Tip of the Week: Scheduling Your Business Assets More Thoughtfully

Here, we’ll discuss the concept of smart scheduling, and how your business can benefit from it. What Smart Scheduling Is Smart scheduling software solutions are typically used in industries that see a lot of fluctuations in consumer demand and are subject to considerable outside influence. This has given them a place in many industries, notably retail, as demand can rise and drop dramatically based on just a few factors. Smart scheduling solutions can assist a business to schedule its employees to match these varying needs, automating these processes to simplify your workload. However, if we want to apply these smart scheduling ideals to all industries, it’s helpful to consider it as more of a process than as a technology. Doing so just makes sense, as every business must deal with factors that can—and often do—have an impact on its operations. In this context, smart scheduling is just taking anticipated factors into account and adjusting our plans to accommodate them. It’s a fast food restaurant ensuring that it’s operating with all hands on deck when the factory next door breaks for lunch. In simple terms, it’s anticipating the conditions in your business and making the appropriate preparations. How to Schedule with Smart Scheduling in Mind Even if you aren’t using a dedicated solution meant to help you schedule “smartly,” there are a few ways that you can implement these principles. For instance: Consolidate Your Information—Assemble any information that you have that could impact your schedule, as this will help you to proactively prepare for any circumstances that may arise. For example, if your business is scheduled to be closed for a holiday but there are some large projects that need to be scheduled beforehand. Understanding what your team is currently assigned to and how those responsibilities measure up can help you make crucial decisions to ensure your critical tasks get done. Embrace Communication—Communication is going to be massively important for your operational success, so your schedule needs to communicate plenty of detail and context. These practices can also help empower your team members. Adopt a Scheduling Platform—There are many options now available for you to use as a scheduling tool. Finding one that simplifies your workload management and implementing it will benefit your entire operation. Whether you’re seeking out a solution to address your scheduling needs, or any other technology requirement your business has, SRS Networks can help. To find out more, give us a call at (831) 758-3636.

Video Conferencing Security is Important

Why is it so Important to Have a Secure Conferencing Solution? Prioritizing security is a consideration that needs to be made on every part of your IT. In regards to conferencing, a secure strategy is crucial as these apps are some of the most targeted by cybercriminals right now. Diligently choosing the right technology for your business, and implementing practices that have your business’ cybersecurity in mind, will go a long way toward keeping your business secure as you heavily lean on your conferencing solutions. Some of the video conferencing applications are proven to be more secure than others. With so many people using these applications, it’s important to implement these four security strategies: Create Secure Policies Does your business have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy? If so, you will want to fashion your video conferencing solution in the same manner. It’s extremely important for your remote employees to understand that while the solution may have some security features baked in, it is on them to use good judgement and not put strain on your cybersecurity infrastructure by ignoring the best practices.  Here are some line-items that should be in your policy: Users need permission from all attendees in order to record a meeting. Personal devices should not be used to record meetings. Confidential or sensitive information should not come into view during the meeting unless it is expressly relevant or requested by meeting attendees.  All cameras and microphones should be disconnected when not in use. If sensitive information is to be shared, it should be done so securely and not in group meetings. Authentication and Control  Many of the most used conferencing apps feature a single-sign on (SSO) system. The SSO makes it easier for administrators to control user access, but it doesn’t necessarily work to secure the solution. If your solution offers two-factor authentication, that is a good way to ensure the person signing into your meeting is the person supposed to be there. Another strategy is to set up domain-based security. This provides network administrators the most comprehensive tool to manage access to video conferencing solutions.  Be Sure to Use Encryption  Any conferencing solution your company uses should come equipped with 128-bit AES encryption. You will also want to deploy this on the hardware where you run the meetings to ensure that all data sharing that happens during the meeting is protected.  Update Your System  A video conferencing solution is like any other software system, it needs to be updated and patched regularly. This will make absolutely sure that your systems are protected from any vulnerabilities that would be found in antiquated version builds.  Video conferencing is the star of the stay-at-home orders and its place in business has been fortified. Call the security professionals at SRS Networks to get more information about security surrounding your video conferencing apps. 

Tip of the Week: Try These Training Tactics!

These methods vary wildly but can effectively be split into a few overarching categories: instruction-based, active training, experience-based, and technological. Instruction-Based This is the approach to learning that most are most familiar with, as modern education systems largely rely on it. With the help of visual aids, an instructor presents a lesson to a large group in a classroom setting. Think conferences, seminars, lectures, or presentations, and you’ll have the right idea. This form of training is very efficient to deliver but can be ineffective for the same reasons that make it so efficient. Due to the size of the group, a lot of people can absorb the lesson at once, but there is the chance that the impersonal nature of such a lesson won’t allow the information to be retained… which means that the person delivering the message has to work to keep the attention of the group. If the right energy level can be maintained in proportion to the size of the group, this can be an effective way to teach fundamentals. Active Training Active training is very similar to instruction-based, with one key difference: active training relies quite a lot more on the participation of the person being trained. As a result, active training sessions may have a loose outline of materials to cover, but the lesson relies on the active (hence the name) participation of the person being trained. Harvard University has conducted studies that have shown that active learning techniques result in greater outcomes despite participants feeling as though more traditional teaching methods worked better. A few examples of active training scenarios are workshops, where a relative expert guides the class through a topic, and brainstorming sessions, where participants must contribute thoughts and ideas to overcome a challenge. This version of training can present quite a few benefits, like increased engagement and collaboration between coworkers. However, some people may be reluctant to work in a group, which could potentially limit how effective the lesson really is. Therefore, an instructor’s job also involves monitoring these groups to ensure that everyone is on task and participating. Experience-Based Training This approach is basically the practical application of “practice makes perfect,” as learners are exposed to the situation that the training applies to during the training itself. Because they are observing and participating in the process to learn it, this is a very effective way to teach an employee a process they need to follow and develop the skills in context. This approach can often be fast-paced and high pressure, so it often helps to give trainees additional resources to prepare themselves beforehand. This kind of training can happen through simulated scenarios and role-playing but is most seen in someone shadowing an assigned mentor. Mentorship has often been perceived as more effective amongst existing employees who will soon be elevated to a leadership position, while on-the-job training is most effective with new hires. As a result, different kinds of experiential training could – and perhaps should – be employed at different levels within your organization. Technological Training Of course, we must discuss how technology provides opportunities to train your employees, and how its benefits (like accessibility, efficiency, and progress tracking) can make the entire process simpler for you to manage. The key ingredient that technological training offers is the […]

How to Plan a Customer Relationship Management Strategy (and Why You Need One)

Let’s begin by defining what a CRM strategy really is, which will help to illustrate why it matters. The Concept of a CRM Strategy Using CRM software has a pretty low bar for entry. Basically, you just have to procure it and populate it with the data you have collected. The purpose of a CRM strategy is to really use your solution to the fullest extent that you can, which allows you to optimize your outcomes. There are a few ways that your CRM strategy can enable you to do so: It condenses data in context to help you reference it as you make decisions and set goals. It makes customer service efforts more comprehensive, which can boost retention and loyalty. It assists you in making sales by scaling your process properly and eliminating redundancy. Naturally, these are benefits that can assist any business in its pursuit of its goals, so it is important that you create a proper CRM strategy to guide you. Here is a simple process for you to follow: Understand Your Goals and Strategize For ThemWhat is it, exactly, that you want your business to accomplish? What is your intended use of your CRM software, and what do you want to achieve with it? How will each department use it to do strive toward their goals? How will your offering be distributed? Once you have conferred with your team and answered these questions, it is time to consider the business landscape and who your ideal clients are. Then, determine what makes your offer different, and commit to providing this difference each time in the way that best suits your prospects. Analyze and Organize Your TeamHow will the introduction of your new CRM software impact your team? Speak with those whose job responsibilities will be affected by your new solution, and look for any past experience with such platforms for their impression of different options. You will also need to identify those team members who will be using the software to collaborate and be sure that everyone understands their particular roles. It is also helpful to determine the goals that each department should strive toward, and identify the key performance indicators that will help measure their progress. Implementing Your New Solution and StrategyDetermine how different contacts will be divided within your CRM, and establish a policy of collecting all the information you need from a contact that is going to be included. You should also strongly consider mapping out your sales processes for each of your services so it is easier to manage your brewing business. It is also a good idea to keep your software requirements in mind when selecting your CRM, as you will want to select a title that plays nicely with your existing solution. Is your chosen email platform Outlook? Make sure to find a CRM that integrates with it for optimal benefits. SRS Networks is here to help you with these considerations, and more. To learn what we can do to assist your customer relationship management through IT solutions, or any other of your business processes, reach out to us at (831) 758-3636.

Best Practices for Your File Sharing and Collaboration Needs

Plan Out How Your Files Will Be Organized Solid collaboration depends on coordinated simplicity. When dealing with shared files, which you undoubtedly will when collaborating, you need to keep things simple; and, to have a plan about how your data is structured. One of the best ways to do this is to be consistent and make sure that file folders aren’t misspelled (or forgotten entirely) and are in the right place. Other practices include:  Try to keep it to three folder levels deep – You will inevitably go deeper than that, but if you try to keep files as close to the top of the file tree as possible, they immediately become easier to manage.  Keep documents that belong together, together – Nothing is worse than going to a folder to find a file that is supposed to be there only to find out that it is kept in another folder. If you have shared resources between projects, make copies and file them along with the other project files.  Name folders according to function – When naming folders, it is important that, if someone were to have to search for it, that they can find it. That is why you want to name folders and files according to their practical purpose. Use consistent file types – Have you ever gone looking for a specific file only to find out that the file you were searching for is a completely different type of file? It’s frustrating. Save file types in the manner in which works best for everyone.  Remove files that don’t have any business being there – A folder can get very sloppy very quickly. If a file doesn’t belong in a folder, don’t save it in the folder. Train new members on shared file policies – The thing that will make a shared file management platform work the best is workers that understand how the other people using it manage files. Train your new people to ensure they understand.  Creating a system to govern how and where files are stored will make a lot of difference when people need access to them. That segues nicely into our next point: Be Collaborative, But Manage Access The more collaborative your organization intends to be, the more time and effort it will have to spend ascertaining just whom should be given access to what. Why? This is because collaboration dictates that people work together, but if there are people who don’t have anything to do with a project, but have access to that project, negative situations can occur. If you simply manage the resource’s permissions, it keeps this situation from becoming a problem.  The people who do need access, and who get access, typically are people that are reliable enough to not save files and folders in places where they don’t belong. You may initially find this to be overkill, but the first time that a project (or even a task) falls flat because a member of your team had access they didn’t need and some resources go missing or are corrupted, it will cause problems that nobody needs.  Keep Your Platform Secure In file management, simplicity is key; but security is a must. To that end, selecting a thorough file sharing system that encrypts your data is important. Many people have […]

Businesses Can Expect These 5 Benefits from Conferencing Solutions

Team Building Getting a project team on the same page can be difficult, even if you are a subscriber to project management software that’s designed to centralize tasks and resources. This is especially true if your business works in multiple locations. With a reliable conferencing solution your team can meet with resources to share files, swap screens, and communicate with other team members. These tools work to boost collaborative efforts, turning what would be confusion into progress.  Task Management Regardless of where your team works out of, it can be difficult to keep them working efficiently. There are numerous distractions and speed bumps to consider when working collaboratively. Conferencing solutions allow teams to stay on-task, and waste less time than teams that work without a centralized communications platform.  Be More Collaborative Up until recently it was difficult to collaborate with others who weren’t close by. Today, however, conferencing solutions give an organization (or project team) the ability to lean on other team members better than ever. With options to share screens, send files, and directly communicate with your entire team, your organization has all the resources it needs to be more productive.  Conferencing Saves Money Through Simplicity Conferencing presents an opportunity to save capital by allowing a project team to standardize their communications platform. The pure number of systems that you need are fewer than ever as some conferencing solutions are delivered through VoIP or productivity tools that you would already be subscribing to. Finding ways to be more effective while also saving money is music to the ears of any business owner. At SRS Networks, we can help you find the communications tools that are right for your business. We can present you with conferencing options that integrate with your current IT infrastructure more than you may think. Call us today at (831) 758-3636 to learn more.

Deepfakes Make It Hard to Believe Your Eyes or Ears

What is a Deepfake, and How Are They Made? A deepfake is a fabricated video that makes it possible to literally put words in someone’s mouth. As demonstrated by multiple research teams, while this technology is not yet perfect, it can be used to create a very convincing video – or an even more convincing still shot. Deepfakes can be made using a combination of techniques and tools.  Video Deepfakes Using a specialized software solution, a video is scanned to identify the phenomes (the different sounds that make up full words) that are vocalized. Once they are identified, the phenomes are matched with the facial expressions that produce those sounds (also known as visemes). A 3D model of the subject’s face is then built based on the original video. With the right software solution, these three factors can be combined with a transcript to create new footage and superimpose it over the original, making it appear that the person depicted is saying something that they never said. This creates a video that is just different enough to be disconcerting. A similar method, that relies on mapping the expressions a person makes in source footage and applying them to a second person’s face, can even be used to bring paintings and old photographs to life. Still Image Deepfakes While the still images of people that were produced by AI were initially low-quality and generally unconvincing back in 2014, today’s – just five short years later – are effectively indistinguishable from the real deal. This is thanks to a technique known as a generative adversarial network. Using this technique, one AI generates images of people’s faces, anticipating feedback on how it did. In order to reach the desired level of photo-realism, it could potentially take millions of repetitions – something that nobody has time for. Instead of subjecting a human being to the process of critiquing millions of images, a second AI is used to guess whether the picture was actually created by the first AI, or is a legitimate picture. While neither is particularly effective when first starting out, they swiftly improve in their capabilities over time, and can soon make images that are effectively indistinguishable from actual photographs of real people. Neither of the people pictured here actually exist – they were instead created by NVIDIA in one of their machine learning AI initiatives. As a result, we can see a dramatic rise in the capability for people to spread falsehoods and generally make the Internet a misinformative place. How Misinformative? Let’s look at a relatively recent example of how impactful altered video can be. In May of this year, video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blew up on social media that made her appear to be making a speech while intoxicated. Edited to make her sound as though her words were slurred, the original footage had been reduced to 75 percent of its original speed, with the Speaker’s voice adjusted to make it sound more like her natural pitch. This wasn’t the only instance of this happening, either. In addition to this speech, originally delivered at an event for the Center of American Progress, Pelosi’s voice was also manipulated to make her, again, appear drunk as she spoke to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association earlier in May. […]