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February 1st, 2013

The cloud has been an instrumental driver of the success of modern tablets. When it comes to tablets using the iOS (iPad and iPad mini), the cloud is often used to integrate files across devices, as often more than one service is utilized. This means that if you use the cloud, you likely have more than one app and likely struggle to manage or share files across different services. A new app makes managing all your different cloud storage services far easier.

Readdle Documents is an app for iPad users that acts as a central platform that connects with cloud storage providers like Dropbox, Box, iCloud, Drive, etc. and allows users to keep their multiple services organized.

What exactly is Documents? Documents is an app that enables users to manage their various cloud services. This robust app also allows users to view Word documents, PDFs, listen to music and watch video stored on various services directly in the app.

The functionality doesn't stop there however, as you can also copy files from one service and move them to another directly in the app. No more having to download files from one and upload to another. You can also use this app to save web pages for reading at a later date, which could be useful if you are going to be away from data or Wi-Fi for an extended period of time.

There is one downside to the app: You can't edit documents. If you need to edit a document you have to do so in the app the document is stored in.

Will businesses benefit? If you use multiple cloud storage apps in your business, the Documents app will be beneficial in helping you access and manage files on the go. At best, this is an organizational tool to help make accessing files easier. One really positive element of this app that many businesses owners will like is that it's free. Another benefit is that you also have the option to password protect files.

While this app might be free, if you don't use cloud storage services this probably isn't the best app for you. However, there are enough features to benefit users of cloud services, making this app potentially valuable.

How do I get the app? Documents is available on the Apple App Store. Once you have downloaded the app onto your iPad, start it up and you'll be able to add your cloud services by clicking on Network (located on the left-hand menu) and selecting the service you use. Input your account information and you should be ready to go.

If you would like to learn more about Documents, or how the iPad can fit into your business, get in touch with us. We are happy to sit down with you and tell you more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 30th, 2013

The tablet is arguably the most popular technical device of the past two years. There are currently two major tablet systems: iOS on the iPad, and Android. Android tablets are made by numerous manufacturers and are nearly a dime a dozen. One Android product line you hear about more than any other is Nexus. While most users know that Nexus exists many are unclear about what exactly it is.

To begin with, devices labeled with Nexus are Google branded phones and tablets made by different manufacturers that often come in different sizes. Below is a brief overview of the different types of Nexus devices, how they differ from other Android devices based on hardware and software, plus how to buy them.

Nexus devices
As noted above: Nexus devices carry the Google brand. Flip one over and you will see the Google logo featured prominently on the back. What this means is that in countries like the US and Canada, the device is sold through Google’s website. Google does not manufacture these devices, instead relying on companies like Samsung, Asus and LG to produce them.

There are currently three Nexus devices available from the Google store: The Nexus 4 – a 4-inch smartphone made by LG; Nexus 7 – a 7-inch tablet made by Asus; and the Nexus 10 – a 10-inch tablet made by Samsung. You can still find older devices like the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, etc. available from a variety of different cell providers.

Nexus hardware
Google views the release of a specific Nexus device as what Android devices should be. This means they have near top-of-the-line components and are often considered high-end when they are released. It’s easy to think of the them as the benchmark – hardware wise – for the other Android devices, up to a year after the release.

Because of the large number of manufacturers turning out Android tablets and phones, you can bet that any device, Nexus included, will soon be surpassed by another in a matter of months. However, most tablets are powerful enough that users often don’t notice the difference, so there’s really no need to worry about bigger and better with the Nexus – at least not for a year or two.

Nexus software
Where the Nexus models excel is software. Google’s Android OS is now in it’s eleventh version, yet most users are still using devices with versions from 2011 and 2012. This fragmentation happens largely because manufacturers apply their own OS layout that needs to be updated when Google releases a new version of Android. This can take months.

Nexus machines receive OS updates a few days to a month after Google releases them. This means that for at least two years they will be running the latest version. These devices also don’t have custom layouts, so you get a ‘pure’ Android experience, or as Google calls it ‘Vanilla Android’.

In other words, if you want a device that runs the latest and greatest software and OS, Nexus is the way to go.

Buying a Nexus
As Nexus devices are considered high-end, you might think that the devices come with a high-end cost too. That’s not 100% true though. For example, the Nexus 7 tablet is sold at cost (USD$199 for the 8GB version). In comparison, the iPad Mini starts at over USD$300. In general, Nexus devices retail at an affordable cost for the intended market. If you are looking for a high-end Android tablet, the Nexus is one of the best value devices on the market.

That being said, if you have a set budget, and aren’t worried about a device running the latest and greatest version of Android, you shouldn’t feel pressured to get a Nexus. There are many Android devices out there that could meet your needs and budget. Not to mention that almost all apps on the Google Play store will run on a large variety of devices, so you can still access the same apps.

If you have your heart set on a Nexus then check out the Nexus store. For those who can’t access this, many big electronics stores also offer the devices, often at the same price as the Google store. To learn more about Android and your business, why not give us a shout? We’ll be happy to sit down and have a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
January 4th, 2013

The year is over and looking back, 2012 was a good year for tablets, and mobile in general. Looking forward, 2013 is shaping up to see continued growth in tablet adoption. With this growth, it may be time to start looking into mobile advertising. While relatively new, mobile advertising is set to become one of the next major advertising mediums. The only question is: How do you get in on this?

One of the easiest ways to get in on the mobile advertising boom is through the use of mobile ad networks. There are over 150 available, serving more than 10 different niches. This will likely grow exponentially over the next few years as the demand for mobile marketing and the number of mobile devices continue to grow.

Sure, mobile advertising is the next big thing, but how do I figure out A. who the companies offering services are, and B. what companies offer what services? To help answer this question, mobyaffialiates has recently posted an infographic/map of which companies offer which form of mobile ad services.

This is an interesting infographic because you can click on the names of the companies to be taken to an overview of what each company does and the regions/areas they work in. It's definitely worth a look if your company is interested in launching a mobile advertising campaign. Some companies even offer ad development, so this could be your key to a successful campaign.

With the increasing number of Android tablets in use, it may be time to look into a more unique, (for now), form of advertising. If you'd like to learn more about mobile advertising, please contact us, as we may have a solution for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 13th, 2012

Historically, Q1 has been one of the best months in which to replace old tech. For many companies, the issue with this is that there is so much technology available, that issuing a desktop computer isn't going to cut it anymore. So what can a company that wants to update do?

When shopping for new technology it's beneficial to know what types of devices are out there and what circumstances they are ideal for. Below is a list of the major categories of technical devices available.

Thin clients Thin clients are a type of computer where the computing power is stored on a server. On an employee's desk there will usually be a monitor, mouse and keyboard that they use to access the system - hosted on the server. These systems are typically low power, but are generally cheap to run and maintain. Any updates are done on the server and are instantly accessible to all users. The beauty of thin clients is that the servers don't have to be in your office. They can be in another location, managed by another company - where everything runs in the cloud. Because of this, thin clients are becoming an increasingly popular option.

Due to shared resources, thin clients are ideal for positions that only require minimal computing power. For example: retail operations, restaurants, sales departments, finance departments, etc. For positions that rely on computer processing power, use programs like CAD, or use legacy systems thin clients aren't a good choice.

Desktops Desktops are the standard in the majority of offices mainly because they offer solid computing power and systems meet the needs of a wide variety of budgets and needs. Desktops can take up space and businesses usually require a solid management plan to ensure every desktop is secure and using the same software.

Desktops are ideal for employees that need computing power, or who have resource intensive roles e.g., engineers who use CAD, designers who use Photoshop Suite, etc. Desktops are not a good solution for employees who are out of the office for extended periods of time, or if you have limited physical space.

Laptops Laptops are portable, relatively cheap and can do nearly everything a desktop can. Their size means they are popular with mobile employees, e.g., salespeople, franchise owners, board members, etc. While laptops can handle many of the same tasks as their larger cousins, they do struggle with multi-tasking. If you need to have more than one window or program open it can be annoying having to constantly switch.

Tablets The iPad has shown that the tablet is here to stay, with some companies even being able to do away with the laptop. Like the bigger laptop, tablets are designed to be mobile and are ideal for keeping in touch with the office while on the road. They are perfect for employees who give lots of presentations or need to multi-task. Where they lack is in document creation and editing. While this can be done on tablets, it just takes time and a whole lot of patience.

If you have a mobile workforce that doesn't need to change documents on a regular basis e.g., salespeople at trade shows, tablets are a great choice.

Smartphones It's pretty clear that the smartphone is ideal for nearly every company. Users can check and reply to email, look at most files and many have even started to use it as their main phone. If you have employees that need to be connected to the office e.g., doctors or support staff, the smartphone is a great way for them to stay in touch while not having to be in the office.

With the sheer number of devices and uses, you can guarantee that different positions will require/benefit from different tools, and you should take this into account when looking to buy new devices. The other thing that works well is to adopt a multiple device scheme where users have complementary devices. For example, you can have one desktop for two sales staff who also have a tablet. They can use the tablet while out of the office and the desktop for heavier tasks when in the office.

The key here is to pick devices that will best complement your employees, and allow them to be productive wherever they may be. If you're looking to purchase new devices for your office this holiday season, why not contact us? We may have the perfect solution for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 5th, 2012

As we continue to see an increase in the number of tablets available, business owners and employees will naturally begin to buy them in hopes of using them for or at work. One thing users will usually do is transfer files from their computer to their device. This is most often done through a USB cord, but there may be a time when you don't have a cord and need a file. If you have an Android Tablet, there is a way to access files on your PC without a USB cable.

To wirelessly share files from your PC to your Android tablet without a cord, you can use the ES File Explorer File Management - available for free on the Google Play Store. This app does a lot more than allow you to share files from your PC, in fact it's main purpose is to access and maintain files on an Android device. There is a feature of this app which allows users to access files shared on their computer of a LAN - Local Area Network.

Here's how you can set this up: Note: The following steps are for computers running Windows 7.

Set up both devices

  1. Download and install the app on your Android tablet. It can be downloaded from here.
  2. Start the app on your device and go through the overview and brief tutorial.
  3. Navigate to the folder on your computer you would like to share with your device. You can also create a new folder on the desktop for files you want to access on your device.
  4. Right-click on the folder and select Add a network location.
  5. Click Next and a screen will display your computer's IP address which you can jot down. If your computer is the only one on the network, there's no need to do this, but if you have more than one, it's a good idea to write this address down. It should look something like 192.168.1.107 - the IP will differ, depending on the network.
  6. Set a Username and Password when you're given the option. Then click Finish. Note, if you don't set a username and password, anyone connected to the network will be able to access the folder.
Connect your Android device
  1. Connect your Android device to the same Wi-Fi network the computer is connected to.
  2. Select LAN in ES File Explorer on your Android device. It can be found by pressing the downward pointing blue arrow in the top-left side of the app.
  3. Press Search on the app. It will search and display a list of devices currently connected to the LAN.
  4. Tap the computer icon with the IP address that matches the one you jotted down above.
  5. Enter the username and password you established earlier and select Connect.
Using ES to transfer/view files After you have connected, you can tap on the icon again and you will be able to see the folder(s) you selected to share. To copy a file from your computer to your device:
  1. Tap and hold the file for a second or two to get a list of options.
  2. Press Copy to copy the file.
  3. Navigate to /sdcard/ - by flicking to the left/right on your device.
  4. Select the folder where you would like to place the file, and press and hold for a second until the menu comes up.
  5. Press Paste.
If you want to move a file from your Android tablet to your computer, you can navigate to it's location on the /sdcard/ section, then press and hold to select Copy and navigate to the LAN section. Select the folder, long-pressing on it and finally pick Paste.

There are many different apps out there that can help you integrate your Android tablet to your office. If you do choose to follow this method you should be aware that it may not be the most secure way to transfer files. It would be a good idea to contact us before you try this at the office, as we may have a solution for you that could make things even easier.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 31st, 2012

One device we’re starting to see used in business with increasing frequency is the tablet. With the resulting success of Apple’s iPad, Android device manufacturers have been pumping out tablets that compete, or at the very least meet the needs and expectations of most users. Many second and third stage adopters are wondering if the tablet is the right tool for their business.

Before we answer any questions about whether a tablet, more specifically an Android tablet, is right for your business, we need to look at the elephant in the room, the iPad. The iPad is a great device that allows users to communicate much as they would on a smartphone, just over a larger screen. The thing about the iPad, and most other tablets, is that they are generally designed for the largest audience - no, not businesses; retail consumers.

This puts businesses at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of tablet adoption, simply because modern tablets are so new that they haven’t had time to evolve and concentrate on many other mediums outside retail everyday-use. This has left businesses wondering why they should adopt tablets, and those that have try to fit the tablet to traditional uses.

Most early business adopters of the tablets, Android tablets in particular, have been using them as oversized PDAs. In this way, Android tablets excel, especially if you use Google’s products. Practically your whole office, calendar, alarms, contacts and email are in one easy to carry device. The administration side of business and Android go hand-in-hand.

The tablet is great for the road-warrior. Why carry a large, bulky laptop around for presentations when most tablets can now connect to projectors, thus enabling users to run presentations and keep notes on the same small device. Tablets are also good for giving presentations during a lunch meeting, or to a smaller group. There’s no need to rent a big space with a projector to present to a handful people.

Where the tablet starts to look less impressive for businesses is in terms of productivity. Continuing the presentation example from above: Yes, you can easily give presentations on a tablet, however creating and editing, while not impossible, takes a lot longer than on a computer. The same goes for word documents and spreadsheets. It’s an act of frustration to use advanced features of both office functions on a tablet. While this sounds like a big con, there are a number of programs expected in the near future, like Office 2013 for Android, and add-ons like keyboards, that will make it easier to be productive on a tablet.

The other hinderance of tablet adoption is that many small businesses just don’t have a way or plan on how to manage tablets in the office. A large number of backup and management solutions companies use come from before the modern tablet became so successful, and as such, they lack a way to support these devices. Consequently the value add-on of tablets might be offset by the cost of upgrading to support them.

There is a high enough adoption rate of these devices amongst companies that back-end developers and service providers are starting to work in ways to manage/integrate mobile devices into the company’s systems while keeping the cost to a minimum.

If you’re thinking of integrating an Android tablet into your office ecosystem - a move many agree with - and if you want to be more mobile and connected from anywhere, we recommend that you talk to us first, as we may have a low-cost, or affordable way for you to integrate a device into your systems successfully.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 2nd, 2012

There are many tasks that mobile devices can help you with, some are better suited to smartphones while others are better suited to tablets. One of the more useful things a tablet can do is help you with mind mapping, which is a valuable tool that helps you visualize information and relations around one central topic. If you have an Android tablet there are some great apps available to help you do this.

Here are five apps for Android tablets that will help you with your mind mapping.

Connected Mind Connected Mind, USD$3.00 on the Google Play store, is a full function mind mapping app that allows you to create maps using your finger to draw and edit branches and nodes. Each branch is randomly assigned different colors (which you can change) to help keep your map organized, and with 27 shapes you can create some pretty complex maps.

The good thing about this app is all maps are stored in the cloud and linked to your Google account. This means you can access the maps on any Android device, or even on Chrome with a Chrome extension. You can also share the map, as an image, to other apps like Gmail, WhatsApp, Google Drive, etc.

Mindjet for Android This app is the Android version of the popular PC based mind mapping program Mindjet. With this app, you can create professional looking mind maps quickly and easily. At the bottom of the screen is a customization toolbar that allows you to customize category nodes, branches and sub categories to your heart’s content. Any mind map created on your tablet will sync with mindjet’s browser or computer based versions; you can take your mind maps anywhere.

As an added bonus, the app syncs with Dropbox and if you have the full version, Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Apple Mail and Yammer. The downside of this app is you do have to subscribe to use it. A Web based subscription is USD$15 a month, while the full version is USD$30 a month. The app on the Google Play store is free, but you will be asked to subscribe after 30 days.

Mindomo Mindomo is an app that’s quite similar to Mindjet in that it’s easy to use to create professional looking mind maps. While it offers many of the same features, it also adds collaboration if you sign up for the paid subscription, giving you the ability to work on mind maps while offline. You can also embed images directly from your phone into the mind maps, with maps and images being synced to other versions when you’re connected to the Internet.

Mindomo has four pricing options: Free, which gives you three maps a month, Premium, Professional and Team. The cost for the three paid programs is USD$6.00, USD$15 and USD$29 a month, respectively. The Professional and Team versions give you the ability to collaborate with up to five guests and five users for the Team version.

iMindMap HD If you have a creative streak in you, or love brilliant looking mind maps, this is the app for you. Backed by ThinkBuzan (the company started by Tony Buzan, the inventor of modern mind maps) you can create mind maps worthy of framing, while also storing them on ThinkBuzan’s cloud storage service. There’s more to this app than it being really, really, ridiculously good looking though. You can draw your own branches, embed Web links and pictures directly from your camera, open email attachments and export your maps as images. It also has a built in function that will help ensure a neat and tidy map.

You can have up to five maps on the free version, but can subscribe to ThinkBuzan Cloud for USD$20.99 for one year.

Simple Mind If you are looking for a low-cost (USD$5.00), easy to use app, this is a great choice. You can create, edit and reorganize maps and that’s about it. The maps you produce look simple compared to some the other apps produce. While this may be a downer to some, simple mind maps often look great, and if done correctly, can look super professional.

If you’re interested in using mind mapping apps in your company, or for your Android device, please contact us, we can help you set up an app that will meet your needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 1st, 2012

Running a business isn't easy. Many companies struggle to make ends meet while maintaining cost efficiency and the quality of their products and/or services. In order to keep up with growing client demands and needs, businesses must keep a close eye on their IT operations. For some smaller businesses, this can especially be a challenge – one that can be solved with the help of a Managed Service Provider, or MSP.

The nature of business has changed. Companies, no matter how small, can market products and services worldwide over the Internet. At the same time, customers can find products and services from your competitors in just a few clicks of the mouse. A Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help you maintain the technology that will give you the edge to compete and win.

Global business requirements

To compete effectively in a global market, your business needs:

  • Integrated internal and external business support systems.
  • Up-to-the-minute access to sales, order processing, and production information for fast decision making.
  • Flexible processes that can adapt dynamically to changes in the business climate.
  • A fast, reliable, and secure IP network.
Maintaining the networking infrastructure is often the biggest challenge for a small company. It's expensive to keep up with new technologies and devote IT resources to ongoing network management.

The value of a Managed Service Provider

A qualified Managed Service Provider (MSP) can bridge the gap to give you access to leading network technologies. MSPs provide management expertise without requiring high initial capital investment or ongoing costs associated with technology upkeep. A partnership with an MSP will:

  • Reduce costs, including traditional service fees, as well as hardware and IT operations costs.
  • Increase support levels and network availability without additional staff.
  • Keep IT costs stable and predictable.
  • Provide access to the latest technology and skill sets with limited risk.
Let's talk about how you can compete better globally and take your business to the next level without big capital investment.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 21st, 2012

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can be a real lifesaver, especially for small businesses that have IT needs just like everyone else but are hard pressed to find the manpower and resources to support a dedicated tech department. As with all business relationships, it's important to establish good rapport with your MSP to ensure that everything flows and goes as planned.

Business relationships are cultivated. Grown. That's what you do – at least if you want your business to flourish. The healthier your business relationships, the more productive and efficient your operations become.

Naturally, this applies to your relationship with your Managed Service Provider (MSP). Your IT is an important part of your day-to-day operations, and contributes greatly to how productive your business can become – so establishing good working rapport with your MSP is especially essential. Here are a few pointers for building and maintaining a great relationship with your current or prospective MSP partner.

Assess what your MSP can provide for you Sit down with your MSP to learn their ideas for your business, then carefully assess whether the services they offer support and augment your operations – current and planned. Look closely at contracts and make sure you understand the fine print, and carefully evaluate whether the service agreement meets your needs. Do some research about prospective MSPs (which is easy to do through the Internet) to verify their claims. Making sure you have the right fit is an important first step in getting the most out of an MSP.

Define roles and manage expectations Make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood early in the process, especially if your MSP is integrated with or augmenting an existing IT operation. This will help minimize overlapping job roles (which is ultimately unproductive for the both of you), as well as territorial disputes and misunderstandings.

Communicate constantly While your MSP will essentially manage your IT, it's still YOUR IT department. Make sure that you open healthy channels of feedback and communication. It's also recommended that you keep your MSP informed of any new directions or strategies that you feel will affect the IT operations that your MSP partner handles. It's a good idea to schedule regular planning sessions and meetings with them so that they will be able to anticipate what you need – and provide it – in line with your own goals and timetables.

Establish trust and respect your MSP's decisions Treat your MSP like you would your IT manager. Give them general direction, and then let them do what they do best: manage IT. Entrusting your IT to an outside contractor can be a difficult decision, but as long as your MSP is reliable and secure, it may very well be one of the best business decisions you've ever made.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 20th, 2012

Is your staff bringing their own devices and gadgets to the workplace? There are pros and cons that you need to know before you decide to adopt this practice for your business.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the "consumerization" of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a "bring your own device" or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today's younger generation of workers (a group called "millenials") not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.
However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:
  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don't employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn't belong to them, or it's against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.
Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.