Improving Collaboration to Improve Productivity

Team collaboration has never faced more challenges than the present day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses closed their doors. Others were required to move online and rely on remote capabilities. It’s easy for employees to feel disconnected when they’re anywhere from six feet to thousands of miles apart. 

Businesses can keep their workforce closely connected by maximizing the latest technologies, tools and applications to enhance collaboration between team members. Let’s discuss the impact that new technologies can have on organizational productivity in 2020. 

What’s Zoom? 

A year ago, you may have asked this question, but today, you’re probably familiar with Zoom. Businesses have moved to virtual conference rooms offered by Zoom and Skype because they allow their entire staff to collaborate like never before. Video conferencing software not only personalizes the virtual meeting experience with live video chats, but it also enables instant messaging between team members, screen-share and recording capabilities, among other helpful features. When people can’t sit in the same conference room, video conferencing technology givecolleagues an outlet to connect, collaborate and improve their work culture. 

My Apps Can Do That? 

Most people are extremely familiar with Microsoft Office products. What they may not know is that they can take these applications to the next level through integration with a cloud-based system. Microsoft Office 365 offers a convenient, easy-to-use workspace that can be accessed anywhere. Employees can seamlessly access shared worksheets, utilize online storage space and get the most out of productivity applications that enable simultaneous collaboration. With Microsoft Office 365, your team can work smarter, more efficiently and stay connected thanks to innovative collaborative tools. 

Why Do I Need a Chat Room? 

You may think that a workplace chatroom would pose as a distraction to your team. The truth is that group chatrooms can increase productivity. When the physical workspace is compromised during a pandemic, businesses can move their communication and collaborative efforts to a centralized, virtual workspace where employees can connect in seconds. Business communication applications like Microsoft Teams and Slack allow employees to share files, communicate through group chats or video conferencing tools and collaborate easier. You can connect your favorite apps, create automated workflows, schedule calendar events and work together more efficiently.   

Although businesses in every industry have faced many challenges in 2020, one lesson we have all learned is that business-related technology is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity. With the “new normal,” companies that adapt and evolve through innovative communication tools will continue to thrive in the future. The newest technologies can increase collaboration, which in turn, will increase operational productivity. Contact our team of experts today to get IT support that can connect your team from anywhere. 

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5 Tech Trends in 2020

2020 in Tech: 5 Trends to Keep an Eye On

The technology industry moves in one direction — forward. As more companies continue to use advanced programs to run their businesses, knowing what the technology forecast looks like can help companies stay ahead of the competition. So, which ones do you need to know? Here are the five tech trends to keep an eye on in 2020.

AI as a Service
As artificial intelligence (AI) continues making advances across the technology spectrum, you can expect to see more applications for business purposes. Some prominent companies are already experimenting to see how they can use AI to streamline business functions to help their companies run more efficiently. Google, Amazon and Microsoft already offer machine-learning solutions, but 2020 may be the year where AI business solutions go mainstream as part of a monthly subscription service.

Subscription Model Supremacy
Speaking of monthly subscription services, don’t expect this model to go away any time soon. With cloud solutions growing in popularity, the everything as a service (XaaS) model will become commonplace. Businesses are showing they’d rather pay a flat monthly fee instead of the expensive and unpredictable break/fix model of service.

Faster Mobile Data Networks
The next generation of wireless internet connectivity is expanding. 5G made its debut in 2019, mostly in limited areas or major cities. However, 2020 looks to be the year that coverage extends, and data rates become affordable to more people. This advancement means people will be able to upload and download data at lightning speeds, and businesses will be able to work faster on the go than ever before.

Older Products Reach End of Life
Some of your favorite business programs and solutions are about to bite the dust. Microsoft is ending support for several programs and services beginning in January 2020. Some of the more notable names on the list include Windows 7 and Microsoft Server 2008. When tech is no longer supported or patched by its developer, it opens the door for hackers to exploit weaknesses. If you’re still using any of the products on this list, then it’s time for an upgrade.

Improved Smartphone Security
As smartphones continue to replicate the features and computing power of desktop PCs, businesses need to be ready to provide the same data security standards for mobile devices. Many small companies and startups are adopting the BYOD (bring your own device) model as a way to save money and cut down on the number of hardware devices employees need. This trend means employee-owned smartphones will need security programs in place to meet your business requirements.

How We Can Help
As the new year approaches, all we have are predictions as to what will happen. Nothing is certain as trends may change, going in a new direction. Your business needs to be ready, and the best way to do that is by having a trusted tech consultant in your corner. We help businesses like yours with their IT needs, making them more resilient to the tech headaches of the future. Contact us today to find out how we can help get your company ready for a productive 2020.


7 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach

7 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach in Your Business

Don’t think you’re vulnerable to a data breach? Think again. In 2018, businesses reported 1,244 breaches – and small businesses accounted for 58 percent of victims. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are seven ways to prevent a data breach in your business:

Take Inventory of Your Risks 
Conduct a complete audit of your systems, including on-premises, cloud and third-party IT assets that could lead to your network. Think about not only obvious points, like your servers and applications, but also your employees’ devices, Internet of Things-enabled devices, and industrial control systems.

Once you’ve taken stock of your infrastructure, prioritize any issues you find. Likely, you’re dealing with limited resources, so decide which problems are putting you at the most risk, like unpatched software or weak passwords.

Control User Access 
When possible, employees should only have access to the data they need for their positions, and sensitive data should only be accessible to authorized users. It’s unlikely that all of your employees need access to all of your data, all the time.

Think also about how to handle departing employees and temporary employees like vendors and contractors. Provide the necessary passwords, key cards, laptop access and more that those employees need, but make it a priority to rescind access as soon as their work with your company ends.

Keep Software Updated
Many high-profile data breaches, including the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, are a result of hackers exploiting a weakness in older software. In the case of the WannaCry attack, Microsoft had already released patches to close the exploit, but many companies had failed to apply the patches or were using out-of-date Windows systems that no longer had support.

Fortunately, the fix for this is fairly simple. Patch and update your software as soon as the developer releases those options, and upgrade your software when it’s no longer supported by the developer. This is especially timely now with the end of support for many Microsoft products starting in January 2020.

Enforce BYOD Policies 
Your employees are probably using laptops, tablets and smartphones for at least some of their work. Unsecured endpoints can lead hackers straight to your network, rendering your other security measures much less effective and making your sensitive data vulnerable to a breach.

To combat this threat, you need a dedicated mobile device management program. Whether you provide the device or employees use their own personal devices, implement data security measures to ensure that employees are handling, retrieving and sending data safely. If a device is lost or stolen, create a policy to protect your data, such as remotely wiping the device.

Strengthen Credentials 
No one likes managing their passwords, but unique passwords are critical to preventing a data breach. Don’t leave password strength up to chance. Require your employees to use complex passwords that are changed frequently, at least every 90 days. Employees should not write passwords down where others can find them.

A password management tool such as LastPass or OneLogin can store and remember multiple encrypted passwords to reduce the hassle of employees forgetting complex passwords. Another security best practice is multi-factor authentication, where passwords are supplemented by passcodes, challenge questions and other identification measures. Even if an employee accidentally gives their login information away in a phishing attack, two-factor authentication will minimize that damage.

Educate Employees 
Security-wise, employees are your weakest link; 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Train your employees to identify and report signs of a data breach, but more importantly, train them to prevent a data breach. When your employees fully understand and support initiatives such as BYOD security or password management, your security will be stronger across the board.

Perhaps the most crucial area for employee training is email. Since the majority of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks stem from illegitimate emails, training your employees how to spot and report strange senders, links or attachments can drastically minimize the chance of a breach.

Back Up Files
Our last tip is to back up your files. While this is always a best practice for all businesses, it can especially pay off when your business suffers a ransomware attack. When your files are securely backed up to an off-site or cloud location, you won’t have to debate whether or not to pay the hacker. You’ll simply clean your systems, retrieve your data and continue your day.

Unfortunately, backups are no longer a set-it-and-forget-it measure. Hackers are disabling backups and then waiting 30, 60, 90 days to take systems down, leaving companies with no choice but to pay a ransom to retrieve their data. Regularly testing your backups to ensure that they’re working as intended is key to protecting yourself.

How We Can Help 
Implementing all of these security procedures can be time-consuming and costly, especially for a small or mid-size business. We assess your security needs and implement procedures to help you minimize the chances of a data breach or quickly identify and contain a breach in progress. Don’t ignore the threat of data breaches – contact us today.


5 Steps to Give Your Business the Best Gift

Follow These 5 Steps to Give Your Business the Best Gift of All

As the year comes to an end, business owners are keeping an eye on the latest holiday deals to purchase new items for their companies. Ergonomic keyboards, dual monitors and stand-up desks are great ideas to consider, but there’s one gift that should be at the top of your list — cybersecurity.

Hackers are targeting small and mid-size businesses in addition to big corporations. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43 percent of victims are small businesses.

How Is My Business at Risk?
Phishing has emerged as a popular way for hackers to inflict damage. A phishing attack typically comes in the form of an email that appears to come from a trusted source but contains a fake link or attachment that installs malware on your network. This malware can come in many forms, but most notably, ransomware. Ransomware is when hackers block access to your data, then give it back after you pay the hacker money. However, there is no guarantee you’ll get your data back after you pay. According to the Hartford Courant, less than a quarter of people who pay the ransom get their data back.

Fortunately, there ways you can improve your cybersecurity. Here are five steps you can take to give yourself the gift of peace of mind this year.

Invest in Employee Training
Can your staff recognize a phishing attack? According to Tech Radar, 90 percent of data breaches are caused by human error. Consider investing in cybersecurity training so your team can work smarter by avoiding blatant hacking attempts.

Move to the Cloud
It’s time to say goodbye to only saving your data on your local drive. When your information is in the cloud, you can rest easy knowing that all your data is being protected with automatic backups while being flexible enough to scale with your company.

Create Multiple Forms of Backup
Always have a backup plan ready. If your business runs on a local server, it may be time to consider getting a cloud or offsite backup. That way, if your local server ever gets compromised, you’ll still have access to your data.

Install Two-Factor Authentication
It’s harder for hackers to break through two levels of protection instead of one. With two-factor authentication, an access code will be sent to the corresponding user’s phone or email after entering a program password. If someone tries to break into your network, you’ll know right away.

Replace Outdated Tech
Money can be tight for some small businesses, and using older tech may seem like a cheaper solution, but that can be shortsighted. Microsoft is planning to end its support of many popular hardware and software solutions — including Microsoft Server 2008 and Windows 7 — in January 2020. If you’re using tech without continuing support, then you won’t receive any security patches in the future, opening the door for hackers to expose weaknesses in your system. When you update your software, you’re protecting your business and increasing office morale. Your employees will appreciate working with the latest tech.

How We Can Help
Don’t let a Grinch ruin your holiday season by wreaking havoc on your IT network. Let our cybersecurity specialists help you protect your business so you can get some peace of mind heading into 2020. Contact us today to find out how.