Are Distractions at Home Increasing Vulnerability to Cyber Attacks?

Are Distractions at Home Increasing Vulnerability to Cyber Attacks?

A lot of people are still working from home right now. Furthermore, many are not working from home under ideal conditions. They may be sharing an “office” with somebody else working from home, trying to care for children, dealing with pets, etc. On top of that, everyone is rather stressed right now. Could this be causing problems with cybersecurity?

Distractions and Cybersecurity

A study done by Tessian in April showed that 43% of a sample of employees in both the UK and US admitted to errors that could have cybersecurity repercussions.

These errors included sending emails to the wrong person and clicking on links in a phishing email, and employees blamed fatigue, stress, and distraction. Furthermore, the worst offenders were in the tech industry…closely followed by banking and finance. These kinds of errors endanger companies and customers.

To make things worse, cyberattack attempts are also up as criminals take advantage of the shift to remote working. Scammers are using fears over COVID-19 to sell fake masks, trying to use stimulus checks to get personal information, etc. So, not only are workers more inclined to fail to notice a phishing attempt, but they may be receiving more of them.

Some people struggle more than others with working from home, but everyone is likely to be distracted right now, whether it’s by their family, the news, or the climbing case numbers.

What Should Employers Do?

Unfortunately, reopening the office is unlikely to be an option for most companies before at least the fall, if not the end of the year. Schools are also remaining virtual in many areas, leaving employees stuck with childcare or trying to monitor remote learning. Meanwhile, employees, feeling the situation to be temporary, are unable or unwilling to make major changes to their lifestyle to accommodate remote work.

Employee training is, thus, the best and perhaps only option to resolve this situation. It’s important to continue to refresh cybersecurity training while employees are working from home.

Giving advice and tools to reduce distractions could also be helpful for many employees, especially those for whom a separate office with a closed door is not an option. Simple ways to help focus include:

  • Playing music, ideally without lyrics.
  • Using the Pomodoro or similar technique to force alternating periods of focus and break.
  • Putting on street clothes rather than trying to work in your pajamas. For many people, this helps the brain get into work mode.
  • Planning out a schedule for the week.
  • Working out what distracts you and dealing with it before work.
  • Using timers to block social media and other distracting sites.
  • Turning off your personal phone unless you need it for work.
  • Sticking to your normal work schedule and hours.

None of these require that employees invest heavily in a temporary situation, and they can make a huge difference to productivity and focus. However, it’s best to avoid trying to force removal of distractions. One university got into a PR mess by saying that workers could not care for their children while working from home. Sadly, this is unavoidable for many right now.

Working from home is making all of us more distracted (in some cases even including people who were already working from home, but now have to deal with spouses, children, and the overall stress of the situation). Employers need to make sure that these distractions don’t result in security breaches with improved training and by helping employees learn how to better focus when their office is their living room.

For help with your IT problems and more advice on cybersecurity and employee training, contact Bluwater Technologies today.

#WorkingFromHome Solutions with Microsoft Teams

#WorkingFromHome Solutions with Microsoft Teams

Staying home together can be a challenge when it comes to staying connected, apart. Many small to mid-sized businesses are feeling the anxiety of the #WorkFromHome life, just as many employees struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy and minimal disruption to their departmental teams. Business owners can use technology to ensure processes continue to run smoothly during COVID-19.

Microsoft Teams is the essential remote worker’s suite for empowering companies and keeping colleagues connected.

All-In-One Platform

One of the biggest fears many companies harbor is the loss of productivity during this difficult time. The idea of transitioning an entire company to working remotely on minimal notice is a daunting undertaking. With the looming uncertainty and adjustment to new operating procedures, profit loss seems inevitable. Busy companies can’t afford a day off, let alone an undefined furlough.

Now that we’ve covered the doom and gloom, it’s time to look at the vast opportunities this “new normal” presents. There’s no need for productivity to drop off due to transitioning to a remote office. In fact, remote work has been on the rise with many of the top growing companies for the past few years. The key to success lies in the right tools.

Microsoft Teams eliminates the learning curve by keeping new technology simple. The user-friendly, all-in-one platform centralizes software, CRM databases, spreadsheets, messaging, and more in secured Cloud based location

The result? Reduced employee downtime.

According to the Forrester Study: The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Teams, “having resources available online in Teams reduces downtime by 14.6 percent.” This allows for streamlined compliance and security while keeping your business on the upward growth curve.

Collaboration Made Simple

The benefit of a dynamic team is often erroneously linked to a shared, brick and mortar office. The reality is that it’s quite common for key executive members to operate on a long distance basis, with flexible hours and remote work quickly becoming the best way to attract high quality talent. 

Teams makes collaboration a snap with easy document and screen sharing, data exchange, and personable communications. In fact, the recent Forrester Study found that “information workers were able to save 4hrs/wk through improved collaboration and information sharing.” This leaves extra hours to catch up on backlogged projects.

The fast, real time environment of Teams allows businesses to hold morning meetings, schedule conferences with core clients and investors, and check in anytime, anywhere. If your company is fast growing, there’s no reason to pump the brakes quite yet. Interviews are simple and timely via Teams, allowing multiple executive members to be a part of the process.

Best of all, Teams keeps your company together. The sense of camaraderie between our colleagues has never been more needed. Support your staff during this difficult time by fostering a culture of positivity and teamwork.

Budget Friendly for Reduced Overhead

Maintaining fiscal responsibility is more vital now than ever. There’s no need to invest in high tech solutions to keep your company running from home. Microsoft offers a range of affordable Office 365 and Microsoft 365 options depending on your company’s needs. Best of all, Microsoft Teams is proud to feature small business solutions. If you aren’t looking to purchase a bundled option, the basic app for Teams is free to download and can host up to 300 members.

In addition, travel costs were greatly reduced, freeing up overhead expenses. The Forrester Study found that “an average of 150 overnight trips [were] replaced with online meetings by year 3 [of implementation].”

We know the current state of #WorkingFromHome has yielded a lot of uncertainty, but in the transition to remote work, innovative, new opportunities are being discovered everyday. Your friends at Bluwater Technologies are here to support our business clients now more than ever with on demand IT services for small businesses.

Contact our experts for more COVID-19 guidance and tips on transitioning your office to a robust remote workforce.

8 Essential Tips for Working From Home During Coronavirus Outbreak

As a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, most people are only left with the option of working from home. This is because the virus is easily spread through close contact with someone who already has the virus. If you have found yourself in such a situation, however, it is still very possible to be productive and to maintain a balance between work and home. Here are some tips:

1. Act like you are going to work

Changing your pajamas and dressing as if you are going to work is a very crucial thing when you are working from home. This in a big way, draws the line between being at home and work. Take a shower, apply makeup, style your hair, iron that suit, brush your teeth, and get ready to begin work. It would have looked so unprofessional and weird if, for instance, you received a video call from work, and you are just dressed in pajamas. It is, therefore, essential to take care of your appearance every morning.

 2. Create a working space/ a home office

When working from home, it is vital to keep your home life and work separate. This can be quite hard if, for instance, you have children at home. To avoid all sorts of distractions, ensure that you set a working space where you will give your work the attention it demands. Try to make sure that the area is comfortable for you to work from there for several hours.

3. Clearly define working hours and stick to them

Working from home can lead to shorter or longer hours of working as compared to the office. Overworking can easily make you have a burnout while under-working reduces your productivity. To avoid falling a victim of all this, establish working hours and keenly stick to them. 

4. Establish transitions into as well as out of work

Commuting to and from the office is not just a simple and regular thing to do. This is because it goes a long way in preparing your mind and whole self for work and home, respectively. When you are working from home, it is also very crucial to engage yourself in activities that prepare your mind that it is time to work or to stop working. For instance, you can listen to some music to relax your mind for work or clear your mind after work. 

5. Avoid distractions

One of the biggest challenges people experience from home is distractions. Do not allow your mind to be bothered by the trending news since this hinders your productivity. Try to make sure that you are also not distracted by family members. Let them know that when it is time for work, they should give you enough space to work effectively.

6. Over-communicate

Working remotely requires you to communicate frequently, mostly when it is your first time to do that. Many times you may meet challenges that you are not sure how to handle them. Get in touch with your manager as well as collaborative workmates. Let them know how your schedule is and what you plan to achieve at the end of every day. Get to know how they are working and coping from home also. This might give you a challenge and modify how you are working. 

7. Do not fall into the isolation trap

Working from home may get lonely and affect your mental health. Try to counter that as much as you can. You can do that by video chatting or calling your coworkers and have the normal talks you usually have in the office. For instance, you can check out how their night or weekend was if you are used to that. 

8. Set break schedules

During the normal working hours in the office, there are breaks that you are given at specific times. Stick to that even while at home. If, for instance, you are used to having lunch with your colleagues, you can do that with your family before getting back to work. This gives you more time to bond with your family and be effective at work at the same time. 

Working from home, therefore, can be as effective and productive as working from the office. To learn more about this, feel free to contact us today. 

5 Ways to Reduce IT Costs That You Can Act On Now

If information technology costs are eating up a large portion of your company’s budget, then you are not alone. In fact, it is estimated that small businesses spend upwards of 7% of their revenue on IT costs. Yet, with IT playing such a critical role in ensuring a business’s productivity and security, it can be extremely difficult to find ways to control, or even lower, IT costs. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are simple, actionable steps that you can take to lower your company’s mounting IT costs.

Here is a look at 5 things that you can do now to reduce your business’s IT costs:

Virtualization

One method that can help you to see considerable IT cost savings is virtualization. Essentially, virtualization means replacing physical hardware with virtual alternatives. With virtualization, companies no longer need to depend entirely on physical servers, as they can combine many functions into a single server by switching functions to virtual environments. This can save money by reducing energy and hardware expenses.  

Optimize Infrastructure

It may surprise you to learn that structured cabling, wireless network layouts, and other infrastructure can actually cost you money if they are not configured properly. However, when infrastructure is improperly configured, this can result in decreased productivity and increased electrical costs, which can add up greatly over time. Making sure that these systems are configured with efficiency in mind is critical in order to keep costs down.  

Backup Data Regularly

While backing up data may not be something that would save you money in the short-term, it can mean exponential savings in the long-run. Proper data backup is a critical IT cost reduction strategy, as it can help to protect you from substantial losses in the event that a cyber attack or natural disaster results in data loss. Without the proper system backups, productivity would come to a grinding halt, and you would have to spend money trying to retrieve lost data. However, when you properly backup data regularly, both to physical and cloud-based backups, you can rest easy knowing that your business will be able to get back up on its feet quickly after a disaster.  

Vendor Management

Hardware and software purchases can quickly eat up a huge chunk of your company’s budget. Whether it’s buying brand new computers for your office, or a company license to upgrade your company computers to Windows 10, IT hardware and software often isn’t a cheap investment. This is why it is recommended that you work with a company that offers IT vendor management services. These companies can help you to find the hardware and software that you need at exclusive prices that you would not be able to find on your own, helping to save you money. 

5. Streamline Costs With Managed IT Services

Of course, one of the best ways to reduce IT costs would be to outsource your IT needs to a Managed Service Provider (MSP). For small to medium-sized businesses, it often isn’t feasible to maintain an in-house IT staff. In these instances, companies often find it within their best interest to partner with an MSP who can provide contracted IT services on an as-needed basis. This can drastically reduce IT costs as you will only be paying for the services that you need as you need them versus paying full-time staff. Not only can outsourcing save you money, but you will also gain access to superior IT services as MSPs have greater resources to research and implement the latest IT technology.

While mounting IT costs can seem like an unfixable problem for many businesses, there are steps that you can take to greatly reduce IT expenses.

Contact us to learn more about the steps that you can take to save money on IT costs at your company.

How to Clean Your Laptop

How to Clean Your Laptop

If someone asked the average individual what objects they used the most, would it be their vehicle? Probably not. Sports equipment or cookware? Highly unlikely. No, all the computing devices they own, along with the devices used by their family members would likely come to mind. Both at home and on the job, most people use a conglomeration of desktop machines, laptops, tablets, and smartphones for hours on end every day. Needless to say, with all the heavy usage that technology devices incur on a daily basis, their outward demeanor of cleanliness is simply a myth. In this post we will discuss why cleaning these devices is a healthy habit to adopt, in addition to providing several cleaning tips every user should incorporate into their cleaning routine.

What You Can’t See 

Certainly every device collects some dust over time, but it’s what you can’t see that alarms people. Most device users do use their hands and fingers to touch their devices at some point, even those who love the hands-free features that come with many technology tools. While there are areas in the home or office such as bathrooms and kitchens, that likely incur above average levels of bacteria, these areas are usually cleaned on a regular basis thus keeping bacteria and other unwanted particles to a minimum.

This is not necessarily so with computer devices. Many people have not yet made it a habit to regularly clean their devices. This means the most contaminated and soiled items in a home or office area are likely are all the laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. Considering how heavily most people use these devices, they actually should be the first items cleaned when trying to reduce contagion, increase sanitation levels, etc.

Cleaning Tips 

Microfiber cloths are great for removing dust from screens and other parts of a device. Some microfiber cloths are infused with antibacterial properties that also provide the benefit of wiping away germs and other bacteria, along with dust particles. A microfiber towel dampened with a mixture of equal parts of distilled water and rubbing alcohol can help sanitize device exteriors. The exceptions are computer screens which should only be cleaned with a cloth dampened with distilled water. A dampened cloth means just that. A cloth that does not drip any water when squeezed.

To clean a keyboard, whether it is detached or part of a laptop, simply turn it upside down and shake out the contents. Be sure to have a steady grip when turning a laptop upside down. Using a can of compressed air at an angle on either of these components can also help remove stubborn particles. Cotton swabs are also great for cleaning all the small nooks and crannies found on most computers.  

The most important thing to remember is to make cleaning all your devices a regular part of a cleaning routine. If you would like to know more about taking care of technology components, please contact us.