The software you choose to use for your business largely defines the capabilities of it. When it comes to communications there are some very standard options that you probably already have and then there are some more innovative options that can have significant benefits for your staff. Let’s take a look at some of the standard communications options a business might use and how they can use technology to crank it up a bit.
Standard Communications Tools
Most businesses today give their employees multiple options on how to communicate with other members of the staff, prospects, and customers. Some are typical of every business, while others are a little more advanced and come with larger price tags. Some of the most utilized communications tools for business include:
- Instant messaging
For most businesses, communications are split into two categories: Written and Verbal. Most businesses should have systems in place to cover both types of communication. As for written tools the most utilized, by far, is email. It presents you with an accepted and respected way to communicate with almost anyone that you would need to contact.
Today’s hosted email solutions tend to have a litany of great and useful features that can not only provide a construct to clearly get your message across, but also manage incoming and outgoing messages. Most modern business email platforms include the following features:
- Daily backup of emails
- Virus protection
- Spam filtering
- Push mail
These options typically provide users with everything they need to do business using email. Not only do modern email platforms have features to make the process of sending and managing email easier, many of them have started to integrate a fair amount of security features. A business’ email system is extremely important and a well-maintained and managed email system can go a long way toward giving an organization a great business tool.
Instant messaging is one of the more utilized written communications tools. Not every instant messaging application is created equal, that’s to be sure, but for the most part the convenience and speed of instant messaging can be a major benefit for any business looking to outfit themselves with one. Some hosted email platforms will come equipped with one, while other stand-alone IM platforms are also available. Recently, there has been a big shift in the development of collaboration tools that feature instant messaging as part of a larger platform designed to keep your people on the same page.
One often overlooked communication tool your business may have is the ability to provide employees and customers with written resources like pamphlets, white papers, and other documents. Most businesses today want their staff and customers to be as educated as possible and creating a repository of useful information, whether they are in the form of pamphlets, FAQs, or some other useful documents can save time and be very valuable.
Probably the most important communications platform your company has is its telephone system. The traditional telephone system that you would get through a dedicated telephone provider has some functionality, but if you really want to make strides with your business’ communications platform, consider switching to a VoIP system. VoIP can be hosted onsite or in the cloud and can provide a lot of powerful features that the traditional telephone system simply cannot.
One of the features you can buy through any VoIP provider is seamless video conferencing. For remote teams, or even extremely busy teams, a powerful video conferencing solution will give you access to a tool that will allow you to spin up meetings in seconds and provide you with integrated options in line with standalone video conferencing tools. This will help you save money and standardize the entire calling experience. Some other VoIP features you can take advantage of include:
- Automated attendant with advanced call management
- Caller ID
- Call queuing
- Call following
- SMS and MMS integration
- Mobile device integration
…And many more.
If your business needs help going over your communications options or if you simply need help getting the platforms you already have to function as you need them to, give the technicians at Point North Networks a call today at 651-234-0895.
It might be an understatement to suggest that things don’t always go smoothly in business. The truth is that when one problem is solved, another is often created. This is why we lean on our technology. These “solutions” are intended to fix many of the speedbumps, but that doesn’t mean that choosing, deploying, and supporting these systems don’t come with some problems as well. Today, we look at three reasons an IT project could fail.
Failure to Align to Business Needs
Incorporating technology to make things more efficient is typically the goal, but in many instances, management and technology deployment aren’t working in concert. This can lead to IT projects that fail because of friction that is caused when there isn’t any unity in the direction things are going. In order for IT projects to work as designed, there needs to be some cohesion between planning and practice.
A good strategy to avoid situations like this is to set ground rules about when a major IT project can start. Not only should any project have full clearance from decision-makers, but it should also include regular status updates to keep everyone abreast of any changes or delays that may happen. Typically, new IT deployment will result in some downtime, so having the blessing of everyone that could be affected is a good plan.
Not every project is going to run smoothly. One could say that most projects deal with some inefficiencies and even redundancies that increase costs. Most major IT projects require substantial investment and if there is a lack of commitment it can cause projects to fall flat. Of course, many IT investments are earmarked when a budget is set and therefore can be subject to alteration due to other financial factors affecting the business.
To avoid having the IT project tablecloth ripped out from under your china, you should be pragmatic about your IT investments. This means once you’ve decided to invest in something, complete it since most IT investments will end up providing quicker returns. Go full steam ahead or don’t go at all.
When we cite “communication problems,” we aren’t talking about problems with your data plans or email server, we are talking about keeping lines of communication open between all the people that have a stake in the project being a success. That means everyone: production workers, administrators, and everyone in between. Obviously, most projects are handled by the project manager and it is his/her responsibility to disseminate information as required.
Today, there are some pretty impressive and easy-to-implement tools that will allow project managers the ability to quickly send correspondence to various people, create chats with teams of people involved in the project, quickly start video meetings, and more. The better equipped your project manager is to be an effective communicator, the more smooth a project will likely go.
Poor Project Management
That brings us to the last point, but it may be the most crucial. A solid project manager will do things that will make for successful IT projects. A good PM will manage the expectations of stakeholders, demands of the staff, and make it look easy. It’s not, but for some people being in the middle of a major project is exactly what they were built for. The good PM will not only understand the needs of the project team, the underlying problems that the project is trying to address, but also do it in a way where people who need information won’t have to go and search for it. A good project manager is a great delegator, a great prioritizer, and a great communicator.
At Point North Networks, Inc., we have plenty of experience running point on the Twin Cities Metro Area businesses’ IT projects and would love the opportunity to talk to you about your next IT project. For more information about anything IT support-related, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.
There is a microprocessor shortage influencing all kinds of businesses around the globe, and it’s only going to get worse following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine produces somewhere between 45 and 54 percent of the world’s semiconductor-grade neon, something which is absolutely crucial to the creation of microchips. The invasion has put a halt to neon-refinement companies Ingas and Cryoin, and as you can imagine, this puts a massive strain on an already struggling supply chain.
This suspension of production has led to even greater uncertainty over the worldwide production of microchips, something which is a huge problem. Smartphones and other devices are in high demand, especially thanks to the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past 18 months have seen major increases in both demand and prices for products such as computers, smartphones, cars, and more, all thanks to the decrease in availability of microprocessors. With two of the largest neon manufacturers out of operation, these problems are only going to get worse.
Fortunately, however, these major chip manufacturers keep a stockpile of neon, but it’s likely that this stockpile will be depleted as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict drags on. As such, it’s possible to see shortages in new microchip-run devices and products, and that’s not to mention the increase in price that the demand will cause. In an ironic twist, the Ukrainian neon market is a byproduct of Russian steel manufacturing, so it’s unlikely that the situation will be resolved before this conflict comes to an end.
Russian violence has affected the neon market in the past, like in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, a region which was part of Ukraine. This situation resulted in neon prices skyrocketing by 600 percent, and you can bet that consumers ate the costs that this increase produced.
While some large chip manufacturers have been able to make arrangements with distributors to acquire the necessary materials to continue production, smaller manufacturers will struggle to maintain operations if the conflict doesn’t come to an end. It’s possible that this neon shortage could have a significant global impact. Industries and governments could initiate their own neon production, but this production could take anywhere between 18-to-24 months to actually get off the ground, and that’s not even mentioning the massive price tag associated with it. Many are hoping that this conflict is a temporary one so they don’t have to resort to this.
This conflict and the resulting shortage has forced us to reexamine the way we procure technology, but rest assured that we will always work to help your business get the technology it needs to push ever-onward. To learn more about how we can help your business make the most out of its current and future technology acquisitions, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
Running a business can be stressful, and if you can’t find time to juggle the countless variables that are at play every day of the week, you’ll quickly find yourself falling behind what needs to be done. Technology is one such area where falling behind is easy, especially when it comes to purchasing and implementing new tools. Unfortunately, your IT budget is not limitless, so how can you make the most of it? Let’s take a look.
When you need to make your investments count, it can often be difficult to make large purchases without a little bit of reticence. You should first determine where your business could benefit from technology spending, then make implementing these solutions a priority. If you can address inefficiencies in your operations, you’ll be more likely to gain more from your technology and, thus, make the investment worthwhile.
For example, if you have ten employees and two of them have two displays, then these two employees are likely getting more work done than the rest of your employees. If you can invest in eight more monitors, then you can exponentially increase productivity for the entire crew, making the investment an excellent way to reduce inefficiencies. There are tons of other ways your business can use this principle to make the most of its technology budget—you just have to think a little outside the box and examine the baseline operations of your infrastructure.
Invest in Training
You can invest in technology, but you can also invest in something which is less likely to break down and require replacing eventually: training. If you purchase new technology or equipment, your employees will need to know how to use it. By ensuring that your employees are properly trained, they’ll be more likely to yield a return on investment for your new technology solutions.
What it really boils down to is that the better your employees are at doing their jobs, the more money they will save you in the long run. By training your employees, you are giving them access to knowledge and tools that will aid them while going about their duties. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Association of Talent Development, companies that invest in comprehensive training programs see 218 percent higher income than those that don’t.
Furthermore, today’s threat landscape is so advanced that your employees will need all the help they can get to avoid falling prey to a hacker or other advanced cyber threat. If you invest in security training now, you can save money by preventing security breaches in the future. Plus, it will help you maintain customer relations; nobody wants to work with a business that doesn’t take security seriously, after all.
Outsourcing can be an effective way to take advantage of goods or services you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. It effectively gives you access to more for less, and it helps to control costs in the budgeting process. In particular, outsourcing technology services can be an effective way to keep your IT in proper working order. Through managed services like those provided by Point North Networks, Inc., you can utilize all kinds of technology solutions that you might otherwise have difficulty implementing with limited resources at your disposal.
One common way that businesses outsource is with their cloud platform, but the cat isn’t out of the bag yet in regards to how much ROI you actually get from implementing it. Still, the fact that outsourcing gives you access to solutions you wouldn’t otherwise be able to manage is more than enough reason to consider it. Outsourcing your cloud, for example, gives you the ability to scale your services per user or per GB used, so you can still leverage the services according to your operational needs.
If you partner with a company like us, you can take advantage of several services designed to help your business thrive and gain value from technology. Here are some examples:
- Comprehensive backup and disaster recovery
- Remote monitoring and proactive management of all IT
- Best in the Twin Cities technology procurement
- Dynamic cybersecurity tools
- Patch and licensing management
- Vendor management
- And more.
Even without a huge IT budget, your business can be successful and innovative. To learn more about how you can accomplish this, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
How often over the past year or two have you gone to replace a device on your infrastructure, only to find that the price has increased or the device simply isn’t available? This is an issue with the current hardware shortage, particularly for business electronics. Since businesses depend on technology, it becomes critical that you understand how this shortage impacts your day-to-day operations.
As you are surely well aware, there is a hardware shortage out there for computing devices due to a component shortage. This shortage stems from semiconductors, and it’s bleeding into every facet of device creation, from manufacturing to acquisition. Naturally, this creates issues for businesses that need to invest in new hardware for their employees. Here are just a few of the ways this shortage has impacted businesses like yours.
As the costs of components increase, so too do the costs of the devices they are a part of. This is an unfortunate side-effect of the costs of manufacturing increasing, and the consumers ultimately pay more for devices. This can also impact the costs associated with services offered by providers, as they need to purchase and maintain equipment to manage these services.
Timeline for Acquisition
With hardware being in short supply, you can expect the acquisition of any new devices to take a bit longer than usual—particularly if you are looking for something very specific. We recommend that you build out a hardware acquisition timeline so that you know when and how often you need to perform hardware refreshes on your infrastructure.
It Makes Upkeep Even More Important
Finally, since devices are more expensive and harder to come by, you should understand that upkeep of your current hardware infrastructure is even more important than before. If something critical fails within your infrastructure and you are unable to immediately replace it due to shortages, what happens? Be sure to take care of what you currently have so that you can get as much value out of it as possible before it kicks the bucket.
What We Recommend
Point North Networks, Inc., recommends that you work with us to ensure that your hardware needs are met within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. Due to our connections and our working relationships with vendors, we know the most reliable ways to get the technology you need to succeed. Plus, it’s always better to have someone else do the legwork for you so you can avoid the frustrations that come from devices simply not being available when you need them most.
To get started, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
For small businesses with limited budgets and workforces, getting the type of maintenance needed to keep complicated pieces of machinery and technology in tip-top shape seems like a tall order. Sometimes it might be a budgetary issue, where it costs too much to hire in-house staff to handle this burden. Other times it might seem like you just can’t find any talent in your location. Thanks to modern technology—remote monitoring and management technology, in particular—you are no longer stuck by these limitations
We would be poor technology consultants if we told you that not having the resources to properly care for your technology is a good excuse. Thanks to remote technology, this type of maintenance is easier and more accessible than it has ever been before. Here’s what you can expect when you work with Point North Networks for remote monitoring and maintenance services.
If nothing else, RMM tools promote accessibility for small businesses by breaking down the barriers of entry that have traditionally stopped them from leveraging this type of technology. By this, we mean things like price and talent pool. For price, RMM services fall into the operational costs category, meaning that they are the equivalent of a monthly payment compared to adding additional salaries to your expenses. As for the talent pool, since the majority of services can be administered remotely, physical location is not as much of an issue unless you need on-site maintenance.
Proactive Maintenance and Monitoring
It’s not easy to run a business while also keeping an eye on all of the little things that could go wrong at any moment, be it hardware hiccups or security discrepancies. When you implement RMM services, you have your outsourced provider keeping a close watch on your network for all of those small things that might fly under the radar normally. When your network is monitored in this way, we can catch small issues before they spiral out of control.
Sometimes issues need to be resolved quickly, and in these situations, you cannot wait for a technician to travel to your office. Remote desktop solutions allow technicians to remote right into the system itself, see the issue first-hand, and resolve the issue quickly and efficiently without the need for an on-site visit.
Implement a RMM Tool Today!
Ultimately, RMM services are incredibly beneficial for all businesses, big or small. They save time, money, and resources that you can then spend elsewhere for your business, such as growing your customer base or innovating with new ideas or services. Point North Networks, Inc., can provide your organization with remote monitoring and maintenance services; all you have to do is reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
Regular computer maintenance is part of maintaining healthy IT infrastructure, but one aspect that can often go by the wayside is keeping your computer physically clean. By this, we mean keeping it dust-free, clean and tidy. We’ve put together a shortlist of everyday actions that employees of any caliber can use to keep their workstations clean. This will help your organization take preventative measures over time and (hopefully) prolong the lifespan of your business’ technology.
Before you begin cleaning up your device, we recommend that you power it down and unplug it from its power source. The last thing you want to do is give yourself a jolt on accident!
Keep the Fans Free of Dust
You may have noticed that dust tends to gather around vents and fans on your computer’s casing. If left unchecked, this dust could affect airflow and become a major problem in the long term. This is why it’s so beneficial to keep things clear; the last thing you want is your computer to overheat due to an easily preventable thing like the accumulation of dust. Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust away from the vent (Note: NOT into the computer–this does the exact opposite of what you want).
Wipe Down Screens and Surfaces
No matter how frequently a device is used, chances are it will accumulate some sort of dust on its surface. This is especially the case with your monitors. If you plan to wipe the dust off of them, we recommend that you use a microfiber cloth specifically for this purpose, and whatever you do, don’t spray anything directly onto your monitor’s screen. The same can be said for your keyboard. If you use a can of compressed air to blow away dust, combined with a microfiber cloth, you should be able to get your device reasonably clean.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use a cleaning agent to clean your screens, we find that good eyeglass cleaner works great, but harsh chemicals could cause damage. This works great for smartphones and tablets as well, but spray a clean microfiber cloth, don’t spray the device.
Keep Food and Drink Away
This is more of a preventative measure rather than an actual cleaning tip, but if you can keep your workstation tidy in the first place, the less cleaning you will have to do in the long run. Crumbs and other gunk can easily find their way into your keyboard, especially if you are the type of employee who often finds themselves working through their lunch break. The same can be said for liquids; even water can create problems if it gets under your keys or into your computer’s components, and you better hope that you never spill something sugary on your keyboard. While it isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your keyboard, the effort it takes to clean up after such a spill will make you want to just buy a new one instead. Better to just eliminate the possibility and keep your workplace clear of anything of the sort.
Perform More Thorough Cleaning
Every so often it helps to perform a cleaning that is more than just at the surface level. By this, we mean going into your case and making sure that there is minimal dust clogging up your PC’s components. Obviously this is something that you should only attempt if you are familiar with the innards of a computer, so if you are not adequately trained or experienced in this prospect, we recommend working with Point North Networks, Inc., to make sure your workstation gets the deep cleaning it needs to promote longevity. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0894.
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.
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.
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.