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Feb
5
What's New in Technology February 2019
Posted by S2C Staff on 05 February 2019 02:29 PM

What's New in Technology February 2019

Automated Workflow Tools

Automated Workflow ToolsWe often read about how technological advances such as artificial intelligence will someday be used for customer-facing jobs – even eliminating the human touch. However, small firms that rely on trust and personal relationships are not likely to benefit from these innovations. Nonetheless, technology – when used effectively – can enhance a firm’s efficiency and free up resources so that more human time is spent on customer interaction. Used in combination, technology and personal relationships can improve a company’s bottom line.

One of the best ways to use technology is to enhance current processes. Over the past two decades, many firms have begun tracking their client and prospective client interactions via spreadsheets and data software. These days, automated workflow tools can replace many of those older, time-consuming tasks by integrating single-source data for a variety of uses.

For example, meeting notes can now be stored and mined so as to retrieve and compare reported results from month to month or year to year. Client databases can be integrated with information from multiple sources, including handwritten notes, Post-its, voicemails and emails. By collecting, compiling and analyzing related information from every available source, client-facing personnel can track previously asked questions – and answers – so that information is transparent, consistently communicated and reviewed to help understand the concerns of individual clients. This data can be used for periodic outreach communications that directly touch on the issues of greatest interest to each client – proving that technology can actually enhance client relationships rather than detract from them.

However, to take advantage of automated workflow tools, it’s important to conduct periodic reviews to identify ongoing challenges and issues within your organization as well as research tech solutions that can address them in a more efficient manner. The goal is to compile both client data and relevant project information in a centralized location to improve efficiency and collaboration.

The following are a couple of examples of automated workflow tools that can enhance small business operations.

Scheduling

It’s one thing to have a triggering system designed to automate scheduled appointments. However, many times these meetings are wasted because either clients do not arrive with the information (such as forms and receipts to complete a tax return) they need to provide or the consultant has not completed the assignments necessary to facilitate a productive meeting. A scheduling tool can do more than signal it’s time for a periodic consultation. It should be integrated with previous meeting notes to share any ongoing issues that need to be monitored, discussions tabled for a later date, tasks or forms that need to be completed and details of next steps – updated when they are completed. By integrating scheduling software with client data files, regular consultations are enriched with the information necessary for a complete discussion and more time can be spent building trust based on competence and personal interaction.

E-Signatures

Better yet, the more your client files are digitalized the less need for time-consuming, face-to-face meetings just to get a signature. Digital signatures are now a legally accepted form of agreement in many scenarios, and can be integrated as an automated workflow tool. While clients may initially be hesitant, it’s important to make the e-signature process simple in order to demonstrate its value over having to print out documents and sign, scan, upload and return them. Consider using the time normally spent on trying to get a client to respond to invite him out for lunch the first time he successfully completes an e-signature form.


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Jan
8
How to Build Your Savings Using Technology
Posted by S2C Staff on 08 January 2019 12:25 PM

What's New in Technology January 2019

How to Build Your Savings Using Technology

How to Build Your Savings Using TechnologyAccording to a study by Cornell University, the human brain is wired to earn money more so than save it. As such, when we find we need more money in our lives, our instinct is to earn more and not spend less. In fact, this instinct tends to grow over time, and is one reason why people tend to spend more money when they receive a salary increase rather than save it.

However, researchers believe that by being cognizant of this fact, we can take proactive measures to develop effective savings habits. One way to do this is by using new technology to make saving easier. The following are a few high-tech examples.

  • Set up your bank account to make automatic transfers between your checking and savings account on a regular basis. When you are able to reduce or eliminate a regular expense, set up an automated transferal of that fixed amount. For example, if you start taking your lunch to work each day for savings of $50 a week, automatically transfer $50 each week from your checking to your savings account. That $200 a month in savings can build up quickly.
  • Go online to shop for a savings account at an internet bank. These virtual companies generally offer a higher interest rate on savings accounts since they have lower overhead expenses than a brick and mortar bank. This one move can help your savings compound faster.
  • Download an app designed to help manage your spending habits and automatically transfer money to a savings account every time you make a significant savings decision (like buy a washing machine for $50 less than the one you were considering). Consider popular apps such as Digit, Clarity Money or Saver Life.
  • Consider using an app that helps you delve into the world of investing with small sums of money. These apps offer information and tips to help you understand the basics of investing and make it easy to set up automatic transfers to an investment account. Consider popular apps such as Stash or Acorns.
  • Delete any credit card numbers you have stored at your favorite online stores or on your browser. While saved information is convenient, it is more likely to encourage impulse buying. The longer it takes to input your payment information for each purchase, the more time you have to consider whether or not you really need to buy that item.
  • Unplug your computers, televisions and cable boxes when you’re not using them, as they use energy even when they are turned off. One easy way to do this is to use grounded power strips to turn off several electronics at once.
  • Purchase and install a timer device that automatically adjusts your home’s thermostat. ENERGY STAR reports that reducing the thermostat by 7 degrees to 10 degrees, eight hours a day, can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 10 percent a year.

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Jan
8
ICFiles Downtime
Posted by S2C Staff on 08 January 2019 12:05 PM
ICFiles Notice:

This is to inform our clients of an unplanned maintenance we had to perform on the pod running your ICFiles.com.
Due to performance and stability issues we detected, we have performed a move of your VSI to a new host as a preventative measure.

We apologize for any inconvenience this is causing. 

Thank you,

Charles K.
Compute SRE
IBM Cloud
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Oct
5
6 Great Ways to Unplug and Feel Better
Posted by S2C Staff on 05 October 2018 01:19 PM

Tip of the Month October 2018

6 Great Ways to Unplug and Feel Better

6 Great Ways to Unplug and Feel BetterYou’ve just lost your phone and you’re in full-on panic mode. When you locate said electronic device, all is well. You heave a sigh of relief. All of this begs the question: Why and how have we become so dependent on our phones? Though doing without a phone entirely is probably not realistic or in some cases necessary, here are a few ways to ramp off your addiction – and why unplugging is so important for your overall well-being.

  1. Don’t Take Your Phone to Bed
    Research shows that blue light from the phone screen makes it hard to fall asleep. Wayne Conn, a sleep coordinator at Texoma Medical Center, claims that it wakes up the brain and causes it to be overstimulated, much the way exercising before going to bed prevents our bodies from relaxing. Idea: Put the phone down two hours before you retire for the evening, maybe in another room. If you need to make a call, use a land line. When you do this, chances are you’ll sleep better and wake up refreshed.
  2. Let Go of FOMO
    FOMO is the acronym for “fear of missing out”. In fact, Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, told CNBC that most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less for fear of not being in the know about whatever local or world crisis might be in play. Truth is, if it’s that important, you’ll hear about it on TV, the radio or from a friend. Acquiescing to this phenomenon creates anxiety and interferes with your ability to focus. To avoid all this stress, let go and let live.
  3. Set Alarms to Wean Yourself Off
    Relegate your phone checking to certain times, which might be after work or after dinner. Next, set alarms on your phone during these times so that you can take one deep dive into your phone, respond to emails and comment on social media. Better still, Rosen suggests a radical idea: tell friends and family that you might not be responding to messages as quickly as you used to. Talk about liberating! No longer will you be a slave to the world.
  4. Remove Distracting Apps from Your Phone
    To avoid accidental time-sucks, remove apps that seem to lure you in and hold you hostage, such as social media sites and games. Instead, deploy apps for reading or learning a new language. If you really want to see who has had a new baby or been on a fabulous vacation, you can do it on your desk computer or laptop. The takeaway? Now when you’re interacting with your phone, you’ll be contributing to your mental health and personal growth, rather than taking away from it.
  5. Rely More on Smart Speakers
    Step away from the screen. Give your thumbs a rest. Use your voice to do the heavy lifting with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google’s Home Products. These blue light-free devices can answer virtually any question you have, as well as turn on music or a podcast. When you’re not glued to your phone, you’ll enjoy life a whole lot more.
  6. Try Replacement Therapy
    Finally, instead of reaching for your phone, pick up a book. Talk to your coworker, spouse or neighbor. If we’re honest, human interactions far more satisfying than a tiny rectangular screen.

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Sep
7
Cyberattack Prevention Planning
Posted by S2C Staff on 07 September 2018 01:01 PM

What's New in Technology September 2018

Cyberattack Prevention Planning

Cyberattack Prevention Planning

Every year we experience new challenges in the world of computer hacking – as well as new solutions. Cyber hackers have become aggressive, and so business owners must be more vigilant. Because clients are the source of your revenue, it is critically important to ensure their data never gets into the wrong hands.According to a recent survey conducted by the Better Business Bureau, more than half of small business owners reported they would no longer be profitable just one month following a data breach.According to Bill Fanelli, the chief security officer for the Council of Better Business Bureaus and co-author of the report, a primary vulnerability for small businesses is the carelessness of its employees. In fact, Fanelli observed that one of the most cost-effective prevention tools – employee education – is used by less than half of the companies surveyed. All it takes is for just one employee to click on a nefarious link or open an infected attachment for a cyber attacker to walk through an open door to your business.In many cases, business owners simply need to make employees aware of the types of behaviors that enable hackers to breach system security. To this end, the easiest prevention plan is to periodically conduct brief training sessions to reiterate the importance of:

  • Choosing a strong password
  • Changing the password often
  • Installing software updates as soon as alerts are received
  • Avoiding opening suspicious emails or online links
  • Never downloading unauthorized software or apps on company computers or smartphones
Firms should conduct a full assessment to protect their business from data breaches at least once a year. Also, it is recommended that business owners ensure all transactions are secured through solutions such as:
  • Automated Clearing House payments – an electronic network for financial transactions
  • Secure Point of Service terminals – an electronic device used to process card payments
One way to help protect your financial transactions is to consult with your small business banker for a review of your current transaction management services to ensure you’re doing all you can to protect your business and your customers.How to Develop a Cybersecurity PlanConsider using this five-step approach to help prevent your firm from being vulnerable to a data breach:
  1. Devise a step-by-step written communication plan detailing how your firm will conduct ongoing monitoring and maintenance, and recover normal operations should a cyber attack occur
  2. Identify at-risk assets, such as systems, data and financial operations
  3. Protect each asset by using tools such as IT security, off-site/cloud backup and vendor protection measures
  4. Develop an automatic alert system to detect incidents that indicate current or imminent threats to system integrity and lost or compromised data
  5. Create a response plan that encompasses worse-case scenario and contingency planning, staff training, written procedures, reporting and outreach communications to staff, vendors, customers and the public, if necessary.
Cybersecurity might not be your area of expertise, but your customers rely on you to keep their data safe. It’s important to take precautions to minimize your risk from this ever-growing danger.

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