Disaster communication – 5 tips

BCP_Sep30_ADisasters can happen at any time and be of any level of severity. For this reason, it is always advisable to implement a business continuity or disaster recovery plan. By having a plan, you stand a higher chance of surviving a disaster. However, if something negative does happen the key to remaining in operation is communication. This can be harder than it seems.

Here are five tips on how to ensure better communication during a disaster.

1. Have more than one way to communicate During a disaster, you have to assume that communications will be affected in some way. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your company has more than one way to communicate with employees and people outside of your organization.

This could include mobile phones that are used only for disasters, extra phone lines, VoIP, etc. The key here is to identify how potential disasters could affect communications and look for alternative methods or ways to communicate.

2. Coordinate responders During some disasters, it’s not the communications themselves that cause further problems, but uncoordinated responders. In times of disaster, people react based on what they think will work best in the moment.

If you have not taken steps to ensure that all responders are on the same page, and know what they should be doing to not only carry out the recovery plan but also communicate, you could face a total breakdown.

When developing your strategy, take the time to ensure that the selected responders and communications leaders are up-to-date and are aware of what is expected of them and how they should go about communicating during a disaster. Cross-training employees so they can carry out other roles if necessary, can be a good back up too.

3. Coordinate responses During a disaster, you will have to communicate with parties outside of your business. This may be the media, shareholders or other businesses. If you have a disgruntled employee, or one who is not aware of the full situation when answering questions, the impact of the disaster could be exacerbated.

It is beneficial to develop standard responses and methods of responding during a disaster. As a small to medium business owner it is tempting to take on this role yourself. However, while you should definitely be a key person to respond to questions from parties outside of your business, having other people in place who can cover this role might help mitigate disaster.

4. Communicate outward In times of disaster it can be easy to forget that other people and businesses rely on you. If they are not fully aware of what is going on, there is a chance of compounding problems and even losing business.

When disaster strikes, your company should take steps to communicate with parties outside of your organization as to what is going on, what you are doing to fix the problem and if there is any help/changes you need. After all, the more people who are informed of the situation, the greater the chance that support will be available and more effective.

5. Be honest There is a temptation to put spin on a disaster within your organization and embellish the truth, or play it down so as to not make your business appear in a bad light. This could cause further problems though if important people find out that you have not been totally upfront and transparent.

All it would take is one employee mentioning a hidden fact to a friend and the truth could come out and potentially damage your brand reputation and possibly lose you business. Therefore, when communicating with outside parties and with your employees, be honest and open as to what is really going on. This will make communication easier, and could even help lessen the long-term impact of the disaster.

If you are looking for communications systems or disaster recovery plans that will help see you through any disaster, please contact us today to see how our solutions can support you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Who else wants 5 social apps for WP?

WindowsPhone_Aug26_ASmartphones are a utilitarian tool. They have given us the ability to connect while on the move, and many people rely on their phones as their main social tool, often checking email and social networks regularly as they are out and about. However, if you have a Windows Phone, you may feel a bit limited when it comes to social media apps. In truth, this isn’t the case at all.

Here is an overview of five useful, and mostly free, social media apps for Windows Phone.

Facebook Beta The Facebook Beta app is essentially the Facebook mobile app, but with some new features that Facebook wants to introduce in the near future. The latest update includes the ability to upload multiple photos, download photos, attach images in messaging and inline tagging (being able to mention another user in a post). While these features may be appealing, they are still in beta, meaning that Facebook is testing them with users. With some beta programs apps may not be 100% stable. That being said, being able to access new features sooner is something many users welcome.

You can download the app for free from the Windows Phone Store.

Pin+ Pinterest has become one of the fastest growing social networks and many businesses have found some intriguing uses for it. The downside is that there is no official Windows Phone app. What there is instead though is Pin+. This unofficial app brings Pinterest to your phone, with almost all of the functionality available with the Web version.

If you want to use Pinterest on your smartphone, this is the app that allows it. You can download it for free on the Windows Phone Store.

4th & Mayor Foursquare is a popular social media service where you can ‘check into’ businesses and see who and what is around you. While there is an official app for Windows Phone, some users aren’t big fans of it. 4th & Mayor is an alternative app that uses the Foursquare programming interface. It has all the functionality of Foursquare, just with a different, more user friendly layout.

It’s available for free on the Windows Phone Store.

6tag It’s widely known that visual content is the key to keeping users interested and invested in your social media efforts. Instagram is a great program for creating visual content with your device by allowing you to take pictures, apply filters and then upload and share images on various social media sites. Unfortunately, there is no official app for Windows Phone, and likely won’t be for some time to come. What you do have is 6tag. This unofficial app was built using the Instagram system, and includes all the same features like filters, sharing on social media, uploading and even video.

The basic version is free on the Windows Phone Store, but does have ads. You can upgrade to remove ads for USD$1.29 and add video support for USD$1.49.

Social Mints Spend any time on social media and you soon understand that trends come and go at an astonishing speed. It can be incredibly hard to stay on top of them all let alone figure out what is worth looking into. Social Mints is an app that lets you monitor and follow social media trends. Put in a popular term and watch as updates pop up in real time. You can even learn through which mediums people are talking about it, including related keywords and top posters.

If you’re looking for a way to keep on top of trends, this is a great app. It’s available for free on the Windows Phone Store.

Looking to learn more about the Windows Phone? Give us a shout, we’d love to help you explore and exploit the full potential of what you can do and how it could potentially help your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Useful Windows Phone app: Files

Web_July07_A1Files and folders are essential parts of any operating system, mobile or otherwise. In larger devices, like computers and laptops, we often have hundreds, if not thousands, of files and folders that we use to keep our systems and processes organized. However, with mobile devices, such as Windows Phone, it is difficult to actually manage your files and folders properly. In fact, it’s been one of the most requested Windows Phone features and Microsoft has recently announced a new app to make management of files and folders on your device far easier.

About the Files app for Windows Phone 8.1

In late May, Microsoft posted an article on their Windows Mobile blog announcing that the Files app had been launched. The idea behind this app is that it allows easier viewing and managing of files and folders on your Windows Phone.

With this app you can:

  • Browse for installed files
  • Arrange files into folders
  • Move files or folders from one location to another
  • Open or search for files
  • Change the name of existing files
  • Share individual or multiple files with other users

While this app is a welcome development, there is one feature that makes it great: It allows you to also access and manage files on your device’s SD card – if it has one. This means you no longer have to connect your Windows Phone to your computer in order to manage your files. You can do so directly from your phone.

Where can I get the app?

If you use your device for work we strongly recommend that you install this app, especially if you store files on your device. Find the app on the Windows Phone Store for free. Simply click the Install button in the left-hand ribbon of the page and select your device. You need to be signed into the Microsoft account you use on your phone. You can verify this by looking at the top-right of the page and hovering your mouse over Explore. If you are not signed in hover over Explore and click Sign-in. Enter the username and password of the Microsoft account you use on your phone and you should be able to install the app directly from your browser.

Alternatively, you can install the app directly to your device by:

  1. Going to the Windows Phone Store app on your device.
  2. Searching for Files.
  3. Tapping on the Files app icon (blue square with a white document icon).
  4. Pressing Install.

The app should start to download automatically and install a new tile on your home screen.

Using the Files app

To manage or view the files and folders on your device, simply open the app. You should see a screen open with the option to either look at the files on your Phone or SD card – if your device has an SD card installed.

When you tap on either Phone or SD card, you should see the file structure pop up. Scrolling up or down and tapping on files or folders will open them. If you tap on the square box beside each file you will see a number of options pop up at the bottom of the screen. Pressing the related icon will allow you to interact with that file. For example, if you select a file and press the Trash Can icon, the file will be deleted. You can select multiple files at the same time by simply tapping on the white boxes before hitting any of the action buttons.

If you are looking for a specific file, make sure you don’t have any files or folders selected and press the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the screen. Enter the name of the file or folder you would like to find and it should pop up below the search bar.

Looking to learn more about using Windows Phone in the office? Contact us today to see how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 Ways Microsoft Office 365 Can Help Your Business

As a Microsoft Partner of nearly 19 years, I have seen several shifts in the way small and medium sized businesses can utilize technology. In 1995 the use of email and websites were just beginning to catch on for many small businesses, and within a few short years became ubiquitous. Over the last few years we have witnessed another extraordinary shift in technology that can give smaller businesses a real edge. Yes, we are talking about “the cloud”, but I never did like that term. We have been using “the cloud” since we sent the first email. I prefer to talk about this shift in more pragmatic terms.

At a simplified level, we are seeing a shift from companies budgeting a significant capital expense with implementing on-premises solutions, toward a monthly operational expenses as they invest in hosting solutions through 3rd party providers. There are many advantages in doing so. You are able to utilize the same technologies accessible to the largest enterprises. You have scale and elasticity to immediately shift resources to meet your demands. You get to reap the reward of feature add-on’s and solution upgrades, without the headache of having to manage those upgrades internally. You have improved remote access and mobility. Finally, you have a fixed, predictable, recurring cost for these services that can be easily managed and tracked.

1. Exchange Online
Exchange Server is Microsoft’s email server product. I built my business in part by supporting on-premises Exchange Servers for my clients, which can be standalone or implemented as a component of Microsoft’s Small Business Server, which is no longer available. I regularly refer to Exchange as Office 365’s “low hanging fruit”. Businesses have and need email, and moving that function to a hosted provider is typically the most obvious technology to move to another provider. Over 90% of the folks we have helped implement Office 365 started with migrating email to Exchange Online.
The migration path to get all your email data from either an on premises Exchange Server or another hosted service to Office 365 can be a challenge, so unless you have internal IT staff who are very familiar with the offering I highly recommend you find and work with a cloud certified Microsoft Partner. Once your data is migrated, however, the experience should be extremely similar for staff who are used to using Microsoft Outlook to manage their email, calendars, and contacts. You may require upgrades to Windows and Outlook if you are on older versions, but core functionality is very similar and recognizable for most.
2. Lync Online
Microsoft used to have two products named Office Communicator and LiveMeeting. Those products were combined several years ago into a product called Lync. Lync provides the ability to collaborate with other people in real time. I have found that while few businesses, particularly the smaller ones, are extremely interested in Lync initially, they soon find themselves asking how they ever lived without it. It can truly change the culture of how your staff communicates and works with one another.
A great thing about this service is that it can simply be purchased and turned on. There is nothing to migrate and very little to configure. End users need some training on this new product, but they become highly effective with it quickly. At the core of Lync, your staff can see presence – whether or not someone else is available at that moment. You can see a presence indicator across the other components of Office 365, including Exchange and SharePoint. You can instantly communicate with people via chat, voice and video. You can share applications or your entire desktop. You can have voice or video conference calls. You can present to prospects or clients. This represents a real shift in the way your staff communicates.
3. SharePoint
SharePoint is at its core an intranet website to share files and collaborate. It is designed for business use with security and management in mind. If you are with a small business and have tried SharePoint in the past you may have come to the conclusion that it wasn’t for you. It was difficult to configure and use, and felt like an enterprise solution. The latest revision of SharePoint Online in Office 365 is far simpler to use. Out of the box, with some basic thought and planning around file structure and day to day use, it’s possible for a small company to have a rich and sophisticated platform from which to share, store, and secure company data and resources.
One of the most interesting features of SharePoint is called OneDrive for Business. This feature allows business users to synchronize data from SharePoint to their individual devices. A very important point to interject here is that there is a significant difference between this solution and the consumer solutions like DropBox, Google Drive, and OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). Business class products like OneDrive for Business match those features, but add critical business functionality like managed security, backup, and data retention for the business. I should note here that DropBox also has a business solution with centralized management, so if you stick with DropBox instead of Office 365, just make sure your business uses that version, not the consumer version many employees may have installed.
With SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, the files belong to the business, not the individual. Permissions can be set much like you would on a file server, and if an employee is no longer with your company, the files don’t disappear with that individual. Microsoft very recently added OneDrive for Business as a standalone product as well, so you can utilize the OneDrive feature set without the full SharePoint implementation if you are only looking for file synchronization.
4. Yammer
Microsoft acquired a company called Yammer not too long ago and has done an incredible job of integrating the platform with Office 365. It is difficult to succinctly describe what the platform provides, but think of it as social media for your business.

There are various ways to utilize Yammer in your business. I like to break down the ways I see the platform being used into two categories.

First, if your organization has more than about 20 employees you have probably come up with some kind of policy about what kind of email just doesn’t belong in the “all staff” distribution group. For instance if someone on your staff had an interesting personal item to share that is great to build connections, but often feels more like spam when many users send those kinds of messages to everyone’s email. Yammer is the place for shared social interaction, photos, links, etc. to live instead of email, and can be consumed how and when it makes sense. Also if you have more staff or are geographically separate from one another Yammer is an incredible way to build culture. Give each other kudos, get to know each other personally a bit more. It is a fun platform to be used in a myriad of social ways.

Second, there are extremely relevant business uses for the platform. You can create groups, perhaps by project or department, and have conversations, posts, etc. relevant to those groups. Those conversations live in Yammer. They can contain files, links, photos, comments, and more and they are searchable. Microsoft itself has done a wonderful job of creating Yammer groups for its partner and client base. Yammer is now the primary way I learn more about what’s coming from Microsoft. Yes, you picked up on that didn’t you? You can setup groups within Yammer and allow people outside your organization to interact. Subcontractors, clients, etc. can have a platform to interact in a controlled and secured fashion.
5. Office ProPlus

Everyone pretty well understands the traditional methods for purchasing Microsoft Office. You could buy the apps preinstalled on your computer, via retail from a store or online, or you could license them for your business through a partner like Arterian. With Office 365 you now have the ability to simply subscribe to Office ProPlus, which is the Office suite as a downloadable application on up to 5 devices per user account (yes, Office for Mac is included). There are two advantages to this subscription method. First, the cost is very low and there is no upfront cost to acquire the license. Second the applications update, essentially like an app on your mobile phone or tablet. You don’t need a disk or a license key. Other key application providers are shifting to a very similar model. Adobe, for instance, is doing the same with their suite of applications.

Conclusion

Many have heard me say that I’ve never seen a solution so easily sell itself. Office 365 provides such an enormous value at such a low monthly cost per user that the decision to shift to the solution makes sense for nearly all businesses. There are exceptions, but they are few. There are many various cloud vendors providing similar feature sets to each of the items I’ve discussed above, but to have the best of these services all on the same platform with an extremely financially secure company with top notch datacenters makes me infinitely more comfortable with the fact little of my data resides on-premises any longer.

You can learn more about the solution at www.microsoft.com/Office365 and I recommend that if you have concerns about security, uptime or compliance you take a look at www.TrustOffice365.com.

Jamison West is the founder and CEO of Arterian, Inc. Arterian can be reached at 206-284-5927 or info@arterian.com.

How to automatically start Office

Office_Oct3_AIs your morning routine something along the lines of: get into the office, turn on the computer, grab a cup of coffee as it starts up, sit down, log in and open Outlook to check your email? This is a fairly common routine for the majority of office workers, and has been for years. Did you know though that if you use Microsoft Office you can start up a program when you turn your computer on?

Here’s how you can get an Office program to automatically open upon startup of your computer.

On Windows

  1. Start your computer normally and when you’re at the desktop, click the Start button, or Windows orb, which is usually located in the bottom left of your desktop.
  2. Point to All Programs followed by Microsoft Office.
  3. In the drop-down menu, hover your mouse over the program you want to open when your computer starts up, press and hold Control and click and drag it into the Startup file.

If you follow this, a shortcut of the program will be made and placed into the startup folder. If you don’t press and hold Control, the program will be moved into the Startup folder, and you will have to navigate to Startup every time you want to open the Office program.

On Mac

  1. Open System Preferences and select Accounts.
  2. Select the account you log in with followed by Login Items.
  3. Press the plus button under the list of programs and select the Applications folder.
  4. Scroll down to the Microsoft Office program you would like to open at startup, click on it and press Add. If you can’t find it, type the name of the Office program into the field with the magnifying glass.

When you next start up your computer, the program(s) you have chosen should open as soon as the computer boots up. It’s important to remember that any programs you add to the startup process will cause the computer to boot up more slowly. If you’d like to learn more tips on using Office in your business or workplace, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.