Blog

October 1st, 2014

BCP_Sep29_BWhen it comes to business continuity, many business owners are aware of the fact that a disaster can happen at any time, and therefore take steps to prepare for this, usually by implementing a continuity plan. However, the reality is that many businesses implement plans that could lead to business failure. One way to avoid this with your continuity strategy is to know about the common ways these plans can fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

1. Not customizing a plan

Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won't necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

2. Action plans that contain too much information

One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don't want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

Instead, try keeping action plans - what needs to be done during an emergency - separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

3. Failing to properly define the scope

The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

5. Failing to test, update, and test again

Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis - at least twice a year.

From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan and supporting systems, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 25th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Sep22_BMobile operating systems like Android have a wealth of features that users can take advantage of. However, many of these features are often hidden or not well represented. For example, did you know that on Android devices you can create folders on your home screen for your apps? Here's five tips on how you can create and manage these folders.

Creating folders

On most devices, when you install a new app the icon will be automatically added to your home screen, or onto a screen where there is space. While this is useful, many of us have a large number of apps installed, and it can be a bit of a chore actually finding the icon you are looking for.

The easiest solution is to group icons together into a folder. This can be done by:

  1. Pressing and holding on an app on your device's home screen.
  2. Dragging it over another app and letting go.
You should see both of the icons moved into a circle and kind of hovering over each other. This indicates they are now in a folder. It is important to note that these folders only appear on your home screen. If you combine say Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn apps into a folder on your home screen, they will not be put into a folder in your app drawer.

Naming folders

When you create new folders, you will notice that there is no text below the icon as there is with other icons. This is because you need to name the folder, which can be done by:
  1. Tapping on the newly created folder.
  2. Tapping on Unnamed Folder in the pop-up window.
  3. Naming the folder.
  4. Pressing Done at the bottom of the keyboard.
The name you assign to the folder will show up under each icon on your home screen. If you are going to use different folders, it is a good idea to pick names related to the apps they contain. For example, if you put all of your email apps in one folder, call the folder 'Email'. This will make your apps easier to find.

Adding/removing apps from folders

You can easily add apps to folders by either dragging them from the home screen over to the folder and letting go, or:
  1. Opening your device's app drawer (usually indicated by a number of squares).
  2. Finding the app you would like to put into a folder.
  3. Pressing on it, and holding your finger down until the home screen pops up.
  4. Dragging it over the folder you would like it to be placed in.
  5. Letting go.
If done right, the app's icon should be automatically dropped into the folder. You can also remove apps from folders by tapping on the folder where the app is, pressing on the app, then dragging it up to Remove, which should appear at the top of the screen. This will remove it from the home screen, but will not uninstall the app. You can also tap on the app and move it out of the folder to an empty place on the home screen.

Moving folders

You can move a folder's location the same way you do so with an app: Tap and hold on the folder until the screen changes slightly and drag it to where you would like it to be. On newer versions of Android, the apps should all move to make room for the folder.

Deleting folders

Finally, you can delete a folder by either dragging all of the apps out of the folder, or pressing and holding on the folder until the screen changes and dragging it up to Remove. This will remove the folder and all the stored app icons, but it won't delete the apps.

If you have any questions about using an Android device, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 24th, 2014

Windows_Sep22_BWindows 8 and 8.1 are increasingly becoming more popular, with many businesses switching over to the newer system. Often, when Windows 8 is used the office it is switched over to the desktop mode which includes the popular taskbar. Did you know that you can actually change the settings related to this?

1. Add or remove programs from your taskbar

By default, there are usually two icons on your taskbar: Internet Explorer and File Explorer. When you open a program, the icon will pop up to the right of these icons and will remain there as long as the program is open. Close it however, and the icon will usually disappear.

If you use certain programs a lot, you can 'pin' the icon to your taskbar, making it easier to launch in the future. This can be done by first opening the program, then right-clicking on the icon and selecting Pin to Taskbar. You can unpin unused programs by right-clicking on the icon and selecting Unpin from Taskbar.

Alternatively, you can drag a program's icon onto the taskbar to add it. Just drag it from the folder or your desktop to where you would like it to be on the taskbar, and it should be added.

2. Locking the taskbar

If you have added the programs you use most, and would like to ensure that they stay on the taskbar, you can lock the bar to ensure that nothing can be added or deleted without first unlocking it. Locking will also ensure that the taskbar can't be accidentally moved.

Locking the taskbar is done by:

  1. Right-clicking on the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Lock the taskbar from the pop-up menu.
Note: When you install a new program, or would like to add/modify those on the taskbar you will need to unlock it first, which can be done by right-clicking on the taskbar and clicking Unlock Taskbar.

3. Hiding the taskbar

While the taskbar is useful, some users prefer that it isn't always showing at the bottom of the screen. You can actually enable hiding of the taskbar, so it will only show it when you hover your mouse over where it should be.

This can be done by:

  1. Right-clicking on an empty space on the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Properties. Note: Don't right-click on an app's icon, as it will open the properties related to the app, not the taskbar.
  3. Tick Auto-hide taskbar.
  4. Click Ok.

4. Move the location of the taskbar

If you have a large number of apps pinned to the taskbar, or don't like it's location at the bottom of the screen you can easily move it by either:
  1. Left-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar.
  2. Holding the mouse button down and moving the cursor to the side of the screen where you would like to move the bar to.
Or:
  1. Right-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Properties.
  3. Clicking on the drop-down box beside Taskbar location on screen:.
  4. Selecting the location.
If the bar does not move, be sure that it is not locked.

5. Preview open apps

One interesting feature of the taskbar is that it can offer a preview of your desktop from the tile-based screen. You can enable it by:
  1. Right-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Properties.
  3. Ticking Use Peek to preview the desktop when you move your mouse to the Show Desktop button at the end of the taskbar.

6. Pin apps to the taskbar from the metro (tile) screen

While the tile-based Start screen isn't the most popular with business users, it can be a good way to easily add programs to your taskbar. You can do so by:
  1. Scrolling through your tiles until you find the app you want to pin to the taskbar.
  2. Right-clicking on the app.
  3. Selecting Pin to taskbar from the menu bar that opens at the bottom of the screen.
If you are looking to learn more about using Windows in your office, contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 24th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_BSocial media has become an integral part of many business strategies, with an ever increasing number of companies adopting a variety of platforms. However, many business owners and managers are often unsure as to exactly how they can, or should, be using these platforms. In order to make things a bit easier, here is an overview of the three most common ways businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company's services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it's the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media's instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is 'social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What's the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 23rd, 2014

Office365_Sep22_BMicrosoft's cloud-based office suite - Office 365 - is one of the most popular software solutions among small to medium businesses. Offering a wide variety of plans and the familiar Office programs, it's not difficult to see why. The issue many offices face however is staying on top of all the information generated within Office 365. To help, Microsoft has recently announced a new Office 365 feature called Office Delve.

What is Office Delve?

The idea behind Office Delve is that it's a tool that helps business users get the most out of their data and information related to Office 365. According to Microsoft, Delve will allow you to:
  • Discover new information - Delve has been designed to show you information from different sources in Office 365 that you may find useful for what you are currently working on.
  • Discover what you need - Documents you have seen before, or have recently worked on, are highlighted and made easier for you to find, regardless of where they are stored. This makes it less taxing to find work you have been doing in the past, and continue from where you left off.
  • Discover new connections - Typing a name in Office 365 will allow you to see what a user is working on, their connections, and even connect with them to build relationships and share information.

How does it work?

In order to provide the information and data that users will likely find useful, Delve is powered by a tool Microsoft calls Office Graph. Graph maps the relationships between the various Office 365 users in your company, and the content/information related to them.

This 'map' is then used by Delve to provide users with what they need, when they need it. Content and information is displayed on a card-based screen, which can be found under the Delve tab in the main Office 365 launch screen.

Aside from content such as profile information, links to documents, or information, users can also see: Likes, views, comments, and tags, which brings a deeper social integration into Office 365.

Delve also orders content a number of different ways, including:

  • What you've recently worked on - Shows you content in card-form that you have recently opened or worked on.
  • Content that has been shared with you - Shows the content your colleagues have shared with you.
  • Content that has been presented to you - Shows content that colleagues have presented recently, or content that has been sent to you.
While this idea works great on the desktop, many Office 365 users access their systems from their mobile devices. Delve will also be available to mobile users. On your device you can browse the cards with files, swipe left or right on each card to view files, and even search for colleagues and view files they have shared with you and their recent activity.

When is Delve available?

Microsoft has noted that Delve is currently rolling out for businesses who have subscribed to the Office 365 Enterprise level plans (E1-E4) and have joined the first release program. Over the following months, it will roll out to all E1-E4 customers. In 2015, Microsoft has noted that they will introduce Delve to Business Essentials, Business Premium, Small Business, Small Business Premium and Mid Sized Business customers.

If you are looking to learn more about Delve, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 19th, 2014

Security_Sep15_BToday’s technology advancement has one obvious parallel: increasing security threats. One such issue which has been growing both in number and intensity is data breach. And while many businesses have turned to the cloud in the hope of improving security, there is still a chance of a collision between data breaches and cloud usage. But don’t panic just yet, there are measures you can take to avoid the headache of a cloud and data security breach.

The cloud opens up some great tech advancements for businesses and is here to stay. However, as with all tech developments, you need to also be aware of any vulnerabilities and security issues as they change and develop at the same time too. If you use the cloud and want to proactively prevent cloud-and-data security breaches then here are five tips to follow:

  1. Know your cloud apps: Get a comprehensive view of the business readiness of apps and which ones render you more or less prone to a breach. Ask yourself these questions: Does an app encrypt data stored on the service? Does it separate your data from that of others so that your data is not exposed when another tenant has a breach? The idea here is to know exactly what each cloud service employed offers and how your company uses them.
  2. Migrate users to high-quality apps: Cloud-switching costs are low, which means that you can always change and choose apps that best suit your needs. If you find ones that don’t fit your criteria, take the time to talk to your vendor or switch; now more than ever you have choices, and the discovery process in step one will help you find out what these are.
  3. Find out where your data is going: Take a look at your data in the cloud. Review uploads, downloads, and data at rest in apps to get a handle on whether you have potential personally-identifiable information (PII), or whether you simply have unencrypted confidential data in or moving to cloud apps. You wouldn’t want cloud-and-data breaches with this critical data.
  4. Look at user activities: It’s important to understand not only what apps you use but also your data in the context of user activity. Ask yourself: From which apps are people sharing content? According to tech news source, VentureBeat, one-fifth of the apps they tracked enable sharing, and these aren’t just cloud storage apps, but range from customer-relationship management to finance and business intelligence. Knowing who’s sharing what and with whom will help you to understand what policies to best employ.
  5. Mitigate risk through granular policy: Start with your business-critical apps and enforce policies that matter to your organization in the context of a breach. For example, block the upload of information covered by certain privacy acts, block the download of PII from HR apps, or temporarily block access to vulnerable apps.
The key to preventing a cloud-and-data security breach lies in careful attention to your cloud applications and user activity. Analyzing your apps and looking into user activities might be time consuming, but the minimization of cloud-and-data security breaches makes this task worthwhile. Looking to learn more about today’s security? Contact us and let us manage and minimize your risks.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
September 18th, 2014

Productivity_Sep15_BTechnology is an important part of almost every role in every business. We have come to rely so heavily on it, that when we do have a problem with a device or system our productivity can easily grind to an almighty halt. While many of us know our systems will eventually breakdown, do you know what to in this situation? Are you prepared?

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic, or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed but may be at a loss as to what to do.

When technology does breakdown, here are some recommended steps you should take:

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, "Don't Panic!" - One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is "don't panic". This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred - This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems - Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again - When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system - be it your computer, an app, server, etc. - off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it - If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn't load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider's website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don't rush into a supposed fix - It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some 'fixes' can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components, and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don't overreact - Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk - If the system doesn't work after restarting we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like us. We have the experience to investigate the problem, and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn't mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems, and implementing security standards.

We also strongly recommend working with an IT partner like us. We can help manage your systems and implement measures to keep them working long into the future. Beyond that, we can help monitor systems so that should something start to go wrong, we can begin to implement a fix even before you notice it. And, if something should break down, we can either fix it ourselves or recommend an expert who will be able to help.

Looking for help keeping your systems running and employees productive? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how they are designed to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
September 17th, 2014

BusinessValue_Sep15_BMany business owners and managers are well aware of the fact that if they really want to maximize their customer base they need to have a presence on the Internet. It used to be that having a website was enough to satisfy this, but now many customers are looking for businesses that are active online. One of the best ways to demonstrate this activity is through content marketing. The question then is how to ensure your efforts are successful.

What are the benefits of content marketing?

Before looking into ways you can implement content marketing that works, it is a good idea to look at the benefits of this type of marketing for businesses. One of the biggest pluses is that it boosts online engagement between you and your customers. If a customer sees that you are producing quality content that appeals to them, they will be more likely to interact and consider you when they need your products or services.

The other major advantage of a good content marketing strategy is that it helps show search engines like Google that your website and online presence are active. Because of the way search engines work, more active sites are usually ranked higher in results. If your website and overall Internet presence is seen to be active on a regular basis, you could possibly reach the first page of search results, which can lead to a boost in site visits, inquiries, and even sales.

If you have been considering implementing a content marketing campaign, or are looking to improve your existing efforts, the following four tips could help.

1. Always have a goal

The main thrust of many successful content marketing initiatives is that they tell a story. As with any narrative there needs to be an ending and in the case of content marketing this endpoint is a goal - something you want the reader to do. What do you want to achieve? Do you want customers to call? Do you want them to learn how to use your product?

By working backwards, you can then determine the right voice to use and best way to reach those customers who are most likely to react positively to the content. This also makes it easier for you to separate your campaigns and even launch multiple strategies at the same time.

Beyond this, having a goal can really help you narrow down the type of content you need to create. If for example, you know what customers you want to attract and how you want them to ultimately act, you can create content that is more appealing to them.

2. ABT

One of the most popular sayings amongst content marketers is to, "Always Be Testing (ABT)". When developing content you should be striving to test your content. Consider if certain images work better than others, as well as headlines, layouts, and content types, etc.

This could be as simple as developing three different social media posts and testing them with different market segments, or locations. You can then take what you have learnt from the tests and apply this to future posts.

The same can be said for more advanced content like blog posts or white papers. If you create different versions and layouts, and track the general downloads and interaction with the content, you can usually figure out how various people are reacting in different ways to a variety of content.

It is important to note here that content marketing is not a quick payoff style of marketing. You need to invest time, money, and effort into this and be willing to always be tweaking content. It takes time to pay off, but the time invested in testing what works and what doesn't work will help you develop better, more useful content.

3. Share and share alike

Creating content and just putting it on existing sites or sharing it with existing clients is not the most efficient way of making your content marketing show returns. Combine this with the fact that you will likely be using platforms like social media which are constantly changing and adding new content, and there is a good chance your content won't even be seen.

What you should aim to do is to share the content as much as possible. Share it on all of your social media platforms, link to it on your site, add it to emails, use the various social media content promotion features, and most of all: Share it again.

If you truly believe content is useful to your target market, you should aim to post it at least three to four times on social media. One of the most effective strategies is to share it on different days at different times, usually with a space of at least a week or two between posts. This can help maximize the numbers who see it.

4. Be prepared to fail

Failure is a part of business, and coincidently, it is also a part of content marketing. Face it, you might create content that just simply won't click as you intended. If this happens, your first reaction might be to pull the content and try something different. This may not be a good idea.

Sure, if the content is stirring up trouble, or has offended people, then it is likely best to remove it. But even if you aren't seeing the results you had hoped for, stick with the content for a bit. Try reposting it, and promoting more vigorously. It could very well be that users just didn't see the content.

As we stated above, successful content marketing takes time and effort. Once you realize this, and combine it with the fact that not everything will work, you should see a viable strategy surface over time.

If you are looking to learn more about content marketing and how our systems can help support it then get in touch and we can share our thoughts on how to be proactive and get results.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 17th, 2014

iPhone_Sep15_BSeptember 9 was a day eagerly anticipated by many Apple fans, largely because it was the day the company held their nearly annual announcement of new devices. This year the company announced not only two new iPhones but also a new smartwatch and some new iOS 8 features. If you missed the news then here is an overview of the new devices introduced at the event.

The iPhone 6

Before the September 9 event, rumors were flying for months about a new iPhone that Apple was working on. The company did not disappoint and announced a new version of their staggeringly popular phone. Here's an overview of the iPhone 6 specs which business owners and managers will want to know about.
  • Screen: The iPhone 6 will have a 4.7 inch screen (measured diagonally), and will sport Apple's new display, Retina HD, which has more pixels for a much improved image quality.
  • Size: The phone will be 5.44 x 2.64 inches and .27 inches thick. The device's shape has also been changed slightly with a more rounded body (compared to the iPhone 5's squared body) which should make it easier to hold.
  • Processor: This device will have what Apple calls the A8 processor. This is an improved processor over the one found in previous devices like the iPhone 5, and offers 25% faster speeds and 50% better efficiency. In other words, the device will be able to do more than previous versions, and do it faster.
  • Storage: You can choose either 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage space.
  • Battery life: Apple has noted that the iPhone 6 should have the same, or slightly better, battery life than previous models. While this may not seem like an improvement, you need to take into account the bigger screen which requires more power to run.
  • Pricing: In the US, the iPhone 6 starts at USD 199 for the 16GB of storage. It should be noted that this is the price on a two year contract. If you want to purchase the model outright, prices start at USD 649 for the 16GB. Both the on-contract and outright purchase prices go up USD 100 for each increase in storage.
  • Availability: You could pre-order your device starting September 12, with it being available in many stores September 19. Chances are, the device will sell out quickly, so you may be put on a waiting list if you decide to purchase right away.

The iPhone 6 Plus

Alongside rumors about the impending iPhone 6, there were also rumors that Apple would be introducing a larger version of the iPhone 6 that is designed to compete with the various "phablets" (small tablets with phone capabilities) which are immensely popular these days. They did indeed announce a new, larger version of the iPhone 6 called the iPhone 6 Plus. Here is an overview of the major details that will benefit business owners and managers.
  • Screen: The iPhone 6 Plus will have a 5.5 inch screen (measured diagonally), and will sport Apple's new display, Retina HD, which has more pixels, meaning image quality will be much improved.
  • Size: The phone will be 6.22 x 3.06 inches and .28 inches thick. The device's shape has also been changed slightly with a more rounded body. It may take time to get used to the screen size and some users may not be able to use the device comfortably with one hand.
  • Processor: This device will have what Apple calls the A8 processor. This is an improved processor over the one found in previous devices like the iPhone 5, and offers 25% faster speeds and 50% better efficiency. In other words, the device will be able to do more, faster, than previous versions.
  • Storage: You can choose either 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage space.
  • Battery life: Apple has noted that the iPhone 6 Plus will have a larger battery that supposedly offers 24 hours of talk time. Because this device hasn't been fully tested yet, it's difficult to tell what the actual battery life will be like, but it will likely be enough to get you through a day of moderate use.
  • Pricing: In the US, the iPhone 6 Plus starts at USD 299 for the 16GB of storage. It should be noted that this is the price if you get the device on a two year contract. If you want to purchase it outright, the device starts at USD 749 for the 16GB. Both the on-contract and outright prices go up USD 100 for each increase in storage.
  • Availability: Pre-orders for the device started September 12, but it was quickly sold out. Apple has noted that it should be in many stores as of September 19.

The Apple Watch

Apple wasn't done with just two mobile devices however, they also proved rumors true and announced a new device - the Apple Watch. This is Apple's take on the smartwatch that appears to be gaining traction with many users.

The Apple Watch is a rectangular device that is worn on the wrist and, as the name implies, is a watch. Well, a watch with numerous features that many users will no doubt enjoy. The device has a knob at the top-left which Apple calls the "digital crown", that you use to navigate the device. For example, pressing it opens the device's home screen, while turning it will zoom the face.

You can also interact the device via touch. For example, you will be able to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open a feature Apple calls Glance. This provides you with useful information like the date, weather, notifications, etc.

Because typing on a device that is on your wrist is pretty much impossible to do accurately, the device supports voice commands and even interaction with Siri. The Apple Watch also has a multitude of sensors including health related ones like a heart rate sensor.

So far, it appears like this device is mainly aimed towards individual users, but business users who are looking for a way to interact with their devices or a different way to keep track of their most important information like calendars, etc. may find it useful too.

If the watch sounds interesting, you are going to have to wait for a while, as Apple has said it won't be released until the spring of 2015. While this may seem like a long time to wait, it could prove to be positive, as it gives the company more time to perfect the device. When released, Apple has noted that the Apple Watch will start at USD 350.

New iOS 8 features

New devices weren't all that was introduced at the event, Apple also talked about some new features that will be introduced in iOS 8.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) and ApplePay - Both the new iPhone 6s and the Apple Watch will ship with NFC chips in the device. These can be used in conjunction with Apple's new pay service, ApplePay. Like other similar apps, you will be able to use your phone as a wallet, and swipe it over pay terminals to pay for items. Your payment information is stored in Passbook which creates a unique ID for each credit card, but does not store your credit card information.
  • Enhanced navigation - With bigger screens on both of the new iPhones, many users will want to hold the phone in landscape (horizontal) mode for easier viewing of apps. iOS 8 will enable this.
  • New gesture - Reachability - Reachability is a new gesture that will allow users to quickly switch the content at the top of the screen by tapping twice on the Home button.
For those of you who have an existing iPhone or iPad, you should have been asked to upgrade to iOS 8 when it came out September 17.

If you are looking to learn more about the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, Apple Watch, or iOS 8, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
September 11th, 2014

BI_Sep08_BWhen it comes to the success of your business, you likely rely, at least in part, on predictions made off of existing data. While simple forecasts are easy enough, it can be more difficult to set down long-term theories about what the future may or may not entail. That's why many businesses employ predictive analytics. While long used by enterprises, many smaller companies are also now starting to use these methods as well. At first glance, predictive analytics can be overwhelming, so, to help, here is an overview of the three main components.

Together, these three elements of predictive analytics enables data scientists and even managers to conduct and analyze forecasts and predictions.

Component 1: data

As with most business processes, data is one of the most important and vital components. Without data you won't be able to make predictions and the decisions necessary to reach desired outcomes. In other words, data is the foundation of predictive analytics.

If you want predictive analytics to be successful, you need not only the right kind of data but information that is useful in helping answer the main question you are trying to predict or forecast. You need to to collect as much relevant data as possible in relation to what you are trying to predict. This means tracking past data, customers, demographics, and more.

Merely tracking data isn't going to guarantee more accurate predictions however. You will also need a way to store and quickly access this data. Most businesses use a data warehouse which allows for easier tracking, combining, and analyzing of data.

As a business manager you likely don't have the time to look after data and implement a full-on warehousing and storage solution. What you will most likely need to do is work with a provider, like us, who can help establish an effective warehouse solution, and an analytics expert who can help ensure that you are tracking the right, and most useful, data.

Component 2: statistics

Love it, or hate it, statistics, and more specifically regression analysis, is an integral part of predictive analytics. Most predictive analytics starts with usually a manager or data scientist wondering if different sets of data are correlated. For example, is the age, income, and sex of a customer (independent variables) related to when they purchase product X (dependent variable)?

Using data that has been collected from various customer touch points - say a customer loyalty card, past purchases made by the customer, data found on social media, and visits to a website - you can run a regression analysis to see if there is in fact a correlation between independent and dependent variables, and just how related individual independent variables are.

From here, usually after some trial and error, you hopefully can come up with a regression equation and assign what's called regression coefficients - how much each variable affects the outcome - to each of the independent variables.

This equation can then be applied to predict outcomes. To carry on the example above, you can figure out exactly how influential each independent variable is to the sale of product X. If you find that income and age of different customers heavily influences sales, you can usually also predict when customers of a certain age and income level will buy (by comparing the analysis with past sales data). From here, you can schedule promotions, stock extra products, or even begin marketing to other non-customers who fall into the same categories.

Component 3: assumptions

Because predictive analytics focuses on the future, which is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy, you need to rely on assumptions for this type of analytics to actually work. While there are likely many assumptions you will need to acknowledge, the biggest is: the future will be the same as the past.

As a business owner or manager you are going to need to be aware of the assumptions made for each model or question you are trying to predict the answer to. This also means that you will need to be revisiting these on a regular basis to ensure they are still true or valid. If something changes, say buying habits, then the predictions in place will be invalid and potentially useless.

Remember the 2008-09 sub-prime mortgage crisis? Well, one of the main reasons this was so huge was because brokers and analysts assumed that people would always be able to pay their mortgages, and built their prediction models off of this assumption. We all know what happened there. While this is a large scale example, it is a powerful lesson to learn: Not checking that the assumptions you have based your predictions on could lead to massive trouble for your company.

By understanding the basic ideas behind these three components, you will be better able to communicate and leverage the results provided by this form of analytics.

If you are looking to implement a solution that can support your analytics, or to learn more about predictive analytics, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.