How Can Teachers Use Office 365 To Improve Student Engagement and Learning Outcomes?

Microsoft Office 365 Education

Microsoft’s Office 365 for Educators has many tools that teachers can use to make their day easier and help their students learn more effectively. The program is also free for any educator and districts can also obtain a license for free Office 365 programs for faculty and student use.

Microsoft Office 365 Education

Many of Office 365’s programs work cross-platform too, so students using tablets or Chromebooks can work together with students or a teacher or aide with a laptop or desktop computer.

How Will Office 365 Help Me Save Time as a Teacher?

Every year new standards and new curriculum makes planning lessons and fitting everything in the busy classroom day seem like almost impossible tasks. Office 365 has introduced some tools that help save time on paperwork and repetitive grading that can speed things up.

OneNote Class Notebook lets teachers put all of their lesson materials in one place, share them with the class when it’s time, grade homework, and set up group projects and timelines seamlessly.

  • Grading is included in OneNote Notebook Creator
  • Teachers control adding students, including new students joining the class.
  • Teachers can team-teach and collaborate across classes
  • Collaboration space includes student groups and assignment-based collaboration
  • Students all have private notebook space for grades and individual work.

Best of all, OneNote Class Notebook is accessible from mobile devices and desktops. You can add lessons, grade, and respond to students while on the go.

How Can Office 365 Support Online Teaching?

Microsoft’s Sway is also part of Office 365 for educators. The intuitive program lets teachers design lessons or collaborate with experts to create hands-on demonstrations.

Sway is also perfect for course modules or units which include visual, audio, and interactive materials. Teachers, assistants, and students can all work on and edit projects in sway. Everyone can see everyone else working. Sway even works for cross-curriculum or cross-platform teams (tablets, phones, laptops, desktops).

How Does Office 365 Keep Curriculum and Content Safe?

The days of stacks of torn, rain-stained handouts and lost homework packets may finally end thanks to Office 365’s OneDrive. Teachers can save any documents, folders, and video content they need to OneDrive where they can be accessed at any time. Even if your computer crashes, OneDrive will have a copy of your materials. You can access files in OneDrive any time while on the go with the Office 365 Educator password.

Can Office 365 Support Distance Learning and Video Conferencing?

Skype for Educators is part of Office 365, with a global teaching community that stands ready to help educators make the transition to real-time video conferencing for education. Skype for educators even supports virtual field trips. Imagine a field trip where no one gets lost, and everyone can see and experience everything — and even language barriers can be overcome with Skype Translator.

Can Office 365 Support a Flipped Classroom?

Office 365’s extensive tools and online educator community support and training can help teachers design all the content and curriculum they need to flip their classrooms and strengthen student learning. Collaboration is natural and intuitive throughout all the tools that Office 365 provides.

The last thing teachers need is added work and more new computer programs. Office 365 for Educators takes familiar Microsoft programs that teachers know and combines them with simple new tools and online classroom areas to build a suite of tools and materials for easier, faster, more effective teaching and learning.

Microsoft’s “Your Phone” App For Android Phones

Microsoft Your Phone

Microsoft just made your mobile life and computer life a whole lot easier and fun. If you love your phone, well so does your computer. Finally, you no longer need to dig around for your phone to send a text message while sitting at your Windows desktop. Plus, that extra step of emailing photos from your phone to your computer has ended. Thanks to Microsoft’s new “Your Phone” app for Android phones, 7.0 or later, you can now send text messages right from your PC.

Microsoft Your Phone

What Should You Know To Get The New Your Phone App?

To get the Your Phone app, you must sign into your Microsoft account. Also, under your account, you can install the app on a maximum of ten Windows 10 devices. And as for installation, the Your Phone app must be installed on your internal hard drive. The size of the app is approximately 13.74 MB.

The Your Phone app does support Android 7.0 phones or later and Google’s newer versions of their mobile operating system. The Your Phone feature became available to every Windows user in October. By early to mid-November, Microsoft will extend support for the function to Apple/Mac devices that use Microsoft’s Edge browser.

Once the software gets installed, you’ll need to accept a connection request from your PC on your phone. That needs repeating for every Windows 10 computer you want to connect to your Android phone. Once you’re connected, there will be a grid of photos on your PC. One thing to note: what you will view will be a square image. To see the whole image, open your choice of photo viewer app or drag the picture onto your PC.

What Can You Do With The Your Phone App?

Microsoft’s new Your Phone app shows you the most recent texts and photos, which came from your Android phone, onto your desktop. From your desktop, you can drag, drop, copy or paste those items to your computer or other compatible applications.

Here’s how it works: with the Your Phone app, go ahead and snap a picture from your Android phone. Then check out your desktop. You’ll see that photo, you just took, right on your computer. The app gives you instant access to your Android phone’s photos, right on your computer. Now that daunting task of emailing yourself pictures can finally stop.

Does your presentation need a photo? What about sprucing up that embarrassing selfie you’ve been hiding from your friends? Then drag and drop it. Texting from your computer is not only possible, but it’s gotten a whole lot easier. The Your Phone app allows you to view and send Android text messages from your computer. You can use your computer’s keyboard to text friends and any group messaging. Now you can save your texting thumbs for online gaming battles.

Just remember you have to link your Android phone to your computer. You can do this by going into your Windows Settings or through Your Phone app. Once that is complete you will receive an app from Microsoft. You are required to download the app on your mobile phone also and follow the setup instructions. At this time the Your Phone app does need Android 7.0 or later to work correctly.

Does The Your Phone App Have Any Enhancements, Limitations or Warnings?

Enhancements – Besides supporting 70 languages, Microsoft also announced some related improvements, which launched in April 2018, to its Windows Timeline, which displays sites and accessible files you’ve recently gone to or used. The Your Phone feature rolled out to all Windows users in October 2018. Currently, emails, websites, and documents you’ve recently viewed on your Android phone will also get included in the Windows Timeline. As for other Windows timelines, Microsoft will notify you through your account.

Limitations – Microsoft’s Your Phone is a UWP app that links to software running on Android 7.0 or later devices to share only the latest 25 pictures on your phone with your PC. At first, the Your Phone app will support Android phones running 7.0 or later. It will also run on newest versions of Google’s mobile operating system. As for iOS users, Microsoft has not stated whether or when it would make the app’s feature available to those users.

Warnings – There is a photosensitive seizure, warning notice, you need to be aware of, especially if certain visual images, flashing lights or patterns trigger an epileptic seizure with you or anyone you know or work with. The photosensitive epileptic seizures have a variety of symptoms.

  • altered vision
  • confusion
  • disorientation
  • eye or face twitching
  • jerking
  • lightheadedness
  • momentary loss of awareness
  • shaking of arms or legs

Please be aware; some seizures may cause convulsions and loss of consciousness. That could lead to a head injury from falling or landing on nearby objects.

Did you find this article informative? If you liked this one, check out our other content we think you’ll find interesting.

Should You Ban Laptops From Meetings?

No Laptops In Meetings

Efficiency in the workplace is paramount to success. This concept is widely held across office environments everywhere. But while technology plays an increasingly valuable role in the way the world does business, that’s not to say it doesn’t come with its own unique set of drawbacks. Laptops and mobile devices are presenting problems within the workplace, particularly in regard to productivity.

No Laptops In Meetings

In the workplace, screens often serve as barriers, and today’s businesses are tasked with coming up with new ways to minimize these technological distractions. One effective method? Banning laptops from meetings.

The research is clear: laptops and mobile devices are no good for productivity, especially when it comes to meetings. Banning laptops and mobile devices from meetings can boost both productivity and efficiency. From reducing the amount of time it takes to conduct a meeting, to encouraging employees to be more present and engaged, banning laptops may be the next big trend in business.

The Dangers Of Multi-Tasking

Technology that’s been designed to improve our productivity can actually serve as culprits. They can interfere with our point of focus, whether that be our boss or colleague during an important meeting or a lecturer in the midst of a seminar. Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them.

Research shows that multi-tasking is a killer of productivity. This doesn’t apply to just individual productivity, either. It can also have negative effects on the organizational level, which is causing problems for businesses everywhere, regardless of industry. One report concluded that multitasking within organizations is even impacting the global economy, resulting in a loss of $450 billion.

The human brain simply does not retain information as well when there is a distraction like a laptop or mobile device competing for attention. There are numerous studies that back up these claims. In fact, when employees use their laptops or mobile phones during a meeting, they’re known to do a number of things that hinder productivity, including asking questions that have already been answered. It may seem like nothing but a minor inconvenience to some, but gather enough instances like this, and you’ll see how much time (and money) is at stake.

Not only is multi-tasking thought to hinder productivity, but it also makes employees more prone to distractions. Other negative effects include poor critical-decision-making and underperformance.

Benefits Of The Ban

There are several benefits to banning laptops from meetings. From boosting creativity to cutting down on meeting time and even encouraging engagement, banishing laptops from the meeting room may be doing your company more good than you initially realize. This is why a growing number of managers are making the call.

Here are some of the benefits associated with banishing laptops from meetings.

Time Management

Commanding complete attention during company meetings can lead to more valuable, engaging discussion. A meeting in which all participants can easily understand and contribute input concisely is an effective one.

More Engagement

One of the most important aspects of a meeting is being present in the moment. Staring at your screen makes this impossible. Employees fixated on their laptops won’t be able to make eye contact, and their body language may be off-putting during a meeting. Banning laptops during meetings is just one way to promote engagement and the sharing of ideas.

Better Comprehension

Writing notes by hand has been scientifically proven to help in information absorption. While taking notes during a meeting may at times be necessary, using a laptop to do it is not. Encourage teammates to use pen and paper to increase comprehension.

Tips To Take Control

Business owners and managers can do a number of things to further promote engagement during meetings. Once you’ve made the decision to ban laptops, you may want to put a solid system into place. Establishing a firm “no laptop” rule during meetings will help things remain consistent across the board. You may even consider a check-your-laptop-at-the-door rule that will help drive the point on home with your colleagues. If you are hosting a remote meeting where laptops are necessary, implement a rule that states all other apps and windows must be closed. This small step alone can help increase comprehension and cut down on distractions.

Banning laptops may seem futile if you are wasting time in other ways. A good rule of thumb is to let employees know how long the meeting will be, as well as whether or not there will be breaks. Not only is this common courtesy, but it can also help minimize the anxiety that may come with not having instant access to emails and texts.

If you know that your meeting will consist of need-to-know information, encourage fellow employees to use pen and paper. By providing these tools ahead of time, you’ll make it that much easier for your team to follow through.

These small steps can do wonders for promoting productivity and helping your employees make the most of their time in the office. While laptops are commonplace in today’s office setting, and often vital for productivity, leaving them off the table for a while (literally) can act as the first step toward more meaningful meetings.

Should Manufacturing Firms Invest In Microsoft Technologies?

Manufacturing Technology

From the invention of the assembly line to cloud computing for the Discrete, Repetitive, and Process Manufacturing industries, updating to the latest technology is never in question. What does get closer scrutiny, is deciding to invest in Microsoft technologies. That’s what Rolls Royce did, and now they use Microsoft technology platforms, to fundamentally transform, how it uses data to serve their customers better.

Manufacturing Technology

5 Microsoft Technologies Offered to Discrete, Repetitive, and Process Manufacturers

Every CEO or business owner knows reducing overhead, and expenses on server maintenance, technology management, and upgrading code benefits the company both short-term and long. It’s the same viewpoint manufacturers have always had for their operations.

The five areas of interest to Manufacturers is Microsoft’s Azure technologies in these areas:

  1. IoT
  2. Machine Learning
  3. Large-Scale Computing
  4. Hybrid Clouds
  5. Blockchain

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these things to connect, collect and exchange data.

When managing hundreds of thousands of devices, around the globe, while large quantities of data get streamed, and then; processing and storing that same data in real-time, is a job only the cloud was explicitly designed to pull off. That’s why Azure got designed. It will deliver both Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), making it easy for all types of Manufacturers to choose Microsoft Azure.

From the Platform as a Service level, you will find five Azure platform services:

  • Azure IoT Hub – you can directly and securely connect and consume data from IoT assets
  • Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service – you can provision millions of devices in a secure and scalable manner
  • IoT Edge – you can run advanced analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence at the device level
  • Azure Stream Analytics – integrates with Azure IoT Hub to enable real-time analytics on data from IoT devices and applications.
  • Azure IoT Suite – provides a set of preconfigured IoT solutions for workloads such as Remote Monitoring, Predictive Maintenance, and Connected Factory.

From the Software-as-a-Service level, you have Microsoft’s IoT Central. It is a fully managed IoT SaaS solution. IoT Central makes it easy to connect, manage and monitor the Internet of Things assets at scale, allowing it to create deep insights from the IoT data to take necessary and informed action.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Microsoft continually improves old tools. They also build new ones to simplify the process of integrating these technologies with your business. These are significant areas of investment for both Microsoft and Manufacturers, limited only by your imagination.

  • Azure Machine Learning Services – are integrated, end-to-end, advanced analytics and data science solution that permits data scientists to develop experiments, prepare data, and deploy models at cloud scale.
  • Azure Machine Learning Studio – is a drag-and-drop collaborative tool you use to build, test, and deploy predictive analytics solutions on your data
  • Azure Bot Service – is an integrated environment that is purpose-built for bot development, permitting you to build, connect, deploy, manage and test intelligent bots.
  • Cognitive Services – are intelligent algorithms to see, hear, speak, understand, and interpret user needs through natural methods of communication.

Large-scale Computing

Large-scale computing is a building block when working with large datasets, especially for computationally-intensive engineering workloads. Manufacturers use rendering, and simulation technologies such as Azure Batch, to run massive parallel and HPC batch jobs.

Also used is Microsoft HPC Pack, Linux RDMA cluster to run Message Passing Interface (MPI) applications, and high-performance VMs lets you dynamically extend to Azure, when you need additional capacity, and deploy an on-premises Windows compute cluster.

Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid Clouds have become popular choices for manufacturers, just not ready to make a full commitment to the cloud. Lack of engagement might be something as simple as, keeping some company data and systems in-house.

That’s when Microsoft got the idea to create, Microsoft Azure Stack, for common scenarios like this. The Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud platform. The platform lets you deliver Azure services from your organization’s data center.

In Manufacturing, there are two daily routines, that have made hybrid cloud deployments particularly attractive to manufacturers:

  1. Edge and Disconnected Environments – Often IoT implementations include devices that are intermittently connected, or not connected at all to the Internet.
  2. Security and Compliance Requirements – Highly secure devices often are unable to connect directly to the internet and must use a local service. That is more common in the manufacture of goods for the military and defense sectors.

Blockchain Technologies

Bitcoin, a form of Cryptocurrency, relies heavily on the blockchain technology. However, Blockchain-as-a-technology (BaaT) became a much broader application to use. Easy-to-deploy templates from Microsoft that run on Azure for the most popular ledgers, including their Azure Blockchain Service.

Blockchain gained more attention with Manufacturers, as they began using tools like these in the cloud. It has the potential to address several essential manufacturing scenarios including

  • Asset Management
  • Counterfeit Prevention
  • Digital Thread Traceability
  • Supply Chain Management
  • IoT Tracking and Identification

The deep integration of all these services is Azure’s fundamental value proposition. It might be from Microsoft or Open Source, with on-premises systems, rich operational analytics, strong SLAs, and compliance certifications, you can still trust they have the right answers for your manufacturing company.

If you are still wavering, about investing your manufacturing firm in Microsoft technologies, who better to look to, then a technology giant that’s been transforming businesses and manufacturers, around the globe, for nearly half a century.

Did you find this article informative? If you liked this one, check out our other content we think you’ll find interesting.

6 Reasons Why Companies Are Moving Away from BYOD

BYOD Policies

Last year, Markets and Markets Research released a report that revealed that 50% of companies were considering the use of BYOD (bring your own device) policies. IT departments were tasked with developing a policy that allowed employees to use their personal devices without endangering the security, but things seem to have changed. More and more companies are moving toward company-owned devices – but why?

BYOD Policies

Costs

Most people think it would be cheaper for a company to have employees bring their own devices, but there are some hidden costs involved. One, of course, is the loss of productivity which we’ll discuss more in a moment. Given that BYOD devices can raise the probability of an organization suffering a cyber attack, there are also costs that can be traced directly to the fallout of a data breach. The potential cost of a data breach can easily be calculated using a tool like this one from IBM.

Productivity Issues

When employees bring their own smartphones, tablets, and other devices to work, those devices are going to be a distraction. The temptation for employees to check out social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram or to play games on their phone during working hours are even worse if they are already using their personal device for work-related tasks. While being forced to use a company-owned device isn’t going to eliminate this problem, it will at least reduce the temptation to waste company time. It will also discourage the use of electronic devices to access inappropriate material while at work.

Bad Habits

Employees who are accustomed to using their own phone to access company email are, by force of habit, going to be less likely to be cautious about opening phishing emails or files that could contain malware. If an employee isn’t in the habit of carefully checking out emails before they open them for their personal email on their device, they aren’t suddenly going to become careful about company email they open on the same device. Employees are likely to be more careful with a company-owned device, in part because they don’t want to be blamed for putting the company at risk.

Remote Wiping of Personal Devices

If a device is stolen, there is an extremely high probability that sensitive data will be on that device. One solution that many IT departments depend on for dealing with device theft or breach is a remote wipe. While this is an excellent idea for devices that belong to the company, employees will not like the threat of having their personal device remotely wiped without warning. The loss of personal information such as contacts, pictures, and messages could not only anger the employee involved but lead to potential lawsuits.

Too Much Reliance on Non-IT Employees

When employees are allowed to use their own devices, there is a major shift in responsibility. In most cases, it is simply not possible for IT to ensure that every employee device has the right security measures in place and that they are updated on a regular basis. When employees fail to do this and a breach happens, IT will most likely receive the blame. IT should not be held accountable for risks they cannot reasonably control. Company devices in the hands of those who truly understand cyber dangers are safer as long as they have access to the tools needed to minimize cyber risks.

Cybersecurity Threats

In 2016, researchers discovered that 56% of respondents felt that BYOD was one of the biggest threats to endpoint security for their organization. Another study indicated that 20% of organizations had experienced a breach related to BYOD, which doesn’t bode well for its continued use. One of the major reasons behind companies moving away from BYOD policies is undoubtedly the threat of ccyber attacks A company may have the most bullet-proof BYOD policy possible, but if it cannot be enforced or if employees can find ways to work around compliance, then those BYOD devices become a major threat.

Conclusion

There are pros and cons to both the BYOD approach and the company-owned device approach. Quite a few companies are easing off on their BYOD policies, implementing partial BYOD or eliminating it completely. Reasons behind this change include:

  • Costs
  • Employee productivity issues
  • Employee bad habits
  • Physical theft of devices
  • Reliance on non-IT personnel to avoid security threats
  • Increases in cyber threats as more employee-owned devices are put into use

Add all of these issues to the fact that employees may be annoyed at having to supply their own equipment for work and it is easy to see why many organizations have realized that BYOD is not a good fit for them. Whether the widespread implementation of BYOD continues to grow as predicted remains to be seen.

Wi-Fi On Planes – Who’s The Best?

WIFI Planes

If you are old enough, you may remember when making phone calls from an airplane was an expensive luxury, with sound quality so bad that conversations at times were impossible. Times have changed. Calls from planes are usually clear and carried over satellite connections. The big electronic question mark in the sky is not whether Wi-Fi is available, it is, how good is it?

WIFI Planes

So How Do We Rate The Quality Factor?

Different flight amenity rating services use various methodologies, so one has to dig to get useful information. Traveloka, a major booking site for Southeast Asia, ranks the top 50 carriers on aspects like speed, quality of signal, availability of USB ports, etc. According to them, the top three airlines for Wi-Fi service are Qatar, Emirates, and Delta, in descending order.

Digging a bit, one finds out that the fastest Wi-Fi available is on British Airways, which has speeds up to 20 Mbps (your mileage may vary.) In contrast, Emirates, Etihad, and Eva offer a top speed of only 2 Mbps. Obviously, this is not going to support streaming from Netflix and video conferencing.

Theoretically, even HD video conferencing should require only 384 Kbps (see here.) But we’ve all had the experience of video conferencing where lagging was an issue, even on connections that are high speed. The devil is in the details; the need for bandwidth goes up with each separate device used for the video conferencing, and for the bridge that ties it all together. The bridge has to have access to adequate bandwidth to provide all the images and sound streams at the same time. Of course, the speed with which it goes to the PC or phone depends on the bandwidth from the Wi-Fi transmitter to the user’s device.

The most important question in choosing an airline for Wi-Fi service is knowing what you need. On airlines though, you may not have much of a choice, especially if looking for low airfares. If you will absolutely need video conferencing during the flight, Qatar is about your only choice. Qatar pledges speeds up to 50 Mbps, but Traveloka rated the average speed as only 8.

(See this article from CNN travel for a summary that is a bit easier to interpret than Traveloka’s. )

What Does It Cost?

Emirates Air offers the first hour free and unlimited usage for the rest of the flight is only $10. Delta offers unlimited access for the entire flight for $16. Surprisingly, JetBlue, known as a discount airline, is now offering Wi-Fi but there are no details yet as to cost.

Singapore Airlines, rated the best in the world, offers only 1.17 Mbps for $8.80, but oddly, does not offer the ability to make phone calls. All-Nippon Airways (ANA) offers only 0.56 Mbps at a cost of $9.43. On Hong Kong Airlines and China Southern the service is free. Emirates does offer 20 Mbps, but it has to be used within two hours.

What’s The Underlying Technology?

In-flight Wi-Fi is provided by satellite. The plane has an antenna that picks up the signal and broadcasts it inside the cabin. Since all airlines get the same quality and speed of the signal from the satellite, the speed, and quality within the cabin depends on the hardware that the airline has installed.

If an airline wants to provide 50 Mbps, which is comparable to home or business internet service from a cable provider (not fiber optics) in the United States, it can do so. It’s just a matter of will. Since the equipment needed to offer 50 Mbps and the equipment needed to offer 0.56 Mbps are similar in price, it is a bit of a mystery why all airlines that provide the service do not offer the higher speeds.

And if some airlines provide it for free, why not all? No immediate answers forthcoming. One item of note is that with satellite Wi-Fi, as with many earthbound internet service providers, uploads are much slower than downloads.

Incidentally, virtually all the reporting on Wi-Fi availability and quality on airlines comes from the 2016 Traveloka report.

What’s The Upshot?

Even if you’re on one of the airlines that Traveloka rated as among the best, your Wi-Fi speed will vary. Some things that are easy to do in the office will be difficult to impossible while in the air. It’s best to plan accordingly. Do not schedule a critical meeting with the chairman of the board while you’re on a flight on Singapore airlines; this is just not going to work. Even email may be dicey in flight.

The moral of the story is that doing serious business that demands strong connectivity is best done on the ground, not while in flight. If it’s absolutely necessary, then plan accordingly before you leave the office and take to the road. People who travel a lot will understand.

Scalable Wi-Fi Is Best Practice For Schools

School Wireless Networking

Everyone has Wi-Fi. We all expect to see it wherever we go, and most of us have more than one Wi-Fi-enabled device. Grocery stores, fast food restaurants – even your mechanic has Wi-Fi. But does that mean you REALLY need it in your school? Isn’t it less secure than wired?

School Wireless Networking

To answer the first question: “Don’t be coy.” You know how backward wired-only connections look. You’re either a Luddite or unbelievably cheap trying to avoid the expense and work of building a new network. You are now out of time. The government itself says you need Wi-Fi, and in this 2017 report plainly states that a reliable, fast wireless connection is a necessity on par with other utilities such as gas, electricity, or water.

As to the second question: Well, no. Not so much anymore. With advances in encryption, Wi-Fi networks that are properly safeguarded offer security comparable to that of wired set-ups. If you still prefer to use wired internet for select devices, such as a handful of desktops and a designated copier/printer/fax machine, you can enjoy the advantages of a wireless network. Wired is a bit faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi, but this is more because of how easy it is to ensure that only a handful of users are on that hard-wired data line. Employees must literally be plugged into a wired network, so there is no issue of people overloading it by all signing on and demanding bandwidth at once.

So the advantages of wired over wireless can really be solved by properly planning out the wireless network. From there, advantage is all wireless: portability, ease-of-use, and, if you plan for it, scalability.

Why use a scalable wireless network?

Setting up a scalable wireless network means looking at the present with an eye to the future. You know that you’ll potentially have more students or employees, or even more devices per person, or more demanding apps. If you’ve built scalability into the network in the first place, you’ll easily adapt to the increased demand on your connectivity. Re-wiring not only costs money, it’s disruptive. Contractors can come out when school is not in session, but off-hour calls often cost more. To do everything more or less at once, having access points ready for later expansion allows for a nearly seamless expansion when it becomes necessary.

Adding people in will not be a matter of climbing around above the ceiling tiles, drilling holes in walls, but just a matter of entering a new user and password and updating the server. Oftentimes, it won’t even cost anything to do it.

Scalable Wi-Fi Saves Budgets In Situations Where:

  • Schools are growing
  • Private or charter schools with variable populations
  • Schools under construction, adding more devices as they go
  • Anyone in the current technological climate where new innovations increase user numbers every year
  • Variable income
  • BYOD programs

Factoring in the potential for future expansion will pay off in the long run when the entire network doesn’t require a re-design within a couple of years. By planning for scalability, using multi-purpose devices that can handle increased connectivity and streaming demands, you are ensuring that the initial investment pays off. The more manageable maintenance budget will be easier to get approved, and you can plan for a complete overhaul when it becomes truly necessary, rather than prematurely, due to an initial refusal to plan for growth.

Devices Are Everywhere

Smartphones have risen in popularity at a pace that’s nearly alarming for its potential ramifications. In fact, the amount of active mobile phone subscriptions in the US is 349.9 million – more than the total US population of 325.3 million. These consumers are using their phones for far more than phones. They’re on apps that often require data usage, which allows for less memory and storage use on their phones. Even apps that do not apparently require internet connection often do for this reason. People have grown to rely on their phones as a connection to their families, coworkers, and also as a means of keeping themselves organized, of keeping their emotional well-being up through habit-changing apps, diaries, and more.

As the mobile devices, we use speed towards true ubiquity, it will not do to simply watch as the tide rises. Plan for the eventuality of increasing connectivity needs by designing a scalable wireless network. This direction offers better services for the future, along with lower overall budgetary requirements. It removes some of the stress of growing. All school administrators understand the need to reduce stress and lower the budget.

How and When to Set Up A Small Wireless Network In Your School

School Wireless Networks

Limited wireless networks are just what they sound like: small networks with limited range that cannot handle the demands of, say, the entire population of a large high school full of students, faculty, and staff all carrying one to three personal devices. Small networks cannot handle the bandwidth demand from multiple classrooms of students streaming videos at approximately the same time while all classrooms report their attendance at the top of the hour and district emails regarding cybersecurity threats go out.

School Wireless Networks

Potential Small Wireless Network Areas:

  1. Administrative Offices
  2. Small Administrative Office, Small Multimedia Lab/Library, Mobile Computer Lab
  3. Any staff that needs to be (literally) mobile/wears multiple hats
  4. Very small elementary school. Teachers who are using iPads or something to take attendance. Small schools might make it with a few high-powered wired PCs and Printers, plus a wireless network for the other stuff.
  5. Annexed community (e.g. a construction module office or library)

Small networks range from a small administration office with a skeleton staff to several offices, connected printers and copiers, and a couple of dozen devices spread across a tiny school (and that’s stretching it to its limits). Anything more than that and a larger network is necessary.

What is a wireless network?

Wireless networks, or Wi-Fi networks, are networked radio signals that relay information (data) from the internet to devices (laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, etc.). Over the years they have improved to the point that they are as secure, reliable, and fast as most wired networks.

Advantages Of A Small Network

Small schools or contained school communities can benefit by having a faster connection on the limited space. It costs less to install and maintain a small network as well, and its general exclusivity makes it a more secure method to share and receive data.

Certain types of information or use are better on a wired connection. So one of the advantages of using a limited, small wireless network is that in an office with equipment better left on a wired connection, such as a dedicated printer or copier, wireless can be for everyone else, or for other appropriate devices as you see fit.

Where To Start

Like with any project, you must determine the scope, budget, and overall goals. What is this network supposed to be able to do? How many devices should it be able to support, and at what bandwidth? You need to know what your goals are, what the scope of the project is, and the budgeting limitations.

You’ll want your main office, the library, and maybe a small computer lab or mobile lab (cart with laptops) to have Wi-Fi. Any other computers would need to be wired or else you’d have to get a much larger system.

This small Wi-Fi network can be a separate network from the rest of the school, to separate

one network from the other for security or speed purposes, or it can be used in a smaller school, or only by a select group of people.

What Should The Small Network Be Able To Handle?

Think about the demands that each individual might put onto the network. Employees, teachers, students , and guests may be on the network if that’s what your school decides, and they will each have their own needs. In an elementary school, very few students will have their own personal devices on them at all times, and even fewer will be using internet access on those devices. This is why the small network might be all right for a small elementary school but not appropriate for a secondary school, where students often have two-three devices.

Account for at least two devices per employee on the network. They will likely have personal devices such as laptops, smartphones, or tablets that they may want to use in addition to work-provided devices.

Once you have the scope down, you can move on to the next phase: choosing your equipment.

You’ll need:

  • Router(s)
  • Antenna
  • Extender
  • Ethernet Cables
  • Access Points

In Conclusion

If you have a small school or limited wireless needs to think about, go for the smaller wireless network. It offers convenient connectivity and could also be a way to test the waters on a wireless set-up. Further, elementary schools with fewer unknown devices being brought in could benefit from not wasting money on a monster system too large for the needs of the school. No matter what you decide, make sure that you properly measure the resources that you will need.

It’s Cyber Security Awareness Month…Are You Prepared?

Cyber Security Awareness Month

Are You REALLY Secure? Follow This Checklist To Know For Sure

 

When everything is going well, the last thing you want to do is think about what will happen when something goes wrong.

It can be easy to think that just because you’ve recently bought some new hardware, or updated your security software, or simply the fact that it’s been a while since you had to deal with a major issue.

Don’t let that give you false confidence.

We don’t have to dwell on the potential for disaster though – you and I know that it’s a possibility, so let’s just leave it at that. What’s important about this is that you know to cover your bases. No need to assume the worst – just plan for it, so you know you’re covered.

What Are The Main 3 Areas Of Cybersecurity That You Need To Verify?

As important as cybersecurity is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow this checklist to ensure you have all your bases covered:

  • Do you have the necessary range of cybersecurity solutions?
    This is easy – do you have a firewall? Do you have antivirus software? Do you have a spam filter for your email?By investing in these solutions, you can eliminate a vast majority of common cybersecurity threats.
  • Does your staff follow cybersecurity best practices?

The next step is to make sure your staff is contributing to your cybersecurity, not hurting it. Especially when it comes to their email practices.

Cybercriminals often use email as a way to transmit viruses, ransomware, and other malicious software. Give your staff the following list and have them walk through it when they’re unsure about an email:

    • Do I know the sender of this email?
    • Does it make sense that it was sent to me?
    • Can I verify that the attached link or PDF is safe?
    • Does the email threaten to close my accounts or cancel my cards if I don’t provide information?
    • Is this email really from someone I trust or does it just look like someone I trust? What can I do to verify?
    • Does anything seem “off” about this email, its contents or sender?

  • Do you have an effective backup plan in place?

Cyber Security Awareness Month

While these other two points are preventative, in this case, you’re ensuring you have a viable response to when something breaks through your cybersecurity.

In the event that your data is stolen, compromised or encrypted and held at ransom, a recent and regular backup will keep you protected.

And that’s it! Does that sound like a bit too much to handle? The good news is that you don’t have to deal with IT security on your own.

As vital as each one of those tasks is for your security, there is still the problem of making sure they are all done on a regular basis. That’s where a trusted partner in IT support can be so helpful.

By having an expert team of IT security professionals assess your network and manage its many aspects, you can ensure that your technology is secure, without having to see to it yourself.

Be sure to partner with a reliable IT support provider like {company} to make sure all your bases are covered when it comes to your cybersecurity.

Colorado Timberline Taken Down by Ransomware and What That Means for You

Colorado Timberline Ransomware

According to Statista, there were 184 million ransomware attacks in 2017 and the average ransomware demand is over $1,000. Individuals, organizations, and companies have fallen victim to these attacks. Most people recognize the fact that ransomware is a danger, but they may not realize that it can actually destroy their company. The recent closure of Colorado Timberline after a ransomware attack is a solemn reminder of the seriousness of the dangers of ransomware.

Colorado Timberline Ransomware

What Happened to Colorado Timberline?

Colorado Timberline, a printing company in Denver, was forced to cease operations for an unspecified amount of time after a severe cyber attack. A statement on their website dated September 12th stated that they had been the victim of several recent cyber attacks, but the last – a ransomware attack – was something they would not be able to immediately recover from. The page that contained this statement no longer exists, but a similar statement was posted on their Facebook page:

Dear valued customers and suppliers of Colorado Timberline;

It is with great difficulty and a heavy heart that we must inform you that effective immediately Colorado Timberline has ceased all operations indefinitely.

We have recently been plagued by several IT events, unfortunately, we were unable to overcome the most recent Ransomware attack and as a result, this unfortunate and difficult decision was made.

We greatly appreciate the support and loyalty from each of you over the years.

Management of Colorado Timberline

Their Facebook page now lists them as permanently closed.

What Happened in the Ransomware Attack?

The data locker ransomware attack took place on the evening of August 14. The ransomware accessed their database server and encrypted the files it contained.

The issue that Colorado Timberline ran into, according to an explanatory post for their customers via their Facebook page, was that the hackers insisted that physical access to their files was necessary in order to obtain the encryption key even if the ransom were paid.

Colorado Timberline explained that it was not a matter of paying the ransom, but granting the hackers further access to their data was their greatest concern. Instead, they opted to make use of their data backups to restore the system and had their IT staff doing their best to extract as much data as possible from the encrypted database server.

This was not the first cyberattack that this company suffered, nor was it their last. Their Facebook page also indicated some issues on August 20th that had brought down both their website and phone lines.

As of September 12th, the doors at its physical location had been locked and closure announcements were posted in both English and Spanish. In an unusual twist, they had apparently just launched a new website tool for orders the day before the close was announced.

About Colorado Timberline

Colorado Timberline’s LinkedIn Page indicates that they had between 200 and 500 employees and that they had been in business for five years. They specialized in printing, including vinyl, apparel, banners, glass etching, and large format applications. In 2017 they were acquired by two out-of-state companies and their owner left in May. What impact that may have had on the decision to cease operations is not known.

How Data Locker Ransomware Works

Data locker ransomware malware (also known as a crypto ransomware) gains access to a computer, then it begins to search through the file system to find data that would be of value to the victim. It stays hidden as it both searches for this data then encrypts it.

Once the encryption is complete, the malware alerts the user with a message announcing that data has been taken hostage and encrypted. It will indicate how the ransom is to be paid (usually in a type of cryptocurrency, ironically) and how long before the decryption key is destroyed and the data rendered useless.

The Dangers of Ransomware

Even if a business or organization does have a backup of the data that has been taken hostage, they most likely have not tested the backup system to be sure that it works. Furthermore, any delay in getting systems back on line can quickly cost money in terms of sales as well as potential customers. If word gets out that a company has fallen victim to a cyberattack, it can negatively impact their reputation. Customers are naturally reluctant to risk sharing their financial data with a company that has been compromised in the past.

Conclusion

The first wave of modern ransomware attacks began to take place in 2015, according to “The Evolution of Ransomware” published by Symantec. The history of ransomware, however, can be traced back to 1989 where the first target was healthcare data systems. Now any company with valuable data is a target for attack. And, as with any type of hacking activity, the methods for infecting a computer with ransomware are continually evolving and improving. It is important for every business and organization, small or large, to make sure their cybersecurity systems are powerful enough to protect them and up-to-date against the latest threats.