Data Backup

Why Should You Bother with Data Backup?

A good business owner envisions the future and what it could bring about. You may have already devoted a considerable amount of time to the good things that could happen, but how often do you picture the bad?

If you don’t imagine the worst-case scenario, you could be putting your business’ life on the line. Are you prepared to deal with a data loss incident?

You might think we are being a bit dramatic, and maybe we are, but a business that doesn’t focus on longevity is one that will ultimately fail in the face of adversity. You need to consider what a worst-case scenario could mean for your business.

Data backup and disaster recovery are critical components of any successful business. Most companies rely on data in at least some capacity, so without it, operations can be stymied significantly. This data might include client information, metrics, corporate data, important files, and so on. If you lose this data, how do you plan on keeping your business running?

Disaster Recovery Process

The process of disaster recovery is just as important, as without it, you cannot get back in business following critical data loss. Disaster recovery is what enables your business to maintain operations even in the face of severe disasters, like a hacking incident or a natural disaster. While having data backup is helpful, you still need a method to restore it as quickly as possible so as to avoid downtime. You might consider concepts like data backup, operations, workforce longevity, and alternative working conditions when putting together your disaster recovery plan, whether the disaster is from nature or your fellow humankind.

Your business should implement a cloud-based data backup system and disaster recovery tool that takes periodic snapshots of your data. This will allow you to accomplish the following:

  • Backups can be taken throughout the workday rather than only once at the end of the day.
  • Your backups will be accessible at a moment’s notice, something which is incredibly valuable when recovering from a disaster.

When your company is under pressure from a disaster, time is of the essence. You don’t want to be worrying about how and when to restore your data. It helps to just have the cloud take care of these processes for you.

Start taking your data backup and disaster recovery seriously before you suffer from a situation that could easily have been prevented. To learn more about how you can take advantage of enterprise-level data backup and disaster recovery solutions, reach out to Point North Networks, Inc., at 651-234-0895.

Network Security

Tighten Up Your Network Security with Superior Access Control

How often do you find yourself stressing out about who has access to which data or internal resources on your company network? What about who has access to open the front door of your office or who has access to important physical resources within your building? Ensuring the security of your business’ assets is critical, and access control tools can help your company ensure that only authorized individuals have access to specific parts of your organization’s infrastructure, be it physical or digital.

What is Access Control?

Access control is, at its core, a way to restrict access to specific resources within your company based on user or role. It generally involves authorization of some sort and demands that the user verify their identity before being granted access to said resources. Think about it like asking the network for permission before being allowed onto it; once the network or infrastructure has confirmed the identity of the individual, they will have access to the resources.

Access control can be broken up into two groups: digital or cyber access control and physical access control. We’ll go over some of the benefits for both types of access control and how they can help your business keep itself safe.

Cyber Access Control

Your business undoubtedly has data on its infrastructure that should only be accessed by specific individuals and no one else. This might include sensitive employee data, applications or resources, financial records, and so on. You should be limiting access to important information like this specifically because the fewer people who have access to it, the less likely it will be compromised. Through access control tools, you can control which employees have access to specific data, applications, or resources on your network, based on their role within your organization.

Physical Access Control

Sometimes you want to keep certain users out of specific parts of your office. This is where physical access control comes into play. Physical access control might involve key cards, code-guarded doors, and even biometric scanners, with the intention of securing various parts of your office. One example of how you might use it is if you have sensitive records stored in a specific part of your office. You might keep that door locked, only accessible to specific individuals within your organization. Another example might be an access gate open only to employees of your business.

Get Started Today

Point North networks, Inc., knows how complex it can be to implement new security solutions, especially if they require a certain level of management and maintenance, like access control systems do. We want to help your business take advantage of these solutions in a way that minimizes the additional duties and responsibilities of your organization. Through Point North, you can implement, manage, and maintain these systems without dedicating your internal resources to them; instead, you can outsource the responsibility to us! Our technicians are more than happy to assist you each step of the way.

To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

Broken Computer

Broken Computer? Do These Things Before Taking It to the Shop

Try as we might, we can’t prevent all computer issues from occurring—for instance, there’s not much that we can do if a stick of RAM dies, at least, not remotely. However, if you’re stuck with a broken computer and need to bring it in for repair work, there are a few things we recommend you do.

Pick a Provider You Trust

The hard truth of the matter is that some places are just a better option than others when it comes to your hardware repair needs. There are, of course, differences in the quality of services rendered, but also in how these services are rendered. For instance, it is important that you take the provider’s privacy policies into consideration. Just consider how much data you’re handing over to your provider in the hopes that they’ll keep it secure.

Before you entrust your technology to just any repair service or maintenance provider, do a bit of research and ask a few questions. For instance, what kind of privacy policy do they have? What—in detail—do they do to ensure your data remains secure, and if your data happens to be leaked, what measures will be implemented to mitigate the damage? You need to be confident that your provider is going to provide their services responsibly.

Maintain a Data Backup (Just in Case)

Okay, just to be clear: there is generally a very, very small chance that a repair shop will cause data loss. Saying this, very, very small isn’t zero. This is just one more reason that a data backup is so crucial. Disasters can come in all shapes and sizes, and accidental or unavoidable data loss during maintenance would qualify as such. Abiding by a BDR (backup and disaster recovery) strategy can mitigate the negative effects of these circumstances.

If Possible, Remove or Protect Your Personal Data

Without questioning the overall trustworthiness of any business or organization you choose to work with, there’s once again a non-zero chance that there’s a less-than-scrupulous employee there who might be tempted to take advantage of the data on the device being repaired. If you can, it is always better to remove this data before handing the device over, although storing the data in an encrypted state is also advisable. That way, even if your data is accessed, it won’t do the person responsible any good.

Retain Your Software Keys

Software is critically important for your productivity, so you’ll want to also have the ability to—just in case the repair process removes it—reinstall the software you rely on. To do so, you’ll need to have the software keys to activate it. Keeping these keys will therefore be a form of insurance for everything, from your productivity software down to the operating system itself.

Just in This Case, Make Your Device Easily Accessible

This is the one exception to our typical rule, as you don’t want the support professional to have any more difficulty than they already will have in dealing with the issue. To do this, they’ll need access. Removing the password requirement to log in will help.

On a related note, you might consider writing up a brief description of what the user is experiencing and providing it along with the device. If your device is in a condition that allows it, you can have a file containing this information display upon startup by saving a copy ro the Startup folder (found here: %appdata%\microsoft\windows\start menu\programs\startup\)

Things Break, So It Pays Off to Be Prepared to Fix Them

With what amounts to a guarantee that things are going to break at some point, it only makes sense to be fully prepared to deal with this outcome. The above list is a great starting point. Working with an MSP can make all of this (and more) far easier to manage.

An MSP (or managed service provider) like us can not only assist you in obtaining hardware maintenance services, we can remotely monitor it to detect software and hardware issues and resolve any issues we can preemptively. Working with us could be the difference between an extended downtime incident and a slight hiccup.

Interested in learning more about the benefits to be had from a managed service agreement? Give us a call at 651-234-0895 today!

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.

AI technology

3 Ways Your Small Business Might Benefit from Artificial Intelligence Technology

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.