Blog

September 28th, 2009

sacramento-bj

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – GNT Solutions has been named one of the Sacramento Region’s Fastest Growing Companies by the Sacramento Business Journal.

In September, the Sacramento Business Journal announced its 2008 Fastest Growing Company list makers. GNT Solutions was ranked 14th on the list with a significant growth of 163% over the past three years.

Topic News
July 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_BData visualizations, when done properly, are the best and easiest way for us to understand a vast amount of information. Businesses are able to utilize data visualizations to great advantage, from summarizing annual sales report to visualizing marketing strategies in an easy-to-understand format, and much more. A poorly presented visualization, however, can not only show misleading information, but it might also confuse business users into making wrong decisions. Make sure you don’t fall victim to these common data visualization mistakes.

Inconsistent visualizations

It’s important to be consistent when presenting your data, otherwise users will have to stop and figure out how to read each new picture before they can comprehend what it says, wasting time and defeating the purpose of data visualization. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow. For instance, try choosing colors that go well together. Use only 2-3 colors at most throughout your visualization - any more and you’ll find that your pictures might be hard to read. Also, use the same iconography and typography in each picture so your audience can quickly understand the information.

Displaying too much data

Overly complicated data visualizations are sure to turn off most audiences because they can’t figure out where and what to focus on. Your customers, colleagues, and employers want specific, relevant answers. The quicker you can deliver those answers, the better. Irrelevant data gives your presentation a cluttered look, making finding relevant information more difficult for readers. The solution? Find a compromise between showing too much data and not showing enough overall. Use good judgement.

Oversimplifying data

The purpose of data visualization is to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. While it’s all too easy to simplify data, if you go too far and leave out crucial parts, your audiences won’t be able to see or grasp the main point of the presentation. Instead of trying to oversimplify data, it’s better to include all important criteria and organize them into a structure so audiences can easily understand what’s being presented to them.

Choosing the wrong visualization

This is one of the most common mistakes made in data visualization. There are many different types of data out there, and each of those types require different analytics and tools to use. For example, if you want to present a sales growth comparison in the last 5 years, it’s better to use bar charts that can clearly show the difference at a glance. If you want to show a relationship between two metrics, on the other hand, you should use a scatter chart to show results.

The best way to avoid all these errors is to focus on your goals first. It’s likely that you’ll have to make changes along the way, which is actually a good thing, because it will make your presentation more accurate and effective.

Want to learn more about other business intelligence tools to implement in your company? Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 10th, 2015

Facebook_Jul10_BFacebook has grown rapidly in the past decade, and now boasts over one billion monthly active users. These users are constantly liking, sharing, commenting, and posting on the platform. Many businesses see this as an opportunity to grow their customer base, and so implemented Facebook advertising into their marketing strategies. While Facebook marketing is on the rise among businesses, there are a few things you need to watch out for. Here’s a list of the most common Facebook marketing mistakes you should avoid.

Mistake #1: Treating Facebook like a one-way communication tool

The content you post on Facebook should encourage followers to express their thoughts. Think of it this way - Facebook is a social media network, which means that people use it to connect with friends and communicate with family members. They don’t want to be showered with advertising messages! Instead of speaking at customers, create dialogues that promote engagement and feedback. Try asking probing questions, sharing fun quizzes, or posting images and videos that get your followers talking. Remember that engaging content has a better chance of going viral and attracting more followers to your profile.

Mistake #2: Ignoring follower metrics

There’s no telling whether your content is going to appeal to your followers or not. All audiences are different, and the only way to find out what’s going to work for them is to head over to Facebook Insights in your admin panel. Take a look at the metrics there to determine if your posts are resonating with your readers. Some of the best insights include your top posts, where you can find the types of posts that rank high on the list (they can either be text, links, images, or videos). You can analyze the statistics and pick up things from there.

Mistake #3: Targeting ads poorly

It is true that Facebook has more than one billion active users. But guess what? Most of these people don’t want to see your ads! So don’t waste time and money to show them ads when you can use Facebook’s powerful set of audience targeting tools. Facebook allows you to choose potential ad viewers based on their location, age, education, interest, and more. You can easily weed out people who are unlikely to click on your ads. You can create multiple ad groups to be displayed at different times to various audience groups. This is a method to test and see which ones work best.

Mistake #4: Abandoning your audience

This is probably one of the worst things you can do. When it comes to Facebook marketing, consistency matters. People won’t be very impressed if they visit your page and see that your last post was a few months ago. When you post at regular times, on the other hand, your followers will get into the habit of expecting posts from you - they’ll even look forward to them if the content is really good! If you find it hard to stick to a schedule, try using tools that can automate your posting for you like Hootsuite.

If you’re not using Facebook to expand your online business presence, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. Want more tips on how to expand your business through Facebook? Get in touch today and our experts will be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 8th, 2015

164_Sec_BA picture is worth a thousand words - and now a selfie may even be worth more. Later this year, MasterCard plans to jump into the facial recognition-based trend of online security with an app that allows users to verify online purchases with a selfie. But is this technology secure? Will it replace traditional passwords for good? Here’s what you need to know.

At the beginning of this autumn, MasterCard will acquire the help of 500 customers to test out a new application that enables people to verify their identity and authenticate online transactions with a facial scan. What does this mean? Instead of using a traditional password at the online checkout, MasterCard wants to give you the option to snap a selfie instead. According to the credit card giant, they’ve partnered with every smartphone company in the business to make this mode of identity verification possible.

Why is this happening?

A quote from Ajay Bhalla, security expert at MasterCard, suggests this is an attempt by the credit card giant to appeal to a younger crowd of digital natives. "The new generation, which is into selfies...I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Bhalla recently said.

That said, the “cool” appeal to youth is likely not the only reason for this change. The firm is likely attempting to make online purchases both more secure and more convenient.

How it works

To use this technology, users will have to download a dedicated app, which they can then use to take a photo of themselves at checkout. But how does MasterCard prevent a thief from using a photo of you to fake your verification? Simple - the app requires you to blink to prove that you’re a living, breathing human being.

However, it’s been noted by critics that, in today’s technological world, even a blink can be animated on a static photo. This leaves those of us with security concerns wondering whether MasterCard will make this app more secure before it’s released.

Note as well, though, that MasterCard is not getting rid of traditional passwords completely. Users will still have the option of the more conventional method of verification, as well as the choice of fingerprint scanning to check your identity.

Is this where the future of online security is headed?

With the release due later this year of a similar Windows 10 security application to identify users using biometrics, it appears that this is where the future of online security is headed. And with ever more applications and online services requiring a password, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average web user to create one that is both unique and secure for each individual service. So whether it’s facial recognition, a fingerprint scan or some other technology that’s yet to be perfected, it seems as though some sort of more advanced security solution is inevitable.

Want more of the latest security news? Looking to implement new security to protect your IT infrastructure from cyber threats? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 3rd, 2015

164_Soc_BIf you’ve been at the social media game for quite some time and yet have seen little to no results, there may be a number of reasons behind this. It could be inconsistent branding, poor quality content, insufficient engagement with your audience, or pushing sales on every status update. However, there is one common trap that both new and seasoned social media marketers can easily fall into. And that starts with your content creation.

Don’t recycle content

Google any recent news story, and you’re likely to find anywhere from a few to several dozen articles on the same subject. And unfortunately, the content is so similar that you can barely differentiate one from the next.

If you want to stand out from others on the social media scene, find something new to talk about. In general, if you want to get noticed by new customers or followers, it’s best to avoid widely covered topics. Everyone and their grandma will be writing about it, which creates much more competition for your version.

If you must create content about mainstream topics, make sure you take the time to come up with a fresh perspective, and share valuable information that hasn’t been touched on yet.

Be fearless in your content

Similarly, it’s absolutely essential that, across all the content that you produce, you share a unique perspective. Many people end up parroting the same thing as everyone else because they are afraid to offer their true opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be controversial. If you’re going to develop a social media persona that stands out, you need to develop your own voice - and a thick skin. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, especially on the web where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Additionally, there’s a reason that the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is famous. In fact, when you write polarizing content that will have a fair share of supporters and naysayers, people are hardwired to react to it. This is for the same reason that humanity as a whole shares a universal love of stories - whether that’s in the movies, in a novel or around a campfire. A story is nothing without conflict. When you produce content that creates a real life conflict of opinions, you have a better chance of it making some noise on social media.

But - be honest and show integrity

Don’t say something controversial just for the sake of it. Give your honest opinion. The key to every aspect of sales is developing trust. That means that with any customer or potential follower you come into contact with, whether through social media or other means, you should show your true self. You’ll have a better chance of gaining a customer or follower for life.

Controversy or not, always be professional

There’s no reason to start a flame war, or resort to name calling and insults. People are going to have strong feelings about controversial content. Emotions are going to come up and people can say some pretty mean things - especially on the internet. Don’t get caught up in the comments and negativity. If you do, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your current customer base and followers.

Want more insights into growing your social media presence? Speak up today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 1st, 2015

BusinessValue_Jun16_BCompanies need to effectively advertise their products and services if they are to stay competitive in today’s market. But choosing the right marketing approach for your business is not easy, and you could end up spending more money on advertising that you actually make from it. This is where a well thought-out marketing strategy can help. Let’s take a look at some online marketing tips to help you plan, execute, and monitor your advertising campaigns.

Prioritize blogging

Blogging is an excellent marketing tool for businesses. Unfortunately most companies don’t spend much time or effort developing their blogs, which is a huge mistake. To get the most out of your blog, you will need to write quality content that adds value for your website visitors. The benefits of having a blog increase tenfold if you publish regularly, since potential customers will see you as an expert in your field, and are more likely to purchase what you have to offer.

Advertise in the right places

There are a number of online advertising channels out there, among them Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and Youtube Ads. The question is whether you know which one is the right fit for your business. You need to spend your marketing budget on the right advertising method to gain the highest return on investment. Do some research about your potential customers and determine who they are, and what they read, watch and listen to. This way you can pinpoint the best advertising platform to ensure that you reach your target market.

Start using videos

Videos offer an excellent way to market your business. Studies show that customers are more likely to buy if they see a video about your product or service on your landing pages, so make sure you include one if you can. Be creative when you’re making videos to promote your business; you could start building an online reputation by creating instructional videos that help your potential customers solve common problems. Commenting on videos relevant to your niche is also an effective way to increase your brand visibility.

Be active on social media

Prudent businesses are aware of the importance of establishing a social media presence through the main social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But simply posting articles or links is not going to offer many marketing benefits for your business. You’ll need to go the extra mile to maximize the benefits of social media. Some tips include taking the time to respond to your followers’ comments, keeping your profile updated and fresh with new information, and following and sharing content from other users.

Make sure your website is responsive

More and more of us are using mobile devices to browse the Internet and look for local products and services. Make the effort to ensure your website is mobile-friendly and automatically scales to fit all screen sizes, so that it is accessible and functional for mobile users. Major search engines now penalize non-responsive websites by lowering their search rankings when viewed on mobile devices, so you’ll need to adapt accordingly to avoid their wrath.

Contact us today and learn how our IT services can help you gain more customers and add value to your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 30th, 2015

164_Mic_BAre you the type of person who uses one master password for all your web logins, or do you have dozens of individual ones named after your favorite sport teams or muscle cars? Whichever you are, either scenario comes with drawbacks. Have only one password and you’re left feeling anxious it might get stolen. Have several and you may constantly forget them and be unable to login. Wouldn’t it be great if all these passwords just went away! Well, they actually just might. Windows 10 is working on making it possible.

The problem with passwords

The problem with passwords is simple - they can be stolen. And from Facebook to iTunes to Flickr and thousands more, nearly every major website and thousands of niche ones require a password to use. And because we Internet users are logging onto dozens of these sites and services everyday, it’s virtually impossible for us to create a unique, complex password for each one. So people resort to using only a handful of passwords, or even just one master password, since it’s easier. But of course, this poses a security risk. So what’s an Internet user to do?

Microsoft Windows 10 is pioneering a new technology that is ready to flip this dated system on its head and eliminate the password problem for good.

Login to your devices with biometrics

Passwords can be stolen easily, but how easy is it to steal a person’s physicality? Microsoft’s new technology, named Hello, uses biometrics - such as your fingerprint, or face or iris scan - to log into your computer, laptop or other device. This ensures that no one can login to your device but you.

Well, what about using a photograph to login instead, you might ask? It won’t work. Using technology that takes a detailed map of your face in 3D, Hello is trained to reject the token photograph or selfie on login attempt. This makes it virtually impossible for anyone, besides you, to login to your device.

Use biometrics to login on the web

Logging into your computer with biometrics is great, but what most users really want is a more secure solution to login to websites while not having to remember a bazillion passwords. This is where Microsoft’s Passport comes in. Passport allows you to login into applications and online content without the need for a password. For example, instead of using your typical password to sign into your Microsoft Windows Account, you can now use Windows 10 facial recognition (or other biometrics) to log you in instead. That means you can access Skype, Xbox Live, Office 365 and more without a standard password. In addition to your Microsoft Windows Account, you’ll be able to use the biometric capabilities of Passport to access thousands of enterprise Azure Active Directory online services. Bear in mind, though, that it will be quite some time before you can use Passport to replace all your standard logins, since not every website has implemented this technology yet.

Want to hear more exciting Windows 10 news, or need assistance with your Windows device? Get in touch with one of our technology experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 29th, 2015

Windows_Jun18_BFollowing the let-down that was Windows 8, Microsoft is keen to impress - so much so that it’s skipped number 9 and jumped right to Windows 10. Now the new operating system’s release has been confirmed for July 29, and Windows-based small businesses are clamoring to try out its impressive new features. Here is the rundown of the things you need to know before you spend your summer upping the ante with Windows 10.

You can get it for free

They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access - at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay - the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.

It’s being launched in phases

Although the official release date is July 29, in reality Microsoft is expected to undertake a phased launch. This means that you might not end up using the brand new Windows 10 on July 29 itself - instead, Microsoft is likely to make the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.

It’s the last you’ll see of Windows

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds - this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates - far beyond the WIndows Updates that we know at the moment.

It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future - in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.

Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call and let us walk you through it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_AData is essential for running an organization, and it is certainly the central component of any business continuity plan. Without immediate and constant access to data, your business will come to a grinding halt. Worse still, in the event of a disaster you could risk losing valuable data if you don’t have a backup strategy in place. Backing up data should be at the top of your list of priorities, so here are some devices you can use to protect your data.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data – medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution – or solutions – best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 19th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jun9_BBusiness intelligence (BI) involves the use of a variety of software and applications to analyze a company’s raw data, and present it in a way that’s easy to understand and enables effective business decisions to be taken. But in reality, many businesses fail to have an effective BI strategy in place, causing them to lose large sums of money. Here are five common BI mistakes you need to know, so you can take deliberate measures to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Defining Business Problems

One of the biggest mistakes in BI implementation is jumping to conclusions too soon without first identifying what your business wants to accomplish. When it comes to integrating BI into business operations, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking for a single BI tool to solve all analytics problems is one of the main reasons many BI projects fail.

You need to clearly define the business problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the specific tools required to solve those problems. Only then will you be able to select and purchase the BI tool that best suits your needs.

Mistake #2: Not Getting Buy-in from End Users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not properly utilized. Forcing your employees to use newly purchased BI technology without informing them or hearing their thoughts beforehand is a big mistake.

Instead of telling employees they have to use something, first focus on highlighting the benefits of the new BI system. Help employees understand why they’ll want to use it, and convince them by showing them what they stand to gain from the new BI technology.

Mistake #3: Rushing Implementation

A rushed deployment of new technology is often times not a successful one. When it comes to deploying BI solutions, patience is key. If you hurry into BI implementation too quickly, your end users may not have enough time to develop the skills required to use the software effectively.

Take an incremental approach to implementing BI solutions. Make a list identifying business problems and, rather than expecting to solve every business problem all at once, try to prioritize specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have solved the first issue, move on to the next one and so on until you have incrementally solved all the problems on the list.

Mistake #4: Insufficient Training

New BI systems are complex structures that require a lot of training in order for users to make the most of them. If users lack the skills necessary to operate the software, then bottlenecks can occur. The product may be left dormant for long periods of time as users wait for experienced IT staff to resolve teething problems.

Spend wisely on providing ongoing training, so that users really understand how to use the system. Consider hosting weekly lunch sessions where a different aspect of the BI system is discussed. You could also provide online training videos that enable users to learn more about the new system at their own pace.

Mistake #5: Not Making Use of Information and Reports

BI tools are designed to analyze raw data and turn it into valuable information that can be used in business decision making. But some organizations fail to exploit the information fully – it is not shared, not analyzed, and not acted on. BI software can generate reports on various data points, identify risks, and predict trends. It’s important to leverage the information gathered and to apply it to your business’s objectives and goals.

Business intelligence software is a highly useful tool that, when used properly, can drive your business forward. Avoid these mistakes in order to make the most of your BI solutions. If you’re looking to implement BI tools to your company, contact our experienced consultants today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_BWhen it comes to using social media advertising to reach out to targeted audiences, Facebook is by far one of the most efficient platforms out there. The numbers speak clearly - advertising on Facebook has grown over 680% since 2010. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon, moving their budgets away from traditional advertising methods and increasing their social spending. If Facebook advertising isn’t in your marketing arsenal, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools available. Here’s all you need to know about setting up a Facebook ad campaign.

1. Create a Facebook Business Page

First things first: before you can advertise on Facebook, you must have a Facebook Business Page. Log in to your Facebook account and, on the news feed page, click on Create a Page from the left column. Choose the category of your Page that best describes the nature of your business. Then fill out all your business information, including your website, hours of operation, phone number, address, and email. Finally, add creative profile and cover images to attract potential visitors.

2. Define your Facebook ads goals

Facebook offers a variety of advertisement options to choose from, depending on your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to create goals for your ads, to make sure you’re spending your money wisely while achieving your business goals. Start by asking yourself why you’re utilizing Facebook ads in the first place; defining advertising goals and strategies will help you choose the right type of Facebook ad.

3. Choose an objective for your campaign

Now that you have a Facebook ad goal in mind, it’s time to translate those goals into objectives for your campaign. For instance, if you want to drive more visitors to your business website, your Facebook ad objective is to Send people to your website, but if you want to increase your number of social media followers you would choose the objective Promote your Page. From your Page, click on Create ads and choose an objective to get started.

4. Target your audience

This is the step where most businesses fail at Facebook advertising. You can target your ads based on location, age, gender, language, interests, and behavior. By defining the right audience group, your Facebook ads will be shown to the right people and will give a high conversion rate. After you’ve chosen your target audience, you can decide how much money you want to spend, and choose the time to run your ad.

5. Customize your ad

This process is equally as important as audience targeting. In this step you have the option to choose how your ad will look, by adding up to five images and text that will accompany them. The text is only 90 characters long, so make sure your copy portrays what the content is about, so it will encourage people to click on your ad. Then choose where you want your Facebook ad to show from four options - the news feed, mobile news feed, right column, or audience network.

6. Place your order

The last step is to click on the Place Order button to submit your ad to Facebook for review. You’ll receive an email from Facebook once your ad has been reviewed and approved and is ready to launch.

Facebook advertising requires effective planning, testing, and measuring. You need to experiment in order to find the campaign that works best for your business. If you’re interested in advertising on Facebook or through other social media platforms, drop us a line and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media