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User Question: I have a small law firm with only 5 attorneys. Do I have to worry about network security?

Answered By a CTO: Absolutely! Businesses of any size, even solo practitioners have to be concerned with network security and data protection.  With ransomware virus infections becoming commonplace, it is more important than ever.  These are viruses that can encrypt all of your data, and often (but not always) demand you pay a ransom to get it back.  More recent versions of ransomware also attack your data backups so you can’t just restore the information.

According to the ABA’s 2018 Tech Report, approximately 70% of solos and 63% of those in firms with 2-9 attorneys do not use any password management tool as a security measure. This is despite the fact that 30% of solos and 48% of firms with 2 to 9 attorneys say they have been infected by a virus, spyware, or malware. Of course, this affects larger firms as well. That’s why we have Legal IT Specialists that can help law firms of any size to put proper network security measures in place, and protect their data. That includes up-to-date security software, proper hardware configuration, and onsite, offsite, and/or cloud storage backups.

User Question: Does it make sense to lease technology hardware?

Answered By a CTO: Yes and no. But it depends on the company.

Yes, it makes sense to lease any hardware that you will need to upgrade in a couple of years. Due to the rapid advancement of hardware, software, networking, cabling, and application development, 36-60 months from now, much of your current technology will be relatively ancient, obsolete, and incompatible with newer components. Outdated equipment often runs slower and is less reliable than even the lowest grade of new technology offerings. People lease cars partially because of the drop in value once you drive it off the lot. Office technology is no different.

On the other hand, there may be tax incentives to evaluating your current technology infrastructure and investing in much-needed upgrades. The IRS may consider your technology purchases to be business assets that retain their value over several years. Section 179 of the tax code allows for writing off the entire amount of those purchases all at once.  Section 179 will also allow for expensing software purchases, although you may prefer to include these as office expenses. The rules become a bit trickier for expensing “tech toys” such as iPads. While it may be a necessary tool in your business, have in mind that the smaller the business, the closer you are to having personal benefit from these kinds of gadgets. You’re going to have a pretty tough time explaining the business value of that Lexus hoverboard.

Whether you choose to lease or purchase hardware, we can make sure that you have the correct configuration and compatibility with the rest of your network. We can also ensure that you can write off your technology purchases by setting them up for business purposes and properly documenting it.

User Question: Is it safe to use public wi-fi?

Answered By a CTO: It depends on what exactly you are using it for, but there are definite security risks to consider. First consider how you use wi-fi when you’re on the go. Be especially wary of logging into accounts or making purchases when you are connected to a public wi-fi network, even if that network is password protected. Coffee-shop wi-fi passwords are easy to come by. With the right tools, a cyberthief on the same network could follow your online moves and capture everything from your login credentials to the credit card info you type in while shopping.  If you absolutely must conduct business from a public wi-fi network, consider using a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN creates a kind of tunnel to encrypt your data, making it useless to would-be snoops.

User Question: Whenever we talk to a new IT guy, they don’t seem to understand what exactly our business needs. They can easily rattle off all the services they offer, but aren’t very good at explaining which ones apply to us. Something’s getting lost in translation. How can we communicate more effectively and make sure we aren’t paying for stuff we don’t need?

Answered By a CTO: First of all, a sign of any good tech or IT company is their ability to LISTEN. I know that a slick sales pitch means nothing if it won’t ultimately help your business make more money, be more efficient, and have happier and more productive employees. That’s why my first priority when determining if we are a good fit for a business is to learn as much as I can about the business! It’s impossible to meet your needs if I don’t know your current problems as well as what’s working well for you. Taking the time to understand the business model and overall workflow, instead of just focusing on your technology, gives me a bigger picture and informs which areas I might be able to improve upon.

Once I fully understand your business’ issues, only then can we have an open and informed discussion about how I can help you meet your specific business needs. Our company even has industry specialists who have advanced training & experience with the unique IT components, billing procedures, schedules, and cultures of different fields. For example, there are some pretty big differences in the IT needs of law firms, construction companies, school, nonprofits, healthcare settings, PR firms, manufacturing facilities, etc.!

User Question: Should I care if there was a breach for an online service I used to use but never go to anymore?

Answered By a CTO: Unfortunately, yes. It may seem impossible to remember every service you’ve signed up for over the years, especially when it comes to services that you may not even know are associated through a parent company. However, every time you create an account, the info you provide is stored in a database. Major hotel, airline, and retail chains, as well as social media companies are common targets because of the high volume of personal identity information in their databases. Exposed information from data breaches, hacking incidents, or leaked information can be bought and sold on the dark web as “lists”. The buying and selling activity by identity thieves may occur months to years after it is actually exposed in a security incident. That means you might hear about the breach of a company you haven’t thought about in years, long after your info has been compromised.

Even though you may have stopped using older social media websites, (such as MySpace, for example) or even “deactivated” your account, your information could still be available in their system. If you are no longer using this or any other account you opened, the proper step to take is to officially unsubscribe from it. This step will not remove your data from their database, but will prevent unauthorized access or password reset attempts based on other password combinations you have used in the past. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than sweeping it under the rug. That’s the first place hackers look!

Going forward, make sure to properly document every single account you create with a Password Management application. In addition to organizing your login info, you can use it to track which sensitive information has been provided to which companies, and it will make it easier to unsubscribe from accounts you no longer use .

User Question: We have 2 Internet connections and when the Internet went down it didn’t failover to the backup line. Our IT guy said even when setup right it wont switch over 100%. Is this accurate or was it set up wrong?

Answered BY A CTO: Excellent question that we run into quite often. First of all, it of course depends on the firewall you have, the license on it, and the configuration that is setup on the firewall. However, even if everything is good, and the Internet failover is setup right and working, I do agree, it won’t work 100%. If the primary ISP is down, but the issue is in their datacenter (also called a CO / Central Office) the firewall might still see the primary connection as UP and RUNNING, so it won’t failover. Because it is receiving power and is actually connected, it just can’t follow the whole path needed for Internet access. So in short, it is definitely possible.

User Question: Windows 7 is a great operating system. Should we really go through the trouble of upgrading to Windows 10 if we are happy with the older version? Can we just upgrade some of our computers and not all of them?

Answered By a CTO: Yes, you should absolutely go through the process of making sure every single computer connected to your domain (and especially to the internet), is upgraded to Windows 10. In addition to some performance and visual enhancements, the most important reason to upgrade is to stay current with security updates.  Network security should always be the top priority of any business.

The main issue we are seeing today is an increase in ransomware attacks, which not only target application flaws but can exploit vulnerabilities of an outdated operating system itself.  And while it is easy enough to keep software up-to-date, Microsoft will no longer be providing operating system updates for Windows 7 starting on January 1, 2020. So at that point, even known security issues won’t be able to be remedied or patched with the latest updates. That leaves your business extremely vulnerable to well-known attacks, and there will be no way to protect your domain, even with the best firewalls and other security methods. Your entire network’s security is only as strong as its weakest link. All it takes is one vulnerable, out-of-date computer to open up your whole system to a cyberattack. You really do need to upgrade all of them in order to have a secure network.

User Question: What is PII?

Answered By a CTO: PII stands for Personally Identifiable Information. It’s a term that is used in the context of data breaches and identity theft. If a company or organization suffers a data breach, a significant concern is what PII might be exposed (the personal data of the customers that do business or otherwise interact with the entity). Exposed PII can be sold on the dark web and used to commit identity theft, putting breach victims at risk. But it’s not just companies where you have been a customer that you have to worry about. If the company you work for doesn’t have effective network security measures in place and suffers a breach, a lot of the employees’ PII could be exposed. This can lead to breaches in your personal life. Most frustratingly, it’s often impossible to tell when and where the breach occurred!

User Question: Should I be worried about my APCs power protection with Hurricane Dorian coming?

Answered By a CTO: Well, not if you recently checked and tested them.  Sorry, to pull a “Monday Morning Quarterback” remark on you.

I will provide as much advice as I can to assist you.  First a bit of general information:
APC is the top company in the market that produces uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).  It often comes with a software program called PowerChute which monitors for a power outage or surge in power, and allows servers, workstations, switches, firewalls… to be shutdown.  This is very important when there is a possibility of an extended power outage.  While the UPS is a battery backup, it will run out of power based on the type of battery it has, how many and what type of devices are relying upon it, how long the outage is, and other criteria.  In addition, like a cell phone or any other battery, if it is old, it may not hold as great a change, thus reducing the time your devices will stay available, also called “runtime”.

You can read more about it here at APC’s website:  APC Power Considerations

To answer your question, if your current power usage and protection has not been professionally tested periodically by a qualified IT Services firm, there may be a considerable danger.  Even if we ignore the potential downtime from Hurricane Dorian, it is possible that if the devices connected to the UPS are not working properly, (such as if the battery is not working – check for a red light!) or if it was not configured correctly, any connected hardware may just crash down.  In that case, when power is restored, the result may be crashed servers and potentially lost data.

At this point, my recommendation would be to assess the risk.  I am assuming you do not have a Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery plan, based on the fact that those are more costly and complex to setup and manage than the scenario we are reviewing.  As such, you may want to minimize risk by powering down your servers, firewall, switches, and even unplug the UPS from the wall when everything is shut down.  This will ensure that when power restores, a Jolt Of Power won’t damage the hardware.

As with all business decisions, sometimes minimizing risk with some lost productivity is a wiser decision than taking a much larger and potentially costly gamble.

I hope you and your family (and network) are safe and sound.

User Question: How can I tell if my company is an easy target for identity thieves?

Answered By a CTO: The best way to get a full picture of your company’s current security situation is to have a certified IT professional perform an in-depth network security assessment. As a CTO, I can evaluate your hardware, software, current configurations, and practices to look for flaws and offer suggestions for improvement. In the meantime, the best approach to minimizing risk is a multi-faceted one that includes training your staff. Proper security implementation, monitoring, updates, and procedural review are critical to any network’s defense. But if you aren’t also taking the time to teach every member of your staff how to identify phishing scam emails, then you are probably at a higher risk than you think. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised what small errors can bring a company to its knees. After all, your network is only as secure as its weakest link.

User Question: How can I simplify small daily tasks at the office?

Answered By a CTO: Other than coffee, one word: technology.

Great tech services means leveraging technology hardware and software solutions to increase your productivity and simplify/automate as many daily tasks as possible. Below are a few examples of quick tasks that can be tweaked to better meet your needs and make you feel less “hectic with little tasks.”

Using group chat messaging can be a great way to simplify daily tasks. How many hours have you wasted waiting for an email about instructions or clarification for a task you could have completed in half the time? Group chatting is a more efficient, less cluttered way to communicate with your team and will get the job done much quicker.

Do you often spend too much time trying to open up a file because it’s password-protected? The proper tools can help you simplify these types of tasks. By using a password management software, not only will you be increasing data security, but you will save employees and managers time by not having to track down the password for each file they need to open.

File sharing in general can be another hindrance to productivity. Waiting for a coworker to send a file, or being interrupted to send one yourself can bog down workflow. There are a multitude of file sharing technologies out there; implementing one can save time and also track changes that were made to a document. This tool eliminates the other time-waster and headache of trying to figure out who changed what and when.

User Question: How can my team and I create a better environment for collaboration?

Answered By a CTO: Snacks and standing desks don’t hurt! But in reality, technology is key to developing a more sophisticated level of collaboration in the office.

For example, cloud-based note taking is a great tool because it allows you and your team to keep track of your collaboration sessions in real-time. This also enables employees to hold virtual meetings, whether they are in the office, in transit, or working from home.

Online communication tools and project management tools are also an easy way to facilitate collaboration. Skype or Slack are platforms used by many companies to send direct messages and share files either individually or in a group. Project management tools are valuable, too, because they let users assign specific tasks, see who’s working on what, and increases overall visibility of collaboration.

User Question: I work in HR. What can I do to make things like Time Tracking and Payroll easier?

Answered By a CTO: HR can have the hardest job in the office…if they don’t take advantage of technology to make their life easier. There are dozens of online applications that can be used to automate processes like Time Tracking and Payroll.

The benefits are endless when it comes to automated Time Tracking. For starters, you can prevent your employees from committing time theft, which will save your company a lot of money and lost hours in the long run. You can also save time by eliminating the process of manually auditing time entries and correcting false time logs. This process will allow you to see how employees are spending their time productively (or unproductively), as well as make way for better project planning.

Payroll can be simplified greatly through technology, too. There are many factors that come into play that can make payroll difficult, like benefits and taxes. Thanks to advanced payroll tracking technology, you can take into account the hours worked and calculate for shift differential compensation automatically if necessary. In fact, most payroll technology is integrated with time tracking applications, thus reducing the need to confront payroll disputes while simultaneously boosting morale. Employees will be encouraged, knowing they are receiving fair and accurate pay.

User Question: How can I use technology to help my employees be more productive when servicing clients?

Answered By a CTO: Making clients happy is a core value of every business. But how can you make the client happy when all your servers are down and you can’t provide the information they need? There are so many seemingly small things you can do using technology to make a big impact for your clients and employees.

First of all, you need to invest in a reliable network, which includes taking more serious security measures, backing up data, and improving processes constantly. Once you have secured a more stable network, your employees will be able to work and service your clients more efficiently because they will not be halted by a faulty server or data breach.

You should also give your employees access to information by using a secure, high-quality VPN. By doing so, you are allowing your employees access to the materials they need to provide to any client, or potential client, in offsite meetings and while working remotely. Another smart way to help your employees be more productive when servicing clients is to link your CRM solution to your employees devices. That way, they can easily access customer information which saves time for both your employee and customer. Everyone is happy!

User Question: What applications can I use or actions can I take in order to boost employee satisfaction and productivity?

Answered By a CTO: Sometimes, giving out free work computers and phones just isn’t enough. Your employees want you to hear their concerns and provide solutions.

One way that you can foster a more open line of communication between you and your employees is by using engagement tools. Platforms like TINYpulse make it possible for your employees to express their concerns through anonymous surveys and feedback channels, as well as more constructive peer-to-peer recognition. Fun ideas to boost employee satisfaction can be having them anonymously vote for an employee of the month, or answering polls about personal preferences in non-official matters, like snacks, office art and music.

Another trend that has been on the rise for many companies is giving employees the ability to work from home. Some interesting statistics below:
• 90% of employees say allowing for more flexible work arrangements and schedules would increase employee morale
• 85% of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their company
• 80% of U.S. workers say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working

Working from home can provide more comfort, less distractions, and increased flexibility. If working from home makes employees happy, and is good for productivity, finding ways to make remote working possible should be a priority.

User Question: Some of my employees are unqualified for the tasks they are given, but we need to get things done quickly sometimes. Is there a way to find/hire talent fast online, and if so, is this the best approach?

Answered By a CTO: Not surprisingly, having an inexperienced worker perform a task that needs to be done in a timely manner can actually have a negative effect on productivity. Introducing, the internet. In one word: yes, the internet is a great way to find experts to get the job done fast. There are tons of outsourcing and contracting tools, like Freelancer.com and Fiverr for example, to find exactly what and who you are looking for.

Think about it this way, it’s very possible that your company only needs a graphic designer for some projects here and there; so why hire a full-time, 40-hour per week designer? I mean, the designer who created the Nike “Swoosh” was a Freelancer! Take advantage of the Internet’s endless opportunities to find highly skilled and motivated talent.

User Question: Training my employees takes up a lot of time and distracts me and my senior staff from the work we need to do. What steps can we take to make training more time-efficient?

Answered By a CTO: It’s important to note that manual training is not only time consuming, but cost-consuming as well. For example:
• According to the 2017 Training industry report, companies spent an average of $1,075 per employee trained

Costs include everything from teaching materials to time spent not working (and not making money). Employers can utilize advances in technology to streamline training.

For instance, consider that most, if not all, training can be done online. By implementing Learning Management Systems, or LMS, you can track the training process, assess information retention, provide a self-service system where the trainee can request materials, and even complete training on-the-go with mobile versions.

You can also turn to Gamification to help revamp the training process. Creating a video game of sorts for your trainee’s is a fun, interactive, and helpful way to apply training principles and ensure retention of information; competition fuels motivation. Something as simple as pre-recorded video and audio from managers and higher-ups can save time in the training process as well.

User Question: I know technology can benefit productivity, but how can I manage my employees internet usage so they aren’t getting distracted by it?

Answered By a CTO: Technology can definitely become distracting when used in the wrong ways. These days, there’s simply too much to look at:
Facebook, Buzzfeed, News, the list goes on.

Employee management software is a great tool to use when you need to manage the productivity of your employees. By seeing how your team is spending their time, you will be able to evaluate who is potentially abusing their time spent on the internet and work on better time-management.

Additionally, when employees know they are being monitored, they are more aware of their internet usage and therefore are less likely to become distracted by it.

The reality is that everyone can get distracted by the internet. If you need help driving focus within your team, or even focusing yourself, there are dozens of online tools to help with that. Self-Control and Freedom, for example, are tools Mac and PC users respectively can implement to help set restrictions on the websites they visit or time they spend on specific sites. Say goodbye to buzzfeed quizzes and hello to a more productive work day!

User Question: Is video conferencing software a good investment?

Answered By a CTO: This all depends, but if you are the type of company that is accustomed to flying people in for meetings and pitches, and paying for room and board, my answer would be undoubtedly, yes.

You could be saving a lot of time and money by simply video conferencing with these clients, or prospective clients, not to mention the stress of travel planning.

You could also use video conferencing for internal employees, making for seamless and 24/7 communication all over the world. These softwares come with recording capabilities, so you can never miss a meeting again.

User Question: How can I make team scheduling and meeting more manageable?

Answered By a CTO: We need to face the fact that everyone is leading different lives both in the office and out of the office. From being on multiple teams, to doctor’s appointments, it is hard to get everyone you need in the same place at the same time.

An online, interactive scheduling system should be your best friend when it comes to scheduling meetings. A couple of easy and user-friendly calendars include Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, where you can add multiple users to view the same calendar, schedule appointments, and set reminders.

User Question: Is there a real difference between a CEO and a CTO?

Answered By a CTO: Yes: the letter T! In all honesty, CEO’s and CTO’s are more alike than different. Most people think that the CEO handles all the business decisions while the CTO makes the technical calls; however a good CTO will help solve the business problems by choosing the right technology for the company. He or she will be able to understand the business model and what it takes to propel the business by using the best means of technology.

A good CTO must also be able to understand the industry and size of the business. By having insight into the company’s industry and scale, the CTO will be able to leverage technology solutions in order to prevent issues, as well as gain access to new opportunities and thus grow the business even more.

User Question: What is the role of the CTO in a team dynamic?

Answered By a CTO: Many people assume that the CEO is the only person responsible for driving the purpose and vision of the company. This just isn’t a realistic situation among successful companies. A good CTO should also be able to see the long-term vision of the company and know how to work with their tech team to solve problems proactively and retroactively. They need to motivate, encourage feedback, and most importantly, communicate with their team. When it comes to interviewing qualified and skilled technical candidates, the CTO should also be at the front line of the hiring process to ensure that the best talent is being considered for the team.

User Question: What is the most important skill that a CTO must have besides technology?

Answered By a CTO: I’m glad you are already expecting your CTO to have top notch technical skills. An unexpectedly important skill of the CTO is Project Planning. Even if you have an in-house project manager and developers or an outsourced software developer, being able to manage projects is an essential skill for any CTO. There are many different project management methodologies, such as “SCRUM,” “Kanban,” “Waterfall,” and “Agile.” Your CTO should be well-versed in a range of PM methods.

User Question: Which Office 365 plan should I purchase for my team?

Answered By a CTO: Microsoft offers many different plans and it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. For the most cost-efficient plan that also maximizes your storage and flexibility, a helpful trick would be investing in two separate subscriptions which include multiple services in each. For example, Exchange Online Plan 2 + Office 365 ProPlus gives you more features than Office 365 E3 alone.

User Question: A blue screen popped up on my computer and I can’t get out of it. How do I get rid of this?

Answered By a CTO: Don’t panic! The blue screen can be related to a number of things: system hardware, temperature, timing, resources, corrupt registries or viruses.
The way to fix this error quickly is to simply restart your computer. It is important that you contact your IT department to look into this issue because it can be a sign of a larger problem within your computer.

User Question: I can’t log in to my computer. How do I fix this?

Answered By a CTO: Have you checked if your caps lock is on? It seems obvious, but this is a common mistake when trying to log in to your device. If your employer utilizes an employee management software, it is possible that your account has been suspended because of your internet usage. You could also try restarting your computer or disconnecting from the internet and trying again. If all else fails, contact your IT department.

User Question: Can I retrieve accidentally deleted files?

Answered By a CTO: If you wish to retrieve deleted files, the first step is to check the Recycling/Trash bin on your computer. You can sort through recently deleted by right-clicking the recycling bin window, choosing “Sort by” and then clicking on “Date Deleted.” If you have already emptied the bin, there is no way to recover the file. If you wish to be able to in the future, you will need to install a reliable recovery tool.

User Question: I have a small law firm with only 5 attorneys. Do I have to worry about network security?

Answered By a CTO: Absolutely! Businesses of any size, even solo practitioners have to be concerned with network security and data protection.  With ransomware virus infections becoming commonplace, it is more important than ever.  These are viruses that can encrypt all of your data, and often (but not always) demand you pay a ransom to get it back.  More recent versions of ransomware also attack your data backups so you can’t just restore the information.

According to the ABA’s 2018 Tech Report, approximately 70% of solos and 63% of those in firms with 2-9 attorneys do not use any password management tool as a security measure. This is despite the fact that 30% of solos and 48% of firms with 2 to 9 attorneys say they have been infected by a virus, spyware, or malware. Of course, this affects larger firms as well. That’s why we have Legal IT Specialists that can help law firms of any size to put proper network security measures in place, and protect their data. That includes up-to-date security software, proper hardware configuration, and onsite, offsite, and/or cloud storage backups.

User Question: Does it make sense to lease technology hardware?

Answered By a CTO: Yes and no. But it depends on the company.

Yes, it makes sense to lease any hardware that you will need to upgrade in a couple of years. Due to the rapid advancement of hardware, software, networking, cabling, and application development, 36-60 months from now, much of your current technology will be relatively ancient, obsolete, and incompatible with newer components. Outdated equipment often runs slower and is less reliable than even the lowest grade of new technology offerings. People lease cars partially because of the drop in value once you drive it off the lot. Office technology is no different.

On the other hand, there may be tax incentives to evaluating your current technology infrastructure and investing in much-needed upgrades. The IRS may consider your technology purchases to be business assets that retain their value over several years. Section 179 of the tax code allows for writing off the entire amount of those purchases all at once.  Section 179 will also allow for expensing software purchases, although you may prefer to include these as office expenses. The rules become a bit trickier for expensing “tech toys” such as iPads. While it may be a necessary tool in your business, have in mind that the smaller the business, the closer you are to having personal benefit from these kinds of gadgets. You’re going to have a pretty tough time explaining the business value of that Lexus hoverboard.

Whether you choose to lease or purchase hardware, we can make sure that you have the correct configuration and compatibility with the rest of your network. We can also ensure that you can write off your technology purchases by setting them up for business purposes and properly documenting it.

User Question: Is it safe to use public wi-fi?

Answered By a CTO: It depends on what exactly you are using it for, but there are definite security risks to consider. First consider how you use wi-fi when you’re on the go. Be especially wary of logging into accounts or making purchases when you are connected to a public wi-fi network, even if that network is password protected. Coffee-shop wi-fi passwords are easy to come by. With the right tools, a cyberthief on the same network could follow your online moves and capture everything from your login credentials to the credit card info you type in while shopping.  If you absolutely must conduct business from a public wi-fi network, consider using a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN creates a kind of tunnel to encrypt your data, making it useless to would-be snoops.

User Question: Whenever we talk to a new IT guy, they don’t seem to understand what exactly our business needs. They can easily rattle off all the services they offer, but aren’t very good at explaining which ones apply to us. Something’s getting lost in translation. How can we communicate more effectively and make sure we aren’t paying for stuff we don’t need?

Answered By a CTO: First of all, a sign of any good tech or IT company is their ability to LISTEN. I know that a slick sales pitch means nothing if it won’t ultimately help your business make more money, be more efficient, and have happier and more productive employees. That’s why my first priority when determining if we are a good fit for a business is to learn as much as I can about the business! It’s impossible to meet your needs if I don’t know your current problems as well as what’s working well for you. Taking the time to understand the business model and overall workflow, instead of just focusing on your technology, gives me a bigger picture and informs which areas I might be able to improve upon.

Once I fully understand your business’ issues, only then can we have an open and informed discussion about how I can help you meet your specific business needs. Our company even has industry specialists who have advanced training & experience with the unique IT components, billing procedures, schedules, and cultures of different fields. For example, there are some pretty big differences in the IT needs of law firms, construction companies, school, nonprofits, healthcare settings, PR firms, manufacturing facilities, etc.!

User Question: Should I care if there was a breach for an online service I used to use but never go to anymore?

Answered By a CTO: Unfortunately, yes. It may seem impossible to remember every service you’ve signed up for over the years, especially when it comes to services that you may not even know are associated through a parent company. However, every time you create an account, the info you provide is stored in a database. Major hotel, airline, and retail chains, as well as social media companies are common targets because of the high volume of personal identity information in their databases. Exposed information from data breaches, hacking incidents, or leaked information can be bought and sold on the dark web as “lists”. The buying and selling activity by identity thieves may occur months to years after it is actually exposed in a security incident. That means you might hear about the breach of a company you haven’t thought about in years, long after your info has been compromised.

Even though you may have stopped using older social media websites, (such as MySpace, for example) or even “deactivated” your account, your information could still be available in their system. If you are no longer using this or any other account you opened, the proper step to take is to officially unsubscribe from it. This step will not remove your data from their database, but will prevent unauthorized access or password reset attempts based on other password combinations you have used in the past. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than sweeping it under the rug. That’s the first place hackers look!

Going forward, make sure to properly document every single account you create with a Password Management application. In addition to organizing your login info, you can use it to track which sensitive information has been provided to which companies, and it will make it easier to unsubscribe from accounts you no longer use .

User Question: We have 2 Internet connections and when the Internet went down it didn’t failover to the backup line. Our IT guy said even when setup right it wont switch over 100%. Is this accurate or was it set up wrong?

Answered BY A CTO: Excellent question that we run into quite often. First of all, it of course depends on the firewall you have, the license on it, and the configuration that is setup on the firewall. However, even if everything is good, and the Internet failover is setup right and working, I do agree, it won’t work 100%. If the primary ISP is down, but the issue is in their datacenter (also called a CO / Central Office) the firewall might still see the primary connection as UP and RUNNING, so it won’t failover. Because it is receiving power and is actually connected, it just can’t follow the whole path needed for Internet access. So in short, it is definitely possible.

User Question: Windows 7 is a great operating system. Should we really go through the trouble of upgrading to Windows 10 if we are happy with the older version? Can we just upgrade some of our computers and not all of them?

Answered By a CTO: Yes, you should absolutely go through the process of making sure every single computer connected to your domain (and especially to the internet), is upgraded to Windows 10. In addition to some performance and visual enhancements, the most important reason to upgrade is to stay current with security updates.  Network security should always be the top priority of any business.

The main issue we are seeing today is an increase in ransomware attacks, which not only target application flaws but can exploit vulnerabilities of an outdated operating system itself.  And while it is easy enough to keep software up-to-date, Microsoft will no longer be providing operating system updates for Windows 7 starting on January 1, 2020. So at that point, even known security issues won’t be able to be remedied or patched with the latest updates. That leaves your business extremely vulnerable to well-known attacks, and there will be no way to protect your domain, even with the best firewalls and other security methods. Your entire network’s security is only as strong as its weakest link. All it takes is one vulnerable, out-of-date computer to open up your whole system to a cyberattack. You really do need to upgrade all of them in order to have a secure network.

User Question: What is PII?

Answered By a CTO: PII stands for Personally Identifiable Information. It’s a term that is used in the context of data breaches and identity theft. If a company or organization suffers a data breach, a significant concern is what PII might be exposed (the personal data of the customers that do business or otherwise interact with the entity). Exposed PII can be sold on the dark web and used to commit identity theft, putting breach victims at risk. But it’s not just companies where you have been a customer that you have to worry about. If the company you work for doesn’t have effective network security measures in place and suffers a breach, a lot of the employees’ PII could be exposed. This can lead to breaches in your personal life. Most frustratingly, it’s often impossible to tell when and where the breach occurred!

User Question: Should I be worried about my APCs power protection with Hurricane Dorian coming?

Answered By a CTO: Well, not if you recently checked and tested them.  Sorry, to pull a “Monday Morning Quarterback” remark on you.

I will provide as much advice as I can to assist you.  First a bit of general information:
APC is the top company in the market that produces uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).  It often comes with a software program called PowerChute which monitors for a power outage or surge in power, and allows servers, workstations, switches, firewalls… to be shutdown.  This is very important when there is a possibility of an extended power outage.  While the UPS is a battery backup, it will run out of power based on the type of battery it has, how many and what type of devices are relying upon it, how long the outage is, and other criteria.  In addition, like a cell phone or any other battery, if it is old, it may not hold as great a change, thus reducing the time your devices will stay available, also called “runtime”.

You can read more about it here at APC’s website:  APC Power Considerations

To answer your question, if your current power usage and protection has not been professionally tested periodically by a qualified IT Services firm, there may be a considerable danger.  Even if we ignore the potential downtime from Hurricane Dorian, it is possible that if the devices connected to the UPS are not working properly, (such as if the battery is not working – check for a red light!) or if it was not configured correctly, any connected hardware may just crash down.  In that case, when power is restored, the result may be crashed servers and potentially lost data.

At this point, my recommendation would be to assess the risk.  I am assuming you do not have a Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery plan, based on the fact that those are more costly and complex to setup and manage than the scenario we are reviewing.  As such, you may want to minimize risk by powering down your servers, firewall, switches, and even unplug the UPS from the wall when everything is shut down.  This will ensure that when power restores, a Jolt Of Power won’t damage the hardware.

As with all business decisions, sometimes minimizing risk with some lost productivity is a wiser decision than taking a much larger and potentially costly gamble.

I hope you and your family (and network) are safe and sound.

User Question: How can I tell if my company is an easy target for identity thieves?

Answered By a CTO: The best way to get a full picture of your company’s current security situation is to have a certified IT professional perform an in-depth network security assessment. As a CTO, I can evaluate your hardware, software, current configurations, and practices to look for flaws and offer suggestions for improvement. In the meantime, the best approach to minimizing risk is a multi-faceted one that includes training your staff. Proper security implementation, monitoring, updates, and procedural review are critical to any network’s defense. But if you aren’t also taking the time to teach every member of your staff how to identify phishing scam emails, then you are probably at a higher risk than you think. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised what small errors can bring a company to its knees. After all, your network is only as secure as its weakest link.

User Question: How can I simplify small daily tasks at the office?

Answered By a CTO: Other than coffee, one word: technology.

Great tech services means leveraging technology hardware and software solutions to increase your productivity and simplify/automate as many daily tasks as possible. Below are a few examples of quick tasks that can be tweaked to better meet your needs and make you feel less “hectic with little tasks.”

Using group chat messaging can be a great way to simplify daily tasks. How many hours have you wasted waiting for an email about instructions or clarification for a task you could have completed in half the time? Group chatting is a more efficient, less cluttered way to communicate with your team and will get the job done much quicker.

Do you often spend too much time trying to open up a file because it’s password-protected? The proper tools can help you simplify these types of tasks. By using a password management software, not only will you be increasing data security, but you will save employees and managers time by not having to track down the password for each file they need to open.

File sharing in general can be another hindrance to productivity. Waiting for a coworker to send a file, or being interrupted to send one yourself can bog down workflow. There are a multitude of file sharing technologies out there; implementing one can save time and also track changes that were made to a document. This tool eliminates the other time-waster and headache of trying to figure out who changed what and when.

User Question: How can my team and I create a better environment for collaboration?

Answered By a CTO: Snacks and standing desks don’t hurt! But in reality, technology is key to developing a more sophisticated level of collaboration in the office.

For example, cloud-based note taking is a great tool because it allows you and your team to keep track of your collaboration sessions in real-time. This also enables employees to hold virtual meetings, whether they are in the office, in transit, or working from home.

Online communication tools and project management tools are also an easy way to facilitate collaboration. Skype or Slack are platforms used by many companies to send direct messages and share files either individually or in a group. Project management tools are valuable, too, because they let users assign specific tasks, see who’s working on what, and increases overall visibility of collaboration.

User Question: I work in HR. What can I do to make things like Time Tracking and Payroll easier?

Answered By a CTO: HR can have the hardest job in the office…if they don’t take advantage of technology to make their life easier. There are dozens of online applications that can be used to automate processes like Time Tracking and Payroll.

The benefits are endless when it comes to automated Time Tracking. For starters, you can prevent your employees from committing time theft, which will save your company a lot of money and lost hours in the long run. You can also save time by eliminating the process of manually auditing time entries and correcting false time logs. This process will allow you to see how employees are spending their time productively (or unproductively), as well as make way for better project planning.

Payroll can be simplified greatly through technology, too. There are many factors that come into play that can make payroll difficult, like benefits and taxes. Thanks to advanced payroll tracking technology, you can take into account the hours worked and calculate for shift differential compensation automatically if necessary. In fact, most payroll technology is integrated with time tracking applications, thus reducing the need to confront payroll disputes while simultaneously boosting morale. Employees will be encouraged, knowing they are receiving fair and accurate pay.

User Question: How can I use technology to help my employees be more productive when servicing clients?

Answered By a CTO: Making clients happy is a core value of every business. But how can you make the client happy when all your servers are down and you can’t provide the information they need? There are so many seemingly small things you can do using technology to make a big impact for your clients and employees.

First of all, you need to invest in a reliable network, which includes taking more serious security measures, backing up data, and improving processes constantly. Once you have secured a more stable network, your employees will be able to work and service your clients more efficiently because they will not be halted by a faulty server or data breach.

You should also give your employees access to information by using a secure, high-quality VPN. By doing so, you are allowing your employees access to the materials they need to provide to any client, or potential client, in offsite meetings and while working remotely. Another smart way to help your employees be more productive when servicing clients is to link your CRM solution to your employees devices. That way, they can easily access customer information which saves time for both your employee and customer. Everyone is happy!

User Question: What applications can I use or actions can I take in order to boost employee satisfaction and productivity?

Answered By a CTO: Sometimes, giving out free work computers and phones just isn’t enough. Your employees want you to hear their concerns and provide solutions.

One way that you can foster a more open line of communication between you and your employees is by using engagement tools. Platforms like TINYpulse make it possible for your employees to express their concerns through anonymous surveys and feedback channels, as well as more constructive peer-to-peer recognition. Fun ideas to boost employee satisfaction can be having them anonymously vote for an employee of the month, or answering polls about personal preferences in non-official matters, like snacks, office art and music.

Another trend that has been on the rise for many companies is giving employees the ability to work from home. Some interesting statistics below:
• 90% of employees say allowing for more flexible work arrangements and schedules would increase employee morale
• 85% of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their company
• 80% of U.S. workers say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working

Working from home can provide more comfort, less distractions, and increased flexibility. If working from home makes employees happy, and is good for productivity, finding ways to make remote working possible should be a priority.

User Question: Some of my employees are unqualified for the tasks they are given, but we need to get things done quickly sometimes. Is there a way to find/hire talent fast online, and if so, is this the best approach?

Answered By a CTO: Not surprisingly, having an inexperienced worker perform a task that needs to be done in a timely manner can actually have a negative effect on productivity. Introducing, the internet. In one word: yes, the internet is a great way to find experts to get the job done fast. There are tons of outsourcing and contracting tools, like Freelancer.com and Fiverr for example, to find exactly what and who you are looking for.

Think about it this way, it’s very possible that your company only needs a graphic designer for some projects here and there; so why hire a full-time, 40-hour per week designer? I mean, the designer who created the Nike “Swoosh” was a Freelancer! Take advantage of the Internet’s endless opportunities to find highly skilled and motivated talent.

User Question: Training my employees takes up a lot of time and distracts me and my senior staff from the work we need to do. What steps can we take to make training more time-efficient?

Answered By a CTO: It’s important to note that manual training is not only time consuming, but cost-consuming as well. For example:
• According to the 2017 Training industry report, companies spent an average of $1,075 per employee trained

Costs include everything from teaching materials to time spent not working (and not making money). Employers can utilize advances in technology to streamline training.

For instance, consider that most, if not all, training can be done online. By implementing Learning Management Systems, or LMS, you can track the training process, assess information retention, provide a self-service system where the trainee can request materials, and even complete training on-the-go with mobile versions.

You can also turn to Gamification to help revamp the training process. Creating a video game of sorts for your trainee’s is a fun, interactive, and helpful way to apply training principles and ensure retention of information; competition fuels motivation. Something as simple as pre-recorded video and audio from managers and higher-ups can save time in the training process as well.

User Question: I know technology can benefit productivity, but how can I manage my employees internet usage so they aren’t getting distracted by it?

Answered By a CTO: Technology can definitely become distracting when used in the wrong ways. These days, there’s simply too much to look at:
Facebook, Buzzfeed, News, the list goes on.

Employee management software is a great tool to use when you need to manage the productivity of your employees. By seeing how your team is spending their time, you will be able to evaluate who is potentially abusing their time spent on the internet and work on better time-management.

Additionally, when employees know they are being monitored, they are more aware of their internet usage and therefore are less likely to become distracted by it.

The reality is that everyone can get distracted by the internet. If you need help driving focus within your team, or even focusing yourself, there are dozens of online tools to help with that. Self-Control and Freedom, for example, are tools Mac and PC users respectively can implement to help set restrictions on the websites they visit or time they spend on specific sites. Say goodbye to buzzfeed quizzes and hello to a more productive work day!

User Question: Is video conferencing software a good investment?

Answered By a CTO: This all depends, but if you are the type of company that is accustomed to flying people in for meetings and pitches, and paying for room and board, my answer would be undoubtedly, yes.

You could be saving a lot of time and money by simply video conferencing with these clients, or prospective clients, not to mention the stress of travel planning.

You could also use video conferencing for internal employees, making for seamless and 24/7 communication all over the world. These softwares come with recording capabilities, so you can never miss a meeting again.

User Question: How can I make team scheduling and meeting more manageable?

Answered By a CTO: We need to face the fact that everyone is leading different lives both in the office and out of the office. From being on multiple teams, to doctor’s appointments, it is hard to get everyone you need in the same place at the same time.

An online, interactive scheduling system should be your best friend when it comes to scheduling meetings. A couple of easy and user-friendly calendars include Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, where you can add multiple users to view the same calendar, schedule appointments, and set reminders.

User Question: Is there a real difference between a CEO and a CTO?

Answered By a CTO: Yes: the letter T! In all honesty, CEO’s and CTO’s are more alike than different. Most people think that the CEO handles all the business decisions while the CTO makes the technical calls; however a good CTO will help solve the business problems by choosing the right technology for the company. He or she will be able to understand the business model and what it takes to propel the business by using the best means of technology.

A good CTO must also be able to understand the industry and size of the business. By having insight into the company’s industry and scale, the CTO will be able to leverage technology solutions in order to prevent issues, as well as gain access to new opportunities and thus grow the business even more.

User Question: What is the role of the CTO in a team dynamic?

Answered By a CTO: Many people assume that the CEO is the only person responsible for driving the purpose and vision of the company. This just isn’t a realistic situation among successful companies. A good CTO should also be able to see the long-term vision of the company and know how to work with their tech team to solve problems proactively and retroactively. They need to motivate, encourage feedback, and most importantly, communicate with their team. When it comes to interviewing qualified and skilled technical candidates, the CTO should also be at the front line of the hiring process to ensure that the best talent is being considered for the team.

User Question: What is the most important skill that a CTO must have besides technology?

Answered By a CTO: I’m glad you are already expecting your CTO to have top notch technical skills. An unexpectedly important skill of the CTO is Project Planning. Even if you have an in-house project manager and developers or an outsourced software developer, being able to manage projects is an essential skill for any CTO. There are many different project management methodologies, such as “SCRUM,” “Kanban,” “Waterfall,” and “Agile.” Your CTO should be well-versed in a range of PM methods.

User Question: Which Office 365 plan should I purchase for my team?

Answered By a CTO: Microsoft offers many different plans and it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. For the most cost-efficient plan that also maximizes your storage and flexibility, a helpful trick would be investing in two separate subscriptions which include multiple services in each. For example, Exchange Online Plan 2 + Office 365 ProPlus gives you more features than Office 365 E3 alone.

User Question: A blue screen popped up on my computer and I can’t get out of it. How do I get rid of this?

Answered By a CTO: Don’t panic! The blue screen can be related to a number of things: system hardware, temperature, timing, resources, corrupt registries or viruses.
The way to fix this error quickly is to simply restart your computer. It is important that you contact your IT department to look into this issue because it can be a sign of a larger problem within your computer.

User Question: I can’t log in to my computer. How do I fix this?

Answered By a CTO: Have you checked if your caps lock is on? It seems obvious, but this is a common mistake when trying to log in to your device. If your employer utilizes an employee management software, it is possible that your account has been suspended because of your internet usage. You could also try restarting your computer or disconnecting from the internet and trying again. If all else fails, contact your IT department.

User Question: Can I retrieve accidentally deleted files?

Answered By a CTO: If you wish to retrieve deleted files, the first step is to check the Recycling/Trash bin on your computer. You can sort through recently deleted by right-clicking the recycling bin window, choosing “Sort by” and then clicking on “Date Deleted.” If you have already emptied the bin, there is no way to recover the file. If you wish to be able to in the future, you will need to install a reliable recovery tool.

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