your plan airtight when either auditors or blizzards strike. Message us today about bringing that expertise to your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
February 11th, 2017

2017February10_Business_AGoogle and Microsoft have both set impressive milestones in the tech industry. These industry giants continually roll out innovative solutions that simplify the lives of users around the world, especially with G Suite and Office 365. This raises a question: Which is a better option for your business?

Cost and commitment G Suite offers two pricing plans: $5 and $10 per user per month. The $5 plan offers company email addresses, video and voice calls, integrated online calendars, online documents, presentations and spreadsheets and more.

The $10 plan offers all the features of the $5 plan plus unlimited storage or 1TB per user for less than 5 members, advanced admin control panel for Google Drive, and audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing, to name a few.

  • Office 365 offers a number of pricing plans, including:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials ($5.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business ($8.25 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month)
  • Office 365 ProPlus ($12.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 ($8.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 ($20.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 ($35.00 per user per month)
We’ll compare two plans from Office 365 with the same pricing as G Suite below; you can find more details about Office 365’s other plans here.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials will cost $5 per user per month with annual subscription. Monthly subscription will cost $6 per user per month, meaning you’ll save $1 user per month with G Suite.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 will cost $2 less than G Suite’s $10 plan
Applications

Google Apps are designed for cloud-based collaboration. For instance, Google Docs lets you make permanent changes in the file or provide feedback using “suggestion” mode. Other advanced features in G Suite include machine intelligence in Google Calendar (which helps you find a time when invitees are free), Dynamic layout suggestions in Google Slides, and better file management and granular content ownership.

Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are designed based on desktop versions of their products with enhanced cloud capability -- you’ll be able to use cloud versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more while still being able to work offline. More advanced integration with Microsoft’s cloud solutions like SharePoint, Dynamic CRM, and Azure are also available.

Security

G Suite leverages machine learning capabilities to detect suspicious logins and block most advanced types of spam. It automatically scans every email attachment before you download it to prevent the spread of viruses.

Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a new email filtering service that targets specific advanced threats like unknown malware and viruses in real time to protect against malicious URLs.

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer a clean interface, the difference lies in the way emails are organized. Gmail lets you apply multiple labels to an email and offers 30GB of storage space across Gmail and Drive.

Office 365 uses classical folder structure to categorize emails and offers a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1-TB storage space. Unlimited storage is also available in its Enterprise E3 $20 per user per month plan.

Third-party integration

G Suite’s integration with CRM, productivity and customer service software gives you plenty of options. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Office 365, as Microsoft hasn’t been adopting a developer integration approach when compared with Google.

Support

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer 24/7 phone and email support. However, G Suite also offers live chat support and forums to seek clarification, give feedback and request additional functionality.

To sum up, G Suite is a better solution if you need native integration with third-party apps and support for various operating systems and devices. Despite that, Office 365 makes sense if you prefer a number of options when it comes to your pricing plans or need integration with other Microsoft cloud solutions. No matter the solution, maximizing productivity is imperative to stay ahead of competitors. If you need help finding the right solutions to enhance efficiency, just give us a call; we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 27th, 2017

2017January26_Business_AThe right technology investment can lead to business success. With customer relationship management (CRM) software at the helm of your sales and marketing efforts, you can nurture long-lasting business relationships and improve your bottom line. If you need a little bit more convincing, we’ve compiled five more reasons why your business needs CRM.

Grows with your business The ol’ Rolodex may have been useful for managing a few clients, but you’re going to need a better solution if you plan to maintain relationships with hundreds, possibly thousands, more. CRM scales with your business, meaning it can handle larger data sets and more clients as you expand your sales operation.

Organizes your data CRM software acts as a central database for all your sales records and transactions. This means important customer information can be retrieved in just a few clicks rather than rifling through thousands of documents, sticky-notes, and disorganized cabinets. And since CRM is hosted in the cloud, sales data, customer interactions, and other actionable information are available for the entire company.

Improves customer service Your sales team could be the most persuasive individuals in the world, but this means nothing if they can’t recall anything about their clients and their preferences. When your sales staff follows up on leads or existing customers, CRM will automatically retrieve contact history, past purchases, and customer preferences from your client database and display them on a single page during the call.

From here, sales representatives, armed with detailed customer information, will be able to recommend products and services that meet the client’s needs. So instead of struggling through a sales call, marketing employees can focus on delivering a professional sales pitch.

Streamlines your sales funnel CRM comes equipped with workflow management functions, supporting your sales pipeline in a number of ways. For example, you can configure your CRM to send instant follow-up emails when a lead visits a particular product page. You can even use automation to track where certain leads are in the sales pipeline and delegate the task to one of your closers.

Analyzes sales data With real-time sales information, business managers can track marketing campaigns and adjust their strategy accordingly. For instance, you might notice that click-through-rates for promotional emails and company newsletters are higher during Tuesday afternoon rather than Friday night. Having this information can help you focus your marketing efforts and message to generate more leads.

In addition, you can use CRM to analyze customer calling activity, market demographics, lead conversion rates, and key performance indicators to help inform future business decisions.

Understanding your customers can put you several steps ahead of the competition. If you need to manage contacts, eliminate time-consuming procedures, and improve your sales performance, CRM is the perfect business solution.

Contact us today to find out whether CRM is the right fit for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 12th, 2017

2017january11_business_aThe new year is well upon us, and with it comes an equally new IT budget. Judging by the advancements in computing technology, many 2017 business wish lists probably include powerful onsite servers, workstations, and the Internet of Things. But as tempting as these purchases may be, it’s important that you don’t dismiss an old yet essential IT resolution: disaster recovery.

DR isn’t a huge investment A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business