Hybrid work environments are the new reality for companies all over the world. After functioning a couple of years in the work-from-home environment, employees have formed their location preferences and it seems no company can please all of them. What does please everyone, however, is flexible options that actually make switching between the office and work from home totally seamless. Here are 3 ways you can improve your technology to make the best of your hybrid workspace.
Make your most-used applications work on a web browser
Point North Networks has solutions that allow companies run Windows applications on Web, iOS, Android, and ChromeOS without the need to install or configure any client-side software. Your employees don’t even have to bring their work computers home, they can access these applications from any device and continue to multi-task and even print from wherever they may roam.
Move your infrastructure to the cloud
Long before a pandemic shook the world, it was still important to give team members a way to access their network from anywhere. Now that it’s necessary for so many, technology has just made it easier and more secure to do so. There are remote desktop solutions that can mix browser access to VDI, VM’s or RempoteApps as well as Unix machines. Point North Networks has private cloud hosting services that make remote access safe.
Increase your project security
So many IT leaders are skeptical about the security of their data when they don’t know where or when their team is accessing it, which is a legitimate concern. Luckily, remote desktop solutions are advanced enough to have authentication processes in place to enforce policies by either groups, users, or devices. You can set Single-Sign-On schemes with a number of identity platform options or use protocols to create a 2FA experience.
Do you need to improve your hybrid work environment that is still adjusting and evolving in many ways? Contact Point North Networks today to improve your IT setup.
Companies everywhere and of all sizes are bringing in IT consultants to better evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of their existing operations. A good IT consultant wants your business to succeed and will identify opportunities for you to save money while exceeding objectives. Here are 3 qualities to help you decide whether a consultant is the right fit for your business operations.
They keep up with digital transformation
A good IT consultant knows that technology changes constantly and that they cannot afford to recommend the same thing year after year. They have to keep up with change and seek out opportunities to improve upon systems your company has adopted, even if the change did not happen long ago.
They have years of experience
It goes without saying, but the most seasoned IT consultants utilize their tech expertise for the better, always. As frequently as technology might change, a lot of the same problems ring true for companies over the years, especially growing pains. A good IT consultant has helped companies get through the most common problems time and time again, even if the way he or she has done so has evolved.
If you have a good IT consultant, you shouldn’t be left guessing whether your business operations are set up in the best way possible. Your IT consultant should instill confidence in your systems and be checking up on them frequently. A little bit of communication and knowledge-sharing goes a long way, especially when it comes to your business’ technology.
Contact Point North Networks to start talking to an IT consultant today.
Network vulnerability is an increasingly hot topic that companies of all industries and sizes need to be paying attention to. However, only a minority of small businesses consider their ability to mitigate cyber attack risks as effective. Network vulnerabilities come in a number of forms, but here are 3 common ones that we at Point North Networks help people navigate and/or avoid every day.
Malware is malicious software that is installed on a machine or a host server. They can come in the form of Trojans, viruses, worms, and more. If your system is infected with malware, it might run slower, randomly reboot, or start unknown processes. It most frequently occurs through a phishing email that encourages a user to take an action like clicking a link or downloading an attachment that has malicious code.
A firewall serves as a buffer between the internet and your internal network. They act as a defense to your online traffic. When your internal network gets exposed, hackers can easily compromise your traffic and steal your data. A great way to protect your network is by regularly performing firewall penetration tests to make sure your controls are effective.
A social engineering attack fools users into giving up personal information like their logins to a number of accounts. This is where internal users pose the greatest security risk to an organization and employees need to learn to recognize these threats. These attacks also come in the form of phishing emails and a number of other methods including whaling, pharming, tailgating, dumpster diving, and more.
Microsoft has officially unveiled Windows 11, the latest in its line of PC operating systems, as well as detailed its system requirements. Will your business be upgrading to Windows 11 when the time comes? We think a lot of it will depend on its current IT infrastructure and whether or not you meet the minimum requirements right out the gate. Let’s dive into the details and what you need to know about Windows 11.
First, a short disclaimer–Windows 11 does not release until fall of this year, and even if you can’t get your hardware up to speed before then, Windows 10 will remain supported until 2025. As for the hardware requirements themselves, that seems like a good place to start.
Windows 11 Hardware Requirements
Before we dive into Windows 11’s requirements, let’s first provide a little bit of context. The current system minimum requirements for Windows 10 are a 1GHz processor, either 1 or 2 GB of RAM, depending on whether you are using a 32 or 64-bit OS, and a display with at least a 800 x 600 resolution. Of course, these are bare minimums. You won’t get much mileage out of a PC with these specs.
Windows 11, on the other hand, has more stringent requirements for its operating system. Windows 11 will require a 1GHz multicore processor, but it doesn’t have to be top-tier to run the operating system. In terms of memory, Windows 11 will also need more of that as well; at least 4 GB of RAM will be required to run Windows 11, as well as 64 GB of onboard storage. Furthermore, the display requirements are also a bit higher, needing a resolution of at least 720 pixels.
For more on the specific requirements of Windows 11, check out this document from Microsoft.
For the most part, modern PCs won’t have an issue running Windows 11, but for now, we don’t recommend installing it on a PC that you need to use everyday for work.
Get Ready for Windows 11 Today
While Windows 10 will still be around until 2025, we want you to start thinking about your update strategy now. The reason for this is simple; you don’t want 2025 sneaking up on you out of nowhere (and trust us, it can and will sneak up on you if you let it). The last thing you want is to wind up in a situation where you are using an unsupported operating system in much the same way that many Windows XP users did all those years ago.
For Help, Contact Us!
If you can’t tell the difference or don’t know the difference between your various components and hardware specifications, we would be happy to help you make a determination about your current system specs. If you want to make sure your business can seamlessly transition to Windows 11 upon its release, Point North Networks, Inc., can help with the acquisition of new hardware, installation, and monitoring/maintenance. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
What kinds of communication tools does your business utilize on a daily basis? Chances are that your communication infrastructure can benefit from some of the latest and greatest solutions on the market. Communication is one aspect of your business that you definitely do not want to skimp on, as failing to implement the proper tools can bleed into other aspects of your organization, including operations and, in return, your bottom line.
Here are three technology solutions that all small businesses should implement for their communication infrastructures.
Email & Instant Messaging
We know what you’re thinking—obviously a business needs email to communicate properly both internally with its team and externally with clients and vendors. However, we urge you to reconsider the way that your email solution is currently set up. Do you host it yourself on-premises? Is it properly secured? Can you access your work email on any approved device? Are you able to access it through the cloud? These are important questions to ask for the sake of productivity and efficiency. We at COMPANYNAME recommend that you work with us to set up a cloud-hosted email solution so that your business can focus on maintaining operations rather than managing an email server.
Instant messaging is another great tool that modern businesses can leverage to great effect. It’s perfect for moments when you don’t want to wait for a response to an email or for more urgent matters. That said, you need to be careful with how you implement instant messaging, as improper setup and training can turn this great productivity tool into a distraction.
Consider this scenario: have you ever been neck-deep in a project only to find that important documents detailing the process for a certain task simply cannot be accessed for some reason? Unfortunately, this is often the case; documents can get scattered all over, and some employees simply won’t know the needed workflows or how to access certain accounts. This is why an intranet solution is such a valuable tool.
An intranet solution is a great place to house internal documents for helpful information such as workflows, portals to various services or tools you utilize on the regular, and more. Don’t discredit the value of having a single place you can go to locate just about everything your employees need to succeed in their day-to-day duties. Think about it as the “single point of contact” for any resources your employees need.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Similar to email, all businesses have a phone solution that they use for both internal and external communications. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the landline is a tool of the past. Whenever you have to add a user to the network, you have to run new phone lines, hook up new hardware, assign extensions, and so much more. This makes for a solution that is not growth-friendly and can work against your business’ interests.
VoIP has the potential to change the way your organization handles telephony in the workplace. Essentially, it takes your entire phone infrastructure and shifts it to the cloud where it can be accessed on any device through a desktop or smartphone application. This allows you to use your work phone number to make calls on a personal device through the Internet. All of the features of traditional telephony solutions are present here (and completely scalable), including call forwarding, routing, conference calling, and even some features that might not be present in your ordinary landline, such as video conferencing, IMs, and more.
Not sure how to get started thinking about your own business communication infrastructure? Point North Networks, Inc., can work with your organization to implement the best tools for its specific needs. Don’t wait any longer; get started with a phone call to Point North Networks, Inc., at 651-234-0895.
Phishing Lessons to Pass On
While last year saw a significant decrease in its number of data breaches, the number of records that were leaked doubled… and then some. Part of this can likely be attributed to a spike in the use of ransomware, indicating a resurgence in interest of the mean-spirited malware. This means that your business may very well see more ransomware infection attempts coming its way—the only question is, are your team members prepared for them?
To keep your business and its data sufficiently secured, it will be important to teach your team to effectively identify and avoid phishing. One effective way to do it: try and phish them yourself, via a phishing attack simulation.
How Does a Phishing Attack Work?
Let’s go through the basic process of a phishing attack, just as a quick review:
An attacker, posing as someone else, sends their victim a message making some promise or threat that somehow—either through fear or temptation—coerces their contact into reacting to it, usually by following a link or opening an attachment. This methodology allows such schemes to bypass many restrictions set by security protocols and solutions, as the vulnerability it takes advantage of is the human user.
Therefore, when it comes to defending against the phishing attempts that are virtually guaranteed to target your business at some point, your team members need to be prepared. Let’s discuss what you need to teach them, and how to best prepare them to make sure they’ll overcome any they encounter.
Remind Them How Hackers Think
It’s important that your users are cognizant of how clever hackers and scammers can be when it comes to their ruses, and how they often take advantage of current events and information. Many phishing attacks as of late have been themed around COVID-19, pertaining to updates, warnings, and offers of personal protective equipment.
Hackers will try to capitalize on user panic and knee-jerk reactions whenever they possibly can to keep these users from thinking before they act. Therefore, it makes sense to have users look more critically at their incoming messages to evaluate whether a message seems “phishy” or not.
Provide Signs of Problematic Links
A favorite tool of these hackers is that of the spoofed link—basically, a link to one website disguised as a link to another. Others will just use a URL that is different but looks passable enough to slip by unnoticed.
These domains can be tricky. Let’s look at a few red flags to keep an eye out for (in this case, the attacker using Amazon as a disguise):
If the email is from Amazon, a link should lead back to Amazon.com or accounts.amazon.com. If there is anything strange between “Amazon” and the “.com” then something is suspicious. There should also be a forward slash (/) after the “.com.” If the URL was something like amazon.com.mailru382.co/something, then you are being spoofed. Everyone handles their domains a little differently, but use this as a rule of thumb:
- com – Safe
- com/activatecard – Safe
- amazon.com – Safe
- amazon.com/retail – Safe
- com.activatecard.net – Suspicious! (notice the dot immediately after Amazon’s domain name)
- com.activatecard.net/secure – Suspicious!
- com/activatecard/tinyurl.com/retail – Suspicious! Don’t trust dots after the domain!
Some of these things can be challenging to spot, so you and your users need to be extra careful about checking (and double-checking) links.
Give Safe Links to Use
Even better, you could provide your team members with the links they are expected to use when being directed to certain places by their clients, rather than using the links potentially given in an email. These trusted links can be a real lifesaver, particularly when it becomes apparent that an email was an attack that a trusted link has helped your team to avoid.
Enforce Password Practices and Processes
The security of your team’s collective password policies is important for you to address, as these passwords are often the keys to the castle that cybercriminals are phishing for. Therefore, you need to ensure that your team is not only using best practices but are also handling these passwords appropriately, using tools like two-factor authentication wherever applicable and being generally cautious.
Evaluating Their Preparedness
Finally, once you’ve taught them the signs and precautions, you need to make sure that you check their proficiency in following through. To do this, a phishing test is in order.
A phishing test is simply a phishing attack you run against your own business to help identify where your weaknesses are. By showing you which team members are susceptible to an attack, you can correct the vulnerability through training and other assistance.
What Makes a Successful Phishing Test?
To effectively run a phishing test, you should not inform your team that one is incoming. To do so would defeat the purpose of the evaluation. If you do, make sure you keep it vague and never specify when they should expect it. That way, you can avoid skewing your results.
However, you also need to keep basic ethics in mind. Being shady will not help your security. You want to communicate trust with your team, and hope it is reciprocated.
As for your other security needs, lean on Point North Networks, Inc. for assistance. Give us a call at 651-234-0895 to learn more.
Secure File Storage in the Cloud
Cloud-based file storage is nothing new, but it has become an important part of cloud service delivery. The world’s most trusted name in consumer and business software, Microsoft, offers a file storage platform, OneDrive for Business, that gives each individual employee using Microsoft Office 365 individual storage for their files.
Point North Networks, Inc. is known for proactive IT management, but what you may not realize is that we are also a one-stop shop for all of your hardware, software, cloud, and support needs. We proudly offer Microsoft products, including OneDrive for Business and Office 365, as we believe that businesses should have access to the very best resources.
About OneDrive for Business
A Strong Cloud-Storage Option with Powerful Integrations
OneDrive for Business may be a separate product than OneDrive, but it functions exactly the same on the surface. The benefit is in the integration that provides enterprise features not found on the free-to-use OneDrive platform. OneDrive for Business is an excellent collaboration tool for business users, providing them the storage and file sharing element necessary to give Office 365 value as a productivity tool.
OneDrive for Business Features
Huge Benefits from Using OneDrive for Business
Microsoft has been developing an enterprise-grade, cloud-hosted file sharing platform for much of the past two decades, and with OneDrive for Business, they’ve succeeded. In fact, OneDrive for Business is constantly adding features to make it as useful as possible for today’s business professional. Some of its features include:
- Plenty of space – OneDrive for Business, even as a stand-alone platform, offers users 1 TB of cloud storage, and the ability to store files as big as 15 GB. This provides users with enough space to store most types of files.
- Office 365 integration – Most OneDrive for Business accounts will be tied to a Microsoft 365 Business account. It provides dedicated cloud storage to store all the files that are made using productivity and collaboration apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Teams, and Outlook.
- Promotes collaboration – By providing a place to quickly store and manage data, it promotes the use of Microsoft applications, which are some of the best on the market for team collaboration.
- Easily share files and manage their security – OneDrive for Business allows users to control levels of file security. Users can share direct access to a file or simply give other users permissions to view files. This integrated security promotes comprehensive project management and collaboration.
- Mobility and flexibility – OneDrive for Business is available on any device either through an Internet browser or via mobile apps. It doesn’t matter if you are using a smartphone, tablet, Mac, or a PC, if you need access, all you need is an Internet connection.
- Teams and SharePoint Integration – Users can share files with two of the most dynamic project management titles on the market today.
- Support for versioning and data backup – Files that are saved from Office apps in the OneDrive for Business platform all support versioning capability, where files are backed up so that users can go back and see periodic edits to the file.
- File sync – When working on a Mac or PC, users can choose to sync OneDrive to the file system of the OS. This is now a default setting in Windows 10.
With all these options, and more, OneDrive for Business is right for any organization looking to utilize cloud-based storage to fuel gains in collaboration and productivity.
If you are looking to make a jump to the cloud, OneDrive for Business is a sound option. Point North Networks Inc.’s consultants have access to attractive packages that are designed to promote business growth while maintaining the security you expect. Call us today at 651-234-0895 for more information.
2020 was… well, 2020… so it really isn’t any surprise that those businesses that made it to 2021 aren’t quite out of the woods yet. The many difficulties and challenges that 2020 brought will carry over into this year, many of them pertaining to information technology and how businesses utilize it. Let’s take a few moments to anticipate how these IT challenges will manifest this year.
Where Work Can Be Done
In the recent past, remote work was almost seen as a taboo subject—many businesses either discouraged it or neglected to implement any organized policies in the first place. Even amongst those businesses that did adopt some form of remote work, only 20 percent or so of their employees were able to work remotely.
2020 changed this considerably, as many businesses hastily adopted remote work as a means of remaining operational. Some businesses—if they were able to do so—completely transitioned to remote work.
These shifts have necessitated numerous changes to be made so that businesses can ensure their workforce’s productivity and safety simultaneously. These changes won’t go away anytime soon if projections are to be believed.
Moving forward, companies will need to ensure that the correct security protocols are implemented, and processes carried out, particularly because many users will likely be working on their personal devices. This means that implementing remote monitoring and management solutions will be an important step for businesses to take from here on out.
Fighting Burnout and Downtime
With the prospect of remote work preserving productivity, it becomes important to protect it from other negative influences. The fight against downtime should be a matter any business takes very seriously… after all, its clients will expect 100 percent uptime, and anything less than that will quickly erode the trust they have.
After the year we’ve all just experienced, that trust is something no business can squander.
In addition to having trustworthy technology, businesses must also make sure that their team members are receiving the requisite TLC. Technology solutions aren’t the only component of your business subject to downtime: fatigue and burnout can each have a considerable impact on morale and output. Considering this, these factors also need to be addressed.
The past year flushed many business’ budgets down the proverbial toilet, which will carry over into this year by some measure. Money is bound to be tight. As a result, any proposed investments need to be scrutinized for the return they provide to the business.
We predict that this will lead many more businesses to the cloud as a means of acquiring the services and solutions they need. In addition to this, we expect automation and tools like it to be given much more consideration.
One way or another, 2021 will see some considerable changes to how businesses do their business. Point North Networks, Inc. can be here to help you see them through, and beyond. Learn more about our solutions and how they can benefit you by calling 651-234-0895 today.
It isn’t often that you’ll hear a managed service provider say something like, “There’s no school like the old school.” In many ways, however, the basic principles of a solid business IT strategy haven’t changed all that much… despite the momentous changes that we’ve witnessed in terms of the technology we use. Let’s consider some of these principles, and how they’ve changed over time (if at all).
Securing Your Hardware Solutions
Restricting access to your business’ essential hardware solutions is certainly not a new idea. Even when on-site network and storage infrastructures were the way of doing things, these elements were restricted to employees who needed to work with the equipment—and had the key needed to get in.
Of course, these hardware solutions can be expensive to procure, run, and maintain, particularly for a small business. So, rather than investing the time, space, and energy into supporting these processes, businesses have instead shifted to procuring cloud services. This gives the subscribing organization access to the computing resources required for their needs, while freeing them of the associated responsibilities.
This also helps secure the business’ hardware, as the important stuff is tucked away in a provider’s data center. Since it is stored there, it is under their care and protection… certainly an effective means of restricting access.
The Purpose of IT
Let’s make something clear: information technology was never to be—and should never be—seen as a luxury investment for a business to make, or to simply be procured for the sake of having it. Rather, every new solution brought into your business needs to have an operational benefit.
Therefore, a business should not look to its IT resource to constantly be adding to its solution set, but it should also anticipate that the IT resource will do more than just keep their operations going. Instead, there needs to be a concerted effort by IT to establish how a new technology or approach to the business’ processes would provide some observable, positive results. In this regard, any IT resource that an organization leans on should be considered a consultant: an expert voice providing beneficial feedback and input—not just the reason that the computers work.
The typical processes for a business’ IT threat management have gone through a few iterations. Initially, a lot of these processes were responsive in nature—if a hacker could potentially get in, throw a few restrictions and password requirements into the mix. As time passed and threats developed further, this restrictive approach was amplified.
More recently, this has seen a bit of a shift, although keeping a network secure is still a priority. Nowadays, however, the solutions that are being utilized themselves feature greater security features, with more emphasis placed on educating users to better identify threats. After all, the employees a business hires are going to inherently be one of its bigger security liabilities without some understanding of how they make a company vulnerable.
Clearly, while the available technology we have access to has improved, the practices we’ve developed have needed to in kind. Point North Networks, Inc. is here to help you implement the technologies and processes that can make your business operate to its highest efficacy. To learn more about the solutions we can help you put into place, and how to leverage them to their full potential, call 651-234-0895 today.