Technology Advisor Blog

Is Work From Home Causing You Back Pain?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/22/20 10:13 AM

Work from Home - Ergonomics - EkaruWith the current pandemic, so many workplaces have been disrupted.  For those of us fortunate enough to have jobs that we can work from home, the hasty move to a home office has typically resulted in a less than ideal work environment.  For a week or two, we can all manage with working from the kitchen counter, but with longer shutdowns, it's time to pay more attention to a proper work set up.   

Over time, an improper work environment can result in:

  • back pain
  • neck pain
  • shoulder pain
  • eye strain
  • wrist pain - carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by repetitive motions like typing, and can become severe enough to require surgery.  
How you sit matters!

If you've ever worked at a large corporation, you've probably gone through some ergonomics training.  At a small business, you probably didn't get formal training. 

Workplace ergonomics aims to reduce risk factors that lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allow for improved human performance and productivity.

Things to think about:

  • Your monitor should be at eye level directly in front of you.  
  • Arrange your lighting to limit glare.
  • Your chair height should be adjusted so that your knees bend at about a 90 degree angle and your feet can rest of the floor or a foot stand.
  • Your keyboard height should be adjusted so that your lower arms are approximately parallel to the floor when typing.   Your shoulders should be relaxed.

Some of the other things we recommend:

  • Set up a second monitor if you can.  Staring at a 14 inch laptop all day is not ideal for your eyes, and two monitors will greatly enhance your productivity.
  • Attach a real keyboard to your laptop.  It will be a lot easier to type all day.
  • Get up and walk around every 25 minutes, and do some stretches. Your body needs movement.
  • Consider a table top converter from VariDesk to create a stand-up work environment.  This will enable you to raise and lower your desk throughout the day.  I've been doing this for years, and I've noticed improved back health.  

Looks like work from home will be the new normal for a while.  Take some time to pay attention to your work environment to stay as productive and healthy as possible.

For more work from home tips including security and technology recommendations, visit www.ekaru.com.  

Tags: small business technology, remote work, work from home

10 Tips to Keep Cybercriminals Out While Corononavirus Keeps You In

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/13/20 4:02 PM

10-Tips-Keep-Criminals-Out-During-Coronavirus-EkaruOver the past several weeks, Ekaru has helped many businesses in the greater Boston area set up remote offices.  As businesses scrambled to set up a remote workforce, the initial focus was on business continuity - trying to continue operations after leaving the physical office.  Now as employees have settled in, security needs attention.  Major events like the Coronavirus pandemic create new opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit, but smart defense doesn't let them.  These tips can help keep systems and data safer in uncertain times.

  1. Get the facts.  Stay away from the rumor mill and use information from reliable sources to make business decisions in chaotic times.  There's been a big increase in emails for fake news, health information, and cures.  Go direct to trusted websites for information.
  2. Think twice before clicking links.  Make sure staffers are on the lookout for suspicious links that can lead to ransomware.   It's very easy for scammers to "spoof" a link that looks legit, but takes the user to a different location.  In fact, many dangerous emails don't even look suspicious until they're studied closely.  
  3. Be suspicious of unexpected attachments.  Ensure users only open attachments from proven, trusted sources no matter how "official" that attachment looks.  Attachments can hide computer code that can harm your system and lead to security breaches.
  4. Automate compliance.  Have one less thing to worry about by choosing a dynamic web portal system that keeps track of everything.
  5. Protect those passwords.  Encourage safe password practices like using a password manager and not writing them down on sticky notes.  The MA Data Security law requires strong passwords that are stored in a safe way.  No one can simply memorize the 50-80 passwords that typical users require these days.
  6. Beware of strange networks.  Make staffers aware of the dangers of logging in from insecure public and home WiFi networks and how to use them safely.    Watch for accidentally connecting to the wrong network, and make sure your network has a strong password, especially if you live in a crowded area.  When you click on the wireless networks symbol on your computer, you can see all the networks around you, and guess what - all of those people can see your network too.  Make sure your network is protected by a strong password.
  7. Use two-factor authentication.  An extra layer of security keeps passwords and data safe.  Typically you'll be prompted to enter a random numeric code generated on your smart phone after entering your password.  If anyone gets your password, they can't access your systems without the extra code.
  8. Keep an eye on the bad guys.  Monitor the Dark Web to watch for company data so a problem can be addressed before it becomes a crisis.  This is an early warning system that can save you from a lot of risk.
  9. Stay current on threats.  Work with a partner that's on top of today's challenges.  Awareness goes a long way to help protect your network.  
  10. Ask for help.  Consult a security expert to plan effective strategies and get innovative solutions.  There are many great options that are budget friendly.  Too many small businesses are intimidated by security.  Learn about your options.

With modern technology, we can work together to stay productive during this pandemic.  With all the disruption and anxiety, cybercriminals are sadly taking advantage of the situation, but with a focus on security, you can help protect your business.  Download the infographic.

Tags: small business, small business technology, cybersecurity, remote work

8 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Scanner

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/11/11 11:13 AM

ScanSnap 1500 ScannerOne of the key technologies for your small business is a good document scanner.  Getting all your paper into electronic format is big step for getting organized.

If you're ready to go paperless, there's a lot to know so you can pick the right scanner for your business.  Document scanners can range in price from under $100 to thousands of dollars, so its worth knowing a few things before you start shopping.

1.  Flatbed vs Document Handler.  Decide what kind of scanner you need.  Flatbed scanners have a glass plate and a lid, and document handlers have a feeder mechanism to load the paper, many sheets at at time.  Many scanners have both capabilities.

2. Speed.  Look for how many pages per minute the scanner can handle.  You'll pay more for faster scanners, but if you plan to work with large volumes of paper, you'll need the speed.

3. One-sided vs Two-sided.  Can the scanner handle two-sided scanning or do you need to scan the back of pages separately?  This is also referred to as simplex vs duplex.

4. Print / Copy / Fax?  Does the scanner need to perform these other functions?  In many cases, the best solution is a dedicated scanner, but if you have tight space in your office, you may want to look for a combination unit.  If you're looking for a multifunction unit, consider if you need color printing.

5. Maximum Paper Size.  What is the largest paper size you need to handle?  Look for the maximum paper size - standard letter size (8.5"x11"), legal (8.5"x14"), or larger sizes (11"x17"). 

6.  Resolution.  Each scanner scans at a certain number of dots per inch (dpi).  For regular documents, 600dpi is fine, but you may need higher resolution if you work with photos.

7.  Network Connectivity.  Do you need just one computer to have access to the scanner or will you need networking capability to multiple computers?

8.  Software Capabilities.  With optical recognition software the scanner can save a machine generated document as an Word or text file that you can later edit, saving a lot of time.

Plan ahead, learn what the features mean, and you'll be happy with your purchase.

Tags: paperless, small business technology, scanner

Small Business Productivity/Security Recommendation - RoboForm

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 2/2/11 9:55 AM

With so many business and personal activities on-line these days, it's impossible to remember all the passwords.  We've all been trained to use "strong" passwords (6 characters or more, not a word in the dictionary, numbers & symbols), but remembering them is a big problem.

One of the productivity tools we like to recommend is RoboForm (www.roboform.com).  The slogan on their home page sums things up - "Put your passwords on speed-dial".  RoboForm automatically remembers your passwords, stores them securely, and then fills them in when needed, kind of like using a browser bookmark. 

When trying to remember complicated passwords, employees are often tempted to write them down and keep them in a convenient location, but this isn't secure.  In fact, the new Massachusetts Data Protection Law specifically addresses the storage of passwords by requiring:  "control of data security passwords to ensure that such passwords are kept in a location and/or format that does not compromise the security of the data they protect".  Bottom line, no more passwords on post-its under your keyboard! 

There's an entry-level free version of the program available, so this may be a great place to start and check it out.  Here is a link to the product comparison chart: http://www.roboform.com/how-it-works/product-comparison.

Tags: Security, passwords, small business technology

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