Collaboration Tools Help Boost Productivity

The expectations set forth by businesses might seem impossible until you consider that collaboration has enabled more productivity than ever seen before. Modern collaboration tools have the capability to completely change the way your organization approaches certain tasks. With the right collaboration tools, you can overcome just about any obstacle, including geographic distance and many others.

 

We’ll start off by going over some of the most common collaboration tools used by businesses of just about any size.

Cloud-Based Collaboration

Your business likely utilizes the cloud in several ways as is, but in case it doesn’t, your organization can benefit considerably by implementing the right cloud solutions. In particular, you should be implementing collaboration solutions that give your employees the opportunity to work together on documents, sheets, projects, and so on, all at the same time in a secure environment. These types of cloud-based collaboration tools open up countless possibilities for your business to get work done out of the office.

Instant Messaging

Being able to send and receive messages at any given time to get practically immediate answers to questions or inquiries is beneficial to completing any workflow. To this end, instant messaging provides a way to take the guesswork out of when someone will respond to an email message or return a missed call/voicemail.

Collaboration Hubs

Collaboration solutions are becoming more and more common in countless forms, with many of them accessible through intranets or single points of contact. One great example of this is Slack, which offers communication and collaboration tools for individuals, teams, departments, and more, all based on the organization’s specifications. These collaboration hubs are what give businesses and their employees the tools to stay connected and efficient while working on projects or other tasks.

Video Conferencing

It’s hard to work together with someone when they aren’t in the same physical location as you, but it doesn’t have to be challenging… with the right technology at your fingertips, that is. Video conferencing gives your organization the ability to communicate “face-to-face” even if your employees are in different physical locations. Video conferencing also has other features that you can opt into, such as integration with various other tools your organization utilizes.

 

VentureNet can help your business implement the collaboration tools designed to help organizations be as efficient with their time and resources as possible. To learn more about how you can implement collaboration tools, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Avoid Downtime to Control Costs

Downtime can break your business if you let it. Not all organizations have the ability to recover from downtime, and it shows when it matters most. Preventing downtime from occurring doesn’t require immense foresight. Rather, it requires the right mindset. We’ll discuss what downtime really is, what its effects are, and what you can do to keep it from influencing operations at your organization.

What is Downtime?

Downtime doesn’t have an easy definition, as it can be caused by a data breach, a natural disaster, hardware failure, or any other instance where your operations are affected enough that you cannot operate efficiently, or without taking a loss. We want to emphasize that the cause of the downtime doesn’t matter–the only thing that does matter is that your business isn’t functioning properly, and it shows.

 

Keeping downtime from happening is critical to the success of your business. Some instances of downtime might be hard to prevent, like the Internet or electricity going down, but you need to have countermeasures in place that allow you to make the most of any difficult circumstance.

What Are the Effects?

Let’s say that the electricity goes out and your business can’t function properly. Your employees might be sitting around in the dark, talking or not getting any work done. They can’t do anything without computers, so you can’t really fault them; still, the fact that your organization is at the mercy of electricity to keep your technology running should be telling.

 

Consider all of the time you’re paying these employees for just sitting around, working or not. Ask yourself how much revenue you’re losing out on due to clients not being able to access your infrastructure. Imagine how much you lose from not being able to provide support as it’s needed. It all combines to create a truly devastating blow to your business’s bottom line.

 

Now imagine the issues that come from trying to fix your organization’s downtime issues. It might be replacing a server unit, or implementing a solution that resolves a specific problem. Damage control means managing these risks so that the strain they place on your business doesn’t cause your organization to suffer needlessly.

What Should You Do?

Proactive technology maintenance can make sure your business suffers from a minimal amount of downtime. The right technology solutions can help your business effectively manage its technology in a way that actively prevents disasters rather than embraces and responses to them. To learn more about how our professional technology consultants can help your business, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

How to Handle All the IoT Brought Into Your Business

The Internet of Things has forced businesses to think about the threats that countless mobile devices pose when they access a network, and it’s not something that is going away anytime soon. How can your business be as prepared as possible for the Internet of Things? We’ll give you some ideas for how you can address Internet of Things devices on your company’s network infrastructure.

 

The Internet of Things is a massive network of interconnected devices, many of which have not traditionally been known for their network connectivity. Some great examples of these devices include kitchen appliances, small mobile devices like smart watches, and other industry-specific and consumer goods. These devices are known to communicate with one-another and send data across networks that they are attached to, making them a potential data disaster just waiting to happen. Therefore, businesses need to be cognizant of the threat these devices pose.

 

You can start by implementing what’s called an Internet of Things policy. It basically boils down to how you handle Internet of Things devices in your office.

You Can’t Stop Them All

The important thing to remember is that you can’t stop all devices from making their way into your office. It’s just impossible–there will always be that one employee who ignores the rules you set forth regarding wearable technology or Internet of Things devices. Understanding this is critical to protecting your organization’s network infrastructure.

But You Can Limit Their Influence

While you can’t keep all devices off your network, you can put measures in place to limit their influence. In particular, you can implement adequate security measures, including a unified threat management system to keep affected devices from causing trouble for your organization. Furthermore, a Bring Your Own Device policy will require your employees to adhere to certain rules you put in place regarding their personal devices.

 

More than anything else, your organization needs to consider that the more devices are accessing your organization’s network, the more danger and the more that’s at stake. You need to adequately prepare for the Internet of Things, as well as remain cognizant of the threats it contains. VentureNet can help your business stay safe from the Internet of Things. To learn more about what we can do for your business, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Technology You Never Think Of

For the modern worker, the technology your company provides is a big deal. In fact, it has been known to be a point of contention among younger workers when their organizations don’t provide them with top notch tech. So, to say that there is a focus on technology would be accurate. Regardless of what your business does, there is a good chance that if you use technology regularly that it is made possible by other technology that you’ve probably never heard about. We’ll take a look at some of this mystery tech and how it helps run the tech you have come to depend on at work and at home.

Managed Code

By now everyone knows that software is written in code. There are dozens of different kinds of code that are used to create workable software. Since it is such a complicated landscape, developers can take all the help they can get. To relieve some burden on system hardware there is code called “managed code” that actually runs on a virtual machine rather than on bare hardware. Users may never know the difference, but managed code software makes for a more stable and secure platform. This speed, reliability, and security isn’t lost on users, but the managed code is. Microsoft’s .NET language is a prevalent example.

The Transistor

Of all the great inventions of the 20th century, the transistor may just be the most important. It is just a switch that is controlled by flows of electricity, but the innovation of that has produced the society we now find ourselves living in. Transistors that are linked together create circuits, which make up the ground floor of modern computing.

 

The first CPU, the Intel 4004, had 2,300 transistors. Today, modern chip manufacturers create systems that support hundreds of millions of transistors. This allows modern computers to do the computational work necessary to run modern software. If it wasn’t for the transistor, however, no digital logic exists, and without that, there are no computers. Since computers run, or at least facilitate, most of human existence these days, the world would look a lot different without transistor technology.

The Battery

The battery is looked on as an afterthought a lot of the time, but since the growth of mobile technology the battery has more attention than ever. The big shift was the invention of the lithium-ion battery. Since the first rechargeable batteries were made with lead, portability was going to be a problem (as it is very heavy). The lithium-ion battery, made from the lightest metal, can store more energy than any other metal, per ounce. Lighter batteries allow for smaller devices.

 

The biggest drawback to the lithium-ion battery has been, and currently still is, the amount of time that one can hold a charge. Innovations in battery technology have moved the needle, improving battery charge with the use of nanotechnology. Battery power is seeing somewhat of a sea change as of late with the inclusion of fuel cell technology. Whatever researchers come up with is sure to advance the capabilities of mobile tech even further than we can imagine.

VoIP

If you are a regular to our newsletter and blog, you know that we periodically talk about the value that Voice over Internet Protocol can have for your company. What is often overlooked about VoIP, however, is just how it is revolutionizing telecommunications.

 

By using a broadband connection to provide a reliable telephone system, the cable company is quickly becoming the top residential telephone provider; and, for a business, there are plenty of great options that cover a lot of ground. By smoothing the edges between the digital solutions that are more prevalent in business, and the tried-and-true telephone experience that every business needs, VoIP has an intriguing place in both the office and the home.

High-Speed Internet Access

High-speed Internet access is completely taken for granted. It’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago that we were using dial-up modems. All that streaming video, all those apps, VoIP calls and multiplayer online games, all of that are results of faster Internet speeds.

 

Advancements are still happening. Fiber to the premises (FTTP) promises direct access to very fast Internet. WiMax, short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a new technology that promises to provide portable mobile broadband access across large spans of land and separate municipalities. As time goes on, and 5G wireless becomes commonplace, there is a good chance that the world will change again. This is a testament to what high-speed Internet access means for individuals and businesses, alike.

 

Technology surrounds us, and most of it we don’t pay any mind to. New solutions are presented all the time that makes the tech we depend on escape our mind, but without them, none of this can be possible.

Data Backup Carries Powerful Value

World Backup Day is a time when every business should contemplate whether or not they have proper data backup strategies in place. Considering it was about a month ago, did your organization take the time to think about it? Granted, there isn’t a single day in the year that could explain what your data means to your business, the importance of data backup, and that your businesses should always do what it can to avoid data loss.

The Causes of Data Loss

Approximately seven-of-ten companies experience some type of data loss, so you need to do your part to understand what causes it. Consider how much data you could lose from a natural disaster or user error. Natural disasters only account for roughly one percent of all lost data, however, so while protecting against something massive like that is prudent, it is dwarfed by the 78 percent caused by hardware failure or other system malfunctions.

How Does Perception Influence Data Loss?

It’s clear that most of the attention regarding data loss comes from external factors, such as natural disasters or hacking attacks, even though the majority of problems arise from failing to take care of your network infrastructure and hardware. That being said, it’s important to consider whether this fact actually matters. Data loss is data loss, no matter how it happens, and while the consequences of any given disaster might vary, it’s important to keep this in mind.

 

This isn’t to say that the causes don’t matter–rather, we want you to keep in mind how you can prevent the causes from leading to data loss. Understanding why data loss occurs in the first place is the best preventative measure you can hope to leverage, but data backup is going to be the catalyst that enables you to recover from data loss of any kind.

Guaranteeing Data Backup

Reliability is key to making sure that your data backup doesn’t wind up holding your organization back from a recovery scenario. It’s easy to find yourself in a situation where you need to recover data, only to find that it’s corrupted or unavailable. This is why you always test your backups and store them in the cloud. Not only will they be accessible when they’re needed most, but they will also be practically guaranteed to work as needed. You can never go wrong with data backup. It will pay for itself in the long run.

 

To learn more about how your organization can take advantage of data backup and disaster recovery, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Consider Killing a Server Before it Kills Your Business

We thought we would do something a little bit different for this week’s tip. Instead of giving you some software tips or some kind of thing you can use to make your business more productive, we thought that we’d help you with the thing that you already know, but may not realize:

 

Server maintenance is incredibly important.

 

You might be thinking, “well, no duh”, but you would be surprised how many small and medium-sized business owners don’t actively manage and maintain their centralized hardware.

 

For any type of business that relies on onsite servers, ensuring that they are working effectively creates a degree of efficiency. When data is easily accessible and reliably secure an organization has fewer problems all the way around. Processes move efficiently, workflows aren’t interrupted, and your staff’s time, undeniably your organization’s biggest expense, is used constructively.

 

If your hardware is getting on in years and there are signs that there is a major problem on the horizon, however, you have to start making some determinations that aren’t always all that welcome but aren’t necessarily dire either. At this point, you can likely still manage the hardware in a way that it won’t fail before you have a chance to move applications, storage, or processing to a new server. If you don’t address the situation, however, there is more room for risk to turn into major operational problems. Without a comprehensive plan to manage and maintain your servers you are accepting high levels of risk.

 

Let’s face it, you don’t exactly have a spare server in your back room, after all. Even if you did, the server in your back room isn’t the same as the one you lean on daily to help run your business. A failing server equals downtime, there’s no way around it; but it doesn’t have to get to that point.

 

At VentureNet, our technicians use cutting-edge technology fueled by automation to mitigate minor server issues before they can destroy your efficiency. We offer the following services:

 

  1. Proactive Maintenance– With our state-of-the-art tools, we manage the health of your business by keeping your hardware and network working effectively. Issues that arise are dealt with by our team of remote technicians so that you have fair warning if your hardware needs to be replaced, promoting organizational uptime, and keeping revenue generating processes working as intended.
  2. Patch Management – We also support your organization by making certain that its software resources are patched and up-to-date, providing new features and reducing vulnerabilities.
  3. Backup and Disaster Recovery– We also promote a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery strategy. Using powerful backup processes and the power of the cloud, we promote data redundancy, ensuring that if something happens where you lose data, you can restore from a backup and keep going.
  4. Consulting and Procurement– We provide professional consulting that will position your company to interact with some of the best IT vendors on the market, providing the IT solutions your business needs when they need them.

 

If your business could use any of our server maintenance services to keep your business running efficiently, call us today at 214-343-3550.

Social Media Scams and Everything You Should Know

Social media has overtaken both the professional and personal aspects of online communication and connection, and while it might provide a considerable boon for both, it increases the odds of being contacted by scams and other malicious attempts. The best way to make sure you don’t fall prey to a scam is to remain vigilant. Today we’ll discuss the various scams that are created for use with social media.

 

Many of these might not seem to apply to a business’ social media presence, but we assure you that it’s worth considering. Furthermore, considering how easy it is to blend the two together, we urge you to limit how closely linked your personal and professional social media accounts are, as a breach on either end could put the other one in danger.

 

Gossip Scams

“See PHOTOS of the celebrity that secretly lives in your area!” “You’d never believe who DWAYNE JOHNSON spends his free time with!” “You’ll be SHOCKED to learn which beloved ‘90s sitcom cast formed a blood cult!”

 

Chances are you’ve seen some Facebook ads like those above or have seen someone you know sharing them on their news feed. People look at the lives of celebrities and try to live vicariously through their experiences, and it often leads them to falling prey to scams by downloading malware. Avoiding these scams is relatively simple, as long as you can avoid clicking on gossipy headlines. Besides, if you’re ever asked to download a program, it should be from the actual source, not a sketchy website that you’ve been redirected to.

Nigerian Scam/Stuck Abroad Scam

“Hello Dearest Friend, I am Prince Akinola. During the recent uprising in my country, my father was murdered in his sleep. To protect his riches, I seek a trustworthy Person to help me transfer 3 million US dollars into an account for a time. Helping me, you will be able to keep 35% of it to use as you see Fit. Please reply to me immediately with your name and phone number so I can leave this country and transfer the money to you.”

 

These are some of the more infamous scams, originally appearing in Nigeria and spreading worldwide. Instead of providing you with a percentage of a fortune, the victim has their banking credentials stolen, or they are asked to pay processing fees before a payment can be delivered.

 

“I’m so glad I got the chance to send this message. I’m overseas in Europe and my wallet was stolen! I need $1,300 to get home. Could you wire over the money for me?”

 

In this version of the scam, a hacker will take over someone’s account and spread a story of being stranded overseas, desperately in need of money so they can find a way home. In cases like this, verification of the story needs to happen, whether it’s from someone closer to this friend or from a family member.

Lottery Scams/Who Viewed Your Profile Scam/IQ Scam

“Congratulations! A gift card worth $1500 is reserved for you!”

 

While it would certainly be nice to win some money, you know what they say… if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Some of these scams will ask for contact information so they can charge data fees to you, while others will flat-out steal your banking credentials. It’s very important that you keep in mind that you can’t win a contest you haven’t entered.

 

“Want to know who’s been looking at your profile? Install this application to find out.”

 

This particular scam tries to use popularity and curiosity as a means to get users to install a malicious application. While it might be nice to have more people notice a post, remember that scammers often utilize these traits to their advantage.

 

“Your IQ evaluation is finished. We’ll need a few more details to calculate your score, including your age and phone number.”

 

These apps and plugins will offer to test your intelligence, which appeals to the average user’s curiosity about their IQ score. These might ask for your phone number or other information, which in turn creates expenses for the user.

Account Cancelled Scam

“We are writing you to confirm the account cancellation request that your submitted. To confirm or cancel this cancellation request, please link click below. Thank you, The Facebook Team”

 

Receiving a message about an account being cancelled might not seem like a suspicious thing to receive in your email but take a closer look. It might be a message from someone trying to steal your login credentials. Look for grammar and spelling errors in the message. After all, the real Facebook or Twitter has plenty of capital to hire editors and other professionals to ensure their messages are properly handled.

 

Photo of You Scam

“Oh my god! LOL is this actually a photo of you?”

 

Some scammers can replicate another user’s profile and attempt to scam others with a message indicating shock at the user being in a photo. The link will then provide the scammer with information about the user. Try not to click on links that don’t look right and consider changing your profile settings so that only those with a connection to you can send you a message in the first place.

Catfishing/Romance Scams

“Hey baby, I can’t wait to meet you, but I can’t quite swing the money for the ticket… could you send some cash to help me cover it? Looking forward to meeting in person.”

 

Romance in particular is a dangerous enabler for online scams. The Federal Trade Commission saw more than 21,000 reported romance scams in 2018 alone, and they cost a total of $143 million. The median loss to one of these scams in 2018 was around $2,600, more than seven times the median loss for any other fraud types.

 

If you think you’re being catfished, try to reverse engineer the profile of the person who is supposedly catfishing you to see if they are associated with multiple accounts. Furthermore, never send money to anyone who you haven’t met in person.

 

Utilizing social media in a secure fashion can be challenging, but it’s far from the only method of securing your business. For more ways to keep your company safe in an online environment, reach out to VentureNet at 214-343-3550.

Managed IT Services Bring Immense Value

How many devices and technology solutions does your organization have to manage on a day-to-day basis? More often than not, small businesses have a limited quantity to work with for IT services, whether it’s a budget that’s too small or a workforce that’s too stretched. The problem is that IT troubles wait for no one, so you have to do everything you can to prevent them–even if it means asking for help from others.

 

There is often a stigma associated with asking for help, but it’s important to remember that nobody knows everything, and IT is no exception. If you don’t have an internal IT department for any range of factors (geographic location, lack of qualified workers, limited budget, etc.), your business might have trouble guaranteeing the type of IT support needed to ensure a sustainable future, but small businesses have more trouble than large corporations with practically endless resources.

 

In the past, small businesses relied on break-fix IT to make ends meet. They would try to save time and money by only repairing technology when it needed to be repaired. Unfortunately, this practice led to increased downtime, as issues that could have been resolved easily were instead exacerbated due to being ignored for too long, adding even more cost to the downtime incident–and that’s without mentioning the costs associated with replacing faulty devices or components.

 

On the other hand, preventative managed IT services provided by a managed service provider give businesses a more affordable alternative that can mitigate downtime and significantly reduce operational expenses. This kind of IT wouldn’t normally be possible, but thanks to the professional technicians at VentureNet, your organization can leverage quality technology maintenance without the immense up-front costs associated with hiring new employees or shelling out for hardware replacements.

 

There should never be any shame in outsourcing, especially with a technical job like the ones done by managed service providers. It is not only a great way to shore up weak points in your organization’s operations, but also an excellent way to supplement current resources. Here are just some of the services offered by a managed service provider like VentureNet:

 

  • Cloud hosting and management
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Email hosting
  • Network maintenance, monitoring, and management
  • And more!

 

When you get creative with IT solutions, a managed service provider can find a way to improve, manage, host, or maintain just about anything you want to do. Whether it’s deploying a complicated software solution or investing in new hardware that will make operations more streamlined, a managed service provider can work you through the process from the planning stages to continued maintenance and management.

 

VentureNet can be a pillar of support for businesses that either don’t have IT assistance or simply want to supplement internal resources. To learn more about what we can do for your business, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Get More Phone System For Less with VoIP

Small businesses have a unique challenge that must be overcome. The fact that some companies rely so much on traditional telephone providers is a testament to this. With a reliable Internet connection practically being a necessity in today’s business world, it’s no surprise that Voice over Internet Protocol has taken off in the business environment. If you give VoIP a try, you might find it to be the most valuable investment you can make for your company’s communications solution.

 

A business that utilizes VoIP for communications rather than a telephone provider can expect to benefit in many ways. These are just a few of them.

 

Growing is Easier

Growing pains are one of the worst parts of being a small business. Your organization could rapidly increase the size of its clientele in a relatively short period of time, leading to staffing issues–and we’re not talking about the bad kind. For example, you might have to figure out where to house your workers, as offices only have so much space. This dilemma extends into the telephony space, as you need to run phone lines whenever you add a new extension. Instead of using this telephone infrastructure, VoIP only needs enough bandwidth and a phone application.

 

Pay What You Want for Services You Need

Too often businesses find themselves paying money for services that are either underutilized or unused altogether. With telephone providers, you might have services such as satellite Internet or cable television bundled together with your telephone services. Rather than pay for services you don’t need, you should instead opt for a service that only requires your Internet connection to function. You will still have access to the same features you have always known and loved, only at what’s likely to be a fraction of the cost.

 

Additional Features

Telephone communications are generally limited to your standard features offered by the provider, like call forwarding, conference calling, and others that might have proven fruitful in years past. VoIP offers more dynamic options, like video chat, instant messaging, and other helpful tools that help you get the most out of your communications.

 

VoIP can help you challenge the boundaries set forth by your telephone provider. To learn more about how you can go above and beyond what you have expected in the past, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Phishing Attacks and How to Avoid Them

Phishing attacks are the bane of modern businesses, and any organization’s employees need to be cognizant of the threat they pose. Unfortunately, no matter how much you protect against them, hackers are usually crafty enough to work their way around even the most well-defended security measures. However, not even the best security measures can keep your employees from making a split-second decision to click on a link or download an infected attachment.

 

What Are Phishing Attempts?

Phishing scams are any attempt by hackers to steal credentials from your organization through crafty methods, such as posing as individuals within or without your business, targeted attempts on specific individuals (spear phishing), or impersonating a company’s CEO (also known as “whaling”). Whatever it’s called, the end result for a phishing attack is one that makes someone within your organization hand over credentials or other important information.

 

Vectors for Attack

The most important thing to remember about phishing attempts is that they can happen through a variety of ways. Social media applications, phone calls, and email are all the ways you might encounter a phishing attack. Here are some ways you can identify a phishing attack through a number of vectors:

 

  • Email messages that spoof addresses and try to convince users that they are someone from an organization or company you’re associated with.
  • Phone calls from people impersonating tech support or someone of authority, like the police or government agency.
  • Social media messages on both personal and professional accounts are used by identity thieves to impersonate people you may know.

 

The Giveaways

Suspicious messages are the first throwaway sign of a phishing attack, but it’s not always so simple. Whether it’s a message from someone you haven’t heard from in a while, or one containing some strange words that don’t seem like the right ones used by the sender, you might be facing a phishing attack. Here are some of the other common ways you might identify a phishing attack.

 

  • Spelling and grammar errors:There are often spelling and grammar errors in phishing messages, as well as embedded media that might be blocked due to being suspected threats. These threats might be warranted, so if you see blocked media or spelling and grammar errors, be sure to be extra cautious.
  • A sense of urgency: If the message urges you to react immediately, there’s a good chance that the message is a phishing attempt. The only ones who benefit from you not thinking about something like this enough is a hacker, so be sure to take a message’s measure and ensure it’s legitimate.
  • Suspicious account activity:Social media accounts can be faked pretty easily, so if a friend is reaching out to you and it seems out of character for them, always be cautious–especially if the request is asking for money or for you to click on a link bringing you out of your Gmail.

 

To limit the threat of phishing attempts, take the following actions now:

 

  • Implement a spam blocking solution. While it might not help with more specialized phishing attempts, it should limit the most generic ones.
  • Educate your employees–this point speaks for itself. If users know what to watch out for, they will be less likely to make mistakes that expose sensitive data.

 

VentureNet can help you keep your users and network safe. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.