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

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

Your worst nightmare

by Mark Pardee

What would you do if you walked in the door of your business tomorrow morning and all of your important business data was gone? Your accounts receivables, customer records, inventory records, new orders yes, all of it… GONE! How badly would it damage your business? Would your business even survive? That fact is, most business have become completely dependent on their technology and data. It truly would be your worst nightmare.

Do not let his happen to you

If you have not tested your disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC) plan, then you do not have one. Most small to medium businesses have not even taken the time to write a plan let alone test it. Recently I talked with a technician who had experienced a disaster with a company he worked for. He had a well thought-out, written DR/BC plan but, it was not tested. When their datacenter caught fire and their equipment was destroyed, they activated their DR/BC plan. They used a tape backup solution and had over 60 tapes. While it took just two days to get new equipment and set it up, it took 4 days of reading tapes around the clock to find the catalog and restore it so the actual data restore could start. They had a total down time of nine days.  They also experienced the industry standard of about one third of the tapes being unreadable. Eventually, they did get all of their systems back on line and the business survived, but not without major losses.

What to budget

Small businesses should plan on spending about two percent of their total revenue on disaster recovery and business continuity planning. If your business generates $2 million in annual revenue, you should budget about $40 thousand per year. The DR/BC is a living document that needs regular attention to ensure its accuracy and relevance. We will address the details of a comprehensive DR/BC plan in a future article. For now, let’s discuss one component of the plan.

How to fix it

One of the most critical parts of the DR/BC plan is the backup and restore plan for your servers and data. When it comes to backing up your business data, there are two terms you need to understand. Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO). The first, RPO refers to the amount of data you can tolerate losing. Of course no one wants to lose any data however, few small businesses can afford the technology to have completely redundant systems to ensure 100 percent up time. Most companies still use a tape backup solution. If a full tape backup is performed each evening, the RPO can be 24 hours or more. This means that a complete day of work or more could be lost. The second term refers to the amount of time it will take to recover the data or how long your technology will be unavailable. Again, with a tape backup solution, the RTO can be two to 10 days or more to get everything recovered.

In the last five years, backup solutions have changed dramatically. Today’s backup solutions that backup to disk locally and replicate the data out to the cloud can provide a reliable and easily testable RPO of hours instead of days. Entire servers can be virtually booted in minutes and tested to verify that the backups are readable and validate recovery processes. The backup to disk locally allows for quick restore of single files that have become corrupted or have been accidentally deleted. The offsite copy ensures that the data will be available after a disaster and the RTO can be as little as two hours. Once a full server backup has been completed, small incremental backups can be taken every two hours without interrupting the company’s productivity.

These newer solutions can fit well within the budget parameters described above and because they are tested, will allow you to dream at night instead having nightmares.

Mark Pardee is Director of Managed Services for Read more

A new program to help you bring your tech products to market. Today on Business Next.

Tune in at 10am (repeats at 3pm and 8pm) on the Michigan Business Network.

Today on Business Next, the new University of Michigan I-Corps program helps entrepreneurs bring tech products to market. Interview with I Corps Director Jonathan Fay. Also today,  Dr. Michael Proviterra, author of Mastering Self Motivation, talks about how entrepreneurs and students can push themselves to business success; and author Geof White talks about his book Lemonade Stand Economics and how high school students can use entrepreneurship to finance their college educations.
RSS
First31323334353637383940Last