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Resources: IT Consultancy

touchless business

Touchless Business: A New Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected individuals and businesses across the globe in a manner that rings with permanence. Many businesses that were previously successful are now left baffled as to how they should adjust their business models. To work effectively in this new age of touchless business, we need to adopt to new systems and organizational methods. 

How do I even begin to mobilize my business in light of current restrictions? 

The top priority for businesses that haven’t done so already is to establish an online presence. And they should get online fast! Establishing an efficient online storefront is the first step to attracting customers who shifted to shopping online during this pandemic. If a website is already part of your business model, then some tech solutions may be needed to handle more sales. Make your website functional enough to be a solidified option for those at home. IT solutions, such as adding a shopping cart or transitioning a POS terminal, can help adjust your online presence. 

For businesses who deem their online presence to be adequate but struggle with restricted capacity, touchless payment options may be the answer to your problems. What businesses have found to be convenient and successful is the installment of computer tablets as hubs for touchless payments. The prevalence of consumer tech solutions such as ApplePay, Samsung Pay, and Google Wallet have established a safe and easy way for customers to take advantage of digital tablets in physical business locations. 

 

How do I maintain effortless communication between coworkers and employees? 

Another struggle many businesses face in this period of touchless business is, how to effectively communicate with employees and coworkers. Scheduling business meetings in person is not exactly COVID safe. Luckily there are alternatives for maintaining a solid and reliable communication link. Platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and many more have streamlined the ability to connect individuals virtually. Business meetings have, in a sense, never been easier to achieve. By cutting out the commute time for many employees, you can provide more time for scheduling important business meetings.  

An additional way to streamline communication efforts is to construct a working online business network. You can do so through new platforms, like Slack, Microsoft Teams/Office, and Google Hangouts. Making sure remote employees have a designated business computer to utilize during work hours is essential. It assures the success of online performance, as programs are only as good as the diligence of the employee checking them.  

 

Now that I have a working website, how do I continue to make sales and service my clients? 

Maintaining a business during a pandemic is one thing; soliciting new business and sales are a whole other feat. Establishing a working website is not enough to ensure the success of any business or private firm. It is merely the first step in the process of creating an engaging and attractive online presence. Not all customers you want to attract are as tech-savvy as you probably are. Being prepared to help them transition to an online client is something you can do to make this process easy for them. Older clientele may want to do business with you but aren’t sure how to use Zoom. Being able to assist them, or hiring someone who can, is a reliable way to bridge this gap and continue growing your business. 

Making sales during such a confusing and evolving business era can be intimidating and uncertain. Small to medium businesses are currently struggling more than ever to keep their doors open. For many, it is tough making sufficient sales to sustain the company and its employees. With every business transitioning to online services, how do you make your business stand apart? The next step for facilitating sales is to engage with your customers and their concerns. You should have a dedicated customer service person with reliable tech solutions for answering emails, fulfilling online orders, and facilitating responses to customer questions promptly. Being responsive to this kind of online interaction is essential to keeping and attracting customers. If you aren’t making the online process easy for the customer, the competition will. 

A Summary of How to Mobilize 

The touchless era is a difficult time in which to mobilize your business. But it is not impossible. Creating an easily accessible and efficient online platform for customers to enjoy and engage with, and maintaining a strong online presence is essential to moving your business into a successful space. Finding different IT tech solutions–like installing online video chat programs to continue communication–will help affirm employee accountability as well as customer satisfaction. Finally, bringing all these aspects together to create a comprehensive and well-oiled touchless business model will assure your business has the best chance of survival and success possible. 

If you have questions about setting up online services or getting your employees to work remotely, please contact us at any time. 

are-apps-dangerous

Are Your Apps Dangerous?

Apps make the modern technology world go ‘round. If it weren’t for apps, smartphones and other mobile devices wouldn’t be nearly as useful. Of course, there are many factors to consider before using an app. You should ask yourself, could this be a potentially dangerous app? This is especially true if you’re using a device for business purposes.

Earlier this month, we asked and concluded that allowing cookies is safe in most circumstances. In this week’s blog, we will be delving into using apps for business purposes and whether or not they pose a risk to your safety.

Apps for the Business Place 

There is literally an app (or 50) for just about anything you can think of. However, even helpful apps can be a breeding ground for people who want to steal your information.

Generally speaking, most app makers are honest and ethical. However, because it is so easy to make an app, you may find less than trustworthy creators offering new apps. Securitymagazine.com stated that  “71% of healthcare and medical apps have at least one serious vulnerability that could lead to a breach of medical data.” Of course, other general business apps often have similar vulnerabilities.

Additionally, some people create apps specifically so they can steal your personal data. When you download and install an app, it will typically ask for various permissions. It may ask for the ability to use your microphone or have access to your contacts. Some apps ask for just about every piece of information you have available. You may find yourself simply handing over all of your personal data without even realizing it. This is where apps can become very dangerous. Even if you come to this realization and delete the app, your device could already be infected with spyware.

Personal Apps Can Be Dangerous

On the other hand, even if you only use trusted apps for business or no apps at all, you need to be careful of the apps you download for personal reasons. Just like with business apps, you may find that people have created an app for a particular reason — and that reason may be to gain access to the data on thousands or millions of mobile devices.

Be honest with yourself: how many times have you downloaded an app that you’ve never heard of just because someone told you it was the greatest app ever? Later, when you feel uncomfortable with how the app works you immediately delete it. We’ve all been there at some point. The scariest part is that the damage is already done once the app is successfully installed. Any information you use for your business (such as emails and customer information) is now freely available to the app developer.

Data Breaches

Another potential threat is using a legitimate app from a valid organization that becomes hacked and breached. As an example, this past year, the Walgreens app was victim to a major data breach. The hack allowed access to private conversations containing personal information. This breach was exposed through various apps that were designed to track COVID-19 cases. This happened to a major corporation using high-security apps. Many people wouldn’t think a pharmacy app from a well-known company could be dangerous. Nonetheless, hackers breached highly sensitive information victimizing paying customers. On that note, it’s important to be aware that anyone can fall victim to a data breach if security measures aren’t closely examined.

Hackers have targeted major apps like Instagram, Tinder, Tik Tok, and Snapchat recently. How many of you have at least one of these apps installed on your phone or other mobile devices? While most of us know not to use Tinder on a work phone, you may have some of these apps on your devices. Even if you only use these apps on your personal time, they can lead to major consequences with your private business data. What is fun for you may compromise the security of your customers.

Create A Solution That Works 

Let’s say you personally avoid all these pitfalls and have never had any issues with apps on your phone or other mobile devices. If you have an organization with multiple people, there’s a very good chance that somebody is going to download an app that may have damaging security implications in the future. While these people may have good intentions and never mean to do any harm, we all know that life can change in an instant in this modern world.

By creating and implementing a plan among your employees, you can help control security breaches. Increase your security measures by not allowing devices to download random, potentially dangerous apps. It’s important to have security policies and other measures in place. Maintain mobile device management, effective policy, and as many security protocols available.

If you want to make sure your organization is as safe as possible from unexpected risks, contact us today. We’ll set up your organization’s devices to keep them safe while still allowing your employees to do their job effectively.

Mobile-vs-Virtual

Mobile vs Virtual Office – What’s the Difference?

Being mobile has never been easier. Technology makes it so you literally have your entire office within your pocket these days. The idea of being virtual and mobile might seem like one and the same. However, these ideas are a little different, and more than the technology itself makes them both possible. This week covers mobile vs. virtual offices and the advantages therein.

The entire landscape of the business world is unrecognizable from just a generation ago. How can a smartphone, paired with virtual office solutions make you unstoppable?

Expectations of the Modern World 

A vacation/away email message used to mean someone was unavailable, and you’d have to wait for a response. Simply being out of the office was enough to be off the hook from client and employee expectations.

That all started to change with the Blackberry and the Palm Pilot. Then, with the iPhone and its successors, the idea of being unavailable went out the window.

Nowadays, employers and clients expect you to be available just about any time of day regardless of where you’re located. In fact, you might be surprised by the actual location of some of the people you work with. It isn’t uncommon for people to not only be on vacation but living overseas and still performing the tasks expected of someone in an office down the street.

While this may seem like an invasion of privacy, the fact is clients are serviced more completely and quickly. Those providing the services also have the freedom to be wherever they want at any given time while doing their job well!

Modern Solutions to Modern Problems: Mobile vs Virtual Office

The start of doing business anywhere is a smartphone, but it’s not that simple. Certain software and services need to be in place to ensure security and efficiency. So for this portion, we’re going to discuss the ideas of mobile and virtual separately.

Mobile Business

This simply means that you are able to do something while not in your office. This may include accessing and responding to emails and documents, conducting online research, and maintaining text and voice communication.

To do this well, you may want to consider getting a phone with a larger screen or even using a tablet with mobile capabilities. This will ensure that you’ll be able to read the messages easily and have space to type comfortably and quickly. Also, you’ll probably want to set up your phone so that you can be aware of notifications as soon as you receive them. Finally, ensure that you install mobile security protection and work with your IT provider on mobile device management in case your device is ever lost or stolen.

Virtual Business

While in the same vein is a mobile business, this requires you to be able to do more than just be available. For example, you may need to create and edit documents or log into an important line of business application.

To get the most out of a virtual environment, you would most likely want to use a computer or an advanced tablet, as the environment will mirror exactly what you use in the office. When set up well, you will not be able to tell the difference between work on your tablet or your machine with multiple monitors.

Similar to using mobile devices, security is the biggest factor when operating in a virtual environment. You want to make sure that any information that you are sending, receiving or creating cannot easily get into somebody else’s hands. For this, we highly suggest not trusting in an unmanaged VPN. While they do offer a measure of security, they pale in comparison to a managed VPN connection or a true hosted desktop. Your connection may be secure with the VPN, but your origin or destination may be compromised. Proper management increases your security level. An equipped IT service provider can effectively determine the proper solution and deploy it for your staff.

Bottom Line: Mobile vs Virtual Office

In short, mobile business can be conducted fully on your smartphone and be taken anywhere your phone goes without the need for intense line of business applications or documentation. A virtual business requires deeper access and connection to your office systems but still allows you to work from anywhere at any time, securely.

Whether you work from a physical office or from a beach in Tahiti, mobile and virtual businesses are here to stay. Even if you currently don’t feel it’s necessary for your operations, just look at everything that happened in 2020. How quickly things can change. Creating a flexible work environment now can make any changes in the future much easier.

If you find that your organization isn’t as mobile or virtual as you feel it could be, contact us today. The results seem simple but the setup can often be more complicated than it looks. You’ll want to be sure to use someone with the experience and know-how to determine mobile vs virtual office for you and to implement the right solution.

Upgrading Servers

Upgrading Servers Can Save You Money

Unless you’re running a one-man operation, there’s a high possibility that your entire business runs on a server or two. If you’ve been thinking about replacing or upgrading servers or wondering how you can improve your network performance, overall, you’ll want to continue reading.

We all know that computers and other devices have to be upgraded from time to time; however, we often forget about the servers that store our data. They have never been more important than they are now. As more of our daily operations run on servers, the computer is just a device that we use to access our servers.

As we wrap up our series of section 179 tax deduction articles this month, we want to delve into a topic discussed last week: how can you use your tax deductions to your advantage when it comes to upgrading your systems?

Again, as a quick disclaimer, we are not tax experts. Take these articles purely informationally. Before you make any changes based on tax deductions, be sure to consult your company’s CFO or tax professionals.

The Times Are Changing 

As technology has increased the usage of servers in our business practices, they play an important role in day-to-day activities. The main function of a server is to store data for a network of computers. With this storage unit, employees can work together, collaborate, and share projects. Whether you are aware of it or not, if you work in an office, it’s highly likely that your work is stored on a server. 

Having a server inside a building that is physically connected to other computers has been the standard for decades. However, in recent years there has been a push to allow people to connect to these servers remotely. The reasons for this vary, but there are typically two main reasons.

One reason is to allow employees to travel, yet have access to their company’s network and projects. We’ve seen this for years, especially for salespeople and executives who’ve had to travel from location to location. This is still a common practice and works well, so it probably won’t change. 

Secondly, people regularly working from a remote location need access to the servers. Recently, there has been a greater push for companies to have more of their employees work remotely. In this case, each remote employee needs to connect to the company’s servers quickly, easily, and without network interruption. 

The people in the first case are only accessing the servers when needed, while people who work from home or small satellite offices work exclusively on these servers every day. A good high-speed connection is crucial in either case. 

With the current worldwide pandemic, remote work tested companies’ servers. Businesses found out quickly if their networks and servers were, literally, up to speed. 

Understanding Your Options

If you’re finding that your server is sluggish or unstable, you have three main options:

Upgrade — This could be a software or hardware upgrade. If you’re set on keeping your current server, adding more ram or memory could make it more functional. This would be the most cost-effective option. 

Replace — While this is the most expensive option of the three, it will end up giving you greater results. Upgrading your system rather than replacing it limits you because of the aged hardware. By replacing your server, the sky’s the limit! You could literally have anything you want and often get a new warranty plan with it as well.

Migrate — This is an option that has become increasingly popular in recent years. With this, you will slowly transition to a cloud-based solution off-site, instead of having a physical server on location. This may be the best option for you if you have an operation that doesn’t demand all that much from the central system. One of the biggest pros of moving to a cloud-based solution is having zero maintenance. After all, there’s nothing physical to maintain. The hosting company and IT professionals take care of all upgrades and software maintenance so you can have peace of mind.

Now Is the Time for Upgrading Servers

Companies will be putting more and more stress on their servers as the working remote trend continues. We’re the first to admit that servers are not cheap, especially ones with the functionality needed to connect large groups of people over large distances. However, you need to make big moves to stay ahead of your competition and maximize productivity.

In addition, there is an available financial benefit to upgrading or replacing your servers now. That’s the key message of this blog — don’t forget about the tax benefits! 

Some companies are continuously looking for ways to write off their profits to avoid paying too much in taxes. Meanwhile, other businesses may have more than enough loss to help them at the end of the tax year. You still have time to make an upgrade this year and take advantage of Tax 179 benefits. If you’re looking at a loss for this year, now is the time to begin planning for an upgrade at the beginning of the year to get an early jump on tax benefits. 

Are you considering upgrading or replacing your servers? Or have you considered moving to a cloud-based solution like a virtual office? Either way, contact us today to see what your best options would be. Even if it would make more fiscal sense to do this next year, it’s never too early to start planning!

prepare for 2021 - tax + covid-19

Prepare for 2021

We think we’re safe when we say that 2020 has been…less than ideal. After the first quarter, we quickly found ourselves — both professionally and personally — in uncharted waters. But, 2021 is just around the corner and we want to be optimistically prepared.

The continuation of this month’s series of section 179 tax deductions covers how the rapid changes of 2020 can actually benefit your 2021. The good news is that this is actually good news!

As a disclaimer, be aware that we are not tax professionals and this article should only be viewed as informational. Before making any changes related to your company’s taxes, consult with your company’s CFO or other tax professionals.

Overcoming 2020 – The Worst Crown Ever 

Who would have thought this time last year that the entire world would be crippled by a tiny little organism? COVID-19 changed everything overnight. For the most part, those changes were devastating. Of course, hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their lives by the time of this writing. Many businesses have also shut their doors or drastically cut back operations.

What seemed like temporary changes (such as sending your employees home to work) soon became the new normal. Businesses like Zoom became overnight successes because of the change in the landscape. We don’t know what will happen with COVID-19 in the coming months or years. We believe, though, a lot of these changes are probably here to stay. So, your company may as well make the most out of it.

Prepare for 2021: Be Smart About Deductions 

Most companies had to make changes besides simply sending employees home. Perhaps they had to change or upgrade software, purchased equipment for employees to use remotely, or simply had to downsize. These are all examples of things that can be written off at the end of the tax year.

As a refresher from our last article, the more you spend, the more you save. Even though you may have shelled out more than originally budgeted to accommodate for 2020 challenges, at least you can avoid paying tax on those expenses. What are some examples of changes in the last year you can get some benefit from?

Maybe you found that your company needed more mobile hardware to address a more mobile workforce. Write-off.

Perhaps you moved office space as the decreased workforce (either from layoffs or employees working from home) didn’t justify your former space. Write-off.

Even better, maybe you took our advice and decided to migrate to a hosted environment or virtual office. First of all, thanks for listening! Second, write-off.

If you haven’t done any of this, you still have two months to upgrade your business operations. While these deductions don’t make the upgrades free, they do make the decision much less painful in the short term. Then, the upgrades themselves make it worth it in the long term.

Prepare for 2021: Don’t Just Sit There 

If you’re reading this article right now, we congratulate you on surviving in an extremely difficult environment. If you want to remain in business and even grow in the coming years, it’s time to make some upgrades. Now is the best time, as well, while you can utilize the benefits of tax write-offs.

One of these changes is the aforementioned virtual office. It essentially involves creating a virtual workspace where employees can log in and do any of the sorts of work that they would do in a physical office. The primary benefit of a virtual office is allowing your company to be flexible; giving you the option to have employees anywhere in the world and yet still be productive.

This virtual office setting not only stores data like in a traditional cloud solution, but it includes all software and line of business applications to facilitate full productivity. When administered by an experienced company such as ourselves, you end up having a very lean yet safe solution.

If you want to see how your company can get itself in a leadership position in this new climate, contact us and see how we can help put your section 179 tax deductions to work for you!