Coronavirus: A Threat to Your Staff, Cyberthreat to Your Operations

How to Minimize General Exposure in the Office Based on what is currently known about the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some recommendations as to how to keep the potential impact of coronavirus to a minimum: Encourage employees who are ill to stay home. This will help to minimize the spread of infection within your business. Make sure that your employees are aware of this policy by reiterating it verbally, and by posting notices around the office encouraging them to stay home if under the weather.Emphasize hygiene and etiquette. Properly stifling coughs and sneezes and keeping hands clean are surprisingly effective ways to keep your workplace healthier. Rather than using their hands to catch a cough or sneeze, your employees should use a tissue or–if unable to do so–use the upper part of their sleeve. The CDC recommends that tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be made readily available. Make sure your employees are washing their hands with soap and water for the recommended 20 seconds. Engage in keeping the workplace clean. There is a chance that coronavirus (and other illnesses) could be spread via infected surfaces. Make sure that all surfaces that are touched frequently, like desks, workstations, and doorknobs, are kept sanitized. Provide your employees with disposable wipes so they can proactively disinfect these surfaces before use. If you find that one of your employees is confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus, make sure that you inform their coworkers of their possible exposure while still maintaining the confidentiality that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires. These employees and those who are living with a sick family member should assess their risk of exposure using the CDC’s guidelines. Coronavirus as a Cyberthreat Unfortunately, coronavirus will also require you to also keep an eye on your network security, particularly if you operate within the healthcare industry. Hackers and cybercriminals have taken advantage of the widespread concern that the disease has caused. For example: Scammers have phished healthcare providers with updates that appear to have come from the World Health Organization or hospitals local to their area, but actually introduce keyloggers into their systems. Those involved in the medical supply chain have been targeted with emails referencing the coronavirus that install malware to steal information. Ransomware has been introduced into consumer systems by promising recipients of an email information about COVID-19’s spread. While the current climate may not make it easy, these emails and other threat vectors can be overcome through the same best practices that foil other cyberthreats. In addition to comprehensive digital protections, training your employees to spot these threats will be crucial. Of course, you should also maintain a comprehensive backup in case you need to recover from a successful attack. How to Maintain Productivity with Your Team at Home With today’s technology, sending an employee home sick doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be sacrificing that employee’s productivity. We now have many ways that your team can work effectively from home, still contributing to your organizational agenda without exposing their coworkers to their illness. Equipping Your Employees Remote access solutions, paired with virtual private networking technology, can allow your employees to securely continue their work from home, safely accessing the applications and data their tasks require through an encrypted connection. As collaboration […]

Data Loss: A Business’ Biggest Faux Pas

A firewall is useful but isn’t going to do much to help if your server is on fire. Thankfully, we have Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solutions to help businesses protect their data and their operational continuity. Whether you’re in the office, or anywhere from Akron to Zimbabwe, a BDR can help protect you from disasters and data loss of all kinds. Look at it this way: would you ever go on a business trip without a spare set of clothes? Of course not—what if some shrimp cocktail dribbles onto your shirt during a mixer? Networking is a lot less effective with a stain that reeks of horseradish and crustacean. You can think of data loss as the shrimp cocktail stain on your business—albeit to a much larger degree—in that it makes you look really bad. Think about it! A business losing huge chunks of their essential data is a terrible look and guaranteed to repulse a lot of their clients and prospects. So, just as you bring a spare set of clothes to the business trip, you want to make sure you have the means to restore your data should something happen to it. You want to be sure you have a backup in place. A BDR enables businesses to protect their data, with the confidence that it can always be recovered if the worst were to happen. The network-attached BDR backs up your data as often as every quarter of an hour on hard drives to give you quick and easy access. Meanwhile, a copy is also stored offsite in a storage facility. As a result, if your hardware and the BDR device are to be compromised, this redundant data is left untouched and safe. Obviously, this sounds far better than manually saving files to the cloud, or saving them to portable drives, or—worst of all—saving all your data to a tape backup, relying on moving parts and antiquated technology. That’s like bringing a clown suit as your emergency change of clothes. The BDR, on the other hand, is a tailored and reliable ensemble waiting in the wings. Don’t let an unlucky break create a gaffe like data loss. Reach out to our team of IT professionals to learn more about how SRS Networks can help protect your data. Give us a call at (831) 758-3636 today.

How are Tech Giants Responding to COVID-19?

As we are an IT company, let’s focus on two of the major corporations that we are intimately invested in–Microsoft and Google–and what steps they have taken in the face of the current global health crisis. Microsoft Microsoft’s efforts have been primarily focused on increasing awareness. Bing now offers an interactive map that tracks the virus’ spread on both a global scale and by country. Pulling from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and Wikipedia, there is a lot of data to draw from. The CDC has also joined with Microsoft to build a Self-Checker tool to help evaluate a person’s need to be tested. Powered by AI, a user can establish if it would be wise to be tested, and (while it offers no concrete medical advice) suggested next steps to take. As a result, emergency services can see a reduced number of patients calling upon them, as those without a need won’t be adding pressure to the already at-maximum capacity. Google Google has also taken considerable measures to assist in awareness and education efforts. The official blog currently features a collection of posts that detail their ongoing efforts and solutions–such as educational resources for students and teachers to use, handy advice to improve video calls and other remote collaboration tools, and other small business resources. Along with these ongoing posts, Google Search has been outfitted with features to further boost awareness. Any search that references coronavirus activates an SOS Alert, generating a sidebar that delivers a situational report: what coronavirus is, its symptoms, how to prevent it, how it can be treated, and other statistics. In addition, the top stories are committed to coronavirus content, and a graph of the cases worldwide and more resources frame your results on the right side. Speaking of your results, they will be filled with tweets related to COVID-19, suggested videos to watch, and even more news updates and resources. On YouTube, there is now a curated playlist dedicated to how to better work from home, called WFH Essentials. Admittedly, these videos aren’t completely relevant to the COVID-19 guidelines, as some endorse spending time in public, but other components can be seen as useful. There have also been some changes in how YouTube creators are compensated, dinging them for unhelpful, misleading, and inaccurate information. As far as financial contributions are concerned, Google has given SMBs, healthcare organizations and their workers, and governments more than $800 million. This sum includes the support of research and the production of personal protective equipment. Interestingly, they have also set aside $340 million in Google Ad credits for small businesses to use. If you have had a Google Ad account that has been active since the beginning of 2019, check your account for a notification. While we may initially see these huge businesses as impervious to these kinds of concerns, COVID-19 has proved differently. Fortunately, many investments have been made by these businesses to fight back. How has your business coped with this crisis? Tell us in the comments, and don’t hesitate to reach out to SRS Networks to learn how the right IT solutions could potentially reduce coronavirus’ influence on your business operations.

Managing Your Business and Remote Workforce During the COVID-19 Pandemic

First of all, it’s important not to panic. Many organizations have been offering work-from-home perks for years. Not only is it entirely possible to keep business running, but many businesses see a boost in productivity. A two-year Stanford study shows that in general, remote workers are as productive, if not more so, than those confined to an office. Double Down on Good Communication Habits Although we’re all supposed to be social-distancing ourselves to prevent our friends and loved ones from spreading and catching COVID-19, communication is still incredibly important. Managers and supervisors need to be kept in the loop from both sides: team members need to report up to them, and company updates need to be communicated downstream. Regularly scheduled department meetings and staff meetings should still all happen. Department heads should check in with their teams regularly. Of course, business owners may get the intuition to check to make sure their staff is “on seat” and working, but if possible it’s better to show you trust your employees, and address problems with specific staff, have managers focus on them instead of the entire workforce as a whole. Fortunately, there are plenty of applications available to make communication easier. These range from instant messaging tools like Google Hangouts and Slack, to video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Webex, and GoToMeeting. For businesses that utilize Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams is a solution included with each license. G-Suite users can use Google Hangouts for group chatting and internal conferencing. SRS Networks can help you set any of these up with your staff. One final thought: remember that many of your employees may be feeling pretty isolated, and even lonely. Keeping that structure with regular staff and department meetings can help keep people feeling connected. Staff can Make and Receive Work Calls from Home Beyond communicating internally, you’ll likely want your workforce managing the phones even from home. Fortunately, with many VoIP systems, this is relatively easy to do. Every VoIP solution is going to vary a little, but most offer the ability to make and receive business calls from any computer, laptop, or smartphone. It doesn’t require additional hardware (other than perhaps a good headset) and it gives your staff the ability to make calls from their work number instead of a personal one.  They still get the same capabilities they would at the office: call recording, forwarding, voice mail, conferencing, and more. The key is they can handle it all from their personal device. Of course, traditional desktop phones and handsets are available too. On top of that, VoIP can often save a little money when compared to traditional phone systems. If your business isn’t using VoIP, it’s time to consider making the switch.  IT Security is More Important Than Ever Let’s say you have 25 users and 25 workstations. You control those workstations; you have them monitored and maintained, and you have network policies pushed to them to prevent things from getting out of control. If those 25 users start working from home, suddenly you are contending with at least 25 endpoints that you don’t control.  There are a lot of variables at play here. Who uses the computer at home? Are kids on it? Is it the family computer? What kind of security does it have? It’s impossible to say, […]