Business on Top, PJs on the Bottom: Optimize Your Remote Office To Keep Working For You

woman working at home in business jacket and pajama pants “Are you working from home?”

It’s become a common question this past year as the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives. When it was suddenly unsafe to work in the offices we’d spent years commuting to every day, we adapted fast: spare rooms were transformed into makeshift offices, old chairs were drafted into service as desk chairs, and our home wireless routers were pushed to their limits handling the new wave of traffic from video calls, file transfers, and Slack conversations.

We figured out how to use Zoom and GoToMeeting. More importantly, we discovered very fast that, angled correctly, our computer cameras would only capture the top half of our bodies, so we could throw on a respectable shirt and still maintain weekend-level comfort in pajama pants and slippers.

Yes, with the easier dress code, homemade coffee, and no time spent commuting, working from home definitely had its perks, even if what led us to that situation was tragic. But now, there are some encouraging signs that things may be improving, even if we’re not out of the woods totally yet.

Moreover, even as things return to something like “normal,” going to the office every may be a thing of the past. As more companies permanently move to offer remote work models, it seems increasingly likely that successful businesses looking to attract the best talent will need to take a hybridized approach, where employees can fluidly move from working at home to working at the office and back again.

The key to a set-up, like that, though, is ensuring that your business is optimized for remote work. If it is, you and/or your employees will be able to seamlessly transition back and forth between the home office and the traditional office as changing times and situations demand. If you’re not optimized, you may run into serious hurdles that impact your work.

Take a moment and ask yourself a few questions about your home office set-up, and determine if it’s working for you as well as it should.

coffee and computer at workstationAre you optimized for efficiency?

Because the pandemic hit so quickly, many were forced to scramble to set-up remote work solutions. Things simply needed to get done. But when it comes to ensuring that you can connect with your company servers and databases and collaborate effectively while remote, the quick solution may not be the best one.

Indeed, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to remote work. Every business has different needs, and finding a remote work solution that best meets those needs is crucial. For many companies, a virtual private network (VPN) will offer the speed and reliability they need. Other companies may find that they also need a remote desktop set-up, so they can access programs they don’t have on their laptops.

Either way, choosing the option that works best for your company will allow your business to run smoothly no matter where you and your team are working from.

Is your network secure?

It’s unavoidable. Working with remote networks opens you and your business up to a variety of cyber-security risks. From viruses and hacks accessing open networks to data and records being stolen from Zoom, the systems and processes that allow for working outside the office allow numerous opportunities for hackers and others to compromise your security.

Does this mean that remote work should be avoided? Not at all. But a bit more diligence is required to stay safe. There a few simple solutions that can make a major difference.

For example, it’s invaluable to train and regularly update your team on best practices for spotting phishing scams and other potential attacks. It’s also important to password protect all valuable data and servers, with multifactor authentication.

One of the most important things you can do is set up a secure shared drive on the Cloud. Not only will this allow multiple people to work on the same file at the same time, it also offers protection through encryption.

man working at computer, smiling

Do you have the tech support you need?

As a beloved band of paranormal exterminators once asked, “who you gonna call?”

In a typical office, when something goes wrong, like a network outage, you know to contact your office IT pro for assistance. But working from home, an outage can make you feel completely cut off. It’s essential to have processes in place to address issues as they arise.

Even better, though, is having a dedicated IT team who monitors your network and can solve problems before they arise and cut you off. Even beyond maintenance like that, a dedicated and professional IT team can troubleshoot bigger picture issue’s with your company’s remote working set-up, and propose solutions and fixes that will prevent any issues from occurring.

We can help you find a remote office solution that really works.

Determining what home office setups work best for you and your team—now and in the long term—can be a daunting task, as can enabling all the protocols and protections you’ll need for cybersecurity. There are so many elements to consider, and there may even be technology and hardware issues you aren’t aware of.

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Your Beacon IT Services (BITS) team is ready to work with you to create a remote working solution that will deliver for your business and monitor your network. From selecting the best solutions to getting your network set up to being on-hand to make any changes that you need or address any issues that may arise, BITS will have your back every step of the way as you navigate the best ways to work in this changed (and changing) world. We’re just a click away.

So don’t trade in the sweatpants and slippers for slacks and loafers just yet. (Or ever). Contact us today and we’ll make your home office work as well for you as the real one, for as long as you need it to.

By | 2021-03-24T07:28:46+00:00 March 24th, 2021|System Administration, Cyber Security, IT Services|

A True Love Connection: Reliable Networks and Caring Service

hands sharing a cut out paper heart

 

Ah, February. The season of Valentine’s Day, of romance.

What, you don’t find the gray skies and mushy, freezing rain common to the bleakest winter months romantic? Have some chocolates.

Anyway, what is romance all about? Love, trust, support, and most of all, connections.

Ok, we know what you’re thinking now: why is this IT services company blog going on about romance and connections? Because here at Beacon IT Services (BITS), connections are what we do: network connections, cloud connections, and connections with customers like you so that you can then connect with your customers.

We’ll explain.

Relationships Matter

Whatever your business specializes in, the way that you serve and take care of your customers can make all the difference.

Do you quickly respond to your customers’ requests? Do you resolve their problems efficiently? Are you truly attentive to their needs? As in any relationship, these are critical factors that determine whether your connection with your customers is weak or strong.

It’s the strength of that connection that keeps your customers coming back, and will keep them from choosing your competitors over you.

So how do you deliver for your customers in a way that keeps your connection strong? It takes a connected network that’s reliable, speedy, and weds all the different aspects of your business into an effective unit.

smiling woman at computerCommunication: The Heart of Your Business

Communication is the key to any relationship, and a connected network allows easy communication and lets workers in varied locations come together to work as seamlessly as if they were in the same room.

Network connectivity works by bringing various parts of a network together, typically through the usage of technology like switches, routers, and VPNs. There’s also your connection to the Cloud, giving you and your workers instant access to a wealth of data far exceeding what you can keep in a file cabinet.

In short, network connectivity is the heart of your business, ensuring that data flows smoothly across your entire enterprise, so you can better share, access, and utilize it.

As a result, if your network connectivity fails, it can have real and significant consequences for the running of your business.

A Team You Can Rely On

Trust, of course, is another key factor in a strong relationship. The importance of your network connectivity means you trust its setup and maintenance to just anyone: you’ll want a team of reliable experts who can build you a network that will run seamlessly and act fast to address issues before they become problems.

You can trust on the team from Beacon IT Services (BITS) to get the job done for you. We specialize in providing comprehensive, on-site, and cost-effective managed IT services, tailored to your unique business needs.

illustration of connected peopleWe also understand the importance of the one-on-one connections you make with your customers and how important those relationships are. That’s because those relationships are central to how we do business, too.

Relationships are a two-way street, and we care about our clients and want to see you succeed. When you call us for assistance, you won’t be stuck on the line with an automated answering service – you’ll speak to a member of our local team who will be able to offer immediate support and understanding. And when we do work for you, we take the time to explain exactly what we’re doing, why, and how it will benefit your business, so you can trust you’re getting the best quality work.

That trust is what sets us apart, and lets us connect with you. And with your network running properly and providing you the information you need, you can focus on building a rewarding relationship with your customers and clients.

man at computer talking on the phoneLet’s Connect

Want to find out what BITS can do for you? You can get started by requesting a free network health check. Or just send us a message describing what kind of IT services you’re looking for. We can’t wait to speak with you and begin building a relationship that will help your business to thrive.

 

By | 2021-02-17T07:11:22+00:00 February 16th, 2021|System Administration, Other, BITS News, IT Services|

Client Spotlight: W. Schillig – “BITS Keeps Us On Track”

When it comes to business, you never want there to be any downtime that can get in the way of delivering for your customers or getting the job done. And when your business is spread across the globe in multiple time zones, it’s absolutely essential that your network is reliable and working all hours of the day and night.

“If somebody from one of our factories in Germany calls us at 3 AM, our computers and servers have to be running,” says David Most, Vice President of Sales with W. Schillig. Fortunately, David and his team don’t have to worry about service outages because they partner with Beacon IT Services (BITS).

 

W. Schillig sofa

What Doesn’t BITS Do For Us?

W. Schillig logoSince its establishment in 1949, W. Schillig has been delivering high-end, European style home furnishings. With U.S. operations based out of High Point, N.C., the company specializes in modern, contemporary sofas and furniture produced with high-quality German engineering. In addition to selling beautifully designed finished pieces to customers and retailers, shoppers can also personalize their items with more than 70 design options and dozens of choices of color and fabric.

With factories located throughout Europe and Asia and a distribution base throughout the U.S. and Canada, the people of W. Schillig absolutely rely on their computer technology to keep them connected with their customers and each other.

Several years ago, it became apparent that W. Schillig’s IT provider wasn’t delivering on all of their needs. “They just weren’t available enough,” says David.

They decided to give BITS a try. It started with just a few small projects, but upon discovering the dedication, tenacity, and follow-through of the BITS team, the partnership quickly grew. Today, BITS covers the majority of W. Schillig’s managed services needs.

“What doesn’t BITS do for us?” David says. “They handle just about everything: hardware purchases, programming our machines. It goes from installing a new server—which BITS did last week—to helping us turn on the computer and put in the right password. I don’t even know everything BITS does for us because it’s seamless. If someone is having an IT issue, they just call BITS and it’s taken care of.”

A Remote Working Superhero

Mel Gonzalez

BITS came to W. Schillig’s aid in a major way in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wanting to keep safe and socially distanced, W. Schillig’s employees quickly transitioned to remote working using laptops but quickly discovered their VPN wasn’t quite up to the increased workload. Tasks that should have taken minutes suddenly took an hour.

Then, while addressing a separate issue, BITS IT Support Specialist Mel Gonsalez heard about the slowdown. Mel discussed the issue with David, explaining that if they connected their laptops to workstation terminals, employees would be able to work as quickly and efficiently as if they were sitting at their desks. David was skeptical at first, but Mel quickly convinced him.

“Mel explained everything and told us what we needed to do to speed up our processes,” David says. “Within a few days of that conversation, we took action and hooked up our terminal system. Now our people can connect and work at a better pace. Some of our key programs even function better. It was a big deal and saved us so much time and frustration. Mel is kind of a superhero for our company.”

KeeW. Schillig sofa and roomping the Ship in Motion

Of course, Mel isn’t the only BITS team member who’s gone above and beyond for W. Schillig. David explains: “BITS’ brand is really all about the people. The people make the brand. And BITS has great people, very proactive.”

For David, it’s that dedication, as well as a talent for clear communication, that sets BITS apart.

Recently, a BITS team member contacted David to let him know that W. Schillig’s server might need replacing. “He said, ‘Your server is over 10 years old, and you could have a situation if you don’t replace it,'” David says. “He really made the situation simple and clean for us. We aren’t IT specialists, so that explanation was hugely helpful.”

As a result of that conversation, the server was replaced and the new server is running better than ever. That kind of proactive problem solving that characterizes BITS’ work gives David the peace of mind to focus on his business and not worry about IT.

“Our ship is in motion. It has to keep going forward,” he says. “If one thing breaks, the ship slows down. BITS keeps us on track. And that’s critical.”

No Worries, We Got IT

Interested in finding out what BITS can do for you and your business? Contact us today or request a free audit. We can’t wait to get to work for you.

By | 2021-01-15T09:02:08+00:00 January 15th, 2021|System Administration, Computer Related, BITS News, BITS Team, IT Services|

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|

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|

Lessons in Cyber Security & Threat Prevention

Atlanta Ransomware Attack

The ransomware attack that took hostage a number of vital computer systems in Atlanta last month wreaked havoc on residents and sent the city’s administration scrambling. What can we learn from the situation?

Considering that city officials were aware as early as last summer that “severe and critical vulnerabilities” existed within the municipality’s computer network, the biggest takeaway is: DON’T WAIT to shore up your cyber security.

We’re not in the business of beating dead horses. And, surely, Atlanta officials have their hands full orchestrating the recovery from the attack and trying to return vital operations back to normal. Nonetheless, the fact that a 2017 internal city audit revealed an utter lack of preparedness to manage any sort of cyber threat should not go unmentioned.

What that means is the March 22 attack wasn’t a technology problem. As with most hacking efforts, it’s not the code that sinks you – it’s the human element that’s exploited for criminal gain. In this case, the human element was the inability of city administrators to respond to known threats. Not only was the city not equipped to handle an attack on its networks, it also didn’t have a proper response plan ready.

The number of ransomware attacks spiked sharply in the last year. So, if you don’t have an updated plan for your organization’s network security, you may very well be the next target of SamSam – the group responsible for the Atlanta situation – or another criminal outfit.

The good news is that there’s an army of cyber security professionals who are very skilled at crafting customized solutions. We, at Beacon, have been good at it for quite a while.

Protection Through Prevention

The best way to avoid a ransomware attack is to make sure that your network has a sufficiently strong firewall in place. A firewall identifies incoming web traffic and filters any suspicious or unapproved activity. The effectiveness of any firewall depends on how well it is configured. Typically, large networks require complex firewall configurations and a team of IT specialists for maintenance and monitoring.

Firewalls are great at protecting against known threats. However, new hacking techniques are developed every day. To defend against these zero-day exploits and other sophisticated attacks, IT pros deploy advanced automated audits that boot the threat off the targeted network. About 80% of current Beacon clients rely on this type of advanced protection. And, ideally, that number would be 100%.

Of course, even the most well-designed security setups can be breached. Criminal hackers know that people are the weakest link in network security and design attacks to take advantage of unwitting networks users. (There’s that human element again.) However, the odds of such attacks succeeding are low if your organization takes security awareness training seriously. Security seminars should be made available to every person on staff, and be repeated at least once every three years.

Recovery: It’s Good to Have a Back-Up Plan

Let’s be honest – sometimes hackers succeed even when you’ve done everything right. If that happens, you don’t want to find yourself in the same position as the folks in Atlanta. Backing up your network will protect you in case of a catastrophe.

While the concept is simple, data backup is actually a fairly complex process that takes considerable forethought. You’ll need to decide how often your network needs to be backed up (hourly, daily, weekly, etc). You’ll also have to examine how long your organization can go without access to your data.

A busy medical center, for example, would need to have its data backed up hourly to capture changing patient statuses, doctor’s orders, prescriptions, etc. With lives at stake, it would also be imperative to restore access to that data as quickly as possible.

Organizations that don’t deal with life and death issues would probably have less stringent requirements for their data protection plan.

We’re Here to Help

Have questions about your company’s cyber security? Give BITS a call at 336.546.6660, and we’ll be happy to talk to you about your concerns and data protection needs.

By | 2018-04-12T11:22:11+00:00 April 12th, 2018|IT Services|

It’s Finally Here! See the Birth…

After 8.5 hours of hard labor at M3 on St. Patrick’s Day, our newborn officially arrived at 3:20pm, weighing in at a hefty 4,621 pounds. Under trusted and constant care, Team M3 delivered a bright, healthy and colorful addition to the Beacon family.  We are so thankful for all the attention we are receiving for our carefully wrapped bundle of joy, which we’ve named “The BITS-Mobile”.

Beacon’s IT Services Division (“BITS”), which primarily serves the Triad area (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point) has experienced fast growth over the last year. “The BITS-Mobile will not only provide transportation for our technical staff, but also transport equipment such as servers and desktops to our client sites when necessary,” says Mark Dirks, Beacon’s CEO.  “Since our BITS clients are mostly Triad-based, our marketing team recommended a more traditional ‘mobile’ marketing approach through vehicle graphics for local brand visibility.

Matthews Mobile Media (“M3”) has an incredible team and worked with our design team to produce a really creative and professional design. John Scaramuzzo, Beacon’s co-founder and COO, leads the newly dubbed “BITS” Division and is anticipating continued growth after seeing the client base double over the last 12 months.  “Although my team constantly monitors our clients’ technical infrastructure to maintain system health and deter technical problems, there are times when the staff needs to be on site for installations and to work on specific issues,” says Scaramuzzo.  “BITS is essentially an extension of our client’s organization and it’s important that we can be on-site within minutes.  So the BITS-Mobile is a welcome addition to the Team!”


Special Note from Matthews Mobile Media (M3): “Congratulations!  It’s a BITS mobile!!! We have been clients of Beacon for several years and have benefited from their expert team’s proactive service.  There is no doubt that the personal attention and dedication to client growth is a reflection of their mission.  What a privilege to be a part of the birth of their next generation by helping bring the BITS-Mobile to life.  To us, it is a natural fit because we specialize in mobile.  We help companies from all over express themselves through vehicle and environmental graphics.

We like to turn heads for our clients; that’s what we do! So helping to design, create, produce and apply that ‘outerwear’ for our Beacon’s newborn gives us an exceptional rush!  Who knew IT could be so sexy?  Well… we did ;)

Thank you, Beacon, for letting us outfit your newest addition!  All of us at Team M3 look forward to watching the BITS-Mobile grow up and have a little brother or sister very soon!

By | 2017-04-11T13:17:25+00:00 March 27th, 2017|BITS News|