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The 3 Biggest Ways You Can Help Your IT Department

b2ap3_thumbnail_we_can_help_in_several_ways_400.jpgA reliable and skilled IT department is integral for the success of your business. If your IT team is burnt out, overworked, or dissatisfied, operations will suffer and your network will experience one IT emergency after another. Just as you expect your IT staff to use best practices, as a business owner, you need to manage your IT staff as best as you can in order to ensure that your network will operate at maximum efficiency.

Here are the three biggest things you can do to have a satisfied IT department, doing satisfying work for your company.

Promptly Fill Vacant IT Positions
While there are positions within your company that you can delay filling after someone leaves, IT isn’t one of them. It’s the responsibility of a technician to maintain your IT infrastructure, and it’s likely the case that you’ve got just enough IT staff hired to perform just enough maintenance. Therefore, if one technician leaves, it’s up to everyone else to pick up the slack.

In times like these, a good worker will rise to the occasion and pitch in extra hours to help cover the deficit. However, a worker going the extra mile is a two-way street; they will step up and do what’s needed only if they know that you’re investing extra effort in finding an adequate replacement to cover the deficit. If they perceive that you’re dragging out the hiring process in order to save money from having to hire a replacement (at the expense of their extra hard work), then they’ll quickly become jaded and their work will show it. At the very least, if filling an empty IT position is taking longer than expected, then try paying your IT staff extra for their extra work. This move will help keep them happy and motivated.

Fight for Your IT Budget
As is the case with any position, the right tools are needed to properly do the job. This is especially true for IT. Unfortunately, when it comes time for businesses to make a budget, an administrator who doesn’t see the big picture will be quick to cut funds to IT and/or not allocate new money to the department that corresponds with the company’s growth. If your IT staff notices that other departments are being expanded (and they will because growth puts more stress on the network), and meanwhile, no new staff or solutions are being made available for IT, they will become demoralized and stretched thin by the increased workload and lack of help.

Remember, a fully functional and motivated IT department will translate to increased productivity and success for all of your departments. Funding IT shouldn’t be an afterthought. It needs to be a priority.

Outsource Short-Term Projects and Routine IT Maintenances
When your IT staff gets slammed with a short-term projects, or when they get bogged down having to do routine maintenances, they won’t be able to put adequate time towards your company’s technology initiatives meant to improve operations. Implementing new money-saving solutions like this is what motivates IT technicians; few techies signed up for the job because they dreamed of running backups as a kid.

This is where Total Networks comes into the picture. By having us assist your IT department with short-term projects, along with bringing us in to remotely handle routine IT maintenances, like installing security patches and updating your software, your current IT staff will be freed up to tackle meaningful IT projects that can significantly improve the productivity for every department. As far as business goes, it’s a classic win-win.

Notice a theme here? Valuing and prioritizing your company’s technology will pay off big time in terms of having an IT staff that’s motivated and technology that’s working optimally. To give your IT department the help they deserve, call Total Networks at (602)412-5025.

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Smartphones Call For Smart Security

b2ap3_thumbnail_smartphone_security_400.jpgWe always talk about protecting your computers and servers from outside threats, but what about protecting your smartphones? There isn’t much difference between a smartphone and a computer. They both function in very similar ways with access to a variety of apps, social media, and browsers. Your smartphone could hold much more valuable data than just contacts or text messages.

Fortunately, the average smartphone owner can take some steps toward protecting their data. Here’s a list of steps you can take to prevent your data from being stolen right from under your nose.

What’s My PIN Again?
More than half of the smartphone users in the United States don’t set up passwords or security measures on their phone. Anyone can access a phone they find lying on the ground, especially if there isn’t a passcode, or even a PIN. Make sure you use a code that’s not easy to guess, or use pattern lock, a security measure which makes the user swipe a certain pattern on the screen before the phone is unlocked. You can also set up a SIM card lock, which will prevent someone from just taking the SIM card out of the system and installing it somewhere else.

Autoconnect? Why Not AutoProtect!
Most smartphone owners will agree that data plans are expensive and their browsing speed could be a bit faster. This is why many people opt for the autoconnect feature, which allows smartphones to connect to a wireless network in the vicinity. Any device that can send and receive data can have a potential security problem, and smartphones are no different.

That puts this data at risk of being compromised. You might connect to a network you don’t want to be involved with, like an “evil twin” hotspot. These wireless connections might seem like legitimate connection spots, but in reality, they are only a connection put into place so hackers can steal your information. If you accidentally connect to one of these with autoconnect, be wary of the questions your connection might ask. If it requests any personal information, it is likely a trap, and you should disconnect immediately.

Bluetooth Got You Feeling… Blue?
Even though Bluetooth has a much shorter range than WiFi does, hackers are a crafty bunch. They’ve found ways to completely take over your phone, if they can get within range of your Bluetooth signal. These hackers can then proceed to make calls, listen to your conversations, access the Internet, and most important of all, access your data. You can prevent this by setting your default Bluetooth configuration to “non-discoverable,” meaning that any devices in range of your smartphone will not be able to detect it. You should be especially careful around busy places with lots of activity, such as coffee shops or train stations, and ignore any unknown requests from devices you don’t recognize.

Be Wary of New Apps
You know how excited you can get when dealing with a new app, especially if it’s one that you have been trying to find for a long time. In that blissful rush, pay close attention to what your brand new app is asking you to do. Pay close attention to what permissions you are allowing it, and pay especially close attention to whether it asks for personal information or not.

Additionally, be careful while wirelessly accessing the Internet with your smartphone. It works just like a computer – if the URL displays “http” rather than “https://”, do not enter personal information into the website. This means that it is not encrypted, and your data could be at risk if you are not careful.

Many companies use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect to a secure environment. If you would like to learn more about getting a VPN set up, contact Total Networks at (602)412-5025. We’ll figure out what the best solution is to your smartphone security needs!

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Windows Server 2003 Support Ends this July

b2ap3_thumbnail_server_operating_system_losing_support_400.jpgJuly 14th is an important date in the business technology world. Why? Because it’s a major landmark for users of Windows Server 2003. In just a few short months, Microsoft will no longer support this decade-old server operating system. Therefore, you must take steps to upgrade away from this server OS before it’s too late.

You might recall the fiasco created by the Windows XP end-of-support date just last year. If you’re one of the businesses who waited too long to upgrade away from Windows XP, you know how stressful and irritating running an unsupported operating system can be. We’re hoping that you’ve at least heard about this fast-approaching Windows Server 2003 end-of-support date, but if you haven’t, don’t panic… yet. There’s still plenty of time to upgrade your operating systems. You want to make sure you do so before you’re left running with vulnerable and unsupported software.

If you have known about this end-of-support date for a while, you might have made arrangements to upgrade your servers to a more recent OS. In fact, unlike Windows XP, a recent survey by Avandade revealed that a whopping 80 percent of businesses who utilize Windows Server 2003 have already considered or made plans to upgrade. This just goes to show that consumers handle technology in a vastly different manner than a business does.

Since the end of support date doesn’t arrive for a few more months (on July 14th), there’s still plenty of time left to upgrade. Whether or not you’ve started planning, it’s important that you shouldn’t use Windows Server 2003 past July 14th. Up until the end of its support, Microsoft will provide patches and updates to the OS. However, past July 14th, this maintenance will cease to occur, meaning that your servers will be vulnerable to attacks from hackers. These hackers probably consider end-of-support dates as holidays, hoping to reap the benefits of catching business owners unawares.

Large corporations with well-funded in-house IT departments might not have much issue upgrading, but for the small and medium-sized business, it might be a problem; specifically, for those who have anywhere between 30-to-100 server units. Ian Stephan, HP’s vice president and general manager for servers in EMEA, described this risk to V3.co.uk:

For most small companies, it’s a relatively simple transition. They are probably buying one or two servers every three or four years and the next server they buy will have an up-to-date operating system version. The customer that worries me is the one that has 30 or more servers, probably of mixed ages, and they may have heard something about the end of life deadline, but they may not be doing anything about it.

Naturally, the companies that are experiencing the most growth will be the ones who are affected most by the death of Windows Server 2003. With a medium-sized company, they likely have a small in-house IT team that takes care of general maintenance and upkeep. This team might be stretched thin and may find it difficult to take care of important tasks, like upgrading the OS. Additionally, Stephan explains that these companies might also be running multiple servers with different operating systems installed on each one, making it tricky for these businesses to upgrade.

Thus, the SMB is “stuck in a rut,” so to speak. They might not have the manpower to upgrade right away, and they might not have the luxury of switching out their server every couple of years. When this happens, running software that’s over a decade old doesn’t sound so farfetched. When an IT department is swamped with work, it’s easy for necessary upgrades to be forgotten or pushed to the back burner. This is where Total Networks’s managed IT services come in handy. We can handle the monitoring and maintenance of your mission-critical systems to ensure they’re operating properly. This means integrating the latest upgrades and patches into your IT infrastructure, without the expensive surprise bill.

Granted, the SMB should understand that upgrading away from Windows Server 2003 is often more complicated than simply refreshing your software. You might need to replace the hardware itself. After all, a server that’s over a decade old isn’t reliable, and anything could happen to it. Stephan makes this point to V3: “It probably means a box change for a lot of customers, not simply a reinstall, because the hardware is now so old it is no longer sufficient.”

Such a project requires expertise, which is why letting Total Networks in on the upgrading fun is advantageous to your business. We can keep your IT staff caught up by making sure routine maintenances and hardware upgrades occur when they’re supposed to. This lets you concentrate more on day-to-day operations, and essentially frees your team up for more important procedures and projects.

If you have any concerns over the upcoming end-of-support date for Windows Server 2003, give Total Networks a call at (602)412-5025.

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PDFs are Pretty Darn Fun

b2ap3_thumbnail_document_management_goes_green_400.jpgDo you want to go green by making your business paperless, or even just make it a goal to use less paper? If you get rid of paper, what are you going to replace your information receptacles with? The best digital alternative to paper is a popular file format known as PDF.

What is a PDF and How Can it Benefit My Paperless Strategy?
Despite its popularity, few people actually know what PDF stands for, or what most file extensions stand for. The Portable Document Format was created by Adobe more than 20 years ago, and over the course of two decades, Adobe’s made great strides to improve the format in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing business landscape. On Adobe’s official webpage, they describe PDF as:

An open standard for electronic document exchange maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). When you convert documents, forms, graphics, and web pages to PDF, they look just like they would if printed. But unlike printed documents, PDF files can contain clickable links and buttons, form fields, video, and audio — as well as logic to help automate routine business processes.

When business owners think about going paperless, the primary goal is often “doing what it takes to go green.” Granted, improving the planet is a great motivation to replace paper with PDFs, and for the environmentally-motivated business owner, they may be pleasantly surprised to learn just how much more superior and efficient PDFs are to plain ol’ paper. Here are just a few things that you can do with PDFs that you can’t even dream about doing with paper.

PDFs are Easily Editable
Even though PDF was originally designed for printing purposes, it has evolved to include rich editing features. The ability to edit a PDF comes in handy if you spot an important edit that needs to be made before printing. This editing feature can even serve as a word processor if you’re in a pinch. As you know, editing already-written text on paper is much more difficult.

PDFs are Searchable
One huge advantage that PDFs have over paper is that they are searchable. Furthermore, thanks to PDFs being so widely used, virtually every content-generating app of value will allow the user to convert their project into a PDF file. In addition to making digital files easy to share and view across every computing platform, a converted PDF file makes the previously-static text searchable. You also have the option to index your PDF files for quick retrieval. Try finding exactly what you need in a stack of papers and you’ll quickly see why PDFs are superior.

PDFs are Secure
Only those given permission to view or edit a PDF file by its owner can do so. As a digital file, PDFs can also be protected by the same security measures that you have enacted for your network. Compare this to the security of a paper file, which is only as good as the lock on your file cabinet.

Going green, easy edits, searchability, security, these are just a few of the ways that PDFs can improve how your business manages its information. To take full advantage of PDFs for your business, and to equip your company with the latest and most efficient paperless technologies on the market, give Total Networks a call at (602)412-5025.

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