• Carbonite Server Backup Quick Start Guide

    by Megan Wittenberger | Sep 10, 2014

    It’s here and it’s hot…hot off the press and sizzling with helpful instructions, tips and tricks…it’s the Carbonite Server Backup Quick Start Guide. Packed with screen shots and links to numerous supplemental resources on the Web, the Quick Start Guide provides the information you need to install, configure and run your software as a first-time user.

    Carbonite Server Backup provides comprehensive backup for your business’s databases, applications, virtual environments and critical files. Carbonite’s hybrid approach to data protection lets you store your backups locally as well as in the cloud. This approach offers both the fast recovery enabled by local copies and the security that cloud-based backup offers against incidents where local infrastructures may be compromised.

    With fast upload speeds, advanced scheduling options, and sophisticated features such as encryption, compression and bandwidth management, Carbonite Server Backup is designed to simplify and automate data protection. This enables you to tailor backup operations to meet the specific needs of your company.

    Might Carbonite Server Backup be the backup platform you need to keep your small business moving? Download the Carbonite Server Backup Quick Start Guide today, and see for yourself.

  • Using NAS or SAN? Even more reason to choose the right backup solution!

    by Megan Wittenberger | Sep 05, 2014

    Technological advances and market maturity have made Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) technologies increasingly accessible to small businesses. According to technology research firm IDC, the number of small businesses planning to invest in these shared storage technologies nearly doubled between 2012 and 2014, with companies pursuing NAS growing from 7.8% to 14.9%, and those pursuing SAN growing from 8.9% to 17.9%.   Shared storage vendors actively courting small businesses include Synology, Buffalo Technology, Netgear, and QNAP Systems, as well as many established large enterprise players.

    For small businesses, this is generally a good thing.

    When your business adopts a shared storage technology, however, it takes on greater risk as well, for the following reasons:

    • The shared nature of your NAS or a SAN increases your data’s vulnerability to corruption, malware, or sabotage.
    • For all its ease-of-use advantages, the centralized nature of NAS and SAN storage also makes your data more susceptible to fire, theft, or natural disasters.
    • Furthermore, as your employees collaborate more actively thanks to NAS or SAN systems, the file data they share can change and grow at a faster rate than before. Occasional surges of in-flight data, human errors associated with real-time editing, and even the rare write-synchronization error can compound data-loss risks

    These risk factors make backing up even more indispensable when you move from traditional PC and server-based storage to shared storage technologies.

    To learn more about the benefits of pairing your shared storage system with the right backup solution, download our article,
    How NAS & SAN Storage Raise the Stakes for Backup.

  • Back Up As You Retain: Automating Retention Policy Enforcement with Carbonite

    by Megan Wittenberger | Aug 27, 2014

    For many small businesses, retention policies are de rigueur.

    What is a retention policy? Essentially, a framework for the systematic review, retention, and destruction of information received or created in the course of business.

    Retention policies can be vital for small businesses operating within certain regulatory regimes. If you’re in the healthcare, stock brokerage, or financial services industries. Companies in these and other sectors are bound by law to handle and retain certain categories of data for specified periods of time.

    But companies can adopt retention policies for other compelling reasons, including:

    • To pursue amended tax returns or to protect against possible IRS pursuit of back taxes by retaining tax filings and supporting documents
    • To safeguard intellectual property by retaining patent filings and supporting images, schematics, and other supporting data
    • To hedge against the risk of future lawsuits and support employer decisions by retaining human resources files

    Can your company benefit from formulating a data retention strategy?

    If so, you should know that you can easily enlist your Carbonite Server Backup to automate much of its implementation.

    For a detailed discussion about strategies and use cases that may compel your company to implement long-term retention policies, along with an overview of how you can use Carbonite Server Backup to automate them, download our article,
    Using Carbonite Server Backup to Implement Retention Policies.

  • Full, Differential, or Incremental: Which Backup Technique Best Serves Your Business?

    by Megan Wittenberger | Aug 13, 2014

    One of the first questions business owners face when formulating a backup plan is, “Which backup technique - Incremental, Differential, or Full – most effectively protects my data?

    The differences, in a nutshell, amount to the following:

    Full Backups
    are complete replicas of your source data on a backup target (e.g., a local disk or cloud-based storage), as its name implies.

    Backups are captures of the changes (or deltas) – made to the source data over a specified interval of time since the last Full backup.

    Incremental Backups
    are captures of the deltas between the source data and the most recent backup, the latter which may either be Full or Incremental.

    Further, while each technique presents a mix of advantages and shortcomings, any effective backup strategy requires a healthy understanding of two vital concepts:

    1. Different companies will have different needs related to these options, and,
    2. Most companies will benefit by applying multiple techniques to protect the different types of data vital to their businesses.

    For a more detailed discussion of these options, and the business considerations and use cases that will drive your decisions, you can download our detailed article, Protecting Your Business Data: Full, Differential, and Incremental Backups.

  • Report: Growing Storage Demands Necessitate Cloud Backup

    by Megan Wittenberger | Apr 22, 2014

    Results of a recent research report from Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA) reveals that cloud-based storage is expected to be a $13 billion global market within the next four years. The GIA report, titled, “Cloud Based Storage: A Global Strategic Business Report,” which identifies Carbonite as a “major player” in the space, predicts that the United States will represent the largest share of the market for cloud storage for business, however the Asia-Pacific market is expected to have the most rapid growth during this time.

    GIA claims in its report that not only has cloud-based storage become a popular data storage solution, but also it has become a necessity for businesses. It points first and foremost to the static nature of most IT budgets, which has forced companies to store exponentially increasing volumes of data without being able to expand their physical storage capabilities. The report also points out the increasing importance of data for businesses and the need for companies to access it in a timely fashion.

    In its announcement of the report, GIA states, “Against this backdrop, cloud storage is growing in prominence for its unique ability to provide a single consolidated storage point for all dispersed data.”

    GIA lists a number of other benefits of cloud based storage that are driving its widespread adoption, including:

    • Higher levels of flexibility in storage administration
    • Self-service provisioning
    • Superior business continuity and disaster recovery ability
    • Resource scalability
    • Advantages of a distributed storage architecture
    • Reduced downtime
    • Easy data migration
    • Lower cost of ownership

    In addition to identifying the drivers behind cloud based storage adoption, the GIA report also delves into some of its primary uses, including as a data backup solution, and as a means to meet government compliance requirements. The report notes that such requirements can overtax many on premise storage systems and may require significant physical storage space to ensure they are met. Being able to off-load these requirements to the cloud allow businesses to utilize resources on-demand and in doing so “dynamically self-provision requisite resources as and when required.”

    The growth of cloud based storage should come as no surprise to many businesses. It’s multitude of uses and benefits alone would support its growth, but particularly in the SMB market, where budgets and physical space are both particularly tight and where IT resources are limited, cloud based storage makes a great deal of sense.

  • Building for a Cloudy Day: Preparing for Disaster Recovery

    by Megan Wittenberger | Apr 17, 2014

    Insurance Journal recently reported that there were 296 separate natural disasters in 2013, which accounted for $192 billion in economic losses. What makes this number scarier is the fact that as large as it is, it comes in below the 10-year average for economic losses of $200 billion, making last year a relatively “good” year in terms of loss.

    And therein lies the problem – you can never know what kind of year we’ll have in terms of natural disasters. This year could witness fewer disasters like last year, or it could hold far more like the 357 disasters recorded in 2012. This is why businesses need to make preparations for disasters before they happen.

    Right now one of the easiest, most efficient ways of doing that is by establishing a cloud-based data backup system. Cloud backup for disaster recovery makes sense, especially for SMBs, for the following reasons:

    • Disaster Recovery as a Utility: Because data is stored in the cloud, there is no capital investment in hardware or software. Backup storage is provided on a “pay as you go” basis, making it far more affordable for SMBs on a budget.
    • Separation from the Disaster: Data is centralized in a location separate from the primary workplace, so your backup won’t be affected by a disaster that impacts your office. And since the data is stored in the cloud, there is no need to invest in a physical off-site presence.
    • Remote Access: In the event of a disaster, having data stored in the cloud will ensure you’re able to access it from another location.
    • Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: After a disaster is the wrong time to discover flaws in a disaster recovery plan. Businesses can (and should) create scenarios to test their plan, which will provide assurances that when (not if, but when) a disaster strikes, its operations can be up and running as quickly as possible.

     Because of its ease of implementation, its low entry cost and the added safeguard of being where the disaster “is not,” cloud backup for disaster recovery is a logical service that should be a primary consideration for SMBs.

  • Backing up the Mobile Workforce

    by Megan Wittenberger | Apr 15, 2014

    One of the biggest technology challenges facing businesses today is how to deal with mobility and remote access. Mobile devices, whether company issued or provided by the employees themselves – otherwise known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – need to be considered when implementing business data backup.

    One of the main concerns in the implementation of a business data backup solution when it comes to mobile devices is the risk factor. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Some 60 million smartphones and cellphones are lost, stolen or damaged each year”; that’s 6,849 lost phones per day! If a member of your mobile workforce is among those who lost their phones, any data that had been stored on it could be gone as well. This is why automatic online backup is a necessity for a mobile workforce.

    This need was underscored last year by Gartner in its “Critical Capabilities” report on mobile device management. Regarding the use of mobile devices by the workforce, the report states that “companies realize that increased workforce mobility heightens data loss risks, as more employees store their data locally on their endpoints. The old way of either ignoring endpoint backup or forcing users to write to a corporate network share is no longer valid.” The report goes on to list a number of key elements to ensure mobile content management including, “file synchronization and backup, transparent to the user” – in other words, automatic online backup.

    Automatic online backup goes beyond just protecting a company from data loss. For example, Carbonite’s automatic backup solution provides the following benefits to a mobile workforce:

    • Automatic Backup: With an automatic backup solution, employees don’t have to be in the office or connected to a network in order to back up their data. This is especially helpful with teams who conduct much of their work offsite, like field reps and sales teams.
    • Remote File Access: Enables employees to browse, view and share all of their backed up data from any Internet-connected device, including computers, tablets and smartphones.
    • Security: With some automatic data backup applications, like Carbonite Mobile for Android, users are provided added features to protect the privacy of data on their mobile devices, including:
    • Device Location: Identify the location of a device on a map if it is lost or stolen.
    • Lock: Lock the screen on a device using a personalized PIN.
    • Capture: If a device is suspected of having been stolen, the user can remotely activate the camera on the mobile device to capture a photo of the person using it.
    • Destroy: If a mobile device is lost or stolen, the user can remotely destroy all stored data and reset the device to its factory conditions.

    In an age where access to information can make or break an organization, it is important for companies to implement an automatic online backup solution for its mobile workforce. It’s even better if that solution goes beyond just backing up.

  • Calling Out Around the World: IT'S BACKUP DAY!!!

    by Megan Wittenberger | Mar 31, 2014

    World Backup Day is a global movement that encourages computer users to protect their digital files. One would think that in an era where we’ve seen the toll data loss can take on businesses (e.g. Hurricane Katrina), backup solutions would be ubiquitous by now. You need only take note of a fact from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that is often cited in this space – that approximately 40-60 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster – to realize this isn’t the case.

    As Pete Lamson, SVP of Sales & Marketing at Carbonite points out, “The most important asset any business has is its data. Without it, businesses can't keep track of inventory, they can't invoice customers, they can't run payroll and they can't ensure that their businesses’ goals are being met.”

    Nevertheless, when Carbonite sponsored a survey last year through Spiceworks, it found that 30 percent of small businesses believe their backup plan is insufficient. What’s worse is that 45 percent of respondents said their organization had experienced data loss and 14 percent were never able to restore their lost business information.

    While these numbers come in far lower than the figures from the SBA, they underscore the need for businesses to embrace automatic backup for their data. And if they really want to protect their business, they should look into a hybrid backup solution, which employs local backup for speed and cloud backup to protect data against physical disaster.

    Companies that employ a hybrid cloud solution for data backup can avail themselves of numerous benefits, including:

    • Business Continuity: The onsite backup allows businesses to recover data rapidly in the event of a localized data interruption such as a hard drive crash or broken server, while cloud backup provides ultimate protection if something happens to the business location. By offering both solutions, hybrid cloud backup can cover all eventualities and ensure the most effective solution for business continuity.
    • Automated Data Backup: In a hybrid cloud solution, data is stored locally and then replicated to the cloud. This provides the added security of having data storage in two locations, so data is backed up and available when and where it is needed.
    • Flexibility and Scalability: Having data stored locally can be handy, but space is usually limited. Employing a cloud backup solution allows the business to take advantage of unlimited storage resources – as the company’s volume of data grows, the amount of storage it uses can grow without additional infrastructure investments.
    • Reduced Cost: While a hybrid cloud storage solution does require a business to invest in some infrastructure, there is significantly less capital investment needed than if it implemented a full-blown onsite storage solution.
    • Customer Privacy: Most businesses deal with customers whose privacy needs to be protected. Most cloud backup providers are well versed in the privacy and security standards required by the government and can provide automatic coverage in that area.

    So celebrate World Backup Day by taking a look at your current data disaster plan and backup strategy, and then implement a hybrid cloud backup solution so you can protect your files before the unthinkable happens.

  • 6 Common Questions About Locating And Backing Up Your Data

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    You’ve taken the first step and decided to protect your valuable business data by using an automated, cloud-based backup like Carbonite. Depending on your technical expertise and the service you’re using, you probably still have questions: How do I know what data to back up? How much data do I have stored on my computers, and where is it? Can I back up my mobile device?

    This article explores six common questions about locating and backing up your business data, including tips on testing your backup and verifying that it’s up-to-date. Some online backup tools are less user-friendly than others, so we offer generally applicable answers as well as details specific to Carbonite’s service.

    1. How do I know what data to back up?
      When in doubt, back it up. It’s always better to back up more than you need, rather than risk losing data you overlooked. If you eventually decide you don’t want a backup of certain files, you can deselect them later.
    2. How can I find out how much data I have stored on my computers?
      To see how much data you have saved on your PC, right-click on the Users folder, and go to Properties. You should see a pie chart showing how much disk space you’re using. If you’re using a Mac, open the Finder, right-click on “Macintosh HD,” then select “Get Info.” Under “General,” you’ll see the overall capacity, including how much space is free and how much you’re using.
    3. Where is my business data stored on my computer?
      Your important data isn’t all saved in your documents file. Especially for small businesses, the most crucial thing to back up is the Users folder, which is the default location for Outlook files, as well as Quicken and QuickBooks files. If your computer is a PC running Windows, all data is stored by default in the Users folder on the C: drive.

      If you’re using a Mac, open the Finder, click on Macintosh HD, and you should see the Users folder. Alternately, if you’re using Carbonite for your backup, the best option is to choose the automatic installation, which will scan the C: drive and tell you what you need to back up.
    4. Where can I verify that my backup is up-to-date?
      There are several ways to check the status of your backup, depending on which service you use. If your service offers anytime-anywhere access, you should be able to check your backup status by logging on to the website, or by using your phone or tablet. With Carbonite, you’ll see green dots next to everything that’s being backed up. Alternately, you can click on the Carbonite Infocenter to easily see what’s backed up by date and time.
    5. How should I test my data recovery system?
      For an easy way to test your data recovery, log in to the website and download any file you want. You don’t have to delete the file from your computer first; you can just restore the backup, and you should then have two copies of the file on your computer. If you’re using Carbonite, go to the Infocenter, right-click on a file and select “restore,” and it will put the file back on your computer.
    6. How do I back up the data on my mobile device, in addition to my computer?
      These days, when people hear “cloud,” they’re thinking more than basic backup; they also expect collaboration and sync tools. At present, Carbonite’s home product can back up mobile devices. A new free tool called Currents allows businesses to sync and share across computer and mobile devices.

    Deciding to protect your valuable business data is only the first step to setting up a robust cloud-based backup, but this article should help you overcome the most common obstacles.

    We appreciate your feedback! How has this post helped you? Would you recommend it or forward it to other small business owners?

  • 3 Tips To Cross-Train Employees And Improve Productivity

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    If you’re backing up your company’s data securely, congratulations — you’re probably sleeping better at night already. But what plans do you have in place to back up your institutional knowledge? In the life of almost any business, employees will come and go, leaving the company or moving on to other positions within the organization. How can you preserve the time they put into learning their jobs and developing procedures?

    A common strategy is to create how-to documentation for specific jobs and tasks. Unfortunately, these can be a tremendous waste of time. Business processes are changing all the time in a dynamic small business and training materials can quickly become obsolete.

    To safeguard your company’s institutional knowledge, try these three tips.

    1. Build cross-functional skills through job-shadowing and cross-training: Let’s say you have two employees, one who handles financials and another who handles customers. Cross-training probably won’t result in both employees sharing a granular, detailed understanding of each position — that requires actually doing the job on a daily basis. It will, however, give employees a better understanding of who does what in the company, helping them to discover easier ways to accomplish tasks and easing transitions when people leave the company or change positions.
    2. Involve your entire staff in cross-training: Even if one area of the business appears more complex than another, each department is important. Instead of trying to prioritize cross-training for particular positions, implement company-wide cross-training, involving everyone in career coaching, shadowing or cross-functional job training. This provides everyone with opportunities to teach, learn and grow.
    3. Keep documentation focused on high level concepts: To make sure that creating documentation isn’t a waste of time, how-to manuals need to be fluid enough to absorb the inevitable tweaks and adjustments.

    While documentation and how-to manuals have their uses, they usually aren’t thorough or dynamic enough to truly capture and preserve the knowledge that drives your company’s daily operations and long-term strategies. Instead, small businesses should focus on building cross-functional skills through company-wide coaching, shadowing and cross-training.

    We want to hear your thoughts. What cross-training methods would you recommend for businesses? Join the discussion in the comments section below!

  • Why Are Very Small Businesses Leaders In Cloud Adoption?

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    Very small businesses are adopting cloud service technologies like Carbonite in greater numbers than their larger counterparts. This is due to the many free or low-cost options available and lower barriers to entry for leveraging the cloud. An article on Canadian IT blog ITBusiness.ca highlights a new report that suggests smaller SMBs are more likely to use cloud services, as well as a greater number of services.

    The report, “The State of SMB IT,” explores global technology trends in companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. The semi-annual survey by networking software firm Spiceworks polled 1,000 IT professionals. Here are a few key findings from the report:

    1. Investing in technology, not new hires: Businesses with fewer than 250 employees have increased technology budgets this year, but only 22 percent plan to add staff. It’s particularly interesting that small businesses are choosing to spend more on technology, such as new hardware and cloud-based services, instead of hiring more people.
    2. Embracing the cloud: About 60 percent of the SMBs surveyed are using cloud services, with smaller companies more actively participating. According to the article, “smaller SMBs were more likely to be using cloud services, as well as using a greater number of them.”
    3. Virtualization: More than 70 percent of SMBs are using server virtualization, which is a file server hosted in the cloud rather than a specific piece of hardware. Within six months that figure is expected to rise to 80 percent. Larger SMBs are better candidates for server virtualization, since this technology is difficult to leverage effectively unless your business has more than 100 employees.

    As the Spiceworks survey illustrates, very small businesses have different technology needs and capabilities than mid-sized companies. Cloud services are aimed at different market segments, which would explain some of the differences in cloud adoption within SMBs.

    We’d love to hear your perspective on these IT trends. Do these findings match your experience at small- and mid-sized businesses? Let us know by posting in the comments section!

  • 5 Areas To Test When Running A Mock Disaster Preparedness Drill

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    If you work in a large office building, you’re probably used to regular fire drills. People often complain about the inconvenience of having to walk down 20 flights of stairs and wait a half-hour to get back into the building. Given the choice, however, few would stake their lives on crossing their fingers and hoping disaster never strikes.

    Every business, large or small, needs a disaster preparedness plan, but that’s only the first step. As with a fire drill, the only way to know you’re ready is to test it. In general, your company should test its plan at least once a year or any time there has been a big change in your business, such as major operations or infrastructure updates.

    It’s important to test the waters for every aspect of your disaster recovery plan. While businesses may have different needs, most should test these five areas.

    1. Data backup: Try deleting a file and then retrieving it from your online backup.
    2. Network and connectivity: Using a new device or by resetting a computer to factory settings, try to connect to your virtual servers and access data. If these processes seem like a hassle now, they’ll be much more difficult when you’re dealing with a disaster.
    3. Other cloud services: Call up key vendors and distributors of other services like your financial management or payroll systems, describe a problem you’re experiencing and see what they can do for you. With any critical service, make sure your providers can keep their end of the service level agreement (SLA) in the event of a disaster.
    4. Remote workers: The first time an employee works remotely, you’re guaranteed to encounter technical problems. By practicing ahead of time, you can make sure people can connect properly to the tools they need for their work.
    5. Emergency communications: In the event of a disaster, you’ll need to be able to communicate with everyone in the company. Whether you use “robocalls” and SMS notifications or a simple contact list, take the time to test your emergency communications tree, noting any problem areas.

    While every business needs to plan ahead for disaster, running a mock disaster preparedness drill is the only way to know you’re ready.

    We appreciate your feedback. Which of these tips do you see as most important for your business? What are your experiences with running a disaster drill in a small business? Join the conversation in the comments section!

  • Why It’s Critical That Small Businesses Test Their Disaster Recovery Plans

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    As a rule of thumb, a small- or mid-sized business should test itsdisaster recovery plan at least yearly, or any time the business undergoes a major change. However, most businesses are unprepared for common disasters such as floods, hurricanes and cyber-attacks.

    A recent survey suggests that 17 percent of businesses never test their disaster plans and one-third test only once a year, an article on EWeek.com reports. When they do test, 81 percent of respondents report problems, and 11 percent encounter major problems or “complete failure.”

    The survey by IT continuity firm Neverfail polled 252 IT professionals. One common weakness it reveals is that many businesses use a hodge-podge of physical servers and virtual, cloud-based servers. Virtual servers present a safer choice when it comes to disaster planning, but 44 percent of businesses have critical business applications split between physical and virtual servers.

    “Moving to a fully virtualized environment doesn’t happen overnight,” says Neverfail CEO Martin Mackay. “As a result, many applications live in a kind of limbo, with some components on physical servers and other[s] in the cloud during the migration.” This limbo can create gaps in a disaster recovery plan, vulnerabilities that only become obvious through testing (which seldom happens) or a data loss (which happens all too often).

    Even more troubling, nearly a quarter of the businesses surveyed rely on physical servers alone to house their most critical apps. Small business owners may feel more secure by maintaining physical possession of their content in house, instead of allowing a relatively unknown entity to have it. SMBs may not understand how the cloud works, and not realize that their data is more secure in the cloud than it would be sitting in the office.

    A good solution for many businesses is using two duplicate backups: an automatic cloud backup likeCarbonite, as well as an on-site hard drive or network-attached storage (NAS) device. This way, if the local device is destroyed in a hurricane, you can use the cloud backup to restore your data and get your system up and running again. On the other hand, if your network goes down for a long time, you could use your local, physical copy to keep working.

    While some small business owners may be more comfortable having a physical backup on premises, you should always keep a second full backup in the cloud in case something happens to your physical location.

    We appreciate your feedback. Does your business keep a physical backup as well as a cloud copy? Why or why not? Post your thoughts in the comments section!

  • 3 Reasons For Small Businesses To Upgrade To An Ethernet Connection

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    Imagine you’re using Google Maps, getting driving directions from your place of business to a certain destination. You’ll probably see several possible routes and transit options, each with advantages or drawbacks.

    Likewise, the Internet is just one possible route between your business and the resources available in the cloud. And the Internet route might mean having to walk through rough neighborhoods — the places where spam, hackers and phishing come from. Or, you could drive at top speed on a smooth, empty highway. That’s a dedicated Ethernet connection.

    While many small businesses start out using an Internet connection, there are advantages to using a dedicated Ethernet connection to access the cloud. An article on the Small Business Trends blog suggests three reasons to upgrade to an Ethernet connection.

    1. Stronger security: A dedicated Ethernet connection offers greater security because it connects your business directly to your cloud resources. Your sensitive data is not first routed through the public Internet, where the risks of intrusion are higher.
    2. Reliability: An Ethernet connection offers more reliable service and performance than the public Internet. “With a dedicated Ethernet network, your offsite cloud data and applications can offer the same level of performance as if they were located within your local area network, but still maintaining the advantages of cloud computing,” according to the Small Business Trends article.
    3. Leveraging reduced risk: The improved security of an Ethernet connection can reduce a company’s risk and potential liability, and may make your business eligible for contracts or more attractive to clients that require heightened security.

    There are a wide variety of Ethernet providers for small businesses, including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and XO. Since rates and availability may vary by region and your requirements, small- and mid-sized businesses should contact their local ISPs and cable providers to compare costs.

    We appreciate your feedback. What advantages or drawbacks do you see to using a dedicated Ethernet connection? Tell us about your experiences using a dedicated Ethernet connection by posting in the comments section below

  • 5 Questions To Ask To Find The Right IT Consultant

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    If you’re looking for an IT consultant for your small company, it’s a good sign when the consultant can provide references from businesses similar to yours. While references from other businesses are a great way to vet a promising consultant, you’ll want to first narrow the field by asking the right questions.

    With each potential IT consultant, ask these five questions.

    1. How many small-business clients does the consultant have and what problems have they helped those businesses overcome? The goal of this question is to determine where an IT consultant’s expertise lies. Their small-business experience may consist solely of setting up networks, for example. Or they may be experienced with cloud computing and able to help small businesses embrace remote workers. An IT consultant can’t be an expert in everything, so make sure they have expertise in the specific areas you need.
    2. What do the consultant’s service level agreements (SLAs) promise? Should your system go down, a provider’s SLA should set forth what turnaround time to expect. For a good match, look for service providers whose availability and holiday schedule align with yours. If you’re a manufacturer, for example, you may be closed for three weeks around Christmas but open every day the rest of the year, including weekends. In that situation, a provider that’s only available Monday through Friday might not be an ideal choice.
    3. How much does the consultant charge for data recovery and how quickly can they respond in the event of a disaster? Does the consultant use a cloud service provider like Carbonite or does he recover the files himself? Obviously, an IT consultant will have other clients, so in the case of a natural disaster, it’s important to know where your business falls in line. For instance, if a hurricane hits your region, are you guaranteed a specific timeframe in which you’ll receive service? If the consultant cannot meet that commitment, they may provide some form of financial compensation, or outsource the work to another local vendor.
    4. What certifications does the consultant have and maintain? You want to know that you can rely on your IT consultant’s expertise. Organizations like CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) provide several IT certifications; a certified consultant can email you a verification code and URL as evidence that they are up-to-date with the latest certifications.
    5. How much access does the consultant have to your data? If you’re using an online backup system, like Carbonite, make sure that that reseller doesn’t have access to your company information. Confidentiality can be especially important in certain industries, such as health care. Should you decide to change IT consultants and providers, make sure you can easily access all of your passwords and login information for the different services you’re using.

    Ideally, you might also want to audition the consultant with a test project to make sure you work well together. If that’s not feasible, another approach would be to issue a fully detailed request for proposals (RFP) and then evaluate the bids that include references.

    We appreciate your feedback. Which of these five questions do you think is most important to ask potential service providers? Let us know by posting in the comments section!

  • 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Harness The Power Of Pinterest

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    The owner of a small fashion boutique puts great care into its store window display, carefully designing the presentation to draw in potential customers from the street. But the store’s physical location can only reach a limited number of people. When online, however, a compelling image can reach vast audiences through social media platforms such as Pinterest.

    If you’ve been on the fence about Pinterest, an article on Forbes.com says that now is the time to take a serious look at the social media platform. A boutique owner could use Pinterest boards as a virtual storefront to facilitate e-commerce, for example, while a photography business could pin its images to build awareness around its services.

    Try these three tips to help your small business build a following in the Pinterest community.

    1. Lead with appealing visuals: “No matter what your content, find a stunning image to accompany it,” the Forbes.com article suggests. That’s a good strategy for increasing engagement in almost any communications context, but especially in the visually-oriented Pinterest community.
    2. Create graphics for deals and promotions: Small businesses can generate more interest in their deals and special offers through visually-compelling coupons and ads. A bakery, for example, could create a series of photo-driven ads to highlight its “cupcake of the day.”
    3. Engage with your followers: Create a board where you share customer stories and feedback, or set up a guest pinner board to get your community involved. “It increases your user engagement, makes your followers feel more personally invested in your brand, and gives you automatic feedback and insight into the interests and opinions of your audience,” according to the Forbes.com article.

    Pinterest’s visual orientation presents opportunities for many small businesses, but challenges for others. Even if your company lacks a strong visual identity, you can still develop a worthwhile following by curating a social media channel, pinning relevant images and video from industry sources.

    We’d love to hear your story. How has your small business used Pinterest to promote its products and services? What advice would you give to businesses just getting started on Pinterest? Let us know by posting in the comments section below!

    Source: Forbes.com, June 2013

  • 5 Keys To Success For Today’s Small Business Owner

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    More people are starting their own businesses, but success requires more than good ideas. Entrepreneurs must be prepared to lead their companies.

    Entrepreneurs have always been risk takers — your company will fall short of its potential if you’re afraid to take chances. At the same time, today’s leaders must be able to understand and leverage the power of emerging technologies, an international workforce and a global marketplace.

    Here are five key traits for success as a small business leader.

    1. Be a go-getter: Don’t wait for things to come to you. Take action and treat every failure as an opportunity to improve your services.
    2. Stay open to others’ ideas: The goal is to provide leadership without being too overbearing or involved in others’ day-to-day tasks. Empowering your employees provides greater opportunities for your businesses to grow.
    3. Reap the advantages of low-cost cloud computing: When you’re getting your business off the ground, cloud-based tools like Carbonite can help you move along until your business develops to the point where you can bring in a consultant. Areas that lend themselves well to cloud solutions include finance (using QuickBooks, for example), IT (working with resellers and value-added retailers) and everyday business applications (using cloud software such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps).
    4. Extend your reach through outsourcing or leveraging interns: Certain tasks require human interaction more than a technological solution. In customer support and sales, for example, personal contact and warmth is vital. Even if you’re an e-commerce business, your customers will still expect to easily get in touch with a person about a question or a problem.
    5. Know when to keep tasks in-house: While you could outsource human resources to a recruiter or a small firm, it may be best to keep employment decisions within your company, especially if your business is growing and still establishing its identity.

    Again, while some entrepreneurial traits don’t change, it’s important that today’s leaders understand how to leverage technology. That’s the key to unlocking the potential of a global workforce and marketplace.

    We’d like to hear from you. Which of these five traits have you found important? What additional traits do you see as keys to success for small business leaders? Post your thoughts below in the comments section!

  • 6 Technology Chores Small Businesses Should Consider Outsourcing

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    As a rule of thumb, if you and your current staff can’t perform a certain task well, outsource it. Small businesses can reduce costs and improve productivity by outsourcing technology tasks, according to an article on the Fox Small Business Center website. Handing off tech chores to qualified providers helps you stay focused on priorities such as sales, product development and customer relationships.

    The key is to make sure you outsource the right jobs, which will vary depending on your business model and internal expertise. For many small businesses, outsourcing the following six tasks will help you increase your productivity.

    1. Website development and design: Professional looks and reliable functionality speak volumes to current and potential clients. Yes, you could probably slap something together on your own, but your website is a crucial communication and branding tool. Just because there’s a new tool or program out there that can help you do something yourself, it doesn’t mean that’s the best strategy for your business. Instead, try outsourcing web projects to a design agency or an experienced local freelancer.
    2. Infrastructure: Building a network can be expensive when you add up the costs of hardware, ongoing maintenance and the know-how needed to keep it running. For many small businesses, a cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model is a cost-effective and convenient option. Cloud solutions also tend to scale well, providing the flexibility to add functionality and storage as your business grows.
    3. Customer relationship management (CRM): If you’re juggling more than 50 customers, a cloud-based CRM solution could streamline your sales process. Services like Salesforce, HubSpot and Spark can track your customer interactions, helping you to better leverage those relationships for future sales and referrals.
    4. E-commerce tools: Protecting your customers’ financial data isn’t a project for do-it-yourselfers. For most small businesses, using a single e-commerce provider makes it easy to create an online storefront, process credit cards and secure transaction data.
    5. Social media: Entrepreneurs may learn a lot about their market by handling their own social media at first. However, when social media starts taking up too much time, don’t abandon it. Instead, try to hand off these tasks to a social media manager or strategist.
    6. Business applications: Customized software may offer advantages, but for most small companies, it’s expensive overkill. Standard cloud software such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps provide plenty of functionality, while the service providers handle the maintenance and support.

    In the end, it’s important to know your business and your strengths, and use outsourcing to address your weaker points. Again, remember that rule of thumb: If you and your current staff can’t perform a certain task well, outsource it.

    Which technology tasks would you recommend small business owners outsource? What has worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

  • How Could Technology Unlock Cost Savings For Your Small Business

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    With more and more business tools available online, small companies can leverage today’s technology and cloud computing solutions to help drive business and unlock savings.

    In terms of driving business, online marketing can help you find new customers for a minimal capital investment compared to traditional advertising. Content marketing, social media, emails and newsletters are all ways to promote your brand and provide value to clients and prospective customers. However, getting the most out of these tools does require time and preparation. For example, you can get started with social media for free, but it takes proactive planning to make sure you’re posting valuable content on the networks where your potential customers are.

    In terms of unlocking savings, small businesses can use cloud services to get work accomplished more cost-effectively, whether by using automatic data backup or collaborating with freelancers around the world. On websites such as oDesk and Freelance.com, freelancers bid against each other, driving costs down. You’re also gaining access to a broader network of talent compared to relying on referrals from an agency or existing relationships.

    Another great way to leverage the cloud for savings is through automating everyday tasks to increase productivity. One-on-one customer follow-ups may be effective, for example, but they require large amounts of time. Online marketing communications tools like Constant Contact can help automate some of your customer touchpoints. An online newsletter or survey can reach hundreds or thousands of customers and prospects, providing additional value in the form of tips and information.

    While cloud technologies can help you save money, they don’t completely replace human workers, especially when it comes to setting up your cloud tools and systems. With Constant Contact, for example, someone still has to create the emails, digital content and other marketing assets — it’s a tool, so remember you still need a person to implement it.

    Ultimately, using the cloud is all about making your business more competitive by getting a better value for your time and money. You can then pass along those savings to your customers or use that extra money to attract more business.

    We always appreciate your feedback. What new technology is your small business using to cut costs? Let us know by posting in the comments section!

  • Is Your Small Business Ready For Remote Workers?

    by Sara Harold | Mar 21, 2014

    Having all of your employees in one location may be convenient, but remote workers provide a more cost-effective option for many small and growing businesses. With lower overhead costs, a distributed workplace can offer significant savings, but brings its own technological challenges. When your employees work in different states or countries, for example, an unreliable network can bring your business to a standstill.

    To prepare the systems and infrastructure you’ll need for success, follow these five tips.

    1. Make sure remote workers have reliable equipment. If there are sales reps doing product demos, for example, they’ll need laptops and tablets that are trustworthy and have the power to run image-heavy presentations.
    2. Create and implement a disaster recovery plan for remote workers and prepare for connectivity problems and other issues. If remote workers don’t have access to your IT department or system, you’ll need to make sure they can still receive IT service when necessary. Identify an IT consultant in their area who can help.
    3. Protect your data with online backup and communicate security requirements to remote workers. Even if they’re not in the office, they need to follow all the procedures for IT compliance, such as rules for data backup and changing passwords. Setting up a company-wide automated cloud backup system can help protect your interests as well as your employees’ data.
    4. Provide collaboration tools appropriate for your team. Every company uses some level of collaboration, but some businesses rely heavily on team projects, as opposed to individual assignments. If that’s the case, a number of collaboration tools are available, such as Constant Contact and Huddle.
    5. Establish procedures to access or retrieve the data created by your remote workers should either of you decide to terminate the relationship. If you’re providing employees with a laptop, that obviously belongs to the company, as does any data on that asset. 

    With lower overhead, a distributed workplace can offer significant savings, provided you prepare your business for the technological challenges it presents.

    We’d like to hear from you. Which of these five tips do you find most helpful in getting your small business ready for remote workers? Let us know by posting in the comments section!