19 05, 2020

Setting Your Scholar Up for Online Learning

2020-04-29T16:40:35-05:00May 19th, 2020|Work From Home|0 Comments

Setting Your Scholar Up for Online Learning

Online LearningSchools around the world have closed their doors during the COVID-19 crisis, students from kindergarten through graduate school are being asked to participate in online learning. It’s a change for everyone, but having the right technology in place can help with the transition.

Your student may have been using the Microsoft Office suite of software at school. If you don’t have Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint at home, check if your school is providing licenses or free software.

If not, buying a subscription to the online Microsoft 365 package allows you to pay monthly or yearly, and it’s much more affordable than in the past. One month is about the cost of two coffees.

Teleconferencing with Teachers and Peers

Your student is likely to need to download teleconferencing software such as Zoom or Skype. Beware! Cyber-criminals take advantage of every opportunity. Noticing the increased demand for these services, they’ve set up bogus sites. Make sure that you are downloading from the legitimate sources: www.skype.com or www.zoom.us.

While we’re talking about teleconferencing, you might pass on these best practices:

  • Use headphones to limit audio distractions.
  • Join calls from a low-traffic setting with simple backgrounds.
  • Ask others at home to avoid downloading, streaming, or backing up while the student is live online.
  • Connect to the router with a network cable, or at least be as close to the wireless router as possible during the call.

Considering Cyber-security

In addition to setting up fake teleconferencing sites, cyber-criminals have other ways to exploit the situation.

Remind any students learning from home that they need to keep their username and password private. This is a lesson that never gets old.

Are you still using Windows 7 on a home computer? This popular operating system (OS) reached the end of its life in January 2020. Yes, it may still work, but it is no longer receiving security updates from Microsoft, and the bad guys know Windows 7 is vulnerable. Continuing to use this OS puts you at risk. Without new upgrades, you’re no longer protected from vulnerabilities or exploits.

You probably already know to avoid using public wireless networks. Although your students can’t go to a coffee shop or public library right now to get online, reminding students to secure their online activity is critical.

This is a good time to review your Wi-Fi setup. Too many homeowners don’t change the default username and password on their routers. Big mistake. You should also:

  • hide your Wi-Fi network from public view;
  • set your network up to encrypt transmissions;
  • update router software regularly.

A Focus on Learning

There’s one more thing parents and guardians might consider. At school, the computers prevent students from going to certain sites or downloading files, but you may not have the same blocking and filtering set up on your home devices. We can offer content filtering to address these issues.

If you have to share a computer, set up a student-specific user profile to:

  • prevent your student from getting distracted during learning;
  • limit exposure to malware and cyber-threats;
  • avoid them accessing any of your work files.

You may feel isolated during the coronavirus quarantine, but you’re not alone. Our tech experts can help you set up and secure your technology for work or school from home. Give us a call today at 319-227-7000.

12 05, 2020

Make an MSP Your Technology Sherpa

2020-04-28T15:28:11-05:00May 12th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Make an MSP Your Technology Sherpa

Technology Sherpa

They don’t always get credit, but climbers reaching the summit of Mount Everest rely on a Sherpa to guide them. Making information technology decisions can feel like climbing a mountain, but there’s help for that, too. A managed services provider (MSP) can be your technology Sherpa.

With so many of us working off-site right now, digital transformation has moved from “wouldn’t it be nice?” to “we need to be there now.” Technology is as essential to business success as oxygen is to those scaling Everest. Going digital can be daunting, especially when under pressure to get your business back on track. Where does one even begin?

Working with an MSP, you partner with consultants to navigate the technology mountain. Even before COVID-19 sent so many people home to work, MSPs provided IT help:

  • researching new technologies to help customers collaborate better and work more efficiently;
  • finding cost savings and ways to streamline business processes;
  • offering cyber-security and data backup strategies to suit business needs;
  • monitoring and maintaining IT networks, systems, software, and applications;
  • keeping systems up to date and secure;
  • migrating business applications to the cloud.

The current environment is challenging businesses to pivot quickly, yet it’s business as usual for the MSP. Our experts have prepared for decades to help business enable work from home and save money.

Taking the MSP Route

Working with an MSP, you gain the assistance of IT consultants to make the right tech decisions. This isn’t just deciding what online meeting platform works best for your needs (although an MSP can do that, too). A great MSP partner will take the time to learn:

  • how you do business now;
  • what technology is available;
  • how users engage with the technology (on-site, mobile, a hybrid?);
  • what your end users are looking for;
  • short- and long-term business goals.

With this information, they can provide IT help at the business-strategy level. The MSP will see what works and what doesn’t. Drawing on a depth of experience with other customers, an MSP can avoid expensive mistakes. With a wealth of contacts with technology vendors, the MSP can often find you better deals.

The MSP partner makes IT its sole focus. You can spend your time on other important areas of your business. For a consistent subscription fee that shows great ROI, the MPS will work to:

  • improve efficiency and flexibility;
  • enhance security and compliance;
  • monitor and maintain your business systems;
  • reduce costs and streamline processes;
  • identify new technologies that can boost your users’ productivity.

Technology Tailored to Your Needs

Up until now, you may have been taking the guided bus tour approach to technology. You pay for an IT service and expect it to take you from point A to point B without a hitch. Working with an MSP, you’ll get a tailored IT solution. After getting to know your technology, user practices, and strategy, the MSP develops a customized journey. Your digital transformation will follow a step-by-step approach that considers your particular characteristics.

Work with an MSP as your technology guide. Our experts can help you pivot if you need to. We can help you allow staff to work at home, securely and efficiently. We can help you save money. We can help downsize technology if that’s what the current situation requires and make smarter decisions as you scale Mount Technology with the help of our experts.

An MSP can even work virtually to provide the strategic support you need. Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

5 05, 2020

Improve Your IT Cashflow

2020-04-28T15:02:07-05:00May 5th, 2020|Managed Services|0 Comments

Improve Your IT Cashflow

cashflowThe economy is one more victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The global lockdown has many businesses feeling the pain. As finances grow tighter, business leaders are looking to improve cashflow. These key areas can help IT curtail spending.

First, take a look at the way you’re working now. Chances are it’s changed. If users are working from home, you may have migrated business applications to the cloud. This offers opportunities to reduce costs:

  • You may no longer need licenses that your on-site server isn’t using.
  • There may be overlap now with the new cloud-based solutions and your old software.

By auditing your software usage and revisiting your license fees, you can identify savings. You may also have had to let people go. That means the computer systems they used no longer need active software licenses.

Cloud-based Savings

If you haven’t already done so, moving business applications online offers benefits. You can offer users access to a Microsoft Office package in Microsoft 365 for a small monthly fee. Your employees get to use the most up-to-date software, wherever they are, and you save money.

You might also take voice calling online. With Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications, you add features and greater mobility. VoIP can offer call recording, voicemail to email transcription, and more. Plus, packaging communications and cloud collaboration tools can lead to big savings, quickly.

Additionally, cloud-based voice, storage, and software solutions eliminate infrastructure maintenance and monitoring costs, and you pay only for the capacity you need. It helps that it’s easy to scale up or down to keep control of costs while business continues uninterrupted.

Rethink Your Partnerships

A vendor audit can help you identify where you are overspending. You may have contracts for phone, internet, software, storage and backup, and IT Help. Reviewing these arrangements, you may be able to find a new deal.

Better yet, work with a managed service provider (MSP). An MSP will review existing relationships to determine where solutions could be streamlined. Or the MSP may be able to get you a deal due to pre-existing relationships with vendors.

A great MSP will help identify the best IT strategies for your business – it’s an investment that pays off. Technology failures are costly, and having managed services experts monitoring your business IT works to prevent problems. The MSP’s security and disaster recovery methods can protect your business from a devastating breach.

It sounds counter-intuitive to add another expense, but a small amount monthly can prevent expensive blowouts that you may not recover from. The MSP fee means ongoing access to IT experts recommending technologies to meet specific business needs.

Keeping cash flow under control requires smart spending. You’re also looking for return on your investment in technology maintenance and upkeep. Hiring an MSP can make a big difference. The MSP prompts IT modernization based on your objectives to enhance work processes and improve productivity.

Do more than survive the current downturn. With an MSP in your corner, you can cut costs and emerge from the “Great Lockdown” a leaner, more agile business. Contact our experts to upgrade your technology and corral costs today! Call us at 319-227-7000.

4 05, 2020

Contact List Greyed out

2020-05-04T16:17:14-05:00May 4th, 2020|Computer Repair, Office 365|0 Comments

Contact List Greyed Out

If you are using Outlook on macOS and the “contact list” option is greyed out, do the following.contact list greyed out

Click on Outlook > Preferences
On the Outlook Preferences dialog box, click on the General icon (top row).
Uncheck the Hide On My Computer folders check box.
Close all dialog boxes and exit Outlook.
Relaunch the Outlook application.

29 04, 2020

Solving Your Work-from-Home Internet Woes

2020-04-29T16:51:16-05:00April 29th, 2020|Work From Home|0 Comments

Solving Your Work-from-Home Internet Woes

Internet WoesYour internet used to meet your needs. You could check social media and stream a TV show whenever you wanted without trouble. Now, since working from home, you’re finding your internet service more frustrating: it’s too slow when you want to send and receive large work files, or erratic when you take part in video meetings. Here’s help.

Blame your service provider

Ah, the familiar pastime – blaming someone else. The problem could be with your provider.

Yes, it’s a good idea to keep your expenses low, and that budget internet provider may not have been a problem in the past. But internet service providers (ISPs) may save money by buying less bandwidth. Bandwidth impacts the data transfer rate, which makes a difference to downloads and connectivity. ISPs might also oversell their capabilities, betting that everyone won’t be online at the same time. Yet, now, everyone is!

Switching to a higher-quality ISP can help address your connectivity concerns. It’s a good idea to find out what kind of connectivity they’re offering, too.

Some people are fortunate to live in places with full-fiber connections. This new technology uses fiber-optic cable to send more data, more quickly. Other people have to rely on providers using copper cables. Copper cables are old school and designed to carry call data as electrical pulses. The further your internet signals travel, the more your signal strength falters.

If poor wired infrastructure to your home is the issue, swap instead to point-to-point WiFi, 4G, or 5G. For instance, for WiFi, you’d install a WiFi dish or antenna on your roof pointing to a nearby wireless provider. With a 4G connection, you’d be using cell phone towers. 5G is the same, but you’ll find it faster if its available.

Redundancy is another way to go. Your existing wired connection may be fine most of the time, but you’ll have a backup in place. You can roll over to the 4G option if the wired internet goes down.

Sorry, the problem’s at your end

It’s possible the root of your internet problems is right there in your home or neighborhood. You are no longer the only person using your internet connection. You could be trying to download something on one computer while your partner is taking a video call. Maybe you also have kids online in an online classroom or looking for a supply llama in Fortnite.

Even if you’re only trying to watch Netflix, just as you used to, you might notice you’re lagging more than before. There are probably more neighbors on their Wi-Fi, too, which can result in congestion in your area.

If you can switch to a 5 GHz connection, do so. The speed will improve. Plus, you’ll find you’re not in competition with as many others, as many home Wi-Fi setups are on the 2.4 GHz frequency.

There’s a solution out there

The solution to your work-from-home internet woes will vary. It depends on your location, what’s around, and the internet service options available.

You don’t have to troubleshoot your internet on your own. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but our tech experts can help find the right fit for your needs. Contact us today 319-227-7000.

21 04, 2020

Remote Working with Office 365

2020-03-28T14:50:33-05:00April 21st, 2020|Work From Home|0 Comments

Remote Working with Office 365

Remote Working with Office 365
Working from home is a big change in an already tumultuous time. Yet there’s a bright side. The quarantine could be your opportunity to reinvent how you work – for the better. Migrating to Microsoft Office 365 has benefits now. Plus, when you’re back to business as usual.

Office 365 is the cloud-based version of Microsoft Office. With a subscription, you get both the desktop and online versions of apps you already know. This includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, and more.

Office 365 enables collaboration in many ways, on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. For example:

  • Outlook – primarily associated with email, but also lets you share notes and files
  • Teams – a hub for instant messaging, video conferencing and calls
  • SharePoint – an internal content management platform. SharePoint lets you customize team sites where you automate workflows and share resources
  • Yammer – a social network connecting all the users in your organization
  • OneDrive – allows users to share and co-author documents securely

Remote Work with Teams

Microsoft teams at its core is a chat program. But it does so much more. On all your devices, both iOS and Android, Teams allows “channels”. You can have company-wide or small task group channels. Or use a separate channel to instant message a single person.

You can also invite clients or customers into channels to join the discussion. Additionally, you can set up security features that filter what they can access. You don’t want them to know the ingredients to your secret sauce!

Within Teams channels users can share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Teams also integrates with other software. The options include Zendesk customer support, Asana project management, or Zoom video conferencing.

Using Teams in Office 365 creates a streamlined platform for remote work.

Remote Work with OneDrive

Working on premises, your users always had access to the business file server. OneDrive is the cloud equivalent to your personal shared drive. Yet, since it’s online, it’s always accessible. Microsoft’s hosts the file storage to let you access and share work files from all your devices.

Employees can even work offline. Any changes or edits to files automatically upload when you next connect.

Share OneDrive folders or files with external partners as well. Again, you can secure access with limits on who can see what and specifying what actions they can take. You can even set up automatic revoke access after a set time limit.

Office 365 & Business Security

An Office 365 subscription protects from viruses and cyber-crime. It also offers ways to recover your files from malicious attacks with O365 specific backup solutions.

Office 365 apps update with security patches without any effort on your part. Plus, Outlook scans email attachments and checks links for viruses or phishing scams.

OneDrive helps you restore files, so they’re not held captive in a ransomware attack. Office 365 also lets users encrypt email, prevent forwarding, and secure sensitive files. (Depends on which plan you have)

Office 365 lets your business communicate and collaborate in real-time. Work on any device, anywhere, at any time. Enjoy business agility and flexibility with internal and external users.

Migrating to the cloud isn’t as simple as pressing the “start” button. Still, our tech experts can get you up and running quickly and with ease. Let us help you go online and get back to business as usual, even working remotely.

Call us today for Remote Working with Office 365 help 319-227-7000.

7 04, 2020

Essentials for Empowering Remote Work

2020-03-28T14:12:20-05:00April 7th, 2020|Work From Home|0 Comments

Essentials for Empowering Remote Work

Essentials for Empowering Remote Work

COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to embrace remote work. The technology needed to enable people to work from home has existed for years, but working from home may be new for you and your employees. Here are some essentials you need to address to empower your remote workers.

What technology do you have or need? Your people may have business laptops and phones, or perhaps you already allowed employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. So, remote work isn’t going to be as much of a change. Your people already have the tools they need.

However, a business that wasn’t doing any of this before might need new hardware. You can’t expect your employees to lug heavy desktop computers home.

You may need to ask employees to use their own personal computers and phones. That’s going to require some ground rules. For one, no Windows 7: that operating system is out of date and no longer supported by Microsoft, which means employees could be putting corporate data at risk of cyber-attack.

  • Establish strict policies for securing devices accessing business networks.
  • Communicate reporting procedures for the loss/theft of a device.
  • Enable mobile monitoring management of all devices that give IT access.
  • Encourage regular backup of mobile devices.
  • Educate employees to regularly update firewall and anti-virus software.
  • Prohibit third-party apps.
  • Set devices to make users aware that they may be connecting to unsafe networks.

Challenges of the Remote Work Environment

In the office environment, there is business technology consistency. Now, you’re supporting various hardware and networking solutions of different quality. This can be a headache to get up and running, yet you need to support your remote employees. What kind of IT desk help will you offer? People are now working wherever they are, whenever they want.

The “wherever they are” part can raise some issues. Employees could log in from public parks, coffee shops (if any are open), or while at home with the kids. This means fresh threats. Laptops can get stolen. People out in the world could look over your employee’s shoulder and read what’s on the screen. Kids can spill juice in a split second! Install remote management software to enable a complete wipe of lost or stolen laptops. Also, implement encryption, data backup, and screen-locking features to help keep data secure.

Saying people can work “whenever they want” also has its challenges. With everyone stuck at home, a 9-5 schedule for office productivity may be impossible. Toddlers don’t really understand that “Mommy’s working,” do they?

It’s a good idea to establish clear expectations from the outset:

  • How will progress be demonstrated?
  • How can employees check-in with managers?
  • What are the expectations for team collaboration?
  • What software will be used for group chat, video, or conference calling?
  • What is acceptable business-hour flexibility?

If you’re going to allow people to set their own hours, IT support needs to be flexible, too.

Supporting Remote Work

The good news is that remote work can be productive, too. In fact, a Stanford University study found remote employees did an extra day’s work per person per week. We can help you set up your technology to support your remote staff. We’ll make sure your hardware is up to scratch, secure those mobile devices, and be your remote IT help desk.

Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

5 04, 2020

Add Rules to a Shared Mailbox in Office 365

2020-04-05T17:39:24-05:00April 5th, 2020|Office 365|0 Comments

Add Rules to a Shared Mailbox in Office 365

Here is how to add rules to a shared mailbox in Office 365Add Rules to a Shared Mailbox in Office 365 - Account Settings

  1. In Outlook go to File-> Account Settings
  2. On the Email tab select New
    1. In the Your Name field, enter a name for the account ie: the email address or whatever you would like.
    2. In the Email Address field, enter the email address for the shared account.
    3. In the Password field, enter the password for your email account (your full mailbox) since the shared mailbox doesn’t have a password.
  3. Click Next.
  4. Click Sign in with another account.
  5. Enter your email address here, again use an account that is a full mailbox, not a shared mailbox.
  6. Click Finish. You may need to restart Outlook for the changes to take effect.

The mailbox will appear in Outlook exactly the same as it did before, but now you can apply rules to it.

 

 

 

To create a rule for the shared mailbox do the following:Add Rules to a Shared Mailbox in Office 365

  1. Go to File-> Manage Rules and Alerts or on the ribbon click Rules, then Manage Rules & Alerts.
  2. On the Email Rules tab, select the shared mailbox from the drop down menu labeled: Apply changes to this folder.
  3. Click New Rule and proceed to create your rule.

If you would like us to help with adding rules to a shared mailbox in Office 365 contact us here.

31 03, 2020

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

2020-03-27T15:34:53-05:00March 31st, 2020|Productivity|0 Comments

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

working from home

Working from home is not for everyone – we’ve all heard that said before – but many of us worldwide are now being forced to work from home. It can be challenging, especially when you have to adapt in the midst of all the other uncertainties COVID-19 has brought. These strategies can help you stay focused when working remotely.

Reserve your office space

Set up a temporary home office. Pick a space, if you can, that is away from distractions and has a door that you can close. Try to organize this space so that you feel more as if you’re going into the office. Clear those personal bills and photo albums waiting for assembly from your desk.

Creating a distinct space can help with the mental association that you are going to work. You’ll also find it easier to focus if you dress as you would for work. Shower, and put on makeup if you normally do. Getting out of your pajamas and putting on your “game face” puts you more in work mode.

Stick with your routines

Keeping a similar schedule can help, too. If you go to the office at a certain time every day, that’s when you should show up at your home workstation. If you took breaks at consistent times when on-site, do the same at home. This helps tell your brain it’s business as usual, even when you’re working in the laundry room on a folding card table!

You may not be able to go out and grab a coffee or eat lunch out with colleagues, but you can still go have a cup in the kitchen or order lunch from a local business that’s delivering – help them to stay in business too!

If you used to write emails first thing, do that still. If your team had a weekly conference call Wednesdays at 11, try to keep that, too. You can use voice or video conferencing to stay in touch while remaining at a safe distance.

Avoid distractions

This is going to mean different things for people. Working from home with children is tough, especially as you’re now supposed to be supervising their online learning. Giving them a dedicated space for schoolwork can help to keep them motivated and away from you. You might tell younger children to expect your attention at breaks (e.g. “I’ll play three rounds of Candyland when the big hand reaches 12 and the little hand reaches 3”).

The news and social media are other traps for those working from home. No one is watching over your shoulder, and it’s easy to think, “I’ll just check…” That’s how you lose 30 minutes of productivity watching pandas wrestle on a zoo-cam.

Still struggling? You could consider setting up one operating system account for work and another for personal use creating different browser profiles. And if you’re still getting distracted, you could install a browser plug-in that forces you to stay on track.

Keep deadlines

Setting deadlines can help you stay motivated. The longer you have to get something done, the slower you’ll work – it’s inevitable. So, maintain some pressure by setting tight, but realistic targets.

Share your deadlines with other colleagues using an online task management tool. This can help with accountability.

Be patient

This is a stressful time, and you’re being asked to deal with many changes. So, you need to be patient. Working in sprints could help your motivation and attention span. You might set a timer and focus completely on work until the bell chimes. One theory is that the most productive people take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes, but you’ll want to see what works for you.

Another approach is to say you’ll do 30 minutes of good work on that thing you’re avoiding. Worst case: you get only 30 minutes of it done. At least you’re further ahead. But you might find it only takes 30 minutes to complete or that you’re so close to finishing that you keep going and get the job done.

Have the right tech

Make sure you have the right tools to do your job. Working from home is challenging enough, so make it easier with reliable internet and Wi-Fi connections, and access to the required files.Need help with working from home? We can’t actually be there to cheer you on and keep you motivated, but our tech experts can get you set up with the most efficient home office solutions.

Contact us at 319-227-7000 today!

28 03, 2020

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

2020-03-28T15:02:39-05:00March 28th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.

The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cyber-criminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.

So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyber-scam people have been reported. There are examples of:

  • emails that appear to come from government health departments;
  • offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
  • memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
  • COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
  • fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitizer;
  • soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.

What to Watch Out For

Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.

You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.

What to Do

Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:

  • be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;
  • question where emails are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;
  • hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in the WSJ example, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”;
  • avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;
  • doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);
  • ignore any communications requesting your personal information;
  • don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.

Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.

If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.

While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.

We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.

Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cyber-security experts can give your home a tech immunization.

Contact us today at 319-227-7000!