How To Keep Remote Employees Safe From IT Threats

How To Keep Remote Employees Safe From IT Threats

There are many reasons to allow your employees to work remotely, or telecommute from the location of their choice. It can bring cost savings to your employee, as they won’t be spending hours in the car going to and from work each day. It can allow you to reduce office size. It can create happier, more productive employees as they can work from home, and realize the benefits of being in a less stressful environment. It can also allow you, the employer, the chance to expand your search area and find even more qualified people to do the job at hand. If they don’t have to come into the office everyday, the world is your search potential.How To Keep Remote Employees Safe From IT Threats

When your employees work from one location – the office – its easier to reduce risks and keep everyone safe from threats that can harm your corporate systems. When employees spread out, sometimes around the world, new threats materialize right before your eyes. How will you keep your company data out of the hands of hackers, electronic eavesdroppers, or even shoulder surfers as they watch your employee enter passwords when they work from a local coffee shop?

It’s a matter of creating a strong system to protect your data, and ensuring your employees are on board with the safety techniques that go along with keeping company data out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have access.

The first step in a remote employee safety plan is to determine what type of access is needed. This is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy. Not every employee needs similar access; it should be on a case by case basis.

  • What system and data do employees need?
  • How sensitive is this material?
  • Do they need administrator privileges?
  • Do they need to share files with other team members?
  • Is the data confidential?

There are, or course, many ways to look at each question, even when dealing with just one employee. From a security perspective, always approach each decision with these in mind:

  • What would happen if an intruder gained the same access as the employee?
  • What would happen if an intruder gained access to an employee’s account, and pushed to gain access to more data?

If a hacker makes it in to a certain level, chances are he will use his entrance and push the limits. Which means its important to create restrictions around every level of security you have.

Access should always be on a limited or need-to-know basis. If an employee doesn’t need access to something, it should be blocked from view.

You should also use a secure gateway, or firewall, to block or filter access between the various networks you use on a company wide basis. For some, using company email and having access to the Internet may be all they need. For others, they may need access to internal resources, such as local area network (LAN) applications, mainframe applications, or client software.

The more you have, the more access granted to outside terminals, the more complex a system may have to be. In which case a series of gateways may be in order to divide internal resources based on the needs of the remote employees. High risk organizational data may be separated by a gateway from systems with lower level risk documentation, with access granted on an individual basis.

You can also increase security by reviewing your password policies. “Password” is not a great password, and yet it consistently makes the top ten list of passwords used. Randomly created passwords are always better than allowing an individual to create their own. And the longer a password is, the harder it is to break; we recommend 12 characters in length or more. You may even choose to incorporate a password that expires every few months for a step up in security.

With the current trend towards cloud infrastructure, every employee becomes a remote employee from a systems perspective. This puts even more emphasis on addressing security around remote access strategies.

In addition, as mobile applications continue to grow, remote employees will become the new norm. Whether its traveling for business, or working from home, when employees need access to your systems, only the best safety precautions will continue to keep you safe year after year. Don’t put your data at risk; make sure your systems are safe.

The Process Of Running A Paperless Office

The Process Of Running A Paperless Office

The paperless office isn’t a new concept. In fact, for most of us, its been around our entire careers.

The idea of a paperless office was originally created as a marketing message intended to describe the office of the future. It was expedited through ads for items like the 1964 IBM2260 video display computer terminal, and through articles written in top magazines like Business Week. The idea was that as personal computers made their way onto every desk top in every office, and in homes throughout the world, automation would make paper redundant.The Process Of Running A Paperless Office

The prediction of the PC was dead-on; the forecast of being paperless, not so much.

Yet the concept of a paperless office is still a work in progress. Since about 2000, the use of office paper has leveled off and is now declining. One of the top reasons is the generational shift, and the fact that younger people are more comfortable reading and storing things without the inclination of having a paper backup.

Paperless is not merely the concept of scanning everything paper and converting it into electronic files. A paperless office means having a strategy in place to have the proper equipment, software, systems, and processes to be as efficient and effective as possible. Otherwise it may just be a huge waste of time, and will not improve the functionality of your office.

If your goal is to go paperless in the coming year, or at least increase your efficiencies and reduce paper wherever you can, there are some important things to consider at the beginning of the process.

Storage

Being efficient with paperless technology is only as good as the retrieval system. If you can’t access documents when you need them, frustration can easily make you resort back to your old ways. Your first decision has to be how will you store your digital files, and how will they be backed up? Will you take charge, keeping them on an internal computer or network, or will you place everything out in the cloud? The good thing about it is technology solutions are more affordable than ever before. You can purchase terabytes of storage space for a fraction of what it used to cost for a handful of CDs.

Organization

The larger your company, the more succinct your system will have to be in organizing your digital files. Will you organize by client name, type of document, department, or by some other method? There is no right or wrong answer to how you organize, as long as you and your staff are consistent with every file. The best place to start is by considering how you currently file. Do you file by year? By client last name? By type of document? In some cases mapping it out first and creating a flow chart may help you see how to file things in an effective manner.

Naming

Each file within a category will have to be named individually. You should also spend time determining the overall structure so every employee names in the same way. Names can include the client name, point of contact, date of origination, or services provided. By adding detail to the file name, it can make both searching and browsing an easier task. You can also use indicators to determine course of action. For instance, you may include an “in” by the date to indicate an internal document, or an “ex” by the date to indicate the document was received from an outside source.

Starting Simple

If you’re a brand new company, you can adopt a fairly easy process to implement a rudimentary paperless office. But when you’ve been in business for years, where do you begin? There are many different lines of thinking, but for many the easiest place to begin is with a single process, then add other processes as staff become compfortable with each change. Typically, its best to have a set cut off date and adopt the new paperless process going forward. Accept that the old, closed files, do not need to be converted. Simply box them and put them away following normal storage procedures.

Advanced Document Management

For complex processes, companies that have multiple disparate locations, or even plans to implement many diverse paperless processes, it would be useful to explore robust document management systems that store document meta data in a centralized database for search and retrieval (and advanced routing and rules). File-based paperless application do not scale well in these situations.

Every situation is unique, but my team and I have years of experience in these applications and processes and are available to help you achieve the promise of paperless.

How To Build An Effective Team As A New Team Leader

How To Build An Effective Team As A New Team Leader

Nothing is more exciting than being promoted and put in charge of a new project. Yet after the excitement of the promotion wears off, overwhelm may quickly set in as you think about the journey ahead.

As a new team leader, your first order of business is to build an effective team. Whether the team came with your promotion, or your first task is selecting the perfect participants, where do you begin?

All roads lead to you.How To Build An Effective Team As A New Team Leader

As a team leader, your purpose is to lead a team as effectively as possible to its end purpose. The primary reason for forming a team is the combined skills and expertise of many can and should trump the contributions of individuals. The tighter the coordination, the more each team member provides his or her best, the more tasks stay on track and add to the end result, the more beneficial the outcome will be to all involved.

If a team works effectively, it’s easy to forget the team leader’s role in making it all happen. It runs that well.

Yet that doesn’t happen by accident. Team leaders have many challenges to overcome before the team can fulfill its purpose. Before a team can reach its goal, a team leader must:

1. Identify goals and objectives and effectively share them with team members.

The clearer you can define all aspects of the project, the more your team members will align with your thinking. Also keep in mind that the more on board your team is with the ultimate goal, the easier your job will be to keep everyone on task. Start with broad goals:

  • What is the purpose of this project?
  • What is the end result?

Then break it down into as much detail as possible.

  • What tasks are needed?
  • Who is the best person for each task?
  • What skills are needed?
  • How should the task be performed?
  • When should the task be completed to keep us on track?

The clearer you see the project, the more your team will as well.

2. Identify all resources needed and make sure they are easily at hand.

Resources come in all kinds of formats. You may need monetary resources, special training and education, specific tools for the job, or applications to help run things more competently.

Teams can’t be productive if they are waiting around for the right resource. The more you can anticipate the needs ahead of time, the more resources you can have in place as they are needed.

In some cases, you as the team leader may know what resources will be needed. In some cases, your team has a stronger idea of needs and requirements. Start an open dialog early to ensure your team has the essentials from day one.

3. Create clear assignments for each team member, providing the appropriate training when necessary.

One of the greatest challenges you can face as a team leader is hearing a member say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that”. Not only can it set the project back, it can also cause a rift amongst the team members.

Ensure that you clearly define each team member’s role before the project begins, and clarify tasks along the way. If something changes or moves off task, it’s your job to guide it back into place. If training is necessary, provide it.

You can also assess your own strengths and weaknesses along the way, and watch how they impact the team. If you have a weakness, find a mentor or even another team member that can help you stay on track.

4. Keep the team on track until the team finishes the task at hand.

Staying on task and controlling the outcome are all part of the process. In all cases, establish a metric to be used for measuring performance and outcomes. The clearer you can define each process, the more team members will be able to guide themselves towards the desired result.

As the team reaches milestones, and heads towards the completion of the project, consider rewards as well. Nothing says, “job well done” more than a leader recognizing the work of his team. Remember, you as a team leader only succeed if your team shines. Keep that as your ultimate goal, and you’re well on your way to success.

How Available Is Your Private Information Online?

How Available Is Your Private Information Online?

Just a few years ago, the concept of buying something online was more than a little terrifying. People held their credit cards close, stating they would never release such personal information into the land of the unknown.

Times have changed. Today our personal data is stored in our mobile phones, making purchasing as easy as touching a button. We shop for everything from groceries to a new car, we job hunt, we sign contracts, we pay bills, send in our taxes, and share our latest adventures with the world on social media. In short, our fears are gone and we blast just about everything we do through small electronic devices held in our hands.How Available Is Your Private Information Online?

Yet how did we move so quickly from “never” to “everything” without a second thought? While some of us do question the safety of it all, we usually forget the entire concept when an email comes through and we simply have to buy.

We all hear about the cases of identity theft that destroy a person’s reputation for years. We hear the horror stories about fraud that makes a person lose everything. But that happens to the other guy; not us.

Right?

Sorry. If you use a mobile device, buy anything online, pay a bill, or post to your Facebook page, or even open up an email, you’re at risk. And it goes way beyond that as well. Companies are constantly buying and selling information about you, and sharing it in many ways. Its legal.

The first step is realizing its happening. The second step is to take an active role in what information you do share. And finally, learn how to protect yourself so you don’t end up as a statistic down the road.

How do I protect my identity online?
Before you fill out a form, before you enter any data into a request form, take a step back and analyze the business first. Do they have a privacy policy? What do they really want to do with the information? What are the consequences?

Be careful when providing anything beyond a first name and an email address. If a site asks for full name, full address, date of birth, account number, birthplace, credit card information, or bank account information, be wary before you type in the answer. Only use secure sites – they usually carry the padlock symbol. And when setting up a password, avoid the obvious choices, such as child’s name, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, or any other reference to someone you may be talking about in the online world. A random mixture of letters and numbers is always best.

How do I avoid online scams?
There are numerous scams online, and the number and sophistication grows every day. Even I have looked twice at some of the emails coming through – they are that good and do an excellent job at mimicking actual companies. Phishing is a scam that lures you to websites that have a legitimate look and feel, then try to get you to enter your personal information under false pretenses. Even if an email looks legitimate, question everything before you enter personal data. Is there a reason they are emailing you now? Does the email make sense?

Always look at the email sender’s address carefully, and look at all URL link addresses to verify their true destination. Scammers often will use addresses that are close to the real thing, yet vary the letters just enough to throw you off – PayPal may become PayPaal for instance. At a quick glance, it looks right. Yet clicking on it or submitting your information can set off a spiral of unfortunate events.

What other rights do I have?
You also have the right to stop organizations from sharing information about you. With many items you legitimately sign up for, they will make you an offer to receive additional information about other topics, or from partnering sites. You can opt out at this point, and should always do so unless you truly want the information. If you have any concerns about the way someone is contacting you or using your personal information, contact them and have them explain how they are processing your personal information, and whether they are following the Data Protection Act or not.

4 Laws Of Technology and How They Impact Your Business

4 Laws Of Technology and How They Impact Your Business

We live in a world in which laws define and describe the way things happen every day. They control how we operate as a country; and they control the way we function as a society. In technology, they describe everything from how software operates on a computer, to how you view trends and statistics for your business. They can help you run more efficiently, or can slow you down until you come to a complete stop.

Overall, laws can help you make decisions about core objectives that make your business unique. Once you understand their principles, you can easily use them to improve the practices in your office. Here are a few of my favorites.4 Laws Of Technology and How They Impact Your Business

Moore’s Law
Probably the most famous of all technology laws is Moore’s Law, which states that the performance of hardware doubles about every two years. Named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, his prediction back in the 1960s was originally about the number of transistors on a microchip. However the concept grew to include improvements in all types of hardware growth over very short time periods of time. From some of the original computers 30 years ago, the first iPhone on the market was 100 times faster and almost 500 times smaller.

In today’s world, this law continues to apply to all aspects of technology. What are you using out in the field? What programs are you using with what technology? Are tablets a part of your daily routine? Have you integrated wearable technology to make your workload more efficient/timely/organized? Getting comfortable with old technology is not an option if you want to stay relevant for your clients.

Amara’s Law
Amara’s Law was created by the late Roy Amara, a scientist and president of a California think tank. It states that we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run, while we underestimate the effect a technology will have in the long run. We see this all the time when new things come onto the market. When laptops, smartphones, or even social sites like Facebook jumped onto the scene, many pushed to incorporate them into their businesses without really considering what they would do for the bottom line. And if you implemented without seeing the true benefit, it quickly overshadowed its true potential.

New technology may enter the market with predefined goals and applications, but that doesn’t mean adaptation in society will continue down that path. Tablets jumped onto the scene as ebook readers and small devices with quick access to the online world. Yet through weeks and months of operation, they quickly began morphing into true timesaving devices as applications were built to improve efficiencies. In order to stay relevant and be where your customers are, it’s sometimes required to take a second (and third) look at how today’s technology can impact you most.

Segal’s Law
Segal’s Law simply states that a man with a watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never sure. It refers to the pitfalls of having too much conflicting information about a subject and how it will impact your overall decision making process. When it comes to technology, statistics and analytics, more is often thought of as better when trying to grow a business. Yet in some cases, when data overlaps and provides conflicting views, it can turn into a challenge trying to figure out what to do next.

If you’ve become obsessed with data, numbers, and the trends you see, it may be time to take a step back and look at the big picture. While staying up to date on what technology can do for you is necessary, requiring constant updating to the “latest and greatest” item can allow you miss the power of what you currently have before you. Rely on a staff that has the ability to choose wisely and put the power you need into you hands today, while consistently evaluating newer technology and upgrades along the way. If they have the big picture in mind, they can wisely choose when to upgrade and when to keep things as they are..

Conway’s Law
One of the most applicable laws to a growing business can be observed through Conway’s Law, which states that any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it. In a broader context, this same rule can apply to a host of technological systems and operations, and also allow differentiation from one company to the next.

This is what allows competition to occur in a crowded marketplace, and why there is opportunity for innovation in both products and services on a continual basis. Microsoft, for instance, will produce a product that is true to its internal structure, dictated by the core that has made them a giant in the industry for years. However, a startup can enter the marketplace with a fresh new look at a problem, and bring a similar concept into play with an entirely different focal point.

No matter what business you are in, or what your ultimate end user looks like, there is always room for opportunity. Opportunity comes from within; it’s the culture you create with your team and the structure you move forward with over time. Establishing your business culture early allows you to share that with your team. And when your team is on track, everything they do can stay true to that original goal. This is what makes your company unique, and what will give your business power in the marketplace overall.

Changing Up Your Technology Toolbox

Changing Up Your Technology Toolbox

I travel quite a bit. When I meet someone new and they find out what I do, invariably they ask a question or two about technology trends. “What’s your favorite app? or “What program will help me be better at …” are common.

And I suppose there is a good reason for that. We’re living in a time where technology advances so quickly, it’s hard to keep up with all the changes that take place each day.Changing Up Your Technology Toolbox

Right now there are over a million mobile applications downloadable from either Google Play or the iTunes store, and the growth in both of these marketplaces won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Don’t want an app? Looking for a sophisticated program within your industry instead? There are millions of free, open source, and fee-based programs available to meet all of your needs.

We have more ways than ever to access the Internet. From our laptops and desktop computers in our offices, to tablets and smartphones we take with us wherever the jobsite may be, we never are far from the tools we need most to run our businesses and operate efficiently.

Then there’s the matter of keeping our information safe. And keeping it backed up and updated on a regular basis.

So much to think about; and ultimately that’s where the confusion sets in.

With this much connectivity and this many options available, where do we begin?

It’s no longer a question of IF there is something out there that can make better use of our time; it’s now a question of HOW you find it.

I read an interesting statistic from Nielsen on how our mobile app usage has changed from 2011 to 2013. For all smartphone users over 18, mobile usage has increased over 65 percent during that two year time period. At the end of 2011, a user spent around 18 hours a month using apps, while at the end of 2013 that timeframe increased to just over 30 hours. Yet while the time spent using apps changed dramatically, the number of apps used didn’t. At the end of 2011, the average number of apps used was 23.2, while at the end of 2013 it had only increased to 26.8.

What does that say about our user habits? We stick with the old, rarely venturing out to try something new. Yet it’s the new innovations that can help you save time, get the job done twice as fast, and improve your efficiencies tenfold.

Lets talk for a moment about your technology toolbox. I like using the metaphor of a toolbox for a few reasons.

  • A toolbox is a convenient place we keep our favorite tools ready to grab at any moment. A toolbox has limited space, so we’re required to choose the most useful things and keep them all together in one safe place.
  • If a new tool comes into the marketplace, its easy to take the old out and replace it with the new
  • You have easy access to a variety of tools at the same time. And in some cases, you gain more traction if you use them together.

The thing to remember about having a toolbox is before you even start a project, you have to carefully look at and evaluate the tools available to you before you make your final selections. A toolbox is only as good as the tools inside, so the more help you have at filling it with the right tools, the more successful your project will be. Then as projects appear, reaching into the toolbox and making a choice is easy because the tools there are specifically chosen for your needs. They make your job that much easier, and in some cases automated completely.

They can be updated. They can be improved. But ultimately they were placed inside the toolbox with your goals in mind.  Remember also, that your tools are not the applications that run your business (which is the application portfolio discussed in other blogs), these are tools that increase your personal productivity (like texting or note-to-text conversion, etc).

Now take a look at your technology toolbox. Was it carefully chosen, or was it jumbled together? Have you evaluated any new tools lately? Maybe it’s time for an update.

Make Yourself

Remember when you were young and asked, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  At that age, you saw no boundaries: you could be anything! But something happened on the journey of growing up.  For most, interesting distractions occurred that captured your attention and led to habits (or more likely, lack of habits) that seemed valuable in the moment, but ultimately led nowhere: watching TV, hanging out with friends, chasing after a romantic interest, etc.  Don’t get me wrong – all those things are have their place, but the habits (and time spent) pursuing them was likely all encompassing instead of balanced.  If it’s fun to watch TV one night, why not watch it every night?  If it’s fun to party two nights a week, wouldn’t five be better?  And the process of falling in love is so all-encompassing that you can’t think of anything else.

To feed these habits, we discovered we needed money.  Early in life (for most of us) our parents provided for our needs and many of our wants.  But there was a point where they stopped supplying all of our needs or wants… so we had to earn it some other way. Because our distractions were all encompassing, we usually jumped on the first opportunity to earn a buck that presented itself.  And rest of life settled into place from there.

Are you doing what you wanted to do? Are you the person you want to be? I am not asking if you are happy, or if you are successful… Are you who/where you want to be? For virtually everyone, the answer is no. For some of the more fortunate, your “no” is the recognition that the journey never ends, but at least you are on the path you chose. For those off track, you need to realize that it’s only you who can Make Yourself.

From vision to action

Great!  Now you know who you want to be. What’s next?  Invite me to wave my magic wand?  No!  Make yourself.

Make yourself get up early to exercise.  Make yourself refrain from dessert.  Make yourself refresh your resume.  Make yourself read instead of watch TV.  Make yourself apologize. Make yourself save the extra raise you received.  Make yourself delay gratification. Make yourself take a stand. Make yourself…

Get it?  The road to be who you want to be is made up of little steps and little decisions where you make yourself choose the right decision on the right path to be who you want to be.  I know you want it to be harder than that, so that you can blame someone else, circumstances, or the creator for not being who you dreamt you could be.  Sorry, that’s not how it works.  You have to Make Yourself.