Technology Advisor Blog

How to Get the IT Management Services You Need During the COVID Outbreak

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/3/20 12:18 PM

IT management services

With the large majority of still-open businesses now working remotely, you may be experiencing a sudden need for IT support that you no longer have easy access to. Getting the IT management services and support you need when working in an office is one thing, but getting it when your entire team is spread across any number of locations is a far more complicated matter.

But that doesn’t mean the help you and your team need is beyond reach! The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically affecting the way we all do business. If you’re struggling to find the enterprise IT services and support your team needs to keep itself going, Ekaru can help to extend your reach. 

Here’s how we can provide the IT management services you need during these unprecedented circumstances.

On-Demand IT Support When You Need It

Small to medium-sized businesses are in an especially tough place right now. Not only are they having to quickly adjust to the lifestyle of a remote workforce, but they may also be struggling to equip themselves with the tools and services that were previously only located in the office.  Many companies didn’t have a fully built-out remote function in place at the time of this sudden outbreak.

This is where Ekaru is best positioned to help. Our team of engineers and experts can offer 24/7 and on-demand IT support for all of your remote workforce’s needs. 

Have you run into a tech emergency (like a network that’s suddenly shut down) and need help with damage control to keep operations running? Or maybe one of your employees has run into a roadblock, and you don’t know how to help them through it? With Ekaru, a technology advisor is only a phone call away.

Reliable (and Remote) IT Management Services

Working remotely can introduce a wide variety of challenges. The pace of a remote workforce will take immediate adjustments. You rely on technology for everything as part of a remote team, so if something goes wrong, it can feel like you’re on your own—it’s not like you can ask your co-worker the next desk over for help.

This is why it’s so valuable to have remote IT management services you can rely on. If your laptop isn’t running the company’s preferred software for reasons you can’t pinpoint, then you can call your Ekaru technology advisor and they’ll help you troubleshoot a solution. 

The need for remote technology support is stronger than ever, and you don’t want to spend time on the phone, waiting for someone to pick up; you’ve got enough to do already. When you work with Ekaru, our 24/7 help desk is always going to be there for you when you need us. 

You can also set up scheduled appointments with your Ekaru technology advisor. This will help you rest easy knowing that there’s a reserved time for you to work with us to maintain the status quo, assess how things are going, and preemptively address any issues that could be coming down the pipeline.

The COVID outbreak is changing a lot of things. If your remote workforce is struggling to deal with the transition (and the many technological roadblocks that can rear their ugly head), then get in touch with us today! We’d love to help you get the IT management services, support, and guidance you need to keep your company running at full steam.

Tags: Managed Services, computer support, remote work

3 Tips for Working Remotely to Help Your Team Stay Productive

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/2/20 11:27 AM

tips for working remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way companies operate. And as a result, your workforce may have become a remote workforce almost overnight. While this is a necessary change to keep employees safe, if your team isn’t used to remote work, they’re likely to encounter some challenges as they adapt to this new way of doing things.

As of March 17th, a Gartner Inc. survey “found that 88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home, regardless of whether or not they showed coronavirus-related symptoms” and “nearly all organizations (97%) have canceled work-related travel.” So, regardless of how long your team has been working remotely, you’re far from alone.

To help you figure out the best way to handle remote team management, and to assist your team as they stay productive and motivated, we’ve put together a few tips for working remotely that we hope will help you adapt to this “new normal.” 

1. Prioritize a Remote Office Setup

For someone who hasn’t learned how to work remotely, it can be challenging to set up a designated “workspace” in an environment usually reserved for after-work activities. Business Insider says it like this: “One of the biggest challenges of working from home is setting up a home office with the right tools, but once you've got everything in place, it's easier to get your work done.” 

Working remotely means you can be flexible with where you get your work done, but that flexibility can blur the lines between work and home life. It may sound redundant to tell your team to designate a specific space in their home for work, but setting up a single location for work—the same way they’d have a desk in the office where they get most of their work done—can help your team get into the kind of mindset that will keep them motivated throughout the day.

2. Equip Your Team with the Right Remote Working Tools

Having a remote workforce often means not having access to the usual bevy of tools and technology that team members may be accustomed to. Even if they have their work computers with them, they may feel like they’re missing some of the equipment they need to do their work.

To supplement your team, make sure they’re equipped with the right remote working tools. Things like video conferencing platforms (Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.), messaging apps (Slack, GroupMe), and any number of other remote working tools can help your team benefit from what HBR calls “a ‘richer’ technology” that provides team members with “many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face.”

You’re also going to want to make sure the tools your team uses are well-maintained and up-to-date. And if they’re not, or if they run into obstacles at any point in their day-to-day, that they have access to the kind of technology help they need to get up and running again. Even if you can’t help them yourself, there are plenty of third-party resources (like Ekaru!) who can jump in and help resolve whatever issues show up.

3. Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Communicating with your team is going to be more relevant than ever. “This could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls, if your employees work more independently from each other,” as HBR advises, or it could be a daily check-in with the whole team to see how everyone’s doing.

The important thing is that your remote workforce knows that they’re not on their own and that their questions and concerns will be heard. Not only will this keep up your company’s sense of culture, but it’s also one of those tips for working remotely that’s easy to implement and can go a long way toward encouraging employees to stay productive and on track.

Tags: productivity, Time Management, remote work

Keep Your Company Running Smoothly with Ekaru’s Enterprise IT Services

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/1/20 12:11 PM

enterprise IT services

Companies across industries are experiencing unprecedented stress and pressure right now on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Offices are shutting down, employees are working remotely, and the sense of structure your team was accustomed to may be starting to feel like a distant memory. 

These dramatic changes are hitting small to medium-sized businesses especially hard, as they may not have the same kinds of internal resources that are available to a larger corporation. This rings particularly true when it comes to remote IT services for small businesses. And since your newly remote workforce needs consistent and reliable access to the tech and tools that help them do their jobs, this can prove challenging.

If you’re looking for remote IT support for small business teams, then Ekaru is here to help. We know how stressful our current situation is, and we’re committed to providing enterprise IT services so you and your team can keep your company fully operational. Here’s just a glimpse into what form our enterprise IT services can take: 

Data Backup, Recovery, & Disaster Prevention

Your company’s data is the backbone of your entire organization. Without it, you might as well be adrift at sea. And with most teams now working remotely, you need to make sure your company not only has access to the data they need (more on that in a moment) but also that that data is secure, backed up, and not at risk to disappear when it’s needed most.

At Ekaru, we operate off of a “Prevent, Detect, Recover” strategy for your data. We’ll work alongside you and your team to identify essential data, outline a backup plan (and train users to implement it when needed) that will fit your budget, regularly monitor your data backups, run tests to make sure everything is running smoothly, and if worse comes to worst, support you in the data recovery process.

Easy-to-Access Cloud Storage

For a remote workforce to truly thrive, it needs to access any data it may need whenever it may need it. With Ekaru’s services, you’ll be able to get into your files from anywhere you are and from any device that you may be using. 

This means you can share data across your business and synchronize files with your team so you’ll never encounter an out-of-date document again. Our cloud storage services will protect your data with an AES 256 encryption, so you can rest easy knowing that your data is securely stored away in a place only the people you want to access it can access it.

Remote Enterprise IT Services For All Your Needs

Not every company has access to the full range of enterprise IT services and support they may need, and Ekaru wants to bridge that gap. We’ve made it our primary mission to provide enterprise IT services for small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and anyone who needs an extra bit of technical expertise. 

Where some IT support teams operate off of a “break/fix” mentality—where you have to wait for something to go wrong before they can help—Ekaru’s philosophy is centered on constantly and proactively monitoring and maintaining your network so your business stays productive, no matter what

You don’t need an entire IT department to stay afloat during these trying times. With our team of highly-trained technology professionals on your side, your small to medium-sized business can have the highest quality remote IT support at a price that works for your company’s budget. We have the enterprise IT management tools and solutions you need to meet all of your IT needs and to help you continue to make strides toward the continued pursuit of your business goals.

Tags: data backup, cloud, data security, remote work

COVID-19 - Remote Work Tips

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/27/20 5:03 PM

COVID-19As everyone works together to "flatten the curve" via social distancing, many workers are scrambling to work from home on short notice.  We've been fielding a lot of questions and put together some of the answers here in one post.

If you're new to video conferencing, don't be intimidated.  Most modern laptops have a webcam and microphone built in, so you don't even need any extra equipment.  Here's a short video showing how to launch a GoToMeeting call - as you'll see in the two minute video, its very simple.  It may take a little practice, but after a few tries you'll be comfortable:

GoToMeeting is our recommended solution for conducting video and screen-sharing calls.  A couple of things to remember if you're new to video conferencing.   

  • Mute your microphone when you're not talking. This will cut down on distracting background noise especially in large groups.
  • Take care to set up in a location with an appropriate background
  • View your own video so you know what you look like
  • Keep your own video view-able, you do don't forget you're on camera. You may not want all your colleagues seeing you snack while on the call.
  • Get familiar with the audio and video mute buttons.  You may need to use them and its awkward to fumble on camera.
  • Remember to CLOSE the meeting when you're done!  Or you may be sharing your screen the rest of the day!
  • Keep your laptop camera covered when not in use.

Non-profits, municipalities, and healthcare organizations can get a 90 day remote work kit - Contact us if you'd like us to help you get access.  Please put "Emergency Remote Work Kit" in the subject line.

Always keep security and privacy in mind when you're conducting conference calls or video calls.  There are other great remote collaboration tools available, but please keep in mind that the free versions may not be appropriate for business calls.  Zoom has been in the news recently for some privacy concerns - https://www.consumerreports.org/video-conferencing-services/zoom-teleconferencing-privacy-concerns/

NIST has also put together an excellent list of security recommendations in an infographic:  Conference Call Security Graphic

Don't be intimidated by technology, and remember security and privacy as you adjust to remote work.

Tags: cybersecurity, remote work

Technology Tips and Advice for Remote Workers

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/19/20 12:16 PM

Home office - PCWorking remotely has become a necessity for many with the Coronavirus outbreak. The technology that enables many to work remotely is a great benefit to keeping many businesses operational, but it also poses many new risks for the security of your organization’s data. For example, if an employee-owned device (laptop, PC, etc.) is connected to the company’s network and contains a virus or malware, they could be spread to your company’s network. Additionally, it becomes more of a challenge to verify the legitimacy of emails (for example, you’re no longer right down the hall from your CEO who requested an unusual wire transfer), you may be unfamiliar with policies and procedures as they pertain to a work from home environment, and the list goes on.

We’ve developed a list of guidelines and tips to assist you as you prepare to work from home in a safe, functional work environment. Note, this list is intended for guidance and information purposes only. If you have any questions regarding these tips, please reach out to us for additional information.

Guidelines & Tips
  • Secure workspace
    • Ensure you have the ability to lock your devices (laptop, PC, etc.) and any business relevant information when not in use. Use the keyboard shortcut “Windows Button” + “L” to lock your screen when not in use.  Right at the moment, none of us are mobile, but in normal times, cable locks for laptops should be used when necessary. Laptops and devices should be locked out of sight and/or in the trunk if it must be left in a vehicle unattended
    • Avoid using your personal devices for work-related business.  Best case scenario is a company issued laptop with full security or a dedicated home office system with full security.  Use separate accounts if you have to share a computer in the case of an emergency.
    • Safely perform conversations without visitors eavesdropping or shoulder surfing, especially if you deal with protected information.  This is a bigger issue in “normal” times in a mobile setting like a coffee shop, but keep in mind that any regulated information has to stay protected ALWAYS.  
    • Protect the data you are accessing by using a VPN to log into the company network, and ensure you are protecting data visible on your screen with a screen protector. This is especially critical for employees who are required to be HIPAA compliant, PCI compliant, etc. 
    • Restrict the use of devices containing business-relevant information. Do not let family members, friends, or anyone but yourself use company-owned devices or personal devices used for business purposes
    • Use strong unique passwords on all your devices and accounts to prevent unauthorized access
  • Wireless Security
    • Change default Wi-Fi Router passwords
    • Enable WPA-2 or higher encryption 
    • Ensure your local router firmware is up to date
    • Limit the use of public Wi-Fi. Always use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Never use public Wi-Fi to send sensitive information without a VPN 
  • Ensure all personal devices are secure with company-provided or personally owned antivirus and anti-malware software company 
  • Updated IOT Device firmware (smart thermostats, surveillance cameras, etc.) 
  • Ensure default passwords are changed 
  • Ensure the software on all devices within your home network is kept up to date (corporate laptop, IOT devices such as cameras and smart thermostats, personal laptops/tablets, etc.)
  • Review and follow corporate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and other relevant policies and procedures
AWARENESS 
  • Remote Work Employee Awareness
    • Be extremely cautious of email phishing scams
    • Limit social media use
    • Don’t reveal business itineraries, corporate info, daily routines, etc.
So many of our normal schedules and routines are temporarily disrupted.  Sadly, cyber criminals are taking advantage of this, and fake Coronavirus maps are being circulated containing malware, and there have even been some reports of ransomware attacks at hospitals.  Please remind everyone on your team to “think before you click”.  
 
Also, something we’re thinking about a lot these days, is that we’re grateful for the ability to keep doing our work remotely, and we’re acutely aware that for many, remote work is a luxury out of reach, and the crisis has a much harsher financial impact.  We’re all in this together, and we’re here to help in any way we can.

Tags: cybersecurity, remote work

Technology Help for Remote Office Workers

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/18/20 1:27 PM

Working From HomeMany people have been asking us about remote access options to work from home with the evolving coronavirus headlines in the news.  

Being able to do work from home or other location may be as simple as taking a work laptop home, or using a home PC.  You should be able to access work emails either from a web browser, a smart phone or using your Outlook email application, and that may be all you require.  Also, perhaps other needed information is available to you from a web browser (banking, payroll, or other vital work information).

However, if you need to access information which is on a system in your office, such as perhaps your Quickbooks financial data, line of business applications, or shared files, then you need to use remote access technologies.  There are two basic alternative ways to be able to access the needed information.

  • Accessing a PC located in your office  Everyone with a support plan with us has a remote access license - LogMeIn Professional - already included in your support subscription with us.  If you're not already using this, you can call our office (978-692-4200) or email us at support@ekaru.com and one of the engineers will help set it up for you.  It's generally a very quick set up, and it may take a bit of training to get used to it.  We recommend that each business establish an acceptable use policy to set minimum standards such as antivirus protection for home systems.
  • Accessing information in your office when you take your work laptop home  If you don't have a work system to connect to and you need access to the office network (you may or may not depending on what applications you use in the cloud), we'll work with you to set up what's known as a VPN connection (Virtual Private Network).  Depending on what level of firewall you have, you will have at least one connection already available to use.  The VPN licenses are for simultaneous use, so multiple people can use a license, but not at the same time.  It can take around 24 hours for new license keys to be issued, so if you anticipate needing to accommodate multiple users working remotely, this will require some planning. 
  • Remote Office Phone Usage:  For clients on our Jive phone system, you can make and receive phone calls via an app on your computer or smart phone, or take your handset home.  Because its a cloud system, the phone works from anywhere, and you can make calls from home (or anywhere) with your office caller ID.  
  • Meeting Collaboration Tools (Video and Screen Sharing) 
    • The Jive phone system includes a free GoToMeeting license which enables video calls and screen sharing with the Jive system. This is already bundled for newer users, and requires activation for legacy users. Tony Marciello is the point person on our team for helping with that.
    • If you don't have the Jive phone system, but just want GoToMeeting, we can help expedite set up through our partnership with LogMeIn. Reply to this email if that would be useful for you. Municipalities, non-profits, and medical institutions may qualify for special 90 day free licenses.

If you have any questions, please let us know. We're here to help!  978-692-4200.

Tags: remote work

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