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April 11th, 2014

Security_Apr11_AThe security of systems like servers and computers that connect to the Internet should be one of utmost importance for business owners and managers. However, there are always security flaws being exposed which could expose your systems and data to malicious hackers, who could really endanger your business. Over the past few weeks a massive massive security flaw with cryptographic software has come to light. Codenamed Heartbleed, this bug makes stealing data almost ridiculously easy.

Background info about secure transmission of information on the Web

Most sites on the Internet rely on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to ensure that information is transmitted securely from a computer to server. SSL and the slightly older Transport Layer Security (TLS) are the main technology used to essentially verify that the site you are trying to access is indeed that site, and not a fake one which could contain malware or any other form of security threat. They essentially ensure that the keys needed to confirm that a site is legitimate and communication can be securely exchanged.

You can tell sites are using SSL/TLS by looking at the URL bar of your browser. If there is a padlock or HTTPS:// before the Web address, the site is likely using SSL or TLS verifications to help ensure that the site is legitimate and communication will be secure. These technologies work well and are an essential part of the modern Internet. The problem is not actually with this technology but with a software library called OpenSSL. This breach is called Heartbleed, and has apparently been open for a number of years now.

About Heartbleed

OpenSSL is an open-source version of SSL and TSL. This means that anyone can use it to gain SSL/TSL encryption for their site, and indeed a rather large percentage of sites on the Internet use this software library. The problem is, there was a small software glitch that can be exploited. This glitch is heartbleed.

Heartbleed is a bug/glitch that allows anyone on the Internet to access and read the memory of systems that are using certain versions of OpenSSL software. People who choose to exploit the bugs in the specific versions of OpenSSL can actually access or 'grab' bits of data that should be secured. This data is often related to the 'handshake' or key that is used to encrypt data which can then be observed and copied, allowing others to see what should be secure information.

The problem with Heartbleed

There are two major problems with this bug. The first being that if an attacker can uncover the SSL handshake used by your computer and the server that hosts the site when you login or transmit data they will be able to see this information. This information usually is made up of your login name, password, text messages, content and even your credit card numbers. In other words, anything that gets transmitted to the site using that version of SSL can be viewed.

Scary right? Well, the second problem is much, much bigger. The hacker won't only be able to see the data you transmit, but how the site receiving it employs the SSL code. If a hacker sees this, they can copy it and use it to create spoof sites that use the same handshake code, tricking your browser into thinking the site is legitimate. These sites could be made to look exactly same as the legitimate site, but may contain malware or even data capture software. It's kind of like a criminal getting the key to your house instead of breaking the window.

But wait, it gets worse. This bug has been present in certain versions of OpenSSL for almost two years which means the sites that have been using the version of OpenSSL may have led to exposure of your data and communication. And any attacks that were carried out can't usually be traced.

Am I affected by this?

What makes this so different from other security glitches is that OpenSSL is used by a large percentage of websites. What this means is that you are likely affected. In fact, a report published by Netcraft cited that 66% of active sites on the Internet used OpenSSL. This software is also used to secure chat systems, Virtual Private Networks, and even some email servers.

We have to make it clear here however: Just because OpenSSL is used by a vast percentage of the Internet, it doesn't mean every site is affected by the glitch.

The latest versions of OpenSSL have already patched this issue and any website using these versions will still be secure. The version with Heartbleed came out in 2011. The issue is while sites may not be using the 2011 version now, they likely did in the past meaning your data could have been at risk. On the other hand, there are still a wide number of sites using this version of OpenSSL.

What should I do?

This is a big issue, regardless of whether a website uses this version of OpenSSL or not. The absolute first thing you should do is go and change your passwords for everything. When we say everything, we mean everything. Make the passwords as different as possible from the old ones and ensure that they are strong.

It can be hard to tell whether your data or communications were or are actually exposed or not, but it is safe to assume that at some time or another it was. Changing your passwords should be the first step to ensuring that you are secure and that the SSL/TSL transmissions are secure. Another thing you should be aware of is what sites are actually using this version of OpenSSL. According to articles on the Web some of the most popular sites have used the version with the bug, or are as of the writing of this article, using it. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Gmail
  • Yahoo
  • Yahoo Mail
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Amazon Web Services
  • GoDaddy
  • Intuit
It would be a good idea to visit the blogs of each service to see whether they have updated to a new version of OpenSSL. As of the writing of this article, most had actually done so but some were still looking into upgrading. For a full list of sites, check out this Mashable article.

If you have a website that uses SSL/TSL and OpenSSL you should update it to the latest version ASAP. This isn't a large update but it needs to be done properly, so it is best to contact an IT partner like us who can help ensure the upgrade goes smoothly and that all communication is infact secure.

Contact us today to see how we can help ensure that your company is secure.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Security
April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_ABusiness owners often have more than one role, overseeing many different aspects of the day-to-day operations at once. A possible problem that can arise though is that they may not be experts in every area which can cause confusion or issues. Take for example Web design - business owners might know what they want their pages to look like, but lack the ability to effectively communicate their ideas to Web designers. The best way to get what you want is to speak the same lingo and learn some popular Web designer terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
April 10th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Apr07_AOffice Mobile was first introduced as Pocket Office in 1996, with only Word and Excel included in the suite. Pocket Office was then changed to Office Mobile with the release of the 5.0 version of the Windows Mobile OS. With this release, PowerPoint was included in the Office programs. When Office Mobile 2013 was released for Android devices, an Office 365 subscription was needed to use it. However, in somewhat of a surprise move, Microsoft has recently lifted this requirement making the home version of Office free to use on Android tablets and phones.

Free you say? Is it time to ditch Office 365?

Not so fast! If you are a business owner, it's not advisable to ditch your Office 365 subscription. This is because the Office app is free for home use, but if you have an Office 365 business account, you need to have a paid Office 365 Business subscription to edit and save documents.

The benefits of using Office on your Android

The Microsoft Office Mobile suite is a collection of mobile versions of the popular Microsoft Office. Since it’s now available for free, you may want to take advantage of what the programs have to offer.

One of the benefits of having Office on your device is that you can access or create files while on the go. Even if you’re not in front of your computer, you can still be productive as you work on important files anytime, anywhere. It is integrated with OneDrive so your files are synced, allowing you to continue working on your computer after working on your mobile device.

Office on your Android supports popular Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats so you won't have problems opening and editing files. Office Mobile is also optimized for tablets and phones, making it convenient to use even on a small screen.

Office Mobile core applications

Office Mobile is a stripped down version of the Office Suite. Limited applications and features are available to make it work smoothly on mobile devices. Word Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile are the three programs that come with it.

Word Mobile

Word Mobile can be generally used like its desktop counterpart. While the desktop version supports more file formats, the mobile version is still be able to open a Word file that has an unsupported format without editing options. To enable editing, you must first save the file as a .DocX file which is supported by the mobile version.

Images, tables and lists can be added to a Word Mobile document. Other features that you can use include: find and replace, word count, and spell checker, though some fonts are not supported. For example, page breaks, footers, headers, endnotes, and footnotes cannot be used, though these will be kept if the original file contains them.

PowerPoint Mobile

PowerPoint Mobile was the last application to join the Office Mobile suite. On the Android version you can open, as well as edit presentations using PowerPoint, whether from the desktop or Web version. When it comes to authoring, it is only possible to edit text and add notes.

Excel Mobile

This application is compatible with its desktop counterpart. The Android version lets you open, save, edit, and create spreadsheets in '.xlsx' format. Files saved in '.xls' can also be viewed but not edited or saved. Using Excel Mobile, you can create graphs and charts, format cells and use formulas for simple calculations. Split panes and full screen mode are also supported.

Mobile Office is a fantastic addition to your Android apps, especially now that it comes for free for home users, and for business users with paid Office 365 subscriptions. You can now have the flexibility of accessing documents or working on important files anytime, using your mobile device.

If you have questions about Mobile Office connect with us and we will help you find productivity boosting solutions.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
April 9th, 2014

Windows_Apr07_AMicrosoft's Windows 8 operating system supports the traditional desktop but was designed to mainly improve the experience of tablet users. It was released in 2012 and received mixed reviews, especially as its new interface was so different from the look of the previous operating systems. The most noticeable change is the Start screen, which displays applications in tile format. Last year saw the release of Windows 8.1 and in early April 2014 the release of the latest update to Windows 8.1 - Windows 8.1.1, or Windows 8.1 Update 1.

Go directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen

The Start screen was introduced with the release of Windows 8 to make it more convenient for tablet users to navigate apps. However, this is something that many mouse users and those who are used to older versions of Windows have found difficult to use. With the first version of Windows 8, there was no way to change this setting before.

With the 8.1 update released last year, you were able to change your settings so that your computer booted directly to your desktop, instead of the Start screen. Now, with Windows 8.1.1 new computers that don't have a touch screen should automatically boot into the familiar desktop screen. Users who have the OS installed already can still set Windows to boot directly to the desktop.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Control Panel.
  2. Select Appearance and Personalization.
  3. Choose Taskbar and Navigation.
  4. Select the Navigation tab.
  5. Enable the option that says “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start” by clicking the checkbox next to it.
  6. Click the OK button to save the change you've made.
You should now go directly to the desktop screen once Windows is started or when you close an application, instead of being taken to the Start screen.

Updated Start screen interface

Aside from the applications that you see on the Start screen, you can easily view all available apps by clicking on the down arrow on the lower left of the screen. You will also see a search button on the upper right side, as well as a power button next to it that you can click to shutdown, restart or put the computer into sleep mode. Moving your mouse to the bottom part of the screen will also show you the taskbar with the Start button and other apps appearing on it.

When you right click an app on the Start screen it will no longer launch the application bar. Instead, you will be given various options, which is what would usually be the case when you right click. These options include turn live tile off, resize, uninstall, pin to taskbar, and unpin from start.

Photos and other media no longer open with apps on the Start screen

With the first version of Windows 8, photos and other media were opened by default using the Metro apps on the Start screen. With Windows 8.1.1, images are now automatically opened using Photo Viewer, while other media is opened using Windows Media. This is the same experience that the older Windows operating systems provided, which most users are familiar with.

Pin Metro apps to the taskbar

The taskbar is a popular Windows desktop feature, allowing you to pin your most used or open desktop apps to. However, with Windows 8 and 8.1 you couldn't pin Metro apps to the desktop taskbar. With the new update you can post Metro apps to the taskbar and even interact or launch them from the desktop.

A dedicated Settings tile

For those that prefer to use the Start screen there is a new Settings tile that has been added. This can really help customizing your computer far easier.

If you have any queries about the latest Windows update which is free to download, get in touch. We have the answers!

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
April 9th, 2014

SocialMedia_April07_ASocial media is an important tool for any business, and those that want to really engage with customers and valuable connections really need to have visual forward content. The problem many business owners come across is in finding the right software to create this content. Sure, you can use a program like Adobe Photoshop, but while using an expert can prove too expensive, going it alone can be too difficult to achieve for many. There are other tools available.

In this day and age where compelling visuals are possible online, it is extremely important to learn how to create attractive visuals to aid your social media marketing campaigns. You at least need a working knowledge of how to enhance your photos and make them more attention-grabbing. There are a number of free or highly affordable tools out there that can help you do just that.

PIXLR - This advanced photo editor works like Photoshop, only it is easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners. You can create images from scratch or perform advanced image editing. Using fairly simple tools can maximize the potential of images. For quick editing, there’s PIXLR EXPRESS or PIXLR O-MATIC, which are free to use. Visit the PIXLR website to learn more and start use these programs.

PicMonkey’s Online Photo Editor - This photo editor can transform ordinary images into fantastic photographs in just a few clicks. Select the image that you want to modify and add special effects such as fancy text, or simply crop and re-size. The photos edited using PicMonkey can be uploaded on Facebook and other social media platforms. PicMonkey is free to use so you can just go to the website and start editing away. For added frames and special effects there’s a premium version you can upgrade to for USD $33.33 per year.

LiveLuvCreate - This website can be used without any charge and offers a variety of design layouts and graphics. Using this platform you can edit your own images and there are also a ton of images created by users on its library that can help give you inspiration. Among the tools available are borders, filters, and photo effects, as well as fonts, colours, and styles. Visit the website to set up an account and start editing your images today.

Canva - If you want to create your Facebook cover photos from scratch, or if you want to design some blog images, this is a free application that might prove useful. This tool is very convenient and can be used to create business cards, invitations, posters, and presentations. Visit the website today to start creating your own visuals.

Quozio - If you are into quotes, Quozio lets you upload famous and favorite quotes, visualize them, and then share them on your social network. Simply enter an interesting quote and then select a background image. Instead of simply posting what’s on your mind, you can make a quote more attractive and appealing by transforming it into a visual using this free app. Visit the site today to visualize your next quote.

Whether you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, your content cannot come alive without the use of quality graphics and images. If Photoshop does not work for you, these other tools are ideal substitutes for creating appealing graphics for a variety of social media platforms.

Make sure to share your own list of top photo tools for everyone to see! And, if you would like to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Social Media
April 9th, 2014

2014April09_Motivation_AWith the best will in the world there are times when, for whatever reason, motivation can slacken off with your workout routine. It might be that other life demands are leaving you feeling drained or distracted, or it could be that you are doubting your direction or progress. The crucial factor is to be able to recognize when motivation weakens and bring in reinforcements to stop the good work you've achieved from being lost.

Motivation isn't just about punching your fist in the air and shouting out your dreams and ambitions. It also entails the drive to push yourself forward and keep on going. In other words, it's about effort as well as the allure of rewards. Your body and mind propel you towards your goals but if the motivational engine behind this is spluttering and threatening to grind to an almighty halt, then don't fear, you simply need some motivating motivational tips:

  • Be honest! - It's easy to let the fact that you feel you should be doing such and such a workout color the fact that you're not necessarily feeling it in reality. Admitting that your motivation is taking a dip is not admitting failure; in fact, it's best to be upfront with yourself rather than pretend you're firing on all cylinders. You can then make any changes to recharge your enthusiasm.

  • Ask yourself why! - Motivation isn't some standalone concept that's separate from the rest of your life. Every aspect of your lifestyle and attitude interconnects and this has a knock-on effect on how you see yourself and how active you are. Look at why your motivation is flagging; is it because of diet, work issues or home life, for example, or to do with the actual workout style?

  • Boost your energy! - An unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, and bad habits all conspire against motivation toward a fit life. Quite simply, if you're feeling tired and lacking in energy then you're not going to feel like doing anything that productive, let alone an engaging workout, even if this would give you a boost.

  • Adjust your routine! - Life is not static and as different areas of your life change and evolve you might need to look at how this fits in with your exercise routine. Just because an early morning workout was ideal before, that doesn't meant to say that's the case right now. If you're constantly trying to fit exercise into the wrong time slot of your schedule then the pressure is going to dampen your get up and go.

  • Keep engaged! - Look at how you feel after a workout and if you don't feel challenged enough or you feel a little tired of a certain style of training then address that. It may mean that you are needing an extra push, or that you need to add an extra spark into your routine. Motivation comes from engaging your body and your mind with a dynamic exercise challenge.

  • Open up and talk! - Sometimes simply expressing how you feel when you're having an off day is enough to lighten the load. You might be surprised how much support you get from positive people around you and accept that it's normal to have days when you're not as souped up as usual. If you chat with fitness experts then you might find that this leads the way to new exercise ideas and personalised tips to help too.

  • Reevaluate! - From time to time look at your lifestyle, how you are keeping fit, and also your goals. If you have a good strategy in place then you might want to stick with that, but it's natural to allow for some wiggle room where you can change the direction you are going and how you get there. Too rigid a plan or one that doesn't fit with who you are might be the underlying root cause of you losing interest. An activity and exercise appraisal might throw up new ideas to get excited about.

Join us and be part of something that is not only going to motivate you but could change your life too!

 

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Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.
April 4th, 2014

Security_March31_AMalicious software (more commonly known as malware) can be found on almost any system, most often being downloaded and installed on computers. It can cause a myriad of annoyances, like unwanted pop-ups and system freezing, and some forms can even gain unauthorized access to your PC, stealing personal information. It's therefore essential that malware is prevented. Malware on work computers can disrupt a company’s operations and may put the security of data in jeopardy.

Signs of a malware infection

Before proceeding with the steps on how to respond to malware infections, we first need to learn about the signs and symptoms of a malware infection. These include:
  • Several pop-ups appear even when not browsing the Web.
  • Unusual slowness of the computer and Internet connection.
  • System hangs or freezes.
  • Corrupted programs.
  • Antivirus is disabled.
  • E-mails sent to or from your account which you did not send.
  • High network activity, even when not using large programs or accessing huge data.
  • Redirected access to some sites.

How to respond to a malware infection

In case you experience any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is to ensure that your antivirus and antispyware program is updated. This is to make sure that they detect the latest known threats on their database. You should then run scans to see if an infection is detected. If it is, the programs usually have a way to remove the infection. You then need to follow the steps the program recommends.

If this doesn't work, disconnect the infected computer from the network to prevent the spread of the malware. Furthermore, avoid accessing the Web and using vital information such as bank account and credit card information. Let the technical department or your IT partner handle the concern since they are trained in determining and eradicating system malware infections.

Once the problem has been pinpointed, a tech specialist will go through the process of eliminating the infection. This includes backing up data on the computer and restoring the system to its original state. Depending on the extent of the infection, the computer may need to be wiped clean, or reformatted before restoring backed-up files.

After the whole process, the computer must be tested to ensure that the infection has been totally removed. Moreover, further investigation and studies must also be done to determine where the problem started, as well as to create a strategy as to how to prevent this from happening in the future.

How to prevent a malware attack

Prevention is better than a cure and this definitely applies to malware infections. It’s best to arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid malware attacks and prevent your systems from being infected.
  1. Ensure that security protection is always updated and that you run system scans on a regular basis.
  2. Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown sites or senders.
  3. Enable firewall protection.
Malware can hugely affect business operations and the security of private information. One of the best ways to prevent this is to work with an IT partner, like us, who can help recommend and install protection systems. You might want to think about getting help in managing these solutions too, to ensure that your systems are secure at all times.

If you have questions or concerns with regards to malware prevention and resolution, feel free to call us. Our support team is always ready to help.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Security
April 3rd, 2014

iPhone_March31_AThe Calendar application is one of the built-in features that comes installed on every iOS device, including the iPhone and iPad. It has the important basic functions that you need in a calendar, including adding events and the ability to share events. Syncing with other calendars is also possible. By default, Calendar is set to begin each week on Sunday, but this can actually be modified if needs be.

Why change the day your week starts on your calendar?

If you go into Calendar and note that your regional setting is set to United States, for example, you may notice that the day of the week starts on a Sunday. This is true even with other regional settings. While it is technically correct that Sunday is the beginning of the week, you may still want to change the day so that your week starts based on your native calendar or even when your work week begins.

Often people see Monday as the start of the week because it is usually the start of the working week. You might find it more convenient if this is also reflected in your calendar setup. Moreover, your calendar might appear more organized if your weekends are next to each other. With the default setting, Sunday and Saturday are on the left and right side, with the work week in between.

How to change the beginning of your work week

There are two ways to change the day that your week starts on Calendar. One method is changing the country in the regional setting and the other one is by changing your Calendar's date setting. However, take note that changing the regional setting will also affect other features in your device such as the time format and the number that appears on your screen when someone calls. If you don’t want to take any chances, it’s best to follow the calendar setting method.

Here’s how to change the day your week starts on your calendar setting:

  1. Tap the Settings icon on your device.
  2. Scroll to Mail, Contacts and Calendars then tap on it.
  3. Go to Calendars and select Start Week On.
  4. Tap your preferred option and Calendar will make that the start of your week.
If you would like to be a little different, you can change your regional settings by:
  1. Going to Settings.
  2. Choosing General.
  3. Selecting International.
  4. Tapping Regional Format.
  5. Selecting the country or region of your choice
As mentioned, this may affect other features on your device, including the time and the way phone numbers are displayed. If you work with colleagues or clients from other regions, this might not be an issue for you.

If you have any questions about your devices and how you can use it in your business then get in touch. Our friendly and knowledgeable support team are happy to assist you.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic iPhone
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!

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
March 27th, 2014

BI_March24_ABusiness Intelligence, or BI, refers to the processes and systems involved in the collection of business information for analysis to determine the past and current status of your company. It serves to give a better insight into what is about to transpire. Many companies from different industries use BI tools in their business, but the question is how can different departments use them?

There are various BI tools available nowadays that support small to large companies. You can find Business Intelligence tools that fit your company’s size, needs and budget. These applications can be used in different areas of the business:

Marketing Department

A marketing department is responsible for promoting a company’s products, services and brand to increase public awareness. With successful marketing, a business can attract potential clients that can be possibly turned into creating sales revenue. The company can use BI to determine which campaigns are successful or not, as the case may be. Through this, investments can be focused on those campaigns that work whilst avoiding those that have previously failed.

Sales Department

Sales managers and supervisors can also use BI to analyze successful deals, as well as those that they have lost, to see what strategies have worked. The system can also help determine which sales teams hit or exceed set goals in order to analyze what they are doing right. Moreover, this helps determine which products or services are most saleable so these can be pushed further to attain more goals.

Finance Department

BI software makes analyzing, reporting, and managing financial data more convenient. Those who are involved in the process can easily access the information they need through the system. Analysis is easier as the data is organized and accurate. Money in and money out can also be tracked with greater efficiency.

Moreover, these tools often come with features that allow users to create scenarios and determine the possible results from there. This is extremely helpful in deciding on the best action to take as the tool gives you a view of the probable outcome. The success rate is higher if forecasting using a BI tool.

Inventory

Business Intelligence also plays a vital role in inventory tracking of products, items or supplies. For instance, companies in the retail industry can track the movement of products or items from the suppliers to the warehouse and on to their delivery to clients. Any problems encountered in the process can be quickly identified so they can be fixed in time.

Items in demand can also be pinpointed, as well as low stock and overstocks. Items that are low in stock can be ordered immediately, especially if they are in demand, to ensure that the needs of clients are met. This also lets you avoid overstocking, which can be a waste of money when investment is better used for fast moving items.

These are just some of the ways businesses can use BI in their operations. If you have further questions about the topic, do not hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

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Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.