IT tips to stay resilient

The recent pandemic has forced change upon many businesses. For some this has created challenges, whereas others have reaped unforeseen benefits from more flexible and efficient ways of working. 

Many organisations have adapted by migrating the running of their business, and the delivery of their services, online.  These strategies have not only facilitated more agile and collaborative working but have provided businesses with greater flexibility to cope with the unexpected.  However, these new working practices have placed an increased dependence on reliable and smooth-running IT systems.

Outlined below are some key areas of your business IT that should be evaluated, so you can run your business effectively and maintain resilience through these unpredictable times.

Leverage technology

It is important to understand how technology can help your business develop and grow but firstly you need to assess whether your current IT is meeting your needs. By aligning your IT with your business objectives will help ensure investment is made in the areas where it will have the greatest impact. If you don’t have the time or inclination to find out what technology is available and appropriate for your business seek expert IT advice, so you avoid making expensive and time-consuming mistakes.

Hardware

Evaluate your hardware, such as computers, to assess if they are fit for purpose.  Slow or unreliable computers can be frustrating and have a serious impact on productivity as well as IT security.  Taking a proactive approach to your IT and fixing issues early before they escalate into bigger problems is always more cost effective in time and money. Ensure that your staff have the right IT equipment to carry out their jobs effectively and ensure that they have been trained how to use it to maximum benefits.

Update software

Keeping your software up-to-date is a vital element of your IT security and will safeguard you from cyber-attacks.  Regularly check that all software is up to date and still supported and remove software that is no longer used, as this will slow it down and affect performance.

To check your MS Windows updates:

Click the START button, choose SETTINGS and then Update & Security

If updates are available, restart it or schedule your restart.

Regular health check

Looking after your computers will help enhance their performance and useful life.  A service, or health check, is a maintenance procedure that helps improve the speed and performance of your computer and ideally should be carried out annually.  It involve a series of tests that will determine:

  • if upgrades are needed
  • presence of viruses or malware
  • if temporary files can be deleted
  • potential issues that require action such as a failing hard drive
  • preventative maintenance such as clearing dust from cooling fans and heatsinks to prevent overheating

Proactive monitoring and maintenance

If your business relies on maximum uptime and security, and you don’t have time to continually check on your computers, you may want to consider a maintenance & monitoring service that provides the following benefits:

  • Protection against viruses and malware
  • Ensures backups are performing successfully
  • Manages updates of Operating System and third party applications
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Offers practical solutions to ensure systems are running efficiently

A monitoring and maintenance solution (like our Bronze Plan) is all handled in the background, so that you and your staff remain productive.

IT Security

During COVID-19 cyber-attacks have become more prevalent and present a major threat to your business. Your IT strategy should outline how to safeguard your company data as well as ensure compliance to current regulations. This should include staff training about the latest cyber security attacks as well as highlighting the importance of vigilance when working online.

Tips to avoid cyber-attacks:

  • Attachments are the most common method of viruses spreading, don’t open attachments from an unreliable or unknown source
  • Do not click on links within emails that you cannot be sure are safe
  • Always read security warnings but research them before agreeing to anything
  • Choose secure passwords and do not share them
  • Be sceptical and aware of phishing scams and don’t give way sensitive data. Phishing is a common way that online accounts are hacked into and can lead to identity theft
  • Read pop-ups before agreeing to anything
  • Limit administrator rights to minimise problems such as unapproved software being downloaded and security settings disabled
  • Set a screensaver with a password to stop unauthorised access to your computer

Robust Back-up

Embedded in your IT Strategy must be a backup solution. If you are affected by a security disaster, such as a major loss of data or failed hard drive, a good recent back up is the fastest way to recover and it will minimise the disruption to your business.

Permissions

Many businesses will have experienced staff changes over this period. If anyone has left the company ensure that user accounts, including online accounts, are disabled.  If roles and responsibilities have changed ensure user permissions are altered accordingly.  It is important to remember that safeguarding against any data breaches is a key element of maintaining GDPR compliance, so check that your staff only have access rights suitable to their position.

IT supports the fundamental operations within a business and can ensure your business thrives. Our IT consultants have the expertise and experience to assess your IT systems and create a plan aligned to your business goals.  For more information please get in touch 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk

 

How to make professional video calls

COVID-19 has forced many of us to start using video calls for work meetings, presentations and even job interviews.  Businesses have realised that video calls can facilitate agile working and reap many benefits. Navigating a video call, however, can be tricky especially if you don’t have much experience.  Here are some ideas to help you look professional, get the most out of them, and even start enjoying them.

Quiet space

Ideally find a quiet place to take the call and use headphones to minimise any background noise.

Wi-fi and power

  • Ensure you have a good wi-fi connection. The closer you are to the router the greater the speed and strength. Alternatively use a home-plug or wireless access points to improve the quality of your internet connection in other areas of your house.
  • Turn-off high-definition video, as this takes up considerably more band-width.
  • Make sure your device is fully charged or plugged in before the video call starts.

Microphone

  • Prior to making a call test your audio clarity and volume to ensure you can be heard easily.
  • Speak clearly, at your normal volume and speed.
  • When you are not speaking mute your microphone as background noise can be distracting and hinder the flow of conversation.
  • Conversely ensure your microphone is on when delivering important information.

Webcam

  • Place your webcam at around eye level and in front of you, so it looks like you are looking at the person you are talking to. Don’t sit too close or far away and have your head and shoulders in view. Avoid strange camera angles that can be unflattering and distracting.
  • Most webcams will enable reasonable video conferencing but to get the best experience you can choose cameras with a wide-angle lens and high-quality video and audio for optimum results.
  • Look into the camera and not at yourself.

Lighting

  • Natural light creates the best effect for video calls, and if this is not possible use a central light or a lamp facing you from behind your computer

Background

  • Your backdrop will reflect your brand. Keep it in line with your company image and remember a simple background will enable people to focus better on you.
  • If you don’t have time to ensure a professional looking backdrop set up a virtual background.

Clothing

  • Wear appropriate clothing that you would normally wear in your workplace. Choose strong dark colours and avoid patterned clothing and elaborate jewellery, which can be distracting.

During a call

  • Keep focused and pay attention so people in the meeting see that you are engaged and interested.
  • Don’t work or attend to emails during the call.
  • Greet the group and introduce yourself unless everyone knows you well.

When to speak

  • Compared to in-person meetings it is more difficult to read the visual cues so it is easy to interrupt. Wait a few moments before speaking in case of time delays. Alternatively agree a visual cue with the group such as putting up your hand when you want to speak.
  • If you’re running the meeting you can call on each person to speak to avoid interruptions and to enable everyone to speak.

Hosting

  • To get the most out of a meeting that is longer than 10 minutes create an agenda. This allows people to prepare beforehand and will facilitate more valuable contributions as well as balancing out the input.
  • If you have regular team meetings via video consider rotating the management of the meeting to enhance collaboration and engagement. It can also help build confidence across the whole team. 
  • At the start of the meeting check that everyone’s audio visual is working and that everyone is ready to begin.
  • Nominate a facilitator for each meeting to keep the meeting focused and in-line with the agenda, ensure objectives are achieved, and that everyone’s voice is heard. 

Sharing information

  • If you need to share a document on the video call warn participants there may be a delay, so they don’t think they have lost connection.
  • If you are going to share your screen during a call, prepare it beforehand to ensure your desktop doesn’t show any sensitive or private information.

With the right technology in place, and good practice, video calls can be made bearable, and can even be enjoyable. They can, however, be more intense and tiring than face to face meetings and so they should be time-limited, with appropriate intervals so people have an opportunity to recover before the next one.

For any technical advice about working from home please contact us on 01603 451810 or hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

 

 

 

How to thrive working from home

The current pandemic has forced many of us to work from home with varying degrees of success.  Some people really flourish with no strict schedule whereas others struggle to be productive and find it hard to motivate themselves.  Now that businesses have set up their staff with home working it looks like there will be a shift in work patterns.  It may take time to work out how best to organise yourself so you can work effectively and keep your sanity; here are a few tips.

Circadian rhythms work when you work best. If you are most energised in the morning this is when you should do the most important tasks, whereas if you are an owl you may start the day with the menial tasks to ease you gently into the day.

Unique perks – embrace the positive aspects of home working. You may find that you have more time, especially if you save time on commuting each day, so why not use this time to learn something new, spend quality time with your family or cook a tasty lunch.

A good workspace is critical for productivity. Find somewhere with minimal distractions, is comfortable and inspiring with enough natural light. If your phone distracts you put it in another room, and if you have children, and it is possible, work in a different room.

Get creative – if you have a mental block step away from your computer, find somewhere different perhaps with a nice view, and use pen and paper to put down your ideas.

Take breaks – to promote your well-being take time-out for yourself away from work and tech – do something enjoyable whether it is intellectual, creative or physical. Research shows that exercise can help you stay focused, and improve your memory, however do something that you enjoy.

Regular working hours – research shows that keeping routines is important to enhance productivity. It also enables you to leave work at the end of the day and helps you maintain a work life balance.

Get your technology sorted

  1. Internet – connectivity is vital so invest in a high-speed internet connection from a reliable provider.
  2. Router – wifi strength and speed diminishes the further you are from your router so consider repositioning it or using wireless access points. You can also try a homeplug that will provide a fast and stable wired connection. Old routers can affect the speed and range so if it is more than 5 years old consider replacing it.
  3. The right hardware and software – make a budget and invest in a good working computer and any other hardware or software to enable you to carry out your job properly. If you are unsure what products would work best for you seek expert advice so you make cost effective choices.
  4. Be proactive – fixing issues early before they escalate into bigger problems is more cost effective in time and money. If your computer is slow or glitchy get it serviced before something catastrophic happens and you can’t work at all.
  5. Proactive monitoring and maintenance service – this will help ensure your computer runs efficiently, securely and with minimal downtime. Our Bronze Plan costs £10/month per device.
  6. Cybersecure – there is a proliferation of adware, spyware and malware so good quality AV software is essential e.g. ESET. Keep up to date with cyber threats, our online Cyber Security Awareness course makes it easy and is only £2/month.
  7. Passwords – keep them strong and unique and change them regularly. Consider using a two step verification process and if you need multiple logins use a password management system like RoboForm or LastPass.
  8. Collaboration tools– technology that facilitates collaboration is extremely important if you are working from home. Sending around multiple copies of the same document for different amendments is fraught with potential problems, such as, keeping track of changes and the latest version. Fortunately, there are many services to assist with this, from Office 365 to Google Drive.
  9. Shared mailboxes – the advantage of sharing a mailbox rather than forwarding emails to your colleagues is that you know when emails have been read, replied to and dealt with, reducing the risk of emails being ignored or multiple replies being sent.
  10. Shared calendars can help improve communication and efficiency. Calendars in Office 365 are continuously synced so the information is up to date, making it easy to plan projects and schedule meetings, even if all your team are working from home.
  11. Virtual meetings – whether you use Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype many people are now adept at using apps for virtual meetings. Find a couple of applications that work for you and have the functions that you need for your meetings e.g. screen share function allowing everyone on the call to make notes on the screen, reducing misinterpretations. Train your staff so that meetings are professional and effective.   
  12. Headphones – when you’re on video chat use headphones with a microphone, especially if your home has a lot of background noise.
  13. Group channel – now that you’re not in the office create a place where you and your colleagues can ask questions and everyone can contribute. Discussing things with your colleagues will minimise misinterpretations and make you more productive.
  14. Video messaging -whether you need to present something, ask for assistance, or share something of interest, you can video message your team and they can view it at a time that is convenient for them.
  15. Shared task lists – this is another feature in Office 365 that enhances collaboration and productivity while everyone is working from home. Information is continuously synced so it makes it easy to coordinate activities, prioritise tasks, and meet deadlines.
  16. Second monitor – if you’re used to working with a bigger screen than your laptop has, or find two screens makes it easier to work get another screen or use your television as your desktop or second monitor by using an HDMI cable.
  17. Online training – budgets are tight but there are many free online courses to enable your professional and career development. These government courses are free and designed to improve your digital skills: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/find-a-course/the-skills-toolkit

Working from home can be very rewarding and improve the quality of your work. However to make it work you need good routines, have the right technology in place and robust IT security.

For more information about how we can improve your home working, or help your business get the right technology to thrive please call 01603 451810 or email hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

Tips for buying a new computer

When looking to buy a new computer you will be faced with a labyrinth of choice and it can be difficult to know which specifications will best meet your needs.  Whether you are buying a computer for your business or home, here are a few things to help you stay focused on your goals as well as your budget.

Budget

The first thing you need to consider is budget, this is often the main constraint but once this is decided you can find the best computer within that price range.

Desktop or Laptop

If you mainly work within your office the general guideline is to get a desktop. If you need to work flexibly, in different locations and on the move then a laptop will be more suitable.

Desktops are usually cheaper than laptops with similar specifications. Desktops are cheaper to repair, more reliable and are easier to upgrade and therefore have a longer usage life.  However many people prefer laptops because they enable flexible working and consume less energy.

All in ones are essentially a computer with all the workings in the back.  As tower speakers are often built in they are more compact and often easy to set up. However they provide less value for money than a desktop and are more costly to fix when they go wrong. 

Processor

If you want a computer that is fast and carries out tasks quickly then invest in a computer with a powerful processor. The performance of the processor is measured in number of cores and speed, for many people 2 cores will suffice but if you have lots of multi-tasking and photo-editing 4 or more cores will enable you to work more efficiently.

RAM

The RAM, or memory, allows your computer to work with on several programmes simultaneously.  The more RAM you have the faster your computer will work, for Windows 10 you should have at least 4GB for it to run smoothly.  If you like to surf smoothly between email, internet and other programmes 8GB is the ideal amount.  If you edit photos or videos and intend to use any CAD software you will need at least 16GB. 

Hard Drive

The larger your hard drive the more space you have to store files.  Standard computers come with 250GB to 750GB but if you store most of your documents in the Cloud you won’t need more than 250GB.  If you need more space later down the line you can buy an external hard drive to transfer or store files, or upgrade to a larger hard drive.  The spin speed of your hard drive will determine how quickly data is transferred, so if speed is important choose an SSD (solid state drive) will be faster than an HDD.

Operating Systems

Most people chose an operating system that they are familiar with such as Windows 10 or MAC OSX.  Linux is another option but more complex and therefore less popular. 

If you would like us to find you a computer that meets your needs and budget please call 01603 451810 or email hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.