7 interesting tech facts you might not know

Whether you think of yourself as a technophobe or an IT expert, you will be surprised by these fascinating technology facts. From mobile apps to big data and even the Deep Web, the technological sphere is broader and stranger than most people suspect — and it has been for quite some time.

Read on to discover some of the most interesting tidbits from the tech world:

1. The QWERTY keyboard was explicitly designed to slow typing

Fans of the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard scoff at the inefficiencies of the QWERTY keyboard layout that most people use. Originally, however, QWERTY’s inefficiencies held a clear purpose: the keyboard design was intended to slow down users.

At one time, mechanical typewriters jammed if typists were too quick. QWERTY cut down on this problem. Today, we continue to use QWERTY because we’re accustomed to it, but many experts strongly favor alternate typing approaches.

2. It’s still possible to visit the world’s first webpage

The original webpage went live in 1991 and ran on a NeXT computer at CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research. This useful page was entirely dedicated to informing the public about the World Wide Web. Today, it primarily serves as a historical archive. Click here to check it out.

3. Email predated the World Wide Web

In today’s mobile age, it’s tough to imagine a world without the internet. Interestingly enough, however, the internet is a relative newcomer compared to email. Ray Tomlinson sent the very first email message to himself in 1971 — years before the internet came about. Tomlinson claims that his initial test emails were entirely forgettable.

4. A website tracks the internet’s age – and it’s not as anxious as you might think

At https://howoldistheinter.net, you can determine how many days the internet has existed — and how old you were when it was initially launched.

5. The majority of internet content exists on the Deep Web

The average internet user can only hope to scratch the surface of available content. While a prominent Dutch researcher believes that 4.5 million websites are currently indexed by search engines, the internet extends far beyond this easily searchable content. Estimates regarding the size and scope of the Deep Web vary, but some researchers believe that it is at least 400 times larger than the surface internet.

6. 3D printing is nothing new

The technology for 3D printing has been around for decades, but it has only begun to attract attention in the past few years. The concept initially appeared during the 1980s, when it was referred to as Rapid Prototyping. Charles Hull successfully secured a patent for the stereolithography apparatus in 1986, and yet, the first commercially available 3D printer was not offered for sale until 2009.

Since then significant market divergence has allowed for the introduction of 3D printing processes in several sectors and at every level of the market.

7. The vast majority of the world’s currency is digital

It’s no secret that digital currency plays a huge role in the modern economy, but most people are unaware of the extent to which it dominates. A mere 8% of global currency consists of physical money. The rest is stored electronically.

The way we interact with money is just beginning to change, however. With the rise of bitcoin and blockchain, experts believe that our entire approach to commercial transactions will evolve sooner rather than later.

If you’re struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing world of technology, you can benefit from the assistance of a managed IT services provider. Reach out today to learn more.

3 common computer problems & how to fix them yourself

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
The IT Crowd

It’s become a catchphrase because it’s effective and really works. And while that solution can solve a lot of issues, there are other things you can try to when your computer is acting up.

Here are 3 common computer problems and some simple steps you can take to troubleshoot them yourself without having to call in the IT support cavalry.

Your computer is running slow

Computers need rest, just like us. If you leave your computer on for long stretches at a time, your computer can begin to feel sluggish.

Here are some things you can try when a slow computer has got you down:

  • Close unneeded programs and tabs: Whatever your workflow, it’s easy for extra windows, open files, and internet browser tabs to pile up. Each of these is eating up system resources whether you’re actively using them or not. Close what you don’t need and see if that improves performance.
  • Open Task Manager or Activity Monitor: Sometimes background process hang around or become bloated. In order to really see what’s going on, use the Windows Task Manager or Mac OS X Activity Monitor. They provide easy to read diagnostics that show how much of your system’s resources each process is using. From there you can see what program needs your attention and force quite programs that are frozen or not being used.

If you’re running into this problem a lot, it could be time for a more thorough, professional evaluation.

Difficulty connecting to the internet

As more of our work moves to the cloud, slow or intermittent internet connections can be maddening when you’re trying to work. It could be the issue is with the connection itself, in which case you’ll need to address that with your internet provider (or try a different coffee shop down the street). But sometimes your computer or location is causing the problem.

Here are some things you can do to try and improve your internet connection.

  • Check your computer: The first step is understanding exactly what is acting slow. Is it your whole connection, or just your browser? Try closing different applications to see if that makes a difference. If you like to listen to an online radio service, it could be hogging all your bandwidth.
  • Check your surroundings: Our lives are increasingly networked, so odds are you have your smartphone nearby and maybe your smartwatch or other accessories too. Wireless frequency bands are surprisingly narrow bands of frequencies and it’s easy for signals to get crossed and performance degrade. Try to adjust your devices so they have sufficient breathing room to send and receive without conflict.
  • Check your network: Is the person next to you having the same problems? Check your hardware and make sure that everything is plugged in and receiving a signal.

Deeper issues such as how your business utilizes its WiFi and data transit may require expert management.

Your document won’t print

We may be more digital than ever, but sometimes we still need paper. All it takes is one temperamental printer to back everything up.

If you’re trying to print and nothing is coming out, here are some things you can try.

  • Check the printer status from your computer: Open the Printers & Scanners menu of System Preferences in OS X or in Windows, open Device Manager, so you can see if there’s a paper jam, an offline printer or something else.
  • Check the physical printer: Maybe it has a paper jam, or is out of paper.
  • Check the size of the document you’re printing: Just like when you download something from the internet, when you send a document to the printer, it has to download the entire file before it can print. If you’re sending a large document that’s full of graphics, it can take your printer longer than you might expect to download the entire document before it starts printing. Really large files can also cause the printer to get overloaded and freeze.
  • Reset the printer connection: In Mac OS X, when you have the Printers & Scanners menu up, Right-Click on the list of devices and select “Reset Printing System”. On Windows 10, you can use the Printing Troubleshooter by typing “Printing Problem” into the system search bar to get started.
  • Turn the printer off and on again: Yes, this technique works on printers too.
  • Update your drivers: Printers don’t often get the same love our computers do in staying up to date, so it’s easy for them or our connection to fall behind. Check your computer’s printer drivers.  In Windows 10, use the Device Manager and find your device. Then right-click and select “Update drivers”. Check for a System update with OS X and if it’s built-in, your system will update automatically.

Increasingly, printers are shared across whole departments and keeping them running well may require reaching out for more help.

7 tech gadgets that improve productivity

Technology advances are shaping the way businesses operate and opening up a world of opportunities. Enabling better and more efficient productivity is one of the advantages of implementing tech gadgets in the workplace. These operate in a variety of ways and work across functions.

Here are 7 tech gadgets that can improve efficiency and productivity in your workplace.

LVL Hydration Monitor

Healthy workers are more productive. A major cause of an energy slump is dehydration. Modern offices with heating and air conditioning enhance dehydration which leads to tiredness and diminished productivity. The LVL Hydration Monitor tracks things like workout rates and heartbeat but it also keeps an eye on hydration levels. It informs workers when they need to drink more fluids and the productivity boost they can expect when they do.

Skype

Using technology to hold meetings is a great way to connect departments across a geographical area. It saves travel time for employees, boosting the time they have to work instead of being on the road. Additionally, Skype is easy to set up and can transform decision making and productivity with the click of a mouse. Using teleconferencing is another way of connecting remotely, saving travel time.

Multi laptop windows

Having a computer screen with multi laptop windows is a great way to improve productivity. By being able to display several items on different screens, time is saved from flicking between web pages and mistakes are minimized by having work displayed simultaneously. Up to three screens can be displayed at once.

Yo-Yo mini standing desk

There’s a significant amount of medical evidence suggesting that too much seated activity is dangerous for health. It also leads to energy slumps, reducing productivity. Standing regularly reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular problems. The Yo-Yo Mini Standing Desk is a great tech gadget that enables people who spend a long time seated to work in a stand-up position. This not only promotes healthy working but can improve productivity.

Connected whiteboard

One of the best tech gadgets for the office is a connected whiteboard. This cloud-based technology uses a large whiteboard screen to connect remote workers or those on multiple sites. It is ideal for brainstorming and planning when working offsite. This tech gadget also improves productivity by connecting people instantly instead of repeat meetings or email exchanges.

Bttn

The office environment is ideal for bttns, interactive buttons that can implement a series of tasks with the touch of a button.  Automating business processes is a great way to improve both productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

Bttns can be used for a variety of tasks including callbacks, ordering supplies, marking off time sheets, and more, simply by pressing a button. They can also book meeting rooms and operate either as a stand-alone device or as an interconnected function.

Solar powered wall mounted battery charger

Reliance on mobile phones is increasing with technology advances. This means constantly needing a fully charged battery. One of the simplest ways to ensure your phone is always ready to go is to have a wall mounted solar charger. This maximizes the use of natural resources and ensures you are not caught out with a dead battery. Energy powered cycle chargers are a novel way of ensuring the staff stays productive by exercising and keep their mobile phones charged.

Contact your managed IT services provider for help implementing these and many other tech gadgets into your workplace.

4 tips for successful customer relationship management

The key to running a successful business is building relationships with your customers. For most modern business, keeping up with customer communications can be difficult with so many different communication options like email, telephone, text, and web-based chat available.

A recent study found that businesses are spending nearly $26 billion a year on customer relationship management (CRM) software. If you’re looking for a better way to manage your customer relationships, consider these 4 tips for implementing CRM software in your business.

1. Find the right CRM solution

With all the different CRM software programs on the market, selecting the right one may be difficult. Consider consulting your managed IT service provider for help finding the best CRM solution for your business.

The main difference between the CRM programs on the market are the features they have. Growing companies will need to find a program with features like advanced lead generation and call center features. You’ll also want to find a program with customizable features that you can add or change later as your business grows.

2. Implement the software

Once you have found the right CRM program to fit your business needs, it will be time to implement it. Having professional IT support during this process can save you a lot of time and stress.

You’ll also need to train your team on the new software. Make sure not to overload them all the new features at once. Focus first on the basics like creating records and assigning tasks. Consider regular training meetings to train your staff on the more complex features as they become more comfortable with the system.

3. Customize your approach

A well-built CRM system will allow you to customize both the customer and employee experience. Not everyone on your team will need access to every bit of customer data you collect. This is why you need to work on creating a single pipeline and then limiting access to some of the elements within this file.

Some business owners make the mistake of creating separate folders for the same client. If a client has separate folders for things like sales or support, it can become confusing. The beauty of using a CRM system is you can store customer data in one place and while limiting access to different parts of the information as needed.

4. Utilize mobile CRM tools

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, you know how popular mobile devices have become. While the mobile CRM tools on the market are not as detailed as desktop software, they do provide you with the ability to update customer data from your mobile device.

These apps will also help your team pull up information like a customer’s contact data. Most CRM mobile apps allow users to create tasks and make notes about a client with the click of a button. If you have lots of employees who work in the field, then having these mobile tools is essential.

Are you ready to embrace the power and convenience of CRM software? If so, contact your managed IT services provider for help finding and implementing the right CRM solution for your business.

4 tech trends to watch in 2019

The winter holidays will be over before you know it and 2019 will be upon us. Tech trends move faster than ever before because innovation moves faster than it used to. Follow these tech trends in 2019 to make sure you don’t fall behind. Make it your resolution to work with the right IT service provider and keep your technology going strong year-round.

1. More Autonomy

In 2019 the robots will start to think for themselves a bit more. That’s not to say that we are getting anywhere close to some of the more scary science fiction movies with fully autonomous robots.

Some predict that cars put out in 2019 will have more autonomous features than ever before. Now, some new cars have features like assistance with parallel parking, but experts predict that at least 10% of cars hitting the road by 2021 will be fully autonomous. However, in May of 2018, GM announced that consumers would be able to buy the first fully autonomous car in 2019.

2. “Digital Twins”

A digital twin is not a new virtual pet toy for your kids to enjoy. It’s actually a useful tool that helps businesses monitor physical devices or even entire buildings. A digital twin can be a full 3D model of a device like a plane engine, or simply a monitoring system for your building or office.

Digital twins are a helpful way to meet safety requirements or monitor utility usage. Using a combination of sensors in physical objects & digital twins will help companies get more useful data than ever before, and this trend is expected to continue in 2019.

3. Blockchain Becomes More Than Bitcoin

Blockchain is the incredible technological idea that has enabled the widespread use of digital cryptocurrencies. It can be used to enable privacy and digital protections like never before. Other uses for blockchain are also being explored.

Expect this trend to continue in 2019. Some creative uses for blockchain include making the transfer of and collaboration on documents even more secure, verifying the authenticity of high-end luxury goods and some experts even believe it can be used to prevent voter fraud.

4. Video & Live Video Continue to Dominate

It’s not just enough to have social media channels anymore, it’s important to note that channels with video, and especially live video tend to have much more interaction. This is due in part to algorithms used that sometimes favor video posts..

According to one study, 90% of people use online videos to help with purchase decisions and even just mentioning the term video in an email newsletter subject line can increase opens by up to 19%. People spend 1/3 of their time on the internet watching videos.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time and resources on pre-recorded videos According to information put out by video giant Vimeo, 80% of people would rather watch a live video than read a blog, and similarly, 82% of people would rather watch live video than look at a static social media post.

Expect this trend to continue to grow in 2019. Make sure to use live video features on your brand’s social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others.

Contact your Managed IT service provider to keep up with these and other tech trends in 2019!

BYOD 101: The SMB owner’s starter guide

BYOD is a modern business acronym that stands for “bring your own device.” Today, most employees use their own mobile devices or laptops for work to some extent. Creating a solid BYOD plan can save your organization from security nightmares. Not sure where to begin? We can help. What follows is a simple guide to creating a BYOD policy.

Why is BYOD important?

When your employees connect to company resources from multiple devices, you need to secure important data. As of right now, only about 39% of businesses have BYOD policies. This is a worrying trend considering that people may be using their devices at your company without following any type of security protocol! Make sure to protect your business’ data by implementing such a policy and training your employees on how to stay safe with their own devices.

Important Factors to Include in Your Policy

Before you create your BYOD policy, you need to consider some important factors. The following factors will help secure your network and keep your plan relevant.

Security is not optional

Ensure that your employees follow security procedures, even on their own devices. Choose mandatory anti-virus and anti-spyware programs for any device that connects to your network. This protects not only their device but also company information and potentially your office networks.

Make it general for longevity

Putting specific devices in your policy means constant revisions as new devices come out. Keep your device list general but be specific about what your employees need to do with those devices. This means that your policy will last for as long as you need it to, which can save time and money in a small business!

Consult with your teams

Don’t let your IT department come up with a BYOD policy in a vacuum. Consult every department in the company. This will lead to a more comprehensive policy that considers many factors. When you consider everyone’s needs, the policy is less likely to leave unanswered questions.

Use the cloud for better security

If you let your team store sensitive data on their devices, it leaves it open to peeping eyes and hackers. Instead, use a cloud storage solution that protects your data from unauthorized access. Your employees can access the data from anywhere, and everyone stays a bit safer whether they are accessing company graphics, a CRM or other assets.

Use a VPN

Using a VPN protects data while it is in transit and is great for organizations who are following the above recommendation to use the cloud. A VPN is basically like a protective tunnel that encrypts data as your employees send information back and forth to your in-office network or the cloud. VPNs are a smart choice whether employees are working from home, using their own devices or traveling for business or pleasure.

Time to make a plan

Now you are ready to teach your employees how they should behave when using their own devices for work. Curious to learn more about BYOD policies? Contact your managed IT services provider to find out how they can help!

 

5 ways to use technology to improve productivity

Productivity is a big buzzword in office culture, and for good reason. The more productive your staff is, the greater your overall efficiency and the lower your total expenses. Who doesn’t want to see their employees get the maximum work done in the least amount of time?

There are plenty of technological tools to help increase productivity. The following are a few we’ve seen work in business settings.

1. Cloud-based project management

If your project management software is housed based on a single machine (or even on your local network), there’s a good chance it isn’t accessible remotely. However, if you use cloud-based project management software, your employees can stay on task no matter where they are.

Many cloud-based options even include a smartphone app for optimum access. It doesn’t matter if you’re across town for a quick meeting or across the country at a conference. You’re still engaged.

Options like Basecamp, Asana and Zoho are great for agile teams and those with workers who prefer to work from home at least part of the time.

2. Instant communication

As we alluded to above, it’s not uncommon to find more folks working from home. In fact, some teams are spread across the globe, working together as part of multinational corporations.

And, of course, sometimes you just don’t want to get up and walk across the office to have a conversation. It will disrupt your flow.

With technology, you can easily communicate with anyone, anywhere. We recommend instant messaging apps for the easiest, most seamless communication. You can IM from your PC or your phone, and it’s so much like texting that it will feel immediately familiar to everyone.

3. Automate everything

With all the business automation tools available today, you never need to be in the position where a critical (but fairly minor) task is forgotten.

You can use automation for everything from pre-scheduled email marketing campaigns, to CRM-based reminders to follow-up with prospective customers, to in-depth analytical reports that get delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Automation is an immediate productivity booster. There’s no reason to pay someone to do something by hand that can easily be automated. Instead, free your employees to focus on the things that really require their attention.

4. Easy Outsourcing

Consider this scenario. You don’t have the right person for the job, but you also don’t want to hire a whole new employee.

There are technology tools that make it easier than ever to hire outsourced help. It even possible to hire specialists in situations where a high level of expertise is required.

Online services like Upwork or Fiverr allow you to easily view and hire freelancers for simple, straightforward jobs. When partnering with whole outsourced firms and high-level specialists, we recommend using the previously mentioned communication & project management tools.

5. Online Learning

Employee training is actually an important component of productivity. Not only does it improve the skills of your employees, which naturally makes them better at their jobs. It’s also a perk. Most employees appreciate an environment that fosters their own development.

Companies are increasingly turning to online learning as a way to offer more affordable value for their employees. One major benefit is the flexibility that comes with online learning. Whether we’re talking about online classes through a university or a specialized training course, online learning is extremely convenient.

If any of these productivity-enhancing options sound like they’d be a good fit for your business, we encourage you to reach out to your managed IT services provider. They should be able to help point you in the right direction. Plus, they can ensure you have all the network capabilities you need to support the tech tools you want.

Which CRM solution is right for your organization?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software empowers businesses of all sizes and sectors to make smarter, more accurate decisions.

According to some estimates, over 90 percent of companies make use of a CRM solution—and for good reason. On average, CRM solutions see a return on investment of $8.71 for every dollar that you invest.

Despite the obvious benefits of CRM software, however, it’s not so obvious how to choose the best solution for your organization. There are a lot of options available to you. Plus, your company’s situation may be influenced by a number of different factors:

  • Number of employees
  • Industry
  • Specific business requirements
  • Preferred pricing model
  • Upcoming projects
  • Existing resources and technologies

Whether you’re making your first CRM purchase or replacing an existing system, this article will go over the most important concerns that you should consider when choosing a CRM solution.

Defining CRM return on investment

There are essentially three different approaches to CRM solutions: basic, standalone, and integrated.

  • Basic CRM systems include standard functionality without any custom features or coding. This enables you to get up and running quickly and easily.
  • Standalone CRM solutions include more complex processes than basic CRM systems, including custom features for reporting, views and workflows.
  • Integrated CRM systems connect a standalone CRM system with external applications, websites, and systems. This helps you share data and make your workflow more efficient.

No matter which type of CRM you select, you need to understand the value of your CRM solution to evaluate whether it’s the right choice.

For example, focus on how a CRM will improve your customer relationships by giving you easy access to important metrics and key performance indicators, as well as helping you manage connections on social media.

On paper, defining the ROI of a given CRM is easy: simply weigh the costs of using it against the benefits that you gain by doing so.

In practice, however, calculating CRM ROI involves a good deal of subjective assessments and estimates about how much given features are worth to you. Note that most of the value you extract from your CRM will likely come from a few of the most frequently used functionalities.

CRM factors to consider

The cost of a CRM solution is perhaps the best factor to contemplate first since it can disqualify certain options right off the bat. Consider questions such as:

  • What is the pricing model? Subscription-based or a perpetual license? Most CRM applications, especially those that are cloud-based, use a per-month, per-user pricing model.
  • What are the different pricing tiers? Which features that you consider important? Make sure you’re looking at the price for the tier of service you’ll need.

CRM software comes with many different features and functionalities. Some of the capabilities that might interest you include:

  • Lead management and sales for finding, nurturing, and converting new customers
  • Marketing tools for email and SMS campaigns
  • Reports and dashboards for highlighting important metrics
  • E-commerce integration

Depending on your business, you may have other questions to ask when evaluating CRM software options, such as:

  • How easy is it for employees to learn and use the software?
  • What kind of support and maintenance plans are available?
  • How will the software integrate with your existing technical setup?

Final thoughts on your CRM solution

With so many advantages at stake, deciding on the right CRM solution isn’t a task to be taken lightly.

If you need help selecting the right CRM software for your business, contact your IT managed services provider for additional guidance.

Client Testimonial: Canino Electric

 

“We’ve been with CCS for a little over 10 years now, so that speaks for itself that we’re really satisfied.”

– Katie Canino
CEO, Canino Electric

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4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips to help you become a superuser

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customer relationship management (CRM) software package from Microsoft. Dynamics CRM is intended to help users improve the productivity and effectiveness of their sales and marketing campaigns and get better business insights, especially by integrating with other Microsoft products such as Office 365.

If you’re like most Dynamics CRM users, you’ll want to get the most mileage out of the application, uncovering any hidden tips and tricks that’ll help you along the way. In this article, we’ll go over 4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips that’ll help you become more efficient.

1. Know your keyboard shortcuts

Time is money when you’re working with CRM software, and every little bit can help you become more productive.

Let’s start our Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips with some of the most useful Dynamics CRM keyboard shortcuts.

  • Shift + Tab: Move backward to the previous field or option (just as Tab moves you forward to the next one).
  • Ctrl + [: Switch to the first tab on the command bar.
  • Ctrl + ]: Switch to the last tab on the command bar.
  • Ctrl + K: Automatically fill the current field with the correct value after typing a few letters.
  • Ctrl + Shift + S: Save and create a new document or workspace.
  • Alt + S: Save and close.

2. Add members to different marketing lists

Since the release of the 2015 version of Dynamics CRM, you can now add Leads, Contacts or Accounts from one marketing list to another marketing list. This saves you the time and effort of looking up and adding each member individually.

Here’s how you can do this.

  1. Under Marketing, select the Marketing Lists option.
  2. You will see a list or grid view of your active marketing lists. Click on the list whose members you wish to add to another list, and then click on the Record Associated View icon.
  3. Select the members of the list that you want to add to another list, and then click on the ellipses icon. Click on “Add to Another Marketing List.” From here, you can select the desired list or create a new list.

3. Use business rules

One of the benefits of CRM software such as Dynamics CRM is the ability to define your own business rules.

In Dynamics CRM, business rules are pieces of business logic that can be expressed by non-technical users, without having to write code in a programming language such as JavaScript. This empowers business users because they no longer have to wait for developers to do the work they need.

In fact, this is so powerful that our list of Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips wouldn’t be complete without it.

For example, users can define a business rule that hides a field or changes the value of it based on the size of a value in another field.

To use business rules in Dynamics CRM, select the Fields or Business Rules section beneath a given entity when you’re in the Solutions section. Keep in mind, however, business rules can’t replace all the functionality you can achieve with JavaScript.

4. Automatically generate documents

Sales and marketing campaigns are absolutely rife with piles of paperwork that must be created and reviewed. You can save yourself time and improve your customer relationships by automatically generating templates in Microsoft Word.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. From the Settings menu, select Processes. Create a new process of type “Workflow” on the Campaign entity, and set the scope to Organization.
  2. Set the workflow to run when record fields change and select the field as “Status Reason.” Click on Add Step > Check Condition, and then Add Step > Perform Action. The Action should be “SetWordTemplate.”
  3. Click on Properties to the right of Action, and choose the “Selected Template” that you want to generate. Finally, choose the Target to be your current campaign.
  4. Save and activate the workflow.