Outlook Out of Office Auto Reply


I’ve lately been delving into the more underused features of Microsoft Outlook. One that I’ve been playing around with lately actually goes by different names depending on which version of Outlook you use. In Outlook 2003 & 2007 it’s called “Out of Office Assistant” and in Outlook 2010 it’s simply called “Automatic Replies”. I’ll refer to it simply as “Out of Office” from this point forward.

For all intents and purposes, Outlook is the lingua franca of the day when it comes to email. Other email programs have this feature as well but they won’t be covered here since so many of our clients use Outlook.

To launch the Out of Office wizard do the following depending on your version of Outlook:

  • Outlook 2003 & 2007: Choose Tools. Then choose “Out of Office Assistant.”
  • Outlook 2010:  Click on File. Then click the “Automatic Replies” button.

Outlook’s Out of Office auto reply feature is a handy tool to set when you’re going away on vacation. Since everyone is so well connected these days, we all often receive and send emails even when trying to take some time off. One way to set the expectations of those you are doing business with is to use the Out of Office feature to send a reply to your business associates, vendors or customers when they email you while you’re away. This feature can be customized to send a custom message and if you’re using Outlook 2010 you can send a different message to coworkers than you send to non co-workers.

The Out of Office feature provides two tabs where you can specify a different message depending on the location of the sender of the email. For my coworkers I will often be less formal in my message and tell them who to contact in the event that they cannot wait for me to return.

The other tab allows me to specify a more professional message to those outside my organization. This allows me to tell them who to call if it’s an emergency.

In both cases, Outlook also lets you set a time and a date range for the out of office message. I’ll often set this message to start the Monday of my vacation and have it turn off the Friday of my last week off. You of course can use any range you feel comfortable with.

Also in both cases, all email sent during the Out of Office time I set, are sent with my default signature. This way I can control the message and the look of my email.

So tell me do you use this feature?


Does your small business need “The Cloud”?


For the last 10 years, owning a small business server (SBS) was a mark of legitimacy for small companies. A SBS meant you could have your own customized email addresses; you could run your own custom applications—database, office productivity, CRM, finance, etc; you had a secure place to store files; you had a central resource to manage and safeguard your network; whatever your business need was, there was probably a SBS-based application for you. In 2012, SBS still offers these valuable features and is still a great solution for many small businesses.

But there is a downside to SBS, and that downside is maintenance. Servers require updates. Security threats to SBS systems require that additional software and hardware be purchased (antivirus, firewall); computer hardware can fail at any time, making performance and support costs unpredictable; data loss is a constant concern, which requires SMBs to purchase and maintain backup systems. Because everything has to be managed by the server, systems integration is a challenge, and the answer to the challenge is conformity, compelling most SMBs into use only a narrow band of features and devices. When you think about the IT costs that go into owning a SBS—backup, hardware replacements, security services, warranties, tech support—and then compare that to the amount of money that was actually spent on productivity software, that ratio, in and of itself, explains why the SBS era may be starting to wane.

Now, imagine a world where you didn’t have to pay for all the other hardware and maintenance, and you only had to pay for the solutions that made your employees more productive. Well, that, in a nutshell, is what Cloud Computing is all about.

If you’re the average SMB owner or manager, at this point you’ve probably already heard about the Cloud and you probably have a basic grasp of its significance. If not, feel free to watch our recent webinar “Cloud Computing for Small Business” here.

But as Cloud-based services continue to develop, the question has quickly changed from, “what is the Cloud?”, to “should I move to the Cloud?”, to “when should I move to the Cloud?” And the answer to that question is, probably sooner than you think.

Cloud-based email services have already exploded in popularity (email being, actually, the most complicated internal service the typical SMBs runs). Cloud-based CRM systems are also well-established, led by early innovator salesforce.com. Beyond that, Cloud services are developing fast, and at Everon, we are constantly reviewing new products in hopes of finding ways to improve the value of IT services for our clients. In the past I’ve advised clients that the time to move to the Cloud is when their existing hardware is at retirement age. But I think we are getting to a stage now where the right time to move is simply when a service is available that can help your business. It’s not going to get any less frustrating for business owners when they receive service bills in the thousands for issues like hardware failures, virus infections, or accidental data loss. The sooner we move to the Cloud and make those sorts of issues the thing of the past, the sooner we can focus on what matters–value and productivity!

Everon Technology can help move you to cloud today. We’ll work with you to see what solutions may be of benefit to your business and we’ll even give you your first month of cloud services for free with any cloud implementation. Register here to contact one of our cloud specialists.


Google Makes Changes to Search



Google has updated their search tweaks,  which began with the changes they made to social search which allows you to see your friend’s results when you do a Google search.

Google has taken this improvement and moved it up one more notch with their latest algorithm update. Users will now see a combination of the typical search results they are used to, as well as personalized results if they are Google+ users.

The change seems simple and but it has sweeping implications. The auto-complete of the search bar, results will now include Google+ pages of celebrities and personal contacts. Google access to these pages will boost Google+ membership in an effort to foster conversation across their search platform.

Google has even developed an authorship pilot program in an effort to lure prominent writer’s, both long form and blog, to their social media effort Google+

Some have speculated that this will be a boon for local businesses as their establishments will come up in your search results based on location of search.

This is all part of Google’s effort to keep up with the powerhouse that Facebook has become as it continues to be the one place on the internet more and more people go to search, buy, and connect.

What Are LSI Keywords and Why They Are Important For SEO


When it comes to SEO for your website or blog, it pays to follow best practices.  Yet if you are new to this industry then you may not even know what these best practices are.  You have probably heard about meta data or backlinking when talking about SEO but how about latent semantic indexing (LSI)?  This is an interesting concept that is also valuable for search engine optimization.

What Are LSI Keywords?

According to Wikipedia LSI is “an indexing and retrieval method that uses a mathematical technique called Singular value decomposition (SVD) to identify patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text. LSI is based on the principle that words that are used in the same contexts tend to have similar meanings.

In laymen’s terms this simply means that these are words that are similar to your main keyword and are used throughout your webpage/article in place of your keyword.  In a perfect world you would want to include your primary keyword as many times as possible in your article to rank highly in the search engines, yet if you do this too much you will appear to be spammy and will be penalized.  Instead you can use your LSI keywords in place of the primary to gain the search engine rankings you are shooting for without overdoing it.  For example, lets say my primary keyword is “dog training”.  A list of LSI keywords that would work for this case are: puppy training, dog housebreaking, dog behavior, etc.

Where to Find LSI Keywords

If you are not already using tools for your keyword research, I HIGHLY recommend you start.  There are a number of both free and paid tools that are all great for this task, but for the purposes of this article I will be talking about the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.  This is a free tool provided by Google that gives great information when it comes to researching keywords.  If you have never used it before go check it out and get familiar with the interface.  If you plan to do keyword research often you will want to get familiar with this tool.

When using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool here’s how to find your LSI keywords.  To begin, simply search for your primary keyword within the search and wait for the results to load.  Once they do, look down for the area that is labeled “Keyword Ideas”, after you found it then you are done.  That entire list of keywords are all LSI keywords.  Simply select the ones that you see fit and you are set.

How To Use LSI Keywords

The hard part about LSI keywords are finding them, after that everything else is a cake walk.  Savy online marketers tend to sprinkle these LSI words all throughout their articles.  I personally typically shoot for a keyword density of 2% for my primary keyword and any other instance of my primary keyword after that I replace with my LSI words.

Outlook and Social Networks


Outlook Social Connector

Microsoft Outlook has a handy feature that integrates with several social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s called the Outlook Social Connector and it works with Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010. Currently Outlook can connect with the following social networks: Facebook; LinkedIn; MySpace; Windows Live Messenger; Xing; & Viadeo.

I’ve been using this feature with LinkedIn and Facebook for about four months now and love it. Seeing as we are visual creatures and email is a text based medium, I find Outlook’s ability to bridge this divide, quite helpful. Here’s why.

 1) Outlook show’s a picture of the person that emailed me. This even works when it is someone that I’m not connected to on any of the social networks.This, of course, only happens if the sender has a public picture on their profile.

2) When I am drafting a new message, Outlook displays the picture of the person I have entered in the To: field. This is helpful as it makes it easier for me to focus on who I am writing.

3) In either of the two cases above, Outlook shows the last few correspondences I’ve had with this person in one easy to view window to the right of the person’s picture

4) Outlook shows  any activity this person has had on the different social networks. This can sometimes come in handy when catching up with someone.

5) Outlook provides an easy way of connecting to people on the different social networks by clicking the “+” below their picture. All of  the social networks I’ve activated appear as choices. Simply by clicking it here, I don’t have to log onto the different websites and invite the person through the various website’s interfaces.

6) When more than one person is in on the email, Outlook shows me the picture of everyone in one view. It’s the next best thing to video conferencing.

If you’re using Outlook, I highly recommend this feature.  Here’s a link to a blog and video tutorial on how to install the Outlook Social Connector: http://blogs.office.com/b/office_casual/archive/2010/08/24/how-to-install-the-outlook-social-connector.aspx

Please let me know what you think of this feature and if you use it?


Jim De Vico
GM, Everon Technology Services-Los Angeles