Make Sure a Weather Event Doesn’t Permanently Damage Your Business

Don’t wait until a nasty storm is headed your way to think about how you’ll protect your computer equipment from an extreme weather event. A little bit of planning can help so that, in the event of a real emergency, you’ll have a specific to-do list that will keep you on track and increase the chances that your business can recover quickly from any physical damage to your office.
 
1.      Determine how you’re going to handle incoming phone calls and try to find a line that’s more likely to stay in service. Can you redirect calls to an out-of-state branch office? How about redirecting them to your cell phone or the phones of other key employees? (This of course won’t be very helpful if nearby cell phone towers get knocked out.) Another solution is to engage an answering service to mind the phones until you’re back online.
2.      Run a “fire drill” on your offsite backups and make sure they’re capable of a full system restore.
3.      Make sure your most important business documents – articles of incorporation, tax records, contracts, software licenses, and so on – are in a flood-proof, fireproof storage container and consider keeping it offsite.
4.      When you leave the office, power off your workstations first, then your servers, then your network equipment. If you use a VoIP phone service, your phone system is connected through your Internet service and will not work after you power down your network equipment.
5.      After the storm passes through, power up your equipment in the reverse order.
 
This is a link to a hurricane preparedness checklist, but it’s really applicable to all sorts of weather and emergency events: http://www.cdera.org/doccentre/fs_checklist_biz.php
 

One of the best things you can do to help preserve your critical business data — and make sure it’s retrievable even if your physical office ever suffers from significant physical damage — is to use a secure offsite backup. Find out more about CMIT’s offsite backup and disaster recovery solutions here: www.cmitsolutions.com/guardian.php

Advertisements

How Do You Know Which Payroll Option Is Right For You?

One of your biggest responsibilities as a small business owner is paying your employees and staying current with federal, state, and local taxes and regulations. If you don’t have an accounting or bookkeeping background, taking care of payroll can feel pretty overwhelming. Fortunately, you’ve got a number of options when it comes to keeping on top of payroll.
 
First — and these days, this is really only an option for somebody with minimal bookkeeping requirements — you can do it the old-fashioned way, writing out paper checks by hand and keeping your records in a ledger or spreadsheet. You have full control over your payroll, but you can find yourself spending way more time on it than you bargained. Additionally there’s a pretty wide margin for error, especially if you’re going back and forth between paper checks and Excel spreadsheets. And you’re on the hook for calculating and sending in regular tax payments to the government.
 
Next, you can hire an accountant or bookkeeper. You’ll definitely benefit from the services of an expert — but depending on their hourly rate, they can be more or less of a bargain. Additionally, if you need to confer with the accountant before releasing checks, this can drag out the schedule for one-off checks such as bonuses or expense reimbursements.
 
Another option is to purchase payroll software such as Intuit QuickBooks. That way, all your payroll calculations are automated and the software keeps track of what you owe in taxes and when you need to pay them. However, it will take some time to master the software.
 
A traditional payroll service, such as QuickBooks Payroll or ADP, or a local payroll company, takes payroll out of your hands. All you have to do is provide basic information, such as time worked, and the service calculates taxes, files taxes on your behalf, and delivers paychecks. The downside is that the service is definitely more expensive than a DIY solution and usually more expensive than software. You’ll have less control and flexibility overall.
 
As a technology service provider, CMIT Solutions doesn’t offer accounting advice — but we can put you in touch with a solution that would best meet your needs. Whether it be a local payroll company we work with, or a small-business accounting software and payroll vendor such as Intuit or ADP. Click here (http://quickbooks.intuit.com/?priorityCode=3969702399&kbid=1035) to find out more about the accounting software packages we offer through Intuit or call us at (800) 399-CMIT to learn about other available services.

When (and How) to Use Linked vs. Embedded Worksheets

Sometimes when you use a worksheet in a Microsoft PowerPoint or Word presentation, you want it to be as up-to-date as possible. Other times, it doesn’t matter if the information is current or not – you can just use a static copy of an old worksheet.

In the first instance, you’ll want to use a linked worksheet. In other words, your presentation will look for its source data in the original Excel file. In the second instance, you can use an embedded worksheet – basically, a copy that you can modify without it affecting the original. Embedded worksheets are handy when you’re sharing your presentation with others, because it means you won’t have to send the original Excel file along with the presentation.

Linked Worksheets

So let’s say you’ve got a PowerPoint presentation that includes a slide showing the most current quarter’s sales figures. That will change from quarter to quarter, of course, so you should use a linked worksheet. If you choose this option, remember that your machine will look for the source data in the original Excel file every time you open the PowerPoint presentation.

Here’s how to insert a linked Excel 2007 worksheet in PowerPoint 2007:

1. Open up your PowerPoint presentation to the relevant slide.
2. Open up your Excel file to the relevant chart.
3. Select the portion of the worksheet you want to include.
4. Press Ctrl+C.
5. Switch over to PowerPoint and click on the slide.
6. Go to the Home tab, find the Clipboard group, click the arrow under Paste, and then click Paste Special.

 

7. In the As list, select Microsoft Office Excel object.
8. Click Paste link.

To perform the same operation using Excel and PowerPoint 2003:

1. Open up your PowerPoint presentation to the relevant slide.
2. Open up your Excel file to the relevant chart.
3. Select the portion of the worksheet you want to include.
4. Press Ctrl+C.
5. Switch over to PowerPoint and click on the slide.
6. Go to Edit/Paste Special.
7. Select the Paste link toggle and select Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet Object.

Embedded Worksheets

If you’re using information that will not be updated, or if you don’t want changes to a worksheet to be reflected in your presentation, you can simply embed a copy of the worksheet in the presentation. (This also makes the presentation more portable, because it won’t automatically “look” for the source data in Excel every time you open it.)

Here’s how to insert an embedded Excel 2007 worksheet in PowerPoint 2007:

1. Open up your PowerPoint presentation to the relevant slide.
2. Open up your Excel file to the relevant chart.
3. Select the portion of the worksheet you want to include.
4. Press Ctrl+C.
5. Switch over to PowerPoint and click on the slide.
6. Go to the Home tab, find the Clipboard group, click the arrow under Paste, and then click Paste Special.
 

7. In the As list, select Microsoft Office Excel object.
8. Click Paste.

To perform the same operation using Excel and PowerPoint 2003:

1. Open up your PowerPoint presentation to the relevant slide.
2. Open up your Excel file to the relevant chart.
3. Select the portion of the worksheet of the worksheet you want to include.
4. Press Ctrl+C.
5. Switch over to PowerPoint and click on the slide.
6. Go to Edit/Paste Special.
7. Select the Paste toggle and select Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet Object.

If you’ve got a question about Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or other Office programs, CMIT Solutions can help. Give us a call at (800) 399-CMIT.

Are you influential? Top 5 Tips

I’m really digging the work Tech Replic is putting out these days.  The inspiration behind this post comes from this article.  Tech Republic just launched SmartPlanet and I am intrigued to learn more.

I have been reading books about leadership.  Hardball for Women by Pat Heim is one that is opening my eyes to the difference between men and women.  When I landing on this article by Vince Thompson, it reminded me of all the great tips I have read.  Here is my top 5 to being more influential in business (and in life).

Being pushy or never giving in to others ideas will not bode well in getting buy in for your ideas.

1. Listen – First and foremost, you must listen to the needs of the person you are trying to influence.  Then approach your idea by solving their pain.  The more direct quotes you can use the better.

2. Understand the differences between men and women – Women play as a team and want everyone to win where as men only see one winner.  Power will not normally be what women are going after where as men need to be on top.  Let the man feel that it is was his idea.

3. Golden rule – do onto others as you want them to do onto you.  You have to treat others with respect if you want it back.  Be understanding of their time so get to the point when getting buy in for your idea.

4. Likeablity – How others see you is extremely important.  If they have a vibe that you are not trustworthy or they cannot relate to you, it is unlikely that they will be influenced by your ideas.  Always smile as it can make others feel much more comfortable.  It is also important to listen to others – don’t be so self absorbed and only hear what comes out of your mouth.  If someone talks too much, I tune out quickly.

5. Value – It is always a good idea to “do the math” and get agreement that the numbers are right.  Prove the value and gain concentsus.  If you get concentsus publicly, they have another reason to committ so take advantage of group meetings.

So these are my top 5 but I thought you might want to see the meat of the article that inspired this discussion from Tech Republic – article.

Without conducting our own studies, are there guideposts we can rely on in coming up with an approach?

There are six universal principles of influence. If we use them as touchstones, they will allow us to be significantly more successful in our influence attempts. They are:

• Reciprocation. People give back to you the kind of treatment that they’ve received from you. If you do something first by giving something of value—be it more information or a positive attitude—it will all come back to you.

• Scarcity. People will try to seize those opportunities that you offer them that are rare or dwindling in availability. This is an important reminder that we need to differentiate what we have to offer that is different from our rivals and competitors. That way, we can tell people honestly “You can only get this aspect or this feature by moving in our direction.”

• Authority. People will be most persuaded by you when they see you as having knowledge and credibility on the topic. You’d be surprised how many fail to properly inform their audience of their genuine credentials before launching into an influence attempt. That’s a big mistake.

• Commitment. People will feel a need to comply with your request if they see that it’s consistent with what they’ve publicly committed themselves to in your presence. The implication there is to ask people to state their true priorities, commitments and features of the situation that they think are most important. Then align your requests or proposals with those things. The rule for consistency will cause them to want to say yes to what they’ve already told you they value.

• Liking. People prefer to say yes to your request to the degree that they know and like you. No surprise there but a simple way to make that happen is to uncover genuine similarities or parallels that exist between you and the person you want to influence. That person is going to like you more and be more willing to move in your direction.

• Consensus. People will be likely to say yes to your request if you give them evidence that people just like them have been saying yes to it too. I saw recent study that showed if a restaurant owner puts on the menu “This is our most popular item” than it immediately becomes more popular.

How can I get readers more engaged in this blog? (Great Q for me…hopefully helpful to those of you building brands with social media!)

We’re existing under a time of economic uncertainty right now and there is some research that shows that when people are uncertain they don’t look inside themselves for an answer—they look outside. They look to two main places. The first involves asking “what are people just like me doing here?”. So, one of the things you can do (and listeners/readers can do as well) is gather information about what is the trend and what is the upward swing in the number of individuals who are moving in your direction. If people see that a lot of others are doing this—especially people like them—then it seems like it’s the right thing for them to do too.

Besides peers, when uncertain, people look to the experts on the matter. Be sure to convey that your blog will offer expert information regarding the matters that you are dealing with. The best way to do that is to interview someone who is an expert as a guest and describe that person’s credentials. Well, people will then be more likely to pay attention. And finally, you can post a top five list of the things people could do to achieve a goal. People are very impressed by an authority who has the knowledge to know what those top five things are, and they pay special attention to those kinds of lists.

To learn more about Dr. Cialdini and his work, Click Here:

Make Your Internal IT Department More Productive, Efficient, and Effective – Without Adding Headcount or New Vendors

If you’ve got an in-house IT staff, you know how hard it is to coordinate all of the many tasks regularly assigned to your technical gurus. More often than not, techs deal with problems on a first-come, first-served basis — or according to the “squeaky wheel” principle, where whoever yells the loudest gets the most attention.
 
This can result in unhappy employees, an overworked and harried IT staff, and a feeling that everybody’s struggling to keep up with IT demands instead of actually getting ahead and concentrating on projects that can really help out the whole business instead of a few individuals.
 
What you need is a way to prioritize tasks, also known as “tickets,” and coordinate schedules so that technicians, non-technical employees, and management all have a clear picture of who’s working on what. 
 
Well, we’ve finally found a way – and we wanted you to be the first to know about it. Today we’re announcing the release of CMIT Service Center, a new add-on product to the award-winning external IT service desk management software that’s already available when you sign up for CMIT Marathon. CMIT Service Center lets you log and track internal IT service requests, distribute those requests to the most appropriate person (whether it’s in-house staff or CMIT technicians), and create custom follow-on questions and workflow rules to suit the unique demands and structure of your business. In essence, it takes all those coordination and scheduling capabilities you enjoy when you work with CMIT technicians and brings them in-house.
 
CMIT Service Center lets you streamline and formalize the internal service ticket process — resulting in real accountability, better service, and more efficient use of your IT staff and resources. Sounds pretty good, right? Call (800) 399-CMIT or visit www.cmitsolutions.com/servicecenter.php to learn more.

Automation Spares You from Human Errors – And Saves Time

It’s a common enough story. In order to save on software costs, a business just installs the free version of a popular antivirus program on all its computers. It’s up to each user to run periodic system scans and updates.
 
Invariably, somebody forgets to run a system scan. Or they get so frustrated with the performance hit to their computer when a scan is running that they stop it before it’s complete. Their system goes without the proper updates for a while, and eventually the user accidentally visits the wrong web site or clicks on the wrong email attachment and downloads a nasty virus.
 
Or consider this scenario: a company leaves one employee in charge of running backups. That employee goes on vacation or stays home sick one day, so the backups don’t run. And that’s the day the server fails.
 
As odd as it sounds, you cannot rely solely on human effort to keep your computer systems safe. You must automate if you’re going to have consistent, reliable updates to your security software and backup systems. And you need processes to run independent of any particular individual.
 
If you’re a business owner, or if you’re the person in charge of running updates and performing regular maintenance, it can be hard to relinquish control. But you’ll free up untold amounts of time and spare yourself endless headaches if you aren’t in charge of everything. Automatic updates and scans, deployed system-wide, ensure that your whole business stays safe and up-to-date no matter who’s in the office and who remembers to do what.
 
CMIT Solutions can automatically run system scans, software updates, virus and malware definition updates with our CMIT Marathon managed services package. We also offer automatic data backups as part of the CMIT Guardian backup and disaster recovery service. Call us at (800) 399-CMIT or visit http://www.cmitsolutions.com to find out more.