Customer Story: Think Up Consulting | Most Productive

Think Up Consulting is a business built on collaboration. Its 39 team members–known as Thinkers–spread their time across as many as 11 projects each. Seamless communication is a must for creating customized solutions for every Think Up customer.

With Microsoft Teams, Thinkers can easily access the tools they need from the platform. The company creates new channels for each project, so Thinkers can keep project-specific conversations and files organized and accessible. Since adopting Microsoft 365 Business, the company has quickly shifted much of its communications to Teams. Through Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 Business, Think Up has streamlined communications across the organization, improving productivity.

To learn more, contact us at Voicecom Technologies to #GetModern.

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Exposing the Top 4 Myths of Cloud Security

One in five organizations have lost customers as a result of a cyberattack. Nearly 30% have lost revenue, with the average cost of a single data breach reported to be $4 million.

At the same time, 74% of IT leaders say security concerns hold them back from moving to the cloud. What about you?

Get the real story. Here are four common myths about cloud security and facts about the Microsoft cloud.

View: Exposing the Top 4 Myths of Cloud Security

Increase Productivity and Security with Windows and Office

With the end of support for Windows 7 and Office 2010 fast approaching, your company’s sensitive data is at risk — a risk compounded by the skyrocketing number of employee devices.

Confirming this trend are findings from the World Trade Report and a Kaspersky Lab Study showing 50% of small businesses have suffered a data breach costing an average of $120,000.

Without the right tools, how would your company respond to a major breach?

Going modern with Microsoft can help. Specifically, it enables you to increase productivity and security, while reducing costs. This infographic provides more industry trends and customer stories. Check it out to better understand the risks and why Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 Business are the right solutions to address them.

View: Increase Productivity and Security with Windows and Office

Proactive vs Reactive IT Management

Proactive vs Reactive IT Management

Proactive vs Reactive IT management

How a proactive approach can save you money and mitigate risk

Written by: Phil Strang – Technology Partners

Do you find yourself so caught up in other areas of your business that you tend to only manage your IT when things go wrong or it becomes an absolute must?

This is called reactive IT Management. With it, brings a mountain of stress, disruption and blown budgets.

A proactive approach to IT management doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, it can save you money and keep you focused on doing what you do best.

This is where a Managed Service Provider steps in. They’re not just the guy you call in for computer repair, they’re essentially an extension of your team. An MSP is there to support you and ensure the IT side of your business is efficient, cost-effective and low-risk. Let’s look at some of the benefits of proactive IT management and why Southland/Otago businesses might want to move away from a more reactive response.

Preventing blown budgets

Large, unexpected IT bills can often be avoided with a good plan in place. A Managed Service Provider can help prevent the unnecessary cost of fixing things by implementing a plan with regular, scheduled maintenance. Additionally, they can give you the tools to effectively manage your IT life cycle, forecasting hardware and software upgrades. With a fully prepared life cycle, IT budgets can be planned in detail for years to come. Everything from printers to operating systems can be prepared on a tightly controlled schedule. Adopting an IT life cycle is a great way to eliminate unwanted surprises and make the most out of your IT budget.

Productivity / minimal disruption

There’s nothing worse than when you get halfway through the day and you realise you’ve spent most of it troubleshooting or dealing with an IT issue. Can you imagine how frightening the numbers would be if you calculated the total number of hours lost due to IT-related disruption? A Managed Service Provider’s core purpose is to lessen this disruption and would likely pay for themselves rapidly. An MSP often does routine maintenance outside of hours so when you log in the next morning, you’re good to go! They’re your Clark Kent, unobtrusively making things happen in the background and quickly embracing their capes should anything big arise.

Knowing your business

Something stops working at the worst of times and you find yourself giving an IT technician your full operational history to help you both connect the dots of where things went wrong. Sound familiar? The great thing about an MSP is that they get to know your business, and more importantly, have a detailed documentation process. The team will get to know your business and you’ll often be dealing with the same technicians who know you and your systems. Having an intimate knowledge of your site’s configuration and a detailed service history means they’ll spend less time troubleshooting and more time working on the job. Familiarity when working regularly on a system means clients are not paying for a technician to relearn the basics for each job or call out. As an added bonus, when you partner with an MSP, the charge is often much less than the hourly rate of one-off call outs.

A practical and trusted approach to technology

In the technology space, there are changes and updates left, right and centre, often leaving you overwhelmed. This leads to you either falling behind with your IT services or purchasing things your business may not need. A Managed Service Provider is across all things IT, so you don’t have to be. You have the option to meet on a regular basis to discuss and review appropriate changes or updates that should be considered to your IT infrastructure. They know what’s happening in the industry and can guide you according to your specific needs. They’re not about telling you that all your computers need to be updated with the highest spec and most expensive models. In fact, an MSP will get to know how you operate with an audit and provide you with a plan on where you can best spend and save money. They’re about plans with priorities and delivering a solution according to budget.

If you’d like to find out more about how a Managed Service Provider can help you move from reactive to proactive IT management, contact us today on 0800 864 232. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

Proactive vs Reactive IT management

Customer Story: Think Up Consulting Overview

When Think Up Consulting, a brand strategy and change management firm, introduced Microsoft Teams, it was a big shift for the organization from a collaboration standpoint. They brought file sharing, team chat and project management together using Teams as the main hub for each project. With Teams, Think Up is creating a central hub, and with Microsoft 365 Business, they have a complete unified solution. By adopting Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 Business, Think Up customers have the reassurance and confidence of security.

We can help you do the same. Contact us to learn more.

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Strengthen your password policy

Strengthen your password policy

Strengthen your password policy

The simple why and how of passwords for Kiwi SMEs.

Small to medium size kiwi businesses are increasingly being targeted by unscrupulous hackers, and cyber-criminals which often leads to loss of confidential data, intellectual property and can result in considerable business disruption. Poor password security is one of the key methods these cyber-criminals use to gain access to your systems. We want to highlight some of the fundamental threats you’re facing and guide you through implementing a strong password policy for your business.

Why kiwi SMEs are vulnerable

According to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, over 80% of breaches within hacking involve brute force or the use of lost or stolen credentials. You can see the full report here. The problem is the vast amount of people still using weak or compromised passwords, leaving kiwi SMEs vulnerable.

Why are smaller organisations being targeted these days? Cyber-criminals are not just after big corporations with substantial funds. They are looking for the easiest hack which means focusing on smaller, easier targets is often the strategy. Sometimes smaller enterprises can be identified as not having strict policies in place across all aspects of the business. Larger corporations have entire teams working on policy and procedure or dedicated IT teams consistently managing potential threats. As a Managed Service Provider, we want to help make sure you’re just as covered as these larger businesses. We suggest you establish and implement a strong password policy that employees can refer to.

Password checklist

So, we all know we’re supposed to use “strong” passwords, but what does that mean? We’ve come up with the simple acronym ‘CLOUDS’ to help you remember the most important things to think about when creating passwords:

Characters – Use at least one of each of; lower case, upper case, number and a symbol (e.g. #) or a space

Length – A minimum of 8 characters and ideally 10.

Obvious – Ensure your password is NOT obvious like a birthday or your family and pet names. Hackers can find these details through things like social media.

Unique – Think of something new each time. Do not use a slightly altered version of old passwords. Your old passwords may have been hacked from a website and sold on the dark web.

Different – make sure you use different passwords for different accounts.

Set – The most basic rule; set your own passwords. Leaving the default set up by your IT support is unsafe. You’d be surprised at the huge number of passwords that are simply not set at all.

Remembering your new passwords

Your intentions are good when coming up with the most uncrackable of passwords but now you find yourself continuously hitting the ‘forgot my password’ button and going through the tedious and time-consuming process of a reset. It sounds all too familiar doesn’t it?

We’re moving towards a world where thumb prints and facial recognition technology will alleviate the need to remember a collection of passwords but until we reach that point, we need a reliable solution to remember our passwords. Considering a password manager program is a good option. This gives you the option to store all your passwords in one place and when you’re signed in, they can quickly populate your details when logging into various platforms. There are numerous safe and reliable password managers so ask your local ITA member which one they suggest to suit your needs.

Alternatively, some people use encrypted documents, for example, password protected Excel or Word documents, while others use the ‘remember password’ facility of their web browser. If you use your web browser, make sure it encrypts the passwords and remember you need to log-off if you share computers or leave it unattended. All of these are good options and can help you move away from physically writing down passwords which can be risky and affect business continuity if you lose access to the physical copy.

Is it necessary to regularly change my passwords? 

Most experts no longer recommend having to change your password every six months as it hasn’t proved to improve security. However, we do suggest if you have old passwords that you bring them up to date and change these every couple of years. Furthermore, always change your passwords immediately if there are any indications they may have been compromised.

Protecting kiwi SMEs

The best thing you can do is implement a strong password policy for your employees. Have them use the ‘CLOUDS’ checklist when creating passwords and encourage using a password manager. Make it part of your policy that passwords are updated when an employee moves on to ensure your systems remain secure.

The trick to having strong passwords that pass the ‘CLOUDS’ test, is NOT having to remember them. Use one of the techniques above to do the heavy duty remembering for you. Copy and paste as required. Just remember your login password and your password manager password – don’t write those down anywhere!

Recent growth in remote work across New Zealand and around the world has seen an increase in the number of these cyber-attacks and has left businesses vulnerable. Across the ITA, including around the Otago/Southland area, we continue to see heightened targeting of clients which is why it’s critical to review or implement your password policy immediately. If you have any concerns in this area or want to find out more about how to strengthen your password policy and keeping your business protected and secure, contact us today on 0800 864 232. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

Strengthen your password policy

Managing Your Staff Remotely

Managing Your Staff Remotely

Managing Your Staff Remotely.

Written by: Delia Gill

How to Make the Most Out of Working From Home!

Due to recent world events, most people have now had the opportunity to try out working remotely in one way or another, especially those who work from Otago/Southland. It’s also been an opportunity to test out our IT systems when working from home and to see if they’re up to the task of simulating being in an in-person environment.

Pros and Cons of Working from Home

There are of course some professions who are unable to work from home, such as nursing and hospitality. Retail is another where it can be more difficult as you don’t have the luxury of seeing things and trying them on before you buy. Office environments are generally the ones who get on with things from home – but do they do this well?

If you’ve had a team working from home, how do you think this compared to working in an office? Would you give productivity during this time a 5 star rating or a 2?

Some love it so much they’ve committed to full-time remote working teams – but with this extreme there needs to be a strong consideration about the long-term effect on productivity and mental health. The question needs to be asked – do your staff actually enjoy working from home? Usually there are some who love it and others who don’t. Two of the main benefits usually cited are the lack of commute and increased flexibility.

Managing Your Staff Remotely. There may be people on your team who don’t enjoy working from home, perhaps they don’t have a dedicated office or workspace, and working from home wasn’t what they signed up for when joining your company. If they feel that they need to work from an office environment to be happy and productive, then a balance needs to be found. 

How to Avoid Pitfalls of Working Remotely

1. Depending on your family and available workspace situation, you may need to coordinate with a partner for access to an office or workspace area for video meetings – so be aware of this and plan in advance!

2. It’s easy to go overboard on too many long team conference calls. The best way to run these are quickly and with a structured agenda, get in and get out!

3. There’s sometimes a lack of trust that employees won’t work as hard from home, so there can be a tendency to book people into more meetings to make sure they’re doing something… however this takes them away from doing real work and can lower morale. You’ll usually get a happier and more productive team member by showing your faith in them.

4. Video calls are more tiring than in-person meetings, if you book in multiple video calls in one day it can be simply exhausting. Ask your staff what meetings they have booked in and why, try to keep them to 30 minutes otherwise they can end up tired and less productive. Your staff shouldn’t be spending any more than 4-5 hours a day in meetings.

Tips to Make Remote Work… Work!

1. Try not to socialise on regular video calls as it can take up so much time and get off topic of the agenda, instead try booking in a weekly social call at 4pm on a Friday – the team can have a beer together (if they choose) and catch up on social matters.

2. Always keep your video ON during video calls, then people can see that you’re engaged with them and haven’t wandered off to make a cup of tea.

3. Make sure your environment is set up well so that you have privacy to do your work and that on video calls your partner or kids aren’t wandering around in the background.

4. Record all your meetings so that attendees or those who couldn’t make it can review later. We use Microsoft Teams and have channels set up for meetings so we can keep all of the recordings, notes and tasks in one easy-to-find location.

5. Make sure you have a good IT support team for when you need help with your IT setup and services, better to prepare and set things up properly in advance rather than wait until things go wrong!

Use Your Calendar

When working remotely it’s more important than usual to use your calendar effectively, including blocking out time to get productive work done – which cannot be overridden by meetings.

In Microsoft Outlook you can even schedule emails straight into your calendar, it’s easy to block out time to do tasks using this method and the email is right there as a handy reference – you can ask your helpful IT person If you need some tips and tricks.

Conclusion

Managing Your Staff Remotely. Some love working from home and others need to be around people in an office environment, so as with most things there is a balance to be struck which ensures a happy and productive team.

If something isn’t working with the team, always look at yourself first – the fish rots from the head down! If something is going wrong then ask yourself why and what you could do to improve things first before you consider what others can do. Own your mistakes.

Think about the long-term effect of working remotely and the effect it will have on morale, it can be exhausting if someone is in video meetings all day. Reducing your overhead costs are a great benefit to not having an office, but always put your staff’s wellbeing, morale and productivity first.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us on 0800 864 232. We would be happy to help you!

Managing Your Staff Remotely.

The SharePoint Shakedown

The SharePoint Shakedown

The SharePoint Shakedown

Let’s Pivot to remote work! But wait… how?

Written by Linda Montgomery, Rob Facer & Chris Curran  – IT Center, Wanaka

The environment in which we operate has significantly changed over the last few months. Businesses in [add your location here] have been driven to embrace remote working. There has been no better time to question the efficiency of your workflows and systems. A business simply needs to have online functionality and the ability for staff to continue to work remotely. The need for increased collaboration and file sharing amongst teams is essential, which is where SharePoint can offer an excellent solution. How? Read on..

Reducing duplicate files

Are your documents and folders in a bit of a mess? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us! With the change of employees, each individual has different ideas on how to organise filing systems, so yours has likely evolved into a mix of conflicting folders and duplicates. Have you ever collaborated on a document, emailing it back and forth until you eventually find yourself so confused as to which document is the most up to date? Yes! We have all been there. Working remotely from [your location] means that now, more than ever before, we have a huge need for collaboration. This means that the same mentality needs to be embraced with your document management system. SharePoint allows you to have one central location where your documents are stored, categorised, updated and backed up. You can set up permissions so that others can access and update. No more version 2.1.5.0, saved on everyone’s drive!

Capturing version history

SharePoint gives you the ability to capture version history. You no longer have to spend time hunting for the latest version of the health and safety policy! This not only helps reduce the number of duplicate files but it offers a history of who has last worked on the document. Having access to older versions can sometimes be a lifesaver. This means that if a colleague accidentally deletes some information from an older version when updating, you can still gain access to the previous version with a click of a button.

Access from any device or location

Accessibility is key. You might be working from home, stuck up north or down south, or perhaps on a family outing and work suddenly needs urgent attention. SharePoint allows you to jump on your laptop, tablet or other device and instantly access all of your work files. Quick, easy access has never been so important and can ensure as little downtime as possible.

Collaboration – being able to work on the same doc at the same time

The strong need for collaborative tools has increased, especially with a workforce that is frequently operating online and remotely. SharePoint allows users to collaborate by working on the same document at the same time. Additionally, you can easily create and customise your own intranet. Fancy right? This provides the perfect platform where you can share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organisation. Not to mention, bring your team together!

Better Security

One of the most common concerns about embracing cloud platforms is the security of your data. We need to change our perception about having everything stored onsite and having ‘physical’ control. A company like Microsoft has an entire team continually working on the safety of their platforms so perhaps it’s time to embrace cloud options which can give your business the leap forward. You do also have control. Backing up your data, and implementing multifactor authentication are two key steps to helping keep your data safe. What does this really mean?  Backups: using a third-party provider to back up your data is essential as Microsoft only manages the security of its platform… not your data!. Multifactor authentication makes it harder for anyone to hack or steal your data. It is a simple system whereby you might, for example, be required to enter a password as well as a text message code using an authorising app.

The way we do business has dramatically shifted. The damaging effects of a worldwide pandemic means we need to embrace technology to help us ride this wave of change.

If you’d like to find out more about how a Managed Service Provider can help you move to more efficient, collaborative and secure document management, contact us today on 0800 864 232.
If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

The SharePoint Shakedown

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

More than just Video Conferencing

There are plenty of options available for video conferencing at the moment, which has been extremely useful with many people working from home in the current environment. Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are some of the big names available – but did you know that Teams can also do much more than just video conferencing?

Here at Voicecom Technologies, we like to use it for all of our Microsoft apps and workflows. Meaning it’s the tech equivalent of a swiss army knife which can switch between different bits of kit at a moment’s notice. If you currently have multiple apps, workflows, inboxes and files all over the place… then Teams might just be the all-in-one solution you’re looking for.

Internal Communication

If you are constantly trying to keep up with your inbox and struggle to find that important email, then you are certainly not alone. Many businesses are now using tools like Slack for internal comms which can drastically reduce email clutter, did you know that Teams has a similar function? It’s a quick way to communicate with your internal team or give them a call – some of us have gone so far we’ve eliminated internal emails altogether!

File Storage and Structure

Having multiple locations for files, unorganised file structures, different file versions and not being able to find something is certainly not uncommon. Using Teams allows you to directly integrate with Microsoft’s file hosting service, OneDrive and have all of your files in one place, and also makes file sharing easy with external customers or suppliers.

Department Groups

Everyone has access to what they need in Microsoft Teams by setting your team and only having access to what’s important for you – split these up by department or otherwise as suits you. Then you can interact with your colleagues however you need to based upon the large array of apps and workflows available. For example, you might want to hop on a quick call with a member of the admin team, share some private documents with management or your marketing team might want to set up a quiz to share with your customers.

One-Stop-Shop

If that wasn’t enough, you can also use the Teams to book your meetings, keep track of them in the calendar, run live webinars to 10,000 people and integrate CRM and customer ticketing apps. Basically it can be used as your one-stop-shop to replace the multiple different apps you are currently using, with multiple logins and varying integration capabilities.

If you feel disorganised, have files here there and everywhere and want to centralise it all to keep them in one place securely in the cloud – then Microsoft Teams might be the answer for you. It will help you centralise your files, communications, email addresses (across multiple domain names) to become more organised.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us today on 0800 864 232. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here

Microsoft Teams