Posts made in January 2019

Guest Article: Preparing for and Investing in a Dwindling Workforce

As a provider of IT services to the business community we often run across interesting and helpful stories for our clients.  In this guest post, Richard Sontarre, Community Resource Partners, discusses the cause of shortages in the workforce and what to do about it.

Employment variants between Baby Boomers, Gen X’s and Millennial’s can create a unique challenge in hiring, training and team building within your business.

Recent employment data released may cause further concerns over a quality and productivity of our workforce. Minnesota employers reported a record 142,282 job vacancies in Q2 2018, up 15.7% from the same period a year earlier, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). DEED’s biannual job vacancy survey found that the state had 0.6 unemployed people for every job vacancy. The job vacancy rate was 5.2 percent, meaning there were 5.2 openings for every 100 jobs in the state. The number of unemployed people per vacancy was a record low, while the job vacancy rate was a record high. These figures reflect a strong economy and high demand for labor statewide. At the same time, they underscore the need for continued investment in training programs, specifically for Minnesotans on the economic sidelines.

If the number of workers looking to fill positions concerns you, consider this; according to AARP, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every single day, and this is expected to continue into the 2030s. This means that nearly 7 baby boomers are turning 65 every minute. In Minnesota, the number of baby boomers becoming seniors is expected to double over the next 20 years as an additional 784,000 cross the 65-year mark. In the same time period, our working-age population (16-64) is projected to shrink by about 5%, or 170,000 people. That creates an estimated net loss of 954,000 workers.

As such, significant consideration will need to be given to ideas such as utilization of consultants and contractors, plus investing into your own training and development programs to secure and incentivize available, but under skilled, employment candidates.

Community Resource Partners, specializing in image, branding and operations would like to be a tool in your toolbox of success.

Guest article provided by Richard Sontarre, Richard has been consulting in government and business agencies for over 20 years.  His areas of experience have included lobbying, campaigning, branding individuals and businesses, coalition building and operational analysis.  Richard has worked corporately for national and worldwide corporations in the areas of employee relations, operations, leasing and public affairs. Outside of work Richard is a Head Coach for three high school teams and serves as President and Director of Coaching for a youth soccer club.

 

 

Shiny New Gadget of the Month: February

Moov New Fitness Tracker

At Your Computer Hero, we love technology.  Here is one employee’s pick for best tech gadget:

Moov Now is an odd little wearable in a wearable world where the screen is king, this unremarkable disc does not have a display, yet still contains a huge amount of power.

It’s got nearly all the top elements a fitness tracker should have: months of battery life, step tracking, sleep monitoring, fitness updates, cross training and run coaching.  The best part: it. retails on Amazon for only $55.

The Moov Now may not have all the bells and whistles you would associate with a fitness tracker but the six-month battery life is pretty impressive.  Yes, you read that right: six months.

During those six months you can track your steps, your sleep, your fitness, your running technique and a whole lot more. This may be an unconventional fitness tracker, but it’s a great one.

 

Clean Desk Practices to Keep Your Information Safe

Our cubicles and desks can start to feel like home after a while.  It’s great to add that personal touch to our workspace, but it’s important to not let general cyber-safety practices slide no matter how comfortable we feel in our space.

Don’t Write Passwords on Post-It Notes

Don’t write passwords on post-it notes and stick them to your computer monitor (or under your keyboard.)  Writing down passwords is not a great idea in general, but if you do, make sure no one else can find them.

Lock your computer when you’re away from your desk

This is an important rule.  Leaving your computer open when you leave your desk, even for a few minutes, leaves it susceptible to data theft.  Not only can someone access the network, but they may gain access to confidential employee and client records or company financial information.

Secure portable devices

Make sure laptops and other portable devices are locked in a drawer at the end of the night.  This will prevent theft and unauthorized login.

Clear sensitive documents from desk

Documents containing sensitive information shouldn’t be left on an unattended desk.  Make sure paperwork and USB drives are locked up when not in use.

Shut down your computer workstation at the end of the day.

Turning off a computer not only reduces the risk of unauthorized login, but it can help preserve the life of the computer.  When the computer is on, the hard drive is still active, the fans still run and use electricity.  Turning off the computer allows it to install updates and will make it run faster-think of how often you solve a glitchy computer problem by rebooting.

 

Guest Article: Rapid Growth Through Joint Venture Partnership, Iron Shoe Farm

As a provider of IT services to the business community we often run across interesting and helpful stories for our clients.  In this guest post, Carla Martz, owner of Iron Shoe Farm shares their secret sauce for rapid growth:

In five short years, we have grown a hobby farm for personal sustainability into Iron Shoe Farm, a large supplier of produce for consumers and restaurants in the central Minnesota region.

In 2005, our daughter became severely ill with roto virus: a horrible gastral intestinal infection.  Upon returning home from the hospital, my entire pantry was on the kitchen counter. No soy, no gluten, nothing pre-boxed, only fresh fruits, veggies, and clean protein sources were allowed.  I was horrified and struggling to find local, economical food sources. This is when we decided to pursue our dream of a hobby farm.

In 2013, we finally found our property.  A modest farm with a big red barn nestled on 23 acres just east of Princeton, MN.  It was just the right size for what we wanted to do for our family: raise our own meat, have a garden with produce, fresh eggs daily and a great piece of land to call home.

Our vision began to expand when I was discussing our new lifestyle with my chiropractor and I sold my first quarter of beef at that appointment!  Additionally, this local chiropractor lead me to her source for business referrals, inspiration and networking: a powerful group of local business owners and community leaders who meet weekly to generate business for each other.  This group has been the surprising cornerstone of our marketing ever since.

We have continued to expand the boundaries of our vision as we have learned to create powerful joint venture relationships:

  • We now sell at 3 farmers markets and have over 500 direct consumers.
  • We grow and sell microgreens to 20 restaurants in the Twin Cities metro area.
  • Our big red barn has become a secondary location for Rockwood’s events. It is the first event location on agricultural property in Sherburne County!
  • We have been blessed by relationships with Aegir Brewery and Lupulin Brewery. Their spent grains are a feed supplement for our livestock. This partnership saves us nearly $10,000 annually and is shared with other local farmers. As part of this sustainability effort, I serve on the MN brewers guild sustainability council.
  • We’ve partnered with local photographers to utilize our property for on-site mini-sessions.
  • We’ve created partnerships with local master gardener programs and school systems, including University of Minnesota (UMN) students to fulfill their internship hours for course work on “Sustainability in Poultry Raising,” and “Living on the Land” series with UMN Extension.

One of the most important things I have learned in business: I cannot do everything myself!  The most rapid and cost-effective growth can be achieved through joint venture relationships.  This has been the key to our rapid growth and success at Iron Shoe Farm.

Guest article provided by Carla Mertz, Owner of Iron Shoe Farm just north of the Twin Cities. Iron Shoe Farm is a woman owned, Minnesota Grown farm; providing Hereford beef, chicken, heritage and mangalista pork, muscovy duck, Mighty Microgreens, and vegetable produce. We pride ourselves on providing a quality food source for the local communities in Sherburne, Wright, Anoka, Hennepin and Mille Lacs Counties and work with the executive chef in over 20 area restaurants.  Visit us at: www.ironshoefarm.com

 

Shiny New Gadget Of The Month: January

XY4+ Tracking Device

At Your Computer Hero, we love technology.  Here is one employee’s pick for best tech gadget.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you never had to  waste time looking for missing items-keys, cats, children-again?  This cool tech gadget  gets two thumbs up!

  • FIND YOUR LOST ITEMS Whether you’re looking for your keys, wallet, luggage, or making sure Snuggles doesn’t escape the fortress, this tiny yet powerful bluetooth key finder and tracking device easily secures to whatever you don’t want to lose.
  • EASY TO USE ANDROID & iOS APP – You can use the XY Find It app to see where your item was last spotted, and then make your XY4+ ring so you can track it down without even seeing it. But what happens if you lose your phone? Just press the XY logo to make your phone ring – even if it’s on silent!
  • GET NOTIFIED BEFORE THINGS GO MISSING – XY’s KeepNear technology alerts you when you leave important things behind, or when lost items re-enter the range of your phone. You can even setup a specific area for, say, your kid or Snuggles, and if they leave that area, you will get an alert.
  • 2X RANGE, 4X VOLUME, 5X BATTERY LIFE – The XY4+ key tracker is four times louder, has double the range (300 feet), and an incredible battery life of up to 5 years compared to other tracking devices on the market.

 

What Every Business Needs to Know about the Impact of Social Media on Security and Employee Productivity

If you are a CEO that is concerned about employees wasting time online  using non-work related web sites like Facebook or Twitter-OR WORSE, using company resources to access pornography, gambling sites, hate groups or more-then read on.

Why You Should be Concerned

While it’s not uncommon for employees to waste a bit of work time on relatively harmless activities, such as shopping or visiting a favorite sports site, times have changed; employers are learning the hard way that employee use or abuse of a companies Internet system can lead to significant liability and time wasted if not monitored.

For example, one business owner (who will remain nameless) shared that they received a panicked phone call from the office while traveling.  The police had shown up and arrested one of their staff for soliciting a minor online.  Since he was doing this during work hours from the office, that’s where the police showed up to arrest him—clearly a PR nightmare.  And stories like this are happening EVERYWHERE.

Then there’s the wasted time.  Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are addictive.  If your employees are constantly “plugged in” to those sites, they won’t be nearly as productive at work as they should be.

How To Solve This Problem

Protecting your company requires two simple steps at a minimum.  The first is to have a written company policy that details what employees can and can’t do with company resources or during company hours.  Next, you’ll want to have a content filtering system in place that will enforce your policy by automatically  “policing” your company e-mail and Internet usage, blocking sites and content you don’t want your employees to access without hindering their ability to work online.

Mark Twain once said, “Supposing is good, but knowing is better.”  If you want to know for sure how much time your employees are spending on non-work related surfing and what web sites they are accessing, call us at 763-229-4467 to discuss content filtering software.  We’ll discuss the options and find a solution that is right for you.

 

5 Smart Tips to Know before Moving Your Data To a Cloud-Based Application

1.Back It Up!

Migrating data to any new location is a mess and anything can (and usually does) go wrong. Therefore, make sure you have good, recent backup copies of everything before you make the move.

2.Maintain An On-site Copy

At first, moving to the cloud can be a bit scary. What can help mitigate the risk (and the fear) is keeping a local, on-site copy of your data and network image on a NAS (network-attached storage) device. That way you have a local on-site copy in addition to the working cloud copy.

3.Have A “Plan B” To Access The Internet

One of the biggest questions about moving IT to the cloud is, “What if the Internet goes down?” To mitigate that fail point, have a business-class Internet connection as your initial and main way to connect, and then also have a second Internet connection service as a backup. If Comcast is your main connection, you might consider keeping a Verizon wireless account as a backup.

4.Use It As An Opportunity To Do Some Housekeeping

You could just copy and paste your files from your local machines into the cloud, but why not take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate the structure and organization of that data? Here are some ideas:

  • Re-evaluate and/or update your file naming conventions and file organization. A good file naming policy will make it much easier to find files and information. Also, consider reorganizing all the folders into smarter, more efficient categories.
  • Consider who will be using what and what levels of permissions are required to access files. Revisiting your permission levels will help keep sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Look at old files and consider deleting them or archiving them so they aren’t cluttering up your server and costing you money for storing and backing them up.

5.Phase The Move

Don’t try to migrate everything all at once. Create a transition plan and implement it. Make sure you move your files in bite-size pieces so that the changes are easy to digest for your clients, employees, partners and everyone else involved. This also gives you the opportunity to test the water before taking the plunge, and it allows you to put out one fire at a time instead of having all systems down or broken.

 

10 Steps You Can Take to Physically Protect Your Network

  1. Secure entry points: Use a key card for employee access in and out of your building.  This will help prevent unauthorized entry.
  2. Lock screens when away from computer: Have a policy in place for employees to lock their screens when they are away from their desk. Unlocked computers are one of the easiest ways for others to gain access to your network and sensitive information.
  3. Install alarms: While we usually think of cyber-crime as a hacker sitting behind a screen, physical theft of servers and computer equipment is another method criminals will use to gain access to your system. Installing an alarm will act as a deterrent and alert you if there is a break in.
  4. Secure server room: If you have an on-site server, be sure to house it in a secure room that has limited access. The server room should be locked when unoccupied and keys, or passcodes, should only be given to those who need access to the server.
  5. Rack mount your servers: Rack mounted servers are easier to secure. Servers can be locked into closed racks that can be bolted to the floor, making them difficult to move.
  6. Use case locks: Thieves can open a computer, take out the hard drive and slip it into a pocket or bag without being noticed. Use these locks on the actual computers and servers to prevent them from being opened and hard drive stolen.
  7. Secure laptops and other portable devices: Laptops, tablets, and cell phones are an easy target for thieves. They are meant to be portable and no one questions when someone is walking around with one of these devices.  Portable devices should be locked up when not in use for work.
  8. Lockup the backups: Backing up your data is a great way to protect it, but you’ll also want to make sure you have a secure location to store your backups. It is a best practice not to store your backups in, or even near, your server room.
  9. Secure your printers: When a file is sent to a printer it is often stored on the hard drive of the printer both before it prints and even after. If the printer is stolen, the thief could have access to sensitive information and even your network. Keep printers in a secure location. You can also make sure printers are bolted to a table or the floor depending on their size.
  10. Locate your equipment to minimize disaster damage: In addition to making sure your fire alarm is operational you can take some extra precautions to protect your equipment from fire and flood damage. Your server room should have fire-proof doors and a sprinkler system. Keep fire extinguishers throughout your business. Place and store equipment off the floor to help prevent damage in if your building is flooded.