Office 365 gets a slew of new upgrades

Office 365 gets a slew of new upgrades

There’s a good reason why businesses like Office 365: It’s a feature-rich productivity suite that gets plenty of upgrades throughout the year. Last month, Microsoft announced four new upgrades that will make the cloud platform even more irresistible for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Microsoft Connections
Email marketing campaigns are a great way to build relationships with contacts and increase sales, but they’re often difficult to manage. With Microsoft Connections, you can easily launch a campaign in minutes using pre-designed templates for newsletters, referrals, and promotions.

As you acquire more contacts, Connections allows you to segment your mailing list so you can target different customers. For instance, you can send product promotions to clients who have stayed with your business for more than six months.

After firing off your emails, performance charts track important metrics like open rates, clickthrough rates, new sign-ups, and canceled subscriptions that can be used to improve future campaigns.

Microsoft Listings
Microsoft Listings helps you seamlessly manage your online presence. Whenever you update your business profile, Listings automatically publishes those changes across your Facebook, Google, Bing, and Yelp accounts, allowing you to keep important information like business hours up to date.

What’s more, Listings includes a web dashboard where you can monitor page-views, reviews, and likes, helping you assess your company’s online reputation.

Microsoft Invoicing
Another useful addition is Microsoft Invoicing, a tool that helps you generate price estimates and invoices. When combined with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, you can program workflows that automatically redirect invoices, pending payments, and estimates to the right accountant. This application works for credit, debit, and PayPal transactions.

Office 365 Business Center
The Office 365 Business Center brings Connections, Listings, and Invoicing all under one roof. This means information listed on one application is automatically registered onto another, saving you from inputting data multiple times.

The main hub also features a unified dashboard where you can track an email campaign’s performance, Facebook impressions, and any outstanding invoices, giving you full visibility into your accounting and marketing processes.

According to Microsoft, these powerful features will be generally available for Office 365 Business Premium subscribers in the coming months. But if you want to get early access, consider joining the Office 365 Insider program.

Office 365 will likely have even more surprises for SMBs this year, so make sure to keep in touch with us to get the latest rundown on feature releases and Microsoft news.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Source: Pronto

Black and white: Not all hackers are bad

Black and white: Not all hackers are bad

When a cyber security researcher stopped the spread of WannaCry, the headlines praised him as a savior. But just a few short months later he was in handcuffs for allegedly creating a piece of malware that steals banking information. Even if he is innocent, it’s important to understand the difference between white hat, black hat and even gray hat hackers.

A complicated history

Since all the way back in the 1950s, the term hacker has been vaguely defined. As computers and the people who worked with them became more accessible, the word was used to describe someone who explored the details and limits of technology by testing them from a variety of angles.

But by the 1980s, hackers became associated with teenagers who were being caught breaking into government computer systems. Partially because that is what they called themselves, and partially because the word hacker has an inherently aggressive ring to it.

Today, several of those pioneering hackers run multimillion-dollar cyber security consulting businesses. So what should you call someone who uses their knowledge for good?

“White hat” hackers

Sometimes referred to as ethical hackers, or plain old network security specialists, these are the good guys. Whether it’s selling what they find to hardware and software vendors in “bug bounty” programs or working as full-time technicians, white hat hackers are just interested in making an honest buck.

Linus Torvalds is a great example of a white hat hacker. After years of experimenting with the operating system on his computer, he finally released Linux, a secure open-source operating system.

“Black hat” hackers

Closer to the definition that most people outside the IT world know and use, black hat hackers create programs and campaigns solely for causing damage. This may be anything from financial harm in the form of ransomware to digital vandalism.

Albert Gonzalez is one of the many poster children for black hat hacking. In 2005, he organized a group of individuals to compromise poorly secured wireless networks and steal information. He is most famous for stealing over 90 million credit and debit card numbers from TJ Maxx over the course of two years.

“Gray hat” hackers

Whether someone is a security specialist or a cyber criminal, the majority of their work is usually conducted over the internet. This anonymity affords them opportunities to try their hand at both white hat and black hat hacking.

Today, there are quite a few headlines making the rounds describing Marcus Hutchins as a gray hat hacker. Hutchins became an overnight superstar earlier this year when he poked and prodded the WannaCry ransomware until he found a way to stop it.

During the day, Hutchins works for the Kryptos Logic cybersecurity firm, but the US government believes he spent his free time creating the Kronos banking malware. He has been arrested and branded a “gray hat” hacker.

The world of cyber security is far more complicated than the stylized hacking in Hollywood movies. Internet-based warfare is not as simple as good guys vs. bad guys, and it certainly doesn’t give small businesses a pass. If you need a team of experienced professionals to help you tackle the complexities of modern cyber security, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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CRM tips and tricks for beginners

CRM tips and tricks for beginners

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is essential for every marketing, sales, and customer service department. It allows you to capture your customers’ information and keep a record of their interactions with your business. If you’re new to the concept of CRM, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of it.

Always update customer information
A CRM system is only effective when the data it provides is current. If the customer’s address, company name, or preferred method of contact has changed, your staff should be recording this information immediately so your sales and marketing teams are always equipped with the right information.

Use purchasing history for upselling opportunities
It’s easier to sell to existing customers than acquiring new ones. Boost your sales performance by analyzing your existing clients’ purchasing history and designing promotions or events designed just for them. For example, if they recently purchased a razor from your online store, you can program your CRM to recommend related products like shaving cream or aftershave. Not only does this widen your profit margins, it also makes customers’ lives a lot easier and promotes repeat business.

Automate processes
Take advantage of the workflow automation features in CRM apps to eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks. For instance, when a new lead is added to your CRM (via newsletter subscriptions or website visits), the CRM can be programmed to send follow-up emails, offer promotions, and other interactions to keep your business at the forefront of their attention. This saves you from writing the same canned responses while also making sure that you’re engaging your clients throughout the entire sales process.

Learn from analytics
CRM also makes it possible to analyze customer trends and behavior. If you noticed a spike in demand for certain products and services during the holidays, be more aggressive in pushing them out next year. If certain email campaigns were more successful than others (e.g., higher open rates, click-through-rates, and potential customers), understand what elements were responsible for that success and try to replicate them the next time you send a newsletter.

Customer data should also be used to shape sales and marketing tactics. A salesperson that already knows the client’s name, locations, and preferences can deliver more personal sales pitches and has a better chance of closing a deal. The point is this: If you’re not learning from your data, your business growth will be limited.

Integrate CRM with other business software
Tying CRM software to other programs makes it even more powerful. Integration with accounting software combines customer and financial data, eliminating redundant manual data entry and providing more insightful reports. When used alongside a VoIP system, your staff will get relevant customer information from multiple databases displayed on one screen when they’re about to make a call.

Get some CRM support
Last but not least, work with a CRM provider that offers 24/7 support. Ideally, they should be keeping your data safe, updating your software regularly, and advising you on how to use complex CRM features.

This may seem like a lot, but the important thing to remember is that just like every technology investment, CRM requires active participation from executives, managers, and frontline staff. If you need more advice on keeping customers happy or want to know what technologies can add value to your business, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Google cloud just got much faster

Google cloud just got much faster

The Google Cloud Platform can do virtually any business computing task you need it to. From pre-written machine learning modules to high-end data analysis, it’s limited only by the internet connection you use to access it. But now, even that is being improved upon.

What is Google Cloud Platform?

Similar to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft’s Azure, the Google Cloud Platform is a suite of services that run in Google data centers around the world and are accessible to clients over the internet. There are currently 60 services available, grouped into nine categories:

  • Compute
  • Storage and Databases
  • Networking
  • Big Data (for analysis)
  • Internet of Things
  • Machine Learning
  • Management Tools
  • Developer Tools
  • Identity and Security

Each one offers a unique set of tools for getting work done in the cloud. For example, the Compute category has several services for setting up virtual desktops powered by high-end hardware that can be logged into from almost anywhere.

What is Google upgrading?

To put it simply, a new approach to bandwidth management will allow Google to send more information in less time. Way back in the ’80s, an algorithm was standardized that recognized when data didn’t reach the final destination and reacted accordingly. The assumption was that the majority of this data loss was due to an overloaded connection, so when the entity sending the data noticed losses, it slowed down transfer speeds.

A lot has changed since then, and recently Google introduced a new algorithm for its search and streaming video services. It was a huge success, granting YouTube a 2,700x improvement to its YouTube network throughput in some cases.

By applying this new technology to the Google Cloud Platform, customers will see noticeably faster service, regardless of whether they’re storing and retrieving business data or hosting an application.

Web and cloud services are indispensable for keeping up with the breakneck pace of IT advancements in a cost-effective manner. Choosing the right platform and configuring it properly isn’t something to be taken lightly. For expert advice and support, message us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Tips for keeping your mobile devices safe

Tips for keeping your mobile devices safe

Businesses are using mobile devices more than ever to increase productivity and profitability. However, like desktops and laptops, smartphones and tablets are highly vulnerable to hacking, and some employees expose them to threats in ways they may not even be aware of. To protect your company from these threats, follow these tips on keeping mobile devices safe.

Ensure mobile OS is up-to-date

Apple and Android’s operating system updates improve overall user experience, but their most important function is to fix security vulnerabilities. You can reduce your business’s exposure to threats by installing updates for ALL devices as soon as they become available. Some people wait for a few weeks or months to update their device’s OS. This gives hackers ample time to exploit vulnerabilities on devices that run on outdated operating systems.

Install business applications only

Downloading apps seems harmless, but lenient mobile devices policies on what should and shouldn’t be downloaded on company devices could lead to staff downloading and installing non-business-related apps from third-party stores, most of which are notorious for malicious advertising codes and other threats.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi networks

Emergency situations might compel you to use password-free Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airport, cafes, or any public place. Connecting to an open network could expose your confidential information and sensitive company data to hackers connected to the same network.

You can avoid this by providing a practical internet data plan, preferably one that includes roaming services, for remote workers. And if you really have to connect to an open Wi-Fi, don’t use the connection for transferring sensitive data.

Enable phone tracking tools

Losing a company-issued mobile device is a scenario many would rather not contemplate, but it happens. Devices can be misplaced or stolen, and enabling a useful app such as ‘Find my iPhone’ for iOS devices, ‘GPS Phone Tracker’ for Android, or any other device-tracking app in Apple’s App or Android’s Google Play stores helps users locate lost phones, or otherwise delete data in stolen devices. Downloading and setting up the app takes just a few minutes, and it will give you peace of mind knowing that even if your phone is lost or stolen, its contents will not be compromised.

Screen SMS carefully

SMS messaging may not be as effective as email phishing, but SMS phishing can also be used to trick users into clicking malicious links. Hackers send messages purporting to be from someone you know or a legitimate source that asks you to urgently send confidential data. You can either delete these messages, block unknown senders, or alert your IT department in case you encounter a possible scammer.

Mobile devices are becoming more critical to operations. And with more devices open to attack, businesses must bolster their cybersecurity efforts. Hackers will exploit every possible vulnerability, and that includes those in unsecured smartphones and tablets. Get in touch with us if you need comprehensive security solutions for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Source: Pronto

How to create engaging content

How to create engaging content

With 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook and 500 million tweets shared every day, harnessing crucial social media data is becoming an increasingly monumental task. Businesses need to leverage social media in order to deliver relevant and personalized content to customers. You can make it happen by taking these four steps:

Identify what’s trending on social media
From global events like the WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks to the Super Bowl halftime show that took the internet by storm, content marketers need to know what consumers are talking about on social media.

For example, when Steve Harvey read the wrong name at Miss Universe in 2016, Burger King wasted no time tweeting a picture with the caption: “At BK, everyone gets to keep their crown.” This clever and timely message resulted in almost 100,000 retweets, likes, and replies.

Knowing what’s trending helps marketers fine-tune content to ensure better engagement and higher conversion rates. And it can even help establish relevance in larger conversations and engage new groups of potential customers.

Understand what’s happening locally and globally
Content marketers should stay on top of what’s happening on both a global and local scale, and then share what they’ve learned with their teams. For instance, children’s clothing companies can combine the latest trend with the back-to-school season to attract more students and parents.

Leverage user-generated content
According to a recent Bazaarvoice report, shoppers who interact with consumer-generated content are 97 percent more likely to make a purchase than shoppers who don’t. Customer-generated content helps drive awareness among non-customers who may be persuaded by positive and authentic customers’ experience. Social data derived from user-generated content also helps marketers address content pain points.

Incorporate social data into your marketing strategy
Put the social media data you’ve gathered to good use by integrating them into your current marketing strategy. They immediately provide a better understanding of the customer and highlight the type of content audiences are currently engaging with. This can be used to help develop and execute better content and marketing campaigns.

Social media has changed the way small- and medium-sized businesses operate. In order to get ahead of your competitors, it’s imperative that you understand how to leverage it to your business’s advantage. Feel free to contact us about what we can do to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Source: Pronto

Comparing Office 2016 and Office 365

Comparing Office 2016 and Office 365

Pairing your business with the right productivity-enhancing tool is a challenge. Fortunately, you can choose between two popular options: Office 2016 and Office 365. But which is right for you? Here are three main differences that may help you decide.

How they’re paid for
Office 2016 is a stand-alone suite, and regardless of the quantity purchased, is described by Microsoft as a “one-time purchase.” You pay a single, upfront cost, meaning the entire purchase price must be paid before receiving the license to legally run the software for life.

By contrast, Office 365 is a subscription service requiring monthly or annual payments. Office 365 allows users to run applications only if payments are made. If you stop, you will have 30 days to continue operating after the previous payment’s due date before the license expires.

How they’re serviced
Another aspect to consider is the service and support offerings. Microsoft provides monthly security updates for Office 2016 applications, and these updates fix non-security bugs. However, you don’t get upgrades for improved features and functionality. If you wish to run the latest edition, you’ll have to pay another upfront fee.

Office 365 users, on the other hand, get the same security patches as Office 2016 and also additional feature and functionality upgrades twice a year.

How they sync with the cloud
Microsoft announced a major change this April: As of October 13, 2020, Office 2016 applications acquired through an upfront purchase are required to be in the “Mainstream” support period (the first five years of the decade-long commitment) to obtain cloud connectivity. Office 365 subscriptions won’t experience this problem.

In order to achieve measurable results and enjoy business growth, it’s imperative that your business is working with the right Office solution. Give us a call and let our team of experts assess your needs and determine the better option.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Source: Pronto

What you need to know about malware

What you need to know about malware

You’ve all heard of viruses, spyware, ransomware and trojans. But did you know that they’re all types of malware? They’re all designed to ruin your digital life, but different types of malware put your computer at risk in different ways. Understanding what sets them apart can keep your business guarded.

Viruses

Once created to annoy users by making small changes to their computers, like altering wallpapers, this type of malware has evolved into a malicious tool used to breach confidential data. Most of the time, viruses work by attaching themselves to .exe files in order to infect computers once the file has been opened. This can result in various issues with your computer’s operating system, at their worst, rendering your computer unusable.

To avoid these unfortunate circumstances, you should scan executable files before running them. There are plenty of antivirus software options, but we recommend choosing one that scans in real-time rather than manually.

Spyware

Unlike viruses, spyware doesn’t harm your computer, but instead, targets you. Spyware attaches itself to executable files and once opened or downloaded, will install itself, often times completely unnoticed. Once running on your computer, it can track everything you type, including passwords and other confidential information. Hackers can then use this information to access your files, emails, bank accounts, or anything else you do on your computer.

But don’t panic just yet, you can protect yourself by installing anti-spyware software, sometimes included in all-purpose “anti-malware” software. Note that most reputable antivirus software also come bundled with anti-spyware solutions.

Adware

Are you redirected to a particular page every time you start your browser? Do you get pop ups when surfing the internet? If either situation sounds familiar, you’re likely dealing with adware. Also known as Potential Unwanted Programs (PUP), adware isn’t designed to steal your data, but to get you to click on fraudulent ads. Whether you click on the ad or not, adware can significantly slow down your computer since they take up valuable bandwidth. Worse still, they’re often attached with other types of malware.

Some adware programs come packaged with legitimate software and trick you into accepting their terms of use, which make them especially difficult to remove. To eradicate adware, you’ll need a solution with specialized adware removal protocols.

Scareware

This type of malware works like adware except that it doesn’t make money by tricking you into clicking on ads, but by scaring you into buying a software you don’t need. An example is a pop up ad that tells you your computer is infected with a virus and you need to buy a certain software to eliminate it. If you fall for one of these tactics and click on the ad, you’ll be redirected to a website where you can buy the fake antivirus software.

Scareware acts more like a diversion from the other malware that often comes with it. A good antivirus solution will help scan for scareware too, but you should patch your operating systems regularly just to be safe.

Ransomware

Ransomware has become increasingly common and hostile. It encrypts your computer files and holds them hostage until you’ve paid a fee for the decryption code. Because ransomware comes with sophisticated encryption, there aren’t many options unless you have backups of your data.

There are some tools that can protect against ransomware but we recommend that you backup your data and practice safe web browsing habits.

Worms

Similar to viruses, worms replicate themselves to widen the scope of their damage. However, worms don’t require human intervention to replicate themselves as they use security flaws to transmit from one computer to the next, making them far more dangerous than your typical virus. They often spread via email, sending emails to everyone in an infected user’s contact list, which was exactly the case with the ILOVEYOU worm that cost businesses approximately $5.5 billion worth of damage.

The easiest ways to protect your network from worms is to use a firewall to block external access to your computer network, and to be careful when clicking on unknown links in your email or unknown messages on social media.

Trojans

Usually downloaded from rogue websites, Trojans create digital backdoors that allow hackers to take control of your computer without your knowledge. They can steal your personal information, your files, or cause your computer to stop working. Sometimes hackers will use your computer as a proxy to conceal their identity or to send out spam.

To avoid trojan attacks, you should never open emails or download attachments from unknown senders. If you’re skeptical, use your antivirus software to scan every file first.

In order to keep malware at bay, you need to invest in security solutions with real-time protection and apply security best practices within your office. If you have any questions or concerns, or simply need advice on how to strengthen your business’s security, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Source: Pronto

Google launches new Backup and Sync app

Google launches new Backup and Sync app

Employees don’t usually prioritize managing files and photos because they can be tedious and time-consuming. Those who have to deal with a high volume of files and photos across different devices often depend on the auto-sync functions of Google Drive or do manual backups on external drives or SD cards. With Google’s nifty new application, managing files and photos is more seamless.

Seamless backups and syncing

Google’s new application, Backup and Sync, allows both PC and Mac users to seamlessly back up files, photos, and video files from various devices, SD cards, and USB drives in Google Drive or Google Photos.

To use the app, download and install it on your Mac or your Windows computer, sign in with your Google account, select your sync settings, and choose the folders you wish to back up. If you’re uploading photos or videos, you can choose between High or Original quality upload size. And if you want to upload photos only, you have the option to upload to Google Photos.

Once you’re done setting up, a folder will be created on your computer where files can be saved and accessible anywhere via the cloud. Any file dropped into this folder will automatically sync to Google Drive.

Benefits and downside

Although Backup and Sync is free, you can store only up to 15 GB of data. But if you want to exceed the limit, simply upgrade your Google Drive storage. That said, this new tool is valuable because it simplifies the backup process.

The app is especially beneficial to businesses because it’s easy to set up and requires minimal effort from users. It’s also useful to companies with remote work policies; employees can simply drag and drop files into their computer’s folder and access them anywhere from any device.

Backup and Sync not only gives your business greater flexibility by providing anytime-anywhere access to your files, but it also helps keep them safe and sound in the cloud. If you want to explore other productivity tools for your business, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Six Gmail tips your business needs

Six Gmail tips your business needs

For most small-business owners, processing email takes up a good chunk of the day. If you use Gmail, you’re already working with a powerful platform with numerous productivity-enhancing features. But what if you could streamline the process even further while ensuring each message is dealt with appropriately? These Gmail tips will do the trick.

Undo Send
We’ve all had an email or two we wish we could take back. Gmail has a neat feature that gives you a short period of time to recall a mistakenly sent message. After activating Undo Send, quickly retrieve the email and it’s as if nothing ever happened.

Canned Responses
Dubbed as ‘email for the truly lazy,’ Canned Responses is a Gmail Labs feature that allows you to save time and reuse an email that you designate as a Canned Response. Working like an email template, it saves copious amounts of time since you won’t have to retype the same responses over and over again. It comes in handy for businesses that send plenty of routine emails.

Send large attachments with Google Drive
With Gmail, users can easily send attachments reaching 25 MB. But say you have a huge zip file for a photo shoot that the clients want to review — you’re going to need more space. If you use Google Drive with your Google account, you can send larger files on Gmail. Copy the large file to your Google Drive, then click Compose in Gmail and type your message. When you’re ready to attach the large file, click the Google Drive icon (next to the Attachment icon that looks like a paper clip). Insert the files you want to attach and send your message.

Turn on Priority Inbox
As hinted in the name, Priority Inbox will organize your messages by their importance. You’ll be able to divide your inbox into five sections, where the messages will be displayed in the following order: 1. important and unread messages, 2. starred messages, 3. [customizable section], 4. [customizable section], 5. everything else. To enable it, go to Settings > Inbox > Inbox Type and choose Priority Inbox.

Back up your messages
If you ever need to back up or migrate your Gmail messages, Gmvault can help. It is an open source solution that can back up your entire Gmail directory or just a handful of messages. The email data is then available whenever you need to restore or recreate your Gmail folders. You can also use it to migrate messages from one account to another.

Gmail Labs
To get the latest Gmail features, you should sign up for Gmail Labs. This is where Google tests up-and-coming features before making them part of Gmail. Access Gmail Labs by heading over to Settings.

Spending the right amount of time with emails while managing other crucial business areas is a balancing act many business owners find difficult. If you have questions or need further assistance regarding Gmail or IT in general, feel free to contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Source: Pronto