Information Technology

Technology is constantly changing, so how can you be sure your systems are up-to-date?  We can help you learn how to manage and use the technological tools you need to operate efficiently.  You'll also find easy and affordable ways to outsource your information technology needs, ensuring the security and optimal effectiveness of your systems.  Because let's face it ... unless you are in the IT business, you probably need some help.

Cyber Security Resources

cyber threatsThe threat of a cyber attack on your small business is very real.

SBAM has put together a variety of resources to help you become informed. Click here for details.


Managed IT Services

NUWAVEAre your IT systems operating efficiently?

With the proper technology and implementation team, your company can realize dramatic productivity and profitability gains. NuWave Technology Partners' unique approach provides clients with a single point-of-contact for all their telephone and data needs, and covers the spectrum from servicing existing phone systems to complete new installations.

Related News

The final stage of emergency and disaster planning: recovery

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Michael J. Burns

Disasters come in many forms. The only thing they have in common is their surprise nature. Last month’s bombings in Boston and explosion in West, Texas gave way to this month’s terrible tornadoes. But in all of these cases, once the immediate danger and emergency response is past, you have to bring about recovery. Recovery and Business Continuity is the next stage of disaster planning. What is Recovery comprised of?

As suggested by the state of Virginia’s Business Emergency Survival Toolkit, first it is workplace safety.

Disasters can cause toxic and/or explosive materials to spill and contaminate water, soil and property. There are hazards that go along with cleaning up the seemingly innocuous debris in and around your business—fallen trees, building materials, personal property and sediment can present their own dangers.

The following are safety tips for your workplace cleanup:
  • Avoid skin contact with contaminated surfaces.
  • Do not walk through flowing water.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area.
  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires.
  • Turn off your electricity when you return to your business.
  • Keep listening to your battery-powered radio for news.
  • Work safely and smartly.
  • Be alert for gas leaks.
  • Use alternate heat sources safely.
  • Damp, porous materials might be a hazard.   
Second, consider the impact of a disaster or crisis on your employees’ mental health and well being. Depending on the nature and severity of the disaster, it may be wise to enlist the services of crisis counselors for your employees. Individuals respond differently to disasters. A crisis can lead to stress, and employees might not know how to respond to it. Mental health experts say that stress might not surface for weeks or months after the disaster, and can take many different forms:
  • Anger
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use
  • Inability to manage daily activities
  • A dazed or disoriented appearance
Last but not least in the recovery stage of an emergency or crisis, keep in mind that employees can quickly fall into financial crises of their own if there is any interruption in the company’s ability to make payroll. Business considerations regarding payroll include the following:
  • How will the company pay staff if operations have been affected by the disaster?
  • Will staff wages and salaries continue to be paid if employees cannot immediately return to work following a disaster?
  • Will the business pay for personal time off to recover from a disaster?
  • How soon should employees be required to return to work following an emergency?
  • Will a program or relief fund be available to assist employees who are affected by a disaster?
HR departments should have these elements of emergency planning in place to ensure that the company and its employees are ready to get the business going again in as short a time as possible.

For more information on Emergency Planning, contact ASE.

Free Google events next week

Google will be hosting three free "Michigan, Get Your Business Online" events next week in St. Joseph, Grand Rapids and Midland – following up on the previous "Get Your Business Online" events Google hosted (and SBAM partnered on.)

At each event, any business can get a free website, domain name and hosting – along with training from Google on how to get started and how to publicize their business online.

Registration for all three events here or by phone at 1-800-986-6852.

St. Joseph - Monday, April 29 – 9:00 am, 12:30 pm
Vineland Center, 1155 Vineland Rd, St. Joseph, MI 49085

Grand Rapids - Wednesday, May 1 – 9:00 am, 12:30 pm
DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Midland - Friday, May 3 – 9:00 am, 12:30 pm
Holiday Inn, 810 Cinema Drive, Midland, MI 48642

It’s not big brother. It’s only sensor technology.

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By George Brown  

Now that Yahoo has all their employees back in the office, Melissa Mayer must be wondering how she can improve their productivity even more. Her challenge in measuring productivity is finding ways to measure not just results, but the effort that goes into producing those results. But, of course, you cannot do time-and-motion studies in an office environment. To get the kind of Big Data you need, you may have to cross the Big Brother line.

That caution has not stopped some companies to try to get that Big Data. A few years ago Bank of America Corporation wanted to study whether face time mattered among its call-center teams. The bank asked about 90 workers to wear badges for a few weeks with tiny sensors to record their movements and the tone of their conversations.

The data showed that the most productive workers belonged to close-knit teams. They spoke frequently with their colleagues. Having established that basic fact, the bank decided to get more employees to mingle; so it began to schedule group breaks versus letting employees take breaks on their own.  According to former Bank of America human-resources executive Michael Arena, productivity rose by at least 10 percent as a result.

The tracking devices were the key—devices like badges with sensors, or sensors placed on office furniture. Data like this would be nearly impossible to gather and evaluate without them. The sensors monitor movements throughout the office, especially those that involve interaction with others. The company then used the information to make tweaks ranging from the timing of coffee breaks to changing the composition of work groups so as to spur collaboration and productivity.

"Surveys measure a point in time—what's happening right now with my emotions. [Sensors] measure actual behavior in an objective way," says Mr. Arena.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. also conducted a sensor study involving 30 sales and marketing employees to learn about interactions between team members and various departments. For four weeks, company employees wore small badges that collected data on their motions, whereabouts, voice levels and conversational patterns. The information was merged with email-traffic data, along with the results of weekly surveys in which employees rated how energetic and productive they felt.

Cubist discovered a correlation between higher productivity and face-to-face interactions. It also realized that social activity dropped off significantly during lunch time, when many employees retreated to their desks to check emails.

In response, the company made its once-dingy cafeteria more inviting, improving the lighting and offering better food, to encourage workers to lunch together instead of at their desks. It also eliminated all but one coffee station for its sales and marketing group and scheduled coffee breaks, hoping to boost interactivity and energy levels at the same time.

Dr. Ben Waber, chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, developed the concept of using sensors to gather employee data as part of his doctoral research at MIT.

Safeguards designed to protect individual privacy are built into the sensor studies. For one thing, individual employees must wear the badges voluntarily. In the fifty large- and medium-size corporations have done sensor studies with Dr. Waber’s firm, about 90 percent of all their workers agreed to wear the badges. They must do so for the whole day except for bathroom breaks (where they are optional). Those who choose not to wear them wear identical badges that are not “hot”—i.e., do not transmit data. Further, companies that undertake these studies must sign contracts prohibiting managers from seeing data on individual employees.

Website creation 101

By Steven Strauss

Question: 

My son is going to start his own business. One thing I know is that he will need a website and I would like to pay for that. Can you tell me what it would cost and how I would go about getting one done for him?

Answer:
Thank goodness for parents!

The first thing to think about when getting a website is the purpose of the site. A site, essentially, can either be informational, for e-commerce, a marketing tool, or a combination of all three. But whatever the case, the first step is to know what the site will be doing because that will set in motion all future decisions.

Once you know that, the next step is to get a web address, or URL, as well as a host. Of course, the most common type of URL is the .com address, but in the last few years, many other suffixes have emerged, and many more are soon coming down the pike (see below). You can search for possible URLs from the many hosts that are out there, such as:
  • Host Gator
  • 1 and 1
  • Go Daddy
  • Network Solutions, etc.
The host will, as the name suggests, host the site on its computers.

Now, as for actually getting the site done, you have a few options:

  1. Point and click: Most all hosts will have a template of styles to choose from, both in terms of design, as well as, often, by type of business. For instance, if you are starting a real estate business, you should be able to find real estate templates that you can choose and customize. This is by far the easiest and least expensive way to get a site, and you can also rest assured that the basic design of your site, while lacking bells and whistles, will be clean and professional.

    Of course, the design is only half the battle; you will still need to populate the site with content. If it is an e-commerce site, the host will have a system that allows you to upload your items for sale, but even so, you will still need to create content for the home page, about page, inside pages, etc.
  2. Hire a web developer: If you need a custom site for whatever reason, it would probably behoove you to hire a web designer. Your website is a critical piece of your business, and as such, you have to take it seriously. A good web designer will cost thousands of dollars, but in the right circumstances, that should be money well spent.
  3. Do it yourself with a program like Wordpress. Wordpress is a popular program that many people use to blog but, increasingly, is also being used for website design. Creating a website with Wordpress is very easy and affordable. There are literally hundreds of themes from which to choose, and even better, the themes can be customized and installed quickly.
The advantages of using Wordpress for your business website are many:
  • The cost: Most Wordpress themes are either free, or less than $100
  • Content management: What do you do when you have a site that you do not really understand technically, and yet which needs to be updated with new products or content? You have to go to your webmaster, that’s what. Not so if you use Wordpress. Wordpress has an easy to use, built-in Content Management System, or CMS. It makes adding or changing content to the site simple, easy, and fast.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): There are tons of plugins for Wordpress, including many that make SEO a breeze, so that you can easily assign keywords, excerpts, tags and more to your content.
  • Assistance: There is a large community of Wordpress people out there who can help you.
Yes, as you may have guessed, I had my own website designed using Wordpress, and so am a bit biased, but biased for good reason. In any case, whatever choice you go with, be sure to do it right as your website is your business card, signage, marketing brochure, marketplac
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