Each year there seems to be an increasingly large number of disasters that affect an ever growing population. It would therefore make sense to take action to prepare your business for disasters, whatever they may be. To prepare, most business owners or managers will adopt a Business Continuity Plan. While this is a good idea, there have been stories of these plans failing – something you probably don’t want.
Here are five common reasons Business Continuity efforts fail.
1. Inefficient communication When it comes to business, one of the most important keys to success is communication. The same can be said for Continuity plans – if the plan and actions expected aren’t communicated effectively and understood by all parties involved, there is little to no chance that it will succeed.
To minimize this from happening, you should take steps to ensure that you clearly communicate, orally or through email, the plan with all parties involved. They should have on-demand access to it, and should be clear about what their role is and how they are expected to act. You should also take steps to ensure that departments and representatives are prepared and understand all aspects of the plan.
2. Lack of testing When it comes to anything related to IT, testing and retesting is essential. Many businesses take careful steps to implement a sound Continuity plan that covers the organization, but they fail to test it to see if it actually works. This could be a costly mistake.
It would therefore be a good idea to test your plan in a number of situations at least twice to three times a year. It would be a good idea to do spot tests that involve all parties so they can not only get experience but find potential holes and issues that need to be addressed.
3. Lack of a complete plan To be prepared, you must have a complete plan, that way you will be ready for almost anything. Numerous businesses have failed because they simply weren’t prepared enough. Or their plan lacked crucial elements that would have prepared their business for an eventual disaster. Other examples of failure due to lack of complete plans is the fact that companies focused on their systems only, and forgot to plan for their employees’ needs.
Planning can be tough. The best way to ensure that you are ready for disaster is to work with an IT partner who has experience in Continuity Planning. They will work with you to create a plan that your company can rely on.
4. Poor expectations When planning for Business Continuity, you need to think outside of the box. Many businesses have solid plans, but these plans are based on assumptions like: The power will remain on, Internet and landlines will remain connected, Mobile networks will work, staff will come into work, other parties involved won’t be affected, etc. In smaller disasters, this could be the case, but in larger disasters you can bet that at least one of the above things will happen.
The best way to develop your expectations is to look at each scenario on its own, as you develop your plan. For example, how will you deal with Internet being down? Or, how will you operate with staff who can’t make it into the office or backup location?
5. No updates to the plan Almost everyone knows that the world changes, often quickly. Yet, some businesses fail to acknowledge these changes and update their BCP accordingly. It would be a good idea to audit and update your plan on a regular basis, usually about once a year, to take into account any changes.
These changes could include new buildings next door, new equipment, new staff, etc. The key here is to ensure your plan is as up-to-date as possible.
If you are struggling with developing your Business Continuity Plan, or are thinking about adopting one, please contact us today to see how we can help your business be prepared for anything.
One of the most popular tech related trends is the development and release of mobile apps of popular office productivity suites. This is true for Microsoft’s cloud based Office suite – Office 365. The ability to access your Office files from a mobile device has been requested for quite sometime and Microsoft has finally answered with an app for Android.
The app, released in late July, is a scaled down version of the ever popular Office 365 platform. Users can access Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents that are stored either on the device or on SkyDrive/SkyDrive Pro.
These files, as long as they are stored on SkyDrive, will be automatically updated when you make changes from your Android phone. When you access these files, or try to edit them, the extra parts of the app disappear allowing you to focus solely on the document, making it easier to edit.
A bit more about the app itself The app is available for free on the Google Play store, however you do need to have an active Office 365 subscription that includes the Office suite e.g., a subscription to Office 2013, Office 365 Small Business Premium, etc. When you first open the app, you will be asked to sign in using your account and password, and your documents and information will be synced.
At the moment, the app only supports Android smartphones that are running Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich and later. While the US is the only country fully supported, Microsoft has noted that it will soon be available in 117 countries.
If you meet the requirements, and want to access your files from a mobile device, this can be a great app for you. There is one downside however – it won’t work on tablets.
Why no tablet support Microsoft hasn’t given an official reason as to why there isn’t a tablet specific app. One of the reasons could be the fact that Microsoft is throwing its weight behind their own tablet – the Surface RT and Pro.
If you have an Android tablet and would like to access your Office documents, you can log in using Office Web Apps, from your device’s browser.
If you would like to learn more about Office 365 and how it can help make your employees more productive, please contact us today.
The security of devices used in the office should be a top priority for business owners and managers. It is easy to think that a fully functioning device like a mobile phone is secure, and most of the time it is. The thing to be aware of however, is that there are always hackers looking for security flaws in these products. The latest flaw highlighted happens to be on the Android system.
In early July, mobile security company Bluebox announced that they had discovered a large security flaw in the Android system. The threat centers around a trojan application that can gain access to application data including email addresses, SMS messages, etc, and can get service and account passwords. In other words, it can take over your whole phone.
The way this so-called trojan infects mobile devices is through an app. Hackers have figured out how to tinker with the application’s code, and implement the malware without changing the cryptographic features that are used by Google Play and other online stores to validate and identify apps.
What this means is that the changed app looks legitimate to Google, developers, our phones and us, but it really has malicious code embedded in it, code that could give a hacker full access to your phone. The good news about this is that it can be easily fixed with an update. The bad news about this is that it is up to device manufacturers to actually release the fix. This is because most Android device manufacturers basically own their own version of Android and need to push the update to owners – Google can’t do this. Beyond that, it is up to the device owner to actually update their phone when the fix is released.
If this sounds a little worrying, it should be, especially since this affects every device except for the recently released Samsung S4 Touchwiz. There are things you can do however to minimize the chances of your device being infected by this bug.
If you are careful about what apps you install and take steps to ensure that you only install apps from the Play store, your device should be relatively safe. Google has announced that they have patched their cryptographic features on Google Play, so any new apps going onto Play should be safe from this particular exploit. There is a good chance that they will also correct this issue in a future update to the Android OS (likely 4.3), but older devices may be left out of the loop. So, as we have already told you a few times: Don’t install apps from outside of Google Play, and be sure to follow the tips we talked about above. Should you require more information about Android in the workplace, please contact us today.
Google has some incredibly useful programs and services that have revolutionized the Internet and even communication. One of the reasons their platforms like Gmail are so popular is because you can install add-ons and apps that extend their functionality. While this is great, there will likely come a time when you don’t need these extensions, and removing them isn’t so straightforward.
Here’s how you can uninstall plugins, extensions and apps you have connected to your Gmail account. When you do go to remove extensions or plugins, you should be aware that you didn’t actually install these apps to Gmail, you installed them to your Google account and likely the browser that you use e.g., Chrome or Firefox. Therefore you get rid of them, you will need to do two things:
1. Revoke the app’s access rights This can be done by:
Be sure to scroll down a bit and look if there are any duplicates. If there are, press Revoke Access beside these as well. Once you reload Gmail, the apps should be gone. They may still ask you for permission though. If they do, this means that the app or plugin is also installed in your browser. You will need to uninstall it from there as well.
2. Remove an app from your browser Even after the permission has been revoked, the app may still ask you for it. If it does, this means that the app or plugin is also installed in your browser. You will need to uninstall it from there as well. Here’s how you can do it in Chrome and Firefox
Remove an app from Chrome
Remove an app from Firefox
It would be a good idea to only do this if you really want to get rid of the app or plug-in in question. When you are looking at different apps and permissions associated with your account, be sure to leave them alone, especially if you aren’t sure about the app. Or, you could contact us to see how we can help.
Tablets are quickly becoming the most popular mobile device. Almost every major mobile device manufacturer makes tablets. One of the more intriguing tablet models is Google’s 7 inch tablet, the Nexus 7. It has proven to be a popular device, and in late July Google held a breakfast meeting where they introduced a new version of tablet.
Here is an overview of the new version of the Nexus 7 – commonly called the Nexus 7 2 or the Nexus 7 2013.
What is the Nexus 7? As you may know, Google’s Nexus brand of mobile devices are what Google considers to be the benchmark devices running Android. They are what Google envisions as being the ‘best’ tablet or phone for Android at the release of the device. These devices come with a version of Android most users refer to as ‘Vanilla’ or ‘Stock’. There are no fancy overlays like those added to Samsung or HTC devices, it’s the most basic, or ‘stock’, version of Android.
Aside from having top of the line, or near top of the line components, these Nexus devices are the first to receive Android updates, usually within a day or two of when they are released by Google. This means Nexus devices are always running the latest and greatest. In this case, Android 4.3. Compare this with some older phones that are still running a two year old version of Android.
The Nexus 7 is Google’s mid-size tablet. At slightly over 7 inches from the top-left to bottom-right side, the tablet is designed to be more mobile than the bigger ones, while still offering the same functionality. Since the release of the 7 in 2012, and indeed slightly before that, in terms of size, 7 inch tablets have been the fastest selling ones.
Business users who are looking for a powerful tablet that they can easily take with them to be able to keep in touch with the office, answer emails and do light editing of documents, will find this tablet useful. Those who want a more powerful solution, or to be able to access their computer and systems, may want to look elsewhere. Think of the Nexus 7 2013 as the perfect tool for the commute, or short trips where you don’t need a full laptop.
Important Tech specs As with any tech device, the manufacturer – in this case Asus – and Google love to tout a wide spectrum of technical specs to wow and dazzle the user. Here are the specs that many business users should be aware of:
Cost The Nexus 7 2 is currently available in the US and will soon be available in more countries including Australia, the UK and Canada. There are two main versions: One with 16GB of storage space that costs USD$229. The 32GB version costs USD$269. There is no difference between these two models, aside from the amount of storage. The LTE version will come with 32GB of storage and cost USD$349. If you are looking to learn more about the Nexus 7 and how it can be used in your business, why not call us and see how we can help.
Projects are usually defined as a process that can be either individual or collaborative and are planned to achieve a desired result. They are usually different from your day-to-day work tasks and have a set start and end date. Some projects can be incredibly complex, so to stay on top of every aspect you need an easy way to see what needs to be done and when. Many people use the classic project schedule Gantt chart, but is there anything better out there?
The Gantt chart was developed by Henry Gantt as a way to visually see a project’s schedule. Since 1910, these bar charts have been an integral part of managing projects. Gantt charts allow us to visualize a project’s start and end date along with each element or task that needs to be completed. Because many project tasks are dependent on previous tasks, these charts also allow us to see these dependencies and schedule around them.
In order to construct a chart, you first need to list all of the required tasks in a project, along with the projected time each task should take. While you can create the chart by hand, it’s usually better to use project management software, largely because many projects can get complicated and there will inevitably be changes.
Because of the relative complexity of this method, some managers question whether Gantt charts are really the best solution for small businesses. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to using this type of chart for scheduling.
Gantt chart advantages
Gantt chart disadvantages
Should I use Gantt charts? If you are about to start a project in your organization, it is be a good idea to consider whether or not a Gantt chart is suitable. If the project is short, with few elements, then a Gantt chart might be ideal. If you have a longer project with a high number of elements and tasks, it might be a good idea to look into project management software that can help you develop and schedule a plan more efficiently.
Most of these software options will utilize a Gantt chart, but they are easier to update, edit and share with project members. Regardless of what you choose, properly planning your project is key to its success, and Gantt charts can be a great tool in promoting efficiency, especially if you use project management software.
If you are looking for a way to run more efficient projects we may have the perfect tool for you, so give us a call today.
Microsoft is without a doubt the most popular software developer in the world. Their Office programs can be found in nearly every company in the world, and their cloud version of Office – Office 365 – has been gaining popularity. While the most popular Office programs are available with Office 356, there are some like Lync which have gone largely under utilized.
Microsoft Lync is an enterprise/business level instant messaging client combined with video conferencing and VoIP abilities that gives companies a valuable communication medium. There are many benefits Lync can bring to your company. Here are five reasons why you should consider using this platform.
1. It’s mobile Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make Lync a multi-platform program. There are apps for Android, Windows Phone and iOS, and programs for Mac and Windows. All versions are compatible with other platforms which means that you could technically have a video conference where people on nearly any system can join and contribute.
This is also great if you have staff who travel, or work from home. They can still easily join meetings or keep in touch with the office, as long as they have an Internet connection.
2. It’s HD When it comes to video conferencing, you need to be able to see the participants and screen clearly. Lync 2013 supports 1080p High Definition video which enables all participants to have a clear and crisp picture. And because Lync 2013 uses standard video coding and decoding, HD conferencing is available on almost any device that can display it.
Many business owners and meeting participants will appreciate this, especially if you are doing webinars where you are sharing your screen. It also gives a better sense that you are sitting beside the participants, which could help improve communication.
3. It’s accessible on the Web With the release of Lync 2013, Microsoft also introduced the Web version of Lync which allows users to use the program from their browser. Participants will be able to join meetings and conversations from their browser and still have access to most of Lync’s features including HD video, instant messaging and VoIP.
4. It offers improved teleconferencing Lync 2013 is integrated into other Office programs like Outlook. This means you can schedule a video meeting from your calendar, and send the invitation out all without having to start Lync. When the meeting is about to start, participants will usually receive a reminder, and a link that they can click on. When they click on the link, they are taken directly into the meeting, without having to start Lync, and webcams will be automatically turned on.
Making something as easy as possible for all participants involved will ensure that attendance is higher and that people are more welcoming to virtual meetings. Beyond that, if you purchase the Premium versions of Office 365 e.g., Small Business Premium, you can also get hosted support for Lync. This means that Microsoft or a partner will host and manage the server, relieving you of the worry of complicated infrastructure management.
5. There is Skype integration While Office 365 is popular among businesses, it’s not as popular among other users. In fact, many personal users don’t have Lync. This would be an issue, especially if you want to reach out to your customers. But, it isn’t, because Lync is integrated with Skype. Lync 2013 offers Skype integration which allows for voice, video and instant messaging with Skype users. This means that you reach is improved, at little to no extra cost.
If you would like to learn more about Lync 2013 and how Office 365 fits into your business, please contact us today.
Smartphone and tablet apps enable users to do a nearly limitless number of things. One of the more popular apps on all platforms, is Google’s Maps. Maps offers some great features, including turn-by-turn navigation, street view and transit information in most countries. In an effort to make maps even better, Google released an updated version in July. This latest version of Maps has a new interface and extra features which improve functionality. However, as with any tech development, there will inevitably be users who don’t know how to get the most out of the latest Maps.
Here are five tips to help you get more out of the new version of Google Maps on your smart device, (Android, iPhone and iPad).
1. Set home and work addresses Many people use Maps for directions, not surprisingly, and in order to improve this, Google now allows you to set your home and work address. When you set these addresses, you can not only get better directions, but your device will also show more accurate traffic levels and could even give you alternate routes. All without asking.
To set your home and work address:
When you set a home and work address, with the Google Now app, you should notice directions and suggested routes to and from work/home automatically pop up.
2. A different way to zoom The vast majority of users navigate maps with one hand, with the other holding the device. While most people use the pinch to zoom method, there is actually another way to zoom: Double tap the screen where you want to zoom and slide your finger up to zoom in, or down to zoom out.
You can also move the orientation of the map by placing and holding one finger in the center of the screen and moving another in a circular motion to rotate the map.
3. Offline maps Not every device will have a constant data connection. In previous version of Maps, you could cache, or download, an area of a map and make it available offline. With the new version, this option is nowhere to be found, at first glance at least. If you zoom to an area you would like to be available offline, tap on the Search bar, hit the microphone and say “Ok, Maps.” The map will download to your device if this is possible.
To access the map while offline, just open the Maps app and navigate to the area where it was cached. It should be available then without being online. Note: Google has said that this feature is currently only available for Android devices, but will be available soon for iPad and iPhone.
4. Access Street View Street View is an incredibly useful tool, especially if you are going to a new location and aren’t too sure where to park, get off the bus or what the building looks like. To access Street View simply press and hold on the map at the location and a red pin should appear, with a white bar in the bottom that has the address. Slide the address up to reveal more information, including a picture from Street View. Tap on the picture to go into Street View.
5. Save a location for later If you visit a good restaurant, or want to quickly find a business on a map again, Google allows you to star locations. When you star a location, it will show up on all versions of Map (as long as you are logged into the same Google account). When you tap on this location, you can quickly get directions and even contact information.
To star a location, such as a business, find where it is on the map and tap on the business name. A card should pop up with information, including the address, website, contact info and three buttons at the top: Save, Share, Route. Tap Save and Maps will star the location on your map.
If you are looking to learn more about the Google Maps app please contact us today and we will point you in the right direction.
When asked what the most useful new tech device is for managers and business owners, many will answer the tablet. While still gaining in popularity, it’s not uncommon to see a busy manager holding a tablet. One of the more popular systems is Android, which offers a robust app store – Google Play. If you have an Android tablet, you likely have used Play, but to get the most out of it, you may need to optimize it.
The main way you can optimize Google Play is to go into the Settings panel, and tinker with the options available. This article is an overview of that panel, along with some recommendations on how you should set it up.
How to access Settings in Google Play
Settings can be accessed by opening Google Play on your tablet and logging in if need be. From the main screen you can tap on the three vertical squares in the top-right of your device’s screen. In the drop-down menu that opens, select Settings and you should see the below screen:
The Settings panel can be accessed from anywhere in the Google Play store, as long as you are on your device. Here’s an overview of the three main sections of Settings and each option.
Notifications – When ticked will notify you when you have updates available for installed apps. You will see the Google Play icon in the black bar at the top of your device. When you pull it down, you should select the apps and update them. It would be a good idea to tick this, as it makes it easier to upload and control your apps.
Auto-update apps – Tap on this to enable auto-update of apps or set when auto-update will run. When you tap on this option you should see a pop-up window with three options. If you are on a data plan, we strongly recommend that you select Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only, as this will not take up any of your data.
Auto-add widgets – Some apps have widgets – mini apps that go right on your device’s home screen, e.g., Gmail has a widget that allows you to read your email directly from your home screen. If you tick this, any app with a widget will automatically be added to your home screen. It would be a good idea to turn this off if you have lots of apps, as you could quickly find your home screen full of things you don’t use.
Clear search history – Pressing this will clear your Google Play search history. It would be a good idea to clear this on a regular basis, say once a month if you download or search for a large number of apps.
Content filtering – Tapping this allows you to set or restrict what apps can be found. Because Google rates the apps, you can limit them by this. The ratings include apps for: Everyone, Low maturity, Medium maturity, High maturity and Show all apps. Tick which apps you feel are appropriate; we recommend unticking High maturity at the very least. When you select OK you will be able to set a pin you will need to enter the next time you want to change the filtering settings.
Password – Allows you to set a password that you will need to enter in order to purchase apps. Essentially, every time you spend money on Google Play, including in-app purchases, you will need to enter your password. When you enable this, you will have to enter your Google Account password, and press Ok. You will also need to enter your password to disable this.
Open source licenses – Because Android is open source (meaning anyone has access to the code that built it), developers need to include the license when they use it. Think of this option as similar to a Terms of Service that users have to agree to (and should read, but don’t) when they install new software.
Build version – Is the current version of Google Play. If you are having problems with the app, and need to contact Google’s Support desk, you will likely need to give them the build version of Google Play.
If you are looking for more information on Google Play, or any other Android tablet apps please contact us today.
Disasters can strike at any time and in any form. They can be as small as a single computer, crashing with a day’s worth of unsaved work, to as large as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 which took out towns and cities. Regardless of their size, it’s certainly seems that disasters are happening with increasing frequency, and this highlights the need for a disaster recovery and preparedness plan. To capitalize on this, some companies have introduced DRaaS. Bud do you know what this is?
DRaaS stands for Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service, and is a cloud based service offered by an increasing number of tech companies. The concept is similar to other cloud based services like Software-as-a-Service, where the solution is delivered and managed by an IT partner.
DRaaS is a Disaster Recovery solution provided by a vendor that businesses can purchase. With most DRaaS solutions the vendor helps develop and implement a disaster recovery plan that fits the needs of the company that they will then manage to ensure that the systems are running properly.
When a disaster strikes, the vendor can work with you to help get your systems back online as fast as possible. Often this is quicker than other solutions, largely because the vendor’s systems will likely not be affected by the disaster.
It is for this reason that many companies are becoming increasingly interested in this form of disaster recovery solution. Many smaller businesses also seem more open to it because it’s a managed service. As these businesses likely don’t have a disaster recovery specialist on staff, finding a solution that works and is affordable can be a challenge. Therefore, going with a managed service like this is a big draw.
What to look for when picking a DRaaS vendor If you are looking for a vendor to help you with your disaster recovery plans, or for a DRaaS solution, you should look for a solution that:
Working with a vendor who provides a disaster recovery plan and service is only one option at your disposal. If you are in the process of updating your plan, or would like to implement one, contact us today to see how our solutions could help you and your business.