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Technology Tips and News

Can an Emoji Smiley Face Bring Down Your Network?

b2ap3_thumbnail_are_emojis_bad_for_business_400.jpgTechnology grows more mobile with each passing moment, and emojis have popped up in places that nobody could have dreamt of. In particular, business communications have experienced a surge of emojis, but how (and why) is this the case? Aren’t emojis unprofessional? Shouldn’t they have no place in the business world? Well, let’s explore this a bit.

For those unaware, emojis are the little graphics that can be seen in communications like texts, emails, IMs, social media, and other places. They are commonly used to add an emotion to the communications medium that they’re in, and are now commonly seen in mainstream apps designed to appeal to the public. Domino’s wants you to order pizza with an emoji, while some businesses even swear by the little icons for subject lines in their marketing email.

First of all, it needs to be understood that not every professional colleague of yours is going to be as enthusiastic about the emoji as others. There are many in the professional business environment that refuse to accept emojis as a viable tactic, and consider them downright unprofessional and insulting. Of course, whether or not their feelings are justified or hold a semblance of truth, in business communications, chances are that emojis should probably be left out.

Whether or not you personally feel that emojis are unprofessional is irrelevant, as you’re not on the receiving end of them. Consider this; how would a potential client react to your use of an emoji in an otherwise professional email? They might see it as a friendly gesture, but ultimately, they could see it as unprofessional or even an empty, fake gesture devoid of real meaning. Basically, it really comes down to the subtext of the message. emojis are meant to carry the same weight as words, and just like words, emojis can be interpreted in different ways. In fact, emojis are often misinterpreted, and can result in varying degrees of conflict.

One case found a Pennsylvania man guilty of threatening his ex-wife by using the 😛 emoticon. It might sound ridiculous, but the legal precedent shows that emojis can potentially be a major threat for careless users. Therefore, it makes sense to limit their use in the business environment as much as possible, until the intent behind the emojis can be made more obvious and less subject to the whims of idiocy.

Additionally, employees using emojis could potentially become a security risk. As reported by TechRepublic’s Jack Wallen: “Twitter, Facebook, and Google can use emoji to track your employees and target their devices with ads. No business wants their users to be transmitting any more data and information than necessary. And if your employees’ usage of their Android and iOS devices are being tracked by Twitter, Facebook, and Google, those seemingly innocent emojis could cause problems. It’s not too much of a stretch to see how this can evolve from advert targeting to device tracking, or it could even land your company in a court defending an employee’s innocence.”

Basically, emojis provide a reason for online marketers to view sensitive corporate files for the sake of pushing targeted ads across your company’s devices. This can lead to stolen information and ads that contain links to malware, ransomware, or phishing scams. Plus, like the Pennsylvania man, you don’t want to be held liable for an employee’s blunder, especially if it’s made using a company device or account.

The best way to make sure that emojis don’t cause trouble for your business is to disable them with your mobile device management solution or content filtering solution. It might be a time-consuming process that involves digging through settings of all apps, or it might require the blacklisting of apps entirely, but it might just be worth it. For assistance, reach out to Total Networks at (602)412-5025.

Tip of the Week: Stop Micromanaging and Improve Employee Focus and Collaboration

b2ap3_thumbnail_time_vs_productivity_micro_management_400.jpgWith the opportunity to track metrics becoming more readily available for all types of businesses, some organizations invest heavily into time-tracking software and other KPIs that they believe will help their team be more efficient in the workplace. However, this might be having a negative effect on the quality of work being performed. Irv Shapiro, CEO of DialogTech, suggests that, instead of tracking time, employers should be tracking results.

Granted, we understand that you have a budget and payroll to consider. This type of business model doesn’t suit every organization’s needs. In particular, those who offer services by the hour wouldn’t be able to implement this strategy. However, this doesn’t mean that you should let it get in the way of improving internal options. Shapiro states: “Unless your business sells services by the hour, it makes little sense to measure your employees by the hour. Instead employers should measure their employee’s success by the results they produce.”

We know that letting go of the reins a bit can be nerve-wracking, but studies have shown that autonomous employees are usually the best employees. A study by Gensler reveals some interesting numbers concerning how employees work when given a choice in the matter:

  • Employees with choice were 7 percent more focused.
  • Employees with choice were 4 percent more effective at collaboration.
  • Employees with choice were 3 percent more effective at learning.
  • Companies that offer choice and autonomy in how their employees do their work grow four times as fast, and experience only a third of the turnover of businesses that want more control.

At first, this statement seems minor and inconsequential, but if you think about it, who actually works best when they’re micromanaged? Giving your team the freedom to schedule themselves and work as they see fit can allow them to flourish, and when your team feels good, they’ll work harder and improve performance. As you might expect, choice drastically improves the employee experience. Innovation, job performance, job satisfaction, and workplace satisfaction, all increase as a result of reducing the amount of control you exert over your employees’ time.

Instead of focusing on time, your organization can instead focus on the results of your employees’ work. For example, if you’re in a production field, you want the end-product to be exceptionally well-done. If you focus on the quality of this end-product, shouldn’t quality be all that matters, not the time that it takes to reach the product? After all, a quality service is a quality service, and if you want the best work possible, the project shouldn’t be rushed.

Now, let’s try to put this concept into practice. For example, you should take a similar approach to your IT services. You need results, and the best way to get them is by calling Total Networks at (602)412-5025. We don’t care how much time it takes. We’ll deliver you the comprehensive IT support you need to succeed.

The Explosion of Mobile Devices is One Trend Your Business Must Account For

b2ap3_thumbnail_issues_with_things_on_the_internet_400.jpgYou may have heard about the Internet of Things in passing, but do you truly understand the nature of these connected devices, and how they will affect your business in the coming years? The Internet of Things is a major trend that needs to be addressed if your business plans on succeeding in the near future.

Gartner reports that by 2020, there will be approximately 21 billion devices connected to the Internet; an astounding number, and one that your business can’t afford to ignore. These devices could range from fitness devices designed to track vital signs like pulse and heart rate, to connected appliances like refrigerators, thermostats, baby monitors, security cameras, and so much more. The sheer utility that the Internet of Things provides, guarantees that it’s only a matter of time before your office has to deal with several similar devices.

In fact, we’d be surprised to hear that your business doesn’t have at least a few of these devices floating around your network, especially considering how most of them are consumer-targeted, and are perhaps in the possession of your employees. Even something as simple as a smart watch could make its way to your business’s infrastructure, and unless you’re monitoring which devices connect to your network, you’d never know (until something goes wrong, of course).

Perhaps the most dangerous part of Internet of Things devices is the fact that they not only connect to the Internet, but that they are also able to communicate with each other. If these devices share your business’s corporate information with unapproved devices, you could have an unintentional data leak that exposes sensitive data to malicious entities.

In order to counter this potentially disastrous occurrence, it’s important that your business understands how to work mobile devices into your network infrastructure. You can’t just let anyone connect their personal devices to your network. What if one of them were infected with malware, spyware, or other threats with malicious intentions?

With a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, you can set up rules that govern how users take advantage of Internet of Things devices in the workplace. You should aim to have only approved devices connecting to your company’s network. The goal is to restrict your business’s network to only devices that won’t compromise its integrity. Users should first inquire about the devices they would like to use in the office, and once they’ve been approved by IT, they can begin to use them; but only if they aren’t a threat to productivity or data security.

Furthermore, some mobile devices, like smartphones, can be used while out of the office to stay productive and connected to the workplace. These devices need to be managed so as to protect the integrity of any data stored on them. This includes whitelisting and blacklisting apps, as well as allowing for remote wiping. Doing so effectively allows you to manage risk and take matters into your own hands, should your policies not be enough.

To learn more about how to manage risk with Internet of Things devices and other mobile technology, call us today at (602)412-5025.

Having a Network that’s Tested Guarantees You’ll Overcome Any Disaster

b2ap3_thumbnail_protect_your_company_s_network_400.jpgDoes your SMB have an internal IT department? Chances are that it is a major pain point for your organization, and even if you do have one, it might be bogged down with so much work that mistakes can happen and threats can slip through the cracks. Sometimes the best way to protect your network is to know where and how threats manage to get there in the first place.

At Total Networks, we call this type of preventative measure “penetration testing.” It’s designed to test your network for any outlets that can be exploited by hackers or other threats that want to do harm to your network systems. This could include testing your workstations for vulnerabilities, ensuring that all of your software and hardware is up to date, and examining any mobile device usage on your network. As such, it’s a critical part of maintaining a safe and healthy network infrastructure.

Penetration Testing Also Means Testing Your End-Users
With network security, one of the often-ignored outlets for a threat infiltration stems from the end-user. If they accidentally hand over credentials, or download a malicious file off the Internet, you could be looking at a virus or malware takeover. In a worst-case scenario, they could walk into a phishing scam and have your entire system encrypted by ransomware. The ransomware could be Cryptowall, and the entire infrastructure could be encrypted with military-grade encryption, forcing you to either pay up or restore a backup.

All of these situations can be avoided if you properly train your employees on how to avoid online threats. Many security best practices are common-sense, but it helps to provide a refresher on how best to approach threats to security. Regularly quiz your employees on what to do if they encounter a potentially dangerous situation, and emphasize the importance of data security in your corporate culture.

Plan for Possible Scenarios
One of the best ways that you can protect your infrastructure is putting together emergency management plans for how to handle specific scenarios. This way, your organization won’t be caught off-guard by unexpected disasters that have the potential to derail your operations. Here are just a few examples of situations you’ll want to prepare for:

  • Hacking attacks
  • Data loss
  • Natural disasters
  • Hardware failure
  • Other downtime-causing situations

Is your business prepared to handle the burden of network security, and can you protect your network from the many threats that lurk on the Internet? Your business doesn’t have to suffer at the hands of unplanned disasters. To learn how your business can better prepare for the future and keep threats out of your network, reach out to us at (602)412-5025.

We Debunk 3 Common Myths of Managed IT

b2ap3_thumbnail_win_with_managed_it_400.jpgIf you’re not taking advantage of managed IT, what’s your excuse? Here we address three common excuses put forth by companies avoiding managed IT. As you can guess, these myths are easy to debunk.

“I’ll save money by only fixing technology when it’s broken.”
At first glance, this seems to make sense. By only performing maintenance on your devices when they aren’t operating as intended, you should be able to save money in the long run. The only problem here is that technology by nature requires that you perform maintenance on it regularly in order to maintain optimal performance. If you aren’t providing the care that it needs, you’re holding your business back from achieving its maximum potential.

Then you have to consider the fact that technology is much more expensive to replace outright than it is to perform routine maintenance on. Think about it; a server unit is very, very expensive, and so are good, quality workstations. If you’re going to purchase hardware, wouldn’t it make sense to perform maintenance on it and guarantee a long life, rather than await a premature hardware failure? Managed IT seeks to provide this care throughout the lifetime of your technology to ensure its longevity and proper functionality.

“My technology doesn’t need maintenance regularly.”
Some businesses are under the impression that they don’t use their technology enough to justify regular maintenance routines. This may be because they only use their office productivity suite, the Internet, and not much else. If technology systems don’t receive regular maintenance (like patches and updates), security can quickly become a problem. Also, when you don’t experience a targeted hacking attack, it can be easy to fall into a false sense of security.

Then there’s the problem that comes from having Internet-connected hardware like servers and workstations. Most businesses will be using their technology solutions to browse the Internet and conduct business with email and other communications which could potentially result in a data breach. Do your employees know how to identify phishing scams and other online malicious activity? While most organizations use security solutions like firewalls and antivirus, consumer-grade is often not enough to protect sensitive data from hackers and data breaches.

“My employees and I can handle IT all by ourselves.”
Here’s one of the biggest reasons why companies don’t implement managed IT services; they feel that they can do a fine-enough job managing their own technology. This is fine if companies have an internal IT department, but it’s more likely that small businesses are relying on their own employees to perform troubleshooting procedures and basic tech maintenance to save money.

Ask yourself this question: “Would I rather have skilled technicians working with my technology, or my busy employees, who have other duties and obligations?” More likely than not, you’ll want your team to focus on their responsibilities within your organization, rather than wasting time with your business’s technology. Managed IT allows your team to take a step back and focus on what matters most: your business.

Are you still on the fence about switching to managed IT? If you are, then reach out to Total Networks and let us put your concerns to rest.

3 Ways Help Desk Support is Perfectly Suited for SMBs

b2ap3_thumbnail_remote_help_desk_support_400.jpgLet’s say that your team is deep within the throes of productivity on a major project, and even the slightest hiccup will knock off their momentum and derail all progress. What would happen if the software they need to do their job suddenly became unusable, or settings on their workstation get changed without their knowledge? Without a reliable IT department, you might be out of luck.

Consider, for a moment, what could happen if you let your employees service their own computer, or work on things without any oversight whatsoever. What if they accidentally misplace data, or remove a component that’s critical to the functionality of their workstation? The possibilities for something to go wrong are limitless. This is why you only want knowledgeable technicians working with your solutions.

However, what if you don’t have it in your budget to hire an experienced IT technician? There remain several opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses that may (or may not) have an internal IT department. Total Networks’s help desk solution is among them; it’s capable of providing your team with the support it needs to keep operations moving forward. We can act as your outsourced IT department, whom you can contact at any time should support be needed.

Here are just a few of the many benefits that come with Total Networks’s help desk solution:

Convenient support
With a help desk solution, you can have near-constant access to technical support for your business’s mission-critical systems. If your team needs help with an issue, we’re here to help walk them through it. Our team can even remotely access your systems and resolve the problem, which cuts out the expense of an on-site visit, and resolves the issue quickly and efficiently.

Assistance from professional technicians
One of the greatest benefits you get from working with our support desk is that you’re working with someone who has a working relationship with your business, and someone who is invested in the success of your organization. We succeed when you succeed, so we’re always happy to go the extra mile for our clients.

Single point of contact
Nobody likes to deal with vendors, and it can be an excruciatingly painful process when your organization has to contact multiple vendors just to troubleshoot a technology component. Instead of reaching out to each one individually, you can contact Total Networks, and we’ll act as a single point of contact so that you can keep operations pushing forward.

Does your SMB have the technology support it needs to ensure maximum efficiency? IT management and maintenance isn’t something that the average office worker should be handling; you want only the best and brightest minds caring for your hardware and software solutions. Total Networks can provide you with the tools and services you need to succeed. To learn more about our help desk solution, or to ask about our other outsourced IT services, reach out to us at (602)412-5025.

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