Who needs an office when you have a car? Microsoft has partnered with Mercedes on a project called In Car Office, slated to debut in 2017. Actually, the idea isn’t to replace your office, but to help you make your time in the car more productive. In Car Office links your car with MS Exchange, your calendar and other apps to help you make better use of your time in traffic. For instance, it pulls data from your to-do list to suggest calls to make and places to go. It can even program your car’s GPS with info from your calendar. And Mercedes isn’t alone. Volvo and other carmakers are adding features to help you get a bit more done from behind the wheel., 09.05.16

You don’t have to be a behemoth like Google to make a bundle from IoT. Smaller companies too can cash in on the “Internet of Things.” For instance, with data-rich sensors, cloud and mobility, the whole face of field service has changed. Smart companies are ditching the high cost of reacting to unplanned crises caused by broken equipment. Now, instead of fixing broken things, they’re offering service plans that assure nothing breaks in the first place. And people are more than happy to pony up for that kind of assurance. Field service, in fact, is now getting the type of high-tech makeover that IT, CRM, HR and marketing have already had. As smaller companies are now proving, it’s not just size that counts., 09.02.16

Betcha didn’t know your iPhone could do these 4 things: The iPhone might not be a superhero’s first weapon of choice, but did you know your iPhone could track any villain who nabs it? It even records every place it’s been over the past few months. Click through Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. Need to send a self-destructing message? Go ahead, send that secret picture or video and tell it to self-destruct in two minutes. Head to Settings > Messages. Need to hang shelves in your Batcave? Just go to iPhone’s Compass and swipe left to access its level feature. You can even discover hidden power hogs. Navigate to Settings, then Battery, for a peek at your phone’s worst offenders. Mashable, 09.05.16

Trouble meeting deadlines? This app can help. If you’ve ever wished for a project management tool that’s just simple, intuitive and flexible, then Aeon Timeline is worth a look. It’s a little like a Gantt chart, but a lot easier to use. Aeon’s smart interface lets you map out all the parts of your project on a timeline. Just add people, places and resources to an event. You can link dependencies, so things get done in the right order. Then filter events to narrow your focus, and nest them to easily zoom in for more detail. You can even add bookmarks to easily jump to key milestones. Details and deadlines may not be your strong suit, but with this handy app, no one will ever know.

Love digital books, but hate reading on a laptop or tablet? If you’ve never tried an e-reader, you are really missing out. So what makes e-readers so different? For one thing, they don’t let you do anything else. No temptation to tweet, or check up on work. They’re built just for reading. And they don’t shoot light into your eyeballs. With no glare, it’s a more pleasant read, even in sunlight. Plus, battery life is a breeze. You could easily go two to four weeks without a charge. Then there’s the content itself. Sure you can find endless material on the web, written for skimming, and for visitors with the attention span of a gnat. But isn’t it time you cozied up with a great novel instead?, 09.02.16

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Why Goal-Setting Doesn’t Work

By Darren Hardy

When we were kids, we thought we could write down everything we wanted and mail it to the North Pole, and then, magically, all our desires would appear, on schedule, under the tree in our living room, complete with pretty paper and a bow.

I think many people must still believe in Santa Claus. You cannot simply write down a list of wants on New Year’s Day, stick it in a drawer for the rest of the year and wait around for your life to change. Sorry, but it’s time to grow up and get serious.

The heart of the problem

The first step to changing the trajectory of your life, as well as what you achieve and sustain, is to take complete responsibility for your circumstances today. Wherever you are in life right now is your own doing – good or bad, it’s your fault. Your parents aren’t responsible, the economy isn’t, McDonald’s isn’t; you are. You are 100% responsible for everything – by what you did, what you didn’t do or how you responded to what was done to you. Once we get that straight, then we can get to the heart of how to fix or improve any outcome as you desire.

You don’t get in life what you want; you get in life what you are

Let’s say you want to earn an extra $100,000 in income this year. Who do you have to become to achieve this? Once you’ve decided who you need to be in order to accomplish your goals, you have to figure out how this elevated person operates. How do they show up in the world? If you’re unsure, if you lack a vision of your potential, find a model. Emulating the habits of someone you respect is one of the greatest keys to moving from where you are to where you could be.

The price

During the pursuit of what you want in one area of your life, be careful what you sacrifice in other areas. Also, be aware of the price you must pay to achieve the prize you seek. Some prizes might cost too much, and they might only be realized after payment has been made.

It’s up to you

Now is the time to write the script for the life you have always dreamed of having – the health, the relationships, the thriving business, the financial abundance and freedom, and the knowledge that you are making a significant difference in the world and with the people around you. You can have it all, but it will require you to get serious and relinquish the fantasies that debt fairies will leave a stack of cash under your pillow while you sleep. Or that the Easter Bunny will bring you miracle diet chocolate. Or that you can click your heels and your relationships will all be better. It will take rigorous planning, relentless commitment and steadfast dedication.

And that is why success is reserved for the willing few.

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Free Report Download: If You Are Considering Cloud Computing For Your Company, DON’T, Until You Read This…

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Winter 2017: Disaster For Your Data?

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 areputation. 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.

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 [PHONE] or e-mail me at [E-MAIL] TODAY – you never know when a sudden storm will blow in.

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Tech Trivia December 2016

To view objects at the surface of water from a submarine under water, the instrument used is:

a) kaleidoscope

c) spectroscope

b) periscope

d) telescope

The Correct answer is b) periscope

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News Briefs December 2016

“Smart Cities” are adding a whole new layer of complexity to data protection.

Driverless cars, cloud-based services and networks of sensors are driving rapid change… Yet along with great benefits, the smart city revolution adds new threats. For instance, since it relies heavily on interconnectivity, weak links make the whole system vulnerable to cyber-attack. Yet a study by Kaspersky Labs estimates that 57% of smaller companies underinvest in security. With deeper connectivity to these “weak links,” encryption of your own data becomes more critical than ever. Using secured websites (the “https” vs. “http” protocol), for example, not only secures data, it also creates trust among your customers and vendors. Clearly, the smart thing to do is to be ready for smart city challenges.

With Google’s new Daydream VR platform, reality will never be the same.

While it isn’t as pixel-rich as PC-tethered systems like Oculus Rift, Daydream is fully mobile. That means, for instance, you could navigate through a museum and get way more interactive with the exhibits. Google’s “View” headset with clickable touchpad controller is just the first of many to come, as other developers jump into mobile VR. As for apps, Google says there will be at least 50 in the Play Store by the end of December. Daydream has been deeply integrated into the new Android Nougat OS. If Nougat isn’t on your phone yet, be patient – or buy a phone, such as Google’s Pixel, that already has it installed.

Stop wasting your time and costing your company money.

No company is 100% productive 100% of the time. But talk of last night’s game, social media check-ins and long lunch breaks aren’t the only time thieves. Without realizing it, you may be asking your team to do things that frankly hurt the bottom line. For instance, do you hold meetings that take longer than necessary – or don’t need to be held at all? Consider holding meetings only when critical. And when they are, use an agenda to keep everyone on track. Another big time killer is trying to fix a problem via multiple e-mails or chat. Often a simple phone call could resolve the issue with a lot less back and forth.

Want better collaboration at work? Play these tunes.

Research has already shown that teams who listen to music together at work feel more bonded and collaborate better. Yet that begs the question – what type of music do you listen to? It’s a topic likely to end up in wrangling and conflict. However, a recent study at Cornell University offers a scientific answer. And, while metal fans may not be thrilled with it, the results weren’t exactly shocking. The study found that people who listen to happy music were more likely to cooperate, regardless of age, gender or academic major, than those who listen to unhappy music. Interestingly, they found it was not the vibe, but the bouncing beat, that gets teams in sync.

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At the Office: Be the Adult in the Room

By Andy Bailey

There’s a reason people refer to the office as a “sandbox,” because some folks refuse to act like adults. And, if the level of childish behavior rises to tantrum pitch and the culture becomes toxic, there’s no chance for communication or growth. But the office is not a playground, and we’re not children. So it’s important that we enter into an “adult agreement” when we walk through the doors at work and begin our day.

When I work with companies looking to improve their business, one of the things we start with is our adult agreement. It informs the work we do for the entire day, and hopefully beyond.

Here are three agreements to make sure you’re acting your age in the workplace:

Don’t shoot each other down.

When a colleague brings an idea to the table – even if you disagree with it – don’t shut them down just to be “right.” If we want to be collaborative, we’ve got to consider that those around us have something valuable to offer. If you make it a habit to cut people off or discount what they’re saying out of hand, you’ll not only guarantee that they won’t share their ideas with you again, but you’ll likely miss out on insights that could help you and your company.

Own up to mistakes and bring them to the table.

Nobody is perfect – not you, not me, not Bill Gates or Mark Cuban or anyone you might admire in business. We all make mistakes, and the worst thing we can do is deny that they exist. Instead, own up to your mistakes and let everybody know what they are. We only grow and learn when we’re vulnerable with each other. Admitting error is often considered a risk, but it’s really an opportunity. Our mistakes let others understand who we are, what risks we’re willing to take and what lessons we’ve had to learn. Share freely to engender trust and understanding among your teammates.

Don’t hide problems.

Maybe you want to stay focused on the positive and don’t want to highlight “problems.” Wrong. You’re not a negative person just because you bring problems to light or point out conflicts where they might exist. More likely, you’re finally saying what everyone else is thinking and is afraid to say. Or you’re bringing something up that’s important for everyone to understand in order to improve and move forward. Put problems up for discussion and brainstorm solutions. Hiding problems only makes them grow.

As you seek to master these three steps, remember one more thing: adults don’t crush each other just for acting like adults. We’ve got to support each other in our efforts to be truthful and vulnerable. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so it’s critical that we lift each other up.

When we act like adults – especially in the sandbox – we all win.

Andy Bailey can cut through organizational BS faster than a hot knife through butter, showing organizations the logjams thwarting their success and coaching them past the excuses. After all, as he tells his clients, 100% annual growth is only 2% growth every week. It’s not easy. But possible. Andy learned how to build great organizations by building a great business, which he started in college then, grew into an Inc. 500 multi-million dollar national company that he successfully sold and exited. He founded Petra to pass on to other entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders the principles and practices he used to build his successful enterprise, which are rooted in the Rockefeller Habits methodology.

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Your Desk Is Killing You: Do This Instead

The evidence is piling up that sitting all day is bad for your health. Though not perfect, Varidesk offers a compelling solution.

On the plus side, The Varidesk sets up right out of the box – no assembly required. With its weight-balancing system, you don’t need any hardware to fasten it to your desk. And it features an attractive, sturdy design. You can lean on it and your monitor won’t go crashing to the floor. Springs and levers make it easy to raise or lower it to one of 11 preset levels.

The main flaw is that when you raise it, it also moves forward – a problem if you’re in a tight space. All in all, though, it’s worth looking at, especially if you have a wireless keyboard and mouse – and enough space in your office or cubicle to back up a bit.

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$1.5M Cyber-Heist Typifies Growing Threat

Efficient Escrow of California was forced to close its doors and lay off its entire staff when cybercriminals nabbed $1.5 million from its bank account. The thieves gained access to the escrow company’s bank data using a form of “Trojan horse” malware.

Once the hackers broke in, they wired $432,215 from the firm’s bank to an account in Moscow. That was followed by two more transfers totaling $1.1 million, this time to banks in Heilongjiang Province in China, near the Russian border.

The company recovered the first transfer, but not the next two. They were shocked to discover that, unlike with consumer accounts, banks are under no obligation to recoup losses in a cybertheft against a commercial account. That meant a loss of $1.1 million, in a year when they expected to clear less than half that. Unable to replace the funds, they were shut down by state regulators just three days after reporting the loss.

Net result? The two brothers who owned the firm lost their nine-person staff and faced mounting attorneys’ fees nearing the total amount of the funds recovered, with no immediate way to return their customers’ money.

Avoid Getting Blindsided

While hacks against the big boys like Target, Home Depot and Sony get more than their share of public attention, cyber-attacks on small and medium-sized companies often go unreported, and rarely make national headlines.

Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. The number of crippling attacks against everyday businesses is growing. Cybersecurity company Symantec reports, for example, that 52.4% of “phishing” attacks last December were against SMEs – with a massive spike in November. Here are just a few examples out of thousands that you’ll probably never hear about:

  • Green Ford Sales, a car dealership in Kansas, lost $23,000 when hackers broke into their network and swiped bank account info. They added nine fake employees to the company payroll in less than 24 hours and paid them a total of $63,000 before the company caught on. Only some of the transfers could be canceled in time.
  • Wright Hotels, a real estate development firm, had $1 million drained from their bank account after thieves gained access to a company e-mail account. Information gleaned from e-mails allowed the thieves to impersonate the owner and convince the bookkeeper to wire money to an account in China.
  • Maine-based PATCO Construction lost $588,000 in a Trojan horse cyber-heist. They managed to reclaim some of it, but that was offset by interest on thousands of dollars in overdraft loans from their bank.

Why You’re A Target – And How To Fight Back!

Increasingly, cyberthieves view SMEs like yours and mine as easy “soft targets.” That’s because all too often we have:

  1. Bank accounts with thousands of dollars.
  2. A false sense of security about not being targeted.
  3. Our customers’ credit card information, social security numbers and other vital data that hackers can easily sell on the black market.

If you don’t want your company to become yet another statistic in today’s cyberwar against smaller companies, and your business doesn’t currently have a “bullet-proof” security shield, you MUST take action without delay – or put everything you’ve worked for at risk. The choice is yours.

Here are three things you can do right away:

  1. Remove software that you don’t need from any systems linked to your bank account.
  2. Make sure everyone with a device in your network NEVER opens an attachment in an unexpected e-mail.
  3. Require two people to sign off on every transaction.

Let Us Help

When it comes to defending your data, whether it’s bank account information, customer and employee records or proprietary intellectual property or processes, Do NOT take chances. Our experience and track record in keeping our clients’ data safe speaks for itself:

We are offering our Cyber Security Assessment at no cost through the end of December to 10 companies in the [Your City] area. Call me at [PHONE] or e-mail me at [E-MAIL] TODAY because we can only offer this valuable service to the first 10 companies that apply.

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