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Computer Support Cedar CityCEDAR CITY, UT (March 20, 2018) – SymTec has been named to After Nines Inc.’s ChannelE2E Top 100 Vertical Market MSPs list and research ( for 2018. The annual list and research identify and honor the top 100 managed services providers (MSPs) in healthcare, government, financial services, manufacturing, and additional vertical markets.

The Top 100 Vertical Market MSPs rankings are based on ChannelE2E’s Q4 2017 and January 2018 readership survey, and ChannelE2E’s vertical market industry coverage. MSPs featured throughout the list and research leverage deep vertical market expertise to drive annual recurring revenues (ARR) in specific market segments.

This year’s research revealed several key MSP market trends. Among the Top 100 Vertical Market MSPs for 2018:

  • Honorees generated a combined $277.3 million in vertical market annual recurring revenue (ARR) for 2017, up from $247.6 million in 2016.
  • Honorees are managing a combined 574 million users.
  • The most successful vertical market MSPs are zeroing in on healthcare and financial services, while manufacturing and legal sector activities are accelerating.

SymTec was ranked #93 among the top vertical market MSPs in the Accounting industry.

About SymTec

SymTec offers outsourced IT services, acting in the best interest of their clients with any solutions they may recommend and deliver. The SymTec team sources from a wealth of suppliers and computer system manufacturers, not just the ones they have a partnership agreement with.

About After Nines Inc.

After Nines Inc. provides timeless IT guidance for strategic partners and IT security professionals across ChannelE2E ( and MSSP Alert ( ChannelE2E tracks every stage of the IT service provider journey — from entrepreneur to exit. MSSP Alert is the global voice for Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs).

  • For sponsorship information contact After Nines Inc. CEO Amy Katz,
  • For content and editorial questions contact After Nines Inc. Content Czar Joe Panettieri,
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Short answer? No. Despite what you may have been led to believe, there’s a big difference between compliance and security.

Compliance and Regulations

IT compliance and security are not the same. IT Security refers to the best practices and IT solutions used to protect your technology assets, information, and data. It’s the process of implementing specific measures and systems that are designed to protect and safeguard your information. The right IT Security Plan utilizes various forms of technology based on your business’ unique needs to store and exchange data while preventing unauthorized access or improper disclosure.

Compliance refers to regulations imposed by a government, industry or regulatory entity to protect users’ confidential, private information. Examples of these standards include HIPAA, PCI, FINRA, and SOX.

Your IT can be compliant but not secure. “Why is this?” Compliance is a point-in-time snapshot assessment of your technology proving that you meet a minimum standard of security. You can be compliant one day, and not the next (although, you wouldn’t want this to happen).

Plus, IT compliance standards change predictably and slowly over time. These standards provide minimum guidelines for the amount and type of data protection required. IT security, on the other hand, is in a constant state of flux due to the ever-evolving, and more sophisticated cyber threats that appear on the IT landscape. Hackers are innovative and skilled at developing ways to steal your data. What happens is that compliance regulations don’t always keep up with these threats. Some require security protections and others don’t.

The main difference between compliance and security is that IT compliance is measured against prescribed controls, where IT security is defined by the ability to respond to and protect against cyber threats. IT security measures and techniques protect your data, users, networks, and assets from cybercriminals, hackers or other malicious threats.

Unfortunately, some businesses function with the bare minimum of IT security solutions they need to remain compliant. They check to make sure they meet the specific IT compliance requirements and think their data is secure when it’s not. This is a recipe for disaster. Cybercrime is growing at an explosive pace. If you restrict your defenses to only what you need to be compliant, your data and business could be at risk. To ensure IT security, your business needs a comprehensive approach to protection. The good news is that if your IT is secure, you’ll likely be compliant.

“How do I ensure IT Security?” It’s always best to consult with an IT Managed Services Provider who can assess your unique requirements and establish an IT Security Plan with a holistic, layered approach. Make sure that your provider includes the following in your IT Security Plan:

24/7 Remote IT Management and Monitoring to detect threats and block them before they affect your security posture. This includes applying patches via the cloud in real time.  

A Firewall Solution that continuously mitigates cyber-threat intrusions. This will filter the data in transit (data that comes in and leaves your network) by checking packets of information for malicious threats like Trojan viruses and worms, and other forms of malware that can steal or lock up your data. It’s best to use GEO IP Filtering whenever possible, and use a next-generation firewall with perimeter malware protection.

An Up-to-Date Antivirus Solution. Even though firewalls are an excellent source of protection from viruses, they can’t do everything. You also need an antivirus solution that constantly scans your computers to detect suspicious files, isolate and delete them before they infect your system.

A Data Encryption Solution that obfuscates data that’s stored or in transit to prevent others from accessing or reading it. The proliferation of cyber espionage has led to the need for encryption to protect your sensitive data and intellectual property from prying eyes.

A Web-Filtering Solution. This routes web traffic and applies security-filtering policies to protect your computers, laptops, and tablets from malware, botnets, and phishing.

Regular Backups Make sure you always have reliable backups of your data both onsite in a device you can unplug and take with you in case of a disaster, and offsite in a secure cloud so you can retrieve your data remotely if necessary.

Ensure Your Mobile Devices Are Secure. With the proliferation of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, your business requires secure mobile device solutions that protect your data whether it’s deployed across multiple mobile service providers or on a variety of mobile operating systems. Mobile Device Management provides for remote wiping of data if your mobile devices are lost or stolen.

Security Awareness Training for Your Employees. This should be a formalized training on the latest threats and how to mitigate them. Security Awareness Training for your employees will reduce the risk to your organization’s data and IT systems and limit the chance of a data breach. Some compliance regulations specify the need for Security Awareness Training including HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, and FISMA.

Vulnerability Audits to identify security gaps in your computers, network, or communications infrastructure and develop appropriate mitigation countermeasures to protect them.

Penetration Testing. This is an analysis that focuses on where security resources are needed most. When accompanied with Vulnerability Audits they locate the weakest links in your network, identify and document weaknesses in your security, and remove them. Independent Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Audits will help you meet regulatory compliance standards like HIPAA, FINRA and PCI DSS.

Ongoing Updates to your Operating Systems and Software. Whenever there’s an opportunity to update, it’s important to do so. Rather than worrying about this yourself, your IT Managed Services Provider can include this responsibility in your overall IT Security Plan. This will safeguard your system from debilitating cyber attacks and keep your IT system running at peak performance.

There will always be overlaps between compliance and security guidelines but remember that IT security provides a more extensive assurance than IT compliance alone. For help with the unique IT security requirements your business faces, contact a certified IT Managed Service Provider in your area and ask for an assessment of your entire IT network.

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With the 2016 version of Excel, Microsoft has really upped the game for people who aren’t great with numbers. You can now easily use one-click access that can be customized to provide the functionality you need.

This is the first of a three-part series about using Microsoft Excel 2016 to help you identify trends, construct helpful charts, and organize information to maximize the value of your data.

You can use Excel Worksheets and Workbooks in conjunction with programs like Microsoft Access and PowerPoint. Excel 2016 possesses many capabilities that aren’t readily apparent. That’s why we’re providing this three-part series for you.

What is Excel and how is it organized?

Excel is an electronic spreadsheet program that’s used to store, organize and manipulate data. You enter data into Workbooks that are made up of individual Worksheets. In the Worksheets, you enter data into cells that are organized into rows and columns. Excel data can consist of text, numbers, dates, times and formulas.

Why would you want to use Excel?

If you or your employees work with financial data, it’s a great tool to use for:

  • Basic mathematical operations like adding, dividing, and multiplying.
  • Finding values like profits or losses.
  • Calculations like averages, percentages and number counts.

Performing calculations in Excel is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more you can do like creating charts and graphical layouts to make it easier to recognize trends and more easily analyze data.


What’s great about Excel is that it has the same set up as other Microsoft products you’re familiar with. You have tabs across the top, where each tab has a corresponding ribbon with many functionalities to choose from.

The Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is a drop-down menu where you’ll find functions that you commonly use like Print and Save. You can also customize the Quick Access menu with other functions you use on a regular basis.

The Formula Bar

This is located underneath the ribbon next to the Name Box that shows you where your cursor is located on your Worksheet. The Formula Bar is important because it’s what calculates the math for you. Excel does the calculation and displays the answer in the cell you choose. The Formula Bar also shows you the contents of the particular cell you’re in.

Adding Data

There are three ways you can add data to your Excel Worksheet. You can:

  1. Type in the data,
  2. Copy and Paste data, or
  3. Import data from other sources.

This is great if you have a large amount of data. For example, if you have customer lists in a database, you can even pull this into Excel.

You can enter data into only one cell, into several cells at the same time, or even on more than one Worksheet at once. And, as mentioned, the data can be numbers text, formulas, dates, or times.

On your Worksheet, simply click a cell and type in the information that you want to enter. Then hit ENTER or TAB. If you typed in a date, Excel will recognize this and format it the way you’ve specified in your default settings.


Excel computes the correct answer when you enter a formula into a cell. Once you’ve done this, it recalculates whenever you change any of the values. The way Excel knows that you’re entering a formula is by starting with an equal sign. Then you follow the equal sign with a SUM or AVERAGE.

For example, C2: =A2+B2 means that the number in C2 is what occurs when you add the numbers in A2 and B2.

You can type this in manually, but now Excel has great functionalities to help you do this. The simple way is to put your cursor in cell C2, hit = and type in A2+B2. The numbers in A2 and B2 will be added, and the SUM will be entered in cell C2.

Note: You always want to calculate using the actual cells rather than typing in numbers like 1 + 2, etc. The reason for this is so you can go back at any time and change the values in cells and the formula will calculate with the new numbers.

Let’s say you want to add a bunch of numbers together in your Worksheet. You can type = sum (a1:a5) in the cell where you want the answer to appear. Or you can do this and drag your mouse across the cells you want to add. Type =sum ( and drag your mouse across the cells and hit ENTER. The sum will appear in the cell without you having to typing in all the numbers! When you put your cursor on the cell, you will see the actual formula you just created.

There are many ways to do the same thing in Excel. It’s like this across all Microsoft products. You can go to the Ribbon at the top to “Auto Sum” to do the same calculation. Select a cell next to the numbers you want to add, click AutoSum on the Home tab and press Enter. Do what works best for you.

Once you create a formula, you can copy and paste it into another cell. You can also copy and paste formulas into different Worksheets as well. This can save you a lot of time.

Formatting Worksheets

With Excel 2016, you can format your Worksheets much more easily than you could before. You can use document themes throughout the Worksheets in your Workbook to present a professional and consistent appearance. You can also apply predesigned formats as well.

Let’s say you have a Worksheet with many rows that are hard to read. You can go in and create fill colors and more to differentiate the rows, columns, and headers to make reading much easier.

You have options to create borders around cells, rows or columns from the drop-down menu. You can also shade cells with a solid background. Don’t forget that you can change the style and types of fonts. Right-click the text, and a drop-down menu will appear where you can make these and other selections easily.

Creating Charts

If the data isn’t complex, you can easily read it, but if you have a lot of data, creating a chart will help you better analyze it. You can select specific cells, rows, and columns for your chart. One way to do this is to highlight the data and go to the top ribbon to select the type of chart you want to create.

With Excel 2016, you have a “recommended charts” option. Excel will help you choose the chart that best suits your data.

You can then go in and further customize your chart in the “Chart Tools”. You can change the color scheme, 3D effects, shading and more. If you change the data in the cells in your Worksheet, your chart will reflect the changes.

Some of the new charts in 2016 include:

  • Waterfall
  • Tree Map
  • Box and Whiskers
  • Sunburst

Creating Tables

You may be used to creating tables in Word or PowerPoint. Some people think the format in Excel is already in a table, but it’s not; at least until you tell it to do so. If you want to do this, select your data, go to “Insert” and select “Table.”

Similar to other Microsoft products, tabs will appear to help you format your table.

Viewing Worksheets

When dealing with lots of information, it can get unruly trying to work around various rows and columns. This is where Viewing Worksheets can be helpful. You can freeze a portion of your worksheet with “Freeze Panes” to more easily view it.

You also have the ability to “split” the data to view different parts of your Worksheet. You can compare two Worksheets in the same Workbook or even in different Workbooks by viewing them side by side.

Saving and Printing

If you have Worksheets that are so large they won’t fit on one page, go to “Save As” and decide on the name, where it gets saved, and go to “Print” where you can save the file to a pdf that you can send.

You can select options for printing the entire sheet, part of it, resizing it, and more to suit your needs. Going to “Page Setup” will allow you to shrink the entire Worksheet down to a size that’s more manageable for printing.

Sharing & Security

In Excel 2016 you can share Workbooks and Worksheets with others and password-protect them. The people you send them to need to know your password to open them, whether you send them via email, share them on your network, or via the cloud. From within Excel, you can designate who can access your Worksheets and Workbooks, and also whether they can edit them or not. There are a variety of parameters you can set within a Worksheet.

For example, if you want to hide employees’ salaries, you can hide this section when you share it. Or, you can let people see your data but lock it down, so they can’t change it. You can also protect your Worksheets and Workbooks to keep them secure from non-authorized users.

The Quick Analysis Tool

When highlighting data, click on the Quick Analysis button to create a chart, highlight specific cells, and much more. It doesn’t give you the functionality you’ll find in the Ribbon, but you can get things done quickly and easily with this tool.

3D Power Maps

This is another new tool in Excel 2016 that lets you look at information in ways you might not have seen in the two-dimensional format. This helps you strategically create your data on a 3D map. You need latitude and longitude data to do this. You can also import your own maps into 3D Power Maps.


PivotTables help you analyze your Worksheet data. You can summarize, analyze, explore and present your data in just a few clicks. They are very flexible and can be adjusted to your unique needs. Note: Your data should be organized without blank rows or columns for this to work properly.

The good news is that Excel 2016 will also help you pick the best format for your PivotTables!


PivotCharts are another great way to add visualizations to your data. You will first need a PivotTable to create a chart. Now, your PivotTable will behave like a PivotChart. When you change the information in your PivotTable, the PivotChart will also reflect this change. The PivotTable is connected to the PivotChart.

That’s it for now! For more information on using Excel 2016 like a Pro, feel free to contact the Microsoft Experts at Symtec! (435) 817-9471

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First, there was Siri, then Cortana, and then Alexa. Each virtual assistant comes equipped with a rich package of features and capabilities, but who is the best in the business?

Virtual Administrator

Every April, organizations big and small all over celebrate Administrative Assistants Day as a show of gratitude for the staff that carries out the day-to-day administrative operations. These are the individuals that make sure communications reach the proper contacts, that calendars are maintained, and appointments are kept. Good administrative assistants are indispensable to an enterprise, and truly deserve recognition more than one day each year.

The job of an administrative assistant — or any assistant — is to support the position they assist; Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Typing, faxing, emailing, answering calls, scheduling appointments, and all duties that fall under this umbrella require great organization and attention to detail. Duties don’t always stay within the 8-5 workday, and responsiveness is key.

When the Palm Pilot launched as one of the earlier electronic mobile devices for mobile communication with features for schedules and task organization, followed by BlackBerry models, and then the iPod Touch among many others, artificial intelligence emerged as an economical option and valuable tool for consumers. These devices at the time were just an extension of administrative assistants, though.

Enter the virtual assistant. Artificial intelligence (AI) has truly enabled technology to support human activity. From machines helping build machines — think automobile manufacturing lines – to machines helping people fix people — think 3D printers creating a replica of a heart or other organ to assist surgeons in planning an operation – the common thread is that artificial intelligence enables us to improve the world through the use of machines. Do you wear a Fitbit or another activity tracker? From counting your steps to telling time to monitor your heart rate to tracking your exercise route with built-in GPS capabilities, the little machine on your wrist is pretty incredible. Virtual assistants offer support on a basic level, but with more sophisticated capabilities, like voice-enabled operations and support.

Apple launched Siri, the built-in intelligent personal assistant, in 2011. Siri was designed to answer questions and perform basic actions using Apple apps on the iPhone. Apple worked with voice actors from British, Australian and American backgrounds to offer support in native “accents” given the global use of Apple products.

Both Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana followed in 2014, bolstering an AI competition that is most beneficial to the consumer. A common misperception is that Amazon’s Alexa is tethered to devices used only in a home, enabling home automation services. Alexa is designed to work with several Acer, Lenovo, and HP desktop and laptop computers as well as the Fire tablet line-up and a handful of mobile devices – though none carry the mobile market presence as the iPhone.

  • For decades, roles in the administrative assistant capacity were relegated to females – perhaps this is why the default voice in the virtual assistant market is female?

Each of the virtual assistants offers an assortment of the same type of features: set alarms, provide weather reports, sports scores, Internet search results, and other real-time options like news, driving directions, and traffic alerts. But with so many AI virtual assistants on the market and consumers have more options, which brings the most bang for the buck? Which offers the most robust features? Which has the coolest capabilities? We break down the “Big Three” and let you decide.


Siri was the first and is thereby the model for all others that come after. Siri was the first voice-activated, voice-controlled virtual assistant, and dominated the market for three years before her first true competitor came along. With a quick “Hey, Siri!”, she was eager and waiting to help you out! Siri’s user interface was pretty basic initially, but considering the innovative concept of a responsive virtual assistant in your pocket, consumers were happy with basic. Siri has evolved into a much more robust and astute virtual assistant, though she still prefers to look things up on the Internet and just give you her search results. This is reported because of Apple’s dedication to user privacy, and a commitment to not collecting data from browser history or emails – like Google does – for Internet search results.

Siri’s lack of integration with non-native apps is rather frustrating. Some partner apps will offer more complex functionality, but with most apps, users are limited to basic “open” commands and exclude secondary commands – think “open Facebook and create new status update” or something along those lines. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not something Siri can help you with – yet.


Cortana had a built-in cult following even before she was a reality! “Cortana” was the code name for the AI virtual assistant project from Microsoft, but once leaked Cortana was a wildly popular name in user forums and users initiated a petition to Microsoft to keep the name upon release – and we now know how that turned out! The code name was a reference to a synthetic intelligence character in Microsoft’s Halo video game, and the same voice actress lent her voice to the virtual assistant.

One area Cortana has others beat is language support. Rather than just English, Cortana also supports Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.

The downside of Cortana? Depending on your browser preference, Cortana may offer limitation in this aspect, only offering Internet search results in Bing (not Google). But Bing offers users rewards based on search activity volume, so perhaps this default is beneficial. Side by side, Bing and Google search results can differ, which is why we consider this a ‘downside’. An interesting note for Cortana, too, is that it offers a built-in music recognition capability. Could Cortana have plans to take on fan-favorite music discovery app Shazam? In case you weren’t paying attention, Shazam was recently acquired by Apple (iTunes springboard, anyone?).

  • Microsoft, lover of all things collaborative and integration, has plans for integrating Cortana into Skype, and we can’t wait to see how that pans out.


Amazon’s Alexa is the exception to the rule in more than one way. Unique to the virtual assistant market, Alexa is standard on Amazon Echo devices – which are not smartphones but rather designed to primarily support home automation. This is rather genius in that Alexa supports orders and shopping through a user’s Amazon account with stored payment and shipping details, conveniently offering a built-in way for Amazon to monetize their virtual assistant.

Alexa is an audio-only voice-activated AI virtual assistant. She has to read all results out loud to you – but more importantly, interact directly with you. She is the foundation of a smart home rather than confined to a smartphone.

Alexa is also designed to work with third-party apps. Want to play a Spotify playlist? Alexa’s got you covered. Need a ride? Alexa can now order you an Uber. Alexa can help you order dinner due to integration with Pizza Hut and Domino’s, among others. Can Siri or Cortana do that? They can help you track down the phone number or website, but that’s the extent of their help. Alexa will also get you in (quick) shape — body or mind — with a daily 7-minute workout and a Jeopardy game.

  • Amazon wants Alexa to be essential to your home environment. Many households are already Amazon Prime members, relishing unlimited two-day shipping for a meager $99/year. This packages nicely with the Amazon Echo product line-up, each designed to work seamlessly with each other and integrate with your Amazon account while supporting home automation. Consumers notice weekly emails from Amazon with helpful tips on “what Alexa can do for you” details.

What’s the verdict?

Alexa is nice in your home or office, but for the power of the virtual assistant in your pocket and on the go, Siri was the first and is still the best! Setting up a to-do list, scheduling meetings and reminders, sending emails – it’s all pretty crucial for day-to-day mobile operations, and “mobile” is the keyword. Amazon is expanding what Alexa can do, but for now, it’s still second to Siri.

What will the rest of 2018 hold for the AI virtual assistant future? We can’t wait to see!

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Stranger things have happened – but in this case, we take a look at how the death of a Tyrannosaurus rex relates to your computer.

Dinosaur Computers

Sue Hendrickson was just poking around a cliff while waiting for a flat tire to be repaired when she made the most extraordinary archeological find of her life – or that of any to date. That hot summer day in 1990 in South Dakota, Sue stumbled upon the now infamous skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the most complete and best-preserved fossil ever discovered of a T-rex. The rather mundane series of events that led to this find only further underscore the mystery behind its existence.

Nicknamed “Sue” after the paleontologist that discovered the skeleton, the T-rex was found protruding from a cliff and was transported to a facility for cleaning and examination. Sue started to come alive again! Most of its teeth were still intact, and overall the skeleton was in incredible condition – not bad for being roughly 65 million years old!

What happened to Sue, the T-rex? How did she die? Was there a majestic battle to the death with another giant beast? Or was it much more boring and Sue perhaps died of what we today would call “natural causes”? Various testing proved Sue was about 28 years old at the time of her death. Small holes were detected in the skull that found Sue had a parasite akin to an ancient bird flu similar to an aviary illness today that is known to cause death by starvation due to neck swelling. Other stories of bodily injuries were told by the bones, but an exact cause of death was never proven. Scientists are good, but maybe not that good. Perhaps the “bird flu” saved Sue from a much worse fate, depending on your beliefs of the many claims of what happened to cause dinosaur eradication. The “giant meteor” (more likely an asteroid or a comet) is one popular working theory, and massive volcanic activity is another. No matter how it happened, more than half of the world’s species disappeared, leaving mammals, turtles, crocodiles, birds, frogs, and some sea life among others.

To better understand history, and also to prevent mass extinction from repeating itself, we devour information to educate ourselves on these creatures and maybe one day have an answer to what did happen. To get a picture of what we don’t know, we start with a picture of what we do know. To support the “giant meteor” working theory, data shows that metal only found in meteorites has been discovered all over the globe and shown to be the same age as the time when dinosaurs disappeared. Also, an enormous crater in Central America is roughly this same age. Coincidence?

The technology required to study the bones of dinosaurs and provide deep insights is equally incredible. It’s rather ironic to discuss technology and dinosaurs in the same sentence. Machines that are less than six months old are inspecting Sue’s bones, which are tens of millions of years old – and interesting paradox.

Speaking of technology, how old is your computer? You don’t need an X-ray to estimate its age – and if you have to think for more than a few seconds, your computer is probably too old. “Too old” – we sound rather harsh and judgmental when saying that.

“My computer runs just fine”.

Sound familiar? When was the last time you checked for system updates and ran thorough diagnostics? Outdated operating systems and applications can be super sluggish and even freeze. Letting security updates wait could put users at significant security vulnerabilities, leaving your computer open to hacks, viruses, malware, ransomware, or worse. Applications not kept up to date run slow and become “buggy”, where they freeze often or present glitches, losing valuable time and productivity – like Sue’s skull with the holes from the “bug” infection. For the record, holes in your skull are rarely a good thing…

Compare today’s computers, like the MacBook Air or the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, or the latest version of the Apple iPad, to the Tandy models in the early 1980’s. It’s pretty common to refer to those older machines as “dinosaurs” – but we think that insults dinosaurs! Even Sue still has something to offer. Sue teaches us about climate change, evolution, and even the food chain from her time. The Tandy models from the 1980’s have taught us that not everything is quite so black and white and that technology is an ever-evolving concept.

If you had a Tandy model today, what purpose would it even serve? It couldn’t run a word processor; nor could it support Internet usage for video streaming. That computer may as well be buried in the wall of a cliff in South Dakota, holding close its secrets for the future generations to learn about upon discovery by a (robotic) paleontologist.

Given how much technology impacts our daily lives, and how much we rely on software, the Internet, and all things digital, it’s pretty critical that we have a decent working model on which to rely. That’s not to imply we’re saying you should go out and purchase the latest model of the coolest gadget every six months – no, that’s excessive and wasteful spending. But what you do need to think about is how old your machines are, their current ability to function, and whether what you have is the best tool to do your job. Upgrades are expensive, but the cost of not upgrading is even greater. Slow machines equate to decreased productivity and efficiency, neither of which is a friend to business operations. Slow machines also translate into slower connectivity, slower email responses, slower sales proposal development and sharing. Bad, bad, bad!

A few things we can recommend to help get more out of your system:

  • Check for, and run updates regularly
    • Companies like Microsoft and Apple will regularly release updates for applications and security, and installing the latest packages help keep your system operating at its most efficient
  • Save or download files into cloud storage, when possible.
    • Taking less space on your hard drive supports faster processing speeds.
  • Maintain an active antivirus program, like Avast
  • Don’t let your machine operate in direct sunlight for extended periods
    • Heat is not a friend to machines! Prolonged heat can age a machine prematurely, quickly.
  • Keep your system clean
    • Literally, remove dust and dirt particles from your machine as often as possible, and prevent debris from infiltrating the “inner sanctum” of your computer!

These tips are just a few of the things you can do to keep your system running at its best, but the most important thing you can do above anything else is to keep aware of the latest technology available. Once a computer becomes obsolete, problems compound exponentially and users are faced with costly repairs or loss of time and resources in addition to the potential loss of data.

Avoid a fiery death for your computer and you’ll get more life out of it! Just remember, when it’s time to upgrade, do so before the giant crash to avoid using a dinosaur and a constant battle.

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The Internet of Things – and of course, the Internet –has created an endless network of connectivity. Consumers have embraced living in a digital world, and all the ways the Internet makes day-to-day life easier.

Google Internet

Is there one single piece of information you wish you knew about your customers that just evades you? We already know the answer to that question – yes! Don’t you wish there was a magical process by which you could answer every question you’ve ever had about your customer base? Would you cater your operations and marketing to their needs to develop a deeper sense of loyalty and longevity?

There are ways to better understand your target market. Focus groups collect incredibly valuable information in a controlled environment, but are very expensive and only represent a fraction of your customer base. Telephone surveys rely on clear communication and carefully constructed questions which are properly delivered – but first, the target respondents have to answer the call. It’s neither cheap nor easy to get answers, but it’s not meant to be. Consumers are protective of their privacy and their money!

So, what’s the best way to figure out what your target market is thinking? Instead of trying to read your customers’ minds and potentially making costly mistakes, we suggest a better option – just ask them.

Email surveys were the darling of the decade until the last few years, but are still heavily used. All a business needs to have is an email address on file for a customer — whether former, current, or potential — and the ability to craft questions that will deliver meaningful responses. What is meaningful depends entirely on how the business plans to use the information obtained through the survey.

If you’ve ever designed an online survey, you’ve tried SurveyMonkey. With limited features and use parameters, it’s a free tool – and a fantastic option. That word “limited” is the challenge that users face: why limit yourself when your business depends on the outcome? Sure, simplified surveys with radio buttons, checkboxes, or drop-down menus are easy, but they can be misinterpreted – or worse, the user can choose the incorrect response by accident and still record it.

Of course, surveys are notorious for low levels of response, though average response rates have risen in recent years. The current average response rates hover around 1 in 4, or 25% of recipients will answer. This rate tends to increase rather significantly with an incentive to respond. You’ll need to account for a “margin of error”, which will vary, but basically, it means that of those 1 in 4 recipients that respond, some of their answers will not accurately reflect their preferences, like where we said they might have accidentally chosen the incorrect answer. Most people expect the average margin of error to be about 5%.

Now that we’ve talked about some statistics, let’s talk about the meat of a survey. Here is where the true difference between platforms like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms matters.

First, how to create a new Google Form:

  • Go to
  • Click on “Blank” with the plus sign in the box.
  • You’ll see the options to toggle between “Questions” and “Responses” at the top.
  • You can type the title of your Form (survey) where the large bold text says “Untitled form”.
  • Underneath this, there is a section to add a description if you desire.
  • Simply type in your Question in the appropriately labeled field.
  • Next to the field where you can type in a Question, you can select the type of Question you want to ask, with responses in the following formats:
    • Multiple choices
    • Checkboxes
    • Dropdown
    • Short answer
    • Paragraph
  • Type in your first Response option.
    • You can add an image here, or even a YouTube video.
  • Underneath this, you can click “Add Option” to add more responses.
  • Form designers can also choose whether the Question requires a response, or if the respondent can bypass that Question with a “skip” feature.

Google Forms has updated its user interface recently, and now you can add responses in a grid display format. You’ll want to play around with the options to see what looks best for your needs. Think carefully about the number of questions you need to ask, and the number of responses to choose from within each question. Too many of either can overwhelm a consumer, and best practices suggest that asking no more than 5-7 Questions is ideal, with each having no more than 3-5 responses.

Other cool features you can add to your Google Form include:

  • Themes
    • In the main navigation menu at the top of the screen, you’ll see an icon that resembles a painter’s palette. Clicking this will drop down a menu of color circles or the icon that looks like a photo – clicking here will open the Themes menu where you can truly customize the user experience.
  • Results can be stored in a shareable spreadsheet
    • Google can’t track who responds automatically, but it will automatically store all results from responses within a shareable spreadsheet, and like with any Google Sheet, you can edit this with charts or other visual representations of the data collected.
  • Results can be emailed to a designated user, rather than a user (or teams) needing to check a dashboard continuously.
  • Using Google Forms functions with the same basic principles as Google Docs, in that collaborators can access a shared file to help design survey questions and flow.
  • Forms are already mobile-friendly; the impact of this feature is huge given the number of people that access email via their smartphones or tablets outnumbers those accessing email via desktop or laptop computers.

Readily-available free survey tools aren’t always so feature-filled. Paid tiers of SurveyMonkey offer tools like geotargeting and more robust features, which are useful if responses are tailored in such a way that this is necessary. Google Forms can’t help you with geotargeting, but Google does offer a paid option with its Google Surveys solution.

How else can you use Google Forms?

  • Manage event registrations.
  • Share the Form via social media channels or to website traffic to collect email addresses for email marketing or email newsletters.

One more feature we want to touch on is logic processes. In Google Forms, designers can change the user flow of the Form at the individual respondent’s level and based on their answers. You can toggle certain responses to one question to skip the next question, and even do what the Marketing world would all an “A/B split” where one response would take the respondent in one line of questioning, but a different response would take another user down a different path.

Use Google Forms to get to know your customers, and take full advantage of the Internet. Consumers like to share their opinions, and if they can do this using their smartphone while on the go, you’re much more likely to increase responses.

Get to know Google Forms and see how Google wants to help you — and your business — win the Internet!

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In the Professional Productivity Wars, Microsoft is the reigning victor, but that wasn’t always the case.

The 1980’s were a crazy time. MC Hammer wore baggy pants that became a major trend, Madonna wore the equivalent of metallic traffic cones as a top, and Michael Jackson walked forward and backward at the same time. VHS beat out Betamax as the better technology for watching films, Tandy desktop computers were literally huge and heavy and data storage involved “floppy” disks – that were actually floppy!

If you’re old enough to remember using a Tandy, you’re part of a rather exclusive club. Tandy released the TRS-80 in 1980, its first computer that supported colored graphics and ran on Microsoft Basic. And that floppy disk? We’re talking about the version that’s about 5” square and stored a whopping 1.44 MB of data.

That storage space might hold a file or two, so long as the files were simple and didn’t contain a lot of information or heavy formatting. No, floppy disks would not be ideal for transporting data in the modern era. Ironically, some government divisions still utilize floppy disks, if you can believe it!

In August 1981, International Business Machines (IBM) released the IBM Personal Computer and revolutionized the technology industry. It’s safe to say that happens at least once every year now, but in 1981 this was a life-changing event. Over 100,000 units were sold before Christmas that year, with consumers eager to get their hands on one. This is also the same year that Apple began developing the Apple Lisa, in case you’re keeping score.

As the personal computer models began to take over offices all over the globe, so did the professional programs developed for use with them. IBM launched Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983 on the heels of its desktop personal computer model and became the spreadsheet standard for the better part of two decades. Lotus 1-2-3 was promoted as a 3-in-1 offering, including a combination of charts and graphics, database functionality, and spreadsheet capabilities. In truth, it looked a lot like Microsoft Excel looks today. Interestingly, Microsoft Excel was also launched in the 1980’s, though later than Lotus 1-2-3, and it took a while for Microsoft Excel to become the spreadsheet software of choice. Given that Microsoft was tasked by IBM with developing the operating system of the initial personal computers under the IBM label, perhaps Microsoft was just catching up on the learning curve back then.

There’s no mistaking it today, Microsoft Excel is THE spreadsheet product used by professionals everywhere. Not only does Microsoft not apologize for dominating the industry for decades, but they don’t even support floppy disk drives anymore. The extensive features built into their Office suite products would likely generate file sizes that exceed the storage capabilities, but more importantly, it’s just outdated technology. Microsoft maintains its prime professional position by staying ahead of the proverbial curve and developing ceaselessly innovative technology.

Microsoft Productivity

Why did Lotus 1-2-3 go the way of the dinosaurs? Compared to Microsoft Excel, its limitations weren’t excessive, but the primary issue was that Microsoft Windows hadn’t yet gained its stronghold as the dominant operating system. In the short window, Lotus 1-2-3 enjoyed the #1 spot in the hearts of office staff everywhere. By the early 1990’s, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Excel displaced Lotus products, and its capabilities grew with each year. What is perhaps most notable about Microsoft Excel is that it was not designed to be used as a database. Microsoft Access was launched in 1992 in this capacity and was intended to be a database management software.

Microsoft Excel users today have access to a host of features built into the platform, and many of the most popular features have been maintained and have simply evolved. What’s even more interesting is that many features popular in Microsoft Access are available in some form in Microsoft Excel due to the similar natures of the programs.

A few particular features many organizations rely on include:

  • Importing data through the Power Query feature
  • Pivot tables and charts
  • Options for editing, cleaning, and manipulating data

Microsoft recognizes that most of the time analysts spend with data in Microsoft Excel is in the cleaning process, through the manipulation and preparation of the data model for getting insights. Here are some incredibly helpful tools inside Microsoft Excel that can offer your business robust reporting options:

  • Power Query is now Get & Transform Data
    • Users still import data, but Microsoft Excel allows users to import from multiple data sources at once
    • Data can be imported from numerous sources, including SharePoint, the cloud, etc.
  • Users can select from options in the lower right corner upon import
    • Data can be routed into a table, a pivot table, or a pivot chart
  • Bringing the data source through the Power Query lets the user transform the data as needed
  • Multiple data sets can be connected within the Power Query Transformation process

Instead of merely acting as a spreadsheet software program, Microsoft Excel gives users an immersive editing experience in which data can be cleaned for insightful use.

  • Users can convert the first row of data to a header
  • Awesome feature: if the set-up and shape of the data is not conducive for use in a pivot table, Microsoft Excel offers an amazing feature for users to “unpivot” the data
  • Power pivot feature – users have an editing experience that allows them to view, edit and manipulate, and then build analytics on top of data model

Another feature you’ll want to play with is Manage Data Model, and anyone with Microsoft Access experience will recognize some of the basics of this feature:

  • Users can create relationships between data sets from different data sources
    • Drag the connector between fields to create the relationship
  • This feature doesn’t require the use of formulas, but just a drag-and-drop action to create the relationship

Play with this feature to really see what it can do and how it can help you. One way we found was by adding a slicer to the filter, to shift views within the pivot table by reviewing different information as it relates to the data at large. In doing this, you’ll also notice that a history of all steps has been recorded – a helpful feature if you can’t recall how you came to a certain point in the process.

These cool features are far and above anything Lotus 1-2-3 offered, and we don’t sense any remorse from Microsoft for burying its competitor’s product in the dust.

With the innovation of Microsoft Office 365 and the productivity applications that Microsoft has launched in the last few years, it’s safe to say who won the Professional Productivity War – but Lotus 1-2-3 likely claimed a few battles, early on!

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