10 IoT Implementation and Management Tips for Businesses – Part 1

Business woman hand using smartphone with IoT implementaion via multi-channel communication network on mobile application

Implementing IoT in the Office does it have a place in the office?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a trendy term for an incredibly useful new type of device: Smart devices. Devices that respond to Wi-Fi commands through web portals and mobile device. And they have an undeniable place in the modern office. The uses for IoT range from turning off an entire floor of lights with a word to remotely managing building security. With specialized business IoT devices, your office can likely do even more than the basic applications that have been imagined. Particularly if IoT is combined with “Smart Home” voice hub technology.

This article will outline the top tips for implementing and managing a network of IoT devices in your business.

 

Implementing IoT in the Office

Bringing IoT into the office starts with your choice of IoT technology.

1. Choose Your Hub

The first step is to choose the smart hub you want to use. While you can manage your IoT devices through individual portals and apps, the most complete and useful experience comes from something only offered by a hub that can use ‘skills’ to manipulate all of your IoT devices on command without worrying about which brand made them or which app controls them.

Alexa is winning the race for Smart Home hubs, and more devices respond to Alexa than other hubs. However, Microsoft is quickly dominating the market for a business IoT hub through Azure. The important thing is that you choose a hub that works with the devices you want to use and interacts in a way that works for your business.

Whatever hub you choose, you’ll need to place a hub speaker anywhere you want commands to be heard.

2. Start with Smart Lights

If your business is new to IoT, the best place to start is smart lights. It is cool to turn one light on and off with a voice command, without walking to the switch. It’s an efficiency miracle to turn on or off an entire floor of lights without running from switch to switch. Smart lights can improve your energy efficiency and save loads of time for anyone who opens or closes each day. Not to mention the ability to control brightness and the occasional use of party colors.

3. Create Helpful Routines Anyone Can Use

An IoT routine is a group of device commands enacted by a single trigger. For example, you can set every single light on a routine and turn them off by saying “Turn Off All Lights” or you can separate the routines floor by floor with commands like “Turn On Finance Lights”. Of course, routines can do much more than that. You could, for example, set up a routine called “Good Morning Office” that turns on the lights, starts the smart coffee pot brewing, warms up the printer, and unlocks the smart lock on the front door as well.

Be sure to create a few routines that everyone in the office can use on command, like lights or coffee pot controls, to make your office more responsive and intuitive overall.

4. Specialty Routines for Business Purposes

You will also likely want a few specialty routines known only to the teams meant to use them. IoT security, for example, does not need publicly available routines but the security team may be able to do some interesting and useful tasks with voice-command cameras and other IoT Security devices.

Of course, installing IoT in your office is only the first half of the process. As any IT security professional can tell you, the cost for all that accessibility is an increased cybersecurity risk. Fortunately, IoT can easily be secured by following the right separation and recovery steps which we’ll be covering in the second half of this article. Join us next time for part two where we’ll talk about how to ensure your new IoT gadgets are not a security risk for your internal business network. Contact us today to find out more about adding IoT functionality to your business!

Is Your Backup Disaster Recover Plan Ready for the Worst?

Woman in a server room on phone preparing a backup disaster recovery plan

Today’s security breaches enforce the need for secure reliable backup strategies

In the modern world of cybercrime and digital business, the state of your company’s computers and servers is of vital importance. Should anything happen to your important files or critical servers, you would need to have them recovered and back online as quickly as possible. This is the purpose of a backup disaster recovery (BDR) plan. When something goes wrong, you need a backup to recover from the disaster.

However, not all BDR plans are made equally. Some are prepared only to recover specifically important files, some only backup the website and not the company files. Some are prepared to restore the systems of one department but not another. Each company and it’s IT team are responsible for ensuring that a recovery plan is in place for every possible eventuality. Because what you don’t plan for is always the most likely to be what trips you up.

Most businesses need not just one BDR plan, but may. In order to have a recovery method no matter what type of technical troubles or security breach cause a data disaster. So along these lines,  ask yourself:

Is Your Disaster Recovery Plan Prepared For….

Restoring Key Files and Databases Individually?

All too often, company data disasters don’t involve reinstalling the entire system, but rather restoring one or two pieces of critical data. A software update may corrupt only the files that software interacted with, or only those that were open during the update. A human error might delete or save over a critical customer file, or a database might be lost when a server malfunctions.

Is your disaster recovery plan prepared to restore just one or two pieces of data from the entire backup? With the ability to do this, you can spot-recover key files and databases without losing time to restoring an entire data system or server.

Restoring an Entire Workstation to Work-Readiness?

Malware and failed updates often only affect the computer where the problem occurred. Malware on a workstation is often best solved with a factory reset and reinstallation of the operating system and some unfortunate software updates may lead to similar solutions. And restoring a single workstation is one of the coolest things backup recovery is capable of doing, if set up correctly.

Consider every workstation configuration in your company. Each workstation is made up of an operating system, security settings, and installed software to make it work-ready for an employee. Is your disaster recovery plan ready to restore a new or reset computer fully to work-readiness for workstations in each department? It can be.

Restoring Your Entire Network from a Factory Reset?

Some malware, however, specializes in attacking the entire company network accessed from the first infected workstation. Ransomware is notorious for this tactic though it is not alone in using it. When this type of attack happens, often the best defense for a company is to completely reset the network so that no malware can lurk upon it, then rebuilt it from the ground up using a backup recovery method.

Is your BDR plan prepared to restore the entire network infrastructure with all the finicky little settings and security measures your admins have spent months or years perfecting? Working with recovery experts, even this is possible and can allow you to thumb your nose at even the most vicious hacking attacks by restoring quickly without much impact on the company’s workflow.

Backup disaster recovery is not just a way to ‘make saves’ and then restore them when something goes wrong. They are delicate, detailed plans that involve careful setup, curation, and implementation. But if done correctly, you gain an incredibly flexible and robust defense against even those hacks that can fully take out a computer or your entire business network. Contact us today to find out more about how your BDR plan could be improved to cover more bases and provide a greater flexibility of recovery options.

It’s Better to Use Managed Service Providers

Woman with beautiful smile holding a tablet and managed service providers concept

Are you ready to outsource your IT needs?

It’s natural to want to save money wherever possible — and what smart businesses don’t do this? Relatively small businesses whose owners happen to be tech-savvy can get away with managing their own computers and equipment. However, for larger types of businesses with several computers, it’s not practical to manage their own IT even if the owners are tech-savvy. This is due to the fact that large businesses consume too much time via administration or other ways to be able to effectively manage their own IT infrastructure — and this isn’t even factoring in stress. To run a large business and attempt to manage the computer infrastructure on top of that would make life pretty dull — and exhausting. What satisfaction comes from a large business when it’s owner attempts to run the whole show themselves? There really isn’t any.

This is why using managed service providers is a novel idea. Instead of the owner, manager, or employees attempting to manage the computer infrastructure, they can focus on business productivity and leave the tech stuff to professionals. Outsourcing routine management of computer systems to service providers not only helps save time, but it saves potential disaster. Many successful businesses have suffered great losses due to their computer systems not being properly managed — when devices stop working, repairs are often attempted by those who are not familiar enough with the systems being repaired, and in some cases cause more damage than the original problem being fixed. For small computer systems or networks where productivity disruption is not a big issue, self attempts at repair are generally more acceptable — but not with relatively large businesses. Data preservation and restoration in the event of disasters or breakdowns in and of themselves can be sophisticated without even getting into device repair or maintenance. Let’s expand a little bit on some points above.

Stress

So your business just received its first major payoff. All the planning, hard work, sweat, and tears are paying off and the prospect is looking bright. The bucks keep rolling in but there never seems to be time to enjoy the fruits of the labor due to the desire to save as much money as possible — by attempting to self-manage the computer infrastructure. It’s great that the talent to achieve such a task can be retained, but let’s not forget why we start businesses in the first place — it’s aspiration toward freedom from the general boundaries of an average employment. By attempting to manage every aspect of the business, the joy of starting the business in the first place can be easily negated.

Time

This point sort of goes back to what was discussed about stress. However, although more time spent toward managing a business can increase stress, managing computers steals time away from the productivity side of the business. Take the following as an example: An important business associate is on phone and content of certain E-mails are being discussed — then, suddenly, access to E-mail goes down postponing the productivity of the phone call. Whether the E-mail connectivity went down due to postponed maintenance or something breaking down, the business is on the hook to take care of the broken E-mail in addition to — hopefully — resuming the productivity of the lost phone conversation.

Risk

Self-management of computer infrastructures carries risk through various means. Some of those are loss of productivity, lost time, and lost money — all due to inefficient attempts at repair, maintenance, backup and restore, and perhaps physical illness due to being overstressed. Imagine performing a routine backup of customer data and when the time of year comes around to reach out to customers via E-mail marketing, it’s discovered that the entire customer-information database has been wiped out and unrecoverable due to an overlooked detail in the backup system.

Examples of risks are numerous and can generally be avoided by outsourcing to managed service providers. SystemsNet has sufficient experience and manpower to deal with the needs of large businesses. Please contact us to discuss how we can help your business.

How to Encourage Your Staff to Call their IT Help Desk

Male receptionist calling an IT help desk in a hotel

Having a fully staffed help desk allows for faster resolution of issues compared to a single employee help desk.

IT help desks can be incredibly useful inside your business infrastructure. They help employees solve problems, make better use of their technology, and face down cybersecurity threats with confidence. However, many IT help desks are sorely underutilized as employees are hesitant to make the call when they experience trouble.

Most modern professionals are independent-minded. They enjoy solving their own problems and, if the IT desk is new, they are used to handling technical hiccups on their own. Even if your IT team could streamline and improve their own troubleshooting, staff may not realize just how much they’re missing out by not calling the help desk at the right times. They wind up losing hours each year to attempting to fix or –worse– attempting to work on half-broken workstations.

So today, we’re here to highlight a few useful ways to encourage your staff to call the help desk when they need it.

Add IT to Your VoIP Quick Contacts

The first and easiest way to encourage your staff to call IT is to make it easy to call IT. Your VoIP phone system can feature a list of quick contacts that every staff member has access to. This may include the front desk, mail room, HR, and of course their own supervisor and team members. Make sure that this quick-contacts list also includes a prominent link to the IT help desk phone number.

If your team uses handsets, ensure that one programmable speed-dial button is set to take them straight to IT. This way, talking to IT is a single click or button press away. No need to look up the number which acts as a procrastination barrier to calling for IT when it is needed.

Provide Live Chat Connection to the IT Help Desk

For many modern professionals in their 20s and 30s, live chat is a far more comfortable form of communication than talking on the phone. Chatting doesn’t require ‘small talk’ or laughing at each other’s jokes. There’s also no worry about sounding awkward or stilted when talking about tech stuff that employees may not understand.

By providing an easily found live-chat link to the IT help desk, you may find that many more staff members are comfortable reaching out and asking for help when they need it.

Offer Rewards for Reported Phishing and Malware Attacks

Employees often don’t know what to do when they receive a phishing email or think they have just witnessed signs of a malware attack. What you want them to do is report it to IT so that the problem can be hunted down, defended against, and stopped in the future. The best way to do this is to offer some kind of reward or bounty for every phishing email or malware attack spotted by an employee.

They are sure to call IT with each false or suspicious email with a reward on the line, something that is great for morale and great for your business cybersecurity.

Encourage Staff Directly in Meetings and Memos

Always combine the direct method with opportunities. IT may be on live chat and speed dial, but your team needs to know that you really want them to call the IT help desk when something comes up. So encourage them. Encourage them in group meetings, and offer reminders through emails and mentions at company parties.

The more often you mention that calling IT is a desired company policy, the more staff members will pick it up to be good employees.

Audit Currently Half-Broken Workstations

For stodgy old professionals who just don’t call IT no matter what, one of the best solutions is simply to audit workstations. Have IT come through and assess whether each personal workstation is in ship-shape or has been limping along with unsolved software errors, up-updated programs, or undetected malware.

Anyone with a half-broken workspace should then receive a pointed speech about how not calling IT puts the company at risk while their workstation is either replaced or repaired before they can return to work. This will drive the point home for heel-draggers.

Praise Employees for Taking Care of IT-Assisted Repairs

Finally, remember to offer praise as well. It is an employee’s duty to keep their workstation in good working order and to call IT if anything problematic or suspicious arises. Each time someone takes care of their own IT scutwork without having to be told, offer a small word of praise or reward. The simple reinforcement will build morale and show that IT responsibility is worth respect in your company.

Those who are IT-vigilant will feel that respect and others who want praise will follow their example.

Making use of your IT help desk is about more than just technology. You need your entire team onboard to the idea of calling IT when something goes wrong and following their directions to fix the problem efficiently. These methods can healthily promote the use of your IT help desk by offering opportunity, encouragement, and minor consequences for neglect. For more IT help desk tips or services, contact us today!