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January 14th, 2013

2013We hope you and your family had a fantastic Christmas and New year break. With many people returning to work this week, we’re back at here at Directions for another amazing year!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your business throughout 2012.

2012 was a big year for Directions. We’ve worked on some great projects with our clients and had a blast watching our clients grow and evolve to great new heights.

What’s on for 2013? For Directions, we’ll be looking to grow both our client base and looking to expand our team to enable us to continue providing you the highest level of service.

We know that many of our clients also have plans for growth and change in 2013. We’d love to help you achieve those goals, and know that a good IT foundation can often help. If you struggled with maintaining reliable IT systems in 2012 or have some technology changes you want to implement, please give us a call to arrange a meeting with one of our business technology specialists.

It’s also a good time to think about your backups and disaster recovery. If securing your critical business data against loss in the event of fire, theft, flood or power disruption is one of those jobs you’ve been meaning to sort out, stop now and give us a call on 1800 013 001 and we’ll help you to put in place a simple, effective and affordable solution.

From the Team at Directions, to your team and families, I’d like to wish you a very Mery Christmas, a Safe Happy and Prosperous New Year and all the very best in Business for 2013.

I look forward to working with you in 2013.

Lachlan McIntosh
CEO

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September 24th, 2012

secret2012 has been a great year for us at Directions with growth of our team and our service offerings. We’re committed to continuing to grow as it helps us to continue to provide you with great service.

We firmly believe that we believe that referrals are the greatest form of flattery. If you know someone who is worried about any aspect of their business technology, do them a favor and put them in touch with us.

By recommending partners, associates, or professional contacts, you can help them enjoy worry-free IT and reap some rewards for yourself. We can help with services like:

  • Managed IT – we assume to role of “IT Department” and provide day to day support and strategic IT advice
  • Projects & Consulting – upgrades of hardware & software, implementation new technology, etc
  • Software Development – we provide custom software development services
  • Business Intelligence – provide insight into financial and sales data through advanced reporting tools
  • Backups and Disaster Recovery Planning – we can review or formulate a plan to suit specific business requirements
  • Cloud Services and VOIP  – not sure if cloud or IP telephony is right – we have answers

If you’d like to refer someone to us, please visit our website and add their details or email us info@directions.com.au

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July 23rd, 2012

Top 5 Criteria to Consider

The world is abuzz over cloud computing – using virtual servers available on demand over the Internet. But the truth is not every small business needs to operate “in the cloud.” Before you make the move, consider these five criteria,

How Fast Is Your Business Growing?

Investments in hardware and software typically follow a stair-step pattern. Incremental outlays often lead to too much capacity; that’s why utilization rates for IT systems tend to be low–30% to 40%. Cloud computing can more smoothly match technology expenditures with a company’s natural trajectory. Fast-growers tend to be good candidates for the cloud, as are those with choppy or seasonal demand. Stable, predictable outfits that feel more comfortable with keeping systems in-house might be better off staying pat.

Where Are The Troops?

Cloud services, by definition, are available 24-7. That gives employees, partners and customers access to information from anywhere and in real time – a huge advantage for companies with operations in different locations and in multiple time zones. The more spread out a business is, the more the cloud can help. If your company is generally centralised and runs within normal business hours, and if your employees don’t need 24-7 access, the cloud may not be for you.

How Reliable Must Your System Be?

A system boasting 99.999% availability means that it will be offline just 6.05 seconds per week, while one offering mere 99% availability will be down 1.68 hours per week. Those three extra 9s don’t come cheap–perhaps eight to ten times more than cut-rate 99% service–so be honest about how much uptime your system must deliver to meet your customers’ needs. (If you’re not in the health care, telecommunication or public safety industries, 99.95% should do.) Also keep in mind that overall reliability depends not just on the cloud vendor but also on the network provider. No network, no cloud service. Beware: Neither cloud vendors nor broadband providers will race to take ownership of your system’s reliability.

Is the Service Secure Enough?

Some cloud vendors share their servers with other customers–that may not be a good fit for companies in regulated industries, such as health care and banking, as data are never 100% secure in a shared environment. Another concern is the physical location of the cloud vendor’s servers relative to your customers. Define the regulatory requirements of your business, and make sure the cloud vendor satisfies them.

Good Track Record?

There now are hundreds of cloud vendors to choose from. Many are launching new services, like mobile marketing and social networking, to separate themselves from the pack. That’s good news. But lots of new players and incessant innovation also invite instability, and cloud vendors go out of business for all sorts of reasons. What impact would it have on your business if your data wasn’t available while a legal problem with a cloud vendor was being resolved?

Remember too, that wherever your data resides, you’ll still need a reliable and trustworthy IT support plan in place to ensure that your systems run smoothly and you can access advice about choosing technology that meets your business needs.

If you have questions about the cloud and your future technology requirements, please give us a call or drop us a line at info@directions.com.au

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March 13th, 2012

If you’re like most businesses, you’d be lost if one of your servers failed.  In nearly every business today, servers are absolutely fundamental to communications, finance and storing business information.  In fact, most businesses are so dependent on their server that if it broke down, so too would the business. That’s why it’s so important to know how often your server needs to be replaced, so you can make an informed decision when the time comes – but how do you know?

Warranty
Firstly, it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive. Generally speaking, most servers will last between three and five years. If your server is more than three years old, the warranty may have expired, depending on the type of warranty you purchased with your server.  If your server is still within the warranty period, you may be able to get an extension. You should note though that once a server warranty has expired, you will be unable to get an extension.  That’s why it’s important to be proactive, rather than reacting to a disaster as it unfolds.

Hardware and Software
You should also consider that an aging server may not be compatible in running a new version of particular software that you wish to upgrade to – or you may be in a situation where you must upgrade to newer software. If this happens, you will have no choice but to upgrade your server as well. It is also important to note that after five years, server hardware can become less reliable, slow and prone to failure so it’s best to plan and budget for an upgrade before this becomes an issue.

Growth of your Business
You may find that your server is no longer meeting the basic needs of your growing business and is holding you back. Alternatively, your business may be set to expand over the coming years, which will push your server to the borderline of inadequacy. Again, if this is the case then you need to be proactive in planning for the future needs of your business.

Due to the expense and risks involved in replacing ageing servers, it’s important to get the right advice and assistance with planning to replace your server, so that interruptions to your business can be avoided.

We help businesses every day to make good decisions about technology. If you have any questions or concerns about the servers that run your business, give us a call today on 1800 013 001 or email us. Remember, your server is fundamental to the successful running of your business so if you think there may be an issue, don’t put it off.

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March 9th, 2012

Have you ever wondered about that strange barcode that seems to be popping up everywhere these days? Whether you’re online, flicking through a magazine, getting your junk mail fix, or checking out a billboard, it seems there is no escaping them. Called ‘Quick Response Codes’ (‘QR Codes’ for short), they are actually a type of two dimensional bar code that provides a gateway to a wealth of information. To decipher them, you simply need a smartphone!

Before we explore how they work, you might be interested to know that the QR Code has been around for nearly 20 years. Back in 1994 in Japan, a few clever individuals from Denso-Wave (a subsidiary of the Toyota Group) designed the QR code for the sole purpose of tracking parts in the vehicle manufacturing industry and since its humble beginnings, it’s certainly come a long way!

So how does it work? Well firstly, you will need to download one of the many scanning apps available for your smartphone. Once installed, you simply point your smartphone at the QR Code you wish to decipher, take a photo and use the scanning app to read it.

image

As the above diagram explains, once the code has been deciphered, your smartphone will take you straight to a website containing the information you are seeking! No stuffing around with search engines or trying to write things down. Just point, shoot and learn. QR Codes are handy to find out more information about so many things, the possibilities really are endless!

If you’re a business owner, QR Codes are a fantastic way to promote your products and services whilst broadening your advertising parameters. You can put them on your business cards, coupons, and in brochures and magazines as a way to instantly connect with your target audience much faster than these types of media originally offered. QR Codes allow your would-be prospects to instantly learn more about your business and obtain information about the products and services you are advertising. To get your free QR Code, you can visit websites like Kaywa.

There are also some scanning apps available like Google Goggles that do much more than just scan QR Codes. You can take a photo of a famous landmark, logo, even a bottle of wine, and your smartphone will teach you more about it.

If you haven’t done so already, get on board! QR Codes really are the future of advertising and the smart way to promote your business and connect with prospective clients.

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March 7th, 2012

With iPad ownership growing, it’s important to get the facts about protecting your information and ensuring that you have an enjoyable user experience. The features that attract users to the iPad such as portability, a simple user interface and super-fast access to information can sadly make it a considerable security risk, with theft or loss being at the top of the list. By following these seven tips though, you can learn how to ensure you have a super user experience with less risk and more peace of mind.

imageDon’t Leave your iPad Lying Around
As obvious as this is, it certainly is easy to do. Because your iPad is an easy target for theft, be sure to keep a keen eye on it in public places.

imageDon’t Trust Public WiFi Networks
Public WiFi networks are often a haven for hackers and identity thieves, so whenever you connect make sure it’s a legitimate, secure connection. If in doubt, don’t connect!

imageAlways Use a Passcode
As annoying as it can be to enter a code each time you use your iPad, you are safeguarding against unauthorised users from accessing your information.

imageAlways Install Software Updates
To protect against hackers and viruses, make sure you install the latest security updates and patches when prompted.

imageLimit the Capabilities of your iPad
You can set your iPad to restrict certain functions such as installing applications and accessing YouTube or Safari. This can be particularly useful for concerned parents who may not always be able to keep an eye on all websites and applications their children may be trying to access or download.

imageConsider Enabling Automatic Data Erasing
You can actually configure your iPad to erase your data after 10 failed passcode attempts. Whilst handy in the event of theft, not so handy for those of us who struggle to remember passcodes, or have persistent children.

imageUtilise Apple iCloud
Automatic and effortless, iCloud seamlessly integrates into your apps, so you can access your content on all your devices – and the best part is, it’s free!

Topic Articles
February 21st, 2012

Is your staff bringing their own devices and gadgets to the workplace? There are pros and cons that you need to know before you decide to adopt this practice for your business.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the "consumerization" of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a "bring your own device" or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today's younger generation of workers (a group called "millenials") not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.
However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:
  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don't employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn't belong to them, or it's against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.
Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 15th, 2012

… to claim your prize, simply reply with your bank account details and credit card number to verify your identity. You will then receive your prize within 3 working days. Package includes: identity theft, large sums of money being charged to your credit card or withdrawn from your savings account and no knowledge of any fraudulent activity until you’re standing at a Coles checkout with your financial life in ruins. Sound like a good deal? I don’t think so.

The online world is rife with scammers, hackers and cyber criminals ever busy creating new email hoaxes for unknowing individuals to fall victim to. Like the above example, some are obvious and downright amusing, but others are far more sophisticated and can lead to virus infections, fraud, or worse.

Some examples of what to look out for include:

  • Virus Alerts
  • All virus alerts from a source other than your installed anti-virus software should be treated as suspicious, ignored and deleted.

  • Charity Appeals to Help Sick or Needy Children
  • Genuine emails from charities should contain a link to an official website or publication to verify the cause. If this information is missing, DO NOT provide bank account or credit card information.

  • Invitations to E-Sign Petitions
  • No matter how seemingly worthy the cause may be, providing your email address to unknown sources should be avoided.

  • Warnings about Government Policies, Products or Coming Events
  • Genuine emails of this nature will include references to verifiable sources such as news articles, websites or other publications.

  • Free Giveaways in Exchange for Email Adresses
  • Be wary of emails that include lines such as ‘Forward this email to everyone in your address book’ or ‘Send this on to at least 10 people in order to claim your prize’. This is a sure-fire indicator that the email is a hoax and should be deleted.

Also be wary of the language used in emails. Hoax material written by scammers will often contain poor grammar, punctuation and spelling as well as the overuse of CAPITAL LETTERS. Avoid emails containing ‘over the top’ and emotive words and phrases such as ‘DANGER’, ‘URGENT’ or ‘Worst virus ever’ etc. In a nutshell: When in doubt, throw it out!

If you have concerns about the integrity of your company’s anti-virus software in protecting against email scams and viruses, call Directions Technology TODAY to discuss our range of software to ensure the security of your computer network, and your piece of mind.

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February 15th, 2012

Hands up who uses Microsoft Outlook in their day-to-day working life? Ever wonder what all those fancy menu buttons do? Well, by the time you’ve finished with this article, there’s no reason why you can’t all move to the top of the class and claim a gold star. By implementing the following seven tips, you’ll be on your way to being more organized, less repetitive and more confident with using Outlook at work. There’s even a link to a further 8 tips, so there’s no excuses!

 

 

1. Share your Schedule with Others

This is very handy when needing to view the schedule of fellow colleagues and vice versa. With the right permissions, you can make your calendar available for others to view over the internet, regardless of whether they have an Outlook Exchange account. Learn more.

2. Streamline Repetitive Tasks

If you find yourself doing the same old thing repeatedly, then Quick Steps in Outlook 2010 is the feature for you. By turning on particular commands and procedures, you can fast-track things like moving messages to a specific folder or forwarding emails onto your colleagues. Learn more.

3. Conversation Management

If you like to be part of the action (or get out while you can), then take advantage of the Conversation View feature. By following a few simple steps, you can view emails as an overall conversation (including your responses), and find those parts that are most relevant to you. You can also opt out by auto ignoring conversations all together and sending them straight to your deleted folder. Learn more here, here and here.

4. Calendar Babysitting Service

For those times when you need someone to manage your schedule (or vice versa), the Delegate Access feature is your friend. Learn how to receive, accept and request meetings through Outlook on behalf of a colleague.

5. Take your Inbox with you

With the Outlook Web Application, you can access your Outlook schedule or inbox anytime, regardless of whether you’re in the office or not. All you need is access to the internet! To take advantage of this must have feature, check out.

6. Get More Out of your Emails

Outlook offers a number of cool email tracking features including voting buttons, follow-up actions and delivery and read receipts to make life easier. If you’ve ever wondered if a particular person received or read your email, then this is the feature for you. Learn how.

7. Let Outlook Reply when you Can’t

If you’re going to be out of the office for a while, you need the Auto-reply feature. By following a few simple steps, you can setup automatic email replies to advise your colleagues that you’re out (or on holidays) and when they can expect to hear from you again.

You can find more great Outlook tips here.

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February 14th, 2012

With the summer storm season well underway, it’s important to get the facts and be prepared for the electrical dangers and challenges that small businesses can face. Although power problems can occur throughout the year, the severe weather of the Australian storm season presents the greatest danger by increasing the incidence of electrical hazards that damage computers, destroy data, diminish productivity and (depending on the severity of the situation) can cause significant financial hardship.

In most cases, if damage from electrical storms occurs to your computers, the data is retrievable from either the back up or directly from the hard drive. If the damage occurs to the motherboard however, each computer must be individually assessed. Sometimes motherboards can be easily replaced but in other cases, it is actually cheaper to purchase a new computer. If this happened to your business, could you afford such a costly exercise? Could you recover from the possible loss of data?

Let’s look at some of the main threats posed by electrical interference during a summer storm:

  • Power Surges and Power Spikes
  • Surges and spikes are short-term voltage increases that can cause catastrophic equipment damage, data corruption and incremental damage that degrades equipment performance.

  • Line Noise
  • Line noise encompasses radio frequency interference, electromagnetic interference, harmonic distortion and waveform irregularities in line power. It can cause electronic circuit damage, data corruption and audio/video quality problems.

  • Blackouts
  • A blackout is a total loss of power which can cause reduced productivity, lost revenue, system crashes and data loss.

  • Brownouts
  • A brownout is a voltage deficiency that occurs when power demand exceeds power availability and can cause equipment failures, incremental damage, decreased stability and data loss.

The best way to deal with these threats is to prevent them from happening in the first place, and the good news is that preparing for the storm season doesn’t need to be complicated! If you run a small business, ensure that you have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) fitted to your network to prevent power surges from wreaking havoc. As an added protection, you could also fit good quality surge protectors between the power socket and cable of individual computers. These are the best ways to protect your business and ensure that safe, reliable power is delivered to your computers.

If you have any questions or concerns about possible power problems at your business, give us a call today. We’re happy to help.

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