Posts made in May 2019

Nerdy Talk: How to Communicate with Your IT Guy to Save Money and Get it Fixed Fast…And How He Should Respond.

by Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero 

I am going to give the answer right here in the first sentence: As calm as possible, explain the facts of the problem in the simplest, most non-technical terms Sound simple?

The reality is, amid a frustrating and costly technology failure, good communication is usually the first thing to exit the building.  This is normal and expected!  Any IT professional worth their weight will be able to skillfully navigate through communication under pressure-this is the “art” of our business, the rest is mostly science.  In the remainder of this article I am going to share the five communication principles that I expect our Tech Heroes to employ under pressure to help them stay laser focused on finding and fixing technology problems fast.  I have developed them through 15 years and over 16,000 conversations about technology problems.

Principle #1:  Get over it!  Blustery talk on the part of a frustrated technology user comes with the territory, stay calm.  IT problems stop workflow and cost money. This can be extremely frustrating and can raise the ire of even the calmest CEO.  The IT professional must weather the storm of this frustration and stay focused on gathering facts and solving the problems.  Becoming offended or emotionally involved in the problem does not make for good IT problem solving.  Stay Calm! From the moment the conversation begins, listen intently for facts, and get to work!

 

Principle #2: Respect! Respect the client’s IT knowledge.  Company CEO’s have all levels of IT knowledge.  Some have vast IT knowledge but hire a consultant so they can remain focused on other things, while others do not want to tackle even the simplest IT problem.  Either way, the client’s attitudes about the problem and depth of interest in the solutions must become part of the communication and solution.

 

Principle #3: No Nerdy Talk! Keep all talk in layman’s terms.  Everyone understands plain English.  No technical terms, it confuses people and reeks of pride-violating principle #2.

 

Principle #4: Stay Out of the Rabbit Holes! Understand the difference between theories and facts.  Often, a frustrated potential client will call after investing their own time and energy in an attempt to fix their technology problem.  The client will usually share a couple of theories about what is causing the problem  or how to fix it.  These theories are often plausible, they’re always informative, but they also contain some of the biggest time wasting “rabbit holes” to efficient problem solving.  Questioning should be directed at facts: “What error message are you seeing?”, “What exactly do you see when you turn on your computer?,” etc.

 

Principle #5: Stay relevant!  When a CEO says, “I don’t want to know anything,” there is still relevant insight to be gained from the technology failure that will help them run their business. “I don’t want to know anything,” means they don’t want to know how to fix the technology problem.  They certainly want to know if there is something they can do to avoid this problem in the future such as having different software, different hardware, or different training for employees.

 

The communication gap between IT professionals and non-IT professionals is so cliché, it has become the fodder for many good jokes in our culture.  Our goal at Your Computer Hero is to take the art of communication seriously and hone our ability to gather relevant facts that lead to efficient fixes for our clients.

 

 

 

  

June: Shiny New Gadget of the Month

Tech Gadgets that Improve Productivity, Security or Efficiency in the workplace

One of the most annoying things about running a business is keeping track of all those receipts!  Here’s where Doxie Go SE, the portable scanner, comes in.

Scan your paper documents, receipts or photos, and send them to your computer or cloud service in a split second. Doxie Go SE is compact, lightweight and doesn’t take up more space than a rolled up magazine, so you can bring it with you anywhere. Its rechargeable battery will last you for up to 400 scans per charge.

Don’t have a computer with you? Not a problem for Doxie Go SE. No drivers are required – just insert your document and scan. Doxie Go SE will save the scans on its expandable SD card or send them straight to your e-mail or favorite cloud app.  Doxi Go SE retails for about $150.00 on Amazon.

 

Don’t Be a Sitting Duck! 7 Security Measures Every Small Business Should Have in Place Now!

Small businesses are under attack. Right now, extremely dangerous and well-funded cybercrime rings in China, Russia and the Ukraine are using sophisticated software systems to hack into thousands of small businesses to steal credit cards and client information, and swindle money directly out of bank accounts. Some are even being funded by their own government to attack small, virtually defenseless businesses.

 

Don’t think you’re in danger because you’re “small” and not a big target like a J.P. Morgan or Home Depot?

 

Think again. 82,000 NEW malware threats are being  released every single day and HALF of the cyber-attacks occurring are aimed  at small businesses; you just don’t hear about it because it’s kept quiet for  fear of attracting bad PR, lawsuits and data-breach fines.

 

In fact, the National Cyber Security Alliance reports that one in five small businesses have been victims of cybercrime in the last year – and that number is growing rapidly as more businesses utilize cloud computing and mobile devices, and store more information online.  You can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper without learning about the latest online data breach, and government fines and regulatory agencies are growing in number and severity.

 

Because of all of this, it’s critical that you have these 7 security measures in place:

 

1.Train Employees On Security Best Practices. The #1 vulnerability for business networks are the employees using them. It’s extremely common for an employee to infect an entire network by opening and clicking a phishing e-mail (that’s an e-mail cleverly designed to look like a legitimate e-mail from a web site or vendor you trust). If they don’t know how to spot infected e-mails or online scams, they could compromise your entire network.

 

2. Create An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) – And Enforce It! An AUP outlines how employees are permitted to use company-owned PCs, devices, software, Internet access and e-mail. We strongly recommend putting a policy in place that limits the web sites employees can access with work devices and Internet connectivity. Further, you have to enforce your policy with content-filtering software and firewalls. We can easily set up permissions and rules that will regulate what web sites your employees access and what they do online during company hours and with company-owned devices, giving certain users more “freedom” than others. Having this type of policy is particularly important if your employees are using their own personal devices to access company e-mail and data.  If that employee is checking unregulated, personal e-mail on their own laptop that infects that laptop, it can be a gateway for a hacker to enter YOUR network. If that employee leaves, are you allowed to erase company data from their phone?  If their phone is lost or stolen, are you permitted to remotely wipe the device – which would delete all of that employee’s photos, videos, texts, etc. – to ensure YOUR clients’ information isn’t compromised? Further, if the data in your organization is highly sensitive, such as patient records, credit card information, financial information and the like, you may not be legally permitted to allow employees to access it on devices that are not secured; but that doesn’t mean an employee might not innocently “take work home.” If it’s a company-owned device, you need to detail what an employee can or cannot do with that device, including “rooting” or “jailbreaking” the device to circumvent security mechanisms you put in place.

3. Require STRONG passwords and passcodes to lock mobile devices. Passwords should be at least 8 characters, randomized and contain lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols and at least one number. On a cell phone, requiring a passcode to be entered will go a long way toward preventing a stolen device from being compromised. Again, this can be ENFORCED by your network administrator so employees don’t get lazy and choose easy-to-guess passwords, putting your organization at risk.

 

4. Keep Your Network Up-To-Date. New vulnerabilities are frequently found in common software programs you are using, such as Microsoft Office; therefore it’s critical you patch and update your systems frequently. If you’re under a managed IT plan, this can all be automated for you so you don’t have to worry about missing an important update.

 

5. Have An Excellent Backup. This can foil the most aggressive (and new) ransomware attacks, where a hacker locks up your files and holds them ransom until you pay a fee. If your files are backed up, you don’t have to pay a crook to get them back. A good backup will also protect you against an employee accidentally (or intentionally!) deleting or overwriting files, natural disasters, fire, water damage, hardware failures and a host of other data-erasing disasters. Again, your backups should be AUTOMATED and monitored; the worst time to test your backup is when you desperately need it to work!

 

6. Don’t allow employees to download unauthorized software or files. One of the fastest ways cybercriminals access networks is by duping unsuspecting users to willfully download malicious software by embedding it within downloadable files, games or other “innocent”-looking apps. This can largely be prevented with a good firewall and employee training and monitoring.

 

7. Don’t Scrimp On A Good Firewall. A firewall acts as the frontline defense against hackers blocking everything you haven’t specifically allowed to enter (or leave) your computer network. But all firewalls need monitoring and maintenance, just like all devices on your network. This too should be done by your IT person or company as part of their regular, routine maintenance.

 

If you have questions or concerns about implementing any of these critical security measures, call our shop to schedule a security assessment. We help our client sleep at night knowing that they have done all they can to prevent security breaches.

 

 

VoIP Phone Systems: Cost, Dependability, Sound Quality and Features.

by Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero

Last month’s most interesting project was the installation of a VoIP phone system for one of our clients.  The business owner was frustrated with the lack of features on his aging traditional phones but reluctant to move to VoIP because he believed the sound quality would not be as good.  After we did a thorough evaluation of his existing infrastructure, he decided to go ahead with the install.  The process highlighted some interesting perceptions business owners may have about VoIP, so I thought it would be a good topic for this month’s newsletter. 

In this article I want to define what VoIP is, explore the cost, dependability and sound quality when compared to traditional phone lines as well discuss why many companies are now switching VoIP phone systems.

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. The VoIP Phone is essentially a specialized computer that connects through the same lines as your internet.  It is an alternative to traditional telephone network that runs over a copper wire infrastructure that has been in place in America since Alexander Graham Bell started building the network in about 1900.

Cost, Dependability and Sound Quality

Initial cost of a VoIP phone system will include the phones and installation-prices vary widely depending on the phone features and the size of the network but when compared to traditional phone systems often can save money, especially if existing phones are in need of an upgrade.

Dependability and sound quality are tied to the bandwidth, firewall configuration and wired data connectivity.  When we install these systems, as with any upgrade that will put demand on the existing infrastructure, we do an initial site survey to make sure your network will support the data traffic from the phones and give you the results you are looking for.   If upgrades are needed to the infrastructure, that is part of the initial planning.

There are 3 primary reasons why people switch to VoIP phone systems: Features & Function, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.

Features and Function-VoIP phone systems offer a much wider range of features that traditional phones do not.  Some features include:

  • Find me/follow me routing
  • Voice Mail to Email Transcription
  • Hold Music of your choosing
  • Bandwidth utilization and inbound/outbound call detail reports
  • Coaching Tools
  • Conferencing
  • Auto-attendant
  • Call Screening
  • Do Not Disturb

Business ContinuityFind me/follow me routing allows calls to be forwarded to your office.  Additionally, since your phone is essentially a computer, it can be treated like a laptop.  Your office phone can be used anywhere you are by taking it with you and plugging it into an Ethernet jack.

Disaster Recoverywith VoIP phone systems, the only equipment that is at the office are the headsets, if those are destroyed, phone services can be accessed via the cloud so there is no need to worry about disaster recovery. If something should happen to your office, employees can continue working from anywhere, numbers can be rerouted to cell phone or another headset and voicemails will still be in the cloud or on email.

Is VoIP right for your business?

If you are thinking about replacing aging phones, are frustrated with your current phone system or believe your business would benefit from the many features of a VoIP system, give our shop a call at 763-229-4467.  We would be happy to answer your questions.