4 Benefits of VoIP for Your Small Business

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), technology that lets you make and receive phone calls over the Internet, may have started out as a novelty, but it’s quickly becoming mainstream – and many small businesses are finding that it can save them a lot of cash. Benefits Features. VoIP has the same features as conventional phone service: multiple lines, conference calling, and voice mail, to name just a few. Cost. VoIP costs much less than conventional phone service, and most VoIP services charge a flat monthly fee, so bills are predictable. Simplicity. Calls are routed through the same network you use for e-mail and Internet access, so one system serves all functions. Mobility. You won’t need separate office and cell phone numbers: You can receive calls on your laptop or so-called “IP” phone while traveling, essentially taking your entire business phone system with you wherever you go. Some things to consider Audio quality still isn’t perfect, but you can make VoIP calls with regular phones or IP phones with little difference in quality. Depending on the number of employees you have and how many are on the phone at once, you might need higher bandwidth (such as a T1 line) to handle VoIP. You may want to keep a conventional phone line—primarily as a backup, but also to ensure that you’re listed in the local phone book. More information VoIP is integrated with your existing IT system, so contact us today for details about how you can get started enjoying its benefits.

Why two screens are better than one?

3 Reasons 2 Screens are Better than 1 Increasing your employees’ online workspace by expanding it across two or more monitors can significantly improve productivity with minimal cost investment. In the past, multiple monitors have been the domain of programmers. Visit Google headquarters, for example, and you’ll see awe-inspiring configurations of screens: two, four, even six monitors, stacked side-by-side or one on top of the other. However, multiple monitors can also benefit just about any type of office worker. Increased Multitasking According to a number of studies by specialists in human-computer interaction, the bigger your employees’ screen space, the more work they can see and therefore the more work they can do. For example, employees can keep their email and chat screens open on one monitor while working on a Word or Excel document on the other. They no longer have to spend time switching between one or the other, and can respond to each more quickly. Higher Productivity In a study commissioned by the electronics company NEC and conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, office workers were asked to perform several basic tasks using various monitor configurations. The workers using two 20-inch monitors were 44% more productive than the workers using a single 18-inch monitor. Minimal Cost Multiple monitors may not have been feasible in the past due to cost, but the price of LCD panels fell by almost a third in 2008, and the trend is likely to continue through much of 2009, according to market research firm iSuppli. Ready to enable your employees to get more done in less time? To upgrade to two monitors, in addition to the extra monitor you’ll need two video cards or an upgraded card with two outputs. Read more here, then contact us to help make it happen.

How to Web Sites

It’s All in the ‘How’ Have you ever wondered how to fix a leaking pipe or a broken light? Or how to check your car’s coolant or radiator fluid? How about maintaining a lawn, or tying a Windsor, or cooking a tasty meal for you or your kids in less than 30 minutes? The answers to these questions and more can be found in self-help sites such as eHow and WikiHow. These sites are databases of how-to articles presented in a clear, concise, and simple manner that anyone can easily understand. Unlike other guides that drown you (albeit unintentionally) in so much technical jargon that you end up completely lost, these sites make it a point to keep things uncomplicated – it’s all about helping you get something done right, and done fast. You can always learn the mechanics of why or how it works after you’ve gotten it done. Here, results are the primary consideration. Both websites offer a variety of subjects to browse through. If you’re looking for a specific topic, simply enter the inquiry in the search box. Certain topics even have video tutorials and/or illustrated guides that make the learning process even easier. However, if you don’t have anything particular in mind, then you can browse through topics that are classified by category. Navigation is intuitive and user-friendly. Another good thing about these websites is that the information is absolutely free – you don’t even have to register an account to gain access to them. And with WikiHow, if you feel like sharing a bit of your own knowledge, you can contribute your own how-to articles and become part of the WikiHow community. eHow also accepts entries that, depending on how you play your cards, can even help you earn a bit of extra money (there’s an eHow article to help you get started). So the next time you find yourself in a spot with anything from a stubborn stain to treating a bee sting, try visiting these sites since they just might have the simple and straightforward solution you’re looking for.

Working Smarter and More Efficiently with Instant Messaging

Are you avoiding instant messaging (IM) for fear that it will distract your employees and cut productivity? In fact, the opposite may be true. What is IM? IM is software that allows you to communicate in real time with other people who have the same software. It’s like email, but instantaneous. IM was originally considered a way to stay in touch with friends and family, but lately it’s taken off in the workplace. That’s because IM offers a fast, convenient way for employees to interact with colleagues or clients in real time. In fact, many cutting-edge employers now encourage their employees to use IM instead of phone calls or e-mails. Benefits include: Increased productivity: Workers can remain at their workstations instead of walking across the office or picking up the phone to obtain information, and the need for time-consuming meetings is reduced. Real-time communication with vendors and customers. Connection of traveling employees through mobile devices. Where can you get it? While there are many free IM services available such as AOL, Yahoo!, Skype, and MSN, many companies now offer solutions specifically designed for business. We can work with you to determine the best solution for your specific needs How to get started: Select a single provider. Expand services as needed. While basic IM may be adequate for some small businesses, others may benefit from expanded offerings, such as text conferencing, pop-up messaging, and email integration. Make sure your information is protected from external threats such as hackers and viruses. Create a usage policy to avoid internal misuse. Ensure that all employees know the rules and have installed the software on their systems. To be effective, your IM application should be carefully integrated with your existing IT system and workflow. Give us a call today and we’ll help you through these steps to implement a secure and productive IM solution.

Go Green!

These days there’s a lot of buzz about “ going green ” – helping preserve the environment, conserving energy, and looking for sustainable ways to grow the economy. The IT industry is doing its part as well, with “ green computing ,” which is basically computing by more efficient and sustainable means. You can get on board with some of the suggestions below: Save on energy, save on costs: A lot of today’s computing devices feature power management features and energy saving modes, thanks largely to US government efforts to develop energy-efficiency standards called Energy Star. This is a voluntary labeling program adopted by many vendors to clearly identify and promote their efforts in bringing down energy costs for customers as well as to showcase their own use of eco-friendly production processes and materials. When you purchase Energy Star products and make full use of their features, you not only help the environment but also save significantly on your energy bills. Reuse and Recycle: Consider retiring old equipment and replacing it with more energy-efficient models. Reuse what you can (such as RAM modules, cables, controller cards, and drives), and find a reputable recycler to help you dispose of remaining parts safely. Consolidate what you have: Be eco-smart about your purchases. Advances in technology such as machine virtualization now allow you to consolidate computing resources on fewer machines, such as all-in-one printers, saving not only upfront capital costs but also recurring operating expenses such as maintenance, space, power, and cooling. Over time this means less equipment goes into landfills, better utilization of resources, and more money freed up to apply where it counts – to growing your business. Do more with less: Instead of travelling, consider teleconferencing. Instead of hiring full time, onsite employees consider telecommuting arrangements. Not only do you reduce your carbon footprint by reducing transportation impact but also save a considerable amount of time and money as well. Outsource IT: For non-core elements of your operations, consider outsourcing , which leverages economies of scale by sharing resources among several customers without losing efficiency or effectiveness. For example, instead of hosting your own website, outsource it to a hosting service provider instead. We have lots of ideas for going green at your office and saving energy costs along the way. Give us a call and we’ll be glad to share them with you.

Facebook Users Targeted By Phishing Attack

Last May 14th, reports indicated that hackers had launched a phising attack on Facebook ‘s 200 million users, successfully stealing passwords from some. The hackers set up websites designed to look like the Facebook home page. Victims were directed to log back in to the site, but were routed to the fake site instead, unwittingly giving away their passwords. Facebook has deleted all references to the fake domains, which included www.151.im, www.121.im and www.123.im. This is the latest in a string of campaigns launched by hackers to steal personal information from users and to spread spam. Facebook’s large user base makes them an attractive target for many cybercriminials. Users are urged to seek help from authorities or trusted IT consultants if they believe their accounts were compromised, or to avoid similar scams.Related articles: Facebook users targeted by hackers in successful phishing attack Gadgetwise: More Facebook Phishing Trouble Today Hackers launch phishing attack on Facebook users

The Greatest Threat to Your Security May Be Your Employees

While everyone is worried about security threats outside the  company’s firewall such as hackers, viruses, and worms, research suggests that the greatest risk may come from none other than the company’s very own employees. Not all of these risks are necessarily borne of malicious intent on the part of employees. Some risks may come from unwitting participation, temptation, or simply ignorance. Here are just some examples of security risks you should watch out for: Data theft. With the ease with which employees can connect small devices and transport data outside the company’s four walls, the risk of your sensitive data falling into the wrong hands becomes very real. Set up clear guidelines and policies regarding the use of removable storage media . You can, on your own or with the help of your IT consultant or service provider, lock down your PCs to disallow connection to removable drives or portable media devices if appropriate. Data loss. Accidents happen. Set up backup systems so that you can recover data quickly in case employees accidentally delete a file, are unable to secure a PC from viruses and worms, or are careless with the physical state and functioning of their assigned PCs. Data leaks. With the proliferation of multiple channels of online communication such as e-mail and IM , the threat of employees leaking sensitive company data to outside parties is very real. Provide clear guidelines and policies for the proper use of these communication channels in the workplace, and if needed, set up methods to block access to these services. Ask your IT consultant for help. Intellectual property violations. Illegal downloads or the illicit sharing of copyrighted material can also pose a significant threat to your organization. Legal action or the loss of your company’s hard-earned reputation can be debilitating and difficult to get over. Online Phishing and E-mail Scams. In phishing or e-mail scams, deception is used to gain unauthorized access to confidential data. Make sure you or your IT consultant set up filters to block such e-mails, or use security software to block access to this type of website. Lax/missing access controls. Be prudent and place access control policies on key information resources within your organization, such as e-mail or your accounting system. Provide each employee with access only to relevant information needed to complete his or her particular job. It’s not easy to protect yourself from security breaches, especially when they come from within your organization. Get advice from an expert. Contact your IT Service provider today to find out more. Related articles: Workers ‘stealing company data’ (news.bbc.co.uk) Gasp! Fired workers are taking confidential data (news.cnet.com) A multilayered strategy helps neutralize internal security threats (techrepublic.com)

Instant Messaging for Business

Instant Messaging , or IM, can be a boon for any business because it saves time, improves efficiency, and even enables greater employee/customer intimacy. IM allows real-time communication and interaction between two or more people via the Internet , and its use is growing steadily. IM provides users with instant feedback about the presence of online “buddies” or users you know – for instance, whether they are online, busy, or currently offline, what they are currently doing, and whether they are able to successfully receive your communication. Even when one party is not currently connected to the Internet, you can leave offline messages for later viewing. Information sent can be in the form of text, media, and recently even voice and video. While IM has traditionally been used for quick and instant personal interaction such as chatting between friends and family, people are now finding that it can be effective in business as well. But before diving in and using IM in your organization, be aware that there can be significant risks. For instance, it can expose the company to outside threats such as hackers and viruses, or from problems from within such as employees sharing secret or sensitive information to outside or unauthorized parties. Finally, if not monitored properly, it can be a huge timewaster if employees spend their time chatting with colleagues, family, and friends instead of working. Here are some tips to get the most out of IM safely and effectively within your organization: Create guidelines for use . Let employees know of the dangers and risks in using IM. Create policies to allow the use of IM only for certain people within the organization (such as sales) and only during certain times of the day. Ask your IT consultant to configure your network to enact the restrictions you want. Standardize . Choose one piece of IM software (such as Google Talk, AIM or MSN ) and try using it internally first. You won’t be able to prevent some employees from adding buddies outside of work, so make sure to ask them to separate buddies inside the company from those outside. IM software allows you to easily create “buddy lists” to do this. Know when to use it . IM is a tool that can complement e-mail on one end and voice calls on the other. Consider using e-mail for detailed information sharing or communications such as memos, requests, letters, and proposals that readers need to refer to repeatedly. Consider using voice calls for more intimate interaction, clarifying communication, or in cases when you need to build rapport with the recipient. IM can be something in between the two, such as when you need to ask a quick question, send a short update, or get presence information . Keep it short . Keep IMs short and direct. In IM, unlike in voice conversations, you don’t need to do go through pleasantries. Unlike email, because of their real-time nature, IMs can be intrusive so be conscious of what the other party is dong and to make it brief and to the point when necessary. Use your status to your advantage . IM software allow you to set your status (i.e., Busy or Away) to let others know if you are free to take their messages. You can also set your status to Invisible so that you can be aware of others’ presence but be invisible to others. Set your preferences . Most IM software allow you to control certain behaviors, such as window pop-ups, whether to archive messages or not, whether to startup automatically when you log in, and much more. Explore the features of your software and use them to your advantage.

Stop Wasting Money with Inefficient Communications

Research conducted by SIS International Research and sponsored by Siemens found that small and midsized businesses (SMBs) with 100 employees could be leaking a staggering $524,569 annually as a result of communications barriers and latency. The study identifies these top five pain points, in order of estimated cost: inefficient coordination waiting for information unwanted communications; customer complaints barriers to communication In addition, researchers determined that the time spent per week dealing with communications issues was more than 50 percent higher in companies with more than 20 workers. In hard costs, your company could be losing up to half a million dollars each year by not addressing employees’ most painful communications issues! The good news:  we can help you implement applications and services to greatly improve your inter-company communications, including collaboration tools such as email and shared calendards and address books, social media technologies such as blogs and wikis , and IP-based communication tools such as instant messaging (IM) and Voice-over-IP ( VoIP ). Call us today and let us help you stop this expensive leak.Related articles: Report: SMBs Expected to Spend More Online (searchenginewatch.com) How Collaboration Tools Bring Cost Savings, Business Alignment (searchcio-midmarket.com) Inefficient Communications Costs SMBs $5000 per Employee (SMBnow.com)

Look for New Microsoft Office and Windows Vista Service Pack

Microsoft recently announced the release of the newest service pack to Microsoft Office 2007 , and has finished work on the second service pack update to Windows Vista . The MS Office update includes a collection of stability and performance updates as well as support for more file formats including Open Document Format (ODF) and Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The Windows Vista update includes support for Bluetooth 2.1, an updated Windows search technology, and the ability to natively record data to Blu-ray discs. Download the Microsoft Office 2007 service pack to install and watch out for the Windows Vista update soon. Ask us how your workflow can benefit from these helpful new releases.