Surviving the New Workplace

With the ongoing situation in the world, there are many people who are either furloughed or have been outright laid off from their jobs. Those of us who can work from home are very fortunate to be able to keep working through all of this, even as business slows down.

Although some companies have been hesitant to let their employees work remotely, there is a slew of benefits that might keep employees working from home even after the COVID-19 crisis settles. There are some unique challenges that come alongside remote work, though. Here are some new issues that may arise and what can be done to lessen the blow.

Keep in Touch

When you work in an office with your employees, you may take that proximity for granted. Even if you don’t have daily meetings, how often do you stop by for a minute just to see how things are doing or for a quick update on a project? This creates a relationship beyond just instructions from a faceless email.

Make sure to take the time to check in daily with your team, perhaps even a couple of times a day, and make these connections on video. There’s no shortage of free or low-cost programs (such as Skype, Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting) that can help you stay in touch without wasting too much time. The more often you do these meetings, the more efficient the process will be for everyone. We recommend a 15-minute huddle in the morning, as well as something to close out the day.

Stay Positive

Working from home sounds great, but it can be an adjustment, especially if you’ve been forced into it like many are today. People may find themselves getting claustrophobic and uneasy since they no longer have a routine of getting ready for work, traveling, and just getting out of the house. For many, this can be a source of anxiety and stress.

Keep meetings informative, but uplifting. Don’t just talk about work — have everyone talk about a positive thing that happened. It could even be something as simple as finding a new series that they like or their children making breakfast for the family etc.

Make it Personal

In addition to group meetings, make it point to meet with employees one-on-one at least once a week, more if you have ongoing projects that need attention. When you’re home alone or with the family, it gets really easy to be sidetracked compared to working in the office.

Remember that, for some people, the office is their main source of socializing, so this connection could be a lifeline to them as they’re isolated at home. Younger employees also appreciate more frequent feedback from their superiors. Without this, they can get easily distracted or disheartened.

Be the Fun Boss

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your employees are going to work 8 solid hours a day at home. As long as they are getting their work done at a high level of quality, it’s best just to leave that be. In fact, encourage downtime and even create games or challenges for your team. With everything going on, if you don’t give them the occasional distraction, they’ll find something on their own that could end up keeping them off tasks for longer.

Keep Their Heads in the Cloud

Since they are no longer in a physical location that you have control over, make sure that your team’s data is backed up properly is crucial. While most companies are using a cloud storage solution on some level, others rely mostly or entirely on server storage. Find a way to make sure that all your employees’ work is backed up safely and efficiently. This type of data solution will also allow employees to work on a project simultaneously even if they’re physically separated.

Hardware and Software Checks

The last thing you want is for your employees to have nothing to do because the don’t have the proper tools! Whether you provide them with their equipment or they’re using their own, make sure that your team always has everything they need to do their work. To avoid progress interruptions, keep all software licenses for programs such as Microsoft Office or any other industry-specific apps up to date.

Lastly, don’t forget security considerations. This is especially important if they’re using their own equipment since what works at home computer may not cut it for your business needs.

We were all forced into a new work environment very quickly, but we think this shift is just a picture of times to come. In fact, some predict that 20% of the workforce will be fully remote within the next two years. That’s why an MSP might be your best option to help in these trying times. We have the tools, resources and experience needed to take care of all these considerations without ever having to step foot in your office. Contact us today and we can show you how we can start to implement your perfect solution for your business.

7 Reasons to Upgrade from Windows 7

It’s true that we’ve been running around like Chicken Little, shouting about Windows 7 End of Life, but you know what? The sky has fallen — Windows 7 is dead. That’s right, we are past the End of Life date and Windows 7 is no longer being supported by Microsoft. At least that’s what they are saying.

“But wait,” you say. “My computer system still works. In fact, I’m reading this on a Windows 7 computer right now!” While it’s true that Microsoft didn’t pull the plug on the operating system, that doesn’t mean that you should still be using it. And if you are clinging on to that dated technology, we’ll offer you 7 reasons why you should upgrade from Windows 7.

#1. No More Updates

Ok, so we’ll get the big issue out of the way first. Microsoft has ceased releasing new patches and security updates for Windows 7. You might feel safe for now, but hackers will soon learn how to get past the latest security barriers, as they always do. In the past that wouldn’t be that big of an issue as Microsoft would regularly come out with new patches. Something that won’t be happening now.

When hackers find a new way to get in, not only will they cause as much havoc as possible, they’ll also share or sell this information on the Dark Web. Then it will be open season.

#2. Large Target

Some people figure that if they continue to use the outdated OS, it’s no big deal since most people have already switched to Windows 10. The thought is that hackers going after a handful of people on the older systems isn’t worth the time. Yes, most Windows users have indeed upgraded, but keep in mind that there are between 1.2-1.5 billion current PC’s running on Windows. The US Digital Analytics Program estimates that as of December 2019, 18.7% of those users were still on Windows 7, which would add up to almost 300 million users. If you were a hacker and you had a pool of potential victims who were using an operating system that is no longer supported, you would most likely dedicate your time trying to pirate their systems. The path of least resistance.

#3. Speed

The newer Windows OS is much leaner on the backend. Take booting up as an example. On average, you can save more than a minute starting up your computer. That may not sound like much, but think about how much time that saves over the course of just one year. Assuming you work five days a week for an entire year, that’s 260 minutes (4.3 hours) of you unnecessarily waiting at your computer. If you have a team of just 20 people, that would be 87 wasted man-hours every year!

That’s just the bootup time. Even web browsing is faster! The newer OS platforms use more web and cloud-based applications. Less network interaction between your computer and server means faster runtime across the board.

#4. Touch Support

When Windows 7 came out, touchscreens were still a novelty. Now, since everyone is using tablets and smartphones, more and more applications for touchscreens on PCs are commonplace. These can range from signatures to graphic design and beyond. Given, this alone probably isn’t a reason to upgrade your entire network, it’s still a great feature that we’re sure you could likely benefit from.

#5. Connect Everything

Ten years ago, we were all just babies when it came to connection. Remember taking pictures on your digital camera then connecting it to your computer with a USB cable? You know, like a caveman?

Now you can link your phone to Windows and have pictures, videos, weblinks and more instantly available on your workstation. You can also connect screens with a colleague or customer without having to download third-party software and go through a long process of trading logins. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you can upload and backup your documents using OneDrive. This is a great tool if you’re a very small operation or as a backup to your backup in a larger business.

#6. Your Software Has Already Moved

One of the many arguments we hear about is the cost and hassle of purchasing and installing new software. Sure, it might be a small investment to get with the times. but you know what? There are companies out there using software that runs on MS-DOS, too! You can only justify not upgrading for so long before you become obsolete.

Sure, there are indeed unique custom software programs that large companies — such as banks and hospitals — use that would cost millions of dollars to upgrade and migrate. However, for 99% percent of the rest of us, it’s best to just suck it up and move on with our lives. There are few if any programs out there that can’t migrate that are worth keeping around. Chances are that if your software hasn’t upgraded, there are probably a dozen others available that can do the job better.

#7. New Features

Wow, this is a big one. We could dedicate a month’s worth of articles about the new features between Windows 7 and 10. You’ll find new features that used to only be available with expensive third-party systems such as advanced voice-to-text recognition. Some updated features are beefed-up copy and paste abilities, the ability to edit screenshots, virtual desktops and even a digital assistant — Cortana.

At the end of the day, you really do need to upgrade no matter what. If you’re still part of the undistinguished group of Windows 7 users who aren’t sure what the next step would be in upgrading, we’d be happy to talk with you and go over your options.

Managing Your Cash Flow

Unless you run a not-for-profit entity, the point of just about every business is to make money. Ironically, for many businesses, especially small businesses, this is the easy part. The hard part is keeping that money. Between paying vendors, purchasing supplies and materials, paying employees, and even yourself, you may find your balance sheet just breaking even. But is this the best way to do business?

Before we get started, just remember that we are not financial or tax experts, so make sure to speak with your accountant or financial department before making any changes. Well, now that we have that out the way…

Balancing the Books

Unless you are a publicly traded corporation, small businesses often like to zero out at the end of the year to avoid undue taxes. Sadly, it seems that some take that to the extreme and seem to keep a low balance in the bank throughout the year. In fact, a study by JPMorgan Chase concluded that the average small business only has enough cash on hand to cover 27 days of expenses. This can be a dangerous game to play if you want to make any major purchases or if your industry fluctuates seasonally.

Just like in personal finance, experts often suggest having enough cash to cover costs for three to six months. While this seems great in theory, that might be a lot of money depending on what sort of business you have. Many industries, such as construction, often have material bills ten times their payroll amounts or more, which would make the six-month plan almost impossible. So, how can you know what’s reasonable for your business?

Let Your Inner Nerd Lead the Way

Notice how we didn’t tell you there wasn’t any math at the beginning of this article. But don’t worry — we’ll make this as painless as possible. Before you can come to a number, think about your goals or previous experience. For example, if you have a seasonal business, how many months of “excess” do you have verse months of “lean”? If you have a stable workload year-round, do you plan on taking on more employees or want to make major capital investments? For the first scenario, merely take your average monthly inflow minus average outflow and multiply that number by the number of months you want to cover:

[Monthly Inflow – Monthly Outflow] x Months to Cover = How much cash you need on hand

It’s as simple as that!

For the second scenario, just adjust by including the estimated amount you will need for the investment divided by how many months you have to save for it included as part of your monthly costs:

[Monthly Inflow – Monthly Outflow + (Total Investment/Months to Save)] x Months to Cover

A little more complicated, but nothing most people couldn’t handle, especially if working with a financial professional. However, to make this easier, you have two options. The obvious option to increase gross income, which is always good. The other option is to lower expenses. What are some easy ways to do that?

Cut Down on Costly Mistakes

In general, the more efficient you are, the lower your costs. But there are hidden costs that many small business owners tend to overlook. We all know that good help is hard to find and not holding on to it can cost you. In order to cut costs, it might seem like a good idea to not pay employees a competitive salary. However, in the long run, this ends up being counterintuitive. How so?

In this job market, the grass sometimes seems greener everywhere else. With the internet, finding those pastures requires very little effort. Having a good employee leave over a few bucks can mean being without their work efforts, and that should generate you much more than what you pay them. Besides, on average, replacing an employee can cost you a third of their salary out of pocket!

Another mistake is not planning ahead when it comes to technology. While many businesses have one or more types of insurance for protection, what arrangements do you have for your computers, servers or other electronics? Think about this: if your system goes down or you need to upgrade, how much are you going to have to spend, both out of pocket plus any downtime this might cause?

Most businesses don’t include this important factor in their budgeting, and, as a result, may get a big hit that will take time to recover from. For this and other reasons, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is like an insurance policy for your company’s technology needs. An MSP will go over your needs and goals and come up with a monthly plan to make sure that you won’t have any surprises when you have known or unknown technology needs. This gives you the ability to put one more item on your monthly budget and one less thing to keep you up at night.

It’s Totally Worth It

When your business has a reasonable amount of cash on hand, you’ll be able to not only navigate the seas of uncertainty but be able to grow and prosper. With today’s information, take some time to do an honest reflection on where you currently stand and what might be best for your business. To see where we can fit into a plan to increase your liquid cash on hand via an MSP, feel free to contact us directly!

Keeping up with the Competition

You may have noticed in the past ten years or so, we’ve had more variety and better prices than ever before when shopping for — well, just about anything! This has been due in part by a global economy where competition is greater than ever. That’s great news for consumers but presents more pressure on companies to differentiate their goods and services from everyone else.

Regardless of what sort of business you run, there is almost certainly at least one other company that can do what you do just as well if not better. So, what do you need to do to get a leg up on the competition? Well, you can provide a better product or service, of course. But in today’s business climate, you’ll need to go above and beyond that.


The days of competing with a store across town are long gone. Unless you are a business that offers a local service that can’t be done somewhere else (e.g., restaurants or barbers), you’re keenly aware that someone from another part of the country — or world — can offer the same thing at a lower price. When a consumer is browsing by price, a difference of just a few cents can cost you the sale.

Thankfully, you can use this system to your advantage. In the past, to see what prices your competitors offered, you had to either hear it from other people or go into their store yourself. Nowadays, you’re just a few clicks away from that information. Not only can this help you in adjusting your prices, but you can even see if the product or service you plan to offer can give you the income you need to be profitable before you even start.


While many businesses can easily start off as a one-man operation or just a small office, being too small can hurt you in the long run. Having too small of an operation might cause you to not be able to handle the amount of clientele you need to stay competitive. Being small may also slow down production due to having too few people responsible for too much work. While running a lean business may seem to be the most cost-effective approach, be realistic about your business goals. Even modest growth in your operation can have astronomic results in overall business if done right.

Employee Relations

There’s a reason why any company of size has a human resources department. If there is trouble amongst your employees, it can eventually affect the bottom line. They say that good help is hard to find, but any business owner or anyone who’s worked in management can tell you that isn’t always true — good help is hard to keep! It’s little wonder that many companies, when measuring success and failure, use a metric known as employee churn rate. This measures the percentage of the company’s workforce that leaves and has to be replaced. The higher this number, the more unhappy the employees in general, and this is often reflected in the profitability of the company as a whole.

If you work in a professional or specialized field, where do you think those ex-employees end up? Often in the arms of your competition or occasionally starting their own company that competes with yours. One of the most notable examples is Dave Thomas, who many forgot worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken (Now just KFC) before using the skills he learned under Colonial Sanders to open his own company, Wendy’s, which is now one of KFC’s biggest competitors. Imagine how things might have turned out if they were able to keep him satisfied?

If your employees aren’t happy with their jobs, how do you think that will affect the quality of their work? How will they treat your customers? As famous businessman Richard Branson once stated: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.

Stay Out of the Stone Age

For better or worse, customer expectations can often be more important than reality. One of the things many customers expect these days is that if a company isn’t using the latest space-age technology, at least they should attempt to keep up with the times. For example, how would you feel about hiring a company that is still using Windows 98?

In addition to superficial perception, there may be some substance to that argument as well. Many older versions of software lack features that we now take for granted as being standard. What’s more, older versions of software can also be dangerous. How many times have we heard of common software (such as Java) that had a flaw that hackers were able to exploit? Besides, even if the version doesn’t have a defect, older versions of most software can and will eventually have ways to let in cyberthreats to either you or your clientele.

Along with aging software, older hardware can be detrimental to your competitive edge. Out-of-date or inefficient hardware can leave you unable to deliver what your customer’s expect or make the end product a lower quality. While you don’t have to purchase equipment every time a new advancement comes along, keeping an eye on what is generally being used by your competitors will at least keep you even with them.

Consider Outside Help

Technology is a tool for your business, either on the frontend or backend. Make sure your equipment, software, and data management are all up to date and optimal for your needs. If purchasing those items is cost-prohibitive, you might consider utilizing a Hardware as a Service (HaaS) or Software and a Service (SaaS) arrangement to keep up with the competition. If you feel that your company would benefit from this, contact us today to set up a consultation to help you sharpen your competitive edge.

As we head into this new decade, it’s more important than ever to stay competitive. You’ve worked hard to get your company this far. Don’t let it suffer by not keeping up with technology’s ever-changing advancements.

Windows 7 Replacement

The worst kept secret in the IT world right now is that Microsoft will end support of Windows 7 on January 14th of 2020. If you’ve been following this story at all, perhaps you’ve seen that many people are discussing this across all industries. And if you haven’t been following it, you’re probably wondering why this is such an important topic. It is important because it may affect you and your business.

Why Windows 7 EOL Matters

It may be hard to believe, but Windows 7 has been out for over ten years! At the time it came out, it was heralded as a new beginning for Microsoft — since they were just coming off of a series of disastrous releases mixed in with their successes. (If you don’t remember Windows ME, you’re better off). The next version that came out, Windows 8, appeared to be another dud, so many users held onto Windows 7 as it was a proven operating system. Unfortunately, this has stopped many users from upgrading since then. In fact, some estimates from earlier this year show about 1 billion computers still running Windows 7!

What End of Life for Windows 7 means for you is that Microsoft will no longer provide support or updates for that operating system. While there will be some exceptions, (you will be able to pay substantial fees for certain updates and limited support), all Microsoft support will be done away with within three years. Even so, the cost of this supplemental measure is more than updating to Windows 10, so why spend money on a dying platform?

Hackers are paying attention to this deadline, so you should too. Older versions of Windows, for both computers and servers that have surpassed support, have continuously become victims of hacking campaigns. Remember; when a hacker finds a way into Windows, the team at Microsoft figures out how it’s being done and will send out a patch, which is the whole point of security updates. With Windows 7 being at the end of its life, once the updates come to an end and a hacker finds a way to exploit the system, you can be sure that he’ll be telling all of his friends how easy it is to breach.

Section 179 to the Rescue!

With all the new security benefits plus the updated features of Windows 10, what possible reason could someone have for not upgrading? One of the most common reasons is cost. While upgrades used to be free, Windows now charges $99 per license to upgrade. That can be a significant charge for anyone, and it’s especially costly if you have to purchase software for multiple terminals.

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Section 179 allows companies to take deductions of the full value of the property purchased for business purposes within the same business year. If you make the purchase this year, you can upgrade the software on your office systems and take it as a deduction on your 2019 taxes. While that doesn’t exactly eliminate the cost, it will make your burden much easier to bear.

Not Just the Software

The other reason for not upgrading is that while businesses would like to upgrade, their hardware won’t support the new OS. This is a valid argument since many of the machines that came out around the time Windows 7 came out, which is ten years ago, are not able to support Windows 10. Or would run very slowly at the very least. If you find yourself in this camp, the fact is that you’ll need to upgrade your hardware to use Windows 10.

However, if you are currently using computers and servers that are out of date, it would probably be in your best interest to upgrade for reasons other than just Windows. Many other software programs that you currently (or would like to) use may not be able to run their latest versions on these terminals as well.

Just like with the OS software, while there is an upfront cost involved, you would be able to include any hardware updates with the other Section 179 deductions that you currently have for the tax year 2019. Note that this also includes any related costs. For example; you may pay for shipping or set-up in addition to the actual cost of the machinery, so you can write that off, too. Did you include service contracts, warranties or insurance fees? That would be included in the deduction as long as it is implemented this year.

The fact of the matter is that time is running out. Thankfully, Section 179 deductions help to lessen the blow of the cost, though this isn’t something that can be pushed aside indefinitely as there are real consequences to consider.

While we are discussing the theme of Section 179 deductions in our blogs this month, we need to remind our readers that we are not tax advisors. The information we provide is for general discussion, and before making any decisions, please speak with your company’s CFO or other tax and accounting professionals. That being said, remember that current Section 179 laws allow you up to $2.5 million in deductions that you can write-off in 2019. If you find yourself in need of a system upgrade, now is the time to do it!