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 | 2019-07-25T12:09:12+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 | 2019-06-26T07:46:42+00:00 June 25th, 2019|System Administration, Computer Related, IT Services|

Managed IT Services: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

This time of year many of us are on the hunt for presents. Toys and games for kids, sparkly jewelry for the ladies in our lives, gadgets and sports gear for the guys, pictures of the grand-kids for the grandparents… a little something for everyone. It feels good to bring joy to your loved ones.

While your small business isn’t a person, it can certainly feel like an animated presence in your life. After all, you worry about its growths and ability to sustain itself, just like you do with your kids. So, maybe this year your business deserves a present, too.

One of the most caring and forward-looking things you can do to help your business is to retain an expert team of IT professionals to secure your network, your servers and the work stations your employees use. Considering the sheer volume of known cyber threats out there, no enterprise can afford to short shrift its network security. And while an in-house IT person is certainly capable of managing some of your IT needs, the truth is, it takes a full team to provide the kind of protection a successful business requires.

Benefits of IT Support Services

Time is an important and valuable resource. For small businesses with tight margins, it is imperative that employees allocate their time to required tasks efficiently. A wasted couple of hours here and there could have a dramatic effect on the bottom line.

Smart business owners build contingency plans into their project timelines to minimize disruption. However, even contingency plans can’t account for a cascade of network or computer-related issues.

Most of us know from experience that figuring out network problems or dealing with software updates gone wrong can suck up tons of time. Even if your IT staff is there to help, their attention is taken away from other scheduled IT projects.

Having a team of professionals at the ready to solve whatever problems come up takes the burden off the shoulders of your employees and the in-house IT staff. It should also give you peace of mind to know that your issue is being taken care of by a capable and dedicated group of people, trained specifically to resolve the problem you are experiencing.

It pays to contract an IT services company that is in relatively close proximity to your business. The best managed IT service providers have the capability to respond quickly to emergencies, providing in-person, on-site assistance when needed.

Prevention = Cost Savings

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin

While the original quote by Benjamin Franklin was about fire safety, the axiom applies equally well to network security. Managed IT services can help your business avoid a number of problems that could lead to downtime and loss of revenue without tying up your in-house resources.

More than a few businesses succumb to ransomware attacks or other nefarious intrusions to their network every year. You can’t predict when such attacks may happen, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid being targeted. What you can do is be as prepared as possible.

The best way to do that is to have an experienced and reliable team set up your defenses. A robust firewall and data backup solutions protect your business network from cyber criminals. But, if the absolute worst happens and your defenses are compromised, a good managed IT service provider will help you activate your emergency response plan, isolate the threat, transfer your data to a secure server or cloud, and keep your downtime to a minimum.

Preventative maintenance of your company computers, including software patches to guard against the latest security exploits, also contributes greatly to business continuity. So, it makes sense to place this responsibility in the hands of trained professionals, too. After all, you hired your employees to be experts in their subject matter. The less time your team spends on routine maintenance concerns, the more time they can devote to doing the job they were hired for.

Beacon Knows IT

So, while we’re still in the midst of shopping season, don’t forget to get your business something nice. Give BITS a call. We’ll be happy to put together a custom solution for your business and make 2019 your best year yet!

By | 2018-12-20T06:35:29+00:00 December 20th, 2018|IT Services|

Why Locality Matters for Managed IT Services

Many companies rely on managed IT services to help them keep their computers secure and in peak performing conditions. It isn’t too difficult to find a provider that can keep your software up to date, make sure the latest security patches are implemented, or execute regular data backups.

The decision to “farm out” the upkeep of a company’s digital infrastructure is a smart one for many businesses. After all,

if technical/computer know-how has nothing to do with your industry, it doesn’t always make sense to devote an entire department to a skill set you know little about operationally.

That said, your organizational digital infrastructure is an important part of running your business. You want to make sure that the vendor you choose to hire has both, sound technical capabilities and trustworthiness.  Undoubtedly, these are very important decision points.

However, one thing that some decision-makers may overlook is the location of your IT support providers. In fact, in today’s ultra-connected and shrinking world, it may seem old-fashioned, maybe even uncool, to base a  vendor selection criteria around the concept of locality.

With the ever-expanding cloud economy, you may assume that IT is the last industry where physical location matters. After all, a tech can fix a problem on your work computer in seconds via remote access from anywhere in the world.

This is, of course, true. So, why does locality matter?

Face-to-Face Interactions Are Still Important

Knowing your clients is another old-fashioned business value.

Most businesses that rely on vendors for IT security and support believe that the less they hear from the vendor the better. No news is good news. Much like your favorite football team’s offensive line, if you’re talking about it, it’s probably because there’s a problem.

At BITS, we take a different view. Our aim is to develop and maintain close working relationships with all of our clients through regular conversations. We know that an offensive line can only protect your quarterback if it knows the game plan. Moreover, if the defense calls a blitz and you need to change the play at the line of scrimmage, the new play will only work if your linemen know the audible calls.

Football analogies aside, communication is still an important aspect of managing your vendors. And, as old-fashioned as face-to-face meetings and onsite visits may seem, they still offer the best methods of ensuring that the team you hire to protect you has the necessary information and understanding to do the job properly.

We believe you should treat your IT vendor as a full member of your team, and include them in pertinent business discussions. We want to be in the huddle with you.

Project Planning

Close integration with your IT vendor fosters operational familiarity and increases efficiency. But, it can also help your provider anticipate your needs and help you with project planning.

If you’re expanding or moving offices, for example, it makes sense to involve your IT services team in the planning stages. Such a project is a logistical monster. Your vendor can provide valuable advice by recommending the best types of equipment, an efficient computer network setup, and a new emergency response plan.

No matter what kind of project you’re undertaking, the more your managed IT services vendor knows about your operational cycles, technology use patterns and future goals, the more they can do to move your projects forward quickly and efficiently.

Beacon Knows IT

If you want a closer, more responsive relationship with the team responsible for your IT operations and security, give us a call at 336.546.6660. See what you’ve been missing.

By | 2018-11-27T08:59:13+00:00 August 16th, 2018|BITS Team, IT Services|