3 Easy Actions

3 Easy Actions Every Employee Can Do to Keep Their Computer Clean

Regular computer maintenance is part of maintaining healthy IT infrastructure, but one aspect that can often go by the wayside is keeping your computer physically clean. By this, we mean keeping it dust-free, clean and tidy. We’ve put together a shortlist of everyday actions that employees of any caliber can use to keep their workstations clean. This will help your organization take preventative measures over time and (hopefully) prolong the lifespan of your business’ technology.

Before you begin cleaning up your device, we recommend that you power it down and unplug it from its power source. The last thing you want to do is give yourself a jolt on accident!

Keep the Fans Free of Dust

You may have noticed that dust tends to gather around vents and fans on your computer’s casing. If left unchecked, this dust could affect airflow and become a major problem in the long term. This is why it’s so beneficial to keep things clear; the last thing you want is your computer to overheat due to an easily preventable thing like the accumulation of dust. Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust away from the vent (Note: NOT into the computer–this does the exact opposite of what you want).

Wipe Down Screens and Surfaces

No matter how frequently a device is used, chances are it will accumulate some sort of dust on its surface. This is especially the case with your monitors. If you plan to wipe the dust off of them, we recommend that you use a microfiber cloth specifically for this purpose, and whatever you do, don’t spray anything directly onto your monitor’s screen. The same can be said for your keyboard. If you use a can of compressed air to blow away dust, combined with a microfiber cloth, you should be able to get your device reasonably clean.

 

That doesn’t mean you can’t use a cleaning agent to clean your screens, we find that good eyeglass cleaner works great, but harsh chemicals could cause damage. This works great for smartphones and tablets as well, but spray a clean microfiber cloth, don’t spray the device.

Keep Food and Drink Away

This is more of a preventative measure rather than an actual cleaning tip, but if you can keep your workstation tidy in the first place, the less cleaning you will have to do in the long run. Crumbs and other gunk can easily find their way into your keyboard, especially if you are the type of employee who often finds themselves working through their lunch break. The same can be said for liquids; even water can create problems if it gets under your keys or into your computer’s components, and you better hope that you never spill something sugary on your keyboard. While it isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your keyboard, the effort it takes to clean up after such a spill will make you want to just buy a new one instead. Better to just eliminate the possibility and keep your workplace clear of anything of the sort.

Perform More Thorough Cleaning

Every so often it helps to perform a cleaning that is more than just at the surface level. By this, we mean going into your case and making sure that there is minimal dust clogging up your PC’s components. Obviously this is something that you should only attempt if you are familiar with the innards of a computer, so if you are not adequately trained or experienced in this prospect, we recommend working with Point North Networks, Inc., to make sure your workstation gets the deep cleaning it needs to promote longevity. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0894.

 

Effective Digital Transformation

3 Variables You Need to Consider for an Effective Digital Transformation

For decades, technology has been the driving force behind some of the biggest and most radical shifts in business. Therefore, it makes sense to assume that the keys to your organization pushing past its limits and becoming truly exceptional lies in the implementation of new technologies that change operations in a profound way. The process of digital transformation does not have to be difficult, but it is important in a business environment so that you can stay competitive.

Digital transformation is the process of implementing new technologies and rethinking the relationship that your goods, services, and operations have with them. It can be seen as a way to innovate and make advancements in ways that might not otherwise be possible. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to accelerate their adoption of technology, so digital transformation is a trend that is rapidly increasing in popularity. To help your company make the best decision possible regarding technology, we have put together an easy three-step process you can follow when implementing new technology for your company.

Make Sure Your Objectives Align with Your Business Goals

The technology you implement should align with what you are trying to accomplish as a business. If your goal is to develop products, consider technology solutions that streamline that process. If your goal is to get the word out about services, consider ways that technology can help you get the word out. If your goal is to provide exceptional customer support, think of ways that technology can streamline the process for customers to receive the help they need when they need it. In other words, implementing technology without a clear and defined goal is not going to help your business; if anything, it will make your infrastructure more complicated and bogged down, so we encourage you to think about what your business does well and how technology can help you do it better.

Lean On Your IT Department or IT Resource

When it comes to your business’ implementation of new technology solutions, you want to take as hands-off a position as possible. Too often management and the C-suite get too involved in the decision-making process regarding IT. It is important to remember that you have an IT department or IT resource for a reason; respect their opinions and consult them on the implementation process. Understand that you may have a biased opinion of the technology because you want it to succeed and you think that it can be a great asset, but know that the ones making the cold and calculated decisions are often the IT resources implementing the solution. Just because something works perfectly for one organization does not mean that it will for you, and you should ensure that any solution you choose to implement is right for your organization well before the implementation process begins.

Get Your Staff On Board

Any new tools you implement will surely come with some resistance from your staff. Sometimes those who have been with you for a while are stuck in their ways and might not immediately see the benefits of implementing great new technology solutions. Therefore, it becomes your responsibility to show them just how much they stand to gain from not just learning your new tools, but mastering them as well. Implementing new technology is most beneficial when it’s done in a top-down manner, meaning the boss shows the employees just how confident they are in the solution by actively using it themselves. Employees are more likely to buy in when they know there is some passion behind it, and they will appreciate any training you can offer so they too can learn as much as possible about it.

Get Started with Digital Transformation Today

Point North Networks, Inc., can help your organization adopt new technology solutions and improve operations for the better. Our trusted technicians can be there for every stage of the process, from design to implementation to training and support. To learn more about how we can make a difference with your digital transformation strategy, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

adding new tech

Considerations That You Need to Make When Adding New Technologies

It’s no secret that new technology can be useful for a business, unfortunately too many businesses struggle with their technology implementations. When adding new tools to your business, you will need to understand that the more deliberate you are, the more success you will find. Rushing any new deployment is sure to have some types of issues. For today’s blog, we take you through some of the best practices of adding new technology to your business.

Your Business’ Needs

When looking to add technology, you should only do so when you recognize a need for some. Too many businesses add technology that, in theory, will enhance productivity only to have problems supplanting the practical usefulness of their current technology. Of course, there will always be some type of transitional period, but the more a business is identifying problems and deploying technologies as a response, the fewer problems they will ultimately run into.

Take a Beat

Another solid practice to adhere to before you go ahead and start putting new technology in place is to take a bit before you make any financial commitments. Can you make do with the technology you have? Could it just be some strategic alterations you can make that won’t necessitate the time and expense that goes along with new technology? Sometimes it’s just about using the tools you have more effectively, not introducing new tools. Take some time to adjust and monitor, but at the end of that time, if you’re convinced the new technology gives you the best chance to be competitive, then go ahead and go for it.

Assign a Competent Project Manager

A large percentage of new technology implementation failures happen because the people running the project are stretched too thin, or aren’t up to the task of carrying out the project. For small business owners, it is tempting to do it yourself, but your influence is more important in other parts of your business. You need to have a project manager to serve as the point of contact, develop the training regimens and schedules, and deal with the inevitable challenges that arise during the new technology deployment.

Stand Behind Your Choice and Get to Training

Once the project begins, one of the most important parts of implementing new technology is to get your people behind it. Typically, there is some type of pushback, even if people have been complaining about the old technology for some time. Workers get comfortable with one thing and are afraid that their jobs will change for the worse if they are forced into using new technology. Some even think that their jobs will be irrelevant. For the business owner to get their people behind the new technology, you need to explain how it will positively affect their jobs and the company as a whole. By getting people to understand the positive aspects of implementing new tools, they will be more engaged in the training process, and ultimately, get up to speed faster.

Testing

After implementation and training, understanding how best to use the technology is going to be a process. The best way to ascertain this is by testing. Testing the solution, the employees, and the whole workflow is a critical step in understanding what changes need to be made, what policies need to be altered, and how the system works for your business. You’ll want to give your workers advanced notice that there will be training and monitoring as to make them understand that the more committed they are to getting the technology incorporated, the faster things can go back to normal. Additionally, you will want to get feedback from your employees. They are the ones that are using the new technology, after all.

Get It Working

Finally, after all the hand wringing, politicking, testing, and tweaking, your business will have new, and hopefully better technology to use. Adjustments to the tool will be ongoing, of course, but it’s a solid practice to get it as close to finished before you start using it for day-to-day operations.

 

New technology can be extremely useful for a business, but without the consideration that it is going to change the way you do things, it can be a major problem, too. If you would like to talk to one of our IT experts about how we can help your business implement the technology you need to improve your operations, and do it successfully the first time, give Point North Networks, Inc., a call today at 651-234-0895.

password best practices

Password Best Practices from the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Passwords are probably the most important part of keeping accounts secure. That’s why it is so important to follow industry best practices when creating them. Today, we’ll take a look at the standards outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in creating the best and most secure passwords.

What Is NIST?

For years, NIST has been the predominant organization in the establishment of password creation standards. They continuously change their advised practices to meet with the current cybersecurity demands. They recently updated their guidelines so we thought we would go over what strategies they suggest, to give you an idea of what makes a secure password.

New Guidelines

Many corporations are currently using the NIST guidelines and all Federal agencies are expected to utilize them. Let’s go through their newest password guidelines step by step.

#1 – Longer Passwords are Better than More Complicated Ones

For years, it was preached that the more complicated the password, the more secure the account. Today’s guidelines refute that notion. NIST suggests that the longer the password, the harder it is to decrypt. What’s more, they suggest that organizations that require new passwords meet a certain criteria of complexity (letters, symbols, changes of case) actually make passwords less secure.

 

The reasoning behind this is two-fold. First, most users, in an attempt to complicate their passwords will either make them too complicated (and forget them) or they will take the cursory step of adding a one or an exclamation point to the end of a password, which doesn’t complicate the password as much, if at all. Secondly, the more complex a user makes a password, the more apt they are to use the same password for multiple accounts, which of course, is not a great idea.

#2 – Get Rid of the Resets

Many organizations like to have their staff reset their password every month or few months. This strategy is designed to give them the peace of mind that if a password were compromised that the replacement password would lock unauthorized users out after a defined set of time. What NIST suggests is that it actually works against your authentication security.

 

The reason for this is that if people have to set passwords up every few weeks or months, they will take less time and care on creating a password that will work to keep unwanted people out of the business’ network. Moreover, when people do change their password, they typically keep a pattern to help them remember them. If a previous password has been compromised, there is a pretty good chance that the next password will be similar, giving the attacker a solid chance of guessing it quickly.

#3 – Don’t Hurt Security by Eliminating Ease of Use

One fallacy many network administrators have is that if they remove ease of use options like showing a password while a user types it or allowing for copy and pasting in the password box that it is more likely that the password will be compromised. In fact, the opposite is true. Giving people options that make it easier for them to properly authenticate works to keep unauthorized users out of an account.

#4 – Stop Using Password Hints

One popular way systems were set up was to allow them to answer questions to get into an account. This very system is a reason why many organizations have been infiltrated. People share more today than ever before and if all a hacker needs to do is know a little personal information about a person to gain access to an account, they can come across that information online; often for free.

#5 – Limit Password Attempts

If you lock users out after numerous attempts of entering the wrong credentials, you are doing yourself a service. Most times people will remember a password, and if they don’t they typically have it stored somewhere. Locking users out of an account, at least for a short period of time is a good deterrent from hackers that use substitution codes to try and guess a user’s credentials.

#6 – Use Multi-factor Authentication

At Point North Networks, Inc., we urge our clients to use multi-factor or two-factor authentication on every account that allows them to. According to NIST they want users to be able to demonstrate at least two of three authentication measures before a successful login. They are:

  1. “Something you know” (like a password)
  2. “Something you have” (like a mobile device)
  3. “Something you are” (like a face or a fingerprint)

 

It stands to reason that if you can provide two out of three of those criteria, that you belong accessing the system or data that is password protected.

 

Security has to be a priority for your business, and password creation has to be right up there with the skills everyone should have. If you would like to talk to one of our IT experts about password management and how we can help your business improve its authentication security, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.

3 ways to improve communication

3 Ways to Improve Communication In Your Small Business

When we say “improve communications” you probably are expecting an article about telephone systems or which video conferencing platform works the best. Normally, you’d be right, but today we decided to briefly go over four ways that you can foster better communications between management and their employees inside of your business.

 

We know that good, effective communication can be tricky, but if you can set up constructive give-and-take, your business is sure to benefit from it. Let’s take a look at four ways your business can create an environment where communication actually helps your business.

Create a Collaborative Company Culture

A collaborative company culture is one where people trust others to pick them up when they need help to produce the best products and services possible. It’s true that every business relies on the efforts of their employees. Why then are there often such efforts taken to keep them out of the loop? Sure, the staff doesn’t need to know everything in order to do their jobs, but in order to build the relationships necessary to create trust, being transparent about how things are going and the goals you have for the business is a solid practice.

 

If everyone that works toward a singular goal understands where the organization stands, they will not only be open to being helpful toward others inside the business, they are more likely to provide feedback that is a key resource to better business processes.

Listen to Learn

Business is often fast-paced and doesn’t offer a lot of time for reflection. This is why when employees talk, managers have to listen. The truth is that people aren’t adept at listening. Everyone has their own responsibilities and sometimes the thought of taking more on is impossible. For decision makers, it can be difficult to listen to superfluous information that doesn’t have anything to do with getting the job done.

 

Well, it’s your job to listen.

 

If you want to have the kind of business where communication is a major part of what you do, you better listen. Most of those superfluous gripes are not actionable, sure, but if you just don’t listen to what your staff is saying and go about dictating what needs to be done without taking any of their suggestions or comments or complaints seriously, you are going to be in for a tough time. You can’t make everyone happy, but what you can do is listen to the people you depend on if only to ascertain their perspective.

Don’t Rely on Meetings

If you are going to make an announcement to the staff, a staff meeting is the best way to do so. You can gather everyone there either in the conference room or via video conference and make announcements. If you are looking to enhance communications, however, meetings are some of the worst settings for communication between people. Firstly, people never say what they are thinking as to not rock the boat or cause arguments, so they are much more conservative in a meeting setting.

 

If you want more effective communications, choose settings that will keep people from putting their defenses up. That means smaller meetings or one-on-ones. You’ll get more out of many smaller chats than you ever will out of a large-scale meeting. Managers should always encourage feedback and accept it with grace, and check in on those they manage from time to time. Your managers should also expect to be checked in on by those above them too.

 

Solid communications can boost productivity and the morale of your entire organization. What do you think? Do you have any other tips that can help knock down barriers and create a better flow of information within your business? Leave your comments below and reach out to us at 651-234-0895 to talk with us about finding the technology to improve your business’ communications.

counting the reasons

Counting the Reasons for the 3-2-1 Data Backup Rule

I hope I don’t have to tell you how important your business’ data is to its continued survival, just as I hope I don’t need to explain why this makes this data a priority to protect, regardless of your business’ size. What I do want to explain is the concept of the 3-2-1 Rule and how it pertains to your data backup, and why we would recommend that one for your business’ purposes.

What Makes a Data Backup Such an Important Asset?

In a word: insurance.

Data is, as we’ve well established, a crucial component to your business’ continued operations and survival. Tons of it is generated, collected, stored, and updated each day to support our daily lives. If a business were to lose the data that it had accumulated, it would suddenly find itself in a very bad spot.

This is what makes the idea of a data backup such a good one—in many cases, it is this backup that keeps a business from going under. Of course, this requires that the data backup be properly maintained as well.

To put themselves in the position that offers the most success, we generally recommend that businesses prepare their data backups in accordance with the 3-2-1 Rule.

What is the 3-2-1 Rule of Data Backup?

Simple: keep at least three copies of your data, in two mediums or formats, at least one copy of which kept off site and separate from the others.

Why multiple copies? Multiple copies ensure that—should one of your backups become corrupted or infected or otherwise infiltrated, you have a spare or two to fall back on. While we say three, three should really be considered the bare minimum.

Why multiple formats or mediums? Well, consider what would happen if you made yourself two lunches in case it rained, but packed both into a paper bag. With both in a paper bag, the backup lunch would end up equally soggy as the original lunch. Keeping your backup in a different format or storage medium helps prevent it from being impacted by the same thing that damages the original.

Why the offsite version? Keeping a backup offsite helps to ensure that—even if a disaster were to completely annihilate your business’ physical location—the data you rely on would still be accessible to you by virtue of the data backup. This gives us something else that is important to consider: the concept of an “air gap” in terms of data security.

What is an “Air Gap?”

Let’s go back to our “backup lunch” example, for a moment. While having an extra lunch was a good idea—our example made it clear why—keeping it so close to the original removed its benefits. However, if we were to take the same concept of having a backup lunch and add in an air gap (keeping an extra lunch in the break room at work, or stashing a few bucks to order something out, perhaps), we removed the threat of a single disaster preventing us from eating.

In terms of the data on your network, an air gap is just that—physical distance and separation helping to isolate resources and protect them from many threats.

Point North Networks, Inc., is here to help businesses like yours manage all the complexities of their technology so that you have more room to succeed. Give us a call at 651-234-0895 today to find out more.

why phishing attacks

Why Phishing Attacks Such a Huge Risk for Your Business

As one of the biggest cybersecurity considerations the modern business has to make, how to combat phishing has to be at the top of any business’ cybersecurity strategy. Let’s take a look at phishing and why it’s such a big problem for today’s business.

You’ve Probably Been Phished

When trying to explain what phishing is to someone who has no idea about it, we typically start with the namesake. Phishing is the same as fishing. A hacker will bait a hook and users will bite on it. It’s that simple. Instead of worms or minnows, a phishing attempt needs some bait that will fool an unsuspecting computer user into providing information that will allow a hacker to access secured networks and steal or corrupt data.

To say that this method is effective would be an understatement. First of all, the massive breadth of attacks—there are literally millions of these attacks per day—results in high levels (and low percentages) of successful attacks. In fact, 88 percent of organizations that were polled claimed to experience at least one phishing attack in 2019. In 2020, phishing emails were one of every 4,200 emails sent or about 73 million. The pace has actually quickened in 2021.

Successful phishing attacks result in stolen credentials, compromised networks, ransomware and other malware. They all lead to businesses losing money.

Phishing is More Prevalent Than Ever

Phishing has been an issue for quite a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding jump in remote work provided the perfect opportunity for these scammers to operate. In 2020, 75 percent of worldwide organizations were targeted by phishing attacks, while 74 percent of U.S. businesses were successfully attacked in some way. This often led to massive losses, some $3.92 million on average. That’s an average and takes into account loss of productivity from downtime, data theft, deterioration of consumer confidence, and other factors.

 

It is therefore important that you do what you can to train your staff about how to recognize and thwart phishing attempts before they have a chance to have a negative effect on your business.

Point North Networks, Inc., can help you put together a training strategy, as well as put together tools to help you keep your network and data safe. Call us at 651-234-0895 to learn more.

policies

Policies that Every BYOD Strategy Needs to Abide By

One of the most effective means for a business to shave a few dollars off its budget (and potentially boost employee engagement, for that matter) is to adopt something called a Bring Your Own Device policy—effectively, an agreement that allows their team members to access business-owned documents and files on devices they personally own to get their work done. While these policies have been shown to be very effective, they also need to be carefully considered so they can be adopted appropriately.

Let’s take a few moments to review some practices that are recommended for a secure BYOD implementation.

Determine Acceptable Parameters

Device and OS Requirements

For your productivity to remain intact and for your organizational security to be preserved, the tools your team brings to use need to meet the baselines that you set—otherwise, there is likely to be a shortcoming that leaves an opening. Certain workflows may require a specific operating system to be used, simply for the processes to be compatible. Keeping track of your team’s chosen hardware will help you determine if their devices are eligible to participate.

Accepted Software

On the topic, your business workflows should have defined software solutions identified for your team to use so that processes can flow smoothly. Make sure your team knows that they are expected to use these titles for their work processes and that they are expected to have certain protections in place on their mobile devices before they can use them to work.

Upkeep Policies

When using a personal device to access your business’ network, there needs to be some supported expectation that the user will ensure that the device remains functional and secure. This could mean that only authorized dealers or professionals are authorized to perform basic maintenance tasks and that these tasks are carried out promptly.

Security Preparations

Encryption Policies

In terms of protecting your data from the prying eyes of hackers, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective method than encrypting it. Considering this, it is important that you encourage/require encryption to be put in place as a part of any BYOD policies you implement.

Password Standards

We know, we know… the importance of secure passwords is a topic that has been covered frontways, backways, and every which way for a long time. However, once people start to follow these guidelines, we’ll stop bringing it up. When it comes to strong passwords, make sure your team is using them on all their devices, and that these devices are set to lock if an incorrect password is repeatedly entered.

Data Handling Guidelines

Where your data is concerned, you need to also establish the proper means for it to be stored and accessed while an employee is using a personal device. Ideally, your BYOD plan will have the means to block any data transfers to an insecure device as well as establish the proper procedures for accessing this data.

Necessary Prerequisites

Data Removal Circumstances

When an employee’s device has access to your company’s data via a BYOD strategy, it is critical that you retain the means to rescind that access as needed—like if a device is lost or stolen, or if an employee leaves the company. You may also want to include the right to review an employee’s device for company-owned data so that it can be removed if they were to leave so that your data isn’t brought elsewhere or abused.

Lost or Stolen Device Procedures

On the topic, your team needs to have a reporting process to follow should something happen to their device that will help to ensure that mitigating actions can be appropriately taken. Reinforce that these reports need to be promptly submitted to help minimize the potential impact of such occurrences.

Breach of Policy Consequences

Finally, you need to establish how employees will be reprimanded should these policies go unheeded or disregarded. While the loss of BYOD privileges is a common tactic, you should also seriously consider what is acceptable before an employee should be terminated. Once these distinctions have been made, share that information with your team when they opt into your BYOD implementation, so they are aware of the severity of such indiscretions.

A Bring Your Own Device policy is an essential piece of the modern office’s IT considerations and is something that we can help you out within much more detail. Find out what needs to be done by calling 651-234 0895 today.

Remote conferencing

An Entire Year Later, Remote Conferencing Still Makes Workers Nervous

For all its benefits, remote conferencing isn’t the easiest means of doing work for many people, as many have found out through experience. With businesses quite literally forced into this approach for some time now, employees are starting to feel the toll. Let’s discuss some of the impacts that long-term remote conferencing has had, and what can be done to minimize them.

Conferencing Can Be Stressful…

…although I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.

Widespread remote conferencing has been an asset for many businesses for over a year at this point, in many cases allowing them to remain open when they would otherwise have little choice than to close. As a result, many people have remained employed during a time when many simply have not had that luxury.

Of course, there has been a cost—a cost which, for many, has been deducted from their mental health.

Consider the implications that come with mandated remote conferencing: not only are your team members communicating primarily through a screen for most of the day, but there’s also a good chance that most of their social life has been digitized as well. It should come as no surprise, then, that conferencing can lead to something now commonly referred to as “Zoom anxiety.”

Named for the conferencing app that saw significant gains from this time in isolation, Zoom anxiety is more or less what it sounds like: nervous onsets and tics developing in response to perceived challenges and embarrassments while video conferencing. Whether you’re afraid of what your coworkers might hear through your mic, see through your webcam, or even not see or hear due to technical difficulties, Zoom anxiety can have some unpleasant impacts.

The Various Causes and Effects of Zoom Anxiety

Embarrassing oneself in front of coworkers, managers, and clientele isn’t a new phobia. However, with the tendency that many people have to let their guard down in the home, remote conferencing brings those fears from the conventional workplace into the home.

Consider, for a moment, the advertisements that the coffee brand Folgers has been running—where remote employees compensate for stressful situations caused by remote work with a cup ‘o’ joe. These ads, one featuring a woman smoothly using her mug to obscure her curious son from view and the other playing on the classic working-at-home-without-pants gag with brand-accurate red underwear, put a lighthearted face on very real concerns that people have developed.

Apple has taken a similar tack, showcasing their collaborative solutions by telling the story of a team of “Underdogs” who work through the stresses of remote operations to collaboratively build a better mousetrap (or in their case, pizza box).

Amusing as these ads may be to view as an audience member, many remote workers now understand that the anxiety these scenarios cause isn’t something that can be chuckled off—regardless of how funny it was to see Professor Robert Kelly’s kids crash his 2017 interview with BBC News.

This is particularly the case for quieter and less-extroverted employees, who would prefer to primarily be seen in the office, not so much heard. It can also be challenging for those who feel that the theatre of video collaboration puts the pressure on to perform more than they would in person. Many people have become overly aware of their own body language, distracting them from the substance of what is being said.

Numerous gendered issues have been shown to be exacerbated, with the too-common issues of women being spoken over or judged negatively for speaking too much, happening more frequently than in an in-person setting.

The casual office conversations that once fostered cooperation and even helped pave the way to better business relationships and advancement opportunities are gone—and we haven’t even mentioned the tendency for awkward silences to arise, only to be broken by two people speaking up simultaneously and immediately deferring the floor to the other.

Fortunately, these are ways that one’s anxieties can be quelled, regardless of whether they come from technical issues, miscommunications, or simple discomfort with the situation.

How to Reduce Zoom Anxiety

There are a few ways that you and your team can fight back the nerves that come from an overexposure to video conferencing.

Reconsider the Need for Video at All

Before you access a call, ask yourself how important it is for you to be seen in this meeting—or if video is even necessary. Sometimes, a simple call will do the job just fine, and won’t require your team members to put themselves on display.

Get Rid of the Mirror

One of the most common places for people to look while in a remote meeting is actually at the image of themselves that most platforms will provide… studies have shown as much to be true. As you can imagine, this can lead to employees stressing about their appearance and mannerisms far more than they normally would, adding to their distraction and distress. Encourage your team members to disable the self-preview feature in your chosen collaboration solution to avoid self-inflicted criticism.

Cover Your Camera

For privacy’s sake, make sure your team knows that it is okay for them to cover their physical camera. This way, they can enjoy their privacy until the need arises for them to be visible. A piece of tape or a small sticky note can suffice, but dedicated covers are also available for that very purpose.

Have Someone Take Point

One of the biggest issues that remote collaboration can bring about is the perceived lack of structure that a meeting has. Like we mentioned above with the extended silences and overlapped talking, it can be hard for people to gauge when it is the right time to speak up. Assigning someone to chair the meeting enables that person to direct the attention of the group to the person who is contributing.

Grin and Bear It

Finally, it is perhaps most important that everyone in your organization understands that real life is still a thing, especially when someone is working from home. As such, some background noise or other such interruption is only to be expected. Make sure you are open with your team about understanding the realities of their situation and work with them through it.

We’re Here to Help You with the Technical Aspects of Remote Collaboration

Of course, the most positive outlook in the world isn’t going to make your remote interactions any more productive if the infrastructure isn’t there to support them. Point North Networks, Inc., can help you acquire, introduce, and manage the solutions you need to take your remote collaboration to the next level. Give us a call at 651-234-0895 to find out more about what we can deliver.

Increase revenue and profit concept

The Right IT Can Be a Real Moneymaker for Your Business

All businesses, in some way, shape, or form, exist to generate revenue—whether their profits are retained for their own benefit or dedicated to supporting some other cause. Either way, this balance makes the difference between the investments a business makes and the return these investments see a critical consideration. By using modern technology, today’s organizations can tip this balance to be more in their favor.

Let’s consider three ways that you could leverage technology to ultimately benefit your cash flows.

Improving Operational Efficiency

Let’s jump right into it and acknowledge something: the more you can effectively accomplish with the time, energy, and resources you’ve invested, the better off your company will be. Today’s technology offers a means of doing so through automation.

Rather than having an employee commit time to certain tasks, modern IT can easily carry out these tasks with minimal oversight or interaction. With predetermined triggers to instigate key processes, you and your team can spend less time on busy work and more on tasks that will help to increase your business’ dealings.

Whether you need to track and organize data, send out repetitive communications, or generate insights and reports, there are some means of carrying these out properly.

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Business technology is, in a word, expensive. Whether you need a specific software suite to support your operations, or improved infrastructure hardware, or more storage space for your team to use, the associated costs are typically substantial if you plan to support it yourself.

Now, today’s technology opens a new option: cloud-based services. These services can be tailored to better fit the situation of the business using them, in terms of the number of users and specific services rendered. That way, you can optimize your budgetary spend to suit your precise needs, eliminating waste and freeing up more of your budget than otherwise possible. Furthermore, these services give you more flexibility overall, as your delivered services can be trimmed to match your precise needs more closely.

Reconsidering IT Expenses

On the topic of cloud-hosted services, the pricing structure these offer can also assist you in optimizing your budgetary spend. Rather than a single, lump-sum price to be paid up front, the cost of cloud-hosted software services is billed per month as a subscription. This helps to make your expenditures far more predictable, assisting you in managing your available budget, while also offering flexibility as your needs change over time.

Furthermore, not all cloud providers and vendors are created equal, and the market is volatile enough that one service might not always be the best option for you at a given time. Therefore, you should regularly go over your available options to ensure that you are investing as much as you can in the ideal choices.

Managed IT services offer many of these qualities, enabling you to squeeze every bit of value out of the technology you rely on. Find out more about what Point North Networks, Inc., can do for you by calling 651-234-0895.