Common Ways Social Media Is Used

Social media has become an integral part of many business strategies, with an ever increasing number of firms adopting a variety of platforms. However, many people are often unsure as to exactly how they can, or should, be using these platforms. In order to make things a bit easier, here is an overview of the three most common ways businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company’s services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it’s the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies, this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7 to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media’s instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is ‘social’; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What’s the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

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WAMS Alert: Beware of New Virus

We find it imperative to bring to your attention a recent rise of a particular virus/malware called CryptoWall, which is different than the damaging CryptoLocker virus from last year.

We have seen the this particular virus strand multiple times in just this past week, EVEN in cases where the firm had proper anti-virus and malware protection in place.

(PCWorld article about the virus can be read here: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2600543/cryptowall-held-over-halfamillion-computers-hostage-encrypted-5-billion-files.html

It is critical to be aware of these type of threats and keep in mind that even the best anti-virus software cannot guarantee 100% protection.

PLEASE review the following bullet points to ensure your network is taking all measures to safeguard against this threat.

  • Ensure Proper Server Level Backup. If your network does contract this type of virus/malware, the ONLY sure way to recover your data is from a valid backup of your entire server, not just the files. If you do not have a managed backup system by WAMS, please contact us immediately to review your current backup process and make sure you would be able to recover from a virus/malware attack. In some cases even your onsite backups can become infected, so be sure you have safe offsite copies of your backups.
  • Proper Antivirus / Malware Installed. Be sure your servers and desktops have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed and that it is up to date.
  • Employee Awareness. Ensure all computer users understand these threats exist. Be vigilant when receiving suspicious emails. In many cases,they are disguised as credit card notices or shipping confirmations asking you to download a file. Infected webpages or social media sites asking you to download a file, click on a link, or install updates can also be a source of the virus. If users notice anything out of the ordinary, ask them to not click any link and contact your IT help desk immediately.
  • Firewall / Spam Filtering. Make sure your firewall is up to date with its firmware and that your spam filtering is functioning.

These are very basic measures you should take to help prevent and/or recover from a virus/malware attack. We appreciate your cooperation and vigilance during this heightened period of virus attacks.

If you have any questions about the virus or about your ability to recover from such an attack, please reach out to us ASAP.

Tech Not Working? Here’s Some Tips

Technology is an important part of almost every role in every business. We have come to rely so heavily on it that when we do have a problem with a device or system, our productivity can easily grind to an almighty halt. While many of us know our systems will eventually breakdown, do you know what to in this situation? Are you prepared?

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed, but may be at a loss as to what to do.

When technology does breakdown, here are some recommended steps you should take:

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!” – One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is “don’t panic”. This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have solid backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred – This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems – Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again – When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system – be it your computer, an app, server, etc. – off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it – If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn’t load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider’s website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don’t rush into a supposed fix – It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some ‘fixes’ can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don’t overreact – Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level, the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk – If the system doesn’t work after restarting, we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like us. We have the experience to investigate the problem and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn’t mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems and implementing security standards.

We also strongly recommend working with an IT partner like us. We can help manage your systems and implement measures to keep them working long into the future. Beyond that, we can help monitor systems so that should something start to go wrong, we can begin to implement a fix even before you notice it. And, if something should break down, we can either fix it ourselves or recommend an expert who will be able to help. Plus, we have a whole team of help desk engineers in our office ready and waiting to help you and they are just a phone call away.

Looking for help keeping your systems running and employees productive? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how they are designed to help.

Virtualization – 5 Ways It Can Fail

While there are numerous tech systems available to small and medium size businesses, one of the most useful has proven to be virtualization. This movement of physical systems to a virtual counterpart offers many benefits when implemented correctly. Administered poorly, however, and you could see systems fail. To help avoid this, it is worthwhile being aware of five common ways virtualization fails.

1. Migration is forced before it is ready

One of the biggest reasons virtualization fails is that it is pushed before the company is ready for it. For example, it could be that the IT team is forced to fast-track virtualization, resulting in staff being forced to drop all other tasks and focus on migration.

If you rush, the chances of failure and mistakes always rise. And when it comes to changing systems from physical to virtual, mistakes can be compounded, thus increasing overall migration time and costs.

To avoid this, you should take the time to conduct research on solutions available, workloads, applications to the move, and your specific business needs. Once you are across this, you should also take the time to get to know your systems and test them before migration.

2. Trying to implement a management plan after virtualizing systems

Some companies decide to virtualize first and then try to figure out how to manage systems after migration is complete. This will almost always result in inefficiencies and frustration as the pressure is on not just to learn how to manage, but also how to use this solution.

In order to see a more successful virtualization, you should have a management plan in place before you migrate your systems. You should look at how virtual machines will be managed, who will be doing what, as well as what systems you are going to use, and more. One of the best times to develop an overall management plan is when you are in the testing phase, well before actual migration. This will give you an idea of how systems will work in reality and how you can manage them.

3. Virtualization without employee buy-in, or involving employees

We have seen companies implement a virtualization solution without having full buy-in from the employees who will be using and managing the system. What this results in is confusion, resentment, lost efficiency, and, in some extreme situations, sabotage.

In order to successfully introduce a virtualized solution, you should ensure that all employees who will be using the system are not only aware of it, but are trained on how to use it and have been given a fair chance to air their opinions. If you can achieve employee buy-in, there is a better chance that the systems will be used more effectively, and employees will be more open to other solutions being implemented.

4. Assuming one solution that works for others will work for you

An easy mistake to make is to only consider solutions successfully implemented by other businesses. The fact is, every business is different, and you should be looking for a solution that meets your specific needs.

If you go with a ready-made solution, or one-size-fits-all solution, it will likely work to some extent. However, there is a good chance that it will not completely meet your needs. This will likely result in either lost efficiency or increased investment in order to get what you need.

We recommend looking for a provider who can meet your virtualization needs with tailor-made solutions. This way you will get what you need straightaway and likely not need to invest more in the future.

5. Not managing your virtual solution after implementation

Unlike some tech solutions, virtualization is not really a ‘set it and forget it’ type of solution. You will need to manage it from the start if you want to be able to get the most out of your systems. This includes ensuring resources are being allocated properly, machines are created and shut down properly, apps and systems are updated, and more.

While virtualized solutions do require less management than their physical counterparts, they still require some management, and you will need people to help you do that. One of the best solutions is to work with an IT partner like WAMS who can help manage your systems and ensure that they are working efficiently.

In fact, we offer a wide variety of virtualization solutions. By working with us, we can help take some of the virtualization load off and allow you to focus on running your business. If you would like to learn more, contact us today to see how we can help!

Cloud: 100% Uptime Guarantee a Reality?

As more and more businesses are choosing Cloud-based technologies instead of traditional on-premise servers, the question of which Cloud to choose is more important than ever.

But what exactly makes one Cloud different than another?

What should you be looking for when searching for a vendor?

Is it possible to have 0% downtime guaranteed?

Cloud 101

In this article, let’s start with the basics. Cloud Computing is still dependent on servers; just not the ones in your office. All Cloud technologies run on servers that are generally housed in a datacenter somewhere. The word “datacenter” can be a little vague when talking to various vendors though, so be sure to find out specifically what type of datacenter your data will be housed in. For example, you want to stay away from vendors that use their own office as their “datacenter”. These vendors most likely do not have the redundancy, security and power in place to meet minimum compliance standards, let alone the budget it takes to keep a datacenter running and updated with fresh equipment every few months.

So what type of datacenter should be used?

A good starting point is to know the ranking of the datacenter. Datacenters are ranked in Tiers 1-4 with 4 being the highest level of redundancy and security available. Generally, a Tier 4 will be completely sealed off from the public and will rent processing power for consumption, but will not allow a third party to co-locate (bring your own server) into their datacenter, whereas most Tier 3 datacenters will.

Renting server power from a datacenter is known in the industry as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). Enterprise class Cloud technologies are built in Tier 4 IaaS datacenters because it is nearly impossible for an individual IT or software company to afford and refresh the server equipment like a Tier 4 datacenter is able to. Examples of leading IaaS providers are Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google App Engine.

But even they are not perfect

As recently as last week, Microsoft Azure, which is where Office 365 is hosted, suffered from hours of downtime. Not even a giant like Microsoft can claim to have 100% uptime (as it is simply impossible to guarantee) but they should be able to get fairly close and many IaaS providers will guarantee up to 99.9% uptime.

Ask your Cloud vendor which datacenter they use and do some investigating online and see for yourself how stable that particular datacenter has been in the last year or two. The closer you can get to 100% the better.

Also, ask your vendor how they have built their Cloud solution. Is it built in just one datacenter? Do they backup or replicate to other datacenters? What has their overall uptime record been?

The more you know about the “engine” (or infrastructure) under their solution, the more comfortable you will be knowing you have made the best decision for your business.

Have questions about Cloud Computing or interested in getting a complimentary Cloud Readiness Assessment? Contact us today or fill out the form to the right.