In today’s ever-connected world, many devices are capable of utilizing an Internet connection to share and access information, including some rather unorthodox ones. All of these devices contribute to the greater collective which is referred to as the Internet of Things. While this type of unprecedented connectivity can be a great boon for businesses, it also represents great risks for business owners who do not take it seriously.
In today’s blog, we will explore what the Internet of Things is, how businesses might utilize it, and what the security risks of leveraging it are.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things generally refers to any device that is capable of connecting to the Internet, including those that have traditionally not been connected to the Internet in the past. These devices can communicate with one another in ways that were previously impossible, allowing them to perform tasks that would otherwise have to be facilitated by people. In a way, it makes for great innovations when implemented correctly, as it lets devices “talk” to each other.
Basically, any physical device can be transformed into an Internet of Things device through the use of communicative technology. Internet of Things devices can also be controlled through the Internet; think about logging into an app on your phone to control a thermostat or unlock your front door. Internet of Things devices can also be much larger, though, like heavy pieces of machinery with sensors that collect data on operations and transmit them to a central hub where they are monitored for effectiveness and quality control.
In other words, when it comes to the Internet of Things, the sky’s the limit. You never know what is connected these days and what is not. In fact, it is predicted that the Internet of Things will consist of 41.6 billion devices by the time 2025 rolls around.
What Are Some Uses for the Internet of Things for Businesses?
Most businesses are using the Internet of Things to streamline operations, glean more information from their products, and reduce costs whenever possible. For some, the Internet of Things represents opportunities to reduce spending on utilities through the use of smart appliances and technology. For others, it means keeping a closer watch on the supply chain and production line. Some businesses are even using the Internet of Things to collect data on products that they produce. This data can then be used to see how consumers are using the products, what must be addressed for the future, and other things like that.
What Are the Security and Privacy Risks of the Internet of Things?
Due to the connected nature of these devices, one has to consider the security risks and privacy issues that could surface as a result of too many of them being on your network. If an employee were to bring an infected Internet of Things device onto your network, who’s to say what could happen? This is why you have to have a policy in place that takes a clear stance on Internet of Things devices, as every connected device brought onto your network is potentially another window into your organization’s network.
Don’t let the Internet of Things complicate your security practices even further. Point North Networks, Inc., can help you secure your organization’s network against the threats that Internet of Things devices pose through comprehensive security solutions and consistent monitoring services. To learn more about what we can do for your business, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
Make no mistake, the impact that your mobile device strategy has on your business is an important one. It can make or break your organization’s security, as well as stymie or encourage your organization’s productivity. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to make sure that your mobile device management platform is working to your company’s advantage. Let’s take a look at some of the features that all good MDM platforms should enable.
Even with all of the features that mobile device management platforms allow, there are some that are absolute non-negotiables that your organization cannot afford to pass up. Here are just a few of them.
The Ability to Lock and Remotely Wipe Data
This feature is one that you hope not to need, but this does not make it any less necessary. If employees are to lose devices, or if they are stolen and inaccessible, you need to have a contingency plan in place to remotely wipe them of all data, sensitive or not. Doing so ensures data privacy and keeps hackers or thieves from stealing data that does not belong to them.
Whitelisting and Blacklisting Apps
If your employees are using devices for company purposes, they should not be downloading apps all willy-nilly. Rather, you should have a specific policy in place regarding the use of applications with certain ones designated for work-related purposes. This helps you control the flow of data to external applications and helps to mitigate opportunities for leakage. Furthermore, if you give employees a list of acceptable applications, they can then use that information to find the best solutions for their own specific needs.
Device Tracking and Inventory
Your mobile device management platform should be able to track devices, but most important of all is knowing who is responsible for which device and how many of which device you currently have issued to your staff. This gives you opportunities to collect information on how your devices are used, as well as provides a way of getting in touch with someone if their devices start to show inconsistencies that could lead to security troubles. Really, this just boils down to making sure that you know where the devices are and what they are used for.
Enforcement of Security Features
Your mobile devices should be protected in as many ways as possible with proper passwords being the absolute bare minimum. In fact, we recommend that you also implement some type of multi-factor authentication, such as biometric authentication, whenever possible, as well as powerful encryption tools that keep the data found on mobile devices as secure as possible.
If your organization wants to take its mobile device management to the next level, we recommend working with Point North Networks, Inc., to establish your needs. We can then work with you to ensure your business is taking all of the appropriate steps forward with its mobile device strategy. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
Many professionals see the word “informatics” and think of one of two things. First, what the heck is it? Second, isn’t that just computer science? While the two certainly are similar and often used interchangeably, they are quite different. Let’s take a deeper dive and see what the field of informatics entails, how it can be applied to computer science and business, and why it’s important to consider for your organization.
Pinning down informatics is a bit of a tricky one, as it is most commonly used when referring to healthcare. In regards to medical informatics, Merriam-Webster defines it as “the collection, classification, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded knowledge.” Now, we know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t that definition be applicable in just about any other context? Well, you’re not the first one to think of this definition in a fluid manner.
The definition of informatics has shifted throughout the years to reflect this more abstract line of thought. Generally speaking, informatics can be referred to as the study of any system, artificial or natural, and how it shares or processes information of some sort. If we zoom out a bit with our definition, you can see how informatics can be applied in many different ways, whether we are discussing natural systems in the biological world (like neuroscience or the study of the brain), or computing systems (like computers or algorithms). By now it should be clear why it is so commonly used synonymously with computing, but what are some of its applications?
Informatics in Computing
In the case of computing, you can boil informatics down to the way that data is shared across either your internal network or across multiple networks (like the Internet). Data is spread out across your network, collected, classified, stored, retrieved, and distributed to workstations as applicable. This happens on a micro level on a day-to-day basis, but the scale and scope at which this happens is very flexible.
One of the best examples for how informatics can be applied to computing is through the use of big data. Traditionally, big data as a term refers to a large mass of data that is too expansive to analyze with traditional data analysis tools but can be used for the purposes of interpretation and extrapolation. Thus, businesses can learn a lot by analyzing their big data; they might even be able to identify trends that can be leveraged for growth in the coming years.
How Can Your Business Benefit?
Too often businesses sit on a treasure trove of data that can be analyzed, extrapolated, and applied to various operations or business functions. Point North Networks, Inc., can help equip your organization with the tools to take full advantage of its data, from storage to dissemination. To learn more about how we can help your business, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
Artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm, and the advent of emerging technologies has many small businesses thinking about how they can utilize it to cut costs, improve operations, and eliminate unnecessary or repetitive tasks. Let’s take a look at three ways your business can leverage artificial intelligence to the best of its ability.
We should first start by outlining what we mean by “artificial intelligence.” In the business environment, AI and, on a more broad scale, machine learning, is when automated technology performs tasks normally accomplished by human workers with an emphasis on taking data and applying it to specific scenarios in which it can learn or identify trends. It is expected that the AI industry will exceed $390 billion by the year 2025, so it’s safe to say that this technology is not going anywhere. Your business has much to gain by thinking about how it might apply it in the near future.
Here are just a couple of ideas for how you might be able to use AI for your business.
Streamline Certain Tasks and Operations
Businesses often have a lot on their plate. Between managing resources and maintaining operations, it can often feel like an overwhelming balancing act where spending too much time on one thing leads to not spending enough on another. Some tasks require more time and focus than others by virtue of how complex and thorough the work must be, such as vetting new hires or assisting customers in need.
Consider some of the more lengthy or time-consuming tasks out there. Most businesses need to search for top-tier talent to keep themselves competitive, which means sifting through mounds of resumes, cover letters, and other documents for job applications for qualified candidates. This process can be automated through the use of artificial intelligence. Another aspect that can be automated and improved through the use of AI is customer support. Customers often ask the same questions, and if AI systems can learn from and build their foundation of knowledge based on interactions with consumers or clients, they can provide your organization’s employees with more time to focus on innovative new ideas and workflows.
Improve Data-Driven Analytics
All businesses collect data in some way, shape, or form, but the way that this data is used will vary by industry. In fact, some organizations don’t fully utilize the data available to them; either they collect the data and don’t know what to do with it, or they collect the data and don’t have the tools to adequately act with it. Either way, AI gives businesses the opportunity to make full use of this important asset.
AI allows your organization to use any data it collects to its advantage through predictive modeling. By extrapolating data for trends, AI is able to take its best guess at what the future could hold for your business. Through the use of AI, organizations can leverage available data to make educated decisions about their futures; this ensures that the organization can move forward in an informed way that is both in line with its business model and progress-driven.
Cut Costs and Increase Efficiency
We have all heard the horror stories related to AI and how it is stealing jobs away from qualified human beings, but this is the wrong mindset to approach this technology with. While it might be concerning to laborers in unskilled industries, the truth of the matter is that most workers can stand to benefit from AI to a certain extent. Let’s reframe this perspective; instead of saying “AI is going to steal my job,” you can instead say “AI will make my job easier.” Suddenly, the prospect of implementing an automated system is not so scary.
When looked at through this lens, it’s easy to see the value that AI presents and the opportunities it poses for not just simple tasks, but more complex ones as well. Even if AI cannot fully automate more complex tasks, the fact alone that it can help make certain aspects of them easier to manage should be reason enough for celebration, as any technology that can make running your business and managing your workload easier should be given full consideration. And you know what they say… less time wasted means more profit!
Now that you know about some of the ways that businesses can use AI to their advantage, the only question remaining is this: how are YOU going to leverage artificial intelligence? What ideas do you have for this exciting technology? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
By now you’ve heard of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), the telephone system that runs through your Internet connection rather than a phone line. VoIP can save your business up to 60 percent off your current phone bill. What many people don’t know—even ones that utilize a VoIP platform—is that there are many available options that can have major benefits for your business. Companies that have VoIP typically only use between one-third and one-half of the available options. Today, we wanted to showcase five VoIP features that you may not be taking advantage of.
Of course, nobody will ever really admit that they are screening their calls, but most people are guilty of it. Whether you just don’t cop to it or not, it can keep you from having to have conversations that you just don’t have time for. With VoIP, you can send the call to voicemail, disconnect it without giving the caller the chance to fill up your email with solicitation, or you can push it to your mobile phone. Either way, you have complete control.
One useful feature is the auto attendant. It’s basically a simple automated receptionist that can facilitate call transfers, send callers to voicemail, or even provide basic information and support. A lot of businesses completely forego having an actual receptionist and use the call attendant feature as a call hub to direct calls. It’s extremely useful.
Find Me, Follow Me
Some members of your staff are always on the move and it can be difficult for clients and other people to get them on the phone in their office. The find me, follow me feature is a sophisticated form of call routing. It provides a person to go where they are needed and still get the calls that come through for them by calling multiple phones at one time.
Many VoIP platforms don’t just make the people you put on hold listen to the same ol’ elevator music, you can pick your own. This may be a completely aesthetic feature, but it can be a benefit and fit in nicely with the company culture you are trying to cultivate. Insert marketing messages, promotions, and helpful advice for your callers.
Do Not Disturb
This is a feature that is not used enough. If you want to stay productive you need to be able to eliminate distractions. Nothing is more distracting than your phone blowing up constantly. In fact, studies have shown that people take over ten minutes to get back into the flow after a call. If you want to shut it down and focus on the task at hand, using the do not disturb feature can help you get in the headspace you need to be truly productive.
With other features like text messaging and video conferencing, VoIP can add a lot of value to your business’ roster of communications tools. If you would like to learn more about VoIP or other productivity-boosting tools, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.
Training your staff to be better at their jobs is not only a business owner’s responsibility, but it’s also expensive and time-consuming. When someone suggests that you use YouTube for your business’ training purposes, the first thought is: “Are you crazy? We don’t have the money for that!” That is a reasonable response if the suggestion was that you start making YouTube videos for your business’ training purposes, sure, but if you use YouTube resources that are already there, you can quickly improve your business with nary a penny spent. Today, we will discuss the options that can make using YouTube a strong resource for your business.
We’re not going to go into what YouTube is, since if you don’t know by now, us telling you isn’t going to help. What we will say is that YouTube is more than just video game and anime reviews. It can be a great resource for personal and professional growth, and if it is utilized by a business to explore concepts that provide value for their staff, it can be a real benefit.
It can also be a giant time-sink.
Anyone that has been on YouTube knows that there are literally millions of hours of videos about any topic important to any human being. It’s a lot of content. In fact, according to Google, the parent company of YouTube, nearly five billion videos are watched on YouTube every day. Many businesses have blocked YouTube using content filtering because their staff will spend too much time watching and sharing videos. 720,000 hours of new video content is updated every day, after all. It’s just a massive platform…
…and you can use it pretty easily to improve your business, if you know how.
How Can I Use YouTube to Improve My Business?
We’re not going to get into the marketing and content creation avenues, but both can work well for any business looking to expand their reach and/or authority. In fact, you can use the strategy we’re about to tell you to put together a stream of useful information to help your marketing department understand how to make those strategies work for your business.
The strategy we want to tell you about is using existing YouTube content to help train your staff and expand their knowledge base about your business, your market, the services you provide your customers, customer relationships, cybersecurity, and much, much more. You can do this pretty simply by creating a playlist.
Anyone who has been around for a couple of decades started making playlists by sitting by the boombox and recording songs they like on a cassette tape, but most of today’s younger people have been making playlists in iTunes and Spotify for years. The same principle applies when creating a playlist for your business’ training. You find content that is useful, entertaining or both, you add it to a playlist and you share the playlist with people you want to take in the content. It seems like it is a little too simple to help your business, but you would be shocked at the results some small and medium-sized businesses have had using YouTube content to expand their staff’s knowledge base on a lot of subjects.
How Do I Make a Playlist?
The process of making a playlist is longer than you may think, only because you have to view all the content you want to add to the playlist. Otherwise, it’s extremely easy. Here’s what you do:
- You find a YouTube video you want to add.
- Directly under the video, you will click the Add to button.
- There will be a dropdown menu. Choose Create new playlist.
- Enter a name for the playlist.
- Choose any privacy settings you want to enact for the playlist. For businesses, we suggest unlisted.
- Click create.
That’s it. Then you can add to the playlist by clicking on the Add to button under a video and placing it on the corresponding playlist. You will quickly find that the hardest part about sharing content with your team is watching it to ensure it is right for the purposes of your design.
There is a lot of great and useful content on YouTube that any small business can use to improve the way their staff understands the concepts they need to master to help a business grow. If you would like to talk about how you can use technology to improve the way you do business, give Point North Network, Inc., a call today at 651-234-0895.
2020 was, obviously, a challenging year for healthcare providers. In addition to the obvious issue of the COVID-19 pandemic creating serious operational, financial, and supply chain difficulties, cybersecurity concerns didn’t go away during this time. Let’s consider some of the additional stresses that IT security needs can, will, and have placed on healthcare providers.
The amount that healthcare practices invest in their cybersecurity services has been projected to exceed $65 billion in the span of time from 2017 to this year—but despite this, the industry isn’t improving. In fact, healthcare providers have had to turn away patients for these precise reasons… but the question remains: why?
There Are a Few Reasons that Healthcare Providers Have Had Problems As of Late
IoT Security Issues
Anyone who has been to a hospital in the past decade or so has likely noticed how connected many of these facilities have become. A nurse’s clipboard has been replaced by a laptop that they wheel around to input all information and logs into, while diagnostic equipment itself is now largely computerized.
This means that many of a healthcare provider’s tools can now be classified as Internet of Things devices, and as such, are prone to security inconsistencies and vulnerabilities as a result. Many IoT devices are notorious for iffy-to-non-existent security as it is.
While ransomware can be, and is, an issue in every industry, the healthcare industry is particularly susceptible to its impacts for obvious, life-or-death reasons. Ransomware has been responsible for many organizations actually closing their doors, unable to sustain the damages. This is largely due to the reliance that their organizations have on the data that they need to treat their patients and manage the business—without the support required to properly protect this data.
Unfortunately, the employees in a healthcare organization are not infallible, which does sometimes lead to insider threats to data. In fact, some professionals have said that insider threats are the biggest challenge for hospitals and such right now.
New Threats May Be On the Horizon
Of course, cybercrime of all kinds constantly advances, and that which targets the healthcare industry is no exception. In healthcare, these threats can be downright frightening.
For example, a research team in Israel managed to develop a proof-of-concept computer virus that could artificially paste tumors into CT and MRI scans so that high-profile patients could be misdiagnosed by their physicians.
With ingenuity like that, it is terrifying to consider what cybercriminals may do moving forward.
Regardless of your industry or the size of your business, cybercrime isn’t something to be taken lightly. Point North networks, Inc., is here to help prepare for it. Give us a call at 651-234-0895 to learn more about the solutions we have to offer.
Google’s Android operating system has about a 71.9 percent global market share, making it the most used smartphone operating system in the world. It’s well-trusted, and although the experience differs since phone manufacturers customize Android to fit their device, generally the operating system is pretty stable. This wasn’t the case for a massive number of users around March 22nd, 2021.
Around the 22nd of March, many Android users started to notice their apps crashing.
Not a particular app either. Instead, numerous apps that seemed to not be connected with each other were crashing persistently.
For instance, most users were reporting that Gmail was crashing, others noticed that doing a Google search crashed their browser app. Popular password management app Lastpass would crash for some users every time they tried opening it.
Not all apps were having an issue though. It wasn’t like all of the applications were made by Google, or some other developer. It seemed to affect a wide range of applications from communication apps to games.
Why Are My Android Apps Crashing?
This was such a sudden, immensely frustrating issue for some users. Fortunately the Internet prevailed, and a few users on Twitter figured out the culprit.
Android WebView, a system application that is powered by the Chrome browser and allows applications to view and access web-related content, had a bug in its latest update. This bug was causing your other applications to crash. The temporary fix was to uninstall the latest version of Android WebView by going into the Google Play store.
We’re not going to walk you through that process though, because Google fixed the bug in an update less than 12 hours later. Depending on when your phone searched for its updates, you may have missed the issue altogether.
It goes to show you that, while updates are generally important, an update isn’t inherently going to always go smoothly. Sometimes, updates have their own flaws that the developer doesn’t realize or didn’t experience in the testing process.
It’s important to consider when applying updates—not just to your smartphone, but to any software or hardware you use for your business. That’s why we test updates out in a test environment before deploying them, especially if they are for mission-critical applications. Google solved the Android issue in 12 hours, but that was a massive wide-spread issue. If you are running into a unique, uncommon issue due to an update, it could take days, weeks, or months for an official patch to come out. It’s better to test first, and if the test fails, determine how critical the update was, and go from there.
It’s always important to keep your hardware and software up to date, but always be prepared for something to go wrong.
If you need help keeping your IT maintained and updated, and want to reduce your overall risks for downtime and expensive problems, give Point North Networks, Inc., a call at 651-234-0895 and ask how we can take over your technology and treat it as well as we treat our own.
Having a comprehensive data backup and recovery strategy in place can absolutely save your business. This means it’s extremely important. Unfortunately, too many businesses don’t consider their backup and recovery systems until it is too late. Let’s unwrap what makes a successful backup and recovery platform work, and how to get one for your business.
Many business professionals use data backup and disaster recovery as if they are interchangeable, but this is simply not the case. Data backup is the act of making copies of your data while disaster recovery is a process that includes the act of actually restoring the data using the data backup. Obviously, the two systems are related (as one can’t happen without the other), and today we’ll take a look at why they are both integral to the continuity of a business.
When you first implement your backup solution, you should be focused on which data (and how much of it) you want to back up. It’s important to remember that not all data is as important as other data and therefore it is critical that you think about what data will be necessary to keep your organization functional if and when you experience operational troubles. As a rule, you should try to back up as much as you can without it affecting your ability to restore later on. The ideal data backup process will happen automatically without any resource dedicated to running it, as user error has sunk more than a few businesses in need of a data backup.
On a related note, disaster recovery deals with the process of restoring your data following a disaster. The main way of measuring effectiveness of disaster recovery is speed. How fast can you get back into a comparable situation where you’re not operating at a loss? You should also consider where you’re trying to restore from. Best practices dictate that you have at least three copies of your data with one stored in the cloud, and two stored on-site for ease of access. Furthermore, you need to consider running automated tests to ensure the disaster recovery process will work the way you want it to when you need it most.
Does your business need a hand with implementing data backup and disaster recovery? Our all-in-one Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution can provide you with a powerful preventative solution to ensure your organization doesn’t fall to unexpected disasters. To learn more, give our IT experts a call today at 651-234-0895.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.