Did You Really “Reply All” On That Last Email?

Please Stop The Reply All Emails

Office Workers Rejoice: Microsoft is Finally Subduing the Dreaded’ Reply All’

Do never-ending reply-all threads emails put a damper on your business chewing up precious time and resources? The good news is, Microsoft rolled out Reply-All-Storm Protection to all Microsoft Office 365 users, an update announced in 2019 that seeks to ease the email disruption to business continuity. Microsoft is finally subduing the dreaded Reply-All function. Your office workers can now rejoice! Last year, at the Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft announced it would work on a feature that would help prevent Reply-All email storms on Microsoft 365 Exchange email servers. Microsoft says the “Reply-All-Storm Protection” feature will block all email threads with more than 5,000 recipients that have generated more than 10 Reply-All sequences within the last 60 minutes.

Please Stop The Reply All Emails

The Flow On Effect of Reply-All Email Storms

When a Reply-All mail storm happens in your organization, it can easily disrupt business continuity. In worst-case scenarios, it can throttle the rest of your organization’s email for a significant period. Emails already drain 5 hours of worker’s time every day without having email servers slowing down or crashing. What happens if the number of recipients in an email chain is large when multiple employees hit the Reply-All button, then the ensuing event generates massive amounts of traffic that will either slow down or crash email servers. Events like this happen almost all the time sometimes because a few employees participating and amplifying Reply-All storms are using this as a prank. Microsoft itself has also fallen victim to Reply-All email storms on at least two occasions, the first in January 2019, and a second in March 2020. The Microsoft Reply-All email storms included more than 52,000 employees, who ended up clogging the company’s internal communications for hours.

How Reply-All Storm Protection Works

Reply-All Storm Protection in some ways sounds pretty simple, but there’s some pretty cool stuff going on in the cloud, that makes this possible: When Microsoft detects what looks like it might become a Reply-All storm, anyone who subsequently attempts to reply to everyone will get a Non-Delivery-Receipt (NDR) message back instead. This basically tells them to stop trying to Reply-All to the thread. Once the feature gets triggered, Exchange Online will block all replies in the email thread for the next four hours, preventing email servers from crashing or slowing down. This feature allows servers to prioritize actual emails and shut down the Reply-All storm.

Further Updates Expected

Over time, as Microsoft gathers usage telemetry and customer feedback, they expect to tweak, fine-tune, and enhance the Reply-All Storm Protection feature to make it even more valuable to a broader range of Microsoft 365 customers. Microsoft said future updates are expected as they will continue working on the functionality going forward, promising to add controls for Exchange admins so they can set their own storm detection limits. Other planned features also include Reply-All storm reports and real-time notifications to alert administrators of an ongoing email storm so that they can keep an eye on the email server’s status for possible slowdowns or crashes. “Humans still behave like humans no matter which company they work for,” the Exchange team said. “We’re already seeing the first version of the feature successfully reduce the impact of reply all storms within Microsoft.”

Are You Ready For Pandemic 2.0?

COVID19 Round Two

Will We Have Another Wave Of COVID-19?

Dr. Anthony Fauci has made clear that he is almost certain the novel coronavirus will come back in the fall. Even so, a whopping 42% of CFOs don’t have a plan for what to do if the pandemic and accompanying shutdowns hit yet again.

Don’t wait until fall hits to start preparing for a second COVID-19 outbreak and the economic shutdowns that will inevitably follow. Here are some things you can do right now to ensure your business can weather another coronavirus wave and come out victorious.

COVID19 Round Two

Assess Your Performance During the First Round

How did your business fare during the shutdown? Was it challenging to transfer to a remote set-up? Were there IT breaches as employees worked from home using networks that are typically far less secure than corporate ones? Was there hardware and/or software glitches as employees found it difficult to manage virtual meetings? Any problems and weak areas need to be addressed now, so you’re prepared to handle the second round of virtual operations. What’s more, you need to look for ways to improve your remote operations to ensure you’re meeting or even exceeding customer expectations. Clients, suppliers, and partners may have been willing to overlook problems on your end the first time around, but they’ll expect you to have your act together if another COVID-19 wave hits.

Adjust to the New Reality

Many companies are discovering that allowing employees to work from home is a win-win situation. Your business can save money on utilities and office space while your workers get the flexibility and convenience that suits their needs. If your business doesn’t have to bring everyone back, you may want to consider not doing so.

If technical difficulties were working from home the first time around, consult an IT service to see if these can be resolved. A managed IT service can help you create a custom cloud storage solution, set up a SaaS platform for your business, install next-generation firewall software on all your business/employee computers, and monitor your systems for signs of a cyberattack.

Train Your Employees to Face Tomorrow’s Needs

Business employees need to have the skills required to handle new jobs and responsibilities. Bank of America, for instance, tasked thousands of its branch employees with answering customer service calls. Other companies found that demand for certain products/services changed, and employees had to be reshuffled to meet current customer needs.

Are your employees prepared to take on new assignments as the need arises? Do they have the technological know-how to use new equipment or programs? If not, use the summer months to provide needed training. Bring new people into business meetings, create co-worker partnerships, and conduct training seminars to ensure your staff members can handle whatever tasks they may need to take on. A managed service can help provide the technological training your staff may need to handle new software programs and IT procedures, freeing you to focus on the overall needs of your business and your core business goals.

Preparing your business for a second COVID-19 wave could be a matter of life and death for your company. Don’t put it off; there are likely a lot of things you’ll need to do to ensure your business doesn’t just survive but thrives if the second set of lockdown orders are issued. Assess your response to the first pandemic wave, invest in improving your current IT set-up and ensure your employees have the tools and training needed to handle any responsibilities they may need to take on in the near future. The benefits of doing so are more than worth the time, hassle, expense, and effort.

Microsoft Outlook: FindTime With Colleagues

Microsoft FindTime

Everything You Need to Know About Operating and Using FindTime

Scheduling meetings seems like it should be an easy task. However, anyone who does business knows with everyone’s busy schedules how difficult it can be to find a time that works for everyone who needs to attend. FindTime is an Outlook add-in that can help companies manage the task of organizing meetings that fits into everyone’s schedule. The following is everything you should know about FindTime.

 

1. What is FindTime?

FindTime is an add-in from Microsoft’s Outlook that is used to simplify the process of scheduling meetings. FindTime was first introduced in 2015. A few years later it was changed and renamed Find a Time. In 2017 FindTime was back again. With FindTime a business can eliminate wasted time playing email tag just to schedule a meeting. Microsoft made sure FindTime was as secure as possible by encrypting personal information such as email addresses. In fact, everything including email subject, the email body, and the attendees the information is sent to is encrypted.

2. How Does it Operate?

Invitations to vote on meeting times can be sent to a variety of email addresses. These include Yahoo, Gmail, and other providers. With the data provided by users, FindTime can quickly figure which days and times will work best. The program can find openings in each person’s schedule that will work for meetings. The individual sending out invitations can then propose several selected times for the meeting. The attendees that have received invitations will all vote on the time they want. After a meeting time is chosen, FindTime sends out a notice to each attendee.

3. Who Can Use It?

To use FindTime, it’s necessary for the individual or business organizing the meeting to have Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. It can also be used with an Enterprise account that has Exchange Online. It’s important to know that the recipients of meetings scheduled using FindTime do not need to have the add-in installed. If a person is sent a request by someone that has FindTime, this person can still vote on meeting times without actually having the app. In fact, they don’t even need Office 365. It’s only necessary to have an email to be a recipient.

4. How Does Installation Work?

Installation is incredibly easy. All a person needs is Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. It can also be installed on Exchange Online through an Enterprise account. According to Microsoft support, it’s necessary to take the following steps to install FindTime from Outlook for the web.

  • Open Outlook
  • Select New Message
  • Select the Ellipses Button
  • Select Get Add-ins
  • Select FindTime

It’s also possible to install FindTime in Outlook Desktop and from the FindTime site.

5. Why Does Your Company Need FindTime?

FindTime is easy to implement and can be used by any type of employee. Saving time and squeezing more productivity into the same 24 hours is something every organization is striving for. TechRepublic states several good reasons why a company would want to use FindTime.

  • FindTime is easy to use.
  • FindTime is necessary only for the individual scheduling the meeting.
  • FindTime ends the hassle of back-and-forth between those trying to schedule a meeting.
  • FindTime sets up the meeting and informs each person who is invited.
  • FindTime is part of Microsoft 365, which many people already have.

FindTime is an add-in that nearly any type of business, large or small, will find useful. Spending more time trying to schedule a meeting instead of actually attending the meeting will be a thing of the past with FindTime.

Microsoft FindTime

Cybercrime & Coronavirus: What You Need to Do to Protect Business, Employees, and Profits

Coronavirus Cybersecurity

Cybercrime Spikes During Coronavirus: Tips to Protect Your Business

Learn why cybercrime tends to spike during times of global crisis. Get tips on how to protect your tech environment from cyber criminals during the coronavirus.  

Right now, people are hanging onto every news story about the coronavirus. They’re checking social media more than usual. They’re setting up home offices, learning how to use new collaboration tools with their colleagues, or trying to figure out what to do in the absence of income.

They’re also dealing with their kids being at home all day and wading into homeschool. On top of all this, they’re worried about the spread of the virus and its effect on the economy. While everyone is stressed, busy, and distracted, cybercriminals are focused and ready to go.

Coronavirus Cybersecurity

Cybercrime Spikes During Coronavirus

Cyberattacks almost always spike during times of global crisis, and right now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that the coronavirus is no exception. Scammers are hacking into databases, sending out phishing emails, and leveraging the pandemic to convince victims to make donations to fake organizations or buy counterfeit personal protection equipment.

Analysts speculate that cybercriminals will cause $6 trillion in damages in 2021, and in 2020, damages are mounting as criminals take advantage of this situation. Research indicates that phishing emails have increased by 667% since February — that’s a seven fold increase in just a few weeks.

How to Protect Yourself From Cybercrime During the Coronavirus

Being aware of the risk of cybercrime is the first step. While many people think they are immune, no one is free of this risk — in fact, cybercriminals spend a lot of time targeting small businesses and organizations. To protect your business, practice these security essentials.

1. Be hyper-vigilant of incoming emails

As indicated above, phishing emails are on the rise. Cybercriminals are relying on people to have their guard down, and you and your employees need to be vigilant.

A lot of these emails contain dangerous attachments, while others include links to malicious websites. Never open an attachment or click a link from an unknown sender. If the sender looks familiar, take a few extra minutes to verify their identity. Scam artists often make their emails look like they’re coming from someone you know or from an organization like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

2. Secure all work-from-home computers

Another reason cybercrime is exploding right now is due to the unprecedented number of people who are working from home. If your employees are working from home, you need to take extra steps to secure your network.

Ideally, you should have your employees work on computers issued by your business. Home computers tend to be full of potentially dangerous videos, photos, or downloads.

Make sure all the computers your employees are using have a firewall that is turned on and configured correctly. Firewall misconfigurations can create extensive vulnerabilities in your network.

Finally, have your employees access everything through a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all the data transmitted from their computers, creating an additional layer of security. Ideally, you should use a dual-factor VPN that requires your employees to enter their password plus an additional piece of verification such as a code texted to their phone.

3. Beef up your password strategy

Weak passwords threaten the security of your tech environment. Make sure your employees understand the importance of never using easy-to-guess passwords such as 12345, Password, their own names, or details visible on their social media pages.

Additionally, they shouldn’t let their browsers store passwords. Instead, you may want to look into a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password. These applications store passwords, but they can’t be accessed as easily as most browsers.

Cybercrime can cost you money, reduce your productivity, harm your reputation, and cause other types of damage to yourself, your employees, and your business. To reduce your vulnerability, contact a cybersecurity professional. They can help you identify the processes, products, and practices you need to stay as safe as possible, especially during a global crisis.

What You Need to Do to Protect Your Team From Coronavirus Phishing

Coronavirus Phishing

How to Protect Your Business From the Surge in Phishing Websites

Look at the spike in phishing websites during the coronavirus. Learn how cybercriminals are leveraging the pandemic. Find out how to protect your business.  

As the entire world is worrying about the coronavirus, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the global crisis to line their pockets. Google reports that there has been a 350% increase in phishing websites in the last two months alone. This threat is genuine, and you need to take steps to protect yourself, your business, and your data.

Coronavirus Phishing

What Is a Phishing Website?

Phishing websites are designed to steal your information, but they can work in a variety of different ways. For instance, a cybercriminal may make a website that looks like your bank site. You think the site is real so you enter your username and password, and then, the criminals have everything they need to access your account.

Similarly, a phishing website may look like it’s for a charity helping people with the coronavirus. Still, in fact, it’s just a scam designed to steal money and credit card information. In some cases, phishing websites download malicious files to your computer when you visit them — once executed, these files may encrypt your data until you pay a ransom, copy all your keystrokes, or steal information from your computer in other ways.

Rise in Phishing Websites During the Coronavirus

In January, Google reported that it knew of 149,000 active phishing websites. By February, the number almost doubled to 293,000. As the virus began to take hold in the United States in March, the number increased to 522,000. That’s a 350% increase since January.

During the coronavirus, the most significant increases in phishing sites have happened during the most stressful times. The most significant day-over-day increase occurred on March 21st, the day after New York, Illinois, and Connecticut told their residents to shelter in place. The second-biggest increase? March 11th, the day the World Health Organization declared the virus as a pandemic. Both of these days saw about a threefold increase.

Unfortunately, no one is immune — one survey indicates that 22% of Americans say they have been targeted by cybercrime related to COVID-19.

Critical Strategies for Protecting Yourself From Phishing Websites

To protect yourself and your business from phishing websites, you need to take a multi-pronged approach. Keep these essential practices in mind:

  1. Educate your employees about the risks of phishing websites. Send out a newsletter, set up a training session over videoconferencing, or find another way to talk with your employees about how to protect your business from phishing attacks.
  2. Don’t click on links in emails from unknown senders. A lot of cybercriminals use phishing emails to direct users to their sites. If the email appears to be from someone you know, double-check the sender, and consider reaching out to them directly before clicking on any links.
  3. Invest in quality cybersecurity tools that block malicious websites, prevent your computers from executing approved applications, or protect your network in other ways.
  4. Be aware of the signs of a phishing website. These may include misspelled names of companies or charity organizations or forms that ask for information you usually don’t provide. For instance, a phishing website trying to steal your bank details may ask for your username, password, and PIN, while your bank’s actual website only requests your username and password.
  5. Advise your team to be selective about the websites they visit. Ideally, if they are searching for information on the virus or trying to donate, they should go to sites that they know and trust, rather than going to unknown websites.
  6. Work with a cybersecurity specialist. They can help you safeguard your network, which ultimately protects your money, your data, your business, and your reputation.

To stay as safe as possible from cybercrime during the coronavirus, you need to be aware of the heightened risks. If your team is working remotely, your network is likely to be even more vulnerable than usual.

To get help, reach out to a cybersecurity expert. In essence, they can guide you toward the right products, scan your network for vulnerabilities, and take other measures to ensure you are as protected as possible.

COVID-19: Safety How to Clean Your Phone Effectively

COVID-19 Safety How to Clean Your Phone Effectively

How to Protect Your Phone From the Coronavirus

Find out how long the coronavirus can live on your phone. Learn how the coronavirus gets onto phones. Get tips on how to clean your phone or other devices. 

Around the world, people are taking unprecedented measures to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Schools and businesses have closed, and many people are sheltering in place, only leaving their homes for essentials.

While you may already be taking many of these precautions, you also need to be aware that your phone could be harboring the virus. Keep reading to learn how to protect yourself.

COVID-19 Safety How to Clean Your Phone Effectively

Can the Coronavirus Live on Your Phone?

Research indicates that the coronavirus can live on inanimate surfaces such as the metal or glass of a phone for up to nine days. If you’ve handed your phone to a friend to watch a video, had your phone in the vicinity of coworkers or other people, or even just held your phone after touching potentially infected surfaces, you need to clean your phone.

Even if your phone hasn’t been anywhere in a while, you should still clean it. This can be especially important if you are a senior or are immunocompromised or if you let your children use your phone.

How the Coronavirus May Get on Your Phone

Because people use their phones so much, they’re likely to touch their phones without even thinking about it. To illustrate, imagine you’re in a store grabbing groceries. You are very careful not to get within six feet of other shoppers and of course, you sanitize the shopping cart before use.

However, you end up touching items on the shelves or the credit card machine while you are paying. If someone with the coronavirus has touched these surfaces or coughed near them, these surfaces may harbor the virus.

After touching these surfaces, you are aware that you may have picked up some germs on your hands so you avoid touching your face until you can sanitize your hands, but you still reach for your phone to use mobile pay, check your bank balance, or to look at a text. While doing those routine tasks, you potentially put germs onto your phone.

In other cases, the spread of germs to your phone can be much simpler. For instance, you walk into a store, touch the door handle, and then pull out your phone. People are so used to checking their phones frequently that they are often overlooking these risks.

Why You Shouldn’t Touch Other People’s Phones

Additionally, a lot of people bring their phones into the bathroom, and the coronavirus can be transmitted by fecal matter just as easily as it spreads with droplets from your mouth.

To protect yourself, avoid touching other people’s phones. If you work in an industry where you have to touch people’s phones — for instance, if you work in phone repair or handle tech support for a business — you should wipe off phones or devices before touching them.

How to Clean Your Phone

Now that you see how easily these germs may get onto your phone, check out these tips for properly sanitizing your device.

  1. Find a sanitizing product. If you don’t have hand sanitizer, you can make a solution with 0.1% bleach or 62% to 71% ethanol and water. You can use Clorox disinfecting wipes or similar products safely on most phones, but you should not use aerosol sprays, pure bleach, or abrasive cleaners.
  2. Put the cleaner on a soft cloth. Don’t apply it directly to the phone.
  3. Wipe off the phone with the sanitizing wipe or a microfiber rag moistened with cleaner. Throw sanitizing wipes away after use, and put rags directly into the wash. Keep in mind those items may harbor germs so you want to avoid reusing them or putting them somewhere they could spread more germs.

The coronavirus is more contagious and significantly more deadly than the flu. People are also contagious for quite a while before they show symptoms. As a result, you need to take protective precautions very seriously, and you should make sure your phones or other devices are as clean as possible.

What Is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Why Does it Matter?

What Is Two Factor Authentication_

What Is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Why Does it Matter?

What is two-factor authentication (2FA) and why does it matter? If you are unfamiliar with this extra layer of protection for all of your logins, keep reading. 

It’s no secret that we live in a time where access to laptops and smartphones is so prevalent. Almost everything we do in our daily lives has some sort of connection to these devices, leaving us vulnerable to hackers and scammers who want access to our personal information.

Thankfully, there is a way to help protect yourself. Two-factor authentication (2FA) provides an extra layer of security over what a traditional password offer. Here is what you need to know about two-factor authentication and why it matters to businesses.

What Is Two Factor Authentication_

Why is Digital Security as a Whole So Important?

Before we can discuss 2FA, we really need to talk about a few of the basics as to why digital security is so important. As individuals, the main reason to practice good digital security habits is to protect your personal information. But for businesses, the benefits of taking extra steps to ensure information is secure is two-fold. Not only does this keep private information of your employees and companies safe, taking additional security steps to protect your customer’s digital data builds trust. That’s why it is important to take measures like implementing 2FA.

What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

That said, let’s discuss what two-factor authentication (2FA) actually is. This is an extra layer of protection that requires users to prove that they are who they say they are by providing a second set of identification credentials.

How it works is that the user puts in their basic login and password. Then they are immediately required to provide an additional piece of information. This information generally falls into one of three categories:

  • Something you know, such as a PIN or a second code;
  • Something you have in your possession, like a credit card you can type in a number to or a smartphone that you can receive a text message on;
  • Something you are, which includes a fingerprint or use of a biometric device.

In most cases, using 2FA on your website or internal desktop will require just the something you know category. Only in extreme cases with especially sensitive data needing protection will companies often utilize the other two options.

What Are the Different Types of 2FA?

Now that we’ve talked about the basics of 2FA, it is a good idea to talk about the types. There are literally hundreds of options for how you can implement this type of security measure, but some are a bit more common than others. The most used types include:

Hardware Tokens: This is usually a small fob or device that produces a code when a user tries to login. The user must then input that number on their screen. This is usually the least preferred option as the fobs are cost prohibitive and easily lost by users.

SMS-Based and Voice-Based: This is where a user receives either a one-time token via a text message or a phone call. With SMS, the user must input the keycode onto the screen to gain access. For voice, the user must verbally say the passcode when prompted during the call. Both methods are extremely common and many companies are opting for their use.

Software Tokens: The most popular 2FA method is a software token. This is where the user must install a special application on their phone and use it to gain access when attempting to login.

Push Notifications: Alternately, you can also opt to use a push notification as part of 2FA. When the user provides their login information on the screen, a special notification is sent to their smartphone. The user must then approve the popup on the phone to continue.

In short, it is always a good idea to take extra precautions to protect systems and data. Two-factor authentication (2FA) ensures information is much more secure than traditional passwords by adding a layer of security. For most businesses, this is a good idea that protects both sensitive data and builds trust with customers.

Hackers Target Zoom Meetings for Cyberattacks

Zoom Security Issues

Zoom Scrambles to Address Cybersecurity Issues in Meeting Platform

As the usage of Zoom has skyrocketed during the coronavirus outbreak, the company has had to respond quickly to security flaws and potential phishing attacks  

As Zoom usage skyrockets around the world, so too do the opportunities to exploit users unfamiliar with the tool.

The Zoom platform has increasingly has been the target of hackers exploiting the vast numbers of users working from home. For context, the company noted that as of December 2019, the most significant amount of daily users was 10 million. In March, that number ballooned to 200 million.

How Are Hackers Exploiting the Zoom Platform?

For many exploits, it starts with a website.

According to Check Point, more than 1,700 domains had been registered using the word zoom in the first three months of 2020. Many of those domains point to an email server, which can indicate the site is part of a phishing scheme.

Remote workers may receive seemingly official meeting notices using the Zoom platform. Hackers ask recipients to head to a login page and enter their corporate credentials.

It’s a perfect storm that’s playing into the hands of hackers. It also means companies need to be vigilant in helping users understand how to access and use the platform and other tools used in this paradigm shift of how work is done.

“Zoom users should be aware that links to our platform will only ever have a zoom.us or zoom.com domain name,” a spokesman noted. “Prior to clicking on a link, they should carefully review the URL, being mindful of lookalike domain names and spelling errors.”

What Is Zoom Doing to Protect Users?

Zoom has had to take several steps recently to address security concerns related to its dramatic usage growth. The company has increased its training sessions and reduced customer service wait times. Here are several of the other issues that Zoom has addressed:

  • Zoombombing. Multiple incidents of zoombombing have arisen in recent weeks. Uninvited visitors to online sessions have gained access and harassed participants by playing music loudly, displaying pornography and disrupted sessions. That’s led to more explanations of passwords, muting controls and sharing settings
  • Windows 10. The company has addressed an issue that affected those using Zoom’s Windows 10 client group chat tool. If chatters used the tool to share links, the Windows network credentials of anyone who clicks on a link were exposed
  • Facebook Interface for Apple Devices. Zoom removed Facebook’s software developer kit from its iOS client to prevent it from collecting users’ device information
  • Privacy Issues. The company removed features, including the LinkedIn Sales Navigator app and attendee attention tracker, to address privacy concerns. It also issued updates to its privacy policy

The company announced it was freezing all feature enhancements to redeploy software engineers to focus on what it calls “our biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues.”

How Can You Protect Zoom Users from Cyberattacks?

Here are some tips to ensure that Zoom users are protected:

  • Use password features to require meeting attendees to log in before being allowed access
  • Update the software. Users should be alerted that upon finishing a meeting, the software will check to see if an update is necessary
  • Encourage managers to use the Manage Participants section features, which can control the use of users’ microphones and cameras. Sharing restrictions are also a good practice
  • Be careful about recording meetings. The recording sits in a file, either online or the host’s computer and could be stolen

Cybersecurity is a sad reality in these turbulent times. However, a focus on prevention and detection are important deterrents to cybercriminals and can reduce the risks to your business.

Coronavirus Forcing Your Workers to Stay Home? Quickly Shift to an At-Home Team in the Midst of Crisis

Coronavirus Work From Home

How to Create a Work-From-Home Team Quickly As Your Business Deals With the Coronavirus

Stay productive and secure your tech network as you deal with the coronavirus. Get support for at-home employees. Learn how to switch from an in-office to a remote team.  

Coronavirus Work From Home

In the midst of the coronavirus, business owners are facing a host of new challenges. To slow the spread of the virus, you may have been asked to suspend services or allow your employees to work from home. At the same time, however, you also need to continue to bring in revenue, stay productive, and focus on growth as much as possible.

Making the shift from an in-office to a remote team quickly, especially at a time when everyone is dealing with untold stresses, can be difficult, and the right approach is essential. Check out these tips.

1. Decide What You Need to Stay Productive

Creating a remote team isn’t as easy as handing your workers a laptop and telling them to check in once in a while. If you don’t have a current work-at-home policy, you need to create one from scratch, and you may need to adjust workflows, find new tools, and create new security policies. As you try to facilitate this shift, keep these types of questions in mind:

  • What can my employees accomplish from home?
  • Can they handle core business activities from home?
  • Even if my business is deemed essential, can I send some employees home?
  • What types of projects do I want to prioritize during this time?
  • What applications do I need to facilitate workflows and keep everyone connected?
  • How can my employees work from home without compromising the security of our network?
  • What can I do to make this new arrangement as productive and comfortable as possible for myself and my team?

2. Consider Providing Employee With Devices

Don’t necessarily encourage your employees to use their own devices when working from home. Their home computers and tablets have all kinds of music, videos, images, and other downloads that may be infected with malware, and their devices are usually not equipped with the same level of antivirus or malware software you use in your office.

To reduce the threat of cyberattacks, consider providing your team with company-approved and secured devices. However, if you already have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy for your office, you may want to continue having employees use their own devices because in this situation, you’ve already taken steps to secure those devices.

3. Help Your Workers Secure Their WiFi Access Points

As a general rule of thumb, your employees home WiFi networks are probably less secure than the WiFi you use in your office. To secure these access points, instruct your team to do the following:

  • Use stronger encryption
  • Create more complex passwords
  • Hide your network names
  • Use firewalls

To help your employees with these steps, you may want to create detailed tutorials or contact an IT managed services provider to help you.

4. Route Traffic Through a Two-Factor Authentication VPN

To secure your tech environment as much as possible, consider having your employees access your network through a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all the information passing from your employees’ computers to your network. Even if a hacker gets onto your employee’s WiFi network, they cannot see keystrokes or any of the data being transmitted.

If you don’t already have a VPN, look into services such as GoToMyPC or Zoho. Also, try to choose a VPN that supports dual-factor authentication. Then, your employees have to enter a username and a password, but they also have to use a second authenticator such as a code texted to their phone number or email address. This layer of security provides extra defense against cyber criminals.

5. Consult With an IT Managed Services Provider

Returning to business as normal may not be possible for a while, and a managed IT services provider can help identify the tools and processes you need to support your new working environment, while also taking steps to ensure your network is as secure as possible.

In difficult times, you want your business to survive, but if possible, you should try to thrive. Our managed IT services can help you adapt to this quickly changing environment. We can help you choose the tools, the processes, and the resources you need to stay as productive as possible.

Remote Workforces Deliver Business & Employee Benefits

Remote Working Coronavirus

When considering the employee and employer benefits of working remotely, businesses are wise to change. The alternative could make your outfit less competitive.  

If you would like to gain a little perspective on how radically our culture has changed, try this exercise. Pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and write out a half-days’ worth of emails rather than send them electronically. You will probably discover the first one looks more like scribble than cursive writing. And, your productivity will completely tank.

Remote Working Coronavirus

At first blush, the exercise demonstrates our reliance on electronic devices and real-time communication. But on another level, it shows that thought leaders are wise to embrace technological advancements as they emerge. Remote workforces rank among the more innovative trends of the business landscape today.

“To remain competitive in today’s work-from-anywhere environment, companies will need to invest in responsive technology infrastructure and enhanced virtual collaboration tools, as well as training and tailored performance management and incentive strategies for remote workers,” director of HR at the Gartner research group Emily Rose McRae reportedly said.

This shift away from in-house staff to people working from home or on the road once earned mixed reactions from industry leaders. But the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses across the globe to find a way to have valued employees work from home until health crisis passes. Employers and employees alike are discovering this advancement tend to be mutually beneficial when utilizing platforms such as Microsoft Teams.

Mutual Benefits of Remote Workforces

The health crisis has motivated businesses to shift to Cloud-based systems and Microsoft Teams strategies as a short-term measure. But HR departments may want to take the opportunity to scan the workforce landscape because work-from-home expectations are expected to surge and impact hiring.

“By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30 percent due to Gen Z fully entering the workforce. Gartner’s most recent ReimagineHR Employee Survey found that only 56 percent of managers permit their employees to work remotely. Organizations without a progressive remote-work policy will be at a competitive disadvantage for attracting and retaining talent,” according to Gartner.

That being said, these are the reasons why the global trend to remote productivity is well-received by management and staff.

  • Commute & Stress Reduction: No one can dispute the fact that commuting to the office adds unpaid work hours. Sitting in traffic or being packed into commuter rails tends to be an unpleasant way to begin and end each day. Employees and employers share this stressful routine. Remote work platforms such as the Cloud and Microsoft Teams allow all parties to sit down with a morning beverage and log on from anywhere. No hustle, no bustle, no extra hours, and no commuter expenses.
  • Talent Without Borders: Before the massive cellphone footprint, people used landlines with rotary dialing, and long-distance was expensive. In those days, it was common to pay a premium just to call someone in the next state over. But just as your cellphone can connect you to people far outside your region without added expense, so can the Cloud. When projects are conducted in Microsoft Teams via a Cloud-based network, your remote talent pool expands exponentially. A skilled person 1,000 miles away can secure a job they are qualified for, and employers gain access to talent otherwise unavailable.
  • Reduced Infrastructure: An increasing number of organizations that do not necessarily require a brick-and-mortar footprint. These outfits can eliminate that cost in some cases. Other operations can reduce office space expenditures. With remote workforces, less can be more.
  • Live-Work Lifestyles: Millennials and the Gen Z crowd tend to see work and life more closely aligned in their lifestyle than previous generations. The Cloud has been a boon and securing offsite positions allows employees a preferred professional lifestyle. Raising children no longer comes attached to childcare expenses or limited “parent hours” jobs.

Microsoft Teams Supports Remote Workforce Culture

With dispersed workforces increasing, Microsoft Teams ranks among the most business supportive products on the market. It seamlessly works with Cloud-based networks and delivers real-time communication. The platform offers chat, video conferencing, managed channels, shared calendar options, and project space that can provide supervisors with top-tier oversight. In these troubling times, Microsoft Teams use has surged by tens of millions. But industry leaders may also want to consider the long-term benefits of embracing remote workforces into the future.