Over the past several years there has been a monumental shift in the availability of tools on the Internet, and at the beginning of 2020, analysts thought that this type of service delivery would continue to grow at a swift rate. They didn’t account for a global pandemic.
We typically like to remind people as much as we can of the importance of staying up-to-date with your organization’s cybersecurity. There are plenty of things you can do to strengthen your grip on your network. This month we thought we’d go over some of the solutions we offer to help our clients secure their network and infrastructure.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of situations for many, many people. One way it changed businesses is that they had to find a way to conduct business when their business models had been upheaved by the need to support newly remote workforces. One solution that most businesses (and individuals for that matter) found was video conferencing. This month we will tell you why the video conference is not just a remote solution, but also the new normal for businesses.
If you know me at all, you know I love technology. I usually like to check out the newest, latest gadgets. At the same time, I’m also very skeptical about overcomplicating my life, and adding unneeded security risks to the equation. It’s like two polar opposites are at war in my head at all times—I want to play with shiny new technology but not risk my overall cybersecurity. Plus, I don’t want to move forward at the expense of losing something I once had.
Here’s a perfect example: Back in the Windows 7 days, I had this really great set of apps that let you customize my Start Menu. It made it really easy to get the apps and documents I needed, and it made sense to me based on how my mind works. These applications were no longer supported for Windows 10, so when we upgraded, I lost those features and had to get used to living without them.
Being used to the traditional desktop with multiple monitors and plenty of screen real estate, the idea of switching to a laptop or tablet sounds like a downgrade to many, but we’ve been at the point where laptops and even tablets are about as capable as their desktop equivalents.
Modern laptops are powerhouses that can compete with most modern desktops until you really need the most powerful hardware for high-end gaming and video editing. Even then, a high-end laptop will suffice, but the cost goes up, as does the overall weight of the device. That said, mid-range portable devices like ultrabooks tend to be able to handle everything most people would throw at them.
A Real-World Example of a Laptop that Replaced a Desktop
An acquaintance of mine is a digital artist/graphic designer. I remember seeing her setup a handful of years ago—she had a big desktop computer, two big monitors, and an enormous Wacom Cintiq. The Wacom Cintiq is an artist’s drawing tablet. Hers was a big 24-inch screen that she could draw on using a special pen. The work she was doing required a pretty beefy desktop. It was definitely more powerful than the typical office workstation. She could have used a laptop instead of the desktop, but she’d still be chained to the desk in order to use the drawing tablet, and back then, the price tag for a laptop with that kind of power was substantially higher than the desktop.
A few years ago, she showed me her new setup. She had switched over to a high-end laptop that had the Wacom technology built into the screen. She could set it up at her desk and give herself an extra monitor, but while traveling she could manage with just the laptop.
I remember asking her “does it still run all of your programs?” She had told me it honestly ran them better than her aging desktop.
This wasn’t a big bulky laptop either - it was a 12-inch Thinkpad, and she had mentioned she was torn between that and a Surface Pro at the time. She went with the Thinkpad because she liked the keyboard better.
Why This Story Matters
Technology has been changing fast over the years, and it’s important to realize that every few years, the way we do things could potentially change for the better. By switching to a laptop form-factor, she didn’t lose much, but she gained portability. If she had continued to assume that she needed a big desktop and a big expensive Wacom Cintiq, she wouldn’t be able to take her work on the road or illustrate while traveling.
You can look at your business technology the same way. It’s worth looking at the capabilities modern technology has, because if you stick with what’s traditional you might miss out on huge life-changing opportunities.
The Next Generation of Change
Our story isn’t finished though—my friend just replaced her laptop. It served her well for five years, and now her kid uses it for school work. She was pretty excited to tell me about the device she replaced it with…
An Android tablet.
This might not sound like a big deal to some of you, but let’s put it all in perspective.
Several years ago, she needed a massive, high-end PC to do her work. Attached to that PC was an expensive specialized piece of hardware in the form of a drawing tablet.
She replaced it with a nice, although costly, laptop that had the drawing tablet capabilities built-in.
Now she’s using a razor-thin Android tablet and claiming that she’s getting the same use out of it.
I have nothing against Android—it’s an amazing operating system for mobile devices. I usually don’t picture Android as a replacement for a Windows PC, though.
I had to grill her on it. I had so many questions! I think she was ready for me this time.
She told me that it ran all of her apps. She had to make some concessions, since the Android versions of Photoshop and Illustrator were a little different, but it didn’t change what she could do once she established a new workflow. She said that she even found that some of the Android-based apps that weren’t available on PC were even better than some of the programs she used on her desktop and laptop.
She handles her email on it, her documents are in OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud-based storage), and she stores her artwork and graphic design projects in the cloud as well. She can literally access them from anywhere, on any device.
Here’s the kicker. I’m not a graphics person so I probably don’t even understand the full scope of this, but she said it was huge:
Her tablet allows her to easily work at documents that are four times larger than what she could work on with her laptop, and the screen has a higher resolution and better color accuracy than her laptop did. This means she can work effectively with larger projects faster and more accurately than ever before.
On a tablet!
To be fair, she did mention that modern-day desktops and the newer Wacom tablets were still great to use, but she didn’t want to invest in a device that she couldn’t easily travel with.
Be willing to look outside of the familiar with your technology—there are so many new and exciting ways to get the same work done. Think about the businesses that already had a mobile-ready or remote workforce before the pandemic.
I don’t think it’s the end of an era for the desktop necessarily, but I do think it’s time we all look at the decisions we make and the things we invest in, and ask ourselves if there is a better, more innovative way.
These days, there usually is!
P.S. I was asked what kind of tablet my graphic designer friend switched to. She said she is using a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, and for those of you who prefer Apple products, the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is a good device. Normally we’re pretty agnostic about the devices and brands, so I encourage you to do your research, as there are plenty of great choices out there.
If you need help choosing your next device to get the most out of your talent, don’t hesitate to reach out to Automation Concepts & Technologies at (508) 622-5100!
While there are assorted backup strategies available to businesses, the most important consideration to make is which of them will best fit your purposes. After all, different businesses create and collect different types of data, and losing that data therefore has different consequences for one than it would for another. Let’s take a moment to examine the prospect of shaping a backup strategy to the way your business operates.
Focusing on Operability
Take a moment and consider something: of all the data you have, what could you simply not continue to function without? What data could land your business in major trouble if it were to be lost? As your data powers your daily operations, you probably have a pretty good idea of what is most essential to your business’ continued survival.
Unfortunately, you can’t be sure that your data is safe. After all, if it were saved on a single server in a reinforced, completely secure room, that data could still be lost. The server could malfunction, or catch fire, and your data would be gone. Data loss doesn’t always mean data theft.
No, there is no guarantee that your data will be safe, so you need to address this risk through preventative action. This is why an operational backup strategy is so useful. By incorporating insights into which data is used most often and how that data is put to use, an operational backup combines the benefits of incremental and differential backup strategies.
In short, when the chips are down, you’ll know you can restore your necessary data as the need arises.
Why Does Operational Recovery Matter?
From here, we will proceed under the assumption that you have hired human beings to work in your business. Guess what is directly responsible for the majority of a given company’s data loss?
Your workers are the right answer. Some are negligent, some are vindictive, and others just don’t grasp the importance of your information systems’ care. Therefore, a data backup is a smart investment.
That’s without even mentioning that a lot of data loss can happen without the “help” of your employees. Consider your central hardware. If that fails for any reason, or is somehow damaged, your business’ IT could be suddenly left unmanaged and unconfigured. Access control systems and email platforms could be lost, along with all the important information they contain, and you would then need to spend days and weeks rebuilding them from the ground up. Alternatively, a backup could help you avoid this stress and expense.
The data recovery process—especially in those times when you are fully migrating data from one server to another—is notoriously slow. The trouble is that if you are trying to recover data, it is problematic when the recovery process takes a long time. The longer you are without data, the more downtime you face. Downtime is wasted money. With the BDR, however, the restore times are much faster, especially since you can choose to restore from either the BDR itself or the data center it is backed up to.
The BDR is one of the most useful products you can purchase for your business. It is an insurance policy against a multitude of potential problems. Call Automation Concepts & Technologies at (508) 622-5100 to talk to one of our consultants about the BDR and all the good it can do for your business today.
Keep Track of Your Time
An individual will always think he/she will know how long a certain task will take when they’ve done the task numerous times. Sometimes it surprises them to find out how inaccurate those projections are. In order to definitively know how long tasks take, monitoring how much time they take is a great solution. Once you know how much time you take, you can make a conscious effort to take less time.
Limit Your Exposure to Meetings
What percentage of your meetings, would you say, are a giant waste of time? If that percentage is high, consider that one study found that the average employee spends 31 hours a month in meetings. If you are wasting over 30 hours a month in meetings, cutting that down will most certainly improve your overall productivity.
Work with Reasonable Deadlines
A lot of people work better with a little bit of stress from an impending deadline. Sometimes, however, the deadline is counterproductive. If you are able to set your own deadlines, make sure you leave yourself with a reasonable amount of time to get everything done. This will help you stay ahead of the workload.
Set Goals You Can Accomplish
We all want to be good at our jobs, but you need to know your limits. You will want to set reasonable goals and try your best to meet them. Setting unattainable goals may seem like it will foster better results, but it very rarely does.
Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks can actually be great for productivity. Getting away from a task, especially one that creates stress, can help rebuild any lost focus.
Be As Proactive As Possible
The most productive people don’t deal with as many problems. This is largely because they proactively handle situations that create inefficiency. By planning for the worst, you will likely find that the worst never comes.
Attempt to Reduce Interruptions
Interruptions are going to happen, but if they are continuous, distraction is inevitable. Try to maintain focus on one problem at a time, even if the interruption is welcome.
Turn Off Notifications
Notifications can be extremely distracting, and can keep people from maintaining focus. By turning off notifications, people aren’t inundated with status updates and erroneous messages and are able to put their all into the tasks at hand.
If productivity is the name of the game, considering these strategies will help. Subscribe to our blog for more great business tips and technology information.
Bitcoin is Digital Money
Whoa, whoa, whoa...money?
Yes! Like many other types of currency such as the yuan, the dollar, the euro, and the ruble, Bitcoin is real money. It is what is called a cryptocurrency and it is (very) slowly becoming a universally accepted currency. Its actual value comes from its scarcity, which we’ll touch on in a bit.
Bitcoin first entered the public consciousness when the value of one skyrocketed from a relatively measly few hundred dollars to about $20,000 in late 2017. Since then, Bitcoin has garnered its own following and inspired many to seek it out for themselves.
Where Bitcoin Comes From
Here’s the thing that a lot of people overlook about money: it’s little more than a symbol to represent value, essentially an IOU from the government backing it—rather than a voucher stating how much of that government’s treasury is due to the person possessing it.
This kind of currency is known as fiat money, and is known for its economic stability.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are different. Instead of a bank or a nation backing the currency, cryptocurrencies are self-managed with their own transaction histories recorded in perpetuity.
Bitcoin is generated through “mining”—a computer processing complicated equations to generate a packet of data. The trend has actually generated shortages in high-end computer hardware and boosted demand for data centers worldwide. However, this boom has led to a much slower generation rate of new Bitcoin… the more miners seeking it out, the more Bitcoin mined successfully, and the more processing it will take to generate more.
As Bitcoin can’t really be mined on consumer-grade or even business hardware for any real return, the investment to make it work is formidable. Not only is the hardware needed expensive in and of itself, maintaining that hardware takes a lot of time and draws a lot of power. Estimates have posited that the carbon footprint used to maintain Bitcoin is in line with the carbon footprint of the entirety of New Zealand, which suggests that environmental regulations may be applied to mining at some point in the future.
What’s the Point?
The major selling point behind Bitcoin is that it is anonymized. While there is a public record of all transactions, identities remain hidden. By establishing a Bitcoin wallet on your computer or in the cloud, the wallet’s ID is then associated to your transactions.
This enables Bitcoin to be used for effectively everything from illicit goods and materials to home goods from Overstock—effectively, the merchant just has to accept them. More than anything else, however, Bitcoin has become a bit of a speculative stock market, miners seeking to make a profit by buying up Bitcoin when the value is low and selling it off when prices are high.
Is Bitcoin Risky?
Let’s make this clear: any investment, regardless of what it is in, carries with it some level of risk. Bitcoin adds a few more—your money could be deleted due to a hardware failure or a virus, and a wallet could be stolen from the cloud without any of the insurance that a bank account offers.
Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency by a long shot. One that has also seen a recent surge in popularity is the meme-inspired and Elon Musk-promoted Dogecoin… almost strictly because Musk tweeted about it.
Look, nobody said that cryptocurrency makes sense.
Have you considered cryptocurrency as a potential investment? Tell us why or why not in the comments!
Sometime recently, novelty holidays have popped up for almost anything. Many of which just aim to celebrate the things about our lives that make life worth living. Take any random day, like May 12. There are a half-dozen “holidays” that day: National Limerick Day, National Odometer Day, National Nutty Fudge Day, National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, National Receptionists’ Day, and National Third Shift Workers Day. So, May 12 runs the gamut of human existence.
Working in technology can be illuminating. We constantly are coming across situations that we’ve never seen before. Sometimes this is the result of how fast technology moves, and sometimes it has to do with a business’ IT strategy; but, regardless of the issues we are asked to fix, we realize that without our clients, we’d be nothing. That’s why we decided to discuss some of the variables that every business owner should know about managed IT services.
With all the threats covered in mass media nowadays, it can be too simple to get the mistaken impression that the biggest threats to your business are all external. We’re telling you right now that plenty of vulnerabilities first come from inside your business, both creating significant dangers independently and simplifying the job for external threats as well. Let’s go over a few of the dangers that could originate from inside your business itself.
Many small business owners are in a very tough position. Not only have they had to navigate months of government-mandated limitations, health scares, and rising vendor prices, they also don’t have any definitive answers to when this whole period might be over; and, what a new normal will look like when it is. For these reasons it is crucial that an organization has solid leadership in place.
If your business relies on Microsoft software to remain productive, you need to be sure that you always have access to these tools. While working with Microsoft isn’t inherently difficult at any stretch, many businesses likely don’t have the time to appropriately commit to these communications.
With numerous vaccines now being deployed, it finally seems that there is an end to the COVID-19 pandemic at some point in the future. While we still have some ways to go, it would be helpful to look ahead and plan for how we can implement some of the lessons this period has taught us—especially in the workplace.
Businesses generate and collect a huge amount of data and some of it is practically useless. Other files, however, are critical to your business and operations. The important files require redundancy. This is why it is important to back up your data.
Not all businesses will look at disaster recovery the same way, but if you want your business to have the kind of continuity that will allow it to get through tough situations, doing your best to formally create a disaster recovery policy will put you in the position to weather any storm you encounter.
Nothing changes the fortunes of a business more than clear lines of communication and with nearly every organization looking to reduce redundancies, a lot of businesses are starting to take advantage of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions, using the resources they already have in place to avoid paying twice over.
The cloud has been a good resource for business for quite a while. Just how good? Currently, nine-out-of-ten businesses operate with some type of cloud-hosted solution. In fact, by the figures, we’re looking at a cloud-hosted future. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the cloud computing stats and trends to paint a picture of just how the cloud has grown up.
Over a quarter of all data breaches happen to small businesses. The cost of a data breach is really prohibitive to your business’ operational and financial health. To keep your business’ data and infrastructure free of threats and relatively secure, small businesses will need a combination of useful technology tools and well-designed strategies. Let’s take a look at several steps your small business can take to secure itself from digital theft.