Wednesday, July 26, 2023

AI Isn’t an Employee Alternative, but a Tool to Assist Users

 The past several years have brought about innovations in artificial intelligence, or AI, that has workers worried for their jobs—especially as it moves into more practical and usable mediums. This can all be tied to the Turing Test, a way of measuring the intelligence of a computer, created by one of the most notable minds behind computing, Alan Turing.


Nowadays, it’s worth asking if comparing the two was the right call; rather, industry professionals think that collaboration between AI and human workers is more preferable compared to competition.

Turing’s Standard May Have Produced Economic Inequities

At the Stanford Digital Economy Lab, director Erik Brynjolfsson claims that advances in AI have created serious issues, economic inequality among them. In the Spring 2022 issue of D├Ždalus, a journal produced by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he writes that the goal of AI swiftly became a mission to overtake the capabilities of the human mind. All of that to say that this mission was not the appropriate way to handle the development of this technology. Brynjolfsson’s work illustrates that this fixation on creating human-like machines has made wage inequality worse.

Brynjolfsson’s argument is that the development of AI has simply removed the need for human employees, and while productivity can increase as a result, the benefits of that productivity are only really reaped by business owners and leaders within organizations. This divide further increases the rift between workers and the rich, increasing the wage gap and creating what is known as “the Turing Trap.”

The creation of AI is just another example of humans attempting to ascend from humanity to become something different entirely, a creator of life in their own image. There are countless examples of this ranging from the golem of Jewish folklore, the automatons built by Daedalus of ancient Greek tales, or the inventors from early Islamic kingdoms and the European Renaissance. Modern popular culture and media does little to separate AI from these stories, as they paint AI as human-like entities seeking to become even more human-like.

If this is the wrong approach, then what is the right one?

According to Brynjolfsson, AI Would Be Better Used as “Augmentation”

Human employees and AI employees are both capable of doing things well, but it’s critical to note that the things they do well are not the same. Therefore, the key to making the most good out of AI is for humans to supplement their shortcomings with it. In essence, humans are “partnering” with AI to produce better results.

Unfortunately, it’s seen as easier to replace rather than integrate AI, simply because there is no true precedent for doing so. Other research has shown that there are various tasks that people would prefer to do themselves rather than AI, so there will always be things that people want to do themselves that AI can, but should not, do. People are worried that automation will replace the human worker, but there are other proponents who argue that AI can only feasibly cover a small portion of the various duties associated with human work.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

How Can T-Mobile’s Security Woes Help Your Efforts?

 Bad news for T-Mobile users, they’ve suffered another data breach. Hackers have gained access to customer data for nearly 37 million individuals, including both pre-paid and subscription-based accounts. Let’s look at what has happened and what knowledge you might apply to your own network security practices.


Why Did This Happen Again?

This hack occurred thanks to a tactic known to target the Application Programming Interface, or API. The API is code that allows an application to connect to the Internet and communicate with other applications. For example, some smart appliances and devices might make use of APIs for their core functionality.

APIs tend to be secure, but they are, of course, not fail-safe, as this breach showcases. Sensitive information was leaked as a result of the T-Mobile data breach. Despite this grim news, take heart knowing that financial information was not exposed or stolen.

T-Mobile discovered this hack on January 5th, but by then, the hack had been active for about one month. The API informed companies using it on November 25, 2022, leaving a clean near-two months between the notification date and the resolution date of January 19th. According to the company, “the malicious activity appears to be fully contained at this time.”

What Can You Learn from This Incident?

T-Mobile has a track record of suffering from data breaches, including attacks in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2015, leading to millions of dollars in settlements. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that network security issues are preventable and costly, so you should do all you can to ensure they don’t bring about challenges for your business.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

3 Factors You Need to Consider Before You Upgrade

 If you consistently find that technology in your office causes more problems than it’s worth, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at what you could be doing better with your infrastructure. We want you to look at failing or inoperable/inefficient technology as an opportunity for improvement rather than another large expense. A good hardware refresh centered around your organization’s needs can revitalize operations and improve your bottom line.

To help you better identify these opportunities, let’s examine some of the frustrations you might experience that could result in a hardware refresh.

Slow Technology

Slow technology is a telltale sign that something is wrong with your infrastructure. Computers will grow slower and more sluggish over time, and they will ultimately result in your operations and security suffering. Be sure to implement a timeline for when you will refresh your computers, somewhere between the three-and-five year mark. Of course, if things get too slow for your preference, it’s perfectly fine to address this issue before (or even after) that point.

Furthermore, we also recommend that you upgrade your servers around the four-year mark. Some companies can get away with going longer, but we don’t recommend it, as technology can become obsolete and unsupported if you’re not careful. Plus, the maintenance and upkeep of old servers can be more than the cost of simply upgrading it. Basically, the rule here is simple; overestimate the time it will take to upgrade your infrastructure, and you can do no wrong.

A Growing Company

If your business has seen considerable growth since the last time you upgraded your infrastructure, it is time to consider it. Your network is likely under more pressure than it was when you were just a handful of employees getting things started. You should see this upgrade as an exciting opportunity rather than an annoyance or a budget-breaker, as it means that your organization is thriving and growing. Still, looking at your entire infrastructure can be intimidating, to say the least.

Legacy software in particular can be challenging to move away from, as your team has likely been using it for a long time and is used to it. The older a software becomes, the less likely it is to play nice with new and innovative tools that could help you stay competitive. You’ll want to stay ahead of this if possible, and know that replacing legacy applications with more viable, long-term solutions is a sign that your business is making progress when so many others are stagnating.

A Remote Team

A remote workforce brings opportunities for improvement, as there are unique challenges and opportunities presented by the possibility of your team working off-site. With cloud-hosted tools, you can increase the flexibility and accessibility of your resources to not just your remote team, but also to your in-house employees. This allows for smoother operations as a whole across the board.

Plus, cloud computing can have considerable benefits for your budget, cutting your costs by about one-third. If you implement it properly, it can save you a lot in terms of operational costs and capital expenses. With the cloud, you’ll find deploying assets, managing solutions, and allocating resources to be as simple as can be. With so many software solutions out there, you will surely find the Software-as-a-Service technologies your business needs to see great and continued success through the cloud.


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

How Does AI Influence a Business’ Ability to Produce?

 Now that AI tools are more publicly accessible than ever before, the question of whether or not it’s good for business looms ever closer. These tools are limited in their capacity to help, but they do show enormous potential that could be indicative of success in the future. Let’s go over some of the questions people have about AI tools.


Do AI Programs Steal Art and Work from the Internet?

An AI program cannot function without data to work with, and the Internet is the single most populated database in existence. Recent AI tools make use of data found on the Internet, much of which is legally protected by copyright law, often without recognition or recompense. There are even examples you can find online, including those where AI-generated paintings showcase the base work amidst the scraps of others (including the author’s signature). Furthermore, AI-generated text can also be run through plagiarism checkers to determine its authenticity, often failing to pass the test—at least in terms of what is acceptable.

The odds are just as likely that the AI you might use will create more problems than it solves, particularly with this kind of creative work and intellectual property. How these problems will be addressed and resolved is unclear at this time.

AI Could Influence Employment

How work is done is constantly changing, and AI presents yet another opportunity for some businesses to accomplish specific tasks in a different, more hands-off way. While there have been cases in the past where certain technologies and innovations have been replaced by more modern tools, like the horse with the car, for example, certain positions in the creative arts have long been considered “safe” from the interference of technology. Well, AI makes a case against that statement.

There is a very real concern that AI could invalidate many creative positions, even with plagiarism involved. That said, however, it’s equally likely that these positions will simply change and adapt to the new technology. New opportunities will emerge from this new technology, leading to a sort-of “collaboration” between AI tools and their human masters. In this way, AI is doing the heavy lifting while the humans are the ones in charge of managing that lifting.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

What Can You Gain from AI?

 AI is a major topic lately, whether it’s on the topic of new and upcoming chatbots that are capable of generating text or making art that can compete with even the most skilled of artists. AI is commonly targeted as a culprit in stealing jobs, as well, and with these applications becoming more sophisticated over time, it’s no wonder people aren’t sure how to react to these developments.

However, AI has advanced to the point where even small businesses and individuals can take advantage of it to at least some degree. In fact, you might already be doing so without realizing it. Let’s discuss how AI is used in business and what could be next for AI in the workplace.


AI Makes Important, Monotonous Tasks Easier and More Efficient

Process automation has been happening as far back as the advent of the wheel and in agriculture, but AI takes this concept one step further by taking existing information and adapting it. Most of the automation you see in the workplace is process automation, which takes tasks that humans usually handle—tasks that aren’t necessarily productive or engaging—and automates them, saving time and money that could be better spent on other, more productive tasks that are more suited to them. These tasks might involve innovation or other aspects of the creative process that are not-so-easily automated.

AI Provides Insights Faster Than the Alternatives

Businesses run on data, so if it’s organized, it’s more manageable and usable. Finding the time and resources to do this, however, is something that can be difficult for businesses, especially without it leading to considerable user error. AI uses algorithms to make this process easier and more efficient, and some systems can even use existing data to extrapolate potential outcomes and predict what could happen in the future. AI is able to quickly identify patterns that the human brain might not pick up on, but this doesn’t make the human’s role in the process any less important. The AI needs human input to work properly, after all.

AI Assists with Customer and Client Communication

AI can help businesses better manage their outreach efforts by recalling past conversations and communications, effectively providing individuals with personalized experiences. Using an AI to keep track of this information saves your business time and resources while making your services that much more convenient for your consumers. AI can also operate as a chatbot for your business, helping customers with some of the more frequently asked questions and making support more accessible and convenient. This idea, called cognitive engagement, is one reason why AI is such a popular tool for communications and support. It gives workers, whether they are doctors or IT technicians, more time to focus on providing the best service they can.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The Password Manager Boosts Organizational Security

There are so many threats out there that there are positions dedicated within companies to protecting network infrastructures and managing cybersecurity strategy. This alone should be enough to get you to take it seriously. With your employees controlling the “keys to the castle,” i.e., passwords, you need to make sure that you have a solid password strategy in place so as to not inadvertently put your company at risk.


A Great Password Manager is Well Worth the Investment

Simply put, a password manager helps you remember all of the passwords you use throughout the day without having to actually remember them. Password managers are the exception to the rule that you should never write down or save your passwords, as they are software solutions protected with full-fledged, military-grade encryption.

Considering that the average user needs to remember dozens of passwords, having a safe place to store them is a huge benefit.

The password manager will be much more sufficient for protecting your passwords than a notebook, or a file on your computer, or even in your brain, for that matter. Since the passwords you use are going to be complex, and they will be protected by an extremely strong master password, you can know that your credentials are safe and sound, away from prying eyes. All of your passwords will be easily accessible to you through the browser plugin or a dedicated desktop or mobile application, so there is no need to stress about forgetting an important credential or getting locked out of your account.

Password managers also make it easier to share credentials between one-another on the off-chance they need to, like for a shared productivity application account or web service account.

In summary, a password manager…

  • Helps you to use sufficiently secure passwords
  • Assists you in creating passwords that are more secure
  • Enables your entire organization to access shared resources easily

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Paying Attention to Your Cybersecurity Is Just Good Risk Management

Small businesses have plenty of problems as it is without the added stress that poor security practices can bring about. Small businesses often overlook security because they deem themselves too small to be of any value to a hacker, but this outlook is short-sighted and irresponsible at best. Let’s go over why you’ll need to make security a priority for your business.


How much sensitive data does your business actually store on its network? We bet it’s more than you think. Whether it’s payroll records, bank account numbers, personally identifiable information, information about vendors or clients, you surely have data on your network that a hacker will find valuable. Here are some reasons why you need to make security an important part of your business practices.

Proactive is Better Than Reactive

Any security discrepancy could put your workday at risk, and it could be from something as simple as someone clicking on the wrong link or downloading the wrong attachment. Such a simple mistake could make a world of trouble for your company if you’re not prepared to handle it. Any solution you can implement to keep your company’s infrastructure safe makes it less likely that you’ll suffer from a security breach, thus reducing the time you spend reacting to them in the process.

Secure Your Business’ Future

Nobody wants to work with a business that doesn’t take its security seriously, especially if that business is housing important financial or personal information on their network to provide you with a good or service. The same can be said for your clients. If you aren’t careful with your security, any clients affected by negligence will leave poor reviews and tell others about their experiences, thus leaving you with slim pickings for potential new clients in the New Jersey community. It’s better to play it safe and implement security tools to protect your business now so you don’t suffer the consequences later.

Protect Your Assets

Of course, the lost productivity and lost customers are only the tip of the iceberg for the fallout of a data breach. Depending on your industry, you may also be subject to fines associated with various regulations and rules you must follow. If you don’t want these fines to break your budget and overwhelm your organization from both a financial and legal perspective, then you’d better be prepared to cough up some change for security solutions before you are affected by a data breach.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Solving Your Business Problems Isn’t Always Simple

 

Remote work doesn’t come without its fair share of issues, but with a little creativity and ingenuity, you can help your remote employees overcome them. Let’s examine structured problem solving, a particularly helpful approach to issue resolution that can help your team be more productive throughout the workday.

Structured Problem Solving Explained

When you take a good look at business problems, many of them appear to be large and difficult to approach. This is where structured problem-solving comes into play. This technique can help you break down your large and difficult tasks into smaller and more manageable chunks, allowing you to slowly chip away at the bigger, overarching problem. It sure beats letting it consume you.

One method of structured problem solving that is particularly helpful is called DMAIC, which is short for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. With this approach in mind, you’ll be able to break down complex problems and make them much easier to handle.

How Does DMAIC Work?

  • Define which process it is that you are experiencing issues with, where your opportunities for improvement lie, and what goals you want to reach.
  • Measure how well your process is performing.
  • Analyze the process to identify where the shortcomings are.
  • Improve upon the shortcomings by resolving what causes them.
  • Control the newly devised process to ensure performance is maintained.

That’s the long and short of it. If you apply this process for the variables in your complex, difficult problem, you’ll be more likely to find the best way to solve it.

Communication Remains a Remote Work Challenge

Your in-house team and your remote team need to be able to communicate effectively, but this is challenging when there is a very real distance between them. Communication is easy enough in the office thanks to multiple communication tools, but it’s also supported by the fact that people can just talk face-to-face when needed. Remote workers don’t have this option.

If we follow the model outlined above, we can define the problem as a lack of communication shared between employees, with the goal being to improve communications between employees in different locations. We can then measure the frequency of employees communicating both in-house and remote.

The next step is determining which part of the process is not working for your organization. In this case it’s workplace communication, and determining what the root cause of it is will be crucial. Is it the tools used during the process that is holding things up? What about a potential leadership or training issue? You can’t leave any possibility off the table.

Once you have information to work with, you can start solving the problem by slowly making changes that advance your goal. You can try adding new tools to your infrastructure, or providing better training courses for your team. Follow up every so often to find out if the issue has truly been resolved, then adjust accordingly over time. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Collaboration Tools Can Help Build a Friendlier Workspace

 There’s a misconception in the business world that being too nice will make you appear as a pushover, but as far as cliches go, “Nice guys finish last” doesn’t have much supporting evidence in favor of it.


You Don’t Have to Be a Jerk to Make Progress

Even if the stereotype of the office jerk is all over the place, research shows that being unpleasant in the workplace doesn’t really get you anywhere. If anything, it is actually detrimental to your professional development.

Introducing Cameron Anderson, Professor of Organizational Behavior at UC Berkeley

Following the 2016 election, Anderson sought to study the impact that being unpleasant can have on outcomes. To gauge these results, Anderson chose to examine the correlation between a personality test administered decades ago with where the participants were professionally in the present day.

The end result makes for a great title:  People with disagreeable personalities (selfish, combative, and manipulative) do not have an advantage in pursuing power at work. His research shows that people who are unpleasant in their day-to-day duties are no more likely to make upward progress than those who aren’t, no matter how toxic the workplace is.

The study also showed, however, that pleasantness and generosity were not a factor, either. The research shows that either individual, pleasant or unpleasant, is no more likely to succeed in an isolated environment, but when they are allowed to meld together (as they do in a realistic workplace), they tend to cancel each other out. Another study from the University of Hong Kong, the University of Iowa, and Purdue University showcases an interesting correlation based on the results of a metastudy of 200 other pieces of research. They found that people who are supportive and proactive, not just agreeable, are more likely to reach the top compared to those who aren’t.

Changing the Office Dynamic Takes Effort

Being a jerk isn’t necessarily the determining factor in someone’s success, but it’s also not going to help anyone around you, either. If anything, you should want to remedy this behavior so you can help others around you achieve their best results, too.

Some academics, like Bob Sutton, a professor of management science at Stanford, believe that a zero-tolerance approach toward unpleasant behavior can get the job done. The idea behind this policy is that when someone starts throwing their weight around, you throw it right back at them. Businesses can also make more efforts to reward not just those who are productive from a personal standpoint, but also uplift and encourage their coworkers to be their best selves.

With things like the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and rage applying all over the place, you really don’t need to give your employees more reasons to seek employment elsewhere. After all, it costs more to replace an employee than to hold on to a good one. If you can foster an encouraging and collaborative environment, you might be surprised by how much you find your workplace can change in a short period of time. It might even help you draw in and retain top talent.

One of the big ways you can make sure your team feels seen, appreciated, and understood is by respecting them enough to give them the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

What You Can Do to Preserve Security With Remote Work in Play

 Remote work is now more common than it has ever been before, so we want to ensure that you are informed about the security implications of switching from in-house operations to remote or hybrid operations. Let’s discuss some practical ways you can implement remote work security policies and procedures.

Securing Your Remote Operations is a Multi-Faceted Process

To get started, let’s review some of the common ways you might secure a remote network infrastructure.

Utilize a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual private networks are going to be more secure alternatives to just about any other network, and they can transform your typical wireless network connection into an encrypted tunnel for security even while away from the protections of your in-house network. A VPN encrypts data sent from and received by your device, giving your users a secure way of transferring data. It’s a must-have for any company that has remote operations in any capacity.

And yes, this means using the VPN when the employee is working from home, away for a business trip, or just working from a public location. You don’t know what else is connected to those networks, so treat them with some scrutiny.

Only Use Secured and Approved Hardware and Software

Similarly, you’ll want to ensure that your team members are only using devices and applications that have been cleared by IT. Only appropriate tools should be used by your business, and these tools need to be approved by your IT department to ensure the security of your network. Any devices housing or accessing business data, after all, need to be screened and protected for the purposes of compliance.

This is especially important for remote workers who might feel tempted to just find their own solutions for problems rather than bother those who are in-house or seemingly inaccessible. We recommend using cloud-based tools that can be accessed by any approved device, thereby eliminating the need to pursue other avenues of productivity that are not approved for use.


Keep This Hardware and Software Maintained

Once you have made it clear what tools you need your team to use, you’ll have to put every effort you can into ensuring they are maintained and managed properly. This means making sure they aren’t a headache to use by updating them with patches and updates as they are released.

Furthermore, your solutions will need to be monitored, particularly for the remote employees, to ensure that no security threats are happening while out of the office. If you maintain diligence and vigilance, you’ll be surprised by how many security breaches you can thwart before they even become an issue for your business.

Implement Basic Security Standards

Look, you might think we are making a big to-do about security, but the fact of the matter is that security really is that important. Poor security practices can make or break businesses much larger and more profitable than yours. Remember that no business is too small to become the target of a breach, and you should have proper security standards in place, like secure passwords and multi-factor authentication, to protect your company at all times.

We’re Here to Help Businesses Operate Effectively and Securely, Regardless of Where Their Team Members are Working

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Tip of the Week: Optimizing Your Business’ Technology in Three Ways

 Businesses cannot run without technology. This relationship has only grown more complicated and complex over time, and with so many businesses depending on their technology in ways never before seen, you’ll have to understand just how great of an impact your technology has on the way your organization runs. Here are three ways you can implement the right tools to see increased success.


Invest in Mobility

Businesses are not confined to the office the way they used to be. Any place can become your office with the right mobile technology solutions. Depending on the circumstances, you might encounter times when it is actually preferable to work in one location over another, like if you are sick with a viral disease. Naturally, it makes sense that you should take steps toward providing everyone with the tools they need in a mobile-friendly environment like the cloud.

Be Intentional with Your Network Design

Hardwired networks do provide benefits, but again, so too does a Wi-Fi connection. In order to get the most value out of your Internet connection, you’ll have to be strategic with which devices use your hardwired connection versus your wireless connection. How far will your wireless travel, and which devices need to maintain constant uptime with little room for error? Focusing on these issues now will save you a lot of time when you have to reexamine your infrastructure later on, after your business has grown a bit.

Accept Help from Experts

Chances are that even with an internal IT department, there is plenty of work to go around. An internal department might even be overwhelmed or overworked to get everything done, leading to, well, things just not getting done. Considering the plethora of tasks that must be accomplished, ranging from monitoring a network, securing it, providing assistance to your staff, and implementing new solutions, it’s no wonder that even a dedicated IT department could get burnt out or overlook tasks.

Instead of overworking your staff, you can instead turn to Net It On, LLC and outsource some of these responsibilities, making everyone’s lives easier. In fact, an MSP can be just as effective as an internal IT department, particularly if you don’t have an internal team to supplement. Regardless, however, we are sure that your business can benefit from having more IT professionals around.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Evolution of Internet Speeds

 With the Internet cementing itself as one of the best tools to get work done, it’s easy to forget just how sluggish it used to be back when it first became available for use. Internet speeds have undergone some dramatic shifts over the years, so let’s remember the good old days when it took ages to do just about anything with it.


Internet speeds are measured in megabits. 1,000 kilobits (technically 1,024 KB) is equivalent to 1 megabit and 1,000 megabits (technically 1,024 MB) is equivalent to 1 gigabit. Keep these numbers in mind as we discuss Internet speeds and their development over the years.

Dial Up

Can you believe that it’s only been about 25 years since the Internet became widely accessible in offices and homes? It was first introduced to the mass market through the use of dial up Internet, which used the phone line to connect. In the 1990s, people would have one telephone line for both the telephone and the computer. If an individual wanted to connect to the Internet, they would be charged for long distance—even if the “call” was to the next village or city over.

Around 2000, the average modem was 56 KB/s with an uninterrupted signal. A one-megabyte image would take about 20 seconds to download. This snail’s-pace speed by today’s standards was enough to make instant messaging and email possible, but other media-based activities would take days or weeks to transmit across the connection.

DSL

“High-speed” Internet became popular as we moved into the 2000s. DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, utilized cable connections, allowing ISPs to transmit data at much faster speeds compared to dial up. The bandwidth of a cable was able to transfer much more data compared to the traditional telephone wire. In fact, DSL was so revolutionary that it still makes up the vast majority of connections you’ll find out there. A DSL connection is capable of delivering speeds of up to 100 MB/s, but realistically, it is more likely to be around the 5 MB-to-20 MB/s range.

This large increase in speed allows for much more in terms of the work you can do. Cloud-hosted email, for example, can be utilized with these speeds, along with music streaming and website browsing. Around 2010, when DSL became widely available, there was a huge burst of application development utilizing the speeds—a new trend which is still happening to this day. Even video streaming, in the grand scheme of things, is quite new, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the inception of DSL connections.

Fiber Optic

Of course, there is also the fiber optic cable option, which is what many of today’s fastest Internet speeds utilize. Fiber optic uses light to transmit data, and is therefore much faster than DSL connections. DSL cable systems lose speed and performance the farther the signal must go, but with fiber optic, Internet speeds and bandwidth are exponentially better. Fiber optic is capable of speeds of up to tens of gigabits per second. Absolutely wild stuff.

Mobile computing has only further changed this fact, as people rely more on Wi-Fi signals than ever before. Otherwise people would be exceeding their data caps more frequently. Fiber has given people access to much faster connections—connections that systems and businesses rely on to function. It’s made working from home easier and more efficient, online schooling and telehealth more accessible, real-time data collection much simpler, and communication and collaboration more reliable.

If you’re curious about your current Internet speeds (and you should be), you can use free Internet speed test applications, like the one found at https://www.speedtest.net/. This should give you a decent enough look at your Internet speed

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

You Can’t Outsource Everything: 3 Parts of Your Business that Need to Remain In-House

 Businesses today have more options than ever before for their needs. With so many vendors available outside your typical in-house office environment, you can get most of the services you need via outsourcing. That said, there are certain processes you shouldn’t outsource, even if you think it might be a good idea.


Administration

You shouldn’t be outsourcing the jobs of people who run the company, and we can say this with confidence for a couple of reasons. For one, why should employees follow the vision of someone who doesn’t even work in your office? Furthermore, what real vested interest do third-party administrators have in your success? Outsourcing project implementation is one thing, but outsourcing the administrative infrastructure of your business is another entirely, and not a good idea.

Onboarding and Offboarding

Some businesses outsource their human resources functions, which is perfectly reasonable, as there can be a lot of value from doing so. That said, you shouldn’t have all of the functions of a human resources team be handled by a third party. You’ll want to ensure that talent acquisition in particular, as well as letting go of people, is handled in-house. This is because you want to ensure that you get and keep the right talent for your company, which is something that an outsourced human resources department will have trouble keeping up with.

Product Development

Your products and services are the core reasons your organization is in business. Why should you continue to work with others to help them? Whoever is in charge of developing your offerings needs to have an intimate knowledge of your consumers, as well as your company’s values. You can’t expect any third-party provider to know these things, and you shouldn’t need to.

Outsourcing opens up plenty of opportunities to improve operations for your business, including outsourcing some or all of your IT operations to a provider.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

 Email is crucial to the success of any business, but it also might contain sensitive information that is meant for the eyes of your organization—and its clients—only. Most modern email platforms give you tools you need to secure your email solution, so let’s go over how you might enable these features and what they look like.


For the purposes of this blog, we’ll use Gmail and Microsoft Outlook as the main examples. Of course, you can rely on us if you have further questions about your IT security, or IT solutions in general.

How to Secure Emails in Gmail

There are a couple of options at your disposal for Gmail. For example, you can seal an email using a password that is delivered to a designated phone number. This is Confidential Mode, and it’s one way you can guarantee that the message is only readable by the intended recipient. Furthermore, they cannot copy, forward, download, or print the message.

Here are the steps you need to take, outlined below:

  • Open Gmail and start a new message by clicking Compose
  • You’ll find a small lock icon at the bottom of the message window. Clicking it will activate Confidential Mode.
  • You can then set an expiration date for your message, with the options One dayOne weekOne monthThree months, or Five years.
  • You can then protect your encrypted message via an SMS Passcode, where you set the access code and can have it sent directly to the recipient’s mobile device. If you skip the password option by selecting No Passcode, recipients will only be able to view the message, not download or copy from it.

This process applies to each of the attachments on the email, so you can really get a lot of value from this protection.

Businesses using a paid Google Workspace account can also use encryption (S/MIME, or Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) to protect their emails. This is because they are hosted on a dedicated email server and you can implement such advanced features.

How to Secure Emails in Outlook

Outlook also comes with a feature to protect your emails, but it’s called Open Message Encryption. It’s something you can access through any email provider, and it can help to protect your messages from interception or being forwarded and/or printed by the recipient. It’s also quite simple to implement.

In the Outlook Web App:

  • Start a new message by clicking the New message button.
  • Click the Encrypt button you’ll find in the message window.
  • Above the To button, you’ll see the option to Change permissions. Select it.
  • You’ll be able to select the appropriate level of permissions for that message.
  • Complete your message, and click Send.

In the Outlook Desktop App:

  • Navigate to the Home tab and select New Email.
  • A message window will appear. Click into the Options tab.
  • Click into Permissions, and select the appropriate permissions to apply to the message.
  • Complete your message, and click Send.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Will Blockchain Technology Improve Security?

 The blockchain is a technology that has really taken off in the past couple of years, with many people asking if the same technology behind cryptocurrencies can be applied to other uses and applications. Let’s consider how the blockchain might be used outside of cryptocurrency and in various industries—particularly for security—in the future.


What is the Blockchain?

Also known as distributed ledger technology, the blockchain is a way of sharing data via peer-to-peer networks and computer systems. This might encompass thousands of computers in total, all working to share data to each other. The really interesting part, however, is that each process or transaction amongst these computers is recorded in a ledger. This effectively builds a decentralized and trustworthy chain of records.

This is important for security, as you can’t go back to change one record without changing every single other record following it.

Decentralization is Key Here for Security

The basic idea is this: many organizations use centralized servers, so hackers have one easy target to strike to bring down an infrastructure through, say, a Distributed Denial of Service attack.

If the theoretical defender were to be using blockchain technology for security, however, the attack would not be so easy to pull off. Instead of targeting one server, the attacker would now have to target the entire blockchain to pull off the same attack. Otherwise, the rest of the blockchain would reject the attack, seeing there would be a change in one of the attacked nodes and rejecting that change in kind.

This might be a bit of an oversimplification, but it doesn’t need to be a complex description in order to see the value in this kind of innovation.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Tip of the Week: Five Simple Steps Towards a More Productive Business

If asked, most business owners would likely rank “improving productivity” as one of their overall business goals—and for obvious reasons. Often less obvious, however, is how to go about accomplishing this particular goal. Here, we’ve put together five different but equally effective ways to do so.
Include Wellness Initiatives in Your Benefits It should come as no surprise that any person’s productivity is going to be intrinsically tied to their overall state of being. Do they feel healthy? Are they stressed? Research has shown that the answers to these questions are directly tied to workplace performance, and it probably won’t shock you to hear that the better off your employees are, the more your business tends to benefit from it. Therefore, any investment that you make into the overall well-being of your team can be considered, at least tangentially, an investment back into your business. Consider adding support for fitness programs and other holistic health activities into your benefits package if at all possible, and try to shape your company culture to focus more on your team’s well-being. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify What do your current business goals and objectives look like? What strategies do you have in place to accomplish these goals and objectives? While everyone loves it when a plan comes together, making that plan too convoluted only makes it less attainable. When establishing business goals on any scale, you really do want to keep it simple. A straightforward plan with clear and achievable benchmarks established makes it far easier to not only communicate this goal, but determine the benchmarks and tasks that need to be met and fulfilled in order to accomplish it. A good way to do this is to follow the SMART goal format: Specific – What exactly is it that you want to achieve or accomplish? Measurable – Which metrics will determine your success? Attainable – Is the goal or benchmark you’re setting something that can realistically be accomplished? Relevant – Why is it that this goal is important to the greater mission or purpose you are striving towards? Timely – When specifically should this goal be accomplished? Following this format will help you to make simpler, and critically, more effective goals for your team to strive for. Streamline Notorious Time Wasters On a related note, we all know that there are certain things in the office that eat up time—and sometimes, these things don’t necessarily need to be involved when there are alternatives available. Does a conversation really require a full meeting, or could it be conveyed perfectly well through an email, or even an instant message? Has a certain process grown to be too clunky to actually be of any value? Identifying these kinds of time sinks and reevaluating your approach can help nurture more opportunities to accomplish other things. Likewise, it is important to strike a balance in your company culture. While the type of casual conversation associated with the water cooler is important (some might argue, critical) for team morale and collaboration, it is important not to overcorrect and have camaraderie turn into commotion. The same goes for activities like personal social media usage during work hours. Limiting these potential distractions to a reasonable, healthy level can help keep employees more engaged while actively working. Invest Time in Evaluating Your Goals Back on the subject of your business’ goals, you don’t want yours to go stale. Circumstances change all the time. Your goals might have to do the same in response. Make sure you are taking the time every so often to examine your progress towards accomplishing the benchmarks you’ve set and making tweaks to account for the situation you are in at a given time. Let’s say you had set a goal—ideally, using the SMART method described above—that pertained to a certain project, but the team member who was leading the charge suddenly had to go on leave. How will you adapt your process to account for this change, and how will this impact the goal you’ve set? Checking in and reconsidering what is reasonable will help you be more productive by simply maintaining your team’s motivation. Discourage Hustle Culture Hustle culture may sound like something to strive for to reach maximum productivity, but the opposite is often true. “Rise and grind,””work hard, play hard,””your goals don’t care how you feel,” and other mantras like them don’t always inspire productivity the way they can inspire workplace burnout and disconnection. Want to know what can inspire and enable productivity? Things like a healthy work/life balance, breaks, and vacation time. It all ties back to the wellness aspects we discussed earlier. A well-rested and refreshed worker is a worker who can usually accomplish more than one who is, to use another maxim, “burning the candle at both ends.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Tip of the Week: Mellow Out When Things Aren’t Going Your Way

There is a lot made of the importance of productivity when it comes to running a business. Of course, without a consistent output, revenue growth is impossible. As a result, many workers expect the same kind of effort that they give. When they don’t see that effort, tensions can get high and they can get stressed out pretty easily. Today, we will go through a couple of tips that will help you maintain composure when your job delivers more stress than you’d like.
Stress is a Ruiner One of the problems with stress is that it clouds rational judgment. When people get stressed out at work it can severely hinder their work performance because they aren’t focused on the job at hand, but on the stressors. Work isn’t always a cakewalk, especially if you are stressed out. Before we give you a couple of tips on how to cope, let’s identify some of the most common reasons people are stressed out at work: Too much work No available upward mobility Unclear instructions Unreasonable demands Frustrating work environment Financial or personal problems Regardless of what the problem is, the more stressed out a person is, the worse his/her performance will be. Let’s take a look at three things you can do to reduce workplace stress: Keep Track of Your Stressors It doesn’t matter if that guy at the desk near you is a slob and his desk looks like your kitchen after you cook a three-course meal or you simply didn’t get enough sleep and are grouchy, you need to identify what is bothering you and when it does. One thing you can do is track these stressors in a work journal. By recording your thoughts, feelings, and notes about your work environment, you will be able to better identify the problems and create healthy responses for them. Establish Boundaries It is more difficult than ever for people to create boundaries between their work life and their home life; especially if they work from home. If one part of your life is creating stress, it is best to keep it away from the other part. Create and stick to rules governing when you can and can’t work. For example, if you are habitually checking work notifications at times when you should be relaxing or focusing on family or other important things, you need to set a rule that you aren’t allowed to look at your work notifications at these defined times. Communicate Most bosses don’t ask what their role is: it is to make sure their people are productive. This is not to say that most people want to push their subordinates to the limit of their sanity. If you explain your problem to your manager, there is a good chance that they will do something to help you better manage your business tasks. No one wants burnt out employees, so having a frank conversation about your situation can go a long way toward reducing your stress. While work isn’t always going to be easy, it doesn’t have to be so hard that you are tearing your hair out. Companies that choose to outsource some of their responsibilities have a tendency to see better productivity and efficiency than those that do everything in-house. The IT professionals at Net It On, LLC provide a lot of value with our managed IT services and can help you have a more efficient and effective workplace culture