Blog

January 28th, 2015

GoogleApps_Jan27_CWhether it’s checking your bank balance, the weather forecast or a flight delay, we have come to use apps to enable us to carry out routine tasks at the touch of a button and without leaving our phones. The Google Apps suite of programs like Drive, Gmail and Calendar can already help businesses to speed up work processes and collaborate more effectively, but plenty more apps from the Google powerhouse can boost your productivity in and out of work. Check out these five apps you’ll want to add to your phone.

Google Wallet

For a long time PayPal has been the default digital payment system - the one that instantly comes to mind when you think of paying for goods or services online. Now that has begun to change, with the launch of Google Wallet and more recently Apple Pay, which are designed to make it easy for consumers to make payments with just a couple of taps on both mobile devices and more conventional platforms. In the latest change to this developing sector, Google Wallet has teamed up with payment processor WePay, which provides the technology behind invoicing programs, e-commerce platforms and charitable donation and crowdfunding sites. The move expands the reach of Google Wallet - and Apple is said to be not far behind, with a similar deal - and makes now a good time to equip yourself with one or both apps. Expect mobile platforms like these to play an increasingly visible role in both online transactions and physical, face-to-face purchases in retail outlets and elsewhere.

Google Gesture Search

Need to quickly track down contacts, messages, applications and other data and files on your phone? Google Gesture Search may only be available for Android devices at the moment, but it can speed up the process of searching for that elusive file or folder. The app allows you to use your finger to draw letters, numbers or symbols on your phone’s screen to identify the item you are searching for. The app is also intelligent in that the more you use it, the more it learns from your search history and makes better, more accurate guesses at what you’re hunting for. Clunky text searches that either yield hundreds of irrelevant results, or none at all, are a thing of the past.

Google Waze

Waze is designed to help you avoid traffic jams and smooth the pain of your travels, while it also allowing you to out for pesky speed cameras. However, it isn’t proving as popular with law enforcement. Perhaps understandably in the wake of recent shootings, authorities fear the police finding feature of the app - primarily intended to give a heads-up on speed traps - could make it all too easy for those so inclined to locate and attack police. All the same, because the app is based on crowdsourced data about congestion and cameras as submitted by users, it isn’t a totally comprehensive map and doesn’t contain anything that couldn’t already be spread by word of mouth. But it’s probably enough to make your next journey that little bit easier.

Google Translate

Okay, so you already know about this popular translation app, which can help you switch text between around eighty languages. You might even be aware that the app already offers support for voice-to-text translation, whereby you can speak or play a recording of a foreign language into your microphone and have Google instantly translate it into the language of your choice. But at the moment, you have to know which language the original recording is in, in order to select it from within the app - and that is what is about to change. Though there is currently no definite timeframe for release, it is reported that Google is expecting to roll out new features to enable the app to automatically detect a number of common languages and translate without the need for any further human input.

Google Authenticator

It’s not only your laptop that should be protected with a secure password - with the number of apps and volume of data likely held in the cloud via your Google account, an intruder gaining access could leave you and your organization at serious risk of a data leak or other security breach. More secure than a regular password alone, Google Authenticator makes it easy for you to put into place two-step verification - which security experts recommend should be standard practice. Once you have this app fighting your corner, logging in to your Google account involves entering your regular password alongside a random code generated by the app - making it far harder for outsiders to break their way in. And because the code is actually generated on the device itself rather than sent from a Google server, it doesn’t even matter if your phone is offline or lacking mobile connection at the time.
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January 14th, 2015

GoogleApps_Jan12_CFor all its benefits in modern communication, we all know how easy it can be to give too much time over to email - and for a small business owner, that is time that could be better spent increasing sales and improving your bottom line. If you feel like a slave to email, 2015 might be the time to shake things up - and these productivity hacks for Gmail will help you do that.

Customize your email address and harness filters

Did you know that, if you use Gmail, you can customize your existing email address? Whether you have a regular @gmail.com or @company.com address, you can adjust your username depending on who you are giving it to and what you are likely to receive. For example, if your basic address is theboss@company.com, you could give theboss+friends@company.com to friends and use theboss+blog@company.com to invite blog comments.
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January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.
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Topic Security
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_CAn antivirus scanner is one of the most essential parts of any security plan. These useful programs scan computers and systems for potential infections and get rid of them, ensuring your files and systems are safe. Because many of these protection programs are subscription based however, it can be easy to let the validity expire. If this does happen, is it really such a big deal though?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.
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Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_CWhen looking into the ways companies are hacked, you quickly realize that there are so many different tactics out there that it is mind-boggling. One of the more effective methods used recently is spear phishing, and in early December 2014, a new spear phishing attack was uncovered. This threat, while directed at larger organizations, could be turned against smaller businesses as well, and is therefore worth you knowing about.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.
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Topic Security
December 30th, 2014

BCP_Dec23_CThere are many different backup solutions out there available to small and medium sized businesses. While most owners are aware of the fact that any backup solution is important for a Disaster Recovery Plan, it can be tough to pick the right one for your business. One of the most popular is online backup. If you are considering which backup solution to choose then our overview should help you decide.

What exactly is online backup?

In a wide sense, online backup is a backup system where your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.
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December 18th, 2014

SocialMedia_Dec15_CMeasuring the overall success of a marketing campaign is often dependent on a number of metrics. When it comes to measuring the success of your social media campaigns, the most common metric employed is the number of shares. Companies who post content online often find it difficult to get their content shared through. If this resonates with you then here are four common reasons as to why your content might not be be shared and what you can do about that.

1. The vast majority of people are hesitant to share content

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook over a 17 day period, approximately 15.3 billion comments and posts were written but were then deleted and not posted on Facebook alone.
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Topic Social Media
December 17th, 2014

Office365_Dec15_CMicrosoft is one of, if not the, world's largest software developer. One of the more increasingly popular solutions being adopted by businesses is the cloud-based Office 365. While popular, one problem many business owners face is selecting which of the many different versions to implement. To help, here is an overview of the most popular Office 365 options for businesses.

A brief look at Office 365

The easiest way to classify Office 365 is as a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office aimed at businesses. This subscription-based service offers businesses all the productivity software they need plus a solid platform for their communications. Think of Outlook combined with Lync (or Skype) and Office apps, all of which are accessible via your browser, or can be installed on your own servers.
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December 16th, 2014

GoogleApps_Dec15_CAs the number of business processes that are accessible via your browser increases, it's important to use a browser that is fast and stable, like Google Chrome. There are many useful features in Chrome, including tabs that allow you to have more than one site open in the same window. You may constantly want to access the same sites and keep these tabs open though, and one way to ensure they are constantly within easy reach is to pin them to the tab bar.

What is Chrome's Pin Tab feature

When using Chrome's tabs, you will notice that tabs open from left to right. When you browse the Internet, you likely open the most used or important sites first, which means they will open to the left. The problem with this is we often have so many tabs open that it can be tricky to find or quickly navigate to the tabbed sites we use the most.
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December 12th, 2014

productivity_Dec12_CEmail is now the most essential form of communication in business. Over the years, email has become much more informal than when it was first introduced. Sure, this makes it feel more natural, but there can be times when this casual style leads to misunderstanding, and in turn this can lead to lost productivity. There is, however, one effective way you can structure important emails to avoid this, and that's by using PAR.

Better email structure for small businesses

In order for your emails to be clearer and to get the overall message across easily, you might want to implement a PAR structure. This three part framework has been used by many business owners and managers to improve overall communications, and consists of:

Problem

At the very top of the email, below the salutation, provide a brief yet clear overview of the problem which is the subject of the email or the reason you are making contact. When writing this overview don't assume anything, including shared knowledge or agreements, unless you have discussed these with all recipients beforehand. The key here is that you are looking to be able to summarize the main issue.
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Topic Productivity