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|

Groundhog Day: 5 Re-occurring Issues Plaguing IT Pros

The jobs of IT professionals are hard enough.

Forget for a moment that they operate in an industry where the rate of change is accelerating exponentially – Moore’s Law states that computing capacity doubles every two years. Put aside the fact that the threat environment which they are paid to counteract increases in complexity every year, also exponentially. Nevermind that such a breakneck pace of innovation requires a continuous learning and updating of best practices and organizational policies.

These are not the most difficult issues IT workers face. The thing that makes a career in IT the most challenging is… us – the end user.

experiencing IT problemsDespite all the hard work and effort that goes into keeping the digital infrastructure of a business, government or non-profit organization secure and operating at peak performance, almost any user can bring down a network (knowingly, or unknowingly) in nearly no time. Worse, when something does go wrong, the assumption tends to be that it’s the IT guy’s fault if an email account won’t refresh or the internet connection becomes inaccessible.

Now, to be fair, it is perfectly legitimate to feel frustration if an indispensable work tool ceases to function. What isn’t fair is ignoring the fact that our own actions and work habits often contribute to the technology problems we experience.

What are some of the most frequent sources of frustration for IT folks? Let’s take a look.

The Groundhog Day IT Issues

We talked to our IT team leaders to learn more about the issues they run into most often. Here are a few of the repeated behaviors they tend to observe:

Minimizing the scope of a computer problem

If, for some reason, a program on your computer shuts down unexpectedly, it’s not a huge deal – provided you can easily recover the work you were doing. Still, a check-in with your IT team is the prudent course of action.

But, if your machine begins a pattern of unusual behavior – like, slower than usual running speed, or a series of unprompted re-starts – ignoring the issue could lead to much bigger problems.

All of our schedules are busy, and none of us have enough time in the day for the work that needs to be done. So, the rush to get past an immediate computer issue is understandable… but, it’s still the absolute wrong mindset.

There’s no telling what the root cause of your problem could be without investigating.  It could be as simple as a failed update. Or, it could be as nefarious as someone attempting to hijack control of your company-issued laptop.

You won’t know. But, your IT team will. Reporting the problem ensures that you’ll have the best possible user experience with your laptop and it also protects your organization from potential hacker exploits.

Non-IT/unqualified personnel troubleshooting problems

The only thing worse than not reporting a computer problem is trying to fix it yourself when you don’t know what you’re doing. Even if you fancy yourself a computer expert, you don’t necessarily know all the programs, systems and protocols in place on your company computer. If a problem requires more than a simple re-boot, your IT team is in the best possible position to resolve the issue promptly and properly.

Ignoring updates/restart prompts

Updates are needed to keep your computer up to date with all the latest security patches. But, too many of us hit the “Cancel” or “Ignore” button when the restart prompt pops up.

Yeah, it’s annoying and mildly inconvenient to have to stop what you’re doing in order to accommodate an update you didn’t know you needed. But, the upside is often an improved user experience. And, you get to avoid the downside – your machine being an open vulnerability for hackers.

phishing Success of phishing scams and other social engineering exploits

Unfortunately, people are always the weakest link in any digital security setup. We don’t mean to be, or want to be, for that matter. But, that doesn’t stop the immense volume of social engineering exploits hackers deploy each and every day.

Phishing or spoofing scams – where bad actors trick you into providing login access or personal information – work all too well. And, it’s not just the least experienced computer users who fall for these tricks. These types of hacks can be extremely sophisticated and difficult to spot.

Under-investing in needed equipment

This behavior has less to do with everyday employees and more with the managed approach to maintaining an organization’s digital infrastructure. Too often, investment into the required equipment lacks a systematic process.

A business may upgrade its servers or network switches one or two at a time, whenever they find a good deal or a sale. Or, an organization might make a new purchase when something breaks or exceeds its warranty. However, such a piecemeal approach results in network components of different quality, age and capability. And that’s not a great recipe for reliability or peak performance.

handsHow to Help Your IT Team

So, what can we do to make their lives just a tad easier? Following the below suggestions can help you win a few more friends in the IT department.

Treat company hardware/software as a business asset

Remember, there’s a lot of work that goes into keeping your work computer functioning as it should. Plus, there’s a difference in technical requirements between your workstation and your personal laptop. So, you can’t treat your work computer just like you would your personal one.

Don’t troubleshoot above your pay grade

You might be tempted to go down a rabbit hole and figure out a solution to your computer problem on your own. But, why? That’s not the best use of your time. And, you might end up making things worse. Let the professionals handle it.

Follow prescribed policies and protocols

Your IT team spends time developing and maintaining policies and protocols that keep your business infrastructure safe and your workstations operating efficiently. Trust your team and follow their advice.

Training & vigilance

Security training is a great way to increase your ability to spot phishing and spoofing attacks. Take advantage of your security training program, if your office has one. And, if it doesn’t, ask your IT team how to best get up to speed on the latest threats.

IT equipmentInvest in needed equipment proactively, not reactively 

If you ask, we bet your IT team has a vision for how to best maintain and procure the equipment it needs to support the organization’s digital infrastructure. Get that vision formalized into an official plan. This will provide a long-range investment and procurement strategy and ensure that your network will perform as needed now and in the future.

Beacon Knows IT

Want to know how well your digital network is adapted to the demands of your business? Find out by requesting a free audit by the IT experts at BITS.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:02+00:00 February 20th, 2020|BITS Team, IT Services|