This new kid on the block is a Galaxy and iPhone slayer.

Eight years in the making, Google has bypassed its Android partners with the new Pixel phone. While it won’t win any visual design awards, Pixel sports a rich feature set that raises the bar for smartphone performance. Foremost is its blistering speed. Google spent a lot of time “tuning the hell out of the platform,” as one Google spokesperson said. Plus, its Snapdragon 821 chipset keeps its cool – literally – and avoids throttling better than the Snapdragon 820 featured in the Galaxy S7 and other premium smartphones. And Pixel’s camera, call quality and battery life are all “top of class.” Priced from $649 to $869, it’s a premium phone – with premium pricing.

Are you getting full value from your lunch break?

Here are three ways to make that precious time slot pay off for you: 1) Break bread with clients. Learn about their business and build rapport. They’re less likely to leave when you know what really bugs them and what their goals are. 2) Go work out. A carb-laden lunch bogs you down for the next few hours. Breaking into a sweat, on the other hand, gives you energy and makes you more productive. Besides being good for you, a good workout clears your head and lets you think through challenges. 3) Take a siesta. What?! Yep. Siesta. A midday “power nap” improves mental acuity. And well-rested people perform at the top of their game.

Here’s why Mark Zuckerberg thinks chatbots are a big deal.
Chatbots respond automatically to chat messages you receive. They’ve been around since AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM). But with artificial intelligence and a huge surge in messaging-app popularity, their potential for things like customer service is exploding. In fact, more people now use messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat than social networks. Chatbots can help you cut costs and scale up. It can talk with thousands of people at once, while a customer service rep can speak with only one at a time. Yet hurdles remain. For example, you don’t want this kind of response: “Siri, I’m bleeding really badly. Call me an ambulance.” “From now on I’ll call you ‘An Ambulance.’ OK?”

Double your sales team’s productivity.
Give fitness trackers as rewards for hitting sales goals. They’re one of the most popular gifts right now with both health and non-health conscious workers. And once an employee earns it, they’ll likely start using it. With health care costs at less than a third of national averages for companies with wellness programs, you get a double win – more productivity, less cost. One way to get the most out of fitness trackers for your team is to set sleeping goals. The journal Sleep reports that people who get seven to eight hours of sleep per night stay home sick four to nine days less than those who get less than five or more than 10 hours per night.

Finally, you can block snoops with this new Facebook Messenger feature.
Secret Conversations allows you to encrypt messages so nobody but you and your conversation partner can read them. It also lets you send messages with an expiration time ranging from five seconds to one day. Your Messenger app may not have notified you, but when you update it, you’ll find the Secret Conversations option on the top right of each new message screen. You’ll need to enable it manually for every conversation. The only way to use Secret Conversations, however, is to update your Messenger app – so if you haven’t done it yet, DO IT, and use it. Otherwise you may be letting snooping competitors or hackers in on your conversations.

Communication is a skill – one that needs to be practiced to be perfected in a leader. And the root of all effective communication is honesty.

Unfortunately, CEOs and business owners often think that means totally unfiltered “brutal honesty” – however insensitive or accusatory. It’s no surprise that this method usually backfires and, over a sustained period of time, can lead to disheartened employees, high turnover and a lack of trust in management. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When honest communication is positive and constructive, it helps leaders build and maintain strong, loyal teams.

Here are four steps to open up lines of communication and become the “honesty standard leader” for your team:

Show the “real you” – Do people see who you really are, or are you playing a role? The fact is, people can see through your “act” more easily than you think. And those around you deserve to know the real you – not just the image you want to present as “the boss.” Admit that you’re human and share vulnerabilities with your team. Be honest about who you are and what’s going on in your life (the good and the bad), and your team will actually trust you more. They’ll begin to share their own stories and become more cohesive.

Take time to listen – You’re a leader. You’ve made it your business to do things the way you envision them in order to start your own company and make your dreams a reality. However, that doesn’t mean you should block out advice from others – especially when it’s coming from your employees. Open yourself up to honest criticism and invite feedback about areas you may be overlooking. By trusting your employees with that kind of critique and seeking solutions that will benefit everyone, you’ll begin to encourage higher levels of truth in the workplace and gather the best ideas.

Surround yourself with honest people – Are you surrounded with lots of “yes” men and women? If people are just telling you what they think you want to hear, there is no benefit – least of all to your business. Ask for regular “truth checks” with your team. Are they providing ideas freely – especially those that might differ from yours – or do they hesitate to voice their opinions? Surround yourself with people bold and truthful enough to disagree with you. Without dissenting opinions, you’ll never exit your comfort zone, which will limit your personal and professional growth.

Accept your imperfections – You may be the one in charge, but you will never have all the answers. No one person can handle everything, and that includes you. Gather a team of truthful people who balance out your weaknesses with their strengths. Empower them to do what they do best, and play to everyone’s strengths – including your own.

Don’t hesitate to be vulnerable and open up in a genuine way with your employees. Genuine leaders don’t need to be “brutal” – just honest. Try it. Your employees – and you – will notice the difference.

It was a typical morning at the offices of a small Midwestern online retailer. This company, whose name we cannot mention due to a non-disclosure agreement with our source (Gary Miller, GEM Strategy Management) owned a very successful online catalog offering a wide variety of women’s apparel and accessories. They had a terrific reputation and brand, and every reason to be excited about their future.

Then, with a single click, the death spiral began…

An employee received an e-mail with a link to a benign-looking catalog. All it took was one click and the company’s entire network was infected. The Cryptowall malware dug deep into the company’s accounting system and customer files, including credit card and social security numbers.

Fifteen thousand customer accounts were locked up by the malware. A ransom demand soon followed, requiring $50,000 for the key. Unfortunately, the company’s backup systems had been down for the last three months. With no way to remove the virus without destroying crucial data, the company had its back against a wall.

They paid for the decryption key. But no luck – it didn’t work. Business came to a grinding halt. The company owners couldn’t afford to rebuild their entire network. Within six months, the company closed its doors, strangled by a lack of sales and cash flow.

Could this happen to you?

Hackers have discovered that small businesses make juicy targets. These criminals love going after small businesses because they’re often the easiest to penetrate. IBM reports that over 62% of the 4,000 cyber-attacks that occur every day target small businesses.

Cyberthieves filch information to rob bank accounts via wire transfers. They steal customers’ personal identity information and resell it on black markets. They nab key information to file fraudulent tax returns, and commit health insurance or Medicare fraud – in your customers’ names.

Most small businesses are easy prey because they fail to take precautions. But you don’t have to be like most small businesses. Here are four things you can start doing TODAY to prevent a shutdown that could destroy your fortunes.

Understand evolving threats – Know what’s at risk in your company. Stay on top of the different schemes hackers use to gain entry. Learn all you can about phishing, spoofing, social engineering, malware, systems hacking, pharming and the latest scams so you can see them coming. Identify your company’s weak points and bolster them as needed.

Institute a dual signature policy – Require that two people sign off on every transaction. At the very least, when in doubt, pick up the phone. Verify all fund transfers or requests for payment before releasing funds.

Ingrain a solid data security policy in your company’s culture – Yes, you need to define and document protocols…but that’s not enough. In order for them to work, they must permeate every activity you and your team engages in. Your employees are the gatekeepers of critical data. Train them to see the warning signs, engage in safe practices and respond effectively to an attack. Examples include using only unique, complex passwords and keeping a “clean desk,” where sensitive information isn’t exposed.

Have – and practice – an incident response plan – Just like a fire drill, being ready for a breach gives your team an edge when faced with a crisis. When everyone knows exactly what to do, you’re better able to nip a hack in the bud.

Why play Russian roulette with your company’s data?

If you’ve been putting off cyberprotection measures, thinking, “Oh, that would never happen here,” you are putting your company’s entire future in jeopardy. NOW is the time to call in an expert you can trust to verify that your data is safe in today’s rapidly evolving battle against a host of online bad guys.

When it comes to protecting your data – whether it’s bank account information, customer and employee records or proprietary IP or processes – we’ve got you covered.

Through the end of December, we’re offering  our Cybersecurity Assessment at no cost to 10 companies. Call us (520) 300-8503 or (505) 629-4303 or email me at [email protected] TODAY because we can only offer this valuable service to the first 10 companies that apply.

With winter just around the corner, everyone around you may be getting “all wrapped up” in the upcoming holiday season…

But you’ve got a business to run, customers to keep happy and mission-critical data to keep safe, even if a major blizzard, lightning strike, windstorm or epic flood is taking place right outside your door.

Here are 5 easy steps you can take this holiday season to get your office prepared for this winter’s worst, without seeming like Mr. Grinch.

Be ready for power outages. A power outage can hurt your business in more ways than you think. Besides employee downtime, it takes time to safely get everything back up and running. Then you need to make sure no critical files have been damaged or lost.

Autosave features can help minimize lost files in a sudden power outage. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can give your team anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to back up files and properly shut down equipment. If you need longer power durability during an outage, you might want to look into a backup generator.

Keep lines of communication open. Customer frustration due to production delays and not being able to reach key people at your company can be very costly in terms of both revenues and your company’s reputation. Here are three ways to make sure calls to your office don’t get bobbled when a storm rolls in:

  1. Create a new automated greeting to let callers know about changes in hours or closings.
  2. Set up an emergency override that automatically reroutes key phone lines to one or more numbers that can be reached during an outage.
  3. Make sure you and your staff can access voice mail remotely – from a smartphone, by e-mail as an attached sound file or transcribed message, or as a text notification.

Manage employees working from home. Many of your employees can work from home if need be. But you’ll need to prepare in advance if it’s not the norm at your company. Have your IT specialist check with employees who could work from home during rough weather. They’ll need a virtual private network (VPN) to safely access the company network. Be sure it’s set up well in advance to avoid any glitches when that winter storm hits and you need it most.

Have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) ready to go. Unless you can afford to shut down for days at a time, or even just a few hours, it’s absolutely critical to keep a written DRP on hand. Write out step-by-step details of who does what in every type of winter disruption – from simple power outages to blizzards, flooding or building damage caused by heavy winds or lightning. A downed network can cost your company big-time every minute it’s offline. Make sure your plan includes one or more ways to get it back up and running ASAP. Consider virtualizing key parts or all of your network so your team can access it remotely. Once you’ve written out your plan, keep one copy at your office, one at home and one with your IT specialist.

“Be sure it’s set up well in advance to avoid any glitches when that winter storm hits.”

Get help from a professional you can trust. Trying to recover your data after a sudden or serious outage without professional help is business suicide. One misstep can result in losing critical files forever, or weeks of downtime. Make sure you’re working with a pro who will not only help set up a recovery plan, but has experience in data recovery. The old adage about an ounce of prevention applies doubly when it comes to working with the right people who can help you prepare for – and recover from – whatever winter throws your way.

Want help getting ready for winter?
Call for a FREE Winterization Checkup.

Let us help you make sure your phone lines, Internet connections and internal network can take the tough weather. One of our experienced professionals will come in to examine your systems and review your disaster recovery plan with you to make sure nothing critical has been left out in the cold.

Call me at (520) 300-8503 or (505) 629-4303  TODAY
– you never know when a sudden storm will blow in.

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If You Depend On Your Computer Network To Run Your Business, This Is One Report You DON’T Want To Overlook!

This report will outline in plain, non-technical English common mistakes that many small business owners make with their computer network that cost them thousands in lost sales, productivity, and computer repair bills, as well as providing an easy, proven way to reduce or completely eliminate the financial expense and frustration of these oversights.

You’ll Discover:

  • The single most expensive mistake most small business owners make when it comes to protecting their company data.
  • The universal misconception business owners have about their computer networks, and how it can end up costing between $9,000 to as much as $60,000 in damages.
  • 6 Critical security measures every small business should have in place.
  • How to greatly reduce – or even completely eliminate – frustrating crashes, slow performance, and other annoying computer problems.
  • How to avoid expensive computer repair bills and get all the computer support you need for a low, fixed monthly rate.

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Downtime is real, and it’s costly. Across all businesses, it’s a staggering $163,674 per hour, according to research by the Aberdeen Group.1  Of course, the exact cost depended on company size: small companies lose approximately $8,581 per hour; medium companies $215,638 per hour; and large enterprises a whopping $686,250 for every hour of downtime.

The numbers speak for themselves: you need to plan for downtime.

What causes downtime? As it turns out, businesses should be more wary of their own employees than of natural disasters. Although hurricanes, tornadoes, and the like do their fair share of damage, research shows that natural disasters account for just 10 percent of downtime.2  The leading culprits? Network outages (50 per- cent) and human error (45 percent).

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How do you choose the right BDR vendor?
Here are ten questions to get you started.

  1. Do you provide a hybrid cloud backup solution?

A hybrid cloud backup solution is optimal to achieve intelligent business continuity, as  it encapuslates the best of the private and public models to form a feature rich, highly  efficient, and affordable system

2. Can you provide my client instant local virtualization?

Downtime costs you and your client money. Being down for hours is simply unacceptable.  Current BDR solutionsshould allow you to have servers booting instantly locally so that  client services can be restored and back in the right place in a matter of minutes.

3. Can you provide proof of backup?

What proof do you have of successful data backup? Your BDR vendor should be able  to provide screenshot verification.

4. Do you virtualize off-site?

It’s imperative to offer your clients the peace of mind that their critical business  infrastructure can be brought online quickly in the cloud. This allows continuous uptime.

5. Do you deliver an off-site sync method that  manages bandwidth?

It’s critical that a BDR solution be able to prioritize if data is local or off-site, thus  managing bandwidth to provide greater flexibility, increased reliability. and higher  transfer speeds of your off-site backups.

6. Do you have multiple data centers, in geographically  diverse locations?

This is important for three reasons. First, it ensures that even if data is removed locally,  there is a secure copy off-site that can be restored. Second, it saves money because  your local device capacity does not have to cover your entire backup repository. And third,  in case of a regionalized disaster, at least one data center location must not be affected.

7. Do you offer flexible contracts and upgrade policies?

Constant change is a fact of life in IT. It’s critical to select a vendor whose goal is to  help its Partners succeed, by offering flexible contracts and upgrade policies. Also, in  the unfortunate event that a client is lost, it’s important you are not on the hook for their  BDR contract.

8. Do you provide US based technical support?

If you’re in the middle of a backup or disaster crisis, you need the best technical and  customer support available, at the time it’s required.

9. Do you focus exclusively on the Channel?

Choose a partner that is 100% committed to your success, and only succeeds when its  partners succeed.

10. Do you offer Intelligent Business Continuity?

Only an intelligent business continuity solution takes BDR to the next level, to mitigate  risk and keep your clients’ systems running in the event of a technical or natural  disaster.”

In this report I’m going to talk about 5 very important facts you need to know before you consider cloud computing for your company. These include:

  1. The pros AND cons you need to consider before moving to the cloud.
  2. Migration GOTCHAS (and how to avoid them).
  3. The various types of cloud computing options you have (there are more than just one).
  4. Answers to important, frequently asked questions you need to know the answers to.
  5. What questions you need to ask your IT pro before letting them “sell” you on moving all or part of your network and applications to the cloud.

I’ve also included some actual case studies from other businesses that have moved to cloud computing, along with a sample cost-comparison chart so you can see the impact this new technology can have on your IT budget.

At the end of this report there is an invitation for you to request a Free Cloud Readiness Assessment to determine if cloud computing is right for your particular business. I encourage you to take advantage of this before making any decisions since we’ve designed it to take a hard look at the functionality and costs for you as a business and provide you with the specific information you need (not hype) to make a good decision about this new technology.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Wikipedia defines cloud computing as “the use and access of multiple server-based computational resources via a digital network (WAN, Internet connection using the World Wide Web, etc.).” But what the heck does that mean? The easiest way to not only understand what cloud computing is but also gain insight into why it’s gaining in popularity is to compare it to the evolution of public utilities. For example, let’s look at the evolution of electricity.

Back in the industrial age, factories had to produce their own power in order to run machines that produced the hard goods they manufactured. Be it textiles or railroad spikes, using machines gave these companies enormous competitive advantages by producing more goods with fewer workers and in less time. For many years, the production of power was every bit as important to their company’s success as the skill of their workers and quality of their products.

Unfortunately, this put factories into TWO businesses: the business of producing their goods and the business of producing power. Then the concept of delivering power (electricity) as a utility was introduced by Thomas Edison when he developed a commercial-grade replacement for gas lighting and heating using centrally generated and distributed electricity. From there, as they say, the rest was history.

The concept of electric current being generated in central power plants and delivered to factories as a utility caught on fast. This meant manufacturers no longer had to be in the business of producing their own power with enormous and expensive water wheels. In fact, in a very short period of time, it became a competitive necessity for factories to take advantage of the lower-cost option being offered by public utilities. Almost overnight, thousands of steam engines and electric generators were rendered obsolete and left to rust next to the factories they used to power.

What made this possible was a series of inventions and scientific breakthroughs – but what drove the demand was pure economics. Utility companies were able to leverage economies of scale that single manufacturing plants simply couldn’t match in output or in price. In fact, the price of power dropped so significantly that it quickly became affordable for not only factories but every single household in the country.

Today, we are in a similar transformation following a similar course. The only difference is that instead of cheap and plentiful electricity, advancements in technology and Internet connectivity are driving down the costs of computing power. With cloud computing, businesses can pay for “computing power” like a utility without having the exorbitant costs of installing, hosting and supporting it on premise.

In fact, you are probably already experiencing the benefits of cloud computing in some way but hadn’t realized it. Below are a number of cloud computing applications, also called SaaS or “software as a service,” you might be using:

  • Gmail, Hotmail or other free e-mail accounts
  • Facebook
  • NetSuite, Salesforce
  • Constant Contact, Exact Target, AWeber or other e-mail broadcasting services
  • Zoomerang, SurveyMonkey and other survey tools
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • All things Google (search, AdWords, maps, etc.)

If you think about it, almost every single application you use today can be (or already is) being put “in the cloud” where you can access it and pay for it via your browser for a monthly fee or utility pricing. You don’t purchase and install software but instead access it via an Internet browser.

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If your data is important to your business and you cannot afford to have your operations halted for days – even weeks – due to data loss or corruption, then you need to read this report and act on the information shared. This report will outline the most commonly made, costly mistakes that most small business owners make with their data backups.

You’ll Discover:

  • What remote, offsite, or managed backups are, and why EVERY business should have them in place.
  • 7 critical characteristics you should absolutely demand from any remote backup service; do NOT trust your data to anyone who does not meet these criteria.
  • Where tape backups fail and give you a false sense of security.
  • Frightening trends, cases, and questions every business owner should know and consider regarding data security.
  • The single most important thing to look for in a remote backup service provider.

Dear Colleague,

Have you ever lost an hour of work on your computer?

Now imagine if you lost days or weeks of work – or imagine losing your client database, financial records, and all of the work files your company has ever produced or compiled.

Imagine what would happen if your network went down for days and you couldn’t access e-mail or the information on your PC. How devastating would that be? Or, what if a major storm, flood, or fire destroyed your office and all of your files?

Or if a virus wiped out your server…do you have an emergency recovery plan in place that you feel confident in?

How quickly do you think you could recover, if at all?

If you do not have good answers to the above questions or a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place, you are quite literally playing Russian roulette with your business. With the number of threats constantly growing, it’s not a matter of if you will have a problem, but rather a matter of when.

But That Could Never Happen To Me! (And Other Lies Business Owners Like To Believe About Their Businesses…)

After working with over hundreds of small and mid-size businesses in the southwest, we found that 6 out of 10 businesses will experience some type of major network or technology disaster that will end up costing them between $9,000 and $60,000 in repairs and restoration costs on average.

That doesn’t even include lost productivity, sales, and client goodwill that can be damaged when a company can’t operate or fulfill on its promises due to technical problems.

While it may be difficult to determine the actual financial impact data loss would have on your business, you can’t deny the fact that it would have a major negative effect.

“But I Already Back Up My Data,” You Say…

If you are like most business owners, you’ve been smart enough to set up a tape backup. But know this:

The average failure rate for a tape backup is 100% – ALL tape backups fail at some point in time.

Incredible, isn’t it? Most people don’t realize that ALL tape drives fail. But what’s really dangerous is that most companies don’t realize it happened until it’s too late.

That’s why history is riddled with stories of companies losing millions of dollars worth of data. In almost every case, these businesses had some type of backup system in place, but were sickened to find out it wasn’t working when they needed it most.

While you should maintain a local backup of your data, a tape backup will NOT offer you protection if…

  1. Your tape drive malfunctions rendering it useless and making it impossible to restore your data. IMPORTANT: It is very common for a tape drive to malfunction without giving any warning signs.
  2. Your office (and everything in it) gets destroyed by a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster.
  3. The physical tapes you are backing your data up to become corrupted due to heat or mishandling.
  4. A virus spoils the data stored on the tape drive. Some of the more aggressive viruses not only corrupt the data, but they don’t allow anyone to access the data on the drive.
  5. Someone in your office accidentally formats the tape, erasing everything on it.
  6. Theft – a disgruntled employee intentionally erases everything, or a thief breaks in and steals ALL of your equipment.
  7. A faulty sprinkler system “waters” all of your electronic equipment.

Bottom line: You do NOT want to find out your backup was not working when you need it most. Frightening Trends, Cases, and Questions You Should Consider:

  • Tape drives fail on average at 100%; that means ALL tape drives fail at some point and do NOT offer complete protection for your data if a natural disaster, fire, or terrorist attack destroys your office and everything in it. Business owners who were hit by hurricanes like Katrina learned a hard lesson about keeping remote backups of their data.
  • 93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster, and 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration in Washington.)
  • 20% of small to medium businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years. (Source: Richmond House Group)
  • This year, 40% of small to medium businesses that manage their own network and use the Internet for more than e-mail will have their network accessed by a hacker, and more than 50% won’t even know they were attacked. (Source: Gartner Group)
  • About 70% of business people have experienced (or will experience) data loss due to accidental deletion, disk or system failure, viruses, fire or some other disaster (Source: Carbonite, an online backup service)
  • The first reaction of employees who lose their data is to try to recover the lost data themselves by using recovery software or either restarting or unplugging their computer — steps that can make later data recovery impossible. (Source: 2005 global survey by Minneapolisbased Ontrack Data Recovery

Remote Backups: What They Are And Why EVERY Business Should Have Them In Place

The ONLY way to completely protect your data and guarantee that you could restore it all after a major disaster is by maintaining an up-to-date copy of your data offsite in a high-security facility.

Remote backups, also called offsite backups, online backups, or managed backups, is a service that allows you to maintain a secure copy of your data in a different location than your office.

Usually this type of backup is done automatically via the Internet after hours to a high-security facility. There is no question that every business owner should have an offsite copy of their data; however, there ARE big differences among remote backup services and it’s critical that you choose a good provider or you could end up paying a lot of money only to discover that recovering your data – the very reason why you set up remote backups in the first place – is not an easy, fast, or simple job.

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