Blog

April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_BWhen it comes to Web design many business owners and managers work with a Web designer or developer. These Web experts often use terms that you may not be familiar with and which in essence sound like another language. This can make it difficult to communicate and to ultimately get your point across to achieve the website you want. To make dialogue easier, it might be helpful to learn some of the common Web design terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 10th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Apr07_BThe latest version of Office Mobile came to the Android market last year. However, users were required to have an Office 365 account in order to use Office on their Android device. Today, Microsoft has changed the conditions and Android users can enjoy using Office on their devices for free without the need to have any paid subscription.

Free you say? Is it time to ditch Office 365?

Not so fast! If you are a business owner, it's not advisable to ditch your Office 365 subscription. This is because the Office app is free for home use, but if you have an Office 365 business account, you need to have a paid Office 365 Business subscription to edit and save documents.

The benefits of using Office on your Android

The Microsoft Office Mobile suite is a collection of mobile versions of the popular Microsoft Office. Since it’s now available for free, you may want to take advantage of what the programs have to offer.

One of the benefits of having Office on your device is that you can access or create files while on the go. Even if you’re not in front of your computer, you can still be productive as you work on important files anytime, anywhere. It is integrated with OneDrive so your files are synced, allowing you to continue working on your computer after working on your mobile device.

Office on your Android supports popular Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats so you won't have problems opening and editing files. Office Mobile is also optimized for tablets and phones, making it convenient to use even on a small screen.

Office Mobile core applications

Office Mobile is a stripped down version of the Office Suite. Limited applications and features are available to make it work smoothly on mobile devices. Word Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile are the three programs that come with it.

Word Mobile

Word Mobile can be generally used like its desktop counterpart. While the desktop version supports more file formats, the mobile version is still be able to open a Word file that has an unsupported format without editing options. To enable editing, you must first save the file as a .DocX file which is supported by the mobile version.

Images, tables and lists can be added to a Word Mobile document. Other features that you can use include: find and replace, word count, and spell checker, though some fonts are not supported. For example, page breaks, footers, headers, endnotes, and footnotes cannot be used, though these will be kept if the original file contains them.

PowerPoint Mobile

PowerPoint Mobile was the last application to join the Office Mobile suite. On the Android version you can open, as well as edit presentations using PowerPoint, whether from the desktop or Web version. When it comes to authoring, it is only possible to edit text and add notes.

Excel Mobile

This application is compatible with its desktop counterpart. The Android version lets you open, save, edit, and create spreadsheets in '.xlsx' format. Files saved in '.xls' can also be viewed but not edited or saved. Using Excel Mobile, you can create graphs and charts, format cells and use formulas for simple calculations. Split panes and full screen mode are also supported.

Mobile Office is a fantastic addition to your Android apps, especially now that it comes for free for home users, and for business users with paid Office 365 subscriptions. You can now have the flexibility of accessing documents or working on important files anytime, using your mobile device.

If you have questions about Mobile Office connect with us and we will help you find productivity boosting solutions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2014

SocialMedia_April07_BAre you searching for tools that can help you create striking visuals for your social media campaign? Let’s admit it, not everyone is a Photoshop expert, and for many of us, it can be really challenging and perhaps even intimidating to use. Furthermore, the cost of a program or designer may be out of your budget. Luckily, there are other options that could really help.

In this day and age where compelling visuals are possible online, it is extremely important to learn how to create attractive visuals to aid your social media marketing campaigns. You at least need a working knowledge of how to enhance your photos and make them more attention-grabbing. There are a number of free or highly affordable tools out there that can help you do just that.

PIXLR - This advanced photo editor works like Photoshop, only it is easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners. You can create images from scratch or perform advanced image editing. Using fairly simple tools can maximize the potential of images. For quick editing, there’s PIXLR EXPRESS or PIXLR O-MATIC, which are free to use. Visit the PIXLR website to learn more and start use these programs.

PicMonkey’s Online Photo Editor - This photo editor can transform ordinary images into fantastic photographs in just a few clicks. Select the image that you want to modify and add special effects such as fancy text, or simply crop and re-size. The photos edited using PicMonkey can be uploaded on Facebook and other social media platforms. PicMonkey is free to use so you can just go to the website and start editing away. For added frames and special effects there’s a premium version you can upgrade to for USD $33.33 per year.

LiveLuvCreate - This website can be used without any charge and offers a variety of design layouts and graphics. Using this platform you can edit your own images and there are also a ton of images created by users on its library that can help give you inspiration. Among the tools available are borders, filters, and photo effects, as well as fonts, colours, and styles. Visit the website to set up an account and start editing your images today.

Canva - If you want to create your Facebook cover photos from scratch, or if you want to design some blog images, this is a free application that might prove useful. This tool is very convenient and can be used to create business cards, invitations, posters, and presentations. Visit the website today to start creating your own visuals.

Quozio - If you are into quotes, Quozio lets you upload famous and favorite quotes, visualize them, and then share them on your social network. Simply enter an interesting quote and then select a background image. Instead of simply posting what’s on your mind, you can make a quote more attractive and appealing by transforming it into a visual using this free app. Visit the site today to visualize your next quote.

Whether you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, your content cannot come alive without the use of quality graphics and images. If Photoshop does not work for you, these other tools are ideal substitutes for creating appealing graphics for a variety of social media platforms.

Make sure to share your own list of top photo tools for everyone to see! And, if you would like to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 3rd, 2014

VoIP_March31_BThe landline phone provided by the telephone company used to be the only option companies had with regard to communications. With the advance of technology and the popularity of the increased use of the Internet, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, was introduced. It has since become increasingly popular, with the majority of larger and many small companies now using this communication method. To determine if you should adopt VoIP in your business, learning about its benefits can help you in making your decision.

More affordable communication costs

Using VoIP services like users communicate to other users either for free or at drastically lower call rates than regular providers, as long as they are connected to the Internet.

Other VoIP services let you use your existing phones that are connected to the Internet to enjoy unlimited calls for a lower price compared to the per minute charge of telephone companies. These service providers offer different packages to choose from, many of which might suit the size of your company, your business needs, and your budget.

More affordable hardware and software

If you are having second thoughts about using VoIP because you are concerned that the hardware and software used would cost you a fortune, fret not. The vast majority of VoIP systems require little to no installation and many can run using existing equipment.

When it comes to the hardware, companies that choose to use VoIP through a computer need a working sound card, which your computer probably already has, as well as a headset or microphone and speaker, whichever you prefer.

Other service providers may also require the use of VoIP phones. The price of these phones is also not that costly and in some cases these phones might be provided by the VoIP providers for a nominal monthly fee.

VoIP supports multiple calls at the same time

A regular phone line normally only lets you talk to one person at a time. VoIP allows multiple calls, including conference and group calls, which is an important advantage to many businesses. This makes it easier for employees, management, and business associates to collaborate with each other and to communicate with clients.

It’s also faster for clients to connect with customer support. As a result, their concerns can be handled and resolved faster, which in turn improves the customer experience and strengthens your business relationship with them.

VoIP offers more features that traditional systems

Aside from supporting multiple calls simultaneously, there are also several more features that you can enjoy from using VoIP. These features may vary from one particular service to another, but the most common features include:
  • Fax
  • Voicemail
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • Call forwarding
  • Call blocking
  • 411 directory
  • Last number redial
There are also advanced features that some service providers offer, including call transfer, return call, speed dialing, SMS, and area code selection. Many of these features come included in VoIP subscriptions, which help keep costs of add-ons low.

These are just some of the reasons why you might choose to switch to VoIP for your business communication. If you have further questions about VoIP, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
April 3rd, 2014

iPhone_March31_BApple’s iPhone and iPad are definitely in the league of the most popular mobile devices. They come with various features and apps, including FaceTime, which is used for is video calls and Siri, a virtual assistant that follows voice commands. These devices also come with a calendar app - Calendar - that you can use not only for checking dates but for creating events as well. With this app you can rest assured that you don’t have to forget any important dates. You can also change the start of the week of Calendar if you wish as well.

Why change the day your week starts on your calendar?

If you go into Calendar and note that your regional setting is set to United States, for example, you may notice that the day of the week starts on a Sunday. This is true even with other regional settings. While it is technically correct that Sunday is the beginning of the week, you may still want to change the day so that your week starts based on your native calendar or even when your work week begins.

Often people see Monday as the start of the week because it is usually the start of the working week. You might find it more convenient if this is also reflected in your calendar setup. Moreover, your calendar might appear more organized if your weekends are next to each other. With the default setting, Sunday and Saturday are on the left and right side, with the work week in between.

How to change the beginning of your work week

There are two ways to change the day that your week starts on Calendar. One method is changing the country in the regional setting and the other one is by changing your Calendar's date setting. However, take note that changing the regional setting will also affect other features in your device such as the time format and the number that appears on your screen when someone calls. If you don’t want to take any chances, it’s best to follow the calendar setting method.

Here’s how to change the day your week starts on your calendar setting:

  1. Tap the Settings icon on your device.
  2. Scroll to Mail, Contacts and Calendars then tap on it.
  3. Go to Calendars and select Start Week On.
  4. Tap your preferred option and Calendar will make that the start of your week.
If you would like to be a little different, you can change your regional settings by:
  1. Going to Settings.
  2. Choosing General.
  3. Selecting International.
  4. Tapping Regional Format.
  5. Selecting the country or region of your choice
As mentioned, this may affect other features on your device, including the time and the way phone numbers are displayed. If you work with colleagues or clients from other regions, this might not be an issue for you.

If you have any questions about your devices and how you can use it in your business then get in touch. Our friendly and knowledgeable support team are happy to assist you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
April 2nd, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar31_BHaving a website is one of the most important marketing and branding tools a business can utilize. This is largely because visitors will often judge whether they want to do business with you almost solely based off of your website. Therefore, your website needs to be designed properly and look professional. In order to achieve this you need to know about the common mistakes small businesses make when it comes to website designs.

The business value of a business website is that it creates a solid online presence and boosts your brand image and market reach. Even if your business is not Internet based, a website can be used to create a certain impression and ultimately contribute to your bottom line. The key is to make sure you create the best impression. Here are six of the most common mistakes businesses make with website design:

Mistake 1: Building for the sake of building

Websites are important and some businesses believe that they should have a website, so they go ahead and simply build one. You should first take steps to define your target market - who is it that you want and expect to visit your website.

Once you have a defined target market you can then take time to build your site for your market. For example, if the majority of your target market uses mobile devices to browse the Web you should take steps to design your site so that it is viewable on mobile devices.

You should also determine what you want visitors to do on your site. Some companies want them to click through to another site, while others want them to sign up. By defining how you want your visitors to interact you can then develop your content and design around this.

Mistake 2: Designing a website that is too busy

It can be tempting to put all of your information on one page or even have a ton of images and videos. The truth is, this can be distracting largely because once someone lands on your page, they won't know how to get around, find the information they want, or even to know what they should do next.

Busy or flashy websites with lots of animations or large amounts of text also usually don't scale all that well. So, when someone looks at your site on a mobile device they will likely find it too hard to navigate and leave, which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, aim for a website that is simple and clean. Important information should be quick to find and read and it should be clear who you are, what you have to say, and what you want the visitor to do.

Mistake 3: Lacking call to actions

Most business related websites have a goal as to what they want visitors to do. Maybe it's download an app, call the company, or even sign make a purchase online. It is essential that you lead visitors toward what you want them to do in the most clear and concise way. The best way to do this is through a call to action. These are usually buttons at the bottom of sections or pages that motivate the user to click and follow the instructions on what to do next, be that sign up to something or get in touch.

The best calls to action stand out from the content, drawing the reader's eye and hopefully inspiring them to click. They should also be clearly written, simple, and direct. e.g., 'Call us today!' or 'Download now!'

Mistake 4: Misguided content

It may seem worthwhile to write in-depth content about your products or services but this isn't always the case. People skim read the basics on the Web and it's different than other mediums.

What you should do is condense down your content so that it only states the most important information. Tell the reader what your product or service does and provide a few of the most important benefits. What you are looking to do is develop enough interest so that visitors to your site will click on the call to action and connect with you.

If you have the time and profits, creating a more visual site where you showcase the products or show how you can help in a short video may lead to higher engagement and possibly higher customer conversions. Take a look at the popular software and service sites like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google. The content is highly visible and simple, yet provides just enough information so the user knows what the service is and what they are expected to do.

Mistake 5: Static content

It can be tempting to invest the time to write a great website, get the content online then just leave it sitting there. The Internet changes and what might have been regarded as great website design and content a couple of years ago may not be seen in the same light today.

It is advisable to periodically update your site's design and content to reflect current trends; making it more modern. Another related aspect of your content is that you need to ensure that your content is up-to-date. If you are hosting a contest and put the information on your site, you should make sure to take it off of your site, or update it when the date passes. It looks a little unprofessional to have content that is still talking about 2012 or even 2013.

Mistake 6: Doing it yourself

The vast majority of small business owners and managers don't have in-depth Web design skills, yet are determined to build their company's website themselves. This can lead to unexpected problems or a website that doesn't meet your needs. We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified designer who can help ensure that your website is designed and built to high standards.

If you are looking to boost your website's design contact us today. We can help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_BDRPs (Disaster Recovery Plan) although seemingly expensive or hard to implement, are a must have for your business. Since businesses spend thousands of dollars optimizing and upgrading their systems, doesn’t it make total sense to protect your investment? With a good DRP in place, you should be able to mitigate risks in case of a disaster.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 13th, 2014

AndroidPhone_Mar10_BThe smartphone is really more mobile computer than actual phone, especially with the ever increasing number of apps and features available on many models. That being said, they are still the main communication tool for people. Many businesses rely on the SMS or text, and with Android phones, especially new ones, it may be tough to figure out where exactly you can find these messages.

On the vast majority of Android devices there is more than one app that supports text messages. Here is an overview of the apps and how you can find text messages on your Android device.

The stock 'Messages' app

On almost all Android devices, especially those that use what's called an overlay (the device manufacturer's take on Android), there is the stock Messages app. When you first set up your phone, this is the app that will allow you to view and send messages by default.

Most devices already have a shortcut to this app on your device's home screen, usually in the drawer at the bottom of the screen. It usually looks like a speech bubble or an envelope with the words Messaging below it.

  1. Tapping on this app will open your text messages allowing you to read, send and reply to any messages. If you can't find this app, try:
  2. Clicking on the Apps icon on the bottom of your phone. It is usually represented by two rows of grey dots.
  3. Looking through the apps that come up. You are looking for an app with any of the icons listed above, or is called Messaging or SMS.
  4. Tapping on the app once you find it.
If you like, you can press on the app's icon for a second or two and then drag it to your device's Home Screen in order to place a shortcut there.

Google Hangouts

On new Google Nexus devices - especially the Nexus 5 - you probably won't find a messaging app. That is because Google has eliminated it, instead turning Google Hangouts into the new text messaging app.

Hangouts started as the instant messaging platform of Google+ and was then introduced as the new version of Google Chat, and finally the messaging platform on Google devices. In other words, Google Hangouts is the one app for instant messaging and texts across Google's platforms.

If you have the Hangouts app installed on your device, your text messages should show up when you open it. If you can't find your messages/would like to use Hangouts as your SMS app you can do so by:

  1. Opening Hangouts and signing in (if you need to) using your Google account.
  2. Pressing the three vertical squares at the top-right of the screen.
  3. Selecting Settings followed by SMS.
  4. Tapping on SMS Enabled followed by Default SMS app in the window that opens.
  5. Selecting Hangouts.
Your text messages should show up within a few seconds in the main hangouts messaging screen.

Which should I use?

This is a question some users have asked, as it can be slightly confusing as to which app they should be using. The true answer to the question is either! The stock apps, and Hangouts both offer full text messaging capabilities, it really comes down to which you prefer. Some apps present SMS messages in a clear and easy to read manner which some people prefer over Hangouts, while Hangouts is preferred by others, especially Google users.

If you are looking to learn more about the features of your Android phone, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 6th, 2014

VoIP_Mar03_BIt’s widely known how the benefits of having a VoIP system greatly outweigh the costs or of simply not having one. Not only are you able to utilize the great variety of features that it offers, but the fees are also usually very manageable too. The only question many have regarding VoIP is, whether they are getting the best system.

Consider these tips when choosing a VoIP system and you'll stand a much better chance of ending up with the best one for your business:

The cheapest ones aren’t always the best

Just like bidding for projects, you need to be wary of those systems that offer full services at incredibly low prices. Don’t be tempted with how low the fee might be, as in the long run, you might end-up with a system you're not happy with. You don't want dissatisfied customers because they won't be able to reach you, or a system that's not a good fit for your business.

A good way of going about this is to test the service to see if the quality is in fact on a par with what you’re looking for. Another factor to consider is how seamlessly the new VoIP system will integrate with your business

Think about what your phone system’s key roles are

When you have a clear idea of the “what”, your “how”, “when” and “whom” will be a lot easier to determine. This is where you determine what kind of features you’ll need your VoIP system to have. Consider whether you need voicemail, auto-attendant or voicemail to email capabilities (among many others). Once you have a clear picture of what you need, you’ll have a better idea of which package or provider to obtain your VoIP system from.

Review different packages

There are many packages that are packed with features, making them seem incredibly appealing. Don’t get carried away with how seemingly amazing these packages are though. Instead, focus on what your business needs are and stay within the bounds of these demands. There is no point in having unlimited calls to Canada or other countries when your customers are based in the US, for example.

Look for excellent customer support with an almost zero downtime record

Regardless of how seemingly perfect and tailor-made your system is to your business, if you’re experiencing a lot of downtime from your provider it just isn’t going to work. You need to do a background check on your provider to make sure that their system has a near zero downtime.

Another factor to look into is their customer support. You’ll always encounter situations where you have a question about the system, such as a technical issue or maybe even to ask about upgrades. In cases like these, your provider must have an excellent customer service so you know that your questions and issues are going to be dealt with properly and quickly.

Work out what the real costs are

Don’t just think about the package that’s being sold, think about the equipment you’ll need and the manpower needed to get the system up and running. As your company grows, you’ll have to add more users to your system too. You have to think about the costs relating to upgrades and purchasing add-ons.

If you only consider the upfront payment and neglect the upgrades, maintenance, and any other factors of operating with a VoIP system, chances are you might end-up spending more than expected.

If you are looking for the perfect VoIP system, then we can help. Contact us now for our expert advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_BMany business owners are looking for different ways in which they can connect with their customers while also building a company brand or adding value to their products or services. While a business website and a presence on social media sites can be a big help, blogging can sometimes be a better way to connect with your customers and potential customers.

If you're looking to get people more involved and connected with your company, spread your brand image and message, and perhaps establish your company as an industry leader, then blogging might just be the answer.

There is little doubt that companies that blog effectively do see an increase in overall value. That being said, it can be a challenge to develop and maintain a successful blog.

Here are 7 tips for businesses looking to start a blog or develop an existing one into a more successful platform:

1. Define your topics and your audience

As with almost every business process, there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build your blog, such as the topics you write about and your audience.

Take a minute to establish who your target audience is, such as your average customer. Pick some basic characteristics that cover the majority of this group. Focusing on who you are writing articles for can make writing not only easier but more relevant and effective.

Many of the most successful business blogs choose blog topics based on their services or products and news. The key is to select topics based on what you think your audience will find useful or interesting. You might not want to spread your blogs over too many topic areas as these can be hard work to cover on a regular basis. About 4-8 is a good amount to aim for.

2. Be consistent

With defined topics and a target audience in mind, you are well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for your blog. The next element is to devise a calendar of how often you write blogs and cover certain topics. If, for example, you picked four topics this could equate to one article a month for each topic.

What you are striving for is consistency. You should be writing and posting a new article at least once a week, or more. If you establish a calendar based around your topics you will find it easier to write content on a regular basis and soon it will become a natural part of your weekly tasks.

3. Be relevant

Even with defined topics, it can be a struggle to come up with new ideas for blogs. It can be tempting to write about a new product or feature, but you have to be careful that it doesn't read too much like boring marketing material.

Instead, focus on what your audience would like to read. Often the most successful articles are those that answer common questions asked by clients, or talk about how a product or service can help a client. Other articles could be related to your products rather than directly about them. For example, if you own a coffee shop then writing about food that goes well with coffee might be an interesting blog idea.

Personal opinions can provide an interesting perspective and many readers find these types of business blogs refreshing. However, you do need to be careful of ostracizing those who might not agree with you or putting people off with negative blogs.

4. Don't forget the CTA

Remember, your business blog needs to have a purpose: You want to not only develop interest in the company, but to drive business. At the end of most if not all of your articles you can include a call to action (CTA) that suggests to the reader to contact you, come in for a visit or email.

5. Keep articles easy to read

It can be tempting to write a 4,000 word article with a ton of great information. Google and many search engines do look positively at long-form content and this might work well for your search rankings. The only problem is that when many of us read articles online we skim them, looking for salient points and skipping up to 90% of the article.

To that end, keep articles on the shorter side - around 500-1,000 words. Use shorter sentences and headings like H3 and bold to separate content and make it more scannable. Writing a longer article? Split it into two, three or even four parts. This helps drive interest to return to check out the new parts when they are posted.

6. Promote and share your content

Share your blog content on your social media profiles. This increases the reach of your blog, but also drives traffic to your website. You can put an easy to see link to your blog on your homepage and even in email headers.

Many writers also find success in contributing, or writing a blog for other websites. This helps not only spread your ideas, content, and company name, but can also help find content for your blog as other writers contribute to yours. Try contacting friends and colleagues to see if they would like you to write a post for their blog.

7. Remember you don't have to be the only contributor

Finally, you don't have to be the only person writing your blog. Ask your employees if they have any article ideas they would like to write about. The more writers contributing, the more content there is. This also takes the pressure off of you having to develop, write, and post everything, as well as offering a different voice for variety.

If you are looking to launch a blog, contact us to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.