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. 

Semiconductor Shortage Wreaking Havoc with Supply Chains

 Technology supply chains have been world-renowned for being some of the most dynamic and strongest for over a decade. Currently, companies are having problems procuring computers and networking equipment because of a global shortage of computer chips. Let’s take a look at the issue in today’s blog. 

Computing Demand Has Never Been Higher

Let’s start with demand. In 2020, the global demand for new computers was extraordinarily high as people were forced to social distance in an effort to keep COVID-19 from spreading. In much of the world 2021 has seen the same problems. This has been a major boon for the semiconductor industry that saw its sales grow to nearly half a trillion dollars in 2020.

One of the driving factors is the increase in the PC market itself which hadn’t grown as fast as it has in the past year in over a decade. This increased PC demand, sales of other devices, as well as a major increase in cloud computing usage by individuals and businesses has led to an industry forecast of increases of another 12 percent in 2021 to $511 billion.

This seems amazing, right? Some good news for some people in the face of a horrifying pandemic. Not so fast. The industry, like many other industries that saw demand skyrocket over the course of the pandemic, wasn’t ready for it. This shortage, which actually began in earnest in the second quarter of 2020, has caused major shortages that are starting to trickle down to manufacturers and value-added retailers.

This Doesn’t Just Affect Computers and Smartphones

A semiconductor shortage has a major effect on the world economy. It isn’t just the computer and smartphone manufacturers that are dealing with a shortage. Automakers were the first industry to get hit with problems from the shortage. Some have halted production of new vehicles as a response. 

Just recently electronics manufacturers have had to begin making some tough decisions because the hardware they need simply isn’t available and probably won’t be for some time. Problems due to the shortage have begun to trickle over to manufacturers of televisions and other electronics. In some places, manufacturers are beginning to buy up available chips so they can fulfill their orders leaving nothing for smaller organizations. 

The Shortage’s Effect on Your Business

How this shortage will affect your business remains to be seen, but people in the know are not too optimistic about the problem. Businesses will be on the hook for a lot of the shortage as they are the ones that typically need hardware and increased data capacity affected by the semiconductor shortage. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

If Your Backup Doesn’t Involve These Three Aspects, You’re Doing It Wrong

 For any business continuity strategy to be complete, a data backup strategy needs to be involved. This is often easier said than done: there are a lot of elements that need to be considered, and some data can go overlooked if the solution isn’t maintained. However, considering the likelihood of data loss without one, a data backup is an indispensable component to prioritize and evaluate over time.

Let’s consider why—explicitly—these evaluations are so important.

The Fundamentals of Data Backup

There are three elements that any modern backup strategy needs to incorporate to contribute to its success:

  1. Incremental Backups: To retain as much data as possible in the event of a disaster, backups should be taken throughout the day—as frequently as every 15 minutes.
  2. Fast Recovery: A backup solution needs to be able to restore data promptly and when called for so it can minimize the amount of downtime your business must contend with.
  3. Regular Testing: A backup solution that doesn’t do its job could lead to a highly detrimental situation, so your backups should be tested regularly to identify and resolve any shortcomings.

Is Testing Your Backups Really That Important?

While you should always evaluate your technology to check for issues, your data backups make this even more important to do. Your business relies on the data it can access, and with so many ways that this data could be lost you need some way to effectively mitigate any scenario. A backup and data recovery service can provide you with the means to do so.

Of course, even if you have a BDR in place, testing is no less important to ensure that it works effectively if (or, more realistically, when) you need to use it. Plus, if it doesn’t work in your test, you have a chance to fix the problem before larger problems ensue.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Have Circumstances Changed Parents’ Views on Remote Work?

 Remote work has thrown a wrench into the operations of countless businesses around the world, some more than others. While some employees have been able to adapt and make the most of the circumstances, workers with children at home might find themselves questioning their line of work or considering a change in careers.

With this in mind, it is important that you consider how these circumstances affect employees with families. While it might seem like a difficult conversation to have, it might make all the difference for you and your employees moving forward.

How COVID Influences the Family Dynamic

It’s not just children; the entire family is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working remotely might seem like a blessing at first. After all, busy parents get to spend more time with their beloved family. Sure, they might be busy the entire day, but being able to fit in more family time cannot possibly be a bad thing… right? Unfortunately, these parents are starting to see the challenges more than the benefits. Not only do they have to balance the responsibilities of the workday, but they also have to ensure their family is safe, healthy, and educated. Many parents utilized childcare services prior to the pandemic, and considering the fact that most of their childrens’ days were spent at school, it quickly becomes apparent just how much even responsible parents rely on others to take care of their own children. After social distancing guidelines were put into place and schools remained closed for extended periods of time, parents were forced to wake up to the harsh reality that it is, to put it plain and simple, hard work to be a working adult and a parent without making certain sacrifices.

These circumstances have created an extraordinarily difficult situation for parents who seek to preserve their reputation as a professional and maintain business relationships. Now that many of these professionals have been working remotely for some time, it’s understandable that a return to normalcy might feel like the exact opposite and exacerbate concerns. Chief among these concerns are childcare (49 percent), exposure to COVID-19 (53 percent), decreased work flexibility (48 percent), diminished work-life balance (46 percent), and office politics (31 percent).

Other Concerns for Parents and the Remote Workplace

The above only just scratches the surface. Here are some of the other professional issues that parents might consider when weighing whether or not it’s worth returning to the office post-COVID:

  • 60 percent of parents feel burnt out. For reference, the general population’s rate is 56 percent.
  • 41 percent of parents report that they are worse-off in terms of mental health compared to when the pandemic began, as opposed to the general population’s 38 percent.
  • 19 percent of parents are concerned about their potential for promotion while working remotely. Only 14 percent of all respondents do.
  • 22 percent of parents claim that their skills have suffered, compared to the general population’s rate of 19 percent.
  • Working parents also struggle with boundaries and other issues while working remotely:
    • 40 percent overwork, or work longer than they should
    • 36 percent deal with distractions unrelated to work
    • 28 percent have to deal with unreliable Wi-Fi connectivity
    • 26 percent deal with tech issues that need troubleshooting
    • 24 percent are worn down by video meetings
    • 18 percent have issues maintaining their relationships with coworkers
    • 16 percent have issues maintaining their relationships with their bosses

Similarly, raising children while working remotely has had an influence on employment as a whole:

  • 43 percent of parents have seen no impacts
  • 21 percent cut back on their working hours
  • 16 percent quit work while planning to rejoin the workforce later
  • 4 percent had a partner reduce their hours
  • 2 percent quit work with no intention of returning
  • 2 percent had a partner quit as a result

Remote Still Works for (Some) Employees

Even though there are countless challenges and obstacles for remote workers, employees do see the value in remote work in at least some capacity. It’s a reasonable goal to work toward, and if businesses have been able to sustain operations throughout the course of the pandemic, why not consider leaving it in place to a certain extent?

Even something as simple as cutting out the commute has been a big enough change to influence some parents’ thoughts on this whole ordeal, and it is hard not to enjoy the perks of increased family time and flexible scheduling. Some have predicted that remote work can eventually lead to plenty of other benefits, including increased productivity, improved work-life balance, and a healthier office environment, as well as other big-picture benefits such as gender equality.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Scale Your IT to Better Manage Your Budget

 Today’s business has to do more with less. This goes for all of its resources including the technology it uses. Runaway IT budgets can put a lot of pressure on the technology to do more than it can. To get the most out of your business’ technology investments, consider the following strategies.

Assessing the Role of Your IT

To properly assess your business’ position when it comes to technology, you will need to lay out all your expenses and accounts. The first thing you’ll want to do after that is look for any redundancies and unnecessary overlaps. You may be surprised that you are paying for technology you don’t need, or worse yet, that you don’t use. 

Once that is complete you should ascertain if your business currently uses all of the remaining accounts that it’s paying for. For most Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) titles, you can pause subscriptions for a defined amount of time before your data is lost. Refer to your service agreements for more information, but suspending underutilized cloud subscriptions can put more available coins in your business’ proverbial pocket. 

Make a Switch 

If your business uses traditional methods of securing software, you may not save money on the product directly, but you will likely save money on the cloud service since the hosting company also pays for data redundancy and maintenance. Either way, switching to a SaaS platform can allow you to redirect the way you pay for your software, providing some extra affordability. 

Today, there are a lot of cloud-hosted options available, and you may be able to save a bit of cheddar by using comparable, but less-expensive options. You can also take advantage of cloud-hosted systems to reimagine your business’ communications, collaboration, and marketing efforts. 

If your business pays for mobile devices and subscriptions, you can cut a substantial cost by switching to a Bring Your Own Device model. Today’s productivity and security platforms provide options to manage business data and applications without having to own the device they are on, meaning that businesses can disseminate apps and data securely to employee-owned devices and save on device, service, and data plans.

Prioritize Using Services with Fixed Costs, When Possible

With cloud computing being so prevalent, many businesses will simply choose to use the cloud for all of their business’ computing needs. This can get expensive quickly. Many of the top cloud-hosted infrastructure providers charge by the user, or by the gigabyte. If you are utilizing the platform the way you would a company-hosted platform, you will likely drown your company in cloud costs. 

You will want to prioritize your per-user cloud accounts that charge a flat rate for an application, maintenance, hosting, and security. They won’t bring variable bills to your IT budget and that can be enough to keep from spending too much capital than you want (or can) on technology.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Tip of the Week: Avoid Buying Into These Common Smartphone Battery Life Myths

 Nothing says “panic mode” quite like a dying smartphone. To avoid falling into this predicament, many users keep their phones plugged in to keep the battery topped off. A common saying is that this practice is actually bad for battery life, but how much truth is there in this statement? Let’s take a deeper dive and see if we can separate the fact from fiction, as well as what factors do influence your smartphone’s battery life.

Bad Reception

True to the idea of being “always connected,” smartphones don’t like when they can’t find a tower to connect to. Whenever your smartphone loses connection—particularly in rural locations where reception is scarce—it will send out signals to locate a connection. As you might imagine, this process can use up a considerable amount of power. The solution is to put your device in airplane mode, but this comes with its own set of problems, namely the fact that you are sacrificing connectivity for battery life.

Heavy Use

The more strain you place on your device, the more wear and tear there will be on the battery. If you are constantly placing phone calls, taking pictures, filming videos, or other tasks, you can bet that your battery life will diminish rather quickly. That being said, the intensity of the task performed will likely influence just how much battery life is used up, so tasks like texting should not influence battery life too much.

Extreme Temperatures

Mobile devices can be sensitive to temperatures on both the higher end and lower end of the spectrum; this applies to, you guessed it, its battery capacity, too. If you can keep your phone at a moderate and controlled temperature, you’ll maximize your battery life.

Device Age

One of the more controversial topics regarding mobile devices is the idea of planned obsolescence. Phone manufacturers build devices around an irreplaceable battery that can only last for so long. While this might seem unethical, there is unfortunately little that the user can do about it.

Applications, Alerts, and Permissions

Every time your phone has to acknowledge a notification, a little bit of power is drawn from the battery. It stands to reason that too many notifications can accrue and suck up too much power. The same logic applies to permissions that have been given to applications installed on your device. The perfect example is your device’s built-in GPS; if it’s set up to do so, it can collect data even when an application is not demanding it. If you adjust these settings, your battery can last longer.

Bluetooth Connections

Similar to the way your device is always trying to find a network connection, if Bluetooth is enabled, it will always search for a Bluetooth connection. It’s best to minimize the number of connections you keep active on your device. In fact, we recommend keeping your Bluetooth deactivated in general when you are not actively using it.

Now, How Bad is Constantly Charging Your Phone?

All things considered, it’s pretty easy to keep your phone charged throughout the day. Some prefer to just let it sit on the charger whenever possible, while others might prefer to keep it in the middling range. In the end, does it really matter? The data suggests that it does not.

Regardless of the method, recharging your battery in any way will gradually decrease its performance. Avoiding overcharging and fully discharging your battery might help a little bit, but it can’t keep your device lasting forever.

At the end of the day, your battery is still destined for the same eventual end, and no change in the way you charge your device will have a significant impact on its life. In terms of a battery’s maximum charge cycles (the number of times the battery can be filled to capacity), any charging done acts cumulatively. In other words, charging it by 20 percent, then 15 percent, then 75 percent, does not count as three individual charge cycles. It all totals to just one. Therefore, one can safely charge their device in whichever way they prefer without worrying about tradeoffs or any so-called “best practices.”