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Are You a Search Engine Marketing Maven or a Trade-Show Pro?

Probably not. It’s not that you don’t want to be. You’re just busy with a million other details, like running a business.

That’s why the Cisco mConcierge program developed a set of concise Tactical Marketing Guides. These guides are designed entirely to help you better execute on more than a dozen common marketing initiatives, including social media networking, newsletters, and radio ads — just to name a few.

Think of them as marketing “Cliff Notes,” or “cheat sheets:” just the basics, boiled down to two pages, complete with objectives, best practices, and a sample timeline.

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How to Make Social Media Safe

Reap the benefits of social sites by protecting your network from security threats and data loss

In a relatively short amount of time, social media has gone from an annoying productivity killer to an important business productivity and marketing tool. Of course, employees can still while away time on sites like Facebook and YouTube, but they’re also using these sites, along with LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, to promote their companies’ products and brands, track the success of marketing campaigns, respond to customers’ complaints and compliments, and recruit new talent. Social media sites have even become a way to collaborate with coworkers and business partners. Companies that limit access to social media may actually find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Finding the balance between business needs and risk is key to allowing employees access to social media sites. You can do this by loosening some of your security controls, adjusting your acceptable use policy (AUP), and tolerating a little personal use of social media by employees.

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Mobilizing the Workforce—No, Really

It’s almost Summer—the season of road trips. And recently I had the privilege of driving across the country. While some might fear loss of productivity with a trip like that, I was actually able to work quite productively, mile after mile—thanks to a WiFi hotspot, Cisco’s VPN, and a laptop charger that plugged into the cigarette lighter. Of course, it helped having someone else do the driving. From Oakland, California to New York City, I participated in Webex meetings, wrote and edited documents, and generally got stuff done. But enough about me.

In Salt Lake City, I met up with kindred spirit Mike Sumsion, chief information officer for iTransact, which helps businesses accept customer payments via credit, debit, and gift cards, as well as electronic checks. “I’ve spent the last 10 years making sure our company could be productive from anywhere,” said Mike. Clearly, he’s one who likes to stay ahead of the curve: A blog post from last month cited a Cisco report that said 46 percent of people surveyed expect to be able to access their corporate network from their personal mobile devices.

Mike’s company employs 50 people. While it keeps customer service employees onsite, sales people can work from home with their same IP office phones and computers that they use in their cubicles. The company is also looking to extend this flexibility to other employees.

In a nutshell, iTransact offers services that let merchants accept transactions without a lot of heavy lifting.  Its service is offered directly to customers and their trusted advisors, like accounting firms, banks, and others. A dashboard interface lets them log in to check on the status of accounts billable, as well as manage real-time interactions remotely.

Given the sensitivity of the information that’s exchanged with each transaction, iTransact’s top concerns are compliance and security. So when it comes to working in the Cloud, things are still evolving. As an interim measure, the company uses Dropbox to make sure employees have updated documentation to share with everyone in real time. Each new employee is set up with a Dropbox account, providing instant access to all necessary documents for his/her role. Since Dropbox is Cloud based, employees who are traveling or working remotely can access the documents from wherever. Plus, it simplifies the information management. Even though the document repositories are managed by a single individual, all employees receive instantaneous updates.

Looking ahead, iTransact does see more Clouds on the horizon. “We’re building a gateway 2.0. that will absolutely use the Cloud. We’ll be able to drop a node anywhere in the world, fire up a virtual machine and have it accept transactions,” notes Mike. “We’ll be able to scale geographically, and offload geographically as needed, to the server that makes most sense,” he adds. And the icing on the cake: All the databases and self-contained software will allow for 100% uptime. This becomes especially important as they cater to smaller businesses, with transactions and updates happening constantly.

So what does a fast-moving small business see for its future? “It’ll be more mobile,” says Mike, without hesitating. “Look around you—increasingly, anyone can buy anything from anyone at any time. We need to manage the data, accordingly. The dashboard we built—that will become a mobile app; our internal employees will update records via their phones and customers’ transaction processes will become more mobile than they are now,” he adds.

Amen to that. As one who thrives on traveling—and getting stuff done regardless of where I am and regardless of whether I’m a customer or an employee—I think the future looks absolutely sunny. With a few clouds, of course.

To learn more about how Cisco can help your small business, click here.

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Ultimate Performance for the Next Generation Internet… at Work and at Play

Last week we celebrated World IPv6 Day and several of the world’s largest websites and internet service providers—including Facebook and Google—permanently enabled the next-generation Internet, IPv6. This new Internet protocol provides a greater number of addresses to support more people, more companies and more devices—especially given the explosive growth of smartphones and tablets. Time Magazine called the deployment of IPv6 “only the most significant architectural development in the history of the Internet.”

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Are You Aware of the Dangers Lurking in Free Apps?

Though fun and even useful, free apps can pose security risks to your users and your business

The old adage “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” has more than a kernel of truth to it when it comes to free applications. Free apps seem harmless, and they’re very tempting. Who doesn’t want a free version of Angry Birds? What’s wrong with a free banking app from your credit card company? But even if the app itself is legitimate and thoroughly vetted, it can still pose a security risk to the device it’s running on. Free apps are more dangerous to your employees and your network than they appear at first glance.

People can easily download a wide range of free apps for their smartphones and tablets as well as for your company’s computers. From wildly popular games like Angry Birds Space (which was downloaded three million times in only three days) to fitness trackers and social media tools, there’s a free app for anything anyone would want to do on his or her mobile device. Likewise, the Internet is teeming with free apps to customize desktops and work more easily. But the problem with free is that the program use is almost always paid for through advertising or information gathering—and it’s in those aspects where the danger often lies. Read More »

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