Tip of the Week: How to Use Outlook’s Polling Feature

Using the Outlook Polling Feature To create a poll, pull up Outlook and start a New Email. Proceed as you would with any email, filling out your subject line and identifying who it should be sent to. You can then insert a poll by clicking into the Insert tab and selecting the Poll option, or by navigating to the Options tab of your message, clicking Use Voting Buttons, and selecting Poll. A window will appear that allows you to specify the question you want to ask your recipients, as well as the capability to customize your answers. You can add additional responses by clicking +Add option. Be warned, the poll has a character limit of 330, many of which are taken up by the poll structure itself, so keep your polls brief. To authorize multiple responses, you can toggle the Multiple answers button to green. Once your poll is completed, click Insert poll into email, and it can be shared. Reviewing Your Results Once you’ve created this poll, the results will appear to you in your version of it. So, if you keep it brief, Microsoft has provided a very useful way for its users to collect feedback. You can also review your results—as well as how the vote broke down amongst your users—by clicking on Review answers or the button labelled Open in Excel. A Few Caveats You should be aware that this feature is only available to those using a Microsoft 365 hosted email account, with a subscription to Microsoft 365. So, does this sound like something you could use? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Tip of the Week: Identifying a Phishing Message Before You’re Hooked

While these potential threats are frustrating to look out for, that is exactly what needs to be done to prevent their success. Here are five tips to help you spot a phishing attack before it is too late. Extreme Urgency When somebody is trying to phish you, they often rely on you panicking and not fully thinking through the message. That’s why, whenever you receive an email labelled “urgent” and written in an intimidating tone, you need to take a few breaths and consider it a little more. There is no questioning that email is an extremely valuable communication tool, but at the same time, would it really be how you sent someone an urgent, time-sensitive message over something like a phone call? Even if it does come in via a phone call, any message you receive should be carefully considered before you act. Attachments Email gives business users so much utility, but that also lumps in those who make cybercrime their business as well. Email makes it much easier for a cybercriminal to send along a malware payload, hidden inside an attachment. Therefore, you should never click into an email attachment that you didn’t anticipate receiving, and even think twice about the ones you did expect. Many organizations—like financial institutions and the like—are favorite ruses of cybercriminals, despite the fact that these organizations will either use a dedicated solution to reach out to you or call you directly before sending along an attachment. Unless you know with confidence what an attachment contains, it is best not to click on it at all. Spelling and Grammar Errors Let me ask you a question: if you were to receive any kind of written correspondence from a business, whether it was an email, a letter, what have you, would you take that business seriously if it was riddled with mistakes and misspellings? Unlikely. Businesses are generally very aware of this, and usually put forth the effort to ensure that the materials and messages they send out are carefully edited before they distribute them for this very reason. Would you trust this blog if every other sentence featured a misspelled word or misused punctuation mark? In a phishing message, however, the individual writing it is actively banking that their reader won’t be paying too close attention, making such errors less important. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it is a good way to keep your business safe. Requests for Personal Information In a similar vein, does it make sense that a business that presumably already has your sensitive information would reach out and ask for it again via email? No, it doesn’t, and that’s why legitimate businesses tend not to do this. While this is also a generalization and there will be exceptions, a scammer will generally be the only party to request sensitive and personal information over email. A legitimate business will have a different tool they use to collect this data if they need it, as they need to abide by the compliance and security requirements that are likely imposed on them by some regulatory body. Suspicious Links Finally, we need to discuss links, particularly those that come included in a surprise email. Links are remarkably easy to manipulate, so while you may think you’re visiting another business’ website […]

Tip of the Week: 3 Ways to Make Online Meetings More Productive

Identify an Agenda, and a Moderator to Enforce It The first step to having a productive meeting is to have a general idea of what will be discussed in the time allotted for it. Not only will this help to minimize tangents and other conversations that aren’t conducive to the meeting’s goal, sharing it ahead of time gives the participants a chance to organize their thoughts. Once the meeting is underway, you also need to make sure that it stays on the track that your agenda set for it. This means that it needs to be somebody’s responsibility to guide the meeting’s trajectory. Giving one of the participants the capability to mute and unmute other participants as needed is a useful option to consider, if need be, along with these responsibilities. Selecting the Solution There are a lot (repeat for emphasis) of collaboration and remote meeting options available right now, so you have plenty to consider implementing to support your operations. While we aren’t going to make any specific recommendations, we want to go over a few key considerations to keep in mind as you weigh your options: What functions and features will your remote meetings require? How many people does the conferencing platform need to support? Can your other tools and solutions play a role, either via integrations or concurrent use? With the answers to these questions in mind, you’ll be better able to select the option that fits your precise needs. Compare Notes Finally, when your meeting is over, it helps if everyone contributes to the meeting’s record. This helps prevent steps from being missed and can clarify everyone’s goals after the fact. By sending this summary to all involved once it is prepared you can ensure that your meeting has concluded with everyone (almost literally) on the same page. What have you done to make the most of your remote meetings? Share your tips in the comments!

Tip of the Week: The Very Basics of Computer Cleaning

Does a Clean Workstation Make that Much of a Difference? Yes! A computer collects a surprising amount of junk and grime, not to mention germs. Maintaining it can help ensure it doesn’t overheat. Plus, it just looks better, anyway. Therefore, you need to make a regular habit out of tidying up your workstation. Let’s touch on a few best practices for cleaning the major components. How Often Do I Have to Clean My Computer? That all depends on a few variables, but you should make sure that you’re cleaning your computer at least once a year. Other factors will render it necessary to tidy up more often. Take, for instance, the computer’s location. Its environment may introduce specific kinds of debris that make more regular cleanings a prudent course of action. So, if your computer spends its time… In an industrial environment In the presence of pets Around carpeting …it is probably best to clean it more frequently. Who it is that typically uses the computer is also an important factor. Younger people  (especially children) are a leading cause of sticky fingers on a keyboard and a smudged monitor. Either way, if your computer hasn’t been cleaned within the past 12 months, now is probably the time to do it. How to Properly Clean Your Workstation’s Components The different parts of your workstation need to be cleaned differently. Otherwise, they could become damaged in your attempt to keep them shipshape. Keep in mind, we’re focusing on desktop workstations here, as the process of cleaning a laptop is somewhat different. For starters, here are a few general best practices: Do not spray any liquid directly into the computer. Spray a cloth and wipe instead. Do not use a vacuum, as it can create a damaging static charge. Use compressed air to blow away any debris. Don’t allow fans to spin freely as you are cleaning them, as it could actually damage them. Always turn off the computer before you attempt to clean it. The Case Cleaning the exterior of your workstation can help to improve its ventilation, as well as make it look more presentable. You can remove any dust built up with a few swipes of a lint-free cloth. The Interior Also helping to keep the device’s temperature in check, it pays off to clean the inside of any dust and debris. Use compressed air to do this so that you don’t risk damaging the internal components. The Peripherals Finally, it makes sense that things like the keyboard and mouse would get a little grimy over time. A bit of diluted rubbing alcohol or disinfectant and compressed air can remove this grime and any germs it may have housed. As for your monitor, dusting it off with a lint-free cloth will naturally improve the visibility of your display. For more assistance in cleaning your computing infrastructure, or any other technology maintenance, give SRS Networks a call at (831) 758-3636. Our expert technicians are ready to help.

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.

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 […]

Tip of the Week: How to Plan for Your Business’ IT Hardware Needs

Hardware Needs and Capabilities Your hardware needs will largely depend upon how you intend to design your IT infrastructure: are you going to keep your solutions on-site in a server, or will you choose to make use of the cloud for most of your needs? Will you operate with company-owned devices, or will your employees be able to do their work on their own technology? To determine this, you need to fully understand what is required of the hardware that your team members use to complete their tasks successfully. This is a relatively simple process, but SRS Networks is always available to help, if need be. Features Based on your business’ procedures, what are the most important tasks for your hardware solutions to be able to handle? Will your team need to do any specific tasks, like print documents from a mobile device? Will point-of-sale systems be needed in bulk? What kind of workload will their network infrastructure need to support? Fully understanding these conditions will be key to ensuring that your intended hardware can deliver what you need it to. Storage Data is crucial to your success, so you need to have a plan prepared to deal with that which you collect. How much you will need to store, how you intend to back this data up, and how you’ve planned for business continuity will all impact how your storage infrastructure is built up. In turn, this outcome will dictate your hardware needs. Performance Again, what processes will your business’ hardware need to support as your daily functions are carried out? Word processing and video editing are very different processes and have very different hardware requirements to work properly. Working with an IT provider to ensure your business’ hardware has enough processing power for its intended use is crucial. Budget Here’s the thing, hardware investments can very easily run out of control, expending much more of your available funds that you would want to. Whether you need to purchase a new workstation, a new server, or any other IT component, you should go into the process completely understanding what it is you need. That way, you can find the vendor who offers the best value for your purchase, stretching your budget. Mobility Remote operations are increasingly popular amongst businesses, so it only makes sense that you seek out hardware solutions that can support mobile work when it is called for. This may be the difference between investing in a laptop over a desktop workstation, or the reason you elect to adopt cloud solutions. Security Whether you’re considering adding biometric authentication to your access controls, or you’re simply seeking to avoid data loss, there are hardware solutions that are involved in these processes that you need to consider as viable options. Consider any in-house infrastructure you might implement—what’s the one thing that it all needs, constantly? Electricity. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device can often be crucial to avoiding data loss and hardware damages, helping to protect your data by reducing the threat that a power outage could cause. CCTV cameras are another example of a piece of hardware that can significantly boost your business’ security. Hardware Ratio Finally, you need to make sure that you have the infrastructure in place to support your various solutions. This will help to […]