"Our Business is Making Technology
Work for Your Business"

NOV
19
0

Sniffing Out the Benefits of Windows 10

560461691508eMicrosoft tried to do too many things, too soon with Windows 8. Its desktop "tiles" resembled those used on a tablet or phone, but they confused people. Tablets were trendy, but crossovers were like genetically modified cats (the horror!); nobody knew quite what to do with them.

After being swatted on the nose often enough over Windows 8, Microsoft introduced Windows 10 this year. It's the first true hybrid version of an operating system that shares the best features of a computer, a tablet, a smart phone, and an XBox One. Think of it as the Labradoodle of the tech world: loyal, friendly, easy to bond with, but without the endless shedding and whatever it is that makes people sneeze.

106 Hits
SEP
22
0

Working With Your Web Designer

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Have you ever had one of those weeks when there's so much to do that you have cereal for dinner... every night? If you're an entrepreneur, of course you have! And part of the reason for that is because you take pride in your work, have a good work ethic, and want to ensure your customers are happy with the results.

Around our office, we have a lot of late nights. Lucky for me, I never have to resort to cereal for my own dinner, but the take-out food and caffeinated beverages consumed by some people in my office are always an indication that we're on a deadline, or we're trying to re-work a design that someone wants to tweak.

Let me share with you a few things that make my ears perk up during a design meeting:

 "Everyone" as a Target Audience.
People have different needs, different tastes, and different goals. Not everyone, for example, likes dogs (go figure!), so if you are a small business owner whose website needs to target dog lovers, "Everyone" is not your audience.

Knowing who your audience IS, however, will help us craft a design and a message that will appeal to those people who are seeking your services and will eventually become your customers.

Websites Evolve
Simply having a website is not all there is to it. As your business develops, so should your website. Inventory and service offerings change, prices need to be updated, and your photos and text need to keep up with the current market to help your business stay competitive.

Think of your website like your car. Your 1980 conversion van might still run, but it likely doesn't convey the message – or image – of who you and your business are today. Same goes for your website: the site created for your business in 1999 might still be active, but it needs to adapt so it is compatible with current technology – like smart phones and tablets.

Be An Original
I can't tell you how many people see a design and say, "I want to look just like that!" Well, that belongs to someone else's business, so outright copying would 1) be tacky and 2) not deliver YOUR message to YOUR specific audience.

During a design meeting, my people ask you questions about how you chose your business, how long you've been in business, what your top-selling products or services are, and what kind of customer feedback you receive. We also want to know who (specifically) your target audience is (see above), so we can make your website reflect YOU and YOUR BUSINESS.

Let Us Help You
We've worked in this industry a long time, so we know how to make our customers happy. We look forward to a night of take-out food and a double espresso on your behalf!

96 Hits
AUG
07
0

Sit, Stay & Listen Before Buying Your Next Laptop

As someone with hypersensitive hearing, it's easy for me to hear beyond the words of a conversation, which means that if someone is really happy – or really frustrated – I know about it pretty quickly.

Sometimes people sound frustrated when they bring their new laptops or tablets to a meeting, and they've forgotten a cord, can't find a file, or find out their new device isn't compatible with their existing software. Business people like it when their applications work, when they can see the screen, and when they don't have to plug it into the wall to make sure it runs during an entire meeting.

A lot of those frustrated people have a Chromebook. At first, they're all excited about it; "after all," they say, "I heard that guy on the radio say it's one of the best."

Well, if you ask me, they shouldn't buy a device based on a generic recommendation from a popular consumer advisor. Does that guy realize most people are looking at how technology can improve their bottom line over the long term, not just with up-front costs? Did they call that guy and ask what the best recommendation was for their specific business?

If they had asked us what we recommend to fulfill their needs now and in the future, that laptop might well be Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

My ears perk up when I hear about all the benefits of this laptop-tablet hybrid, partly because the people who use the Surface Pro 3 are so excited about all its benefits.

First, it has great battery life. If you don't always remember to bring your cords to a meeting, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has a battery that lasts up to seven hours!

It's powerful and boasts great file capacity, too, with up to 512GB storage and 8GB RAM. And it works well with all of the commonly used Microsoft business applications.

Like most great breeds, it's also pleasing to the eye, with exceptional screen resolution.

And while I'm a purebred myself, there's something to be said for hybrids: the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 combines the best features of a laptop and a tablet into one amazing piece of equipment.

It may not take the place as "man's best friend," but it sure comes close!

115 Hits
JUL
06
0

A "Value"-able Lesson

If there's one thing I've learned through my years of being the ears of Technical Resource Solutions, it's that there's cheap and then there's value – and cheap can end up costing more in the long run.

Last month, we talked about resisting the DIY route for your website. This month, we'll talk about the difference between a trained, experienced professional and someone who knows "just enough to be dangerous."

The very first business website went live in August of 1991, and the ONE BILLIONTH website came into existence in September of last year. In order to stand out among those kinds of numbers, your website has to be amazing. And it's unlikely that you're going to get an amazing, functional, and secure site from someone who creates websites "on the side."

Your niece in college might be able to create a decent-looking website, but will she understand what will help your site stand apart from others in your industry? Will she be able to update the site during exam week? And if the site crashes while she's in class, how much of a priority will it be for her to drop what she's doing and get things back up to speed so you don't lose business?

Maybe you have a friend who dabbles in web design and offers to create a site that will "save you money." Have you considered what that up-front savings might cost you in the long run? Can your friend guarantee a site that is mobile-friendly? How savvy is your friend at creating a site that is hack-resistant? Can he add a shopping cart with the most up-to-date security features to keep your customers' information safe from online thieves?

When comparing up-front costs to build a site, take an extra moment to look into the future and think about what it might cost you – in credibility, time, and lost customers – if your "cheap" website doesn't live up to your needs and expectations.

A cheap website is like a pair of shoes from the discount store: you'll settle for them in a pinch, but wouldn't recommend them for the long haul. A website is a good value when it presents a professional image, meets or exceeds performance expectations, offers security to you and your customers, and can grow with your business over time.

Plus, hiring a professional can help you avoid that awkward silence with your niece at the next family reunion!

-Sadie

101 Hits
JUN
30
0

What Does Your Website Say About You?

When someone meets you for the first time, it's likely that they are making a lot of assumptions about you based on your appearance: the clothes you wear, how you style your hair, the car you drive. Whether they choose to do business with you often is based on their first impression, even before you say a word.

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132 Hits
MAY
29
0

Treat Yourself To A Professional Website

A lot of people come into our office, and I sit and listen intently at every meeting while they talk about the things they want in a website, and the things they don't; the things they like about other people's websites – and the things they absolutely don't like.

Where I have the advantage, you see, is that dogs have an uncanny sense for people's emotions. If someone feels confident, I can tell. And when they are unsure about something, well, I know that, too. And a lot of people are really unsure about what they want in a website!

Sure, folks can put together a passable site using a template they get online for just a little bit of money – or even for free. But most people wouldn't want to set up shop in an office or storefront they built themselves with a hammer and nails, because it wouldn't be secure or up to building codes – and it certainly wouldn't give them the professional image they want for their business.

So why do they think they can do that with their website?

More and more these days, people check out businesses on their computers, tablets, or smart phones before they ever decide to make a purchase. Websites that look polished, that are easy to navigate, and that make it easy for customers to find what they need are the ones that set the standard for a healthy client relationship.

And if they plan to buy something online, customers want to know that they are making their purchase from a business whose site is secure – especially since there have been so many stories about hackers and cyber-theft.

The thing is, sometimes people come into our office and listen to what Technical Resource Solutions can do for their business – and they leave thinking they can create a site for themselves, then they contact us when they realize it's much harder than they thought, when the site they constructed malfunctions, or when it doesn't project the professional image they want for their business.

Trust me when I tell you that it's easier to do things right the first time than it is to try and make up for mistakes down the road.

It's a real treat to have a website that looks good, functions well, and helps you grow your business.

And I know a thing or two about treats!

- Sadie

53 Hits
MAY
14
0

Windows 10 - Free Upgrade Clarification

win10start.pngIn my last Blog entry, I speculated about the ongoing costs of Windows 10 after the initial Free for the First Year Free announcement.  Well, there's more, and it's good news.

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83 Hits
APR
24
0

Windows 10 - It's Coming and it's Free

553a32f9d224fMicrosoft started their "Technical Preview" program for Windows 10 back in October, 2014.  We've been running the various new builds of this (on the Fast track) on several Virtual Machines here at the office to get a taste of what it's like prior to its official release, expected to be some time this summer.  

Anyone was able to sign up for this "beta" test, but it is highly recommended that you don't use this OS on a computer that you expect to work all the time.  Since this is beta software, it WILL fail sometimes as the bugs are worked out.

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69 Hits
NOV
25
0

How to Get the Most Out of Your Training

It can be difficult to reserve the time necessary to attend a training session, whether you train online, or leave your office and go to a classroom.

Sometimes by the time that training session comes around it is for a skill that you truly want and need to master. Here are some tips to help make sure the new information sinks into your brain.

• Take notes. This may seem counter intuitive in our high technology culture, but taking notes, either by hand, or by typing them into a document is a great way to help you remember key points.
• Review your notes during a break. This technique is especially helpful if your training class is spread over several days. After you've had a few minutes away during a prolonged break or when the class is done for the day, take five minutes to review your notes and jot down questions you may have.
• Ask Questions. Sometimes engaging your instructor provides more than clarity. It gives you that extra kernel of information that will help the information stay with you.
• Relate the new information to something familiar. Our brains automatically look for patterns as we learn. Taking time to figure out how new information can be used in your day-to-day life gets you more excited about the knowledge – and helps it stick in your mind.

The way we learn as adults is very different from the way we learned as children. Adults master new skills when they can apply them to knowledge they already have. When you're trying to hook new information into your mind, consider everything you know – don't limit yourself to only work skills or personal skills. Figuring out how new information can be applied to everything you know will help you gain comprehension faster and may just make you more efficient in several areas. Benefitting in more than one part of your life will give you huge returns on the time you invested and may just motivate you to learn more.

66 Hits
NOV
19
0

How to Use Slides in Your Training Presentation

Most people think that when they are putting together a training presentation they must put every word they plan to say on a slide. While this might make it easier for a trainer to remember a script, it is counter intuitive to giving a good presentation. Why? As soon as a slide goes up, people are more inclined to focus on the slide than the speaker.

Here are some tips to help you create slides that will get you more engagement, rather than less.

1. Only hit the highlights. Use your slides to sum up your points. Only show them once you've made the point, not before. This lets students know what the most important elements of the training session are.
2. Use images. Images are a great way to both illustrate your point and give you a memory jog as to what you will discuss next. Screenshots are great images to include when you can. Just make sure the screen shot you use is focused on the area you are talking about and can be seen clearly from the back of the room.
3. Include references. If you plan to hand out your slides, including sources and references can make turn them into a great guide for your students to hang on to.
4. Don't use animations. There was a time when people thought putting animations in their presentations would make them more entertaining. In reality they are more distracting. If you have a short video that further demonstrates what you are teaching, that is great. But a car zooming across the page or a character popping up in a random place takes attention off of the material you are teaching.

One other point to consider as you create your slides: what if your presentation space has some kind of technical issue? Creating slides that work as a supplement to your presentation, rather than holding the entire presentation ensures that even without the slides, you still have a useful training session.

64 Hits
NOV
11
0

What to look for in a Trainer

Today there is a wealth information on the internet that shows people how to do all kinds of things; but sometimes it takes one person talking to another person to make that information click.

How do you find the person who can help you get to that "aha!" moment you need? You may think you have to go away to a high dollar education program, but sometimes asking a few questions up front can help you find that person in your own neighborhood.

A great place to start is at local training centers. Find out what they offer for your area of interest and then review the trainer bios. Check out their credentials, but then look for "soft" skills – that is their people skills. You'll find this information in reviews and testimonials.

Here are some of the traits you should look for:


• A trainer who is collaborative. Trainers very often enjoy working with other people and get inspired by trying to solve problems together, even if they already have the answer. Look for someone who is open to having back-and-forth conversations.
• Someone who is detail oriented. Sometimes skipping a little detail can frustrate someone learning something new. Trainers are familiar with all of those details and steer students back on track.
• A good listener. We all picture the teacher in front of the classroom or the person behind the podium talking. Trainers do a lot of that, too. But they also listen. A lot. Answering questions is a key component -- and it benefits both the trainer and the students. Trainers learn from the types of questions their students ask.


Finding a trainer who is skilled in both the subject you want to learn and working with students can make the difference in truly understanding something, or just gaining enough skills to get by. Asking a few key questions before enrolling in a class can make the difference for you.

71 Hits
NOV
06
0

Three Reasons to Make Training a Priority for Your Business

In our technology driven society the need for training would seem obvious. Most companies provide some kind of handbook, tutorial, or even on-the-job training for program and process changes.

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68 Hits
NOV
04
0

You Can Be a Trainer

Are you the go-to person among your friends, family and peers on certain subjects? Do you like talking with people and showing them how to do things? Are you out going and comfortable speaking in front of groups?

These are all qualities of great trainers. While many trainers have gone to special classes to learn how to teach a topic, sometimes your natural affinity for a particular skill or technique, plus an outgoing personality is all you need to get in front of a class.

Here are a few pointers to get you started:


• Establish your credentials. Do you have a degree or certification in the subject you plan to teach? Have you used the program or skill for a number of years? Did you help develop a program? Let your prospective students know. These accomplishments give you credibility and can help you get students.
• Create your curriculum. Start with an outline of the core points that you will teach and then fill in the details. The outline is useful for advertising the course. The details can help you determine how long the course will be and how much to charge. You can also use this document to help you create hand-outs and other reference material for your students.
• Find a place to teach. Some training can be done one-on-one, but when you have a group of people finding a great room is important. If you are teaching a computer course, make sure your location has a projector along with accommodations for computers, that means power outlets, Wi-Fi, and maybe even actual computers. A quiet environment with bathrooms and parking are also important. Finally, make sure the room can fit all of your students.


Lots of information and instructions can be found on the internet to do all kinds of things, but sometimes it takes one person talking to another person to make that information click. With a little bit of planning you can put together a course to help people truly master a new skill or program.

51 Hits
OCT
28
0

Don't Let a Commute Delay Training

It seems like when people are ready to improve their skill set or gain a new skill all together, they drive an hour or more to go to a training facility – that is, if there is not an online equivalent.

Hands-on training is a great way to learn. It helps students get a better grasp of the material faster. Plus, training outside of the usual office environment provides an opportunity to really focus.

But what if a student puts off training because they don't have the time, or perhaps the desire, to make the trek to the city? Don't put off essential training because of a long commute. Try a local training center!

Looking locally for training provides many benefits along with saving time and fuel on a long drive.

• Using a local training center gives students a more efficient way to follow up. In addition to email and telephone support, a student could drop in to the local center for additional face-to-face support as they need it.
• Training in the same town where people work provides great networking opportunities – everyone in the room can be a potential business connection, not just a classmate for a day or two.
• Local training centers are more likely to have a better variety of classes and offer them more frequently than nationally run centers. Sometimes it can be as easy as asking the training coordinator if there are more classes available then what is currently shown on the schedule.

Are you looking for a class on a national product or brand, but can't find it in your neighborhood? Ask for it! Big companies want their customers to get the training and information they need to continue to use their products. If they get a request from a specific area, they are likely come to the area to fill the need. If you have a training center in your community, ask them for the program you are looking for. Many times they have the resources to provide the class; they just need students to fill it.

47 Hits
OCT
28
0

Feed Your Mind

One of the things I feel very fortunate about is that I was introduced to technology at a young age and at a depth that both interested me and challenged me in ways I didn't know something could. I attended a computer summer camp at UC Santa Cruz leading into my Freshman year in high school and had the opportunity to take two years of programming classes (in the BASIC and Pascal languages) in my Junior and Senior years. This was between 1982 and 1985.

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56 Hits
OCT
23
0

Password Protection – a Necessary Evil

Everyone uses passwords to access all sorts of information on their computer, online, at the bank machine, and many other places. One of the most common complaints we hear is that people have to remember too many passwords and as a result they tend to use the same one for everything. To make things worse, that password is often not a very strong one, leaving them vulnerable to loss of data, identity theft, and hijacked online accounts.

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59 Hits
OCT
21
0

Are Your Passwords Secure?

This spring we learned about the Heartbleed bug and that in light of the bug, reminded that we should change our passwords. All of them. Immediately, if not sooner.

Changing a password can be overwhelming because we all want to make sure it is something we can remember. Changing *all* of our passwords is even more daunting.

You may have created a system to help you remember them, or even used the same password with a different number or character on the end for each site. Even without the Heartbleed bug, creating passwords like that is not secure.

Here are some tips to help you create strong passwords:


• Make sure your password is more than 8 characters. The longer your password is, the harder it is to crack.
• Do not use your name or user name as your password.
• Include upper case and lower case letters.
• Include at least one number, but shy away from the obvious 0 for the letter o replacement. Hackers are on to that.
• Include a special character like ~!@#$%^&*, etc.
• Do not use words that can be found in the dictionary.
• Use unusual capitalization.


Once you've created new passwords using these guidelines, how do you remember them? A mnemonic phrase can be a huge help. We learned a lot of them in elementary school. For example: My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh-oh No Pluto. This is a modern variation of the phrase that many of us learned in school to help us memorize the names and order of the planets in our solar system. Creating a little rhyme or story like this can help you to remember each of your passwords.

If you'd rather not recite something every time you are logging into a website or service, another way to keep track of your passwords is to use a service like LastPass. These types of services create a "vault" to store your passwords. As you change or update passwords the service keeps a record of them, which will help to ensure that you do not fall into a rut of using Pa$$word1 and then changing it to Pa$$word2 a few months later.

Changing passwords is necessary to keep your information secure. While nothing is failsafe, adopting a few tricks will help ensure that not only will you have good, secure passwords, but that you will hopefully remember them, too.

56 Hits
OCT
16
0

Windows Efficiency: Keyboard Shortcuts

The mouse was a fantastic invention. Back in 1981, the first one was introduced for use with a Personal Computer; in fact, you can go as far back as 1964 to find the first prototypes, invented by Douglas Engelbart. Today, you can hardly get a computer without one and some features require a pointing device of some kind to access. But most features can still be accessed by keyboard alone, and many are more efficient when accessed via keyboard shortcuts. This month I share a few of my favorites with you.

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278 Hits
OCT
14
0

Need a Spa Day? Try a Training Class!

Equating a training class with a spa day may seem like apples and oranges, but the two have more in common than you may think.

For most people a trip to the spa is a special break from the usual and often comes after a period of high stress. People take the day to unwind and not think about anything other than the task at hand, whether that task is getting a massage, a mud bath or something else. Training offers a similar escape, especially if it occurs outside of the office.

Similar to spa policies, most instructors require students to turn off their cell phones. That means the usual distractions don't crop up and students can focus on what is happening in the class room. Even if the training class is advanced, not being tethered to a cell phone or email can go a long way to reduce stress.

A training class that comes after a major deadline or project has been completed can be seen as a reward for employees. They get out of the office and get to learn something new. Not only can this be a reward after a big assignment, employers can benefit, too. Learning a new skill or advancing a current one can spark an idea for an improvement or new project.

Having an employee returning to work excited to put new skills into action is a contagious benefit. Those employees can motivate the co-workers who held down the fort while they were out. Plus, they can develop leadership skills while at work as they pass along their new skills or spearhead the projects they proposed.

A day of training may not look like a day at the spa, but when employees return refreshed and inspired, any manager will be glad they sent their employees out for a day or two.

50 Hits
OCT
09
0

Office 365 – For Home and For Business

Microsoft is listed as the #35 company in the world for 2013, according to the Fortune 500, but sometimes their product branding can be unclear. There are two different services that they offer and both are called Office 365, but the two are almost completely different from a feature set. In this article, I will describe each and what the appropriate uses are for them.

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48 Hits