Tip of the Week: Keep Your Computer Working Effectively with These 5 Tips

Computers allow businesses to do so much, but eventually a time comes to purchase new hardware. Thankfully, you can stave off this need pretty well by simply taking care of your existing technology. Here are some tips you can implement to make sure that your computer lasts as long as possible before it kicks the bucket.

 

#1 – Keep Your Hardware and Software Updated (All of It)

Some folks are using the same old tired technology that they were using a decade ago, and the reason they have been able to do so is because they take care of keeping all their hardware and software updated. Some users may have updated their computer from their old hard disk drive to a solid-state drive or added additional RAM, but for the most part, the big reason why their device is operationally sound is because they have kept updating software to keep up with the times. With the software as updated as possible, less strain is placed on the computing resources.

#2 – Keep Your Hardware Clean

It’s easy to think that buying a new computer will solve your problems when you don’t take care of your current technology, but know that you’ll just encounter the same problem when you don’t take care of the new technology, too. Computers are machines, after all, and they have a lot of intricate parts that require a clean environment. Naturally a computer will not work well if crumbs get in the keyboard or dust builds up inside, so make sure you take measures to periodically clean your PC so that it’s not a complete mess.

#3 – Buy Protection

Taking care of your computer’s physical wellbeing is incredibly important, especially for a laptop that is on the move all the time. Consider purchasing a nice padded carrying case that can keep your computer safe while in motion. For a desktop user, a surge protector is also a must, as it protects you from unexpected surges and provides even more utility thanks to the extra plugs. As for mobile devices, you have cases that can keep them dust and water-resistant.

#4 – Keep Your Antivirus Running

You should frequently run a virus scan on your device, even when you are away from it. There are countless issues that could occur with your device, and the best way to identify them is to run an antivirus scan on your device. With a centralized antivirus program on your network, you should be able to identify and remove malware on your endpoints.

#5 – Don’t Treat it Like a Light Switch

If you constantly turn your device on and off, you will run into problems with your components in the long term. While it might seem beneficial to save the electricity and conserve the battery life, ask yourself if it really saves so much that it is worth replacing your entire device in the near future. Naturally, the answer is no, so don’t treat your technology like it’s a light switch.

 

Hopefully you can put these tips into practice and preserve your technology a little bit longer. Point North Networks can also aid in this effort with our managed IT solutions. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

Maneuvering Around Microsoft Teams

Tip of the Week: Maneuvering Around Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a video communication and collaboration platform that your organization can use to great success, but it helps to have a couple of pointers so you can make the most out of the software. Here are five ways you can maximize the value you get out of your Microsoft Teams software.

If you don’t already use Teams, you can think of it like this: it’s similar to other services out there, like Slack and Discord, in that it gives you access to various channels for communication through a variety of mediums, like video, instant messaging, voice chat, and so on. Knowing how to get the most out of Teams means maximizing your use of these features and using them to their fullest potential.

Pin Important Messages

While you are chatting with your team or coworkers in Teams, you might notice recurring themes in your conversations. If you think something is important enough to keep at the top of the conversation at all times, you can pin that message to the top by clicking on the pin icon. This will keep it in place so that everyone who opens the chat will see that message first. All you have to do is click the three-dot symbol on a message and select Pin.

Tag Someone in Conversations

Sometimes you really need someone to chime in and contribute to the conversation. In cases like this, you can use the @ symbol to tag someone in the conversation. This will send the user a notification that you have tagged them in the chat and are hoping they will respond. It’s not the best or most perfect way to convince someone to contribute, but it at least lets them know you want them to see the message.

Organize Your Teams Into… Well, Teams (And Channels)

Teams operates on the premise that your communications are segmented into various “teams,” or specific places dedicated to collaboration for various groups of employees or departments. You should have your Teams set up so that each department has their own dedicated space to collaborate as needed. These Teams can be further split into Channels for specific purposes, all of which can be customized according to what your needs are. For example, you might have a Team set up for human resources where only your HR staff are allowed to chat or view the messages within, or the same could be said for the executives within your company. Be sure to control permissions for these Teams and Channels as needed.

Connect Teams to Other Office Applications

As a Microsoft software solution, Teams integrates quite well with other Microsoft tools. For example, it can connect and sync to OneDrive and OneNote, which is helpful for when you need to share files with others within your organization. Furthermore, you can add files and other documents directly to your various Teams and Channels so that users in those Teams or Channels have access to them quickly and efficiently. It’s a great way to make sure everyone has access to the information they need to be successful and productive throughout the workday.

 

To learn more about how you can utilize Teams as best you can, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

 

Tip of the Week: Using Your Voice to Type in Microsoft Word

Typing on your keyboard is something that you do every day, but sometimes you just don’t want to do it. You can give your hands a break and use Microsoft Word’s dictation feature; this lets you use your voice to write in the software. Let’s go over how you might use the feature on a desktop, web browser, or mobile device.

 

On Your Desktop Application

If you use Microsoft Word on your desktop or a laptop, you can use the built-in dictation feature. From the Home tab, click on the Dictate button. It is the blue microphone in the top-right corner. You can then click on the gear icon to adjust the settings as needed. Some of these settings include auto-punctuation, language filtering, and dialect. You can use the pause or unpause buttons to take a break when needed. There is also a guide available to show you how to do things like add punctuation.

On the Browser Version of Word

The browser version of Word is exactly the same as the desktop version; you just go to the Home tab and use the Dictate button. The settings are mostly the same, too, so just follow the directions as they appear in the previous paragraph. You can click the X to close out of dictation.

On Your Mobile Device

The mobile application version of MS Word gives you an easy-to-use button just above the keyboard for dictation. You’ll see a microphone on it. The same features as outlined above work here in the same way. To stop dictation, click on the keyboard icon that will take the place of the dictation button.

 

Sure enough, it’s easy to use the dictation feature, and that’s probably by design. However, we do want to make sure you are aware that you should be proofreading your work, as anything voice-related can be somewhat unreliable on its own.

 

For even more great tips and tricks, subscribe to our blog.

 

Tip of the Week: 3 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Business’ IT More Secure

With many businesses’ increased reliance on their information systems and other IT, they need to do everything they can to keep those systems up and running and secure. This not only includes rolling out security systems that support that goal, it also demands they take the action necessary to keep these systems secure. Let’s look at four things you need to do to keep your business’ IT as secure as possible.

Promote Strong Password Practices

Many users are just not as savvy as most organizations need them to be about their passwords. In fact, many of the most popular passwords used today are still “password” and “123456”. Even if your people are more deliberate about their password practices, many of them choose passwords that could be easily guessed if someone had knowledge about that person’s personal life. This can be a major detriment to any organization’s attempts to keep their IT secure. Here are some tips that you can use to create strong and reliable passwords:

Password Length

It stands to reason that longer passwords are harder to guess than shorter ones. It’s been proven that passwords that are at least 12 characters long are more apt to be secure than not. The problem with longer passwords is that they are more easily forgotten and result in significant downtime. A good strategy is to create easy-to-remember passphrases with random words and a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. For example a password of “elephantredfootball” will usually be secure, but one that is written: “3l3ph@ntr3df00tb@ll” is even more secure.

Unique Passwords

Lots of people will use the same password for every account. This couldn’t be more dangerous. Think about it, if you use the same password everywhere and one account is cracked, you are looking at a situation where every account where you use that password is now compromised.

Use Software Tools

There are plenty of tools designed to help people keep their accounts safe. Password managers can be a good resource for people who use long or randomly-generated passwords. These platforms use encryption to ensure that all login and passwords are secure and can cut down on password-related problems that can cause downtime and unwanted IT support costs. Another tool that can help organizations keep their accounts secure is multi-factor authentication. Most platforms will provide options that will add an additional layer of security in the ways of an authentication code sent through an authentication app or separate email or text message. In using randomly-generated codes from a multi-factor authentication system, you can do more to ensure that the people who access your organization’s network-attached files and cloud services are authorized to do so.

Train Your Staff

One of the biggest issues for organizational IT security has to be threats coming in from outside your organization. These typically come in the form of phishing attacks. A phishing attack can come in on any platform including phone, email, text message, or even social media. There are over three billion phishing emails sent every day, and that isn’t even taking into account all the other attack vectors. These messages come in with the intention of getting an unwitting or distracted employee to engage with it. Once this happens, nothing good comes of it. Scammers will use this social engineering technique to gain access to protected accounts, deploy malware of all types, and disrupt an organization’s workflow. This is why it is imperative to train your staff on how to identify phishing attacks and what to do when they inevitably encounter one.

 

The phishing message will typically look like it comes from a person or organization that has some semblance of authority. Scammers like to develop subterfuges acting as financial institutions, insurance companies, even executives and managers inside a company. Many will ask recipients to click on a hyperlink or download an attachment. Either action could be dire for an organization’s technology. Let’s look at some variables of phishing messages that ever organization needs to train their employees on:

Demand Immediate Action

Most phishing attacks are structured to create fear and anxiety in the recipient. This typically will get people to make impulsive decisions. The best action is to verify any suspicious action before interacting with any messages like this.

Include Unprofessional Spelling Errors and Grammatical Faux Pas

Many phishing messages are developed by people whose first language isn’t the recipient’s language and include demands, spelling errors, and grammatical errors that no professional correspondence would include.

Come From Unrecognizable Accounts

Many phishing messages may initially look legitimate when you look at the account it comes from. The more legitimate these messages seem the more effective they are. Consider the email address or account these messages come from before clicking on any links or downloading anything from the email.

Keep Your Software Updated

Phishing may get most of the attention, but one of the most used attack vectors by hackers is infiltrating networks through software vulnerabilities. Most enterprise software is continuously being developed to ensure that it is a secure product. If an organization doesn’t have a patch management program where their applications are updated regularly, hackers can use any software vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access and wreak havoc on their network.

 

If your organization uses a lot of applications, it may seem like keeping everything patched is a full-time job. That’s why using automation to ensure new patches are added regularly is important. You will also want to test every patch to ensure that your software solutions function as designed. This includes frequently updating antivirus tools, firewalls, and spam filters.

 

There are plenty of solutions and strategies that you can use to keep your business’ network and data secure. If you would like to have a conversation about cybersecurity and how to deploy some tools and strategies that can work to that end, give Point North Networks, Inc., a call today at 651-234-0895.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip of the Week: Import Your Bookmarks in Chrome

Bookmarks are an essential part of being productive with your Internet browser, but what happens when you switch to a different one, like Google Chrome? Do you have to manually add all of your bookmarks back to the browser? Nope! Let’s go over how you can import your bookmarks directly to Google Chrome and save some time.

 

Add Bookmarks from Other Web Browsers

Before proceeding, know that you need to have your previous browser installed on the device if you want to import bookmarks from it.

 

Chrome gives you the capability to directly import bookmarks from other web browsers. You can do so by clicking on the three-dot icon in the top-right corner of the web browser. From here, select Bookmarks > Import Bookmarks and Settings. From here, click on Import and select the browser you want to import from, as well as the Favorites/Bookmarks option from the checklist. After you see the blue checkmark on the screen, click on Done.

Add Bookmarks from an Exported HTML File

If you have exported your bookmarks as a HTML file, you can import them through the same process as outlined above. Instead of selecting the browser you want to import from, simply select Bookmarks HTML file. From here, just select the file that you want to import and you should be all set.

Sync Bookmarks Across Devices

The previously mentioned methods only work for your desktop version of Google Chrome, so you’ll have to sync your bookmarks if you want them on your mobile device. To do this, make sure you are logged into the same Google account on both devices, then click on the three-dot icon in the top-right corner of Chrome. From here, select Settings. If you want to sync only bookmarks, disable the slider and check the box for Bookmarks.

 

We hope you found this tip helpful; be sure to subscribe to our blog for even more great tips.

 

Tip of the Week: Stop Overworking from Home

 

It’s quite possible for employees to overwork themselves, even in a remote environment. Let’s take a look at some ways that you can minimize remote overwork for your employees, especially as the boundaries typically set in place by the morning commute are eroded and work/life balance blurs.

 

First Off: Yes, Overwork is an Issue

Countless issues and workplace challenges have bubbled to the surface in recent years, including others that are much more divisive, like wage inequality and racial imbalances. However, these issues are much greater and more difficult to address in this format, and overwork presents a different challenge to overcome.

 

Overwork is a very real issue that can impact your organization in several different ways. Employees can grow fatigued, anxious, and physically ill with symptoms like headaches, pain, and vision problems. Too much remote work can also impact interpersonal communications. Add in the emotional stress and pressure caused by the pandemic and you have many employees walking around like ticking time bombs. All of this can create the perfect storm for destroying even the best worker’s productivity and performance.

 

The question must be asked, what can we do to help reduce overwork?

How to Help Diminish Remote Overwork

You might not be able to visit each of your workers individually, but you can implement policies that can keep them from overworking themselves in general, and it all starts by thinking about things not in terms of remote work policies, but in-house and remote policies.

1. Support the Use of a Schedule

We are not talking about just setting up a schedule outlining work hours; we also mean that you should help them to establish a workday routine that is manageable. Be sure to emphasize the importance of starting and ending the workday at consistent and appropriate times, and try to reinforce this consistency whenever you can. This helps to prevent employee burnout and overwork.

2. Use Time Tracking Tools

Time-tracking tools can help your team and keep them from overworking themselves, as you can take a look at where all of their time is being spent at a glance. A visual reminder of where they are in their seemingly-endless pile of tasks can be immensely helpful. COMPANYNAME can help you implement a time-tracking tool that will help your team stay on task and keep them from working themselves into the ground.

3. Encourage Your Team to Speak Up

Finally, you should empower your team to speak up if they feel their work requirements are becoming unreasonable. If they feel like they are overburdened or afraid to say no to more work, you need to know. Make sure they are comfortable coming to you about any concerns they might have so that you can address the issue at its roots without making it worse.

 

Point North networks, Inc., can help your team implement the tools it needs to succeed. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

shortcuts

Tip of the Week: The ABCs of Windows Shortcuts

Windows has no shortage of capabilities to offer its users, with many of these tools coming with an associated Windows shortcut. Since keeping track of all of them can be a challenge, we wanted to assemble a list of most of them for you. This blog will serve as that list, so make sure you add it to your browser’s favorites for quick reference!

Let’s get into it.

The ABCs of Windows Shortcuts

Naturally, almost every letter of the alphabet on the keyboard has a shortcut assigned to it:

  • WinKey + A opens your Action Center.
  • WinKey + B highlights your notification area.
  • WinKey + C launches Cortana in listening mode.
  • WinKey + D toggles Show Desktop and the previous state.
  • WinKey + E launches File Explorer in the Quick Access tab.
  • WinKey + F opens the Microsoft Feedback hub.
  • WinKey + G opens the Game Bar tools, if that’s how you spend your time at home.
  • WinKey + H opens the Dictation toolbar.
  • WinKey + I opens your Settings.
  • WinKey + K opens the Connect pane to connect to wireless displays and devices.
  • WinKey + L locks the device.
  • WinKey + M minimizes all open windows.
  • WinKey + O locks the device’s orientation on tablets and mobile devices.
  • WinKey + P opens the Project pane.
  • WinKey + Q opens Search.
  • WinKey + R displays the run dialog box.
  • WinKey + S launches Cortana in typing mode.
  • WinKey + T cycles through the apps on the taskbar.
  • WinKey + U launches the Ease of Access/Display Center to manage your screens.
  • WinKey + V opens your clipboard app to view things you have copied to your clipboard with Ctrl + C.
  • WinKey + X opens the advanced, Secret Start menu.

Adjusting Your Open Windows

Some of Windows’ shortcuts are designed to help the user arrange their display to the appearance that best suits their needs. For instance:

  • WinKey + Left/Right Arrow will take the active window and adjust it to fill the left or right side of the monitor it is displayed in.
  • WinKey + Shift + Left/Right Arrow will move the active window over to another display.
  • WinKey + Up Arrow will maximize the active window.
  • WinKey + Down Arrow will minimize the active window.

There are, of course, many more Windows shortcuts to take advantage of, as well as plenty of other tips to help make your workday more efficient. We often share them in this blog, so make sure you come back often to check in!

tip of the week

Tip of the Week: Ergonomics Tips For the At-Home Worker

Not everyone has a living situation that is conducive to working from home. That’s why many people have some problems as they are forced to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the problems with not having a dedicated space or the right type of situation to get work done from home is that your physical health starts to suffer. Today, we thought we would go through a couple of ergonomic suggestions that can help any remote worker feel better when working long hours from home.

Your Seat

You will want to find a comfortable seat, but you’ll probably want to avoid your bed or a couch as the primary seating arrangement when working from home. A hard chair doesn’t give enough support to the lower back or legs. If you can, get a chair with some type of built-in lumbar support, but if you can’t do that you can easily use a pillow or rolled-up throw blanket for this purpose. Ideally, it should have arms so you can rest comfortably, but if it doesn’t you can still use the tabletop/desk to rest your arms without crouching over.

 

Additionally, if you don’t have a station that allows your feet to plant firmly on the floor, you will want to acquire a footrest. You can use reams of paper or a step stool. The aim is to have a workstation that allows your knees and hips to be at a right angle and have your feet planted firmly on a solid surface.

Table/Desk

You will want a proper tabletop to do work on. If you don’t have a desk, a countertop or table will work as long as you can comfortably sit/stand without much strain. Most people work from seven-to-nine hours a day, ensuring that you have the space you need to do your work without having to contort is important.

Accessories

If you use a laptop there are solutions out there that can allow you to broadcast your screen onto your TV or another monitor. This can work to give you more workspace or simply a larger display to complete work on.

 

Another popular accessory is noise-canceling headphones. At home, there are often more things that can distract you than there are in the office. Get a good set of noise-canceling headphones—preferably ones with a built-in microphone—and you’ll be able to tune out of “home” and into “work”.

 

All the other peripherals should fit into a system that keeps your body well-positioned while you are working. That includes the chair, desk, computer, mouse, keyboard, and any other work-required equipment.

 

If you would like to talk to one of our IT consultants about getting your staff the technology and resources they need to be their best in these difficult times, give us a call at 651-234-0895.

take a screenshot

Tip of the Week: How to Take a Screenshot in Windows 10

Okay, so first off: when it comes to taking a screenshot, today’s user has a lot of options baked into Windows. Of course, there’s the Print Screen key on most keyboards—but that only allows the user to literally take a screenshot of their entire display and edit it down in some other program.

This simply isn’t a convenient enough option for today’s productivity-focused workflows. Instead, let’s go over how to use Windows’ integrated Snip & Sketch tool, which gives you greater functionality at comparable ease.

Using Snip & Sketch

Snip & Sketch is a utility that offers four options for you to use in terms of your screenshots and can be easily called up by pressing Windows Key+Shift+S. There, you’ll have access to four different screenshot format options at the top of your screen:

  1. A basic box selection, where you click and drag to encompass your selection
  2. A freeform selection that allows you to draw out your boundary
  3. Window snip, which allows you to select an active monitor to screenshot
  4. Fullscreen snip, which takes the place of the Print Screen key and allows you to take a picture of all your monitors simultaneously

Any of these can be useful in the right situation, and these situations are only too common in the workplace.

Hopefully, this will help you communicate more clearly in the office, using images to help get the message across. For more handy tips and other useful IT information, make sure you check back here every so often—and don’t forget to give our team a call at 651-234-0895 for more direct assistance from us!

burning out

Tip of the Week: How to Keep Your Team from Burning Out

Considering what the past year has been like, the idea that workplace burnout has been a hot topic isn’t all that surprising—even though less time has been spent in many offices than almost any other time to date. Regardless, burnout simply isn’t an office issue, meaning that remote workers are still susceptible to its ill effects.

This isn’t something that you want to encourage, so let’s go over what constitutes burnout and how to identify and address it for the benefit and betterment of your team.

What is Burnout?

Let’s face facts—most people that read this blog will have likely felt burnout for themselves at some time or another. Having said that, many likely underestimate the full experience that burnout can bring.

Most probably understand the all-encompassing tiredness that burnout is commonly associated with, both mentally and physically, but this state can also have additional impacts. Burnout also tends to make people feel apathetic and cynical, and it can lead to impaired motivation, lessened self-confidence, and other negative attributes.

When these outcomes come together, it can encourage the development of toxic workplace conditions that—if not avoided entirely—need to be addressed and resolved. To do that, you need to be able to spot burnout as it happens.

Spotting Burnout Amongst Your Team

If you hope to have any chance of catching burnout, you need to have a good awareness of your team members’ (and your own) mental state. Dedicating a few moments to brief self-evaluation to help identify the triggers that dictate how you are engaged (and likewise disengaged) in your work can make a huge difference over time.

With so many people currently feeling a loss of control over many aspects of their life, such stresses need to be kept under control in the office environment. One way to accomplish this is to establish some consistent and predictable routines to be followed in the office, emphasizing control, and decreasing the potency of employee burnout.

Resolving Burnout

Finally, one of the biggest key points to preventing the ill effects of burnout is the importance of taking a step away from it all—particularly when you don’t seem to have any time to waste.

While the human brain is a shockingly complex and capable construct, it does have its limits. Like anything else, it just isn’t built to support 100 percent efficiency, and forcing it will work out about as well as it sounds like it would. Giving yourself some respite in the form of some time off—even a few moments of it during the workday—can help prevent burnout from taking hold.

On an organizational level, incentivized collaboration and other support incorporated into the workday can help prevent burnout even further.

Point North Networks, Inc., can help you where this comes into play. By giving your team the tools necessary to cultivate a cohesive and collaborative environment, we can help reduce the factors that contribute to burnout in general. Find out more by giving us a call at 651-234-0895 today.