Category: Tips

Across almost every industry, computers are essential to keeping a business operating smoothly. Computers improve employee efficiency, accuracy, and can speed up many work processes. As a business owner, knowing when to replace your work computer can be challenging.

If you wait too long, you can incur expensive support and service costs, and if you replace desktops and laptops too soon, you aren’t maximizing your original investment. So, how do you know when to keep or replace your older PCs? Let’s take a look at the average lifespan of computers, our recommended refresh cycle for a business, and key indicators a computer is starting to fail.

How Long Should Your PC Last?

Average Lifespan of Computers

Like all electronics, computers will slow down and become less useful as they age. Environmental conditions, accidents, and normal wear and tear take their toll on both PCs and laptops, causing functional issues. Computers don’t last forever and having a replacement plan in place can help business owners plan for IT budget needs.

The average lifespan of a computer is typically three to five years. Desktop computers should last at least three years, and laptops, between three and five years. There are several factors that contribute to how long a computer will last for an employee including:

  • Environmental factors: Computers require a cool environment to work properly. When they become overheated, the fans will kick on to try to cool down the internal components. The fans can draw dust and other allergens inside the computer which can clog up vents and prevent air from flowing freely. Computers that are used in factory environments tend to have a much shorter lifespan than computers in a cool, clean office space.
  • Usage: One factor that contributes to your computer’s lifespan is the manner in which it is used. If you only use the computer for spreadsheets and word processing, you may be able to extend its life an extra year or so past the average lifespan of a PC. For more sophisticated tasks that require applications, you may find your older computer is slow and struggles to keep up with the increased processing demand.
  • Unsafe cybersecurity practices: Nothing shortens the lifespan of a computer quicker than unsafe cybersecurity practices. Even the newest PC can die quickly if infected with malware or viruses. If you are a business owner, be sure to follow best practices for cybersecurity to ensure your computers – and your investment – are protected. Regularly install updates and patches for your computers’ operating systems and be proactive with cybersecurity training for your team. Many malware attacks are successful because of human behaviors.

At Everound, we recommend business owners adopt a 25% refresh cycle with their computer inventory rather than replacing all computers at the same time. Essentially, instead of purchasing new computers for all workstations at once, business owners can replace 25% of them each year. This cost-effective strategy allows for hardware capital expenses to be budgeted over four years instead of one.

Know the Signs of an Aging Computer

Key Signs You Should Replace Your Computer

There are several key signs to watch for when considering if you need to replace your work computers including:

  • Security is out of date: If your current computers are incompatible with newer versions of their operating systems, it may be time to invest in new computers. When the operating system is incompatible, important security patches and updates will not be installed on your PC. Check your Windows and Mac machines for OS compatibility to make sure your security is up to date.
  • Increasing support costs: Are your team members consistently asking your go-to IT staff member for help troubleshooting issues? Even if this is an internal employee, there is a real support cost affecting your bottom line.
  • Noisy fans: Are the fans on your computer constantly running? This is a key indicator that your computer is running “hot” and its internal components are at risk for damage. If you’re running the latest versions of an application or operating system, these could be maxing out your computer hardware, causing it to run warmer than usual.
  • Applications take a long time to load: Applications may take longer on an older computer. If you’re running the most up-to-date version of an application, older hardware may not be able to keep up. Before installing software, check the compatibility to ensure it will work with your computer.
  • Slowed productivity and lost time: According to a study by Intel, employees are 19% less productive on a PC that is older than 5 years. If your work computers cause an hour of downtime per day for a month, that equates to 20 hours per month. What is the value of that lost time?

If your PCs or laptops are experiencing any of the key indicators they need to be replaced, a managed IT service provider can help you determine the best path to replace hardware in a cost-efficient manner. Everound offers monthly managed IT service plans that help business owners assess and determine how to replace computers to maximize efficiency and productivity.

Keeping Your Team Supported

Everound for Your Hardware Needs

At Everound, we work with small businesses to large corporations on their IT needs including computer procurement, installation, hardware and software maintenance, and computer refresh plans. Our team of experienced IT professionals can help you determine the best course of action to keep your computers operating at peak performance. Reach out today for a free hardware assessment for your business. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

While the shift to a remote workforce had been gradually evolving over the last decade, 2020 accelerated the move to remote work. Many businesses are now embracing either an entirely work-from-home culture or a hybrid model where employees split their time between an office and a remote location.

A recent survey from PwC reinforced what leaders and business owners have been hearing from their own teams – more than half of employees who were sent home to work during the pandemic prefer to continue to work from home at least 2 days a week. Nineteen percent of all employees surveyed prefer to work remotely entirely. The old paradigm of a 40-hour workweek, bookended with a morning and evening commute, is quickly changing.

The key to a successful remote workforce is a solid technology infrastructure and IT support. Technology plays a critical role in access to resources, collaboration, and most importantly, security. What current technologies can help a remote team? Let’s look at how technology supports a remote workforce.

Keeping Your Team Protected

Critical Cybersecurity for Remote Workers

A successful, efficient remote work platform requires several key technology resources that provide a seamless, secure work experience. With the staggering increase in cybercrime in 2020, the highest technology priority for any business, especially those with a remote team, is cybersecurity.

Last year more than 90% of companies worldwide experienced some form of a cyberattack whose aim was to steal passwords. For businesses with remote employees, a solid, strategically developed infrastructure can help prevent cyber threats while also providing ways for employees to work efficiently and stay connected.

Several technologies that are critical for a secure IT infrastructure include:

  • VPN: VPN, or a virtual private network, is a service that both encrypts data and hides IP addresses by bouncing network activity through a secure chain to another server miles away.
  • Network Security: Network security is the use of technologies to defend a network and network-accessible software and hardware from cyberattacks and misuse of company data. Depending on the type of business, network security can include firewalls, anti-malware, and data loss prevention (DLP).
  • Access Controls: For a remote team, access controls can help business owners allocate different levels of access to sensitive documents on a server. Access control is a security process that regulates who can view and use resources on a network. Access control minimizes risk to the business or organization and reduces the risk of a cyberthreat.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Multi-factor authentication is when a user must provide two or more pieces of evidence to gain access to a digital platform or resource. This extra layer of security is used to protect against hackers by ensuring that digital users are who they say they are.
Keeping Your Team Connected

Communication Technologies for a Remote Workforce

One of the challenges of the abrupt move to a remote workforce in 2020 was the immediate disruption to face-to-face communication and routine day-to-day conversations. Because nonverbal communication makes up 60-80% of communication, it’s important for businesses to integrate a visual platform for communication in addition to digital communication products (think chat programs like Slack).

Successful remote teams have several information technology resources available to them to encourage communication including:

  • Google Workspace: Google Workspace is a platform that provides several collaboration and workspace tools to make remote work easier for employees. Files can be shared on a secure platform, projects can be collaboratively edited from a central location, and communication tools that allow chatting and video and voice communication are available.
  • Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is a platform that allows for instant communication, file sharing, and collaboration. Users can chat with the colleagues in real time, or even place a video phone call with one click. Files can be shared through chat, eliminating the need to send files as attachments via email. Other resources on Microsoft Teams include VOIP, screen sharing, webinars, and online meetings.
  • Video conferencing: Years ago, a video conference felt foreign to many employees. Video conferencing exploded in 2020, with several platforms breaking through as leaders. In addition to Google and Microsoft, Zoom has risen to the top with their easy-to-use platform for video conferencing. Many products can host hundreds of attendees with ease.
  • VOIP: The traditional landline phone system is becoming obsolete, especially without employees working from a shared office of location. VOIP, also known as voice over internet protocol, is a solution that connects users to each other immediately. VOIP is built in to several platforms including Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Keeping Your Team Supported

Support Services for Remote Workers

A robust remote work program not only includes the apps and services employees need to perform their job but also supports technologies challenges and backup and disaster recovery.

Several approaches to IT support services include:

  • Remote Help Desk: When employees are working in the same building as their information technology colleagues and have an IT challenge, they often walk to their office for a quick fix to resolve issues. With remote teams, minor technology challenges can become a huge frustration without the proper process and support in place. Having a remote help desk in place with an automated help desk ticketing system provides remote employees access to technology help.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: While disaster recovery for on-premises infrastructure and data centers has become standard for most companies, moving applications to third-party cloud solutions to support remote work creates a unique challenge. When companies move to cloud-based applications such as file-sharing and storage, they need to do due diligence to ensure those vendors are following the best practices for disaster recovery to ensure their data is safe. Properly secured cloud-based solutions are a great way to backup and restore data in case of hard drive malfunctions, cyberattacks, and natural disasters.
We Focus On Your IT, So You Can Focus On Your Business.

Managed IT Services for a Remote Workforce

At Everound, we understand the unique information technology challenges of businesses with a remote workforce. We can help identify areas of improvement and customize solutions to help meet the needs of a fully remote or hybrid business model.
Interested in learning more? Reach out today for a free assessment to see if your current IT infrastructure is fully supporting your remote team. Let us focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

How fast does hardware become outdated? Let’s look at a piece of hardware almost everyone is familiar with – the iPhone. In the last five years, there have been 7 different versions released. With the average cost of an iPhone sitting at around $750, many people often skip a few generations of iPhones until they can afford the next “new” one. No big deal, right? Even the oldest model of an iPhone still makes calls and sends text messages.

 

For business IT hardware, though, (think firewalls, servers, and networking equipment), having an old, outdated version can create a risk for business owners, and hinder efficiency. If you are a small or mid-sized business owner operating on a tight budget, how do you keep your hardware up to date without a huge capital expenditure?

The answer is Hardware as a Service (HaaS).

What Is Hardware as a Service?

Hardware as a Service, or HaaS, is a procurement model that is similar to leasing or renting equipment. In the HaaS model, businesses essentially “borrow” their IT hardware from a managed service provider (MSP). The MSP owns the hardware and is responsible for maintenance and upkeep.

The service model can be set up in different ways. For some businesses, it makes sense to pay a monthly fee for the hardware, and in other cases, HaaS is incorporated into a broader managed service agreement that includes other services like help desk support and IT consulting.

 

Benefits of HaaS Solutions

In our fast-paced technology world, owning hardware can be expensive, cumbersome, and challenging for business owners. HaaS offers an alternative approach to hardware and IT infrastructure needs that can help business owners reduce the stress of keeping up with how quickly technology changes.

There are several ways HaaS can benefit businesses including:  

  • Low, Upfront Costs: One of the biggest advantages of HaaS is there are no large capital expenditures for a business owner. Businesses do not have to spend a lot of money to provide the most up-to-date IT infrastructure for their business. This is especially beneficial for startups and small businesses that do not have a hefty budget for hardware. HaaS essentially turns a large capital expense into a more manageable operating expense. 
  • Staying Current: One major benefit of HaaS is that the MSP keeps hardware equipment current with the latest technology. When a new version of a particular technology arrives, the MSP oversees updating it for the business owner. HaaS clients do not have to stress over investing in tech that might become obsolete quickly after purchase. The MSP is incentivized to make sure their client has the best and latest equipment. 
  • Worry-Free Maintenance: When businesses opt for HaaS with an MSP, the responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep shifts to the MSP, not the business owner. Since the MSP owns the equipment, they will provide not only the hardware itself but also provide routine service and maintenance as part of the HaaS agreement. Business owners can forget about expired warranties and potential equipment failures – the MSP takes care of making sure everything is working and operating at peak performance. 
  • Tighter Security: When it comes to cybersecurity, new is often better. Cybercriminals are a savvy group and are constantly working on new ways to access businesses’ sensitive data. Not only are they targeting software, but they are also targeting vulnerable, outdated hardware. With HaaS, it is easy to upgrade to the latest hardware technology designed to create optimal endpoint security. 
  • Scalability: HaaS often makes the most sense for small and medium businesses that are on a growth plan. As businesses grow, their technology needs also grow with them. When growing businesses add new employees, expand their service offerings for their clients, or add additional office locations, they need to invest in their technology infrastructure to meet their business goals. HaaS helps businesses scale efficiently as they grow.

Everound: Your Hardware as a Service Partner

At Everound, we understand the challenges businesses face with keeping their hardware operating at a level that meets and exceeds their business goals. We offer both HaaS as an independent service and as part of a monthly managed IT services plan. Our HaaS packages can be customized to meet the specific needs of a business and often includes:

  • Firewalls: Firewalls are a line of defense against security threats, and one of the last pieces of equipment business owners think of when purchasing or upgrading IT hardware. With HaaS, Everound provides the latest firewall solutions to help prevent cyber threats.
  • Servers: A server is a central piece of hardware in a computer network that stores, sends, and receives data. It provides functionality for the entire IT infrastructure of a business. Through HaaS, Everound offers servers either on-site or in the cloud, depending on need.
  • Wi-Fi or networking equipment: Wi-Fi and networking equipment includes devices such as network switches and access points. Everound can help your business stay connected and online with Wi-Fi and networking equipment.  
  • Battery backups: Battery backup and smart surge protection devices, such as Wattboxes, can help protect your business from downtime. Power and electricity outages, surges, and brownouts can be prevented with minimal investment. These can cause data loss and physical damage to your computer components.

Curious if Hardware as a Service is right for your business? Reach out today to learn more about how we can help. Let us focus on your IT needs so you can focus on your business.

Big companies almost always have an information technology department. The IT team not only helps the organization with troubleshooting errors and issues but also provides long-term planning and overall business support and strategic planning.

If you’re a small business owner, though, chances are you do not have an IT department. So how do you manage your information technology to keep your business running smoothly? Do you need an IT department for your small business? And when do you hire someone to take on the IT functions? Before you hire an IT manager, it’s important to understand the role of an IT department, the financial investment in hiring, and when to scale up the IT team as your business grows.

Role of the IT Department

The IT department is typically known as the team that “fixes things.” When a computer crashes, the printer has an error, or someone forgets their password, they call the IT guys. In reality, though, an IT department does much more than troubleshooting (although they do that, too).

The IT department is a critical component in overall business success. The team has three areas of concern – governance of a company’s technological systems, maintenance of IT infrastructure, and monitoring and improving the functionality of all systems.

 

Governance of Technological Systems

IT governance is the ‘big picture’ of how IT integrates into the overall business. It examines all the ways IT can provide a return-on-investment for a business owner and its stakeholders. For example, if a business goal is to increase customer service response times, the choice of software to meet that goal would fall under IT governance. IT governance ensures businesses have appropriate decision-making processes and controls in place so that the interests of all stakeholders are balanced.

IT governance is essentially a set of policies and procedures designed to align IT functions with overall business strategy and success. Having a formal set of standards in place helps to maximize value, set IT strategy, reduce risk, and measure performance.

Maintenance of IT Infrastructure

Most businesses understand this function of an IT department – maintaining the IT infrastructure. This includes many of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ tasks such as:

  • Software and hardware maintenance for physical and virtual environments
  • Network administration
  • Data and storage upkeep including cloud systems
  • Management of virtual and remote assets
  • Implementation and maintenance of wireless and wired access
  • Email management
  • Cybersecurity programming

Monitoring and Improving System Functionality

IT departments just don’t “set it and forget it” when it comes to IT infrastructure. The IT department continually monitors and improves functionality to minimize loss and maximize return. Using tools, employee feedback, and documentation, the IT department refines and improves the current systems.

 

Financial Investment to Start an IT Department

 

Small businesses can hire an in-house IT professional if they have the financial stability and resources to grow their staff. The financial investment varies widely depending on the type of IT professional needed to support the business. According to Indeed.com, the average salaries of the most common IT professionals are:

  • Computer Support Technician: $33,000
  • Computer Support Specialist: $34,000
  • IT Support Specialist: $41,500
  • IT Technician: $74,400
  • Computer Systems Analyst: $76,000
  • Systems Administrator: $79,000
  • IT Manager: $85,000
  • Director of Information Technology: $120,000

The cost of hiring an IT professional extends beyond the salary. According to the Society of Human Resources Management, the average cost of hiring a new employee can exceed $4,000.

Scaling IT as Your Business Grows

For any business, having the right people in place can make all the difference in the success of the organization. How do you know when it’s the right time to add an IT team? What works for some businesses may not work for others, so it’s important to first assess your situation to determine when – and if – you should hire. If you own a small business, ask yourself:

  • Does someone at my organization take on IT tasks in addition to their regular workload?
  • Do I need to support a remote work environment?
  • Am I at risk for a cyber threat? Do I have sensitive information that could be hacked?
  • Do I have applications or computer programs that require support? Is this managed by a vendor?
  • Does my business model rely primarily on e-commerce?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should consider adding IT support to your small business. But what if you cannot afford to add a full-time team member to your staff? The good news is you can get the IT support you need through Managed IT Services.

Managed IT Services for Small Businesses

Many small business owners are operating on tight budgets and cannot financially support an in-house IT team. Managed IT Services is a way to get the IT support you need that works with your budget and goals.

Managed IT Services allows business owners to delegate their ongoing information technology processes to a third-party company like Everound that specializes in the IT industry. For a fraction of the cost of hiring an IT professional, Managed IT Services improves overall organizational efficiency and productivity while also reducing operating expenses.

As a Managed IT Services provider, Everound offers IT support including:

  • Help Desk
  • Network and Server Administration
  • Network Monitoring
  • Hardware and Software Installation and Configuration
  • Computer Patching and Software Updates
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery
  • Software Customization
  • After Hours Support

If you own a small business and are ready to add IT support in a cost-efficient way, reach out today to discuss how we can help. We can work with your budget to support you and your IT needs. Let us focus on your IT so you can focus on your business.

 

 

Technology helps improve productivity, collaboration and is arguably the driver of success for business goals and priorities. Sometimes, though, information technology creates a headache for its users. Issues with printer connections, login credentials, and even software and hardware configurations can cost companies money in downtime and can distract leadership from focusing on the business itself.

As a managed service provider (MSP), Everound provides IT help desk support for businesses to alleviate the stress and frustration caused by both day-to-day and long-term IT challenges. But what is help desk support? And what services are included in help desk support?

Help Desk Defined

At its core, an IT help desk team supports internal staff at an organization and solves problems ranging from minor issues such as a lost password to larger, more potentially risky issues such as a company-wide network outage. Essentially, a help desk is internal customer support led by a trained information technology support team that can handle technical problems.
A help desk team provides information and support on an ongoing basis to its customers (ie: the company’s employees). This is achieved by not only responding to specific issues and problems but also by proactively seeking and addressing potential IT pain points.

 

What Products and Services Are Provided by a Help Desk Team?

The main functions of a help desk address immediate day-to-day IT issues as well as prevent future IT headaches. At Everound, our monthly help desk services include:

  • Real-time IT assistance: through a help desk ticketing system, employees have immediate access to IT help for issues related to email, hardware and software.
  • Networking: proactively manage and maintain your operating systems, servers, and applications to ensure everything is running smoothly and there are no potential issues. Review and make recommendations for network infrastructure that is out of warranty or at end of life.
  • Microsoft or other software administration: installation, implementation, and administration of Microsoft solutions or other industry-specific software.
  • Ongoing technology recommendations: review current technology investments and identify areas of opportunity and improvement.
  • ISP support: continually monitor and support internet service provider (ISP) functions to address real-time issues including dropped Wi-Fi and other internet-related challenges.
  • Liaison between 3rd party software and or hardware vendors: manage the relationship between the business and its software and hardware vendors to ensure products meet the needs of the business.
  • Antivirus and malware assistance: routine scan and reporting of potential cybersecurity risks including viruses and malware.
  • Disaster recovery: regularly back up data in case of hard drive malfunction, cyberattacks, and natural disasters.
  • IT documentation: thorough IT documentation to provide a historical analysis of solutions as well as create a knowledge base for employees.
  • Monthly maintenance: provide monthly IT maintenance during a predetermined maintenance window that does not interfere with or interrupt employee workflow.

 

Why You Should Integrate a Help Desk at Your Business

 

Some organizations have an existing help desk team in place, while others rely on someone outside of the IT department to address technology issues. While the latter approach may appear to be a cost-savings measure, it will, in fact, cost a business money in the long term.

For example, if everyone in a company runs to the recently hired college grad for help with their computers, that college grad will be focusing on IT support, not the job function they were hired to do. Adding a help desk team to your company is an affordable and strategic business decision to help your business become more efficient and profitable.

At Everound, we support small and medium businesses with their IT help desk needs. Our full-time staff is dedicated to our client’s successes and works with each of our businesses to create a custom approach to let them focus on their business while we focus on their IT.

Interested in learning more? Reach out today for a free IT assessment of your current IT needs. We will help you understand if a help desk is right for your business. 

Choosing an IT provider and hiring the right information technology consulting company is paramount to ensure both short- and long-term business continuity. A strong proactive information technology strategy and approach can create efficiencies, improve communication, and ensure sensitive business data is secure.

As an IT consulting and managed IT services provider, we know there are many companies that provide similar services. With every IT company promising the same thing, how do you choose an IT provider? As a business owner, it’s critical to understand what to look for when choosing a partner to help you with your IT needs.

Here are 5 key qualifications when choosing an IT provider for your business:

 

choosing an IT provider

Availability

Nothing is worse than having to track down your IT support team when you are having a critical issue that needs quick attention. A reputable managed IT services provider should be available and on-call to respond to issues quickly. When choosing a provider, ask about guaranteed response times, direct access to the IT support team, and if they offer 24/7 support services. 

Onsite Support

Even though remote work is becoming standard for businesses, brick-and-mortar companies still need onsite support for IT challenges. IT consulting firms and managed service providers should offer onsite support included in their scope of services to help employees with their IT needs. From hardware and software installation to general troubleshooting, onsite support is critical in an ongoing IT support relationship.

Innovation & Outside the Box Thinking

Many IT support companies will use a cookie-cutter approach to IT services for their clients. For some functions like software installation, using the same approach is most likely appropriate and even efficient. But individual businesses have specific challenges that are best solved through innovation and custom solutions. Ask your managed IT services company if they understand your specific needs and how they will approach problem-solving as your IT partner.

Disaster Recovery and Response

Are you prepared for an emergency such as a cyberattack, network failure, power outage, or even a fire or other facility loss? When you choose an IT service provider, be sure they are properly helping you plan for an emergency or disaster with cloud services, cybersecurity planning, and proactive disaster recovery and response programming. 

Relationship-Focused

Above all, your managed IT service provider should be relationship-focused. Many companies push their client into an annual service level agreement and then once signed, forget about the relationship. Business owners should feel like their outsourced IT team is not outsourced at all, rather as an extension of their own staff and team.

The Everound Difference

We do things a little differently at Everound. We believe relationships and trust are the drivers of a successful partnership. We work diligently to build, maintain, and improve upon relationships in all that we do. How are we different?

  • Full-Time Certified Staff. Everound does not outsource our clients’ work. When our clients call with a question or send us an email, they are connecting with our full-time, certified staff, not someone off our payroll in an office across the country. We believe in building relationships with our clients, not pushing them to an outsourced contracted employee.
  • A Dedicated, Accessible Team. When our clients have an issue, they know who to call, always. Our clients call us directly and are not routed through an answering service. We share our cell phone numbers and emergency contact information with our clients so they can reach us at a moment’s notice. We know IT challenges can be frustrating, and a quick response is critical. Our goal is for each of our clients to think of us as an extension of their full-time workforce.
  • The IT Factor. Unlike other companies that require an annual service agreement, we work hard each and every day to earn our clients’ trust and business. If our clients are not satisfied with our services, we will help them find another provider that can meet their needs. The IT Factor is our promise to provide outstanding customer service that allows our clients to focus on their business while we focus on their IT.

If you are interested in improving your IT infrastructure and programs, reach out today to learn more about how we can help. Whether you are frustrated with your current provider or are considering choosing an IT provider for the first time, we are ready to listen to your needs and help you make an informed decision.

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed business for millions of us. Lots of our workers have been sent home to work.

This creates a new dilemma:
How do we make sure that everyone is productive even when they’re not in our offices?

In truth, it’s not hard as long as you have a plan and know how to follow up with your newly out-of-the-office staff.

What are some steps I can take?
  • Create clear goals, every day. Every day, start with an expectation of what will get done. Look at your year’s goals, then break that out to the month, then the week, then to days. There will always be changes in the plan, but that’s the best place to start.
  • Start every day with a meeting. Every morning, the whole team should be on a call to talk about the day’s plan. If your staff is too large, break out by department. The most important part is that everyone gets a chance to talk about challenges and the day’s goals. Remind everyone of the week’s goals as well.
  • Post goals on the group chat board. Put the goals up on the group chat or management boards. That gives everyone a place to go if they get sidetracked. You can also put up the future goals and the goals that were missed recently.
  • Have a Project B. There should be a second project that your team can work on if they get stuck on the main one. For example, if they’re building an app for a client and suddenly need to know something, they need to email the client (or you) and wait. Have a second project, maybe a website or another app. If you have a law office and your paralegals are at home, have a number of documents in the queue to work on. If one hits a roadblock, they can start on a different one.
  • Use the cloud. Keep documents in the cloud so everyone can access what they need, no matter where they are or when they’re working. The cloud is only as secure as your passwords, so institute a strong password policy. Make sure files are neatly organized so everyone can find everything, but the cloud is the place to work.
  • Encourage collaboration. Using Zoom, Skype, or any number of other meeting apps, your team can work together. Invite everyone to a group lunch one day a week to just grab a bite and chat. The more your people feel connected, even remotely, the better they’ll work together.
  • Everyone in. Keep everyone in the loop. No one can be left out of meetings. If it’s completely outside their purview, make sure they’re invited, but their attendance isn’t mandatory. It’s very easy to feel shunned when you’re not face-to-face. It can even make people feel paranoid. Invite everyone, but only the essential personnel to any project needs to be there.
  • Be available. Make sure that you’re available to answer questions as much as possible. Have your chat function open. Make sure your phone is on. Get email notifications. Schedule “office” hours where you’re available to help people grow and learn.
  • Assign mentors. If your team isn’t used to being remote workers, mentors can help them stay on task. Simple things, like prioritizing the day, staying focused, even setting up a desk, can seem daunting when you’ve been working in an office for decades.
  • Use video for new projects or skills. Create instructional videos that show your team new skills or introduce new projects. This will let them feel like you’re right in front of them and will give them something to look back at if they get lost.
  • Share contracts and customer documents. Letting your staff see what’s been promised to a client makes it easier for them to have buy-in. It lends clarity to their work. When they’re in an office and can simply ask the boss, it’s easier. When they’re at home, often working by themselves, seeing what the whole project is supposed to look like can help a lot. It also conveys trust.
Productivity Software

There are literally thousands of programs and web based apps to help your team work together. The big ones, like Microsoft Teams and Google G Suite, are everywhere, but any search for collaboration tools will get you endless pages of companies that have solutions for you.

The key is to look for what your team needs. If you’re dealing mostly in documents, Google is great. If you’re creating apps or doing graphic design work, you might need a specialized collaboration tool.

If you’re not sure, ask some business contacts or look in trade magazines or on trade websites. Even a Google search, like “collaboration tools for app designers”, should get you some options.

Keeping It Secure

Start right from the beginning with a strong password policy. There are lots of random password generators and vaults in the world such 1Password and LastPass, some of which have free packages. Otherwise, set down some rules and teach your team to create tough passwords.

It might be important to put everyone on a VPN, especially if they’re sending sensitive information back and forth, such as accounting data or medical office records.

Staying Organized

The most difficult part of working in an office, let alone remotely, is keeping the files, images, documents, and more all neatly organized is difficult.

Take the time to create a set of standards for creating anything. What to name files, how to date them, how to record versions, etc. should all be in your policies. Write the policies out and speak to your team about them. This way, everything is standardized and will make it much easier to find things if you’re not the person who created the original file.

A Note on “Productivity Trackers”

Some bosses like “productivity trackers.” These are programs that take a snapshot of the employee’s screen randomly, track what websites they go to, and more.

Many employees find these offensive. They are, essentially, spyware. They allow the employer to see everything that an employee does. They’re only supposed to work when the employee is “on the clock”, but many of these jobs are salaried or flat rate contracts.

From our perspective, if you distrust your staff that much, you need a new staff. If you create a list of daily goals and those goals are met, that’s really all you need to worry about. If you think that staff can get more done, add more goals.

This type of software is a very clear sign that you don’t trust your people. That’s not going to create the loyalty you need to make remote working successful.

The companies that sell this type of product will tell you how innocuous it is. Consider, do you want someone to be able to take a screenshot of your computer any time they want?

It’s easy to keep your team productive and working well together. Over-communicate, give them lots of tools, and trust they’ll do the very best they can every time.

Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cyber security and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!

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COVID-19 hit, and all your employees went home to work. We all thought this would be temporary, last only a few weeks, maybe a month… Employers are now seeing remote work is possible. Users can be efficient from a spare bedroom. What does this mean for IT? How can we make sure our company is secure? How do we optimize our budget? Let’s talk.

Define what will need to be accessed by employees within the LAN.
Step 1: What and How are employees accessing work data since COVID-19?

Let’s review what will need to be accessed by employees. Commonly, file servers are still used by many small to mid-sized businesses for their low cost and easy management. While this is ideal when employees are onsite, you are now over utilizing your firewall with VPN and slowing transmission speeds from your users downloading and constantly accessing large files. Solutions such as Egnyte, Dropbox and SharePoint can offload your data to a secure cloud while retaining IT security and disaster management over the files.

Next, you have applications on local servers. Consider VDI or Remote Desktop to minimize access. By using VDI, we can narrow down VPN access to one entry point and control the traffic. VDI will also give you the ability to increase resources to the backend of the infrastructure to, you guessed it, improve your user experience!

The key to success here is to keep thinking, constantly review your environment. What do your users need access to? Ask why. Shutdown, remove or lockdown the areas that will not need to be accessed remotely.

Decide what applications can be moved to a cloud environment.
Step 2: Did COVID-19 strengthen our move to the cloud?

Can we offload old applications? How many times are we hanging onto legacy apps or databases for no reason other than lack of time or the disruption to users? Well now disruption is everyday! Now is the time to review these systems. Is there a better cloud app out there? In most cases, a couple minutes of “Googling” lands you a solution someone with the same problem decided to fix and sell.

Selling these applications to the CEO can be easy. Remind him how Joe spends 3 hours each day connecting to VPN, opening an SRSS report, running a report, exporting to CSV, formatting, and saving to PDF only to email it to 30 colleagues. This new app automatically emails the report every morning and there’s a mobile app! Sold! Another server decommissioned and more users off VPN.

Spend the time to understand what your users need to be successful. Use this knowledge to present new solutions.

Review your security and device management. Do you still have the same control?
Step 3: Review security and management since COVID-19

Are you still in control? How are you handling group policies and windows patching? The traditional SCCM build isn’t going to work if no one is connecting to VPN. Consider solutions such as Azure Admin Center, Datto, PolicyPAK, ManageEngine or VMware Workspace One. All provide many tools to help with RMM, group policies, software installs and windows patching for your remote users.

What can you reduce or remove from your internal network which is no longer useful?
Step 4: Reduce from COVID-19

Identify areas of your network that are no longer used. We’ve just looked at areas where you will need to spend money to improve the experience of your employees and also to keep them secure. Now we need to identify where we can reduce cost.

Look at your circuits, do you have empty offices or servers with less applications that can be combined. Review the use of your PRIs and VOIP platform. Finding areas to reduce cost and using that budget to optimize your infrastructure with new technology is proof of a successful IT professional.

Speak with your CEO. Understand the long-term vision
Wrap up

Key to any changes you make, is to be aligned with your company. Speak with the President, CEO or board. Understand the needs and direction they plan to take long term. Your agility to adapt to their vision will solidify the success of your department.

 

Additional reading can be found here https://www.cio.com/article/3545534/sharp-it-budget-cuts-expected-in-wake-of-covid-19.html.

Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cybersecurity and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!

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