How To Effectively Apply Technology In Your Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Technology can help your business to become significantly more efficient, engaging, and highly successful in your industry. Implementing the right technology can greatly help transform business infrastructure.

Here are nine of the most common and groundbreaking technologies that can help your company succeed today.

Use of mobile apps
You can improve your business’s overall reputation and seek higher brand recognition by introducing a mobile app with your business logo.

This keeps your products, services, and customer support at your client’s fingertips wherever they are. And depending on the complexity of your business, it can be surprisingly affordable. [Read more…]

Free VPNs Are Not Your Friend

Prior to the pandemic, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) weren’t in the toolbox of the average office worker. Many of us sat down at our desk and logged into our computer, websites, and programs, then got started on our day.

Whatever we needed was a click away, our access already nestled into a secure network. Work-from-home has changed the game and requires a security boost wherever possible.

VPNs help with that by establishing secure connections, protecting your privacy, and allowing you to access your work network from home or anywhere else.

At a glance, VPNs seem to function similarly to remote desktop connections, which many businesses are more familiar with now, however they have some key differences. A remote desktop connection allows you to control a specific computer via software while a VPN provides encrypted access to a network while away.

If you’re interested in a VPN for business or personal use, it can be tempting to go with a free option – but be careful. Some freeware (software published for free download) can be a great find, but much like work shoes or your mattress, you want to find something that does its job well, even if it costs a little more.

Cheap shoes and mattresses may leave your body sore while a free VPN could be a gigantic security risk to your company or home network.

Like many freeware programs, you can’t always trust a developer. There’s usually a catch, and for VPNs, that comes at the price of security. VPN services aren’t cheap to provide, for one, and the free ones aren’t shared out of charity; they likely have interest in selling your data, bombarding you with ads, infecting you with malware, or stealing your identity.

One of the main motivations for using a VPN in the first place is to create a secure connection. A paid service will provide that – that’s what they’re there for and that subscription is how fund their operations. A free service, however, is unlikely to have the same level of security or the same capability to patch vulnerabilities, even if they have good intentions.

Additionally, you want whatever VPN you use to actually work. Free VPN services can’t support users the same way as a paid service. At best, they can be slow, lagging, or non-functional while their resources are spread thin across their userbase. At worst, you may be roped into some shady cybercriminal practices like botnets.

If you’re a small business looking to set up a VPN, we recommend researching which of the trusted, big-name VPN providers match your needs and budget.

Many come with free trials so you can test them out before you buy. If you have a managed service provider like Tech Experts or an IT department, please reach out to your technology partner and ask about options.

A secure VPN service is worth the cost to protect yourself from cyberattacks, vulnerabilities, and identity theft. Free is nice, but it’s better to take advantage of free things that don’t have the potential to infect and bring down your company’s network. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000 to learn more.

Work-From-Home Precautions For Your Network

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

As our world has shifted to a heavy work-from-home environment, it is important that you do what you can to make sure your business’s network is secure, whether your employees are working from home or in the office.

Working from home can pose many challenges. The first involves the device the employee uses. If they have a company-issued laptop and you implemented a VPN, then great, you’re fairly secure.

What do you do if they are using their own home PC? Do they have anti-virus? Are they accessing documents through a common cloud storage location, such as OneDrive or Dropbox?

If so, that can cause issues because that home PC may have other users who are not careful about what they download or what emails they open. If that PC is infected and your employee connects to shared storage, your business may become infected.

For these reasons, you should really consider only allowing access to your data over a VPN that your employees must log into. Do not share files through cloud storage unless you are sure the devices connecting are secure.

This means you may need to provide anti-virus to your users. Yes, it’s an expense, but it’s much cheaper than recovering from a ransomware attack because an employee’s 12-year-old downloaded a Fortnite “hack” to get more V-Bucks.

Next, push the use of two-factor authentication (2FA) and password managers. Having a simple password like “CompanyVPN1!” won’t cut it.

Force your users to use strong and varied passwords. Now, those can be difficult to remember, so it may be a good investment to look into a corporate password manager. This will securely store passwords and make it easier for employees to use stronger credentials.

In addition to better passwords, use 2FA. This security measure sends a verification code to your employee via email or text when they log into secure apps or websites. It’s another extra step, but again, the more precautions you take, the better off your security will be. Just because your employee logged in from home with a strong password doesn’t mean it’s actually your employee. That second authentication makes it much more difficult for the end user’s information to be gained by cybercriminals.

Educate your employees about using public Wi-Fi as well. It’s nice to sit in a comfy chair at Panera and enjoy a bagel and coffee while responding to emails, but who else is on that network? If they must do this, then using a VPN and 2FA are a must.

These are a lot of scary things, but don’t lose sleep. Be diligent in securing your network. If you allow work-from-home, be prepared to invest in setting up VPNs, 2FA, password managers, and anti-virus software for your employees. This time and due diligence will greatly help you prevent your data and network from becoming compromised.

Also, remember you are not in this alone: Tech Experts is here to help. If you want to secure your network for remote work, reach out to us at (734) 457-5000. We secured our own network so we can work remotely and have the expertise to help you do the same.

Modern Utilization Of Tech In Schools & Workplaces

Everywhere you look now, there is some type of technology in use and nearly every industry takes advantage of it. Between food delivery apps, the capability to review your accounts online, or the self-scan check-out lanes at the grocery store, we use technology every day and it’s all part of our common experience.

While we may overlook a lot of it in our daily lives, the right tech can make your professional life much easier and efficient. Convenience is one of the main reasons we innovate, right?

One way you can bring helpful tech into the work setting is by using a company-wide chat. You can have a group messaging system like Discord or Slack, but even a group chat over text messages can be a helpful addition in the right workplace.

A company-wide chat allows you to have conversations as needed and communicate with minimal interruptions. Questions, updates, and requests can be reviewed, then responded to a timely matter or addressed right away. It creates a “paper trail” as well, so past messages can be referenced easily.

With chat, you are able to touch base with your peers, employees, or bosses anywhere and anytime. Instead of having ten people trying to reach the same person all at once, they can send them a message and have a reply almost instantly. Unlike email, chat is less likely to be buried in conversation chains, coupons, and other mail.

Another good way to use modern technology is by utilizing remote access. Being able to work remotely is a huge time-saver and a great help for online collaboration, in both schools and the workplace. It allows us to work from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Remote learning is also a very good use of new technology because it allows students to work from home and have all of the same access to resources as if they were sitting in the classroom in front of a teacher. For working professionals, it’s the same – they can complete their work from anywhere as if they were sitting at their desk in the office.

Another great way that technology has influenced the workplace for the better is automation in repetitive tasks. Some examples are network monitoring, notifications, emails, file-sharing, and time management.

Automation allows employees to focus on critical tasks instead of repetitive, time-consuming ones that aren’t necessarily as important. It also prevents some things from falling through the cracks by sending reminders or by entirely handling a task without human intervention.

Automation can also take on many forms, and you may already be benefiting from it. One example of automation that we use at Tech Experts is that our incoming service tickets, sent via email, are automatically disseminated to the right team. If this was not set-up, someone would have to manually sort every ticket that came in. The programs and apps that you already use in your business may have options to make your life easier through automation, such as email rules in Outlook.

Current technology has come a long way. Copiers, calculators, and faxes used to be amazing, and now, some of us can work entirely off of the phone in our pocket. Sometimes, it may seem overwhelming, but even small tweaks – like email rules – can have a big impact. Embracing the efficiency of tech can give you freedom and time back so you can make the most of your work hours.

Companies Must Address Employees’ Lax Cybersecurity Habits

A third of employees picked up bad cyber security behaviors while working from home, according to Tessian’s Back to Work Security Behaviors report.

Despite the remote workers’ bad security practices, 9 out of 10 organizations prefer the hybrid workplace as COVID-19 restrictions eased. Similarly, 89% of employees want to work remotely during the week.

The firm advises business owners to consider the bad employee behaviors as organizations transition to hybrid workplace models.

As employees go back to the office, businesses need to address changes to employees’ security behaviors since they have been working remotely.

Most employers are wary that the post-pandemic hybrid workforce would bring bad cybersecurity behaviors.

More than half (56%) of employers believed that employees had picked bad security practices while working remotely.

Similarly, nearly two-fifths (39%) of employees also admitted that their employee behaviors differed significantly while working from home compared to the office.

Additionally, nearly a third (36%) admitted discovering ‘workarounds’ since they started working remotely.

Close to half of workers adopted the risky behavior because they felt that they weren’t being watched by IT departments. Nearly a third (30%) said they felt that they could get away with the risky employee behaviors while working away from the office.

However, small businesses placed more confidence in their employees while transitioning to the hybrid workplace.

Over two-thirds of business owners believed that their staff would observe their company’s cybersecurity policies.

Many employees are unlikely to admit cutting corners

The fear or failure to report cybersecurity mistakes was a huge cybersecurity risk for organizations. A quarter of employees refused to report such mistakes believing that nobody would ever discover them.

Similarly, more than a quarter feared reporting cybersecurity mistakes to avoid potential disciplinary actions or being forced to take additional security training.

However, younger employees are more likely to admit cutting corners, according to the Tessian report.

More than half (51%) of employees between 16-24 years old and 46% of those between 25-34 years old were more likely to admit circumventing the company’s security protocols.

“Create a security culture that encourages people to come forward about their mistakes, and support them when they do,” the authors suggested.

Personal devices will undermine the network perimeter in the hybrid workplace

Some of the security threats and challenges experienced when people work fully remotely would be imported into the new hybrid workplace.

While many employees used infected devices for remote access during the pandemic, some would bring them to the hybrid office. Company leaders now have to shift to a new security architecture for good – one that involves zero-trust network access, endpoint security, and multi-factor authentication.

Phishing and ransomware attacks are major challenges in the hybrid workplace

Ransomware attacks were also a major concern for more than two-thirds (69%) of companies who believed that the hybrid work environment would be a target for ransomware attacks. These attacks posed a business continuity threat to targeted companies.

Similarly, phishing attacks concerned over three-quarters of IT decision-makers who believed that credential phishing would only exacerbate in a hybrid workplace.

They believed that employees were more likely to expose company data in public or fall for phishing scams impersonating airlines, booking companies, hotels, or senior executives on a business trip. In fact, “back to work” phishing emails were a concern for 67% of IT leaders.

Phishing was the gateway to ransomware attacks. Consequently, successfully blocking phishing exploits reduces the chances of a ransomware attack.

“Stop phishing, business email compromise, account takeover attacks, and social engineering scams, and you significantly reduce the risk of ransomware,” the report authors noted.

However, bad employee behaviors, such as failing to report clicking phishing links, made it harder to stop these attacks.

6 Low-Cost Productivity Tips To Increase Competitiveness

Increasing workplace productivity can mean the difference between a business that succeeds and a great idea that fails. When a company produces more products or delivers higher-quality customer service more quickly than the competition, it gains the advantage.

To get the most benefit out of technology, however, organizations need to match the technology solution to the business need. Start by assessing business processes to identify areas for improvement. For instance, do employees find themselves bogged down with paperwork? Or does distance hinder effective collaboration?

The following low-cost productivity tips will help address productivity problems without breaking the budget. Some cost relatively little to implement, while others pay for themselves quickly in productivity gains.

Low-Cost Productivity Tips For Remote Workers

For many employees, remote work has become a way of life. A few essential technology items can significantly boost comfort and productivity for remote workers. Here are some examples:

Desktop comfort: Start with a wireless mouse, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a laptop stand.

Headsets: Wireless headsets enable office corridor roaming on calls and generally doing two things at once. Studies show that using a headset increases productivity by up to 40 percent.

Video conferencing technology: When employees spend hours each day on video conference, the right technology makes a significant difference. Start with an external webcam and a dedicated mic. Headsets can increase sound quality, as well.

Multiple monitors: For many jobs, such as customer support, dual monitors increase productivity by streamlining the process of copying between windows and improving multi-tasking.

Fewer Meetings, More Communication

Nothing interrupts a good work rhythm more than a useless meeting. On the other hand, when teams integrate communication technology into the workflow, productivity rises.

For instance, Microsoft Teams incorporates group chat directly into its popular Office apps. This allows team members to conduct just-in-time communication without leaving the work at hand.

Put It On The Calendar

When employees get in the habit of putting everything on the calendar, they work more efficiently. And when groups share a calendar, colleagues can determine availability at a glance, even for team members in another office.

Facilitate Information Sharing

In a data-driven environment, workers require on-demand access to up-to-date information. Cloud-based document management systems make essential documents accessible anytime, anywhere. And when employees share critical documentation through centralized information repositories, people have the information they need to work effectively and reduce errors.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

The more organizations automate repetitive tasks, the more employees can focus on core business tasks. Take an inventory of bottlenecks in your organization and determine whether automation can help solve the problem.

For instance, automation can help reduce time-consuming paperwork such as invoice processing and expense tracking. Likewise, sales and marketing departments benefit from automated call logging and tools that manage social media publishing.

Use Existing Tools More Effectively

Sometimes the solution lies not in purchasing new technology, but rather in optimizing the technology already at hand.

We can also help you adjust your network management and cybersecurity systems to ensure business continuity. And we can assist you with determining optimal email settings and retention policies to streamline communications. Call us today to discuss more low-cost productivity tips.

Best Tips To Maximize Efficiency When Working From Home

A quarter of people plan to work from home either permanently or more regularly when the pandemic is over.

No surprises there. Many people feel more productive when they work from home. And three-quarters believe there are fewer distractions at home (when the kids are at school, anyway).

Here are five things we recommend you put in place for everyone who’s going to be working from home, long-term:

A dedicated working space

Trying to work in the same space as other members of the family is testing for everyone. Help your team to identify where they will work and set up a proper work environment. This will also help them draw the line on the day’s work when they leave their workspace.

Fastest possible Internet

Slow speeds are the biggest frustration. There are often options to speed up Internet speeds. Maybe you could subsidize them upgrading to a better service?

Dedicated tech

62% of home workers would like their company to provide better technology to help them stay connected to what’s going on in the business.

From a data security point of view, you’ll have a lot more control if you give team members a business device to use only for work.

Collaborative software

Whether it’s Microsoft Teams or other software, it’s so easy these days for anyone working anywhere to stay up to speed on all relevant projects.

Help them feel involved

This can be as simple as sending pizzas to everyone’s houses, so your team can have lunch together on a video call.

Three Trillion Minutes On Zoom (Is That Just This Week?)

Zoom calls… Teams meetings… Google Meets… whichever tech platform your business uses*, do you ever get to a Friday evening and feel a bit “over Zoomed?” Especially if you then have ANOTHER Zoom arranged with friends or family?

According to estimates, over three trillion minutes will be spent on Zoom this year. That’s about 5.5 million years!

As much as they’re a pain when you have them all day, video calls really do help us be productive and get things done while we’re working remotely.

76% of all employees use video calling for remote work, according to some stats we’ve been reading. Three quarters of those say it makes them more productive. 41% of employers believe video calls lead to better engaged teams.

How to feel less “over Zoomed” then… here are three suggested rules that have worked well for us.

1. Do a tech test before every meeting: Check your video and sound are working. Zoom has a test call facility at www.zoom.us/test

2. Never meet unless you have a written agenda: And put the agenda on screen using screen share. This stops meetings from dragging on.

3. Stand up, especially if you’re the organizer: This is good for real life meetings, too. When you stand for a meeting, your body will give you feedback when the meeting’s dragging. Standing desks are a great idea for productivity and keeping energy levels high.

* Side note: Do you remember in the old days (2018) when people used GoToMeeting for video calls? Or the really, really old days (2017) when we used Skype?

Microsoft 365 Is The Best Thing For Staff Productivity

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Pandemic + Work From Home = relying on technology more than ever before.

The tools available in Microsoft 365 have developed to help us stay productive wherever we’re working.

If you’ve been using Microsoft’s software for years, now’s a good time to discover new features.

If you haven’t started exploring yet, you’re missing out on loads of ways to boost productivity and make your life easier. Here are some of the main things to explore.

Microsoft Teams
Teams has made communication and collaboration even more effective than traditional ways of working face-to-face. [Read more…]

Three Ways That Technology Has Transformed Businesses

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Breakthroughs in technology have torn apart old ways of working, as new alternatives have become impossible to ignore.

Here are three examples of ways that technology has transformed businesses everywhere.

Instant customer service
As new methods of communication have emerged, businesses have been able to significantly increase the quality and availability of the customer service they offer.

Instead of relying on face-to-face meetings or telephone calls to answer customer questions, businesses can now help through immediate online channels like live chat.

This is convenient for many customers, as they can talk at the exact moment they need help. It allows them to get immediate answers to their questions without needing to navigate telephone menus or book an appointment.

[Read more…]