People are busy, working fast, tired, and overly trusting. Cyber crooks are targeting people's preoccupation and fears around the coronavirus. IT can do its best, but one bad click can breach a system. Learn about current COVID-19 related IT threats in our latest ebook.
Returning to Work: Prioritizing Safety with IT Too
Your business has the OK to go ahead and get back to work on-site. You want to return to your office, but you don’t want to risk people’s health by doing so. After all, some say it’s too soon to go back. Plus, others predict a second wave of COVID-19 is likely. These suggestions can help you return to work while prioritizing safety.
Not everyone will welcome the call back to the corporate environment. Some employees may still be in a population vulnerable to the virus. They may want to take leave instead of returning to the work environment. Others may simply not show up.
Have your HR team send out a written notice informing employees of the timeline for returning to the office. Educate them about precautions you’re taking to provide a safe work environment. Ask for a written response of your employees’ intentions. Then, IT can start establishing procedures for getting everyone back to work.
You may have had great success with remote working during the quarantine. This could position you to allow workers to stay home if they are at risk or oppose the idea of returning “too soon.”
For those coming back, support social distancing by phasing in people’s return. Your business could also use a hybrid IT solution to allow people to come in just three days a week, and they could continue to work two days at home. This allows staggered re-entry and reduces the number of people on-site at the same time.
You may be thinking you already have all the tech you need to go back to the office. C’mon, you were already working from there before this whole thing started. Plus, now you have all the new tools you added to support remote-employee productivity.
Still, you may not have invested in a long-term remote-work solution that will now support a hybrid model. Or perhaps the on-site tech you’ve long relied on isn’t meant to handle remote working for the long haul.
To achieve a flexible hybrid model, go with cloud solutions like Microsoft 365, or expand on-site IT. Do you need to add infrastructure to handle remote employees using virtual private networks (VPNs)? Both on-site staff and off-site workers might need to securely access systems at the same time.
Adopting cloud collaboration software allows co-workers to access network resources simultaneously, regardless of location. Or with virtual desktops, employees can access the same files and business applications on their work machines or on a personal device.
Bringing people back to the office, you’ll want to rethink the physical setup. Support social distancing by spreading employees’ seating arrangements out more. This will require moving around computer hardware, too.
If you were previously sharing technology, you’ll also need to add more desktops. Or you might invest instead in more laptops or portable devices. This could mean securing more software, too.
Added IT Precautions
Finally, cybercriminals are opportunistic. They’re already exploiting people with malware promising vaccines or cheap masks. These bad actors are also looking to exploit the tech demands on businesses. Many businesses adapted to a new way of doing things: they moved files to the cloud, and they allowed employee access from personal devices, but they did so quickly.
Explore any new vulnerabilities from your transitions. This is a good time to double-check permissions. Ensure that accountant Jane can access staff wage data but that receptionist Jenny can’t. Also, confirm that all virus protection and security patches are current.
Active planning is the answer to a smooth return to work. While offering protective coverings and ramping up cleaning in the office is important, make sure that you don’t overlook your technology needs.
Our IT experts can help you adapt nimbly. Contact us today at 432-279-0671!
Make Us Your Technology Sherpa
They don’t always get credit, but climbers reaching the summit of Mount Everest rely on a Sherpa to guide them. Making information technology decisions can feel like climbing a mountain, but there’s help for that, too. A managed services provider (MSP) like N-Line Technologies can be your technology Sherpa.
With so many of us working off-site right now, digital transformation has moved from “wouldn’t it be nice?” to “we need to be there now.” Technology is as essential to business success as oxygen is to those scaling Everest. Going digital can be daunting, especially when under pressure to get your business back on track. Where does one even begin?
By working with us, you will partner with consultants to help you navigate the technology mountain.
Even before COVID-19 sent so many people home to work, We provided IT help:
- researching new technologies to help customers collaborate better and work more efficiently;
- finding cost savings and ways to streamline business processes;
- offering cybersecurity and data backup strategies to suit business needs;
- monitoring and maintaining IT networks, systems, software, and applications;
- keeping systems up to date and secure;
- migrating business applications to the cloud.
The current environment is challenging businesses to pivot quickly, yet it’s business as usual for the US. We have prepared for decades to help businesses enable work from home and save money.
Taking the MSP Route
Working with an MSP, you gain the assistance of IT consultants to make the right tech decisions. This isn’t just deciding what online meeting platform works best for your needs (although we can do that, too). We work with you to take the time to learn:
- how you do business now;
- what technology is available;
- how users engage with the technology (on-site, mobile, a hybrid?);
- what your end users are looking for;
- short- and long-term business goals.
With this information, we can provide IT help at the business-strategy level. We will help you to see what works and what doesn’t. Drawing on a depth of experience with other customers, an MSP like N-Line can avoid expensive mistakes. We have a wealth of contacts with technology vendors and so we can often find you better deals.
At N-Line making IT work is our sole focus. You can spend your time on other important areas of your business. For a consistent subscription fee that shows great ROI, we will work to:
- improve efficiency and flexibility;
- enhance security and compliance;
- monitor and maintain your business systems;
- reduce costs and streamline processes;
- identify new technologies that can boost your users’ productivity.
Technology Tailored to Your Needs
Up until now, you may have been taking the guided bus tour approach to technology. You pay for an IT service and expect it to take you from point A to point B without a hitch. When you work with us, you’ll get a tailored IT solution. After getting to know your technology, user practices, and strategy, we will develop for you a customized journey. Your digital transformation will follow a step-by-step approach that considers your particular characteristics.
Let N-Line Technologies be your guide. Our experts can help you pivot if you need to. We can help you allow staff to work at home, securely, and efficiently. We can help you save money. We can help downsize technology if that’s what the current situation requires and make smarter decisions as you scale Mount Technology with the help of our experts.
We can even work virtually to provide the strategic support you need. Contact us today at 432-279-0671!
Tips for Trouble-Free Online Meetings
Online meetings are the new norm for many, but that doesn’t mean people magically know how to enjoy a trouble-free online conference experience. These tips can power more successful meetings.
Many businesses today are working from home with a reliance on Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or GoToMeeting. But even with these platforms offering voice or video capabilities, there can be tech problems. These tips can minimize the trouble and enhance business collaboration.
1. Go Wired
Connecting to Wi-Fi offers flexibility and mobility. Yet when it comes to an online meeting, prefer a wired connection. Enjoy a more reliable meeting connection by plugging your laptop or desktop into the internet router using a network cable.
If you need to use a mobile device and can’t connect via cable, reduce Wi-Fi obstacles. Call in from as a close to the wireless access point as you can. Wi-Fi signals are a form of radio wave, which means they can be hindered by:
So, that important meeting is not the one you join from a cement-bricked basement, not when your Wi-Fi router is in an upstairs bedroom and your neighbors are all relying on Wi-Fi signals, too.
2. Prioritize Your Meeting
When you have a scheduled meeting, announce it to the rest of the household. Ask kids not to get on Xbox or stream movies at the same time as you connect to your meeting. See if you can’t persuade your partner, who is also working from home, not to download large files or new software at the same time as your meeting.
Program your devices to back up at times that won’t compete with your work hours. In the office, your IT team scheduled updates or security patches outside of business hours. Now that you’re doing it all at home, be smart about when you do upgrades. Depending on your home internet speed, trying to do too many things at once can cause trouble for everyone.
3. Test Connections Before the Meeting
You may feel that all you’re doing is meeting online right now. Why would you need to test audio and video each time? Well, every time you unplug a device such as a microphone or headset the settings will return to the default. That means the next time you connect you aren’t set up the way you want to be. You were expecting to listen in using your USB headphones, but the last time you unplugged them your computer switched back to the next available audio input (e.g. your monitor or built-in laptop speakers).
By checking the connection first, you also make sure you have the most up-to-date platform software. You don’t want to be late to a call because your device has decided it needs to re-install Skype right at that moment.
4. Use the Right Equipment
Headsets and external microphones limit the ambient noise. You’ll hear better. Plus, it will make your contributions easier to hear, too.
Muting your microphone when you’re not talking also helps – it reduces the noise pollution. Problems can arise when your mic picks up other people talking through your speakers. This precaution also saves you from apologizing when your dog barks ferociously at the FedEx delivery person.
5. Pick the Best Setting
Plan the best place to take that online meeting. The closer you are to your wireless access point, the better your connection.
Plus, you want to avoid high-traffic areas, as you’re more likely to be distracted. A child or furry colleague could make an unplanned appearance.
Select an area with a simple background, too. Sitting in front of a window may seem like a good idea, but it makes your face darker and more difficult to see on video. Ideally, you want to be in a well-lit room with a plain wall as your background.
6. Take Full Advantage of Online Meeting Features
You may have done conference calls in the past. Everyone called in, spoke when necessary, and that was that. But much of the top business collaboration software offers added features:
Online meetings are efficient and cost-effective. With the current health crisis forcing many of us to adapt to connecting virtually, implementing these ideas can help.
Need help setting up your online meeting platform or deciding on the solution that’s right for you? We can help. Contact us today at 432-279-0671!
Improve Your IT Cashflow
The economy is one more victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The global lockdown has many businesses feeling the pain. As finances grow tighter, business leaders are looking to improve cashflow. These key areas can help IT curtail spending.
First, take a look at the way you’re working now. Chances are it’s changed. If users are working from home, you may have migrated business applications to the cloud. This offers opportunities to reduce costs:
- You may no longer need licenses that your on-site server isn’t using.
- There may be overlap now with the new cloud-based solutions and your old software.
By auditing your software usage and revisiting your license fees, you can identify savings. You may also have had to let people go. That means the computer systems they used no longer need active software licenses.
If you haven’t already done so, moving business applications online offers benefits. You can offer users access to a Microsoft Office package in Microsoft 365, or a similar setup in Google’s G-Suite, all for a small monthly fee. Your employees get to use the most up-to-date software, wherever they are, and you save money.
You might also take voice calling online. With Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications, you add features and greater mobility. VoIP can offer call recording, voicemail to email transcription, and more. Plus, packaging communications and cloud collaboration tools can lead to big savings, quickly.
Additionally, cloud-based voice, storage, and software solutions eliminate infrastructure maintenance and monitoring costs, and you pay only for the capacity you need. It helps that it’s easy to scale up or down to keep control of costs while business continues uninterrupted.
Rethink Your Partnerships
A vendor audit can help you identify where you are overspending. You may have contracts for phone, internet, software, storage and backup, and IT Help. Reviewing these arrangements, you may be able to find a new deal.
Better yet, work with a managed service provider (MSP). An MSP will review existing relationships to determine where solutions could be streamlined. Or the MSP may be able to get you a deal due to pre-existing relationships with vendors.
A great MSP will help identify the best IT strategies for your business – it’s an investment that pays off. Technology failures are costly, and having managed services experts monitoring your business IT works to prevent problems. The MSP’s security and disaster recovery methods can protect your business from a devastating breach.
It sounds counter-intuitive to add another expense, but a small amount monthly can prevent expensive blowouts that you may not recover from. The MSP fee means ongoing access to IT experts recommending technologies to meet specific business needs.
Keeping cash flow under control requires smart spending. You’re also looking for a return on your investment in technology maintenance and upkeep. Hiring an MSP can make a big difference. The MSP prompts IT modernizations based on your objectives to enhance work processes and improve productivity.
Do more than survive the current downturn. With an MSP in your corner, you can cut costs and emerge from the “Great Lockdown” a leaner, more agile business. Contact our experts to upgrade your technology and corral costs today! Call us at 432-279-0671
Remote Working with Office 365
Working from home is a big change in an already tumultuous time. Yet there’s a bright side. The quarantine could be your opportunity to reinvent how you work — for the better. Migrating to Microsoft Office 365 has benefits now. Plus, when you’re back to business as usual.
Office 365 is the cloud-based version of Microsoft Office. With a subscription, you get both the desktop and online versions of apps you already know. This includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, and more.
Office 365 enables collaboration in many ways, on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. For example:
- Outlook — primarily associated with email, but also lets you share notes and files
- Teams — a hub for instant messaging, video conferencing and calls
- SharePoint — an internal content management platform. SharePoint lets you customize team sites where you automate workflows and share resources
- Yammer — a social network connecting all the users in your organization
- OneDrive — allows users to share and co-author documents securely
Remote Work with Teams
Microsoft teams at its core is a chat program. But it does so much more. On all your devices, both iOS and Android, Teams allow “channels”. You can have company-wide or small task group channels. Or use a separate channel to instant messaging to a single person.
You can also invite clients or customers into channels to join the discussion. Additionally, you can set up security features that filter what they can access. You don’t want them to know the ingredients to your secret sauce!
Within Teams channels, users can share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Teams also integrates with other software. The options include Zendesk customer support, Asana project management, or Zoom video conferencing.
Using Teams in Office 365 creates a streamlined platform for remote work.
Remote Work with OneDrive
Working on-premises, your users always had access to the business file server. OneDrive is the cloud equivalent. Yet, since it’s online, it’s always accessible. Microsoft hosts the file storage to let you access and share work files from all your devices.
Employees can even work offline. Any changes or edits to files automatically upload when you next connect.
Share OneDrive folders or files with external partners as well. Again, you can secure access with limits on who can see what and specifying what actions they can take. You can even set up automatic revoke access after a set time limit.
Office 365 & Business Security
An Office 365 subscription protects from viruses and cybercrime. It also offers ways to recover your files from malicious attacks.
Office 365 apps update with security patches without any effort on your part. Plus, Outlook scans email attachments and checks links for viruses or phishing scams.
OneDrive helps you restore files, so they’re not held captive in a ransomware attack. Office 365 also lets users encrypt email, prevent forwarding, and secure sensitive files.
Office 365 lets your business communicate and collaborate in real-time. Work on any device, anywhere, at any time. Enjoy business agility and flexibility with internal and external users.
Migrating to the cloud isn’t as simple as pressing the “start” button. Still, our tech experts can get you up and running quickly and with ease. Let us help you go online and get back to business as usual, even working remotely. Contact us or Call us today 432-279-0671.
Watch how Microsoft Teams helped Clifton Coffee Roasters go beyond!
From the start, leaders at Clifton Coffee Roasters (CCR) knew they wanted to go beyond just roasting coffee. They wanted to empower other coffee companies to succeed. Now they provide technical support, delivery service, and back-of-house training to coffee shops across the UK, in addition to providing all of the products needed to run a coffee company.
But it wasn’t always that way. In the company’s early days, the team had a difficult time coming together, with employees scattered across the UK and no reliable means to connect them. Once they adopted a teamwork solution to improve internal communication, teamwork became easy and the business took off. The rest is history.
Want to take cues from CCR’s teamwork game? Contact us for help getting started.
Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams
With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.
The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.
So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyberscam people have been reported. There are examples of:
- emails that appear to come from government health departments;
- offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
- memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
- COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
- fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitizer;
- soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.
What to Watch Out For
Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.
You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.
What to Do
Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:
- be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;
- question where emails are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;
- hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in the WSJ example, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”;
- avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;
- doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);
- ignore any communications requesting your personal information;
- don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.
Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.
If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.
While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.
We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.
Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cybersecurity experts can give your business a tech immunization. Contact us today at 432-279-0671!
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- Benefits of remote work
- Technology options to empower offsite employees
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How To Keep Your Tech Squeaky Clean and Sanitized
While the world has been constantly reminded to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the agency is also advising to clean “high-touch” surfaces every day.
One of the most touched surfaces is undoubtedly your cellphone. The device is often pressed to the side of ears, tapped, swiped, or passed around multiple people. It goes everywhere with us, making it the ideal surface for virus transfer, so it is important not to neglect cleaning it daily.
Our tech is something we use every day, but did you know it’s also the most disgusting? And we are not talking just about the Coronavirus. Your screen may look clean, but studies show that a mobile phone can be 18x dirtier than a public restroom – ew! It gets worse (sorry)…that keyboard you tap at while eating your morning toast? It’s probably the biggest bacterial threat in your house, with about 20 000 times more germs than a toilet seat, more if you share it with children.
It’s not just sickness we’re up against, because as dust builds up inside gadgets, they also slow down, malfunction or overheat. Your device essentially chokes on ick, as vents and filters are clogged by sucking in pet hair and floating debris. Here’s how to clean your essential tech items without damaging them:
1. Skip the household cleaners: Most cleaning products are too harsh for our technology and can end up causing permanent damage. You want something that can kill germs and remove everyday grime, without scratching or leaving behind a scented residue. Your best bet is 70% or higher Isopropyl Alcohol. You’ll find it in the first aid section of supermarkets and pharmacies, or at the hardware store.
2. Power down completely: Turn your tech off all the way, not just sleeping, and unplug from any power sources. Switch wireless keyboards, mice, etc off underneath or remove the batteries.
3. Remove any cases or covers: Undress your device as much as you can, but leave screen protectors on (unless there’s grime underneath). If your screen protector needs replacing, have a new one ready to apply.
4. Grab a microfiber cloth: Dampen the cloth with Isopropyl Alcohol and wipe screens and external surfaces gently. Devices with older build-up may require extra effort.
5. Go deep: You can use a toothbrush or cotton tip to clean between most crevices, but some areas will need a bit more ‘oomph’ to clear. You’ve probably seen people use vacuum cleaners on their keyboard, but these are often TOO powerful and may suck keys or internal parts loose. They also generate damaging static electricity. Another option is to use a tech-specific vacuum, but these are usually underpowered.
Insider tip: Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust out. You can get these from many stores and they come with a long nozzle so you can really get in and direct the pressure. You’ll be surprised what flies out, so it’s best to do this outside! We don’t recommend using compressed air on your computer’s internal fans though, as this can make them spin too fast and damage them.
How often you clean your tech is up to you and your lifestyle. But it’s a good idea to blow out computer internal dust at least twice a year and wiping your tech down every day will reduce germs and grime.
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