Connect Everywhere: Why You Need a Reliable VPN

So. Here we are. Still working from home. (Well, many of us.) Still not back to normal.

(Not going to reiterate everything that’s going on. You know what’s up. And if you’re reading this in the future and have no idea what I’m referring to… well… you’re very lucky.)

So yes, here we are, and here we stay. One thing to learn from everything happening now is that you need to be prepared for anything. Even if you’ve been able to get through 2020 largely unscathed, the general chaos and disruption right now should illustrate the need to be adaptive and ready to roll with whatever comes next.

Empty office

When it comes to your business, that means being ready to work from anywhere. What you need is a way for you and your team to access your business’s network form anywhere, while still offering the same level of cybersecurity that you’d get connecting directly in the office. That way you’ll be able to carry on your work without interruption, no matter what the universe decides to throw at us. (And as we’ve seen, it can throw a lot.)

A virtual private network (VPN) can provide what you need. And SonicWall is one of the most trusted VPN providers in the business.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is SonicWall?

SonicWall is a technology company specializing in appliances and devices that primarily provide cyber security and remote, wireless access.

What Does SonicWall Offer?

SonicWall offers a number of useful products and services, including firewalls, cloud security, and content filtering. They also specialize in remote access and VPNs.

So what’s a VPN, again?

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network. It allows for the security and function of the private network while allowing users to access the network anywhere. In other words, it’s the technology that make remote work possible and safe.

SonicWall offers a number of VPN options, so businesses can find the version that will work best for them.

What Can It Do For My Business?

Simply put, a reliable VPN will allow your team to work from anywhere. With just a laptop computer and wi-fi connection, they’ll have secure access to your servers and network wherever they choose to connect, allowing them to seamlessly accomplish their work without needing to be in the same space.

Man working outside on a laptopThat means that even when everyone may not be able to be in the same space (like is happening now), they can still work and collaborate like a team. Your business will be able to run without interruption regardless of how your team may be scattered. Some VPNs even allow easy and convenient access via smartphone operating systems, offering even more flexibility for you and your team.

A VPN also provides useful and essential security measures to keep your data and business secure. Many VPNs require user authentication (via passwords, digital certificates, or even biometrics) to access so only authorized users can access your network, in addition to a host of other security measures.

Do I Need a VPN?

If you have a team working for you and you want to make sure you can continue to run and function under any kind of changing circumstance, then we’ll say, yeah. You do. Definitely.

The fact is, even if you have gotten through the current pandemic moment without having to shut down your office or working space, you simply don’t know what’s coming in the future. Not to fear-monger (really) but the next world changing event may separate your team and provide a new need for remote work. And even when you aren’t navigating worst-case scenarios, a VPN offers your team unparalleled flexibility in how they collaborate.

For example, a team traveling to meet clients no longer has to put off other work or rely on people back at the office to access important data. Instead, they can access via the VPN and pull up the information and files they need directly.

Or how about when you wake up at 3:40 AM with the solution to the problem you’ve been working on suddenly in your head? Do you wait until you get to office hours later and discover you’ve forgotten your epiphany, or do you log in via your VPN, solve the problem, and lay back down for a few more hours of restful sleep with a feeling of real accomplishment?Man working on laptop at home.

How Do I Get a VPN?

Well, that’s where Beacon IT Services (BITS) comes in. We’ve been working with SonicWall for years, providing VPNs for our clients along with a host of other services. We even use a SonicWall VPN ourselves. We can get one set up for you and your business so you can begin working from anywhere.

So don’t wait for the next big moment. Be prepared, and contact us today to get started.

By | 2020-09-24T10:44:05+00:00 September 24th, 2020|System Administration, Other, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Take a Rest, We Got IT: What Your IT Team Does When You’re On Vacation

cup of coffee with milk being added

It’s 8:44 AM.

You wanted to sleep in later, of course, but it was still nice to not wake up to the sound of your phone alarm buzzing. You go to the kitchen and make some coffee, then sit down on your couch, enjoying the quiet. You just breathe.

Of course, cancelling the big vacation was a bummer, but you needed the time off. But as your head clears, a worry crosses your mind. Will everything be OK without you? You grab your phone, hover your thumb over your email.

Then you stop. You can relax. You’ve got a good team. You trust them. And you also know that even while you’re taking your much deserved rest, your information technology partner – your IT team – is still hard at work, keeping your network and infrastructure running so your business can keep doing business. So pour yourself a refill of coffee, and get comfortable, while we take a look at what your IT team does while you are on vacation.

They’ll Maintain Your Operating System

inflatable pink flamingo in poolOne of the key things your IT team does while you’re out: maintaining your operating system. Ensuring network connectivity, monitoring and adding bandwidth as needed, optimizing your data backup solutions, providing necessary system updates to ensure your customers have the best possible user experience, your IT team does it all.

More importantly, they monitor your system 24/7, so they can catch any potential issues before they arise and cause problems. That means no disruptions to your business, no inconveniences for your customers, and no panicked phone calls from the office while you’re taking it easy.

They’ll Connect You to the Cloud

man lounging with laptop computerOf course, you may not be able to help yourself: you go to work everyday, and even when you’re off, there’s one or two things you need to take care of yourself. Fortunately, with the right IT team working behind the scenes for you, it’s easy and seamless, all thanks to the cloud.

Your IT team will set up cloud networking and data storage solutions for your system. That means your whole network can be accessed from anywhere, and you can log on from anywhere you can connect to the internet, be it your couch or the pool or anywhere. Furthermore, your IT team will monitor your cloud network, keeping an eye out for any possible disruptions, so you have one less thing to be concerned about.

They’ll Keep Your Network Secure

Speaking of concerns, don’t let any worries about security wake you from your mid-day vacation nap. Your IT team is working hard to keep your network and data secure, whether you’re connected to the cloud or on a private network.

The team will get your system set with the best protections and defenses, with a fully customized firewall to protect you from network breaches, viruses, and phishing attempts. Their regular inspections will locate and correct any vulnerabilities in your system, and the team keep an eye out for any irregularities, ready to spring into action if anything goes wrong.

And if you go a little too deep into vacation mode and forget your passwords while you’re out? Your IT team can help you get logged back in, too.

 

woman floating on inflatable pink flamingo

Don’t Worry: Beacon Has Got IT

So to really rest and make the most of your time off, it’s clear that a trusted IT partner is a must: you need Beacon IT Services (BITS).  We’ve been helping our clients manage their networks, protect their data, and keep their businesses running day and night through spring, summer, fall, and winter for more than 20 years (and lots and lots of vacations).

Contact us today to discuss what we can do for you, or request a free audit.

What’s Hot in IT? New Programs to Keep Your Data Cool

hot day on the road

 

Whew! It’s the height of summer and it is HOT. Take your breath away hot. Cook an egg on the hood of your car hot. Don’t go outside unless you can jump in a pool hot (or at least dip your toes into a kiddie pool in your backyard).

In other words, it’s a good time to stay inside. And while your inside, cooling off with a glass of something cold and refreshing, you can think about a different kind of heat, like what’s generating interest and excitement in the world of information technology services.

So what is hot in IT these days? Cyber security is always a major trend. And as COVID-19 continues to move more business online, anything that can keep your business and your data safe are a high priority.

Beacon IT Services (BITS) is always on the lookout for new programs and innovations that can help protect our clients. “Security is still the name of the game in managed services,” says BITS account executive Kevin Lackey. “We continually research new security services / security stacks for our clients to ensure we can stay in front of any potential issues or threats. There are literally hundreds of options, but we try to tailor which offerings are 1) beneficial to our specific set of clients and 2) can be incorporated with our systems.”

Lately, two new products that will help our clients improve their security have got us particularly excited. Here’s a look:

Auvik: Network Monitoring

Auvik is a networking monitoring solution that allows managed service providers (MSPs) to monitor entire network infrastructures, including data centers, workstations, physical servers, and more. With it, administrators can manage multiple clients from a single parent account. From that parent account, they can then add two-factor authentication for all accounts, allowing for an ample security upgrade.

Auvik also provides a dashboard for administrators with a centralized view of overall network performance for enhanced maintenance and can detect connected devices within the network and establish a secure inter-network connection. This allows for easier and more efficient troubleshooting. Plus, it easily integrates with variety of workflow and business tools like Microsoft Office.

All in all, Auvik ensures that managed service providers like BITS can effectively monitor their client networks and keep them running with maximum efficiency.

Huntress: Intrusion Detection

Keeping networks secure from hackers requires constant vigilance, but Huntress software is valuable tool for keeping them out – and getting rid of any who may have found a way in.

While many hackers use their own knowledge of antivirus and preventive security systems to get past firewalls and establish a foothold in a network. They can implement hard-to-detect malware that only runs when a user logs in or even only the user executes specific processes.

Huntress is specifically designed to seek out those footholds and provide a means to correct them. It integrates with existing security measures, and gives managed service providers like BITS detailed reports on security compromises it finds along with detailed instructions for fixing the issue.

The result is a significantly more secure network without significant extra costs: a win-win for managed service providers and their clients.

BITS Will Connect You with the Best and the Latest in IT

Of course, knowing what’s hot in IT is only helpful if you’ve got a partner to implement it. BITS can be that partner for you and will implement the IT innovations that make sense for your business and its needs. From hot new programs like Auvik and Huntress to other established programs like Proofpoint, IronScales, and KnowBe4, we are poised to offer and deliver the solutions that make a difference.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you, or request a free audit. No need to step outside: our remote IT will help keep your online business running and secure, no matter how hot it is outside. Cool.

The History and Evolution of Managed IT Services

History: we’ve lived through it, and more is being made every day. And while what’s happening in IT services may not seem quite as dramatic as what’s happening in the rest of the world, there’s no doubt that the industry is rapidly evolving in ways that will change how IT business is done going forward.

And it’s not just that the way IT services are handled: it’s in the increasing need for every business to have a robust online presence, and with that, the need for trusted managed IT service providers. So how did we get here? As always, to get a sense of where we are going, it’s worthwhile to take a look back.

From “Break / Fix” To Managed Services 

For a long time, the dominant model for IT services was “Break / Fix.” A business would have their system set up, then when something went wrong, they’d call up an IT team to come fix it. Sure, that meant lots of downtime while they waited for the team to address the issue and big bills to fix major problems. But at the time, companies either weren’t relying as heavily on technology in their day to day business, or least they didn’t believe that they did.

As times changed and technology advanced, it became clear to many companies that technology was absolutely essential to their operation. The long down times and significant work (and income) reductions that came with the “break / fix” model were simply unacceptable. Still, it wasn’t feasible or practical for many companies – especially small businesses – to have their own full-time IT expert. So managed IT services were born.

In the managed IT services model, companies contracted with outside team of IT experts to monitor their technology and fix any issues that arise as soon as possible. This meant that companies no longer had to worry about crashing systems or email being down, but could also leverage more sophisticated and complex technology. The IT team would even update a company’s technology and systems to be up-to-date.

A New World of IT

Today, more business than ever is conducted online. Cloud computing gives companies access to levels of data storage and online collaboration that would have been unthinkable (or at least unaffordable) just ten years ago.

And with so much more happening in that cloud space rather than on hard drives, cyber security is even more essential as well. Fortunately, managed IT services can also put systems in place (like multi-factor authentication) to prevent data from being stolen, exploited, or tampered with.

So it’s no surprise that companies are increasing the resources they give to IT: data shows that 44% of businesses plan to increase their tech spending this year.

And more changes are in store.

Soon, 5G technology will likely transform the digital landscape again, increasing the speed and capacity of online systems while decreasing latency (the time it takes for data to travel between devices and cellular towers- practically, the delay between your action and a site’s response). Soon, people from across the world will be able to collaborate together as though they are in the same room.

The power of 5G technology, along with other revolutionary innovations like the Internet of Things (IOT), could change everything about the way we do business and live our lives. It goes without saying the “break / fix” model wouldn’t fly in this new world. Every business that wants to stay competitive will need a trusted IT team of experts to manage their technology and ensure their cyber security.

And a business that doesn’t adapt to this new world of IT? Well, they’re history.

Take Control of Your Future

Fortunately, a trustworthy IT partner isn’t hard to find. In fact, you’ve got one right here: Beacon IT Services (BITS). We’ve been helping our clients manage their IT since 1998: we’ve been there through IT’s history and evolution, and we can help you ready your business for the future.

Contact us today to discuss your managed IT needs, or request a free audit. Your future begins today.

By | 2020-06-25T11:49:34+00:00 June 25th, 2020|System Administration, Computer Related, 5G, IT Services|

Document Storage Solutions for the Work-From-Home Era

working from homeLast month, as many businesses were amending their operations to function in a global pandemic, we wrote about managing the transition to remote work and what small businesses needed to do to make the new arrangement possible. If there’s one positive arising from the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that many of us have been forced to learn the skills necessary to function in the 21st century economy. In the last several weeks, tens of millions of employees have become intimately familiar with video conferencing, VPNs, online collaboration tools, cloud-based document storage and more.

We’re more than a month now into our new normal. Hopefully, your transition to remote work was a seamless one. More likely, your team probably hit a few hiccups along the way. You don’t just unveil a whole new way of doing business without some speed bumps.

One major hurdle for the newly initiated remote-work businesses has been how to store, share and manage sensitive records and information via the web. The big concern is how to do all those things while maintaining tight security protocols. Strangely appropriate, April also happens to be the National Records and Information Management month. So, this topic arises at just the right time on the calendar.

Rising Cyberthreats During COVID-19

cyber criminalYour business’ transition to remote work isn’t happening in a vacuum. In the digital environment there are always threats. And, as we’ve covered in previous posts, criminal activity online is growing every year. The COVID-19 pandemic that’s driving more and more businesses to operate on the web is simultaneously presenting more targets for hackers to exploit.

Cybercrime reports have spiked four-fold in the wake of the global spread of coronavirus, according to the FBI.

“There was this brief shining moment when we hoped that, you know, ‘gosh cyber criminals are human beings too,’ and maybe they would think that targeting or taking advantage of this pandemic for personal profit might be beyond the pale,” stated FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz  on a recent online panel hosted by the Aspen Institute. “Sadly that has not been the case.”

Cybercriminals have used COVID-19 themes to go after everything from hospitals and health care systems to wind farm operators. They’ve crashed private – but, unsecured – Zoom calls (Zoombombing) and targeted private email addresses with phishing schemes.

As a result, it’s not surprising that 7 out of 10 organizations reported in a mid-March survey by Adobe that they expected to increase their investment in cybersecurity solutions.

So, what should you, as a small business, be doing to secure your digital environment?

Work-From-Home Solutions

There are a few basic things your business needs in order for your work force to be able to work from home with any efficiency. For starters, your team will need access to and the ability to collaborate on company documents. You will also need to back up the work your employees complete on their company-issued equipment at home. And, of course, you’ll need to protect all of these cloud-based interactions from anyone who might have less than pure intentions.

Secure shared drive

So, let’s start with the company’s shared drive – the library of all your essential documents, from client work and purchase orders to business expenses and marketing materials. Many businesses rely on on-premise servers to house their company shared drive. But, with a network of employees working from their home offices, there is less need to have your document storage on site.

And, there are advantages to a cloud-based solution that’s tailored for remote collaboration. A cloud storage platform, like Microsoft’s OneDrive, allows a team of employees to work on the same document, simultaneously, while maintaining the same working version of the file. The file is also protected through encryption, both while it is being worked on and when transmitting to the cloud. And, there are additional helpful features like data loss prevention, file restore and intelligent discovery.

Beacon, itself, has recently transitioned to a cloud-based shared drive to help our team of employees working from home.

Data Backup

It’s easy enough to backup the data on your employee workstations when they’re in office. It doesn’t have to be difficult to back up your remote employees’ machines when they’re not physically connected to your network. A great solution for centrally enabled data backup is Veeam Backup & Replication. This is another resource we’ve deployed in-house.

cloud securityCloud security

Most cloud applications are created with security features built-in. Still, it’s important to implement protocols and promote habits that further protect your enterprise.

Cybersecurity best practices call for the use of VPNs (virtual private network) for all employees working from home. With cyber attacks on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is advised that businesses make sure they are updated to the latest versions of their VPNs and all patches are applied.

Multifactor authentication is another helpful security measure. Password protecting your company workstations and all remote applications ensures that your company resources stay safe, even if a phishing attack compromises an employee’s credentials.

Lastly, training your remote employees on how to spot phishing attacks and other security exploits can further reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack.

Beacon Knows Remote Work

Roughing your way through a transition to remote work? The BITS team can help you smooth the way. Give us a call, we’re here to help.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:02+00:00 April 23rd, 2020|System Administration, BITS Team, IT Services|

Client Spotlight: RSVP Communications, Inc.

At Beacon, our success hinges on how well we know our clients. That’s what empowers us to anticipate their needs and deliver the right solution to the right problem at the right time.

That doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens with a purposeful effort to get to know and understand our clients, their business needs and future goals. And, as with any successful relationship, it all starts with asking questions.

Every once in a while, we wrangle one of our clients for an honest conversation about what we’re doing well and how we can improve. After all, you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

This month, we had the privilege of chatting up Ken Dobbins, Vice President and General Manager of RSVP Communications, Inc.

Conversation with Ken

Beacon: How does BITS help you be successful? 

Ken Dobbins: You play a huge role for us. When we joined up with Beacon we ended up getting a lot of brains and a lot of different perspectives on how things can be done. You get all these smart people in a room that come up with great solutions. We’ve had great success with you guys.

B: What separates BITS from other IT services/providers? 

KD: Your performance is really a cut above. If there’s an issue, you can get somebody over here pretty quick. Your monitoring capabilities are outstanding. And, you guys are reading, developing and understanding what the market is doing every day. That’s your job.

B: What’s the best part of working with BITS?

KD: Your understanding of the industry. The flexibility that you have. And, your customer service – Beacon has got a great team, top to bottom.

Contact Center Upgrade

On top of the core IT services Beacon provides to RSVP, we’ve also had the chance to help out with a couple of special projects. One such opportunity was the expansion of the RSVP contact center.

KD: Here’s what’s amazing. With the help of you guys and three other companies, we were able to rip out the entire Contact Center – all the work stations, all the carpet, all the wiring, all the electrical – and come in and run new electric with drop downs from the ceiling, instead of in the floor. We were able to – in a three-day period – come in, rip it all out, put it all back in, and on Monday morning, the agents were able to come in and go right to their work stations and go to work.

Warehouse Expansion

In addition to upgrading the Contact Center, Ken also oversaw the expansion of the RSVP Communications warehouse from 79,000 sq. ft to 109,000 sq ft.:

KD: You guys were instrumental in coming in and making very good recommendations on what equipment we should have, what equipment we shouldn’t have, and monitoring the guys who were doing the actual install – pulling the wire, putting the equipment in – monitoring all that to make sure that they’re putting in the right stuff.

At the end of the day, there were some issues that you identified that we were able to get fixed along the way.

It’s not that anyone was doing a bad job. It’s just that you guys were just doing a great job to ensure that it was being done right. That was extremely successful, and the new facility is up and running flawlessly pretty much.

About RSVP Communications

The company delivers a number of services, helping clients market, sell and deliver their products to their customers. These services require a broad set of competencies – from web developers creating custom CRM applications and friendly customer service representatives managing customer questions and orders, to a robust warehouse operation ensuring that the right products are shipped on time and where they need to go.

That’s quite a complicated operation. But all the complexity is skillfully managed with strong infrastructure, experienced people, proven systems and reliable technology.

Client Profile

Name: RSVP Communications, Inc.

Size: 80+

Industry: Product Fulfillment, Call Center Services, Marketing

Location: Greensboro, NC

BITS Services: end-user support (managed IT), server support, IT consultative services, expansion support

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:03+00:00 September 25th, 2019|System Administration, BITS News, IT Services|

Small Medical Offices: How to Stay on the Right Side of Data Security

In the last decade, the healthcare industry has undergone a dramatic evolution in the way that medical records are managed. If you work in the medical field, whether as a doctor, nurse, technician or administrator, you could not escape the implication of the “big switch” to EMR (electronic medical records).

The change from paper to electronic record-keeping was a needed step forward. EMR saves time, money and all those trees, in addition to improving actual patient care. But, while considerable efforts were expended to convince everyone – from the largest healthcare systems to individual medical practices – to adopt this more tech-forward approach, not as much attention was paid to the vulnerabilities of a healthcare system so reliant on tech.

Let’s be clear, EMRs did not cause the astronomic spike in cybercrimes of recent years. But, in the rush to adopt a better system, it’s possible that not enough was done to protect that system from people who’d want to exploit it.

As a result, it’s not uncommon to find headlines like these:

The Verge’s Nicole Wetsman provides a succinct summation:

“Despite the rising threat, the vast majority of hospitals and physicians are unprepared to handle cybersecurity threats, even though they pose a major public health problem.”

But, Is Cybersecurity a Problem for the Little Guys?

The short answer… yes. One of the biggest hurdles to creating a safe and secure IT network for your small medical or dental practice is thinking that you’re too small a fish for anyone to bother with.

“Most small businesses, including medical practices, think they’re too small to be a target to hackers. Unfortunately, medical data is a prize most hackers want to get their hands on and they will specifically target small medical practices expecting to find little to no cybersecurity in place.” – myitsupport.com, 4/13/2017

Don’t let the size of your business fool you into thinking that you’re immune to being targeted by cyber criminals. The cybercrime epidemic is not slowing down. But, if you’re one of those small medical practices, there is good news: it just might be easier to protect a small office from hacking than a complex, sprawling healthcare system.

Cybersecurity & HIPAA Compliance

While it isn’t a silver bullet, the U.S. government does provide guidelines and standards for setting up secure networks to store and maintain private health data. These instructions are included with a host of other requirements  governing the management of personal medical information. However, they are not easy to parse, especially for medical practices lacking experienced IT staff.

That said, the requirements for small medical practices with just one or two locations are considerably less than for large healthcare systems with numerous locations and thousands of patients. Even so, compliance is not always a snap, and the penalties for coming up short can be severe (up to $50,000 per HIPAA violation).

How to Protect Your Medical Practice From Cybercriminals & Stay HIPAA Compliant

So, what do you need most to keep your electronic records and IT network secure? It helps to have a trusted partner who can combine expert knowledge in IT and data security with specialized knowledge of HIPAA.

Step 1: The Audit

Before you can fix a vulnerability, you have to be aware that a vulnerability exists in the first place. To that end, it helps to conduct a thorough audit of your existing network setup and see what’s what. The results should then be compared to the requirements spelled out by HIPAA.

While the audit could be conducted by your internal IT staff (if you have it), it’s best to let an outside consultant perform the assessment. That approach typically leads to better, more accurate results.

The audit results should then by reviewed for compliance with HIPAA regulations. At BITS, we rely on our partner, Total Medical Compliance (TMC), for this type of analysis.

Step 2: Results & Recommendations

After your HIPAA experts complete the analysis and present the results, your IT vendor should outline a list of issues that need to be addressed and deliver a set of solutions for your consideration.

Some of these may require an investment into newer or better equipment, including servers or security devices. More often, recommendations will call for updating to more stringent internal user policies, including unique logins for all employees and stronger password protection protocols.

Step 3: Implement the Recommended Solutions 

If you’ve decided that it’s important enough to know about your digital vulnerabilities, you’ll want to finish the job and address found concerns. You just don’t want to be oversold on something you don’t need.

Be sure to ask for explicit explanations of every recommendation presented to you. At BITS, we discuss and review every suggested solution with our clients, so there is no question why we make the recommendations that we do.

Beacon Knows Medical Data Security

Does your medical office need to reassess data security and HIPAA compliance? BITS can help. Reach out to our team today.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:03+00:00 August 28th, 2019|System Administration, IT Services|

Employee Monitoring: Balancing Security & Productivity

Is your small business optimized for digital security and productivity?

Pretty much every business takes measures to protect its network and IT infrastructure. With the extraordinary proliferation of malware and ransomware attacks in recent years, it’s just prudent planning to set up strong defenses against potential intruders.

Managed IT services, which focus on more mundane tasks like updating and patching business applications, typically don’t receive the same level of scrutiny. But, they also play a key role in protecting your company’s key digital assets.

Why Monitor Employee Computer Habits?

<a href="http://www.freepik.com">Designed by vectorpouch / Freepik</a>The focus with managed IT services shifts from outside threats to internal ones. With firewalls and security protocols in place to counteract bad actors, in-house monitoring efforts ensure that internal digital vulnerabilities are identified and neutralized.

In addition, monitoring of your employees’ computers offers managers and business owners something else – the ability to track productivity. This can come in the form of tracking the websites employees visit, time spent in business application, idle time and a host of other activities.

Considering American cultural ideals of privacy and trust, however, this type of monitoring can rub some employees the wrong way. So, how do you navigate the competing priorities of security and privacy as a business and keep your employees happy at the same time?

Two Approaches to Employee Monitoring

There are two schools of thought pertaining to monitoring employee computers – and they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. We’ve dubbed these as the “Don’t Do Stupid” and the Centralized Control options.

The “Don’t Do Stupid” Model

<a href="http://www.freepik.com">Designed by pikisuperstar / Freepik</a>

This is the less hands-on approach to employee monitoring. It works well in office cultures with a high degree of trust and business environments where a potential breach of trust would not result in a catastrophic failure. This is the more permissive set up, and probably the one most preferred by employees, managers and IT professionals alike.

With this approach, productivity is encouraged by a simple “black list” of websites that employees cannot access. Black listing is guided more by legal requirements, industry norms or security considerations, rather than the drive to limit employee browsing options.

Security is upheld with a minimum number of rules and tracked employee activities with potential for exposure to cyber threats or other digital vulnerabilities.

The Centralized Control Model

<a href="http://www.freepik.com">Designed by iconicbestiary / Freepik</a>

This model has much in common with the much more controlled way that internet activity is regulated by non-democratic governments, like China. The approach replaces the “black list” with a “white list” – rather than listing the destinations employees can’t access, the organization creates a limited list of approved websites.

Activity tracking is also much more robust, aiming to collect as much data on individual employee usage patterns as possible in order to promote a culture of efficiency.

This type of employee monitoring set-ups are more commonly deployed by larger organizations, like health systems, banks and multi-national corporations.

Your Model

Which model works best for your business? As with most things, your business needs will dictate the appropriate approach to employee computer monitoring. And, odds are, it’s going to fall somewhere in between the two extremes described above.

Once you settle on the level of monitoring that works for your business goals and office culture, it helps to have a knowledgeable IT team implement the monitoring set up.

Beacon Knows Managed IT Services

Looking for an experienced IT team that can help you manage your business network? Look no further, BITS is here to help. Give our team a call today to discuss your IT management needs.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:03+00:00 July 25th, 2019|System Administration, IT Services|

Client Spotlight: Graham Personnel Services

How do BITS customers really feel about the job we do for them? We’re sure that almost every business asks itself a variation of the same question. After all, being successful is all about maintaining relationships.

Here, at BITS, we really wanted to know the answer. So, we decided to take the radical step of, you know, actually talking to our clients about how our services impact them.

Inaugural Client Spotlight

This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dace Hennessee, General Manager of Graham Personnel Services. Dace was extremely welcoming and forthcoming about his company’s reliance on the IT expertise provided by BITS.

So, what stands out about BITS services to Dace?

“Beacon is a local company. Graham Personnel is a local company. I think that’s a good match. We like to support locally owned Triad companies.”

That answer is more than just a preference for doing business with a neighbor, however. It’s about quality and reliability. And, knowing that if the owner’s computer is experiencing an issue, it will be fixed as fast as humanly possible. (In this case, we did our thing and it was back to normal within the hour.)

In managed IT services, the speed with which a glitch is resolved can mean a difference of thousands of dollars. After all, if his computers are down, Dace isn’t placing too many people on work assignments.

And that can be a major concern if, let’s say, you’re moving your entire operation to a new location.

“The Move” 

One of the biggest projects BITS managed for Graham Personnel Services was transitioning the company’s IT infrastructure to new offices on Gallimore Diary Road. In addition to it’s 30+ employees, GPS also houses multiple classrooms with dozens of computer stations where applicants are screened for various skills.

“Two years ago, we switched everything from one location to another location. I think we were down for 30 minutes,” says Dace. “We were up and functional by 8:30 [a.m.]”

The BITS team handled all the planning, logistics and execution for the job, seamlessly transitioning employee work stations, classroom computers, company servers and presentation equipment to their new homes.

“A lot of that was planning. It was getting involved early,” observes Kevin Lackey, BITS Account Executive who was involved in the project. “Having that vision on the front side, knowing what the expectation was, and being involved so early really helped us. Because we knew: this is what he’s asking.”

What Else Does BITS do for GPS?

In addition to helping with the occasional monumental move, BITS provides all end-user support for GPS’ employee work stations. In plain language, we are Graham Personnel’s external IT team. Everything from managing software updates to helping recover lost passwords is managed by the BITS help desk.

We also help Dace keep an eye on equipment performance, recommending updates when necessary and managing the procurement process.

Last, but definitely not least, BITS also manages firewall and backup functions for the GPS website, keeping digital assets secure and functioning at 100%.

About Graham Personnel Services

Graham Personnel Services has a 50-year history of successfully placing job seekers in the Triad area with businesses, large or small, in the distribution, manufacturing, professional and healthcare sectors. Over the years, the company has developed expertise and earned recognition in helping Fortune 500 companies and small businesses in Greensboro and the surrounding communities fulfill their staffing needs.

During any given week, there are anywhere between 700 and 1,200 associates placed on assignments with Graham Personnel clients. The firm takes pride in its commitment to customer satisfaction and strives to be the local leader in recruiting.

Client Profile

Name: Graham Personnel Services

Size: 30+ employees

Industry: Staffing

Location: Greensboro, NC

BITS Services: end-user support (managed IT), firewall, backup

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:03+00:00 June 25th, 2019|System Administration, Computer Related, IT Services|

5 Assumptions of a Great Email Backup Solution

Two email icons floating against clouds over an open handYour company’s email accounts represent some of the most vital assets of your business. They contain important client correspondence, extensive team processes and projects, working copies of various reports and deliverables, and a host of additional valuable bits of information.

A loss of a record, or the inability to find or retrieve archived information, can cause tremendous harm to a business relationship with a client, vendor, regulator or even your own employees. That’s why responsible business administrators take steps to protect their business email accounts through comprehensive email backup solutions.

Finding the Right Email Backup Solution

Let’s be honest, as a business owner, you’re more at home selling a client on the value of your services, finding that next great team leader or setting the long-term direction for your growing business units. Understanding the nitty-gritty of email setup does not, and should not, rank high on your priority list.

That said, protecting your business emails is a real need – all the more pressing if your company is growing. So, how do you know what to look for in an email backup service?

To help business owners navigate the search for the right email backup solution, we’ve put together the below list of requirements.

Email Backup Solution Assumptions

Cloud symbol with a white down arrow1) On-demand email retrieval

Mistakes happen. Important emails containing sensitive or proprietary information get lost or erroneously deleted all the time. It’s been happening since the beginning of time… or, you know, the business computing era, at least.

No matter how well-intentioned your employees are, and no matter how many stringent protocols you put in place, it’s going to happen. Sure, prevention efforts are important. But, for when the worst does happen, a robust email backup solution makes sure it’s reversible.

2) Protect data in email accounts of former employees

What happens to the email accounts of your employees who leave? You’d be surprised how many small businesses don’t have a plan for retiring the email accounts of former team members.

Yes, in majority of cases, your former employees are trustworthy individuals who would never dream of taking advantage of continued access to their old work account. But, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A good email backup service will feature a plan to save and convert employee email accounts into archives, preventing any unauthorized access after employee separation.

3) Compliance with industry data storage requirements

Your industry, or the industries in which your clients operate, may have requirements governing various aspects of data storage. Some businesses in the health care space, for example, are required to keep backup data physically on-premises.

The right email backup service will help you both, understand the data security requirements applicable to your business, and structure your email solution to be in full compliance.

Female hands on the keyboard of a laptop, and a list of files on the screen4) Easy search of archived and backed-up files

Have you ever had a client ask historical data from a project completed years ago? Or, maybe tried to recall that perfect response to a complicated technical question? The team members involved in those initiatives may be long gone. But, with the email backup solution in place, you still have access to their correspondence and files.

A search of your business email archive can bring back the needed historical information quickly and efficiently. Having an easy-to-navigate archive of your old business information is a valuable resource.

5) Portability

As small businesses grow, many of their operations mature to become more detailed and complex. This can even impact the email provider you choose to contract with.

If you think you may upgrade or change your email service provider in the future, you’ll want to make sure that the email backup solution you select is compatible with a number of leading email providers.

Beacon Knows Email Backup

Considering an investment in a robust email backup solution? Beacon can help. As a Datto partner, we install and maintain some of the most trusted, industry-leading IT solutions around, including Backupify for email. Get in touch with our team today to learn more.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:03+00:00 May 22nd, 2019|System Administration, IT Services|