How to Choose the Right Distribution Management Software For Your Business

Not all businesses are created equal, and neither are all distribution management software. It’s key to understand your business’s unique needs and how each software can address those needs in order to make the right choice, one that will allow your business to grow and your customers to feel satisfied – not to mention make running your business easier.
With this in mind, here are key points to consider when choosing the distribution management software that will allow your business to operate at its peak:

• How can you keep your customers happy? Customer management is a full-time job unto itself – one which the right distribution management software should make easier for you. Will the software you’re considering allow you to improve your service levels? Will it allow you to improve on-order fulfillment and thus raise your customer retention rates? Will it allow you to identify any areas in which you’ve been slacking so you can tie up loose ends?

• Who are your best suppliers and vendors? Another point to keep in mind is whether your software will allow you to identify your company’s best suppliers and vendors. If you are involved with a number of either or both, odds are you have just as complicated a job on your hands managing them as you do with managing your customers. The right software will allow you to track the service you get from these parties and potentially identify any weak links which may need to be replaced.

• Is your inventory being closely tracked? Much of what you’re looking for in a distribution management software will depend upon the extent of your inventory and your needs when it comes to managing your warehouse. Not only do you need to keep close track of what’s currently there, but your software should also be able to determine for you where your inventory dollars will go farthest through demand planning and forecasting. If you don’t currently house an extensive inventory but plan to expand at some point in the future, keep this in mind and choose a scalable software that will support your growth.

• Where is your money coming from? Are you able to identify which of your products the customer is spending the most money on? How about pinpointing your most profitable customers so you know with whom you need to maintain a warm relationship? This knowledge allows you to focus your energy on the channels which bring you the most money in order to encourage an even stronger cash flow from those directions.

• What’s the state of your financial records? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to create accurate, real-time financial reports at the drop of a hat? Will your software allow you to do this? And should you need to create custom reports, will you be able to do so? Be sure to get a good feel for any software’s reporting capabilities – after all, being able to review your stats and figures easily allows you to make decisions with greater confidence, not to mention making life a lot easier when meeting with accountants.

• How user friendly is it? Let’s face it: Even the best distribution management software will do nothing for your business if your employees don’t know how to use it effectively. An intuitive interface, one which makes usage not only easy but enjoyable, will go a long way toward having your business running smoothly and your employees on the same page in regards to how you’re performing.
The best distribution management software will address your organization’s pain points and make every aspect of running your business flow more smoothly. Putting in the time to assess where your current software (or lack thereof) is letting you down and to explore your options is sure to pay off great dividends as time goes on and your business begins running like a well-oiled machine.

If you still have unanswered questions on choosing the right software for your business, contact Michell Consulting Group and let one of our experienced consultants guide you through the process.

How to Remove the Harmful Superfish App Off Your PC

One would assume that software preinstalled on a new PC is secure and has been properly vetted by the manufacturer. This is the case 99 percent of the time, but an exception has recently been discovered with the Superfish app, which came installed on new Lenovo computers sold between September and December of 2014. How can you protect your PC from this fishy security threat?

First off, if you have Superfish on any of your devices, whether it be a new Lenovo computer or other, you should cease using the app. The shopping-search app has been deemed to be a security threat by Errata Security, reporting that it’s capable of providing hackers with a user’s encrypted Web data, the likes of which include online passwords.

This risk applies to you whether you actually use the Superfish app or not. Just the app’s presence on your device is enough to warrant action for its removal. As soon as Lenovo learned of the threat, they disabled the app on systems that already had it installed. Although, you will still need to take action in the aiding of the removal process.

One way to remove Superfish from your PC is to go to Windows Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program. Now, locate Superfish on the list of programs > select it > and click Uninstall.

However, going through the Windows Control Panel like this isn’t enough to remove all traces of Superfish from your computer. If you’ve ever tried before to remove preinstalled software on your PC (known as bloatware), you know from experience that it can be extra difficult to remove–we’re looking at you AOL.

To fully remove all traces of the Superfish app, Lenovo offers users a removal tool and instructions on their support page: http://support.lenovo.com/us/en/product_security/superfish_uninstall

This removal tool is thorough enough to fully rid your device of the threat posed by Superfish, but don’t think that you’re totally in the clear just because you’ve removed the app. You will now want to go into damage control mode and clean up from this super smelly fish. As is the case when learning about any known threat on your computer, it’s a good idea to immediately perform a virus scan, making sure that your anti-virus software has its definitions up to date–better safe than sorry.

An additional security measure that we recommend is to change the passwords for any online account you’ve accessed on the device from before Superfish was installed. This may feel like a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s the best way to protect your sensitive information in the event that a hacker has stolen your password. It should be noted that regularly changing your online passwords is a security best practice, so it’s good to get in the habit of doing this every few months, especially in light of the growing number of unforeseen threats like Superfish which seem to be extra prevalent these days.

One benefit from doing business with a managed services provider like Michell Consulting Group is that we will remove all the bloatware and other unnecessary applications prior to installing the machine onto your company’s network.

For assistance removing Superfish from your company’s computers, and to take advantage of a free IT assessment to make sure that your network is safe from hidden threats such as this, contact the IT security professionals at Michell Consulting Group.

Windows Server 2003’s End of Support Date is Fast-Approaching

Last year, Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows XP’s support. Now, one year later, Windows Server 2003 is scheduled to meet its demise. If your servers are still running Windows Server 2003 as their operating system, it’s important to upgrade before the end of support date of July 14th. Otherwise, you could be running a server operating system without necessary patches and security updates.

As the owner of a small or medium-sized business, you know how important technology is to your success. However, technology that’s outdated can hold your business back from its full potential. Therefore, it’s imperative that you always upgrade your server’s operating system when upgrades are possible. A big reason for this is to keep the competitive edge over companies running legacy software, also security is a primary concern. The latest patches and security updates are only available to supported operating systems, and Windows Server 2003 will be joining the list of unsupported systems in only a few short months.

Of course, nobody is stopping you from keeping Windows Server 2003. If you want to keep using it, you either have to go unsupported or shell out massive amounts of cash. According to Processor magazine, Microsoft is offering custom support for Windows Server 2003 for around $200,000 annually, which will certainly break your IT maintenance budget. This in particular should emphasize the importance of upgrading to a more recent server operating system, especially if you need to comply with strict security standards put into place by HIPAA and other industry-specific ordinances.

While upgrading away from Windows Server 2003 is a simple enough process, you need to be aware of what kinds of applications your business utilizes. After all, some of your older applications might have trouble moving from a 32-bit operating system to a more recent one. This kind of project requires the skills and knowledge of trained professionals, so this must be taken into account when upgrading to a new OS. Approach this project knowing what you need and how to go about integrating these changes into your infrastructure. This will prevent expensive downtime by keeping your server online as long as possible.

Michell Consulting Group knows how to carry out this procedure in the quickest and most efficient manner possible. We can put together a time-saving plan that takes into account minor discrepancies and larger problems which might arise from the process. We’ll migrate your data to a temporary server so your business can set up your new server, meaning minimum downtime for your business. Productivity can continue without a hitch.

Of course, you also have the option of virtualizing your server units and adjusting for growth that way. Your old server units likely experience a lot of wear and tear over the years, so this is a good way to eliminate the need for physical maintenance associated with the server’s hardware. A cloud server is just as efficient, and it’s easier on your operating costs.

Michell Consulting Group can help you understand the best course of action for your business. Give us a call at 305.592.5433 Ext.2601 for more information about server maintenance, upgrades, and more.

Microsoft PowerPoint is Useful, but Not In the Courtroom

We all know Microsoft PowerPoint as a great presentation tool which can help you drive information home to the audience. Naturally, this makes it a great medium for use in more than one type of professional environment. It can be used for webinars, lectures, and even the courtrooms; but is a legal trial really a place for a slideshow?

Why is this the case? For one, PowerPoint allows users to make a powerful case for or against something. In fact, this practice is widely accepted in all venues of the professional environment, so you’d think that PowerPoint would be exceptionally useful for the defense attorney.

Unfortunately, it only makes things more difficult for them, since the prosecutor has access to the same kind of technology. In a Washington court case, the prosecutor was brought up on charges for an exceptionally incriminating PowerPoint presentation, which was used as the prosecutor’s closing statement.

In fact, according to WIRED magazine, “US courts have reversed a criminal conviction because prosecutors violated the rules of fair argument with PowerPoint,” at least 10 times over the past two years. You might be wondering what constitutes fair use of PowerPoint in presenting a court case, but instead, we’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do: Don’t use the defendant’s mug shot in a slide with a big, red “GUILTY” across it.

The reasoning for this is simple, yet ever so complicated at the same time. Legal scholars are calling this method “visual advocacy,” which can be considered the influencing of a jury’s decision through manipulating the subconscious signals sent via an image. For instance, displaying a picture of a criminal in their prison garb in the slideshow eliminates the notion of innocence before proven guilty, which is what the court system of the United States is built on. In the words of the Washington Supreme Court, captions like the previously mentioned one would be “the equivalent of unadmitted evidence.”

It’s a very touchy subject that can be convoluted to understand. Seeing how strongly a PowerPoint can influence the decision of a jury, it’s not surprising that PowerPoints can be exceptionally potent solutions for displaying an argument. After all, just because it doesn’t translate well to the courtroom doesn’t mean that it’s not without its uses. It’s a well-known fact that businesses around the world are taking advantage of PowerPoint to craft compelling, engaging mediums which augment a lecture or presentation, so it’s understandable that all professions desire to take advantage of slideshows.

However, in order for PowerPoint presentations to excel in the courtroom, more powerful laws governing what’s allowed in visual aids will likely need to be put into effect. If not, more prosecutors will likely try their hand at some of these shenanigans.

Whether it’s moral to shove the guilty verdict on someone in a slideshow might be up in the air, but it’s fairly safe to assume that prosecutors who use presentations for this purpose are simply taking advantage of the technology available to them to better perform their duties and uphold the laws of society.

What are your thoughts on PowerPoint as a presentation medium? Do you have any slideshow best practices you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.

Massive Healthcare Provider Anthem Hacked: How to Protect Yourself

Probably one of the more dangerous hacks so far in 2015, healthcare-provider Anthem has been breached by hackers and its data accessed. The breach may have provided the hackers with up to 80 million sensitive customer records, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and much, much more.

protect yourself

Like any other major data breach, this particular one could also have easily been avoided. Apparently, the second-largest healthcare provider in America doesn’t see a need for data encryption. They just left all of its sensitive information for millions of Americans practically in plain sight of hackers. This is naturally a cause for concern, as the information stolen could lead any number of fraudulent activities, including identity theft, credit fraud, and more.

What can you do to protect yourself? Here are some thoughts from ZDNet’s Violet Blue.

Put a Credit Freeze Into Effect Immediately
One of the best ways you can protect yourself from identity theft is to place a freeze on your credit. The freeze allows you to keep others from accessing your credit information. If someone tries to access your credit without your permission, they get blocked, and you’ll be notified of the occurrence.

This isn’t to be confused with a fraud alert, which should also be set up. A fraud alert is basically to let credit reporting companies know that you suspect credit fraud. They can then take steps to keep you safe from any trouble.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication
If you haven’t already heard about two-factor authentication, it’s when you set up extra precautions to ensure the security of your account. This can be integrated through a number of different methods, like connecting your smartphone to your email account. It might be a good idea to look into enabling two-factor authentication for your banking account and credit cards, if possible. This puts one more roadblock in the path of hackers trying to steal your identity.

Change Passwords and Login Credentials for Anything Associated with Anthem
Like most health insurance agencies, Anthem has your email address on file. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that this email address will become a target for hackers, and that you should take measures to protect yourself from threats. Take the opportunity to change all passwords and usernames associated with your account, and be sure to make them as secure as possible. Use several different numbers, letters, and special characters for maximum security. Using a password manager can make this process much easier.

Set Alerts for Your Credit Cards
Credit card information wasn’t among the data stolen from the heist, but one can never be too careful, especially in light of the hack. Inform any accounts of the breach, and they will monitor for any suspicious charges. The options might vary, but the fact remains that you need to inform them. Charges outside of your country, or those of an exorbitant amount, are fairly certain giveaways that you’re the target of fraud.

These are just a few ways to protect yourself from credit fraud caused by the Anthem hack. Be sure to stay vigilant and take preventative action to keep hackers away. Hacking in general is something which your business should be concerned with.

If you want to keep the latest threats out of your system, Michell Consulting Group can equip your business’s network with a Unified Threat Management (UTM) solution. You don’t want to be left vulnerable in the face of threats, especially when you deal with sensitive information. Give us a call at 305.592.5433 ext.2601 for more information on how to secure your network and keep your business compliant.