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July 11th, 2014

Hardware_July07_BWe’ve explored how Mac and PC differ in terms of specifications, operating system and software; and in this article we continue to dig into other differences between the two rivals. Buying a computer is more than looking into design and specs, but also about models, availability, security, customer satisfaction and of course price.

Models

Apple offers five computer lines comprising of the Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro. This limited selection is not a sign of weakness but a part of the company’s 'less is more' approach to marketing.

PCs have a larger variety to choose from, with industry giants such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, who offer numerous configurations of both desktop and laptop models. This can be beneficial in helping you find a specific computer that meets your needs.

Availability

When it comes to third party retail stores, Apple is more selective than PC manufacturers about where it sell its products. As of April 2014, Apple has 424 retail stores in 16 countries and an online store available in 39 countries. However, Macs are still not available at many stores that sell PCs.

PCs are the most numerous and popular computers out there, and can be found at every store that sells computers, except for Apple stores. This makes it easier to find PCs, especially if you don't live near an Apple store.

Security

With the vast majority of computers running on Windows, most attacks focus on PCs. Malware like Trojans, which trick users into installing the software by pretending to be a useful program, or botnets, are common to PCs, but rarely harm Macs.

This doesn’t mean that Macs are 100% secure. As Macs become more popular, threats are increasing. Nonetheless, a Mac user is still less likely to be a victim of successful attack than a PC user.

Customer satisfaction

Recent surveys conducted by PCWorld and PCMag revealed that personal users choose Mac over every single brand of PC available. Businesses on the other hand still prefer to stick with PCs.

While Apple does score high on many surveys, especially because of the value placed on face-to-face service, there are a number of PC manufacturers that offer a comparable service. Also, there are more smaller repair shops that offer unrivalled customer service.

Price

One of the most cited differences between a Mac and a PC is price. Generally speaking, Macs are more expensive than PCs due to their preference of building products around higher-end computers with more costly components. The cheapest Mac computer is the Macbook Air which starts from USD$899, while various models of PCs can be found at a much lower price.

Mac and PC both have strong and weak points. It’s best to try both and see which is the better tool for you and which will cover your business needs. If you are looking for a new system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_BAs technology continues to expand and improve, many people have come to prefer to use their own systems over their office's tech offerings. This is largely because many of us have newer personal devices that allow us to do so much more than the computers we use at our office. As a result, the issue of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has become far more important, especially due to the fact that if left unchecked, BYOD could pose a security risk to your organization.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 9th, 2014

OSX_July07_BThe cloud is one of the most popular tech systems businesses integrate, with many relying on cloud storage solutions for backup or day-to-day storage needs. One issue some users have with cloud storage however, is over how secure it is. In an effort to ensure maximum security, many providers implement two-step authentication. The latest company to adopt this heightened security is Apple, who have just enabled it for iCloud users.

What exactly is two-step authentication?

Two-factor or two-step authentication as Apple calls it, is a security method whereby you need to supply two different pieces of information in order to access your account. For the majority of systems this means your password and another piece of identification or a code that has been sent to say a mobile phone or generated by a key fob.

The reason two-step authentication has become so popular, and is being implemented in numerous systems, is that it is more secure than just using your password to access your account. Because the majority of platforms choose to use your mobile phone to generate the second code - usually through an SMS - there is a good chance that other people will not be able to access your account.

In the specific case of iCloud, you will need to enter this code when accessing iCloud or iCloud Web apps like Calendar, Contacts, Mail or Notes. When you try to access an app on a new system you will need to enter your password and a four digit code sent to your mobile phone over SMS.

How to set up two-step authentication for iCloud

If you use iCloud or iCloud's Web apps you can enable two-step authentication by following these steps:
  1. Going to the iCloud website and logging in using the username and password you would like to enable the extra authentication for.
  2. Clicking on your account name, which is located at the top-right of the page, and selecting Account Settings.
  3. Clicking on your Apple ID followed by Manage your Apple ID in the new page that opens.
  4. Signing in with your Apple ID again and clicking on Password and Security.
  5. Entering the answer to two of your security questions and then selecting Continue.
  6. Reading the information about two-step authentication on the three following screens and clicking Get started.
  7. Setting a phone number in the following screen. Be sure to use a number tied to a phone that can accept SMS or text messages.
  8. Entering the code that was sent to the phone number you set in the previous step.
  9. Selecting your phone from the list of devices and clicking Verify.
  10. Entering the code that is sent to the device you just selected and clicking Continue.
  11. Printing or copying the verification key in the window that pops up. You will need to keep this in order to access your account if you switch phone numbers.
  12. Re-entering the verification key and clicking Enable two-step verification.
  13. Checking the box to show that you acknowledge the two-step verification and understand what it means.
  14. Clicking Done.
The next time you try to log into iCloud, you should be asked to enter the two-step verification code that will be sent to the mobile device you established in the steps above. It's true that this is a bit of a hassle to set up, but it really does enhance the security of your account and should be enabled, especially if you have connected a credit card or uploaded sensitive information to your account.

If you are looking to learn more about enhancing the security of your Mac laptop or desktop, contact us today to see how our systems can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
July 8th, 2014

GoogleApps_July07_BFor tech giants like Google and Apple, it has become a tradition to host an annual conference where they announce new products and services they are working on. Google calls their conference I/O, and usually holds it at the end of May or June. This year, it was on June 25 and 26, and the company did not disappoint, especially when it came to announcements beneficial to business users.

During I/O, Google announced a ton of new products and features, while also holding seminars and sessions all related to developing programs and solutions using Google's various programs and devices. The most popular event however is the keynote, where the company provides a high-level glance at the most exciting developments to come in the next year or so. Here is a brief overview of the five most business-relevant announcements.

Android L

Overall, Android has grown immensely over the past five or so years. It's now the world's most popular mobile operating system and there are a wide range of businesses using Android devices. On an almost yearly basis, Google has announced a new version of Android, but over the past few years there hasn't really been a major overhaul to the system. Google aims to change that this year with Android L.

The next version of Android will feature a redesigned User Interface that is not only more modern but also smarter and more colorful. Using a new layout system, called material design, Android L aims to provide a consistent look across all apps and devices. For example, the Gmail app will look the same on a tablet as it does on your phone.

Aside from a new look and interface, there are also a number of features introduced with Android L, including:

  • A new way to display notifications - These will also be displayed on your locked screen.
  • Increased dependence between apps - Google is aiming to make it so that apps work better together. The example showcased at the conference displayed a Google search for a restaurant using Chrome, and a search result allowing you to book a table directly from another app, without having to close Chrome and open the table booking app.
  • Faster operation - Google has developed a new way to put the OS together, which will allow apps to run faster, smoother, and more efficiently on the same hardware.
  • Better battery life - A new mobile project Google is working on, called project Volta, will allow app developers to track and easily see where their app is using increased battery power. This can then be investigated and changes implemented wherever possible to limit this energy drain. This will help ensure better battery life overall. There will also be a new power saving mode, allowing users to lengthen battery life by up to 90 minutes when their device's battery is low.
There are also likely to be a slew of new and improved features introduced when Android L is released which, according to Google, should be sometime in the fall - likely late September or October.

Android Wear

The company noted that they were going to get into the smartwatch game earlier this year, and at I/O they introduced a number of new smartwatches and an Android Wear app you install on your phone that gives these watches functionality. Think of these watches as an extension of your phone; showing relevant information and notifications. In other words, they are really kind of like Google Now on your wrist.

In the demo we saw, your watch will show upcoming events and information related to your location. So, for example, if you have a flight in three hours, you will be able to access your flight information, boarding pass, and even receive updates about the status on your watch, without having to look at your phone.

It can also function as your notification center. You can set your phone to buzz when you receive a new email and read it without looking at your phone. You can even interact with it using your voice. For example, you can dictate emails or even Internet searches.

There are currently two watches available to order, with a third coming later this summer. Because these devices are new, it's not easy to tell whether they will be useful for all business users. However, if you spend a lot of time on the road or out of the office, this could prove to be a good way of keeping track of your day and important notifications.

Android Auto

Governments around the world are increasingly implementing tough laws regarding the use of mobile phones whilst driving. While safety is paramount, the restrictions can be tough for those who spend a lot of time traveling with work.

In an effort to make things safer, Google has introduced Android Auto. This system is designed to be integrated into new cars and connect to your phone. With Android Auto you will be able to access your phone's music, notifications, contacts, and messages while on the road. The idea is that these will show up on your car's navigation screen and can be interacted with via steering wheel controls or your voice.

In the demo shown at I/O, the driver received a text message which was read to him aloud, and he then responded using his voice. He was also able to set reminders, play music and find directions - all without picking up his phone.

Generally speaking, when this system starts to show up in cars later this year, it should allow you to interact with your phone while still focusing on driving and not breaking any distracted driving laws of course.

New features for Drive

I/O wasn't all about Android however, Google also talked about a slew of new features and an overhaul to their popular cloud storage and collaboration platform, Google Drive. In the new version, the overall platform is quicker. You will be able to see file information at the click of a button, and open new files by double clicking on them. You can also select multiple files, just as you do on your computer, and easily add these to one folder or action the files as a group.

Possibly the biggest, and most useful, feature in the new version of Drive. This version will bring enhanced editing options, which are available in the three main collaboration apps - Slides, Sheets and Docs. In the new version, you should see a pencil icon in the menu bar above the document. Click on this to access the new editing options. For example, Suggesting will allow you to edit the doc, but instead of the edits being made, they will show up as comments that need to be approved to implement the suggested change.

With the update, a common issue with Drive was also fixed: The ability to add and edit Microsoft Office documents. Now, Google says, you will be able to add Office files and edit them directly from Drive, without having to convert them to their Google equivalent. These features should be available now in Google Drive, or will be within the next month or two, so be on the lookout.

A premium option for Google Apps

Finally, at the I/O keynote, Google talked about a new version of Google Apps they like to call Google Drive for Work. This package, aimed at getting businesses to move over to the paid version of Google Apps, is a premium version of the basic version of Google Apps.

For USD 10 a month, users get unlimited cloud storage, enhanced audit reporting and security controls. For companies with less than five users however, the storage amount is set to 1TB per user. If your business is seeing an increase in the amount of data you need to store, this new premium account could be right up your alley.

Looking to learn more about the products and updates announced by Google? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_BIn the first part of this article, last month, we began to take a look at the content companies create for social media and how they can go about not only getting it shared but also increasing the overall shareability of the content they create. From creating longer blog articles, to using images, and playing on certain emotions, we shared five useful content sharing tips. In this month's article, we look at five more tips that can help ensure your blog articles and content are more likely to be shared via social media.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

GeneralHealthCare_July03_AA strategy commonly used in manufacturing and aviation offers the potential for better health care at lower cost, according to a recent report.

That strategy - systems engineering - is an interdisciplinary approach to designing and managing complex systems.

According to "Better Health Care and Lower Costs: Accelerating Improvement Through Systems Engineering," a report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the key is the use of tools such as alerts and checklists that adjust for the human factor.

It’s worked in many industries. As one example of using systems engineering, U.S. commercial airlines have reduced fatalities significantly since the 1960s, with the risk of dying now one in 45 million flights. Similar gains have been seen in space stations, satellites, and education.

Now forward-thinking physicians are embracing systems engineering with the same level of devotion. Simply having doctors and nurses in an I.C.U. make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day decreased the average length of stay by half.

According to the PCAST report, systems engineering, with an emphasis on high-quality data to assist health-care providers and measure progress, is the wave of the future in health care. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help your practice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

AndroidPhone_June30_BAs Android devices continue their steady penetration into the business world, we are starting to see a wider number of business oriented apps arrive on the Google Play store. One of the latest apps released could be incredibly useful for business owners who use Google Apps. In late June, Google announced that they had released the Slides app.

What exactly is the Google Slides app? I thought it was part of Google Drive...

As many who use Google Apps know, productivity apps like Slides, Docs, and Sheets are part of Google's cloud storage app - Drive. If you have used the Drive app on your phone or tablet, you likely also know that you can create, edit, and share documents via this app.

This development is an effort to extend the capabilities of Drive, while simultaneously making it easier for users to access their individual files. For example, if you are a heavy user of Slides it can be a little annoying and time consuming to open the Drive app, search for the file you want, open it, and start editing. Now, if you have the app installed you can open it for immediate access to your related files, in this case Slides.

The key here is to think of the Slides app as a branch of the Google Drive App, as all of your files are still linked to Drive. Create a presentation using the Slides app and it will show up automatically on Google Drive as well as in the app. This app has all the same features as the Drive version, it is just that the app has been specifically written for mobile devices and designed for ease of use.

What can I do with this app?

As we stated above, the main focus of the Slides app is to allow you to create and edit presentations from your Android device. As such, there are a number of useful features:
  • The ability to create and edit presentations offline. As long as you have accessed a Slides presentation while online, it will be made available for you to open and edit offline as well. You can also save individual presentations to your device's hard drive and have the file updated when the presentation is.
  • Advanced sharing features. You are able to share your presentation from a mobile device and have users on their devices or computers collaborate on the same file.
  • Automatic saving of presentations created and edited on the Web. As long as you have an Internet connection, changes made to files via the app will be synced with Google Drive and reflect on all versions of the presentation. If you are offline, the changes will sync when you are next online.
  • The ability to open, edit, and save Microsoft PowerPoint presentations directly from the app. This is a big feature, largely due to the fact that many businesses use PowerPoint instead of Slides. What this means for you is that you can view these files without PowerPoint installed on your device.
  • Full editing capabilities. You are able to create slides, add text, edit slide order and the overall format of your text and slides.
  • Present directly from your device. You can run presentations on your device or connect to a projector using adapters that can usually be purchased for your device.

Where can I find the Slides app?

This app is available now on Google Play. To install it you can:
  1. Open the Google Play app on your device.
  2. Press the magnifying glass and type in Google Slides.
  3. Tap on the app and select Install.
  4. Open the app when it has been installed.
When you open the app, you should see all of your slides related to your Google account pop up in the app.

If you are looking to learn more about Google's apps on your Android device contact us today to see how we can help ensure that you get the apps your business needs most.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_July03_AThe compliance date for ICD-10 is farther away than it once was, but it’s still coming — and health-care practitioners should be moving forward with preparedness plans, if the results of a recent survey are any indication.

The survey — which questioned physician practices, hospitals, payers, vendors, and others — was conducted by eHealth Initiative and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

It found that most health-care organizations are using the extra time afforded by the delay of ICD-10 compliance to October 15 to invest, train, and test. Most organizations said they're ready for testing, but some are more prepared than others. Around 40 percent of respondents said they'd start end-to- end testing by the end of 2014, and 25 percent reported that they’d begin by the end of 2015. And, to minimize productivity loss, 68 percent of respondents said they will conduct additional training, with 31 percent hiring more coders to help with the transition.

Concerns about ICD-10 remain, however. One pertains to preparedness, with 45 percent of respondents reporting that they don't have a good sense of their partners' readiness. Another pertains to financial impact, with 38 percent of respondents saying they thought their revenue will decrease, and 14 percent saying they think it will stay the same. Only 6 percent think it will increase.

Clearly, while the ICD-10 transition seeks to improve accuracy of claims and quality of care, not everyone has a clear plan to derive value from it. But now, it seems, is the best time to prepare. We recommend that you contact us today to learn more about how we can help ensure that you are ready for ICD-10.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 1st, 2014

Office365_June30_BFor many businesses, the cloud and cloud-based solutions are becoming increasingly popular. Microsoft Office 365 is one of the most commonly integrated cloud-based solutions amongst small to medium businesses. With a suite of familiar and powerful apps, it offers a wide variety of features. In mid June, Microsoft announced a new program, the Office 365 roadmap, that allows business users to see what new features are coming soon.

The Office 365 roadmap

Earlier in 2014, Microsoft announced that they would be moving to a faster rollout schedule for their popular software solutions like Office 365. This means that we can expect to see updates for some software being introduced on a fairly regular basis.

Because of this, it would help to know exactly what Microsoft is working on and when you can expect an update or introduction of new features. To cover this, Microsoft has recently announced an Office 365 roadmap that covers what the company is doing in relation to the business oriented version of Office 365.

You can view the roadmap on this Microsoft website which has been designed to showcase the status of features based on:

  • Launched - Features that have been completed and implemented in various Office 365 apps. These features should be accessible to all Office 365 for Business users.
  • Rolling out - Features that have finished development and are ready to be implemented to the various apps but are not accessible to most users at this time, but will be in the near future.
  • In development - Features that Microsoft developers are working on or testing, but aren't ready to be implemented.
  • Canceled - Features that have been canceled; developers are no longer working on these, and they won't be implemented into Office 365 apps.
When you visit the roadmap site, you can click on the different sections and see the recent features that are relevant to each. For example, if you click on Launched, the recently launched features will drop down. Click on one to see a brief overview of the feature, along with a link to learn more.

This can be a useful site for businesses, especially if you rely on Office 365's features and are interested in which new ones will be introduced. We should stress however that the features listed on the site are relevant only for Office 365 for Businesses and Enterprises. Private and Home users may not necessarily see these features introduced.

Office 365 First Release program

For those users who look at the Rolling Out section of the roadmap site, and would like to have access to fully tested and supported features that are just about ready to roll out, Microsoft has also introduced a new program called First Release.

This program allows Office 365 for Businesses and Education users to sign up and gain access to upcoming features two weeks or more before they are introduced. If you would like to sign up for this program, you can do so as long as you are the admin of your account. If you are the admin for your Office 365 accounts, you can enable First Release by going into the Service Settings area from your management console. You should see an option to enable First Release, which you need to tick to turn on.

Once this is enabled you should be notified within a month letting you know that the first batch of early features is ready to implement. Microsoft has noted that the features implemented early via First Release will apply to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. At this time, other apps like Lync Online will not be part of the program, but you can probably expect this program to expand to cover other apps in the coming months and over the next year.

Both the roadmap and First Release features could prove useful for power users of Office 365. If you are looking to learn more about these concepts and how Office 365 can be used successfully in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 1st, 2014

GoogleApps_June30_BThe cloud has become one of the most commonly implemented IT concepts for small to medium businesses. While the type of cloud service put in place does vary, one of the more common is the collaboration and document production suite, of which Google Apps is one of the most popular. While useful and affordable, many business owners are still unsure about what it is and whether it can actually help.

What exactly is Google Apps for Business?

Google Apps for Business is a specifically designed bundle of popular Google Apps that are meant to be used to support your business online. Every business that signs up for Google Apps gets access to a variety of crucial apps like Gmail for email; Drive for document production and storage; Hangouts for instant messaging and video calls; and Calendar for integrated business calendars. All of these apps are easily managed from a central admin platform, and are delivered at a cost that is highly affordable, even for the smallest of businesses.

Possibly the biggest draw to this solution is that you don't have to invest in expensive office related software and hardware. Because all of Google's solutions are delivered over the Web, all you need is a device that can connect to the Internet and you will be able to access your systems and files. This makes it ideal for companies with lower budgets, as well as for companies with remote workers who can access Google's Apps from anywhere on almost any system.

When looking at Google Apps, there are three main reasons companies select this solution:

1. It offers good value

To some, this may sound a bit like it's almost too good to be true, while other business owners question whether there really is a value to switching over to Google Apps. Well, according to a recent report published by Forrester Research, on behalf of Google, Google Apps can yield an average ROI of 329% over three years and, on average, pays off in slightly over 1.4 months.

This is evident largely because the service starts at USD 5 per user/per month. Compare this to other offerings, including already-in-place physical solutions and it is easy to see that Apps is often the more valuable solution.

2. It allows employees to work better

According to the Forrester Research report mentioned above, companies surveyed listed four main ways switching to Google Apps has helped improve their overall business and how their employees work.
  1. All apps are in a single place - Almost every app you could need in business is accessed online, using one account. Log in and your apps are all available at your fingertips, at the click of a button. This means you no longer have to close or switch programs, which helps improve productivity.
  2. You can access it from anywhere - As we mentioned above, you access Google Apps via your browser. This means as long as you have an Internet connection, you will be able to log into your email and productivity suite and work.
  3. There are strong collaboration tools - Google Drive and the included productivity apps like Docs and Sheets come with powerful collaboration features, including the ability for users to edit files at the same time. This increases collaboration while decreasing the overall amount of time needed to edit and work on documents.
  4. There is efficient email - Email is an essential tool for businesses and with Google Apps, you are able to use Gmail. As an added feature, you can add your own domain to get personalized email addresses that are accessed through Gmail. As you probably know, Gmail is quick and simple to use and comes with a number of built-in security features like spam protection and filtering.

3. It decreases IT load

Finally, the third most popular reason companies choose Google Apps for Business is that it makes IT jobs easier. The companies who participated in the Forrester Research survey noted three ways Google Apps can help lower IT spending by as much as 38% per year.
  1. Anyone can manage it - With simple to use admin panels and programs, it is easy for business owners, even those without tech experience, to pick up and manage the different apps.
  2. They are low maintenance - Because the apps are hosted on Google's servers, there is no need to ensure that your software is up-to-date and compatible with your existing hardware, or with new solutions you are considering. This means there are no servers or software to install and manage.
  3. It has simple licensing - Apps for Business is delivered on a per-user, monthly fee. All you do is pay the per-user cost, and you will have access to your programs. There are no set contracts or expensive licenses to maintain which is not always the case with many on-premise solutions.
If you are looking to learn more about Google Apps for your business, contact us today to see how we can help get you started.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.