Can Your Business Survive A Disaster?

Disasters. They do happen — it’s only a matter of ‘when’. While most businesses acknowledge it, surveys show that only one in four companies worldwide have adequate protection in the event of a major disruption. We’re not talking about insurance here, but a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan that could save you thousands of dollars in losses and worse, a business closure. If you haven’t heard much about what DR is, this post will help you gain some insight about what it is and how it can affect the future of your business.

As we all know, unpredictability is a fact of life. The aftermath of Tropical Storm Bill in Texas and recent floods in South Carolina are a grim and unfortunate lesson for many overconfident business owners who think their companies are spared from the likelihood of cataclysmic weather, technological malfunctions, or human actions. A 2014 survey by the IT Disaster Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council reveals just how many companies worldwide are at risk: 73 percent of SMBs are failing in terms of disaster readiness. What does this mean? It means that 3 out of 4 companies aren’t prepared to handle emergencies and save their businesses from a worse-case scenario.

If it’s not clear and compelling enough for a business owner like yourself to consider putting a well-conceived Disaster Recovery (DR) plan into place, perhaps it’s time to give it some thought. Doing so can save you years of business loss. Here is some useful information about what DR is all about and how it can ensure your business’s survival in the wake of unforeseen circumstances.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery is a plan for restoring and accessing your data in the event of a disaster that destroys part or all of a business’s resources. It is a key component involving many aspects of business operations that requires this information to function. The job of a DR plan is to ensure that whatever happens, your vital data can be recovered and mission-critical applications will be brought back online in the shortest possible time.

What kind of disasters are likely to happen?

Business disasters can either be natural, technological, or man-made. Natural types of disasters include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, and even a pest infestation. On the other hand, technological and man-made disasters involve hazardous material spills, infrastructural or power failure, nuclear power plant meltdown or blast, chemical threat and biological weapons, cyber attacks, explosions, or acts of terrorism and civil unrest.

Why does your business need DR?

Regardless of industry or size, when an unforeseen event takes place and causes day-to-day operations to come to a halt, a company will need to recover as quickly as possible to ensure you will continue providing services to clients and customers. Downtime is one of the biggest IT expenses that any business can face. Based on 2015 disaster recovery statistics, downtime that lasts for one hour can cost small companies as much as $8,000, mid-size organizations $74,000, and $700,000 for large enterprises.

For SMBs particularly, any extended loss of productivity can lead to reduced cash flow through late invoicing, lost orders, increased labor costs as staff work extra hours to recover from the downtime, missed delivery dates, and so on. If major business disruptions are not anticipated and addressed today, it’s very possible that these negative consequences resulting from an unexpected disaster can have long-term implications that affect a company for years. By having a Disaster Recovery plan in place, a company can save itself from multiple risks including out of budget expenses, reputation loss, data loss, and the negative impact on clients and customers.

How do I create a DR strategy for my business?

Creating, implementing and maintaining a total business recovery plan is time-consuming but extremely important to ensure your business’s survival. Many organizations don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to this process. If you would like to protect your company from unexpected disasters but need further guidance and information on how to get started, give us a call and our experts will be happy to discuss Disaster Recovery options and solutions with you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

The true story of an SMB attacked by hackers

When big companies like Dropbox or Ashley Madison are hacked, the whole world hears about it. But how often do you hear about cyber attacks on the SMBs of the world? Probably not often, or never. Well, today, that’s all about to change. The NY Times recently ran an article telling the story of a small business, just like you, who suffered a major cyber attack. Here’s the story, and some ideas as to how to protect your business.

Last holiday season, Rokenbok Education, a small, California-based toy company of seven employees realized its worse nightmare. During the busiest time of the sales year, the files in their database had become unusable, infected with malware. The hackers used ransomware, a malware designed to hold a business’s data hostage, to encrypt their files and demanded a payment to make them usable again. However, instead of paying the ransom, Rokenbok restructured their key system. To do this it took four days. That’s four days of downtime, lost sales, and confused customers who likely lost confidence in the integrity of their company. Luckily this did not put Rokenbok Education out of business. But many SMBs aren’t so fortunate, and are forced to close after such a security debacle.

So why do security breaches like this happen to SMBs?

There are many reasons, but a common one is that small and medium-sized businesses often focus on profits over security. And really, it’s hard to blame them. When you’re small, you want to grow your organization as quickly as possible. And you likely think that because you’re small, no one is going to attack you. However, nowadays hackers are on to this way of thinking. They know that SMBs don’t focus as much on security, which make them a perfect target. In fact, according to Timothy C. Francis, the enterprise lead for Cyber Insurance at Travelers, 60 percent of all online attacks in 2014 targeted SMBs.

So what can your business do to protect itself against online attacks? There are a range of options, but it’s best to start off with an audit of your current security system to see where the holes are. This audit should check areas of risk which include customer data, employee access, and assets such as servers, computers and all Internet-enable devices.

After that, an obvious thing to do is to strengthen your passwords. While this has been said thousands of times over, many SMB owners do not take heed. Clay Calvert, the director of security at the Virginia-based firm MetroStar Systems, notes that hackers analyze how we create passwords and use big data analytics to crack them. “They have databases of passwords,” Calvert said. The best way to create a strong password is to make it long with a mix of characters. Password managers that encrypt your passwords can also help.

Aside from passwords, there are many other ways to boost your business’s security that include installing a firewall, keeping your antivirus up-to-date, and moving data over to the cloud (instead of storing it on company servers). Also, since many security attacks occur because an employee clicked on a malicious website or link, training your employees is a smart move. A good way to start this training is to create an employee manual that includes security guidelines they must follow. For ongoing training, you can keep them up-to-date on the latest security threats through email updates and regular meetings. Once you feel confident that your employees are up-to-speed and your security practices are updated, you can try hiring ethical hackers to test your systems and try to break through your security. This will let you know if there are any security holes you missed.

Calling in a security specialist

However, if all of this sounds far too much to bother with, consider outsourcing your security to a service provider that specializes in digital security. This can oftentimes save valuable time and money in the long run. Best of all, this can provide peace of mind, knowing that you have a security specialist watching over your business.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start with your business’s security, we’re happy to help perform a thorough audit and provide you the digital security solution you need to keep your business protected. Security worries don’t have to keep you up at night, and we can help you implement the measures that will protect your business from disastrous security problems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Simplifying business intelligence

When it comes to business intelligence, you may think there’s no easier way to simplify your data than to organize it into a graph or chart. Business owners have been using this method for decades, so what else could be better than that? Well, a new product on the market is striving to make business intelligence even simpler. Here’s the scoop.

Earlier this week, the Chicago-based company, Narrative Science, integrated with the business intelligence and visualization software company, Qlik. The fruit of this integration is a new way of looking at your data beyond your standard charts and graphs. Yes, charts and graphs are still used, but now there is a new element that comes into play: story. Qlik now enables businesses to take the data on their charts and graphs and automatically turn it into a narrative that will explain the most important and relevant points of their data. These stories are presented in easily understood, natural language and can be personalized to the audience who is reading them. For example, if you want to change the format, language style or detail of the story, you can easily adjust these.

How storytelling can help with business intelligence

While charts and graphs are easy to read for people who are regularly looking at them, there can be a learning curve for those who are new to the specific set of data they’re analyzing. And when you are presenting a series of charts and graphs to a group of colleagues, it may be difficult for you to convey the data in an easily understandable way. This is why storytelling can be a vital tool with your business intelligence efforts.

Everyone can relate to a story. In fact people have been doing so since the stone age as evident by the carvings on cave walls depicting different tales. Today, all it takes is a simple click of your remote to see hundreds of different stories appear on your TV. Storytelling makes it easy to digest information for anyone. This is why both morals and ethics are often illustrated in parables or stories to convey their message. These stories that many of us heard from childhood, like the story of King Solomon who suggested cutting a living child in two to settle an argument or of King Midas and the golden touch, remain in the minds of many of us for a lifetime.

Stories stick in our brains. And they can make it easy to understand complex information, which can be especially helpful when it comes to data. This is why Qlik’s new data to story function sounds so exciting. It aims to make it easier to present data in a more user friendly way. This will hopefully save time and headaches for people trying to understand complex data. Of course, since it is so new, only time will tell what kind of impact it will have and whether or not it will live up to expectation.

Want more of the latest business intelligence news? Need help making sense out of your data, or looking for other ways new technology can help? Get in touch with our IT experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

More to social media value than meets the eye

When it comes to social media, figuring just what, if any, value it offers your business can be complicated. There is no exact science when it comes to figuring it out and even experts disagree as to just what is and is not important when measuring the value of your company’s social media. The reality is that there is no tried and true method to solving this enigma, but we will offer you some advice on how you can uncomplicate the mystery.

ocial media is important for your business and it can have a great deal of value for your company if utilized correctly. Of course measuring this value is an imperfect science. While we don’t have a magic formula to help you figure it out, we do have a few things for you to consider when it comes to estimating it for yourself.

Followers matter but…

…they are not the end all be all when it comes to your social media efforts. When social media first started, it was all about how many followers you had. In the eyes of consumers, more followers equaled more credibility. However, that sentiment is no longer a prevailing thought among consumers and the number of followers you have won’t make or break your organization.

However, having a lot of followers does still reflect well on your business and it also gives you an easy way to reach your target audience directly. This is where it becomes important to monitor things like average clicks, the number of clicks the page you shared got, and conversion rate – the number of people who clicked on your share that turned into a sale or lead. If you have 100,000 followers but don’t get clicks, then your social media doesn’t hold a whole lot of value. The next point comes in handy if you’re having trouble monitoring all of these.

Simplify the way you monitor social media

A lot of businesses make a simple mistake that convolutes the way they estimate the value of social media. That mistake is failing to create unique campaigns and contact points for each social media channel. Doing this can make it difficult to determine just what leads and sales are coming from which media. Here’s an example for you. Your business shares a link on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to a page on your website where people can download a free report. You get 150 people to download which is good but it can be hard to determine just where everyone came from to download the report unless you have advanced tools like Google Analytics at your disposal.

That’s why for every promotion or pitch page on your website that you share via social media, you should create a distinct URL for each one so you can easily monitor where people are coming from. This will help you understand what kind of value each of your social media channels has. You might also want to consider creating a separate phone number for each social media channel so that way when a person does call, you will know where they came from. This option is especially easy and cost effective to implement if you have a VoIP phone system in place.

Set social media goals

Without goals in place, it’s pretty hard to figure out the value of anything including social media. If you already have social media goals established, then these are probably the place to start in determining the value of your company’s social media. If goals have not been set up, you are going to want to create some and see if your company is able to reach these. That’s because the easiest way to determine if something has business value is to establish if it can help your company reach its goals. If you see that social media isn’t doing this, then you’ll need to reconfigure your strategy accordingly. If social media is adding value, then you will want to dig deeper using different tools to get a better idea of just what that value is.

If you aren’t using social media to add value to your business, then you are losing out. And if you aren’t utilising technology to assist in these efforts then you are really falling behind. Talk to our experts today to see how you can get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Top YouTube marketing tips

If you’re not considering YouTube for your business’s marketing strategy, you’re truly missing out on one of the most powerful marketing platforms out there. YouTube gives you the opportunity to establish your business’s unique brand and personality through video. If you’re just starting out on YouTube marketing and don’t have a specific strategy in mind, check out these tips to create great videos and attract more viewers.

Keep it short and simple

Most people have short attention spans and won’t watch videos that are longer than a couple of minutes unless they’re really interested. This means lengthy videos might not perform as well as you might hope, since viewers are likely to be turned off completely. There’s no fixed formula here, but the idea is to create videos that convey your intended message within five minutes at most. If you have the need for longer videos, simply split them into small segments – this is another great way to keep your visitors hooked and make them want to come back for more.

Use humor in your videos

Have you ever wondered why the funny videos on YouTube earn so many hits in such a short time? That’s because people love humor. We all like a good laugh. There are several YouTube channels out there that have had huge success by injecting humor into their videos. You don’t have to make your audience fall on their backs laughing – just flashing a little sense of humor will do the trick.

Consider quality over quantity

With the vast number of amateur and low-quality videos that come up on YouTube’s search results, you need to go the extra mile and make your video stand out from the competition. It’s worth investing in a high-quality video camera if you’re serious about YouTube marketing. Each of your videos should contain helpful and engaging content. And before posting it live, make sure to ask for a second or third pair of eyes to go through it again. This way you can take out the fluff and polish the videos so they’re appealing to viewers.

Set engaging titles

When it comes to YouTube marketing, this is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind. Make sure you include relevant keywords in the title, so your viewers know what to expect to see in your video. The general rule of thumb is to keep it clear and concise, since long titles will be truncated in YouTube’s search results. Another thing is to refrain from using misleading titles that trick people into watching your video. Not only will your viewers hit the close button right away, this cheap trick will also have a negative impact on your video’s ranking.

Promote your videos

YouTube videos have a high chance of ranking well in Google, being the search engine giant’s subsidiary and following similar search algorithms. But this is no excuse to skimp on marketing. There are many ways to promote your videos to your specific target audience. Using relevant keywords and descriptions may help with organic traffic, but there’s also paid options like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads that will help you earn more exposure for your videos.

YouTube is a great tool to generate traffic and interact with your customers online. But do keep in mind that no matter how great your videos are, they won’t get seen if you don’t promote them well enough. If you want to learn how to maximize your YouTube marketing campaigns, get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.