Network Connectivity Troubleshooting – Part Two

This is part two in this series for network connectivity troubleshooting.  Confirming the connectivity with the Internet was the focus of the first three steps in our process. We now continue with the remaining steps to help you discover what the problem with your Internet connection might be.

1. Check functionality. Once the network cable has been confirmed to be working correctly, we need to see if the router is working correctly. Since you have already unplugged and re-plugged the router in and rebooted both it and your PC, that should have taken care of any automatic configuration issues that might have become hung up. High speed Internet providers can change the network address (also called the IP address) of your router at any time. This usually requires a re-boot of your router (and sometimes of your PC) in order to pick up that new address and begin communicating. Also, there are other network addresses that are used to get outside to the Internet that are automatically configured as well, but we will deal with those in a later step.

2. Test functionality. If after you have rebooted the router and PC and performed all of the steps above, but it appears that you are still having problems, make sure that you try other ways to get outside to the Internet by launching your email program (if you use one). If it works, but your Internet browser still does not, then something is preventing your Internet browser from resolving website addresses on the Internet.

3. Check virus software. When was the last time your PC performed an automatic update or a scan for viruses? Can you try to force an update now? Is it successful? If it has been a week since the last check for viruses, run a full system scan. If this does not work and no viruses are detected, move on to the next steps.

4. Try another system. Do you have another PC or laptop that you can plug in to your router to try and get out to the Internet, or do you know anyone else with a laptop PC who would be willing to bring it over to see if they can plug into your router and get out to the Internet? If so, that will confirm if you have a good working router and cabling. If you or they are able to get out to the Internet, then the problem lies with the original PC you were troubleshooting.

5. Contact your Broadband Service Provider. If you cannot get out to the Internet with another PC or Laptop, work with their support staff to troubleshoot the connectivity issue.

6. Final options. If all else fails, take your PC to another location like a friend’s house or a relative who has high speed Internet access. Plug into their system and see if the PC will access the Internet. Another option is to take your PC to a local shop to have it examined for any virus or spyware software that is not being detected but is preventing you from accessing the Internet. Usually, these local PC repair companies have the software tools to help detect and eradicate these problems.

Troubleshooting a connection for your PC can be a frustrating thing to do because there are so many variables to address. Be patient, and follow the above steps and hopefully you will find the source of your problem sooner rather than later.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=company] can help you alleviate your network connectivity troubleshooting problems with our Reactive Response and PC Repair Services for your business in [contentblock id=location].

Why Your Company Needs an Email Policy

Email is an important and necessary part of your business. It provides an economical and instant means of communicating with staff, customers, and vendors – that’s both simple to use and enables increased efficiency. An email policy is required to protect this necessary business tool.

An email policy is a legal document that details your organization’s definition of acceptable use for the company email system. It should indicate who emails can be received from or sent to, as well as outline what constitutes appropriate content for work emails.

In addition, having a company email policy will:

Protect the Organization from Liabilities: When all employees read and sign an email policy, it proves they are aware and agree to the information contained in that policy. Should an email be sent that is not considered appropriate content according to the email policy, the employee, not the business, would bear the brunt of liability for any damages or suits brought as a result of their sending an inappropriate email.

Promote a Professional Environment: If email is used only in a professional manner in the workplace, you can be sure that embarrassing mistakes will not occur. For example, if staff are using work email to communicate with friends, the content in those emails are likely to be sloppy, unprofessional, and informal. If those emails accidentally get sent to clients or other professionals – the company image may become damaged. If an email policy does not allow for personal use of the work email system, your staff will remain in a professional mindset and eliminate the potential of personal emails going out to customers.

Increase Productivity: Email tends to be a distraction for employees who are using it for non-professional reasons. If an email policy prohibits the use of work email for personal use, your employees will stay on task more and avoid the distractions that come from sending and receiving personal emails during work hours.

Establish Systems for Email: If the email policy outlines appropriate content for an email sent during work hours over the company email system, it can also help establish systems to ensure all staff members are contributing to the brand or image of the company. Have each staff member use a template for email responses and set up signature lines that appear in all outgoing emails to further establish the company’s professionalism and image in the eyes of individuals who may receive email from your staff. Setting guidelines for content and use of email creates a single, comprehensive image of the company that helps keep the organization aligned with its mission.

An email policy is a document that provides your business with certain legal protections involving misuse of the email system by employees. Because it is a legal document, many businesses elect to have a lawyer draw up the email policy, or at the very least, review the policy before it is implemented within the organization. Having a lawyer review or prepare an email policy may seem like an unnecessary upfront cost, but has the potential to save you in legal fees in the future.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=company] can help you implement and maintain a company email policy with our Email Messaging and Archiving Solutions for your business in [contentblock id=location].

Hackers Get New Tools… Managed IT Services Providers to the Rescue?

Two companies have released software that mines information about individuals on the Web. Core Security Technologies dropped its Exomind application, while Paterva released its Maltego program. Can Managed IT Services Providers Respond?

Both applications have one thing in common. They can be used to collect information on individuals from snippets of data dropped all across the web. Of course social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace make that job easy already, but these programs can piece together broken links to create virtual profiles that mimic your real world persona. They can identify who you know, where you shop and what you do for a living.

While Exomind was built to assess the negative impact of social networks on privacy, Maltego claims to have a much loftier purpose, the building up of corporate digital footprints to display relationships and reveal trends, which can be used to take corporate competitiveness to another level.

Individuals and companies alike need to be aware of the dangers of this type of software. The existence of Exomind and Maltego promises to revolutionize the way information is assessed on the web, which means that the user must rethink what they put out there.

Whereas before an individual might keep a Facebook profile for personal use and a LinkedIn or Ecademy profile for business purposes and feel fairly confident that the two were being kept separate, the emergence of this technology smashes this sense of security.

On a corporate level it means that sensitive data is exponentially easier to leak to the competition because they may have access to technology that can interpret spikes in communication between different parties or even pick up on blether on forums and in chat rooms.

How Can Managed IT Services Providers Help?

Managed IT Services Providers can step in to fill the gap in the need for more security. When superior protection is needed it is best to trust the industry giants to do the job. The most popular MSPs in the security business are Symantec and Verizon.

Symantec has a range of service packages tailored to meet the needs of small, mid-sized and large enterprises. They offer a wide range of services from data protection to spam prevention and endpoint security.

Verizon is comparatively new to the internet security business, having acquired Cybertrust in 2007, but they are prior recipients of the Global Product Excellence Award for Internet Security so they have a huge stamp of approval.

As technology continues to advance, security threats will only get more and more ubiquitous, so it is wise to leave the protection of data to the professionals. MSPs are a smart and affordable solution to what promises to be a persistent and costly problem.

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Tips for Motivating and Retaining Good Employees

In today’s tough economic environment, with job cuts and pay decreases, it can be a challenge to keep your employees focused on their job and motivated. While many employers are struggling and can’t offer pay raises, bonuses and other cash benefits to their employees, there are a variety of other creative ways to keep them happy and on the job. In fact, statistics show that people do not necessarily need praise in the form of money to stay motivated. Most actually prefer some other form of recognition. Here are some tips that can help boost your employees’ morale and productivity, resulting in your motivating and retaining good employees.

Tips for Motivating and Retaining Good Employees

First, always address your staff by their name. It is a natural instinct for people to want to feel valued. They want to be recognized. Make it a priority to learn your employee’s names and always address them by name. It can be demoralizing to know that your boss does not care enough to know who you are.

Give praise. People want to be recognized for their efforts. Giving on the spot recognition, praise at employee meetings or recognition in the employee newsletter for those groups and individuals that go the extra mile is a great way to boost morale. While it is great to point out team efforts, people tend to crave individual recognition as well.

Offer opportunities. These can really be quite simple. Help your employees focus on their career path by offering them one on one training or advice. Reward your hard working employees with special job titles. Job titles are very important to workers. A fancy title makes them feel good about themselves and offers respect and praise from friends, family and other co-workers.

Provide leadership opportunities. Recognize your hard working employees by letting them take on a leadership role. Have them present at a company meeting, take on additional responsibilities or let them lead up a company project.

Foster Team Spirit. Make the time to gather employees together and drum up some fun competitions will very often foster increased work production. A great simple reward for the competition is extra time off. Now that does not mean extra vacation days, but simply letting employees come to work a little late one day, take an extended lunch hour or leave early. Taking an employee picture, framing it and hanging it can also foster a sense of belonging.

Provide a Good Working Environment. Making sure the work space is clean, cosmetically appealing and comfortable actually can make a difference. Employees are more motivated to come to work each day if they have an inviting environment to report to.

Have Casual Dress Days. Employees love to dress down and offering them an opportunity to do so can brighten their spirits and keep them happy. Many places of business will do dress down Fridays. Another fun idea is to have dress down theme days. For example the week of the Super bowl you could wear your favorite team jersey, on St. Patrick’s Day everyone could wear green and on Halloween people could come in a costume.

Provide opportunities for social gatherings. A final great way to keep company morale high is to offer employees time away from the office to socialize. Having a summer company picnic, a holiday party, gathering for a softball game or a trip to the golf course are all fun ideas.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=company] can help you in motivating and retaining good employees by fostering more effective communication with our messaging and collaboration solutions for your business in [contentblock id=location].

Technology Increases Small Business Profitability

During times of economic struggle, most small businesses end up making cuts and changes to keep their businesses in the green. From laying off staff to decreasing business travel, reducing marketing efforts and ending bonuses and raises temporarily – there are a variety of ways small businesses look to cut their expenses. At the same time, they look for ways improve Small Business  Profitability – especially when operating with reduced staff. Technology becomes even more useful as small businesses strive to increase productivity and efficiency.

There are so many gadgets and technology solutions out there that it can be easy to buy more than you need, or to buy the wrong types of products that just don’t deliver the solutions your business needs. When deciding what types of technologies can help your business reach its goals, here are a few things to look for

Ways Technology Increases Small Business Profitability

Communications – technology is well known for its capability to improve the ability for people to communicate with one another. Whether you’ve got employees on the road or down the hall, virtual phone systems can route calls to cell phones and keep everyone in touch regardless of location. Instant messaging and email provide quick ways to communicate with the written word and keep documentation of these conversations for future reference. Social media and networking sites provide a way to keep in touch with co-workers, customers, and the competition at a glance.

Data Storage, Warehousing and Search – If you find employees are spending a lot of time looking for certain reports, forms or other data that they need to perform their job responsibilities, investing in network hardware and software to keep track of the whereabouts of your data can be useful.

Telecommuting – many small businesses also find that there isn’t a need for all employees to work in the same office building in order to get their work done. Having employees who telecommute requires the technology to make that happen (a secure network for employees to access data they require to do their job; improved communication systems to receive incoming phone calls at their homes or on their cell phones and the ability to keep in touch with co-workers in different locations). Having employees telecommute can save you from needing a larger office space, which keeps your overhead costs lower, too.

Customer Relationship Management – having some sort of CRM software to help you manage your database of clients and prospects is well worth the investment. Many businesses will tell you the “money is in the list”; meaning the amount of money a company earns is directly proportional to the number of people on their mailing list. Some companies use software like ACT, Goldmine or SalesForce to track their clients and leads. Others have custom-built software developed to handle unique needs that can’t be addressed with existing software.

Technology makes it possible for small business to increase productivity and compete with larger businesses on a smaller budget, thereby increasing profitability. Efficiency and organization is improved through the use of appropriate data storage, search and mining, customers are better managed through customer relationship management systems, and it is possible for money to be saved when employees telecommute from home. Before investing in any new technology, identify the unique needs of your business and determine which technology will best meet your needs.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=company] can help you increase small business profitability with our Technology Consulting Services for your business in [contentblock id=location].

The Importance Of Communication, Messaging and Collaboration In The Workplace

With so much technology and messaging and collaboration solutions at our fingertips, it is difficult to believe that there are any communication problems in any business today. In the course of a busy workday, the importance of good communication can be something that can be easily forgotten. If you are noticing that it is difficult to get your employees to work together cohesively, that morale is very low, or worse, that your business is losing money, you might need to take a second look at your company’s communication.

Use the Telephone

While phoning someone is still a good practice, it isn’t always the best mode of communication for every situation. Using the telephone is good for setting up meetings or discussing items for which there is a quick resolution. It is generally not a good venue to tell an employee that they made a mistake on their last assignment. Save that discussion for a one-on-one meeting.

Write an Email

Email is a fast and convenient way of communicating with colleagues and employees provided you follow a few guidelines. Use email for only disseminating factual information. If you are writing anything that could be misinterpreted, it is best to address that face-to-face. For example, if you are trying to remind an employee that something that they are doing is inappropriate in the workplace, an email might come across like an impersonal and angry lecture. This could end up causing a backlash from the employee rather than alleviating the situation.

Have a Meeting

Meetings can help bring employees and colleagues together and make them feel part of the company. It also helps to keep everyone apprised of what is happening in the company. It is probably the best way to communicate all important company business and ensure that everyone hears it. It is important to encourage open communication in the meetings, so that employees feel that they are heard and that what they say matters.

Try One-on-One Communication

With so many different modes of communication today, one-on-one communication often gets forgotten. It is so much easier to shoot someone an email or leave them a voicemail, but there are times when good old-fashioned face-to-face communication is still the best way to speak with a colleague or an employee. Many people do not feel comfortable bringing up their concerns or problems at a meeting. Things written on an Email and said on the telephone can often be misinterpreted when you are not able to see the person and read their body language. This is why a face-to-face meeting can be a much better option in this situation.

Listen

Listening is probably the most glossed over, yet most important piece of the of communication puzzle. Without the listening portion, any other piece cannot fully succeed. Employees and colleagues need to know that their input is being heard. Feeling unheard can often be the cause of low morale and high employee turnover. While listening does not necessarily mean incorporating each suggestion into your company or changing every policy based on what one employee says, it does mean giving the ideas full consideration.

In today’s highly technological society where everyone can do and access everything from their computer or cellphone through messaging and collaboration solutions, the importance of good communication cannot be stressed strongly enough. Using the appropriate mode of communication for different situations will make everything flow easier, and help make your employees feel that they are important and valued member of your company.

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4 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Technology Investment

Touching TechnologyHow many times have you purchased new software or hardware, and avoided the help menu or user manual? Experts reason that about 90 percent of all features included with software go unused! Much of this comes down to lack of training for individuals using the technology – they use what they know and need most, and avoid anything that would require study or practice to implement. It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance, but with a little motivation you could better benefit from the money spent on technology for your business.

How to get the most out of your technology investment

Instead of letting your technology investments continue on underutilized, here are 4 tips for getting the most out of your technology dollars:

1. Put the client in the driver’s seat of communication.

You can improve the quality of customer service offered by your company through the use of simple technology. The more connected you are to your clients, the happier they are with your work. Use technology to give your clients a way to initiate discussion with you, either through blog interaction or a discussion forum. Set up instant messaging so clients can contact appropriate staff members as necessary. It’s simple technology, but will result in improved client retention, repeat customers and better communication.

2. Create a business culture of continuous improvement.

One of the most amazing aspects of technology is how quickly it is updated and improved. Just when you think you have the best of the best, new technologies and processes are created to improve productivity. Even in the sometimes mundane office environments, new ideas will enhance efficiency and productivity. Encourage staff and consultants to let the new ideas flow – continuous improvement is the key for making the most out of your technology.

3. Take advantage of training opportunities.

If the cost of sending staff to training courses is a bit much, and you’re unable to conduct monthly training seminars on your own – consider bringing in vendors and experts whenever a new version of software is released. You can also have managed service providers deliver training virtually as needed, in order to keep your staff up to date with the programs and tools used in the office.

4. Internal email newsletters with tips.

Most businesses recognize the value of sending newsletters to their clients to keep in touch and establish relationships, but what about internal newsletters among staff members? Send a weekly email to your staff with a single technology tip that explains how to do something that will improve their productivity or make their lives a little easier. Keep it fun and add a cartoon or a quick quiz to keep the staff looking forward to their weekly newsletter. Your ideas for topics can come from training and seminars you attend, or from questions staff ask the IT department. If one person doesn’t understand something, there are probably a few others who also don’t understand – but aren’t speaking up about it.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=company] can help you make the most of your technology investment with our free Network Analysis and Security Assessment for your business in [contentblock id=location].

 

Cloud Computing – How Will it Affect You?

happy-woman-working-on-laptopWe are always on the watch for the ‘next best thing’ when it comes to technology and the Internet. Certainly no one can doubt that Cloud Computing and the next generation of the Internet has had a dramatic affect on how people interact and connect with each other – both from an individual standpoint and a business one.

The hottest emerging concept that has the power to change how we perform tasks is taking place before us – and it is Cloud Computing. Simply put, it is the ability to use resources and tools via the Internet without actually owning or being near them. The only requirement is to be able to access them.

The term ‘Cloud’ is used to indicate the whole of computing services accessible via the Internet. It is an all-encompassing description of the complex internet-connected networks that exist in datacenters all over the world that power services and applications behind the scenes.

The concept of utilizing resources in these networks is being adopted by businesses both large and small. These resources are categorized to describe their function, and include:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Web 2.0

In the most general terms, Infrastructure as a Service means that companies may no longer need to own and house their own back-end servers and other network computing infrastructure besides an internet-connected PC or laptop in order to maintain business functionality. This capability can be purchased on a subscription basis from entities that market these services in a ‘virtual’ manner. This allows businesses to keep their costs low by not having to purchase, maintain and recycle their own equipment for this purpose, and also mitigates the possibility of business interruption due to the highly available nature of these solutions. This equates to increased uptime and profitability for Infrastructure as a Service customers.

Platform as a Service is also known as ‘cloudware’, and refers to the availability of development tools in creating web applications and services to the end user. Like IaaS, you never ‘see’ the inner-workings of this environment unless you are a computer programmer or IT resource, but it exists nonetheless and again affords those who use these tools the ability to reduce costs while running their businesses.

Sofware as a Service is defined as software applications that are subscribed to and accessed only through the Internet, and not installed on local PCs or laptops. Applications built by and accessed via Google fall into this category, as well as the many photo sites to which you can upload your pictures and videos, edit and share them with others. These solutions are gaining tremendous popularity, because end users do not need to install, update and maintain software locally – only connect to it and use it when the need arises.

Web 2.0 describes the whole of the social networking movement on the Internet, and includes but is not limited to destinations such as Facebook, MySpace, eHarmony, LinkedIn and Twitter. These sites offer the ability for people all over the world to share common interests, stay connected and learn more about each other – and these sites aren’t just for the young. Statistics show that the over 50 generation is logging onto these sites in greater numbers than ever before. In fact, in one month alone, Facebook adds over 17,000 new members.

The next time you are on the Internet and upload a photograph and use the online tools to modify that picture, you are participating in ‘cloud computing.’ The picture is probably loaded to a site that uses IaaS for their servers, PaaS in order to provide the visual interface in which you modify the photograph, and SaaS applications you’ll use to access your email program and social networking sites in order to send it to or post it for those with whom you would like to share the picture.

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Why Your Company Needs An Internet Use Policy

email-stampWith computers and Internet access such an integral part of every business, and the Internet filled with everything from gambling to x-rated websites, it is critical that every business has an Internet Use Policy in place. This policy can help prevent your employees from accidentally or intentionally causing harm to your company or your company’s reputation. While you don’t want to give your employees the idea that they are living in George Orwell’s 1984, you want them to have a clear understanding of practices that are and are not appropriate during work hours. It is necessary for companies to create an Internet policy that everyone can live with.

Why Have An Internet Use Policy?

The purpose of a business is to make money. In order to accomplish this, the company has to have productive employees. The Internet can be a time drain and often prevent employees from being as productive as they should be. With such a wide range of information available on the Internet, it is necessary to clarify the company’s expectations of its employees regarding Internet access. With a strong policy in place, the employee, as well as the employer, will find Internet use less confusing and frustrating.

Another important reason to have a strong Internet Use Policy is to save your company from unnecessary lawsuits. Unless you have a clear policy on what is and is not acceptable on the Internet in your company, you can risk having an unfair dismissal lawsuit on your hands when an employee is abusing the company’s Internet.

What Elements Should Your Internet Usage Policy Contain?

When planning your Internet Use Policy, it should contain certain key elements such as:

  • The company Internet is for company business only and to be used only during company business hours
  • All work done on company computers during business hours, including all emails, is company property and can be accessed by the employer at any time.
  • Establish what type of computer use is unacceptable such as accessing personal social media accounts, personal email, pornographic websites, etc.
  • Employees must refrain from accessing websites, creating, or forwarding email that promotes any type of discrimination such as racial or sexual discrimination, or that is defamatory or harmful towards another person or group.
  • Employees are not allowed to gain access to or attempt to access other employee’s computers, employee stored information, or any information unauthorized by the company.

In addition to the guidelines above, inform your employees that whatever is done by the company, for the company, and on the company computers should remain confidential and within the confines of the company. In addition, let employees know that when they access unapproved sites, they risk infecting the company computer system with viruses that could possibly shut down the entire company network.

Having an Internet use policy in place helps to eliminate any confusion and possible abuse that could prevent a company from functioning productively. A solid Internet use policy help to make the work environment more pleasant and more conducive to getting the necessary work done in order to have a successful business. Creating a safe and productive environment is important for any business, and one way to ensure that is to implement an Internet use policy.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=2 img=gcb.png] can help you benefit from an Internet Use Policy with our Technology Consulting Services in [contentblock id=1 img=gcb.png].

Should You Hire Or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

Most small business owners handle all aspects of their businesses, including acting as the Information Technology department. This will work for as long as you remain a small business without employees. When you grow and start hiring staff, will it make more sense to use your business-building time on handling IT issues or outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

Unless you are an Information Technology Service Provider yourself, chances are your time will be much better spent marketing your products and/or services, establishing relationships with your clients, providing exceptional customer service and just otherwise growing your business – so why not outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

How do you know when it’s time to get IT help? If the information technology demands are affecting your day and negatively impacting your actual business related activities – it’s definitely time to consider finding an IT resource. If you start adding new employees and computers, it’s probably a good time to look into adding IT help, as well.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

When you make the decision to find an IT resource, your first decision will be whether you need to hire one or more staff to fulfill the role, or if you’re going to outsource IT services. Having dedicated IT staff means they are 100% committed to your business. They’re not splitting their time among numerous clients the way a contracted company might. One of the benefits of having an IT department is that the staff develops a strong understanding of your unique business needs and should be in a good position to manage your short and long term IT requirements. With your own IT staff on payroll, you know you’ve always got someone available (unless they’re out sick or on vacation!) should an emergency or urgent situation present itself.

The primary disadvantage of hiring IT staff is that you’ll be paying for their benefits, their training, and a variety of other costs associated with hiring a new employee. Not to mention, you have to pay them the agreed upon salary regardless of how much IT work you end up having, which means you may be overpaying based on workload!

There are a variety of advantages of outsourcing to an external IT service provider over hiring staff. You can choose to outsource your information technology needs to a flat rate IT service provider and reduce your monthly and overall costs. Having a virtual IT department lets you focus more on running your business rather than the technology that supports it. You aren’t stuck paying employee benefits or other employee costs, and you aren’t responsible for making sure the IT team remains up to date with their training and knowledge.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right information technology help for a growing business needs is challenging. When you think strategically about your business’ unique IT requirements, you can make sound decisions that further promote its growth and profitability.

Click here to learn how [contentblock id=company] can help you with your IT outsourcing needs. The first step is to schedule a meeting to go over our Technology Consulting Services for your business in [contentblock id=location] with you.