VoIP Can Boost Your Business’ Communications Options

Reducing Hardware Costs Anyone that has purchased a server knows how expensive it is to purchase, set up, run, and support. With hosted VoIP, your business gets a powerful business phone system without having to go through the headaches and expense associated with installing new phone lines. Anyone who has ever run telephone wire from a distribution hub through the walls of a building knows that it can be quite tedious.  The costs of setting up your own telephone system, even for a smaller PBX deployment, are substantial. With hosted VoIP, the capital investment is transformed immediately into an operational expense once you choose to make the switch. By utilizing your company’s existing broadband connection, hosted VoIP costs less and offers more than traditional telephone systems. For the business, one of the largest expenses for any telephone system is the minutes the phone is being used. Every traditional phone system carries costs for long distance. It’s unavoidable. Many times, the zones are very confusing and calls you wouldn’t expect to be made at premium rates, are. Even if you find ways to control your costs, your business is limited. By eliminating the recurring expense of long distance, VoIP is able to present more predictable service fees. Additionally, when you consider the costs that go into adding a line to your business and the costs associated with employee mobility, the flexibility and scalability of a hosted VoIP platform can reduce cost expansively.  Mobility & Options The most valuable part of a hosted VoIP platform for the end-user is the ability for them to take their phone number with them wherever they go. With the soft phone feature, their smartphone becomes a work phone. This provides a level of mobility that every business should try to embrace in today’s digitally-heavy environment.  Additionally, a hosted VoIP platform can offer a lot of additional features such as video conferencing, text and instant messaging integrations, and many more. The more features that a hosted VoIP platform can provide a small to medium-sized business, the more value they will get out of the platform.  If you would like more information about VoIP or if you would like to know how SRS Networks can help you with your business’ communications, call us today at (831) 758-3636.

Is Windows 10 the Last Windows?

Windows 10 Microsoft has built what just might be the best operating system ever made. It can do almost anything, but since Microsoft pulled the plug on their smartphone lineup, and most of their other smaller offerings are nowhere to be found, the majority of devices that run Windows 10 are PCs. Microsoft gave the software away for a pretty long time and as a result more people are using that ecosystem than any other PC OS.  With Windows 10, Microsoft was able to find a happy medium between the PC usability of Windows 7 and the mobile usability of Windows 8.1. As a result, several of the best-selling laptops in the world feature Windows 10 and a touchscreen. With a billion people on the platform and actively using it, it sets consumers up for… Windows-as-a-Service Now that you are invested in the Windows 10 platform, you will be happy to know that Microsoft is, too. This may be the last version of Windows, but the delivery of Windows may mean something completely different going forward. Microsoft has admitted that they are going to take OS deployment in a new direction; changing forever the way they will brand and support the product. Enter Windows-as-a-Service, where Windows 10 comes with your Microsoft Account. Most PCs come with Windows 10 installed already, but today, Microsoft is offering services that will provide you with a Windows 10 experience, hosted in the cloud. Now, computers that run alternate operating systems can still get a virtual Windows 10 experience. The as-a-Service Model to software is nothing new. Everytime you watch a movie on Netflix, listen to a song on Spotify, or use Microsoft 365 apps online, you take part in the as-a-Service revolution. Microsoft is bringing that model to their OS. Essentially, they are going to continuously update the current Windows platform. In fact, we just got another major update for the platform in May 2020.  So, the question remains: Is Windows 10 the last version of Windows? Not really.  For more great technology-based information weekly, check back at our blog. 

Is your Business Safe from Virtual Threats?

1. Do you have Antivirus protection? – An antivirus software program can protect you from threats that originate from emails such as phishing and virus attacks. However, the most striking fact is that 61% of small businesses don’t install any antivirus software! If you are one of them, then it’s time to change! 2. How sturdy is your Firewall? – A good firewall system protects your computers from the variety of threats that exist in the virtual world. Examples include harmful cookies, viruses, worms and other such malicious programs used by hackers. 3. Do you use a Spam filter? – Using a simple spam filter for your emails keeps junk out of your inbox. The bonus to having a good spam filter is that your employees save time, as they are not distracted by irrelevant emails, but the major perk here is that the potential virus and phishing threats are lessened as spam emails are unlikely to be opened. 4. Do you do backup your data regularly? – Agreed – backups don’t really protect your data, but they are the only way to recover it if data loss does happen. So, be sure you have a regular and reliable backup plan in place – and it is actually being deployed. Data loss can prove very costly-especially to SMBs, sometimes even resulting in them having to close down. Prevention is certainly better than a cure in such cases.

Is That Email a Phishing Scheme?

1. They are asking for personal information – Remember, no bank or financial institution asks you to share your key personal information via email, or even phone. So, if you get an email where they ask for your ATM PIN or your e-banking password, something’s a miss. 2. The links seem to be fake – Phishing emails always contain links that you are asked to click on. You should verify if the links are genuine. Here are a few things to look for when doing that: Spelling – Check for the misspellings in the URL. For example, if your bank’s web address is www.bankofamerica.com, a phishing scheme email could misspell it as www.bankofamarica.com or www.bankofamerica-verification.com Disguised URLs – Sometimes, URLs can be disguised…meaning, while they look genuine, they ultimately redirect you to some fraudulent site. You can recognize the actual URL upon a mouseover, or by right clicking on the URL, and selecting the ‘copy hyperlink’ option and pasting the hyperlink on a notepad file. But, NEVER ever, paste the hyperlink directly into your web browser. URLs with ‘@’ signs – If you find a URL that has an ‘@’ sign, steer clear of it even if it seems genuine. Browsers ignore URL information that precedes @ sign. That means, the URL [email protected] will take you to mysite.net and not to any Bank of America page. 3. Other tell-tale signs – Apart from identifying fake URLs, there are other tell-tale signs that help you identify fraudulent emails. Some of these include: Emails where the main message is in the form of an image, which, upon opening, takes you to the malicious URL. Another sign is an attachment. Never open attachments from unknown sources as they may contain viruses that can harm your computer and network. The message seems to urge you to do something immediately. Scammers often induce a sense of urgency in their emails and threaten you with consequences if you don’t respond. For example, threat of bank account closure if you don’t verify your ATM PIN or e-banking password. Finally, get a good anti virus/email protection program installed. It can help you by automatically directing spam and junk mail into spam folders and deactivating malicious attachments.

Tip of the Week: Keeping a Smartphone from Overheating

Why is My Phone So Hot? There are various reasons that your phone may be excessively warm, many of which have nothing to do with the environmental temperature. In fact, you can sometimes tell what component may be casting off excess heat based on where the heat is emanating from. For example, if the back of your phone gets hot, your battery may be overheating. If it’s at the bottom—specifically, as you’re charging the device—the charger may be to blame. Other locations on the phone could suggest other issues. It could also be what you’re using the device to do. Many mobile games and other intensive applications will require a lot of processing power, and streaming content means that your device is constantly loading data and keeping its screen awake. These tasks require your phone to work hard, which is going to generate some heat. Your settings can also overtax the CPU on your phone, again leading to excessive heat being produced. Software bugs and the updates intended to resolve them can both contribute to heating challenges—although those caused by the software updates will be much more temporary. Unfortunately, malware can also be a culprit, as there are many mobile varieties out there that hijack a phone for a criminal’s purposes. These purposes can range from mining cryptocurrency to installing ransomware to extort money from the user. Regardless of the reason, your priority if your device does begin to feel hot to the touch is to cool it down as quickly as possible. Here are a few ways to help you to keep your device cool. Tips to Keep a Smartphone Cool Before we begin, it may help to know how temperature works.  Heat is a form of energy, which likes to spread out to accomplish equilibrium, from higher concentrations to the lower ones. The sensation that you feel when you perceive “hot” is that energy flowing to you. Conversely, “cold” is the absence of that energy, and your perception of “chill” is your energy flowing into what you’ve touched. Basically, all temperature changes are caused by energy seeking some personal space. So, with this principle of “hot heats up cold” in mind, let’s go over some tips. Tip: Don’t Keep It in a Hot Environment We’ve already established that your phone’s operations will generate some heat. So, in keeping with the principles we just reviewed, this heat will move so that it is equally distributed. Under normal conditions, this means that the phone’s environment will help cool it down. However, if the phone is someplace warm, like in a pocket, a car, or in direct sunlight, its surroundings will also be warm, giving this heat energy nowhere to go. Your case can even contribute to this. If heat is to be a concern, keep your phone in a relatively cool place, and consider removing its case. You wouldn’t wear a coat if you were already too warm, would you? Tip: Cool It Off Like You Would Cool Off A quick disclaimer here: while you might find a quick dip in a pool to be refreshing, your phone will not share that impression. So, when we say cool your phone off like you cool yourself off, keep in mind that we aren’t encouraging all methods of doing so. Instead, simply […]

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How Much Does Downtime Really Cost Your Business?

Here’s a few other ways downtime can hurt your business: 1. Customer Loss – Today’s buyer lacks patience !important; They are used to getting everything at the click of a mouse, at the tap of a finger. Suppose they are looking for the kind of products/services that you offer and your site doesn’t load or is unavailable—even if temporarily– you are likely to lose them to a competitor—permanently. 2. Damage to Brand Reputation – Customers are now using Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and blogs to vent their bad brand experiences. Imagine an irate customer who doesn’t know if their card was charged on your site, or not, due to a server error. If it’s your bad day, they could probably be using Facebook or Twitter to share their bad experience, and it could be viewed by hundreds of people, causing irreparable harm to your brand image. 3. Loss of Productivity – When your systems don’t work, this can have a direct impact on your employees’ productivity. Consider a research firm of 200 employees where they primarily rely on internet connectivity to access the knowledge base. If the server hosting the knowledge base is down, there’s a total loss of at least 1600 work hours for one day. 4. Overtime, Repair and Recovery, Compensatory costs – In the above case, imagine the overtime wages the business would have to incur if they were to make up for the work loss they faced owing to downtime. In addition, there’s always the cost of repair—the money the business would have to shell out to fix the issue that caused the downtime and get the server up and running again. In some cases, businesses would have to incur additional costs to make customers happy. These could include giving away the product for free or at a discount, or using priority shipping to make up for a delayed order. 5. Possible Lawsuits – Businesses could also be at the receiving end of lawsuits. For example, a downtime that has an impact on production, delivery or finances of the customer could invite litigation. 6. Marketing Efforts Rendered Useless – Consider a pay-per-click advertisement that shows up for the right keywords on Google, or an extensive e-mail campaign that your business engages in. However, when the prospect clicks on the link, all they see is an error message – Isn’t that a waste of your marketing budget? The bottom line—one natural disaster, one technical snag or just one power outage has the power to put you out of business – both virtually and in reality. It’s probably time to think about how you can mitigate the threat of a possible downtime and whether your MSP can act as an effective and efficient ally in this battle for you.

Why Collaboration is Crucial to a Successful Business

Let’s examine what really makes collaboration, well, collaboration, and how you can encourage such habits in your own business. Separating Teamwork and Collaboration First thing’s first, we need to establish that—while closely related—teamwork and collaboration are not the same thing. While there is no collaboration without teamwork, teamwork is possible without technically collaborating. Consider the bucket brigade. Once upon a time, when a fire broke out, that was the preferred method to extinguish it—passing buckets of water up a line to the flame that needed to be put out. By lining people up to pass the buckets down, the people involved were all collaborating toward the goal of putting out the fire. Now, consider the alternative: everyone running back and forth with their own bucket, waiting for their turn to refill as the fire blazes on. Teamwork, sure, but nothing collaborative about a frantic free-for-all. Teamwork is the combined action of a group. Collaboration is the act of combining a team’s resources to accomplish each step of a given action. Here are a few other ways to tell an example of teamwork, from an example of true collaboration: There’s a tendency for a team to have a set leader to set the course of whatever project is being worked on, while collaboration thrives in an egalitarian group setting. Teamwork can be effective in completing a business’ short-term goals, while long-term goals are better served by collaborative behaviors. As we hinted at, teamwork requires someone to be in control of the group. Collaboration requires the group’s members to trust one another. The Benefits of Collaboration in Action Embracing collaboration brings universal advantages that you can enjoy. Improved Operations Why have one person working on a problem, when you have a whole team of people who could all think of a solution? With a workplace culture steeped in collaborative habits, problem-solving becomes much easier. Employee engagement also goes up, allowing you to enjoy side effects like increased revenue, greater productivity, fewer mishaps, and less turnover. Satisfied Employees Collaboration can also have a marked effect on the experience your employees have in the workplace. In addition to the knowledge-sharing capabilities that collaboration encourages, employee relationships can improve. This isn’t nothing—office friendships have been identified as one of the most important components of employee satisfaction. One survey ranked it as most important to 70 percent of workers. Collaboration also offers the benefit of increased morale, which itself brings better productivity and heighted retention rates. What You Can Do to Encourage Collaboration Endorsing collaboration in your office doesn’t need to be too difficult. In fact, there are a few simple methods that have proven very effective. Bring Your Team Together with a Shared Mission and Expectations If it weren’t for your team, your company couldn’t be as successful as it is. Make sure that they understand their value to the organization, and how their responsibilities play into those of the larger group. This is made easier with a shared company goal (also known as its mission). By establishing this mission, you can then set the benchmarks and objectives that your team needs to meet and assign your team members with the appropriate responsibilities to do so. Enable Innovative Collaboration Through Encouragement Make sure that, as your team works to implement their newly collaborative processes, you […]

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Document Management Delivers These 5 Benefits

#1. Cost of Office Space – Square footage can get pretty expensive. The more physical documents your business needs to store, the more space is taken up storing them. It stands to reason that you wouldn’t want to pay premium prices for a bunch of file cabinets. With a DMS, your staff would simply scan the document and then you can store it anywhere. You can reduce the price you pay in mortgage and rent costs by storing the files you once stored onsite in a place where square footage isn’t quite so expensive, while still having constant access to the digital copy of the file. #2. File Security – Document management provides a secure system in which to save your documents. Traditional thought would dictate that saving physical files would provide better access control, but with physical security, costs increase dramatically. Any DMS will provide your company the ability to control documents at the folder level, giving you a level of control over your information that’s as good as any a physical security system can provide. Additionally, any documents stored inside a DMS have an associated audit trail, giving administrators the transparency needed to manage system security. #3. Access and Speed – This is where the DMS starts to pay for itself. The time it takes to file and find physical documents costs businesses a lot of money. According to one industry study, it costs over $20 for businesses to file a single paper document, and if some part of the file management chain fails, those costs increase substantially. A DMS provides fast access to your organization’s documents and the ability to print documents in seconds, saving a lot of capital that could better be spent elsewhere. #4. Seamless Collaboration – Today, improving collaboration is a key business strategy. Using a solid DMS, sharing information is much easier and far more efficient. You don’t have to send someone to look for a document for half an hour, simply search for it in the DMS and it’s there in seconds. #5. Improved Compliance – Most businesses have to comply with some type of regulatory standard. By using a DMS to store your documents, your organization can significantly reduce the risks associated with non-compliance, even for the most complex regulations.  Today’s document management systems are more powerful and dynamic than any in the past and can be a huge time and money-saver for your business. To talk to one of our technicians about document management today, call SRS Networks at (831) 758-3636.

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Tip of the Week: Handy Excel Functions You May Not Have Known About

Count Specific Cells If you need to take a tally of the number of times a value appears in your spreadsheet, doing so is simple. Using Excel’s COUNTIF function enables you to automatically total up all cells in a given range that meet a given criteria. Once all your data is entered into a column of your spreadsheet, select a new cell and label it with the data you want to track. In the cell below it, enter the formula =COUNTIF(, then select the range you want to count within (in our case, whichever column contains your data). Once that’s added to your formula, add a comma, and then specify which value you want to tally up in quotes (or, if you’ve labelled another cell with the value, simply select the appropriate cell. Close the parenthesis on your formula, hit enter, and you’re all set. In our example, we get a count of four for “Maggie” by using the formula =COUNTIF(A:A,D1). Alternatively, =COUNTIF(A:A,”Maggie”) would work, too. Switch Value Format Here’s the thing: there are a lot of formats that are a pain to type out individually, especially if your raw data isn’t converted. Fortunately, Excel makes it a lot simpler than typing each value out in the correct format. Rather than going through the motions to adjust to the proper formatting for each one, it can be done en masse with just a few clicks. For instance, to change your values to currency, all you must do is highlight the cells you need to change and press Ctrl+Shift+$. This allows you to turn this: …into this: You also have the option to change it using the toolbar. Under Home, you should see a section labelled Number. From there, you have a few quick options to adjust the formatting, including into a few different currencies, as well as a drop-down box with plenty of other options available. Nicer Formatting Let’s go back to some basics for a moment with some basic formatting best practices. Without proper formatting, a spreadsheet can be a pain to glean any decent information from, but with the right rules in place, it can quickly gain exponentially more use. Let’s go through a few simple basics to help make your spreadsheets more comprehensible. Let’s say, for the sake of our example, you wanted to take stock of some of the items in your office. Simple enough—you’d probably begin your list with the title (“Supplies”) and then list what it was you were trying to organize. However, with your items varying in length, the spreadsheet could quickly become confusing. Fortunately, this can be fixed by selecting the column and pressing Alt+H+O+I. Don’t worry too much if you realize you missed an item… you can always add another row by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Plus Sign. Now that you’ve compiled your list, you don’t want the title “Supplies” to interfere with your amounts. To avoid that, you can merge two cells (in this case, A1 and B1) into a single cell, where “Supplies” will be written out. Select them both and press Alt+H+M+M. Feel free to align your text to the center, as well, by pressing Alt+H+A+C, or by using the icon in the menu bar. Fill in the number of items you need in the next column over, and the price […]

Taking a Look at Unified Communications

What Are Unified Communications? Speaking plainly, “unified communications” are a business’ strategy to improve its collaborative capabilities by implementing various communication solutions for its staff to use. Oftentimes, this strategy is referred to as unified communications and collaboration. It is important to differentiate between these two parts, as they are—while similar—two different concepts. The Difference Between Communications and Collaboration We’re all familiar with the concept of water cooler talk. People gather around a common area and chat for a moment. This is a prime example of communication, as coworkers are talking to one another, but there isn’t necessarily any productive benefit to be directly gained from their conversation. For an example of collaboration, we would turn to the conference room, where coworkers go to discuss projects, hashing out ideas and pooling their talents. Basically, collaboration will involve communication, but not all communication counts as “collaborative.” Why Implement Unified Communications? Unified communications can deliver substantial benefits to the businesses that put them in place. For just a few examples: Improved productivity and performance. Unified communications gives the members of your team improved access to shared resources, along with the tools necessary for collaboration to take place. As a result, your team members can work together (even if working remotely) to produce a superior result. Improved user experience. With these collaborative tools, your employees will find it much more achievable to meet your expectations. Because of this, they will be more satisfied with the work they are tasked with while they increase their overall productivity. Improved budgeting. As unified communication platforms tend to be cloud-based, these services are billed per month and are therefore a scalable operational expense. This helps to make your available budget more flexible. Improved cohesion. By tying all of your communications together and tracking interactions and individual projects, unified communications make it far easier to keep everyone involved up to date on important information. Interested in learning more about unified communications, or any other beneficial IT solution? SRS Networks is here to help. To find out more, give us a call at (831) 758-3636.

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