Today, businesses are embracing digital technology to enable productivity anywhere, any time. Yet ensuring accountability is a stumbling block to widespread acceptance of remote work.
Recently, COVID-19 has forced many businesses to transition quickly to working from home. Even bosses concerned about lack of control over absent employees had to make the change. Former opponents to remote work may have discovered the benefits of this approach. Employees certainly may have enjoyed the opportunity and want to keep doing it.
The good news is that technology and products are even better today for managing remote teams.
Top Tools for Remote Work Accountability
Overall, employers need to trust their people. This is true whether they’re working on-site or from home. Still, for some supervisors, trust is easier with remote monitoring abilities.
Joint calendars are a common starting point. Microsoft 365, Google’s G Suite, and other tools allow staff to share calendars. People can still schedule personal appointments and keep those private, but the joint professional calendar lets everyone on a team stay in the know. Managers can go online to track sales meetings, client presentations, or team sessions.
Project management software is another way to see what co-workers are doing. Teamwork, Basecamp, and Trello offer a central location to see a project come together. Employees can access secure software from any location to share files and interact. Individuals can set deadlines and create tasks to improve accountability and responsibility sharing.
Business-based internal messaging software also keeps everyone on the same page. These communication tools typically provide one-on-one messaging and group chat. It’s easy to send a quick note asking someone for a status update, or just check in. Some tools also allow individual and team audio calls as well as video conferencing. Top contenders are Microsoft Teams, Slack, WhatsApp, Skype for Business, or the Facebook and Google Hangout work chat apps.
Go big enabling collaboration among employees with cloud-based office software. Microsoft 365 enables many users to go online and work on the same things at the same time. This solution also lets managers easily view shared documents and verify progress. It’s even possible to invite clients or other external partners in to view folders. For security reasons, you may want to limit their access to “view only” and set an expiration time on the link you share.
Securing Remote Work
Security is another point of friction for businesses allowing remote work, but the technology is keeping pace there also. Even so, you will want to educate employees about cybersecurity best practices. Requiring antivirus and malware upgrades, limiting external sharing, and enabling multifactor authentication will help make remote work viable, reliable, safe, and secure.
Need help installing or implementing remote work tools? We can help. Or, our IT experts can put in place the administrative controls you need to help secure work from home. Let us provide the IT help you need. Contact us today at 606-8FIX!
Like a persistent cough or muscle strain that won’t go away, many IT issues prove ongoing. Every time they come back you think about getting an expert’s opinion. Then, the cough fades, you can walk freely again, or your computers are back up and running. You keep on going. Until the next time. If you’re sick of ongoing issues with your IT, look to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for help.
There are many IT ailments that can negatively impact your ability to do work. Let’s consider some of the particularly common ones, and why an MSP is the right prescription.
#1 Network and Internet issues.
Business is done online these days. Not being able to connect to the network and slow connections are frustrating. Without the Internet, how can you do your job? You can’t even check and send emails! Let alone access team documents or enter data into cloud-based accounting software. A lagging network also slows down application and data loading time. It may only be a few moments of thumb twiddling. But add that up over several times a day and multiple by employees. You’re looking at a decrease in productivity that adds up.
An MSP has the know-how to survey the IT environment for what's causing these frustrations. When there’s a problem, they’re at the ready to resolve it and help improve reliability.
#2 Repeated malware infections.
This can mean a couple of things. First, you don’t have effective system and application protections in place. These attacks shouldn’t be able to make it through the door in the first place. With the right firewalls, anti-spam, and protections, you should be able to keep your system on lock down. You don’t have to do this yourself. Your internal IT team has a lot to manage and monitor. Gain expert backup with an MSP reviewing your security protocols to keep the bad guys at bay.
Secondly, educate employees about the dangers of social engineering. Don’t let them keep falling for the pretexts and downloading malicious files. Also, ensure passwords are strong enough to avoid adding another point of entry.
#3 Printing problems.
Many businesses are printing less today, but we’re not done with hard copies entirely. So, when a printer starts whirring, spinning endlessly, or can’t connect, efficiency halts. Know that printers sold at big box stores are consumer grade quality. Avoid printer frustrations with solid business-class printers (which your MSP can identify).
#4 Application overload.
Maybe some of your employees prefer Dropbox. Others rely on their free Gmail accounts. This hodgepodge of options can cause chaos. Staff have difficulty remembering the passwords to all of the accounts they need. So, they simplify, and that makes their accounts more hack-able.
Upgrading to business-grade versions of important applications is easier with an MSP. They'll help identify the software that best addresses your business needs.
#5 Aging technology.
You’ve had your current computers for ages. They are slower than you’d like, but you don’t have the time to look for something else. Plus, you can’t imagine having to learn something new. You’re too busy. But aging tech is more likely to fail, which could prove catastrophic if you don’t have the right systems backup.
MSPs know IT. Based on your individual business needs, they can suggest a plan of attack to update the IT and keep it secure. They can also provide backup strategies to prepare for the worst and recover quickly.
Basically, a managed service provider has your back when it comes to IT. Work with experts who focus on technology day in and day out. You’ll typically save money and gain time to spend innovating in your field.
Gain a competitive advantage with the support of an MSP. Give us a call at (863) 606-8FIX today!
6 Simple Tips to Protect Your Customer Data
As cyber-attacks continue to make headlines, hackers are exposing or selling customer data files in record numbers. But just like with any threat, there are actions you can take to minimize risk and ensure your business retains a positive reputation among customers.
1. Stop using the same password on repeat. Set a mandate for all staff that passwords must be unique for each user and for your workplace. That means it can’t be remotely like the one on their home PC, tablet or online banking. Passwords are hacked more than ever, so when you’re prompted for a password change, dig deep and really think about what goes into a hacker-proof password. If remembering them is a problem, consider one of the latest password management tools.
2. Go on a shredding spree. How much sensitive data is being dumped into the recycling bin? Valuable customer data is often taken from the bins of small businesses and quickly sold or published. It’s not just good practice to shred sensitive documents, it’s the law. Take 5 seconds to run documents through the shredder or book in the services of a secure shredding company.
3. Ditch the accounting spreadsheets. Still using an Excel doc for all your number-crunching? Besides making your accountant’s job harder (and more expensive), you’re opening your business to a massive range of vulnerabilities. Even with password-protection, spreadsheets aren’t designed to safeguard your financials or those of your clients. Upgrade to a proper accounting solution with built-in customer data protections and security guarantees.
4. Train staff explicitly. You can’t rely on common sense because what you think is a given might be news to someone else. It can be extremely beneficial to hold special data-safety training sessions once or twice a year as a reminder, as well as take the time to induct new staff into the way things are done.
5. Limit access to data. Just like the bank manager who guards the keys to the vault, you can limit who accesses your data. Revoke employee access as soon as they leave your business for good, and set rules around who can access what – and when. Do they need access to sensitive information while working from home? Should they be able to change the files, or only view them?
6. Keep your software updated. Possibly the most preventable hack, having outdated software can be an open invitation for cyber-criminals. They look for known weaknesses in business software and waltz right in. While the nagging pop-ups and reminders to update can feel like a selling ploy, they’re actually helping your business to stay in the safe zone. Updated software gives you protection against new viruses and hacking techniques, plus closes off those nasty weaknesses.
If you would like to make sure your business is secure from data breaches, give us a call at (863) 606-8349 [606-8FIX].
Microsoft announced that as of October 2020, Exchange Server 2010 will reach end of support. Since other products like Windows 7 and SharePoint 2010 will also no longer be supported as of 2020, consider migrating to Office 365 to improve employee productivity and enhance your digital environment. There’s no time like the present to jump-start the planning process with our consulting team to upgrade to Office 365. The sooner you're able to act, the sooner your business will reap the benefits of modern productivity tools and reduce unnecessary security risks.
More and more businesses are intrigued by and know they should, and need, to move to the cloud. Be cautious, however, as email provided by GoDaddy, your ISP, or Joe's internet hosting service may be using legacy technologies. Does Outlook on your laptop stay in sync when you delete or read an email on your phone? Do your contacts and calendar stay synchronized? If not, you're likely on a legacy platform—upgrading to Office 365 can be a huge improvement to your productivity levels...not to mention mental well being since you won't be wondering if/when you responded to an email.
At IT Protectorate, we can migrate your email accounts to Office 365 quickly and efficiently. We also offer cloud backup and archiving services capable of protecting your email, files, and the majority of the Office 365 suite!
Oh right! Here's a link to that eBook we promised.
Make it a great day!
LOCK YOUR DOOR.
LOCK YOUR COMPUTER.
LOCK YOUR ACCOUNTS WITH SECURE PASSWORDS.
Locking the door to our homes when we leave is something most do on autopilot. If you drive to work, you automatically lock your vehicle after arriving to your destination (I listen for the beep, and sometimes have to walk back to the car at my wife's disgust to hit that lock button one last time). Checking the physical locks in our life is easy, we don’t even think twice. But what about the digital locks, did you lock them too? Does it matter? Most definitely.
Trust me, you are not alone in the never ending frustration of trying to remember your latest passwords. Even those of us who spend our careers in the IT industry can get a bit tired of it. Which is why many people (even though they know better) often use weak passwords. We have all been guilty at one time or another. But, here is the thing: the small inconvenience of selecting secure passwords and updating them frequently is much easier to handle than a data breach. In a sobering reality check, the 2017 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 81 percent of data breaches were caused by a password hack.
Think of your passwords like a flood wall made up of sandbags. In one section the sandbags are eight feet tall and four feet deep. Yet, in another section, the wall is only five feet tall and two feet deep. Now, picture flood waters pushing with millions of pounds of pressure on the wall. Maybe the taller and thicker section holds, but then the waters find a weakness in the shorter and more narrow section. Within minutes, the sandbags are pushed aside by the raging waters and the whole neighborhood is buried in damaging flood waters. Like the weaker section of the flood wall, in your organization if even one member of your staff uses a weak password, it exposes the entire business to the risk of a data breach.
This month is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), at IT Protectorate we encourage you to use this month as an opportunity to remind your team of the importance of selecting strong passwords and updating them frequently. #SecureIT and keep your company’s data safe.
TIPS FOR CREATING A STRONG PASSWORD
In today's competitive, always-on landscape, businesses need to be one step ahead of their competitors to thrive and retain their customers. Your business functions on technology and it should be reliable and efficient.
In light of October being National Security Awareness Month, your first objective should be to ensure that your network and interconnected devices are secure against the proliferation of ransomware and malware knocking at your firewall's front door.
Features like these and more are commonplace with what are being called Next Generation Firewalls.
Speaking of Next Generation, the same applies to Antivirus. Several new security software companies have brought new software to market which takes a new approach to Antivirus software. Gone are the days of downloading updates and definitions; now heuristics and intrusion detection and prevention are here.
We're testing these Next Generation products and have found that some are capable of stopping malware in it's tracks and restoring any data and settings that were modified back to their original state—usually in the blink of an eye.
Contact us today to learn more! We'd be happy to have a conversation over the phone, email, or coffee!
Please be cautious of Dorian. With Hurricane Irma, we experienced winds that were primarily from one direction. While it looks like we've dodged a bullet, shifts in the direction of the winds as the eye crosses over can pack a punch due to the saturated ground.
Please be safe and alert, especially as the hurricane gets closer. Being prepared is key as the storm approaches, ensuring that we don't wake up to find out Dorian didn't turn North.
The Hurricane DR Checklist for Businesses
Managed IT Services is a maintenance program which bundles services such as IT Support, Network Security, Systems Administration, Cloud Services Management, and Data Security. We tend to group backup and general data protection, data loss prevention, and data security under our Data Security service—5 years ago we would have referred to this as data mobility, but now data is growing and moving around our planet so quickly that we struggle to remember what cloud storage service a document is stored in.
Right, right…but what does that mean? Well, let’s start at a high level and make our way down until we can see our spot on the beach—you know, the one with a lounge chair and your favorite drink.
Today, your IT support may be like a Prairie Dog; popping its head up when something needs to be fixed or a virus or some other malware needs to be removed (dare we say a ransom paid or backup data restored, with incident response procedures to ensure the data is viable). The goal of Managed Services is for that Prairie Dog to be constantly vigilant and equipped with the tools and expertise to drive off predators or play the role of medic when called for. Okay; tactical Prairie Dog, got it.
Instead of being reactive, Managed Services is the constant oversight of your IT services by an external organization. It is monitoring, maintenance, and self-repair of networks, hardware, servers, and software to keep your business’s data protected and available to allow your team to deliver outstanding customer service, deliver product on time, build the right product the first time, you name it.
Usually, one or more employees find themselves “pitching in” for the IT role. While this is helpful in the moment, it takes away focus from their primary role and technology is always an afterthought. When things get really complicated, a call goes out to another resource or consultant to bring your service back online. You can open QuickBooks again? Great, until the next time an outage occurs. Be prepared for a 3 to 4-hour staff meeting until the IT guy is available and makes the corrections to get the services running again.
What if your servers, workstations, network, and business applications were monitored 24×7? Taking a more proactive approach ensures the technology you rely on has improved up-time. Beyond monitoring, IT Protectorate reviews trends and automates processes designed to keep your systems running smoothly.
With our focus on your technology operations, IT Protectorate can provide insight to your strategic planning. Keeping track of your assets, cloud services subscriptions, software licensing, and device configurations can be a daunting task. We’re able to keep track of this data in our specialized systems and provide you with summary reports that will help plan the future of your business.
A proactive approach will prevent IT problems before they occur, ensuring your technology is as reliable as the service you provide your customers. Allow us the opportunity to assess your network and work with you to establish a reliable IT maintenance program for your business.
What do you expect from the technology that helps run your business? Is it a benefit or a burden? We believe your success is our success and strive to help guide our customers through their digital transformations. Most importantly, we get you thinking about defining goals and setting clear intentions. This helps develop realistic expectations around the digital systems that help employees clock in or look up information to ensure they deliver quality customer service.
The first question is what are we trying to accomplish? How are we going to measure the success of this implementation? What does success mean to us?
Having walked our customers through countless upgrades, hardware failures, and data recoveries, we’ve found that clients with clearly defined goals use their technology to its fullest. Translation: thinking about the value of your data or what your customers need from your database means we can recover exactly the data you need from the exact day two weeks ago that you needed it. Or, when a customer calls in needing a serial number from an air conditioning system, pool pump, or hydraulic jack they purchased from you four years ago, they happily get that serial number quickly and think of you the next time they need your products or services.
What are your biggest operational challenges? Where would you like to see the most improvement? Thinking through these questions will help you define your businesses goals regarding the technology that helps store and retrieve data for you and your customers.
Elroy is the man behind the scenes; writing posts, checking status of servers, managing networks and endpoints, and enjoying coffee in his favorite spots in Lakeland and Winter Haven, FL.