Remote Work: 3 Challenges and Solutions

Young man having Zoom video call via a computer in the home office

For the past year, remote work has been basically the only option for some businesses. If the pandemic has proven anything, it is that all of our preconceived notions of remote work being impossible for certain industries and sectors are simply not true. Most businesses can leverage remote work in some capacity, so in a post-COVID world, it is your responsibility as a business owner to act on the many benefits that working remotely can pose for organizations like yours as well as mitigate the challenges of remote work.

The Challenges of Remote Work

Let’s discuss some of the challenges of remote work, as well as how technology can help you address them.

Staying Connected

It’s one thing when you can just pop over to someone’s office and pick their brain about something on the spot, or turn around and ask a coworker a question. It’s another when you are in two different locations and physically separated from one another. Staying connected in the ways that matter—building community, rapport, and healthy working relationships—proves to be difficult in an online environment.

Data Access

Many employees have multiple devices, like company-issued smartphones, laptops, and of course, their work desktops. Files might be spread out across these devices, and if the employee is out of the office with no way to access important files, there is a chance that work might not get done. Therefore, staying connected to important documents and files is incredibly important when out of the office.

Security

One of the biggest pain points of businesses when working outside the safety of the office is security. Without the protections of the in-house network, who knows what threats could target your employees’ devices—devices that might not have security solutions installed on them. It’s critical that you take this into consideration when planning your approach to remote work.

Technology to Address The Challenges of Remote Work

As usual, technology offers several solutions to the above dilemmas. Here are some ways that modern technology solutions can help you keep your organization running in the face of remote work.

Voice over IP

Having an all-in-one communication platform like VoIP is a great way to stay connected while out of the office. VoIP lets you use an Internet connection to do everything you would normally do with your in-house telephone system, plus more. Some VoIP solutions also have video and IM chat functionality, giving you and your team more ways to stay connected even while out of the office.

Cloud Computing

Wouldn’t it be great if all of your business’s important data and information could be found in a place where you can access it on any approved device, be it a laptop, desktop, or mobile device? The cloud allows your organization to do just that by taking advantage of an online environment for everything from application hosting to data storage. The possibilities for how your business can use the cloud are quite limitless.

Virtual Private Network

To aid in network security while working remotely, you can use a virtual private network, or VPN, to securely connect to your in-house network. What this does is encrypts data traveling to and from a device, keeping it secure from any prying eyes. This is especially important for employees who might have to work in public locations due to disruptive home lives or travel.

Let Us Help!

Implementing technology that helps your business be successful in and out of the office is critical to staying competitive in today’s economy. To this end, a managed service provider like AE Technology Group can help your organization implement the best tools on the market. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

How to Get Control of Your Email Inbox

Photo of computer screen up close showing email inbox with 179 unread emails

As you read this sentence, think about the current state of your email inbox. Is it clean and crisp with only a handful of new emails on a daily basis, or is it an entangled mess filled with hundreds (or even thousands) of unread and often unimportant emails? If it’s the latter, you’re in luck; we’ve got some tips to help you finally get a grip on your email inbox.

First, we need to start by controlling the level of emails that flow into your email inbox. Let’s discuss some of these methods.

Send Fewer Emails

This is a pretty simple rule; if you cut down on the number of emails you send, you should, in theory, cut down on the number of emails you receive. Generally speaking, email is meant to be used (and is most effective) for tasks that are not immediately pressing. While we understand that this isn’t always possible, even a little action on your part could make a world of difference. If you send one fewer email a day, you can potentially cut out at least one email in your inbox per day.

Depending on the topic, you might be able to use an instant messaging application or a phone in place of the email. These are generally more reserved for immediately pressing tasks rather than the passive nature of an email, but you do cut down on the chance that your email will be lost in the ether.

Unsubscribe from Email Lists

A business owner needs to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in their chosen industry, and doing so might entail subscribing to email lists. These are automated lists that send you emails on a regular basis, and if you don’t keep up with them, it is easy to lose track of how many you have subscribed to. These quickly add up and can often drown out emails that actually are important.

A good rule to follow is that, if you have not opened an email newsletter from a particular organization or website in the past month, it’s safe to say that you are no longer interested in reading their content. Granted, some email newsletters are monthly, but if they are, they shouldn’t be clogging up your inbox. We’re talking about the real offenders that might send you several messages a week (or even a day). Many email newsletters have an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the message, but you should be careful with these; the last thing you want is to walk into a phishing attack.

Archive Whenever Possible

The idea of deleting an important email can paralyze you with inaction. While you could organize your inbox into folders and other segments for management, even this can sometimes create situations where you start to accrue too many messages. The fact that you don’t know what will be important in the next couple of months or years is also a challenge, as you cannot possibly expect to predict the future.

An email archiving system that is backed up and maintained by your organization can resolve these issues. If you have important messages that you need to keep around, you can simply archive them in a system where they can be searched for and pulled out at a later date. Most cloud-based platforms like Office 365’s Outlook or Google Workspace’s Gmail give you this capability.

Schedule Time Every Day

If you are having trouble making a dent in your inbox, you just do whatever you would normally do for a large and daunting task: break it down into more manageable chunks and chip away at it over time. If you delete or archive more emails a day than you receive, you should theoretically be able to clean it up in a respectable amount of time. Devote a short amount of time each morning or afternoon to checking and managing your inbox. You might be surprised by how much this helps in the long run.

Implement Spam Protection and Technology Solutions

AE Technology Group can help your business manage its email and implement great new technology solutions that keep threatening or time-wasting messages out of your inbox. To learn more about how we can help you with spam and email management solutions, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

Blockchain Technology Solutions For Your Business

Blockchain technology concept. Chain in form of pc circuit board with cpu on blue futuristic background.

Blockchain technology might be best known for its use with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Dogecoin, but that’s just one type of blockchain. There are other varieties that could prove useful in certain sectors. Let’s take a look at what they are, how they might be used, and what some of their benefits and shortcomings are.

The largest benefit of the blockchain, which is essentially a decentralized ledger of transactions, can be seen in Bitcoin, but the shortcomings are also notable. Blockchains consume a considerable amount of energy to operate, making them difficult at best for businesses to take advantage of. Bitcoin operates using what is called the public blockchain; as such, it cannot store sensitive information or proprietary data without putting it all at considerable risk. Here are the four varieties of blockchains that organizations can utilize.

Public Blockchain

The public blockchain is the most open form of blockchain, and anyone can participate in transactions and maintain their own copy of the ledger. The only prerequisite is a connection to the Internet. The public blockchain was the first type created, and it is the most common one used by cryptocurrencies, but it has other applications that could be considered in the future, such as voting and fundraising. All of these uses are only possible due to the openness of the system.

While the openness is a great benefit to the public blockchain, there are other challenges that can get in the way of its use–namely the fact that these transactions happen at a slow rate, which also limits the scope of the network in question.

Private Blockchain

Rather than being accessible to all, a private blockchain is a closed network that is maintained by a single central entity. Unlike the issues with the public blockchain, the private blockchain has greater security and trust within its own operations. Besides this difference in centralization, the private and public blockchains are similar in functionality.

The efficiency of this centralized system makes the entire blockchain operate more smoothly, but at the same time, security is hindered somewhat. Some of the key uses for a private blockchain include supply chain management, internal voting, and asset ownership–all uses that really want that security. It is critical that any organization seeking to implement a private blockchain consider this weakness.

Hybrid Blockchain

When you combine the public and private blockchains, you get a solution that can leverage the advantages of both. A hybrid blockchain allows users to connect to the public network without sacrificing privacy. Organizations can use customizable rules to keep data secure.

There are some downsides to this solution, though. A hybrid blockchain lacks the transparency of other blockchains, and as such, there is no prerogative for organizations to go through the adoption process. Despite this, there are some notable uses for a hybrid blockchain. For example, industries like real estate and retail might find it palatable.

Federated Blockchain

Similar to the hybrid blockchain, a federated blockchain combines benefits offered by the public and private blockchains, keeping some records open while securing others. This is beneficial because multiple organizations might get value out of the network, and thus, keeping it decentralized works in their favor. The federated blockchain is both customizable and efficient, but even with the use of access controls, this blockchain is more vulnerable, less transparent, and less anonymous than the others. Ideas for how to utilize the federated blockchain include banking, research, and food tracking.

Have you considered the use of blockchain technology for your organization? The latest blockchain technology solutions can be a great boon for your business if implemented properly. Contact AE Technology Group for an IT consultation; let our technicians help you determine the best path forward. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

Cloud-Hosted Tools Your Business Should Consider

hands on laptop keyboard with cloud concept graphic overlaid

The cloud has provided organizations with countless ways to innovate and improve operations. Still, for those who are just now jumping on this great opportunity, you might have some questions about how to get the most out of the cloud or how even to get started. Let’s discuss some of the major benefits of cloud-hosted tools, as well as why it’s critical to consider them in the years to come.

This is especially important right now, while the world is reeling from a global pandemic. So how can cloud-hosted tools help your organization navigate this territory and optimize operations, despite the circumstances? Let’s find out.

Data Storage

Business professionals often run into a situation where important files are located on one of their devices but not on the others. Even if files are stored on an in-house network, that doesn’t necessarily help you out of the office. The answer to this dilemma is surprisingly simple: implement a cloud-based data storage system.

Cloud-based data storage allows your organization to access data on any connected device, provided the accounts have been outfitted with appropriate permissions. You can work on any file, anytime, from anywhere. When it comes time to travel or work remotely, a cloud-based data storage system means that you will never have access issues again. Since hosting on-premise can be expensive and time-consuming, we recommend hosting your data in the cloud.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

If your business is not prepared to handle data loss scenarios, your future is most certainly in jeopardy. Data stored across different devices can be difficult to keep track of, but if it’s all housed in the same location, i.e., the cloud, it becomes easier to back up and recover in the event of a disaster. While tape may have been the gold standard for a long time, it was prone to several inconsistencies that make it pale compared to the cloud, such as the possibility of user error, risk of natural disasters, and the sheer amount of physical space the tapes can take up.

An automated data backup system that does not rely on anyone setting tapes is the ideal solution, and it’s thanks to the cloud that it is possible. Backups stored in the cloud provide more redundancy than tape, so you will never have to worry about whether or not the data is available. In addition, you can know with confidence that a copy of your data exists for you to recover in the event of an emergency.

Cloud-Hosted Tools

Why limit what the cloud can do for your business to just your data and backup? Instead, imagine what you can accomplish by using the cloud in more creative ways, such as hosting your business’ email or productivity suite on it. Hosting these solutions in the cloud allows for easy access on any approved device, meaning that you are truly freed from the constraints of the office.

You can also apply this principle to hardware solutions to an extent. For example, if you have certain legacy software that only runs on a specific instance of a server operating system, you might normally require an individual server unit for that software alone. Instead of running more hardware, you can instead use a virtual machine with partitioning through the cloud, allowing you to host-specific instances of an operating system in a virtual environment, saving you the headache and frustration of maintaining yet another server unit.

Get Started with the Cloud!

Don’t wait any longer to get started with cloud-based technology. AE Technology Group can help you with the entire process, from conceptualization to implementation. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

It’s Time to Revisit Your Password Best Practices

Closeup of Password Box in Internet Browser

When a hacker tries to access one of your accounts, the first challenge they must overcome is the password. This is why industry professionals always encourage you to create them with security in mind. The latest guidelines issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, are not quite conventional or traditional, but they do give valuable insights into how password best practices.

What is the NIST?

The NIST is the authority on all things password-creation, and they are no strangers to issuing various best practices. While these practices do shift over time, due to the unfortunate side-effect of threats adapting to security standards, their advice is trusted and should absolutely be considered by all. Please see below for the recent update on password best practices.

The New Guidelines

Many organizations and Federal agencies have adopted these guidelines. Here are the latest steps to take when building a secure password.

Length Over Complexity

Most security professionals have advocated for password complexity over the past several years, but the guidelines issued by NIST disagree. NIST suggests that the longer the password, the harder it is to decrypt, and they even go so far as to say that complex passwords with numbers, symbols, and upper and lower-case letters make passwords even less secure.

The reasoning for this is that the user might make passwords too complicated, leading them to forget them entirely, so when it comes time to replace the password, they will add a “1” or an exclamation point at the end. This makes them easier to predict should the original password be stolen. Users might also be tempted to use the same password for multiple accounts, which is a whole other issue that certainly does not aid in security.

No More Password Resets

Many organizations require their staff to periodically change their passwords, mostly every month or every few months. The idea here is to preemptively change passwords on the off chance that the old passwords have been compromised. Trying to use the same old password multiple times would then lock the hacker out of the account, as the password has since been changed. While this has been an accepted best practice for some time, NIST recommends that this practice be put to the wayside, as it is actually counterproductive to account security.

The reasoning behind this determination is that people will not be as careful with the password creation process if they are always making new ones. Plus, when people do change their passwords, they will use the same pattern to remember them. This means that passwords could potentially be compromised even if they have been changed, as a hacker could recognize the pattern and use it against the user.

Make Passwords Easy to Use

Some network administrators worry that the removal of certain quality-of-life features such as showing a password while the user types it or allowing for copy/paste will make the password more likely to be compromised. The truth is the opposite; ease of use does not compromise security, as people are more likely to stick to established password protocol if you make it easier for them to do so.

Don’t Give Out Password Hints

At the same time, you don’t want to make things too easy for your employees, either. One way that administrators help out employees who easily forget passwords is by providing password hints. The system itself is flawed, especially in today’s society of oversharing information across social media and the Internet in general. If Sally makes her password-based around the name of her dog, for example, the hacker might be able to find that information on her social media page, then can try variations of that name until the code is cracked. So, in the interest of network security, it’s better to just forego these hints. There are other ways to make your password system easier to deal with that don’t compromise security.

Limit Password Attempts

When you place a limit on password attempts for your business, what you are essentially doing is giving hackers a limited number of chances to get lucky. NIST suggests that most employees will fall into one of two categories in regard to password remembrance; either they will remember it, or they will keep it stored somewhere (hopefully in a password management system). Thus, if an employee is likely to do one or the other, a limit on password attempts will not necessarily impact them but will make all the difference against security threats.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

COMPANYNAME recommends that your business implement multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication whenever possible. NIST recommends that users be able to demonstrate at least two of the following methods of authentication before they can access an account. They are the following:

  1. “Something you know” (like a password)
  2. “Something you have” (like a mobile device)
  3. “Something you are” (like a face or a fingerprint)

If two of the above are met, then there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the user is supposed to be accessing that account. Consider how much more difficult this makes things for a hacker. Even if they have a password, it is unlikely that they also have physical access to a mobile device, a face, or a fingerprint.

Make password security a priority for your organization now so that you don’t have to worry about data breaches later on down the road. AE Technology Group can help you set up a password manager that makes adhering to these best practices easier. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.