Blog

August 26th, 2014

androidphone_Aug26_CWhile location services on your Android smartphone make it easier for you to use certain apps or functions like photo tagging, sometimes it’s best to hide your location since they can affect your device’s security. With that in mind, isn’t it time you took a look at how to change different location settings on your Android smartphone to enhance its security?

Photos and GPS tagging

Your Android smartphone gives you the ability to attach GPS coordinates to the pictures you take, known as geo-locating or GPS tagging. This lets you arrange pictures in albums by locations, or lets Google+ stitch together stories of your trips. Geo-locating images in itself isn’t a bad thing, but you can get into trouble when you broadcast sensitive locations to the world. For instance, a picture of your expensive watch with a GPS tag of your house isn’t the best idea.

Four ways to control geo-locating photos:

  1. Go to your camera settings and you’ll find an on/off toggle.
  2. Simply go into Settings>Location and from there you can decide if you want the location saved along with your images.
  3. Download an EXIF editor and manually remove the location information from specific images.
  4. You can also turn off location services altogether by going to Settings>Location.

Discrete location settings

Apart from location settings in photos and GPS tagging, Android actually has three discrete location settings which allow you to set how accurately you want location reporting to be. You can find these at Settings>Location, Note that this affects your smartphone’s battery life immensely.
  • High accuracy: This uses the GPS radio in your phone to pinpoint its exact location from satellites while making use of nearby Wi-Fi and cellular networks too.
  • Battery saving: This mode only uses Wi-Fi networks and mobile networks to identify locations, and while it might not be as accurate it will help your phone last longer.
  • Device sensors only: This only uses the GPS radio to find you. It may take a little more time to find your location since it’s not using nearby Wi-Fi and mobile networks to get your general location first. This also uses more battery.
Having your location settings turned off will not only help keep your smartphone’s security intact, but also help strengthen your smartphone’s battery life. Interested in learning more about Android phones and their functions? We have solutions for you and your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 26th, 2014

googleapps_Aug25_ADid you know that when signing up for a new Gmail account, users could only use a specific set of characters and numbers? In early August, Google announced that they would be expanding the characters supported by Gmail. While this may not be the biggest deal to many, there is a potential security issue related to this that users should be aware of.

Google's recent character announcement

Until early August, any user who emails from a Gmail account had to use latin characters and numbers e.g., A-Z, and 1-9. While this fits for some users, there are a great number who have names and email addresses that use characters not in the standard English alphabet like 'É' or 'à'. In an effort to make things easier for a greater number of Google users, the company recently expanded support for different characters.

This means that Gmail will now understand addresses that use different scripts from the standard basic Latin alphabet (letters A to Z and numbers 0 to 9). According to Google, "This means Gmail users can send emails to, and receive emails from, people who have these characters in their email addresses."

Some of the scripts now supported include Katakana, Hong Kong (traditional Chinese), accented Latin characters, etc. While users with email addresses can send Gmail users emails, and vice versa, they are currently not supported by Google's account names. In other words, users who want to sign up for a Gmail account still need to use the basic Latin alphabet.

Why is this a potential security risk?

At first glance, this may not seem like the biggest security risk. Especially because many businesses have email addresses that use the basic Latin alphabet. But there is a security threat here, especially when you start to look at the characters used in other languages. Take for example the greek letter for lowercase omicron (ο) which looks a lot like our o.

When we write these letters on paper, they look the same to us, and there is no real harm. But when they are online, computers will read them as different. This is because of what is called Unicode. Unicode is a universal standard that dictates the difference between characters.

To us, the lowercase omicron and our letter 'o' look the same. But to computers, lowercase omicron is represented by the unicode: U+03BF, while the letter 'o' is represented by the unicode: U+006F.

Smart hackers will likely quickly figure out that they can replace basic Latin characters with others, and generate email addresses that take advantage of this. For example, you could see an email come into your Inbox from facebook.com, where one of the characters is actually an omicron. To us, there is no visual difference, but to the computer, the addresses are completely different. The email could have links to malware or tracking software that could lead to a breach in security.

Is anything being done to stop these characters from being exploited?

According to a post on the Google blog, the tech giant realizes this could be a potential security issue. "The Unicode community has identified suspicious combinations of letters that could be misleading, and Gmail will now begin rejecting emails with such combinations. We're using an open standard—the Unicode Consortium's “Highly Restricted” designation—which we believe strikes a healthy balance between legitimate uses of these new domains and those likely to be abused."

According to the Consortium, when applied to Gmail addresses, Highly Restrictive requires that characters must be from a single script, or from the combinations:

  • Latin + Han + Hiragana + Katakana,
  • Latin + Han + Bopomofo,
  • Latin + Han + Hangul
In other words, the overall security and legitimacy of addresses and sites that use other characters should be ensured..

What can we do?

To take it one step further, we also recommend that if you use Gmail, you look carefully at all email addresses. We can often spot the difference between letters and similar symbols used by other languages. If an address looks suspicious, it is a good idea to simply ignore or delete the email.

As with most other security measures, if you receive an email from large companies or institutions, such as banks, with what looks like a legitimate email address, always read the content closely. Almost every business and institution will never ask for you to provide passwords or login information in an email.

Essentially, ensure to be vigilant with email addresses, and if you have any further questions or concerns, contact us today to for our support solutions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 25th, 2014

Security_Aug18_CSince the advent of the Internet, hackers have been actively trying to exploit it. Over the past few years, many have targeted different websites to obtain user account details like usernames and passwords. There seems to be a trend where the number of accounts compromised with each new security announcement is rising. In early August, news broke that possibly the largest breach to date has been uncovered.

The latest big-scale breach

In early August, it emerged that a Russian hacker ring had amassed what is believed to be the biggest known collection of stolen account credentials. The numbers include around 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million email addresses.

According to Hold Security, the company that uncovered these records, the information comes from around 420,000 sites. What is particularly interesting about this particular attack is that such a wide variety of sites were targeted when compared this with other attacks which tend to either attack large brand names or smaller related sites.

How did this happen?

Despite what many believe, this was not a one-time mass attack; all sites that were compromised were not attacked at the same time. Instead, the hacker ring - called the Cyber Vor - was likely working on amassing this data over months or longer. How they were able to amass this much information is through what's called a botnet.

Botnets are a group of computers infected by hackers. When the hackers establish a botnet, they attack computers with weak network security and try to infect them with malware that allows the hacker to control the computer. If successful, users won't even know their computer has been hacked and is being used by hackers.

Once this botnet is established, the hackers essentially tell the computers to try to contact websites to test the security. In this recent case, the computers were looking to see if the websites were vulnerable to a SQL injunction. This is where hackers tell the computers in the botnet to look for fillable sections on sites like comment boxes, search boxes, etc. and input a certain code asking the website's database to list the stored information related to that box.

If the Web developer has restricted the characters allowed in the fillable text boxes, then the code likely would not have worked. The botnet would notice this, and then move onto the next site. However, if the code works, the botnet notes this and essentially alerts the hacker who can then go to work collecting the data.

So, is this serious and what can I do?

In short, this could be a fairly serious problem. While 420,000 sites may seem like a large number, keep in mind that the Internet is made up of billions of websites. This means that the chances of your website's data being breached by this ring are small. That being said, there is probably a good chance that one of the sites related to your website may have been breached.

So, it is a cause for concern. However, you can limit the chance of hackers gaining access to your information and a website's information.

1. Change all of your passwords

It seems like we say this about once a month, but this time you really should heed this warning. With 1.2 billion username and password combinations out there, there is a chance your user name for at least one account or site has been breached.

To be safe, change all of your passwords. This also includes passwords on your computer, mobile devices, and any online accounts - don't forget your website's back end, or hosting service. It is a pain to do, but this is essential if you want to ensure your data and your website is secure from this attack.

2. Make each password different

We can't stress this enough, so, while you are resetting your password you should aim to ensure that you use a different one for each account, site, and device. It will be tough to remember all of these passwords, so a manager like LastPass could help. Or, you could develop your own algorithm or saying that can be easily changed for each site. For example, the first letter of each word of a favorite saying, plus the first and last letter of the site/account, plus a number sequence could work.

3. Test your website for SQL injunctions

If you have a website, you are going to want to test all text boxes to see if they are secure against SQL injunctions. This can be tough to do by yourself, so it's best to contact a security expert like us who can help you execute these tests and then plug any holes should they be found.

4. Audit all of your online information

Finally, look at the information you have stored with your accounts. This includes names, addresses, postal/zip codes, credit card information, etc. You should only have the essential information stored and nothing else. Take for example websites like Amazon. While they are secure, many people have their credit card and billing information stored for easy shopping. If your account is hacked, there is a good chance hackers will be able to get hold of your card number.

5. Contact us for help

Finally, if you are unsure about the security of your accounts, business systems, and website, contact us today to see how our security experts can help ensure your vital data is safe and sound.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 22nd, 2014

Productivity_Aug18_CThe world is becoming increasingly connected, especially when you look at all the different apps on your device and computer. The problem for some though is that all these apps simply aren't connected enough, and it takes time to share information across devices or services. One tool that may help, while also helping increase productivity is If This Then That (IFTTT).

What is If This Then That?

IFTTT is a Web and mobile app that was developed to connect different Web apps like Google Apps, DropBox, Facebook, Instagram, etc, together into one general system. In general, the service runs on conditional statements - or recipes - that fit the IFTTT statement.

The service is set up on a number of different conditional statements that make up what the developers of the app call a recipe. Each recipe is broken down into two different sections:

  • This - Also referred to as a trigger. Each trigger in a recipe is kind of like a requirement in that the set trigger has to happen for the recipe to start working.
  • That - That refers to an action that happens when a 'this' condition is triggered.
Once you have set up a number of recipes, the app runs in the background to check for triggers and then will automatically execute the action when it notices a trigger.

Examples of IFTTT recipes

There are a wide variety of recipes out there that you can create. For example, some of the more useful IFTTT recipes for businesses include:
  • If a photo is posted on the business Instagram account, then it is shared with Twitter and Facebook.
  • If a Square payment is processed, then this creates a line in a specific spreadsheet.
  • If a contact is added to a phone's address book, then this information is placed on Evernote.
  • If an article is posted on a specific blog, then the post is shared on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
  • If an email is starred on Gmail, then a reminder is set on my phone to review starred emails.
  • If I enter the office, then my phone is muted.
  • If a client emails an attachment, then a copy is saved to DropBox.
  • If my device is in the office, then my office lights are turned on (if you have Phillips Hue bulbs).
There are a wide variety of supported apps that allow you to create recipes for nearly anything you can think of. The developers are constantly adding support for new channels (apps), including many from the Internet of Things.

How to sign up for this

Because you can access IFTTT from the Web and via an app on your mobile device, we recommend first thinking about how you are going to use it. If you are going to be using recipes for your mobile device, then we recommend downloading the app onto your device. Regardless of how you are going to use it, you can create an account by:
  1. Going to the IFTTT website (https://ifttt.com/)
  2. Clicking Join IFTTT.
  3. Setting a username and password and clicking Create account.
From there, you will be able to log in and start creating rules. If you do want to use your mobile device, you should then download the free app for your device - Windows Phone, Android, iPhone - and then log in using the account information you just created. When you first log in you should see a number of channels (apps) related to your system have been activated. This means you can now start creating recipes.

Creating recipes from your browser

  1. Go to the IFTTT website (https://ifttt.com/) and press Sign in.
  2. Press Create.
  3. Press This and select your trigger - try picking your app first, then click on it to get a list of actions.
  4. Press Create Trigger.
  5. Click That and select an action channel.
  6. Select Create Recipe.
You can also click Browse from the menu bar at the top to find and activate already created recipes.

Creating recipes from your mobile device

  1. Open the app.
  2. Press the mortar and pestle icon at the top-right.
  3. Press the + followed by the + besides If on the next screen.
  4. Select the app from the icons at the top of the screen, and select the related trigger.
  5. Tap the + beside Then and select an action or app.
  6. Press Finish to activate the new recipe.
If you are looking for a cool way to connect different apps, and even save yourself time, then this could be something worth looking into. And, if you are looking to learn more about how you can increase your productivity, contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
August 21st, 2014

BValue_Aug18_CThe vast majority of countries in the West have some requirement or law that states that businesses need to meet the needs of their employees. For many businesses this means implementing systems that afford a duty of care and allow employees to do their job adequately. As such, it is a good idea for companies to have an accessible technology plan.

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology, also commonly referred to as assistive technology, is the idea of creating or implementing technology and systems that cater to employees with disabilities. While not every company will have or require accessible technology, it is required by many countries that businesses meet the needs of disabled employees.

To that end, it is a good idea to develop a plan on how to implement accessible technology. To help, here are five steps you could take:

1. Defining your strategy

The accessible technology strategy should be the first thing you develop as it will be the foundation of the overall plan. When looking at your strategy you should define how accessible technology fits into your overall organization plan and how it will fit with your existing strategies.

What you are looking to do is to figure out how this form of technology will fit with existing systems and increase overall operating effectiveness. From here, you can define the overall objectives, budget, and vision for the plan.

2. Identifying requirements

In this step, you should look closely at existing technology in the organization and the needs of your employees. Because each company is different and the needs of employees are different you should be careful to also identify the technology needs of your employees.

When looking at both the needs and existing systems you can work to come up with an overall set of requirements, along with a general priority. For example, will you need to modify existing computers or purchase new ones?

The key idea here is that you need to figure out exactly what you need.

3. Picking the new technology

Once you have identified what changes you need to implement, what new technology you will need, and your budget, you can then begin looking for the best solutions. The most effective way to do this is to work with it experts like us who can help you find and integrate the best technology and changes that will meet your adaptive technology needs.

4. Implementing and training

Once you have defined the changes, and new technology to integrate, you need to implement it. This may include altering physical devices and machines where necessary, and then testing the systems to make sure they are working properly.

It is also be a good idea to train your employees who will be using the systems, and the team who will be managing the systems.

5. Maintaining

As with all tech systems, it is important to realize that the solution you implement will not work forever, and will eventually require maintenance, updating, or even replacing. You should take steps to audit systems on a regular basis to ensure they are still meet the needs of your company and employees.

This can be a time consuming and potentially costly step, especially if you neglect it. We strongly recommend working with a company like ours, who can help manage your solution and ensure that updates and any necessary changes are implemented when they are needed, and that should needs change, systems are subsequently updated to meet the new requirements.

If you are looking to implement accessible technology in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 20th, 2014

iPhone_Aug18_CPeople today are relying on their iPhones more than ever before, especially when it comes to keeping contact information like names, numbers, and email addresses. Despite its ease of access, having to update your contact information every time someone changes their number can be a pain. And what do you do if your iPhone breaks or get stolen? Bear this in mind when we take a look at five essential apps that’ll help keep your iPhone’s address book secure and convenient for contact management and recovery.

Five essential apps to boost your iPhone address book’s capabilities:

  1. Contacts+ (Free): This app lets you sort contacts into groups and import personal information from Facebook and LinkedIn. A quick tap lets you jump to a contact’s social networking profile, or even map a live route to their home or office. It also adds birthdays to your contact list.
  2. Sync.ME (Free): Sync.ME brings widgets to your iPhone’s Contacts app, adding a powerful set of tools that let you do everything from capturing business cards by photograph to recording some phone calls. This is particularly helpful when it comes to recalling previous conversations and connecting names with faces.
  3. Cloze (Free): Cloze compiles Twitter updates, Facebook posts, LinkedIn snippets, text messages and emails from each of your contacts, then combines all of it into one master feed, organized by person rather than by time. It automatically figures out who the most important people in your network are and puts their information at the top of the feed.
  4. ABBYY Business Card Reader (USD $5.99): Contrary to today’s digital world, old-school business cards are still an essential. And while transcribing cards into digital data is time consuming, ABBY does exactly that in a flash. Just snap a photo of each card and this scanning system instantly does the translation work, bringing contact information on business cards right into your iPhone’s address book.
  5. iCloud (Free): iCloud is Apple's cloud storage app that everyone with an Apple account has access to. Chances are high that when you first setup your device, you signed up for an Apple account in order to purchase/download apps from iTunes. On your device, open the Settings app and select iCloud. Enable it and login with your Apple account and you should be able to backup important data, including contacts. If you lose your device, or get a new one, simply log into your account again, and your contacts should pop right up.
While iPhone’s address book is a convenient tool for contact management, proofing it with these applications will not only make it more powerful but also more secure, so you won’t have to worry about losing your contact information or missing out on updated information again. Looking to learn more about iPhone and its features? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
August 19th, 2014

Google_Aug18_CBecause much of our personal and work lives are online these days, it can be challenging for some users to actually differentiate between a work and personal profile, especially when many use the same email address. For Gmail users, there is a solution that could help separate work from personal lives, and important from unimportant messages. That option is to use an alias.

About the Gmail alias

When you first sign up for a Gmail or Google account you are asked to pick an email address or username. Your username becomes the first part of your email address, and is what you will likely give to most people. There are times however where you may not want to give out your email address, but are still required to e.g., signing up for a newsletter.

What many email providers have done is implement an alias feature that allows you to set up a separate email address that can be managed by your main account. When an email is sent to your alias address, it shows up in your main account's Inbox. Google doesn't offer this feature in the traditional sense, instead the company has opted for a slightly different take on aliases.

With Google, you can add a suffix to the main part of your email address to essentially create an alias. The way this works is you add '+alias' to the main part of your email address. Any emails sent to this address will show up in your Inbox, but to the sender they are being sent to a different address.

Setting up an alias in Gmail

With Gmail you don't have to create a completely different account, you can create an alias email address instead. Let's say you are starting to sign up for an increasing number of email newsletters, what you can do is add a suffix like +newsletter to your email address, so it will look like: user.name+newsletter@gmail.com.

You can then use this email for when you are signing up for newsletters, and they will be sent to that address. The key here is that you can create as many +alias addresses as you want, and the emails sent to that address will show up in your Inbox.

Why use an alias?

At first thought this may seem like a bit of a non-feature, after all who really wants to create an alias like this? Well, the main reason this is a useful feature is because of Gmail's Filters and Labels. You can use these two features to sort and automatically action emails sent to a specific email alias. When you combine the +alias feature with these, you have a pretty powerful way to manage your Inbox.

Here are a few examples of how people are using this feature:

1. For newsletters and other non-essential emails

We all get these emails and while they aren't overly important they might contain useful information we want. The problem is that these emails can be annoying and always seem to be multiplying.

One solution is to use a +alias, like +news or +newsletters, when signing up for emails like this. Then, go into Gmail and create a filter that automatically labels all emails sent to the address with something like Updates, or even archive them. To be most effective, try setting the filter so that these emails automatically skip the Inbox, meaning you won't get a notification when you have a new email.

2. For VIPs

If you have a number of clients who you work closely with, or you want to make sure you don't miss anything from them, they why not set an alias like user.name+vip@gmail.com that you can then give to them.

From there, set up a filter in Gmail that automatically marks emails sent to this address as important and top priority. If you set it to automatically add a bright label as well, you increase the chances of seeing the email more quickly and will know it's important right away.

3. For impromptu reminders

We have all been in a situation where we want to send ourselves a reminder to do something later. One thing we can do is to email an alias like user.name+reminder@gmail.com with the reminder.

In Gmail, set up a filter to automatically label every email sent to the above email address with a label like Reminder. These emails can also go right to the archives and skip the Inbox, but when you click the Reminder label, they will still show up. If you are diligent in deleting these emails, this could work as a great way to send yourself important reminders - especially because we already look at our email so much; it will be practically in front of us.

If you are looking to learn more about Gmail and how it can be used in your business, get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 19th, 2014

Facebook_Aug18_CFor many users, Facebook is one of the best places to get to read great articles and content, largely because it is where our friends share interesting content. The problem with this is that not all of us have time to read articles or content immediately and finding these links when we do have time can be tough. To help, Facebook has introduced the Save feature.

About the Save feature

The idea behind the Save feature is that it allows users to save longer-form content like articles posted on a News Feed. So, if someone has posted a link to an article on your favorite blog and you would like to read it later, you can now save it.

While this feature is similar to various apps like Pocket and Readability, which allow users to save content on the Web to read later, Facebook's version goes a little deeper. In a blog article announcing the feature, the company noted that the Save feature allows users to, "Save items like links, places, movies, TV and music."

Let's say you are at work, and during your break you quickly check Facebook. You come across a post where your friends have shared a link to a restaurant's Facebook Page. If you don't have time to visit the page right at that moment you can save it to view later.

While this feature will prove useful for many users, it is worth noting that when you save content, e.g., an article, you will need to have an Internet connection to access it in the future. Knowing Facebook however, they may integrate a feature like this in the future.

How to save content for later

Facebook has integrated this feature into all versions of Facebook, including the mobile app and browser-based versions. You can save content and links by:
  1. Scrolling through your News Feed until you find an article, link, Place, etc. that you would like to save for later.
  2. Clicking on the downward facing grey arrow at the top-right of the post.
  3. Selecting Save 'content name'. Note: The name will be based on the name of the link in the post.

Accessing your saved content

If you are looking at Facebook in your browser, then you should see a tab called Saved show up in the upper part (the area just below your profile image) of the left-hand vertical bar of the page. For users who access Facebook via the mobile app, press the three horizontal bars at the top-right of the app (located just below the magnifying glass) and you should see a section called Saved under Favorites.

When you click on Saved you should see a new screen open with the content you have saved. It will be divided into different types including:

  • All
  • Links
  • Places
  • Music
  • Books
You can interact with each item by either:
  • Tapping on it - This will open the page, link, or content.
  • Sliding it to the left - This will allow you to archive the content or press More to review, share or Like the content.
If you are looking to learn more about the Save feature, or Facebook in general and how it can be used effectively in your business, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 15th, 2014

Virtualization_Aug11_CThere are a number of beneficial tech solutions available to business owners who are looking to improve system efficiency or reduce operating costs. One of the most useful is virtualization, or the migration of physical systems to virtual counterparts. When virtualization is successful it can really help and support a business. However, there is always a chance that it can fail if it isn't implemented in the right way. To help avoid this, here are five reasons virtualization fails, so you can be on guard.

1. Migration is forced before it is ready

One of the biggest reasons virtualization fails is that it is pushed before the company is ready for it. For example, it could be that the IT team is forced to fast-track virtualization, resulting in staff being forced to drop all other tasks and focus on migration.

If you rush, the chances of failure and mistakes always rise. And when it comes to changing systems from physical to virtual, mistakes can be compounded, thus increasing overall migration time and costs.

To avoid this you should take the time to conduct research on solutions available, workloads, applications to the move, and your specific business needs. Once you are across this, you should also take the time to get to know your systems and test them before migration.

2. Trying to implement a management plan after virtualizing systems

Some companies decide to virtualize first, and then try to figure out how to manage systems after migration is complete. This will almost always result in inefficiencies and frustration as the pressure is on not just to learn how to manage but also how to use this solution.

In order to see a more successful virtualization, you should have a management plan in place before you migrate your systems. You should look at how virtual machines will be managed, who will be doing what, as well as what systems you are going to use, and more. One of the best times to develop an overall management plan is when you are in the testing phase, well before actual migration. This will give you an idea of how systems will work in reality and how you can manage them.

3. Virtualization without employee buy-in, or involving employees

We have seen companies implement a virtualization solution without having full buy-in from the employees who will be using and managing the system. What this results in is confusion, resentment, lost efficiency, and, in some extreme situations, sabotage.

In order to successfully introduce a virtualized solution, you should ensure that all employees who will be using the system are not only aware of it but are trained on how to use it and have been given a fair chance to air their opinions. If you can achieve employee buy-in, there is a better chance that the systems will be used more effectively, and employees will be more open to other solutions being implemented.

4. Assuming one solution that works for others will work for you

An easy mistake to make is to only consider solutions successfully implemented by other businesses. The fact is, every business is different, and you should be looking for a solution that meets your specific needs.

If you go with a ready-made solution, or one-size-fits-all solution, it will likely work to some extent. However, there is a good chance that it will not completely meet your needs. This will likely result in either lost efficiency or increased investment in order to get what you need.

We recommend looking for a provider who can meet your virtualization needs with tailor made solutions. This way you will get what you need straightaway and likely not need to invest more in the future.

5. Not managing your virtual solution after implementation

Unlike some tech solutions, virtualization is not really a 'set it and forget it' type of solution. You will need to manage it from the start if you want to be able to get the most out of your systems. This includes ensuring resources are being allocated properly; machines are created and shut down properly; apps and systems are updated; and more.

While virtualized solutions do require less management than their physical counterparts, they still require some management and you will need people to help you do that. One of the best solutions is to work with an IT partner like us who can help manage your systems and ensure that they are working efficiently.

In fact, we offer a wide variety of virtualization solutions. By working with us, we can help take some of the virtualization load off and allow you to focus on running your business. If you would like to learn more, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 14th, 2014

The data your business generates and captures is among the one of the most important assets available to yourself and your and employees. Unfortunately, the amount of data available is growing exponentially and it can quickly overwhelm many positions. One solution that allows businesses to better manage data is the data warehouse. The only question, is how can you tell when you need one for your business?

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a system used by companies for data analysis and reporting. The main purpose of the data warehouse is to integrate, or bring together, data from a number of different sources into one centralized location. The vast majority of the data they store is current or historical data that is used to create reports or reveal trends.

Possibly the biggest benefit of a data warehouse is that it can pull data from different sources e.g., marketing, sales, finance, etc. and use this different data to formulate detailed reports on demand. Essentially, a data warehouse cuts down the time required to find and analyze important data.

While not every business will need one right this minute, a solid data warehouse could help make operations easier and more efficient, especially when compared with other data storage solutions. That being said, it can be tough to figure out if you actually need one. In order to help, we have come up with five signs that show your business is ready to implement a data warehouse.

1. Heavy reliance on spreadsheets

Regardless of business size, the spreadsheet is among the most important business tools out there. Used by pretty much every department in a company, they can be a great way of tracking data. The problem many business owners run across however is that spreadsheets can grow to immense sizes and can become unwieldy.

Combine this with the fact that each department has spreadsheets that you will likely need to pull data from in order to generate a report. If this is the case, you are creating manual reports, which can take a lot of your time.

If you are struggling to find the data you need because it is spread out across different sheets, in different departments, then it may be time to implement a data warehouse.

2. Data is overwhelming your spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are designed to operate with a set amount of data (rows and columns). Reach, or exceed this limit, and you will find that the file becomes sluggish or will downright prevent you adding more data.

While it can take a while to get to this point, companies will reach it if they keep adding to their data. At this point you will see a drop in productivity and overall effectiveness in how you use your data. Therefore, a data warehouse that can combine data from different sheets may be a great solution.

3. You spend too much time waiting

If you set out to develop a report, only to find out that you need to wait for colleagues to provide the information on their spreadsheets, or to analyze their data, you could find yourself waiting for a longer than expected time.

This makes you highly ineffective and can be downright frustrating, especially if employees are too busy or just can't provide the information needed. Implementing a data warehouse can help centralize data and make it available to all team members more effectively. This cuts down the time spent actually having to track it down and communicating with colleagues.

4. Discrepancies in data and reports

Have you noticed that when team leaders or members in different departments create reports that the data or findings are different from yours, or other reports? Not only is this frustrating, it is also time consuming to sort out and could lead to costly mistakes.

This can be amplified if some departments have data sources that they don't share with other teams, as this can throw doubt into the solidity of your data and other reports. If you have reached this point, and realize that there are discrepancies in your data, it may be time to look into a data warehouse which can help sort out problems while ensuring mistakes like duplicate data are eliminated.

5. Too much time spent generating reports

Ideally, we should be able to generate a report using existing data almost instantly, or with as few clicks as possible. If you find that when generating a report you have to keep going to different sources to check if the data is updated, or to keep manually updating other sources, you could quickly see the amount of time needed to develop a report grow.

Because data warehouses consolidate data, you only have to turn to one source for data. Combine with the fact that many data warehouses can be set up to automatically update if source data is updated or changed, and you can guarantee that the data you are using is always correct.

Looking to learn more about data warehouses, or about the different data solutions we offer? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.