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Collaboration Technologies to the Rescue

Reading this article will give you an overview of tools and technologies that will help you and your teams collaborate effectively and productively. Collaboration and teamwork can make or break a company. Long gone are the days when your employees could work independent of each other. In today’s market, if you want to stay competitive you need to use collaboration to the fullest. Thanks to various tools and technologies, this task is simple. Which Basic Collaboration Technologies Are Right for Me? Every business needs to use some kind of collaboration technique. In fact, there is no business in today’s world that can survive without basic collaboration technologies such as a company Intranet , email server, a fax/print server, or a time management functionality (for instance, electronic calendars). These technologies are so fundamental that most likely you have been using them for ages. So, as you might be surprised to learn that you are actually already using collaboration technologies but you just didn’t know it! However, you may also be surprised to learn about additional tools that you may not be using today that will help improve your company’s collaboration efforts. In addition to the basic collaboration technologies you have used for years, new ones are emerging all the time. Below is a list some of the most popular groups of collaboration technologies you can use in your day-to-day operations. To learn more about each collaboration tool, just click on each link to read our related articles. Conferencing tools . Audio and video conferences become a daily necessity for many companies. No matter whether you use audio and video conferencing to communicate with your distributed team or with suppliers and clients from all over the world, these collaboration technologies can be very useful. Document and application sharing . When many people work with the same document at the same time, it is very inconvenient when you have to wait for your colleagues to finish his or her tasks with that document, so that you can proceed with your work. Document and application sharing make that inconvenience history since it’s now possible for many people to work simultaneously on the same document. Workflow and project management . Workflow and project management technologies will help you manage your business more effectively by minimizing downtime and increasing the performance of your employees through organizing tasks better. Online collaboration . Even if you don’t have many (or any) tele-workers and remote workers, online collaboration tools are great because you can access them from everywhere and you can work at any time you please. Additionally, you can share these tools with your suppliers and clients and further improve your sales and customer service process. Change management . Maintaining multiple versions of the same document is too much of a hassle, but not when change management technologies handle this for you. When you use these technologies, you can maintain as many versions of a document as you like, and all of them will be neatly organized and readily accessible. Knowledge management . Knowledge is power, and there is hardly a company that will not benefit from a company wiki or other form of knowledge management system. The collaboration technologies listed here are just a sampling of what’s available. There are literally hundreds of collaboration technologies and depending on your particular needs you may choose one or another. Of course, it is best if you can find an all-in-one solution, such as Windows Small Business Server (SBS), which includes many or all of the technologies you need.

How to Choose an IT Consultant

In business today the choice of a technology advisor can be a critical success factor in this article you’ll learn how to make the right choice. Maintaining your small company network in good shape is not an easy task, and you are probably perfectly aware that doing it on your own is not the best way to invest your time. When you want to hire somebody to maintain your company network for you, basically you have two choices – to employ somebody onsite (as a full-time or part-time employee) or to outsource the task to an external IT Consultant . After you have decided that your small company does not need onsite IT staff and you will need an IT Consultant, the next step is to choose one. Choosing an IT Consultant is not so different from choosing an onsite employee, but still there are specifics you need to be aware of. Sometimes this task is a very easy one when you can ask your business associates to recommend somebody. But if you want to choose the IT consultant on your own, here are some points to consider: 5 Key Steps in Choosing an IT Consultant Technical competencies . Needless to say, this is the most important factor because if you hire somebody whose technical competency is not satisfactory, this will certainly lead to a lot of trouble. If you are a non-technical person, you are hardly in a position to judge the technical skills of the candidates, but if you ask them about the certificates, degrees, diplomas, and other similar documents they possess, this will give you a clue if they are technically competent or not. For instance, IT Consultants with Microsoft Small Business Specialist certification have passed rigorous exams on small business technology. Ability to work with people . Sometimes technical people are not the best communicators. But IT Consultants are supposed to be half techies, half business consultants, so for them being technical is not an excuse for lacking basic business and communication skills. That is why it is key to choose someone who can communicate with you, explain things in a way you understand, answer all your questions, and not just talk in jargon — someone who can help you understand how technology matters to your business and can help it grow. Availability . Availability is a key factor for your decision because if you hire somebody who is not available when you need him or her most, what’s the point of having an IT Consultant if you can’t rely on him or her? Usually it’s best to hire locally, because when their office is near, they are more likely to be able to arrive quickly on your premises an emergency. Also, very often problems can quickly be solved remotely, so it is equally important that the IT Consultant you choose provides remote support as well. Recommendations from clients . It’s always good to know how the candidate has handled previous clients, so feel free to ask for recommendations from their clients. Can they handle all your IT needs? When you choose an IT Consultant, you would like him or her to be the single point of contact for all your IT needs. While it’s not always possible for your IT Consultant to necessarily complete all of your technical needs him or herself, he or she should be able to manage the process on your behalf. (For example, if you want a software application to be developed especially for you, you’d better contact a dedicated software development company, but your IT consultant could be the one to handle the process for you.) Therefore, it’s best if the consultant you choose can meet all (or at least most) of your IT needs – from purchasing new hardware, to maintaining the network, to providing support for the applications you use on a daily basis. Wrapping Up These are some of the points you need to have in mind when choosing an IT consultant. It is important to choose carefully. If you want to establish a long term “trusted advisor” relationship with your IT Consultant, just like with your attorney or accountant, you must choose the best — not necessarily the cheapest — IT Consultant. Remember, your IT Consultant is a key partner in the viability of your business and your success! What Next? Sit down with your team and become clear on your IT needs and goals. Ask associates or key advisors such as your accountant for recommendations Interview and select carefully. The best IT Consultant should be a trusted advisor just like your accountant or attorney. Take your time and find someone you can trust and work with for the long term

Don’t Leave Your Business Open to Cyber Attacks

Simple Steps Businesses Can Take to Protect Themselves from Cyber Crime “When the World Wide Web launched almost 20 years ago, it generated a lot of buzz about how it would revolutionize the way we do business, but many questioned whether these projections were fact or just grand words. Today, few can argue that the Internet has transformed business operations. For example, it has changed the way we share information, talk to employees, advertise jobs and sell services and merchandise to customers. It has opened the door to resources from all over the word. It has become such an essential tool for business success that few can afford not to have a Web presence. But the Internet has done more than change the way we work; it changed the way criminals commit crimes. Cyber criminals view the Internet as a tool they can use to launch daily cyber attacks such as computer viruses, worms, spam, phishing and identity theft, and the Web presence that businesses need to be successful is what makes them vulnerable to these attacks.” Read the story on SmallBizTechnology.com

Microsoft Rolls Out New Small Business Server Options

“Microsoft has announced new server software that it said provides small and medium businesses with enterprise-quality capabilities while helping them to save money, increase productivity and grow their businesses. While designed specifically for small and midsized companies, Windows Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) and Windows Essential Business Server 2008 (EBS 2008) include Microsoft’s high-end server technologies delivered in a way that smaller companies can make the most of them.” Read the story on Small Business Computing

Making the Most of Your Intranet

“Lower costs and ease of use mean companies of any size can create their own intranets. Here’s how to get the most from this technology. Seven years ago, INK, Inc., a pay-for-placement media relations firm, needed a way for its staff to quickly share information about potential opportunities for clients. E-mail was too awkward and restrictive, especially where images or video materials were concerned. The answer was for INK to create its own intranet.” Read the story on Inc Technology

Microsoft Offers 0 Percent Financing to New Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customers

Microsoft Dynamics is committed to helping credit-approved customers gain access to capital and invest in their businesses even in uncertain times. REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 13, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today announced 0 percent financing for 36 months for new, qualifying customers of Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM solutions. The limited time offer is available to Microsoft Dynamics customers who receive Microsoft Financing credit approval on all purchases of $20,000 (U.S.) up to $1 million (U.S.). Read more

Microsoft Announces General Availability of Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008

Solutions designed to help small and midsize businesses save money and compete in a global marketplace. REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2008 — As part of Microsoft Corp.’s $6.5 billion annual investment in products, support programs and incentives for small and midsize businesses, the company today announced the general availability of Windows Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) and Windows Essential Business Server 2008 (EBS 2008). These solutions bring the power of Microsoft’s enterprise-class server technologies to small and midsize companies in a way that companies can best consume them. They are designed and priced to help customers save money and compete more successfully in the global marketplace. Read more