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February 26th, 2014

Office_Feb24_BMicrosoft Office is without a doubt one of the world’s most renowned and cutting-edge office suites. MS office can be used in any work environment because of its user-friendly and not-so-complicated functionalities. This tool can be the single most powerful and reliable tool your business needs for success. That being said, there may come a time when you need help with the program.

When it comes to helping you with solutions for your Office issues, here are five of the most common go-to places:

F1

Let’s assume you’ve already installed Microsoft Office Suite and an application is already up and running. However, the problem is you need to figure out how to do something. Finding a solution can sometimes be frustrating, so follow one of two options to get a quick answer to your questions.

The first is to press F1 to open the help database. You can then search for a solution to your problem. The second option is to press the question mark '?' located in the upper right corner of any Office program. This will open the same solution database.

MS Diagnostics

Microsoft Office failures, such as your program crashing or not launching, don’t necessarily mean that the software is corrupt or needs to be reinstalled. There might be another root cause. But there's no need to panic, as Microsoft offers an in-house physician for your Office problems called MS Diagnostics.

This tool runs a number of tests on Office programs, identifying existing and potential problems. Basically, the MS Diagnostic tool is like an MRI that thoroughly scans your Office software application, and which can usually provide repair options too.

Office Support

If the issues with your Office applications are not repaired using MS Diagnostics, then you possibly need the help of Office Support. This is one of the six main tabs on the Microsoft Office website.

Once you open Office Support, it welcomes you with an opening question: “What do you need help with?”. You can then select a specific application or product or select All products in that field. In the search box, you can also enter certain keywords that are relevant to the issue. A consolidated list of results will be generated that match any words you have entered. Many users are able to find a solution to their problems by visiting this page.

Community forums

Sometimes, the information on the Microsoft website is too general and doesn’t go far enough in helping you find the solution you need. One way to get a more thorough and updated fix for your Office application problems is to look at the various Office oriented forums on the Internet. Many of these forums tackle issues regarding Microsoft Office, with corresponding solutions that have already been tested. Joining forums can be helpful, especially when you want to learn new information, such as the latest software upgrades.

Tech support

There are some issues that cannot be resolved using MS Diagnostics, website support, and community forums. If all else fails, then you might need to get in touch with Microsoft’s technical support. You can directly air out your concerns with a person who is an expert with technical Office issues.

If you’ve tried to fix problems with MS Office and don't seem to be getting anywhere or issues keep recurring, then give us a call now and we will find the best solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 20th, 2014

Security_Feb17_BComputer and network security is an important issue to many business owners and managers. One of the most common security threats companies come across is phishing. Because phishing has become so prevalent, most people are aware of these underhand methods. This has led to hackers having to come up with new phishing methods, one of which is spear phishing.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is a specialized type of phishing that instead of targeting a mass number of users, as normal phishing attempts, targets specific individuals or groups of individuals with a commonality e.g., an office.

Generally a hacker will first pick a target and then try to learn more about the related people. This could include visiting a website to see what a company does, who they work with, and even the staff. Or they could try hacking a server in order to get information.

Once they have some sort of information, usually a name, position, address, and even information on subscriptions, the hacker will develop an email that looks similar to one that another organization might send e.g., a bank. Some hackers have been known to create fake email accounts and pose as a victim's friend, sending emails from a fake account.

These emails are often similar to official correspondence and will always use personal information such as addressing the email to you directly instead of the usual 'dear sir or madam'. The majority of these emails will request some sort of information or talk about an urgent problem.

Somewhere in the email will be a link to the sender's website which will look almost exactly like the real thing. The site will usually ask you to input personal information e.g., an account number, name, address, or even passwords. If you went ahead and followed this request then this information would be captured by the hacker.

What happens if you are speared?

From previous attack cases and reports, the majority of spear phishing attacks are finance related, in that the hacker wants to gain access to a bank account or credit card. Other cases include hackers posing as help desk agents looking to gain access to business systems.

Should someone fall for this tactic, they will often see personal information captured and accounts drained or even their whole identity stolen. Some spear phishing attacks aren't after your identity or money, instead clicking on the link in the email will install malicious software onto a user's system.

We are actually seeing spear phishing being used increasingly by hackers as a method to gain access to business systems. In other words, spear phishing has become a great way for people to steal trade secrets or sensitive business data.

How do I avoid phishing?

Like most other types of phishing related emails, spear phishing attempts can be easy to block. Here are five tips on how you can avoid falling victim to them.
  • Know the basic rule of business communication - There are many basic rules of communication, but the most important one you should be aware of is that the majority of large organizations, like banks, social media platforms, etc., will not send you emails requesting personal information. If you receive an email from say PayPal asking you to click a link to verify your personal information and password, it's fake and you should delete it.
  • Look carefully at all emails - Many spear phishing emails originate in countries where English is not the main language. There will likely be a spelling mistake or odd wording in the emails, or even the sender's email address. You should look out for this, and if you spot errors then delete the email immediately.
  • Verify before you click - Some emails do have links in them, you can't avoid this. That being said, it is never a good idea to click on these without being sure. If you are unsure, phone the sender and ask. Should the email have a phone number, don't call it. Instead look for a number on a website or previous physical correspondence.
  • Never give personal information out over email - To many this is just plain common sense - you wouldn't give your personal information out to anyone on the street, so why give it out to anyone online? If the sender requires personal information try calling them or even going into their business to provide it.
  • Share only essential information - When signing up for new accounts online, there are fields that are required and others that are optional. Only share required information. This limits how much a hacker can get access to, and could actually tip you off. e.g., they send you an email addressed to Betty D, when your last name is Doe.
  • Keep your eyes out for the latest scams - Pay attention to security websites like those run by the major antivirus providers, or contact us. These sites all have blogs where they post the latest in security threats and more, and keeping up-to-date can go a long way in helping you to spot threats.
If you are looking to learn more about spear phishing or any other type of malware and security threat, get in touch.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 20th, 2014

Hardware_Feb17_BThere’s no doubt that a lot of business owners and managers are now using laptops. You see them everywhere, in coffee shops, the malls, and even in the office. But the question is, do they even know enough about their laptops? If you’re hoping to get to know your laptop even more for example, its parts and what these parts can do, then this guide is exactly what you’re looking for.

Let's take a quick look at the five most important parts of every laptop you will hear techies talk about on a regular basis and what they do.

1. Hardware

The hardware is the tangible/physical parts of the equipment. Think about your touchpad, keyboard or basically the body of your laptop and everything contained within. Essentially, every computer part you can touch, or see, is hardware. This includes the device itself and all the physical components that make it up.

2. The motherboard

A motherboard is where you usually find chips, power connectors, and memory slots (among many others). This board contains the components that make the computer work and is usually located in the center of your laptop with all other parts connected to it. It is also sometimes called the system board or MoBo for short.

If you take your laptop apart - something we don't advise doing because it will likely void any and all warranties - you should be able to see the outer components of a motherboard, with the memory and hard drive usually visible. The board will be below these components and you will usually have to dismantle other components to access it. All components, or parts, connected to the board are delicate, so it is best to let a trained professional deal with the board and any repairs.

3. The case

The case or the computer tower is where the laptops/computers inner components are housed. Many retailers will refer to this as the shell or body.

These days most laptop cases are made with a strong plastic or some form of aluminum and the size is usually dependent on the motherboard’s components and the screen. While many manufacturers say that their cases are made of strong aluminium or some other material, many are there to simply house the hardware or take damage, protecting the delicate inner components.

4. The processor

The processor is the laptop’s brain. It works together with the OS (operating system) to control the laptop. An important thing to note about processors is that it produces a lot of heat. This is why fans and cooling devices are in place and usually located at the back or bottom of the laptop.

The processor is among the most important parts of the laptop because it allows the computer to function. It can read the code stored in the memory of the computer and tell the other parts to do what the code states.

5. Memory

The memory in laptop is where data is stored. The data can be stored in either a chip with a short term memory or a drive.

There are two types of memories. The first is RAM - Rapid Access Memory which is where instructions the processor may need in the near future are stored. RAM relies on electricity to store this information and quickly loses any data stored on it without power.

The second type of memory is the Hard Disk. This device, or drive, is where all data is stored including your files and the code for all the programs installed. When in operation, code the processor needs will be copied from the hard disk to the RAM. Hard disks usually have a high amount of storage - averaging at least 500 GB or Gigabytes, while RAM usually has a small amount - averaging 4 to 8 GB.

When looking at the specs, or specifications, of a computer many manufacturers and stores will list a number under memory and another under storage. Memory is RAM, while storage is usually related to the hard disk. That being said, some stores will group both together, so it is a good idea to pay attention to the specs.

You’re time to share!

If you need help with your laptop, be it upgrades, maintenance or perhaps you just need some expert advice, then call us now. We’ll be more than happy to help you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 19th, 2014

BCP_Feb17_BLet’s accept the fact that disasters are inevitable. These kinds of situations can be threatening to human lives and business operations as well. In order to prevent further disruption in your business operations, you need to implement a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. These emergency plans can help expedite your business's recovery, making it more painless for the management to handle.

When creating a disaster recovery plan for your business, there are certain key elements that you need to consider.

Basics of a Disaster Recovery Plan

In building an effective disaster recovery plan, you should include thorough documentation that lays out the details of the ins and outs of the plan. You need to know that there is no right type of DRP, nor is there a single template that fits all. But there are three basic aspects to a disaster recovery plan: Preventive measures, detective measures, and corrective measures.

In addition, before building your disaster recovery plan, make sure that it can provide an answer to these basic questions:

  1. What is the objective and the purpose of making one?
  2. Who are the assigned team responsible when certain events occur?
  3. What is the framework and the procedure to be followed?

Plan for the worst case scenario

Since you’re planning for an unforeseen event, you might as well make sure that you have plan for the worst case scenario. That way, you’ll never be overwhelmed and you’re as prepared as you can be for any situation.

Having different tiers of backup plans is also advisable. It gives you a better assurance that when bad comes to worst, you have a system in place to make sure that these disasters are handled correctly, regardless of the disaster’s severity.

Data issues

One of the objectives of disaster recovery plan is to protect the collection of data. Almost half of the total population of business organizations experiences data loss from both physical and virtual environments. This is often due to corruption of the file system, broken internal virtual disks, and hardware failures. Thus, there is a real need for established data recovery plans such as backup features offered by many IT solution vendors.

Test-drive

Before deploying your disaster recovery plan, you need to have a sort of a test-drive to check if it works. Aside from making it work, you also need to know if it’s going to be effective. Through testing, any shortcomings can be identified and will garner corresponding resolutions to improve on your plan. Although the real score of its effectiveness can only be identified once a disaster occurs, at least you will have an idea of how your business and the recovery plan can operate during a disaster.

Building an effective disaster recovery plan is a must for your business. This might not directly lead to a positive impact on productivity but it will surely save you in the events that can possibly crush your business. Anticipating and adjusting for the things that might happen is one of the keys to a company’s success.

Setting up an effective DRP can be quite an intricate process since there are several elements that you need to consider. Should you want to learn more, give us a call and we’ll have our associates help you develop and test a plan that works best for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 14th, 2014

Security_Feb11_BEven the most reliable business network security and sophisticated user credentials can be vulnerable to cyber attacks to some extent. The concept of a comprehensive layered security, called defense in depth, is based on a strategy which has been around since the time of the Romans. A multiple-layered defense is created to prevent the advancement of attack. This strategy has been proven to be an effective IT security method these days.

Just like the human body, a computer system can also be attacked by many viruses that can infect and disrupt computer operations. And what's worse is it doesn’t just disrupt the operations of your computer, but these viruses and other malware can gather sensitive information or even gain access to other private and secured computer systems on the same network.

Although computer viruses aren't deadly, they can spread at an unimaginable rate across your entire computer system, affecting your database, networks and other IT-related sources. You can get these viruses by opening bogus email messages, downloading unknown file attachments, and accidentally clicking ads that pop up your screen. This is why there is a need for a strong and effective security system to protect your network.

One of the tested and proven security strategies used today is defense in depth. This concept focuses on the coordinated and organized use of multiple security countermeasures to keep your database safe from intrusive attackers. Basically, this concept is based on the military principle that a multi-layered and complex defense is more difficult to defeat than a single-barrier protection system.

The defense in depth strategy assures network administrators by working on the basis of the following guiding principles:

Defenses in multiple places

The fact that many viruses can attack the network system from multiple points means that you need to deploy strong defense mechanisms at multiple locations that can endure all types of attacks.

Defense in depth focuses on areas by deploying firewalls and intrusion detection to endure active network attacks and also by providing access control on servers and host machines, to resist distribution attacks from the insiders. This multi-layered defense also protects local and area-wide communication networks from denial of service attacks.

Multiple layered defense

Defense in depth is an extremely effective countermeasure strategy, because it deploys multiple layered defense mechanisms between the attacker and its target. Each layer of the defense has a unique mechanism to withstand the virus attacks. Furthermore, you need to make sure that each layer has both detective and protective measures to ensure the security of the network.

The reason for wrapping the network with multiple layers of defense is because a single line of defense may be flawed. And the most certain way to protect your system from any attacks is to employ a series of different defenses that can be deployed to cover the gaps in the other defenses. Malware scanners, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, biometric verification and local storage encryption tools can individually serve to protect your IT resources in a way others cannot.

Perhaps the final layer of defense should be educating your employees not to compromise the integrity of the computer systems with potentially unhealthy computer practices. As much as possible, teach them the dos and don’ts of using the computer, as well as how they can prevent viruses and other computer malware coming in and destroying your system.

If you’re looking to give your computer systems better protection against the harmful elements that the internet can bring, then give us a call now and we’ll have one of our associates take care of you and help defend your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 13th, 2014

Windows_Feb10_BTechnology has become one of the most necessary components of business infrastructure and the technology that supports almost every business is the server. Servers can host almost every system, with one of the most common being email. When many businesses look at email services, they look at Microsoft's Exchange. If you are looking into Exchange, you will likely come across Hosted Exchange.

What is Hosted Exchange?

Microsoft Exchange is first and foremost a messaging system. It offers businesses a number of services, including email, calendars, task management, address lists, and more. By integrating Exchange into your business, you can also gain the ability to access all of these servers from any location, on almost every device.

Many companies that purchase Exchange will actually install it on servers that are usually in the office. The thing with this is that it can be a bit expensive, especially for smaller businesses, and the server needed to host it can take up space that a business may not have. Other companies simply prefer to operate on cloud-based systems.

In order to meet demands, and offer a reliable product to companies of all sizes, many IT companies, including Microsoft, started to offer Hosted Exchange. How this works is your IT partner, who is your provider, makes space available on one of their servers. They then install Microsoft Exchange in a space which is only accessible to your company, over an Internet connection.

A provider is in charge of ensuring the data stored within is secure and accessible to the client, you, at all times. Many Hosted Exchange providers will also offer extra features like improved security, full-time management, and even data backup.

In other words, Hosted Exchange is the cloud-version of Exchange and is often managed by the host company. You and your employees will still be able to access it as you would if it were hosted in your business, meaning there is no real visible difference.

What benefits can Hosted Exchange offer?

There are a wide variety of benefits that Hosted Exchange can bring to companies looking to integrate it into their business. Here are four of the most common

1. It makes costs more predictable

Like many other hosted services, the majority of Hosted Exchange services are offered on a monthly, per user basis and the host will take care of the maintenance and hosting. This makes your costs predictable as you will only have to pay a fixed fee.

2. It can lower costs

If a business were to tabulate the cost of purchasing a new server, Exchange and the other infrastructure required in order to use it, plus add in any expected maintenance fees, the total and per user cost will likely add up quite quickly.

By going with a Hosted Exchange solution, you will pay a monthly fee only. For many small businesses this will usually be far less expensive than hosting an Exchange solution on premise. Add into this money saved on maintenance overhead and growth, and Hosted Exchange quickly becomes a service that can undoubtedly help reduce IT costs.

3. It's easier to implement and manage

If you were to implement Exchange in your office you would have to find space for the server, install the server and then Exchange, and then ensure that Exchange is installed correctly and working. Once it is, you will likely have to keep managing it and adding new accounts and users while reducing others. And if something happens, say the service goes offline, you will have to fix it.

For many business owners, this is simply beyond the scope of their skills and time. If you go with a Hosted Exchange solution, your IT partner will usually take care of hosting - you won't need to worry about a server - and will also manage and install it. This leaves you to focus on managing the solution, and if you don't have time some providers can even take care of this as well. In other words, a Hosted Exchange solution is far easier for many businesses.

4. It's more flexible

If you are a fast growing company, and need to scale an Exchange solution, one hosted in house is often limited by the capacity of the server. While some businesses won't go beyond this, others will. For those that don't, an on-premise Exchange solution will likely be perfectly useable.

If your company is growing it may be tough to scale an in-house Exchange solution. With Hosted Exchange, you can usually just contact your provider and they can help ensure that the space and resources are available. The same goes for if you move offices and you will likely be up and running again as soon as you have an Internet connection.

Looking to learn more about Hosted Exchange and how your business can benefit from it? Contact us today for a chat, we'd be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 12th, 2014

SocialMedia_Feb10_BModern marketing is made up of a number of increasingly complex functions and systems, with one of the most important elements being social media. There are a number of platforms available to businesses and a popular one is microblog Twitter. While Twitter is fairly easy to use, there is actually a really common mistake that many users make which can harm the reach of their posts.

Social media is an always evolving idea, so what works one day won’t necessarily work in the near or foreseeable future. Combine this with the various changes and features of the different social media platforms and it is nearly impossible to master every service.

When it comes to Twitter, one of the most popular features is using @username to bring the tweet to the attention of the user and to tweet about them. When you do this you and the person will be able to see it, along with people who follow that person.

What is the #1 mistake Twitter users make?

The problem is, many people put the @username at the beginning of the tweet. What this does, as we stated above, is only make the tweet visible on your feed, to the user and their followers. Why is this a problem? Well, it comes from how most businesses use Twitter. They use it to share content, e.g., a blog article or a video, etc.; to essentially tweet about the person, not at them. You see this in many tweets, for example, “@microsoft’s new blog is great. Read it!”

While you want to share the content with people other than those who created it, putting @user at the front of your tweet actually limits the audience to the person who created the content and their followers – in other words the opposite of what you intend, unless Microsoft is your target audience of course!

How do you avoid mistake tweets?

If you are looking to tweet about someone or the content that user has created, using the @user is still a good idea because it will bring to the content-creator’s attention that you are sharing their content. This is a great way to form relationships and even have these individuals and businesses share your content. In turn, this can help increase the potential of your content being seen by a wider audience.

For many tweets it makes sense to put the @username first as it helps make the overall tweet easier to read. The problem is, this will also limit your audience. So, for those who want to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak, add a period before @username e.g.,” .@microsoft’s new blog post is great. Read it!”.

What this does is ensure that the tweet isn’t addressed only to the user, but can be seen by everyone.

Looking to learn more about utilizing Twitter or any other social media as a part of your marketing strategy? We have a lot to tweet about and can help you tweet too.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 11th, 2014

Security_Feb10_BThe Olympics is one of the most popular and well known sporting events in the world, and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games are well underway. This round, they are in Sochi, Russia and like every other event, there have been various organizational issues to deal with. Unlike the last Olympics however, one of those issues is the risk of hacking of mobile devices and computers.

Hacking at the Winter Olympics 2014

Well before the Olympics even started in Russia, the Russian government said that they will be surveilling phone and computer communications. Many scoffed at this, writing off the government as being overly ambitious and boasting about a nearly impossible task. The thing is, the Internet in Russia may not be as secure as many believe, being full of hackers. At least according to a report aired on NBC shortly before the games started.

In the report, reporter Richard Engel took new, never opened laptops and mobile devices to Russia and used them. He found that within 24 hours all of the devices had been hacked, exposing the data stored within.

In part of the segment, Engel and a security expert go to a local coffee shop in Moscow and search for Sochi on a mobile device. Almost immediately the device is hacked and malicious software downloaded. Engel notes that the hackers have access to data on the phone along with the ability to record phone calls.

In a follow-up segment, Engel explains a bit more about the laptop issues. When he boots one up and connects to the Internet, hackers are almost immediately snooping around the information, transferring from the machine to the networks. Within a couple of hours, he received a personalized email from a hacker welcoming him to Russia and providing him with some links to interesting websites. Clicking on the link allowed the hackers to access his machine.

One issue is that it hasn't been stated in any reports whether the Russian government is behind this, or if it's hackers out to steal information. While you can be sure that the Russians are monitoring communication during the Winter Olympics, it is highly likely that they are not the ones installing malware on phones, rather it's probably organized crime rings or individual hackers.

I'm not at Sochi so why do I care?

As a business owner half the world away you may be wondering why this news is so important to you, or why you should care. Take a look at any tech-oriented blog or news channel and you will quickly see that the number of attacks on devices, including malware, phishing, spam, etc. is on the rise. It's now likely a matter of when you will be hacked, not if.

Combine this with the fact that many businesses are going global, or doing business with other companies at a big distance. This has caused many people to go mobile and the tools that have allowed this are laptops and smart devices. Because so many people are now working on a laptop, phone or tablet, these devices have become big targets. The main reason for this is that many people simply don't take the same safety precautions they take while on the office or even the home computer.

Hackers know this, so logically they have started going after the easier targets. The news reports concerning Russia highlight this issue and is a warning business owners around the world should be aware of, especially if they are going to be traveling with computers or phones that have sensitive information stored within.

That being said, there are a number of tips you can employ to ensure your data is secure when you go mobile. Here are six:

1. Use cloud services wherever possible

Cloud storage services can be incredibly helpful when traveling. They often require a password to access and are usually more secure than most personal and even some business devices. If you are traveling to an area where you are unsure of the security of the Internet or your devices, you could put your most important data in a trusted cloud storage solution.

This is also a good idea because if your device gets stolen, the data is in the cloud and is recoverable. If you have data just stored locally on your hard drive, and your device is stolen, there is a good chance it's gone forever. For enhanced security, be sure to use a different password for every service.

2. Back up your data before leaving

Speaking of losing data, it is advisable to do a full system backup of all the devices you are taking with you before you leave. This will ensure that if something does happen while you are away, you have a backup of recent data that is recoverable.

3. Secure and update all of your devices

One of the best ways to ensure that your data is secure is to update all of your devices. This means ensuring that the operating systems are up-to-date and any security updates are also installed.

Also, ensure that the programs installed on the devices are updated. This includes the apps on your phone, including the ones that you don't use.

You should also secure your devices by not only having an antivirus and malware scanner but also requiring a password to access your device.

4. Watch where you connect

These days Internet connections are almost everywhere. In many public spaces like airports, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. many of the connections are open, or free to connect to, and don't require a password.

While this may seem great, hackers are known to watch these networks and even hack them, gaining access to every bit of information that goes in and out of the network. When you are traveling, try avoiding connecting to these networks if you can. If you really have to, then be sure not to download anything or log into any accounts that hold private data.

5. Know the risks of where you are going

Before you leave, do a quick search for known Internet security issues in the area you will be visiting. If you find any news or posts about threats you can then take the appropriate steps to secure your system ahead of time.

6. If in doubt, leave it at home

In the NBC report, Engle finishes by telling viewers that if they are at all unsure about the security of their devices, or are worried about their data, they should leave the device at home, or delete the data before going. This is a good piece of advice and maybe instead of deleting data completely, you could move it to a storage device like an external hard drive that you leave behind.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring the security of your devices while you are away from the office contact us today. We have solutions to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Feb03_BModern marketing has become an almost wholly digital affair, with companies relying on their website and social media profiles as a main marketing platform. This is all created in response to the fact that many customers expect companies to be online. While there are many ways to increase your online presence and business value, one of the best for many businesses is through a blog.

Define business blogging

When we talk about blogging, most people ask two questions: "What is blogging?" and "Is business blogging any different from personal blogging?"

A blog, a portmanteau of Web log, is usually a page on a website where authors post written articles. The content, usually called a post, can be incredibly varied, from along the lines of a journal style to breaking news or even thoughts and opinions to open up debate.

Business blogging is the act of creating content that is related to your business. The topics are usually narrowed down to relate to the products or services you provide. For example, you are reading this post on our blog, which largely focuses on technology in business. The vast majority of business blogs are not profit oriented (the company isn't out to make money directly from their blog articles) and is usually a part of their marketing plan.

Why do businesses blog?

There are 3 main reasons many businesses blog:

1. A blog can increase traffic to your website

One common complaint many business owners have about their website traffic, or the number of people who visit their site, is that it is lower than expected. There can be many reasons behind this, the most common being that the content on the website is static. Think about when it the last time you updated your whole site was.

Even if your site effectively explains what your business does, search engines generally look kindly on websites that are active. It is incredibly hard to keep re-writing your website, so one of the best ways to fix this is by blogging. When you create a new blog post, a new page on your website is usually indexed - added to the site structure, kind of like the index at the back of textbooks. This activity tells search engines that your website is active. Active websites will usually show higher in search results.

Blog articles are also great to share on social media services. By sharing content with your existing customers there is an increased chance of your name and profile being seen by people who aren't your customer yet but could be in the future.

If you have more people seeing your content in different places - search results, social media, etc. - you should see an increase in overall traffic to your website.

2. A blog is a great way to show your expertise

Think about the last time you needed to purchase a new item, say a computer. Did you pick the first shop you saw, then walk in and purchase a computer? Chances are high that you didn't. Most people research companies and retailers who have a good rating or who come across as an expert, and purchase from them.

As many people do this research online, it can be a challenge to establish your company as the expert in your field. Your blog can be the perfect tool to establish your company as a go-to expert. If you answer common questions and provide tips, there is a higher chance that your articles will be regarded as helpful and having potential customers contact you. What this means for you is an increased chance of conversion.

3. Blog articles have a positive long-term effect

When you search on the Internet you will often find a number of blog posts at the top, with some maybe even being from the last year or so. A well crafted blog post will often see a wealth of interest within the first few days of posting largely because of sharing via social media services and users who have subscribed to your posts.

If your posts get a fair number of shares, comments, etc. there is a good chance that search engines will begin to show it higher in results. What this means for you is that the post will continue to be seen in results for a of couple weeks to months or more, depending on keywords, etc. This translates to longer visibility, and a higher chance of traffic and leads in the future.

Of course, not every post will be a smash hit and bring leads pouring in, but an active blog that produces good content could prove to be of great value to your business. It will take time, but most bloggers do see increased payoffs.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 4th, 2014

Facebook_Feb03_BThe most popular social media service has got to be Facebook. There are many reasons businesses launch Facebook profiles, from connecting with their customers to harnessing the copious amount of data available for marketing purposes. Possibly the most popular reason is Facebook's various advertising services. Recently, Facebook announced that they will be terminating their sponsored posts feature. Many business users are now asking how this will affect them.

What is, or was, sponsored stories?

Sponsored stories is an advertising feature on Facebook that allows businesses to capitalize on word-of-mouth recommendations. The way it works is that it allows businesses to essentially promote user activity to that user's friends.

Say you own a coffee shop and have allowed users to check in on Facebook when they visit your store. When a user checks in, their friends will sometimes see this on their News Feeds. However, a check-in may be missed because of the sheer amount of content shown on our News Feeds.

With sponsored stories you can pay to promote, or sponsor, these check-ins, or other interactions with your company's Facebook profile. When you do this, the post or story will show up higher on user News Feeds or in the bar to the right of the News Feed. These posts will say Sponsored on them and will tell the user that their friends have liked the content, or interacted with the business e.g., checked in.

The problem with sponsored stories

While this is a great feature for businesses - they have a higher chance of their name and content being seen by users - it hasn't been so popular with many users. Many users don't mind seeing ads for things they have just looked at, but to have Facebook tell other users about it without their consent has created some criticism.

In fact, in 2011 Facebook was hit with a class action lawsuit over misuse of user data directly related to sponsored stories. In the summer of last year, it was ruled that Facebook had been violating user privacy and was fined $20 million. Largely because of this, the company implemented the ability to opt out of sponsored stories. It is estimated that this has cost the company around $100 million in lost revenue, which is highly likely the real reason why the company has decided to drop sponsored stories as of April 9, 2014.

What does this mean for my business?

The news that Facebook is removing a potentially valuable advertising feature could cause some business users to worry, especially those who have benefited from this feature before. This change, along with the recent lawsuit that highlighted how Facebook uses data, doesn't mean that the company will stop collecting data and showing ads to users. Instead, users will no longer see names of friends attached.

For your business this means that you will still be able to advertise, and your content and even ads will still continue to show up on News Feeds, only they will lack other contact information usually seen at the top of sponsored posts.

There are also a number of other options available, including promoting posts and content on yours and other people's News Feeds. Another option involves using the teo Custom Audiences features. These two features allow you to create an ad that can be sent to existing mailing lists or a market that is most likely to respond positively to the content. For businesses that don't have mailing lists or a target market in mind, Facebook also offers Lookalike Audiences which can help you find potential audiences based on your current connections.

In fact, both of these features are currently used by many Facebook users to set up sponsored posts. Now, the main difference will be that the word-of-mouth style of sponsored posts will be gone and will only appear in the right-hand sidebar of user News Feeds.

If you are looking to learn more about using Facebook with your business, contact us today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.