As business owners, we all want to save money. We want our employees to get more done in less time. And we want technology that just does what it’s supposed to do. Let’s review three ways we can ensure we’re making the right technology decisions for our business:

  • Understand that “free IT services” or “free software” often comes at a cost. Saving money in any way possible is a top priority for most small business owners, but when it comes to choosing technology, it pays to think through the downsides of free solutions.

A free software program may have the right number of the features, and seems easy to install, but getting it to seamlessly interface with your business applications ends up being a daunting challenge. In most cases, “free” also means you won’t have access to customer support when something does go wrong, and you’ll be on your own to fix any problems. A sound alternative to a “free solution” is to analyze the total cost of ownership of any solution. Consider that 52% of small and medium-sized businesses are adopting cloud services to outsource IT tasks like data storage, according to a recent SMB study. Some of the less expensive enterprise cloud solutions can be just as bad as a free download, or can still be too expensive for small businesses (like SalesForce).

  • Choose IT solutions that can multi-task. Too often, small businesses fall into the trap of implementing technology that addresses only one specific task. For example, you may have needed the ability to share large files with customers or partners outside your company, so you signed up for a file-sharing service. In this case, free or not, choosing a “one trick pony” for simple tasks like file sharing might actually end up costing more in the form of lost productivity and frustration. In this case, you would likely be missing out on sophisticated collaboration tools such as full integration with your email and productivity applications that can take file sharing to the next level. Do your homework before choosing an application or service to accomplish a single task. Think through all of the related tasks and look for the solutions that allow you do more than one thing. Time spent understanding the options will bring long-term benefits. For example Dropbox is a popular app for sharing documents and photos across multiple devices. Microsoft SkyDrive offers the ability to replicate files on multiple systems, but it some of its features requires professional installation and support.
  • Give yourself options. Smart business owners are like pro NFL quarterbacks; they want plenty of options. This is especially true when it comes to how you and your employees communicate with one another. There was a time when email revolutionized how people communicate at work, but today, your employees have plenty of options for communicating with one another depending on the situation. Communication with far-flung employees, clients and vendors can be expensive for many small businesses. Consider multiple solutions: Web-based teleconferencing services let large groups make video and voice connections, usually without special equipment – or sky-high phone fees. Reigning champ Adobe Connect is “the solution to beat,” said PC Magazine. Up-and-comer Fuze Meeting Pro offers innovative features like Fuze In for dialing-in late participants. Provide your team with options and you’ll benefit from efficiency and increased productivity.

Not sure where to start? Give GCInfotech a call to discuss the available solutions that would work best for your company. Together, we can make your business work smarter, faster and more efficiently.

 

As always, GCInfotech can walk you through the process, ensure your business has the least amount of disruption and set up a structure that will keep you running smoothly well into the future. Give us a call at 888.323.3066.

As business owners, we all want to save money. We want our employees to get more done in less time. And you want technology that just does what it’s supposed to do. Let’s review three ways you can ensure you’re making the right technology decisions for your business.

  • Understanding that “free” often comes at a cost. The old saying is true: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Saving money in any way possible is a top priority for most small business owners, but when it comes to choosing technology, it pays to think through the downsides of free solutions. They could end up costing your business in the form of frustration and lost productivity. A free software program may have a number of the features you need, but getting it to seamlessly interface with your business applications can be a daunting challenge. In most cases, “Free” also means you won’t have access to customer support when something does go wrong, and you’ll be on your own to correct the problems. Reach out to us as a first step if you want to ensure you can learn how to use a solution, and get assistance from GCInfotech with integrating it with other applications and fixing issues when they arise. A sound alternative to “free solution” is to pay a reasonable monthly or annual subscription for cloud solutions.
  • Choose IT solutions that can multi-task.Multitask Too often small businesses often fall into the trap of implementing technology that addresses only one specific task. For example, maybe you need the ability to share large files with customers or partners outside your company, so you sign up for a file-sharing service. Free or not, choosing a one trick pony for simple tasks like file sharing might actually cost you more in the long run in the form of lost productivity since you’re likely missing out on collaboration tools and integration with your email and productivity applications that would take file sharing to the next level. Start by doing your homework when choosing an application or service to accomplish a single task, think through related tasks and look for an offering that lets you do more than one thing. Time spent understanding what your choices are will provide benefits in the future.
  • Give yourself options. Smart business owners are like good football quarterbacks; they want plenty of options. This is especially true when it comes to how you and your employees communicate with one another. There was a time when email revolutionized how people communicate at work, but today, your employees should have plenty of options for communicating with one another depending on the situation. Instead of having to reply to an email and wait for a response, they should be able to open an instant messaging window directly from an email and get an urgent answer right then and there. Sticking with that theme, they should be able to call the office of a colleague and have the phone system find them if they are not at their desks. They should be able to initiate voice calls and schedule web and video conferences right from their email inbox. Give your team options and you’ll benefit from efficiency and increased productivity.

 

 

Have you asked yourself if blogging is a relevant marketing strategy for your business in 2014?  Would it surprise you to know that 60% of businesses that blog acquire more customers.  (Source: Hubspot)

As a small business owner you might wonder if it’s worth the investment to blog, since the largest investment is your time. The truth is, if done right, it will be your best inbound marketing tool available to you. Many small businesses create a website that remains static over time with no new content. This is not a good  marketing strategy. You need to keep your website fluid with company updates and helpful information so your customers and potential customers will want to visit your site. One of the best ways to do this is to blog. This does require a large commitment on your part, as it takes at least 50 posts for Google to index you. To increase your search engine rankings and traffic to your site you will need quality, unique content with the right keywords and phrases. If this seems like a lot of work, keep in mind that the average company that blogs generates 55% more website visitors, 97% more inbound links, and 434 more indexed pages. (Source: Ignite Spot)

bloggingWhat makes a good blog? For a small company, you want to give your site a personality, allowing visitors to identify with you, while promoting your brand. How can this be done? People relate to other people, so let them know who you are. Use visuals, whether images or videos to engage your visitors and let them see behind the scenes of your company.  A good way to do this is to showcase your employees and add personal stories. Your goal should be to give visitors a way to identify with your company while giving them added value. Provide them with useful information about your industry, share useful tips and while doing so you are demonstrating your expertise. A blog that visitors can identify with, will increase the chance they will sign up for email newsletters. Encourage comments and feedback, you will learn a lot about your potential customers this way.

Google, Bing and Yahoo are currently the three leading search engines. They are constantly upgrading their ranking algorithms to improve search results for their users. Why is this something you need to keep in mind? Because it affects whether your site will show up in search results. Recently Google introduced speed as a feature of its algorithm so your site loading time is now more important than ever. Analytical software is available to review your website loading speed. You can try  Google’s at:  https://www.developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights . The number of inbound links to your site is also an important measurement used in ranking. Want to know how many linked pages your website has? Hubspot has a feature that lets you enter your url into //marketing.grader.com and will email you a report.

Not sure where to start with improving your website and creating a blog? Give GCInfotech a call to discuss the available options that would work best for you. Together, we can make your business work smarter, faster and more efficiently.

Business Blogging(Source: Ignite Spot)

As 21st century companies, we’ve all settled into the information age quite nicely. We save all of our important company data on our file servers. We send and receive our corporate communications through email.  We even source vendors and do our banking online. With all of this data going back and forth, it’s no wonder available storage space on our hard drives gets pretty tight.

Most of us would rather give up an arm, than give up our computers but we don’t really give them the TLC they need.  Getting rid of outdated or useless files and programs, or just learning the best way to organize all our stuff can make a big difference to the storage space as well as the processing time of the computer.  Simple things like keeping a clean desktop on your Mac, can really make a difference.

Has your file server become the digital equivalent of that drawer in your kitchen where you put all the stuff you don’t have a place for?

Even if you were forward thinking when you installed your server and you have plenty of space, don’t pat yourself on the back yet because that extra data may cost you in the long run. If you are including that data in your backup, it may end up costing you. And if you need to upgrade your server, it’s going to cost you for the additional storage space and time required migrating all that data to the new server.

So now you are wondering what to do. Just remember that data is only as good as its relevance. Information related to any of your important clients is always relevant. Let’s focus on the information for those clients that you haven’t done work with in years, or might not exist anymore. Here are some tips for getting a handle on your data:

  • Clean up or delete draft copies.
  • Clean up old, out of date information. Chances are you will Google something for the latest information anyway.
  • Clean up your email. Junk mail is just that, junk. Delete it.
  • Organize your files. By creating yearly sub-folders, you will be able to clearly see the age of some of your data.
  • Uninstall unused programs. When a program is installed, it creates connections between the program and the operating system. Even if you don’t use these programs, they can slow down your system.

In the case of data on your computer, more is not always better. Organize, prioritize, and then purge.

As always, GCInfotech can walk you through the process, ensure your business has the least amount of disruption and set up a structure that will keep you organized in the future. We can help you with data backup and protection, as well as moving your data to the cloud.

Contact GCInfotech IT Professionals today to talk about your data organization and protection. Call us 203 327 5700

We’ve been programmed to think the newest or latest version of something is a “must have” but in the case of Windows 8, there is a lot to consider.

Former Microsoft Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky described Windows 8 as “a generational change” the likes of which hasn’t been made since Windows 95. And indeed, the majority of the information found on the Web concerning Windows 8 is how brilliant it is on mobile devices. However, the praise ends there and the critics raise their heads when the conversation turns to Windows 8 on desktops and laptops. 

Pros and Cons

As with anything, there is good and bad.  It’s a completely capable OS and should not be totally dismissed but it’s worth weighing some of the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Runs on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones
  • Faster start up. Also performs quicker when run through several benchmark performance tests than either Windows 7 (or Apple’s Mountain Lion).
  • Battery life has significantly improved on laptops and tablets.
  • Features like File History, Storage Space and improved Internet Explorer (although all of these are available in previous versions of Windows).
  • New feature SecureBoot, which has the potential to reduce viruses and other malware for some users.
  • Access to apps and upgrades available through the new Windows Store

Cons:

  • Mobile-centric design which wastes screen “real estate” on desktops/laptops.
  • Involves a steep learning curve.
  • No systems tray; the Start button/menu has disappeared, as well as the Programs menu (although Microsoft has some changes planned in Windows 8.1 due out shortly).
  • Interface is clumsy and wildly unpopular.

The online IT magazine TechRepulic conducted a poll of its membership of IT professionals in October 2012 in which 72.9% of respondents (over 1200 respondents in total) stated their organizations have no plans to deploy Windows 8 in the near future, 23.8% reporting that they will skip the OS altogether. 61.2% of the respondents who do plan to deploy Windows 8 indicated tablet/mobile integration was a major factor in doing so.

So how do you know what to do?

When all the tech blogs are crammed with people’s opinions, rather than straight facts, it’s sometimes hard to know if you should take the plunge or not.  We are of the opinion that if your organization is looking to make a big move towards mobile or touchscreen devices, then Windows 8 may be a good way to go.  Undeniably, Windows 8 shines most on a touchscreen system.

If it’s business as usual in your office then there is no good reason to upgrade at this point given the level of disruption and subsequent training it would entail.  However, take note that change is coming and Windows 8 is a glimpse into the future.

What if you need a new computer?

Currently there are still new computers on the market that use the Windows 7 operating systems, particularly through resellers such as CDW.com. Additionally, you can still buy the Windows 7 software to upgrade from Windows XP and some Windows 8 licenses can be downgraded to Windows 7.  But we suspect time is running out, so make a decision quickly.

Manufacturers of computers will soon be forcing you to pick Windows 8 if you want an OS.  When this happens, there are a few options available so don’t feel trapped. For instance, Dell offers computers with no OS without the cost of a Windows OS license.  Some Windows 7 keys are transferable to a new computer, assuming you remove the key/OS from the old computer.  You will have to install the OS yourself and call Microsoft to transfer the key, but it’s a perfectly reasonable way to continue using Windows 7 and save some money (be aware – this will depend on who manufactured both the old and the new machines).

Whether you decide to upgrade or stick with what you have, GCInfotech can walk you through the process and ensure your business has the least amount of disruption.

 

What is Email Spoofing anyway?

Email spoofing is the forgery of an email header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source. Spammers spoof mail headers in emails to increase the spam message’s seeming legitimacy: you’re more likely to open email that purports to come from a person or a company you know than email that comes from a total stranger.

It’s a real nuisance.

If your email has been spoofed, there is a chance you would not even realize it. However, it’s more likely that you will know because any bounced emails will come back to your inbox – and they could come by the hundreds. This does not necessarily mean your computer or email account has been compromised — no one has actually logged in and sent an email from it in this case (although that does happen as well) – the spammer is “spoofing” your account.

What can be done about it?

Email spoofing is a growing problem and has reached the point where you cannot rely on the information displayed in your email to tell you who really sent a message. Some jurisdictions have enacted laws against this form of “email identity theft,” but the more effective solution is apt to be a technological one that makes it possible to authenticate the senders of email messages.

The technologies listed below all seek to verify that every email message originates from the Internet domain from which it claims to have been sent. This is accomplished by checking the address of the server that sent the mail against a registered list of servers that the domain owner has authorized to send email. This is performed by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and can be incorporated into the filtering tasks that are already performed by the mail server.

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
  • Sender ID Framework (SIDF)
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
  • Author Domain Signing Practices (ADSP)

Using these methods, emails can still be forged but they are much less effective because they are not getting through to the recipients. However, they only work if the recipient’s mail server checks for these protection mechanisms.

What should you do?

-> If you own a domain (website address) and send emails from that domain, you should communicate with your domain name registrar and/or DNS provider to determine what strategies are in place to protect you against email spoofers.

-> If you are the recipient of the email, you can write to the administrator or contact the owner of the domain and ask them to implement a protection strategy, but ultimately you need to rely on SPAM filtering, because it is the domain owners responsibility to use these technologies, not the recipients.

These protection strategies are all optional, and somewhat new technologies. Not everyone uses them, so they cannot be required. Plus, it doesn’t matter how much a sender does to protect himself, if the recipient’s mail server isn’t looking for these specific things.

However, these technologies are just more tools in the toolbox to fight email spammers. Our recommendation is to use as many as you have access to and can afford. Let us help you put measures in place to protect your email communications as much as possible. Your company’s reputation and credibility could be at risk. Give us a call at 888.323.3066.

Will your Company Survive?

In our interconnected world, virtually every aspect of your company’s operation is vulnerable to disruption. Research shows your business is more vulnerable than you think.  

But what is Business Continuity anyway?
Business Continuity is the activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, or anyone that must have access to those functions. It’s not something implemented at the time of a disaster (too late!) – it refers to those tasks you should perform daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability.  Your Business Continuity Plan should be something that is constantly evolving and adapting to changes in the business environment.

So what are the first steps?
The entire concept of business continuity is based on identifying and then prioritizing all business functions within an organization. A comprehensive business risk analysis is the primary tool for gathering this information and is therefore the first step to developing your business continuity plan.

What if disaster strikes?
Does your business have what it takes to survive?

Web


It’s all in the Planning!
Establishing a continuity and disaster recovery plan is an essential part of any long-term strategy for maintaining continuous business operations. Sound disaster recovery and business continuity planning should be three things: preventive, detective, and corrective. Prevention is your first line of defense. But when undesirable events do occur, detection before they occur is critical, and correcting the system after they occur may dictate the survival of your business.

Natural disasters, security breaches and man-made accidents do happen. It’s how we plan for them that will ensure our survival.

According to the Quorum Disaster Recovery Report, Q1 2013, which details findings on the most common causes of system downtime, the four most common causes of system downtime were: 1) Hardware Failure  2) Human Error  3) Software Failure and 4) Natural Disaster.

Case Study
A media company in Wilton, CT recently asked for our help because they consistently lose power in the office anytime there is a storm and it was significantly affecting their business.  We couldn’t help that the power was going out and we certainly couldn’t influence the weather, but we could help them continue to be productive when these things happened. We made some changes to their email system that took it from an in-house function to an externally hosted function that would not be affected when the power went out in the office.  By doing this, it gives the employees the ability to continue to be productive and access their email from home or anywhere there is an Internet connection.  In this case, simple preventive steps to ensure everyone could use email despite external factors has allowed for business continuity following a storm and has made a big impact on productivity.

GCInfotech can help you assess how potential risks will impact your ability to deliver products and services.

Don’t get caught unaware.

You never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression.

Its the first place potential customers, employees or investors will go to learn about you, your company and what you represent. In a few short seconds visitors to your website size-up your image, make a judgment call, and either engage or move on.

Search engines and potential customers look for impact from your website in two major areas: Relevance and Trust. Building both can drive your credibility and your business forward. Begin by asking yourself a few key questions:

  1. Why do we have a website?
  2. What purpose is it supposed to serve?
  3. Do people immediately “get” what our business is all about, what we value, and how we’re going to solve their problem?

Recently a business owner came to GCInfotech looking website optimization. He envisioned a more intelligent, user-friendly and feature-rich website that would engage and convert more potential customers. He also wanted the ability to manage his website’s content and structure so that he didn’t have to spend money every time he needed to make a change or for ongoing maintenance.

Our development team worked with him to convert his flat HTML-based website into a robust user-friendly Joomla-based content management system (CMS) that was SEO ready and could be customized to meet his exact specifications. We migrated the current content from his previous website and incorporated exciting new functionality like an advanced product search and virtual facility tour that help visitors get the answers they need quickly and efficiently. We developed a two-hour training program to train select employees on how to change content like text, links and images, as well as make simple modifications to a page’s layout and structure so they had the power to manage the site on their own.

Your website is a strategic part of your business.

Even when you’re not at work, your website should be helping your business grow. Ask yourself what your website is doing for you and whether it’s aligned with your business needs and objectives. The GCInfotech professional web design team is here to help.

security

Protect your business with mission critical data back-up strategies.

Inadequate protection or spotty management of critical data can have profound effects on sustainability. Regular scheduled testing of your data back-up strategy and implementing a daily back-up routine will help prevent the disasters that prove fatal for many companies.

  • 31% of PC users have lost all of their files due to events beyond their control.
  • 34% of companies fail to test their onsite back-up solution, and of those that do, 77% have found back-up failures.
  • 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.
  • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States.
  • Simple drive recovery can cost upwards of $7,500 and success is not guaranteed.

GCInfotech recommends that you assess your existing data protection and data back-up strategy and consult your IT professional to learn what data repository and storage medium options are available. It’s important to understand traditional backup methods as well as the benefits of developing an enhanced protection solution that flexibly meets the challenges of today’s business environment.

Fun Facts: 

  • There are over 600 IT firms in Ireland, including Intel, Google, HP, & Dell.
  • Irish firms in the US employ over 80,000 people in the 50 states.
  • Since 1956 Ireland has maintained one of the lowest corporate tax rates.
  • The US is Ireland’s top export destination.  
  • US tech investment in Ireland is higher than Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.
  • There are 36.9 million US residents with Irish roots. This number is more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.6 million).
Information Technology Services

An I.T. Manager’s New Year’s Resolution

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to review your systems maintenance program, tweak your plans and processes and optimize your overall I.T. strategy.

Review, Evaluate and Optimize.
More than likely, your business could live or die based on your IT strategy. We have all become dependent on our technology both in our personal and professional lives, so be sure to give it the TLC it needs. Review your key procedures and plans such as network failure testing, disaster recovery, business continuity, virus protection and data backup (for an integrated, online backup, storage and sharing application, click here). For those of you with an on-site backup solution, now is the perfect time to run those backups with a test recovery. With erratic weather on the rise and winter around the corner, taking the time to be sure you have a tight, foolproof strategy in place to keep both your systems and your information protected from loss or damage.

Be Smart About Your Data.
Inadequate protection or spotty management of critical data can have a profound effect on sustainability. Regularly scheduled testing of your backup strategy and implementing a daily backup routine will help prevent the disasters that prove fatal for many companies.

  • 31% of PC users have lost all of their files due to events beyond their control.
  • 34% of companies fail to test their onsite backup solution, and of those that do, 77% have found back-up failures.
  • 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.
  • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States.
  • Simple drive recovery can cost upwards of $7,500 and success is not guaranteed.

We recommend assessing your existing data protection strategy and learn what data repository and storage medium options are available. It’s important to understand traditional backup methods as well as the benefits of developing an enhanced protection solution that meets the needs of your particular business.

Think of it as a Flu Shot for your Systems.
There are lots of people out there determined to infect your computers with viruses. Optimize your security with new or updated anti-virus, Spyware and Malware software. Be wary of free anti-virus software that sounds too good to be true because it often is.  You get what you pay for, and software that protects your computer needs regular and consistent updating to stay useful because viruses are constantly being generated. This is especially important if you use a networked computer system. Do your homework,  invest in effective software and keep it updated. (For an easy-to-use, simple, and effective anti-malware application, try Malwarebytes)
Give your Computer a Tune Up.
Straight out of the box, computers have often been loaded with unnecessary programs at the factory.  So, from day 1, your computer is accumulating software programs, update reminders, “bonus” software, and random files that you don’t need and over time it will become increasingly sluggish. By taking a few important steps, you can get it running efficiently again, for a lot longer. The first thing you should do is disable the programs that start up when your computer boots.  While there are many places this can occur, the easiest one to check is the Startup menu in your Programs menu. Additionally, simple tasks such as clean out your Windows Registry, remove unneeded files and programs, empty your recycling bin or trash, and perform a disc defragmentation can make a huge difference.  Even if your computer has been performing slowly for some time, beginning this regimen is sure to produce results.

Email – a Blessing or a Burden?

Most of us are guilty of being slaves to our inbox, whether we like to admit it or not. We keep every thing that has ever been sent to us out of some sort of unfounded fear of not having it should we ever need it. And the “reply all” function makes it exponentially worse. Well, each of those emails, particularly the ones with large attachments, take up space on your computer  – and space in your head when you are actually trying to find something. Email is the third largest culprit of workplace interruptions and email mismanagement costs you money.   Take charge and clean up that clutter by creating folders and subfolders to organize your communications. Save the attachments that you will need later onto your hard drive in a logical place, then delete the email if its unnecessary. Set your computer to delete your Trash after 30 days. Anything you can think of to reduce the number of emails in your actual inbox will save you time and money down the road.

GCInfotech can get you started on the path to a leaner, more efficient IT strategy. If you don’t have an IT Manager to make a New Year’s Resolution for you, then give us a call.