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