Your Remote Workers Aren’t Using Computers That Look Like This, Are They?

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

When did you last check everything was OK with the devices your team uses when they work remotely?

That might sound like a strange question. But a recent survey discovered that 67% of remote workers are using faulty devices to work from home. And the reason?

They’ve likely damaged the device themselves and are too scared to tell you!

Laptops, keyboards, and monitors are most likely to be damaged (in that order). And it’s usually because of food or drink spills… though some people blame their partners, children, and even their pets!

We’ve all watched in horror as a cat rubs itself against a full glass of water next to a laptop…

[Read more…]

Five Things You Should Never Do On A Work Computer

Whether you work remotely or in an office, the line between personal and work tasks can become blurred when working on your company computer. If you’re in front of a computer for most of your time during work, then it’s not unusual to get attached to your desktop PC.

Over time, this can lead to doing personal things on a work computer. At first, it might just be checking personal email while on a lunch break. But as the line continues to get crossed, it can end up with someone using their work computer just as much for personal reasons as work tasks.

In a survey of over 900 employees, it was found that only 30% said they never used their work PC for personal activities. The other 70% admitted to using their work computer for various personal reasons.

Some of the non-work-related things that people do on a work computer include:

  • Reading and sending personal email
  • Scanning news headlines
  • Shopping online
  • Online banking
  • Checking social media
  • Streaming music
  • Streaming videos/movies

It’s a bad idea to mix work and personal, no matter how much more convenient it is to use your work PC for a personal task during the day. You can end up getting reprimanded, causing a data breach at your company, or possibly losing your job. Here are several things you should never do on your work PC.

Save personal passwords in the browser
Many people manage their passwords by allowing their browser to save and then auto-fill them. This can be convenient, but it’s not very secure should you lose access to that PC.

When the computer you use isn’t yours, it can be taken away at any time for a number of reasons, such as an upgrade, repair, or during an unexpected termination.

If someone else accesses that device and you never signed out of the browser, that means they can leverage your passwords to access your cloud accounts.

Store personal data
It’s easy to get in the habit of storing personal data on your work computer, especially if your home PC doesn’t have a lot of storage space. But this is a bad habit and leaves you wide open to a couple of major problems:

Loss of your files: If you lose access to the PC for any reason, your files can be lost forever.

Your personal files being company-accessible: Many companies have backups of employee devices to protect against data loss. So, those beach photos stored on your work PC that you’d rather not have anyone else see could be accessible company-wide because they’re captured in a backup process.

Visit sketchy websites
You should assume that any activity you are doing on a work device is being monitored and is accessible by your boss. Companies often have cybersecurity measures in place like DNS filtering that is designed to protect against phishing websites.

This same type of software can also send an alert should an employee be frequenting a sketchy website deemed dangerous to security (which many sketchy websites are).

You should never visit any website on your work computer that you wouldn’t be comfortable visiting with your boss looking over your shoulder.

Allow friends or family to use it
When you work remotely and your work computer is a permanent fixture in your home, it can be tempting to allow a friend or family member to use it if asked. Often, work PCs are more powerful than a typical home computer and may even have company-supplied software that someone wouldn’t purchase on their own.

But allowing anyone else to use your work computer could constitute a compliance breach of data protection regulations that your company needs to adhere to.

Just the fact that the personal data of your customers or other employees could be accessed by someone not authorized to do so can mean a stiff penalty.

Additionally, a child or friend not well-versed in cybersecurity could end up visiting a phishing site and infecting your work device, which in turn infects your company cloud storage, leaving you responsible for a breach.

At least 20% of companies have experienced a data breach during the pandemic due to a remote worker.

Turn off company-installed apps like backups and antivirus
If you’re trying to get work done and a backup kicks in and slows your PC down to a crawl, it can be tempting to turn off the backup process. But this can leave the data on your computer unprotected and unrecoverable in the case of a hard drive crash or ransomware infection.

Company-installed apps are there for a reason and it’s usually for cybersecurity and business continuity. These should not be turned off unless given express permission by your supervisor or company’s IT team.

The Security Problem Of John’s “Other” Laptop

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

Love it or hate it, Working From Home is huge and here to stay.

As a nation, we’ve really embraced the changes forced upon us by the pandemic. Many businesses have become more flexible with a mixture of office-based workers, hybrid workers and fully remote workers.

We had no idea that we could change so much, so quickly, did we? Work just doesn’t look the same as it did in 2019.

And because of that, cyber security in 2022 doesn’t look the same either. When you have people working away from your office, you need to take additional security measures to keep your data safe.

Even before we’d heard the word “Coronavirus,” many of us were working from home now and then. Checking emails on the weekend. Finishing up a project in the evening. Getting a head start on your week.

Now, Working From Home has to be taken more seriously. If any of your staff works anywhere away from the office, there’s a chance they’re taking unnecessary risks with your data. [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.

Don’t Let Working From Home Lower Your Guard

Wyatt Funchion is a help desk technician at Tech Experts.

When working from home or taking online classes for school, it is very easy for us to get caught up in our work and forget about the potential risks of using the Internet.

Whether you are using Zoom, assisting clients, writing assignments, or even just sending a simple email, cybercriminals have figured out ways to exploit our everyday tasks.

Email is one of the most vulnerable territories for users, and cybercriminals love it because it works. Phishing emails, which are emails that try to trick you out of your sensitive information, are one of the most common Internet threats and are easy to overlook if you’re overworked or in a hurry. Some can be extremely convincing, especially at a glance.

One of the best ways to keep your personal information and your work information protected is to avoid clicking links, opening attachments, and replying to emails when you don’t know where or who the email came from. Don’t provide them with extra information like a password, log-in, or anything else sensitive.

Cyberattacks are another common threat while working from home, and your computer and network are targeted just for existing. An easy way to prevent these attacks would be to use an antivirus suite.

These run in the background of your computer and automatically update themselves. They can protect against zero-day attacks (viruses taking advantage of security flaws before they are patched), malware, spyware, viruses, trojans, worms, and more. Some can alert you of phishing scams, including those sent via email, and alert you when a download is suspicious.

Something else that could put both your work and personal information at risk is your web camera. Cameras are used frequently for Zoom calls or Google Meets for both schools and employers and can be a huge risk if you have any documentation like passwords written in your workspace.

It’s also a big risk to your privacy in general, so make sure there isn’t anything else confidential in frame, such as personal phone numbers on a whiteboard.

A simple way to get rid of the potential risks would be to either unplug your webcam or cover it when it’s not being used. Sliding webcam covers are a good way to cover them and are fairly easy to install. They can be found in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

If your workspace is easily accessed by your family or you also use your personal computer for work, it can create threats for your company. Make sure to not leave your computer unlocked or open on any sensitive information that could be accessed by someone other than you. Another risk can be using your work account for personal use because you may not be as careful about what you access during your personal time versus work hours.

In the end, it is important to keep your work life or school life separate from your personal life.

Taking a few extra steps to make sure everything is secure can be the difference between a stolen identity or encrypted computer.

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.

Does Your Team Need An At Home VoIP Upgrade?

As work from home (WFH) rolls into another year, don’t forget to look at the phones your team use.

You don’t just have to default to them using their mobile. There’s a huge amount of choice available.

For example, you could easily let them access your business’s usual VoIP phone network from their home. So, people can still direct dial them on the same number.

There are huge benefits to this. Apart from helping them to compartmentalize work calls and personal calls, the sound quality of calls on VoIP can be significantly better than on a cell phone.

In terms of the equipment needed for this, that can be tailored to each person’s personal preferences. Some will want a traditional handset. That’s easily done. Others will prefer a headset. And some may just want the VoIP software on their laptop and not have a “proper” phone at all.

All these options (and more) are easy, and allow you to give each member of your team the setup that suits them.

Three Ways To Avoid Work From Home Burnout

The lines between work and non-work have blurred for so many people. For those who are still working from home (WFH), they may now be in their sixth consecutive month where there’s little balance between what they do professionally and personally.

Because when the work is sitting there in your personal space, it’s far too easy to work early or late – or both. Accidentally spotting that “urgent” email just before you’re about to go to bed really is incredibly damaging.

Added pressures of childcare have made this worse. Some parents feel that working all hours is the only way they can make up for the perceived reduced quality in their work.

The stress of constantly working (or constantly thinking about work) is dangerous. Our bodies and minds simply aren’t designed to be “on” all the time.

This is bad for our mental health. Which can easily have a negative effect on our physical health too. As IT specialists, we’ve been working remotely for years. Here are our top 3 suggestions to avoid WFH burnout.

1) Have physical ways to transition from personal you to work you, and back again. The easiest way to do this is with a dedicated workspace that’s strictly only used for work.

Even a specific seat at a table can be dedicated to work, even if you sit in other seats to do other things, like eat or play games. Some people dress for work each day, so they can change their clothes to mark the end of the working day.

2) Set strict work hours and stick to them. 9 to 5 might be impossible, but you can still have set work times, even if they’re scattered throughout the day. Make sure your family knows when you’re working. This is where having a set physical space can really help. In your non-work hours, make sure you only do non-work things. And do not check your email!

3) Prioritize what really matters: The other downside of sitting surrounded by work all the time is that there’s always something else that can be done. There’s no point working on minor tasks at 11pm at night, because the chances are, you’re not actually achieving anything meaningful. Assume you have 3-4 hours of truly productive time each day. And make sure you get and stay organized to achieve the most important things in this time.