Why Your Small Business Needs VoIP

Why Your Small Business Needs VoIPWhy Your Small Business Needs VoIP

Why would a small business need VoIP? It’s not just another acronym to learn, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers many advantages for small business. Especially SMBs that want to run with the enterprise-sized companies.

Basically, VoIP turns voice conversation into data packets sent between the two network points. Don’t worry, the person you’re calling doesn’t need to be on VoIP. The technology turns the data back into analog at the receiving end if needed.

If you’ve been on Skype, you’ve experienced VoIP. With VoIP you use your broadband Internet connection to make and receive calls. Bypassing traditional or mobile phones, VoIP users avoid long-distance or extra minute charges.

Beyond long distance savings, VoIP setups often include features such as voicemail and call forwarding, at no extra charge. Other useful features could include call forwarding, voicemail transcription, and call recording.

Plus, there’s cost savings from reducing and consolidating communications infrastructure. Streamlining voice, data, and broadband services with one provider can cut costs. With VoIP, you can also reduce your investment in setting up and maintaining traditional communications.

VoIP Enables Flexibility

Mobility is another big reason to move to VoIP. Downloading the business VoIP application turns any Internet-connected device into a VoIP phone. Business users can take their business phone number anywhere – even if they are in another country.

Calls can be forwarded from office phones to the individual’s device of choice. Really, users don’t even need a phone as they can make and receive calls from laptops or desktop computers too. VoIP definitely supports “bring your own device” workplace flexibility, which employees appreciate.

Along with flexibility, a VoIP platform is scalable. VoIP is easy to install as there’s little to no physical hardware to set up. As your business grows, your business can quickly expand the number of users. No more waiting for the telephone company to come out and add additional lines.

Plus, seasonal businesses can add or subtract lines as needed with little to no added cost.

Doing away with telephone hardware frees up space and means fewer maintenance concerns. Working with a VoIP provider, you also gain expert support and confidence your communication tech is up to date.

What About Quality, Security?

A common concern when businesses hear about VoIP is call quality. VoIP needs a good Internet connection to work well, so making sure you have high bandwidth can help. Still, when you don’t have to worry about competing traffic, the quality of a VoIP call can surpass an analog one.

Security is another concern. A VoIP business communications solution can be on-premises or cloud-based. When running VoIP over your private network, the data is as secure as any other application running on your business system. Also, most VoIP service providers encrypt calls.

Analytics Benefit of VoIP

With a VoIP solution, you gain access to more reporting and business analytics. For instance, some VoIP systems integrate with customer relationship management software (CRM) for better data and caller insights.

VoIP call monitoring, recording, and reporting capabilities are also helpful. You can drive better employee training, help identify security threats, and ensure compliance.

VoIP provides cost savings, flexibility, and operations transparency. With this technology as your business backbone, you can focus on revenue and growth.

There are many reasons to implement VoIP. Give us a call at 319-227-7000 on your traditional land line or mobile phone.

Let’s talk about giving your small business an enterprise-level communications system with VoIP.

2019-05-27T00:49:59-05:00June 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Something went wrong – Outlook

Something Went WrongSomething went wrong

We weren’t able to register your device and add your account to Windows. Your access to org resources may be limited.

 

Additional problem information

Error code: CAA2002

Correlation ID: 519b386c-3d87-44ff-b13e-010401f73596

More information: https://www,microsoft.com/wamerrors

Server message: The request is missing a required parameter, includes an invalid parameter value, includes a parameter more than once, or is otherwise malformed.

 

Here are some steps you can try to resolve this issue.

  • Restart Outlook
  • Restart the computer
  • Check for Windows updates
  • Check for Office updates
  • Perform “quick repair” in Office
  • Perform “full repair” in Office
  • Create a new Outlook profile
  • Sign out of your Office account in Outlook and sign back in

If you need assistance with this give us a call at 319-227-7000 or fill out our contact form.

2019-05-20T17:25:47-05:00May 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Windows 7 and Office 2010 End of Life

Windows 7 and Office 2010 End of LifeWindows 7 and Office 2010 End of Life

Worried about the looming end of life deadline for your Microsoft products? The company is ending support for several popular business tools in January 2020. This includes Windows 7. It’s a hassle but this change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here’s what’s happening and how to take advantage of this opportunity to future proof your computers.

R.I.P. Your Microsoft Faves

RIP Windows 7. For many businesses it’s a tough parting. As late as September 2018 some 41% of Windows 7 users still hadn’t moved on to the latest operating system.  Yet sticking with existing systems until 2020 or beyond could lead to a truly bitter end.

And Windows 7, which could be the operating system on your laptops and desktops, isn’t the only one on Microsoft’s DNR list. Are you relying on 2010 Word, Outlook, Excel, etc.? Running Windows Server 2008/R2 or Small Business Server 2011? Does Exchange 2010 control your email and calendars? All of them are reaching end of support in 2020. That’s a big deal.

Before we talk about why it’s such an issue, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what end of life really means.

Understanding End of Life Issues

What does end of life mean for your business? When you first buy a product, Microsoft provides mainstream support such as:

  • Offering security patches
  • Releasing design changes or new features
  • Providing complimentary support
  • Warranty claims.

Microsoft stopped all but security patches five years after the product’s release. After all, they want to put resources behind the versions they are still selling in stores.

OK, so you might be thinking, we don’t need new features or design, and we’ve never used the warranty. Plus, at this point, we’ve got everything figured out, so we can continue on without Microsoft’s help. Understanding their answers in the forums was a headache anyway!

Only in 2020, they’ll also stop the security upgrades that provide patches and bug fixes for the tools you’re using. In June 2018, Microsoft even announced but didn’t fix an OS bug. They also stopped answering Windows 7 Community forums.

Thinking you haven’t been doing updates, so this won’t make much difference for you? Try again. The updates were probably taking place without you knowing through Microsoft auto updates or we were managing them for you in the background if you are one of our managed clients. That’s not going to happen anymore.

What This Means for Business

Without ongoing security support, your business runs the risk of cyber attack.

Your users will keep working to improve processes, sell products, and increase revenues. Meanwhile, hackers will work just as hard to find weak points they can attack.

It’s a little like pest control. Ants, spiders, roaches and other bugs are always looking for a way into your home. What do you do? Try and close any gaps they might use to get in and regularly bug bomb to keep the creepy crawlies at bay.

Microsoft was once your pest control service. The company provided the fixes needed to protect your business from cyber criminals.

What a Cyber Attack Might Look Like

Once inside your network or systems these cyber criminals can have a pretty painful bite. They might use malicious software (malware) to take over your business computers. They don’t return control until you pay a ransom. Or, they might take important data for use in identity theft.

Maybe they’ll want to mess with your IT infrastructure and shut you down. Imagine a denial of service attack as a bug infestation that is so constant you are driven from your home. With the boom in cryptocurrencies, some bad actors want to leverage your computers’ processing power. You’d eventually notice your computers running slower and skyrocketing utility bills.

It’s Not Worth the Risk

Cyber security attacks are costly. Take 2017’s WannaCry attack infecting more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries. The perpetrators demanded $300 ransom per computer. The average data breach costs a company $3.86 million, according to the Ponemon Institute.  And the average denial of service attack costs a company $2.5 million.

Beyond these hefty price tags, a cyber-attack can also put your business at risk of:

  • Compliance issues
  • Massive fines
  • Costly downtime
  • Brand reputation damage
  • Customers jumping to a competitor.

Where does this leave businesses relying on Windows 7, Office 2010 and other legacy products? Let’s consider the options.

Preparing Your PCs for 2020

The good news is that you have options. The first one is not so great. Ignoring the risks, you could continue on with your Microsoft products, hope for the best. While you’re doing that, malicious actors are looking to exploit that loyalty.

A second approach is to pay extra to keep getting security updates from Microsoft. This is paying now to put off what is inevitable. After all, the company is only offering three years of extended, paid support. For example, a Windows 7 Pro User can pay $50 per device for the first year of Extended Security Updates (ESUs). The price doubles in year 2 ($100 per device) and again in year three ($200). That’s a total of $350 per device until the ESUs expire in January 2023, when you’ll be out of luck all over again.

Antivirus service providers are offering a third option. Seeing an opportunity, they’ll offer patches and bug fixes for paying customers. The problem is that these companies offer only limited, reactionary support. Plus, they’ll only be in it as long as it proves profitable, so their help could end without warning.

Looking long-term and being proactive, you’ll want to go with the upgrade option we discuss next.

Future-proofing Your PC Assets

Upgrading to the latest versions of Microsoft products is an opportunity. This investment will improve productivity while future-proofing your PCs. For example:

  • Windows 10 security updates regularly and has online users’ community and technical support. The increased operating speed and improved functionality and usability will drive productivity.
  • Upgrading to cloud-based Office 365 can improve collaboration. Users can access email, calendar sharing, and files in real time from any device, wherever they are.

Why not wait until 2020?

Why is it a good idea to begin migration sooner rather than later? Here are our top four reasons.

  1. Data breaches and other cyber threats are costly.
  2. Migrating isn’t always easy. Depending on your IT infrastructure, it could take a lot of work.
  3. Don’t scramble to find partners to support your migration efforts.
  4. By upgrading now, you gain the ability to pick a good time for your business to change over its systems.

Migrating data to a new system, securely and efficiently, takes work and know how. Call us at 319-227-7000 to handle your Windows 7 and Office 2010 End of Life migrations.

2019-05-18T18:42:58-05:00May 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What Happens to Your Data When You Die?

What Happens to Your Data When You Die?What Happens to Your Data When You Die?

Death is a morbid topic most of us try to avoid. Making a will and saying we prefer cremation is the extent of our advance planning. Yet, you may want to also think about what’s going to happen to your data.

Consider your digital footprint. You have photos, files, and emails on your computer and your phone. You’re also documenting your life on social media, and sharing on more than one channel.

Your wearable technology (say an Apple Watch or a Fitbit) may be recording information too. If you have a virtual assistant in your home, it’s recording your search history and saving that data on the cloud.

Yet many of us never think “what will happen to my data after I die?” Do you want it deleted? Are there digital assets you want to share? Perhaps there is tangible value attached to some of your digital assets. At the very least, some photos and videos that may have sentimental value for those who survive you. So, let’s explore advance planning you can do to protect your digital legacy.

Personal Files on Computer or Phone

Your personal devices are password protected. While necessary, this makes it more difficult for your survivors.

Now, they could physically pull the computer or phone apart if needed. But, it’s easier to have a copy of your passwords in a secure place for someone to access in the event of your death. Another option is to use a password manager. You can designate someone as your backup contact. They will be able to gain access to your passwords should you die.

Digital Media Collections

Often, when you click the “Buy” button, you’re not really purchasing that movie or music forever. Your contract with iTunes, for instance, was only for your lifetime. Your rights expire at your death.

Cloud Accounts

Consider the personal and private data you have in the cloud, such as Google or Microsoft’s Outlook. This might include calendars, emails, GPS, documents and financial information.

Google’s Inactive Account Manager lets you make plans for your account. You decide:

  • When Google should consider your account inactive
  • What it should do with your data afterwards
  • Whether to share account access with someone (providing email and phone number)
  • When or if your account should be deleted.

Microsoft won’t provide your passwords after death. However, via their Next of Kin process someone could be sent a DVD of the data in your outlook.com account.

Other cloud providers ask for proof of death and of legal right to access. In Dropbox’s case for instance, your survivors will need a court order. Even with all this, there’s no guarantee your personal data is completely removed from the cloud. It may exist in other data-sets in system backups.

Social Media Accounts

Social media companies do not provide login credentials. Many require proof of identity and a death certificate to deactivate the account. Facebook and Instagram will “memorialize” your accounts. The public can’t see, but Friends or Followers can still view it and post memories. You can assign a legacy contact to look after the account or have it deleted.

You don’t want someone using your social account to send out spam or inappropriate photos. For instance, a sexy spam bot took over a New York Times media columnist’s Twitter after his 2015 death.

Plan ahead to protect your privacy and provide access where necessary. Think of the pain and heartache you can save your survivors by managing your digital legacy now.

Want help preserving your data legacy? We can help. Call us at 319-227-7000

2019-04-26T18:32:53-05:00May 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What is the Best Way to Backup?

What is the Best Way to Backup?What is the Best Way to Backup

“That will never happen to me.” We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us. It’s the same with business: “We won’t need this data backed up.” Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what’s the best way to backup? Here’s help.

Why You Need to Backup

  1. Business disruptions of any kind can be costly. The disaster might take one of several shapes:
  2. Natural (e.g. wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes)
  3. On-site (e.g. hardware/software failure, power outage, inability to access building)
  4. Employee driven (e.g. damaging mistakes or intentional sabotage by a disgruntled employee)
  5. Cyber-attack (e.g. data breach, ransomware, or distributed denial of service attack).

Regardless, the best backup solution can help reduce downtime and damage.

Approaches to Backup

There are several off-the-shelf backup options your business can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.

USB Thumb Drives: Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).

Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.

The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish. They are also more susceptible to failure.

USB Hard Drives: Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.

Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid slate drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.

Cloud Storage: Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.

Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.

Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.

OK, What’s the Best Answer?

Don’t think disaster won’t strike your business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:

  • Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
  • Loss of power (35%)
  • Software failure (34%)
  • Data corruption (24%)
  • External security breaches (23%)
  • Accidental user error (20%).

We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.

Want to secure your data for the worst? Give us a call at 319-227-7000 to set this up.

2019-03-25T13:55:32-05:00April 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk to a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
  2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
  3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet OK, Google, what’s the weather like today? But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.
  4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings. Also, use a separate network if possible. Such as a separate Wi-Fi name.

With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 319-227-7000.

2019-03-25T13:22:52-05:00April 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Remote Support Will Create Tech That Works for You

Remote Support Will Create Tech That Works for YouRemote Support

Remote Support Will Create Tech That Works for You. There are few things as frustrating as IT issues getting in the way of your work. Even the simplest of problems can break your flow, ruin your productivity, and waste your time. IT should be working to boost your day instead of slowing you down.

Tripping up on a computer glitch can happen at any moment. Working to fix one can take hours. You might try a few steps that have worked before, ask a colleague for help, or try a web search to see what turns up. All of these take time from you or your colleagues, and often make the original problem worse.

When you outsource your help desk, your IT problems become our IT problems. We take charge of righting the ship to keep your tech on the right track.

Setting Up Your Business for Success

Many businesses try a break/fix model to deal with IT issues. This means waiting for problems to happen before contacting IT to resolve them. Break/fix adds costs and downtime to every IT issue as they happen. To us, this makes it an unacceptable long-term solution for business.

The process of scheduling a mutually suitable time to visit, diagnosing the issue, and resolving every issue on a case-by-case basis is massively time-consuming. Both IT technicians and in-house staff waste productive hours dealing with, often trivial, problems.

We think that time could be better spent building your business instead.

Your Personal Help Desk

When you outsource your IT help desk, you get a custom service dedicated to resolving your issues fast. Technicians with the knowledge and experience of years in IT can work without creating new problems or making the original issue worse. In modern IT, knowledge and experience is the key to successful solutions.

Many of the issues we resolve on a day-to-day basis are problems we have seen many times before on many different systems. IT is our business, and we know it very well.

How Outsourced IT Works For You

Outsourcing your IT means simply submitting a ticket to have issues taken care of. Having your own help desk to rely on means having help available exactly when you need it. Waiting on a local firm, or nearby technician to become available should be a thing of the past.

Queuing for an ‘adviser’, waiting on hold, and spelling out your problem over and over again is no fun for anyone. There should be better ways your time can be spent. There are certainly many ways firms can benefit more from ours.

Submitting an electronic ticket to resolve your issue is an easy, one step, process. Detail the problem once, email the ticket, and you can return to your work. We’ll call you back to work on a solution when the timing best works for you.

Managing Problems Remotely

To resolve system issues, diagnose, update, or maintain systems, we often log in remotely and take ownership of the problem personally. We’ve found there is little advantage to wasting time asking staff to find menus, click on links, and tell us what they see. We get straight to the heart of the problem and fix it there and then.

Problems that tie up one or more machines for a long time can be scheduled for out-of-hours, holiday, or weekend fixes. Large, system-wide updates or upgrades can be done remotely when they won’t get in the way.

For staff, updates appear to happen without anyone around to see them. You would be forgiven for thinking the IT is fixing itself.

Our golden rule is to make sure IT works for you, not the other way round. If you are wasting staff hours on hold, arranging meetings just for your tech, or structuring your day around simple problem solving, your firm could be upgraded in a flash.

Call us at 319-227-7000 or just submit a ticket and we’ll sort out the rest.

2019-03-01T16:16:09-05:00March 1st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

SSD: Make Your Old Computer Your New Computer

SSD: Make Your Old Computer Your New ComputerSSD

The solid-state drive (SSD) has swiftly become the go-to upgrade to breathe new life into an aging computer, and for good reason too. An SSD swiftly brings an old laptop or desktop up to date with modern machines in just a single step.

The price of solid-state memory has fallen dramatically in recent years. As costs have dropped, the popularity of the technology has increased exponentially. At one time an SSD was a rare treat for serious PC enthusiasts, now it’s cheaper and more readily available than ever. No other single solution is as cost-effective, quick to swap, and impressively effective as swapping out an old hard drive in favor of the faster and more modern SSD.

Out with The Old

The hard disk drive (HDD) is a technology that dates back as far as the 1950’s. They became the default solution all PCs would use for decades to come. Most old laptop and desktop machines still contain their original, worn hard drives they left the factory with.

The HDD was a mostly mechanical device. Inside a solid outer casing was a series of spinning disks arranged in a delicate stack known as a platter. Each disk could read and save data using a tiny needle moving across the disk’s surface.

The technology looked and worked much like a miniature record player. Like a record player, widely in use at the time that hard drives were developed, the hard drive had some serious drawbacks in their use.

The series of tiny disks and needles that made up the HDD were incredibly fragile. Vulnerable to dust or movement, computers commonly succumbed to hard drive failures that rendered the machine and its stored data unusable. Occasionally, simply moving a laptop while reading or writing data can damage a hard drive’s spinning disk.

In with The New

The primary reason to switch to a more modern SSD, on top of their impressive durability, is the incredible increase in speed. The SSD has no moving parts at all, working more like a digital camera memory card than a vinyl record player.

An SSD simply makes the process of retrieving and saving data to storage many times faster. Eliminating the mechanical component, removing the need to move a physical disk, and not needing to physically pick up the data means a much faster and smoother operation.

Computer startup, where the operating system loads all its data from storage, can take as little as one-quarter of the time of a comparable HDD. Additionally, loading regular applications and data from an SSD takes a fraction of time of an HDD.

An SSD completely breathes new life into an old machine. Computers with an SSD replacement for the hard drive feel like using an entirely new machine for a fraction of the cost.

Replacing the main mechanical component additionally eliminates wear and tear working to break down your machine. While a HDD slows over time, degrades, and can eventually suffer mechanical failure; an SSD remains as durable as the day it was purchased.

Ideal Laptop Upgrade

In a laptop setting, the SSD makes complete sense. They require less power than older hard drives, making the most of your battery charge.

In addition, not needing a large disk platter, mechanical parts, or protective outer case means they are about half the weight of a mechanical drive. Making an old machine lightweight brings it another step closer to a modern machine.

They run almost silently too. The familiar click-clack of the hard drive inside a laptop is a thing of the past. Many users comment on the noise their laptop used to make starting up and loading programs. Noisy laptops are a tech throwback we’re happy to leave behind.

For many who feel like their old laptop or desktop is showing its age, the prohibitive cost of purchasing a whole new machine keeps them invested in their old one. A simple, fast SSD upgrade can make your old machine new again at a much smaller price. If swapping long startups, and slow load times sounds right for you, consider upgrading to an SSD. You won’t look back.

Give us a call at 319-227-7000, and we can give your machine a new lease on life.

2019-01-31T09:46:17-05:00February 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Build Better Meetings

Build Better Meetings Build Better Meetings

Business meetings can be a double-edged sword. Often they are as likely to rally staff and build momentum as they are to halt progress and kill productivity.

Productive meetings are key to keeping team members on track and everyone on the same page. A poor meeting is as harmful to the progress of a project as losing multiple members of staff.

Finding the balance is important for good business. There are tools and techniques to make sure that your meetings are not standing in the way of your business.

Streamlined Scheduling

One of the biggest hurdles to planning a meeting can be simply booking a space. Finding an available room, with the right equipment, in a time and place which everyone can agree on can be a logistical nightmare. Repeated emails back and forth to agree on the venue alone can consume hours out of the day.

There are technical tools available to help. Outlook’s scheduling assistant can be a great place to start. The office package is designed to help you find a time and place convenient for everyone.

The software is a key, but underused, component within Office 365. Simply adopting a scheduling assistant can cut down meeting planning from hours to minutes.

With everyone fully connected and on the same page, every meeting is improved from the first minute. The scheduling assistant can be found under New Items > Meeting in the Outlook home tab.

Bringing in Outside Help

Of course, not all meetings are internal affairs. Often, a successful meeting involves staff members from third-party organizations, clients, and consultants too.

This is a prime area for technology tools to help. Tools such as FindTime and Doodle.com both serve as scheduling assistants to arrange suitable times and locations to coordinate meetings with multiple parties.

The process is simple, each party selects available or desired times to meet. This process is done independently and based on priorities for each user. When everyone has added their input a mutually convenient slot can be found for everyone.

With modern technology there’s no reason to spend hours, or even many minutes, wrestling over when and where to meet. Using the tools as they are designed cuts out a huge amount of overhead cost from meeting planning.

Idea Capture

The most common complaint staff have about business meetings is the lack of available participation. Many show up, yet just feel like audience members.

When staff members feel their contribution or input to projects isn’t valued, it can lead to a dramatic drop in morale and much deeper issues within the firm.

Tools such as GoWall.com are changing meetings for the better and giving staff members a bigger voice. The site provides attendees with the resources they need to contribute to meetings without disrupting the flow.

The idea behind GoWall is very simple and highly effective. While concepts are communicated as part of a presentation or ongoing conversation, participants are free to contribute to an “idea wall” in real time. This shared wall contains ideas, contributions, and notes from all participants that add to the conversation.

Since ideas are shared between all participants, everyone can be inspired to contribute. This deceptively simple idea helps all members to feel they have a chance to have their voices heard and their contributions valued.

Worthwhile Meetings

Meetings can be a difficult topic in some workplaces. Some firms have had historic failures and huge losses in productivity as a result of too many meetings running far too long. In some environments, formal meetings have all but been banned already.

Using modern technology solutions, we can put the productivity back into meetings. Cut out the wasted time and get to the points that matter. With these simple yet highly effective tools, we can build meetings that create productivity instead of hampering it.

2018-11-26T17:37:56-05:00December 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Buying Tech in Time for Christmas

Buying Tech in Time for ChristmasBuying Tech

Christmas time is back with us again. The latest devices and gadgets are hitting store shelves just in time to keep up with the rush. Magazines, television, and the web are brimming with advertisements and reviews of the latest tech your money can buy.

Before you rush out to buy the gadgets you’ve been waiting all year for, consider a few important questions before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Does This Technology Do What I need?

First, you must ask what problem you are trying to solve with a new piece of tech. The most important thing to consider is how adopting your new device will improve on what you had before.

In some cases, a sleek new gadget or device for fun is good too.

When you’ve answered this question, you should consider whether there is other tech or competing devices out there that can perform even better.

Should I Become an Early Adopter?

Early adopters are people that anticipate the release of new tech, wait in line on release day, and pride themselves on having the latest gadgets to hit the shelves. If you recognize yourself in this description you are likely to snap up the latest devices the day they are released. This eager anticipation, however, is not always the way to get the best deals or the best gadgets.

Companies often rely on new product hype to give sales an early boost. Waiting for the marketing and hype to subside, even a little, can save you a lot of money.

After initial sales fall, companies often mark down their prices to keep their devices attractive and sales high. When newer, faster, sleeker devices hit the market, companies cut prices to maintain strong sales figures. For the budget smart consumer this is an opportunity for a bargain. A device good enough to buy on launch day is well worth waiting for.

Have I checked The Reviews?

We are fortunate enough to have access to seemingly unlimited amounts of information at our fingertips. Often weeks before a product is released, reviews are available across the web.

One of the best things you can do when considering a new device, particularly a high-cost purchase, is to watch and read a wide variety of product reviews. It pays to be cautious of reviews that are particularly glowing, or too downbeat. Keep an eye out for middle of the road reviews that fairly weigh the pros and cons of each device.

Have I Found the Best Deal?

There are many ways to keep an eye out to make sure you get the best deal on your device. If you can, monitor prices over time to see how they rise and fall to find the best time to purchase.

When purchasing online, many sites include a box to add a coupon code when you are ready to buy. It sometimes pays to jump over to Google and search the website name and ‘coupon’ or ‘voucher’ to find out if there are any good deals.

A quick search can save you as much as 10, 15, or 20 percent on some purchases. Sometimes companies send out offers to appeal to groups they want to market to. A company’s Facebook page may get different offers or vouchers than its Twitter followers or newsletter for example.

It can pay to search around for offers and vouchers to get money off before you checkout. Five minutes work can save huge amounts of cash.

Purchase in Confidence

If you have asked yourself these questions, done all your research, and found the answers you’re looking for then you may well be ready to buy.

You can do so with the confidence that you’ve done all your homework and you’re getting the best deal and gadget for your money.

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2018-11-26T18:38:35-05:00December 4th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments