Blog

April 2nd, 2014

Productivity_Mar31_APresentations are an integral part of any business, regardless of size. There is a good chance that you will have to give at least one presentation in your career, with many people giving so many they lose count. Many small businesses are starting to hire remote workers or carry out business over large distances, which forces them to create presentations online. However, with this type of presentation it can be especially hard to attract and keep an audience's attention.

If you are creating an online presentation to a remote audience there are a number of factors you should keep in mind if you want to grab your audience's attention and keep them following and paying attention. Here are five of the most important tips:

1. Make it visual

For the most part, visual presentations have a higher chance of success - that is, the message being grasped by the audience. This is especially true for online and remote presentations, largely because when more people are on a computer, partaking in a presentation, they will often be multi-tasking.

If you have a ton of text there is a good chance you will lose your audience within the first couple of slides. Instead aim for a presentation that is heavy on graphics and visually appealing. Using bright or contrasting colors will draw the eye and will increase the time you have your audience's attention.

If your presentation is about a product create picture slides with a minimal amount of text; let the product speak for itself. For presentations involving graphs and charts, include these graphics and a couple of key points. The rest you can fill in with spoken narrative.

2. Focus on the audience

Online presentations and those using meeting software should be audience-friendly. This means making it easy for them to join and partake in the presentation by sharing slides, and also asking if anyone has any points to add or even expand upon with an interactive presentation element.

While presenting, there will be slides and points that are more important than others. To highlight this you can 'sign-post' the salient points. Make these visually larger if they are text, and pause to point this out with the script by telling your audience: "This is the most important point"; essentially demanding they pay attention.

Finally, try to limit technical glitches. This can be the quickest way to lose engagement if your Internet cuts out or the computer crashes. Try to present at a time when you know connection will be strong and stable and have a backup in place in case something goes wrong.

3. Adapt to different audiences

Every person in the audience will have different expectations of your presentation. Some will want just the facts, while others might be looking to be convinced by an opinion or argument expressed in the presentation. You should take the time to get to know your audience and what they expect and then develop the presentation around this idea.

If you do your homework and know a bit about your audience, you can take steps to connect with them early in the presentation, if not before, and drive engagement.

4. Create, edit, practice, edit, practice, edit, practice, present

It may sound a bit redundant to edit and practice multiple times, but it really will help when leading an online presentation. First you should create your presentation, then edit it. You are looking to keep your slides as short as possible - no more than four points and two minutes spent talking for each slide.

Really the first edit should be about content, grammar and spelling. Once this is done, practice presenting as you would on the actual presentation day. Start with a blank desktop screen, log into the software/site you will be using, load the presentation, share it, and then actually present. Time yourself and note any issues.

Next, go back and edit the presentation some more, making sure you aren't spending too much time on one slide or that each of the slides does not have too many confusing points, etc. Keep practicing and editing until you are not only comfortable, but know the content inside and out.

You could also try recording your voice. This will allow you to hear where you need to work on inflection and overall style. If you find that you are tuning yourself out when you listen to the presentation, you may want to practice some more and try to inject some extra interest, whether through humor or engaging facts and ideas. This is really vital is you won't have that face-to-face contact with a physical presentation where you are present. If you sound engaging, the audience are more likely to connect with you.

5. Develop your own style

No one likes a dull presentation where you just talk about what's on the slides. Try to give your presentation a narrative arc and structure. Where possible include personal experiences or even tell a relevant joke from time to time. If you are passionate and show that you are trying to connect your audience will likely not click away from the presentation or drift off to other work or simply to surf the Internet and Facebook.

If you are looking to learn more about presentations and how to use software for expert presentations, or even how to conduct your next remote presentation, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 2nd, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar31_AThe website is one of the most important marketing and branding tools a small business can utilize. Potential and even current customers visit business websites looking for information and will often judge whether they will purchase from this point. That means that your site needs to be designed properly. In order to achieve this it pays to be aware of the common mistakes businesses make when designing their corporate website.

The business value of a business website is that it creates a solid online presence and boosts your brand image and market reach. Even if your business is not Internet based, a website can be used to create a certain impression and ultimately contribute to your bottom line. The key is to make sure you create the best impression. Here are six of the most common mistakes businesses make with website design:

Mistake 1: Building for the sake of building

Websites are important and some businesses believe that they should have a website, so they go ahead and simply build one. You should first take steps to define your target market - who is it that you want and expect to visit your website.

Once you have a defined target market you can then take time to build your site for your market. For example, if the majority of your target market uses mobile devices to browse the Web you should take steps to design your site so that it is viewable on mobile devices.

You should also determine what you want visitors to do on your site. Some companies want them to click through to another site, while others want them to sign up. By defining how you want your visitors to interact you can then develop your content and design around this.

Mistake 2: Designing a website that is too busy

It can be tempting to put all of your information on one page or even have a ton of images and videos. The truth is, this can be distracting largely because once someone lands on your page, they won't know how to get around, find the information they want, or even to know what they should do next.

Busy or flashy websites with lots of animations or large amounts of text also usually don't scale all that well. So, when someone looks at your site on a mobile device they will likely find it too hard to navigate and leave, which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, aim for a website that is simple and clean. Important information should be quick to find and read and it should be clear who you are, what you have to say, and what you want the visitor to do.

Mistake 3: Lacking call to actions

Most business related websites have a goal as to what they want visitors to do. Maybe it's download an app, call the company, or even sign make a purchase online. It is essential that you lead visitors toward what you want them to do in the most clear and concise way. The best way to do this is through a call to action. These are usually buttons at the bottom of sections or pages that motivate the user to click and follow the instructions on what to do next, be that sign up to something or get in touch.

The best calls to action stand out from the content, drawing the reader's eye and hopefully inspiring them to click. They should also be clearly written, simple, and direct. e.g., 'Call us today!' or 'Download now!'

Mistake 4: Misguided content

It may seem worthwhile to write in-depth content about your products or services but this isn't always the case. People skim read the basics on the Web and it's different than other mediums.

What you should do is condense down your content so that it only states the most important information. Tell the reader what your product or service does and provide a few of the most important benefits. What you are looking to do is develop enough interest so that visitors to your site will click on the call to action and connect with you.

If you have the time and profits, creating a more visual site where you showcase the products or show how you can help in a short video may lead to higher engagement and possibly higher customer conversions. Take a look at the popular software and service sites like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google. The content is highly visible and simple, yet provides just enough information so the user knows what the service is and what they are expected to do.

Mistake 5: Static content

It can be tempting to invest the time to write a great website, get the content online then just leave it sitting there. The Internet changes and what might have been regarded as great website design and content a couple of years ago may not be seen in the same light today.

It is advisable to periodically update your site's design and content to reflect current trends; making it more modern. Another related aspect of your content is that you need to ensure that your content is up-to-date. If you are hosting a contest and put the information on your site, you should make sure to take it off of your site, or update it when the date passes. It looks a little unprofessional to have content that is still talking about 2012 or even 2013.

Mistake 6: Doing it yourself

The vast majority of small business owners and managers don't have in-depth Web design skills, yet are determined to build their company's website themselves. This can lead to unexpected problems or a website that doesn't meet your needs. We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified designer who can help ensure that your website is designed and built to high standards.

If you are looking to boost your website's design contact us today. We can help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 26th, 2014

Office_Mar24_AMicrosoft Outlook is an application included in the Microsoft Office Suite. While it’s most commonly used to access different email accounts e.g., personal and business, it also has other features, including calendar, contacts, and tasks. It also comes with a search folder that lets you instantly find messages that fall under certain criteria.

Outlook is one of the most popular email platforms allowing you to read emails from almost any account. The inbox is where the majority of your interaction with Outlook is, but the problem is that many users receive so many emails that it can be overwhelmed quickly. This makes it more difficult to find important emails, or separate the spam/less important emails.

One way to deal with this is by creating a customized search folder for important emails. This makes searching for vital messages easier as they are saved in a separate folder.

Default and predefined search folders in Outlook

There are three default search folders in Outlook and you can see them under “search folders” in the mail navigation pane on the left side of the window. These default search folders are categorized mail, large mail and unread mail. Categorized mail contains messages that are categorized by color.

The large mail folder is a search folder that includes messages that are over 100 KB in size. Unread mail, as the term suggests, contains emails that have not yet been read.

Predefined search folders are also available. These are existing search folders that you can add to the search menu, below the other folders. Some of these require that you enter specific criteria, while others do not. For instance, “mail flagged for follow up” does not require any criteria, while “mail with specific words” asks you to enter certain words that the message must contain to be included in the folder.

Adding predefined search folders can be done by following the steps below:

  1. Click File.
  2. Select New and choose Search Folder. The New Search Folder window will appear.
  3. Click on any of the predefined search folders.
  4. Select the option you want if asked for a specific criterion.
  5. Click OK.

Create a new search folder in Outlook

It’s also possible to create your very own search folder. You get to set not only the criteria, but its name as well. This makes it convenient to easily access important messages as you don’t have to browse through the inbox or various folders in your mailbox.

Here’s how to create a new search folder in Outlook:

  1. Right click on Search Folders in the mail navigation pane and click New Search Folder. You may also press ctrl+shift+p on your keyboard to make the window appear.
  2. Click Create a Custom Search Field followed by Choose.
  3. Enter the name of the new folder in the name field.
  4. Click Criteria and set your preferences to further personalize the folder and click OK.
  5. Click Browse and select folders to add in your customized search folder, then click OK.
  6. Select OK on the new search folder window and the new folder you created will be added under your search folders.
Messages in search folders will still remain in the original folders where they are saved. Even if you view the messages and delete the search folder, the messages will still be accessible in their default folder. However, if you select and delete a message in a search folder, it will be completely removed, even from its original folder.

If you have any concerns or feedback with regards Outlook search folders, feel free to get in touch and we’ll help you in every way that we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2014

Hardware_Mar17_AIt’s hard to imagine printers completely disappearing in offices. While no one can refute how most documents are now housed in the digital realm, there will always be a need to have these documents printed out for one reason or another. While offices do have printers, it may be confusing to pick a new printer when you need a new one.

These three printers below are the most common printers found in offices these days.

Multi Function Printers (MFP)

Multi Function Printers are also commonly known as all-in-one printers. With this type of device, your printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying needs are covered! These printers usually come in a variety of sizes with many being small enough to fit onto a small desk.

Aside from the multi function features that MFPs have, these are the common benefits that business owners can gain from this type of printer.

  • They take up less room.
  • They are usually lower in cost. Though it may seem expensive compared to the other types of printers, if you consider buying a fax machine, scanner, photocopier and a printer, you’ll find that buying an MFP is actually a lot more affordable.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjets print documents by spraying ink onto paper, and can usually produce prints with a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) with some actually able to print documents as high as 600dpi. This makes them ideal for printing saller images and reports.

What most business owners like about inkjet printers is the fact that they are usually affordable, making them an ideal device for businesses that just want printers. Since most offices (if not all) have computers, you’ll most likely see inkjet printers in the majority of offices. Here are some more benefits that people like about inkjet printers.

  • Fast printing speeds.
  • Can produce really high quality print.
  • Easy to use.
  • They can produce vivid colors.

Laser Printers

If there’s one very notable feature that you’ll love about laser printers, it would be the printer's capability of producing very high quality documents. In fact, laser printers can produce copies with a resolution of 600 dpi - 1200 dpi.

One of the main differences that laser printers have is the fact that they use toner (colored or black powder) instead of the inks that are used in most other printers.

Laser printers offer users many enticing benefits including:

  • Very high resolution.
  • Fast results.
  • High volume printing.
  • No smears at all.

What type of printer should my business get?

If you are looking for a new printer, it can be a little confusing as to which you should get. If you don't have a scanner or fax machine, it would be a good idea to look into a Multi Function Printer. Looking to print smaller or shorter documents or only occasionally? An Inkjet would probably be a better choice. If you need to print on a regular basis, or print in mass quantities a laser printer could be the best choice.

With all the types of printers available in the market, choosing a specific printer to use in your office can be quite confusing. If you need help in choosing which printer to go for, then give us a call and we’ll give you our expert advice on the matter.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_AA business without a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) is like a circus acrobat without a safety net. The question is, are you willing to take that kind of a risk with your business? Considering how attacks to your business can come in many forms be it cyber, natural disaster or man made (among many others), it makes perfect sense to have an effective DRP in place.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 13th, 2014

WindowsPhone_Mar10_AMicrosoft's Windows Phone platform, despite being slightly behind in the Smartphone race between Android and Apple, is gaining traction among users. Especially since the release of Windows Phone 8.1, business owners are increasingly enticed to jump on the Windows bandwagon. Why you might ask? One reason is that there are several features that business owners love about the Windows Phone platform.

While there’s a plethora of reasons as to why business owners are moving to the Windows platform, these three powerful ones will give you a good idea of why people are making the shift.

Office apps, Lync and Outlook

Windows Phones have access to a number of Windows apps including the powerful Office suite which can turn your phone into a mobile office. By using the various Microsoft Office apps, you can share, access and edit your office documents all in one place. You can then sync all of the documents to SkyDrive, Office 365, or SharePoint sites after you’re done editing.

Are you a huge fan or avid user of Outlook tasks and calendar? If you are, then you’ll love how you can sync your Outlook tasks with your Windows Phone and have access to all of your messages, tasks and calendars at the touch of a button.

Beyond the core Office apps, there are also apps like Lync which allows for voice and video communication. Using Lync Mobile can be a game changer for your business. You can view your colleague’s availability, chat with individuals or groups through Instant Messaging, all from your phone.

Encryption and security

Viruses, hackers or malware can put you in a lot of trouble if left unchecked. Not only is it a good idea for business owners to make sure that their system is well optimized, they need to also make sure that their security is robust as well.

The Windows Phone has a trusted boot process that ensures only validated software runs, meaning that if software hasn't been validated by Microsoft, it won't be allowed to run. It’s also the only phone with native support for Information Rights Management that you can use for your business to protect critical and sensitive data.

Have you misplaced your phone before? If you answered yes, then you won’t have to worry as much if you misplace your Windows Phone as it has several layers of protection against that.

Here are some of the features that you can use:

  • Password or Pin
  • Remote wipe
  • Tools that you can use to find lost phones included in the Windows Phone management site

Have all of your contacts in one place!

The Windows Phone allows you to see all of your contacts on Hotmail, Messenger, Outlook, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google and all other compatible email accounts. If you’re a Skype user, you can also see your Skype contacts. The neat part is, you can customize your phone to show from which source the contacts are coming from. So if you want only the contacts from Facebook and Skype to display on your phone, you can customize your phone to show just that and disable the other sources like LinkedIn etc.

Once you tap a name, you can then see a consolidated contact card showing all of the information you have about that specific contact. This includes all the methods to communicate, conversations, recent calls and even their social media activity.

This feature is especially helpful when building relationships with thought leaders and the influencers in your niche. You can easily be updated on what they’re doing giving you some more insight on how you can implement their techniques in your business. Using this to study your competition’s activities is another effective way of using this feature for your business.

A lot of business owners are shifting to the Windows Phone platform and they’re right in doing so. The features mentioned above can give an advantage over the competition and help boost business to greater heights. And the best part is - we’re just on the tip of the iceberg with all the features that Windows Phones have to offer.

Do you want to know more?

If you want to know more about how you can use your Windows Phone to better your business, then give us a call now and we’ll help you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 11th, 2014

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.

Topic Article
March 7th, 2014

Productivity_Mar03_AAre you looking for a tried and tested way of increasing your productivity? If so, then there are a number of solutions. One of the most effective is writing a to-do list to help you really get on top of your day-to-day tasks.This guide will help you craft an effective one so you can skyrocket your productivity each day.

Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:

Add a notes section

A notes section is a general area for all the tasks in your to-do list. Its main purpose is to provide you with space to add notes about your tasks. Or, instead you can use this area to type in challenges that you encountered when handling specific tasks.

On the flip side, it could also contain the best practices that you employed which enabled you to finish the task effectively and efficiently. These notes are important because by revisiting these jottings you can learn from them and be better able to optimize your way of doing things and your approach.

Prioritize

Ignoring client meetings because you're supposed to be fixing your cabinet, for example, based on what’s written in your to-do list, is a sure fire way of negatively impacting your business.

Your to-do list needs to be devised in such a way that there is a clear sense of priority. The most important tasks should be added to the top most part of your list just to make sure that you don’t miss these and they are tackled and completed first.

Break down your tasks to bite-size activities

Can you imagine writing down 'work' in your to-do list? Having a to-do list with broad topics like this won’t help you in the slightest bit.

You need to break down your lists into more specific tasks so that they provide the clarity that you need to achieve. Here’s a good example of a well-constructed list:

  1. Send 20 outreach emails to prospects.
  2. Discuss with the team the concept of having a systems' mindset.
  3. Review the offer of client X and decide whether to accept it or not.
Notice how the examples above are more tangible compared to simply writing down 'work'? With a list like the one above, you should be able to comfortably tick each task with a clear idea of when it has been completed.

Add a deadline whenever possible

Adding a deadline helps you gauge your output. By being able to see whether you’re lagging behind you can make any necessary changes.

A deadline also prevents you from procrastinating since you’ll be more conscious of time and a definitive end point.

Be realistic

Adding a week's worth of tasks to your daily to-do list will just discourage and frustrate you. Be as realistic as you can when writing up your list. If you honestly think that you can’t finish all of the tasks within one day, then add some of them to the next. That way you won’t be frustrated with a long list of tasks that you haven’t completed at the end of each day.

If you are faced with productivity issues and are struggling to get the kind of output you're hoping for in your business, then put giving us a call at the top of your to-do list.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_AThere are many ways businesses can improve not only their value but how they connect with their customers. Sure, having a website is a great step, as is having a social media presence, but you need to produce quality content to post on your site or profiles in order to get people to keep coming back. One of the best ways to do this is with blogging.

If you're looking to get people more involved and connected with your company, spread your brand image and message, and perhaps establish your company as an industry leader, then blogging might just be the answer.

There is little doubt that companies that blog effectively do see an increase in overall value. That being said, it can be a challenge to develop and maintain a successful blog.

Here are 7 tips for businesses looking to start a blog or develop an existing one into a more successful platform:

1. Define your topics and your audience

As with almost every business process, there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build your blog, such as the topics you write about and your audience.

Take a minute to establish who your target audience is, such as your average customer. Pick some basic characteristics that cover the majority of this group. Focusing on who you are writing articles for can make writing not only easier but more relevant and effective.

Many of the most successful business blogs choose blog topics based on their services or products and news. The key is to select topics based on what you think your audience will find useful or interesting. You might not want to spread your blogs over too many topic areas as these can be hard work to cover on a regular basis. About 4-8 is a good amount to aim for.

2. Be consistent

With defined topics and a target audience in mind, you are well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for your blog. The next element is to devise a calendar of how often you write blogs and cover certain topics. If, for example, you picked four topics this could equate to one article a month for each topic.

What you are striving for is consistency. You should be writing and posting a new article at least once a week, or more. If you establish a calendar based around your topics you will find it easier to write content on a regular basis and soon it will become a natural part of your weekly tasks.

3. Be relevant

Even with defined topics, it can be a struggle to come up with new ideas for blogs. It can be tempting to write about a new product or feature, but you have to be careful that it doesn't read too much like boring marketing material.

Instead, focus on what your audience would like to read. Often the most successful articles are those that answer common questions asked by clients, or talk about how a product or service can help a client. Other articles could be related to your products rather than directly about them. For example, if you own a coffee shop then writing about food that goes well with coffee might be an interesting blog idea.

Personal opinions can provide an interesting perspective and many readers find these types of business blogs refreshing. However, you do need to be careful of ostracizing those who might not agree with you or putting people off with negative blogs.

4. Don't forget the CTA

Remember, your business blog needs to have a purpose: You want to not only develop interest in the company, but to drive business. At the end of most if not all of your articles you can include a call to action (CTA) that suggests to the reader to contact you, come in for a visit or email.

5. Keep articles easy to read

It can be tempting to write a 4,000 word article with a ton of great information. Google and many search engines do look positively at long-form content and this might work well for your search rankings. The only problem is that when many of us read articles online we skim them, looking for salient points and skipping up to 90% of the article.

To that end, keep articles on the shorter side - around 500-1,000 words. Use shorter sentences and headings like H3 and bold to separate content and make it more scannable. Writing a longer article? Split it into two, three or even four parts. This helps drive interest to return to check out the new parts when they are posted.

6. Promote and share your content

Share your blog content on your social media profiles. This increases the reach of your blog, but also drives traffic to your website. You can put an easy to see link to your blog on your homepage and even in email headers.

Many writers also find success in contributing, or writing a blog for other websites. This helps not only spread your ideas, content, and company name, but can also help find content for your blog as other writers contribute to yours. Try contacting friends and colleagues to see if they would like you to write a post for their blog.

7. Remember you don't have to be the only contributor

Finally, you don't have to be the only person writing your blog. Ask your employees if they have any article ideas they would like to write about. The more writers contributing, the more content there is. This also takes the pressure off of you having to develop, write, and post everything, as well as offering a different voice for variety.

If you are looking to launch a blog, contact us to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 26th, 2014

Office_Feb24_AMicrosoft Office (MS Office) is a popular and top-selling software suite that features a myriad of publishing programs for desktop computers. Basically, it comes with an array of applications that can help you document everything needed in your work, studies or business. As a user, you have the option to choose from several different suites intended for home users, small business enterprises and large corporations - all depending on your needs. While this program is user-friendly, there are times when people need help with it.

When it comes to helping you with solutions for your Office issues, here are five of the most common go-to places:

F1

Let’s assume you’ve already installed Microsoft Office Suite and an application is already up and running. However, the problem is you need to figure out how to do something. Finding a solution can sometimes be frustrating, so follow one of two options to get a quick answer to your questions.

The first is to press F1 to open the help database. You can then search for a solution to your problem. The second option is to press the question mark '?' located in the upper right corner of any Office program. This will open the same solution database.

MS Diagnostics

Microsoft Office failures, such as your program crashing or not launching, don’t necessarily mean that the software is corrupt or needs to be reinstalled. There might be another root cause. But there's no need to panic, as Microsoft offers an in-house physician for your Office problems called MS Diagnostics.

This tool runs a number of tests on Office programs, identifying existing and potential problems. Basically, the MS Diagnostic tool is like an MRI that thoroughly scans your Office software application, and which can usually provide repair options too.

Office Support

If the issues with your Office applications are not repaired using MS Diagnostics, then you possibly need the help of Office Support. This is one of the six main tabs on the Microsoft Office website.

Once you open Office Support, it welcomes you with an opening question: “What do you need help with?”. You can then select a specific application or product or select All products in that field. In the search box, you can also enter certain keywords that are relevant to the issue. A consolidated list of results will be generated that match any words you have entered. Many users are able to find a solution to their problems by visiting this page.

Community forums

Sometimes, the information on the Microsoft website is too general and doesn’t go far enough in helping you find the solution you need. One way to get a more thorough and updated fix for your Office application problems is to look at the various Office oriented forums on the Internet. Many of these forums tackle issues regarding Microsoft Office, with corresponding solutions that have already been tested. Joining forums can be helpful, especially when you want to learn new information, such as the latest software upgrades.

Tech support

There are some issues that cannot be resolved using MS Diagnostics, website support, and community forums. If all else fails, then you might need to get in touch with Microsoft’s technical support. You can directly air out your concerns with a person who is an expert with technical Office issues.

If you’ve tried to fix problems with MS Office and don't seem to be getting anywhere or issues keep recurring, then give us a call now and we will find the best solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.