Wednesday, September 15, 2021

A.I. Can Sell Pastries and Diagnose Cancer

 Artificial intelligence is one of the most intriguing technologies that has come down the pike. For the small and medium-sized business, it may seem more like science fiction than a solution to their business’ operational problems. Today, AI is more accessible for the SMB than ever, and today, we thought we would share with you a situation where the technology—designed to help out in a bakery—is being used to diagnose cancer. 


Why Would a Bakery Use AI in the First Place?

In Japan, where the technology was developed, they have a lot of cafeteria-style restaurants. An AI-aided software was developed to automate the role of cashier. Instead of having a human cashier on staff to count out the shopper’s selections at checkout, an attendant simply instructs customers to place the baked goods they want to buy out on the counter. Once they are ready to check out, the whole process takes seconds. The AI effectively identifies the pastries, calculates the price owed and calculates a total for the customer. This allows each customer to be rang up much more quickly.

By streamlining the process with automation, these Japanese bakeries, which usually carry large selections of items, were able to check out more people and it increased their revenue. It also cut down on the packaging required as the AI would identify each individual pastry. The development of this AI-integrated application was spearheaded by BRAIN Co. Called BakeryScan, it is now in over 400 retail establishments in Japan and costs around $20,000 to deploy. 

By the way: if you’re worried about the prospect of unwrapped baked goods being sold in the past year or so, the technology has since improved to recognize pastries through protective wrapping just as accurately.

This technology has obvious benefits for retail organizations, but what you won’t expect is that nearly the same software could find another use: Diagnosing cancer.

A doctor at Kyoto’s Louis Pasteur Center for Medical Research saw a segment on TV and the connection was made. Turns out that some baked goods look similar to some cancer cells observed through a microscope. Making an association with the utility of the BakeryScan AI, it was repurposed as AI-Scan, a medical tool. 

AI-Scan can spot differences in cancerous urinary cells with its Cyto-AiSCAN offshoot (with accuracy measuring over 99 percent), and has been adopted for many other purposes. Today, organizations are using it to distinguish pill types, one company uses it to identify bolts and other fasteners that may have some problem. Toyota has also started using the technology to help design more effective airbags. 

This gives you a good idea about how AI is being adopted to further the technology used to improve the outlook for humanity, but it can also be used to help your business. Today, there are a number of software solutions that have integrated an AI or machine learning system that can help you streamline processes or, like AI-Scan, change the way you view your business.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Why Every Business Should Seriously Consider Virtualization as an Option

 Business hardware is never a small investment to make, so for a business to make the best use out of their invested funds, their hardware needs to be seriously considered. One way to do so is to use a virtualized environment, whether that environment is hosted onsite or in the cloud. Let’s consider the inherent benefits of virtualization.


The Shift in Business Computing

It wasn’t all that long ago that a business’ options were limited. Smaller businesses that wanted to expand their infrastructures had to purchase a new server and use it for a specific purpose. Given the hardware, data, and application control this gives the organization, it makes the most sense for a business with an IT support team onsite—assuming the business has a budget that can support it.

This is because a server used in this way doesn’t make use of its full capabilities. With each server dedicated to a single, specific purpose, there are a lot of resources potentially going to waste each time. However, in a virtualized environment, this hardware can be used for multiple processes, helping to vastly reduce the investment needed to support them all.

How Does Virtualization Work?

Instead of dedicating an entire server to each application you’re hosting, several virtual servers can share the resources on one piece of hardware. This means that the same processes that would once require four separate servers could now be accomplished with one.

Some Benefits of Virtualization

While virtualization does bring some significant up-front costs, the overall reduction in hardware costs can make these expenses worth it for many organizations, with the added accessibility this strategy provides serving as a nice externality. Not only can you reduce the infrastructure required to support your processes, but you can also reduce the need for your entire team to congregate into one place. These factors can combine to help result in hardware cost reductions ranging from 40-to-60 percent, with the cost of management, business utilities, and maintenance also reducing.

Businesses can then take these cost savings and reinvest them into forward-thinking initiatives while also making use of their improved capabilities. With new environments able to be created in mere minutes, and backups and security management consolidated substantially, efficiency is gained.

Cloud-Based Company Benefits

A virtualized environment can also be hosted in a bigger virtualized environment, as cloud resources are now more accessible, affordable, and secure than ever before. Pairing the benefits of cloud and virtualization can deliver even more substantial advantages for the cost of a modicum of data control.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Profiting Off Your IT Investments

 Revenue generation is the name of the game for every business and sometimes technology is looked on as more of a hindrance to profitability than a tool to cultivate it. To turn this notion around, a business needs to make strategic investments that will return some type of benefit, whether that be the availability of alternate revenue streams, a boost in productivity, improved collaboration, and more. Today, let’s take a look at some ways that businesses can invest in their IT and improve their profitability as a result. 


Using IT to Boost Operational Efficiency

One of the things technology is great at doing is making inefficient systems more efficient. Today, many of the problems small and medium-sized businesses have are that they lack the efficiency in their human resources to make gains on the balance sheet. Automation can change any business’ fortunes in this regard.

Think about it this way, one of your employees has to produce something in order to be viable, right? If half of that person’s job is working on the business, whether it be small mundane and repetitive tasks that waste their focus or their time, or if they are being asked to support the same product they are charged with creating, they won’t be nearly as productive as they should be (or they would like to be). Go on like this for a while and anyone can be frustrated.

By automating some of the things they do--that is, using computer-run systems to take over those mundane and repetitive tasks--they will be able to truly focus on the job you hired them for, and therefore you can expect a happier, more productive person. Additionally, all those little tasks that kept them from being more productive will be done without error, every time, building efficiency and keeping downtime to a minimum. 

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The technology your business uses is expensive, this much is true. Servers, workstations, networking: they all cost an arm and a leg to purchase, but also to monitor and maintain properly. One way that the modern SMB can avoid these massive capital expenditures is to utilize the numerous IT-related services at their disposal. 

Considering cloud computing is a great way to start. Today there are Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings that require next to zero capital expense. You can get all the computing and services from cloud vendors and you will pay per month or per gigabyte for them. This means that your business’ computing resources can be an operational expense, easier to budget, and available from anywhere on nearly any device. 

For those companies that like to have their IT onsite, outsourcing your IT support and management to a managed service provider (MSP) is a great way to get all the value of having a dedicated IT staff, at a fraction of the cost. Not only does the MSP keep your technology running effectively, minimizing downtime, it also offers a myriad of useful services including backup and disaster recovery, patch management, vendor management, and more. If you want to take a chunk out of your IT support costs, while maximizing your business’ ability to function by reducing downtime, managed IT services are a great option for any SMB.

Considering the Current State of Phishing

 We will never pass up the opportunity to draw attention to the importance of cybersecurity awareness, as it is a crucial element for any business to consider. One serious issue that has caused significant stress amongst businesses is phishing. Let’s consider some recent statistics to evaluate where we stand right now, specifically in terms of the prevalence of phishing attacks.


What is Phishing, Again?

Let’s break down the basic idea of a phishing attack (if only briefly):

Rather than relying on fancy coding or malware, a phishing attack targets the user to try to fool them into handing over their credentials, financial information, and other valuable and sensitive data rather than undermining their technology in some way.

These attacks are, in a word, effective… and in another word, prevalent. After all, around the world, a full 88 percent of organizations experienced a direct phishing attack (known as spear phishing) in 2019—which actually marked a decline in phishing’s popularity amongst cybercriminals. In 2020, phishing resurged once again to make up approximately one of every 4,200 emails or so sent, and Google has registered over two million phishing sites as of January 17th of this year (compared to just over 1.6 million at the same point the year prior).

These attacks have resulted in lost and stolen data, compromised accounts, malware and ransomware infections, and of course financial losses.

Unsurprisingly, Phishing Has Exploded

While phishing has always been an issue, the events of 2020 made it particularly impactful. 75 percent of organizations worldwide were targeted by phishing of some kind over the year, while 74 percent of United States organizations were successfully attacked. Considering the cost that phishing attacks can incur for a business—$3.92 million on average—and the variety of ways that these costs are incurred, phishing can safely be referred to as one of the biggest issues that businesses face on a regular basis right now.

Naturally, this is not good, and strongly suggests that more needs to be done to help prevent successful phishing attacks from taking place.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Strong Backup Practices is as Easy as Counting to Three

 Individuals are increasingly understanding the value of their data, and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, a lot of small and medium-sized businesses are operating today without any type of data backup protecting their business’ data, and that, of course, is bad. It is important that if you don’t have a dedicated data backup and recovery strategy in place, that you work to fix that immediately. Today we’ll tell you why. 


Keeping Redundant

Typically, you don’t want to be redundant. But when it comes to your business’ data, you absolutely do. The reason is that there are numerous (countless even) ways where your business, if it loses its data (or even control of it) would be in great peril. Redundancy means that you have your systems backed up and ready to restore should something terrible happen.

The 3-2-1 Rule Spells R-e-d-u-n-d-a-n-c-y

One of the best ways that you can ensure that your business has built a proper level of redundancy is by subscribing to the 3-2-1 rule. This is a guideline that every business should adhere to. Essentially it means keeping (at least) three copies of your data. Two are stored onsite and one is stored offsite. 

Our clients have their working copy, which is the data they use everyday; then they have an onsite backup, which is stored in a specially-designed Network Attached Storage (NAS) device called a BDR; and finally, they have their offsite storage, which is uploaded to offsite storage in the cloud. The redundancy built effectively ensures that whatever happens to your business, you will have a way to restore your data. The BDR also allows for incremental backups, which means that as you work, the changes are backed up to the BDR periodically (every hour and as often as every 15 minutes). Doing so provides you with a copy of your data that is up to date and ready to restore regardless of the circumstances that require you to restore your data from your backup platforms.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Tip of the Week: How to Identify and Address Workplace Distractions

 Technology might be a great tool to enhance productivity, but we need everyone to understand that it can only do so much for an unproductive user. It’s not uncommon for users to bounce back and forth between tasks, and this can lead to unfortunate bouts of unproductive behavior. Let’s discuss some ways that you can help your team overcome these obstacles.


How Do These Distractions Impact Productivity?

The average worker in the United States gets distracted from their work every 11 minutes or so, and it takes 25 minutes to regain focus on whatever they happen to be working on. As you might expect, more complicated tasks will require more time to refocus due to the greater mental effort required to shift focus back to the more challenging work.

Considering how most workplaces want to squeeze out all of the productivity they can, this turnaround rate is far from ideal. Therefore, minimizing distractions is an important part of making the most of all resources available, including your employees. In order to make this happen, it’s critical that you acknowledge how big a problem distractions can be. There are two different types of distractions: external and internal.

The Difference Between Internal and External Distractions

One might argue that distractions are bad no matter what they are, but there are benefits to understanding the difference between internal and external distractions, as well as their impact on productivity.

External distractions are all over the place in the business world. These kinds of distractions come from emails, phone calls, instant messages, and sudden meetings, all of which come from a place external from the user. These external distractions are compounded by internal distractions, those that come from within the user themself. These come in the form of various mental blocks that keep the user from focusing on the task at hand, such as the inability to prioritize tasks or weigh options accordingly. You can compare it to looking at a restaurant menu. If there are too many choices, making a decision can be difficult. Smaller menus, on the other hand, encourage quick decisions.

Many workplaces set the schedules of their employees, so this naturally isn’t a perfect comparison. We think it is a fair assessment that these internal distractions stem from an inability to prioritize tasks assigned to team members. This isn’t always their fault, though; if everything is identified as an important or high priority, who can blame them for not knowing which task is the higher priority? This all creates a situation where employees do not know how to identify the most important tasks, leading them to make decisions that are not as efficient or are done out of order.

Other internal distractions manifest themselves in the form of wandering thoughts or trying to plan for the future without adequately focusing on the present. All in all, internal and external distractions make true productivity a rarity in even the most dedicated employee. Still, despite these challenges, it’s possible to help your employees overcome their distractions, and it all starts with sharing some best practices with them.

How to Minimize Distractions

Eliminate Options

Let’s revisit the menu scenario we brought up earlier. Too many options make it difficult to focus on the task at hand, so if you can eliminate options that lead to more work or an inability to focus, you can improve productivity. For example, spending a few minutes clearing your area of distractions or thinking about the most important tasks can save quite a bit of time down the line. It’s a classic case of saving a lot by spending a little upfront.

Set Limits

Just like how having a clear goal in mind can help you work toward it, so too can having a set endpoint for a specific task at hand. Give yourself a set amount of time to work on something, then transition to the next task. Even if the task is not completed within that time frame, keeping your mind fresh and focused by switching things up can be beneficial. On the other side of things, you might actually get even more done than you anticipate.

Control Your Environment

If you can control your environment, you can control your ability to focus on your work. If there is a lot of noise, for example, you can try to use a pair of headphones to drown out the noise. If there is something distracting going on in your office, you might try to work from a different room with a laptop. If the room smells, it can be quite the distraction, so do your best to avoid situations like these that make focusing on tasks difficult.

If you can successfully identify these distractions, you can more effectively avoid them in the workplace, leading to more productivity overall.

What are some of the worst distractions you have found in the workplace, and what have you done about them? Subscribe to our blog for more great ways to overcome common workplace obstacles using the power of technology.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Tip of the Week: Activating Clicklock on a Laptop

 Laptops are pretty great. They’re powerful, yet portable computers that can be brought effectively anywhere work needs to be done. That being said, there are a few drawbacks that can irritate many users to some extent. For instance: trying to click-and-drag your cursor as you are using the trackpad. For this week’s tip, let’s go into a feature that you can use to make this process a lot simpler.


Fair warning, this will require you to play around in your Settings, so make sure you refer to your IT provider for confirmation that these changes are okay to make before pulling the trigger.

ClickLock Can Make Your Trackpad Cooperate

ClickLock is a feature that, instead of requiring the “drag” component of click-and-drag, allows you to start and stop your drag option on your laptop by simply holding your click a little longer.

Using it breaks down like this:

  • Hover your cursor over the window or item you are trying to move and press and hold the (left) touchpad button for a few seconds. This activates ClickLock.
  • Once ClickLock is active, simply release the mouse button and move the cursor freely to where you want your window or item to go.
  • Once it is positioned, press the (left) touchpad once again to confirm your drag selection.

This makes it significantly simpler to use click-and-drag on a trackpad… but first, you need to activate it.

Activating ClickLock

To use ClickLock, you need to first fiddle in your Control Panel:

  • In the Control Panel, navigate to Hardware and Sound.
  • There, find the Devices and Printers section and click the link to the Mouse section.
  • In the Buttons tab, check the box labelled Turn on ClickLock, click Apply, and then Ok.

Hopefully, this will help make using a laptop that much simpler. For more tips and best practices, keep checking back to our blog!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Explore Opportunities with Different Blockchain Varieties

 With Bitcoin picking up steam, the technology that fuels it, the blockchain, is being explored as an opportunity for many businesses out there. Let’s take a look at what some of the benefits and shortcomings of this technology are, as well as how they are commonly used.


The biggest and most immediate benefit of the blockchain—essentially a decentralized ledger—can be seen through the use of Bitcoin, but at the same time, its shortcomings are hard to ignore. For example, the amount of energy it requires to operate can be a major issue, making it inadequate for many businesses and their specific needs. As Bitcoin operates on the public blockchain, it cannot store sensitive information or proprietary data, and for businesses that need it to do so, this is simply a deal breaker. That said, there are four varieties of blockchain to consider; let’s dive into the public blockchain first, then explore the other types.

Public Blockchain

The public blockchain is the most open form of blockchain. Anyone can participate in transactions and maintain their own copy of the ledger. All you need is a connection to the Internet. As the first form of blockchain created, it is the most common one that cryptocurrencies use. Other possible opportunities for the public blockchain include voting and fundraising, and it’s only possible because of how open the system is.

While openness is one of the public blockchain’s greatest virtues, it comes with a couple of key challenges. The rate at which transactions can happen is quite slow, which ties into the second disadvantage of a blockchain network remaining limited in scope.

Private Blockchain

Instead of being accessible by all, a private blockchain is a closed network that is maintained by a single entity. In most cases, it is a business that wants to use the primary benefits of a blockchain—namely trust and security—within its own operations. In this way, the private and public blockchains are quite similar, despite the private blockchain’s more centralized design.

The efficiency of a centralized system makes the entire blockchain run more smoothly, but it comes at the cost of some security. Some of the key uses for a private blockchain (like supply chain management, internal voting, and asset ownership) depend on security, so this is important to consider for any organization looking to take advantage of it.

Hybrid Blockchain

The public and private blockchains can be combined to create a solution that works for businesses that want the best of both. In essence, a hybrid blockchain allows for connecting to public networks without sacrificing privacy. Through the use of customizable rules, organizations can keep data secure.

As is the case with any good solution, there are some drawbacks that must be considered. In the case of the hybrid blockchain, one such drawback is that it lacks transparency compared to the other types of blockchains, and there is no prerogative for an organization to go through with this adoption process. Still, there are some notable uses for a hybrid blockchain—industries like real estate, retail, and other companies that must adhere to specific regulations.

Federated Blockchain

Similar to the hybrid blockchain, a federated blockchain combines the benefits of both the public and private blockchains. Some records remain open, whereas others remain secure and private. This is notable because multiple organizations might find value in the network, allowing it to remain decentralized. This makes the federated blockchain quite customizable and efficient; businesses can fully leverage access controls, even though this blockchain is more vulnerable, less transparent, and less anonymous than the others. Some of the key uses for a private blockchain could be utilized include banking, research, and food tracking.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Choosing the Right Software Is Essential for Today’s Businesses

 Most businesses rely on specific software, and a lot of it. It’s used to manage, protect, and facilitate your business. Today’s software is more flexible than ever before, and while control over your business’ IT systems is always better, the ability for a business to get the tools it needs may take you in a different direction. Let’s take a look at some considerations you should make when you are looking to get software for your business. 

Problems Need Solutions

Your business is unique, and because of this its software profile will be unique as well. Some software titles will simply help you do more with what you have. You will have to identify the problems your business is having and then try to attempt to solve those problems with software that provides solutions. This might seem pretty straightforward, but software, especially management software, is complicated and finding the right solutions takes time.  

Problems that you may be having include: resource redundancy, software overload, departmental coordination issues, and a lack of collaborative support. If you want to run your business efficiently, you need to ensure that the software you use is working for your goals not against them. 


Workflow is a Major Consideration

In order to be effective, management software will need to fit the way you do business. Before you commit to a solution, you should map out your business’ daily activities, how you would like to track them, and all the metrics you would like calculated. This will help you eliminate solutions that aren’t a good fit for your business today. 

Beyond that you will need to consider what options you need out of your software. Do you need to customize it to fit your business or is an out-of-the-box solution going to work fine? What problems does your current software have and how can new software help you solve those problems? Remember, this is a costly endeavor and if you don’t do your due diligence to ensure that you are getting an effective solution to your business’ problems, you may be spending a lot more capital just to get back to where you started.

Identifying Problems

As was mentioned above, your new software needs to solve the major problems you already have. Sure, it might create some new ones, but as long as the software helps your business make gains, it’s working. Unfortunately, identifying the problems is the problem. Putting together a hierarchy of problems will help you get to where you want to go. 

Compliance and Other Qualifications

Obviously, you will need to know what you want out of new software before purchasing it, but you will also need to know what responsibilities your business already has. Does your business operate with certain restrictions due to regulatory requirements? Do you need third-party integrations to make your management software more effective? Are you considering hosting this software in the cloud? How will it affect your sales, marketing, and production teams? How much training will you and your staff need before you/they are proficient with the software? All these are major considerations and need to be addressed before you commit to any new software.

Identifying Costs

Adding software to your business’ roster is typically costly, that much is true. Costs can come from all different directions, but if you find a software that fits, your ROI should be rapid. Some of the costs you will have to consider are:

  • Licensing
  • Hosting (Hardware)
  • Training
  • Maintenance

...and more.

Some businesses will choose to integrate a solution that seems to have all the features they need, but will have problems with training and implementation. For example, if you are looking for a CRM and an enterprise CRM fits your needs, but will cost too much to purchase and maintain, implementing it would be gratuitous, and ultimately a complete nightmare. Make sure you stay within your budget constraints to ensure you can avoid runaway costs that come with implementing and supporting new software. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Automation Can Spell Panic for Employees, But Also Relief Under the Right Circumstances

 Automation technology has many workers concerned about the future of their jobs. Computers are one of the many technologies that grow exponentially more powerful with every passing year, and these improvements lead to innovations that can save businesses tons of time and capital, but when applied to automation, does this come at the cost of jobs? Let’s see why workers in certain industries might be concerned about automation, as well as whether or not their concerns are warranted.


Defining Automation

Automation is when you use technology to fulfill tasks that would normally be done by humans with the intention of minimizing human input. When it can be carried out successfully, tasks can be performed with higher degrees of predictability, repeatability, and efficiency. This reduces the risk of user error and generally takes any unforeseen issues off the table, freeing up time for use elsewhere. Computing systems themselves have been used in automation for quite some time, but artificial intelligence and machine learning have brought about a whole new level of innovation, so much to the point that some workers wonder if they will be replaced by machines.

Is There a Reason to Worry?

This isn’t as straightforward a question as it might seem. Some are worried when there is no reason to be, whereas others are not concerned enough. Roughly a quarter of today’s workforce worries that automation is coming for their jobs within the next five years. In particular, young people are worried (37 percent), likely because they are generally more aware of how technology influences businesses to work toward automation. The older the worker is, the less likely they feel they can be replaced by automation.

Other contributing factors are age disparity and income difference. 34 percent of workers who make less than $50,000 annually are fearful their jobs will be automated. As wages increase, the number of those concerned decreases exponentially. Most jobs replaced by automation are those of unskilled workers, so this trend is not necessarily unexpected.

 One way to see these differences is by looking at industries that have traditionally lost jobs to automation. Think industries like automotive, business support and logistics, advertising and marketing, and retail. Positions in these industries are more likely to be considered at risk.

Here’s an example: truck drivers are growing increasingly more wary of automation technology, as self-driving trucks are not just a developing technology. They have already made their debut in the industry. All it takes is some legislation and a bit of refinement for them to be here to stay, leading truck drivers to lose their jobs. The most concerning part of this is that these laborers do might not have skills that can be applied elsewhere to land themselves in a position with the same financial stability as previously.

In cases like those outlined above, it is clear that these workers are at very real risk of being replaced by automation. However, automation is not all doom and gloom for all workers. While it does take away certain opportunities, it opens the door for so many others.

How Can Automation Help Workers?

Some workers are threatened by automation, but others are finding that it is a great benefit that makes their jobs easier. Managing a business involves several small tasks that can be repetitive by nature, but the use of automation can make these tasks easier or completely automate them, freeing up time that can be spent on larger or more complicated tasks. When skilled employees are allowed to use the skills they have built up over time, they are going to be happier and enjoy their jobs much more, leading to greater overall satisfaction and productivity.

Automation gives companies the opportunity to save money, work smarter, and utilize all available resources to be as productive as possible. When businesses are able to maximize efficiency, the quality of products and services rendered can increase, leading to greater demand for such products or services, ultimately resulting in a greater demand for more jobs, opportunities, and workers. We hope that you can now see the value in automation for small businesses. What are your thoughts on automation technology? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Accounting Firms are Counting on Their IT

 We’re right in the middle of tax season and accountants are having to manage potential attacks on their data. Since people depend on your organization to keep their most sensitive information secure, having an effective strategy to protect that information is extremely important. As an IT service provider, we have solutions to help accountants handle this issue. Let’s take a look. 


Securing an Individual’s Tax Data

Cybercriminals understand that accountants hold some of the most lucrative data there is, and tax time is an extremely stressful time for them. This stress leads to opportunities for cyberattacks. Of course, accountants aren’t the only profession that can make major mistakes protecting client data, it’s just that the data they are charged with protecting is extraordinarily sensitive. It just so happens that it is the data that hackers and scammers most covet.  

Even if these hackers decide the path of least resistance is to use ransomware as their modus operandi, the ransomware they use to lock down your organization’s network resources and data will put your organization in a really difficult situation, especially as April 15th rapidly approaches. 

Additionally, if your organizations work with larger companies, these businesses may start to think of you as a liability if you have problems securing their data. Losing control over the data your firm is trusted with is a telltale sign that your business is in trouble. This is why prioritizing data security is essential. 

Protecting Your Data

To protect your data, you need a backup and disaster recovery plan. If you are unfortunate enough to deal with a ransomware attack, the only way to skate through that situation is by restoring your data from backup. Not only that, it is a huge part of any continuity plan, regardless of what data you hold or what kind of business you have. 

Net It On offers an array of IT-related services that are tailor-made for professional service companies like accountants. Not only do we offer customizable backup and disaster recovery solutions, we also provide around-the-clock monitoring and support to ensure that your organization’s IT is working properly. Our IT services can provide your organization with increased productivity, stability, collaboration, and communications, all of which can benefit your company's bottom line.

Are You Ready to Be Your Best Business?

Monday, August 2, 2021

Productivity Apps Are Here to Stay

 To stay competitive, businesses need to leverage any tools they can to optimize productivity. This includes what is often marketed as productivity software. Unfortunately, shopping for these tools can often lead you down the same rabbit hole, looking at the same products over and over, trying to determine which one is the best bang for your buck. Here are some pointers for finding the best productivity apps for your organization’s needs.


Productivity in Software

It might not be the most attractive solution in terms of what it can do for your organization, but productivity software is important nonetheless. Regardless of industry or business size, all organizations need certain applications to get anything done during the workday. While you could just go with your gut and take the first one that appears, we urge you to dig deeper and get the appropriate tools for your business’ specific needs.

Most productivity suites come with the basics: a word processor, a spreadsheet program, presentation software, note-taking software, and task management tools. While they might seem similar on the surface, the way that they are deployed or managed by the developer can make all of the difference, especially when determining if it’s a good match for your business.

What to Look For

Your budget and your needs will likely play a major role in which productivity apps you choose to go with. You generally know what you sign up for with any word processor, but more innovative solutions might lead to better overall productivity, which can be quite important for this decision. Here are some variables that you might want to consider.

Reliability

If your software does not work when it’s needed, it isn’t worth the investment. When considering reliability, you can take a couple of different approaches. Is it secure? Does it have the options you need, and do they work when you need them? Is the program easy to use or easy to train someone to use? Simply put, if the software causes more problems than it solves, it’s simply not the right one for you.

Interoperability

If your workers are remote and on their own devices, you will find that not everyone runs the same operating system, specifications, or other software/hardware solutions. Whatever productivity solution you implement should be able to work across all technology platforms used by your employees. This also applies to mobile devices. For example, if most of your employees use macOS, you will want to purchase software that is compatible with it; failing to do so will make it much harder (or even impossible) for your employees to do their jobs.

Accessibility

With so many employees working either entirely remotely or in a hybrid fashion, it’s important that your apps work on any device through the cloud. This is where Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) comes in. SaaS can help your business set up a cloud server for remote access to your organization’s apps. This helps your employees be productive no matter how or where they choose to work.

Collaboration Features

Employees are always trying to do more with the time they have, and when you have several of them working together on a project, collaboration features are a must. You should be able to work in the same file, share files, and stay up to date on workflows throughout the process. Many productivity suites come with these features built-in, allowing employees to work on files in real-time with minimal complications.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Tip of the Week: Protecting Your Mobile Device Against Guests

 Let’s face facts: there could easily be quite a bit on your mobile device that you don’t want someone to have access to. However, on the other side of the coin, you hardly want to appear rude and never let someone use your phone to place a call or look up some contact information… right? As it turns out, Android has a little-known feature called Android Guest Mode that many can use to share one’s device more securely.


Understanding Android Guest Mode

Introduced as a part of Android 5.0 Lollipop back in 2014, Android Guest Mode adds that little touch of security to help mitigate one of its largest security flaws: the naivete of your team members when faced with a scammer. All the firewalls and antivirus in the world won’t do a lick of good if your team member were to hand their unlocked and unprotected device right over… something an enterprising scammer could trick them into doing with a sufficiently innocent-seeming request to borrow the device for a quick call.

This exact scenario turns the phone into an access point for an attacker, granting them access to protected data and the ability to install spyware if they choose.

In response, Android now comes with the capability to temporarily revert your device into a fresh-out-of-the-box version, hiding your settings, applications, accounts, and data from view. If the device’s manufacturer provides support for the feature, Guest Mode is simple to access and utilize as a means of preserving your data security and your manners alike.

Samsung Device Owners, We Have Some Bad News…

If you were about to take out your new Galaxy S21 Ultra to set this up, or even your Galaxy Note9, don’t bother. For whatever reason, Samsung has adjusted the software in their devices to no longer offer this feature. Other Android users should have no problem and will find the process to be quite simple once they have enabled it.

Enabling and Activating Android Guest Mode

This process is very simple:

  • Access your device’s Settings.
  • From there, access Advanced and Multiple users. If your manufacturer has changed their menu order, search for “Guest Mode.”
  • Switch the toggle to “On” to enable Guest Mode.

From that point, you’ll be able to access your Quick Settings panel and, from there, the user profile that is active. This will give you the option to Add guests. This will switch the device to Guest Mode, where only the default applications are visible.

To revert your device back to normal, return to Quick Settings and again access the user profile. Select Remove guest and confirm your identity with the requested authentication measure to restore your phone to normal.

Monday, July 26, 2021

A Company’s Cybersecurity Culture Starts from the Top

 There are countless aspects of running a business that demand your attention on a daily basis, but one of the most important that can often go by the wayside is cybersecurity. No matter the size of your business, cybersecurity can make all the difference in preserving your organization’s future. While we recommend implementing technology solutions to make cybersecurity easier to manage, without an established culture of cybersecurity, your business will remain at risk regardless of the measure you take to protect it.


That’s where you come in; as the leader, it’s your responsibility to foster this culture and bring it to the forefront of your efforts. Even with top-of-the-line security standards and secure passwords, if your team members are not acting in accordance with your cybersecurity measures, these solutions won’t be enough to protect your business.

Build a Culture of Cybersecurity

Have you ever heard of the concept of social proof? It’s usually used in the context of marketing, but it can be put to good use for your organization’s cybersecurity culture as well. Social proof implies that people can be convinced to think or act in a certain way based on what others have to say on the topic. While it might seem easy enough to implement in the workplace, it’s not always a simple or straightforward process.

An important note is that your organization’s cybersecurity culture will not see an immediate shift; it will instead form over time as more employees buy into the thought process. It takes time!

When you onboard a new employee, consider the influence that the other employees might have on their perception of cybersecurity. If the cybersecurity culture at your company is less-than-stellar, your employees might tell the new hire that they should use the same username and password, a practice that could potentially leave your organization more at risk than necessary. If this behavior persists, it can become the norm. This systemic risk can affect your entire organization if left unchecked.

But what if you instead encourage the proper cybersecurity practices? If company policies require that all of your passwords must have a certain level of complexity, and your employees are all on board with this policy, any new hires will be indoctrinated into this mindset by default.

Set a Good Example

As the business owner, you can take action to create a culture of cybersecurity awareness within your day-to-day operations. Here are just a few of them:

  • Strong Password Hygiene: Having password policies is not enough; instead, implement solutions that require a minimum standard of security.
  • Clear Access Controls: While you can restrict access to certain users, it’s important to reevaluate these on a regular basis to look for weaknesses and shortcomings in your network security.
  • Ongoing Security Training: Onboarding should be just the start of your employees’ cybersecurity training. Proper practices can be reinforced periodically through the use of regular training sessions.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

In 2021 and Beyond; Your Business Has to Have a Network Security Budget

 Most modern businesses are using information systems to accelerate their profitability. In fact, small and medium-sized businesses are expected to spend over $650 billion in 2021. The question becomes what technologies are they spending their money on, and are they objectively the right investments to make? Today, we will unpack these questions by highlighting two investments that many businesses are pursuing.


SMB’s IT Budgets are in the Clouds

Technology is good to enhance an organization’s efficiency and to control costs. If you consider the cost of hiring one person, training them, and paying them for four years against the cost of buying a new server, software licensing, and maintaining that hardware for four years, one number would dwarf the other. The more technology can be used to fill in the gaps where human resources would function more effectively, the less a business will spend.

One way SMBs are earmarking technology in their budget is by taking advantage of cloud computing solutions. Before the past couple of years, businesses had too much anxiety to utilize cloud computing for much more than data backup and the occasional SaaS package. Today, however, cloud computing is one of the fastest growing parts of the SMB IT sector. At some point it’s fair to ask, are businesses beginning to rely on the cloud for too much? I’m not sure we’re there yet, but by using cloud computing it gives SMBs a way to effectively control computing costs, gain remote access to mission-critical business resources, and do work from about anywhere on any device. That holds a lot of value for the SMB operating in 2021. 

Not Enough Security Spending

While SMBs are eager to spend their capital on the perceived value of cloud options, many aren’t doing enough to protect their network and infrastructure. One report suggests that 30 percent of SMBs in 2020 spend less than $1,000 per year on security. This is egregiously low, especially when you consider what a data breach could cost your company.

Consider that you have a good deal of sensitive and extremely personal data on file at your business. You also have data that has cost you a small fortune to create. Many SMBs simply don’t recognize the risk that their business is under and they prioritize their budget considerations based on trying to bring in revenue, not keep what they already have safe. When you stop and consider the risk, however, not spending enough to secure their network is like not locking up the office when you leave at night. Sure, most days nothing will happen, but the day something does will be a very bad day.

Businesses don’t need to empty their pocketbooks to prioritize network security, but they need to understand that it is important. Experts suggest that the average SMB should spend about 7-to-10 percent of their IT budget each year on security. The peace of mind in doing so will go a long way toward providing the assurance that your business’ assets are secure and that your business can operate freely. It is simply money well spent.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Tip of the Week: Managing Turnover

 A lot of people have wanted to do their jobs from home for a very long time. It took a global pandemic to make it happen, but over the past year, millions of people have successfully navigated remote work from the comfort of their homes. The reality of it was a lot different than what most of them expected, however. Some organizations are simply better at managing their remote workers and this, and other factors, have led to some significant turnover at some companies. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this and give you a couple of tips that will help you retain your remote workers.


Why Are You Dealing with Employee Turnover?

First, we have to say that with so many businesses offering remote work capabilities, it’s going to be difficult to keep employees in the fold if they get more money or the promise that their new position will be completely remote. Some people just like working remotely and if another company can outbid for your worker’s services, it’s not on you. 

There are some other factors other than compensation, of course. Let’s unpack some of them:

The first thing you might not realize is that a lot of people don’t like working from home. Sure there are some benefits, but by and large, there are more distractions at home than there ever could be in the office. Kids, pets, household chores, not having a dedicated workspace; you name it, it can be a problem for some people.  As crazy as this sounds, some people will jump ship just to find an opportunity where they can be away from home and around people daily. 

In order for a worker to want to be productive for a company, they want to know that they are important to the team. Working remotely doesn’t provide that as much, and even the situations where teamwork is initiated, video conferences just aren’t intimate enough for some people. Some people just want to be constantly considered integral and that just isn’t always possible with a whole remote team to manage. 

Sometimes, it’s the way that they’re managed that is the problem. Many businesses have been trying to fill the deficit of day-to-day interaction with more correspondence. There aren’t many people that enjoy reading more emails or instant messages or taking more phone calls. If your business has succumbed to adding to the stream of correspondence a worker has to go through, you need to know that it is one of the most cited reasons that workers look for new jobs. 

All is not lost, however. Let’s look into some ways you can manage your employee turnover during this extraordinarily confusing time. 

Let People Know You Appreciate Their Efforts

Hiring people is extremely difficult and expensive, that’s no secret. If you could mitigate this cost and loss of talent with a few kind words, wouldn’t you? Lots of workers want to please the boss, and many of them will never admit it. If you are seeing higher than normal turnover rates, consider just reaching out to your staff and interacting with them. See how things are going. We know that sometimes it’s not possible to get in touch with everyone (and some people won’t appreciate it), but you know the ones that need those extra words of encouragement. 

When People Do Leave, Don’t Beat Yourself Up

It’s always good practice to conduct an exit interview with soon-to-be-former employees. This way you understand what you did well and what you did wrong from the perspective of someone that you didn’t really want to lose. This information can be useful in changing strategies and policies that they deemed to not be constructive and find out what their opinions were of the business before leaving.