Best of Tech: 2017 Finalists Announced

And the nominees for the 2017 Best of Tech Awards are …

OHTec, a program of the Greater Cleveland Partnership that focuses on connecting Northeast Ohio businesses of all sizes through the common thread of technology, has announced the finalists for its 2017 Best of Tech Awards.

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  • OHTec Tech Week 2017

    Winners will be named in six different categories on April 27 during the awards show at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland.

    Nominees for 2017 are:

    Tech Company of the Year

    Futuri Media

    Hyland Software

    MRI Software

    n2y

    Best IT Services Company

    BlueBridge Networks

    FIT Technologies

    Level Seven

    Vizion Solutions

    Tech Team of the Year

    Accellis Technology Group

    Dakota Software

    n2y

    PolyOne

    Best Software/Device Product

    Dakota Software

    Hyland Software

    MRI Software

    OEC

    Most Promising Startup

    Heureka Software

    Revenue Conduit

    Votem

    Wheedle

    Best Tech Workspace

    Accellis Technology Group

    FIT Technologies

    Technology Recovery Group

    Best Healthcare Tech Product

    iRxReminder

    OnShift

    OHTec’s Best of Tech event takes place during its annual Tech Week celebration, an annual initiative to support and engage the local tech community through education and networking. Learn more about Tech Week by visiting www.techweekneo.com.

    And click here to register to reserve your place at the 2017 Best of Tech Awards.

    About OHTec

    Founded in 1998, OHTec has hundreds of members representing all facets of information technology: software development, IT services, website design and development, custom application development, IT recruiters and others. OHTec is an industry-led, industry-driven membership organization dedicated to furthering the growth and development of our region’s technology-based businesses. Learn more at www.ohtec.org.

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    Next up: Beyond Savings: Energy Efficiency Offers Range of Benefits
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  • Beyond Savings: Energy Efficiency Offers Range of Benefits

    The benefits of energy efficiency are not one-dimensional and extend beyond just energy savings. In fact, a recent white paper published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) identified a number of ancillary positives that arise from a business being more energy conscious.

    The benefits of energy efficiency are not one-dimensional and extend beyond just energy savings. In fact, a recent white paper published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) identified a number of ancillary positives that arise from a business being more energy conscious.

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    In the report titled “Recognizing the Value of Energy Efficiency’s Multiple Benefits”, the ACEEE said previous studies have found such varied positives as:

    • improved product quality;
    • environmental benefits;
    • decreased risk;
    • enhanced public image;
    • improved employee morale;
    • a higher level of productivity; and
    • rising sales.

    The fact that there are plenty of reasons—beyond just energy savings—for a business to adopt energy efficiency is important, according to the report.

    “Awareness of multiple benefits may sway decision makers who may otherwise be ambivalent about energy efficiency investments. Efficiency program administrators can segment and serve the market by leveraging these benefits,” the report states.

    To read a full copy of the ACEEE’s report, click here. And to learn more about all the ways energy efficiency can help your business, contact COSE’s Energy Team at 216-592-2205 or via email.

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    Next up: Blogging as a Digital Marketing Strategy
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  • Blogging as a Digital Marketing Strategy

    Don’t think of your company blog as a hassle. Think of it as a lean, mean qualified-lead grabbing machine.

    Last month, we talked about seven digital marketing strategies for your business. This month, we’d like to dig a little deeper and focus on one in particular: The often misunderstood, and much maligned, company blog.

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    Often regarded by business owners as a high-maintenance hassle, the company blog is like an employee on your payroll who shows tremendous potential, but you just can’t quite figure out what to do with them. So, for years, you simply let it rot. And, as a result, you’ve compromised the structural integrity of both your website and your company. Perception is reality, and few things looks worse than

    an outdated blog post. It’s the digital equivalent of an abandoned building or an empty storefront. You might think you’re better off not having one at all. But, stop right there.

    A well-managed company blog has many benefits for your business. Updating it regularly with bite-sized content full of market and trade specific keywords (i.e., terminology related to your business) can help improve your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. This leads to more traffic to your website, and, ultimately, to new business. Information changes hands at such a breakneck pace these days. The average shelf life of content has diminished. Fortunately, there are new strategies you can implement so that your blog works for you.

    With a little motivation and a bit of strategy, updating your company blog can be as easy as remembering to take your vitamins. Here are four tips to help you manage your company blog, low-maintenance style, for maximum effect.

    1. Learn what goes on behind the scenes of your website. This is commonly referred to as the “backend”, or the administrative stage, of your website’s CMS (content management system). The backend is where all the nuts and bolts of your website reside. (Note: Think of the backend as the back entrance of your business and, conversely, the “front end” as the storefront entrance.) The backend is the behind the scenes place where both the complicated stuff (i.e., coding) and the simple stuff (i.e., basic formatting of text) are implemented.

    We know what you’re thinking, “Wait, this is already starting to get too complicated. Get me outta here!” Not to worry. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. You’re not training to become a professional Web developer here. Managing a blog requires a lot less heavy lifting from a technical perspective. But you’ve got to be ready to do more than just write content and dump it onto the Web these days. There’s way too much static out there to begin with. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take.

    Optimize your blog posts before they’re published by designating them under assigned categories, adding important “tags”, adding SEO titles, and focus keywords. These steps form a kind of digital shadow around your content which, when cast onto the Internet, can make a big impression. Beware the post that casts no shadow. Optimize your Blog posts prior to publishing them.

    Most CMS’s these days, (for example, WordPress, Joomla, etc.) include many user friendly and intuitive tools for managing content and many of these tools are pre-built into today’s CMS’s. You can systematically optimize your content, monitor it, and ensure its survival out there in the wilds of the Internet. By utilizing many backend default settings and tools, you are allowing your content to cut through the clutter and distinguish itself from the static. Take time and get more acquainted with the tools and settings available to you through your particular CMS.

    2. Remember to keep it simple. This goes back to the aging blog that hasn’t been updated in years, with the wind whipping through its pages and tumbleweeds rolling on the ground around it. Most fallow blogs out there have been neglected because the bar was set too high in the beginning. It’s OK to lower the bar now. Keep your content short and sweet. Think of it like a journal, a brief dispatch from the trenches of your business. Long-winded posts are not only intimidating to write, they’re also hard to read.

    3. Know your audience, but write for the web at large. I talk to a lot of clients who think that any news they could possibly share with the world through a blog is much too trade specific to be of interest to anyone. If you’re among those out there who feel this way, I say you are missing the point.

    Look at it this way: All websites require regular, fresh content to stay relevant. Having a designated place on your website to put this content is a must for your business. Your company blog is that place. The older your content, the lower your rankings in the search engines of the world. Fresh content allows more people to find you.

    Of course, the more consistent you are in managing a blog, the better your odds at attracting other trade geeks already well within your orbit. Certainly, you want to grow your network as much as possible among the converts and the uninitiated. Think of your blog less like a book club and more like a massive billboard. Billboards are simple, direct, and designed to get everyone’s attention.

    4. Everybody has a story to tell. Talk about what you do. Here are three examples.

    a.) You run a plumbing business. You’ve been in business for three generations. You’re an expert in your field. Use your Blog to offer up quick tips and advice for the less handy among us. Be sure to pepper your posts with relevant keywords. Not only are you garnering interest among the uninitiated, but you’re also building trust, and familiarity with potential clients.

    b.) Perhaps you run a rigging company and you were recently hired to work on a high profile construction project in your city involving a heavy duty industrial installation. Some of the objects handled during the installation are iconic and would be recognized by a broader audience within the city. Posting a blog about this project, with the right number of photos and keywords not only appeals to others in your trade, but also to the public. This kind of content is good for your business for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is raising the profile of your business.

    c.) You run an appliance store, selling new and antique furniture. Refurbishment happens to be a large part of your business. Using your blog to present regular, notable furniture restorations can lead to more traffic to your site, a bit of prestige, and a higher profile for your business.

    Michael J. Miller is a part of the Go Media team. To learn more about building the right digital marketing strategy for your business, contact Go Media, your Cleveland Digital Marketing Specialists.


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    Next up: Budget-Friendly Digital Marketing
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  • Budget-Friendly Digital Marketing

    Do you have a solid understanding of your digital marketing strategy? This webinar will show you how to create a budget-friendly, trackable, well-defined plan that will generate a return for your business.

    Do you have a solid understanding of your digital marketing strategy? This webinar will show you how to create a budget-friendly, trackable, well-defined plan that will generate a return for your business.


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    Next up: Build Your Legal Toolbox
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  • Build Your Legal Toolbox

    Every small business needs to have a strong legal foundation to stand on. What tools do you need to have in your legal toolbox?

    Every small business needs to have a strong legal foundation to stand on. What tools do you need to have in your legal toolbox?

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    Next up: Tips for Your Business: BYOD Can be a Boon to Productivity
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  • Tips for Your Business: BYOD Can be a Boon to Productivity

    Employees are increasingly using their own devices to do at least some of their work. BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) examples range from accessing company email and calendar remotely to working from home on a computer connected to the company network. Users often prefer to use their own tablets or laptops to access company systems, especially when working remotely.

    Employees are increasingly using their own devices to do at least some of their work. BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) examples range from accessing company email and calendar remotely to working from home on a computer connected to the company network. Users often prefer to use their own tablets or laptops to access company systems, especially when working remotely.

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    BYOD can be a boon to productivity. It’s convenient and users like the ability to work with the devices with which they are most comfortable. Additionally, there might be cost savings for the company when users provide their own hardware. Large organizations often enforce formal policies to realize advantages while mitigating risks of BYOD. They also invest in technologies that make it easier for IT departments to safeguard corporate data even when it’s accessed from a device the company doesn’t own. Small business owners, however, could wonder whether it is worth the expense to implement.  

    It would be a mistake for any business owner to ignore the BYOD question. “Just Say No” probably won’t work because some users will easily figure out how to connect their smartphones and tablets to the company’s email system and perhaps even to its internal network. “Just Say Yes (And Hope for the Best)” might also be a costly mistake. Is there another choice?

    A thoughtful, practical alternative 

    The alternative is implementation of a BYOD policy that balances user wants with the company’s need to support productivity, protect resources, and manage costs. A qualified IT service vendor can help with this. A budget-conscious business owner might start by doing research and adapting BYOD policy examples from other organizations to fit his or her business. A BYOD policy should complement and extend your information security policy and acceptable use policy. 

    Your security policy should provide reasonable safeguards against unauthorized access. Passwords shouldn’t be “1234.” Those responsible for IT should have procedures for granting access to company resources, including in emergency situations. Rules should clarify what can be shared in public-facing resources such as public or shared Dropbox folders or FTP servers.

    Your acceptable use policy should be designed minimally to prevent abuse of IT resources that affect other users and prohibit users from damaging the company’s reputation or even exposing it to legal risk.  Among other things, this would mean prohibiting the use of company resources to publish spam, hateful or other illegal speech or to adversely affect internal or external systems.

    With your security and acceptable use policies in hand, consider what new implications arise from the use of employee-owned devices. You might need to revise and strengthen some of your existing guidelines. You should identify and answer the unique questions raised by BYOD:

    • Will the company pay or share the cost?  
    • Will IT provide tech support on user-owned devices?  
    • Will there be a list of approved hardware, operating systems and applications?  
    • Will the company have the ability and right to remotely “wipe” a device that has been lost or stolen (or when the employee is terminated or leaves the organization)?

    BYOD is here to stay. The “consumerization of IT” is a cultural phenomenon and business trend. A thoughtfully-developed policy will help manage risks and maximize BYOD benefits.

    Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions to the tough questions they face every day. 

    This article originally appeared in the August 31, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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