Fun tips to help you while working from home

Now that most of us have spent a week or more working from home we have compiled of list of 6 fun tips to help everyone get through their workday.

  1. Remember your dog always wants to be included in whatever you are doing. Try setting up his bed behind your chair so he can add any of his idea to your meetings.
  2. Make sure your kids are wearing pants before you get on a video call because they will absolutely run behind you when you are on camera.
  3. If you lean slightly toward the camera and lean over your desk, no one can see that the only clean shirt you have can no longer be buttoned all the way down
  4. Hide all of your kids’ Nerf ammo before your all staff conference call so your kids aren’t battling during it.
  5. Always close your chat window when you walk away, because if you don’t your cat will absolutely curl up on your keyboard in your absence and send nonsense to the entire company.
  6. To break up the monotony of never leaving your house, now is a great time to get items of clothing out that you haven’t worn for years.  See if any of your coworkers comment on the tuxedo shirt and bow tie or sequined evening gown you are wearing during your all staff video meeting.

Remember we are all in uncharted territory and we should all try to have some fun with our temporary new normal.

Team Huddles for Work from Home Environments (Helping you maintain business culture in a remote world)

Do you feel like your business is struggling while your workforce is remote?

Tip: Keep your remote workforce moving in the same direction:  A morning huddle can keep your staff accountable during this unprecedented time

You’ve taken the steps to get your workforce set up and working from home, but how do you know if they are being accountable to their daily tasks? How do you keep organization cohesion while your employees are scattered all over the place?

Using a morning huddle is the best way to be sure that everyone remains on the same page.  What is a morning huddle?  It’s a quick daily check in, where everyone in a company or department verbalizes what their upcoming daily tasks/projects are.

How it’s done:

  • All members of the company are logged into a video conference (Zoom, Teams, Go To Meeting, etc.) in the morning before the day gets away from you.  We recommend anywhere between 8:15am to 8:45am.
  • Huddles should not last more than 15-20 minutes.
  • The best way to make this work is to have it be mandatory for everyone, and we mean everyone, in the company.
    • Depending on company size, you may have departmental huddles.  For example, a tech huddle and a sales and operations huddle that occur at the same time within the company.  This usually happens in companies of 20 people or more.
  • Every employee has a huddle sheet (attached) in which they write down their daily activities.  They verbalize out loud to the company what they have on their schedule for today, then they discuss what they accomplished the previous day.  When they verbalize their list from the previous day, they also say whether that activity was “done” or “not done”. 
    • If there are activities that are “not done”, that’s your opportunity to ask why it’s not done and what you can do to help. 
    • Remember, this is a check in huddle and meant to be quick so you can get a pulse of what everyone is doing.  Any deeper conversations come after the huddle is over, as needed.

Why it works:

It helps owners and managers keep their team accountable, focused and on track and during a time where working from home is the norm, not the exception.  Implementing a daily huddle is one step in helping ease the transition, both from a company and overall service standpoint.  Now that you’ve implemented a daily huddle while your workers are remote, it’s something that should be continued when everyone is back in the office full time. 

Life and work will return to normal again, we promise.  Whether that happens in 2 weeks or 2 months from now, Net Works will be there to keep your business moving forward and growing.

ACHIEVING COMPLIANCE WITH KARI’S LAW AND E911

A 2013 tragedy in a Texas hotel room could have been averted if the family member who tried to call for help knew that they needed to dial “9” to get an outside line before reaching 911 on the hotel’s multi-telephone system (MLTS).

This senseless tragedy sparked a petition, to require businesses to make it easier to connect with 911 dispatchers in the case of an emergency. Those valiant efforts led to what is known today as Kari’s Law, which has been enacted in 29 states and whose compliance date is rapidly approaching on February 16th, 2020.

THE EFFECT OF KARI’S LAW ON YOUR BUSINESS

If your business has any type of multi-telephone system (i.e., PBX or key system), you must comply with the law by setting up:

  • Dial 911: All phones must be configured so that anyone dialing can simply press 9-1-1 and reach an emergency dispatch operator without any extra steps in between.
  • Notification at Site: MLTSs must be set up so that once an emergency call is placed, a central on-site or off-site location is notified so administrators can facilitate the entrance of a response team.

In 20 states, Enhanced 911 protocols also require that any VoIP service providers offer E911 services to all their customers. These services ensure that all 911 calls are automatically delivered to a local Public Safety Answer Point complete with a callback number and extensive location information such as a physical address, floor, and room number. This allows first responders to locate the source of the call quickly. 

The wide-reaching effects of Kari’s Law apply not just to hotels or large businesses but any office or building that operates an MLTS. Regardless of whether you distribute, operate, or utilize an MLTS, it’s essential that your company does its due diligence in researching and updating any circuit-switched or VoIP phone systems. Achieving compliance with Kari’s Law could come in the form of hardware replacements or software upgrades that use the latest technology to make sure emergency contact is simple and effective. The potential fallout for non-compliance is not small, with “willful and knowing” non-compliance costing businesses up to $10,000 with possible additional penalties of $500 per day after the initial fine. 

If you need help assessing how to achieve E911 or Kari’s Law compliance, our IT professionals can replace or reprogram your phone systems quickly and with minimal re-training.  Get Net Works on your side, our team of IT experts understand the ins and outs of all types of complex compliance requirements and can keep you up-to-speed and ahead of the game when it comes to avoiding the hefty fines associated with non-compliance. Contact us today to get help. 

Why A Proper Network Assessment Is A Yearly Requirement

If you celebrated the New Year by toasting another 365 days of successful business, we applaud you. But just because everything went according to plan last year doesn’t mean you should let your guard down in the year to come. Whatever resolutions you might have made, it’s essential that you add a network assessment to that list for these three crucial reasons. FOR PROTECTION Cybersecurity threats are continually adapting and evolving. Therefore, your security plan should do the same. Regular network assessments allow you to be sure your system isn’t unprotected against the latest hacking methods or that a minor missed detail doesn’t balloon into a big problem over time. As your business scales, you’ll need to make sure that your IT setups are reassessed to fix any current glaring security holes and create a strategic approach to technology planning going forward. A proper network assessment helps you do just that. By getting a comprehensive scan of all of your ports and vectors, ensuring your encryption and authentication controls are up to par, and developing strategic security solutions that can scale, you can make sure you’re protected today and for the future. FOR EFFICIENCY Keeping your business up and running means many times having to implement new IT solutions on the fly without taking a second look to make sure it’s all working as smoothly as possible. A network assessment gives you an overview of your systems so you can identify underused or overused resources and allocate them better for added efficiency. Pinpointing bottlenecks, maximizing bandwidth, and identifying out of date software or hardware will reduce workforce frustrations and free your team up to tackle more work, day in and day out. If you’re handling this process yourself, consider an open-source network mapping software solution like Nmap. A resource like this one can inventory all your devices and create real-time live diagrams that document the overall design of your system. FOR EDUCATION A network assessment doesn’t just provide precious knowledge about the weaknesses of your network and methods for improved efficiency to you alone; it gives you valuable insights you can share with your whole team. The knowledge gained by your employees will undoubtedly boost their productivity, augment security awareness overall, and improve communication among team members. But it also gives you some newfound knowledge for creating clear, well thought out policies that define proper network usage for your employees. Utilizing the discoveries made during your assessment, you can implement new protocols that maximize productivity while preventing unnecessary cybersecurity risk. If you’re looking to get your year off to the right start by learning more about the ins and outs of your network, consider contacting Net Works. Our professional IT experts can assist you in getting the full picture of how your system is working and all the ways you can fix and improve your processes. So, you can make sure your network is streamlined and secure year-round.

Don’t Fall Victim to Ransomware this Holiday Season

As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing we are bombarded with emails for sales and deals. But shoppers aren’t the only ones looking to cash in by utilizing promotional emails. Nefarious cybercriminals know a surge in cybershoppers means plenty of opportunities for businesses to click on the wrong link and fall victim to a lucrative type of malware that nets them several million dollars a year – ransomware.

 

How Ransomware Works

 

Used by cybercriminals for many years, and becoming more and more sophisticated every day, ransomware attacks aim to lock and encrypt your most sensitive data to then extract a ransom from you in exchange for regaining access.

 

The process starts with a simple phishing attack; a legitimate-looking email with a fake coupon attached, a “spoofed” website for a business that offers services you need, or a phony email from someone you trust directing you to a can’t-miss a deal. No matter the bait, the goal is to infect your system with a specific type of malware that immediately encrypts all your data and then shuts down your access. Once you’re locked out, a ransom is demanded by the hacker and most likely required in a crypto-currency that makes the transaction completely untraceable. Worse yet, paying the ransom provides no guarantee you’ll ever get access to your data again.

 

Preventing Ransomware Attacks

 

So how do you protect yourself from falling prey? Here are a few tips:

 

Back Up and Update Your System: The main precaution to take is ensuring you are consistently and thoroughly backing up your systems. Making sure to take multiple backups both locally and in the cloud means you have leverage in any ransom negotiation and that you can quickly restore access no matter what parts of your system you get locked out of. Updating and installing security patches in web browsers, software, and hardware like printers or routers, also helps repair vulnerabilities in your network and may prevent certain types of attacks.

 

Segment Your Network: If your first lines of defense (firewalls, passwords, intrusion prevention systems) fail, a flat network infrastructure will mean that attackers have access to all your data. A network segmentation, either physical or virtual, limits communication between servers and workstations within the system so that those who gain access won’t be able to move freely through it. By slowing down the attack and limiting its effects, segmenting your system buys you extra time to recognize the breach and protect any parts that are unaffected before the malware can spread.

 

Educate Yourself and Your Team: Ultimately, prevention of phishing and malware attacks comes down to human awareness. Make sure to carefully examine any email with an attachment and make sure it’s from someone you trust. Don’t click on links from unknown sources and don’t provide any sensitive information (passwords or personal info) through email or over the phone if you don’t have to. Never use public WIFI on work devices as they are easy to breach. And in turn, it’s paramount that you make sure your staff does the same. Educate them, set stringent security protocols, and check in with them as often as you can.

 

The Ultimate Protection

 

By far, the most effective way to dissuade cutting-edge malware attacks is to partner with a managed service provider (MSP) that can keep an expert eye on every aspect of your cybersecurity for you. A dedicated MSP can ensure you have a team of qualified professionals working around the clock to assess the flaws in your system and combat the latest trends in cybercrime as they arise.

 

If you’re looking for a powerful ally in the battle against ransomware attacks, consider contacting Net Works. Our cybersecurity professionals stay locked in and focus on thwarting insidious threats like ransomware, so you can worry less and put the focus back on your business.

USERS BEWARE: MICROSOFT 7 END OF LIFE IS NEAR

It’s the end of an era. January 14th, 2020 marks the moment at which Microsoft’s support for Windows 7 will come to a close as Microsoft 7 reaches its End of Life Date. Pledging ten years of product support when the popular operating system was released in October of 2009, Microsoft has fulfilled its commitment and will cease to provide patches, fixes, or technical support to Microsoft 7 users from that date forward. It’s true, businesses who refuse to update their systems will be able to pay a fee for additional support if they choose to stick with Windows 7 but beware ­– risks lie ahead.

 

 

What It Means

 

When products are in a supported state, they enjoy the benefits of essential security updates and patches to keep hackers at bay and make sure the product functions smoothly. In short, the developer (Microsoft) takes the time to make sure the product is keeping up with the times. But when this period ends, that product becomes increasingly vulnerable to bugs, glitches, and emerging cybersecurity threats leaving users with a product that grows more obsolete and unreliable by the day.

 

 

What to Do Next

 

Microsoft strongly recommends upgrading to Microsoft 10. If you’re a current Microsoft 7 user, this move does have some obvious benefits. Firstly, because both operating systems are developed by Microsoft, the migration process is streamlined and straightforward, and in most cases, your files can stay right on your PC as they are. Also, you and your staff won’t have to learn a new operating system as the function and feel will be very similar. If you wish to do so, purchase a Windows 10 update, download the installation file and run it.

 

If you wish to look elsewhere, you can compare and choose from Google Chromebook, Mac products, or a Linux operating system, but be sure that you are making a move to a system that will be supported for many years to come.

 

One Thing to Watch Out For

 

One final consideration before you make the move to upgrade is to double-check that the current applications you are using are supported and will work once you move to Windows 10. If you’ve been delaying making an upgrade with your operating system, you may also have some older applications in daily use that require replacement as well. If you rely on any of these too heavily and fail to make sure that it will be supported once you make the switch, you could be in store for a nasty surprise that damages productivity. Before upgrading systems company-wide, check in with your IT team and test your current applications on Windows 10 to make sure you’re in the clear.

 

Staying up to date and making sure you are adequately supported is a full-time job. Just recently, Microsoft also started up a campaign to inform Microsoft Office 2010 users that the end of free support is only a year away. If you need help managing IT tasks like these, consider utilizing a dedicated MSP like Net Works. Our in-house IT professionals can assist with staying up-to-date on security risks, important updates, and tech trends so you can focus on your business instead of worrying about what Microsoft is up to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW CLOUD COMPUTING CAN HELP SMALL TO MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES

As a small to medium-sized business owner, it’s a David vs. Goliath scenario. You’re constantly looking for ways to do more with less. One surefire way to level the playing field is to make the migration to cloud computing as soon as possible. And with National Work From Home Week (October 9th – 15th) coming up, it’s the perfect time for us to dive into why moving your data away from your physical workplace could work handsomely in your favor. 

 

WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?

For the unfamiliar, the cloud is an on-demand externally managed service for computer system resources. The cloud can provide data storage, software solutions such as applications, and virtual IT services from a remote location that is easily accessed 24/7 through the internet.

 

THE FIVE MAJOR BENEFITS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Flexibility

One of the main advantages a smaller business has over its competitors is the ability to be agile, make quick decisions, and respond personally to client’s needs, facilitating stronger relationships. Cloud-based services enhance this by allowing your bandwidth to fluctuate quickly based on your needs. Without your own physical storage to deal with, scaling up or down to service your clients is as simple as snapping your fingers.

 

Ease of Collaboration

This responsiveness and agility also extend to daily workflow. Since teams can access, share, edit, and collaborate on documents from anywhere, anytime, your response times can now rival those of a Goliath sized business with many more employees.

 

Automation

When you run a small business, your attention is a precious resource. Cloud computing allows you to focus it on growing your business instead of managing servers, buying software, or installing updates. When you outsource these to an experienced provider, your file storage systems are updated and maintained automatically so you can zoom ahead without stopping for a service check.

 

Reduced Costs

Another benefit that makes your company act larger than it is, cloud-based solutions cut costs by eliminating the need for expensive hardware, server maintenance, and software licensing or upgrades.  All these are baked into your once-a-month or yearly subscription fee when you migrate to the cloud. Additionally, your newfound workplace flexibility could allow you to pay reduced salaries to talented prospects who are enticed by the ability to work remotely.

 

Improved Cybersecurity

Finally, because your data is now stored remotely, you have access to it regardless of what happens to your laptop or desktop computer. Cloud-based services allow you to remove the risk of physical threats to your data, such as fires or earthquake damage. And if you are the victim of a phishing scheme or ransomware attack, your network isn’t chock full of valuable data just sitting around to be mined by thieves. Many cloud solutions even offer the ability to remotely wipe any data from your laptop in case it ends up lost or stolen.

 

GETTING HELP WITH IMPLEMENTATION

If you want to make the switch but aren’t sure how, get in contact with an MSP like Net Works. Migrating to the cloud requires making tough decisions about what service to use and which aspects of your business should remain on-site in the end. An experienced set of IT professionals like the ones at Net Works can help you make these decisions quickly and get your cloud systems up and running ASAP so you too can experience the magic feeling of working from the comfort of your own home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of Outsourcing IT

The importance of IT (information technology) in modern business cannot be overstated. With connectivity linking almost every core business aspect to a piece of technology, it might seem to make sense to keep such an important primary business function in-house. But more and more small and medium-sized business are finding that outsourcing IT service through a Managed Service Provider (MSP) helps them level the playing field against larger competitors and can provide them tremendous value. Here are a few of the ways it does so.

 

CONTROL AND CUT COSTS

 

One of the most obvious advantages of outsourcing is its ability to drastically reduce overhead. Hiring and training employees, buying and maintaining equipment, rolling out the latest software; all these costs are eliminated when passing your IT responsibilities on to a qualified third party. By outsourcing IT, you immediately turn these fluctuating costs into a controlled sum that can be more easily managed and is adaptable to your budget.

 

FOCUS ON CORE BUSINESS

 

As they say, time is money. And when IT is outsourced, you will undoubtedly have more of it to spend on the core areas of your business.  By handing off the complex decision-making responsibilities required to keep IT up-to-date and running smoothly, you are better able to allocate time and energy to improving and promoting the product or service you provide to your customers.

 

GAIN EXPERTISE

 

Just because someone has the qualifications doesn’t mean they have the experience. Even though your new hire might have a strong resume, any respected IT service can assign a team of skilled professionals who have routinely handled the same problems repeatedly through the years and quickly identify a proper solution. By outsourcing, you gain access to industry thought leaders who can provide expert support for any critical IT decisions that arise and will utilize the most cutting-edge solutions available.

 

REDUCE RISK

 

Similarly, when it comes to security and compliance issues, having experienced IT professionals monitoring your systems, 24/7 means the risk of making grave errors that could cost you in the long run is drastically reduced. In a world of constantly evolving cyber threats, it can be a struggle to identify all the ways your system may be vulnerable. But with a top-level cybersecurity team in place, you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

 

 

GROW AND ADAPT QUICKLY

 

In the end, the goal of any business is to grow – and do it quickly. Jumping to the next stage of development when you’ve outsourced your IT department happens at the snap of your fingers. Adjustments that would need long periods of training and implementation can be made promptly, by merely allocating more resources to your account. You’re also provided specialized expertise so as you scale you implement new solutions that make the most sense for your business and not something that will be out-of-date as soon as you expand again. With outsourced IT, there’s no need to struggle with hiring new staff or learning new hardware; simply grow and go.

 

If you might be looking to expand your technological capabilities or want to re-focus your energy back on your core business, consider outsourcing your IT functions.  At Net Works we can provide the best and brightest IT professionals to help you reduce costs, expertly allocate resources, and stay vigilant in a world of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. Contact us today to find out if outsourcing is the right choice for your business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lessons We Can Learn from Shadow IT

Tech professionals are smart people. Like cool kids at school, they always have their ears to the ground when it comes to the hippest innovations and hottest gadgets popping up in the tech world. Yet the urge to utilize the latest, fastest, and most efficient innovations has led to a security threat that many IT leaders struggle to manage – the ominously monikered “Shadow IT.”

 

What Is Shadow IT?

 

Shadow IT is the buzzword for the use of unapproved IT systems and solutions within an organization. The current abundance of third-party apps and Software as a Service (SaaS) tools means tech-savvy professionals have a myriad of options to choose from. As users familiarize themselves with these apps, they might begin to feel more comfortable using them or find that they provide functionalities that approved corporate apps simply do not. This trend is not new, but is wildly more pervasive than many CIO’s realize. According to a study, 35% of employees feel the need to work around protocol to work efficiently.

 

The Risks of Shadow IT

 

Obviously, the use of unvetted apps is troublesome from a cyber security perspective as users tend to be unaware of the security risks associated with third-party software. For example, Evernote, a widely used app (more than 25 million users), is popular in business circles even though the info you input into it is stored entirely unencrypted. Beyond the security risks, there are other potential perils. Any info stored on a shadow IT service won’t be a part of company backups and therefore could be easily lost forever. Additionally, if your business needs to be compliant with any laws or regulations, the use of these methods may constitute a violation.

 

Combating Shadow IT

 

Like many workforce issues, the use of shadow IT is best helped by reestablishing or strengthening lines of communication. Over 30 percent of IT workers say they are using unapproved apps because of a slow approval process for new solutions in their corporate environment. Many employees complain that corporate solutions are clunky, have long load times, or don’t offer the latest features. So, start by engaging your employees on this issue by doing the following:

 

Understand

Start by monitoring your network for popular shadow IT services such as Dropbox, Slack, or Evernote and then dig deeper to attempt to assess the scope of the problem.

 

Engage

Once you have a sense of what is being used, gather your team and have an honest dialogue about why these tools are popular. Are they meeting needs that your current systems do not? Or is it merely that the interface is more user-friendly? This will give you a checklist of what to improve to entice your employees to stay within the guidelines.

 

Replace

You are more than justified in throwing down the hammer and demanding your employees simply stop using any shadow IT options. However, finding solutions that address the needs or preferences of your team will help improve efficiency and replace outdated systems. It also creates a positive workplace environment where employees feel their needs are met, and their concerns are heard. Most of the time, replacing the functions of these apps with corporate-approved options will eliminate the need for employees to use them, and the problem will quickly dissipate naturally.

 

Educate

Once you’ve found suitable alternatives, give everyone a grace period before restricting third-party apps. Make sure your team is on the same page about why these apps are forbidden. Then provide proper training for new solutions so everyone can see firsthand how these new systems solve problems that were previously addressed by using shadow services.

 

Get Assistance

The ultimate ally, a dependable Managed Service Provider (MSP) is stocked with professional IT management experts that can consistently find the most advanced solutions for you and implement them before your employees search for a workaround. An MSP like Net Works can also train, educate, and ensure workplace satisfaction by working with your IT team to establish open lines of communication. Contact Net Works today to find out more about how working with an MSP can help you eliminate shadow IT

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Vs. Machine Learning (ML)

Some of the newest buzzwords floating around the tech world, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), are often used these days interchangeably but are actually quite different. With an ever-evolving tech world achieving breakthroughs at breakneck speeds, these types of confusions are becoming widespread. Here, we’ll break down some of the key differences between the two and explore the ways these advancements may affect the cybersecurity landscape going forward.

 

The Differences Between AI and ML

 

Probably the more familiar of the two, AI, is a more general term that encapsulates all of advanced computer intelligence. Implemented in a system in order to perform tasks that we typically associate with our human brains, AI is a broad term that includes systems used for tasks such as problem-solving, understanding a language, scheduling tasks, or recognizing and identifying objects or shapes.

 

ML, on the other hand, refers to a very precise way of achieving AI. The traditional way of creating an “intelligent” machine would be to give the piece of technology all the answers as you program it. This requires explicitly programming millions of lines of code that breakdown intricate rules and provide decision-making trees to refer to when deciding how to act and react in any given situation. ML instead relies on giving the machine a neural network that works on a system of probability. When fed large sets of data, this neural network predicts outcomes and decides on its own how to proceed in achieving its goal. The addition of a feedback loop means the machine can “learn,” through trial and error, which processes are best at achieving results and in turn readjust its algorithms to fine-tune its approach.

 

Vulnerabilities of AI and ML

 

Because the benefits of self-driving cars, voice-recognition software, and self-learning machines are so evident, the implementation of both ML and AI in business and our daily routines is inevitable. But utilizing these advancements will also come with their share of peril. Because both AI and ML require massive sets of data to become accurate and achieve positive results, they will most likely drive a spike in a particularly concerning type of cyberattack – data manipulation.

 

For the unfamiliar, data manipulation is a hacking technique in which instead of stealing data, cybercriminals change the details to make the data inaccurate. This malicious type of attack is hard to detect, can lead to a myriad of disastrous scenarios, and has already been highlighted by U.S. intelligence officials as a growing concern.

 

Preventing Data Manipulation

 

To combat this impending threat, businesses will have to develop a keen eye for detail, stay hypervigilant, and use a series of endpoint detection and response tools. Utilizing file integrity monitoring systems and carefully logging activity to track real-time data changes will become a necessity as the threat of data manipulation becomes increasingly prevalent.

 

MSP Knowledge and Power

 

If you run a business, it’s your job to stay ahead of the curve on the latest technological advancements and dangers. But understanding incredibly complex advancements like AI and ML and the risks that will arise with their implementation can be overwhelming. That’s why Managed Service Providers (MSP) are becoming increasingly valuable to medium and small-sized businesses in today’s hyper-technological climate. An MSP can provide business leaders with a committed team of professionals that ensure they have the most up-to-date knowledge, tools, and cybersecurity strategies to protect their bottom lines.

 

Looking to be savvy, cutting-edge, and completely secure? Contact Net Works and gift yourself the peace of mind that only working with an expert MSP can provide.