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Author Archives: Admin

Conserving Bandwidth without Inciting Mutiny

Warning warning: this will be a bit of a tricky topic because it’s impossible to talk about bandwidth conservation without words like limits, controls and monitoring. Let’s face it, in today’s workplace, employees have come to expect the complete freedom that comes from Wi-Fi and BYOD and are likely to balk at anything that hinders their “rights” to these services. We’ll focus on providing tips and logic that allow you to control bandwidth consumption, all while maintaining happy employees.

Identify Your Largest Culprits

If you’re like most offices, you’ve got that one guy. The one that is sitting there with 56 browser windows open, streaming music as well as that day’s big game, yammering on his work phone all while surfing the web on his Wi-Fi connected cell. Not only is this behavior obnoxious, it’s killing everyone else’s productivity. Start your bandwidth conservation with these individuals. Begin with a simple conversation. “Do you really need to have all of that going all at once?” If a conversation doesn’t work to both kill the usage — and frankly, get them back on task — you can move forward to more aggressive measures including website restrictions, a separate Wi-Fi network for all cell devices or a performance improvement plan for this individual.

Implement Social Media Controls Wisely

Social media can be extremely beneficial for your business by connecting customers, providing excellent marketing opportunities and opening a door for customer service. It becomes a problem when you have people sitting at their desks scrolling their feed, posting selfies, or going live to tell people about what they ate for breakfast rather than working. To solve this problem, we do not recommend killing access to all social media in your office. People will find a way around your controls. Instead, we recommend conservative protocols.

First, have a conversation with your employees. Let them know that you understand their desire to connect with the outside world while at the office but that it can’t interfere with work expectations. That means personal live videos, bathroom breaks for a selfie photo session and constant comments on friend’s posts are out. An occasional birthday greeting or post is perfectly acceptable.

If this doesn’t stick for the company as a whole (not just the occasional individual), you have to get a bit harsher. For example, limit access to social media to between the hours of 11-2 (a typical span for lunch breaks). Limit access to particular departments like sales, marketing, and customer service. Limit access to particular problem sites (e.g.,. if Instagram isn’t utilized in your company social media strategy, you may want to cut access entirely).

Block the Right Websites

Outside of social media, typical bandwidth sucking sites include YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Netflix and any other streaming services. While you’re probably okay allowing music streaming (listening to music often brings people into hyper-focus), you’ll want to cut off access to most video streaming when you start to see bandwidth issues. Rather than get rid of everything cold turkey, consider putting a TV with access to all of these streaming services in the breakroom so that employees don’t feel deprived of their binge-watching, but are at least doing it in a constrained, appropriate environment.

Backup and Update at Appropriate Times

Data backup and systems updates are absolutely critical to business success, but you don’t necessarily have to do the heavy lifting during peak usage hours. Instead, schedule the major daily backup (not just incremental minute-to-minute changes) to run afterhours. Cluster your system updates to run all at once for all employees at night or on the weekend rather than whenever the employee sees a pop-up.

Aggressive Security Protocols

Malware and viruses are notorious for stealing bandwidth. Make sure you have the proper firewall and virus protection protocols in place to avoid having these piggybackers stealing your network power.

Audit Your Bandwidth – Get What You’re Paying For

Every year, we recommend running an audit of both your phone and bandwidth services to make sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for. What do your upload and download speeds look like versus what you were promised? A master agent and MSP can help to make sure everything is in line.

Bandwidth is a limited and extremely important asset. You don’t always have the option of buying more pipeline. Instead, implement these bandwidth conservation protocols to make sure your employees are always able to work at their maximum capacity.

Getting Ahead of Windows End of Life

With Windows 7 end of life quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about what needs to be done to prepare. Technically, regular Windows 7 support has been dead since 2015, however, the extended support period is over January 2020, which means no more updates or security patches. What should you be aware of for EOL? Get ready, you may have some work to do.

Many are concerned that their PCs will stop working. That is not the case. Your Windows software will work, but its security will depreciate rather quickly, which could put your PC in danger of cyber-attacks and viruses. Back in 2014, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP. It affected 40% of computers worldwide. Now, years later, it is estimated that about 7% of computers are still using Windows XP. These computers are the ones hackers like to target because of the security holes caused by lack of regular patching.

Currently, about 70% of businesses worldwide use Windows 7, so it’s highly likely that you need to take action before Windows 7 retires. The more systems you have on Windows 7, the sooner you need to prepare. Here‘s a quick action plan:

  • Determine how many systems need an upgrade. Simply take a count of all the systems running Windows 7 or, if you still have some, Windows XP. If systems are on Windows 7, and the hardware is up to par, you likely will be able to do a simple license upgrade.
  • Assess your hardware. Windows 10 will not work on all hardware systems. You may need an upgrade. Contact your IT provider to help you determine if your hardware has the right specs. Easiest way to tell? If your hardware came out in the last three years or so, you’re probably in the clear. We recommend upgrading your hardware about every three to four years to avoid any compatibility issues.
  • Create a timeline and budget. You don’t have to make all these changes all at once. You could plan them out up to and including January 2020, but we recommend getting started sooner rather than later. Again, your IT provider will be able to help determine your best path forward.
  • Create contingency plans. Unfortunately, not all line of business applications will immediately jump to operation on Windows 10, particularly if you’re utilizing an older version of the software, or if your software provider has gone out of business or moved to their own end of life cycle. Sometimes this is inevitable, but you need to be able to quarantine these vulnerable systems from the rest of your network as much as possible or take the time to plan your upgrade now. A quality IT company will be able to help you make the decision, as well as set up a test environment so that you know your contingency plans are working long before you need them.
  • Training Your Staff. While the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is not the monumental shift past software updates have been, the new system does take a bit of getting used to. Plan time to work with your staff one-on-one or in a group so that you don’t end up with them wasting time tinkering or trying to figure out why their favorite button isn’t where it used to be. Your IT provider should be able to provide this user-based training for Windows 10, as well as the majority of software you utilize on a daily basis.

Keep in mind that Windows 10 end of life takes place in January of 2025; so, while planning, ensure your devices can make the switch again in a few years, or that you’re budgeting for another upgrade. Also, document your processes during the shift. This could make life so much easier down the road. Most of all though, act. You don’t want to be stuck without security patches or an up-to-date operating system. It’s like hackers can smell your outdated system and will gladly break-in. Protect yourself and your business and begin planning sooner than later.

What Does Windows End of Life Mean to my Business?

You’ve all heard the panic. Windows is cutting off support for its widely popular version 7 software. January 14, 2020 will officially mark Windows 7 End of Life. Many companies have used Windows 7 since it launched in 2009 and are still actively using it today. So, what’s the big deal? Can you just stick with Windows 7 or will your computer self-destruct?

The good news is that your computers will work just fine after the End of Life date. However, just because your computer will function doesn’t mean it’s wise to hold onto outdated software. The largest concern for Windows 7 users is security. Since updates and support will no longer be available, your device will be extremely vulnerable to cyber threats. In fact, this is a bit of a hacker’s dream. They are standing by, knowing people will neglect to update their operating system.

Windows 7 is actually already in its ‘extended support’ phase and has been since 2015! Microsoft ended mainstream support including new features and warranty claims. Yet, throughout this time, Windows has kept virus patches and security bug fixes up to date. With End of Life, that will go away. IT and security experts alike strongly suggest migrating your operating system to something current before the Windows EOL date. Theoretically, you could pay for Windows 7 extended support on each individual device, but the costs will build up faster than simply migrating. Not only that, but specific security and bug fixes will also be more expensive and charged on an individual basis.

Currently, there are a few options to choose from when it comes to Windows 7 EOL. Don’t be cheap and go to Windows 8. Though it is a newer version, it’ll only be a matter of time before you need to migrate all over again. You could transition to Windows 10 (recommended). If you are worried about cost efficiency, you could try a free operating system like Linux. It will take some research to find the specific Linux platform that’s best for you, but it may be worth it if you’re someone who likes to tinker. Then, of course, you could swap to a Mac altogether. Just keep in mind that Apple’s products are pretty expensive and you may need to re-purchase certain business applications.

It’s important to begin working with your IT Company on this migration as soon as possible. They’ll take a look at the devices you are using, determine how many are utilizing Windows 7, and ensure your hardware isn’t out of date. Not all computers will be able to handle a new operating system, which could make a migration take much longer, more difficult, and costlier as you upgrade hardware. Your IT company will provide a recommended path for an upgrade with a clear budget and timeline for completion.

Overall, take some time to plan your transition. Talk to us if you need additional help or options. Most of all though, get moving now. EOL will be here in no time.

Business Evolution

Figuring out how to effectively utilize social media within your business can be a tricky task. On the one hand, it’s critical for marketing. On the other, it can be a major time suck. You’ll have to walk a fine line of utilizing the main players like Facebook and Instagram, alongside other lesser-known social-related platforms to evolve your business and increase communication and productivity amongst employees and clients. We’re not going to spend time in this blog giving you a large how-to of using each of these platforms, but we will get you started down the right path with the correct technology.

Customer Service

While nothing can replace a human voice, sometimes, utilizing social technology can massively improve your customer service. Start with simple tools like the Facebook Messenger autoresponder. Whenever someone messages you on Facebook, they immediately receive a response acknowledging their message in addition to expectations for further interaction. This allows you to be continually responsive without constantly sitting on Facebook.

If you’re ready to take it a step further, consider specific customer service profiles on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll need to be able to clearly track customers’ complaints and rants, but quickly showing up in response on these social profiles will make a big difference. Check out how these companies do Twitter support very well.

Finally, consider a chat mechanism on your website. A whole generation of customers is rising that much prefers chatting online to getting on the phone. You don’t have to constantly manage this service. You can either set office hours or outsource to a third party to start and triage conversations.

Utilizing these techniques, your office manager and customer service team can get off the phone and answer questions through a social platform while they are working on other items creating greater efficiency.

Communication

Communication between employees can also be enhanced with social platforms. For example, Microsoft Office 365 offers Teams, a software for messaging, video conferencing, calls, and screen sharing. Instead of walking all the way to someone’s office or trying to multitask while waiting for answers, you can type in a name and send a message to anyone in the company. It cuts time in half; you get quick on the spot response or support. When employees are working remotely, they can still communicate effectively with anyone in the office utilizing a screen share and video to make their message clear. Something like this will also allow you to eliminate other video conferencing software for a more complete, all-in-one solution saving time, training, and money. Your IT company can point you in the right direction when it comes to implementing a software like this.

Morale

Finally, social media, social tools, and social platforms are all shown to increase morale within a business. They are allowing employees to streamline their jobs without the stress and hassle of attempting to collaborate with different people via email or an office visit. It also shows them that you trust them to use these things on work time and not abuse the privilege. Taking a small break to check Facebook or network with a client makes a surprising difference in the workplace. Do some research and find out what would work best for your business.

Social Media Use Policy

Everywhere you turn today you will find social media. People taking selfies at the grocery store, responding to Instagram while walking down the street and of course checking Facebook while clocked-in at work. What do you do when social media use gets out of hand in the workplace? It can seem like a never-ending battle with employees, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Before you go any further, draft up a social media use policy. This will save you headaches and possible litigation. Employees can agree to it and follow it or they can find work elsewhere. Sounds harsh, I know, but your business’s reputation is not worth Mary’s selfie. Don’t get me wrong, the policy doesn’t have to be rigid and forceful. Your employees are adults and can handle responsibility. Similar to a job description, policies allow for clarification and accountability, which is great for both employer and employee.

To create a social media use policy, start by splitting the policy between company official accounts and personal accounts. For company official accounts, clearly articulate your brand as well as how you want it perceived, so that the message is consistent across all platforms, no matter who posts or comments. Talk about confidentiality and what company info can or cannot be shared. This can be similar to the non-disclosure you had your employees sign when they got hired.

For personal accounts, explain what they’re allowed to divulge about the company. For example, posting identifiable client information without the client’s permission is a major no-no. Badmouthing the customers is clearly out, as well as complaints about employees or managers that should be brought to HR. Basically, the employee is responsible for what is posted and should be cognizant of who may be reading. For anyone that uses their personal account for company business (i.e. connecting with customers or sharing marketing materials), set clear expectations of what can and should be listed on their account. For example, it’s an employee’s prerogative to have a side-gig as an underwear model on the weekend; but perhaps it’s not the best idea to have that individual representing your company using social media pages filled with scantily clad photos. You probably have other more conservative options, or you can encourage that employee to develop different social media accounts to represent your company.

For both personal and company accounts, outline the potential consequences for not following these guidelines. Ensure these are clear and concise to avoid loopholes that can be quickly manipulated.

Perhaps even more importantly, spell out clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Figure out who will have access to the company’s social media. You can harness the power of social media for your benefit if you play it smart. Your marketing team will need it, well, to market. Sales can keep in touch with prospects or members easily and it gives all parties confirmation that you care. Beyond that, you may want to give your receptionist or office manager access in order to help with customer service on different platforms. Clearly articulate expectations for each role so that you don’t end up with customer service professionals trying to market, and marketing selling things that the service team can’t deliver. With clear roles, you’ll also know when each team member will jump in to field an interaction from a customer or prospect without overwhelming them or leaving them hanging.

As you develop your policy, keep a few things in mind. Don’t discourage use, and ensure the language of the document sounds positive. Employees will get upset with a big change to their routine, particularly if they perceive it as restrictive or negative. Also, be transparent on why you’re creating a policy. Let them know if productivity has been negatively affected through social media use, and be clear with them about the potential security risks you are trying to avoid. Finally, explain how a policy keeps everyone honest and accountable. As long as you are transparent about the new policy, implementing it shouldn’t be a huge issue. If you have employees assist you drafting this document, that’s even better. They become part of the change and not steamrolled by it.