Simple Steps Can Unlock Business Insights
by Steve Strauss
Used with permission from the Microsoft Small Business Center


About a year ago, my cousin gave her father a smartphone for his birthday. My uncle smiled indulgently at his tech-savvy daughter and uttered the expected words of gratitude. Weeks later, he quietly confided in me that all he'd really needed was something to make phone calls "instead of doing everything short of diapering a baby." I showed my uncle some of the great things he could do with that phone: surf the Web, do his email, check his calendar, shop online . . . all tasks that I knew he did regularly on his PC. Oh, he said, I didn't know it could do that stuff. Now he wouldn't part with that smartphone for anything.

It's surprising how many small and midsize businesses are like my uncle, not taking full advantage of the technology they already own. They know they have powerful reporting and analytical tools in Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and the 2007 Microsoft Office system (especially Excel) – but they aren't sure how to maximize their value. More's the pity, because the tools built into SQL and Excel can provide insights that can help make the difference between profitability and penury.

So, how should a small or midsize business go about unlocking the business intelligence (BI) value inherent in SQL Server and Excel? It all starts with thinking logically about your business and defining your goals. Don't just think about the data you currently collect—think long and hard about what you want to know from your data. What information do you need to drive your business? Are you collecting that data currently? If not, how can you get?

Once you know what you want from your data, it's time to establish your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These are the metrics that define success; they let you know how your business is performing. Where do these data reside, and how can they be analyzed to reveal trends, spot opportunities, and reduce inefficiencies?

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Do you know what your employees
are doing on the Internet?

By Brian Renter, President, Universal Information Systems


The importance of the Internet to the daily operation of businesses and organizations has increased significantly over the past few years. Most companies have one or more critical business functions that depend entirely on the speed and availability of their Internet connection. Ensuring a reliable and fast Internet connection has become an almost universal priority for companies.

Unfortunately, many new recreational (or non-business) uses of the Internet have been developed that compete directly against a company's desire for a fast Internet connection. Streaming music or audio, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, on-line banking, fantasy football, among others, consume the bandwidth intended to run critical business applications. Recent studies have shown that even though bandwidth has increased substantially in recent years, actual Internet speed experienced by companies today is more comparable to the Internet speed of five years ago – a time when connections were smaller and slower.

In response to the typical problem "my Internet connection gets slow at certain times of the day," the usual solution is to add more bandwidth. Expensive lessons are learned, however, when the larger Internet pipe does not solve the problem. This is due to the fact that many of these non-business applications will use all available bandwidth. Business-critical applications are left with the same Internet connection speed as before the upgrade, much to the dismay of management.

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Warning! Appreciation May Be Contagious
used with permission from HP Small Business Site

When times are tough, it's tough to stay positive — particularly if you are surrounded by gloomy people.

But rather than fall victim to negative attitudes, resolve to take a different approach. Stay positive and channel your optimism to create a healthy, more productive environment. One idea you can start using right away is peer recognition.

Expressing your appreciation to a co-worker is one of the simplest, most rewarding efforts you can make. Giving credit where due, or just telling a co-worker you appreciate their work, can give an unexpected boost — and it has an additional benefit: it improves their perception of you.

Say thank you
Think about the last time you received a spontaneous "thank you" from someone at work — one that made you feel more connected to your work, that your contribution was valuable. It can really make someone's day and make them feel more positive about the work they're doing.

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November 2010
In this issue:

Simples Steps Can Unlock Business Insights
Employees on the Internet
Appreciation May Be Contagious
Staying Safe & Mobile
Business Continuity Tip
Cartoon & Quote
Staying Safe and Mobile: 8 Reasons to Buy a Server
by Christopher Elliott
used with permission from the
Microsoft Small Business Center


Worried about hackers, viruses and malware? Are you concerned that your employees can't access their data when they're on the road?

These are common concerns among small-business owners. The average annual loss reported by United States companies more than doubled in 2007, to $350,424 from $168,000 the previous year, according to the CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey. That ended a five-year run of lower reported losses. Average losses dropped somewhat in 2008 but remained alarmingly high, at $289,000 per respondent.

And a recent survey of 400 small-business owners by Hewlett-Packard found that small businesses place mobility high on their priority list, because nearly one-third of their time is spent outside the office.

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Business Continuity Tip
Be decisive.

Too often during interruptions, we see businesses take a wait-and-see approach to executing their established disaster recovery plan. If your plan calls for you to "pull the trigger" within the first 12 hours, but instead you second guess yourself and wait, you put your business at risk. Delays in executing your recovery plan can set in motion a cascading series of failures that are difficult to stop once they've begun. During a disaster, the domino effect is magnified.

We understand that putting your recovery plan in action is not an easy decision; the manpower, resources and expense can be intimidating. But that's where the benefit of planning and testing shines. A detailed plan will help you make a solid rational decision in a very emotional time.

Trust your plan. It'll save your business.


Quote of the Month

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

W.T. Purkiser

Just for Laughs

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