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Computing in the Cloud

Keeping your business network safe and secure is essential. Virtual offices and cloud services can be smart ways to keep your data safe. However, many people do not understand the benefits that investing in virtual offices can have. Today we will be looking at what confidential computing is and how investing in the right computing strategies – with help from your managed service provider – can help your business network achieve safe cybersecurity thanks to cloud solutions.

Why Confidential Computing is So Important

When it comes to protecting your business network from hackers, you must have the right cybersecurity software in place. Information technology is an integral part of our lives these days. Still, a few businesses operate without some influence from IT service providers. That can put them at risk of getting hacked.

Confidential computing helps to prevent this from happening. In turn, this can help your business protect your, and your customer’s valuable data. Currently, more and more people are turning to managed IT services and cloud infrastructure and their solutions. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of migrating to the cloud.

Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure for Business IT Solutions

There are many potential benefits for your business when choosing a virtual office or cloud solution services. As such, you must consider these cloud architecture benefits carefully before deciding whether or not to make the switch. However, changing to a cloud-based network could be a smart move for your business.

Some of the key benefits to moving to the cloud are:

  1. Scalability
  2. Enhanced Security
  3. Lower Hardware Costs
  4. Greater Flexibility for Employees
  5. Easier Remote Access
  6. Automatic Data Back-up
  7. Lower Maintenance Costs

If you decide to switch over, we highly recommend that you do so with the support of a cloud computing company that can provide you with the best security possible. By doing so, you can be confident that appropriate firewalls, virus protection, and back-up disaster recovery steps are taken to protect your data. Let’s take a deeper look at five things that add value to moving to the cloud.

Cost-Effective Solution

Cloud infrastructure can offer a highly cost-effective solution for many businesses. These savings are obtained by not having to purchase any high-tech office equipment yourself. Rather, you can “hire” cloud servers, thereby cutting the costs of hosting your business’ IT network. There are many cloud storage providers on the market now, giving small businesses plenty of choices when looking for an affordable cloud storage plan.

Data Back-up Disaster Recovery

Another key benefit of most cloud computing services is that they offer data back-up disaster recovery, or BDR, services. That means you can rest easy knowing that your data is secure and backed-up if it should be compromised. That can be a highly time-consuming activity to do with non-cloud business networks.

Practicality

An important benefit of choosing cloud computing services is that the cloud offering is very practical for most businesses. But why is this?

When you choose cloud solutions for your business’ computing needs, you can enjoy having access to company files and data from wherever you might happen to be. That means you can easily access information and files while out working in the field. This feature can also make it easier for your employees to access the system when they need to. As your managed service provider, we’d have access to carry out the necessary work on your network to keep it working effectively and securely.

Fast Speed

It is accepted that most cloud computing companies offer services that provide fast and efficient services. That is in comparison to some physical systems that can take a lot longer to load. It seems like a good business move. After all, time is money!

Unlimited Storage Capacity!

That is arguably the biggest (and most obvious) benefit of choosing cloud computing services and cloud storage providers. Having access to the cloud gives your business the potential to enjoy unlimited storage capacity – which, in turn, can allow you to keep more records with greater amounts of detail. All while saving money on expensive physical storage options.

Is Cloud Computing Secure?

Understandably, many people are unsure about the cloud infrastructure and cloud solutions being safe and reliable. However, it’s important to remember that cloud technologies are highly advanced and provide a high level of support and protection for your data. After all, with many corporations and even governmental bodies using these cloud networks, it’s of the utmost importance that cloud computing services are secure.

That is why you must choose the right Cloud provider for your business technology needs.

Get Professional Managed IT Services Today!

If your business can benefit from joining the cloud, then you must have professional support while making the change. Fortunately, our team of information technology experts understands cloud computing. As such, we are here to help you switch your business servers to cloud solutions, giving you the chance to enjoy all the benefits listed above (and more!)

To learn more about cloud computing services and how cloud solutions could benefit your business, don’t delay, contact our IT management team today to find out more! We’re here to help you find the perfect IT solutions that help your business grow.

 

Artificial intelligence, also referred to by the simpler term AI, has long been the holy grail of futurists, science fiction authors, and fantasists alike. Even before we established the concept of computer science, the notion of mechanized entities capable of learning, thinking, and acting on their own was a popular subject for science fiction. This is especially true of cautionary tales. 

While AI stories predate this work of art, the earliest popular demonstration in the common zeitgeist is the silent film Metropolis. Released in 1927, this movie is almost 100 years old. It deeply explores the idea of intelligent technology and its impact on our society. It also explores the ethics involved in creating machinery that is capable of awareness. 

We’re not here to discuss science fiction robots that can think and feel just like people. We’re not even going to discuss the menacing software displayed in the Terminator or Matrix franchises. Although, these are very interesting concepts. A discussion about the repercussions of AI does merit a conversation, but we’re not there yet. Not by any stretch of the imagination. That’s called the singularity, and it’s going to happen someday soon. What we’re here to discuss today is AI as we currently know it. 

Demystifying Contemporary AI 

You’re not aware of it, but you experience AI every day. Talking to your phone, Siri, and Alexa, or searching on Google or other search engines, AI tracks you. AI directs your searches based on your past search history, as well as what you’re inputting. It compiles data from users and learns their interests and habits. It then uses this info for marketing and other purposes. 

AI also exists in the business and consumer sectors. But AI in the sense of what people think of in science fiction movies certainly does not yet exist. So, what exactly is it that we have that we’re calling AI? 

 AI, or Machine Learning, is any form of software or hardware technology that is capable of learning from input and results. It then uses the ability to make intuitive predictions based on what it has learned. This includes abstractly solving problems based on past tasksIt will then adjust its approach to tasks and become more efficient and effective at making decisions. It is clever, but not conscious. 

AI can be powerful. You might be wondering exactly how this business automation like this can help you. Keep reading to find out! 

Tireless Workers 

With AI capable of basic accounting functions, administration, and CRM, you can eliminate a lot of redundant tasks. Over time you’ll have less unnecessary staff and less overhead.  

Arguably, AI isn’t quite smart enough yet to handle dealing with an angry customer on the phone or in a chat, as anyone who’s tried to talk to these so-called bots will attest. But they are very well-suited for simpler tasks. 

AI can learn customer habits, allowing it to be a handy assistant to CRM, PR, and customer service employees. AI can recall information about customers, and instantly suggest go-to solutions that make sense. Efficiency is the name of the game. 

Redundant tasks, such as appointment setting, cold calling, or pesky reoccurring jobs, can also be handled by AI. This frees up skilled employees to deal with people directly as they are trained to do. 

Artificial Intelligence can be useful for business planning and logistics management. It learns from markets, business climates, and current events. It is capable of making accurate predictions and connecting relationships that analysts may not be able to notice. This makes AI programs excellent tools for business analysts, traders, and marketing experts as well. 

AI Versus Outsourcing 

Outsourced work is often of subpar quality, as reflected in the reduced price associated with it. AI responds instantaneously to notifications from customers and provides personal replies. It prioritizes deadlines with no emotional opposition nor fatigue associated with it. AI works 24/7 and doesn’t need breaks or time off. It learns from operating and repetition. While little bit of patience may be necessary when AI is put into place, it learns remarkably faster than people. This is not because it’s smarter than people, but because its “brain” is designed specifically for the tasks at hand. 

AI doesn’t need holidays, vacation pay, or anything of the sort. It never stops. It never gets bored, and it provides a far better, less emotionally charged customer experience.  

This Has Potential, Where Do I Start? 

If the prospect of tireless, intuitive business automation tool like this sounds intriguing, your next step is to figure out what your business needs are. Do a little research. Read up on how Artificial Intelligence works, and compare platforms you’re interested inGet a feel for what this technology is and where its prime applications lie. Look into where it’s used now, and notice the day-to-day things that are powered by AI. You’ll be surprised by how prolific it is. 

Or, if the whole thing is confusing for you, drop us a line. We specialize in business technology and are avid proponents of business automation. We can even provide you with advice on how to integrate Artificial Intelligence with your current staff. After all, we want to help you grow your business, not find ways to lose valuable employees. Contact us today to find out more. 

If your business is at the point where you’re thinking about hiring a fulltime IT tech, congratulations! Having enough consistent needs to fill this role means you’ve worked hard and made good decisions that drove business growth. Our best advice? Don’t stop now!

Moving forward with hiring requires a lot of analysis to avoid major consequences down the line, though. One of the biggest decisions whether you’ll hire someone directly or use a third-party MSP (Managed Service Provider). In this article, we’ll get into the specifics of both scenarios.

Why Do You Need an IT Tech at All?

In the past, business people and tech people were two different breeds. Over the years, the gap has gradually shrunk to the point that many people are tech-savvy enough to get by for the little things. As your business has grown, though, you likely have needed to delegate many of your previous duties, like IT — even if you feel perfectly capable of handling them yourself. After all, when do you think was the last time Jeff Bezos packaged a shipment? Your IT needs have also likely grown much more complex.

If you don’t choose to delegate now, you fall into a major pitfall of leaving IT duties unassigned. In our current landscape, leaving an IT post open could be a death wish. Cyber attacks of all types are on the rise, and the amount of damage each one could impose is ballooning. For example, in 2016, the average ransomware attacker demanded $522. In 2020, that average sits around $84,000! Sadly, many of these attacks take place as a result of not having someone the wheel.

In addition, there’s the issue of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Being lax over time can make your systems out of date, making it harder for everyone to get their work done at a reasonable rate. In addition, only replacing equipment when it’s broken and not when it functionally obsolete can create situations where portions of or your entire workforce will be unable to do any work at all for a time.

An In-House Solution

So, let’s say you’re on board with having one or more people make up your IT team, and you make the decision to hire them directly. One certain benefit is that you can look through a collection of qualified candidates and pick just the right person(s) that you want! But then the other shoe drops.

Just like any other employee, before you hire someone for your IT needs, you have to consider the costs. For instance, the average price of an IT professional is $60,000 per year. Alright, so you budget out $60,000 — then you’re all set, right? Far from it!

Where is this person going to work? Maybe you already have space for them, but these professionals require more expensive hardware and monitor setups. Additionally, you need to factor in the network diagnostic software plus any industry-specific software. Since they’ll generally be on call, they’ll need a phone with a good plan so you can always reach them and possibly a company car (or at least some form of vehicle reimbursement) if you have multiple locations. Don’t forget that expense account!

Besides the specific expenses mentioned above, remember that this person is still an employee, so you have all the other general costs your other employees have associated with them. This can include health/life insurance, vacation time, sick time, 401K plus any bonuses or overtime pay they may rack up.

And what do you do if they leave? The implicit and explicit costs can be truly staggering when you take the time to add it all up.

A Safer Option

In the past, the above option was the only choice most employers had available to them. Based on the high costs (both known and unknown) associated with hiring an IT professional, it’s no surprise that companies have flocked to an alternative option: MSPs.

With an MSP, you have all the benefits of a fulltime employee without the downsides.

They will be consistently available, knowledgable in your network, and focused entirely on IT rather than other day job expectations. Need assistance when it’s time for regular upgrades or maintenance? Want someone to redesign your entire IT setup? Looking for someone to completely take over your IT operations, including telephone, so you can focus 100% on your core business? These are the sorts of services you can get out of an MSP.

Even better, the price you sign in the contract is the price you know you have to pay month after month, unlike the many unknown costs of an employee. There are no HR issues to worry about and the work is on the shoulders of a company, not an individual.

If your company is at the point where you know you need dedicated IT personnel but are unsure about which direction you’d like to go, contact us ASAP. We would be more than happy to go over your needs and discuss the best options.

 

 

With the ongoing situation in the world, there are many people who are furloughed or laid off from their jobs. Those of us who can work from home are very fortunate to be able to keep working through this crisis.

Some companies have been hesitant to let their employees work remotely. Although 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 can get 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 task for longer.

Keep Their Heads in the Cloud

Since they are now working remotely, 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 your employees to have nothing to do because they 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 up to date.

Lastly, don’t forget security considerations. Especially if they’re using their own equipment. Since what works at home may not cut it for your business needs.

We were all forced into a new work environment very quickly. With that being said 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 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.

Just as people were starting to get in front of stay-at-home recommendations with robust video conferencing and on-line learning options, “zoombombing” was born, proving yet again that evil knows no bounds.

Zoombombing occurs when hackers break into Zoom meetings and wreak havoc by sharing inappropriate video or drawings, screaming obscenities, or posting hate speech. They attack open meetings, those that have no password, have posted the password online or that allow everyone to share their screen.

Hackers have worked swiftly to develop programs that can scrape hundreds of Zoom Meeting IDs every minute. Then, they go hunting for the most vulnerable meetings. Schools, church meetings, and even a student defending his doctoral thesis have been affected. The FBI has issued a warning about these challenges and Zoom has publicly apologized for their lapses in security.

What can you do about it? Businesses rely on successful video conferencing today to keep their teams connected, conduct meetings, and to continue to move the sales process forward as much as possible when the world is at a stand-still. Locking down your meetings with proper security protocols is the most important thing you need to do when video conferencing during COVID-19 and beyond. Here are a few steps you can take.

Use Alternate Platforms

Zoom is likely the biggest target because it is a free platform with an easy to use interface. It also has a few admitted security holes, placing it high on the list of easy to hack software. We recommend choosing an alternative, if possible. An upgraded version of Zoom with built-in, protected meeting rooms could be the answer. Teams, GoTo Meeting, or WebEx are your best alternatives. While more costly, these are more secure and protected programs.

Lockdown Your Zoom Meetings

If you choose to utilize Zoom, make sure that you’re following a few important security protocols.

  1. Do not publish the meeting ID online. People do this to try to get a lot of audience participation in things like study groups or discussion platforms. This is just inviting a Zoombomber into your meeting. Instead, publish contact information to get the Meeting ID and login. Then, only provide the login to people that you know and trust.
  2. Secure meetings with a password. While it’s a little bit more challenging for people to enter, this extra step ensures that a nefarious player can’t gain access.
  3. Only allow one host. Some Zoombombers are getting in because the meeting is set to allow multiple hosts. That means they can actually start the meeting for you. Restrict your meetings to only one host.
  4. Lock down screen sharing. Only allow the host to screen share. You can pass this control as needed, but you shouldn’t just allow everyone to take control.
  5. Utilize the waiting room feature. This allows you to confirm people before they enter the meeting. Only allow those you know in.
  6. Use mute diligently. As the host, you have the ability to mute all participants. Know where that button is and prepare to use it should anything go awry.

Copious video conferences are going to be in our daily lives for the foreseeable future. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay safe.