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February 26th, 2013

Office365_Feb26_BWe all know that the tech industry is fast paced, always changing. The same goes for software; it's often released before it's 100% finished and updated with new features at a later date. This is the way the software industry functions, and will continue to do so well into the future. For example, Microsoft Office 365 was released in 2011 and has since seen numerous updates. There's a small update coming in March which will make it even easier to use.

The Office 365 update will focus largely on the sign-in process, and making it not only more efficient, but simpler. While this won't be a massive change, users who access their accounts on more than one device will find it much easier to do so.

Possibly the most intriguing thing about this redesign is that when you navigate to the login screen, the window will automatically resize to the resolution of your monitor or device. If you are on a handheld device like your tablet, the sign-in screen will now fit the screen size, instead of you having to zoom in to be able to see what you are typing.

This new layout will be best viewed on machines and browsers that are up to date, so be sure to keep the device/browser you use to access Office 365 updated.

Microsoft has also noted that this update will extend Single Sign On (SSO) for Office 365 capabilities. SSO can be boiled down to logging in once in order to access all services related to that software. For example, you can login to Office 365, and also be able to access SkyDrive, Lync or other Microsoft based services without having to individually log in to those sites. The update will expand the SSO capabilities, so employees won’t have to log in to multiple Microsoft programs once they have logged in the first time.

While not a huge update, it is one that makes the Office 365 system even more user friendly, which is great for those in your company who may not be the most tech savvy. You should notice this in early to mid March, or may have already been asked if you would like to try the new layout. You will have to opt-in on an individual basis.

If you would like to learn more about Office 365, or are interested in how it can help your business, why not contact us? We are happy to sit down and discuss your options with you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_Feb12_BAs a species we are social, needing relationships to survive. That's likely why social media websites have taken off so successfully. They give us a way to interact, even when we are physically alone. Companies have found that these sites are great marketing tools that can build a brand better than almost any other method. One social media use, often overlooked, is learning more about a job applicant coming for an interview.

Here's three steps you can employ to learn a bit more about potential hires before they come in for an interview.

1. Google them Googling yourself can be seen as vain, however putting a potential hires name into Google Search is smart. You can enter their name along with specific queries that can help you narrow information down. One thing you can do is enter their name with double quotes around it and the city they are based in, this will help you find their presence on related social media sites. You can also put their area code, zip or postal code to narrow down the search.

The point of this is to help you find more information about the person without having to search on individual social media sites. This will also return results like photo albums, recent account activity and maybe even some hobbies and interest groups. Searching on Google, or other search engines is a good way to see if the prospective employee is legitimate.

2. Take a look on Facebook Almost everyone and their dog are on Facebook, so don't forget to search for them on this popular service. With the recently announced Graph Search, this should make searching a lot easier too. Enter their name, along with some specific interests or information from the resume and the chances of finding this person's profile go up.

While some would argue the ethics of doing this, you may see information or posts that counter information in the resume, or even paint a better picture of the applicant. For example, you can ask them about their family when they come in for an interview. It could prove to be a great ice breaker.

3. LinkedIn Most social media sites focus on the social aspect of people's lives, while LinkedIn focuses on the more career and professional oriented areas. Searching for the candidate on LinkedIn can often shed more light on their history, and may even showcase common links between you and them. If you notice that the candidate worked for a previous employee, you could contact that employee to see if they have any thoughts about the candidate.

Researching your future hires is a good idea because it can help you learn more about them than you might otherwise do from just an interview. It also gives you a bit of a deeper understanding of if they would be a good fit for the company. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your company please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 12th, 2013

Office365_Feb12_BThere is little doubt as to the most popular office production suite. Microsoft Office has been the program of choice for almost two decades and shows no sign of giving this status up in the near future. In late January Microsoft officially released Office 2013, and as usual released numerous versions aimed at meeting the needs of different users.

Here's a brief overview of the different versions of Office 2013 released last month.

A tale of three Offices There are three different types of Office: Standalone, Subscription and RT. The standalone versions are similar to older versions of Office, as you will be able to buy these in stores. You pay once, and have access to the software that comes in that bundle, as you would with older versions. The only difference is that older versions came on CDs or DVDs, while the newer versions are really a code that you enter on the Microsoft website to download Office.

Subscription based versions are referred to as Office 365 for home, and are sold on a per month/year basis. You will be able to buy a year subscription in stores, which will come with an activation code you can enter in the Office site to download the software. This option is heavily integrated with the cloud and users will be able to store and access documents by signing into their SkyDrive account. You can also store files on your computer.

The RT version of Office is a tablet specific version engineered for use with touchscreen devices. This version comes installed on all RT tablets like the Microsoft Surface. This will only work on tablets running ARM processors and will only be available to users who buy a specific tablet. You won't be able to buy the software in stores, or online.

Office 365 versions

  • Office 365 Home Premium - This version has two pricing schemes: USD$9.99 a month or USD$99.99 a year. Users who chose this option will be able to install it on five different computers, and will be able to use: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and Publisher. You will also get 20GB free storage with SkyDrive and 60 Skype minutes a month. Office on Demand - a 'streaming' version of Office that you can access over the Internet is also included.
  • Office 365 University - This version is the same as Home Premium but is for university students and staff. The subscription costs USD$79.99 for four years, and can be installed on two different machines. If you are doing a part-time course, you should also be eligible for this.
Office 2013 standalone versions
  • Office Home & Student 2013 - This is the more traditional version of Office which costs USD$139.99 and can be installed on one computer. Users who purchase this version will get Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, but won't have the cloud based Office 365 extras.
  • Office Home & Business 2013 - At USD$219.99, this version comes with the same software as Office Home & Student, and also includes Outlook. It can be installed on one computer. This is the likely version small businesses will purchase if they don't want to pay for a subscription.
  • Office Professional 2013 - Like other versions of Office 2013, this is a single install and costs USD$399.99. Primarily aimed at businesses, this version comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher.
It should be noted that the standalone versions of Office have a perpetual license which means that you can use them for as long as you like.

Is this Office 365 for business? The new versions of Office, including Office 365 Home Premium are technically for home use. While this new version contains the name 'Office 365' it is actually different from the Office 365 used in businesses. If you currently use the business offering in your company (email servers, instant messaging, SharePoint, etc), there are new versions coming February 27. If you don't use Office 365 in your business, and are just looking for a new version of Office, Home Premium could be a good option.

Looking to upgrade to a new version of Office, or would like to learn more about how they can help your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 29th, 2013

It's highly likely that the most popular software program is Microsoft Office. With numerous variations to the Office platform, including Office 365 - the largely cloud based version of Office - it's easy to see why. A common complaint of Office users is that it can be tough to share documents and collaborate with other employees. Microsoft has a solution: SharePoint.

SharePoint is a great way for companies to enhance Microsoft Office 365's capabilities. It has many benefits that small to medium business owners can take advantage of. Here's five of the best.

1. Office Web Apps SharePoint can be linked with Office Web Apps (the browser based version of Office), which will give your employees access to their documents anywhere they have access to a Web browser with an Internet connection.

2. Easier sharing of documents When working with different Office programs, some files can become so large that they can't be shared over email, or take too long to upload and send. SharePoint provides users with a central location they can save their documents to. This makes it easier for parties to access and share information. Tools like PowerPivot, for example, make it possible to share massive spreadsheets.

3. A collaborative environment When you have multiple employees working on the same document, keeping updated can be tough as each user will likely have different versions saved on their computer. This makes updating a hassle. It's even harder when users are located in different locations and rely on email or teleconferencing to work together.

With SharePoint's central file system, users view the same document. If changes are made by one person they will immediately show on the document. This coherence promotes and makes collaboration more effective, while also making it easier for managers to collate, view and make changes to ensure all users are on the same page - quite literally!

4. Simplified way to find documents SharePoint supports many different file types beyond the ones used by Office. For example, there are media plugins that allow videos stored in the library to be streamed from anywhere in SharePoint. This central library, if used by all employees to store necessary files, is easily searchable and employees will be better able to quickly find the information they need. No more having to ask Jim from HR about where to find tax forms, just search on SharePoint.

SharePoint's server based software also makes it easier for businesses to combine different systems into one central system where information is accessible.

5. It's manageable SharePoint also provides tools that make it easier for content managers, team leads, etc. to coordinate documents and user activity. This program has been designed with administration, deployment and use in mind, giving companies a convenient way to stay on top of all the information they generate. If you have employees leave the company, the information and documents they worked on are already on SharePoint, so you don't have to worry about not being able to find files on hard drives.

SharePoint brings a lot of functionality to Office 365 users and can be the key to not only efficient document creation but management as well. If you would like to learn more about how you can extend your business capabilities with Office 365 and SharePoint, please call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 16th, 2013

New Year is always exciting. It's an opportunity to look back on the past year and reflect on what you did right and wrong. It's also perfect timing to look forward at what the year ahead brings. One thing businesses should look into is what 2013 will bring in terms of social media. One of the easier ways to do this is to think about which social media trends will be popular.

Social goes mobile The way people view information is changing thanks to increasing adoption of tablets and mobile devices. The adoption rate is forecasted to rise in 2013, with the number of users who view your content on mobile devices soon overtaking those using a more traditional browser.

Because of this, the use of web technology that resizes text, images and other content to any screen size, will become even more popular. What this means for social media managers is that you will need to keep mobile users in mind when developing content and ensure it can be easily viewed on tablets and smartphones.

Visual marketing Visual marketing is the use of video, images, infographics, etc. to get your message across to your target audience. The key to this type of marketing is that it enhances brand memory, recall and identity.

Social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, are perfect platforms that, with effective use, can create an awareness that resonates with target groups, creating increased engagement.

While this marketing concept isn't new, you can expect to see more companies focusing on developing more content that's visual in nature throughout the next year and beyond.

Content marketing (B2B) When it comes to B2B marketing on social platforms, companies have been using content as the main brand driver. This takes many forms, including: Papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, etc. For example, infographics have proven to be valuable tools in increasing brand awareness. Most companies are well aware of this and it's hard to find a business that doesn't have some kind of content on their website.

In 2013, you can expect to see many enterprises turning to social media platforms like Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, etc. to develop and share content. Couple this with an increase in visual content and there will be an increased trend for smart marketers to develop engaging posts that are also visually appealing.

Google+ is a Google must Google is playing the long game with it's social media platform, Google+. While it currently isn't anywhere near as popular as Facebook, Google is making changes to the platform and turning the service into a central hub for managing your online presence - when it comes to Google that is.

Last year, Google rolled out a number of services, such as Local, into Google+. This forced businesses with a Google presence to use this service to manage it. This trend will likely continue over the next few years, with the slow release of valuable services that are exclusively for Google+ users and force users to switch to them.

In other words, for companies using Google's services: Google+ is a Google must.

Facebook remains king. For now! Despite a disappointing IPO last year, Facebook is still #1 when it comes to social media. This likely won't change in the near future. Facebook is well aware of this and will continue to take steps to keep users.

We can expect Facebook to introduce a premium version of Pages, along with increasingly powerful analytics tools. Alongside this, their mobile advertising service will likely mature into a viable business option. What this means for businesses is that they will need to keep on top of these offerings and figure out how to best leverage their content.

These are just five social media trends for the coming year. Have you identified any more? What do you think will be the biggest change to social media in 2013? We're interested to hear your thoughts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 15th, 2013

Microsoft Office 365 - Microsoft's largely cloud based version of Office - is a popular Office product for many reasons. One advantage is the sheer number of features across the suite which allow you to do almost anything. There are some lesser-known features which are just as useful too, one of which integrates your mobile phone into an Outlook notification center.

Did you know that Outlook for Office 365 can send you text message alerts? To achieve this you need to first establish a rule for Outlook Web Access/App (OWA) - Office 365's webmail (browser) version of Outlook.

There are two classes of notification you can set up: Notifications for calendars, or notifications for email. When you create a rule, you will receive a text message whenever the rule's parameters are met.

Here's how you can set this feature up:

  1. Open Outlook Web Access in your browser. The standard address is usually: https://mail.yourcompanydomain.com/owa. It's important to note that you need to go to Outlook Web Access.
  2. Log in using your Office 365 username and password.
  3. Select Options - located in the top-right of the window - followed by See All Options.
  4. Click Phone from the list on the left side of the window and then Text Messaging.
  5. Pressing Turn on Notifications, selecting your Locale: and finally your Mobile Operator.
  6. Press Next and enter your phone number with the area code, and without the country code.
  7. Click Next again and check your phone. You should get a pass code in a text message that you will need to enter. After you receive this, press Finish.
Setting up rules After you have set up OWA to send you text messages, you can look into the two different types of alerts. As mentioned above, the first are calendar alerts. Pressing Set up Calendar notifications will allow you to establish rules related to your calendar. For example, you can create a rule where you will receive a text message when you have a meeting scheduled with a specific client or employee.

If you would like to receive text message alerts for your email, you can click on Set up email notifications using an Inbox rule. You have many different rules you can set up. For example: You can make a rule to receive a text whenever you get an email that contains the words: Update.

To get the most out of these features we suggest you play around with them and come up with something that works for you. Don't go overboard though, as you probably don't want to be receiving text messages every few minutes. Also, it's important to be aware of how your mobile carrier charges for texts. If you get charged for incoming texts, this feature could cause your mobile bills to skyrocket. Interested in learning more about what Office 365 can bring to your business? Give us a shout, we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 2nd, 2013

When it comes to office solutions that operate largely in the cloud there are two main competitors: Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. Generally, Google has been the cheaper of the two, but a recent price hike makes Google Apps for Business more expensive. This has upset some users and Microsoft has responded by making Office 365 a little more enticing.

After Google's announcement on December 7, Microsoft jumped in quickly and announced they would be extending their free-trial period by 60 days. When a new user signs up for, or is interested in, Office 365, they are now given a trial period for 90 days.

This extended trial period works in two ways: Firstly, businesses that buy a copy of either Microsoft Office Home & Business 2010, or Microsoft Office Professional 2010 and activate it will get a 90-day free trial of Office 365 Small Business Premium, with support for up to five users.

The other way businesses can take advantage of the offer is by going to the Office 365 website and signing up for the 90-day trial. If businesses choose this route, they will be able to download Office 365 Small Business with support for up to 10 users and be able to try it out for three months.

It's pretty clear that this new offer is largely aimed at Google users who are unhappy with the recent price changes. Office 365 is a great alternative that can help many companies grow. If you are interested in switching over to Office 365, please contact us, we may have a solution for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 19th, 2012

There are always articles extolling the virtues and advantages of social media, and many of them have good ideas that can really help businesses. One thing many of the articles don't focus on is how employees feel about using social media in the office. A survey and report published earlier this summer did just that and came back with some interesting findings.

The report, published this past summer by Kelly Services reported on social media in the workplace, and highlighted findings and opinions from three major regions: The APAC (Asia Pacific), The Americas and the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Below are some interesting results on the use of social media in the business environment.

Social media at work by region Social media and it's use in the organization is a hot-button topic. Many argue that by allowing employees to access it at the office, they will spend all day surfing their personal accounts and not doing any work. The study found that an average of 30% of employees across all regions feel that it's ok to access their personal accounts while at work. Interestingly enough, the APAC has the highest percentage (48%) of users who think social media access at the office is acceptable, while The Americas had the lowest (16%).

Social media use at work by generation Going a little deeper into the use of personal social media accounts at the office, the survey breaks down the numbers by generation. Not surprisingly, Gen-Y (36%) are the most inclined to think it's acceptable to access social media while at the office. What is interesting about this is that 30% of Gen-X also think it's fine to access these services while at work.

These statistics go to show what most people already know: Younger generations are more embracing of social media. This does run counter however to prevailing thought that all Gen-Y and X want to do, and think it's okay to do, is access social media in the workplace.

Impact of social media on productivity Experts are always saying that social media can help improve productivity in the office. While this may be true, the study found that over 40% of respondents find that social media hampers productivity in the office.

You might predict that Gen-Y, with their higher levels of embracing social media, would think drastically different from other generations. However, the findings say otherwise: 49% of Baby Boomers, 44% of Gen-X and 40% of Gen-Y believe social media hinders productivity.

Impact of social media on work/personal relationships Look a little deeper at the downsides of social media in the report and you find that slightly lower than half of all respondents, regardless of age or location, feel that mixing work and pleasure connections can cause problems in the workplace.

What do the numbers mean? By themselves, the numbers really confirm what we already know - social media is important but the way it's used and viewed differs enormously. Put the findings from the survey together and an interesting picture emerges. The acceptance of social media is growing, and will continue to do so younger more social media savvy generations join the workforce. Social media may be a main form of communication outside of the office, but when it comes to personal use in the office, the majority are not as comfortable with it.

While use and acceptance is growing, this report's findings highlight that many employees still feel that social media is more of a hindrance than an improvement to the working day. This is interesting, because a decent percentage think it's acceptable to log onto such sites in the office, while arguable knowing it causes a decrease in productivity. This is a conundrum all businesses are facing: Do we allow social media to blur the lines between work and life, or resist it? Look around, it's plain to see it's creeping into work and being met with mixed results.

The question this report raises, and doesn't answer, is whether social media and its use by employees at work for personal reasons is a good idea. The truth of the matter is social media isn't going away and reports and findings like these emphasize a need to understand how people embrace and use these platforms. From this understanding it's essential to develop policies that everyone feels comfortable with. Above all, it shows large differences of opinion which indicates a real need for flexibility.

We'd like to know what your thoughts are on social media and how it's currently used in your office. Do you embrace or resist? Let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 18th, 2012

Modern computer programs contain so many features that it can be hard actually figuring out what is useful and what isn't. One of the more important things businesses look for in software is security. Take for example Microsoft Office 365; a cloud based office suite. Because Office 365 is based in the cloud, many question the security of the programs. One way Microsoft ensures a higher standard of security is by incorporating a feature that forces users to change their password every 90 days.

Here's how you can change your password and update it on all your devices and programs.

Before the password expires

  1. In a Web browser of your choice go to your Office 365 portal. You should be able to access it by navigating to portal.microsoftonline.com.
  2. Log in and click My Profile which is located in the top-right of the screen near your name.
  3. Click Change password and follow the onscreen prompts.
  4. Sign in to your Web based email app and ensure that you can connect to your account. You will be asked to type a new password when you navigate to the website.
  5. OPTIONAL: Navigate to the email account settings on your mobile device and select your Office 365 account. From there you should be able to change your password to the one you entered in the portal above. If you don't use Office 365 on your mobile device, you don't have to do this step. If you do, it's recommended that you change the password on all devices you use to connect to Office 365.
If you have set up Office 365 to prompt you to change your password on a regular basis, it should be changed. You will get reminders to do so, but sometimes you may miss the update notification. If you do, your password will expire. When this happens you will have to go to portal.microsoftonline.com and try to log in with your username and password. You should be given a message saying that your password has expired, along with a prompt to update it. Follow the steps to update your password, and be sure to follow steps four and five above.

There are many great features offered by Microsoft Office 365. If you are looking to update from an older version of Office and are interested in a great office software suite, please contact us, we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 4th, 2012

While computers and the Internet have allowed for many societal and business advancements, some age-old problems have survived and even thrived, while making their way into a digital format. One of those is junk mail, which has gone digital and now is the plague of so many inboxes. If you use Office 365's email client Outlook, there are ways to minimize junk mail in your inbox.

Here's how you can create filters to reduce junk email.

1. Optimize Outlook's Junk Email Filter Did you know that Outlook has a filter which can help reduce junk email? It's usually turned on by default, and set at the lowest setting - Low. This will filter only the most obvious junk email and place it into the Junk Email folder (more on that below).

To change the filter's settings:

  1. Navigate to the Mail tab and select Home.
  2. Under the Delete group click Junk, followed by Junk Email Options.
  3. Select which level of filtering you would like to apply.
Naturally, the higher the setting you choose, the more emails will be sent to the Junk Email folder junk or otherwise.

2. The Junk Email folder Any email that fails to get past the Junk Filter is sent to the Junk Email folder. It's a good idea to check this folder on a regular basis, especially if you have strict settings enabled, as there could be some important emails sent here, which you subsequently miss. If you find an email that isn't junk, you can drag it from the Junk folder and into the Inbox.

3. Establish Junk Email Filter lists While turning on filters and monitoring the Junk folder will reduce the number of junk emails, many will still get through. To minimize this even further, you can create lists of either trusted email addresses, or blocked email addresses. You can create these lists in a number of ways. The easiest is to simply select an email message from a sender and under the Home tab, in the Delete group select Junk followed by either: Never Block Sender; Email Group or Mailing List, or Block Sender.

You can also manually add addresses, groups and even websites to your lists. To do this:

  1. Navigate to Junk Email Options located in the Delete group of the Home tab.
  2. Select either:
    1. Safe Senders followed by Add;
    2. Safe Recipients followed by Add;
    3. Blocked Senders followed by Add.
  3. Enter the email address, or group address you would like to allow emails from or to block. If you work with a company that has many different users that contact you, but all have the same @user.com address, just add the @user.com part of the address to the list, and Outlook will block or allow emails from any user with that address.
  4. Select: Aslo trust email from Customers under the Safe Senders tab to automatically add all of your existing contacts to the Safe Senders list.
These three combined steps, should go a long way toward reducing the number of junk emails you receive. It's important to note that they will not eliminate junk email completely, and some will always get through. If this happens you can manually block them and should delete them without opening if possible. If you'd like to learn more about how Outlook and Office 365's other programs can fit into your business, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.